THE natural horns of the Bull or the Cow--both which animals were deified by the Egyptians, and also by the Indians, who particularly elected the Cow as the object of religious honour--were the models from which originally all the volves and volutes, presenting the figure of curved horns, or the significant suggestion of the thin horns of the crescent or growing moon, were obtained. The representative horns figured largely afterwards in all architecture, and were copied as an important symbol expressive of the second operative power of nature. The 'Lunar' or 'Feminine Symbol' is the universal parent of the Hindoo and Mahometan returned arches; find therefore, also, of the Horse-shoe curves of the Arabian arches, and the hooked curves of all Gothic architectural reproduction, whether in arches or otherwise. The Egyptian volutes to the pillars, the Egyptian horns everywhere apparent, the innumerable spiral radii distinct in all directions, or modified, or interpenetrating the ornamentation of buildings in the East; the Ionic volutes, the Corinthian volutes, which became pre-eminently pictorial and floral in their treatment in this beautiful order, particularly in the Greek examples (which are, however, very few); the more masculine volves and volutes, or horns, of the Roman solid, majestic columns; the capitals to the ruder and more grotesque of the
Indian temples; the fantastic scrolls and crooks and oval curves, abounding on the tops of the spiring columns in the Gothic or, more properly to call it, the Romantic architecture called 'pointed'--all have a common ancestor in the horns of the bull, calf, or cow. All these horns are everywhere devoted in their signification to the Moon. It is in connexion with this secondary god or goddess, who is always recognizable through the peculiar appendage of horns,--it is in proximity to this god or goddess, who takes the second place in the general Pantheon, the Sun taking the first--it is here, in all the illustrations which the mythic theology borrows from architecture, or the science of expressing religious ideas through hieroglyphical forms--that the incoherent horns reiterate, always presenting themselves to recognition, in some form or other, at terminal or at salient points. Thus they become a most important figure, if not the most important figure, in the templar architecture everywhere--of India, of Egypt, of Greece, of Rome, even of the Christian periods--all the Christian ages, earlier and later.
The figure called Nehustan--the mysterious upright set up by Moses in the Wilderness--was a talisman in the form of a serpent coiled around the mystic 'Tau'. This is a palladium offered for worship, as we have explained in several places.
In a previous part of our book, we have brought forward certain reasons for supposing that the origin of the Most Noble Order of the Garter was very different from that usually and popularly assigned. The occurrence which gave rise to the formation of the Order, and which explains the adoption of the motto, does not admit of being told, except in far-off, roundabout terms; propriety otherwise would be infringed.
We may say no more than that it was a feminine accident,
of not quite the character commonly accepted and not quite so simple and ordinary as letting fall a garter. But this accident, which brought about the foundation of the exalted Order, pre-eminently 'Rosicrucian' in its hidden meanings--however clear it becomes when understood, and however sublime, as the Rosicrucians asserted it was, when it is apprehended in its physiological and also in its deeply mythic sense--could not, of necessity, be placed before the world, because ordinary persons could not have appreciated it, nor would they have felt any other idea than repulsion and disbelief at the statement. The commonplace, coarse, unprepared mind instantly associates indecency with any explanation, however conclusive, which cannot for obvious reasons be spoken 'on the house-tops'. We are now ourselves, against our desire, compelled to speak circuitously about the real, successfully concealed, very strange origin, in our modern ideas, of this famous 'Order of the Garter'. The subject is, however, of very great consequence, because there is either meaning of the highest force in this, which may be called the 'brotherhood of princes', as the Order undoubtedly is in a high sense; or there is no particular meaning, and certainly nothing challenging startled attention. There is either truth in the abstract, occult matters which the Order supposedly is formed to whisper and to maintain, or there is only empty, meaningless pretence and affectation. There is grandeur and reality in its formalities, or the whole institution is no more than a parade of things that have no solidity, and an assumption of oaths and obligations that regard nothing of consequence--nothing of real, vital seriousness. We seek thus to ennoble the 'Order' in idea, by giving it conclusively the sanction of religion, and rendering to it the respect due to the mighty mystery which may be suspected
to lie in it; which it was supposed to emphasize, whatever it be held now. We are inclined to view with surprise--although in no grudging, prejudiced, spirit--the obtrusion of the 'Crescent and Star,' the symbol of the Grand Signior, Soldan, or Sultan of Turkey, the Representative of Mohammed, the 'Denier of Christ', according to his supposed religious obligations. It is certainly an anomaly to admit the denier of Christ in an Order intended to exalt into vital distinct recognition the Divinity of Christ as 'the Saviour of Mankind'. How can the Sultan of Turkey, or any Mahometan, or any disbeliever, discharge the oaths which he is solemnly assumed to take in this respect? We are disposed to contemplate the addition of the Moslem banner--the direct contradiction and neutraliser of the ensigns of the Christian knights--suspended in the Chapel of the Order, the Chapel of St. George at Windsor, as a perplexing, uncomfortable intrusion, according to assumed correct Christian ideas. We fear that the admission of this heathen knight may possibly imply heraldically the infraction of the original constitutions of the Order, which created it as exclusively Christian. The 'Garter' is specially devoted to the Virgin Mary and to the honour (in the glorification of 'Woman') of the Saviour of Mankind. The knights-companions are accepted; supposedly, as the special initiated holy guard bf the Christian mysteries, and they. are viewed as a sworn body of 'brothers', by day and night, from their first association, bound to maintain and uphold, in life and in death, the faith that had Bethlehem for its beginning and Calvary for its end. The bond and mark of this brotherhood is the Red Cross of Crucifixion. The 'Red Cross' which is the 'Cross' of the 'Rosicrucians'--thence their name.
Even the badge and star and symbol of this most
[paragraph continues] Christian Order, if ever there were a Christian Order--which presents this red or sanguine cross of the Redeemer, imaged in the cognisance of His champion, or captain, or chief soldier, St. George or St. Michael, the Trampler of the Dragon, and Custos of the Keys of the Bottomless Pit, where the devils are confined--protests against the mingling of this Mussulman banner with the Red Cross, which opposed it in the hands of the Crusaders, and in those of all Christian knights. Now all the Christian 'Garter' badges only seem to appeal and to protest quietly and under allowance, with 'bated breath' as it were (as if afraid), deficient in firmness and life, leaving results to chance, and abandoning expostulation to be regarded or disregarded (or taken up faintly) according to circumstances.
These are matters, however, which properly appertain to the office, and lie in the hands of the dignitaries of the Order of the Garter. These officials are its Prelate and 'Garter' himself (the personified 'Order'), who are supposed, because of the sublime duties with which they are charged, to be the guardians of the meanings and the myths of an Order of Knighthood whose heraldic display in one form or other covers the land (or covers the world), and must be interpreted either as talisman or toy. The Bishop of Winchester is always the chief ecclesiastical authority of the Order. Remark here; as the sanctions of this 'Most Noble Order', that in Winchester we directly alight upon 'King Arthur and his Knights of the "Round Table"'--what the 'Round Table' is, we have explained elsewhere. In these days without faith, wherein science (as it is called in the too arbitrary and overriding sense) has extinguished the lights of enthusiasm, leaving even our altars dark, desecrated, and cold, and has eliminated all possible wonder from
the earth, as miracle from religion, and magic from the sensible or insensible fields of creation--in these questioning, doubting, dense, incredulous days, it is no inconsistency that the gorgeous emblazonments of the Garter should provoke no more curiosity or religious respect than peculiar ornaments do, signifying anything or nothing.
But to return to the import of the title of the Order of the Garter. This is a point very engrossing to heralds, antiquaries, and all persons who are interested in the history, traditions, and archæology of our country. The origin of the Order would be trivial, ridiculous, and unbelievable, if it be only thought due to the picking up of a lady's garter. It is impossible that the great name and fame of this 'Garter' could have arisen alone from this circumstance. The Garter, on the contrary, is traceable from the times of King Arthur, to whose fame throughout Europe as the mythic hero there was no limit in his own period. This we shall soon show conclusively from the accounts of the Garter by Elias Ashmole, who was 'Garter King of Arms', and who was one of its most painstaking and enlightened historians; besides himself being a faithful and conscientious expositor and adherent of the hermetic Rosicrucian science. The 'Round Table' of King Arthur--the 'mirror of chivalry'--supplies the model of all the miniature tables, or tablets, which bear the contrasted roses--red and white, as they were originally (and implying the female discus and its accidents)--with the noble 'vaunt', or motto, round them--'Evil to him', or the same to him, 'who thinks ill' of these natural (and yet these magical) feminine circumstances, the character of which our readers will by this time not fail to recognize. The glory of woman and the punishment of woman after the Fall, as indicated in Genesis, go hand in hand. It was in honour
of Woman, and to raise into dignity the expression of the condemned 'means' (until sanctified and reconciled by the intervention of the 'S.S.', or of the Holy Spirit, or of the Third Person of the Trinity), which is her mark and betrayal, but which produced the world in producing Man, and which saved the world in the person of the Redeemer, 'born of Woman'. It is to glorify typically and mystically this 'fleshly vehicle', that the Order of the 'Garter'--Or 'Garder'--that keeps it sacred was instituted. The Knights of the Garter stand sentinel, in fact, over 'Woman's Shame', at the same time that they proclaim her 'Glory', in the pardoned sense. These strange ideas are strictly those of the old Rosicrucians, or Brethren of the 'Red Cross', and we only reproduce them. The early writers saw no indecency in speaking openly of these things, which are usually hidden away, as improper to be spoken about.
The blackness or darkness of 'Matter', or of the 'Mother of Nature', is figured in another respect in the belongings of this famous feminine Order, instituted for the glory of woman. Curious armorists, skilled in the knowledge of the deep sacred symbolism with which the old heralds suffused their illustrations or emblazonments, will remember that black is a feature in the Order of the Garter; and that, among figures and glyphs and hints the most profound, the 'Black Book', containing the original constitutions of the Order--from which 'Black Book' comes the important 'Black Rod'--was lost, or taken away for some secret reason before the time of Henry the Fifth. See various pages, ante, for previous remarks about the 'Garter'.
Elias Ashmole mentions the Order in the following terms: 'We may ascend a step higher and if we may give credit to Harding, it is recorded that King.
[paragraph continues] Arthur paid St. George, whose red cross is the badge of the Garter, the most particular honours; for he advanced his effigy in one of his banners, which was about two hundred years after his martyrdom, and very early for a country so remote from Cappadocia to have him in reverence and esteem.'
In regard to the story of the Countess of Salisbury, and her garter, we shall insert the judgment of Dr. Heylin, who took great pains to ascertain its foundation. 'This I take to be a vain and idle romance', he says, 'derogatory both to the founder and the Order, first published by Polydore Virgil, a stranger to the affairs of England, and by him taken upon no better ground than fama vulgi, the tradition of the common people--too trifling a foundation upon which to raise so great a building.'
The. material whereof the Garter was composed at first is an arcanum, nor is it described by any writer before Polydore Virgil, and he only speaks of it in general terms. The Garter was originally without a motto 1. As to the appointments of the Order, we may gain the most authentic idea of them from the effigies of some of the first knights. Sir William Fitz-warin was buried on the north side of the chancel of the church of Wantage, in Berkshire, in the thirty-fifth year of the reign of King Edward the Third. Sir Richard Pembridge, who was a Knight of the Garter, of the time of Edward the Third, lies on the south side of the cathedral of Hereford. The monument of Sir Simon Burley, beheaded A.D. 1388, was raised in the north wall, near the choir of St. Paul's, London. It is remarkable that, Du Chesne, a noted French historian, is the source from which we derive the acknowledgment that it was by the special invocation of St. George that King Edward the Third
gained the Battle of Cressy; which 'lying deeply in his remembrance, he founded', continues Du Chesne, 'a chapel within the Castle of Windsor, and dedicated it in gratitude to the Saint, who is the Patron of England.' The first example of a Garter that occurs is on the before-mentioned monument of Sir Francis Burley; where, on the front, towards the head, are his own arms, impaling his first wife’s, set within a garter. This wants the impress, or motto. Another shield of arms, having the same impalement placed below the feet, is surrounded with a collar of 'S.S.', of the same form with that about his neck. It was appointed by King Henry the Eighth, and embodied in the Statutes of the Order, that the collar should be composed of pieces of gold, in fashion of Garters; the ground enamelled blue, and the letters of the motto gold. In the midst of each garter two roses were to be placed, the innermost enamelled red, and the outermost white; contrarily, in the next garter, the innermost Rose enamelled white, and the outermost red, and so alternately; but of later times, these roses are wholly red. The number of these Garters is so many as to be the ordained number of the sovereign and knights-companions. At the institution they were twenty-six, being fastened together with as many knots of gold. And this mode hitherto has continued invariable; nor ought the collar to be adorned or enriched with precious stones (as the 'George' may be), such being prohibited by the laws of the Order. At what time the collar of 'S.S.' came into England is not fully determined; but it would seem that it came at least three hundred years since. The collar of 'S.S.' means the Magian, or First Order, or brotherhood. In the Christian arrangements, it stands for the 'Holy Spirit', or 'Third Person of the Trinity.' In the
[paragraph continues] Gnostic talismans, it is displayed as the bar, curved with the triple 'S.'. Refer to the 'Cnuphis Abraxoids' occurring in our book, for we connect the collar of 'S.S.' with the theology of the Gnostics.
