Gresham College Lectures

Finding Lost Gods in Wales

May 05, 2023 Gresham College
Gresham College Lectures
Finding Lost Gods in Wales
Show Notes Transcript

Since the late 19th century, scholars have thought the poetry and stories of medieval Wales, gathered in manuscripts such as the Red Book of Hergest and the Book of Taliesin, represent stories about pagan gods and goddesses – but recently this has been challenged. These books deal with magic and enchantment and contain vivid characters such as Rhiannon, the proud and wilful Arianrhod, the beautiful and treacherous flower-maiden Blodeuwedd, the decent and vulnerable Lleu Llaw Gyffes, and the supreme bard Taliesin.

A lecture by Ronald Hutton recorded on 26 April 2023 at David Game College, London.

The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:

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Good evening everybody. British time [inaudible] The Welsh whom I just addressed were a people born dispossessed. They were the descendants of the original natives of Britain at the dawn of history, but ended up occupying only a 12th of the total land mass. Irish adventurers conquered the northern part and turned it into the kingdom of Scotland. While the English took two thirds of the south of the island. For centuries, a powerful Welsh kingdom survived between England and Scotland called Strath Clyde, which kept the original British identity and language and was a great cultural center. The Vikings, however destroyed that so Wales acquired its identity as a nation in the ninth and 10th centuries, although still divided into small kingdoms, its people developed a new sense of common character and importance as the heirs of the ancient British. Their survival became that of an entire culture, ands tradition with common legends and common heroes above all, king Arthur, they were aided in this enterprise by their language which was unusually well suited to poetry. That may have been because it was developed by poets, the court's Bards of the sixth and seventh centuries who fashioned it out of the ancient Brighton tongue. The result enabled just three or four words of medieval Welsh to convey a set of images or thoughts that would require a stanza in English. Let me give you an example from the work of one of the most famous of the medieval Welsh poets, the 12th century Barr Vek. 

I'll give it to you first. In the Medieval Welsh, I'll say that Medieval Welsh is even less like modern Welsh than medieval English. The language of choa is to modern English. However, there are probably just 12 people in the country who can correct my pronunciation <laugh>, and it could be that none of them are watching tonight. <laugh>. So the original medieval Welsh would, the literal translation is color, light waves spread, boiling billows, flood, tide, river, mouth on sea where nothing waits and what it means is bright as the light that falls on the waves where the boiling billows spread that flashes a moment from the meeting of river flood and sea and all that image is contained in just those two lines. Medieval Welsh tradition credited this achievement, the development of this remarkable language to the baths of the sixth century, the greatest of whom was talien. 

And here is an artist's impression of talien poems attributed to Talien have indeed survived in medieval manuscripts. There is, however, a problem with taking literally the idea that they are the compositions of the legendary sixth century bard. There is no sign that he was regarded as the preeminent early poet until at least the 10th century. After that Bards claimed to be inspired by him and so they wrote in his name for 300 years. We are therefore not certain that any of the poems credited to Talisen were composed by him or even if he actually ever existed. All of those which people have fought to be most possibly his work are concerned with warfare praising the victories of the kings he served. It is precisely those verses that contain the mystical and religious references, the most haunting poems that now see much later than his alleged time. 

Welsh tradition was so powerful that until the 18th century poets continued to pass off their own work as that of long dead predecessors, including Talien. It was simply the fastest way to get respectful attention. Two major problems result at opposite ends of the chronological spectrum. The modern problem of attribution of medieval texts sent us above all on a single remarkable individual. Ed Edward Williams who took the bardic name of Yolo Mogan, which just means GLA Morgan Teddy. He was indeed from Lyor and also a stain ma, a stone mason active between the 1780s and the 1820s. He was also a devoted nationalist part of the great Welsh cultural revival of that period, which eventually produced a national literary cannon. The Mak national heroes like the trickster tomb, shun Kati, a national costume, the steeple hat dress and cloak worn by Welsh women to this day, a national instrument, the harp, a national symbol, the daffodil and a national cultural institution, the Ice Death fod. 

