Sunday, July 30, 2017

Final version of new book now available (THE BEAR KING)

A Repost of My Old Book Chapter on the "Men of the North" in Welsh Tradition

I've noticed that many people are still making seriously wrong assumptions regarding the famous Men of the North in Welsh tradition. For that reasons I thought it might be helpful to repost the following chapter from my first book...
While I no longer hold to the theory that Arthur originates from the Men of the North, what I wrote in this chapter still holds true. There are several names, for example, which are not at all what they appear to be. They may be eponyms or even personified place-names. Some, like Mar, actually represent entirely different personages who are found in other sources. I would highly recommend interested parties read this chapter thoroughly, as many groundless and false statements are being made regarding heroic Northern figures.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


The Promontory of Drumanagh

I have previously demonstrated that the Manau Gododdin associated with Cunedda (or Uther Pendragon, the father of Ceredig/Arthur) is an error or intentional substitution for a place in Ireland that resembles Manau.  As Cunedda hailed from Lusk and its environs, the natural conclusion was to look towards the nearby promontory fort of Drumanagh.

Some of the possible etymologies for Drumanagh are discussed here, in Chapter 3 of Sean Daffy's thesis:

To this we may add:

While I once leaned towards a possible connection with the Menapii of Ptolemy's map of Ireland, I no longer think that is a feasible theory.  Instead, we should take a closer look at the legendary figure Forgall Monach, who has two forts (or one bearing two names?) in this region.

To begin with, Forgall's name is not really a name.  It instead designates a rank, as is made clear by the entry in the eDIL for this word:

forgell, forgal(l)

Aire forgill a landed proprietor next in rank to a `ri': aire forggaill cid ara n-eperr? Ar is hé fortgella for na gráda doruirmisem, Críth G. 417 ( Laws iv 326 ) `testifies to [the character of] the grades'; `makes affirmation above the grades' Mac Neill, Law of Status 29 (see Críth G. p. 72 , B. Crólige p. 70 § 46 ). aire forgill, Críth G. 11 ( Laws iv 298 ). a. forggaill LL 29b22 . Called also: fer forgaill ZCP v 499 § 5 .

His epithet Monach is what I now believe lies behind the name of the Drumanagh fort.  Again from the eDIL:


adj o, ā. (mon) able to perform feats or tricks; dexterous, skilled. cach clessach na chanad cheilg | manach sein [i]sin Gædilg, LL 144b27 . ? fer manach craftsman (?), Hib. Min. 55.12 = f. manath, IT i 104.10 (see manath). n p. monaig ` equestrians' (= trick-riders?), Laws v 108.20 , with gl.: .i. bid ar monaib a n-each isna haenaigib `who stand on the backs of their horses (? perform feats of riding) in the fairs', 27 . As sobriquet: Forgall m.¤ the trickster (?), LL 144b26 . Forgull M.¤ .i. cleasuch ro bhoí, Cóir An. 205. ingen Forgaill manaich, LU 10176.

Forgall Monach is thus the 'skillful, high-ranking landed proprietor' or some such.  As for his proper name, well, that is not difficult to determine.  His fort at or near Lusk was called Luglochta Loga or Luglochtaib Loga.  While the first part of this place-name has eluded specialists, Loga here is for the god Lugh.  [I would render the place-name not as the 'Garden' of Lugh, which is suggested by an early gloss, but as Loc (log, lag, luic, lucc, etc.) + lucht, giving us a meaning of 'The Place of Those Belonging to Lugh.']  As Lugh was the skillful god and master crafsman in both Irish and Welsh tradition, it is fairly obvious to me that the Skillful, High-Ranking Proprietor is none other than Lugh himself.

The god Lugh was known as Lleu in Wales, and he was traditionally referred to as the Lord of Gwynedd.  And it was Gwynedd which Cunedda and his sons (or teulu) came to control sometime after the Roman withdrawal.

Forgall Monach is credited with having another great fort, this one called the Bruidne Forgall Monach.  Now, we can't know if this bruidne or 'hostel' is merely another name for Luglochta(ib) Loga or if it designates another nearby site.  But I'm guessing the Ridge of Monach or the Drumanagh fort is this place.

As the HISTORIA BRITTONUM ascribed to the monk Nennius claims that Cunedda came with his sons from Manau, i.e. the Ridge of [Forgall] Monach, and as Arthur was later said to have been born on a promontory fort at Tintagel in England, I would propose that the most likely birthplace for Ceredig son of Cunedda was, in fact, Drumanagh.  

Of course, we must wait for an actual excavation of Drumanagh before we can substantiate this kind of claim.  If we can't definitively show sub-Roman occupation of Drumanagh, then the notion that Ceredig/Arthur was actually born there cannot be proven.  According to Dr. Ger Dowling, "No evidence [of early medieval re-use of the site] - features identified by geophysical survey cannot be directly dated. This requires excavation." For now, we must rely on the thesis quoted above by Sean Daffy, as well as on the following more recent survey:

Dowling, G. 2014. Geophysical investigations at Drumanagh and Loughshinny, north County Dublin. Late Iron Age and 'Roman' Ireland, Discovery Programme Reports 8, 59–90 (Dublin: Wordwell)


According to Sean Daffy's thesis, 

"...just over 6km to the southeast of Drumanagh lies Lambay Island, where at least two crouched inhumations dating to the late 1st century AD were uncovered in 1927. The burial rite of crouched inhumation, and the presence of Roman brooches and Iron Age objects that have very close parallels in Wales and Northern England, would indicate that these individuals had strong links with communities in post-conquest Britain and are very likely to have come originally from Britain themselves (Rynne 1976; O’Brien 1990)... It is therefore possible that the burials on Lambay Island may belong to the wealthy members of a similar trading community that was settled just off the east coast of Ireland during the Late Iron Age (Waddell, 1998, 375-7)... recent geophysical survey on Lambay Island has revealed the presence of a promontory fort (consisting of an earthen bank and ditch) with two ring-barrows located immediately outside the ramparts. Traces of numerous circular huts in the interior also suggest that this site may have been a significant settlement (Cooney 2009). Another much smaller promontory fort a short distance to the east consists of three sets of banks and ditches that are closely spaced like the defences at Drumanagh."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Excellent Recent Thesis Containing a Chapter on the Drumanagh Fort

See Chapter Three, 'Drumanagh Promontory Fort, Co. Dublin', Page 93.

