Friday, 25 April 2014

Gwen is for White

'White' or 'sacred' is a common place name element in Celtic languages and comes in the following forms:
Old Breton:  guen [Old Cornish: guyn; Welsh: gwyn; Breton: gwenn].
Cornish examples include Gwenver ('white way'), Gwendra ('white land') and Gwendreath ('white beach'). 

In Welsh we have : Maesgwyn ('white field'), Bron-gwyn ('white hill'), Gaerwenn ('white fort/house') and Capel Gwyn ('white chapel').
Examples from Brittany include: Pouliguen 'white/sacred pool',  Guingamp ('white/sacred field'), Guenroc ('white/sacred rock'), Guerande (Gwenrann in Breton), Calorguen ('white fort/house'), La-Chapelle-Blanche (Ar Chapel Wenn in Breton).
Guenroc Cross

Guenroc owes its name to an outcrop of white quartz rock north of the town The site has been deemed sacred since early Celtic times and today boasts its own Rio-style Christ the Redeemer as well as a cross.  It is said that when you are standing at the foot of the cross you can see sixteen steeples on a clear day; this is clearly a place that is both 'white' and 'holy'.
Guenroc, 'Christ the Redeemer'

I have a dog called Gwen. But she is neither white nor holy; in fact, she can be very naughty.
She is called Gwen after the Welsh artist Gwen John who lived and painted for several summers in Pleneuf-Val-Andre in Brittany in the 1920s. She, however, preferred cats.
Gwen John, self-portrait
Gwen John, cat


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