The Quest for the Holy Grail (Part 12)

12 – MEN OF THE NORTH

With Arthur turning out to be a Pictish King, the focus of our investigations must shift to the north of the island, allowing us to examine a set of genealogies found in our Arthurian Rosetta stone, MS Harleian 3859h. They form a brief text known as the Boneddy y Gwyr Gogledd – The Descent of the Men of the North, highlights of which include;

Urien son of Cynfarch son of Merchion son of Gorwst Lledlum son of Ceneu son of Coel.

Llywarch Hen son of Elidyr Lydanwyn son of Meirchawn son of Gorust Ledlwm son of Keneu son of Coel.

Clydno Eidin & Chynan Genhir & Chynuelyn Drwsgyl, Cynfawr Hadgadduc & Chatrawd Calchuynyd, are the sons of Cynnwyd Cynnwydyon son of Cynfelyn son of Arthwys son of Mar son of Keneu son of Coel.

Gwrgi & Peredur are the sons of Eliffer of the Great Retinue son of Arthwys son of Mar son of Keneu son of Coel.

Gwendoleu & Nudd & Chof the sons of Ceidyaw son of Arthwys son of Mar son of Keneu son of Coel.

Elffin son of Gwyddno son of Cawrdaf son of Garmonyawn son of Dyfynwal Hen.

Huallu son of Tudfwlch Corneu, prince of Cornwall, & Dywanw daughter of Amlawdd Wledic.

We are presented here with a series of lineages, which probably represent petty sub-kingdoms spread throughout northern Britain. The genealogy  a real mine of information, much of which is as yet unexplored. Not wanting to get distracted by it too much – I think one could be driven a little mad by trying to crack it - I’ll begin with a cool example ;‘Cawrdaf,’ the successor of ‘Garmonyawn.’ The Dream of Rhonabwy tells us that Cawrdaf was a son of Caradog Freichfas, a Welsh king who ruled Gwent & Ercing during the Arthurian period, & as the Tribal Thrones triad tells us, was also at Arthur’s chief counsellor in Cornwall. Now then, the modern city of Cardiff lies within the bounds of ancient Gwent, I reckon its odds on that Cardiff got its name from the Cawrdaf.

 

 

In a brutal age such as the Dark-Ages, it is highly unlikely that they are all true fathers & sons – perhaps some are uncles & nephews, or perhaps other kings had won their crowns through military conquest. However the relationships work, almost all of the lineages originate with either Dyfynwal Hen or Coel, the latter being the famous Old King Cole of the children’s nursery rhyme, as in; ‘Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and a merry old soul was he.’ According to Saxo Grammaticus, King Cole heralded from Norway, & was slain by Hamlet’s father, Horwendil.

Horwendil held the monarchy for three years, and then, to will the height of glory, devoted himself to roving. Then Koller, King of Norway, in rivalry of his great deeds and renown, deemed it would be a handsome deed if by his greater strength in arms he could bedim the far-famed glory of the rover; and cruising about the sea, he watched for Horwendil’s fleet and came up with it. There was an island lying in the middle of the sea, which each of the rovers, bringing his ships up on either side, was holding. The captains were tempted by the pleasant look of the beach, and the comeliness of the shores led them to look through the interior of the springtide woods, to go through  the glades, and roam over the sequestered forests. It was here that the advance of Koller and Horwendil brought them face to face without any witness… they began the battle. Nor was their strangeness his meeting one another, nor the sweetness of that spring-green spot, so heeded as to prevent them from the fray. Horwendil, in his too great ardour, became keener to attack his enemy than to defend his own body; and, heedless of his shield, had grasped his sword with both hands; and his boldness did not fail. For by his rain of blows he destroyed Koller’s shield and deprived him of it, and at last hewed off his foot and drove him lifeless to the  ground. Then, not to fail of his compact, he buried him royally, gave him a howe of lordly make and pompous obsequies.

 

King Cole's Grave

King Cole’s Grave

The ‘howe of lordly make’ is found in the grounds of Coilsfield House in Ayrshire, of which burial mound local tradition says it was that of King Cole. After this, the genealogy follows with a certain Keneu, who appears as Cawrnur in a poem called the Chair of the Sovereign, another smashing piece of bardic poetry.

Did not (he) lead from Cawrnur
Horses pale supporting burdens?

The poem’s Ceneu/Cawrnur should the same man as King Caw of Strathclyde, called Caunus in the Rhuys Life of Gildas, as in; ‘ST. GILDAS, born in the very fertile district of Arecluta, and descended from his father Caunus, a most noble and Catholic man, was desirous, from his very boyhood, to follow Christ with all the affection of his heart. The district of Arecluta, as it forms a part of Britain, took its name from a certain river called the Clut, by which that district is, for the most part, watered.’ After Keneu, the realm split into two, ruled over by Gorust Ledlwm & Mar. It is along the latters lineage that we come across a certain Arthwys, whose name is only a philochisp or two away from the Latinized versions of Arthur’s name, as in;

Arthurius (Life of Saint Cadoc)
Arthurus (Geoff / Life of Gildas)

One successor of Arthwys, Cynfelyn, seems to be the Convallanus of Hector Boece, who writes,‘Convallanus lived in the days of Arthur, whom the Britons declared king in Wales after the death of Uther.’ Another successor was Keidyaw, whose name contains the semantic elements of Sir Kei/ Sir Kay,  Arthur’s earliest recorded knight. The thing is, the sequence of kings – Arthwys & Ceidyaw ust happens to match the Pictish King List’s;

Garthnach son of Gygurn (530-537)
Cailtaine son of Gygurn (537-538)

This is yet another case of the Chisper Effect in action, of which Guy Halsall rather charmingly has to say; ‘Your ‘chispology’ is nonsense, it breaks all the rules of serious scholarly practice, so no one, other than you and whoever else has been smoking whatever you have been, will take it seriously. I doubt there is any chance of me, or anyone else who actually knows what they are talking about, being able to convince you as, from your writing, you are – clearly – insane but still, if it makes you happy keep on with your fiction-writing. Far be it from me to keep you from your fun, but if you are thinking of conning people out of their hard-earned cash on the basis of your pseudo-studies, that I do object to.’

 

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Carrying on regardless , let us now use a spot of chispology to try & ascertain a little more information about Sir Kay. At Caer Gai on the River Dee in Wales, there is a local tradition that has it named after Kay himself. Also found at the hill-fort was a 6th century early Christian memorial stone which reads, ‘Here lies Salvianus Bursocavi, son of Cupetianus.’ This in turn leads us to a certain ‘Gaius Julius Cupitianus,‘ recorded in an inscription on an altar-stone found at the Castlesteads / Camboglanna Roman fort, on Hadrian’s wall, only a stone’s throw from the Timber Hall at Birdoswald. It reads;

 For the Mother Goddesses of all nations, the temple at this time collapsed through old age, was restored by Gaius Julius Cupitianus

 

Sir Kay

Sir Kay

That the temple had collapsed through ‘old age’ suggests the inscription was made a long time after it was in use by the Romans, which fits into the Arthurian floruit. Surely, then, the name Kay evolved from Gaius, which even appears as ‘Caius,’ in Geoffrey of Monmouth.  Further proof comes with another memorial stone, discovered at Liddesdale in the Scottish Borders, whose inscription reads, ‘Here lies Caranti, son of Cupitianus.’ With Caranti we have a lovely Latin match to the name of Kay’s son as given in the poem Culhwch & Olwen, which names a certain ‘Garanwyn the son of Kai.’

Before we leave the area, however, & while we’re visiting Castlesteads, I’d just like to have a pop at solving another of those perennial historical mysteries : where was St Patrick born? In his self-penned ‘Confessions,’ he tells us ‘I, Patrick, a poor sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement (vicus) of Banna Venta Burniae. He had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive.’ The ‘Berniae’ element connects to the Bernicians, most probably named after Woden’s grandson, Beornec, as in;

Woden begat Beldeg, who begat Beornec, who begat Gethbrond, who begat Aluson, who begat Ingwi, who begat Edibrith, who begat Esa, who begat Eoppa, who begat Ida.

I have already shown how one of Woden’s grandchildren, Vecta, was buried by the Firth of Forth. This, & the Woden’s Law hillfort near Jedburgh in the Scottish borders, begin to suggest that Woden was at some point based in Britain.

The name ‘Banna’ is found at only one place in Britain, Birdoswald, seven miles to the west of at Sir Kay’s own Castlesteads upon Hadrian’s Wall. Banna means something like a ‘promontory of rock,’ & fits in with Birdoswald being built on high spur overlooking the River Irthing and Midgeholme Moss. Three altars found inside the fort included the dedication to Silvanus by the Venatores Bannienses, – ‘the Hunters of Banna.’

 

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Banna is also named by the Ravenna Cosmography as being sited between Stanwix and Great Chesters, & although there are actuallt two forts – Castlesteads & Birdoswald, the Rudge Cup and Amiens Skillet indicates that Birdoswald is Banna. What is interesting is that roundabout the birth of St Patrick, c.400, the fort’s south horreum was modified into a hall. This is probably not be the villa of Calpurnius, but I’d bet money on their being the ruins of Patrick’s father’s house close to the fort.

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The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 11)

11 – DUX PICTORUM

Pictish Kingship - matrilineal in nature

Pictish Kingship – matrilineal in nature

In my last post I showed how Arthur fought his biggest, baddest & ultimate battle in the heart of the Pictish sphere, at Dunnichen in Forfarshire. That he found himself embroiled in warfare this far north is down to one lovely & previously unexplored fact, Arthur was actually a Pictish King.  An early mention came in the  12th century, when Lambert of St Omer wrote; ‘Arthur, Dux Pictorum, ruling realms of the interior of Britain, resolute in his strength, a very fierce warrior, seeing that England was being assaulted from all sides, and that property was being stolen away, and many people taken hostage and redeemed, and expelled from their inherited lands, attacks the Saxons in a ferocious onslaught along with the kings of Britain.’

Distribution map of brochs, forts and souterrains in Scotland

Distribution map of brochs, forts and souterrains in Scotland

This then leads us to what is known as the Pictish King-List, which is essentially just a list of monarchs with their reign-lengths given in years. Using the Annals of Tigernach, which states that in the year 581 AD King Bridei died, we gain an accurate map of the Pictish Kings in the Arthurian period;

Nechtan Morbet son of Eriop (448-472)
Drest Gurthinmoch (472-502)
Galan Erilic (502-517)
Drest son of Gygurn (517-530)
Garthnach son of Gygurn (530-537)
Cailtaine son of Gygurn (537-538)
Talorc son of Muircholaich (538-549)
Drest son of Munait (549-550)
Galam Cennelath (550-551)
Bridei son of Mailcon (551-581)

The first page of the Pictish King List

The first page of the Pictish King List

It has been over a thousand years since anyone spoke Pictish, the phonetic rules of which language are forgotten forever. However, just as I added an s to Artognou to unlock the whole mystery behind Arthur’s in-laws, I’d now like to drop a guttural ‘g’ from a couple of names, giving us.

Arthnach son of Ygurn

When we see that Arthnach died in the same year as King Arthur (537), & that one of his parents had the same name as Arthur’s mother, we are surely onto something! Pictish kingship was matrilineal in nature, so inheriting the throne through his mother would have been a normal thing. It seems Arthur had a brother, for before him a certain Drest ruled for 13 years, from the very time of the battle of Badon. Now then, several versions of the King List give us;

Drest son of Gygurn (517-522)
Drest son of Uudrost (517-530)

We can infer from this that Uudrost was actually Drest’s father, & thus Ygurn’s husband. That his name is a clear match for Uther, adds further weight to Garthnach being King Arthur. Lambert of St Omer adds; ‘There is a palace, in Britain in the Picts’ land, of Arthur the soldier, built with wondrous art and variety, in which may be seen sculpted all his acts both of construction and in battle,’ while an alternate name for Pictland, Prydyn, appears attached to Arthur through a poem by a 14th century bard from Anglesey, Gruffudd ap Meredudd, who writes;

My painful lot, Arthur of the highlands
Hill country of Prydyn
The very fine and generous man -
Symbol of the difficulty in honoring
The snowy complexion of the daughter of Garwy Hir

Garwy Hir appears in Welsh tradition as a notable wise man, whose daughter Indeg, according to the Triads, was one of  Arthur’s mistresses.  Coincidence or not, a fortification at Cairn Conan in Carmyllie was known as Castle Gory.

 

ygraine-la-mere-d-arthur-n-a-pas-l-air-tres-image-433505-article-ajust_930

That Arthur’s mother, Ygraine, was a Pictish Princess is supported through a wee spot of genealogical investigation. A couple of posts back, I showed how Mierchyawn, the father of King Mark, was also the father of the same King Bridei of the Picts who died in 581. This means that Mierchyawn’s wife would have been a Pict. We also saw how King Mark was considered to be Arthur’s first cousin. Now let us return once again to the sons of Glois as given by the Jesus College manuscript;

Ewein vab keredic. Pedroc sant. Kynvarch. Edelic. Luip. Clesoeph. Sant. Perun. Saul. Peder.Katwaladyr. Meirchyawn. Gwrrai. Mur. Margam Amroeth. Gwher. Cornuill.Catwall. Cetweli.

In the tale Tristan & Isolde, March mab Meirchion is seen ruling over Glywysing, the very kingdom which Gorlois lent his name to. The tale reads, ‘Thus it came about that under Arthur’s urging Tallwch ap Cuch who was Arthur’s cousin journeyed from his own realms in the land of Prydyn to aid his cousin March mab Meirchion, ruler of Glywysing in the land of the Kymry.’ The only way to make all the dots join up neatly is to say that a young Gorlois sired Meirchyawn with an un-named first wife. Twenty years or so later he then got it on with Ygraine while his son, Mark, married Ygraine’s sister. Such a possibility is not beyond the realms of reason, & its sounds like a political move to forge alliances between Brythons & Picts in face of the Saxon onslaught.

 

A four hour opera by Wagner on Tristan & Iseult

 

This familial relationship also explains why a clearly Pictish name – Drostan – is considered to be the son of King Mark, as it appears on the memorial stone at Fowey in Cornwall; for Mark was himself half-Pictish. Droston appears in the great tale of Trystan & Iseult, whilet he Triads also state that Iseult’s father, Culvanawt , was Pictish. These two star-crossed lovers sought refuge in ‘Léoneis’ (the French name for Lothian) & the forest of ‘Morrois’ (Moray), while the ‘Tale of Trystan’, says that Trystan and Iseult were in exile in Ceod Celyddon. Beroul also places Trystan in Dumfries & Galloway, which links him to the dark-age ‘Trustys Hill’ found in that county. Also found at Trusty’s Hill was a Pictish symbol stone which has parallels to similar stones found at Rhynie, in Aberdeenshire.  Another link between Arthurian Cornwall & Pictland comes through the discovery in the same place of a possible timber hall like the one found at South Cadbury, alongside large fragments of Tintagelware.

 

Rhynie

Rhynie

Rhynie was clearly a high status capital, & I’d like to suggest that it was Trystan’s personal capital. In certain Tristan tales, such as that composed by the 12th century authors Gottfried von Strassburg & Thomas of Britain,  we come across a ‘Hall of Statues.’ It makes sense, then, that the Timber Hall that stood at Rhynie once contained the great many statues/symbol stones that are found in the area.

 

The Rhynie Man

The Rhynie Man

 

The purpose of this post has been to confirm Arthur’s presence in the 10th century Pictish King -List. I believe that this list should be admitted as the third main exhibit into the ‘court of history’ when we are judging the historicity of King Arthur, & for any doubters out there just watch what happens in the next few posts.

The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 10)

10 – CAMLANN

Welcome to the world of Arthur’s last battle, of which the AC says, ‘537 AD – The battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell: and there was plague in Britain and Ireland,’ & Tennysson describes as “the last dim, weird battle of the west.”  Camlann was fought on an international scale, a great civil war in which Mordred obtained military assistance from the Saxons. The Welsh Triads tell us;’ The three disgraceful traitors who enabled the Saxons to take the crown of the Isle of Britain from the Cambrians… The second was Medrod, who with his men united with the Saxons, that he might secure the kingdom to himself, against Arthur; and in consequence of that treachery many of the Lloegrians became as Saxons.’ 

The Irish chronicles introduce the possibility of the Scots fighting at Camlann; ‘537 - Comgall, Domangart’s son, King of Scotland, fell in the 35th year of his reign Annals of Tigernach.’ By this use of the word ‘fell’ we must come to the conclusion that King Comgall died in battle – in the same  year as our seismic battle at Camlann. Indeed, one of the Triads actually places the Scots at Camlann, as in; ‘Three Dishonoured Men who were in the Island of Britain: The third and worst was Medrawd… When Medrawd heard that Arthur’s host was dispersed, he turned against Arthur, and the Saxons and the Picts and the Scots united with him to hold this Island against Arthur.’

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 The battle’s size & significance is given by another Triad, which tells us, ‘Arthur was slain with 100,000 of the choice men of the Cambrians.’ Camlann was evidently a disaster for the British, a calamitous defeat in which their great leader had died. Within decades the British hold over the island was in tatters, & at the Battle of Chester in 616 the Kymry were divided forever as the Angles reached the western coast. Over 600 years later when the last prince of Wales, Lewellyn, was slain, the poet Gruffudd ab yr Ynad Coch saw his death in terms of Arthur’s defeat, deeming it, ‘as at Camlan.’

 

ans_carmyllie

Searching for the site of Camlann begins with an eye-witness statement, albeit removed by about 30 generations.  The second statistical account of Scotland (1845) tells us, ‘A confused tradition prevails of a great battle having been fought on the East Mains of Dunnichen, between Lothus, King of the Picts, or his son Modred, and Arthur King of the Britons, in which that hero of romance was slain.’That sounds like Camlann to me, & that it is fought in this part of Forfarshire is shown by a definite phonetic match to Camlann in the area, for the parish that borders Dunnichen is known as Carmyllie.  I believe the origins of the names Carmyllie &  Camlann come with the following lineage of dark-age noblemen;

Brydw
Camuir
Millo
Cynan

Despite being a lineage of the Kings of Powys (Wales), there are too many coincidences here not to see the Carmyllie area as once belonging to the family. Brydw is a welshified ‘Bridei’ a common Pictish name, while the names Camuir & Millo merge together sweetly as Carmyllie. Finally, Cynan appears in the same parish at Cairn Conan hill, of which John Stuart writes, ‘the cairn from which the place gets its name is still to be seen near to the northern summit of the ridge, it no doubt covers some person of importance.’ Thus, Camlann would be the ‘lann’ of Cam(muir). The likeliest translation would be the Brythonic llan, which means land.

That an Arthurian battle was fought at Dunnichen can be discerned by taking a gander at the following statement by John S Stuart-Glennie; ‘A rock on the north side of the hill of Dunbarrow, in Dunnichen parish (in the adjoining county of Forfar), has long borne, in the tradition of the country, the distinguished name of Arthur’s Seat.’  In 1881, a Pictish stone was dug up in the area, underneath which, according to Jervis, lay the buried remains of a warrior, & ‘throughout the farms of East and West Mains of Dunnichen—which were both reclaimed from the swamp or mere above mentioned—great quantities of tumuli and primitive graves have been discovered, some of which contained urns.

More support for Forfarshire as the Camlann site comes through the 16th century Scottish historian, Hector Boece, who writes that after the Battle of Camlann; ‘On the following day, the British camp was ransacked. In it were discovered Arthur’s consort Queen Guanora, and no few men and women of noble blood. Furthermore, ample spoils were collected and shared out among the victors in the traditional way. The Scots were allotted wagons decorated with precious British ornamentation, horses of noble appearance and speed, arms, and the captive nobles, while Queen Guanora, illustrious men and women, and the rest fell to the Picts. These were led to the Pictish district of Horestia, to Dunbar, which was then a very stoutly fortified stronghold (in our days, the name of the place endures, although nothing of the fort save some traces). There they were detained and spent the rest of their lives in wretched servitude. As proof of this account, there remain plenty of traces of those captives, as anybody can see. At Meigle (a village of Angus, the former Horestia, about ten miles from the town of Dundee) are some tombs of the dead, not without their fame. The most ornate of these is that of Queen Guanora, as we are advised by its inscription. There is a superstition in that district that women who tread on that tomb henceforth remain as barren as was Guanora. Let the experts decide the truth of this. But this I would venture to affirm, that women avoid that tomb as if it were a place of the plague, and hate it so much that they will not even gladly look upon it, and teach the same to their daughters.

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The Dunbar named by Boece is not the coastal town of East Lothian, but is actually Dunbarre, a Pictish hillfort at Alyth, 13 miles to the west of Dunnichen. A couple of miles to the south of Alyth lies the village of Meigle, where a number of Pictish stones are kept in a museum in the  in the village churchyard. In the grounds one finds the famous ‘Vanora’s Mound,’ said to be the grave of Guinevere herself. The New Statistical Account of Scotland 1845, tells us; ‘Like other places of the same kind, it is the scene of innumerable legends, which agree in representing it as the residence or prison of the infamous Vanora or Guinevar, who appears in the local traditions under the more homely appellation of Queen Wander, and is generally described as a malignant giantess, ‘ while Boece adds, ‘The most ornate of these is that of Queen Guanora, as we are advised by its inscription. There is a superstition in that district that women who tread on that tomb henceforth remain as barren as was Guanora.

Vanoras Mound

Vanoras Mound

 

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Tradition definitely places Guinevere’s grave in the area, but I believe it is a few miles to the south & west, underneath a tall Pictish stone known as the ‘Keillar Stone.’ It stands on an ancient burial mound, with a clear view across Strathmore to the hillfort at Alyth, & is a really special location indeed. Of it, in 1875, William Oliphant described it as an; ‘old and striking monument, making the spot on which it stands historical, though no syllable of the history has come down to us.‘ It is, one writer says, “one of those remarkable sculptured monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Scotland, embellished, in this instance, with the rude outline of the boar.” In 1856, John Stuart reports of the ‘graveyard’ under the stone as in; ‘The tumulus on which it is placed is formed of earth and stones, and several cists containing bones have been found in it. Ancient sepulchral remains have also been dug up in various parts of the adjoining field.’ The stone has etched into it  a wolf symbol – which some scholars think could actually be a bear – the oblique double-disc/z-rod Pictish symbol & a rimmed mirror & comb, the latter combo probably representing a female. Now I would just like to project the following hypothesis;

1 – Guinevere & her fellow nobles taken in captivity to Alyth, where ‘they were detained and spent the rest of their lives in wretched servitude,’ were buried in this spot.

2 – The local tradition that Guinevere was buried in the area, under a mound, was accidentally shifted from the Keillor stone to the Vanora Mound at nearby Meigle.

By the way, if the wolf is a bear, we have the celtic-influenced Pictish word Arto – which means bear – an obvious semantic match to Arthur.

 

avalon

 

One other clue left to posterity is the knowledge that after Camlann, a mortally wounded Arthur was taken to ‘Ynas Afallach,‘ as in Big Geoff’s;  ‘Even the renowned King Arthur himself was wounded deadly, and was borne thence unto the  ‘Ynas Afallach’ for the healing of his wounds.’ This island is known today as Mugdrum island,  lying just across the Firth of Tay from the Dunnichen area. My reasons for associating this particular place with Afallach are as follows;

1 – The nearby town of Abernethy (2 miles) is said to have received nine ‘maidens’ from St Brigit during the Arthurian period.

2 - Medieval Arthuriana states Morgan la Fay & nine of her mystic sisters lived on the Isle of Avallach

This is enough to suspect a common source, & allows us to make further inquiries with confidence. First off, we’re gonna make a babel-ring to connect Abernethy & Avallach.

Abernethy – Aballach – Avallach

\                                  /

Abarnect – Afarnach

 

 Abernethy - The Pictish King list tell us, ‘So Nectonius the Great, Wirp’s son, the king of all the provinces of the Picts, offered to Saint Brigid to the day of judgement, Abernethy, with its territories. ‘

Aballach is a variant spelling of Avallach, said to be the father of a certain Modron, who married Urien, a 6th century King in the north of Britain. If Aballach & Avallach are the same person, then Morgan Le fay & Modron should also be the same, seeing both their names begin with ‘mo-’ & end in ‘an/on.’

Afarnach - appears in the Pa Gur poem, just before the ‘Heights of Eidyn’ mention, as in;

Though Arthur was but playing
He caused blood to flow
In the hall of Afarnach
Fighting with a witch

Abarnect is unrecorded, but it probably derives from  Obair Nechtain, i.e. the Dun Nechtan of a battle fought near Abernethy in 685 by Lindores Lake (Nechtansmere). The isle of Avalon should now be somewhere near Abernethy, a lovely old town perched beside the Tay estuary. The obvious choice would be the Isle of Mugdrum, at the mouth of the Tay between Newburgh & Abernethy. Let us now link the semantics between Mugdrum, Morgan & Modron,

 

MUG———–DRUM

MORG-AN MO-DRON

Mugdrum Island

Mugdrum Island

 For me, there is a great deal of evidence that places Camlann  in the region, & that ‘confused tradition’ of a battle at Dunnichen can be seen to have its roots in some very definite historical events.

 

 

 

The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 9)

9 – THE BADON ANSWER

 

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We have now come to the final battle of the 12 attributed to Arthur by the HB. It was fought at a place called Mount Badon, which I believe to be Dumbarton. As I have already shown, Arthur’s battleS come in campaign-clusters, & I believe the two battles in Edinburgh & Dumbarton were fought in the same year (516 ad). After Edinburgh, Arthur & his men would have traveled 50 miles to the west, passing a then-tiny Glasgow, & following the ever widening waters of the River Clyde, until they reached the towering double-plug slab of sea-rock upon which Dumbarton castle stands. Knowing from Gildas that the battle was a siege – obsesio – we must presume that upon Mount Badon there once a castle or fortress of some sort. That allows us to give Badon a ‘dum,’ i.e. a fort. Let us now create a babel-chain, as in;

Dum Badon – Dum Bathon – Dum Barthon – Dum Barton

In Welsh, a ‘d’ was pronounced something like the ‘th’ sound in bathe. This element leads us back to the LG. Before the siege of Saxon Rock, the Saxons & the Irish laid siege to another castle in Scotland, called Aresbeth, as in; ‘At that point news reached the court that the Saxons & the Irish had entered Scotland & were destroying all the land & killing all the people & laying siege to the castle of Aresbeth. The king was dismayed at this news & summoned all his troops, near & far, to assemble in two weeks in the fields below Carduel (Carlisle), equipped in full armour in order to make a show of force.’

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In the Dream of Rhonabwy poem, the battlefield at Badon is described as being in the vicinity of a ford, as in; ‘for a mile around the ford on both sides of the road, they saw tents and encampments, and there was the clamour of a mighty host. And they came to the edge of the ford, and there they beheld Arthur sitting on a flat island below the ford.‘  With Dumbarton also being known as Alt Clud in former days, then the ford at Badon could well be the same as the place mentioned by the poet Taliesin, who sang of King Urien’s victories, one of which took place ‘in the ford of Alclud,‘ the ancient ford across the River Leven where the main Dumbarton Bridge now stands.

 

Another connection comes through a certain knight called Yder, who in the L-G, is seen fighting heroically at the siege of Edinburgh; ‘He outdid everyone, on both sides, & because he had said that all were to rally to his troop, he endured so much that day that he was maimed for the rest of his life, from the moment he entered the fray he never removed his helmet.’ The same man is also seen fighting at the Battle of Badon, with a  slight name change to Ederyn. The Dream of Rhonabwy poem tells in which we are told a certain Ederyn led a Scandinavian contingent at the battle of Badeu (Badon);

 “Iddawc,” said Rhonabwy, “who are the jet-black troop yonder?” “They are the men of Denmark, and Edeyrn the son of Nudd is their prince.”

Of course, I may be wrong about Dumbartion, but it kinda feels right, & with it thats the 12 battles more or less wrapped up. Before we progress, however, there is just one small matter that needs clearing up – i.e. ascertaining the correct date of the battle. Fortunately, Badon is also recorded in our second oldest historical document that mentions Arthur, a 10th century chronicle known as the Annales Cambraie also found in found in MS Harleian 3859h. It is full of brief entries which record the most memorable moments in Dark-Age Welsh history, with a few non-welsh bits chucked in for good measure. What concerns us are the entries for our newly revised Arthurian floruit (501-547), which read;

516 – The Battle of Badon, in which Arthur carried the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and three nights on his shoulders and the Britons were the victors.

521St. Columba is born. The death of St. Brigid.

537The battle of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell: and there was plague in Britain and Ireland.

543 - The sleep [death] of Ciaran.

547The great death [plague] in which Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd died. Thus they say ‘The long sleep of Maelgwn in the court of Rhos’. Then was the yellow plague.

 

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Arthur is mentioned twice in two separate entries, both of which place him at a battlefield; Badon & the battle of Camlann, in which Arthur copped a mortal wound.  At this point in the Grail Quest that many ‘non-believing‘ academics turn away from the path,  diverted forever by a piece of erroneus scholarship. It is bad enough trying to plot a way through the complex power structures & obscure sources for Dark Age Britain, but at this junction the so-called academics have thrown a real ‘erudite’ spanner into the works. That an ever-swelling tribe of anti-arthurianshas risen up in the last century is down to some rather dodgy scholarship at this point, the result of which is that many historians have been wandering about up a blind alley for years, scrambling in the dark & unable to get out for fear of being shouted at by their equally lost & dumbfounded peers.

The crux of the matter is that the date given by the AC for Badon has been plunged into a sea of disrepute by scores of modern scholars, which has seen them invalidate the AC & subsequently Arthur himself. The question of Badon’s date begins with a passage by the earliest British historian whose works are still extant, the cleric known as Saint Gildas. His seminal text, the De Excidio Britanniae (On the Ruin of Britain) mentions the ‘siege of Badon Hill’(obsessio montis Badonicus), as in;

From that time on now the citizens, now the enemy, were victorious … right up until the year of the siege of Badon Hill, almost the last, not the least, slaughter of the villains, and this the forty-fourth year begins (as I know) with one month already elapsed, which is also [that] of my birth.

Scholars have thought to ascertain Badon’s date by cross-referencing other clues in the De Excidio. A fertile bed for investigation is the admonishment by Gildas of five British kings, one of whom is a certain Maglocunus. Gildas writes;

And likewise, O thou dragon of the island, who hast deprived many tyrants, as well of their kingdoms as of their lives, and though the last-mentioned in my writing, the first in mischief, exceeding many in power, and also in malice, more liberal than others in giving, more licentiousin sinning, strong in arms, but stronger in working thine own soul’s destruction, Maglocune

Scholars then searched through the 6th century for a man who sounded like Maglocunus, & opted for the AC’s Maelwgyn;

547 The great death [plague] in which Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd died. Thus they say ‘The long sleep of Maelgwn in the court of Rhos’. Then was the yellow plague.

The same scholars who identified Maelgwyn with Magloconus then declared that the date of Badon must have been obviously fought before 503, & by association confined the validity of the Annales Cambrae to the dust heap.  Instead of dismissing such a unique & valuable piece of historical evidence such as the AC, I have always believed that we broad-minded moderns must respect everything we inherit, & should say, ‘Alright, this is what we have got, this is what has been left to us.‘ Our sources have come from the minds of intelligent people, the intellectual elite of an age & we must remember that each of these clue-givers represents the tip of an iceberg, for beneath the surface they would have conducted their own research on the matter from now lost & long-forgotten sources. A great amount of these ice-berg tips have reached modernity – even so, they are but a scanty sample leaving great gaps in the Dark Age canvas like the spaces in a very difficult suduko square.

With that in mind, & trusting both Gildas & the AC (having no reason not to), I began to search for a Maglocunos 44 years after Badon’s date of 516 – i.e. c.560. Happily, this date fits in with what we know about Gildas. A 9th century vita by an anonymous the Monk of Ruys shows how Gildas took up Holy Orders at the age of fifteen, which would have been c.531 AD, six years before Arthur’s death;

From the fifteenth year of his age through the whole period of the present life which he lived in this world, up to the very last day on which he was called by the Lord, it was only three times in the week, as we have learnt from a trustworthy source, that he took a most scanty food for his body.

The Rhuys life describes how Ainmericus, the High King of Ireland (r.566-569), asked Gildas to restore church order, confirming the AC entries for Gildas, which are;

565 The voyage of Gildas to Ireland
570 Gildas wisest of Britons died.

The Rhuys life also connects the composition-period of the De Exidio with the existence of a Breton leader named Conomerus, as in;

Once more: the holy man, at the request of brother monks who had come to him from Britain, ten years after he had departed from the country, wrote a short epistolary book, in which he reproved five of the kings of that island who had been ensnared by various crimes and sins. Now there lived in these days, in the upper parts of that country, a certain tyrant whose name was Conomerus, a man allured by a perverse credulity and a diabolical crime.

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The death of Conomerus soon follows in the text, which connects him to French historical records which name a Count Conomor of Poher. According to the French historian Gregory of Tours, he died c.560, the very year that Gildas launched his literary diatribe against Maglocune. Philologically, the two names match, for the name Conomorus is a simple inversion of Maglocune, both of which translate as ‘Majestic Hound.’ There is also a very significant factual match, for both Conomorus & Maglocune are said to have committed what appears to be an identical crime. According to the ‘Life of St Samson of Dol,’ Conomorus killed his own wife & then murdered a certain King Jonas in order to marry the man’s widow, an exact sequence of events attributed to Maglocune by Gildas, as in;

For contempt is thrown upon thy first marriage, though after thy violated vow as a monk it was illicit, yet was to be assumed as the marriage of thine own proper wife; another marriage is sought after, not with anybody’s widow, but with the beloved wife of a living man; and he not a stranger, but thy brother’s son. On this account, that stiff neck, already weighted with many burdens of sins (to wit, a double daring murder, the killing of the husband above named, and the wife that was for a time regarded by thee as thine), is bent down through the extreme excess of thy sacrilegious deed, from lowest crimes to still lower.

The Life of St Samson of Dol describes the excommunication of Maglocunos by the Bishops of Brittany, among whose number must have been Gildas, giving us the perfect back story for the admonishing-atmosphere of the De Excidio. Cunomoros is an excellent fit for Maglocunos, & if they are indeed the same man let us restore the Annales Cambrae to their former reputation, which I am sure the chronicle’s original compilers would be rather happy about.

A possible stumbling block would be the description by Gildas of Maglocunos being the ‘dragon of the island, who hast deprived many tyrants, as well of their kingdoms as of their lives.’ Brittany is definitely not an island, & we must assume that Britain is intended. Luckily, another text places Cunomerus across the English Channel at Cornwall. The Breton monk Wromnoc, in his ‘Life of Paul Aurelian’ (884) tells us that King Mark of Cornwall, otherwise known as ‘Quonomorius,’ ruled over peoples who spoke four different languages. These four languages would be;

Gallo- The Latinized language of Brittany in the sixth century Geoffrey of Monmouth identified Cunomorus  as Chinmarchocus, & had him ruling Treguier, near Lannion in Brittany, where stands the hill-fort of Ruvarq, which translates as ‘Mark’s Hill.’

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Brythonic – A Celtic language spoken by the native Britons in Cornwall. Excellent extra evidence comes from the discovery of a 6th century memorial stone at Fowey in Cornwall, near Castle Dore, said to be the fortress of King Mark. Indeed, Castle Dore, is said to be sited on the lands of Lancien by the Prose Tristan, a match to the medieval manor of Lantyan on which the stone was found. Upon the stone is inscribed ‘Drustanus son of Conomori,’ a relationship confirmed by the medieval Welsh Triads which consider a ‘Drystan son of March as one of the ‘Three Peers of Arthur’s Court’. Meanwhile, across the Bristol Channel in south wales, an ancient Welsh tale places Mark in Castellmarch, Lleyn, where he appears as March ab Merichion & grows a pair of horses’ ears.

Old Norwegian - The Dream of Rhonabwy tells us that Prince Mark led a group of men from Llychlyn – i.e. Scandinavia – at the Battle of Badon, as in; ‘The men of Norway, led by March, son of Meirchyawn, Arthur’s first cousin.‘ Big Geoff also places him among the Nordic lands (& Ireland), as in; ‘Malgo, one of the comeliest men in the whole of Britain, the driver-out of many tyrants, redoubted in arms, more bountiful than others and renowned for prowess beyond compare, yet hateful in the sight of God for his secret vices. He obtained the sovereignty of the whole island, and after many exceeding deadly battles did add unto his dominions the six neighbour islands of the Ocean, to wit, Ireland, Iceland, Gothland, the Orkneys, Norway and Denmark.’

 

Bruide son of Máelchú receiving the 'Word' from Saint Colomba

Bruide son of Máelchú receiving the ‘Word’ from Saint Colomba

Pictish - The last of the four languages should now be Pictish, for we can see the name Maglocunus in Mailchon, the latter being given as the father of the great Pictish King Bridei by the Pictish Chronicle. A date & slightly different spelling appears in the Irish chronicles, where the Annals of Tigernach record, ’558 The flight of the Scots before Bruide son of Máelchú. ‘ With Pictish regal succession being of a matrilineal nature, we can assume that Mark / Cunomorus / Maelchon / Maglocunos married a Pict. His powerful status is reflected through his daughter, Domlech, who married Aedan, King of Dalriada. There are also Pictish symbol stones found at Trusty’s Hill in Dumfries & Galloway, whose name should be derived from Trystan , for only a few miels away stands a Dark-Age hillfort called The Mote of Mark.

Gildas also says of Maglocune, ‘But warnings are certainly not wanting to thee, since thou hast had as instructor the refined teacher of almost the whole of Britain.’ The only saint that fits the bill as a pan-british teacher would have been Saint Kentigern, which leads us to a certain Morken, king of Cumbria as found in the vita of St Kentigern. Morken was at first a pupil of Kentigern, but later drove him from Scotland. After this the saint travelled throughout Britain founding churches, connecting with Gildas’s account of Maglocunus’s teacher reaching ‘almost the whole o fBritain.’ The Scottish ‘Morken’ should then be the Pictish version of Mark.

Saint Kentigern

Saint Kentigern

The conquest of these widely scattered regions neatly connects to Gildas’ descripton of Maglocune of him being the ‘dragon of the island,’ who dispossesed ‘tyrants’ of their kingdoms,& also to Lifris, who wrote, ‘Maelgon the Great was king of the Britons, and governed all Britain.‘ To conclude, it seems that Maglocunus was not Maelgwyn Gwynned, but was instead the famous King Mark of Cornwall, otherwise known as Cunomorus, who ruled a pan-ocean empire from Norway to Brittany. This fits in perfectly with his being named alongside Prince Geraint as one of the three great seafarers of the Welsh Triads.

 And of course, his existence completely validates the Annales Cambraie as a historical document , which as a lover of history rather pleases me no end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 8)

8 – FRISIANS

While we’re up by the Firth of Forth, I thought we might as well unearth a few more nuggets of Dark-Age history which have been missed by the scholars. Its all quite Socratic really, for as that philosopher urged we humans to question his reality, so the modern litologist has to dig through reams of often daft scholarship in order to ascertain the truth about history. In this spirit, then, let us return to the L-G for a moment;

They spent their days in travel until they came to Arestel & found the king laying siege to the Rock, just as the maiden had said, & the rock was so strong that those in it feared nothing except being starved. It had been secretly fortified at the time Vortigern married the daughter of Hengist the Saxon

 

This sequence of events refers to the time when, in the wake of the Roman retreat c.450 AD, the British King Vortigern invited a group of hardy Saxon mercenaries led by Hengist to Britain. The plan was they would help the Britons fend off the brutal invasions of Picts & Scots – a plan which worked at first, but then drastically backfired when the Saxons basically turned on Vortigern & decided to stay in Britain. The HB tells us;

Hengist, in whom united craft and penetration, perceiving he had to act with an ignorant king, and a fluctuating people, incapable of opposing much resistance, replied to Vortigern, “We are, indeed, few in number; but, if you will give us leave, we will send to our country for an additional number of forces, with whom we will fight for you and your subjects.” Vortigern assenting to this proposal, messengers were despatched to Scythia, where selecting a number of warlike troops, they returned with sixteen vessels, bringing with them the beautiful daughter of Hengist. And now the Saxon chief prepared an entertainment, to which he invited the king, his officers, and Ceretic, his interpreter, having previously enjoined his daughter to serve them so profusely with wine and ale, that they might soon become intoxicated. This plan succeeded; and Vortigern, at the instigation of the devil, and enamoured with the beauty of the damsel, demanded her, through the medium of his interpreter, of the father, promising to givefor her whatever he should ask. Then Hengist, who had already consulted with the elders who attended him of the Oghgul race, demanded for his daughter the province, called in English Centland, in British, Ceint, (Kent.). This cession was made without the knowledge of the king, Guoyrancgonus who then reigned in Kent, and who experienced no inconsiderable share of grief, from seeing his kingdom thus clandestinely, fraudulently, and imprudently resigned to foreigners. Thus the maid was delivered up to the king, who slept with her, and loved her exceedingly.

 

National Trust; (c) Saltram; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 

Hengist, after this, said to Vortigern, “I will be to you both a father and an adviser; despise not my counsels, and you shall have no reason to fear being conquered by any man or any nation whatever; for the people of my country are strong, warlike, and robust: if you approve, I will send for my son and his brother, both valiant men who at my invitation will fight against the Scots, and you can give them the countries in the north, near the wall called “Gual.” The incautious sovereign having assented to this, Octa and Ebusa arrived with forty ships. In these they sailed round the country of the Picts, laid waste the Orkneys, and took possession of many regions, islands beyond the Fresic sea, that is, that which is between the Scots, as far as to the confines of the Picts

Big Geoff’s version gives us a bit more gloss, as in, ‘When the damsel was given unto the King as hath been told, Hengist said unto him: ‘Behold, I am now thy father, and meet is it that I be thy counsellor; nor do thou slight my counsel, for by the valour of my folk shalt thou subdue all thine enemies unto thyself. Let us invite also hither my son Octa with his brother Ebissa, for gallant warriors they be; and give unto them the lands that lie in the northern parts of Britain nigh the wall betwixt Deira and Scotland, for there will they bear the brunt of the barbarians’ assaults in such sort that thou upon the hither side of Humber shalt abide in peace.’

 

Bainbridge Fort Map



This essentially brings a contingent of Saxons to southern Scotland, dwelling in the area between Hadrian’s Wall & the the Antonine Wall, the latter linking the firths of Clyde & Forth, forming a fine defensive barrier. The HB shows the Saxons taking possession of regions right at the Pictish borders, by the ‘Fresic Sea’, which in those days was the Firth of Forth. The lands beside this gorgeous waterway were once known, in antiquity as ‘The Frisian Shore,’  the ‘Frisicum litus‘ of Joceline’s Vita of Saint Kentigern. This name connects the Forth to the Frisii, a tribe of Saxons who dwelt on the shores of what is today’s Holland. That Hengist & his family were Frisian was suggested by John Kemble, who wrote of, ‘Hengist, who cannot have been a Dane, is a Frisian, appears as such in the genealogy of the Kings of Kent, and is the fabled conqueror of Britain.‘ The last bit of the sentence refers to Hengist & his surly crew basically running rampant over Vortigern, inviting loads of their drunken German mates over on the booze-cruise which basically created England. Octa and Ebusa’s presence in the Firth of Forth shows that by Arthur’s time, Anglo-Saxon territory would have covered the entire eastern coast, from Kent to Stonehaven, as suggested by Skene;

The first and principal seat of them {The Frisians} appears to have been the northern shore of the Firth of Forth, and extending along the shore of Forfarshire, and perhaps Kincardine, as far as Stonehaven… This region hears the indications of a Saxon population in the peculiar term applied to the hills which is here so frequent, viz. Laws ; and the frontier range itself hears the name of the Sidlaw Hills…. The second locality in which I think we can trace them is that part of the coast of East-Lothian where it projects into the Firth, a great promontory consisting of the parishes of Dirleton and North Berwick, and where there was anciently a ferry to the opposite coast of Fife, which is here not more than eight miles distance.

That Hengist was a Frisian can also be discerned by matching his genealogy with a stone memorial found near Edinburgh. When Bede tells us Hengist was the ‘son of Vitgilsus, whose father was Vecta, son of Woden‘ we have a direct match up to an inscribed 6th century memorial called the Cat Stane, which stands in the precincts of Edinburgh Airport. It reads;

 In this tomb lies Vetta son of Victus

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In an Anglo-Saxon poem known as  ‘The Fight at Finnesburh,’ Henghist & his men are described as being ‘Eotanas,‘ or ‘sons of Eotan.’ This really does suggest that Eotan was an earlier version of Woden, & that the etymology of Edinburgh – known as Etain in 638 – is actually ‘Eotan burh.‘ This of course also supports its being the ‘Saxon Rock’ of the L-G. A little extra confirmation comes through the academic concensus that Eotan was an early version of the name Jute, & the same name was applied to the Teutonic tribe which occupied Kent , which now explains how a Scotland-based Ochta should, according to the HB; ‘ after the death of his father Hengist, came from the sinistral part of the island to the kingdom of Kent, and from him have proceeded all the kings of that province, to the present period.’

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The Frisians also connect to the reference of there being Cynocephali (dogheads) at Edinburgh in the Pa Gur poem. In an Old English manuscript on the Marvels of the East, the Cynocephali are glossed as ‘healf hundingas.‘ According to Scandinavian sagas, the Hundings had a feud with another tribe called the the Wulfings. Saxo Grammaticus describes how the Wulfing king, Helgo, slew Hundingus, king of Saxony, as in; “He conquered in battle Hundingus the son of Syricus, king of Saxony, at the city of Stadium (stade) and challenging him to a single combat overthrew him. For this reason he was called ‘the slayer of Hundingus,’ deriving a glorious surname from his victory.’ This places the Hundings in the region of Stade, at the mouth of the Rhine, &close enough to the Frisians to be counted among the latter’s number.

Note the proximity between Stade & East Frisia

Note the proximity between Stade & East Frisia

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In light of all this information, we can see how the proto-English tribes of Angles, Saxons & Jutes controlled much more territory than historians think.  According to Skene their territory also stretched south into Galloway. It in that county’s most ancient & principle town, Dumfries, that we encounter the appropriate semantics. Skene writes; ‘It is clear the population of Dumfriesshire must have been one of the Saxon tribes. Among the cities of Britain enumerated by Nennius, there are two, Caer Breatan and Gaer Pheris; and as the first is certainly Dumbarton, and meant the city of the Britains, so, I think, the latter was Dumfries, or the city of the Frisians.’ Support comes from William of Malmesbury, who mentioned the discovery of the grave of Walwin (Gawain) in the year 1087: ‘He reigned a most renowned knight in that part of Britain which is still named Walweitha, but was driven from his kingdom by the brother and nephew of Hengist.’

With Walweitha becoming Galweithia, & then Galloway, we have deeper evidence of the arrival in Scotland of a Frisian contingent led by Octa and Ebissa, the son & nephew of Hengist. The thing is, the memory of their time in Scotland has almost been wiped from the map – & who, may we ask, did that. It was bloody King Arthur, werenit, & in doing so seems to have saved Scotland from becoming a part of England, & god bless that he did. I mean, can you imagine being a Calley Thistle fan & having to travel to Torquay for a Tuesday night game of football!

The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 7)

7 – ARTHUR’S SEAT

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After his epic campaign of 509-510, Arthur goes off the radar for a few years, turning up again in c.516AD on his second campaign in Scotland. This saw two great battles/sieges – one at Edinburgh & the other at Dumbarton,  named in the HB as the Battles of Mounts Agnet & Badon respectively;

 The eleventh battle was fought on the mountain which is called Agnet. The twelfth was a most severe contest, when Arthur penetrated to the hill of Badon in which there fell in oneday 960 men from one charge by Arthur; no one but the Lord affording him assistance. 

Geoff chips in with, ‘Ebrauc also built the town of Alclud & the settlement of Mount Agned which is now called the castle of the Virgins & the Hill of Sorrows (Montem Dolosorum), facing Albany.‘ That Edinburgh was known as the Castle of Maidens back in Geoff’s day is proven in a papal bull of 1237, which names Holyrood as the ‘Monastery of the Holy Rood of the Castle of the Maidens.

Arthur’s fighting in the Edinburgh area is remembered in quite a distinctive way. On approaching the city of Edinburgh, the happy traveller will first notice from afar the wild & gigantic ruin of an ancient volcano. This compact & heathy wilderness is known as Holyrood Park, whose chief height is a soaring 800-foot high, lion-like edifice called Arthur’s Seat. During my chispological surveys in Edinburgh, I would often glance up through the windows of the National Library’s Rare-Book reading room, & gazed upon the peak as it dominated the skyline over Edinburgh’s rooftops. It was in that same & silent room, high on the 15th floor of the building, while reading through an obscure corner of Arthuriana one sunny day, that I came across the following passage in Thomas Mallory’s Morte D’Arthur;

Afore the time that Sir Galahad was born, there came in an hermit unto King Arthur, upon Whitsunday, as the knights sat at the Round Table. And when the hermit saw the seige perilous he asked the King& all the knights why the siege was void. King Arthur & all the knights answered, ‘there shall never one sit in that siee but one, but if he be destroyed.’ Then said the hermit, ‘What ye what is he?’ ‘Nay, said Arthur & all the Knights, we wot not who is he that shall sit therein.’ ‘Then wot I,’ said the hermit, ‘for he that shall sit there is unborn, & this same year he shall be born who shall sit there in that seige perilous, & he shall win the sangreal.

