The word has it's origin in 'kannicht', the Saxon word for 'serving youth', or 'young servant'. interestingly, the Japanese word 'Samurai' means ' ne who serves'.
The emphasis was on service, not combat, in both cases, but combat was part of the service rendered - in theory at least.
I would like us to consider this concept with an example drawn from the medieval practice of investiture, the making of a knight.
Knights had many years training, not just in combat skills with sword and shield, but also in other arts and activities. They were to uphold royal justice and offer hospitality, supporting the king in legal and diplomacy concerns, as well.
The tales of King Arthur were not historical, but drawn from pagan Celtic roots, and expressed some of the most noble sentiments to come from our western culture. I would like to elaborate on these here, using the imagary that this world view was steeped in.
Imagine a group of young men kneeling before an altar, about to be invested in a knightly order.
Upon the altar are the emblems of their calling. A shield, a sword, a lance and a chalice.
Why were these chosen, and what would they have meant to the knight?
This was the knights primary means of protection. A physical barrier between him and his foe. It would also have been decorated with a pattern or am emblem unique to the knight, telling freind and oe alike who he was (a good thing, seeing as his face was hidden beneath a full face helmet.) It was thus something that helped him in a physical sense; an apt symbol for The physical reality.
The sword Unlike the peasant's club, the sword was a weapon that relied more on skill than strength to weild to full effect. A fencing master told me once that swordsmanship was like chess with cold steel.
The sharp edge of the sword can be likened to the knight's intellect, to his powers of Discrimination Discrimination is a word with a bad press of late. Yet we have to use discrimination in everyday life. Do I turn left here to reach the shops? Does this shop sell that item? There are some times when 'maybe' , and 'perhaps' must give way to a yes/no answer. To take up the sword is to take sides in an issue. There will be more lessons for the knight on it's mysteries, as there will be on all the four knightly emblems. But for now, this wll suffice.
Levelled at the enemy ahead, the nine feet of stout ash with it's steel point was a fearsome weapon. However, It also carried the knight's pennon into battle. Sometimes it was merely the standard of a petty cheiftain who fought merely for his own gain and glory, but flying over a great leader like El Cid or Joan of Arc, it was an inspiration for their troops to follow. It called forth the great ideals of chivalry. It stood for truth, justice and freedom. For great Ideals.
"What standards will I set for people to follow?" It's a good question for every follower of the chivalric code to ask themselves. We may note that Realism and Idealism may be opposite principles, but the knight is called upon to exercise both.
The Chalice .
Also called the cup, or the Grail sometimes. The cup alludes to many things. To faith, to the hospitality that a knight was duty bound to show to strangers and to his guests. Whereas the sword would divide, the cup brought things together. water and wine, though different, could be mixed in the cup. The knights of different orders or different lands, even, would join each other in a drinking a toast after the tournament.
The cup was an apt sybol of friendship, as much as the sword was of conflict. Again, the knight took up both, and was encouraged as much to learn the arts of peace as of war.
Those who have some knowledge of the tarot, or the Celtic mysteries wil recognise these emblems, and further meditations upon them will greatly aid the knight in the quest for perfection.