Hidden Manna and the Holy Grail: The Psychedelic Sacrament in Arthurian Romance
The Mystery of Manna: The Psychedelic Sacrament of the Bible Park Street Press (2000)
Introduction: In 1136, Geoffrey of Monmouth published Historia Regum Britanniae, “History of the Kings of Britain”, a Latin text that retailed for an international audience the Welsh legend of King Arthur. Historically, Arthur may have lived in the fifth or early sixth century and been involved with the British resistance to invading Saxons. Over the centuries, Welsh poets and story-tellers elaborated his legend into wonder stories. The narratives routinely drew on plots and motifs of pagan Celtic origin that they thoroughly Christianized. From perhaps the fifth century onward, Irish ascetics had adopted the Desert Fathers’ extravagant description of the ascetic life as an Edenic or paradisal state; but they transferred the location of the terrestrial paradise from the deserts of the Middle East to barren islands off the coasts of Ireland and western Scotland.
Beginning no later than the seventh century, the topos of the terrestrial paradise gave rise to a considerable Irish literature about paradise islands, complete with the wondrous fruits of Eden. Future research will be needed to determine whether the terrestrial paradise tradition, which concerned the ecstatic state that Adam and Eve knew in Eden prior to their expulsion from Paradise, was associated with the doctrines of Pelagius regarding the fall, which had been condemned as heresy in Rome in the early fifth century but nevertheless persisted within Celtic Christianity as late as the tenth century. The early Welsh poem, “The Spoils of the Otherworld” , is our oldest surviving example of a literary innovation that drew on these Irish ecclesiastic foundations in crafting tales for a lay audience of aristocrats, warriors, and their retainers. The poem alludes to a more complete story, now lost, of Arthur leading an expedition into a fairy-fortress in order to free a prisoner and plunder the fortress of its cauldron.