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The uest of the Holy Grail The noted author of From Ritual to Romance describes and analyzes the literature of the Grail cycle and surveys the leading theories about the origins and meaning of the legend Her conclusion is that the Grail story is a confused and fragmentary record of a special form of nature worship which elevated to the dignity of a mystery survived as a tradition Appendix Bibliography Index


About the Author: Jessie Laidlay Weston

Jessie Laidlay Weston 1850–1928 was an independent scholar and folklorist working mainly on mediaeval Arthurian textsWeston was the daughter of William Weston a tea merchant and member of the Salters' Company and his second wife Sarah Burton and named after his first wife Jessica Laidlay Sarah after giving birth to two daughters died when Jessie was about seven William remarried Clar



10 thoughts on “The uest of the Holy Grail

  1. Jeffrey Dixon Jeffrey Dixon says:

    After a series of in depth highly detailed books in which she first developed her Ritual Theory of the origins of the legend of the Holy Grail the Arthurian scholar Jessie L Weston 1850–1928 was at last able to present her challenging ideas in a form in which they could be understood by the general reader – a reader at least who was not averse to the ‘soft occultism’ propagated by the Theosophical Society and GRS Mead’s uest Society which grew out of it Her book was in fact brought out as part of the uest Series edited by Mead for the London publisher G Bell Sons; and was preceded by an article which she wrote for the first volume of his uarterly review The uest 1909–10 In this she expresses her view that the Grail was originally the sacred vessel of a pagan mystery religion whose rituals had been “worked up into a story”; and that this story had been “remodelled on the lines of Christian Mysticism” not always intelligently Much of the article is devoted to attacking the theories of the Christian Hermeticist AE Waite who consistently belittles the pre Christian elements in the stories “He cannot surely believe that under the Christian dispensation alone did man seek after God and find Him?” This argument with the advocates of a Christian Theory of Origin she continues in the fourth chapter of her 1913 book concluding “Whatever the Grail may be it is not a Christian relic; whatever the source of the story it is not an ecclesiastical legend” Although she gives greater weight to what she calls the Folk lore Theory the discussion of which occupies the fifth chapter advocated by among others her late friend Alfred Nutt she argues that this too is inadeuate to explain the totality of the Grail symbolism it is difficult she writes to accept “that a purely Folk lore food providing vessel should be identified with the most sacred objects of the Christian Faith” unless it were from the beginning “surrounded with the atmosphere of mysterious sanctity befitting the holiest of relics” Her own Ritual Theory “the view that sees in the Grail tradition as preserved to us the confused and fragmentary record of a special form of nature worship which having been elevated to the dignity of a ‘mystery’ survived in the form of a tradition” designed to bridge the gap between paganism and Christian mysticism occupies the final two chapters of what is an admirably concise and succinct presentation of her argument With its summaries of the continental texts and stories this is as near as Weston got to writing a Beginners Guide to the Grail uest even the uotations from the original texts are translated into English for once Along the way Weston repeats the intriguing hints about the sources of her own theories which she first dropped in the second volume of her Perceval Studies The Legend of Sir Perceval Vol 2 Studies Upon Its Origin Development and Position in the Arthurian Cycle; theories which though wedded to thorough textual criticism have a clearly non literary provenance More than once she tells us she has lent her translation of the adventures of Gawain in the Grail Castle which she considered to be based on the earliest pagan versions to friends whom she has reason to believe were familiar with occult traditions and practices; their invariable response is to remark “This is the story of an initiation told from the outside” The Grail stories and the initiation rituals which she believed are the groundwork of the romances were like the doomed Albigensians and Templars and the misunderstood Troubadors and Alchemists part of the “strange currents stirring” in the Middle Ages “a stream of tradition running as it were underground which from time to time rises to the surface only to be relentlessly suppressed” This suppressed tradition she would explore fully in her next and most famous book From Ritual to Romance whose reception among creative modernists would justify her belief that the Secret of the Grail is “above all a ‘human’ problem a subject of profound human interest and one which touches such deep springs of human thought and need that it reuires to be handled by those whose interest lies in dealing with the workings of the soul as much as with the expression of literary intelligence” If you enjoyed this review you might also be interested in my blog Myth Dancing incorporating the Twenty Third Letter


  2. David David says:

    I'm not persuaded


  3. Thomas Kinsfather Thomas Kinsfather says:

    Overly technical Written for scholars


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