Tuesday, July 8, 2008
People of a certain age will remember growing up watching old Errol Flynn "swashbuckler" movies on television - and one of his most famous rolls - that of Robin Hood. In later days two different versions of the legend of Robin Hood came out at the same time - one starring Kevin Costner and Mary Elizabeth Mastriantonio (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, 1991) and an underrrated version that went straight to television rather than theatrical release, starring Patrick Bergin and Uma Thurman (Robin Hood, 1991 TV). Both movies are utterly enchanting to me, well-acted, entertaining - and as different as night and day! Uma Thurman was smoking hot and spot on as a defiant Marian, who surrendered her virginity to the outlaw Robin rather than marry the Norman overlord (Guy) to whom she was promised. I've also read my share of Robin Hood novels. Just how many different versions of the legend of Robin Hood exist? I have no idea - but here's one more absolutely fascinating take on the legend of Robin Hood to add to the list, with my own comments duly noted in brackets [ ]. This one is from Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets:" Robin God of the Witches, with numerous variations: Robin Goodfellow, Robin son of Art, Robin the Bobbin, Robin Hood, or Robin Redbreast - the last apparently derived from memories of the Norman sacred king with blood-runes or geirs-odd carved in the flesh of his breast on his "red-letter day" (see Runes). [Oh my!] As Lord of the Hunt and a dying god he became the slain Cock Robin, whose executioner in the nursery rhyme did him in "with my wee bow and arrow" - a Saxon version of the Celtic Cu Chulainn who died at Mag Muirthemne bound to the sacred pillar and riddled with arrows.(1) The red-breasted bird of spring was Cock Robin's soul; the red was his blood, shed by a pagan sacrifice, though a pseudo-Christian legend tried to explain it in a different way. A robin tried to pluck away the thorns from Christ's crown, but only succeeded in tearing its own breast, so all robins had red breasts thereafter.(2) This fable failed to remove the curse of Cock Robin in the opinion of Christian authorities who knew quite well that he was a phallic god. In Cornwall, Robin meant a cock in the other sense: a penis. His surname Hood, or Hud, referred to the symbolic pine log, planted in Mother Earth as a sacred pillar. A pamphlet of 1639 showed Robin as a horned, hoofed, ithyphallic satyr, leading witches' revels in the company of a black dog and an owl.(3) [Both well known symbols of the ancient Mother Goddess, which the Roman Catholic Church of the day went out of its way to demonize in any way it could]. Robin Hood, Wizard of the Greenwood, was a real person or persons leading Sherwood Forest covens in the early 14th century, with a wife or paramour taking the role of the Goddess Maerin, or Marian, or Mari-Anna, the Saxon wudu-maer, literally the Mary or the Mother of the Grove. Great sacramental feasts in honor of Robin and his lady were remembered in popular rhymes nearly three centuries later, when he was "Robin the Bobbin, the big-bellied Ben, who ate more meat than fourscore men."(4) Family names can be found dating back to the "greenwood marriages" performed by heathen shamans, symbolized by the renegade Friar Tuck. Morrises and Morrisons descended from orgiastic Morris-dancers, also called Marian's morrice-men.(5) Like Robin (or Robinson), Morris dancers' May Day rites came from Moorish Spain. The original word was morisco, "Moorish."(6) [Actually, I think the tradition goes at least as far back as ancient Egypt's Muu dancers, some of whom wore high green crowns on their head, constructed of woven reeds - perhaps the origin of the much later "green man" dancers a/k/a Morris men.] Robin was Saracenic, from Rah-bin, "a seer," cognate with the Semitic rabba, "lord," reb or rabbi, a priest. Robin's cult penetrated northern Europe from roots in Moorish Spain.(7) The Iberian peninsula was not Christianized until the overthrow of its Arab governors in the 11th century. Like Scandinavia in the same period, it was a fount of pagan ideas and practices. (Actually, as I understand the history of the Iberian peninsula, the last of the Moors - Arabs - weren't finally expelled from the country until the famous last battle by the joint forces of Isabella and Ferdinand at Cordoba - yes, the same Isabella who funded Columbus' expedition to find the Northwest Passage to India in 1492). The common folk of England liked Robin, which is why they called him Goodfellow, or Puck, which descended from a word for "God." [What word for God???] He was supposed to right the wrongs inflicted on the peasants by the church. He stole the treasures of the rich clergy and nobles and bestowed them on the poor. By force of arms he maintained a heathen preserve in the wildwood, a sanctuary for heretics and others persecuted by the church. Popular legend said Robin was born of a virgin impregnated by Oberon, King of the Fairies. He traveled to fairyland, and was shown "many secrets which he never did open to the world."(8) Like the Greeks' Pan, Robin defended unspoiled land against the encroachment of towns. In country districts, each village set aside a plot of raw woodland, which was not to be disturbed, because it belonged to the Goodfellow, or the Good Man.(9) [The origin of the "Village Green"???] Elders of the Scottish church in 1594 exerted their utmost influence to abolish this Goodfellow's Croft, which they called the devil's acre, claiming it gave "great offence."(10) Mystery plays of the 16th century still continued to celebrate Robin, Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, Little John, and the other heathen heroes. A Churchwardens Account Book lists the prices of costumes for Robin and Marian as King and Queen of the May. The lady impersonating Marian wore a crown, a purple coif, a blue surcoat, a yellow skirt, and red sleeves.(11) In such a way did the church ingest pagan ceremonials by sponsorship, and eventually deprive them of serious meaning. Notes: (1) Larousse, 233. (2) Bowness, 38. (3) Graves, W.G., 441. (4) Spence, 109. (5) Graves, W.G., 441-43. (6) Hazlitt, 422. (7) Shah, 210; Ravensdale & Morgan, 153. (8) Keightley, 287, 289, 315-16. (9) W. Scott, 78. (10) Hazlitt, 283. (11) Hazlitt, 384-85, 520.