According to tradition, the search for the grail used by Jesus at the Last Supper covers large parts of Mediterranean lands, from Palestine to the Atlantic, and links up with similar traditions in other cultures, such as the Ark of the Covenant of the Israelites.
The Holy Grail is the vessel able to transmit divine qualities to all it holds. Its remotest origins may be found in cave paintings representing the vulva, symbol of fertility and recipient of the mystery of life, that afterwards is transformed into an inverted triangle and, later still, into a goblet or a chalice.
In Central Europe, the search for this sacred object gave rise to the Knights of the Round Table, whose exploits killing dragons and saving damsels in distress occupy a large part of European collective imagination throughout the Middle Ages.
In Andalusia, the search for the Holy Grail is concentrated above all in Jaén and the surrounding area. The journey begins in the quarter of La Magdalena in Jaén, where, according to legend, a terrible dragon terrified the neighbours.
The monster appeared through the archway of La Magdalena and it was slain by a man condemned to death, who traded his pardon in exchange for freeing the town of this danger. Juan Eslava attributes to the dragon the role of guardian of a cave on the hill of Santa Catalina, which housed a table of gold and precious stones.
This was the Table of Solomon, another of the treasures linked with the Holy Grail in mythical tradition. There is a monument to the legendary dragon in a fountain in this quarter, and what is said to have been its skin is on view at the church of San Ildefonso.
Other aspects of magic are also frequent in Jaén, which owes its name to the Arabic Xauen, or sanctuary. In the same quarter of La Magdalena, there are many houses with the Knot of Solomon, a triangle formed by the union of three circles, secret emblem used for recognising each other by the followers of the wise author of the Song of Songs.
This ode to love, as the generating and fertilising principle, is the source of an old tradition, persecuted by the hierarchies of all established religions, which appears here and there under different forms. One of them is the Galactotrofusai, the Virgins of the Milk, who, while suckling their child, transmit the divine essence. Our Lady of Soterraño belongs to this style, which is the image of the Virgin now called of La Antigua and venerated in the main chapel of the Cathedral of Jaén.
The Table of Solomon, the Holy Grail, gold and precious stones… Jaén is full of legends of hidden treasures. In the city of Jaén, there is one tale about such a treasure, hidden in the house where the niche of Jesus of the Three Eggs is found.
Also in the city´s surrounding districts, in the hamlets of Mariblanca and Pilatos, and on Pitas Hill, a name which alludes to hens – and their Golden Eggs – that find the spot where the treasure is buried when pecking.
We now leave Jaén towards the south, to seek the Sierra de Otíñar, a centre of archaeological finds. On Veleta Hill, there is a very, very ancient dolmen and to the south, in La Tinaja gully, the cave of Los Soles, with prehistoric engravings representing Venus – once again a goddess of fertility – surrounded by suns.
Back to Jaén and out northwards on the local Cuevas Road, towards Perulera Hill. There, by a farm of the same name, on the hilltop by an old ilex, there is a large partly sunken stone, nearly perfectly round. Who and how it was put there is part of the mystery.
But this acquires another significance when these points, together with others like the hills of Pitas and Canteras, and the fountains of La Peña and Virgen Blanca are placed on a map. In doing so, we see that they form a perfectly straight line 12 kilometres long, flanked by three symmetrical equidistant points similar to the shape of the tree of the cabala.
Many other places in the province of Jaén have magic traditions and legends deeply rooted in the collective memory, such as Bélmez. Here, a short way away from Mágina peak, a conical hill that has been a place of worship since olden times, mysterious faces began appearing in the kitchen of a private dwelling 20 years ago, and they have remained until present time.
These Faces of Bélmez, which appear again and again on the cement floor, have been examined by several investigators, and they have not yet been able to find a scientific explanation for this phenomenon.