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Errantry: Novak's Journal
...Words to cast/My feelings into sculpted thoughts/To make some wisdom last
Personal: Some realizations about Arthur and such 
24th-Jun-2005 01:33 am
Loyola Faculty Portrait
Because my interest was aroused by that ridiculous King Arthur movie I watched the other night, I've started reading Le Morte d'Arthur again, after having gotten bogged down in it when I originally tried to read it through. I've determined to finish the whole of it, instead of jumping around to the good parts. But I admit that the artless archaic English starts to weigh me down, that I hate the format of the tiny, often formulaic chapters, and that it seems to me that an awful lot happens that does nothing to further the story.

Still, having stopped in the middle what seemed to be a never-ending tournament in Book X, I have to say that, believe it or not, having seen A Knight's Tale has allowed me to envision the tournaments with more understanding and interest. Although these were more of Malory's time than Arthur's, I now can get more of a feel and patience for the "play-by-play" reporting of what goes on than I did before. A Knight's Tale gave a good impression of this, I thought, as well as the feasting that was part of the tournament culture, although they did a miserable job of including any spirituality, as you never would have realized from the movie that Mass was a part of every morning. But no doubt the modern "Mass is so boring" insight allowed for that to be edited out of the script. Despite growing up with the same thought, it took me some decades to realize that that complaint says a lot more about usand our culture than it says about what is going on in the Mass. Although Hollywood loves to pander to a vague mystical feeling in portraying Buddhism, no doubt there are millions of young Buddhists on the other side of the world who realize that Buddhist meditation and prayer is so boring, too.

A few of the vocabulary words are throwing me in the text, although I recognize the German cognates that still survive in late Midde/early Modern English. I discovered to my dismay tonight that, no longer being directly connect to the school's net, I don't have immediate access to the online OED. I've got to get some kind of school password right away because that is one of the greatest resources in the world, and having had it a click away for three years, there's no going back.

I did find out that that tribe the movie made Arthur's knights out to be from did in fact exist, and are a part of the current Arthurian scholarship. That was, no doubt, the basis for the vague text at the opening of the movie that assured you that what you were about to see was based on recent archaeological work and was therefore all true, every last word. From what I could tell, though, in the admittedly little that I had to read about it, it seemed a weak argument. In short, it went along the lines of Arthur's name not being of obviously Celtic derivation, and so it must have come from somewhere else and these Roman conscripts seem to fit the bill. A group of these Sarmatians was posted to Britain in 225, and their first commander was Lucius Artorius Castus. Why that's Sarmatian, then, and not Roman, I'm unclear on, but maybe someone else out there knows more about it?

All right, I'm going to go shut up and do some work. It's a "religious discourse in the public sphere" week for me.
24th-Jun-2005 02:21 pm (UTC)
I do SCA )Society for Creative Anachronism). When someone is elevated to one of the highest orders (knighthood for fighting, laurel for arts, or a pelican for service) they have a "vigil". In our make believe world of medieval recreation, this means sitting in a tent at an event while your friends come by and sign your guest book. There is some suggestion that they offer you "wise coucil" but most people just chat.

I have a friend who is an active Christian. When she became a laurel, she actually did a real vigil. She arranged with her church to spend the night there. She did it all by herself and only showed up at the event the next day about an hour before her evelation.

Another example of how the average person can't comprehend real medieval spirituality and religious practice.
24th-Jun-2005 07:18 pm (UTC)
Huh. Good for her! Wow, I've not gone to a SCA event in ages. I actually grew up near a castle in Illinois (a newspaper publisher from Chicago built it as a summer home in 1930-1) and SCA would hold events on some of the grounds. I'm glad your friend really grabbed on to that medieval tradition, not that that particular spiritual tradition has entirely vanished, although I tend to see more "group" vigils on campus, and people taking shifts through the night, usually with an exhibition of the Eucharist.

