Meditation of Marc Roney (Fiction)
I was standing on one leg in a meditative posture with an orange in my hand, when a police officer asked me what I was doing. I told him "I was discussing the effects of moral epistemology upon the social structure with a gentleman the other day when he told me I would be better off contemplating my navel. I pondered this for awhile" The officer interrupted me and asked "You were pondering contemplating your navel?" I responded "Yes. But since I didn't have a navel, I decided to try contemplating this darling clementine." For some reason the officer was displeased & told me I had to get moving. I tried to explain the beauty of the orange & how its shape was a metaphor for reality, but he would have none of it.
A gift from the Gods (this happened just before 2000)
The universe gave me a wonderful gift a few years back. Way back while I was on my four month camping trip. I was sleeping on morning in my tent, which was WAY down the bottom of this valley, not far from the nearest road. I dreamed that the gods had stopped by to give me a gift, when suddenly there was a blast of thunder & I awoke. But there was no thunder, nor lighting, nor a cloud in the sky. Perplexed, I sat & though for a minute. Deciding that surely this strange noise must have come from the road above, though what it could have been I did not know. I hiked back up the hillside & a few minutes later I stood beside the road. I looked around, but saw nothing that could have made the noise. Curious I decided to look around, thinking perhaps someone had pulled off & hit something. I checked the near by areas where cars sometimes pull over. But saw nothing of interest. No banged trees, no sign that there had been an accident. Then I noticed that across the road there was a little place going into the woods where a car could pull into, though why one would I did not know. I went over. It became obvious that some people had over time stopped there many times. There were little piles of garbage. It made me sad. But still nothing that would have made any noise, especially one like had awoken me. I notice there is a low branch in the back. Hmm, perhaps that had scraped the car, but wait... What is that lying on a low ridge in the back. I approach. It's a small box, but wait. behind the ridge there are MORE small boxes. What are they. Oh my goodness. A Farberware pot, not one... not two... not even five
No there are FOURTEEN!!!!! All brand new, all in the box. Some marked at over a hundred dollars EACH!!!! I blinked. I looked around. How? Where?
Best I could figure is someone backed their truck in slightly past the branch & right up to the ridge & spent the night. Then when they pulled out in the morning the branch pushed them off. This was the summer of 1999, so I figure it was someone paranoid about the millenium. But hey, if the racket woke me up & I hiked all the way up the hill & spent awhile trying to figure out what had happend & nobody had noticed when they drove off. Their loss & my gain. I had after all lusted after just this quality of cookware for years. I had mainly used cheap dollar store cookware for most of my life. Had used some good stuff at work, bt could not have bought it for myself. Would not even have it now but for this twist of fate that brought them to me.
Some ask if I believe the Gods are real? Do I believe that God or Goddess or great spirit takes action in our lives. For me it is not even a question. It is a certainty. I have no doubt. I may not always understand, may question Why this? Why now? To what purpose? But doubt in the reality or that there IS a purpose? Never.
A Pagan Perspective of Medieval British Literature
By Rev Marc Roney
For WVU English 21, British Literature 1
Time and place forever blur meaning of ancient writings and lost in the mists are the perspectives of authors. Many people write about their interpretations of what was long ago written, yet are not their writings based on their own biased opinions? This is such a work. I, a modern pagan, shall show my own perspectives on medieval British literature. As a focal point, I have chosen Sir Gawain & the Green Knight. I shall expand on this with reference to the Irish Tain and the Scottish Mobigonon. My intent is to show that medieval British literature exhibits many strong influences of ideology.
Let's first examine the Green Knight, Bercilak. He is described as being larger than any man alive, both man and mount are specimens perfect in their form. He arrives wearing no armor. This is the green man of old. Though some have argued that the green man as found in church engravings is a wild and horrible creature, it should be noted that this was the image of the christianized view. The green man is the embodiment of nature. Anyone who has gone for a trip into the deep forest and spent several weeks or months there, will tell you of the beauty and nobility of nature at it's most pure. It can be harsh & cruel , but it is also fair and will provide everything you need.
