The ancient burial chamber with the power to grant wishes!
St Lythan’s Burial Chamber, sited on the outskirts of Cardiff, is surrounded by myth and legend.
Situated to the west of Cardiff, St Lythan’s burial chamber stands proud in a windy and often muddy field. The stones are completely exposed, with the burial mound that would have surrounded them having almost entirely disappeared.
The burial chamber is remarkable on account of its height, which is higher than normally seen in this area. The capstone is some four metres long (14ft), by 3 meters wide (10ft) and is seventy centimetres thick (2.5ft). It is supported by three standing stones which stand in the middle of the field. The structure is likely to be Neolithic and dates from around the year 4000BC. It is built in the Severn Cotswold tradition of burial chambers.
The entrance to the chamber faces to the east and is flanked by two massive stones forming a portal, the insides of which are smoother than the exterior of the stones. The height of the standing stones has led to some speculation that the stones may have never been completely covered by a burial mound.
Indeed, if a mound had covered the whole structure then it would have been in the region of thirty meters long. The rear stone, which forms the back wall of the structure has a hole in it; the purpose of which (if any) is unclear. However, some people believe that the hole is designed to let the spirits of those interred in the mound to leave the mound.
Some bone and pottery was found in the area and is believed to have come from the burial chamber itself, although, there have been no systematic excavations. This is presumably because it has been assumed that anything of value will have long since vanished on such an exposed site.
The chamber goes by a number of names, one of which, Gwail-y-Filiast, means “the Greyhound Bitch’s Lair” or “the Greyhound Bitch’s Kennel” and relates to its use as a shelter for animals over the years. In fact, it is not uncommon for sheep to shelter in the chamber, so the tradition continues!
The chamber is also known as Maes y Felin, which means “The Mill in the Meadow” and relates to one of the traditions associated with the site.
The Severn-Cotswold type of ancient stone structures run across the south west of the United Kingdom with the most westerly examples in West Wales (on the Gower peninsular). They also reach as far east as the complex ceremonial landscape around Avebury. These chambers were constructed with a stone structure and then covered in a trapezoid long barrow mound, which, in the example of St Lythan’s, has completely eroded over the centuries leaving the exposed stones.
The burial chamber has a number of traditions and myths associated with them. It is reputed that, if you spend the night at the chamber on Midsummer’s Eve, you will be able to see the capstone spin around three times above the standing stones, presumably in celebration of the summer solstice. This tradition is presumably the origin of the lesser known of its names; “The Mill in the Meadow”, and relates to the milling action of the capstone. Once the capstone has finished its manoeuvres, all the stones are reputed to travel to the River Waycock to swim, prior to returning to their place in the field.
The field, in which the stones stand, is traditionally known as the “Accursed Field” and is reputed to be subject to a curse from the Druids which has left the land barren. The reasons for such a curse are unknown and whether the curse continues to exert its power depends on whether you count the abundant grass that grows in the field!
However, despite the curse on the field, the stones are also reputed to have the power to grant wishes. In order to have your wish granted, you must stand in front of the chamber on Halloween night and whisper your desires to the stones! Perhaps they’ll be listening if you visit?