But the casting of Excalibur into Dozmary Pool is very likely an echo of a Celtic votive custom from the distant past. Archaeologists have found hundreds of swords in lakes associated with Celtic tribal lands throughout Europe. Most swords uncovered in water appear to have little wear; others have been snapped or bent. This has led to a theory that swords were left in pools that were associated with being gateways or liminal spaces between the living and the dead. Maybe it was thought the deceased would need a sword to fight his way through to the Otherworld.
Throwing a perfectly good sword, a thing of great value in the Iron Age, into the water could not be accidental. If a battle was fought on the banks of a pool, one would expect to find weapons lost in the water. They have found shields in the Thames where plenty of battles were fought, but overwhelmingly, the finds are swords and often they are far from the shore and many seem unused.
Archaeologist Patrick Hunt from Stanford has this to say about it:
“Since weapons like swords are death-dealing, it should not be surprising to find such weapons so closely associated with the Otherworld (not at all necessarily the same place where the dead go). . . Swords deliver so many warriors to the threshold of departed spirits as well as to the Otherworld whose boundary is often watery.”
But what about the sword found by Matilda Jones? Clearly not Iron Age but made within the last fifty years, and it is not a real functional sword, but probably prop-like in nature. I think it was a votive offering of someone who resurrected the ritual in the form of a neopagan rite of death. There are so many who have revived practices no one really understands and given it some kind of personal meaning. In fact, a Cornishman named Mark Wilkins has come forward and claimed he threw the sword into the pool in the 80s as an offering to the gods. Mark Wilkins says of the sword, “I love the legend. I hope for her (Matilda) it’s a magical thing and that she gets strength from it.”
Though we have no real information on the why and how of these rituals of two thousand years ago, we are still drawn to the idea that the mists part and worlds open upon the calm surface of a pool where magical ladies bear swords of destiny. But for now, we only have the swords.