I want to continue now for just a bit on the subject of the geography of the Bronze Age world before we move to other issues that bear directly on our world today.
Wilkens locates several more of the places named by Homer using not only descriptions of the landscape, but also place names and etymology, and travel and sailing directions. In this way, we find the kingdom of Menelaus in Spain, and Argos corresponds roughly to the northern half of France.
There are, in fact, many place names in France derived from “Argos,” including the Argonne region, west of Verdun, Argouges, Arromanches, Argoeuvre and Argueil.
We already learned that Homer’s Egypt corresponds roughly with the present French department of Seine-Maritime. Homer describes how Menelaus, on his way home from Troy to Sparta, stopped off to erect a monument to his brother Agamemnon, assassinated on his return home to Mycenaea. Aside from the fact that it would not make sense for a Greek king to erect a monument to his dead brother or to make offerings to unknown gods in a foreign country, the described events would be absolutely nonsensical in the geography of the Mediterranean where Egypt is too far away for anyone to visit it “on the way from Turkey to Greece.”
So, it seems pretty obvious, now that we have connected the Gog Magog hills to infamous fall of Troy, known to all throughout the ancient world, that when Homer writes about “Thebes of Egypt” and “Thebes of the Seven Gates” and the town of Cadmus and the Cadmeians, he isn’t talking about the land of the Pharaohs. Thebes, in the Egypt we now know as Egypt was known as Wase until the time of Alexander the Great and had no walls or gates. Homer knew Thebes as the present day port of Dieppe.
In the Odyssey, after losing 11 ships out of 12, Odysseus sails away from Lamus “grieved at heart, glad to have escaped death.” He allowed the tide to carry them along and came at last to:
… the isle of Aeaea, where dwelt fair-tressed Circe, a dread goddess of human speech, own sister to Aeetes of baneful mind; and both are sprung from Helius, who gives light to mortals, and from Perse, their mother, whom Oceanus begot. Here we put into shore with our ship in silence, into a harbour where ships may lie, and some god guided us. (Odyssey X, 133-141)
Homer tells us that Odysseus arrived at a flat island where there are tides, and another similar island close by. This describes the delta of a river, close to the sea. The estuaries of great rivers such as the Nile, the Euphrates and the Ganges, have historically been religious centers and it is likely that this was the case in pre-Christian Europe as well. The great delta of the Rhine is just such a place.
The Celts certainly attached particular religious importance to the Rhine (Celt rene = rebirth), the Meuse (Celt moza = to moult, symbol of transformation, and the Schelde. These three rivers together form a major estuary in the province of Zeeland in southwest Netherlands.
Among the many islands of this estuary, there is one called Schouwen whose capital isZierikzee, a name that, according to Wilkens, has no meaning in Dutch. Four hundred years ago, Justus Lipsius, a professor at the University of Leyden, said that if the “c” in Circe is pronounced like a soft “z” the name sounds exactly like Zierikzee. It was supposed to be an academic joke, but with the tools of etymology and other clues in the area, Wilkens suggests that it is possible to confirm that Circe and Zierikzee are one and the same name.
According to the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, the word “church” comes from Old English cirice or circe, a word that clearly seems to be cognate with Circe. We also know that the dialectal form of Circe (also found in Greek) was Kirke and etymologists are agreed that the Dutch word for “church”, kerk, the German Kirche and the Scots kirk all come from the Old Saxon kirika, another word cognate with Kirke or Circe. [Wilkens]
Thus, if Zierikzee, which has been spelled many ways on old maps, including Zierixzee, Sierckzee, and Zircze, was the same word as circe meaning “sacred place” or “church”, then Circe must have been the name of the goddess whose name was Church. The name of the island, sometimes also attributed to Circe, Aeaea is the most ancient version of the name of the Earth goddess, Gaia, the source of all life.
It has been suggested that the house of Circe stood in the vicinity of Zierikzee where, in the Christian era, the monastery of Syon was built on foundations of large dressed stones that were fitted together without cement, revealing a very ancient origin.
Around the house of Circe which Odysseus approaches, as described Homer, are wolves and lions. The names of two villages in the area are Wolfaartsdijk (Wolves’ dyke) andLewedorp (Lion-village).
