Saturday, 25 June 2016

Gervase and the Moon in June

On 25th June 1178 five monks from Canterbury witnessed a curious astronomical event1:

“In this year, on the Sunday before the Feast of St John the Baptist, after sunset when the moon had first become visible a marvellous phenomenon was witnessed by some five or more men who were sitting there facing the moon. Now there was a bright new moo, and as usual in that phase its horns were tilted toward the east; and suddenly the upper horn split in two. From the midpoint of the division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals, and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the moon which was below writhed, as it were, in anxiety, and, to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the moon throbbed like a wounded snake.”

The account can be found in the chronicles of Gervase of Canterbury, a medieval monk considered a reliable historian.

This extraordinary event was largely forgotten until 800 years later when, in 1976, the geologist Jack Hartung suggested Gervase had recorded a rare eye-witness account of the five monks who had seen an impact on the Moon's surface by a large meteor. The periodic bombardment of the Moon is a fate it has suffered regularly over its 4 billion year long history as attested by the many craters across its surface, but few of these impacts have been actually witnessed.

Hartung argued that evidence of the impact could be seen on the north eastern edge of the moon in a crater named after the 17th century Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno. Hartung suggested the flame the monks saw was incandescent gases, or sunlight reflecting on dust emitted from the crater. He argued that such a crater would be at least 7 miles across, possess bright rays extending for at least 70 miles formed by debris thrown out at impact, and be situated between 30 and 60 degrees North, 75 and 105 degrees East. The crater would be very near the edge of the Moon, or just on the far side. The Giordano Bruno crater happens to lie within these co-ordinates, 13 miles in diameter and notable for its brightness and the rays extending several hundred miles from it.2

The Giordano Bruno crater
Lunar astronomers Callame and Mulholland claim the event would have been sufficiently visible to justify the description of the eye-witness accounts recorded by Gervase. The astronomers also detected evidence of a small vibration in the orbit of the Moon. The Moon rotates in such a way that the face is always pointing at Earth, but with small oscillations, giving it a slight wobble about its polar axis. This slight wobble is not visible to the naked eye but has been detected by astronomers firing a laser beam at reflectors left on the Moon's surface by Apollo astronauts. When the laser is fired the arrival of the returning light beam is timed. Over the years thousands of laser beams have been fired at the Moon providing sufficient data to detect a 15 metre oscillation of the lunar surface about its polar axis over three years. This vibration,  Callame and Mulholland argue, can only be explained as the result of a significant recent impact of such a magnitude to have formed the Giordano Bruno crater. It is estimated that this vibration would die out over a period 20,000 year, or so.3

From studies of impact cratering it is possible to estimate the energy released at impact to have created the crater; the Giordano Bruno would have required around 100,000 megatons. By comparison, on 30th June 1908 a meteor is thought to have burst in mid-air at an altitude of 5 to 10 kilometres over Tunguska, Siberia. The detonation felled around 80 million trees over an area of over 2,000 square kilometres and would have been capable of destroying a large city if impacting on a populous area. Early estimates considered the energy release equivalent to 10–15 megatons, about 1,000 times greater than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945.4

In 1975 seismometers left on the Moon by Apollo astronauts detected the impact of a huge swarm of boulders. The bombardment started on June 22, which suggests the Taurids were responsible for the onslaught.

Today many astronomers argue that the Giordano Bruno crater was created more than a million years ago but accept the wobble of the Moon's polar axis is the result of an interstellar impact. However, astronomers have argued that an impact of such magnitude to form the Giordano Bruno crater would have ejected more than 10 million tons of lunar debris, much of which, inevitably, should have rained down into the Earth’s atmosphere causing spectacular meteor storms lasting for many days after the impact. Yet, there are no reports of such an event in 1178.

Current thinking is that the monks probably observed a meteor exploding in the Earth's upper atmosphere travelling head-on toward them along the sight-line of one horn of the crescent Moon. The meteor would have exploded when it entered the upper atmosphere, creating the “hot coals and sparks”, obscuring the crescent with a dark smoke trail. Atmospheric turbulence would account for the “writhing snake” effect.

A head-on meteor in the Earth’s atmosphere would only align with the horn of the Moon over a small area of the Earth’s surface giving a localised perspective which may explain why only the five monks witnessed the impact and apparently no one else. Astronomer Duncan Steele has suggested that the meteor could have originated from the Beta Taurid meteor shower. This is a trail of debris from Comet Encke, which the Earth crosses every June. Clube and Napier, explain that, “the significant feature is not collision with comets themselves, but with their debris”.

Whether the astronomical event that the monks witnessed was the creation of the Giordano Bruno crater or a meteor exploding in the upper atmosphere, like the Tunguska event, the event underlines the fact that the planets of the inner solar system are prone to periodic bombardment by space debris from comet trails with catastrophic consequences; such an event seems to have occurred during the Dark Ages.

Something Nasty in the Dark Ages?
A comet appeared in the sky early in 1066, which many interpreted as a premonition of the Norman conquest of England. The comet appears on the Bayeaux Tapestry, an embroidery depicting the Norman invasion and defeat of the English at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. This happened to be comet Halley, the first periodic comet detected, travelling past Earth once every 76 years or so. Observations of Halley's comet suggest the ancient Greeks observed the comet as long ago as 466 BC.

The Bayeaux Tapestry showing Halley's Comet
Geoffrey of Monmouth was probably aware of the comet recorded on the Bayeaux Tapestry and its implied meaning on the outcome on the Battle of Hastings. He writes of a comet in his History of the Kings of Britain (Historia Regum Brittaniae, c.1136), which foreshadows the reign of Uther. On the way to the battle Uther sees a comet in the shape of a fiery dragon, which Merlin interprets as a sign of Aurelius's imminent death and Uther's glorious future:

“At the appearance of this star, a general fear and amazement seized the people; and even Uther, the king's brother, who was then upon his march with his army into Cambria, [Wales] being not a little terrified at it, was very curious to know of the learned men, what it portended. Among others, he ordered Merlin to be called, who also attended in this expedition to give his advice in the management of the war; and who, being now presented before him, was commanded to discover to him the signification of the star. At this he burst out into tears, and with a loud voice cried out;

“O irreparable loss! O distressed people of Britain! Alas! the illustrious prince is departed! The renowned king of the Britons, Aurelius Ambrosius, is dead! Whose death will prove fatal to us all, unless God be our helper. Make haste, therefore, most noble Uther, make haste to engage the enemy: the victory will be yours, and you shall be king of all Britain. For the star, and the fiery dragon under it, signifies yourself, and the ray extending towards the Gallic coast, portends that you shall have a most potent son, to whose power all those kingdoms shall be subject over which the ray reaches. But the other ray signifies a daughter, whose sons and grandsons shall successively enjoy the kingdom of Britain'.” (BOOK VIII, CHAP. XV)

After winning the battle Geoffrey gives Uther the epithet “Pendragon”. Clearly Geoffrey misinterpreted “Pendragon” as meaning “dragon's head” (from the comet) whereas it literally means “Chief-Dragon” as “chief of warriors”. But, significantly, Geoffrey's tale of Arthur is set in the Dark Ages, so although he may have been inspired by the depiction of Halley's Comet on the Bayeaux Tapestry as an omen to the Battle of Hastings, he is clearly referring to a comet event in the days of the Great Arthur.

Astronomers believe there was an increased risk from bombardment in the period between 400 and 700 AD, the classic Dark Age period. Contemporary chroniclers write of a period of climate change, prolonged winters, decreased temperatures and a persistent dust veil. Gildas, writing around c.540 AD, describes a bleak picture of Britain at this time. Historians have long suspected a downturn in the Britons fortunes played to the invading Anglo Saxon's advantage. It was at this time that refortified post-Roman towns such as Wroxeter (Viroconium) were deserted.

The 5th century historian Zachariah of Mitylene writes of “a great and terrible comet appeared in the sky at evening-time for 100 days” around in around 538-9 AD. The medieval historian Roger of Wendover stated that, “in the year of grace 541 AD, there appeared a comet in Gaul, so vast that the whole sky seemed on fire. In the same year, there dropped real blood from the clouds, and a dreadful mortality ensued.

Some versions of the Welsh Annals open with the entry for 447 AD - “Days as dark as night”. A hundred years later in 547 The Welsh Annals record “great death [plague] in which Maelgwn, king of Gwynedd died. Thus they say 'The long sleep of Maelgwn in the court of Rhos'. Then was the yellow plague.” The Irish Annals record “a failure of bread” in 536 and 539 suggesting crop failure owing to climate change. Repeatedly, these events are followed by outbreaks of plague.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle records that in the year 538 the sun was eclipsed, fourteen days before the calends of March, from before morning until nine and in 540 the sun was eclipsed on the twelfth day before the calends of July; and the stars showed themselves full nigh half an hour over nine.

The celestial disturbance appears to have continued for some time; later the Welsh Annals record “a star of marvellous brightness was seen shining throughout the whole world” in 676 followed by a great plague in Britain in 682, in which Cadwaladr son of Cadwallon dies. Then in 683 there was plague in Ireland. The Anglo Saxon Chronicle again mirrors the Welsh Annals; in 678 a comet-star appeared in August, and shone every morning, during three months, like a sunbeam. It was around this time that hillforts such as Cadbury were abandoned.

All of these Chronicle accounts concur on the appearance of a comet or celestial disturbances during the period around 400 – 700 AD. This dramatic Dark Age event is linked to climate change, drought and famine around the world. This severe downturn in living conditions left humanity more susceptible to outbreaks plague; the “Justinian Plague” arrived in Constantinople in 542 AD, the first recorded emergence of the Black Death in Europe.

