arthurian folklore

anonymous asked:

So it's racist now to state facts that men of African decent would have been at the very least few and far between in medieval England let alone become Knights.

Alright honey, I guess it’s pointless to tell you that the movie is a fantasy with giants elephants and snakes and mages that in real life probably don’t exist.

Let’s ignore that. Time for a history lesson.

I don’t know if you are European or not but they were people of color in Europe for a very, very long time (myself, I am of Romani descent) so let’s talk about them.

Moors are big part of our history here, especially in Spain. In Iberia, Moors regularly met with the Spanish, so it is possible that some may have adopted knightly traditions and/or forms of combat and battle. Around 14th century, a delegation of Ethiopians noblemen came to Rome to meet with the Pope and Anti-Pope, because Ethiopians were a Christian nation known to look up to Saint Maurice, one of the more revered saints for knights in Medieval Europe, was depicted as an African Roman legionary or knight… who was black.

I would also highly recommend watching this. It’s a documentary movie discussing the evidence that it is indeed possible that there had been knights of African descent.

Let’s move to the legend of Arthur, shall we? One of the Knights of the Round Table had been a man named Morien who has been largely forgotten or whitewashed in most of the modern versions of the legend but early texts describes him pretty clearly as not-white. Here you have some quotes from the translated saga of Morien (which can be found here if you are interested in the whole article):

“He was all black, even as I tell ye: his head, his body, and his hands were all black, saving only his teeth. His shield and his armour were even those of a Moor, and black as a raven…

Had they not heard him call upon God no man had dared face him, deeming that he was the devil or one of his fellows out of hell, for that his steed was so great, and he was taller even than Sir Lancelot, and black withal, as I said afore…

When the Moor heard these words he laughed with heart and mouth (his teeth were white as chalk, otherwise was he altogether black)…”

Aaaand guess what? He was not the only one. According to this article there was 49 men who were Knights of the Round table, and 3 of them had been cinfirmed men of color. I think it’s also worth noting that not all the characters of Arthurian folklore had been fully described. Many knights were described as dark in hair and features and then it was just moved on, so we can only guess if they were men of color than not.

So, yes, saying a black man couldn’t be a Knight of the Round table is racist. You are racist for saying that. Next time, try to do your research yourself.

you are inky obsidian, sharp-edged and shining
sewing jagged secrets into jagged scars
under your skin.
you are fire-forged fury.

you are the gleam of dragons’ scales as they fight
high in the hidden hills where you are sleeping
and dance to the druids’ drums when
they are looking away from this world.

you are the summer solstice sun, burning bright
over the homes and halls of your ancestors and descendants
and as the year turns to winter you too will shift
like the leaves - from green to brown to bare bone
 
you are the desperate cry of the prince’s old tongue
as he hurls himself towards glory and gaping wounds
and the shadows on the hillsides roar with him
and you laugh with bloodied teeth and dreams

you are the child of the forest, the valleys, the lonely hilltops
you are the son of magic and mystery and mayhem
you are the prince of shadows and the ghost-lord of old
and your fingers are still strong on your sword.

—  a song for the raven king; or: folklore archetypes - the sleeping king who was and will be

There’s an old bit of folklore which states that when Britain is in its greatest hour of need, King Arthur and his knights will return to save the day.

Now, if this were true, you have to consider that Arthur didn’t come back to fight Napoleon, or Hitler, or Thatcher.

Which, if the legend is true, raises the question: what is coming in the future which is even worse?

Forest Lore

In ancient times, the forests of Europe were said to be so vast that (reputedly) a squirrel could travel from one end of a country to another without having to come down from the tops of the trees. Europe was once covered in trees from the Arctic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

The ancient ancestors took nature at heart, and they were in frequent contact with one another. Olden travellers claimed to see (supernatural) forest civilisations, magical fauna, and mythical plants.

Trees

To the ancient Greeks and Romans, trees were thought to be inhabited by female spirits called Dryad (in oak trees) or Meliae (in ash trees). In Greek drys signifies ‘Oak’ from an Indo-European root *derew(o)- 'tree’ or 'wood’. In Scottish folklore a friendly tree spirit, called the Ghillie Dhu, helps lost children find their way home. Japan is home to a rich tradition encompassing various tree spirits, generally called Kodama. Traditionally, foresters made offerings to the Kodama before cutting a tree down.

