Order of the Garter

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Order of the Garter

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

English Order of Chivalry founded by King Edward III. The usual story of its formation is that the king was at a royal ball, dancing with the Countess of Salisbury, when her garter fell to the floor. The king returned it to her after first placing it on his own leg, with the words, "Honi soit qui mal y pense" ("shame be to him who thinks evil of it"). The date, according to Froisant, was 1344 (although some authorities assign it to 1350). Edward went on to form the highest and most ancient order of knighthood, known as the Order of the Garter. This was formally created on April 23, 1350—St. George's Day. Margaret Murray suggested that, since it took more than a dropped garter to embarrass a woman—even a countess—in the sixteenth century, it must have been a pagan ritual garter she had been wearing. At that time England was still almost half pagan. If, as Murray suggests, it was a ritual garter, then the king made a smart move by placing it on his own leg. In effect, he was declaring himself willing to rule over the pagan population as well as the Christian one. His words, which seemed to mystify Murray, make admirable sense when one considers that there were many Christian dignitaries at the ball and that Edward was referring not to the garter but to the Old Religion itself when he made his comment.

Edward formed the Order of the Garter with twenty-four knights plus himself and the Prince of Wales. Murray points out that the number, twenty-six, is the same as found in two covens of thirteen each. Furthermore, as leader of the order, the king wears a blue velvet mantle with 168 miniature garters sprinkled over it. Together with the one on his leg, that would total 169, or thirteen times thirteen.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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