That the Order of the Garter is feminine, and that its origin is an apotheosis of the 'Rose', and of a certain singular physiological fact connected with woman’s life, is proven in many ways--such as the double garters, red and white; the twenty-six knights, representing the double thirteen lunations in the year, or their twenty-six mythic 'dark and light' changes of 'night and day'.
There are 13 Lunations in the Year, or the Solar Circle:--twice 13 are Twenty-Six, the dark and the light renewals or changes of the Moon (which is feminine). The dark infer the red rose, the light imply the white rose; both equally noble and coequal in rank with parallel, but different, Rosicrucian meanings. These mythic discs, or red and white roses, correspond with the Twenty-Six Seats, or 'Stalls', around the 'Round Table' (which is an Apotheosis), allowing two chief seats (or one 'Throne') as preeminent for the King-Priest, Priest-King, in the 'Siege-Perilous.' The whole refers to King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table; set round as sentinels ('in lodge') of the Sangreal, or Holy Graal--the 'Sacrifice Mysterious', or 'Eucharist'.
'But how is all this magic and sacred in the estimate of the Rosicrucians?' an inquirer will very naturally ask. The answer to all this is very, ample and satisfactory; but particulars must be left to the sagacity of the querist himself, because propriety does not admit of explanation. Suffice it to say, that it is one of the most curious and wonderful subjects which has occupied the attention of antiquaries. That archaeological puzzle, the 'Round Table of King
[paragraph continues] Arthur', is a perfect display of this whole subject of the origin of the 'Garter'; it springs directly from it, being the same object as that enclosed by the mythic garter, 'garder', or 'girther.'
King Edward the Third chose the Octave of the 'Purification of the Blessed Virgin' for the inauguration of his Order. Andrew du Chesne declares that this new Order was announced on 'New Year's Day, A.D. 1344'. There were jousts holden in honour of it on the 'Monday after the Feast of St. Hilary following--January 19th'. There are variations in the histories as to the real period of the institution of the Garter; most historians specifying the year 1349 Ashmole states that a great supper was ordered to inaugurate the solemnity of the institution, and that a Festival was to be annually held at Whitsuntide (which means the 'S.S.'); that King Edward erected a particular building in the Castle, and therein placed a table ('Round Table') of 200 feet diameter, giving to the building itself the name of the 'Round Table'. He appropriated £100 per week--an enormous sum in those days--for the maintenance of this table. In imitation of this, the French King, Philip de Valois, instituted a 'Round Table' for himself at his court. Some say that he had an intention of instituting an order of knighthood upon the same 'feminine subject', but that he was anticipated by King Edward; which shows that it was something more than an accident and a mere garter which inspired the idea of this Rose forming the mystery. The knights were denominated 'Equites Aureæ Periscelidis'. King Edward the Third had such veneration for the Blessed Virgin Mary, that he ordained that the habit of his Knights of the Garter should be worn on the days of her Five Solemnities. Elias Ashmole states that the original of the Statutes of Institution had wholly perished
long before his time. There was a transcript existing in the reign of Henry the Fifth, in an old book called Registrum Ordinis Chartaceum. Though the Order was instituted so long ago as in the year 1344, it was not till the reign of Charles the Second that the Knights were empowered to wear the star they use at present embroidered on their coats. The rays are the 'glory' round the 'Red Cross'.
