“Something eternal – universal – the very breath of freedom lives in this land. It stretches out, embracing the whole of humanity. It still speaks to us through the hills and the valleys, the rocks and caves mentioned in the Arthurian legends. The winds and the waves sing of it, the atmosphere is full of it. It is necessary to find contact with this invisible Power which, in only one of its forms, appears as the Arthur of the legend. This Power in reality is the Eternal Spirit of this country —. Could we but realize this, a cultural element would be born again, English in its innermost depths. It speaks to all human beings wherever they live and to whatever nation they belong.
Walter Johannes Stein. Is King Arthur a Historical Character?
There is a good case to be made for a real historical Arthur, a warrior from the period shortly after the Roman legions left Britain to fend for itself. The fame of Glastonbury is inextricably linked with the belief that he was buried in the Abbey, although this is extremely contentious. Nearby Cadbury Castle has been put forward as a possible candidate for Camelot. The investigation of this history is an enormous and endlessly fascinating subject but it is the romance, the mythology, the mysticism of the stories associated with him that resonates down through the ages, inspiring new generations with the ideals of chivalry and the mystery of the Holy Grail.
The stories and myths of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table were called by Jung, “the primary myth in the collective unconscious of Western Civilisation.’
Hundreds of years after he is supposed to have lived, during the time of the building of the Gothic Cathedrals, the ascendancy of the legendary Knights Templars, and the triumph of the cult of the Virgin Mary, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, stories of Arthur became the most-told tales in Europe.
This video attempts to evoke the mood of the Arthurian Romances as discussed by Paul Weston in his Mysterium Artorius.
Arthur’s fateful love triangle with wife Guenevere and Lancelot, the fabled knights Perceval and Galahad, the mage Merlin and the enchantress Morgan Le Feye, became immortal figures in our collective unconscious. The sword Excalibur and the Grail likewise continue to generate tremendous emotional power.
The study of the sources and possible meaning of these stories is immense. There seem to be many Celtic motifs but also hints of medieval mysticism, heresy, and magic hiding just a little way behind the Christianity. Their power is such that they are periodically revitalised. The Pre-Raphaelite painters and the poet Tennyson have shaped our sensibilities in terms of how we see and respond to the themes.
In modern times the combination of increased archaeological knowledge of Arthur’s historical period with the rebirth of Glastonbury into its current form of world-pilgrimage-centre has seen further revitalisation.
The female characters are being re-empowered and modern women are finding inspiration from them.
The stories are alive inasmuch as they are still capable of inspiring people to change their lives, to cross the world, to become spiritual warriors on their own quest, to reach their own understanding of what the Grail may be.
One of the strangest of all of the Grail Romances, The High History of the Holy Grail, was supposedly written in Glastonbury Abbey in the thirteenth century and seems to show some knowledge of the local landscape. In more recent times mystic sculptress Katharine Maltwood suggested it presented clues to the existence of a vast circle of terrestrial effigies around the Glastonbury, a star temple that is perhaps our greatest mystery, now more widely known as the Glastonbury Zodiac. This is a measure of the continued potency of the Grail Romances.
Close your eyes in Glastonbury Abbey. Watch a summer sunset from the Tor and feel what it is about the place that attracted such stories. On an emotional level, be willing to believe and see where that may lead you —