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Mythology & Heroic Sagas of Culture & Myth => Quest for King Arthur => Topic started by: Bianca on June 25, 2007, 09:18:47 am

Title: the Hidden History of Arthur & the Holy Grail
Post by: Bianca on June 25, 2007, 09:18:47 am



So, why was it that King Arthur, a Celtic commander of the sixth century, was so important to the Knights Templars and the Grail courts of Europe? Quite simply, because Arthur had been unique, with a 'dual' heritage in the Messianic line.


King Arthur was by no means mythical, as many have supposed. Far from it. But he has generally been looked for in the wrong places. Researchers, misguided by the fictional locations of the romances, have searched in vain through the chronicles of Brittany, Wales and the west of England. But the details of Arthur are to be found in the Scots' and Irish annals. He was indeed "the High King of the Celtic Isle", and he was the sovereign commander of the British troops in the late sixth century.

Arthur was born in 559, and he died in battle in 603. His mother was Ygerna del Acqs, the daughter of Queen Viviane of Avallon, in descent from Jesus and Mary Magdalene. His father was High King Aedān of Dalriada (the Western Highlands of Scotland, now called Argyll)-and Aedān was the British Pendragon ("Head Dragon" or "King of Kings") in descent from Jesus' brother James. It is for this reason that the stories of Arthur and Joseph of Arimathea are so closely entwined in the Grail romances.

Indeed, the coronation records of Scotland's King Kenneth MacAlpin (a descendant of Aedān the Pendragon) specifically refer to his own descent from the dynastic Queens of Avallon.

King Aedān's paternal legacy emerged through the most ancient House of Camulot (England's Royal Court of Colchester) in a line from the first Pendragon, King Cymbeline (who is well-known to students of Shakespeare).

By that time, Messianic descendants had founded Desposynic kingdoms in Wales and across the Strathclyde and Cambrian regions of Britain. Arthur's father, King Aedān of Scots, was the first British monarch to be installed by priestly ordination, when he was crowned and anointed by Saint Columba of the Celtic Church in 574. This, of course, infuriated the Roman Church bishops because they claimed the sole right to appoint kings who were supposed to be crowned by the Pope!

As a direct result of this coronation, Saint Augustine was eventually sent from Rome in 597 to dismantle the Celtic Church. He proclaimed himself Archbishop of Canterbury three years later, but his overall mission failed and the Nazarene tradition persisted in Scotland, Ireland and Wales and across the breadth of northern England.

An important fact to remember is that the Grail dynasts were never territorial governors of lands. Like Jesus himself, they were designated "Guardians" of the people. The Merovingians of Gaul, for example, were Kings of the Franks-never Kings of France. King Aedān, Robert the Bruce and their Stewart successors were Kings of the Scots-never Kings of Scotland.

It was this implicitly 'social' concept which the High Church found so difficult to overcome, for the bishops preferred to have dominion over 'territorial kings', while the people's senior lord and master was supposed to be the Pope. Only by maintaining ultimate spiritual control over individuals could the Church reign supreme, and so whenever a Grail dynast came to the fore he was met by the wrath of the papal machine.

In 751 the bishops managed to depose the Merovingian succession in Gaul, and they established a new tradition whereby kings of the Carolingian succession (that of Charlemagne) had to be approved and crowned by the Pope. But the Church could never topple the Desposynic lines in Scotland, even though the old Celtic kingdoms of England had been dismantled by Germanic Anglo-Saxons from the sixth century.

Even into the Middle Ages-long after the Norman Conquest of England-the Nazarene Church and the long-prevailing cult of Mary Magdalene were prominent in Europe. Women's rights of equality were upheld throughout the Celtic structure-and this was an enormous problem for the male-only priesthood of orthodox Christianity.

The underlying principle of the Grail monarchs was always one of Service, in accordance with the Messianic code established by Jesus when he washed his apostles' feet at the Last Supper. And so the true Grail dynasts were kings and guardians of their realms, but they were never rulers.

This key aspect of the Grail code was perpetuated at the very heart of nursery tale and folklore. Never did a valiant cardinal or bishop ride to the aid of an oppressed subject or a damsel in distress, for this has always been the social realm of Grail princes and their appointed knights.

