I am both a folklorist, familiar with most all legends dark and creepy, and an Episcopalian. While we Episcopalians don’t share all the dogma of the Catholic Church, we do have the same basic appreciation for church history. I’m speaking in generalities, of course, as there are plenty of Episcopalians, just as there are many Catholics, who couldn’t tell you one saint from another. I’m more knowledgeable than that. But even I had to google her after seeing Saint Winifred put in an appearance in THE GREEN KNIGHT, to refresh myself on her biography.
Saint Winifred is not featured in the original poem SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT, but there is a reference to a well, known as “Holy Head,” dedicated in her honor. The well is still there and is still a religious site, for some. Winifred’s story is essentially the same as that conveyed in the film. She was pursued by a scoundrel named Caradog who was intent on raping her. She fled to a church overseen by Saint Beuno, her uncle, but Caradog murdered her and cut off her head. From the spot where her head fell or her blood spilled a spring burst forth (the aforementioned Holy Head). When Beuno put Winifred’s head back on her body she returned to life.