Ordo ab chaos!
„Here beginneth the story of the sword, the anvil, and the marble stone, and of how that sword was first achieved by an unknown youth, until then of no renown, whether in arms or of estate.
So hearken unto that which I have hereinafter written.”
The Story of Arthur and His Knights
When Sir Kay’s sword broke on Sir Balamorgineas’ helmet during the great tournament, he sent his younger brother, Arthur, to fetch another from their father’s pavilion. Finding no sword there, Arthur’s thoughts rushed to that which he had seen thrust into the anvil before the cathedral nearby. In his innocent youth he did not know the significance of this mighty weapon nor, surely, did he possess any clue which might have suggested that it was Merlin who, by his magic, caused it to be placed there. He approached the block of marble and laid his hands on the hilt. Bending his body over it, he drew upon the sword with all his strength and it came forth in his hands with marvellous ease. The brilliance of the mystic blade was so intense that he covered it with his cloak and hastened to his impatiently waiting brother. But when Sir Kay saw the sword, he was astounded. A cunning arose in his heart wherefrom he conceived the desire to take advantage of Arthur’s simple innocence and claim the deed of having extricated the sword from the stone.
Destiny, however, would not be denied its rightful king and the test posed by Merlin could not be met by the ambitious Sir Kay. When Arthur confessed to their noble father that it was he who had pulled forth the blade, the old knight told him how, eighteen years previously, Merlin had set a meeting with him at the postern gate of Uther-Pendragon’s castle. He explained to him that when they had met at midnight, Merlin gave a swaddled infant into his care to raise as though he were his own son. „Nor have I until now ever known ought of who was thy father; but now I do suspect who he was and that thou hast in thy veins kingly blood. And I do have it in mind that perhaps thy father was Uther-Pendragon himself. For who but the son of Uther-Pendragon could have drawn forth that sword as thou hast done?” After repeated but vain attempts to draw the magic sword, the other knights gathered there came to see that only Arthur could draw forth and return it to the stone. Most of them bowed down and willingly accepted him as their new king, but there were those who persisted in questioning his credentials and would not join in support of him. Thus the drama of the struggle between knightly heroes and the forces of evil was set, at the centre of which the wondrous sword Excalibur was destined to play a decisive role.
Perhaps the old Roman belief that the iron sword could ward off evil lingered in the British Isles and inspired some of the legendary powers attributed to Excalibur, but others in the world have held similar beliefs. In the Islamic tradition the sword is symbolic of holy war against the infidel and of man against his own evil. This belief was equally shared by the Christian knights who fought against them in the bloody crusades. For the Grail Knight it was seen as an instrument of good in overcoming evil. In myth the sword is believed to possess supernatural powers when found under the earth or submerged in water, where it bears a close association with mystical beings like the mysterious Lady of the Lake. In the hand of this Lady or embedded in earthly stone, the sword is masculine, asserting the power of protection, authority, justice and courage. Some traditions single out the western straight-bladed instrument as solar and masculine in distinction to the Oriental curved blade, which could be thought of as lunar and feminine, but the more widely recognized feminine attribute is the scabbard in which the sword is sheathed. The sword in itself is symbolic of psychic and spiritual decision as well as physical extermination, relating to lunar as well as to solar principles in its ability to cut through and penetrate. Its power to wound is also its power to liberate and manifest the superiority of strength and courage over prevarication and self-defense. The hard steel of its blade suggests the transcendental toughness of the all-conquering spirit and the inviolability of the sacred. Its fierce cutting edge speaks of discrimination, spiritual decision and the penetrating power of the intellect. As in the case of Excalibur, in the right hand the sword is capable of dividing good from evil and carving out in precise design the character of the hero’s struggle for the Grail. What to earlier races had been a sword god to be sacrificed to became an instrument to be wielded as a mighty human power.
Very famous swords have names and, like Excalibur, are addressed as ‘he’ as though they had a life and power of their own. Their origins are shrouded in mystical wonder, as in the case of the divine sword of Japanese Shintoism called Kusanagi. Being one of the three sacred objects of the imperial regalia, this mighty blade was discovered by Susanowo-no-mikoto, the storm god of the early Shinto pantheon. In the ancient Nihongi the account is given of how this god descended from heaven and proceeded to the headwaters of the River Hi. There he found an old man and woman weeping because all their daughters but one had been devoured year after year by an eight-forked serpent. This great heavenly serpent controlled the rainfall affecting the crops and had been exacting its gruesome payment from those on earth in this manner. The power to initiate the rain lay in a brilliant lightning sword hidden in its tail, and when Susanowo-no-mikoto slew the marauder and cut it into pieces, he discovered it lying there in all its potent splendour. Being profoundly awed by this precious and powerful instrument, he sent it up to heaven to become the property of the Shining Deity, who is Light herself.
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~ THEOSOPHY TRUST ~