Continuing the weekly serialization of
Damian Beeson Bullen’s
THE CHISPER EFFECT
In which a number of the world’s greatest mysteries are finally solved
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In the last chapter we witnessed the supporting evidence for King Arthur’s historicity in the far south of Britain. Since his birth at Tintagel his fame has fanned out to every corner of the British Isles, swelling among folk memories & clinging hardily to topographical features. Scotland, especially, enjoys a vivid Arthurian tradition; there is a Loch Arthur near Dumfries, there is the great mountain of Arthur’s Seat at Edinburgh, while Stirling enjoys its own Round Table & a curious construction known as Arthur’s Oven. By analyzing the battle-list in the Historia Brittonum we can easily identify at least two consecutive battles fought by Arthur in Scotland. The seventh of the twelve battles was sited in the ‘Coit Celidon,’ i.e. the wood of Caledonia, the Roman name for Scotland. It is into this very wood that the wizard Merlin fled following the battle of Ardderyth in 573, and where, according to John of Fordun, he was murdered by shepherds at Drumelzier. The Caledonian Wood was once an epic affair, spreading mile after mile of foliage between Hadrian’s Wall & the Firth of Forth, & thus is too vague a reference point to locate the actual battlefield with any precision. Contrarily, we can state quite positively that Arthur’s eighth battle was fought in a singular & identifiable place in Scotland.
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 a recension of the Historia Brittonum known as Vatican Reg.1964., there is a wonderful piece of handwritten scholia attached to this battle by a tenth-century scribe called Marc the Anchorite;
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 given a pin-point location for an Arthurian battlefield; a literary arrow aiming straight at Stow-in-Wedale in the Scottish Borders between Galashiels and Edinburgh. The fortress of Guinnion should then be Craigend Fort, two thirds of a mile to the north of Stow, whose grassy remnant of today barely does justice to what was once an impressive 900-foot high hill-fort. That a West Country Arthur was fighting this far north – & further, as we shall soon see – can be understood through the processes of the Chisper Effect. We begin by looking at an antique text known as the Pictish King List: only a handful of copies have survived the rigors of time, but they all contain pretty much the same sequence of kings, albeit with subtle variations in name spellings & reign lengths. The Picts were an ancient Scottish tribe who the Romans just could not conquer, building instead Hadrian’s Wall in order to keep them out of the Empire. Of the variant lists of their kings, the reigns given by the 14th century Poppleton Manuscript can be safely cross-referenced with dates found in the Irish Chronicles. Of these, the Annals of Clonmacnoise give us our first solid date, being; ‘449: Drust mc Erb, K. of Pictland, died.’ Taking this as our starting point, let us examine the Poppleton King List, beginning with Talore, the successor of Drust McErb.
Year Crowned Reign-length
(449) Talore son of Aniel (4)
(453) Necton Morbet son of Erip (24)
(477) Drest Gurthinmoch (30)
(507) Galalan Erilich (12)
(519) Two Drests – son of Girom
———————— son of Uudrost
Drusts reign 5 years together / Drest son of Girom rules solo 5 years
(529) Garthnach son of Girom (7)
(536) Cailtram son of Girom (1)
(537) Talorg son of Muircholaich (11)
(548) Drest son of Muniat (1)
(549) Galam Cennaleph (1)
(550) Galam Cennaleph and Bridei together (1)
(551) Bridei son of Mailcon (30)
The final date of 581 (551+30) given as the end of King Bridei’s reign matches an event recorded in that same year by the Annals of Tigernach;
581AD : The death of Bruide son of Maelchú, king of the Picts
In terms of reign-lengths, the Poppleton List can be certified as authentic, & looking through it with a keen chispological eye focusses our attention on a certain Garthnach, son of Girom. He was the ruler of the Picts between 529 & 536 & his parent’s name, like so many others scattered through the king lists, is non-especial. However, let us now look at Girom’s name as it appears in alternate versions of the Pictish King List, a cross-table in which philochisps are simply running riot;
Gygurn: Bodleian ms Lat misc c.75
Gigurnus: Scalacronica, Corpus Christi College
If we simply drop the Gs, we are left with a fellow called Arthnach son of Ygurn/Igurnus, which even the most skeptical of scholars must recognize as an incredible fit for Arthur son of Igerne. It has been a long, long time since anyone spoke Pictish; the phonetical rules of its language have been forgotten forever, expect in a few places where Pictish place-names still linger to this day, such as ‘aber’ for river-mouth & ‘pitt’ for portion of land. That the Picts placed a guttural ‘g’ before the vowels of their proper names is a distinct possibility, & if this is somehow not the case, then it must only be a massive coincidence that Garthnach son of Gygurn lived in the exact same period as Arthur son of Igerne, giving up his throne only a year before Arthur’s death at Camlann. Instead, I would prefer to praise the inherent abilities of the Chisper Effect, including the process of identifying semantics & etymologies of lost languages, a quality which can only enrich the work of future scholars.
