Back during the late 90s, a written work appeared on the internet during its infancy - one which would inspire furious speculation and debate in its readers. It was perhaps aided in its transmission by the fact that the internet itself felt like the Wild West back then. It was a new frontier, we were all taking part in a grand social experiment, and this book was part of the whole formative internet "early adapter" experience for a lot of people.
The work dealt with a lot of tantalizing and even disturbing themes, during a time when glimpsing some kind of cosmic truth or forbidden knowledge on this new medium felt like something that could actually happen. Later on, the work would see publication as an actual print-and-paper book.
Of course, I'm talking about the novel House Of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski.
But around this same time, another online manuscript was making the rounds in occult and conspiracy theory and "alternative history" circles, by one "HRH Prince Nicholas de Vere." Nicholas de Vere's supporters would claim that his work was also the true source or inspiration for the works of another "Grail Bloodline" writer, Laurence Gardner (Bloodline Of The Holy Grail, published in 1996, and follow-ups Realm Of The Ring Lords and Genesis Of The Grail Kings) as well as the inspiration for Dan Brown's best-seller The Da Vinci Code.
But the original online essays would persist in one form or another, long after being removed from the dragoncourt.org site where they had originally appeared. Eventually this manuscript (in two parts, From Transylvania To Tunbridge Wells and The Origin Of The Dragon Lord Of The Rings) would be published as The Dragon Legacy, with a forward by the "Grail Bloodlines" Conspiracy Theorist writer Tracy Twyman.
And like Johnny Truant, the protagonist(?) of House Of Leaves, I feel like I've been haunted by this work ever since, often to the point of losing my grip on reality.
Why am I making this comparison? Well, partially to try and invoke a feeling of the time place and time at which this was all happening: the early internet, in the late 90s and early 2000s. If you were there, you know what I mean.
But also because trying to make sense of Nicholas de Vere's work feels to me like Johnny Truant trying to make sense of Zampanò's commentary on The Navidson record from House. I spent a good chunk of the early 2000s trying to piece together the puzzle it presented. Or rather - try to take it apart to see if any of the pieces could be independently verified, an endeavor shared by the internet forum members of the website dragoncourt dot org. An endeavor that persisted until the site's demise and disappearance from the intenet in 2006.
And the conclusion I've come to is this: many of Nicholas de Vere's claims may not be, and most likely are not, historically true or accurate. But regardless: the meme, or current (to borrow a phrase from the occult) or consciousness, or paradigm or force that exists within the story he told within his narrative of the Dragon Court wants to be real, or at least accepted as truth. It wants to exist, and be expressed in reality. Beyond that, I was just interested in finding out which claims could be verified, or if any of the sourced from or corroborated by other belief systems.
And it's bigger than Nicholas de Vere - he was but one of the many people who got caught up in this current, through which this current has been trying to express itself. I know this because I've known others. I was/am one myself, stemming from my experiences with an unrelated group or coven that I was involved with in the early 1990s when I was a teen, which shared a lot of similar ideas. This thing, or phenomenon, has existed in one form or another for decades, perhaps even longer.
In 2004, after Tracy Twyman's failed takeover of the dragoncourt dot org website, I told Greg, our new webmaster, that I was working on new material to put up on the website since Nicholas de Vere's original manuscripts, From Transylvania To Tunbridge Wells and The Origin Of The Dragon Lord Of The Rings were taken down due to Tracy Twyman and her supporters' persistant harassment of the site and forum's former (late) webmaster Bill. He said that would be great, and to let him know when it was done.
Then my ADHD interfered, and real life interfered, and he passed away at the beginning of 2005.
But the real problem was, I was having trouble finding sources for any of Nicholas de Vere's claims that the ancient world had been ruled by a single "Dragon Bloodline" or group of interrelated "Dragon Bloodlines," and that their history and lore had led to the genesis of what we now know as "Traditional English Witchcraft" as well as other esoteric occult groups and practices. There were tons of references to people like Margaret Murray, Jack Parsons, Kenneth Grant, Austin Osman Spare, George Pickingill (albeit via a coded reference, which had to be pointed out to me by someone else in the know) and the Royal Windsor Coven. And of course, Aleister Crowley.
But none of it was really sourced or annotated properly; and many of the historical references which did exist within the manuscript were sourced from works which have sense been discredited, had already been discredited (like Margaret Murray) or were the result of Unverified Personal Gnosis (or "UPG" for short.)
This was a big problem in written works about the History of Witchcraft at the time, from about 1970-throughout the 1990s. There was a narrative that in ancient times, people across Europe had once been a part of a united "Witch Cult" religion which had been conquered, persecuted, expunged, and then literally burned out of them by the medieval Catholic Church. According to this narrative, the straggling survivors of this "Witch Cult" were then driven into exile in the wilderness and on the fringes of medieval society, practicing their ancient esoteric lore in secret as Witchcraft.
