Rex Quondam Rexque Futurus

Only by setting the Sun can rise, only by becoming dry, as if they were dead, the majority of seeds can germinate: death is a mill that grinds life. Similarly, in archaic times, the children had to undergo a temporary initiatory death before being able to be reborn to a renewed and more mature form of existence.

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In this article I will focus on a series of themes and symbols that can be found within the so-called Arthurian cycle:

King Arthur (from Welsh arth, Celtic *arto-, Proto-Celtic arthos*, from the PIE root *rtko, always with the meaning of “bear”) is the “Bear King” (the constellation of Ursa Major in Gaelic was called Cerbyd Arthur, “Arthur’s Wagon” [the symbolic function of the wagon is exactly equivalent to that of the horse and the ship, it is the cornerstone that sustains and gives shape to life understood in a higher meaning]), son of Uther Pendragon (from Celtic -penn, “mount” [a symbolic image always referring to the burial mound understood as matrix of rebirth] and “dragon”, maybe with the meaning of “mount of the dragon”): both the bear and the serpent (in Greek “dràkon” means both “dragon” and “serpent”) are archaic symbols of initiation and eternal rebirth, the first in relation to its cyclical apparent death and rebirth during the period of hibernation inside the den, the second in relation to the cyclical renewal of its existence when it hides inside a narrow natural cavity to do the molt; in myths and folklore the gaze of the dragon has the power to petrify, immobilize or paralyse its victim, characteristic attributable to the etymology itself of the word “dragon” (stemming from Greek “dérkomai”, “to gaze intensely”) and comparable to the petrifying power of Medusa’s head: it’s the calcification process to which may incur both the placenta and the child inside the maternal womb, therefore the power of the gaze is synonymous with death.

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Arthur and Uther are therefore two initiates that have accomplished in their youth a ritual process of reincarnation within the ancestry, but their kinship suggests that they may actually be the same identical figure; the medieval sources at our disposal indicate the 26th of November as date of Uther’s death, fifteen days after the anniversary of Saint Martin: Uther dies in the period of the year when the bear begins its hibernation, and simbolically reincarnates in his son Arthur (“bear”), who, as his father, will come into possession of the sword Excalibur (forged in Avalon, the burial mound, and obtained by the legitimate descendant or by extracting it from a stone [i.e. the burial mound] or by taking it from the arm of the Lady of the Lake that comes out from the water wielding it [the symbolism of the water is substantially equivalent to that of the burial mound, it fulfills at the same time a function of grave and matrix and is, especially in reference to the amniotc fluid, a generator and life-giving element), the object with which was buried the divine ancestor and in which his identity is poured and materialized, solemn guarantee of a regal destiny: only the legitimate and predestined descendant can take possession of it and make sure that his own immature and fragmented identity reintegrates with that of the deceased reborn in him, he himself in a previous life.

For what concerns Melin, master of initiation and prophet, it will suffice to remember that according to the tradition he was conceived by a daimon and a mortal woman, his second name was Ambrosius (“he who possesses ambrosia”) and used to prophesy while sitting under an apple tree.

It can be said that, by means of the initiatory process of reincarnation, our ancestors took the responsibility of altering the regular flow and at the same time the intrinsic nature and self-awareness of children; the reincarnation of the spirit, identity, memory and knowledge of a divine ancestor was accomplished in the short period of time in which the initiate resided in the telluric depths of the burial mound. The intuition, realisation and inner possession of the metaphysical truth that allows us to integrate our individual identity within the totality of time is the fundamental purpose of the initiatory process: the eternal flow of time consists in the eternal restoration and reintegration of the same identical living matter, for which reason we have always been and we’ll always be, we are made of the substance itself of eternity and immortality, yet yoked to a temporal and mortal perspective, being no longer able to attain and innerly possess this metaphysical truth.

In relation to sacred kingship is relevant the theme of the “painful blow” that wounds and weakens the Sacred King, called Fisher King, whose indecipherable infirmity is described in terms of a disability in the legs, more specifically in the thigh, with consequent lameness and difficulty of movement (in the Mabinogion, similarly, Brân the Blessed is wounded in the thigh by a spear, wound that results incurable and an inscrutable obstacle to the fulfillment of the regal function; also the hero Celtchar undergoes a very similar destiny): this refers to the recurring symbolism of the femur as a synonymous of movement and life; therefore this enigmatic weakness and infirmity, from which the Sacred King awaits to heal (on the symbolic level “healing” always equals to “rebirth”) while residing in his castle (i.e. the burial mound, the place where the deceased reigns supreme) in a state of symbolic “sleep” (state of being that I will examine further down), consists precisely in a symbolic and temporary apparent death, which has as immediate consequence the sterility of both kingdom and nature, manifesting itself in the symbolism of the “Terre Gaste” (“Wasteland”) and the “Arbre Sec” (“Dry Tree”); the Sacred King is therefore arrived at the conclusion of his annual function, in correspondence of the temporary death of the Sun during Winter, and exclusively the Graal will be able to heal him, the search of which, in this interpretative context, can be understood in terms of a selective competition aimed at restoring and pass down the sacred kingship.

Risultati immagini per TRAMONTO-X-LOC.-LORETTA

Note: archaically the states of sleep and death were placed in reciprocal equivalence (Hypnos [the personification of sleep] and Thanatos [the personification of death] are twin brothers in the Greek mythology), indeed a sleeping man and a dead man are outwardly very similar, and both the bed and the grave have always served as a place of rest; these associations led to believe that as well as sleep and night are inevitably followed by awakening and day, death would have been fatally followed by rebirth, that’s why our ancestors often placed the dead in fetal position (position that, significantly, we tend to assume, intentionally or not, during sleep) inside the burial mounds, so that they would become, simbolically, embryos waiting to be reborn from the womb of the earth, source of life.

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At the end of the Battle of Camlann (during which Arthur is mortally wounded by Mordred) occurs an ambiguous episode, the one in which Arthur embraces Lucan, one of his last knights still alive, and by doing so suffocates him causing his death; it has been hypothesized that Lucan may be a figure equivalent to the god Lugh, which was christianized by the Church in Luke the Evangelist: their names would share the same etymological meaning, “bright, shining”, from the PIE root *leuk-, “light, brightness, shininess”, from which also come the Latin lux and the Greek leukos, both with the same meaning; one of the epithets of Lugh is indeed “lámfada”, “of the long arm”, in reference to the solar rays, which arrive everywhere despite coming from the immeasurable celestial heights. The legendary Battle of Camlann took place in coincidence with the festivity of Samhain, celebrated between October 31st and November 1st and today known as Halloween, which from the initiatory side marked the beginning of the ritual of rebirth, whereas from the merely seasonal side marked the beginning of Winter: therefore Lucan, the Sun, must necessarily die, and Arthur, the bear that hibernates, renounces possession of Excalibur and allows himself to be taken to Avalon.

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Avalon (etymologically “isle of apples”, from Welsh afal [pronounced “aval”], Breton aval, Celtic *abal-, Proto-Celtic *aballo-, always with the meaning of “apple”; in the Vita Merlini of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Arhtur is taken in the Insula Pomorum), is a legendary isle simbolically located in the west, where the Sun sets: it is the land of the dead, i.e. the burial mound.

Beetween Gavrinis (a small isle – situated in the Gulf of Morbihan in Brittany – where there is a prehistoric burial mound) and Avalon there is no difference:
Risultati immagini per gavrinis island and burial mound

Avalon is therefore related to the apples of immortality or eternal youth, as in the case of the red apple picked by Eve from the Tree of Life and given to Adam, solemn promise of future rebirth and symbolism that refers to the placenta, which looks like a tree and sustains the life and development of the fetus thanks to the nutrients present in the noble blood that flows in it. In certain versions of the legend Arthur goes to Avalon escorted by three ladies (tripartite manifestation [past, present and future: time] of a single figure symbolizing the circularity of existence), and there nine fairy sisters (personifications of the nine months that make up the symbolic pregnancy) take care of him, so that he can “rest” and “heal”, waiting for the propitious time to return, i.e. to be reborn, and assume kingship.

“Some say, in many places of England, that king Arthur is not dead, but by will of Our Lord carried elsewhere. They also say that he will return…I don’t affirm this, but rather that somewhere in this world his life has undergone a transformation. But many say that in his grave is written this verse: HIC IACET ARTHURUS, REX QUONDAM REXQUE FUTURUS”.

-Thomas Malory

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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 myths:

-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 cave or burial mound] under which they had been hidden [i.e. buried]).
-Hephaestus (lameness: soon after being born his mother Hera throws him into the sea from the top of Olympus, and he remains for nine years [time frame that indicates the symbolic gestation that will be followed by the initiatory rebirth] inside a cave [i.e. the burial mound] surrounded by water [i.e. the amniotic fluid]); other lame smiths are Trébuchet (“the limping”) of the Arthurian cycle and Völundr (to which are severed the tendons of the legs) of the Norse myths.
-Zeus (in a myth his tendons of the feet are severed by Typhon).
-Achilles (vulnerable only to the heel).
-Dionysus (he experiences a double birth, the physical one from the body of Semele, his mother, and the initiatic one from the thigh of Zeus, his father).

Theseus lifts the boulder:

Achilles hit at the heel by the deadly arrow:
Immagine correlata

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 deepest chamber of the cave or burial mound, the throne hall where was located the skeleton of the predecessor.

The Trinacria, symbol equivalent to the swastica, portrays Medusa’s head and three bent legs to suggest the concept of movement, synonymous with life:
Risultati immagini per trinacria vespri

To note the fact that in Crete and Delos was celebrated a dance called “crane” (in reference to the habit of cranes to stand upright on one leg) to which participated young boys and girls: the movements of the dance had to evoke the path of the labyrinth from which Theseus came out after killing the Minotaur, labyrinth from which the hero himself went out dancing its figure.

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Why not remember also the famous lameness of the Devil, the result of the intentional distortion applied by the Christians to the divine figures of the legitimate descendant and the reborn ancestor?

Lastly it is necessary to mention some children’s games: the Game of the Goose consists in a labyrinthine and initiatic path, in which is destiny, in the form of dice, that moves the pieces on the squares, which are composed by figures symbol of initiation such as the death, the skeleton, the labyrinth, the well, the prison and the bridge; the Hopscotch consists instead in a numbered path that must be completed hopping on one foot, in which the first square is called earth and the last sky (respectively the entry threshold of the womb of rebirth [i.e. the female principle] and the reaching of the burial chamber of the ancestor [i.e. the male principle], a path of there and back from the earth to the sky.

Comparison between the court of the Hopscotch and a typical burial mound seen from above:
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“Children continue to play the game of hopscotch without knowing of giving back life to an initiatory game, whose purpose is to penetrate and manage to come back from a labyrinth; by playing the hopscotch the children descend symbolically in the underworld and return on the earth”.

-Mircea Eliade

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Sacred Kingship

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.

“It was customary of our ancestors that the king should also be pontiff and priest”.

-Servius

All these archaic societies were ruled by a Sacred King – a symbolic incarnation of the Sky, of the Sun and of the metaphysical principle defined with the term Being – and a Sacred Queen – a symbolic incarnation of the Earth, of the Moon and of the metaphysical principle defined with the term Becoming.

“I am that, you are this, this is you, that is me – I am the sky, you the earth”.

-Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad

Similar 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, act that symbolizes the awakening of Nature in Spring when the rays of the Sun kiss and fecundate the Earth.

Sleeping Beauty:
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Sacred King and Sacred Queen, together, represented a complementary duality and during their hierogamy (“sacred marriage”) occurred the symbolic conjunction between the Sky God or Sun God and the Earth Goddess or Moon Goddess, i.e. the metaphysical coincidence of opposites.

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The Sacred King (in relation to its sacredness we can remember that in archaic Rome the function of pontifex maximus was still a prerogative of kings) was especially associated with the Sun (the monarchical title “Highness” referred to the sovereigns until recent times was a precise reference to the height of the Sun in the celestial vault) and consequently he embodied the power of the celestial body that illuminates the world and enables all life on our planet: an example of this symbolic function can be found in the knight Gawain of the Arthurian cycle, whose strength continues to increase from dawn to noon to then gradually decrease until sunset: just like the strength of the Sun during its various daily phases.

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That’s why in the archaic societies was customary the prohibition to look the Sacred King in the face and in his presence all had to kneel and stare at the ground: it is not possible to stare at the Sun without risking of becoming blind.

The fact that the very existence of the Sacred King was identified with the annual apparent path of the Sun in the celestial vault explains the reason why he was subject to a ritual killing, real or symbolic, at the end of his annual function, on the day of the Winter Solstice, when the Sun temporarily dies: only after three days his successor, previously selected, was crowned, raised to royal dignity and celebrated.

The golden crown symbolizes the power of the solar rays:
Risultati immagini per king arthur charles ernest butler

Examples of ritual death of the Sacred King can be found in the myths concerning Achilles and Krishna: they both die after having been simbolically hit at the heel by an arrow, in their only vulnerable point, the tendon of the foot, part of the body that had the same symbolic function of the femur since the tendons allow the muscular movement of the body, synonymous with life.

