Or Happy Saint Dwynwen’s Day to you English speakers.
But who is Saint Dwynwen, and why should we be happy on her day? Well, she is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, so today is the Welsh version of Valentine’s Day. These days it is associated with almost as much ritual consumerism as the better known love festival.
Valentine was an early Christian martyr, executed for trying to convert the Emperor to his beliefs. He died on February 14th, 269 (according to Catholic Online). It is unclear how he came to be associated with being in love. Dwynwen has a much better claim to the job.
Dwynwen was one of the 24 daughters of King Brychan Brycheiniog, whose territory is the region we now call the Brecon Beacons. She was, naturally, the prettiest of them, and there was competition for her hand. A young man called Maelon Dafodrill was particularly smitten with her. What happened next varies a lot from one story to the next.
Some say that Dwynwen rejected Maelon’s advances and he became furious with her, perhaps even raped her. Others say that she loved him in return but she had been promised to someone else by her father. Whatever happened, she prayed to God for help and he proved remarkably willing to get involved.
There may have been a potion of forgetfulness, provided by an angel, which either erased the pain of the rape, or the pain of losing her love. Also the unfortunate Maelon was turned into a pillar of ice. And finally God granted Dwynwen three wishes.
For the first wish she asked that Maelon be unfrozen forthwith, which shows that she had a rather better understanding of compassion and forgiveness than God.
For the second wish she asked that God take good care of all true lovers, that their lives might prove happier than hers, which is where she got the patron saint job from.
And finally she asked that she be allowed to never marry. She lived out her life in a nunnery, and founded a small church on a little island near Anglesey.
So what are we to make of all this? Was Dwynwen a broken-hearted lover? If so, why did she not just ask God to allow her to marry Maelon? Was she put off men by Maelon’s bad behaviour? Perhaps, but she seemed willig to forgive him. Or maybe she just wasn’t interested in men at all.
What we do know is that she was a kind-hearted girl who wanted the best for others. (She is also the patron saint of sick animals.) And I rather like the idea that the Welsh patron saint of lovers might be lesbian or asexual.