6.2 Legends

[see also Religion, Rulers BC, Megaliths]


'The island of Atlantis, we are told [in Plato’s Timaeus], was situate “in front of the straits you call the Columns of Hercules” [i.e. conventionally the Rock of Gibraltar and Ceuta opposite], and was placed on the way to a succession of islands from which “you might pass through the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true Ocean”. On the face of it, a considerable island, beyond straits, leading to other islands and hence to the opposite continent which surrounded the Ocean, could only be explained as Great Britain, beyond the Channel, leading to the Faroes, Iceland, Greenland, and so on to America. It is a straightforward description, but the utmost ingenuity has always been displayed to identify it with any other possible or impossible part of the Atlantic.' (William Comyns Beaumont, The Riddle of Prehistoric Britain, 1946)

Note that Plato’s ‘Ocean’ was indisputably the Atlantic, rendering absurd attempts to locate the fabled lost island in the Mediterranean, for example; the clue is in the name, ‘Atlantis’; the above quotation is from Comyns Beaumont, than whose speculations few have been bolder [see William Comyns Beaumont]; this author’s enjoyably extravagant thesis - ‘Atlantis in the British Isles, mother of civilization’ - is at least consonant with the revised view of archaeology, arising from a revolution in radiocarbon dating, that the Megalithic Culture of north-west Europe pre-dated the rise of Sumer and Egypt; in other words, culture did not diffuse from east to west [see Megalithic Culture]; Comyns Beaumont contended that the drowning of Atlantis described by Plato was one and the same event as Noah’s Flood, which inundation he, Comyns Beaumont, located in the British Isles; it is relevant in this connection that one of the names for the Deucalion Deluge remembered in Ancient Greece was the Flood of Ogyges or the Ogygian Flood 

'The Flood is also preserved in British folk-lore... the Welsh Triads [story]...bears a close resemblance to the Noachian account, but it places the venue of the event in Britain... The name Ogygia was closely connected with the British Isles. There was the Isle of Ogygia, “woodland isle”...[which] lay, says Homer, “far in the Ocean”... Plutarch mentions Ogygia in connection with Britain, in his Moralia, and both O’Grady, the Irish historian, and [William] Camden [Britannia, 1586] claim Ogygia as an early name for Ireland... Plutarch, in the De Orbe in Face Lunae, speaks of the “great continent” which lay beyond Ogygia...' (William Comyns Beaumont, The Riddle of Prehistoric Britain, 1946) 

[see Flood story]


Fortunate Isles

'...the Fortunate Isles, a name given by the Romans to these islands, for Solinus speaks of “the very Fortunate Islands of the Bretannides”, and Eumenius associated them with the seas about Thule, or “Ultima Thule”, the farthest land, otherwise Shetland. Pliny, also, speaks of the “six isles of the gods, which others call the Fortunate Isles”, implying the British group, and which probably included Britain, Ireland, Shetland, Orkney, the Outer Hebrides, and the Faroe Isles. Ferro, now Faroe, was taken by Ptolemy as the most westerly of the “Fortunate Islands” and made the first meridian of longitude in his Geographia.

    Hesperides and Fortunate Insulae were interchangeable terms, the Greeks preferring the term Happy Isles and Romans the Fortunate. The Greeks in their myths and legends always placed the Hesperides in the farthest west... the fleet-footed and beautiful virgin Atalanta, so prominent in the famous Calydonian Boar Hunt, who was defeated by Milanion because he artfully cast behind him the Golden Apples given him by Aphrodite which Atalanta stopped to pick up. These and many other traditions were placed in the region of the Hesperides by Oceanus, otherwise the Atlantic, for there was only one Ocean... the British Isles, where Apollo was the chief deity in Caesar’s time, and where we may actually retrace the Calydonian boar country and Atalanta in the present Caledonia [Scotland]... the eleventh labour imposed on Hercules when he was despatched to gather the Golden Apples of Immortality from the Tree in the Garden of the Hesperides.

