Chivalry and The Study of Nobility

Dear Friends,

Si Valetis, Valeo

This document has been prepared from an accumulation of letters we have received from students and non-students on the subject of Chivalry throughout the years.

What exactly is Chivalry?       

Chivalry is a method of self-regulation and social conduct that originated with the warrior class of medieval Europe, primarily the class of skilled soldiers who took part in the Crusades. Those who were adept in battle were awarded with Knighthood, an honor that was primarily granted by other Knights. As the Knighthood became more and more popular both Kings and Church began to play a part in creating Knights.

Why is discipline a necessary component of Chivalry?

Discipline always has been and always will be a huge part in the life of the soldier because self-control is so important in battle. For those that practice the Art of Soldiering, the necessity for having control body, mind, and oral communication becomes very apparent once they are tested in the battlefield. The idea of diplomacy, tact and social skills developed because Knights were only charged with doing battle with other Knights. Civilians were not generally engaged in battle. In fact, treating enemies and friends fairly became a sign of good breeding and nobility.

Why was Chivalry it so popular?

It was a tremendous honor to be a Knight because it meant that one was either born into nobility, had been recognized for their skill in battle or both, as well as possessing the capacity for protecting the oppressed. They became symbols for all that is powerful, mighty and merciful. Of course, much of those ideals have been romanticized throughout the ages. So much so in fact, that the principles of Chivalry (honor and self-discipline) have endured until the present day, even after the age of Knighthood disappeared into the sands of time. Today a Knighting represents a rank or status that has taken on the characteristic of Nobility – nobility that one could achieve simply by being chivalrous… to possess the qualities of a Knight.

Why is Chivalry so popular today?

For the same reason it was popular back in the days of the Crusades: Because it is an honorable and as a noble way of life which is worthy of praise. In modern times Knights see Chivalry and its principles as a foundation upon which to build up civilization. This is even more important today, in some ways, than it was back then. We have lost our way as a culture. We are a secular society which has lost faith and religious observance in general, and we have paid (and continue to pay) the price for this loss. Chivalry is something for the few, the dedicated and the honorable. It should be treated as an extinct species, and we must do our share of preserving this tradition, which plays such a large roll in the development of Thelema.

Why is Chivalry important today?

Chivalry transcends time. Its principles, codes of conduct and traditions provide men and women with a time-tested spiritual method for living honorable and disciplined lives in a dishonorable and undisciplined world. It poises Mercy and Severity by instilling in us a sense of justice and a desire for personal growth. The question of the need for Chivalry today can be answered simply by watching the world’s current events.

What does it mean to be a modern Knight?

Many are Knights in name only, and their activities as Knights are limited to attending balls and other gala events so that they can parade around in regalia at best. At worst, the honor of Knighthood has been wasted as some meaningless title in a fraternities for which the only requirement is paying dues. The Order of Thelemic Knights is a “working Order,” meaning that our Knights are expected to participate in charity work, learn, publish, conduct workshops on behalf of the Order and develop into the sort of person that brings honor to himself, his God and our way of life.

What is Chivalric Order?

In the beginning, Knights were self-governing, and Knighthood was conveyed one Knight to an individual who had proved himself in battle. Soon enough, the glory of being knighted spread throughout Europe and it was at that time that both King and Church realized the potential in Chivalry as a mark of honor and seized upon the opportunity to control the dissemination of these awards. This is when the Chivalric Order was born. The head of the Order (usually referred to as the “Grand Master”) asserted authority over the dispensation of honors, which meant that individual Knights could no longer grant titles without the blessings of the Order, which received its authority from a Charter called the “fons honorum.”[1]

There are two types of Orders: Religious and Secular.

A religious Chivalric Order is an organization of Knights, usually named after some saint (The Order of Saint George) or place (the Knights of Malta). Both still exist.

The Order of Thelemic Knights is a religious Order, the first to accept the Law of Thelema. It receives its charter, or fons honorum from Bishop Tau Apollonius from the Thelemic Gnostic Church of Alexandria.

The Secular Chivalric Orders receive their charter (fons honorum) from a government figure. The Queen of England, for example, makes Knights. Other Royals may make Knights provided that he is the Head and Chief of Royal Arms.

An excellent way to tell if an organization is really a Chivalric Order is the always reliable “duck test.” Does the organization really conduct itself like a Chivalric Order rather than a club? Does the organization carry on with the traditions and practices of Chivalric Orders? Do they receive Knights in the usual manner? Do they adhere to uniform usage and other dress codes? Do they register Arms for their members and train its prospects (Squires) and Knights in the art of Chivalry? And here is the most important: Does the organization expect its Knights to conduct their lives by putting those teachings into practice?

Also, and this really should go without saying, you may question the legitimacy of any “Chivalric Order” that is in the business of selling membership,[2] rank or insignia. Nor would a genuine Chivalric Order permit a “mail-order Knight” to wear the purchased decorations at any of its functions.

Is it true that Americans can’t become Knights?

No law forbids a citizen of the USA from holding a royal or noble title.

Is it true that women cannot be Knights?

During the Crusades women were never admitted. However, as early as the 1600, women began finding acceptance in Orders of Knighthood for the reason that they had become powerful nobles in their own right. Some Orders of Chivalry accept women as Knights, but they are far and few in between – and even when they are, the sword is not used in the ceremony as a way of indicating that women were not warriors.

