Finding Gawain – Act Two

Last GlimpseAA2

Finding Gawain – Act Two 

Gawain staggers from the castle of Camelot, the memory of the Green Knight’s bloody axe vivid in his mind as though the mere dropping of it onto the temple floor carried no significance, and its dark presence remains with him, still.

Across the land he strides, stumbling and falling in the darkness, mouthing unintelligible noises as the full horror of what has happened fills his head. The path ahead gets ever darker, blocking out even the meagre light of the moon, veiled behind silver clouds, with just the odd moment of brightness.

His failing limbs work for hope, but in the heart that propelled the flesh to defend his King, there is only despair. He falls, once more, and stays on the ground, too tired to rise. He pushes himself as far as his hands and knees and is startled when three silvery animals run past him, pointing the way into the depths of the forest. They are a Stag, a Boar and a Fox. Each one, passing his kneeling form, glares at him with merciless eyes.

He does not know how long he has been asleep, beside that silvery stream, lying on rocks covered in dark green moss. But the depths of the forest have taken him into the fabric of their heart. Overhead, the silver moon breaks through the cloudy sky and the glade in which he lies comes alive.

His body is now clothed in a second skin of pure white. Around that and keeping out the bitter cold is a thick white cloak, ornamented at hood and neck by layers of warm cloth whose colours are those of the moss and the dark bark of the ancient trees. An inner voice tells him to stand and bear witness to what is needed. He gazes up at the moon, which seems to be growing in size each second. The moon tells him that, through his choice in defending Arthur, he has become the Guardian of the Hart, the mysterious and sacred male white deer that only few ever see, but which is hunted, mercilessly, for its magical properties. The moon tells him that the ways of man and the ways of the forest are at a crossroads and must be resolved.

Beneath his cloak, his arms wrap around the new lithe body, and he discovers that he bears a short but deadly sword. He slides it from his scabbard and holds it up to the moon. The light in the sky brightens and a silver ray comes down from the orb and touches the end of the sword’s metal, reflecting into the staring eyes of the new Guardian in nine rays of expectation.

“Defend the Hart,” says the voice. “Be true…”

And then he sleeps again, as the voice instructs him. And in that deeper sleep there are no more dreams, as the healing forces of the forest fill his heart and swell his lungs, charging his body with green power…

Gawain's enchanted forest

The dawn is golden, and fills his eyes with a new vision: that of the hidden pathways around him in the Enchanted Forest. The Guardian of the Hart rises, full of power and purpose, one of them, now, and listens to the sounds from below; sounds of men hunting in the forest. He smiles, knowing his purpose and his power.

As the moon promised, the magic of the forest separates one of the hunters from the rest. Unseen, the bright inner winds push and pull him until he stands in a place not known by man. There he looks around, confused, staring at the mighty oak, whose very form has been evolved to home the magical body of the Guardian of the Hart.

For a while, the Guardian enjoys the unease of the hunter, listening to the frantic sounds of the lost man. Intent on playing out the forest’s retribution on this interloper, he steps from within the ancient oak and raises his bowed head.

Both figures are startled…

There are two Gawains in the clearing. The one newly arrived is the form of a Gawain who spent a comfortable night in the castle, brooding on his fate, but not deeply troubled by his distant destiny. The other is that which has become the Guardian, lovingly forged by the Enchanted Forest for its purposes. Now more than human… Now more than hunter…

The insurgent Gawain spies the white Guardian and, knowing that there stands before him an otherwordly figure, charges through the undergrowth towards him. But, as he does this, the white Guardian moves in a different way, along the inner paths of the forest, unreachable by the mortal pursuer. Hunter Gawain blunders on, before looking up again and realising that the Guardian is moving along a path he cannot see. Snarling his frustration, he stops and moves in a great circle to try to intersect his foe. The Guardian smiles, as does the forest, as Gawain the hunter is drawn deeper into their labyrinth.

For eight passes, the white Guardian leads his prey around, until, with a knowledge not born of logic, he steps deliberately off the inner pathways and reveals a place of intersection that the hunter can attain.

The Hunter Gawain sees his chance and charges on his prey, who has assumed a stance of inner meditation, the great white cloak wrapped around his body, his head bowed as in prayer. In seconds the pursuer has gained the distance and seizes the neck of the cloak, tearing it from the coiled body of the Guardian.

In slow motion, the Guardian raises his half-lidded eyes and smiles into the face of the man who now knows the trap set for him; knows from the white knight’s revealed body and belted sword that his actions in tearing off the cloak have laid him open to the prepared attack. In horror he watches as the silver sword is drawn, faster than he can even think, and placed at his throat.

