World War Wrong

It all was wrong

when war was industrialised

and thousands of young men were brainwashed and cajoled into the march of machine slaughter

ruined in sloughs of mud, blood, body parts, shards and barbed wire

with maddened workhorses screaming

It all was wrong

when war was rationalised

a killing factory to test out nerve gas and deadly chemicals

mangled, maimed and mentally fractured

what purpose for the war than to demonstrate how efficiently we can now simultaneously slaughter and utterly mask the reality, the mind numbing horror from everyone at home

It all was wrong long before the machines monotonously crushed soft human body tissue into pieces

it was wrong

but for the men in positions of power and authority war was profit

(ordinary people easily expendable)

like the arms trade today Britain keeping the world steadily fed with weapons

remember World War Wrong

remember it is a choice to live in a world that prioritizes war as the solution

where poppies bleed with soldier and civilian blood

life is nobodies game

throw away the guns

surrender to what could be

wake up to the humanity

in the embrace of a shared vision

peace

no more sides to take

we can make the Earth

a home without divides

a sacred Earth where

every life

a measure of gold

will never be sold to the profanity of war

Robin Collins 2018 A wet Saturday in November just before the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day 

 

 

 

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Recently I was in the Welsh Borders at Radnorshire. This splendid contested hill country oscillating between Welsh and English has a kind  of topographical omphalos or central focus in the Forest of Radnor. This is a high and bald plateau cut with very deep valleys surrounded by the various rumpled hills of this end of Hereford and the beginning of Powys. It is akin to a great fort and the highest gradiants are found up here at Black Mixen and the Whimble. The Forest of Radnor was never a ‘forest’ in the conventional misconception of a forest being a place full of trees. The word forest was brought in by that bag of hooligans known as the Normans and they had adopted it from the Franks of today’s France. For the Normans a forest was a large area of land designated as a place for the nobility to hunt and supply the feasts of the thug aristocracy with a lot of deer flesh or venison. The Forest of Radnor was covered in heather moorland and wooded in its valleys perhaps with sessile oaks clinging with ferns. Radnor comes from the village of Radnor (there’s New Radnor which is under the Whimble and Old Radnor further away on the English side) The Welsh called the Forest of Radnor ‘Fforest Clud’. Today you will find the Forest of Radnor has been  invaded by the monotonous forestry plantations that haunt the Welsh hills like bristling armies regimented in straight lines. Fortunately the moorland heights of Black Mixen and the Whimble are still heatherclad and sky open. The Whimble is a very lovely tit-shaped prominence that rises up out of the plateau. There is an old saying about the Whimble having ‘its cap on’ meaning that it was going to rain. I walked up to the Whimble from New Radnor following an ever steep little road where the trough of a valley fell away on one side and rose up to another full ridge. At the top of this road a buffer of larch plantation cut across the head of the trough valley and a track curved around its edge going out onto brisk headed moor. The larch trees were going gold in their needles. Out on the moor there reared an official sign warning that the deep valley hidden under the massif of the moor was off limits due to it being used by the military (perhaps for picnics?). Walking up the moor was a further slog but the skies were clear and the huge sensuous ridges and backbones of Radnor Forest and the nearby hills of the Edwy valley reared silently. Carpets of wiry heather and bilberry spread into the distance.  The Whimble finally was reached appearing like a shapely prehistoric burial tumulus. The path followed below it and above an almost vertically-sided valley. Behind the Whimble became more elongated and on the escarpment that lay behind it was the scarred cliff of Whinyard Rocks. The air was bracing and lung cleansing up here. I picked up some of the slatey rock from the scree at the bottom of the Whinyard and it went into my pocket.

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Towards the Edwy valley

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The Whimble from behind

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If you squint hard enough you can make out the sheep on opposite ridge

