George Mosley on the Holy Grail myth
From: George Mosley
Subject: Tradtionalism vs. Feminism
El> All very interestin, but what of the mystical feminist
El> approach to the Grail Mysteries? What of the yonic symbolism,
El> the ever-filled vessel? Was the Grail mythos work done to heal a
El> culture deficient in male sacred power models, and have we moved
El> to another point on Foucault's pretty pendulum design? (I.E.
El> seems to me the Grail mythos assumes the primacy of Goddess as
El> source, although she has been depersonalized to the status of
El> "the Holy Saucepan", as a crone friend of mine puts it. Modern
El> myth leaves her out entirely, in many
El> cases. Spiritual and cultural first aid
El> workers may, in the course of things, decide that healing Her is
El> at least on a par with healing the Fisher King, and if triage
El> seems necessary she might even come up first on some folks' lists.)
El> Well, that's quite a box of questions there, no?
El> Wanna play with 'em?
There are many questions indeed, but I'm a little chary about playing with
them. I don't want to run up against anyone's beliefs.
Ok, though, I'll be a little skeptical. First, there is definitely yonic
symbolism in Grail myths. From Weston to Campbell, the feminine nature of
the Grail itself has been discussed. For my part, though, I can seriously
question whether applying a Freudian concept such as the yonic symbol onto
prehistorical myths is useful. I really don't support the Frazer-Weston-
Campbell strain, since it implies, to me, the validity of a whole trunk of
assumptions which I'm not willing to grant: 1. that human consciousness
has had the same basic dynamic throughout history, 2. this dynamic exists
independently of material circumstances, 3. this dynamic can be best
understood as sexual and invasive, and 4. the Grail myth itself does not
say what it means: that it requires either the healing touch of
historical restoration or the decoding of a hermeneutic exercize.
How do we know that there has been alteration in one Grail myth? How do we
know that, say, the Adonis cult and the Parsifal story are connected
historically? We can see similarities, but we can also see similarities
between half a dozen or more flood stories.
How do we know that the Grail story is, in fact, supernatural/mystical in
origin? "John Barleycorn" can seem religious; it's awfully enigmatic, but
it probably is only about alcoholism. Vladimir Propp identified 7 main
narratives for all fairytales. What makes us sure that the Grail/quest
stories aren't just the normal sorts of adventure stories which gradually
settle into a sort of narrative channel? Why can't there be variants of a
single tale which just, through time, begin to look like conscious
alterations to a sacred story?
Remember that, at least in England, one of the dominant forms of writing
was the riddle. Similarly, there are stories which come from a single
source and begin to look a little fishy. For example, the stories Bocacio
tells seem to predate him. When we see the same stories appearing all
over the continent and England, it may be natural to wonder "who" changed
the story. In fact, the answer is everyone and no one. The change was not
I could go on. I don't want to *deny* anything you've said...I can't...I
merely mean to express some natural skepticism. Ultimately, I'm convinced
that there is something mystical in this literature. Whether it's
mystical toward this or that deity, I can't say. Whether there are
lingering fertility cults, I don't know.
Well, I hope none of this offends...none of it was meant to.