Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Visiting Avebury.

This plan assumes that you...
  • ....are travelling from Marlborough.
  • Need somewhere to park the car.
  • You don't know where you are going.
  • And that you want to see more than Avebury's rings. 
The areas to visit and to explore on this plan are:
  • The Sanctuary.
  • West Kennet.
  • Silbury Hill.
  • The Kennet Avenue.
  • Avebury ring.
Here is the basic layout of the trip.

  • The A4 in Marlborough is the main road, the High Street.
  • The white ovals are car parking areas all by the side of the road, therefore free. 
Lets begin!

Take the A4 road...
Stock up on good things in Marlborough first, some fresh bread and cheese, fruit juice. Toilets can be found either in Waitrose, or its car park.

Back to the A4 ...
Past the church on your right.
Turn right at the island.

Stay on the A4.

My grandparent's wedding.

The first location on this trip is The Sanctuary.
The journey distance is approximately 7 kilometers / 4.35 miles.

The river Kennet follows the road, usually as just a stream. As you climb the hill towards the round barrows the river is now further away down on the left.

As the road goes up a hill you will see Bronze Age barrows on your right.

Look out for the parking place on the left side of the road.
There is also parking on the right hand side.

You can park either on the right where those cars are, or on the left (where the lorry is in the photo).

The right hand side parking fills up with camper vans at midsummer, and it is the start of The Ridgeway, a track you can follow all the way to Ivinghoe Beacon. The left hand side of the road is a good place to stop, often a resting place for lorry drivers, but I have always found a parking spot when I've traveled here.

Now known as Overton Hill, it was once called  Hakpen by William Stukeley. This place was known for part of its history as 'The Seven Hill' recalling that even though most of the barrows in this area were constructed at least 4000 years ago, at least one of them (on the Sanctuary side of the road) is 2000 years younger, built for a Roman burial.

Though timber circles are now thought to have been quite common, they were unknown until Maud Cunnington excavated 'Woodhenge'.

Maud Cunnington.

Maud Cunnington  found The Sanctuary from accounts of the area made by William Stukeley in the 18th century who described The Sanctuary as:
 " a most solemn and awful place....."
And from John Aubrey (17th century) who wrote:
"..above which place (West Kennet) on the brow of a hill, is another monument, encompassed with a circular trench, and a double circle of stones, four or five foot high, tho' most of them are now fallen down"
The circular trench is a mystery, since there doesn't seem to be one.

The Cunnington's excavated the site in 1930.

Now the position of the timber posts and stone circles are marked by concrete posts of two kinds, the small red ones - like crumbly, rotten teeth, represent wooden posts, and the blue rectangular markers represent the (possibly Bronze Age ) addition of standing stones.

After the last dig here in 1999  the red posts didn't really make it back to where they should be...the blue ones remain fairly accurate I think, but the red ones are mixed up.

Playing the game of join the dots....

Trying to imagine posts!

Records of the post and stone holes, and possible paths through...

There are suggestions that the spaces between the posts were originally fenced between with wattle and daub...creating a labyrinthine path, towards what, or why... is a mystery.

It is also possible that the stones belong to a latter phase of its use and block the paths, rather in the same way as West Kennet was blocked.

There is a 'recumbent' stone in the SW quadrant which could be aligned to midwinter evening Venus, or the major southern moonset.

Venus at the Sanctuary.

In the east a buried stone marks the position of a Bronze Age burial.

The Sanctuary is one of the most Sacred spaces in this area.
More often than not, offerings are left at its center.

The Bronze Age Barrows.

After looking at The Sanctuary, cross the road and visit the barrows.
Though Bronze Age barrows are often described as being the burial place of a single person, this isn't entirely true, often other burials have been inserted into the mound.

Round barrows differ from Long Barrows chronologically by something like two thousand years, and in being closed after use. Long barrows remained 'open'...and were usually repositories for bones rather than burial places of individuals.

The burial at the Sanctuary and the barrows show that this sacred area, or at the very least ritual area, was quite large and extensive. It was once an important place, connected to the massive rings of Avebury by a long avenue of standing stones.

Neolithic structures; the timber circles of the Sanctuary are older than the Bronze Age barrows and the burial, and the long barrow of West Kennet indicate a continuity of use, though not necessarily a continuity of any particular ritual.

Next stop - West Kennet Long Barrow.

Back to the road, and continue for 1.5 kilometers (just under a mile) down the hill.
There is parking on the left.

If this is full, there is a car park by Silbury Hill

Park in the lay-by on the left.

From the lay-by, follow the foot path that leads (in this picture) towards the yellow field. The distance to the long barrow is about half a mile ( 712 meters).

There is conservation work going on now so West Kennet is closed, and so you may not be able to look inside until the work is over (March 2016). in other words, despite what I said about long barrows remaining open this one may not be...

West Kennet long barrow was built by the farming community of this area, about 5600 years ago and then sealed with a massive stone, around the time Silbury Hill was constructed - approximately 4400 years ago.

Silbury Hill car park.

Continue along the A4. for about half a mile.
Look for the sign.

The car park is a right turn.
Hidden from the road by trees.

Use this car park to turn around, so that you are now driving back towards Marlborough.

After 1.56 kilometers.
Turn left.

The road, the B4003 is just before those farm buildings.

This road will run parallel with the Kennet Avenue.

You can of course walk from The Sanctuary to this point. The way down, from The Ridgeway to the road isn't clearly defined and isn't, as far as I could tell, a footpath.

The Kennet Avenue and Silbury.

Look for parking at the side of the road.

The Kennet Avenue connected The Sanctuary to Avebury and was once marked along its entire length by standing stones.

To visit Silbury Hill, go through the gate to get onto the grass, take the footpath up Waden Hill, past those two small trees.

When you reach the top, you will know where you are!

To Avebury.

Return to the gate, and walk between the stones....
Cross the road and follow the footpath.

Avebury is so big, you will be inside it perhaps without knowing it.

Or, get into the car and drive along the B 4003 until you reach this junction.
Turn left, and look for the National Trust car park on the right hand side of the road,

Once there, you will have to pay for parking.
There is a cafe, some touristy shops, a 17th century house to look around and a museum.

And the most impressive ditch with standing stones you will ever see.

To return to Marlborough.

Leave the National trust car park and turn right.
Go left at the island to get back to the A4.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Tibetan Buddhism.

The mares which carry me, as far as ever my heart may desire,
Were escorting me, when they brought and placed me on the resounding road
Of the goddess, which carries through all places the man who knows.
On it I was carried; for on it the well-discerning horses
Were straining the chariot and the maidens were leading the way.

Parmenides wrote of a journey to the gates of Night and Day
The border world

Where the Unknown Goddess instructs him on the nature of mind and truth.

Despite Parmenides respect for philosophy acquired through making an imaginary journey; dream-truth, acquired by ecstatic means, is frowned upon and portrayed as the path of the lost and moral degenerate. The use of the imagination and experiential apprehensions of reality (as personified by the Bacchai) are not respected methods of inquiry into the nature of reality in our post-Plato, Western culture. In which...singing, dancing, drumming and drugs present an obvious danger, obfuscating the mind from the beauty of magnolia walls and Shakespearean recitations.

And perhaps becoming gateways to the greatest danger of all...
The erotic.

Well clearly I don't worry about 'Weaponized audio'

Fear of the Bacchanalia....
Goes on and on and on...
Will always go on and on.

I have, on the other hand, suffered from other people's fear of the erotic.
Therefore, my grievance about this subject is personal.

In my three years as consort, my task was to burn without being consumed.
Thereby to convert the impure to pure....

And I was struck then by what seemed to be the universality of these rules which were in opposition to rules derived from my experience of my animal-humanity; my place in the grand scheme of things as one woman in a lineage of femaleness stretching back and back to the first birth. I understood the fundamental theories of magic as derived by Mirandola and Ficino, from translations of Plato and The Kabbalah and Hermetica...But I did not understand how these same theories came to be fundamental to 'esoteric Buddhism'.

Nor did I believe in them.

Tibetan Buddhism begins with Guru Rinpoche (Precious teacher), Padmasambava (Lotus born) who came from Pakistan, The Swat Valley. This site had been inhabited by the families who traveled with Alexander the Great...and latter by families who had originally lived beyond the Sulaiman mountains. Looking at the colours used in the shrine room, the meanings associated with shapes and even the words sometimes..

Elements from 'Babylonian' Persian, and Greek theory appear grafted over Shamanic Bon, providing me with a more complete image of religion circa 300 BC than the church version of Persian / Babylonian / Greek I'd grown up with, a religion pruned down into Christianity around 300 AD....

Well anyway
I burnt without burning
I lived by the rules of Renaissance magic for three years
Even while being dedicated to Older Gods...

And though it was a brilliant education
It was also a battle I couldn't win.

Something I'm still trying to come to terms with.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015


After heaven had been moved away from earth,
After earth had been separated from heaven,
After the name of man had been fixed;
After An had carried off heaven,
After Enlil had carried off earth,
After Ereshkigal had been carried off into Kur as its prize...

There are two main references in Mesopotamian (Sumerian /Akkadian) stories that correspond to the modern concept of a Close Encounter.

The first has been quoted above, from 'The Sumerians: Their History, Culture, and Character'
 By Samuel Noah Kramer.

The second also comes from the epic of Gilgamesh...The ominous dreams Enkidu suffers as he and Gilgamesh journey deep into the ceder forest to kill the protector of the trees, the monster Humbaba..

Here is Enkidu's third, and final dream:
Then, at midnight, sleep left him; he got up and said to his friend, 'Did you call me, or why did I wake? Did you touch me, or why am I terrified? Did not some god pass by, for my limbs are numb with fear? My friend, I saw a third dream and this dream was altogether frightful. The heavens roared and the earth roared again, daylight failed and darkness fell, lightnings flashed, fire blazed out, the clouds lowered, they rained down death. Then the brightness departed, the fire went out, and all was turned to ashes fallen about us.
The phenomenon described in modern times as the experience of Satanic abuse, and of alien abduction, including the description Livy gives of the cult of Dionysos brought into Roman society by Paculla Annia...are powerful, traumatic, and will be trans-formative...anyone undergoing abduction will be changed forever...

Men were fastened to a machine and hurried off to hidden caves, and they were said to have been rapt away by the gods; these were the men who refused to join their conspiracy or take a part in their crimes or submit to pollution. They formed an immense multitude, almost equal to the population of Rome; amongst them were members of noble families both men and women. It had been made a rule for the last two years that no one more than twenty years old should be initiated; they captured those to be deceived and polluted.
Unfortunately, for those who wish to control it, the location of this experience is impossible to fix in time or space.
  • When it is believed that the origin of abduction is extra or ultra-terrestrial, the entities responsible are beyond the stars, and beyond our phase of the multiverse.
  • When the entities are supposed to be daemonic or angelic, there is no book that provides a sure way to contact them.
  • When the agent is terrestrial, and human, 'they' are people with wealth and power, who prey like vampires upon the young and innocent...and are protected by the laws of the state.
An attempt to locate the true origin of the abduction as entirely within the human mind appears simpler.

Though Homer muddies the water somewhat, by saying as I would say:
For two are the gates of shadowy dreams, and one is fashioned of horn and one of ivory. Those dreams that pass through the gate of sawn ivory deceive men, bringing words that find no fulfillment. But those that come forth through the gate of polished horn bring true issues to pass, when any mortal sees them. But in my case it was not from thence, methinks, that my strange dream came...
Whitley Strieber (whose diary you can read here )  sounds something like Enkidu in: "Summer of Promise, Summer of Danger," July 12th, 2003  if you replace his word visitors with Gods:
"Remember this: earth has given birth to something we call the human mind. But the visitors view it as a precious resource of innovation and, ultimately, of ecstasy. They are indifferent to power, but willing to use dark appearances to give lessons."
Terence McKenna made a similar point when he wrote:
 "We are part of a symbiotic relationship with something which disguises itself as an extra-terrestrial invasion so as not to alarm us."
Alternatively, Stanislav Grof describes a firing of neurons located within synaptic networks deep inside the oldest structures of the brain...Birth memories create the basic perinatal matrix, and  'Systems of Condensed Experience' are tagged together by memories forged during moments of extreme emotional charge...the emotional tone defines each intrusive replay of the birthing experience corresponds in so many ways to abduction.

No matter how often we read of the negative aspects of the abduction experience, there is more to it than pathology.

It is after all, the experience of initiation.

Last word goes to Publius Aelius Aristides Theodorus (Greek: Αἴλιος Ἀριστείδης; 117–181 CE) Oration 48.32 :
For there was a feeling as if taking hold of the god and of clearly perceiving that he himself had come, of being midway between sleeping and waking, of wanting to look, of struggling against his departure too soon; of having applied one’s ears and hearing some things as in a dream, some waking; hair stood straight, tears flowed in joy; the burden of understanding seemed light. What man is able to put these things into words? Yet if he is one of those who have undergone initiation, he knows and is familiar with them.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Almost finished here....

Thursday August 6 2015.
It was the last day of the Avebury, Kennet Avenue.
I really wanted to see a naked post hole.

Our first destination that day was the UFO capital of Britain -well, one of several - Warminster.
I think I was hoping to find the UFO cafe or some such; a shop dedicated to UFO memorabilia perhaps.

There was a mural...

The inclusion of 'Doritos' shaped UFOs allows one to date the earliest year it could have been painted.

Then on to Avebury...
I must come over as completely at home, as if I know where I'm going and what I'm doing. The National Trust man was about to give me access to behind the fence so I could hang out with the archaeologists, and I'm laughing and saying "gosh no!!!! I don't know them"

And then things go down hill
Just a bit.

Because I do have questions
One in particular
And I expect Josh Pollard to know the answer
And he is just behind that fence.
To the question....
Have the bones found at C 12 the Sanctuary, been carbon dated?

And this is so frustrating..
The National Trust man says, 'burial, no that's Woodhenge' and I say ', please ask.

So he goes behind the fence
And I can't look.

Over the years I've come to love the Sanctuary.

We didn't get off to a very good beginning

I think it makes most people feel the way it made me feel; like there is too much gravity somehow, and the sound of the cars and Waitrose lorries and the way the road cuts the Sanctuary off from the isn't an easy place.

More often than not, offerings are left here.

Flowers and feathers...
Use will make the place live.
More important than markers!

So I set my phone timer to 20 min's
And wrote:

5:40 PM Thursday afternoon.

Bright bright late afternoon light.
Pages flickering against my pen as I write.
The rush of cars over the sound of the wind.

Just returned from the Avebury dig. Needed to ask JP a question via the lovely NT man. Seems JP who began his archaeology with the Sanctuary has become more inclined towards the bigger and more impressive wood to stone-land of living and dead-ritual landscape approach taken by MPP. Makes sense financially. The answer to my question - has the skeleton found at the Sanctuary been carbon dated - came back via the NT man as...'a Beaker burial, probably local' . JP didn't know if it had been dated, MPP says 'it was 'local'....but I can't ask 'why do you say that?' Has there been a DNA test, or are you going by the style of beaker?...

Always the sound of cars here.
A grass hopper, sound drowned out by the endless flowing road...

At the center today an apple! flowers and feathers.
Two posts become the center.

Small post markers ever more like rotting teeth, walloped by the lawn mower when the grass is cut, breaking and crumbling...Guess I'll return once a year with flour and mark out the pathways when all the red markers have gone.

At Avebury, seems a wide path predated the stone-lined avenue. A post hole present off the Avenue, on the Waden hill side...behind the fence.

More cars.

People arrive and wander around, through the Sanctuary's broken walls and pathways.

NT man said Marsden timber circle is a mirror image, or replica of Woodhenge...needs checking...but really my experience now is sadness and a heavy heart. I am allergic to archaeology; the lines separating who can hear knowledge, who can provide knowledge. The hierarchical nature, and commodification of archaeology.

Culture wars and fault lines.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Liberation border lands.

W Y Evans Wentz.
Twenty years before W Y Evans Wentz published his Book of the Dead, he had tramped around 'the Celtic countries'  seeking information about 'the fairy faith'.

His mission was to map this other-world as he would eventually map the Bardo Thodol...

The Bardos are commonly described as places between worlds
Between belief systems
Between states of mind...
The place where a rope is mistaken in the half light, as a snake..

The place where the psychic compass spins, a place without pathways, maps or secure meanings.

Its surface safe and predictable as thin ice.

W Y Evans Wentz was the man who worked with Tibetan Lamas to publish 'The Bardo Thodol - The Tibetan Book of the Dead' so named to recall 'The Egyptian Book of The Dead' in 1927.

It appeared to be the best road-map for the after-death experience.

I don't suppose I was alone in my disappointment when I first read it..

It is not like Dante's trip through hell, purgatory and heaven..

The pictures repeat, as do the verses...

But on the other hand it treats death as a process that can be managed without fear and despair...

Evans Wentz left an indelible mark on Western Tibetan Buddhism, his translations sprinkled in Theosophist concepts, gave us a Gnostic Buddhism that isn't the Vajrayana...

In 1954, Aldous Huxley took the word Bardo from Evans Wentz's translation into science and Hippydom, via 'Gates of Perception'  to Timothy Leary ( Leary, Metzer and Alpert) who described the use of drugs as keys to the Bardo states, rather as the Egyptians used 'Books of the Dead' to record the secret signs and passwords required to traverse the twelve gates of night:

The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Published 1964.

Leary, Metzer and Alpert described the Bardo Thodol as:
... a key to the innermost recesses of the human mind, and a guide for initiates, and for those who are seeking the spiritual path of liberation.
All versions of the Bardo Thodol: the Tibetan, the translation by Evans Wentz and the 1969 drug version, explain the process of Bardo as Plato's cave.

Plato described the experience of reality as a projection; shadows cast by the light of consciousness.

We mistake the shadows as important..
We believe in them..
...we are content to experience only the film show.

But the Bardo isn't the experience.
It is the space before belief.

And it is understood to be a state of mind that facilitates liberation...
The meaning of which, depends on who you ask.

The Theosophist Gnostic version explains that we need to turn around to obtain knowing, that we become Higher beings..

Whilst the Tibetan view is that projections should be treated as projections. Then union with the light of consciousness occurs, when the mind is allowed to become still..

Avoiding rejection
Avoiding acceptance.
The mind rests in-between...

After death, the process of decay produces specific projections.
And the Bardo Thodol is there to help you avoid becoming reminding you 'Oh child of a good family' that you are now dead.

Without the body disrupting meditation in its usual way, a well practiced mind (practiced in meditation) could  treat all mental projections, beliefs and images as ephemeral and with equanimity... and so avoid  belief in the projections.

It is as if the dead are in a deep, breathless, coma, consciousness dissolving through the Alexandrian, four elements, over a period of forty two days...

Liberation, in the Buddhist sense, means avoiding coming back, clothed in meat.

But there is something about this bardo experience re-occurring (in all times and all cultures...) that places it within the domain of religion.

Indicating that this vision is trans-formative; it changes behavior in individuals, it changes societies...A code is created of images and signs to help people deal with out-of-the-body weirdness...

The origin of the images in the Bardo Thodol are experiences of those who come back from the dead. Those who came so close to death that they saw over the wall...But it must be understood that any description of the Tibetan attitude, avoiding the importance of religion in the task of casting a cold eye on phantasms is incomplete, giving a false impression of 'scientific rationality'.

The Tibetan Buddhist meditative state of mind is an attitude transmitted via religious images and is an attitude impossible to achieve without faith and devotion. It is impossible without trust...

Shame about Eleusis...
What do we have now?

Friday, 5 June 2015

Apollo's priestess.

Apollo served 'the wild man' king Admetus for nine years. Admetus treated him well and so Apollo rewarded him...

"Admetus, you are fated to die soon. But I give you a gift, if you can find someone to agree to take your place   Death will pass you by..." Alcestis, his wife (her name means Power in the Home)  took his fate to herself, choosing to die to save him.
She left her husband, her children sobbing on the cold, hard ground...for Persephone's garden.

Apollo's gift to Admetus - and this story is found in the play Alcestis by Euripides - recalls a theme in Mesopotamian myths; the numbers must add up, death must have a body. Admetus could not avoid death unless someone took his place, recalling the older story of Geshtinanna and Dumuzi.

In this story, Apollo sees into the future and has knowledge of Death. This image conflicts with modern interpretations of Apollo as a sun god of intellect and music.

The problem lies in the modern symbolism of the sun.

The sun wasn't always seen as constantly bright...and nor was the 'Netherworld' always an 'Underworld'. Apollo so often portrayed as a bright, golden, solar god of intellect and culture is also the black sun: the Lord of the dark power of the sun, Lord of rot and decay. From the story of Gilgamesh we are given the image of the sun returning from the night-time journey in the 'underworld' being blown alight (like charcoal) it rushes through the tunnel...The idea of an upper, middle and lower world isn't as constant as we are led to believe. Nor is the sun always bright and consciousness personified.

The theme of Apollo as a solar god included this dark solar aspect, and this is shown most clearly in his connection with Delphi

When he arrived as a dolphin bringing with him priests from Crete a great monster was the Castalian Spring.

The python, whose name comes from Greek pythoπύθω.
Meaning  'rot'.

Rot is also a power of sun...
Clearly an attribute of death.
And clearly I see in the stories of Apollo, another name.


Aplu Enlil...a name from the Hurrian cultural crossroad?

Aplu means Son of Enlil.

Apollo is therefore the Enlil of the Underworld.
Also known as Lord of the Great City.
Apollo, Nir-erra-Gal

His temple
Became a war memorial
Celebrating the defeats of city by city.
3 coiled serpents upon a tripod..
The Battle of Plataea.

A lord of rot, plague and decay would be pleased by this...

Delphi was most famous for its oracle, for predictions of the future.

Another aspect of the sun is that it sees all.
And it is as if it is the black sun that has the ability to see all that is happening in the future.

I don't understand how the Netherworld is connected with seeing the future, and yet the whole basis of hepatoscopy (reading the future based on the liver of a dying animal...dying because its liver was being cut out!) relied upon this principal of future echoes. The most successful readings came from the freshest liver.

A description of hepatoscopy is given in the Book of Ezekiel 21:21:
"For the king of Babylon stands at the parting of the way, at the head of the two ways, to use divination; he shakes the arrows, he consults the household idols, he looks at the liver."
Once again there is a connection between Apollo and underworld plague god, Nergal, this time from the Iliad.
Apollo, the son of Leto and Zeus, angered by the king, brought an evil plague on the army, so that the men were dying - Link...

Perhaps my inability to understand rests upon my culture. Mesopotamian time (Hebrew time...) is backwards (!) compared to English time. In Mesopotamian and Hebrew language the past is described as before us and the future is behind, unseen. This makes total sense. I cannot see the future, and everything I see is the result of past action. It makes no sense to say, as we say in English that the future is before us...

So..the future as behind us, and we face the past.
The future belongs in the place we cannot see.
Only the sun can travel from the future to the past...

Ultimately though it was the job of the priestess to unite with Apollo.
To become possessed by the god.

Her title of Pythia has led many to assume that noxious gasses seeping up from cracks in the rock, stinking of of rot perhaps, were the cause of her power.

But perhaps there was a less polite version...
A more ecstatic union.

Each time
The priestess
Suspended above...

Took the breath of Apollo
Not into her mouth, but...

Between her legs.

Was she 'married' to the God?

No mortal woman ever truly married a god.
No woman married Apollo.

Possession by Apollo was seizure
Male or female seized..
Taken for the ride of their life...

The priestess was his gift
An offering.
A transaction.

The woman, in return for the oracle.

Originally it happened only once a year
The 7th of  Bysios.

Then it became once a month for nine months, until Apollo left Delphi
A dolphin, swimming in a sea of stars.

Leaving his brother
The Winter king Dionysos...Fire buried deep in the heart of the wood...

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Cerialia and the fire fox.

The star of Erra is shining bright...

The roman festival of Ceres was one of the oldest festivals. It is listed in capital letters in the pre-Julian calander of the Roman republic. This is dated to between 753 - 509 B.C. The priest of her cult, the flamen Cerealis belonged to the most ancient class of priests, the flaminate, whose foundation was ascribed to Numa -the second king of Rome.

The word flamen is interesting, so close to flame...not everyone thinks so. From Wiki:
The origin of the word flamen is as obscure as are some of the assigned gods. Sophus Bugge suggested in 1879 that flamen is from an older *flădmen and related to the Germanic blót. Both would be derived from a Proto-Indo-European word *bhlād(s)men. Indo-Europeanist Georges Dumézil attempted to link it to the Sanskrit word brahman. This etymology is still controversial.
Ovid (March 43 BC – AD 17/18) tells us something of what happened at the Ceriales.