Circe drugs the men’s food and drink and turns them into swine and puts them in a pig pen. Marine charts show a sandbank in the vicinity of Zierikzee called Berendam, meaning “pig pen.” A historical atlas of the Netherlands shows us that in the Roman era, the waters to the north and the east of the island on which the ports lay were calledHelinium, a latinized version of Helion, a reminder of Circe’s father Helius. The atlas is probably based on the writings of Pliny who stated that Helinium was on the southern branch of the Rhine. Tacitus writes that in his day, it was commonly believed that Ulysses (a variation of the name Odysseus) had been in Northern Europe:
The Germans, like many other peoples, are said to have been visited by Hercules and they sing of him as the foremost of all the heroes when they are about to engage in battle. Ulysses also, in all those fabled wanderings of his, is supposed by some to have reached the northern sea and visited German lands, and to have founded and named Asciburgium (town of acceptance), a town on the Rhine inhabited to this day. They even add that an altar consecrated by Ulysses and inscribed also with the name of his father Laertes was discovered long ago at this same place, and that certain barrows with monuments upon them bearing Greek inscriptions still exist on the borders of Germany and Raetia. I do not intend to argue either for or against these assertions; each man must accept or reject them as he feels inclined. [Tacitus, Germania, 3, translated by H. Mattingly, Penguin Classics]
Odysseus and his companions remained with Circe for a year. It is thought that the story of Odysseus is a story of initiation into the Hyperdimensional mysteries, but I am not going to go into that now since we need to stay with the geography and mythical correspondences for the moment. Odysseus asked Circe to send them back to Ithaca (Spain) and she agreed on one condition:
…but you must first complete another journey, and come to the house of Hades and dread Persephone, to seek soothsaying of the spirit of Theban Teiresias, the blind seer…[Odyssey X, 490…]
The ancients associated Hades with rebirth and cyclical renewal through his wife Persephone who joined her husband for only three or four months of the year, during winter.
The island of Hades is found in the extreme Southwest of Zeeland and is now known as Walcheren, a name cognate with the German Walkuren and EnglishValkyries, the handmaidens of Odin who in Nordic mythology, rode through the air and picked out the heroes who were to fall in battle, and accompanied the dead into the world beyond. In the Iliad, this was the task of the Ker(often translated as ‘Fate), and if we combine this word with the Old NorseVal, meaning both “battlefield” and “dead warrior”, we get Val-ker, pluralValkeren, clearly the same as Walcheren (the island) and Valkyries… Homer explains: “He had fallen to Ker and gone down to the house of Hades.” (Odyssey VI, 11) [Wilkens]
On the island of Walcheren, there is an ancient town named Veere. The locals say that Veere simply means “ferry”. However, there are countless island ports having ferry links, and only a single place named Veere. Wilkens thinks that Veer owes its name to Persephone:
…via the well-known dialect forms of her name, which ere Phere-phatta andPher(r)-phassa, meaning “(she who) carries doves” which is symbolic language for “ferries souls” because for the ancients, a particular type of immaculate white dove represented the part of a human being that is ever-lasting: the soul. (This also explains the name of the region near Zierikzee which is called Duiveland, not only meaning “Land of doves”, but foremost “land of souls”). Persephone was indeed the goddess responsible for sending the souls to Hades in attendance of their resurrection to a new life. For this voyage she embarked them on Charon’s boat or “ferry” just as Isis was believed to send the souls of the dead by boat to the Other World. […]
…Charon’s boat can still be seen on the coats of arms of Veere, passing under a shield which hangs between two pillars guarded by warriors armed with clubs and holding snakes in their hands. Persephone was often called by her surname Core (Greek Kore) which relates to the Dutch koren and the English corn as she was the goddess of renewal of Nature… But even more important was her role in the resurrection of the human soul. [Wilkens]
It seems that the name of Odysseus is perpetuated in the town of Vlissingen (Ulyssingen). Wilkens tells us that this town is not very evocative of an ancient past because it has been destroyed in almost every major European war, necessitating frequent rebuilding. Wilkens knew that the only likelihood of finding evidence of Odysseus there might be in the coat of arms of the town.
The first impression of the arms was rather disappointing, as it merely shows a white vase with a gold mask. While I was still in doubt about its heraldic significance, my wife was already convinced that it symbolized the Grail and for good reason: it turned out that the local population calls the vase simply “the bottle” because of an ancient legend about Saint Willibrord having “twelve beggars” drank from his bottle, the contents of which did not diminish.” […] The Odyssey, being an initiation story, is clearly a quest for the Grail, thus explaining the vase on the arms of Vlissingen. The Odyssey is therefore the oldest epic about the Grail, which was to be found exactly where, in the Bronze Age, the initiation rites were performed. […]
It is not surprising to find the Grail also in nearby Middelburg as this town was the centre of Hades’ island. The city was originally built in a perfect circle, which is still evident today from the layout of the streets. In the eleventh century, a large abbey was built in the town centre around a sculpture of the Grail standing in the large inner courtyard. [Wilkens]
Wilkens identifies another island in the region, Pytho, today called Putten, which gave its name to the oracle at Delphi. Delphi itself was the old name for Delft. Delphi was considered to be the “navel of the world,” the link between heaven and earth. The link is symbolically preserved in the coats of arms of Delft, which shows a straight vertical column linking the very bottom of the shield to the very top.
