King Arthur’s Raid on the Underworld : The Oldest Grail Quest | Pre-Loved

John Matthews


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The 9th century Welsh poem Preiddeu Annfwyn or The Raid on the Underworld ascribed to the 6th century poet, Taliesin, is one of the oldest and most enigmatic documents relating to the mythic hero Arthur that we still possess. It contains within it vital clues to the bardic Celtic mysteries.
The new translation by CaitlΓ­n Matthews, describes the descent of Arthur and his men on the ship Prydwen into the underworld region of Annwfyn in order to steal the wonder-working cauldron from the Lord of Annwfyn, this poem hides many secrets within its shimmering lines. The cauldron is one of the Thlysau or Treasures, hallowed otherworldly objects that are the source of illimitable power. Arthur’s quest for the cauldron of the underworld is a precursor of many more famous quests, while the cauldron itself is the forerunner of the Grail.

This poem provides essential insights into the ancestral mysteries and their guardians. The Lord of Annwfyn’s cauldron, the object of Arthur’s quest, is guarded by nine maidens whose breath warms the brew. These mysterious women are the British muses, the keepers of inspiration, known to Classical writers as the Nine Priestesses or Nine Witches of the Celtic world, through to the companions of Morgen, the Royal Virgin of Avalon and the Ladies of the Lake.

Other heroes have sought the cauldron through time, ancestors of whom even older songs are sung, and more seekers will follow, but it is not an easy quest. The seven Caers or Towers past which the ship sails, keep their own secrets and are protected by dark warriors who defend the underworld. Although Arthur voyages with three ship-loads of men packed into his vessel, only seven return. This chorus of `except seven’ punctuates the poem, recalling earlier voyages and other survivors who have journeyed into Annwfyn to bring the inspiration of the cauldron to this world. Arthur’s voyage into the otherworld is entirely consistent with an older Celtic quest tradition, that of the immrama or voyage myths, in which heroes encounter various otherworldly islands and their inhabitants.

The story underlying this poem of Arthur’s raid into Annwfyn does not stand alone, but appears in a variant account in the early medieval Welsh story, Culhwch ac Olwen, as well as being referenced in a fragmentary Welsh poem, Pa Gur or What Man? The book’s commentary uncovers the fuller story behind the Raid on Annwfyn to reveal the larger context of this most mysterious legend.

In this powerful new translation from renowned Celtic author CaitlΓ­n Matthews, the full-length commentary outlines the mystery at the heart of the poem, offering fresh perspectives on both the origins and the earliest story of Arthur and the quest for the mystical object known as the Grail.

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Dimensions 210 mm



Gothic Image Publications


Gothic Image Publications

Date of Publication

1 Nov 2008

By (author)

John Matthews


108, Illustrated with original full colour paintings