Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Forgotten Bit on Emrys the ball-player and the Irish Aengus Mac Og

RIB 1120. Altar dedicated to Apollo Maponus, Corbridge

I wrote the following essay quite a few years ago and Robert Vermaat was kind enough to host it.  Was surprised to find it still there!

I notice that in my books I neglect to mention the parallel motif of the ball-playing of Emrys at Campus Elleti and that of Oengus Mac Og at Bri Leith.  During these episodes, we learn that both "boys" got into fights during their respective games because they were made fun of for being fatherless:

Nennius Chapter 41:

 In consequence of this reply, the king sent messengers throughout Britain, in search of a child born without a father. After having inquired in all the provinces, they came to the field of Ælecti, in the district of Glevesing, where a party of boys were playing at ball. And two of them quarrelling, one said to the other, "O boy without a father, no good will ever happen to you." Upon this, the messengers diligently inquired of the mother and the other boys, whether he had had a father? Which his mother denied, saying, "In what manner he was conceived I know not, for I have never had intercourse with any man;" and then she solemnly affirmed that he had no mortal father. The boy was, therefore, led away, and conducted before Vortigern the king.

The Wooing of Etain:

 2. The Dagda meanwhile brought his son to Midir's house in Bri Leith in Tethba, to be fostered. There Aengus was reared for the space of nine years. Midir had a great playing-field in Bri Leith. Thrice fifty lads of the young nobles of Ireland were there and thrice fifty maidens of the land of Ireland. Aengus was the leader of them all, because of Midir's great love for him, and the beauty of his form and the nobility of his race. He was also called in Mac Oc (the Young Son), for his mother said: "Young is the son who was begotten at the break of day and born betwixt it and evening."
3. Now Aengus quarreled with Triath son of Febal (or Gobor) of the Fir Bolg, who was one of the two leaders in the game, and a fosterling of Midir. It was no matter of pride with Aengus that Triath should speak to him, and he said: "It irks me that the son of a serf should hold speech with me," for Aengus had believed until then that Midir was his father, and the kingship of Bri Leith his heritage, and he knew not of his kinship with the Dagda.

I've often pointed out that the Elei of the Pa Gur poem, where Mabon is placed as a carrion bird, is doubtless the valley of the Ely River, which is where we find Campus Elleti.  Mabon is the "Divine Son", the Welsh counterpart of Mac Og, the 'Young Son.'  Furthermore, Mabon was identified by the Welsh in tradition, at least, with the god Lleu.  Lleu is placed as a death-eagle in Nantlle in Gwynedd, and Mabon's grave is said to be in exactly the same place.  In the Mabinogion, Lleu is said to be the Lord of Gwynedd - which matches the region over which Emrys is said to rule in Nennius.

I've also mentioned in previous works how Ambrosius/Emrys, the Divine or Immortal One, who was also "golden" (aureolus, Aurelius), was originally the Prefect of Gaul, father of St. Ambrose, who bore the same name.  Place-names in Gaul like the Moselle and Aquileia associated with Ambrose became fancifully linked to places in Wales such as Maes Elleti and Eryri.  [Vortigern at Dinas Emrys may also echo the presence of Maximus the Tyrant at Aquileia.] The battle of Ambrosius at Guoloph (Geoffrey of Monmouth's Galabes, i.e. Wallop in Hampshire) is itself suspicious, as the location is not far from Amesbury and Stonehenge.  Amesbury or Ambresbyrig was falsely linked to Ambrosius in his capacity of Lleu/Mabon/Mac Og the sun god of Stonehenge. The chronology of the battle pits Ambrosius against Vitalinus the grandfather of Vortigern, demonstrating that Ambrosius was NOT the contemporary of Vortigern.

Geoffrey of Monmouth made things even more confusing by identifying Merlin (Myrddin) with the Emrys that was Lleu/Mabon.

From a second article on the Vortigern Studies site (, not all of which I still hold to, I discussed yet another parallel with the Dinas Emrys story.  This time, the repeated motif pointed to an indirect connection with St. Ambrose:

"The Ard-righ or High-king Loegaire and his druids are confounded by St. Patrick.

The high-king Vortigern and his magicians are confounded by the boy Ambrosius.

In the Patrick story, the future St. Benignus, who is only a boy, represents Patrick in the contest with the druids (information courtesy Dr. Elizabeth O'Brien). This Benignus, later a saint and Patrick's successor at Armagh, died in 467 or 468. He had a namesake, an Archbishop of St. Ambrose's Milan, who died in 477."

What we have with Aurelius Ambrosius or Ambrosius Aurelianus, therefore, is some major myth-making.  That Uther Pendragon appears to be a "cipher" for him has not helped us in our quest for Arthur.  We need to dispense with both A.A. and Uther, as well as the Dumnonian genealogy to which they were attached.

Arthur was in the North.  And his family was there, too.  

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