Dydd Dewi Sant hapless

It’s almost a feature of Wikipedia, rather than a bug, that any articles that aren’t about Perl or Tolkien tend to present all the facts to hand, often with embarrassing “citation needed” links besides anything for which they don’t have an expression on their CD, while missing the broad narrative entirely. I say it’s a feature because it provides the wider community with an insight into, oh, something or other, and goes at least some way towards explaining Richard Dawkins. As if anything could explain Richard Dawkins.

Their short article on Dewi is a case in point, and it’s worth repeating much of it in its current state here:

The name Dewi commonly refers to one of the following:

  • In Celtic mythology, Dewi was an ancient god, worshipped primarily in Wales. He was represented by a Great Red Serpent; this symbol in the form of a dragon is on the official emblem of Wales. [citation needed]
  • Coincidentally, the patron saint of Wales, Saint David, is known in Welsh as Dewi Sant. Dewi in this context is an early Welsh equivalent of the name David (coming from Latin Davidus via Dewydd [citation needed]), although the now more usual Welsh form of David is Dafydd (also from Davidus)….

“Coincidentally”? “Coincidentally”? Look, these two Dewis are clearly the same thing. What (I’ll bet hats to hammers) actually happened was that the Celtic god Dewi was quietly snarfed by the early Church in Wales using the halfway-house semitranslation Dewydd. This follows the usual practice of upstart or occupying religions towards the established faiths. Dewi was made to wear the clothes of Dafydd, with Dewydd as a kind of ghostly retainer to help him dress. You’d only say “coincidentally” there if you had no grasp of historical narrative at all.

If you were feeling boisterously literary, like a sort of Kwik-Save Simon Schama, you would only have to mention this scenario—that Celtic Dewi and Dewi Sant don’t in fact deserve a bullet point each—to then germinate explanations about so much more of Welsh religion: the keeping of the saint’s name as Dewi rather than Dafydd, and the Celtic flavour in Welsh Christianity. It can open up a whole article on comparative theology, builded on this tiny narrative grain.

The specialists among you might be rushing off to your libraries, vastly bigger than mine, to contradict me—in which case, thank heavens. I’d rather tell a lovely story that wasn’t true, and then hear the historical research from an expert.

The rest of you are wondering why I don’t put up or shut up on the site itself: after all, that’s what wikis are for, right? Oh, but what would be the point? Like any original thought on the site it might last one or two edits before being peppered with citation demands and ultimately versioned out of existence. Besides, why would I want to add it to Wikipedia when I’ve already put it here? At least here I can trust the sub-editors: to wit, me. Not only that, but I can also guarantee the quality of the readership: to wit, mostly me.

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This entry was posted in belief, christianity, comparative_religion, druid, history, humanities, media, nu-media, time, understanding, wisdom_of_groups. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Dydd Dewi Sant hapless

  1. colin says:

    I think demography explains it. Molecular biology PhD students in the US, for example, can write screeds of useful stuff because wikipedia feels like work, and they aren’t actually allowed to leave the building unless it’s on fire.

    In contrast, your comp theol PhD students don’t need wikipedia as a displacement activity, because if they want to hide from their writeup they have their parishioners to attend to. The same goes for any subject that isn’t studied by young people at a computer, parishioners mutandis.

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