It has long been suspected that around this time Britain was devastated by the effects of a cometary impact, an event occurring in 536 AD which produced a dust veil and cooling effect with global consequences.

Volcano or Comet?
The cause of this catastrophic event in the Dark Ages that resulted in crop failures, summer frosts, drought and famine around the world some 1500 years ago has puzzled historians and scientists alike for years.

Author David Keys argues that evidence from historic sources refer to a persistent dry fog across the Mediterranean, that lasted for 12 to 18 months and caused “a spring without mildness and a summer without heat”.Keys believed that a major volcanic event was to blame and suspected Krakatoa as the culprit.5

The same year Mike Baillie argued that comet symbolism underlies the Arthurian Legend. Baillie developed the science of dendrochronology, or tree-ring dating, finding evidence around the world for dramatic effects in trees across the years from 536 to 545 AD. Significantly, Baillie concludes,  a close comet pass coincides precisely with the time the Welsh Annals stated that Arthur perished in the strife of Camlann, 537AD.6

Dallas Abbott, of Columbia University, has recently studied the 536 AD event and the consequent dust veil and combined planetary cooling effect. After taking ice core samples from Greenland that was laid down between 533 and 540 AD, they found evidence of a volcanic eruption in 536 AD but it almost certainly was not of a sufficient magnitude to cause such dramatic climate change.

The Greenland ice cores were also found to contain fossils of tiny tropical marine organisms suggesting this was an extraterrestrial impact in a tropical ocean, throwing them high into the stratosphere, carrying them to the north polar regions. The ice cores also contained large amounts of atmospheric dust from this seven-year period, not all of it originating on Earth but some particles indicative of an extraterrestrial source.

This cometary residue apparent in the ice cores contained deposits of tin, nickel and iron oxide spherules, which Abbott explains, are associated with cometary dust. This alien matter was deposited in Greenland during the Northern Hemisphere spring time, coinciding with the Eta Aquarid meteor shower.

The orbit of comet Halley leaves a trail of debris which the Earth’s crosses every year on two occasions: the Eta Aquariids in early May, and the Orionids in late October. Abbott argues that although the Eta Aquarid dust may be responsible for a cooling period in 533 AD, on its own it cannot explain the global dimming effect of 536-7 AD which cooled global temperatures by as much as 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) for several years; that would require something much more dramatic. Abbott concluded that a piece of the famous Halley's Comet broke away from the main body and impacted on Earth in 536 AD blasting so much dust into the atmosphere that the planet cooled considerably.7

Halley's Comet 1986
Halley's Comet is known to have appeared in Earth's skies in 530 AD and was noted as being astonishingly bright at that time. Irish Annals record “running stars” that were shining for 20 days, and there were many earthquakes. Both China and Byzantium recorded in 530 AD that Halley’s Comet continued to shine for 20 days. The brightness suggests a close pass in which the comet may have broken up as it passed Earth and rounded the sun, ejecting large pieces that fell to Earth and leaving a thicker than normal trail of debris responsible for the dust veil of 536 AD and cooling effect of subsequent years. In 2004 a study estimated that a comet fragment just 2,000 feet (600 metres) wide could have caused the 536 AD event.

Unlike the event recorded by Gervase in 1178, which is doubted as a significant lunar impact by many astronomers today, the 536 AD dust veil and its global consequences is an accepted event; yet few reconstructions of Dark Age History acknowledge the event as a contributory factor in the decline of the Britons.

Halley's Comet's most recent appearance was in 1986. Its next appearance will be in 2061.

Updated 26/06/16
Edited 29/06/16

Copyright © 2016 Edward Watson 

1. The date of the event was originally recorded as 18th June on the Julian calendar which converts to 25th June in the modern Gregorian scheme.
2. Victor Clube and Bill Napier, The Cosmic Winter, Basil Blackwell, 1990. pp.159-162.
3. Ibid.
4. Modern estimates claim that the airburst had an energy range from 3 to 5 megatons.
5. David Keys, Catastrophe: An Investigation into the Origins of the Modern World, Century, 1999.
6. Mike Baillie, Exodus to Arthur, Batsford, 1999.
7. However, observations taken from Halley’s last appearance in 1986 suggest that the Eta Aquarid meteor shower might not originate from Halley’s Comet, but is possibly disturbed by it.

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Sunday, 12 June 2016

Scotland's Merlin Unveiled

Scotland's Merlin
A Medieval Legend and its Dark Age Origins
by Tim Clarkson

In this book, Merlin’s origins are traced back to the story of Lailoken, a mysterious ‘wild man’ who is said to have lived in the Scottish Lowlands in the sixth century AD. The book considers the question of whether Lailoken belongs to myth or reality. It looks at the historical background of his story and discusses key characters such as Saint Kentigern of Glasgow and King Rhydderch of Dumbarton, as well as important events such as the Battle of Arfderydd. Lailoken’s reappearance in medieval Welsh literature as the fabled prophet Myrddin is also examined. [from the back cover]

Merlin, the wizard of Arthurian legend, has been a source of enduring fascination for centuries, the earliest roots seemingly based in the early Welsh figure of Myrddin. Today it is generally accepted that Merlin, the Arthurian wizard, was the 12th century creation of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Whereas the Merlin of literature and Arthurian myth is well known as magician, wise man, prophet and the modern inspiration behind popular wizards such as Dumbledore and Gandalf, Merlin the 'historical' figure is less well known and some contend that he may not have existed at all.

Not so claims Tim Clarkson in his new book Scotland's Merlin: A Medieval Legend and its Dark Age Origins (John Donald 2016) in which he argues that the roots of the Merlin legend lie in Dark Age Scotland. Impeccably researched, Clarkson traces Merlin's origins from his first appearance in Geoffrey's Historia Regum Britanniae (‘History of the Kings of Britain’) c.1136 as the boy Ambrose (Emrys) to the later Merlin Sylvestris of Northern tradition.

Geoffrey devised his Merlin from an amalgamation of historical and legendary figures. Ambrosius Aurelianus is mentioned in 6th century De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniæ (On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain) of Gildas. He is one of the few figures that Gildas admires in a Britain that has degenerated since the departure of the Romans. According to Gildas it is Ambrosius, the last of the Romans, who rallies the beleaguered Britons to victory over the Anglo Saxons, culminating in the victory at Badon.

The 9th century miscellany known as the Historia Brittonum (History of the Britons), often attributed to a monk named Nennius, has Ambrosius (Emrys), as the son of a Roman consul. Here Vortigern's twelve wise men advise him to retire to the remote boundaries of his kingdom and there build a fortified city to defend himself. They came to a province called Guenet (Gwynedd); and having surveyed the mountains of Heremus (Eryri, Snowdonia) they discovered, on the summit of one of them, a hilltop suited to the construction of a citadel. All of the materials were assembled for the building but it all disappeared in one night, so that nothing remained of what had been provided for the constructing of the citadel. Materials were again procured a second and third time, and yet again they vanished as before.

Vortigern's advisers told him  “You must find a child born without a father, put him to death, and sprinkle with his blood the ground on which the citadel is to be built, or you will never accomplish your purpose.”

Consequently, messengers were sent throughout Britain, in search of a child born without a father. When they came to the field of Aelecti, in the district of Glevesing, they found the fatherless boy who was led back to Vortigern. Before they put the boy to death, Vortigern allowed him to speak, “hidden under this pavement there is a pool. There are two vases in the pool, in them a folded tent, containing two serpents, one white and the other red.”

They dug and found it to be so. The serpents began to struggle with each other; and the white one, raising himself up, threw down the other into the middle of the tent and sometimes drove him to the edge of it; and this was repeated thrice. At length the red one, apparently the weaker of the two, recovering his strength, expelled the white one from the tent; and the latter being pursued through the pool by the red one, disappeared.

The boy Ambrose (Emrys) told the meaning of this mystery; “The pool is the emblem of this world, and the tent that of your kingdom: the two serpents are two dragons; the red serpent is your dragon, but the white serpent is the dragon of the people who occupy several provinces and districts of Britain, even almost from sea to sea: at length, however, our people shall rise and drive away; the Saxon race from beyond the sea.

When questioned of his origin the boy replied, “A Roman consul was my father.”

Vortigern's Tower, Dinas Emrys by Alan Lee
The story of Vortigern's Tower is essentially the same in Geoffrey's work; the underground dragons, one white and one red, representing the Saxons and the British, and their final battle is a portent of things to come. But of course Geoffrey has the boy named as Merlin. The episode of Vortigern's Tower is seen as the defining point in the birth of the Merlin legend.

The site has been identified as Dinas Emrys, near Beddgelert in Snowdonia. The archaeology of this remote hilltop has revealed evidence of Post-Roman activity, imported pottery from the eastern Mediterranean and a subterranean pool, probably a cistern for the water supply. The foundations of a tower were discovered on the summit during excavations in 1910 which were initially thought to have been evidence of Vortigern's Tower but turned out to be the remains of a 12th-century Norman keep. Nevertheless, there was ample evidence for Dark Age occupation.

In his Historia Geoffrey provides only two further tales concerning the wizard. In the first, Merlin creates Stonehenge as a burial place for Aurelius Ambrosius. In the second, Merlin uses enchantment to enable Uther Pendragon to enter Tintagel in disguise and father his son Arthur with the Duke of Cornwall's wife, Igraine. Merlin then disappears from Geoffrey's story; he does not tutor and advise Arthur as in later versions.

Clarkson includes a short chapter of “Arthuriana” and cites the possibility that both legends originated in the Strathclyde region and Southern Scotland as “good enough reason to discuss Arthur in a book about Merlin” and cannot resist quoting Breeze's recent paper on the location of Arthur's battles. Clarkson notes that Arthur does not appear in connection with the Northern tales of Lailoken. Similarly, before Geoffrey's story, Merlin has no connection with King Arthur in the early Welsh poems and is entirely absent from the tales of the Mabinogion.

The earliest reference to Myrddin (= Merlin in Welsh) comes from the Armes Prydein Vawr (Great Prophesy of Britain) attributed to the 6th century bard Taliesin. The reference “Myrddin foretells...” is considered not older than 930 AD and indicates there was a Welsh prophetic tradition concerning the name Myrddin before Geoffrey and may have been influential on his writings two centuries later.

Geoffrey's first work on the wizard was entitled Prophetiae Merlini (Prophecies of Merlin), c.1130, which he claimed were the actual words of the prophet. Yet most see the Prophecies as Geoffrey's own construct. The Prophecies were circulated as a separate publication before being incorporated into his Historia Regum Britanniæ at Book VII.

In the 1140s or early 1150s John of Cornwall produced another work entitled Prophetiae Merlini which many see as a direct lift from Geoffrey's work. However, John did not simply make a copy of Geoffrey's Prophecies, as they contained other elements not included in Geoffrey's works which raises the possibility, however slight, for an independent source for a southern prophetic tradition of Merlin. The sources for John of Cornwall's Merlin Prophecies are certainly worthy of further study in the argument for a northern archetype.

The Merlin story was transmitted to Europe through Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia. As a literary figure he developed throughout Arthurian Romance with later authors reliably placing Merlin as the king's advisor until he becomes bewitched and imprisoned by the Lady of the Lake.

Geoffrey later wrote the Vita Merlini (Life of Merlin) c.1150, in which his Merlin figure changes dramatically to include the tradition of the wildman of the woods referring to the wizard's trauma after witnessing a horrendous battle in the Yr Hen Ogledd (The Old North), formerly the territory of northern Britain and southern Scotland. Geoffrey seems to have stumbled across another Merlin/Myrddin. Clearly the Merlin of Vortigern's time (5th century) cannot be the same Merlin who went made after a northern battle a hundred years later.

In the Vita Merlini Geoffrey writes of a battle fought by Peredur, prince of the North Welsh allied with Rodarch, king of the Cumbrians against Gwenddolau, who ruled the kingdom of Scotland. So traumatised by the slaughter on both sides, Merlin wept for three days, refusing food. “Then, when the air was full with these repeated loud complainings, a strange madness came upon him. He crept away and fled to the woods.....lurking like a wild thing” in the forest of Calidon.

This episode is entirely absent from Geoffrey's earlier tales of Merlin. What caused this change in his account of Merlin; had Geoffrey uncovered further source material that compelled him to elaborate and complete his account of Merlin? Here, no doubt, Geoffrey was influenced by the Welsh Myrddin poems which refer to Merlin's madness.

There are six medieval poems containing material relating to Myrddin the Wildman: Yr Afallennau ('The Apple-trees'); Yr Oianau ('The Greetings');Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin ('The Dialogue of Myrddin and Taliesin'); Cyfoesi Myrddin a Gwenddydd ei Chwaer ('The Conversation of Myrddin and his Sister Gwenddydd'); Gwasgargerdd fyrddin yn y Bedd ('The Diffused Song of Myrddin in the Grave'); and Peirian Faban ('Commanding Youth').

The first three are found in the 13th century Black Book of Carmarthen, the second two in the 14th century Red Book of Hergest. However, the poems contain material of a much earlier date, possibly 11th century and some certainly appear to pre-date the composition of Geoffrey's Vita Merlini. These poems portray a wildman of the woods, usually named as Myrddin, living in the Caledonian Forest where he has fled after the battle of Arfderydd. Here Myrddin has lapsed into madness and acquired the gift of prophecy. In this aspect he is Myrddin Wyllt, Merlin the Wildman.

The medieval earthwork of Liddel Strength, near Carwinley, a candidate for 'Caer Gwenddoleu'.
This conflict at Arfderydd is recorded in the Annals Cambriae (Welsh Annals), simply as '573 - Bellum Amertid'. A later, 13th century, addition states "Merlin went mad". The site of the battle was identified long ago by W. F. Skene as being at Arthuret, near Longtown in Cumbria. Clarkson discusses the battle in some detail.

In the late 12th century Gerald of Wales identified two Merlins: one called Ambrosius who prophesied in the time of king Vortigern; the other was born in Scotland and named Merlin Celidonius and Sylvester, from the Celidonian wood because he grew mad and sheltered in a wood. Gerald adds that this second Merlin lived at the time of king Arthur. This second Merlin character is identifiable as Myrddin Wyllt of Welsh poetry, based on Northern sources.

Clarkson investigates the sources in depth for the story of the northern wild man of the woods that was transferring to the Welsh Merlin legend. In Scotland there exists an almost identical tale in which the Wild Man is called 'Lalocen' as he appears in the 12th century Life of St Kentigern (St Mungo of Glasgow). A 15th century Latin text called Vita Merlini Silvestris (Life of Merlin of the Forest), names the prophet as 'Lailoken', a wildman of Strathclyde.

Clarkson concludes that the Lailoken legend was transported to Wales and attached to the name Myrddin.The transmission of the northern wild man prophet to Wales must have occurred before the Welsh Myrddin poems were written down in the Black Book of Carmarthen and Red Book of Hergest and certainly before Geoffrey of Monmouth's Vita Merlini.

The crux of 'Scotland's Merlin' is that the 6th century battle of Arfderydd was the single event that sparked the Merlin legend; Clarkson identifies Lailoken as a historical character, the Merlin-archetype, whose story became over-shadowed by the growth of the Welsh Merlin legend.

Essential reading for anyone interested in the Merlin legend.


Tim Clarkson's previous books include:

The Men of the North: The Britons of Southern Scotland (2010)
Columba (2012)    
The Makers of Scotland: Picts, Romans, Gaels and Vikings (2013)    
Strathclyde and the Anglo-Saxons in the Viking Age (2014)
The Picts: A History (New Edition 2016)

Available from Birlinn

Tim's Blog: Senchus: Notes on Early Medieval Scotland

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Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Tomb of King Arthur Discovered in Shropshire

The Real King Arthur Thrice Discovered: Book II
Three books are being published this year each promising to reveal the true identity of the real King Arthur: he was a Yorkshireman; or did he come from Powys on the Marches; or he came from Gwent in south Wales:
  • Simon Keegan, Pennine Dragon, New Haven Publishing, 14 March 2016,
  • Graham Phillips, The Lost Tomb of King Arthur: The Search for Camelot and the Isle of Avalon, Bear & Company, 19 May 2016,
  • Chris Barber, King Arthur: The Mystery Unravelled, Pen & Sword History, 30 June 2016.
In the first part we looked at Simon Keegan's book Pennine Dragon in which he argued for Arthwys ap Mar (Arthur of the Pennines), who ruled from York to Hadrian's Wall, as the legendary king Arthur who defeated the Saxons at the battle of Badon.

In this second part of The Real King Arthur Thrice Discovered we look at The Lost Tomb of King Arthur (Bear & Company, 19 May 2016), the culmination of author Graham Phillips 25 years of research into the Arthurian legend.

Part I - The Story So Far
A self-acclaimed historical detective and former radio journalist and broadcaster, Graham Phillips wrote five books between 1983 and 1995 with Martin Keatman, a partnership that started with the psychic adventure quest The Green Stone (1983) and ended with Robin Hood (1995). In the middle of this run of non-fiction works was King Arthur: The True Story (1992).

Phillips has since produced eight further books as sole author, from Search for the Grail (1995 – reissued as The Chalice of Magdalene in the US by Bear & Company in 2004), Merlin and the Discovery of Avalon in the New World (2005) to The End of Eden (2007).

He has appeared on several television programmes, notably with Tony Robinson and Michael Wood, and more recently on Forbidden Histories with Jamie Theakston on the Yesterday channel (April 2016). Phillips is a regular speaker at alternative conferences such as the Glastonbury Symposium (2015) and is scheduled for an appearance at Andrew Collin's Origins Conference later this year.

The Lost Tomb of King Arthur was published on 19th May leading to flurry of headlines citing Phillips's claim that he has discovered the tomb of King Arthur in a Shropshire field.

The publisher's blurb claims that Phillips, using new translations of primary source material, shows King Arthur was a real man, and by using a 'wealth of literary and scientific evidence' has identified Camelot as a real place and the legendary Excalibur a real sword.

The book is quoted as one man’s journey to uncover the final resting place of the historical King Arthur; using literary research and the latest geophysics equipment Phillips claims to have pinpointed the exact location of Arthur’s tomb.

The people of Stafford were given a preview of Phillip's latest work in a talk by the author on Tuesday  26th April  2016  at St Chad's Church in Stafford, an event organised by Phillipa Smart's Magenta Circle. Being held on my doorstep I was compelled to attend this presentation but over two hours sitting on the pews in St Chads was not the most comfortable of evenings.

Two weeks earlier we were given a preview of Phillips latest discoveries. Jamie Theakston's Forbidden History (Yesterday Channel) screened In Search Of The Real King Arthur
on 8th April 2016. Theakston spent most of the program with Phillips on the trail of King Arthur in Shropshire. This program covered much of the same ground as the Magenta Circle talk.

