Sunday, 19 December 2010

Three kinds of magic...or is it four?

In 1510 Cornelius Agrippa wrote a three-volume treatise entitled Occult Philosophy and sent it to Abott Johannes Trithemius for approval. Trithemius' response was that Agrippa should be cautious,
"lest ye be trod under the oxen' feet, as oftentimes happens."
The manuscript was not published for another two decade.

Agrippa divided magic into three main systems:
"Naturall, Mathematicall and Theologicall."
The first kind -Natural magic derives from the natural world of herbs and stones, that occult virtues can be obtained by studying the correspondences and relationships between existing things.

My understanding of this world is encoded in symbol and metaphor. My knowledge of atoms: the planetary electrons spinning in shells with measurable location and direction (but not both!) around the solid protons and their inert companions, the neutrons is just a dreaming.

And a dreaming is *the best theory* an ephemeral web of links that seem to work; made of pictures that describe what is going on under the surface...when what is actually happening cannot be seen.

I personally do not get why the electrons spin so fast that they do not fall into the proton-neutron core; but there are whole chemistry sets of cat-crackers steaming away cooking complex hydrocarbons and this alone proves that the theory works correctly enough to be useful. And being useful is all that matters when the goal is to keep the wheels spinning. The pursuit of understanding and knowledge continues in research laboratories, then the knowledge is forged into machines...

Agrippa's second kind of magic is mathematical: the magical properties of stars and planets and numbers. Mathematical magic "mathesis" was based on Pythagorean mystical philosophy, that number is God's hidden symbolic language of creation.

I know and love it best in the virtual worlds of computer gaming.

Here endeth my first lesson on Natural and mathematical magick!

Agrippa's third category of magic was 'Theological'. As Agrippa seems to be using Pythagorean systems, then Iamblichus who recorded Pythagorean Doctrines sometime before AD 333 provides us with a definition of theological magic 'theurgia': a divine work which sought to raise the consciousness of the practitioner so that it contacted the highest form of the divine.
"When the soul has been united with the various parts of everything in turn, and with all the divine powers which pervade them, then the soul is brought to the undivided creator and is entrusted to his keeping"

De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum (On the Mysteries of the Egyptians)
This view corresponds somewhat with a contemporary understanding of the uni(meta)verse as a hologram. The sacred view is that this world and all the elements within, plus human souls are emanation from the divine. Theurgy is a process of return to the original condition of being -to God.

The Kabbala and Buddhism are both 'schools of theurgy'. Buddhism is a method of taking apart and then reassembling the phenomenal, everyday world; a process of assimilating all aspects of the mind hidden until meditation reveals them. The three vehicles of Buddhism suit three differing temperaments: the Hinayana for those who like things to be black and white and do well with rules. The Mahayana for those who need candles, pictures, and wish to be better people. The Vajrayana, for those whose minds respond well to metaphor and symbol.

The practice of placing one's mind in the mind of God is called Guru yoga.

But, if that is all there was too it surely there would never have been any witch hunts? Who could object to natural magic or mathematics when they result in medicines and machines or even to Guru Yoga, if Guru yoga is just a device to make people behave in a better, more integrated way?

The Vajrayana and Kabbala are paths that lead through the realms of angels and demons because the non-physical entities guard the gate to other levels of reality. Only by summoning the entities associated with that level, one may ask their permission to enter their realm.

If the primary purpose of magic is the attainment of various goals by consorting with spirits, angels, daemons and so on. And if there is no concept of 'integration' because we are -with Agrippa- still four hundred years away from Freud, Jung and any kind of psychological understanding of personality. And if the goal is not transcendent ie union with God, but seen to be material gain, such as getting someone into bed, or winning the lottery and people die because of love potions, or in mysterious circumstances, and if necromancy is involved! The intellectuals may see nothing wrong, but The Daily Mail readers of the three times and ten directions still to this day know otherwise.

Therefore Agrippa's division of magic into three forms ignores the bad associations the word magic acquired mainly I think, during the Roman era.

Witchcraft during Roman time was the key symbol for representing disruption of law and inversion of natural forces. Plutarch had written of the nature of demons, there were oracles (and who knew how those things was said to be under the rule of the god Apollo, but who knows). Old women, especially 'Thessalian' women were a device much used by authors, starting with Horace and his witch Canidia.
But oh, by all the gods in heaven, who rule the earth and human race, what means this tumult? And what the hideous looks of all these [hags, fixed] upon me alone? I conjure thee by thy children (if invoked Lucina was ever present at any real birth of thine), I [conjure] thee by this empty honor of my purple, by Jupiter, who must disapprove these proceedings, why dost thou look at me as a step-mother, or as a wild beast stricken with a dart? While the boy made these complaints with a faltering voice, he stood with his bandages of distinction taken from him, a tender frame, such as might soften the impious breasts of the cruel Thracians; Canidia, having interwoven her hair and uncombed head with little vipers, orders wild fig-trees torn up from graves, orders funeral cypresses and eggs besmeared with the gore of a loathsome toad, and feathers of the nocturnal screech-owl, and those herbs, which lolchos, and Spain, fruitful in poisons, transmits, and bones snatched from the mouth of a hungry bitch, to be burned in Colchian flames.
The name witch comes from the word for screech-owl: striges which became low Latin for "witch." and the sacrifice of young boys, or the ripping of un-born babes from their mother's wombs de rigour for necromancy.

The witch's original name -Medea- may have come from Greek mythology, but the true horror of her was created in Roman fiction.

Lucan writes:
For when the famous druidess Medea, daughter of Aeëtes king of the Colchians, came with Jason son of Aeson into Greece, she found in the land of Thessaly, although she was the chief witch of the world, much more than her witchcraft and druidic spells and poisonous herbs. The places on the globe wherein the Science of magic was most common, namely, the city of Memphis, and the land of Egypt, Babylon and the countries of the Chaldees, were all exceeded by the Thessalian witches. For they used to work their magic spells on the mundane elements, so that their own shapes were not left upon them. They used to lengthen the night and shorten the day as they wanted. They used not to leave the air or the firmament in its own power, for when they desired they would stop the firmament from its mundane course. They would bring thunders and storms into the air, and rainy clouds and darkness over the sun at the time when his lightnings were manifest and his rays were clear.
Lucan, a Roman poet: born November 3, 39 AD – died April 30, 65 AD continues:
Now although in the land of Thessaly there was many an evil witch reverenced in that art, one witch was there who surpassed them all and to whom all used to yield recognition and authority. A lath of a blue-haired hideous hag was she: Erictho her name, a sage of witchcraft she. Wizards' inventions, and new spells were made by herself on every day. She used to visit hell and the fields of the river Styx and the abodes of Pluto king of hell whenever she desired. Her dwelling and her habitation and her couch were in clefts of rocks and in cavernous holes of the earth and in tombs of the dead.

She frequented no assembly nor city nor human dwellings out of them, unless the darkness of mist or rain or night should have come. She culled and gathered her poisonous herbs and her magical gear throughout the districts that were near her. And the ploughed corn-field or the meadow untilled, on which she used then to tread, its grass or its corn would not grow for a long time afterwards. She never used to demand prophecy save from the demons of hell. These would answer her forthwith at the first spell; and they durst not wait for the second spell from her.
Lucan's witch Erictho pursues her craft out of a pure love of doing evil.

From Lucan's poem Bellum Civile, Erictho either dances in the charnal ground as a Hindu tantrika, or is an old woman dragged to the stake to be burned. Erictho stalks the edges of the imagination at the end of the film [REC].

Back to myth, but myth as dreaming.
2800 years ago the best theory to explain why some regions of the earth reek of sulphur, boil and rumble, erupt with liquid fire or have the unsettling qualities we associate with toxic fumes (thinking now of Avernus as the lake without birds) was the presence of a terrible creature imprisoned deep under the ground. The image given to us from from Norse/Anglo-Saxon myth is of caves containing fire breathing dragons guarding treasure. The Great Old Ones, spoken of in Hesiod's Theogeny and cast down by Zeus were prisoners, and something worse than dragons. They could never be described as beautiful; doing battle with them would be for the sake of survival, to prevent them crawling up out of the ground to wreck terror and vengeance on mankind. Hesiod describes 'unshapen hulks', some with fifty heads growing from their shoulders, a hundred arms with boundless strength and terrifying power.

Hesiod was a weaver of tales, spinning Mesopotamian theogony stories into Greek, as the Vikings wove Greek myth into theirs.

The difference is that Hesiod's theogony explained geological processes. There was proof in the bubbling mud pools and on the slopes of Etna that the battle between Zeus and the Titans had taken place. But far from making people keep away, people were drawn to these sites. Hesiod's  Theogony provided an explanation as to how Apollo was obliged to remove the python from Delphi - for the earth hid such horrors- but it doesn't explain why the priestess of the python gave oracles to for tell the future.

Something has gone missing in the understanding of how these places were used.

All this came to an end in 393 AD, when the emperor Theodosius I ordered decrees that spelt the end for Delphi and all other sites to cease operation, effectively making the Catholic Church and Nicean Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

21st December 2010, sun and moon.

It feels as if the sun is a long way away; all the heat of the world being sucked out into space. The ground outside is covered in a fat layer of snow, the background sound free from the usual omnipresent drone of cars.

Sun stand still.

