Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Large Family

The "House of Hu Gardar" has been consider by the earliest of Welsh writers to be be the foundation of the Welsh nation. [Here, the term "house" meaning kindred, family, tribe, clan, etc., with the term "plant" being used in the Welsh.] According to "The Council of the Immortals", a family meeting was held, bringing all the kindred together. Besides Hu Gardar, the other important family members present were in order as record: 1)"Math fab Mathonwy the Enchanter" 2) "Tydain Tad Awen the Archdruid of the Gods" [Tad=father] 3)"Ceridwen Ren ferch Hu the Queen and Mother of the World" [ferch=daughter] 4)"the three disciples of Math: Gofannon and Amaethon and Gwydion, the three magnanimous Sons of Don" [Gofannon was the chief of the smiths] [Amaethon was chief of the husbandmen] [Gwydion was the chief of the bards "...he was unequaled, even among the Immortals, for laughter, and for narrating stories; and no subtlety of wisdom would ever be concealed from him."] 5) "Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel"[a sister to the disciples of Math listed above] "...who declares fates and destinies..." 6)"Don Ren herself" [no explanation for this immortal is given] 7)"The three Primitive Bards of the Island of the Mighty" 8) "the divine Disciples of Tad Awen"[the names which follow are "Plenydd Sunbright", and "Alawn with the Harp", and "Gwron Gawr the Hearterener of Heroes". I take it that these are the disciples of Tad Awen, but not sure.] 9) "Idris Gawr, the Marshal of the Stars" 10)"Einigan the Giant" 11)"Nefydd Naf Neifion, Prince of the Sea" 12)"Menu the Son of the Three Shouts" 13)"Mabon ab Modron" 14)"Modron Ren herself" 15)"Malen Ruddgoch Ren, the War-red War Queen". So there you have it. What a family! The reference for this post is: "The Fates of the Princes of Dyfed", by Cenydd Morus, Aryan Theosophical Press, London, 1914, pp.3-5.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Immortal Kindred

Welsh genealogy is rooted in the Celtic world view which was passed down from one generation to the next. The Welsh adopted this world view making it their own in a series of stories. Their "creation story" is recorded in an account introduced in the last post entitled "The Council of The Immortals". The story begins by stating that a meeting was called by the head of the kindred, "Hu Gararn". This meeting took place "...in the House of Hu Gadarn in the Wyddfa Mountains in Wales". The name Wyddfa Mountains refers to an area around a series of mountains in north Wales anchored by the highest peak "Yr Wydda" or present day Snowdon. This peak is surrounded by six lakes which are intimately connected with the heights that gather round Yr Wyddfa. [Prehistoric dwellings are found around some of these lakes.] A lake only quarter of a mile long lies almost directly under Snowdon and still has an ancient standing stone.

In this account "Hu Gararn" is described as follows:

"As to who Hu Gararn was, should any one have heard no tidings about him, and about his power, and fame, and sovereignty over the Gods and the Cymry: he was the one that was supreme over both those races; he had led them out of the Summer Country into the Island of the Mighty, ages before; and tamed Nynnio and Peibio, the Exalted Oxen, and with them accomplished the ploughing of the whole island, and the destruction of the Afange of the Lake of Floods."

It is interesting to note that Hu lead "those races" out of the "Summer Country". Certainly any place on the continent would be warmer than in these mountains. However, I suspect this relates to the practice of transhumance which involves the seasonal movement of livestock (especially sheep) between mountain and lowland pastures under the care herders. This cultural pattern involved a "summer home"(hafod) and a "winter home"(hendre). Of course, the herders would be family.

The importance of ploughing land is expressed by the fact that Hu's first task was to tame oxen. In the Welsh, a farmyard is called buarth, which also means a cattle enclosure. The Spanish certainly know something about taming bulls! [Iberian-Celts share our DNA] Cattle became the money of the time and a sign of wealth.

Floods played a major part of the early stories of many races. Here, Hu is credited with the destruction of "Afange of the Lake of Floods". In the Welsh, "afanc" means monster, and I would guess that a monster would be of great challenge. With Wyddfa Mountains being surrounded by six lakes, there would have to be an explanation for all the water. Interestingly, "afanc" may also means beaver. A large beaver population would create a lot of dams around six lakes! Which would you choose, a monster or a beaver.

Monday, March 21, 2011

In The Ancient Days

Before it was written down, the earliest Welsh stories were already very old. Having a pre-Christian origin, they originate from their Celtic roots, through Irish roots, to the Welsh language. As discussed in a previous post, Aneirin and Taliesin are thought to have flourished in north Britain, bring eulogy and glory to the independent Princes of Wales. [See last post "First Welsh Writers, The Bards".]

