Daily Archives: September 15, 2015

Dark Age Candles (vi)


Raisin’ Rheged

There will not be found a match for the chief of the glittering west
The Death Song of Owain
My bird at Pendle, a couple of miles from Roughlee.
My bird at Pendle, a couple of miles from Roughlee.

I am currently sat in Preston library on my way back to Scotland. In front of me is the Shakespeare-connecting ‘History of the House of Stanley,’ of Seacome (1793) which has been clicking my history head back into shape & reminded me I had started this little series of investigative nuggets called Dark Age Candles. Getting back into the groove, then, I’d like to show you something I noticed only as recently as last week. The game begins earlier this year,  when I managed to place Germanic tribes in East Lancashire, namely the Wends & the Rugii. I had shown that their possible arrival in Britain occured in the late 3rd century after their defeat upon mainland Europe the Romans & their subsequent resettlement in in the Lancashire wilderness.  I showed how another name for the Wends – the Sorbs – appears in Sabden, to which we can also add the River Hodder in Bowland, a lovely match to the River Oder of the continental Wends. Also among the Wendish peoples were the Rugii, whose name appears in Roggerham near Burnley, & also – as I discovered last week on a drive round Pendle with my bird – at Roughlee – which was originally known as Rugelea.

The general dynamic of this series is that of showing the Gothic & Nordic roots to the British kingdoms that rose up in the wake of the Roman evacuations. I have already shown in the last post how the grand-daddy of them all – Old King Cole – was in fact a Norwegian sea-raider, & in the next post we shall be looking at his descendants in more detail.  Before then, I would just like to examine this new placing of the Rugi in the Pendle area & check its ramifications for the rest of British history.

Roughlee Hall
Roughlee Hall

Through the chispological process, a natural babel-chain would appear as;

Rugi – Ruge (lea) – Rege 

Rege then leads us quite neatly to Rheged- a famous dark-age kingdom whose territories are only suspected. The only place for certain we can connect to Rheged seems to be about the River Lyvennet near Penrith in Cumbria, for in the Book of Taleisin we read;

To me has been extended.
The lofty Llwyvenydd 
(A Song for Urien Rheged)
Urien will not refuse me
The lands of Llwyvenydd
(The Satisfaction of Urien)
Like a wave that governs Llwyvenydd.
(The Spoils of Taliesin)

numbria7BigFor me, Rheged is the kingdom carved out by the Wends / Rugi – which gives us an excellent explanation for the etymology of Windemere – the lake of the Wends – only a few miles from the River Llwyvenydd.  Modern academical  leanings have suggested that the kingdom stretched as far as Dunragit, in Galloway, & to Rochdale in the south which was originally ‘Recedham.’ (The River Roch was recorded in the 13th century as Rached or Rachet). With Rochdale being only a  few miles from Roggerham & Roughlee, we gain some sort of sense that the core area of Rheged was between East Lancashire & north Cumbria. Support for this comes from the Taliesinian poem, ‘In praise of Rheged,’ which describes Urien fighting battles beyond his territories, in Ayrshire (Aeron) SE Scotland (Gododdin) & NE Wales, as in;

Urien came in his day to Aeron,

There was no warrior, was no welcome,

Noble-browed Urien, against Powys…

…Bold against Gododdin, bright leader.


Returning to the river Lyvennet, we see that its channel flows into the Eden & subsequently the Solway firth, at the northern sea-end of which stands Dunragit. Now, if Eden is etymologically drawn from Woden or Odin, as is likely, we can infer that the Rhegedians were Odin worshippers – which makes them either Teutonic or Nordi. In all likelihood, Rheged means – ‘place of the Rugii’, & in support we must acknowledge that the Rugii were based in both the German areas of central Europe & also believed to have inhabited Rogeland in Norway. The latter area is only a hundred miles  south of  Gulen, where I believe the name Guletic to come from, by the way, & was a core territory of King Cole.



It seems his territories covered major swathes of North Britain, & along two branches of his lineage we see two kings of Rheged; Urien & a king of South Rheged known as Llywarch Hen, the latter given in the 10th century Laws of Hywel Da. The division between North & South Rheged seems to have been made at the death of King Merchian, as in;