If Garthnach & Arthur were one & the same individual, we are left with the not insignificant problem of transporting a Cornish Arthur onto the Pictish throne. The likeliest & most legal explanation is that Igerne/Gygurn was a Pictish princess, as – according to the venerable 7th century Northumbrian monk, Bede – the nature of Pictish kingship was matrilineal;
The Picts, accordingly, sailing over into Britain, began to inhabit the northern parts thereof, for the Britons were possessed of the southern. Now the Picts had no wives, and asked them of the Scots; who would not consent to grant them upon any other terms, than that when any difficulty should arise, they should choose a king from the female royal race rather than from the male: which custom, as is well known, has been observed among the Picts to this day.
We know next to nothing about the power politics of 6th century Britain, even less about the Pictish system, but the idea of Igerne being both Duchess in the West Country & a princess of Pictland is not at all far-fetched, for dynastical alliances between royal houses is a common feature that continues to this day. Britain’s reigning monarch, for example, Queen Elizabeth II, is married to a Greek, while in the age of Victoria, her many children married into most of the noble houses of Europe. We must also recall from the last chapter how a Pictish name, Drystan, appeared on the Fowey Stone only a few miles from Tintagel as the son of King Mark of Cornwall (see image above). Collating & examining the supporting evidence, & beginning with the latest piece chronologically, Arthur’s connection to Pictland seems to be behind the poetical words of Gruffud ap Meredudd ( fl. 1352-1382 ), who wrote of an ‘Arthur of the highlands, hill country of Prydein,’ where Prydein is the Welsh term for Pictavia. We may confirm this this by correlating the ‘Caw of Prydein’ as given in the Old Welsh tale, Culhwych & Olwen, with the vita of Saint Gildas, which describes King Caw as, ‘the king of Scotia… the noblest of the kings of the north.’
Two centuries prior to Gruffud ap Meredudd, the 12th century French historian, Lambert of Saint-Omer, describes Arthur quite specifically as a Pictish war-leader; ‘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, and rushing upon them, fought valiantly, coming forward as leader in twelve battles.’ Lambert also presents a second Picto-Arthurian tally with, ‘there is in Britain, in the land of the Picts, a palace of the warrior Arthur, built with marvelous art and variety, in which the history of all his exploits and wars is to be seen in sculpture.‘ This palace may have been at Rhynie, deep in the pretty Cairngorms, whose place at the heart of Pictavia is attested by a large number of Pictish Symbol stones found in the vicinity. A definite Arthurian connection to Rhynie comes through Tintagelware, which had fanned out throughout Britain to a series of high-status sites such as South Cadbury & Longbury Bank in the Dyfed parish of Penally. The latter should well have been the capital of Arthur’s Menevian ‘Throne’ as given in the Triads, & I would now like to remind the reader of the northern realm ascribed to Arthur in the same Triad, ‘Penrhionyd in the north,’ whose name easily transchispers into Rhynie.
Just as Cadbury was home to a grand timber feasting hall; & just as at the ‘high-status’ Longbury Bank in Dyfed, Ewan Campbell & Alan Lane suggest ‘there is tenuous evidence for at least one large timber building,’ so have archeologists uncovered a timber feasting hall at Rhynie. Nestled by the Water of Bogie, three fortified Pictish enclosures have been found in recent years – Rhynie’s ‘Royal Mile.’ Dr Gordon Noble describes the site as ‘a very royal place’ full of timber buildings, defense ditches based on the Roman style & wooden palisades – perhaps the bona fide capital of the Dux Pictorum.
