The Death-and-Rebirth Mysteries in Arthur's Britain.
A detailed and extensive search through the history of Arthurian literature and the Island of Britain to discover the true form, nature and purpose of the "Holy Grail".
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Simon Andrew Sinclair. The Grail: Relic of an Ancient Religion. Moon Books, 2015. Even though the word is around a thousand years old, there is still magic in it. It is still used to evoke the pinnacle of humankind’s achievements; the sine qua non in any and every field of endeavour. Thought by many to be the vessel from which Jesus Christ drank at the Last Supper and that His blood was collected in at His crucifixion, the very first story that we know of that mentions it by name actually made reference to a type of serving dish with compartments normally for sweetmeats and delicacies for the nobility. Chrétien de Troyes was possibly a herald-at-arms at the court of Marie de France, who was his patron. His final, unfinished work, Perceval, le Conte du Graal, includes a description of the sacred platter. It is detailed enough to lead at least one researcher to claim that they have found the original upon which de Troyes’ grail was based. The plate in question is the Patène de Serpentine which can be found in the Département des Objets d'art, Haut Moyen Age of the Louvre Museum in Paris. This was not used to serve elaborate or rare food as such; rather it was apparently used as a paten, a plate to hold communion wafers, for the French royal court. It also has inlaid fishes; once a popular early Christian symbol. It is reckoned that de Troyes caught sight of this and he was impressed enough to use it as the model for his fictional plate. Although far from conclusive, this looks like the best and most prosaic candidate for a “real” Grail to date. This work attempts to cover widely-varying aspects of the Grail mystery. The author describes the physical manifestations of it, the spiritual, numinous nature of it and, finally, the scientific basis that any object claiming to be the Grail may have associated with it. There is also a strong current running through that claims that a historical King Arthur was based, along with the deeds associated with him, in Scotland. The thrust of this evidence is the subject of another volume. This tome has some endnotes and sources of importance that were referred to in the writing of it, but no index; always confusing where a nonfiction book is concerned. It was also written as a part work and published on a blog over the course of one year. There is enough repetition for some tighter editing to have been carried out. This book concerns itself with just about every piece of grail-related information that can be found - and then some. The reader is introduced early on to the metaphysical writings of Eugène Ionesco and TS Eliot. They then find themselves passed along a chain of ideas with great rapidity. Some of these chains barely stop to give the reader a chance to find detailed and nuanced concepts, and some of these concepts do deserve some perusal. For example, Stirling mentions a tenuous link with Mithraism and symbols relating to “grail”-related tales from Welsh and Irish mythology. There is then a leap to associating this with the now-notorious Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. According to the writer, “Rosslyn Chapel stands above the river North-Esk in Midlothian near Edinburgh. Mithraic iconography has been detected among the profusion of carvings which adorn the chapel’s walls and ceiling, leading to the suggestion that this quirky ‘Grail Chapel’ was built over an ancient Mithraeum”. I have every confidence that the reader will ask “What Mithraic iconography? Who suggested that it was a ‘Grail Chapel’?”. I also feel duty-bound to add that, when he does use sources, one of them is Dan Brown. This alone really does not inspire confidence. The ‘science’ involved here is very much of the metaphysical, seeping into references to alchemy. This work seems to be aimed at pagans, with large parts of the text devoted to the supposed spiritual and scientific concepts associated with the sacred vessel, but there is almost nothing about any material grail, as the idea of the Grail is what is considered relevant. - Trevor Pyne ~ Trevor Pyne, Magonia Review of Books
This iconoclastic volume, written in twelve monthly instalments and first published on the Moon Books blog, is an exploration of the history, mythology and science of the 'Holy Grail'. Many of our readers will probably think they have enough literature on this theme, but I promise you that new vistas will open up to you if you seek the system at work in this book; as the author states, "Those who seek the key will find it in so many clear concise lucid words, repeated by degrees, with a free life entailed and an eye that initially leaps from the page." Mr Stirling makes a convincing case for a Northern Arthuriad, and while parts of the text may distress some of those who centre their Grail work on Avalon/Glastonbury, he is bringing forth from the past a wider vision. My own work is rooted in 'the Arthur of the Welsh' but reading his book widened my awareness that every region 'owns' the Arthuriad and the Grail. There is the Scottish Arthur, the Cornish Arthur, the Arthur of Brittany and indeed the Avalonian Arthur, and more. The Sacred Land is wherever it is recognised, "not Avalon, but Albion" and beyond. ~ The Inner Light, Summer 2015. Volume 35 Number 3
In this latest study of the Grail former actor and radio and television scriptwriter Simon Andrew Stirling places the Arthurian legends in a Scottish setting. However he also examines the mythos in esoteric terms pointing out that the Grail was never a physical object, even though it was often symbolised by material forms. He also highlights the neglected role of Lucifer in the Grail mythos and represents his fall from Heaven to the Earth as the solidification of pure light or ' star energy' into gross matter. This is a spiritual metaphor for the journey of the human soul from spirit into matter and the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Recommended. ~ The Cauldron, May 2015
