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Faerie Lore : Lake Fairies - The Legend of the Meddygon Myddfai - -The Wife of Supernatural Race

On previous posts I have discussed about the celtic belief in lakes, rivers, and wells, believes later christianized and concealed under the characters of Saints deeds and sancutaries .
There is a large amount of legends regarding the origin of lakes in several celtic countries, and in some of them, we can find the folk type of a fairy dweller, maybe remnant believes on ancient deities, or rather the Goddess herself.
Welsh lore attracts me a lot on this subject, I revisit once again the character of the Gwragedd Annwn (sing: Gwraig) the Welsh lake fairies, (literally, wives of the lower world, or hell) , which pleases me most. Click here for my previous related post.

Illustration by Willy Pogány as featured on "The Welsh Fairy Book"
by W. Jenkyn Thomas - New York, F. A. Stokes [1908]


The legend of the Meddygon Myddfai again introduces the elfin cattle to our notice, but combines with them another and a very interesting form of this superstition, namely, that of "the wife of supernatural race". A further feature gives it its name, Meddygon meaning physicians, and the legend professing to give the origin of certain doctors who were renowned in the thirteenth century. 

The legend relates that a farmer in the parish of Myddfai, Carmarthenshire, having bought some lambs in a neighbouring fair, led them to graze near Llyn y Fan Fach, on the Black Mountains. Whenever he visited these lambs three beautiful damsels appeared to him from the lake, on whose shores they often made excursions. 

Sometimes he pursued and tried to catch them, but always failed; the enchanting nymphs ran before him and on reaching the lake taunted him in these words:
Cras dy fara,
Anhawdd ein dala;

which, if one must render it literally, means:
Bake your bread,
'Twill be hard to catch us;

but which, more poetically treated, might signify
Mortall, who eatest baken bread,
Not for thee is the fairy's bed!

One day some moist bread from the lake came floating ashore. The farmer seized it, and devoured it with avidity. The following day, to his great delight, be was successful in his chase, and caught the nymphs on the shore. After talking a long time with them, he mustered up the courage to propose marriage to one of them. She consented to accept him on condition that he would distinguish her from her sisters the next day. This was a new and great difficulty to the young farmer, for the damsels were so similar in form and features, that he could scarcely see any difference between them. 

He noted, however, a trifling singularity in the strapping of the chosen one's sandal, by which he recognized her on the following day. As good as her word, the gwraig immediately left the lake and went with him to his farm. Before she quitted the lake she summoned therefrom to attend her, seven cows, two oxen, and one bull. She stipulated that she should remain with the farmer only until such time as he should strike her thrice without cause. 

For some years they dwelt peaceably together, and she bore him three sons, who were the celebrated Meddygon Myddfai. One day, when preparing for a fair in the neighbourhood) the farmer desired her to go to the held for his horse. She said she would, but being rather dilatory, he said to her humorously Dos, dos, dos,' i.e., 'Go, go, go,' and at the same time slightly tapped her arm three times with his glove.

... The blows were slight--but they were blows. The terms of the marriage contract were broken, and the dame departed, summoning with her her seven cows, her two oxen, and the bull. The oxen were at that moment ploughing in the field, but they immediately obeyed her call and dragged the plough after them to the lake. 

The furrow, from the field in which they were ploughing to the margin of the lake, is still to be seen--in several parts of that country--at the present day. After her departure, the gwraig annwn once met her three sons in the valley now called Cwm Meddygon, and gave them a magic box containing remedies of wonderful power, through whose use they became celebrated. Their names were Cadogan, Gruffydd and Emion, and the farmer's name was Rhiwallon. Rhiwallon and his sons, named as above, were physicians to Rhys Gryg, Lord of Dynevor, and son of the last native prince of Wales. They lived about 1230, and dying, left behind them a compendium of their medical practice. 'A copy of their works is in the Welsh School Library in Gray's Inn Lane.' ['Cambro Briton,' ii., 315]

Related Source:
"British Goblins - Welsh Folklore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions" by Wirt Sikes - [1880]


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