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.

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!”

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The Harmony of Opposites in Daoism

Daoism is an ancient Chinese philosophical tradition whose doctrinal foundations are found in three texts: the Daodejing, the Zhuangzi and the Liezi. I will quote some passages chosen from these works, which reveal a doctrine of opposites similar 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 lean one towards the other,
before and after follow each other”.

-Daodejing

“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”.

-Daodejing

“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

“Everything disappears and reappears, full and empty alternate, every end is also a beginning”.

-Zhuangzi

“Growth and decline, fullness and emptiness, end and beginning, 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 that presides over all beings”.

-Zhuangzi

“Life transforms into death, death is the beginning of life. Life and death transform each into the other: why then should we be upset about them?”.

-Zhuangzi

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

-Zhuangzi

“The ten thousand beings (a peculiar daoist expression that refers to the infinite multiplicity of living forms that exist in the universe) and I are one single thing”.

-Zhuangzi

“The ten thousand creatures are one single thing, but what they find beautiful is vitality and individuality, what they find ugly is stench and putrefaction. But stench and putrefaction transform into vitality and individuality, vitality and individuality transform into stench and putrefaction”.

-Zhuangzi

“The ten thousand things transform incessantly and we don’t know what presides over the change. How can we know what is an end? How can we know what is a beginning?”.

-Zhuangzi

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

-Liezi

“What is born returns to the unborn, what has form returns to the formless. What lives must necessarily die and what dies cannot help but die, as well as what is born cannot help but be born. So the yin and the yang alternate, so the four seasons follow each other”.

-Liezi

Finally I would like to talk about the Taijitu, a well known daoist 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” composed 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 Becoming and Being, which, 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 Dao [the word “dao” is represented by an ideographic character that unites the signs of the head and 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.