The Grail code recognises advancement by merit and acknowledges community structure, but, above all, it is entirely democratic. Whether apprehended in its physical or spiritual dimension, the Grail belongs to leaders and followers alike. It also belongs to the land and the environment, requiring that all should be "as one" in a common, unified Service.,1778.msg17500.html#new


Title: the Hidden History of Arthur & the Holy Grail
Post by: Bianca on June 25, 2007, 11:11:57 am





The recent suggestion by amateur historian Hugh McArthur that the Govan sarcophagus might actually have been the last resting place of the Dark Age warrior leader generally known as "King" Arthur has raised considerable interest. The idea itself while initially startling is not nearly as daft as it sounds. McArthur along with many others is intrigued by the amount of material suggesting the original Arthur was Scottish, or at least that he flourished in what we now call Scotland, in the 6th century. He, along with others, thinks that "King" Arthur is based on the historical figure of Artur, son of Aedan mac Gabhrain, a 6th century King of Dal Riata.

Received opinion puts the sarcophagus as dating from 10th century or later but this argument is not based on any specific dateable evidence. When the sarcophagus was found in 1855 it was not in its original position, it was lacking a lid and there were no human remains in it. There was thus nothing in or around it that could have given a radio carbon date, even if this technique had been available in Victorian times.

What can be said is that this magnificent monument was obviously of great importance - there was considerable effort and skill involved in carving and decorating a coffin from a block of stone over two metres long, suggesting that whoever was put in the sarcophagus was of some importance to contemporary society.

Title: the Hidden History of Arthur & the Holy Grail
Post by: Bianca on June 25, 2007, 11:28:20 am

Dark Age Struggles

There is considerable evidence for Arthur's activity in Central Scotland in the Dark Ages as most probably having to do with the battle between Christianity and paganism. Most interpretations see Arthur as Welsh and have presented him as fighting off a horde of invaders including Scots, Picts and Anglo-Saxons. This interpretation is no longer acceptable for various reasons.

The Scots are now known to have been in Dalriada for a long time before their supposed arrival around 500 AD - there are several Roman references to Picts and Scots attacking them together. The Angles and Saxons were of course separate tribes and their supposed invasion rests on the words of one monk, Gildas writing in the 6th century. Apart from his reference to two guys arriving with three ships there is no real evidence for this invasion either though we know that warriors from Continental tribes had been invited in as mercenaries after the Romans left England.

Again much has been made in subsequent centuries of the idea of dynastic struggles with Arthur as some sort of over-king suppressing rebellious subjects. In terms of Dark Age tribal society this is plain daft! Tribes do not have kings and the rise of what can safely be called kingdoms does not happen till after the 6th century when Arthur was strutting his stuff.

Title: the Hidden History of Arthur & the Holy Grail
Post by: Bianca on June 25, 2007, 11:32:54 am

Welsh Speakers Outside Wales

We should remember that although the earliest literary sources referring to Arthur survived in Welsh, this was not a language restricted to what we now call Wales. In the 6th century, Welsh, or an earlier form of the same language, was spoken throughout Strathclyde, an area that stretched from north of the Clyde at least as far south as Carlisle and to roughly half way over Scotland.

Much of Central Scotland and the Lothians, at least as far as the current Border was occupied by another tribe, or set of tribes called the Gododdin, and they too spoke a similar language. It is in the one surviving battle epic of this tribe, called The Gododdin that the earliest dateable reference to Arthur comes from.

To the north and east of the Gododdin lived the Pictish tribes and they too had a related language. This is the reason why there are legends of Arthur survive in so many parts of Scotland - they were part of the common heritage of the Welsh-speaking tribes of Britain. In England there were other tribes from Cumbria to Cornwall who also spoke the same sort of language and would have had the same legendary material.

Title: the Hidden History of Arthur & the Holy Grail
Post by: Bianca on June 25, 2007, 11:34:08 am

Christianity Versus Paganism?

Most histories of Scotland, and Britain, say little of exactly how Christianity became the accepted religion here and it has been suggested that the people of Britain in the 1st to 6th centuries AD saw Christianity as being parallel to their supposed Druidic based beliefs and were happy to accept the new faith.

This seems unlikely particularly when we think that St Constantine, reputed founder of Govan, was himself said to have been martyred in Kintyre in the 6th century. Much of our picture of this period comes from the Life of St Columba and who seems to have been as much a druid as he was a Christian. The story of him having a magic battle with the Druid Briochan in Inverness might easily be a cover for a more standard type of battle.

As all of the early documents we have, were written by monks it is not surprising that the changeover is presented as absolutely natural, even inevitable. Another problem we have in trying to understand those times is that on several occasions in the last millennium Scotland's historic records have been despoiled by invaders - most notably Edward 1 and Oliver Cromwell, although the destruction wreaked upon monasteries and churches at the Protestant Reformation did not improve matters. So we have to combine archaeology, external sources and indigenous traditions to build up a picture of long periods of Scotland's past.

Title: the Hidden History of Arthur & the Holy Grail
Post by: Bianca on June 25, 2007, 11:35:34 am

Storytelling Traditions

In this light it is worth noting that oral traditions can be very valuable. Troy was found, against the advice of all experts, by an amateur historian who believed that Homer's Iliad described a real series of events while received opinion saw it as a fiction! In Scotland the tale of a warrior buried in a tumulus called Norrie's Law in Fife was seen as simply "folklore" till the objects known as the Norrie's Law hoard turned up in the mid-19th century. These included silver pins with Pictish symbols and what has been suggested as parts of a suit of chain mail - of silver!

In Australia until recently the tales of giant kangaroos and other marsupials were dismissed as fantasy. Until skeletons of such creatures were dug up dating from 30,000 years ago - leading to the creation of a new genus of animals, the Diprotodons. Stories passed by word of mouth can clearly hold on to interesting information.

Title: the Hidden History of Arthur & the Holy Grail
Post by: Bianca on June 25, 2007, 11:37:04 am

When Was Govan Church Founded?

It is accepted amongst most historians and archaeologists that Govan's foundation cannot be dated as early as the 5th or 6th century. This is despite the fact that several Scottish medieval chronicles mention the setting up of a church at Govan by St. Constantine in the 6th century.

There is also evidence from Irish sources that agree with this but there is no hard and fast historical documentation of anything in Scotland at this time. Even the existence of St Kentigern, better known as St Mungo, is difficult to establish. However stories do not come from nowhere even if, like much history itself, they can be interpreted as little more than propaganda.

The Govan sarcophagus has been suggested as being that of St Constantine himself, in which he was interred after his body was brought back from Kintyre. However if one accepts the possibility of Govan having been founded in the 6th century and thus around the time when the historical Arthur is thought to have lived, could the sarcophagus have been created then?

Title: the Hidden History of Arthur & the Holy Grail
Post by: Bianca on June 25, 2007, 11:38:15 am

Dating The Sarcophagus

Received opinion says no. By comparing it with other similar objects the accepted viewpoint is that this coffin can be no older than the 10th century. However this comparison can be challenged.

It is suggested that the sarcophagus is one of a known type, dating from the 7th century and later, in which a notable person's coffin was sunk into the floor of a church with the top slab flush at or perhaps slightly above floor level. The covering slabs were carved to represent the importance or sanctity of the person thus honoured. The examples given which can be dated to the 7th century and later all have decorated top slabs. Here we have no top slab.

Another similar development had such stone coffins being set above ground, with the sides suitably decorated. These were effectively shrines and it was not necessary for these to be full length as they were basically to house relics.

The problem with comparisons is that there is not anything exactly like the Govan sarcophagus and the technique of making such stone coffins was widespread from as early as the 1st century AD. There are even pagan examples of this type of structure. The arguments for the late date of the sarcophagus are hardly definitive especially as other Scottish stone sarcophagi from Scotland all have lids. Without the Govan lid it seems impossible to guarantee that it fits in with these other types.

The decoration of the coffin itself might help to date it. Although Govan is well outside what is regarded as Pictish territory, the interlace and the animal figures on the sarcophagus are like carvings on Pictish symbol stones.