I've associated this fort with the 'Manau' of Cunedda and his sons.  More to come once I'm able to procure the 2014 report on the site.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Repost of My Summarized Treatment of Tintagel as Arthur's Birthplace


Archaeologists excavating at Tintagel in Cornwall have recently announced the discovery of a "Dark Age palace".  This discovery has ignited a frenzy of press reports associating the palace with King Arthur, who according to the 12th century writer Geoffrey of Monmouth was born at Tintagel.  An example of one of the more reasonable articles can be found here:

More sensational approaches abound, of course:

 Unfortunately, while Tintagel as Arthur's birthplace is well-established in popular tradition, there is absolutely no evidence that the tradition has any basis in fact.  No respectable archaeologist would ever make such an outlandish claim.  Archaeologists, no matter how capable they may be in their own discipline, in all likelihood do not possess knowledge of the textual criticism levied against the works of Geoffrey of Monmouth ever since medieval times (e.g. William of Newburgh, Gerald of Wales, etc.).  Modern scholars have been even harsher towards Geoffrey - and rightly so.  His "History of the Kings of Britain" is now universally considered a work of fiction by the Arthurian academic community.

Yet Tintagel, like Glastonbury (scene of the fraudulent grave of Arthur), has been hard to dislodge from the common imagination. In the past I wrote rather extensively on the Tintagel Fallacy, as one might call it.  There is, in reality, a great deal of information available to us which suggests rather strongly that the entire Tintagel birth story is a product of Geoffrey's creative genius.  While some might claim that just because fictional elements predominate in the story does not prove that the birth of Arthur at Tintagel did not happen, the combined effect of these elements with the evidence for Arthur in the North of Britain instead of the South should serve, once and for all, to dispel the Fallacy. 

The following email was sent to me by the director of the dig at Tintagel.  It very nicely states the position of archaeologists in relationship to the Tintagel discovery - as opposed to the hysterical and ill-informed reaction of the media:

"Dear Daniel,

Thanks for getting in touch – Francis has passed your email on to me.

We have only just finished the excavation at Tintagel for this year and a report will not appear for some time. Before that, analysis work will be carried out on the finds, soil samples and detailed stratigraphic records that we made during the project. We will undertake a second phase of excavation in summer 2017 and the work is part of a five year programme of analysis and research.

The news reports have been pretty wild, as you suggest. However, any archaeologists connected with the project have only alluded to the fact that walls have been found which suggest high status buildings dating to the post-Roman period. The early press reports made the connection that these could be part of a “Royal palace” , perhaps associated with the early kings of Dumnonia. There is, as yet, no direct evidence for this - we can only say that the walls are of a more impressive scale than any of the other post-Roman (Dark Age in old money) structures previously identified at Tintagel, and that they are associated with amphorae and fine wares imported from the Mediterranean.

But at no point have archaeologists involved in the project (ie those from either English Heritage or Cornwall Archaeological Unit) suggested an Arthurian connection – in fact they have said the opposite. Here, for instance, is a quote from the National Geographic: “Archaeologist Susan Greaney, a senior property historian with English Heritage, is quick to dismiss any connection between Arthurian legend and the new finds at Tintagel. "The Arthurian connection is a purely literary, legendary connection," says Greaney. "There's absolutely no way we would start a research project [with the goal of] looking for Arthur." Elsewhere, predictably perhaps, the National Geographic and others have flogged the Arthurian connection, but none of this has been endorsed by archaeologists.

So if the press suggests anyone has mentioned a connection with Arthur, it is pure invention.

Over the coming months myself and my colleague Jacky Nowakowski (project manager for the Tintagel Castle Archaeological Research Project ) will be concentrating on the archaeological evidence and what that can tell us, and help us focus on where we will be investigating next year.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,

James Gossip MCIFA (Excavation Director, Tintagel Castle Archaeological Research Project)"

The following selections from my book THE MYTERIES OF AVALON (see discuss the probable or possible sources and methods utilized by Geoffrey of Monmouth in concocting his story of Arthur's birth at Tintagel.  I have omitted my discussion of the identity of Uther Pendragon, which is covered in detail in THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY, Chapter 1 (posted to this blog page). 


"Only in the past few years, excavations carried out at Tintagel by Kevin Brady of Glasgow University have uncovered evidence which provides a very good reason why Arthur was linked to this site. A broken piece of Cornish slate was uncovered bearing the 6th century inscription ‘Pater Coliavificit Artognov’, which Professor Charles Thomas of Exeter University has rendered ‘Artognov, father of a descendent of Coll.’ While the name Arthur cannot be identified with that of Artognov, it is quite possible that Geoffrey of Monmouth or his source knew that Tintagel was once owned by someone whose name began with Arto-."


"Why, then, do we find Igerna/Eigr at Tintagel? To begin with, we know that Geoffrey’s placement of Arthur’s birth at the site was done for political reasons. The man who planned and built the castle of Tintagel was none other than the brother of Reginald Earl of Cornwall, Geoffrey’s patron.

His story of Igerna at Tintagel is unconcerned with history. Indeed, he does not even bother to use period proper names when listing the main characters of the drama!

According to his account, in order to gain secret access to Tintagel – and thus to Igerna – Merlin transforms himself into Britaelis, Uther into Gorlois and Ulfin of Rhydcaradoc into Jordan ‘of Tintagel’.

Britaelis is a known Norman period name. It means, literally, ‘the Breton’, and its earliest attestation is that of Godwine Brytael, referred to as a minister in Dorset in 1035. The Brytael name (Bretel, Bretellus, Britellus, etc.) came into England with William the Conquerer and is of French origin, so it could not have predated the Conquest. There were Brytaels all over England, including one listed as an owner of Trevelyan in Cornwall during the reign of Edward the Confessor (1043-1066).

Perhaps more exciting is the 9th century Breton Brithael, cousin of Lalocan, mentioned in the Cartulaire de l’Abbaye de Redon (125).  Myrddin’s real name was Llallogan and it is possible that somone concocting these tales knew of the close relationship existing between Lalocan and Brithael. 

Jordan is another Breton name. Geoffrey undoubtedly intended to model this man after Jordan of Trecarrel near Launceston, not far east of Tintagel. In a collection of miracle stories compiled by his son Peter of Cornwall, this Jordan is associated with Earl Reginald of Cornwall, Geoffrey’s patron.

