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Folklore: Apple wand/baton

Anne Lister 19 May 15 - 04:31 PM
Anne Lister 20 May 15 - 08:07 AM
GUEST,maeve 20 May 15 - 08:49 AM
GUEST 20 May 15 - 08:52 AM
GUEST,maeve who must take time to restore her cook 20 May 15 - 08:56 AM
GUEST,Grishka 20 May 15 - 09:31 AM
GUEST,leeneia 20 May 15 - 09:41 AM
Anne Lister 20 May 15 - 04:38 PM
GUEST,# 20 May 15 - 06:16 PM
GUEST,leeneia 21 May 15 - 10:14 AM
GUEST 21 May 15 - 11:47 AM
GUEST,SteveT 21 May 15 - 05:02 PM
GUEST 21 May 15 - 07:21 PM
Anne Lister 22 May 15 - 05:49 AM
theleveller 22 May 15 - 06:38 AM
Anne Lister 22 May 15 - 07:07 PM
GUEST,SteveT 23 May 15 - 06:54 AM
GUEST, topsie 23 May 15 - 07:28 AM
GUEST,Don Day 24 May 15 - 05:38 PM
GUEST, topsie 25 May 15 - 03:42 AM
vectis 25 May 15 - 04:30 AM
Anne Lister 25 May 15 - 06:31 AM
GUEST,SteveT 25 May 15 - 07:04 AM
GUEST,SteveT 25 May 15 - 07:13 AM
GUEST,# 25 May 15 - 10:24 AM
Anne Lister 25 May 15 - 06:24 PM
Jim Brown 26 May 15 - 05:58 AM
Anne Lister 26 May 15 - 08:37 AM
FreddyHeadey 26 May 15 - 07:25 PM
Anne Lister 27 May 15 - 07:12 AM
GUEST,SteveT 28 May 15 - 05:58 AM
Anne Lister 28 May 15 - 06:48 AM
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Subject: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: Anne Lister
Date: 19 May 15 - 04:31 PM

I'm working on a 12th or 13th century Occitan romance about King Arthur. Sir Kay (here known as Queu) enters the scene holding a baton or wand which, it is said, he has fashioned from an apple bough as a sign of his authority.
At the moment I'm drawing a complete blank as to (a) where this particular symbol might have come from and (b) where else it might turn up. I know that in Irish and Welsh mythology the apple bough (often with silver bells) can be used as a way to enter the Other World or a way to sleep. I know that apples occur fairly regularly in myths and legends. But an apple baton or wand as a sign of authority? Given the provenance of this story the influences might be Arabic, French, Spanish, Welsh, Breton or Latin ...but on the other hand I have an open mind.
If anyone can shed any light on this I'd be very grateful!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: Anne Lister
Date: 20 May 15 - 08:07 AM

Hmmm .. and there I was thinking someone in Mudcat will know about absolutely everything!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST,maeve
Date: 20 May 15 - 08:49 AM

Hi, Anne.
"and there I was thinking someone in Mudcat will know about absolutely everything! " perhaps, but they aren't always on Mudcat when we're wanting to know something. :)

I'm sure an answer shall be forthcoming!
Maeve


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST
Date: 20 May 15 - 08:52 AM

Something to be mulling over (hehehe) while you wait: https://books.google.com/books?id=kRw_AQAAMAAJ&pg=PA406&lpg=PA406&dq=apple+bough+authority+folk&source=bl&ots=LtkuhPpynE&sig=0ve


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST,maeve who must take time to restore her cook
Date: 20 May 15 - 08:56 AM

Anne. this is likely all familiar material too, but interesting: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/ffcc/ffcc260.htm


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 20 May 15 - 09:31 AM

I think it is the iBaton, coming up next year, featuring a time machine.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 20 May 15 - 09:41 AM

I've never encountered an apple wand before, but an apple tree, which produces lovely flowers and bright-colored, flavorful fruit could have been seen as magical.

I have read that flowers with bright colors could be seen as magical - for example gentian, whose brilliant blue gave rise to the refrain, "Jennifer gentle and rosemarie." If so, why not fruit?

