Celticsprite’s Blog

Standing Stones: Cromlech and Druid Stones
November 15, 2012, 5:21 pm
Filed under: Celtic Symbolism, Standing Stones

Arthur’s Stone: The last resting place of King Arthur?
May 1, 2012, 1:12 am
Filed under: Celtic Symbolism, King Arthur, Standing Stones

Clas Merdin: Tales from the Enchanted Island, where he shares his interests in Early tales of Arthur the Warrior, Arthur in the Landscape, Anglo-Saxons, Dark Ages, Post-Roman Britain, and Glastonbury Legends. (All rights reserved by the author, and reposted under his kind permission – Copyright © Edward Watson, 2012 ).

Arthur’s Stone is one of the most notable of all Neolithic burial monuments in western Britain. Located at Grid Ref: SO319431, between the villages of Dorstone and Bredwardine, west Herefordshire, England. This dolmen is associated with the legend of the last resting place of King Arthur and set within a picturesque area of gently rolling countryside lying in the lee of the Black Mountains of Wales, with stunning views to the north-east over the Wye valley.
To find the tomb leave Dorstone by the B4348 heading towards Peterchurch. As the road crosses the river, turn off left at a sharp right-angled bend and head uphill past Dorstone Hill Wood. Some distance further up the western slope of the ridge turn into Arthur’s Stone Lane. Continue along the lane, here on your left, overlooking the natural depression of the River Dore known as the Golden Valley, is Arthur’s Stone.

 Legend’s claim the site is either the tomb of Arthur himself or a giant that he killed. One stone bears the marks of the giant’s elbows when he fell dying. On another slab marks are said to have been made by Arthur’s knees where he knelt in thanksgiving after the duel, alternatively they may e marks his fingers made as he played quoits; many cromlechs in Wales are named Arthur’s Quoit and it is tempting to think that the name may once have also been used for the mighty capstone at Dorstone. By implication Arthur must have been a giant, who according according to legend, were the first inhabitants of the Island of Britain, indicative of his great antiquity and rightful association with these ancient monuments.

We find another Arthur’s Stone, also known as Maen Ceti, or Coetan Arthur, in West Glamorgan, South Wales. One day, so the story goes, when Arthur was walking through South Wales near the site of modern Llanelli he became irritated by a pebble in his shoe. He removed it and threw it towards the sea. The pebble finally landed several miles to the south on a ridge of land in the Gower Peninsula just below the summit of Cefn Bryn. The pebble forms the capstone of another exposed burial chamber, a huge slab of granite measuring 14ft x 6ft, overlooking the estuary of the river Lougher.


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Celtic Faith in Standing Stones – Fairy beliefs in Brittany
March 20, 2012, 6:22 pm
Filed under: Celtic Symbolism, Faerie Lore, Standing Stones

"The Stones of the Sons of Arthur"
March 9, 2012, 1:17 pm
Filed under: King Arthur, Standing Stones

Clas Merdin: Tales from the Enchanted Island, where he shares his interests in Early tales of Arthur the Warrior, Arthur in the Landscape, Anglo-Saxons, Dark Ages, Post-Roman Britain, and Glastonbury Legends. (All rights reserved by the author, and reposted under his kind permission – Copyright © Edward Watson, 2012 ).

The Stones of the Sons of Arthur
According to local lore the site of the battle of Cwmcerwyn is marked by a series of ancient monuments. Legend recalls that Arthur sat and watched his men fighting the Twrch Trwyth from a  spot marked by a standing stone known as Eisteddfa Arthur (Arthur’s Seat), slightly north of Brynberian, on the northern side of the main ridge of the Preseli Hills.