Sir John Froissart, the only writer of the age that treats of this institution, assigns no such origin as the picking up of the Countess of Salisbury's garter; nor does he adduce the words of the motto of the Garter as having been spoken by King Edward the Third when encountering the laughter of his court, and assuring them that he would make the proudest eventually wear it as the most illustrious badge. There can be only one conclusion as to the character of the investment which was picked up; and which article of dress makes it clear that the Countess of Salisbury--or the lady, whoever she may be, who has succeeded in becoming so wonderfully celebrated in the after-ages of chivalry--should have rather been at home, and at rest, than inattentive to saltatory risks in engaging in a dance or in forgetful gambols at a crowded court. There was no mention of this supposed picking up of a garter for 200 years, nor was there anything referring to such an origin occurring in any of our historians other than Sir John Froissart, until Polydore Virgil took occasion to say something of it in his notices of the origin of the Order. In the original Statutes of the Order (which is a most important point in the inquiry) there is not the least conjecture expressed, nor does the compiler of that tract entitled Institutio clarissimi Ordinis Militaris a prænobili Subligaculo nuncupata, prefaced to the Black Book of the Garter, let fall any passage on which
to ground the adroit conclusions about the Garter. Polydore does not mention whose garter it was; this he cautiously declines to do. He says that it was either the Queen’s, or that of the King’s mistress--meaning Joan, Countess of Salisbury, with whom it was supposed the King was in love, and whom he believed when she was bravely holding out for him against the Scots, in her Castle of Wark-upon-Tweed; but she was certainly no mistress of the King's, in the injurious and unworthy sense. It is to be particularly noticed that the Latin words subliGAR subligaculum, mean not a 'garter' but 'breeches, drawers, or trousers'. It was therefore not a garter for the leg, but a cincture for the body, which was thus picked up publicly, and elevated for honour, as such an unexpected illustrious object; one around which the most noble knights were to take enthusiastic oaths of the most devoted religious homage. Now, unless there had been some most extraordinary meaning under all this (lying under the apparent but only apparent, indecency), such an idolizing of a garter could never have occurred, and the whole occurrence ages ago would have been laughed into oblivion, carrying the sublime honours of the 'Garter' with it. Instead of this, the Garter is the highest token of greatness the Sovereign of England can bestow, and it is contended for and accepted with eager pride by Princes. 'Subligaculum, breeches, drawers, trousers'. 'Subligatus, cinctured, bound, etc., wearing drawers'. The origin of the 'Garter' is proven in this word not to be a garter at all.
It is most generally supposed that it was on January 19th, 1344, that King Edward instituted his famous Order of the Garter. This period, it will be perceived, was almost within an octave of the purification of
the Blessed Virgin Mary; under whose patronage, and under the guardianship of St. George on, earth (St. Michael in heaven; both these Saints being the same, with earthly and spiritual attributes refluent respectively) King Edward placed his profoundly religious Order. The whole was a revival of the 'Round Table' of King Arthur, or the apotheosized female discus in certain mythical aspects. To confirm us in our assertion of the feminine origin of the Order of the Garter--which many in their ignorance have questioned--we may state that one of the old chroniclers, though somewhat guardedly, as befitted those great persons of whom he spoke, declares that the lady who let fall her garter, or 'garder', was the Queen, who had suddenly left the courtly assembly in some confusion, and was hastening to her own apartments, followed by the King, who, at first, did not perceive the reason when the spectators avoided lifting the article, being aware to whom it belonged; but who raised it himself, and called aloud, not the words of the motto of the Garter, which the historian says that the Queen herself spoke, but giving an intimation that he would, spite of their laughter, 'make the proudest of the refusers wear the rejected cincture as the grandest badge that knighthood ever bore'. Rightly viewed, this little evaded incident--which we desire to restore to its proper place of due respect in the knowledge of Englishmen--is the most conclusive proof of King Edward’s nobleness and greatness of heart, and of his chivalrous, inexpressibly gallant delicacy; an instance admirable to all future generations, and worthy of the most enduring applause. The reader finally is referred to our observations in a previous part of our book for evidence in our justification. In the foregoing we, give the Rosicrucian view of the origin of the
[paragraph continues] 'Garter'. It is the centre-point round which have converged the noblest ideas and the most illustrious individuals in the world. It is still the proudest and most solemn badge, and the chiefest English knightly dignity. Strangely enough, too, this whole history of the 'Garter' teaches, as its moral, the greatness of the proper independence of shame, and the holiness of its unconsciousness.
Also the gallantry and the knighthood of the holding sacred these strange natural things.
321:1 A proof that it did not originate with Edward the Third.