He was a fierce radical in religion and politics, campaigning for the abolition of slavery and of cruelty to animals and campaigning for votes for all men. He was a vegetarian because of his love of animals and wouldn't even ride a horse because it was imposing his weight upon it. He admitted women as equals to his societies. He was beyond doubt, an accomplished poet and visionary with real courage and imagination and a great scholar. He was also a forger, a drug addict, a jailbird and a charlatan. Some modern Welsh cultural nationalists have equated him in modern Welsh history with the place of Adolf Hitler in modern German history. His sincere aim was to age the contemporary Welsh cultural revival by recovering the ancient wisdom of his people. This he expected to have been embodied in the Druidic system of philosophy, which he likewise expected to be a rational and enlightened creed that should be restored for a new age of reason. 

He further expected the teachings of the ancient druids to have been preserved in the medieval Welsh manuscripts of which he was himself one of the main experts on carrying out the necessary research. He realized it actually wasn't there, rather than give up on his dream, he then invented documents himself to fill the gap containing a system of democracy, humanitarian ethics, and with a single benevolent God. He passed these off as the wisdom of the ancient druids passed down by the medieval Bards. YOLOs work was taken seriously until the early 20th century and all of his forgeries weren't exposed until the 1950s As described, the reaction against him has been vehement. However, his cultural impact on modern whale has been profound. Not least because the Druidic ceremonies and organization that he invented the sev of Barbs still opened the nationalized death fund, the premier cultural institution of Wales. 

As you can see here, he claimed the Druidic hierarchy had been in three grades, bards dressed in blue, who represented the performing arts ovates dressed in green, who are honored for achievements in politics and science and druids themselves in white who are experts in religion and he of course reproduced this system in his own sev. You can see mostly Druids in this picture who were in YOLOs time. Christian ministers leaders in religion. You can see a solitary female ovate in green among them, remembering that Yolo admitted women to his goer than equal terms from the beginning. Just for the record, the most distinguished female ovate ever inducted into the national Sev was one. Elizabeth o Windsor Alias are late Queen Elizabeth ii when she was young. The medieval dimension of the prom of attribution starts with the fact that scholars between the late 19th and early 20th centuries believed that certain medieval Welsh poems and stories embody traces of Druidic belief and pagan deities. 

However, all these works are now thought to be much later than they were formally believed to be. They date from at least five centuries after the triumph of Christianity when the native ancient world had practically been forgotten and Welsh literature was full of foreign influences indeed compared with that of Ireland and Iceland. There actually isn't a lot of medieval literature surviving from Wales. All of it with possible relevance to paganism is found in just four manuscripts written in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Black book of Karl Martin, the Whites book of ra, the Red's book of her guest and the so-called book of Talien. The names attributing colors simply refer to the original covers of the books and not the contents. Though when a facsimile reproduction of the black book of [inaudible] arrived in my university department very uh, many years ago, my entirely English speaking and English centered colleagues assumes that some satanic grimoire had arrived through the mail for me and my already somewhat doubtful reputation in the department took a further dive. 

<laugh>, this evidence from these four great books may be divided into prose tales and poems. The relevant prose tales were collected in the 1840s under the title invented for the purpose of the mob in Noian. That name turned out not actually to mean anything, but it sounds great. <laugh>. This collection consisted of 11 stories from the white book and the Red book. None of them are definitely older than the 12th century. Three of them are courtly romances, which seem to be based on French troubador literature of that century. The oldest are probably the four branches of the Maban ogi, which from their terminology seem to date from somewhere between 10 93 and 1140. Their characters and plots may well be older, but we have no way of telling how old they are. The stories are the work of a sophisticated writer who drew on motifs from Egyptian Arab Indian tales, which have been traveling across Europe for centuries. 

They have no goddesses or gods as such, unlike medieval Irish and Scandinavian literature and no characters who are explicitly pagans. Even though the four branches are apparently set in pagan times, several of the characters have superhuman powers, but it's hard to tell if this means that they are Dees in human form or simply humans with magical abilities to apparent survivals from an older pagan world may perhaps be discerned in the tales. One is shape shifting, the ability to change the form of objects, turn humans into animals and back and change a human being's appearance. The other is a place called [inaudible], which in its original form is a happy and welcoming other world populated by human-like people which can interact with the new one. Both are however very general concepts and no longer linked to pagan de or beliefs. The question of how far lost Gods can be found in medieval whales concealed as characters is a complex one. 

