Rex Quondam Rexque Futurus

Only by setting the Sun can rise, only by becoming dry, as if they were dead, the majority of seeds can germinate: death is a mill that grinds life. Similarly, in archaic times, the children had to undergo a temporary initiatory death before being able to be reborn to a renewed and more mature form of existence.

***

In this article I will focus on a series of themes and symbols that can be found within the so-called Arthurian cycle:

King Arthur (from Welsh arth, Celtic *arto-, Proto-Celtic arthos*, from the PIE root *rtko, always with the meaning of “bear”) is the “Bear King” (the constellation of Ursa Major in Gaelic was called Cerbyd Arthur, “Arthur’s Wagon” [the symbolic function of the wagon is exactly equivalent to that of the horse and the ship, it is the cornerstone that sustains and gives shape to life understood in a higher meaning]), son of Uther Pendragon (from Celtic -penn, “mount” [a symbolic image always referring to the burial mound understood as matrix of rebirth] and “dragon”, maybe with the meaning of “mount of the dragon”): both the bear and the serpent (in Greek “dràkon” means both “dragon” and “serpent”) are archaic symbols of initiation and eternal rebirth, the first in relation to its cyclical apparent death and rebirth during the period of hibernation inside the den, the second in relation to the cyclical renewal of its existence when it hides inside a narrow natural cavity to do the molt; in myths and folklore the gaze of the dragon has the power to petrify, immobilize or paralyse its victim, characteristic attributable to the etymology itself of the word “dragon” (stemming from Greek “dérkomai”, “to gaze intensely”) and comparable to the petrifying power of Medusa’s head: it’s the calcification process to which may incur both the placenta and the child inside the maternal womb, therefore the power of the gaze is synonymous with death.

yearling_in_denMuta2-8105-copia

Arthur and Uther are therefore two initiates that have accomplished in their youth a ritual process of reincarnation within the ancestry, but their kinship suggests that they may actually be the same identical figure; the medieval sources at our disposal indicate the 26th of November as date of Uther’s death, fifteen days after the anniversary of Saint Martin: Uther dies in the period of the year when the bear begins its hibernation, and simbolically reincarnates in his son Arthur (“bear”), who, as his father, will come into possession of the sword Excalibur (forged in Avalon, the burial mound, and obtained by the legitimate descendant or by extracting it from a stone [i.e. the burial mound] or by taking it from the arm of the Lady of the Lake that comes out from the water wielding it [the symbolism of the water is substantially equivalent to that of the burial mound, it fulfills at the same time a function of grave and matrix and is, especially in reference to the amniotc fluid, a generator and life-giving element), the object with which was buried the divine ancestor and in which his identity is poured and materialized, solemn guarantee of a regal destiny: only the legitimate and predestined descendant can take possession of it and make sure that his own immature and fragmented identity reintegrates with that of the deceased reborn in him, he himself in a previous life.

For what concerns Melin, master of initiation and prophet, it will suffice to remember that according to the tradition he was conceived by a daimon and a mortal woman, his second name was Ambrosius (“he who possesses ambrosia”) and used to prophesy while sitting under an apple tree.

It can be said that, by means of the initiatory process of reincarnation, our ancestors took the responsibility of altering the regular flow and at the same time the intrinsic nature and self-awareness of children; the reincarnation of the spirit, identity, memory and knowledge of a divine ancestor was accomplished in the short period of time in which the initiate resided in the telluric depths of the burial mound. The intuition, realisation and inner possession of the metaphysical truth that allows us to integrate our individual identity within the totality of time is the fundamental purpose of the initiatory process: the eternal flow of time consists in the eternal restoration and reintegration of the same identical living matter, for which reason we have always been and we’ll always be, we are made of the substance itself of eternity and immortality, yet yoked to a temporal and mortal perspective, being no longer able to attain and innerly possess this metaphysical truth.

