Thirst for Immortality

Previously we have clarified that the concept of “Tree of Life” (as well as any other axis mundi) is a metaphoric image that refers to the placenta. Starting from this premise it is easy to understand how the “drink of immortality” that, in various mythologies, is obtained from the aforementioned tree is nothing but the liquid nourishment (a real “liquid of life”) that from the placenta reaches the fetus by means of the umbilical cord: let’s see some examples.

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In the Vedas and in the Upanishads the Soma/Amrita is a juice that drips from the Tree of Life (remaining in the Indian context I can add that the Buddha achieved the metaphysical awakening [of the memories of his previous lives] under the Tree of Life) that is believed to grow in the mountains or in the “navel of the earth” (the concepts of “sacred/cosmic moutain” and “navel of the earth/world” are metaphors that refer to the burial mound, i.e. the realm of the dead), juice capable of conferring immortality to those who drink it: the etymology of the name is similar to that of the Ambrosia and means “immortality”. In the ancient Persian mythology we find the Haoma, another drink that bestows immortality, provided in this case too by a Tree of Life that grows in the mountains.

Note: when we talk about immortality, we are not referring to the indefinite extension in time of an individual biological existence, without the occurence of changes in the state of the 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 transcendental state could bring out into the consciousness of a young man the memory and awareness of his previous existences.

In the Greek mythology the Ambrosia and the Nectar are both sometimes the food or the drink that enable the gods to be immortals and perennially young: many have suggested that these mythical foods may be identified with honey or mead (i.e. fermented honey), due to the fact that ancient sources define honey as the first and primordial nourishment of the gods, while mead was known in antiquity as the beverage of the gods. In my opinion this connection makes sense, even more so when we know that the child who went inside the burial mound (thus becoming a fetus inside the womb of the earth) to accomplish the rebirth ritual carried with him some honey to appease the sorceress/priestess (primordially the she-bear) inside the grave, and he himself had to eat some of that honey: the (symbolical) nourishment of the fetus inside the womb…

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To reinforce what we have just stated 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. Bees are nourished by Yggdrasill’s leaves and, as suggested in a previous article, 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 hide the same symbolism described above in relation to the red berries of the yew, they are the source 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 was born from a rock (“petra genitrix“, originally the burial mound and during classical antiquity the underground temple/cave called Mithraeum: both symbols of the womb) surrounded by the serpent Ouroboros (i.e. the umbilical cord), near a sacred spring (i.e. the amniotic fluid and/or the liquid nourishment of the placenta) and under a sacred tree (i.e. the placenta).

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Now, why not throw into the fray a brief insight into the symbolism of the horn, which in certain cases represents the umbilical cord? First, the Cornucopia (“horn of plenty”), that has a very explicit symbolism in relation to the nourishment (of the fetus in the womb).

The cornucopia:
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Then the Sigrdrífumál, where Sigrdrífa after being awakened offers to Sigurðr the minnisveig, the “drink of memory” (i.e. the memory of previous lives), a horn (i.e. the umbilical cord) full of mead (whose symbolism, in this context, we have already examined earlier). Lastly, the figure of Mímir (“memory” [of the previous lives]), the possessor of Mímisbrunnr (“well [a symbol of the womb] of memory”, located beneath one of the three roots of Yggdrasill): every morning, using the horn Gjallarhorn, he drinks the precious and sacred liquid (mead, according to the Völuspá) contained in the well of wisdom (i.e. of memory). Even Odin managed to get the chance to drink a sip of that liquid.

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I conclude my dissertation with the Grail (or Holy Grail if you prefer), traditionally known as a cup/chalice whose content has vivifying and healing virtues: are you thinking what I am thinking? The cup/chalice and the tree have a very similar shape and, taking into consideration the virtues of the Grail, we can assume that this important subject of the Arthurian literature 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 Grail is called Sangréal: in Old French, san graal or san gréal means “holy grail” and sang réal means “royal blood”; surely the blood full of nutrients contained in the placenta (on which it feeds the fetus) is “royal” and “divine”, not an ordinary one. In this context will be good to remember that for our ancestors wine was a symbol of blood, specifically in reference to what we have just explained about the function of the blood contained in the placenta: that’s the reason why Odin, the symbolical fetus, only needs wine to feed himself.

