Arthurian England Tour Part 5: Cadbury and a Tarot Writing Spread

“The rain may never fall til after sundown. By eight the morning fog must disappear.” – “Camelot” from the musical of the same name

The earthenwork ramparts around Cadbury castle

The earthenwork ramparts around Cadbury castle

Learner and Loewe obviously didn’t have Cadbury Castle in Somerset in mind when they write these lyrics, because not only did it rain on us, it stormed and HAILED when we were at the top. Cadbury is one of many places thought to possibly be the actual location of Camelot. It was certainly the home of someone important in Arthurian times. That much we know from archaeology.

The path up to the castle. That's Jamie, our guide.

The path up to the castle. That’s Jamie, our guide.

You get to the castle by walking up a steep hill through some trees. When you get to the top, the view is unbelievable. It’s one of those things that photos will never do justice, no matter how panoramic our cameras get. You can see for miles in every direction, even to Glastonbury Tor. Whoever lived there would have known of any invading army long before they got anywhere near the castle. And it’s well defended, too, ringed by five earthenwork ramparts, which are still impressive today. At the time, there likely would have been wooden stake walls (possibly some dry stone walls) to defend in addition to the earthen banks, making it no doubt a formidable sight.

A view from the walls. No army is going to do a sneak attack on this castle!

A view from the walls. No army is going to do a sneak attack on this castle!

Our guide, Jamie, told us that land behind the hill was thought to have been the real Round Table, and is the area Guinevere brought to Arthur as part of her dowry. I’ve not heard that about this location before, but I have heard a similar theory about land south of Stirling in Scotland. But, if it is true about this land near Cadbury and if we assume Cadbury was Camelot, then Arthur’s marriage to Guinevere certainly makes strategic sense.

Another shot of the ramparts. That's hail in the photo.

Another shot of the ramparts. That’s hail in the photo.

The plan was for us to walk all around the top rampart to really take in the view, both inside and outside of the castle walls. We did that for maybe 10 minutes. Judging from the land on top of the hill fort, the castle would have been massive. I really wish I could have seen it in its glory. But we hardly had time to take it in before the rain and hail got so bad we had to turn around to take cover in the trees sheltering the path back to the car.

The slippery, muddy path on the way down.

The slippery, muddy path on the way down.

The path was very muddy and slick, with rivulets of water running down the hill. We were soaked to the bone. A normal person might have been upset by this, but I thought it was cool, since in my pivotal scene at Cadbury, it’s raining. This gave me real-life knowledge of how hard it would have been to flee the castle in the rain. I wonder how it would have been on horseback. Easier? Harder?

If I didn’t already have my books based around Camelot being elsewhere, I would locate it at Cadbury. I haven’t done full research into most of the other possible locations, but Cadbury’s proximity to other Arthurian places like Glastonbury and Tintagel and strong defenses make it a logical choice. Then again, I’m looking at this from a fiction writer’s point of view, not a historian’s, so many people may disagree, and that’s fine. But as the muses would have it, I had already written Cadbury as a major setting in the second book, so it will still be well represented in my series.

Tarot for Writers

Cadbury Inn

Camelot Inn

Before we went up to Cadbury, we ate lunch at the Camelot Inn, which I highly recommend if you’re ever in the area. (They have a fabulous apple and pear cider, the equal of which I have yet to find.) Since we had nothing else to do while we waited out the storm, one of our tour members, Linda (founder of Global Spiritual Studies), taught us a tarot exercise for writing. It can be used to plot a whole book or for a specific scene you’re having trouble with. You separate out our major arcana cards, the minor arcana cards and the court cards. Then, without looking at them, you choose:

  1. One major arcana card for the theme.
  2. Court cards for your major characters.
  3. Three minor arcana cards for the plot.
I just liked this sign, which is at the base of the path leading up to the castle. The inn is just across the street.

I just liked this sign, which is at the base of the path leading up to the castle. The inn is just across the street.

The major arcana card will give you a deeper sense of the theme you’re working with (consciously or subconsciously). The court cards will give you insight into hidden aspects of your characters. Then, with the three minor arcana spread out in the order in which you drew them, you start telling a story that begins “once upon a time” using the symbolism of the card.

I’m making this up off the top of my head, but let’s say you have The Lovers as your theme card, with a young female main character (represented by the Page of Cups) and a young man (represented by the King of Cups). You draw the Ace of Cups, Three of Swords and Eight of Swords.

You would say something like, “Once upon a time, a young girl leaves home (the optimism of the Page of Cups), determined to find a husband (Ace of Cups = beginning of relationships). She meets a handsome young man, but then learns he is not what he seems (duplicity of the King of Cups) and is heartbroken (Three of Swords). She feels powerless to escape her situation (Eight of Swords), but knows there must be a solution.” And then you would write the story from there. Or if you have an established plot already, you would look to see how the definitions of those cards may impact it.

(Feel free to disagree with the interpretation, as it’s only a quickly written example, not meant to teach the meaning of the cards. I used this site to help with the card interpretation: http://www.ata-tarot.com/resource/cards/) I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems like this exercise could really be beneficial.

What are your theories on the location of Camelot? Is Cadbury in the running for you? What do you think about the tarot exercise? Do you plan to use it? Have you used anything similar?

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4 thoughts on “Arthurian England Tour Part 5: Cadbury and a Tarot Writing Spread

  1. Cadbury would definitely be in the running for me…what with the River Camel flowing nearby! Interestingly there was a bronze age ‘boat’ burial found on the top…pointing toward the distant green shadow of Glastonbury Tor.

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