‘Dydd Santes Dwynwen’ or ‘Diwrnod Trais a gormes’?

For English speakers and those perplexed with my Google translate, the above title (supposedly) reads, ”Valentines Day’ or ‘Rape and Repression Day’?’

A catchy title if ever there was one.

So, let me explain…

Today, January 25th, is Dydd Santes Dwynwen. A day in celebration of the Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of love.

For those familiar with my usual rhetoric the theme of commercialisation ruining everything is a tirade I am fond of espousing. On this occasion though I’m going to hold my tongue, for today I want to talk about love and folklore.

Love!

Oh what a wonderful thing.

And even better than that?

A day dedicated to celebrating love!

Most of us will only spend the evening celebrating the occasion if at all, but I personally think we should make a national holiday of it.

Oh my goodness, just think of the possibilities?! I admit my aspirations and hopes are probably more optimistic and enthusiastic than most, but think what we could achieve? A day dedicated to love could see a tenfold increase in charitable donations; family friends and civil rivalry put to rest in the face of what really matters; a day filled with appreciation and compassion; a day dedicated to self love and acceptance… These are only a few. The possibilities, when armed with love, are truly endless…

Ironically though, by my reading, the folklore that Dydd Santes Dwynwen is born from, feature only fleeting moments of love, if any at all.

Let me begin…

Once upon a time in the fourth century, residing in a vast and stunning part of Wales – now know was the Brecon Beacons – was the beautiful princess Dwynwen. Dwynwen was one of the twenty four daughters of King Brychan Brycheiniog.

One day Dwynwen happened upon a man named Maelon Dafodrill. Over time they fell deeply in love, however, it was sadly not to last.

At this point the story offers three different interpretations.

  1. Consumed with love for Maelon Dafodrill and the knowledge that this really was her one true love, Dwynwen encouraged her lover to seek approval from her father. Upon hearing Maelon’s admission of love for his daughter however, Brychan Brycheiniog was outraged and forbid the union without hesitation.
  2. As the two of them spent time together Maelon would make references to their lives together forever, and how one day they would marry and she would carry child, and so one day the two of them informed Brychan Brycheiniog of their intent to marry. Upon hearing these words, however, Dwynwen’s father informed that it could not be for he had promised Dwynwen to another.
  3. Dwynwen loved Maelon with her entire being and at the words of “I do” was eager to lay down in bed with him. But Maelon was a selfish brute, and did not care for Dwynwen’s wishes. He wanted her now. And so, one night, when the two of them were alone together, he forced himself upon her and took away her virginity.

And then the story continues.

Distraught and devoid of both hope and happiness for her future, Dwynwen ran into the woods blindly, carrying her body forward as she ran with each heart breaking and earth tremoring sob, until eventually she could run no further for exhaustion of her body and mind.

Sat in the forest Dwynwen’s eyes glazed over with grief, until, suddenly, an earthy glow blurred in the air before her, until the shimmering light came to a stand still and came into focus. There in front of her stood (or floated) an angel. God had sent this angel with a potion for Dwynwen to erase all memory of her tragedy and cool her pain. As she drank the potion her memories faded and pain eased, and Maelon founded himself slowly freezing into a block of ice.

Once Dwynwen had recovered from the effects of the potion and come to properly, God presented her with three wishes. Firstly, she requested that Maelon be thawed. Secondly, that all the hopes and dreams of lovers from this point forwarded would be taken care of by God. And thirdly, that Dwynwen would be safe from ever falling into the trap of love herself again.

Following these wishes, Dwynwen journeyed to Anglesey where she found a place of peace for herself on an island just off the coast called Llanddwyn. Here she dedicated the rest of her life to the service of God and became a nun.

It is for these reasons that Dwynwen is known in Wales as the Patron Saint of Love.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh here, but I’m a bit confused as to how any of this has ended up being celebrated as the Welsh Day of Love. Love?!

I’m sorry but as a woman, the two points which stand out for me in any of the three interpretations presented here are that she is either raped her someone who she believed to be the love of her life and therefore trusted unquestioningly, or is so controlled by her father that her complete repression sends her into total and absolute despair where she wishes to never love again.

She can’t run away and be with Maelon in the two versions where he doesn’t rape her, nope, the only option is to run away and have her mind erased before continuing a solitary life devoted to God (yet another all consuming man who still isn’t Maelon).

So, in keeping with the worlds favourite phrase at the moment, I’d like to suggest that we’re viewing the story of Dydd Santes Dwynwen through a perspective containing alternative facts. Where the lifelong oppression of a woman by her father and rape by her believed to be one true love, is something which we should celebrate because these are events that result in magnanimous acts of charity. For if it wasn’t for Dwynwen, our love would not be in the careful care of God. Forget about the rape and repression, let’s look at the alternative facts.

Bibliography
Wikipedia
Visit Wales
Historic UK

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