by Karin Ugander and Christopher Penczak
This article is part 2 of a two-part series.
The Quest of the Holy Grail
In the most esoteric aspect 41/5 is connected to a deep search of meaning of life. Why have I come here? What is my purpose? In our western society we can find important keys of understanding by looking at the Quest of the Holy Grail. This year of 2021 we all will benefit by looking at the Gail myth as chances are many of its aspects will play out in our world. As we enter the Age of Aquarius, the fixed air sign that is called the Water Bearer, we can look to the Grail Knights, Grail Kings, and Ladies of the Lake as different mythic Water Bearers. The jug, the vessel, we must bear in the New Age is the Holy Grail, and we must pour its healing waters out to heal the connection and communication of all things upon the Earth and beyond.
The more you work with the Grail, the more you realize it’s much more than a cup. It’s a combination of all the aces and within that collection is encoded all the initiations of the Major Arcana and all the numbers. In the stories, the Grail takes many forms. Beyond the cup and cauldron, it can be a lance that bleeds, embodying the mystery of the sacrificed king, wounded and no longer able to unite with the queen as the divine feminine. The Grail is a plate, platter or dish. Sometimes its the severed head of a prophet, speaking of the future to anyone who will listen. The Grail can be a stone, and is often compared to the emerald in the crown of the archangel Lucifer. In the Christian story of the Angelic War of Heaven, the gem is loosened and falls to Earth, kept by the angels who remain neutral in the war. In esoteric circles, this fall from the Archangel of Venus and the Morning Light initiates life upon Earth and plays a deep role in the mysteries of the Faery Races. In the Temple of Witchcraft mythos, we see the emerald divided – part taking shape as the cup of the Holy Grail and part becoming the Emerald of Hermes’ tablet. Other stories compare it to the lapis exilis, the stone exiled from paradise and equate it with the medicine of the alchemists, the fabled Philosopher’s Stone which the Elixir of Life. The Holy Grail is all of these things and none of them.
If we found the Grail would we know it?
In the Grail Myth a young and innocent knight is on the quest to find the Holy Grail. But when he finds it he fails to ask the questions needed and therefore loses it. He then spends many years trying to find it again. The changing forms and stories around the Grail making it confusing. What is it? How will we know it? What should we ask so we don’t fail?
Here I can’t help but think about the situation with the world and Covid-19. Is there some hidden gift in this awful situation that we risk not seeing? Some people have not been able to see their loved ones in a long time and that is very sad. But many are spending more time than ever with their families. Here in Sweden people are moving out to the country again. Farming more vegetables, reconnecting to the earth. They have started meditating, reading more, getting a pet, spending more time in nature and experiencing more quality time then ever. Of course there are challenges and deaths, but what if we are being offered something special here that we may lose again if we are not paying attention?
The question necessary to complete the quest is asking “Whom does the Grail serve?” That can seem like an odd phrase but, in essence, we are asking what is the purpose here, of the Grail, and whatis our purpose, in the scheme of things before us. What does the Grail do? And how can we participate in it? Service is key. We each embody the Grail, so whom do we serve? How do we serve the Grail in its service to all?
If the Grail is to play a role in our Age of Aquarius mythos, Aquarius is embodied by social consciousness to the group, the collective, as well as the individuality of the self. It presents a challenge to us living in the Age of Pisces mindset, where we are often told that being ourselves is to the detriment of the collective. Religious and social paradigms in the previous ages have required us to conform to established roles. Aquarius tells us the only way we can serve is by being our individual authentic self. Only when we bring our true self to the collective can we do the part that is unique and essential for us.
In the story of Inanna, initiates say the goddess faced a similar question and also initially failed. The Queen of Heaven meets up with her pregnant and grieving sister in the underworld and fails to ask, “Sister what ails thee and how can I be of service?” Yet in failing this, Inanna undergoes death and resurrection, grows wise, and returns renewed through the gates of the underworld.
Some witches say “Everything serves the Goddess” meaning that every event and occurrence serves the greater pattern of fate unfolding, even if we cannot see it in the moment. Everything gets incorporated into the pattern. Our choices come in expressing our part more skilfully, more beautifully, and more consciously in cooperation with her.