One of the most important and contentious examples is the character of Rihannon who is prominent in the four branches. There's much about Rihannon that seems to indicate that she was a former pagan goddess. The suffix to her name o n, is one that theologists have argued is associated with superhuman beings in medieval Welsh and indeed Rihanna comes from a magical other world. She is twice associated with horses and so some have fought her to be an ancient British horse goddess. She also marries two successive human es, and so some have also fought her to have been a goddess who conferred sovereignty. 

This all remains possible, but it's also very uncertain. Rihanna does not confer kingdoms on her husband's and there is no clear sign of a sovereignty goddess anywhere in Europe outside of Ireland. There is also no real evidence of an ancient British horse goddess in either Iron Age, archeology or Romano. British inscriptions. Hanon herself in the story seems much more like a representative of royalty or nobility than a goddess. Whether we should therefore stop calling her a goddess is a matter for personal choice. It's still entirely possible that she was one, but the decisive evidence is lacking and it's important to ask instead what characters like Rihannon would've meant to the medieval Welsh audiences for whom the stories were composed. The four branches are about friendship, marriage, rulership, and feuding, and Rihanna plays her part in all of those. There is in fact nobody quite like her in previous human literature. 

She is a being from an enchanted world who chooses to settle in the human one and stays even when things go horribly wrong for her. There she is propelled by the wish to choose a husband for herself thereafter, no matter how things, how bad things get. Once she's got her man, she never loses control of herself and instinctively produces different correct reactions to differing crises. She always stands her ground with iron, willpower, and stoical courage. She is altogether one of the great female personalities in world literature precisely because of the way in which she deals with very human situations and that's for me her real interest and her beauty and her power. The second great body of evidence for possible former pagan characters and motifs in medieval Welsh literature consists of a group of poems. The court poets or bards of whales between 900 and 1300 were the apex of Welsh culture at the time, a highly trained elite delighting and difficult elusive verse packed with metaphor, reference and wordplay, which of course makes it immensely hard to understand. 

They were among the leaders of a self-conscious national revival. A key concept in their thought was the semi divine status of the bard. That's them. Inspired by awe, meaning the divine spirit of creation. They drew on Irish, pagan Greek and Roman and overtly Christian literature, but also on earlier Welsh bards through both written and oral sources. Seven famous mystical poems are credited to Tali esen and could be dated at any time between 912 50. Currently the period 1150 to 1250 is the one favored for most they deal in prophecy, fantastic imagery and supernatural themes. In modern times, they've repeatedly been mined for traces of ancient pagan wisdom without any consensus being reached over the results. An absolutely classic example of such a poem is [inaudible] the loot of the other world, which seems to be among a lot of other things. The story of a tragic expedition into a parallel world. 

To bring back a magical cauldron in the form in which we have it, it is overtly Christian composed by somebody who disliked the pretensions of monks to be the greatest scholars. But many people have thought this present form to be a later adaptation of an originally pagan text. The truth is that absolutely nobody really knows what it means and the situation is not helped by the fact that there is not even any definite agreement over the precise meaning of about a third of the words in it. But with all those caveats, here is priv a newan in the most recent and authoritative translation, 

I praise the Lord prince of the realm king. His sovereignty is extended across the world's tract equipped was the prison of choir in the mound fortress through the will of and Pari. No one before him went into it, into the heavy gray chain, a faithful servant it held and before the plunder of an nuen bitterly he sang, and our baric commemoration shall last till the day of judgment three times the number of a great warships crew. We went into it. Save seven none. Return from the fortress of the mound. I am honored in praise song was heard in the four peaked fortress forever turning. My poetry was uttered from the cauldron, from the breath of nine maidens. It was kindled the of the Lord of our newan. What is its nature? A dark ridge around its border with pearls. It will not boil the food of a coward that is not its destiny. 

The flashing sword of has been lifted to it and it was left in the hand of Al and before the gate of hell, lamps were burning. And when we went with Arthur, brilliant difficulty except for seven, none returned from the mead drunken fortress. I am honored in praise song is heard in the fortress of four peaks in the aisle of the strong door flowing. Water and jet are mingled. Sparkling wine is their drink there before their retina save for seven none return from the fortress of hardness. I don't deserve the Lord's little men of letters before the glass fortress. They did not see the courage of Arthur. 6,000 men stood upon the wall. It was difficult to speak with their sentinel three times the number of a great warships crew went with Arthur save for seven, none returned from the fortress of hindrance. I don't deserve little men slack, their shield straps. 

They do not know on what day who was created. Uh, what hour of midday qui was born, who made him who did not go to the meadows of Dewi. They do not know the brindle docs thick. His headband seven score links on his collar. But when we went with Arthur tragic expedition save for seven, none returned from the fortress of God's peak. I do not deserve little men slack, their willpower. They do not know on what day the chief was created at what hour of midday the owner was born, what animal they keep silver its head. When we went with Arthur Sorrowful combat save for seven none return from the enclosed fortress. Monks howl like a choir of dogs. From a meeting with Bards who have true knowledge, is there one kind of wind? Is there one spark of fire or fierce battle? Monks bands together like young wolves from a meeting with bards who have true knowledge, they do not know when midnight and dorm divide nor wind what its course what its on rush, which place it ravages, what region it strikes the grave of the saint is hidden both grave and ground. 

I praise the Lord Great princes, though I be not sad. Christ rewards me. One of the really infuriating things about medieval Welsh literature is we have lost so much and there's so many illusions in what survives to stories that no longer exist. So we've actually no idea how the original audience to this poem would've received it. It's clearly making mocking or learned references to all sorts of characters and symbols and figures. But we have no idea if the audience for whom it was designed was listening to its verse saying, oh yeah, the ox with the headband, uh, and the collar. Yeah, yeah, I remember that. Or what? In other words, whether somebody's showing off knowledge he alone possesses or showing how many well-known stories or reunite stories he is mastered. Uh, in brief we just don't get the poem at all. Um, that's all the more marvelous fritz's haunting imagery as an absolute gift to modern poet storytellers and artists. 

More of that later between 1100 and 1400, the court bard seemed to have developed new mythological characters or enhanced older characters as well as possibly preserving some form ancient times by this process, some personalities who started off looking human gradually become more superhuman. And similar to Divinities, they seem however to have been as medieval as King Arthur or Robin Hood in modern times. Reasonably and legitimately enough, their status's deities has been enhanced, still further making Welsh tradition a still living, continuously evolving phenomenon. One of the greatest of these is Kek. Kewen seems first to appear in the tale called harness [inaudible], which was well known by the 12th century. Although the complete version that we have is 16th century, she appears in it as a mother skilled in sorcery who brew bruise, a cauldron of potion, which will confer the gift of wisdom and inspiration on her son by accident. 

Her servant Talien drinks it instead. And so acquires his mighty talents and future career as a bard. As the brewer of a cauldron of inspiration, she became a grand figure for court poets. By the 13th century, she had grown into the muse of Bards, the giver of the power and the rules of poetry. In 1809, A rather eccentric clergyman, an anti aquarium called Eduard Davies, made her into the great goddess of ancient Britain, an identity which has been accepted by many since. Another such figure is Gwen up Ne Gwen appears in 11th and 12th century texts as one of Arthur's warriors. He has some magical powers, but then most of those warriors do. By the 14th century, poets had turned him into a mighty spirit of darkness, enchantment and deception, a true Lord of the underworld. In the 1880s, an Oxford professor called Sir John Reese made him into a Celtic God of the dead and leader of the wild hunt, and he's often taken as that. Now, an another great character of this sort is Arian Rodd. Arian Rodd appears in the fourth branch of the Ma Bonano guy. As a powerful, beautiful, and selfish and cress capable of making unbreakable curses. By the 13th and 14th centuries, her magical powers had much increased so she's able to cast a rainbow around a court. And the constellation in the night sky, known as the Corona Baliles had become called the fortress of Ali Rodd. In the 20th century, she has become viewed as a star goddess. 

The legends of King Arthur and his companions is the greatest gift that Welsh literature has made to the world. They originated as patriotic Welsh heroes fighting the English and then went on to become international characters. The stories about them also contain what have sometimes been thought to be pagan motifs. The gift of Arthur Sword Excalibur from a lake to which it has later returned by the faithful Avir, might be a memory of the genuine ancient pagan rights of throwing swords and other precious metalwork into bodies of water as offerings. On the other hand, it could have been suggested to the composer of the original story about it by fines of those ancient swords in lakes and rivers, or even by a persisting medieval custom in some areas such as lincolnshire of throwing a knight's weapons into such watery places during his funeral procession, the striking of the dos blow upon a king, which wounds him and so turns his kingdom into a wasteland, suggests an ancient pagan connection between the physical and moral health of a ruler and the health of his land. 

