A question about the Holy Grail

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Melisande

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First, I post this in this category because I do not wish to start some kind of controversy. To me this is meant as a purely philosophical question without any kind of agenda.

Just saw this show on TV about some quest to find the Holy Grail. There seams to be as many quests as the are ideas about what this grail is supposed to be. One of the things I found weird with this show, was the narrator saying that he had actually 'seen' the Grail, referring to the mural by da Vinci. (who lived some 1.500 years after the lifetime of the alledged Messiah)

And then it dawned on me that maybe the Holy Grail is an acceptance of the Christian religion. And that therefore the Grail is not an item, (or a bloodline) but an idea, or an epiphany or something.

I am an atheist and wouldn't really know what it means to embrace a religion, I just wanted to put this thought out there. Simply because I am curious and like to learn more.
 

Kerosene

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The modern understanding of the "Holy Grail" is the conjoining of the Arthurian Holy Grail from legend, and the Holy Chalice of which Jesus Christ is said to have used at the last supper. Often people who have a research budget smudge these details because of the popular resurgence in interest due to modern works like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

The Holy Grail/Chalice is a sacred icon. It is an idol that people put any concept of understand towards. Some people do this so much they believe it is real (which is funny because there's probably dozens of chalices that are stated to be real, and are provided historical documentation to prove it).

I wouldn't say a sacred chalice is a conceptual acceptance of religion. Jesus Christ, historically, has been determined to have lived, and something like the last supper probably occurred and whatever waves his death created sparked people to base nearly everything he touched and did with importance. A cup that he served wine from and put great importance on would become a icon for believers. The idea of hunting for this cup, centuries later after tens of thousands of others have tried, is probably a lost cause--but it makes for cheap television!

It has become a conceptional icon in people to deepen their ties with the religion, but even then I wouldn't base it on acceptance. The Eucharist is used to bringing closer believers, through a ritual, to whom they believe in.

I recommend reading Sacred and Profane by Mircea Eliade. Good read.
 

leifwright

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First, I post this in this category because I do not wish to start some kind of controversy. To me this is meant as a purely philosophical question without any kind of agenda.

Just saw this show on TV about some quest to find the Holy Grail. There seams to be as many quests as the are ideas about what this grail is supposed to be. One of the things I found weird with this show, was the narrator saying that he had actually 'seen' the Grail, referring to the mural by da Vinci. (who lived some 1.500 years after the lifetime of the alledged Messiah)

And then it dawned on me that maybe the Holy Grail is an acceptance of the Christian religion. And that therefore the Grail is not an item, (or a bloodline) but an idea, or an epiphany or something.

I am an atheist and wouldn't really know what it means to embrace a religion, I just wanted to put this thought out there. Simply because I am curious and like to learn more.

The Holy Grail is a purely Catholic artifact. It doesn't exist in any other form of Christianity.

And in Catholicism, it's simply the cup Jesus drank from the night before he was crucified.

It's as simple as that. Really.
 

blacbird

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Frankly, nobody really knows. It certainly isn't Biblical. And even the meaning of the word "grail" is up for grabs. But from Arthurian-legend birthing, it makes a hell of a good story that can be adapted to just about anything you want. See Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail as just one example.

caw
 

Perks

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One of the workaday lines between Catholicism and other denominations of Christianity was the latter's shedding of devotion to relics, the Grail being one of these. I always assumed it was a metaphor or code anyway, a representation of some other idea. Before Dan Brown, there were centuries of troweled-on mysticism surrounding sacred objects - reliquaries, veils, cups, splinters of the Cross, and in some cases, entire cadavers.
 

Maxx

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One good theory about the Grail and its legends is that it is the cauldron of Bran Boru, which not only could feed injured warriors, but bring them back to life to at least enjoy the feasting. One tricky point was that you needed Bran's severed head to get it running (see Gawain and the Green Knight for echoes of this tradition). Another sad thing was that, when you stopped feasting, all the sadness of loss, and being dead, came flooding back.
 

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The holy grail isn't really an important part of any denomination of Christianity, Catholic or otherwise. It's origins are in Arthurian legend and are probably based off various Celtic sacred cauldrons (although, as others have said, in the Arthurian legends they are looking for the cup that Jesus drank from). Arthur himself wasn't supposed to have lived until around the 5th century (there's some variation in legend, IIRC, his birthday may have also been given as 6th century). The Welsh tradition is the oldest recorded Arthurian tradition we have, and I think it only goes back to around the 8th century.
 

cornflake

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First, I post this in this category because I do not wish to start some kind of controversy. To me this is meant as a purely philosophical question without any kind of agenda.

