Saint Dwynwen, also known as Dwyn or Donwen, is the Welsh patron saint of lovers and her name translates as, she who leads a blessed life. She is thought to be the daughter of the legendary 5th century king of Brecknockshire (Breconshire) Brychan Brycheiniog. It is possible that her mother was Queen Rigrawst who was one of the Queen consorts of King Brychan Brycheiniog. Rigrawst was born in 468 AD, the daughter of Gwrtheyrn ap Gwidol the High King of Britain and Severa Verch Macsen the daughter of Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus. Dwynwen lived on the island of Anglesey in North Wales and her name still exists in place names such as Llanddwyn and Porthddwyn in Wales and the church of Sen Adhwynn in Cornwall.
Since the fifteenth century and later calendars give the 25th of January as the day commemorating St Dwynwen in Wales.
According to legend, Dwynwen fell in love with a young man named Maelon. What follows is unclear, as various versions exist, though all have the same ending. One is that Maelon raped her and she prays for help, another is that her father refuses to allow her to marry him, possibly because he had already arranged for her to marry someone else, and so she prays that she may forget her love for Maelon.
In answer to her prayers, an angel gives her a potion, which Maelon drinks and subsequently turns into ice. Dwynwen then prays for three requests, which are that Maelon is released; that, through her, God look after all true lovers; and that she remains unmarried. All three were fulfilled, and as a mark of her gratitude, Dwynwen retreated to Llanddwyn Island, a tidal island off the coast of Anglesey to live as a hermit devoting herself to God's service for the rest of her life until she died, in about AD 460. She built a church on the island, the ruins of which can still be seen today. The name Llanddwyn literally means, the church of Dwynwen.
On the island there is also Dwynwen's Well, where legend has it that sacred fish swim and can predict if a relationship will be successful. If the fish are active when visiting the Well, it is meant to be the sign of a faithful husband. Another tradition claims that if the water boils while visitors are present, then love and good luck will surely follow.
St Dwynwen is also the patron saint of sick animals.
A tradition dating back many hundreds of years in Wales is for men to give a wooden, hand-carved love spoon to the girl of his choice. Many of these spoons are intricately carved and very beautiful. You can read more about them here, and see examples of the different designs here.
The name you have selected is the person you have to buy a present for and the gift is meant to be left on the person’s desk or somewhere where they can find it without them knowing who left it there. When the game ends, you have to try to guess who your secret friend is. In some places during September people play amigo secreto for the entire week leading up to the third Saturday, so you have to leave a gift for your secret friend every day!
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