Monday, September 26, 2016


Little Doward hill fort in Ercing, scene of the death of Vortigern

Quite a few years ago I explored the identity/nature of Igerna/Eigr, Arthur’s mother.  Much of what I came up with can be found in my book THE MYSTERIES OF AVALON.  Essentially, Eigr (the original Welsh form of her name) was a deified headland or perhaps a version of Hera Akraia, as the Tintagel headland may well be the Roman period Promontory of Herakles.  A great deal of mythological overlay is present in her story.

But I failed to notice something during the course of my research.  First, let me simply enter here some passages from older essays (found on Robert Vermaat’s Arthurian pages, in P.C. Bartram’s A CLASSICAL WELSH DICTIONARY and in the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru):

“On the Lleyn Peninsula in NW Wales is the hill-fort of Garn Boduan or Bodfuan, the “Cairn of the Dwelling of Buan”.  Buan was a saint in the area, and his name means “swift, quick, fast”.   This is interesting, as an unlocated fort called Caer Dathal, said to be in Arfon adjacent to Lleyn, bears an Irish name which means “swift”, from daith (see Donnchadh O’Corrain and Fidelma Maguire’s Irish Names).  Melville Richards, the famed Welsh place-name scholar, guessed that Dathal was a Cymracization of the Irish name Tuathal (information courtesy Dr. Hywel Wyn Owen, University of Wales, Bangor).  But as Tuathal’s cognate in Welsh is Tudwall and a saint of this name is present on the Lleyn Peninsula, I think it is more likely that the native Welsh name Buan or “the Swift” has replaced the earlier Irish name Dathal “the Swift” at Garn Boduan.”

“Welsh tradition gives Eigr a father named Anblaud (the Very Swift or Very Fierce)who, through his sons Gwrfoddw and Llygadrudd Emys (this last being a corruption of the name of the grave of Arthur’s son at Llygad Amr according to the “Marvels” of Nennius; see P.C. Bartrum), has been shown to be a king of Ercing.  Ercing as a regional name evolved from the Roman name of the town of Ariconiumor Achenfield at Weston-Under-Penyard and the region about the town now forms part of Herefordshire.”

“Iaen (Legendary). A list of the sons of Iaen, supposed to be present at Arthur's Court, is given in the tale of ‘Culhwch and Olwen’ (WM 461, RM 107). Their names are: Teregud, Sulien, Bradwen, Morien, Siawn, and Caradog, and they are said to be men of Caer Dathal, kindred to Arthur on his father's side, or perhaps ‘on their father's side’.” [Caer Dathal was the court of Math ("Bear") son of Mathonwy.  As the Welsh connected Arthur's name with their word arth, 'bear', it is easy to see how he could fancifully be said to have relatives at this fort.]

“blawdd [of An-blaud, where An- is an intensifier]

[yr un elf. ag a welir yn aerflawdd, cadflawdd, cymlawdd, &c.: < Clt. *blād- ?o’r gwr. IE. *bhleh2-d- neu *bhleh3-d-, cf. Goth. blōtan ‘anrhydeddu (drwy aberthu)’, H. Nor. blōta ‘aberth’, ?Llad. flāmen ‘math o offeiriad’; petrus yw dosbarthiad rhai o’r enghrau., ac ansicr yw ystyr engh. gyntaf adran (b) fel a., cf. Wiliam Llŷn: Gw (R. Stephens) (At.) 9b, Blawdd tarian blawdd Egin kred blaidd gwyn kryf] 

eg. ll. bloddion, a hefyd fel a.

a  Dychryn, arswyd, cynnwrf, cythrwfl; prysurdeb; person ffyrnig, dychrynwr, cynhyrfwr, cyffröwr:

fright, terror, turmoil, tumult; busyness; fierce person, one who inspires fear, agitator, inciter. 

12g. GCBM i. 298, Wedy Ririd Uleit, ula()t haearndaun.

id. 327, G()aedlann vlaut, amnaut amniuer.

