Happy Saint David's Day!
Dydd Dewi Sant Hapus!
March 1st is a day to remember Wales and its patron saint. In anticipation of that other Celtic saint venerated in March, it’s easy for David to get lost in the hoopla, but here at the Celtic Ranch – we give every saint his or her due.
It’s thought that David was born into an aristocratic family during the 6th Century, though the exact date is unsure. Accounts of his life and legend were not recorded until nearly 500 years after his death, but many stories connected to St David are part of the collective memory of Welsh people.
David’s biographer, Rhygyfarch, wrote that he was the son of Sandde or Sant, prince of Powys and the son of King Ceredig, the founder of Ceredigion. David’s mother was Non, a nun said to have been raped by Sandde after she resisted his advances. Legend holds that she gave birth on a cliff top amidst a violent storm. So intense was her experience that she left finger marks on the stone. As David was born, a bolt of lightning struck the rock, splitting it in two.
From his youth, David is credited with a number of miracles, some of which involve healing the blind. In some accounts, he splashes water on their eyes; in others he uses his own tears. In one instance, he raised a young person from death and a well spring appeared on the site.
David is also known as 'Dewi Ddyfrwr' (David the Water Drinker) and, indeed, water was an important part of his life - he is said to have drunk nothing else. As a self-imposed penance, he was known to stand neck-deep in a lake of cold water, reciting scripture. He was a strict ascetic and enforced harsh rules on the brothers in his community. Like many Celtic saints, Dewi could be mistaken for an early Puritan!
Perhaps the best-known story of Dewis Sant happened at the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi. Dewi was being considered for Archbishop. A large crowd gathered and when Dewi stood to speak, someone shouted that they couldn’t see or hear him. At that instant, the ground rose till everyone could see and hear Dewi. Not surprisingly, the counsel decided that Dewi would be the Archbishop.
David preached until the week of his death. He left behind this well-known sentiment: 'Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed. Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about. I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.' 'Do the little things' ('Gwnewch y pethau bychain') is a well-known and inspirational phrase. On a Tuesday, March first, in the year 589, the monastery is said to have been 'filled with angels as Christ received his soul'.
St David's Feast Day dates back to 1120, when Dewi was canonized. Many pilgrimages are made to St. David's; two pilgrimages there equal one to Rome, and three pilgrimages equal one to Jerusalem. March 1st was celebrated until the Reformation as a holy day.
Put a daffodil in your lapel and come by the Celtic Ranch in March to remember good Saint David and Wales. We’ll raise a glass and toast your health, “Iechyd da!”
Wrangler of Cultural Affairs