|Vortigern Studies > Faces of Arthur > Arthurian Articles > August Hunt (2) > appendix 1|
The Arthur presented to
us in the early Welsh poem Pa Gur is a very different
personage from the one we find in the battle list of
Nennius' Historia Brittonum. In Pa Gur Arthur numbers
among his men Manawyd(an) son of Llyr, originally a Welsh
version of the Irish god Mannanan mac Lir. He and his men
fight monsters and witches. We have clearly departed from
history and have embraced the realm of myth and folklore.
Din Eidyn, as is well known, is Edinburgh. Arthurs opponents in this battle are the Cynbyn or "Dog-heads". Arthur may well have been placed at Din Eidyn in Pa Gur because Geoffrey of Monmouth misidentified Edinburgh with Mount Agned.
Afarnachs hall may be a reference to the Pictish capital of Abernethy. Watson discussed the etymology of Abernethy as follows:
"Thus Abur-nethige of the Pictish Chronicle, now Abernethy near Perth, has as its second part the Genitive of a nominative Nethech or Neitheach (fem.), which is Gaelicized either from Neithon directly, or from a British river name from the same root."
I would add that Neithon comes from an original Nechtan or Neachtan, which appears to be cognate with L. Neptune.
If Afarnach is Abernethy, we may presume that Celli, the "Grove", was to be found somewhere in the region that stretched between Edinburgh and Abernethy. Unfortunately, there are many Gaelic grove place-names (coille and variants) as well as English place-name elements with similar meanings in this part of central Scotland, so it may well prove impossible to locate the Celli where Cai is said to have fought. As its being lost is emphasized in the poem (Pan colled kelli, "when lost was Celli"), we must assume it was a place of some importance.
I would very tentatively put forward a connection between Celli, "Grove", and the Medionemeton or "(place) in the Middle of the Sacred Grove" mentioned in the RAVENNA COSMOGRAPHY. The RAVENNA COSMOGRAPHY situates the Medionemeton between the entries for the Camelon Roman fort and the Ardoch Roman fort, and this would fit a Celli between Edinburgh and Abernethy. To date, two proposed identifications for the nemeton have been offered (see Rivet and Smith's _The Place-Names of Roman Britain_): Cairnpapple in West Lothian and the Arthur's Oven shrine which once stood near Larbert, a town across the Carron River from Camelon. Arthur's Oven is almost certainly the structure mentioned in the HISTORIA BRITTONUM of Nennius:
Chapter 23: "The Emperor Carausius rebuilt it [the Antonine Wall] later, and fortified it with seven forts, between the two estuaries, and a Round House of polished stone, on the banks of the river Carron..."
Dissethach, where Arthurs opponent is Pen Palach, looks like Tig Scathach, "House of Scathach", and Beinn na Caillich, "Hill of the Witch". Dunsgiath or Dun Scathach, the "Fort of Scathach", and Beinn na Caillich, are both in the southeast of the Isle of Skye. From Beatrix Faerber, CELT project manager, we learn that
There is a reference in paragraph 66 of Tochmarc Emire, which incorporates the story of Cu Chulainns training at arms with Scathach. In this case, Scathachs house is tig Scathgi (= Schathaigi).
The upland of (Y)stawingun, where nine witches are slain by Cei, is quite possibly Stanton Moor in Derbyshire, where we find the stone circle called the Nine Ladies. The "lord of Emrys" mentioned in the poem just prior to (Y)stawingun is a known periphrasis for Gwynedd, as Ambrosius/Emrys was the traditional lord of that land. Emrys in this context may actually be a reference to the Amber river, which lies just east of Stanton Moor.
The gun, if from an earlier cun, could have come about by mistaking in MS. an original t for c. The medial w- may represent a u, such as is found in Staunton, a known variant of Stanton.
Much later story substitutes the hero Peredur and transplants the witches to Gloucester, presumably because of the presence in Gloucestershire of towns named Stanton and Staunton.
There is no mystery regarding Mon, as this is the common Welsh name for the Isle of Anglesey in northwest Wales. Welsh tradition insists that Cath Palug or Cath Palug, which Cai battles on Mon, is the cat of a person called Palug. Modern scholars prefer to view palug as perhaps meaning "scratching" or "clawing", hence Cath Palug as the Clawing Cat.
Cath Palug is linked in line 82 of the poem to "lleuon", i.e. lions. The association of lions with Arfon (where the cat is born) and Mon may have to do with the simple confusion of llew, "lion", for lleu, the god who is the Lord of Gwynedd in Welsh tradition. The letters u and w readily subtitute for each other.
Cei or Cai, that is, Gaius, was the son of Cynyr the Hound-King, son of Ysfael Gwron "the Hero", son of Cunedda. Because Cunedda and his sons were said to have come from Manau Gododdin in the North, and later generations made Cei into a saint (called Kea in northwest Wales, southwest England and Brittany), his father was also called Ludun for Leudonus, who gave his name to Lothian. Lothian is the name of the kingdom that later ruled the territory of the Votadini or Gododdin. This was the hagiographer's way of saying that Cei traced his ancestry through his father Cynyr to the Gododdin.
That Cei was of the Gododdin-descended warriors in northwest Wales is further proven by the name of his killer: Gwyddog son of Menestyr. This is Fidaich of Munster, the father of the 4th century Irish king Crimthain Mar. Crimthain was associated with the Irish Ui Liathain of Munster, who were said to have settled in southwest England. According to British records, Cunedda and his sons drove the Liathain out of Dyfed, Gower and Kidwelly. Arthur is said to have revenged Cei by slaying Fidaich/Gwyddog and his brothers.
The supposed name of Cei's/Kea's mother, Tagu, may be derived from the second component of St. Kea church names, e.g. Llandegai, Bangor, Wales, Lantokay, Street, Somerset, Landeghe/-degai, Old Kea, Cornwall and Landkey/-dechai, Devon.
I would mention the
reference in the Pa Gur to the "Vultures of
Ely" (Elei in the text). This is a
title given to Mabon son of Modron, "Uthr Pendragon's
servant", Cys[t]aint son of Banon and Gwyn
From Glein to Camlann is Copyright © 2006, August Hunt. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
Comments to: August Hunt
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