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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Sacred Kingship

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.

“It was customary of our ancestors that the king should also be pontiff and priest”.

-Servius

All these archaic societies were ruled by a Sacred King – a symbolic incarnation of the Sky, of the Sun and of the metaphysical principle defined with the term Being – and a Sacred Queen – a symbolic incarnation of the Earth, of the Moon and of the metaphysical principle defined with the term Becoming.

“I am that, you are this, this is you, that is me – I am the sky, you the earth”.

-Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad

Similar examples can be found, at the level of folklore, in the traditional European fairy tales and celebrations where a sleeping virgin is awakened by the kiss of a prince, 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 hierogamy (“sacred marriage”) occurred the symbolic conjunction between the Sky God or Sun God and the Earth Goddess or Moon Goddess, i.e. the metaphysical coincidence of opposites.

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The Sacred King (in relation to its sacredness we can remember that in archaic Rome the function of pontifex maximus was still a prerogative of kings) was especially associated with the Sun (the monarchical title “Highness” referred to the sovereigns until recent times was a precise reference to the height of the Sun in the celestial vault) and consequently he embodied the power of the celestial body that illuminates the world and enables all life on our planet: an example of this symbolic function can be found in the knight Gawain of the Arthurian cycle, whose strength continues to increase from dawn to noon to then gradually decrease until sunset: just like the strength of the Sun during its various daily phases.

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That’s why in the archaic societies was customary the prohibition to look the Sacred King in the face and in his presence all had to kneel and stare at the ground: it is not possible to stare at the Sun without risking of becoming blind.

“Like the sun, (the king) burns the eyes and hearts and nobody on the earth can stare his face”.

-Mānavadharmaśāstra

The fact that the very existence of the Sacred King was identified with the annual apparent path of the Sun in the celestial vault explains the reason why he was subject to a ritual killing, real or symbolic, at the end of his annual function, on the day of the Winter Solstice, when the Sun temporarily dies: only after three days his successor, previously selected, was crowned, raised to royal dignity and celebrated.

The golden crown symbolizes the power of the solar rays:
Risultati immagini per king arthur charles ernest butler

Examples of ritual death of the Sacred King can be found in the myths concerning Achilles and Krishna: they both die after having been simbolically hit at the heel by an arrow, in their only vulnerable point, the tendon of the foot, part of the body that had the same symbolic function of the femur since the tendons allow the muscular movement of the body, synonymous with life.

Over time every archaic society altered 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 and isolated himself in a symbolic grave from which he would rise again following the ritual death of a substitute that had obtained the divine role during that last day of kingship; in other cases a symbolic animal was killed in place of the Sacred King; in other cases a wooden effigy that represented the Sacred King was torn down. In these scenarios the Sacred King in charge could confirm his role or hand it down at the end of a selective competition, but in the long run he refused to be killed or replaced and thanks to his authority and the support of his faithful managed to extend his divine mandate indefinitely, until death, and this particular deviation from the original procedure influenced and shaped considerably the institution of kingship during Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

pendragon

In the most archaic societies both the Sacred King and 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 embodied by those who proved their superiority in various annual competitions held to determine the qualities and peculiarities, male and female, of the candidates. In this regard we can remember the ancient Olympic Games, that consisted originally in religious ceremonies – over time degenerated into simple sport events without any higher meaning and purpose – having the purpose to annually select, by means of a footrace between young women, the one who would have symbolically incarnated Hera, the Earth Goddess, and, by means of a footrace between young men, the one who would have symbolically incarnated Zeus (whose name preserves the Sanskrit root div- [“day, brightness”]), the Sky God.

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Every year the Sacred Queen and Sacred King had to confirm their role or bestow kingship to those who proved to be, inevitably over time, more worthy of it: hence the immortality and eternal youth of the deities.

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

About Zeus and Typhon

For our ancestors the femur was a symbol of movement and thus of the life force, especially in relation to the prehistoric burial mounds – inside which have been found cases of femurs missing or replaced with bear’s femurs – and the initiatory ritual of rebirth that took place inside them: in this article I will try to unveil the symbolic relation between these archaeological finds and the myth of the battle between Zeus and Typhon.

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Typhon is a monstrous creature described in different ways by the various ancient sources, but generally speaking he was a gigantic winged monster with an at least partially serpentine shape.

Typhon:
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In the mythical tale Zeus figths against Typhon and tries to kill him, but the monster manages to immobilize the god by severing the tendons of his hands and feet. The key in this context is to understand that the tendons fulfill the same symbolic function of the femur in relation to the ability to move and the life force of an individual: the tendons perform in the myth the same role that the femur performs in the ritual. Zeus is immobilized, alive but at the same time symbolically dead, awaiting to regain the ability to move (i.e. awaiting to be reborn), exactly like the divine ancestor inside the cave or burial mound.

It will not surprise the fact that at that point Typhon will bring Zeus inside a cave (i.e. the burial mound), where he will hide the tendons of the god inside a bearskin, an extremely archaic symbolism that comes directly from the primordial Bear Cult practiced by the Neanderthals long before the end of the last Ice Age. The cave, i.e. the womb of the earth, is the Korykion Antron (“cave of the leather sack”, from korykos, “leather sack”) and is protected by the dragoness Delphyne (from delph, “womb”).

The Korykion Antron:
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The korykos (“leather sack”):
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But finally Hermes (name that etymologically means “stone”: it is interesting to notice that the Greek word “hermaion” described both a pile of stones [originally in reference to dolmens, cairns and menhirs, which, over time, among the Greeks took the form of the sculptures significantly called “herms”] and a fortunate man) manages to enter the cave (he is a psychopomp god with the privilege of being able to access and return freely from the realm of death) and to recover the precious tendons: immediately Zeus regains the ability to move, i.e. returns to life after an apparent and symbolic death, and defeats Typhon once and for all. The divine child, i.e. Hermes, has found the femur of his ancestor inside the burial mound, and by means of an initiatory ritual has achieved a higher and transcendent spiritual state: he remembers and is aware of his previous existences and consciences, which now are, at the same time, distinct and unified realities in the shape of this reborn divine individual (in the sense of “undivided”, i.e. whole, integral, not fragmented).

Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 3 of 3)

Troy, also called Ilion, is 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:
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In the famous oenochoe of Tragliatella, an Etruscan jug, the image of the archaic labyrinth compares with the inscription “TRUIA”:
Risultati immagini per truia tragliatella

Therefore the Iliad describes the entry in the burial mound or realm of death, and the Achaeans fail to breach the walls of the city until they hide themselves inside the Trojan Horse; the horse symbolizes the placenta (which sustains the development and life of the fetus, like Yggdrasill [“Odin’s steed”] that sustains the nine worlds [i.e. the nine months of the symbolic pregnancy]), it is a chthonic animal and the dead were often buried with their best horse: the soldiers hidden inside the Trojan Horse represent the sum of our ancestors, the sum of their wisdom and knowledge, indeed the placenta is almost exclusively composed of the father’s genes. Therefore a horse would have surely gained access inside the burial mouns, i.e. Troy, and 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, and 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:
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Inside Troy there are Helen, Andromache and Hecuba, which represent the three aspects of the sorceress or priestess that 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 considered – 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:
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In the poem the weapons and the armor are an essential part of the identity of a hero, and the fact that 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 initiatory ritual of rebirth 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 almost always be seen as children) will not go inside the 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 reincarnations 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 symbolic pregnancy and finally the rebirth at the end of the initiation ritual.

