The Knight's Oath and Chivalric Principles

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I found myself a few years back wanting somewhat more of a statement of chivalric principles than what we all have heard. For preference, I wanted some knight to hand down to me a document from on high which would once and for all lay out the essence of the chivalric philosophy, properly footnoted, with proper roots in history and basic principles so all moral ambiguities would be resolved. The members of the Chivalry were understandably uninterested in providing me with my desired guide.

In the intervening time I have tried to guide my own efforts with the historical documents I've been able to find, my own philosophic and theological training, and some good practical experience. Since no knight in sight seemed to want to take up this gauntlet, when one of my fellow serjeants suggested I pursue the subject, I decided to while away some of my idle time in exploring the area for my own instruction and edification and the amusement of those who have already been there and done that. I decided to take for my instructive text the very words of the knight's oath and the knighting ceremony. For what you may find herein that is useful, thank the many teachers both in manuscript and in person who have formed my thoughts on the matter. For what you may find in error, please send kind criticism to the author, as I hope to find good instruction in the reactions of my fellows.

The oath of the chivalry in the Middle Kingdom is:

I here swear fealty and do homage to the Crown of the Middle Kingdom;

*****The knight is first and foremost a servant-and specifically a servant of the Crown. The very word knight means servant.

to ever be a good knight and true,

***** The knight is on the side of good, that is, light, life, and love of his fellow man. The knight loves truth, as lies are a dis-service to the knight's fellow man, a denial of the love and service the knight owes to all, representing reality as it is to the best of his ability.

reverent and generous,

***** Reverence is an act of love, showing love for one's fellows by not deriding their most deeply held beliefs, and love for the gift of life, in appreciating the grandeur of that gift. Generosity in spirit, in being willing to grant politeness to all, respect to rank, and consideration for the opinions of others, is just as important as generosity of possesions, the largesse that shows strength of character in the open handed nature of the giver. It is to give more than is expected in all things.

shield of the weak,

***** It is the duty of a knight, and his priveledge, to grant equity in human relationships through the application of his own effort. Where right is made by might, one's fellows are reduced to counters in a game of possesions. Where might protects right, giving the widow and orphan a voice to equal the strongest of us, then love has made us all the greater. Only the weak feel the need to control. The strong set us free. This is the greatest love.

obedient to my liege-lord,

***** To provide good service, one must obey. To subordinate one's own desires to those of your lord is to be servicable and reverent towards one's oath. To sacrifice one's own interests for those of your lady, your lord or your group is love.

foremost in battle,

***** To be foremost in battle means that you hold your own life as little, but your love as all. Thus, the spirit triumphs over transient flesh and though the body die, the spirit is eternal.

courteous at all times,

***** Politeness, Respect, and Reverence show care for the perceptions of other people, one's superiors, and the ultimate love that is what we champion.

champion of the right and the good.

*****Anyone has some power to choose either light, goodness and love, or darkness, fear and the wrong. We choose to be champions, might standing up to hold for the positive, life-affirming stature of existence.

Thus swear I, N.

*****We freely set ourselves upon this course, binding ourselves to the light as strongly as we are capable of.

The qualifications mentioned by the King in the Knighting ceremony:

King: Right mindful of your prowess on the field, and responsive to the wishes of your peers, we are minded to make you knight.

*****You must be physically capable if you are to enforce right with your might. Those who are worthy are seen as such by those around them. The King believes in your suitability.

Know that to wear the belt and chain of a knight is to hold a sacred trust; that the obligations of knighthood will demand your efforts every moment of your life.

*****Your knighthood is a set of duties, ones that you are bound to in all your life. The belt and chain are prowess and fealty, service-ability and service. They are sacred trusts because they serve life, light and love.

A knight of the Society must be respectful of all religions, never offending the faith of another.

*****Offending the faith of another is to deny the good in it's expression by another.

A knight must respect all those who are weak or defenseless, whether because of age, infirmity, poverty, or vow, and be steadfast in defending them.

