Sacred Feminine &
Sacred Masculine

Page 27

(Main Links of the site are right at the bottom of the page)
The 36 pages in this Sacred Feminine & Sacred Masculine section are below.

The Fisher King
By DragonHawk

Hey SL In one of the threads on teh Greek goddesses, we touched on the notion of the Fisher King.

Now, to me there are two (distinct?) meanings to this term - the first being an actual priesthood/kingship that is known to history to have occurred in the area of Mesopatamia-ish! I'd have to check where exactly from the sources I read about them - but it is related to the sacred serpent/crocodile & Dragon cults of the Middle East. Somewhere in the back of my mind there is a link with Zorroastianism (though I think the latter was later i.e. Zoroastrianism was an inheritor of the tradition if there is a link) and if memory serves it was also a cult of the Scythians and it could either be through Zoroastrianism the Scythians or through the Phoenicians that it came to Christianity: the bishops miter is very closely related to the headdress the Fisher Kings I speak of used to wear.

The second meaning is the Fisher King associated with western European Pagan mythos and worship. The Fisher King is in the King Arthur mythos of north-western post-Crusades Europe. To me the Fisher King is the Summer God of Celtic mythos - who marries the Goddess as the Maiden/Rose Queen/Queen of the May at Beltane and is slain as part of the Wild Boar Hunt at Samhain when the Land becomes baron as the goddess takes her place in the Underworld with the Winter God or Horned God.

Cinn mentioned a story to me re the Fisher King - about how if the Fisher King become sick the land becomes sick - or was it the other way around - but whatever, he must die if the land becomes sick and the crops fail etc. Now I am presuming this is a version of the mythical Fisher King: the Celtic Summer God or the King Arthur type stories - ie that it was not a historical Fisher King - but I have never heard this aspect before - in other version of the mythical King of Summer the slaying was automatic at the end of Summer - it wasn't dependent on an event such as a failed harvest - so this element has me a little stumped!

From some stuff I read around the earliest history of Greece in looking at Wynsong's Athena thread to see if I could trace it back to which branch of the Indo-Europeans the Greeks came from, it appears that there is an inference that human sacrifices were plausible in that part of the world in pre-history and I know in a dramatization of the eruption of Thera (the volcano on the (what remains of) the Greek island that we now call Santorini) that is widely believed to have brought an end to the Minoan Culture of Crete, that the populace were calling for the blood of the chief-priest because he had failed to appease the god/goddess of the mountain (Thera). Ok, so that was a dramatization and there will be some poetic license - but given the rest of the drama was reasonably historically accurate from what I know of that event, that notion of human sacrifice to appease the gods/goddesses in the eastern Mediterranean appears again.

Jesus is a version of the Fisher King - and he receives a wound in his side (from the Centurion's spear). From Chassidus/Kabbalah that wound signifies a wound either to the Kidney or the Liver (can’t remember exactly which as I type this now) and most likely the kidneys as there are two of them signifying the two columns of the Kabbalist Tree (the kidneys are known as the "Kidneys Which Counsel" in the Chassidus/Kabbalah system I have looked at and are said to implore Action as we are at the Action level of the Kabbalist Tree) that roughly relates to whether we choose to follow the Divine willingly (right kidney and right hand column of the Kabbalist Tree which is Kindness/Love) or whether we must be cajoled to follow (left kidney and left column of the Kabbalist Tree which is Judgement/Fear): and the wound (to the left) would represent something along the lines of an end to following out of fear i.e. that that aspect is fatally wounded or that tendency has brought about the death: because until that aspect dies, the foundation for the New Jerusalem cannot be laid on the central column of the Tree which is Mercy/Beauty: again that notion that the King (and also High Priest) must die for the Land/Tribe to be saved. Also a fear based reaction to something directly affecting the Land/Tribe which to me is implied if the Fisher King is slain due to a failed harvest that isn't an aspect of the turn of the year Samhain/Beltane Wild Hunts of the Celtic mythos.

So I was wondering if anyone had come across a god/King-type figure in the traditions they follow and this notion of him being slain if the crops fail?

DH~ I'll have to do some major digging, my books are packed away and I don't have a handy reference but will see what I can come up with relative to this. Hopefully someone will have something sooner. I'll be back.

***I'm back. LOL I did a quick search online and found this to share for now. May have more later for you if I can find my resource notes and the books that addressed this, DH, but for now I hope it helps to at least start to define things for you.
***From http://www.monsalvat.no/logres.htm#Kings

The Old King: A common feature of kingship in primitive societies is the intimate association of the king with the land. The king is often regarded as the temporary incarnation of a god whose youth, vigor and virility are essential to the kingdom.