The triumph of Achilles after defeating Hector:
triumphant_achilles_in_achilleion_levelled

***

Perseus is one of the most important mythic heroes of the Greeks, famous for having beheaded Medusa the Gorgon (the word “gorgon” literally means “subterranean prison”, “tunnel” [i.e. the burial mound understood as matrix of rebirth]: it is significant that in the archaic iconography the Gorgons were portrayed with a mare’s body): to accomplish this feat he first sought out the three Graeae, old sisters that 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 cave or 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 the candidate to the initiation, and all are groups of three women who preside over destiny, in the sense that they contribute to decide what will be, on the metaphysical plane, the destiny of an individual.

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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”, “well of destiny”), where they establish the destinies 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 chose 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, runes (i.e. secret metaphysical knowledge), spinning and white color are always specific attributes of these figures that we find in the European mythologies. The white color was related with the dead, because they were buried with white clothes, their dead bodies became quickly very pale, and their personality was purified by death (white being 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 water (purifying and regenerator element that symbolizes the amniotic fluid), at times indicated in the European mythologies as portal or passage 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.

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So Perseus 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 that enters in 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.

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We find a similar case in the Norse mythology, when Odin 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 by knowing that the candidates to the initiation could access the realm of death, the cave or burial mound, exclusively if they brought with them a key: the children had to possess and show a mistletoe, an evergreen plant symbol of immortality, the life force of the Sun throughout the cold season.

The eye of Odin and the eye of the Graeae stolen by Perseus conceal 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 Odin 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 had owned, the other by means of the sacred liquid of memory.

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In conclusion 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 legendary medieval 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:
medusa-caravaggioImmagine correlata

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:
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Part 1: Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 1 of 3)
Part 2: Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 2 of 3)

The Spear of Life

In its most archaic and sacred symbolism, in the context of an inititory ritual of reincarnation, the spear was a representation of the umbilical cord: I will try to unveil this image through a brief examination of three episodes selected from the Arthurian cycle, the Celtic mythology and the Norse mythology.

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In the Arthurian cycle the Bleeding Lance is a sacred object that bleeds from its tip and that can give rise to a flow of blood, just like the Lúin of Celtchar, an enchanted spear described in the Mabinogion: it is the nourishment in form of blood that from the placenta (i.e. the Grail, with its life-giving liquid nourishment, and the Cauldron of the Dagda, full of blood in which the Lúin of Celtchar must be immersed in order for it to cool down and become safe to handle) arrives to the fetus, passing through the umbilical cord. The Fisher King feeds on the blood of the Bleeding Lance in order to heal from his mysterious infirmity, i.e. in order to be reborn, the Fisher King being no other than the divine ancestor that will reincarnate in the child who performs the initiation ritual.

The Bleeding Lance:
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The Gáe Bulg or Gáe Bulga is the spear of Cúchulainn, a hero of the Celtic mythology: the name of this particular weapon means “belly spear” and “notched spear”, the umbilical cord being a “spear” inside the belly and the intermediary thanks to which the nourishment of the placenta reaches the fetus, allowing him to grow, so in a sense it is the “mouth” and the “teeth” of the fetus. The word “bulga” seems to derive from the Proto-Celtic compound *balu-gaisos, that means “spear of mortal pain” or “spear of death”, maybe in reference to the potential death of the mother after childbirth. Note that the use of the Gáe Bulg requires a preparation that can be realized exclusively along a water current, while it is held between the toes: the water current is the amniotic fluid while the strange position is a reference to the position of the child in the womb before birth, upside down with the feet near the umbilical cord.

optimal-foetal-position

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In the Hávamál there is a section where Odin describes his initiatory sacrifice:

“I trow I hung
on that windy tree
nine whole days and nights,
stabbed with a spear, offered to Odin,
myself given to myself,
high on that tree of which none hath heard
from what roots it rises to heaven”.

-Hávamál

In this case I will try to unveil also the other symbols: Odin is symbolically a fetus, hanged on Yggdrasill (the Tree of Life [i.e. the placenta], whose branches are said to be wet by the Norns with sacred water [i.e. the amniotic fluid]) and pierced by Gungnir, his own spear (i.e. the umbilical cord [one of his epithets is “lord of the spear”]). The nine days and nights (analogously, in the Mabinogion is said that the hero Cai can breath under water [i.e. the amniotic fluid] for nine nights and nine days) are the nine months of pregnancy (a residue, almost unrecognizable, of the archaic initiatic ritual of reincarnation and reintegration of the partial identity of children within the totality of a honourable ancestry persisted among the Romans, for which the ninth day of life of infants was the lustral day, during which the newborns were purified and received a name [name is equivalent to identity]), and the same is the case for the “nine worlds” sustained by Yggdrasill (the function of the placenta sustains the development and life of the child during the nine months inside the womb), every “month” being a “world”, in the sense of a definite and complete temporal cycle; moreover, as you may know, our ancestors used to let grow a tree above their burial mound (i.e. the womb of the earth). The time will come when Yggdrasill will fall, in other words the time of the rebirth, the event that decrees the end of the life-giving function of the placenta, its “fall” and “death”; Odin sacrifices himself to himself, because his symbolic death is a prelude to his own rebirth, after which will emerge in his consciousness the memories of his previous lives.

Odin and Yggdrasill:
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Words of Wisdom #57

“Who (then), my friend,
Can climb up to the sky?
Only the gods live there,
In company of Shamash, forever!
Men, on their part,
(Have) the days numbered:
Everything they do
Is (nothing more than) wind!”.

-Gilgamesh to Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh

Everything we do is nothing more than wind, but when a strong wind hits us it remains imprinted in our minds and we remember it, because it has challenged and fascinated us at the same time. Then someone among us will try to improve himself, with the aim of being able to oppose to that wind, and finally prevail on it: when this happens, an even stronger wind is born!

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Related posts: Sumerian Mists (Part 1 of 3)Sumerian Mists (Part 2 of 3)Sumerian Mists (Part 3 of 3)

Words of Wisdom #44, #45 & #46

“The fortune, is Zeus who distributes it to men, to the good and the wicked, as he wants, to each one. To you he gave this fate, you must bear it”.

-Nausicaa to Odysseus in the Odyssey

“It is easy for the gods, that possess the vast sky, to do splendid or miserable a mortal man”.

-Odysseus to Telemachus in the Odyssey

“Not even you despise them, the gifts of the glorious gods, those that they offer us: we can’t choose them by ourselves”.

-Paris to Hector in the Iliad

In this consists Stoicism: in understanding what is beyond our control, accepting it as well as it’s destined to us, in any way it will affect our lives, and then act accordingly!

Bhagavadgītā (Part 1 of 2)

The Bhagavadgītā is a Hindu sacred text, a part of the Mahābhārata, the Hindu epic poem. It is a dialogue between the prince of the Pandava, Arjuna, a hero son of the god Indra, and his charioteer Krishna, an incarnation of the divine principle.

The war between the Pandavas and the Kauravas is imminent and the dialogue takes place in the centre of the battlefield, right before the beginning of the Kurukshetra’s battle: Arjuna is confused and torn by moral dilemmas after noticing that among the enemy army there are his relatives, teachers and friends: he seeks advice from Krishna, which reminds him his duties as a kshatriya (i.e. as a warrior) through the exposition of philosophical and religious concepts.

Krishna assists Arjuna:
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In this first part I quote verses that reveal mainly the doctrine concerning the immortality of the spirit, but also concepts in relation with Stoicism and the thught of Parmenides.

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 Second Chant:

12.”In truth, there has never been a time when I was not, nor you, nor these chiefs of peoples; and, in the future, will not come that in which we will not be”.

13.”The soul incarnated in the body experiments childhood, youth and the old age; then it takes another body. The man that knows this doesn’t suffer [any] bewilderment”.

The verses 12./13. begin to expose the doctrine concerning the immortality of the individual spirit and its eternal rebirth (governed by karma, an automatic and inescapable metaphysical law according to which what we are today on one side is the direct result of what we have been in our previous existences, on the other will contribute to determine what we will be in our future existences) through the piṭryāna (“way of the fathers”).

14.”Son of Kunti, the impressions of the senses [born] from contact with material things produces hot and cold, pain and pleasure, they come and go and are impermanent. Endure them, Bhārata”.

Krishna calls Arjuna with many epithets in the Bhagavadgītā: Bhārata, Mahabahu, Pārtha, Kaunteya and Paramtāpa in the verses that I quote here.

15.”Best of men, one who from them [impressions] is not disturbed, [that remains] equanimous and firm in pleasure and pain is worthy of immortality”.

The verses 14./15. express a concept that we find in Stoicism: men must understand that the things that doesn’t depend on us (like the sensations of hot and cold, pain and pleasure) must be endured firmly/indifferently, without being disturbed or fascinated by them.

16.”What doesn’t exist can’t come into being, of the being there is no cessation of existence. This ultimate truth has been unveiled by those who have seen the essence of things”.

This verse expresses a knowledge identical to that of Parmenides: nothing is created from nothing and nothing can be destroyed into nothing.

18.”These bodies of the eternal ātman, indestructible, immeasurable, are called perishable. Fight, then, Bhārata”.

The ātman is the intimate essence of every being, the principle of life (i.e. the individual spirit).

19.”The one who believes to be killed and the one who thinks of killing are both in error. That one [the ātman] can’t kill nor be killed”.

20.”It is never born and never dies. Having always been, it can’t cease to be. Unborn, permanent, imperishable, ancient, it is not killed even when the body is killed”.

22.”Like a man deposing the old clothes takes new ones, so the embodied soul (dehi) deposes the worn-out bodies and enters in other new”.

23.”The weapons doesn’t pierce [the ātman], nor fire burns it, nor is bathed by waters, nor wind dries it”.

26.”If you believe that it is born and dies continuously, likewise, Mahabahu, you must not afflict yourself,”

27.”because, in truth, sure is death for he that is born and sure is rebirth for he that is dead. Therefore, for an inescapable fact, you should not feel pity”.

The verses 19./20./22./23./26./27. continue to expose the doctrine concerning the immortality of the individual spirit and its eternal rebirth, in very explicit terms.

38.”Equally impartial in pleasure and pain, in gain and loss, in victory and defeat, prepare therefore to fight; in this way you will not be able to commit error”.

55.”When, Pārtha, a man eradicates from his mind all desires and finds his satisfaction in the ātman and for the ātman, he is said to have a stable intelligence”.

57.”The one who has given up all attachment, that is not flattered by praises nor offended by reprimand: that person owns a stable intelligence”.

The verses 38./55./57. continue to praise the man who treats the things that doesn’t depend on him as they must be treated: in a detached way and without subjective reactions.

Third Chant:

34.”The attraction and the repulsion for the objects are inherent to the corresponding sense: nobody should submit to these two for they represent the two enemies”.

39.”Knowledge is [so] wrapped by this constant enemy, Kaunteya, insatiable fire that takes the form of desire”.

The verses 34./39. express an explicit critique of materialism, seen as opposed to the pursuit of knowledge.

Fourth Chant:

5.”Numerous are my past lives and yours too, Arjuna. Just that I know them all, while you don’t know them, Paramtāpa”.

Also this verse refers to the eternal rebirth of the individual spirit.

Sixth Chant:

40.”Pārtha, nor in this nor in the other world such a man is lost, because there is no author of beautiful and good deeds that incurs in a bad destiny”.

The content of this verse can be compared to that expressed by this maxim: “there is no death for the honourable, only an eternal rebirth”.

