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 mythology:

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 burial mound] under which they had been hidden [that is to say buried]).
Hephaestus (lameness: soon after being born, his mother throws him into the sea from the top of Olympus, and he remains for nine years [time frame that indicates the symbolic gestation which will be followed by the initiatory rebirth] inside a cave [i.e. the burial mound] surrounded by water [i.e. the amniotic fluid]).
Zeus (in a myth his tendons of the feet are severed by Typhon).
Achilles (vulnerable only to the heel).

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 hall deeper into the burial mound, the throne hall where was located the skeleton of the predecessor.

The Trinacria – symbol equivalent to the swastica – includes the head of Medusa and three bent legs to indicate the concept of movement, synonymous of life:
Risultati immagini per trinacria vespri

To note the fact that in Crete and Delos was held, at night in archaic times, a “dance of cranes” to which participated young boys and girls (the name given to the dance referred to the habit of cranes to stand on one leg): the dance had to imitate the path of the labyrinth from which Theseus came out after killing the Minotaur.

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Lastly, why not remember the famous lameness of the Devil, the result of the intentional distortion applied by the Christians to the divine figures of the child and of the reborn ancestor…

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We Set Sail!

An interesting and often ignored episode of the Greek mythology is the one where the ship Argo, built to lead the Argonauts to the conquest of the Golden Fleece, passes through the Symplegades, the clashing rocks. The characteristic of these rocks was to clash each other when someone or something tried to pass between them, killing or destroying everything in their grip.

The Argonauts freed a dove to let her pass through the rocks and, while these retreated after having clashed to kill the bird, they made readily and quickly pass their ship in the space that for a short time would have separated them. They came out unscathed, except for the aplustre – an ornamental accessory made of wood, placed on the stern of a Greek or Roman ship, where was believed to reside its spirit/vital essence – destroyed by the following clash of the Symplegades.

An aplustre:
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Mostly in fairy tales, but also in myths, the difficulty in passing through a door or other types of passages (as well as being swallowed by a monster) are images that represent the entry in the realm of the dead (the grave/burial mound). The same is the case with the Symplegades, which symbolize the border with Hades (i.e. the burial mound). They are simply another version of the various animal jaws that impede the passage, of the doors with sharp teeth, of the doors that slam or bite and of the self-propelled mountains that threaten and impede the entry into a certain place: they are all typical motifs found in traditional fairy tales all over the world. The opening and the closing, the crushing and the bite all fall in the same custody function.

In any case, remember that only the dead could have free access to the realm of death: you had to be one of them to gain access to that place. This is the reason why the ship Argo loses the aplustre, the part corresponding to the spirit/vital essence: in this way the ship “died” and gained the right to enter the grave/realm of death.

The realm of the dead:
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Finally the Argonauts arrived in Colchis (the grave/burial mound), where Jason has to accomplish the initiation ritual: there are the challenges to overcome, the sorceress/priestess that helps him (Medea), the serpent/dragon and the Golden Fleece hanging from an oak.

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Gold is often present in fairy tales and myths, always connected with events that take place in the realm of the dead/burial mound. Some examples are the Golden Bough of Aeneas, the Golden Apples of the Hesperides and the Golden Horns of the Hind (in the mythologies and foklore of Europe the deer [deer’s antlers were used in the Stone Age to dig the entrance of the graves/burial mounds], the reindeer [like the reindeer that pull the sleigh of Santa Claus], the horse, the swan and the goose [both are migratory birds associated with waters, i.e. the amniotic fluid: the migration is a periodic and regular movement linked to the alternation of the seasons and associated with the cycles of death and rebirth] are psychopomps animals in the context of initiation rituals: they reveal the path that leads to the realm of death) during the labors of Heracles, and obviously the Golden Fleece.

In all these cases it is not the object itself that matters, but gold itself, connected to the dead and the grave as it is an element that never oxidizes with the passage of time, therefore being a symbol of immortality/eternal life, a solar and regal symbol, in the context of rebirth of the memory and knowledge of the ancestor in the grave, reincarnated in one of his descendants. The hero must obtain the golden object in order to conclude his task and return from the place where he found it, just like the child who had to face the initiation was tasked to obtain (in more recent times, compared to the primordial structure of this ritual) the golden treasures inside the grave of the ancestor, to accomplish the rebirth and successfully return from the burial mound!

The Syllable “Delph”

The syllable “delph” means “womb”. This is the reason why the dolphin (“delphi” in Greek), sea creature (the waters were associated with the amniotic fluid) fitted with womb, was seen by the Greeks as a symbol of the female principle and of the womb from which life is generated. Poseidon, if seen as the god of the “watery abyss of the sky” (the Universe), has the dolphin as one of his symbols, because the Universe is the eternal and infinite womb that contains all the forms of life that have been, that are and that will be, the womb from which new life is unceasingly and eternally generated.

Art from the Minoan civilization:
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Tile from Ancient Greece:
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Delphi (“Delphoi” in Greek), the Greek city in antiquity known as “navel of the world”, was mostly famous for the presence of the oracle of the god Apollo (that, by the way, had among his epithets the one of “Delphinius”, since in certain occasions he acquired the form of a dolphin, animal sacred to him), the Oracle of Delphi (the most important of the archaic Greek religion).

Ruins of the Oracle of Delphi:
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Under the floor of the oracular temple was located the Omphalos (“navel”), the sacred stone that indicated the center of  the world.

The Omphalos resembles a beehive with a net of bee shaped symbols (the child who went inside the burial mound/beehive – bringing with him some honey to face the initiation – and the sorceress/priestess who was already inside it were seen as bees):

We find here the same symbolism: delphi, the name of the city, means “womb”, and the city was defined “navel of the world” because the navel was archaically a symbol of the labyrinth, i.e. of the burial mound that represented also the “womb of the earth”. There is therefore a symbolic connection between the name of the city and its epithet.

Representation of an archaic labyrinth:
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The Oracle of Delphi was originally a cave (the cave of the she-bear, later replaced by the burial mound), a stomios (term that indicates both the mouth and the female sexual organ, i.e. an opening [in the ground]), guarded by the serpent/dragon Python, or by the dragoness Delphyne (again a name connected with the ancient syllable that means “womb”), as it seems from the most archaic version of the myth. The serpent/dragon symbolizes the umbilical cord, therefore, in the case of Delphyne, we have a symbolism that includes both the womb and the umbilical cord. Python/Delphyne is killed by Apollo (the divine child that accomplishes the rebirth ritual: in the mythologies the killing of the serpent/dragon symbolizes the resolute and violent conclusion of the maternal phase of existence, by means of the “killing” [i.e. severing] of the umbilical cord that unites the mother to the child), who later creates in place of the cave the Oracle of Delphi, presided by the Pythia (the Priestess called “Delphic Bee”).

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The serpent/dragon is the obstacle that the heroes of the mythologies encounter during their search for the source of immortality (i.e. of rebirth/reincarnation), and it is often the guardian of the Tree of Life (i.e. the placenta).

The Cup of Hygieia and the Caduceus of Hermes/Mercury: both represent the Tree of Life, intertwined with one or more serpents (that is, a placenta with the umbilical cord):
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Immortality (i.e. the rebirth/reincarnation) is hard to obtain, and a necessary condition is always the reaching of an almost inaccessible place (that always symbolizes the realm of death, i.e. the grave/burial mound), where a serpent/dragon guards a tree whose fruits, or an object hanging to it, will grant immortality if obtained. The heroes of the mythologies have to fight with the serpent/dragon, and prevail, to get access to the tree. This fight must be seen as a test, as an initiation ritual. We can find a pattern of this type in numerous myths, like in the one of Jason and the Golden Fleece, in the one of Heracles and the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, in the one of Sigurd and Fafnir (in this case the dragon guards a treasure – i.e. the goods of the divine ancestor in the grave – and the hero becomes invulnerable and omniscient [thanks to the awakening of the memories of his previous lives] after killing it) and in the one of Adam and Eve in Paradise.

Heracles fights against Ladon, the serpent/dragon that protects the Golden Apples of the Hesperides:
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The fight of the hero with the serpent/dragon isn’t always of the physical type, and sometimes the hero is defeated: the myth of Adam and Eve and the myth of Gilgamesh prove it.

Gilgamesh, after the death of Enkidu, decided he wanted to obtain immortality: he headed towards the dwelling of Utnapishtim, a man to which the gods conferred the gift of immortality. Gilgamesh overcomes every obstacle and meets the wise old man, but fails the tests that the latter imposes on him. Gilgamesh definitely wasn’t worthy of the immortality of the gods. At that point appeared the wife of Utnapishtim, who convinced her husband to reveal the existence, in the bottom of the ocean (the amniotic fluid, the waters of death), of a plant full of thorns, difficult to access. That plant would have extended indefinitely the youth and the life of those who would have eaten it. Gilgamesh manages to obtain it, but during the return to his own land he stops near a water source and meanwhile a serpent approaches and grabs the plant, renewing its skin after eating it. Gilgamesh, as Adam and Eve, has lost immortality due to his naivety and of the astuteness of a serpent.

The serpent steals the plant of immortality from the hand of Gilgamesh:
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Note: we should not forget the other symbol related to the serpent/dragon, i.e. the figure of the serpent/dragon that bites its own tail, also known as Ouroboros. This figure expresses the concept of cyclical eternity, infinite time, circularity without beginning or end and eternal rebirth.

Egyptian art depicting an Ouroboros, maybe to symbolize a womb:
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The Omphalos (“navel”) could therefore be a womb during pregnancy: it has a central opening which widens towards the base (vagina-womb during pregnancy) and a sort of knotted net engraved on the surface, the net that “imprisons” the child to the mother until birth, or better the umbilical cord that “binds” the placenta to the fetus, by means of the navel (“omphalos”).

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