Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Fairy-Pixie Faith in Wales

The Fairy-Pixie Faith in Wales

Cromlechs, Dolmans and Burial Mounds are the Haunts of the Fairies and Pixies.

In Wales
Less can be said of Wales than of Ireland, or of Scotland as a whole. It has, it is true, its own peculiar psychic atmosphere, different, no doubt, because its people are Brythonic Celts rather than Gaelic Celts. But Wales, with conditions more modernized than is the case in Ireland or in the Western Hebrides of Scotland, does not now exhibit in a vigorous or flourishing state those Celtic influences which, when they were active, did so much to create the precious Romances of Arthur and his Brotherhood, and to lay the foundations for the Welsh belief in the Tylwyth Teg, a fairy race still surviving in a few favoured localities.
Wales, like all Celtic countries, is a land of long sea-coasts, though there seems to be, save in the mountains of the north, ]less of mist and darkness and cloud effects than in Ireland and Scotland. In the south, perhaps the most curious influences are to be felt at St. David’s Head, and in St. David’s itself—once the goal for thousands of pilgrims from many countries of mediaeval Europe, and, probably, in pagan times the seat of an oracle. And a place of like character is the peninsula of Gower, south of Swansea. Caerphilly Castle, where the Green Lady reigns now amid its ruined acres, is a strange place; and so is the hill near Carmarthen, where Merlin is asleep in a cave with the fairy-woman Vivian. But in none of these places to-day is there a strong living faith in fairies as there is, for example, in West Ireland. The one region where I found a real Celtic atmosphere—and it is a region where everybody speaks Welsh—is a mountainous country rarely visited by travellers, save archaeologists, a few miles from Newport; and its centre is the Pentre Evan Cromlech, the finest cromlech in Wales if not in Britain. By this prehistoric monument and in the country round the old Nevern Church, three miles away, there is an active belief in the ‘fair-folk’, in ghosts, in death-warnings, in death-candles and phantom-funerals, and in witchcraft and black magic. Thence on to Newcastle-Emlyn and its valley, where many of the Mabinogion stories took form, or at least from where they drew rich material in the way of folk-lore,[7] are environments purely Welsh and as yet little disturbed by the commercial materialism of the age.
There remain now to be mentioned three other places in Wales to me very impressive psychically. These are: ancient Harlech, so famous in recorded Welsh fairy-romance—Harlech with its strange stone-circles, and old castle from which the Snowdon Range is seen to loom majestically and clear, and with its sun-kissed bay; Mount Snowdon, with its memories of Arthur and Welsh heroes; and sacred Anglesey or Mona, strewn with tumuli, and dolmens, and pillar-stones—Mona, where the Druids made their last stand [against the Roman eagles—and its little island called Holyhead, facing Ireland.
However, when all is said, modern Wales is poorer in its fairy atmosphere than modern Ireland or modern Brittany. Certainly there is a good deal of this fairy atmosphere yet, though it has become less vital than the similar fairy atmosphere in the great centres of Erin and Armorica. But the purely social environment under which the Fairy-Faith of Wales survives is a potent force which promises to preserve underneath the surface of Welsh national life, where the commercialism of the age has compelled it to retire in a state of temporary latency, the ancestral idealism of the ancient Brythonic race. In Wales, as in Lower Brittany and in parts of Ireland and the Hebrides, one may still hear in common daily use a language which has been continuously spoken since unknown centuries before the rise of the Roman empire. And the strong hold which the Druidic Eisteddfod (an annual national congress of bards and literati) continues to have upon the Welsh people, in spite of their commercialism, is, again, a sign that their hearts remain uncorrupted, that when the more favourable hour strikes they will sweep aside the deadening influences which now hold them in spiritual bondage, and become, as they were in the past, true children of Arthur.