Ulfin is for Alwin, and the Rhyddcaradoc or Charford in Hampshire (the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s Ceredicesford) is an error for Crantock in Cornwall, named for St. Carantoc. The Domesday Book for Cornwall and other documents list an Alwin who holds Winnianton from Mortain. This is the same Mortain who controlled Crantock, so this Alwin is doubtless our man.

So if Arthur’s birth at Tintagel was a fabrication on Geoffrey’s part, is there still reason to place Eigr there? Before we can answer this question, we should take a look at the story of the birth of Arthur.


It is well known that the story of Arthur’s conception has a clear parallel in that of the Irish Mongan, a 7th century king of the Dal nAraide in Co. Antrim. Instead of Merlin transforming Uther into a semblance of Gorlais so that the king may sleep with Igerna, in the Mongan tale it is the sea god Manannan mac Lir who transforms himself into Fiachna, the husband of Mongan’s mother Caintigern.

There are two versions of the story, recorded in the Ulster Journal of Archaeology and by Kuno Meyer, and I will supply both here:

“Fiachna Lurga, the father of Mongan, was sole king of the province. He had a friend in Scotland, to wit, Aedan, the son of Gabran. A message went from him to Aedan. A message went from Aedan asking him to come to his aid. He was in warfare against the Saxons. A terrible warrior was brought by them to accomplish the death of Aedan in the battle. Then Fiachna went across, leaving his queen at home.

While the hosts were fighting in Scotland, a noble-looking man came to his wife in his stronghold in Rathmore of Moylinny. At the time he went, there were not many in the stronghold. The stranger asked the woman to arrange a place of meeting. The woman said there were not in the world possessions or treasures, for which she would do anything to disgrace her husband’s honor. He asked her whether she would do it to save her husband’s life. She said that if she were to see him in danger and difficulty, she would help him with all that lay in her might. He said she should do it then, ‘for thy husband is in great danger. A terrible man has been brought against him, and he will die by his hand. If we, thou and I, make love, thou wilt bear a son thereof. That son will be famous; he will be Mongan. I shall go to the battle which will be fought to-morrow at the third hour, so that I shall save Fiachna, and I shall vanquish the warrior before the eyes of the men of Scotland. And I shall tell thy husband our adventures, and that it is thou that hast sent me to his help.’ It was done thus. When army was drawn up against army, the boats saw a noble-looking man before the army of Aedan and Fiachna. He went towards Fiachna in particular, and told him the conversation with his wife the day before, and that he had promised to come to his help at that hour. Thereupon he went before the army towards the other, and vanquished the warriors, so that Aedan and Fiachna won the battle.

And Fiachna returned to his country, and the woman was pregnant and bore a son, even Mongan son of Fiachna. And he thanked his wife for what she had done for him, and she confessed all her adventures. So that this Mongan is a son of Manannan mac Lir, though he is called Mongan son of Fiachna. For when the stranger went from her in the morning he left a quatrain with Mongan’s mother, saying:

‘I go home,

The pale pure morning draws near: Manannan son of Lir

Is the name of him who came to thee.’”

Meyer’s version goes into more detail and emphasises the shapeshifting aspect of the tale:

“3. Then Fiachna assembled the nobles of Ulster until he had ten equally large battalions, and went and announced battle to the men of Lochlann. And they were three days a-gathering unto the battle. And combat was made by the king of Lochlann on the men of Ireland. And three hundred warriors fell by Fiachna in the fight. And venomous sheep were let out of the king of Lochlann’s tent against them, and on that day three hundred warriors fell by the sheep, and three hundred warriors fell on the second day, and three hundred on the third day. That was grievous to Fiachna, and he said: ‘Sad is the journey on which we have come, for the purpose of having our people killed by the sheep. For if they had fallen in battle or in combat by the host of Lochlann, we should not deem their fall a disgrace, for they would avenge themselves. Give me,’ saith he, ‘my arms and my dress that I may myself go to fight against the sheep.’ ‘Do not say that, O King,’ said they, ‘for it is not meet that thou shouldst go to fight against them.’ ‘By my word,’ said Fiachna, ‘no more of the men of Ireland shall fall by them, till I myself go to fight against the sheep; and if I am destined to find death there, I shall find it, for it is impossible to avoid fate; and if not, the sheep will fall by me.’

4. As they were thus conversing, they saw a single tall war-like man coming towards them… And the warrior said: ‘What reward wouldst thou give to him who would keep the sheep from thee?’ ‘By my word,’ said Fiachna, ‘[whatever thou ask], provided I have it, I should give it.’ ‘Thou shalt have it (to give),’ said the warrior, ‘and I will tell thee the reward.’ ‘Say the sentence,’ said Fiachna. ‘I shall say it,’ said he; ‘give me that ring of gold on thy finger as a token for me, when I go to Ireland to thy wife to sleep with her.’ ‘By my word,’ said Fiachna, ‘I would not let one man of the men of Ireland fall on account of that condition.’ ‘It shall be none the worse for thee; for a glorious child shall be begotten by me there, and from thee he shall be named, even Mongan the Fair (Finn), son of Fiachna the Fair. And I shall go there in thy shape, so that thy wife shall not be defiled by it. And I am Manannan, son of Ler, and thou shalt seize the kingship of Lochlann and of the Saxons and Britons.’ Then the warrior took a venomous hound out of his cloak, and a chain upon it, and said: ‘By my word, not a single sheep shall carry its head from her to the fortress of the king of Lochlann, and she will kill three hundred of the hosts of Lochlann, and thou shalt have what will come of it.’ The warrior went to Ireland, and in the shape of Fiachna himself he slept with Fiachna’s wife, and in that night she became pregnant. On that day the sheep and three hundred of the nobles of Lochlann fell by the dog, and Fiachna seized the kingship of Lochlann and of the Saxons and Britons.

5. … And then he [Fiachna] went into Ireland and found his wife big-bellied and pregnant, and when her time came, she bore a son. Now Fiachna the Fair had an attendant, whose name was An Damh, and in that (same) night his wife brought forth a son, and they were christened together, and the son of Fiachna was named Mongan.”

The most important detail to notice is in the first account of Mongan’s conception. This is the mention of the ‘terrible warrior’ or ‘terrible man’ sent against Fiachna and Aedan (variously father or grandather of an Arthur). The word used in the Gaelic text is ‘h-uathmar’. The Irish uath is cognate with the Welsh root of Uther. However, as the whole tale is a heroic version of the Battle of Degasastan, we know from the historical sources that it was Hering son of Hussa who led the English forces against Aedan and his Irish fian.

