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The Green Chapel

The Green Chapel is the name for both a group of Companions
who gather together to worship, as well as for the place at
which the worship service takes place. Some Chapels are set
up permanently in one location, while others are more mobile.
In many cases, a Chapel is located in the home of a
Companion, either in a room specifically set aside for that
purpose, or else set up in a place which also serves as
another room.
My own Chapel, for example, it in my living room. The
altar and Shrine are permanent features of the room, and when
I'm hosting a Mass or other ritual, furniture is moved to
accommodate the Chapel and Companions. Most of the ritual
tools are stored out of sight until needed.
Some Chapels are lucky enough to be in a building which
houses only the Chapel and other rooms associated with it.
There are also occasions when Chapels are set up outdoors, on
a private beach or in a secluded grove. Some Masses, such as
Welfiremass and Midsummer, lend themselves perfectly to
outdoor rituals, weather permitting, of course.


Altar
The most distinguishing feature of the Chapel is the altar,
which is normally placed against the northern wall of the
room. On the south wall hang any banners and standards of
the Chapel. Somewhere convenient is a small table to hold
the Chalices and Platter. Arranged on the east, south,
and/or west walls are seats for the Company, and a doorway or
opening is generally left to the west for people to enter and
exit the Chapel.
The altars for Grail Masses generally have two levels, a
higher and a lower. In the center of the high altar is the
Grail Hallow, about which we'll learn in a moment. If there
are hanging censors, they hang near the wall. Otherwise an
incense burner rests behind the Grail Hallow. To the left of
the Grail is a large candle and small bell.
The lower altar is reserved for objects necessary for
specific rituals. For example, the Yule log used in the
Midwinter Mass and the fire-proof bowl used in the
Welfiremass would be found on this lower altar.
An optional item is the Dragon Stone, which is a block of
stone roughly two and a half feet by two feet, and less than
a foot tall. It rests just before the lower altar, and is
used most often for people to kneel upon when swearing oaths.
Almost any sort of stone can be used, and some have the claw-
print of a Dragon painted on or etched into the stone. It
may be placed upon a small wheeled platform to make it easier
to transport. Not every Chapel has access to a Dragon Stone,
and instead use a small rug or padded mat in its place.


Hallows
The next most distinguishing feature of the Chapel are the
Hallows. There are four Hallows, plus the Grail Hallow.
The Grail Hallow is an object which represents the Grail
itself. Since the True Grail is a mystical object occupying
many dimensions and realities, it has many forms. Is it a
golden chalice, or a simple wooden cup? Is it a platter, a
bowl, or stoneware goblet? Or is it a green stone, as in
Parzival? And what of the Celtic proto-Grails, the Cauldrons
and Horns of Plenty? The answer is that it is all these
things, and much more. Therefore the Grail Hallow can take
many forms as well. Some use an elaborately-etched crystal
chalice, or a gold or silver goblet or platter. Some use a
wooden cup or bowl. The Grail Hallow of my Chapel is a
large, ornate, gold-plated goblet. Chaplains and Chapel
members decide just what will be used as the Grail Hallow for
each Chapel.
Although things such as libations are sometimes put into
the Grail Hallow, it is very rare for anyone to actually
drink from it. Thus it is not the same as the Chalice used
in the Grail Communion.
The other Hallows are the Shield, Sword, Lance, and
Cauldron. Of these, the simplest and perhaps easiest to
acquire is often the Shield. It may be a simple wooden
circle, or a more elaborate construction of wood and steel.
Most are of the sort which are wide and flat on top, tapering
to a point at the bottom. All have one thing in common, and
that is what is emblazoned (painted) upon it. The Shield is
white, with a large red cross which quarters the Shield. In
the center of the cross is a golden pentangle, the five-
pointed star made of interlocking lines which is so familiar
to Pagans as the pentagram but without the circle around it.
The emblazoning is taken directly from the romances. We
start with the shield of Sir Galahad, which is white with a
red cross (this was also the shield of the Knights Templar,
as well as the devise adopted by many Crusaders), and then
add the gold pentangle which Sir Gawain bore on his red
shield in the poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. This
last poem is also where we get the name of the Green Chapel
in which we worship.
Sometimes the Shield will not have a cross, but will
instead just be red with the gold pentangle. You'll find
these most often in Chapels where the Chaplain has knighted
fewer than ten individuals, or in household shrines that are
rarely or never used as group Chapels.
The Shield Hallow hangs on the north wall, just over the
altar, and is the symbol of the element of Earth.
The Sword Hallow can be almost any sort of sword, though it
is usually of a Medieval European design. A fencing foil,
cavalry saber, Japanese katana, or other sword can be used,
but they don't really have the same visual impact as a
Medieval replica. The most popular type is, of course, the
Excalibur, which is available from several mail-order
catalogs and in some specialty shops.
The Sword Hallow stands in or is placed upon its Stone.
Like the Dragon Stone, this is a large block of stone,
roughly the size of a medium-sized anvil. In fact, since
Mallory tells us that the Sword in the Stone was actually
drawn from an anvil, anvils often substitute for Stones.
Other substitutes include blocks of wood that are carved to
and painted to resemble natural stones, large Styrofoam
"stones," or other similar objects. My own is a large chunk
of cork. Stones may have a deep slot in which to insert the
blade of the Sword, so that it stands. If such a slot isn't
possible, the Sword Hallow lies across the Stone during
rituals.
The Sword Hallow and its Stone are placed to the east of
the altar, and the Sword represents the element of Air.
A Lance Hallow can be a little harder to acquire. Some
specialty catalogs offer various spears, though true lances
(or jousting poles) are harder to find. It isn't really that
hard to construct a spear. A long pole is really all that's
necessary, with a pointed head made steel, wood, or even
hardened clay painted silver. Even a flagpole would do.
Some Lance Hallows are what is known as a halberd. This is
basically a spear with an axe blade just below the pointed
head. The reason halberds are popular is because the Lance
Hallow can then be used in place of the Axe, which is used in
the Accolade ceremony (remember the Green Knight with his
flashing battle axe?).
The Lance Hallow stands against the south wall of the
Chapel and represents the element of Fire.
Finally there is the Cauldron Hallow, which is an old-time
cast iron stewpot with three or four small feet, like the
cauldrons associated with Witches. It can be of almost any
size, depending on the budget and space limitations of the
Chapel. Like swords and spears, cauldrons can be rather
expensive if bought through specialty catalogs, though often
they can also be found at lower prices in antique stores and
flea markets.
Why is there a Cauldron Hallow in the Green Chapel? I
mean, Sword, Lance, and Shield are all items associated with
knights and with the Holy Grail, but a Cauldron? Well, many
of the Celtic proto-Grails were actually cauldrons. The
pearl-rimmed cauldron which Arthur seeks in the poem Preiddeu
Annwn (the "Spoils of Annwn"), attributed to the bard
Taliesin, is one such proto-Grail. There is also the
Cauldron of Inspiration, which was owned by the goddess
Cerriwden and which gave Taliesin his Otherworldly knowledge.
The Cauldron of Rebirth, found in the non-Arthurian tale of
Bran the Blessed, in the Mabinogion, is another proto-Grail.
So while at first it might seem that a Cauldron isn't really
part of the Arthurian or Grail traditions, you can see that
it is actually an important element in the development of the
Grail itself.
The Chapel also has officers, called Wardens. There are
four Wardens, one for each Hallow and each direction.
Wardens perform various duties within the Chapel, and must
not only be a Companion, but also have been granted an Award
of Arms. Wardens are appointed by the Chaplain.
Well, that's a look at the Chapel itself.

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