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  Vortigern Studies > Faces of Arthur > Arthurian Articles > August Hunt (10)

Guest Author:
August HuntVisit August Hunt's website: The Quest for Arthur's Grave

August Hunt, (1960), published his first short stories in his high school newspaper, THE WILDCAT WIRES. These were followed by stories and poems in THE PHOENIX literary magazine of Clark Community College, where he received a writing scholarship. Transferring to THE EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE in Olympia, WA, he continued to publish pieces in local publications and was awarded the Edith K. Draham literary prize. A few years after graduating in 1985 with a degree in Celtic and Germanic Studies, he published "The Road of the Sun: Travels of the Zodiac Twins in Near Eastern and European Myth". Magazine contributions include a cover article on the ancient Sinaguan culture of the American Southwest for Arizona Highways. His first novel, "Doomstone", and the anthology "From Within the Mist" are being offered by Double Dragon (ebook and paperback). August, a member of the International Arthurian Society, North American Branch, has most recently had his book "Shadows in the Mist: The Life and Death of King Arthur" accepted for publication by Hayloft Publishing. Now being written are "The Cloak of Caswallon", the first in a series of Arthurian novels that will go under the general heading of "The Thirteen Treasures of Britain", and a work of Celtic Reconstructionism called "The Secrets of Avalon: A Dialogue with Merlin". 

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The three Prisons of Arthur

August Hunt

Triad 52 of the Trioedd Ynys Prydein concerns itself with the "Three Exalted Prisoners of the Island of Britain". After listing the three prisoners, the Triad continues as follows:

"And one [prisoner], who was more exalted than the three of them, was three nights in prison in Caer Oeth and Anoeth, and three nights imprisoned by Gwen Pendragon, and three night in an enchanted prison under the stone of Echymeint [Llech Echemeint]. This exalted prisoner was Arthur."

Can we identify these prisons and Gwen Pendragon with known sites or personages? The purpose of this present paper is to attempt to answer this question.

Gwen Pendragon has not been identified in the past. In a previous article on Uther Pendragon, I demonstrated that Pendragon was a Welsh military title substituted for the Norse jarl In the present case, however, I take it as a reference to the golden dragon Uther Pendragon left in the cathedral of Winchester, the W. Caerwynt. In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Winchester is spelled Wintanceastre. The Romano-British form of the name is Venta Belgarum. Gwen may be ultimately from Guinnion of Castellum Guinnion, an Arthurian battle site in Nennius. A "Gwen" as an eponym for Castellum Guinnion, the latter being associated with Venta/Caerwynt, may naturally have been associated with Uther's Winchester dragon.

The Llech or Stone of Echemeint reminds one of the Maen Achwynfan cross located just south of Prestatyn, maen being W. for "stone" and hence comparable to llech. But there is a better linguistic possibility which draws from a known early English placename. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (year entry 973), Bath, which has been identified with Arthur's Badon battle by some authorities, was also known by the name ACEMANNES-ceaster. This alternate name for Bath appears to be a development from the ancient Romano-British names for the town, Aquae Sulis and Aquae Calidae. It is quite likely that the -mannes- portion of the placename Acemannesceaster suggested to the Welsh author of the Triad the W. word maen already discussed.

And what about Caer Oeth and Anoeth? The word anoeth is used in the STANZAS OF THE GRAVES, where it is said of Arthur that his final resting place in this world is a "wonder" ("anoeth bid bet y Arthur"). As an adjective, anoeth means "difficult" or "wonderful". The Caer Oeth and Anoeth placename is also mentioned in the Mabinogion tale CULHWCH AND OLWEN, where it is one of the castles Arthur boasts of gaining entrance to. Once again, in the STANZAS OF THE GRAVES, we are told that the burial ground of the host of Caer Oeth and Anoeth can be found in Gwanas, a mountain tract located near Cadair Idris in Ceredigion.

Rachel Bromwich, in her notes to the translation of Triad 52, states that "Caer Oeth and Anoeth may be an old title which, like similar phrases and titles in PKM, has become so corrupted in transmission that its original constituents are no longer recognizable." Bromwich also discusses oeth as a possible form of Gaulish Octo-s.

In my opinion, Anoeth holds the key to this placename. It represents the Agned of Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth, which is found in the Brut y Brenhinedd (the Welsh version of Geoffrey's history) as Mynydd Agned. Oddly enough, we do not find Agned in the early Welsh literature outside of the Brut. Instead, Arthur is placed at Din Eidyn or Edinburgh (see THE BLACK BOOK OF CARMARTHEN'S poem "Who is the Porter?"), which as the Castle of Maidens and the Dolorous Mountain was identified by Geoffrey of Monmouth with Mount Agned. The Caer "Anoeth" of Arthur may well be a relic of Arthur's Agned.

The three Prisons of Arthur is Copyright 2002, August Hunt. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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