Saturday, December 3, 2016

THE SLAYING OF MONGAN SON OF FIACHNA BY ARTUIR SON OF BICOIR: A REVENGE KILLING?


Gesail Gyfarch Stone, Penmorfa, Gwynedd

In my rather meandering and inconclusive blog post THAT PESKY DRAGON (http://mistshadows.blogspot.com/2016/10/that-pesky-dragon.html), I discussed the land of Eifionydd in NW Wales as the home of dragons/serpents.  I tentatively associated these serpents with the ones at both Dinas Emrys and at the Segontium Roman fort.

What had not occurred to me when I wrote this piece was that the Beccurus Stone (http://datingoldwelshhouses.co.uk/library/HHistory-old/HH%20GESAIL%20GYFARCH.pdf, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/archaeology/cisp/database/) is situated in Eifionydd. Why might this be significant?

Long ago, myself and others pointed out the very real possibility that the birth story of Arthur as recorded in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain was borrowed from that of the birth of the Irish king Mongan.  When I discussed this story I noted the interesting occurrence of a character referred to variously as the 'terrible warrior' or the 'terrible man.' I floated the idea that the Terrible Warrior could be the origin of the Uther Pendragon epithet.  There was, of course, a major problem with this idea: the Terrible Warrior is brought forward as the champion of the Saxons in the battle against Aedan of Dalriada (the father or grandfather of an Arthur) and his ally, Fiachna son of Baetan.

Most authorities hold to the view (and, I think, correctly) that the battle in the Irish story is a reflection of that of the historical conflict of Degsastan.  Now, there is something very odd about the Degsastan battle: no Britons are present.  What happens, though, if for the sake of argument we allow for the Terrible Warrior to be a designation for Beccurus of Eifionydd?

What I'm suggesting is that Beccurus, called the Terrible Dragon (of Eifionydd), i.e. the Terrible Warrior (as 'dragon' in this context is a metaphor for a warrior; see http://geiriadur.ac.uk/gpc/gpc.html), was fighting with the English against the Scots.  Fiachna kills Beccurus - or the Irish king is credited with that killing.  Later, in vengeance for his father's slaying, Arthur son of Beccurus kills Mongan, the son of Fiachna.


Needless to say, this throws completely out of whack the established chronology for the first or "original" Arthur.  It also causes a number of other needed changes in my own theory about him.  For one, Camlann is almost certainly the place I discussed in my book (http://mistshadows.blogspot.com/2016/07/the-arthur-of-history-appendix-iii.html) in NW Wales not far from where the Beccurus Stone is located.

The notion that the Arthur name is to be derived from the Roman name Artorius might now seem to be in doubt.  I've always been haunted by the fact that ALL the historical Arthurs of the 7th century belong to Irish-descended dynasties.  The arth/'bear' connection is doubtless important and if Arthur son of Bicoir/Beccurus belongs to Eifionydd, that he is said in Welsh tradition to have relatives at Caer Dathal (Garn Boduan?) of the bear-god Math son of Mathonwy should also not be overlooked.  I have noted before that the Breguoin/Bremenium battle of Arthur in the Historia Brittonum may have been chosen for the great hero because of the presence there of a Roman period bear-god named Matunus. However, every major Celtic linguist I've checked with insists on Artorius was the origin of Arthur.  None of my proposed alternative etymologies work and the same must be said for etymologies proposed by others. 

I now am distancing myself from my own theory that 'Bicoir', rather than representing Beccurus, may be a corruption of Petuir, a spelling for Pedr/Petrus of Dyfed, who also had a son named Arthur (http://mistshadows.blogspot.com/2016/09/bicoir-father-of-artuir-and-beccurus.html).  If we go in the direction of Bicoir = Pedr, we lose our connection with Eifionydd and the dragons and we could not propose that Bicoir was the Terrible Warrior/Uther Pendragon.  In my essay 'That Pesky Dragon' I mention that Arthur son of Bicoir slays the Irish king Mongan with a dragon stone.  If Bicoir = Beccurus of the snakes' lair that was Eifionydd, we might expect his son to use just such a stone.

 NOTE: The authorship of the Historia Brittonom has been challenged by scholars such as David Dumville.  However, while Nennius cannot be proven to be the author of the text, neither can the traditional attribution be disproven.   One thing, however, does seem fairly certain: the original composition was created in Gwynedd - the very kingdom which contains Eifionydd of Beccurus (http://www.walesher1974.org/her/groups/GAT/media/GAT_Reports/GATreport_681_compressed.pdf).

If Nennius (or whoever the actual author of the HB was) did live in Gwynedd, did he select his own local Arthur, a purely regional hero, to become the propagandist champion of the British against the English?

NOTE 2:  The reading of the Beccurus Stone is uncertain.  Rather than the CIVI for CIVE offered by Rhys, I would tentatively propose CVM (cum).  This would allow for the inscription to be read "Cunalipus's son Cunacus lies here with Beccurus."

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