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.

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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 2 of 3)

After being imprisoned by Polyphemus in his cave, Odysseus states that his name is Nobody: this or because the child that faced the initiatory ritual of rebirth didn’t had yet a real, concrete and defined identity, had not yet inherited a name that identified him within the ancestry and therefore was not yet considered a proper human being; or because his previous self, his previous immature and shapeless identity, simbolically died following the entry in the cave or burial mound: in reality both the hypothesis complement each other. The wine offering to the Cyclops with the intention to placate and subjugate him can be compared both to the honey offered to the she-bear inside its cave and the mistletoe shown to the sorceress or priestess inside the burial mound, both having an analogous and symbolic function relating to having been chosen in a higher sense. Many of Odysseus’s companions are devoured by Polyphemus whereas some manage to escape from the cave: the survivors are the embryos that the she-bear has decided to develop and give birth to, i.e. the children that have accomplished the initiation. After escaping from the cave Odysseus feels the need to affirm and make known to the Cyclops his true identity and name, obtained after having incarnated the identity of one of his honourable ancestors, i.e. of himself in a previous life: he is no longer Nobody but Odysseus son of Laertes.

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One of the tales that describe the birth of Zeus claims that the infant god was nursed inside a sacred cave by the nymphs Melissa (“bee”) and Amalthea (“goat”), which nourished him respectively with honey and milk, i.e. the melikraton, a drink that was compared to the very essence of life: with the passage of time the sorceress or priestess took the place of the she-bear inside the cave (and it is significant that according to another version of the tale were two she-bears, Helike and Kynosura, that nursed the infant Zeus inside a cave), nevertheless the child continued to have the task of bringing honey as a gift (the child brought honey to the she-bear to nourish it and be simbolically chosen: he was compared to an embryo and as such he also had to feed himself with that honey, analogously to the embryos that develop thanks to what the mother eats) and this is the reason why he was simbolically compared to a bee, as indeed the sorceress or priestess (the three priestesses that teached the art of prophecy to Apollo were described as if they were bees and the Pythia was identified as “delphic bee”) that received him inside the cave or burial mound, the symbolic beehive where the child-bee had to go with his sweet gift; the nymph Melissa (“bee”) – whereas in another version of the tale the nurturers were a group of huge sacred bees – nourished the infant Zeus (which was worshiped in Crete with the epithet of “Melissaios”) with honey, the same that the child brought her as a gift in view of the accomplishment of the initiation.

Cave of Zeus, Mount Ida in Crete:
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Part 1: Some Cases of Burial Mounds (Part 1 of 3)