The Holy Grail and Dinas Bran

That King Arthur got mixed up with Jesus Christ can’t be too surprising, given the myth-making that went into the King Arthur story.  Rumor has it that Bran, for whom the castle, Dinas Bran, was named, was Joseph of Arimithea’s son-in-law.  Legend has it that after Jesus’ death, Joseph brought the Cup of Christ from Israel to Britain.  It does seem unlikely, doesn’t it? But that is what the ‘Holy Grail’ is, that King Arthur’s knights go in search of:  “The Holy Grail of Christian legend is the vessel given by Christ to his disciples to sup from at the Last Supper. Later, it is said to have been given to his grand-uncle, St. Joseph of Arimathea, who used to collect Christ’s blood and sweat whilst he hung upon the Cross.”  http://www.arthurianadventure.com/holy_grail.htm Dinas Bran, in turn, is the “site of an ancient Iron-Age Read more…

The Thirteen Treasures of Britain

Dyrnwyn, the flaming sword, lost for centuries beneath the earth. A hamper that feeds a hundred, a knife to serve twenty-four, A chariot to carry a man on the wind, A halter to tame any horse he might wish. The cauldron of the Giant to test the brave, A whetstone for deadly sharpened swords, An entertaining chess set, A crock and a dish, each to fill one’s every wish, A cup that bestows immortality on those worthy of it, And the mantle of Arthur. His healing sword descends; Our enemies flee our unseen and mighty champion. –Taliesin, The Thirteen Treasures, The Black Book of Gwynedd I wrote that poem (on behalf of Taliesin) for my Last Pendragon Saga, but it has deep roots in Celtic mythology. When JK Rowling talks about the deathly hallows in the Harry Potter books, she is giving a Read more…

Excalibur (Caledfwlch)

“Excalibur” was first used for King Arthur’s sword in the embellishment of the King Arthur legend by the French.  Contrary to present-day myth, Excalibur was not the famous “Sword in the Stone” (which broke in battle), but a second sword acquired by the King through the intercession of Myrddin (Merlin). Worried that Arthur would fall in battle, “Merlin took the King to a magical lake where a mysterious hand thrust itself up from the water, holding aloft a magnificent sword. It was the Lady of the Lake, offering Arthur a magic unbreakable blade, fashioned by an Avalonian elf smith, along with a scabbard which would protect him as long as he wore it . . .”  http://www.britannia.com/history/arthur/excalibur.html The Welsh name for King Arthur’s sword was ‘Caledfwlch’, which means ‘cleaving what is hard’.  (from Celtic Culture:  A Historical Encyclopedia).  It later Read more…

Myth and Religion in the Dark Ages

While many fictional accounts of the Dark Ages describe conflict between pagan religions and Christianity, that seems to be a product of the medieval mind, rather than an accurate analysis of Dark Age religion.  For there to be conflict there must be a power relationship as well as organization, and for both the pagans and the Christians in Wales in 655 AD, there were neither. When the Romans conquered Wales in 43 AD, although Rome was not Christian at the time (Emperor Constantine didn’t  convert until 311 AD), the legions systematically wiped out the reigning religion of Wales at the time, which was druidism.  Why did they do this?  The Romans themselves were pagans, with a pantheon of gods and goddesses.  Why did they not simply incorporate the native gods into their own religion as they did in most other places, Read more…

Women in Celtic Myth

Women in Celtic societies had more freedom and autonomy than women in feudal Europe.  It is not surprising, then, that women play an important role in Celtic myth, beyond the wives, lovers, and mothers of male gods. Within Celtic myth, warrior goddesses such as Babd, Aoifa, and Scathach have a significant role; Don (Danu in Ireland) was the mother goddess, giving birth to male and female goddesses such as Gwydion and Arianrhod.   The Irish word, Tuatha de Dannan means “Children of Danu”, the equivalent of the Welsh “Sons of Don” as popularized in Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three series.  Note that their children are not referred to as “Sons of Beli” or “Bile”, who was her husband and the god of death. Also among the Welsh is Cerridwen, keeper of the cauldron of knowledge.  Within Irish mythology, the Morrigan, Read more…