Saturday, December 23, 2017

Metambala According to Sir Ifor Williams (Via Richmond and Crawford)

As I've not been able to come up with anything better for this place-name myself, I think it wise to fall back on the meaning of "sacred apple-grove."  We still don't know for certain exactly where this nemeton was situated.  I've suggested Ashbury and the Spital Meend fort, but others have made the case for Lydney Park's Temple of Nodens.

If I'm right about Uley Bury being Arthur's Camlan (*Cambolanda), then the proximity of an 'Avalon' to that fort is possibly significant.  Still, archaeology does not favor the survival of Lydney as a center of worship during Arthur's floruit.  On the other hand, the West Hill/Uley nemeton literally next to Uley Bury was a major religious shrine from the Neolithic up into the 8th century, with a Christian church being built on the site at the right time.  It is likely, then, that Arthur was taken to West Hill, and that the nemeton or 'sacred grove' name here lent itself to an association with the *Nemetabala just across the Severn from the mouth of the River Cam.

I regret to inform readers that my fairly extensive efforts to obtain the Celtic cult title of the god of Uley have been unsuccessful.  The relevant information is in the possession of Professor Roger Tomlin of Oxford and he refuses to be forthcoming with it until it  is published at some unknown future date.  The texts of the defixiones from Uley have been released with agonizing slowness.  The Romano-British name of the place must remain a mystery until and if the cult title is made available through the auspices of an academic journal.  While I understand and appreciate the need for such scholarly caution, the proprietary nature of the material can be incredibly frustrating to other researchers who happen to have a keen interest in the West Hill shrine.  

As I've mentioned in a previous blog, the existence of a nemeton place-name at Nympsfield (certainly for the shrine at West Hill) still has me wondering whether the *Nemetabala should be placed here rather than at Lydney Park.  The ordering of sites in the RAVENNA COSMOGRAPHY suggests only that *Nemetabala is on one side or the other of the Severn Valley. 

METAMBALA 50. In South Wales, near CAERWENT.
The word is probably corrupted from NEMETAMBALA,
and refers to a famous holy grove.
[nejmet-, see NEMETOTATIO.
-ambala, cf. Gk. omphalos, 'navel', 'boss of shield',
'centre of the earth', Ir. imblim, 'navel', Lat. umbo,
umbilicus. I.W.]
It is, however, possible that this element is corrupt.
Nennius records (Hist. Brit. 70), among the marvels of
Britain, 'juxta fiumen, quod vocatur Guoy, poma
inveniuntur super fraxinum in proclivo saltus qui est
prope ostio fluminis'. That is, a freak apple-tree
existed at the mouth of the Wye. If the final element
here was abala, instead of ambala, the reference would
remarkably suit the situation. For the sanctity of
apples, cf. MANNA.
Meaning: 'The sacred grove of the navel', or more
probably 'The sacred apple-grove'.

The British Section of the Ravenna Cosmography1
By I. A. RICHMOND, ESQ., LL.D., F.B.A. Vice President, AND

"The explanations here furnished are for the most part due to Professor Ifor Williams, whose qualifications require no introduction."

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