In relation to sacred kingship is relevant the theme of the “painful blow” that wounds and weakens the Sacred King, called Fisher King, whose indecipherable infirmity is described in terms of a disability in the legs, more specifically in the thigh, with consequent lameness and difficulty of movement (in the Mabinogion, similarly, Brân the Blessed is wounded in the thigh by a spear, wound that results incurable and an inscrutable obstacle to the fulfillment of the regal function; also the hero Celtchar undergoes a very similar destiny): this refers to the recurring symbolism of the femur as a synonymous of movement and life; therefore this enigmatic weakness and infirmity, from which the Sacred King awaits to heal (on the symbolic level “healing” always equals to “rebirth”) while residing in his castle (i.e. the burial mound, the place where the deceased reigns supreme) in a state of symbolic “sleep” (state of being that I will examine further down), consists precisely in a symbolic and temporary apparent death, which has as immediate consequence the sterility of both kingdom and nature, manifesting itself in the symbolism of the “Terre Gaste” (“Wasteland”) and the “Arbre Sec” (“Dry Tree”); the Sacred King is therefore arrived at the conclusion of his annual function, in correspondence of the temporary death of the Sun during Winter, and exclusively the Graal will be able to heal him, the search of which, in this interpretative context, can be understood in terms of a selective competition aimed at restoring and pass down the sacred kingship.

TRAMONTO-X-LOC.-LORETTA

Note: archaically the states of sleep and death were placed in reciprocal equivalence (Hypnos [the personification of sleep] and Thanatos [the personification of death] are twin brothers in the Greek mythology), indeed a sleeping man and a dead man are outwardly very similar, and both the bed and the grave have always served as a place of rest; these associations led to believe that as well as sleep and night are inevitably followed by awakening and day, death would have been fatally followed by rebirth, that’s why our ancestors often placed the dead in fetal position (position that, significantly, we tend to assume, intentionally or not, during sleep) inside the burial mounds, so that they would become, simbolically, embryos waiting to be reborn from the womb of the earth, source of life.

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At the end of the Battle of Camlann (during which Arthur is mortally wounded by Mordred) occurs an ambiguous episode, the one in which Arthur embraces Lucan, one of his last knights still alive, and by doing so suffocates him causing his death; it has been hypothesized that Lucan may be a figure equivalent to the god Lugh, which was christianized by the Church in Luke the Evangelist: their names would share the same etymological meaning, “bright, shining”, from the PIE root *leuk-, “light, brightness, shininess”, from which also come the Latin lux and the Greek leukos, both with the same meaning; one of the epithets of Lugh is indeed “lámfada”, “of the long arm”, in reference to the solar rays, which arrive everywhere despite coming from the immeasurable celestial heights. The legendary Battle of Camlann took place in coincidence with the festivity of Samhain, celebrated between October 31st and November 1st and today known as Halloween, which from the initiatory side marked the beginning of the ritual of rebirth, whereas from the merely seasonal side marked the beginning of Winter: therefore Lucan, the Sun, must necessarily die, and Arthur, the bear that hibernates, renounces possession of Excalibur and allows himself to be taken to Avalon.

ARTHDEAT

Avalon (etymologically “isle of apples”, from Welsh afal [pronounced “aval”], Breton aval, Celtic *abal-, Proto-Celtic *aballo-, always with the meaning of “apple”; in the Vita Merlini of Geoffrey of Monmouth, Arhtur is taken in the Insula Pomorum), is a legendary isle simbolically located in the west, where the Sun sets: it is the land of the dead, i.e. the burial mound.