Copies of these tales where recorded in two manuscripts. The first was called "White Book of Rhydderch"[ Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch], which is believed to have been written ca. 1300-1325. The second is called "Red Book of Hergest"[ Llyfr Goch Herhest], written ca. 1375-1425. They record 12 medieval Welsh tales, which underwent translation by Charlotte Guest, publishing three volumes, during the years 1838-1849. It is her work that tags these stories as "The Mabinogion". A text called "The Fate of the Princes of Dyfed" by Cenydd Morus gives the following account in his translation, chapter I, "The Council of The Immortals" which is called "...the Immortal Kindred...":

"They were a peerless tribe, a family to be praised and lauded and honored; flaming bodied, even the least of them; august and beautiful. It was they who preserved the beauty of Britain, and the valor, and modesty, and truthfulness, and wisdom of the Race and Kindred of the Cymry, in the ancient days." So were the words of the ancients.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

First Welsh Writers, The Bards

Even before the time of the great grandfather of Concenn [Eliseg] ca. 700 A.D., the story tellers and song writers of the day had started to write down their muse. The poets, Taliesin and Aneirin, seemed to be the ones credited with starting this Welsh writing. In a reference titled "Book of Taliesin", there is a group of poems believed to be some of his authenic work. These also include religious, prophetic, scriptural, and legendary poems. The connections to the Celtic church must have been a major driving force. Aneirn (or Neirin) came to called "Aneirin of flowing verse, prince of poets". These folks were the first to show that the Welsh language could be used to document the flowers of the tongue.

The image of a Welsh bard is shown in the figure to the right. Harp is in hand, muscular arms and legs, leaning over the precipice to ring out the message of the day. This image was produced in 1784 by an Edward Jones. [Joneses seemed to be everywhere!] What a image it is. These first writers of the Welsh language

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pillar of Eliseg

Claim through lineal descent was a major requirement for those who sought to occupy the land in the mountains and hills of Wales. As early as 850 A.D., Concenn (Cyngen) claimed leadership of his family's lands through direct descent of his great-grandfather Eliseg (Elisedd). [Welsh law allowed heirs to claim "pencenedl" (head of family)to the fourth generation.] Eliseg is believed to have recovered his family's lands, the "kingdom of Provosia" (Powys), from the Anglo-Saxons. Concenn then erected a stone monument, crowned by a cross, apparently over the grave of Eliseg. This monument has come to be called "The Pillar of Eliseg".

During the English Civil War, the cross was broken and thrown down by Puritan fury who seemed to believe it was some sort of Popish idolatry. Re-erected, the "cross" now stands seven to eight feet tall. It is believed to have been originally at least 12-25 feet tall. The inscriptions upon the monument have long been illegible. At least some partial translations have been recorded before its destruction. Written in Latin [Church folks would have written it.] it is recorded by Edward Llwyd:

"Concenn filius Cateli, Cateli filius Brochmail, Brochmail filus Eliseg, Eliseg filuse Cnoillaine, Concenn itaque pronepos Eliseg edificavit hunc lapidem proavo suo Eliseg..."

Translated, this would roughly read: "Concenn was the son of Cattell, Cattell the son of Brohemail, Brohemail the son of Eliseg, Eliseg the son of Guoillaue. Concenn therefor the great-grandson of Eliseg built this stone to his great-grandfather Eliseg..."

Ashley in his book, British Kings & Queens, lists this lineage through Vortigen, who is credited with inviting the Saxons to the island in the first place! [found on p. 151 under "Powys and The Marches".]

Family, family, family; lineage, lineage, lineage; genealogy, genealogy, genealogy; this is the Welsh way.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Made of Stone

The Battle of Hastings, 1066 A.D., introduced a new threat to the independence of Wales. At the time of Hastings, Wales was divided against itself by civil war with the three major tribes fighting against one another. In Anglo-Saxon England, the Normans brought a certain measure of unity and stability. In Wales, the Normans brought only added stress to the divisions already fighting to gain control.

The Normans took strategic advantage of the Welsh civil wars to establish themselves along the Welsh border. This was accomplished by placing Norman barons in fortified centers at key locations. The map shows the geographic strategy taken by the Normans.

The strategic centers were:

1) Chester: the northern border-placed under Hugh of Avranches (made Earl of Chester 1070 A.D.- confronted Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd and Powys

2) Shrewsbury: the central border-placed under Roger of Montgomery (made Earl of Shrewsbury 1071 A.D.) confronted Welsh kingdom of Powys

3) Hereford: the south-central border,placed under William Fitaosbern (made Earl of Hereford 1067 A.D.) confronted Welsh kingdom of Gwent.

Fortified enclosures made of stone marks the gradual conquest of Wales. [The first stone castle built in Wales was by William Fitzobern in Chepstow, 1067 A.D.] This permanent occupation of the land also brought with it the introduction of the "borough". This Norman-French borough, organized the immediate areas surrounding the castle, providing military, political and social structure. Hereford was the first to receive a charter embodying the customs of the Norman borough. The borough of Hereford was to serve as a model for many of the future boroughs established in Wales by the Normans. Key military strongholds were established at Rhuddlan and Chester in the north...Montgomery and Clifford in the Central areas...Monmouth and Caerleon in the south. By 1086 A.D., it appeared that all of Wales would come under Norman control!

The map is taken from: The Jones Genealogist, Vol.IV, No.5, March/April 1993, p.3.