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Anglo-Saxon Britain

Meonware Supporting Notes

by David Slaughter, 2 March 2008

Part 1 Part 2

Part 1: The first wave of Jutes

With the rise of the Merovingian rulers in Gaul and the former Roman province being peopled with new barbarian populations, settlement for the Saxons south of the Rhine Delta was no longer an inviting option.

However, their own ancestral lands were coming under increasing pressure, not least from sea flooding. Therefore, once Vortigern had allowed Germanic mercenaries into Britain, the opportunity for Angles and Saxons had to be taken. It would seem that such pressing problems would not have driven the warriors of Jutland. As adventurers, with Britain in the throes of a crisis, they availed themselves of the chance to establish a new territories on the Isle of Wight and in Hampshire by founding settlements among the beleaguered Britons.

The Jutish leaders perhaps eventually elected a king. It is contended here that by this time Ambrosius Aurelianus would have taken the helm of a Romano-British state whose existence was threatened on all fronts. He motivated the Britons to take up arms and fight, inspiring young British warriors. The phenomenal success of his military campaign was to enter legend as the twelve battles of King Arthur, who was probably a battle leader, perhaps called Artorius.

There is no documented history to substantiate the idea, but it is feasible that part of the new British sword power was turned against the early Jutish immigrants in order to subdue them and restore Romano-British rule. Maybe it is worth noting in this context that there might have been a rebellion, following the British triumph at Mount Badon, in the upper Thames Valley.

The reaction of the Britons was to drive every settler from the region. We can only surmise on this, of course, and unfortunately, the lamentations of Gildas shed no light on these matters, but according to Bede England was won by right of conquest.

In the South, the irreversible breakthrough came [first] with the West Saxon capture of Salisbury in 552 [and then the defeat of the three cities in 577].

The Moor Woman brewing

The Moor Woman's brew is the mist. She tellsa tale about will o' the whisps in one of Hans Andersen's stories. His Moor Woman clearly derives from the myths told to him by old women during his boyhood. Perhaps in Iron Age timesa similarwoman was worshipped asan earth goddess by the Bog People of Jutland.

Conjectural derivation of the Meon Valley name

The derivation of the name could be Celtic, as many river names in England can still be labelled with their modern Welsh equivalents. Bede gives the name as Mean when referring to the Meonware. As Welsh has come down to us today, there could be four possible candidates, listed here in alphabetical order:

MAEN (pronounced something like 'mine'), meaning stone, which would compare with the River Gorlech = rocky.

MEHYN (pronounced with the last syllable stressed), meaning a place, which would compare with the River Gafenni (Welsh spelling) referring to a smithy.

MENA (pronounced as 'menna'), which is a personal name and would compare with the River Elan.

MWYN (pronounced like 'moo-in as a dipthong), meaning gentle, which would compare with the River Tawe = silent. Abertawe is Swansea in Welsh.

Perhaps the most favourable candidates are the words MWYN, since a number of river names are descriptive in Welsh, and MENA.

The name, assuming it was used, might have paired with the appellation of another river flowing into the Channel. The Eastern Rother, further down the coast, was at one time called the Limen. The older name might have derived from the Welsh Lli Mena = Mena's Flood, referring to the strength of the tide pulling out and flooding back into the Rother. MENA therefore seems to be the best choice.

Also, the elements of Bede's Mean are easily traced back to MENA. Possibly it was the name Afon Mena which became the River Mean (said as if bisyllabic), and over generations the Meon, which is the source of the name Meonware.

Cerdic Elsing or Ceretic ab Elised?

Was the maternal uncle of the Jutish Stuf and Wihtgar, Cerdic Elsing or Ceretic ab Elised? Was their mother the daughter of Elsa Elsing, or actually the daughter of a British aristocrat?

Although Cerdic is often considered to have been the son of a Saxon nobleman and a Briton, the conjecture put forward in this note is that he might have been the natural son of a British aristocrat whose mistress was a Saxon. Indeed, Cerdic might have been represented in Arthurian legend as Sir Mordred, the king's son by incest.

Following this argument through, the British aristocrat, supposed as Elised here, might have had two children by his Saxon concubine, a daughter, born (possibly) about 467 and Cerdic, born (possibly) about 473. If this is what happened, then both his children would have been seen as blemished by being half barbarian.

Ceretic could have had a grudge as a result of such discrimination, although this is only conjecture. However, let us suppose for a moment that these circumstances were historical actuality. Cerdic would have grown up bilingual and well acquainted with both British and Saxon culture. He would have been baptised into the British church, and later have trained for combat with Elised's teulu, or personal warriors.

Yet, taking the ideas cautiously introduced here, by 495 Ceretic is recorded as marshalling an attack against the Britons. As the new leader of the Thames Valley Gewisse, Ceretic was perhaps about twenty two years old. Presuming his father to have been a Briton, he had early committed his loyalties to his mother's race and their heathen view of the world, preferring to be part of the new and vigorous Germanic scene.

This conjecture brings another perspective on the possible maternal relatives of Stuf and Wihtgar, bringing with it the possibility that their mother's family might have been of mixed blood. This is illustrated below:

Cerdic's possible family ties
Conjectural table showing Cerdic's possible family ties

The Eel Breeder's visit

One of the characters in Hans Andersen's 'Story from the Sand Dunes', set in West Jutland. Here the fishermen used to roof their wooden huts with turf and heather, no doubt in the same manner as their Jutish forefathers, many of whom settled in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight during the fifth and sixth centuries.

 

 

     
Images are free from copyright. Text copyright David Slaughter, BA Hons, ATC (Sussex), Blue Robe Order of the Welsh Gorsedd. An original feature for the History Files.