The Holy Grail is the chalice that, according to legend, Christ and his disciplines drank from at the Last Supper. Joseph of Arimathea is said to have placed drops of Christ’s blood in the Grail before taking it to Glastonbury.
In Arthurian legend the cup is named Sangreal and was pursued by the Knights of the Round Table after it miraculously appeared at Pentecost, just above King Arthur’s famous Round Table.
Some scholars believe that the archetypal “Holy Cup” may have appeared in pre-Christian Celtic myth but by the 12th century the Grail was well established in medieval romantic literature. The most popular of these is Chrétien de Troyes and Robert de Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie. But the idea first emerged in Perceval, le Conte du Graal (The Story of the Grail) by Chrétien de Troyes.
The Grail is first featured in Perceval, le Conte du Graal (The Story of the Grail) by Chrétien de Troyes, who claims he was working from a source book given to him by his patron, Count Philip of Flanders. In this incomplete poem, dated sometime between 1180 and 1191, the object has not yet acquired the implications of holiness it would have in later works. While dining in the magical abode of the Fisher King, Perceval witnesses a wondrous procession in which youths carry magnificent objects from one chamber to another, passing before him at each course of the meal. First comes a young man carrying a bleeding lance, then two boys carrying candelabras. Finally, a beautiful young girl emerges bearing an elaborately decorated graal, or “grail.”¹
The depth psychiatrist Carl Jung saw the Grail as a symbol of the eternal self, and other Jungians have gone into an elaborate archetypal analysis of the Grail story, conforming their interpretations to Jung’s theories.
More recently some treat the Holy Grail as historical fact instead of fiction or psychological fact. And new legends have arisen from that. But to most, complicated metaphysical Holy Grail theories, old and new, are at best legends intended to inspire. The more recent of these could also be calculated attempts to sell books to gullible consumers always on the watch for some ephemeral fascination.
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- December 8, 2011 Arthurian Fact of the Day (caridwen.wordpress.com)
- Discovering the Truth Behind the Mystery of the Holy Grail (prweb.com)
- Europe u-knighted: King Arthur proves how European the British are (guardian.co.uk)