On the evening of April 19th flaming torches were tied to the tails of foxes, these were released into the arena of the Circus Maximus... Ovid describes the ritual as stemming from an incident in which a boy caught a fox:
long ago, at ancient Carleoli, a farm-boy caught a fox stealing chickens and tried to burn it alive. The fox escaped, ablaze; in its flight it fired the fields and their crops, which were sacred to Ceres. Ever since, foxes are punished at her festival
But that is unlikely to be why foxes and fire.

The Ludi Ceriales, were  consecrated to Ceres in 202 BC. The Ludi Ceriales or "Games of Ceres" were held as part of the festival in the Circus Maximus. Ovid mentions that Ceres' search for her lost daughter Proserpina was represented by women clothed in white, running about with lighted torches..

The Circus Maximus was the the first and largest stadium in Rome, able to accommodate over 150,000 spectators, at the southeastern turning-post of the race track there was an underground shrine to Consus, a god of grain-stores, which modern writers have connected to the grain-goddess Ceres and to the underworld because it would be very tempting to think that this was the location of the mundus Cereris...

Festus mentions mundus - a vaulted subterranean shrine....and Plutarch believed the mundus to be of Etruscan origin; he states that it was used as a place where first-fruits were deposited.

Festus, quoting Cato this time, explains that:
Mundo nomen impositum est ab eo mundo qui supra nos est.
(The mundus gets its name from that world which is above us.)...
And so the word is translated as 'world', and yet, this does not seem to fit, I suppose because I think of the world as all of it: heaven, earth and hell..

The ritual opening of the mundus took place on the  24 Aug, 5 Oct, and 8 Nov. When opened it allowed the Manes from the Underworld to receive offerings and to visit the upper world.

Who are the Manes?

"Apuleius says, indeed, that the souls of men are demons, and that men become Lares if they are good, Lemures or Larvae if they are bad, and Manes if it is uncertain whether they deserve well or ill.
For, however wicked men have been, if they suppose they shall become Larvae or divine Manes, they will become the worse the more love they have for inflicting injury; for, as the Larvae are hurtful demons made out of wicked men, these men must suppose that after death they will be invoked with sacrifices and divine honors that they may inflict injuries. But this question we must not pursue. He also states that the blessed are called in Greek eudaimones, because they are good souls, that is to say, good demons, confirming his opinion that the souls of men are demons."
— City of God, Book IX, Chapter 11
We are back to the Deveni papyrus here, a lot of the papyrus seems to be a debate about the nature of the Erinyes/ Eumenides, not as semi-divine servants of justice, but as guilty, unhappy souls of the dead.

Macrobius, quoting Varro, says of these days that:
Mundus cum patet, deorum tristium atque inferum quasi ianua patet.
("When the mundus is open, it is as if a door stands open for the sorrowful gods of the underworld.")
Back to the foxes...

There is another conjunction of foxes and fire

And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between two tails.  And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.Then the Philistines said, Who hath done this? And they answered, Samson, the son in law of the Timnite, because he had taken his wife, and given her to his companion. And the Philistines came up, and burnt her and her father with fire. And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.
And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam. Judges 15

And in Judges 16 Samson -so close to Shamash wouldn't you say? - losing his strength when his solar locks are cut off by Delilah.

As Robertson Smith pointed out, rituals are usually done because they have always been done. People forget why. Then there is the theory that folk tales preserve ancient wisdom, but a test carried out to see how good oral history was at preserving key facts found that actually...oral history isn't very good at preserving facts at all. And star (The bad sun - Mars), Samson (Shamash) and foxes seem to fit.

Another bit of the puzzle snaps together?
(I wish!)

Monday, 13 April 2015

Derveni and Hipponions...

Hesiod has little to say about Persephone in his poem, The Theogony..

Only that...
Zeus and Demeter are parents of :
"White armed Persephone whom Aidoneus stole".
Demeter's wealth, her gift to human-kind  is the grain store filled to the brim.

 Hesiod explains it this way:
"Demeter gave birth to wealth, after lying with Iasius in a thrice-ploughed field."
"Demeter, bright goddess, was joined in sweet love with the hero Iasion in a thrice-ploughed fallow in the rich land of Crete, and bare Plutus, a kindly god who goes everywhere over land and the sea's wide back, and him who finds him and into whose hands he comes he makes rich, bestowing great wealth upon him".
Leaving me with the distinct impression that Hesiod is describing Persephone as an aspect of Demeter under the earth, the principal essential to turn dead grain into tender green shoots.

There are Hittite themes running through this Theogony: primarily that of the children killing the father, and castration.

The Song of Kumarbi or Kingship in Heaven.
A connection with feminine wheat and corn can be found in the Hittite story of Anat who finds Death (Mot) and treats him as grain:
She grabs/seizes divine/son of the El, Mot; with blade
she does cleave/split him, with fan/sieve she does winnow
him, with fire she does burn him,
with hand-mill/mill-stone she grinds him, in the field
she does sow/scatter him, his remnants/pieces indeed devoured
by birds, his limbs/parts/portions indeed consumed
by fowl.
Homer, on the other hand transmitted the myth as most of us first hear it. His is the most Mesopotamian account of Persephone in both the Odyssey, Iliad and The Homeric Hymns.

Persephone is described as dreadful, as Mistress of Justice and as Queen of the Underworld, not just a principal...she gets far more than six words from Homer!

Again, Persephone is described as the daughter of Zeus and Demeter...

And the story ends with Demeter instituting the Sacred rites of Eleusis:

Then she went, and to the kings who deal justice, Triptolemus and Diocles, the horse-driver, and to doughty Eumolpus and Celeus, leader of the people, she showed the conduct of her rites and taught them all her mysteries, to Triptolemus and Polyxeinus and Diocles also, -- awful mysteries which no one may in any way transgress or pry into or utter, for deep awe of the gods checks the voice. Happy is he among men upon earth who has seen these mysteries; but he who is uninitiate and who has no part in them, never has lot of like good things once he is dead, down in the darkness and gloom.

Homer and Hesiod can be placed neatly on a time-line...somewhere within 700 to 500 BC. Hesiod is easier to date because in Works and Days he mentions stars and planets...but just to make things simple, circa 600 BC is good a way to place the chronology of Persephone as described by Homer and Hesiod...

