Friday, 25 August 2017
The Sword and the Stone
“Come over here, gentlemen and put your hands on my sword again. Swear by my sword, you’ll never mention what you've heard.”
Hamlet: Act 1 Scene 5.
The Hearth of the Turning Wheel has since its inception developed, adapted, evolved and assimilated teachings and materials not necessarily apparent upon a cursory examination. Two items of regalia, acquired long after our foundation, serve to illustrate this growth.
The Hearth Sword and the Hearth Stone are a pair of ritual items, which although rarely incorporated into ritual; serve an important purpose and represent a vital theological concept. The Sword as a ritual item is a well-known representation of the masculine principle. The Stone as a representative of the Earth is equally well-known, as a representation of the feminine principle.
The symbolism of swords and stones, their pairing and unification, is a common motif in mythology, both ubiquitous and practical. The most obvious illustration is that within the Arthurian Cycle, where a sword must be pulled from a stone, to confer a valid and rightful kingship upon the bearer. Here, the actual penetration of the rock by a blade, is a symbolic representation of the divine union of heterogender principles, that unification of the Sky Father with the Earth Mother. The Hieros Gamos itself, in which the God and Goddess are conjoined.
By drawing the sword Arthur takes upon himself the role of an earthly representation of the Divine King of Heaven, recognising that his kingship is granted or bestowed by the Goddess herself and this is what is meant when we in the Hearth of the Turning Wheel talk of Sovereignty. To again validate his claim to kingship, Arthur marries a recognised princess and it is the marriage to Guinevere that confirms his rights, for it is She who represents the Goddess manifest on Earth.
Historically this near matriarchal marriage line is seen within the pre-Roman culture of Egypt, although in neither the Arthurian Cycle nor in Ancient Egypt, is matriarchal rule an actuality. The Egyptian line of succession being matrilineal, with the crown passed through the female representing sovereignty but with her chosen husband ruling as king.
The concept of Sovereignty runs through British and Irish mythology like a thread of precious virtue. In the Irish cycle it is the Morrígan who may represent the sovereignty of the land. In the British Isles and the Arthurian Cycle, that archetypal representation is Guinevere. In the English Midlands it is the Maid Marion that other Queen of the May, who holds that same sacred position and by whose marriage Robin Hood reigns as consort.
Marion is a maid but not a maiden. Her relationship with Robin Hood and her activities within the legends, transcend the social mores of the period. She is mistress of her own fate. Her Maytide marriage to Robin Hood, bestows upon him the right to rule. Maid Marion is the Sovereignty of the Greenwood and Robin Hood as her consort, reigns by right of the Sacred Union. The Merry Men, the word Merry is derived from the Saxon meaning retinue or retainer, serve as their household. The model presented in the Sherwood Cycle is therefore; comparable to Arthur, Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian.
The penetration of the stone by the sword is a representation of other symbolic unifications, the lance penetrating the body, is later mirrored in the act of communion in which a blade enters the grail to bless wine. The wine representing both the blood of sacrifice and that of childbirth, for there is perhaps no greater sacrifice than the pain of childbirth to bring forth life, is itself the Sacred Blood of Kingship and Sovereignty.
Within our own practice it is recognised that the Sword and the Stone form a paired treasure, two items of regalia that symbolise what a Hearth is in reality. Wheresoever those paired treasures reside, that is where the Hearthstead is and wheresoever the Hearthstead is, the Kinship and Sovereignty of the Hearth shall reign.
© Daniel B. Griffith the Chattering Magpie 2017