12-13g. GLlLl 5, Ef ula()t kyfrieu, ef uleityad—yn dygyn, / Ef kynnygyn kymynad.
13g. A 308-9, ysgavl dhisgynnyawd wlawd gymre.

c. 1400 R 128126-8, Howel gaen vuel aryf gyntevin bla()d. ha()d y glutdel ffa()d wyr g()latoed olffin.

a. 1587 Y 178, Mae o’th ystâd a adwaen / (Och, och o’th flawdd!) chwech o’th flaen.

1620 id. 180, blawdd yw prysurdeb.

1793 P, Blawz, s. m.—pl. blozion … Activity; tumult.

1888 SE, Blawdd, pl. bloddion, sm. commotion, tumult, agitation; activity.

b  Ymffrost, bost:

boast, brag. 

15g. Gwilym Tew: Gw 453, Ni bu arall call, heb gael colled, / Yn goddeithio Ffrainc yn gy’ ddoethed, / Â’r synnwyr (cadarn cyd synied)—â’r blawdd; / Ar fwriad anhawdd—Ef yw’r Dwned!

Dchr. 17g. J 10 141b, Blawdd. × frôst.

Fel a.

a  Ffyrnig, brawychus, dychrynllyd, terfysglyd, cynddeiriog, cyffrous:

fierce, frightening, terrible, tumultuous, furious, exciting. 

12g. GLlF 426, Kymhenda()d cancla()t, uar ula()t ulaenu.

12g. GCBM ii. 93, Angut urt ortwy hynod, / Angert ula()t agla()t aglod.

13g. C 9713-14, Tarv trin anvidin blaut arbenic llu llid anhaut.

14g. GDG³ 194, Ni bu brifwynt planetsygn, / Na rhuthr blawdd rhwng deuglawdd dygn [i’r don ar afon Dyfi].

c. 1400 R 12418-9, blawd galar amgar g()reid.

id. 128911-12, trostan ynghyrch bla()d. trystan anghat.

1793 R. Powell: ADV 6, Ac Eölus à giliawz, / Ar ethryb lwyr a’i ruthyr blawz [:- Tervysglyd].

id. 26, Y gwynt blawz a’i gawz yn gaeth [am y gaeaf].

b  Cyflym, chwim, chwyrn, bywiog, heini, parod:

  quick, swift, brisk, active, nimble, ready. 

16g. Wiliam Llŷn: Gw (R. Stephens) 227, Blawdd egni Cred, blaidd gwyn cryf, / Beli wydrgrest baladrgryf.

1632 D, *Blawdd, chwyrn, [William] Ll[yn]. Agilis, celer, gnavus, expeditus, impiger, properus.

1688 TJ, Blawdd, chwyrn. Quick, nimble, swift, active.

1753 TR, Blawdd, chwyrn. [William] Ll[yn]. swift, active, nimble, quick, fleet, speedy, ready.

1758 ML (Add) 361, Dychwel yn ol freiniol fron / Dyred o Gymru dirion / Dyfrysia’n flawdd heb nawdd neb / ac attwyn rywiog atteb [i anfon colomen].

1770 W d.g. Active, Brisk, Swift.

1793 P, Blawz, a. … Active; nimble; swift; ready.1753 TR, Blawdd, chwyrn. 
[William] Ll[yn]. swift, active, nimble, quick, fleet, speedy, ready.

1758 ML (Add) 361, Dychwel yn ol freiniol fron / Dyred o Gymru dirion / Dyfrysia’n flawdd heb nawdd neb / ac attwyn rywiog atteb [i anfon colomen].

1770 W d.g. Active, Brisk, Swift.

1793 P, Blawz, a. … Active; nimble; swift; ready.”

Now, what is immediately apparent is that the EARLIEST meaning of blawdd, as found in the name Anblaud, was not ‘very swift.”  It was instead 'very fierce/frightening/terrible' and the like. 

