Saturday, April 12, 2008

Arthur 'Pendragon' - what I don't like about him and other self-styled 'kings'

The 'king' in question is not the legendary Arthur but a laterday pretender to the crown. See link for an example.

'King Arthur' in 'action'

As a pagan myself I find this kind of thing slightly humiliating. I'd like to be able to say this is just a joke or a bit of post modern irony. Trouble is over time what started as role playing is getting serious (again see the clip).

I'm not doubting 'King Arthur's' commitment to his own personal trip - but do we really have to be involved? Trouble is there are plenty of moderately high profile pagans who find it personally advantageous to buy into this whole thing. They start writing about him and feeding even more the guy's delusions that he somehow represents something other than a small circle of friends.

Hence the current message which if we are not careful is sure to be repeated ad nauseum at various pagan gatherings and forums over the coming months. In it the 'king' tell his 'followers' and anyone else who will listen, that they should stop going to Stonehenge or Avebury for the solstice. They should instead organise things in their local area. He has been a slightly bedraggled and largely ignored 'kingly' presence strutting his stuff at Stonehenge since its the 'liberation' in 1999. It's unclear from his 'message' exactly where he will be next year. Does it means he will be absent from the media scrum at Stonehenge or are these instructions for everyone else?

Now on the face of it what he says might not seem unreasonable. It's the tone that is irritating. If you're a newcomer to all this you might be forgiven for thinking that 'King Arthur' is singlehandedly responsible for the 1999 'liberation' of Stonehenge and indeed the growth of pagan activity at sacred sites up and down the land. But in fact 'King Arthur' could be viewed as a relative newcomer to all this. Moreoever he is a newcomer whose instinct is far from inclusive.

Indeed he wouldn't be the only one of our largely self-appointed 'leaders' who seem to want to cherrypick the best of pagan Britain for themselves. These people often are created for and by the media; a fact that they use to their own advantage. But is it to the advantage of you or I; the average man or woman in the street? Yes there are those amongst us who cling to the outmoded 'values' of feudalism. But I say raise the banner of 'Everyman/woman', and consign the would-be pagan aristocrats to the dustbin of history where they belong.

'When Adam delved, and Eve span,
who was then the gentleman?'

PS: The open invitation to the funeral of Druid
Tim Sebastian had the following rider:

It was Tim's wish Rollo Maughfling and Arthur Pendragon do not
attend. They will be receiving a letter to this effect.


Druid wars: How a drunken row over 4,000-year-old bones is causing
chaos in pagan circles.

The last time I met King Arthur Uther Pendragon — at a summer
solstice ceremony at Stonehenge — he was staggering about blind
drunk, sword in one hand, warm can of Stella in the other, his long
white robes rather worse for wear.
He proudly told me that he had loads of children, but couldn't
remember exactly how many — `the King's a bit of a tart, you see' —
and very thoughtfully invited me to join his harem if I `fancied a
bit'. He then made a great show of pretending to grab my right breast.
So as I park on a stretch of muddy grass next to his very small and
tatty caravan which overlooks the famous pagan site, I am a little
Not just because he's a randy old lush, but because he has a pretty
fearsome reputation as a self-styled warrior, political activist, new
age militant, very enthusiastic demonstrator — he's camped out here
on some sort of protest about the Stonehenge Visitor Centre — and
Battle chieftain of the Council of British Druid Orders, or COBDO.
Happily, this year, he's sober (if very keen to get down the pub) and
extraordinarily chatty, with a tendency to ramble.
`I'm a spiritual warrior. I'm here to bang heads together to get
everyone on the same side and I'm prepared to fight for what I
believe in. . .
`Like this huge row over the skeletons — don't whatever you do listen
to that other bunch of idiots who make up COBDO West. No one bothers
with them, I'm Battle chieftain, I decide the policy and what I say
goes — I think we should let those who lay at rest, stay at rest. You
wouldn't want someone digging up your grandma from the churchyard,
would you?'
It's difficult to know where to start...
The `skeletons' are the 4,000-year-old remains of a young girl
called `Charlie' and seven other sets of prehistoric bones, excavated
near the ancient stone circle in Avebury, Wiltshire, and now on
display at the Alexander Keiller Museum in the village.
The `row' concerns a small breakaway group of druids (known to some
as COBDO West) who've requested the museum release the remains so
they can rebury them where they came from. King Arthur and mainstream
COBDO want the same thing — but are upset that COBDO West have taken
matters into their own hands. `COBDO West are just a joke — three men
and a dog, without even the dog,' splutters King Arthur. `I've got
thousands of members in my Arthurian War Band all round the world and
loads more in the UK. I could field hundreds of activists at the drop
of a hat. Bunch of idiots.'
Gosh. Silly me, I thought druids were just a bunch of tree-huggers
who wore flowing robes, paid homage to the sun and were full of peace
and love. I couldn't be more wrong. Because the Council of British
Druid Orders is at war.
Or, more accurately, a few key members are at war, after a punch-up
in a pub and a horribly acrimonious split back in 2006.
Today, no one seems able to remember exactly what it was all about
but for the past two years, they've been busy slinging mud, insults
and the odd fist at each other.