In an era where most people's food was 'daily bread' day after day, food (and flowers) with flavor and color stood out.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: Anne Lister
Date: 20 May 15 - 04:38 PM

Thank you for all contributions so far but as you all rightly surmised, I'd come across all of these before and none actually hit the spot. It is specifically an apple wand as a sign of a steward or seneschal's authority that I'm looking for, as we're not in the realms of the Otherworld or in deep myth at this point - and when the story takes us deeper into myth Kay isn't involved. And the wand has nothing to do with magic here, either - it is, simply, a sign of his authority in the way that a queen or king might hold a sceptre or an orb.
If anyone else knows more, please contribute!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST,#
Date: 20 May 15 - 06:16 PM

"it is said, he has fashioned from an apple bough as a sign of his authority."

I think a wand/baton/sceptre fashioned from any wood would have been a symbol of authority back then. What makes you see the apple bough specifically as being important to the story? Are there other indications given that point to the wand having to be made from apple wood?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 21 May 15 - 10:14 AM

Very sensible, #. Maybe the rhythm or rhyme simply called for more syllables, so 'apple' was selected.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST
Date: 21 May 15 - 11:47 AM

*sigh*
One thing about Mudcat that drives me nuts is the way in which a question, however straightforward, can be mis-read, misinterpreted or simply taken amiss.
The point behind my original question is that I am trying to establish a picture of what the audience for "my" text would have known or been familiar with. This text takes it for granted that we know Kay was a bit of a bully and unpleasant - although this wasn't always true of him in other stories, so that's one clue. And it describes him coming in with this baton or wand, when this isn't a description used elsewhere - or, if it is, I need to track down references to it. It is specific about the apple tree. No, it's not a rhyme to anything, the syllable count could easily have accommodated a change and there's no reason why it should be mentioned that I know of (the author doesn't describe what Kay is wearing, for example), so it seems to be an allusion to something the author expects the audience to know.
I'm really not sure why # thinks that "back then" any sort of wood would do - we're talking about a sophisticated court, not some kind of primitive culture, and so I would like to find out why the apple tree in particular gets a mention.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST,SteveT
Date: 21 May 15 - 05:02 PM

I posted your query on a forum which is sometimes visited by some who are quite knowledgeable about Taliesin/Maginogion myths etc in the hopes that they will see it and can throw some light on it but have had no replies yet. (They are perhaps more likely to be focussed on the boughs with silver/bronze bells as symbols of bardic authority but one never knows.).

Rather after the fashion of some of the answers above, i.e. more imagination than information (but hopefully more focussed on your actual question) I could imagine that it may have been a symbol that he was an emissary from Avalon (Isle of Apples). I do realise this does seem highly unlikely if the reference originates from an Occitan romance. In any case Avalon does not really seem to have any links with Arthur's court but at least it could rationalise the symbolism for a modern audience if that was your aim.

If I do get any response from the other forum I'll post it here - don't give up yet.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST
Date: 21 May 15 - 07:21 PM

I'm sorry I couldn't be helpful, Anne. There was a time when I would have gone to my shelves and opened the right book to the right page with good resources for just such a reasonable question. With those books and such gone I was hoping I could at least bounce your thread back into view. My apology. I'll resist the urge another time.

Maeve


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: Anne Lister
Date: 22 May 15 - 05:49 AM

Thanks, Steve T and Maeve - the "Guest" with a sigh above was of course me sans cookie.
I'm working on this romance for a PhD thesis, part of which will be to see what happens to an old story when told to a modern audience and part of which is attempting to come up with some answers to some of the problems found within it. I know that I will not get away with any fudging, which is why I'm looking for references and solid information rather than hunches - and I know that there are Mudcatters who are excellent at furnishing solid references when they can! So please, by all means contact any other experts who might be able to point me at other references and I apologise for sounding ungracious earlier!
In the context and in the absence of any other references to Avalon it seems unlikely that Kay's baton was a sign that he was from there. And yes, there are boughs with different bells on for bardic authority, but Kay is not a bard and there are no bells on his baton.
Thank you all for trying!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: theleveller
Date: 22 May 15 - 06:38 AM

For information of this sort I usually reach first for Robert Graves' The White Goddess and, sure enough, there's quite a bit of information about the wild apple tree. As a sign of authority, it may be that he's carrying it because it is one of the seven 'chieftan' trees (the felling of which carried the death penalty). It may be that it is associated with his name, Queu, as it stands for Q or Quert in the Ogham alphabet. Whether this would be common knowledge to the audience ta the time, I can't say.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: Anne Lister
Date: 22 May 15 - 07:07 PM

Thanks for this ...and I'm not sure either whether this would be known to the audience so I will ponder it further. But thank you for the contribution.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST,SteveT
Date: 23 May 15 - 06:54 AM

It seems likely that many people in Ireland (and possibly Wales) would have been aware of the status of the seven "chieftain trees" as these were protected under Brehon law (to which Welsh Law/Cyfraith Hywel bears many similarities) – but whether knowledge of Brehon law stretched as far as Occitan regions is another matter.

The link between knowledge of the chieftain trees and knowledge of the Ogham alphabet seems even more tenuous to me. Ogham script is, I believe, only commonly found in Ireland, West Wales, Scotland, Orkney, the Isle of Man and parts of Devon and Cornwall. I can't find any reference to the script being found outside these areas, not even Brittany with its similarities to Wales: are there any records of Ogham in Occitan regions? Also, of course, the specific link between Ogham and trees is, in itself, questionable, relying so much on Robert Graves' interpretation.

Could the romance have originated in Wales and travelled south, keeping an anachronistic reference? It's always seemed to me in much mythology (and folk song) that we keep references in long after they have lost their sense to the audience but, somehow, the audience accepts them because they know that there once was a meaning. In some ways it seems to enhance the magical nature of the story/song. (Just think of all those Elfin Knight/riddle songs.)

P.S. Have you tried contacting Caitlin Matthews who, I understand, is a storyteller (you probably know her) with an interest in Arthurian mythology


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST, topsie
Date: 23 May 15 - 07:28 AM

Would the members even of a 'sophisticated' court have recognised the wood the wand was made of as apple wood? Or would there have been something attached to it to indicate its origins?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST,Don Day
Date: 24 May 15 - 05:38 PM

Would the members even of a 'sophisticated' court have recognised the wood the wand was made of as apple wood? Or would there have been something attached to it to indicate its origins?


What? Like an apple or something?

What shit we get on this site!

Don


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST, topsie
Date: 25 May 15 - 03:42 AM

Well, I was kinda hoping for an answer from someone who knew more about it than me, rather than having my question dismissed as 'shit' by someone who obviously doesn't.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: vectis
Date: 25 May 15 - 04:30 AM

I presume you have tried Micca Anne? His pagan knowledge is extensive. Just a thought.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: Anne Lister
Date: 25 May 15 - 06:31 AM

A posting I put on a couple of days ago seems to have disappeared, which is annoying.
So, to sum up quickly (a) Topsie, it really doesn't matter whether or not the members of court would have recognised the wood. It was a symbol of his office. The author said it was made of apple. Just as we don't question what carat the mayoral gold chain is (or indeed whether it's really gold) it wouldn't have mattered - but the important question for me is to know whether there are other stories in which the apple wood baton is mentioned, because that will tell me where the idea might have come from.
(b) I doubt very much whether Robert Graves, ogham or the chieftain trees would have much to do with this either. The text was written at the court of Aragon by someone who came from the Languedoc. Yes, they would have known other stories and yes, there are other little oddities in the text to show this but I'm trying to track down where the little oddities occur as well to try and make sense of them.
(c) Caitlin and John Matthews are good friends of mine but unfortunately not academically qualified or well-regarded and I'm working on a PhD which means my references must be both to carry any weight. As it happens, neither have been able to assist on this in any case!
(d) It's not a pagan matter. I have consulted a friend who knows more about genuinely old, genuine traditions than anyone else I know of and she's also baffled. But it's not a pagan matter.

And just to clarify again - I'm trying to come to my own conclusions about a possible dating for the text I'm studying. It is about Arthur and contains a few things we take for granted about Arthurian stories, such as Arthur waiting for an adventure to happen before beginning a feast, and Kay being rude and bullying (and carrying an apple baton!). I'd like to find out when these things started to be "normal", as this text is possibly quite early. The author expects his listeners to know these things, because he is to some extent playing with the concepts. So, with all respect to those of you playing with my question, I really don't want guesswork, however educated the guesswork - I'm looking for solid references that I can follow up and use.

