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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