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King Arthur'S Raid On The Underworld : The Oldest Grail Quest [Hardcover]

John Matthews
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 20.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product Description

Review

I applaud the fruits of scholarship which have exposed the themes and underlying coherence in this most difficult of, enigmatic of texts. The experience is overwhelming; a kaleidoscope of glittering images and correspondences. This book is very welcome, setting out the themes clearly and leading us gently through a poem which has never been satisfactorily dealt with until now. As a bonus, the presentation is wonderful beautifully laid out on thick paper and with stuning full colour iullustrations. It really must be seen and stroked. In this format, even the timid would-be scholar is led gently through the commentary which outlines the mystery at the heart of Taliesin's great poem.

Penny Billington, --Touchstone, December 2008

Review

This is a treasure trove of a book, beautifully presented and packed with artistry, information and tales of wondrous deeds. The main subject of the book is a famously enigmatic early Welsh poem commonly known as 'the Spoils of Annwn' and attributed to the legendary Taliesin. An introduction by John Matthews lets us in gently with a description of the poem's subject matter, author and background.
The poem itself is printed ina new translation by Caitlín Matthews, with fabulous facing pages of artwork by Meg Falconer. These painting s are very special and create an evocative synergy with the text. This is the inspirational heart of the book, which can be returned to time and again.
The following chapter Uncovering the Treasures; is a line by line study of hte poem by Caitlín in which she gives detailed explanations of the characters, places and themes, drawing on nurmerous sother source materials and cross referencing with relevant stories from Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Specific themes are the Descent to the Underworld, the Cauldron/Grail and the Great Prisoner.
The Welsh text is then presended on pages facing the English text followed by anappendicx outlining the themnes of other related stories, such as the Death of Cu Roi mac Daire and Culhwch and Olwen.
Thje book is a facinating journey into our island's earliest recorded culture; an oral culture written down centuries after the stories were fist composed. Caitlín, John and Meg have combined in a wonderul way to create an ambience in which these ancient tales resonate anew. My best commendation for this book is the loss I felt when I had to hand it on to another reviewer. I want it back!

Mike Jones

From the Publisher

This sumptuously-produced book is adorned by 9 beautiful pictures illustrating parts of the poem and the Caers or Towers which Arthur and his warriors visit. Every bit as intricate and full of secrets as the poem itself, these haunting pictures are by acclaimed artist Meg Falconer, who has studied the meanings of the poem for nearly 20 years. Meg's incandescent style and many-textured painting draws the viewer ever deeper into the mystery of the poem in ways that representational illustration can never achieve.

King Arthur's Raid on the Underworld is the first full-length exploration of an extraordinary mystery poem, one of the last surviving remains of the ancient Celtic traditions.

From the Author

I have long wanted to present a fuller edition of the Preiddeu Annwfyn poem. Although I made an earlier translation which appeared in Mabon and the Guardians of Celtic Britain, I went back to study the Raid on Annwn poem and create a translation that is both representative of the text and readable on its own merits. Its allusive lines bear more than one interpretation as the reader will find, hinting at the skill of the poet to convey meaning on more than one level. I am very grateful for the opportunity to share my studies with my readers.

About the Author

Caitlín Matthews is the author of over fifty books, including Mabon and the Guardians of Celtic Britain, King Arthur and the Goddess of the Land and The Celtic Book of the Dead. She is internationally renowned for the depth and clarity of her research into the Celtic and ancestral traditions. She is a co-founder of The Foundation for Inspirational and Oracular Studies, dedicated to the oral and sacred arts. Caitlín teaches all over the world and has a shamanic practice in Oxford.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The search for wisdom, knowledge, inspiration, spiritual unity and physical healing are universal themes that are replicated within the Preiddeu Annwfyn. The poem is uttered by the mouth of Taliesin, himself an initiate of Caer Sidi, the liberator of a cauldron's power, one who has been reborn of the goddess Ceridwen and who has spent his term in the captivity of Caer Sidi. With the omniscience of the twice-born initiate and the assured tone of one who sees both sides of reality, the words of this poem come to us through his witness. We do not have to accept his testimony in a literal way. Indeed, it is essential that we do not, but rather come at it from a more universal direction.
Eternal words and poetic metaphors are the prophetic province of spiritual understanding, which is a world away from conspiracy theories and the kind of literal-minded detection that assails us whenever anything ancient or mysterious is mentioned in our time. As with the mystery religions of the Mediterranean, the knowledge given by the cauldron of Arthur's search is not cerebral, nor rational, but of that deeper gnosis, to be comprehended in the cells of the body, the core of the heart, the stillness of the mind and the circle of the soul. It is a quest that is not for everyone, for the cauldron will only feed the courageous. The gift is not for those who will hide or despise it, but only available to those who are actively walking their spiritual path. It is not exclusively for the benefit of an elite or for a mere individual, but for the collective welfare that this quest is undertaken. This is what is intended by Bran the Blessed's words, `He who would be a chief, let him be a bridge.' To whom more is given, more is required, when it comes to leadership.
The quest is dangerous. There is much to confuse us in the Caers of Annwfyn. Few return or `rise up' from any of the Caers, for they have been enchanted by their surroundings. As on the immram of Maelduin, where three of his fellow shipmates become unable to leave the islands they visit, the warriors of Arthur might become overtaken with intoxication if they carouse in Caer Feddwit, become benighted in the dark silences of Caer Wydyr, turned around by the revolvings of Caer Pedryfan, distanced by the frustrations of Caer Goludd, unable to see the wood for the trees in Caer Ochren or beguiled by the attractions of Caer Fandwy.
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