The terms cromlechau and meinhirion, now used almost exclusively to describe these stones and stone monuments, are to some extent misnomers and were never used by local people in the past. Instead the great mass of people habitually referred to such stones by the somewhat strange name of Gwal y filast or the lair of t bitch hound (sometimes the stones of the greyhound bitch) whilst in Gwent they were spoken of as the kennel of the greyhound bitch.
The Maen Ceti
At certain times of the year many of these standing stones were thought to takes on a life of their own. The Maen Ceti or Arthur’s Stones in the Gower Peninsula was known to make its way down to Port Eynon a few miles away and drink from the sea on certain nights of the year. This particular cromlech was thought to be somehow associated with ‘a dread female presence which rides it.’ Both King Arthur and St David are said to have partly split it with their swords.
Not content with having tried to split Maen Ceti Arthur is also said to have been responsible for the creation of the stones which, in its English form, bears his name. The great king was on his way to the Battle of Camlan when a pebble lodged in his shoe causing so much discomfort and irritation that Arthur took it and threw it away from him with all the strength he could muster. It fell on Cefn Bryn in West Glamorgan, a full seven miles from where he was standing.
Girls from Swansea district would go to the Maen Ceti or Arthur’s Stone at midnight while the full moon was shining and place upon it a well-kneaded cake made from barley meal and honey, wetted with milk. They then crawled round the stone three times to test the loyalty of their young men. If the lovers were loyal and true they would appear before them; if they did not appear the girls knew that their young lovers were either fickle or else had no intention of marrying them.
Other stones besides the Maen Ceti were known to walk. The large Maenhir or upright stone standing in a field near Ty’n y Seler was thought to visit the sea once every. It would set out very early on Christmas morning before cock crow and head towards the sea at Sker, near Porthcawl, where it would drink. Before anyone had set out for the early morning Plygain service the stone would return to its resting place. If anyone did see the Maenhir on its early morning walk they were well advised to stand clear and leave the stone alone or else dreadful fate would befall them.
The Bodvoc Stone
The Bodvoc Stones, commemorating one Bodvoc who died in the sixth or seventh century, was said to stand over a hoard of hidden gold. Besides guarding the stone itself Bodvoc was said to keep watch over the buried treasure. This stone was sometimes called Y Maen Llwyd (the scared or grey stone) or Y Garreg Llythrenog (the stone of the letters). It was firmly believed of this stone that anyone who succeeded in deciphering correctly its strange inscription would meet with certain death. Around the year 1870 some people did make an attempt to dig up the hidden treasure and stone was overthrown and left covered with water for a long time.
The Buried Grotto
A stone pillar inscribed with the Latin words Marci Caritini Filii Bericii stood for many years on a tumulus, said by the local people to be a fairy ring, a few miles from Neath at a place called Banwau Bryddin. The commemorative stone was taken away by Lady Mackworth to form part of a grotto she intended to build in the grounds of her new estate. An old man, an under gardener working on her estate, claimed to have spoken to the fairies many times and he was convinced no good would come of moving the stone. The guardians who watched over the stone would never allow this act of vandalism and sacrilege to go unpunished. The old gardener had often seen the fairies dancing during the light nights in the rings of Banwau Bryddin where the stone had stood but since the stone had been removed no mortal man had seen them.
The old under gardener stoutly maintained that curious and mysterious words were written on the stone in the fairy language which no one living had ever been able to read, not even her ladyship herself. Needless to say, the removal of the stone to the Gnoll Gardens had indeed angered the fairies intensely, as the old man had always said it would, and the grotto which cost thousands of pounds to build had not been long finished before a thunderstorm of such violence, that its like had never been seen in Glamorganshire before, completely destroyed it in a single night. The hill had collapsed upon it and buried it forever. The old man prophesied doom and destruction to any foolhardly enough to try and clear away the earth covering the fallen grotto.
Author: Alan Roderick
Illustrations by Bozena Roderick