“Shall we kill you?” toys the magical forest, through the lips of their Guardian of the Hart. “Perhaps we will play with you some more, before death, for such would be fitting fate for one who takes on the debt of those who have long plagued these inner pathways of the Green Life…”

Hunter Gawain stands mute, his skin taut on the blade, one move away from a grisly death on that sharp edge, nodding assent with his eyes. After all, he is already doomed…perhaps this strange encounter can, in some way, exchange his deadly destiny, a year hence, for another…

“A riddle then,” smiles the Guardian of the Hart, “Yes?”

As much as the point of the deadly blade will allow, Hunter Gawain nods his assent. The blade is withdrawn. The Guardian stoops to gather up his fallen cloak, then turns to step back into the body of the sacred oak which awaits his return to the Green Life. As his foot enters the bark and passes into the wood, he turns, displaying a deadly smile.

“What is it that woman most desires?” he asks, laughing and disappearing into the mighty trunk.

He leaves behind a trembling and bewildered human, who, as he stumbles out of the forest to rejoin his worried fellow Knights, clings to the thin hope that a way to salvation may have been found… By the time he reaches their reassuring company, he has already forgotten all but the riddle that may save his life…


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, will shortly be published on our website events page. Everyone is welcome, all you need to bring is your self…


Finding Gawain – Act One

Gawain's last post

Finding Gawain – Act One

The last of the sunlight has gone. The light of the torches flickers in the great hall. The Table Round has assembled for more Yule merriment, but the room has turned to ice. The giant, green figure rides on his equally mighty horse into the sacred space of Camelot’s inner chamber. It is a monstrous sight; a circle of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere’s most famous Knights and their Ladies, brought to a stunned silence by the apparition before them.

Among them are Bedivere and Lady Dindrane, Lord and Lady Grene, King Uriens with the enigmatic Morgan le Fay, Gareth and the Lady Liones, Pellinore and the Lady Yglais, Lancelot and Lady Elaine. At the far door, the Guardian of the Threshold stands, bruised and pushed aside by the monster’s horse; and in the shadows, stand Mordred and his ‘mother’ Queen Morgause. The young pretender to the throne has been soundly chastised for his attempt to force his attentions on the Maid of Elmet – an attempted rape, by any other name, interrupted only by the arrival of two of the knights.

Beyond the flickering circle, as though in another time and place, pace The Lady of the Lake with her watery powers, and Merlin – the Kingdom’s high mage.

As though awakened from an icy sleep, Gawain feels pulled into the present, into the now, by the might of the giant, green figure and his ridiculous proposal: that one of the Knights use the giant’s own axe to sever his head…a contract to be concluded in a year’s time if the proposer fails to die…

Gawain tenses his limbs to step forward, sensing the presence of powerful dark magic, but two bright eyes seem to bore into the back of his head. He turns and there stands a brighter apparition – a Veiled Lady looking straight into his eyes with a power of vision that leaves him naked in mind and emotion. The eyes close and he turns, confused, to see that Sir Gareth has stepped forward to accept the deadly challenge on behalf of his King; but, as his reluctant feet move, his beloved Lady Liones pull him back, their new and mutual passion too strong to deny – when there are bolder knights in the chamber.

Seeing this, The foliate green giant laughs in Arthur’s face. He sneers at the King, “Come now…will none of your famous defenders wield my axe?”

Arthur gives life to the words of doom, saying that the challenge has been made and must be met. Even the royal eyes are deeply troubled. He curses Merlin for his absence in this time of great need. Around the outer ring of the Court, in another time and place, Merlin remains silent, watching the tableau with inner eyes, knowing the sinister nature of the trap that is being set for the King of Camelot…

Arthur steps forward, troubled but honour-bound, and raises his head to accept the Green Knight’s challenge…

The Veiled One has eyes that see, too. The eyes that penetrated Gawain’s mind, seconds ago, now fill his heart with light. His King is in deadly danger–this is no play on words, this is dark and high magic from afar.

Gawain’s forward stride is heard by all. He takes the breath from his beloved Arthur’s opening mouth and accepts the challenge on his behalf, gazing into the green heart that mocks, the smiling mouth with teeth that goad his aged prowess, now well past the days of his glory.

It has begun, he knows that…. It has begun.

Gawain feels ghostly fingers at his back. He does not need to turn around to know that the Veiled Lady has both caressed and propelled him into his destiny. Around him the very air turns into a viscous liquid which restricts his movements in the direction of anything but the mocking giant’s double-headed axe.

The fluids shifts and swirls, and the light in the Court of the Table Round changes to monochrome dark and light. As though behind a lighted screen, Gawain sees himself raising the huge axe and bringing it down with all his might to sever the challenger’s neck…

For a moment, there is a feeling of glory; an act of defensive riposte, cleanly done. He steps back, looking at the blood and the gore before him…and then the eye on the floor flickers, the the grin turns to a rictus of green teeth. The Green Knight’s body rises, collecting it’s head – a speaking head that would be a wonderful thing under other circumstances.

But the severed head speaks nothing but exacting and merciless condemnation when it tell Gawain that, a year from today, he must present himself at the Green Chapel to be executed with the same blow.

Gawain staggers, still carrying the giant axe, into the centre of the nine-sectored court, where the stone tiles radiate lines outward from the centre. There is no time that accompanies the falling of the axe as his outraged fingers let the weapon slide from his grasp to clatter on the polished pattern below.

The fluid of destiny picks up his agonised mind and body, and, beyond the grasp of even the Veiled Lady’s ghostly but loving fingers, marches him staggering towards the injured Guardian who opens the portal. As he passes through the might door of Camelot’s inner space, his mind is filled with the unseen but clear vision of the headless Green Knight behind him, walking, gloatingly, around the chamber of the Table Round, and offering to each Lord and Lady in turn, from his own gory, severed head, a card on which is painted the image of a magical animal spirit.

Gawain passes from champion to hunted as the gates of the inner chamber close to lock him out…

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, will shortly be published on our website events page. Everyone is welcome, all you need to bring is your self…


The Lighted Life


The Lighted Life


Gawain awakes beneath the tree

That senses show has changed

A star of dawn climbs bark and leaf

And hovers in the cold, clean air

Announcing greater changes lie beneath


A keening on the knowing breeze

A darker taste upon the wind

A fall of wispy, softer skies

As kind October’s shorter days

Play midwife games with knowing eyes


A brittle crispness in the leaves

Whose vibrant green now drains away

Beneath the soil where none can see

The cyclic gift of lighted life

To wait return of sun, and leaf and bee


But sharper still to shorter life

This bitter turning scrapes and spills

The sands remaining of his year

Till headless fate on Green Knight’s cross

Now bartered, lost and marching near


This blighted life that must endure

above the land that gave it birth

Must tighten warmth across its throat

And, silent in resolve, find mirth

In deathly riddle deeper than the earth


The hand that shields the sunrise holds

In sombre tones of last caress

The golden orb whose still behest

Whispers trust, not fear should guide

And armour not of logic be the vest


So, turning fur against dawn’s breeze

He gathers hope where none should be

And facing rising sun clasps heart

Accepting fear that lessens you and me

And drinks that cup of courage as his art


But golden love from shining orb

Does not its children leave to die

Without equipping heart and head

And on his palm which held the sun

Gawain finds written what he may become

©Copyright image and words Stephen Tanham 2015

The stories of Sir Gawain, the Green Knight and Lady Ragnell are the central theme of the Silent Eye’s 2015 Spring workshop, Leaf and Flame, to which all are welcome. Click here for more details.

The Warrior’s Glade

Warriors End Flower cropped

In the original stories of the Arthurian cycle, the summer and autumn journeys of Sir Gawain, during his year of waiting for death at the hands of the Green Knight, are little documented and left to our imagination. In this poem, the Knight rests in a glade and becomes enraptured by a flower that reminds him of the pentagram, his symbol. The depth of the flower’s kiss will move him, now, but be lost to his active consciousness until much later . . .

This poem is part of a cycle of Gawain related work, to be released as an illustrated book in the Spring of 2016.

The inner meanings of the stories of Sir Gawain, the Green Knight and Lady Ragnell are the main thread for Leaf and Flame, the Silent Eye’s 2016 Spring Workshop, to which all are welcome.

Warriors End Flower cropped

Come warrior of ancient ways

And stay your quest in gentle care

Within these loving petals sleep

And free from straps the weight you bear

Which now, though tested, forged and true

Serves no more the life that dares


The path of mind and duty bore you

Far from home and far from root

Though cleverness of mind ensued

The secret heart of mind stayed mute

Still silent to your pleas and sighs

As heavy thoughts bore darker fruit


So from your head drop helmet’s weight

And bless the earth to see it healed

Make new mind clear and lacking fear

Embrace the unknown land revealed

This sacrifice will change what is

and turn your soul to what must yield


The past will have no say in this

Your day of life whose love is gold

So break the links of that which thinks

In patterns overgrown and old

And cast aside the ghosts of then

Revealing present stories to be told


There is no shame in passion’s game

To live and love is body’s nature

But we must drink from green world’s sap

To know what is beyond, and capture

The hidden taste of higher wine, whose essence

Will our hearts, not loins, enrapture


Within your breast a secret art

Awaits its time to grow and flower

So rise beyond the deep despond

That’s ransomed this, your darkest hour

And, easing breast plate, find that heart

That, naked, knows eternal power


Now bring your eyes from purest white

To see discarded plate and metal spun

Put down your sword, and loose the reins

Cast these away, their time is done

Then let bold Nature quench her thirst

On beauty that you have become


©Copyright words and image Stephen Tanham, July 2015