The Holy Grail

Soundtrack: Holy Grail - Hunters & Collectors

The following information is just a quick sampling of the main points of the collected information
provided to the PC's by Gilles De Rais, as repayment for all the cabal had done for him,
his mistress Erzebeth, and for her entire household of Venice.

The Grail plays a different role everywhere it appears, but in most versions of the legend the hero must prove himself worthy to be in its presence. In the early tales, Percival's immaturity prevents him from fulfilling his destiny when he first encounters the Grail, and he must grow spiritually and mentally before he can locate it again. In later tellings the Grail is a symbol of God's grace, available to all but only fully realized by those who prepare themselves spiritually, like the saintly Galahad.

There are two veins of thought concerning the Grail's origin. The first holds that it derived from early Celtic myth and folklore. Loomis traced a number of parallels between Medieval Welsh literature and Irish material and the Grail romances, including similarities between the Mabinogion's Bran the Blessed and the Arthurian Fisher King, and between Bran's life-restoring cauldron and the Grail. On the other hand, some scholars believe the Grail began as a purely Christian symbol. Another recent theory holds that the earliest stories that cast the Grail in a Christian light were meant to promote the Roman Catholic sacrament of the Holy Communion.

The Grail, Graal, Grâl, Sangraal or Holy Grail, was quested for by Arthur's Knights of the Round Table in the final years of his reign. Usually, but not always, described as a cup or goblet (or a dish), it had the power to feed any number of people the food and drink they loved best. It could be found in the Castle Corbenik, somewhere in the enchanted Waste Land. Featured in mysterious ceremony with female grail bearer and wounded Fisher King. In order to awaken the Grail's power, heal the king, and restore fertility to the ruined landscape, a wandering knight had to reach the castle, observe the ceremony, and ask the right question; the wording varied from text to text, but the most common was «Whom does the Grail serve?».

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The Celtic Heritage

In Celtic traditions magical cauldrons producing food are common feature. Handful of celtic & germanic sources tell of ceremony where a woman bore a cup of mead to the king in a ceremonial declaration of his kingship. Jessie Weston argued the Grail rituals were echo of ancient mystery initiation, perhaps descended from Gnostic sect known as the Naassenes.

Grail legends surfaced very suddenly around 1180 when Chrétien de Troyes began his story about Percival, the oldest known Grail romance. It was unfinished at his death, but two other poets later continued it. Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival appeared in 1207, and in the same year Walter Map's Queste del sant Graal reworked the grail-story to bring it closer to christian orthodoxy, transforming it into the cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper. The production of grail stories continued at a brisk pace until 1220, when it suddenly stopped.

Bran the Blessed in the Mabinogion; in the Second Branch, Bran had a cauldron that could resurrect the dead (albeit imperfectly; those thus revived could not speak afterwards), which he gave to the king of Ireland as a wedding gift for him and his sister Branwen. Later, he wages war on the Irish and is wounded in the foot or leg, and the cauldron is destroyed. He asks his followers to sever his head and take it back to Britain, and his head continues talking and keeps them company on their trip. This story has analogues in two other important Welsh texts: the Mabinogion tale Culhwch and Olwen, in which King Arthur's men must travel to Ireland to retrieve a magical cauldron, and the obscure poem The Spoils of Annwn, which speaks of a similar mystical cauldron sought by Arthur in that otherworldly land. According to the poem: “ Three shiploads we went; save seven none returned”, though no explanation is given for this.

When connected with the celtic legendarium it is often likened to or equated with the Cauldron of the Dagda, one of the four treasures (or jewels) of the Tuatha Dé Danann. These are four magical items they are supposed to have brought with them from the four island cities of Murias, Falias, Gorias and Findias, when they arrived in Ireland. This coire (cauldron) had the property that no company ever went away from it unsatisfied, while the other three treasures were the Lia Fáil (Stone of Fál), the Sleg Lúin and the Claíomh Solais (Sword of Nuada).

Ever since the discovery of the supposed tomb of Arthur himself at Glastonbury Tor in 1190, that city has been a favourite location when people speculate about the Grail. The discovery burial ensured that in later romances, histories based on them and in the popular imagination Glastonbury became increasingly identified with Avalon, an identification that continues strongly today. The later development of the legends of the Holy Grail and Joseph of Arimathea by Robert de Boron interconnected these legends with Glastonbury and with Avalon an identification which also seems to be made in Perlesvaus. The popularity of Arthurian Romance has meant this area of the Somerset Levels has today become popularly described as The Vale Of Avalon. In the modern age various writers have formed theories based on perceived connections between Glastonbury and Celtic legends of the otherworld and Annwn in attempt to link the location firmly with Avalon drawing on the various legends based on Glastonbury Tor as well as drawing on ideas like Earth mysteries, Ley lines and even the myth of Atlantis.

