Sacred Ambulation

What represent the innumerable mythological figures marked by monosandalism, lameness and other types of afflictions and vulnerabilities to the lower limbs? Several clues indicate an indeterminate state of existence, in the balance between life and death, in the context of an initiatory ritual of rebirth.

Some examples taken from the greek mythology:

Jason (monosandalism).
Perseus (monosandalism, according to a version of the myth in which Hermes gives him only one sandal).
Theseus (he retrieves the sandals and the sword of his father Aegeus by lifting the boulder [i.e. the burial mound] under which they had been hidden [that is to say buried]).
Hephaestus (lameness: soon after being born, his mother throws him into the sea from the top of Olympus, and he remains for nine years [time frame that indicates the symbolic gestation which will be followed by the initiatory rebirth] inside a cave [i.e. the burial mound] surrounded by water [i.e. the amniotic fluid]).
Zeus (in a myth his tendons of the feet are severed by Typhon).
Achilles (vulnerable only to the heel).

Theseus lifts the boulder:
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Achilles hit at the heel by the deadly arrow:
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They are all figures symbolically devoid of the femur (strictly associated with movement and thus with life) of the divine ancestor that will reincarnate in them, the bone that every child, during an ancestral initiatory ritual, had to retrieve from the hall deeper into the burial mound, the throne hall where was located the skeleton of the predecessor.

To note the fact that in Crete and Delos was held, at night in archaic times, a “dance of cranes” to which participated young boys and girls (the name given to the dance referred to the habit of cranes to stand on one leg): the dance had to imitate the path of the labyrinth from which Theseus came out after killing the Minotaur.

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Lastly, why not remember the famous lameness of the Devil, the result of the intentional distortion applied by the Christians to the divine figures of the child and of the reborn ancestor…

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Sacred Kingship

“In my ancestry there is the majesty of kings, who excel in power among men, and the sacredness of the gods, who have the power of kings in their hands”.

-Julius Caesar

After the conclusion of the last glaciation (about 12.000 years ago) our ancestors gradually became sedentary and formed throughout Europe tribal societies based on the concept of blood and soil.

All these archaic societies were ruled by a Sacred King – a living symbol of the Sky, of the Sun and of the metaphysical principle defined with the term Being – and a Sacred Queen – a living symbol of the Earth, of the Moon and of the metaphysical principle defined with the term Becoming. Related examples can be found, at the level of folklore, in the traditional European fairy tales and celebrations where a sleeping virgin is awakened by the kiss of a prince, an act that symbolizes the awakening of Nature in Spring, when the rays of the Sun kisses and fecundate the Earth.

Sleeping Beauty:
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Sacred King and Sacred Queen, together, represented a complementary duality, and during their symbolic wedding occurred the sacred union between the Sky God/Sun God and the Earth Goddess/Moon Goddess, i.e. the metaphysical conjunction of the opposites.

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The Sacred King was especially associated with the Sun and consequently he embodied the power of the celestial body that illuminates the world and gives life: an example of such archetypal figure can be found in the Arthurian Cycle, where the strenght of the knight Gawain continues to increase from dawn to noon, to then gradually decrease until sunset: just like the strenght of the Sun during its various phases.

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That’s the reason why in the archaic societies was customary the prohibition to look the Sacred King in the face – in the same way as it isn’t possible to stare at the Sun without risking of becoming blind – and in his presence all had to kneel and stare at the ground.

The fact that the very existence of the Sacred King was identified with the annual path of the Sun in the Sky explains the reason why he was subject to a ritual killing at the end of his annual function, on the day of the Winter Solstice, when the Sun dies and is reborn at the same time: only then his successor, previously selected, was crowned, raised to royal dignity and celebrated.

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Examples of ritual death of the Sacred King can be found in the myths concerning Achilles and Krishna: they both die after having been hit at the heel by an arrow (poisoned, in the actual ritual), in their only vulnerable point, the tendon of the foot, part of the body that had the same symbolic function of the femur, because the tendons allow the muscular movement of the body, i.e. they allow life. The death of Achilles and Krishna is concretely and symbolically associated with a part of the human body that was synonymous of life (but they will come back to life when their femur will be recovered by a divine child that will enter in their grave).

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Over the course of time every archaic society altered, for various reasons, the conclusion of the Sacred King’s annual function, and the ancestral tradition manifested itself in new forms. In some cases the Sacred King staged an apparent death, by isolating himself in a symbolic grave, whereas a substitute obtained his divine role during that last day of reign, to then be ritually killed: at that point the real Sacred King returned to life from his symbolic grave; in other cases a totemic animal took the place of the Sacred King on the sacrificial altar; in other cases was torn down a wood effigy that represented the Sacred King; in these three scenarios the Sacred King in charge could confirm his role or hand it down at the end of a selective competition. In the long run the Sacred King refused to be killed or replaced, and thanks to his authority, his power and the support of his faithful, managed to extend his divine mandate indefinitely, until his death, natural or not, and this particular deviation from the original procedure influenced and moulded considerably the institution of kingship during Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

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In the most archaic societies both the Sacred King and the Sacred Queen were annually selected (a tradition whose vestiges could still be found at the times of the Roman Republic, when two Consuls were elected together each year): these divine roles were assigned to those who proved their superiority in various annual competitions held to determine the strenght, beauty, health, wisdom, skills and, generally speaking, the male and female qualities and peculiarities of the candidates. In this context we can remember the ancient Olympic Games, that consisted originally in religious ceremonies (over time degenerated into simple sport events without any higher meaning and purpose) having the purpose to annually select – through a footrace between young women – the one who would have symbolically incarnated Hera (the Earth Goddess, i.e. the Sacred Queen) and – through a footrace between young men – the one who would have symbolically incarnated Zeus (the Sky God, i.e. the Sacred King): every year the Sacred Queen and the Sacred King had to confirm their role or pass the baton to those who proved to be more worthy.

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Things changed with the subsequent distinction in matriarchal and patriarchal societies:

In the matriarchal societies the first daughter of the Queen was a Princess who inherited the title at birth, whereas her future husband (and future King, after spending some time as a Prince) was chosen/selected among men from other tribes or lands; in these societies the most ambitious sons of the King and Queen will go to other lands in order to marry a Princess or a Queen and thus become themselves Kings (a recurring pattern in myths [some examples: the chariot race between Pelops and Oenomaus to win the hand of Hippodamia and the archery race between Odysseus and the Proci to win the hand of Penelope] and fairy tales).

Odysseus during the archery race against the Proci:
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In the patriarchal socities the first son of the King was a Prince who inherited the title at birth, whereas his future wife (and future Queen, after spending some time as a Princess) was chosen/selected among young girls from other tribes or lands (a recurring pattern in myths [an example: the judgement of Paris to decide which goddess was the most beautiful between Aphrodite, Hera and Athena] and fairy tales).

The Judgement of Paris:
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In both types of societies the King and Queen will seek to marry their daughters and sons with Princes and Princesses or Kings and Queens of other tribes or lands, in order to unify two royal bloodlines but often also to stipulate alliances and obtain advantages of other sort.

“The King is dead, long live the King!”

About Zeus and Typhon

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 missing 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.

Typhon:
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I can simplify by saying that for me Typhon is a symbolic incarnation of Death. In the mythical tale Zeus figths with Typhon and tries to kill him, but the monster manages to sever the tendons of Zeus’ hands and feet, therefore immobilizing the god. 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 to 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 his rebirth (i.e. awaiting to regain the ability to move), exactly like the divine ancestor inside the 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 bear’s skin (an extremely archaic symbolism, that originates 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 the syllable delph, “womb”).

The Korykion Antron:
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The korykos (“leather sack”):
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But finally Hermes (the Greek word hermaion described both a fortunate man and a pile of stones [perhaps originally in reference to the dolmens, i.e. the burial mounds?]) 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. he returns to life after an apparent and symbolic death) and defeats Typhon (i.e. Death) once and for all; the divine child (i.e. Hermes/Odin) has found the femur of his ancestor inside the mound, and by means of an initiatory ritual has achieved a superior 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 being.

Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 3 of 3)

Troy, also called Ilion, is both an ancient historical city and a mythic city, precisely the theater of the Trojan War in the Iliad. However, the Troy of the renowned epic poem is a symbolic city and it represents the burial mound, i.e. the realm of death.

Since ancient times the name “Troy” has been associated with labyrinths, and the prehistoric European symbol of the labyrinth is a figure that symbolizes the grave of the honourable ancestor. For example, several turf mazes (structures shaped like a labyrinth) in England were named “Troy”, “Troy Town”, “The City of Troy” or “The Walls of Troy”. Caerdroia (“City of Troy”) is the Welsh name for Troy and in medieval times a Caerdroia was a turf maze. Several similar turf mazes in Scandinavia have names such as Trojaborg, Trojaburg, Trojborg, Tröborg and Trojienborg, which can all be translated as “City of Troy”.

It follows that the mythological Troy is closely connected to the prehistoric labyrinth/burial mound/realm of death.

Comparison between the representation of a Troy Town and a typical burial mound seen from above:
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Therefore the Iliad describes the entry in the burial mound/realm of death (i.e. Troy), and the Achaeans fail to breach the walls of the city until they hide themselves inside the Trojan Horse. The horse is a chthonic animal and the dead were often buried with their best horse: a horse would surely gained access inside the grave (i.e. Troy). So the Achaeans can pass through the gates of Troy only if “accompanied” by the Trojan Horse (equivalently to the Argonauts that could reach Colchis only by means of the ship Argo, that in terms of symbolic function is identical to the Trojan Horse), similarly to Odin that can enter in Hel only if “accompanied” by Sleipnir, his steed. The ritual revealed through these myths is the one of the child that enters the prehistoric cave to accomplish the initiation ritual, and walks inside it “accompanied” – among other animals – by the horses portrayed in the cave paintings.

Prehistoric cave paintings portraying horses:
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In the Iliad, the city of Troy represents the burial mound/cave in which took place the initiatory ritual of rebirth. Helen, Andromache and Hecuba are three aspects of the sorceress/priestess who welcomed the initiate in the deeper area of the burial mound, they are the three Moirai (“moira” means “phase”) who preside over destiny and should be seen – respectively as girl, wife and old woman – as a tripartite manifestation of a single figure, similarly to the waxing moon, full moon and waning moon: three aspects of the same entity. Together they symbolize the eternal cycles of death and rebirth that occur in all the powers of the Universe.

Helen of Troy:
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In the poem the weapons and the armor are an essential part of the identity of a hero, and the fact that in the poem is recurrent the act of obtaining honour by taking possession of the weapons and armor of the defeated enemy – especially when they belong to a strong, glorious and honourable warrior – should be compared to the initiated child that inherits the weapons (along with other objects) of his honourable ancestor, at the conclusion of the initiation/rebirth ritual inside the burial mound.

Under this point of view the Achaeans are the descendants, whereas the Trojans are the ancestors.

At a certain point of the poem, Achilles reveals the prophecy that hangs over him:

“My mother, Thetis with silver feet, speaks to me about two destinies that lead me to death: if I stay here to fight around the walls of Troy, I will never return but eternal will be my glory; if instead I return home, in the fatherland, for me there will be no glory, but I will have long life, it will not reach me soon the destiny of death”.

-Achilles to Odisseus in the Iliad

The meaning of this sort of prophecy is this: if Achilles (as previously understood, the heroes of the mythologies should be seen, in many cases, as children) will not go inside the burial mound/realm of the dead to face the initiation ritual, his current self will remain as it is, incomplete, formless and without a definite identity, until his natural death, and he will live without honour and glory, excluded from the cycle of rebirths inside the ancestry. If instead Achilles will face the initiation ritual, then his current self will die soon after (when he will enter in the burial mound, since only the dead can access it), to later be reborn as one of his ancestors (through the surfacing of the memory of the blood, i.e. the memory of his previous lives), in this way obtaining the honour and glory of the ancestry.

The Trojan War lasts nine years and ends during the tenth: nine months of pregnancy and finally the birth (i.e. rebirth/reincarnation at the end of the initiation ritual).

The triumph of Achilles after defeating Hector:
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***

Perseus is one of the most important mythic heroes of the Greeks, famous for having beheaded the Gorgon Medusa: to accomplish this feat he first sought out the three Graeae, old sisters who shared the possession of only one eye and one tooth, lived in a cave from which neither the Sun nor the Moon could be seen (i.e. the burial mound) and were described as “virgins similar to swans” (i.e. dressed in white).

The Graeae and the Moirai of the Greeks are equivalent figures, as well as the Parcae of the Romans and the Norns of the Nordics: they are the Sorceresses who welcomed, inside the burial mound, the candidate to the initiation, and all are groups of three women who preside over destiny, in the sense that they decide what will be, on the metaphysical plane, the destiny of an individual.

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They are associated with the color white and therefore with the swan: in addition to what we have already learned, in this context, about the Graeae, we know that the Moirai are described as “dressed in white”, while the Norns live near Urðarbrunnr (“well of Urðr”, i.e. “well of destiny”), where they establish the destiny of men; near this well live two swans from which has descended the race of birds who bear this name. The Sirens of the Greek mythology are another group of three women with the same characteristics: they are Parthenope (“the virgin”), Leucosia (“the white”) and Ligeia (“with a clear voice”). Again in the Norse mythology we find the valkyries (“the ones who choose the fallen”) Svanhvit (“white as a swan”), which offers a sword to Ragnarr and urges him to accomplish great deeds, and Alvitr (“omniscient”), her sister, which spin the linen after having laid their “shape of swan”; another relevant valkyrie in this context is Alruna (from Proto-Germanic *aliruna, composed by runa [“secret”] and the prefix -ali): omniscience and runes (i.e. secret metaphysical knowledge), spinning and the color white are always specific attributes of these figures that we find in the European mythologies. The color white was related with the dead, because they were buried with white clothes, their dead bodies became quickly very pale, and they were purified by death (white is also the color of purity and purification): to get access and remain inside the burial mound the Graeae/Moirai/Parcae/Norns had to be dressed in white, as well as the dead and to be symbolically dead. The swan was seen as a chtonic and psychopomp animal, because it is completely white and lives in the waters (purifying and regenerator element that symbolizes the amniotic fluid), at times indicated in the European mythologies as portals or passages to reach the realm of death, and it is also a migratory bird, the migration being a periodic and regular movement linked to the alternation of the seasons and associated with the cycles of death and rebirth.