This winter solstice is a full moon.
It is also a lunar eclipse, the first total lunar eclipse to occur on the day of the Winter Solstice since 1638. The eclipse starts at 5:29 Tuesday morning and the moon is fully eclipsed at 8:16 am, which is unfortunately when the moon has virtually set (it sets at 8:18) and the sky will be brightening as the sun rises.

The time that the moon rises for the solstice, in the area of Swindon is 3:08 on Monday afternoon (azimuth 49)  it sets at 8:18 am (azimuth 310). The sun rises on Tuesday morning at 8:11 with an azimuth of 128 (London) and sets at 4:00 in the afternoon (azimuth 232) as the moon is about to rise, quarter of an hour latter at 16:14 (azimuth 51).

But snow and cars and a Tesco delivery..and should I be at Woodhenge, the Sanctuary, Avebury or Stonehenge or all four...

at the same time

is how I feel.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Lonely Planet...

I was listening to Susan Hill on the radio this morning, talking about her dislike of Wagner with a man who loved the music of Wagner. He touched on the subject Stephen Fry was so perplexed by, namely how can one love the work of someone whose attitudes and opinions are repellent.

I rarely find myself so conflicted, I don't need people to be *good* but on the other hand, listening to, or reading poorly understood Darwinian theories about the superiority of certain races...or even the idea of races, is immensely trying (from my place of safety).

I've no idea what I think about Wagner save that Ride of the Valkyries worked well in Apocalypse Now. I do not see myself saving up for a ticket to get into the Bayreuth festival. I'm seriously confused by why people want to believe that they belong to a Superior race, though in the case of Sir Arthur Evans perhaps Adler had a point!

Why am I troubled by Sir Arthur Evans?

Well in effect Sir Arthur Evans created Knossos, this act of taking myth out of the purely liminal and into into real world is in itself fascinating, but it means that I need to read about him, and I don't find him pleasant company.

The desire to find archaeological sites mentioned in ancient texts started in earnest with Heinrich Schliemann who believed that he had uncovered Troy. Now and then you will see people on BBC 4 tv programmes striding about the ruins of Hisarlik and calling it Troy.

Well it may be Troy as stormed by Achilles and Odysseus. Troy where the towers of Ilium burned and Astyanax was thrown.

Only one thing alone is true, it is now Troy.

I subscribe to the theory that Troy was the archetypal war, an amalgam of all wars, a record of war and that Troy never happened and always will...

The why is what makes the cross over from myth to reality important.

As I read I can't help contrasting the application of myth by Evans with Dr R F Paget, and Mike Parker Pearson. Dr RF Paget (don't forget Keith!) comes out of it very well actually, because in the end it doesn't matter at all that he believed in Orpheus as a real man, and knew without a shadow of a doubt that Homer was a blind poet rather than possibly 'Mills and Boon' a generic term for types of work.

Dr Paget always shows his workings out and keeps a clear record of what he finds and so his beliefs are immaterial.

Mike Parker Pearson represents a newish trend in the use of myth; this is the importation of a non-indigenous myth applied to similar structures thousands of miles away. A researcher invites someone to look at say Stonehenge because his country has standing stones that are still used or were used within living memory. The researcher asks about the meanings given to the rituals used and then apply those meanings to the structure and landscape in this country.

In some ways this reminds me very much of W. Y. Evans-Wentz's 'Naturalistic approach' as described in his book: The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries (1911):
...the Naturalistic Theory, which is, that in ancient and in modern times man's belief in gods, spirits, or fairies has been the direct result of his attempts to explain or to rationalize natural phenomena. Of this theory we accept as true that the belief in fairies often anthropomorphically reflects the natural environment as well as the social condition of the people who hold the belief. For example, amid the beautiful low-lying green hills and gentle dells of Connemara (Ireland), the 'good people' are just as beautiful, just as gentle, and just as happy as their environment; while amid the dark-rising mountains and in the mysterious cloud-shadowed lakes of the Scotch Highlands there are fiercer kinds of fairies and terrible water-kelpies, and in the Western Hebrides there is the much-dreaded 'spirit-host' moving through the air at night.

The Naturalistic Theory shows accurately enough that natural phenomena and environment have given direction to the anthropomorphosing of gods, spirits, or fairies, but after explaining this external aspect of the Fairy-Faith it cannot logically go any further.

In the internal aspects of the Fairy-Faith the fundamental fact seems clearly to be that there must have been in the minds of prehistoric men, as there is now in the minds of modern men, a germ idea of a fairy for environment to act upon and shape. Without an object to act upon, environment can accomplish nothing. This is evident. The Naturalistic Theory examines only the environment and its effects, and forgets altogether the germ idea of a fairy to be acted upon; but the Psychological Theory remembers and attempts to explain the germ idea of a fairy and the effect of nature upon it.
I really do not like the word fairy. I have more of a problem with the word Celt. The turn of the last century was a weird time and each time I turn a Crowley card (Book of Thoth) and read him wittering on about The New Aeon, I want to spit!

W Y Evans Wentz was an excellent travel writer, here is his description of the Highlands of Scotland:
In the moorlands between Trossachs and Aberfoyle, a region made famous by Scott's Rob Roy, I have seen atmospheric changes so sudden and so contrasted as to appear marvellous. What shifting of vapours and clouds, what flashes of bright sun-gleams, then twilight at midday! Across the landscape, shadows of black dense fog-banks rush like shadows of flocks of great birds which darken all the earth. Palpitating fog-banks wrap themselves around the mountain-tops and then come down like living things to move across the valleys, sometimes only a few yards above the traveller's head. And in that country live terrible water-kelpies. When black clouds discharge their watery burden it is in wind-driven vertical water-sheets through which the world appears as through an ice-filmed window-pane. Perhaps in a single day there may be the bluest of heavens and the clearest air, the densest clouds and the darkest shadows, the calm of the morning and the wind of the tempest. At night in Aberfoyle after such a day, I witnessed a clear sunset and a fair evening sky; in the morning when I arose, the lowlands along the river were inundated and a thousand cascades, large and small, were leaping down the mountain-highlands, and rain was falling in heavy masses. Within an hour afterwards, as I travelled on towards Stirling, the rain and wind ceased, and there settled down over all the land cloud-masses so inky-black that they seemed like the fancies of some horrible dream. Then like massed armies they began to move to their mountain-strongholds, and stood there; while from the east came perfect weather and a flood of brilliant sunshine.

And in the Highlands from Stirling to Inverness what magic, what changing colours and shadows there were on the age-worn treeless hills, and in the valleys with their clear, pure streams receiving tribute from unnumbered little rills and springs, some dropping water drop by drop as though it were fairy-distilled; and everywhere the heather giving to the mountain-landscape a hue of rich purplish-brown, and to the air an odour of aromatic fragrance.

On to the north-west beyond Inverness there is the same kind of a treeless highland country; and then after a few hours of travel one looks out across the water from Kyle and beholds Skye, where Cuchulainn is by some believed to have passed his young manhood learning feats of arms from fairy women,--Skye, dark, mountainous, majestic, with its waterfalls turning to white spray as they tumble from cliff to cliff into the sound, from out the clouds that hide their mountain-summit sources...

W Y went on to write out a translation made by Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup of 'The Tibetan Book of The Dead' which is in effect a Lonely Planet travel guide for the bardo thodol.

Jung wrote in the introduction just about all that can be said about W Y's work:
The Bardo Thödol began by being a 'closed' book, and so it has remained, no matter what kind of commentaries may be written upon it. For it is a book that will only open itself to spiritual understanding, and this is a capacity which no man is born with, but which he can only acquire through special training and special experience. It is good that such to all intents and purposes 'useless' books exist. They are meant for those 'queer folk' who no longer set much store by the uses, aims, and meaning of present-day 'civilisation'.
— Carl Jung.
How all this relates to me is, I need to value my sense of disconnection and turn it into a gift. Being an insider isn't useful because the ordinary and the familiar fade out of consciousness like the ticking of a clock, or the hush of my computer.

To see I need to increase my disconnection -so that's good then!?

Also I'm grateful to W Y Evans Wentz's explanation of 'The Naturalistic theory'.

It has helped me to clarify what I'm working with..W Y writes:
In the internal aspects of the Fairy-Faith the fundamental fact seems clearly to be that there must have been in the minds of prehistoric men, as there is now in the minds of modern men, a germ idea of a fairy for environment to act upon and shape.
I am saying that there is a germ idea that makes the theme of the lost girl reoccur again and again -germ is an odd way to think of it, seed is much better- a seed idea. This seed idea has grown into this world in many forms, and where it appears its roots remain firmly in that Otherworld of the human mind...

Monday, 6 December 2010

"In The Footsteps of Orpheus"

...was published in 1967. It tells the tale of Dr Paget and Mr Jones's exploration of tunnels and passages further on from the Oracle of the Sibyl as excavated by Amadea Maiuri in 1932 at Cuma.

Dr Paget and Mr Jones knew of two tunnels cut through the crater wall at the site of the Roman dockyard. One of them was named the Grotto della Sibilla and its custodian: Signor Alessandro maintained that it was in fact the original entrance to the Underworld. But they both went on to explore much further and deeper, following tunnels too narrow to turn around in, and in fear of being overwhelmed by noxious gases, convinced that they had found the argillae of the Cimmerians.

For Homer's Odyssey describes the Cimmerians as living beyond the Oceanus, in a land of fog and darkness, at the edge of the world and the entrance of Hades.

Quoting Strabo (who is quoting Ephorus) and talking about Cuma close to Avernus:
There is here a spring of water, near to the sea, fit for drinking, from which, however, every one abstained, as they thought it water from Styx. They thought, likewise, that the oracle of the dead was situated somewhere here. Ephorus, peopling the place with Kimmerii, tells us that they dwell in underground habitations, and that these communicate with one another by means of certain subterranean passages; and that they conduct strangers through them to the oracle, which is built far below the surface of the earth. They lived in the mines together, with the profits accruing from the oracle and grants made to them by the king. It was a traditional custom for the servants of the oracle never to behold the sun, and only to quit their caverns at night. At last, however, these men were exterminated by one of the kings, the oracle having deceived him; but the oracle is still in existence, though removed to another place. Such were the myths related by our ancestors.'
Unfortunately, neither Strabo nor Ephorus explain what people did once they entered the Underworld. Pausanius (second century AD) goes further, but he too respects the rule of secrecy the oracles demanded.

Pausanius describes his visit to Labadeia:
Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 39. 3 ff (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D:

"The most famous things in the grove [at Lebadeia, Boiotia] are a temple and image of Trophonios; the image made by Praxiteles, is after the likeness of Asklepios . . . If you go up to the oracle, and thence onwards up the mountain, you come to what is called Kore’s Hunting . . . What happens at the oracle is as follows. When a man has made up his mind to descend to the oracle of Trophonios, he first lodges in a certain building for an appointed number of days, this being sacred to the Daimonos Agathon (Good Daimon) and to Tykhe (Fortune). While he lodges there, among other regulations for purity he abstains from hot baths, bathing only in the river Herkyna. Meat he has in plenty from the sacrifices, for he who descends sacrifices to Trophonios himself and to the children of Trophonios, to Apollon also and Kronos, to Zeus surnamed King, to Hera Charioteer, and to Demeter whom they surname Europa and say was the nurse of Trophonios.

At each sacrifice a diviner is present, who looks into the entrails of the victim, and after an inspection prophesies to the person descending whether Trophonios will give him a kind and gracious reception. The entrails of the other victims do not declare the mind of Trophonios as much as a ram, which each inquirer sacrifices over a pit on the night he descends, calling upon Agamedes. Even though the previous sacrifices have appeared propitious, no account is taken of them unless the entrails of this ram indicate the same; but if they agree, then the inquirer descends in good hope.

The procedure of the descent is this. First, during the night he is taken to the river Herkyna by two boys of the citizens about thirteen years old, named Hermai, who after taking him there anoint him with oil and wash him. It is these who wash the descender, and do all the other necessary services as his attendant boys. After this he is taken by the priests, not at once to the oracle, but to fountains of water very near to each other. Here he must drink water called the water of Lethe, that he may forget all that he has been thinking of hitherto, and afterwards he drinks of another water, the water of Mnemosyne (Memory), which causes him to remember what he sees after his descent.

After looking at the image which they say was made by Daidalos (it is not shown by the priests save to such as are going to visit Trophonios), having seen it, worshipped it and prayed, he proceeds to the oracle, dressed in a linen tunic, with ribbons girding it, and wearing the boots of the country.

The oracle is on the mountain, beyond the grove.

Round it is a circular basement of white marble, the circumference of which is about that of the smallest threshing-floor, while its height is just short of two cubits.

On the basement stand spikes, which, like the cross-bars holding them together, are of bronze, while through them has been made a double door.

Within the enclosure is a chasm in the earth, not natural, but artificially constructed after the most accurate masonry. The shape of this structure is like that of a bread-oven. Its breadth across is the middle one might conjecture to be about four cubits, and its depth also could not be estimated to extend to more than eight cubits. They have made no way of descent to the bottom, but when a man comes to Trophonios, they bring him a narrow, light ladder. After going down he finds a hole between the floor and the structure. Its breadth appeared to be two spans, and its height one span. The descender lies with his back on the ground, holding barley-cakes kneaded with honey, thrusts his feet into the hold and himself follows, trying hard to get his knees into the hole. After his knees the rest of his body is at once swiftly drawn in, just as the largest and most rapid river will catch a man in its eddy and carry him under. After this those who have entered the shrine learns the future, not in one and the same way in all cases, but by sight sometimes and at other times by hearing. The return upwards is by the same mouth, the feet darting out first. They say that no one who has made the descent has been killed, save only one of the bodyguard of Demetrios. But they declare that he performed none of the usual rites in the sanctuary, and he descended not to consult the god but in the hope of stealing gold and silver from the shrine. It is said the body of this man appeared in a different place, and was not cast out at the sacred mouth...After his ascent from Trophonios the inquirer is again taken in hand by the priests, who set him upon a chair called the chair of Mnemosyne (Memory), which stands not far from the shrine, and they ask of him, when seated there, all he has seen or learned. After gaining this information they then entrust him to his relatives. These lift him, paralysed with terror and unconscious both of himself and of his surroundings, and carry him to the building where he lodged before with Tykhe (Fortune) and the Daimon Agathos (Good Spirit). Afterwards, however, he will recover all his faculties, and the power to laugh will return to him. What I write is not hearsay; I have myself inquired of Trophonios and seen other inquirers.

Those who have descended into the shrine of Trophonios are obliged to dedicate a tablet on which is written all that each has heard or seen...This oracle was once unknown to the Boiotians, but they learned of it the following way. As there had been no rain for a year and more, they sent to Delphoi envoys from each city. These asked for a cure for the drought, and were bidden by the Pythia to go to Trophonios at Lebadeia and to discover the remedy from him. Coming to Lebadeia they could not find the oracle. Thereupon Saon, one of the envoys from the city Akraiphnion and the oldest of all the envoys, saw a swarm of bees. It occurred to him to follow himself wheresoever the bees turned. At once he saw the bees flying into the ground here, and he went with them into the oracle. It is said that Trophonios taught this Saon the customary ritual, and all the observances kept at the oracle. Of all the works of Daidalos there are these two in Boiotia, a Herakles in Thebes and the Trophonios at Lebadeia."
After Dr Paget and Mr Jones's work, Oracles of the Dead have become tourist destinations, as we no longer fear 'Necromancy' as did the Romans who had laws against 'witchcraft' and closed the oracle...

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Path..

A girl picking flowers, suddenly abducted from this world of sunlight, of order, of safety and love down into the earth and is never, let us say, the same again...

I had not made the connection between the story of Persephone and Little Red-Riding Hood before this weekend, but after playing The Path (from Tale of Tales) I see the story of Red Riding Hood as focused upon the desire for knowledge aspect of the Persephone tale (the kind of knowledge represented by the colour red -of life, of sex, of blood, death and birth).

Modern interpretations of the oldest version -the abduction of Ereshkigal by The Kur, also stress this aspect. In Ershkigal's case it is knowledge of Kurnagi: the place of no return, where she assumes the role of queen. This more Jungian interpretation of abduction for the good of one's own soul finds its way into films and stories with Angela Carter's In The Company Of Wolves, in which straying from the path is the more interesting, perhaps more honest even, and in some cases preferable to, the company of wood cutters.

The Homeric Hymn and and Ovid's version of the Persephone myth portray the abduction of the female character as inevitable rather than a subconscious choice, reflecting the times in which they were written, and certainly not concerned with a Jungian katabasis.

Though I can just hear the voice of the judge asking the rape victim "and what were you wearing that night"?

Yet, katabasis -a descent- occurs which ever way you chose to interpret the stories: Ereshkigal is washed away by the river, or swallowed by the gaping earth, while Persephone and Red Riding Hood 'step off the path' enticed away by beautiful flowers:
...there were irises and hyacinths and a narcissus which Gaia grew as a snare for the girl with eyes like buds to please the God Who Receives So Many -for Zeus had willed it- and the flower shone wondrously...

And the girl too wondered at it, she reached out both her hands to take the lovely toy in the plain of Nysa, and He Who Receives So Many, the lord, sprang upon her with his immortal horses, the son of Kronos with many names.

The Homeric Hymns: Hymn To Demeter translated by Jules Cashford.
But what did I find out from playing the game?

The Path begins with a red living room containing six sisters, I as player, chose one girl at a time to send into the woods -and to stay on the path!- taking a basket and wine to grandmother.  I had known that this was the beginning before I installed the game, and I'd also known that success in this games terms was to meet the wolf and for this reason I'd thought long and hard before committing myself to play..

In short I felt as if I was good as sending each girl into the woods to be murdered; I didn't think that I would like myself if I found that I could do that.

I imagined that at the end there could be some form of redemption; perhaps if one sister found the axe then  she would save her sisters?

I loaded the game.

I found the axe.

My character wasn't interested in it at all (silly girl, I thought, more girls should play Doom.)

I always empathize with my game characters. Most of the time the character is of a man with a big gun, but the game has given him very little option than to use that gun and so I can empathize...Playing as a girl, it should have been more easy to empathise.

Well I had a strong emotional response to each of the characters.

I put off playing as the youngest because I saw myself as her guardian -and what kind of terrible guardian would I be to send her into the woods alone? but in truth this game does not let player guard her characters. And in truth, I was wondering around the woods alone when I was just nine years old and it didn't bother me at all. When I empathized with the little girl I remembered my Ladybird version of Little Red-Riding Hood, and how I, just like the youngest of the girls sent into the woods in The Path thought that I'd play with the wolf, for surely isn't a wolf just a bigger, more furry, wilder kind of dog?

I crossed out the words 'Big bad' in every page of that book. Like the girl in Beauty and The Beast, I believed in love. Did I ever make a mistake so big as the girl in The Path -who thinks that the werewolf would like to play?

Well, if I did it has gone behind 'the screen' and I wont remember.

Then there is the tom-boy whose wolf represents being female; that you can run, but you cannot hide from what mother nature (red in tooth and claw) has lined up for you: heart-break, menstruation, fear of pregnancy, feeling too fat and too thin, pregnancy, men who are bad at sex and thinking that it is your fault, child birth, marriage, divorce and more heartbreak and then menopause (when She leaves you with your crumbling bones on the crumbling earth in the field of dead flowers...) I don't think I had even noticed that wolf before as a wolf because She had always seemed to be kind to me..

Oh hang on, the werewolf of puppy dog love?
Yep, I'd gotten so used to the scar I'd forgotten how to see it.

Next comes Carmen who sees a camp site, sees some crates of beer and heads for the beer. She has to work quite hard to get her *initiation* from the balding wood cutter -whose prime interest seems to be cutting down trees. If I've ever been Carmen, I don't remember?

I remember having to get out of such situations, but never choosing to walk into them.

Then Ruby -who smokes cigarettes with the Charming man in the playground- I have a horrible feeling that I've been there, I guess most of us have, but as with Carmen I didn't really empathize or understand why they should try so hard to get what they were asking for...

Then there is Rose whose wolf was all fire and mist and floated above the world, taking Rose with him. He was a lovely wolf indeed and I understood exactly why she went to him. The reality is that someone so full of heat and light and steam...who seems so other and disconnected, causes immeasurable damage to those around them.

I have a son from that wolf.

And then there is Scarlet.

I had a big problem with Scarlet's wolf -the Fey wolf- because he would have got me. As I played the game, Scarlet should have walked away for she had lots of flowers to find and memories to gather before going to grandma's house but once I'd spotted the fey wolf, I knew that he had my number.

And so at that point, more than at any other, I got into the feeling of you asked for it. Until then it had been they who had asked for it, I wouldn't couldn't be so stupid?!

Finally -I was pleased to see that the archetype that fits my husband wasn't in there.

Sunday, 17 October 2010


"Happy is he who, having seen these rites, goes below the hollow earth, or he knows the end of life and he knows its god-sent beginning."
The Eleusinian mysteries once so secret are now two thousand years away and far from mysterious. They have been reconstructed many times from fragments left by Pinder and Aristophanes, by Herodotus and Aristotle; but like the Persephone myth, the meaning or rather the experience of it, has been stolen and buried under an obscuring layer of rational, intellectual attempts at understanding.

Even after the destruction of Eleusis the mysteries themselves continued, though the original mythology has been over written, updated -if you will- from Eleusis and into churches all over the world. The blood sacrifice has become communion, whilst the promise of resurrection and rebirth in the Elysian fields of Heaven remains relatively unchanged.

The basic myth has been altered to fit a new religion, it was never lost.

It would be a mistake to see the destruction of the mystery (and preservation of broken fragments of the ritual) as the triumph of the rational, though the philosophy of Plato was instrumental  in this change. Plato's philosophy forms the basis for much that is considered to be *Christian* . Yet the dread of the pain and fear death brings in its wake, is not intellectual or easy to dismiss by rational argument, nor is the human desire for an encounter with mystery easily assuaged by common sense. The Eleusinian mysteries once provided a way to approach both fear of death and a desire for the numinous. Once the mysteries were abandoned the need and desire lost none of its intensity, only the original focus changed and became fragmented. I don't believe that human nature changes.

The older religions gave mystery a prime role, at times religion was entirely mystery . In Christianity mystery was given a secondary, rather than a prime role. From the Christian (Platonic)  point of view the mystery religions were nothing more than cheap thrills (despite the expense!) and not religious at all; perhaps more importantly they were also competition.

Christianity had become the religion of the ruling class, God the Father had proved Himself as an efficient war-lord and Constantine embraced the simplicity of this religion in the hope of binding the disparate religions of his subjects, together. The mysteries had to go!

Christianity was so similar to the older Dionysian religion that it was able to obliterate Persephone and Demeter as the symbols and means of achieving redemption, thus Persephone was buried within in the mythology of Mary Mother of Jesus. Nor is from rape victim to virgin too large a change for Persephone as her cult, especially in its older form, required celibacy. As Mistress of the Animals, as Artemis as Potnia Theron it is not such a big step from abducted child to Virgin Queen of Heaven, paradoxical as that may seem. Persephone herself once represented salvation, she was the dread goddess of the underworld; the only one who could intercede on behalf of the dead. She was the force that impelled a soul towards bliss. Though the name of Persephone was drained of all power by Christianity, her role remains, as Mary to whom people still pray today.

In AD 364 the Catholic Emperor Valantinian had prohibited 'all nocturnal celebrations...' but the Roman proconsul in Greece (Vettius Agorius Praetextatus) had protested that without the Eleusinian mysteries, life itself would become unlivable (bios becomes abiostos) for
"The rites hold the whole human race together".
So important were the Eleusinian mysteries believed to be that the famously Pagan proconsul got his way.

Thirty two years latter in AD 396 Eleusis was finally destroyed by Alaric the Goth.

The key factor to the destruction of the Eleusinian rites was the change in philosophy, rather than in religion itself. The combination of Roman rule and Christianity though formidable would not have been enough to destroy the mysteries. The will to rebuild and maintain the Eleusinian mysteries had protected them before, but this time the will had gone..

And so the Eleusinian mysteries were abandoned.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Renaissance Serapis.The myth of the secret nature of Pagan myth..

...declared that philosophy itself was a mystical initiation.

Rigorous intellectual effort could accomplish the cleansing of the soul, free it from ignorance.

Philosophy, according to Plato, closed the distance between the individual and Ultimate Truth.

Despite his best intentions, Plato created a new modification of an old theme, Platonism  in its turn became a mystery religion, offering initiations that promise the soul a better after-life, after death. One assumes that these grades of initiation were exams!

The essential difference between what is labelled Platonism and labelled Orphism is the imperative to think ones way into a higher reality, as opposed to the sufficiency of experience for an Orphic initiation. Both Platonism and Orpheus had their mysteries, but in an Orphic religion, initiations were marked on a calendar  The location and date of the initiation was not a closed secret, whilst what happened during the mystery was another matter.

Mysteries were necessarily incomprehensible to most initiates.

Being off your head after fasting and sleep deprivation were considered beneficial or at least helpful in opening the mind of the initiate to a state beyond words.

What experience was held to accomplish, Plato demands that it be done by pure reason alone: no drugs, no priests, no mystical experiences; only by rational exercise in the art of dialectic may the soul be purged of error.

Being off your head would not help at all.

Over a thousand years latter, there remains within Platonism a belief in codes, hidden messages, magic numbers; keys to unlock secret knowledge left by those who know, for those who seek to know.

This more mystical version of Plato came primarily through translations of Plotinus.

In the fifteenth century, Plotinus was translated into Latin in the fifteenth century by De Bussi, Beroaldo, Perotti, Landino and especially Ficino and Mirandola. The Neoplatonists believed that the interpretation of images was part of Plato's original philosophy: that statues, paintings, buildings and even music perhaps, contained secret messages. Any secrets hidden within the work of the ancients would be encoded in form that  could be read only by a very select few.

Pico della Mirandola
(24 February 1463 – 17 November 1494)
"that divine subjects and the secret Mysteries must not be rashly divulged...that is why the Egyptians had sculptures of sphinxes in all their temples, to indicate that divine knowledge, if committed to writing at all, must be covered with enigmatic veils and poetic dissimulation"


... Serapis was a deity instituted by Ptolemy Sotor, the Greek ruler of Egypt who needed a deity that could be worshipped by both his Greek and his Egyptian subjects.

The name Serapis is a combination of the names Osiris and Apis. Osiris is the Egyptian lord of the dead, and the Greeks associated Serapis with their own ruler of the underworld, Hades.

Plutarch records:(On Isis and Osiris) that Ptolemy had a dream about a statue that would be found in the Greek town of Sinope.

The statue spoke in the dream to Ptolemy and told the king to move it to Alexandria. Three years latter, this was done.

Plutarch again:
"Timotheus the Interpreter, and Manetho, as soon as the statue was shown to them, from the Cerberus and Dragon that accompanied it, concluded that it was designed to represent Pluto, and persuaded the king that it was in reality none other than the Egyptian Sarapis; for it must be observed, that the statue had not this name before it was brought to Alexandria, it being given to it afterwards by the Egyptians, as equivelent, in their opinion, to its old one of Pluto."
By Serapis-Pluto sits the three headed dog, Cerberus.

Now why or even if the dog who guards the gates of the Underworld has three heads, is a bit of a problem. Sometimes images show three dogs, Cerberus and his pups, three distinct dogs, other times a two headed dog.

Hesiod describes a fifty-headed dog:

Men say that Typhaon the terrible, outrageous and lawless, was joined in love to her, the maid with glancing eyes. So she conceived and brought forth fierce offspring; first she bare Orthus the hound of Geryones, and then again she bare a second, a monster not to be overcome and that may not be described, Cerberus who eats raw flesh, the brazen-voiced hound of Hades, fifty-headed, relentless and strong.

