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16 October 2014

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The Banshee of Mynydd Meio

By Huw Davies
October 2001, Abertridwr
A digital story from Capture Wales

What's up the mountain?

Artist Huw Davies has a wealth of stories and folk tales from his native Abertridwr.

"If this mountain could speak there'd be no sleep. I've inherited an unconditional love for the mountains around my village of Abertridwr, in particular Mynedd Meio, housing, sheltering, looking down upon a community for over four thousand years. We used to play up there when I was a kid. A gang of brothers friends and cousins playing run out in the ruins of the Black Hospital but we were always a little bit on edge. Grandparents warned of Shinney, the old hag who would have you if you got split from your friends. We'd be playing hide and seek or deliberately run away and leave someone alone on the mountain.

The stories of Shinney date back 4 thousand years and they're attached to a Neolithic burial site on the mountain and contained the remains over 40 half burnt and painted bodies. She is the banshee, the guardian of entrances to the other world and the shepherd of men. She can identify men of mixed blood. They will not know this thought they may have, on times, an affinity with other worldly things that puzzles them. She will try to lure them to the top of Mynydd Meio and for this she has three guises. She can be aged and decrepit in need of assistance, young and pathetic, lost alone, beautiful and alluring offering excitement and danger or she can be all of these things.

The road up out of the Taff Valley onto Mynydd Meio is still called "Heol y Bunshee" - The Banshee Road. It is an ancient drovers' track that passes the ruined isolation hospital below the burial sites of Mynedd Meio as it winds its way to the hidden sanctuary of the mountain church.

The banshee waits on the road. She waits at a ford, a ford she uses to wash the heads, the heads she tirelessly collects. The story is a remnant of the old religion. The banshee's lures have been painted over a hundred times. In fact, I find it difficult to start a painting a picture that doesn't allude to her. If you stood up there alone you'd love the mountain too, but it's better if it doesn't love you back."

Huw Davies

What's your inspiration Huw?
I am a self employed artist and sculptor. I specialise in creating a link between the past and the present and use storytelling, illustration, sculpture and historical research to make this possible. I have created a number of public commissions that illustrate this point. There is a wealth of such material being lost daily and it needs a bit of love to bring it back to life.

So, you are taking care of them?
The Banshee story is particularly dear to me. If dear is a good choice of word. It had withered to a distant memory of my past, a road name and three lines in a 16th century travel book when I got hold of it. I think the film says all this quite well.

How did you find the workshop?
The experience of making the film was emotional, and a little overwhelming. Due mostly to the content of other peoples films. But this was a good thing. It gave it all greater meaning. After such soul searching I feel we needed a little more time to do our final efforts justice but this aside, it was a fabulous experience and this was very much due to the excellent guidance and approachability of the workforce. An excellent experience and a medium that will finally allow for genuine records of an area's life.

Your comments

"hey huw lovin the videome and kate have got a new play to send you soonwatch out for new mail" Kasia and Kate Davies.

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