THE RANGER AND THE CLERIC:
Origins and corruptions of a mythic story-cycle
We can trace the origins of the ranger and the cleric story-cycle, (in its most common although significantly incomplete form), to codices compiled in mediaeval Europe circa 1250AD, most of which – as far as we can tell - no longer exist in their original forms. However, many other tellings can be found across different, more distant folklores, wherein mythological characters with direct similarity to those contained in the later stories emanating from mid-western Europe can be found. Indeed, the archetypal paladin, priest and prophet appear to be fundamental characters in early civilizations’ debates around cosmos and chaos.
Across all fragments of these many accounts a common origin-myth can be identified. All involve a warrior and a spiritual figure - both of humble origin - combining forces to wander the land as avenging heroes of the dispossessed and deprived.
It is interesting to note that the appearance of the agent provocateur occurs only in later versions of the myth. Whilst pre-Christian authors usually ascribe a totally altruistic purpose to the protagonists, later versions from Europe rely heavily on the role of an unseen actor in directing the deeds of the ranger and the cleric. As this enigmatic character’s influence increases in significance across the later centuries of the mythos, the role of the female character (usually referred to as a prophet or visionary of some kind) – a role evident in all fragments from antiquity – is consistently reduced to one of lower and lower importance and status.
It is, however - when all is said and done - the cosmic elements of this story that surely prove the most intriguing to both modern folklorist and scientific observer alike. Whilst the initial elements of the tale centre around simple, gentle deeds of kindness and charity (one common story involving the bringing of fine gifts to a poor couple’s wedding, another the saving of livestock during a flood) – the later elements, although recorded nowhere in anything close to complete form – hint at some form of exodus from Earth and ensuing adventures amongst the planets of the solar system, and perhaps even beyond. Knowledge of astronomy, cosmology, rocketry and even Mr. Einstein's new ideas on relativity is implied in pieces of the ancient stories that remain.
Of course, nearly all sources are at best multiple generation copies and have no doubt been corrupted through time and retelling – affected by cultural and religious politics without question. What remains, no matter how fragmentary, is presented here, now.
. Atwood (1930)
(Reprinted with the kind permission of the Atwood estate and the Board of Trustees of MU)
released February 25, 2015
Released on Reverb Worship (Cat No. RW 289) in a limited edition, hand-made CD artifact: Available at: www.reverbworship.com
Performed by Jim Griffin. Inspired by the work of H.P
. Lovecraft, Albrecht Durer, Gary Gygax, Carl Sagan and Arthur C. Clarke.
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