The Grail Legends Mary Magdalen and the Holy Grail As has already been noted elsewhere on this website, legends claim that the Holy Grail was transported either to France or to England. The word Grail derives in many early manuscripts from the Sangraal, or Sangreal.  It was divided into San Graal or San Greal, but it may have been intended instead to be spelled Sang Raal or Sang Real. Or in other words, it may have originally been intended to mean “Holy Blood.” Traditionally, the cup with Jesus’ blood in it may have been an allegory for something besides a cup, namely, the body of Jesus’ wife, Mary Magdalene. As possible support of this allegation, a 1st century record exists showing that a Yeshua ben Yoseph was married to a Mary of Bethany, at about the time Jesus would have been of marriageable age. There were early Church writers who stated that after the crucifixion, Lazarus, the Magdalene, Martha, Joseph of Arimathea, Phillip, and a few others were transported by ship to Marseilles on the coast of France.  There, Joseph was supposedly consecrated by Saint Phillip and sent on to England, where he established a church at Glastonbury. Lazarus and the Magdalene, however, are supposed to have remained in Gaul.  Lazarus supposedly founded the first bishopric there.  One of their companions, Saint Maximin, is said to have founded the first bishopric of Narbonne. Today in modern France, tourists can visit the purported grave sites of both Lazarus and Mary Magdalene. In other traditions, the Magdalene’s tribal affiliation is said to have been that of the Tribe of Benjamen, and she is supposed to have been of royal blood.  In this case, she would have been a descendant of King Saul. Saul was deposed by David, from whose lineage Jesus supposedly came.  By marrying the Magdalene, he would have been reuniting the two royal families and fortifying his position as priest-king of the true blood royal, and any offspring would be doubly rightful heirs to the throne of Jerusalem. Several researchers have shown that the heresy associated with belief in the hieros gamos or sacred marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene would seem to have been similar to some of the beliefs held by the Albigensians, also known as the Cathars, or “pure ones,” who held there was a feminine principle within the Divine.  The Cathars were also remarkably similar to the Essenes, the Jews of the Jerusalem Church, the Gnostics, and others whose heresies had brought down the wrath of the church.  The Albigensians were in that part of France where legends of Mary Magdalene might have been expected to prevail—the southern part. In 1209 the Roman Catholic Church sent 30,000 knights to wipe out the heretics in what was called the Albigensian Crusade. The war lasted nearly 40 years and was in effect a genocidal slaughter. The Albigensians left behind a hidden legacy of some of the symbols of their faith, however, for they were the papermakers of Europe, and rag papermaking had just come into its own as a desirable product. The papermakers imprinted every sheet with a watermark, which could only be seen when held to the light. The symbols with which they marked their paper were rich, and escaped the destruction of the crusade against their makers.  The Albigensian watermark symbols have been thoroughly described by Harold Bayley in his two volumn treatise The Lost Language of Symbolism (New York: Citadel Press), and Margaret Starbird in her books on Mary Magdalene has used this research to the connection of the Cathars with the Merovingian mystery. The Cult of the Black Virgin There are many statues of a Black Virgin, especially in France.  The young Bernard of Clairvaux seems to have been fascinated with the history St. Mary Magdalene.  He believed she was both black and the Bride of Christ.  He wrote 300 sermons devoted to the Song of Songs with reference to the passage that reads, “I am black, I am comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem.”  This cult may have contributed to the courtly love tradition, just as the Cult of the Virgin described in your textbook seems to have improved the status of women in general. Legend has in some quarters connected the Black Virgin with St. Sarah, who supposedly offered to assist the Virgin Mary with tending the baby while the Holy Family was in exile in Egypt.  However, Starbird posits that the true Sarah was the child of Jesus and the Magdalene, who then became the mother of the Merovingian bloodline. For more information on the subject of Mary Magdalene as the bride of Jesus, please see the following books: Baigent, Michael, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. London: Arrow Books, 1996. Starbird, Margaret.  The Goddess in the Gospels.  Santa Fe: Bear and Co., 1998. Starbird, Margaret.  The Woman with the Alabaster Jar. Rochester, Vermont: Bear and Co., 1993. For more information on the Cathars and the symbolism of the Albigensian papermakers, please see: Bayley, Harold. The Lost Language of Symbolism, 2 vols. New York: Citadel Press. O’Shea, Stephen. The Perfect Heresy. New York: Walker Publishing, 2000. Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily