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Criccieth – Fairies and the Otherworld.

After the ice age Britain was covered with forest of conifer trees but the native deciduous tree took over. This was known as the “Wildwood”. Many animals, now extinct, lived here such as wolves and bears. Humans lived around the edges and started clearing areas for habitation. These communities were joined by tracks through the wood, marshes and over the lonely moors on the higher land. The dark wild wood was dangerous and frightening and people usually travelled in groups for protection against thieves and wild beasts. Individuals entered at their own risk. Sometimes these solitary travellers would disappear. This was blamed on superstitious beliefs and imaginary spirits such as the “tylwyth teg” (the fair kindred or fairies). Today these are taken to be the mischievous little flying females but in Celtic and Welsh folklore they describe a wider type of spirit or person from the otherworld; some friendly, some malign, some mischievous, some helpful. People believed that

bad luck and sickness were caused by curses and spells and could be averted with good luck charms and behaving in a certain manner. There are many stories about the Tylwyth Teg. Often they are different versions of similar stories which have been passed from one community to another and down the generations. The Tylwyth Teg may be divided into five general groups.: The ELLYLLON (elves) Their usual food was the toadstool or ‘fairy butter’, a fungoid substance found in limestone crevices and under the roots of rotten trees. Ellyllon lived in hollow trees and in the dells and dingles in the wild wood. They wore foxglove flowers as hats. Queen Mab was their ruler. COBLYNAU (goblins) a small, sometimes ugly and malevolent dwarf who often lived underground. These were sometimes blamed for the strange lights, or Jack o’ lanterns, seen in damp marshy places, which led travellers astray. There are many stories about these at Morfa Bychan to the east of Criccieth. Some were harmless and worked as miners and were hard working. There were several copper and lead mines on the flanks of Moel y Gest near Criccieth and in Cwm Pennant and Cwmstradllyn. BWBACHODD (brownies or hobgoblins) were benevolent but mischievious and liked to play tricks, supposedly haunting houses and doing housework secretly. GWRAGEDD ANNWN were beautiful female fairies who live beneath or near lakes and rivers. These were said to sometimes take human husbands such as in the case of the farmer from Ystumcegid near Criccieth. Versions of this story are connected with Cwm Pennant.

GWYLLION (hags) were ugly old women who haunted lonely moor land roads. To this group we can include GWRACHOD (witches) or GWYDDANOD (sorceresses). Often they had a knowledge of herbal medicine and were often blamed for casting spells and bewitching people. In Criccieth there is a stream named Nant Y Wyddan and in the next parish of Llanystumdwy there is Galt Y Wyddan. Mallt an old woman from Rhoslan lived around Llanfrothen and was fed and clothed by the villagers who were terrified of her.

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