Percival's Worthy Approach
are numerous tales of the Holy Grail, but the most famous focuses
on a young hero named Sir Percival.
Percival was raised away from court in
a secluded forest by a mother who wanted to shield him from the
ways of chivalry. Her husband and two sons were killed in battle,
and she was committed to keep her youngest ignorant of all things
having to do with knighthood.
Percival was thus raised in a natural innocence
that made him look foolish to those more worldly. He had no idea
what a knight was. When he chanced upon three knights passing through
the forest, he looked at their mail armor and thought it their skin.
Surely they must be angels, as my mother described!
He approached the knights and made a fool
of himself, asking questions that the knights thought obvious. After
a while, they wished him well and left. He ran back to his mother,
who reluctantly explained that these men were knights, and described
them in vile terms. Her intent to dissuade her son fell on deaf
ears. Percival declared in no uncertain terms that he wanted to
become a knight. His mother finally relented, and she sent him on
his way to King Arthurs court to claim his knightly inheritance.
Percival reveals his foolishness as he
travels, but finally makes his way to King Arthur. By killing
one of the kings worse enemies with a hunting javelin, he
takes the red armor of the fallen and continues on his way to destiny.
A kindly knight by the name of Sir Gornemont
takes Percival under his wing and teaches him the skills of
combat and requirements of chivalry. Since Percival had a habit
of asking too many questions, Gornemont told him to restrain his
inquisitiveness and use less words.
Percival leaves his mentor and wins the
heart of a noble damsel named Blacheflour. After doing so,
he decided to visit his mother.
It was on this journey home that he found
the mysterious Grail Castle, and met the Grail King,
also known as the Fisher King. This noble lord suffered from
a wound to his genitals which left him crippled and in pain.
While attending a feat at the Grail Castle,
Percival was amazed when everything came to a reverent stop, allowing
a procession to pass through the room. A girl was part of this procession
who carried a cup that glowed with a strange light. A lad followed
who carried a white lance. From the tip of the lance fell drops
of blood, as if the weapon itself were bleeding. Some say there
were other hallows as well. A book, or a platter, a broken sword
or image of a head.
Percival was astounded by what he saw.
As they left the hall, he had to bite his tongue to stop himself
from asking about it. He did this so as not to appear rude, as his
mentor had warned him.
He slept in the Grail Castle that night.
When he awoke in the morning, the people were all gone. He saddled
his horse and left. Upon leaving, the Grail Castle disappeared.
He learned from a hideous woman that by
not asking about the Holy Grail, he had failed his more important
test. If he had asked, the Fisher Kings wound would have been
healed. She also told him that his journey home was for nothing.
His mother had died soon after he had left her from a broken heart.
Percivals grief could not have been
greater. He traveled in search of the Grail Castle in order to help
the Fisher King, and encountered adventures that proved his worth
as a knight. Word got back to King Arthur about this nameless Red
Knight and his many great deeds.
He eventually rediscovered the Grail Castle
and was welcomed once again. As the procession moved before him,
he looked to the Fisher King and asked: What is the secret
of the Grail? Whom does it serve?
With that, the Fisher Kings wound
instantly healed. Percival learned that this king was actually his
uncle. By passing this initiation, Percival would take his place
as the next Grail King.
The story is rich with symbolism.
Like Percival, we have been raised in a
dark forest culture that disregards what it means to
be a man. We might stay there as innocent fools for the rest of
our lives, our potential wasted. But then, if we are lucky, we feel
the call of chivalry, and respond. We leave the tangled forest on
our own, and find our way to King Arthurs table, where inspiration
and the promise of knighthood is granted.
We go off to learn what it means to be
a man. We learn from kindly mentors, if we find them, or from books
or friends or common sense. Once the fire for authenticity is started
in our hearts, it is not easily quenched. We learn from our adventures,
and hopefully find true love.
According to this story, proving ourselves
is only the beginning of our quest. We are called to confront what
can only be called Mystery, represented by the Holy Grail. Discovering
it, or seeing it, is not enough. We have to ask about it. We have
to make inquiries. This is the only way to properly respond to Mystery.
We relate to the ineffable not by claiming it, or controlling it,
or describing it with guesses. We relate by approaching it, fearlessly,
with an open mind and a desire to learn. We invite its question
mark into our lives, and insert it into all our conclusions. Just
be recognizing its existence, we better fulfill who we are in a
universe we cannot explain.
Percivals questions healed the wound
of the Fisher King. The wound represented our cultural manhood.
It wasnt Percivals wound. It belonged to the sovereign
of the land, what was referred to as the Wasteland. The inherent
message? When male values are perverted, neglected or wasted, the
world is decimated, and by the hands of men. We see this everywhere
we look. From pollution to war, to crime and global warming, we
create our own hell on earth, and cant seem to stop it.
The story of Percival suggests that the
answer is found in us, expressed though chivalry, compassion and
opening our minds to truth.
calls upon us to heal the concept of manhood that has been crippled
for generations. It calls us to get in touch with the compassion
of our souls, and open our mind to possibilities for improvement.
does this by calling us to encounter life as a quest for truth,
personal growth and setting things right.