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The Holy Grail & the Tarot

November 25, 2011
Ace of Cups

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

The Mystic Chalice

We know the Knights of the Round Table pursued the quest of the Holy Grail, but what, exactly, was that Grail? It is held to be the cup used by the Master Jesus at the Last Supper, in which Joseph of Arimathea is said to have caught up His blood when He was taken from the Cross. However, many people maintain the Grail was not a cup at all, but a platter. Furthermore, whether or not there was an actual corporeal Grail is a matter of conjecture. Whether or not through the passing of the centuries it has been preserved in some secret physical location is also conjecture. Since the rest of the table furnishings at the Last Supper were not preserved, either in legend or physical form, the likelihood of the Grail being an actual cup or dish is remote. What does concern us, though, as students of occultism, is that the Grail or Cup imagery turns up in all religions, including those prior to and following the rise of Christianity.

No altar, of any faith, is complete without some form of cup, while in Tarot lore, the Cup is an essential part of the magician’s equipment. Represented by the Ace of Cups, the Holy Grail represents the Root of the Powers of Water – or that living stream of Divinity from which all blessings flow. In Holy Communion, the partaking of wine from the cup represents the identification of the worshipper with the Godhead, making them One in that solemn moment. The Cup may thus be said to hold the “waters of life and wisdom”, and to have wisdom is to have happiness.

In divination the Ace of Cups represents conviviality, good news and rejoicing. In the arcane interpretation, it represents the developed talents of the individual being used as a conscious part of the Creator’s plan, bringing happiness and fortune to the individual concerned through applied inborn talents, even so far as to make that person acclaimed. It represents the talent that the good servant put to use, as against the neglected talent that was “buried in the sand”, or left to lie fallow. In an esoteric divination, the Ace of Cups turning up with the querent’s card (known as the significator) represents blessing from on high, often unexpected, due to the querent having reached that stage in her or his life when a reward has been earned.

When reversed, the meaning of the Ace of Cups changes. In a mundane sense, the reversed Ace of Cups means an alteration in one’s life; probably through the beginning of a love affair or the inception of a new enterprise or work that has been inspired from the astral plane. Its meaning is never evil.

Those who seek to understand the occult side of life, and who lay out the Tarot for spiritual guidance, often find this card prominent when they have, at last, found their true purpose in life, and are pursuing it. The writer must write; the artist must paint; the musician must compose . . . It is a sign of inspiration from the higher planes.

In the quest for the Holy Grail, the Knights of the Round Table were seeking to discover the meaning of their having been born. Each realised that his presence in the world was not accidental, but was part of a Plan . . . a plan of such immensity that he could not possibly comprehend the whole of it, but only the little part he himself must play in it. Yet to accomplish even this, he had to understand the powers within himself, accept both their immensity and their limitations, and strive his utmost to lead others to happiness as well as himself. That is the true meaning of the Quest for the Holy Grail.

Everyone seeks happiness. Indeed, far too many people aver that we have the right to happiness. But have we? Would it not be better to assume that we have only the right to seek happiness? Happiness must be earned, through life after life, through every step of this existence. Those privileged ones who seem to be born with all good fortune in attendance are not over-privileged at all.  They are enjoying the fruits of their own past efforts – efforts, perhaps, that have been made in previous lives – and partaking of the waters of the Grail.

In some Tarot packs a fountain of water flaws from the Ace of Cups. This is a reminder that this card represents the Root of the Powers of Water – the continual flow of blessings. But let the student expect to sip those blessings without having merited, by true effort, the succour of that cooling stream, and the waters sink before his lips touch them. Those of us who expect reward from life in excess of what we have earned by our efforts are likewise doomed to disappointment.

Those who complain that they have been unlucky all their lives have been pursuing the wrong things. It is up to every one of us to decide what is our true purpose in life; what we were born to do, and then pursue that end with all our might. Then we will be happy and successful, but only in proportion to the efforts we have put out. That was one of the lessons the Round Table Knights learned in the course of the Mission Perilous. They sought the Holy Grail, and sought it in order that each could understand the part he played in the Divine Plan, and then lay all else aside so as to play that part.

In every religion there is this underlying search for truth; a search in which each individual longs to understand her- or himself, but to do this means facing things about ourselves that we would rather gloss over. It is a case of “Man, know thyself, and thou shalt know the Universe and the Gods.” The Ace of Cups, the Holy Grail, the Fountain of Happiness, lies within ourselves. Nobody else can lead us to it. Nobody can take it from us. Enlighten yourself as to what you are, try to find the reason for your existence on this planet, and bend all your efforts to justify your existence, and you have found the Grail. And happiness and success will then be yours.

Throughout the centuries people have sought the Grail, expecting to find corporeal cup. Throughout the centuries the search has failed for most seekers because they have had so little understanding of themselves. And for the student of occultism, too, the quest will be in vain until she or he looks in the right place. Then, and then only, can each one of us enjoy the reward, success and happiness that comes of finding it. The Holy Grail is concealed within yourself and it is yours for the seeking.

EXERCISES

“In the quest for the Holy Grail, the Knights of the Round Table were seeking to discover the meaning of their having been born. Each realised that his presence in the world was not accidental, but was part of a Plan . . . a plan of such immensity that he could not possibly comprehend the whole of it, but only the little part he himself must play in it. Yet to accomplish even this, he had to understand the powers within himself, accept both their immensity and their limitations, and strive his utmost to lead others to happiness as well as himself. That is the true meaning of the Quest for the Holy Grail.”

Remove the Ace of Cups from your deck and, bearing the above in mind, meditate for one week on the card upright and one week on the card in reverse.

At the end of that time, take The Sun and The World from your pack. These are the cards that were the subject of the previous chapter. Set them and the Ace of Cups in a triangle. Place the Ace at the apex, Trump 19 below to the left, and Trump 21 below to the right. All three cards should be upright. This tableaux symbolises the influence of the Holy Grail descending. It depicts in picture form the changes which the descent of the power of the Holy Grail engender in the lives of the dedicated Grail Seekers. For those who have not yet achieved the Grail, the tableaux can also indicate what effort or gesture it would take on their part to induce the blessings from on high to flow down upon them.

Take one week to meditate upon this arrangement of cards.

The Holy Grail is concealed within yourself; it is yours for the seeking.

© Madeline Montalban, 1954

© Tony Willis, 2010

From → tarot

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