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Criccieth-Witches and Sorceresses.

Every district had people, usually women, who were knowledgeable of herbal medicine, weather lore and other aspects of the lives of the folk. Sometimes they would act as midwives and were held in great respect in the community. Others were believed to have supernatural powers and could cast spells and curses and were feared by the

population. They were identified as witches or gwyddanod (sorceresses). There are stories of several of these in the district around Criccieth. One is recorded in the name of the stream Nant y Wyddan which rises on Braich y Saint Hill and flows to the sea, its lower part marking the boundary of the ancient borough. Here, high up above the castle and the bay, lived a sorceress. People would seek her out for potions and spells; ointments and medicines for sickness, love and good luck charms and so on. She would be asked for advice on things such as the best time to plant seeds and perhaps have their fortunes told. There is a place in the parish of Llanystumdwy named Gallt yr Wyddan where another sorceress lived and on Ynysgain Fawr farm, by the mouth of the River Dwyfor, is a field named “Cae y Wrach” (Field of the Witch). Some were crazy old ladies that lived in the woods and were considered to be witches. Mallt, an old lady from Rhoslan, lived around Llanfrothen and was clothed and fed by the villagers who were afraid of her. Legend has it that Lowri and Sîan Owen were witches living in a cottage in Llanarmon where they ran a school. Both were able to cast out unclean spirits and demons by holding ceremonies. Both could anticipate a need or want in the ebb and flow of the sea. Many local men went seafaring and travelled all over the world. Sailors were very superstitious and held many beliefs such as not sailing on a Friday, that whistling would increase the wind, mermaids and so on. They would often carry good luck charms to protect themselves during voyages. Catrin Roberts used to hire out changing tents and deck chairs at Criccieth. She collected pebbles on the beach which the sea had worn holes in and sold them to visitors as good luck charms. In Welsh

folklore these were known as “Glain Neidr” (Adder stone) and appear in Welsh mythology including the Mabinogion. They were considered especially protective against harmful magic and spirits. They were particularly popular for protecting ships and seafarers so sailors would often carry one. In Borth Woods, by the mouth of the River Glaslyn lived ‘Rhen Witch (The Old Witch) who gave to the sailors good luck charms which consisted of a piece of string with knots in it. Many of these superstitions have been passed down and are still believed by some people. On occasions an old gipsy lady will attend fairs or knock on doors selling lucky white heather.

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