We next come to the issue of the kingdom of Agamemnon, commander of all the Achaean armies, “Lord of many isles and of all Argos.” Finding Agamemnon’s capital, Mycenae, was a bit of a puzzle for Wilkens.
It is unlikely that he lived in the region where Paris now lies, for in Homer’s time this region was known as “broad Helice” (Elysée). Nearby was a place called Gonoessa which must be in the region of the present Gonesse, just north of Paris. It is generally thought that Paris itself was founded after Homer’s time by the Parigii, a Celtic tribe who were still living there at the time of the Romans (who called the town Lutetia). According to some scholars, the name Paris is connected with sun worship, as dolmens have been found with images of a sun ship strikingly similar to the Egyptian sun ships. It seems that there were indeed certain links between the Druids and the cult of the Egyptian goddess Isis. The sun ship, which is still found in the Paris coats of arms, gave its name to the city, via Barisis (Barque d’Isis”, or “boat of Isis”). There can be little doubt that Paris owes its name to Isis, as we also have written evidence that this goddess – usually associated only with Egypt of the pharaohs – was venerated first in northern Europe. […] The authority in question is Tacitus, writing about the Germans in 98 AD:
Above all other gods they worship Mercury (the Latin equivalent of Hermes) and count it no sin, on certain feast-days, to include human victims in the sacrifices offered to him. Hercules and Mars (Ares) they appease by offerings of animals, in accordance with ordinary civilized custom. Some of the Suebi (German: Schwaben) sacrifice also to Isis. I do not know the origin or explanation of this cult; but the goddess’ emblem, being made in the form of a light warship, itself proves that her cult came in from abroad.
Isis’ boat, which had a symbolic meaning, the passage to the Other World, obviously does not “prove” that she came in from the Land of the Pharaohs. The above passage proves only that we still know very little about the relationship between the cults of the Druids and those of the Near East. Isis was also worshipped in England, where the alternative name of the upper reaches of the Thames in Oxfordshire is the Isis. The Isis cult must have spread in Europe after Homer’s time, as he never mentions her and her name figures neither in the Celtic nor the Nordic pantheon. [Also note that] the Celtic name Cleopatra “migrated” to Egypt. […]
As for the ancient capital of Argos, Mycenae, this could be a contraction of a name meaning Mysteries-on-Seine (mystery being cognate with the Greekmusterion = secret), a place of Gnostic initiation. It is unlikely that this town, described by Homer as being “opulent” and having “broad streets”, was the present Mussy-sur-Seine, a small village about 40 km southeast of Troyes, despite the phonetic resemblance of the names. It is much more likely that Mycenae changed its name after the Trojan War, to become Troyes, to commemorate forever Agamamnons’ victory. [Wilkens]
Located 160 km East of Paris, Troyes (pronounced trwa and not troy) is a Medieval town on the shores of the Seine river. It is the capital of Aube, which is one of the 3 departments (administrative counties ) of the Champagne region along with Marne and the Haute Marne. One of the curiosities of the area is the shape of the town, which is described as the shape of a champagne cork and is called the Bouchon de Champagne. Seen from above, the resemblance is quite amazing.
As I contemplated the above image, I was reminded of the claim that the word “Mycenaea” means “place of the mushroom.” I had always been a bit puzzled by this definition, but when looking at an aerial view of Troyes, as above, it certainly looks more like a mushroom than the cork of a champagne bottle. In fact, it has a positively phallic appearance!
There is a curious item that this brought to mind: there is a tableaux on one of the porches of Chartres Cathedral of Melchizedek, the “king-priest of Salem,” and the Queen of Sheba. Equidistant between them is the Ark of the Covenant in a cart. Melchizedek is holding a cup that is supposed to be the Holy Grail. Inside this cup is a cylindrical object of stone. Of course, one wonders what Melchizedek is doing with the Queen of Sheba who is supposed to be contemporary with Solomon, but there are many mysteries here. But, what we notice, first of all, is that the object held by Melchizedek very much resembles an upside down mushroom!
So, being linked by “mushroom images” to the Ark of the Covenant, we think simultaneously about that most remarkable of incidents in the Bible where David danced before the Ark of the Covenant – in his underwear, no less – and the god “dancing all night” in the round temple of the Hyperboreans!
What a strange juxtaposition of images!
Next, our mind naturally turns toward the fact that there are claims that either the the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail were the objects of the Templars sojourn and searches in Jerusalem, and that the Council of Troyes is where the Templars were created as an official order in 1128, under the guidance of Bernard of Clairvaux, a relative of the Counts of Champagne.
Then we come to the fact that a fellow named Chretien de Troyes was supposed to have started the “Holy Grail Story” craze, and that his patroness was Marie de Champagne, wife of the Count of Champagne, and that Troyes is called Bouchon de Champagne.
That is just a small “loop of connections” and it would take us too far afield just now to follow it, but keep it in mind.
If Homer’s Argos was the northern half of France, it is not very surprising that the poet should call it a “horse raising” country and qualify the kingdom as “opulent”, because it includes the richest land in France, a factor of vital importance in an age when a country’s wealth depended almost entirely on agriculture. […]
We shall see that Agamemnon’s Argos extended westwards to the Gironde, northwards to Brittany, and eastward to the far side of the Rhine. […]
Agamemnon was commander-in-chief of the Achaean armies, so that even the greatest hero of the Iliad, Achilles, a native of the Rhine delta, owed him allegiance. […]
But one thing that is highly confusing for the reader of Homer is that he uses the name “Argos” not only for Agamamnon’s kingdom, but also sometimes for a town, a province or even all the Celtic territories of Europe, with the possible exception of Crete (Scandinavia). Similarly, he refers to the Continental allies apparently indiscriminately as Achaeans, Danaans (a name deriving from Danaus, a king of Argos), or Argives, the people of Argos. […]
In Homer, Argos in its broadest sense included all the Celtic territory down to the south of Spain, where there was the town of Ephyre in Elide, “in the corner of Argos.” Here was also the home of Helen of Argos. The present name of the region of Aragon in Spain is also a reminder of Celtic Argos. […]
Argos was not only the name of a territory, but was also a common Celtic man’s name and even Odysseus’ dog was called Argos. It can be traced back to the very origins of the Indo-European languages, for it is derived, via “argros,” from the Sanskrit root “rjra” meaning “bright” hence “argent” or silver. In the Celtic era “argos” meant “white…” [Wilkens]
The royal family of Argos at the time of the Trojan war were known as the Atreidae after Agamemnon’s father, Atreus who had usurped the throne from the Perseid dynasty, the legitimate heirs. Agamemnon was a son of Pelops. Pelops was the central figure in a rather bizarre story. Apparently, during his childhood, his father was visited by the Olympian gods. The father, Tantalus, had the crazy idea to test the omniscience of the gods by serving them his own son for dinner. All of the divine guests except one, recognized that human flesh was being served to them and did not eat. Demeter, however, had already munched on the shoulder. So, when the angry gods reassembled the child, a part was missing that Demeter had eaten, and as a consequence, she gave him an ivory shoulder. As a consequence, ever after, his descendants had a white birthmark on their shoulder.
Pindar rejects this story saying that Pelops was driven from his kingdom of Lydia by Ilus, king of Troy and went with his followers to Greece. (And of course, we suspect that this was not the Greece we now know as Greece.) In spite of many advantages and favors from the gods (including being revived by them after his own father stewed him for dinner) Pelops apparently was a rather deceitful and treacherous character. That is probably the reason he was able to become so powerful, annexing many other lands to his kingdom including Arcadia. Several of his acts of treachery resulted curses on him and his descendants.
Pelops sons, Atreus and Thyestes killed their half-brother to satisfy their mother. Pelops cursed them and banished them. Atreus and Thyestes went to the king of Mycenae, Sthenelus, son of Perseus and Andromeda, the husband of their sister Nicippe (or Amphibia) for aid. Sthenelus put them to work as governors of the city of Midea.
Aerope, the daughter of Catreus, the king of Crete (which we now know as Scandinavia), was bought as a slave by Atreus, who then married her. Their sons were Agamemnon and Menelaus. Unfortunately, Aerope fell in love with her husband’s brother, Thyestes. In this event is the answer to the question: how did Atreus become king of Mycenaea?
Atreus had vowed to sacrifice to Artemis the finest lamb born in his flocks that year. To test him, the goddess sent him a lamb with a golden fleece, which Atrieus killed and kept in a chest. Aerope, his wife, stole the fleece and gave it to Atreus’ brother, Thyestes.
Perseus’ son, Sthenelus, and grandson, Eurystheus, had both died, and the kingdom was, apparently, without a king. The Delphic oracle was consulted, and the people were told to choose a king from the rulers of Midea, i.e. Atreus or Thyestes. Thyestes cleverly suggested that they should choose the one who could produce a golden fleece. Atreus agreed, thinking he had such a fleece in his treasure chest. Naturally, he was quite astonished when Thyestes produced one of his own.
Atreus then proposed that Thyestes could keep the kingdom unless he, Atreus, made the sun reverse its course. Thyestes, of course, thought Atreus was mad to make such a proposal and he agreed. However, the impossible apparently happened, and Thyestes had to cede the throne to Atreus.
Atreus exiled his brother and only later found out that the brother had absconded with his golden fleece. He invited his brother to a banquet and Atreus served up his three sons to him as the main course. When Thyestes had finished eating, Atreus showed him the hands and feet of his dead children and told him what he had eaten.
