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Arthur the Myth

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Some people believe that King Arthur is so inextricably tied up in Celtic Mythology that he must, in origin, have been, not a man at all, but a God. Like so many other characters featured in the Mabinogion, Arthur in his earliest form, appears almost entirely mythical. He and his companions have superhuman strength and abilities, and consort with giants and other mythological creatures. In the early Welsh poem "Preiddeu Annwfn", Arthur visits the Celtic Underworld, Annwfn, and his adventures closely parallel those of the cauldron-seeking God, Bran the Blessed. Even in Geoffrey and Malory, upon being fatally wounded in battle, Arthur is carried to the mystical Avalon, apparently the Underworld home of the Celtic god, Afallach. Many legends around the country attest to Arthur's immortality. He sleeps in one of numerous caves waiting to return and lead his people. The name Arthur itself appears to derive from the Celtic word Art, meaning "bear". Could Arthur, like so many other Celtic gods, be merely a personification of the many reverred animals of the wild? Later to become humanized like Loucetios, one of several Celtic deities known to be able to transform themselves into birds or beasts of the forest. Many such gods had stellar associations and the constellation of Ursa Major or the Great Bear is sometimes known as Arthur's Wain even today. Three Bear-Gods are known from the Celtic World. Strangely, they acted as both champion of bear-hunters and protectors of the beast itself. The most celebrated was, perhaps, Artio, worshipped near Berne in Switzerland and around Trier; but she was actually a goddess. A male god, Artaios, was reverred in Beaucroissant in Isere, where he was identified with the Roman Mercury. In Britain there is scant evidence for the bear cult, though a number of small jet bear talismans from Yorkshire may have devotional associations. The god to which they probably relate, however, derives his name from the alternative bear word, matus (Gaulish) or math (Irish). Matunus appears to have had a shrine at Risingham, just north of Hadrian's Wall. Some theorists claim Arthur was a late addition to the Celtic pantheon during a resurgence in pagan worship, or possibly a mythical hero, the offspring of a human and a bear.

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1 Korin Robinson = "This poem is taken from 'Llyfr Taliesin' NLW Peniarth MS 2 which dates to around 1275; but the poem itself has been dated to between the ninth and twelfth centuries. It is similar in structure to other poems from the Book of Taliesin.Preiddeu AnnwnGolychaf wledic pendeuic gwlat ri. py ledas y·pennaeth dros traeth mundi.  bu kyweir karchar gweir yg·kaer sidi. trwy ebostol pwyll a·phryderi.  Neb kyn noc ef nyt aeth idi. yr gadwyn trom/las kywirwas ae ketwi. A·rac preidu annwfyn tost yt geni.  Ac yt urawt parahawt yn·bardwedi.  Tri lloneit prytwen yd aetham ni idi. nam seith ny dyrreith o·gaer sidi.  Neut wyf glot geinmyn cerd ochlywir.  yg·kaer pedryuan pedyr·ychwelyt. yg kynneir or peir pan leferit.  O anadyl naw morwyn gochyneuit.  Neu peir pen annwfyn pwy y vynut.  gwrym am y·oror a·mererit. ny beirw bwyt llwfyr ny ry tyghit.  cledyf lluch lleawc idaw rydyrchit. Ac yn llaw leminawc yd·edewit. A·rac drws porth vffern llugyrn lloscit.  A·phan aetham ni gan arthur trafferth lethrit. nam seith ny dyrreith o gaer vedwit.  Neut wyf glot geinmyn kerd glywanawr.  yg kaer pedryfan ynys pybyrdor echwyd a·muchyd kymyscetor gwin gloyw eu gwirawt rac eu gorgord.  Tri lloneit prytwen yd aetham ni ar·vor. nam seith ny dyrreith o·gaer rigor.  Ny obrynafi lawyr llen llywyadur tra chaer wydyr ny welsynt wrhyt arthur.  Tri vgeint canhwr a seui ar y mur. oed anhawd ymadrawd ae gwylyadur. tri lloneit prytwen yd aeth gan arthur. nam seith ny dyrreith o·gaer golud.  Ny obrynaf y lawyr llaes eu kylchwy ny wdant wy py·dyd peridyd pwy. py awr ymeindyd y ganet cwy. Pwy gwnaeth ar·nyt aeth doleu defwy.  