The bones at the centre of the row were found at Stonehenge
On one side is my old friend King Arthur, an ex-soldier, ex-builder
and ex-Hell's Angel who changed his name by deed poll to King Arthur
Uther Pendragon in 1976. He sports long grey locks, a big grizzly
beard and a slew of tattoos.
On his `team' are Rollo Maughfling, alias the Elder Arch Druid of
Stonehenge, and his COBDO supporters.
On the other, the breakaway COBDO West, is Paul Davies, Druid Chief
Reburials Officer, who lives on a narrow boat in Bath and started all
this fuss about the skeletons, and the very hirsute Archdruid of
Exmoor, who merely identifies himself as `Steve'.
The latter, now 53, is teetotal and claims King Arthur is a drunken,
self-invented, aggressive fraud who has a nasty tendency to throw up
in sacred circles and is a hazard with his faithful sword — `I've
seen him wave it about when he's p***ed and nearly decapitate
`A lot of people are embarrassed by it all — very embarrassed,' says
Emma Restall Orr, a druidic teacher and priestess from Warwick-
shire. `They're feisty, burly lads who are very much on the edge of
druidism but are rowing in public and giving druids a bad name.'
And there are an awful lot of druids out there — according to
Professor Ronald Hutton (a leading authority on paganism) there are
more than 10,000 in the UK. There are countless cults, covens and
orders, and with meetings (or moots) just as likely to be down the
pub now as in a moonlit wood, this 9,000-year-old branch of paganism
is becoming more and more mainstream.

Peacemaker: Terry Dobney, aka Chief Druid of Avebury, is calling for
a Druid code of conduct
But the definition of druidism is also pretty vague. It has been
described alternately as the `nature religion of Albion'; `the
sacredness of the earth and nature and all living things'; and
a `natural spiritualism'.
Terry Dobney has been a druid for 50 years and has been Chief Druid
and Keeper of the Stones at Avebury for the past 11. He wears long
white robes and an antler on his belt, clasps a hazel staff and has a
rook's feather in his cap.
`Druids are supposed to have a balanced view and see both sides of
the argument,' he explains. `But there are some strong egotistical
characters who need keeping in check. We're drawing up a code of
conduct for being a druid.
`There are very few actual time-served druids. It takes a minimum of
21 years before you can call yourself a druid.'
According to Terry, it starts with a year and a day learning all the
ceremonies with a mentor druid. The next seven practising what you've
learned — `it's an oral tradition, so you're not supposed to write it
down'. Seven more dressed in blue, getting a handle on the poetry and
music. And, finally, the white robes and a political role.
Which, if you believe King Arthur as he sits nursing a pint of
Strongbow in the pub with his girlfriend Kazz, 49, is where he is
`I work out the political tactics for the druids. My order is the
political arm. We're the guys in white frocks, up the trees. We're
the ones trying to stop the Newbury by-pass.'
Hasn't that been open for a few years?
`Whatever — we're at the sharp end. We're the political arm of the
whole spiritual movement.'
But it's tricky to get a handle on what this lot actually believe in.
Terry's take is: `We're born, we reproduce if we're lucky, and we
die. I certainly don't believe in any sort of goddess.'
For the Archdruid of Exmoor it's all about helping and healing,
though he dismisses Terry's 21-year druidic training scheme as `a
complete load of rubbish — no need to take any notice of that because
every druid is different'.
Paul Davies, for example, says: `It's all about respecting nature as
a living being, and beauty and power and love of nature — the
ceremonies help us become part of nature and the local landscape.'
King Arthur, meanwhile, seems more preoccupied with his passport,
which he produces in the pub. `Look — look! I'm the only subject of
Her Majesty the Queen who is allowed to wear a crown on his passport
There does seem to be a certain lack of spiritualism among some
Council members.
Which is a terrible shame for the rest of Britain's druids, quietly
getting on with their lives, planting trees, performing ceremonies
and trying their utmost to live at one with nature.
And finally, the skeletons — what's that all about?
Paul Davies kindly explains. `It's very simple. Christian remains are
automatically reburied if they are exhumed for any reason and it
seems reasonable that non- Christians should have the same rights.'
Which, on the face of it, seems pretty reasonable. Indeed, pretty
much the only sensible thing I've heard all day and the only thing
they all seem to agree on.
Meanwhile, back in his local, I buy King Arthur another pint and make
my farewells to him and Kazz.
`Sorry about the summer solstice,' he mutters. `It's always quite a
long night,' adds Kazz, diplomatically.

From: Mail online