The Tap o Noth
In the Welsh language, ‘Pen’ means ‘summit or peak,’ which renders Penrhionyd as meaning ‘Peak of Rhionyd.’ Above Rhynie towers the far-seen Tap o’ Noth, Scotland’s second highest hillfort, complete with impressive triple-ringed defense-works. Cast in such a majestic setting it is well worth a trip to Rhynie, a remarkably compact & pretty village whose residents go about their business quite unaware that they are breathing the same pure & mountain air as Arthur did during his seven-year stint as King of the Picts. There was even found, in 1978, a Pictish stone with an image of a bearded man with a pointy nose, who is wearing a head-dress, sporting a kilt & wielding a double-headed axe. Known as the Rhynie Man, it was taken from Rhynie & placed in the foyer of Aberdeenshire council’s HQ. It is rather a stretch of the imagination to consider it an image of Arthur, but it may be the nearest pictorial image we possess of how the true Arthur would have appeared to his Caledonian contemporaries.
More support for a Pictish Arthur begins with another glance at the King List, where we encounter a certain ‘Drest Gurthinmoch’ as ruling the Picts between 477 & 507. The Gurthinmoch element is the most important here, for when we take another look at Arthur’s northern court as given in the Tribal Thrones Triad…
Arthur the chief lord in Penrhionyd in the north,
And Cyndeyrn Garthwys the chief bishop,
And Gurthmwl Guledic the chief elder
…we can satisfactorily identify ‘Gurthmwl’ with Gurthinmoc.
It makes perfect sense that when Arthur – the chief lord – became the Pictish King in 529, Gurthmwl/Gurthinmoc would have been described as a ‘chief elder.’ He had been a Pictish King himself, ruling for a good thirty years, & combining this nugget with the cornucopia of solid proofs I have provided leads us to only one conclusion… Arthur was at least half Pictish!
Three years after the Battle of Badon, in 519, an otherwise un-sourced brother of Arthur, Drest son of Gygurn, became King of the Picts. What is interesting here is that at one point Drest shared his throne with a certain Drest, son of Uudrost, whose name transchispers into…
It seems probable that the two Drests were actually the same man, genflated into the list as individual sons of his mother & father. Either way, the presence of Uther in the King List, & his appearance beside Igerne, pretty much seals the deal that Garthnach was Arthur. He would be king for only seven years, being succeeded in 536 by ‘Cailtram,’ who appears in Arthuriana as Sir Kay. That same year, according to Big Geoff, Arthur had begun a march on Rome, which we may attach to the historical siege of that city by the Ostrogoths that commenced in March 537. According to Big Geoff, after campaigning in France (in 536) Arthur went on to winter in the same country. The following year, with the summer coming on, Big Geoff describes that after departing for Rome in the old Hannibal style, Arthur; ‘had begun to climb the passes of the mountains, when message was brought him that his nephew Mordred, unto whom he had committed the charge of Britain, had tyrannously and traitorously set the crown of the kingdom upon his own head, and had linked him in unhallowed union with Guenevere the Queen in despite of her former marriage.’ The war which followed is quite succinctly described in the Annales Cambrae;
537 AD The Strife of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell
The location of this ‘deadly battle’ has never been established to satisfaction, but it seems certain it was somewhere in the north parts of Britain, where the Triads place both Picts & Scots at the battle, 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.’ There is also a passage in the Old Welsh tale, The Dream of Rhonabwy, in which a certain Iddawg places the battle in the Pictavian ‘Prydyn.’
I was one of the missionaries in the Camellian battle between Arthur and Medrawd his nephew… I was named in Iddawg Cordd Britain. And because of this the ranks of the troops were distributed at Machman. But, however, three nights before the end of the Camell battle I drove them out and I came to Lech Las in Prydyn to eat.
Both Machman & Lech Las are unknown to modernity, but Machman certainly feels like Clackmannan, a town just to the east of Stirling. Named after the pre-Christian ‘Stone of Mannau,’ it would have been the perfect location-beacon upon which Arthur’s armies would have assembled before Camlann. Solid Scottish remembrances of the battle can be found in the 16th century Scottish history by the very erudite Hector Boece;
In that deadly battle more than twenty thousand Scots and Picts, together with King Modredus and a great host of the nobles of both nations. About thirty thousand of the Britons and their Bretagne auxiliaries died, including King Arthur and Modredus’ brother Gawanus, who was so loyal to Arthur that he fought against his brother that day.
This passage contains a lovely piece of information that adds peripheral support to Arthur’s historicity. The mention of ‘Bretagne auxiliaries’ finds a correlation in a ‘legio bretonum’ mentioned in the The Life of Saint Dalmas of Rodez (c.800 A.D.) who were stationed ‘Ultralegeretanis,’ or ‘beyond the Loire.’ Of its date, ‘all one can conclude for sure,‘ opines Australian scholar Howard M. Wiseman, ‘is that the incident took place between 534 or 541.’ During Arthur’s continental adventures in the year before Camlann, he is seen campaigning heavily in Burgundy, & may have been the very leader of the ‘legio bretonum‘ as mentioned in the vita.
Returning to Boece, when adding to the casualty list at Camlann, he tells us, ‘furthermore, there died Caimus, Gwalinus, and nearly the entire British nobility.’ We should take particular notice of the demise of a certain Caimus. This man, I believe, was the same fellow as Arthur’s successor to the Pictish throne, Cailtram. According to the King List, Cailtram ruled the Picts for only a year, ending his short stint on the throne on 537, heavily supporting the Cailtram to Caimus babel-chain. Another northern king to die in 537 was Comgall, king of the Scots, as given by the Annals of Tigernach;
537 - Comgall, Domangart’s son, King of Scotland, fell in the 35th year of his reign
By this use of the word ‘fell’ we must come to the conclusion that Comgall died in battle – in the very same year as our seismic battle at Camlann. The ‘gall’ element of his name also philochisps into Gwalinus; & one cannot help but feel that when Boece places Caimus & Gwalinus side-by-side in death, he is referring to them as the kings of the Picts & the Scots. On the other hand, it is difficult to believe that these two monarchs would have marched their armies all the way to Cornwall, where Camelford is thought by some to be the site of Camlann. This Cornish legend is more of an unsupported factochisp based upon a philochisp, a common error in historical investigations. Looking for the ‘Camellian battle‘ in the north, however, brings us to a possible philochisp found in the Pictish heartlands at Carmyllie, near Dundee – & one that may be supported by a definitive local tradition.
Travelling to the edge of the parish, & ascending the ridge over the gentle Vinney water, one may see the village of Dunnichen in the valley below. It is to the north of that sparklingly pretty townlet, in the gently undulating agricultural landscape of East Mains, that a memory of the battle of Camlann remained long in the folkspeech of the natives, where a transchispering whisper of an Arthurian battle having taken place there refused to fade into nothingness. In the second statistical account of Scotland (1845), the Rev. Mr Headrick records, ‘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.’ An Arthurian battle at Dunnichen is hinted at by a clear topographical reference in the locality; of which John Stuart-Glennie declared, ‘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.’ Was this hill the site of Arthur’s camp at the battle of Camlann?
Archeology has proven that a substantial conflict had been fought in the locality. A Pictish stone was dug up on East Mains, of which instance Headrick observes in 1833’s Statistical Account that, ‘a good many years ago, there was turned up with the plough a large flat stone, on which is cut a rude outline of an armed warrior’s head and shoulders; and not many years ago, the plough also uncovered some graves in another part of the same farm. These graves consisted of flat stones on all sides. They were filled with human bones, and urns of red clay with rude ornaments upon them ; the urns being filled with whitish ashes. By exposure to the air, the bones and urns mouldered to dust.‘ To this information, Andrew Jervise adds (PSAS II, 1854–7), ‘on the lands of Lownie also, (the original property of the Auchterlonies) & in the King’s muir adjoining, a variety of ancient graves have been now and then discovered.’ Also at Dunnichen was found one of the most remarkable symbol-stones in the Pictish pantheon. It had been dug up in 1811 in a field named ‘Chasel’ (Castle) park at East Mains, & moved to the church yard at Aberlemno. One side of this wonderfully carved stone shows a battle in full swing, presumably between the long-haired Picts & what appears to be helmet-wearing Saxons. Camlann was fought on an international scale, a great civil war in which Mordred obtained military assistance from the Saxons, with the Triads telling 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.’
We also have an account of Guinevere being imprisoned in the locality after the battle. Hector Boece, following, ‘Vairement, Tergotus, and other reliable writers of our national history, because they record things more truthfully, without the tales of itinerant minstrels,’ writes that after the Battle of Camlann, Guinevere was taken to a hill-fort in Perthshire. In May 2014, I decided to investigate the matter for myself, writing it up in the following blogpost;
Queen Guinevere’s Grave
May 16, 2014
It has been quite a week. Only the other day I made the first inroads into the previously unfathomable mysteries of the Voynich manuscript, then yesterday I began my initial forays into the academic minefield that are the Pictish symbols. These enigmatic images are found on memorial stones & bits of jewelry across northern Britain, & their true meaning has remained a mystery. Speculation has abounded, but with no Pictish literature to speak of, nothing has ever been able to be properly verified. A lovely clutch of them can be found at a place called Meigle, so two days ago I secured the company of my friend Victor Pope (& his plus one free bus pass) & head off into Scotland in search of a Pictish stone. Our journey took us from Edinburgh, over the red-iron leviathan that is Queensferry Bridge, an experience which reminds me of crossing the Goan river estuaries. From there we trundled through Dumfermline & the western reaches of Fife, before arriving in the gorgeous, stately Tayside town of Perth. Changing busses, we now set off east in the direction of Dundee, along the lush stretch of undulating Green that is the Strathmore.
After passing through Coupar Angus, the bus veered north-east for a while & took us to the exquisitely compact & cute townlet of Alyth, over which stands the earthy remains of a majestic Pictish hill-fort. Full of Arthuriana, the 16th century Scottish historian Hector Boece writes that following the disastrous battle of Camlann, in which Arthur met his doom, Guinevere was taken to Alyth;
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.
The bus then trundled on another 3 miles, dropping me & Vic off at Meigle. We had an hour to spend there, the purpose of the visit being to check out the collection of Pictish stones found in the village churchyard & gathered together inside a small, yet atmospheric museum. Luckily, Vic’s plus one bus pass got us in half-price (£2.25 each) & we had a jolly good time checking out the marvelous carvings of a long-dead race. Outside the church there is also 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.’
The connection between the mound & the grave comes from a massive symbol stone at whose center stands a figure in a dress being torn apart by lions – local folklore suggests this is Guinevere being attacked for getting it on with Mordred. Other scholars think it might likely to be the biblical Daniel, who also got torn apart by lions & appears elsewhere in Pictish imagery. Anyway, that is our starting block; two separate traditions placing Guinevere in the vicinity of Meigle. The thing is, the reason I’d hauled ass up into this pretty corner of Scotland was that I had a different idea as to the location of Guinevere’s grave. So me & Vic jumps on a bus three miles down the road to Newtyle, chomping on a bridie as we went, from where we began a six mile hike back to Coupar Angus through fields full of May flowers & buzzing insectry. Across the Strathmore the Grampians began their epic journey north to the Moray Firth, with pockets of snow still skipping the tallest peaks in the distance.
About two miles into the walk, Vic & I came across 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 the stone, 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.‘ In 1856, John Stuart-Glennie reported there was a ‘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.
Of the mysterious Pictish symbols on the stone, the presence of a rimmed mirror & comb combo seems to reflect the eternal female predilection for making themselves beautiful. In the 7th century, Bede records Pope Boniface sending the combo to a Saxon Queen, called Ethelberga. In Bede’s account, he reprints the Pope’s letter to the queen in its entirety, an extract of which reads;
We have, moreover, sent you the blessing of your protector, St. Peter, the prince of the apostles, that is, a silver looking-glass, and a gilt ivory comb, which we entreat your glory will receive with the same kind affection as it is known to be sent by us.
To finish my post I would just like to hypothesise upon a possible factochisp that had taken in the locality. It is true that Guinevere & her fellow nobles were taken in captivity to Alyth, where ‘they were detained and spent the rest of their lives in wretched servitude.’ On their deaths they were buried at the Keillar stone, but over the passage of time, the local tradition that Guinevere was buried in the area, was accidentally shifted to the Vanora Mound at nearby Meigle.
Back in 2017, one final clue to Camlann’s siting at Dunnichen lies in a long-lost church which once stood in the village. Known as St Causnan’s Chapel, the name is a chispological degeneration of Saint Constantine, Arthur’s kinsman, who received the kingship of the Britons on the field of Camlann itself, when Big Geoff tells us, ‘even the renowned King Arthur himself was wounded deadly, and was borne thence unto the island of Avalon for the healing of his wounds, where he gave up the crown of Britain unto his kinsman Constantine.’ This crucial passage introduces us to the concept of Avalon, or ‘the Isle of Apples,’ one of the most mysterious & magical places in British mythology. An alternative name, ‘Afallach,’ is given in the Triads.