As Anblaud shows up later as Amlawdd Wledig (A. the Ruler or Prince), the meaning of this name is pretty much an exact equivalent of Uther Pendragon, the “Terrible Chief Warrior/Leader”!

Now, before anyone gets too excited about this, let me point out that Arthur’s connection with Ercing is first found in the Mirabilia section of Nennius.  There we are told of the grave of Arthur’s son, whom he is supposed to have killed.  The grave is actually a spring, called the “eye” of the stream Amr.  This is merely a folktale, but it may be the reason why Eigr was associated with Anblaud of Ercing.

In fact, a supposed son of Amlawdd (as mentioned already above) appears to be a corruption of this spring name.  Again from Bartram:

"LLYGADRUDD EMYS. (Legendary). ‘The red-eyed stallion’. The name occurs in the tale of ‘Culhwch and Olwen’ where he is said to be  an  uncle  of Arthur, one of his mother's brothers, and present at Arthur's Court (WM 464, RM 109), therefore  presumably  son  of  Amlawdd  Wledig.  He  and  his  brother  Gwrfoddw  Hen  were  slain  by  the young boar Llwydog Gofynniad in Ystrad Tywi during the hunting of the boar Trwyth (RM 140).John  Rhys  thought  that  Emys was  probably  a  mistake  for  Emyr,  so  that  the  name  would mean ‘the red-eyed king or emperor’ (Celtic Folklore,p.531). Even so it does not sound like a real name and seems to have been constructed to explain the place-name Llygad Amr, ‘The Eye of Amr’, i.e. the source of  the  Amr,  now  called  Gamber  Head  in  Ergyng  (WCO  102,  112-3).  Compare  Amhar  ab  Arthur. A.W.Wade-Evans proposed to identify Llygadrudd Emyr with Emyr Llydaw (WCO 102, 113)."
Geoffrey of Monmouth also situates Vortigern’s death at the hands of Ambrosius in Ercing.

Another of Arthur's sons - Llacheu - was taken from a stream name not far from the Gamber.  To again draw on the excellent work of Bartram:

"AMHAR ab ARTHUR. (Legendary).  (505) He is mentioned in the tale of ‘Geraint and Enid’ as one of the four servants who guarded Arthur's bed (WM 388, RM 246). He  is  probably  the  same  as  the  person  named Amr,son  of  Arthur,  in  HB  §73.  (So  spelt  in  the CDLG  group  of  MSS.  but Anir in  H).  It  tells  that  Amr  was  killed  by  Arthur  and  buried  at  a place  in Ergyng which was called after him, Llygad Amr, ‘the eye of Amr’, i.e. the source of the river Gamber, now  Gamber  Head  in Herefordshire  (grid ref. SO/4929)…

Amhyr appears as a personal name in the Book of Llandaf (BLD 277) and in the same manuscript Amir and Humir or Humri appear  as  the  names  of  two  rivers,  one  the  Gamber (BLD  174,  200-1,  226, 377, etc), the other a stream near Caerleon (BLD 183-4, 226, 374).

Lechou also occurs as the name of a stream near Caerleon (BLD 226). This corresponds to Llacheu (q.v.), another son of Arthur, as pointed out by A.W.Wade-Evans. (Nennius, p.75 n.6).”

The Lechou is a small rivulet which rises in the Caer Wood, on the Maendy Farm (now Maindee).
It may also be that the names Anblaud and Uther just happened to closely resemble each other in meaning, and that this was what caused Eigr to be linked to Anblaud.  Yet if this were the case, we might expect instead for Anblaud Wledig to have been identified with Uther.  

Still, it is interesting that the name of Arthur’s father (which up until now I’ve taken as a cipher for Ambrosius Aurelianus, the Terrible Chief Dragon for whom Vortigern had dread) has nearly the same meaning as the name of Eigr’s father.