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Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 1 of 3)

During his first labor Heracles descended in the cave where resided the Nemean Lion; after killing it the hero fell into a sleep from which he awoke at the thirtieth day from the beginning of the labor and then he crowned himself with some celery. The ancient artists positioned both the lion and celery on graves to adorn them: Heracles is the child that goes inside the cave to face the initiation ritual, his awakening symbolizes his rebirth and he adorns himself with celery because he has “won” death.

London, British Museum

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Tír na nÓg (“land of the eternal young”) is the realm of death in the Celtic mythology, a place at the edge of the world, an isle located west, where the Sun sets, i.e. dies. It is difficult to reach it if not invited by one of the elves that reside there, that is to say if not invited by the spirit of one of your own ancestors. Oisín stays there for a year but on the way back finds out that a hundred years have actually passed in Ireland; it’s a reference to the fact that the mind and spirit of the ancestor are reborn in his descendant: many years have passed since the ancestor died but only one year since Oisín entered the cave or burial mound to accomplish the initiation ritual.

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Romulus and Remus, the mythic founders of Rome, were born from Mars and of the vestal virgin Rea Silvia. After their birth they were placed in a basket and entrusted to the waters of the Tiber river: the basket ran aground in a puddle at the foot of a fig tree, the “Ficus Ruminalis” (from Latin “ruma”, “breast”), near a cave, the Lupercal, the two places where, according to the different versions of the tale, a she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus. The she-wolf was primordially a she-bear and the cave her lair, symbolically the womb of the earth (i.e. the realm of death), whereas the waters to which the twins are entrusted symbolize the amniotic fluid. Romulus and Remus should be seen as the embryos of the she-bear, that the latter nourishes so that they can develop and be born; the fig tree is the placenta, “ruminalis” (“breast”) because the placenta is in fact the “breast” of the fetus, since it nourishes him during all the pregnancy.

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The Roman Genius

The Genius of the Roman Religion is a guardian spirit that guides, shapes and governs the life of an individual from his birth until death; the etimology of the Latin word “genius” means “guardian deity, spirit, incarnation, inborn nature, talent” and it shares with the Latin word “gens” (“tribe, people”) the root *gene- (“give birth, beget”).

Ancient depiction of a Genius:
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Analyzing these elements in the light of the European initiatory ritual of reincarnation within the ancestry we can note that the figure of the Genius takes shape directly from that ritual and belief, because it symbolizes the ancestor. The festivity dedicated to the Genius coincided with the birthday of the person under its tutelage, the latter being nothing but its reincarnation, and in Rome the thalamus, the bridal bed, was called “lectus genialis” (“bed of the genius”) because it’s thanks to the sexual intercourse that the Genius, i.e. the ancestor, is reborn, through the conception of a new member of the ancestry. The part of the body related with the Genius is the forehead, i.e. the head, since prehistory the part of the body symbolizing the mind, memory and spirit of the individual: the Genius is consecrated to the forehead to symbolize how the descendant has inherited the mind, memory and spirit of the ancestor reborn (rebirth and reincarnation are synonymous in this context) in him. Moreover the Genius was usually depicted in the form of a serpent, which refers to the various serpents or dragons that the heroes of the myths must fight during their initiations: the serpent or dragon symbolizes the umbilical cord that connects the descendant to his ancestors.

