gwrach, witch, ghost

Gwrach y Rhibyn – A Welsh Ghost Story

Gwrach y Rhibyn by Reece Arianwyn

The following story is by Welsh illustrator and writer Reece Arianwyn, based on the Gwrach y Rhibyn, a spirit from Welsh mythology, with a modern twist. She foretells the impending death of those with the misfortune to hear her crying at their window at night, or as she flies alongside them, invisible, as they come to a crossroads or stream; the latter which she often arises from as twilight arrives. It is told she is very ugly, like a harpy, with leathery wings, black fangs, and deathly pale flesh. In stories she has been known to attack, and the very mention of her name would conjure up strong images of an ugly, deathly spirit.

gwrach, witch, ghost

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“I was told this story whilst growing up in the valleys.

My father told me it.

His father told him.

I never believed ‘em.

‘til now.

Down the coal mine the boys would talk.

You know what the boys are like.

They said there’s this old hag.

Gwrach y Rhibyn.

One of them would go outside to the fields – y’know, have a cigarette or something – and they’d be all alone, even though there was 200 men 50 feet below him.

And then he’d hear it.

Thought it was foxes at first. A vile shriek, like the sound of something angry dying.

Course, that’s what it was, they was just hearing it a day too early.

They’d come back. Course they’d seen something but not mention it. Maybe there’s a scratch on his arm wasn’t there before. Maybe there’s a new knowledge under them lids.

And then we’d realise, one of us wasn’t breathing any more.

Jimmy’d been crushed under fallen rocks. Died quietly all night whilst we were swapping stories and cigarettes.

So like I was sayin’, I didn’t believe ‘em until one night I found myself alone with a rolled up ‘Drum’ and was walking through the tall grass, away from the shaft entrance.

An I heard that noise.

Saw somethin’, crouching in the shadows.

Smelled of piss and sweat, but that coulda been me.

Saw a flash.

The glinting of teeth or nails or eyes in the light of the moon.

Woke up next day with this scratch down my leg, looking around for somebody.

Course, when I find ‘em, wasn’t only one of them dead.

Was all of them.

Now I believe the story. Now I believe in Gwrach y Rhibyn.”