Sunday, May 25, 2008

Arthur, the Christian and flaws.Padarn's Jerusalem Coat, Mordred and Gwenhwyfar

Arthur,his foster brothers and men Cai and Bedwyr

The Authentic and flawed Christian Leader

Reading ‘The Reign of Arthur from History to Legend by Christopher Gridlow (Sutton IBSN 0750934190 dedicated to the Oxford Arthurian Society) for the first time I could read someone was taking arthur seriously. Arthur definitely did exist and was a hardened and skilful warrior and powerful leader and no pushover for anyone. Indeed he also locates her sphere as South East Wales in particular and he fights all over Wales. Stripped of all the mediaeval armour, crusader flavour and mystical New Age stuff, there is enough in the sources to learn about Arthur the Chieftain-Dux bellorum- Leader of Wars, but nowhere is he called ‘King’, even if he is a great leader. There are other kings like Ambrosius but Arthur is a leader! He travels around the country to Cattraeth, to Chester, to North Wales (CG lives a North Welsh location for he Battle of Camlann being more likely on the historical evidence, although there is a tradition of this, Arthur’s final battle. taking place in Slaughterbridge on the River Camel near Tintagel.

Flaws in Character- A sinner

Arthur is always depicted as a Christian. He can be petty, jealous even somewhat cruel but when faced with the power of God , he capitulates, and confesses, shows remorse. It must have been difficult to straddle the line between ferocious fighter and Christian life.We know that at the Battle of Castellum Guinnion, a Roman fortress, where the pagans are put to flight (so it appears the Britons were defenders against the Saxons) He carries a statue of the Virgin Mary on his shoulders and invokes her protection.This is one of Arthurs battles up north-at Binchester near Cattraeth. The next battle against the Saxons was probably fought at Caerleon .

To be a leader in these days of ‘Saxon Battering’ he would have had to be a hard man and the stories revealed so far show some very unattractive traits-his childishness over the haggling over the cows at Tredunnock, refusing to let Carannog have his altar back until he had done his business in taming the threat with his divine power-thus ‘proving’ he really was a man of God! The Author of the Life of Padarn goes further. He calls Arthur a tyrant!

Arthur and the Story of Padarn’s Coat

David, Teilo and Padarn all were asked by a heavenly messenger, to go to Jerusalem. The ‘Life of Padarn goes on’ They came at length to Jerusalem and there preached in the noblest manner after the manner of the Apostles ;and afterwards were ordained by the imposition of a pair of hands of the chief archbishop. The three saints were enriched by presents and Padarn had a two fold present, namely a staff and a coat woven throughout.They returned happily , and divided Britain into their three dioceses , unless the malice of tyrants should afterwards disturb them.

And when Padarn was in the church, resting after such a long sea journey , a certain , , whose name was Arthur , traversed the countries on each side, and came a certain day to the cell of St Padarn the new bishop and while he spoke to Padarn , he noticed his coat and being seized by the affection of jealousy he asked it he could have it ; and the saint, answering ,said’ This coat is not suitable for the wearing of any sinful person , but for a clerical habit.’ Arthur went out of the monastery in a rage , and again returned in a state of anger that he might take away the coat against the wishes of the attendant saints. One of the disciples of Padarn, seeing him return in a rage, ran to St Padarn and said. ‘The tyrant who was here before is returning in an insulting manner and treading the ground levels it with his feet. ‘Padarn answered, ‘Yes, may the earth swallow him’. With the word , the ground opened its bosom to some depth and swallowed Arthur as far as his chin , who immediately acknowledged; himself a sinner, and he began to praise God and Padarn ;until by asking pardon, the earth delivered him up. And in that place with bended knees he begged the favour of the saint and obtained it ; and he accepted Padarn as his perpetual patron , and so departed.

So Arthur does not come out in any sort of a good light here, but it is probably much more the real Arthur than the one of knightly chivalry and whilst he is termed a tyrant when he is caught out he does ask pardon, he does confess and atone and recognise the might of God.

Gwenhwyfar, the faithless 'White Spirit' and Mordred-Wife Raids

Modena Archivolt gives details about the ‘real’Gwenhwyfar. (Guinevere)
In this source it seems that far from Gwenhwyfar, Arthur’s wife (French ‘Guinevere) conceiving a passion for courtly French Knight Sir Lancelot (who does not appear in this real Arthurian story)her lover was Arthur’s nephew Mordred, who recruited Saxon troops from the Saxons. The result was a ferocious civil war that led to the destruction of the whole kingdom and eventual domination by the Saxons. Mordred recruited foreigners, the Angles.

Exactly ten years after Arthur's death at Camlann in the Annales Cambriae, Ida founds Anglian Bernicia, the original Anglian kingdom that grew into Northumbria. However, Arthur's fall may not originally have been considered a key event in the Anglian domination of Britain. The Queen survived Gwenhwyfar fled to a convent, Geoffrey claims to the convent built at the site of St Julius death at St Julians, on the South bank of the Usk-near the present church of that name in Heather Road..
York and Gwenhwyfar’s flight to St Julians, where she ended her days and was brought to Glastonbury

Gwenhwyfar flees to St Julian's Convent between Caeleon and present day Newport

Gwenhwyfar sought refuge in the current capital of Brigantia. According to Geoffrey, Gwenhwyfar and Medraut were living together in York when Arthur arrived to challenge them. From York, Gwenhwyfar flees to the church of Julius the Martyr at Caerleon. Gwenhwyfar's flight to a convent is an indication that she had been a willing partner of Medraut .Gwenhwyfar is not a victim seeking reunification with her first husband but Medraut's accomplice.

Source of her adultery very old and predate Geoffrey's tale

We know that the tales of Gwenhwyfar and Medraut existed prior to the writing of Geoffrey's History: Indeed the entire adultery scenario set out by Geoffrey of Monmouth seems to have been common knowledge. The name Gwenhwyfar means "white spirit or phantom," a reference to the Celtic world.Common at this time in attempts to conquer land were wife stealing raids, a marriage by conquest and then a transfer of power. The victor claims his new wife and lays a claim to her husbands lands. This is what Mordred did with Gwenhwyfar and the queen actively connives at this with Mordred. It certainly was a dog-eat-dog world!!

Gwenhwyfar left as Regent with Mordred

Arthur leaves Gwenhwyfar as a -ruler of Britain in his absence further supports the theory that she is a sovereignty figure for the land. Mordred was not ashamed for his behaviour. Getting a beautiful powerful and wealthy wife like this was an expected ambition and therefore there was no need for guilt. The role of the wife in sovereignty/ownership of the land was very real

Much of this information about Gwenhwyfar is given in Michelle Ziegler, The Heroic Age, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 1999 Belleville,Illinois adds this interesting comment:
In Welsh Triad 80, The Three Faithless Wives of the Island of Britain, Gwenhwyfar is listed as the fourth and most faithless of all. This triad illustrates that Gwenhwyfar was not viewed as a helpless victim. Being the fourth listed, she was probably a late addition to the triad. There are numerous examples of faithless wives in Celtic literature, all ultimately based on sovereignty. Gwenhwyfar's faithlessness as a core character trait later allowed French authors free rein in their treatment of the laxity of her moral code. Yet in the Welsh tales, this faithlessness is found only in relation to Medraut and not others.

The role of Gwenhwyfar as the instigator of Camlann is widely attested in the earliest Welsh legends. Geoffrey of Monmouth) gives us the fullest version. The triads give a different version in which Camlann is caused by a feud between Gwenhwyfar and her sister Gwenhwyfach.
So some fresh food for thought here then , although there must be some sympathy for Gwenhwyfar. With all Arthurs travels he could not have been around much!
Tomorr0w St Dubricius and Arthur.

Madeleine McCann.

This interesting video superbly made by Janet James leads to some interesting questions about the disappearance to Madeleine.

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