The Genius depicted as a serpent:
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The Genius is equivalent to the Daimon of the Greeks and the Guardian Angel of the Christians (…); the Latin word “daemon” and the Greek word “daimon” mean “spirit, divinity, divine power, guiding spirit, tutelary divinity, spirit of the dead, fortune”, and their common PIE root means “divider, supplier (of fortune and destiny): it is no coincidence that with the advent of Christianism the concept of “demon” has become synonymous of evil entity. Other equivalent figures are the Fylgja (literally “someone that accompanies”, sometimes designated as “aettarfylgja”, “fylgja of the ancestry”) and the Hamingja (that in Icelandic means mainly “fortune”) of the Nordics, both being a supernatural form of life connected with the fortune and destiny of a person: the word “fylgja” has the same root of the English word “follow” (from Ancient English “fylgian, fylgan”, with the meaning of “accompany” [referred to a disciple], “move in the same direction”) and the word “hamingja” is composed by “hamr” (“shape”) and “gangr” (“to walk”), with the meaning of “he who walks in the shape” (i.e. the physical shape of the body), in reference to the memory of what there was of noble and honourable in our ancestors, the noble and honourable part that lives on in the ancestry, handed down from body to body, through memory. In addition to the examples described above there are the Fravashi of the Persians and the Ka of the Egyptians. The Fravashi consists in the double of an individual and in his transcendent guardian, often identified with the spirit of an ancestor: the word “fravashi” is commonly reconstructed as *fravarti, from the root -var (“to choose”), with the meaning of “one who has been chosen”, indeed only the child that was chosen or selected to be reborn through the initiation would have obtained the Fravashi of one of his honourable ancestors, i.e. himself in a previous life. The Ka too is the double of an individual: it was often represented in Egyptian iconography as a second image of the king and it was passed down from father to son symbolizing the life force and spirit of an individual. Lastly we can remember that our shadow is the manifestation of the metaphysical reality of the “double”: hence the belief in the dead intended as shadows or intangible ghosts.

We should keep into consideration also the concepts of “fate”, in the sense of a purpose that predetermines the essential course of the individual existence, and “fame”, words that have the same PIE root *bha- (“to speak, tell”) in reference to the honourable fame and reputation attributed to someone, fame and reputation that spread by means of legends, tales and songs. The concepts of “fate” and “fame” are therefore strongly connected to the spiritual heritage obtained by a descendant after his rebirth as one of his ancestors, the one chosen after identifying with him by hearing the tales that concern him, tales handed down from his family and from the members of his tribe.

Note: in this context the personal objects with which the deceased was buried were of fundamental importance, because their primary function was that of awaken, in the descendant, the memories of his previous lives; the Norse mythology provides us with some excellent examples in this regard: the sword Aettartangi [“hilt of the ancestry” or “sword of the generations”], endowed with “heill” [the “fortune of the ancestry”], the armor Finnzleiff and the sword Dáinsleif [“inheritance of Dáinn”, a dwarf whose name means “dead”], whose suffix “-leif” means “inheritance”.

Also the word “fairy” (the Italian equivalent is “fata”) has the same PIE root *bha-, and it is evident the semantic connection between “fairy” and “fate”; the Parcae, the Roman equivalent of the Moirai of the Greeks and the Norns of the Nordics, were also called Fatae by the Romans, from Latin “fatum”(“destiny”), since the Parcae are the entities who preside over destiny: in Rome they were represented inside the Forum by three statues commonly called “Tria Fata” (“the three destinies”).

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Also the concept of “fortune” falls within the same category of entities, having originally the same meaning of “destiny”, and in this context we can remember the Roman goddess Fortuna and the Greek goddesses Ananke (“necessity”) and Tyche (“fortune”), personifications of the concepts of fortune, destiny and fate intended as a necessity. “Fortunate” is therefore he who possesses a metaphysical destiny in a higher sense, he who possesses a Spirit, Genius, Daimon, Fylgja, Hamingja, Fravashi or Ka. “Unfortunate” is instead he who doesn’t possess a destiny and is excluded from the eternal cycles of deaths and rebirths within the ancestry. Indeed the PIE root of the word “fortune” is *bher- (“to carry”), with the meaning of “what is carried on”: what we carry inside us, the honour of a noble ancestry that we embody, that we have inside and guides us, the ancestors that we have brought back to life in ourselves. Fortune, Destiny, Fate, Genius, Daimon, Fylgja, Hamingja, Fravashi, Ka and many other similar entities are all equivalent symbols, their meaning and primordial origin lies in the vision of life of our forebears!

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