The Grail Tarot is a beautiful deck in its concept and breadth, but not one I reach for often because it is, to put it mildly, epic in scope and quite melodramatic. The whole Grail legend is full of pain, confusion, and futility, with the frailest glimmer of hope (but if realized, what a radiant and effulgent hope it is!) It is a jumbled and confusing story, in which knights wander, floundering, in search of the unattainable. We can all relate, I think, because I believe we all feel a deep yearning after something, and have little idea what it is or how to find it.
In Chretien de Troyes' Perceval: Story of the Grail, Perceval fails to attain the Grail when he refrains from asking questions about it. (Chretien never finished this poem, and so the mystery has fired the imaginations of generations.) Perceval, a simple youth raised away from the world of men, has undertaken to find a mysterious object called 'the graal', and finds himself invited into the very odd castle of the Fisher King, where in the hall, a strange procession marches past him: a young man carrying a bleeding lance, two boys carrying a candelabra, and a beautiful girl carrying a highly decorated 'graal', a flat serving dish. Having been upbraided by other knights for asking too many questions, Perceval keeps silent about these strange sights. The next morning, he is told by a 'loathely lady' that if he had only asked the right questions, the Fisher King would have been healed. He should have asked why the lance bleeds, and whom the grail serves. Chretien's poem ends here, unfinished.
What a strange story! The images are visceral, Perceval's 'failure' seems brutally unfair. But we have the Grail questions: Why does the lance bleed? Whom does the grail serve? In other words, what the heck is going on and what does it all mean??? Isn't that what we all want to know when life presents us with its parade of incomprehensible weirdness?
What is the lance that bleeds? Two of Swords
|Grail Tarot, 2007|
What is the grail? Three of Swords
|Grail Tarot, 2007|
What can heal my wound that doesn't heal? The Gnostic Christ
When I picked up the deck to shuffle for this answer, I had the distinct impression that I would draw this card. When I turned it over, I felt a rush of warmth descend from the crown of my head and down the length of my body. The Gnostic Christ in the Grail Tarot is major arcanum 1, The Magician. Notice his hands are in the 'as above, so below' gesture. In the gnostic sense, this card is about finding the kingdom within, the divine light of the All which is beyond words. This is the Christ within, and has nothing to do with the Jesus of mainstream Christianity, in which the Gnostic Christ is considered a heresy. The healing is within me; it really is.
The thing to remember, though, is that Perceval didn't fail because he didn't get the answers to the questions. He failed because he didn't ask. So the important thing is not to worry about finding the answers...just don't give up asking the questions. Don't give up.