Saturday, October 6, 2012

Parzival and The Fool's Journey, Part 3- Parting Ways

One of the challenges in relating Parzival's story is not the lack of symbolism, but rather that much like life, things rarely fit into the neat little categories we have in the Major Arcana. Often the symbols of the Tarot are not quite as clear cut, and people, relationships and situations can cover several aspects at any one time. Take, in our story so far, both Arthur and Gornemant- Arthur as the King must embody the code of chivalry he extolls to his Knights, and in so doing takes on both aspects of the Emperor and Hierophant; both a figure of discipline and rule, and also of conventional wisdom and structure. Likewise, Gornemant represents primarily the Hierophant, in his aspect of a teacher and mentor, but also likewise takes on Emperor/father figure aspects to the untrained Parzival. As the story goes on, we'll continue to see Tarot symbolism in Parzival's story, though often the boundaries between cards blur.
Having left Amfortas' castle, Parzival runs into Sigune, a lady mourning her dead Knight, who tells him a little more about the castle, and Amfortas. Again, Parzival is regretful that he didn't just ask the question on his mind when he first saw the lance and Grail. But unfortunately, he followed Gornemant's advice to the letter, and did not. We also learn that Arthur has left his castle, and is out hunting down the "Red Knight" (Parzival) who helped him out, in order to thank him and make him one of his Knights. Remember that after defeating the previous Red Knight, Parzival only sent the cup back to Arthur- he didn't deliver it in person. Here, in my opinion, we see the Justice principle at work- again, remember Arthur is very much bound by the code of chivalry, and cannot let this favor Parzival has done for him go, even if he wanted to. For every action a reaction exists- this more than anything else is the principle embodied and personified by the Justice card, and one righteous act deserves another, it seems.
One winter day, Parzival is out and about when he notices three drops of blood on the snow from a goose. Arthur is not far behind, and we discover that his falcons have wounded the goose. Parzival sees the blood on the snow and is reminded of Condwirarmurs and his home, as Arthur and his troops approach. Finally, Parzival is identified, brought to Arthur, and made a Knight of the Round Table.
At this point we meet Cundrie, the sorceress. She is pretty fearsome in appearance, being described as having a nose like a dog, a bearded face, and braided eyebrows. She rides a mule, but her appearance can be decieving, as she knows many languages, and has much information not readily available. She laments Parzival's failure to ask Amfortas the questions on his mind, and tells also of a "Castle of Wonders" where four hundred women are being held, and awaiting rescue. Parzival takes Cundrie's words to heart, and renounces his service to God. Meanwhile, Arthur and his Knights go off to take the castle and rescue the women, again being bound by their code of chivalry. Interestingly, Parzival does not go with them, instead vowing to return to Munsalvaesche and find once again Amfortas.
So at this point, what role does Cundrie represent? She seems to be almost a sower of discord, as her words cause Parzival to part company with the Round Table and to go off on his own. Again, we can see several aspects at work in this situation. First, the Tower- an event that tears down what has been built up, in this case Parzival's desire to be a Knight, and all that he has done towards that end. But at the same time, the Tower represents rebuilding, replacing the facades that have been built with things more true to our own destiny or path of life. So though Parzival renounces service to God, he has a new direction and goal, and from his sorrow finds new directions and new purpose. I also found elements of the Moon in this section of the story, where Parzival sees the blood on snow and realizes, perhaps, how the world really is. He has responsibilities back home, and a wife that needs him there- perhaps at this point Parzival begins to see clearly the things he has overlooked.
And in a much looser sense, we can see the Devil as well- the women trapped in this Castle of Wonders are as of yet unproven save for Cundrie's word. But like the Devil, who binds us to our current circumstances, it will take a good deal to get them free. Consider also Parzival's final decision in all of this too- to continue to hunt for Amfortas, instead of his first impulse- to go home. In some ways, this too represents Parzival's own Devil- at this point in the story we're left with a strong impression that things could have gone either way. At this point, Parzival rides off to search for Amfortas, and the remaining Knights and Arthur go off to the Castle of Wonders. In many ways Parzival's decision represents his own enslavement to his own mind and his own emotions. No doubt in time, returning home, or traveling with Arthur, Parzival would have come again upon Amfortas, and even perhaps could have enlisted Arthur's help and resources in the hunt, had he been patient and waited until this more pressing matter of the Castle of Wonders was done.
Traveling off on his own, Parzival wanders for four and a half years, finally encountering again Sigune, now a wandering hermit herself. As Parzival comes upon her, she has just been hanging out with Cundrie, of all people, who has given her food from the very same Grail that Parzival saw on his first encounter with Amfortas. Sigune urges Parzival to go chase down Cundrie, but he is unable to find her. He does encounter, and fights with, a knight from Munsalvaesche, which is not far away, though Parzival does not realize this at the time.
So at this point, Parzival has learned a great deal about the Grail, and the purpose and design behind his finding it. This is a somewhat bleaker chapter in the story, as we find Parzival first sinking into despair, realizing the chance he missed, and the breaking up of Arthur's Knights, as Parzival feels obligated to continue searching for the Grail. Remember that the Devil represents the things we can't or won't let go of despite this letting go being in our best interest. Yet at the same time, Parzival demonstrates the principle of the Hermit, who represents solitude, withdrawing and looking within the self to determine the best course, and to understand oneself, illuminating and clarifying your own path. Parzival's parting tells of a need to develop on his own, something that earlier on he has been noticeably lacking in.
Ultimately, the point is that the symbols, archetypes if you will, present in the Tarot are all around us- though they are not usually as clearly broken down and spelled out as we might like. Reading the Tarot, I find this too- sometimes the focus will be on a particular aspect of the card, or a particular aspect of the situation this card relates to- life is not so simple as to break down neatly into 22 categories.

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