Christian/Celtic. I thought I had heard it all. Until I realized I had not read the oldest and the newest theories on the grail. Eventually my research into Loomis (the foremost expert on the Celtic theory and a legend in Arthurian studies) led me to a pair of scholars from the era previous to him – Alfred Nutt and Jessie Weston. They were proponents of what were called nature cults. Of the two Weston was the most outspoken, and her theory the most thoroughly explained.
What Weston proposed, basically, was that the grail ceremony varied from author to author because when it was stripped of all its romantic trappings it was actually a nature cult. Since nature cults were not part of a systematized religion, they would logically differ greatly from region to region. Her argument was that the character of Perceval was the oldest and most consistent hero, but his universal quality had misled people. The ceremonies he witnessed in various stories were simply local.
Weston’s idea of layers to the grail story was something that had been assumed by Loomis in his work, but hearing it got me thinking about the concept. So, too, her theory that the story would be different by region as the ceremony was different in almost all details between authors. I had come across nothing that explained Wolfram von Eschenbach (his Parzival was a response to Chrétien’s Le Conte du Graal)’s description of a black stone, for instance, and her idea made allowance for that.
However, what Weston lacked was any real evidence. She might be able to call up a detail in Greece that would explain some aspect of Chrétien’s story, or in Russia to explain Wolfram, but there was never any direct correlation. Basically, the theory was so strong because it was impossible to disprove. This made the theory seriously flawed upon deeper examination. Too flawed to simply accept.
So I turned to Weinraub, the proponent of a Jewish theory. He started off with a very curious bit of trivia; Chrétien de Troyes means of Christian of Troyes. But what would be the point of a man calling himself Christian in a Christian city? Unless of course he was of a different religion, and only the Jewish people were living in France at the time.
Weinraub went on to detail the foods, the manner of service, serving trays, means by which the guests sat, and even the conversation that goes on in Chrétien’s story. The similarity was undeniable; what Chrétien had documented was clearly a description of the Passover meal. The similarity even seemed to follow through with that pesky question that Perceval was supposed to ask; for whom is the grail? The youngest, or least experienced person at the feast was supposed to ask a question that resembled it greatly.
There were still some issues to be confronted, such as the odd passages in Peredur, or even how the Jewish theme had permeated that version of the story. Still, I thought I was more on track with Weinraub than with any theory I had come across before it.