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Monday, 25 November 2013

A heavenly cause

Grail Tarot, 2007
Well, after yesterday's post, isn't it appropriate that today's draw from The Grail Tarot: A Templar Vision (John Matthews, 2007) is Perceval, major arcanum 17, Star.

In this card, the Seeker stands beside the ethereal Perceval, who is mounted on a horse and holding aloft the Grail. The Seeker holds out his hands tentatively to receive it, while in the background the Shekinah looks on. In the golden sky, a single tiny star glows faintly.

I can't help myself, there's something about this card, and the whole Grail Tarot, that makes me hum 'The Impossible Dream', from the musical Man of La Mancha, to myself while working with it. Look at Perceval's face in this card. He does not look particularly triumphant. He looks like he is practically outside his body. He looks surreal. He looks shell-shocked. (He has a similar shell-shocked look in the Haindl Tarot, where he is depicted as the Prince of Cups). This has cost him everything, which he gave willingly. Having failed to ask the Grail questions on his first visit to the castle of the Wounded King, Perceval has traveled  far and had many strange experiences, ending up at the Grail castle again, and this time achieving the Grail, accompanied by Galahad and Bors. But, not unlike Frodo, it occurs to me, Perceval is so changed by his experiences that he is no longer suited for this world. This happens to all three of them. (Bors though, perhaps because he was always better grounded, being the only married man amongst the Grail knights, does eventually return to earthly matters and to Camelot.) I don't know what the word is for this feeling I associate with the deck. It's a sort of wistfulness. Yearning. Hope where there is no hope. Oh, let's just listen to Peter O'Toole sing it and get it out of my system (I like Peter O'Toole's version. I like the fragility of his delivery):

The Star is a card of hope, and faith, a luminescence distinct from the hazy mysteries of the moon and the fierce brightness of the sun. It is untainted by arrogance, disappointment, or doubt. It is a card of clarity inspiration, salvation and enlightenment. On the other hand, the Star could also be aspirations and standards so high that no one could ever live up to them. However, in true Star fashion, their being impossible is no reason at all to stop believing in and seeking them.

The thing is, I don't think Don Quixote ever actually believed he would achieve his quest. He seems almost certain that he will die trying, the point being to never give up. Perceval has the look of a man who also thought he would die trying, and now that the quest is achieved, nothing seems real. (Not that anything had seemed real for a very, very long time, in the strange world of the Grail quest.)

I myself am not on any particular quest today, unless you count going to the audiology department to pick up more batteries for my hearing aids as a 'heavenly cause'. (Though it may be argued that visiting an NHS hospital is not unlike 'marching into hell', but that may be a bit of an overstatement).

What does the Star card make you think of? And what does this particular card image bring to your mind?


  1. I like your take on this card and deck, you see it in a far more positive light than I have so far managed. That sense of reaching for the unattainable is an interesting one.

    And as for Perceval being ethereal and ungrounded, it doesn't help that his horse is on his two left hooves and looks likely to tip over at the slightest breeze! Horses don't move like that!:D