By: Janet L. Hanson
I loved my father’s stories, and the tradition and integrity they told about.
My imagination was fired by tales of the Holy Grail, the Shroud of Turin, the Mandylion, the Talking Head, the wood sliver from the true Cross, and the ghosts of Knights Templar, which showed up whenever the world was in crisis.
It is wonderful to share the stories I have written, read and heard told to me by my father, who was a thirty-second degree Mason and Shriner. As I stand to tell the stories, I always whisper first, “This is for you Dad.”
Karen Standal, storyteller
An excerpt from my newest Templar story begins…
The killing began at noon and the walled city hushed as the cries of those dying in battle rang out. The sky seemed to turn silver blue with the thick black smoke, thick with the woeful cries of those captured as they burned alive.
Jacques de Molay slipped cautiously through the walled city, striving to stay in the shadows. The smell of burning flesh crowded his nostrils as he clutched his cloak closely around him in an effort to cover the white tunic he feared would make him a target.
Struggling against his own desire to save himself, he made peace with his decision to stay and face this madness…for the sake of the Brotherhood. He prayed that the last wooden ship, carrying his Templar brothers, had safely made it out of the harbor for Scotland.
According to Karen, legends tell that in times of peril, ghost ships will appear full of Knights Templar to help preserve the British Isles, because of their intervention on that legendary, dreadful and unlucky day, Friday, October 13, 1307, in saving the Knights by taking them to Scotland.
However, Jacques de Molay did not escape, because he chose to stay behind and fight to ensure the safety of the other knights onboard the six wooden ships. No one knows for sure if those ships made it or not. However, it is said the Free Masons organized shortly thereafter as a Scottish Rite Free Masonry.
“All of this is speculation and legend, but isn’t that the spice of life?” asked Karen.
A website dedicated to the history of the Knights Templar, tells that in the aftermath of the First Crusade of 1096 AD, nine knights led by Hugues de Payens went to the King of Jerusalem, Baldwin II, proposing that they form a monastic order of knights, taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, in service of the Holy Land.
They were granted part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which was built on the site of the original Temple of Solomon. They rode on horseback, wore chain mail, a white tunic with a red cross emblazoned on it, and carried a broadsword and a crucifix.
In the world events of that time, the Muslims had taken over Jerusalem. In response, the Knights Templar were sent to save Jerusalem, rebuild Solomon’s Temple, find the relics of Christ and his apostles, and bring back the temple treasure.
The Knights Templar are said to have become very wealthy and powerful through learning the customs of the people they conquered, starting a bank, and gaining the trust and respect of the Christian world.
Legends tell the Knights eventually held more power and wealth than the Pope and so fell out of favor with the Catholic Church, which labeled them heretics.
Karen explained the Knights heard news of a pact developed against them. A major Templar, named Hugues De Payne, went to Rome, laid his sword at the feet of the Pope and asked, “Will you protect us?”
He did not realize that the Pope was already conspiring with King Phillip IV to eradicate the Knights. De Molay knew what was coming and that was why he stayed behind to fight, on that legendary unlucky day of Friday the Thirteenth.
Now there are wonderful legends about these Knights Templar, as ghost warrior monks, showing up in ghost ships at different times throughout history to save the British people and show their thanks.
Karen tells another story… This was a story that I wrote based on my Dad’s story of the Holy Grail.
The setting is in the days of the court of King Arthur, divided because of the jealousy, hate, and vengeance caused by Lancelot’s love for Queen Gweneviere. King Arthur has just died, Gweneviere has gone into exile, and Lancelot, her lover, has left.
According to the story, because of these unfortunate events, the world was in crisis, with greed, pain and warfare everywhere. It was terrible, and the only hope for salvation was to find the Holy Grail. A golden cup that will appear empty, but will pour out peace and love on everyone when tipped toward earth.
Sadly, a dragon, named the Pen Dragon, which had walked with Merlin the magician, and King Arthur, and seeing the world in the grip of such wickedness, rose up in the sky over the isle of Avalon and, crying great tears of despair, plunged deep into the lake carrying the Holy Grail in its talons.
Immediately, out of the water above him, arose a great black mountain with a great oak door in its side that had seven locks and seven keys. The seven keys hung from red ribbons on each of seven black swans, which pulled the funeral boat of King Arthur across the surface of the lake, when suddenly a very thin line between earth and sky started to open.
A great light poured fourth and every mythical and legendary creature passed through, every dragon, every unicorn, and every griffin left the earth and passed through the thin crack which then shut tightly.
Karen is also an accomplished artist creating drawings of dragons and other mythical creatures for her storytelling.
Now those who love the old tales say, one day there will come a child, whether it is boy or girl no one knows, who will stand on the bank of that lake and the great rock will rise again. There will be the seven black swans pulling a barge that will come to the child who will step upon it and take the keys to the door to unlock it.
As the story goes, at the bottom of this rock lies the sleeping Pen Dragon still holding the Grail. The child will enter the door in the side of the rock, walk down the winding stairway to the bottom, and as the child lifts the Grail from the Dragon, it will awaken.
Then, with a screech of triumph, the Dragon will carry the child and the Grail tipped toward the earth, up into the sky where the fine line between earth and sky will reopen, and every legendary and mythical creature will return to earth with the sweet promise of peace and fellowship forever.
Karen said she sees the stories she tells in front of her. She can be outside in the yard weeding and watering and might imagine water showering down on a little mushroom house with a tiny fairy inside. She sees the fairy come out with a little broom yelling at her for watering her house.
“I still live in an imaginary world, which my children and grandchildren love,” explained Karen. “Mommy tell me a story!”
Though some have questioned the value of storytelling, Karen said she believes we all need to fly free in our minds, to see beauty, and to do things in our minds that perhaps we cannot accomplish otherwise.