In its most archaic and sacred symbolism, in the context of an inititory ritual of rebirth, the spear is a representation of the umbilical cord: in this journey into the past I will try to unveil this image, through a brief examination of three episodes selected from the Arthurian cycle, the Irish mythology and the Norse mythology.
In the Arthurian cycle the Bleeding Lance is a sacred object that bleeds from its tip (just like the Lúin of Celtchar, an enchanted spear described in the Celtic mythology) and that can also give rise to a flow of blood: this is the nourishment in the form of blood that from the placenta (i.e. the Grail, with its life-giving liquid nourishment, and the Cauldron of the Dagda, full of blood in which the Lúin of Celtchar has to be immersed in order for it to cool down and become safe to handle) arrives to the fetus, passing through the umbilical cord. The King feeds on the blood of the Bleeding Lance, in order to heal from his mysterious infirmity (i.e. in order to be reborn, the King being no other than the honourable ancestor inherent in the child who performs the initiation).
The Bleeding Lance:
The Gáe Bulg (or also Gáe Bulga) is the spear of Cúchulainn, a hero of the Irish mythology. The name of this particular weapon means “belly spear” (the umbilical cord is a “spear” inside the belly/womb) and “notched spear” (the umbilical cord is the intermediary thanks to which the nourishment of the placenta reaches the fetus, allowing him to grow, so in a sense it is the “mouth” and the “teeth” of the fetus). The word “bulga” seems to derive from the Proto-Celtic compound *balu-gaisos, that means “spear of mortal pain/spear of death”, maybe in reference to the potential death of the mother after the childbirth. Note that the use of the Gáe Bulg requires a preparation that can be realized exclusively along a water current, while it is held between the toes: the water current is the amniotic fluid while the strange position is a reference to the position of the child in the womb before birth, upside down with the feet near the umbilical cord.
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”.
In this case I will try to unveil also the other symbols: Odin (one of his epithets is “lord of the spear”) is symbolically a fetus and is hanged on Yggdrasill (the tree of life [i.e. the placenta], whose branches are said to be wet by the Norns with water [i.e. the amniotic fluid]), and at the same time is pierced by Gungnir, his own spear (the umbilical cord). The nine days and nights are the nine months of the pregnancy, and the same is the case for the “nine worlds” sustained by Yggdrasill (the function of the placenta sustains the development of the child during the nine months inside the womb), every “month” being a “world”, in the sense of a definite and complete temporal cycle. Moreover, as you may know, our ancestors used to let grow a tree (i.e. the placenta) above the burial mound (i.e. the womb of the earth). The time will come when Yggdrasill will fall, in other words the time of the birth, the event that decrees the end of the life-giving function of the placenta, its “death” and “fall”. Odin sacrifices himself to himself, because his symbolical death is a prelude to his own rebirth, after which will emerge in his consciousness the memories of his previous lives.
Odin and Yggdrasill: