December 24, 2020 4 min read

The Welsh Dragon - Y Ddraig Goch

The Welsh Dragon is the heraldic symbol of Wales, and is, almost without doubt the country’s most recognisable symbol. The image is most notably seen on the flag of Wales. The flag, a proud and ancient battle standard of the Welsh consists of a red dragon, passant (which in heraldry terms indicates that the animal has its right foot raised), on a green and white background. The Welsh dragon this symbol is also extensively used by various institutions in the country, both public and private. The Welsh Dragon traces its history as a national symbol all the way back to the 9th century, though it is popularly believed that the symbol was already used by the ancient Celts before the invasion of Britain by the Saxons.

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Legend of the Mabinogion

When the Celts ruled Britain and before they were driven out of England into Wales and Cornwall, there was a legend in the Mabinogion, a collection of eleven stories, that a red dragon living in Britain had begun fighting with an invading white dragon.

As the two fought, they wounded each other, and the cries of agony from the red dragon made crops barren, killed animals and caused pregnant women to miscarry.

King Lludd, the ruler of Britain at the time, went to visit his sibling Llefelys, who was in France. He was instructed that to stop the dragons fighting, thus ending the cries that were ruining his people, he must dig a pit large enough to contain them both in the centre of Britain. He must then fill it with mead and cover it in cloth.

Having done this, the dragons came and drank the mead, which made them drowsy, and they fell asleep in the pit, wrapped in the cloth. Lludd imprisoned them, and in the Mabinogion, that is the end of the matter.

Historia Britonum

Later, however, in the Historia Britonum, the dragons are still trapped in the pit and cloth, and every time King Vortigern attempts to build a castle there, the walls and foundations are destroyed overnight, though nobody knows why.

Vortigern’s advisors say that to solve the problem he must find a boy without a natural father and sacrifice him. This will stop the destruction of his castle.

When this boy is found, and it is revealed to him that he is to be sacrificed so that Vortigern’s castle can be built, the boy says that the advisors are wrong, and that actually the destruction is occurring because of the two dragons trapped in the pit.

So, Vortigern digs open the pit, frees the two dragons, and finally the red dragon kills the white dragon. The boy pipes up again, telling Vortigern that the red dragon represented the people over which Vortigern ruled, whereas the white dragon represented the Saxons.

Vortigern’s people are presumed to have been the native Britons who, although they were driven by the Saxons into only Wales and Cornwall, were never completely defeated. They didn’t exactly slay the white dragon as they were supposed to, however.

Welsh Dragon Flags

It is probably true to say that there is no Welshman or Welsh woman who would not recognise the National flag of Wales, the Welsh Dragon or Y Draig Goch. The flag of Wales images are known the world over and have consistently been judged as one of the most iconic and striking flags. Many national flags are merely an arrangement of colours  - the Wales National flag image is one of a confident, fiery Welsh dragon – Y Ddraig Goch or the Welsh dragon flag!

The Welsh dragon flags show the Dragon as a red dragon passant (a passant being an animal shown as walking with the right front foot and its tail raised) on a green and white background. Its not only iconic but many believe that it is one of the oldest flags in the world that is still in use.

More info on the Welsh flag and its history, Click here...

About FelinFach

Our company, FelinFach Natural Textiles is located in the heart of the Preseli area of Pembrokeshire near to Boncath. We design Welsh blankets and the iconic Welsh Tapestry blankets which are traditionally woven at Welsh mills. We also design and make natural hand dyed yarn, cotton, silk and wool scarves and other handmade products. We also offer Sheepskin Rugs, Gift Cards and tools and books for crafters and knitters - Cocoknits, Laine, Amirisu and Making to name a few!. We are a proud supporter of the Campaign for Wool and Global Welsh.

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Last update 18th October 2020