And then there is Derveni and Hipponions...and the subject of 'The Orphic Persephone'.

By 500 BC Persephone is no longer the abducted child, and famine and plague are not the concern; like Eleusis, the focus has become life after death, rather than civilisation. Neither Derveni or Hipponion mention Persephone directly, but both treat her as if her status and role in the Underworld is well understood.

450 BC - The Hipponion text is a totenpass, a passport into the Otherworld. It is text impressed on Gold Foil and contains a set of instructions to initiates about what to do after death:
This is sacred to Memory: when you are about to die, you will find yourself at the House of Hades; on the right there is a spring, by which stands a white cypress. Descending there, the souls of the dead seek refreshment. Do not even approach this spring; beyond you will find from the Pool of Memory cool water flowing; there are guards before it, who will ask you with cool penetration, what you seek from the shades of murky Hades. Say: “I am a son of earth and star-filled Heaven, I am dry with thirst and dying; but give me swiftly cool water flowing from the Pool of Memory.” And they will take pity on you by the will of the Queen of the Underworld, and they will give you water to drink from the Pool of Memory; and moreover, you will go on the great Sacred Way along with the other famed initiates and baccants make their way.
The gold leaves are esoteric knowledge and mention a Queen of the Underworld (Persephone) and Baccants -followers of Dionysos.

They appear as possibly very expensive and certainly a much contracted form of  the Egyptian guide to the underworld known as 'The Book of Gates'.

The famous line:
A kid I fell into the milk
Recalls the journey of the Boat of Millions through the star strewn fields of night...the Milky Way.

350 BC  - The Derveni papyrus contains accounts on how rituals were performed to please the gods. And it is almost impossible to get hold of a translation...the author has been called an Orphic, but the word Magi is now used as well.

The term Orphic isn't what it once was...!

It is also a theogonic-cosmogonic poem extending the theogony of the gods backwards to night...which used to be considered an 'Orphic' theme.

The Derveni papyrus is an ancient Greek papyrus roll that was found in 1962. It is a philosophical treatise that is an allegorical commentary on an Orphic poem, a theogony concerning the birth of the gods, produced in the circle of the philosopher Anaxagoras in the second half of the 5th century BC, making it "the most important new piece of evidence about Greek philosophy and religion to come to light since the Renaissance" (Janko 2005). It dates to around 340 BC, during the reign of Philip II of Macedon, making it Europe's oldest surviving manuscript. It was finally published in 2006.
The text is a commentary on a poem ascribed to Orpheus. Fragments of the poem are quoted. The poem begins with the words "Close the doors, you uninitiated", a famous admonition to secrecy, recounted by Plato. The theogony described in the poem has Nyx (Night) give birth to Heaven (Uranus), who becomes the first king. Cronus follows and takes the kingship from Uranus, but he is likewise succeeded by Zeus.
The Derveni papyrus text stops as Zeus commits incest with his own it isn't possible to know if the text continues with what is known as Orphic theogony by telling how Zeus goes on to father Dionysos by committing incest with his daughter, Persephone....

A compilation of Late Hellanistic Orphic texts known as Rhapsodies...
Begin with a theogony to outdo Hesiod and the Enuma Elish

To Musaios: These things keep in thy mind, dear son, and in thy heart, well knowing all the things of long ago, even from Phanes. Lord, son of Leto, far shooter, mighty Phoibos, all seeing, ruler over mortals and Immortals, Helios, borne aloft on golden wings, this is now the twelfth voice of those I heard from thee. ‘Twas thou that said it, and thee thyself, far shooter, would I make my witness.

These they call Giants by name among the Blessed Gods, for that they were born from Earth (Ge) and from the blood of Heaven (Ouranos). Of this Chronos, the Ageless One, whose counsels never perish, was born Aither and a great yawning gulf on this side and on that: and there was no limit to it, no bottom nor foundation.(All things were in confusion) Throughout the misty darkness.Then great Chronos fashioned in the divine Aither a silvery egg.And it moved without slackening in a vast circle. And it began to move in a wondrous circle.And at the birth of Phanes the misty gulf below and the windless Aither were rent.First-born, Phaethon, son of lofty (beauteous) Aither. Whom they call Phanes…because he first appeared in the Aither. With four eyes looking this way and that.With golden wings moving this way and that.Uttering the voice of a bull and of a glaring lion. Female and Father the mighty God Erikepaios. Cherishing in his heart swift and sightless Eros. The key of Mind.(of Eros-Metis) A great Daemon ever treading on their tracks. An awful Daemon, Metis, bearing the honored seed of the Gods, whom the Blessed on tall Olympos were wont to call Phanes, the Firstborn....
When the sky above was not named,
And the earth beneath did not yet bear a name,
And the primeval Apsû, who begat them,
And chaos, Tiamat, the mother of them both,
Their waters were mingled together,
And no field was formed, no marsh was to be seen;
When of the gods none had been called into being.
Enuma Elish.

Marduk, the hero of the Enuma Elish  is described as having  four large eyes and four big ears. Fire blazes from his mouth.

In the Orphic cosmology,  Phanes …could be his brother: 'With four eyes looking this way and that. With golden wings moving this way and that. Uttering the voice of a bull and of a glaring lion'.

Continuing in best Game of Thrones tradition, the Orphic Genesis describes Titans and castration, incest, snakes and the horror of the death of a god, Dionysos son of Persephone, torn by the Titans and blasted by Zeus's thunderbolt.

Guthrie seems to think that the Orphic theogonic mythology pre-dates  Homer...Well the Eneuma Elish and the religion of the dying god Osiris certainly pre-date 600 BC....

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

'Babylonian' matters.

When William Tyndale translated the bible (New Testament from Greek and began the Old Testament from Hebrew) he was translating myths and history from the Middle East.

These myths were old.
Translated in some cases from Sumerian, into Akkadian, into Aramaic, into Hebrew...into Greek, into English.

Each translation adding and subtracting from the original
Each transmission changed superficially.

The interpretations of the meanings of the stories are myriad.

The core transmission remarkably in tact.

Babylonian myth is easily recognisable in Biblical stories.
Simplest examples:
  • Shamhat for Eve
  • Atrahasis for Noah
Human culture is remarkably robust.
Babylon wasn't destroyed, just fractured and scattered.

