Perhaps for thousands of years it was the custom for holy men and women, specially appointed, to carry branches or dry staffs from particular Yews of special significance, to Britain from Ancient Egypt and the Holy Lands.
The Tree of Life
They were carried by pilgrims, at great personal risk, destined to be planted in remote sanctuaries, particularly in Wales, where they sprouted and grew into trees. Thus, for those who brought them and those who instructed the planting, it was of the utmost importance ensure the continued existence of something so precious and to preserve it for future generations. Why was it that Britain was chosen for planting the sacred trees and Wales became the country with the largest collection of ancient yews, sacred trees on Earth? It may be that those who instructed the planting knew Britain to be Albion, the White Island, the most holy site in the world. It’s no coincidence that ancient Egyptian texts locate the Tree of Life on such an island in the west.
St. Padarn was one of these carriers. He went to the Holy Lands in the company of St. Teilo and St. David and you might have expected it to be David who would be chosen by the Archbishop of Jerusalem to receive the most precious gift of all, an extraordinary staff of the name of Cyrwen. At the time this was thought to be the most honoured gift that could be made to an individual. In an early medieval Welsh verse this staff is described as follows:
Much accomplishing, much loved, it gives protection,
In holy power reaching the limits of 3 continents,
No other relic can be compared with Cyrwen, (the name of the staff)
A wonderful gift – Padarn’s staff.
The name of the staff means holy might, white, miraculous power and force. All these things are meant by the staff’s name, Cyrwen. We believe this staff was planted over Padarn’s daughter’s grave at Llanerfyl and grew into one of the most extraordinary, monoecious (both male and female) yews ever seen, as it writhes its way horizontally around the churchyard resembling 4 serpents.
The Holy Grail
There is a legend that says that Joseph of Arimathea once journeyed to Britain and as a merchant, traded for tin in Cornwall. On one of his visits he brought the boy Jesus and on a much later visit he returned to Britain bringing with him the Holy Grail which he buried at the place now called Chalice Well. Of course these are stories, but in such things as legend and myth, there are elements of truth.
In the early 1960’s, archaeological excavations were carried out in and around the Chalice Well, led by Dr. Philip Rahtz. No chalice was found but perhaps more significantly, bearing in mind the holy rood, a Yew stump was discovered at a depth of some 12 feet. Scientific examination of this wood proved it to have been a living tree around 300 AD. One wonders about the significance of this and its possible link with the legend of Joseph of Arimathea…
It seems most likely that what Joseph brought was a wooden staff cut from the Tree that Jesus hung on, which contained the bloodline of the Tree of Life and the Elixir of Immortality. A few hundred years later, 3 Celtic saints, Illtyd, Cadoc and Peredur, from the Druid world who had double identities as both saints and Arthurian knights and who were known in the Welsh Triads as the ‘keepers of the graal secret’ were also connected with staffs and yew trees and may have carried on an earlier tradition. It was thought that their secret may have died with them but it was Wolfram Von Eschenbach in the 12th century who was probably the last person who dared describe the graal as ‘the perfection of Paradise, root and branch’. He would have risked his life if he had said more. It rather looks like there is a missing link here between the saints, the original graal, the holy wood and the Arthurian Quest for the Holy Grail as 2 of the ‘keepers of the grail secret’ were actually blood relations of King Arthmael of Gwent, who, with his wife, Gwenhwyfar was perhaps the most likely person to have been King Arthur.
Hidden places, particularly in Wales, such as Llangadwaladr, place of mystery, connected with the last Pendragon and Defynnog, contender for ‘Oldest tree in Europe’ still hold their secrets.
© 2012 by Janis Fry