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Now let’s go back to Perseus: he steals the eye of the Graeae and, in exchange for it, forces them to reveal the way to kill Medusa and thus the location of the objects needed for that purpose (i.e. the personal objects with which was buried the honourable ancestor): the winged sandals (because Perseus is – exactly like Hermes – the child/bee who enters the burial mound/beehive), the helm of invisibility (another object that allows access to the burial mound, since invisibility is synonymous with death), the harpe sword, the mirrored shield and the leather sack to safely contain Medusa’s head.

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We find a similar situation in the Norse mythology, when Odinn is forced to leave one of his eyes as a pledge in Mímisbrunnr (“well of memory”), in exchange for the possibility to drink the sacred liquid (mead, according to the Völuspá) in it contained. We can better understand these mythological episodes knowing that the candidates for the initiation could access to the realm of death (the burial mound) exclusively if they brought with them the body of a dead, because only the dead had the right to enter that sacred place; the children had to possess and show a mistletoe (an evergreen plant, thus symbol of immortality), the dead Sun (i.e. Apollo/Baldr) throughout the cold season.

The eye of Odinn and the eye of the Graeae stolen by Perseus hide precisely this symbolism, because the Sun is the eye of the Sky (Homer describes the Sun as “the all-seeing eye of Zeus”, in the Egyptian mythology the Sun is the eye of Ra, in the Hindu mythology Surya [“the supreme light”] is the eye of Varuna, in the Persian mythology the Sun is the eye of Ahura Mazda, in the Japanese mythology Amaterasu – the goddess of the Sun – is born from the eye of Izanagi, the Sun is the eye of the Indo-Iranian god Mitra). Both Odinn and Perseus use a mistletoe bough to obtain a metaphysical wisdom through the remembrance of their previous lives: one by means of the vision of the personal objects he possessed in a previous life, the other by means of the sacred liquid of memory.

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Finally, Perseus finds and beheads Medusa avoiding her gaze that turned people to stone, by looking at her reflection in the mirrored shield. Medusa’s head, with snakes instead of hairs and whose eyes had the power to petrify every living creature (an equivalent figure is the Basilisk, a medieval legendary snake with the ability to petrify what meets its gaze), symbolizes the placenta, which calcifies after a certain time, causing the death and calcification of the child, who literally becomes stone if he stays too long in the womb.

Medusa’s head and the placenta:
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The beheading of Medusa symbolizes the sudden and violent severing of the bond between the reborn divine child and the maternal phase of existence, i.e. the severing of the placenta. At that point the initiate must get out as soon as possible from the burial mound (i.e. the womb of the earth), without looking back, fatal action that would compromise the whole initiatory and metaphysical process!

“Perseus with the head of Medusa”, masterpiece of Benvenuto Cellini:
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Part 1: Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 1 of 3)
Part 2: Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 2 of 3)

Le Besoin d’Impossible

The first book published by Marie Cachet, Le Besoin d’Impossible, is a multiform work in its implications, but despite this it can be defined as a whole as a purely philosophical work. In this article I will not write a typical review, I plan instead to outline and expose the issues that have mostly caught my attention during the study of the book (yes, it requires to be studied and not merely read…).

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Let’s start from an assumption that, although discussed and deepened by the author in another context, is essential for a thorough understanding of the work that concerns us now: the modern European man – biologically speaking – is a slightly hybridized Neanderthal man (actually, every modern human being is a more or less hybridized creature, but since I am a European I will refer, when necessary, only to the European species). However, what does this have to do with questions of philosophical nature? According to Marie Cachet one of the consequences of this hybridization, even after its stabilization, was the birth of a metaphysical vertigo/despair, a disharmony of the mind (here is to be found, perhaps, the cause of the birth of consciousness?) that manifested itself simultaneously with the dramatic transition to a temporal (and thus finite) perception of the Universe. A real “fall” that took us far from the possibility of fathom and living the concepts of eternity (intended as the atemporal point that we call instant) and infinity (intended as spatial infinity).

