The Celts and Saxons: A Barbarian Conspiracy

by Gjoll Hobkynsson

Many people in Western society are familiar with the legends of King Arthur and the quest for the grail. To the Christian and Pagan peoples alike he is claimed as an icon of spiritual values. There are many opinions about his origins and the academic debate will continue for as long as there are academics to debate the ins and outs of Arthurian lore. Historical records are unfortunately not very detailed in their description of this semi-mythological warlord and theories are circulating as to who it may have been in Welsh genealogical records.

Whatever the truth about King Arthur, it is difficult not to be impressed by this Celtic legend that has been incorporated into a Christian myth by Normans wanting to support any culture beside their enemies the Saxons. The Normans successfully invaded England in 1066 C.E. They were keen to undermine the Anglo-Saxon culture of the previous rulers. The Normans took the Arthurian legends to France where they were also popular among the Bretons. Brittany in Northwest France is a province taken back over by Welsh invaders and is a rare example of invading Celtic armies against the westward flow of European population pressure.

The Arthurian legends are popular among the modern Druidic orders especially the Welsh and Cornish. They are Nationalistic and see King Arthur as a saviour of the Brythonic people. It has even been suggested that Arthur is a sleeping lord who is waiting to be woken by the sound of supernatural horn. Upon waking from his long sleep Arthur ride with his knights to rid Britain of the Saxon invaders. Some say Arthur resides in the fairy otherworld where he is healing his wounds. As such he nearly becomes like an avatar and there are even some people who claim to be Arthur reincarnated. Merlin is a popular role model for modern Druids as well. But both Merlin and Morgan le Fay have been borrowed without asking by modern Wicca. Celtic Wicca is an entirely modern invention; the religion of the Celts was Druidic. Wicca is an Anglo-Saxon word. Although there were wise women and female druids, they were not called Wiccans.

Gawain the green knight, Lancelot, Queen Gwenhyfar and other characters are often related to other Celtic mythological archetypes that offer interesting glimpses into what Celtic religion could have been like before the influence and persecution from Christianity.

Now all of this is a lot of fun unless you happen to be a Saxon. It seems that the Angles, Saxons and Jutes are viewed in this mythology as a plague. They were barbarian raiders, uncultured and outside the Roman Empire and Romano-British civilization. A fair and just king named Arthur will rise again and wipe out the Saxon plague. So what does this mean exactly? If King Arthur reincarnates and starts relocating the Saxons then where are they going to go? Their original tribe-land has been taken over by other peoples. Let’s say we allow the fair and just king to commit a single case of genocide and all the Saxons are destroyed in England. (Hey didn’t we just have a war err police action in Eastern Europe to stop this sort of thing?) This does not mean they will have their country back. Having wiped out the Saxons is Arthur going to also kick out those who are of African or Asian descent?

It’s no fun being on the losing side. True the people of lower Germany including the Anglo, Saxons, Jutes and Frisians did move into land occupied by Romans in Britain, but this was 1,500 years ago. Surely they would have naturalised by now. True the English have dominated and oppressed their Celtic neighbours but this is a different group of people than the barbarian Saxons. Modern, white English people are a mixture of European bloodstock. The Danes, Normans, French and Germans have all migrated there at some time. The Celts followed exactly the same path when they migrated to the British Isles from Gaul, Western Germany and Spain. Irish mythology tells how the Celtic Milesians invaded Ireland from Spain, subjugating the Fir Bolg natives and previous invaders the Tuatha de Danann. The Tuatha de Danann are a semi-mythological race, who are often associated with the elves and the otherworld now. Fir Bolg is used to collectively describe three races: the Fir Bolg, the Fir Dhomhnann and the Gailion. This has been related to the Belgae, Dumnonii and the Gauls suggesting that Gallic Celts had settled from the continent possibly even passing through Southern Britain as those Celtic tribes were also recorded in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset. If so then Spanish, Milesian Celts invaded and took the sovereignty of Ireland away from Celts who were from Gaul and Belgium. The Tuatha de Danann could be associated with the Danes or a tribe from the Danube but as they are also associated with elves and Atlanteans we might be stretching reality a bit.

The Scotti from Northern Ireland invaded and destroyed the Picts of modern Scotland; very little of Pictish culture remains as it has been wiped out by the Celts. They were possibly non-Indo-European aboriginals of Britain and Ireland, being pushed into the mountains and wild lands when the Celts arrived.

So obviously there are cracks appearing in the Celtic wall of self-righteousness. These cracks become more prominent if we delve deeper into the mythology and history.
Who was King Arthur and what was his court like? There is no single answer to this question as we are dealing with a cross over point between historical fact and myth. Around the time of King Arthur, Britain was suffering after the Romans had pulled out of Britain in 407 A.D. the Britons had lived under the umbrella of the Roman Empire for over four centuries. In the southeast of the country there were many Empire citizens with a mixture of Roman and Romano- British blood. There were also the influences of the cultures used by the Romans as auxiliary soldiers and those that traded within the Empire. The Romano-British were soft from Roman wine and luxury, their population was low and they had many enemies. The Roman Empire was not universally popular in Arthur’s time. Sure it was respected for its organization and military power. It was a giant trading block with a huge army at its disposal. But now it was beginning to crumble. Internal rot had set in and its neighbours were beginning to get restless. In the end pressure from outside barbarians would break the Empire borders and seize control of the Western Empire.