The name of Fiachna’s wife, Caintigern, is given in The Voyage of Bran (Imram Brain):

“49. This shape, he on whom thou lookest,
Will come to thy parts;
Tis mine to journey to her house,
To the woman in Line-Mag.
For it is Manannan, the son of Lír,
From the chariot in the shape of a man,
Of his progeny will be a very short while
A fair man in a body of white clay.
Manannan, the descendant of Lír, will be
A vigorous bed-fellow to Caintigern [Caointigirn in the Gaelic text]:
He shall be called to his son in the beautiful world,
Fiachna will acknowledge him as his son.
He will delight the company of every fairy-knoll,
He will be the darling of every goodly land,
He will make known secrets-a course of wisdom-
In the world, without being feared.
He will be in the shape of every beast,
Both on the azure sea and on land,
He will be a dragon before hosts at the onset,
He will be a wolf of every great forest.

He will be a stag with horns of silver
In the land where chariots are driven,
He will be a speckled salmon in a full pool,
He will be a seal, he will be a fair-white swan.
He will be throughout long ages
An hundred years in fair kingship,
He will cut down battalions, -a lasting grave-
He will redden fields, a wheel around the track.
It will be about kings with a champion
That he will be known as a valiant hero,
Into the strongholds of a land on a height
I shall send an appointed end from Islay.
High shall I place him with princes,
He will be overcome by a son of error;
Manannan, the son of Lír,
Will be his father, his tutor.
He will be-his time will be short—
Fifty years in this world:
A dragonstone from the sea will kill him
In the fight at Senlabor.

Not only do we have a ‘terrible warrior/terrible man’ present in the conception of Mongan story, but Mongan himself is referred to as a dragon (Gaelic drauc) and is killed by a dragon stone (ail dracoin)!

‘Dragon stone’ was a name for a precious stone in Irish. It is derived from Latin dracontia (also called draconite, dentrites draconius, or obsianus, girn-rodor in Old English), a mystical black gem with special powers that was believed in the Middle Ages to have been found in the heads of dragons. In the Middle Ages, ammonites (a type of horn-shaped fossil) were frequently called draconites, but the name obsianus seems to imply that it is the volcanic glass obsidian (there were allegedly nine different types of dragon stones, so maybe both of these stones could be dragon stones). It was a jewel that adorned a cup in Fled Bricrend; Cuchulainn is given a cup of red-gold by Ailill and Medb which had embedded on its bottom a decoration of a bird made out of ’dragon stone, the size of his two eyes’. The stone must have had some sort of special significance to the Irish, because its presence on Cuchulainn's cup helps mark him as the champion deserving of the Champion's Portion. If the dragon stone was obsidian, it was a very hard stone that, when it fractured, had extremely sharp edges, thus making a deadly weapon when used as a sling-stone. Obsidian was used for arrow and spear tips in the Stone Age. Dragon-stones (dracoin) are mentioned elsewhere in Imram Brain (sect. 12), where they are paired with glain or ‘crystals’:

"Then if Airchthech (Bountiful Land) is seen,
On which dragon-stones and crystals drop
The sea washes the wave against the land
Hair of crystals [glano] drops from its mane.”

Even more important than the presence of the terrible warrior, the dragon and the dragon-stones in the story of Mongan’s conception for showing its relationship to Geoffrey’s story of Arthur’s conception is the identity of the slayer of Mongan, i.e. the warrior who uses the dragon-stone to slay the king. His name is revealed in the Irish Annals of Tigernach (Year Entry 625):

“Mongan mac Fiachna Lurgan, ab Artuir filio Bicoir Britone lapide percussus interit. Unde Bec Boirche dixit:

“Mongan son of Fiachna Lurgan was struck with a stone by Artuir son of Bicoir the Briton and died...”

“Is uar in gáeth dar Ile, do fuil oca i Cínd Tire, do-genat gnim amnus de,

mairbfit Mongan mac Fiachnae.”

“Cold is the wind over Islay; there are warriors in Kintyre,

they will commit a cruel deed therefore, they will kill Mongan, son of Fiachna.”

There are thus several reasons why a storyteller such as Geoffrey of Monmouth (or his ultimate source) might have borrowed the Mongan conception story and grafted it onto that of Arthur:

There is a terrible warrior who reminds us of Uther Pendragon
Dragons are present, in the form of Mongan and dragon-stones
Mongan is slain by an Arthur with a dragon-stone

Bicoir, father of Artuir, is none other than Petuir/Retheoir or ‘Petrus’, father of Arthur of Dyfed. B and P easily substitute for each other and in some MSS., c looks identical to t. Bicoir in Kintyre or ‘Land’s End’ is duplicated by Petuir in Pembro, also ‘Land’s End’.


The real question is still how Igerna fits into this picture. Technically, her role is the same as that as Caintigern. And, indeed, Arthurian scholar John Matthews has very cleverly proposed (private communication) that Igerna may be a truncated form of the name Caintigern. But Caintigern is from Cain, ‘beautiful’, plus tigern, ‘lady’. While it would not be difficult to allow for the dropping of Cain- and the retention of -tigern, it is all but impossible to account for the subsequent loss of the t- of tigern. And, as we have already seen, we cannot go by Geoffrey’s form of the name of Arthur’s mother, but must rely instead on the Welsh form, Eigr.

Eigr’s name is a perfectly regular reflex of *akri (with a Long i), feminine derivative of the familiar *akro- ‘sharp, pointed; point, promontory’.

Just a little North-NorthEast of Igerna’s Tintagel is Hartland Point, which is one of the candidates for the Herakleous akron or ‘Promontory of Hercules’ of Ptolemy’s Geography. According to Ptolemy, writing c. 150 CE in his Geography 2.3.3, the cape of Hercules lies between Bridgewater Bay and Land’s End on the north coast of the Cornwall Peninsula. An identification with Tintagel Head, which meets the same conditions, would be, according to Ptolemy, quite possible. The coordinates given by him are to be understood as only highly approximate.