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The Christian Heritage

There is an entirely different and pervasive tradition concerning the cup of the Last Supper. In this highly muddled though better-known version, the vessel is known as Holy Grail. In this legend, the cup was used to collect and store the blood of Christ at the Crucifixion. This conflicts with the notion that Peter might have used the cup of the Last Supper to celebrate the Mass. Although the traditions of the Holy Chalice and the Holy Grail seem irreconcilable, there is an underlying concept. Since in Catholic theology, the wine consecrated in the mass becomes the true blood of Christ, both of these seemingly conflicting traditions emphasize the vessel as a cup which holds the blood of Jesus Christ, either in sacramental or literal form.

Given its connection to the most pivotal event in christian mythology, the Holy Chalice/Grail is often paired with the lance which pierced the side of christ, known today as the Lance of Longinus or the Spear of Destiny. Like its more peaceful counterpart the spear has a confusing and muddled history, which numerous cities and people claiming to own or possess the "real thing".

Oral tradition, poems and bardic tales combined the stories of the Holy Chalice and the Holy Grail. A mix of fact and fiction incorporated elements around Crusaders, knights and King Arthur, as well as being blended with Celtic and German legends. In 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, combined many of the traditions in his King Arthur and the Knights (Le Morte d'Arthur), in which the character of Sir Galahad goes on the quest for the Holy Grail.

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Comparative Legendry

Similairies are sometimes drawn with the Cup of Jamshid or, in reality, the Cup of Kai Khosrow, which is a cup of divination which, in Persian mythology, was long possessed by the rulers of ancient Persia. It was believed to have been discovered in Persepolis in ancient times, and as mentioned by Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda, it was believed that one could observe all the seven heavens of the universe by looking into it. The cup ("Jām") was said to be seven-ringed and filled with an elixir of immortality, and was one of the mythical wonders in the legends of the Achaemenid Empire.

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Chrétien de Troyes

He was a French poet and trouvère who flourished in the late 12th century. Little is known of his life, but he seems to have been from Troyes, or at least intimately connected with it, and between 1160 and 1172 he served at the court of his patroness Marie of France, Countess of Champagne, daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, perhaps as herald-at-arms. His work on Arthurian subjects represents some of the best regarded of medieval literature. His use of structure, particular in Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, has been seen as a step towards the modern novel.

Chrétien claimed to be working from a source given to him by Philip. The poem relates the adventures and growing pains of the young knight Perceval but the story breaks off, there follows an adventure of Gawain of similar length that also remains incomplete: there are some 9,000 lines in total, whereas Chretien's other romances seldom exceed 7,000 lines. Later authors added 54,000 more lines in what are known collectively as the Four Continuations. Perceval is the earliest recorded account of what was to become the Quest for the Holy Grail

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Wolfram von Eschenbach

Wolfram von Eschenbach (c. 1170 – c. 1220) was a German knight and poet, regarded as one of the greatest epic poets of his time. As a Minnesinger, he also wrote lyric poetry. Little is known of Wolfram's life: there are no historical documents which mention him, and his works are the sole source of evidence. In his Parzival he claims he is illiterate and recorded the work by dictation, though the claim is treated with scepticism by scholars.

Wolfram is best known today for his Parzival, sometimes regarded as the greatest of all German epics from that time. Based on Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, le Conte du Graal, it is the first extant work in German to have as its subject the Holy Grail. In the poem, Wolfram expresses disdain for Chrétien's (unfinished) version of the tale, and states that his source was a poet from Provence called Kyot. Some scholars believe Wolfram might have meant Guiot de Provins (though none of the latter's surviving works relate to the themes of Parzival), however others believe Kyot was simply a literary device invented by Wolfram to explain his deviations from Chrétien's version.

In that work, citing the authority of (the probably fictional) Kyot the Provençal, he claimed the Grail was a stone that fell from Heaven (called lapsit exillis), and had been the sanctuary of the Neutral Angels who took neither side during Lucifer's rebellion.The Grail was kept safe at the castle of Munsalvaesche (mons salvationis), entrusted to Titurel, the first Grail King. Some, not least the monks of Montserrat, have identified the castle with the real sanctuary of Montserrat in Catalonia, Spain.

Parzival fights for the good but suffers from his alienation from God. After nearly five years of wandering and fighting, from combat he gains a new horse, owned by a grail knight, and this horse leads him one Good Friday to Trevrizent to whom he introduces himself as a penitent sinner. He stays with this holy man for fourteen days and learns about the hidden meaning of life and the true meaning of the grail, and also is informed that his mother is the sister of the Grail King. He makes a step towards a life of spiritual understanding. Through his loneliness and through his yearning for the grail and for Condwiramurs (Blanchfleur) he puts himself outside the world of Arthur. He is called to another world, that of the grail. Among the most striking elements of the work are its emphasis on the importance of humility, compassion, sympathy and the quest for spirituality.A major theme in Parzival is love: heroic acts of chivalry are inspired by true love.