Trees are believed to possess mystical powers and spirits. The ancients had a deep respect for the spirits of the forest. The superstition “touch wood” to guard against bad luck reverts back to the Dark Ages, when trees were considered to be the link between the upper and lower worlds and were not just inert objects to be taken for granted. It is also believed that trees can carry messages to and from other spiritual worlds.

According to ancient myths, trees were mankind’s ancestors, providing man with a link to the spirits of ancestors as well as doorways into other realms. According to Norse mythology, the first man was made from an ash treeThe first woman was made from a rowan tree or elm, according to similar myths. 

For the Celts, the oak tree was the most sacred one of all. They called this tree “daur” which is the origin of the word “door”, the oak providing a doorway to the world in which faeries dwelled. Many legends tell of how after falling asleep under an oak tree, people would wake up in the realm of the faeries.

Folkloric properties of trees:

  • Rowan -  In many parts of Europe, the rowan tree was believed to protect against evil. Pieces of rowan were carried by people to ward of evil spirits and protect them against witchcraft. Crosses would be made from rowan twigs and sewn into the lining of coats, hung in houses or fastened to cattle as a way to protect themselves and animals from evil spells.
  • Birch - Long associated with fertility and healing magic, new beginnings, purification, protection, creativity, fertility & birth. It was known as ‘The Lady of the Woods’. Birch twigs were used to bestow fertility on cattle and newlyweds, and children’s cradles were made from its wood. Birch is one of the first trees to grow on bare soil and thus it births the entire forest.
  • Elder - The druids used it both bless and curse. Standing under an elder tree at Midsummer, like standing in a Fairy Ring of mushrooms, will help you see the “little people.” Elder wands can be used to drive out evil spirits or thought forms. Music on panpipes or flutes of elder have the same power as the wand.  
  • Hazel - Hazel, The Tree of Immortal Wisdom has applications for manifestation, spirit contact, protection, prosperity, divination-dowsing, dreams, wisdom-knowledge, marriage, fertility, intelligence, inspiration. Hazel is a tree that is sacred to the fae folk and a wand of hazel can be used to call the fae. It is also used for poetic inspiration.

The Holly King & The Oak King

The Holly King represents one half of the year, while the other is personified by his counterpart and adversary the Oak King: the two battle endlessly as the seasons turn. These pairs are seen as the dual aspects of the male Earth deity, one ruling the waxing year, the other ruling the waning year.

In Celtic mythology the “Oak King” and the “Holly King” were twins, pitted against each other in a never-ending fight for supremacy. Oak Tress, sacred to the Celts, lose their leaves, while the English Christmas holly trees are evergreen. As cold weather approached, the Celts marveled at how the evergreen Christmas holly trees, hidden amongst the leafy oaks the rest of the year, now stood out prominently on an otherwise barren landscape. The Holly King had won out, as it were, as the incarnations of his twin brother had shed all their leaves and stood naked in defeat.

But by the time the winter solstice arrives, the tide has turned: the Oak King’s flow in power is the Holly King’s ebb. The deciduous twin takes his first steps towards re-establishing his supremacy. The Oak King’s supremacy won’t reach its zenith until midsummer, when the oaks will be in full leaf again. At which point, it is now the Holly King who will be riding the new wave. The evergreen twin lies the foundation in the summer heat for a reign that will culminate in the winter solstice. Thus ironically, whenever either king reaches the height of his dominance, at that very time he is doomed to be supplanted.

Fauns

Originating in Greek and Roman lore, the faun is a half human-half goat, (from the head to the waist being human, but with the addition of goat horns) manifestation of forest and animal spirits that would help or hinder humans at whim. The ancient faun is a playful character associated with trickery. Traditional fauns love practical jokes. They are also associated with sensuality, and with the god of wine, Dionysus.

Romans believed fauns inspired fear in men traveling in lonely, remote or wild places; but they were also capable of guiding humans in need. The Romans also had a god named Faunus and goddess Bona Dea (female faun), who, like the fauns, were goat-people. The faun loves to dance and play the flute.

  • Fawns, in original texts, are said to have feet resembling human ones.
  • They have elegant horns, like that of a fawn.
  • Fawns are considered to be delicate and (mostly) innocent.
  • Their physical appearance is overall attractive.
  • They are also said to be knowledgable and talented.

White Stag

The white stag has played a prominent role in many cultures’ mythology. 

The white stag appears as its name would suggest, a deer with all-white fur and often a towering rack of horns. But legend assigns it intriguing characteristics beyond its white coat. In folklore, sometimes the white stag has red ears or bears the sun or another symbol (some say the cross) between its horns. Other tales suggest its horns flame with fire that never consumes them, while in Persian legend, a creature like the white stag, actually had blue fur, eyes like rubies, and hooves like gold. 

The Celtic people considered them to be messengers from the otherworld.

Arthurian legends states the creature has a perennial ability to evade capture; and that the pursuit of the animal represents mankind’s spiritual quest. It also signalled that the time was nigh for the knights of the kingdom to pursue a quest.

In Scotland, the legend of the white stag is particularly strong on the island of Arran, where the sighting of the white stag is thought to signal the death of the Duke of Arran. The animal is said to appear in order to conduct the duke to the next world.  

A legend says that the white stag lead to the discovery of Japan. Versions of the legend appear in many different parts of the globe including Mayan Indian and Japanese versions. In Japanese mythology a stag is hunted by twin brothers but the beast eludes them. The twins argue about which way to take and finally split up in different direction. One goes east and one goes west. The twin that takes to the east eventually discovers Japan.

thetruezsquared  asked:

What's your opinion on the Harry Potter series? Not the story necessarily, but the creatures in it (my personal favorite is the Hungarian Horntail for its sheer ferocity)?

I’m kind of disappointed in it.  J.K. Rowling’s world building is very much tailored to the story she wanted to tell, which was about a little British wizard boy who was destined to kill British wizard Hitler.  So everything makes sense when you understand it’s there ONLY to support that story, and fleshed out just as much as it needs to be to support it.  And that’s what hampers its bestiary of creatures - they’re designed to provide some flourish to wizard boy’s story, but not to be interesting enough to distract us from it.

Most of the monsters are ones a British kid would be familiar with - either creatures from Arthurian folklore or creatures from Greco-Roman mythology, with a few outliers sprinkled in for flavor.  The original creations are generally just sort of whimsical and comic, like a literal living puffball or cats with weird faces - Dementors being one of the few exceptions, though like everything else they’re designed to fulfill a purpose in Harry’s narrative first and foremost.  Little thought is put into making interesting twists or in depth biology for these creatures - there’s not much to them that can’t fit within a single paragraph of explanation.

This is particularly telling when it comes to Rowling’s dragons.  There’s a vast amount of variety in dragon folklore, even if you’re sticking with Western Europe, and even if you’re admittedly very conservative with what qualifies for your personal definition of dragon (like I am).  Rowling uses almost none of that diversity as a basis - instead, she makes up some whimisical names inspired by dog breeds, and basically gives her dragons all variations on the same body plan.  It’s particularly bad with the Chinese Fireball, a dragon that’s supposed to represent Asian dragons, which is described as being like all the other dragons except gold and red.

Now don’t get me wrong - I still love them all as monsters in their own right.  I fell in absolute fucking love with Buckbeak and Norbert, and the scene where they break out of the bank on the back of the Ukranian Ironbelly dragon is almost everything my inner child wants to happen on a daily basis.  Rowling’s creatures serve their story purpose wonderfully - but as a bestiary on their own, they need a lot more thought and development than they got.

flickr

Original Drawing - Aubrey Beardsley “Le Morte d`Arthur - XIII Chapter Heading Design” 1894, Ink drawing by Plum leaves
Via Flickr:
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley (1872-1898) English illustrator and author. His drawings in black ink were influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, 163 x 89 mm., Ink drawing Sold at Sotheby’s Auctions. ‘Le Morte D'Arthur’ (1485) by Sir Thomas Malory (c.1405-71) Reworking of traditional tales about the legendary King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.