The Order of Thelemic Knights makes no difference between men in women in this respect. When we recognize a woman girt with the sword she is honored with the same ceremony as the males in our organization.

What do you call a Knight?

Traditionally, Knights are addressed as “Sir” and then the first name, or “Chevalier” and then the first OR last name. The latter is a title designated to those who were mounted Knights. There are cases where post nominal usage is common, such as “Ph. D” to indicate scholastic degrees, or rank within the Order itself. There are so many of them that listing and explaining them all accurately is nearly impossible and outside of the scope of this work

The Order of Thelemic Knights uses the following convention: If the Knight be male: “Don,” and then the last name (never the first). If the Knight be female: “Dona”[3] and then the last name. But the title of the position is Knight regardless of gender.

How does one become a Thelemic Knight?

Our fons honorus comes from the Patriarch of The Gnostic Thelemic Church of Alexandria. Both the Church from which the Order receives its Charter AND the Order proudly proclaim Thelema as their chosen way of life. Therefore, the first criterion is that one be a Thelemite.[4]

Membership in the Order of Thelemic Knights is by invitation only. One of our members must invite you – secretly. He or she then takes responsibility for your actions within the Order, so as one might imagine invitations are not taken lightly.

One starts out a Squire, agreeing to accomplish the curriculum within a reasonable amount of time, and pledges to conduct themselves according to the 11 Cardinal Virtues of Thelemic Knighthood. They are assigned a Knight to guide them should they have any concerns or issues with their work. Their assigned Knight may also call upon the Squire to assist him or her with his charity work. If the Squire has satisfactorily accomplished his or her curriculum, and his or her assigned Knight recommends them for the Knighthood, then an initiation is scheduled for the event.

A word of warning:  One is better off approaching one of the independent secular or Religious Orders of Chivalry if they imagine that our Work is facile. We take this business very seriously, and more actually fail than succeed

I have heard that people can buy a Knighthood on the web

As silly as this seems, it is true. You can. There are many sites on the web who are in the business of selling nicely printed artwork that you, the consumer, can use to decorate your walls. This artwork is suitable for framing, but not suitable for claims to Knighthood.

There seems to be a lot of infighting amongst Chivalric Orders on the web. Why?

Any meaningful enterprise is doomed to invite hatred and envy. The web is home for some of the most vile, untrue, unwarranted and unsolicited criticism against fraternal organizations, religion and any form of religious expression. Thelema is no exception.

By and large, the greatest criticism comes from members of British Orders that are appalled by the idea that there are other Orders in every way as valid as their own.

But surely you can’t deny that there are phonies in Chivalry!

Of course not. We have already spoken of the titles one can buy from the “certificate mills.” There are several services on the web where a person can, for a price, purchase titles no one will recognize. Most of the people that buy these titles don’t care that they aren’t recognized, because what they are really looking for is another certificate to hang on the wall or dress up wearing another jewel that they haven’t really earned so that they can masquerade as royalty.

We receive letters and emails from “collectors” who wish to receive titles. They are easy to spot, and they want it without having earned it. They even offer cash, and think they are special enough to receive the title based on their other accomplishments and certificates they purchased elsewhere. These people are the antitheses of Knights.

Do modern Knights have a uniform?

During the crusades Knights wore battle uniforms, usually in the form of armor and chain mail covered by a mantle. About the only thing that survives today is the mantle, and this is usually worn over evening dresses during events. Knights also wear the regalia of their grade or station. These include medallions, silver or gold stars, and a ribbon called a baldric.

Members of The Order of Thelemic Knights of the Knight degree have earned the right to wear our mantle. Members of the Peerage wear an Order ring.

Do Knights have Coat of Arms?

Members of the Knight degree in the Order of Thelemic Knights have earned the right to register arms with the Order. In fact, embellishments may be awarded to Knights and Peers at the pleasure of the grand Master for excellence in some area deemed important.

I hear my family has a Coat of Arms. Can I use that in OTK?

No. There is no such a thing as a “family Coat of Arms.” A Coat of Arms is always issued to individuals - not families. Furthermore, having the same last name as someone with Arms does not mean they have the right take that person's Arms. There are, however, many businesses that will gladly sell you some.

How does one get an authentic Coat of Arms?

Traditionally if you are the first-born son of a father who owns Arms then you will likely inherit those. If you aren’t the first-born son, you are out of luck. No, you can’t inherit Arms through a female line. If you do not qualify you may ask for a Grant of Arms.

Great Britain and Ireland regularly issue Arms to citizens. To qualify one must have a University degree. In addition, Great Britain and Ireland will distribute Arms to individuals who can prove that they are descendants from a citizen of one of these countries. Usually this process can be initiated by making a visit to the appropriate consulate.

The Order of Thelemic Knights registers its members Code of Arms in perpetuity. But the honor must be earned, and this honor is only given to members of the Knight degree. On occasion, and at the pleasure of the Grand Master, the Order of Thelemic Knights may recognize some individual who is not a member for some admirable endeavor and will offer them the opportunity to register Arms.

[1]              Quite literally: “Source of Honor.”

[2]              But some DO offer a legitimate method for registering and recording Arms.

[3]              These titles imply nobility, administrative capacity, or wisdom. In Europe these terms meant “Lord” or “Master” and “Lady” or “Mistress” respectively.

[4]              Not so for the Thelemic Church of Alexandria, which welcomes people of all faiths to explore Thelema.