Arthur, King
Legendary king of England, son of Uther Pendragon and
Igraine. It seems likely that Arthur was a sixth-century leader
whose life and deeds became interwoven with romance mythology.
The character of King Arthur is strongly identified with occult
legends. Not only do we find his court a veritable center
of happenings more or less supernatural, but his mysterious origin
and the subsequent events of his career contain matter of
considerable interest from an occult standpoint.
He is connected with one of the greatest magical names of
early times—Merlin the Enchanter. It is possible that Merlin
was originally a British deity who in later times degenerated
from his high position in the popular imagination. There are
many accounts concerning him, one of which states that he was
the direct offspring of Satan himself, but that a zealous priest
succeeded in baptizing him before his infernal parent could
carry him off.
From Merlin, Arthur received much good advice, both magical
and rational. Merlin was present when the king was gifted
with his magic sword, Excalibur, which endowed him with practical
invulnerability, and all through his career Merlin was deep
in the king’s counsels. Merlin’s tragic imprisonment by the
Lady Viviana, who shut him up eternally in a rock through the
agency of one of his own spells, removed him from his sphere
of activity at the Arthurian Court, and from that time the shadows
were seen to gather swiftly around Arthur’s head.
Innumerable are the tales concerning the knights of his
court who met with magical adventures, and as the stories grew
older in the popular mind, additions to these naturally became
the rule. Of note is the offshoot of the Arthurian epic, known
as the Holy Grail, in which the knights who go in quest of it encounter
every description of sorcery for the purpose of retarding
their progress.
Arthur’s end is as strange as his origin, for he is wafted away
by fairy hands, or at least by invisible agency, to the Isle of Avillion,
which probably is the same place as the Celtic otherworld
across the ocean.
As a legend and a tradition, that of Arthur is undoubtedly
the most powerful and persistent in the British imagination. It
has employed the pens and enhanced the dreams of many of
the giants of English literature from the time of Geoffrey of
Monmouth to the present day. Some claim Arthur was buried
at Glastonbury, and tourists who visit are shown a tomb site and
may purchase the replica of a cross with an inscription concerning
Arthur.
Sources
De Troyes, Chrétien. Arthurian Romances (Erec and Enide;
Cligés; Yvain; Lancelot). London, 1914.
Lacy, Norris J., ed. The Arthurian Encyclopedia. New York
Garland Publishing, 1986.
Reiss, Edmund, Louise Horner Reiss, and Beverly Taylor.
Arthurian Legend and Literature An Annotated Bibliography. New
York Garland Publishing, 1984.
Waite, Arthur Edward. The Holy Grail The Galahad Quest in
the Arthurian Literature. 1933. Reprint, New York University
Books, 1961.
White, Terence H. The Once and Future King. London Collins,
1958.
Wilhelm, James J., and Laila Zamuelis Gross, eds. The Romance
of Arthur. New York Garland Publishing, 1984.

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