NOTE: Uther is made a son of a Constantine.  This confused figure combines characteristics of several different Roman emperors.  But I should mention in passing that there appears to have been an early Constantine in Ercing as well.  This passage is from Bartram's Dictionary:

CUSTENNIN, king in Ergyng(?).  (500)

The king of an un-named locality mentioned in a charter in the Book of Llandaf as Constantinus, Father-in-law of Peibio ab Erb, king of Ergyng. The deed records the grant of Llangustennin Garth Benni (now Welsh Bicknor on the Wye in Ergyng, Herefordshire) by Peibio to Dubricius. Custenhin appears as a  witness  (BLD  72).  According  to  the  Life  of  St.Dubricius,  the  saint  was grandson  of  Peibio, and therefore great-grandson of Custennin. The charter is at least partly faked. See s.n. Dyfrig. A.W.Wade-Evans proposed to identify this Custennin with Custennin ap Macsen Wledig (WCO 57-58), while LBS had earlier identified him with Custennin Gorneu (II.177, 375). Both identifications are doubtful (PCB).

Amlawdd is brought into connection with a Constantine in the former's genealogy, as shown by Bartram:
The wife of Amlawdd Wledig was Gwen ferch Cunedda Wledig (JC 7, ByA 29(14), 31 in EWGT pp.45, 92, 94). His pedigree is given in ByA 31 in EWGT p.94: Amlawd wledic ap Kynwal ap Ffrwdwr ap Gwrvawr ap Kadien ap Kynan ap Eudaf ... The first record of this is by Gutun Owain (d.c.1498) and it  does  not  rank with  the  ‘Hanesyn  Hen’  texts,  but  it  has  respectable  authority.  It  makes  Amlawdd Wledig  a  first cousin  to  Custennin  Fendigaid.  But  it  never  gained  much  currency,  being  superseded  in the mid-16th century by one based on Arthurian Romance.

And yet another Constantine is associated with Amlawdd Wledig:

CUSTENNIN ap MYNWYEDIG.(Legendary).He is called Custennin Heusor, ‘the shepherd’, ap Mynwyedig (Dyfnedig, RM) in the tale of ‘Culhwch  and  Olwen’.  When  Culhwch  and  his  six  companions  were  searching  for  Olwenferch Ysbaddaden Pencawr they first found Custennin the shepherd on the top of a knoll guarding a huge flock of  sheep,  covered  in a  coat of skins,  and  near him an  enormous  shaggy mastiff (WM 472, RM  114-5). His wife was an un-named daughter of Anlawdd [Amlawdd] Wledig and therefore aunt to Culhwch and to Arthur. It was ‘because of her’ (we are not told how) that Ysbaddaden the giant had injured Custennin and  slain  twenty-three  of  his  twenty-four  sons  (WM  472-5,  RM  115-7).  The  last  remaining  son  joined Culhwch  and  his  six companions,  and  later received  the  name  Goreu.  It was at the house of Custennin that the seven warriors stayed while Culhwch negotiated with Ysbaddaden for the hand of Olwen (WM 475f, RM 475f). The implication in the story is that both Custennin and his wife were rather larger than normal human beings.

King Arthur's Cave at Little Doward


Various Arthurian writers have pointed that there were several Cernyws or “Cornwalls” in Britain other than modern-day Cornwall (and never mind Cornouaille in Brittany).  I once discussed both the ancient kingdom of the Cornovii, which became Powys, as well as the Roman period town of Durocornovium at Wanborough.  And then there is a Llangernyw in Conwy, and more importantly perhaps, a Coedcernyw, modern Coedkernew, in southern Wales.  Malcolm Wilson on his Website “In the name of ‘Arthur’”, , nicely summarizes what we know of the latter place:

“There is also a Gelli-Wig (near Grosmont Castle) in what is now Gwent, Southeast Wales (cantref of GWENT UCH COED on the map), and what was, in medieval times, Monmouthshire (one assumes Geoffrey’s youthful stomping ground.) Not only a Gelli-Wig (Gelliwig) but a Coedcernyw (today Coedkernew between Caerleon and Cardiff in South Wales – cantref of GWENT IS COED on the map), and two mentions in the Llandaff Charters[3] of a ‘Brinn Cornou’,[4] and ‘Cruc Cornou’,[5] both near this Gelli-Wig. (Don’t be put off by the various different spellings of Cernyw/Kernyw/Kernew/Gorneu/Cornou, this was normal.)”