On the other hand, the blow is struck with a Christian sacred object, and so the act is one of sacrilege incurring divine wrath. The holy grail has been fought to derive from a sacred Celtic cauldron like those found in offerings as offerings in lakes and bogs a magical object like the cauldron of the nine maidens in pri [inaudible]. But the grail starts out as a serving dish, not a vessel, and then rapidly turns into a Christian chalice. Finally, in this context, there is Glastonbury, which features prominently in the later medieval atherian legend as the Isle of Avalon offers refuge and perhaps his burial place in the 20th century, many have fought it to be an ancient pagan sanctuary. While it certainly does have remains from the Atherian period. However, so far nothing that is a clearly that is clearly a religious center from pagan times has been found in or around Glastonbury. 

I'm going to make Glastonbury since the the picture is so lovely, a focus for a case study of the possibilities and delights and frustrations of this material. The two great atherian legends associated with Glastonbury are Arthur Arthur's disappearance at the end of his story and the Holy Grail Arthur is supposed to have been taken to the fable is of Avalon badly wounded after his last battle and nobody knows what has happened to him. And likewise, the holy grail is said to have been taken to the Isle of Avalon and ended up there like Aha. And some think it is concealed within this hill Glastonbury and that the chalice well named for it that flows out of the bottom of the tour has its property of dying. The rock over which it flows, a vivid orange, which can be romantically called blood red because of the holy grail containing the holy blood concealed in the hill. 

Scholars have done a complete demolition job on the Atherian connection in the legends in the 20th century. It was realized there was no connection between Arthur and Glastonbury Abbey, even though the Abbey had been there from at least the seventh century until it had a mishap. In the late 12th century, some monk went to bed leaving an oil lamp burning in the wooden church, the oldest one at the center of the Abbey at the holiest, and it caught fire and burned the ground in 1184. The monks now needed to have a lot of funding to rebuild at a time when they just lost their major tourist alias pilgrim draw. And so quite speedily, 1191, they declared a belief that King Arthur was buried in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey and they duly dug into the abbey, into the old churchyard and found the tomb there, a coffin of a man with a blonde haired woman lying beside him and a cross on top just in case nobody was going to make any mistakes, which said here lies the famous King Arthur, et cetera, et cetera. 

The point about the woman's skeleton is that she had graceful bones. Um, she had had blonde hair, some of which still stuck to her skull. And in case you are missing the point, the name Gu was said to mean blondie. During parts of the Middle ages, the monks pushed their luck. They issued an initial press release stating they'd found a third body that of some mordrid authors treacherous and villainous nephew and the one who had wounded him and had him packed off to Avalon as a result in the first place. And then they seemed to have realized that Mordrid was not going to have a big fan base. And so in the second and third press releases, they lost moderate and kept Arthur and Gwenith and the result was a great success. It was very much in the interests of the ruling Plantagenet kings to have a heroes famous as Arthur buried in their kingdom. 

And then having got Arthur in the is of Avalon, the monks realized it seems belatedly they had to have the holy grail as well because just after they announced the discovery of Arthur, a French author called Hobe de Bok wrote a bestseller which put the holy grail on the Christian and world's mental map. And Bok Hobe de Bok had said that the holy grail ended up in the Isle of Avalon, which is where Arthur had ended up. So the monks now realize that having God Arthur, they had to have the grail and you can see their histories being rewritten in the next few decades to bring the grail in. Brought there by Joseph of Arama exactly as Robert de Boho has said. The man who had lent his family tombed to contain the body of Jesus Christ and then immigrated west to become the apostle of the Britains and established the first church at Glastonbury. 

