Grail Gemstones

   Of the many versions of the Grail legend, the most mysterious is that espoused by Wolfram von Eschenbach where the grail is not the Celtic cauldron of plenty or the cup of the Christ but a gemstone, the lapsit exillis that fell from the sky out of a crown of an angel.
   Antonio Furtado posited that one of the sources that led Wolfram to describe the Grail as a stone was the anonymous Alexandri Magni Iter ad Paradisum, composed sometime between 1100 and 1175 (cf. Dennis M. Kratz, The Romances of Alexander, New York: Garland, 1991, pp. xxxii-xxxiv). It was translated into German and inserted in a redaction of Pfaffe Lamprecht's Alexander, known as the Strassburg Alexander (1187). It is also referred to in Ulrich von Eschenbach's Alexander. The text shows Alexander at the farthest place touched by his victorious expedition to conquer the known world: the margins of the river Ganges, also called the Physon, "whose source is the paradise of joy". He exclaims: "I have accomplished nothing in the world and consider the results of all my ambition as nothing unless I earn a share of this joy". He boards a ship, with five hundred of his men, and sails against the current for more than one month. Finally, he reaches a long wall and his men bang and shout for the entrance to be opened. Someone comes; he causes them to wait for almost two hours, and then brings a gift to Alexander. The gift was a "gemstone of incredible brightness and rare color. In size and shape it looked like a human eye". It was intended as an 'exemplum' to the King: "... Once you have learned its nature and power, from then on you will desist from all ambition". Then, he counsels the visitors to go away to avoid suffering a shipwreck. Immediately after returning, Alexander summons "the wisest of the Jews and Gentiles" to explain to him the meaning of the stone. Only one decrepit old man, a Jew named Papas, so debilitated by infirmity that he had to be carried in a litter, professed to have the answer. For the King's instruction, he calls for a practical experiment: "This stone is of moderate size, but of such immense weight that nothing can equal its heaviness. Therefore have brought to me now a scale and a pound of gold". It turns out that no amount of gold can counterbalance the stone, despite the fact, noticed by the King, that "the tiny substance of this gem seems almost weightless when held in the hand". But then the wise old man covers it with a slight amount of dirt -- after that, even a delicate feather proves to be heavier than the stone. Papas concludes that the "essence of the omen is contained in these overt warnings, as the nature of the stone testifies". As it appeared in form and color, the stone actually signified the human eye, avid to acquire all sorts of things -- but taking pleasure in nothing and seeking after nothing as soon as "bereft of life and handed over to the bowels of its mother earth". Now, as noted by Matthias, one of the forms of the Latin phrase applied to the Grail is 'lapis exilis'. Both words are attested in the Oxford Latin Dictionary, P. G. W. Glare, ed., Oxford University Press, 1996. 'Exilis' (p. 643) means thin, narrow, of small weight, slight, etc. And 'lapis' (p. 1001) is stone, pebble; curiously the entry includes "a stone, usu. meteoric, supposed to have divine or magical properties". Accordingly, Wolfram's English translator A. T. Hatto (Parzival, Penguin, 1987, p. 431), in a commentary, renders 'lapis exilis' as 'small or slight stone', which agrees with the apparent -- and misleading -- moderate size and tiny substance of Alexander's gemstone. On the other hand, Wolfram's text confirms its true unsuspected weight (p. 243):

 ... Repanse de Schoye... has charge of the Gral, which is so heavy that sinful mortals could not lift it from its place.

Finally, note that, again as Alexander's gemstone, the Grail is linked with the joys (would that be the meaning of 'Schoye'?) of paradise (p. 125):

Upon a green archmardi she [Repanse de Schoye] bore the consummation of heart's desire, its root and its blossoming -- a thing called 'The Gral', paridisal, transcending all earthly perfection!

   Moldavite is the only cosmic gemstone ever found and thus deepens the mystique surrounding it as the probable grail stone.
   Scientifically, Moldavite is classified in the tektite family. The word tektite comes from the Greek word 'tektos' meaning molten. Moldavite has a fascinating history full of interesting scientific data and folklore. It is 14.8 million years old, and virtually found only in the Czech Republic.
   The leading theory concerning their origin is the "Meteorite Impact Theory". It is postulated that many odd events occur during a meteor's impact because of the tremendous heat and pressure produced. Tektites may be fused glass that formed during an impact of a meteor with layers of rock on the Earth's surface. Tektites occur in broad bands in specific localities in different parts of the world. These bands produce characteristically similar tektites and are sometimes loosely associated with meteorite craters or suspected craters. Could these fields represent splash material from an impact? Many believe so and this idea is gaining acceptance from many scientists. The odd and diverse chemistry of the tektites could be a result of unique meteorites hitting unique rock types with the combinations producing particular effects.
   Moldavites are found in a "splash field" centered around Moldavia in former Czechoslovakia and are believed to have come from a meteorite crater in Germany. Moldavites are sometimes cut as gemstones or put into jewelry as natural uncut pieces to show off their often eerie and beautifully intricate shapes.
   Many Moldavites have beautiful patterns of etching and sculpting. Unlike other tektites which are brown or black, Moldavite is a translucent green. Moldavites are unique among meteoric stones in that they are truly gems. When cut and polished, Moldavite exhibits a rich, deep, forest green colour. Moldavites are extremely rare.
   Moldavites are also considered to be mystical, exhibiting qualities and resonance that can be felt by an individual. Could it be possible that Wolfram was postulating such a gemstone, perhaps larger than the standard size gems? There are examples of statues and cups crafted out of similar gems and rocks. And there are strong resemblances between Wolfram's Grail stone and the Hermetic Krater, a sort of loadstone of God, the cup of gnosis. Wolfram, for all of his insinuations as being untutored, was steeped in Eastern mysticism. His grail story brings together the mysticism and history brought back from the holy land by the returning crusaders.
   And yes. I believe in the Grail. No matter what Jeshua said in regards to the Word (veneration of the Truth of God through the spiritual), people are like 'Doubting Thomas'. They need to touch the substantial, the reality, in some form - the bones of the saints, splinters of the true cross, blood and tears that flow fresh from statues and carvings, and sightings and visions of Jeshua and his mother Miriam.
   The concept of the Grail as the cup of the Christ that contained both the wine of the Last Supper and the spilled blood from the crucifixion created a living Eucharist and a Christian transmutation of the pagan cauldrons would have been hard for the early hagiographers and clerics to pass up. The Celtic beliefs with their triads and cauldrons and their belief in the Otherworld were a fertile ground for Christianity. During the darkness of the Middle Ages, Christianity survived not from the strength of the old World of Rome and Palestine but in the magical, spiritual hearts of the Celtic Irish.
   The Grail, whether you think of it as a jeweled golden cup, an unadorned simple cup, or the hermetic krater represents the magical point where the world of the spirit and the world of the flesh touch.