Beetween Gavrinis (a small isle – situated in the Gulf of Morbihan in Brittany – where there is a prehistoric burial mound) and Avalon there is no difference:
full_Gavrinis-ADV-Oct2015-28-1-

Avalon is therefore related to the apples of immortality or eternal youth, as in the case of the red apple picked by Eve from the Tree of Life and given to Adam, solemn promise of future rebirth and symbolism that refers to the placenta, which looks like a tree and sustains the life and development of the fetus thanks to the nutrients present in the noble blood that flows in it. In certain versions of the legend Arthur goes to Avalon escorted by three ladies (tripartite manifestation [past, present and future: time] of a single figure symbolizing the circularity of existence), and there nine fairy sisters (personifications of the nine months that make up the symbolic pregnancy) take care of him, so that he can “rest” and “heal”, waiting for the propitious time to return, i.e. to be reborn, and assume kingship.

“Some say, in many places of England, that king Arthur is not dead, but by will of Our Lord carried elsewhere. They also say that he will return…I don’t affirm this, but rather that somewhere in this world his life has undergone a transformation. But many say that in his grave is written this verse: HIC IACET ARTHURUS, REX QUONDAM REXQUE FUTURUS”.

-Thomas Malory

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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!”

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:
trojeborg_nordisk_familjeboknewgrangeplan1

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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chinese-horse

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:
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 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.

strudwick_-_a_golden_thread

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.

how-odin-lost-his-eye

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)

Symbols of Fire

Hephaestus is the Greek god related to fire and all the uses we can do of it, and he is described as an excellent blacksmith, who realized even the armour, weapons and shield of Achilles: he is clearly related with terrestrial fire, rather than with heavenly fire, i.e. the Sun. The episode when Hephaestus is thrown from the top of Olympus by Zeus symbolizes the potential inherent in lightning to bring in itself fire, since it is from the Sky that the lightning – an attribute of Zeus – comes, causing, through its contact with trees, the birth of fire.

The Greeks represented him with a blue headgear to symbolize the Sky, the place from where he comes via the lightning and where resides the Sun, the most pure and primordial form of fire.

Ptah and Hephaestus:
god-ptah2

Anyway the terrestrial fire is less intense than that of the Sun and needs to be rekindled and sustained, or it will fade; that’s why one of the epithets of Hephaestus is “the lame” (after the fall mentioned above he broke a leg), since he can’t stand on his legs and needs a wooden support, just like the terrestrial fire that can’t continue to live without the sustain of the wood that feeds it.

falo-fuoco-misano

***

On the other hand Prometheus stole some fire from Olympus to give it to men, in the sense that he teached them how to light a fire so that they didn’t depend anymore on Zeus, via the lightning, to obtain it and benefit from it .

I want instead to focus on the enchainment and torture of Prometheus: in this case he represents the Sun itself and the myth reveals the process of self-combustion through which the Sun, in a sort of unceasing death and rebirth, feeds of itself to keep burining and shine eternally; our ancestors maybe didn’t knew this process of self-combustion of the Sun but they noticed that the terrestrial fire needed to be rekindled and sustained whereas the one in the Sky not, it was self-sufficient and perennial.

Note: a symbol related to the same process can be found in the figure of the Phoenix, known as Bennu among the Egyptians, the eternal bird able to be reborn from its own ashes.

Prometheus is tortured by an eagle, a solar symbol as well as a heavenly symbol, so we have more solutions to interpret the torture: if we look at the eagle as a solar symbol we have the Sun that devours and sacrifices itself unceasingly, coming back to life every day and therefore continuing to shine; if we look at the eagle as a heavenly symbol then we have the Sky nourished by the liver of Prometheus, because the Sky to keep on shining must feed on the vigor (that was believed to reside, as well as the fundamental Vitamin D that the Sun gives us, in the liver, the part of the body devoured everyday by the eagle) of the Sun, i.e. on the energy of its rays.

Prometheus’ torture:
il-prometeo-incatenato

Only at night Prometheus is exempt from his torture, as indeed the Sun from its eternal self-sacrifice; at sunset it sinks in the west, in the depths of the underground, the realm of death, to then reappear again in the east the next morning, resurrected: thanks to its guide the same journey was accomplished by the spirits of the dead, so as to be able to come back to life again.

