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Monday, 7 February 2011

Traditions of Healing Wells





Ffynnon Elian yn 2010.
Ffynnon Elian in 2010. (Llun/Image: DS2011_053_002 / NPRN: 32271)
Ffynnon Felltithio Ffynnon Elian
Mae Cymru’n gyforiog o ffynhonnau iacháu, a llawer ohonyn nhw’n dyddio o’r Oesoedd Canol. Yn y 18fed ganrif gwelwyd adfywio ar draddodiad y ffynhonnau iacháu, yn rhannol oherwydd y diddordeb mewn datblygu trefi ffynhonnau ac yn rhannol am fod pob plwyf yn ymfalchïo bod ynddo ffynnon a feddai rymoedd arbennig. Un o’r amlycaf ohonyn nhw oedd Ffynnon Elian – ffynnon a gysylltid â brifo yn ogystal ag iacháu.

Ym mhlwyf Llandrillo-yn-Rhos, ar y ffin rhwng siroedd Dinbych a Chaernarfon, y mae Ffynnon Elian ac roedd hi’n rhan o fferm o’r enw Cefnyffynnon. Hyd at tua 1775, doedd y ffynnon ond yn enwog am ei grymoedd iacháu, ac o dan ddylanwad poblogrwydd Treffynnon, mae’n siŵr, fe geisiodd y plwyfolion hyd yn oed ei hyrwyddo’n fan ymdrochi. Ond wrth i’r18fed ganrif fynd rhagddi, magodd y ffynnon enw amwys am fod modd cywiro cam yno. Erbyn blynyddoedd cynnar y 19eg ganrif roedd hi’n adnabyddus fel ffynnon felltithio a cheid amryw byd o straeon am y trasiedïau a gysylltid â hi.

Cartref ceidwad y ffynnon oedd Fferm Cefnyffynnon – adeilad a ailgodwyd, mae’n debyg, ar sail yr elw a wnaeth ceidwad y ffynnon drwy godi tâl sylweddol am felltithio neu am ddileu melltith. Ar ôl ysgrifennu enw neu lythrennau blaen enw’r dioddefwr arfaethedig ar ddarn o lechen, câi’r darn hwnnw ei osod yn y ffynnon i gyfeiliant chwythu bygythiadau a melltithion at yr unigolyn a’i eiddo a’i wartheg. Grym awgrym a sicrhâi effaith y ffynnon. Yn ddealladwy ddigon, byddai pobl yn poeni ac yn dychryn am eu bywydau o glywed iddyn nhw gael eu melltithio yno, ac fe aen nhw at y ceidwad i ofyn iddo dynnu eu henwau oddi yno. Fel rheol, ateb cadarnhaol a gâi’r rhai a holai a oedden nhw wedi’u melltithio, ac mae’n debyg bod llechi ac arnyn nhw bob cyfuniad dan haul o lythrennau blaen yn cael eu cadw yn y ffermdy. Yn ddieithriad, ceid hyd i’r melltithion a’u dileu – a gorfod talu cryn dipyn yn fwy na chost y felltith yn y lle cyntaf.

Achosodd y ffynnon broblem i faes cyfraith a threfn wrth i gannoedd os nad miloedd o bobl felltithio’u cymdogion. Allai’r ynadon, i bob golwg, wneud fawr o ddim am fod y ffynnon ar dir preifat ac am nad oedd unrhyw drosedd amlwg wedi’i chyflawni. Ond ym 1828 aeth cynulleidfa capel gyfagos Rehoboth, capel y Methodistiaid, i’r afael â’r broblem drwy ddinistrio’r ffynnon a phlannu tatws drosti. Aeth pentrefwr mentrus, John Evans (a lysenwyd yn Jac Ffynnon Elian), ati i droi dŵr y ffynnon i lifo i’w ardd ef. Agorodd ef ffynnon yno a rhedeg y busnes am 30 mlynedd. Pan gyhuddwyd ef o dwyll ym 1831, cafodd ei garcharu am chwe mis, ond dychwelodd at y gwaith ar ôl iddo gael ei ryddhau. Tua diwedd ei oes, yn y 1850au, cyfaddefodd ef wrth weinidog mai twyll oedd y cyfan, a throdd yn Fedyddiwr. Rhoes Jac ei gyffes ar bapur ond bu farw cyn iddi gael ei chyhoeddi. Fe’i claddwyd ef ym mynwent Ebenezer, Capel y Bedyddwyr. Y syndod yw nad oes modd atal llif Ffynnon Elian a’i bod hi’n dal i gyflenwi dŵr iachusol i’r ffermdy gerllaw. Cewch holl hanes y ffynnon yn A History of Witchcraft and Magic in Wales gan Richard Suggett (2008).

Cysylltau:

Ffermdy Cefnyffynnon: cartref ceidwad y ffynnon.
Cefnyffynnon Farmhouse: home of the keeper’s of the well. (Llun/Image: DS2001_053_001 / NPRN: 32271)

Ffynon Elian Cursing Well
Wales is full of wells associated with healing, many of medieval origin. The tradition of healing wells was reinvigorated in the 18th century partly because of the interest in spas and partly because of parish patriotism, as each parish claimed to have a well with special powers. None more so than Ffynnon Elian which was associated with hurting as well as healing.

Ffynnon Elian is sited on the Denbighshire/Caernarfonshire border, in the parish of Llandrillo-yn-Rhos and was part of a farm called Cefnyffynnon. Up to about 1775 the well was known only for its healing properties, and the parishioners even tried to promote it as a bathing place, no doubt influenced by the popularity of Holywell. In the later 18th century however, the well acquired an ambiguous reputation as a place where wrongs could be righted, and by the early 19th century it was well-known as a cursing well with numerous stories circulated of the tragedies connected with it.

The keeper of the well lived at Cefnyffynnon Farm, apparently rebuilt from the profits of the well as the keeper was paid a substantial fee to impose or retract a curse. The intended victim’s name or initials were written on a piece of slate which was then placed in the well to an accompaniment of curses and imprecations directed against the person, their property or cattle. The well worked by power of suggestion - people were understandably anxious, if not terrified, if they heard they had been cursed there and could apply to the keeper to be taken out of the well. Those who enquired if they had been cursed were usually replied to in the affirmative, and it seems that slates with every possible permutation of initials were kept at the farmhouse. Curses were invariably found and cancelled – at considerably more than the initial cost of imposing a curse.

The well resulted in a law and order problem as hundreds, if not thousands, cursed their neighbours. The magistrates seemed powerless as the well was on private property and no obvious crime had been committed. In 1828 however, the congregation of the adjacent Rehobeth Methodist Chapel took matters into their own hands and destroyed the well, planting potatoes on the spot. An enterprising villager, John Evans (alias Jac Ffynnon Elian), diverted the spring water to his own garden, opened a well and continued in business for another 30 years. Tried for fraud in 1831, he was imprisoned for six months, but continued after his release. Towards the end of his life, in the 1850s, he confessed to a minister that the well had been a hoax and became a Baptist. Jac wrote his confessions but died before they were published and is buried in the graveyard of Ebenezer Baptist Chapel. Remarkably, the spring at Ffynnon Elian has proved irrepressible, and supplies salubrious water to the nearby farmhouse. The full story of the well is available in A History of Witchcraft and Magic in Wales by Richard Suggett (2008).

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1 comments:

Loretta said...

This is a fascinating story. Your blog looks very interesting.

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