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 myths:

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 cave or burial mound] under which they had been hidden [i.e. buried]).
Hephaestus (lameness: soon after being born his mother Hera throws him into the sea from the top of Olympus, and he remains for nine years [time frame that indicates the symbolic gestation that will be followed by the initiatory rebirth] inside a cave [i.e. the burial mound] surrounded by water [i.e. the amniotic fluid]); other lame smiths are Trébuchet (“the limping”) of the Arthurian cycle and Völundr (to which are severed the tendons of the legs) of the Norse myths.
Zeus (in a myth his tendons of the feet are severed by Typhon).
Achilles (vulnerable only to the heel).
Dionysus (he experiences a double birth, the physical one from the body of Semele, his mother, and the initiatic one from the thigh of Zeus, his father).

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 deepest chamber of the cave or burial mound, the throne hall where was located the skeleton of the predecessor.

The Trinacria, symbol equivalent to the swastica, portrays Medusa’s head and three bent legs to suggest the concept of movement, synonymous with life:
Risultati immagini per trinacria vespri

To note the fact that in Crete and Delos was celebrated a dance called “crane” (in reference to the habit of cranes to stand upright on one leg) to which participated young boys and girls: the movements of the dance had to evoke the path of the labyrinth from which Theseus came out after killing the Minotaur, labyrinth from which the hero himself went out dancing its figure.

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Why not remember also the famous lameness of the Devil, the result of the intentional distortion applied by the Christians to the divine figures of the legitimate descendant and the reborn ancestor?

Lastly it is necessary to mention some children’s games: the Game of the Goose consists in a labyrinthine and initiatic path, in which is destiny, in the form of dice, that moves the pieces on the squares, which are composed by figures symbol of initiation such as the death, the skeleton, the labyrinth, the well, the prison and the bridge; the Hopscotch consists instead in a numbered path that must be completed hopping on one foot, in which the first square is called earth and the last sky (respectively the entry threshold of the womb of rebirth [i.e. the female principle] and the reaching of the burial chamber of the ancestor [i.e. the male principle], a path of there and back from the earth to the sky.

Comparison between the court of the Hopscotch and a typical burial mound seen from above:
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“Children continue to play the game of hopscotch without knowing of giving back life to an initiatory game, whose purpose is to penetrate and manage to come back from a labyrinth; by playing the hopscotch the children descend symbolically in the underworld and return on the earth”.

-Mircea Eliade

Risultati immagini per mircea eliade

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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 it 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 and placed on the stern of a Greek or Roman ship, where was believed to reside its life force – destroyed by the following clash of the Symplegades.

An aplustre:
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The difficulty in the passage is a symbolic image that always represents the entry in the realm of the dead, i.e. the grave or burial mound, and falls into a custody function. The same is the case with the Symplegades, they are just another version of the obstacles that threaten and impede the entry into a sacred place.

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

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Finally the Argonauts arrived in Colchis, where Jason has to accomplish the initiation ritual; there are the challenges to overcome, the sorceress or priestess that helps him and the Golden Fleece hanging from an oak guarded dy a dragon.

Gold is often present in fairy tales and myths and it is always related with events that take place in the realm of the dead, i.e. the cave or burial mound: some examples are the Golden Bough of Aeneas and – during the labors of Heracles – the Golden Apples of the Hesperides and the Golden Horns of the Hind.

Note: in the European mythologies and folklore the deer (deer’s antlers were used in the Stone Age to dig the entrance of caves), the reindeer (like the reindeer that pull the sleigh of Santa Claus), the horse, the swan and the goose (both are migratory birds connected with waters, i.e. the amniotic fluid, and the migration is a periodic and regular movement associated with the alternation of the seasons and the cycles of death and rebirth) are psychopomps animals in the context of initiatory rituals: they reveal the path that leads to the realm of death.

In all these cases it is not the object that matters but gold itself, being connected to the ancestors as it is an element that never oxidizes with the passage of time, thus being a symbol of eternal life, as well as a solar and regal symbol, in the context of rebirth of the identity and wisdom of the ancestor buried in the cave or burial mound. The hero, i.e. the legitimate descendant, must obtain the golden object in order to conclude the challenge and return from the place where he found it, just like the child that 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 burial mound of the ancestor, in order to accomplish the rebirth and successfully return from the realm of death.

Delphi and the Dragon

“Know thyself”.

-Delphic Maxim

We know that “delph” means “womb”, and this is the reason why the dolphin (“delphi” in Greek), sea creature (the waters were associated with the amniotic fluid) provided with a womb, was considered by the Greeks as a symbol of the female principle and 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 among his sacred animals, 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.

