Sunday, February 8, 2009


What is so dangerous about the "hwyl" that it is forbidden in cathedrals? "To the person who sees the strange word for the first time, and then goes to the cathedral and hears the hwyl, as hear it he will, forbidden though it be, the annual Welsh festival on St. David's eve will be something to remember all his life. The hwyl is a peculiar quality of voice or tone, said to be possessed only by certain gifted ones, to whom it has been transmitted by some Druidical ancestor, who moved his savage followers by that same magic tone, and incited them to battle or moved them to religious frenzy. It is a marvelous thing, the hwyl, and every hearer, with a drop of Celtic blood in his veins, is moved to the depths of his being. To the Scotchman it is as the voice of the bagpipes; the Irishman hears the banshee, but to the soul of the Welshman it whispers more than ever bansee shrieked or bagpipe skirled. In the cathedral it is forbidden because it excites the people. . . . [Yet] the hwyl will not be absent, for keep it out of his voice [a Welsh clergyman] can not." —The Cambrian, May 1902

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