The possibility that Tintagel could be the Promontory of Hercules is astonishing, given the story of the conception of Hercules – a story which bears a striking resemblance to that of Arthur’s own birth! I quote the account presented in Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths:

“Meanwhile, Zeus, taking advantage of Amphitryon’s absence [in battle], impersonated him and, assuring Alcmene [Amphitryon’s wife] that her brothers were now avenged – since Amphitryon had indeed gained the required victory that very morning – lay with her all one night, to which he gave the length of three… Alcmene, wholly deceived, listened delightedly to Zeus’s account of the crushing defeat inflicted on Pteralaus at Oechalia, and sported innocently with her supposed husband for the whole thirty-six hours. On the next day, when Amphitryon returned, eloquent of victory and of his passion for her, Alcmene did not welcome him to the marriage couch so rapturously as he had hoped. Amphitryon… consulted the seer Teiresias, who told him that he had been cuckolded by Zeus…”

Greek akron is 'highest or farthest point, mountain top, peak, headland, cape, end, extremity', akra, 'headland, foreland', akraios, 'dwelling on heights or promontories'. None of the meanings suggest or demand 'sharpness', even though the word would seem ultimately to come from a root meaning pointed or sharp. Thus the round shape of the Tintagel headland could still have been referred to as akron or akra. Akraios was also an epithet of Hera, mother of Herakles. Hence Hera Akraea or Acraia was Hera ‘of the Height or Promontory’.

I would propose, therefore, that Tintagel’s promontory is the ancient Herakleous akron and that beneath the Dark Age buildings lurks a shrine to Herakles or to his Celtic equivalent. The folk memory of Hera Akraea is preserved in the name Akri or Eigr, who may later have come to be seen merely as a personification of the headland, rather than as the goddess of the place.

Needless to say, Hera Akraea was not the real mother of Arthur! Although we may never know the real name of Arthur’s mother, we may be able to pinpoint her actual place of origin."


"Geoffrey got his Gorlois from Taliesin’s poem XLVIII, The Death-Song of Uther Ben. In this poem Uther is referred to as Gorlasar. Noted Celticist John Koch recently pointed out the similarity between Geoffrey's Gorlois and Gorlasar. Hence it appears that Geoffrey of Monmouth took the title gorlassar and converted it into a separate person whose form Uther assumes.

The  full  stanza  containing  the  name  Gorlasar (from Death Song of Uther Ben) runs like this:

“I was called Gorlasar ['bright blue'],

My belt was a rainbow to [or 'about'] my enemies. I was a prince in the dark,

[He] who enchanted me placed me in the basket.”

According to the Geiriadur Prifsygol Cymru, gorlasar is from gor + glassar, in Old Irish forlas(s)ar, ‘fire, conflagration’ or, as an adjective, ‘shining, fiery’. In Welsh the meaning is ‘bright blue, having glinting weapons’. Gorlas (gor + glas), in OI forglas, means ‘with a blue face, very blue’ or, as an adjective in Welsh, ‘bright or deep blue’.

Gorlasar may actually be a name the poet Taliesin gave himself. I say this only because of line 4 of the quoted strophe, which has Gorlasar placed in a basket. This sounds suspiciously like what was done to Taliesin, who was placed in a ‘coracle or hide-covered basket’ by the goddess Ceridwen. The coracle/basket ends up in a fish-weir. Some obscure lines in Welsh sources hint that the pole upon which Myrddin (as Llallogan) was impaled had a fish-weir attached to it."

COMING SOON: The Drumanagh Promontory Fort in Co. Dublin, Ireland - Birthplace of Arthur?

May be a week or two before I can have this piece done.  I'm waiting for archaeologist Dr. Ger Dowling to send me the most recent report on the site.  It is coming in old-school xerox form...

Saturday, July 22, 2017


Much has been made of the 'dux erat bellorum' or 'leader of battles' title given to Arthur in the HISTORIA BRITTONUM.  For the most part, scholars have been led astray into thinking this was an indication that Arthur held a true Roman rank (or one patterned after an earlier Roman rank).  The majority hold to something like Dux Britanniarum, the military leader in the north of Britain.  Early Welsh sources refer to Arthur as 'miles', 'soldier', and this has seemed to lend support to the the Dux Britanniarum idea.

If I'm right and Arthur is Cerdic of Wessex, another possibility presents itself.  In the ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLE, Cerdic first appears in the annal entry for the year 495 A.D.  He is referred to as an aldorman, according to the translator Garmonsway "perhaps a translation of principes."  The Latin version of the ASC uses duces duo when referring to Cerdic and Cynric.

Here is the definition of alderman or ealdorman as found in the Bosworth and Toller dictionary.  The reader will note the meaning does include that of duke and often denoted a military leader.  In my opinion, then, dux erat bellorum is merely a Latin rendering for ealdorman.


I. an elderman, ALDERMAN, senator, chief, duke, a nobleman of the highest rank, and holding an office inferior only to that of the king; mājor nātu, sĕnātor, prŏcer, princeps, prīmas, dux, præfectus, trĭbūnus, quīcunque est aliis grădu aut nātu mājor. The title of Ealdorman or Aldorman denoted civil as well as military pre-eminence. The word ealdor or aldor in Anglo-Saxon denotes princely dignity: in Beowulf it is used as a synonym for cyning, þeóden, and other words applied to royal personages. Like many other titles of rank in the various Teutonic languages, it, strictly speaking, implies age, though practically this idea does not survive in it any more than it does in the word Senior, the original of the feudal term Seigneur. Every shire had its ealdorman, who was the principal judicial officer of the shire, and also the leader of its armed force. The internal regulations of the shire, as well as its political relation to the whole kingdom, were under his immediate guidance and supervision,—the scír-geréfa, or sheriff, being little more than his deputy, and under his control. The dignity of the ealdorman was supported by lands within his district, which appear to have passed with the office,—hence the phrases, ðæs ealdormonnes lond, mearc, gemǽro, etc. which so often occur. The ealdorman had also a share of the fines and other monies levied to the king's use; though, as he was invariably appointed from among the higher nobles, he must always have possessed lands of his own to the extent of forty hides, v. Hist. Eliens. ii. 40. The ealdormen of the several shires seem to have been appointed by the king, with the assent of the higher nobles, if not of the whole witena gemót, and to have been taken from the most trustworthy, powerful, and wealthy of the nobles of the shire. The office and dignity of ealdorman was held for life,—though sometimes forfeited for treason and other grave offences; but it was not strictly hereditary