Minoan Art:
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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 had among his epithets the one of “Delphinius” since in certain occasions he acquired the form of that 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 had the function of center of the world.

The Omphalos, with its net of bee shaped symbols, resembles a beehive (both the child that went inside the burial mound/beehive – bringing honey with him to face the initiation – and the sorceress or priestess that was already inside it were symbolically compared to bees):

Example of nuraghe, a bronze age megalithic building typical of Sardinia:
Risultati immagini per nuraghe goni

So “delphi”, the name of the city, means “womb”, and the city was defined “navel of the world”; the navel was archaically a symbol of the labyrinth, i.e. of the cave or burial mound that in turn represented 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 (i.e. the cave of the she-bear later replaced by the burial mound), a stomion or stoma (word that designated in particular the mouth, the uterine orifice and the opening of a cave [i.e. an opening], moreover it was often used in reference to the realm of the dead) guarded by the dragon or serpent (in Greek “dràkon” means both “dragon” and “serpent”) Python, or by the dragoness Delphyne (again a name that contains “delph”, “womb”), as it seems from the most archaic version of the myth: the dragon often symbolizes the umbilical cord, therefore, in the case of Delphyne, we have a symbolism that includes both the womb and the umbilical cord. Python or Delphyne is killed by Apollo (the divine child that accomplishes the initiatory ritual of rebirth: in the mythologies the killing of the 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 identified as “delphic bee”.

The Omphalos (“navel”), that according to the Greeks would have been Python’s grave, could therefore symbolize the matrix of life intended as womb of rebirth in a higher sense, in a transcendent context of initiatory reincarnation within a noble ancestry.

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The serpent or dragon is the obstacle that the heroes of the mythologies encounter during their search for the source of immortality, and it is always the guardian of trees, graves – like the Miðgarðsormr (Miðgarðr [“middle earth”, the burial mound] serpent”]) that lies deep in the ocean (i.e. the amniotic liquid) – and treasures (like that of the Nibelungs [“people of the mists”, i.e. the ancestors], hidden in the bottom of a lake).

The Cup of Hygieia and the Caduceus of Hermes: both symbolize the Tree of Life intertwined by one or more serpents, i.e. a placenta with the umbilical cord, which has an intertwined shape:
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Immortality, intended as rebirth or more precisely reincarnation, is hard to obtain and a necessary condition is always the reaching of an almost inaccessible place that symbolizes the realm of death, i.e. the cave or burial mound, where a serpent or 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 the monster – and prevail – to gain access to the tree. This fight should be realised inwardly in the sense of an initiatory ritual of rebirth: we can find a similar pattern 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 with which has been buried the divine ancestor] functional to trigger the metaphysical intuition of the child, and the hero becomes omniscient [thanks to the awakening of the memories of his previous lives] after killing his nemesis), in the one of Indra and Vritra (in this case the dragon confiscates all waters and keeps them inside a mountain) and in the one of Adam and Eve in Paradise.

Heracles fights against Ladon, the serpent that guards the Golden Apples of the Hesperides:
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The fight of the hero with the serpent or dragon isn’t always of the physical type and sometimes the latter prevails, like in the cases of Gilgamesh and Adam.

Gilgamesh, after the death of Enkidu, decided he wanted to obtain immortality and headed towards the dwelling of Utnapishtim, a man to which the gods conferred the gift of immortality; the hero overcomes every preliminary obstacle and meets the wise old man, but fails the tests that the latter imposes on him, thus proving to be unworthy of the immortality of the gods. At that point appeared the wife of Utnapishtim, which convinced her husband to reveal the existence, in the bottom of the ocean, i.e. the amniotic fluid, of a plant full of thorns and difficult to access, which had the power to extend indefinitely the youth and life of those who would have eaten it. Gilgamesh manages to obtain it but during the return home he stops near a water source: meanwhile a serpent approaches and grabs the plant, renewing its skin immediately after eating it.

A Greek myth in some ways similar is the one of Glaucus son of Minos, which as a child fell inside a jar full of honey and died; he was found by the seer Polyidus to which Minos ordered to bring back to life the child, and both were locked up inside a grave together with a sword. A serpent tried to get closer to the child’s body and Polyidus killed it with the weapon, but promptly a second serpent placed a herb on the body of the other, that immediately came back to life: Polyidus, having observed the scene, took the same herb and applied it on Glaucus’s body, which in no time at all came back to life.

Note: an important symbolism related to the serpent is that of the Ouroboros, i.e. the figure of the serpent that bites its own tail: it expresses the concept of cyclical eternity, infinite time, circularity without beginning or end and eternal rebirth.

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Therefore both Gilgamesh and Adam lost immortality due to their naivety and the astuteness of a serpent: the accomplishment of the initiation ritual ended in failure.