St Dwynwen’s Day is not a well known Welsh holiday, in fact many Welsh people today forget about this ancient celebration. So it is not a surprise that the rest of the world is unfamiliar with the story of St Dwynwen.
Who was she? Well Dwynwen was one of the twenty-four daughters of Brychan Brycheiniog, the king of Breconshire in the 5th century and she was widely regarded as the most beautiful in the kingdom. Story tells that Dwynwen fell in love with Maelon Dafodrill, but unfortunately her father had already arranged that she should marry someone else. Maelon was so outraged that he raped Dwynwen and left her. Dwynwen, distraught, prays to fall out of love with him.
In a woods she ran to in distress, Dwynwen was visited by an angel, who appeared carrying a sweet potion designed to erase all memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice. God then gave three wishes to Dwynwen. First she wished that Maelon be thawed from the ice, second that God meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers and third that she should never marry. All three were fulfilled, and as a mark of her thanks, Dwynwen devoted herself to God’s service for the rest of her life.
Dwynwen became a nun, fulfilling her wish to never marry. She founded a convent on Llanddwyn, off the west coast of Anglesey, where a well named after her became a place of pilgrimage after her death in 465AD. Visitors to the well believed that the sacred fish or eels that lived in the well could foretell whether or not their relationship would be happy and whether love and happiness would be theirs. Another tradition claims that if the water boils while visitors are present, then love and good luck will surely follow. Remains of Dwynwen’s church can still be seen today.
St Dwynwen’s day today is considered a type of Welsh valentines day due to Dwynwen’s wish that God fulfill the dreams of lovers as we are supposed to cherish those around us and remember Dwynwen’s selflessness and wish for love to be spread to all. Most people who celebrate today mainly use St Dwynwen’s Day as a way to celebrate Welsh culture singing hymns and eating Welsh delicacies. No matter how you celebrate the day, St Dwynwen’s story deserves to be told and remembered.
Information courtesy of St Fagan’s and Historic UK.