Saturday continued after lunch with an Exploration led by Stuart, illustrating an idea of such simplicity that it is seldom noticed; that the most fundamental spiritual beliefs, no matter how we enrobe them in story, can be seen in the cycles and life of the earth itself. It is not a new idea, but while ideas may be shared, understanding comes to each of us as new as if it were the first morning of the world and every unique perspective adds to our ability to comprehend and to make that understanding a realised part of our lives.
Ritual Three, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, came next and saw Gawain leave Camelot with the Riddle unanswered. As he searches for the Green Chapel he is given lodging at the Castille Diablo. Sworn to a three-fold game with its Lord, Gawain must resist the blandishments of Lady Verdant… and give his spoils to her husband in exchange for the spoils of the daily hunt.
Everyone rose superbly to the challenge of the unrehearsed script over the weekend, particularly those ladies who played knights and those who stood in for those of our Companions too ill to attend, but I think few would deny that this was one of the many high-points. ‘Gawain’ and ‘Lady Verdant’ had agreed to ad-lib the three parts of the traditional seduction that ends with the bestowing of a garter… a courageous decision indeed and fascinating to watch. Lord Verdant meanwhile, also ad-libbing was, quite simply, brilliant… and his outrageously extravagant cry of ‘More excess!’ raised grins all round… and has been much quoted ever since.
Late afternoon was graced by our third Exploration, a talk given by one of our Companions on the question of faith. Speaking from her unique perspective as a scientist and long-term student of the Western Mysteries, she explored the myths used as the foundation of the weekend from the perspective of Esoteric Christianity in what one Companion said was ‘incredibly intelligent and worth a whole weekend of discussion’ in itself.
Between the talks that had been prepared, the costumes carried for thousands of miles as friends old and new gathered from across the world… the baskets of fruit and chocolates brought by the Companions to share, the small gifts and the conviction and whole-hearted immersion of everyone in the ritual drama that was unfolding… we were left amazed and humbled. It is no new thing… the Companions do this every year… and every year we are left wordless at their generosity of spirit. It is, without a doubt, the Companions who make the weekends ‘work’. It is they who give life to the words we have written and make words on paper and lifeless costumes into a spiritual and meaningful journey for all who are there….and it is for them that we do our best to make that journey a good one.
And then, there was the fourth ritual drama… and flames in the night borne by others who had ‘gone the extra mile’… and an honour I will never forget…