Thyestes was sent again into exile cursing Atreus and his children. He went to the Delphic oracle to inquire how he could get revenge, how to make his curse effective. He was told to have a child by his own daughter Pelopia. He disguised himself and raped her, but she managed to take his sword and hide it under a statue of Athena.
As a result of Thyestes’ curse and Atreus’ wickedness, a famine came over the land of Argos. Atreus consulted the oracle to discover how he might atone and was told to bring his brother, Thyestes, back home. He went searching for his brother and came across Pelopia and fell in love with her. He married her, not knowing she was pregnant. When her baby, Aegisthus was born, she abandoned it, but Atreus retrieved the child and had him brought up at court.
Meanwhile, Atreus sent his sons, Agamemnon and Menelaus to find Thyestes. They happened upon him visiting the Delphic oracle, captured him, and hauled him back to Mycenaea. Atreus tossed him in a cell and sent Aegisthus, now grown, to kill him, giving him by chance the very sword that Pelopia had taken from Thyestes. When Thyestes saw the sword, he asked Aegisthus where he had obtained it, and the boy told him that it belonged to his mother. Thyestes asked as a last favor that he might speak to Pelopia and he told her the truth: he was both her father and the father of her son.
Pelopia was so shamed that she immediately committed suicide with Thyestes sword and Aegisthus, refusing to slay his own father, took the blood drenched sword to Atreus, claiming that he had done the dirty deed. Atreus prepared to thank the gods for the death of his hated brother, and as he stood by the altar on the seashore, Aegisthus ran him through with the sword and avenged Thyestes.
Now, remember Thyestes’ curse on Atreus and his offspring because Atreus had killed Thyestes’ sons and fed them to him for dinner? It was popularly thought that the fate of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, was a consequence of this curse and that Aegisthus, born of the rape of Pelopia (as advised by the oracle) was the agent of execution. Wilken’s writes:
As for the royal house of Argos, we know from ancient Greek literature, which must have drawn on Druidic tradition come from the north, that Agamemnon’s family, the house of the Atreidae, had known a series of bloody dramas. In the Odyssey, Homer recounts the grisly end of Agamemnon himself, assassinated the very day of his triumphant return from Troy by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus. When Odysseus goes down to Hades to question the souls of dead warriors, the king’s soul approaches him to tell how he was killed by his own wife:
“He [Agamemnon] knew me [Odysseus] straightway, when he had drunk the dark blood, and he wept aloud, and shed big tears and stretched forth his hands toward me eater to reach me. But no longer had he aught of strength or might remain such as of old was in his supple limbs.
“When I saw him I wept, and my heart had compassion on him, and I spoke, and addressed him with winged words: ‘Most glorious son of Atreus, king of man, Agamemnon, what fate of grievous death overcame thee?'” [Odyssey, XI, 390-398]
If one were just reading Homer without any awareness of the stories attached to the other players, it would be hard to understand just why Clytemnestra hated her husband so much that she wanted to be personally involved in his murder. She could, after all, have left the job to her lover or to hired assassins. But Homer doesn’t tell us why Clytemnestra hated Agamemnon. In order to understand the details, we have to go to Aeschylus.
Upon the death of Atreus, Thyestes took the kingdom of Mycenae and Atreus’ sons fled to Sparta’s king, Tyndareos.
Tyndareos had two daughters: Clytemnestra and Helen who married Agamemnon and Menelaus respectively. This was a bit iffy because Clytemnestra was already married to a son of Thyestes, Tantalus. Agamemnon didn’t let that bother him: he killed Clytemnestra’s husband, tore her baby out of her arms, and murdered it before her eyes.
Aided by his new father-in-law, king Tyndareos, Agamemnon returned to Mycenaea with an army and drove Thyestes out. He fled to the island of Cythera where he died.
There were four children born to Agamemnon and Clytemnestra: three daughters, Iphigenia, Electra, and Chrysothemis, and a son, Orestes.
Aeschylus tells us that when the Achaean armies were assembled in Aulis, ready to attack Troy, the fleet was held in port by gales. When the weather would not clear up day after day, a seer was consulted who said the goddess was angry and the only way to calm her down was to sacrifice a royal virgin, Iphigenia.
Agamemnon sent a messenger to Argos telling Clytemnestra that he has promised the girl in marriage to Achilles. When Iphigenia arrives for what she thinks is going to be a wedding, she is taken to the altar to have her throat cut.
Now Homer not only doesn’t mention this episode, in the Iliad, Agamemnon, long after his arrival at Troy, offers all three of his daughters in marriage to Achilles. Naturally, we wonder which version of the story is more “original.”
There are two versions of what happened when Iphigenia was led to the altar. Aeschylus tells us that she was killed there by the priests in the presence of her father, Agamemnon. Euripides, however, asserts that Artemis substituted a hind at the last moment and the girl was saved.