Secondly let us briefly examine Gawain. Gawain is Arthur's nephew and tanaiste or heir and as was the prevalent Celtic custom, it is his duty to look out for treachery against his inheritance. He is sometimes linked with Lady Loathely, a thinly decided moon goddess. He also discovers the Castle of Wonders were the Grail is hidden. Gawain begins as an Irish hero. Brian Stone in his Penguin Classic edition says of Gawain 'His father, King Lot of Orkney, has been traced through Welsh Lloch to the Irish god Lug, Cuchulain's father'
In lines 378-380 and again in lines 405-408 we see hints of the power of ones name, as the Bercilak insists on having Gawains name to seal the contract, yet refuses to give his own until after the contest is over. This is common in many folk tales, as the power of knowing ones true name is supposed to allow one the ability to harm to or prevent harm from that individual. Hence, by gaining Gawains name, the Bercilak can prevent harm from him and by not telling Gawain his name, keeps the power from him. The terms of the contest require Gawain to seek out the Bercilak and meet him in a year & a day, which is the traditional period of initiation.
Gawain leaves the court on All-Hollows Day, November first. I find this interesting as this is one of the Catholic holidays that were intentionally placed to cover a pagan one. October 31st is Samhain, the end of the Celtic year. Our textbook suggests that line 501 draws on the Germanic tradition of the battle between summer and winter. Also Gawain has as his symbol the pentacle, a symbol from pagan traditions the world around. It is used to represent the spirit ruling the four classical elements of air, fire, water and earth. Once he has set out on his quest to find the Green Chapel, he journeys through ungodly lands. Perhaps, this refers to a journey lands that still hold to the pagan traditions? It is also interesting to note that Gawain prays, lines 740-765, in a grove of trees and that those trees specifically named, are the ones held most sacred by the druids. He prays in this sacred grove and magically a castle appears. The lines 941-949 where at the castle, the lady comes forth 'with her comely maids' and an 'ancient' lady, could quite easily be presented as the triple goddess. The maiden, mother and crone being a common goddess form of Celtic tradition, whose consort just happens to be the Lord of the Hunt.
This section at the castle consists of three hunts, three temptations, and three different animals. It is not by accident that the first day's hunt is for deer. The deer represents the innocence and purity of Gawain as a knight. The lengthy and detailed description of the hunt and the capture of the deer serve to emphasize the symbolism of the deer. The even more detailed description of the slaughter and butchering of the meat further emphasizes the symbolism. It can be inferred that the butchering of the deer is similar to the fate that awaits Gawain when he meets with the Green Knight. The next day's hunt is for a wild boar. The fierce animal is symbolic of Gawain's reactions to the increasing advances from Bercilak's wife. The boar is fierce and much more difficult to catch and kill, just as Gawain is steady in his resistance to temptation. Bercilak is aware that Gawain is resistant to all temptation at this point. Gawain is true to his reputation of a chivalrous, worthy knight. The third day's hunt is for the wily and cunning fox. This is symbolic of the clever way that Gawain resists temptation. However, Gawain is tricked by Bercilak's wife into taking the Green girdle. The acceptance of this gift represents Gawain's fall from perfect chivalry and knighthood, since he lies about it to Bercilak.
When at last Gawain does arrive at the Green Chapel, he finds that it as wild as any place of nature. Here also we find that the Bercilak was the lord of the castle, which would make our green man the lord of the hunt. Both of which are titles used to refer to the Celtic Herne, known also as Cernunnos. In the 12th century Giraldus Cambrensis, a Welsh writer, linked Morgan le Fey with the Irish goddess Morrigu, while others have linked her to Celtic Motrona.
A further point of interest regarding Sir Gawain & the Green Knight comes from Ormerod Greenwood's verse translation published in 1956 by Lion & Unicorn Press. He puts forth the idea that through examining numerology & various puns within the works of the Gawain poet, we can come up with the name Hugo de Masci or Hugh Mascy. The Masseys being a family old to Cheshire, being associated with the manuscript St Erkenwald, a fifth poem later ascribed to the Gawain poet. The geography of Sir Gawain links it to the Massey district. The name Margery, which means pearl, aboung in the family during the fourteenth century. The numerological evidence comes mainly from the poem Pearl. The numerological value of Hugo de Masci and both Gawain & Pearl has 101 stanzas. Also, the Masci seal inscription end CI, which would be 101 in roman numerals. Pearl is arranged into 12 groups of 5 stanzas each of 12 lines, with a total number of lines being 1212. Which takes on greater meaning when we consider that Margery Masci has 12 letters. But as Ormerod Greenwood writes, these will remain short of proof 'until a Hugh can be found with a daughter Margery who died in infancy.'
The Morte D'Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory provides a treasure trove of potential pagan discussion. As does the fact that the church was against Grail stories so much that in some Italian literature, Arthur is seen to be linked with the devil. But I choose to continue with older texts, so on to the Mabinogion.
There is some dispute over when the tales of the Mabinogion were collected, but The Timetables of History places it at 1050. To lead this into context of the times, 844 Kenneth King of the Scots Defeats the Picts, 965 the English invade the Celtic kingdom of Gwynnedd, 988 the Irish Danes raid Wales, 991 Essex defeated by the Danes, 993 Olaf Tryggresson becomes the first Christian king of Norway, 1000 Christianity reaches Iceland and Greenland, 1013 Danes masters of England, 1014 end of Norse rule of Ireland, 1039 Prince Gruffydd of Gwennydd & Powys defeats the English, 1050 the harp arrives in Europe & English monks are excelling at embroidery, while 1096 will be the start of the first crusade.
The Mabinogion is basically a collection of short stories from the oral tradition, which interweave in a rather forced manner. Many of the characters are closely associated with the Celtic deities. For instance Rhiannon is an Irish horse goddess, who may be synonymous with the Romano-Celtic Rigantona, which means great queen, & who has been identified with both Modron & Epona. Through out the stories are journeys to the otherworld, the fairy land. The stories in the second half of the collection bring in King Arthur to the scene. In the story of Peredur Son of Evrawg, Peredur is commanded by his lady not to speak to Christians, yet he also spends time with Arthur's court, though of course he does not speak to many people there. But the fact that he speaks at all would mean that there were pagans even in the court of Arthur. Many tales involve mystic visions & mighty magic's.
The main problem with trying to find the pagan philosophy in any of the ancient texts is three fold. First, there is no central organization as is found in many religions. Secondly, all pagans tend to be a bit eclectic, taking a little from the others they come in contact with. Much like the Chinese story of a man looking at a great sage & seeing his toast hat & asking if he is a Taoist. The sage points at his shoes which mark him as a Confucian, to which the man asks if he is then a Confucian, to which he points at his robe which marks him as a Buddhist. So the man asks are you then a Buddhist & the sage points at his hat. This tendency to add traditions without insisting on a conflict means that end up with tales that mix Irish, Welsh, Roman & Christian without so much as a second thought. The third problem we have to deal with trying to divine what is actually pagan philosophy & what is mere fiction.
Baugh, Albert & McClelland, George English Literature:A Period Anthology, Appleton-Century-Croft, Inc 1954
Daiches, David A Critical History of English Literature in two Volumes, Ronald Press Company 1960
Elsbeth, Marguerite & Johnson, Kenneth The Grail Castle: Male Myths & Mysteries in the Celtic Tradition, Llewellyn Publications 1995
Ferguson, Anna-Marie A Keeper of Words- Legend the Arthurian Tarot, Llewellyn Publications 1998
Gantz, Jeffrey The Mabinogion, Penguin Classics 1976
Graves, Robert The White Goddess, (16th Edition) Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1983
McCoy, Edain Celtic Myth & Magick, Llewellyn Publications 1995
Schmitt, Jean-Claude Ghosts in the Middle Ages, University of Chicago 1998
Stone, Brian Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, Penguin Classics 1974
Wendell, Barrett The Traditions of European Literature Vol 1, Frederick Ungar Publishing 1964