    ...Dionysius Periegetes in his History says: “In the Hesperides, whence tin comes...” Tin came from Cornwall, the only production centre in ancient days, and offers a considerable clue to the past... Hence we cannot escape the conclusion that Dionysius in speaking of the Hesperides specifically meant the British Isles.' (Comyns Beaumont, The Riddle of Prehistoric Britain, 1946; see William Comyns Beaumont)

Giants: there are stories worldwide of giants in former times 

'...the tradition of the Giants who were flung deep into the earth after their war with the gods.' (Comyns Beaumont, The Riddle of Prehistoric Britain, 1946) 

Legend has it that Britain was occupied by giants, who were the builders of the stone circles and 'giants’ tombs'; in the Tysilio Chronicle [see Sources] we read that Brutus the Trojan dreamt of his tutelary goddess, Diana, who said

“Brutus, beneath the setting of the sun, beyond the land of Gaul, there lies an island in the sea in which giants once lived. It is empty now. Go there, for it is set aside for you and your descendants. And it will be for your children like a second Troy, and kings shall be born of your line unto whom the whole earth shall pay homage!” (Tysilio Chronicle, More 18, pages 12 & 13)

In the Old Testament the Amorites of Syria-Phoenicia-Palestine are described as ‘giants’, presumably indicating a height advantage; they are, moreover, also called ‘the sons of Anak…’; ‘Anak’ in Akkadian is a name for ‘Tin’; Britain was the ‘Tin Island’ of the Bronze Age world; the British Chronicles in the form known as the Bruts of England describe a migration to Britain of Chaldeans from Syria, around 1560 BC; these people may have been following other ‘giants’ of their kind; Geoffrey of Monmouth (c1100 – c1155) described Stonehenge as the ‘dance of the giants’, shipped across the sea by none other than Merlin himself [see Druidism, Stonehenge]; an example of the apparent memory of giants is associated with the half a hundred standing stones to be found near Callanish on the isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides; local tradition has it that the giants refused to convert to Christianity and were punished by St Kieran by being turned into stone; Cornwall and Devon have many giants legends [see Statuary]; the early name of Britain, ‘Albion’, is associated with a tyrannical giant of myth who is said to have ruled over the island and given it his name, though other authorities say that the earlier name of the land relates to ‘White Island’ (Latin albus, ‘white’), a presumed reference to the white cliffs of Britain’s southeastern shore, visible from across the Channel; Albion in Greek mythology was the son of Poseidon (the Roman Neptune), slain in the remote west by Herakles (the Roman Hercules, son of Jupiter), who was a Phoenician not an Ancient Greek; if this is a memory of a true tyrant-slaying event there should be traces in Britain of Hercules, which there are; the kings of Lorne in Scotland claimed descent from Hercules; Tintagel Head was called Promontorium Heraclei, according to Pliny; the Cerne Abbas Giant, a scraped-chalk hillside figure revealed by ancient turf cutting, was conjectured by the antiquarian William Stukely in 1764 to be Hercules, a view confirmed by archaeological excavations at the site in the twenty-first century

'There still stands at Cerne Abbas, six miles north-east of Dorchester (the “city of Dor”), the immense and most ancient figure of the Cerne Giant cut out in chalk on the hillside. He represents the Tyrian Herecules or Melcarth. The Wilmington Giant holds a pillar in each hand and is the same hero-god.' (Comyns Beaumont, The Riddle of Prehistoric Britain, 1946)

The eleventh labour of Hercules was to gather Golden Apples of Immortality from a Tree in the Garden of the Hesperides; Dionysius Periegetes, AD 100s, wrote ‘In the Hesperides, whence tin comes….’; the implication is that Hercules came to Britain, presumably after slaying Albion; Lord Byron sailed off from Italy in 1823 to the Greek War of Independence against the Turks in a boat he renamed Hercules

