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Annex 1: The Holy Grail

Annex 1: The Holy GrailThe word “Grail” comes from the Latin “Gradalis” that means cup, vase, chalice, … These familiar objects have also old mythological meanings; they are the symbols of Mother Earth that brings life and plentiful. The Celt cup of life, for instance, is the “Dagda Pot” brought to us by Tuatha De Danaan who represents the “Little People”. Many Celtic heroes have been linked to magic pots of one sort or the other. Even Asterix, the Gaelic hero of a French comic strip owns his strength and power from the content of a magic pot. In the Welsh tradition, King Arthur even went to hell to salvage one. The Christian tradition mentions at least two sacred containers: the Eucharist chalice and, strange enough, the Virgin Mary from whom Jesus was born is described as a holy spiritual vase.

It is probable that Chrétien de Troyes used the “sacred pot” in his Arthurian story because he was aware of the Celtic myths. It is, of course, possible that there was already an oral tradition about the Grail and that he only put the story in writing. The most probable explanation, however, is that Chrétien de Troyes rewrote in Judeo-Christian terms the old legends of sacred containers. The only other explanation would be that the Holy Grail was his genial invention. What is certain is that the Grail, together with King Arthur, still stimulates our imagination eight centuries after Chrétien wrote his story. This proves that it has a magical power.

The Arthurian Grail was first described by Chrétien de Troyes around 1190 in his book “The Roman de Perceval ou le Conte du Graal”. In that story the chalice is not linked to Jesus’ blood. This association will be introduced later on (around 1201) by Robert de Boron. Here the Grail is described as the “Chalice of the Last Supper” in which Joseph of Arimathea collected Jesus’ blood after the crucifixion.

Later on still, the anonymous author of the “Grand Saint Graal” affirmed that the Holy Grail was a book written by Jesus Christ himself, and that it can only be read by his close disciples. If a non-authorised person would become aware of its content, a description of the real Christian faith reserved for the initiates, there would be some terrible disasters such as torrential rain, high wind, earthquakes and even the water would change colour. This “Grand Saint Graal” is linked to the Jewish and Moslem traditions and the Grail is brought to Britain in a container similar to the “Ark of the Covenant”.

The German poet Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote his “Parzival” around 1210; here the Grail is a precious stone called “Lapis Exillis” or “Stone Fallen from the Sky”. The author describes it as an emerald fallen from Lucifer’s forehead and brought to earth by some angels.

King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table have been very popular since the twelfth century and his adventures are more or less as famous as the biblical stories.

There are many old stories about he Holy Grail. We will just mention a few of them:

– The Genoan crusaders under the order of Baldwyn I, King of Jerusalem, took Cesarea and found, beside a lot of gold, a vase cut in an emerald and which, according to the tradition, contained the blood of Christ. The vase has been transferred to Genoa where it was exposed and adored since 1102. It was then stolen by the French who found that the vase was in fact in plain glass. The only mention about it is in the Gospel of Nicodemus that has not been recognised by the church.

– The Judeo-Christian tradition recalls us that the adepts of the primitive religions had a powerful sacred drink that was supposed to contain the vital force of God. Those who drank it had euphoric visions and extra strength. This tradition existed in India, Greece, the Celtic countries, Rome, … Zoroastre had also his magic drink called Haoma.

– There is an astrological version of the Holy Grail. In Perceval, a Pagan called Flagetanis is supposed to have been able to predict the disappearance and reappearance of the stars. He maintained that he saw a strange object in the constellations called “The Holy Grail”. It had been brought up there by angels, and now it was in the custody of pure Christians.

– The Holy Grail has been thought to be a stone that fell front the front of Lucifer. A reasonable explanation would say that it was in fact a meteorite that had been cut as an emerald and treated as a sacred object.

