Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Ghosts of Old Wales and inspiration from Myths and Legends - by Hywela Lyn

'Writers Block' strikes us all at times.  As a fantasy and Science Fiction writer, I often find reading old myths and legends will get the creative juices flowing again, and wake up the muse.  Reworking old legends to a modern setting is a good way to start, and I usually find a story will evolve in my mind which is completely different to the original idea that sparked it  and, while going off in a totally different direction, provides the 'starting point' and sometimes even a character, to build on.

My native Wales is a land full of myths and legends, with  its fair share of ghosts, and is a rich source of ideas.  Usually, it is the beautiful landscape itself, and the many pools, waterfalls and mountains that provide the settings for these stories, rather than old houses or castles.

Here are just a few tales of hauntings from various parts of the Principality. (Apologies in advance for some of the 'hard to pronounce Welsh names!)

the Short Bridge, Llanidloes
THE HAUNTING OF LLANIDLOES

A lady who could not rest in her grave because of her misdeeds haunted the locals until they could stand it no more.  Somehow they enticed her to shrink and enter into a bottle, after appearing in a good many hideous forms; but when she got into the bottle, it was corked down securely, and the bottle was cast into the pool underneath the Short bridge at Llanidloes, and there the lady was to remain until the ivy that grow up the buttresses should overgrow the sides of the bridge, and reach the parapet.  In the year 1848, the old bridge was blown up, and a new one built instead of it.

 THE GHOST OF LLANDEGLA

A small river runs close to the secluded village of Llandegla, and in this mountain stream under a huge stone lies a wicked ghost. This is how he came to be there:

It  not is not known why Ffrith Farm was troubled by a ghost, but when the servants were busily engaged in cheese making the Spirit would suddenly throw earth or sand into the milk, and thus spoil the curds. The dairy was also visited by the ghost, and there he played havoc with the milk and dishes. He sent the pans, one after the other, around the room, and dashed them to pieces. The terrible doings of the ghost was a topic of general conversation in those parts.

The farmer offered a reward of five pounds to anyone who would lay the Spirit. One Sunday afternoon,  an aged priest visited the farm yard, and in the presence of a crowd of spectators exorcised the ghost, but without effect.

Llandegla  Bridge
The farmer then sent for Griffiths, an Independent minister at Llanarmon, who enticed the ghost to the barn. The ghost changed its appearance to the form of a lion, but  could not touch Griffiths, because he stood in the centre of a circle, over which the lion could not pass. Griffiths tricked the ghost  into appearing in a less formidable shape, and it changed into a mastiff, but Griffiths demanded that it change to something smaller. At last, the ghost appeared as a fly, which was captured by Griffiths and secured in his tobacco box,  This box he buried under a large stone in the river, just below the bridge, near the Llandegla Mills, and there the spirit is forced to remain until a certain tree, which grows by the bridge, reaches the height of the parapet. When this happens, the spirit shall have power to regain his liberty.  To prevent this tree from growing, the school children, even to this day, nip the upper branches to limit its upward growth.

THE GHOSTLY GIANT OF PONT-Y-GLYN

Pont y Glyn
There is a picturesque glen between Corwen and Cerrig-y-Drudion, down which rushes a mountain stream, and over this stream is a bridge, called Pont-y-Glyn.  On the left hand side, a few yards from the bridge, on the Corwen side, is a yawning chasm, through which the river bounds.  Here people who have travelled by night affirm that they have seen ghosts—the ghosts of those who have been murdered in this secluded glen. A man who was a servant at Garth Meilio, said that one night, when he was returning home late from Corwen, he saw before him, seated on a heap of stones, a female dressed in Welsh costume.  He wished her good night, but she returned him no answer.  She, got up and grew to gigantic proportions as she continued down the road which she filled, so great were her increased dimensions. Other spirits are said to have made their homes in the hills not far from Pont-y-Glyn.

THE GHOST OF TY FELIN


Now for one which doesn't concern a bridge! An exciseman, overtaken by night, went to a house called Ty Felin, (Yellow House) in the parish of Llanynys, and asked for lodgings.  Unfortunately the house was a very small one, containing only two bedrooms, and one of these was haunted; consequently no one dared sleep in it.  After a while, however, the stranger induced the master to allow him to sleep in this haunted room. He had not been there long before a ghost entered the room in the shape of a travelling Jew and walked around the room.  The exciseman tried to catch him and gave chase, but he lost sight of the Jew in the yard.  He had scarcely entered the room, a second time, when he again saw the ghost.  He chased him once more and lost sight of him in the same place.  The third time he followed the ghost, he made a mark on the yard where the ghost vanished and went to rest, and was not disturbed again.

The next day, the exciseman got up early and went away, but, before long, he returned to Ty Felin accompanied by a policeman, whom he requested to dig in the place where his mark was.  This was done and underneath a superficial covering, a deep well was discovered, and in it a corpse.

Under interrogation, the tenant of the house confessed that a travelling Jew, selling jewelry and such items, once lodged with him, and that he had murdered him and cast his body in the well.

