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500's A.D. - Gwen of the British Celts

 

 

 

 

A Commemorative of Gwen Trimammis

 

 

It's not easy being a kid. Don't people always say that? Haven't they always said it? Since human nature has changed so little throughout time we could suppose that it has always been a little hard to be a child. Your friends and peers may not always be so gentle on your feelings, and it can hurt a lot. Your self image can really be affected. Of course, you might have made someone else feel just as bad a time or two.

If you are lucky it only happens a couple of times - nothing too major. But sometimes, especially if you are markedly different somehow, it can seem like a pretty rough world out there - we all know, and many of us have gotten to experience it first hand. Maybe you were born a slower learner than most. So you get those sorts of nicknames. Or maybe one of your eyes wanders a different direction than the other. Or perhaps you have a birthmark, a cleft palate, a hair lip, or any number of things that make it immediately apparent to anyone you meet that you are a little different.

So, you have to get used to that first slightly surprised, or startled, or sympathetic look you might always seem to receive from a stranger or new acquaintance. I guess you just come to know that you are probably always going to get that look. And you'll probably overhear plenty of comments of one sort or another in your life, hopefully not many of them cruel.

But, hard as it can be to have a blatantly obvious mark or difference, it can be worse to have one that people whisper about, and which is kept as sort of a secret by your family. Chances are that it won't really be a secret for long, as people don't really do well at keeping secrets. And the neighborhood's speculations can always add up to a lot more than the reality, which is another problem. So, who knows which is worse? The known, or the hidden? But either way, you have some hurt feelings about it as you grow up, and you probably ask God why? Why am I like this? Why did You do this to me?

There was a Christian named Gwen born, long ago, in Britain. Gwen Teirbron. And she was of the actual tribe of the Britains - a Brythonic Celt. There were several languages in use then, in what would come to be England, and so she is known by several names: In Welsh she is Gwen, in English (as spoken then by the Angles) she was to be called Wite. And one of her latin names was Candida. But she would come to have another. She lived across the channel in Ploufracan in Domnonee in what would one day come to be France for much of her life. In their tongue she was called Blanch.

Her father, King Budic II, had married a sister of the legendary King Arthur according to the belief of some historians in England today. Budic was sometimes called 'the Emperor of the Welsh'. It can be hard to sort out those ancient Royal families of Britain, but it appears to some British experts in the field that this was her lineage. So, she could have called King Arthur 'Uncle', though he may not have still been alive when she was born (She was probably born in 499 A.D. or 500 A.D.)

***Some believe that the storied King Arthur was of the Royal House of the Kingdom of Dumnonia.***

This Gwen Teirbron's other Latin name was Alba Trimammis. Alba was the Latin name for Scotland, but means 'white', after Dover's limestone cliffs some sources say. As for Trimammis, you can probably guess it's meaning: Gwen had three breasts.

As a little girl it may not have seemed like such a big thing, but we can imagine that it provoked a fair amount of comment as she developed into a woman. We might guess that she sometimes asked the Lord why she had been given this unusual deformity. Luckily for Gwen she had a prominent family, and perhaps she was also charming . And who knows what might sound interesting to a potential husband. But whatever the case, she was able to marry.

She wed a man named Fracan, who was a cousin to a King. That King was King Cado of Dumnonia. Cado was also a Brythonic king, of the Island's south west peninsula. Today's Devon, Somerset, Dorset, and Cornwall all lay on part of the land he reigned over. But that's another subject. Gwen married Fracan, King Cado's cousin.

So Gwen, the young woman with three mammaries, and well known for it, married Fracan. And they, like any young couple, wanted a family. Soon enough, Gwen, who was also to become known as a very devout and saintly woman, became with child. Well, actually with child and child, and later another child. And amazingly, all three boys became recognized saints soon after their deaths.

Gwen had twin boys , then soon later another boy. And she was more able to care for their nourishment than many other women in her situation might have been.  She must have gone from being seen as the village sympathy case to being viewed as a woman specially prepared by the Lord Himself for the life He had in mind for her. It must have brought her great joy to be displayed as a favored woman of God, rather than a curiosity. The Lord has plans and plans within plans. The three boys she named Wethnoc, Iacob, and Winwaloe.

There was a plague that broke out, and she and Fracan crossed the channel to live in Ploufracan in Domnonee then. They became French for a while, I guess. She had daughter named Chreirbia there. Tragedy struck their family while there, also.  Fracan died. But Gwen remarried to a man named Eneas Ledewig, and she had a child with him also. She named him Cadfan. Gwen had 4 boys who became canonized as saints before her life was over.

Her son Cadfan grew up and established a famous monestery at Towyn in Meirionyd, and so had a great influence for the Lord there in Wales. But he later moved to a secluded location called Bardsey Island and started a monastery which became quite renowned and which drew noblemen and holy men from all parts of the realm. This monastery's cemetary is said to hold around 20,000 graves, and Cadfan was buried there as well when his time came. So, Cadfan turned out to be a powerful worker for God. How about the other three?

They all ended up living lives of sufficient holiness and impact that their names are preceded with the title of Saint, as I mentioned:

Winwaloe created a sucessful monastery, and apparently did some other work with his brothers.

Wethnoc created a hermitage and later gave it up willingly to a St. Petroc.  A strange story has Petroc and Wethnoc working spiritually as a team to frighten and defeat a large serpent which was used by a certain King Teudor of Penwith to attack his enemies.

Gwen's son Jacut was active in mission work, and was apparently forced to leave Britain at one point by invading Saxons, but I found out no more about him.

Gwen's life was very strange in more ways than one. She was actually captured while in France by Anglo-Saxon pirates, and taken across the channel back to England. She escaped, and returned across the channel to France. But, again in her lifetime she was captured in France by Anglo-Saxon pirates. And again she escaped across the channel back to France. That's pretty odd, but not nearly as odd as the enduring tradition that both times she returned by walking - walking across the English Channel.

We know that Jesus walked on water. And we know that Peter did for a short time, but then lost faith and floundered. Could it be true that Gwen walked across the Channel? Twice? Well, everyone is safer betting against it, but every Christian knows that it just might be true. Just maybe.

Gwen lived out her last years at a sort of hermitage called Whitechurch Canonicorum in E. Dumnonia (Dorset, England) - a holy place of rest and inner reflection. But her old enemies, the Anglo-Saxon pirates, were not to be forever denied. They raided this hermitage, and during the raid she was killed. It was mentioned in several sources I used on this story that her shrine was one of only two shrines in England (one source said it was the only shrine) not ransacked during the Protestant Reformation. God's blessing, perhaps?

Here was a pretty blessed woman with a pretty blessed chest. Praise to our Lord who knows how to draw attention to His work so that men will see and acknowledge His sovereignty. And here is another reminder that women, like men, must bear their burdens and trials with faith in the goodness of our Maker. You never know how a thing will turn out!

©2017 Daniel Curry & 'Deeds of God' Website