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Raphael with a Dagger

To: alt.magick
From: (Paul Hume)
Subject: Re: Raphael with a Dagger
Date: 2 Nov 2002 05:32:38 -0800

> In western culture, and perhaps some eastern cultures as well, the
> sword has become a symbol of authority, serving a function, at least
> symbolically, similar in many ways to the ceremonial mace. The sword
> of a commissioned officer, indicative of his right to command, comes
> to mind, as well as Excalibur, and the sword used to convey
> knighthood, the power to mete justice and the right to bear arms in
> the name of a monarch. 

Oh no question on the symbolism of swords in our own culture
(descended, however romantically, from the mediaeval). As you noted (I
think it was you) it took a relatively advanced tech to make a
sword-like weapon, whereas dagger, spear (a dagger on a stick), axe,
and club/mace are much earlier. But a sword takes work - even in a
non-metallurgical culture like Mesoamerica or Polynesia, which made
hardened wooden swords, and edged them with obsidian or shark's teeth

Several Roman writers mention that a sword was more of a status weapon
than an axe or spear in the German tribes, because of the amount of
metal it required, and the smithing skill you had to possess or pay
for to get one made (or the prowess it took to take one off an enemy).

And that's not even getting into the symbology of the sword in, oh say
f'rinstance, Japan!

> Besides, have you ever looked closely at what most occultists of my
> experience call a "sword"? For the most part, they're sword-shaped,
> low quality, flat steel bars, with a handle on one end, and something
> approximating a point on the other. Despite appearances, they're not
> what anyone familiar with the genuine article would take for a sword.

Swords were always relatively expensive, and good swords today, when
they are not mass produced, are more expensive. I have a couple of OK
blades, though nothing I'd carry into combat. But many magicians don't
have that familiarity with live blades.

WHich in turn brings up an interesting sidelight on the sword as
magical weapon. Now it's not that I am that good with one...I'm not. I
was a pretty fighter in the SCA, but also usually a dead one (g). I
fenced badly for a bit in college and studied stage combat as an
actor. Aikido includes some sword forms, but I never did hands on
kenjutsu or iaido study, so am not expert there either. Nonetheless, I
know the basics of how to use a sword in combat and that colors my
relationship with the magical weapon.

I was in a loose discussion group which included a magician I think of
as having his chops really down, a Brother I do and did respect - so
we were both surprised to find we were continually disagreeing on the
symbolism, handling, and consecration of the magical sword...until I
mentioned a point of usage in fencing and he mentioned he had no
experience of the sword except as a magical tool. We backtracked over
the discussion and it seemed to us that every point of difference we
had discovered sprang from that disparity in the background.

Now I am not extolling being a sword jock (even an inept one) over
knowing the sword only as a magical weapon. It seems to me offhand
that this is the only one of the principle weapons where such
disparity of experience is even likely to occur, ie. everyone has
drunk from a cup and eaten from a plate (g). But what is important is
to know where in one's experience the perception of SWORD comes from.

Whew...ramble mode is on this morning. Sorry.


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