Thursday, 16 January 2014

Some Welsh Saints and Symbols

No, I haven’t jumped ahead of myself with these daffodils below. 

I do know that we’re still in January and that the daffodil is rightfully the Birth Month Flower of March!

It’s just that here in Wales, there’s an earlier version of St Valentine’s Day, celebrated on January 25th - St Dwynwen’s Day. And as the daffodil is one of the national symbols of Wales, I used one of my daffodil patterns, instead of the usual roses, on the St Dwynwen’s Day greeting cards for my new Zazzle store, 'Posh & Painterly Cymru'.

You can read about St Dwynwen, and the dramatic events that are supposed to have led to her being chosen as the patron saint of lovers, here, in an earlier blogpost. And since I wrote that post, I’ve decided to make St Dwynwen’s Day greeting cards after all - and they are quite popular. 

Here's one I made last week for the Celtic Family Magazine's 'shop':

The illustration for another of my
St Dwynwen's Day Greeting Cards,
this time for sale in
the Celtic Family Magazine shop

But back to the daffodils -

The first time I ever visited Wales, on a family holiday, back in the 1970s, we couldn't help noticing the beautiful banks of daffodils along the roadsides. They seemed to be everywhere. So I assumed that they must grow particularly well in Wales and that was the reason that they are one of the national symbols.

But more recently, I’ve noticed that the daffodil banks are spreading and you can see them across England too. So what is the real reason that the Welsh have adopted daffodils as one of their national emblems? 

The reason is a mixture of legend and human error!

Legend has it that St David, the patron saint of Wales, ordered the Welsh soldiers to pluck a plant from the battleground to wear in their caps to distinguish them from the Saxons they were fighting. The battle happened to take place in a field of leeks and that accounts for why the leek is the number one Welsh symbol, though here are some variation on that theory.

That’s the 'legend' part of the story and here comes the 'human error' component! 

The Welsh word for a leek is ‘cenhinen’ and the word for a daffodil is ‘cenhinen bedr’ or ‘cenin pedr’ (Peter’s leek). So it’s easy to see how the two became confused, especially as some narcissi are distantly related to some species of leek, both being part of the alium family.

I don’t know who the ‘Peter’ was who gave his name to the daffodil in Wales, causing such confusion. If anyone knows, I’d be very interested to hear about it!

No comments: