Page images
PDF
EPUB

would naturally think that these cured bodily ailments, the effects of sin, when sin itself was washed away. In the course of time the sacramental operations would be overlooked, and they would attribute to the waters themselves inherent and permanent efficacy. Something of this sort is still observable in the creed of several midwives and nurses, who think that a sick infant begins to recover immediately on being baptized, though they themselves may be ignorant of the doctrine of regeneration, or even affect to disbelieve it. After the erection of churches, as in all probability the baptismal element was fetched out of the old consecrated wells, veneration for them would by no means be diminished. Some of them might have acquired their celebrity from having been the fountains at which holy and abstemious hermits were in the habit of satisfying their thirst. These wells, however, were not considered equally efficacious in every case. To some was attributed the power of healing all bodily diseases whatever; — some were renowned for affording remedy to particular ailments, whether of the body or mind;— whilst others were looked upon as capable not merely of affecting the man, whether for good or ill, but also of altering his worldly condition. This variety may have arisen either from the medicinal properties of the waters, or else from the reputation of their patron saints, perhaps in some instances from both causes conjointly. To particularize a few, whose fame is not yet forgotten;– 1. ST. WINIFRED's WELL, in Flintshire. This well was considered formerly of such importance as to impart its name to the town in which it is situated; indeed, it is not at all improbable that Holywell owes its very existence to it. The legend says that Gwenvrewi, or Winifred, a female saint about the commencement of the seventh century, had her head struck off by a chieftain named Caradog, whilst she was in the act of escaping from his unchaste embraces; and that on the spot where the head fell a spring of water immediately gushed forth, “which flows to this day, and by the holy virgin's merits gives health to a world of diseased presons.”—(Cressy.) The well is covered by a small gothic building, said to have been erected by Margaret, mother of Henry VII.; and over it is a chapel of the same date, but now used as a charity school. The history and architecture of these edifices will probably form the subject of a future article in the Archaeologia Cambrensis. Drayton maintained that no dog could be drowned in the waters of this well; nor have their preserving properties suffered much in the public esteem even to this day. For not only Roman Catholics, but those who have forgotten the merits of St. Winifred, still repair thither in considerable numbers, with a view to get their bodily infirmities removed. And the crutches, barrows, and other votive offerings, which are suspended against the walls, are vivid testimonies to the reasonableness of their expectations.

2. St. TEGLA's WELL. This is about half way between Wrexham and Ruthin, in the parish of Llandegla. It has been considered efficacious in cases of epilepsy; so much so, that one of the designations, applied to that complaint in the Welsh dictionaries, is Cluyt Tegla, or Tegla's disease. However, relief is not to be obtained by simply bathing in it, as in the case of St. Winfred's well. There is, moreover, a superstitous ceremony to be performed, something after the following manner. The patient must repair to the well after sunset, and wash himself in it; then, having made an offering into it of four-pence, he must walk round it three times, and thrice recite the Lord's prayer. If he is of the male sex, he offers a cock; if a woman, a hen. The bird is conveyed in a basket, first round the well, then round the church, when the rite of repeating the Pater Noster is again performed. It is necessary that the patient should afterwards enter the church, creep under the altar, and, making the bible his pillow, and the communion cloth his coverlet, there remain until the break of day. Then, having made a further offering of six-pence, and leaving the cock or hen, as the case may be, he is at liberty to depart. Should the bird die, it is supposed that the disease has been transferred to it, and the man or woman consequently cured. Pennant says that there is a free stone at this well, inscribed with the following letters: —

A . G 6 E : G .

3. ST. DwyNwFN's WELL, in the parish of Llanddwynwen or Llanddwyn, Anglesey. Dwynwen was the Valentine of the Britons—the patron saint of lovers. And in former times, particularly about the middle of the fourteenth century, a great number of both sexes visited her well for the purpose of being cured of love-sickness. If its waters ever afforded a remedy in such cases, they must indeed have been endued with miraculous properties! 4. ST. ELIAN's WELL, in the parish of Llanelian, Denbighshire. This is the most dreadful of all the wells, and the one in whose miraculous powers the peasants of the present day most fully believe. Persons who bear any great malice against others, and wish to injure them, frequently resort to the minister of the well, who for a sum of money undertakes to “offer” them in it. The penalty consists either in personal pain, or loss of property, as the offerer pleases. Various ceremonies are gone through on the occasion; amongst others, the name of the devoted is registered in a book—a pin in his name, and a pebble with his initials inscribed thereon, are thrown into the well. When the curse is to be removed, the ceremonies are to a certain extent reversed, such as erasing the name from the book, taking up the pebble, with several other practices of a superstitious character. 5. ST. CYNHAvAL's WELL, on the side of a hill in the parish of Llangynhaval, Denbighshire. This is celebrated for curing warts, which is partly done by pricking them with a pin, and throwing it into the well. 6. St. MARY's WELLs. These are to be found in parishes dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and formerly they supplied all the water which their respective churches required. There is one of them in the chapelry of which the writer of the present article is incumbent; and several of the parishioners still remember the time when the baptismal water was invariably fetched out of it, though it is about a mile or more distant from the church. He was lately told by one of them that the efficacy of the water was considered to lie in the southward flowing of the stream Such were a few of the holy wells of our ancestors, according to the information which the writer has been able to obtain respecting them from report and tradition. Should other persons be in a position to detect any inaccuracy or omission in the details of this account, or be aware of other wells of the like character within the principality, they are earnestly invited to furnish the Archaeologia Cambrensis with their additional knowledge. The study of such a subject cannot fail to interest the antiquarian, inasmuch as it conduces to the illustration of the spirit and manners of bygone days. AB ITHEL.

[ocr errors][graphic]
« PreviousContinue »