Daily Archives: December 16, 2014

The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 6)



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.



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.



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!


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.



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.


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.



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.



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.’


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.



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. 




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.