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Prester John

Helene de Villiers

214 pages
37 illustrations, 5 in colour
180 x 250mm
First edition.

ISBN-13 .. 9-780-9585089-1-9


Price in SA Rands:
R140 + R20 postage = R160

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Does South Africa’s national emblem embody a kind of Grail symbol, with its rising sun cupped between the wings of Africa’s ancient Sun Bird:  the bird of resurrection originally known in Egypt as the Phoenix?  This is a train of thought pursued in Dr Helene de Villiers’ intriguing book about Christian and pre-Christian Grail mythology.

It is a book which should fascinate all who share our age’s renewed interest in the Quest for the meaning of the Holy Grail.  A brief discussion of the well-known Grail romances by the French Chrétien de Troyes and the English Thomas Mallory is supplemented by the indispensable Wolfram von Eschenbach’s magisterial German history of Parzival as Grail seeker.  Parzival is finally presented as the father of Lohengrin and uncle of Prester John — the two heirs to the guardianship of the holy object and its ritual.  Prester John was the legendary black Priest-King of Afrcan “India”  whom the Middle Ages venerated and the Portuguese explorers of the 16th century sought, and believed they had found in Ethiopia:  a “once and future” Guardian of the Grail who spans the divide between the Western and the Arabian world. 

Because Wolfram’s view of the Grail as a miraculous Stone points to probable African origins, African folklore concerning Bird and Stone is explored, from Egyptian Heliopolis to the ruins of Great Zimbabwe and the visions of African indigenous churches.

Some vivid folktales are included in this far-reaching study of universal spiritual roots shared by people from Europe and those of African origin.  It makes connections which are worth taking note of, and should find a place on the shelves of lovers of the Grail legends as well as those who hope for a Renaissance of Africa’s deepest values.


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