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Sumerian Mists (Part 3 of 3)

First an image that shows the Cosmos according to the Sumerian mythology:

cosmologia_sumera

There is written, from top to bottom:

Primordial Sea (Nammu)
Sky (An)
Terrestrial Ocean (Abzu)
Earth (Ki)
Hell (Kur)
Primordial Sea (Nammu)

The Primordial Sea (Nammu) is the Universe: uncreated, eternal and infinite, enclosing the creatress matter of all that will come into being, primeval amniotic fluid that has given form to all that has been, that is and that will be. The Sky (An) is the Starry Sky above the Solar System. The Terrestrial Ocean (Abzu) is the “maelstrom” created around the Sun by the orbits of the planets of the Solar System. The Earth (Ki) is the ideal plane composed by the four pillars or corners of the year, i.e. the Ecliptic. Hell (Kur: another proof that the Kur of which I speak in my previous article is indeed the realm of death) is the Starry Sky below the Solar System.

***

The myth about Baldr’s death is composed by the dreams premonitory of his death, the oath imposed to all living creatures to not harm him, the deities that jokingly try to harm him knowing his invulnerability, his eventual death by the hands of Höðr, the search in Hel to bring him back and the cry of all that exists to allow his return in the world of the living.

Baldr’s death:
baldr_lies_dead

The Sumerian mythology contains a poem called “The Dream of Dumuzi” that is in many ways is strikingly similar to Baldr’s myth summarized above: in this poem the god Dumuzi has premonitions of his destiny by means of dreams that show his imminent death. He knows he will be killed by a band of brigands but hopes nevertheless to avoid what will be inevitable and asks to all living beings to cry for him; on several occasions the god is captured by the brigands but manages to escape and at the end he seeks refuge in a pen in the desert but the brigands capture him and destiny is fulfilled; after Dumuzi’s death follows the ritualistic lamentation and Geshtinanna, his sister, starts searching for him in the realm of death, in the end succeeding in bringing him back to life.

The similarities with the myth of Baldr’s death are many: the title of the poem reminds of the Eddic poem “Baldrs Draumar” (“Baldr’s dreams”), then we have the premonitions of death during sleep, the attempts to avoid death, the participation of all living creatures, the fulfillment of destiny despite the efforts to avoid it and the final search in the realm of death to bring the god back to life. We can quite easily draw a parallel between the deities trying repeatedly to harm Baldr, until his eventual death, and the brigands that capture more times Dumuzi without being able to kill him, until when they finally succeed in their purpose.

Other equivalent myths are those about the resurrections of Osiris and Lemminkäinen. In the Egyptian mythology, Seth kills Osiris and dismembers his body into fourteen parts to then scatter them throughout Egypt: Isis then collects all the body parts and reassembles them, in this way resurrecting Osiris. In the Kalevala, Lemminkäinen goes to Tuonela, the realm of death, to pass a test and win the hand of his future wife, but he is killed and his body torn to pieces and thrown into the infernal river: then the mother of Lemminkäinen descends into the realm of death and recovers all the parts of his son’s body, reassembles the corpse and brings it back to life.

Lemminkäinen is brought back to life by his mother:
lemminkaisenaiti

Höðr, Seth and the other entities that kill the Sun God symbolize Autumn and Winter, the seasons when the Sun grows old and temporarily dies. Baldr, Dumuzi, Osiris and Lemminkäinen symbolize the temporarily dead Sun during the Winter Solstice (the word “solstice” comes from Latin “solstitium” [“sun stop”], indeed the Sun starts again to climb up or down the horizon only after some days of apparent immobility following the Solstices, whereby the wintry rebirth occurs effectively only in coincidence with Yule, and that’s why many deities come back to life exactly three days after their seasonal death) and the child that, after accomplishing the initiation ritual, comes out from the burial mound: both are reborn on Yule’s day.

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