Legends of Camelot
Perhaps the best known site of the claimants for Arthur's legendary court at Camelot is the ancient hillfort of Cadbury Castle, south of the village of South Cadbury, just off the A303 from Chapel Cross, barely a couple of miles east of Sparkford, Somerset. The word "castle" suggestive of a medieval fortress and battlements of Arthurian romance, but this was never a fortification of stone walls and turrets. The hillfort at South Cadbury, with its massive Iron Age earth bank and defensive ditch system, re-fortified in post-Roman times, was without doubt the base of a powerful Dark Age warlord, a dux bellorum; if Arthur existed in an historical sense then this is, without doubt, the most likely contender for his garrison.
The strong Arthurian associations at Cadbury Castle have caused much consternation amongst scholars who have argued that these links only appeared after John Leland's account in 1542, and of course conveniently present the argument that he probably invented much of the Cadbury folklore:
"Right at the South end of South Cadbury Church stands Camelot. This was once a noted town or castle, set on a real peak of a hill, and with marvellously strong natural defences..... Roman coins of gold, silver and copper have been turned up in large quantities during ploughing there, and also in the fields at the foot of the hill, especially on the East side. Many other antiquities have also been found, including at Camelot, within memory, a silver horseshoe. The only information local people can offer is that they have heard that Arthur frequently came to Camelot." 
Of course this a rather circular argument; we can neither prove or dis-prove that Leland made up his story of Cadbury Castle being Camelot. It is certainly possible that the Arthurian association of the site existed in local folklore long before Leland's time. We know from other sites, as attested in Historia Brittonum, that Arthur certainly existed in the landscape before Geoffrey of Monmouth. But we must accept that Leland is the first to record the connection with the South Cadbury hillfort.
Following Leland, the antiquarian and historian William Camden (1551-1623) also called the hillfort 'Camalat' identifying the site with the Camelot of Chretien de Troyes. Camden claimed that locally it was called 'Arthur's Palace':
“....and taketh into him a rill neere which is Camalet, a steepe hill and hard to get up: on the top whereof are to bee seene expresse tokens of a decayed Castle with triple rampires of earth cast up, enclosing within it many acres of ground, and there appeare about the hill five or six ditches, so steepe that a man shall sooner slide downe than goe downe. The Inhabitants name it King Arthurs Palace.....As for Cadburie, a little towne next unto it, we may ghesse verie probably to have been that Cathbregion where King Arthur (as Ninnius writeth) defeated the English-Saxons in a memorable battell. ” 
Folk tales from the late 19th century said that the hill was hollow, Arthur and his knights lie sleeping inside waiting for when the country needs their help. A local person saw the gates as a boy, but they cannot be located today. A local poem calls them golden gates claiming that if you look through them on St John's Eve you can see the king in his court. A group of Victorian archaeologists visiting the hillfort were about to commence their dig when they were asked by a local man if they had come ‘to take the king away’.
The hollow hill is reminiscent of fairy lore and inevitably we find a tale of how they carried corn up from the arable side below the camp. When bells were placed in the church they went away and left gold behind. As in much fairy lore, they appear to have left the hill with the coming of iron.
Passing through South Cadbury village you come to the foot of a path leading up the hill a short distance beyond the church. This path climbs gently to a gate in a wall, and then more steeply through woods, until it emerges in the enclosure at the top. Found in the lowest rampart is a well on the left of the path as you go up into the hillfort, this is known as Arthur's Well. Sounds from this Well can be heard at Queen Anne's Wishing Well, another 200 yards further on within the ramparts. During the dark, silent hours on Midsummer or Midwinter's Night, King Arthur and his knights are said to ride throughout this land, and water their thirsty horses either here or at another well by the village church of Sutton Montis. Whether seen or not, their silver-shod hoof beats can always be heard.
Below the hill there are the slightest traces of an ancient trackway running in the direction of Glastonbury. This track is known as Arthur's Lane, Arthur's Hunting Path or Causeway, said to be a lost bridle path leaving Cadbury by its west gate heading in a north westerly direction toward the Tor at Glastonbury, 11 miles distant. It is thought that this was an ancient neolithic trackway across the Somerset marshes linking Cadbury with Glastonbury.
“......between South Cadbury Castle and Glastonbury Tor to the N.E. lay a bridle path called "Arthur's Lane, which is believed to have originally been founded as a Neolithic causeway into the Glastonbury marshes.” 
On winter nights, the spectres of Arthur and his knights can be heard galloping past on their horses with their baying hounds running in their wake. At every full moon Arthur and his men rode round the hill to water their silver-shod horses at a nearby well:
“Folks do say that on the night of the full moon King Arthur and his men ride round the hill, and their horses are shod with silver, and a silver shoe has been found in the track where they do ride, and when they have ridden round the hill, they stop to water their horses at the Wishing Well”. 
Inevitably Arthur's troop riding along this lane became associated with the Wild Hunt of north European folklore. The leader of the Wild Hunt could be interchangeable between historical figures but was usually legendary such as Gwynn ap Nudd, Woden or Arthur, adopting the role of psychopomp in gathering the souls of the dead. Gwynn ap Nudd, King of the Welsh Fairy race, the Tylwyth Teg, has strong associations with Glastonbury, indeed his abode is said to be within the Tor itself, and he accompanies Arthur on the Hunt for the supernatural boar, the Twrch Trwyth as recorded in the tale of Culhwch and Olwen. Son of Nudd, the ancient British sea and river deity, known as Nodens, God of healing, who's domain abounds the nearby Severn estuary, as attested by the 4th Century Romano-British temple at Lydney Park, Gloucestershire, England. The Wild Hunt is accompanied by white, red-eared Hellhounds, known in Welsh mythology as the Cwn Annwn, and in Somerset as Gabble or Gabriel Ratchets.  If one was unlucky enough to witness the Wild Hunt it was thought to be an omen of ill fortune or even the death of the observer. The Hunt would kidnap any mortals in its path and take them with it to the abode of the dead.
The Starres which Agree with their Reproductions on the Ground 
In the 1920's Katherine Maltwood, a scholar of fine art, was commissioned to illustrate the anonymous High History of the Holy Grail, or the Perlesvaus, originally written in Old French, sometime in the early half of the 13th Century, as a continuation of Chretien DeTroyes' unfinished story of the Grail, "Le Conte du Graal, or Perceval". Some of the geographical references in this text correspond so well to the Somerset countryside that certain commentators have argued that Perlesvaus or at least its prototype must have been composed at Glastonbury; indeed a fragment of the Perlesvaus manuscript has been found at Wells Cathedral.
As Maltwood researched her material, she discovered that the adventures of the knights of the Round Table corresponded to place-names in the Vale of Avalon. Using a 1" ordnance survey map and aerial photographs taken from a height of 30,000 feet, she began to trace these on a map and figures began to reveal themselves, delineated by streams, tracks and boundaries, and before long she had discovered the twelve signs of the zodiac in their correct order. On placing a star map over the circle of zodiacal figures on the map Maltwood found the stars and their respective constellations corresponded. She called her discovery the Temple of the Stars.
A thirteenth figure, the great dog of Langport, sitting to the southwest and outside of the main circle of the zodiac, and perhaps the most convincing of all the figures, is seen as guardian to the entrance of Avalon. The nose of this great landscape canine is the mound at Burrowbridge, along the A361 road, known as Burrow Mump, or Alfred's Fort, which has all the appearance of being constructed by the hand of man out of red clay, not found locally, an island amidst the Somerset marshes at Altheney. The mump has all the appearance of being a facsimile of Glastonbury Tor, complete with ruined church to St Michael.
