Grail Embodies Mystery of Warrior Initiation

(from "The Path of Cinnabar")





The ordinary reader today knows about the Grail thanks only to Richard Wagner's Parsifal, which, in its Romantic approach, really deforms and twists the whole myth. Equally misleading is the attempt to interpret the mystery of the Grail in Christian terms: for Christian elements only play an accessory, secondary and concealing role in the saga. In order to grasp the true significance of the myth, it is necessary instead to consider the more immediate points of reference represented by the themes and echoes pertaining to the cycle of King Arthur, which survives in the Celtic and Nordic traditions. The Grail essentially embodies the source of a transcendent and immortalizing power of primordial origin that has been preserved after the 'Fall', degeneration and decadence of humanity. Significantly, all sources agree that the guardians of the Grail are not priests, but are knights and warriors - besides, the very place where the Grail is kept is described not as a temple or church, but as a royal palace or castle.

In the book, I argued that the Grail can be seen to possess an initiatory (rather than vaguely mystical) character: that it embodies the mystery of warrior initiation. Most commonly, the sagas emphasize one additional element: the duties deriving from such initiation. The predestined Knight - he who has received the calling and has enjoyed a vision of the Grail, or received its boons - or he who has 'fought his way' to the Grail (as described in certain texts) must accomplish his duty of restoring legitimate power, lest he forever be damned. The Knight must either allow a prostrate, deceased, wounded or only apparently living King to regain his strength, or personally assume the regal role, thus restoring a fallen kingdom. The sagas usually attribute this function to the power of the Grail. A significant means to assess the dignity or intentions of the Knight is to 'ask the question': the question concerning the purpose of the Grail. In many cases, the posing of this crucial question coincides with the miracle of awakening, of healing or of restoration.




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