Who is Saint David?
Many people think that the daffodil is a flower that “for some reason” must be worn on the first of March. The reality is rather different.
The story is told that during a battle between the Welsh and the Saxons, it was difficult to tell from the clothes, or from the physiognomies of the fighters, who was friend or foe. The Saxons were counting on this, and they were actually gaining ground.
So David, who was a Monk, bent down and plucked the plant that was closest it happened to be a leek. He told his fellow countrymen, the Welsh, to wear a leek in their helmets so that it distinguish them from their enemies. It was a typical “lateral thinking” idea; a tiny one that made all the difference. The fact that he was a Man of The Cloth meant that the soldiers obeyed him, no questions asked.
Did this really happen? No one will ever know but it may well have.
These days, on Saint David’s Day (Dydd Gyl) March 1 the day of his death, which is celebrated both as a patriotic and cultural festival by the Welsh around the world, and not only in Wales, people wear the stalk, flower or a bit of leaf from a leek plant. It is not a moveable feast. However, 2006 was an exception: the feast was officially celebrated on February 28 by Roman Catholics and on March 2 by the Anglican Church in Wales, since ‘ days are not celebrated on As Wednesday, a day of penitence and fasting.
Saint David died in 589AD (some references give the date as 601AD). The reasons that a daffodil is used sometimes instead is because in March, these flowers (which are similar to those of the leek) are easier to find then leeks and anyway they smell slightly less pungent. However more importantly, one notes that the relationship between leeks and daffodils goes beyond mere similarity; they have like names in Welsh, Cenhinen (leek) and Cenhinen Bedr (daffodil, literally “Peter’s leek”). The date was declared a national day of celebration in the 18th century.
Women and girls wear Welsh costumes. This costume consists of a long woollen skirt, white blouse, woollen shawl and a typical Welsh hat.. on the Menu is, of course leek soup.
The story of Saint David is a very interesting one. It is also said of him that he once raised a youth from the dead. There were several occasions when, it is said, upon his passing, springs of water used to flow along previously arid ground.
But that is not why he gained the name Aquaticus. He and the monks of his Order, based at Glyn Rhosyn (St David’s), in south-westWales, were supposed to have drunk only water, and their Rule included hard work, study, and worship. They were also vegetarian.
They wore animal skins, and worked in the fields without oxen; “every man his own ox”. David made speaking severely restricted. Monks were to pray, silently if not aloud, at all times. After supper, the only meal of the day, they prayed for three hours before going to bed, then awoke at dawn.
He is said to have founded ten or twelve monasteries, including the famous Glastonbury (he was the first to build a chancel to Saint Joseph of Arimathea’s wattle church), Menevia and Croyland. The first hagiography-cum-biography of him was written by a son of Sulien, bishop of St. David’s, who was called Rhigyfarch, towards the end of the 11th century. This Welsh monk wrote Vita Davidis around 1094, five centuries after David’s death.
He is buried in St David’s Cathedral, Pembrokeshire. Pope Calictus II decreed to Medieval pilgrims that two pilgrimages to St David’s sufficed one pilgrimage to Rome, and three pilgrimages to St David’s equalled one to Jerusalem.
He is said to have been born around 520AD, near the town that today is of course called Saint David’s. His mother was called Non. She is also known as Saint Nonna, and may have been the granddaughter of king Brychan. She was living as a nun when she was raped by a Sant (or Xantus) his father, who was enthralled by her beauty. So David spent his early childhood in her convent, at Ty Gwyn, near Whitesand Bay. Non is the patron Saint of the sexually assaulted. Her feast Day is March 3. Some traditions hold that Non and Sant were married, and that she only became a nun when he died.
David’s father was the son of Ceredig, King of Ceredigion. David was educated in Cardiganshire, and later went on a pilgrimage through south Wales and the west of England.
During the Synod of Llanddewi Brefi, held in the village of the same name, when he stood up to speak, one of the men in the milling crowd was heard to exclaim “But we won’t be able to see or hear him!” whereupon the patch of ground upon which he was standing became a tiny hillock, so that everyone could do so properly. A white dove came to sit on his shoulder (some say at his feet).To this day, Holy Pictures depict him in this stance; preaching on a hill, with long hair and a beard, and the dove perched on his shoulder, holding a miniature cathedral in one hand and a leek in the other.
On that occasion, he was unanimously elected primate of the Cambrian church, when the incumbent primate, Dubricius, resigned in his favour.
When he later went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, after a vision. He is said to have travelled with two companions, and the patriarch of Jerusalem, John III, consecrated him Archbishop.
The Welsh take Saint David’s Day very seriously; a poll conducted by the BBC for Saint David’s Day in 2006 found that 87% of the Welsh wanted this feast day to be declared a Bank Holiday, and 65% of those polled were even prepared to sacrifice a different bank holiday to ensure this. There are many variants of the name Daviod, some of these are: Daffy, Daffyd, Dafydd, Dai, Daid, Dave, Daven, Davey, Davi, Davidde, Davide, Davidson, Davie, Daviel, Davies, Davin, Davis, Davon, Davvy, Davy, Davyd, Davydd, Davyn, Degui, Dewi, Dewid, Dewm, Dmui, and Taffy
Children take part in school concerts going by the generic name eisteddfodau. This is the plural form of eisteddfod, the umbrella term for a festival comprising literature, music, song, drama and other performances. The term derives from eistedd, “to sit”. This tradition dates back to at least the 12th century, to a poetry and music celebration held by Rhys ap Gruffydd of Deheubarth at his court in Cardigan in 1176. There was a time when this meant a half-day of school for children across the land; nowadays the custom varies according to the instructions set out by each school’s administration. Just for the day, girls are allowed to wear National Costume.
St. David is the only Welsh saint to be canonized in the Western Church to date, and he has been the patron saint of Wales since the 12th century. In South Wales there are more than fifty churches dedicated to him.
Highlights of his life include:
His birth was foretold to Saint Patrick (about 373-464) by an angel 30 years in advance.
An angel appeared to David’s father and told him that when he went hunting the next day, he would kill a stag and find a fish, and a beehive. The stag, said to eat snakes, represents Christianity’s conquering Satan (the serpent); the fish represents Saint David’s abstinence from alcohol; and the bees represent wisdom and spirituality.
He was born during a storm that was so violent that a local ruler who planned to kill Saint David was afraid to make the journey to the place, overlooking Saint Bride’s Bay, south of today’s Saint David’s Cathedral.
David was baptized at Porth Clais by Saint Ailbhe, who may have been Non’s nephew.
He is said to be King Arthur’s Uncle.
Movi, the blind monk holding David, had his sight restored as soon as the baby was baptised.
He went to school at a monastery called Hen Vynyw, or Henfynyw, in Cardigan.
One story tells how a golden dove was seen flying, with its beak to David’s lips, teaching him the Psalms.
In Welsh he is known as ‘Dewi Ddyfrwr’ (David the Water Drinker).
He was ordained a priest after studying under the Welsh scribe St Paulinus, a disciple of St Germanus of Auxerre, who was also the mentor of the Irish Saint Patrick.
There is a similar legend concerning that of Movi concerning Saint Paulinus, who had been blinded after crying for a long time; David touched his eyes gently and he could see again.
David’s association with water is further indicated when it is said he cleansed the foetid water at Bath and turned it into warm, healing liquid.
David presided over two synods.
He is said to have fasted, drinking only water, for several days, very often.
Out of jealousy, some monks tried to poison Saint David’s bread, but Saint Schuthyn rode out from Ireland on the back of a sea monster to warn him, and Saint David blessed the bread, counteracting the poison.
He made his monks pray from evening on Friday until dawn on Sunday, with only an hour after Saturday Matins for rest.
He ordained that anyone wishing to join his Order had to wait outside for ten, in harsh and dire conditions, “so that he might learn to die to himself”. In fact, to say “my book” was considered an offence.
He devoted himself to works of mercy and practised frequent genuflexions. One of his self-inflicted penances was immersion in cold water up to his neck, during which period he recited scripture.
He is the Patron saint of doves, poets, and Wales.
Collaborated with Saint Columba, Saint Gildas, and Saint Finnegan.
He was active in fighting against the Pelagian heresy (Pelagius was a British holy leader who denied the Catholic doctrine of original sin and was declared a heretic and excommunicated in 417 by Pope Innocent I).
He remained at Menevia until his death.
Pope Callixtus II canonised David as a Saint in 1120
Saint David is mentioned in an Irish Catalogue of the Saints of 730, and an Irish Martyrology of 800.
The Flag of Saint David is black with a yellow cross.
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