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The character of Arthur is strongly identified with the occult. Not only do we find his Court a veritable centre of happenings more or less supernatural, but his mysterious origin and the subsequent events of his career have in them matter of considerable interest from an occult standpoint. This is not the place to dispute regarding his reality, but merely to deal with the romances which cluster around him, and their contents from the supernatural point of view. We find him first of all connected with one of the greatest magical names of early times—that of Merlin the Enchanter. The possibilities are that Merlin was originally a British deity, who in later times degenerated from his high position in the popular imagination. We possess many accounts concerning him, one of which states that he was the direct offspring of Satan himself, but that a zealous priest succeeded in baptising him before his infernal parent could carry him off. From Merlin, Arthur received much good advice both magical and rational. He was present when the King was gifted with his magic sword Excalibur, which endowed him with practical invulnerability, and all through his career was deep in his counsels. His tragic imprisonment by the Lady Viviana, who shut him up eternally in a rock through the agency of one of his own spells, removed him from his sphere of activity at the Arthurian Court, and from that time the shadows may be seen to gather swiftly around Arthur's head. Innumerable are the tales concerning the Knights of his Court who met with magical adventures, and as the stories grew older in the popular mind, additions to these naturally became the rule. Notably is this the case in that off-shoot of the Arthurian epic, which is known as the Holy Grail, in which we find the knights who go in quest of it constantly encountered by every description of sorcery for the purpose of retarding their progress. Arthur's end is as strange as his origin, for we find him wafted away by faery hands, or at least by invisible agency, to the Isle of Avillion, which probably is one and the same place with the Celtic other-world across the ocean. As a legend and a tradition, that of Arthur is undoubtedly the most powerful and persistent in the British imagination. It has employed the pens and enhanced the dreams-of many of the giants in English literature from the time of Geoffrey of Monmouth, to the present day; and with the echoes of the poetry of Tennyson and Swinburne still ringing in their ears, the present generation is quite as justified in regarding the history of Arthur as a living reality as were the Britons of the twelfth century.
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