Caer Wydr
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Caer Wydr & Avalon,

not just prefixes

Annwn  / Avalon / Caer Wydr / Other versions / Celtica

Excepting Homestead Flirt, Caer Wydr foundation mares were Avalon ponies: Avalon Bonnie Rhymer, Avalon Fair Maiden, Avalon Evening Star, andAvalon Fair Damsel.

Furthermore, my interest in Welsh grew out of my association with the Avalon herd.  That prefix came from the name of the family plantation, quite likely named for
Tennyson's long poem, Idylls of the King.  A number of Arthurian place names in the US were inspired by the popularity of Idylls.

I wanted an Arthurian prefix both to reflect the Avalon influence and pay homage to my own Welsh heritage - one grandmother whose mother came from Wales to work western mines and whose maiden name was Llewellyn; the other, from Pennsylvania Welsh Quaker stock. Mind you, the first time I heard an announcer call out "care weird," I did have second thoughts.

The Spoils of Annwn

I, lord of learning, do not deserve lowly men.

Beyond Caer Wydr they had not seen Arthur’s valor.
Three score hundred men stood on the wall;
it was difficult to speak with their watchman.
Three shiploads of Prydwen men went with Arthur;
except for seven, none returned from Caer Goludd.

 The following is excerpted from J ourney to Avalon,


The traditional story relates how the wounded King Arthur was taken away by boat immediately after the battle of Camlan to the mysterious Isle of Avalon to receive medical attention. It is reasonable to suppose that if Arthur was badly wounded then he could only surive a short journey. This means that the island of Avalon must be fairly close to the sitte of the battle of Camlan.

Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his writings, referred to the island as 'Insula Afallonis' and this name has been shortened to Avalon. However, it is significant that all the Welsh versions of the manuscript render the name as 'Ynys Afallach' (the Island of Afallch)

Many centuries ago, Avalon was mistakenly identified with Glastonbury, no doubt to suit the placing of the battle of Camlan at Camelford in Comwall. This amazing error has created the biggest red herring of all time, although it has done much to encourage the development of a major tourist industry in the West Country.

An important clue to the identification of the mysterious island of Avalon is contained in a book called Irish Druids and old Irish Religions, which was written by James Bonwick in 1894. He makes a remarkable statement: 'The Welsh Avalon, or the Island of Apples, the everlasting source of the Elixir of Life, the home of Arthur and other mythological heroes, lay beyond Cardigan Bay, the Annwn of the old sun, in the direction of Ireland.' This statement is also substantiated by the Archdruid Owen Morgan, in The Royal winged Son of Stonehenge and Avebury. He states that the Celtic Elysium was between Borth on Cardigan Bay and Arklow in Ireland. When one looks at a map of the British Isles it quickly becomes apparent that there is only one possible location for such an island and that is Bardsey, which lies off the tip of the Lleyn Peninsula.

Bardsey Island

The Island of Bardsey sits in the sea like a huge mouse, with a gentle dome shaped hump at one end and a long tail of flat land stretching out behind it. Just 3 kilometres long and 0.8 kilometres wide at its broadest point, it measures 177 hectares. Behind the 200 metre hump of Mynydd Eniii, on the leeward side of the island, is a small harbour where boats have landed saints, pilgrims and visitors through the passing centuries.

Bardsey has often been described as Britain's most romantic island and its holiness once made it the 'Insula Sanctoru ', or Iona of Wales. Pilgrims used to travel here from all directions and one ancient document states that this island was once regarded as the 'second Rome' in view of its concentration of sanctity. In the Vatican library there is even a list of indulgences specially granted to pilgrims making the journey to Bardsey.

More than likely it was the Saxons who named it Bardseye after the bards who retired there, or alternatively it was perhaps named after Bardr, a Viking leader. One of the Welsh names for it is Ynys Enlli - 'the isle of the current', which is a reference to the strength of the tideway between the island and the mainland. This comparatively narrow strip of sea is one of the most dangerous stretches of water around the British Isles for the current is always very rapid.

In order to discover why the island was once known as Ynys Afallach, we decided to compare some of the romantic traditions with ancient Welsh manuscripts. Geoffrey of Monmouth, in his Vita Merlini, describes how Merlin and Taliesin took the wounded Arthur by boat to 'Ins la pomoru que Fortunata'- (The Island of Apples which is called Fortunate), so named because it produces all things without toil. They were received by the lady Morgan who placed the king on a golden bed and uncovered the wound and said that she would be able to heal it and bring him back to good health.

The relationship between the evil Queen Morgan and the renowned King Arthur has always been a matter of particular fascination which has been debated by many Arthurian scholars. But the question still remains - who was this mysterious lady?

Geoffrey of Monmouth's description of Morgan and her island kingdom corresponds with a passage in the Gesta Regum Britanniae, written in c. 1235 by Guillaume de Rennes. It describes a mighty princess attended by nine maidens in a miraculously fertile island kingdom called Avallon and it is implied that she is the daughter of the king of Avallon. Wounded beyond measure Arthur is brought to the court of the king of Avallon, where the Royal Virgin, who is the guardian of this place, attends to his wounds and becomes his mistress.'