In my other post I  wrote of Cunomaglos, a ‘Celtic’ deity whose name means ‘The Hound Lord’ and those most well known shrine to him was at Nettleton Scrubs at the edge of Bath by Marshfield. I have seen in Cunomaglos a connection with Mabon or Maponos. Stone inscriptions to Maponos are known in Britain where he is called Apollo Maponos just as Cunomaglos was. The name ‘Mabon’ is from Welsh and is rather more a title as it means ‘Divine Youth’. The Mabon is in his appearances in Welsh Mythology linked with Modron who is the ‘Divine Mother’ again another title. I have come to understand more deeply about the otherwise mysterious Mabon and Modron by my ongoing fascination and love of the Mabinogion, the collected Welsh tales first put down to word in the Red Book of Hergest and the Black Book of Carmarthen eight hundred years ago or maybe more. It was the Victorian Lady Charlotte Guest who merged the ‘Branches’ of these stories into the present collection under the name ‘Mabinogion’. The Mabon only appears as a character in the story of ‘How Culhwch Won Olwen’ but as I now understand all the branch tales concerning the birth of Pryderi to Rhiannon and his life are also about the Mabon. That is because Pryderi is another name for Mabon, who undoubtedly just like Modron had many names and wasn’t just known by a title. The crucial catalyst of Mabons story is his disappearance near the time of birth from his mother, and then the following time of his loss which ends with him being found again or released from an enchanted imprisonment.

Mabon’s vanishing at birth is not just a mere kidnapping or stealing away, it carries a feeling of it being an event of huge and shattering significance for the whole of life. After Pryderi is born to his mother Rhiannon the midwives come in to the chamber to find Pryderi has vanished. Fearing what will happen to themselves they fabricate a way to turn the blame for the newborns vanishing onto the mother. They do this by taking and killing a whelp (a puppy) then smearing its blood on Rhiannon to make it appear as they claim happened that she devoured her baby.

This sounds very gruesome and perverse! Why would anyone think a mother would happily eat up her own newborn child? But these stories work on the level of the symbolic and hidden, they are a language that speaks to the deeper workings of the soul like the old fairy stories did. Rhiannon being made to look like she had devoured her  baby is a revealing into her much older role as the mother goddess who has the power to equally create and destroy life; it is also a doorway into understanding that this child had to be ‘killed’ before he could be ‘found’ or reborn again into the world. Rhiannon is grief stricken afterwards and takes upon herself a long penance that involves wearing a horses halter and standing by a mounting block by the castle gates to carry inside any guest that arrives. When Pryderi is found again it is by Teyrnon ( Teyrnon ‘of the surging/roaring tide’ who has a connection with the tide of the river Severn, he is Lord of the lower part of Gwent by the Bristol Channel or the Severn Sea). He is found on May Eve in his stables exactly when every May Eve a foal is born to his mare then snatched away by a mysterious monster. One day Teyrnon decides to wait for this monster on May Day and then attack it as it tries to take his foal. He succeeds in hewing off its arm (the only part of the monster that we get to see) and then suddenly in the stable a golden haired child appears wrapped in brocaded silk (in the same place as the foal) Teyrnon becomes this childs father and he grows miraculously strong and fast. It is his wife that recognises one day that their golden headed miracle child (who is intimately connected with the stables where he ‘appeared’) must be Rhiannons lost child. This is when Teyrnon after having fostered the boy sadly recognises he must now relinquish this boy (now also his son) and return him to his mother which is when she first names him: Pryderi which means ‘care, anxiety, worry’.

How is Cunomaglos connected to this? I feel a strong resonance in the birth, disappearance and returning of the Mabon that carries over into the figure of Cunomaglos. He is a god those main appearance is that of a youth and is shown with a hound at his side. This hound may well be the whelp that symbolically took Pryderi’s birth-death and as well be a sign to his role as a hunter. His conflation with Apollo shows us that the sun and light, as well as prophecy and poetry were his associations. The Mabon (or Pryderi) of course was a ‘prophesied child’ destined to be found again one day and released. Pryderi’s golden-headedness is a sign of this divine status that is like the light of the sun. The birth on May Eve and the connection with horses is again another sign towards the qualities of light and prophecy. It is known from folklore in these isles that horses were connected with prophecy.

The above mythology about Pryderi and Mabon is not a story in a linear sense of beginning-middle-end but rather a cyclic theme. It could well be the life, death and rebirth of an ever-returning spirit of the wheat and barley that is transformed into ale and bread. There is as well the path of the sun that seen in an imaginative lense goes through phases of life, death and rebirth. Then there is another path that goes even deeper about something that humans experienced a profound loss of early on, and yet kept kindled the hope and psychic drama of its loss and return again to the world in a distant age. With its return a complete transformation would come over the world. The mother and the son would be re-united again.

The stone icon of Cunomaglos found at Sudeley Winchcombe

On Friday off I set on a soggy whomp around Nailsworth and Horsley in the company of the laudable counter-heritage badger friends (five of us). Badger Budd who had organised the route took us up to the wet heights of Windsoredge where we visited the little blue plaques quietly remembering the former homes of local WW1 dead. Windsoredge lies beyond the mouth into the Woodchester Park valley near to Forest Green. We walked up a narrow path going up from the road where at the top a spring was pouring down the path turning it into a stream. The valleys around were drenched and in nearby paddocks there were horses standing still as statues while the rain spattered down. As the month approaches the Hallowed Evening of the year also known as All Souls Night (or in these days of loss of all meaning on the altar of consumerism ‘Halloween’ ) we near the time of meeting with our dead. Whose who are dead we chose to remember as a culture, for example in the context of WW 1 or its sequel, often is a selection of the ‘favoured dead’ done to further embellish the dominant ideology. Remembering conscientious objectors? Soldiers who came home and died of illness or injuries or a combination of this along with rotting away in their minds? Remembering all the good working horses and mules pointlessly slaughtered and driven to death for the war? There is always a long litany of those that died because of a war that don’t fit into the western military glorification creed. As well I learned while we were in the graveyard at Windsoredge that lower rank ordinary soldiers didn’t get good coffins (no nails, average wood, definitely not polished). Maintaining the hierarchy of poor and rich (winners/losers) is even more important in a war, especially since that the creed of war is the black hole at the centre of western ‘democracy’ always swallowing up lives and money.  The ‘normal’ situation of reality is reaffirmed. The important components of the creed of war story are made firm again in the mind of ordinary people: ‘The enemy’ ‘my place in the pecking order’ ‘we belong to a great people’ ‘our leaders are even greater’ ‘don’t question people wearing important clothes and hats’ ‘only force works in the world’.             Going about in the rain at Windsoredge and rambling among the discrete memories of the war dead made me realise that the creed of war story say’s ordinary people are only of real worth to this society when they have gotten themselves killed on a battlefield. Ah the ultimate fulfillment by sacrificing your life for the glory of king and country!                 ‘Now you are dead little man we might think you worth our attention only because we can claim you have died for our cause‘ so the unspoken but all pervasive contract of the soldier rattles its bones.

From Winsoredge we wended our wet way through Forest Green and over the ridge into the housing at new market then into the squidgy bottom of the Miry Brook. We stopped at another graveyard near Shortwood before going on up hill to the next ridge where at Wallow Green we turned down an old lane that headed out onto the blustery ridge top. Then we turned back down into a side valley followed Sugley lane to Sugley and Tickmorend. By now we could see over the damp green combe to where Horsley lay. I felt by now I had been half washed into the valleys and parts of my soul were being drunk up grass roots and trees. The continual ups and downs of the land always showed new views and previously hidden corners. I thought of how in earlier centuries it must have been a challenge to go about these ridges and valleys and how the springs and streams would have made it a land always in movement, with marshes full of fish, water voles, otters, beavers and herons. The names of the land here open doors into another time.

Windsoredge as I have learned once meant ‘Wynworths Edge’ and the question where is Wynworth comes to mind? Wynworth was clearly up on the ridge somewhere, but its existence is otherwise only known from the fact that Windsoredge is its edge. The most easily cultivated land was up on the ridge though it is stony, and there is the advantage of being above the more damper valley miasmas.  Forest Green is probably a more recent name. I suspect Wynworth Green would be its name now if Wynworth had not disappeared long ago. Wallow Green is another name with a ‘green in it. Wallow or Wellow likely refers to a copious welling up of springs here. I’ve always been interested in what Sugley could have been? It seems it meant ‘the sparrows clearing’ there is a dialect word for the hedge sparrow ‘Haysuck’ that has kept the old word Sugge for sparrow. Tickmorend is ‘Goat marsh end’. Horsley is the ‘Horses clearing’. This means we go from sparrows, goats to horses! Finally we have one more animal. Going down Wormwood hill we turned from Washpool up the leafy mouth of the valley where Hartley Bridge lies. This would be the clearing of the harts or full grown male deer also known as stags. Our path inched up Hay Lane up to Tiltups. Up on the heights at Barton End the wind finished drying us off. At Shiptons Grave our path turned back to the valley. Down a hollow track we came eventually (passing old Tetbury Lane) to Harley Wood and down to Ruskin Mill, before up again to come again to Nailsworth.

The laudable counter-heritage badger friends were all ready to escape back to the warmth and comforts of their houses (not holes in the ground) so we disembarked in the jalopy of Badger Bob and Badger Deb. Bye Bye Badger Budd we said because he lives in Nailsworth and would be confused if we took him back. Badger Stewi was raring for alcoholic relief from the local tavern. Another splendid jaunt!