Three Dishonoured Men who were in the Island of Britain: There took place the Battle of Camlan between Arthur and Medrawd, and was himself wounded to death. And from that (wound) he died, and was buried in a hall on the Island of Afallach
According to legend, Arthur sailed to Afallach to be treated for his wounds by Morgan Le fey & her nine maidens. The Somerset idyll of crankpots, fine scrumpy & quaint, old streets that is Glastonbury has for a long time staked a claim to its being the Arthurian Avalon, even going so far as to fake Arthur’s grave at the back-end of the 12th century. In 1190, an ancient coffin was ‘discovered,’ by the monks of Glastonbury, in which was found a woman’s bones with the hair still intact. Another coffin was unearthed underneath her, which was found to contain a man’s bones. This being removed, they subsequently found a third coffin upon which a lead cross had been placed, which bore the inscription, ‘Here lies the famous king Arthur, buried in the isle of Avalon.’ On opening the third coffin, they found large & sturdy bones, which the monks transferred with suitable honour and much pomp into a marble tomb in their church. They also declared that the other two coffins contained the bones of Guinevere, & waited for the tourists to pour in.
Looking deeper into the initial discovery, we learn that the Abbey was in deep financial trouble. A few years before the discovery, in 1184, the monastic buildings & church of Glastonbury had been burnt to the ground. Money was needed, & with the relics of saints being big business at the time, these wily monks ‘found’ the bones of Saint Patrick. Widespread belief in an Irish burial site soon put paid to that particular claim, & the bones of Saint Dunstan ‘discovered,’ not long after were dismissed just as swiftly. By 1189, with Richard the Lionheart pressing the churches for financial assistance to aid his crusade, the monks were getting desperate. How fortuitous an occasion it was, then, that the bones of King Arthur were unearthed the next year!
As seems likely, the Monks of Glastonbury had made the whole thing up, meaning the search for Arthur’s grave is back on. With Camlann being fought at Dunnichen, common sense tells us we are looking for an island with orchards somewhere in the vicinity. There is such a place; for as long as anyone can remember a rich & fertile tract of land in Perthshire called the Carse of Gowrie has flourished with that Fruit of Eve, the apple. The Carse still retains the pleasant moniker of ‘the Garden of Scotland,’ whose once sprawling historic orchards have dwindled to only five wee woods in the modern age; Bogmiln, Inchyra Farm, Muirhouses, Newbigging & Templehall. In days long gone, a holy Pictish community once prospered in the vicinity of Inchyra Farm, as attested by a tall cross slab discovered at St Madoes, which is now in the Perth Museum. Just on the edge of St Madoes we come to Inchyra House, a place of great significance to our investigation on account of two particular Dark Age relics, which placed side-by-side very much invoke the idea that Inchyra was once Avalon.
The first is a Pictish grave, discovered by ploughing in 1945, & situated 100 meters south of Inchyra House. The remains were been covered by a large decorated flat slab and forty-nine water-rolled stones. This may well be Arthur’s, for the Triads say he was buried on, ‘a hall on the Island of Afallach.’ The skeletal remains were later re-buried. The second relique can still be seen an arrow shot from Inchyra House; the once prominent conical tumulus known as the Witch Knowe. Roundabout the year 1830 a gardener called James Powrie, removed several cartloads of stones, urns and numerous calcined bones. That the remians were buried at the ‘Witch Knowe’ provides a solid link to the attepted magical healing of Arthur after Camlan. It seems quite casual to just slip in the fact that Arthur may have been buried in the grounds of Inchyra, but further evidences suggest as much. An antique Welsh poem called Pa Gur has Arthur up to all sorts of obscure deeds in even obscurer places, including;
In the hall of Awarnach
Fighting with a hag
He cleft the head of Paiach
Here we have a clear philochisp for the Hall of Afallach, where the Triads say Arthur was buried. If this was at Inchyra, then of course the ‘Witch Knowe’ connects with the ‘Hag’ at Awarnach. That Arthur was buried in the area can also be ascertained through the following babel-chain;
According to a poem known as the Stanzas of the Graves, found in the 13th century ‘Black Book of Carmathen, among a comprehensive list of the burial sites of ancient Welsh heroes we read; ‘Anoeth, the grave of Arthur.’ In this area we can also place Arthur’s ‘nurse,’ Morgan Le fey. Constructing a babel-chain around her name leads us to St Madoes, the village by Inchyra House. In the chain we encounter a variant of Madoes – Madianus – & the name o yet another Dark Age female sorceress, Modron.
