St David’s Day 1st March 2012

St David’s Day on the 1st March 2012, and with the March winds and since we have just entered the Chinese year of the Dragon this seems the ideal time to explore the folklore of you guessed it, the daffodil…er sorry the dragon, not just any old dragon though, the stately red one which stands on the white and green Welsh flag.

St David’s Day 1st March 2012

Why on earth did the Welsh select such an unusual design for their nation? The first part of the story is an ancient one and comes from the Welsh epic known as The Mabinogion. King Ludd’s rule of pre-Roman Britain was largely fortunate apart from three plagues, one of which occurred every May-eve, on this day a blood curdling scream was heard all over the land causing general panic and infertility. Ludd asked his brother Llefelys for advice and was told the noise was caused by two dragons which were fighting. One dragon symbolized an invasion force, the other the home nation. As things stood the foreign dragon was wining. Llefelys had an ingenious solution which would solve the problem. Ludd was to place a tub of mead in a pit, covered with a silk cloth. The dragons would come and rest on the cloth sink into the mead, drink it and doze off. Once they were asleep they were to be wrapped in the silk, put in a large stone chest and buried in the strongest place Ludd could think of. Should Ludd manage this and keep the scaly pests secure the country would be safe from invasion. Ludd was able to follow the plan successful and hid the dragons in Dinas Emrys in Snowdonia.

High-King Vortigern

The story has a sequel which appears in the Arthurian legends, the High-King Vortigern was eager to build a castle at Dinas Emrys but as soon as the walls were built they fell down again.

The mystery was solved when the young wizard Merlin explained that under the ground the two dragons were still fighting and their struggle was hampering the attempts to build the new castle. The dragons were released but still continued to attack each other until the red dragon won. The victory of the red dragon was believed to foretell the rise of King Arthur who was known as Arthur Pendragon (Pen Draig translates as chief dragon).

From this point on many British rulers used various coloured dragons on their standards including: Alfred The Great, King Athelstan and Henry V. During the War of The Roses Henry VII who claimed descent from the legendry King Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon copied his forebears arms and used a red dragon as his standard, he also added a white and green background (colours which were associated with the Tudor family) and thus the Welsh Flag we will see flying proudly on 1st of March was born.

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Post Author: Patrick Arundell

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