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.

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

 

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

Carn Fadryn “Mother Mountain” 25/8/2017

Carn Fadryn (Garnfadryn) was the sacred destination for the second group of German retreatants on our Discovering the Heart of Buddhism retreat this August. We could not have chosen a better day to explore the Welsh sacred landscape, the skies were clear and the sun was hot – an auspicious day to initiate out ten German guests to the practice Welsh Pilgrimage.

Carn Fadryn Mother Mountain

Lama Shenpen and Rigdzin Shikpo had once asked H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche about the possibility of finding holy places in Britain. He asked for a map of the area and identified a number of sacred places in North Wales. The one he felt stood out as  being particularly special was Carn Fadryn.

Khyentse Rinpoche was one of the foremost Tibetan Buddhist teachers of his generation and was highly respected as a Terton – or Treasure Finder. He had found many sacred objects and Buddhist texts (Termas) hidden in the landscape of Tibet and the surrounding Himalayas. His naming of Carn Fadryn as a place of strong spiritual significance should therefore be taken very seriously.

Dilgo_Khyentse Rinpoche

H.H Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Carn Fadryn translates as something like “mother mountain” and has strong feminine associations, a fitting destination for an all female retreat from the German Sangha (Buddhist community) Tara Libre. Some sources link the mountain with Modrun, the grand daughter of Vortigen, the Welsh hero and famous Celtic King.

There is also a legend linking the mountain to King Arthur.  There is a cromlech (a standing stone burial site) named “Coetan Arthur” (Arthur’s Quoit) at Trefgwm. It consists of a great stone resting on three smaller stones. The legend states that Arthur “the Giant” threw the largest stone from Carn Fadryn – a distance of several miles. His wife then picked it up and propped it on three smaller stones from her apron!

We parked at the handy lay-by at the foot of the mountain in the village of Garnfadryn and began our ascent under the glorious sunshine. The mountain has a height of 371 metres, but has a well trod track through heather slopes and is a relatively easy walk (approx. 45 minutes) with a few high steps in places.

Garnfadryn village

The summit marked by ancient cairns and a modern trig point, was the sight of at least three ancient hill forts. The earliest dates from around 300 BC.  The most recent was recorded in 1188 as “newly built” and referred to as “the castle of the sons of Owain”.

Buddhist Puja Wales

We performed our Smoke Offering Puja (ritual) with chants and mudras (ritual hand gestures) before tucking in to our well deserved feast. The feast was accompanied by many yogic songs – in both German and English. Afterwards, we enjoyed a spot of sun-bathing – almost unheard of on our Welsh pilgrimage outings!

Buddhist Feast Practice

The views from the summit were amazing. We had a complete panoramic view of the whole of the Llyn Peninsula from one coast to the other. Nearby, we could see the two small twin islands of Ynys Gwylan-fawr and Ynys Gwylan-bach; further out we could see the popular pilgrimage destination of Bardsey Island and the Isle of Angelsey (Ynys Mon) with its Druidic associations. The mountains of Snowdonia could be seen brooding in the far distance. Although a fine day, we were unable to see the Wicklow mountains of Ireland, which can sometimes be spotted.

Llyn Peninsula Garnfadyn  Carn Fadyn View

As we made our descent back to the cars our minds slipped from holy sites and legends of old to the more mundane – beaches and ice cream! A great way to end a pilgrimage.     By Jayasiddhi