Posts Tagged ‘excalibur’

a grave & english odyssey

August 26, 2009

After latterly putting the geek into Greek, I thought I’d prance along a similar vein, & put the boo-ya into Boudicaa, the woah into woad, the er, colon into colonia. In fact, those are not only all crap, they are also of the wrong time period. For I have recently been larking about on the plains of Uffington, the site of the 5,700 year old bit of dirt in the shape a bit like a tomb. Yes, that’s right folks. I have literally been to Wayland’s Smithy. Which is right next to Montly Burnsy.

No. Obviously, I’m lying. Wayland’s Smithy is so called because of it somehow being of significance to the Saxon blacksmith (smithy…) god, Wayland/Wolund. It’s so clear now, right.

Nope. Wrong. It’s still just a few bits of rock next to a long bit of dirt. Basically the barrow – which was found to have bodies in in the early 20th century – dead bodies, that is – was probably a pre-Saxon burial mound. The Saxons then presumably bowled along of their own free will & wont, & renamed it something completely different – with the stone entrance perhaps the doorway into Wayland’s gifte shoppe.

It still isn’t very interesting. Apart from the bastardized name the Saxons gave it. &  it’s right by the very po-mo looking white horse on the hill in Uffington, so why not go there, at least you get something pretty to stamp all over with your scruffy trainers. Or Dragon’s Hill just below the horse, with its bald head-patch, where the blood of the dragon St. George allegedly slew spilled. Go there, there’s gore there. Gore & chalk. Just stones at Wayland’s Smithy.

But, where Wayland’s Smithy becomes, I think, more interesting than the white horse, & more violent than Dragon Hill, is the legend of the sword everybody knows better for being lodged reluctantly in another bloody stone. Excalibur was ‘forged’ at Wayland’s Smithy. Wayland – first appearing in an Old Norse poem, Volundarkitha – like a Norse Haphaestos , allegedly crafted the sword in the Berkshire Downs. kvlt.

But why were the Anglo-Saxons concerning themselves with myths that are essentially Celtic… & why set up shop in the earthy tombs of some rich dead bloke…?

Unanswering, cryptic chamber.

The minute, caved-in, blocked up, graffiti ridden (for it’s a neolithic structure not-popular enough to warrant a stringy fencing), triturated, aged stone door-way is still clearly a stone door-way. It’s quite easy – especially, I imagine on a misty winter evening – to picture a deranged bearded smith, hunched & maniacally assaulting a stabby bit of iron.

So, nevermind your silly, Turner Prize lines of chalk in the hillside (yeah, I’m making a habit of carelessly snubbing other cool bits of history just to make mine look better). Walk 10minutes along the ridgeway to old Wayland’s Smithy. There won’t be anyone there. Except maybe an imp hard at work just inside the door.

j.

wayland's smithy