On the subject of which, I have been reading a very interesting book: Corinne J. Saunders' The Forest of Medieval Romance: Avernus, Broceliande, Arden. Dr. Saunders is comfortable in English from Old to Middle to Modern, as well as several forms of medieval French and Latin. As such she has created a wonderful book on how the forest was portrayed in the period's literature, but with an introductory chapter on the sources for Medieval conceptions of the forest.
She argues there are three sources that get run together in the romantic literature: the legal status of the forest in the Germanic and post-Roman world; the Biblical desert or wilderness, which was a place for training for purity as well as for seeking God; and a neoplatonic thread that tended to think of the forest (silva) in the way that the ancient Greeks had thought of the wood (hyle).
We have talked about the basic conflict between the form, or order, that Christianity assigns to God (logos); against that, in Plato's Timeaus and in the neoplatonic tradition, which includes many Christian thinkers, is the underlying chaos that God is forming ("And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters."). In the romance, this plays out in the forest: the town, like the garden, is the place where men have helped to bring order to the primal chaos of nature. The forest is the home of outlaws, bandit knights, wild beasts, and demons:
There the monk encounters the demon, an encounter that it must be said is inevitable, for the demon is at home in the desert. (Saunders, 15)It is also the home of the faerie, whose name properly means Fates, who for the ancients are the true powers of this world. These are the things that, as Tex's source reminds us, the Saxons expected even God to have to answer: and the glory of Christ, over Woden, was in conquering.
Christ tells his followers to not resist, but in the Saxon version it is because he must undergo ‘the workings of fate’, the ultimate determinant of reality to the pagan Germanic peoples. When he is crucified, the cross is interpreted as a tree or gallows, which would have seemed similar to the hanging of Woden in the cosmic tree when he tried to learn the riddle of death and discovered the mysterious runes...
Once resurrected, the warrior Christ becomes greater than Woden having escaped his own fated death with his own power and ascending to the right hand of God; the old Gods have been replaced by the Saxon saviour.If it pleases the fates, I shall return to you on Easter. I bid you a good week.