Satan At Work Near Llanfihangel-y-Creuddyn
Elias Owen gives the following account of a series of disturbing experiences that befell a Sabbath breaker in his 1887 book ‘ Welsh folk-lore: a collection of the folk-tales and legends of North Wales’. The account relates to the experiences of one William Davies and was given to Owen by the late Rev. J. L. Davies, Rector of Llangynog, near Llanfyllin who reputedly knew Davies and according to Owen had ‘argued the matter with him, and tried to persuade him that he had seen nothing, but that it was his imagination working on a nervous temperament that had created all his fantasies.’ However, Davies did not believe it could have been an hallucination and saw it as punishment for not worshipping on a Sunday.
The story as told by Elias Owen:
As a preface to the tale, it should be stated that it was usual, some years ago, for Welsh labourers to proceed to the harvest in England, which was earlier there than in Wales, and after that was finished, they hastened homewards to be in time for their own harvest. These migratory Welsh harvestmen are not altogether extinct in our days, but about forty years ago they were much more common than they are at present. Then respectable farmers’ sons with sickles on their backs, and well filled wallets over their shoulders, went in companies to the early English Lowlands to hire themselves as harvest labourers. My tale now commences:—
William Davies, Penrhiw, near Aberystwyth, went to England for the harvest, and after having worked there about three weeks, he returned home alone, with all possible haste, as he knew that his father-in-law’s fields were by this time ripe for the sickle. He, however, failed to accomplish the journey before Sunday; but he determined to travel on Sunday, and thus reach home on Sunday night to be ready to commence reaping on Monday morning. His conscience, though, would not allow him to be at rest, but he endeavoured to silence its twittings by saying to himself that he had with him no clothes to go to a place of worship. He stealthily, therefore, walked on, feeling very guilty every step he took, and dreading to meet anyone going to chapel or church. By Sunday evening he had reached the hill overlooking Llanfihangel Creuddyn, where he was known, so he determined not to enter the village until after the people had gone to their respective places of worship; he therefore sat down on the hill side and contemplated the scene below. He saw the people leave their houses for the house of God, he heard their songs of praise, and now he thinks he could venture to descend and pass through the village unobserved. Luckily no one saw him going through the village, and now he has entered a barley field, and although still uneasy in mind, he feels somewhat reassured, and steps on quickly. He had not proceeded far in the barley field before he found himself surrounded by a large number of small pigs. He was not much struck by this, though he thought it strange that so many pigs should be allowed to wander about on the Sabbath day. The pigs, however, came up to him, stared at him, grunted, and scampered away. Before he had traversed the barley field he saw approaching him an innumerable number of mice, and these, too, surrounded him, only, however, to stare at him, and then to disappear. By this Davies began to be frightened, and he was almost sorry that he had broken the Sabbath day by travelling with his pack on his back instead of keeping the day holy. He was not now very far from home, and this thought gave him courage and on he went. He had not proceeded any great distance from the spot where the mice had appeared when he saw a large greyhound walking before him on the pathway. He anxiously watched the dog, but suddenly it vanished out of his sight. By this the poor man was thoroughly frightened, and many and truly sincere were his regrets that he had broken the Sabbath; but on he went. He passed through the village of Llanilar without any further fright. He had now gone about three miles from Llanfihangel along the road that goes to Aberystwyth, and he had begun to dispel the fear that had seized him, but to his horror he saw something approach him that made his hair stand on end. He could not at first make it out, but he soon clearly saw that it was a horse that was madly dashing towards him. He had only just time to step on to the ditch, when, horrible to relate, a headless white horse rushed past him. His limbs shook and the perspiration stood out like beads on his forehead. This terrible spectre he saw when close to Tan’rallt, but he dared not turn into the house, as he was travelling on Sunday, so, on he went again, and heartily did he wish himself at home. In fear and dread he proceeded on his journey towards Penrhiw. The most direct way from Tan’rallt to Penrhiw was a pathway through the fields, and Davies took this pathway, and now he was in sight of his home, and he hastened towards the boundary fence between Tan’rallt and Penrhiw. He knew that there was a gap in the hedge that he could get through, and for this gap he aimed; he reached it, but further progress was impossible, for in the gap was a lady lying at full length, and immovable, and stopping up the gap entirely. Poor Davies was now more thoroughly terrified than ever. He sprang aside, he screamed, and then he fainted right away. As soon as he recovered consciousness, he, on his knees, and in a loud supplicating voice, prayed for pardon. His mother and father-in-law heard him, and the mother knew the voice and said, “It is my Will; some mishap has overtaken him.” They went to him and found he was so weak that he could not move, and they were obliged to carry him home, where he recounted to them his marvellous experience.