Last month, I ordered a number of books through Mel-cat, Michigan’s e-library system, so I could do some research on royal families and rituals of royalty, in hopes of making some associations with the Tarot court. That is, in preparation for my presentation on Tarot court cards, I was wondering if royal ceremonial traditions could provide some insight into how these archetypes operate in our lives. Before I return my books, I want to share some interesting facts on the role of the royal Regalia, and how these objects are not mere props that the Queen poses with, but they actually go into the making of the monarch.
In the book “Symbol and Privilege: The Ritual Context of British Royalty” Ilse Hayden states, “The Regalia are sacra, a means of communicating gnosis, the wisdom essential to transform the Queen’s body natural into the body politic.” She describes how as Elizabeth entered Westminster Abbey for her coronation in 1952, the royal Regalia, which included St. Edward’s Crown, St. Edward’s Staff, the Sword of State, the Swords of Temporal Justice, the Sceptres of Mercy and Justice, the Orb, the Coronation Ring (which is the “wedding ring of England”), etc. were carried before her. This Regalia is carried by nobles who are entitled by heredity to perform this part in the ceremony, though the Regalia is described as though it were moving on its own. As Hayden explains, “The Regalia, like all sacra, were potent, infused as they were with a force powerful enough to transform the person of Princess Elizabeth into the Queen of England. They also had an effect on the Lord Bearers. Even though they were insulated on scarlet cushions, the inanimate pieces of the Regalia 'absorbed’ the identities of their Bearers. The peers who carried the Regalia became the Regalia.” So for example, the people describing the ceremony would say, “’With the Great Sword of State preceding her, the Queen …’ instead of ‘With the Marquess of Salisbury carrying the Sword of State preceding her, the Queen …’” Of course, this also means, “The Lord Bearers were as instrumental in transforming the Queen as were the Clergy.” (151-153).
So, the transformative power of the Regalia is something to think about if you read about the Grail procession in Parsifal or other stories about the quest for the Holy Grail. This is also something to think about in relation to the figures in the Tarot court: the swords, cups, wands, and pentacles they carry are not mere props,
This is quite an information intensive book, with Hayden explaining how the Coronation Theatre is a microcosm of spiritual and temporal powers. She also talked about how you can tell who the Queen’s closest courtiers are when they accompany her when she appears on the balcony to greet the public—which is why, when I was talking about Tarot court members in residence, I posed the question, “who is on the balcony today?”