Sir Thomas Malory, in his Le Morte d' Arthur, brings Morgan Le Fay into his story and tells us that she married Urien of Gorre. Now this is interesting, for, according to the Welsh Triads, Urien of Gor-re married Modron, the daughter of Afallach, and Urien was the father of Yvaine, known in Welsh tradition as Owain. The Welsh Triad No.70, which is contained in the Peniarth Manuscript No. 47, states that Owain and his sister Morfudd were carried in the womb of Modron, the daughter of Afallach and the wife of Urien of Gorre.

It is also significant that, according to the early Welsh genealogies, Rhun was the son of Maelgwyn Hir ('the Tall') of Gwynedd by his concubine Gwalltwen, the daughter of Afallach. This confirms that there was a royal prince named Afallach flourishing in Lleyn during the time of King Arthur. By comparing numerous references to the Arthurian Romance character of Morgan Le Fay with her Welsh counterpart Modron it becomes evident that this daughter of Afallach was the same lady who cured Arthur of his wounds. The name of Modron is derived from that of Matriona - the Mother Goddess of Celtic Mythology. By unravelling a highly complex web of folklore and ancient beliefs, it becomes an exciting probability that Arthur was brought to Ynys Afallach (Bardsey Island) by Merlin and Taliesin to be cured of his wounds by Modron (Morgan Le Fay) and her nine sisters, who were Druidesses skilled in the art of healing.

The following, also excerpted from J ourney to Avalon,  is one of many speculations about location  and significance of Caer Wydr


It is relevant that we should try to interpret the meaning behind the well-known legend that Merlin was confined on Bardsey Island in a glass castle with the thirteen treasures of Britain. He apparently lies there in an enchanted sleep awaiting the return of Arthur.

Legends in most cases are based on folk memories and even though they may appear to be nothing more than fairy stories, they sometimes contain an element of truth. We found the idea of a glass castle particularly interesting and it deserved further investigation.

In the bard Taliesin's Preiddiau Annwfn ('The Spoils of Annwn'), we found that Annwn is depicted as a four-cornered glass fortress standing on an island. Lewis Morris, in his Celtic Remains, (1878), locates the Ty Gwydr (House of Glass) of Merlin the Wild on Bardsey Island and, according to the 16th century Peniarth Manuscript (No. 147), he went there, accompanied by nine bards, and took with him the thirteen treasures of Britain. The Oxford Manuscript of La Folie Tristan informed us that Morgan, the Queen of Avalon, lived in a chamber of glass on which all the rays of the sun converged.

We were consistently finding statements in Welsh and Irish tradition which referred to Annwn as Caer Wydr (Glass Castle). Gradually, we began to consider the possibility that such a building might have been the equivalent of a modem glass house. In other words, a chamber with glass windows which might conceivably be used as a solarium where illness was treated by therapeutic light. The 'Castle of Glass' was clearly a solar paradise.This glass castle, crystal palace, chamber of glass or, in modem terms, greenhouse; call it what you will, was a temple in which the sun itself appeared to live. In this solar paradise, apples were grown, and Morgan, the Queen of Avalon, was the mistress of an indoor apple orchard. It was a sort of Garden of Eden where the fruits of summer could be picked throughout the year.

Hence Bardsey was known as the Island of Apples. Crops grow well on the island but no trees survive there, being wiped out in infancy by the powerful south-west winds. However, they would of course, have grown well in a greenhouse. In ancient religions the apple was highly prized and accepted as an emblem of the renewal of youth. Both Roman and Celtic laws featured stiff penalties for cutting down an apple tree. The Celtic word for apple was Aval and this word occurs in the names Avallach, Emain Ablach and Abalum which are the names of three islands. The name Avalon means Apple Orchard.

Other Versions

Caer Wydr/Colur - also referred to as Nennius or the "Gloomy Castle, lies within a glass fort. It is not a waste land, but it is a gloomy and dark land. Of the three regions, Caer Wydr, is considered the most undesirable place to reside after death. In the poem, Taliesin relates that the members of the expedition try to strike up a conversation with the fortress guard, but he said nothing and acted as if they were not there at all. His silence indicated that only lost souls inhabited this land.

Caer Wydr - "Castle of Glass," legendary magical castle located somewhere in the north,  exact location unknown. Actually a fort in northwestern Mochdreff, remarkable because some tremendous source of heat vitrified the entire structure without reducing it to the usual rubble.

 Lewis Spence writes, "The Caer Wydr" was Arthur's vessel of glass constructed for the especial purpose of the exploration of Annwn, and the bard says that he will not have merit with the multitude in relating the hero's deeds, because they could not see his prowess after he had entered Caer Wydr, or the "place" or vessel of glass.

