SONG THEME: Lapsit Exillis

In the book Parzival by Wolfram Von Eschenbach we are told of a mysterious Castle or Temple of the Grail and it’s guardians, the Templiesen (Templars), a force of formidable fighting men whose task it is to guard the Grail on Montsalvatsche (Mountain of Salvation).

FROM PARZIVAL: Many formidable fighting men dwell at Montsalvatsche with the Gral. They are continually riding out on sorties in quest of adventure. Whether these same Templars reap trouble or renown, they bear it for their sins. A warlike company lives there. I will tell you how they are nourished. They live from a Stone whose essence is most pure. If you have never heard of it I shall name it for you here. It is called Lapsit Exillis. By virtue of this Stone the Phoenix is burned to ashes, in which he is reborn, thus does the Phoenix moult its feathers! Which done, it shines dazzlingly bright and lovely as before! Further: however ill a mortal may be, from the day on which he sees the Stone he cannot die for that week… For if anyone maid or man, were to look at the Grail for two hundred years, you would have to admit that his colour was as fresh as his early prime, except that his hair would be grey! Such powers does the Stone confer on mortal men that their flesh and bones are soon made young again. The Stone is also called ‘The Gral’.

Lapsit Exillis is a kind of bastardized Latin, but means nothing at all. It has been suggested either that it was an elaborate joke on Wolfram’s part or that he had simply misheard or misunderstood the words Lapis Exilis (small or slight stone).The term Lapsit Exillis has puzzled many scholars. The various interpretations are as follows:
  • Lapis Erilis (Lord’s stone)
  • Lapis Elixir (Healing stone or Philosopher’s stone)
  • Lapis Exilis (small or slight stone)
  • Lapis Ex Coelis (stone from Heaven)
  • Lapsit Ex Coelis (it fell from Heavens)
  • Lapis, Lapsus Ex Coelis (stone fallen from Heaven)
  • Lapis Exiliis (stone of the exile)

In Wolfram’s actual description of the Grail procession, he speaks of a large translucent stone which is carried in front of the Grail. He does not describe the Grail itself, except to say that it is ‘the consummation of heart’s desire, its root and blossoming... paradisal, transcending all earthly perfection’. The Grail confers extended life and vitality to all who are in its presence. The words Lapsit Exillis and the mention of the phoenix, both would seem to be references to the mysteries of alchemy. This may well be a reference to the Lapis Philosophorum (Philosopher’s stone) sought by alchemists as an important stage in the process of the Great Work. Like the Grail itself, which transforms those who seek it spiritually, the Great Work is concerned with the transformation of the spirit of the alchemist to a perfect state of being. In Parzival the stone is green and has been brought to earth by a troop who left it on earth and rose high above the stars:

When Lucifer and the Trinity began to war with each other, those who did not take sides, worthy, noble angels, had to descend to earth to that Stone which is forever incorruptible. I do not know whether God forgave them or damned them in the end: if it was His due He took them back. Since that time the Stone has been in the care of those whom God appointed to it and to whom He sent his angel. This, sir is how matters stand regarding the Gral.

What Wolfram is telling us is that the Grail, the most holy object to be found on this earth, was brought here by ‘neutral’ angels who refrained from taking sides in the heavenly war between God and Lucifer, in this sense the Grail is known as a ‘stone of exile’. In other legends the stone that ‘fell to earth’ was an emerald that adorned Lucifer’s forehead or crown. It was cut into the shape of a bowl by a faithful angel, and thus the Grail was born (hence it sometimes being called ‘Luciferian stone’) Later on it was entrusted to a stock of knights, who were appointed from above. The Stone itself is incorruptible. It is a piece of the matter of heaven transported to earth. Humanity, in its never-ending search for meaning, its desire to understand its place in the scheme of things, seeks ever to relate itself to a higher state of being. This is the reason why only those of pure intent can achieve its mysteries. This is why each who desire the sacred thing for the power they believe it can offer them, are doomed to failure. The Grail cannot be owned by anyone.