Keynote Speakers

We are so excited to have the following keynote speakers with us for 2022 Ninefold Festival!!



The Witch in Welsh Legend and Lore

The Welsh long had a complex relationship with the concept of the Witch. Despite having numerous magical characters in our mythology and folklore, including divine figures such as Cerridwen and Aranrhod, what exactly defines a “Witch” within the Welsh cultural context is filled with contradiction. In this talk we will explore the concept of the Witch in the Welsh cultural continuum. Delving into the history, lore, terminology, and classification of the Witch in Wales. From the mythos of the Witch Goddess Cerridwen, to the strange history of the Witch hunts in Wales, and even intriguing Welsh folk magical traditions and customs. 

Mhara Starling was born in North Wales, raised on the Isle of Anglesey, and is a native Welsh speaker. Mhara is currently based in Chester, Cheshire (England) where she runs her own coven, as well as facilitates local classes, gatherings and moots. Mhara is the author of the book ‘Welsh Witchcraft: a Guide to the Spirits, Lore, and Magic of Wales’, and shares her love of Welsh folklore, mythology, and magic via her YouTube channel, social media pages, and podcast ‘The Welsh Witch Podcast’.


The Female Saints of Wales

While most people are familiar with St David, the patron saint of Wales, fewer are familiar with the traditions associated with the holy women of Wales. Indeed, J. W. Willis Bund, more than a century ago, claimed that women rarely became saints in Wales and Ireland ‘for a woman would not be the head of a monastery, the chief of a tribe of a Saint, and so could never become a Saint or entitled to be so called…a woman could never fill the office which certainly among the Welsh entitled a person to become a saint’.  Sainthood was, in his view, gender specific and incompatible with the traditional roles played by women. Yet rich Welsh hagiographical traditions shed light on popular beliefs concerning numerous Welsh female saints who will be examined in this paper. Drawing on a wide range of sources, including Middle Welsh, Irish and Latin saints’ Lives, medieval poetry, holy wells, church dedications, prayers, charms, folklore traditions and visual iconography, we will examine the religious traditions associated with a number of Welsh female saints including Dwynwen (patron saint of lovers), Melangell (patron saint of hares), Brigit (San Ffraid), Gwenfrewy (Winefride) and Non (St David’s mother).

Jane Cartwright is Professor of Welsh and Celtic Studies at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in Lampeter, U.K., where she is Director of the MA in Celtic Studies and the MA in Medieval Studies. Jane also validated the first distance-learning BA in Celtic Studies and contributes to the BA in History. She lectures through the medium of Welsh and English on medieval Welsh history and literature and she is particularly interested in women’s history, religious literature, hagiography and saints’ cults. Her first book Y Forwyn Fair, Santesau a Lleianod: Agweddau ar Wyryfdod a Diweirdeb yng Nghymru’r Oesoedd Canol (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1999) traced the cult of the Virgin Mary and female saints in Wales and also provided a history of the Welsh nunneries. She extended her study of female spirituality and examined the sources for numerous saints in Feminine Sanctity and Spirituality in Medieval Wales (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2008) and she brought together studies on Welsh, Irish, Breton and Cornish hagiography in her edition of Celtic Hagiography and Saints’ Cults (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2003). Her volume Mary Magdalene and her Sister Martha (Catholic University of America Press, Washington DC, 2013) was awarded the Edwin Mellen Prize for its contribution to the study of medieval prose. Jane enjoys discovering neglected texts in the medieval Welsh manuscripts, transcribing, editing and translating these with the aim of making them available to a wider international audience. Her most recent volume, published by the Modern Humanities Research Association in Cambridge in 2020, provided the first scholarly edition of the little-known Middle Welsh version of the legend of St Ursula. Reputedly a Brythonic princess, Ursula and her 11,000 virginal companions became associated with the church at Llangwyryfon in Ceredigion and other minor Welsh chapels. Jane discusses her Welsh cult and the wider international cultural context of the legend in The Cult of St Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2016). Jane was Co-investigator on a major AHRC-funded project on Saints in Wales and her studies and editions of the Life of St Winefride and the Life of Ieuan Gwas Padrig are forthcoming on the Saints in Wales website. Jane acted as a consultant for CADW on its ‘Pan-Wales heritage interpretation plan: Celtic saints, spiritual places and pilgrimage’. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Learned Society of Wales. 

Celtic Studies (BA) | UWTSD

Celtic Studies (MA) | UWTSD

Medieval Studies (MA) | UWTSD