“The king’s life or spirit is so sympathetically bound up with the prosperity for the whole country, that if he fell ill or grew senile the cattle would sicken or cease to multiply, the crops would rot in the fields, men would perish of widespread disease. “
(J.G. Fraser, The Golden Bough.)

Therefore, in such societies, the king is only allowed to rule for a fixed term, after which he is killed (usually by his successor) and replaced. In the most extreme cases, the term is one year, so that the death of the old king coincides with the passing of the old year. J.G. Fraser notes that such annual regicide seems to have been common in Western Asia and particularly in Phyrgia, where the king-priest was slain in the character of Attis, a god of vegetation.

So what does this have to do with Wagner’s drama? In the three decades between the composer’s discovery of Wolfram’s Parzival and the completion of his own poem, Wagner rejected Wolfram’s account and selected elements from the Grail literature. One such element is that of an old king, a character who appears in several of the Grail romances.

In Chretien’s story, he is the father of the Grail king, in Wolfram’s account, his grandfather.

In Wagner’s poem, the old king Titurel lies in a tomb and is kept alive by the sight of the Grail alone.

It may be that Chretien was the first author to locate two kings in the Grail castle, perhaps as the result of merging two earlier stories; in any case, the double-king element was adopted both by Wolfram and by Wagner.

In a later form of the story, developed in The Quest of the Holy Grail, there are three kings; all of them are wounded. The life of one, Mordrains, has been preternaturally prolonged and his youth is restored by the completion of the quest.

The Maimed King: Jessie Weston distinguished between the Maimed King and the Fisher King, in her analysis of the Grail legend and its possible ritual origin:

“Students of the Grail cycle will hardly need to be reminded that the identity of the Maimed King is a hopeless puzzle. He may be the Fisher King, or the Fisher King’s father, or have no connection with either, as in the Evalach-Mordrains story. He may have been wounded in battle, or accidentally, or willfully, or by supernatural means, as the punishment of too close an approach to the spiritual mysteries…Probably the characters of the Maimed King and the Fisher King were originally distinct, the Maimed king representing, as we have suggested, the god, in whose honor the rites were performed; the Fisher King, who, whether maimed or not, invariably acts as host, representing the Priest.”
(J.L. Weston, The Grail and Rites of Adonis.)

In the earliest Gawain form of the Grail romances, according to Weston, the lord of the Grail castle was neither old nor infirm, but dead. It as an account of the death of this knight that misfortune had fallen upon the land. In all of the Perceval versions, however, it was the king who had been wounded (or, in the case of the Didot Perceval only, grown old) and this was the cause of the wasting of the land. To achieve the quest and revive the land, either the king had to be healed, or restored to youth and vigor, or a young and vigorous successor had to undertake the burden of kingship.

Wagner seems to have distilled the essence of the story. He tells us that he rejected Wolfram’s account and recognized that, even in Chretien’s account, the question was an unnecessary complication. I his Parsifal, the collapse of the Grail community is a result of Anfortas’ wound, which is both physical and spiritual. In place of asking a question, the destined successor has to fulfill a quest through which the symbols of cup and lance are reunited, and the Maimed King is both healed and succeeded.

The Fisher King:
In Robert de Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie, the brother of Joseph is called Bron. When the company of the Grail are starving, Bron is told to catch a fish, which feeds them in a ritual meal. After this, Bron is known as the Rich Fisher. Joseph, the original Winner of the Grail, and his brother Bron are another example of the double-king element found In later versions of the story. The fisherman element is found in all of the Perceval versions. In Chretien’s Perceval, for example, the hero meets the Grail king when he is fishing from a boat. It may be significant that the Grail castle is always located close to water (and in at least two cases, on an island). The fish is a traditional fertility symbol, perhaps as a result of its fecundity, a characteristic that it shares with another Grail symbol, the dove.

In the Percival story that I know, the Fisher King dies shortly after he is healed by the Grail... The King is wounded in the area of the upper thigh, connected to the first chakra...and so the land is wounded. Fishing is the only place he finds peace, thus the name the Fisher King. He directs Percival (who I understood was the French version of Gawain) to the Grail Castle, where following the instructions of his mother, over his teacher, Percival fails to ask the question that would allow the King to drink from the Grail and be healed...although everyone else can drink from it.

It takes 40 years for Percival to find the castle again, during which time he quests for Arthur's Round Table, and in so doing finds that his good deeds cause harm. He has to face the harm he has done, before he can get into the Grail Castle (or maybe it is when he is again in front of the King)...memory sucks. He finally overcomes his mother's charge to never ask questions...and he asks what he was taught to ask.

The land is healed and the King dies the next day. Can't remember which source it was that that summary came from, but it may have been Robert Johnson...from 1924.

Cinn, Thanks for your input! I must admit, that I put this thread up last night as a reminder - as I had meant to put it up last week, but forgot and then remembered when I was looking at something related last night - so didn’t do any routing around before I did, which I should have!

Reading your post as a whole the thing that comes forward to me is that notion of the two kings - the Old King and the Fisher King and the cyclic nature of the two.

As I said in my opening post this brings to mind the Celtic Year - the Winter God could be described as the Old King for various reasons: firstly he is the first god of the Celtic Year - as the Celtic Year starts at Samhain, which marks the change from Summer to Winter - thus the Celtic Year starts in the darkness of Winter - just as human life starts in the darkness of the womb and plant-life starts in the darkness of the earth.

Secondly in most tellings of the Celtic myths, the winter god never actually dies (as the summer god does) in the Wild Hunt: he is simply loses his antlers (which, acting as spiritual antennae give him the power to sustain the Life of the Tribe in Winter when the sun (the goddess) is at its least powerful) and is chased into the forests at Beltane (forests represent the wilderness - wild untamed places apart from the tribe: so the winter god being chased into the forests speaks of his separateness from the Tribe in summer).

Yes, in some versions of the Myths the winter god does die: but the overall bent of the myths is that he lives on and is merely denied his place of power – i.e. the Underworld - just as one aspect of the goddess in the form of the Black Sow of the Hag roams the baron earth in Winter (in some myths searching for her son (and future mate) the summer god), so the winter god must roam the green spaces of the forests in Summer apart from the Tribe and the Goddess: but does not die. The Summer God on the other hand is slain every Samhain in the Wild Hunt: an event that is critical for the Land: because if he does not die he cannot be born again at the Winter Solstice and in doing so fulfill the promise of the Returning Light of midwinter that helps sustain the Tribe through Winter.

Having been reborn, he must be hidden away so that he is not slain again by the jealous Winter God: making his appearance as a youth at Imbolc before reaching the maturity at Beltane and chasing the Winter God into the Forrest at which point the Summer God enjoins with the Goddess as the Flower Maiden, marries her and through their Union creates the Summer anew.

In that case the Winter God appears be the Old King and the Fisher King appears to be the Summer God/Percival that Wynsong speaks of (who I am sure is later a different Arthurian character - Gawain - which in the Welsh is Gwalchmai - the "Hawk of May": the reference to May again speaks to me of Beltane and the Summer God) which seems to confirm my theory - but I am still not convinced!

Wynsong, Thanks for your post! The principal thing I took from it was the notion of the Fish itself and was reminded that in some of the sources I read, there was an added element that the fish-shape is created from the central portion of the intersection of two circles i.e the Vesica Piscis - which to me speaks of the Pythagorean cults which probably influenced early Christianity given the early Gospels were in Greek. In the sources I read, it was stated that the cults of the Sacred Serpent/Crocodile, Dragon and Fish were manifestation of the same cult dependent on where the cult was based - desert was Serpent, marsh/swamp (as in the Nile Delta) was Crocodile and in ocean-edge dwellers it was the Fish. But the Serpent speaks to me of male energy, whereas the Vesica Pisces, female: so that notions sounds a bit "off": unless there is an analogy of Union in there somewhere.

That notion that the King finds peace is when fishing brings in an interesting aspect....perhaps that is a reference to the Waters of Life or water as west on the Medicine Wheel- introspection - looking Within? Perhaps that notion of Innerness is why the Grail Castle is by water: also brings in that notion of Avalon and the Lady of the Lake.

The notion of the land and first chakra is interesting - I can see that association yes - and that makes sense to me intellectually - though I'd have to think about that/contemplate it to understand it in my heart: so for now I'll hold that idea.

This section really got my thinking:

“where following the instructions of his mother, over his teacher, Percival fails to ask the question that would allow the King to drink from the Grail and be healed...although everyone else can drink from it. It takes 40 years for Percival to find the castle again, during which time he quests for Arthur's Round Table, and in so doing finds that his good deeds cause harm. He has to face the harm he has done, before he can get into the Grail Castle (or maybe it is when he is again in front of the King)...memory sucks. He finally overcomes his mother's charge to never ask questions...and he asks what he was taught to ask.”

....as it ties in with something else - that I think is related and that I saw in some reading I did around your Athena thread - the notion of the Destructive Feminine: which appear to relate how the feminine requires us to look within, and how, quite often, in that introspection we must release aspects of self that need to die - which brings us back to the notions spoken of at Samhain in the Celtic mythos - allowing the old to die to make way for the new - the old year, old habits, old attitudes, old projects - anything that was not completed in the old year at Samhain: and how the Law of Unintended Consequence can come into play when we seek to do good. By what you are saying the Fisher King is implicated in that story - though quite how I am not sure.

