The word “grail” is derived from the old French, graal, and the earlier Latin, gradale — a deep platter used for serving food at medieval banquets, over multiple courses. In this sense, the original meaning of “grail” was not a cup or a chalice, but a “graded” series of courses (as in an elaborate meal).
So the grail — usually considered to be an object — may be more accurately understood as a journey with a series of stages or steps.
The notion of such a quest was first mentioned in print in Chrétien de Troyes’s unfinished romance, Perceval, the Story of the Grail, written around 1180. In this text, the grail is described as a golden serving dish, and equal attention is lavished on a special lance — perhaps for the hero of the story, Perceval, to use to “pierce the veil” (from Old French: Percer, pierce; Val, valley) of his own perception.
With my mother’s deep love of Richard Wagner’s Parsifal (Parsi, pure; Fal, fool), an opera about the knights who guard the Holy Grail, I wonder if she considered my father’s father’s name, Percival Harris, when deciding to marry my dad.
In this brief film, when the linestone powder finds its angle of repose, glass marbles fall out of my mouth onto the cold slate floor. This gesture of “losing my marbles” signals a willingness to go beyond conventional sanity as needed.