Calan Gaeaf

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Calan Gaeaf is the name of the first day of winter in Wales, observed on 1 November.[1] The night before is Nos Galan Gaeaf[1] or Noson Galan Gaeaf, an Ysbrydnos when spirits are abroad. Traditionally, people avoid churchyards, stiles, and crossroads, since spirits are thought to gather there.

Practice

Children and women would dance around a village fire and, during this process, everyone would write their names on rocks and place them in and around said fire. When the fire started to die out they would all run home, believing if they stayed, Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta (a bad omen that took the form of a tailless black sow with a headless woman) would devour their souls.[2]

One particular rhyme shows how the last child out on Nos Calan Gaeaf was at risk of being eaten by the fearsome beast:

Original English
Adref, adref, am y cyntaf',
Hwch ddu gwta a gipio'r ola'.
Home, home, at once
The tailless black sow shall snatch the last [one].

The following morning, all the stones containing villagers' names would be checked. If, however, a stone was missing, the person who wrote their name on the absent stone would be believed to die within one year.

Terms

  • Coelcerth: Families build a fire and place stones with their names on it. The person whose stone is missing the next morning would die within the year
  • Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta: a fearsome spirit in the form of a tail-less black sow and roamed the countryside with a headless woman
  • Twco Fala: Apple bobbing

See also

Bibliography

  • Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.

Notes

  1. ^ a b Davies (2008), pg 107.
  2. ^ "Nos Calan Gaeaf - Northern Hemisphere". Druidic Dawn. 20 October 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
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