Arthurian Spring

Perceval Arrives at the Castle of the Fisher King

Although I have always liked the philosophical and historical insights of Joseph Campbell, I have suddenly struck a particularly rich vein while reading his Romance of the Grail: The Magic and Mystery of Arthurian Myth. It is not unusual for me to suddenly change directions based on my reading. In this case, I foresee an Arthurian Spring.

By that I mean not just the Christian interpretation of the so-called “Matter of Britain,” but the nexus between that and a semi-Druidical interpretation allied to primitive, Islamic, and East Asian influences. In my book collection are a number of volumes of the originals in translation which I have either never read or read strictly through the eyes of later monastic sources.

The stories of the Holy Grail, the Knights of the Round Table, the Fisher King, and the Waste Land (including T. S. Eliot’s interpretation as influenced by Jesse L. Weston‘s From Ritual to Romance) are a rich treasure trove with interesting links to global sources. Most of the original works were written during a hundred-year period comprising parts of the eleventh and twelfth centuries A.D.

The Holy Grail of Indiana Jones

When most of us think of Camelot and the Arthurian legends, we think of Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur or—worse yet—Howard Pyle’s 1903 re-telling in The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, which was my first introduction. Both are thoroughly influenced by the monastic hijacking of the legend that took place beginning late in the twelfth century.

So I am on my way to an absorbing world that should see me through much of the remaining quarantine and the transition to the worldwide economic depression that will inevitably follow.

Beyond Good and Evil

Joseph Campbell

When you get down into the depths of mythology, [mythic] forms are beyond good and evil. With the Indian deities—this is the wonderful thing about them—the upper right hand will say. “Fear not” and below it is the boon-bestowing hand; and the upper left will have a sword, and in the lower a recently amputated head. These are the two aspects of power, the two aspects of being. in our traditions—and this is true even all the way back to the Greeks—the beneficent and the malfeasant aspects of power tend to be separated and contrary entities.

Is that when trouble arises?

No, not necessarily—provided the two are in play with each other. But when one is impugned, as in our tradition where the powers of the deep are consigned to Hell … It’s interesting that the symbols of Shiva and of Poseidon are exactly those that are given to the Devil in Christian mythology—the bull’s foot and the tridents. So the power which is symbolized in those forms has been pushed aside as though it should not be admitted.—Joseph Campbell, An Open Life