Here again the problem is that these are generally dated as being 7th century or later. Comparisons are made with Northumbrian material, forgetting the influence of Iona on Christianity throughout Europe in the Dark Ages. There also seems to be an assumption that anything new in Scotland can only be inspired from outside.

However the archaeologists Lloyd and Jennifer Laing pointed out in their book - The Picts and Scots - that there are good grounds for seeing some Pictish symbols as deriving form as early as the 3rd century. The interlink pattern on the sarcophagus is formed from a continuous line which is seen as a Christian symbol of eternity though one of the other features on the coffin are explicitly Christian.

It is all too easy to surmise that the original lid would have had a cross of some kind on it. The pattern of the interlace and the style of the linked beast on the sarcophagus are like symbols on the Class II Pictish Symbols which are considered to be Christian and Christianity seems to have existed in Scotland from at least the 5th century, if not earlier.

Title: the Hidden History of Arthur & the Holy Grail
Post by: Bianca on June 25, 2007, 11:39:26 am

Is It Arthur's Coffin?

What can be said is that the capital A on the horse on the sarcophagus is very tantalising. There are strong traditions linking Arthur with Dumbarton - its name means fort of the Britons - and it is not far down the river from Govan. If Arthur was based there, and there is strong evidence to suggest this, he would doubtless have been a regular visitor to any early Christian site at Govan.

There is no argument that Govan was a major ecclesiastical site and after Arthur's death, it would be a suitable site for his burial, even though he was a war leader rather than the king of later romances. The internal dimensions of the coffin itself appear to be somewhat restricted for a full-length human corpse but it is feasible that Arthur's body, if it ever lay here, might have been mangled after his death in battle at Camlaan (Camelon near Falkirk).

While it is impossible to prove absolutely that this is the coffin of the legendary Arthur it does seem at least a possibility well worth considering.

As I have stated we underestimate the veracity and relevance of the storytelling tradition - remembering that even today in Scotland, there are storytellers who were given all their material by word of mouth, exactly as such material was passed on a thousand, or two thousand years ago. Without scientifically dating the sarcophagus we cannot be absolutely certain when it was made but as we begin to truly appreciate the extent of Arthurian material in Scotland many ideas are due to be challenged.

Arthur is said to have battled with Picts and Scots and Angles and the place where the Britons were directly up against these different tribal groupings was in Central Scotland. If he was, as the material about him suggests, a Christian warrior fighting against the pagan tribes of Dark Age Scotland, his status as a great hero is hardly surprising.

After all Christianity was triumphant and where better to honour the hero than in a major ecclesiastical site, easily accessible by water and close to the capital of the Strathclyde Britons.


Title: the Hidden History of Arthur & the Holy Grail
Post by: Bianca on June 25, 2007, 11:57:48 am




The case that the historical King Arthur might be the Dalriadic prince Artur, or Artuir, has been re-examined recently. Ziegler (1999) concluded that there is no compelling reason to believe that this individual was Arthur. However, I argue here that a more likely Dalriadic contender is to be found in the figure of King Comgall, the grand-uncle of Artur mac Aedan.

Early Individuals Known as Arthur

From the end of the 6th century a number of individuals were known as Artur or near variants. Barber (1972) highlighted the two most prominent - Artur of the Dalriadic Scots and Arthur of Dyfed, but did not substantiate the case for either. Ziegler (1999) examined the first, Artur of Dalriada, but presented convincing objections. The dates concur with her view: both these individuals lived at the very end of the sixth century, and are unlikely to be the historical Arthur.

