Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/65

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57
Sacred Wells in Wales.

day of August 1887, when I was spending a few days with my friend Canon Silvan Evans, at Llanwrin Rectory, near Machynlleth. Mrs. Evans was then alive and well, and took a keen interest in Welsh antiquities and folk-lore. Among other things, she related to me how she had, some twenty years before, visited a well in the parish of Llandrillo yn Rhos, namely, Ffynnon Eilian, or Elian's Well, near Abergele in Denbighshire, when her attention was directed to some bushes near the well, which had once been covered with bits of rags left by those who frequented the well. This was told Mrs. Evans by an old woman of seventy, who, on being questioned by Mrs. Evans concerning the history of the well, informed her that the rags used to be tied to the bushes by means of wool. She was explicit on the point that wool had to be used for the purpose, and that even woollen yarn would not do: it had to be wool in its natural state. The old woman remembered this to have been the rule ever since she was a child. Mrs. Evans noticed corks with pins stuck in them, floating in the well, and her informant remembered many more in years gone by; for Elian's Well was once in great repute as a ffynnon reibio, or a well to which people resorted for the kindly purpose of bewitching those whom they hated. I infer, however, from what Mrs. Evans was told of the rags, that Elian's Well was visited, not only by the malicious, but also by the sick and suffering. My note is not clear on the point whether there were any rags on the bushes by the well when Mrs. Evans visited the spot, or whether she was only told of them by her informant. Even in the latter case it seems evident that this habit of tying rags on trees or bushes near sacred wells has only ceased in that part of Denbighshire within this century. It is very possible that it continued in North Wales more recently than this instance would lead one to suppose; indeed, I should not be in the least surprised to learn that it is still practised in out-of-the-way places in Gwynedd, just as it is in Glamorgan. We want more facts.

I cannot say whether it was customary in any of the