Daily Archives: September 24, 2015

Dark Age Candles (vii)


 King Caw

Dumbarton Rock
Dumbarton Rock

A few posts back I showed how King Coel, the patriarch of a number of Dark Age north-Brittanic dynasties, was originally a king of Norway. It is now time to look at his son & grand-son, an analysis of whom will help us fill in a few more gaps in the black-hole tapestry of the Dark Ages. According to the genealogy known as ‘Descent of the Men of the North,’ King Coel was followed by a certain Ceneu. Using chispology, we can start to see how this particular name was written in different places. For example Peniarth 75 MS gives us;

Enniawn ap Masgwic Kloff ap Kanaui ap Koel Godeboc

Here Ceneu is spelt ‘Kanaui,’  the Naui element of which is more or less given  in the 12th century vita of Gildas by Caradoc of Llancarfan;

Nau, the king of Scotia, was the noblest of the kings of the north. He had twenty-four sons, victorious warriors. One of these was named Gildas, whom his parents engaged in the study of literature

In several Welsh Tales, such as ‘Culhwych & Olwen,‘ ‘The Dream of Rhonabway’ & ‘Gereint & Enid,‘ the same saint is known as ‘Gildas son of Caw.‘ Putting Caw & Nau together gives us something highly akin to Kanaui, as in



Caw Nau is also extremely similar to a certain ‘Cawr Nur’ who gets a couple of mentions in ancient Welsh poetry, each time appearing in an Arthurian context.

Did not he lead from Cawrnur
Horses pale supporting burdens?
The sovereign elder.
The generous feeder.
The third deep wise one,
To bless Arthur,
Arthur the blessed,
In a compact song.

 The Chair of the Sovereign


Have I not been accustomed to blood about the wrathful,
A sword-stroke daring against the sons of Cawrnur?
I shared my shelter,
a ninth share in Arthur’s valour.

The Death Song of Uther Pendragon


Stirling Casteel - most likely the Mount Bannoch of St Cadog's vita
Stirling Casteel – most likely the Mount Bannog of St Cadog’s vita

In both poems we get a hint of a conflict between Arthur fought against  Cawrnur himself & also his sons. Both the curious spelling of ‘Cawr’ & the fact that he had relatively famous sons can be connected to a certain King Caw, a famous king of Strathclyde. We have already seen how King Caw had 24 sons, while in the vita of St Cadog, we encounter the phantasm of Caw, who heralds from beyond Mount Bannog, i.e.  the highlands to the north of Stirling where flows the famous Bannockburn. He tells us;

Beyond mount Bannog formerly I reigned for very many years. It happened that by devilish impulse I with troops of my plunderers arrived on these coasts for the sake of pillaging the same and wasting them. But the king who at that time reigned over this kingdom, pursuing us with his army, slew me and my host, when we had joined battle together… The man of the Lord asks by what name he was called. And he replies, ‘Caw Prydyn, or Cawr, was I called formerly

Combining all the evidence we can now assume that the son of King Cole was King Caw, whose name appears in variants such as Cawrnur & Ceneu. He had at least one famous son, Saint Gildas, but it is to another of his boys that we must now avert our attention. His name is Hueil, of whom the Welsh triads (#21) tell us was one of the, ‘Three-Battle Diademed Men of the Island of Britain’ alongside Cai and Drustan (but inferior to Bedwyr).


Just as changed the spelling of the name of King Caw & countless other Dark Age figures, so in the Breton Vita Gildae, Caw was succeeded as king by his warlike son Cuillus, which must surely be Hueil. The ‘Cuill’ element of Cuillus leads us neatly to the Cuillin hills of Skye, a range named after, as I have stated in an earlier post,  a certain Herulo-Pictish king known as Galan Erilic. This now leads us to a certain Celin, who appears among Caw’s children, as recorded in Culhwch and Olwen, & seems to be the etymylogical root of Twrcelyn in Anglesey. This place was the site of a monastery of St Cadog himself,   where three miles away once stood the oratories of Egreas, Alleccus & Peteova, three more of the children of Caw.

The idea is that Hueil, Cuilin, Celin and Galan Erilic are all the same person. This makes the son of King Caw a Herulian, which indicates that Caw, & his father King Cole, should have been Herulian also. The Cawr spelling of Caw actually translates as ‘giant’ which fits in perfectly with the description of the Herulians given in the 6th by Jordanes in his Geatica;

Now in the island of Scandza, whereof I speak, there dwell many and divers nations… the Dani, who trace their origin to the same stock, drove from their homes the Heruli, who lay claim to preëminence among all the nations of Scandza for their tallness.



To conclude this post, I would just like to highlight the connection between the name Cawrnur & the Njars, a Dark Age Swedish tribe. If Cawr means giant, then Cawr Nur would mean ‘Giant Nur.’ This leads is to the original ‘Ner’ used instead of Njar in the Old Norse sources. Their homelands were in the province of Närke, south-central Sweden, & their appearance in the ‘Lay of Weyland the smith,’ appears to be of interest to British history. It places a certain Níðuðr as a king in Sweden.

When the Lord of the Njars, Nidud, heard
That Völund sat in Wolfdale alone,
He sent warriors forth: white their shield-bosses
In the waning moon, and their mail glittered. 

For me, that the name Níðuðr contains the phonetics of places like Nithsdale in Galloway can be no coincidence…