Gorsedd Arberth

Camp Hill Field, Narberth


There are two suggested locations for Gorsedd Arberth, where Pwyll watched Rhiannon riding across the landscape from the hill top and declared “there is some magic meaning here”, and from where Manawydan and Rhiannon saw the enchantment fall across the land of Dyfed, and where Manawydan met the Otherworld emissaries and succeeded in releasing Rhiannon and Pryderi from captivity. One of these locations is Crug Mawr near the estuary of the River Teifi. ‘Crug’ often signifies a mound or tumulus of prehistoric origin. This particular tumulus is also mentioned by Giraldus Cambrensis, writing at about the same time as the manuscripts of Y Mabinogi. He says that “A tumulus is to be seen on the summit of the aforesaid hill, and the inhabitants affirm that it will adapt itself to persons of all stature and that if any armour is left there entire in the evening, it will be found, according to vulgar tradition, broken to pieces in the morning.” Gerald uses the name Cruc Mawr and makes no mention of Gorsedd Arberth or any of the events described in the Mabinogi tale.

The other, more likely, location is at Camp Hill near the small town of Narberth, the site of an Iron Age enclosed hill fort now completely buried. On a quest to find it I was not hopeful. It is located on private land with no apparent access but I thought it might at least be possible to view it from a distance. But no view was possible from the main road below and I began to think that we should have attempted the view from farther away, perhaps from the ramparts of Narberth Castle overlooking it from a distance.  Then we came across a lane running up to a farm in what looked like the right direction. Not a public road, but we ventured up to see if we could get a view from there. We met a car coming down from the farmhouse . The driver stopped and asked what we wanted. At this point my partner inexplicably fell into the thorn hedge and gave a cry. The woman in the car suddenly changed her challenging attitude and looked concerned. Recovered, we explained what we were looking for. The woman visibly hesitated for a minute and then told us we could continue up the lane and take the gate through the farmyard and go on into the field. After she had driven off we did this and on the way I asked my partner what had happened to make her fall. She said she didn’t know but it felt like she was gently pushed.

The result was that we were able to spend some time alone in the field and absorb the atmosphere without fear of being challenged for trespassing. The photograph above is one I took after taking in the shape of the land, the low hill and the woodland beyond, where I imagined Rhiannon riding at her stately pace though no-one could catch her until she allowed Pwyll to do so. There is no visible trace of the Iron Age fort which has long since been covered in earth, though aerial photographs taken by archaeologists¤ show the outline of it. That such a place might still have been visible in medieval times when the Mabinogi story was set down, and that it would have had magical associations, is quite possible. That it could also have been a sidh, or place of transit to and from the Otherworld, would also explain it as the location of the events that the tale says occurred there. Certainly for me it is an epiphanic place both in the memory of my visit there and in the way I have been haunted by it ever since. So the photograph I took is like an ikon for religious contemplation. The visit was one of a number of exploratory pilgrimages I have undertaken, including a suggested location for the place in Glyn Cuch where Pwyll met Arawn, which was also a significant experience. But the visit to Camp Hill still retains its devotional focus after many years.

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¤ Referenced at : https://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/304260