Grail


Grail
   There are no old folk traditions about the Holy Grail, though it is prominent in French Arthurian literature from the late 12th century onwards, where it is usually, but not invariably, linked to the Last Supper and Crucifixion, the Eucharist, and *Joseph of Arimathea. In English Arthurian romances it lies hidden in a mysterious castle somewhere in Britain, guarded by descendants of Joseph or of one of his companions; Arthur's knights try to obtain it, but in vain. Although the story suited medieval piety, Church writers never adopted it; eventually, late in the 15th century, *Glastonbury Abbey claimed to possess a relic brought by Joseph, but it was of a different form: two silver flasks, one containing Christ's blood and the other his sweat.
   Some scholars have argued that *Celtic myths about magic cauldrons underlie the medieval texts. There has been much interest in the Grail in the 20th century, mainly as a mythical and magical, rather than a Christian, symbol; it could therefore be said to have passed from literature into current English folklore. A Victorian belief is that it lies in a spring of reddish water near Glastonbury Tor, which since 1886 has been called 'Chalice Well', though medieval records show the name as Chalcewelle, meaning 'Chalkwell'; another theory, known since 1907, identifies it with a wooden drinking bowl kept in a private house at Nanteos in Wales. Both spring and bowl are said to have healing powers; in the 1750s the spring was a popular spa.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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