Just saw this show on TV about some quest to find the Holy Grail. There seams to be as many quests as the are ideas about what this grail is supposed to be. One of the things I found weird with this show, was the narrator saying that he had actually 'seen' the Grail, referring to the mural by da Vinci. (who lived some 1.500 years after the lifetime of the alledged Messiah)

And then it dawned on me that maybe the Holy Grail is an acceptance of the Christian religion. And that therefore the Grail is not an item, (or a bloodline) but an idea, or an epiphany or something.

I am an atheist and wouldn't really know what it means to embrace a religion, I just wanted to put this thought out there. Simply because I am curious and like to learn more.

Are there really a lot of ideas about what the Grail is? It's a chalice... THE chalice from the Last Supper. I feel like I'm missing something.
 

edutton

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Are there really a lot of ideas about what the Grail is? It's a chalice... THE chalice from the Last Supper. I feel like I'm missing something.
Well, if you go back to the old Romances, there are various ideas about what a/the grail is... It's been conceived as a chalice, and as an ever-filling platter, and even as a stone (in Wolfram's "Parzifal", if I remember correctly). The legend may or may not be connected to various pre-/non-Christian magical cauldrons (as mpalenik pointed out), or it may just be another example of a trope common to western European cultures of the period... but whatever its origins, it did quickly and firmly become associated with the Eucharistic chalice.

NB: I am neither a Christian nor an academic, but I have a strong, decades-long interest in Arthurian and Grail studies. The grail scholarship is varied and multitudinous, and if anyone actually cares :) I could probably pull together a short(ish) reading list (but Richard Barber's book The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief is still considered a decent place to start, as far as I know).
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

In The Mists of Avalon, Marian Zimmer Bradley has a couple of scenes with the Holy Grail, which she takes to be the cauldron of Cerwiden (sp???). The idea being that, while Catholics take the Holy Grail to have been the chalice from which Jesus drank during the Passover seder that Christians call the Last Supper, the ideology of it may come from Celtic sources.

In any event, some of us now use the term to refer to something that's unobtainable but worth pursuing.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

King Neptune

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What's your question?

The holy grail didn't appear in Christianity until the early Middle Ages, and there were several things that are similar in nature that may have been precursors, including that cauldron, and the Cups that went on to be part of Tarot, all of those are feminine symbols, as is the sea in many cases.
 

Deb Kinnard

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In my religious background we don't acknowledge there was any such cup or chalice or grail. However, metaphorically, Jesus referred to the cup from which He must drink -- the cup of His suffering for the sins of all mankind. Further than this allusion, there is no such thing in Scripture, and my tradition acknowledges very little that's not taken directly from the Bible.

So I see no problem with using the idea of a cup metaphorically.
 

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The grail as such is first referred to in a 12th century medieval French Arthurian romance by Chretien de Troyes; Chretien never finished the story. In Chretien's tale, the knight Percival is a guest in a castle owned by a "fisher king." The king has a mysterious wound "in his thigh." Perceval witness a mysterious procession in which one of the items is a graal* (another is a lance).

The word at the time referred to a serving dish; not necessarily a cup, but it could be a cup. Chretien did not explain the mystery, since he never finished his text.

Other poets did, in multiple very long and very complicated "continuations." (Arthurian lit is rife with medieval fan fic).

Later writers associated the grail with the last supper, and with the crucifixion, and the spear with Longinus.

Scholars speculate that among other influences (including Christian texts) Chretien and his continuers may have been influenced by magic cauldrons in medieval Celtic literature.

I see no reason why you can't metaphorically interpret a metaphor in whatever way you think the texts will support.

*Graal is the Medieval French word used by Chretien; grail etymologically comes from Middle English greal, from Old French graal, from Medieval Latin gradālis, flat dish, of unknown origin (AHD). We don't really know what Chretien had in mind; lots of dishes in Medieval French household inventories are called graals.
 
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HaleeW

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Like with many things in Christianity I think this legend was invented in order to incorporate the traditions of other religions. This helped those who were not Christian relate to the religion and possibly convert.
 
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