Gelli Fach

Gelli Fach

I'm a cell, I'm fragmented, I change my form;
I'm a repository of song, I'm a dynamic state.
I love a wooded slope and a snug shelter,
and a creative poet who doesn't buy his advancement.

Wyf kell, wyf dellt, wyf datweirllet;
wyf llogell kerd, wyf lle ynnyet.
Karaf-y gorwyd a goreil clyt,
a bard a bryt ny pryn y ret.

From: Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, edited and translated by Marged Haycock

Thursday, 7 April 2011

April, Hares and St Melangell

Leaping Hare: original limited edition print  © Jenny Fell
prints and cards available from the artist

from The Verses of the Months

The month of April, the upland is misty,
the oxen are weary, the earth is bare,
feeble is the stag, playful the long-eared (hare);

Mis Ebrill, wybraidd gorthir,
lluddedig ychen, llwm tir,
gwael hydd, gwareus clusthir...

Verses of the Months, Welsh c.15th century

excerpt from Pilgrimage to Melangell's Healing Centre by Noragh Jones

Third day -  arriving at Melangell's shrine and Cancer Help Centre, nestling at the head of a green valley. The church stands in a pre-christian circular enclosure. There was a healing well nearby, but now it's been fenced off and privatised by a new owner.

This is the end of my solitary pilgrimage. I meet friends and talk too much the way you do when you've been alone. Then we catch ourselves out and sit quietly in the church for an hour - praying or not praying according to our lights.

On the oak rood screen Melangell is saving a hare from the Prince of Powys's hunting party. All around the church are carvings of happy hares finding sanctuary under the saint's cloak. (The locals call hares wyn bach Melangell - Melangell's lambs).

I read in the visitor's book a moving record of hundreds of pilgrims who have come here and found the help they needed - to go on living or to face dying. I am lost for words. I go and sit in silence at Melangell's shrine.

ar ei allor                                   (on her shrine
hen gath yn eisted                       an ancient cat sits
ac yn canu grwndi                       purring)

Later we go out into the churchyard. The yew trees they say are two thousand years old. Their broken trunks bleed red sap. But they go on offering shelter to whoever comes - faith or no faith.

rym ni'n cymry ein tro                 (we take it in turns
profi tragwyddoldeb                     trying on eternity
yn yrywen gau                               in the hollow yew)

From Stone Circles: Haiku and Haiku Prose by Noragh Jones;


  1. your art is quite wonderful, lovely to find you.

  2. Oh, it's not my artwork. The artist is my friend Jenny Fell and her work is quite wonderful - I'll pass it on!

  3. What I've always found striking is the similarity between stories about Melangell and Ffraid. Both, for instance, were said to have come from Ireland to escape an arranged marriage. How do you feel anout connections between them?

  4. I suppose I see it in terms of the pattern that Welsh female saints share in the accounts of their lives. Their stories don't start until they encounter male sexuality (unlike male saints whose stories start at conception/birth) - Gwenfrewi and Dwynwen are also escaping from men (marriage or otherwise)and Non is raped and afterwards shuns men. The main cause of their saintliness is their chastity.

    I wonder though, is it possible there was an established conduit to Britain for women fleeing enforced marriage in Ireland - rather like Irish women more recently coming here for terminations? There was a lot of contact between the two countries and Irish settlements in Wales between the 4th and 8th century.

  5. mwlangel is a goddess. i went there in March 2015. walked from LLangynog. saw pheasants. oaks. attracted to the mountaim air force planes roared overhead. did not enter the llan by the lych gate but went above the enclosure. peed, which is a sign of a transitional boundary. entered the green grassy llan and wandered towards the church. a service inside was too maudlin for me, after all the british goddesses are so full of joy and intensity. went and talked to some black chooks near the glass windows. ignored the sancytimonious piety of the grave inscriptions though there chambered form was intriquing. like to visit again but i live 20000 kms away, though born in Meifod in the bosom of the loving goddess of my ancestors.

  6. the Christians assimilated the spirit of the place. the old stories are like dreamtine stories that the first people told after perceiving the spirit in a locale. the animals, deities are living entities. the christian stories are propaganda. they dishonour the old belief and in consequence are isolated from union with the divine and indulge in sorrow,