At that point, however, our ancestors (as well as us today) tried instinctively, unconsciously and obsessively to compensate this metaphysical despair without being overwhelmed by the “terror of time”: an explosion of human dynamism, individual and collective, led progressively to the birth and development of civilizations, arts, sciences, spiritualities, religions and philosophies, all attempts to recreate the lost harmony of the mind and extend one’s personality beyond the boundaries of the biological duration of the existence, in an attempt to forge a sort of simulated eternity (the need for the impossible, as suggested by the title of the book).

Examples of materialization of the collective genetic memory of a people, in an attempt to be remembered in time:
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Examples of materialization of the genetic memory of an individual, the sculptor, in an attempt to be remembered in time:
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Therefore, according to Marie Cachet, every external creation as well as all forms of teaching are the manifestation of a deep necessity of the human beings, namely the selfish need to go beyond the yoke of time, beyond the finitude, so as to preserve themselves in time, through other people, symbolic containers of our self, potential reincarnations of our self. Artistic creations and teachings are therefore a means to conquer eternity and defeat the illusion of a finite time. We project our self in the future, through a real or imaginary reincarnation (I refer you to the prehistoric ritual of reincarnation described in detail by Madame Cachet in another context), which in turn will transmit in the future the essence of our self, in an eventual endless chain.

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An essential distinction that emerges during the reading is that between the individuals conscious of their metaphysical despair (active and subjective individuals) and the vast majority of those who are not aware of it (passive and objective individuals), which unconsciously suffer the consequences of this disharmony. The religions (especially the organized religions) and the spiritualities that give us dogmatic and established metaphysical responses, the daily repetitiveness, the social conventions and all the entertainment we create in our societies are, although we do not realise it, tools that distract us and allow us to flee from the metaphysical anguish inherent in us, from the sacred terror that we experience in front of the mystery of the universe and of life. Only by getting rid of all this – especially of what provides us metaphysical answers – and through boredom, certain men will fall into the metaphysical despair and will find their authentic self (through the manifestation of the memories of our previous lives, memories engraved and latent in our blood), their true essence, undergoing a sort of “awakening”: achieved this superior spiritual and mental state, a deep impulse will force them to find their subjective responses to the fundamental dilemmas of the world and of life.

What about you? You dare to face the metaphysical abyss?

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***

As I have previously explained, these are just some of the issues discussed in this book (a unique work of its kind), the ones that most involved me: ultimately, I urge you to read it and give shape to your personal opinion.

 

Thirst for Immortality

Previously we have clarified that the concept of “Tree of Life” (as well as any other type of axis mundi) is a metaphoric image that refers to the placenta. Starting from this premise is easy to understand how the “beverage of immortality” that, in various mythologies, is obtained from the aforementioned tree is nothing but the liquid nourishment (a real “liquid of life”) that from the placenta reaches the fetus by means of the umbilical cord: let’s see some examples.

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***

In the Vedas and in the Upanishads the Soma/Amrita is a juice that drips from the Tree of Life (remaining in the Indian context I can remember the episode according to which the Buddha achieved the metaphysical awakening [of the memories of his previous lives] under the Tree of Life) that is believed to grow in the mountains or in the “navel of the earth” (the concepts of “sacred/cosmic moutain” and “navel of the earth/world” are metaphors that refer to the burial mound, i.e. the realm of the dead), juice capable of conferring immortality to those who drink it: the etymology of the name is similar to that of the Ambrosia and means “immortality”. In the Persian mythology we find the Haoma, another beverage that bestows immortality, obtained in this case too by a Tree of Life that grows in the mountains.

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 the 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 or mead (i.e. fermented honey), since the ancient sources define honey as the first and primordial nourishment of the gods, while mead was known in antiquity as the beverage of the gods. In my opinion this connection makes sense, even more so when we know that the child who went inside the burial mound (thus becoming a fetus inside the womb of the earth), in order to accomplish the rebirth/reincarnation ritual, carried with him some honey to appease the sorceress/priestess (primordially the she-bear) inside the grave, and he himself had to eat some of that honey: the (symbolical) nourishment of the fetus inside the womb…

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To reinforce what I have just affirmed 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. Bees feed themselves with Yggdrasill’s leaves and, as suggested in a previous article, the child who faced the initiatory ritual was symbolically seen as a bee.

The leaves and berries of the yew:
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In the Völsunga Saga is told that in the hall of Völsung’s house there was a big apple tree (the apples hide the same symbolism described above in relation to the red berries of the yew, they are the source of the “beverage 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:
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The Indo-Iranian god Mitra is born from a rock (“petra genitrix“, originally the burial mound and during classical antiquity the underground temple/cave called “mithraeum”: both symbols of the womb) surrounded by a serpent (i.e. the umbilical cord), near a sacred spring (i.e. the amniotic fluid and/or the liquid nourishment of the placenta) and under a sacred tree (i.e. the placenta).