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In medieval literature, the ‘Siege Perilous’ was a seat reserved at the Round Table for the knight who would successfully find the Holy Grail, called the ‘Sangreal’ by Mallory. Please join me for a moment high on the top floor of the National library, looking at that passage in Mallory, then looking up at Arthur’s Seat, then looking back down at the passage for a bit, & so on, for about two minutes, thinking why the hell would a chair be called a siege?

Ordering up some books on medieval orthography, I soon found out that at the time the Morte D’Arthur was composed – in the 15th century – the English language existed in some sort of lingual half-way house between the old Anglo-Saxon tongue of lets say, Beowulf, & the modern English farmed into life by Shakespeare. Inbetween these two compass points thrived a mad half-French, half-German, Latin-loving dialect known as Middle-English, under whose auspices the word ‘sege’ possessed two very different meanings, being;

(i) A prolongued military blockade of a fortified position (i.e. a siege)
(ii) A chair or throne

The first hint that Arthur fought in Edinburgh is found in a text written c.600 AD by a brilliant Welsh bard called Aneirien. In his famous & much-loved poem ‘Y Gododdin,‘ a host of warriors set off from Dun Eidyn (an old name for Edinburgh) to meet their bloody dooms in battle at a place called Catraeth. The poem contains only a single mention of Arthur, but it is the earliest record of him we have with that particular spelling, & as such is a significant treasure. Aneirin uses Arthur merely in an allusary capacity, as a comparison to the military efforts of a warrior called Gwenor.

Three centuries of soldiery lay slain
All slaughter’d from the centre to the edge
His leadership inspired & gentle glow’d
As thro harsh winters barley fill’d his horses
Now sable ravens cloak these fortress walls
Of choking fire, & there an Arthur fought
Right at the heart of warring’s weariness
Heroic pass-defender, Gwenor praise!

Gwenor is – significantly – defending a fortress, but this is far too loose a connection to make any proud claims about ‘confirming my theory.’ Saying that, just as with criminal cases, every little bit of evidence, however circumstantial, helps us paint the best possible picture of past events. All In the case of Anerin’s Arthur, we can at least raise the possibility of people in the 6th century understanding that Arthur once fought at some ‘fortress walls,’ whose efforts were later compared to a warrior from Edinburgh.

Later on in the bardic tradition of the Welsh, we encounter a more concrete association between Arthur & Edinburgh. It is found buried in a collection of poems known as ‘The Black Book of Carmarthen,‘ thought by scholars to date from the middle of the thirteenth century. In the heart of one of these poems, the charming list of obscure Arthurian battles known as Pa Gur, we are told;

On the heights of Eidyn
He fought with cynocephali.
By the hundreds they fell
To Bedwyr’s four-pronged spear.

Dunsapie Fort

Dunsapie Fort


The mention of these ‘heights’ suggests a battle fought all across Edinburgh’s seven hills. To this day, Arthur’s Seat & its surrounding uplands bear traces of Iron-Age hillforts, such as the one at Dunsapie Fort. This is definitely a potential siege-spot, but the best defense of the area would have been conducted from the summit of the ‘crag & tail’ heap of volcanic rock on which Old Edinburgh spreads like a spiky duvet. But, wherever the battle was factually ought, & whether it was a siege or not, Pa Gur clearly places our boy in Edinburgh. Another text that places Arthur in Edinburgh is the 13th century, Norman-French Lancelot-Grail cycle, that although not specifically mentioning Edinburgh by name , is clearly talking about the Scottish capital & its environs. At one point its poet declares;

The King is at Arestel in Scotland,& as soon as you reach there, you’ll find him laying siege to Saxon Rock.

 What first caught my eye was the name Arestel, which could well have lent its name to Restalrig, an area of Leith which I know very well, living as I do just off Easter Road. In fact, I’ve caught the single-decker number 25 to Restalrig many times – its usually a bit cramped but its not so bad a journey. Dropping the ‘a’ of Arestal gives us Restal, & a couple of miles from the great precipitous rock of Edinburgh lies an area called Restalrig. The ‘rig’ element comes from the Scottish world for field, as in other Edinburgh place-names such as Pilrig & Bonnyrig, rendering Restalrig as the ‘Field of Restal.’

The first record of the name is actually Lastalric (1178), which the expert on Edinburgh place names, Stuart Harris, says derives from the the Anglian lastal or lestal – i.e. marsh. In the L-G, Lancelot’s camp was said to be only guarded at the front, for to the rear, ‘the water was so deep no-one would have set foot there because of the muddy marsh.‘ This, of course, gives us a ‘lestal,’ & the water-body mentioned must have been the lake at Lochend, which covered a far greater surface area in Dark Age times than it does today. That it was once a muddy mire was still remembered in the 16th century by John Knox, but today that much-reduced body of water is just the wee center piece of a lovely little park. Its rather nice, thoug, & I occasionally find myself there downing a few beers with my mates on those rare, sunny, Scottish, summer days.

Lochend Park

Lochend Park

During the early medieval period, the same Norman poets who worked on literary works such as the LG, began to show a predilection for changing l’s to r’s, a philological process known as rhotacism, providing a perfectly plausible background to the name -hange of Lestal to Restal. As the romantic ‘Arestal,’ it is also mentioned as the place where King Lot of Lothian summoned a council of war, again supporting Restalrig as the LG’s Arestal. In addition, the romances state that Arestal was famous for its fine hunting grounds, giving us a direct connection to the hunting grounds of Holyrood Park. William Bryce records;

It appears that the wide tract of land from the western boundary of the Burgh Muir round to Holyrood was, in the twelfth century, ” ane gret forest full of hartis, hyndis, toddis (foxes), and siclike maner of beastis,” which was then known as the forest of Drumselch — the hunting hill — and now as Drumsheugh. This was the favourite hunting ground of King David when residing in the Castle.

It is fair to imagine that the Saxon Rock of the L-G is the Castle Rock of Edinburgh, with the ‘rock’ element having derived from the Alauna given by Ptolemy as a fortress of the Votadini, whose lands stretched from Lothian to Hadrian’s Wall. Alauna means ‘rock place,’ & archeologists have discovered traces of Roman & sub-roman occupation on Castle Rock. They were found amidst the ‘midden deposits’ – i.e. ancient layers of rubbish which led ST Driscoll to conclude was, ‘oblique evidence that an aristocratic household flourished there.’ Its a bit like rifling through someone’s bins & finding a receipt for John Lewis’s amidst well-packaged boxes, rather than plastic bags from the Aldi down Leith. This at least places a sub-roman presence at Edinburgh, backing-up any Arthurian siege of the place.

When the tale tells us ‘the rock was lofty… nor could one besiege it from any side,‘ we gain an excellent match for Edinburgh’s natural fortified situation. 1500 years ago, Edinburgh’s rocky loftiness would have ensured major problems for anyone trying to ascend the difficult climbs, especially when laden down with weapons. An attack against a Dark-Age Edinburgh Castle would have been channelled along only a narrow rise of land, as if they were the hordes of Persia assaulting the Spartans at Thermopylae. The city’s defenses would have been bolstered by the Nor Loch, where today’s Princes Gardens sit so splendidly today, fitting in with the LG’s, ‘on the other side, the marsh was so vast that nothing could enter it.’ The precise origins of the Nor’ Loch are much contested, but there is evidence to suggest that a large body of water existed in the ice-age-hewn valley to the north of the Castle Rock as far back as 15,000 years ago. This illustration of Edinburgh from 1460 shows the Nor Loch before it was drained;

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The depressions on both sides of Castle Rock suggest that in former times the whole of Edinburgh’s Old Town, except for the causeway down to Holyrood, was surrounded by water – perhaps even in Arthur’s day. This painting by Slezer (1690) shows how the water added to the defences of Castle Rock on its northern side. We can also see in the LG the correct geographical position for Arthur’s camp having been somewhere about around Arthur’s Seat. When we are told of the, ‘gate on the side toward Arthur’s men, in the slope of the rock, just above the water,’ we gain a perfect match for Edinburgh castle’s main entrance looking out east towards Arthur’ Seat. This is some of the best evidence there is to say that – yes, Arthur did make camp on Arthur’s Seat, & yes – he did co-ordinate a siege from the safety of its slopes.

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 Re-examining the evidence= for a moment, the phonetics of Agnet are more of a match for Auchendinny, the site of a dark-age hillfort a few miles to the south of Edinburgh near Penicuik. Analyzing the L-G again, one discovers that there were in fact two battles fought in the campaign the siege at Edinburgh & a massive fight in the nearby ‘Narrows of Godolente.’ This lovely name contains both the Welsh spelling of the Votadini tribe, & the Ptolemy’s Latin version, as in;

God-odin (Welsh) Ot-alini (Latin)
God-alini
Godalonte


The full passage reads; ‘When the Saxons had fled as far as the Narrows of Godelonte, the stream that ran below the causeway changed its colour, more than 2000 plunged into the marshes & perished there.’ After this battle, the LG tells us, ‘the king’s forces pursued their enemy all the way to Malaguine, a mighty saxon fortress, & they came back with many prisoners & had killed many of their foes.’ Malaguine seems a combination of Melrose & the same Guinnion at Stow-on-Wedale where Arthur fought his eighth battle. That Auchendinny is situated in the ‘Narrows’ makes perfect sense, for these would be the several miles of fertile plains that lie between the Lammermuir & Pentland. hills.

Finally, during the L-G’s siege of Edinburgh, Arthur & his nephew Guerrehet became captives in Edinburgh castle itself. We are told how Arthur was completely enamoured with a red-hot bird called Gamille, the Maiden of the Castle, & how he & Guerrhet made a sneaky move inside the castle in order to get laid – & how after they did the business, they were taken prisoner by the Saxons. The tale tells us;

Then the King lay down with his ladylove in a splendid bed, & Guerrehet lay with a beautiful maiden in an other room. After the king had lain a long time with his ladylove & had his way with her, more than forty knights entered the tower, fully armed& with naked swords, & forced open the door to the room.

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According to the LG, Gamille was a sorceress who, ‘knew more about enchantments than any other maiden in the land. She was very beautiful… She was as much in love with King Arthur as she could possibly be.’ This leads us to the following passage in the Welsh Triads;

And one Prisoner, who was more exalted than the three of them, was three nights in prison in Caer Oeth and Anoeth, and three nights imprisoned by Gwen Pendragon, and three nights in an enchanted prison under the Stone of Echymeint. This Exalted Prisoner was Arthur. And it was the same lad who released him from each of these three prisons – Goreu, son of Custennin, his cousin.


Surely we can see how Guerrehet of the LG should be Goreu of the Triads, & how Arthur’s imprisonment with the sorceress Gamille is nothing but a mirror to his imprisonment at the hands of Gwen Pendragon. The names ‘Oeth & Anoeth’ also ring highly familiar with ‘Otalini’ & ‘Agned’ & are worthy of deeper investigation.

In light of our quest, this is the first time we hear of the Grail… not directly connected to Arthur just yet, but as the chief subject of a Norman-French romance whose author seems to have both been in Edinburgh & also known uniquely recorded details about Arthur’s siege of Saxon Rock. Later on in our quest we will be returning to this very district in our search for the Grail, but before we leave for now, I think we should examine a little more the Saxon presence in Edinburgh

The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 6)

6 - TWRCH TRWYTH

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In 510, Arthur chose to put down the Irish threat once & for all , & attacking the same Guillamur who had been beaten back from Loch Lomond. To do this, Arthur assembled a fleet to transport his army across the sea to Northern Ireland, where the HKB takes up the story;


When the next summer came on he fitted out his fleet and sailed unto the island of Hibernia, that he desired to subdue unto himself. No sooner had he landed than Guillamur, before-mentioned, came to meet him with a host past numbering, purposing to do battle with him. But as soon as the fight began, his folk, naked and unarmed, fled whithersoever they might find a place of refuge. Guillamur was forthwith taken prisoner and compelled to surrender, and the rest of the princes of the country, smitten with dismay, likewise surrendered them after their King’s ensample.