In any event, it is, according to Aeschylus, because of the sacrifice of her daughter that Clytemnestra brooded on revenge against her husband. Well, heck, who can blame her? And what about her first baby that Agamemnon brutally tore from her arms and killed?
The problem with the story, as Wilkens points out for us, is that it is very unlikely that the sacrifice of Iphigenia – if it took place at all under the terms described – happened in Aulis where the Achaean fleet was assembled. Aulis was identified by Wikens as the north of Jutland for the following reason: if the fleet was unable to sail due to storm winds, it would not have been possible for a ship to make the round trip to Argos to fetch the girl, nor would Clytemnestra have known about the sacrifice until a long time later. This suggests that Clytemnestra’s bloodlust was due to the fact that the sacrifice of her daughter took place neither in the place, nor at the time, put forth by Aeschylus.
We can still find out when, why and even where, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter. Before going off to war, this ambitious king, commander-in-chief of the Achaean armies, asked the gods to grant him the thing he wanted most of all, victory over the Trojans. In exchange he had to offer the person most dear to him, his daughter Iphigenia. She was therefore not sacrificed, as the Greeks later came to believe, for a minor problem of offense to the goddess, but for something far more important: victory in the greatest war the world of that time had ever seen. The sacrifice must have then been made in Mycenae, before Agamemnon’s army marched. It is fairly safe to say that the tragedy of Iphigenia took place where Troyes now stands, in the Bronze Age capital of France and that the distraught mother was present at the horrifying spectacle. [Wilkens]
What strikes me about the tragedy of Iphigenia is that this same essential story is told in the Bible.
The ancient Greek civilization dedicated one of their harvest festivals to the goddess of the earth and all grain, Demeter. The festival, known as the Thesmosphoria, was celebrated for three days and featured the building of shelters by married women, fasting and offerings to Demeter. The connection between married women and the festival may point to a belief that childbearing and healthy crops were interconnected. The wordMete is, of course, related to mother, and De is the delta, or triangle, a female genital sign. This letter in the ancient alphabets originally represented the Door of birth, death, or sexual paradise. Thus, the booth or Tabernacle, was little more than a structure set up to manifest a doorway. Doorways in general were considered sacred to the Goddesses, and in Sumeria they were painted red to represent the female blood of life. In Egypt, doorways were smeared with real blood for the religious rites of the goddess. (Where have we heard of that before?)
The cult of Demeter which celebrated the Eleusinian rites was well established in Mycenae in the 13th century BC, and it is more than likely that the Feast of Tabernacles in Canaan was an offshoot of this activity. Our sources of information regarding the Eleusinian Mysteries include the ruins of the sanctuary there, numerous statues, bas reliefs, and pottery. We also have reports from ancient writers such as Aeschylos, Sophocles, Herodotus, Aristophanes, Plutarch, and Pausanias – all of whom were initiates – as well as the accounts of Christian commentators like Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, Tertullian, and Astorias, who were critics and not initiates. Yet for all this evidence, the true nature of the Mysteries remains shrouded in uncertainty because the participants were remarkably steadfast in honoring their pledge not to reveal what took place in the Telesterion, or inner sanctum of the Temple of Demeter. To violate that oath of secrecy was a capital offense. For these reasons, scholars today must make use of circumstantial evidence and inferences, with the result that there is still no consensus as to what did or did not take place.
Foucart and his followers concluded that the Mysteries at Eleusis originally must have come from Egypt. The fact is, the sanctuary ruins in Eleusis evidently go back centuries earlier than the Egyptian Hymn to Demeter recited by Homer that is often cited as the proof that the origin was Egyptian. What is more, the excavations have unearthed no Egyptian artifacts there from that period. But of course, we now know that it was not the Egypt of the Pharaohs.
Many scholars today favor the view that the cult of Demeter probably derived from Thessaly or Thrace. They base this conclusion partly on references in Homer and other ancient authors to some evidently pre-Dorian temples to Demeter in the Thessalian towns of Thermopylae, Pyrasos, and Pherai; partly on certain etymological links connecting key words in the rites of Demeter to pre-Hellenic dialects from the north. Other scholars point out that Demeter may be the same as a goddess Dameter, who is mentioned briefly in Linear B tablets from Pylos dating from approximately 1200 BC.
In any case, the undeniable parallels with worship of grain goddesses in other parts of the eastern Mediterranean region point to frequent contacts and the cross-fertilization of religious ideas. And we certainly think that the Canaanite Feast of Tabernacles was a corrupted version of some more ancient form.
As it happens, the term Thesmophoria is derived from thesmoi, meaning, laws, and phoria, carrying, in reference to the goddess as law-bearer. But the symbolism of the Ark of the Covenant with Yahweh as the law bearer in the tent of meeting, or the Mother-Delta, the doorway to the higher realms, replaced the original meaning and the role of women in the process.
