The Green Grail
Petra Kelly of Die Grünen had been invited to come and speak at the 1981 Ecology Party Summer Gathering. In the event she was unable to attend, but sent two women, one of whom was called Bonnie, from Die Grünen in her place. She also sent a large glazed earthenware jug decorated with sunflower symbols and inscribed with some lyrics.
The full inscription reads "May the long time sun shine fall upon you all [peace symbol] love surround you [female symbol] and the pure light within you guide you all the way on". Under this are three large decorative sunflowers and below that the words "Love and peace Die Grünen July '81".
The words are attributed as an old Scottish folk song and Irish blessing, but had been popularised by the Incredible String Band as the closing lyrics to "A very Cellular Song" on the album "The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter" in 1968. It was played by the band as the closing number at many of their concerts in the late 60's and had been picked up by students of Yogi Bhajan in the 60's and used as a yogic chant. It is likely to have been familiar and had resonance for many on the spiritual side of the ecology movement.
It was presented to "The Gathering" and received on behalf of the Green Collective by Anne Waterhouse.
The story of what happened to it subsequently is picked up by an article by Bruce Garrard in the No.4 Sept/Oct 1984 issue of the Green Collective Newsletter. He wrote in a report of a collective meeting:
"... Somewhere in amongst all this stuff was a more light hearted discussion concerning the disappearance of The Green Grail
The Green Grail is a large and lovely glazed earthenware jug, patterned and inscribed with the words from the old Incredible String Band song: "May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light within you guide you all the way on”. It was brought to the Gathering in 1981 by two women from Die Grünen, who came in the place of Petra Kelly, who had been invited but couldn't make it. It was presented ”to the Gathering” and came into the safe— keeping of the Collective; and specifically of Anne, who (like the German women) is a woman, who believes she was the first person to have been actually handed it, and who looked after it safely for a year.
Now all this about women is significant, as you shall see. After the 1982 Gathering, Anne was going "on the road in her truck, and she left the Grail with Stephanie - who lives in a house, who is also a woman, who lives in Glastonbury close by the Gathering site, and who kept it safely on top of the piano for the following year.
Now in 1983 Stephanie decided to concentrate on her other work rather than with the Collective, so after the Gathering she gave the Grail to David, who took it home to St.Ives, Cambs. And there it still was on the evening of 23rd May1984, when the Green Roadshow stopped off in St.Ives on its way from the Thorpe Tree Fair to the Coventry Peace Festival. That was the night that PlanetWaves did a local gig in St Ives, to help keep things going on the road.
Now if David had been a woman, I feel quite certain myself that he would have left the Grail at home on the piano; but he isn't and he didn't. He took it to the gig and displayed it on the stage.
That was the night when strange things happened at the gig. There was a fight in the the audience. And all the while this fragile Grail was somewhere on the stage. For all I know it could have been saved from destruction when it was removed, by a woman, whose-name I shan't mention-here since I haven't checked the circumstances with her, but who apparently claimed the Grail in the name of Women, and who certainly wouldn't return it to David. So when David was asked about the Grail, he said he'd rather leave that subject till the following meeting.
When pressed, he explained who had it in much the same terms as I have above, but said that the present holder of the Grail would return it to the Collective, but that first she would send in a letter in time for the next meeting explaining for herself why she took it. So as yet there's no call (or excuse) for anyone to climb up on a Green Charger and go off a-questin'; but maybe I'd better send a copy of all this to her, to help find out more about it. ..."
In the next issue of the newsletter, No 5 dated Nov/Dec'84 a follow-up letter appeared:
The 'Green Grail‘
About the 'Green Grail' as you call it, the Bavarian milk jug brought by 2 Die Grünen women to the 1981 Glastonbury Ecology Party Summer Gathering.
My information comes from Margaret Wright, who says it was brought from the women of Die Grünen for their opposite numbers in the UK, and not for "the Gathering" or the "Ecology Party/Movement" as a whole. She believes that it was she who originally received it when it was handed over - not as any special woman, but there gain, having no worse title to receive it tan any other women present - and certainly having better title to it than some men of the Green Collective into whose hands it then eventually fell and who were incorporating it into a Green mystique/cultus which Margaret distrusts (and certainly it is male majoritorian, that group).
Margaret took the jug (which has two handles) back on behalf of all Green/Eco/Greenham women. She is happy to discuss the question of the jug's history and future with any woman or group of women who approach her. But meanwhile she won't stand for any more hassling from men.
So please, brothers, end of subject for the time being, eh?
This prompted an immediate long response from David in the very next issue No.6 Jan/Feb 1985 under the heading "Letters and Controversies: The Green Grail"
I'm afraid your letter in the December mailing has upset me as you appear to be writing out of ignorance with regard to the ‘Green Grail'. You say that your information comes from Margaret Wright. This explains the reason for your ignorance of the full saga behind the bitterness which many of us feel towards Margaret.
