St Cybi’s Well & St Tudwen’s Church, Spring 2019

 

StCybis
St Cybi’s Church

I went to the Hermitage of the Awakened Heart recently and decided to do some pilgrimage. The first place I visited was St. Cybi’s Well which is located very close by a church associated with the same saint. This place can be found at the village called Llangybi. Legend has it that this well has healing powers. I have been feeling in need of healing and rejuvenation lately so I thought that the well could work some magic on me.

StCybisWell
St Cybi’s Healing Well

It took about an hour to walk there from the Hermitage. I stayed for a while, said some Guru Rinpoche prayers and circumambulated the well. I walked back and felt very tired, even more than I had earlier. By the time I got back I felt so out of it that I went straight to sleep for a few hours, which is unusual for me to be able to sleep during the day even when tired. I’m sure the trip had some effect on me as I felt a new lease of life the next day, which leads me to the next pilgrimage: St.Tudwen’s church.

st tudwens church northwales
Pathway at St Tudwen’s Church

The following day, one of the residents at the Hermitage mentioned that she had a fold up bike, a funny looking thing usually seen on the underground in London that I thought wouldn’t be up to very much, but to my surprise it took me on quite a journey and even managed a few hills. I ended up cycling over 40 miles, partly owing to my poor sense of direction.

After a much needed Guinness, panini and coffee at a roadside pub I eventually made it to St Tudwen’s church which is next to a village called Dinas; a name which caused me to mistake Carn Fadryn (a famous Iron Age hillfort very close by) for Dinas Emrys (another famous mountain in Snowdonia) which I had also planned to visit, but didn’t quite have the time.

St Tudwen’s Church is a lovely spot and felt very peaceful to be there especially after the effort to get there. Shame I didn’t remember to ask the farmer for the key to look inside, but still, I circumambulated the church and said Guru Rinpoche prayers. I’m not sure if others in the sangha circumambulations of place other than stupas, but at some point I seem to have adopted this practice of viewing anything sacred as a kind of stupa.

When I first went to a Dharma centre in Scotland called Samye Ling I noticed the Stupa there had a presence as if it was alive, as if it could see me. I also thought the shape suggested drawing energy of life into it, like a lightning conductor through the pointed crown on the top. Later when I became involved with Awakened Heart Sangha with its Enlightenment Stupa at the Hermitage, I heard stupas talked about in much greater detail and with a great sense of reverence and awe.

The way of relating to stupas from what I have heard is as if they are the Buddha in person – and even the shape reflects this. There’s too much to go into on that subject but I like relating the same principles to other place, even places that are not at all seemingly sacred, places that might be un-loved or ugly. I suppose you could even circumambulate a public toilet if you wanted to.

Anyway, I enjoyed the two trips I made and next time hope to make it to Carn Fadryn.

Words and images by Luke Davey.

Cist Cerrig

Buddhist Pilgrimage Cist Cerrig sacred Sites North Wales
Lama Shenpen sitting in front of the ‘H’ shaped burial stones at Cist Cerrig

We celebrated welcoming the New Year with a Pilgrimage to Cist Cerrig – a sacred site  near Porthmadog, Gwynedd that contains the remains of a burial chamber/tomb dating from the Neolithic period.

A rainbow graced us with its presence after performing Buddhist prayers and rituals on the site, considered a very auspicious sign!

Guru Rinpoche Buddhist pilgrimage sites
A Small Guru Rinpoche statue on top of the natural ‘alter’ made by the stone and an Orchid offering

Carnguwch Church & the Tickling Stick

Carnguwch Church on Llyn Peninsula North Wales
Carnguwch Church on Llyn Peninsula

This beautiful little church is based on the site of an ancient Llan attributed either to St Beuno or to a little known Saint Cuwch who may have been female. It fell into disuse and disrepair but is now under the care of the friends of Carnguwch church and the occasional service still takes place there.

The Treasurer of the friends of the church (and the key-holder) lives at Penfras Uchaf farm, Llwyndyrys. He is very friendly and happy to give the key for the church and to point people to the standing stone in his field.

View to Garn Fadryn
View of Graveyard up to Garn Fadryn

According to the treasurer (because of local old place names and house names) is that the church belonged to St. Engan (or Einion) who was king of the Llyn peninsula, descendant of Cunedda and brother of St. Seriol.

St. Engan is credited with granting St. Seriol the land  for Penmon priory and to have a hermitage on Puffin island. He is also said to have brought St. Cadfan across from Tywyn to Ynys Enlli to establish the monastery there. There was a gilded and crowned statue of him at Llanengan church until the reformation. The church also claims to hold his relics.

Carnguwch Church a peaceful and atmospheric pilgrimage site
Peaceful and Atmospheric

The Treasurer believes that the site was probably a sacred pre-Christian site due to its natural features being a flat raised area above a river. It certainly seemed to have goddess qualities as well as Christian ones.

The pulpit in the church has 3 tiers and (according to the Treaurer) the warden would sit at the bottom with a stick, one end of which had feathers. His job was to nudge sleepy men with the hard end of the stick and women with the feathered end!

Buddhist Pilgrimage and Smoke Puja at Carnguwch Church
Buddhist Pilgrimage and Smoke Puja at Carnguwch Church

 

The Church and surrounding cemetery has a very peaceful feel and I would say one that is similar to that of St. Tudwen’s church. A sense of the feminine and a deep sense of love and compassion. Sitting in the churchyard, looking up to Mynydd Carnguwch and listening to the sounds of the river Erch below is a wonderful place to meditate. The church sits above the valley of the river Erch.

Beautifully Aged Tombstones
Beautifully Aged Tombstones

This remote site is on the far side of Mynydd Carnguwch which can only be reached on foot, either from the B4177 or from Lwyndyrys.  Grid reference SH374418.

By Tara Dew

 

Huw Llwyd’s Pulpit

Huw Llwyd is a legendary figure in Welsh history and literature. His is known to have lived between 1568 and 1630 and his house – Cynfal fawr still stands in the Cynfal valley near Llan Ffestiniog.
Huw Llwyd is a legendary figure in Welsh history and literature.

Huw Llwyd is a legendary figure in Welsh history and literature. He is is known to have lived between 1568 and 1630. His house – Cynfal fawr still stands in the Cynfal valley near Llan Ffestiniog.

He lived through the reign of James 1st, Charles 1st and the first decade of Elizabeth 1st. He was apparently the 7th son of a 7th son and feasted on eagle meat to ensure his descendants had powers for a further 9 generations. He was renowned as a mercenary soldier, a bard, harpist, writer, magician, alchemist, healer and for his ability to see into the future.

People travelled from far afield to hear him preaching and to seek his help. He served in France and Holland in a Welsh regiment in the role as chaplain and doctor. As a self -styled preacher he convinced local Christian clerics that sorcery was invaluable in the battle against evil and witchcraft.

He was visited by John Dee (alchemist and mathematician of the Elizabethan court) and they exchanged ideas and knowledge of magic.

On New Years Day 2018 Lama Shenpen and residents at The Hermitage of the Awakened Heart, undertook a Buddhist pilgrimage to his natural pulpit.

Within the deep and narrow Cynfal gorge ( Grid reference: SH705412) a fast-flowing river plunges around a tall pillar of rock. It was on this rock pillar in the middle of the river that Huw meditated, gave discourses and used his magic to cast out evil spirits.

Buddhist pilgrimage to Huw Llwyd's Pulpit
Lama Shenpen and gang on Buddhist pilgrimage

His sermons were powerful and miraculously could be heard above the sound of the rushing water. He only used his powers to combat evil and to punish those who misbehaved.

In Welsh the word to describe his meditation is synfyfyrio which literally means sudden or startled meditation. He would dress in a long cape with magical symbols, wear a special sheepskin crown with a pigeon feather in it and hold a whip made of eel skin with a bone handle.

A powerful wizard, he would heal through exorcism and the demons would be cast as dark shadows into the ravine below. The waterfall downstream from his pulpit is called Rhaeadr Ddu, the Black Falls.

Rhaeadr Ddu - the Black Falls - a Buddhist pilgrimage
Rhaeadr Ddu – the Black Falls

He was called upon to deal with anything weird and “witchy” and there are many stories of his taming of local negative forces and bandits.

In one tale Huw is called in to solve a case of serial theft at an inn in Betws y Coed. The inn is run by 2 beautiful sisters who are also witches and can transform themselves into cats at night to then steal from their customers. Huw rests that night with his magic sword by his side and when he notices the 2 cats stealthily sneak into his room and to his pockets he strikes one a blow on their paw.

The next morning one of the sisters has a bandaged hand and he knows for sure they are the criminals. He warns them and they deeply apologise for their actions. Instead of reporting them to the witch-finder for trial he tells them the inn is now under his protection and there will be no more stealing. The inn thrives and the sisters earn a good virtuous living.

The River Cynfal - scared site of Huw Llwyd’s Pulpit
The River Cynfal – scared site of Huw Llwyd’s Pulpit

In another story Huw mesmerises a group of bandits at a tavern in Pentrefoelas who were planning to kill him. He causes the table they are sitting at to grow antlers which they are unable to look away from. He gets a good nights sleep and in the morning they are arrested by the sheriff. In another story Huw leaves a spell on an unscrupulous and extortionate innkeeper by causing everyone to dance and sing until they are nearing terminal exhaustion. He then sends instructions for how to find the spell and throw it into the fire thus releasing everyone. These three tales show how he was just, effective and humorous!

He was married with children and on his death bed he told one of his daughters to throw all his books on the ‘black arts’ into a lake where they were received by a pair of ethereal hands. There is no record of his death, no will was ever executed or probate granted for his estate… some say he lives on!

His grandson (or perhaps nephew) Morgan Llwyd (1619 – 1659) was a Christian mystic and renowned welsh bard with numerous works still in print. He was a puritan preacher in Wrexham but his views were unorthodox being influenced by the German mystic Jacob Bohme. For some people he is considered a Welsh Nation builder.

The river Cynfal - rich in fish and eels
The River Cynfal

The water of the river Cynfal is rich in fish and eels. Elfyn’s grandfather caught a snake once while fishing in the river. It has a powerful feel to it – a Guru Rinpoche place and a home to nagas?

By Tara Dew

Bryn Cader Faner – Crown of Thorns

There is little to be said about the history and myths of this sacred site. Fortunately, this bronze aged stone circle (ring cairn) speaks for itself. It is simply spectacular!

In an area well known for megaliths and stone circles Bryn Cader Faner stands out as unusual and wonderful place to visit on pilgrimage in Wales.

A dramatic stone circle above Harlech with stones all sloping outwards like a crown of thorns. Situated in a remote high moorland looking up into Snowdonia.

Bryn Cader Faner translates as something like “the hill crowned with the throne of the flag”. Which implies a place of great power and prestige.

Originally a burial site (disturbed in the 19th Century), the stone circle consists of fifteen thin stone slabs of about 2 metres in length, unusually arranged so as to lean outwards. The original monument may have consisted of about thirty such stones.

Welsh pilgrimage to spectacular bronze age stone circle
Welsh pilgrimage to spectacular bronze age stone circle

To reach the site drive to Talsarnau and then take the upper Harlech Road and the first left up a steep narrow road to Eisingrug. Take the second right hand turn in this hamlet and follow the small road till its end where there is space for 3 or 4 cars to park. Go through the right hand gate and follow the track which bends around to the left. After about 10 minutes bear left onto a footpath which leads up to the circle. It takes about 45 minutes.

Buddhist pilgrimage to spectacular Welsh bronze age stone circle
Buddhist pilgrimage to spectacular Welsh bronze age stone circle

These photos show Lama Shenpen Hookham, some of the community residents and visiting retreatants of the Hermitage of the Awakened Heart near Criccieth. These show a puja (ritual) carried out to celebrate the New Year at the start of 2017.

by Jayasiddhi and Tara

Cwm Pennant (16/9/17)

Our annual Discovering the Heart of Buddhism study and meditation retreat ended with a pilgrimage to the beautiful valley of Cwm Pennant, Gwynedd, not far from where our Buddhist Retreat centre is based in Ynys, near Criccieth. Members of the Sangha have visited Cwm Pennant many times before and we love the beauty of the sacred landscape here. Tibetan Buddhist teacher H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche told us this was very special place.

Pilgrimage to sacred sites in Wales Cwm Pennant

It was a cold morning and it felt like Autumn/Winter had arrived as we walked up the hillside to a more sheltered spot, but we were very lucky as there was no rain despite the overcast skies.

Cwm Pennant holy pilgrimage Sacred Sites Wales

We stopped next to a very interesting looking tree, where the ground naturally flattens out a little, next to a large stone that’s perfect for our outdoor shrine.

Smoke Puja Buddhist rituals sacred sites North Wales

We set out the shrine with Guru Rinpoche at the centre, with our offerings, while Jayasiddhi built the small, self-contained fire from wood we brought with us as well as sacred ash from our previous smoke puja rituals to continue the connection (read more about Smoke Puja ritual here.)

Buddhist Practice of Pilgrimage to sacred sites in Snowdonia North Wales

While we made the offering of smoke to the sacred landscape of North Wales, we read Guru Rinpoche prayers, recited the mantra OM AH HUM and sang songs.

Tibetan Buddhist Sangha in Gwynedd, North Wales

The Awakened Heart Sangha is part of a yogic tradition of Tibetan Buddhism of singing songs of realisation, as taught by Khenpo RinpocheLama Shenpen‘s teacher. Khenpo Rinpoche was a wandering yogin in his youth and in later years would often sing profound extemporaneous songs, so is likened to the great yogin Milarepa.

We regularly sing songs composed by Milarepa and Khenpo Rinpoche as part of our practice, and on a pilgrimage in the beautiful sacred Welsh countryside is no exception!

By Loshi

Llandudwen – St. Tudwen’s Church (25/8/17)

Following on from our successful pilgrimage to Carn Fadryn, Lama Shenpen and the Hermitage team took our German guests on to the nearby church dedicated to St. Tudwen.

St. Tudwen's church Gwynedd, pilgrimage site with holy well
Llandudwen Church built as pilgrimage site to St. Tudwen,

This beautiful little chapel is located off of a farm track about one mile south of Morfa Nefyn. Take a good map, the turning is easy to miss. There is parking near the entrance to church, just outside of the farmyard.

There was a legend of a Holy Well being associated with this site, although it had been lost for many years. This was recently rediscovered in one of the fields adjoining the Church grounds.

The entrance to the church begins with a narrow pathway encompassed by two traditional welsh stone walls. These walls inspired Lama Shenpen to build our walled entrance leading up to the Stupa of Enlightenment at the Hermitage.

Buddhist retreat centre, Gwynedd Wales - traditional stone walls
Stone walls leading to the Buddhist Stupa at the Hermitage Retreat in Criccieth.

At the end of the pathway is a traditional covered stone gateway (lych gate) leading into the graveyard. Traditionally, coffins would have been left overnight in this gateway before burial the next morning. I had not heard of this tradition before and wonder at its meaning and origin. Perhaps something to do with purification at the boundary to sacred ground – reminiscent of entering a mandala boundary in the Buddhist tradition.

Tradition records St. Tudwen as being an Irish Saint, and sister to the grandmother of St David. She fled to the Llyn Peninsula to avoid persecution and abuse. Later began to teach the local people about her love of God.

A church was built over her grave on this site in the 5th Century. This was rebuilt in in 1595 – the current church – in the “hammer head” shape is a Grade II listed building.

St Tudwens church, stained glass window through door
View of stain glass window through doorway

The church is very beautiful and extremely well preserved. The stained glass windows are very modest and include the alpha and omega symbols. On the day we visited the doorway was surrounded with mistletoe, giving a somewhat pagan feel.

Church door with mistletoe, St. Tudwens, Gwynedd
Mistletoe around doorway, St Tudwens, Gwynedd

We spent some time sitting inside the church in silence, absorbing the atmosphere and meditating. As we had the church to ourselves we chanted the Green Tara mantra and our retreatants sang some of their Dharma songs in German. We had been enjoying these all week, the sweet melodies and wonderfully tuneful voices!   By Jayasiddhi