The Stones of the Sons of Arthur are located on the lower flank of Foel Cwmcerwyn, the highest top in the Preselis at 1760ft (537m) and the source of the Afon Clydach. On the ridge above are said to be The Stones of the Knights, (Cerrig Marchogion – SN102322). [3]

The Stones of the Knights are difficult to locate, if they survive at all today, and I suspect the four ancient cairns, the highest at 5ft tall, seen prominently along the skyline of Foel Cwmcerwyn, were probably the original draw to the legend of Arthur’s battle with the Twrch Trwyth, as often they are called by the alternative name of The Stones of Arthur’s Knights, no doubt commemorating Arthur’s four champions, Gwarthegydd, Tarawg, Rheiddwn and Isgofan that the giant boar killed here. The western most cairn was excavated in the early nineteenth century, uncovering a typical Early Bronze Age cremation in an inverted urn. However, the other cairns appear to be empty.

The next site marking the continuing battle with Twrch Trwyth is marked by The Stones of the Sons of Arthur (Cerrig Meibion Arthur – SN118310), where two erect stones stand about 8m apart,  some140m south-east of Ty Newydd farm in Cwm Cerwyn, Mynachlog-ddu, on the southern side of the Preseli Hills. The stones are said to be a monument to Arthur’s sons killed here by the Twrch Trwyth which had swum over from Ireland.

The Stones of the Sons of Arthur are part of the Glynsaithmaen group of standing stones located in the moorland around Ty Newydd farm in the hollow beneath Foel Cwmcerwyn in the boggy ground near the headwaters of Afon Wern. The name ‘Glynsaithmaen’, (valley of the seven stones), suggests the group originally consisted of seven monoliths or seven arrangements of stones, only six are obvious today, although other large stones in and around the farm and track behind the The Stones of the Sons of Arthur possibly account for the seventh. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the name may refer to certain stones considered particularly potent for arrow sharpening.

Copyright Ordnance Survey
If the four cairns atop Foel  Cwmcerwyn commemorate Arthur’s four champions lost here in the battle with the Twrch Trwyth, the site of The Stones of the Sons of Arthur must mark the traditional spot where Gwydre son of Arthur, Garselit the Irishman, Glew son of Ysgawd, and Isgawyn son of Banon were all killed by the beast, although only one of these boar hunters is named as Arthur’s son.

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Notes & References:

3. Chris Barber & John Godfrey Williams, The Ancient Stones of Wales, Blorenge, 1989.

Britain’s Landscape Symbols and Mysteries: Carn Euny & Treryn Dinas
December 15, 2011, 5:46 pm
Filed under: Standing Stones
The final era of the stones was the Iron Age (600 – 43 BC). In this period as the population increased there was more of a shift to defensive structures such as hill forts and cliff castles. Examples of these are hill forts such as Trencrom and cliff castles like Treryn Dinas at Treen near Porthcurno. This is also the time many of the fogous where built, like that at Carn Euny near Sancreed
Carn Euny
The site was discovered in the early nineteenth century by tin prospectors and the fougou was exposed in the eighteen sixties by the antiquarian William Copeland Borlase. The nine hut foundations were discovered and the fougou restored during extensive excavations of the site between 1964 and 1972. The excavations show that the site was a hive of constant activity from the Neolithic period right up until the late Roman period, when the village was abandoned. Carn Euny, which is located near Sancreed on the Penwith peninsula, can be accessed at any time free of charge.
The earliest buildings at Carn Eunyprobably had earthen walls, these were replaced by wooden structures that werein turn replaced by stone roundhouses with thatch or sod roofs, and finally bythe Courtyard Houses. Dating from the Iron Age, Courtyard Houses are unique tothe SW peninsula, a compound is surrounded by a circular stone wall and stonebuildings are positioned around the inner circumference with doorways openinginto the central space. At Carn Euny, Courtyard House 1 has a special portal inthe outer wall leading to the subterranean fogou.
It is important to note that when the firstpart of the fogou was built, it was the only stone structure at the site. Thissuggests that whatever the purpose of the fogou, it must have been ofoverwhelming importance to the community for them to expend so much of theirresources on its construction.
The first stage of the fogou was thecircular chamber and its entrance passage to the south. The dating of the phasesof construction can only be approximate, but this initial stage is thought tohave occurred about 500BC. The next stage was the construction of the fogoutunnel, thought to have commenced around 400BC. This new section runs off fromthe original entrance passage which was blocked, access to the complex was nowvia a small creepway passage at the western end of the new tunnel. The finalphase of the fogou modification was during the construction of the CourtyardHouses around 50BC-100AD, the eastern end of the fogou was opened up and apathway built to connect it with the compound of Courtyard House 1.
Today, the roofed section of the fogou isabout 12.5m long and about 2m in height and width, the dry stone walls taper intoward the top, thus reducing the span of the roofslabs. The tunnel is now openat both ends, but the original northern creepway entrance has been blocked by agrille. The circular chamber is about 4.5m in diameter and is of corbelledconstruction, forming a beehive shape, it now has a modern metal roof. A niche,resembling a modern fireplace, has been built into the wall of the chamberopposite the entrance, its purpose is unknown.
The original function of fogous remains amystery, although there are certain features that occur in many examples, thereis little to suggest a probable use. At Carn Euny, the entrance creepway portallimits the size of objects entering by its 1m x 0.5m dimensions, why then builda long passage of such large section? Similar restrictions would have occurredat the Boleigh and Halligyyefogous with their capacious main passages and small entrance and intermediateportals. These enigmatic underground chambers, thousands of years old, have apowerful atmosphere even today, and as you stand in their silent dark interiors,you cannot help but wonder if their secrets will ever be revealed.

