In the days of old, far back into the mists of time, roaming storytellers would turn up at villages with rolled up mats which they would unfurl and spread under a huge and rambling tree, as if to announce their arrival. Long before cinema, television and even writing, let alone the printing press, news that the storyteller had set up his mat would spread fast and wide, and a ripple of excitement would be on the breeze in anticipation of rivetting entertainment to come.
But the storytellers’ mat is also interesting as a metaphor. When you start to examine the underlying stratas of meanings contained in myths, you soon realise that you need an archaeologist’s trowel, because what you find in these stories is actually a pile of mats, overlayed, one on top of the other, that need to be excavated to get to the original.
Countless priests, popes and princes have long co-opted the sacred lore, which was contained within allegories in these orally-transmitted stories, and rewritten them with their own characters and twists to the plotlines, to give themselves a back story to justify their own political agendas or reigns. And so the ‘mats’ can often represent a chronology of politically expedient overlays, and the stories about King Arthur and the Holy Grael are no exception.
There is no evidence of Arthur ever being a king of Britain, but British royal bloodlines feel they need to claim him for their legitimacy. This is how the original meanings of the old stories about Arthur and the Holy Grael have long been buried from our sight. Even today, ruling monarchs must have the name of Arthur somewhere on their birth certificates, such as Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, the present king-in-waiting.
The legacy of Arthur and Holy Grael, in this respect, has become just another power object to fight over, like the Ark of the Covenant or the Temple Mount.
However, for the excavating mythologist, another meaning for the Holy Grael begins to emerge, once you’ve dug under the first few mats, and that’s what I intend to write about here.
At first, it seems to be impossible to make any sense of the official history of the mythology of the Holy Grael, with competing manuscripts such as The High History of the Holy Grael vying with Chretien de Troyes’ seemingly earlier, courtly Arthurian romances of the 12th century. So nobody’s really sure. But what is fairly evident is that all of the stories seem to come from one humungous labyrinthine Gordian knot of a Celtic/Gaulish motherlode.
Which can be a little scarey… at first… but….
Here’s what author Mary Caine has to say on the subject,
“On first entering the twilight zone of the Celtic gods and heroes everything seems strange, vague and impalpable. The unfamiliar shadows enlarge to giant proportions, shrink to dwarfs, and are never still long enough for us to make them out before they undergo Protean changes of character and form, become inextricably intertwined, dissolve and reform elsewhere.
“To read Celtic myth for the first time is like trying to decipher the dynamic maze of ornament on a weatherbeaten Celtic cross in an weatherbeaten thicket after sundown.”
However, we needn’t despair because a Rosetta stone is at hand.
“But when the eyes have grown used to the half light , certain features begin to clarify: the original extravagance, the restless shape-shifting, resolves itself into an orderly Dance of the Hours; the ritual motion of the sun through the houses of the Zodiac.
“Only then can we hope to reduce this formidable rout to order: first to the twelve aspects of the sun in his daily and yearly path, then to the ubiquitous Trinity of Father, Mother and Son. True, each of these has a bewildering number of names, but we must blame this on Time itself, for the history of the Celts is as long as that of the Jews.”
From her writings, its plain to see that the discoverer of the Glastonbury Zodiac, Katharine Maltwood, and also Mary Caine who has so brilliantly carried on her work, could identify the bones of the old Celtic myths poking through in the names of the locations of the giant star shapes mapped on to the ground.
Katharine Maltwood goes so far as to say that the giant effigies in the land would never have been discovered if it hadn’t been for the 13th century High History of the Holy Grael. She says:
“On that last page, we read: ‘The Latin from whence this History was drawn into Romance was taken in the Isle of Avalon, in a holy house of religion that standeth at the head of of the Moors Adventurous, there where King Arthur and Queen Guinevere lie,’ for the King is one of those cosmic deities upon which every pilgrim who climbs Glastonbury Tor looks down for, but can no longer distinguish.
“The author of another version, called La Queste del Saint Graal, though apparently not familiar with the locality, is more explicit concerning the adaptation of the old stellar religion to the new. For instance, he says, ‘When the sun, by which we mean Jesus Christ,’ and again, in Sir Lancelot’s dream, he speaks of the ‘man surrounded by stars’ the man who came down from heaven came to the younger knight and ‘transformed him into the figure of a lion and gave him wings’.
“Here is strongly suggested the blending of the old and new, the Zodiacal Leo combined with the winged lion of St Mark. Thus the pre-Christian stories of the stars were adapted by later chroniclers and interwoven with the Christian Grail legend.”
From that, it becomes clear that the Holy Grael appears to have been blended with the Celtic myths about Arthur, which were, in themselves, part of the mythology that was used to teach adepts astronomy and astrology, both prior to Christianity and possibly for hundreds of years afterwards in this part of Britain where Celtic Christianity remained in charge, in one form or another, turning up its nose at Augustine, and possibly right up to the Reformation.
We believe that Arthur must be pre-Christian because the stories about him are well, pagan! (I don’t really like that word, but stories about sun gods and zodiacs sit uncomfortably in a Roman Christian world.)
Arthur doesn’t appear in the four branches of the Welsh Mabinogian, but he does in older myths such as Kylhwch and Olwen, along with Bedivere and Kay (Caigwyn). He’s also the archetypal sun god that harrows hell in Taliesin’s tale, Preiddu Annwn.
Arthur in the Glastonbury Zodiac
According to Anthony Thorley, who’s doing a PhD in the subject, there are more than 80 huge landscape zodiacs worldwide. But it would appear to most that the Round Table at Glastonbury has more recognisable landscape features that appear in the Arthur legends and not just the Twelve Knights of the astrological houses.
Arthur’s Glass Boat is there, and the Whale which swallows Arthur and disgorges him, like a death-rebirth deity, after three days. The maimed Fisher King appears, and the Dragon (the pole star Draco, in the centre) is fought, like many a sun god hero before him, by Arthur.
The Pennard Hills (‘Arddur’s hill-top) follow the line of the horse of Sagittarius (Arthur as the old and fading sun king) and its tail is found at Arthur’s Bridge. In this figure (below) he can clearly be seen being dragged from his horse, and then he will sail in his Glas boat (Ark or Argo, into the Underworld), to harrow the chains of “hell” and free humanity. Surely Arthur’s Glas boat is a reference to the Glastonbury Zodiac?
Arthur’s dog, Cabal, is the Girt Dog of Langport (just outside the circle) with his shiny nose at Burrow Mump mirroring the dog star, Sirius, on to the red clay artificial mound which is pierced by the sword of the St Michael leyline.
The Girt Dog of Langport has burnt his long tail
And this is the night we go singing wassail!
Old Somerset Wassail song
On certain auspicious nights, Arthur and his hounds can be heard in the winds, hunting the souls of the dead across Glastonbury Tor, the original Caer Sidhi, or Spiral Castle with its labyrinth-like pathways, belonging to Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel.
The story of Lancelot’s escape from the griffons and lions at the Castle of Griffon into the orchard where he meets “a charming damsel” is depicted by the course of the river Cary, which according to Mary Caine..
“…draws Griffon, Lion and Virgin, passing Canis Minor’s head (the little dog) at Littleton on the way. Is it another coincidence that the Griffon’s eye is named Decoy Pond?”
In the High History, it is actually Perceval’s sister who is the Damsel Virgo that warns Arthur of the ‘lands perilous’ before he approachs Draco, the dragon, at the centre of the zodiac.
Mary Caine equates Perceval with Aries (spring), Lancelot with Leo (king of high summer), Mordred with Scorpio and Galahad with Capricorn. The figure for Capricorn has one horn, just like a unicorn. This gives us the Lion in the south, and the Unicorn in the north, the traditional guardians or gatekeepers either side of the circle.
Arthur reigned supreme in Glastonbury folklore until the time of King Henry VIII, who replaced that story with another … that of Joseph of Arimathea, Jesus’s tin merchant uncle who, upon arrival in Glastonbury with the resurrected Jesus, was granted 12 hides of land. Even the writers of Dallas would have had a hard time in pulling that one off!
“Oh, but you told us he was dead!”
“No, you dummies! Don’t you know the meaning of the word ‘resurrected’?”.
Henry VIII needed Arthur ‘dead’, to keep the Welsh subdued, and also in Joseph’s arrival in Glastonbury before the Roman Church had even invented Christianity, it gave him a greater claim to an older form of Christianity, thus keeping Rome out out of his love life! And so another solar hero walked “upon England’s green and pleasant land” ~ one with Middle East blood. And once again, the older Celtic storyteller’s mat is overlain with another.
So what does it all mean? Why is there a zodiac on the land around Glastonbury and why was star lore so important to our ancestors?
I’m written more extensively about this elsewhere. But the short answer is our ancestors honoured the principle of ‘as above, so below’, not just because it was a nice, fun thing to do, but because they understood the astrological principles that governed the dance of the hours of man. These are real forces; they are not imaginery. However, we have been encouraged not to believe in this lore anymore, and we are the poorer for it.
As Mary Caine says:
“Today we’re taught to deride the study of astrology as irrelevant to our course, but what mariner ever came to port safely without a knowledge of the winds, weather, tides, currents, and above all, the stars?
You could almost say that the Holy Grail could be a metaphor for the treasure of this occult knowledge that is found by the Questor, or questing knight, when he or she uncovers the meaning of the zodiac in their own life. In other words, it’s a spiritual treasure ~ not the treasure that’s stored in the heavens of the Christians, but the treasure stored in the Earth below for man, who belongs to the Earth.
What this Holy Grael really means will be individual for each questing knight. It’s not the sort of knowledge that renders itself to a homogenous meaning and so it’s useless to religions that want to bind us and control us into one belief system.
Walking the Glastonbury zodiac, as I have begun to do recently, is an experiential path of self discovery and what I experience subjectively is almost entirely due to the timing of the second, minute, day, week,month and year in which I was born. The stars were in perfect alignment then for the birth of one such as myself, as they were when you were born too. We are all individual star fields with our own stories that are ours to unravel, and ours alone.
However, we can’t wait for the politicos to leave these stories alone before starting to explore their real meaning. We can’t wait for mainstream media to pick it up because they never will. The history documentaries are not there to enlighten us. They are transmitted purely to give us the next back story that our rulers want us to believe, and already I’m seeing signs of the next twist in the tale.
It was under the Plantagenet kings that the so-called skeleton of “Arthur” was “accidently discovered, buried” in Glastonbury Abbey ~ which is ironic since the bones of the last of that line have recently been excavated from under a car park. However, the Plantagenets were also known to be linked to the Templars, the “guardians of the Grael”.
We’re being told that the history of Richard III is now to be rewritten, to show him in a more favourable light. Is it that the New World Order intends to reinstall the Plantaganets with their claim to the Holy Grael over the decadent and dissolute Windsors? If they do, once again, the stories will change… for the purposes of mass hypnosis and crowd control.
But the Mysteries will remain forever, like Chronos, the keeper of Time, just waiting for the Questor to unpile the story mats, once again, and unravel their true meanings.
The High History of the Holy Grail by Anonymous
Guide to Glastonbury's Temple of the Stars by Katharine Maltwood
The Enchantments of Britain by Katharine Maltwood
The Glastonbury Zodiac: Key to the Mysteries of Britain by Mary Caine
The Mabinogion translated by Sioned Davies