North Rheged                       South Rheged

Cynfarch                                     Elidir Lydanwyn

Urien                                                      Llywarch Hen

That Urien was king of ‘North Rheged’ is supported by the ‘Mote of Mark’ hillfort in Galloway, named after Cynfarch, the Brythonic name for Mark. With Urien’s capital being near Penrith, then it makes sense that Llywarch Hen’s capital would have been to the south of here; perhaps Bowland but at least  East Lancashire. The region about Rochdale contains a proliferation of connecting tribal names, including the River Win & Vinheath near Burnley.  In support of Llywarch’s reign there, after being driven out of his kingdom by the invading Bernicians, he sought the safety of Powys – a neighbouring kingdom of North Wales.
Walton Spire
Walton Spire
To finish this post I’d like to speculate on the details of a battle I believe was fought near Burnley, in which Urien fought a slew a Welsh king in 534AD.  We begin with a Taliesn poem, ‘In Praise of Rheged’ which places Urien at a battle site known as ‘Prysg Catleu.’ With Prysg meaning ‘brushwood,’ we get the idea of a funeral pyre for a certain Catleu. In the vita of Bishop Wilfrid, we gain another mention of Catleu, as in;
Iuxta rippel et ingaedyne et in regione dunitinga et incaetlaevum
 This translates as, ‘they gave Wilfrid land round Ribble, Yeadon, Dent, and Catlow,’ which places Catlow in the central Pennines. The obvious choice is Catlow, near Burnley, where just underneath a dark-age ‘Walton’s’ monument on Shelfied hill, we have two tumului – a very large one, & a smaller mound to its side. Does the smalller mound mark the brushwood-pyre of Catleu, & the larger one the rest of that battle’s casualties? If so, the best candidate for  Catleu is King Cadwallon Lauhir, the father of the famous Maelgwyn Gwynned, who according to the 12th century Annals of Redon made by Robert Torigny, died in 534. A variant name is Catgollaun, as given in the Gwynned king-list found in Harleian MSS, 3859.

Run map Mailcun map Catgolaun Lauhir map Eniaun girt


We now come to Saxo Grammaticus, in whose Danish History we come to the following extended account of a Scandinavian incursion, led by the famous Frodo,  into Britain & Ireland.


This it was that chiefly led Frode to attack the West, for his one desire was the spread of peace. So he summoned Erik, and mustered a fleet of all the kingdoms that bid him allegiance, and sailed to Britain with numberless ships. But the king of that island, perceiving that he was unequal in force (for the ships seemed to cover the sea), went to Frode, affecting to surrender, and not only began to flatter his greatness, but also promised to the Danes, the conquerors of nations, the submission of himself and of his country; proffering taxes, assessment, tribute, what they would. Finally, he gave them a hospitable invitation. Frode was pleased with the courtesy of the Briton, though his suspicions of treachery were kept by so ready and unconstrained a promise of everything, so speedy a surrender of the enemy before fighting; such offers being seldom made in good faith. They were also troubled with alarm about the banquet, fearing that as drunkenness came on their sober wits might be entangled in it, and attacked by hidden treachery. So few guests were bidden, moreover, that it seemed unsafe for them to accept the invitation; and it was further thought foolish to trust their lives to the good faith of an enemy whom they did not know.

When the king found their minds thus wavering he again approached Frode, and invited him to the banquet with 2,400 men; having before bidden him to come to the feast with 1,200 nobles. Frode was encouraged by the increase in the number of guests, and was able to go to the banquet with greater inward confidence; but he could not yet lay aside his suspicions, and privily caused men to scour the interior and let him know quickly of any treachery which they might espy. On this errand they went into the forest, and, coming upon the array of an armed encampment belonging to the forces of the Britons, they halted in doubt, but hastily retraced their steps when the truth was apparent. For the tents were dusky in colour, and muffled in a sort of pitchy coverings, that they might not catch the eye of anyone who came near. When Frode learned this, he arranged a counter-ambuscade with a strong force of nobles, that he might not go heedlessly to the banquet, and be cheated of timely aid. They went into hiding, and he warned them that the note of the trumpet was the signal for them to bring assistance. Then with a select band, lightly armed, he went to the banquet. The hall was decked with regal splendour; it was covered all round with crimson hangings of marvellous rich handiwork. A curtain of purple dye adorned the propelled walls. The flooring was bestrewn with bright mantles, which a man would fear to trample on. Up above was to be seen the twinkle of many lanterns, the gleam of lamps lit with oil, and the censers poured forth fragrance whose sweet vapour was laden with the choicest perfumes. The whole way was blocked by the tables loaded with good things; and the places for reclining were decked with gold-embroidered couches; the seats were full of pillows. The majestic hall seemed to smile upon the guests, and nothing could be noticed in all that pomp either inharmonious to the eye or offensive to the smell. In the midst of the hall stood a great butt ready for refilling the goblets, and holding an enormous amount of liquor; enough could be drawn from it for the huge revel to drink its fill. Servants, dressed in purple, bore golden cups, and courteously did the office of serving the drink, pacing in ordered ranks. Nor did they fail to offer the draught in the horns of the wild ox.