So Joseph, who had not been associated with Glastonbury before, is now woven into it beautifully. Just for the record, the first account of the Isle of Avalon is found in Jeffrey of Monmouth's account of the Atherian legend from around 1140 to 1160. And the passage concerned is a quotation from a much earlier work of geography by a Spanish churchman called Isodor of Seville that describes a place he called the Fortune at islands where you can grow fruit, all the around, there's lots of lovely sunshine and everybody is healthy. We know from the geographical position that Isador was describing the canaries. And so if Arthur did go to Avalon, he may have ended up running a wine bar in Lanzaro <laugh> or suing himself on Grand Canaria for the rest of his mortal days or immortal days. But that aside, you may see that scholarly faith in the literal connection of Arthur and the grail to Glastonbury has been somewhat diminished as a result of these findings. 

But it remains true, not just that the right kind of pottery from exactly the period Beha should have been around if he was around, has been found on top of this hill Glastonbury to it's been found now only identified in the last few years at a small chapel deckery on the edge of the aisle, which contains Glastonbury. And in same period the last few years been identified at Glastonbury Abi itself. So we have a major center from just the right period doing just the right things for the Atherian legend. And although we haven't any evidence of a prehistoric pagan sacred site in the area yet in 2004, the house which cares for the chalice well and its gardens had a kitchen extension from such mundane acts. Great discoveries are made. And of course archeology was called in when features were discovered as the extension ground was dug up and samples were taken from the post holes that a couple of years dating often takes a long time, came back to reveal the post holes as new stone age. 

So there was a prehistoric structure from way back in pre-history right near the chalice. Well, we haven't got any deposits to show that it was a ceremonial site, but the point was this is the first trace of anything new stone age found in the Glastonbury area. And there's so many kitchen extensions are waiting to be made <laugh> or garden developments or street works in the area. We might find anything at any moment. So as so often this story where something seemed to have closed down actually it still wide open and that case study brings me to my conclusion in general and most frustratingly medieval literature as we have it, including the Atherian legend faces only in one direction action towards the future. In other words, we can see very clearly how it develops and mutates in later centuries retaining its freshness and power to inspire in the process. 

What we cannot see with certainty is where it comes from. That may be a problem, but like so many of the gaps in our knowledge of ancient British paganism, it can be an inspiration. Ri may be a goddess or not, depending on how you feel priv nuen may possibly plausibly have many different possible meanings according to how you hear it as so often in the field of ancient British paganism. What baffles us as scholars may be a gift to us as artists, as creative performers and writers indeed even as bards. And maybe that's what the medieval bards or perhaps the destiny that inspires them Arwin had intended for us all along. 

Speaker 2:
Professor Hutton, thank you very much again for another fascinating lecture. We have some time for some questions and forgive me in advance for the pronunciation here. I will do my best. It won't be as good as Professor Hutton's pronunciation. So the first one here, from which medieval tales did revivalists like Yolo pluck the daffodil leak and the dragon 

Pluck the daffodil 

Leak and dragon. 

Speaker 1:
Okay, uh, there nothing to do with Yolo. Okay. And they come from different ages. The daffodil was chosen as a symbol in 1911 <laugh>, uh, as part of the great boost given to Welsh culture at that time by the invested here of the future Edward viii, uh, as Prince of Wales. It was the investiture that set off the tradition that was copied in 1969 for the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales. The leak has been associated as a Welsh symbol since the Middle Ages, and uh, traditionally it's because of the alleged relative poverty of Welsh agriculture, because of the soil compared with the English in legend. Also, it's a favorite dish of St. David, the patron saint of Wales, but certainly by the Tu and Stewart period. It's become a symbol of welshness. So it goes way back a as for the dragon. 

This was associated with Wales in a lost saints life, describing how the wicked King VK was building a castle and found that it kept falling down. And the young boy who was going to be the wizard Merlin, explained this was to cause two dragons, one white and one red fought underneath it. And the white dragon stands for the English and the Red dragon for the Welsh. And after that, as the story passed into the British history of the Welsh, one of their key texts, it became a foundation story for the Welsh. But the symbols of the medieval Welsh princes were lions, not dragons. Uh, most European royalty wanted lions. You know, they're butch, they're dangerous, they're they're majestic. Uh, but when the tus took over rather unhelpfully, the English had got the lions as their symbols already and still have. And so the tutors helpfully made the red dragon of kawada the symbol of whales instead. And the Welsh of happily had that ever since. It's a long reply, but those are key symbols for Welshness. 

