Winter Solstice 2013 – Saints and Druids in Llangollen

Winter Solstice was spent in and around the Llangollen area. It’s not only easy for us to get to, but there are some favourite sites which we know always deliver when it comes to both scenery and ‘sorcery’. Kal has already covered our visit to St.Winifrede’s Well in Holywell, which was a shared experience. The next couple of posts will concentrate on our next two placesVale Crucis Abbey, and then the hillfort of Dinas Bran and I will describe the visits in terms of what happened to me.

Before we arrived at Vale Crucis, though, we came through some back roads from Holywell which meant that we came over Horseshoe Pass. At that time of the morning and at this time of the year the views were stunning:

Horseshoe Pass - Winter Solstice 2013 (2)

Vale Crucis – free and open in Winter

We began our visit by taking some photographs. You have to get the fiddly stuff done first in this weather or your fingers freeze up! Having got that bit done we circled the site in opposite directions, each of us choosing our spot through a combination of dowsing and intuition.

Vale Crucis Abbey - Winter Solstice 2013 (3)

Conversation with Collen

St Collen is famous for having refused firstly the invitation of, then the hospitality of Gwyn Ap Nudd – the Faery King. After causing him to disappear through the application of holy water, little more is heard of Collen. The story, from the ‘Life of St. Collen‘ and quoted in Lady Charlotte Guest’s translation of The Mabinogion, is reproduced here. [Thanks to Ian Pegler for correcting that].

Given my recent encounters with Gwyn, and how I carry around the Gwyn energy in me, I was all ready for some level of conflict or rejection when I came to dowse for the spirit of Collen in the abbey’s grounds. Perhaps my anointing of the waters of the holy well of Winifrede had smoothed my way? Collen was quite ready to talk once I found his energy in one of the tunnel-like room of the Sacristy.

Vale Crucis Abbey - Winter Solstice 2013 (23)

Once in the correct state of mind, relaxed, intent set, energy field open and receptive yet locked off to unwanted influences – then I could begin to connect to Collen. Once I felt his presence and get a positive response then I began to question him:-

  1. How did you ensure your shade would remain at this place? By being in their thoughts having led a life that was remarkable and memorable.
  2. Did you imprint yourself on this place? Every stone I passed has a memory of me.
  3. What things did you learn as a druid? …

At this point Collen became restless and annoyed. My suggestion that he had been a druid clearly rankled him, so I re-stated the question with a more Christian slant.

4. What things did you learn as a saint? To move (divert) water and to purify it. To heal with it.

Moving or diverting water? That sounded very similar to some of the techniques that dowsers use to change the energy signature of sites to heal them. Interesting!

At this point a female blackbird appeared as if from nowhere. It must have come through the small arch, but it did so incredibly quickly giving it the feeling of having appeared out of nowhere. It turned to stare at me for what felt like too long, and then as I “snapped out of it” and broke the connection, it turned and flew away through one of the arches. So what? Well, I have come to notice such coincidences of timing and I made a note.

The only conenction I can find is a version of the holy water/Gwyn Ap Nudd story which says that a demonic bird was left after the faery king was dismissed – see Justin Pollard’s book “The Interesting Bits“.

Vale Crucis Abbey - Winter Solstice 2013 (29)

Colllen and a blackbird appear in the Sacristy at Valle Crucis Abbey

I was about to discontinue the conversation with Collen, believing that the interruption of the bird would have broken the connection, when I heard the following sentence in my mind: ”

Learn the herbs till you know them intimately and instantly!

Considering the objections to being called a druid I thought that was an unusual statement. Seems to me like some of the early Christian saints were definitely in a cross-over phase from the old ways to the new, and that much of the knowledge of the land and its uses was still in the possession of learned men.

I thanked Collen and disconnected, making my way out of the narrow room into the sunlight. I turned to the dowsing rods again, this time with a new directive to lead me to the place where I might find the spirit of Duignan – another ‘saint’ whom I had come to associate with this abbey’s past and with who had shown me the way to find my Irish ancestors in 2012.

Dialogue with Duignan

The spirit of Duignan was to be found in the North Transept of the abbey, close to where I had encountered his energy when I found the place where his statue had once stood in the North Aisle of that same hall. This was the older part of the abbey too. It only took me moments to settle into the right frame of mind and to set the vibration of my energy field to a sympathetic level to connect. That’s the beauty of familiarity.

I told Duignan about my travels in Ireland, or rather, I opened up access to that part of my memory. This is a much more efficient way of delivering information – no recall is necessary. I believe it is similar to the “download” that Kal talked about in his Winter Solstice post where he got a download of information at Dinas Bran. This process is the same, but in the opposite direction. An “upload” if you will.

In return Duignan mentioned that there was some small remainder – a small token of ancestor energy – which he personally had left at Eliseg’s Pillar. This was a monument only a few hundred yards away from the abbey. That was where we went next.

Elisegs Pillar, Llangollen - Winter Solstice 2013 (1)

Eliseg’s Pillar at sunset on the Winter Solstice 2013

We parked at the nearby pub and had our second visit to the monument. Kal could barely remember the first one, but I remembered that we had said we would come back when it was warmer. Ha! It was freezing again. Maybe next time?

As I rounded the fence and climbed the stile to approach the pillar I felt a familiar attraction/repulsion. It was a feeling I had felt in Cornwall recently (posts coming very soon). It was the feeling that the monument was placed by someone with whom I had no connection, even opposing views, and yet this was where Duignan had chosen to deposit a memory.

I connected into the land, the monument, the past. The dowsing rods had picked the most suitable spot for me, and now I felt around psychically to determine what it was I could obtain here. A stored image replayed itself….

“Duignan was sitting by the monument on this spot. He was gazing back at the abbey as the sun was setting, but his attention was elsewhere. His mind was back with his family in Ireland, with his ancestors, with his homeland. A feeling of gratitude emerged to penetrate through the momentary sadness that he felt at being disconnected from home. Vale Crucis had welcomed him in, and he could study here, and for that he was eternally grateful.”

I let the vision fade. In paused to reflect on its implications. Sometimes we have to sacrifice the immediate comfort of family in order to make progress along our spiritual paths. Yet, there is always a connection available to our ancestors when we seek them through love, gratitude and respect.

Darkness was lowering itself on to the land around and a creeping coldness came with it. Such short daylight in Winter! Like Duignan, my thoughts began to turn to home and I quickly absorbed the small packet of ancestral energy that he had left on this spot, merging it with my Ireland memories.

Our day was done. Our year was over. This was a heart-warming way to end it.

Gwas signature


  1. Gwas
    Jan 8, 2014

    Hi Ian,
    Sorry – yes, the story is quoted in Charlotte Guest’s translation of The Mabinogion, which is what I was referring to in my shorthand use of the word “Mabinogion”.

    Thank you for clarifying that.

  2. Ian Pegler
    Jan 8, 2014

    The story of Collen (“Buchedd Collen”) is not from the Mabinogion. It is found in a number of manuscripts, the earliest surviving one being known as “Hafod 19”. This dates to 1536 and comes from Ruabon, which is a stone’s throw from Valle Crucis.

    The church of St. Mary’s in Ruabon was formerly called St. Collen’s until it was taken over by the monks of Valle Crucis and rededicated to the Virgin.

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