Arthur and the Dragon

This story is found in King Arthur’s Sword: A Collection of Arthurian Tales

Now amongst his other skills Arthur was a great slayer of Dragons and other monsters. Having rid Britain of such foul creatures he had been asked by Hoel. Duke of Brittany to help him, for Brittany at the time was at the time much cursed with these creatures. Now at a place called Lieue de Greve on the Breton coast there was a particular dragon that was extremely cunning and had resisted all efforts to kill it, or drive it away. It inhabited a great cavern that was so deep, that when it retired into its depths, always being sure to walk backwards in its own tracks, people were fooled into thinking the beast had fled. When Arthur came with a company of his companions to the cave this is just what happened. They camped outside the cave for several days but when there was no sight of the monster they assumed that it had disappeared. They camped some distance away and after many days of checking the cave and finding no sign of the beast they were thinking of leaving and heading back to Britain when one day they saw a sail on the horizon. They soon made out that it was a large coracle, or skin boat, such as had been known in north-west Europe for thousands of years and that it was heading for where they were. When the coracle sailed up directly onto the beach the crew stepped ashore led by a tall, powerful and graceful young man.  They came up towards where Arthur and his men stood watching and the young man saluted Arthur saying,” Greetings, can you tell us where this is, My name is Efflam, son of the King of Erin and my companions and I have been driven off our course and have been a long time battling the winds and seas.”

Saint-Efflam - Plestin-les-grèves

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King Arthur’s Sword: A Collection of Arthurian Tales

Author, historian, and folklorist Stuart McHardy – writer of a New History of the Picts and A Quest for Arthur – delves deep into the myths and traditions of Arthurian history to bring us a collection of tales of the western worlds most enduring man of legend: King ArthurKing Arthur's Sword.

Vanora’s Stone

This story originally appears in Tales of Scottish Landmarks by Stuart McHardy

About 18 miles north east of Perth lies the wee Strathmore village of Meigle. All too easily ignored by the traffic going to and from the North-east this little place contains real treasure for those interested in the ancient culture of Scotland.

The 8ft Tall Meigle 2 Pictish Standing Stone known locally as Vanora's Stone

The 8ft Tall Meigle 2 Pictish Standing Stone known locally as Vanora’s Stone

The old school next to the kirk on the Dundee road has been made into a museum unlike any other. It contains a unique and beautiful collection of Pictish symbol stones most of which at one time stood in or near the kirkyard. The others are from the surrounding area. One of these stones has a legend about it that links it with one of the great European literary and mystical themes of all time — the story of Arthur and Guinevere.

The stone known as Vanora’s stone was at one time part of a group of symbol stones that stood in the adjoining kirkyard on what is known as Vanora’s Mound. The name Vanora is a variant of Guinevere and these stones are said to have formed a memorial on the grave of that faithless queen.

On the side of the stone bearing her name is a fine example of a Celtic cross and in the middle of the other side is a gowned figure being attacked by animals. The official guide book tells us that this is a representation of Daniel in the Lions’ Den but local legend, unconcerned with the need to explain everything in our past as being of Christian origin, tells us otherwise.

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Echoes of an Older God?

Some Notes on Arthur as a Pagan Deity

By Eddie Murray

Loch Arthur looking north

Loch Arthur looking north

This talk grew out of  a discussion with Stuart McHardy. When Stuart first mooted the idea of his organising a conference on the historical Scottish Arthur, I suggested that at least some mention should be made of the ‘other’ Arthur, and he agreed.

‘And whence came Arthur?’ asked the writer L. Sprague de Camp:

‘The name is that, not of a mortal man, but of a god. The pre-Christians worshipped a god called Artur by the Irish and Artaius by the Gauls. The name has been variously connected with words for “to plough” (Latin , arare), which makes him a god of agriculture; for “bear” (Greek, arktos) which makes him a bear god; for “black,” which makes him a raven god, and so on. In any case Arthur is, like many other heroes, merely a pagan god transformed into a fictional mortal, with the deeds of some real men attributed to him.’

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The Mythological Arthur in Scotland

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

Arthur was perhaps originally a Celtic mythological figure who some people have suggested was already thousands of years old by the 6th century AD. He has been seen as representing a totemic figure of the Bear and associated with the Pole Star Ursa Major. What is indisputable is that he occupies a place among the p-Celtic peoples very like that of Finn Mac Coul among the Q-Celtic (Gaelic) speaking peoples of Scotlandd and Ireland. It is potentially this mythological Arthur that is referred to in place names all over southern Scotland, following the tradition of the legends being told in the locale of the audience.

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Arthur’s 12 Battles in Scotland

The twelve battles which Arthur is said to have fought all fit with specific Scottish sites particularly those mentioned in contemporary annals and the battle of Badon which has caused so much difficulty for those seeking to show Arthur as having lived in the West of England. Camlaan is quite probably Camelon near Falkirk on the Forth.

Newark Castle in Ettrick Forest, potential location for Arthurian battle Cat Coit Caledon

Newark Castle in Ettrick Forest, potential location for Arthurian battle Cat Coit Caledon

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King Arthur in Scotland

King Arthur in Scotland

It has long been known that the Legendary Figure of “King Arthur” was part of the common cultural inheritance of all the British peoples who spoke P-Celtic languages. While many people think this just means the Welsh, Cornish and Britons in fact it also included the Britons of Strathclyde, the Gododdin of Lothian and, in all probability, their Pictish cousins to the north – our ancestors. As Scottish history at last begins to take its rightful place in our national curriculum – Scottish traditions of Arthur become even more important. Placenames and local tales from the Borders to the Moray Firth attest to the hold this enigmatic figure had on our ancestors.

The past decade has seen a major resurgence of interest in the ”Scottish Arthur” following on from earlier works like JS Glennie’s 1869 Arthurian Localities and  J Veitch’s 1878 History and Poetry of the Scottish Border. These in turn were much influenced by W F Skene’s ground-breaking Four Ancient Books of Wales, first published in 1868 which opened up the field.

The arthurianscotland blog will provide ongoing information and commentary on the ever-growing interest in Arthurian Scotland and its relevance to understanding this most important of ancient characters.