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
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Friday, July 21, 2017
Cover Art by Aaron Sims
A SCATTERING OF SONG
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
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.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Friday, July 14, 2017
Thursday, July 13, 2017
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.
Meleri, Wife of Ceredig Son of Cunedda
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.' Eleri itself is a Welsh form of the Latin name Hilarius, from hilaris, 'cheerful, merry.'
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.