Haresfield lies on the Severn vale under the limestone escarpment which here shelters two bay-like valleys where Standish and Harescombe lie. The name of Haresfield would be completely misleading to read as ‘Hares Field’ this is a deception caused by the changes that have happened to English over hundreds of years. Haresfield was originally ‘Hersas Feld’ or Hersas open land (usually in sight of woodland). This old Germanic personal name I have learned is unusually associated with a number of marks in the land. The pattern in place names is that mostly personal names are found connected with settlement names with the ending of ‘Ton’ ‘Worth’ or ‘Ham’ sometimes they also found with features in the land like Toadsmore ‘Todas Marsh’ or Sharpness ‘Scobbas headland or promontory’ but it is really unusual to find a name like Haresfield that is connected with four land marks. We will begin at Horsemarling at Stonehouse by the side of Doverow Hill. This was once ‘Hersas Mere’ or marsh pool. The land here is on heavy Liassic clay and there are copious springs that come forth from Doverows flanks, which make a stream that I read once used to flood the lane called Green Street. Then we must go up to Haresfield Beacon high over Standish and walk to where the wind scoured remains of the Iron Age promotory fort lies at Ringhill. The Iron Age fort used to be known as ‘Eastbury’ ‘Evesbury’ and the oldest record as ‘Ersebury’ or Hersas Burh meaning fortification. From Hersas Burh you can see the dramatic fullness of the Severn Vale and directly below you the village of Haresfield. The next place is along the wooded ridge to Edge where by the road climbing down to Brookthorpe is a bit of land marked as Horsepools, which was Hersas Pool and of course Harescombe which is the name of the small valley here: Hersas Combe (this is a kind of valley that around here seems to be rounded sometimes steep and with one entrance). All the way from Stonehouse to Brookthorpe the old name of Hersa marks the land in a marshy pool, in an open land, in an old hillfort, in a combe and at a pool. The name of Hersa attached to the local land marks seems to indicate one of the earliest Germanic names in the vale, which is similar to how the name of Bisley also repeats this pattern but instead at another high vantage point in the valley above the river Frome.  It has the memory of the time when the Anglo Saxon presence began to make serious inroads into Gloucester in the late 500’s AD, but since we only find Hersas name restricted to a definite block of land that does not go further out into the vale it seems the Gloucester Britons still held onto the vale and parts of the escarpment (and their names for the land here now are largely vanished).

It makes a good walk going from Horsemarling, to Haresfield Beacon through beautiful pastures of Standish to the windy head of Ringhill! (and now with the sight of the incinerator monster foisted on us by Gloucester Council doing deals behind doors)

There is another local god known as Cunomaglos. His Celtic name means ‘Prince of the Hounds’.  Stone reliefs have been found of him at Winchcombe, Chedworth and he had an interestingly polygonal shrine set up to him in a little valley outside of Bath at Nettleton Scrub. Here he was name as ‘Apollo Cunomaglos’. Possibly there is another representation of him that was found in the London area, which is a statuette of a youthful man with a hound beside him. There were once probably a lot more. The ones we find of these local deities from the Roman Britain interlude are the lucky treasures that have escaped wilful or just ignorant destruction. Cunomaglos from what the images of him show was a youthful hunter god, accompanied always by a hound, with a stag and a hare usually depicted. His fusion with Apollo is intriguing because Apollo was a god of music, the lyric, oracles, healing, the sun and knowledge. I’m not interested in Apollo he’s rather too pantheon and has all those marble statues of him that obsess about the youthful male body (typical patriarchy). Cunomaglos though was clearly different from this but he had something about him that could be conveniently pinned on as an Apollo badge. Cunomaglos was connected foremost with hounds which in Celtic society were highly loved and prized animals. Warriors often had them as companions, and there is an old Welsh name ‘Cynfael’ which is the same as Cunomaglos ‘Hound Prince’. I have noticed parallels with the hound element in his name with that of the Irish boy hero Cuchulainn those destiny is entwined with that of a hound belonging to a blacksmith (Culann) that he fought and killed, hence he takes on the name ‘Hound of  Culann’ because he compensates for the hounds death by taking on its former role. Furthermore Cuchulainn’s birth seems to indicate him as a son of the sun god Lugh, which if Cunomaglos had a similar story would make sense of the Apollo matching.