Now you will be able to see with different eyes the Christian rite of the Eucharist, during which a mass of crazy fanatics drinks Christ’s blood from a chalice full of wine…

What the fuck I’m doing?!”:
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The Mystery of the Labyrinth

The concepts of “labyrinth”, “grave” and “realm of the dead” had the same meaning/symbolism for our ancestors, both referring to the burial mound whose entrance and main channel represented the vaginal channel while the last and deepest zone/chamber symbolized the womb. This sort of “womb of the earth” was the place where was accomplished the initiation ritual that allowed the rebirth inside the ancestry.

Representation of an archaic labyrinth:
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In Greek the verb “muein”, from which derives the noun “mysterion”, referred originally to the reaching of a center: the mysteric initiations that took place in Ancient Greece had their primordial origin in the reaching of the center (the symbolism of the “center” always refers to an initiatory process) inside the labyrinth/burial mound, where lies its “mystery”.

This relation between the labyrinth and the cave/burial mound is clearly revealed by the decorative motif – common in ancient Greek and Roman art – known as “meander” (but also “greek”) and defined brilliantly by Károly Kerényi with these words: “the meander is the figure of a labyrinth in linear form”. My opinion is that the name “meander” originally a reference to the meanders of natural caves (the prototypes of the burial mounds) and not to the meandering path of rivers.

An example of decorative motif called “meander”:
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The figure of the labyrinth was in ancient times also used in relation to ritual plays and dances: according to Livy, during a festivity dedicated to Proserpina (the Roman equivalent of Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld) virgins danced the “Chorus Proserpinae” following a figure and holding in their hands a rope (the Greeks too used ropes during certain ritual dances), necessary in a spiral dance.

What symbolized the rope? Are we sure that the figure followed by the virgins as they danced was that of an archaic labyrinth? We can answer to these questions examining a known myth: the one about Theseus, Ariadne and the Labyrinth.

Homer in the Iliad talks about a place for dance that Daedalus built for Ariadne: it is not appointed but can only be a reference to the Labyrinth built by Daedalus, the one where the Minotaur was kept. Fourteen young boys and girls were periodically sended inside the Labyrinth to be devoured by the Minotaur but Theseus joined the third sacrificial group, killed the Minotaur and returned dancing the path of the Labyrinth together with the hostages he saved. The children sent inside the Labyrinth are those who had to face the rebirth/initiation ritual and Theseus is the one who accomplishes it and slays the Minotaur, another proof that the heroes of the mythologies should be seen, in certain cases, as children/young boys.

Theseus kills the Minotaur:
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The name “ariadne” on the other hand derives from the Cretan-Greek “ari-hagne” that means “utterly pure”, purity being for the Greeks an attribute of Persephone, since death purifies us. Ariadne is nothing else than Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, and was also called “Lady of the Labyrinth” according to an inscription found at Knossos dating back to the Mycenaean Bronze Age: she is the sorceress/priestess inside the burial mound. According to the same inscription the “Lady of the Labyrinth” received as a gift honey, that as we know was brought by the child who had to face the initiation ritual, to appease the sorceress/priestess (originally to appease and nourish the she-bear). I want to remember that the very first nourishment of the gods was not ambrosia but honey, that not casually the Greek word with the meaning of “appease the gods” derives from the word “honey”, and again not casually that particularly the underworld deities were regarded by the Greeks as “honeyed” and “sweet as honey”.

Originally the structure of the labyrinth was unicursal, with a single path leading to the center: there was no way of getting lost. Then what symbolizes the ball of thread that Ariadne gives to Theseus, so that he will be able to find the way out? Ariadne’s thread symbolizes the umbilical cord that binds the mother to her son, who is in a state between death and birth (or rather, rebirth). Theseus enters the womb of the earth/burial mound (i.e. the labyrinth), symbolically becoming a fetus with the umbilical cord (Ariadne’s thread), that will be necessary to him until the moment when he will come out from the womb/burial mound/labyrinth (i.e. until he will accomplish the initiation ritual), reborn: by that time it will not serve anymore.

Theseus takes Ariadne’s thread:
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Returning to the “Chorus Proserpinae”, we can now clearly understand the meaning of the rope they held as they danced following a spiral in honour of Proserpina/Persephone, the Lady of the Labyrinth!