Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Stitch In Time

A counted cross-stitch is what it is.  Done with Aida fabric, embroidery threads, needle, backing felt, and a full charted set of instructions.  What a deal!  My middle daughter, Lesley, with her heart and hands made this for me as a symbol of our family's heritage...the Welsh Dragon, the heraldic symbol of Wales.

Now a symbol is something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, or convention.  A red dragon...hmm...where in the world did this come from in the annals of history?

The earliest reference to a red dragon connected to the legends of Wales can be found in the writing of a Welshman of the early ninth century. [ ca. 829 AD]  The writer introduces himself as "Nennius", and the formal title is Historia Brittonum or the "History of the Britons".   He certainly had a chip on his shoulder because in his introduction he states:

"I, Nennius, disciple of Elvodugus, have endeavoured to write some extracts which the stupidity of the British nation had cast away..."

Well anyway, in his book, part III, chapter 39 - 42, he gives a fairly lengthy story regarding the building of a fortify city [citadel] by a fellow named Vortigern.  After traveling "...far and wide..", he came to a province called "Guenet",  and "...having surveyed the mountains of Heremus, they discovered, on the summit of one of them, a situation, adapted to the construction of a citadel." This of course is believed to be the mountain range of Snowdon.

To make a long story short, every time Vortigern built a foundation, it disappeared in one night.  Frustrated, he got some help from a fellow named "Ambrose (in British Embresguletic)" who uncovered a "pool" with two vases in the pool.  The two vases contained two tents, that contained "two serpents, one white and the other red".  After a lengthy struggle, the red serpent "expelled the white one from the tent".

Ambrose explained "...this wonderful omen..." as follows:

"I will now unfold to you the meaning of this mystery.  The pool is the emblem of this world, and the tent that of your kingdom: the two serpents are two dragons; the red serpent is your dragon, but the white serpent is the dragon of the people who occupy several provinces and districts of Britain, even almost from sea to sea; at length, however, our people shall rise and drive away the Saxon race from beyond the sea, whence they originally came..."

Wow, the red dragon of Wales...our first stitch in time.

A translation of this text can be found at Medieval Sourcebook: Nennius: Historia Brittonum, 8th century,  for those who would like to stitch together the rest of the story: