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Sunday, 21 August 2011

King Arthur in Irish Pseudo-Historical Tradition - An Introduction

Was King Arthur Irish?

..and then the power and strength of Britain was destroyed after him..

After four years of research and the translation of ancient Irish manuscripts the forgotten story of the Irish Arthur can now be introduced and revealed for the first time in hundreds of years. From long forgotten manuscripts this scholarly paper has pieced together a tale that will astound those seeking the origins of King Arthur. Most of this material has never been seen or read before, with much of it newly translated into English for the first time, both narrative prose and ancient poetry.

The main sources are discussed first and then the implications of the ancestry, name and background of this fascinating character of Irish history and myth are examined. What then unfolds is a tale of astounding similarities to that of the Arthur of the Welsh. It is a story of heroic deeds, conquests, romance, enslavement and magic. 

This King fought numerous battles, was in his early years a murderous tyrant, exacted tribute, was in possession of the Lia Fáil, conquered Ireland and Gaul and assumed the sovereignty of Britain, Scotland, the Saxons, Denmark and the Orkneys; is fostered by a Druid and is finally given the ultimate accolade of a famous hero – the triple death. 

Not only did he accomplish all this but did so at exactly the same time as King Arthur of the Britons is said to have done! With over two hundred footnotes there is plenty of information for those seeking further clues and answers to the enigma of Arthur. 

 So was King Arthur Irish? Read it and decide for yourself!

 Now available as a PDF for free download, get it here.

ISBN : 978-0-9570002-0-9
Dark Age Arthurian Books
Author : Dane Pestano

Book and eBook versions here:

Reviews :

Great review here by Tyler Tichelaar on his blog. Presented here as well below.

Recently, Dane Pestano, author of King Arthur in Irish Pseudo-Historical Tradition was kind enough to write a review of my book King Arthur’s Children on his blog at: I felt honored to have such a scholar read my book, and I wish to return the favor by reviewing his book.
And I’m glad I did because King Arthur in Irish Pseudo-Historical Tradition is an impressive and insightful look into the possibility that the legend of King Arthur may be rooted in that of a historical Irish king. I am completely impressed with the extensive research Pestano did to write this book—in his short bio in the back of the book, Pestano states that he spent four years researching this topic, and while I don’t feel qualified to comment on all of his research, I could easily follow the argument and he has me fairly convinced by all the supporting evidence he finds.
Pestano begins by discussing the evolution of the Arthurian legend in early written texts including the Historia Brittonum from 829 AD that first mentions Arthur and his Twelve Battles, the 10th century Gododdin, and the Vita Goeznovius, circa 1016, which first mentions Arthur’s kingship and conquest of Gaul. All these works predate Geoffrey of Monmouth’s important History of the Kings of Britain from the twelfth century. But they are all three centuries or later from Arthur’s actual timeframe of the early sixth century. Pestano thinks the answers to the historical Arthur may lie in Irish literature and history, and after discussing scholars who have dismissed Ireland as offering anything in the search for the historical Arthur, he states that the Irish had their own Arthur but by a different name so his identity has lain hidden. This Arthur actually fits into the timeframe for Arthur better than any other candidate offered so far.
Who is this Irish Arthur? Pestano points out that there are possibly some blended versions of this man, but he believes it to be Muircertach Mac Erca, who was the first Christian King of Ireland and reigned from about 510-537. Not only does Mac Erca’s timeframe fit perfectly with Arthur’s dates, but he has many other similarities, including that he was said to have conquered Britain and Gaul, and that he was fostered by a Druid. His wife also has a name that would match Arthur’s wife as the Welsh equivalent. Furthermore, he is provided with a threefold death which Pestano suggests was Christianized into the Fortune’s Wheel dream that appears in well known Arthurian texts.
Pestano’s research is very extensive, and I admit I had a bit of a hard time following it at times because most of the texts and people he discusses are unfamiliar to me, but those are shortcomings on my own part and the book’s organization is overall clear.
In my continual interest in King Arthur’s children, I found a couple of things particularly interesting in the book. Pestano mentions Mac Erca’s children, including Baedan, whose descendants were rulers of Saxon Northumbria, via his second wife, the daughter of Clovis of France. Therefore, if Mac Erca is the real King Arthur, his descendants did live on to the present day through Northumbrian royalty. Pestano also refers to Baedo, whom the Spanish say was King Arthur’s daughter, a reference to a child of Arthur’s whom I missed in writing King Arthur’s Children.
But I was most excited by research revealing that Mac Erca had a son whom Pestano says was Constantine, the heir to Arthur in the Arthurian legend. Interestingly, Constantine’s mother was the daughter to Clovis, King of the Franks, who when baptized was called the “new Constantine” which explains the origin for Constantine’s name, and more importantly, solves the longtime riddle of why Constantine ended up inheriting the kingdom upon Arthur’s death—because he was Arthur’s (Mac Erca’s) son.
I admit I have not read all the theories for different candidates of the historical Arthur, but most that I have heard about do not fit into the timeframe for Arthur but are several years away from it, before or after. Therefore, Pestano’s theories bear further looking into. Fortunately, he is planning to produce a longer work on the subject, while this work is to introduce the information and provide a basic life of Mac Erca and the supporting texts.
Overall, I highly recommend the book. My only criticisms stem from reading the Kindle version; I’m still getting used to the Kindle reader and dislike flipping back and forth to try to read end notes, and I wished there had been some genealogy charts to look at and help me keep all the people mentioned straight, but those are minor concerns. I definitely feel this book is one that merits a second and third reading in order to absorb fully all of the extensive research Pestano has done. I trust King Arthur in Irish Pseudo-Historical Tradition will become a major source for future research, and it will be interesting to see a few years down the road if Pestano’s theory is accepted or other scholars build upon it. I look forward to Pestano’s next book which will go into even more detail.

By Mak Wilson
This book is not only well research but extremely well written. However, it is not for the faint hearted as there is a great deal of detail contained within the 125 pages; detail that would take a similar expert in the subject matter to do a true critique of it. I did find it a gripping read, never-the-less. Would I personally agree that the ‘Dark Age’ character put forward by Dane Prestano was the bases for Arthur? Probably not, although there is no denying the similarities between his exploits and those of the legendary king. It did leave me with more question than answers and I look forward to the next book where some of those might be resolved. Would I recommend this book? I would indeed ... even with its ‘interesting’ cover image.

By Karen Han.
Very rarely do we get a ground-breaking book that changes the way we look at the history and evolution of a legend. In his very first work of historical non-fiction, Dane Pestano has handed it to us. With his well-researched and exhaustive account, Pestano blows away the mists of the past. Using his extensive knowledge of the literary sources, archaeology, history and art, he triumphantly resurrects a shadowy warlord who may have entered literary and pseudo-historical tradition as "King Arthur of the Irish". His fresh new perspectives and alternative insights add to our understanding of the Dark Ages, a period hugely shrouded in mystery, of which we know very little about. This book is essential reading for all Arthurian enthusiasts.

By JML, 2010. I've read and re-read your paper, first of all I'm in no way a literary critic but I have to say that I was left flabbergasted. I've never come across any history of that time relating to the high kings that is as comprehensive in its research as that of your paper. I never heard this idea before but after reading your paper, and if you've got your research right, as I believe you do, I'm convinced of your argument.
May I conclude by thanking you for letting me glimpse this powerful and compelling exposé, and by all means let me know when your going to publish the book.For now I wish you the best of luck with this project and hope you succeed in publishing this book as it would be akin to a pole-shift in an historical sense..

By J-G Turner, 2010. I have studied your work closely. I am not yet ready to solidify my position. I will tell you though I am fascinated by it. I think that you have done great work. I think that you have some brilliant ground breaking research.

Blog review here :

Newspaper article by Roisin for the Inishowen Times.

Who was King Arthur? Table comparison of contenders.

Who was King Arthur? In this post I compare the various contenders. Looks pretty much like Mac Erca wins hands down as the most influential candidate. See my book for more details.

What Mac Erca does prove is that there _could_ have been an Arthur. My work swings the pendulum back from where Dumville, Green and others left it, with all smoke and no fire, for now, with Mac Erca we have a real historical person who DID acquire legends and tales exactly like Arthurs. This increases the possibility now that there was an Arthur by a large percentage, and if that is all I could bring to the study of Arthur then I would be happy. In essence, we have found an example of Dumville's fire and a damn good one it is...

Mac Erca
Artorius Castus
Mac Aedan
Urse Cuneglase
Has the name Arthur
Lived between
   465 -537
Fought Saxons
Fought Irish
Fought Danes
Fought Franks
Fought Picts
Fights Dog heads and other mythicals
Ruled Orkneys
Had special weapon
Christian references
Considered a giant
Death or removal of wife
Consorts with druid
Fights abroad
Magical Dog
Fights Giants
Wife’s name translatable to Guinevere type
Fights twelve battles
Joint sovereignty
Dubious ancestry
Mythical death
Saxon Ascendancy after death
Fought at Badon and Camlan
Associated with Badon or Camlann
*  see below
Associated with Constantine
Associated with period of seven years.
Associated with St Caranog

* Mac Erca has a son called Baitan/Baedan and his last battle was at Ebhlann. This name Baitan became very popular in the sixth century Ireland and northern Britain surely acting as a witness to the battle of Mount Badon. In fact the name Baitan became the name of a place in Argyll called Kinnel Badon/Vadon.

Muircertach Mac Erca

And then the power and strength of Britain was destroyed after him

Muircertach Mac Erca, as Irish legend tells us, was a High king of Ireland, son of Muiredach, son of Eoghan, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Reputedly, he was the first Christian King of Ireland[1] who reigned from around 510[2] or 513[3] until about 534 or 537[4]. He fought numerous battles, was in his early years a murderous tyrant, exacted tribute, was in possession of the Lia Fáil, conquered Ireland and Gaul and assumed the sovereignty of Britain, Scotland, the Saxons, Denmark and the Orkneys; is fostered by a Druid and is finally given the ultimate accolade of a famous hero – the triple death. If this set of circumstances sounds familiar you would be right; this is the same as King Arthur was supposed to have accomplished as related by Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth and exactly during the same time period!
    Muircertach’s story is told in various existing ancient Irish manuscripts. The fourteenth century Yellow Book of Lecan, the sixth to twelfth century Irish Annals, the eleventh to twelfth century Dinshenchas and Banshenchus, tenth to twelfth century Book of Leinster and Laud Synchronisms, the twelfth century Banquet of Dun Na nGedh and the fourteenth century Book of Ballymote which includes the Lebor Bretnach or ‘Book of the Britons’. Most of these books were compiled using earlier sources and hence the provenance of the stories has a more ancient origin. Muircertach was also mentioned in a now lost work called Echtra Muircheartach Mac Erca – The Navigation or Journeys of Muircheartach Mac Erca[5], mentioned in the Book of Leinster which may have told the story of his Gallic campaign. Cendfaeladh, a seventh century poet and possible descendent of Mac Erca is attributed with various verses recording his exploits[6]. His mythical death is mentioned in the tale called Aided Muircertach Mac Erca – The Violent Death of Muircertach Mac Erc.

We should remember though that Muirchertach Mac Erca is a merged character, being composed of Muircertach Mac Muiredach of O'Neill genealogy and the historical Mac Erca mentioned by Adamnan in the seventh century. This merging took place sometime in the late eighth to early ninth century.

[1] His Christian leaning is suggested by the lack of a Feiss Temro (a pagan kingship and marriage ceremony), during his reign. See Carney, James. ‘Studies in Irish Literature and History’ Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1955 p. 338. See also Smith, P. J. Imarcaigh sund ar gach saí : An Early Modern Irish Poem on the Contemporaneous Emperors of Byzantium and the Kings and Ecclesiastics of Ireland, , University of Ulster, Poem twelfth to fifteenth century in which Muircertach is mentioned : “The death of Muircheartach son of Earc about that time – he was no heathen”.
[2] Annals of Tigernach
[3] Annals of Ulster
[4] The Alternative dates occur in myth and the Irish Annals. He reigned for 24 years and in Aided MM Erca 25 years. From the AU 513 this would give 537. Note Arthur is supposed to have died in 537, according to the Welsh Annals of the tenth century or later.
[5] Another variation existed called Immram Luinge Murchertaig –‘Voyage of the Ship of Muircertach son of Erc. Moylan, Tom, Irish Voyages and Visions: Pre-Figuring, Re-configuring Utopia, Utopian Studies 18.3, 2007.
[6] Irish and Scottish Annals.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Dane, I am a genealogist; I specialize in the Breheny Families. You know they the surviving families still exist and I am one of them. I live in Nova Scotia, Canada and can trace my roots back to King Arthur, King Fergus MacGilomar MacFergusson and his daughter Queen Gweniyivar Mac Darmaid. I have spent 32 years tracing my family roots and it was because of Stephen R Lawhead and his 4 books that I learned my real Irish name was Breheny, my ancestors were the ones that founded Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts USA. Strange as it seems the British kept confusing the names Breheny with Brewster, but it saved us alot of trouble. I have Family Genealogy Charts going all the way back to the 491AD and may be the only genealogist believing that Brehons was a family name not a title. If you would like to contact me please contact me on Google.