Magenta Circle advertised the talk as “Best-selling author and historical detective Graham Phillips will be talking about his new book, The Lost Tomb of King Arthur, presenting compelling evidence that the fabled monarch was in fact a real-life historical figure who united the Britons to fight the invading Anglo-Saxons around 500 AD.

He will describe his exciting twenty-year quest to uncover the truth behind the legends of Camelot, Excalibur and the Holy Grail. But most astonishing of all, he will reveal the location he believes King Arthur was buried. With the help of eminent archaeologists, and the latest scientific equipment, Graham has what he argues to be definitive proof that the body of a warrior buried with his shield – just as ancient manuscripts describe Arthur’s burial – lies in isolated countryside in the Midlands of England. A body that dates from the exact time Arthur is said to have lived.”

Phillips started the evening by recapping on his earlier work on King Arthur, covering much of the ground of King Arthur: The True Story (with Martin Keatman, 1992). In the opening session Phillips reiterated the three key points to his theory:
  • Owain Ddantgwyn was Arthur
  • Virocomium (Wroxeter Roman city) was Camelot
  • The Berth, at Baschurch, is the burial place of the kings of Powys, and Arthur
Taking each point in turn, firstly Phillips identifies Owain Ddantgwyn as the historic King Arthur based on the 'Denunciation of the Five Princes' contained in Chapters 28-36 of De Excidio Britanniae (The Ruin Of Britain) a 6th century text by Gildas. In Chapter 32 Gildas directs his tirade at Cuneglasus (Cynlas the Red):

“Why dost thou, also, wallow in the old filth of thy wickedness, from the years of thy youth, thou bear, rider of many, and driver of a chariot belonging to a bear's den, despiser of God and contemner of His decree, thou Cuneglas (meaning in the Roman tongue, thou tawny butcher)?” (Gildas: De Excidio Britanniae, trans & ed. Hugh Williams, Cymmrodorion, 1899).

Here Phillips places much emphasis on the word 'bear' and tells us that in Welsh the word translates as 'Arth', thus convincing himself that Gildas is making a reference to Cuneglasus who, as a descendant of Arthur, has inherited the 'bear's chariot'.

At Chapter 33 Gildas directs his longest rant toward Maglocunus:

“And thou, the island dragon, who hast driven many of the tyrants mentioned previously, as well from life as from kingdom, thou last in my writing, first in wickedness, exceeding many in power and at the same time in malice, more liberal in giving, more excessive in sin, strong in arms, but
stronger in what destroys thy soul----thou Maglocunus.”

But for Phillips, the key here is Gildas' reference to Maglocunus defeat of his uncle:

“In the first years of thy youth, accompanied by soldiers of the bravest, whose countenance in battle appeared not very unlike that of young lions, didst thou not most bitterly crush thy uncle
the king with sword, and spear, and fire?”

Geoffrey of Monmouth tells us that it was Arthur’s own nephew, Mordred, who rebelled against him and brought down the king. In Welsh genealogical tracts the father of Cuneglasus and the uncle of Maelgwn (Maglocunus) is Owain Ddantgwyn.  According to Phillips then, the historic King Arthur is  Owain Ddantgwyn; 'Arthur' was the ‘battle name’ of Owain. QED.

Maglocunus then is identified as Mordred, the man who brought down the King. Phillips claims that the descendants of Maglocunus, the Dragon of the Island, went on to eventually rule all of Wales, hence the red dragon as the national emblem. While the descendants of Cuneglasus went on to rule Warwickshire, whose emblem today is the Bear.

County Flag of Warwickshire
Secondly, Philips argues that Owain and his son Cuneglasus were rulers of Powys. As Viroconium (Wroxeter) was the largest city in Powys, refortified by a powerful Post-Roman Dark Age ruler, it must have been its capital and therefore it must have been Owain's seat of power. As Owain has been identified as Arthur, Viroconium must have been, according to Phillips, the historic Camelot.
Archaeological evidence suggests Viroconium was deserted in the early 6th century which Phillips argues correlates with the date of the battle of Camlann, according to the Welsh Annals (Annals Cambriae) in 537AD, and the fall of Arthur.

Phillips third point is that according to a Dark Age poem The Berth in Shropshire is the burial place of the kings of Powys, and therefore Owain Ddwantgwyn (Arthur). A poem in the Red Book of Hergest, known as The Canu Heledd, identifies Eglwyseu Bassa (“The Churches of Bassa") as the resting place of Cynddylan, a 7th century Prince of Powys. Phillips argues that this can only be Baschurch in Shropshire:

“The Churches of Bassa is confined tonight,
for the heir of the Cyndrwynin,
the land of the grave of Cynddylan the Fair”

He claims the same Dark Age poem refers to Cynddylan as a descendant of Arthur. Presumably, here he means the 9th-century poem The Death Song of Cynddylan (Marwnad Cynddylan) which refers to the “the young whelps of great Arthur”.

Wroxeter Roman City
But one big problem for Phillips theory is that Cuneglasus ruled from Rhos on the North Wales coast, not Powys. In 1997 it seems the fortress of Cynlas the Red, 6th century King of Rhos, was identified during excavations at Bryn Euryn on the east bank of the Conwy Estuary, in the township of Dineirth (The Bear's fortress). Excavations of the ramparts revealed the base of a massive defensive stone wall, thought to have originally stood at least 3m high.

Maglocunus (Maelgwn), the son of Cadwallon Lawhir ('Long Hand') brother of Owain Ddantgwyn, was said to have ruled from Deganwy, on the Creuddyn Peninsula by Llandudno and Rhos-on-Sea. According to the Welsh Annals, Maelgwn died of the “yellow plague” c.547. Tradition claims he was buried on Puffin Island (Priestholm) off the eastern tip of Anglesey.

This family was clearly located in Gwynedd, North Wales. At best Owain Ddantgwyn was probably a King of Rhos in the late 5th century, along way from Vironconium and Baschurch. Further, Cynddylan does not appear in the line of the rulers of Gwynedd.

However, these points are not new and have been the subject of much debate since the publication of King Arthur: The True Story in 1992. So much for the recap; the main points of his talk in Stafford was to be the site of Arthur's last battle at Camlann and the discovery of his tomb. We broke for the interval with the prospect of great revelation in the second part.

Part II - The Lost Tomb

> CC <

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Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Real King Arthur Thrice Discovered: Book I

Three books due to be published this year promise to reveal the real King Arthur: he was a Yorkshireman; or did he come from Powys on the Marches; no he came from Gwent in south Wales:
  • Simon Keegan, Pennine Dragon, New Haven Publishing,14 March 2016,
  • Graham Phillips, The Lost Tomb of King Arthur, Bear & Company, 19 May 2016,
  • Chris Barber, King Arthur: The Mystery Unravelled, Pen & Sword History, 30 June 2016.
Phillips and Barber are well published authors needing no introduction, their latest Arthurian works claiming to be a summation of a life-times study of the legend, but this is Keegan's first book.

The Real King Arthur of the North
Pennine Dragon: The Real King Arthur of the North by Simon Keegan (New Haven Publishing,14 March 2016) claims to be the definitive work on the true King Arthur published in the 1500th anniversary of Arthur's greatest victory at Badon.1

A journalist from the Daily Mirror newspaper's Manchester office, author Simon Keegan expected to find Arthur in the south-west of England as the legend claims but after years researching the ancient texts he says it is possible to prove that Arthur was from the Lancashire-Yorkshire area.

The popular image of King Arthur is a medieval knights in shining armour possessing a magic sword and advised by a wizard could not be further from the reality of the historic Arthur was first recorded much earlier as a warleader fighting invading Saxons in the 6th century. Keegan therefore chose the statue of Constantine at York, apparently an ancestor of Arthur, for the cover of his book because he wanted to show what a true Romanised leader like Arthur would look like rather than a latter day medieval knight.

Keegan argues that Arthur was always identified as a man of the north in the earliest historical references and identifies Arthur's battles as being fought across the north of England and lowlands of Scotland. Keegan claims we find that Arthwys was at precisely the right time and place and is the only possible man who could have been the King Arthur of legend.

Pennine Dragon claims the historic Arthur was a Yorkshireman, identified as Arthwys ap Mar, King of Ebrauc and the Pennines, whose father was King in the York area and whose kingdom stretched from Hadrian’s Wall down to Yorkshire and Lancashire with Camelot identified as the Roman fort at Slack, Outlane near Huddersfield situated alongside the Roman road, although today under the carpark of the local golf club, adjacent the M62. The Antonine Itinerary records a place named 'Camboduno' somewhere in the West Riding of Yorkshire on Iter II (the second major road in Britain) situated between Calcaria (Tadcaster, North Yorkshire) and Mamucio (Manchester). This appears to be the same station named as 'Camulodunum' (Camulod) listed in the 7th century Ravenna Cosmology, the name possibly transferred from the native hillfort of Almondbury, some five miles away, after the ancient Celtic War-God, Camulos.

The Roman fort at Slack, Outlane, as it may have looked 2,000 years ago
 superimposed on the landscape now, in context with the M62
Initial excavations revealed the Roman fort was established in the 1st century and abandoned in the 2nd century, yet further work by Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society has shown there was activity on the site for at least another 200 years, into the Arthurian period. Keegan sees this fort as a strong contender for the original Camelot.

Other locations identified with the Arthurian legend such as Badon, Camlann, Avalon and the Round Table are all, predictably, identified in the north. Keegan also claims to have identified fifty Arthurian characters as real historical figures from the area. He identifies Lancelot and Galahad as LLaenauc and Gwallawg respectively, kings of the ancient British kingdom of Elmet.