But thanks for trying - and Guest Don, what's with the rudeness?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST,SteveT
Date: 25 May 15 - 07:04 AM

"What? Like an apple or something?" (Don Day)
"In the Irish Druid tradition, the Silver Bough is cut from a magical Apple tree, where silver apple shaped bells played a mystical tune, which could lull people into a trance state." (Tree Lore: Apple; by Susa Morgan Black) So, yes, rather like an apple but made of silver. However Anne Lister has already dismissed the apple bough with silver bells as not applicable to her question (see above)so I'll move on.

Some replies to my posting your question elsewhere, Anne, have produced the following responses. They don't give any specific references but might be a starting point if you think any are relevant.

"I'm not even sure if northern European traditions would even have any relevance to this. In those beliefs, the apple denotes long life, eternal youth, the ancestors, the magical crafts and the gods of the underworld. It's true that after the Anglo-Saxons broke through Grim's Dyke and took the South-West of Britain, part of the exodus fetched up in Galicia, establishing Britonia, as the Albiones tribe. Did their belief system survive their absorption into the general population?"

Also, (reproduced in full):
   "I suppose it depends what we mean by authority. Historically, I am not aware of any symbolism that would lend itself to this interpretation - by the time Christianity becomes the major focus of folklore, the apple tree has already taken on other connotations.
   The earliest known example I can think of - and my knowledge is by no means exhaustive! - is the apple-branch carried in The Voyage of Bran: "A branch of the apple tree from Emain / I bring, like those one knows." Why did the maiden carry this magical apple branch to the court of Bran? One thing to note is that she takes the branch with her when she leaves: "nor was there strength in Bran's hand to hold the branch." So in this case the branch is not used specifically to gain passage to the Other World (early C20th scholars leaned a little too heavily on potential parallels between Classical and Celtic myths in my opinion), as Bran sets sail without it. [*See my comment below]
   It seems to me that there are two symbols here: the baton or wand itself, and the wood from which it is made. The Mabinogi has plenty of examples of wands or batons used as symbols of authority, especially in the third and fourth branches."

*I believe though that this was yet another example of an apple branch with silver bells which was used to entrance Bran so that he followed her on a voyage to the Otherworld.

"The apple as a symbol of authority does not fit with any of my usual associations, but apart from those you have mentioned you might consider as a long shot that the father of Modron (< the Brythonic goddess Matrona) was Afallach ('apple place'). Matrona was the mother of Maponos, so the source (authority?) of these deities could be said to be the place of apples. But how that would carry through into a 12 th c. Occitan romance is unclear!"

Sorry Anne - your question seems to have remained unanswered!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST,SteveT
Date: 25 May 15 - 07:13 AM

Sorry - I was writing the message above when your post was posted so didn't see your latest reply. I did realise my responses above didn't provide you with the information you needed (and never thought I'd be able to get references suitable for your needs but thought someone might throw up a useful lead to follow) but thought I'd post them here out of respect for those who'd tried to provide information and in case anyone else here had an interest.

Good luck - I'll go away now!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST,#
Date: 25 May 15 - 10:24 AM

"Good luck - I'll go away now!"

Ditto.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: Anne Lister
Date: 25 May 15 - 06:24 PM

Thank you anyway, Steve T ...I, too, had hoped for some useful leads. I'll check the Mabinogion (my supervisor, Sioned Davies, has published the most recent translation so she's something of an expert on it) for wands in general and also consult Dr Juliette Wood who is part of the same department and knows a lot about all manner of folklore.
One of the difficulties on this thread is the ability people have to try to see layers of meaning ...I'm baffled about how a question about Kay holding a wand as symbol of his authority can become a deep question of the source for deities, for example. This isn't meant to be an ungrateful dig or disrespectful comment, but it's generally best, in my experience, to first look at the obvious meaning of a question or a sentence.
Thanks to all who have tried. If I find out anything notable I'll be sure to let you all know!


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: Jim Brown
Date: 26 May 15 - 05:58 AM

Maybe this is too much to the other extreme from deep questions about deities, but is it possible that the apple wood is not symbolic in itself here but is simply mentioned because it was a good material for making such an object (plenty of straight, slender branches and a hard, compact wood suitable for fine carving). The point might then be that Kay had chosen appropriate material for his staff and carved it himself, perhaps showing how proud he was of his office. Definitely not a case of "back then any wood would do": some woods wouldn't have done so well, but as far as I know, apple is one that would have been good.

I've come across a reference in an old book on costume history to apple-wood as the material for 11th-century French ladies' walking sticks (https://archive.org/details/cu31924072688215, p. 33), but I've no idea how reliable this is or what the original source is.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: Anne Lister
Date: 26 May 15 - 08:37 AM

Thanks for that thought, Jim - I suppose it could be. It's just that the text is specific about the wood, which is unusual (there are numerous lances, for example, in the story but we never hear what wood they're made of). But it's certainly a possibility.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: FreddyHeadey
Date: 26 May 15 - 07:25 PM

Sorry, I don't have any knowledge of this sort of thing either.

I hope you'll post any suggestions you get from your other contacts.

Is it the original Occitanian you're working on or a translation(s)?
Do all translators come up with the same phrase?


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: Anne Lister
Date: 27 May 15 - 07:12 AM

It's the original medieval Occitan, and there's a French translation as well, but it's very clear.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: GUEST,SteveT
Date: 28 May 15 - 05:58 AM

Back again!   
A recent response came to my posting of your question elsewhere, which tries to justify linking the apple wand with bardic authority and bardic authority with the role of seneschal.   Although exactly not what you were asking for, and also stretching credibility a bit, I'll pass it on.

    "The Filidh and Ollamh of Ireland were members of a King's court and were employed not only as poets, historians but as advisors in the pre-feudal society. When these legends became feudal tales the role of seneschal took over the functions of the filidh and ollamh.
    The early Welsh histories of Cai given him a number of supernatural links, including going to Anglesey to destroy the monstrous Palug's cat. This could suggest that the early stories of the non-feudal Cai could have him in a more complex Welsh Bardic role. It is only in the later chivalric romances that he becomes simplified into King Arthur's seneschal & foster brother."

I asked for any references about the Palug's cat episode and translation of Fili into seneschals and was referred to the Black Book of Camarthen for the former and an internet site for the latter. (http://www.libraryireland.com/Brehon-Laws/Contents.php) This cited The Brehon Laws by Laurence Ginnell, 1894, claiming
    "Both ollamhs and brehons might as well be called bards on the ground that both were obliged to take a degree in poetry. A loose application tends to involve those terms in the confusion from which we have just taken the trouble to extricate them. Ollamh practically meant a doctor, professor, or teacher of any branch of the Filidecht taught in the higher schools. It meant a possessor of knowledge whose profession it was to impart that knowledge. The right to the distinction was acquired by a course of study extending over twelve years' "hard work," followed by a public examination; and the distinction was formally conferred by the king or chief of the district; after which the ollamh ranked next to the king or chief in the order of precedence, acquired a number of valuable privileges, was respected by the community, and highly favoured by the law."

Elsewhere it suggests that in the original Senchus Mor "though now arranged prose-like on the paper, portions of the text are in regular verse; not merely in metre like blank verse, but in rhyme" – suggesting that bardic skills and perhaps bards were involved in the composition.

I appreciate (a)none of this would stand up in an academic dissertation as evidence and (b)it's trying to relate the apple wand to bardic authority which is what you are trying to avoid, but it might give you another avenue to explore yourself and, again, even if of no use to you, it might be of interest to others who read the thread


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Subject: RE: Folklore: Apple wand/baton
From: Anne Lister
Date: 28 May 15 - 06:48 AM

I'm not necessarily trying to avoid linking the apple branch to bardic authority, but I won't be able to make a link in this text as there are no references within it to any bards at all and Kay is most definitely not seen as anything but a boorish seneschal (although I know in early stories there was a lot more to his character). And what I need is other references in other stories or even poems to Kay holding the apple baton. I know all about the Cath Palug, but again it's not relevant here.
Thanks again, Steve - it's clear that the members of that forum are knocking themselves out to find a link, however tenuous! Sadly, however creative and imaginative, it's not what I'm looking for!


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