St Digain’s Church, Llangernyw
St Digain’s Church in Llangerny has a unique living ancient monument, a male yew tree that is possibly aged 4000 to 5000 years making it one of the oldest living organisms in the world. There is also a tradition associated with the church and All Hallows Eve when a spirit would reputedly announce the names of those about to die from the altar. Elias Owen in his ‘Welsh folk-lore’ (1887) tells us:
‘The Spirit was locally called Angelystor. Those who were anxious to know whether they or their neighbours had a longer time to live stood underneath the east window on that eve, and anxiously listened for the dreaded revelation. It is related of a tailor, who was reckoned a wit, and affected disbelief in the Spirit story, that he announced his intention to prove the thing a myth, and so, one Nos G’lan Geua’, Shon Robert, as he was called, proceeded to the church just before midnight, and, to his horror, he heard his own name—“Shon ap Robert,” uttered by the Spirit. “Hold, hold!” said the tailor, “I am not quite ready!” But, ready or not ready, it made no difference to the messenger of death, for that year the tailor died.
According to rustic opinion, demons were, from sinister motives, much given to frequenting churches; still it was thought that as the Priest entered the sacred building by the south door these Spirits were obliged to make their exit through the north door, which was called in consequence the Devil’s Door; and this door was opened, and left open awhile, to enable these Evil Spirits to escape from the church, before divine service commenced. In agreement with this notion, the north side of church yards was designated the Domain of Demons, and, by association of ideas, no one formerly was buried in this side, but in our days the north part of the church yard—where the space in the other parts has already been occupied—is used for interments, and the north doors in most old churches have been built up.
Formerly, at baptisms, the north church door was, in Wales, left open, and that too for the same reason that it was opened before the hours of prayer. But these superstitions have departed, as intimated by the blocking up of north church doors.’