Troy, also called Ilion, is both an ancient historical city and a mythic city, precisely the theater of the Trojan War in the Iliad. However, the Troy of the renowned epic poem is a symbolic city and it represents the burial mound, i.e. the realm of death.
Since ancient times the name “Troy” has been associated with labyrinths, and the prehistoric European symbol of the labyrinth is a figure that symbolizes the grave of the honourable ancestor. For example, several turf mazes (structures shaped like a labyrinth) in England were named “Troy”, “Troy Town”, “The City of Troy” or “The Walls of Troy”. Caerdroia (“City of Troy”) is the Welsh name for Troy and in medieval times a Caerdroia was a turf maze. Several similar turf mazes in Scandinavia have names such as Trojaborg, Trojaburg, Trojborg, Tröborg and Trojienborg, which can all be translated as “City of Troy”.
It follows that the mythological Troy is closely connected to the prehistoric labyrinth/burial mound/realm of death.
Comparison between the representation of a Troy Town and a typical burial mound seen from above:
Therefore the Iliad describes the entry in the burial mound/realm of death (i.e. Troy), and the Achaeans fail to breach the walls of the city until they hide themselves inside the Trojan Horse. The horse is a chthonic animal and the dead were often buried with their best horse: a horse would surely gained access inside the grave (i.e. Troy). So the Achaeans can pass through the gates of Troy only if “accompanied” by the Trojan Horse (equivalently to the Argonauts that could reach Colchis only by means of the ship Argo, that in terms of symbolic function is identical to the Trojan Horse), similarly to Odin that can enter in Hel only if “accompanied” by Sleipnir, his steed. The ritual revealed through these myths is the one of the child that enters the prehistoric cave to accomplish the initiation ritual, and walks inside it “accompanied” – among other animals – by the horses portrayed in the cave paintings.
Prehistoric cave paintings portraying horses:
In the Iliad, the city of Troy represents the burial mound/cave in which took place the initiatory ritual of rebirth. Helen, Andromache and Hecuba are three aspects of the sorceress/priestess who welcomed the initiate in the deeper area of the burial mound, they are the three Moirai (“moira” means “destiny, fate”) who preside over destiny and should be seen – respectively as girl, wife and old woman – as a tripartite manifestation of a single figure, similarly to the waxing moon, full moon and waning moon: three aspects of the same entity. Together they symbolize the eternal cycles of death and rebirth that occur in all that exists in the Universe.
Helen of Troy:
In the poem the weapons and the armor are an essential part of the identity of a hero, and the fact that in the poem is recurrent the act of obtaining honour by taking possession of the weapons and armor of the defeated enemy – especially when they belong to a strong, glorious and honourable warrior – should be compared to the initiated child that inherits the weapons (along with other objects) of his honourable ancestor, at the conclusion of the initiation/rebirth ritual inside the burial mound.
Under this point of view the Achaeans are the descendants, whereas the Trojans are the ancestors.
At a certain point of the poem, Achilles reveals the prophecy that hangs over him:
“My mother, Thetis with silver feet, speaks to me about two destinies that lead me to death: if I stay here to fight around the walls of Troy, I will never return but eternal will be my glory; if instead I return home, in the fatherland, for me there will be no glory, but I will have long life, it will not reach me soon the destiny of death”.
-Achilles to Odisseus in the Iliad
The meaning of this sort of prophecy is this: if Achilles (as previously understood, the heroes of the mythologies should be seen, in many cases, as children) will not go inside the burial mound/realm of the dead to face the initiation ritual, his current self will remain as it is, incomplete, formless and without a definite identity, until his natural death, and he will live without honour and glory, excluded from the cycle of rebirths inside the ancestry. If instead Achilles will face the initiation ritual, then his current self will die soon after (when he will enter in the burial mound, since only the dead can access it), to later be reborn as one of his ancestors (through the surfacing of the memory of the blood, i.e. the memory of his previous lives), in this way obtaining the honour and glory of the ancestry.
The Trojan War lasts nine years and ends during the tenth: nine months of pregnancy and finally the birth (i.e. rebirth/reincarnation at the end of the initiation ritual).
The triumph of Achilles after defeating Hector:
Perseus is one of the most important mythic heroes of the Greeks, famous for having beheaded the Gorgon Medusa: to accomplish this feat he first sought out the three Graeae, old sisters who shared the possession of only one eye and one tooth, lived in a cave from which neither the Sun nor the Moon could be seen (i.e. the burial mound) and were described as “virgins similar to swans” (i.e. dressed in white).