Friday, July 21, 2017

Commencing Work on A SCATTERING OF SONG

Cover Art by Aaron Sims
The first book in the Dark Avalon series
At the Battle of Elf Hill, Myrddin witnesses the destruction of his fellow warriors and the falling of his chieftain, Gwenddolau. Fleeing in what he believes to be madness from the scene of chaos and carnage, he seeks refuge in the fastness of the Caledonian Woods. Only with the passage of the seasons, during which he lives like an animal of the forest, pursued relentlessly by the hounds of his enemy, does he become aware of the true nature of his own altered state of existence. And with that awareness comes a terrible knowledge, a power undreamed of, and a strange intimacy with a woman of the wilds whose affinity with the Otherworld offers him both freedom and eternal imprisonment.
Note on the Title of this Book:
‘A Scattering of Song’ is my free translation of the Middle Welsh word gwasgargerdd, found in the poem “Gwasgardgerd Verdin”. Gerdd is ‘song, poem’, and gwasgar as a noun means scattering, dispersion, separation, a spreading abroad, division, a giving, distribution, and as an adjective, dispersed, scattered, shared, given, distributing, dispersing. I chose to see this as a song that was scattered, as one might scatter seed.
Indeed, a famous poet and contemporary of the 6th century Taliesin was named Cian Gwenith Gwawd, that is Cian ‘Wheat of Song’. This epithet suggested to me that a poem or song could be metaphorically described as something that was scattered like wheat. I would add that Gwion Bach turns himself into a grain of wheat. When consumed by the goddess Ceridwen (who has assumed the form of a tufted black hen), he is later born from her as Taliesin. This famous divine poet was, therefore, himself an embodiment of the ‘wheat of song’.
Other attempts have been made to render gwasgargerdd, but I do not think they work in the context of the prophetic poem uttered by Myrddin. As one manuscript calls the poem “Gwasgardgerd Vyrdin y ny bed”, “in the grave”, and the prophet is portrayed as speaking with his sister, Gwenddydd, who is presumably outside of the said grave, “Separation-Song” has been proposed. This does not seem to fit the range of meanings for gwasgar, which plainly has to do with the giving or distributing of something and does not indicate the separation of one person from another.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Embarking Once Again on the DARK AVALON BOOKS

This is an old Page I'm resurrecting. Why? Because I'm thinking it's finally time to pump out an Arthurian fiction series. As a result of my recent work on THE BEAR KING, the Dark Avalon Books may turn out to be quite a bit different than what I had originally planned. However, the first novella will still, undoubtedly, be A SCATTERING OF SONG - my take on the Merlin story. I trust my readers will be patient with me, as real life and its exigencies often cause a delay in creative production.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Expanded version of APPENDIX VII


The family of Arthur as found in the early sources is a fairly late fabrication.  I have discussed Guinevere and Igraine in some depth in my book THE MYSTERIES OF AVALON.  The first is an Irish goddess, while the second is a deity associated with the Tintagel headland.  Some of his sons are actually personified streams. Other supposed blood connections are equally fraudulent, the products of folklore or literary invention. 

Lucky for us, once we accept Arthur as merely another name for Ceredig of Ceredigion, a very prosaic and mostly acceptable nuclear family can be can be fleshed out.   

Gwawl, mother of 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.

Gwawl is 'wall' in Welsh and Welsh tradition records a 'Gwawl son of Clud.'.  Gwawl son of Clud (Clud being an eponym for the Clyde) is a personification of 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.

An ancient Welsh poem called MARWNAD CUNEDDA, or the "Death-Song of Cunedda", places the Terrible Cheif-Dragon at Northern battle sites.  Cunedda 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 and perishing at a Camlan in NW Wales. 

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.


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.'  Some sources have Eleri as a Welsh form of the Latin name Hilarius, from hilaris, 'cheerful, merry.'  However, this is wrong. According to Dr. Simon Rodway of The University of Wales,

"Meleri is a hypocoristic form of Eleri, following a very well-recognized insular Celtic pattern. It literally means ‘my Eleri’, cf. Teleri ‘your Eleri’. Eleri has nothing to do with the name Hillary.  The name comes from the Afon Eleri (modern Leri) in Ceredigion and was, perhaps, a goddess name."

In Richard JamesThomas's Enwau afonydd a nentydd Cymru (1938;p. 142), the stream Eleri is associated with Welsh alar ‘excess, too much’.

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.

Children of Meleri and Ceredig

Regarding the progeny of Ceredig, I would refer the reader to the relevant entry in P.C. Bartram's A CLASSICAL WELSH DICTIONARY. He lists the following sons and daughters according to various sources:
Iusay (whom I've discussed in an Appendix above)
Sant father of Dewi
Cynon, father of Cynidr Gell
Samson, father of Gwgon
Ithel, father of St. Dogfael
Garthog, father of Cyngar
Hydwn, ancestor of Teilo

Gwawr, wife of Glywys and mother of Gwynllyw
Gwen, mother of St. Padarn

To me the most interesting person among Ceredig's children is the daughter Gwawr, mother of Gwynllyw.  On my blog site 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.  

Arthur features largely in the Life of St. Carannog.  There we meet with both a dragon (a reflection of Uther Pendragon, as I showed in my book THE MYSTERIES OF AVALON) and a magical alter/table.  Here is the story as provided in the translation from the Latin by A.W. Wade Evans (1944):

Vita Sancti Carantoci (Version 1)

4. In those times Cadwy and Arthur were reigning in that country, dwelling in Dindraithov. And Arthur came wandering about that he might find a most formidable serpent, huge and terrible, which had been ravaging twelve portions of the land of Carrum (i.e., locus, monastery). And Carannog came and greeted Arthur, who joyfully received a blessing from him. And Carannog asked Arthur, whether he had heard where his altar had landed. And Arthur replied, ‘If I shall have a reward, I will tell thee.’ And he said,’ What reward dost thou ask?’ He answered, ‘That if thou art a servant of God, thou shouldst bring forth the serpent, which is near to thee, that we may see it.’ Then the blessed Carannog went and prayed to the Lord, and immediately the serpent came with a great noise like a calf running to its mother, and it bent its head before the servant of God like a slave obeying his lord with humble heart and with sidelong glance. And he placed his stole about its neck and led it like a lamb, nor did it raise its wings or claws. And its neck was like the neck of a bull of seven years, which the stole could scarcely go round. Then they went together to the citadel and greeted Cadwy, and they were welcomed by him. And he led that serpent down the middle of the hail and fed it in the presence of the people, and they tried to kill it. He did not allow it to be killed because he said that it had come at the word of God to destroy the sinners who were in Carrum, and to show the power of God through him. And after this he went outside the gate of the citadel and Carannog loosed it and bade it to depart and not to hurt anyone nor to return any more. And it went forth and remained as he had foretold, according to God’s ordinance. And he received the altar which Arthur had thought to convert into a table, but whatever was placed upon it was thrown to a distance. And the king asked of him that he should accept Carrum for ever by a written deed. And after this he built a church there.

