The Great Prophecy of Britain

Armes Prydein Fawr, the Great Prophecy of Britain, is a poem attributed to Taliesin (although could not be his work as it was composed in the 10th century) in which he sings of the return of Cadwaladr ap Cadwallon (the hero in my book, The Last Pendragon) and Cynan, another dark age leader of the Welsh people.  Among the Welsh, it was these two, not Arthur, who would return in the future to save Britain.  The motivation was the same, however, in that the poet desires to drive the invading Saxons Read More…

The Succession (1170 AD) in Gwynedd

1170 AD was a tough year in Gwynedd. It was the year Owain Gwynedd died and as is often the case with a strong king, his death brings about a vacuum waiting to be filled with intrigue and fratricide. Because his brother, Rhun, had already died, Hwyel ap Owain Gwynedd, the second son, was the eldest surviving son. Unfortunately for Hywel, Owain had a lot of sons and the contention among them at their father’s death was fierce. While the tradition in Wales, under Welsh law at the time, was Read More…

Eryri (Snowdonia)

Eryri, Snowdonia in English, was the place in Gwynedd to which the Princes of Wales retreated, and their final stronghold when the English pressed on them from every side.  Mt. Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) has always been at its center, but it traditionally included the Carneddau range and essentially all the land west of the Conwy River. It is the land the Edward allowed Llywelyn ap Gruffydd to keep in the 1277 treaty.  Today, as a national park, it includes 838 square miles. From John T Koch, Celtic Culture: An Historical Read More…

Historical Sources for King Arthur

Historians are not in agreement as to whether or not the ‘real’ Arthur—the living, breathing, fighting human being—ever existed. The original sources for the legend of King Arthur come from a few Welsh texts. These are: 1) Y Goddodin—a Welsh poem by the 7th century poet, Aneirin, with it’s passing mention of Arthur. The author refers to the battle of Catraeth, fought around AD 600 and describes a warrior who “fed black ravens on the ramparts of a fortress, though he was no Arthur”.  http://www.missgien.net/celtic/gododdin/poem.html 2) Gildas, a 6th century Read More…

Annwn, the Welsh Underworld

Annwn, or Annuvin in the Chronicles of Prydein by Lloyd Alexander, is an ‘other’ world, from the one that mortals live in.  It is the realm of the gods, or of the dead, depending upon the source. This site states:  “The Welsh word annwn, annwfyn is traditionally translated “otherworld,” and is akin to some of the Irish worlds of the gods (Tír na mBéo, “Land of the Living,” etc.) One will recall that in the First Branch of The Mabinogi, Pwyll exchanges place and shape with Arawn, king of Annwn, Read More…

Taliesin the Bard

Whence come night and flood? How they disappear? Whither flies night from day; And how is it not seen? These lines are taken from a poem by Taliesin, a Welsh poet who lived roughly between 534 and 599 AD.  His poetry has survived in the medieval Red Book of the Hergest, and The Book of Taliesin, found here: http://www.llgc.org.uk/index.php?id=bookoftaliesinpeniarthms2. “It is this manuscript which preserves the texts of famous poems such as ‘Armes Prydein Fawr’, ‘Preiddeu Annwfn’ (which refers to Arthur and his warriors sailing across the sea to win Read More…

Bards and Poets

In Welsh society before the conquest–in all Celtic societies in fact–the bard/poet played a very important role in the life of society. “The three principal endeavors of a Bard: One is to learn and collect sciences. The second is to teach. And the third is to make peace And to put an end to all injury; For to do contrary to these things Is not usual or becoming to a Bard.” ~THE TRIADS OF BRITAIN http://www.joellessacredgrove.com/Celtic/history.html “In the Celtic cultures, the Bard/Filidh/Ollave was inviolate. He could travel anywhere, say anything, Read More…

A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Dylan Thomas wrote A Child’s Christmas in Wales in 1954.  It begins:  “One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.  All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold Read More…

Red, Black, and White Books

In Lord of the Rings, Frodo leaves Sam the Red Book of Westmarch, in which to record the goings on of Middle Earth after he is gone. Tolkein himself says that his inspiration for the fictional book was the Red Book of Hergest in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, which he knew well. In Wales, there were three such books of which we know: The Red Book of Hergest The Black Book of Camarthan The White Book of Rhydderch The Red Book of Hergest was written between 1375 and 1425 Read More…

The Poetic Tradition

Tonight the hall of my lord is dark, With neither fire nor bed. I will weep a while, then still myself to silence. Tonight the hall of my lord is dark, With neither fire nor candle. Who will give me peace? Tonight the hall of my lord is dark, With neither fire nor light. Grief for you overtakes me. Darkness descends on the hall of my lord The blessed assembly has departed, praying That good comes to those of us who remain. This poem (interpreted for my own purposes from Read More…

Update on King Arthur’s ’round table’ in Chester

Yes–slacking off today.  But I did find this interesting piece on King Arthur’s round table by Keith Fitzpatrick-Mathews.  It is a much more lengthy rebuttal than mine (http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?p=1186), but makes many of the same points (also see, http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?tag=king-arthur).  Fitzpatrick-Mathews also takes to task Christopher Gildow’s article entitled “Top Ten Clues to the Real King Arthur”.  What’s particularly great is the exchange between the two in the comments at the end.   Worth a read for anyone who thinks King Arthur might have really existed. http://badarchaeology.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/king-arthur’s-round-table-discovered-in-chester/

Man’s Inhumanity to Man

Man was made to mourn: A Dirge, by Robert Burns Many and sharp the num’rous ills Inwoven with our frame! More pointed still we make ourselves Regret, remorse, and shame! And Man, whose heav’n-erected face The smiles of love adorn, – Man’s inhumanity to man Makes countless thousands mourn! The following article from March 14, details the attacks in Lagos, Nigeria, which is one of the most war torn countries in Africa.  It begins: “Nigerians woke last Sunday, to the news that more than 400 people of Dogo Nahawa community Read More…