Maltwood wrote up her findings in Glastonbury's Temple Of The Stars and noted the observation that “Alfred's fort at Athelney and Camelot Castle at South Cadbury are both 11 miles from the Isle of Avalon”.  The Isle of Avalon is of course Glastonbury Tor, however, after making the observation Maltwood made no more of the connection which laid dormant until the great visionary John Michell rediscovered the St Michael Line in the late 1960's.
Michell noted that Burrow Mump was 11 miles from Glastonbury Tor, both orientated at 27 degrees north of east, to the Beltane sunrise on 1st May. Extending this alignment a further 11 miles at the same orientation he came to another St Michael site at Stoke St Michael. Then extending this line in both directions it was found to form an alignment through Avebury circle to St Margaret's on the east coast near Lowestoft and westwards from St Michael's mount and the extreme south-west point of England below Land's End. It marks the longest continuous stretch of land in southern England. The St Michael Line is marked by a host of shrines to St Michael and runs through many prehistoric sites attesting its ancientness. 
Michell observed that the distance between Glastonbury Tor and the summit of Cadbury Castle, is 10.909 miles or 4 Geomancer's Miles (GM). At 2.7272 English miles in length, the Geomancer's Mile is a pretty much forgotten measure rarely mentioned these days but Michell states it was once a unit of measure of prehistoric Britain. He adds that “this interval, or its multiples, was placed wherever possible between the sacred centres.” Michell notes that John Neal, a student of ancient metrology, when surveying village churches of the Taunton area, found that of the 300 or so, over 100 are situated at 1 Geomancer's mile distant from at least one other. It is no secret that many older churches were built upon the sites of prehistoric temples; the use of the Geomancer's Mile in a third of the network of Taunton village churches would appear to confirm this.
Michell states that: “Cadbury is, of course, Camelot, the site of King Arthur's Palace, once, according to legend, linked with the Tor by a tree lined causeway. Curiously enough, the distance between Glastonbury Tor and the hill of St Michael's, Burrowbridge also approximates to 4 GM.”  Like Maltwood before him, Michell made little more of the reciprocal distance between these ancient sites.
Studying this correlation of ancient sites in Somerset, Glastonbury based Nicholas Mann has determined that the alignment of Arthur's Hunting Path from the summit of Glastonbury Tor to Queen Anne’s Well, Cadbury is orientated toward critical points in the moon's cycle. Excavations by Leslie Alcock between 1966 and 1973 provided evidence that activity at this site started in the Neolithic to who the moon was very important with many of their earliest megalithic sites orientated to phases of the lunar cycle. 
Mann sates that the northernmost setting point of the moon, the Northern Major Standstill, and the southernmost rising point of the moon, the Southern Major Standstill, align with this ancient trackway. The Neolithic and the later inhabitants of Cadbury Castle would not have missed so dramatic an event as the moon setting over Glastonbury Tor, occurring only every nineteen years. At the same time, and for several months, from Glastonbury Tor they would have witnessed the moon rising from Cadbury, although the hillfort is below the horizon when viewed from the Isle of Avalon. 
Lunar Major Standstill
The term "lunar standstill" was apparently coined by the archaeologist Alexander Thom, in his 1971 book Megalithic Lunar Observatories. A lunar standstill being equivalent to a solar solstice when these two celestial bodies, having reached the end of their respective cyclic journeys, appear to 'standstill'. At a major lunar standstill, which takes place every 18.6 years, the range of the declination  of the Moon reaches a maximum. As a result, at northerly latitudes, the Moon appears to move from its highest point in the sky to lowest on the horizon in just two weeks. This time appears to have held special significance for the Neolithic people of Britain and Ireland, indeed the megalithic monument at Callanish on the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, would appear to have been constructed specifically to witness the extremes of the lunar cycle, where the moon is seen to just skim the top of the tall stones for a few hours either side of midnight. During major lunar standstills at latitudes as far north as Callanish, the moon barely sets, an observation noted in Diodorus' famous text concerning the Temple of Apollo on the Isle of the Hyperborean's:
“They say also that the moon, as viewed from this island appears to be but a little distance from the earth and to have upon it prominences, like those of the earth, which are visible to the eye. The account is also given that the god visits the island every nineteen years, the period in which the return of the stars to the same place in the heavens is accomplished; and for this reason the nineteen-year period is called by the Greeks the 'year of Meton'.” - Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 2. 47. 1 - 6
Noticing this lunar alignment from the summit of Cadbury to Glastonbury Tor was 11 miles, Mann found another parallel alignment 11 miles equidistant from the ruined church of St Michael on Burrow Mump to the northern tip of Hamdon Hill's neolithic fort, near Montacute. At Montacute we find another hill with all the appearance of being sculpted by the hand of man, similar to Glastonbury Tor and Burrow Mump, complete with church dedicated to St Michael. And Hamdon Hill to Cadbury Castle, is yet again 11 miles. Coincidence?