*****Serving one's fellows is an expression of the great love. Might defending the right means to grant life to others. Right subordinate to might is simply to live for common gain. This is to treat others as things, not persons, and that denies life to them. The reasons for another's helplessness do not affect the nature of this decision.

A knight must love his Kingdom and his province, and fulfill most faithfully his feudal duties to his baron and his King.

*****To keep one's promises is to preserve truth. To fulfill duties to baron and King is to perform service to your group and this is one form of love's expression.

His word must be dependable beyond doubt or question. He must never flee from the face of his foes. He must be generous to all. And, always and everywhere, he must be the champion of the right and the good.

*****To deny truth is to misrepresent reality to one's fellows. This can only harm. To flee from foes demonstrates fear, which arises from thoughts of personal gain. The love for one's fellow fighters, one's group, and one's lord, demand self sacrifice. Generosity is another form of demonstrating love through self-sacrifice. And to champion the right and the good is to show love in it's purest form.

The Laws of the Society and the customs of the Kingdom require that a knight be prow, as you have demonstrated you are upon the field; that a knight be courteous, as you have shown yourself to be and as these noble gentleman (and ladies) attest; and that a knight be loyal to his Kingdom and the Society.

*****To champion others you must have the ability to affect outcomes. In the position of a knight, this means training for combat, training to create ease for others in social situations, and training of the spirit to maintain loyalty to lady, lord, people and the ideals of the light.

And further:

King: Wear this belt in token of your prowess.

*****The belt is to remind you that training of mind, body, and spirit are neccesary to provide service to love and the light.

The King shall receive the chain, saying as he places it about the candidate's neck:

King: Wear this chain in token of your fealty.

*****The chain is there to remind you that you have bound yourself in this course, that you have a commitment.

If spurs are available, they may be buckled on as the King says:

King: Wear these spurs in outward token of your new station.

*****To teach and inspire others by your example, you are given an outward symbol so that others may know what it means to be this kind of servant, and desire to emulate your own behaviour. This is a weighty responsibility, as it multiplies each of your actions in the actions others model on you.

The King may either give a sword to the new knight and say, or may simply say:

King: Bear your sword with strength, so disposing your heart to goodness that you never use (it/this sword or any other) to injure anyone unjustly, but always use it to defend the just and right.

*****Your might is there to serve others, to protect, not to harm. There are those who are not serving the light, and your efforts should always be bent to preserve those not able to protect themselves from them, not to gain ascendancy and glorify yourself.

Then shall the King receive Oathbinder and shall strike the candidate upon the shoulders with the flat of the blade, saying:

King: Bear these blows and no others. Rise, Sir N.

The King may, at his choice, use these words to accompany the blows, or words of his own choice:

King: Bear these blows and no others. In remembrance of oaths given and received. (Strikes right shoulder) In remembrance of your lineage and obligations. (Strikes left shoulder) Be thou a good knight. (Strikes head) Rise, Sir N.

*****With the three blows of the sword, the knight is reminded of the essence of the Chivalric philosophy. To remember oaths given and received is to acknowledge your commitment to all people and to the ideals of chivalry. To remember your lineage and obligations is to keep the service you owe your lord and brother knights, a model of the light, love and life you serve in your fellows and superiors. Finally, be thou a GOOD knight is to render in one word the ideal you have chosen to follow, and to provide that one word reminder at the ultimate moment of transference of station. It's a reminder that you have chosen the path of love.

Since life arose, there has been a quality to it called tropism. This is the tendency of life to seek light and warmth and to avoid darkness, cold and pain. This quality becomes more and more elaborated as life itself increases in complexity, but the first principles have not changed. Chivalry is the glorious expression of these life affirming principles in the spirit of man. Let your own toasts include the Oldest Toast of all. To life!

Charric Van der Vliet