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 initiatic death before being able to be reborn to a renewed and more mature form of existence.

***

In this article I will focus on some 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”, son of Uther Pendragon (from Celtic -penn, “mount” [a symbolic image always referring to the burial mound] 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 during 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.

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 liquid, 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 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.

It can be said that, by means of the initiatory process of reincarnation, our ancestors took the responsibility of altering the regular flow of time as well as 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 always we’ll 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”, which wounds and weakens the Sacred 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: 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 in 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, curiously, 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.

9610-17

At the end of the Battle of Camlann (during which Arthur is mortally wounded by Mordred) occurs an ambiguous episode, when 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, as in the case of the red apple picked by Eve from the Tree of Life and given to Adam, promise of future rebirth, symbolism that refers to the placenta, which looks like a tree and nourishes the fetus with the nutrients present in the blood that flows in it. In certain versions of the legend Arthur goes to Avalon accompanied by three ladies (tripartite manifestation [past, present and future] 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

Advertisements

Thirst for Immortality

Previously we have clarified that the concept of “Tree of Life” (as well as any other type of axis mundi) is a metaphoric image that refers to the placenta. Starting from this premise is easy to understand how the “beverage 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.

albero-dorme-2placenta-cake-3

***

In the Vedas and in the Upanishads the soma/amṛta is a juice that drips from the Tree of Life that is believed to grow in certain 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 related to that of the word “ambrosia” and means “not death, immortality”; in the Persian mythology we find the haoma, another beverage that bestows immortality, obtained in this case too by a Tree of Life that grows in the mountains; similarly to the soma/amṛta and the haoma, the melikraton, a libation composed of milk and honey described in the Odyssey, had the power to reanimate the dead and was compared to the very essence of life.

Note: when we talk about immortality, we are not referring to the indefinite extension in time of an individual biological existence, without the occurrence of changes in the state of 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 transcendent state could bring out into the consciousness of a child the memory and awareness of his previous existences.

In the Greek mythology the ambrosia and the nectar are both foods 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), since the 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), in order to accomplish the rebirth/reincarnation 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…

forebears17

To reinforce what I have just affirmed 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 feed themselves with 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:
taxus-baccata_ng7

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 “beverage 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:
the_branstock_by_hoffmanapple-tree

The Indo-Iranian god Mitra is 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 a serpent (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).

Now, why not throw into the fray the symbolism of the horn, that in specific cases represents the umbilical cord (i.e. the bond that unites and makes interact the ancestors with the descendants)? First, the cornucopia (“horn of plenty”), a very explicit symbol in relation to the nourishment (of the fetus in the womb); in this context it is relevant to remember the Hindu myth in which the devas and the asuras grab the opposite ends of Vāsuki, the cosmic serpent wrapped around Mount Meru, and twist it to obtain the soma/amṛta.

Then the Sigrdrífumál (a section of the Poetc Edda), where Sigrdrífa after being awakened offers to Sigurðr the minnisveig, the “beverage 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 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 (wisdom is equivalent to memory); also Odin managed to get the chance to drink a sip of that liquid.

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 object of the Arthurian cycle symbolizes the placenta and its life-giving liquid nourishment.

8595

It should also be noted that in certain late medieval sources the Grail is called Sangréal: in Old French, san graal and san gréal mean “holy grail” and sang réal means “royal blood”; indeed the blood full of nutrients contained in the placenta is “royal” and “divine” blood, 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 I have just explained about the function of the blood contained in the placenta: that’s the reason why Odin, the symbolic 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?!>>:
gpii-eucaristia

The Syllable “Delph”

The syllable “delph” means “womb”. This is the reason why the dolphin (“delphi” in Greek), sea creature (the waters were associated with the amniotic fluid) fitted with womb, was seen by the Greeks as a symbol of the female principle and of the womb from which life is generated. Poseidon, if seen as the god of the “watery abyss of the sky” (the Universe), has the dolphin as one of his symbols, because the Universe is the eternal and infinite womb that contains all the forms of life that have been, that are and that will be, the womb from which new life is unceasingly and eternally generated.

Art from the Minoan civilization:
25-crete_2_fs

Tile from Ancient Greece:
11-il-ragazzo-sul-delfino

***

Delphi (“Delphoi” in Greek), the Greek city in antiquity known as “navel of the world”, was mostly famous for the presence of the oracle of the god Apollo (that, by the way, had among his epithets the one of “Delphinius”, since in certain occasions he acquired the form of a dolphin, animal sacred to him), the Oracle of Delphi (the most important of the archaic Greek religion).

Ruins of the Oracle of Delphi:
delphi

Under the floor of the oracular temple was located the Omphalos (“navel”), the sacred stone that indicated the center of  the world.

The Omphalos resembles a beehive with a net of bee shaped symbols (the child who went inside the burial mound/beehive – bringing with him some honey to face the initiation – and the sorceress/priestess who was already inside it were seen as bees):

We find here the same symbolism: delphi, the name of the city, means “womb”, and the city was defined “navel of the world” because the navel was archaically a symbol of the labyrinth, i.e. of the burial mound that represented also the “womb of the earth”. There is therefore a symbolic connection between the name of the city and its epithet.

Representation of an archaic labyrinth:
trojeborg_nordisk_familjebok

The Oracle of Delphi was originally a cave (the cave of the she-bear, later replaced by the burial mound), a stomios (term that indicates both the mouth and the female sexual organ, i.e. an opening [in the ground]), guarded by the serpent/dragon Python, or by the dragoness Delphyne (again a name connected with the ancient syllable that means “womb”), as it seems from the most archaic version of the myth. The serpent/dragon symbolizes the umbilical cord, therefore, in the case of Delphyne, we have a symbolism that includes both the womb and the umbilical cord. Python/Delphyne is killed by Apollo (the divine child that accomplishes the rebirth ritual: in the mythologies the killing of the serpent/dragon symbolizes the resolute and violent conclusion of the maternal phase of existence, by means of the “killing” [i.e. severing] of the umbilical cord that unites the mother to the child), who later creates in place of the cave the Oracle of Delphi, presided by the Pythia (the Priestess called “Delphic Bee”).

***

The serpent/dragon is the obstacle that the heroes of the mythologies encounter during their search for the source of immortality (i.e. of rebirth/reincarnation), and it is often the guardian of the Tree of Life (i.e. the placenta).

The Cup of Hygieia and the Caduceus of Hermes/Mercury: both represent the Tree of Life, intertwined with one or more serpents (that is, a placenta with the umbilical cord):
1010170066simbolo_caduceo
placenta-cake-3785393372d4f249a14850c2639e9bb9a

Immortality (i.e. the rebirth/reincarnation) is hard to obtain, and a necessary condition is always the reaching of an almost inaccessible place (that always symbolizes the realm of death, i.e. the grave/burial mound), where a serpent/dragon guards a tree whose fruits, or an object hanging to it, will grant immortality if obtained. The heroes of the mythologies have to fight with the serpent/dragon, and prevail, to get access to the tree. This fight must be seen as a test, as an initiation ritual. We can find a pattern of this type in numerous myths, like in the one of Jason and the Golden Fleece, in the one of Heracles and the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, in the one of Sigurd and Fafnir (in this case the dragon guards a treasure – i.e. the goods of the divine ancestor in the grave – and the hero becomes invulnerable and omniscient [thanks to the awakening of the memories of his previous lives] after killing it) and in the one of Adam and Eve in Paradise.

Heracles fights against Ladon, the serpent/dragon that protects the Golden Apples of the Hesperides:
herakles_ladon_staatliche_antikensammlungen_sl89

The fight of the hero with the serpent/dragon isn’t always of the physical type, and sometimes the hero is defeated: the myth of Adam and Eve and the myth of Gilgamesh prove it.

Gilgamesh, after the death of Enkidu, decided he wanted to obtain immortality: he headed towards the dwelling of Utnapishtim, a man to which the gods conferred the gift of immortality. Gilgamesh overcomes every obstacle and meets the wise old man, but fails the tests that the latter imposes on him. Gilgamesh definitely wasn’t worthy of the immortality of the gods. At that point appeared the wife of Utnapishtim, who convinced her husband to reveal the existence, in the bottom of the ocean (the amniotic fluid, the waters of death), of a plant full of thorns, difficult to access. That plant would have extended indefinitely the youth and the life of those who would have eaten it. Gilgamesh manages to obtain it, but during the return to his own land he stops near a water source and meanwhile a serpent approaches and grabs the plant, renewing its skin after eating it. Gilgamesh, as Adam and Eve, has lost immortality due to his naivety and of the astuteness of a serpent.

The serpent steals the plant of immortality from the hand of Gilgamesh:
f8983aa22b42dc48070db6b383a8efae

Note: we should not forget the other symbol related to the serpent/dragon, i.e. the figure of the serpent/dragon that bites its own tail, also known as Ouroboros. This figure expresses the concept of cyclical eternity, infinite time, circularity without beginning or end and eternal rebirth.

Egyptian art depicting an Ouroboros, maybe to symbolize a womb:
1d7e526628689252e669ad39bad8c050

***

The Omphalos (“navel”) could therefore be a womb during pregnancy: it has a central opening which widens towards the base (vagina-womb during pregnancy) and a sort of knotted net engraved on the surface, the net that “imprisons” the child to the mother until birth, or better the umbilical cord that “binds” the placenta to the fetus, by means of the navel (“omphalos”).

feto-it1