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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/81

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Sacred Wells in Wales.

of the well is kept shut. It will occur, however, to every- body to compare the well which Undine wished to have kept shut, on account of its affording a ready access from her subterranean country to the castle of her refractory knight. And in the case of the Glasfryn Lake, the walling and cover that were to keep the spring from overflowing were, according to the story, not water-tight, seeing that there were holes in one of the stones. This suggests the idea that the cover was to prevent the passage of some such full-grown fairies as those with which legend seems to have once peopled all the pools and tarns of Wales. But, in the next place, is the maiden in charge of the well to be regarded as priestess of the well ? This idea of a priesthood is not wholly unknown in connection with wells in Wales.

In another context (p. 57, above) I have alluded to Ffynnon Eilian, or St. Elian's Well ; and I wish now briefly to show the bearing of its history on this question. We read as follows, s. v. Llandrillo, in Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Wales, edition 1833: "Fynnon Eilian, which, even in the present age, is annually visited by hundreds of people, for the reprehensible purpose of invoking curses upon the heads of those who have grievously offended them. The ceremony is performed by the applicant standing upon a certain spot near the well, whilst the owner of it reads a few passages of the sacred scriptures, and then, taking a small quantity of water, gives it to the former to drink, and throws the residue over his head, which is repeated three times, the party continuing to mutter imprecations in whatever terms his vengeance may dictate." Rice Rees, in his Essay on Welsh Saints (London, 1836), p. 267, speaks of St. Elian as follows : "Miraculous cures were lately supposed to be performed at his shrine at Llanelian, Anglesey ; and near the church of Llanelian, Denbighshire, is a well called Ffynnon Elian, which is thought by the peasantry of the neighbourhood to be endued with miraculous powers even at present."