The Holy Grail tradition appeared again in the middle age. The story of Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table is probably the best known. The Cathars are thought to have hidden the Grail in Montsegur and to have saved it before surrendering to the invading soldiers. Before the surrender four Parfaits (Amiel Aicard, Hugo, Poitevin and a fourth unknown) escaped and hid themselves in a secret place somewhere with the Cathar treasure. Was it the Holy Grail, a treasure, precious documents, or what else? Does it exist an object called Holy Grail? The answer is probably no. However that does not mean that the theoretical possibility of a spiritual way to go in the direction of the real knowledge of one’s own mystery does not exist. However this Initiation requires a previous purification. And, as a result, the Holy Grail as a virtual object exists. It has the capability to transpose the spiritual energies to make them accessible to a well prepare adept. It also makes possible the entrance of light in the conscience of this special person, who will live that way his spiritual baptism. All this can seem unbelievable and it probably is, but it is a fact that four Parfaits escaped from Montsegur to hide the Cathar’s treasure that was, possibly, the Holy Grail or, at least, the description of what it is. What happened of this treasure is unknown. However we can assume with a certain degree of certainty that it has been hidden on the Buggarach mountain, or in the old Wisigoth citadel of Raddae now called Rennes-le-Chateau. (4)

The Holy Grail is supposed to be an object linked to Jesus Christ, his crucifixion, and death. Most people believe that it is the recipient that collected His blood when he was hit with a spear by a Roman soldier while on the cross. Of course there is no real proof that it really existed, and we have to content ourselves with the legends that arrived to us. The oldest ones have been transmitted orally from generation to generation. There are many of them, and they do not always agree between themselves, even if the claimed origin was the same. The earliest known written book on the subject is “Perceval ou le Roman du Graal” by Chrétien de Troyes who wrote it around 1182. He only wrote part of the story as he died in the middle of the writing. Some other authors finished the book in his place and in his style. The better known are:

– The edition of “Parsifal the Welsh” published in 6 volumes between 1866 and 1871 on the base of original manuscripts by Charles Potvin in Mons. This edition contains the work of Chrétien de Troyes, the first continuation thought to be written by a certain Wauchier, the continuation of Manessier, and a part of that of Gerbert de Montreuil.

– The edition William Roach named “The continuation of the Old French Perceval”, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 2 volumes, 1949-1950.

– The edition Mary Williams of “La continuation de Perceval” by Gerbert de Montreuil, Paris, 2 volumes, 1922-1925. (25)

The legend, as told by Chrétien de Troyes and those who finished the story, reveals the adventures of the Welsh Knight called Parsifal. First he is travelling all over the country in the defence of the weaker ones, among them the women, and, in general, helping everybody needing a hand. These adventures lead him to different castles. In one of them he saw the Holy Grail carried by a beautiful young woman followed by another carrying the Holy Spear. Drops of blood were falling from the tip of the spear. A man-servant carrying a bare broken sword came after the two beautiful women. He was told by the King, who owned this castle, that if a brave, God fearing and sinless Knight took the sword in his hands, the two parts would be welded together again. Many knights tried but without success. Parsifal took the two parts of the sword, put them together, and they became one with only a small crack at the junction to remind the people that once it was broken. Except for this the sword looked as if it was new. The King was so pleased that he told Parsifal the story of the Holy Grail. When Jesus Christ had been for a certain time on the cross, a Roman Knight called Longin hit him in the side with his spear to ascertain his death. The blood came out of the wound clear and beautiful. The Holy Grail is the vase, belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, where the precious Blood was collected when it flew out of Holy Chest. The King went on to say how it came to his castle. The Jews put Joseph of Arimathea in prison but the Roman Emperor, Vespacien, let him out. He preached with his friends in Jerusalem and baptised many people. He finally left his country with the Holy Grail and first went to Sarras whose King was at war. Joseph promised him victory if he became a member of the Christian church; he won and was baptised. Everywhere Joseph went with the Holy Grail, people would follow his teaching. Joseph came to die in this castle whose King is his present heir. Even at the time of the story the Holy Grail was still curing people of their illnesses or wounds. Following many other ventures and the death of the old King, Parsifal became King of the castle and guardian of the Holy Grail. Before, he had to prove his value by sitting down on a magic chair. Those who sat on it, and who were not the best Knight designated by God to be the King of the Grail and the guardian of the Spear, were put to death. Parsifal sat on it and nothing happened. This was a clear sign that God wanted him to succeed the King. This happened after the old King died and Parsifal reigned on his land for many years. He always kept the Holy Grail and the Holy Spear with him until his death. Parsifal was a knight at the Court of King Arthur and is also part of his legend. (25)