I have thought about Cunomaglos having a connection with Autumn; it is the season when the stags rut and the harvest is brought in, it is also the season for hunting which in Roman Britain would have coincided with the slaughter of the livestock that would not be kept over winter. Autumn brings an end to the growth and life of summer, it is a time of coming darkness and preparation for that. The uncultivated and wild land would have been the haunt of Cunomaglos. He would have ‘owned’ the lives of its animals and when any were taken in the hunt a respectful offering to Cunomaglos would be made.  Perhaps too he protected the cattle who would be grazing near the bounds of wild land. His temple at Nettleton Scrub was quite a significant establishment and the goddess Diana, the Celtic Rosmerta and the god Silvanus were also found dedicated here.  This connection with his hunting role was met with his healing role. Hunting removes you from the safety of your settlement, home, family and puts you directly into the hands of other powers that rule this outland. Did Cunomaglos as a hunter and healer god stand as a guide between the field and the wild? The dawn sun intimately connected with the bringing of life (or the wakening of life in the earth) may as its light warmed the land been percieved as the face of Cunomaglos.

While walking in the woods at Sapperton recently I was coming up a hollow way-like path wih moss encrusted trees around. Then ahead among the hazel bushes the wood stirred with deer swiftly moving away. There were at least ten all following as silent as ghosts yet with the quickened determination to avoid humans as only living animals can do. They were probably fallow deer as they had that pale brown hide and were larger than roe deer. I was in that moment reminded of the hidden and immersed life of the woods where the roiling noise of the human world disappears into irrelevence. I thought of how Cunomaglos might be known through this green keen stillness living like the awareness of a deer travelling through the trees, like the warmth of the sun seeping into the leaves. His role of hunter and healer, oracle and protector, which is how I see him places the god in a balance between life-taker/life-bringer, seer sighted/guardian of what is to come. It is here we see Cunomaglos begin to emerge with his many hounds (white hounds with red ears like the ones from Welsh myth) travelling the hills and valleys hunting a never caught white hart, while bringing the souls of the dead into his following as he descends with the end of the long days into the fertile Otherworld.

Sheepscombe (definitely a Cunomaglos place)

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A picture I found (origins and artist unknown, but thanks its lovely) of the temple of Apollo Cunomaglos at Nettleton Scrubs.

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Roman Cirencester has yielded up many finds of stone reliefs depicting the mother goddesses usually in their ‘Celtic’ triad of three. You will find the most intact shrine images of the mothers in Cirencester museum and they are a window into another age, and another belief system. The Mother Goddesses as I said are shown in threes, which is something typical of the non-Roman native Brittonic beliefs about the world. Three is the number of power, three is the number of completion and wholeness. Later on we find triads in Welsh mythology. Things coming in three seem to be intrinsic to how the world works, how it manifests divine expression. My mind is drawn to those beautiful Iron Age enamelled terrets found not far from Cirencester, which are metal loops on a horse harness to keep it from tangling (I really have no idea of what a terret is otherwise). These Iron Age terrets are decorated with an enamelled design of three connected dynamically curling arms which must have acted as a protective charm on the chariot horses. This symbol is very old and similar to that sign of life, health and goodness that echoes the turning wheel of the sun called the Svastika. Sadly most people will associate the word Swastika automatically now with Nazism which robbed the original meaning of the symbol and perverted it for their own anti-life ideology.  Wikipedia will inform you that the Sanscrit name ‘Swastika’ comes from ‘Su’ ‘Asti’ that is equivalent of many greetings that wish health on the person. The Mother Goddesses of Cirencester in their magic role of three are akin to such a health encouraging greeting. They are always shown sitting holding a harvest of food, or sometimes one might be holding a swaddled child. In one image one of the Mother Goddesses is seated in a particularly matriarchal way signifying a role of governing. They are always mature females shown wearing their hair done up in the way of married Roman women (I can imagine in Brittonic society women had to also bind their hair in a particular way on taking wedlock). The Mother Goddesses were clearly connected with the fertility of the land and of human fertility as well.

Their significance in Roman Cirencester I think indicates the agricultural importance of the Cotswolds and Gloucester and that this region in particular was one of the bread baskets of mainland Britain, as well as rearing livestock. There is another interesting detail here in that following the Roman conquest of Britain there was introduced a new kind of plough that cut the soils more deeply than before. The already agriculturally well developed lands of mainland Britain entered into a peak chapter of intensifying land use with the Roman era. The soils of the Cotswolds and Gloucester were being exploited now to a new degree and since there was a continual demand for the Roman military machine to be fed and clothed, this led the farming estates of Roman Britain to work the land under more pressure. I’m linking here the Mother Goddesses protection and nurturing of the lands fertility with the local Britons having to make increasing demands on this fertility, their fears of losing the favour of the Mothers and a poor crop that would directly affect them. Poor crops would become a greater fear for Roman Britons those lives were now tied up with the economy of the Roman Empire, and so soil fertility which was under the protection of the Mothers was also now under the burden of providing for its maintanence. The Three Mothers must have provided much reassurance, comfort and spiritual security to ordinary people, who by the number of images of them found were greatly adored. They surely also guarded the deeper secrets of life. The image of Three Mothers becomes like a meditation, a prayer, a gate into a deeper relationship with the universe. When focussed on the Three Mothers seem to be holding the whole of life itself, and with that holding comes the capacity to hold its death as well. The Three Mothers are mature women who know what it is to bring life into the world and to see that life depart; they know how to carry the spirit so it never darkens uncared for, forgotten, into rebirth.  We cannot now visit the Three Mothers as they would have been in their shrines where offerings of ale, food, frankincense and olive oil would have been given. But at least they have returned to us again and can see them, just as our whole civillization is at the edge of destroying life.

Recently I happened to return to Bath and visited the Roman Baths museum. I had not been to the museum for a very long time and so what I found that day was not disappointing. It goes without saying that Bath is very lucky to have had one of the most richest and lavish public baths in the Roman interlude. All of this is centered on the heated upwelling of the goddess Sulis’s hotsprings. One of the things I really enjoyed about the museum was smelling that subterranean and rankly mineral odour of the hotsprings rising up. Ah a smell unchanged across many different ages! I went through the crowds to  behold the remains of the Roman gutter taking out the water from the baths into the river Avon. A livid orange-red crust of iron oxide clung to the mouth of the gutter and together with that ancient and strange stink of the hot waters I was transported to another age where the wonder and power of this place trembled in me invoking fear, awe and a thrilling communion with the ancient mysteries of this earth. I might of laid down in reverent supplication to Sulis right there but fortunately the crowds hindered my instinctive devotions! There is a tremendous amount of archaeological material to be taken in when going round the museum. The technological accomplishment of the entire bathing and temple establishment is astounding as much as the hotsprings are. I loved those lead pieces of piping with the initials of its maker stamped on them that had been mined and worked down in the Mendips. I loved that nifty little video showing how they made tiles and the different kind of tiles they made for the roofs. There was a tile they found with a dogs footprints in that had trotted over when the clay was still wet! Splendid details of the ordinary! The museum has really brought the Roman Baths alive and this is no doubt helped by those hologram-like videos which appear when you are wandering about the uncovered rooms of the baths showing you people acting as clientele of Aqua Sulis. It strikes you how civillized and healthy it must have been, I was certainly convinced! Also the epigraphic evidence in the form of altars dedicated to Sulis, other deities and also deceased individuals adds to the torrent of data. For a moment Roman Aqua Sulis does seem to have been revived from the oblivion of time. You walk around the unearthed masonry jaw slowly dropping thinking it could have happened yesterday. Afterwards you feel a considerable need to sit down and call the vendor for some fresh oysters, with a sausage on the side.  What are you telling me you stopped doing fresh oysters over a thousand years ago?! And these sausages are not the recipe I remember!?

The only thing with the Roman Baths museum is that the deluge of archaeological material which is all incredibly interesting overshadows the Bath that emerged out of the Roman period. It is not the Roman Baths we have really inherited but the Anglo Saxon Bathum. The world of Roman Britain for all the stuff we have dug about it is a vanished age. The language spoken then, the details of how Roman Britain actually worked, the names of most people who lived in it and a million other unrecoverable things that would have been written down are gone. Anglo Saxon Bathum was raised in timber on the edges of the Roman ruins. This was no reversion to a barbaric age. There was none of that bathing establishment of course and everyone was becoming Christian, but the Anglo Saxons continued it in a different form into a changed world laying down the foundations for a very un-Roman Bathum where literacy and learning was preserved in the English minster. Well it would be interesting in other words if you could also experience Roman and Anglo Saxon Bath? Perhaps I shall petition Sulis?

