The 1st March was Saint David’s Day, but today, the 3rd of the month, it is the turn of his mother, Saint Non, to be celebrated.
Born in the 5th Century in Pembrokeshire, Non was the daughter of Lord Cynyr Ceinfarf of Dyfed. She grew up to be a devout holy woman but was violated by lustful Prince Sandde of Ceredigion. Non became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy at Caerfai, just south of Saint David’s, in the middle of a violent thunder storm. Various versions of this tale recount how in her extreme birth pains, Non pressed her fingers into a boulder with such force that she left their impression in the rock.
When David was born, a brilliant light appeared, the rock was split asunder by a mighty bolt of lightning… and a spring gushed forth out of the ground. This beautiful clear water became know as Saint Non’s well and is reputed to heal those with mental illness.
Non brought Dewi up at Henfeynyw near Aberaeron and later they founded a nunnery at nearby Llanon together. We are all familiar with what happened to Saint David, but much less is known of his blessed mother. Later in life, Non moved on to Cornwall founding another nunnery at Alternon, where an ancient and beautiful church still stands today. However, Non ended her life in Brittany where she founded a third nunnery at Dirinon in Finistere. (Note the ‘non’ element in all these place names.)
Non means ‘nun’, and my middle name is Nonita, which is one of the Latin forms of ‘nun’. Therefore I have a double reason to celebrate today, for not only is it special to the mother of our patron saint here in Wales, but it is also my name day. People have long celebrated their name day across Europe, for they might not know the date – or even the year – of their birth, but they certainly knew their name and the protection and patronage of which Christian saint they were entitled to.
I am very lucky, for I have both birthday and name day… and my darling husband has just walked in bearing a box of chocolates for me!
Whatever your beliefs or genetic origins, I wish you all a very happy Saint Non’s Day – may she bring the nurture and support of a truly good woman and good mother to you all!