Knighting Ceremony – What it Is – What it Was – What Should it Be?

Even back in the late 90’s/early 00’s, the Jedi Community wanted some sort of formal Knighting Ceremony.  Back then, of course, we were exclusively online and that was more difficult.  Presently, various communities have come up with their own version of the Knighting Ceremony, I had the opportunity to witness the Federations live this summer at the 2016 Gathering in Illinois, and I have seen a couple others through videos posted online.  Here is the basic gist from what I recall from the Gathering.

The Knighting Ceremony was scheduled in the weekend agenda, and took place directly after the group photo, so all were in attendance, and in “formal attire” (basically here, formal attire is whatever you want, but ranged from Karate Gi’s with added embellishments, to costumes themed after the standard Jedi robes of fiction, to glittery dresses).  A speech was given by the person presiding, the individual that nominated/sponsored the knights-to-be were given a chance to speak for them.  There was an exchanging of symbolic items, and each individual was knighted, and then presented to the group as a knight.  Throughout the whole ordeal, all speeches were read off paper, and there were some group responses that were posted in the “Yearbook” (a book that each attendee received when the arrived, complete with names and photos of everyone that was attending, even those that dropped out of attending…photos were sometimes taken from peoples Facebook pages without their knowledge…other photos included in the yearbook were from LAST years gathering) that the entire crowd gathered was supposed to say in response to prompts, declaring their approval of the appointment of knighthood.  The videos I saw online were fairly similar.

With that in mind, I want to give you an excerpt from The Jedi Path by Daniel Wallace:

The Knighting ceremony is the ceremony in which a Jedi Padawan or apprentice is made into a full Jedi Knight. An ancient ritual, it is presided over by members of the High Council or of the other three Councils and led by the Grand Master. This ceremony could be repeated for a Knight who achieved the rank of Master.

The Knighting ceremony is an ancient ritual and each Padawan are responsible for preparing themselves and reviewing their role in the ancient rite. Only the High Council can promote an apprentice to the rank of Knight; though sometimes the student’s master is also permitted to knight their own students. After passing the Jedi Trials, the student is assigned a date that the ceremony is set to take place on. The day before the ceremony the Padawan is required to meditate within the Preparation chamber. While typically alone, sometimes several Padawans meet there at once; though socializing was frowned upon as each apprentice was supposed to be searching for their future path.

The following day, the Padawan is summoned to the Hall of Knighthood. Entering into the darkened chamber, the Padawan would kneel in the center of the room as the Masters present ignited their lightsabers in a ring around the student. Led by the Grand Master of the Order, the other Masters are typically those who sat on the High Council and other prominent Jedi who helped in the apprentice’s journey. If the High Council was unavailable, members of the other three Jedi Councils could step in to complete the ring. Reciting the ancient passages used in the traditional ceremony, the Grand Master will lower their lightsaber to just above each of the Padawan’s shoulders and then sever the braid that hung behind the ear of the newly appointed Knight. Then Grand Master hands the lightsaber to the Padawan, and the new Jedi Knight is then able to collect the braid and depart the chamber in silence, the ritual completed.

While the ceremony is the norm, sometimes expedience overrode tradition. During times of war or on extended journey missions, Masters would knight their own students if they could not return to the Temple or field promotions were necessitated by another ranking military personnel’s death.

In addition to raising a Padawan to Knighthood, the Council also brings Knights to the Hall to grant them the rank of Master. To achieve this rank, a Knight could opt to take a modified version of the Trials, or successfully train a Padawan to Knighthood themselves.

At each formal ceremony, the Grand Master recites the same ancient ritual words when knighting each Padawan. The formal opening of the ceremony welcome the participating Masters, and focuses their minds on why they are there.

“We are all Jedi. The Force speaks through us. Through our actions, the Force proclaims itself and what is real. Today we are here to acknowledge what the Force has proclaimed.”

With that said, the Grand Master will call the Padawan by name and bring his lightsaber down above each of the kneeling student’s shoulders.

“By the right of the Council, by the will of the Force, I dub thee Jedi, Knight of the Order”

Then hand one the lightsabers to its owners and severed their braid. With the ceremony complete, the Knights will take up their lightsaber and the severed braid and exit the chamber in silence, signaling the end of the ritual.

A few things that stand out to me:

  • While I believe the wording was used for the Gathering ceremony, as I mentioned, they were read off of paper.  If words are to be said at a Knighting Ceremony, whether by the individual presiding or by the one being knighted, they should be memorized.  To read from paper shows a lack of importance and gravity, it should be the responsibility of all involved to do their part, and if they cannot hold themselves responsible, perhaps they should not be involved.
  • The text indicates a day for personal reflection, being done solitary the preference.  At the Gathering, the day before was the day the student had their trials and there was no personal time for reflection.  Perhaps it can be blamed on the desire to do these at Gatherings because when else are several Jedi together, but the whole thing seems very rushed.
  • The Knighting Ceremony is not a public event.  Further support for this is in the Clone Wars Cartoons when Anakin is knighted.  The council was present, perhaps the Padawan’s master, and the Padawan themselves.  Being knighted should not be a public spectacle, it is a solemn event.  It lends the tendency to crave the spectacle itself, rather than the personal achievement  of reaching that point.  The end goal should not be the focus, the process should be (like the Zen Master fable from last month).
  • The call and response format is a big problem.  Even if made a private affair, there may not be individuals that agree with a students appointment to knighthood, they should not be scripted to say they agree.  If they do not want to participate in the ceremony, that should be their option, and if they want to, they should not be singled out in their non-response.




How Long Does it Take to Become a Knight?

Time to Learn

     A young but earnest Zen student approached his teacher, and asked the Zen Master:
“If I work very hard and diligent how long will it take for me to find Zen?”
The Zen Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years.”
The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?”
Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.”
“But, if I really, really work at it.  How long then?” asked the student.
“Thirty years,” replied the Master.
“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student.  “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer.  Why do you say that?”
Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

I wish I could give a source for this story.  I first read it in a book many years ago, when I first began training as a Jedi, but I have seen it many places, and in many variations.  People have commonly applied it to Martial Arts as well, asking, “How long until I earn my black belt?”  Whatever the discipline, whatever the goal, the message is the same.

Too often, students on the Jedi Path fall prey to this mindset.  They want so much to be the knights they know of fiction, that they are more focused on the title than actually being what that title represents.  Some people attempt to put time limits on the time a student must be a student, in order to control this.  One person I knew applied decades; ten years as a student before becoming a knight, ten years as a knight before becoming a master.  Others have begun to apply hours, but these measurements of time only add to the problem.

People now-a-days want instant gratification.  Six months and you are a knight.  Train two Padawans in the next year and you are a Master.  Really?

Your basic college education takes four years, even an associates degree is two.  The Jedi are supposed to be knowledgeable and well trained, at the very LEAST I would say the time it takes to become a Jedi Knight should equal a Masters degree, let alone be shorter than an associates.  If you go back to the fiction, students spent on average 10-13 years training in just basic Jedi skills before even being considered for a Padawan; and the Temple had this training down to a science.

Regardless of what time you apply to it though, now the student has a time frame to work against, and whether you stress that these limits are a minimum or not…they will look to that time limit for their progression, not to their training.  And, if they are not given their desired title after that time limit, they will focus on the why for the wrong reason.

Within the fiction, from what we know, there is a set amount of time that most students study in a class format at the Temple, however once they are taken as a Padawan, it seems the only measure, is when the master feels they are ready.  Obi-Wan Kenobi was knighted during the events of Episode I, at the age of 25.  Anakin Skywalker was knighted sometime between Episode II-III, somewhere between the ages of 20-23.  If we had a list of all the Jedi Knights that existed, I am sure we would find a great range of ages in which they were knighted.

The honor of being a Jedi Knight is not something that can be measured by any amount of time, but in what a student has learned and achieved.  Give the student goals in study and practice rather than giving them arbitrary dates that may or may not be enough.  When the student fully embraces and lives the path, then they are a Jedi Knight.