Linking Barrow Mump to the Tor, again 11 miles distant, is the St Michael Line, as stated above. Mann found that when joining the sites of Glastonbury Tor, Cadbury Castle, Hamdon Hill and Barrow Mump it formed a parallelogram, or diamond, with equidistant sides of 11 miles each, or as John Michell stated, the ancient unit of measure of 4 Geomancer's Miles each.
The parallel north west – south easterly alignments from the Tor to Cadbury Castle (Arthur's Hunting Path) and Burrow Mump to Hamdon Hill are aligned to the Major Lunar Standstills. Forming the closing sides of the diamond in the Somerset landscape, are the north east – south westerly alignments from the Tor to Burrow Mump and Cadbury Castle to Hamdon Hill are orientated on the Beltane sunrise. Mann notes that only at this latitude will these alignments form a diamond or rhombus. 
Mann suggests that a remnant of the Diamond's lore may have passed down in the legends of King Arthur galloping along “Arthur’s Hunting Path” or “Arthur’s Causeway” from Cadbury Castle to Glastonbury on stormy winter nights; survival of ancient moon lore of the Major Lunar Standstills when Arthur was said to ride was probably the moon set at its most northerly point in its 18.61 year cycle. The landscape diamond shows he would have continued on his way across the Bristol Channel and beyond to the Black Mountains in Wales. 
Further archaeological excavations by the South Cadbury Environs Project’s (SCEP) during 1992-2007, extending Leslie Alcock’s Cadbury Castle excavations sponsored by the Camelot Research Committee, uncovered some significant finds in our pursuit of Arthur at Milsoms Corner at Cadbury.
Prehistoric Burials found at Cadbury Castle
At the western flank of the hillfort of Cadbury Castle is Milsom’s Corner, a multi-period site on the slope below the south west gate. The main area occupied a slight rise, which over time, effectively became a westerly facing terrace, which has since been heavily damaged by deep ploughing. The land falls away gently to the west and north overlooking the Somerset Levels. Activity on this site commenced in the early Neolithic, attested by a linear arrangement of pits orientated towards the top of the hill. These early- and late-neolithic pits may have possessed ritual significance to Cadbury Hill’s summit, and a row of pits along the spine of the Milsom’s Corner spur has been interpreted as marking a special the way to and from the hill through mostly uncleared woodland. To the west of Cadbury, ditches arced around a small knoll and the base of the Milsom’s Corner spur to form a funnel leading into a narrow corridor for 200m before ascending through the ramparts to the south-west gate.
This was succeeded by an Early Bronze Age human burial, cut through later in the Middle Bronze Age. A cattle jaw bone found in the upper middle fills of the Milsom’s Corner spur enclosure ditch returned a date of 1380-1210 cal BC. Later in the Bronze Age, a bronze shield, already old at the time, appears to have been ceremonially deposited in the corner of the silted settlement enclosure ditch. 
A flexed burial in a slatted, 'boat-like' coffin, may have been covered by a barrow on a narrow spur at Milsom’s Corner which formed a natural threshold on the western approach to Cadbury hill. The 'boat-like' coffin was aligned on Glastonbury Tor, 11 miles to the north west, aligned with Arthur's Hunting Path. 