Three sources provide the earliest references to Arthur. The Welsh or Cambrian Annals (Annales Cambriae) contain two explicit references: the victory of Arthur and the British against the Saxons at Badon in AD516, and his demise after the Camlann conflict in 537 (Morris 1980). The Gododdin, attributed to Aneurin, describes a catastrophic defeat by the Saxons of a contingent from Edinburgh at Catreath (Catterick) near Scotch Corner. The battle was in around 570 (Koch 1997); the wording suggests the warrior, Arthur, was of a previous generation, also fighting against the Saxons - the Gododdin Arthur could well be the same individual who fought at Camlann in 537. Last, an account of Arthur's many battles appears in the Historia Brittonum (Morris 1980). The battle list bears no dates, but the account also tells how Ochta, son of Hengist, was instructed to fight 'contra Scottos' in the North by the Roman walls, noting 'Arthur fought against them at this time.' The Irish version of the Historia states 'Ochta, the son of Hengist, assumed government over them. Arthur, however, and the Britons fought bravely against them' (Van Hamel 1932). Hengist died in around 488, placing his son (or possibly grandson) Octha at the beginning of the Arthurian period.


The story these three documents tell is consistent -- an Arthur fought, in the early sixth century, against the Saxons on the side of the early Britons, so ruling out the later Artur.

Locating Arthur's sphere of activity

This does not exclude the possibility that Arthur might be another member of the Dalriadic Scots. Indeed, the evidence placing Arthur in North Britain is strong. Skene (1876), Bromwich (1963), Goodrich (1986), and Glennie (1988) all looked to Arthur's battles as listed by Nennius and concluded that these conflicts took place predominantly in the southern regions of present day Scotland, with some in what is now northern England. There are locations that cannot be identified readily, but four have received a large measure of support.

The first is near Loch Lomond. Nennius tells of battles on the River Dubglas in the region of Linnuis. This points to Lennox, north of Glasgow. Dubglas is 'blackwater', and a river Douglas flows into Loch Lomond. One battle was fought in the Celyddon (Caledon) Forest, overtly Scotland. Another was on the hill called Agned that twelfth century Geoffrey of Monmouth tells us is Edinburgh. Finally, Goodrich (1986) puts forward a strong argument that the Camlann site is at Camboglanna (Birdoswald), a fort on Hadrian's wall. Each identification may be open to challenge; together they provide a formidable case that Arthur fought in the North.

The Scottish theme crops up elsewhere. As discussed by Glennie (1988) and Goodrich (1986), the highest density of Arthurian placenames is in Scotland: exemplified by Ben Arthur, adjacent to Loch Lomond, and by Arthur's seat, Edinburgh. Other, later, legends suggest that Arthur's sister married the King of Lothian, the county of Edinburgh: Arthur's warring in Southern Scotland and the Borders may need to be taken seriously.

The Annales Cambriae provide a second line of evidence as to his identity. I suggest that, if the early scribes wrote of Arthur, they would write also of Arthur's kinfolk. The Annals name ten persons over an 80 year span centered on the Arthurian entries. One is connected with Wales - King Maelgwn. Excepting Arthur himself (and his legendary nephew Medraut) the remaining seven entries relate to Ireland. One, Gildas was a Clyde native who spent the last years of his life in Ireland and, according to Caradoc's Vita Gildae (Williams 1990), encountered Arthur in person. Three were prominent Irish Christians of the time. The last three are Irish Scots of the Dalriadic dynasty that settled the western coast of Scotland.

Figure 1. Left: Individuals named in the Cambrian Annals (Annales Cambriae) in an 80-year period (486 to 567) spanning the Arthurian entries: those associated with Ireland and the Irish Dalriadic Scots are underlined. Right: Pedigree of the Dalriadic Scots; prefixed numerals indicate the order of accession to the throne; obit dates are given as suffixes.Click here to enlarge figure.


Therefore, while the earliest records point to North Britain, the flanking entries in the Welsh Annals suggest a connection with Ireland and the Scots. A possible point of overlap is in the warring activities of the Dalriadic Scots in southern Scotland.

There is little doubt that the Dalriadic Scots were allied to the British. Gabran married the daughter of Brychan, the founder of the British kingdom of Brecheiniog (probably at Brechin, Forfarshire) in Scotland, while Aedan is reputed to have been a grandson of Dyfnwal Hen, the ruler of the British kingdom of AlClud (Dumbarton) by Glasgow, and is said to have been born on the Forth.

