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:
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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 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

Risultati immagini per 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 kisses 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.

“Like the sun, (the king) burns the eyes and hearts and nobody on the earth can stare his face”.

-Mānavadharmaśāstra

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.

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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!”

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:
helen_of_troy

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:
triumphant_achilles_in_achilleion_levelled

***

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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Part 1: Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 1 of 3)
Part 2: Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 2 of 3)

Sumerian Mists (Part 1 of 3)

The Epic of Gilgamesh is one of the most ancient mythological poems we have the possibility to read, it is part of the Sumerian mythology and, as we know, the Sumerians were biologically Europeans. The poem is a collection of originally independent stories, putted together by the Babylonians without changes of any sort.

Gilgamesh is a prototype of archaic Sacred King, and only by understanding this we will be able to get something from the figure of Enkidu, a character who becomes very soon the best friend of Gilgamesh and will follow him during most of the events described in the poem: we’ll return later to discuss the bond between these two characters.

To note that the poem refers to the multiple sexual relationships of Gilgamesh, possibly since in the past the men who proved to be the best had the possibility to have more than one woman, so that they could have many children and as a result a wide spread of their genes:

“For Gilgamesh,
The king of Uruk with crossroads,
Is open the tent
(that distances) the others,
In favor
Of the groom (only):
The legitimate wife,
He lies with her,
Him first,
And the husband afterwards.
(Such is) the order
(Wanted) by the divine will,
And, since his birth,
(This privilege) is granted to him!”.

-The Epic of Gilgamesh

An interesting fact about Enkidu is that he is described as a sort of savage and indomitable man who lives harmoniously with animals in the woods. What happens later in the poem can make us think that Enkidu represents the prototype of human being that lived in harmony with nature, still unaware of civilization and the sedentary and agricultural way of life. The people of Uruk send a whore to approach and corrupt him, and then bring him in front of Gilgamesh. The whore (note that whores have never existed amongst hunter-gatherers, i.e. during 99% of our time on this planet) represents instead the civilization (i.e. domestication) of man, a dramatic turn for our existence in this planet. That’s why, after Enkidu has an intercourse with her, the inhabitants of the woods refuse to still live with him. Enkidu has been corrupted by civilization, there is no more place for him in the savage world of the woods: passed to civilization, he feels physically weaker and the poem states that the whore took him to shepherds who offered him bread and beer, two typical products of the sedentary and agricultural way of life:

“The bread (that) they offered (him)
He refused it;
The beer (that) they presented him,
He refused it:
Without eating this bread,
Enkidu examined it with suspect;
Without drinking this beer,
He examined it with suspect…”.

-The Epic of Gilgamesh

Now, returning to the relation between Gilgamesh and Enkidu, the poem suggests that the latter is, most probably in relation to sympathetic sorcery, a double of Gilgamesh:

“He looks like Gilgamesh,
In profile!
Smaller
In size,
(But equally) vigorously
Built!”.

-The Epic of Gilgamesh

“To Gilgamesh (, it was said),
(Although) similar to a god,
Has been (therefore) given
a double!”.

-The Epic of Gilgamesh

What I think is that Enkidu is the substitute of the Sacred King at the time when the annual function of this one comes to an end. You see, we have good reasons to think that at least some of our European ancestors, at least for some time, at least in certain areas of Europe (yes, we don’t know much about this) had not the custom to kill the Sacred King at the end of his annual function, nor organized competitions to confirm or replace him; instead, during that last day, they pretended that the real King was dead – for example confining him in an isolated place that symbolized a grave – while a substitute obtained the title of King for the duration of that last day, with all the functions, duties, honours and privileges of the role (it is possible that this “reversal of roles” is at the origin of festivities such as the Saturnalia and Carnival, both characterized by a temporary abolition or overturning of the normal hierarchy of social roles). They achieved this purpose by means of sympathetic sorcery (“the similar generates the similar”): giving him all the kingly attributes (the prehistoric forms of the crown, sword and scepter) he became the King. However, at the end of the day he was ritually murdered and then the real King returned from his isolation (i.e. from his symbolic death), resurrected, the new Sun ready to regain his function for another year.

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Possibly they did this to avoid the killing of their best man, or maybe because the King at a certain point refused to accept his destiny and imposed this variation of the ritual: we don’t know for sure. Regarding the substitute, for what we know he could have been a criminal whose destiny was in any case to be executed, or he could have been a healthy and honourable man ready to do an act worthy of being remembered, i.e. dying as a King: indeed, as we know, our ancestors had a vision of life and death that contemplated the rebirth of the honourables, death in itself was not a problem, even less if it was considered an honourable death. I tend for the second interpretation but, again, we don’t know for sure.

A King’s death:
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The death of Enkidu was celebrated with a ritual lament and Gilgamesh points out how all living creatures mourn for him, event comparable to what happens after the death of Baldr – another Solar God that is reborn after the Winter Solstice – in the Norse mythology, when all living creatures mourn his death so that Hel will return him among the living: the same goes for Enkidu, which in that moment was effectively the Sacred King, ritually killed and ceremonially cried.

We can observe the same identical process in some episodes of the Greek mythology, for example when Phaeton takes possession of the chariot and the distinctive attributes of Helios – in this way becoming Helios – but shortly after starting to perform the role of his father he dies; another episode is the one in which Achilles, the Sacred King, pretends to be dead, remaining isolated in his ship until the time when Patroclus, his substitute, dies shortly after having become himself Achilles, through the use of his armour and weapons: both the factions are sure to have Achilles in front of their eyes when Patroclus comes, and the latter is convinced that by using the armour and weapons of Achilles he will obtain the same strength and valour for which the son of Peleus was famous on the battlefield. Patroclus then dies and, finally, Achilles ends his isolation: the true King came back to life!

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