The 'grail' or jug (whichever you choose to call it) was given by Die Grünen to the Green Gathering in 1981. This can be corroborated by Anne Waterhouse who arranged the handing over of the jug with the German women. The jug was left in my care at the end of the Gathering as no one else had taken responsibility for it. I then asked Anne if she would like to take care of it, which she did for about a year. Responsibility for it then transferred to Stephanie Leland who kept it at Glastonbury until last Spring. During the time that these women looked after the jug/grail it was regularly taken to Green Gatherings and Green Collective meetings. Although not giving the jug powerful spiritual significance we have loved it and treasured it. It seemed right that an object given to the Gathering should be held in trust by the Collective and taken to each of the Gatherings, where it has been admired and enjoyed by many.
When Stephanie dropped out of the Collective we needed someone else to look after the 'grail'. After the Collective meeting where this was discussed I brought it back with me to St.Ives. Shortly afterwards the Green Roadshow visited St Ives for a gig and the jug was brought out. It was while the jug was on display that Margaret took it. Imagine my consternation when I found that it had disappeared; I didn't know who had taken it or why. It was only through a third party that I discovered that Margaret had taken it.
When eventually I ran into Margaret we discussed the jug at length. Margaret agreed that she would return the jug in time for the Green Field at Glastonbury. She did not, nor did she produce it for the Green Gathering which took place at Molesworth, just down the road from her home. She has kept the jug hidden and out of circulation for nearly a year now. There is no single other person who will verify her story that the jug was given to women. She showed no interest in the jug for the first two years that we had it. Her very heavy and hostile manner has put off people who would otherwise he very happy to discuss it with her. She will not accept that anyone has another interpretation of the events surrounding the jug, or that many of us are attached to it, will treasure it, use it, and share it.
She has surrounded the jug with bitterness and anger where before there was love and openness. She has already given her word that she will return it to the care of the Green Collective. It's about time she was true to her word and did just that. I suggest, Keith, that in future you find out the facts before you jump in on things you apparently know very little about.
For communication, honesty and sharing, David(Taylor)
Of course that was not the end of the affair.
Eventually the Grail found its way back to David and all was well – it continued to feature at Collective events and was carefully looked after thereafter.
As the collective wound down in the late 80s the Grail remained in David’s care.
In 1992 Petra Kelly died and to recognize her work and passing and early connection with the Green Movement in the UK a group from Glastonbury decided on the spur of the moment to travel up to the German Embassy in London taking with them the Grail filled with Glastonbury spring water and there have a kind of celebration of Petra’s life.
David takes up the story:
“When Petra died (in somewhat suspicious circumstances) we wanted to do something to honour her and her inspirational role within the green movement internationally, as well as in Germany. So we decided to take the jug she’d given us, and which we’d nicknamed the ‘grail’ -in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way- and show it, and our appreciation for her, to the staff at the German Embassy in London.
To give meaning to this and to recognize Petra’s seminal role we designed a ceremony for the embassy visit. It was modeled closely on one which had taken place at the 1982 Green Gathering, known as the ‘birth’ gathering –because it birthed a new movement, when the sunflower symbol and the word ‘Green’ had been used for the first time, in the UK, to represent the new politics.
We filled the grail with holy water from Chalice Well in Glastonbury and carried it like that all the way to London. We were somewhat surprised that the Embassy staff welcomed this unarranged visit -there was a full carload of us- but they not only allowed us to hold our ceremony there, in the embassy’s foyer, but they also joined in.
We held hands and formed a circle for the ceremony. Those who wished were able to speak and share their memories of Petra. We then took the grail and passed it round the circle inviting everyone to give their thoughts of Petra to the water. When that was done we held silence, allowing her spirit to fill the room, and us. Then the grail was passed round again, and everyone invited to imbibe from the impregnated water. Everyone did so, including the embassy staff.
And that was it. She had been honoured. I remember the journey back to Glastonbury being a quiet one. We were reflective and feeling full of Petra’s spirit.
As a footnote it is interesting to recall that the workshop at the 1982 Green Gathering, where the grail was introduced, used it in a similar way. It was full of Chalice Well water and people were invited to give their thoughts, prayers and dreams for the future of the green movement to the water. It was generally agreed that after everyone had given their thoughts the jug became noticeably heavier. It was then passed around the circle again and everyone invited to drink.”
Today the Green Grail still has a place of honour at the EarthSpirit Centre near Glastonbury, where perhaps it awaits a new Spirit of the Greens of Avalon to raise it again and drink deep of the empowered waters served from it.
Author: Roger CO
Published: Thu Nov 30 2017
Last updated: Mon Dec 4 2017