This vase made in Caere in 525 BC shows Cerberus with three heads.

But for the Neoplatonists, the three headed Cerberus was a symbol rich with inner meanings

Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius was a Roman grammarian and Neoplatonist philosopher (395–423 AD) describes the stature of Serapis at Alexandria. Unfortunately it is unlikely that he ever saw because it was destroyed  in 392 AD after the decree of Theodosius I (378 to 395 AD) outlawing non-Christian worship.
"no one is to go to the sanctuaries, walk through the temples, or raise his eyes to statues created by the labor of man"

Nevertheless Macrobius undaunted, describes the statue.
Here is his account:
"In the city on the borders of Egypt which boasts Alexander of Macedon as its founder, Sarapis and Isis are worshiped with a reverence that is almost fanatical. Evidence that the sun, under the name of Sarapis, is the object of all this reverence is either the basket set on the head of the god or the figure of a three-headed creature placed by his statue. The middle head of this figure, which is also the largest, represents a lion's; on the right a dog raises its head with a gentle and fawning air; and on the left the neck ends in the head of a ravening wolf. All three beasts are joined together by the coils of a serpent whose head returns to the god's right hand which keeps the monster in check." - Macrobius, Saturnalia I.20.13

Perhaps there were other statues of Serapis for him to study..
But his Serapis has gained a lion, a wolf, and a snake instead of his triple headed dog.

It is clear from his writing that Macrobius believes that Serapis is a sun god- that all gods are the sun, whilst he includes the snake because it is an emblem of sovereignty as depicted on the headdress of ancient Egyptian rulers and deities. He also includes the snake as the flow of time, linking the past to the present to the future.

His Cerbeus becomes a chimera.

The three heads signify the three parts of time: the ferocious wolf facing left, represents vanished time -the past.

The hopeful dog looks to the right, anticipating something good, the future.

While the splendid lion faces directly ahead, embodying the present.

Titian: Allegory.
The images remain remarkably constant.

Though it seems obvious that the past has gone, devoured by time, this isn't the only way to perceive time. Both in Hebrew and Akkadian it is implied that we face the past and the past is all we see. Meanwhile the future is impossible to see because it is behind us.


There is a time-god called Aion by the Greeks, known as Zervan in Persian literature; a lion headed man, serpent coiled around his legs.

He holds a hammer/thunderbolt and is associated with the cult of Mithras.

As Chronos (Time), Zervan became Kronos and, in the Roman world, Saturn. In the Mithraic version, the birth of Mithras portrays the god, entwined by a serpent, is surrounded by the signs of the zodiac and the four Wind-gods.

As Mahakala- Great Time

And so the image rolls on and on...


Sunday, 3 October 2010

The Bull of Heaven.

One thing I didn't concentrate on, when I wrote a possible explanations of religion as practiced in Bronze Age Britain, was the bull. The bull has a long association with death rituals from the sacrifice of the sacred Apis bull, to the bull fight in Spain.

In Britain cattle bones are sometimes found in connection with Neolithic and Bronze Age burials, and inside the henge circles; as if cattle in particular were chosen as the animal for 'the underworld'.

The man buried in the ditch at Woodhenge was buried with three vertebrae from a cow or a bull.

In the outer ditches and circles of henges it is pig bones that predominate. In Greek mythology, especially the Persephone myth, pigs are sacrificed it seems, to pay a blood dept, a way to 'wash away sins'.

In Britain, pigs were for feasts.

To go way, way back -to Sumerian myth the consort of Ereshkigal (the Sumerian Persephone) was Gugulanna -the Bull of Heaven.

In myth cattle seem to represent all the fertile powers of the springtime skies: rain-clouds, rays of sunlight and the newborn sun.

More specifically though, the Sumerian Bull of Heaven is described as a destructive force which came down from heaven to drink the rivers dry and to scorch the land.

These seem to be seasonal changes. [LINK].
From Wiki:
Taurus was the constellation of the Northern Hemisphere Spring Equinox from about 3,200 BCE. It marked the start of the agricultural year with the New Year Akitu festival (from á-ki-ti-še-gur10-ku5, = sowing of the barley), an important date in Mespotamian religion.

The "death" of Gugalanna, represents the obscuring disappearance of this constellation as a result of the light of the sun, with whom Gilgamesh was identified.

In the time in which this myth was composed, the New Year Festival, or Akitu, at the Spring Equinox, due to the Precession of the Equinoxes did not occur in Aries, but in Taurus. At this time of the year, Taurus would have disappeared as it was obscured by the sun.
But the bull was also an earthquake [From the Epic of Gilgamesh.]:
At the snort of the Bull of Heaven a huge pit opened up,
and 100 Young Men of Uruk fell in.
At his second snort a huge pit opened up,
and 200 Young Men of Uruk fell in.
At his third snort a huge pit opened up,
and Enkidu fell in up to his waist.
The bull is a lunar creature, due to his moon-like crescent hornes and his testicles which are full of fertilizing 'dew'. In the Sumerian tale, the Bull of Heaven as consort of the Queen of the underworld would have been more lunar than solar.

But a few thousand years latter in Akkadian times, Marduk is called 'The Bull of the Sun'.

The 'underground' power of The Bull of Heaven always has a starry connection; and over time its power becomes man shaped -as Ereshkigal's consort changes from bull to God, in the form of the plague god: Nergal.

Marduk is hardly man-shaped, but he is seen as the archetypal leader, the super hero, and his powerful courage means that he is bull-like, bull of the sun.

Reading the symbols leads me to interpret the bull as representing at first man's fertility and his role as protector of his family and finally his capacity for war.

Meanwhile in Egypt, somewhere between 323 BC – 283 BC the cult of the Apis bull becomes linked to Hades in the form of Serapis -a syncretic Hellenistic-Egyptian god. Combining Osiris with Hades for the Greeks, and Osiris and Apis for the Eqyptians.

The name Serapis seems to have got into the Greek language from Babylon ;The Akkadian god Ea (Sumerian Enki) was titled Serapsi, meaning 'king of the deep'.

It seems that the priests of Ea were consulted in hope of them being able to help, as Alexandra The Great, lay dying.

Thus the name Sarapsi became known to the Greeks; but Sarapis is not exactly Ea or Enki.

The Greeks didn't bother too much with Akkadian myth, besides which they were in Egypt! Osirus as Lord of the Dead was an important god for the Egyptians and so Ptolomy's statue of Sarapis shows a bearded man with a basket/grain-measure, on his head; a Greek symbol for the land of the dead.

Cerberus, the three -headed dog plays around his knees; though I have heard it explained that the three heads represent a wolf, a dog and something else (sorry...) symbolizing 'the three times'

Apis was an Egyptian god who became associated with Ptah, but once again I cannot find a connecting myth.

Herodotus wrote that the Apis was the "calf of a cow which is never afterwards able to have another. The Egyptian belief is that a flash of lightning descends upon the cow from heaven, and this causes her to receive Apis."

Ptah, in the Memphis mythology, was the creator of the primeval mound.

Sumerian myth contains references to a primeval mound -the Du.Ku- but Enki isn't its creator.

Sumerian tradition holds that the knowledge of agriculture, animal husbandry and weaving were brought to mankind from the "Du-Ku", which was inhabited by the Anunna gods, but I do not know if there is a myth to connect Enki with the knowledge held by the Anunna?

But, back to Egypt.

Plutarch wrote that the "Apis was a fair and beautiful image of the soul of Osiris"

Osiris was lord of the dead and the Apis bull (chosen for his distinctive markings) became known as the living deceased one. When the Apis bull reached the age of twenty-eight (the age when Osiris was said to have been killed by Set and symbolic of the lunar month) the bull was put to death with a great sacrificial ceremony.

For more about Egyptian bull cults continue...

A temple of Serapis is a Serapeum; and it contains the graveyard of the bulls.
The Serapeum was the centre of a cult relating to the Apis bull, a bull selected from the sacred flock of bulls and cows. It was believed to be the incarnation of the blessed soul of Ptah and Osiris after his death. All through its life it was treated as a deity with its own priests and a harem of cows.

When it died it was buried at the Serapeum with the finest of ceremonies. The bull was lain in a sarcophagus which could weight up to 80 tons, and a new sacred bull was selected. There is a story that women during the first 40 days of the selection of a new Apis bull, 'would pose in front of it exposing their private parts for fertility'. The cult of the Apis bull lasted from early 14th century BCE until 30 BCE. The great cult of Serapis survived until 385 AD, when early Christians destroyed the Serapeum of Alexandria, and subsequently the cult was forbidden by the Theodosian decree.

The Serapeum at Saqqara was known of since ancient times, but not located until 1851 by Auguste Mariette.[LINK]
Of ancient Britain there is unfortunately little to say; no one wrote anything down.

All we have is what we find.

Some of the posts of Woodhenge had offerings of cremated cattle bone and horns placed around and inside them, some barrows -particularly Neolithic, contained the skulls of cattle- bucrania...

Monday, 27 September 2010

The Garden...

This task is truly a garden of forking paths.
I had thought that the beginning would be easy. I asked: where in England would I find Persephone's grave?

I was coming from a Jungian point of view -that myths are a kind of graphic interface between the real, embodied experience of life and what we believe about those experiences.

