Aspects of the Grail

in the original Celtic version the “grail” (though not named this) is a severed head on a platter.

A severed head? Quite a grisly image if taken literally, but what about metaphorically?

The Celts saw the head as the seat of the soul, so from this perspective it could be read as the soul being seperated from the body, (or vice verse).

One could also interpret it as the head representing logical, rational “Head thoughts” being severed from the “heart feeling” of the body.

Either way this psychic seperation causes illness and the wasteland, both in terms of the land and the inner country of the individual’s mind.



Filed under Arthurian, Celtic, Graal, Grail

2 responses to “Aspects of the Grail

  1. lurgie

    Reblogged this on Stuart McHardy and commented:
    King Arthur in Scotland
    It has long been known that the Legendary Figure of “King Arthur” was part of the common cultural inheritance of all the British peoples who spoke P-Celtic languages. While many people think this just means the Welsh, Cornish and Britons in fact it also included the Britons of Strathclyde, the Gododdin of Lothian and, in all probability, their Pictish cousins to the north – our ancestors. As Scottish history at last begins to take its rightful place in our national curriculum – Scottish traditions of Arthur become even more important. Placenames and local tales from the Borders to the Moray Firth attest to the hold this enigmatic figure had on our ancestors.
    The past decade has seen a major resurgence of interest in the ”Scottish Arthur” following on from earlier works like JS Glennie’s 1869 Arthurian Localities and J Veitch’s 1878 History and Poetry of the Scottish Border. These in turn were much influenced by W F Skene’s ground-breaking Four Ancient Books of Wales, first published in 1868 which opened up the field.

    The arthurianscotland blog will provide ongoing information and commentary on the ever-growing interest in Arthurian Scotland and its relevance to understanding this most important of ancient characters.

    • Many thanks for your interest in my post. I have read a few books that argue for a “Scottish” Arthur, with varying degrees of success. Perhaps, the most compelling being Howard Reid’s Arthur, the Dragon King which places him on Hadrian’s Wall but not as Scottish.

      There are also some interesting connections with the Merlin legends and the character of Lailokin based in the area known as the Gododdin.

      Personally, any attempt to provide a nationality for Arthur is difficult one. The concept of Scotland, Wales, England, etc, are labels that did not exist in the time of Arthur. All are later concepts based as much on political constructs as upon cultural ones. We can say, with certainty, that he was not English, despite a number of Kings of England attempting to fabricate a bloodline to a real King Arthur. He fought the Anglo-Saxons, he was not Anglo-Saxon, but it is less clear when we attempt to call him Scottish or Welsh, as these nations did not exist at that time.

      The names Scotland and Wales both originate from languages not spoken by those being described. Neither would have been terms these people applied to themselves. Parts of present day Scotland were known by various names and not much is known of The Picts. It has always intrigued me that, etymologically, there appears to be a link between the words Cwmry and Cumbria which assumes some sort of cultural or loose alliance that connected what is modern Wales, through Cumbria and into parts of present-day Scotland. Presumably, it was a form of Brythonic language spoken by these peoples, rather than the Goidhelic branch.

      I, personally, see no value in trying to pin King Arthur down to a specific nationality, as those nationalities did not exist in his time. I doubt there was any sense of national identity other than a loose and changing collective of groups that spoke a similar language and opposed the encroachment of Angles, Saxons, Jutes, etc. Having said that, I am glad to hear that Scottish history is being celebrated as part of the curriculum. Many years ago I had contacts with the School on Skye that worked to keep the language alive, such things are of immense importance.

      My own interest is in the mythology of Arthur, the metaphysical meaning and teaching the legends provide in terms of the strengths and weakness of the human condition. A concept that is universal. There is no doubt that he represented the Celtic peoples of this isle and they all, rightly, lay claim to him but, ultimately, it could be said he ruled over the land of Logres, for he belongs to this land rather than any particular modern nationality: We each dig in a rich soil from which the legend of Arthur grew.

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