It is probable that Britain retained many of the Roman ways even after the Empire did not protect them. There were many factions loyal to Rome and the system of roads, Villas and fortifications were used but not really maintained. There were also factions sympathetic to Celtic Nationalism especially in Wales and North Britain. Perhaps there were many powerful families all with political agendas and differing loyalties to Rome or an independent Britain. Whatever there was, the legends describe a story. A story in which a boy called Arthur united them all.

The Britons desperately needed this. They were being attacked on all sides. Irish pirates raided Wales and established colonies. The Scots and Picts were raiding in the north. Angles and Saxons plundered the east. So Arthur the general of a Romano-British force must fight enemies from Ireland, Scotland and the continent. Brythonic Celts fight against the scourge of Goidelic Celts, yet it is only the Saxon that we normally associate as Arthur’s enemies.

A united effort by Anglo-Saxons, Picts and Irish Scotti should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the historical record. The Romans had previously complained of a barbarian conspiracy against the influence of Rome. It was because of repeated attacks using guerrilla hit and run tactics that Hadrian’s Wall was built. The Irish Gaelic, Pictish and Anglo-Saxon heathens had put their differences aside to fight a common enemy: Roman colonial expansion. They must have had some success because Britain was deemed to be too difficult to warrant continued garrisoning by Roman troops. It is more likely that Arthur’s court was heavily influenced by Roman civilization. This would have included the growing Christian faith. Arthur may have marked some sort of transition period between Celtic paganism and Christianity. Certainly kingship rites still had pagan elements in their symbolism. His queen Gwenhyfar retires to become a nun at the end of the Arthurian cycle. Thus the sovereignty of Britain as symbolised by Arthur’s marriage to the land and the Queen, has become part of the Christian church. In contrast the Anglo-Saxons were purely Heathen. They struck fear in the British because to them the Saxons were barbarians. They had dark religious practices and could not be trusted. If we go back further in time the tribal distinctions blur. Roman historians mapped Europe naming all those to the southwest of the Rhine as Celts, and all those on the other side as Germanii. They did not take into account the fact that some of tribes like the Belgae considered themselves to have Germanic and Celtic influences on their culture.

The ancient Germans and Celts had many things in common so culturally it might be more correct to group them all together as Northwest Europeans rather than separate them politically. Seen in this context the Arthurian legends read more like a battle between heathen Europeans and the remnants of Christian, Romanised Europeans. If this is the case, then what side are you on? Do you support the side of the Holy Roman Empire or the side of Heathen guerrillas? One of the heathen tribes that are Arthur’s enemy is the Angles. They were a Germanic tribe who possibly took their name from the Germanic god-hero Ing. The rune Inguz, a rune of fertility and growth, represents the god Ang, Ing or Ingvi-Frey. Tacitus mentions the Angli as one of the tribes who worship the goddess Nerthus. Both Frey and Nerthus through her masculinized form Njord, are associated with the Vanir. The Vanir are the gods of the elves, crop fertility and love.

Compare the Germanic Ing or Frey to the Irish Celtic love-god Anghas. Both Anghas and Frey suffer from sickness when they yearn for a woman they love. Anghas and Ing might share a common archetype demonstrating the similarities and exchange between Celtic and Germanic heathen beliefs. There are many other examples. Not all Anglo-Saxons came as warriors. In fact archaeological evidence does not show the burning and destruction normally associated with battle and razing. Instead there may have been more of an abandonment of Roman villas as they became increasingly run down. This created a void that was later filled by warriors and farmers migrating because of the population pressures on the continent. There is even evidence that Saxon and Briton settlements may have coexisted peacefully. Even after Arthur’s death at the Battle of Badon, there were still alliances made between Christian British kings and Pagan Saxon kings in Northumbria. If Arthur does come reincarnate he is going to have a hard time sorting out the Britons from the others. Many of the Anglo-Saxons would have taken Celtic wives creating a genetic nightmare for the rightful king. Similarly the Welsh have mixed with Irish and Viking colonists. The Saxons lost control of Britain in 1066 C.E. so Arthur will have to face those of Norman and other European cultures as well. Then again what is Arthur’s policy going to be toward multinational companies?

England’s Celtic neighbours remember the injustices done to them by the Old Anglo-Saxons but fail to acknowledge their own invasions and the population flow westward from the continent toward the British Isles. England is not made up of Saxons or Sassenach, anymore than it is Norman, Dane or Celtic. The Industrialised North of England has suffered the same treatment as other unfortunate victims of the Southern dominated Empire. Although there is a history of violence in some areas, people should realise there is a longer history of an alliance between Gael, Pict and Saxon against the outside forces of the Rome and Christianity. This sort of cultural imperialism should be resisted, as it is the common enemy against free thought and reason. The political forces of Rome are still with us today, they have just taken different forms and are no longer limited to one culture.

Long live the barbarians!