Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Violence,Dangers & Weirdness of Britomart For Your Old School Campaigns

Amazons in my home games & settings have a totally different origin then the pop culture B.S. that is D.C.'s Wonderwoman.
Trying to fit the mythological mishmash of the D.C.'s princess into classic OD&D style games can be a bit of a nightmare. Why use a trade marked & copyrighted character's race when Arthurian literature, classic mythology, & Edmund Spenser provides us with an excellent  character & a great NPC. I'm speaking of course of Britomart.

"Britomart figures in Edmund Spenser's knightly epic The Faerie Queene, where she is an allegorical figure of the virgin Knight of Chastity, representing English virtue—in particular, English military power—through a folk etymology that associated Brit-, as in Briton, with Martis, here thought of as "of Mars", the Roman war god. In Spenser's allegory, Britomart connotes the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I of England.[18]
In his retelling of the King Arthur legends, Arthur Rex, author Thomas Berger suggests that Queen Guinevere may have become a powerful female knight known as Britomart after the death of the King"
Sorry, Mr. Berger but I think what you're really looking at is perhaps a member of the Gwenhwyfar royal line another branch of Lay Fey line really.
"The original Welsh form of the name Gwenhwyfar, which seems to be cognate with the Irish name Findabair, can be translated as "The White Enchantress" or "The White Fay/Ghost", from Proto-Celtic *Windo- "white, fair, holy" + *sēbarā "magical being" (cognate with Old Irish síabair "a spectre, phantom, supernatural being [usually in pejorative sense]""
Arthur was very busy in this line of Welsh Arthurian legends, "In one of the Welsh Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 56), there are three Gwenhwyfars married to King Arthur; the first is the daughter of Cywryd of Gwent, the second of Gwythyr ap Greidawl, and the third of (G)ogrfan Gawr ("the Giant").[8] In a variant of another Welsh Triad (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 54), only the daughter of Gogfran Gawr is mentioned. Two other Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydein, no. 53, 84) mention Gwenhwyfar's contention with her sister Gwenhwyfach, which was believed to be the cause of the Battle of Camlann. In the Welsh folktale Culhwch and Olwen, she is mentioned alongside her sister, Gwenhwyfach. In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, she is described as one of the great beauties of Britain, descended from a noble Roman family and educated under Cador, Duke of Cornwall.
Guinevere is childless in most stories,[9] two exceptions being the Perlesvaus and the Alliterative Morte Arthure.[10] In Alliterative Morte Arthure, Guinevere willingly becomes Mordred's consort and bears him two sons, though this is implied rather than stated in the text. There were mentions of Arthur's sons in the Welsh Triads, though their exact parentage is not clear." 
So who exactly is Britomart? She's a Hellenistic goddess whose stayed behind in the mortal realm to hunt & kill the influences of Chaos.
"Britomartis (Greek: Βριτόμαρτις) was a Greek goddess of mountains and hunting, who was primarily worshipped on the island of Crete. She was sometimes believed to be an oread, or a mountain nymph, but she was often conflated or syncretized with Artemis and Aphaea, the "invisible" patroness of Aegina.[1]
She is also known as Diktynna (Δίκτυννα; derived by Hellenistic writers as from δίκτυα [diktya], "hunting nets")"

The Drowning of Britomartis, probably design by Jean Cousin the Elder, tapestry.

Flash forward to Edmund Spenser's knightly epic The Faerie Queene where's has been living in the mortal realm for centuries & keeping an eye on humanity as a whole in England. This goddess however still serves the royalty of  Elves in the form of the Fairy Queen while battling the rival factions of the Fey on Earth & in Fairyland.
"Both Edmund Spenser and William Shakespeare used folklore concerning the Fairy Queen to create characters and poetry, Spenser in The Faerie Queene and Shakespeare most notably in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In The Faerie Queene, Spenser's fairy queen is named Gloriana, and is also referred to as Tanaquill, which "appears to be an epithet for Gloriana, Queen of Faeries" derived from the name of the wife of Tarquinius Priscus.[1] She is the daughter of Oberon, who in Shakespeare's later play is married to Titania, a name derived from Ovid as an epithet of the Roman goddess Diana. Diana was regularly portrayed as the ruler of the fairy kingdom in demonological literature, such as King James VI of Scotland's Daemonologie, which says that she belongs to "the fourth kind of spirits, which by the Gentiles [non-Jews] was called Diana and her wandering court, and amongst us is called Fairy (as I told you) or our good neighbours""
Up till now I've presented the Elves as having left Earth but in point of fact I think that the lower ranking royals  continued to wander among Europe sewing discord, feeding here & there whist vexing one another as their betters back in Fairyland continued to try to expand the ever hungry chaotic beast of a living empire called Fairyland. Meanwhile powers of Hell continued to watch while they took their cut of the action.

Prince Arthur and the Fairy Queen by Johann Heinrich Füssli, c. 1788.

"Britomart was a young, beautiful and fearless female knight who served the fairy queen, Gloriana. She was the virgin Knight of Chastity, representing the virtue of England itself. Her adventures take place sometime after the adventures of Saint George of Lydda, who is known as The Red Cross Knight in fairyland, and Britomart meets a very young King Arthur. She also consults with Merlin, the magician. After seeing the face of Sir Artegal, the Knight of Justice, in her father's magic mirror, Britomart instantly falls in love with him and takes on a quest to find him. Being tall and strong, and possessing the resources of her father's kingdom, Britomart decides to don the armor of the Saxon Queen, Angela, which is fettered and gold. Britomart is often mistaken for a man when her helmet is on. She is also armed with a shield and an enchanted spear that can knock down any opponent she hits with it. She is accompanied by her nurse, Glaucé, who becomes her squire. She is able to defeat several male opponents in battle, but she finally loses to a knight who turns out to be her beloved Artegal. She later rescues Artegal, and several other knights, from Radigund and her vicious female warriors. She also faces evil sorcery and rescues a maiden from a tower."

The fact is that Edmund Spenser's knightly epic The Faerie Queene  is an  allegory for Catholic vs Protestant theology, politics, ethos,in Europe but it also represents one of the last times when the pagan gods held onto any real power in the world of men during the time of the Tudors.
"The poem celebrates, memorializes, and critiques the House of Tudor (of which Elizabeth was a part), much as Virgil's Aeneid celebrates Augustus' Rome. The Aeneid states that Augustus descended from the noble sons of Troy; similarly, The Faerie Queene suggests that the Tudor lineage can be connected to King Arthur. The poem is deeply allegorical and allusive; many prominent Elizabethans could have found themselves partially represented by one or more of Spenser's figures. Elizabeth herself is the most prominent example. She appears in the guise of Gloriana, the Faerie Queen, but also in Books III and IV as the virgin Belphoebe, daughter of Chrysogonee and twin to Amoret, the embodiment of womanly married love. Perhaps also, more critically, Elizabeth is seen in Book I as Lucifera, the "maiden queen" whose brightly lit Court of Pride masks a dungeon full of prisoners.[citation needed] The poem also displays Spenser's thorough familiarity with literary history. The world of The Faerie Queene is based on English Arthurian legend, but much of the language, spirit, and style of the piece draw more on Italian epic, particularly Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso and Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered.[10] Book V of The Faerie Queene, the Book of Justice, is Spenser's most direct discussion of political theory. In it, Spenser attempts to tackle the problem of policy toward Ireland and recreates the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots."

For the Dark Albion & Lion & Dragon game the poem is meat for the beast of campaign where the wheels of time are turning against the old powers as the follies of mankind are contrasted against the Arthurian allegory of the Tudors. Here the mega dungeons under the hills of England still beckon but there are far more dangerous forces at work within the courts of Europe.
Old pagan chaos cults are operating on the fringes of society & openly in the wildernesses at the edge of the maps. But the old gods in the guise of the more mysterious royals are openly walking in and out of the gates of Fairyland. The old chaos wastes transcend time & space here allowing the ever hungry maw of chaos to feed.

Arthur is the once & future king because Avalon that country in the fairy mists will not let him die. The occult forces literally have him & his knights acting out Camelot again & again feeding the supernatural wheel of fate within Fairyland. Britomart is the Tudor era incarnation of mystery forces that have been at work for centuries even as the bloodlines of the Roman gods influence in Camelot continue to trickle down down through the back pages of history.
Much of this comes straight through the
Daemonologie where pagan gods havc morphed into the lords of Hell or were they always?!
"Daemonologie—in full Daemonologie, In Forme of a Dialogue, Divided into three Books: By the High and Mighty Prince, James &c.—was written and published in 1597[1] by King James VI of Scotland (later also James I of England) as a philosophical dissertation on contemporary necromancy and the historical relationships between the various methods of divination used from ancient black magic. This included a study on demonology and the methods demons used to bother troubled men while touching on topics such as werewolves and vampires. It was a political yet theological statement to educate a misinformed populace on the history, practices and implications of sorcery and the reasons for persecuting a witch in a Christian society under the rule of canonical law. This book is believed to be one of the main sources used by William Shakespeare in the production of Macbeth. Shakespeare attributed many quotes and rituals found within the book directly to the Weird Sisters, yet also attributed the Scottish themes and settings referenced from the trials in which King James was involved."

This work was key to the creation of Mcbeth & there are definite connections between

the Weird Sisters,the cults of chaos in Europe, & Arthurian legends especially in the Welsh countryside. Parties of adventurers are advised caution should they encounter the sisters for their connections to the Lady of the Lake & family of witches of the Morgan Le Fay line.

The fact is that in Dark Albion & the Lion & Dragon retroclone system any interaction with the forces of the Elves or the pagan gods are risky at best an& down right suicidal at worst. A good example of this can be seen in Clark Ashton Smith's Enchantress of Sylaire, The (1941). The echoes of the foot falls of the old Roman empire's gods mixes very well with the Tudor era blood shed very well. Any encounter with an NPC of Britomart caliber should be dark, dangerous, & memorable for many years to come. She was & is a major side player in Arthurian literature & mythology. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.