In Pennine Dragon Arthur's wife, the Guinevere of legend (Welsh: Gwenhwyfar), is identified as St Cywair (born 455 AD), an Irish Saint known as the Queen of the Pennines. And just as the legendary Guinevere ended her days in a monastery, Cywair (Welsh: Gwyr) apparently finished her days in the church now called St Cywair's in Llangower, at the south end of Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid) in Wales. The ancient church at Llangower is dedicated to her memory with her feast day still celebrated there on 11th July. Nearby is a holy well named Ffynnon Gower claimed to possess healing properties, the water regarded as a cure for all ailments. There is a late 17th century reference to an associated standing stone, Llech Gower.

In Welsh tradition Gwyr was a 5th century Irish princess who married the king of the North Britons and the mother to St Pabo and Llywarch Hen, the early Welsh bard. According to local tradition there was another well in this area but the well keeper forgot to put the cover over it which caused the flood which formed Llyn Tegid.

Pennine Dragon’s 'Camelot' Protected Status
Since the publication of Pennine Dragon in March 2016 the Roman fort at Slack, situated on a strategic location on the Roman road from Chester to York, named 'Camulod' or 'Cambodunum' which Keegan identifies with Arthur's Camelot, has received further protected status from Historic England (formerly English Heritage) who has extended the schedule to include the area of the Romano-British vicus.

At Slack, as with many other military sites of the Roman period, the vicus, the area of civilian settlement has received little attention and the potential for continuation of civilian activity on the site not fully examined.

Work on the vicus at Slack by the Huddersfield and District Archaeological Society during three seasons of excavation in 2007, 2008 and 2010 made very significant discoveries which has produced evidence for the period of Roman occupation from about 80 AD to 340 AD, extending it well into the 3rd and possibly 4th centuries leading to reconsideration of the later use of the site.

Radiocarbon dating and pottery analysis from the vicus area adjacent to the fort has provided evidence of considerable late activity indicating that the settlement lasted for perhaps 200 years after the fort was demilitarised.2

Arthur of the Pennines
In the genealogical tract 'The Descent of the Men of the North' (Bonedd Gwŷr y Gogledd), extant in several manuscripts, notably the 13th century manuscript Peniarth MS45, can be found the pedigrees of twenty 6th-century rulers of the 'Old North' (Hen Ogledd). This text records the great grandson of Coel Hen (Old King Cole c.385-415) as Arthwys ap Mar who lived from about 460-520, mirroring the flourit of Arthur of Badon.

Arthwys ap Mar does not appear in all the genealogies, indeed to some extent he is as shadowy a figure as Arthur. When he is listed it is always as son of Mar, grandson of Ceneu, great grandson of Coel. However, these pedigrees show evidence of manipulation by Welsh genealogists to provide links to the British Heroes of the Old North. Thus, the name 'Ceneu' appears as a phantom entry arising from a misunderstanding of a reference to 'ceneu' in the poem Gweith Argoed Llwyfein by Talisien. Sir Ifor Williams has argued that the word 'vab' (son of) had been erroneously added by a Welsh scribe who assumed Ceneu vab Coel to be a personal name. Subsequently, Ceneu as a descendant of Coel was accepted by copyists and scholars alike, when according to Williams it should read as “And a whelp of Coel would be a hard-pressed warrior before he would hand over any hostages.3

However, similarity of name and time falls a long way short in providing proof that Arthur of the Pennines is THE King Arthur of Badon. But it does raise the interesting possibility as to whether some deeds ascribed to Arthwys in long-lost ancient northern texts were known by Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth who later ascribed these feats to Arthur in their respective works.

In his Historia Regum Britanniae (c.1136) Geoffrey writes of a pre-Arthurian king named Archgallo who wanders hopelessly, deposed and dejected, with just ten knights through the Forest of Calaterium. Geoffrey places the Forest of Calaterium in Albany (Scotland), the place he has Brennius battle with Belinus, located remarkably close to the Forest of Caledon (Celidon) the site of another Arthurian battle.

Alternatively, it has been suggested that Calaterium may have been the Forest of Galtres (Thompson and Giles), an ancient Royal Forest north of York which extended up to the City walls, now long obliterated owing to deforestation in the 17th century, placing Archgallo directly in the territory of Arthwys ap Mar. Archgallo is almost certainly based upon Arthur of the Pennines; Geoffrey even has him crowned at York. Geoffrey seems to have taken Archgallo's family, such as Elidurus and Peredurus from the line of Arthwys featuring his son Eliffer Gosgorddfawr (of the Great Host) and his twin sons, Gwrgi and Peredyr who are remembered for their victory over King Gwenddoleu at the Battle of Arfderydd (Arthuret in Cumbria).

Geoffrey seems to be recalling a long-remembered story of the North which may have contained an element of truth in the record of the battles of Arthwys. It has long been suspected that Geoffrey had access to a now lost Northern Chronicle which recorded the deeds of Arthwys, some of which he seems to have confused with Arthur of Badon. For example, Geoffrey locates Arthur's battle on the river Douglas just outside of York.

In truth the Arthurian battle sites listed in Nennius (Historia Brittonum, Section 56, c.829)  are unidentifiable and can be made to fit almost any location; they can certainly be made to suit a northern identification and therefore used in an argument for an Arthur of the North who battled against the Saxons.

The story of Arthwys of the Pennines may certainly be homogeneous with that of Arthur, and this may be as close as we will get to the discovery of a historic King Arthur; indeed Geoffrey of Monmouth seems to have conflated the two characters in writing of the northern deeds of Arthur.

Yet Arthur is never referred to as 'Arthwys' in vernacular sources and although the Welsh personal name Arthwys is well documented it is an entirely separate name from 'Arthur'. Indeed, the Welsh form of Arthur is exactly that: Arthur – not Arthwys.4

1. It is arguable if Arthur, the Dux Bellorum, actually fought at Badon, but to distinguish that character from the subject of Keegan's book he is referred to here as Arthur of Badon.
2. The Romans in Huddersfield - A New Assessment, British Archaeological Reports Vol 620, 2015.
3. Tim Clarkson, The Men of the North, 2010.
4. Caitlin (Thomas) Green, The Historicity and Historicisation of Arthur.

* * *

Saturday, 23 April 2016

St George the Dragon Slayer

“Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'” - William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act III, 1598 

From History into Legend
Today 23 April, St George's Day, local festivals across the country will re-enact George killing the Dragon. Although, today celebrations of St George will probably be eclipsed by the 400th anniversary of the death of Elizabethan playwright Willliam Shakespeare on 23 April 1616.

George was apparently a soldier in the Roman Army who was tortured and beheaded for refusing to renounce his Christian beliefs during the persecutions under the Emperor Diocletian in the early 4th century. Accounts of his martyrdom appeared as early as the 5th century, recording the existence of a shrine at the town of Diospolis (Lydda), where George was both martyred and buried. However, today historians suspect the Passion may have been invented as a result of popular demand for the story of the martyr and are sceptical about the very existence of George.

Archangel Michael slaying the Dragon
The Anglo Saxons were aware of St George as a martyr, but placed no special significance on him. He is mentioned in the writings of the Venerable Bede and a reference to him is made by St. Adamnan, 7th century Abbot of lona, who is thought to have heard the story from Arcuif, a French bishop who had travelled to the Holy Land.

The story of George and the Dragon was said to have been brought to Europe by Crusaders returning from the Holy Land. The Passion of St George was combined with the tale of the dragon slayer and first appeared in Vincent of Beauvais' Speculum Historiale, based on the Chronicon of Helinand of Froidmont, and part of the Speculum Maius (The Great Mirror), the encyclopedic compendium of the Middle Ages.

Following the appearance of St George in a vision to Crusaders at the Seige of Antioch (1097-1098) during the First Crusade the monarchs of England seemed to hold a fascination with the East Mediterranean Saint. It is around this time we find some of the earliest images of St George appear on tombs and above church doors. However, any connection to his popularity being due to the crusader king Richard I (The Lionheart) has recently been dismissed by historians as a legend invented by the Tudor court.

The story of George the Dragon slayer was further popularised in Jacobus de Voragine's 'Golden Legend' in the 13th century. Originally titled the Legenda Sanctorum (Readings of the Saints), the Golden Legend was one of the first books printed in the English language by William Caxton in 1483.

In the mid-13th century Henry III paid for an account to be written of George's life and had an image of the saint placed over the entrance to the hall at Winchester Castle. Yet, Henry's favourite saint was undoubtedly Edward the Confessor as shown when he committed a huge amount of funds to the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey containing a new shrine to which the saint's relics were translated in 1269.

The earliest recorded use of the red Cross of St George is from the last years of Henry's reign which ended in turmoil. When Simon de Montfort led the Second Baron's Revolt, the forces of Henry's son Prince Edward (later Edward I) wore red crosses on a white background on the battlefield at Evesham in 1265. Edward's forces used the device again in the Conquest of Wales. In his two campaigns in Wales, 1276-77 and 1282-83, Edward's men were issued with armbands bearing the red cross of St George. The red dragon has long been the National emblem of Wales; it is tempting to speculate that Edward I was playing out the legend.

When Edward III, grandson of Edward I, formed the Order of the Garter c.1348 he placed it under the patronage of St George. But it is not until the 15th century that the cult of St George began to assume a national identity following the victories of Henry V. In 1415 at the battle of Agincourt in northern France, Henry further advanced the cult by invoking George as the Patron Saint of England. Many believed they saw St George fighting on the English side at the battle.

