“The Battle of the Wood of Celyddon” or “The Battle of the Caledonian Forest”
Latin: Silva Caledoniae
Caledonian Forest, Wood of Celyddon
A legendary ancient woodland mentioned in various medieval Welsh and Arthurian texts. It is often depicted as a magical and mystical forest, filled with wonders and mysteries, and being the home to various magical creatures, such as fairies, spirits, and mythical beasts. The exact location of Cat Coit Celidon is a matter of debate and interpretation.
One of the most famous stories connected to Cat Coit Celidon is the legend of King Arthur’s hunt for a giant boar. According to the medieval Welsh tale Culhwch and Olwen, the young hero, Culhwch, seeks to marry Olwen, the daughter of the giant Ysbaddaden. Arthur and his warriors undertake a quest to capture the Twrch Trwyth, a monstrous boar whose capture is one of the tasks set by Ysbaddaden to win Olwen’s hand.
In the same tale, Cat Coit Celidon is mentioned in connection with the Thirteen Treasures of Britain. Among these treasures, Arthur’s huntsman, Mabon son of Modron, wields the hunting dog Drudwyn, which is said to be tethered to a chain secured by a marble block in the Wood of Celyddon.
In Culwch, the forest is described as being located near the River Tweed, suggesting a possible connection to the Scottish borders. In other interpretations, it is associated with forests in Wales. Cat Coit Celidon is often interpreted symbolically as a representation of the wilderness and untamed nature. It is seen as a place of adventure, challenge, and initation in the Arthurian legends.
In the poem Y Gododdin, attributed to the sixth-century Welsh poet Aneirin, there is a reference to Cat Coit Celidon in the context of a heroic battle. Y Gododdin is a poem that celebrates the bravery and valor of the warriors of the Gododdin, a Celtic people who lived in what is now Scotland.
The specific mention of Cat Coit Celidon is as follows in original Welsh.
“When they pressed upon Celyddon
Kan gwnaeth trin Celyddon
Ceirdd iaith vael a cheidwadon
In the terrors of the plain and of conflict”
In this verse, the warriors of the Gododdin are described as “pressing upon Celyddon” during a battle. The term Celyddon is synonymous with Caledonian and is likely a reference to the Caledonian Forest. The poem Y Gododdin mourns the tragic loss of these heroic warriors who fought valiantly in a battle against the Angles at the Battle of Catraeth (thought to be near modern-day Catterick, North Yorkshire).
Cat is a Welsh word that translates to battle or fight, signifying a conflict or struggle; Coit, meaning wood or forest; Celidon is believed to be a variation of the Old Welsh term Celyddon, which means Caledonian. The term Caledonian Forest is often used in English to refer to the ancient woodland in Scotland.
Caledonian Forest | The Legend of King Arthur