Gogmagog: this was the giant defeated by Duke Corineus, kinsman of Brutus the first king of Ancient Britain [see Brutus]; Corineas ruled and gave his name to Cornwall while Brutus ruled the rest of Britain; since Corineus took the giant on his shoulders and threw him off a cliff, Gogmagog couldn’t have been that big; the place where this encounter occurred is still known – it is Plymouth Hoe – and bears the names Top of the Throw and Bottom of the Throw; an earlier fleet migration to Britain had seen The Coming of Princess Albyne [see Albyne]; her people were Geauntes, possibly accounting for the alleged presence of 'giants' before Brutus; note also in this connection that in the Old Testament the Amorites of Syria-Phoenicia-Palestine are described as ‘giants’, indicating a similar misunderstanding; giants are also associated with the megaliths [see Giants]; it has been proposed that stories of Brutus and Corineus were taken up by Homer, who called them Pirithous and Coronus Caineus [see Sources: Waddell]; Homer used stories anachronistically and with many mythological embellishments; Jack and the Beanstalk, also known at Jack the Giant-killer, is thought by some to be a folk memory of the battle of Duke Corineus with Gogmagog

Scota: this was the daughter of Egyptian pharoah Nekau I, 610-555 BC; she is said to have journeyed to the British Isles; from her name derives the Gaelic Scotia, hence Scots and Scotland; the burial place of Scota is said to be at Glenscota, about five miles south of Tralee in south-west Ireland

St George: patron saint of England, depicted with Cross of St George on shield or brestplate, and a dragon to slay, to save a king's daughter; the story in another version is that George was a Roman soldier and a Christian who was martyred on 23 April AD 303 for defying to the Emperor Diocletian’s face an edict to sacrifice to the pagan gods; the story of St George is said to be a tale brought back to Europe by the Crusaders; while George’s father was from Cappadocia in modern-day Turkey, the theory advanced by historian Edward Gibbon that the patron saint of England can be identified with a disreputable later character called George of Cappadocia, who died in AD 361, is not now regarded as tenable

'In 1969 the Vatican, with a greater regard for historical truth than for English sensibilities, removed him from the official calendar of saints.' (Bamber Gascoigne,  Encyclopedia of Britain, 1993)

The sketchiness of the Christian backstory has fostered a search for the real St George; King Gweirydd (‘George’; see Guiderius) of East Britain has been described as having received the Flag of St George from Joseph of Arimathea [More 3]; there has also been speculation by historian and linguist Laurence Waddell [see Laurence Austine Waddell] and others that St George was really the Sun god of the tin-trading Phoenicians, Bel; ‘Cappadocia’ is held to be key, being in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey; this is regarded as having been the cradle-land of the Hitto-Sumero-Phoenicians, who used the equal-armed red solar cross, +, as a symbol for the Divine Victory of God; the arms of the cross may represent tinder sticks used to generate sacred fire symbolic of the Sun; on Sumerian seals it is the Father-God who slays the Dragon; there is an apochryphal Book of Daniel in the Old Testament which has the story of ‘Bel and the Dragon’; Pharoah Akhenaten of Ancient Egypt had Syrio-Phoenician antecedents, apparently, possibly explaining his radical sun orientation and presence in his grandparents’ tomb of a red cross on a white background; Portugal, half-way house for maritime Phoenicians trading Cornish tin, also has St George as patron saint; fittingly, the longest unbroken peace between major nations is between England and Portugal; this dates from the Treaty of Windsor of 9 May 1386, the most enduring treaty between nations; Portugal is also the only European nation to share Britain's time zone; as difficult as St George has been to find historically, in Byzantine times a silver sheath was made to hold a piece of bone allegedly from the saint's arm; this relic found its way to Venice in the 1300s, being housed together with the sheath in a taller more elegant housing in St Mark's, the assemblage becoming the 'Reliquary Arm of St George'

Hereward the Wake: c1035-1072; Saxon resistance fighter against the invading Normans; ‘the Wake’ means ‘watcher’; his base was the Isle of Ely

Herne the Hunter: this is the ghost of a man who died saving King Richard II (reigned 1377-99) from a stag in Windsor Forest; the spectre is a horseman with antlered forehead