Persephone's meaning has changed through out the centuries but, regardless of whether she is a creation of the hunters, or the farmers, or the city-dwellers she is always the missing girl. The girl who is abducted or rather subducted...Britain has several prehistoric places that fit the description of her grave very well.

My first thought was Woodhenge, but then I learnt about The Sanctuary.

Of course Persephone is a mythic character whose story is interpreted as an anthropomorphic explanation for the changing seasons. But the missing girl has a long history, and the Greek story as given to us by Ovid, is the bowdlerised version...

I was reading John North's splendid book -Stonehenge- this afternoon. I remain unconvinced that people were as obsessed by alignments on stars and planets as his detailed research makes out.

Mainly because...

Because the only culture I know of who required such knowledge were the Egyptians. In Britain we did not need to know when the river was about to inundate, Britain is not Egypt.

The solstice and equinox tell us all we need to know, though I admit Venus and Mars, Jupiter and the constellation of Orion would draw my attention if I was charged with watching the sky.

But curious solar/lunar events would I believe matter very much in a sky-scape un-dimmed by street lamps. A few weeks ago; it was in the first week of September, about 8:30 in the morning, I was walking down a street with the sun rising behind me and the moon directly before me.

I was reminded of the interweaving of worlds (now expressed as the quantum physics notion of the multiverse) as the path of the sun and moon opened between, leading into the void. The alchemical symbolism of the conjunction between sol and lunar, too, hung in the sky as I walked. There are many ways to read or to see, or interpret or to feel about what I saw. Nevertheless, if I had turned I could have reached out to both sun and moon, and found myself balanced in between.

"O my uncle! by God if they put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left on condition that I abandon this course, until God has made me victorious, or I perish therein, I would not abandon it."LINK..
But a new thought (new to me anyway!) came from this afternoon's reading.

A henge or a Timber circle (starburst) specifically The Sanctuary, could be seen as a symbolic round barrow. I have never thought about how barrows were made before this afternoon, but if it is true that some barrows contained wooden posts, and that the mound itself came from a ditch dug around the barrow...well if I wished to symbolize a round barrow, wouldn't it be psychologically impressive to create the core structures of wood and ditch, but to leave the symbolic barrow open to the sky?

I think that the Bluestone's pulled from their home in Wales (or collected from closer to home -if Aubrey Burl is right) were our Lapis Lazuli.

It is tempting to suppose (from Sumerian mythology) that the The Gates of Lapis Lazuli lead to the House of Darkness, Irkalla.

But that's as logical as saying that the people of Woodhenge considered the Dog Star to be significant...

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Equinox, Harvest moon, Thunderstorm + Invisible Pilgrim and Nightcrawler..

So, I have been listening to the same track -Invisible Pilgrim's Nightcrawler- for I think two hours. The harvest moon was invisible this night, but the sky was lit instead by flashes of lighting.

I recall Woodhenge and The Sanctuary, I think of all the objects I've seen dug up from The Sanctuary, of Maud's notes and of everything that I have ever read or thought about in relation to these places.

I put myself there; I go back to the nightmares those places have given me as I journeyed them in my sleep and into the sense of understanding I was left with.

I wanted to write an explanation; Bronze Age biology.

How life and death work when you don't know about cells, or electricity, mitochondria, bacteria, vitamins....all you have is what appears to be true.

This account isn't finished yet, or perhaps it is?
I don't know...I expect that I will come back to it and add more. I tend to think too fast and fail to elaborate enough to make the links I'm jumping to, easy to follow.
The flints contain fire, the flints grow inside the belly of the white ground. They are the bones of the unborn. It is not known if they ever become living. The born come through men into women. The bones of the born are soft but full of the fire as liquid fire, the blood.

Blood makes life, when blood is spilt on the ground, things grow from it.

The dead belong to the moon and the living to the sun, for all living things turn to the sun for warmth and comfort because our blood remembers the fire from which it came.

The moon is a white place, cold and luminous. It is a place of dreaming; it is possible that the moon restores life. No one really knows.

When people die, the flesh and blood should return to the earth, but the bones are dangerous; in the past the skulls and long bones were placed in a special place under the earth to protect the land. They remain there, but we no longer enter those places. The ancestors who guard that place should not be disturbed for there is no one left now who knows them.

The moon is white and cold, it may be a world of spirits and the home of those who must return to the white ground of the earth.

The dead are clothed in flesh by something underground that transfers the power to the balls of men and all male animals. When someone dies we leave them on a wooden tower so that the flesh may dry and as it does the life left over scatters as small creatures that come out. It is important to burn the bones when the flesh has gone. The life is gone from them, but other spirits may take the place of the person who died.

By burning, we finish the hardening and drive out any ghosts unwilling to leave. Latter, when the sun is at its weakest, we restore the moisture to the bones by scattering the ash into the river. Any ghosts driven off by the flames follow the ash into the river and travel into the land of the others,the ones who have entered the stone.

Instead of keeping the skulls and bones of those we know will help us, we place wooden posts in the ground to represent them; these become the forest, the place of the hunt, a place of sacrifice and celebration. Stone represents the dead who are with us, under the ground, dealing with the forces that run through the ground.

This principal that transfers life also causes the hardening of our bones, old age and death and disease. When the balance is wrong between the living and the dead, when the ground is hungry or when the spirits do not find their way to the moon then things go wrong; also for protection from
the spirits growing under the earth it is important to make offerings and sometimes to transfer the living into protectors.

The people who are made sacred for this task are people who have not 'come through all the way',some part of their spirit or soul remains under the ground it is understood that these people will already know the ways of the spirits, their language and customs. It is also understood that the returning principal will not work for them or at least not work for centuries because their flesh remains intact.

The person who must go, is killed with arrows so that the blood returns to the ground; but this place of killing must also be the place of burial. Sometimes a man is chosen to guard the ditch that protects the circle, and a girl is chosen for the central point. The man who protects the ditch, is never spoken of or mentioned in case one of us calls him back, and he wishes to return to the living.

Sometimes the one who goes is remembered by placing an ancestor stone to block the grave. This happened at The Sanctuary.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

First thing: Sunburst not Starburst.
The name *Starburst* seems to be my own, I got the name from the Digital Digging site for a specific henge and pits: the Catholme site.

Second Thing: British mythology and its fascination with The Otherworld.
I find British mythology difficult; it is hard to remember one myth from this land; they are convoluted and often cease making sense midway through. As a child I was never told British myths, Ovid had done too good a job and made the Greek stories so much more accessible.

Even now when I think about British myths it is like getting on an elevator and descending through periods of history; we are told that the Greek myths refer to archetypes and are therefore universal. Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton used Greek mythology to provide a structure for their fictions and so it is that it feels as if the Greek myths are naturally our own home grown mythology.

Ovid spins the Greek myths into Roman, as the Greeks had spun well known myths of their time -such as The Epic of Gilgamesh- into Greek.

So what about The Celtic myths, do they bear any resemblance to Bronze Age myth?

Before the Romans came to Britain, Britain was well connected to Europe by trade, stories would have travelled in both directions across the sea and after the Romans, the Saxons too, brought stories. Latter, comes Norse mythology which often seems more than a little Greek to me.

The shorthand name for the pre-Roman British is The Celts. And there is a layer of mythology known as Celtic mythology which contains myths that are called British.

But before I get to those, just a note about how mythology is rarely natural or home grown. The 12th century chronicler, Geoffrey of Monmouth in keeping with the Roman tradition of writing spurious history wrote in his Historia that Brutus, grandson of the Trojan King Aeneas and his followers landed at Totnes in Devon -there is a stone to mark the spot- and in 1103 BC Brutus was crowned King of England.

What am I to make of such stories?
The Roman tale of Aeneas (The Aeneid) is really a pack of pork-pies. It tells how Aeneas escapes from Troy (carrying his elderly father through the secret tunnels) and sails away to wash up, eventually, in Italy. It was written by Virgil to glorify traditional Roman virtues and legitimize Julius Ceasar and yet it still contains references to Etruscan, as well as to Greek mythology. Contempory clues about Roman society are in there, even though very often what is written about and valued within the text represents things the readers themselves felt uneasy about; the text therefore providing a kind of comfort by showing Roman conduct as it aught to be, rather than how it actually was.

As Michael Grant (1971) noted, the Roman myths did not:
"...come up from the ordinary people as it has often been believed that a decent, respectable myth should. They were produced instead, by a whole series of different pressures coming, roughly speaking, from above."
There may not be such a thing as a pure Roman myth, nor a pure Greek myth or even a pure Sumerian myth. The Greek myths in particular are held up as an example of something isolated and specifically from Greek culture but there was immigration into Greece. The Greeks did not spring fully formed from the ash of Dionysus and Titan molded by Zeus. Mycenae was settled by Indo-Europeans who practiced farming and herding, close to 2000 BC and from other parts of the Aegean: Minoans, Phoenicians, Hittites, Egyptians and Babylonians. Both Homer and Hesiod had an enormous wealth of literacy behind them from the non-Greek near east. And the stories themselves travel far and wide, for instance fragments of the Gilgamesh epic were found at Megiddo in Palestine and the Babylonian myth of Adapa was found in Tell el-Amarna in Egypt (fifteenth or fourteenth century BC).

Stories and mythologies spread and change in their journey.