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Kyot the Provencal

Wolfram does not mention Kyot until Book 8 of Parzival, where he abruptly names him as his source. Kyot's story is elaborated upon in Book 9, where Wolfram explains the Provençal had uncovered a neglected Arabic manuscript in Moorish Toledo, Spain. The manuscript was written by Flegetanis, a Muslim astronomer and a descendant of Solomon who had found the secrets of the Holy Grail written in the stars. After learning Arabic to read Flegetanis' document, Kyot traveled throughout Europe to learn more about the Grail and the brotherhood that protected it. He finally came to Anjou, where he found the history of Parzival's (Percival's) family and wrote the tale which would later be retold by Wolfram. Anjou is a former county (c. 880), duchy (1360) and province centred on the city of Angers in the lower Loire Valley of western France. It corresponds largely to the present-day département of Maine-et-Loire. Its traditional Latin name is Andegavia.

Wolfram explains he had not revealed Kyot earlier because the Provençal had asked to remain anonymous until the right point in the story. Wolfram mentions doubters who had questioned him about his source, and says their skepticism only brought them shame once Kyot was revealed. Some scholars have taken this to mean that Wolfram had faced criticism for his story's departures from Chrétien de Troyes, and had created a pseudo-source with a back story that would silence and mock slow-witted critics while amusing those who saw through it. Some aspects of Parzival may hint at a source besides Wolfram's imagination and Chrétien, such as an implied knowledge of French literature and a reverence for the House of Anjou

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Robert de Boron

The Fisher King's next development occurs in Robert de Boron's Joseph d'Arimathie about the end of the 12th century, the first work to connect the Grail with Jesus. Here, the "Rich Fisher" is called Bron, a name similar enough to Bran to suggest a relationship, and he is said to be the brother-in-law of Joseph of Arimathea, who had used the Grail to catch Christ's blood before laying him in the tomb. Joseph founds a religious community that travels eventually to Britain, and he entrusts the Grail to Bron. Bron, called the "Rich Fisher" because he catches a fish eaten at the Grail table, founds the line of Grail keepers that eventually includes Perceval.

In the Didot-Perceval, thought to be a prosification of a lost work by Robert de Boron, Bron is called the "Fisher King", and his story is told when Percival returns to his castle and asks the healing question. Wolfram takes up Chrétien's story and expands it greatly in his epic Parzival. He reworks the nature of the Grail and the community that surrounds it, and gives names to characters Chrétien left nameless (the Wounded King is Titurel, the Fisher King is Anfortas).

The Grail truly became the "Holy Grail" and assumed the form most familiar to modern readers. In his verse romance Joseph d’Arimathie, composed between 1191 and 1202, Robert tells the story of Joseph of Arimathea acquiring the chalice of the Last Supper to collect Christ’s blood upon his removal from the cross. Joseph is thrown in prison, where Christ visits him and explains the mysteries of the blessed cup. Upon his release Joseph gathers his in-laws and other followers and travels to the west, and founds a dynasty of Grail keepers that eventually includes Perceval.

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The Picatrix

The first major leak in the Guardians’ censorship screen came in Muslim Córdoba around AD 1000. Fatima bint Tashuf al-Isiyah, a Tamer of Stone mage, produced a book of Atlantean magic that she called the Ghayat al-Hakim, the “Aim of the Wise.” Furthermore, she claimed that the work had come to her in a series of trance states, channeled from “India” and “the Moon.” Eventually translated into Latin for the court of Alfonso the Wise, the Picatrix (as it came to be known) was the greatest text of Atlantean lore to appear since Plato.

The Picatrix goaded European willworkers still further. The word “picatrix” (or “picator”) means “cup maker,” with obvious resonance to medieval quests of all sorts. The notion that the Picatrix is a Cup of Wisdom connects Atlantis to the Holy Grail, with all that that implies. Some Awakened scholars believe that the Picatrix may have been the “Arabic book” used by Wolfram von Eschenbach to compose the Grail romance Parzival — which ends with the Grail concealed in a Mountain of Salvation in India. The Grail frenzy in Western Europe nearly upended both the Labyrinth and the Seers of the Throne in the 12th and 13th centuries; with Atlantis stirred into the mix, things became almost uncontrollable. The appearance of the Picatrix in Latin in 1256 was perhaps the final straw for the frustrated Guardians; their efforts to clamp down on “Atlantean heresy” redoubled after that year.

