Wednesday 24 September 2008

Quests for the Grail

I think I'm on a bit of a Grail quest at the moment. Last week, I went to Secret Chiefs to hear Ed Joyce talk about the Grail in the legends of King Arthur. I'm also reading his book, The Key to Camelot. Then, last night, I went to Treadwell's bookshop in London to hear Dr Juliette Wood give a lecture called The Esoteric Grail - Early 20th Century Britain.

It was a fascinating talk about a cast of colourful characters who were around about a hundred years ago, at a time when there was a lot of interest in Celtic Christianity. A number of different objects have been identified as the Holy Grail in history. Three of these came to prominence in the early 20th Century. One was a 1st Century cup discovered in Antioch, which inspired the film The Silver Chalice, although the cup was actually made too late to have been the real Holy Grail. A second was the Nanteos Cup, from Wales, although this was later found to be medieval. The third was a glass bowl found in the Chalice Well, at Glastonbury. This is known to have been bought in Italy and placed in the well by a Dr John Goodchild in 1898 after he claimed to have visions that it was the true Grail.

Although all of these have been dated as being too late to be the genuine item, Dr Woods described the folklore, legends and leaps of intuition that led many otherwise astute and learned people to believe they were the cup of the last supper. She has also written a book on the subject, Eternal Chalice: The Enduring Legend of the Holy Grail, which was published this summer by IB Tauris Publishers. I am hoping to get hold of a copy.

Another Grail book sitting on my pile of future reading matter is Healing the Wounded King: Soul Work and the Quest for the Grail (Earth Quest) by John Matthews, which is about using the archetypal Grail stories and visualisations to bring personal healing. I picked it up secondhand recently and am looking forward to starting it.

I wonder where this Grail quest will take me. I certainly don't believe that the Cup of the Last Supper, which historians now believe was almost certainly made of wood, is likely to still exist. I also wouldn't care that much if it did. I'm not a Christian and do not believe that ancient Christian relics have any particular power unless it is the power to inspire belief and faith.

What fascinates me more are the stories, myths and legends about the Grail. And I think there are many of them to find.

No comments: