Sacred Kingship

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

-Julius Caesar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Judgement of Paris:
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In these societies the King and the Queen will try to marry their daughters with Princes or Kings from other tribes or lands, in order to tie them to a royal bloodline but often also to stipulate alliances or to obtain advantages of other sort.

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

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The Book of Coming Forth by Day

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

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

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

-Chapter LXIV

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

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

-Chapter CLXIII

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

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

-Chapter CLXIII

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

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

-Chapter CLXVI

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

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

-Chapter CLXX

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

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

-Chapter CLXX

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

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

-Chapter CLXX

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

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

-Chapter CLXXII

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

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

-Chapter CLXXIV

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

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

-Chapter CLXXIX

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

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