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.

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