The feast glittered with golden bowls, and was laden with shining goblets, many of them studded with flashing jewels. The place was filled with an immense luxury; the tables groaned with the dishes, and the bowls brimmed over with divers liquors. Nor did they use wine pure and simple, but, with juices sought far and wide, composed a nectar of many flavours. The dishes glistened with delicious foods, being filled mostly with the spoils of the chase; though the flesh of tame animals was not lacking either. The natives took care to drink more sparingly than the guests; for the latter felt safe, and were tempted to make an orgy; while the others, meditating treachery, had lost all temptations to be drunken. So the Danes, who, if I may say so with my country’s leave, were seasoned to drain the bowl against each other, took quantities of wine. The Britons, when they saw that the Danes were very drunk, began gradually to slip away from the banquet, and, leaving their guests within the hall, made immense efforts, first to block the doors of the palace by applying bars and all kinds of obstacles, and then to set fire to the house. The Danes were penned inside the hall, and when the fire began to spread, battered vainly at the doors; but they could not get out, and soon attempted to make a sally by assaulting the wall. And the Angles, when they saw that it was tottering under the stout attack of the Danes, began to shove against it on their side, and to prop the staggering pile by the application of large blocks on the outside, to prevent the wall being shattered and releasing the prisoners. But at last it yielded to the stronger hand of the Danes, whose efforts increased with their peril; and those pent within could sally out with ease. Then Frode bade the trumpet strike in, to summon the band that had been posted in ambush; and these, roused by the note of the clanging bugle, caught the enemy in their own trap; for the King of the Britons, with countless hosts of his men, was utterly destroyed. Thus the band helped Frode doubly, being both the salvation of his men and the destruction of his enemies.


That the King of the ‘Angles’ was Cadwallon is hinted at by his core territory in Gwynned (North Wales), where the island of Anglesey remembers the presence of the Angles. More support comes through a litological analysis of  the rest of Frodo’s chevauchee through the British Isles.


Meantime the renown of the Danish bravery spread far, and moved the Irish to strew iron calthrops on the ground, in order to make their land harder to invade, and forbid access to their shores. Now the Irish use armour which is light and easy to procure. They crop the hair close with razors, and shave all the hair off the back of the head, that they may not be seized by it when they run away. They also turn the points of their spears towards the assailant, and deliberately point their sword against the pursuer; and they generally fling their lances behind their back, being more skilled at conquering by flight than by fighting. Hence, when you fancy that the victory is yours, then is the moment of danger. But Frode was wary and not rash in his pursuit of the foe who fled so treacherously, and he routed Kerwil, the leader of the nation, in battle. Kerwil’s brother survived, but lost heart for resistance, and surrendered his country to the king (Frode), who distributed among his soldiers the booty he had won, to show himself free from all covetousness and excessive love of wealth, and only ambitious to gain honour.



The obvious candidate for Kerwil would be the Irish king, Cairell mac Muiredaig Muinderg. According to the Annals of Tigernach, he was succeeded by Eochaidh son of Connlac, king of Ulaid in 532. In the year previously Tigernach tells us

531 – The battle of Éblenn won by Muircheartach son of Erc; the battle of Mag Ailbe gained over Leinster, and the battle of Aidhne over Connacht, and the battles of Almain and Cenn Eich over Leinster, and the plundering of the Cliu in one year

That the Irish Annals are  slightly inaccurate & discrepant is widely recognized, each date is always open to movement a year or two in either direction , & only truly accepted if supported by other historical records. In this particular case, I would just like to point out that the events as described by Tigernach for 531, are given the date 533 by the Annals of Ulster, as in;

533 The battle of Ebblenn won by Muirchertach; and the battle of Mag Ailbe won against the Laigin, and the battle of Aidne against the Connachta, and the battle of Almuin, and the battle of Cenn Eich against the Laigin, and the ravaging of Clui in one year.

According to the Ulster chronology, Eochaidh son of Connlac would have come to the throne of 534AD, meaning his father Cairell would have died in the same year. If he is the same man as Kerwill, then a king of the Angles also died in 534 – which must surely have been the Anglesey based Cadwallon Lauhir, king of Gwynned. One also suspects that the large mound under Walton’s spire contains the remains of the feasting hall burnt by Frodo. All this reinforces my slowly-building theorum that the British Isles were taken over almost completely by invading continentals, not only those in the south & east. This supports that long-unacknowledged reference by Procopius of the ‘Goths’ having partioned Britain by the 530s. The information is contained in a letter of negotiation between the Goths besieged in Rome by Belisarius in 538.


 And the bararians said: “That everything which we have said is true no one of you can be unaware. But in order that we may not seem to be contentious, we give up to you Sicily, great as it is and of such wealth, seeing that without it you cannot possess Libya in security.” And Belisarius replied: “And we on our side permit the Goths to have the whole of Britain, which is much larger than Sicily and was subject to the Romans in early times. For it is only fair to make an equal return to those who first do a good deed or perform a kindness.”