Speaker 2:
Thank you. Um, next one says, could Arian Rodd be identified with Ariadne, at least in terms of the Corona Borealis, in which in Greek myth is said to be where Vaca threw his bridal headdress? 

Speaker 1:
I think that you're absolutely right about the origins of the Greek myth. Uh, the Corona Borealis, which is practically invisible from London because the light pollution, but else in the countryside looks like, uh, a necklace hanging up there in the sky with a particularly bright star, like a jewel in the center was thought by the Greeks to be the wedding present of the goddess Aphrodite to Ari Adney when she married Dion Isis, the God having been jilted by the love rat Fes after fleeing from Cree, having helped him kill the minor tour and this wedding present was a visible sign of RI ad's ascent to become a goddess. Uh, the names Arian Rod and Ri Adney sound quite similar, but there's originally no connection between them whatsoever. The two converge on the Corona body and it could well be that an erudite 14th century Welsh poet. These people knew their Greek and Roman myths would know the story of Ari Adney, probably from Avid ands would see the link with Arian Rodd and bring an Arian Rodd. But that is speculation. 

Speaker 2:
Do we have any questions from the young in personal audience? Sorry. 

Speaker 3:
Uh, thank you. Um, regarding your reading from the, um, pre, pre anon, uh, it sounded to me very much like a anang Anglo-Saxon, um, this bit bit like be wolf. Was there any influence of coming and going there? 

Speaker 1:
I don't think so. Uh, a lot of, uh, early to medieval poetry has that, uh, intoning sound to it, uh, those internal rhythms and tends to be read in the same kind of sos way, uh, that I, that I have just given to it. So you are right there is a similarity, but it's broadly generic rather than a direct influence. 

Speaker 4:
Uh, thank you. Excellent lecture by the way. Fantastic. 

Speaker 1:
It's very kind. 

Speaker 4:
Um, I just wanted to ask you, um, I understand there's a story in the ma on about King Bran and his head being buried beneath the tar of London. Yeah. Can you elucidate, please? 

Speaker 1:
Well, kind of, it's a legend. Uh, and it it could be a memory of, uh, the pagan custom of burying bits of special human beings underneath special places to give them endearing power with a guardian spirit or sanctity. Or it could be a steal from the Christian habit of venerating saints relics in the same kind of way, which itself may have derived from Mediterranean pagan tradition, the fact that bro's burial place for a long time. He was dug up by Arthur who didn't think we needed magical protection. Now we had him, uh, in Welsh tradition. Uh, the fact that the Tower of London, uh, specifically the white tower area was chosen is one of the best indications that the four branches are composed in the early 12th century, rather than any earlier, or at least in their present form. They're put down there maybe from older tales because there was no significant fortress at the Tower of London till William the conqueror built the white tower there is London Castle and throughout the, the four branches, uh, to use a cliche, the elephant in the room is the Normans, uh, because they had Jack booted their way into Wales in the previous generation and conquered large areas of it and are the immediate, urgent and present problem of anybody in Wales. 

But there's no reference than whatsoever. So the story's concerned if you like, a para bells from parables, from a hazy ancient time to teach lessons to people on how to survive in the present, including in, uh, a world with imminent and urgent Norman threat. This gentleman who's been waiting for ages, uh, over here, 

Speaker 5:
Thank you. I love the lecture. Um, thank you. I was very fortunate. I spent my childhood in Glastonbury. I lived in the house on the slopes of Glastonbury tour and I'm, I took in all these, uh, legends and I still believed them cause I have to, cuz I've believed them all my life. Even if I believe in nothing else, I still believe in them. But, uh, some of them of course are bizarre. And my favorite thing is, uh, there's another ho in Glastonbury where Joseph ahea having sailed up the sunset levels, landed and planted his staff in the ground, and that turned into the holy thorn and he brought the tra wisdom, of course, uh, what I loved about this story, and it took me 30 years to work it out. When he planted his staff, they were all very tired. He said, we are wary all, and that was the name of the hill. Wary all I I think it's wonderful that he'd mastered English in the first century. 

