Sunday, 21 July 2013


Today we had to go and buy another computer after our's died last night, this is why the posting of the blog has been delayed. With a new laptop in hand we continued on our trip and drove to Nevern to see St Brynach church. Named after St Brynach of Pembrokeshire who founded a place of worship here in the 5th century. The church was on the pilgrimage route to St. David's. It has a post-Norman tower.

The 13ft high, 10th-11th century patterned Celtic cross is notable among the collection of 6th century engraved Celtic memorial stones and a pilgrim's cross. The churchyard contains cypress trees and ancient yew trees. Famous is the Bleeding Yew tree.

The Pilgrims Path

The Yew Tree Entrance

The Pilgrims Cross a mysterious cross carved into a rock face on the medieval Pilgrimage route closely related in style to the cross at Carew, and is of a similar late 10th or early 11th century date. Like the Carew Cross, it is inscribed on the shaft, on the front, the Latin inscription reads: H/AN/.EH, and on the back: DNS. The meaning of the first is uncertain, but DNS is probably an abbreviated form of Dominus (Lord). The cross, fashioned in the local hard dolerite, comprises two separate pieces the upper wheel-head and a shouldered neck are joined by a mortise-and-tenon joint to the shaft, which terminates in a slightly stepped base. From the side it may be seen how the shaft is reduced in thickness towards the top by means of a chamfered offset. The wheel-head has the same curving arms to the cross as are seen on the Carew Cross, a feature that characterizes the 'Anglican' type.

The Pilgrims Cross

Another early Christian stone stands in the churchyard near the high cross. It is much smaller and has a Latin inscription of the 5th or early 6th century: VITALIANA / EMERETO, or: (The stone) of Vitalianus Emereto. Vitalianus and Emeritus were common names of this period. Along the left angle of the face is an Ogam inscription: VITALIAN(o).

Engraved Celtic Memorial stone

Inside the church, built into the sills of the southern transept windows, are two further stones. One has a Latin inscription reading vertically down: MAGLOCVN(i) FILI CLVTOR, or (The stone) of Maglocunus, son of Clutorius. The Ogam form of the inscription on the left angle of the face reads upwards: MAGLICUNAS MAQI CLUTR. It is 5th or early 6th century in date. The other stone is decorated with an interlaced Latin cross carved in low relief; a characteristic Irish form of cross which probably dates to the 10th century. Both stones were discovered in 1906, built into the wall of the 'priest's chamber', a small room over the transeptal chapel. The church itself is of great interest. The dedication is to Saint Brynach, an Irish saint of the 6th century.

The Bleeding Yew Tree is worshipped in some pagan religions today for its ability to heal, although interestingly, most parts of the tree are toxic. The branches of the yew tree grow into the ground. Therefore, when the trunk dies, its branches become trees. Many groves of the yew tree can be found in the gorgeous Afon Nevern Valley of Pembrokeshire, Wales, where the original chapel of St. Brynach’s Church was built in 540 AD by St. Brynach, a sixth century Welsh saint . Saint Brynach was originally from Ireland, settling in Pembrokeshire after expansive travels. The local lord, Clether, gave Saint Brynach the parcel of land where he was said to often talk with angels, and subsequently built the church. Although there is not much remaining of the original chapel, some of the stones from the first building are a part of the church standing in its place today. In the churchyard, ancient yew trees line the path leading up to the church. One of the trees is extremely old and twisted with a dark red liquid flowing from a gash in the trunk. The liquid is the colour and consistency of blood. There is a report that indicated the substance cannot be identified by scientists and they have no definitive explanation. There are several legends to explain this strangeness. Many believe Jesus Christ was crucified on a cross made from the yew tree, and that the tree bleeds in sympathy. Some say the yew tree was the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. The yews are hundreds of years old, and in pagan tales were said to mark sites that were sacred to the Earth Goddess, and so may have predated many of the buildings. Yews grow very slowly, are evergreen, and are said to symbolize rebirth. Yews have also been linked with the World Tree or the Tree of Life; avenues for connecting upper and lower worlds.

Pagans say it bleeds because it is connected with the Earth Mother (representing menstrual flow). The tale of 6th century St. Brynach, who after living on Carn Ingli in communion with angels, was divinely guided to find the site for a church, being told that his sign would be the white sow, sacred symbol of the Goddess Ceridwen. He then walked to Nevern near the stream where he found the sow, and hence the church was built there. What better way to site a church in this area of Wales known, in previous generations, as Menevia or Mynyw, which can be translated to "way of the moon" or "lunar paradise."

