From Ritual to Romance/Chapter VII

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From Ritual to Romance by Jessie Laidlay Weston
Chapter VII

Chapter VII: The Sword Dance[edit]

The subject we are now about to consider is one which of late years has attracted considerable attention, and much acute criticism has been expended on the question of its origin and significance. Valuable material has been collected, but the studies, so far, have been individual, and independent, the much needed travail d'ensemble has not yet appeared.

One definite result has, however, been obtained; it is now generally admitted that the so-called Sword Dances, with the closely related Morris Dances, and Mumming Plays, are not mere survivals of martial exercises, an inherited tradition from our warrior ancestors, but were solemn, ceremonial (in some cases there is reason to believe, Initiatory) dances, performed at stated seasons of the year, and directly and intimately connected with the ritual of which we have treated in previous chapters, a ritual designed to preserve and promote the regular and ordered sequence of the processes of Nature. And here, again, our enquiry must begin with the very earliest records of our race, with the traditions of our Aryan forefathers.

The earliest recorded Sword Dancers are undoubtedly the Maruts, those swift-footed youths in gleaming armour who are the faithful attendants on the great god, Indra. Professor von Schroeder, in Mysterium und Mimus, describes them thus:[1] they are a group of youths of equal age and identical parentage, they are always depicted as attired in the same manner, "Sie sind reich und prachtig geschmuckt, mit Goldschmuck auf der Brust, mit Spangen an den Handen, Hirschfelle tragen sie auf den Schultern. Vor allem aber sind sie kriegerisch gerustet, funkelnde Speere tragen sie in den Handen, oder auch goldene Axte. Goldene Harnische oder Mantel umhullen sie, goldene Helme schimmern auf ihren Hauptern. Nie erscheinen sie ohne Wehr und Waffen. Es scheint dass diese ganz und gar zu ihren Wesen gehoren."

The writer goes on to remark that when such a band of armed youths, all of the same age, always closely associated with each other, are represented as Dancers, and always as Dancers--"dann haben wir unabweislich das Bild eines Waffentanzes vor unseren Augen"--and Professor von Schroeder is undoubtedly right.

Constantly throughout the Rig-Veda the Maruts are referred to as Dancers, "gold-bedecked Dancers," "with songs of praise they danced round the spring," "When ye Maruts spear-armed dance, they (i.e., the Heavens) stream together like waves of water."[2]

And a special moment for the dance of these glorious youths "ever young brothers of whom none is elder, none younger"[3] is that of the ceremonial sacrifice, "sie tanzen auf ihren himmlischen Bahnen, sie springen und tanzen auch bei den Opferfesten der Menschen."[4]

The Maruts, as said above, were conceived of as the companions of Indra, and helpers in his fight against his monstrous adversaries; thus they were included in the sacrifices offered in honour of that Deity.

One of the most striking of the ritual Dramas reconstructed by Professor von Schroeder is that which represents Indra as indignantly rejecting the claim of the Maruts to share in such a sacrifice; they had failed to support him in his conflict with the dragon, Vritra, when by his might he loosed the waters, 'neither to-day, nor to-morrow' will he accept a sacrifice of which they share the honour; it requires all the tact of the Offerer, Agastya, and of the leader of the Maruts to soothe the offended Deity.[5]

Here I would draw attention to the significant fact that the feat celebrated is that to which I have previously referred as the most famous of all the deeds attributed to Indra, the 'Freeing of the Waters,' and here the Maruts are associated with the god.

But they were also the objects of independent worship. They were specially honoured at the Caturmasya, the feasts which heralded the commencement of the three seasons of four months each into which the Indian year was divided, a division corresponding respectively to the hot, the cool, and the wet, season. The advantages to be derived from the worship of the Maruts may be deduced from the following extracts from the Rig-Veda, which devotes more than thirty hymns to their praise. "The adorable Maruts, armed with bright lances, and cuirassed with golden breastplates, enjoy vigorous existence; may the cars of the quick-moving Maruts arrive for our good." "Bringers of rain and fertility, shedding water, augmenting food." "Givers of abundant food." "Your milchkine are never dry." "We invoke the food-laden chariots of the Maruts."[6] Nothing can be clearer than this; the Maruts are 'daimons' of fertility, the worship of whom will secure the necessary supply of the fruits of the earth.

