The Faery Gates of Avalon (just re-issued by Skylight Press) is an invaluable guide to the meaning and power of the faery tradition as it appears in the main works of the medieval trouvére Chrétien de Troyes. Widely recognised as the first of the Grail romanciers, Chrétien wrote into his poetic tales a large amount of material dealing with the Realm of Faery. Sometimes, as in Erec and Enide, this material is concealed, whereas in other tales the faery elements are clearly visible. Chrétien falls into the long line of initiate-poets and authors. His narrative visions of the land of faery present a series of transformative initiatory scenarios that can be entered in waking dream-vision and drawn upon according to our level of skill and experience.
The Faery Gates of Avalon opens with a brief introduction to Chrétien, his life and associations with the faery tradition, and to how some of his tales are connected to Welsh redactions in the Mabinogion. Then follows a summary of the main scenes in four of Chrétien’s works: Erec and Enide, Lancelot and Guenevere, (or Knight of the Cart), Yvain (Knight of the Lion) and Le Conte du Graal. The latter given two chapters devoted to Perceval and Gawain, respectively, who are the two major hero figures in the tale. In addition to the clear and concise summaries, each of these chapters contains masterful insights into the main images and magical sequences of Chrétien’s faery world.
Gareth Knight’s book is no mere theoretical treatise, however, but a highly practical work. As Gareth says: “Chrétien’s romances can act not merely as works of reference on faery tradition, but as devices for tuning consciousness toward reception of such contacts ourselves.”
Additional practical help is given in the final two chapters. Chapter Seven deals with the key characters, locations and situations in Chrétien’s faery realm. Here we read of the significance of questing heroes, faery partners, helpers and guides, guardians and adversaries, and mystery centres and their custodians. Chapter Eight, entitled, “Reopening the Faery Gates”, presents a visionary sequence that can be followed in meditation, but which is open-ended in a way that allows each of us to create our own “continuation” just as Chrétien’s unfinished Conte du Graal sparked a number of literary continuations. No matter what level we are at, however, Gareth Knight’s Faery Gates of Avalon stands alone as the definitive guide to our journeys.