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  Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > Guest Articles > August Hunt (3)

Guest Author:
August HuntVisit August Hunt's website: The Quest for Arthur's Grave

  August Hunt, (1960), published his first short stories in his high school newspaper, THE WILDCAT WIRES. These were followed by stories and poems in THE PHOENIX literary magazine of Clark Community College, where he received a writing scholarship. Transferring to THE EVERGREEN STATE COLLEGE in Olympia, WA, he continued to publish pieces in local publications and was awarded the Edith K. Draham literary prize. A few years after graduating in 1985 with a degree in Celtic and Germanic Studies, he published "The Road of the Sun: Travels of the Zodiac Twins in Near Eastern and European Myth". Magazine contributions include a cover article on the ancient Sinaguan culture of the American Southwest for Arizona Highways. His first novel, "Doomstone", and the anthology "From Within the Mist" are being offered by Double Dragon (ebook and paperback). August, a member of the International Arthurian Society, North American Branch, has most recently had his book "Shadows in the Mist: The Life and Death of King Arthur" accepted for publication by Hayloft Publishing. Now being written are "The Cloak of Caswallon", the first in a series of Arthurian novels that will go under the general heading of "The Thirteen Treasures of Britain", and a work of Celtic Reconstructionism called "The Secrets of Avalon: A Dialogue with Merlin". 

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Cunedda as Vortigern

August Hunt

Vortigern Studies

While Ceawlin's father Cynric, the son of Cerdic of Wessex in most pedigrees, is capable of being derived quite well from Anglo-Saxon, the name could also be construed as an Anglicized form of the attested Celtic name Cunorix, Hound-king, the latter Welsh Cynyr.

Cerdic is not the only Celtic name in the early Wessex pedigree. To quote Richard Coates:[1] "It therefore appears that Ceawlin [or Celin] could be Brittonic, but the suggestion is advanced with the most extreme caution." Such possibilities leads us to consider the Cunorix Stone found at Wroxeter/Viroconium, the capital of the ancient Kingdom of the Cornovii, which became Powys.

The Wroxeter Stone is a memorial to a chieftain named Cunorix son of Maquicoline. R. P. Wright and K.H. Jackson[2] date this stone "somewhere roughly about 460-75 or so." Maquicoline is a composite name meaning Son [Maqui-] of Coline. The resemblance here of Cunorix and Coline to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle's Cynric and his son Ceawlin is obvious. Some scholars would doubtless say this is coincidence, and that the discrepancy in dates for Cynric and Ceawlin and Cunorix and (Maqui)coline are too great to allow for an identification. I would say that an argument based on the very uncertain Chronicle dates is hazardous at best and that if there is indeed a relationship between the pairs Ceawlin-Cynric and Coline-Cunorix, then the date of the memorial stone must be favored over that of the document.

There is also the problem of Cynric being the father of Ceawlin in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, while on the Wroxeter Stone it is (Maqui)coline who is the father of Cunorix. But such a confusion could easily have occurred simply by reading part of a geneaology list backwards. Cunorix son of Maquicoline, based on an analysis of his name and the lettering employed on the inscription itself, is believed to have been Irish. It should not surprise us , then, to find Cunedda of Manau Gododdin, the reputed founder of Gwynedd, was himself actually Irish. There was an early St. Cuindid (d. c. 497) son of Cathbad, who founded a monastery at Lusk, ancient Lusca. In the year entry 498 of the Ulster Annals, his name is spelled Chuinnedha. In Tigernach 496, the name is in the form Cuindedha.

Dr. Betty O'Brien supplies[3] the following additional information concerning St. Cuindid:

Mac Cuilind - Cunnid proprium nomen - m. Cathmoga m. Cathbath m Cattain  m Fergossa m. Findchada m Feic m. Findchain m Imchada Ulaig m. Condlai m Taide m. Cein m Ailella Olum.[4]

U496.2 Quies M. Cuilinn episcopi Luscan. (Repose of Mac Cuilinn, bishop of Lusca).[5]

D. viii. idus Septembris.
993] Luscai la Macc Cuilinn
994] caín decheng ad-rannai,
995] féil Scéthe sund linni,
996] Coluimb Roiss gil Glandai.

(trans. given as: 'With Macc cuilinn of Luscae thou apportionest (?) a fair couple: the feast of Sciath here we have, (and that) of Columb of bright Ross Glandae'[6]

The (later-dated) notes to this entry read:  'Lusk, i.e. in Fingall, i.e. a house that was built of weeds (lusrad) was there formerly, and hence the place is named Lusca ........Macc cuilinn, i.e. Luachan mac cuilinn, ut alii putant.  Cuinnid was his name at first, Cathmog his father's name'.

Significantly, Lusk or Lusca is a very short distance from the huge promontory fort at Drumanagh, the Bruidhne Forgall Manach of the ancient Irish tales. Drumanagh is the hill of the Manapii and, as such, represents the Manapia in Manapii territory found on the map of Ptolemy. Manapii or Manapia could easily have been mistaken or substituted for Manavia/Manaw, the Isle of Man, or for the Manau in Gododdin.

Aeternus, Cunedda's father, is none other than Aithirne of Dun and Ben Etair just south of Lusca. Paternus Pesrudd ("Red-Cloak"), Cunedda's grandfather, is probably not derived from Mac Badairn of Es Ruad ("Red Waterfall"), since Es Ruad is in northwest Ireland (Ballyshannon in Co. Donegal). I think Paternus, from the L. word for "father", is Da Derga, the Red God; Da, god, being interpreted as W. tad (Cf. L. tata, "father"). The Da Derga's hostel was just a little south of the Liffey. Cunedda's great-great-grandfather is said to be one Tegid (Tacitus), while his great-great-great grandfather is called Cein. These two chieftains are clearly Taig/Tadhg and his father Cian. Cian was the founder of the Irish tribe the Ciannachta, who ruled Mag Breg, a region situated between the Liffey and either Duleek or Drumiskin (depending on the authority consulted). The Lusca and Manapia of Chuinnedha are located in Mag Breg.

Professor Padraig O Riain of University College, Cork, has sent me this on Chuinnedha MacCuilinn[7]:

"According to the genealogy edited in my Corpus Genealogiarum Sanctorum Hiberniae (Dublin, 1985), p. 52, the name of Mac Cuilind's father was Cathmug. He belonged to the descendants of Tadc mac Cian, otherwise called the Cianachta. There was a concentration of the saints of this family in the Dubli/Louth/ Meath area, corresponding roughly to the teritory of the Cianachta Breg."

It is surely not a coincidence that according to the Irish Annals Chuinnedha's other name was Mac Cuilinn. Obviously, Mac Cuilinn and the Maqui-Coline of the Wroxeter Stone may be the same name and hence the same person.

Gwynedd was thus founded by Chuinnedha alias Mac Cuilinn of the Manapii in Ireland, not by a chieftain of Manau Gododdin in Britain.

The Irish origin of Cunedda should not be a surprise to us, as there is the well-documented case of the Welsh genealogy of the royal house of Dyfed, which was altered to hide the fact that Dyfed was founded by the Irish Deisi. We know this because we have the corresponding Irish genealogy from a saga which tells of the expulsion of the Deisi from Ireland and their settlement in Dyfed. As is true of Cunedda's pedigree, in the Welsh Dyfed pedigree we find Roman names substituted for Irish names.

Now, if I am right and Cuinnid MacCuilin is not only the Maquicoline of the Wroxeter Stone and Ceawlin of the Wessex pedigree, then it may be significant that, according to Bede, Ceawlin was a Bretwalda, i.e. a preeminent ruler of Britain.  This, taken in conjunction with the probable floruit of Cuinnid MacCuilinn, founder of Gwynedd, suggests that this chieftain may have been "the Vortigern".

We must first remember that the date given for the Wroxeter Stone, a memorial to Maquicoline's son Cunorix, is c. 460-475.  To compare these dates with the traditional dates for Vortigern (information courtesy Robert Vermaat[8]):

446 or 447
449 and 455

Historia Brittonum
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

In my article on Vortigern's epithet Vorteneu (also availble at Vortigern Studies), I mentioned the possible association between the Eliseg Pillar's Brittu son of Vortigern and the Pictish Bridei son of Maelgwn of Gwynedd. Curiously, in the c. 900 AD Taliesin poem, Armes Prydein Fawr, Vortigern is linked directly to Gwynedd[9]:

Pell bwynt kychmyn y Wrtheyrn Gwyned
"May the scavengers [Saxons] of Gwrtheryn Gwynedd be far off"

Speculation about why Vortigern was made Lord of Gwynedd or was at least of Gwynedd focuses on his appearances at Dinas Emrys and at Nant Gwrtheyrn on the Lleyn Peninsula.  However, the Historia Brittonum narrative makes it plain that Vortigern had forts in other kingdoms of Wales.

One might also seek to explain Gwynedd in the Gwrtheyrn Gwynedd context by referring to Nennius[10]:

Mailcunus magnus rex apud Brittones regnabat, id est in regione Guenedotae, quia atavus illius, id est Cunedag

It is conceivable that the phrase magnus rex, used to describe Maelgwn, was in Welsh Vor + tigern.  But Maelgwn's dates do not come close to those of the traditional Vortigern.  Might it be that the Vortigern of the Eliseg Pillar is, in fact, Maelgwn, but that in this particular context Vortigern is merely a title for him?  That prior to Malegwn Vortigern as a title belonged to another chieftain, a chieftain who also ruled Gwynedd and whose offspring exercised some kind of power in or over Powys as well?

Chronologically and genealogically, the only truly viable candidate for this earlier Vortigern would be Cuinnid MacCuilinn, the great Cunedda himself.



[1] personal correspondence
[2] A Late Inscription From Wroxeter, in: The Antiquaries Journal, Vol. XLVIII, 1968.
[3] personal correspondence
[4] CGSH (319).
[5] Annals of Ulster: AD 495 (496)(2).
[6] Félire Óengusso Céli Dé. (The Martyrology of Oengus the Culdee)  p.193, Sept. 6th.
[7] personal correspondence
[8] personal correspondence
[9] Armes Prydein Fawr, Line 27.
[10] Historia Brittonum, chapter 62

Cunedda as Vortigern is Copyright © 2001, August Hunt. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Comments to: August Hunt

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