But as far as tapping into an Arthurian element, I find that particularly interesting. I mean, when you look at those texts, one of the things that stands out to me is a very particularly Arthurian (or English?) sense of these isolated chapels as places of mystery--of a disturbing, even eerie, awareness of being a place of spiritual import: a nexus where the veil between nature and supernature grows thin and visible. It's not a feeling I see portrayed in the same way anywhere else. Prayer as a constituent part of knighthood is no accident in these stories: it's part of being a whole man, dealing with the whole reality of humanity.
24th-Jun-2005 05:11 pm (UTC)
This was a interesting, albeit brief introduction: http://www.britannia.com/history/historan.html

24th-Jun-2005 07:30 pm (UTC)
I've been finding some interesting and helpful sites, too. I bookmarked this one: http://www.legends.dm.net/kingarthur/
24th-Jun-2005 06:49 pm (UTC)
I'm going to have to send you on a quest...
24th-Jun-2005 07:32 pm (UTC)
Milady, you have only to speak....
25th-Jun-2005 03:02 am (UTC)
I always swoon a little when you call me that. Hmm...bring me the head of...something...and...er...a burger, and...um...uh...I suck at this.
25th-Jun-2005 07:09 am (UTC)
I've called you that before? Hmmm.... perhaps I should be more careful. As to the burger, I'll try to remember when I'm in the area: I think I'll come around the late fall semester, early spring semester, if I can, to BC to interview someone. Otherwise, just hold off until something really important comes up that Dan isn't handy for or that you don't want him killed trying to do. Oh, and I'll need a scarf, of course. I think that's mandatory.
28th-Jun-2005 01:01 am (UTC)
Oh, neat! Right-o, a scarf. Maybe Dan can subcontract you for quests like mowing the lawn and chasing the cat around the yard. As for things he might get killed trying to do, he's already done that, what with climbing our maple tree one-handed with a running chainsaw in the other hand. Talk about swooning! I nearly did, except I was too busy yelling at him like the angry harpy I am deep down inside.

Let me know when you're coming!
28th-Jun-2005 01:14 am (UTC)
Yowff!!! Climbing the tree with a running chainsaw is leaving-your-wife-with-the-stranger-in-the-bedroom-bad! Dan is clearly very, very relaxed.

I'll try--I can't remember: what school are you at? It's not BC itself, is it?
28th-Jun-2005 03:53 pm (UTC)
No, I'm at New Hampshire now. But I still have a number of friends at B.C. and could be persuaded to go down and visit, since it's only an hour away.
26th-Jun-2005 03:59 pm (UTC)
My aunt was big on geneaology, and so I had a few lines back to slightly before Mayflower. A tenuously-demonstated relation to a royal lineage in the 1500s got me a good line in the LDS database, which I eventually was able to follow back to a hundred years before Christ.

Anyway. On that line there's a Charlemagne lineage which somehow connects to this Arthur-like guy that I did a lot of research on, but now can't remember any of. The name was translated something like "strong arm," something like brachal-vrai, though the spelling on that is totally off or I'd have been able to re-google it. A very latinate name, but very Celtic circumstances. The research on him looked pretty sound and seemed to put him towards the forefront of the "real" Arthur candidates. If so, it seems reasonable that Arthur was a Celtic chieftain with Roman influence, perhaps degraded and forgotten as the Empire collapsed backwards. Straight-up Roman, or closely connected, seems to me from what I remember maybe less likely.
26th-Jun-2005 06:44 pm (UTC)
I can't think at all of who you might mean, from my reading. One fellow, mentioned in the oldest sources used, named Ambrosius Aurelianus, is often pointed to as "the original inspiration" in that vein, but I don't see how you could remember the name that badly! :-)
26th-Jun-2005 07:01 pm (UTC)
It's written down somewhere; deofavente may have it. Pretty compelling stuff, and if you can translate "strong arm" into degenerated pidgin Latin, you've got your man!
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