In the light of this fact
Religion is fundamentally not concerned with removing fears and tensions from the community, instead religion functions as a way to brings order. How it does this is by directing deep, primal feelings towards symbols, providing structures for the energy to flow safely through...

Now Jane Harrison would say:
Myth is ritual, misunderstood.

And Robertson Smith that:
Myth depends upon ritual.

Whilst the behaviourists would say that:
Ritual is a re-direction of archaic, fundamental behaviour patterns...with a displaced referent. And that when the symbols stop working, there is a regression from symbolism to reality.

Ritual in this case is described as displacement activity
Of birds pulling up grass in a violent way, at each other
Instead of fight...

When the birds forget to pull up the grass
Or pulling up the grass stops working
They will have lost 'their religion' and begin to fight...

Joseph Campbell described myth as:
An energy-evoking and energy-directing sign, or system of signs...

Every advertising agency does its best to exploit this.

The strongest expression of government or kingship is seen in the light of some myths, as the right to kill; to execute prisoners and to wage war.

In the light of other myths, the strongest government treats its enemies with compassion....

You could see this in terms of the bible. The New Testament representing a more humane approach to kingship, superseding the old 'Babylonian' eye for an eye laws of Hammurabi, But if that was the case it took an awful long time for the death penalty to be removed, in Britain.

Death penalty ended in 1965,
Abolished in 1969..

It could be that the cause of change was British contact with India, and the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism.

The New Testament certainly doesn't stop executions in America.

The beginning of the bible transmits the message of order as the prime function of religion.

From the chaotic void, god created division and light.
Tiamat (Tahom, the abyss..)
So it is understandable that religion is defined as creating order via ritual...

But it was the human mind that created the church.

To prevent life being overwhelming, human beings place a layer of insulation between themselves and the inevitable terror, shock and awe; the function. And that something is a web of meaning that gives the user a sense of control, a belief in structure.

The attribute of meaningful by the mind to an experience allows it to be accessed by a symbol.
And experience can only be controlled when it is clothed in symbol.

The sense of living in a meaningful, as opposed to chaotic universe
Creates a belief in an underlying structure to life.
Purpose and predictability.

A church represents that structure.

In the same way that the statues in the Babylonian temples
Were the deity....

As they still are in Tibetan shrine rooms
And upon many pagan alters.

Is it true then, that order out of chaos is indeed the very first creation story?

The specifics of Marduk and Tiamat
And poor little Kingu
Is old.

But it is not the oldest creation story.

The creation of the heap
Seems older
Of the flow of water creating an island
And on that island there grows a tree....

But desert folk had little experience of floods and rivers and no time for that story.

The truth shall set you free...

One of the great conceits of people who do hierarchy
Is that hard won information
Should be placed behind

The culturalist notion that
Pearls should not be cast before swine
Provides many bricks

Commodification (in the Marxist sense) of information
Many more.

People have died
Trying to dismantle this wall

Perhaps Jesus was one of them...

Dismantling sentences packed full of elite jargon
Takes down the bricks

Hierarchy and commodification kill..

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The double Goddess of war.

Before the battle.
The Spartans sacrificed a female goat to Artemis Agrotera...

After the battle, a helmet, a shield, and a spear taken from the enemy would be set upon a wooden stake, to start the repair of the disorder of war by laying out the symbolic 'bones' of the dead in the form of the tropaion.

After the battle
The goat skin would be wrapped around the trophy: the aeigis placed upon the tropaion.

And the tropaion became Athena.

Artemis to Athena.

Neither Goddess is usually connected directly to war, or known as a Goddess of war, and yet here is a clear example of their connection to it.

Where to begin!

Pausanias  wrote of a temple to Artemis at Agrae on the Ilissos [link]  5th century BC.

Plutarch and Aristophanes describe goat sacrifice: during the Boedromia, on the seventh day of Boedromion (roughly, the beginning of September), an armed procession would take 600 goats to this temple, where they would all be sacrificed by a warlord in honour of the victory at the Battle of Marathon...

The Spartans were at Marathon..

Anyway, the number of goats to be sacrifices was supposed to equal the number of Persian warriors slain, but as this would have been too many, the number was reduced to a mere 500 or so.

Forget about the number of goats!
Xenophon said it was just 90!
Forget the goats!

Start again.

Before setting off to war the army sacrificed many animals at the sanctuary of Hyakinthides in full view of the enemy before battle began...The Hyakinthides bear a name very similar to Hyacinth, but let's forget about that too.

The Hyakinthides were the daughters of Erectheus, king of Athens.
When Athens was at war with Eleusis, or as another story tells it, when Athens was sent plague by Zeus, the two girls went willingly to their death to save the lives of the people of their city...the name of their father is sometimes given as Hyakinthos, not Erectheus.

In Euripides play 'Erectheus' (not much of which, remains!) Athena institutes sacred dances and festivals to honour the girls. One of these is called the Orthaia. And Artemis had a temple in Sparta, or rather Artemis Orthaia had a temple which, again Pausanius describes:


"I will give other evidence that the Orthia in Lacedaemon is the wooden image from the foreigners. Firstly, Astrabacus and Alopecus, sons of Irbus, son of Amphisthenes, son of Amphicles, son of Agis, when they found the image straightway became insane. Secondly, the Spartan Limnatians, the Cynosurians, and the people of Mesoa and Pitane, while sacrificing to Artemis, fell to quarrelling, which led also to bloodshed; many were killed at the altar and the rest died of disease. An oracle was delivered to them, that they should stain the altar with human blood. He used to be sacrificed upon whomsoever the lot fell, but Lycurgus changed the custom to a scourging of the ephebos, and so in this way the altar is stained with human blood. By them stands the priestess, holding the wooden image. Now it is small and light, but if ever the scourgers spare the lash because of a lad's beauty or high rank, then at once the priestess finds the image grow so heavy that she can hardly carry it. She lays the blame on the scourgers, and says that it is their fault that she is being weighed down. So the image ever since the sacrifices in the Tauric land keeps its fondness for human blood. They call it not only Orthia, but also Lygodesma (Λυγοδέσμα - Willow-bound), because it was found in a thicket of willows, and the encircling willow made the image stand upright." (Description of Greece III, 16, 9–11)[5]

The sanctuary is located in a natural basin between Limnai and the west bank of the Eurotas River, outside ancient Sparta, above the reach of all but the severest flooding. The oldest relics, pottery fragments from the late Greek Dark Ages, indicate that the cult has probably existed since the 10th century BCE, but not before (Rose in Dawkins 1929:399).[3] Originally, the cult celebrated its rituals on a rectangular earthen altar, built up by the ashes of successive sacrifices. At the very beginning of the 8th century BCE, the temenos was paved with river stones and surrounded by a trapezoidal wall. A wood and stone altar was then built as well as a temple. The works were financed by the wars waged by Sparta. [link]

Reading between the lines, a wooden statue was found depicting a goddess and it sent people mad!

