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Jun 4, 2016

16th May 2016

Where is Avalon?

Avalon is said to be an island "set in the western sea" where Arthur was taken after his death.

These are the essentials. You can forget all that Arthur is not-dead and is coming back stuff - we are talking of history here, not of the supernatural.

I say Iona was Avalon.

Iona is set in the Western Sea and was the burial place of the historical Arthur Mac Aedan’s family.  

There is a fair wheen of other evidence (anent the name, the church and the women who took Arthur to Avalon, for example) but I am sticking to the essentials here.

If anyone knows of a more likely Avalon than Iona, let me know.

Here are three alternatives:

Oxford Dictionary of Celtic Mythology – “… [Avalon] usually thought to lie in the western seas but sometimes identified with Glastonbury.” Note that ‘but’. That ‘but’ is there because Glastonbury is inland; that is, Glastonbury is not an island. This is usually explained by claiming that Glastonbury was marshier then than it is now – but this is bunkum. Besides, Glastonbury has no Arthur, far less a reason why any hypothetical Arthur might have been buried there.

Geoffrey Ashe in his The Discovery of King Arthur says “… the real Avalon is in Burgundy where Arthur’s career ends...” but “...his remains might have been brought back later for re-interment in [Glastonbury].” Glastonbury, Geoffrey Ashe says, "Glastonbury was not far from being an island early in the Christian era, when the water level was different.”  Note that “not far from being an island”. That is, Glastonbury was not an island. Not everyone is as honest as Geoffrey Ashe. Remember, Glastonbury has no ‘Arthur’. Geoffrey Ashe’s Arthur is a man called Riothamus who fought and died in France.

The estimable Stuart McHardy in his The Quest for Arthur says “...there is a good location for Avalon [in Scotland] within the environs of the [River] Forth… the Isle of May…” Besides the fact that the Isle of May is in the eastern, not the western sea there is nothing to connect it with an historical Arthur. On the same page Stuart McHardy says “we have a model [for the burial of Arthur] in Scottish historical practice in the Isle of Iona.”  Like W.F. Skene, Queen Victoria’s Historiographer Royal, who came so close so often, Stuart McHardy hears the echoes of the evidence but does not go on to make, what I think is, the obvious connection - Iona is Avalon.

In my book Iona was not a model for Avalon, Iona is Avalon - it is an Occam ’s Razor thing.