Arthurian Legends Study Group - 9 of Shields


Another card that has a very different feel to it than the RW is the 9 of Shields. It has someone literally comingout of their skin. The traditional meaning is "the good life", enjoying what you have, but this cards seems to be sayingbe cautious and prudent with your choices, also don't get scaried off. Does anyone else get that feeling from the card, or is it just me?


Hi Wardi,
Glad to see you. I got this deck this spring and have been using it exclusively since then.

The 9 Shields does look awfully dark doesn't it? The first thing that pops into my mind is shedding old skin, coming into your own, being yourself.

The first time I saw this card I associated it with false appearances or pretenses, that things weren't always what they seem. For some reason I thought the woman had died and her true spirit was rising from the shell of the old, that he was grieving her loss. It seems to have stuck

So I was glad I had the Keeper of Legends book, when I saw the passage about the eternal riddle, "What does a Woman want?" and the answer, "to have her own way", I cracked up but definately related to that. LOL

I'll check back in the "rules" but I think if we start a new thread about each card we discuss and can get active 10 threads /or 100 responses all total.


Dame Ragnelle

Wardi said:
Another card that has a very different feel to it than the RW is the 9 of Shields. It has someone literally comingout of their skin. The traditional meaning is "the good life", enjoying what you have, but this cards seems to be sayingbe cautious and prudent with your choices, also don't get scaried off. Does anyone else get that feeling from the card, or is it just me?

The card refers to a particular story, which I will tell here.

It was Pentecost, and King Arthur rode out with his knights, all dressed in green. Suddenly, he saw a white hart (a kind of deer), and followed it through the forest. He became separated from his men. The hart disappeared, and Arthur found himself coming out of the woods and into a field. A knight was approaching him, rding a black horse. Arthur, he cried, prepare to lost your head!

Ah, but I am not dressed for battle, Arthur replied, gesturing to his green hunting clothes.

That is so, said the Knight. Well, lucky for you. I will make a bargain with you, Arthur. If you will meet me here in a year and a day, and if you can answer a riddle I set you, you may keep your head.

Since there wasn't much of a choice, Arthur agreed.

What is the riddle? he asked.

The riddle is this, said the Knight. What is it that every woman wants?

Now, you have to understand that ARthur was not too good with the ladies, so he wasn't at all sure that he'd be able to answer this riddle when the time came. He rode with his head down, despondent. It was thus that Gawain found him.

My lord, said Gawain, why do you look so forlorn?

Oh, Gawain, said Arthur, I have just met a formidable Knight. And if I can't answer his riddle, in a year and a day I will lose my head.

Well, my Lord, said Gawain, always optimistic. What is the riddle? We have a whole year and a day. Surely we can figure it out in that time.

The riddle, Gawain, is this: What is it that every woman wants?

Gawain, who was very popular with the ladies, said smiling, Well, my lord, that should not be too difficult to figure out.

Arthur looked skeptical, but Gawain came up with a plan. They would spend the year going around the countryside, asking everyone they met, "What is it that every woman wants?" They would write the results in a book, and at the end of the year, surely, somewhere in the book would be the answer.

And that's what they did. "What is is that every woman wants?" they asked.
And they got lots of answers. "What every woman wants is beauty." "What every woman wants is wealth." "What every woman wants is eternal youth." "Children. Love. A Beautiful Home. Power." And they wrote every answer down in a huge book.

As they headed home, Gawain was content. But Arthur looked unhappy. "Arthur," Gawain said. "Surely, somewhere in this book is the answer the knight wants. Don't worry all this will be over soon." And Gawain rode ahead to the castle so they could prepare for the King's return.

Arthur rode on alone. Fine for Gawain to feel so confident, it was not he who would lose his head if the answer wasn't in the book. He rode slowly, head down, dejected. And so it was that he came to a crossroads, where his horse stopped, awaiting direction.

"Good day, Arthur" said a voice. And ARthur looked up. Sitting next to the crossroad, between a holly bush and an oak, was the most loathly lady he had ever seen. Her hair was a dark bramble around her head, her nose was more of a snout than a nose, she had one eye bigger than the other, and tusks growing out of the sides of her face. She had moles with tiny hairs on them, and sharp teeth, and her breasts hung down to her waist.

Arthur answered, "Good day to you, Great Dame," for though she was exceedingly ugly, it was clear that she was a Great Dame.

"Why is it, Arthur, that you look so glum?" asked the Loathly Lady.
And Arthur explained to her about the Knight and the riddle, and the probable loss of his head.

"And what is the riddle, Arthur." asked the Loathly Lady.

"The riddle is 'what is it that every woman wants.'" said Arthur.

At this, the Loathly Lady laughed, and said, "Oh, Arthur, I know the answer to that." And as she spoke, Arthur realized that this ugly Dame knew the answer if anyone did.

"Tell me the answer," he said. "I am the King. I can give you anything you wish."

continued........if you wish


Don't leave me hanging I would love to hear the end of the story, so that the card will make more sense. Would y'all recommend me getting A KEEPER OF THE WORD that book that comes with the deck?


Wardi said:
Don't leave me hanging I would love to hear the end of the story, so that the card will make more sense. Would y'all recommend me getting A KEEPER OF THE WORD that book that comes with the deck?

Yes Red Maple! Continue the story...even though I know the ending (I read the book) You tell it so well. I'm familiar with the main stories, but until I got this deck didn't realize how incomplete my knowledge of Arthurian legends really is. In fact it's becoming very apparent, I don't know as much as I thought at all.

Definately get the Keeper of Words, the stories give such a great background for these cards and many of her interpretations for the cards give them more meaning than I had with previous RW based decks.


The Loathly Lady

OK. I needed that go ahead from the audience :)

"Oh, yes, I will tell you the answer, Arthur," she said. "But there will be a price."

"I am the King," Arthur said again. "I can give you anything you want."

"What I want, Arthur, is the hand of Sir Gawain in marriage."

At that, Arthur's heart sank. "I can not answer for Gawain," he said.

"Nevertheless, that is my price," said Dame Ragnelle, for that was her name.

Arthur rode toward Camelot greatly dejected. He knew that Dame Ragnelle had the answer to the riddle, but he could not ask his friend to pay the price. Tomorrow he would meet the Knight, and prepare to lose his head.

Gawain rode out to meet Arthur, in good humor. "My Lord," he said, "you should be happy the year's challenge is almost over. And yet you ride so sadly toward Camelot. Haven't we scoured the countryside for every possible answer to the riddle? Surely it is in the great book."

"It's not in the book, Gawain," said Arthur. "I have met the woman who knows the answer, but her price is too great."

"How can that be, my Lord? For you are the King." Gawain would not cease his questions. "Tell me, Arthur, what is the price?"

Finally Arthur was compelled to tell him, "Gawain, the price is your hand in marriage, and I would not ask it of you, for indeed she is the most Loathly Lady I have ever seen."

Gawain thought only for a moment, and out of great love for his friend and King, said, "Arthur, I will wed this Dame." And none of Arthur's protests would change his mind.

So Arthur rode out to Dame Ragnelle, and told her that Gawain had agreed.
"So tell me, Great Dame, What is is that every woman wants."

The Dame was greatly pleased, and she said to Arthur, "The answer is, What every woman wants is Sovereignty, the right to rule herself."

Arthur thanked her and rode back to Camelot thinking, "That can't be it. I will offer all the answers in the book first, and save Gawain from this marriage."

And so the next morning, Arthur dressed for battle, and rode off to meet the Knight. When he came to the field, the Knight asked him, "Well, Arthur, can you answer my riddle? What is it that every woman wants?"

And Arthur took the great book, and read from the answers he and Gawain had collected over the year. Beauty, Wealth, Children, Love....and the Knight said "No, No, No, No....Arthur prepare to lose your head."

And then Arthur said, "I met a Dame at the crossroads who told me that what every woman wants is Sovereignty, the right to rule herself."

At that the Knight grew angry, drew back his sword, cursed, and said "Twas my sister who told you that," turned his horse, and rode away.

Arthur rode back to Camelot, with a light heart -- his life was spared. But as he neared the castle, he started to worry about his friend Gawain, for now there would be the promised wedding.

Arthur went to Dame Ragnelle, and suggested that there be a quiet wedding, but she would not have it. "No," she said. "There must be a wedding fit to my station and that of Sir Gawain's." And so great preparation took place. The ladies of the castle wove and sewed a beautiful trousseauu, the hunters filled the kitchen with game, and the cooks cooked and baked so that in all it was six weeks before the wedding day.

When the day came, Dame Ragnelle arrived on a white horse trimmed in red. And she was a sight with her bramble of black hair, her snout in place of a nose, her eyes of two different sizes, her tusks, and her breasts that hung past her waist. Still, when Gawain greeted her, he offered her his hand, and helped her from her horse. He never showed by look or action that she was not the loveliest of women.

And so they were married. There was a grand feast, and Gawain chose the best pieces from his own plate to give to his new wife. And when they danced, he looked into her face, and never let her know by any word or action that she was not his first choice.

Everyone was horrified by the ugliness of Gawain's new wife. But they were relieved that nothing untoward happened at the wedding. They celebrated through the day and into the night, and finally it was time to accompany the couple to their marriage chamber, as was the custom. And when they were safely there, and Gawain turned, and said, "Thank you my friends, Good night," and closed the doors, the faces of Arthur and Guinevere and his other friends paled as they wondered what would become of their friend. Would she devour him in the night?

Inside the bed chamber, Dame Ragnelle spoke to her husband and said, "My husband, I thank you for today, for neither in word nor action did you ever betray that I was not your first choice."

Gawain bowed his head to her and said, "It is only your due, my lady." And he climbed into bed beside her. He rolled over, facing away from her, as if to sleep.

"But Husband," she said, "I do think that on my wedding night, I deserve at least a kiss."

Gawain had a tender heart, and he thought to himself, she is right, how can I deny her? And so he leaned over to her and kissed her full on the lips. And when he pulled back, there sitting next to him was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

"Ah, Gawain, husband. You see me now as I really am. I was under a curse, which your tender kiss has lifted." Gawain was indeed taken aback with this new course of events, and wished to kiss his wife again.

"Ah, but Gawain, the curse is only half-lifted. I can be as you see me now by night, and ugly by day; or I can be ugly by night, and beautiful by day. You choose."

And so Gawain thought about it. If she were beautful by day, everyone would realize Gawain had a beautiful wife, and it would be easier for her with the people of the court, but then at night he'd come home to an ugly hag. But then if she were ugly during the daytime, people would say "Poor Gawain, what a hag he has for a wife", and of course it wouldn't be easy for her, either. But at night he'd come home to a beautiful wife. What would it be, ugly by day, beautiful by night? Beautiful by day, ugly by night? Which would he choose? Which would you choose?

Finally, Gawain turned to his wife and said, "My Lady, it is not for me to choose, it is for you to choose."

"Ah," she said. "Now all the curse is lifted."

And so Dame Ragnelle and Sir Gawain lived in wedded bliss for seven years, when a white horse with red trim rode into the castle yard, and Dame Ragnelle rode off and was never seen again.



Thats a good story, and the telling was very good. I have heard stories like that before, but not an Arthurian legend. Thank you for the enlightenment about the card.


Thanks. I used to tell stories, and this was one of my favorites.

My question about the story re the card though, is this -- why is Dame Ragnelle not at least a Queen? She represents the land itself, Sovereignty. I would've expected to meet her in the Majors, or at least the Queen of the Earth suit - pentacles, coins. The meaning almost seems to big for this card.

I'm curious as to what others think about this, and how you might read this card.


Red Maple,
Maybe you could have a story telling thread about the cards and add others that might shed more light on these cards. This was wonderful! I really want to hear more stories.

If she would have been a Queen she couldn't have married Gawain, because he wasn't a royal and Queens most often had one heck of a time maintaining rulership in a male dominated society. (Wrong deck, but look what happened to Penelope when everyone thought Odysseus was dead) She would have had to have a King, just to keep her domain secure and safe or there'd be lots of wars raging to claim her and her territory... very much like what happened to Igraine when her husband left for battle and was killed. Perhaps by being a Dame... she could maintain her individuality and independence, while still having the authority of her "right" of birth and station to do as she pleased. Maybe she's the Empress, 3 times over...being a nine and all?

She is the land, she is very independant and aware, using her intelligence and resources to get what she wants, unlike the Empress who is focused on providing, producing, nurturing and taking care of everyone to the point where she hardly has any individuality at all and has so many dependant on her that she can't do anything independantly without throwing everything else out of synch.

Just had a thought about her ugliness and beauty too, just like nature, it's all in how you percieve it. It wasn't so long ago (and still is in some minds) that nature was something to fight and bend to our will and be exploited. Cutting down the trees, changing the course of rivers, draining swamps, etc. so we would feel safer from the unknown lurking in the darkness, so the forests were ugly and frightening, full of dangerous creatures. And then there is the more environmental look, where it's all one big happy place and no one sees the "ugliness" of nature doing it's thing, like maintaining the food chain. There is nothing beautiful or ugly about it, it simply is the nature of things. So maybe Ragnell represents all of that. I can't think of any major that she would fit or a queen.


Wales Woman,

You are so right, she is the Empress times three. And she had to be a Dame, outside of the strictures of being a Queen. Thanks for all your thoughts on her, and of course, she is the land, and your comments on the beauty and ugliness as being human perceptions is absolutely right.

I'm not sure if I know enough of the stories, but if I think of another as we go along, I will post it separately. I'm so glad you enjoyed the story -- it's so ancient, yet totally relevant.

Just wanted to add, that when Chaucer wrote this story down, he changed the answer to the riddle. Instead of being "Sovereignty, the right to rule herself," he said "to get her own way." Quite a change in meaning.

I love also, that Arthur automatically assumes Gawain as having sovereignty (I can not speak for Gawain, he tells Dame Ragnelle.)

So I will think of this card now as the Dame Ragnelle, sovereignty card. It will be interesting to see how it comes up in readings.