The Quest for the Holy Grail (part 13)

13 – YARROW

 

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For over thirteen centuries the Yarrow Stone lay undiscovered in a sleepy corner of south Scotland, slowly eroding beneath the sod, its epic secret fading into obscurity. That was until two hundred years ago, a five-foot long block of solid greywhacke was disturbed from its earthy slumbers by simple farmers ploughing the virgin moor. The discovery was made at Whitehope farm, just outside the pretty village of Yarrow, nine miles west of Selkirk in the heart of the Scottish borders. George Eyre-Todd (Byways of the Scottish Border) writes, ‘Previous to 1808 the neighbourhood of the glebe was a low waste moor, with some twenty large cairns upon it, in which, when opened, were found some heaps of fine yellow dust and the head of an antique spear. About three hundred yards further to the west, when the strath was being broken in by the plough, a large flat stone was laid bare. It contained a Latin inscription, rudely engraved.’

This exciting & curiously inscribed stone was taken to the Duke of Buccleugh’s home, at nearby Bowhill House, for examination. Eminent archaeologists & antiquarians hungered to examine it, including such luminaries as Sir Walter Scott, Dr John Leyden & Mungo Park. After its examination the stone was returned to its home on the moor, but erroneously placed in an upright position. It had originally been laid horizontal on the ground, whereby standing it bolt upright we visitors must bend our necks sideways in order to read the inscription. On doing so we are faced with a Latin memorial scoured out of the rock in large scraggly capital letters.

HIC MEMORIAE ETI BELLO INSIGNISIMI
PRINCI PES NUDI
DUMNOGENI HIC IACENT IN TUMULO DUO FILII LIBERALII

The accepted translation reads;

This is an everlasting memorial.
In this place lie the most famous princes
Nudi and Dumnogeni
In this tomb lie the two sons of Liberalis.

Academic consensus states that the site was a burial ground for two Christian princes of the fifth to sixth centuries AD – but which two? For me, a lovely piece of chispology shows how the two princes are two brothers known as Gwrgi and Peredur, who appear as dying together in the Annales Cambraie.

573 The battle of Arfderydd between the sons of Eliffer and Gwenddolau son of Ceidio; in which battle Gwenddolau fell; Merlin went mad.

580 Gwrgi and Peredur sons of Elifert died.

 

William Forbes Skene
William Forbes Skene

 

The 19th century genius litologists, William Forbes Skene, showed how the Battle of Arfderydd was fought only a few miles from Yarrow at Arthuret. Elsewhere, the Harleain genealogies gives Eliffer/Elifert a different name;

Gurci ha Peretur mepion eleuther 

This lineage also appears in the Men of the North genealogy (Peniarth 45) as; ‘Gwrgi & Peredur are the sons of Eliffer of the Great Retinue son of Arthwys.’ Thus we can say that the father of Gwrgi & Peredur was known as Eleuther at one point. Now then, Eleutherius is Greek for ‘liberty,’ & translates into Latin as ‘Liberalis.’  Evidence for the change comes within two copies of an Irish text known as ‘The Expulsion of the Dessi,’

Nine men of Luthor, son of Art, from whom are the Luthraige (Laud 610)

Nine men of Liber, son of Art, from whom are the Luburige (Rawlinson B 502)

 

Here, of course, Liber/ Luthor son of Art would be Eleuther/Liberalis son of Arthwys. At first glance it seems that Prince Nudi & Prince Dumnogeni were the sons of Liberalis, but there is more to these names than meets the eye. We must look a little deeper, for example, the word Dumnoni is actually made up of two components, Dumno- & -Genus.

Genusdescent, birth, origin – with implication of high or noble descent – nationality, race, nation

The genus element means ‘born of,’ as in our modern word ‘genes.’ This makes the two princes ‘born of the Dumno.’ This has to be the Dumnonii, a tribe of ancient Britons, whose lands encompassed the modern-day West Country of England – Cornwall, Devon, Somerset & Dorset. Before declaring ‘None of Damo’s posts has ever included a single assertion that is useful to the study of Arthurian literature or of history,’ the moderator of Arthurnet, Judy Shoaf, wrote;

I was interested in your idea that Nudus and Dumnogenus are adjectives modifying princes in the Yarrow Stone inscription. I thought you must be wrong, because clearly you don’t know Latin, and this would not work grammatically. BUT I checked the inscription and your suggestion makes sense—the forms have endings in –i which fit the plural “princes” rather than implying names of single individuals in apposition with “princes.” It’s odd that the two words were read as names, but one would expect that a memorial would give the names of the persons involved; perhaps the names were on the other side, which I gather is damaged. However, I guess people who study inscriptions are better qualified than I am to interpret what the words mean in context. The way one figures it out is to look at other memorial stones (or texts) that use these words or a similar structure. (Liberalis, on the other hand, looks like a name, in terms of both grammar and sense)

 

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In the Jesus College genealogies,  we can observe that Pheredur became a king of Dumnonia after King Cador, supporting the notion that the Yarrow stone was erected for him. With his father’s name Eleuther being Latinized to Liberalis, then all that remains is to work out what ‘Nudi’ means. If it appears in the same context as ‘Dumnoni,’ then we should infer that it means ‘belonging to the Nud,’ which leads us to again to Mount Badon’s, ‘Edeyrn the son of Nudd.’ He also appears as ‘Yder son of Nut (Wace & others)’ & Hiderus filius Nu (Big Geoff) & as I shall prove in a later post, this man is actually King Arthur’s father, Uther/Uudrost. Thus, Gwrgi & Pheredur were Dumnonian through the grandfather, King Arthur, who was born & bred in the West Country, with Pheredur even gaining the kingship. They were also related to ‘Nud’ by blood, a patriarch figure from the north  who was their great-great grandfather.

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It is Liberalis & Pheredur, by the way, who just happen to be the skeleton keys to unlocking the entire mystery of the Holy Grail, which I shall finally begin to do in the next post…

 

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