The History and Lore of the Selohaar Regalia
- Sir Christian Henry Tobler, Grand Master, February 2009 -
Three physical objects, and the archetypes they represent, are of particular importance in the ritual of the Order of Selohaar. These are the Chalice of the Grail, Aredayne the Sword of Power, and the Crown of Carcosa. So entrenched do the three parts of the Order's Regalia seem today, that few members today may realize that they were not always a part of our fellowship's ceremony and magic. But in fact, in the very earliest days of Order history, none of these three were present. The history of these items and their attendant symbolism tell us much of the development of Selohaar lore and practice.
In the time of the Order's founding, there was no Regalia as we know it now. Neither were all devised or recognized at once. Instead, the three arose over the course of several years, and by fits and starts. The Sword was the first of these, followed by the Grail and finally, the Crown.
Diagram of the Triquetra with
the Grail, Sword, and Crown
In the 'First Age' of the Order (1979 - 1985), all of the members of the fellowship were of martial inclination. Swords were important symbols of an aggressive stance against injustice and were carried by every member at formal meetings of the organization. Of course, in those days, quality reproductions of medieval swords were unheard of in the United States, so those early Selohaar swords seem quite pitiful by our current standards.
Nevertheless, initially there was no "Sword of the Order." It was a deepening interest in the Arthurian cycle that made the designation of such a weapon inevitable. Always impressionable lads, we found compelling the manifestation of Arthur's sword Excalibur in the eponymously named movie of 1980, as both mark of kingship and emblem of a connection to the Land. This led to the acquisition and consecration in 1983 of the first sword to bear the name Aredayne - a name meaning, in our homegrown magical language of Salmacian, 'the magic that resides within steel'. I coined the name (or rather, it simply came to my tongue one night); it was Sir Carl who then 'interpreted' the word's meaning.
The poor quality of the original Aredayne led to its failure from simple metal fatigue; it was replaced by a slightly higher quality commercially-available sword in 1986. This too was replaced by one actually based on a historic model in 1988. An early product of the Italian sword makers Del Tin Armi Antiche, this was one of the first high quality reproduction medieval swords to reach these shores. The third Aredayne remains the sword of the Order to this day, its blade engraved with Salmacian words, which translate into English as "Aredayne, Sword of Selohaar."
If the Sword was a statement of the First Age, then the Grail was surely the product of the Order's Second Age (1986 - 2006), for it is was in the beginning of this period that the first non-warrior members came into the Order. This time saw greater focus on the gentler arts, including specialized curricula for those who did not take part in the tournament or other martial endeavors.
As with the history of the Sword, chalices were a part of Selohaar ritual years before a formal Grail was designated. The Chalice of Fellowship was always shared among the attendees of the first meetings of Selohaar Knights. But as the Order regrouped after 1985's trials and tribulations, Sir Keith was sent on a 'Grail Quest' - a search for some truth that would help us rekindle our special bonds and recapture the precious magic of our earlier days. He bestowed the first Chalice of the Grail to symbolize that rededication to, and renewal of, our cause. This chalice has, like the Sword, been through three iterations. The current cup was acquired in 1996 from a religious goods supplier - a tremendous improvement over its far more humble predecessors.
The symbolism of the Grail, particularly in some of the pre-Christian influences upon the Grail legends of the Middle Ages, speaks to the feminine aspect of divinity - a force much more prominent in the Order of the late 1980's. In addition to being a time wherein we brought in successful female members of the fellowship, this was also a period when Verena, the consort of our homegrown 'guardian spirit' Vorthr (who is symbolized by the Sword), came more fully into her own; hitherto, Verena had been invoked as an afterthought. The Grail is many things within the Selohaar context, but when we invoke our created 'deities', it is held aloft as the Cup of Verena. This is only fitting: the chalice recalls the shape and nature of femininity as surely as the Sword does masculinity.
And so the 'appearance' of the Grail accompanies the rise of women in the Order and of more mystic activity independent of its originally purely martial focus.
The final piece of the regalia to appear was the Crown. I wore various circlets of less varying poor quality, starting in the mid-1980s. Slowly, as the early 1990's unfolded, the Crown proper became a more important symbol. By 1995, it had sufficient symbolic import that it became important to purchase a proper looking crown to better compliment the improved sword and grail chalice; the current Crown of Carcosa dates to 1996.
