Monday, March 17, 2008

The Swan Knight

What could be more chessly than a knight - this one in swan's feathers. First, the "traditional" take on the Swan Knight, a brief summary from Wikipedia: The story of the Knight of the Swan, or Swan Knight, is a medieval tale about a mysterious rescuer who comes in a swan-drawn boat to defend a damsel, his only condition being that he must never be asked his name. Today, the story is probably best known as that of Lohengrin, son of the Grail knight Percival. The Lohengrin version forms the plot of Richard Wagner's opera of that name, which is based on the medieval German romance Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach. However, the Knight of the Swan tale was originally attached to the family of Godfrey of Bouillon, first conqueror of Jerusalem in 1099, in the French chansons de geste known as the "Crusade cycle".[1] In Brabant the name of the Knight of the Swan is Helias. Notes: 1. Holböck, Married Saints and Blesseds, p. 147. ************************************************************************************** Now, from "The Woman's Encyclopedia" - the real scoop, not watered down poop! Swan An ancient, universal shamanic practice of wearing swan-feather cloaks created numerous muths of deities ableto transform themselves into swans. The Heavenly Nymphs (Apsaras) of Hindu mythology were swan maidens. As a phallic god sporting with these sexual angels of the Vedic heaven, Krisna became a swan knight. Multiplied forms of his Goddess were sometimes swan-houris, sometimes milkmaids, the Gopis. Kalmuck tales of the Siddhi Kur, translated from Sanskrit, made Krishna a swan knight who courted the Triple Goddess in the guise of three milkmaids, daughters of the Old Woman (Kali).(1) [Notes: for triple goddess, see prior post on the Hind of Hinds and the shrine to the triple goddess at Mecca; see post on Kelle earlier this evening for information on Kali.] The same Indo-European lore surfaced in Scandanavian myth as the swan incarnations of the Valkyries, who wore magic swan-feather cloaks to transmorm themselves. Kali or Kauri became the Valkyrie Kara, who flew in her swan feathers above battlefields and sang magic charms to deprive the enemy of strength. Legends insisted that if a man could steal a Valyrie's costume of swan feathers, she would be forced to grant his every wish.(2) The swan knight Krishna reappeared in classic Greek myth as Zeus in swan feathers, disguising himself as a swan to seduce the Goddess Leda, who gave birth to the World Egg, which suggests that she too was a totemic swan. Sometimes she was confused with the Goddess Nemisis to whom Zeus's very life was subjec: Leda or "Lady" being only her title.(3) Northern mythology also identified her with the Valkyrie Brunnhilde, whose seven children or Seven Dwarves were transformed into the seven swans of the fairy tale.(4) Zeus's swan form can be traced also to the Vedic image of Brahma in his special vahana ("vehicle," animal incarnation): a swan.(5) Swan maidens and swan knights associated with the Old Religion were common in European folklore throughout the Christian era. A certain order of knights connected with the legendary Temple of the Grail and the defense of women claimed descent from a divine swan-hereo. The families of Gelders and Cleves bore a san on their arms, to honor their ancestor "the Knight of the Swan, servant of women," in whose memory Duke Adolph held a tournament in 1453.(6) This Knight was sometimes called Lohengrin, a savior of women like the British hero Lancelot-Galahad. After the classic pattern, Lohengrin floated in a mystic vessel on the sea in his infancy, and was found and raised by a great queen in a foreign land. After his death he was reborn or reincarnated as his own son.(7) When Lohengrin became one of the Knights Templar of the Grail, he was sent from the Grail castle at Montsalvatch to champion the cause of Duchess Else of Brabant, who had been unjustly imprisoned for exercising the ancient right of noblewomen to choose a lover from among men of inferior rank. [Note: Wow! I have heard of the droit du seigneur. So, this is sort of the reverse practice! Hear hear! Information at Brittanica online: (Droit du Seigneur: French: “right of the lord”), a feudal right said to have existed in medieval Europe giving the lord to whom it belonged the right to sleep the first night with the bride of any one of his vassals. The custom is paralleled in various primitive societies, but the evidence of its existence in Europe is all indirect, involving records of redemption dues paid by the vassal to avoid enforcement of some lordly rights. Many intellectual investigations have been devoted to the problem. A considerable number of feudal rights were related to the vassal’s marriage, particularly the lord’s right to select a bride for his vassal, but these were almost invariably redeemed by a money payment, or “avail”; and it seems likely that the droit du seigneur amounted, in effect, only to another tax of this sort.] Having overcome Else's enemies, Lohengrin married her. According to one version of the story, probably drawn from the myth of Psyche and Eros, Else was forbidden to ask her husband's real name, but couldn't help insisting on it; so, sorrowfully revealing his name, Lohengrin was obliged to leae Else and return to the Mount of Paradise. Other versions of the story said he took her with him to Montsalvatch, where they lived happily ever after.(8) Other stories said Lohengrin appeared in his swan-feather costume to defend Clarissa, Duchess of Bouillon, against the Count of Frankfort, who tried to steal her duchy. Or, he took up the cause of Beatrice of Cleves, whose property rights wre threatened by hostile barons.(9) Though he salled forth to the rescue of several ladies in distress, the Swan-knight's real home was always "the mountain where Venus lives in the Grail."(1) Notes: (1) Baring-Gould, C.M.M.A., 568. (2) Larousse, 278-79. (3) Baring Gould, C.M.M.A., 579. (3) Graves, G.M. 1, 207-8. (4) Baring Gould, C.M.M.A., 571, 579. (5) Ross, 36. (6) Baring-Gould, C.M.M.A., 600. (7) Rank, 62. (8) Guerber, L.M.A., 202-3. (9) Baring-Gould, C.M.M.A., 600. (10) Jung & von Franz, 121. **************************************************************************************** I remembered some remnants of this fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm that I read as a child - most of the tales were more like nightmares, including this tale about a devoted sister and her six bewitched brothers. The Six Swans.

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