Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The Sword

I'm reading a book about signs and symbols. This is an are which fascinates me. For me it's linked to the development of communication and written language. How did we develop writing systems which were pictographic, or a picture of say a cow... to the written letters forming the word cow! Interestingly the letter 'a' which derives from the Hebrew aleph for bull doesn't feature in the word cow or bull!

Anyway- I digress... My eye alighted rather on the article in the book regarding swords! Swords which stand for power and virilty with their phallic form. He who holds the sword upright and threatens is to be feared! Perhaps I'm over-egging the virile element of a sword. After all, I'm not quite sure what other form a sword could take, other than phallic! There are some Bronoze Age Celtic swords which were 'leaf' shaped, but all in all it's a big metal stick with a pointy end :-)

Interestingly the sword is used when honouring Knights to bestow honour and authority but the book also says the sword can be seen as a symbol of purification. I wonder whether warriors of old thought of their swords as a purifier-cleaving the enemy in two to 'purify' them! Maybe. Maybe not....

The sword is often a violent symbol of death and power.

Japanese swordsmen do have, however, a slightly different take on this called Satsu Jin Ken / Katsu Jin Ken, or life-taking sword / life-giving sword. When the sword is applied without discipline it is destructive or Satsu Jin Ken but with experience and ability the master of the sword can resolve matters without the drawing of the sword, or by the re-sheathing of the sword to show an intention of peace. This is Katsu Jin Ken. Iaido is in fact a non-combatative mental discipline as much as it a physical one. Iaido is the art of drawing the sword but futhermore can be seen as "the way of mental presence and immediate reaction"(ref: wikipedia), thus we see the handling of the sword in a thoroughly peaceful way for the personal development of the practitioner.

Life taking and life giving sword.

1 comment:

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