Did you know that there is an actual black grail?
A physical object from antiquity that the was banned from entering a terrified America as late as 1953? (It was turned away from New York for being too controversial. Joke’s on whoever made that call.)
Did you know that it was only publicly displayed twice for the first hundred years after its discovery to a very restricted audience? (Once in MoMA, actually. So screw you, US Customs.)
Did you know that when my darling bought it in 1999, “mysterious benefactors” enabled them to successfully bid £1.8 million pounds -at the time the most expensive single item the museum had ever purchased? (The black grail belongs in Babylon.)
Did you know that, in true black grail style, it’s discovery is shrouded in mystery but that it definitely came from Jerusalem in the first century AD when something else apparently also happened? (Actually it was six miles from Jerusalem and twenty feet down according to the scrawled notes that came from the eerie antiquities dealer in Rome… see what I mean??)
Did you know that I’ve had it, sans glass, two inches from my face? (The same day as this, actually. He opened the cabinet and I elbowed some retired Canadians out of the way. Actually maybe it was a members’ evening? Whatever. I go there once a week. And those Canadians had it coming.) I could have -and briefly considered- extending my tongue to touch its rim but chickened out.
Why is this a magical object?
Because even just being in its presence makes your world bigger.
Honestly, there were people on the tour who were visibly ruffled by it. A muted Mexican wave of indignation washed across the gathered retirees.
And you know what?
It wasn’t built to shock. It was built to drink wine from.
That’s why it is so disruptive.
Sure, the owner would have shown it off to the other guests he had invited to his villa for a meal eaten lying down on those damn uncomfortable chairs. (No wonder they ate till vomiting. If I try and drink lying down my heartburn tears me open like the canteen scene from Alien.)
This was called convivium. What it meant was that you would ensure conversation carried on through the evening by planting discussion topics among the food -think of it like charades you can eat off. You have to remember that people were invited to these things according to status and the need for political favour. The guests may not have known each other or, more likely, if they did, they were currently embroiled in a public spat.
So the conversation the black grail would have triggered would have sounded very different than today. If you tried serving wine out of this cup today you’d get an appalled reaction: *Spits out wine onto corgi. Monocle falls onto bread plate with a clink.* “First you forget the amuse-bouche and now this?! Am I to watch The Human Centipede next?” (What? There are no corgis at your dinner parties?)
But at the time they would have marvelled at its workmanship (it is actually genuinely beautiful when you see it), they would have swapped boy stories and tips on where to buy the best ones, they would have laughed at the slave in the doorway (“he loves it, they all love it”)… and then they would talked about how to further tighten the noose around Jerusalem.
This is a magical artefact because it shows you that your view of the world is finite. Think about it. Your values don’t even extend two decades in either direction from where you now sit. The very fact that something like this exists means how you feel about the world is temporary and site specific.
This is an object of Elemental Water.
Your views have no solidity. They take the shape of whatever currently holds them. It is also a Water Artefact because it stirs your emotions. It carried alcohol so it is fire of water. Being near it reminds you that non-consensual sex is only Elemental Fire for the Perpetrator. For the victim it is tsunami.
You feel all this when you see the Warren Cup. It is a cluster-bomb artefact in the world’s greatest magical armoury. And sure, we don’t serve our drinks out of the same tableware anymore.
But we certainly still drink the same drinks.