Tuesday, 9 February 2016

St Teilo's day / Dydd Sadwrn Teilo

The 9th of February marks St Teilo's Day.  The waters of  his well - now dried up -   near Maenchlochog,  in  West Wales, Pembrokeshire's rural heartland, where a church dedicated to him dating back to the 12th Century can be found. It was said  to cure whooping cough. Pilgrims came from far and wide water to drink it's spring water, which was said to cure paralysis and other ailments.
There was only one drawback; they  had to be slurped from Teilo's skull. This strange practice  continued into the 20th century using one of the saints three skulls!
Teilo was born  at Penally  in Dyfed , around AD 500 and was cousin of David the patron Saint of Wales. His original name was apparently Eliuid . He went on to become Bishop at Llandaf Cathedral in Cardiff, and died back  in Dyfed at Llandeilo Fawr. These three places all wanted his remains, so God was bought in to arbitrate. His solution was to clone the body so that each church had its own dead Teilo. A miracle, or perhaps just a dodgy excuse for a triple set of relics. The three churches former centers of the Teilo cult,  are still standing. He was a very popular saint,- and by medieval times, there were over thirty churches and villages dedicated to him across Wales and Brittany. ( In Brittany he is known as the Saint of horses, and of fruit trees and is  sometimes  depicted riding a stag,) 
 uring his time in Brittany , he is said to have saved people from a winged dragon  which he tamed and which he kept tied to a rock in the sea. In another a local Lord offered him all the land he could encircle between sunset and sunrise , Teilo chose to ride a stag to cover as much ground in the time available.
Down the centuries the saint's multiple relics went missing piece by piece,  but what is claimed to be one of Teilo's skulls recently reappeared  in Hong Kong of all places.  After protracted negotiations on February 8th 1994 there was a special service at Llandaff,  at which the skull was installed in its own niche  in  the cathedral's St Teilo chapel. The reinstated relic is now considered far too precious to be used as a cup.
Incidentally there are other ways of preventing whooping  cough without getting out of your skull. Pass the patient under a donkey nine times, or else persuade them to take a ride on the nearest bear. This particular brand of preventative medicine often kept a bear-keeper in sticky buns and honey. Or whatever bears eat.

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