The Summer Solstice

June 21, 2019 is the summer solstice this year, celebrated at Stonehenge and across the globe, for the longest day of the year.  “Sol + stice derives from a combination of Latin words meaning “sun” + “to stand still.” As the days lengthen, the sun rises higher and higher until it seems to stand still in the sky.”  http://www.chiff.com/a/summer-solstice.htm Within Welsh mythology, there is very little discussion of the solstices or what holidays were celebrated within the celtic/druid year.  This is not the case of Stonehenge, which archaeologists and historians have studied extensively. “When one stands in the middle of Stonehenge and looks through the entrance of the avenue on the morning of the summer solstice, for example, the Sun will rise above the Heel Stone, which is set on the avenue. If one stands in the entrance and looks into Read more…

Ynys Mon (Anglesey) in the Dark and Middle Ages

Of all the places in north Wales/Gwynedd, the name for Ynys Mon was deliberately changed by the English/Norman invaders, but it belies the fact that Ynys Mon remains resolutely Welsh, with 7 out of 10 residents speaking Welsh.  Because of its location, the populace suffered greatly over the millenia from foreign invaders, culminating with the wars of 1277 and 1282, when it was conquered as a stepping stone to Eryri, the stronghold of the Welsh princes.  After this last war, Edward deliberately razed much that was Welsh to the ground, including Llanfaes Abbey, the gravesite of Princesses Joanna and Elinor and built Beaumaris over the top of it.  In the process, hundreds of Welsh were ‘resettled’ elsewhere and English people brought in. “Ethnic cleansing is not a new concept. When Edward I reached Llanfaes, he forced all the Welsh people to move Read more…

Boudicca’s Revolt

The Romans conquered Britain over the course of one hundred and fifty years.  Julius Caesar was the first to attempt it.  He established a beachhead in the east, but never got further into the country despite multiple expeditions. “His first expedition, however, was ill-conceived and too hastily organised. With just two legions, he failed to do much more than force his way ashore at Deal and win a token victory that impressed the senate in Rome more than it did the tribesmen of Britain. In 54 BC, he tried again, this time with five legions, and succeeded in re-establishing Commius on the Atrebatic throne. Yet he returned to Gaul disgruntled and empty-handed, complaining in a letter to Cicero that there was no silver or booty to be found in Britain after all.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/questions_01.shtml 100 years later, in 43 AD, the Emperor Claudius determined Read more…

Welsh Faeries

The Welsh had a pantheon of gods and goddesses before the coming of the Romans.  With the defeat of the druids and the extermination of their sites on Anglesey, the druid religion in Wales went into decline–and perhaps that is the reason there are relatively few Welsh gods and goddesses compared to the Irish, whose religion flourished during the Dark Ages and also developed a unique form of Christianity alongside it. Within the belief system, faeries, or Tylwyth Teg, the modern designation, had a role, divisible into five classes:  the Ellyllon, or elves, the Coblynau, or mine fairies, the Bwbachod, or household fairies, the Gwragedd Annwn, or fairies of the lakes and streams; and the Gwyllion, or mountain fairies.  http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/wfl/wfl02.htm Ellyllon:  “The Ellyllon are the pigmy elves who haunt the groves and valleys, and correspond pretty closely with the English elves. Read more…

Myth and Religion in the Dark Ages

While many fictional accounts of the Dark Ages describe conflict between pagan religions and Christianity, that seems to be a product of the medieval mind, rather than an accurate analysis of Dark Age religion.  For there to be conflict there must be a power relationship as well as organization, and for both the pagans and the Christians in Wales in 655 AD, there were neither. When the Romans conquered Wales in 43 AD, although Rome was not Christian at the time (Emperor Constantine didn’t  convert until 311 AD), the legions systematically wiped out the reigning religion of Wales at the time, which was druidism.  Why did they do this?  The Romans themselves were pagans, with a pantheon of gods and goddesses.  Why did they not simply incorporate the native gods into their own religion as they did in most other places, Read more…