In Celtic mythology, Modron was the daughter of Avallach, whose husband was a certain Urien of Rheged with whom she sired a prince called Owain. Likewise, Morgan Le fey was said to be the wife of King Urien of Rheged, with whom she sired a certain Prince Owain. The two are clearly the same woman, with the philochisp occurring during the transference of Modron’s legend to Brittany, where the figure of Morgan Le fey first prospered in folk-tales & literature.
Fifteen centuries ago, the alluvial flood plain that is the Carse of Gowrie was a patchwork of many islands, including Inchyra, whose phonetic ‘inch’ stems from the Gaelic name for ‘small island.’ The land upon which the Witch Knowe was raised does rather feel like it was in the island in the past, about a football pitch’s worth. From this place, & on crossing the Tay estuary, one comes to quaint Abernethy, the capital of the southern Pictland. The town even gets a mention in the Pictish King List, as in, ‘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.’ The vocal, local folklore of Abernethy relates how back in the 6th century Saint Brigit sent nine maidens to the town from Ireland. Their healing skills would have been among the best in Dark Age Britain, & transporting the mortally wounded Arthur to their bosom after Camlann would have been the best option at the time. In his Vita Merlini, Big Geoff describes the nine sisters of Avalon in a classic creochisp based upon Saint Bridget’s maidens at Abernethy;
There nine sisters rule by a pleasing set of laws those who come to them from our country. She who is first of them is more skilled in the healing art, and excels her sisters in the beauty of her person. Morgen is her name, and she has learned what useful properties all the herbs contain, so that she can cure sick bodies…. And men say that she has taught mathematics to her sisters, Moronoe, Mazoe, Gliten, Glitonea, Gliton, Tyronoe, Thitis; Thitis best known for her cither. Thither after the battle of Camlan we took the wounded Arthur, guided by Barinthus to whom the waters and the stars of heaven were well known. With him steering the ship we arrived there with the prince, and Morgen received is with fitting honour, and in her chamber she placed the king on a golden bed and with her own hand she uncovered his honourable wound and gazed at it for a long time. At length she said that health could be restored to him if he stayed with her for a long time and made use of her healing art. Rejoicing, therefore, we entrusted the king to her and returning spread our sails to the favouring winds.
Unfortunately for Arthur, his wounds turned out to be outwith the pale of even the abilities of Morgan Le fey, & so Death came & claimed him. That he was buried in a ‘hall’ in the future grounds of Inchyra House certainly feels right, & I began to investigate the matter further. What I discovered was something quite beautiful which all but confirms, in chispological terms, that Arthur was once buried under that ornate Pictish slab & its 49 water-rolled stones discovered at Inchrya in 1945.
One sleepless night during the writing of this book, as I stared at the ceiling in my bedroom, I was picturing the stone & the Ogham letters inscribed into it. While ruminating on the matter further I came to the conclusion that; if I was right, & Arthur was buried at Inchyra, the Ogham inscription on the stone might mention Arthur, Uther or Igerne in some capacity. A wee google later & the pdf was on my screen of a 1959 paper on the Inchyra Stone by written by Robert Stevenson. To my sleepy joy, the Ogham inscriptions appeared, as transliterated by FT Wainwright. Of their academic accuracy, Stevenson wrote; ‘Professor K.H.Jackson, who examined the stone along with us, is in general agreements.’ The first inscription reads…
…in which one can see Anoeth, as in the babel-chain;
It is the inscription on one of the stone’s edges that gives us the winning ticket;
In the Welsh tradition, Igerne is given the name Eigr, & thus in the Ogham inscription above we can quite positively see the names of Arthur’s legendary parents;
That the philochisps of Arthur’s burial site at Anoeth & the names of both of his parents appear on a single stone are just two more of the many ‘coincidences’ that paint Inchyra as the original Avalon. This means simply that King Arthur was – & still is – buried in the grounds. Inches was not the first time I had found Arthur’s grave, however, for back in my early days as a trainee chispologist I had deciphered another dark-age inscription, & come to the conclusion that Arthur & Mordred had been buried in a romantic glen in the Scottish Borders. It turned out I was wrong, but what I didn’t realise at the time was instead of finding Arthur, I’d actually found the guy who’d found the Holy Grail…
Next Wednesday, 20/12/17
The Holy Grail