I started with maps; how the Mesopotamians imagined the world. I looked at the Platonist version from The Pheado; Plato's record of Socrates' last day; a day in which Socrates, rather than becoming a gibbering wreck at the thought of death, explained all manner of things to his friends, including the details that almost two thousand years latter went on to make this next map (the map is dated 1325 or is it 75?) of the region of Italy known as Cumea :
Sibyl lived about a thousand years. This came about when Apollo offered to grant her a wish in exchange for her virginity; she took a handful of sand and asked to live for as many years as the grains of sand she held. Later, after she refused the god's love, he allowed her body to wither away because she failed to ask for eternal youth. Her body grew smaller with age and eventually was kept in a jar. Eventually only her voice was left .When I was just eight years old, Mr R.F Paget was valiantly trying to prove the actuality of the sixth book of the Aeneid; unearthing a complex of wet and noisome underground passages, trying to discover the entrance to the Underworld or at least the Oracle of the Dead, by the crater of Avernus. Mr Paget was sure that he found at least one niche where Aeneas may have placed the golden bough, and latter he sat at the edge of the river Styx, eating his sandwiches.
Mr Paget that is, eating sandwiches.
His was a time in which Schliemann really had found Troy, and Arthur Evans' Knossos was a restoration, not a fantasy. A time in which myth was expected to elucidate historical reality.
It is a shame that the photographs in Paget's book are such poor quality though!
This thought leads me to ask myself if I am trying to do the same thing?
Answer: no, my aim is to 'get' the whole thing; the mix and combinations of real and unreal. I'm never going to pin anything down into solid..unchanging....concrete. But the myths point to odd resonances and conjunctions of fact and fiction and it is the web of meanings that fascinate me, the process of seeing rather than seeing.
The experience of the edges that exist between the virtual and the real.
It is impossible not to play the usual games, of tracing words back through time, of quoting strange notions and belief, of judging some ideas to be better than others. But at the heart of it, the art of it is curiosity!
The first Persephone of my journey is Ereshkigal taken by the Kur to become the queen of the Underworld, her first husband The Bull of Heaven the very personification of tectonic plates jarring and shearing apart. Her second husband, Nergal reeking of plague and pestilence becoming slowly, but very clearly, Apollo -or at least that aspect of the sun that causes rot and decay- the root word for Pytho meaning rot, as in the python of Delphi...
Fumes are another reoccurring image. Mr Paget was warned of poisonous fumes as he journeyed through the underground tunnels at Baiae (his solution? To send a man down the perilous tunnel; the man had rope tied around his waist and should he collapse, gasping like a fish out of water as the cthonic reek deprived him of reason, Mr Paget and friends would haul him back to the fresh air.
The Pythoness, the priestess of Apollo at Delphi who transmitted the oracles to fee paying celebrities and kings, sat on a tripod above a crack in the ground through which the vapours of the underworld would rise, possess and then speak through the priestess.
Vapours and ghosts and the nature of the soul as breath...the lighter psyche rising eventually to the gem-encrusted upper-world above ours, the wet exudate from the corpse sinking eventually to the Acherusian lake. Whilst the perception one has of being dead is the joyful, torch-lit procession down to the underworld.
But I wanted to make the first real journeys of this story to places I don't need to take a plane of boat to, to places that are as close to Persephone's grave as myth can allow: to The Sanctuary and to Woodhenge, places where at the center used to lie a body, possibly a sacrifice, and both possibly female.
Recently, during the last two decades, the graves are marked (in the case of the Sanctuary, incorrectly) with wreathes of grass and flowers.
I have not as yet looked hard at contemporary beliefs regarding such monuments; I get caught up in taking the stones, the land and the concrete markers too seriously. The details of the 'barbed-wire' decoration of the beaker buried with the body at the Sanctuary [LINK] and what it signifies, and of the fragment of quern made from Niedermendig lava. A drama unfolds of a girl. either she or her close family originally from Germany or Belgium, wandering away from her people and captured by the 'locals' to be another source of power for their stones (as so many of the Avebury stones have 'Beaker' burials, the question arises, are the stones a Beaker monument, or something pre-Beaker, indigenous to these isles?).
But such dramatic tales of abduction and sacrifice remain in a liminal space, hovering between truth and fantasy...in truth people are not sure if the skeleton from the Sanctuary is male or female, the probability from the pelvis is that the body was female. The remains of the quern tells of contact between here and there...the patten on the beaker indicates an area of origin around Belgium, Germany....The Amesbury Archer (earliest Beaker burial and oldest beakers (!) in the UK dated 2300 B.C) came from somewhere in or around the Alps. His beaker [LINK] was decorated with a 'comb' -really? a comb?.
