Calan Gaeaf

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Calan Gaeaf is the name of the first day of winter in Wales, observed on 1 November.[1] The night before is Nos Galan Gaeaf[1] or Noson Galan Gaeaf, an Ysbrydnos ("spirit night"[2][3]) when spirits are abroad. Traditionally, people avoid churchyards, stiles, and crossroads, since spirits are thought to gather there.

Practice[edit]

Villagers would dance around a bonfire and everyone would write their names on, or otherwise mark, rocks and place them in and around said fire. When the fire started to die out,[4] they would all run home, believing if they stayed, Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta (a bad omen that took the form of a tailless black sow with a headless woman) or Y Ladi Wen ("the white lady", a ghostly apparition often said to be headless) would chase them or devour their souls.[5][6]

One particular rhyme shows how the last child out on Nos Calan Gaeaf was at risk of being eaten by the fearsome beast:

Original English
Adref, adref, am y cyntaf',
Hwch ddu gwta a gipio'r ola'.
Home, home, at once
The tailless black sow shall snatch the last [one].

[4]

The following morning, all the stones containing villagers' names would be checked, and finding one's stone burned clean was believed to be good luck. If, however, a stone was missing, the person who wrote their name on the absent stone would be believed to die within one year.[4]

Terms[edit]

  • Coelcerth: Families build a fire and place stones with their names on it. The person whose stone is missing the next morning would die within the year
  • Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta: A fearsome spirit in the form of a tail-less black sow who roamed the countryside with a headless woman.
  • Twco Fala: Apple bobbing

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Davies, John; Jenkins, Nigel (2008). The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.
  • Jones, T. Gwynn (2020). Welsh Folklore and Folk Custom. Cockatrice Books. ISBN 978-1-9123-6815-0.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Davies (2008), pg 107.
  2. ^ "Ysbrydnos". Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru. 2002. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  3. ^ Jones (2020), pg 161.
  4. ^ a b c Jones (2020), pg 157.
  5. ^ "Nos Calan Gaeaf - Northern Hemisphere". Druidic Dawn. 20 October 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2015.
  6. ^ Jones (2020), pp 157-159.