A legend for the eve of Lughnasad
Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Jesus, but he was also a kinsman of Jesus, a wealthy man due to the tin trade as well as a devout Jew. When Jesus was a youth, he went with his uncle several times to the island of Britain on trading expeditions. There he met the druids, who were like the priests and rabbis of his own people, except that there were women among their numbers, and learned much from them, for he was the sort of child who asks too many questions.
After Jesus was crucified, Joseph of Arimathea had him buried in the fine tomb which he had had built for himself. He kept with him the cup which he had provided for his nephew’s last Passover feast, in which Mary of Magdala had caught some of the blood and water that gushed from Jesus’s side when it was pierced with a Roman lance.
After the resurrection, Joseph retired from his business and set off for Britain again, taking with him the holy cup sanctified by Jesus’ death and a number of followers of Jesus, mostly older men like himself. In Britain he wandered through the isle, telling the good news of Jesus, until he came to the place called Avalon, a haven for the druids and a college of learning. There, when he planted his staff in the earth, it took root and began to grow into a tree, which he took as a sign that he should remain. The druids welcomed him and his people as fellow students of the Mysteries and gave permission for Joseph to build a small church in Avalon and housing for his people. The druids honored the miracle of the staff that became a tree, and there were friendly relations between them and Jesus’ followers. People went to the druid groves to hear their music and their colloquies, and the druids and their people came to partake of the sacred meal in memory of the Lord Jesus.
But times change, and new Christians came to the isle accompanied by soldiers, proud men who called themselves bishops and insisted on a separation between druid and Christian. They condemned the druids and their wisdom, drove them away from the love-feast, and even offered violence to them. Joseph, now miraculously old, knew that he should depart this life soon, so on the night of a full moon, he went out and met the chief druidess, the guardian of the sacred well, and with her help, he concealed the holy cup and the two vessels of blood and water which had come from the body of the crucified Lord. The chief druidess placed the cup and the vessels with the other sacred things, the sword made with metal that fell from heaven, the immovable stone, the ancient wand which had belonged to the first of the chief druids, and told the novices that it was the sacred cup of a goddess, the lady of the springs. But Joseph had told her that someday, the druids of Avalon might be asked to render back the cup that was now sacred to both the older mysteries and the new.
Joseph died, and the chief druidess died, and though the secret was kept, people have been looking ever since for the missing cup that held blood and water from the body of the Lord, the wine of the Eucharist, the pure water from the springs of Avalon. People have been looking for that wellspring of compassion, knowledge, mercy, joy, and peace. They have not yet found it, and the land is becoming very arid, without the cup, the world is growing very old. Yet still people seek the Grail, and they look to Avalon, remembering when the druids welcomed Joseph, who welcomed them in turn to the sacred banquet, and a staff cut in Palestine grew and flowered in the isle of Britain.