<laugh> <laugh>, 

Speaker 1:
Very nice weary all hill spoil sport philologists and form us means the hill of the bog Myrtle's a a type of, uh, damp ground plant. Yeah, for me, uh, my first relationship with Glastonbury in the 1960s was made in the afterglow of the late Jeffrey Ashes Lumin beautiful book, king Arthurs Avalon about Glastonbury published in the late 1950s. And what Jeffrey Ash said still holds, which is none of the Glastonbury legends have been or can be disproved. And so they all just might be correct. And that is true. I mean, there are two ways of looking at this. Uh, one is that of a friend of mine, a very prominent folklorist who is reviewing, uh, the latest and the long succession of books expressing hope that, and belief in the idea that the young Jesus came to Glastonbury and Somerset with his uncle relative Joseph Vama on a trading expedition. And, uh, my friend, uh, who's, uh, has a sharper tongue than I said, uh, yes, it is entirely possible that Joseph Vama came to Somerset and he could have brought the young Jesus with him or a trooper performing elephants for that matter, <laugh>. And I look at that and just delete the aura troop performing elements bit say, yes, it could have happened. That's the great thing about myth and legend. It can almost never be disproved. It does other things. 

Speaker 2:
I do have another question that's just curious from the online audience. Was the tale of GN cu an attempt by the Christian Church to demonize GN and health? Or is that a modern misconception? 

Speaker 1:
It's not a modern misconception, uh, but the demonization of Gwen had already happened. Uh, this is one of the great medieval or just possibly 16th century Glastonbury legends. Uh, it's about an actual Saint St. Cochlan after whom Klan Golan, the festival place in Wales is named who turns up in Glastonbury on a routine preaching tour and finds the place has been taken over by the Hugh Hefner of medieval mythology, GWE Apni, who's established a kind of playboy mansion on the summit of Glastonbury tour, uh, providing every kind of pleasurable vice for the inhabitants of Glastonbury who have quite naturally forgotten piety in the process. And the, uh, the, the preaching monk hoofs his way up to the top and there is Gwen reclining on his throne with all these gorgeous beings around him and says something like, Heidi High camper, start with some aroma therapy and then there'll be a jacuzzi booted up for you. 

Speaker 1:
And, uh, Cochlan says, no thanks, takes that and sprays the whole thing with holy water. And it explodes and vanishes like the demonic illusion. It is leaving just green mounds on the grass. And uh, this definitely makes Gwen a demonn, but he's already won by the 14th century. Uh, we don't know why his image has darkened so much from the 12th and 13th centuries, maybe earlier, but, but it's does, it's, uh, the great thing about the Middle Ages is nothing ever stands still in term of tradition where when people are relying on oral st storytelling and painstaking copying of manuscripts as an a medieval copy shop, no problem squi or run you up those copies in just five years, it's very difficult to pin a canonical form the story down. Once you've got printing, it becomes a lot easier and that's when definitive forms of medieval and earlier tales start to appear. 

Speaker 6:
Hi. Hi. Ooh. Hello. Um, apologize. We, we came a little bit later. I apologize if this was mentioned in the first 10 minutes, um, but I was wondering if you could speak to a possible sort of shared tic origin for characters like, uh, SLE in the Welch Smiths and the children of Lear in Irish myth and, and obviously King l as well. 

Speaker 1:
Jeffrey, you, you, you didn't miss that. I didn't talk about it. So it's a very relevant question. Uh, the whole connection between Welsh and Daiish myth has been explored in the last 10 years by a superb book by Patrick Sims Williams, one of our greatest current and living, uh, scholars of Medieval Welsh. And, uh, and there there's a, a mind splitting problem here, which is that there are definite similarities in characters and at least in names between famous Welsh and famous Irish stories. The trouble is characters share the same name more often than they share the same character. And they're two utterly different ways you can explain this. One is that the characters were originally pre-Christian deities worshiped by all the Welsh speaking peoples, or at least those of Britain and Ireland. And so they then survived in different literatures later on. Uh, the other explanation is that the Welsh were extremely well acquainted with medieval islands and heard its stories and borrowed ideas and characters from it cuz there is a cross-fertilization, as I've said. And although Patrick quite firmly and with greater ion espouses the latter explanation, the first one of those is not entirely invalidated. So again, I I'm leaving you to crossroads in which you can choose different routes yourself away from the question posed. 

Speaker 2:
Thank you. I'm afraid that's all the time we've got this evening. Um, please join me in thanking Professor Hutton once again. Thank you.