The owl of Cwm Cowlyd and the oldest animals in the world

In Welsh folklore the Owl of Cwm Cowlyd lived in the woods that once surrounded Llyn Cowlyd, the deepest lake in northern Wales, that lies in the Snowdonia National Park. Even if today the woods are gone, the legends live on in two tales that feature a search for the oldest and wisest animals in the world. In the first the owl is said to be among the oldest animals in the world, while in the second the owl is really the oldest. The first story is “Culhwch and Olwen”,…

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March 4: feast of Rhiannon, Welsh Goddess

In Ireland and Wales, the annual Feast of Rhiannon is celebrated by some still today in honor of the Celtic/Welsh Mother Goddess Rhiannon. Rhiannon was originally known as Rigatona (or the Great Queen) and was identified with continental Celtic horse-goddess Epona, a protector of horses, ponies, donkeys, and mules, but particularly a goddess of fertility. In ancient Greece the annual rite called the Anthesteria was held to honor the Keres (souls of the dead), a ritual lasted for three days. Rhiannon is a Welsh underworld Goddess. Her origin is very…

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Beddgelert: a place of legend in the heart of Wales.

We are in Beddgelert, North Wales, just south of Snowdon. Meaning literally the grave of Gelert, Beddgelert was once described as “a few dozen hard grey houses, huddled together in some majestic mountain scenery”. A short walk south of the village, following the footpath along the banks of the Glaslyn leads to its most famous historical feature, “Gelert’s Grave”. According to legend, the stone monument in the field marks the resting place of Gelert, the faithful hound of the medieval Welsh Prince Llewelyn the Great. The story, as written on…

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Point of Ayr Lighthouse in Wales: an enchanted landscape and a keeper who never left it.

We are along the north coast of Wales. As the sun sets and the sea sweeps in across Talacre beach the lighthouse often seems to float on the waves in a mysterious and beautiful optical illusion. Correctly known as the Point of Ayr Lighthouse, but also named “Talacre Lighthouse”, it was originally built in 1776 to help guide ships away from the nearby sandbanks and provide a bearing for the great port of Liverpool to the northeast and mark the Mersey Estuary and the River Dee. Unusually for a lighthouse,…

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The legendary submerged forest of Wales brought to light by a storm.

Almost by magic, the forest protagonist of the legend of the reign of Cantre’r Gwaelod reappeared thanks to the storm Hannah which, in these days, hit vigorously the United Kingdom and on Ireland, with winds above 130km/h, leaving more than 10,000 homes without electricity. His ferocity, however, has brought to light, unexpectedly, the remains of an ancient and legendary Welsh forest, disappeared for millennia. Popular legends tell of a fertile land that extended for over 30 km, a mythological kingdom that was swept away, from one day to another, by…

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Caerleon Amphitheatre: the King Arthur’s legendary Round Table?

We are in the year 100 BC, in what is today south Wales, where roman soldiers were probably in search of an evening’s entertainment. They have probably gone to the amphitheater in the Isca Augusta fortress, that now is a well-preserved site of Roman culture. But over the centuries, long after the Romans were gone, the amphitheater gained notoriety for an entirely different reason. Tradition states that it was also the site of King Arthur’s famous Round Table. Historically, the amphitheater was built around the year 90 AD outside fortress…

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Madoc: the legend of the Prince of Wales who discovered America. True or false?

History books tells that the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus (1451-1506 AD) is the official discoverer of the New World. However, he has already been dethroned, in fact most historians now agree that the first known Europeans in the New World were the Vikings led by Leif Erikson around 1000 AD. There is, however, another European who is also claimed to have reached the New World before 1492, the Welsh Prince Madoc. According to the legend, around 1.170, Madoc, sailed with his fleet to the West, to the American continent, three…

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