Celliwig/Gelliwig/Kelliwic (etc.) was claimed as Arthur’s primary court in Welsh tradition.  For the one near Grosmont, see

I have recently successfully etymologized the name Eliwlad, given as son of Madog son of Uther.  This personage, in the form of an eagle, is found at “glyncoet Kernyw”.  Patrick Sims-Williams identified this place with “the large, wooded Glynn valley near Bodmin [Cornwall].”  But might it not have been Coedkernew in southern Wales?  Just a few kilometers north of Coedkernew is Maes Arthur, ‘Arthur’s Field/Plain.’

Coedkernyw was in the ancient kingdom of Gwynllwg, which has been named for its 5th century ruler Gwynllyw.  According to Wikipedia (deriving its information from The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales of 2008),

“It was named after Gwynllyw, its 5th century or 6th century ruler and consisted of the coastal plain stretching between the Rhymney and Usk rivers, together with the hills to the north. It was traditionally regarded as part of the kingdom of Glamorgan (Welsh: Morgannwg) [to be technically more correct, of   Glywysing], rather than that of Gwent which extended only as far westwards as the River Usk. However, under the Laws in Wales Acts of 1535-42, the hundred was included with those situated to the east, to form the new county of Monmouthshire.”

Arthur features in a story on this Gwynllyw in the Life of St. Cadog.  As told by Bartram:

“Gwynllyw  had  first sought the  hand  of Gwladus peaceably, but  Brychan  had  refused,  and  slighted  the  messengers.  Then  Gwynllyw  set  out  with  three  hundred servants,  came  to  the  court  of Brychan  at  Talgarth,  and  found  the  young  lady  before  the  door  of  her residence.  They  took  her  by  force  and  returned  with  speed,  but  were  pursued  by  Brychan  and  his auxiliaries. Two hundred of his men were slain, but he arrived safely at the borders of his kingdom, still being pursued, when he was seen by Arthur and his companions, Cai and Bedwyr. They were sitting on the top of Bochriw Carn. Arthur attacked Gwynllyw's pursuers and chased them back to their own land.”

Bochriw Carn is the cairn atop Mynydd Fochriw in Caerphilly.  

[Cadog son of Gwynllyw's given name was actually Catmail or Cadfael, from Cato-maglos, "Battle-prince/chieftain/lord."  He is known to have had a disciple named Cadwaladr, 'Battle-Prince/leader/chieftain.' A church to this Cadwaladr, Llangadwaladr, is in Gwent at Bishton next to Magor.  There was a castle at Bishton, but also the nearby Wilcrick Hill fort.  See I've maintained all along that Arthur's "leader of battles" designation points to a Latin rendering of just such a British name.] 

Sub-Roman Wales, showing Gwynllwg (of Coed Cernyw) and Ergyng

All of the above is NOT an indication that the original 5th-6th century Arthur belonged in Southeastern Wales.  Instead, it shows us clearly just how complicated the process of relocation could be during the development of later Arthurian legend.  As I've remarked before, Arthur was placed just about everywhere.  Proof of this is found not only in Welsh story and folktales, but in the landscape features named for the hero.  It was only natural for the Welsh to bring the great king into their fold when the other Celtic lands had been lost to Germanic invaders. I still maintain that the Arthur of the Nennius battle list was centered at the west end of Hadrian's Wall, that he is know to us through the early genealogies as Ceidio son of Arthwys and that his battles were entirely in the North.

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