The Graeae and the Moirai of the Greeks are equivalent figures, as well as the Parcae of the Romans and the Norns of the Nordics: they are the Sorceresses who welcomed, inside the burial mound, the candidate to the initiation, and all are groups of three women who preside over destiny, in the sense that they decide what will be, on the metaphysical plane, the destiny of an individual.
They are associated with the color white and therefore with the swan: in addition to what we have already learned, in this context, about the Graeae, we know that the Moirai are described as “dressed in white”, while the Norns live near Urðarbrunnr (“well of Urðr”, i.e. “well of destiny”), where they establish the destiny of men; near this well live two swans from which has descended the race of birds who bear this name. The Sirens of the Greek mythology are another group of three women with the same characteristics: they are Parthenope (“the virgin”), Leucosia (“the white”) and Ligeia (“with a clear voice”). Again in the Norse mythology we find the valkyries (“the ones who choose the fallen”) Svanhvit (“white as a swan”), which offers a sword to Ragnarr and urges him to accomplish great deeds, and Alvitr (“omniscient”), her sister, which spin the linen after having laid their “shape of swan”; another relevant valkyrie in this context is Alruna (from Proto-Germanic *aliruna, composed by runa [“secret”] and the prefix -ali): omniscience and runes (i.e. secret metaphysical knowledge), spinning and the color white are always specific attributes of these figures that we find in the European mythologies. The color white was related with the dead, because they were buried with white clothes, their dead bodies became quickly very pale, and they were purified by death (white is also the color of purity and purification): to get access and remain inside the burial mound the Graeae/Moirai/Parcae/Norns had to be dressed in white, as well as the dead and to be symbolically dead. The swan was seen as a chtonic and psychopomp animal, because it is completely white and lives in the waters (purifying and regenerator element that symbolizes the amniotic fluid), at times indicated in the European mythologies as portals or passages to reach the realm of death, and it is also a migratory bird, the migration being a periodic and regular movement linked to the alternation of the seasons and associated with the cycles of death and rebirth.
Now let’s go back to Perseus: he steals the eye of the Graeae and, in exchange for it, forces them to reveal the way to kill Medusa and thus the location of the objects needed for that purpose (i.e. the personal objects with which was buried the honourable ancestor): the winged sandals (because Perseus is – exactly like Hermes – the child/bee who enters the burial mound/beehive), the helm of invisibility (another object that allows access to the burial mound, since invisibility is synonymous with death), the harpe sword, the mirrored shield and the leather sack to safely contain Medusa’s head.
We find a similar situation in the Norse mythology, when Odinn is forced to leave one of his eyes as a pledge in Mímisbrunnr (“well of memory”), in exchange for the possibility to drink the sacred liquid (mead, according to the Völuspá) in it contained. We can better understand these mythological episodes knowing that the candidates for the initiation could access to the realm of death (the burial mound) exclusively if they brought with them the body of a dead, because only the dead had the right to enter that sacred place; the children had to possess and show a mistletoe (an evergreen plant, thus symbol of immortality), the dead Sun (i.e. Apollo/Baldr) throughout the cold season.
The eye of Odinn and the eye of the Graeae stolen by Perseus hide precisely this symbolism, because the Sun is the eye of the Sky (Homer describes the Sun as “the all-seeing eye of Zeus”, in the Egyptian mythology the Sun is the eye of Ra, in the Hindu mythology Surya [“the supreme light”] is the eye of Varuna, in the Persian mythology the Sun is the eye of Ahura Mazda, in the Japanese mythology Amaterasu – the goddess of the Sun – is born from the eye of Izanagi, the Sun is the eye of the Indo-Iranian god Mitra). Both Odinn and Perseus use a mistletoe bough to obtain a metaphysical wisdom through the remembrance of their previous lives: one by means of the vision of the personal objects he possessed in a previous life, the other by means of the sacred liquid of memory.
Finally, Perseus finds and beheads Medusa avoiding her gaze that turned people to stone, by looking at her reflection in the mirrored shield. Medusa’s head, with snakes instead of hairs and whose eyes had the power to petrify every living creature (an equivalent figure is the Basilisk, a medieval legendary snake with the ability to petrify what meets its gaze), symbolizes the placenta, which calcifies after a certain time, causing the death and calcification of the child, who literally becomes stone if he stays too long in the womb.
Medusa’s head and the placenta:
The beheading of Medusa symbolizes the sudden and violent severing of the bond between the reborn divine child and the maternal phase of existence, i.e. the severing of the placenta. At that point the initiate must get out as soon as possible from the burial mound (i.e. the womb of the earth), without looking back, fatal action that would compromise the whole initiatory and metaphysical process!
“Perseus with the head of Medusa”, masterpiece of Benvenuto Cellini:
Part 1: Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 1 of 3)
Part 2: Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 2 of 3)