Welsh Folklore: Legends of Llyn Cwm Llwch

Llyn Cwm Llwch

Llyn Cwm Llwch is a small lake that lies below the highest peak in South Wales called Pen y Fan, which is situated in the Brecon Beacons of Powys and is the setting for some rather strange legends which are briefly presented here.

The Old Woman of the Lake

The first tells how an old woman who lived in the lake used music to lure those of a weak or impressionable mind into the water to be drowned. Tradition says that when she has claimed nine hundred victims she will regain her youth and beauty and gain immortality.

The Door to the Invisible Island

Another legend tells that there is an invisible island in the lake that could only be reached by a door that was set in a rock.   Every May Day the door would open and some of the bolder local people would enter and pass down a passage that opened up in a garden that was set upon the island.  Although the shores of the lake could clearly be seen from the island, the island remained invisible to those on the shore.

The Enchanted Garden of the Tylwyth Teg

Those who entered the door and visited the invisible island found themselves in an enchanted garden.  This garden was filled with the most beautiful flowers of the most wonderful colours and trees hanging with luscious fruit ripe for eating grew all around.  Beautiful birds sang happy songs in the trees and butterflies flitted between the flowers. It really was a most enchanted place.

The Warning of the Tylwyth Teg

The Tylwyth Teg always received their visitors with the utmost courtesy and hospitality. They would entertain their guests by playing beautiful music, telling wondrous stories and offering the finest food and drink the like of which could not be found anywhere else on earth.  It really was a rare and magical experience they freely provided for their visitors.  However, when it was time for their guests to leave they would always issue them with a stern warning. They would warn that none of the produce, the flowers, stones, leaves, or anything else from the island must be taken back down the passage and through the door to earth because of the sacred nature of their island.

One Foolish Visitor

The Tylwyth Teg had opened their island to visitors since time immemorial and there had never once been anyone who had not complied with this simple and reasonable request. Unfortunately one foolish visitor took it in his mind to take back one of the wonderful flowers from the garden as proof of his visit and the existence of the enchanted island.  As he left the garden he picked the most exquisite bloom he could find and hid it in the fastness of his jacket pocket.  He then walked nonchalantly down the passage and through the door thinking no one would notice as no checks were ever seen to be carried out.

However, as soon as he set foot on the earth outside the door his mind became confused and he lost his senses. For the rest of his life he remained nothing but a gibbering wreck devoid of sense and reason until the day he died.  At the time the Tylwyth Teg appeared to pay no heed to this unique indiscretion saying their goodbyes to their guests with their accustomed courtesy, but they had indeed taken note.  Ever since this incident the door has never again been found to this day.

One Hundred Years On

About one hundred years later the local people got together to form a plan.  With the door to the invisible island not appearing they thought the Tylwyth Teg had left and thought that perhaps they had left their treasure in the bottom of the pool.  They decided they would drain it and a great body of local men arrived at the pool armed with pickaxes, spades and shovels and set about digging a channel to let the water out.  The men set about their task with great enthusiasm digging a channel some thirty yards long in no time.  As they reached the water’s edge they needed one last blow to break through but as the pick-axe and the shovels were poised for action a massive flash of lightning lit the rapidly blackening sky.  Thunder rumbled around the mountains causing the workmen to freeze in fear and awe at the sheer power of nature and the final blow was never struck.  Quickly, the men realized the storm was not caused by the power of nature and as they looked at each other in fear strange things began happening with the pool as its spirit began to awaken.

The Warning

The workers sprang out of the trench and ran to the edge of the water.  As the thunder died they saw emerging from the center of the pool saw small ripples which steadily grew in size and intensity.  The water began to churn and boil and from the center of the turbulence there arose the spirit of the water, a massive a figure of a man.  His beard must have been three feet in length and his hair draped down to his waist and he rose high above the water and glowered down upon the men and in a voice like thunder said,

“If you disturb my peace,

Be warned that I will drown

The valley of the Usk,

Beginning with Brecon town!”

(1)

And with that there was a terrific bolt of lightning and thunder crashed around the mountains and as the men threw themselves to the ground in fear a terrific storm broke upon them.  After the storm subsided the men got up and began to heatedly discuss the events.  The warning they had been given was clear.  Not wanting to risk the wrath of the lake spirit any further the local men went home leaving their work incomplete.

 © 06/12/2016 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright December 6th, 2016 zteve t evans

 

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The Mermaid’s Pool, Kinder Scout in the Peak District, England

The Peak District is an area of England that has been shaped and carved by the forces of nature for millions of years.  It is place of stunning and rugged, natural beauty with many strange and unexpected landscapes and places to discover.   Its highest point is Kinder Scout, a moorland plateau some 2,088 feet (639 metres) above sea level.

File: Mermaid’s Pool – geograph.org.uk – 247324.jpg From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Author: Dave Dunford

Humans have been active in the area for thousands of years and have also left their mark on the landscape.   Mesolithic flint artifacts have been found and Neolithic earthworks and burial mounds.  In the Bronze Age the area was believed to have maintained a fair sized population who made their living mainly through agriculture.    There are many sites of archaeological and historic interest and many legends and folk tales associated with the area.

The pool and the waterfall

One such place is a bleak, dark and rather forbidding pool of water that lies below Kinder Scout known as the Mermaid’s Pool.   Many people think the pool and the nearby waterfall of Kinder Downfall may have been places that were sacred to Celtic and earlier people who inhabited the area.

The waterfall is created where the river Kinder falls from the edge of the high moorland plain. On windy days the water sometimes appears as if it is flowing upwards.

File:Kinder upfall.jpg From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: Dave59 at en.wikipedia

The Mermaid’s Pool is peculiar because it is said to be slightly salinated.  It is said that fish cannot live in it or animals drink from it. According to local legend it is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by an underground tunnel.  It was also believed that the pool’s water possessed healing qualities for those who were courageous, or desperate enough to bathe in it.  For these reasons it was believed to have been a sacred place for Celtic and earlier people who often took natural springs and lakes as places of reverence as the dwelling places of spirits. Sometimes and in some places they would place offerings into the waters hoping that the spirit or god would grant a wish.

The mermaid

The Mermaid’s Pool is believed to be the dwelling place of an immortal water nymph, or mermaid, who has the power to grant immortality. For unknown reasons many mermaid legends are associated with Easter and so is this one.

The most favoured time of year for her to grant this is on Easter Eve.  But it is said she can generous or perilous on a whim.  If she takes a liking to someone she will give them eternal life but if she takes a disliking  she will drag them down into the depths of the pool, drowning them.

Local legend also says that by staring into the waters the mermaid may grant visions of future events, but may pull those who catch a glimpse of her to their death in the pool.

The nymph legend

There is a local legend in the nearby village of Hayfield that tells that a nymph lived inside Kinder Scout and would bathe daily in the pool.  One day a local man caught her bathing and became friends with her.  The nymph took him to a cavern where he is said to have stayed for some time.   The man apparently impressed her to such an extent that as a reward she gave him the gift of immortality.

Relics of older times

It may be that these stories are relics from much older times when ancient people held such places as sacred before Christianity became the dominant religion.