Dragon Hill, Uffington
The Dragon Slayer
At Uffington in Oxfordshire is an odd shaped hill known as Dragon Hill. This natural conical chalk hill with the top artificially truncated is traditionally the spot where George slew the dragon. There is a stretch of exposed chalk on the top of Dragon Hill where, it is claimed, grass will not grow as this is the spot where the dragon's blood spilled onto the ground. Across a steep sided valley known as The Manger is the famous chalk figure of the Uffington White Horse, dominating the so-named Vale of the White Horse. On higher ground above the chalk figure is the site of Uffington Castle, an early Iron Age hillfort and contender for the site of the Battle of Badon. The ancient trackway running from Dorset to the Wash known as The Ridgeway passes by the northern entrance of the hillfort. A perforated sarsen stone, known as the Blowing Stone, once stood here but was moved about a mile away to Kingston Lisle around 1750.

The Uffington White Horse is nearly four hundred feet in length, said to be of prehistoric origin and related to the Iron Age hillfort. Indeed, deposits from the trenches forming the horse's outline recovered during excavations by the Oxford Archaeological Unit in 1990 have returned Bronze Age dates making it possibly the oldest hill figure in Britain.

Uffington White Horse (or is it a Dragon?)
Other tales claim the horse was cut by King Alfred after defeating the Danes in 871 AD at the battle of Ashdown fought somewhere on the Oxfordshire – Berkshire border. Alfred is said to have called his warriors to battle by making a loud sound through the Blowing Stone. An alternative tradition says the horse was cut by Hengist, leader of the invading Anglo Saxons, in the 5th century.

Writing in his 'Monumenta Britannica' (c.1670) John Aubrey pondered with the idea that Uther Pendragon, the father of King Arthur, might have been buried here.

The Uffington chalk figure has been referred to as a horse since at least the 11th century, said to bear similarity to stylised horses from Celtic Art, as seen on Iron Age coins for example, but it always strikes me as being more feline or serpentine rather than equine. Surely this is an early depiction of the dragon?

The Mythical Centre of England
The Welsh tale of Lludd and Llefelys, preserved in two manuscripts, the White Book of Rhydderch (c.1300–25) and the Red Book of Hergest (c.1375–1425) records that while Lludd was king of the Island of Britain it became infected with three supernatural plagues, or oppressions.

The first plague was a certain race that came called the Coranians; the second was a shriek which came on every May-eve; and the third was provisions of food and drink disappeared from the king's court over night.

Llefelys said the second plague was due to a dragon in Lludd’s kingdom and another dragon of a foreign race is fighting with it. To overcome this plague, Llefelys told Lludd he would need to measure the length and breadth of the Island to find the centre, there dig a pit and place a cauldron filled with the finest mead, covered over by a satin cloth. They would appear as dragons fighting in the air and then tire and fall in the form of pigs into the cauldron, sink in to the mead, drink it and then fall asleep. Lludd would then need to bury them in the strongest part of the island. When Lludd measured the island, Oxford was found to be the exact centre of the island of Britain.

Oxford is less than twenty miles from Dragon Hill at Uffington. But of course, the centre of England depends what you are measuring and where from; in most cases you would find the centre of any given object by bisecting the longest dimension by the widest, half length by half breadth.

Henry of Huntingdon wrote of the ‘Four Highways’ in his Historia Anglorum (c.1131); “The first runs from west to east and is called the Icknield Way......The fourth, longer than the others, begins in Caithness, and ends in Totnes, that is from the beginning of Cornwall to the end of Scotland.”

Following Henry of Huntingdon, Geoffrey of Monmouth identified the Four Highways as being part of the story of the mythical King Belinus, hence the longest of the Four Highways has been named the 'Belinus Line'.

The Belinus Line - Copyright (c) 2012 Gary Biltcliffe
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth in his 12th century chronicle the "History of the Kings of Britain"  (Historia Regum Britannie c.1136) (HRB Book III, Chap.5), Belinus wore the crown of Loegria, Kambria and Cornubia (England, Wales and Cornwall). After falling out with his brother Brennius, who ruled from Northumberland to Caithness, and driving him across the Channel to Gaul, Belinus ruled the whole island of Albion from sea to sea, and reaffirmed the laws that his father King Dunvallo Molmutius had made; The Molmutine Laws.

In plotting the boundaries of the northern realm known as Brigantia during the 1970s Ragland Phillips noted a grid pattern. He extended this line beyond Brigantia and found a dead straight line extending from the south coast of England to Scotland. He called this alignment the Belinus Line after Geoffrey of Monmouth's mythical roadbuilder.

The Belinus Line runs through important ancient sites such as St Catherine's Hillfort in Hampshire, Beacon Hill, Inkpen Beacon, Dragon Hill at Uffington, The Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire, Alderley Edge and the Bridestones in Cheshire, Shap (stone circle, now ruined) in Cumbria marking the mid point, on through Arthuret to the coast of Scotland at Durness.

The Michael Line
Many ancient sites associated with the dragon legend are found on the high places in the landscape; many were 'Christianised' by replacing the stone temples with a church. These sites are often situated atop of a mound, a rocky knoll or flat-topped hill. The church is typically dedicated either to St Michael or St George, both depicted in Christian iconography as dragon slayers.

In the 1960's the late John Michell noted the similarity between Glastonbury Tor and Burrow Mump. Both hills have the appearance of being shaped by the hand of man and both have a church dedicated to St Michael perched on the top. In the book The View Over Atlantis (1969) Michell discusses this alignment in detail:

"The St. Michael Line of traditional dragons sites in south-west England (…) is remarkable for its length and accuracy. It appears to be set between two prominent Somerset hills, both dedicated to St. Michael with ruined churches on their summit. These two hills are Glastonbury Tor and 'The Mump' at Burrowbridge some ten miles to the south-west. Both these hills appear to have been artificially shaped so that their axis align with each other, and their orientation, 27 degrees north of east, can be read off a large Ordnance Survey sheet."

Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller extended Michell's alignment through Burrow Mump and Glastonbury Tor in a straight line for 350 miles to the east coast. They traced an alignment of hill-top shrines dedicated to dragon-slaying saints stretching from St. Michael's Mount near Land's End in Cornwall, through the ancient temple of Avebury at the mid-point, to Hopton-on-sea on the Norfolk coast, the longest line than be drawn across Britain.

Seven Barrows at the intersection of the
 Belinus Line and the St Michael Line
Here there be Dragons
At the intersection between the two longest lines that can be drawn across Britain, the Belinus Line and the Michael Line, lies a huge Bronze Age cemetery known as 'Seven Barrows' just inside the Oxfordshire border. The site consists of about thirty prehistoric barrows, some say more, possibly as many as forty. The cemetery is situated along the Lambourn to Kingston Lisle road, barely three miles from Dragon Hill.

Surely it is beyond coincidence that the very place determined as the mythical centre of Britain is the site where St George slew the Dragon.

Copyright © 2016 Edward Watson 

Further Reading:
Jonathan Good, The Cult of St George in Medieval England, Boydell Press, 2015.
Gary Biltcliffe and Caroline Hoare, The Spine of Albion: An Exploration of Earth Energies and Landscape Mysteries Along the Belinus Line, Sacred Lands Publishing, 2012.
Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller, The Sun and the Serpent, Mythos Press, 1990.
Guy Ragland Phillips, Brigantia: A Mysteriography, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976.
John Michell, The View Over Atlantis, Sago Press, 1969.
Paul Newman, Lost Gods of Albion: The Chalk Hill Figures of Britain, The History Press, 2009.

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Sunday, 17 April 2016

Charles Thomas, Tennyson and Arthur

The Passing of Arthur

“Back to to the sunset bound of Lyonnesse - 
A land of old upheaven from the abyss
By fire, to sink into the abyss again;
Where fragments of forgotten peoples dwelt,
And the long mountains ended in a coast
Of ever-shifting sand, and far away
The phantom circle of a moaning sea.”

- Idylls of the King, Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

“The background to this Idyll is, to say the least, mysterious,” writes Charles Thomas in Exploration of a Drowned Landscape (Batsford, 1985. pp.265-267). He continues:

“The earlier poem, Morte D' Arthur, according to Hallam Tennyson completed by 1835, appeared in the famous 1842 collection. Tennyson's devotion to the Arthur theme began in boyhood, with his discovery of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. Significant facets were then lodged for ever in his mind, as when in a youthful MS note (1833) he could write how, in 'the latest limit of the West in the Land of Lyonnesse, where, save the rocky Isles of Scilly, all is now wild sea, rose the sacred Mount of Camelot.'

Morte D'Arthur by Daniel Maclise
"In the  Morte D' Arthur the great king, mortally stricken, is carried from the battlefield by Sir Bedivere to a little chapel by the seaside; this is drawn directly from Malory's version. Here, after twice prevaricating, Bedivere hurled the sword Excalibur into the water, where an arm in white samite rose to grasp it. Here too a barge with ladies clothed in black arrived to take the dying king to Avilion The water, stirred by winds and waves, is implicitly the open sea in Sir Thomas Malory's recital, and the barge with its Dark Queens moves slowly away. Insofar as the nearby Last Battle was located at all closely, Malory placed the event somewhere by the south coast, on a down near Salisbury that was also not far from the English Channel shores.

"Tennyson, however, decided that Arthur departed from Cornwall; in 1835 and 1842 he was specific. The chapel nigh the field of the battle

'stood on a dark strait of barren land.
On one side lay the ocean, and on one
Lay a great water, and the moon was full.'

