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Lud's Church, Gawain & The Green Knight

You don't necessarily need to go to these sacred places to realeyes the Truth that THIS, the entire Creation is ALL Magick, but they certainly help.

In this piece we will be exploring the symbolism of Gawain and the Green Knight, one fabled to have taken place in this very special 'Green Chapel' in the Peak District, UK.

In the myth of Sir Gawain and The Green Knight (one which Tolkien himself felt power-full enough to spend almost his entire life pondering over), there is a nature shrine called 'The Green Chapel', within which a "Green Knight" dwells. Legend has it that this is found in physical form in 'Lud's Church'; a wryd and wonderful chasm in the river Dean valley of the Peak District; This sacred place was the fateful place to which Gawain must travel in order to honour his rather hastily made agreement in Arthur's Court, one year prior.

Uninvited and unheeding of any civilised etiquette, in the high point of a sacred feast at Arthur's court, an unsightly, offensive (to courtly mentality) Green Knight appears and brashly dares Arthur to take one fatal swing at his green neck. The caveat being that if he accedes to the challenge then the Green Knight is afforded Arthur's willing neck in honour of their agreement. This oath is to be fulfilled one year to the day. 12 months later.

Gawain, young and as yet unproven as a Knight steps in and accepts before his King has a chance to respond. The Green Knight offers his neck and the brash young knight offs his green head. No sooner could Gawain look around for approval from his King and peers, does the recently beheaded knight pick up said bonce, reattach it and without a word, turn and leave Arthur's court.

Gawain is suddenly split with choice. Polarised. He must decide whether his knightly oaths are simply empty words or if he will commit to his oath, despite it almost certainly meaning his own death 1 year hence. That choice, to leave the Great Round (table), the Court, the paradisiacal Eden, is the Hero's Journey.


The Green Knight is Nature, is Maya, is The Unconscious, is the wyrd and wonderful web that pretends that it isn't Brahman/ GOD/ Supreme Reality/ Whatever.

You may also see him - as many did see The Green Chapel/ Lud's Church as the "devils place" - as that chaotic, trickster force in Consciousness which stimulates the call to adventure - the tempting serpent/ the Adversary/ the Trickster - that moves the story along and brings magick, even if it is usually of a mischievous, even fatal kind.

To be lured into "taking his head", tempted into "biting the apple", one comes to be bound to - to know - the opposites which the Green Knight implies... Green is the harmonising colour of the heavenly blue and the rooting red. It is the heart chakra, Middle Earth, the realm of opposites and the only place through which Consciousness could find something we call 'compassion' and 'empathy' (more on this shortly).

It is back to the Green country which the hero in every story must come Home to, but, having been away, coming back transformed with the gift of new (unpolarised/ harmonised) sight.

Green is 'The Middle Way'; the reconciliation of the opposites; the alchemical wedding; the uniting of masculine and feminine; the kundalini -Ida and Pingala - which raise the chrism oil and brings us back to gnosis of who and what we are.

The Green Knight, at the beginning of our tale, therefore represents the expulsion from the womb of unity consciousness; exile from Eden and into the world of pain and pleasure. In our spin round the Wheel of Fortune/ Samsara, we now identify as something called an "individual", which implies "others", ups and downs, blacks and whites etc.

"I am Gawain and this is my quest to fulfil, for no one else can but I."

Gawain is that young ego consciousness who, having drawn his sword at the feast- swords symbolising the ability to divide, of discernment of self and other, black and white, good and evil etc - must CHOOSE whether to honour his commitment to leave Eden (The ROUND table/ Camelot/ The WHOLE), having "had a free swing at the Green Knight's head" and thus be bound to travel to offer his own neck.

So then, having made the choice to step into duality, he now has many more choices head of him. As with all maturing beings, the young Gawain (our hero/ sun/ ego) must continually strive to use his will (masculine) in order to overcome the pull of The Unconscious/ The Terrible Mother/ the many regressive temptations and cul-de-sacs that 5 sense reality offers... Tempations which are fully told in the complete myth, but which we do not have time in this essay to address.

The important point for now is that our Hero must keep moving forward on his Journey, even though he knows a grim fate awaits. We can see this one way: as the "death" that awaits us all. Esoterically, however, this is the death of our limited sense of self. A letting go of persona identity so that an awareness of THE SELF/ BRAHMAN/ THE ULTIMATE can be revealed as your true essence.

Let's explore in a little more depth the reason why his oath was to be fulfilled one year later...

One year is 12 moonths. On an external level we can see this as our Sun traversing the heavens and moving through the 12 zodiacal constellations (archetypes/ our inner cast of characters). On this esoteric level this is our Hero/ Sun/ Son/ YOU journeying through the 12 archetypes/ gods/ disc-iples/ the great ROUND of Self.

12 therefore represents the completion of The Hero's Journey, a return Home (to Self) having played the game of separation.

In the myth of Parsifal, following his eventual recognition by Court as a knight most worthy of praise, an ugly old woman enters the feast (just as our Green Knight did) and lists in great detail all of his blunders and misdeeds he made along the way to victory. It is this humiliation that Parsifal encounters, however, that eventually leads to him resuming his quest for the Holy Grail. Humility is essential in our Quest to truly know our essential nature.

On completing his 12 month pilgrimage, in fulfilling his commitment, Gawain (ego consciousness) is indeed willing to give up his "head", meaning his wilful ego-based desire to control his fate. He has been around the Wheel enough to feel a connection to something higher AND deeper; a Power which has ultimately been moving him all along.

In 12 we find a reference to the 12th house in astrology - Pisces; the willingness to sacrifice self and free will to find the deepest sense of Unity. We are willing to die to self, perhaps to find something even more YOU than the little you you thought you were.


And so it turns out that Gawain isn't decapitated by The Green Knight but instead is only dealt a minor wound. He returns to Arthur's court, the ROUND table, with that pin which reminds us of so many mythological characters.. Gawain, in this sense is Like Chiron, another wounded healer (wholer) archetype.

The wound, the pain of (perceived) separation from Source is the gift that all who embark on a spin around The Wheel of Fortune, those who brave Samsara, are given. It is a wound that allows us to empathise and relate to all other sentient beings who are in the process of re-membering their wholeness, but who are, somewhere in that cycle of 12; in the process of waking up, and in so doing suffer. They suffer because they resist what IS in front of them on their Hero's Journey. They resist that all is Divine Drama being played by actors who often take themselves seriously, rather than sincerely (as Watts would put it). But there are some who choose to remain in The Wheel in order to act as guides for those still dreaming of not being THAT. THese Boddhisatvas know of pain, but the meaning attached (or not) to the "negative" pole is different and so too, therefore, is the response. The wound remains yet its meaning and purpose is known, and that is what wholes (heals).

So through facing, accepting and owning our whole being, not just the aspects we like or society rewards, we bring our psychic round table back together in a cohesive, more or less agreeable whole. We give voice to all those in our inner Court, even the wounded part. So this too means facing shadow and the fear of that Underworld, an inevitable consequence of the young ego's choice to individuate. Hence why it takes a HERO to complete The Journey, or "Great Work".

Gawain is a symbol of a knight who knows what he must do having stepped out of the innocence of Eden (the Great Round Table of Unity consciousness): he surrenders to his Quest and vows to fulfil his knightly duties. And yet his isn't the new age surrender without ACTION, an attempt to avoid the inevitable facing of suffering, temptation and the "negative" pole of this realm. Rather, ACTION leads to SURRENDER, a non-resisting of the consequences to that initial choice (to leave Eden, to KNOW your self as a self), as well as all the subsequent decisions that we must make on our quest.

So ACTION, as we grow in wise-dome by traversing the 12 segments of the "gods" (archetypes) leads to SURRENDER. Is this not the path of the sun: born again in Aries (ACTION) and being dissolved in Pisces (SURRENDER)? As Above, So Below" as the Hermetic maxim goes... the path of the outer sun is mirrored by the perfecting/ maturation process of our inner sun (our ego). Our Hero's Journey is essentially the resolving of the paradox: knowing that we must take action/ make choices, whilst accepting that there must too be a surrendering... As the Taoists say "take the emphasis of the fruits of the labour, focus on the labour [on the choice] itself".

By the appointed time of the oath's fulfilment (12 months) Gawain must be willing to lose his head, which we may interpret as the loss of his limited sense of ego-only self. He, at this point in his journey, does not know of an upside to this, to him it means death in the traditional sense. However it reminds us very much of the Tarot's THE HANGED MAN. Perhaps on a more unconscious, deeper level, Gawain knows that this sacrifice is being made in order to gain something greater. The aforementioned Tarot card pictures a character who, despite finding himself in rather an unfortunate predicament, looks serene. He knows that by hanging on The World Tree, as Odin did, as Christ did, as Krishna, Mithras etc etc did, he suffers, yes, but he also finds that peace that can be found even amidst the spinning of Samsara. We can walk the Middle Way, denying, nor blindly embracing neither Yin nor Yang, Black nor White, Positive or Negative. We see the spinning of The Wheel, but we realeyes that we are in fact the Centre which moves not.


That balancing, or reconciling of the opposites is being reflected in our mirror (our shadow) that is the Green Knight; as already noted, this is why he is Green. He is the synthesis (the balancing) of Heaven and Earth. In essence he is us - the Divine Child.

As with all who undertake the Hero's Journey, we have to realeyes that there are more "gods"/ archetypes/ characters within our psyche than the Hero (the sun/ Gawain). Indeed, just as the Sun is "sacrificed" once a day at sun set, and once a year at the Winter Sol-stice), we too must be willing to sacrifice "Gawain" (our ego self) to reintegrate, to bring back to the whole that green, animalistic, somatic and earthy part of ourselves, that which the chatter of ego and of cult-u're often disconnects us from.

We can strengthen our connection to the Wildman/ Woman within through any somatic (bodily) practice that resonates with you: yoga; breathwork; meditation (which, on the earthy level, stimulates the body's vagus nerve, vital for so many aspects of wellbeing). It's often the defensive, resisting ego which blocks our access to these practices, which, in essence, are all about surrender and cultivating non-resistance.

That being said, what is especially important to note in our myth, is that Gawain is not beheaded, meaning he does not lose entirely his individuality, or ego. Rather, it is no longer given tyrannical rulership over the other psychic archetypes. It may lead (the Sun is The King), but it also listens to the other members within the inner court as any good leader does. It knows when to surrender to The Underworld, the night time place where ideas are born, gestated and protected until it is time for them to reach for the solar world above.

In that bodily intelligence and deeper awareness that transcends ego... in surrender... in non-resistance (which includes resistance!) we be-co-me* the centre of The Wheel. That which is changeless, eternal. The I AM that is aware of The Green Knight within and without, and all that moves in the "ten thousand things".

We know that we are the active participant in The Dream. The Whole playing "peek-a-boo" with IT'SELF.

But, for the sheer fun and audacity of it, we must forget that we are Supreme Reality; The Prime Mover. We must draw our individual swords of discrimination and thought (that comes of the apple/ Good/Evil etc) banish ourselves from Eden and become the prodigal sons and daughters.

We will feel separation, pain, the "negative", but we will also, if we listen to our conscience, feel the call to hack ourselves free from the jungles of The Mother. Using our mental ability and the sword of discernment we will have CHOICES to make and the consequences of those choices to take response-ability for.

Just as Gawain did.

So don't doubt the courage it takes for you to be here on this quest for Truth and for SELF. It's tough as only a knight could face.

It is only through the questing of Arthur's knights (YOU) that consciousness evolves, or perhaps "deepens" is a better way of putting it.

Through your often difficult adventure The Prime Mover knows it'SELF on a more profound, a more unique level, especially when we take an active part in our own Great Work: to "Know Thyself".

For when you "Know thyself", as Gawain sorely does after his adventures are through, "you will know the gods". Microcosm/ Macrocosm are merely mirrors. No-thing is outside of what you are.

So own your entire quest, accept the wisdom and the shadow of all 12 archetypes as you l-earn their various lessons. Hide from nothing and you will re-member who and what you truly are. The WHOLE. The Centre. The Ultimate.


*'Co' in latin is with.  So to 'be-co-me' literally means to 'be with ME', where ME is SOURCE/ BRAHMAN etc.


The Intuitive medicine readings I offer help you to find the clarity and the courage to take right action and step forward feeling inspired in your Hero's Journey.

These unique sessions help bring order to chaos and help sharpen that magickal sword of discernment you came here to wield.




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