|Creative Commons photo|
This funny statue is of King Bladud, founding father of Bath, it has a date of 1699, but is thought to replace an earlier effigy of a guardian of the city. This legendary figure gives credence to several stories, though it is not always wise to believe Geoffrey of Monmouth tales (1130 AD)! But that does not mean that Bladud was a complete myth, there are earlier stories of this Celtic king. Where to start, the story goes he was sent to Athens to be taught, catching leprosy there, so on his return back to Somerset he is found herding pigs thereby the story of the pigs wallowing in the hot mud of Bath which then cured his leprosy. Or the fact that he made a pair of wings and tried to fly, as the following photo shows, or has Icarus the Greek god somehow got into the tale?
Rob Stewart argues that Bladud or Beldud within the storytelling built a temple to Minerva, also called Belisma, apparently Minerva is closely related to Brigidda, or the Celtic Irish Brigid as we know her, which leads to the term 'bright' 'light' or 'shining' and that Bladud crashed on the Temple of Apollo, the god of the sun. If we were going to go into the etymology of Sulis, it does have parallels with Sol/Solis the Latin word for sun.
Here I must add a note, for up on the downs above Bath, the gold 'sun disc' had been found in one of the Bronze Age barrows, so an old religion still at this sanctuary of the hot springs perhaps?
Stewart goes on to argue, that Sulis is The Eye of the Gap, (the 'eye' from which the waters come) and the title of his book. But also goes on to say that a Latin word Suillis means 'pertaining to pigs'. So of course here we have the famous magical Celtic boars leading the king to the healing waters, which comes from the Otherworld/underworld (or from beneath the ground).
I shall play with words further down but for the moment tell one of the tales, we have a tale of a Celtic king/hero, morphed into the Roman/Greek tradition of gods, goddesses and heroes. The Twrch Trwyth of Wales is a good start to an understanding of the part of the Bladud tale, and of magical boars that lead you to death, warfare maybe...
Stewart says that there should be three parts to Bladud's tale, the first of course when he arrives back from Greece suffering from leprosy and is led by the pigs to an alder moor, this is placed in Swainswick, a small village outside Bath; another tale tells of him being employed as a swine herder by a local farmer, and that he enticed the pigs who were diseased by laying a trail of acorns for them to the hot waters so that they may be cured and in turn he was also cured
The second part of the story is missing according to Stewart, this is where the hero battles with the monster with aid of the goddess Sulis and wins.
The third part has our hero who now has magical powers being able to fly from the Temple of Apollo and being killed in the attempt, this can be interpreted as winter approaching and killing - the sun.
The various ways of spelling Bladud are Blaidydd, Bladud, Bladuth, Baldud, Beldud Bladus Bledus, spelling was after all during the medieval period a slightly haphazard affair.
The root of the word Bla, Bal, or Bel was an ancient word apparently for the god of light or fire.
As for the second part of the word Stewart gives the following possibilities.... Dud
DYDD: Welsh - Day
DUD: Gaelic - A word or sound/gloomy and black
DIA: Irish and Gaelic - a god
From the Welsh Dydd derives...
DYDDIO: to judge or reconcile
DYDDIWR: Mediator or arbitratot
Another possibility (and we can see where Stewart is going with this one)
DRUWID or DERWYDD: a modern interpretation
So that is how theorising goes ;) are we any wiser at the end of the tale, did the translation tumble through the centuries, being re-interpreted again and again to fit into the tales of the storytellers, but are we then to believe that Bladud was a druid at this religious Iron Age sanctuary before the Roman baths, who knows.
Information taken from The Waters of the Gap by R.J.Stewart