Nicholas de Vere claimed that these exiled surviving remnants of the Witch Cult were the descendants of the true ruling bloodlines of the of the ancient world - the original "Dragon Court" - and that "the Grail Bloodlines" (i.e. the hypothetical descendents of Jesus and Mary Magdelene) were also descended from them. And that they had originally descended from the Anunnaki, who were also the forbearers of the Nephilim from the Bible.
According to Nicholas de Vere, these surviving "Witch Cult" peoples were also the basis of the legends of the Elves ("The Queens and Kings of Elphame" or Alfheim) which would later be popularized by J.R.R Tolkien. This seems to have been based in part on claims made by Margaret Murray in her books The Witch-Cult In Western Europe and God Of The Witches. (And this is barely scratching the surface of Nicholas de Vere's claims: but I'll get into that later.)
He wasn't the only one to claim the Elf/Witch/Nephilim connection, either: Paul Huson, writer of Mastering Witchcraft, talked about the Witches and Druids being descended from the remnants of the "Prytani" or pre-Celtic Britons, who he claims were descendants of the Nephilim; and that the incoming Anglo-Saxons had called them "Elves."
Margaret Murray's "Pan-European Witch Cult" idea spread like wildfire throughout the 20th century. Starhawk, one of the founders of the Reclaiming Witchcraft Traditon, would echo a version of Margaret Murray's theories in her book Spiral Dance, and she referenced the "Megalithic Dragon Cult" by name. And of course, Wiccans at the time claimed the descendants of these surviving medieval Witches would go on to initiate Gerald Gardner, the founder of Wicca.
The issue was, a lot of Margaret Murray's theories, like the idea that there had once been a single Pan-European Witch-cult religion, had already been debunked by this time. Historical and archeological findings showed that the pre-Christian faiths which had existed then didn't really resemble modern Witchcraft or Wiccan beliefs (such as the idea that every Goddess in every ancient religion were all just different faces of the same Goddess, or that this was a thing that ancient people actually believed.)
Not that there weren't some pagan survivals: just that the idea of a "Unified Pan-European Witch Cult" was looking more and more unlikely as the actual facts were being weighed. But Witchcraft did exist, nevertheless.
Some (such as Otto Rahn) have theorized that pre-Christian beliefs might have been an influence on the Cathars in medieval southern France. (Otto Rahn is kind of like the Ultimate Cautionary Tale of what happens when the wrong people take interest in your work, and you go along with the Okie Doke. Come to think of it - so is Nicholas de Vere.)
Symbols and memes have a way of surviving and replicating themselves. And there were pockets of resistance or places where older belief systems held on. There were places where older "Celtic" beliefs merged with Catholicism to become "Celtic Christianity." The Saxons were still fighting Charlemagne in order to preserve their pre-Christian traditions into the eighth century. The Lithuanians managed to defend their pre-Christian Pagan religion into the 15th century. And of course there are all sorts of anecdotdal accounts of pagan traditions surviving in rural or isolated areas, and from people whose ancestors managed to keep certain practices or traditions "from the old country."
The narrative that emerges is one of cultural exchange, synthesis, and syncretism rather than a single dominant "Pan-European Witch Cult."
And this isn't even getting into all of the other countries and peoples who came late to the "Abrahamic religions," or who never adopted them (or were never forced to adopt them at swordpoint or gunpoint) at all.
What hooked me in the beginning was that bit about Elves. The idea that there had once been Real Elves, and that they might still exist somewhere, was mesmerizing. The idea that people still living might be related to them - that I might be related to them - was spellbinding.
People who are connected with the "Dragon Court Current" have developed kind of a reputation for elitism, in trying to connect their genealogy to ancient royal bloodlines and titles in order to claim descent from Nicholas de Vere's idea of the "Dragon Court."
And I admit I was curious about this myself. But mostly I wanted to be Descended From Elves. Not to exalt myself over the rest of society, but as an excuse to remove myself from it. If I was an Elf, there was no reason for me to participate in the late (or end)-stage capitalist rat race that had all but enslaved the masses in an "American Dream" that was turning out to be a nightmare, cannibalizing the resources and people in the third world countries and "the global south," and destroying the environment.
Of course, I did end up participating in it for a number of reasons - chiefly the fact that I realized that I was Actually Good At Technology. And because by the time I was in my late 20s, I didn't see any viable way out. It turns out that you can't just take a pill and unplug yourself from "The Matrix." I didn't have the money to go live "off grid" (or in a commune like Nicholas de Vere had once lived in himself) and the few brushes I'd had with communal living had ended badly. And certain things that happened within the "Dragon Court Community" left me feeling disillusioned and burned out.
Nevertheless, something kept calling me back to it.
During my own "Grail Quest" to sort this all out, I didn't really want to read or touch any of Tracy Twyman's books, which just seemed like tabloid conspiracy theory stuff (to date, the only book of hers that I've actually read is Clock Shavings) but the little I'd seen indicated just derived from and fed back into the whole discredited "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" and Da Vinci Code paradigm, in circular fashion.
And by 2005, most of us on the dragoncourt dot org forum knew that the "Bloodline of Jesus"/Priory of Sion" angle that Tracy Twyman and a lot of the other "Grail Historians" had run with was pseudohistory. There were forum discussions at the time about how it was pseudohistory. Also, Michel Lafosse, aka "Prince Michael Stewart of Albany" was exposed as a fraud a year later. And then Nicholas de Vere himself passed away in 2013.
So where did that leave us?
Years later, and I'm still asking that question.
People still send email and messages to folks related to Nicholas de Vere, begging for admittance to "The Dragon Court" like they're applying to join what they think is the Illuminati, unaware of the fact that it doesn't really exist in the way they think it does, and it doesn't really mean what they think it means. In my experience, "The Dragon Court" was just the website and forum at dragoncourt.org, which ran from 2001 through 2006.
This stuff is still a huge influence on the "Conspirasphere" more than twenty years later - largely due to the influence of Tracy Twyman. There are people on paranoid conspiracy theory sites foaming at the mouth about "The Bloodlines of Satan" and "Serpent DNA" or how "ancient royal bloodlines are still controlling things behind the scenes" without even being aware of where those ideas originated (or that Nicholas de Vere's main complaint was that the "ancient royal bloodlines" were in fact not running things behind the scenes, having been supplanted long ago by The Church and by neoliberal capitalism) because the website has been offline for that long.
Many "Ancient Traditions" (most of which actually originated in the 19th or 18th centuries) claim a backstory or lineage in order to give them some kind of legitimacy. But most of these backstories haven't stood up to actual acedemic scrutiny, Nicholas de Vere's included.
My first brush with The Occult was with Chaos Magick. And one of the first truisms that most Chaos Magicians learn to embrace is that if an occult symbol-set or belief system works, who cares if it is "factually true" or is based in verifiably proven historical precedence? If the car runs, what's the point of looking under the hood? Since so many Occult and Witchcraft traditions seem to come equipped with mythologies that were already debunked by modern archeological and historical study decades ago, it's become common practice to go, "this mythology is just an allegorical or symbolic story, and who cares anyway if the magic works?" And it is true. A lot of these traditions have given people purpose and meaning in their lives that they weren't getting in the faiths they were born or indoctrinated into.
And it wouldn't be such an issue to me personally if Nicholas de Vere hadn't repeatedly hammered on the idea that his narrative of Witchcraft was the only one that was authentic and valid, and derided all others as a bunch of deluded fluffy bunny Wiccans practicing "Witchcraft aesthetic as a lifestyle," phony LARPers in Druid Drag, or New Age flakes laden in crystal jewelry and patchouli oil.
But when Tracy Twyman declared herself Grand Master of the Dragon Court, she and her faction - the Ordo Lapsit Exillis - were using Ouija boards to communicate with spirits they claimed were Baphomet and Satan, and cribbing their rituals from Anton LaVey's Santanic Bible. This is according to Tracy Twyman's own admissions in her book Clock Shavings. So much for "ancient secret wisdom!"
And the "Elven" coven I'd belonged to in High School was studying Hermetic Ceremonial Magick from Donald Michael Kraig's Modern Magic book. (And I can admit now that we were essentially attempting a "Right Hand Path" version of what the OLE had tried to accomplish a decade or so later.)
But regardless of the historicity or lacktherof of Nicholas De Vere's works; it's like there has been a struggle to gain control of the narrative generated by Nicholas de Vere's writings, and to force that narrative to conform to or to prop up the agendas of the whatever people were fighting over control of it at any given time.
Tracy Twyman did this - and the results of her self-proclaimed "Grand Mastery of the Dragon Court" in the 2000s are the kinds of unhinged conspiracy theorist diatribes that have overwhelmed political discourse both online and offline. Charles "Dean" Johnson has tried multiple times to gain control of "The Dragon Court" with limited or temporary success.
I have a theory that a majority of the people who actually read Nicholas de Vere's writings - either online or the book - just kind of projected their own desires and agendas onto it, and imagined that it meant whatever they wanted it to mean; or that it vindicated or validated their already pre-existing beliefs and view of the world. Or they took the parts of it they liked and that supported their worldview, and just disregarded the rest. Like it seems like a lot of the people who claim to be a fan of it got to whatever part of it they thought supported their pre-existing worldview or agenda, and then just stopped reading there.
In the words of William Gibson (via his character Molly Millions) in his groundbreaking cyberpunk novel Neuromancer: they just sort of "fit it into their reality picture." Or to paraphrase the Onion: "Area man passionate defender of what he imagines Nicholas de Vere to have said." And I have been guilty of this too at certain points.
So in light of this, I'm not going to sit here and pretend to be an authority on any of this. And this was a major reason why I couldn't finish that material for the Dragoncourt dot org website in 2004. I realized even back then that the "Grail Bloodlines Subculture" was all one big self-referential echo chamber. There were almost no sources outside of it to refer to in order to verify or corroborate it.
And part of the reason I keep screaming into the void about this stuff is in the vain hope that at some point, someone will emerge from the void who can set me straight about what the facts really are - even if it may not be what I want to hear. And that it won't be twisted to fit someone else's agenda.
So strap in! As the Vine says: ya'll better get on this bitch. We bout to gooooooo."