The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian


Circle henge


This is going to be a long story, for which I apologise, but I've not seen it reproduced elsewhere. It is (I think) from Walter de Mapes' / Walter Map's writings. He died in about the year 1200. His main work is 'De Nugis Curialium' so I am assuming this is taken from there (but I've not been able to find another English translation). However the list on Wikipedia that describes its contents doesn't really have anything that looks relevant. It's got lots of weird stuff (phantom animals, the wild hunt, vampires, a Northumberland ghost story) but not Stonehenge. So I'm a bit bemused for the moment. Anyway it makes a change from Geoffrey of Monmouth's (also 12th century) version.The following quote, wherever it originally comes from and whoever translated it, is taken from 'The Beauties of England and Wales' by John Britton (v15, 1814), p365.
After Emrys (ie Ambrosius) had tranquillized every place, he made a journey to Salisbury (ie Sarum) to behold the graves of those whom Hengistyr had caused to be slain of the British. At that time three hundred monks formed a community in the monastery of Ambri Mount; for so it was called, because it was founded by a person named Ambri. And Emrys was grieved to see that spot devoid of every mark of honour; so he summoned to him all the stone-masons and carpenters in Britain, to erect a trophy which whould be an eternal memorial around that sepulture. But after they had assembled together their ingenuity failed them;

thereupon Tramor, Archbishop of Caer-Llion, drew near, and thus spoke to Emrys: 'My Lord cause thou to come before thee Merdin (Merlin) the bard of Gortheyrn, for he is able to invent a wonderful structure, through his skill, to be of eternal duration.'

So Merdin was brought to Emrys; and the king was joyful to see him; and Emrys desired him to foretel the events that were to happen in this island. But Merdin replied: "It is not right to declare those things except when there is a necessity; and were I, on the contrary, to speak of them, the spirit that instructs me would depart, when I should stand in need of it." Upon that the king would not press him further, but enquired of him how he could invent a fair and lasting work over that spot.

Thereupon Merdin advised a journey to Ireland to the place where stood the Cor-y-Cawri, or the circle of the giants on the mountain of Cilara. For thereon he said, are stones of an extraordinary quality, of which nobody has any knowledge; for they are not to be obtained by might nor by strength, but by art, and were they at this place in the state they are there, they would stand to all eternity.

So Emrys said, laughingly, by what means can they be brought from thence? Merdin replied, laugh not, because I speak only seriousness and truth; those stones are mystical, and capable of producing a variety of cures; they were originally brought thither by giants from the extremities of Spain; and they placed them in their present position. The reason of their bringing them was, that when any of them was attacked by disease, they used to make a fomentation in the midst of the stones, first laving them with water, which they poured into the fomentation; and through that they obtained health from the disease that might affect them, for they put herbs in the fomentation; and those healed their wounds.

When the Britons heard of the virtues of those stones, immediately they set off to bring them. Uthyr Pendragon being commissioned to be their leader, taking 15,000 armed men with him; Merdin also was sent as being the most scientific of his contemporaries. At that time Gillamori reigned in Ireland, who, on hearing of their approach, marched against them with a great army, and demanded the object of their errand. Having learned their business, he laughed, saying, 'It is no wonder to me that a feeble race of men have been able to ravage the isles of Britain, when its natives are so silly as to provoke the people of Ireland to fight with them about stones.' Then they fought fiercely, and numbers were slain on both sides, until at length Gillamori gave way, and his men fled.

Then Merdin said, "Exert your utmost skill to carry the stones," but it availed them not. Merdin then laughed, and without any labour but by the effect of science, he readily brought the stones to the ships. So they then brought them to Mount Ambri.

Then Emrys summoned to him all the chiefs and graduated scholars of the kingdom, in order, through their advice, to adorn that place with a magnificent ornament. Thereupon they put the crown of the kingdom upon his head, celebrated the festival of Whitsuntide for three days successively; rendered to all in the island their respective rights; and supplied his men in a becoming manner with gold, silver, horses and arms.

So when every thing was prepared Emrys desired Merdin to elevate the stones as they were in Cilara; and this he accomplished. Then every body confessed that ingenuity surpassed strength.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
23rd April 2011ce
Edited 24th April 2011ce

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