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Grail Mystery Rediscovered in Tarot

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Grail Mystery Rediscovered in Tarot


I've been discussing Waite's correspondences between the Grail material and the Minor Arcana of the Tarot at TarotL.

I wrote an article about it for Llewellyn's 2006 Tarot Reader, and have since amassed more evidence to substantiate my theory that there is a deliberate connection. I continue to add to the following list as I discover more evidence.

1) Waite published a major book on the Grail (Hidden Church of the Holy Graal) the same year as the deck was published (1909).

2) In HCHG is a chapter entitled, "THE HALLOWS OF THE GRAAL MYSTERY REDISCOVERED IN THE TALISMANS OF THE TAROT" (Chapter 9) http://www.sacred-texts.com/sro/hchg/hchg83.htm.

3) Waite unambiguously says the Tarot suits ARE the Grail Hallows. He describes this realization as a major illumination: "a spark from heaven . . . to open another horizon,” and the connection made as “the electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound"(HCHG).

4) Waite says, “the correspondence of certain Tarot symbols with those of the Holy Graal . . . [have a] consequence [i.e., import]” that he won’t discuss in HCHG.

5) Waite only refers in the Grail book to the Lesser Arcana (never the Majors), saying, for instance, that “the Sephirotic attributions [number cards] . . . are especially remarkable . . . [and] certain secret schools have developed their scheme of symbolic interpretation to a very high point."

6) Waite says that the Ace of Cups is "an intimation of that which may lie behind the Lesser Arcana” (PKT).

7) Waite says that the Knight of Swords is Galahad (PKT).

8) The King of Cups is depicted with a fish around his neck [Fisher King].

9) The suit of Cups contains many scenic elements specific to Waite’s short retelling of Robert de Boron’s Grail story (HCHG).

10) Some of the same descriptive wording appears in both the story and in Waite’s description of the cards (PKT), referring to similar elements in both.

11) The order of cards & sequence of scenes in the story are very similar.

12) Pamela Colman Smith's art, in the Minor Arcana especially, uses the faux-medieval style and other conventions found among other late 19th & early 20th century British Grail and Arthurian illustrators—marking these works as their own easily-recognizable genre. See The Camelot Project:
http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/artmenu.htm

13) In the 1933 revision, The Holy Grail, the second half of Waite's chapter on the Grail & Tarot (Ch. 9) becomes the Summary chapter of a new 60 page section, Book XI: "Further Critical Apparatus: The Ritual Hypothesis." Waite here speculates about the Grail myths as the basis for ritual pageants that, he tells us, he is well-qualified to devise. Pageant is defined as "a public entertainment consisting of a procession of people in elaborate, colorful costumes, or an outdoor performance of a historical scene." I propose that he envisioned the Minor Arcana as rough outlines for a quaternity of ritual pageants depicting the "Loss" (including moments of grace & happiness), while the Major Arcana represented the path to Attainment.

14) In an article, "The Tarot and the Secret Tradition," in The Occult Review Vol. XXIX, No. 3; March, 1919, Waite wrote:
"I have said, now long ago, (1) that there are vague rumours concerning a higher meaning in the minor cards but (2) they have never yet been translated into another language than that of fortune- telling. . . . In any case, the four suits of Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles have two strange connexions in folk-lore, to one of which I drew attention briefly in The Hidden Church of the Holy Graal. So far as my recollection goes, I have not mentioned the other in any published work. The four Hallows of the Holy Graal are (1) the Graal itself, understood as a Cup or Chalice, being the first Cup of the Eucharist; (2) the Spear, traditionally that of Longinus; (3) the Sword, which was made and broken under strange circumstances of allegory; and (4) the Dish of Plenty, about which the Graal tradition is composed, but it is understood generally as the Paschal Dish. The correspondence of these Hallows or Tokens with the Tarot sults will be noted, and the point is that albeit three out of the four belong to the Christian history of relics they have an antecedent folklore history belonging to the world of Celtlc myth. This is a subject which I shall hope to carry farther one of these days."

It seems to me that these points make this theory not only worth considering but practically indisputable.

You will find de Boron's Joseph of Arimathea story (as retold by Waite) delineated with the cards from the Suit of Cups at:
http://marygreer.wordpress.com/2008/...r-arcana-cups/

Mary K. Greer
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I have always thought the RWS was a Grail Quest deck! I did not know it was disputed.
The deck itself looks like Christian mysticism. I take the Knights to be the four directions of the Zodiac from our perspective or that The Magician is Arthur or The high Priestess is Mary Magdalene for example. I think that on the 10 Coins Arthur's Harp constellation is depicted.
I did not realise about the centenary of the deck- well did not pick up on it.
I know I enjoy any writings on the subject of this deck.
~Rosanne
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosanne
I have always thought the RWS was a Grail Quest deck! I did not know it was disputed.
The deck itself looks like Christian mysticism. I take the Knights to be the four directions of the Zodiac from our perspective or that The Magician is Arthur or The high Priestess is Mary Magdalene for example.
Some people will dispute anything! My contention is, however, that Waite intended hints of some very specific stories and themes to be present in the Minor Arcana and that we can find the evidence of specific intentions on his part by comparing his book The Hidden Church of the Holy Graal with the Minor Arcana cards.
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On TarotL I've been coming up with my own summary of Waite's Chapter 9 - making it as succinct yet substantive as possible. Here's what I have so far:

Paragraph 1:

"The bare fact is: the Hallows of the Graal legend are the Cup, the
Lance, the Sword and the Dish. Upon studying a subject exhaustively,
sometimes a spark from heaven opens us so we see the whole thing under
a new aspect. We touch a deeper, electric root that binds everything—darkly.
For example, despite the number of critical works on the Holy Graal,
no one has noticed that the Hallows appear elsewhere. They are in the
antecedents of our playing-cards—the old Talismans of the Tarot.
Playing-cards are a prolific and nearly world-wide form of divination
and fortune-telling. We know nothing concerning their origin and
little of their distribution. I don't hold with doubtful documents,
nor speculations about earlier sources such as [de Gebelin's] Book of
Thoth that are full of folly and extravagance. There are traces of the
Tarot cards in the fourteenth century and they might have existed
earlier but, like the Graal itself, are lost to sight."*

*Waite erroneously thought that playing-cards evolved from Tarot and, since there was evidence of playing-cards in the 14th century, Tarot must be at least that old.
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Well I guess I see a specific linking to the story in the Cups suit on your site.
It is a different explanation to what is accepted as to meanings of the cards- but I see some things clearly- like the nine cups on the table-instead of twelve- because there was a famine and some had fallen away in Luxury. I had always wondered why 9 and not 12, and thought it was to force the cups into the 9th position. How wrong I was.
Darkly? I am not sure how Waite means this.
~Rosanne
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosanne
Darkly? I am not sure how Waite means this.
Boy, you go right to the heart of Waite's whole dilemma regarding the Grail. That word confused me, too. But I think I have it now. I'll report on it when I summarize a later part of Chapter 9 where Waite gives what I believe to be the reason for using this word.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosanne
Darkly? I am not sure how Waite means this.
~Rosanne
As Waite was his entire life a devout Catholic, and Pixie converted to Catholicism, it seems to me a clear allusion to St. Augustine's famous "through a glass darkly" - that our understanding of God and our connection to him, while live, is imperfect on this earth.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Teheuti
You will find de Boron's Joseph of Arimathea story (as retold by Waite) delineated with the cards from the Suit of Cups at:
http://marygreer.wordpress.com/2008/...r-arcana-cups/
Very convincing and I'm down with it, except for the 6. I don't exactly understand how the 6 fits into the narrative? And how do Lances become mere Staves or Wands?
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Hi frelkins!
I think it is this that he sees darkly....
Quote:
The same story of loss is therefore everywhere, but it is never told twice in the same way. Now it is a despoiled sanctuary; now a withdrawn sacramental mystery; now the abandonment of a great military and religious order; now the age-long frustration of the greatest building plan which was ever conceived; now the Lost Word of Kabalism; now the vacancy of the most holy of all sepulchres. But the sanctuary is sacred, the king is to return, the Order of Chivalry has not really died; at some undeclared time, and under some unknown circumstances, the Word which gives the key to some treasure-house of the building plan will be restored in full, and meanwhile the quest is continued for ever
The withdrawn sacramental mystery.
~Rosanne
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Is there any support for the graal connection going back further than the RWS?
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