The August King

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Title: The August King
Author(s): Linda Ruth Pfonner
Date(s): 1991
Genre: gen
Fandom: Robin of Sherwood
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The August King is a gen Robin of Sherwood story by Linda Ruth Pfonner. It contains two illos.

It was published in The Sacrificial King.

Author's Comments

"The August King" was written for many reasons. I am a pagan myself, and I have always been fascinated by the concept of the voluntary human sacrifice. Weren't you always amazed when you read of the Aztecs, who kept their sacrifices standing in line all day for their turn on the altar? What sort of faith does it take for a person to volunteer for such a bloody death? And how do the worshippers perceive the ritual? I know from my own experience that a ritual described afterwards cannot explain what happens during it, for the physical and mental aspects are only part of what happens. Words cannot adequately portray what happens on the spiritual level; we do not have the words for it.

Western European tradition has long preserved the concept of the Corn King, the vegetation god who was slain every year at harvest and eaten on the thanksgiving table. James G. Fraser's The Golden Bough is the most exhaustive treatment of the subject. August 1st, the feast of Lammas (half-mass in Old West Saxon; i.e., the Feast of Bread) was the traditional occasion for the sacrifice. The concept of King-Sacrifice, especially In Britain, Is as old as the legends of the Craft, and were placed before the public by Margaret Murray when she published The God of the Witches In 1931. She believed the pagans of Britain had long held that the health of the King is intimately tied to the land; when one Is Infertile, for example, so Is the other. There may be an echo of this In the stories of political unrest during King John's time. The people called htm Lackland before he was crowned; he was a younger son with few prospects. Afterward, they called him Softsword, an unmistakably sexual insult, and linked his perceived Incapacity to the country's falling economy. Murray believed, and presented fascinating evidence, that King William Rufus, the Conqueror's son, was killed as a sacrifice. He died on "the morrow of Lemmas" in the year 1100, slain by an arrow from the bow of his best friend, William Tyrrel. It was passed off, without any argument, as a hunting accident. There is convincing evidence that Rufus knew he was going to die, and equally convincing argument that he himself was of the Old Religion, and no kind of Christian. Murray allowed that Rufus was the only example she could find of a King fulfilling the sacrifice himself, acknowledging that he usually found a substitute. She held out Thomas Becket as the substitute for King Henry II, and then branched out, claiming that Joan of Arc and her champion Gllles de Rats each In turn stood as the sacrifice for the French King. The story fits the Robin Hood legend too well to be Ignored. Robin's legend is entwined with King Richard and King John, so we know when he lived. In this particular version of the story, Allric of Loxley, the bearer of the Silver Arrow, Is the pagans' King of the Wood, and makes the perfect substitute for the real King. Murray said Becket was chosen as Henry's substitute because he was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time — the highest ranking religious In the land. Rufus's constant disagreements with Anselm, his own Archbishop of Canterbury, may have sprung from Anselm's refusal to play the substitute; In the end, Rufus had no substitute, and had to play the part himself. In Robin's time, to the pagan population, perhaps the King of the Wood was their local substitute. Argument that the pagans had no interest in John's health are short-sighted; the people may not have liked their King, but he held a supernatural position. His health was inextricably linked to the health of the land. If the King-Sacrifice could keep the King healthy, the land would benefit, and vice versa.

This story was written because a pagan friend once challenged me to write a Corn King story; she had faith that I could do a creditable job. Once suggested, the story took well over four years to conceive and construct, and I agonized over how to make the story happen without compromising anyone's honour. I hope I have succeeded, and I hope you enjoy it.