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Now, why not throw into the fray the symbolism of the horn, that in certain cases represents the umbilical cord? First, the cornucopia (“horn of plenty”), a very explicit symbol in relation to the nourishment (of the fetus in the womb).

The cornucopia:
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Then the Sigrdrífumál (a section of the Poetc Edda), where Sigrdrífa after being awakened offers to Sigurðr the minnisveig, the “beverage of memory” (i.e. the memory of previous lives), a horn (i.e. the umbilical cord) full of mead (whose symbolism, in this context, we have already examined earlier). Lastly, the figure of Mímir (“memory” [of the previous lives]), the possessor of Mímisbrunnr (“well of memory”, located beneath one of the three roots of Yggdrasill): every morning, using the horn Gjallarhorn, he drinks 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.

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I conclude my dissertation with the Grail (or Holy Grail if you prefer), traditionally known as a cup/chalice whose content has vivifying and healing virtues: are you thinking what I am thinking? The cup/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.

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It should also be noted that in certain late medieval sources the 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 “royal” and “divine” blood, not an ordinary one. In this context will be good to remember that for our ancestors wine was a symbol of blood, specifically in reference to what I have just explained about the function of the blood contained in the placenta: that’s the reason why Odin, the symbolic fetus, only needs wine to feed himself.

Now you will be able to see with different eyes the Christian rite of the Eucharist, during which a mass of crazy fanatics drinks Christ’s blood from a chalice full of wine…

<<What the fuck I’m doing?!>>:
gpii-eucaristia

The Spear of Life

In its most archaic and sacred symbolism, in the context of an inititory ritual of rebirth, the spear is a representation of the umbilical cord: in this journey into the past I will try to unveil this image, through a brief examination of three episodes selected from the Arthurian cycle, the Irish mythology and the Norse mythology.

***

In the Arthurian cycle the Bleeding Lance is a sacred object that bleeds from its tip (just like the Lúin of Celtchar, an enchanted spear described in the Celtic mythology) and that can also give rise to a flow of blood: this is the nourishment in the form of blood that from the placenta (i.e. the Grail, with its life-giving liquid nourishment, and the Cauldron of the Dagda, full of blood in which the Lúin of Celtchar has to be immersed in order for it to cool down and become safe to handle) arrives to the fetus, passing through the umbilical cord. The King feeds on the blood of the Bleeding Lance, in order to heal from his mysterious infirmity (i.e. in order to be reborn, the King being no other than the honourable ancestor inherent in the child who performs the initiation).

The Bleeding Lance:
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***

The Gáe Bulg (or also Gáe Bulga) is the spear of Cúchulainn, a hero of the Irish mythology. The name of this particular weapon means “belly spear” (the umbilical cord is a “spear” inside the belly/womb) and “notched spear” (the umbilical cord is the intermediary thanks to which the nourishment of the placenta reaches the fetus, allowing him to grow, so in a sense it is the “mouth” and the “teeth” of the fetus). The word “bulga” seems to derive from the Proto-Celtic compound *balu-gaisos, that means “spear of mortal pain/spear of death”, maybe in reference to the potential death of the mother after the childbirth. Note that the use of the Gáe Bulg requires a preparation that can be realized exclusively along a water current, while it is held between the toes: the water current is the amniotic fluid while the strange position is a reference to the position of the child in the womb before birth, upside down with the feet near the umbilical cord.

optimal-foetal-position

***

In the Hávamál there is a section where Odin describes his initiatory sacrifice:

“I trow I hung
on that windy tree
nine whole days and nights,
stabbed with a spear, offered to Odin,
myself given to myself,
high on that tree of which none hath heard
from what roots it rises to heaven”.

-Hávamál

In this case I will try to unveil also the other symbols: Odin (one of his epithets is “lord of the spear”) is symbolically a fetus and is hanged on Yggdrasill (the tree of life [i.e. the placenta], whose branches are said to be wet by the Norns with water [i.e. the amniotic fluid]), and at the same time is pierced by Gungnir, his own spear (the umbilical cord). The nine days and nights are the nine months of the pregnancy, and the same is the case for the “nine worlds” sustained by Yggdrasill (the function of the placenta sustains the development of the child during the nine months inside the womb), every “month” being a “world”, in the sense of a definite and complete temporal cycle. Moreover, as you may know, our ancestors used to let grow a tree (i.e. the placenta) above the burial mound (i.e. the womb of the earth). The time will come when Yggdrasill will fall, in other words the time of the birth, the event that decrees the end of the life-giving function of the placenta, its “death” and “fall”. Odin sacrifices himself to himself, because his symbolical death is a prelude to his own rebirth, after which will emerge in his consciousness the memories of his previous lives.

