Are we running out of fringe ideas? I wonder sometimes since it seems that each new claim is just a boring variation on something written 50, 100, or a 1,000 years ago. It starts to get boring after a while. Over on Graham Hancock’s website, guest writer David Warner Mathisen discusses why he thinks myths and legends are really based on constellations and their movements, but even he freely concedes that he is borrowing the claim from Hamlet’s Mill half a century ago and Robert Taylor 150 years before that. Over at Ancient Origins, Ralph Ellis, inveterate fringe fabricator, makes the same claim in more overwrought format. In both cases, the authors assume that the constellations were known and recognized in their modern forms worldwide and before the Bronze Age, which of course can’t be proved.
Mathisen adds, illogically:
Let us now briefly ask “Why” the ancient myths of the world, all around the globe, would be built upon celestial allegories. I believe that whoever imparted the ancient wisdom in the sacred myths were consciously using the stars as a sophisticated metaphor to impart profound knowledge of the Invisible Realm and our connection to it. The celestial players in the heavenly realm above our heads – the sun, moon, stars, and visible planets, along with their intricate cycles – were used to convey truths about the infinite realm, which is in fact real, and of vital importance to each of our lives, and to the collective survival of all life on earth, even though it cannot be seen.
Even if we were to assume that there is a genuine stellar tradition behind all world mythology, this implies nothing about the creators of that tradition having any connection to a mystical spirit realm, or that such a realm exists, or that it has any relevance to human life. At best, it implies that Stone Age people liked to tell stories, and some people remembered them later on. The illogic of it is quite boring, and it bothers me that Mathisen’s peroration is predicated on, essentially, asserting the reality of a spirit realm he wants to exist and then back-forming “proof” of it from a slightly tweaked version of the old solar hero lie.
Mathisen’s argument is essentially what one would get if Victorian mythologists suddenly became neo-pagans.
Similarly, I just read a review by Nick Redfern of an upcoming book promising (again) to reveal the real and historical King Arthur. So frequent are these Arthurian claims that I just finished reviewing a book claiming to have found the historical Arthur! The latest version, by British journalist Simon Keegan, claims that Arthur is actually Arthwys ap Mar, also called Arthur of the Pennines (c. 460-520 CE), who appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain as Archgallo. This claim is not particularly new, and Mike Ashley suggested that Arthwys, along with several other warlords of the same name, contributed to the development of the Arthur myth in his Mammoth Book of King Arthur (2005). According to Redfern’s review, Keegan’s book is a much blunter version of the claim, and seeks to tie most of the Arthurian retinue to Arthwys’ court. If you squint, some names might seem similar. Arthwys’ brother was named Morydd, which compares favorably to Arthur’s nephew Mordred, for example.
Keegan then identifies Camelot as the northern English Roman fort at Slack, which he says was named Camulod. The Slack fort’s actual Roman name is unknown. Many scholars suggest it is identical with the Cambodunum of the Antonine Itinerary, but this has not been proved. Nonetheless, Keegan’s claim isn’t even original. It’s point for point identical to Berham Saklatvala’s Arthur: Roman Britain’s Last Champion (1967). Saklatvala concluded that Slack’s “British” name was “Camulodun,” which he derives from assigning the Latin name of Camulodunum to the site, based on names appearing in Ptolemy’s Geography and the seventh-century Ravenna Cosmography. Even if true, it was hardly the only Camulodunum in Britain; a site with a very similar name could be found in Essex.
Finally, I have to give notice to Judd F. Allen’s The Royal Seed: Why the Genealogy of Jesus is Important to You Today (WestBow, 2015). The publicist for the publisher marketed the book to me as an exploration of the sacred bloodline of holy Judeo-Christian kings and their survival today, and on that strength I asked for a review copy. It turns out that WestBow Press, which I knew as a division of HarperCollins, is actually a Christian self-publishing company operating from within HarperCollins’s Thomas Nelson division.
I expected Jesus Bloodline lunacy. Instead, Allen, a very earnest Biblical literalist, simply rewrote the Bible chronologically, explaining all of the various family relationships down to Jesus. He then negated any reason to care about the genealogies by promising that believers in Christ are adopted into his family and therefore, by adoption, share in his kingdom. I don’t want to speak ill of someone who seems very earnest in his belief that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write a long list of genealogical material despite what he describes as his lack of education in theology or biblical studies, but suffice it to say that there is no reason to read this book.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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