There is a myth concerning King Arthur and Camelot that has been perpetuated by the Roman Church. Many of you have seen movies and read books concerning Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and how the king and the land suffered as a result of an indiscretion.
But what was the indiscretion?
Legend informs us that Guinevere had an affair with Lancelot and because of this infidelity Camelot was plunged into darkness (metaphorically) and Arthur lost his will to govern.
But was this indiscretion really the cause of the downfall of Camelot?
In 2002, I went to England with my wife Carolyn to follow in the footsteps of many historians and enthusiasts of the King Arthur legend. We began our quest at Tintagel Castle situated on Tintagel Head, which some say was the original birthplace of Arthur and the strongholds of the Earls of Cornwall.
In the movie Excalibur, it is my belief that Tintagel was the castle depicted, where Merlin transformed Uther Pendragon into the likeness of Gorlois, the duke of Cornwall, who subsequently made love to his wife, the beautiful Queen Igraine. It was as a result of this union that Arthur was born nine months later.
Tintagel Castle is also the place where the Arthur stone was found. This 6th century artifact is a broken piece of slate that was found during excavation the eastern terrace of Tintagel. The slate was inscribed with the name Artognov, which in Latin means the name Arthnou, and like Arthur is derived from the Celtic word arth, which means 'bear'. It is likely that the Arthur Stone was built into a wall of the building, where it remained buried for over 1400 years.
Getting back to the indiscretion that really the cause of the downfall of Camelot. There was the traditional in England concerning the spring rites of fertility, where the King of the Forest, the mighty Stag of the Seven Tines, made love to the Virgin Huntress. Both participants in this reenactment are masked and were not to know the identity of the other person. The union between the two is called "The Great Marriage" and the passing of the stag's sperm to the virgin huntress' womb is the genesis of the spring planting season.
Arthur prior to being married to Guinevere participated in the foregoing spring rite of "The Great Marriage". The stories point to the fact that Arthur was tricked, manipulated into making love to his sister Moraine le Fay, who was portraying the Virgin Huntress. As a result of this one mating a son, Mordred, was born.
The seed planted by Arthur would one day come back and not only plunge Camelot into drought and famine, but also doom Arthur's reign and eventually claim his life. Mordred, as the product of incest, would challenge Arthur for the throne.
The obvious indiscretion demonstrated here is that Arthur had sex with his sister. The Church, I believe, influenced the story and the outcome by decrying this mortal sin. But there is much more to this story than you think.
Consider the following: Arthur had been married to Genevieve for some time and they didn't produce an heir to the throne. Apparently, she was infertile and unable to bear children. Even when she mated with Lancelot no child was conceived.
Arthur was a king due to his ancestry. He inherited his position through his father Uther Pendragon. The legend informs us that Arthur freed Excalibur (magical sword) from a stone, proving his right of kingship. Ironically, Arthur's royal blood came to him through his mother's matrilineal DNA. His mother was Igraine wife of the duke of Cornwall.
This is the element that is missing from the legend of King Arthur. The gods can only bestow true kingship. The church desired this power of the gods, so it claimed the power to bestow kingship through the document known as the Donation of Constantine. In it the Emperor Constantine states that God passed this right exclusively to the Church and that it alone had the authority to anoint kings and bishops.
Prior to this document kingship was passed on through the matrilineal DNA of the female member of the royal family. We all learned this in high school, but it was taught as the "Divine Right of Kings". Unfortunately, we were not taught the entire lesson.
It was common practice in ancient Egypt for pharaohs to marry their sisters for the sole purpose to progress their claim to kingship through the female line.
In Ancient Egypt the system for becoming a Pharaoh or ruler of the land was exclusively through heredity that is by the matrilineal royal bloodline. The Pharaoh was always male, being the oldest male heir of the previous Pharaoh. In order to rule he had to marry a female who carried royal blood. In practical terms this meant that Pharaohs were married to their own sisters, or at least half sisters, most of the time. If a sister or half sister was unavailable, they married someone else who carried royal blood.