The Hierophant as a Shaman
If we see the Ace of Cups as the Grail itself, it becomes very interesting. When we add the numbers of the Ace of cups 41, 4 + 1 = 5, we end up with the Tarot card The Hierophant. He is the teacher, guide, and mentor. There is a lot of misunderstanding and reinterpretation of the Hierophant today. Due to the depiction of him in the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, he is seen as the Pope, and we lay upon this card all the associations of the hierarchy of the Christian churches and their persecutions, patriarchy, and colonialism. Yet the term “hierophant” is ancient Greek, and means to show the holy mysteries. The hierophant was the chief priest in the Eleusinian Mysteries, working side by side with the High Priestess of those mysteries as equals. There is a structured mystery tradition implied, in opposition to the more wild and intuitive mysteries of the forest. In some tarot decks he is the Shaman and holds the keys to initiation and seeking to point back to the primal mysteries of the wild from which things like the Eleusinian Mysteries arose. To fulfil the true purpose of 41/5 we need to drink from the cup, or rather dive into the cup wholeheartedly to become initiated and embody the power of the Hierophant. If we fail our mission and don’t complete the transformation, we risk becoming a dysfunctional Shaman.
In his book Fire in the Head, Tom Cowan writes about the Grail Quest. He describes the wounded Fisher King like a wounded shaman stuck between the worlds. The Fisher King refuses to change, he is frightened and does not listen to the call. In all shamanic traditions it is well known that when the shaman returns after initiation or a strong vision, they need to make the necessary changes in their life for the transformation to be complete and the healing to take place. Without the changes and fulfilling his part of the deal, they become stuck in time.
What we can ask ourselves in a world of humans experiencing Covid-19, what will happen if we integrate and spiritually understand the transformation after lock-downs and the stand-still in many countries? Will we come out on the other side with a shamanic perspective, the Witch’s perspective, and abilities to look at the world with new eyes? Will we be able to connect in deeper and more meaningful ways? Will the Fisher King be healed? Or will we stop in the middle of the transformation and become dysfunctional shamans, dysfunctional humans stuck in-between?
Interesting in the Grail Quest, the Fisher King needs the knight who is seeking to help the healing process, and the knight has to be able to ask, “Whom does the Grail serve?” In some version, behind the Fisher King, in a secret chamber, is the older, wiser Grail King. It is the Grail King that the Grail serves. The questing knight, wounded king, and wise elder represent three stages in the initiation process. So if you have the capacity to help another along in the process, do so! If you can serve, serve. If you need help, accept help when offered to you. Always keep asking the questions of how you can serve.
On a spiritual level 41/5 holds you accountable for the Initiations and vows you have taken. On the positive side, if you have worked hard to embody that energy, but without any flow or tangible success, this may be the time when things start to flow in a good way. But if you have neglected or chosen to forget your obligations, this year can feel like a kick in the butt and you may be forced to make some changes.
The Romance of the Crusade
There is a certain romantic shimmer about shining knights riding off to a foreign countries in search for the Holy Grail. Saving virgins, doing apparently good deeds, and saving souls. Going to war with whomever stands in their way. The Grail is a light pointing to itself and is therefore very seductive. Many of these seemingly noble impulses lead to the greatest horrors of organized religion.
This 41/5 year, it could be that we will see people, companies, politicians, witches, and spiritual people going to war over what they consider their Grail, their truth or prize. Here I fear people following leaders with a lot of light, but not a lot of heart. If the Ace of Cup (41/5) is corrupted and the water is sour, the Hierophant (5), leader and guide, will be a false one. We have already done variations of this, with less skilful fake leaders and have to be on guard for those who will try it with more expertise.
The aces have potential for both great good and great bad and knowing which side is which is not an easy task. It is nice standing close to someone in thelight. It is easy to feel good, perhaps even chosen for acrusade or sacred task. But whenever there is a brightlight and many wanting to stand close we have to look out for elitism and “better than” mentality. If that creeps into an organisation or community we are headed down a dangerous road.
At its heart and core, 41/5 and the Grail are about Love and Hope. They are about deep healing and restoring what once was lost, about service to a greater good. Personally I am a big believer in small acts of kindness every day in various of ways. My hope for this year is hearts transforming into shining, overflowing cups of love, just like the Ace of Cups. And when they all connect, who knows what wewill find?
Karin Spirit Talker Turtle Red
& Christopher Penczak
Fire in the Head, Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit. Tom Cowan, Harper One, 1993
Numerology and the Divine Triangle. Faith Javane & Dusty Bunker, Whitford Press, 1979
King Arthur and the Goddess of the Land: The Divine Feminine in the Mabinogion by Caitlin Matthews
The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend by Gareth Knight
The Holy Grail by Malcom Goodwin
The Grail: A Secret History by John Matthews
The Grail Castle by Kenneth Johnson and Marguerite Elsbeth
Gwenevere and the Round Table by Wendy Berg
The Grail: The Celtic Origins of the Sacred Icon by Jean Markale
The Hidden Church of the Holy Graal by Arthur Edward Waite
Orders of the Quest, The Holy Grail by Manly P. Hall