A brand new book about Arthur, The Grail: Relic of an Ancient Religion, written by Simon Andrew Stirling and brought to you by the good folks at John Hunt Publishing, is reviewed here: Who exactly was King Arthur? And the grail – that magical, perpetually sought-after phenomenon that graces stories about the legendary King – what exactly was it? An actual object? Or only a symbol? A cup or chalice as the Christians maintained? Or, could it have been something altogether different? I need to begin this review by saying that the author of The Grail possesses an incredible amount of detailed information about the legends and history of ancient Britain, all of which comes from original Medieval sources like Perceval le Conte du Graal, Lugh Long-Hand, Aneirin’s poem Y Goddoddin, the legend of Culhwch and Olwen, Preiddeu Annwn, the romance of Peredur fab Efrog and countless other ancient sources that Stirling seems totally and comfortably familiar with. Many of the names of people, places, and written works are presented in the original Gaelic, and then translated into modern English for the Gaelic-impaired among us. One of the things I found fascinating about the book was the way the author draws connections between the Arthurian legends, shamanism, and modern science (brain functioning, the anthropology of child rearing, the physics of matter and energy, etc.). For example, at one point in the book he talks about magic -- one major and pervasive aspect of the Arthurian legends -- in connection with shamanism and the latest scientific information about the brain. One important aim of magic is the union of opposites, says Stirling, which “is often represented as a ‘sacred marriage’ (hieros gamos) in which the male/female elements combine to form a new wholeness. In such a state there is no inner and outer, no subject and object, no self or other. All things become one." Likewise, a union of the opposite sides of our brains, a harmonious fusion of the left, or Logos side, with the right, or Eros side, is an ideal psychological state. And to enter into the shamanic trance, shamans too depend on a harmonious union of the two hemispheres of the brain, relying on drugs, repetitive drumming, or some other repetitive stimulus to lull the left side of the brain into a relaxed state, which allows Logos to combine with Eros, and which in turn allows the shaman to enter an altered state of consciousness. Unfortunately, when Christianity takes over (as it did after the death of Arthur), it damns the Eros/feminine, and allows only the Logos/masculine to enjoy the light of day. This suppression of the feminine has wreaked havoc in Christian-occupied territories. With properly balanced brains we see time and nature in healthy ways, but, says Stirling, when the Logos/left brain hemisphere began to dominate, time became our enemy. Instead of involving a cyclical interplay of past and present, time morphs into a straight line, “the arrow of ‘now’ moving ever further away from ‘then’.” This makes us focus too heavily on ageing and death and lose sight of our place in the natural world, since the Logos-dominated brain tells us that nature is only something to be conquered and controlled. Contrary to current thinking Stirling maintains that the historical Arthur lived not in the south of England at the beginning of the 6th century -- a notion popularized by Geoffrey of Monmouth -- but in Scotland, and at the end of the 6th century. He provides a plethora of evidence to back up his claim, not only from original Medieval literary sources but also from linguistic and place-name analysis as well. Nevertheless, this was a bit of a disappointment for me, since many years ago I spent an entire happy day tramping over Cornwall and climbing the 200 or so steps rising up to the ruins of Tintagel Castle, which I was assured was the place King Arthur was born. Stirling connects Arthur and his knights to Mithraism, suggesting that they might have belonged to a cult similar to the ancient Roman pagan one, sharing similar initiation rituals and totemic animals. He provides his own unique interpretations for all the various aspects of the Arthurian legends: for Guinevere, Mordred, Merlin, Kay, the 24 knights of the round table, Camelot – all of which he places in Scotland. Although the grail is assumed by most to be an object – typically a chalice, cauldron or cup – Stirling says it was not an object or even a symbol, but an “ordeal.” The grail ordeal was used to initiate poets and warriors. Poets gained inspiration from it, and warriors were reborn from it. This ritual involved drinking from a poisonous brew concocted in a “wisdomgranting” cauldron. Only the very brave possessed enough courage to drink this concoction, which bestowed magic powers on imbibers, yes, but could also kill you, and which had to be drained from the body through puncture wounds produced by jabbing a spear into the initiate’s knee or thigh. “What we think of as an object, the Saint Graal or ‘Holy Grail’, was in fact an ordeal which was both appealing and appalling. It was a ‘dreadful longing’ – sant grathail: the ‘terrible desire’ to drink the mead” served in a cauldron and made of hemlock and other substances, possibly from the hallucinogenic bog myrtle. Drinking it was dangerous, but if you came away from it alive you gained second sight and an end to your fear of death. The grail involved four elements: the cauldron, the spear, and a sword and a stone. I found it fascinating that these remain with us even today -- in our Tarot and playing cards (Grail: Sword Spear Cauldron Stone. Tarot: Swords Wands Cups Coins. Cards: Spades Clubs Hearts Diamonds). When Arthur died, says Stirling, both the grail and the old, healthy British way of life died with him. Arthur’s death and the rise of Christianity brought on “the Waste Land.” Stirling makes sense of history and society by dividing them into three stages, or types of sociocultural systems: the Divine Age, the Heroic Age, and the Human Age. Arthur’s death plunged Britain into the barbaric Heroic Age, and although we finally climbed out of the Heroic Age centuries ago, we are now re-entering it, with its hierarchical power systems damaging us all. Reading this book was a grand adventure. I felt as if I’d traveled back into the wild and mysterious days of the late 500s AD, after the “civilized” Romans had left Britain and the Picts, Scots, Angles, Saxons, Pagans and Christians were all wrangling amongst themselves to see who would take charge of the land. These were intoxicating times full of great magic, and Stirling makes them come alive. Stirling ends on a positive note: “It may be that we cannot halt the slide into chaos as the new Heroic age undermines science and overthrows democracy. Perhaps we are not meant to.... [O]ut of the wreckage, a new Divine age will dawn. We will rediscover how to raise our children without hatred and greet death as a beginning....” ~ Radical Goddess Thealogy, http://godmotherascending.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/poisoned-by-holy-grail.html
"A brisk rattle through the well-worn paths of the Grail and King Arthur. Some challenging new theories, applied with a king of relish reminiscent of Robert Graves, make this a fascinating book." John Matthews, author of The Grail: A Secret History. ~ John Matthews, Direct contact with Moon Books