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Legend: Ten of Spears, The Green Knight

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Legend: Ten of Spears, The Green Knight


The Legend Ten of Spears is an accurate, imposing and original interpretation of the card of weighty burdens, based on the story of Gawain and the Green Knight.

In this story, the intimidating Green Knight shows up at Camelot and issues a challenge which requires one of the knights to behead him. Gawain is the only one with the courage - or foolhardiness - to do so. The card shows the image of this first encounter of Gawain with the Green Knight. The Green Knight and his horse radiate an otherworldly green magic, the magic of the fay. The aura of woodland magic is enhanced by the flowering plant that adorns the horse, the knight's long cape adorned with the green butterflies of transformation, and a green wreath and planter in the background. Arthur's court watches from a safe distance as the brave Gawain is dwarfed by this impressively horsed knight.

Gawain strikes off the Green Knight's head, but then the Knight gets up and reunites his head with his body. The terms of the contract are that since he has survived, Gawain will be required to submit himself to the Green Knight's axe a year later. Shortly before the fulfilling the challenge a year later, Gawain is almost seduced by the Green Knight's fay wife, and for his slight indiscretion his head is not severed, but only slightly nicked.

Contrained by lack of space, Anna-Marie leaves out some of the most intriguing details in this story. In The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, Campbell retells the story with great wit. The temptations of the Green Knight's wife are set up by the hunter, the Green Knight in disguise, in this way:
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"Now early tomorrow I'm going off hunting, but I'll be back in the evening, when we shall exchange our winnings of the day. I'll give you everything I get on the hunt, and you give me whatever will come to you."
On the first day, the wife manages to extract a kiss out of Gawain. When the hunter returns with his catch of game, Gawain gives him one large kiss. On the second day Gawain similarly has to give the hunter two kisses. But on the third day the lady persuades Gawain to accept not only three kisses but her green garter too. Gawain gives the hunter the three kisses, but omits the garter. The Green Knight then gives Gawain one little scratch with the great axe saying, "That's for the garter."

Campbell suggests that the heroism of Gawain was tested by desire or lust, and by the fear of death. He interprets the story in this way:
Quote:
...the first requirements for a heroic career are the knightly virtues of loyalty, temperance, and courage. The loyalty in this case is of two degrees or commitments: first to the chosen adventure, but then, also, to the ideals of the order of knighthood.
Gawain acquits himself well under the immense pressures of this well chosen Ten of Spears. The hero's journey is never easy!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sophie-david
The Green Knight then gives Gawain one little scratch with the great axe saying, "That's for the garter."
LOL, I just loved that story...now this card makes a lot more sense than before.

In this book I've been reading...Dragon Queen:the Tales of Guenivere, heads were very powerful things, seemingly even more so once they had been struck off and preserved with cedar oil and smoke, and hung in the center tree of homes. (Houses were built often around a living tree) They had to do the bidding of those who had beheaded them and couldn't lie and had to tell them everything they knew or were asked about, sound warnings when the inhabitants were in danger and being as how they were dead, they had extra info mere mortals didn't or couldn't know. The heads might not speak unless they got a nice wiff of burnt food or had some wine tossed down their non existant throat and would get giddy and not make sense if they had too much. (It made for good incentive to get them to talk) LOL

So the significance of this makes the possible loss of Gawain's head very much a burden, because his head would "live" as a slave for as long as anyone didn't destroy it or until the owner released him and let him travel to the Otherworld. He wasn't afraid to lose his life, he was afraid to lose his head. Now that little saying makes a lot more sense too, there was a huge amount at stake Head on a pike so to speak. (Excuse the pun, but it fits with spears for sure)
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Well that is interesting WalesWoman, British headhunters! Would this have been in the Dark Ages rather than the Medieval? This puts a different angle on Gawain's fears as you suggest. It also crosses my mind that Arthur's court would be pretty annoyed that Gawain put himself in this position since it would be like giving the enemy a spy. But I don't think that this concern is brought out in the medieval stories, which suggests to me that the headhunter tradition is from earlier times.

The link I included yesterday was to the The Greene Knight which is a simplified and more prosaic version of the earlier and deeper Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Anna-Marie appears to have followed the earlier story quite closely, which includes the details of the Green Knight's golden cloak with butterflies and the holly bough which he held in his hand.

The earlier story also brings out the detail that Gawain voluteered to encounter the Green Knight to preserve Arthur's honour, and so that Arthur himself would not have to take up the challenge. In the earlier poem, the Green Knight's and his wife have plotted together to test Gawain and the story builds up over three days to end with the three kisses and the garter. In the later story his wife's passion for Gawain appears to be real, but the story is drastically condensed so that the seduction only occurs on one day without a buildup. The earlier story is definitely to be preferred.
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Most of the stories, are similar to today... stressing the thrill of true love, fidelity and the sheer magnitude of romance, something naive young blushing maids could coo and swoon over. Noble sacrifice almost martyrdom to prove pure faithful love. Today the stress is more on sex and passion than the passion of devotion and sacrifice for love.

I don't think the times are earlier but contemporary, there is still the conflict of change going on between druids becoming priests and those faithful to the Old Religion and ways. From everything I had ever heard of the Green Knight, I sort of think of the Green Man, a magical being and would be of the Old Religion. I just gave the book to my son to read and can't look up her research references, but I'm noticing dried heads hanging in the Druidcraft, up in the rafters near the door, to warn of intruders in #14 Fleryllt /Temperance. Anna Marie's Arthur seems to be a bit more medieval and civilized than it probably was, it was the early/middle part of the dark ages and fall of Rome, their manner of dress is more latter medieval, circa 1000-1200, like William the Conqueror or the first Edwards and Henry's ...

Then again I'm not history buff, just into fashions and finding things that do help make this a bit more meaningful to me. LOL
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WalesWoman
From everything I had ever heard of the Green Knight, I sort of think of the Green Man, a magical being
Yes that was exactly my reaction when I looked at this card. This Green Knight seems an essentially benign figure, although imposing in his size and obvious power. His "challenge" to Gawain I see as an invitation to learn a deeper way of knowing and being; risking death and losing one's head could also be seen as letting go of the ego or an old, outworn way of being.

There is the sense of being overwhelmed and out of one's depth with this card, which relates to the RWS interpretation of the 10 of Wands, but here, it's much more positive. Gawain IS out of his depth, and he has leapt to the challenge without any reflection or thought (bless him - I just love Gawain! ), but the teachings he receives from the Green Knight involve the getting of wisdom rather than just being overburdened and exhausted.

You might say that he "loses his head" by volunteering for the challenge, but ends up with an older, wiser head on his shoulders by surviving the period of his "testing".
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WalesWoman
From everything I had ever heard of the Green Knight, I sort of think of the Green Man, a magical being
Yes, I was also thinking about that, although I got distracted in comparing the versions of the story. What I liked about the earlier version was that it was easier to see its mythological roots in Celtic paganism. The later version had lost a lot of that magic.
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Originally Posted by Leo62
His "challenge" to Gawain I see as an invitation to learn a deeper way of knowing and being; risking death and losing one's head could also be seen as letting go of the ego or an old, outworn way of being...You might say that he "loses his head" by volunteering for the challenge, but ends up with an older, wiser head on his shoulders by surviving the period of his "testing".
Yes, I like that metaphor very much - he ends up with "an older wiser head". This is a story of initiation.
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