The close association of the Maruts with Indra, the great Nature god, has led some scholars to regard them as personifications of a special manifestation of Nature, as Wind-gods. Professor von Schroeder points out that their father was the god Rudra, later known as Civa, the god of departed souls, and of fruitfulness, i.e., a Chthonian deity, and suggests that the Maruts represent the "in Wind und Sturm dahinjagende Seelenschar."[7] He points out that the belief in a troop of departed souls is an integral part of Aryan tradition, and classifies such belief under four main headings.

1. Under the form of a spectral Hunt, the Wild Huntsman well known in European Folk-lore. He equates this with Dionysus Zagreus, and the Hunt of Artemis-Hekate.

2. That of a spectral Army, the souls of warriors slain in fight. The Northern Einherier belong to this class, and the many traditions of spectral combats, and ghostly battles, heard, but not seen.

3. The conception of a host of women in a condition of ecstatic exaltation bordering on madness, who appear girdled with snakes, or hissing like snakes, tear living animals to pieces, and devour the flesh. The classic examples here are the Greek Maenads, and the Indian Senas, who accompany Rudra.

4. The conception of a train of theriomorphic, phallic, demons of fertility, with their companion group of fair women. Such are the Satyrs and Nymphs of Greek, the Gandharvas and Apsaras of Indian, Mythology.

To these four main groups may be added the belief among Germanic peoples, also among the Letts, in a troop of Child Souls.

These four groups, in more or less modified forms, appear closely connected with the dominant Spirit of Vegetation, by whatever name that spirit may be known.

According to von Schroeder there was, among the Aryan peoples generally, a tendency to regard the dead as assuming the character of daimons of fertility. This view the learned Professor considers to be at the root of the annual celebrations in honour of the Departed, the 'Feast of Souls,' which characterized the commencement of the winter season, and is retained in the Catholic conception of November as the month of the Dead.[8]

In any case we may safely conclude that the Maruts, represented as armed youths, were worshipped as deities of fruitfulness; that their dances were of a ceremonial character; and that they were, by nature and origin, closely connected with spirits of fertility of a lower order, such as the Gandharvas. It also appears probable that, if the Dramas of which traces have been preserved in the Rig-Veda, were, as scholars are now of opinion, once actually represented, the mythological conception of the Maruts must have found its embodiment in youths, most probably of the priestly caste, who played their role, and actually danced the ceremonial Sword Dance. As von Schroeder says, "Kein Zweifel dass sie dabei von menschlichen, resp. priesterlichen Personen dargestellt wurden.[9]

When we turn from the early Aryan to the classic Greek period we find in the Kouretes, and in a minor degree in the Korybantes, a parallel so extraordinarily complete, alike in action and significance, that an essential identity of origin appears to be beyond doubt.

The Kouretes were, as their name indicates, a band of armed youths, of semi-divine origin, "Kureten sind von Haus aus halb-gottlich damonische Wesen nicht nur menschliche Priester, oder deren mythische Vertreter."[10] Again, they are to be considered as "elementare Urwesen," and as such of "Gottliche Abkunft."[11] Preller regards them as "Damonen des Gebirgs,"[12] while a passage from Hesiod, quoted by Strabo, equates them with nymphs and satyrs, i.e., fertility demons.[13]

When we remember that the Gandharvas are the Indian equivalent of the Satyrs the close parallel between the Maruts and the Kouretes, both alike bands of armed youths, of elementary origin, and connected with beings of a lower grade, is striking.

The home of the Kouretes was in Crete, where they were closely associated with the worship of the goddess Rhea. The traditional story held that, in order to preserve the infant Zeus from destruction by his father Kronos, they danced their famous Sword Dance round the babe, overpowering his cries by the clash of their weapons.

Their dance was by some writers identified with the Pyrrhic dance, first performed by Athene, in honour of her victory over the Giants, and taught by her to the Kouretes. It had however, as we shall see, a very distinct aim and purpose, and one in no way connected with warlike ends.

In Miss J. E. Harrison's deeply interesting volume, Themis,[14] she gives the translation of a fragmentary Hymn of the Kouretes, discovered among the ruins of a temple in Crete, a text which places beyond all doubt the fact that, however mythical in origin, the Kouretes, certainly, had actual human representatives, and that while in the case of the Maruts there may be a question as to whether their dance actually took place, or not, so far as the Kouretes are concerned there can be no such doubt.

The following is the text as preserved to us; the slabs on which it is inscribed are broken, and there are consequent lacunae.

"Io, Kouros most great, I give thee hail, Kronian, lord of all that is wet and gleaming, thou art come at the head of thy Daimones. To Dikte for the year, Oh march, and rejoice in the dance and song,

"That we make to thee with harps and pipes mingled together, and sing as we come to a stand at thy well-fenced altar.

"Io, &c.

"For here the shielded Nurturers took thee, a child immortal, from Rhea, and with noise of beating feet hid thee away.

"Io, &c.

"And the Horai began to be fruitful year by year, and Dike to possess mankind and all wild living things were held about by wealth-loving Peace.

"Io, &c.

"And the Horai began to be fruitful year by year, and Dike to possess mankind and all wild living things were held about by wealth-loving Peace.

"Io, &c.

"To us also leap for full jars, and leap for fleecy flocks, and leap for fields of fruit, and for hives to bring increase.

"Io, &c.

"Leap for our cities, and leap for our sea-borne ships, and leap for our young citizens, and for goodly Themis."

This hymn is most extraordinarily interesting; it places beyond all doubt what was the root intention of this ceremonial dance; it was designed to stimulate the reproductive energies of Nature, to bring into being fruitful fields, and vineyards, plenteous increase in the flocks and herds, and to people the cities with youthful citizens; and the god is entreated not merely to accept the worship offered, but himself to join in the action which shall produce such fair results, to leap for full jars, and fleecy flocks, and for youthful citizens.

The importance of movement, notably of what we may call group movement, as a stimulant to natural energies, is thoroughly recognized among primitive peoples; with them Dance holds a position equivalent to that which, in more advanced communities, is assigned to Prayer. Professor von Schroeder comments on this, "Es ist merkwurdig genug zu sehen wie das Tanzen nach dem Glauben primitiver Volker eine ahnliche Kraft und Bedeutung zu haben scheint wie man sie auf hoheren Kulturstufen dem inbrunstigen Gebete zuschreibt."[15] He cites the case of the Tarahumara Indians of Central America; while the family as a whole are labouring in the fields it is the office of one man to dance uninterruptedly on the dance place of the house; if he fails in his office the labour of the others will be unsuccessful. The one sin of which a Tarahumara Indian is conscious is that of not having danced enough. Miss Harrison, in commenting on the dance of the Kouretes, remarks that among certain savage tribes when a man is too old to dance he hands on his dance to another. He then ceases to exist socially; when he dies his funeral is celebrated with scanty rites; having 'lost his dance' he has ceased to count as a social unit.[16]

With regard to the connection of the Kouretes with the infant Zeus, Miss Harrison makes the interesting suggestion that we have here a trace of an Initiation Dance, analogous to those discussed by M. Van Gennep in his Rites du Passage, that the original form was Titan, 'White-clay men,' which later became Tītān, 'Giants,' and she draws attention to the fact that daubing the skin with white clay is a frequent practice in these primitive rituals. To this I would add that it is a noteworthy fact that in our modern survivals of these dances the performers are, as a rule, dressed in white.

The above suggestion is of extreme significance, as it brings out the possibility that these celebrations were not only concerned with the prosperity of the community, as a whole, but may also have borne a special, and individual, aspect, and that the idea of Initiation into the group is closely connected with the ceremonial exercise of group functions.

To sum up, there is direct proof that the classic Greeks, in common with their Aryan forefathers, held the conception of a group of Beings, of mythic origin, represented under the form of armed youths, who were noted dancers, and whose activities were closely connected with the processes of Nature. They recognized a relation between these beings, and others of a less highly developed aspect, phallic demons, often of theriomorphic form. Thus the dance of the Kouretes should be considered as a ceremonial ritual action, rather than as a warlike exercise; it was designed to promote the fruitfulness of the earth, not to display the skill of the dancers in the handling of weapons. When we turn to an analogous group, that of the Korybantes, we find that, while presenting a general parallel to the Kouretes (with whom they are often coupled in mythologies), they also possess certain distinct characteristics, which form a connecting link with other, and later, groups.

The Korybantes were of Phrygian origin, attached to the worship of the goddess Kybele, and Attis, the well-known Phrygian counterpart to the Phoenician Adonis, and originally the most important embodiment of the Vegetation Spirit. Roscher considers them to be of identical origin with the Kouretes, i.e., as elementary 'daimons,' but the Korybantes of Classic art and tradition are undoubtedly human beings. Priests of Kybele, they appear in surviving bas-reliefs in company with that goddess, and with Attis.

The dance of the Korybantes is distinguished from that of the Kouretes by its less restrained, and more orgiastic character; it was a wild and whirling dance resembling that of the modern Dervishes, accompanied by self-mutilation and an unrhythmic clashing of weapons, designed, some writers think, to overpower the cries of the victims.

If this suggestion be correct it would seem to indicate that, if the Dance of the Kouretes was originally an Initiation Dance, that of the Korybantes was Sacrificial in character. We shall see later that certain features in the surviving forms of the Sword Dance also point in this direction.

The interest of the Korybantes for our investigation lies in the fact that here again we have the Sword Dance in close and intimate connection with the worship of the Vegetation Spirit, and there can be no doubt that here, as elsewhere, it was held to possess a stimulating virtue.

A noticeable point in the modern survivals of these Dances is that the Dance proper is combined with a more or less coherent dramatic action. The Sword Dance originally did not stand alone, but formed part of a Drama, to the action of which it may be held to have given a cumulative force.

On this point I would refer the reader to Professor von Schroeder's book, where this aspect of the Dance is fully discussed.[17]

We have already spoken of the Maruts, and their dramatic connection with Indra; the Greek Dancers offer us no direct parallel, though the connection of the Kouretes with the infant Zeus may quite possibly indicate the existence in the original form of the Dance, of a more distinctly dramatic element.

We have, however, in the Roman Salii a connecting link which proves beyond all doubt that our modern dances, and analogous representations, are in fact genuine survivals of primitive ceremonies, and in no way a mere fortuitous combination of originally independent elements.

The Salii formed a college of priests, twelve in number, dedicated to the service of Mars, who, it is important to remember, was originally a god of growth and vegetation, a Spring Deity, who bestowed his name on the vernal month of March; only by degrees did the activities of the god become specially connected with the domain of War.[18]

There seem to have been two groups of Salii, one having their college on the Palatine, the other on the Quirinal; the first were the more important. The Quirinal group shared in the celebrations of the latter part of the month only.

The first of March was the traditional birthday of Mars, and from that date, during the whole of the month, the Salii offered sacrifices and performed dances in his honour. They wore pointed caps, or helmets, on their head, were girt with swords, and carried on the left arm shields, copied from the 'ancilia' or traditional shield of Mars, fabled to have fallen from heaven. In their right hand they bore a small lance.

Dionysus of Halicarnassus, in a passage describing the Salii, says, "they carried in their right hand a spear, or staff, or something of that sort." Miss Harrison, quoting this passage, gives a reproduction of a bas-relief representing the Salii carrying what she says "are clearly drumsticks." (As a matter of fact they very closely resemble the 'Wands' which in the Tarot cards sometimes represent the 'Lance' suit.)

Miss Harrison suggests that the original shields were made of skins, stretched upon a frame, and beaten by these 'drumsticks.' This may quite well have been the case, and it would bear out my contention that the original contact of weapon and shield was designed rather as a rhythmic accompaniment to the Dance, than as a display of skill in handling sword and lance, i.e., that these dances were not primarily warlike exercises.

At the conclusion of their songs the Salii invoked Mamurius Veturius, the smith who was fabled to have executed the copies of the original shield, while on the 14th of March, a man, dressed in skins, and supposed to represent the aforesaid smith, was led through the streets, beaten by the Salii with rods, and thrust out of the city.

The following day, the 15th, was the feast of Anna Perenna, fabled to be an old woman, to whom Mars had confided the tale of his love for Nerio, and who, disguising herself as the maiden, had gone through the ceremony of marriage with the god. This feast was held outside the gates. On the 23rd the combined feast of Mars and Nerio was held with great rejoicing throughout the city. Modern scholars have unanimously recognized in Mamurius Veturius and Anna Perenna the representatives of the Old Year, the Vegetation Spirit, and his female counterpart, who, grown old, must yield place to the young god and his correspondingly youthful bride. Reference to Chapter 5, where the medieval and modern forms of this Nature ritual are discussed, and instances of the carrying out of Winter, and ceremonial bringing in of Spring, are given, will suffice to show how vital and enduring an element in Folk-lore is this idea of driving out the Old Year, while celebrating the birth of the New. Here then, again, we have a ritual Sword Dance closely associated with the practice of a Nature cult; there can, I think, be no doubt that ab initio the two were connected with each other.