The question is, after invasion or an influx of missionaries, or devastation through famine, war and plague, how much remains of the original myth that was attached to a place or structure?

In my own experience -just by reading the Wiki about my old school -built circa 1976- not much of the history has been recorded by the people who attended. Or perhaps it was recorded, but was later deleted. The Wiki entry is very short, and contains this line and similar:
" of the happiest schools in the area as there is extremely few cases of bullying and the pupils are happy and comfortable in school"
Anthropologists and theologians require a myth to have a 'Sacred narrative' but as in the case of Aeneas and his grandson Brutus, and the Wiki of Leasowes High, myth may be used as state policy to engender social cohesion.

Myths are imported to explain institutions and structures that have lost their *real* history; but often the reason why something is built satisfies a deeply held sense of what is fitting and correct and may in fact be without a coherent plan or narrative to begin with! Confronted with Stonehenge people of my time see a several-times-finished-work-in- progress that was abandoned for reasons that were not written down. So we look for clues, for what is actually there and then (spiders all) we weave a narrative.

But we base it upon what we know...

A thread that runs through British mythology is a fascination with The Otherworld.

In the Mabinogion the Otherworld is Annwn. Unlike Arali in Sumerian myth, or Hades, Annwn is not divided from this world by a river or protected by a guardian dog.

Annwn looks just like this one but it's not...

The motif that runs through tales of Annwn is of pairs and parallels; of a king (his name being Pwyll) of this world meeting the king of Annwn and swapping places for a year; of his wife Rhiannon giving birth, the child is stolen and at the same time of a mare giving birth to a foal, also stolen. The child and the horse are brought up together, and Rhiannon does penance by acting as a horse -by sitting by the horse-block outside the gate and carrying people up to the court on her back.

Pwyll's kingdom was Arberth, a name that links Pwyll to Dyfed and on the Pembroke peninsula is found Pentre Ifan...a place already ancient when the Celts were telling tales of Pwyll. Pembroke is linked by Bluestones to Stonehenge.

So did the Celtic myths contain memory, or were they woven from a a story-teller's art.

I wish that I knew.

One story remains to tell: after the death of Pwyll, Manawyddan comes to Arberth to marry Rhiannon. He, Rhiannon and her son Pryderi and his wife go out one night to sit on the mound of Arberth. There is a clap of thunder and a thick mist surrounds them...when the light returns they are within the wasteland -everything has gone, the houses are all empty, no sheep or cows are in the field, no birds in the trees. They are alone in a suddenly empty land.

But it is only civilisation that has vanished...

They go out hunting and are led by a shining white boar to a castle that had never been there before. Their dogs disappear into it, and so does the boar.

Nothing comes out.

Pryderi enters and finds the castle empty except for a golden bowl hanging from four, thick chains that disappear into the roof of the castle, suspended over a marble slab.

Pryderi is mesmerized by the beauty of the bowl and reaches out to touch it. He is fixed in time and space, unable to move or to speak, stuck there with his feet on the marble, his hands on the bowl.

Rhiannon too enters the castle and she too reaches out for the bowl and becomes fixed.

Then there is a clap of thunder, the mist descends once more and the castle, Rhiannon, Pryderi and the bowl vanish....

The story (and it is long) concludes with wheat being brought from (possibly) England or Italy, the lifting of the spell of desolation and meanwhile and yet again Rhiannon must do time as a horse, having to wear an ass's collar hung around her head.

Does this story echo memory of a great famine?
And what of the great bowl and it's ability to send people into a trance, and into another world?

The bowl becomes ever more distant, in our time as the Holy Grail and the mound of Arberth turns into Glastonbury. Annwn becomes 'The isle of Apples' and on and on and on...Into a thousand science-fiction epics.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Setting things on fire.

Making Woodhenge with Gmod is fairly painstaking and down right difficult. I soon gave up and left my Woodhenge as three or four rings of posts that probably weren't even in rings.

I'd also had a go at making a Sanctuary shaped structure using very un-Sarcen like 'memorial' stones, plus tall and short posts.

This isn't to say that it is impossible to make accurate and 'interactive' Neolithic/Bronze Age structures using Gmod; but it is true that it would be hard work...Also, for the experience of entering the circle as if it were an arena, Gmod works best for people who are used to using a keyboard+mouse to navigate through virtual worlds.

And then I set things on fire.
I have a really strong image of the posts at Woodhenge being burnt rather than pulled down, or left to rot.

As I said before, what Terry Jones (Qur'an threatening minister) forgets, is that fire is sacred and -for people who beleive God to be within this world- a respectful way to destroy sacred objects

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Sanctuary.

A short film of me being confused by The Sanctuary. I wondered if the place people chose as the grave of the fifteen year old buried by the side of a Sarcen, was correct or not?

I don't believe the place they have chosen is correct; the right place is marked by a buried Sarcen in front of one of the concrete posts on the right, in the first ring of stones.

But that matter's not. The reason why there is a tendency to assign female gender to burials that look like sacrifices may have less to do with scientific data, and more to do with mythology, and mainly I would say  because of the Persephone myth.

I have absolutely no doubt at all that by the time of Woodhenge, femaleness was still linked to fertility -in other words I think that the first theory hunting communities come up with is that the spirits of dead animals must return to the world, and that it is a female spirit who re-births them.

This Mistress of the Animals becomes Persephone very late on (in terms of civilisation).

The abduction of Persephone in the Greek tale is a more recent version of the abduction of Ereshkigal, chronologically speaking, and the Persephone myth is dealing with more human forces and experiences than those in the Erishkigal tale. The Persephone myth expresses marriage as a symbolic death; it also expresses the reality that women were treated as property. The Greeks considered the abduction of a king's daughter as a just cause of war. Paradoxically in the Persephone story the power of Demeter is shown as a greater force than any army...and yet...not enough to restore her daughter to the upper world; in contrast to Menelaus restoring Helen.

These themes are woven through the Greek myth and reflect their society.

How much do I rate the connection between Demeter, pigs and Durrington? Well the pigs are linked to Demeter via the Persephone myth, but I see this Greek layer of understanding as younger than the original myth. Pigs and 'Earth Mothers' have an older and deeper connection than that of Eubuleus losing his pigs down a chasm broken open as Hades descends to the underworld with the wretched and tearful Persephone clinging to the chariot for dear life.

But then...Eubuleus which could be translated as 'The good clod (of earth)' sounds suspiciously like Euboulos 'the good councillor' and Euboulos was the original he who cannot be named. In other words, the Lord of the Underworld. So at this point the pigs and the throwing down the chasms of pigs (Thesmophoria) starts to get confusing.

I haven't read the latest Micheal Dames book, but I rather liked his first one.

I think I may be annoyed if he takes the Persephone myth too literally, though? I mean the Persephone myth is the Greek version of a Sumerian myth which no doubt goes back and back and back...The Mistress of the Animals may have been Joseph  Campbell's invention, but he did provide evidence for it.

I liked Micheal Dames' version of Silbury as a massive, pregnant belly, but I'm not having it that the Durrington midwinter pig festival had anything in common with the Thesmophoria, there simply isn't evidence for that, but plenty to the contrary.

And as I say, the connection between pigs and The Earth Mother is something much older than Persephone.

Anyway...yes...the Thesmophoria and the pigs getting thrown down pits and Durrington. The way archeological evidence tells it, pigs seem to represent the living whilst cattle are the sacrifice of choice for the dead. In the Thesmophoria and before the Eleusinian  mysteries the pig stood as a symbol for human sacrifice. Also in purification rites to absolve a person of murder (see The Orestia) a pig is sacrificed to pay back the blood. In the long barrows and in the latter starbursts, Stonehenge and round barrows cattle are the sacrifice of choice. In the Greek rituals the pig in some way represented Persephone as the force that restores life from death. The pigs at the Thesmophoria were thrown down the chasm (I think that idea comes from one of Aristophanes' plays) and there is some evidence for this having happened, but not much. The remains from the previous year's pigs were brought up by women known as 'bailers' who placed the rotted things on the shrine before sending them to be ploughed into the ground to increase the growing power of the land (today we use blood, fish and bone...bought in a plastic bag).

I don't think that pigs were used specifically in that way in Britain...

And then there is the link between pigs - again from Aristophanes mystery piggies- firtility, Persephone, celebacy and sex.

So much, so much to sort out :)

'Sunbursts' as a symbolic forest, and hunting arena.

The credit for the name I'm using for all henge with pits (such as Woodhenge and The Sanctuary) goes to someone else. I can't remember where I saw such places described as sunbursts?

Perhaps I dreamt it!

The other idea that I picked up from somewhere and someone else is that the starbursts were symbolic forests. By the late Neolithic and definitely at the time Woodhenge was dug, the forests of 'Old England' were already in the past. Deforestation, the ground already becoming impoverished, and the forest a place of nostalgia..

And farming is slow and steady work; it requires a person to know that by doing work now there will be a reward in the future.

Exciting it is not.

When I wanted to get a sense of how the sunburst may have felt, I used Gmod to create a virtual map. I didn't use posts, because I wanted to test out the idea that the posts were symbolic trees.

I couldn't make a henge (though I could have populated the the edge of my circle with hundreds of spectators; nor could I make it night time. All in all, making the posts as trees seemed poetically accurate.

