Saturday, April 22, 2017

Cunedda, Carlisle, Durham - and Camboglanna?

Map Showing Camboglanna and Aballava in Relation to Carlisle/Luguvalium

In my book THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY, one of the proofs I supplied for a historical Arthur based on the western end of Hadrian's Wall was the presence of some Roman fort names that seemed to match up very well with famous place-names found in the Arthurian tradition.  Chief among these was Camboglanna (= Camlann?) and Aballava (or Avalana, = Avalon?).  However, my more recent research, which opts instead for an Arthur originating from the kingdom of Ceredigion, made it seem much more likely that Camlann is to be identified with one of the sites of that name in NW Wales.  It seemed possible, therefore, that 'Avalon' was conjured up as the burial place of Arthur because one of the Welsh Camlanns was confused with the Camboglanna fort on the Wall.

An ancient Welsh poem called MARWNAD CUNEDDA, or the "Death-Song of Cunedda", may allow for us to have our cake and eat it, too, in a sense.  In this poem (, Cunedda, father of Ceredig/Arthur, is said to have fought at Carlisle and Durham.  These locations are interesting, as they designate sites not far to the south of Hadrian's Wall, at both the western and eastern ends, respectively.  But what are we to make of this claim in the panegyric?

Carlisle, the earlier Roman fort of Luguvalium, is directly between the Camboglanna and Aballava forts.  If Cunedda really were fighting here, and his sons (or teulu) were with him at the time, then it is certainly conceivable that Ceredig/Arthur fought and died at Camboglanna.  This would appear to be in contradistinction to Ceredig (or Cerdic) fighting in the extreme south of England.

There are two possibilities, as I see it.  First, as a mercenary chieftain (or federate in the old Roman style), Ceredig/Arthur was literally fighting all over the place.  There is nothing wrong with this notion and it cannot, on the face of things, be objected to.  We do have to remember, though, that Cunedda himself was falsely associated with the Far North when he was converted from an Irishman into a Briton with bogus Roman ancestry.  The same death-song, for example, has him being militarily active in Bernicia, which at its maximum extent eventually bordered right on Manau Gododdin, the region substituted for that around Drumanagh in Ireland.  Thus it could well be that these northern locations with which Cunedda became associated represent fictional elements in his exploits.  In other words, as he came to be seen as a great British chieftain of the North, who at some point in his career came down and conquered or settled in NW Wales, it was deemed necessary to provide a "history" for him that preceded his actions in Gwynedd.

So, did Arthur die at Camboglanna on the Wall or at one of the Camlanns in NW Wales?  Given that the Welsh Camlanns are just a little north of Ceredigion, it seems logical to at least prefer them over the Roman fort on the Wall.  Welsh tradition insisted from early on the the conflict between Arthur and Medraut was an internecine one.  We might imagine, then, a border dispute between Ceredigion and Meirionydd, or merely aggressive movement of the former into the latter.  Yet we must temper this view with my previous argument for Medraut (Modred, etc.) as a form of the Latin name Moderatus, which was borne by a prefect in the Cumbria region during the Roman period.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

New artwork for my next Arthur book

Artist Keven Nichols will be preparing a new version of his portrait of a werebear for my upcoming book THE BEAR KING: ARTHUR AND THE IRISH IN WESTERN AND SOUTHERN BRITAIN. Here is the original piece from which he will be working...

Thursday, March 9, 2017

UPDATE on Aerfen, goddess of the River Dee

In an earlier post (, I suggested that St. Aaron of the City of the Legion was a Christian substitute for the goddess Aerfen/Aeruen of the River Dee.

I've since had confirmation back from the National Library of Wales regarding false claims made concerning this goddess by neopagan writers:

Thus while she is mentioned in early Welsh sources, it is patently untrue that a shrine to her was known of, and that sacrifices were regularly offered to her.  These are stories made up by modern authors which have infiltrated some other more respectable sources and are, therefore, all too often interpreted as facts.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Family of the Real Arthur (Ceredig son of Cunedda)


According to the early Welsh genealogies, the mother of Ceredig son of Cunedda (in a later source called the mother of Cunedda) was named Gwawl.  She was supposedly a daughter of Coel Hen of the North, a common progenitor of early princely lines.  Although some have disagreed, Coel himself is likely a eponym created for the Kyle region of South Ayrshire in southern Scotland.

