HOLY GRAIL, The DeVinci Load
Ammunition for discussions, harangues and loud debates
BEYOND DAN BROWN: The DeVinci Load. The so-called Holy Grail is the object of legendary quest for Arthurian knights and may be a “wide-mouthed or shallow vessel,” although its precise etymology (in the true literal sense of the word) remains uncertain, and small wonder. The Grail was probably inspired by classical or Celtic mythologies, which abound in horns of plenty, magic life-restoring caldrons, and the like. In Finland, the pre-Christian Kalevala features the sampo, which might be a pillar that holds up the sky, or a mill to produce salt, meal and gold, or a talisman of happiness and prosperity. Take your pick.
The first extant text (or more aptly invention) about the Grail is Chrétien de Troyes’ late 12th century unfinished romance Parceval or Le Conte du Graal, which combined the religious with the fantastic. In the 13th century Robert de Borron’s poem extended the Christian significance of the legend, linking the Grail with Christ’s cup at the Last Supper and with Joseph of Aramea whom he said used it to catch Jesus’ blood as he hung on the cross. In the same century, Wolfram von Esenbach’s Parzival* gave the Grail profound and mystical expression as a precious stone fallen from Heaven (sampo, anyone?). Malory’s late 15th century Le Morte D’Arthur transmitted the fanciful Grail essence to English-speaking readers.
In the story-telling invention, the quest itself became a search for mystical union with God. Through various permutations by many different writers over several hundreds of years, the Grail theme formed a culminating point for the Arthurian romance. It’s a good story device; it doesn’t really matter what it really is, as long as it stands for truth, justice and the “right” way. Its physical presence is just like the True Cross, Longinus’ Spear, St. Michael’s pickled peritoneum, or any other “holy” relic: e.g. entrepreneurs started fabricating bits of the true cross as soon as they noticed a market for it – in fact, selling bits and pieces obviously would part the cross out, so they invented the miracle of overnight renewal; as we’ve seen from Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the DeVinci Code, and Newsweek, people are still making big bucks selling new baubles to hang on the old artificial tree, which is patently, the Grail’s only real value. When you get right down to it, it’s buying a box of air, isn’t it? That’s the way faith works, so have fun with the storyline.
Incidentally, Christ is the Greek Chrestos – a mystery cult popular with the poor and lower middle class of the 1st century C.E. Working people infected their middle class masters with it. Female heads of households were particularly susceptible to its egalitarian message. Self-proclaimed “Apostle” Paul of Tarsus cobbled Chrestos with the historical Jesus movement as a sales package for Gentiles (infuriating the Jesus movement because he co-opted and lied about their guy; of such petty human foibles are great religious movements conceived), but that’s another story.
* Parzival by Wolfram Von Eisenbach, 13th century C.E. Much ado about fabrics, flags, one’s place at the table, head-busting by foolish men for foolish ladies, and the romantic search for the fabulous grail – the holiest snipe hunt for the silliest prize: the Americas-Stanley-Wimbledon cup of immortality available only for unblemished boobery. “He’d paid his debt to joy, his life was but a dying.” – Wolfram Von Eisenbach, Parzival.