But the dance of the Salii with its dramatic Folk-play features forms an interesting link between the classic Dance of the Kouretes, and the modern English survivals, in which the dramatic element is strongly marked. These English forms may be divided into three related groups, the Sword Dance, the Morris Dance, and the Mumming Play. Of these the Morris Dance stands somewhat apart; of identical origin, it has discarded the dramatic element, and now survives simply as a Dance, whereas the Sword Dance is always dramatic in form, and the Mumming Play, acted by characters appearing also in the Sword Dance, invariably contains a more or less elaborate fight.[19]

The Sword Dance proper appears to have been preserved mostly in the North of England, and in Scotland. Mr Cecil Sharp has found four distinct varieties in Yorkshire alone. At one time there existed a special variant known as the Giants' Dance, in which the leading characters were known by the names of Wotan, and Frau Frigg; one figure of this dance consisted in making a ring of swords round the neck of a lad, without wounding him.

Mr E. K. Chambers has commented on this as the survival of a sacrificial origin.[20] The remarks of this writer on the Sword Dance in its dramatic aspect are so much to the point that I quote them here. "The Sword Dance makes its appearance, not like heroic poetry in general, as part of the minstrel repertory, but as a purely popular thing at the agricultural festivals. To these festivals we may therefore suppose it to have originally belonged." Mr Chambers goes on to remark that the dance of the Salii discussed above, was clearly agricultural, "and belongs to Mars not as War god, but in his more primitive quality of a fertilization Spirit."

In an Appendix to his most valuable book the same writer gives a full description, with text, of the most famous surviving form of the Sword Dance, that of Papa Stour (old Norwegian Papey in Stora), one of the Shetland Islands.

The dance was performed at Christmas (Yule-tide). The dancers, seven in number, represented the seven champions of Christendom; the leader, Saint George, after an introductory speech, performed a solo dance, to the music of an accompanying minstrel. He then presented his comrades, one by one, each in turn going through the same performance. Finally the seven together performed an elaborate dance. The complete text of the speeches is given in the Appendix referred to.[21]

The close connection between the English Sword Dance, and the Mumming Play, is indicated by the fact that the chief character in these plays is, generally speaking, Saint George. (The title has in some cases become corrupted into King George.) In Professor von Schroeder's opinion this is due to Saint George's legendary role as Dragon slayer, and he sees in the importance assigned to this hero an argument in favour of his theory that the "Slaying of the Dragon" was the earliest Aryan Folk-Drama.

In Folk-Lore, Vol. X., a fully illustrated description of the Mumming Play, as performed at Newbold, a village near Rugby, is given.[22] Here the characters are Father Christmas, Saint George, a Turkish Knight, Doctor, Moll Finney (mother of the Knight), Humpty Jack, Beelzebub, and 'Big-Head-and-Little-Wit.' These last three have no share in the action proper, but appear in a kind of Epilogue, accompanying a collection made by Beelzebub.

The Play is always performed at Christmas time, consequently Father Christmas appears as stage-manager, and introduces the characters. The action consists in a general challenge issued by Saint George, and accepted by the Turkish Knight. A combat follows, in which the Turk is slain. His mother rushes in, weeps over the body, and demands the services of a Doctor, who appears accordingly, vaunts his skill in lines interspersed with unintelligible gibberish, and restores the Turk to life. In the version which used to be played throughout Scotland at Hogmanay (New-Year-tide), the characters are Bol Bendo, the King of France, the King of Spain, Doctor Beelzebub, Golishan, and Sir Alexander.[23] The fight is between Bol Bendo (who represents the Saint George of the English version), and Golishan. The latter is killed, and, on the demand of Sir Alexander (who acts as stage-manager), revived by the doctor, this character, as in the English version, interlarding the recital of his feats of healing skill with unintelligible phrases.[24] There is a general consensus of opinion among Folk-lore authorities that in this rough drama, which we find played in slightly modified form all over Europe (in Scandinavia it is the Julbock, a man dressed in skins, who, after a dramatic dance, is killed and revived),[25] we have a symbolic representation of the death and re-birth of the year; a counterpart to those ceremonies of driving out Winter, and bringing in Spring, which we have already described.