Euripides sends Iphigenia to the land of the statue's origin in 'Iphegenia in Tauris' instead of having her sacrificed to Artemis by her father before the battle of Troy.
"Goddess Artemis saved me and substituted a deer, which my father sacrificed believing he was thrusting the sharp blade into me. Then she brought me to stay in this land."
A temple was built and it was found that human blood spilt upon the alter prevented plague.

The blood was offered via scourging...

Trying to get to the cheese!

During the Roman period, according to Cicero, the ritual of cheese on the alter and whipping people trying to take it became a blood spectacle, sometimes to the death, with spectators from all over the empire. An amphitheatre had to be built in the 3rd century CE to accommodate the tourists. Libanios indicates that the spectacle was attracting the curious as late as the 4th century CE.

And you know what, it would still work!

But going back
Forget about cheese whipping, goats and Hyacinths..

The theme here is the sacrifice of girls to Artemis, in order to summon disorder followed by restoration and the transformation into order, the presence of Athena. The goat is sacrificed to begin the killing. The goat's death is a precursor to more killing; the sight of blood, the female goat a symbol perhaps of domesticity, of women, of girls, of vulnerability (the emotional vulnerability of the men) and when it is all over, the goat skin turns the tropian into Athena.

The transformation of Artemis into Athena recalls the relationship between Ereshkigal and her sister, Inana.

As if blood and death belong to Artemis, as ultimately they belong to Ereshkigal and order is restored under the protection of Athena/ Inana/Ishtar..

Inana is described as a 'war god' mainly I guess because she is not what nice classical scholars thought of as feminine, she wasn't the Virgin Mary!

In battle, I am your leader
In combat, I am your armour-bearer
In the assembly, I am your advocate
n the campaign, I am your inspiration
You, the chosen shepherd of the holy shrine
You, the king, the faithful provider of Uruk,
You, the light of An's great shrine
In all ways you are fit
To hold your head high on the lofty dais
To sit on the lapis lazuli throne
To cover your head with the holy crown
To wear long clothes on your body
To bind yourself with the garment of kingship
To race on the road with the holy sceptre in your hand
And the holy sandals on you feet
You, the sprinter, the chosen shepherd
In all ways I find you fit
May your heart enjoy long days.
That which An determined for you - may it not be altered
That which Enlil has granted - may it not be altered
You are the favourite of Ningal
Inanna holds you dear.'

Words like this, authorizing the king to rule under the protection of the city goddess were once seen, by the light of post Victorian sentimentality as unfeminine and unusual.

They don't seem so strange, today.

No one is too sure if this image is of Inana or Ereshkigal.

She could be both.
Inana provides for the land, through Ereskhkigal...

Or it could just be Lilith!

As Inana she holds the symbol of the grain store in both hands
Yet her feet have become bird-like
Recalling the description of the inhabitants of the Netherworld found in Gilgamesh.

All I can say is that Inana could be the protector of a city, but Ereshkigal could not...well, not this side of life. Ereshkigal was the abducted girl, taken by the enemy, and as Herodotus points out and the Iliad shows, the abduction of women is cause for war.

Why sacrifice to Artemis?
She is the huntress, good with arrows, but why would she help win a war when her concern is the wild.

Her brother on the other hand, had plague arrows (Iliad)
Rather like Nergal, the husband of Ereshkigal.

The Homeric hymns give no clue:

I sing of Artemis, whose shafts are of gold, who cheers on the hounds, the pure maiden, shooter of stags, who delights in archery, own sister to Apollo with the golden sword. Over the shadowy hills and windy peaks she draws her golden bow, rejoicing in the chase, and sends out grievous shafts. The tops of the high mountains tremble and the tangled wood echoes awesomely with the outcry of beasts: earthquakes and the sea also where fishes shoal. But the goddess with a bold heart turns every way destroying the race of wild beasts: and when she is satisfied and has cheered her heart, this huntress who delights in arrows slackens her supple bow and goes to the great house of her dear brother Phoebus Apollo, to the rich land of Delphi, there to order the lovely dance of the Muses and Graces. There she hangs up her curved bow and her arrows, and heads and leads the dances, gracefully arrayed, while all they utter their heavenly voice, singing how neat-ankled Leto bare children supreme among the immortals both in thought and in deed.

 Muse, sing of Artemis, sister of the Far-shooter, the virgin who delights in arrows, who was fostered with Apollo. She waters her horses from Meles deep in reeds, and swiftly drives her all-golden chariot through Smyrna to vine-clad Claros where Apollo, god of the silver bow, sits waiting for the far-shooting goddess who delights in arrows.
And so hail to you, Artemis, in my song and to all goddesses as well. Of you first I sing and with you I begin; now that I have begun with you, I will turn to another song.

It seems that Ereshkigal's role of sacrifice, is taken by Iphegenia, or the Hyakinthides sacrificed to Artemis.

The goat is sacrificed in their place because there is a deep taboo against killing, and war is horror.
Every man standing before the battle knows this.

The goat is killed....
The war can begin.
It is easier to begin a war when the pain of loss and jealousy are called up by images of innocent victims.

In another ritual many goats are slain representing the sacrifice of youth...perhaps...

Kurukulla, one of the 21 forms of Tara.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

From the Great Above she set her mind on the Great Below...

From the Great Above she set her mind on the Great Below. 
From the Great Above the goddess set her mind on the Great Below. 
From the Great Above Inana set her mind on the Great Below. 
My mistress abandoned heaven, abandoned earth, and descended to the underworld. 
Inana abandoned heaven, abandoned earth, and descended to the underworld...