Saturday, February 04, 2006


When it comes to King Arthur, almost all we know comes from old Christian writers -- who hid the real Arthur under layers of Christian flim-flam.

Could Arthur actually have been an ancient god? According to Barbara Walker, yes. Originally, says Walker, Arthur was an old Pagan god, and both his mother and Guinivere were aspects of the Triple Goddess. “When Arthur died, the same Triple Goddess that gave him birth took him back into the sea. ‘Three fairy queens’ carried him away to the western isles of paradise…”.

Go HERE for a look at a book that uses ancient Celtic texts to show how the Goddess is omni-pres-ent in the Arthurian legends: Goddess of the Land: The Divine Feminine in the Mabinogion, by Caitlin Matthews
The pics are from Howard Pyle's The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, 1913.


Morgaine said...

It must be King Arthur day - a friend of mine just sent a question about this very topic. Arthur is known as "the once and future king" which signifies him as a sun/grain god that dies and is reborn in the same way Jesus, Odin, Osiris, and others in nearly every known culture are depicted.

The triple Goddess/Mother Goddess in the Arthurian pantheon is Morgain Le Faye/Morgause/the Morrigan. Morgaine and Arthur are a sibling/consort pair similar to Isis and Osiris. Guenivere is a later addition to the tale - the fact that she is barren pretty much precludes the idea of her having divine origins, and in fact negates Arthur's authority to rule once he marries her.

This is ancient Welsh/Irish/Pict religion filtered through Celt, Saxon, Anglo, Norman and finally French culture. So many layers of patriarchy and Christianity have been imposed on it that most of what we have left of the original tale are the names, but even the names themselves can provide clues.

Anne Johnson said...

I read a book by an Appalachian writer that says when Arthur returns he will collect his own (sort of a Welsh/Scot/Pictish "Left Behind"). This Appalachian writer says Arthur won't neglect my mountains, so I look for The Once and Future King every day.

Athana said...

Hola, Anne, and Morgaine. I hope you're feeling much better than toward the beginning of the week, Morgaine.

When I was in my twenties I got really lucky and got into a summer program excavating a hunting castle in England belonging to one of those old Enlglish kings, I forget who now. Anyway, I had two weeks to myself before the dig began, and what I did was bus around the entire island searching for remains of King Arthur. In those days I thought I was the only person on the planet who loved Arthur to the extent I did, LOL. (I still get kinda jealous when I hear other people talking about him -- he's MINE! Hands off!!)

Here's what Barbara Walker says about Guinivere: "Arthur lost his sacred mana when he lost his queen, the Triple Goddess incarnate in Guinevere, who was really three Guiniveres according to the Welsh Triads." Here she quotes as her source Malory. Then she goes on: "Mordred seized her, thus symbolically seizing the kingdom, and brought Arthur to his death."

Do you think, then, Morgaine, that Malory is just going back to the (patriarchal) Celtic sources for this stuff on Guinivere?

I special ordered Matthews' Goddess of the Land at my local libary. Have either of you read it? Sounds like it too goes back only to the Celtic sources.

Athana said...

Anne, WOW! Our own Left Behind? What is the name of that book? I want to be 'collected' too!

Anonymous said...

...And I am the friend Morgaine speaks of! Thanks for this article and a great site Ahtana! I just had the displeasure of arguing with someone who had no clue and stated Bulfinch's Mythology as her source as to why Arthur is "just a king"! Ha! She may as well have stated Webster's Dictionary for all the weight it carried.....


Morgaine said...

I'm much better now, thanks! Malory is already completely patriarchal. You have to go back to Geoffrey of Monmouth and Chretien de Troyes then work backward with an eye to the Mabinogion, and an understanding of pre-Hellenic greek mythology that was imported in bits and pieces to the British Isles.

There's a brief chronology here but notice there's nothing from Great Britain before the 8th Century. That's pretty recent in mythological and anthropological terms.

It gets very complicated, and you do have to fill in some blanks. There are clues, though. Morgen means "woman of the sea" - Stella Maris, "star of the sea" is a name used for both Mary and Isis. Morgen is derived from a triple-aspected Goddess the Morrigan. Her title "Morgen of the Fairies" indicates that she is Pict rather than Celt, whereas later Arthur and Guenivere were strongly associated with the Celts.

Also, Morgen is Arthurs half-sister - the Goddess and her consort are always related. The addition of a Christian woman, Guenivere, made the tale more palatable to the Christian audiences, as did turning his rightful Pagan Queen/Goddess into an evil sorceress. Making her subordinate to Merlin was another patriarchal touch. It goes on and on *sigh*

And the idea of Arthur being cuckolded is strictly from the triangle invented for the French audiences of Chretien, hence the name "Lancelot du Lac" - many of the names were transformed when the Arturian legends were translated from Welsh to French. Morgen became Morgain, then later Morgaine, Gowen became Gawain, etc. (Which are now completely bastardized in English - No one was EVER called "morgAYN" or "Ga WAYN" until they made that horrid, blasphemous mini-series "The Mists of Avalon". Ugh) On one hand, we have the French to thank for the survival of the legends. On the other hand, they reduced it to a love triangle, and at one point is was illegal to name a girl Morgana in France, so we have to take that bias into account.

Barbara G. Walker is great, but no one knows everything. Once in a while even she falls for the later patriarchal versions of things. They are so pervasive, and our herstory so well hidden, that I'm amazed that any of it remains at all.

I'd love to get a bunch of women to work on a Goddess wiki and compile what we know, and what's out there. One more project I'll never get done - ha ha!

Morgaine said...

Oh, I forgot! Welcome Amhran! She's my best friend/sister and I even initiated her lo these many years ago. She's a truly magickal spirit.