This chapter had already been written when an important article, by Dr Jevons, entitled Masks and the Origin of the Greek Drama appeared in Folk-Lore (Vol. XXVII.) The author, having discussed the different forms of Greek Drama, and the variety of masks employed, decides that "Greek Comedy originated in Harvest Festivals, in some ceremony in which the Harvesters went about in procession wearing masks." This ceremony he connects directly with the English Mumming Plays, suggesting that "the characters represented on this occasion were the Vegetation Spirit, and those who were concerned in bringing about his revivification--in fine, Greek Comedy and the Mumming Play both sprang from the rite of revivification." At a later stage of our enquiry we shall have occasion to return to this point, and realize its great importance for our theory.

The Morris Dances differ somewhat from the Sword, and Mumming Dances. The performances as a rule take place in the Spring, or early Summer, chiefly May, and Whitsuntide. The dances retain little or no trace of dramatic action but are dances pure and simple. The performers, generally six in number, are attired in white elaborately-pleated shirts, decked with ribbons, white mole-skin trousers, with bells at the knee, and beaver hats adorned with ribbons and flowers. The leader carries a sword, on the point of which is generally impaled a cake; during the dancing slices of this cake are distributed to the lookers on, who are supposed to make a contribution to the 'Treasury,' a money-box carried by an individual called the Squire, or Clown, dressed in motley, and bearing in the other hand a stick with a bladder at one end, and a cow's tail at the other.

In some forms of the dance there is a 'Lord' and a 'Lady,' who carry 'Maces' of office; these maces are short staves, with a transverse piece at the top, and a hoop over it. The whole is decorated with ribbons and flowers, and bears a curious resemblance to the Crux Ansata.[26] In certain figures of the dance the performers carry handkerchiefs, in others, wands, painted with the colours of the village to which they belong; the dances are always more or less elaborate in form.

The costume of the 'Clown' (an animal's skin, or cap of skin with tail pendant) and the special character assumed by the Maytide celebrations in certain parts of England, e.g., Cornwall and Staffordshire,[27] would seem to indicate that, while the English Morris Dance has dropped the dramatic action, the dancers not being designated by name, and playing no special role, it has, on the other hand, retained the theriomorphic features so closely associated with Aryan ritual, which the Sword Dance, and Mumming Play, on their side, have lost.[28]

A special note of these English survivals, and one to which I would now draw attention, is the very elaborate character of the figures, and the existence of a distinct symbolic element. I am informed that the Sword dancers of to-day always, at the conclusion of a series of elaborate sword-lacing figures, form the Pentangle; as they hold up the sign they cry, triumphantly, "A Nut! A Nut!" The word Nut==Knot (as in the game of 'Nuts, i.e., breast-knots, nosegays, in May'). They do this often even when performing a later form of the Mumming Play.

I have already drawn attention to the fact that in Gawain and the Green Knight the hero's badge is the Pentangle (or Pentacle), there explained as called by the English 'the Endless Knot.'[29] In the previous chapter I have noted that the Pentangle frequently in the Tarot suits replaces the Dish; in Mr Yeats's remarks, cited above, the two are held to be interchangeable, one or the other always forms one of the group of symbols.

In one form of the Morris Dance, that performed in Berkshire, the leader, or 'Squire' of the Morris carries a Chalice! At the same time he bears a Sword, and a bull's head at the end of a long pole. This figure is illustrated in Miss Mary Neal's Esperance Morris Book.[30]

Thus our English survivals of these early Vegetation ceremonies preserve, in a more or less detached form, the four symbols discussed in the preceding chapter, Grail, Sword, Lance, and Pentangle, or Dish. It seems to me that, in view of the evidence thus offered, it is not a very hazardous, or far-fetched hypothesis to suggest that these symbols, the exact value of which, as a group, we cannot clearly determine, but of which we know the two most prominent, Cup and Lance, to be sex symbols, were originally 'Fertility' emblems, and as such employed in a ritual designed to promote, or restore, the activity of the reproductive energies of Nature.

As I have pointed out above an obvious dislocation has taken place in our English survivals. Sword Dance, Mumming Play, and Morris Dance, no longer form part of one ceremony, but have become separated, and connected, on the one hand with the Winter, on the other with the early Summer, Nature celebrations; it is thus not surprising that the symbols should also have become detached. The fact that the three groups manifestly form part of an original whole is an argument in favour of the view that at one moment all the symbols were used together, and the Grail chalice carried in a ceremony in which Sword, Lance, and Pentangle, were also displayed.