Aubrey Burl evokes antiquarians who did not put on rosy spectacles when looking at the past, for them the Beaker times, the skulls in particular from the round barrows told of a murderous and darker time than our English present. The book full of gory evidence was Crania Britannica published in 1865. This book is the bible for anyone interested in what was originally found in various tumuli in Britain, and for those who want to chart the history of racial (generally into those who are light and good as opposed to those who are short, dark and bad) discrimination.
Before Darwin, there was an idea in Europe (In Britain and in Italy of course!) that the Trojans were the noble ones. Geoffrey of Monmouth gives Britain the Trojan Brutus, following on from Virgil's Aeneus.
Science too, provided a foundation for this 'Noble ones' ideology. Darwin never believed that some people were more evolved than others, but he did believe that a descent was possible...
Darwin's theory of evolution, published in 1856 is easily misread as survival of the best: evolution as an increasingly positive movement from fish to man via ape -with humans who look most like apes obviously being less evolved. But Darwin's theory is 'survival of the fittest' and the fittest is not necessarily the most beautiful, clever, superior or intelligent, or the most 'Aryan' as proved by the Betamax vs VHS Format, war ~joke...
In 1871 Darwin published 'The Descent of Man' concerning the relevance of the evolutionary theory to society. Darwin believed that all humans were basically the same species, and so to divide between more or less evolved was erroneous. Yet the book is called The Descent of Man, indicating in its title that Darwin believed man would
"sink into indolence"if severe struggle was not continuous, and thought that:
"there should be open competition for all men; and the most able should not be prevented by laws or customs from succeeding best and rearing the largest number of offspring"
But there was an idea gathering momentum in the latter half of the nineteenth century that the degree of evolution a person possessed could be determined by how black that person is. One such investigation proved that women are absolutely less evolved than men, whilst in 1870, Dr John Beddoe, president of the Anthropological Society of London concluded that:
"There was evidence of physical degeneration in Nottingham".Meanwhile people like Lieutenant Colonel Laurence Austine Waddell helped spin the story of the noble Aryan.
"Civilization properly so-called is synonymous with Aryanization."Waddell spent time a lot of the 1890's in Tibet, he spoke Tibetan and studied the culture; he noticed the correspondences and similarities in Tibetan Buddhism with Greek and Mesopotamian elements. He failed to appreciate that the 'Precious Guru' who brought Buddhism to Tibet came from the Swat valley (lands once ruled by Alexandra The Great, The Persians, contact with other cultures via the silk road..hence the Greek/Persian connections.)
Meanwhile it had long been known that Herodotus mentioned an Egyptian legend of Hyperborea in the far north. The idea of Nordic people's migrating South, starts here. Apparently ice destroyed Hyperborea and it split into the islands of Thule and Ultima Thule, which some people identified with Iceland and Greenland, some say Briton is Ultima Thule.
The Thule Society, liked Hitler.
In England 1871 Bulwar-Lytton fascinated by the theory of a hollow earth consisting of four concentric spheres described by the seventeenth century Sir Edmund Halley, wrote: Vril, the Power of the Coming Race. In it he described a superior race, the Vril-ya, who lived within the hollow earth and planned to conquer the world with vril.
The Ahnenerbe (the study society for Intellectual Ancient History- founded on July 1, 1935, by Heinrich Himmler) went to Tibet in 1938 to prove Aryan Superiority by confirming the Vriltheory, a theory taken from Edward Bulwer-Lytton's book Vril. They did this by measuring the skulls of 376 people and comparing native feature to those associated with Aryans.
Waddell then seriously loses the plot by taking Vergil and the 12th century chronicler Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae at face value, concluding that:
Permanent settlement with systematic civilization and colonization with cultivation appears to have begun only with the arrival of Brutus and his Britons about 1103 B.C.There is a stone in Totnes marking Brutus's arrival to prove it..so the Greeks sorry, the Trojans were really Scandinavians?
Oh for goodness sake!
Today the Amesbury Archer, and the girl buried in the Sanctuary represent Germanic people bringing the new technology of metal work to Stone-age Britain, and the habit of dividing people into racial groups for the purpose of deciding who is the more degenerate, has ceased.
On the other hand there are some fascinating modifications on the theme of racial purity, my favorite load of rubbish reminds me of the only time I went to the Glastonbury festival and was harangued by David Ike -telling us all to stop wearing black and to wear turquoise coloured clothes instead- but I don't remember why he said that?
The Illuminati myth runs as follows:
Evil fallen demonic entities came into our three-dimensional world to rape woman and tampered with human DNA. All cultures also speak of reptilian gods who created a hybrid race of kings and queens that sat on the thrones of all ancient kingdoms that can be tracked back to ancient Sumer Babylon in Iraq.I wonder why I get stuck wanting more, real, rational scientific evidence!
Rigid belief systems draw from fact and fiction in equal measure, they act to explain the inexplicable and thus resolve an unbearable sense of ambiguity ...at best they become religion, at worst -genocide, or in my case forgotten and lost text files.