Evangeline Walton is an American writer, best known for writing four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi; eleven medieval Welsh tales otherwise known as the ‘native tales’ which draw upon the mystical word of the Celtic people intertwining myths, folklore, tradition and history.
Built on the mountain throne of a giant, and visited by the devil there is no doubt that Wales is a mysterious country.
Don’t worry, I do not intend to recount all eleven tales, but I will tell you about a couple of them. ‘The lady of the lake,’ reads like a relationship moral code; at a remote lake in the Black Mountains a young farmer fell in love with a beautiful woman who emerged from the water. She agreed to marry him but warned him she would leave him forever if he struck her three times. They lived happily for many years and had three sons but when Gwyn struck her playfully for the third time she disappeared into the lake and he never saw her again.
The story of the Devils bridge speaks to the cunning and capacity of the human mind. The tale tells that the devil visited and struck a bargain with a local woman whose cow was stranded across the river. In a bid to buy her soul, the devil said he’d build her a bridge in exchange for the soul of the first living thing that crossed it. When the bridge was built the woman threw a loaf of bread across it which her dog then chased, sparing her soul from the devil.
The moral code dictated by these ancient manuscripts has existed through a thousand years.
Both of these stories are designed to teach something about right and wrong or provide an abstract moral compass, which leads me to wonder what myths and legends are being written in the 21st century to teach people in 1000 years?
I wrote this piece about our ability to believe in myths and legends because when I was in Wales I visited a psychic. And I really wanted to believe in it. Unfortunately I’m the type of person who believes in facts, and tangible testable things, so much like believing in myths and legends, believing in a psychic was always going to be a stretch for me.
Most creatures learn through experience alone; African elephants don’t roam the earth looking for a safer (and cooler) place to live firm in the belief that salvation is attainable. Yet throughout the course of history, humans have consistently believed in thoroughly intangible things.
Is spiritualism clever or wise? And will we ever understand the difference?
If there is something unique about humans that gives capacity for faith in untestable things, is there something ‘broken’ in those of us without faith?
As you would expect, the psychic wasn’t all mumbo jumbo. He told me that I was a very stressed person; disclosure- I live in central London with a busy job, so that’s hardly a revelation. But he also told me that I would be imminently moving house and that I needed new glasses.. well I’ve checked with the mortgage company that they have no plans to evict me, and I’ve had an eye test. Everything is fine.
So I guess the moral of the story is this; have faith if it builds you up, gives you a conscience or makes you feel loved, but probably don’t waste your faith on psychics.