5. Afterwards a voice came to him from heaven to cast the altar into the sea. Then he sent Cadwy [and] Arthur to enquire concerning the altar, and it was told them that it had landed at the mouth of the Guellit. And the king said, ‘Again give him twelve parts of the land where the altar was found.’ Afterwards Carannog came and built a church there, and the monastery was called Carrov.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Published book THE BEAR KING...

Over the next couple of weeks I will slightly tweak what I've posted here and publish it as Kindle and CreateSpace titles through Amazon.

Links for the available electronic and paper formats will be made available here.

Thank you for your continued interest!


The legendary King Arthur is a magnificently glamorous figure.  Like pretty much every scholar out there, I was first attracted to this archetypical hero through my exposure to Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur or, at least, its adaptations.  At the time, Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table were creatures of fantasy and represented desirable if unattainable ideals.  It was only much later that I became aware of the fact that at least Arthur himself may have been a real, living person.  This revelation had a profound impact on the way I perceived the entire Arthurian mythos. 

Eventually, after I became imbued with the knowledge of various disciplines a college education bestowed upon me, I dared to wonder if I might find the historical Arthur. Upon investigating the possibility, I was both delighted and disappointed to find that many had preceded me in such an endeavor.  And although a few of these intrepid (or foolish?) sleuths were far more qualified than I would ever be to properly deal with the question of Arthur’s historicity, very little progress had been made in solving the mystery.  What I did discover was a plethora of nonsense theories based on ignorance or wishful thinking or both.

But could I do any better? How much would I have to learn first?  How many blind leads would I follow, and how many dead ends would I arrive at?  Was this quest going to be relatively quick or would I be at it for years?  Maybe a lifetime? Would it become something obsessive that ended up dominating any nonessential, impractical aspects of my life?  And was it really, in any sense, important?  What possible value would the discovery of a historical Arthur have for us?

In this modern age of youth Snapchat addiction, I’m afraid I can’t provide any positive answer to the last couple of questions.  In fact, I was chagrined to read an analysis of the recent major box office flop KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD.  One of the reasons listed by the author of that piece for the film’s failure was that people no longer cared about King Arthur. And beyond this, their education was now so universally deficient that most had no idea who even the legendary Arthur was!  The professional academics had long ago forsaken Arthur as a historical entity.  This left only a handful of isolated and distinctly fringe independent Arthurian enthusiasts (present company included) to carry the torch and to give a damn. 

So I have no excuse to offer for my dogged determinism in this regard.  I have pursued a historical Arthur out of selfish interest alone.  Sure, there may be an Arthurian Cult lurking out there who might find my work to be of some interest, even if they (as is all too often) vociferously disagree with my findings. But its membership is rather insignificant and declining.  Given enough time – say, the passing of the current generation – and it will be extinct.

Montaigne said “Nothing is so firmly believed as that which we least know.”  This is especially true of Arthur.  For years I’ve wrestled with those who started out with a preconceived belief and then went forward to prove that belief.  One also thinks of St. Augustine, who said “I believe, so that I may know.”  My credo has always been instead, “I know, so that I may believe.”  And this shift in emphasis, this different mode of thinking, has run me afoul of a great many close-minded or, frankly, crazy individuals.  The New Age and Neopagan communities, while well-meaning, have done their fair share of obfuscating the truth.  I’ve flirted with their intoxicating world view more than once, but have always found their tenets and practices to be unwarranted and unjustifiable. 

As if all that were not bad enough, I have already been accused of diminishing, nay, dismantling the great King Arthur. In seeking to make him a real historical person, I’ve inadvertently stripped him of his magical, otherworldly nature or, perhaps worse yet, have so denigrated him as to remove him entirely from the Hall of Pagan or Christian Worthies.  I’ve shown him to be a man, and not necessarily a respectable one at that.  From the Savior of Britain to a mercenary-federate fighting against Britons, I’ve brought him full circle. To add insult to injury, I’ve made him into an Irishman or, only somewhat less detestable, a personage of mixed Irish and British ancestry. 

Should I apologize for doing so?  Well, the part of me that so badly wanted to believe in the Savior of Britain says YES.  I mean, go read my first book, THE ARTHUR OF HISTORY.  I so badly wanted to subscribe to the notion that Arthur had, for a while, stemmed the tide of barbaric Germanic invasion that I was willing to overlook the nagging questions I could not answer – questions which I alluded to in the Introduction to this book. This is the level to which our own personal biases or subconscious drives or nationalistic or religious/spiritual tendencies or whatever will take us.

Yet when I admitted to myself that I was wrong in my first book, when I managed to overcome the constraints of ego, I simply had to go on.  I could not accept the shortcomings of my own prior arguments, and I could not abide a defeatist posture. There was only one thing to do:  go once more on an Adventure into the Perilous Forest.  Surely I had missed something, either out of ineptitude or willful resistance. The Grail was to be found, and not just in a dream.  I would not be quiet this time as it passed before me in the grand progression.

This book is a result of that Adventure.  A letting go, a trusting in Fate or Providence as a guiding force, a traversing of the trackless waste in no particular direction whatsoever.  At the end of the movie INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE, we learn that the Grail is not some spectacular jeweled golden cup. Instead, it is the simple, rather crude wooden cup of a carpenter’s son.  The Arthur I have revealed herein is like that. 

Was he any less stalwart than his romance counterpart?  Surely not.  The latter is the stuff of myth and fantasy.  The former is a real man, driven by all the usual needs of a leader trying to preserve his people.  We tend to glorify the desperate.  Heroic actions, at root, are generally brought about by those seeking a better life elsewhere.  Who are we to say that a British Arthur credited with staving off the Saxon invasion for a generation is somehow superior to an Irish-descended Arthur who carved out a kingdom for himself in Wales and managed to keep it by fighting battles in southern England in alliance with the Saxons for the British high-king?  This is all a matter of perspective.  What the British lose, the Irish and the Welsh gain.  And, in what is perhaps the most profound irony, the English gain by it also.  For was it not Ceredig the Bear-king who spear-headed the foundation of Wessex?