 

Portrush

Portrush


I believe this battle took place at Portrush, county Antrim. It is a working harbour to this day, on the western side of a basalt peninsular which juts out for a mile. The area was important to the kings of Ulster, for two miles to the south of Portrush lies the druid circle of Dunmull, thought to be royal burial site. In Portrush itself there is an area, now a golf course, called Rathmore, named after an earthen ring-fort (a rath) that once stood in the area. It was once the residence of Dalriadan Princes in the 6th century, as attested by an ancient Life of St Comgall.

Regina regis Fiachna qui regnavit in castro, quod dicitur latine Atrium magnum, Scotice autem Rath-mor, in campo Liniae positum, quique erat de gente Ultorum, scilicet de region Dailnaray, venenum bibebat, et gravissimis doloboris torqebator, et illa cum amicis suis nesciebat a quo traditum est ei venenum. Ipsa jam regina Cantigerna vocabatur, quaea erat fidelis et pudica foemina


Portrush was formerly called ‘Cuan ard Corran.’ Looking through the Irish annals, we see that in the period 500-517, all the battles but one are civial actions between Irish armies. The odd-one-out, in the Annals of Tigernach, reads;

510 Cath Arda Coraind (The Battle of Ard Corran)

Ard Corran means ‘Point of the Corner’ & was the old name for Portrush. That Arthur crossed over to Northern Ireland is also given in the Welsh tale of Culhwch & Olwen;

Then Arthur summoned unto him all the warriors that were in the three Islands of Britain, and in the three Islands adjacent, and all that were in France and in Armorica, in Normandy and in the Summer Country, and all that were chosen footmen and valiant horsemen. And with all these he went into Ireland. And in Ireland there was great fear and terror concerning him. And when Arthur had landed in the country, there came unto him the saints of Ireland and besought his protection. And he granted his protection unto them, and they gave him their blessing.

 

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The same text then describes how an Irish prince called Tered was magically transformed into a wild boar known as Twrch Trwth, landed in Wales & went on the rampage with a wee army of piglets. In essence, this is a romanticized version of some kind of Dark Age chevauchee. Just as we combined Big Geoff with the HB to gain a better picture of Arthur’ first Scottish campaign, so combing C&O with the HB allows us to investigate a campaign of four battles fought in South wales. The first is contained in the C&O, which tells us how Twrch landed in Dyfed, where Arthur was waiting with his army.


Now when Arthur approached, Twrch Trwyth went on as far as Preseleu, and Arthur and his hosts followed him thither, and Arthur sent men to hunt him; Eli and Trachmyr, leading Drutwyn the whelp of Greid the son of Eri, and Gwarthegyd the son of Kaw, in another quarter, with the two dogs of Glythmyr Ledewig, and Bedwyr leading Cavall, Arthur’s own dog. And all the warriors ranged themselves around the Nyver. And there came there the three sons of Cleddyf Divwlch, men who had gained much fame at the slaying of Yskithyrwyn Penbaedd; and they went on from Glyn Nyver, and came to Cwm Kerwyn.

 

Bedd Arthur

Bedd Arthur



Cwm Kerwyn is the highest point of the Preseli hills, & an investigation of the area throws up some interesting leads. There are several standing stones connected to Arthur; one set are known as the Cerrig Marchogion, or knights stones, while another are known as Cerrig Meibion Arthur. There is also a rocky outcrop called the Carn Arthur, which lies close to a stone circle known as Bedd Arthur (Arthur’s grave). It consists of 13 stones, a number which is almost parrallelled in Culwych & Olwen, in which 12 leading members of Arthur’s army are said to have died at Cwm Kerwyn

And there Twrch Trwyth made a stand, and slew four of Arthur’s champions, Gwarthegyd the son of Kaw, and Tarawc of Allt Clwyd, and Rheidwn the son of Eli Atver, and Iscovan Hael. And after he had slain these men, he made a second stand in the same place. And there he slew Gwydre the son of Arthur, and Garselit Wyddel, and Glew the son of Ysgawd, and Iscawyn the son of Panon; and there he himself was wounded.

And the next morning before it was day, some of the men came up with him. And he slew Huandaw, and Gogigwr, and Penpingon, three attendants upon Glewlwyd Gavaelvawr, so that Heaven knows, he had not an attendant remaining, excepting only Llaesgevyn, a man from whom no one ever derived any good. And together with these, he slew many of the men of that country, and Gwlydyn Saer, Arthur’s chief Architect.

Local tradition says that Bedd Arthur was the grave of Arthur & his companion Natthulal. If we add Natthulal to the twelve dead nobles given in Culwych & Olwen, then we arrive smoothly at the number thirteen. There is one final link to our once & future king. From its sitiation on top of the Preseli ridge, the Bedd Arthur overlooks the rocky outcrop of Carn Menyn, which was supposed to have provided the bluestone used in the creation of Stonehenge. In the HKB, we are told that it was Merlin who created Stonehenge after floating the stones on rafts around Cornwall & up the River Avon to Salisbury Plain!



Llanbedr

Llanbedr

According to the C&O, the hunt for Twrch Trwyth spanned right across South wales, at one point arriving at Llanbedr-Ystrad Yw, as in; ‘Llwydawg went thence to Ystrad Yw and there the men of Armorica met him, and there he slew Hirpeissawg the king of Armorica, and Llygatrudd Emys, and Gwrbothu, Arthur’s uncles, his mother’s brothers, and there was he himself slain.’ The small settlement of Llanbedr-Ystrad Yw is in the Crickhowell district, & the death of ‘Llygatrudd Emysin the vicinity helps to clear up this famous passage in the Historia Brittonum of Nennius.

There is another wonder in the region which is called Ercing. A tomb is located there next to a spring which is called Licat Amr; and the name of the man who is buried in the tomb was called thus: Amr. He was the son of Arthur the soldier, and Arthur himself killed and buried him in that very place. And men come to measure the grave and find it sometimes six feet in length, sometimes nine, sometimes twelve, sometimes fifteen. At whatever length you might measure it at one time, a second time you will not find it to have the same length–and I myself have put this to the test.


Licat Amr & Llygatrudd Emys are just too close phonetically to not be the same entity. Crickhowell is in Ercing, & a mile or two away is Penymarth (Pen-arth = chief Arthur), where there is found the ‘fish stone.’ Amr is another word for Emys, here he is given as Arthur’s son, not uncle.

The Fish Stone

The Fish Stone


Arthur is also placed in the vicinity by the Life of Saint Cadoc, which says that Arthur, ‘arrived at last with a very great force of soldiers at the River Usk.’ This reference ties in with the Roman city of Caerleon, which lies on that river’s banks. That is was the site of Arthur’s fight against Twrch Trwyth is confirmed by reading the tale of Culwych & Olwen. After skirmishing at Llanbedr, Twrch Trwyth leads Arthur to the Severn estuary;


Arthur summoned all Cornwall and Devon unto him, to the estuary of the Severn, and he said to the warriors of this Island, “Twrch Trwyth has slain many of my men, but, by the valour of warriors, while I live he shall not go into Cornwall. And I will not follow him any longer, but I will oppose him life to life. Do ye as ye will.” And he resolved that he would send a body of knights, with the dogs of the Island, as far as Euyas, who should return thence to the Severn, and that tried warriors should traverse the Island, and force him into the Severn. And Mabon the son of Modron, came up with him at the Severn, upon Gwynn Mygddon, the horse of Gweddw, and Goreu the son of Custennin, and Menw the son of Teirgwaedd; this was betwixt Llyn Lliwan and Aber Gwy.

Aber Gwy means ‘Mouth of the Wye,’ found 12 miles to the east of Caerleon. Close by, near Bassaleg, is found Maes Arthur (Arthur’s Field) & could well be the actual site of the battle. Then, 15 miles to the west lies Cardiff Bay, which was once called Linn Liuan in the HB.

Another wonder is the mouth of Linn Liuan, the mouth of which river opens into the Severn, and when the tide flows into the Severn, the sea in the like manner flows into the mouth of the aforesaid river, and is received into a pool at its mouth, as into a gulf, and does not proceed higher up. And there is a beach near the river, and when the tide is in the Severn, that beach is not covered; and when the sea and the Severn recede, then the pool Liuan disgorges everything that is devoured from the sea, and that beach is covered, and it breaks and spews in one wave. And if the army of the whole country should be there, and should front the wave, the force of the wave would drag down the army, its clothing filled with water, and the horses would be dragged down. But should the army turn their backs towards the wave, it will not injure them. And when the sea has receded, then the whole beach which the wave had covered is left bare again, and the sea ebbs from it. 

This is an accurate description of Cardiff Bay/Penarth, whose rising & falling of the tides are the second highest recorded anywhere in the world. Looking at the HB again, it seems that a couple of battles were fought in the region of Newport & Cardiff. ‘The ninth battle was waged in the City of the Legion,’  pipes the HB, & the term, ‘City of the Legion,’ is a reference to the Roman armies that fortified themselves about the Britain. The trouble is there were at least two ‘Cities of the Legions,’ the first was at Chester & the second at Caerleon. The latter was known as Cae- Legion-guar-Uisc (Caerleon upon Usk), but often lost its suffix. Among the 28 cities of Britain listed in the HB where at number 11 stood Cair Lion & at 22 Cair Legion. Nennius, however, for the actual battle-list of chapter 56, uses ‘urbe legionis,’ adding to this cumulative confusion. The battle could now have taken place at any city that once housed a Roman legion, including Carlisle & York.

 

Reconstruction-of-Caerleo-006


Yet, as Henry of Huntingdon declared, ‘The ninth battle he fought at the city Leogis, which in the British tongue is called “Kaerlion,‘ so to did the same Vatican recension that identified the Guinnion battle also clarify the situation. Its scribe, Marc the Anchorite, insisted the battle took place at Caerleon, near Newport in South Wales; ‘The ninth was at the City of Legion, which the British call Cair Lion.’ That the correction was made at all adds to its authenticity as truth. Let us imagine Marc at work in his scribal office as he comes across the Ninth Battle. Confronted with the same dilemma we moderns face, of which ‘City of the Legion’ Nennius meant, he began to research the situation like a true Dark Age Litologist. He would have had access to sources we moderns could only dream of, so we must trust his efforts in the matter. His research is backed up elsewhere by the AC, which gives us these two entries;

601 The synod of Urbs Legionis

613 The battle of Caer Legion

The 613 battle has been proven to be at Chester, the resulting English victory dividing the Kymry forever. If Urbs Legionis was meant to be Chester, why would the chronicler use a different name from an entry only a few years later? We must believe that they refer to two separate places. To support this, the Synod of Urbs Legionis, a religious conference also referred to by Bede, took place in the Dean Forest near Caerleon, as in’


603 In the meantime, Augustine, with the assistance of King Ethelbert, drew together to a conference the bishops, or doctors, of the next province of the Britons, at a place which is to this day called Augustine’s Ac, that is, Augustine’s Oak, on the borders of the Wiccii and West Saxons

There is just one more battle to be fought in South Wales before we resume our quest for the Grail, which according to the HB; ‘The tenth battle was waged on the banks of a river which is called Tribruit.’ Another recension of the HB gives us, “Trath truiroit,” or the beach / tidal estuary of Truiroit. There is a striking parallel in the poem Pa Gur, where the battle is known by its Welsh name, Tryfrwyd;

Manawyd brought home
A pierced shield from Tryfrwyd
By the hundreds they fell
To Bedwyrís four-pronged spear,
On the shores of Tryfrwyd

Tryfrwyd is very likely to be the same battle as Tribruit; we have the tri- element, we have Arthuriana & we have the interesting double reference of ‘Tryfrwyd’ (Tribruit) & the ‘shores of Tryfrwyd’ (Traeth Truiroit). I believe this battle was fought at PENARTH, by Cardiff Bay, for looking at  ‘Tribruit / Traeth Truiroit’ in more detail gives us;


Treath – Welsh for beach, more particular a tidal estuary
Tri – three
Brit / Brute / Bruiw – rushing river (Collingwood / OGS Crawford)

This gives us something like a ‘tidal estuary formed by three rushing rivers.’ It is my supposition that the three rivers are the three waterways connected to Cardiff Bay, being are Ely, Taff & the Severn. That this battle was fought against Twrch Trwyth is hinted at in the Pa Gur poem;

By the hundreds they fell
To Bedwyrís four-pronged spear,
On the shores of Tryfrwyd,
Combating with Garwlwyd
Victorious was his wrath
Both with sword and shield.