"This great water is fringed with juts of pointed rock, crags, reeds and bullrush beds, and a margin with many-knotted waterflags. It is fresh water, and the dark strait is barren because it consists of pebbles. The side which is not the ocean is a lake or mere. Even its true orientation is given. When the barge approached across this lake, and goes again with Arthur, Sir Bedivere stands to watch

'till the hull
Look'd one black dot against the verge of dawn,
And on the mere the wailing died away.'

"Clearly then the barge was departing eastwards, across a lake which was bounded on its western side by firstly a pebble bar and then the sea. Only one place in Cornwall fulfils these conditions: the remarkable freshwater lake, Loe Pool, on the western shore of the Lizard peninsula. It is fed by the river Cober which flows into it just below Helston, and is penned by the massive shingle barrier, Loe Bar, now pierced by an outflow tunnel.

Loe Bar, according to Tennyson, where the barge departed for Avallon
"The northern side of the Pool near the Bar has low jagged cliffs with pines; there is some vegetation along the water's edge. Looking inland, north-east,  from the Bar itself, the vista is not only romantic and impressive, somehow reminiscent of the Lake District or perhaps Austria rather than of Cornwall, but also suggests an inland water-stretch much longer than it really is.

"Tennyson's Morte D' Arthur, published in 1842, was re-used with virtually no alterations as the core of The Passing of Arthur; the much longer Idyll. Last of 12, published in 1869. In the interval the poet has twice toured Cornwall. The first occasion, May to July of 1848, was a solitary visit; he went to Bude, Tintagel, Camelford, the Land's End and the Lizard, enjoying long coastal walks. At Morwenstow he met the idiosyncratic Robert Stephen Hawker, whose own interests included matters Arthurian.”

Anthony Charles Thomas
 Historian, archaeologist and Cornishman
26 April 1928 - 7 April 2016 

* * *

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Fair Cei: Hero or Villain?

"Cei and Bedwyr are consistent characters throughout [Culhwch and Olwen].......the former bearing little resemblance to the discourteous and ineffective buffoon of later romance."1

"In spite of his discourtesy, downright rudeness, and eventual treachery, there is the underlying knowledge that he has a special importance for Arthur, who almost always remains fond of him, and shows a tolerance of him that is at times remarkable."2

One Who Wears a Crown
Cei and Bedwyr are the most important of Arthur’s companions in the Welsh stories. They appear in the earliest stratum of the Arthurian legend along with other native British heroes such as Gwalchmei (Gawain). Cei and Bedwyr accompany Arthur on his earliest adventures such as the Welsh tale How Culhwch won Olwen, and the poem Pa Gur yv y Porthaur? (Who is the gatekeeper?) fighting supernatural monsters, giants and witches in a world of magic. Here Arthur is not a king but a leader of a band of men possessing fantastic abilities, seemingly living beyond a normal existence. These early adventures are set in a world far removed from the later tales of Arthurian Romance, chivalry and courtly love.

In these marvellous adventures it is Cei who is the most heroic of the warriors in Arthur's Court with Bedwyr typically adopting a supporting role. Whereas Arthur's character is rarely developed in these tales, Cei slowly falls from favour with Continental writers, perhaps detecting traces of a discord with Arthur that was apparent from the very beginning.

An early Triad that records Cei's early prowess refers to him as one of the 'foremost fighters'. In Trioedd Ynys Prydein, the Triads of the Island of Britain, Cei, son of Cenyr of the Fair Beard, is listed as one of the Three Battle-Diademed Men of the Island of Britain:

Trystan son of Tallwch,
And Hueil son of Caw,
And Cei the son of Cynyr Ceinfarfog,
And one that was diademed above the three of them 
That was Bedwyr the son of Bedrawc.3

'Battle-Diademed' in this respect is translated from the Welsh 'taleithyawc' meaning 'one who wears a crown', which according to Rachel Bromwich was a mark of distinction worn on the head of the foremost champions in battle. Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last king of Wales, prior to the conquest by Edward I of England, wore a coronet (in Welsh, Talaith Llywelyn) said to be the Crown of Arthur.

Cei the Fair
The name 'Cei' may derive from the Latin Ceius or Gaius, possibly a genuine Romano-British chieftain who occupied the site of the Roman fort at Caer Gai, by Bala, Wales, in Post Roman Britain. Inscriptions have been found at the site suggestive of a relationship to Cei of Arthurian legend but their interpretation has been debated by scholars without satisfactory resolution.

Sir Kay showeth the mystic sword unto Sir Ector,
 (Howard Pyle from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights. 1903)
Alternative suggestions are that the name 'Cei' equates with the Irish Cei, Coi, explained in the 10th century Cormac's Glossary (Sanas Cormaic) as equivalent to 'Conair' meaning 'path, way', equivalent to the Welsh 'Cynyr' who is listed as Cei's father, but with the epithet 'Fair Beard', in the court list in How Culhwch won Olwen and The Triads; the combination of Cei and Cynyr, 'Path, son of Way' corresponds well with similar pairings in Culhwch, such as Nerth son of Kedarn, “Strength, son of Strong” and Drem son of Dremidyd, “Sight, Son of Vision”.4

The name also compares favourably with the Irish law-giver Cei Ceinbrethach, 'Cei of Fair Judgement'. Significantly, throughout the early Welsh poem Pa Gur yv y Porthaur? (Who is the gatekeeper?) he is referred to as 'Fair Cei':

76 Fair Cei and Llacheu
77 They made battles
78 Preceding the suffering of blue lances
79 On the summit of Ysta-Wyngun
80 Fair Cei slew nine witches
81 Fair Cei went to Mon [Anglesey]
82 to destroy lions5

In Malory's tale of King Arthur, as Sir Kay, Cei was one of the first and foremost Knights of the Round Table; in some accounts he is Arthur's seneschal and foster brother. As Sir Bedivere, Bedwyr survived to the end as Arthur's loyal companion; Malory (following the Vulgate Mort Artu), has him throw the king's sword Excalibur into the hand of the Lady of the Lake before the mortally wounded Arthur can depart on the barge for Avalon, never to be seen again.

Cei's Decline
In How Culhwch won Olwen, Cei is noted for drinking as much as four men, his sharp tongue and quick temper apparent in these early native tales are further developed in later Arthurian Romance in which he is known for his 'boorish' behaviour. However, Cei is certainly not the first British hero to fall from grace with the continental writers; Gawain, who as Gwalchmei was the best of knights who always accomplished his task in early Arthurian tales, suffered a similar fate.

In Chrétien de Troyes unfinished tale Perceval, or the Story of the Grail (Perceval, le Conte du Graal) Gawain is described as Arthur's nephew and best knight. About half way through the story Gawain takes up the quest from Perceval, but Chrétien fails to bring the tale to a conclusion. In the First Continuation of Chrétien's story Gawain fails in the Grail quest and his significance is thereon greatly diminished in later tales and he clearly falls from favour with continental writers.

The French invented their own hero in Lancelot, infamous for his love affair with Arthur's Queen Guinevere. Geoffrey of Monmouth was the first to write of Guinevere's infidelity, but in Geoffrey's account it was Mordred, betrayer of Arthur, who took her as his queen, seizing the king's wife and his realm while Arthur was leading an invasion on the Continent.

The negative characterisation of Cei appears to be fully developed in Chretien de Troyes earlier tale 'Yvain' in which he is described as being “...slanderous, mean, cutting and insolent.” The French concept of the unheroic presentation of Cei finds its way in to the Welsh tales of Peredur, son of Efrawg, Owain, or the Lady of the Fountain, and in Gereint and Enid.6 However, the seed that may have fuelled the decline of Cei (Kay) in the Romances can be detected in the apparent feud between Arthur and Cei in early Welsh literature.

The Early Welsh Texts
Cei first appears in two highly imaginative pieces of literature; the poem Pa Gur yv y Porthaur? from the Black Book of Carmarthen, and the closely related earliest Arthurian prose tale How Culhwch won Olwen, found (in part) in the White Book of Rhydderch and (complete) in the Red Book of Hergest.

Culhwch is the most archaic text included in Lady Charlotte Guest's Mabinogion collection and one of the most important texts in the study of the Arthurian cycle preserving the older Arthurian tradition of the hunting of the Twrch Trwyth which certainly has antecedents in earlier Celtic tradition. The early tales feature an Arthur far removed from the emperor of Geoffrey of Monmouth and the knights of later Continental Romance. Here Arthur and his retinue adventure in the realm of the supernatural in combat against giants, witches and enchanted boars.

Cei in Culhwch and Olwen
In the tale of How Culhwch won Olwen, Cei appears to possess superhuman properties as prophesied by Cynyr, (claimed to be his father); “If there be anything of me in thy son, maiden, his heart will always be cold, and there will be no warmth in his hands”. He can also go without sleep and hold his breath under water for nine days and nine nights, has the ability to deliver unhealable wounds and when he desired he could be as tall as the tallest tree.

At Nant Gwynant on the road west from Capel Curig toward Dinas Emrys in Snowdonia, North Wales, Cei's name is commemorated at Gwyrd Cei ('Cei's Span' or 'Stretch'). The word 'gwryd' is a measurement of the distance between a man's finger tips when his arms are outstretched on both side of his body; a fathom, six foot, literally a man's span. If the gap between the mountains in Nant Gwynant was named from Cei's stretched finger tips he must have been of gigantic stature. Indeed in Welsh tales Cei has the persistent epithet of “The Tall” (Cei Hir) indicative that he was a giant, as tall as a tree.7

How Culhwch won Olwen begins with the gatekeeper Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr (Mighty-Grasp) denying the young Culhwch entry into Arthur's hall until Arthur requests to see him. Cei objects to Culhwch's admission. Once Arthur recognises him as his cousin, Culhwch demands a boon and invokes his help and all the warriors of the court in his quest to win the hand of Olwen, the giant's daughter, in marriage. Ysbaddaden chief-giant presents Culhwch with forty impossible tasks, or anoethau, to complete before he can marry his daughter.

In this tale Cei is the most adept of Arthur's warriors, helping to release Mabon from Caerloyw, and slaying Wrnach the Giant. The animosity between Cei and Arthur begins when Cei and Bedywr kill Dillus the Bearded. Ysbaddaden has charged them with plucking the beard of Dillus, whilst he is still alive, to make a leash to hold Drudwyn the whelp of Greid son of Eri.

"When Cei was certain Dillus was asleep he dug a pit under his feet, the biggest in the world, and he struck him a mighty blow and pressed him down in the pit until they had entirely twitched out his beard with wooden tweezers; and after that they slew him outright."

Cei and Bedwr went to Celli Wig in Cornwall, and presented Arthur with the leash made from the beard of Dillus the Bearded. Arthur sang this englyn:

Cei made a leash
From Dillus' beard, son of Eurei.
Were he alive, thy death he'd be.

The implication of Arthur's verse is that if Dillus had not been caught at a disadvantage by Cei, i.e. asleep, it is Cei that would be dead and not the giant.

“And because of this Cei grew angry, so that it was with difficulty the warriors of this Island made
peace between Cei and Arthur. But nevertheless, neither for Arthur's lack of help, nor for the slaying of his men, did Cei have aught to do with him in his hour of need from that time forward.”8

From this point on Cei disappears from the tale completely and is not heard of again.9 This rift between Arthur and Cei seems to have influenced later negative romance depictions of Kay.

Pa Gur yv y Porthaur? (What man is the Porter?)
Pa Gur is an obscure poem which refers to other tales that it assumes the reader will know, for example, Bedywr on the shores of Tryfrwyd fighting with Rough-Grey (lines 47-49) may well be a reference to Arthur's tenth battle as listed in the so-called battle-list of Chapter 56 in the Historia Brittonum. Rough-Grey is known from the Triads as Gwrgi Garwlwyd (= man-dog rough-grey) who made a corpse of the Cymri every day, and two on Saturday so as not to have to kill on a Sunday. That this is evidently the same conflict is demonstrated by the reference to Rough-Grey in Pa Gur immediately following the conflict with dog-heads on Din Eidyn (lines 43-44).

The poem ends abruptly after 90 lines but its content is sufficient to portray an Arthurian adventure very similar to that detailed in How Culhwch won Olwen, indeed the poem contains many of the same characters invoked in Culhwch's list and many have argued that Culhwch derives from Pa Gur.

But in Pa Gur, in stark contrast to Culhwch, Arthur seems to be down on his luck, looking back at happier days in a past tense, as shown by the lines “I used to have servants, it was better when they were alive” (lines 62-63). Earlier in the poem he names these servants as Manawydan son of Llyr, Mabon son of Mellt, Anwas the Winged and Llwch Windyhand, who defended Din Eidyn (lines 17-29).

Arthur tells the gatekeeper he is with Cei the Fair and the best men in the world, but he only names three, wizards all of them: Mabon son of Mydron, Uthr Pendragon's servant; Cystaint son of Banon; and Gwyn Goddyfrion (lines 1-16). The gatekeeper episode is relatively common in Celtic literature, even Lugh is refused entry to the court in The Battle of Mag Tuired, from the Ulster cycle, and must individually name his many skills to gain entry. Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr is again the gatekeeper in Pa Gur, as he is in most Arthurian tales, but in this poem he refuses Arthur and his band of men entry into the court, forcing Arthur to recall a list of his companions and their exploits. Here, it would appear Arthur is being denied access to the court. But who's court is this?

The poem refers to an attack on 'Celli', presumably Arthur's court at Celli Wig in Cornwall is meant. The attacker seems to be Cei who struck them down three at a time (lines 31-36). As this follows directly on from the list of Arthur's servants (lines 17-29) this may be the episode in which Arthur lost  them (lines 62-63). The poem continues, calling Cei the 'Prince of plunder', unrelenting as an enemy. (line 67: the literal meaning here is that 'he was a warrior long/tall as an enemy', possibly a pun on Cei's epithet 'hir' = 'the tall'.)10

Rachel Bromwich gives the following translation:

64 Before the kings of Emreis 
65 I saw Cai hurrying. 
66 He carried away booty. 
67 the ‘long man’ [i.e. Cai] was hostile(?). 
68 Heavy was his vengeance, 
69 fierce was his anger.11
Sir Kay breaketh his sword at ye Tournament.
(Howard Pyle from The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, 1903)
Lover and Traitor
The early 13th century Old French Romance Perlesvaus, or The High History of the Holy Grail, tells us that at Pentecost a maiden came to Arthur's court with a jewelled box. The maiden claimed the box contained the head of a knight, which could only be opened by the man who had killed him. Arthur tried first, followed by Gawain, then Lancelot, but they all failed. But when Kay tried, the box opened.

A letter inside explained that the head in the box was that of Loholt (Welsh Llachau), the son of Arthur and Guinevere. Loholt had killed the giant Logrin then fell asleep on top of him, as his custom was to sleep on any man he killed. Sir Kay found Loholt and cut off his head while he slept, he then took the head of the giant to King Arthur's court claiming he had killed him.

Guinevere recognised the head in the box as her son Loholt by a scar on his face, which he had carried from childhood, and then died from grief.12 Pa Gur makes reference to Cei and Llacheu fighting battles (lines 76-77), but provides no further information; as to whether they were allies or opponents, we are left to ponder.

A little later, the 13th century poem The Dialogue of Melwas and Gwenhyfer is suggestive of Cei having an affair with Guinevere (Gwenhwyfar in Welsh).13 Caradoc of Llancarfan first tells of Guinevere's abduction by Melwas in The Life of Gildas (c.1120) but makes no suggestion of a love affair between Cei and Guinevere.

The French poet Chrétien de Troyes is the first to allude to Sir Kay (Cei) being Guinevere's lover in the 12th century poem Lancelot, or the Knight of the Cart. Chretien writes that when Guinevere was abducted by Meliagaunce (Melwas?) they are pursued by Lancelot in a cart to his castle. Lancelot has to cross a sword bridge to reach the castle and then fight Meliagaunce to win Guinevere's release. Guinevere intervenes to stop Lancelot killing Meliagaunce. But the fighting between the two men breaks out again after Meliagaunce claimed that Sir Kay is Guinevere's lover.

What inspired Chretien to include this love affair in his story – is there a lost tale of Cei and Gwenhyfar as lovers?

Mordred is known throughout Arthurian tradition as the notorious traitor who brought down King Arthur at the Battle of Camlann. The account is first found in the entry for the year 537 in the 10th century Welsh Annals (Annales Cambriae):

 “The strife of Camlann, in which Arthur and Medraut fell.”

From this simple chronicle entry it is impossible to be certain if Arthur and Medraut (Old Welsh for Mordred) are opponents or fighting on the same side. But from that one line Mordred has been portrayed as the betrayer of Arthur and the man responsible for his downfall.14

In the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth first portrayed Mordred as Arthur's nemesis. Geoffrey has Mordred seize the King's wife and realm while Arthur is on campaign in Europe, perhaps adopting the role of Melwas. Arthur returns to Britain to meet with Mordred on Salisbury Plain for the final, fatal battle.

Tales of Mordred's treachery are entirely absent from earlier Welsh accounts. Indeed, the earliest account of the discovery of Arthur's grave at Glastonbury c.1191 claim Mordred was found in the grave alongside Arthur and Guinevere, which seems very unlikely if he was the treacherous villain responsible for the King's downfall.15

From the above, there is ample evidence, the feud with Arthur (Culhwch), the attack on Celli Wig (Pa Gur),the murder of Arthur's son (Perlesvaus), the love affair with Guinevere (Chrétien), to suggest that it was Cei, not Mordred, who brought down the King.

Copyright © 2016 Edward Watson 

Notes & References
1. Gwynn Jones and Thomas Jones, The Mabinogion, Everyman, 1974 (revised edition, 1991).
2. Linda Gowans, Cei and the Arthurian Legend, D.S.Brewer, 1988, p.6.
3. Rachel Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Triads of the Island of Britain, Third Edition, UWP, 2006.
4. Ibid.
5. John T. Koch, ed. Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO, 2006.
6. Bromwich, op.cit., p.309.
7. Chris Grooms, The Giants of Wales: Cewri Cymru, Edwin Mellen Press, 1993.
8. Jones and Jones, op.cit.
9. R Bromwich & D S Evans, Culhwch and Olwen: An Edition and Study of the Oldest Arthurian Tale, UWP, 1992.
10. Patrick Sims-Williams, The Early Welsh Arthurian Poems, pp.33-72 (cf.pp.38-46), in R Bromwich, AOH Jarman and B F Roberts, editors, The Arthur of the Welsh, UWP, 1991 (reprinted 1999).
11. Rachel Bromwich, trans., in The Figure of Arthur by Richard Barber, 1972, pp.69-71.
12. Nigel Bryant, trans. The High Book of the Grail, DS Brewer, 1978, pp.173-175.
13. Mary Williams, An Early Ritual Poem in Welsh, Speculum vol. 13 no. 1. January 1938. pp 38-51. on Mary Jones Celtic Literature Collective: Version 1 ; Version 2 
14. Rachel Bromwich, Triads, pp.445-6.
15. Richard Barber, Was Mordred Buried at Glastonbury, Arthurian Literature 4, 1985.

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