For our ancestors the femur was a symbol of movement and thus of the life force, especially in relation to the prehistoric burial mounds – inside which have been found cases of femurs missing or replaced with bear’s femurs – and the initiatory ritual of rebirth that took place inside them: in this article I will try to unveil the symbolic relation between these archaeological finds and the myth of the battle between Zeus and Typhon.
Typhon is a monstrous creature described in different ways by the various ancient sources, but generally speaking he was a gigantic winged monster with an at least partially serpentine shape.
In the mythical tale Zeus figths against Typhon and tries to kill him, but the monster manages to immobilize the god by severing the tendons of his hands and feet. The key in this context is to understand that the tendons fulfill the same symbolic function of the femur in relation to the ability to move and the life force of an individual: the tendons perform in the myth the same role that the femur performs in the ritual. Zeus is immobilized, alive but at the same time symbolically dead, awaiting to regain the ability to move (i.e. awaiting to be reborn), exactly like the divine ancestor inside the cave or burial mound.
It will not surprise the fact that at that point Typhon will bring Zeus inside a cave (i.e. the burial mound), where he will hide the tendons of the god inside a bearskin, an extremely archaic symbolism that comes directly from the primordial Bear Cult practiced by the Neanderthals long before the end of the last Ice Age. The cave, i.e. the womb of the earth, is the Korykion Antron (“cave of the leather sack”, from korykos, “leather sack”) and is protected by the dragoness Delphyne (from delph, “womb”).
The Korykion Antron:
The korykos (“leather sack”):
But finally Hermes (name that etymologically means “stone”: it is interesting to notice that the Greek word “hermaion” described both a pile of stones [originally in reference to dolmens, cairns and menhirs, which, over time, among the Greeks took the form of the sculptures significantly called “herms”] and a fortunate man) manages to enter the cave (he is a psychopomp god with the privilege of being able to access and return freely from the realm of death) and to recover the precious tendons: immediately Zeus regains the ability to move, i.e. returns to life after an apparent and symbolic death, and defeats Typhon once and for all. The divine child, i.e. Hermes, has found the femur of his ancestor inside the burial mound, and by means of an initiatory ritual has achieved a higher and transcendent spiritual state: he remembers and is aware of his previous existences and consciences, which now are, at the same time, distinct and unified realities in the shape of this reborn divine individual (in the sense of “undivided”, i.e. whole, integral, not fragmented).