While the Crown appeared in the 'Second Age' of Selohaar, it did not come into full import until only very recently. After the changes in the Order of early 2007, we decided that with all the stress we had put into the triads of symbolism layered onto our triquetra sigil, it was important that in future we not invoke only Vorthr and Verena - the God and Goddess, in neo-pagan terms - but also their child, the prince Volnar. Given this stress on the importance of the number three in the Western mystical and philosophical traditions, we realized it was in fact an eccentricity on our part that we had previously not accorded Volnar, and his associated part of the regalia, the Crown, this level of importance. And so, we may rightly say that the true emergence of the Crown of Carcosa, as an equal hallow, belongs to the Third Age of the Order.
The Crown is therefore symbolic of not only Volnar's wisdom and judgment, but also the significance of study of our forbearer's traditions - our inheritance from the past as modern chivalric and mystic society.
Archetypes and Deities
The symbolism attached to the three hallows is multi-layered. As I described above, the Sword, Grail, and Crown correspond to our Order's deities Vorthr, Verena, and Volnar, respectively. These are names devised by us, providing a religiously neutral set of names to invoke, in turn associated with specific qualities.
Selohaar is not a religion, but rather "a way of doing things." Our membership includes those of various spiritual backgrounds - Christian, generic neo-pagan, Wiccan, agnostic, etc. Our deities therefore have 'life' only in the nexus of our membership; what they mean is different for each member, within the general constraints of the qualities we have attributed to them. Thus, for the Wiccan, Verena might be a manifestation of the Mother Goddess; for a Christian she might be the Virgin Mary or an incarnation of the Holy Spirit. In fact, our choice to include three deities makes for convenient 'mapping' of our archetypal names to both extant Christian and neo-pagan schemes.
There are numerous potential readings for this triad. One compelling one appears in the Paulus Kal Fechtbuch (Fight Book), an illustrated German fighting text of the second half of the 15th century. In one of its dedicatory plates, a noble (likely Georg, son of Duke Ludwig IX of Bavaria) kneels to receive the accolade of knighthood while the triad of Mary, the infant Christ, and St. George, look on from heaven (below).
The Virgin, Child, and St. George, from the c. 1470 Paulus
Kal Fechtbuch (Cgm. 1507, Bayerisches Staatsbibliothek)
It is of paramount significance that our Order not only tolerates, but stresses, the diversity of interpretations regarding these symbols. It is not only incumbent upon each Selohaar to respect his fellow nobles of the Order - this synergy is a source of great strength that both deepens our bonds to each other and enriches our shared knowledge.
Beyond the simple meanings of God, Goddess, and their Union (or, Father, Holy Spirit, and Son, etc.) attributable to Vorthr, Verena, and Volnar, there exists another set of archetypal qualities. These are the modalities of Strategist, Mystic, and Philosopher. The Sword, and thereby Vorthr, corresponds to the idea of the Strategist, the portion of one's being devoted to action and logic. Verena - or, the Grail - is the Mystic, introspective, intuitive, and receptive. Finally, Volnar, and therefore the Crown, is the Philosopher; wise in judgment, this archetype uses law and lore to balance and harmonize the projective and receptive qualities of the Sword/Vorthr and Grail/Verena.
The Regalia in Practice
The Regalia have diverse uses in Selohaar practice. We have already touched on their role in the invocation of the three deities/archetypes, but there are a number of others.
The Grail is shared in magic circle by all participants; this is a key segment of the standard Selohaar group ritual format. A member is selected before each circle to share the contents of the Grail with all of the congregants in a ceremonial act harkening back to the sharing of the Cup of Fellowship in the Order's earliest years. The Grail is also proffered to new members of our fellowship once they have taken the Oath of Selohaar. It also figures, along with the other hallows, in the Formula of the Triquetra, the 2nd degree initiatory rite of Selohaar.
The sword Aredayne is used to welcome new members and make new knights. It is also employed for other special honors, including the yearly anointing of a new Champion Knight of the Order and to bless a combatant for some special office, such as holding the list against all comers in an Pas d'Armes ("Passage of Arms", a type of tournament). Lord Christopher Valli was so blessed when he held his Passage of the White Peacock in 2007.
The Crown is worn by the Grand Master during all formal Order proceedings, whether this be the holding of court or the observance of magic circle. The Grand Master also wears it to preside as judge of a tournament of arms and to conduct a meeting of the Selohaar Council. Finally, the Crown represents the Order's outreach to the rest of the world and thereby carries diplomatic connotations; though this has never been done, in theory a representative of the Order might bear the Crown with them if the Grand Master were unavailable to do so.
The Selohaar Regalia stands as a unique combination of symbols with many layers of meaning for the Order. To know their lore is to know much of what the Order stands for and how it pursues its goals, and these hallows are redolent of Selohaar history - their story is the story of the Order of Selohaar.
Therefore, in conclusion, let me wish my gentle readers this: "May the powers of the Sword, Crown, and Grail go with you in all your travels!"