Nor do I have a fierce bull to add to my symbolic forest. So I added a robot that was timid, but very dangerous. I could have given myself a crossbow, but I didn't think that I'd last long enough if I used that weapon.

I was actually quite surprised at how scary the starburst arena is; the trees offer protection, but add confusion. I could hide and so could the beast. I almost didn't make it out alive.

Here is the film:

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Why is it called The Sanctuary?

I think I'm getting the picture now; the story goes something like this: At first there were mortuary enclosures (in this case Windmill Hill). The dead were left there until they were mostly bone, the skulls and long bones in particular were gathered up to be placed within the long barrows. As time went on the shape of the forecourts became more moon shaped (semi-lunar) and the long barrows more symbolic than functional. It was no longer necessary to put bones inside elaborate inner chambers, small side chambers would do.

Though how representative Belas Knap is of the genre I don't honestly know. I'm assuming that Belas Knap is younger than say West Kennet? Because Belas Knap's forecourt is bigger than that at West Kennet, and Belas Knap has side chambers on the outside of the barrow, rather than inside. The theory predicts that there should be a trend towards simplification and exaggeration of form to make the site increasingly symbolic.

I'm sticking with Wessex (only as far as the Cotswold Sevens) here, because one area is quite enough for me!

So really, to test this hypothesis out I really need to describe all the Cotswold Sevens and put them in chronological order.

Has anyone done this?

Someone must have?

By 3000 BC the long barrows were out of fashion; what came next and continued for another thousand years were the henges.

Henges contained both the idea of the forecourt and the mortuary enclosure (from Aubrey Burl) but the kind that interest me the most are Starbursts, inner ditches, outer bank (for people to stand or sit upon) with 'starbursts' of post-holes inside. Such sites are: Woodhenge, The Sanctuary and Stanton Drew, there are plenty more.

At the moment I'm thinking that if the land around about was already deforested (Woodhenge -snail evidence) trees were very precious indeed. In some starburst-henges stone and pillars co-existed; but the trend was towards replacing wood with stone.

I also get the impression that the wood pillars may have been burnt rather than dug out and then replaced. I didn't think of this before, and I'd need to visit Devizes museum once more to read Maud Cunnington's notes ~sigh.

Though it takes a long time for my older PC to load, it is quicker than driving to Devizes. Next time I'm there I shall go to the 'map' I made in Gmod and set all the trees on fire, just to get a feel of what that may have been like...if it happened that way.

The burning of the pillars as the only way to deal with sacred objects makes sense to me. When I lived in a religious house, all sacred images or texts that were old and damaged were burnt, never simply thrown away. A religion that regards the sacred as imminent rather than transcendent contains many such rules.

Shame Gmod doesn't have a night time version of that endless grass map.

I must have already mentioned the idea that Starbursts may have been symbolic forest enclosures; that perhaps (like the minotaur within the labyrinth) an auroch (the word bull or cattle doesn't summon the image of the cattle of the past) or perhaps a herd of pigs would have been led into the henge and hunted; the spectators separated from the action, and the animals within trapped by the ditch?

I like this idea a lot. It would have worked at Stanton Drew, or Woodghenge, but it didn't seem to fit The Sanctuary for no good logical reason that I can give, except I think that the posts would have been too close together.

But what of the name?
It is logical to think that William Stuckeley called the site The Sanctuary but instead the name he gives it is Hakpen (Hackpen Hill). Stuckeley, a friend of Isaac Newton and inclined to believe that modern (18th century) religion was a corruption of an older, more ancient wisdom gives this explanation:
"To our name of Hakpen, alludes ochim, called 'doleful creatures' in our translation." Isa (13 v. 21), speaking of the desolation of Babylon, says: Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there, and their houses shall be full of ochim, and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there." St. Jerome translates it "serpents." The Arabians call a serpent Haie, and wood-serpents Hageshin; and thence our Hakpen; Pen is "head" in British.
Is pen a word meaning head? I've never come across that before...But never mind, why  is Stuckeley layering quotes from the bible over 'England's green and pleasant land'?

Teh Inernets go on to say (because we all copy and paste to some extent) that Stuckely went on to associate this "megalithic serpent" as Kneph (The Graeco-Egyption form of the creator god Khnum) the winged-serpent who gave 'the breath of life'.

I am deeply puzzled as to why Stuckeley was layering Egyptian myth, over the Biblical version of a Babylonian myth; but more I wish to know where he got the myth from? Graeco-Egyption makes me think of Neoplatonist stuff. Unfortunately the book that would probably answer my questions costs over £50, and the chances of Halesowen library getting it for me are less than remote -William Stukeley: Science, Religion and Archaeology in Eighteenth-Century England' by David Haycock.

So Stuckeley was convinced that The Sanctuary was the Snakes Head. This doesn't mean he couldn't have called it The Sanctuary, just I haven't seen any evidence that he used that name for that place.

All I have found is:
Dr. Stukeley's paper on " The Sanctuary " was read before the Society of Antiquaries, Oct. 30, 1755, and may be found in the first volume of the Archceologia, p. 39. He wrote:
"On November 14,1750, 1 went to survey the old church at Westminster, called ' The Sanctuary,' which they were then pulling down to make a new market-house. The building itself is as extraordinary in its kind as that we have no clear account concerning it in the history of Westminster Abbey, to which it manifestly belonged. 'Tis composed of two churches, one over another, each in the form of a cross. The lowermost may be called a double cross. The ground plot is a square of seventy five feet.'"
So this leads me back to Maud Cunnington and to then on to Arthur Evans who excavated Knossos in 1900, it was he who tied the double-axe, the sacral knot, the sacral horns, sacred pillars, sacred trees, doves, and bulls, lions and goats all together as an offering to the Lady of the Labyrinth herself, Ariadne.

In a room that Arthur Evans called The Snake Goddess Sanctuary, to the south of the Throne Room he found the famous image of the bare breasted lady holding snakes aloft in her hands (Ashmolan museum).

So did Maud Cunnington name the Overton hill starburst henge The Sanctuary because she was influenced by Arthur Evans?

Or did Stuckeley call it The Sanctuary as part of his Druidic vision?

Stuckeley and his time is another chapter all together, but Maud and Arthur Evans are relevant to the mixture of early 20th century and 2600 BC mythology and history.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The Sanctuary.

Yesterday morning I drove to The Sanctuary. I must have passed it many times before as it is on the road from Marlbourough to Avebury, but had never thought to stop at that particular lay-by on the top of the hill to see what was was over the hedge.

I had thought that the lay-by was for people visiting the barrows on the opposite side of the road.

Nor had I thought about looking for The Sanctuary on a map, before yesterday. I'd just assumed that it was somewhere to the left of West Kennet and possibly a long walk.

The Sanctuary -which I thought of as a causewayed enclosure- was placed in my mind with 'cursus' and 'Iron Age fort' and therefore not in the right time frame. Causewayed enclosures were quite probably places of 'sky burial' and are therefore simple. I mean in my limited estimation and expectation; I don't expect there to be any sun, moon or star alignments at a causewayed enclosure as it was used as a pre-burial space for the dead, and as there are many bones there, both lost and uncollected for the long barrow, there is little evidence for a special kind of burial -of the kind I'm interested in.

So, I'd never bothered to find out anything about The Sanctuary before yesterday.

I parked the car behind one other car, whose occupant seemed to be a photographer interested in the barrows, and we sat for a while, me thinking that there is no need of drugs when one has driving. My brain felt as if it had been stuffed with cotton wool. The sun was hot through the windscreen, but I was almost cold. We got food from the boot of the car, and I took out my mother's shawl to wear. Back in the car we ate cheese and Ryveta, and shared a bottle of water.

When I walked into The Sanctuary my first thought was disappointment. I wished that I had dowsing rods with me, I quickly thought that surely I could just use twigs, but in rapid succession came the next thought; I wouldn't want to dowse here, the ground was too strong.

I have no theory about dowsing; it is just something everyone (I believe) does automatically, the sticks act as amplifiers. On the other hand, to dowse means opening oneself to allow awareness of a specific type of something; I have absolutely no idea at all about what that something may be.

The laws of geomancy dictate that a location should be in balance between hill, valley and in alignment with sun and moon. As locations go, The Sanctuary is spectacular. It is as if we were on a disc, the ground drops away over the edge of The Sanctuary, and the horizon is an undulating, sinuous line of hills that would ring around the disc -if it weren't for that south to east hedge!

My experience was of a stillness arising from the sense of increased gravity; and the downwards, heavy, pull- made me think again of 'hungrey grass'. I wondered if, like Woodhenge, there was another body within the henge?

The Sanctuary was once very much like Woodhenge: it had a ditch enclosing (not yet excavated)  a central (central-ish) burial; and rings of holes that once held tree trunks latter selectively filled with standing stones. The post holes have been marked with concrete posts; blue rectangles for stone, and red posts with rounded ends for wood. The place where the girl was buried under a standing stone is marked (I think) by the top of a stone just before the blue concrete rectangle. The red post was chosen as her memorial stone I guess, because it is in a similar position to the flint grave so close to the center of Woodhenge.

Despite Aubrey Burl's description of her burial in 'Rites of the Gods', there is a more accurate image available here: [LINK] which shows the archeologist's sketch of the burial pit at The Sanctuary.

As you can see from my film, the grave is honoured with bunches of grass, with twigs tied into a patten, and feathers.

I'm glad that she has not been forgotten.