Glastonbury. Now there's a place that feaures in many of the myths and legends of Britain. Perhaps the Isle of Avalon and, sometimes, the resting place of King Arthur. The 'Once and Future King' who will one day return to save England in the hour of her deadliest danger.
(I should point out here that I'm working from memory on this and since many of these things happened a long time ago I might get the odd date or name wrong. My memory's not what it used to be you see).
In the late fifth century there was a great influx of peoples into Britain along the south east. Angles, Saxons and even some Jutes from further north. This wasn't an invading army but a mass migration just as the Dorians had moved south into Achea two thousand years before. Of course people like that fight for what they need and they took what land they wanted, often by force.
At that time Britain was divided into many little kingdoms and tribal areas and with so many leaders they couldn't agree on what they wanted to do. Half of them wanted to send an embassy to Rome and ask for the return of the legions to defend Britain. The tread of iron studded roman boots was the last thing the rest wanted though and neither side would agree to fight under a war leader (dux bellorum) from the other party.
A compromise was reached in Owain Thantgwyn. Owain was a stark warleader who was known as Artos (the bear). He had a good eye for the battlefield and was a natural leader of men. At the same time he was mostly just, fair in his rulings and had provided for his mother and supplied dowries for both his sisters. An honourable man. Artos agreed to lead the britons against the foe.
And here's where the legend starts you see. At that time the meeting place for the leaders of all the kingdoms and tribes was on the western edge of what is now Shropshire. The symbolic sword and standards of the warleader of the britons were kept there on a stone altar and it was there that Artos took the sword from the stone.
He was moderately successful for some years. Sometimes expelling the saxons and, at other times being pushed back by them. Still, he was containing the threat.
Until, coming back from a great battle near a place called Camlann he was ambushed and killed by his cousin Medraut. I believe there may have been some family feud, but also, Medraut hoped to replace Artos as warleader. Well, not many would follow the killer of his own cousin and, without Artos the fight was lost anyway. In time the saxons covered most of the land and the celts withdrew to Wales (and some to Scotland).
Legend has it that Artos was buried at Glastonbury and, close to the abbey a double coffin had been discovered with the plaque. "Here lies King Arthur with Guinivere his Queen. In the Isle of Avalon.". It's a twelfth century fake though. Artos was buried in a barrow grave in central Shropshire and his symbolic sword was cast into a nearby mere as an offering to the gods. Nobody could find the barrow now among so many barrows of kings and meres' drift over time. The sword Excalibur will long since have rusted away.
I'd intended this to be about Artos and King Alfred (The Great) with Artos as a preface but, it's becoming unmanagably long. So, I'll post this for now and come back to King Alfred in a few days.
This is a repost from Multiply. I'm reposting these four blogs since there has been so much interest in Glastonbury and the Somerset Flats lately. This first part is rather short on details as few texts are extant. I need something to work with and I hope anybody reading the next three will find them more of interest