Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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HARRIES , HENRY (d. 1862 ), astrologer, medicine-man, and conjurer ;

son of JOHN HARRIES , Pant-coy , Cwrt-y-cadno, Carms. Henry Harries and his father (who d. in 1839 ) are considered to be among the most famous of Welsh conjurers of modern times; they are known to have been consulted by people from all over South Wales and the borderland. The father had received a formal education considerably in advance of the community in which he found himself, while his extensive library contained all the important medical books of the day, together with works in Greek and Latin ; some books from the library are today in the National Library of Wales . Father and son later worked together, and Henry Harries issued shortly before his father's death a short prospectus of their trade in which he claimed to calculate nativity ; to tell the fortunes of all who consulted them ; to tell ‘ friends and enemies, trade or profession best to follow; whether fortunate in speculation, viz. lottery, dealing in foreign markets, etc., etc., of marriage, if to marry — of children, whether fortunate or not, etc., etc., deduced from the influence of the Sun and Moon, with the Planetary Orbs at the time of birth. Also, judgment and general issue in sickness and diseases, etc. … ’ They could also charm away pain , detect thieves , counteract the effect of witchcraft , and summon spirits to appear . There can be no doubt that men like John and Henry Harries played an important part in the life of the rural community of their day. It was a community that had little access to orthodox medical aid, or to an efficient police force to detect crime, or to veterinary surgeons in cases of illness among the livestock. The conjurers offered help under all these headings. Their social function is most closely paralleled today by that performed by ‘ medicine-men ’ in the pre-literate communities of Africa and south-eastern Asia .

Sources:

  • T. Morgan , Enwogion Cymreig (1700-1900) (1907) , 1907 , i, 269-75;
  • J. C. Davies , Welsh Folklore (1911) , 1911 , 252-62;
  • E. Jones , ‘A Welsh Wizard,’ The Carmarthen Antiquary , 1945-6 , 47-8;
  • Penardd (i e. J. H. Davies , q.v.) , Rhai o hen ddewiniaid Cymru (1901) .

Author:

Professor Emrys George Bowen, M.A., F.S.A., (1900-83), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959