Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/215

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Reviews.

193

white, pure, it is used to explain Borron's form. Nay more, the epithet white, shining, appHed to Britain in some of the romances is traced back to this hypothetical Syriac designation of the land whither the Grail host proceeded. The French translators from the Syriac would seem at the same time to have misunderstood the force of the term, as they took it for a proper name, and to have understood it, as is shown by their applying it to Britain. Professor Wesselofsky seems unaware of the earlier use of the term " white " for Britain or of the natural explanation of that use.

The section devoted to the Grand St. Graal is of greater value and deserves careful consideration. The story of Joseph's relations to and conversion of the heathen kings of Sarras differs markedly from the remainder of that interminable romance by its precise and realistic detail ; we feel in contact with a local legend. It is marked also by an extremely crude and materialistic present- ment of the Eucharistic sacrament and by its pronounced hetero- doxy in matters ecclesiastical and liturgical. Professor Wesselofsky places Sarras at Harran, the seat of old and powerful heathen cults of an astral nature which lived on as Ssabaism, and pseudo- Ssabaism contaminated with Judaism, in an organised form down to the middle of the eleventh century. Human sacrifice was a marked feature of these cults, and the one which especially called down upon them the wrath of the Mohammedan conquerors; elaborate descriptions survive of the sacrifice of boys in which the flesh mixed with flour was eaten sacramentally. Conceptions and practices such as these are, it is urged, reflected in the Grand St. Graal account of the Eucharistic sacrifice first established by Joseph by Christ's own bidding ; Christ appears to the officiant in the guise of a young child, bids him dismember His body, and is partaken of under this form.

There is much that is fascinating in this hypothesis ; it focusses a number of facts which, unconnected at present, have yet struck many students of the cycle as linked together by ties of genuine kinship : the curiously heterodox presentment of the Eucharist in the Grail cycle, the obscure but potent Temple element in the development of that cycle, the vague but persistent accusations brought against the Temple. I think Professor Wesselofsky has proved that this portion of the Grand St. Graal embodies a Con- version legend of which Joseph is the hero and the Harran district, lying between Syria and Northern Mesopotamia, the home. It

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