Odin and Yggdrasill:
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The Universe in Flames

Giordano Bruno was an Italian philosopher, burned at the stake in 1600 after being declared guilty of heresy by the Roman Inquisition, in consequence to his criticism of Christianity and to the cosmological conclusions he had reached during his search for truth through philosophy. Bruno considered Christianity as a degenerative process that reached its culmination during the Counter-Reformation, however, what actually interests me is his cosmology, because it makes sense: I will describe it briefly.

According to Bruno the Universe is eternal (indeed, in order for something to have a beginning there must already be a space in which such a beginning can manifest itself) and infinitely extended (if instead it was spatially finite, in what would be contained? Keep in mind that all that is spatially finite must inevitably be contained in a larger space), whereby motionless and without a center. It is a unitary and vast living organism, animated and endowed with intellect, a homogeneous and indivisible whole governed by the interdependence of all its parts, which are in relation to the organism in its unity (i.e. an organism made up of organisms), unity that coincides with the concept of divinity: consequently the divine resides in the multiplicity that exists in the Universe, in every part of nature and, therefore, also in ourselves. For Bruno everything is matter, i.e. life, and the Universe consists in infinite matter that changes perennially, able to transform itself continuously in an incessant becoming, passing from one extreme to the other, from an opposite to the other. The universal matter is infinite energy provided with intellect, unity in which lies a multiplicity, multiplicity in which lies a unity!

“Perhaps you pronounce this sentence against me with greater fear than I receive it”.

-Giordano Bruno

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Related posts: Eternal Regret (Part 1 of 2), The Harmony of OppositesEternal Regret (Part 2 of 2)Words of Wisdom #51

The Book of Coming Forth by Day

The Book of the Dead is an Egyptian funerary text, consisting in a numerous series of chapters intended to reveal the initiatory process through which a deceased person could come back to life.

The Weighing of the Heart:
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In this context, I will try to interpret some brief quotes that have caught my attention.

***

“I am the Today.
I am the Yesterday.
I am the Tomorrow.
Through my numerous Births
I subsist young and vigorous”.

-Chapter LXIV

Through his numerous rebirths the honourable dead has lived in the past, is living in the present and will live in the future, returning periodically to be young and strong.

“He aspires to eternal life
As is the Sky, without end and without limits.
Because, in truth, to the Sky belongs your Soul,
But the Earth owns its corporal form”.

-Chapter CLXIII

The honourable dead aspires to live for all eternity, through endless rebirths. The soul (i.e. the spirit) is associated with the Sky, since they are both eternal and immutable entities, while the body is associated with the Earth, since they are both temporary and mutable entities.

“May my Soul dwell in my Body,
My Body unite with my Soul!”.

-Chapter CLXIII

The deceased aspires to rebirth (i.e. to reincarnation), that takes place necessarily through the reconciliation of the soul (i.e. the spirit) with the body.

“Know this, your head will be saved!
It will not be kidnapped from you, for all eternity!”.

-Chapter CLXVI

For our ancestors the head was the emblem of the mind and memory, and therefore of the identity of a person. The skull of the deceased had an essential role during the initiatory ritual of rebirth (i.e. of reincarnation) and the text assures to the deceased that his head will be preserved and that his identity will belong to him by means of future incarnations.

“In truth, you are the same Horus
shining in the middle of your Cosmic Egg”.

-Chapter CLXX

Horus is the child that attempts to fulfill the rebirth/reincarnation ritual, the descendant of the noble ancestor inside the grave: they are the same person. The deceased inside the burial mound is like a fetus inside the womb: both are waiting to be born from their cosmic egg.

The cosmic egg wrapped by a snake symbolizes the womb during pregnancy and the umbilical cord:
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“Horus himself puts you erect
Like many times has already done, with the sanctified”.

-Chapter CLXX

The child puts in the upright position (a prerogative of those who are alive) the skeleton/mummy of the deceased, like many times his previous incarnations have done in the past. The vertical position is synonymous with life and return to life.

“Behold, I rise up from the Bowels of the Universe,
And for the second time I come to the world…
I return little child, without father, a new-born…
Nobody will be able to prevent me, when the time will come,
From answering to the questions that I will be asked…”.

-Chapter CLXX

The deceased in the grave is reborn in the body of his young descendant who has completed the initiatory ritual of reincarnation. The noble ancestor is back in the world of the living and he will be able to answer to all the questions concerning his previous existence.

“Your navel is the Realm of the Dead.
Where Light and Darkness are balanced”.