Treryn Dinas

A dramatic Iron Age cliff fort on a south-pointing headland between Porthcurno and Penberth in Cornwall.

The landward side is defended by three pairs of ramparts and ditches, and these are still impressive. The headland has a very narrow neck, and this is defended by a ditch and stone wall. Nearby are traces of roundhouses.

Coastal views from the cliff fort are outstanding.

Most visitors to ths granite headland come to see the “Logan Rock”, an 80 tonne loganstone that was dislodged by a naval lieutenant in 1824 and subsequently replaced at great expense.

Access There is a small “Pay and display” car park at Treen (SW395230) and a clearly signposted path south across arable fields to the headland. Alternatively approach along the coastal footpath from Penberth or Porthcurno. Exploring the tip of the promontory around the Logan Rock will involve steep climbing, and could be dangerous during windy/wet weather because it is so exposed.

Note: Not to be confused with the similarly named Trereen Dinas cliff castle (near a different hamlet called Treen) on the northern coast of the Penwith peninsula near Zennor. 

The Logan Rock near the village of Treen in Cornwall

There is a cute story associated to the promontory. This is from ‘ Small People’s Gardens’ in Hunt’s ‘Popular Romances of the West of England‘ 

If the adventurous traveller who visits the Land’s End district will go down as far as he can on the south-west side of the Logan Rock Cairn, and look over, he will see, in little sheltered places between the cairns, close down to the water’s edge, beautifully green spots, with here and there some ferns and cliff-pinks. These are the gardens of the Small People, or, as they are called by the natives, Small Folk. […] To prove that those lovely little creatures are no dream, I may quote the words of a native of St Levan:

“As I was saying, when I have been to sea close under the cliffs, of a fine summer’s night, I have heard the sweetest of music, and seen hundreds of little lights moving about amongst what looked like flowers. Ay! and they are flowers too, for you may smell the sweet scent far out at sea. Indeed, I have heard many of the old men say, that they have smelt the sweet perfume, and heard the music from the fairy gardens of the Castle, when more than a mile from the shore.”

Strangely enough, you can find no flowers but the sea-pinks in these lovely green places by day, yet they have been described by those who have seen them in the midsummer moonlight as being covered with flowers of every colour, all of them far more brilliant than any blossoms seen in any mortal garden  

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Britain’s Landscape Symbols and Mysteries:
November 14, 2011, 5:11 pm
Filed under: Celtic Symbolism, Standing Stones

Britain’s Landscape Symbols and Mysteries: Trethevy Quoit
September 22, 2011, 6:33 pm
Filed under: Celtic Symbolism, Standing Stones
Most people tend to expect ancient relics to be located in the middle of nowhere, far from habitation or modern buildings.

