John Speller's Web Pages New Year's Hymn

John Speller's Web Pages - Celtica

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This ancient Pembrokeshire carol is probably best known in its arrangement by Benjamin Britten, but here is an earlier version that antedates Britten's by at least a century. The carol was part of a Welsh New Year's festival in which the people and their houses were cleansed with "new" water from the well. Carolers would go about with an evergreen sprig, using it to sprinkle the water and would beg for food or money. In this version there is nothing inherently Christian about this carol and it may reflect an earlier, pagan festival. Some scholars think "levy dew" is a corruption of the old form of the word "lady," viz. leveday. This is thus the same as "Fair Maid" and could refer to the Virgin Mary or to another virgin with pagan associations — namely, St. Brigid.

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The "Sainted Well" of St. Govan in Pembrokeshire
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