Over time every archaic society altered 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 and isolated himself in a symbolic grave from which he would rise again following the ritual death of a substitute that had obtained the divine role during that last day of kingship; in other cases a symbolic animal was killed in place of the Sacred King; in other cases a wooden effigy that represented the Sacred King was torn down. In these scenarios the Sacred King in charge could confirm his role or hand it down at the end of a selective competition, but in the long run he refused to be killed or replaced and thanks to his authority and the support of his faithful managed to extend his divine mandate indefinitely, until death, and this particular deviation from the original procedure influenced and shaped considerably the institution of kingship during Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

pendragon

In the most archaic societies both the Sacred King and 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 embodied by those who proved their superiority in various annual competitions held to determine the qualities and peculiarities, male and female, of the candidates. In this regard 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, by means of a footrace between young women, the one who would have symbolically incarnated Hera, the Earth Goddess, and, by means of a footrace between young men, the one who would have symbolically incarnated Zeus (whose name preserves the Sanskrit root div- [“day, brightness”]), the Sky God.

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Every year the Sacred Queen and Sacred King had to confirm their role or bestow kingship to those who proved to be, inevitably over time, more worthy of it: hence the immortality and eternal youth of the deities.

“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 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.

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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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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:
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The korykos (“leather sack”):
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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).

Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 3 of 3)

Troy, also called Ilion, is 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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In the famous oenochoe of Tragliatella, an Etruscan jug, the image of the archaic labyrinth compares with the inscription “TRUIA”:
Risultati immagini per truia tragliatella

Therefore the Iliad describes the entry in the burial mound or realm of death, and the Achaeans fail to breach the walls of the city until they hide themselves inside the Trojan Horse; the horse symbolizes the placenta (which sustains the development and life of the fetus, like Yggdrasill [“Odin’s steed”] that sustains the nine worlds [i.e. the nine months of the symbolic pregnancy]), it is a chthonic animal and the dead were often buried with their best horse: the soldiers hidden inside the Trojan Horse represent the sum of our ancestors, the sum of their wisdom and knowledge, indeed the placenta is almost exclusively composed of the father’s genes. Therefore a horse would have surely gained access inside the burial mouns, i.e. Troy, and 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, and 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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Inside Troy there are Helen, Andromache and Hecuba, which represent the three aspects of the sorceress or priestess that welcomed the initiate in the deeper area of the burial mound, they are the three Moirai (“moira” means “destiny, fate”) who preside over destiny and should be considered – 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 that exists in 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 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 initiatory ritual of rebirth 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 almost always be seen as children) will not go inside the 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 reincarnations 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 symbolic pregnancy and finally the rebirth 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 Medusa the Gorgon (the word “gorgon” literally means “subterranean prison”, “tunnel” [i.e. the burial mound understood as matrix of rebirth]: it is significant that in the archaic iconography the Gorgons were portrayed with a mare’s body): to accomplish this feat he first sought out the three Graeae, old sisters that 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 cave or 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 the candidate to the initiation, and all are groups of three women who preside over destiny, in the sense that they contribute to 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”, “well of destiny”), where they establish the destinies 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 chose 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, runes (i.e. secret metaphysical knowledge), spinning and white color are always specific attributes of these figures that we find in the European mythologies. The white color was related with the dead, because they were buried with white clothes, their dead bodies became quickly very pale, and their personality was purified by death (white being 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 water (purifying and regenerator element that symbolizes the amniotic fluid), at times indicated in the European mythologies as portal or passage 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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So Perseus 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 that enters in 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 case in the Norse mythology, when Odin 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 by knowing that the candidates to the initiation could access the realm of death, the cave or burial mound, exclusively if they brought with them a key: the children had to possess and show a mistletoe, an evergreen plant symbol of immortality, the life force of the Sun throughout the cold season.

The eye of Odin and the eye of the Graeae stolen by Perseus conceal 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 Odin 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 had owned, the other by means of the sacred liquid of memory.

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In conclusion 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 legendary medieval 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:
medusa-caravaggioImmagine correlata

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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Le Besoin d’Impossible

The first book published by Marie Cachet, Le Besoin d’Impossible, is a purely philosophical work but at the same time multiform in its implications: in this article I’m going to indicate and expose the issues that have mostly caught my attention during the reading of the book.

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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 is, fro ma biological point of view, a slightly hybridized Neanderthal man (today we are on average, genetically speaking, 99,7% Neanderthal): 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 or surfacing of a metaphysical vertigo, a disharmony and despair of the mind that manifested itself simultaneously with the dramatic transition to a temporal, and thus finite, perception of the Universe: a real “fall” that led 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 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 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 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 their self, potential reincarnations of their self. Therefore creating and teaching (the equivalent Italian word is “insegnare”, “mark within”) are therefore a means to conquer eternity and defeat the illusion of a finite time: we project our self in the future, through an imaginary or real reincarnation, 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 spiritualities that give us dogmatic and established metaphysical responses, the daily repetitiveness, the social conventions and all the entertainments 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 ultimate mysteries of the universe and of life. Only by getting rid of all this – especially of what provides us standardised metaphysical answers – and through boredom, certain men will fall into the metaphysical despair and find their authentic self (through the manifestation of the memories of their previous lives, memories engraved and latent in our blood), their true essence, undergoing a sort of awakening: achieved this superior spiritual state, a deep impulse will force them to find their subjective responses to the fundamental dilemmas that surround us.

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: I urge you to read it and give shape to your personal opinion.

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Thirst for Immortality

“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.

albero-dorme-2Immagine correlata

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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:
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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:
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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 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:
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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.

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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.

<<What the fuck I’m doing?!>>:
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The Spear of Life

In its most sacred symbolic function and in the context of an archaic inititory ritual of reincarnation, the spear represented the symbolic umbilical cord that inextricably binds us to the totality of our previous incarnations during the eternal circularity of existence: I will try to unveil this fundamental symbolism through a brief examination of three episodes selected from the Arthurian cycle, the Celtic mythology and the Norse mythology.

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In the Arthurian cycle the Bleeding Lance is a sacred object that bleeds from its tip and that can give rise to a flow of blood, just like the Lúin of Celtchar, an enchanted spear described in the Mabinogion: it is the nourishment in 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 must be immersed in order for it to cool down and become safe to handle) arrives to the fetus, passing through the umbilical cord. The Fisher 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 Fisher King being no other than the divine ancestor that will reincarnate in the child who performs the initiation ritual.

The Bleeding Lance:
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The Gáe Bulg or Gáe Bulga is the spear of Cúchulainn, a hero of the Celtic mythology: the name of this particular weapon means “belly spear” and “notched spear”, the umbilical cord being a “spear” inside the belly and 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” or “spear of death”, maybe in reference to the potential death of the mother after 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.

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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 is symbolically a fetus, hanged on Yggdrasill (the Tree of Life [i.e. the placenta], whose branches are said to be wet by the Norns with sacred water [i.e. the amniotic fluid]) and pierced by Gungnir, his own spear (i.e. the umbilical cord [one of his epithets is “lord of the spear”]). The nine days and nights (analogously, in the Mabinogion is said that the hero Cai can breath under water [i.e. the amniotic fluid] for nine nights and nine days) are the nine months of pregnancy (a residue, almost unrecognizable, of the archaic initiatic ritual of reincarnation and reintegration of the partial identity of children within the totality of a honourable ancestry persisted among the Romans, for which the ninth day of life of infants was the lustral day, during which the newborns were purified and received a name [name is equivalent to identity]), and the same is the case for the “nine worlds” sustained by Yggdrasill (the function of the placenta sustains the development and life 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 above their burial mound (i.e. the womb of the earth). The time will come when Yggdrasill will fall, in other words the time of the rebirth, the event that decrees the end of the life-giving function of the placenta, its “fall” and “death”; Odin sacrifices himself to himself, because his symbolic 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, declared guilty of heresy by the Roman Inquisition in consequence to his criticism of Christianity and the conclusions that, during his search for truth through philosophy, he reached and promulgated: now I will briefly describe his vision of the Universe.

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According to Giordano Bruno the Universe is eternal and therefore unbegotten (indeed in order for something to have a beginning there must already be a space in which such a beginning can manifest itself), infinitely extended (if instead it was spatially finite in what would it be contained? All that is spatially finite must inevitably be contained in a larger space) whereby motionless and without a center, a vast living organism animated and endowed with intellect, an everlasting and indivisible whole governed by the interdependence of all its parts, which are in relation to the organism understood in its unity (therefore 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 all its parts. Everything is matter, i.e. energy and life, and the Universe consists of infinite matter that changes perennially, able to transform and renew itself constantly in an incessant becoming marked by cyclic rhythms, passing from an opposite to its contrary: therefore the universal matter consists of endless energy provided with intellect, a metaphysical reality in which unity and multiplicity coexist harmoniously and reflect each other.

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

-Giordano Bruno

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