Gwrgi Garwlwyd is known from triad 32 of the Trioedd Ynys Prydain which tells us he was slain by Diffydell mab Dysgyfdawd. We are also told that Garwlwyd used to make a corpse of one of the Cymry every day and two each Saturday so as not to kill on a Sunday. The epithet Gwrgi means ‘Man-dog,’ & Garwlwyd is suspected by scholars of being a werewolf. The shape-shifting factor suggests that Twrch Trwyth & Garwlwyd were the same.

Cardiff_Bay_Aerial_View




So that’s ten of Arthur’s twelve battles done – whether I was right on situating them where I did  so will only be proved by time, but its all been rather good fun swaggering about the British Isles with Arthur, the chief result of which is showing how we cannot pin Arthur down to any one region…
























The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 5)

5 – SCOTLAND 509 A.D.

It is now time to analyze a great war of conquest & intimidation undertaken by Arthur a year or two after the Dubglas battles in Hampshire. His foes were the Scots & Picts of Scotland, with a few Saxons thrown in for good measure, plus the Irish of, well Ireland. It is interesting to note that in the 509 AD, three of Arthur’s enemy kings were to die. The Annals of Clonmacnoise tell us that both Bruide, king of the Picts, & Domnagort king of the Dalriadan Scots, died in the year 509.

Brwidy m c Milcon K. of Pictland, & Dawangort
mNissie, K. of Scotland, Dyed-fcede hiec erratum est.

Elsewhere, for the same year, the Annals of Tigernach tell us of the death of the king of the Scots in Ulster in the same year, as in;

509 Eochaid mac Muiredaigh died.

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That three kings of two nations in alliance against Arthur died in the same year reflects their deaths in battle against our ravaging warlord. All three kings would have contributed forces to a co-alition army, & they would have shared the role of overall commander, riding side-by-side at the army’s head. I feel that Arthur’s campaign would have been a strike against both their power bases – a simple case of letting them know who was boss. By all accounts he was mega-glorious in the campaign, which began with three battles in Scotland, with Big Geoff telling us;

He next led his army into Moray, where the Scots and Picts were beleaguered, for after they had thrice been defeated in battle by Arthur and his nephew they had fled into that province.

The first of these battles would be the sixth battle described by the HB, which was fought ‘above the river which is called Lussas.’ This river would be the one that flows through Glen Lussa in teh Kintyre Peninsular, the 6th century heartlands of the Dalriadan Scots. The second battle – the HB’s 7th – was fought, in the forest of Celidon,’ a great forested area between Hadrian’s Wall & the Forth, a vast remnant of which remains today in the forest parks of Kielder & Ettrick. That this great ancient forest was known as the Caledonian Wood is confirmed by an entry in the AC, which reads;

573 The battle of Arfderydd between the sons of Eliffer and Gwenddolau son of Ceidio; in which battle Gwenddolau fell; Merlin went mad.

 

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According to the eminent 19th century historian, William Skene, this battle took pace at Arthuret, just a few miles north of Carlisle, beyond which the Caledonian wood must have stretched as far as Drumelzier, near Peebles, for it is there that a tree-hugging, schizophrenic wizard – named Lailoken in the Vita Kentigerni – was said to have died.

It seems the Battle of Caledon Wood had the nature of a siege. Let us imagine Arthur & his mounted men trotting slowly through a thick forest surrounded by hills. At one point the trees clear, revealing an army of wild warriors, beaming a brilliant blue from their woad-painted faces. With chilling cries of valour they rush upon the Gosgordd, a host of yelling Picts defending their precious homeland at the Battle of Caledon Wood, where the Picts, according to Big Geoff;

Arthur stinted not in pursuit until they had reached the forest of Caledon, wherein they assembled again after the fight and did their best to make a stand against him. When the battle began, they wrought sore havoc amongst the Britons, defending themselves like men, and avoiding the arrows of the Britons in the shelter afforded by the trees. When Arthur espied this he bade the trees about that part of the forest be felled, and the trunks set in a compass around them in such wise as that all ways of issuing forth were shut against them, for he was minded to beleaguer them therein until they should be starven to death of hunger. This done, he bade his companies patrol the forest, and abode in that same place three days. Whereupon the Saxons, lacking all victual and famishing to death, besought leave to issue forth upon covenant that they would leave all their gold and silver behind them so they might return unto Germany with nought but their ships only. 


In Medieval French, the word ‘siege’ was actually ‘seat,’ & there are indeed two Arthur’s Seats in the Border regions, situated at;

1 A mountain in the Hart Fell area, Dumfrieshire, between Langholm & Lockerbie

2 A hill near the Liddesdale, the Scottish Borders

Of the two Arthur’s Seats found in the Caledon Wood, the one at Hart Fell has as yet turned nothing up interest. The Liddesdale version shows much more promise, however, for just along a ridge from the Seat stands the impressive remains of a fort on Cairby Hill. According to the Rev John Maughan, it seems a battle was fought there in the distant past, as in, ‘On the slope of the hill, at the distance of about 400 yards, is a green flat eminence called the “battle-knowe,” where, it is said, a severe battle was fought in former times, but of which I can learn no particulars.’

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Saying all that, going about saying that Liddesdale was the site of the Battle of Caledon Wood lies on far too sketchy a ground – after all the wood was absolutely humungous. Still, it feels like we are getting closer here, & our next port of call – the HB’s eighth – seems to have been fought 35 miles to the north of Liddesdale, at a place called Stow-on-Wedale. Beginning with the HB account, we read;

The eighth battle was at the fortress of Guinnion, in which Arthur carried the image of holy Mary ever virgin on his shoulders; and the pagans were put to flight on that day. And through the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and through the power of the blessed Virgin Mary his mother there was great slaughter among them.

In the tenth century, a scribe called Marc the Anchorite added the following piece of scholia to a recension of the HB (Vatican Reg. 1964.);

For Arthur proceeded to Jerusalem, and there made a cross to the size of the Saviour’s cross, and there it was consecrated, and for three successive days he fasted, watched, and prayed, before the Lord’s cross, that the Lord would give him the victory, by this sign, over the heathen; which also took place, and he took with him the image of St. Mary, the fragments of which are still preserved in great veneration at Wedale, in English Wodale, in Latin Vallis- doloris. Wodale is a village in the province of Lodonesia, but now of the jurisdiction of the bishop of St. Andrew’s, of Scotland, six miles on the west of that heretofore noble and eminent monastery of Meilros.

Astonishing stuff! We have been here given a pin-point location; a literary arrow aiming aiming right at Stow-in-Wedale. The fortress of Guinnion should be Craigend Fort, which once sat on an impressive 900-foot high hill only two thirds of a mile to the north of Stow.

 

Stow of Wedale

Stow of Wedale


There is one more Arthurian battle in Scotland, recorded by our Geoff, fought after the Battle at Guinnion. Big Geoffe tells us;

He next led his army into Moray, where the Scots and Picts were beleaguered, for after they had thrice been defeated in battle by Arthur and his nephew they had fled into that province. When they had reached Loch Lomond, they occupied the islands that be therein, thinking to find safe refuge; for this lake doth contain sixty islands and receiveth sixty rivers, albeit that but a single stream doth flow from thence unto the sea. Upon these islands are sixty rocks plain to be seen, whereof each one doth bear an eyrie of eagles that there congregating year by year do notify any prodigy that is to come to pass in the kingdom by uttering a shrill scream all together in concert. Unto these islands accordingly the enemy had fled in order to avail them of the protection of the lake. But small profit reaped they thereby, for Arthur collected a fleet and went round about the inlets of the rivers for fifteen days together, and did so beleaguer them as that they were famished to death of hunger by thousands.

 

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Loch Lomond, Britain’s largest inland waterway, is a glory of nature. Arthuriana-wise it was said to be the site of a magic joust between Merlin & Kentigern, while Ben Arthur (the Cobbler) & the Clach nam Breatann (Rock of the Britains), lie near its northern shores. Upon Ben Arthur at Arrochar, one of the crags has been known since time immemorial as Arthur’s Seat, presenting a bona fide Arthurian siege in the vicinity of an Arthur’s Seat, which supports the notion of Scotland’s Arthur’s Seats as being the site of Arthur’s Scottish sieges.

In the southern parts of Loch Lomond there are a number of islands, which Monmouth tells us the Picts & Scots had retreated to for safety. Some of these are the artificial Crannogs, built from timber & stone & connected to each other by secret underwater causeways. Archeology has surveyed thirty possible sites, which added to the natural islands of Loch Lomond bring us close to the 60 islands of the HKB, which continues;


And whilst that he was serving them out on this wise arrived Guillamur, King of Ireland, with a mighty host of barbarians in a fleet, to bring succor unto the wretched islanders. Whereupon Arthur left off the leaguer and began to turn his arms against the Irish, whom he forced to return unto their own country, cut to pieces without mercy. When he had won the victory, he again gave all his thoughts to doing away utterly the race of the Scots and Picts, and yielded him to treating them with a cruelty beyond compare. Not a single one that he could lay hands on did he spare, insomuch as that at last all the bishops of the miserable country assembled together with all the clergy of their obedience, and came unto him barefoot, bearing relics of the saints and the sacraments of the church, imploring the King’s mercy for the safety of their people. As soon as they came into his presence, they prayed him on their bended knees to have pity on the down-trodden folk, for that he had visited them with pains and penalties enow, nor was any need to cut off the scanty few that still survived to the last man. Some petty portion of the country he might allot unto them whereon they might be allowed to bear the yoke of perpetual bondage, for this were they willing to do. And when they had besought the King on this wise, he was moved unto tears for very pity, and, agreeing unto the petition of the holy men, granted them his pardon.


One of these penitent priests was evidently St Kessog, who predated Colomba by fifty years, & was Scotland’s first martyr. In medieval times his fame was widely spread & his name was used as a rallying cry to the Scots by Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn, whose holy crozier & relics were placed at the front of the army. He was said to have founded a monastery on the island of Inchtavannoch (the island of the Monk’s house), Loch Lomond, in 510, the year after Arthur won his battle. 

 

Inchtavannoch

Inchtavannoch

 

So that was pretty much Scotland conquered, which may help to explain why Arthur’s name is scattered throughout the country, swelling among folk memories & clinging hardily to topographical features. There is a Loch Arthur near Dumfries, while Stirling enjoys its Round Table & a curious construction known as Arthur’s Oven. He was definitely there at some point , & by combing Big Geoff with the HB, we have gained a great insight into both where & when.



The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 4)

4 – ARTHUR’S FIRST BATTLES

I know we’re supposed to be looking for the Holy Grail, but seeing as its Christmas, I thought a wee waltz through the world of Arthur’s 12 battle would be fun. In general, no-one has a clue as to where they were fought, as long ago as the 12th century; Henry of Huntingdon was declaring, ‘In our times the places are unknown, the Providence of God, we consider, having so ordered it that popular applause and flattery, and transitory glory, might be of no account,‘ while Collingwood & Myers, in their Roman Britain 1937, declared; ‘That the names are genuine is obvious. Not only are they part of the oldest tradition, but there is hardly one whose site is established beyond controversy.’ Still, there’s nothing wrong in trying to find them, is there?

 

The piratical invasion of the Saxons under Hengist and Horsa

 

During my investigations, I have identified five major campaigns in which he fought his wars; one in south England, one in Ireland one in Wales & two in Scotland. Such a wide theater of action is down to Arthur belonging to the native Britons that stretched from Strathclyde & Edinburgh in the north to Cornwall in the south, collectively known as the Kymry. For several centuries they had lived peacefully under the Roman yolk, but when the legions departed they were attacked relentlessly by the Pictish war-bands of Northern Britain that Hadrian’s Wall had been holding back. To counter this threat the British leader Vortigern invited the first Saxons to Britain, & with their help halted the invasions. However, lack of money was a problem, & on not being paid their promised fees, these German mercenaries, led by Henghist & Horsa, finding the island very much to their taste, decided to stay. By the year 500 AD they had taken Kent, Sussex, East Anglia & scattered pockets of territory all up the east coast.

If we are to identify the locations of Arthur’s battles, it is among the literatures of Arthur’s enemies that we will hopefully find a clue two. Thus, returning to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, we find the following entry;

501 A.D. This year Porta and his two sons, Beda and Mela, came into Britain, with two ships, at a place called Portsmouth. They soon landed, and slew on the spot a young Briton of very high rank.

 

The very events of the above campaign seem to be echoed in an ancient Welsh elegy entitled ‘Geraint Son of Erbin.’ The poem is a very pleasant read, & worth being given in its not-too-long entirety.

Geraint, son of Erbin

Before Geraint, the enemy of oppression,
I saw white horses jaded and gory,
And after the shout, a terrible resistance.

Before Geraint, the unflinching foe,
I saw horses jaded and gory from the battle,
And after the shout, a terrible impulsion.

Before Geraint, the enemy of tyranny,
I saw horses white with foam,
And after the shout, a terrible torrent.

In Llongborth I saw the rage of slaughter,
And biers beyond all number,
And red-stained men from the assault of Geraint.

In Llongborth I saw the edges of blades in contact,
Men in terror, and blood on the pate,
Before Geraint, the great son of his father.

In Llongborth I saw the spurs
Of men who would not flinch from the dread of the spears,
And the drinking of wine out of the bright glass.

In Llongborth I saw the weapons
Of men, and blood fast dropping,
And after the shout, a fearful return.

In Llongborth I saw Arthur,
And brave men who hewed down with steel,
Imperator, and conductor of the toll.

In Llongborth Geraint was slain,
A brave man from the region of Dyvnaint,
And before he was overpowered, he committed slaughter.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, with wheat for their corn,
Ruddy ones, with. the assault of spotted eagles.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long their legs, grain was given them,
Ruddy ones, with the assault of black eagles.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, restless over their grain,
Ruddy ones, with the assault of red eagles.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, grain-scattering,
Ruddy ones, with the assault of white eagles.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, with the pace of the stag,
With a nose like that of the consuming fire on a wild mountain.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, satiated with grain,
Grey ones, with their manes tipped with silver.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, well deserving of grain,
Ruddy ones, with the assault of grey eagles.

Under the thigh of Geraint were swift racers,
Long-legged, having corn for food,
Ruddy ones, with the assault of brown eagles.

When Geraint was born, open were the gates of heaven,
Christ granted what was asked,
Beautiful the appearance of glorious Prydain.

 

Geraint, son of Erbin

Geraint, son of Erbin

The crucial passage tells us, ‘Geraint was slain / A brave man from the region of Dyvnaint.‘ This was the old name for Brythonic Devon, & with ‘Llongborth’ meaning ‘ship–harbour‘ in Welsh (from the Latin ‘Longa Navis’ – port of warships) we have a perfect match for the ASC’s death of a, ‘Young Briton of very high rank,‘ in ‘Portsmouth.’ The poem also describes ‘Arthur,‘ as fighting in the battle as the, ‘Imperator, and conductor of the toll.’ Having already learnt of his Dumnonian connections, it makes sense that he would be riding to battle alongside Prince Geraint of Devon. To the medieval Welsh, Prince Geraint was classed as one of the three prime ‘Seafarers on the island of Britain,’ & to place him in the defence of a port makes perfect sense. Thus, according to the Jesus College genealogies, it was after Geraint’s death at Claunio that Arthur’s half-brother Cador became the king of Dumnonia, as in the lineage; ‘Erbin – Gereint – Cado.

The location, & the presence of Arthur, lead us neatly to the HB’s first battle, ‘at the mouth of the river which is called Glein.‘ The name Glein is a great match for a southern Roman fort called Claunio in the Ravenna Cosmography, & Clausentum by Ptolemy. Scholars have identified Claunio as a Roman Fortress at Bitterne, a suburb of Southampton, stood at the mouth of the River Itchen where she meets the Solent. Its ruins were described by William Camden in 1610 as the, ‘Old broken wals, and trenches of an antient castle, which carried halfe a mile in compasse, & at every tide is compassed for three parts of it with water a great breadth. The Romane Emperors ancient coines now and then there digged up, doe so evidently prove the antiquitie thereof.’

220px-River_Itchen,_Bitterne_Manor_-_geograph.org.uk_-_26956

 

If the Claunio fort at Bitterne once lent its name to the River Itchen – i.e. the River of Claunio – then this battle of 501 should be the one fought at the ‘mouth of the River Glein. ‘  Though not absolutely vital to our Quest, I hope to have shown that Arthur’s first battle was also  recorded in the ASC as the Battle of ‘Portesmūða,‘ giving us a date of 501 for the commencement of his military career – fitting into the picture of Arthur I have painted so far. I also believe that the HB’s next four battles, which were fought, ‘above another river which is called Dubglas and is in the region of Linnuis,’ occurred near Bitterne as well. Dubglas means Blackwater, & there is a river of that name which from its source at north Charford, flows into the Solent near a place called Netley Marsh. This river then connects beautifully with the 508 entry in the ASC.

A.D. 508.  This year Cerdic and Cynric slew a British king, whose name was Natanleod, and five thousand men with him.  After this was the land named Netley, from him, as far as Charford.

 

Geoffrey of Monmouth

Geoffrey of Monmouth

This is not the only account of the battle we have. In his HKB, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s HKB describes the battle, but this this time as a victory for the the Britons.

Arthur, therefore, in obedience to the counsel of his retainers, retired him into the city of London. Hither he summoned all the clergy and chief men of his allegiance and bade them declare their counsel as to what were best and safest for him to do against this inroad of the Paynim. At last, by common consent of them all, messengers are sent unto King Hoel in Armorica with tidings of the calamitous estate of Britain. For Hoel was sister’s son unto Arthur, born unto Dubric, King of the Armorican Britons. Wherefore, so soon as he heard of the invasion wherewith his uncle was threatened, he bade fit out his fleet, and mustering fifteen thousand men-at-arms, made for Hamo’s port  with the first fair wind. Arthur received him with all honour due, and the twain embraced the one the other over and over again.

A few days later they set forth for the city of Kaerlindcoit, then besieged by the Paynim already mentioned, the which city lieth upon a hill betwixt two rivers. Accordingly, when they had come thither with their whole host, they did battle with the Saxons and routed them with no common slaughter, for upon that day fell six thousand of them, some part drowned in the rivers and some part smitten of deadly weapons. The residue, in dismay, forsook the siege and fled.

The similarities between this account with both the ASC & the HB are tangible. Whereas the ASC numbers 5,000 British dead, Monmouth declares 6,000 Saxon dead. Hamo’s Port is Southampton, on the other side of the River Test, where Arthur met his nephew Hoel, before moving to Kaerlindcoit. This translates as the ‘Fortress of Lind Wood,’ & should be Tatchbury Mount, a hillfort which dominates Netley Marsh. Around it are a number of barrows & tumuli, the tell-tale relics of Dark-Age battlefields, while five miles away to the west, through the gorgeous New Forest, is the town of Lyndhurst (Welsh = Lindcoit), which means Lime Wood in Anglo-Saxon. In the Domesday Book the town was known as Linhest, which is extremely similar to the ‘region of Linnuis,‘ given, & most probably latinized, by Nennius.

 

Tatchbury Mount

Tatchbury Mount

 

It seems very much that the four battles on the River Dublas given by Nennius have revolved around the key conflict at Netley Marsh in 508. Just as in the Battle of the River Glein, several sources interconnect to paint a logical picture of the battle. Still. The evidence also supports a Dumnonian Arthur, who would have been active upon the de facto border zone between the southern British & the southern Saxons, which was roughly in a line north between Portsmouth & Winchester.

 

Talking of heading  north, though, pack a jumper folks, cos its time that Arthur took on the Picts…

 

 

The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 3)

3 – CADOR

As I have already stated, the Quest for the Holy Grail begins with King Arthur, & I felt it important to ascertain the veracity of his existence. So far Ive pretty much done that, having established in my first two posts that (a) he was born in Tintagel & (b) his military career was acted out somewhere between the years of 488 & 547. Intriguingly, both the same location & time-scale can be applied to certain pieces of dark age broken pottery, coins & glasswork. Discovered at Tintagel itself, & monikered ‘Tintagelware,’ acccording to Rachael C Barrowman et al, there was’only a comparatively brief importation from the Mediterranean lasting from c.AD 475-c.AD 550 at the most.‘ Byzantine in origin, these dark-age relics are found in only a few other ‘elite-status’ sites across Britain, but by far the largest proportion being discovered at Tintagel itself.

 

imgres

 

One of the other Tintagelware sites is South Cadbury hillfort in Somerset.  The site has long been associated with King Arthur – the 16th century traveler & writer John Leland stating; ‘At the very south ende of the chirch of South-Cadbyri standith Camallate, sumtyme a famose toun or castelle, upon a very torre or hill, wunderfully enstrengtheid of nature, to the which be 2. enteringes up by very stepe way: one by north est and another by south west… The people can telle nothing ther but that they have hard say that Arture much restorid to Camalat.

 

cadbury

South Cadbury is an impressive fortress, a worthy Camelot indeed, & was the site of a grand timber feasting hall thrust up by some powerful leader about the year 500 AD. It was named after a  dark-age king known as Cador, who we can conveniently connect to King Arthur. The monk Lifris, in his ‘Life of Saint Carantoc‘ places a certain Cato as ruling in the same time & the same region as King Arthur; ‘In those times Cato and Arthur were reigning in that country, dwelling in Dindraithov.‘The country in question was Dumnonia, the old Brythonic kingdom that covered the modern West Country counties of Cornwall, Devon & Somerset. The Dindraithov of Lifris appears as Dun Tradui in the Old Glossary of Cormac, which tells us the city was found, ‘in the lands of the Cornish Britons.’ The Glossary describes Dun Tradui as possessing a triple-fosse, which seem a perfect match for the three sets of concentric works surrounding the impressive South Cadbury hill-fort in Somerset.

 

DUMNONIA

Whether South Cadbury was Dindraithov or not  is not so important, it is the fact that Cador & Arthur are seen as joint-rulers in the West Country. Investigating the matter properly leads us to the Brut Tysillo, which spells Cador’s name as Kattwr, as in, ‘Meanwhile, Kattwr and his army attacked the ships of the ssaesson, and filled them with his own men.‘  Let us now return to the Jesus College genealogy from teh first blogpost, which shows the sons of Gorlois/Gliws;

Ewein vab keredic. Pedroc sant. Kynvarch. Edelic. Luip. Clesoeph. Sant. Perun. Saul. Peder.Katwaladyr. Meirchyawn. Gwrrai. Mur. Margam Amroeth. Gwher. Cornuill. Catwall. Cetweli.

Here, Catwall will be Kattwr, with R’s & L’s being exchanged through the phonetic forces of rhotacism. That Cador/Catwall was the son of Gorlois is also mentioned in both the Brut Tysillio, while a genealogy known as the Bonedd yr Arwyr tells us Cador (Kadwr) shared the same mother as Arthur.; ‘Kustenin ap Kadwr ap Gwrlais iarll Kernyw nai ap brawd vnvam ac Arthur.’ 

 

Kidwelly Castle - coincidentally used in Monty Python & the Holy Grail

Kidwelly Castle – coincidentally used in Monty Python & the Holy Grail

 

Catwall gave his name to Kidwelly, by Cardigan Bay in South Wales, close to the ancient realm of Glevesing. In essence, we can now see Arthur’s mother, Ygraine, having married into a great noble house, who ruled a pan-channel demense from Dyfed to Cornwall. Indeed, Tintagelware has also been found at Longbury Bank in Dyfed, & at Dinas Powys near Cardiff, while two genealogies in the Jesus College manuscript confirm such a notion, having the same line of succession for both the kingdom of Dumnonia and Gwent;

Erbin

Geraint

Cado

url

Returning to our boy,  as the Historia Brittonum tells us, Arthur was a Dux Bellorum – leader of battles – which is confirmed by two very antique texts. both of which have him leading men from the West Country. A poem known as the Dialogue of Arthur & Eliwood describes Arthur as ‘penn kadoed Kernyw’, or ‘head of the battalions of Cornwall,’ while the Vita of Saint Gildas tells us he, ‘roused the armies of the whole of Cornubia and Dibneria (Devon).’ That he was leading such forces at some point in his career allows us to imagine that at least one of his famous 12 battles was fought at the head of Dumnonian forces. Perhaps even his first battle, at the ‘Mouth of the River Glein…’