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Innumerable tales are afloat respecting the evils and the good accomplished at this Well. I have gathered quite a number of them from people acquainted with "Jack, the priest", as he was called, and as illustrative of my subject I will record a few.
A pig cursed.—An old man, Robert Hughes, of Rowen, near Conway, told me, thirty years ago, when I spoke to him of Ffynnon Elian, that a neighbour had sustained many losses from, as he supposed, the thieving propensities of certain parties who lived near him. His wheat and oats and barley had, time after time, diminished unaccountably. At last his patience was exhausted, and he determined to go for vengeance to Ffynnon Elian. So one morning, at the break of day, he started on his journey, and having arrived there he cursed with madness the thief who had stolen his grain. He returned pleased with what he had done. But curses come home to roost. Whilst he was engaged in partaking of refreshments, his wife, who had gone to feed the pigs, rushed into the house stating that the sow was raving mad. It was true. But on investigation it was proved that the sow was the culprit, and that she had got at the corn in a cunning manner. However, the sow, being cursed with madness, was punished for her thefts.
A Woman and her Husband.-A young wife who could not get on with her husband, determined to see what the Well could do for her. One day, in her husband's absence from home, she went to St. Elian to see what he advised. She stated her case to the custodian, and he immediately informed her that incompatibility of temper came nicely within the influence of the Well. He procured a bottle, and filled it with water from the sacred fount, and instructed her, whenever her husband was angry, and used strong language, to go quietly to the bottle and take therefrom a mouthful of the holy water, and retain it in her mouth as long as the storm of words lasted; and he told her that she was to be very careful not to swallow the draught, for
that would be dangerous to her; but as soon as her angry husband had ceased his abuse, she was to go outside and eject the water. This the woman promised to do; but on starting away her eyes fell upon the small bottle in her hand, and bearing in mind the constant outbursts of passion on the part of her husband, she surmised that the bottle's contents would hardly last a day.
"Ah!" said she to the Well-keeper, "this will soon be finished, and what shall I do then?"
"You can replenish the water daily from any spring," said he, "and thus a portion of the sacred water will ever remain in the bottle."
So the woman departed, and the charm worked marvellously, for in a short time it accomplished a complete cure. So grateful was she that at the end of a twelvemonth she determined to pay another visit to the custodian, who was surprised to see her, and inquired what she would further. Nothing" was her reply; "but I have come to tell that my husband is now the best of men, and I am the happiest of women.'
These tales will suffice to show how miracles were wrought at St. Elian's Well.
St. Tecla's Well, in the parish of Llandegla, was once a famous resort of health-seekers. It was efficacious in a disease called clwyf tegla, or the falling sickness. The manner of proceeding was as follows. The patient washed his limbs in the Well, made an offering of four pence to it, walked round it three times, and thrice repeated the Lord's Prayer. These ceremonies never began till after sunset. If the afflicted were a male, he made an offering of a cock; if of the fair sex, a hen. The fowl was carried in a basket first round the Well, and then after that to the churchyard, where the same circumambulations were performed round the church. Then the votary entered the church, got under the altar, lay down there with a Bible under his head, and the bird's beak in his mouth, and was covered over with a rug of cloth, and rested there until break of day.
On departing he left the fowl in the church, and an offering of six-pence. If the bird died, the cure was supposed to have been effected, and the disease transferred to the victim.
St. Deifer's Well, Bodfari, was frequented for bodily ailments; and here, too, offerings of living animals were made, a cockerel for a boy, and a pullet for a girl. The sick went nine times round the church before they bathed in the Well. Peevish children were dipped to the neck at three of its corners, to prevent their crying in the night.
This Well has been drained, and supplies the villagers with water.
But I must proceed. No description of wells in Wales can be complete without reference to the famous Well that gives existence and its name to the town in which the learned members of the Cambrian Archæological Association meet this year.
St. Winifred's Well.-Tradition accounts for this wonderful Well as follows. "In the seventh century lived a virgin of extraordinary sanctity and beauty, who made a vow of chastity, and dedicated herself to the service of God, and was put under the care of her uncle Beuno, who had erected a church here, and performed the services of God. A neighbouring heathen prince named Cradoc was struck with her uncommon beauty, and at all events was determined to gratify his desires. He made known his passion for her, who, affected with horror, attempted her escape. The disappointed wretch instantly pursued her, drew out his sword, and cut off her head. But his punishment was instantaneous; he fell down dead, and the earth opening swallowed his impious corpse. The severed head rolled down the hill, and stopped near the church. St. Beuno took it up, carried it to the corpse, and offering his devotions, joined it to the body, which instantly united, and a spring of uncommon size burst forth from the very place where the head had rested. And this was the origin of St. Winifred's Well, so called after the saintly virgin Winifred."
Pennant, in his account, says: "After the death of that Saint the waters were almost as sanative as those of the Pool of Bethesda. All infirmities incident to the human body met with relief. The votive crutches, the barrows, and other proofs of cures, to this moment remain as evidences pendent over the Well." Pennant states that of late years the number of pilgrims had considerably decreased, and that in the summer a few were to be seen in the water, up to their chins, in deep devotion for hours, or performing a number of evolutions round the Well a prescribed number of times.
Pennant also speaks of a large stone near the steps, 2 ft. under the water, called "The Wishing Stone", which received many a kiss from the faithful, who, he says, are supposed never to fail experiencing the completion of their desires, provided the wish is delivered with full devotion and confidence. He adds that "on the outside of the great Well, close to the road, is a small spring, once famed for the cure of weak eyes."
In a paper of this description it must suffice that reference only is made to this wonderful Well. A volume could be written on it; and if time and opportunity occur I hope, in the uncertain future, in a contemplated work, to more fully describe this and other holy wells in Wales.
THE CASTRETON OF ATIS-CROSS HUNDRED
BY GEORGE W. SHRUBSOLE, ESQ., F.G.S.
As the case stands at present, our knowledge of the town of Flint commences with the year 1277; so that within historic times there is a period of twelve hundred years in which its history is a blank. I am disposed to question the accuracy of this, believing that there is much yet of the early history of Flint which awaits recovery.
Local discoveries made during the last hundred years would go to show that close by the present town of Flint, and for miles, both east and west, along its shore-line, has been the seat of an extensive leadindustry, dating as far back as the time of the Romans. The evidence for this we have in the finding of numerous personal Roman relics, widely spread smelting hearths, heaps of scoriæ, with fragments of lead, and lead-ore in various stages of manufacture, and the more substantial foundations of Roman houses. We may take it as a fact that there is abundance of evidence, accumulated during late years, to show that there has been a Roman settlement in the immediate locality of Flint, and formed with a view to the production of lead, so freely occurring in the surrounding neighbourhood.
Supposing it to have been a Roman settlement, it is possible that for the interest and security of the settlers, a castrum with a wall of stone or earth, in accordance with their usual custom, would soon be built. More than this, we may believe that the camp was a substantial one, such as the mineral wealth of the place
5TH SER., VOL. VIII.