Happy St. David's Day! ...Not

Happy St. David's Day! ...Not

01 March 2014

And to think we described last year's garden as "Unenthusiastic."

Unenthusiastic garden (last year)
Unenthusiastic garden (last year)

At least last year we had overeager primroses.

Optimistic (decidedly) primrose (last year)
Optimistic (decidedly) primrose (last year)

Not to mention snowdrops.

Enthusiastic snowdrops (last year)
Enthusiastic snowdrops (last year)

This year we have... well, what everyone in the Northeast has. Snow.

St. David's Day Garden (this year)
St. David's Day Garden (this year)
St. David's Day in Paris
St. David's Day in Paris

Which leaves us to celebrate St. David's Day with... what? The Disneyland Paris Welsh Festival where Disney characters appear dressed in Welsh garb? Yes, seriously. I didn't make this up.

And given the saint's notorious reputation for abstemiousness, raising a glass of hot toddy to the good man is definitely out. In fact, for such a beloved saint, he is, when you come right down to it, a bit of a wet blanket. St. Brigid traveled back in time to midwife Our Lord. St. Patrick chased the snakes out of Ireland. St. David caused the earth to rise beneath him, so he could just go on preaching - about temperance, once can only assume.

Arguably, the only frivolous thing about St. David is his Arthurian associations. His mother, Non, is usually referred to as King Arthur's niece, although given the conventional dating of St. David's birth to 454 CE, Geoffrey of Monmouth's contention that St. David was King Arthur's uncle makes much more sense. Whatever his family ties, St. David has a well-attested connection to that most Arthurian of sites, Glastonbury. According to William of Malmesbury's version of the events, St. David arrived at Glastonbury with seven bishops, in order to dedicate the Old Church to the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, on the night before the ceremony, Our Lord appeared to St. David in a vision and told the saint that He Himself had already dedicated the church. So David presented a great sapphire to Our Lady's Altar instead. This "Great Sapphire of Glastonbury" became a well-known relic of Glastonbury, described by William of Malmesbury, among others, before it disappeared after Dugdale last described it in 1539.

Of course, a sapphire is a stone, and as soon as you mention stones and King Arthur, you're straight into the realm of Wolfram von Eschenbach's Lapis exilis, the stone in exile (or the stone from heaven, ex caelis) -- his name for the Holy Grail. According to occult traditions, this stone is the crown jewel of Lucifer's diadem, lost on Earth when he was thrown to Hell after his rebellion. Can one even conceive of the possibility that that was the stone that St. David consecrated back to Heaven at Glastonbury? Edward Augustus Freeman (Proc. of Somerset Archaeological Soc., vol. XXVI) arguably provides the right answer: "We need not believe that the Glastonbury legends are facts; but the existence of those legends is a great fact.... Now I do not ask you to believe these legends; I do ask you to believe that there was some special cause why legends of this kind should grow, at all events why they should grow in such a shape and in such abundance, round Glastonbury alone of all the great monastic churches of Britain."

© - Erica Obey
Photos © - George Baird