Culhwch ac Olwen, A Cinderella Story Part 2: The Heroine

‘O Chieftain, I have never heard about the maiden of whom you speak…’

⁃ Parker, Culhwch ac Olwen

Freyja and Svipdag by John Bauer
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Culhwch ac Olwen, A Cinderella Story: Part One, The Problem and The Hero

Ysbaddaden by John D. Batten (1892)

The tale of Culhwch ac Olwen commands high placement in the pantheon of Arthurian titles. Little else of the broad, surviving corpus of literature can claim to rival the text in magnitude or in antique character. The text’s significance as a source of information concerning Brythonic Arthurian tradition has been described as ‘a fascinating and almost unique glimpse into an Arthurian world that was more or less completely superseded… by Geoffrey of Monmouth’s recreation.’ (1)

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The Exalted Prisoner

“Mabon… is the immemorial prisoner whom the world has forgotten…,”

⁃ W. J. Gruffyth, Rhiannon, (1)

The Rescue of Mabon, from the tremendous article by Heron, found here: https://gorsedd-arberth.blogspot.com/2009/10/how-culhwch-won-olwen.html?m=1

In his immense work Rhiannon, W.J. Gruffyth labored to piece out the ancient myth of the Brythonic Mother goddess and her son. He believed that the nucleus of the myth concerned the birth and abduction of the divine child from his mother and their eventual reunion, echoed in the indigenous tales of Pryderi, Gweir and Mabon. Mabon’s story as told in the Welsh Arthurian epic Culhwch ac Olwen can be summarized:

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Myth in Folktale: The Ensorcelling Stone

The ruins of Kilmacduagh Church, photograph by Ed Hannon, find more of his amazing work at his website: https://visionsofthepastblog.com/

In Episode 64 of the House of Legends podcast Scottish oral storyteller and author Daniel Allison bemoans to his guest Clare Murphy the dearth of indigenous Scottish mythological texts.* At around the 14:30 minute mark Allison suggests that the ancient lore of Scotland can be found reverberating through its rich oral and ballad tradition. “I do believe those stories go way way back… the legends are echoes of the myths,” he states. Luckily, some evidence suggests that he could be right.

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Scotland’s Merlin Part Two: A Savage Cult

This is the second installment in a review of the book Scotland’s Merlin: A Medieval Legend and Its Dark Age Origins by Dr. Tim Clarkson. Part One can be accessed here: https://theburntthumb.wordpress.com/2020/12/18/scotlands-merlin-a-medieval-legend-and-its-dark-age-origins-book-review/

Dr. Clarkson’s blog can be accessed here: https://senchus.wordpress.com

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Water Horses Ride Again

Sea-horses glisten in summer

As far as Bran has stretched his glance:

Rivers pour forth a stream of honey

In the land of Manannan son of Ler.

The Voyage of Bran, 7th/8th c

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Scotland’s Merlin: A Medieval Legend and Its Dark Age Origins – Book Review

The author of the book Scotland’s Merlin: A Medieval Legend and Its Dark Age Origins, Tim Clarkson, is a PhD in medieval history, and holds an MPhil in archeology. I have had some correspondence with him regarding another of his books, The Men of the North: the Britons of Southern Scotland, and had a discussion with him on his essay on Cassius Dio’s anecdote on the Empress Julia Domna. His blog can be found here: https://senchus.wordpress.com/

Scotland’s Merlin: A Medieval Legend and Its Dark Age Origins (M) reignites the question of Merlin: what is the true identity of this time honored character? Through rigorous research and painstaking attention to detail, Dr. Clarkson reviews the relevant British texts (providing translations) and discusses the past scholarship in his search for an answer. It’s my honest opinion that his even handed approach is commendable, and his studious commitment to inquiry should be upheld as a benchmark for students to strive to match. This book has been an asset in furthering my knowledge of both the Merlin myth as well as Dark Age British history.

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