|The CRYPT Mag|
At the heart of all of the Arthurian legend is the Land itself. To walk through the land is to feel the legends and history itself. Britain has two kinds of geography: the outer, visible one of hills, valleys, trees, rivers, and plants; and the inner, mysterious, myth-haunted one which consists of places that are often no more than names, like Camelot, Camlan, the supposed site of Arthur's last battle, or Badon, the site of his greatest fight against the Saxons.
Rivers of ink have been spilled by various commentators in their efforts to identify these places, many of which have remained undiscovered for the simple reason that they were never a part of this world at all, but myth and legend.
This is not to say that they never existed, only that the physical places ascribed to them are as often as not false.
So just where did King Arthur have his Kingdom (If indeed he WAS a king)? Here are the main contenders for the Realm of King Arthur.
According to a local tradition, in the ground below the great outcrop of sandstone, known as the Edge, there is a cave in which Arthur and his knights lie sleeping. The story goes that a farmer was on his way to market at the nearby town of Macclesfield when he was stopped by an old man who offered to buy the white horse he was planning to sell. Refusing the low offer, the farmer rode on.
Despite much interest, no one bought the horse at the market. On the way back, the same mysterious man appeared and this time the farmer accepted the offer. Leading him to the hillside, the old man laid a hand on some rocks, which opened to reveal iron gates at an entrance into the hill.
Within the hill, the astonished farmer saw the great king and his knights, together with their mounts, asleep in a vast cavern. The horse was for one of the knights, and the farmer received a bag of gold for it before he fled, hearing the gates clang shut behind him.
Above Alderley Edge is a bearded, weather-beaten face. Under it is written, Drink of this and take thy fill, for the water falls by the wizard's will.
This huge crag, which rises to a height of 822 feet above sea- level above the city of Edinburgh, has been known as Arthur's Seat since the fifteenth century. Part of Holyrood Park, it offers a tremendous view of the surrounding country and of the sea to the east. The 'seat' itself is said to be the notch between the highest point of the peak and a secondary point a little way to the south. In fact, it is probably named after a local hero who happened to bear the name Arthur.
Interestingly enough, Edinburgh is identified with the Castle of Maidens in several Arthurian tales, which is probably because one of its medieval names was Castellum Puellarum (Castle of Women). In the stories it is sometimes a place where a number of female prisoners are kept; at other times it seems to be occupied by seductive women who tempt knights passing by. In at least one version, Arthur's half-sister, the renowned 'enchantress' Morgan le Fay, is its mistress.
It has been said that the association of the hill with Arthur may be a matter of its being a base for military action in the 6th century.
Cadbury has been associated with Arthur since at least the sixteenth century, when the distinguished antiquarian John Leland described it in his account of ancient British history.
He wrote: 'At the very south end of the church of South-Cadbyri standeth Camallate, sometime a famous town or castle... The people can tell nothing there but that they have heard say Arthur much resorted to Camalat... '
Camallate or Camalat is, of course, Camelot, the famed citadel of Arthur where the Round Table was housed and from where the Fellowship of Knights rode forth in search of adventure and wrongs to right.
Whether the association of Cadbury is a genuine one has been hotly disputed for a number of years. There are those who think that Leland invented the connection from the close-lying place- names of Queen Camel and West Camel; others would have us believe the identification a true one. Certainly, the archaeological investigation which took place there in the 1960's indicated that the hill, which is really an Iron-Age camp, was re-fortified with extensive earth and timber defences during the crucial period of the sixth century when Arthur is believed to have flourished. The foundations of an extensive timbered hall, and what appears to be the beginnings of an unfurnished church, add further to the speculation, as does the closeness of the site to Glastonbury Tor. A causeway, known as King Arthur's Hunting Track, links the two sites, and a plethora of local legends support the Arthurian connection.
As late as the nineteenth century, when a group of Victorian 'archaeologists' came to investigate the stories clustering about the hill, a local man asked if they had 'come to dig up the king'. Folklore still retains a memory of Arthur and his knights sleeping under the hill. It is said that if one leaves a silver coin with one's horse on Midsummer's Eve, the horse will be found to be re-shod in the morning.
Trees now cloak the sides of Cadbury Camp, yet its imposing bank- and-ditch ramparts would have been a formidable obstacle.
In the midst of the Welsh countryside sits a mountain almost 3,000 feet in height. The locals claim that the mountain is haunted, and that anyone who spends the night on top of Cader Idris will wake up either a madman or a poet. Different legends surround the large 'hill', and one of the earliest claims that the giant Idris lived there. Three large stones rest at the foot of the mountain, and legend says that Idris got angry once and kicked them, sending them down the mountain.
Other Welsh legend states, however, that Arthur made his kingdom there, hence the name Cader Idris: or the Seat of Arthur. No one really knows exactly how Cader Idris fits into all the legends, but the mystical presence cannot be denied when standing on top the mountain, breathing the mist and watching the fog roll out from the giant peak.
The rock of Cader Idris looms large over the surrounding landscape.
© RIYAN Productions