King Arwald the Last Celtic King of England
Over the past few months I have been researching ancient myths and legends of the Isle of Wight (UK) to turn them into children’s stories. The aim is to breathe new life into these legends and keep them loved and alive for generations to come. This project, funded by the Heritage Lottery, has profoundly captured my imagination – not least the legend of King Arwald who was the last Pagan King of England.
This little island was the last stronghold for paganism, protected for several centuries as the rest of England were put to the sword or forced to convert to Christianity. Eventually in 686 BC the island was invaded and a mass genocide occurred. Bodies were left to rot on the ground, families lay together where they were slain . Ravens and wolves picked their bones clean.
The Celtic community had thrived here for generations. There is a ridge crossing the island that contains many ancient burial tumuli and some remaining standing stones from what were considered sacred circles. There was a profound loss of life, of a whole culture, and the knowledge they had acquired by living in harmony with nature was lost.
As I explored deeper into the legend of this known last King, I discovered that many artefacts from the slaughter have been preserved, including what is probably the oldest known ancient wand carved in unknown symbols. King Arwald himself died in the battle along with his Queen, however his brother made it to the mainland where he was captured, tortured made to convert to Christianity and then executed. Later he was made into a Saint in recognition of how bravely and fearlessly the islanders fought the invasion. . Saint Arwal’s day is celebrated on the 22nd April each year. King Alfred the Great was the son of Arwald’s sister and his lineage can be traced through to our current queen Elizabeth.
The legend didn’t end with Arwald’s death – the local legend states that the King and Queen were buried in separate barrows – many miles apart. The reason for this distance being a prophecy that if they ever come back together it will be the end of the Holy Roman Empire and the rise once again of the Druids. It is said the island even had a druid university where people came to take part in many years of study.
I started to research where the King and Queen were buried but it proved to be a challenge. So many Barrows exist across this island and those are only the ones we know about. Eventually I tracked the Kings Barrow, which is hidden away in a private woodland and not very often visited or even widely known about. I spent some time meditating and drumming there. On one occasion I sensed someone behind me and when I turned round there was a very tall, stockily built hooded figure of a man. I sensed only protection so he gave me no fear. He stepped back into the bushes in order not to frighten me. I thought of him as the Kings Protector.
A large Oak tree has fallen across Kings Barrow with its ‘arms’ outstretched and wrapped round it as if to protect it. This figure came from the roots of that oak. When I examined the tree there is a large hole that goes down amongst the roots. Over the years other trees, bushes and a lot of nettles and bramble have also swaddled it.
This photo was taken in a completely different locality whilst I was dowsing for a lost dog. I followed the direction of the rods and eventually ended up on some privately owned land (with owners consent). The elderly owner did share the history of the area with me which is far more remarkable than I have time to explain here without going off on a complete tangent. There is no archaeological recording of this locality, unlike many barrows and standing stones across the island.
In this photo, like many, but not all of you - I too can see the hooded figure of a ‘protector’. Only this one is female and not male and is kneeling. Unlike the hooded male protector I did not sense her or even see her – not until I looked at the photographs. There is an unrecorded barrow near by this stone which stands about five feet out of the ground. ,. There has been much speculation over which of the many many barrows is indeed Queens Barrow. Nine are recorded as being Queens Barrow some of which even have moats around like you would expect with Royalty.
I believe it is likely this is the missing Queens Barrow. The veil is getting thinner my friends. More meditation and drumming required. Take care and many many thanks for your insights which have helped me no end.
Sadly still no sign of the missing dog.