PWLL-Y-WRACH - THE WITCHES' POOL

Pwlch-y-Wrach
There is a pool hidden from the road among a copse on the top of Flint Mountain, in Flint North Wales. The pool is so small that travellers would not give it a second glance. But this was not always so. In days gone by Flint Mountain was a bare and desolate place and the pool was known as Pwll-y-Wrach, the Hags' Pool or the Witches' Pool, the place where the ellyllon (as the Welsh call goblins) would congregate, and thus a place where humans would stay well clear of, especially after dark.

In 1852 John Roberts a farm labourer paid an unexpected visit to Pwll-y-Wrach. It was a cold winter's morning and John was setting out to work when he found a youth blocking his path. With a harmless gesture he made to pass the youth but all of a sudden a force propelled him through the air. He landed face down above Pwll-y-Wrach, and the force held him there despite John's best efforts to free himself. He struggled for what seemed a lifetime, but in fact was just a few short minutes, until at the sound of a cock crow he was released. The ellyll, still disguised as a youth, stood astride him and warned. " When the cuckoo sings it's first note on Flint Mountain I shall come again to fetch you".

John got to his feet and stumbled back home, shaken but otherwise unhurt.

The following May John Roberts died. He had been repairing a wall at Pen-y-glyn on Flint Mountain when it collapsed and crushed him. A lady who witnessed the accident said a cuckoo came to land on a nearby tree just as it happened. When the body of John Roberts was being returned to his home the cuckoo followed, singing from tree to tree all the way to the front door.

BLACK DOGS AND ARTHUR'S SEAT

In Welsh mythology and folklore, Cŵn Annwn  "hounds of Annwn") were the spectral hounds of Annwn, the otherworld of Welsh myth. They were associated with a form of the Wild Hunt, presided over by Gwynn ap Nudd. Christians came to dub these mythical creatures as "The Hounds of Hell" or "Dogs of Hell" and theorised they were therefore owned by Satan. However, the Annwn of medieval Welsh tradition is an otherworldly paradise and not a hell, or abode of dead souls.

They were associated with migrating geese, supposedly because their honking in the night is reminiscent of barking dogs

The Cŵn Annwn also came to be regarded as the escorts of souls on their journey to the Otherworld.
The hounds are sometimes accompanied by a fearsome hag called Mallt-y-Nos, "Matilda of the Night". An alternative name in Welsh folklore is Cŵn Mamau ("Hounds of the Mothers").

Cadair Idris
Hunting grounds for the Cŵn Annwn are said to include the mountain of  Cadair Idris, where it is believed "the howling of these huge dogs foretold death to anyone who heard them.The locals claim that the mountain is haunted, and that anyone who spends the night on top of Cadair Idris will wake up either a madman or a poet. Different legends surround the mountain and one of the earliest claims that the giant Idris lived there. Three large stones rest at the foot of the mountain, and legend says that Idris got angry once and kicked them, sending them rolling down the mountainside.  

Other Welsh legends state, however, that  King Arthur made his kingdom there, hence the name Cadair Idris: or the Seat of Idris. Being Welsh, of course I  myself subscribe to this theory!  Merlin was supposedly born in Carmarthen, and his connection with the area forms the background for my novella 'Dancing With Fate', which also features not only the Ellylldan, or fire goblins, but a Greek Muse! (I hope I've aroused your curiosity as to how she fits into my take on Welsh folklore, and that  you've enjoyed some of the myths and legends of my beloved homeland.)



You can find out more about Lyn and her books on her  WEBSITE
She also blogs at her own BLOG, and THE AUTHOR ROAST AND TOAST



9 comments:

Jan Needle said...

thanks for those. wonderful way to pass a morning!

Hywela Lyn said...

Thanks Jan, glad you enjoyed them!

Lydia Bennet said...

ghosts do seem to have packed schedules don't they? I must say I feel sorry for things locked in bottles and jars for years and years. The boredom! There are many ghost stories in the many Northumbrian castles in my area. So much history still living. Thanks for some tall and creepy tales!

Hywela Lyn said...

Hi Lydia

I agree, I feel a bit sorry for some of the ghosts trapped in bottles and jars too. Not so sure I'd want to let them out though! LOL

It's fascinating to read through the myths and legends from areas all over the British Isles, we're lucky to have such a rich heritage aren't we!

Susan Price said...

Despite being named Price, I have to point out that King Arthur was a Scot! - But thoroughly enjoyed the Welsh tales.

Hywela Lyn said...

LOL, I think we'll have to agree to disagree on that one, Susan! :)

katsrus said...

That was interesting. I did not know any of the Hywela.
Sue B

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing the ghostly hauntings. I also enjoyed the beautiful scenic photos.

Joanna (Lazuli Portals Trilogy) said...

Ooh, tingles down my spine! Thanks for sharing these ancient tales.

I love Wales and am sure I have some Celtic heritage. Perhaps that's just as well since my co-author is Cornish!

My first time here, Hywela, and I'll be back when time allows. :)