Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 3 of 3)

Troy, also called Ilion, is both an ancient historical city and a mythical city, precisely the theater of the Trojan War in the Iliad. However, the Troy of the renowned epic poem is a symbolical 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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Therefoe 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 Achaens 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 explained 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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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 who preside over destiny and should be seen – respectively as girl, wife and crone – as a tripartite manifestation of a unique 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 the powers of the Universe, as in heaven so on earth.

Helen of Troy:
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In the poem the weapons and armor are an essential part of the idenitity of a hero, and the fact that in the poem is recurrent the act of taking possession of the weapons and armor of the defeated enemy to gain honour – especially when they belong to a strong, glorious and honourable enemy – 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 Achaens are the descendants/new generations while the Trojans are their 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 which lead me to death: if I remain here to fight around the walls of Troy, I will no longer 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 omen is this: if Achilles (as previously understood, the heroes of the mythologies should be seen, in certain cases, as children/young boys) will not go inside the burial mound/reign 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 enters the burial mound, since only the dead can access it), only to be reborn later as one of his ancestors (through the emergence of the memory of the blood, i.e. the memory of his previous lives), in this way obtaining the eternal 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:
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Perseus is one of the greatest Greek heroes, famous for having beheaded the Gorgon Medusa: to accomplish this feat he first sought out the three Graeae, old sisters who shared only one eye and one tooth among them, 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 are all groups of three woman who preside over destiny, in the sense that they decide what will be, on the metaphysical plane, the destiny of an individual.

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They are related 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 [i.e. the burial mound] of Urðr”, i.e. “Well of Destiny”), where they establish the fate of men; near this well live two swans from which descended the race of birds who bear this name. Again in the Norse mythology we find the valkyries (“the ones who chose the fallen”) Svanhvit (“white as a swan”), who 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 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 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.

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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 whereabouts of the objects needed for that purpose: the winged sandals (because Perseus is – exactly like Hermes – the divine 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 knapsack to safely contain Medusa’s head (i.e. the valuables with which was buried the honourable ancestor). 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 [a symbol of the burial mound] of memory”), in exchange for the possibility to drink the sacred water in it contained. We can better understand these mythological episodes when we know that the candidates for the initiation could access to the relam 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 the mistletoe, the dead Sun (i.e. Apollo/Baldr) at the time of the cold season: the gates opened…

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 the mistletoe bough to obtain a metaphysical wisdom through the remembrance of their previous lives: one by means of the vision of the valuables he possessed in a previous life, the other by means of the sacred liquid of memory.

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Finally, Perseus finds and beheads Medusa, avoiding her gaze that turned people to stone, by looking at her reflection on 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 calcify 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:
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The beheading of Medusa symbolizes the sharp 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 (the womb of the earth), without looking back, fatal action that would compromise the entire metaphysical and initiatory 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)

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 Spear of Life

In its most archaic sacred symbolism, in the context of an inititory ritual of rebirth, the spear is a representation of the umbilical cord: in this journey into the past I will try to unveil this image, through a brief examination of three episodes from the Arthurian cycle, the Irish mythology and the Norse mythology.

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In the Arthurian literature the Bleeding Lance is a sacred object, often bloodied but it can also give rise to a bloody stream: it is the nourishment in the form of blood that from the placenta arrives to the fetus, passing through the umbilical cord. The King feeds on the blood of the Bleeding Lance, in order to heal from his mysterious infirmity (i.e. to be reborn).

The Bleeding Lance:
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The Gáe Bulg (often known as Gáe Bulga) is the spear of Cúchulainn, a hero of the Irish mythology. The name of this particular weapon may mean “belly spear” (the umbilical cord is a “spear” inside the belly/womb) or “notched spear” (the umbilical cord is 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 meaning “spear of mortal pain/death spear”, maybe in reference to the potential death of the mother after the childbirth. Note that the use of the Gáe Bulg requires a preparation that can be made exclusively along a water current, holding it 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.

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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 (one of his epithets is “lord of the spear”) is symbolically a fetus and is hanged on Yggdrasill (the tree of life [i.e. the placenta] whose branches are said to be wet by the Norns with water [i.e. the amniotic fluid]), and at the same time is stabbed by Gungnir, his own spear (the umbilical cord). The nine days and nights are the nine months of the pregnancy, and the same is the case for the “nine worlds” sustained by Yggdrasill (the function of the placenta sustains the development of the child during the nine months inside the womb), every “month” being a “world”, in the sense of a definite and complete cycle. Moreover, as you may know, our ancestors used to let grow a tree (i.e. the placenta) above the burial mounds (i.e. the womb of the earth). The time will come when Yggdrasill will fall, in other words the time of the birth, the event that decrees the end of the life-giving function of the placenta, its “death” and “fall”. Odin sacrifices himself to himself, because his symbolical 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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