“Honey is the divine nectar that drives away the spectre of death”.
-Pliny the Elder
Previously we have clarified that the concept of “Tree of Life”, understood as axis mundi (“world axis”), consists in a symbolic image that refers to the function carried out by the placenta as cornerstone from which originates life understood in a higher sense: starting from this premise it is easy to understand how the drink of immortality, that in the mythologies is obtained from the aforementioned tree, is nothing but the liquid nourishment that from the placenta reaches the fetus by means of the umbilical cord.
In the Vedas and Upanishads the soma or amṛta is a juice that drips from the Tree of Life that is believed to grow in certain mountains (the “sacred” and “cosmic” mountain placed in the “center of the earth” or “center of the world”, and described as “navel of the earth” or “navel of the world” [some examples: the Olympus of the Greeks, the Himinbjörg – “heavenly mountain” or “hidden mountain” – of the Nordics, the Meru of the Indians, the Golgotha – “skull”, the place where the head of Adam was buried – of the Jews] is always the place of conjunction between Sky, the masculine principle, and Earth, the feminine principle, coincidentia oppositorum [“coincidence of opposites”] that results in the birth [the concept of birth is always equivalent to that of rebirth] of the divine child, event to which refer all the myths that describe the sudden separation between Sky and Earth: generally speaking the maternal womb and the cave or burial mound are the matrices that refer, respectively, to the physical rebirth and the initiatory rebirth), juice capable of conferring immortality to those who drink it: the etymology of “amṛta” is similar to that of the word “ambrosia” and means “not death, immortality”. In the Avesta we find instead the haoma, another drink that bestows immortality, obtained in this case too by a Tree of Life, the Gaokorena that grows in the mountains; similarly to the soma or amṛta and the haoma, the melikraton – a libation composed of milk and honey described in the Odyssey – had the power to reanimate the dead and was compared to the very essence of life.
Note: when we talk about immortality, we are not referring to the indefinite extension in time of an individual biological existence, without the occurrence of changes in the state of being: we refer instead to the possibility that, through a strong emotional shock in the context of an initiatory ritual of rebirth and through an induced awakening of the memory of the blood, the achievement of a transcendent state could bring out into the consciousness of a child the memory and awareness of his previous existences.
In the Greek mythology the ambrosia and nectar are both foods that enable the gods to be immortals and perennially young: many have suggested that these mythical foods may be identified with honey (it is not a coincidence the fact that Saint Ambrose has assumed the role of patron saint of bees and beekepers) and mead (a drink that in the Norse mythology was obtained, significantly, by the mixture of honey and blood), i.e. fermented honey (our ancestors compared the fermentation process to the spiritual transformation that occured during initiatory rituals: in both cases a maturation phenomenon was accomplished inside a closed and dark space), since ancient sources decribe honey as the first and primordial nourishment of the gods, while mead was known in antiquity as the drink of the gods. This relation makes sense, even more so when we know that in prehistoric times the child that went inside the cave or burial mound in order to accomplish the rebirth ritual, thus becoming a fetus inside the womb of the earth, carried with him some honey to appease the sorceress or priestess inside the grave, primordially the she-bear, and he himself had to feed with that honey: the symbolical nourishment of the fetus inside the womb.
On a symbolic level it is significant the fact that bees favour tree hollows and rock fissures as dwellings in which to produce honey:
To reinforce what I have just decribed we can refer to the Norse mythology, where the dew that covers the leaves of the yew Yggdrasill (yes, some ancient sources use the term barr [“needle-shaped leaf”] in relation to its leaves, furthermore the yew is the tree that more than any other can symbolize the placenta, because in it grow red berries that recall the placenta’s red bubbles full of nutritious blood) – in poetic language called “mead tree” – has the taste of honey and is compared to mead: the bees feed on it and, as suggested previously, the child who faced the initiatory ritual was symbolically seen as a bee.
The leaves and berries of the yew:
In the Völsunga Saga is told that in the hall of Völsung’s house there was a big apple tree (the apples conceal the same symbolism described above in relation to the red berries of the yew, they are the essence of the drink of immortality) whose branches protruded from the roof: this tree was called Barnstokkr (“children’s trunk”, i.e. the placenta).
Barnstokkr and an apple tree:
The Indo-Iranian god Mitra is born from a rock – “petra genetrix“, originally the cave or burial mound and during classical antiquity the underground temple called “mithraeum”: both symbols of the womb of rebirth – surrounded by a serpent (i.e. the umbilical cord) near a spring (i.e. the amniotic fluid or the liquid nourishment of the placenta) and under a tree (i.e. the placenta).
Now, why not throw into the fray the symbolism of the horn, that often symbolizes the umbilical cord, the bond that unites and makes interact the ancestors with the descendants?
The cornucopia (“horn of plenty”) is a very explicit symbol in relation to the nourishment of the fetus in the womb; in the Mabinogion is described an inexhaustible horn that restores the youth and strength of heroes each time they drink its content. In this context it is relevant to remember the Hindu myth in which the Devas and Asuras grab the opposite ends of Vāsuki – the cosmic serpent wrapped around mount Meru – and twist it to obtain the soma or amṛta; in another myth Indra obtains the same drink from the dead body of the serpent Vritra.
In the Norse mythology Sigrdrífa after being awakened offers to Sigurðr the minnisveig, the “drink of memory” (i.e. the memory of previous lives), a horn full of mead. Mímir (“memory” [of the previous lives]), the possessor of Mímisbrunnr (“well of memory”, located beneath one of Yggdrasill’s three roots and equivalent to the spring Mnemosyne [“memory”] to which refer Orphism), every morning uses the horn Gjallarhorn to drink the precious and sacred liquid – mead according to the Völuspá – contained in the well of wisdom (wisdom is equivalent to memory): also Odin managed to get the chance to drink a sip of that liquid.
I conclude with the Grail, traditionally known as a cup or chalice whose content has vivifying and healing virtues: the cup or chalice and the tree have a very similar shape and, taking into consideration the virtues of the Grail, we can assume that this important object of the Arthurian cycle symbolizes the placenta and its life-giving liquid nourishment.
It should also be noted that in certain late medieval sources the Holy Grail is called Sangréal; in Old French, san graal and san gréal mean “holy grail” and sang réal means “royal blood”: indeed the blood full of nutrients contained in the placenta is a “royal” and “divine” blood, not an ordinary one. In this context it will be good to remember that for our ancestors wine was a symbol of blood (in Valdôtain the word “gradale” means “cup for wine”), specifically in reference to what I have just explained in relation to the function of the blood contained in the placenta: that’s the reason why Odin, the symbolic fetus, needs only wine (i.e. the blood of the earth [the female principle]) to feed himself.
Now you will also be able to see with different eyes the Christian rite of the Eucharist, during which a mass of crazy fanatics drinks the blood of Christ from a chalice full of wine.
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