The Once & Future King: this is a reference to King Arthur, who will return to restore the Golden Age; Britain’s most distinctive contribution to world mythology is a renowned Christian monarch who drives back heathen invaders; the story is based on a real person of the second half of the AD 400s, who fought and beat cruel Saxon interlopers and their Pictish and Scottish allies in twelve pitched battles, winning a generation's reprieve for his land, the last province of the old Roman Empire to succumb to the rampaging barbarian hordes; in the legend are the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin – asleep now with the Thirteen Treasures of Britain – Queen Guinevere, Lancelot and the Holy Grail

'Somewhere in the Island a great captain gathered the forces of Roman Britain and fought the barbarian invaders to the death. Around him, around his name and his deeds, shine all that romance and poetry can bestow…It was only when Geoffrey of Monmouth six hundred years later was praising the splendours of feudalism and martial aristocracy that chivalry, honour, the Christian faith, knights in steel and ladies bewitching, are enshrined in a glorious circle lit by victory. Later these tales would be retold and embellished by the genius of Mallory, Spenser, and Tennyson…a great British warrior, who kept the light of civilisation burning against all the storms…If we could see exactly what happened we should find ourselves in the presence of a theme as well founded, as inspired, and as inalienable from the inheritance of mankind as the Odyssey or the Old Testament. Let us then declare that King Arthur and his noble knights, guarding the Sacred Flame of Christianity and the theme of a world order, sustained by valour, physical strength, and good horses and armour, slaughtered innumerable hosts of foul barbarians and set decent folk an example for all time.' (Winston S Churchill, A History of the English-speaking Peoples, Volume 1, The Birth of Britain, 1956, pp46 & 47) 

Fortunately we can see exactly what happened in that distant era, as the lineage, narrative, geography and chronology of the real King Arthur are fully available to us [see Arthur]; in the legend Merlin brings up Arthur; the young man's identity and destiny are disclosed when he alone is able to pull the regal sword from the stone

Robin Hood: robbing the rich to give to the poor; he was possibly the real-life Robert, Earl of Huntingdon; the Sheriff of Nottingham holds the most famous civic office in the world; also Maid Marian and the Merry Men

'The word ‘merry’, or ‘merrie’, is a corruption of ‘Mary’ – itself derived from the name of an ancient Middle Eastern goddess widely worshipped during the first millenium BC. She was the Sumerian deity Mari. A name composed of ‘Ama’ meaning mother, and ‘Rim’ to bear a child. Thus Mari signified a fruitful or fertile mother. In other words She was the Goddess of sexuality and procreation, and, as such, would naturally be associated with rituals of continuity and fertility.' (Ian McNeil Cooke, Journey to the Stones, 1996)

Dick Whittington & Cat: leaving the capital as failures, they ‘turned again’ on hearing Bow Bells, one to become Lord Mayor of London, the other to curl up in a chair in front of the fire and doubtless do a bit a mousing when the mood took him; the story is based on that of Sir Richard Whittington (c1352-1423)

Lady Godiva: c997-1067; this great lady threatened to ride naked through the city of Coventry to protest at the onerous taxes being levied on the townsfolk by her husband, Leofric, Earl of Mercia; he didn’t believe she would do it; she did; Lady Godiva, who became famous for her charitable works, is a heroine for all time to put-upon taxpayers; the name 'Peeping Tom' originates from later versions of the story in the 17th century, in which a tailor named Tom watches Lady Godiva, while other townsfolk avert their gaze to preserve the good lady's modesty

Female pope: 'Pope Joan' is said to have been a woman masquerading as a man, born early AD 800s; she reputedly reigned for two years as the Bishop of Rome under the name of John VIII, Anglicus, i.e. ‘of England’ and there is a bust of her/him at Sienna Cathedral; Pope Joan is said to have died in childbirth during a papal procession

Jack & the Beanstalk [see above, Gogmagog]

Loch Ness Monster: ‘Nessie’, an unidentified prehistoric monster, is one of the world’s most non-existent creatures, yet St Columba is said to have met a plesiosaur-like creature at Loch Ness in Scotland in AD 565; Nessie was named by naturalist Sir Peter Scott Nessiteras rhombopteryx, an anagram of ‘monster hoax by Sir Peter S’

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