Why Are So Many Searching For A “Holy Grail”?

What exactly is the holy grail?  Search recent and current headlines, and you’ll find folks looking for the “holy grail” of everything from winemaking, to math and clean energy. The term is so rich in myth and history that we can’t resist the opportunity for elucidation.

What is a holy grail?

For the record, most of the uses of this term holy grail are informal and figurative. If the “holy grail” of clean energy is on the way, the reference implies a “greatly desired and sought-after objective; ultimate ideal or reward.”

However, we are also interested in the context where the grail involves blood, perilous quests, and knights.

Was is the holy grail named after?

Historically, the Holy Grail is believed to be the cup or bowl that Jesus used at the Last Supper. According to legend, the cup was given to Joseph of Arimathea, who donated his tomb to receive Jesus’ body. The lore continues that the grail was eventually transported to England.

The grail (which derives from the Old French graal, “cup,”) became a key subject of many medieval legends. It often takes the form of a sacred cup, chalice, or vessel. It is the object that the Knights of the Round Table clamored for because of its suspected powers, such as the ability to regenerate life. Only a knight of pure virtue could find or eventually possess it. The most famous contemporary reference to the grail is in the blockbuster Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

While many of us would certainly appreciate the possession of the legendary artifact, it’s likely that we would be perfectly happy to gain something equally elusive: the answer to a particularly thorny problem, such as the holy grail of clean energy.

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