Entire books are written that are full of speculations about the Eleusinian rites. I may write one some day myself, but, let me cut to the chase here: The closest we can come to understanding the goal of these rites is to suggest that they had to do with ascent or descent to other realms in order to perform the archetypal act of creation of the New Year.
The New Year festivals of the ancients included rites that symbolized the cyclical nature of time, the exhaustion of cosmic resources resulting in chaos, followed by the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage. This was, effectively, the planting of the seed into the new universe, or the passage through the waters of the flood, in an ark, into the new world. It may also represent, in its most original form, a utilization of the knowledge of Time Loops – a Time Machine.
In this sense, it seems only reasonable to suggest that the ascent or descent may have been the function or goal of the hieros gamos itself and that perhaps the sacred intercourse that symbolized union with the Goddess, also indicated in act, if not in fact, the meeting of man with the divinity, and the receiving of the laws or destinies for the entire group during the coming year – Baal, the consort of the Goddess – Ba-bel, or God’s Gate. Taking this imagery even further into the past – the hypothesized ancient science – it may be that the hieros gamos was only another symbol of the dissolving into time of a Time Machine.
It was during the hieros gamos that the lights were extinguished, the hierogamy took place under the direction of the hierophant, in a tent erected for privacy, and when the lights were re-lit, it was a symbol that the old year had died, and the seed had been planted for the new year to be born. It is said that the ultimate mystery was revealed at Eleusis in the words an ear of corn reaped in silence – a sacred fetish that the Jews called shibboleth.
This business of the shibboleth is an interesting clue here. The word itself is derived from an unused Hebrew root, shebel, which means, to flow as a lady s train, or something that trails after a woman or flows out of her. Thus, the ear of corn is seen as something that grows out of a woman, or that grain flows from her, as grain is the gift of the goddess. We have here an image of just exactly what bio-electronic energy may have been required to transduce cosmic energy to bring down the cars full of baskets of grain as described in the Rg Veda:
The adorable Maruts, armed with bright lances and cuirassed with golden breastplates, enjoy vigorous existence; may the cars of the quick-moving Maruts arrive for our good. Bringers of rain and fertility, shedding water,augmenting food. Givers of abundant food. Your milchkine are never dry. We invoke the food-laden chariots of the Maruts.
The word shibboleth occurs only one place in the Bible, in the book of Judges, chapters 11 and 12. It seems that there was a man named Jephthah who was the son of a harlot. He was kicked out of the family home by the legitimate sons of his father, Gilead, and went off and became a sort of leader of other dispossessed persons. Sounds a bit similar to the exiling of Agamemnon and Menelaus by Thyestes, doesn’t it?
As it happened, his brothers who had kicked him out, the elders of Gilead, were being attacked by the children of Ammon. They desperately needed help, and they knew that Jephthah had a reputation as a fierce warrior with a well-trained band of merry men. So, they went to ask Jephthah for help.
Jephthah pointed out that they had a lot of nerve asking him to help them fight their battles, but they persuaded him by saying if you help us now, we will make you head of the family. That was more than Jephthah could resist, so he agreed. Not only that, but he swore a public oath to Yahweh that if Yahweh made him successful in this enterprise, he would give as a burnt offering whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return. I m sure the reader sees what is coming now. Jephthah was, indeed, successful in his battle.
And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter.
And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back.
And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the Lord, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon.
And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains.
And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.
Well, aside from the fact that if we are to take the Bible literally, we have here a definite indication that Yahweh was originally a God who may have demanded human sacrifice, we most definitely have an indication that Yahweh at least accepted human sacrifice upon occasion! But, in another sense, this is merely another version of the story of the sacrifice of Iphigenia as well as the story where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac, which is almost identical to a Vedic story of Manu. These acts were based on what was called sraddha which is related to the words fides, credo, faith, believe and so on.
The word sraddha was, according to Dumezil and Levi, too hastily understood as faith in the Christian sense. Correctly understood, it means something like the trust a workman has in his tools and techniques as acts of magic! It is, therefore, part of a covenant wherein the sacrificer knows how to perform a prescribed sacrifice correctly, and who also knows that if he performs the sacrifice correctly, it must produce its effect.
In short, it is an act that is designed to gain control over the forces of life that reside in the god with whom one has made the covenant. Such gods as make covenants are not literary ornaments or abstractions. They are active partners with intelligence, strength, passion, and a tendency to get out of control if the sacrifices are not performed correctly. In this sense, the sacrifice is simply magic.
In another sense, the ascetic or self-sacrificer, is a person who is striving for release from the bondage and order of nature by the act of attempting to mortify the self, the flesh; testing and increasing the will for the purpose of winning tyrannical powers while still in the world. He seeks mastery of himself, other men, and even the gods themselves.
In the story of Manu from India, we find that he has a mania for sacrifice just as the ascetics and saints have a mania for self-sacrifice. The most famous of the stories depicts Manu, enslaved to his sraddha, giving up everything of value in his life to the demonic Asura brahmans, Trsta and Varutri. To get something from Manu, all these demons need to do is say Manu, you are a sacrificer, your god is sraddha. So, one thing after another is demanded of him, and finally even his wife, Manavi. Indra, however, intervenes at this point to save Manavi and appears to Manu and uses the same words: Manu, you are a sacrificer, your god is sraddha. To foil the plot of the demonic Brahmins who have produced in Manu the state of sraddha, or the belief in the necessity of sacrifice, Indra demands the sacrifice of the two demonic Brahmins themselves! Manu, being a devotee of sraddha, hands them over without any difficulty, and Indra beheads them with the water of the sacrifice.
Acts of sacrifice are, effectively, acts of trade – an execution of a contract of exchange between man and divinity. I give that you may give. In the story in the Bible where Cain s sacrifice of grain was rejected, we find a reflection of the idea that a godevaluates the greater or lesser worth of a proposed offering.
Manu, deprived of his victim by the merciful intervention of Indra, did not like his rights to be infringed. Finish my sacrifice! he said to Indra. Indra gives him a pledge: The desire you had in taking your wife for your victim, let that desire be granted you; but let that woman be!
In the story of Abraham s sacrifice of his son, Isaac, and the appearance of the ram in the thicket, we have a most interesting variation on this theme. Agni is equated with Vasishtha, lotus born, or of the goddess. We saw that a similar dynamic was proposed for the outcome of the sacrifice of Iphigenia: a deer was provided and Iphigenia was saved.
In the story of Jephthah s daughter, we find that the editor of the biblical texts felt that the story could not be removed because it was so familiar to the people, but had to disguise the true nature of the sacrifice. The matter becomes clearer with the following:
Llew Llaw Gyffes (the Lion with the Steady Hand), a type of Dionysus or Celestial Hercules worshipped in ancient Britain, is generally identified with Lugh, the Goidelic Sun-god Would that it were no more than the Sun! It is the glowing face of Lugh the Long-handed – which nobody could gaze upon without being dazzled.
His death on the first Sunday in August – called Lugh nasadh, later altered to Lugh-mass or Lammas – was until recently observed in Ireland with Good Friday-like mourning and kept as a feast of dead kinsfolk, the mourning procession being always led by a young man carrying a hooped wreath. Lammas was also observed as a mourning feast in most parts of England in mediaeval times
In some parts of Wales Lammas is still kept as a fair. Sir John Rhys records that in the 1850 s the hills of Fan Fach and South Barrule in Carmarthenshire were crowded with mourners for Llew Llaw on the first Sunday in August, their excuse being that they were going up to bewail Jephthah s daughter on the mountain. This, oddly enough, was the very same excuse that the post-Exilic Jewish girls had used, after the Deuteronomic reforms, to disguise their mourning for Tammuz, Llew Llaw s Palestianian counterpart.
The sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter is, thus, another instance where the new view of women as explicated by Hesiod and his Bible writing counterparts was being imposed on the Eastern Mediterranean world. It’s interesting to think about Pandora’s “pithoi” from which troubles flowed with the clue of the shibboleth that is included in the story of Jephthah:
12:4 Then Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead, and fought with Ephraim: and the men of Gilead smote Ephraim, because they said, Ye Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites, and among the Manassites.
12:5 And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay;
12:6 Then said they unto him, Say now Shibboleth: and he said Sibboleth: for he could not frame to pronounce it right. Then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan: and there fell at that time of the Ephraimites forty and two thousand.
Another clue to the Eleusinian rites is that they were said to be celebrated by women only throughout all Greece in the month of Pyanepsion (late October), their characteristic feature being a pig sacrifice, the usual sacrifice to chthonic deities.
The Greeks attributed special powers to pigs on account of their fertility, the potency and abundance of their blood, and perhaps because of their uncanny ability to unearth underground tubers and shoots. Experts suggest that it was believed that mingling pig flesh with the seeds of grain would increase the abundance of next year s harvest. The scholars also tell us that the ceremonies comprised fasting and purification, a ritualized descent into the underworld, and the use of sympathetic magic to bring renewed life back out of the jaws of death.
Thus we see that the participants in the Themosphoria revered swine, and their rituals featured the washing and sacrificing of young pigs sacred to Demeter (although this took place on the beaches at Pireas near Athens rather than at Eleusis itself). And somehow we find this to be a Canaanite practice that is now very strangely juxtaposed against a religion that is known for its ban on pork. Was that because the sacred animal of the rival religion was the pig, or was it because, in some deep inner core of the founding of the religion of Judaism, the pig is actually protected from being eaten because of reverence?