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The Llanddona Witch Tribe

At the start of the sixteenth century some very strange visitors beached their small boat on the beautiful shore of Llanddona in the isle of Anglesey. News of their arrival made all the villagers rush down to the beach to find out who the men and women were, and where they came from. In those far off days it was the practice for criminals to be set adrift in an oarless boat, without food and water in the hope they would die. Knowing this the villagers tried to prevent the party from landing. Two men leaped out of the boat pursued by the crowd. One of the men hit the ground with a stick, and clear water sprang from the ground. The villagers thought this to be a miracle, and their refusal to let the strangers land was unchristian and this started a plague of witches and warlocks. The infamous witch tribe had arrived which was for centuries to terrify the people of Llanddona. The men of the tribe lived by smuggling. They wore black cravats into which they knotted black flies. Should anyone be bold enough to fight these warlocks, the flies flew into their eyes, blinding them for some time. The women begged for food, cursing anyone who refused. None of the tribe paid for anything at the local markets and no stallholder was brave enough to insist they did. There was one man who was unafraid of the whole tribe (the only man in the whole of Anglesey). His name was Goronwy ap Tudur. He knew how to protect his house from witchcraft. Horseshoes were nailed on every door, rings of sacred yew or rowan was wound around doors. For added protection, every room had earth from the churchyard sprinkled on the floor. The head of the tribe is known in history as Bella Fawr (Big Bella) who was old, fat and terribly ugly. She did not live with the tribe but had a hovel to herself in the village of Llanddona. Goronwy was the deadly opponent of Bella who hated him and whose chief aim in life was to exterminate him, but was only too aware of his ability to render black magic harmless. One of the favourite tricks of the Llanddona witches was to cause the cattle of anyone who offended them to act strangely, and they excelled at it. Goronwy could well deal with that sort of magic, people from across the Menai straits often rowed across to consult with him on how to break the spells put on their domestic animals. He kept a supply of adder skins, which he ground into powder for sprinkling on bewitched cattle, horses, pigs sheep and goats. Even if bewitched to the point of death, the powder soon ensured a full recovery. Bella cast a spell on Goronwy's cattle too. One night, which was, as bright as day because of the Hunter's moon hanging low in the sky, Goronwy was walking home past a field where he kept three of his best cows. There he saw an unusually large hare hanging from the teat of one of the cows, which was vainly trying to shake it off. The hare sucked the teat and spat out the milk, then leaped back onto the next teat. The man watched until he saw the cow was no longer giving milk, but blood. He knew that the hare was really Bella in animal form, and that she would continue to milk the cows until they died, or make them barren, which could possibly be before morning. He ran home silently and returned with his gun loaded with silver pieces. When he got back, Bella had gone. This gave his cows a little respite until next evening, so as dusk fell the next night, Goronwy made his way to the field and hid in the hedge with his loaded gun. This time as an added precaution he put pieces of Vervain into the stock of his gun, as it was a powerful deterrent to witches. Before long the same hare he had seen the previous day appeared and after gambolling madly around the three cows, leaped at the teat of the nearest one. As soon as he was lined up Goronwy shot at the hare with his gun, he hit it in the legs, it gave a sub-human Cry and limped off in the direction of Bella's cottage. When Goronwy arrived he heard a low painful moaning coming from the kitchen. He peeped through the crack and saw Bella sitting in a chair bleeding from both legs quite profusely. He banged what silver was left in his gun, laughed and wagged a finger at Bella. He knew that now he had shot Bella with silver that had drawn blood, never again could she destroy or injure any domestic animals belonging to Goronwy, or any member of his family. When she had recovered sufficiently Bella wrote a cabalistic curse and made her way to the Cold cursing well in Llanddona with it written on a piece of parchment. She threw it into the well tied to a stone calling out Goronwy's name, but for some reason it did not take effect. Goronwy seemed to thrive in spite of Bella's curse and each time he passed the witch, he gave her a sardonic smile. She was determined to have her revenge on him and made up her mind to visit Wales's greatest cursing well at St. Eilian not far from Menai Bridge. Once there she used the same method she had used at the cold well. This time the curse appeared to work. Goronwy became ill and gradually became worse and worse. His body began to waste rapidly and he could hardly move as his strength failed him. He knew that if he failed to remove the curse Bella had put on him (and he was quite sure she had) he would die in a very short time. Slowly and painfully he made his way to a giant oak tree near his farm, and scraped off a fungus called witches' butter. He made his way to Bella's home and found her in. Close to feinting he stuck a pin in the butter and called her name. Before too long, Bella stood in front of him holding her side. He stuck two more pins in the butter and the witch moaned loudly in pain. Holding the fungus in front of him Goronwy said in a weak voice "Take the curse off me Witch." "No!" she roared, and two more pins went in to the butter making Bella scream, but still she stood defiantly yelling "NO!" With sweat pouring down his face Goronwy whispered "Say Gods' blessing on you Goronwy ap Tudur, and I will take out the pins." He knew he was facing his last moments on earth when he heard Bella gasp out the blessing. Almost at once his strength returned and he started feeling better. He delayed removing the pins from the fungus a few minutes until the loudly moaning witch screamed "Remove them! Remove them, you promised! "Yes; I am not a witch like you" Goronwy said removing the pins slowly one by one. After the last pin was removed Bella hobbled back to her cottage. Now at last Goronwy knew for certain he was the victor. He had already made it impossible for Bella to harm the livestock, and now that she had given her blessing to him, she could never physically harm Goronwy or any member of his family.

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