I would like to add the Rod (also called a staff or scepter), which symbolizes the knowledge that directs invisible spiritual forces applied to governance, to the Arthurian symbolism of the sword and scabbard (the Cup or Grail Cup). The Rod of Power and its use belongs to the Arthurian Magus, Merlin, who wields it by means of a trained mind in esoteric spiritual knowledge. In short, the Rod of Power represents “…Secret Wisdom employed to guide the affairs of nations” (Fortune, 1993, p. 43). Dion Fortune writes specifically about its use in her letters (seventeen to twenty-two) to other initiates and adepts during World War II contained in The Magical Battle of Britain (edited by Gareth Knight). “…and the Cup and the Sword and Sceptre make a wonderful symbol of balanced and functional force” (Fortune, 1993, p. 36).
This triune of symbols, or triple-rayed triangle referred to by Fortune, brings to mind the three-legged stool upon which balance is achieved. Fortune describes the thought form of the triple-rayed triangle as consisting of three definite rays (red for Sword, blue for Scabbard/Cup and purple for Rod/Sceptre) forming the three angles of a triangle through which the white light of Spirit poured. This symbol was built up on the Inner Plane and evoked in 1940 during WWII by the members of the Society of Inner Light trained in occult methods of meditation. The triple-rayed triangle not only represents spiritual forces expressing inner realities but mythical archetypal forces by which national identities are formed, fed and preserved.
For those of you versed in the Qabalistic correspondences, Fortune assigns the Sword and Red Ray of the destructive dynamic of Mars to the Sephirah Geburah on the Pillar of Severity and the Rod of Power and the Blue Ray of organizing civilizing forces of Jupiter to the Sephirah Chesed on the Pillar of Mercy. The Scabbard/Cup of the Purple Ray is assigned to the Christ Center of the Tree, the Sephirah Tiphareth, where forces are brought into equilibrium. The sword is the dynamic force that destroys evil and also the Sword of Chivalry and protection; the Scabbard/Cup is the receptacle of spiritual influences, the container of force and its potentiality; and the Rod of Power rules and directs Invisible Forces from Inner Planes of existence into the material world.
Similarly, Gareth Knight in his book on Arthurian Tradition, The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend, describes Excalibur as “…the power of the use of polarities according to inner principles; the scabbard is the proper containment and skilled knowledge of how and when to use these forces” (Knight, 1983, p 44). Therefore, the Rod of Power would be the applied use of these forces to governance. Like Fortune, I believe this third symbolic component is necessary to balance the other two symbols of spiritual forces when coming into manifestation. It also brings Merlin, a central and magically important Arthurian figure, squarely into the picture. In fact, it is shown that Merlin, who wields the Rod, does so to protect Arthur from impetuous use of the Sword due to his rash behavior and lack of understanding of its complementary polar opposite, the Scabbard.
Fortune further asserts that these symbols are only understood in their full significance in relationship with each other. In addition, they are fleshed out more fully when their fourfold significance attributed to the four planes of manifestation (Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah) on the Tree of Life are part of the meditation. These four planes are described respectively as the Archetypal, Creative, Formative and Manifested worlds and referred to by Fortune as the highest, mental, astral and physical planes. The following attributions for the three symbols are:
The Rod of Power: highest plane represents power of a person when the Will of God is known and alignment with it is completed; on the mental plane the Rod symbolizes the power from knowledge of the true nature of our existence; in the astral plane the Rod represents magical skill that controls and directs the spiritual forces; the physical plane represents the strength of human will.
The Sword and the Scabbard/Cup: highest plane represents positive and negative forces of the universe attributed to the Sephiroth of Chokmah and Binah; on the mental plane the Sword represents scientific, critical and discerning intellect and the Scabbard/Cup imaginative, intuitive and artistic aspects of the mind; on the astral plane they represent spiritual direction (occultist) and spiritual reception (psychic); on the physical plane, masculine and feminine potencies and a material reflection of Chokmah and Binah. (Remember we are not referring to gender here but masculine and feminine principles.)
Fortune summarizes the glyph of the Tree with regard to these three symbols as “…spiritual power, directed by occult knowledge, operating through the positive and negative forces of the universe upon all four planes of manifestation; we know that our work as a whole is concerned with the life of the nation; the glyph may therefore be taken as being a formula of regeneration for the race [human]” (Fortune, 1993, p 44). Merlin, the Ancient Wise Magus points his rod in the direction we must follow. Perhaps it is to form a “nucleus of stability” for the group souls of other nations similar to what Fortune and her fellow adepts formed during the Battle of Britain.
Fortune, Dion (1993) (Ed. Gareth Knight). The Magical Battle of Britain. Cheltenham, Great Britain: Skylight Press.
Knight, Gareth (1993). The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc.