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From Ritual to Romance

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  374 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
From Ritual to Romance is a landmark study of anthropology and folklore that examines the roots of the King Arthur-Holy Grail legends. Jessie L. Weston's revolutionary theory holds that most elements of the Grail story are actually the remnants of incredibly old fertility rites -- with the lance and the cup serving as sexual symbols. Drawing on James George Frazer's semina ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 15th 2005 by Cosimo Classics (first published 1920)
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Complete rot. Gains an extra star simply for the great works of Modernism it engendered. Riddled with assumptions, huge leaps of "logic" and desperate attempts to make evidence fit her thesis.
Dec 02, 2008 Elizabeth added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mina if she's still obsessed enough/and or hasn't already
Recommended to Elizabeth by: TS Eliot
Let's see, I've owned this book for exactly 20 years. I reckon this is at least the FOURTH time I've read it and I STILL don't really understand it, and I have this inner conviction that Miss Weston has actually made it all up, but. But. Something in it deeply appeals to me. The idea that the whole grail legend hearkens back to something more primitive and connected with the earth makes sense to me, in exactly the way it seems obvious to me that both Peredur and Perceval are springboard tellings ...more
David Withun
Aug 06, 2016 David Withun rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mythology
I doubt that anyone who has read this book since 1922 has read it for any other reason than its mention by T. S. Eliot in his notes to "The Waste Land" as one of the two books (along with Frazier's Golden Bough) which most inspired that great poem. With that said, it is a surprisingly good read in its own right. While a great deal of the scholarship is outdated and therefore cannot be trusted as an accurate description of the history of the ideas and stories discussed, the story that Weston tell ...more
Apr 15, 2010 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Weston examines textual sources and folk practices from a variety of cultures, arguing that the Arthurian legend of the Grail is a continuation of pre-Christian Vegetation rituals.
Jul 11, 2011 Pam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is, top to bottom, an excellent and extremely informative book. Ms. Weston takes an in-depth look into the history behind grail quest literature, looking in part at some of the Arthurian legends, folk-lore, mythology, and the history and alterations of religion.

While having read at least some medieval literature does help put a lot of what Weston says into clearer context, such readings aren't really necessary to understand the ideas and arguments she puts forth. I've studied parts of this
Erik Graff
Aug 20, 2008 Erik Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all readers of English literature
Recommended to Erik by: Janny Marie Willis
Shelves: religion
Having already read Wolfram, Th Malory and Chretian, I was ready for some analysis. This book had been recommended by a popular professor at Grinnell College and was being much read about campus (along with, it might be added, Graves' The White Goddess). Weston did a great job in tying together the various grail legends into a coherant scheme related to a contemporary theory of the development of religious belief out of ritual practice. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have recommended it to o ...more
Mar 06, 2008 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anthropology
Weston compares and contrasts several versions of the Grail legend, and interprets the symbolism in terms of the fertility rituals discussed by James George Frazer in his work The Golden Bough. A serious work of academic analysis, the book was a significant influence on T.S. Eliot, who employed its ideas in his poem “The Waste Land.”
Mar 19, 2011 Frederic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gonzo Grail interpretation but lots of fun...
Mark Lederer
Sort of a follow up to Eliot's The Waste Land
Kind of terrible to read, if you aren't a scholar. It's really cute how there's large blocks of untranslated ancient languages.
Sep 08, 2007 Christopher rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In this work of pop-anthropology from 1920, Jessie L. Weston puts forth the idea that the romance of King Arthur and the search for the Grail is no mere fairy tale, but rather a mythos that goes back to earliest man's fertility rites and the annual rebirth of the land after winter. Most nowaways would look to this book for anthropology or to help understand the poetry of T.S. Eliot. However, this tome of outdated early-20th century thought is useful for neither purpose.

Feb 20, 2017 Illizt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The ending was far better than the rest. I just simply love when the root of everything is Wales.
Carlos Ortiz
Apr 05, 2015 Carlos Ortiz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, religion
This book belongs on the bookshelf of anyone seriously interested in the evolution of religion. It is well-documented with plenty of footnotes. The book includes an index that any researcher could find useful.

Although well written, as some readers have commented on different reviews, the book uses a style of English that is no longer common on either side of the Atlantic. I imagine it was the norm when Jessie L. Weston (1850–1928) wrote this book (1920). I typed one of Weston’s long sentences (f
Nov 04, 2015 Rozonda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned about this book from the unlikeliest source- my biggest idol, singer/songwriter Paddy McAloon, recommended this book to his friend journalist Stuart Maconie, and the latter mentioned this in a book of his. (Btw, Mr Maconie, it's Jessie Weston, not Jesse, and it's a she, not a he. You're welcome) I was intrigued because it was a) a book about the origins of Grail mythology, which I love and have read a lot about, and b) it was supposed to have inspired, among other things TS Eliot's "Th ...more
Possibly the best thing that finally caving in to acquiring a smartphone in the year 2015 has enabled me to do to date is downloading this book off Project Gutenberg and reading it on the subway. After all it is a big influence on two of my early influences, namely The Waste Land and The Winter Prince, so it is great to finally read it and put a few more pieces together. And it's applying The Golden Bough to the Grail Romance, so how could it not be delightful? I feel a bit bad giving it only th ...more
J. Alfred
If you're interested in reading this book, it's unquestionably because you've been intrigued by Eliot. You may also have heard that he later regretted sending so many people on a 'wild goose chase' to this text: when one hears such things, one expects substantially wilder geese. In short, this book is an attempt to show that the oldest Grail legends (Romances) were probably written by a guy who intentionally hid the Rituals of pre-Chrsitian cults in them. The reasoning behind why he, or anyone, ...more
Feb 07, 2017 Matt rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The forward basically invalidates the arguments put forth by Weston, which makes this a historical curiosity. It's only going to be helpful for scholars looking to see the historical stepping stones in our understanding of the Grail romances. Since this is a scholarly text, it isn't suitable for people looking to learn about the Grail, either, as Weston assumes you know the basics already.
Robert Hausladen
Highly academic

If you can really get into appreciating academic argument you may like this as much as I did -- and you see I only gave it three stars. She developed very involved arguments even to the point of setting criteria she never meets in any sense of critical thinking, then having failed to meet them announces the proof of her point. I have often seen this and appreciate the work she offers, if only she would not leave so antiquities in French and German as if to validate her credentials
Feb 08, 2009 Brandon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is basically useless when it comes to explaining T.S. Eliot, but what isn't? It is also practically useless as a book of criticism on the Grail legends. However, it is a really great book on the occult. Much of her information about then-modern occult practice came from Yeats, which is hilarious, and her research into the topic is really great. Most other writers on the subject from her era are always saying things like, "If you know what I mean then you know what I mean," and otherwis ...more
Flint Johnson
One of the issues that have plagued any attempt to understand the grail legend (until recently) has been the diverse and often opposed interpretations of the Holy Grail. Miss Weston had the intriguing idea that the reason for it was that local rituals from throughout Europe had been interposed into the key scenes. Her methodology cannot stand up to modern standards meaning her conclusions are not to be taken seriously. However, it was at the time the first real attempt to interpret the Holy Grai ...more
Jacques le fataliste et son maître
Libro doppiamente famoso: è fra le fonti di ispirazione (dichiarate) di T.S. Eliot per la Terra desolata e compare, insieme al Ramo d’oro di Frazer, fra i “livres de chevet” di Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.
Al di là di questo, mi pare espressione della tendenza a rileggere la storia (e i suoi frutti: le storie) come opaca, smorta, confusa scoria di un mitico passato di radiosa pienezza ecc.
“Cose” fin troppo sentite (e che mi inquietano sempre un po’).
Dec 28, 2013 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I read this mostly because Eliot cited it in his notes to The Waste Land; I gather the scholarship is specious. It's certainly full of leaps of logic based on analogies: she says things like, "Given the similarities between the two stories, this is very likely." So you have to give her credit for the courage of her convictions. And it did make me want to go back and read some of the legends in question, so props to her for that. Otherwise, spare yourself or read The Golden Bough.
Edward Richmond
Not actually very good, either as scholarship or as literature. Important mostly because, at the time that T. S. Eliot was writing "The Waste Land," her work was among the most recent and relevant available. He drew inspiration from reading this monograph.

In its time period, this monogram probably was excellent. But it's another of those really great examples of scholarship that relies on methods and theories that are now recognized as erroneous.
Jun 14, 2016 Thomas rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In meiner Studienzeit hat mich das mal (als Bibliotheksbuch) ziemlich begeistert, aber ich befürchte, dass ich es wohl doch nur passagenweise gelesen haben muss, denn die Zweitlektüre war jetzt doch reichlich schwerverdaulich. Außerdem waren in meiner Ausgabe die deutschen Zitate ohne Umlaute und auch sonst vermutlcih von jemandem abgeschrieben (oder gescannt), der keine Ahnung hatte
As Weston shows, similar motifs appear in many different cultures and myths - though reading them it often seems like a game of Chinese whispers, where the same elements remain in place but their causal links keep shifting.
Jan 10, 2017 Luca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book. If you are interested in the old european mythologi and rituals, you should give a chance to this book. Maybe is not a masterpiece, but it is surerly an interesting point of view on this matters.
Jesse Whyte
Oct 16, 2012 Jesse Whyte rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A well-articulated argument regarding the gnostic/archaic origin of the Grail story.
Jul 28, 2014 Jon rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A very academic analysis of the cultural and religious origins of the Arthurian Grail legend. Only of interest due to its being the inspiration for TS Eliots' The Waste Land.
What I could read was very interesting, but significant portions are in untranslated French, German, Latin and Greek, and it has been many years since high school. A bit frustrating!
Aug 21, 2011 Kaity rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this exploration of medieval literature and its effects on cultural evolution.
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Jessie Laidlay Weston (1850–1928) was an independent scholar and folklorist, working mainly on mediaeval Arthurian texts.

Weston was the daughter of William Weston a tea merchant and member of the Salters' Company and his second wife, Sarah Burton, and named after his first wife Jessica Laidlay. Sarah, after giving birth to two more daughters died when Jessie was about seven. William remarried Clar
More about Jessie Laidlay Weston...

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