 

The main Celtic goddesses I read about when I was delving into Celtic mythology were often Brigid, Epona and that frightful trio of Irish furies Nemain, Badb and Scathach, not mention Morrigan with her fondness for the colour red. But none of these goddesses had much to do with where I live . I found it hard to conceive of any Brigid or Epona doing their goddess things around Gloucester or Bath where I grew up. They are not goddesses who have been found in the archaeology of Roman Britain where we know of their existence from dedications in stone in this region. Brigit or Brigantia is much a northern Yorkshire-ish, Cumbria-ish goddess in my mind. Epona doesn’t really seem to been worshipped much in Britain, and the white horse of Uffington might be something to do with Epona but it might just as well not be anything to do with Epona. As for those Irish goddesses well they are definitely rooted in the land and traditions of Ireland, though it could be possible they sometimes had holidays in the Pennines or up by Hadrians Wall, just to enjoy some different rain. Finding the local deities of the land in which you actually live by which I mean finding old and damaged records of them from the Roman period is not always fruitful. But I have found the goddess Cuda who appears to be associated with the Cotswolds, and the god Olluidios who seems to be connected with the wooded valleys around here. None of them are otherwise known outside of the very meagre archaeological remains that exist of their dedications. They have no records in any mythology, they have no more followers and nothing particularly exciting about them like being ferocious and mighty war gods or furious and crazy war goddesses, or deliverers of terrible and terminal justice in the form of a corvid. Cuda and Olluidios are as obscure as forgotten deities can possibly be. We have only really found out they existed because of chance, luck and the fact their stone reliefs got into the right hands. The last time anyone spoke their names was over a thousand years ago. Do we chose the more obscure, shadowy deities over the more familiar pagan litany of Celtic super goddesses? We do because they belong here.

I am intrigued by the existence of a mother goddess known as Cuda from which it is possible the Cotswolds has the roots of the first part of its name. It is Steven Yeates who has investigated her shrouded existence and proposed the connection of her name with the Cotswolds, the implication being that the Cotswolds are ‘Cuda’s Hills’. The deification of topography, the sanctifying of hills to a particular god or goddess in Western Europe was probably once very common. In France there is the Voseges and the Ardennes both retaining the memory of half remembered Celtic deities in their names. Maybe even the Alps which has the Celtic word meaning ‘Whiteness’ in it had connotations of sacredness knowing that whiteness in the Celtic language was linked with bright light and holiness. The goddess Cuda is only known in name from one inscription under a worn stone relief from the Roman period unearthed in a field in Daglingworth outside of Cirencester. She is named as the ‘Dea Cudae’ and is accompanied by three hooded Genii Cucullatti those secretive ‘hooded spirits’. She is obviously a typical Celtic mother goddess protector of the regions fertility and provider of life. Celtic mother goddesses though also had roles of governing, prophecy, healing and guarding against destruction. So it would make sense if Cuda had a similar role.

There were it appears no major temples or dedications ever put up to Cuda in the Roman period at Cirencester or in the Cotswolds, but there are plenty of the more humble stone reliefs of the three mother goddesses found here. It is the later names of Codswellan, Codestun, Codesbury and Codsdene that emerge in the Anglo Saxon period concentrated around the area of the Cotswolds recorded as Mons Huiccorum the ‘mountain of the Hwicce’ that Steven Yeates see’s Cudas name has been preserved. Only Cutsdean remains of those ‘Cod’ names as well as Cotswolds itself. The other theory is that ‘Codd’ is an otherwise unknown Anglo Saxon personal name. I prefer it to be the lost name of goddess Cuda, since the area of Cod names has a significant centre on the highest point of the Cotswolds and it is recorded as first connected with water ‘Codswellan’ a stream that was Cuda’s water issuing forth from the ‘Mons Huiccorum’. There is a shadow in the loss of Cuda’s real identity as the mother goddess of the Cotswold hills, a shadow that came under the belly of Christianity which began to remove or smother out the sanctity of hills, springs, woods and marshes to gods and godddesses; the dominion of God the Father swept out of the desert to trample down with jealous intent all the deities once beloved to people. The stone relief showing Cuda had actually once existed was forgotten, buried, cast into oblivion. Christianity once it took hold here propagated ruthless missionaries who had no desire for the old gods and goddesses to be remembered. That Cuda’s name and image survived all that time buried until unearthed in a field hundreds of years later is one of those miracles that Christianity would not like to endorse. The mother goddess of the Cotswolds should be recognised again.