But there is another point I would suggest. Is it not possible that, in these armed youths, who were in some cases, notably in that of the Salii, at once warriors and priests, we have the real origin of the Grail Knights? We know now, absolutely, and indubitably, that these Sword Dances formed an important part of the Vegetation ritual; is it not easily within the bounds of possibility that, as the general ceremonial became elevated, first to the rank of a Mystery Cult, and then used as a vehicle for symbolic Christian teaching, the figures of the attendant warrior-priests underwent a corresponding change? From Salii to Templars is not after all so 'far a cry' as from the glittering golden-armed Maruts, and the youthful leaping Kouretes, to the grotesque tatterdemalion personages of the Christmas Mumming Play. We have learnt to acknowledge the common origin of these two latter groups; may we not reasonably contemplate a possible relation existing between the two first named?


  1. ^  Mysterium und Mimus, p. 50. This work contains a most valuable and interesting study of the Maruts, and the kindred groups of Sword Dancers.
  2. ^  Op. cit. pp. 47 et seq.
  3. ^  Rig-Veda, Vol. III. p. 337.
  4. ^  Mysterium und Mimus, p. 48.
  5. ^  Op. cit., Indra, die Maruts, und Agastya, pp. 91 et seq.
  6. ^  Rig-Veda, Vol. III. pp. 331, 334, 335, 337.
  7. ^  Mysterium un Mimus, p. 121.
  8. ^  Vollendung des Arische Mysterium, p. 13. The introductory section of this book, containing a study of early Aryan belief, and numerous references to modern survivals, is both interesting and valuable. The latter part, a panegyric on the Wagnerian drama, is of little importance.
  9. ^  Mysterium und Mimus, p. 131.
  10. ^  Cf. Roscher's Lexikon, under heading Kureten.
  11. ^  Op. cit.
  12. ^  Cf. Preller, Graechishe Mythologie, p. 134.
  13. ^  Quoted by Preller, p. 654.
  14. ^  Themis, A Study in Greek Social Origins (Cambridge, 1912), pp. 6 et seq.
  15. ^  Mysterium un Mimus, p. 23.
  16. ^  Themis, p. 24.
  17. ^  Cf. Mysterium und Mimus, section Indra, die Maruts, und Agastya specially pp. 151 et seq.
  18. ^  Cf. von Schroeder, op. cit. pp. 141 et seq. for a very full account of the ceremonies; also, Themis, p. 194; Mannhardt, Wald und Feld-Kulte, and Roscher's Lexikon, under heading Mars, for various reasons.
  19. ^  Folk-Lore, Vols. VII., X., and XVI. contain interesting and fully illustrated accounts of some of these dances and plays.
  20. ^  The Mediaeval Stage, Vol. III. p. 202. It would be interesting to know the precise form of this ring; was it the Pentangle?
  21. ^  Cf. also Mysterium und Mimus, pp. 110, 111, for a general description of the dance, minus the text of the speeches.
  22. ^  Pp. 186-194.
  23. ^  Cf. Folk-Lore, Vol. XVI. pp. 212 et seq.
  24. ^  I would draw attention to the curious name of the adversary, Golisham; it is noteworthy that in one Arthurian romance Gawain has for adversary Golagros, in another Percival fights against Golerotheram. Are these all reminiscences of the giant Goliath, who became the synonym for a dangerous, preferably heathen, adversary, even as Mahomet became the synonym for an idol?
  25. ^  Cf. Mannhardt, Wald und Feld-Kulte, Vol. II. pp. 191 et seq. for a very full account of the Julbock (Yule Buck).
  26. ^  Cf. Folk-Lore, Vol. VIII. 'Some Oxfordshire Seasonal Festivals,' where full illustrations of the Bampton Morris Dancers and their equipment will be found.
  27. ^  Cf. The Padstow Hobby-Horse, F.-L. Vol. XVI. p. 56; The Staffordshire Horn-Dance, Ib. Vol. VII. p. 382, and VIII. p. 70.
  28. ^  Cf. supra, pp. ---, ---, ---.
  29. ^  Cf. Legend of Sir Perceval, Vol. II. p. 264.
  30. ^  See English Folk-Song and Dance by Frank Kidson and Mary Neal, Cambridge, 1915, plate facing p. 104. A curious point in connection with the illustration is that the Chalice is surmounted by a Heart, and in the Tarot suits Cups are the equivalent of our Hearts. The combination has now become identified with the cult of the Sacred Heart, but is undoubtedly much older.