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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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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Introduction from The Quest for Arthur By Stuart McHardy Luath Press, Edinburgh 2003

Although the figure of King Arthur is known throughout the world it is little appreciated that the original stories about this great heroic figure seem to derive from that area of North Britain known since the ninth century as Scotland. Arthur is seen as in some way a typical English or Welsh figure while the scanty evidence of Arthur as a historical figure actually points to his northern origin. Just as the original mythological figure was that of a tribal hero, so the historic figure of the early sixth century was the leader of a war band rather than a king. The idea of the British king fighting off invaders from the Continent which is at the heart of most later developments of the Arthurian material is no longer sustainable in the light of modern scholarship. I put forward a different potential reason for Arthur’s twelve battles.

Quest-for-Arthur

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King Arthur’s Sword and other Arthurian Tales

KIng Arthur's Sword and other 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 Arthur.