Listening to a local the tree normally has a lot more sap seeping from it however the recent weather with no rain has reduced the sap falling from the cut

The equal armed cross within a circle, the "sun cross," is said to represent not only the Christian cross, but the sun and the four directions or seasons, also the joining of the masculine linearity and the feminine circle/cycle of life/earth in balance. The four arms are said to represent nature, self, knowledge and God. Also the circle represents sun, earth and moon, all of life linked: as above, so below.

Our next stop was Pentre Ifan a burial chamber (dolmen) in Pembrokeshire 4km east of Newport. One of the most spectacular and famous monuments of its type it consists of a tilted capstone perched on three uprights. A blocking stone obstructs the doorway and a semi-circular forecourt is found at the southern end. Originally covered by a huge long mound where traces of possible kerbstones can still be found on site. Once known as Arthurs' Quoit, Pentre Ifan means Ivan's Village. This monument, dating back to about 3500 BC and unusually oriented north-south, stands on the slopes of a ridge commanding extensive views over the Nevern Valley. The elegant capstone weighs over 16 tons; it is 5m (16ft 6in) long and 2.4m (8ft) off the ground. The stones of the chamber are all of local igneous rock. Excavations in 1936-7 and 1958-9 showed that the burial chamber originally lay within a shallow oval pit, and that the trapezoidal mound of earth covering it was up to 36m (120ft) long. The semi-circular façade, as in the Irish court-tombs, was marked by two upright stones on either side of the south-facing portal. The forecourt was blocked with rows of tightly wedged stones. Within the cairn were a number of enigmatic features: a slumped stone, deliberately felled before the cairn was built, an irregular line of small stone-holes and a pit with signs of burning. No trace of burials was found here, but we may assume that such a large tomb would have been used for collective burial over many years. The number of artefacts discovered was very small; a recent analysis suggests that Pentre Ifan may be a structure built in two periods: the original portal dolmen tomb could have been later embellished by a cairn and a façade. Local lore says that sometimes fairies are seen here: they are described as 'little children in clothes like soldiers' clothes and with red caps". "The region, the little valley on whose side stands the Pentre Ifan cromlech, the finest in Britain, is believed to have been a favourite place with the ancient Druids. And in the oak groves (Ty Canol Wood) that still exist there, tradition says there was once a flourishing school for neophytes, and that the cromlech instead of being a place for internments or sacrifices was in those days completely enclosed, forming like other cromlechs a darkened chamber in which novices when initiated were placed for a certain number of days....the interior (of Pentre Ifan) being called the womb or court of Ceridwen".

Visiting or should I say climbing to the top of Carn Ingli was next on the list. As we arrived we were greeted by these wonderful miniature horses as we parked the car. There are many stories and legends associated with Carningli (The Mount of Angels). Carningli is magical, from its timelessness to its stunning three hundred and sixty degree views across the Pembrokeshire tundra there is a sense of something mythical, ancient and untouchable about this hill top south of Newport Pembrokeshire. Cairns are dotted about all over the mountain along with the remains of hut circles from forgotten civilisations that once lived, farmed and defended this part of Wales. The peak at Carningli has the remains of stone ramparts that would have once formed a defensive ring around the summit of this mountain. To have moved the amount of stone making up these walls would have taken a great deal of human power and time leading to conclude that this was once a very important settlement and a seat of great power along the west coast of Wales.

The mountain has always had sacred associations according to legend Saint Brynach (a local saint) used to climb to the summit to find serenity, to pray and to "commune with the angels" in the 5th century. In some old texts and maps the mountain is called Carn Yengly or Carnengli, which are probably corruptions of Carn Engylau. St. Brynach, reportedly spent three years in meditation on and around Carningli. He is said to have communicated with Rhiannon, the Welsh horse goddess of the underworld who, according to local lore, resides there. I know Rhiannon, the goddess of the mountain, was blessing us on this journey as once we started ascending the mountain we were then greeted by two more horses and a foal. As you approach the top we had the sense that we were in a very important place. It has been said that if you look over the landscape around you from the top of the mountain you can see what looks like a great, reclining form, shaped of piled stones. Some call this shape Rhiannon, and her feet, knees, thighs, pregnant belly, crossed arms and hands, breasts, neck, face, head and her hair, thrown wildly back, can be seen. When you are at the top of the mountain, you are at the navel of the goddess.

When we were climbing back down the mountain there were 5 horses and the foal just extraordinary

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