These wives were often half-sisters, born of their mothers by different fathers, for it was the mitochondria DNA of the matrilineal succession that was important to the dynasties. Note that both sons and daughters inherit the mitochondria from mothers, since the DNA resides within the female egg cells.
Genealogical charts of the era show that there were many successive kingly dynasties. When a pharaoh died it was important that his queen had a female heiress, because it was upon the daughter's marriage into another male line that the dynasty began. Pharaohs chose their wives very carefully and often strategically chose to marry into more than more than one of the original Mesopotamian royal bloodline.
Occasionally the Elf-Maiden would marry a brother to solidify her claim to the throne. Cleopatra came to power in Egypt at the age of 17 by marrying her younger brother. Queen Cleopatra reigned from 51-30 B.C. It is interesting to note that the last of pharaohs was not only a woman she was also not Egyptian! As a Ptolemy, Cleopatra was Macedonian, but even though her ancestry was not Egyptian, her royal blood ensured that this queen would be worshipped as a God.
Have you read or watched the stories about Cinderella, Robin Hood, Sleeping Beauty or Rapunzel? All of these stories have one common theme, which is to save the "damsel in distress", or Elf-Queen. The Grail Kings could not continue their bloodline without the Grail Queen. If the "knight in shining armor" was unsuccessful in saving the damsel than they royal seed could not be passed on to the next generation. The majorities of this tales are thousands of years old and were written by unknown authors.
Glastonbury Abbey is believed to have been the first
Christian Church in England
The Catholic Church with the fabrication of the Donation of Constantine tried to eliminate or twist the original tales so as to minimize the role of the Grail Kings or the Grail Bloodline. The Church would now create kings and queens based entirely on its political agenda, as easily as it ordained priests, ignoring established rights of succession through royal blood!
When Arthur sent his knights on their grand quest to find the Holy Grail it reinforced the Church's position that only through religious trials could man find salvation. Remember the hardships endured by all the knights including death before Percival discovered the grail? The entire grail saga and its recovery legitimize Arthur's kingship as it is deemed endorsed by God himself and by extension his emissary on earth, the Church.
Was the original story of King Arthur and Camelot changed or influenced by church leaders and others who were determined to put an end to the royal bloodlines and to bring authority to the forged Donation of Constantine? I believe the answer is yes and we can find further proof in the Magna Carta.
This famous charter was signed at Runnymede, England. The King, Barons and church leaders met there on June 15, 1215. This agreement limited the power of the king and made the monarchy swear allegiance to the Roman Church.
King John was having a disastrous reign. He was losing battles in France and forcing his baron's to collect taxes from already overtaxed citizens. The country was on the brink of a civil war. The barons provided the king with both money and men to defend England and foreign territories. Traditionally, the king consulted the barons before raising taxes and demanding more men for military service.
John made mistakes in other areas as well. He angered the Roman Catholic Church. The pope, angered by John's behavior, banned all church services in England in 1207. Religion, and the fear of Hell, was very important to the people including the barons. The Catholic Church taught the people that they could only get to Heaven if the Catholic Church believed that they were good enough to got there. How could they show their goodness and love of God if the churches were closed? Even worse for John was the fact that the pope excommunicated him in 1209. This meant that John could never get to Heaven until the pope withdrew the excommunication. Faced with this, John climbed down and accepted the power of the Catholic Church giving them many privileges in 1214.
So King John agreed to sign the Magna Carta. It was better than civil war and it guaranteed he would keep his head. He made concessions but all in all it was better than the alternatives.
So, right or wrong, indiscretion or not, the mating of Arthur with his half-sister Moraine le Fay was necessary for the continuation of the bloodline. It succeeded where marriage had not. Unfortunately the rest of the story as we already know is unhappy. Arthur dies, Guinevere ends up in a convent and the land still has no king. The only winner in this tale is the Roman Church! It wins because the story champions two principles of faith: (1) Incest is wrong and can only lead to disaster and (2) one can only go to heaven if saved through redemption.
Based on the nonfiction work 'Quest for Middle-earth' by Dirk Vander Ploeg.