Avalon in America?

Did King Arthur Cross the Atlantic?

In the late sixteenth century Queen Elizabeth had watched as Spain and Portugal, the Netherlands and France estab­lished themselves in the New World. They all made legitimate claims to the Americas that England could not match. Then she consulted her advisor, Dr. John Dee. Dee and his ally Sir Francis Bacon told her that England had claims much older than all of Europe, indeed, said Dee, King Arthur himself had crossed the Atlantic and set foot in the new land.

Dr. Dee was Elizabeth’s advisor, astrologer, and magician. He was also a deep student of the world’s history and geography. His library may have been Britain’s finest and his pioneering of science was an influence on many others to come. His interest in alchemy, ability to conjure angels, and claims of ownership of a “magic mirror,” as well as his whispered heresy, may have denied him a place among the ranks of English savants like Isaac Newton and Robert Fludd; but, nevertheless, he was Elizabeth’s Merlin.

Dee’s influence is hard to overstate. He was, after all, the man who pushed Elizabeth to create a navy that would ultimately create an empire for England. He coined the term “Britannia.” And it is a fact that Elizabeth’s Merlin based England’s claim to America on the travels of her most illustrious ancient king, Arthur.

The Once and Future King

King Arthur had spent a lifetime defending Britain. Twelve great battles culminated in a victory against foreign in­vaders, but one more remained to be fought at Camlann. Tragically, though victory came, the King had to be carried from the battlefield, whereupon he was taken west across the sea to recuperate, and in the belief that he would some­day return. This was the legendary saga of King Arthur and despite the fact that his life and battles are the subject of massive volumes, scholars cannot agree as to exact dates or exact places and some deny that he even existed.

There are several reasons for this. Historians in the fifth and sixth century were largely unreliable. Few could read and only a handful could write. What was actually written down and copied by hand came from tales told and re­told. The printing press was yet centuries from being invented. These were the Dark Ages. There is, however, an over­riding reason for the obscurity of the story of Arthur: politics. Arthur represented the Britons, the original and true inhabitants of the island we now know as England. The Angles, the Saxons, other Germanic tribes, and later the Plan­tagenet kings who made Britain into England had no room for a British hero; so he was systematically edited, delet­ed, purged, and relegated to a medieval legend.

His last days in a faraway place called Avalon have provided great mystery. No one knows where or if such a place existed. No final resting place for Briton’s most beloved king was ever found; that is until Britain’s most influential wizard would come along. John Dee had succeeded the original Merlin and provided evidence of Arthur’s final resting place. It was in the newly rediscovered continent. Since the victors get to write the history, it often becomes difficult to establish the truth. There is little agreed upon among the various tales of the “once and future king.” There is, however, some agreement on the background that can provide us clues as to where and when. When the Romans came to Briton they brought with them a system of government that resembled their home in the Italian peninsula. While battles are remembered, a long history of peaceful development is not. Britain enjoyed a Pax Romana that had many British families adopting the Italian economy. Not a few families intermarried with the occupiers and this created a noble class of landowners who brought about peace and progress but still needed support from the Roman legions. Picts in the North, Irish to the west, and Germanic tribes to the east all looked for opportu­nities to invade this prosperous land.

The chance came in the early fifth century. Rome came under attack and military units were brought home to Ita­ly. In the year 406 the Romans pulled out of the Isles completely, leaving behind a power vacuum. The Picts invaded and war raged for a decade around 450. King Vortigern, wishing to hold back the Picts and the Irish, invited the Sax­ons to England for help. It was a deal with the devil. The Saxons came, they saw and they conquered; and they intend­ed to stay. The Saxons had turned on Vortigern. Three hundred nobles were slain in an act of treachery that fatally weakened Britain. This was the first of the British vs. Saxon Wars, and the original history, written by the monk Gil­das, does not mention Arthur. He does tell us that a series of battles were fought in the north, around Hadrian’s Wall which was built to keep out the invaders of the north. It is safe to say Arthur’s enemies were first the Picts and then the Saxons.

Books, Lost and Found

Possibly a century afterward, Gildas, in a Welsh poem called The Book of Aneiran, actually names Arthur and de­scribes him as a great warrior. In the ninth century, another Welshman, Nennius, provides details that the monk Gil­das left out. Arthur may not have actually been a king, but he was Welsh and so were his people, the true Britons.

Geoffrey of Monmouth who wrote History of the Kings of Britain claimed that a secret book was given to him with an expanded tale of Arthur. The book was the property of Walter the Archdeacon of Oxford and was written in Welsh. This work and many others are now lost to us.

Dr. Dee may have been privy to such texts, some of which have never known the light of day. He would have known of The Voyage of Maelduin’s Boat in which a man named Merlin sailed the North Atlantic to a place called Av­alon but also known as Manannan after the Celtic Sea god. While many like to point to the isle of Man as Avalon, this nearby island, unlike the one in the story, required no passing of an island with fiery mountains (like Iceland), no col­umns or encounters with floating islands (icebergs) and did not need weeks at sea. Another choice is Manana Island off the coast of Maine.

Arthur and his Britons did their best to save their land, but the enemy was far greater. Britain became a country ruled by Anglo-Saxons, and later Normans. Many of the Briton families fled across the sea to Brittany, now part of France. The Britons who stayed moved west to Wales, but they were now second-class citizens in their own country. Subsequent texts took the story and placed it elsewhere since Wales had become a backwater and the relic of another era.

Missing from modern history is that Wales played a much greater role in the history of Britain. Also missing is that a great part of the British population are actually of Welsh descent. Wales as Khymry spread throughout the north of what is now England, separating Alban (Scotland) from England. Internal descent and external conquest had seriously hurt the Welsh culture, traditions, and self-knowledge. The low point may have seemed to come when Richard II prohibited all writing in Welsh and suppressed the language. But it became even worse when Henry IV prohibited the importation into Wales of writing instruments. When the printing press was invented, it would not be al­lowed in Wales until the mid-seventeenth century. Welsh texts were burned and, in effect, their history was nearly eradicated. Perhaps the final insult, though, even worse than erasing the story of King Arthur, was its re-creation as a story that robbed Arthur from the Britons.

Geoffrey of Monmouth took the sixth-century man and brought him into the twelfth century, where he was in­vested with the tenets of chivalry. He was now more like a Templar Knight. There is nothing surprising in this as Ge­offrey was a Cistercian monk. The Cistercians were a sister order of the Templars. Geoffrey changed the geography as well, moving the important battle of Badon from the north of Britain, to Bath, in the south.

A strong possibility is that the original descriptions provide the closest relationship to the truth. One clue is that the wife of Arthur, Guinevere, was chosen because she was a Pict and of a royal family. Her real estate holdings were immense, as property among the picts passed through the female line. She was, as were all her people, tattooed. While Arthur might have seen her as the way to unite the north of Briton with Pictish Scotland and the Orkneys, she might have seen him as a way to the same goal. The ships of the Saxons, after all, terrorized even those northern is­lands.

The marriage was not made in heaven, however, as the differences in custom were great. Pictish women often had more than one husband and saw no reason not to share them. They often would not live with their husband until their first child was born. They were not ready to give up their property to another if marriage didn’t work out.

Later in the Christianized versions, Guinevere was found guilty of adultery. In Malory’s Death of Arthur, she is nearly sent to the stake to be burned for her crimes. There was no such sin in the Pictish custom.

Author Norma Lorre Goodrich pointed out that even her name gives a better understanding of her identity. “Guin” actually meant “white” in the language of the Scots and Welsh. “Weure” meant “viper” or “dragon.” Her title as the White Dragon makes her a priestess-queen of the highest order. Arthur’s marriage was essentially political and later stories are simply an embellishment. Today it is custom that young women will not walk near her grave marker at Meigle. The seven-foot-tall slab with a dragon among the numerous symbols is more Pictish, less Christian than other markers. Women believe it has the power to render them unable to bear children. The tiny town north of Dund­ee is the center of prominent Pictish burials.

West to Avalon

Most tales of Arthur have him waging one final battle. It was the thirteenth battle, not a lucky number for Arthur or for the Knights Templar. Although his forces won the battle, he was badly wounded. He was then put aboard a ship and brought west to Avalon. Several locations have been suggested for Avalon. The best known is not an island at all. Monks at Glastonbury claimed that they held the grave of Arthur and erected a bogus gravestone. It was at the height of religious tourism, also known as pilgrimage. The greater the relic, the more free-spending faithful were attracted. Others pick the small island of Bardsey. It is in the right direction and known to have contained some important bu­rials, but Arthur had not died. The bard Taliesin says the wounded king was put aboard a ship whose owner Barinthus knew how to navigate by the stars. This would not be necessary unless a much longer voyage was planned.

Celts and Norse had the ability to sail the Atlantic from early dates. What is referred to as the Nydam boat was found in Denmark and dated to the fourth century. It was capable of ocean travel, and there is evidence that deep-sea fishing had been practiced for centuries. A seventeenth century Norse ship was 75 feet long, capable of carry more men than the ships of Columbus eight hundred years later. The sea god Manannan of the Celts may have been recog­nized on both sides of the Atlantic. Manannan, Manu, the Vedic Noah and the North American Manitou share certain aspects pointing to much wider contact than is recognized.

The Irish Saint Brendan also made his trip to the Americas in AD 510. At least one Welshman, Price Madoc, is on record as having made the crossing before Columbus. In 1170, Madoc is believed to have not only crossed the Atlantic but to have brought his people to settle in the new land. Author and adventurer Tim Severin re-created his voyage to show at the least it was possible.

Author Graham Philips wrote Merlin and the Discovery of Avalon after physically tracing the Merlin voyage to the Americas. On the small island of Manana are a handful of standing stones similar to those found on the western coast. He may have been privy to such texts, some of which have never known the light of day. He would have known of The Voyage of Maelduin’s Boat in which a man named Merlin sailed the North Atlantic to a place called Avalon ut also known as Manannan after the Celtic Sea god. While many like to point to the isle of Man as Avalon, this nearb island, unlike the one in the story, required no passing of an island with fiery mountains (like Iceland), no columns or encounters with floating islands (icebergs) and did not need weeks at sea. Another choice is Manana Island off the coast of Maine. Arthur and his Britons did their best to save their land, but the enemy was far greater. Britain became a country ruled by Anglo-Saxons, and later Normans. Many of the Briton families fled across the sea to Brittany, now part of France. The Britons who stayed moved west to Wales, but they were now second-class citize s in their own country. Subsequent texts took the story and placed it elsewhere since Wales had become a backwater and the relic of another era. Missing from modern history is that Wales played a much greater role in the history of Britain. Also missing is that a great part of the British population are actually of Welsh descent. Wales as Khymry spread th roughout the north of what is now England, separating Alban (Scotland) from England. Internal descent and external co quest had seriously hurt the Welsh culture, traditions, and self-knowledge. The low point may have seemed to come wh n Richard II prohibited all writing in Welsh and suppressed the language. But it became even worse when Henry IV prohibited the importation into Wales of writing instruments. When the printing press was invented, it would not be allowed in Wales until the mid-seventeenth century. Welsh texts were burned and, in effect, their history was nearly eradicated.

Perhaps the final insult, th ough, even worse than erasing the story of King Arthur, was its re-creation as a story that robbed Arthur from t­he Britons. Geoffrey of Monmouth took the sixth-century man and brought him into the twelfth century, where he was invested with the tenets of chivalry. He was now more like a Templar Knight. There is nothing surprising in this as Geoffrey was a Cistercian monk. The Cistercians were a sister order of the Templars. Geoffrey changed the geography as well, moving the important battle of Badon from the north of Britain, to Bath, in the south. A strong possibility is that the original descriptions provide the closest relationship to the truth. One clue is that the wife of Arthur, Guinevere, was chosen because she was a Pict and of a royal family. Her real estate holdings were immense, as property among ­the picts passed through the female line. She was, as were all her people, tattooed. While Arthur might have seen ­her as the way to unite the north of Briton with Pictish Scotland and the Orkneys, she might have seen him as a way to the same goal. The ships of the Saxons, after all, terrorized even those northern islands.The marriage was not made in heaven, however, as the differences in custom were great.

Pictish women often had more than one husband and s­aw no reason not to share them. They often would not live with their husband until their first child was born. They were not ready to give up their property to another if marriage didn’t work out. Later in the Christianized versions, Guinevere was found guilty of adultery. In Malory’s Death of Arthur, she is nearly sent to the stake to be burned for her crimes. There was no such sin in the Pictish custom. Author Norma Lorre Goodrich pointed out that even her name gives a better understanding of her identity. “Guin” actually meant “white” in the language of the Scots and Welsh. “Weure” meant “viper” or “dragon.” Her title as the White Dragon makes her a priestess-queen of the highest order. Arthur’s marriage was essentially political and later stories are simply an embellishment.

Today it is custom that young women will not walk near her grave marker at Meigle. The seven-foot-tall slab with a dragon among the numerous symbols is more Pictish, less Christian than other markers. Women believe it has the power to render them unable to bear children. The tiny town north of Dundee is the center of prominent Pictish burials.

West to Avalon

Most tales of Arthur have him waging one final battle. It was the thirteenth battle, not a lucky number for Arthur or for the Knights Templar. Although his forces won the battle, he was badly wounded. He was then put aboard a ship and brought west to Avalon. Several locations have been suggested for Avalon. The best known isn’t an island at all. Monks at Glastonbury claimed that they held the grave of Arthur and erected a bogus gravestone. It was at the height of religious tourism, also known as pilgrimage. The greater the relic, the more free-spending faithful were attracted. Others pick the small island of Bardsey. It is in the right direction an known to have contained some important burials, but Arthur had not died.

The bard Taliesin says the wounded king was put aboard a ship whose owner Barinthus knew how to navigate by the stars. This would not be necessary unless a much longer voyage was planned. Celts and Norse had the ability to sail the Atlantic from early dates. What is referred to as the Nydam boat was found in Denmark and dated to the fourth century. It was capable of ocean travel, and here is evidence that deep-sea fishing had been practiced for centuries. A seventeenth century Norse ship was 75 feet long, capable of carry more men than the ships of Columbus eight hundred years later. The sea god Manannan of the Celts may have been recognized on both sides of the Atlantic. Manannan, Manu, the Vedic Noah and the North American Manitou share certain aspects pointing to much wider contact than is recognized.

The Irish Saint Brendan also made his trip to the Americas in AD 510. At least one Welshman, Price Madoc, is on record as having made the crossing before Columbus. In 1170, Madoc is believed to have not only crossed the Atlantic but to have brought his people to settle in the new land. Author and adventurer Tim Severin re-created his voyage to show at the least it was possible.

Author Graham Philips wrote Merlin and the Discovery of Avalon after physically tracing the Merlin voyage to the Americas. On the small island of Manana are a handful of standing stones similar to those found on the western coast of Britain. Phillips and his research partner Glynn Davis connected the ancient history of Merlin and Arthur to an ex­pedition led by a prominent Rosicrucian, Pierre Dugua, who landed on Manana. It was actually a follow-up voyage af­ter Martin Pring landed on Manana the year before. A prophecy foretold the discovery of Merlin’s tomb in 1604. Ac­cording to Phillips, Dugua, who was connected to both Dr. Dee and Sir Francis Bacon, actually found the tomb of Merlin, an event kept secret by that group.

Did John Dee share other information with Francis Bacon as to the final resting place of Arthur? The evidence might elude us today as suspicious neighbors of the wizard Dee burned down his remarkable library of four thousand books and Mortlake, his home. Among his numerous volumes, could other Welsh texts have been lost in the fire? We may never know.

The efforts of Sir Francis Bacon to create his New Atlantis in the Americas led him to found more than one expe­dition. In 1607 Bristol’s Society of Merchant Venturers which included Bacon formed the Newfoundland Company. The new company had forty-eight members and the Earl Northampton. They decided on a peninsula they would call the Province of Avalon to create a new colony. The name Avalon still graces the map of Newfoundland.

Does the rock-strewn coast of Avalon hide clues to the Avalon of Arthur? One text had Avalon “down from St. John’s” and the peninsula in Newfoundland has as its largest town, St. John’s. An older text has Avalon ruled by a queen Argantia. Similarly, Argentia is another Avalon place-name in Newfoundland.

This province of Canada honored Bacon on the tercentenary of its foundation with a stamp of the visionary writer and philosopher. His writings, it is believed, were once hidden in a vault under the Wye River in England which was uncovered in the nineteenth century and found to be empty. There is evidence that such documents were taken to America where they were concealed in numerous vaults. Someday the secrets of the author of New Atlantis may be revealed along with the final resting place of Britain’s most beloved king.

By Steven Sora

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