Neolithic boat-like coffins aligned on the Tor to ferry the dead across the water to the Isles Of Avalon, sharing the same orientation as an ancient trackway said to be travelled by Arthur at the time of the Major Northern moonset at Glastonbury; this all sounds remarkably familiar.
Is this the origin of the tale of Arthur's journey by death-barge to Avalon following the Strife of Camlann, guided by Barinthus the ferryman who knew the stars, suggestive that the event was a symbolic journey for spirits of the dead from a cemetery at Milsom’s Corner, Cadbury Castle, across the flooded Somerset levels in the direction of the northern moonset to the Otherworldly portal upon the Tor.
Copyright © 2013 Edward Watson
1. Quoted from D. Stobie, Exploring Arthur's Britain, Collins & Brown, 1999, in Nicholas Mann, The Star Temple of Avalon, The Temple Publications, 2007
2. John Leland, Itineray, 1542.
3. William Camden, Britannia, 1607. [http://www.philological.bham.ac.uk/cambrit/]
4. Helen Hill, The Realms of Arthur, 1970.
5. E K Chanbers, Arthur of Britain, Sidgwick and Jackson, 1927
6. The name Gabble or Gabriel Ratchets, an old word for a type of hound, was first recorded around 1665 and referred to a strange yelping sound heard in the sky at night, supposedly a death omen. Jennifer Westwood, Albion. A Guide to Legendary Britain. Grafton Books, 1985.
7. Dr John Dee, Astrologer to Elizabeth I, 1583. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the Mystic and Alchemist John Dee along with his companion, fellow Alchemist and Psychic Edward Kelly, came to the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey, around the year 1583, to see if anything could be salvaged. An ‘alchemical manuscript’ which Kelly claimed to have discovered somewhere previously in the ‘Vale of Avalon’ near Glastonbury was said to refer to ten specific locations in England where buried treasure was hidden. Dee was more interested in the discovery of ‘Merlin’s Secret’, said to be found in the unusual arrangements of the prehistoric earthworks in Vale of Avalon. Dee mapped out these earthworks and determined they represented the signs of the zodiac and other constellations. In the margin of this map he wrote the quoted words “The Starres which Agree with their Reproductions on the Ground......” However, Dee’s apparent 16th century discovery of the Glastonbury Zodiac lies solely in the story of Dee's biographer Richard Deacon who went to the Warburg Institute where Dee’s papers were stored. On examining them, Deacon claimed to have found this map with Dee’s zodiac quotation in the margin. Deacon copied it down but the next time he went to see these documents, Dee's map of the zodiac could not be found. Yuri Leitch, John Dee and the pre-Maltwood Enigma.
8. Katherine Maltwood, A Guide to Glastonbury's Temple Of The Stars, James Clarke & Co., 1964, first published 1929.
9. John Michell, The View Over Atlantis, Garnstone Press, Revised Edition 1972, p.66.
10. Ibid., p.155
11. Nicholas Mann, Glastonbury Tor, Triskele, 1986.
12. The Metonic Cyle of 18.61 years is a period of 235 lunar months, at the end of which the phases of the moon repeat in exactly the same order and on the same days as the preceding cycle.
13. In astronomy, declination is one of the two coordinates of the equatorial coordinate system, the other being either right ascension or hour angle. Declination in astronomy is comparable to geographic latitude, but projected onto the celestial sphere. Declination is measured in degrees north and south of the celestial equator. Points north of the celestial equator have positive declinations, while those to the south have negative declinations.
14. Nicholas Mann, The Isle of Avalon, Green Magic, 2001, pp. 77-81.
15. Nicholas Mann, Energy Secrets of Glastonbury Tor, Green Magic, 2004, pp. 91-97.
16. South Cadbury Environs Project’s (SCEP) – Appendix 3.
17. Richard Tabor, Cadbury Castle: focusing the landscape.
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