However, the highly impressive well-preserved megalithic tomb is situated in a field amazingly close to the back of a row of cottages near St Cleer, Cornwall. It is known locally as “the giant’s house” Standing 9 feet (2.7 m) high, it consists of five standing stones capped by a large slab.

Trethevy Quoit is situated in the Caradon District north of Liskeard in the village of Tremar Coombe. Nearby are The Hurlers, three stone circles dating from the late Bronze Age. The site is managed by the Cornwall Heritage Trust on behalf of English Heritage.

Like other portal tombs of this type, Trethevy Quoit was originally covered by a mound. The remnants of this suggest a diameter of 6.5 meters. The remaining seven stones and the 3.7 m long and 10.5-ton cover slab were inside the mound. The huge capstone here weighs about 20 tonnes, and manoeuvring it into position was a considerable feat of engineering.

At the upper end of the cover slab is a natural hole, which may have been used for astronomical observation. This hole has provoked much curiosity over the years, but the exact reason, and whether it really did have a purpose or not, remain unknown.

Curiously, the sloping angle of the top of this hole is reminiscent of many free-standing stones, as discussed on my previous post regarding the Stones of Stenness, in the Orkney Isles (Scotland).

The group of horizontal stones is composed of a fallen back wall, two side wall stones, which overlap, a front stone and a somewhat remote flanking stone.

The special feature of Cornish portal graves is that by such stones sometimes a smaller partially closed area is created before the front end. Some stones have hole-like perforations as decoration.

Also known as cromlechs and portal dolmens, excavations have shown that these kinds of sites were constructed in the early and middle Neolithic period between 3700-3300 BC. They were used over long periods as communal tombs or ossuaries to house the bones of the ancestors.

Due to the acidity of the soil no bones have been found in Cornish quoits, but excavations elsewhere have revealed human bones in the chambers and pits and postholes in the forecourt area. It was not unusual for quoits to have been the focus for Bronze Age funerary rituals in the form of cremations placed in burial urns.

It may be that in prehistoric times the ancestral dead were considered to be mediators between the community and its gods, and that places like this were an important interface between these two worlds.

The front stone is often called an entrance stone, although in most portal graves this can not be moved. The Trevethy Quoit is a rare exception here, because a small rectangular stone moving at the bottom right of the front allows access to the grave chamber, which is now opened only very rarely.

One unusual feature is the doorway, which has been cut out of the entrance stone. According to historical theories, this may have been used to enable bodies to be put into the chamber. This theory is supported by the remains of a mound lying at the base of the structure — the mound is thought to have originally acted as a ramp to aid access to the chamber for burials.

The back of the chamber has collapsed inwards and now forms a pile inside the chamber. Erected this stone would be about the height of the front stone, so that the cover slab would not have once been held-up by the side stones, but rested almost horizontal solely on the front stone and rear walls. However, there would have been between the support stones and the side walls a considerable gap, by which soil could have penetrated into the grave chamber. It is therefore likely that the collapse of the rear wall and the falling-down of the cover slab damaged the side stones.

Trethevy Quoit was first mentioned in 1584 by J. Norden, in a topographical and historical account of Britain, but which was first published in 1728.

Hencken in 1932 wrote the first modern representation, in which he explained the special nature of the antechamber, and pointed out parallels to structures in Brittany. Recent excavations showed that this type of megalith was erected in the Neolithic period between 3700-3500 BC and were used over a long period of time as community graves.


Address :St.Cleer, Cornwall –View location map
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Nearby sites

The Hurlers Stone Circle (2.5km)
King Arthur’s Hall Stone Circle (15.7km)
Trippet Stones Stone Circle (14.2km)
Stripple Stones Stone Circle (13.2km)
Duloe Stone Circle (10.8km)

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