I feel I can now rest content with having done everything in my power to reveal a truly viable candidate for a historical King Arthur.  Indeed, I have no remaining compulsion to again set forth on an Adventure in that Perilous Wood.  What fellow Arthurians make of my work I cannot predict.  It is entirely up to them what to make of “my Arthur”, as opposed to their own Arthurs.  For as we all know, and too well, there are a legion of Arthurs out there, and doubtless many more to come.      

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Quite a few years ago now Dr. Richard Coates clarified the etymological origin of the tribal name Gewissei or Gewissae.  He linked the name, correctly, to Old English ge-wis.  Here are the listings for the proper name Gewis (itself concocted from the word) and ge-wis from the Bosworth and Toller dictionary:

Gewis, Giwis, es; m. Gewis, the great grandfather of Cerdic :-- Se Cerdic wæs Elesing, Elesa Esling, Esla Gewising, Gewis Wiging Cerdic was the son of Elesa, Elesa the son of Esla, Elsa the son of Gewis, Gewis the son of Wig, Chr. 495; Erl. 2, 5: 597; Erl. 20, 7. Giwis, 552; Erl. 16, 19. According to Asset it was from this name that the term Gevissæ, applied by Bede to the West Saxons, was derived. 'Gewis, a quo Britone totam illam gentem Gegwis nominant,' see Grmm. Gesch. D. S. 458. For the use by Bede, see Bd. 3, 7-'Gens Occidentalium Saxonum qui antiquitus Gevissæ vocabantur ... primum Gevissorum gentem ingrediens,' where the translation has 'West Seaxna þeód ... Ðá com he æ-acute;rest upp on West Seaxum.' See also 4, 15, 16. Smith's note on the word is 'Gevissæ. Saxonicum est pro Occidentalium. Sic Visigothi præposita tantum Saxonica expletiva Ge.' See Thorpe's Lappenberg i. 109, note.

ge-wis, -wiss; adj. Certain, sure, knowing, foreknowing; certus :-- Gewis be heora gerihtnesse certus de illorum correctione, Bd. 5, 22; S. 644, 45. Ðæt is gesægd ðæt he wæ-acute;re gewis his sylfes forþfóre qui præscius sui obitus exstitisse videtur, 4, 24; S. 599, 14. Wite ðæt érest gewiss ðæt ðæt mód byþ ðære sáwle æ-acute;ge know first that as certain, that the mind is the soul's eye, Shrn. 178, 2. Gewis is constat, Hpt. Gl. 419. Ða úþwitan ðe sæ-acute;don ðæt næ-acute;fre nán wiht gewisses næ-acute;re búton twæónunga the philosophers that said that there was no certainty without doubt, Shrn. 174, 25. Swá litel gewis funden found so little certain, Bt. 41, 4; Fox 250, 20. Gewis andgit intelligence, 5; Fox 252, 20, 30. We syndon gewisse ðínes lífes we are acquainted with thy life, Guthl. 5; Gdwin. 30, 18. He hí gewisse gedyde and gelæ-acute;rde be ingonge ðæs écan ríces de ingressu regni æterni certos reddidit, Bd. 4, 16; S. 584, 35. On gewissum tídum at certain times, R. Ben. interl. 48. Of gewissum intingan of certain causes, R. Ben. interl. 63. Myd gewyssum gesceáde with certain reason, wherefore; propter certam rationem, quapropter, Nicod. 3; Thw. 2, 6. [O. H. Ger. giwis: Ger. gewiss certus.]

It has been thought (including by the present author) that the term was meant to be a way of distinguishing "good" Britons from "bad", the bad ones being, of course, the wealas or Welsh.  Your enemy is a foreigner and strange to you.  Your friend or ally is known and you can be sure and certain of him.

But I've just had cause to wonder whether there might be more behind the Gewissei name - as well as the Cuth- names who are first brought into connection with Ceawlin/Cunedda in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.  I long ago made a case for the Cuth- names being for the goddess Cuda of the Cotswolds.

Her Ceaulin 7 Cuþa gefuhton wiþ Ęþelbryht. 7 hine in Cent gefliemdon, 7 tuegen aldormen on Wibban dune ofslogon, Oslaf 7 Cnebban.

Her Cuþwulf feaht wiþ Bretwalas æt Bedcan forda. 7 .iiii. tunas genom, Lygeanburg. 7 Ægelesburg. Benningtun. 7 Egonesham. 7 þy ilcan geare he gefor.

Her Cuþwine 7 Ceawlin fuhton wiþ Brettas, 7 hie .iii. kyningas ofslogon, Coinmail, 7 Condidan, 7 Farinmail, in þære stowe þe is gecueden Deorham. 7 genamon .iii. ceastro Gleawanceaster, 7 Cirenceaster, 7 Baþanceaster.

hand8: Her Mauricius feng to Romana rice.

Her Ceawlin 7 Cuþa fuhton wiþ Brettas, in þam stede þe mon nemneþ Feþanleag. 7 Cuþan mon ofslog. 7 Ceaulin monige tunas genom, 7 unarimedlice herereaf, 7 ierre he hwearf þonan to his agnum.

However, this may be wrong.  Cunedda/Cunedag /Kynadaf (Cunedaf) of Welsh tradition owes his name to the Irish Chuinnedha, also spelled Cuindedha, Cunnid, Cuinnid.  Let us bear this in mind as we look at the various forms of Old English cunnan, ‘know’:

tō cunnenne
cunnen / (ġe)cūþ

Suppose this happened: the name Cunedda/Chuinnedha, regardless of its meaning in Irish or Welsh, was intrepreted by the early English as being related to their own word cunnan, which has forms such as cunnaþ. And that the Cuth- names themselves should be derived not from the goddess Cuda, but from a spelling like cūþe. 

If so - and I realize this is highly speculative, and quite possibly wrong - we might suppose that the term Gewissei came about as a way of identifying the descendants of Cunedda.  In other words, the Sure or Certain or Knowing Ones were those belonging to the teulu of a man whose name the English believed meant something akin to the Known One.