The Real Avalon is Appledore
"THE REAL AVALON: QUESTING FOR KING
By August Hunt
The tradition that the Arthur of legend was buried at Glastonbury
is a well-established one. But certain problems regarding
the account of the exhumation of the great king's
bones in 1190 A.D. have called into question the
veracity of the tradition. It now seems unlikely that Glastonbury,
while still an ancient sacred site, is the real Isle of Avalon,
and that we had best look elsewhere in Britain for this Celtic Otherworld
A. THE GLASTONBURY BURIAL
Some odd details surround the "discovery" of King Arthur's
grave at Glastonbury. These details have been
discussed at length before by scholars, but the
conclusions drawn from them have varied. First, a 6th century
Arthur (the usual date ascribed to his floruit) would have had his grave
marked by a stone bearing Roman capitals. The formula of the inscription
(see Leslie Alcock's ARTHUR'S BRITAIN) would have been something
HIC SEPVLTVS IACIT ARTVRIVS
Instead, the monks at Glastonbury claimed to have found a lead cross
buried beneath the coffin cover. Drawings of this cross reveal the form
and content of the inscription (HIC IACET SEPVLTVS INCLITUS REX ARTVRIVS
IN INSULA AVALONIA/"Here lies buried the famous king Arthur in the
isle of Avalon") to be of the tenth century, not the
sixth century. This would seem puzzling, were it not
for the fact that 12th century monks could easily
forge an inscription in such a way as to make it seem to be from an
earlier period. We know that they did this with
"Here buried lies Arthur"
An alternate theory has been proposed (again see Alcock):
that the grave was originally discovered in 945
A.D., when St. Dunstan, the Abbot of Glastonbury,
erected a masonry wall around the cemetary and had the area raised.
At this time the original stone marker would have been removed, and
the lead cross fashioned and placed inside the coffin. The whole was
then covered over and forgotten, only to be rediscovered in 1190.
The objection to this theory is that so remarkable a
discovery in the 10th century would certainly have
been recorded. Furthermore, the grave of a worthy
such as Arthur would have been marked in such a way as to be
readily noticeable to future generations, i.e. it would not have been
left unmarked with a mere lead cross placed within the
coffin. Furthermore, I been unable to find other
recorded instances in which such a cross or similar
inscribed memorial object has been found inside an ancient coffin.
All in all, the theory that Arthur was reburied, but his
grave left unmarked, is not acceptable. This being
the case, we must reluctantly admit that in all
likelihood the Glastonbury burial of King Arthur is a forgery.
The possible financial and political reasons for committing such a
forgery have been mentioned elsewhere.
We should also make mention of Geoffrey of Monmouth's
Malvasius of Iceland. This Malvasius is the Melwas
placed at Glastonbury in Caradoc of Llancarfan's
LIFE OF GILDAS. It is strange that no one has asked why Geoffrey
would have put Melwas in Iceland if he knew Glastonbury was Avalon.
Morgan herself could be thought of as one of the male Morgans found
in the pedigree of Glast, the eponymous founder of Glastonbury. But,
if so, why is she placed at Avalon, while Melwas is placed
Iceland is Geoffrey's misreading of the Glas- of
Glastonbury as being derived from L. glacies,
"ice". Had he known Morgan was associated with
Glastonbury, he would have put her in Iceland as well. Thus, Geoffrey's
Avalon is not Glastonbury. It has been remarked before that Geoffrey
no where in his works identifies Avalon with Glastonbury.
B. CAMBOGLANNA AND ABALLAVA
On Hadrian's Wall, which forms the dividing line between
England and Lowland Scotland, there are two Roman
forts of particular interest to students of
Arthurian legend. One, at Castlesteads, was called Camboglanna.
This Old Celtic name lies at the root of the modern Welsh placename
Camlann, the site of Arthur's death in 537 A.D. according to the Welsh
Annals. If Camboglanna is where Arthur died, then it is certainly not
a coincidence that the only place in Britain known anciently as Avalon
is located further west along the Wall at Burgh-by-Sands.
The Aballava fort, now on the edge of marshland near the
Solway Firth, was referred to in the early RAVENNA
COSMOGRAPHY as Avalana. This placename means,
literally, the "place of apples". Camboglanna is on the Irthing,
a tributary of the Eden River. The Eden empties into the Solway Firth
very near Aballava/Avalana. A dedication to the goddess Latis was found
at Aballava. She is the goddess of open bodies of fresh water, a literal
"Lady of the Lake".
So, is the Avalon of Geoffrey of Monmouth a memory of the
Aballava fort near Camboglanna? Or is there a more
reasonable explanation for why Arthur was placed on
the Isle of the Apple-Tree?
C. KING MORGAN OF THE LAND OF WONDERS
In the ancient Irish story of Art son of Conn, King Conn
and then his son Art voyage to an island called
variously the Land of Promise (Tir Tairngiri) and
the Land of Wonders (Tir na nIngnad). This island is distinguished
by its "fair fragrant apple-trees", its "wild apples".
The king of the Land of Wonders, who Art slays, is
The Land of Promise name, in the story of Eithne daughter
of Curcog, is given as a synonym for Emhain or Emne
Ablach, Ablach being the Old Irish word for apple
Geoffrey of Monmouth, in calling Insula Pomorum/Insula
Avallonis/Isle of Avalon the "Fortunate" Isle,
would seem to have been evoking an Otherworld
identical to that which King Morgan ruled. Might not the
name Art have been associated with Arthur's name?
The only problem with this theory is that we have to
account for Geoffrey naming Morgan's kingdom
Avallonis, when in the story it is called Tir na
nIngnad, the "Land of Wonders".
D. THE REAL ISLE OF AVALON
To find the real Avalon, it is necessary first to realize
that this placename is Cornish and means, simply,
"Apple-tree". The Old Cornish form of the
word is auallen. Old Welsh is aballen and Breton aualen. The forms auallen
and aballenn are recorded from the 12th century (information courtesy
Andrew Hawke, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru).
If we follow the Cornish coast north from the Camel where
Arthur supposedly was mortally wounded, we arrive at
Appledore, situated on a neck of land or headland
jutting out into the confluence of the Taw and Torridge Rivers.
According to Eilart Ekwall, this town was le Apildore in 1335 AD. The
name is Old English and means... "Apple-tree". The Appledore in
Kent has an identical origin, but much earlier
recorded forms: Apuldre 893 (Anglo-Saxon Chronicel),
Apeldres (Domesday Book).
Obviously, "Avalon" was the Cornish name for Appledore. The
"Insula" or island of Avalon/Appledore is being
used in the same sense as isle is used in Isle of
Purbeck, Isle of Portland, or Isle of Thanet. In other
words, the Isle of Avalon is the neck of land or headland of Appledore.
It was to Appledore that Geoffrey has the wounded King