When I started this blog, my book about the historical Arthur was just weeks away from being published. That's because I was preparing to self-publish the book. Then the History Press (http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/) got hold of it. And now, the book's coming out this summer:
If you'd pre-ordered it over Christmas, you could have saved yourself five whole pounds! But now, Amazon have reduced the cost of the hardback from a wallet-busting £20 to a much more reasonable £19.99.
Anyway, I've decided that the delayed publication of The King Arthur Conspiracy is probably a good thing, and here's why. It's all to do with 2012, which is the Year of the (Water) Dragon.
There is a misguided notion that the world will end later this year - on 21 December, in fact - because that's when the ancient Mayan calendar comes to an end. But that's not how the Mayans see it.
The ancient Mayans observed seventeen different calendars, each of which followed a different cycle. A complicated and sophisticated method of overlapping all these different calendars allowed them to chart time accurately over a period in excess of 10 million years. According to their calendrical measurements, something rather special will happen during the winter solstice at sunrise on 21 December 2012.
The world will not end. Rather, it will be transformed. The World of the Fourth Sun is at an end, and the World of the Fifth Sun will soon begin. This is only a problem if you happen to be an unreconstructed materialist.
The Mayans believe that we are currently in a time of transition, exemplified by global unrest, environmental chaos and the realisation that financial markets are based on sheer fantasy. The Mayans also believe that those among us who are too materialistic are desperately resisting any possibility of change. Such people deny the reality of climate change and cling to their privileges and benefits at the expense of everybody else (or, as the Occupy movement might put it, the 1% is fighting to preserve the colossal wealth it has amassed by cheating the other 99% out of it). The World of the Fifth Sun, which will come into being on 21 December, will be dominated by the fifth element known as Ether, which in some ways is nothing more than the spiritual equivalent of the elusive Higgs boson particle: it is the space between space, the energy that holds the universe together.
Something rather special will happen on 21 December 2012 - something that hasn't happened in 26,000 years. On that day, the Sun will rise to conjunct the intersection of the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic, forming a cosmic cross. The Mayans suspect that this will be a catalyst for global change - the very thing that the materialists amongst us don't want to see.
The cosmic cross which will be formed at sunrise on the winter solstice is thought to be an embodiment of the Tree of Life, the Sacred Tree or World Tree - and that's where Arthur comes in.
Spending so long studying Arthur meant that I began to think a little like Arthur's people. This was especially true of astronomy. Arthur was named after a bright red star which reached its zenith at the moment of his conception. Some years later, a comet appeared in the sky, heralding his father's accession to the throne of the Scots (the comet would not reappear in the skies until 1993/4). Even the precise moment of Arthur's burial can be pinned down thanks to references in the poetry of the time to a certain astronomical phenomenon. It's a fair bet that Arthur's people, stargazers as they were, would have had some sense of the importance of the cosmological event which will take place on 21 December this year.
As I explain in the book (did I mention that it's due out this summer?), the island on which Arthur was buried was the site of a World Tree. The World Tree features in the cosmography of most cultures and religions - it is right there in the Bible, both as the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden and the 'holy rood' upon which Christ was crucified. The World Tree connects the upper and lower realms which the material plane of existence, and so it functions as an omphalos or World Navel. It is the birthplace of the world and the link between our world and the other worlds of the spirits and the dead.
In The King Arthur Conspiracy I argue that the island of Arthur's burial was recognised as a World Navel as far back as the time of Homer (who referred to it as the "Navel of the sea"). It was a site of extraordinary spiritual and cultural significance, a sacred burial place, and it remained in use as a sacred graveyard up until relatively recent times. So significant was this island that an early saint of the Church was prepared to betray Arthur and to plot his death so that the island could become an exclusively Christian stronghold.
One of the downsides of this historical development is that the island's status as the Navel of the sea and site of the World Tree was largely forgotten. I hope very much to rectify this when The King Arthur Conspiracy is published this summer (order it now on Amazon and get a 1p discount!).
This is what makes me just a little excited about the astronomical coincidence (?) of the cosmic cross occurring later this year. If the conjunction of the Sun with the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic symbolises the World Tree, as the Mayans believe, then there could hardly be a better time to reveal to the world the former existence of a World Tree on the island of Arthur's burial.
Mayan elders believe that for the transition to the World of the Fifth Sun to be a smooth one, we must visit the sacred places of the Earth and pray for peace and unity. We need to "reactivate the energy of these sacred places". That is what I hope to have done with the book. The island can be visited - there's a regular ferry service. And by honouring the historical Arthur at the precise site of his burial (details in the book) and remembering the island's sacred heritage as the Navel of the sea, we can begin the task of welcoming in the World of the Fifth Sun. A more spiritual, less materialistic age.
It's nice to think that my book will come out about six months before the start of a new world - a world predicated on the very principles which Arthur and his fellows would have supported (please, please, please don't keep pretending that Arthur was a Christian - it was the Church that destroyed him, then blackened his name, and then rewrote his legends to make him a Christian king!). If 2012 really does see the beginning of a new age of spirituality, then I would like to feel that my book about Arthur's life and times might contribute to that. If nothing else, it should reawaken interest in the pre-Christian history of the Isle of Avalon.
2012 will also be the Chinese Year of the Dragon - specifically, the Water Dragon. Arthur was a Dragon (the word originally meant a "lord" or "champion"). His father was the Pendragon. This is, in fact, a misnomer: pen draigen meant "chief of the sacred isle", and Arthur's father was indeed the lord and defender of the Navel of the sea and its sacred World Tree. Arthur was also strongly associated with the element of water. He was born, and he was buried, on an island. In the book, I argue that his Druidic name was 'Alders' (Gwern). The alder tree is especially fond of water.
So, all in all, 2012 feels like a good year for a book about the original, the genuine Arthur. There hasn't been a year like it for 26,000 years. The Year of the Dragon, and the beginning of the World of the Fifth Sun, is surely the perfect time to reveal precisely who the Once and Future King really was and why the island we came to think of as Avalon was so important. Perhaps it can be again.