Santes Melangell and Hare
Watercolour Mediums, Custom Framed
Framed to 14 x 23 inches
Heavy Ornate Gilt Frame/Glazed
According to legend, Saint Melangell (meaning honey angel in Welsh) was an Irish princess who became a hermit in the wilds of Powys, Wales. One day the Prince of Powys, Brochwel Yscythrog, was out hunting and his dogs chased a hare, forcing it to take refuge under the dress of a lady. All around the dogs howled but they would not go near the lady. The Prince then spoke to the woman who told him her story, and that she had dedicated herself to God. He was so impressed that he gave her the land to build an abbey and sanctuary. The church near Llangynog is still a place of worship and pilgrimage today.
However, according to archaeologist Caroline Malim it is likely that the legend originated from the Bronze Age and the site was a sacred site dedicated to the moon and the afterlife. The church was built on a Bronze Age circular enclosure, with ancient yew trees and human cremations starting from around 1500 BC. The yew tree was associated with death and rebirth, and hares were the companions of moon goddesses, as well as viewed as messengers to the Otherworld. Bees were also viewed in the ancient world as messengers to the gods and the Otherworld, and honey was frequently used in many funerary traditions.
Moreover, around 1500BC the constellation of Orion the Hunter, along with his neighbours, the dog stars Sirius and Procyon (Canis Major and Minor), as well as the hare, Lepus, rose directly in alignment over the Cwm Pennant valley for 5 months, and was at its highest during Imbolc. This winter stellar event likely was the reason for this ancient sacred site as the cremations date from the time of this alignment, and the constellations are all characters which figure within the myth. These constellations were the likely the origin of the legend, and it is quite possible that Melangell was originally an ancient local moon and funerary goddess, transformed into a Christian saint.