ny wdant wy yr ych brych bras y·penrwy.  seith vgein kygwng yny aerwy. A·phan aetham ni gan arthur auyrdwl gofwy. nam seith ny dyrreith o gaer vandwy.  Ny obrynafy lawyr llaes eu gohen.  ny wdant py·dyd peridyd pen.  Py awr ymeindyd y ganet perchen. Py vil a gatwant aryant y·pen. Pan aetham ni gan arthur afyrdwl gynhen.  nam seith ny dyrreith o gaer ochren.  Myneich dychnut val cunin cor. o gyfranc udyd ae gwidanhor.  Ae vn hynt gwynt ae vn dwfyr mor.  Ae vn vfel tan twrwf diachor.  Myneych dychnut val bleidawr. o·gyfranc udyd ae gwidyanhawr ny wdant pan yscar deweint a·gwawr.  neu wynt pwy hynt pwy y·rynnawd. py va diua py tir a·plawd. bet sant yn·diuant a·bet allawr.  Golychaf y wledic penefic mawr. na bwyf trist crist am gwadawl.The Spoils of AnnwfnI praise the Lord, the Sovereign of the royal realm, Who has extended his sway over the tract of the world. Gwair's prison in Caer Siddi was in order Throughout the course of the story concerning Pwyll and Pryderi. No-one before him went into it - Into the heavy grey chain which was restraining the loyal youth. And on account of the spoils of Annwfn he was singing bitterly And our (own) poetic invocation shall continue until Judgement(-Day). We went, three full loads of Prydwen, into it; Apart from seven, none came back up from Caer Siddi.  I am one who is splendid in (making) fame: the song was heard In the four-turreted fort, fully revolving. It was concerning the cauldron that my first utterance was spoken: It [ie the cauldron] was kindled by the breath of nine maidens. The cauldron of the Chieftain of Annwfn: what is its faculty? - Dark (ornament) and pearls around its rim - It will not boil the food of a coward; it has not been (so) destined. The flashing sword of Lleog was ?thrust into it And it was left behind in Lleminog's hand. And before the door of Hell's gate a lamp was burned. And when we went with Arthur - resplendent toil - Apart from seven, none came back up from the Fortress of the Mead-Feast.  I am one who is splendid in (making) fame: the song is heard In the four-turreted fort, the island of the radiant door. Fresh water and jet are mixed. Sparkling wine (is) their drink (set) before their host. We went, three full loads of Prydwen, by sea; Apart from seven, none came back up from the Fort of Intractability.  I do not deserve [ie I deserve better than] ?readers concerned with the literature of the Lord Who had not seen Arthur's valour beyond the Glass Fort. Six thousand men were standing on its wall; It was difficult to converse with its watchman. Three full loads of Prydwen went with Arthur; Apart from seven, none came back up from the Fort of Impediment.  I do not deserve [ie I deserve better than] ?readers, their shields hanging down, Who do not know on what day ... What time ... was born ... Who made him/them who did not go to Dolau Defwy. They do not know about the brindled ox, stout his collar, (with) seven score links in its fastening. And when we went with Arthur - a lamentable expedition - Apart from seven, none came back up from Caer Fand(d)wy.  I do not deserve [ie I deserve better than] ?readers, feeble their intent, Who do not know on which day the Lord ?was created. What time ... the owner was born, What animal they guard, silver its head. When we went with Arthur - a woeful encounter- Apart from seven, none came back up from Caer Ochren.  Monks throng together like a wolf pack Because of the encounter of the masters to whom is made known Whether the wind (goes along) a single path, whether the sea (is) a single (mass of) water, Whether fire - an invincible tumult - is (composed of) a single spark. Monks throng together like wolves Because of the encounter of the masters to whom (it) is made known. They [ie the monks] do not know when the darkness and the light divide, Or the wind, what is its course, what is its onrush, What place it devastates, what land it strikes, ?How many saints in the void, and how many on earth. I praise the Lord, the great Sovereign; May I not be sad: Christ will reward me."