Scots were active across the South of Scotland, and supported the Britons in their conflict with the Saxons. Gabran lends his name to the region of Gowrie, while the descendents of Aedan were known as 'the men of Fife'. Aedan is recorded, by Bede and other reliable sources, fighting alongside the Britons of Edinburgh against the advancing Saxons. The Scotichronicon refers to a Scots king Comgall, son of Domangart, who fought against Saxon incursions in close alliance with the British (Watt 1989). Ziegler (1999) reviews further evidence for Dalriadic activities in the south of modern Scotland.


Arthur and the Kings of Dalriada

The records pertaining to the Scots contain no mention of an individual 'Arthur', with the exception of the later Artur. I propose an explanation. Dalriada is generally held to be a compound of dal (or dail, 'portion', 'meeting' or 'tribe') with Riada (Riadda/Riata), as Bede opined, but this latter may also be a compound of ri- (rig, righ, rix; 'king'), with Adda/Ata. Watson (1926) informed us that Add, as in the prominent Dalriadic stronghold at Dun Add (also Att), was pronounced, even until recently, Athd with a long A. Therefore, ri-Adda may have been pronounced ri-Athda. If so, the King of the Dalriadic Scots might have been heard, by British ears, as Athda, only a short way from airth (Welsh), 'the bear', and Arthur.

The Dalriadic Senchus Fer n'Alban (History of the Men of Scotland) and other sources collated by J. Bannerman in his Studies (1974) relate that the throne was held by Comgall. Comgall's rule (from 507) spans Arthur's exploits (Figure 1). The Annales Cambriae, a primary source for Arthurian legend, record the death of the historical Arthur in 537, while the obit of Comgall is at 537/538 in the Annals of Ulster and Annals of Tigernach. Thus, the dates of Comgall and Arthur accurately coincide.

Conversely, the Annales Cambriae make no mention of Comgall, an important leader, even though his brother, nephew and father are there in name. The omission could make sense if Comgall was Arthur. This could also explain the younger Artur born to the Dalriadic dynasty at about the time of Comgall's death, perhaps named in tribute to Comgall. Plausibly, the earliest historical records suggest an identity for Arthur. Comgall, like Arthur, fought against Saxon incursions in allegiance with the British. Where the Annales Cambriae record the death of Arthur (AD 537), the Irish Annals record the obit of Comgall (AD 537/8).

Although the later Artur has been ruled out (Ziegler 1999), I suggest that the Dalriadic Scots might have provided, in the figure of Comgall, the model for King Arthur.


Works Cited

Bannerman, J. 1974. Studies in the History of Dalriada. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press.

Barber, R. 1972. The Figure of Arthur. Worcester: Trinity Press, Worcester.

Bromwich, R. 1963. "Scotland and the earliest Arthurian tradition". Bibliog. Bull. Int. Arthurian Soc. 15: 85-95.

Glennie, J.S.S. 1988. "Arthurian localities", pp. 65-120. In: An Arthurian Reader. Matthews, J., ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goodrich, N.L. 1986. King Arthur. New York: Harper and Row.

Koch, J.T. 1997. The Gododdin of Aneirin, Text and Context from Dark-Age Britain. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

Morris, J., ed. 1980. Nennius, British History and the Welsh Annals, Arthurian Period Sources Vol. 8, London: Phillimore.

Shirley-Price, L., trans. 1968. Bede: History of the English Church and People. London:Penguin.

Skene, W.H. 1876. Celtic Scotland: A History of Ancient Alban. Vol. I, History and Ethnology; Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas.

Van Hamel, A.G., ed. 1932. Lebor Bretnach: the Irish version of the Historia Brittonum ascribed to Nennius. The Stationery Office, Dublin.

Watt, D.E.F, ed. 1989. Scotichronicon, Bower W, (1385-1449). Vol. 2 (books III & IV), Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press.

Watson, W.J. 1926. The Celtic Placenames of Scotland. Edinburgh: Birlinn. 1993 reprint.

Williams, H., trans. 1990. Two Lives of Gildas by a Monk of Ruys and Caradoc of Llancarvan. Lampeter: Llanerch. See the Medieval Sourcebook:"Caradoc of Llangarfan: The Life of Gildas"

Ziegler, M. 1999. "Artur mac Aedan of Dalriada". The Heroic Age, 1: