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From Ritual To Romance – Jessie Weston (1920)

Campbell refers to this work in his Arthur lectures and when I saw Weston’s (1850-1928) work in the Kindle store for one dollar, I figured it would not hurt to read it. As the title suggests, Weston’s theory is that King Arhur romances are based on rituals. An interesting thesis.

My enthousiasm was tempered when it became clear that Weston was very enthousiastic about the recently published Golden Bough by James Frazer (1890 and expanded several times after). So you can guess that Weston sees “nature ritual” in the Arthur legends.

This fertility approach is not my cup of tea. Also the long diversions about the famous mysteries / initiations is somewhat interesting, but also here the aim is to demonstrate the fertility background.

What is a lot more interesting, is that Weston looks at and compares a wide range of various Arthur (related) stories. In chapters about the “Fisher King” or the “Perilous Chape”. Weston constantly refers to different texts, older, more recent, variations, deviations, etc. Also she investigates the possible author of the ‘original story’ which makes an interesting piece of history.

Because Westen sees initiations as a source for the stories, the book also contains information about sword dances and kindred subjects.

Weston’s book is interesting because it covers the whole wide area of Arthur and similar legends. The idea that originally rituals of initiation may have been a source for the stories is interesting, but that these initiations were supposedly fertility rituals interests me less.

It would have been nice if there was an overview with all the different stories and their datings at the end.

1920 / 2011 Dover Publications, isbn 0486296806

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