-Chapter CLXXII

The concept of “navel” (as well as those of “navel of the earth/world”, “center of the earth/world”, “center of the cosmos” and “cosmic mountain”) symbolized the realm of the dead, namely the burial mound. Life and death are in equilibrium inside the grave, the deceased is not alive but not even definitively dead: he is in an intermediate state between these two, awaiting for his rebirth.

“In truth, at the moment when I was born in the world of the Beyond,
A new deity was born: and it was me!
Now, with my own eyes, I can see…
I look around me; I exist.
My vision is clear and piercing.
Erect, I resume the interrupted thread of my existence…”.

-Chapter CLXXIV

The deceased is reborn as a deity, inside the burial mound. He returns to see with his own eyes and becomes aware of his renewed existence. Alive again, he resumes the thread of his existence, interrupted only by a temporary death.

“The Yesterday has generated me.
Behold, Today
I create the Tomorrow”.

-Chapter CLXXIX

He who becomes aware of his own cycle of rebirths owns the past, the present and the future!

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The Harmony of Opposites in Taoism

Taoism is an ancient Chinese philosophical/religious tradition, whose doctrinal foundations can be found in three texts: the Tao Te Ching, the Zhuangzi and the Liezi. I will quote some verses, taken from these works, that reveal a doctrine of opposites comparable to that of Heraclitus, also in relation to the concept of “panta rei” (“everything flows”):

“When in the world everyone acknowledges beauty as such,
that’s when ugliness is already present.
When everyone acknowledges goodness as such,
that’s when badness is already present.

Therefore being and non-being generate each other,
difficult and easy complement each other,
long and short define each other,
tall and low hang down one towards the other,
before and after follow each other.”

-Tao Te Ching

“What you want to contract you must first expand,
what you want to weaken you must first strengthen,
what you want to refuse you must first exalt,
what you want to take you must first give.”

-Tao Te Ching

“The growing and the decreasing, the full and the empty, when one comes to an end the other has its beginning”.

-Zhuangzi

“Increase and decrease, become full and become empty, finish and start again, here is the cycle of the world. In this way must be understood the great task that looms to each one, and the universal order presiding over all the beings”.

-Zhuangzi

“Between night and day there is no separation and I don’t know at what moment they end”

-Zhuangzi

“Under the sky everything sinks and resurfaces without ever perishing”.

-Zhuangzi

“For those who know the heavenly joy life is a motion according to nature, death a change of form”.

-Zhuangzi

“This unity, dividing itself, forms the beings, and, forming the beings, it destroys itself. So every being has no completion nor destruction, because is reabsorbed in the original unity”.

-Zhuangzi

“The ten thousand creatures (a peculiar taoist expression that refers to the infinite multiplicity of living forms that exists in the universe) are a single thing, but what they find beautiful is the vitality and the individuality, what they find ugly is the stench and the putrefaction. But the stench and the putrefaction turn into vitality and individuality, the vitality and the individuality turn into stench and putrefaction”.

-Zhuangzi

“The ten thousand creatures and I are the one”.

-Zhuangzi

“The great wisdom embraces everything, the little wisdom distinguishes”.

-Zhuangzi

“The beginning is the end of something, the end is the beginning of something else”.

-Liezi

“You have fun because things are never the same, without knowing that we also are never the same”.

-Liezi

“What is alive can’t not live, what is transformed can’t not be transformed. Eternal life and eternal transformation means to always be alive and always be transformed, like the yin and the yang, like the four seasons”.

-Liezi

Finally, I would like to talk a bit of the Taijitu, a well known taoist symbol.

The Taijitu:
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In this symbol, Yin and Yang (the origin of this symbolic dualism [whose primal manifestation is identifiable in the “first couple” formed by Earth and Sky] is ascribed to the observation of the shadowed side and the sunny side of a mountain) are two necessary and complementary ways of being of the same reality (and in their maximum metaphysical dimension they represent the philosophical concepts of Being and Becoming, that, as a result of the coincidentia oppositorum [“coincidence of opposites”], appear as two ways of being of a single principle, two different manifestations of a same and single reality, the Tao [the word Tao is represented by an ideographic character that unites the signs of the head and of the foots, i.e. unites the complementary opposites in an undifferentiated totality], the Universal Totality, the definitive metaphysical reality where the opposites coincide), and their intrinsic interrelation is shown by the fact that at the culmination of each of the two there is a seed of the other. Light and darkness are two subsequent aspects of a unique reality, their apparent distinction and opposition supports the harmony of a cyclical process. When the light energy (Yang) reaches its culmination, then begins to grow the dark energy (Yin), and vice versa, they transform constantly one into the other. The opposites generate themselves reciprocally and each is the other’s shadow!