From "Pa gur" and The Spoils of Annwn.  A Lecture by Mark Adderley, Georgia Tech University
Caer Wydr - Glass Fort; interestingly, this might be identified with Glastonbury, which was called Ynys Witrin, the Glass Island, by the Welsh, and hence with Avalon, Arthur's final destination after the fatal Battle of Camlann. If Caer Feddwid really is associated with the "Perfect Ones," then it becomes associated with Caer Siddi, and we begin to realise that all the fortresses are different names for the same place. Arthur was opposed to them, which means that he was opposed to the ancient Celtic gods in a battle that was utterly disastrous—as you might expect a battle against the gods to be. The use of the term "Caer Wydr" seems to indicate that this was Arthur's last battle, the original trip to Avalon, not to be "healed of his wounds," but to fight a fatal battle against the old gods. Of course, he never came back, and nobody saw his corpse, and this gave rise to the stories about his possible return.

from The Cauldron of Arthur  by August Hunt

Hunt writes: "...the cauldron of the Irish king Odgar son of Aodh and his steward Diwrnach. This cauldron, which in the earlier Arthurian poem The Spoils of Annwn belonged to the Chief the Underworld, was stolen from Odgar by Arthur and his men in the early Welsh Mabinogion tale, "Culhwch and Olwen."

"Spoils of Annwm" is indisputably ancient and concerns a raid on the Otherworld by Arthur and his men. The object of their raid is a lunar cauldron warmed by the breath of nine maidens.  In this poem, the Otherworld is given several names:
  • Caer Siddi, "The Fort of the (Fairy) Seat"  (a fairy hill like the Irish sidhe)
  • Caer Pedryfan, "The Four-Cornered Fort"  (a Neolithic cist tomb?)
  • Caer Feddwid, "Fort of Revelry" (literally  "of Drunkenness")
  • Caer Rigor, "Fort of Kings" (or, if rigor is Latin, the "Fort of Stiffness/Numbness Due to Cold")
  • Caer Wydr, "Fort of Glass" (later identified with Glastonbury)
  • Caer Goludd, "Fort of Riches" (or "Fortress of Light"?)
  • Caer Fandwy, "The Peaked Fort"  (cf. Bannatia, the Roman fort at Dalginross, Perthshire)
  • Caer Ochren,  "Fort of the Sides" (but see the Roman period name for Lizard Point in Cornwall, 'Ocrinum Promontorium'; Greek okrin is "a jagged point or prominence")
Three shiploads of Prydwen went with Arthur to the Otherworld, and only seven individuals returned.  Hunt also writes, "I have elsewhere written about Glastonbury’s misidentification with Arthur’s Avalon. As mentioned above, Glastonbury was, through false etymology, thought to be the Caer Wydr or Glass Fort of The Spoils of Annwn. The true Avalon is the Aballava/Avallana Roman fort at Burgh-By-Sands in Cumbria, not far west of the Camboglanna/Camlann Roman fort at Castlesteads, the scene of Arthur’s last fatal battle. While the Spoils of Annwn  Underworld is not localized, its proper association with Avalon may not be coincidental."

Celtic Otherworld

(from  Celtic World & Cultures, part of the Celtic Mythology site)

The "Otherworld" was a domain of Celtic deities or supernatural beings such as the "Fairy People". The Otherworld was considered to be the Celtic version of heaven (or even hell to most Christian writers). They were hidden from mortal eyes by strong Otherworld magic. They were situated in all sort of places. Some of these Otherworlds were located on the islands, the dunes, dun-hills, forests, rivers, and lakes. A grand castle or even humble cottage could be the Otherworld, which would, appeared at night for mortals, but would probably vanish in the morning.

Normal rule does not apply in the Otherworld. A year may seem to pass in the Otherworld, but in the real world centuries may have passed. Time seemed to have stand still. Nor does the people who live there, aged like mortals. They seemed to remain forever young.The Otherworld also seemed to be able to move from one location to another. Or there may be only one Otherworld but it exist everywhere. In another word, the Otherworld is a paradox. Entering the enchanted place, may be close by or it could be a place far away.

Welsh Otherworld

The Welsh called their Otherworld – Annwn Annwfn or Annwyn. Arawn ruled this Otherworld kingdom. The hero Pwyll of Dyved was allowed to rule Annwfn (Annwvyn) for one year, before he returned to his own world. According to the early Welsh poem, titled Spoils of Annwfn (Preiddiau Annwfn), Arthur and his followers went to a number of otherworlds, seeking to steal the a magic cauldron. The journey probably ended in disaster, since only seven had survived and it wasn't clear if they had gained the cauldron or not.

Another popular name for Welsh Otherworld, was the Caer Wydyr or Caer Wydr – the "Fortress of Glass".  Caer Wydyr is similar to Tower of Glass in the Arthurian Legend, but located in Glastonbury Tor, England.  Glastonbury Tor was supposed to be the location of the "Isle of Avalon" or "Isle of Apples", the finally resting place of King Arthur. In Welsh myths, however, the Arthurian Avalon was derived from the name Ynys Afallon.


Annwn  / Avalon / Caer Wydr / Other Versions / Celtica

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