Gwawl is though to mean (GPC) 'light, brightness, radiance, splendour; bright'.  This would be a very pretty name for a woman, and an especially apt one for a queen.  Unfortunately, there is a another word in Welsh spelled exactly the same which leads us to a different conclusion regarding Ceredig's mother.  Here is a page from P.C. Bartram's A CLASSICAL WELSH DICTIONARY:

Gwawl is 'wall' in Welsh.  For Gwawl son of Clud (Clud being an eponym for the Clyde), it designates the Antonine Wall.  As Cunedda was wrongly said to have come from Manau Gododdin, a region which stretched to both sides of the same Roman defensive barrier, it seems pretty obvious to me that Gwawl was chosen as the name of Ceredig's mother for exactly this reason, i.e he and his father were said to have originated or were "born" from the eastern end of the Antonine Wall.


According to Dr. Simon Rodway of the University of Wales, Meleri is a hypocoristic form of Eleri.  'My', which means the same as our word my, is affixed to the front of the name as a term of endearment, viz. 'My Eleri.'  Eleri itself is a Welsh form of the Latin name Hilarius, from hilaris, 'cheerful, merry.'

Meleri is one of the many daughters of Brychan, the eponymous IRISH founder of the kingdom of Brycheiniog. which lay to the southeast of Ceredigion.


Of the progeny of Ceredig, we can do nothing better than cite Bartram once again:

To me the most interesting person here is the daughter Gwawr, mother of Gwynllyw.  In a previous post (, I discussed the Coedkernyw in Gwynllwg, a petty kingdom named for Gwynllyw, as well as the Celliwig located in the same vicinity.  Arthur in Welsh tradition is always strongly associated with a Kernyw and also with a Celliwig.  Gwynllwg was near Caerleon, the site of the City of the Legion where Arthur fought a battle according to the Historia Brittonum, and not far from the trajectus or Tribruit across the Severn where he fought another.

The son Carannog also plays into the story of Arthur, albeit more directly.  He is the saint of that name from the Vita:

Monday, February 27, 2017

Scholars no. 3, 4 and 5 weigh in on my identification of Iusay son of Ceredig with the Gewissae/Gewissei

From Professor Doctor P.C.H. Schrijver, Department of Languages, Literature and Communication, Celtic, Institute for Cultural Inquiry, University of Utrecht -

"Linguistically, the first thing that comes to mind regarding the initial alternation Usai /Iusay is the pair OW iud, MW udd 'lord' < *iüdd. So OW word-initial j- disappears in front of ü (= MW u). As to your assumption that Iusay may be connected to Gewissae if there is a rule that states that medial -i- is lost, I can tell you that there is indeed such a rule: *wi > ü in non-final syllables (as in *wikanti: > MW ugeint, see my Studies in British Celtic Historical Phonology 159-60). This generates the ü that we need in order to later get rid of the initial j. The only remaining problem is connecting OE Ge- /je/ with OW j-. Barring that, I would say, yes, what you suggest is possible. That still leaves the origin and etymology of the name in the dark (the reconstruction leads to something like *iwissai- or *g/jewissai-), but first things first."

From Professor Doctor Stefan Zimmer, Department of Celtic, University of Bonn -

"Spontaneaously, your idea of interpreting "Iusay" as a W form of OE Gewisse seems quite attractive. One must, of course, check meticulously the palaeographic details. As I am, alas, not a palaeograher myself, I cannot say more. I see no "LINGUISTIC" problems."

From Professor Patrick Sims-Williams, Department of Welsh and Celtic Studies, The University of Wales, Aberystwyth -

"I suppose Ius- is the older form and became Us- like Iustic in Culhwch which becomes Usic. Forms of Gewissae are noted by Williams/Bromwich Armes Prydein pp. xv-xvi. One Welsh form is Iwys, which rhymes as I-wys, and as the diphthong wy can become w, you could get I-ws- which could be written Ius- in Old Welsh and then add  -ae from Latin which almost gets you to Iusay."