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Masonic Encyclopedia

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Legends of Middle Ages

Ancient Craft Masonry of the Three Degrees has no trace of legends in it, of any sort, Ancient or Medieval; the Rite of HA.-. is sometimes called a legend and the first half of the Old Charges is called the Legend of the Craft, but in each csse "legend" is a misnomer. (See article immediately above.) The High Grades of the Scottish Rite and the Orders of Templarism rise against a rich background of Medieval legends, some of them very old, some as recent as the last Crusade, but are not themselves legends. Legends are not made, or invented, or authored, or composed; they appear out of nowhere, as if of themselves, and go where they list, changing shape like a cloud and yet never losing identity. There are some twelve (roughly) great legends or legend cycles of the Middle Ages: Beowulf, completed among the Angles and Saxons bew fore the invasion of England. The Hegeland Legend. This is in the form of thirtytwo "songs," and its original probably was an old Norse song cycle.

Reynard the Fox. This oldest of the animal epics grew up in the German lands, went through France where Reynard as a grape stealer or disguised as a monk caught the fancy of the cathedral builders, turned north into Flanders, and then returned to Germany. The old yarns about Reynard are good to read along with one of the old bestiaries, or books of beasts. The Nibelungenlied greatest of the German epics, was not invented by Wagner nor originally designed for grand opera, but on the contrary--and very contrary--was originally a set of tales about Attila and his Huns; or so scholars say.

The Langobardian Cyele. The Amelings. Dietrich von Bern; out of the old "German Book of Heroes." The Legend of Roland in the tales of Charlemagne and his Paladins. Aymon and Charlemagne (about one of the Paladins), the great chanson di gestes-which chansons are now believed to have been old family songs. Titurel and Holy Grail, including Merlin, and the Round Table. Tristan-Ragner-The Cid.

The literature of and about them is endless (our own Masonic author, A. E. Waite wrote one of the most comprehensive books about the Grail) but an introduction to it is Myths and Legends of the Midx114 Ages, by H. A. Guerber; London; Geo. H. Harrap do; Co.; 1910. Dr. Guerber also wrote The Book of the Epic; J. B. Lippincott; Philadelphia; 1913, in which he tells in his own words the stories of many of the legends of the Middle Ages which became the sabject-matter of Norse, German, French, and English epics.

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