The same questions apply to the Picatrix as to Plato, only more so — its provenance, intent and reliability remain a matter of pure guesswork, and not even its actual composer is known. The magical arts revealed in the work provide genuine insights to the Awakened student, but that hardly narrows matters down.

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The Roman Connection

Apparently was brought to the temple of Venus Genetrix, mythical ancestress of Caesar's family, in the summer of 46 BC, situated at the Forum Julium. Is apparently forgotten, ignored, or at least not noted by historic records that have survived, after Caesar is assasinated 2 years later and those involved flee the country. Would seem to leave the empire somewhere between AD 200 and 400, somehow lost to the raids performed by one of the 'barbarian tribes' of the time.

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Byzantium

Constantinople was taken by Crusaders in 1204. Strange, secret chamber in Hagia Sophia Athenaeum would seem to hold vast treasures, and rare documents would seem to make it likely that something like the Holy Grail was taken from that place during the chaos of the ongoing events. See also Into the Holy City for further details.

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The Cathars

According to the Liches, it seems like the Cathars were in possession of a series of items, one of which is strongly suspected to correspond to what mages both at the time and in the modern age would identify as "The Holy Grail". The Tremere's sources indicate that the rather large contingent of mages operating amongst the Gnostic believers had sought it out due to the stories about its connections with the divine, and hoped to learn from it a method to overcome the limits and chains of the Demiurge.

The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade (1209–1229) was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate the Cathar heresy in Languedoc. In 1243–44 they were besieged at Montségur by 10,000 troops, a tragic event which resulted in the total extermination of the entire movement. Montségur is often named as a candidate for the Holy Grail castle — and indeed there are linguistic similarities in the Grail romance Parzival (circa 1200–1210) (by Wolfram). In it, the grail castle is called "Monsalvat", similar to Montségur and with the same meaning: "safe mountain, secure mountain."

The Nazis learned of the myths surrounding Montségur from a man named Otto Rahn in 1929, one year after the probable formation of the Ahnenerbe, an institution for research into German racial and cultural ancestry. Rahn wrote two bestseller Grail novels linking Montségur and Cathars with the Holy Grail: Kreuzzug gegen den Gral ("Crusade Against the Grail") in 1933 and Luzifers Hofgesind ("Lucifer's Court") in 1937. Rahn joined the SS "Totenkopf" unit as a junior NCO in 1936, the same year that Heinrich Himmler took overall control of the Ahnenerbe, proclaiming himself chairman of the Kuratorium. Rahn was then seconded on detached duty to the South of France in search of the Grail. Himmler's wish was to try and rediscover and reinvigorate Germanic culture.

Local sources reported that on the 700th anniversary of the fall of Montségur, 16 March 1944, German aircraft overflew Montségur in strange formations, either Celtic crosses or swastikas, depending on the source of the reports. Some claim that Alfred Rosenberg, Nazi Germany's ideologue and author of The Myth of the Twentieth Century, was aboard one of the aircraft. It is alleged that the purpose of the aerial demonstration was to mark the fulfilment of the prophecy of a 13th century troubadour that at the end of 700 years following the demise of the Cathars, "the laurel will be green once more".

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The Knights of the Round Table

A fairly small yet long-lasting Legacy whose members usually belong to the Adamantine Arrow, who dedicate their entire lives to finding the Holy Grail. There are many conflicting points of view and much argument about their origins, history, age, what they think the grail actually is, and so on. For example, some claim that they were founded by the actual Knights from Camelot, while others state the Legacy was created by people inspired by the legends and who wished to live like the heroes depicted in popular culture at the time. Meanwhile a third group might hold that it's a merely result of norsemen and their ideas about sacred oaths meeting Celtic quest-beliefs in Britain and later christian sentiments about holiness in Byzantium, and that they adopted the Arthurian-motif when it came along in order to have a unifying mythos.

This impenetrable bog of contradictions and competing histories can in part be explained by the tradition among the Grail-Knights to record their deeds and goings-on in grand epics and poetic verse rather than sober recounting of events. Their official belief is that there is no meaningful distinction between fact and fiction, and that every Knight, bard, troubadour or minstrel is entitled to tell and record their stories freely, for artistic license will not obscure Truth. Unsurprisingly, the Mysterium has historically had problems relating to them.

To this day they travel from place to place, incapable of ever giving up their search for the Grail and with the rank-and-file membership forbidden from settling down or having permanent sancta until they succeed. They claim that any time a member of the Legacy witnesses the actual Grail, or if they ever attain it, all the Knights are immediately aware of it. Proof of this has, logically, been hard to come by, but this does not deter bright-eyed young adventurers seeking the holy cup from thoroughly scrutinizing every detail of every document telling about an incident where a Knight supposedly saw the grail.

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