Celtic Mythological Beasts: Bestiary: Y Is For Ysgithyrwyn

20170329 Y IS FOR YSGITHRYWYN MYTHThere is a wonderful story from ancient times, full of pathos and meaning – the legend of the Ysgithyrwyn (pronounced ‘iss-gith-thigh-rin). It means ‘white tusk’.

It was common, once, to tell the story of the Ysgithyrwyn to children. The beast was a monstrous wild boar, with huge, gleaming white tusks, and a body, so it is said, to be the size of a cow. It was a  ferocious creature that roamed the wilds of north Wales, and some said it had magic powers, others said that capturing it would confer a wish, and others said that it was an just old boar that had a ‘charmed’ life. It was a beast, however, that one should not approach.

But, seeing it from afar was much safer, and the story I was told was such that if you saw it from a distance, then it would bring about a marriage between you and the one you were thinking of, your loved-one.

The reason for this is embedded in ancient myth, in that story from another time, beloved by Celts and Druids, and others of old.

The story, recorded in Arthurian legend, tells of a young warrior, Culhwch, who is madly in love with Olwen. The problem was that Olwen’s father, a giant of a king called  Ysbaddaden, would only allow the marriage if Culhwch succeeded in overcoming thirty-nine difficult tasks. A series of quests. The most difficult of these was the  killing Ysgithyrwyn, the wild boar, taking a tusk from it, and then fashioning it into a razor, and then for King Caw to shave the head of Ysbaddaden.

Culhwch succeeded all the tasks except the killing of the boar. After many attempts, Culhwch eventually exhausted the beast, succeeded in capturing the beast, and it was killed by Aedd. The tusk of the boar was fashioned into a razor, Ysbaddaden received his haircut and Culhwch was able to marry his beloved Olwen.

Even today, it is said that if you go out into the wilds of north Wales – not far from where I live – that on the night of the full moon, you might catch sight of the beast from a distance. If you do, you may be as fortunate as Culhwch. Legend says that if you spy the beast at this time – but don’t get too close – then the person you’re thinking of, and love, will indeed by the one that you will marry.

Ofcourse, it’s just an old tale, but you never really know about these old stories. The promise of marriage if you see the beast might just have some power still left in it, and that was exactly so for one couple known to me.



Bestiary: B is for…Bwbachod.

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A bestiarium vocablum or bestiary is an ancient book, recording, depicting and describing fantastical animals, beast and other entities, real and otherwise; and there’s usually some form of wisdom or moral contained therein. Here’s Tadhg’s bestiary.

Have you ever put something down at home, gone back to it the following morning and it’s gone?  Keys, money, or some other item, all moved? And, then you spend ages looking for the item only to find it’s in the strangest of places, yes?

A poltergeist?

Forget about a poltergeist being responsible. You’ve obviously been watching to many Hollywood horror movies, and far too many Hammer House of Horror tv programs.

No, what you have is a bwbach* in your house!

Bwbachod are Welsh elementals, brownies, fairies.

From when I was knee-high to a grasshopper in Wales, my grandmother would sit me down, and would tell me about the bwbachod (the plural of bwbach).

Bwbachod are house-elementals or house-fairies, though they may look like a type of goblin – short, round, plump, slightly grotesque, but like a ‘loveable rogue’, an imp.  Some people describe them as being just an inch or two high, rather like those people in ‘The Borrowers’ who live ‘in’ the wall and use mouse holes as front doors. Others put bwbachod as being about three foot/one metre tall.

Either way, they live in your house, have lots of shaggy hair, dress in brown clothing, and come out at night. I can’t think of anything more worrying to a child as he or she heads for bed, than to be told a story about the bwbachod (especially if they’re as tall as Chucky!).

..but they are good, kind, helpful.

But, don’t worry. Bwbachod are benevolent, and may even help you around the house, especially during the night. They’re generally silent, but if you hear a noise at night, you might convince yourself it’s the boiler, or air in the pipes, or a fox or cat outside. It’s probably not! It’s probably just your ever-so- friendly bwbach busying himself/herself around your house when you’re in bed.

They’re not only practical, but they also ‘implant’ thoughts, so if, when you’re at home, you get a thought as if from nowhere or some inspiration, or an energy burst, that’ll be your bwbach busy at work.

Here’s a couple of hints: Never talk to a bwbach directly. They don’t like it. You won’t see them, but always communicate with them as though you’re talking to yourself or in the third-person. Also,  it’s generally accepted that they should receive some payment for what they do, so a glass of milk left out, or a biscuit left on a plate at night would be a good idea. However, if you get insect infestation as a result of that, please don’t blame me.

Like gremlins (if you’ve seen the movie), they can change!

A word of caution. Never, never, never upset a bwbach, as then it will turn into a boggart, and you don’t want that! A boggart is….well, that’s the theme of another Bestiary entry.

Ofcourse, this is just make-belief, isn’t it? Bwbachod don’t exist? Or do they? Well, you tell me. A recent online poll, so it must be true, found that 23% of people don’t believe in their existence, but 77% (of Welsh people, perhaps) believed in bwbachod. It makes you wonder, huh?


Note: Bwbach is pronounced ‘boo-back’, but the ‘ck’ is sounded like the end of, say, the Scottish word for loch, as though you have something stuck in your throat. Guttural ending.