That sequence also bring in questions I have about Morgan in the King Arthur mythos that I have a nagging feeling are relevant. I have to admit though, that other than that notion of introspection, I don't understand why obeying his mother's orders would hinder Gawain/Percival - perhaps his mother is the Hag aspect of the Goddess in her Winter aspect when she is unable to bring forward Life?

Once again, thanks to you both for you posts!

The mother lost her first three sons and her husband to Arthur's concept of a Just society. They became knights, and were killed. She took Percival into the woods, to keep him safe. He, on his wanderings, met and was enamored with Knights of Arthur's Round Table, and came home all excited wanting to become a Knight too...or to become like the men he saw as heroes. His mother's attempts to keep him home and in a simple life failed, and when she realized that he would follow in their footsteps, she spun him a homespun garment, and asked that he always wear it against his skin...that he always respect women, and that he not ask any questions. Then he left.

He became a knight in a roundabout way, accidently killing the Red Knight to become a knight. When he returned, he found that she had died shortly after his leaving, of a broken heart. The only other female in the story, of significance was Bianca...the White Lady, who he slept with but did not have carnal relations with. She became the archetype of "The Perfect Woman".

There is a lot I don't remember about how I learned the story...But I remember those details, as they played a significant role in my own story. I am the mother of four sons. I have been demonized as an over protective mother. We can bring the Iron John myth in here, in which only the first part of the story was absorbed as a teaching...The part where you have to steal from the mother to become a man. And I cannot compete with the archetypal "Perfect Woman". The untouchable White Lady. Sorry my memory is so spotty. I do also remember that there were several different possible endings to the story. In some Percival doesn't actually get back into the Grail Castle and cannot ask the question. In others he does, and the Fisher King is healed, the land is healed, and the Fisher King then dies the next day. And of course, we might take a biblical reference to the time frames. What does the next day actually mean in terms of our time experience. And the 40 years carries the number 40 like Noah's tale of 40 days and 40 (k)nights, or the wandering through the wilderness/desert of Jesus. Nailing down the veracity of a story, or the links to other things like numerology are not my strong suit, but I know they are yours. I'm more of a read a story and see where it lives in me kind of girl, thus my remembering the part of the mother and the White Lady in the Percival myth, when they really make up such a small part of the story.

Oh...and there was a hag in the story...She is the one who calls Percival to task for being blindly unconscious of the damage he caused doing all his good deeds over the 40 years of questing. He only ever killed one person, and that was the Red Knight, but everyone he bested (and he always bested those he fought) he sent to serve at Arthur's Table. The hag was the wife of one of those men, who left his family to join the vision of the Just society...The hag made Percival see how much damage the zealous following of his charge had wrecked on the families of those he encountered. How many men they had killed leaving their families without a provider or protector. The hag/crone in the story was there at the end, and asked those blinded by their own good deeds, to look and see the shadow. There is more...but for now...that is all that is coming to mind as relevant.


Wynsong, Thanks again - you've given me a lot to go rummaging for - I have a few compendiums of British Lore that has King Arthur stuff in it that I can rummage through now I think about it. Your comments about the Just Society rings true with the Law of Unintended Consequence aspects of the King Arthur legends that, contrary to popular belief, I see the stories relating: In Britain King Arthur is seen as a hero-figure, but I know that that fatally-flawed aspect is there: which if I remember rightly is why he dies at the end of the story – i.e. there is an element of Macbeth character in the King Arthur stories in the final analysis - though the storylines and characters are very different.

Although in our modern interpretation of the Black Sow or Hag of the Celtic legends, the Sow or Hag is feared, she would not have been in Celtic Times - the Black Sow or Hag would have been perceived as Crone Wisdom - both in the form of Sow/Boar giving themselves as food - but also in terms of the older members of the Tribe passing on the teachings and skills of how to store food over winter and what foods could still be gathered - thus keeping the Tribe alive during the baron Winter months.

I’ll have a look at some of the other points you raise and see if I can turn up anything in the compendiums.

Thanks again!

Glad I could add that much Wolfie, hope you get it sorted. I may be back to this but right now have a ton of work to get through.

Libraries are on this row
INDEX Page 1
(Divination & Dreams, Guides & Spirit Helpers)
INDEX Page 2
INDEX Page 3
(Main Section, Medicine Wheel, Native Languages & Nations, Symbology)
INDEX Page 4
(Myth & Lore)
INDEX Page 5
(Sacred Feminine & Masculine, Stones & Minerals)
INDEX Page 6
(Spiritual Development)
INDEX Page 7
(Totem Animals)
INDEX Page 8
(Tools & Crafts. Copyrights)

Cinnamon Moon
© Copyright: Cinnamon Moon & River WildFire Moon (Founders.) 2000-date
All rights reserved.

Site constructed by Dragonfly Dezignz 1998-date

River Moon