Earthlore Explorations Historic Mysteries
The Holy Grail   And "O my brother Percivale," she said,
"Sweet brother, I have seen the Holy Grail
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The Holy GrailThe Holy Grail is a symbol most sacred amongst the elements of European spirituality. This powerful image resonates vibrantly within the Western soul, with cultural roots dating back into obscured history. Through the years, vibrant debates have centered around the physical reality of the object. To literary scholars, the Grail is a pure symbol device with variants evidenced in several branches of legend and mythology. For traditional Christians, there are no doubts, the Grail is the 'Cup of Christ,' the selfsame receptacle of the Savior's blood which fell at his sacrifice upon the cross.

The Holy GrailThe word grail is descended from the elder French: greal, which translates as platter or plate. Variations of the translation include container or dish. However, this leads us only as far back as the romantic verse of Chrétien de Troyes in the twelfth century. Within 'Conte del Graal,' and nearly all the early texts, there exists an obvious obscurity surrounding the details of the object itself.
It is not until the later versions of the Arthurian cycles that the Grail becomes defined specifically as a cup or goblet.

Earthlore Explorations Art: 'The Holy Grail' by Dante G. Rossetti
The Attainment of the Sanc Grael
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1857

The Holy Grail in Literature

The Holy Grail Conte del Graal, (circa. 1170)
The Holy GrailChrétien de Troyes
The Holy Grail The High History of the Grail,
The Holy Grail(circa. 1200) Perlesvaus
Saint Graal Parzival, (circa. 1220)
Saint GraalWolfram von Eschenbach
Saint Graal Morte d'Arthur, (circa. 1480)
Saint GraalSir Thomas Malory
Le Morte d'Arthur Poetry, Compositions, Novels,

Le Morte d'Arthur(Nineteenth-Twentieth Centuries)
Le Morte d'ArthurTennyson, Wagner, Scott, C. S. Lewis
Le Morte d'Arthurand others.

Le Morte d'Arthur
Then there entered into the hall the Holy Grail, covered with white samite, but there was none might see it nor who have it. And there was all the hall fulfilled with good odors, and every knight had such meats and drinks as he best loved in this world. And when the Holy Grail had been borne through the hall, then the holy vessel departed suddenly, that they wist not where it became.

La Queste del Saint Graal,
Le Morte d'Arthur Thomas Malory

Earthlore Explorations Art: 'Knight of the Grail' by Frederick J. Waugh
The Knight of the Holy Grail
Frederick J. Waugh
, 1912

`For on a day she sent to speak with me.
And when she came to speak, behold her eyes
Beyond my knowing of them, beautiful,
Beyond all knowing of them, wonderful,
Beautiful in the light of holiness.
And "O my brother Percivale," she said,
"Sweet brother, I have seen the Holy Grail:
For, waked at dead of night, I heard a sound
As of a silver horn from o'er the hills
Blown, and I thought, `It is not Arthur's use
To hunt by moonlight;' and the slender sound
As from a distance beyond distance grew
Coming upon me—O never harp nor horn,
Nor aught we blow with breath,
Grail Mysteryor touch with hand,
Was like that music as it came; and then
Streamed through my cell a cold and silver beam,
And down the long beam stole the Holy Grail,
Rose-red with beatings in it, as if alive,
Till all the white walls of my cell were dyed
With rosy colours leaping on the wall;
And then the music faded, and the Grail
Past, and the beam decayed, and from the walls
The rosy quiverings died into the night.
So now the Holy Thing is here again
Among us, brother, fast thou too and pray,
And tell thy brother knights to fast and pray,
That so perchance the vision may be seen
By thee and those, and all the world be healed."

Excerpt from: 'The Holy Grail'
by: Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Grail MysteryThe grail concept familiar to us today has evolved through the centuries within the Arthurian story cycles. The legends of the questing knights risking all to attain the Grail gathered increasing embellishments through the writings of Chrétien, Wolfram von Eschenbach and later Thomas Malory. Original elements from Welsh and Irish lore blended with French and German motifs, while later Christian aspects transformed nearly all obvious pagan references.

Grail MysteryThe earliest written account of the Grail is accepted as the French verse of Chrétien de Troyes, entitled 'Conte del Graal', translated literally as: 'The Story of the Grail'. Chrétien's version was completed in the late twelfth century. Over the next several decades variations of the original tale appeared throughout the region. The most prominent of these is the German 'Parzifal' by Wolfram von Eschenbach, completed around 1220. More than two centuries later Sir Thomas Malory's 'Morte d'Arthur,' 'The Death of Arthur,' focused upon the deeds of the Arthurian knights. This vivid collection of tales would serve as the primary source of later nineteenth century writers.

Grail MysteryDespite the naturally diverse interpretations of its aspect and nature, what remains constant is the power of renewal inherent within the Grail. In the early texts, the 'greal' (as a platter) is a provider of food and nourishment in appropriate need to each individual. To those who reside within its presence, the grail traditionally provides healing and sustenance. The constant allure is its promise of renewal, a transformative renewal, often perceived as a means of attaining immortality. Equally constant in the tales is the question of worthiness. Even the finest and most courageous of Arthur's knights proved unworthy and were denied communion. A valuable literary lesson for contemporary seekers.


Grail Mysteries  Studies on the Legend of the Grail,
Grail Mysteries  W. A. Nutt, London  (1888)
Grail Mysteries  Sir Gawain at the Grail Castle,
Grail Mysteries  David Nutt, London  (1903)
Grail Mysteries  The Legend of the Holy Grail,
Arthurian Lore  Dorothy Kempe, London  (1905)
Arthurian Lore  The Legend of Sir Perceval,
Arthurian Lore   David Nutt, London (1909)
Arthurian Lore  The Vulgate Version of the
     Arthurian Romances

Arthurian Lore  The Carnegie Institute  (1909)
Arthurian Lore  Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance,
King Arthur  Columbia University Press, NY  (1927)

King Arthur  Arthurian Tradition & Chrétien de Troyes
 Columbia University Press, NY  (1949)
King Arthur  History of the High Kings of Britain,
King Arthur  Geoffrey of Monmouth,  Penguin UK  (1966)
King Arthur  Le Morte d'Arthur,
King Arthur  Sir Thomas Malory,  Penguin UK  (1970)
Western Mysteries  The High Book of the Holy Grail,
Western Mysteries  Translated by N. Bryant,
         Brewer, Rowman and Littlefield, NJ  (1978)

Western Mysteries  Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach,
Western Mysteries  Translated by A. T. Hatto,  Penguin NY (1980)
Western Mysteries  The Myth of the Eternal Return,
Western Mysteries  Mircea Eliade ,  Arkana UK  (1989)

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