Paganism in Arthurian Romance

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Boydell & Brewer, 1997 - History - 304 pages
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The origins of Arthurian romance will always be a hotly disputed subject. The great moments of the legends belong partly to dimly-remembered history, partly to the poets' imagination down the ages, whether Welsh, Breton, French or German. Yet there is another element behind the stories which goes back deeper and further, and which is even more difficult to pinpoint, the traces of ancient pagan religion. We know so little for certain about Celtic religion that any attempt to document these recollections of prehistoric and mythological material is a hazardous undertaking. However, John Darrah makes a persuasive case for the existence of these underlying themes, both in terms of heroes who have inherited the attributes of gods, and of episodes which reflect ancient religious rituals. His careful study of the thematic relationships of many little-known episodes of the romances and his unravelling of the relative geography of Arthurian Britain as portrayed in the romances will be valuable even to readers who may beg to differ with his final conclusions. His most original contribution to an unravelling of a pagan Arthurian past lies in his appropriation of the fascinating evidence of standing stones and pagan cultic sites. The magical attributes of stones are exemplified in prehistoric standing stones, the real counterparts of the perrons of the French romances. This is dark and difficult territory, but certain events in the Arthurian cycle, which take place on and around Salisbury Plain, have correspondences with known prehistoric events. Building on these elusive clues, and tracing a range of sites around the river Severn and south Wales, John Darrah has added a significant new dimension tothe search for the sources of England's great epic, the legends of Arthur and his court.

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This is a very important work, detailed and relevant to any modern scholarship. It is especially important in support of any thesis which disagrees with the antiquated writings of Nitze and Jenkins who held the entire world at bay for more than a century before the internet came along. Now we realize there may be some flaws in the late Victorian ideas about Perlesvaus and other Grail sagas. hank harrison 


The Calendar of Arthurian Romance
The Challenge
Tournaments and the Spring Marriage
Severed Heads and Sacred Waters
Healing Blood and the Dolorous Stroke
The Nature of Paganism in Britain
Ceremonial and Ritual
The Geography of Arthurian Romance
Time and Place
Unidentified Places

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