Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

King Arthur's Round Table Possibly Discovered

The King's Knot at Stirling Castle. Image © Patrick Taylor. Image Source: Red Ice Creations.

It looks like legends that King Arthur met with his knights near Stirling Castle may be true.  The Telegraph recently reported that archaeologists may have confirmed that the King's Knot near the Castle may be the site of the Round Table:
The King's Knot, a geometrical earthwork in the former royal gardens below Stirling Castle, has been shrouded in mystery for hundreds of years. Though the Knot as it appears today dates from the 1620s, its flat-topped central mound is thought to be much older. Writers going back more than six centuries have linked the landmark to the legend of King Arthur. Archaeologists from Glasgow University, working with the Stirling Local History Society and Stirling Field and Archaeological Society, conducted the first ever non-invasive survey of the site in May and June in a bid to uncover some of its secrets. Their findings were show there was indeed a round feature on the site that pre-dates the visible earthworks.

Historian John Harrison, chair of the SLHS, who initiated the project, said: "Archaeologists using remote-sensing geophysics, have located remains of a circular ditch and other earth works beneath the King's Knot.

"The finds show that the present mound was created on an older site and throws new light on a tradition that King Arthur's Round Table was located in this vicinity." Stories have been told about the curious geometrical mound for hundreds of years -- including that it was the Round Table where King Arthur gathered his knights.

Around 1375 the Scots poet John Barbour said that "the round table" was south of Stirling Castle, and in 1478 William of Worcester told how "King Arthur kept the Round Table at Stirling Castle". 
Perhaps it's significant that we are finding the Round Table now.  It is one of the original symbols of English culture, and whether real or merely a symbol, it marked a turning point.

In a stratified society, where you sat at table determined your rank. The revolutionary symbolism of having a round table was that everyone at the table was free and equal, with no man there higher than the others, including the king. According to the legends, the construction of the Round Table did not arise from the desire to embody new, exalted ideals like equality, but rather from a quarrel among Arthur's barons about their ranked seating at a Yuletide feast.  Yet it is out of these petty circumstances that great ideals can emerge.  From the depiction below, however, you can see that the concept of equality did not apply to the servants who waited on these early nobles; they're painted in a smaller size to denote their lower status.

The Knights of the Round Table. Image Source: Universität Duisberg Essen.

The body of legends around the ancient kings of the British Isles is called the Matter of Britain.  These tales provide the most elemental sources explaining the origins of government and social order in Anglo-American history.  At the Round Table, each seat was called a siege and the number of knights who were seated at the table varies in the stories from 12 to 366. As the numbers grew, the king's court slowly evolved into an embryonic council, almost a proto-parliament. One seat at the table remained empty for the knight who sought and recovered the Holy Grail.  Taking the seat was fatal for any others, and so it was called the Siege Perilous.  The myths say that the Siege Perilous was first used by the Grail Knight Percival, and later by the Grail Knight Galahad.  The other Arthurian knight who attained the Grail was Sir Bors.  Galahad, who was Lancelot's son, was considered the greatest knight of the entire era.  He emerged as a sort of super-knight, the ultimate model.  A statue of him stands outside the Canadian Parliament to associate that House with everything he stands for.

Three knights attain the Grail, not unlike three kings attending the birth of the infant Christ. Sir Edward Burne-Jones, overall design and figures; William Morris, overall design and execution; John Henry Dearle, flowers and decorative details (1895-1896).  Image Source: Wiki.

Caption for the above image: The Attainment: The Vision of the Holy Grail to Sir Galahad, Sir Bors, and Sir Perceval (also known as The Achievement of the Grail or The Achievement of Sir Galahad, accompanied by Sir Bors, and Sir Perceval). Number 6 of the Holy Grail tapestries woven by Morris & Co. 1891-94 for Stanmore Hall. This version woven by Morris & Co. for Lawrence Hodson of Compton Hall 1895-96. Wool and silk on cotton warp. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Thus, the Round Table was the crux of changing values, from one age to another: from a rigidly ranked warrior culture to a more democratic and romantic one.  If Merlin symbolized the waning ways of Paganism, the hunt for the Holy Grail marked the onset of Christian virtues, merged into a warrior's code.  The appearance of the Grail in the Arthurian legends ties Arthur's court directly to the Last Supper, and any knight fit to drink from it was akin to Christ. 

The one concept of warrior's rank that began to outshine the others at the Table was a spiritual ideal - the highest knight at the Round Table was not necessarily the king, but the man who was purest of heart, the most courageous, the most truthful, the man with the noblest soul.  It was these attributes, not his mere physical abilities, which constituted the source of his power.

1 comment:

  1. Some time ago I had read a novel about time travel by a man from Stirling by that surname, chasing after IRA and Orangemen terrorists who fled back in time to the "real" Arthur's court, as Dux Bellorum rather than King, and Merlinious as a Druid, etc etc. Defending the actual kings of that era against the Saxons. I used to have that book, but I can't remember the title, and it's driving me crazy since I can't seem to google it, either. -J