Finding Gawain – Act Four

Hieronymous Bosche Garden of Earthly Delights

(image: detail from ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ by Hieronymus Bosch.

Wikipedia Creative Commons)

Finding Gawain – Act Four


Within the forest there is a sense of reckoning. Plucked from Castille Diablo, the man who may once have been Gawain finds himself, again, with wild blood in his veins and standing in the middle of the Clearing of the Ways, facing the West from which he knows Hunter Gawain approaches.

As the twigs break, clumsily, underfoot, at the approach of the other, he smiles. There will be no escape this time… The riddle cannot be solved by mortal mind, the forest will have its sacrifice, the true hunt will come to its conclusion, but it will be swift and merciful, not ritualised and brutal, as those of predatory mankind are…

The Guardian of the Hart has no need to follow the secret pathways in this encounter. He strides from the middle of the clearing to face the intruder Gawain and draws his sword. “Now you die,” he says.

There is a strangely confident look in the eyes of his victim… The other begins to fire answers, appearing to waste time, yet his eyes speak of another game. The Guardian of the Hart tires of this and raises his deadly sword to strike…

“Wait!” says Hunter Gawain. “One final answer… Sovereignty…”

No… this cannot be. Gawain re-sheathes his sword and looks around at his forest… What now? Hunter Gawain has won his life, but a life is now forfeit under the ancient magic of this place. Gawain knows that there has been an intervention; that the only person who could have saved Hunter Gawain has sealed the Guardian’s own doom, instead.

“May she who told you find what she most desires,’ he bows and whispers to the smiling other, as the grasses on the edge of the clearing part and a Veiled Woman glides into the clearing to take the Guardian of the Hart’s hand and lead him away. Her grip is iron. There will be no escaping it…

The Veiled One leads him through the forest, to a place where nine dark trees form a tightly-knit circle, their abundant foliage completely obscuring the light overhead. In the middle of the space is a carved wooden chair, draped with the skins of the Stag, the Boar and the Fox. The Veiled One thrusts him, none too gently, into the chair and tells him that the next faces he will see are those of the Lord and Lady of the Hunt…unless he choses to run, instead…

The symbolism of him joining the hunted is not lost on his hammering heart. Does a slow and painful death at the hands of the many-knived hunters await? Is this, finally, his Unmaking?

The Veiled One passes gentle fingers across the outer leaves of the of trees and it begins…

It begins with Hell… The music that the trees make is one of horrifying discord, and jerks the Guardian of the Hart upright in his seat. He wants to flee its painful noise, but knows he must stay seated and see out what has been started. The greenery all around him is filling him with a strange emotion – that of inevitable acceptance; of relinquishing any idea of being a Knight who fights… He wonders if he has been drugged… and thinks back to the healing potions given by the ladies of Castille Diablo. Why is he not defending himself?

At the point where he feels he will lose his sanity if the music continues, it changes. The chanting of monks is a welcome respite, and he drift away into his own thoughts, considering his life and the strange paths that have brought him here.

Knight of the Goddess they named him from his earliest of days. Some joked about his fondness for the company of women, others saw that much of that destiny was not of his making. Either way, the description was apt, and he had spent much of his life either protecting, defending or making love to, women.

Where are they now? he thinks. Where are those whom he defended with his skill and his blade in his hour of need? But then the acceptance sweeps over him again and with it a deep sense of trust, something his life has seen a dearth of… But to trust in this way is to not act and the inner war rages on…

She appears first, the Lady of the Hunt, resplendent in Red, masked and horned, leading the equally exotic but white-robed Lord by the hand. They approach him, frozen in focus in his carved chair atop the animal skins, and stand behind him, placing over his eyes a tight band of cloth so dense that there is no chance of light penetrating the imposed darkness.

“Trust,” says the Lady of the Hunt, placing her hand on his left shoulder. “Trust,” says the Lord of the Hunt, placing his hand on his right shoulder.

And then another form of hell erupts. Into the now darkened chamber cavort what sound like hundreds of wild spirits, spirits that scream and cackle and make noises that would be at home in a nightmare. They move around the room and around him, swooping in and out of the space around his body. The Guardian has to clench his arms to the chair to avoid moving away from their approach to his head as they glide by, speaking into his ears and giving him their signs and meanings – but too many to remember, though some he has met before.

There is a lull and he thinks it is over, but then they come again… And through all of this the Lord and Lady rest their hands gently on his shoulders in the human sigil of ‘trust’.

And then…

And then the sense of time spinning away from him quietens, and there is born in him a whiteness…

This whiteness comes directly from the juxtaposition of the cacophony and the gentle hands on his skin. It adds to the acceptance and gives him an inner presence that matches the outer gentleness on his shoulders. In the total darkness he can almost make out another pair of hands, white ones this time, the hands of an infinitely patient and loving woman, but they are too far away from him to reach for.

“Trust,” says the Lord of the Hunt. “Trust,” says the Lady of the Hunt, and both pull him to his feet, guiding his blind steps to the edge of the chamber and down a steep flight of rocks, alongside a dancing stream whose cold waters splash his bare feet. Each step is guided by the firm but gentle voice of the Lady, with the Lord watching his every step.

At length he reaches level ground and the Lady of the Hunt takes his upper arm and walks him, in tightly controlled steps, around a strange series of movements. She rests him at the end and tells him that he has just walked the secret pattern of the forest…in Trust.

And then…

And then, he is propelled towards another place where the cold breeze blows and the blindfold is taken from his eyes. Ahead there are fires and, he knows, something else…

The headsman’s block is waiting, waiting amidst a crescent of all the people he knows in both Camelot and the Castille Diablo. The block is waiting for his acceptance and his neck, as the debt must be paid… The people are kindly, but look upon him as though he were a ghost.

The Lord and Lady’s strong hands propel him to his fate, making him kneel in the dirt and offer his head in the final act of his life.

It will be good not to be Gawain any more, he thinks to himself, as the trust and the acceptance take him and the last shred of resistance dies…

But then the voice of the Lady of the Hunt becomes the voice of the Lady of the Lake; and the Lord’s becomes that of Merlin. The lady holds his neck steady and he can hear the soft hiss as she takes her dagger from its sheath. The cold steel presses to his neck and cuts the flesh with caring precision.

In a time beyond time, he can feel the welling of a single drop of the running blood on the tip of his chin… And then it leaves the flushed flesh of his face and drops towards the waiting Earth below, carrying the last of this Gawain with it.

Deep within the Hart, the white hands reach for him…

Previous: Act One, Act Two, Act Three (i), Act Three (ii), Act Three (iii)

The journey of Gawain is a personal interpretation of one of the parts in Leaf and Flame, the Silent Eye’s annual workshop held in April 2016 and created by Stuart France and Sue Vincent.

The Silent Eye uses a combination of magical ritual and psycho-drama to illustrate its teachings on the journey to the Soul.

For more details click here.

Details of next year’s workshop (April 2017), The Feathered Seer, can now be found on our website events page. Everyone is welcome, all you need to bring is your self…

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