1. Stones as bones of the Earth
Pygmalion carved in stone the body of a woman, which he called Galatea and the sculpture came out so beautiful that he tried to talk with it. Fell in love with her, he besought from Aphrodite to instil life within it, to what the goddess agreed, and so they could join and have children together, and lived happily ever after.
This myth, a beautiful short story or fairy tale as it may seem, reflects however something deeper, that is, the feeling of the ancient human beings in relation to the stone, in which the spirit embodied, and to life -the spirit that encouraged life in Nature- in Prehistory. What is more, stones are the bones of Gea, the Mother Earth, bones and stones being similar in myths
Stones as bones of the Earth
A flat and so strange affirmation requires explanation and comments, glosses and exegesis that can be found in Mythology.
The Greek term hieros means “sacred”, litos signifies “stone”. “Sacralizing” something implied to make it a taboo, to impede its contact, to avoid it could endanger the individuals and the group, being the death, the spirit, the divinities and the blood its better exponents.
The Greek Noah, Deucalion, king of Ftia, and his wife Pirra repopulated the Land after the universal Flood, by throwing stones backwards and being covered their head (imitating the gestures of that who sows, not looking back, or else they could result in being petrified), obeying the counsel of Temis: “you throw backwards the bones of your mother”, which they understood that it referred to the stones of Mother Earth…,
we do not need to interpret, to twist, the myth, whose text says it explicitly: the stones are the bones of the Mother Earth and, if we sow them, out of them alive beings will be reborn. Also it knew it Kadmo who,
in order to found the city of Thebes, he sowed in the land the teeth (bones/stones) of the dragon Aonia that protected the water spring Aretiada (the snake was but the symbol of the Goddess Mother), whom he defeated and killed with his spear, and from that land they arose already armed the spartoi (“sown”) that they fought among themselves, surviving only the five from whom the five lineages of noble Thebans were born…,
as well as the Greek pelasges,
originating in Palestinian in the middle of the IV millennium, who proclaimed
their descent of the teeth (bones/stones) of the snake Ofion, not to talk
about Wyoming Lakotas who assert they come from the underworld.
she gave him to eat a stone wrapped in diapers instead of his son, and Cronos swallowed it, without noticing the deceit.
Well informed as we are now to this respect, it seems not strange that Cronos, that devoured the Hera’s newborns, swallowed the stone that she gave him in the place of the recently born one Zeus: she simply deceived it by making him to believe that it there was born a dead baby. Cronos swallowed the stone, the deceit, the dead person (remember that new alive beings will be borne from the stone/bone in which Life –or Spirit, it is all the same- is embodied). The evangelists also knew it. Mathew in 3.9 and Lucas 3.8, assure that Juan the Baptist proclaimed that God is able
of the stones to cause to be born children to Abraham,
and Jesus approves the crowd to applause him on his entrance to Jerusalem, otherwise
the rocks and stones themselves would start to (scream and) sing.
The sceptical reader can think, and that is your privilege and right, that these interpretations can be but a product of a fancy mind, rather hot, to pull out all the stops, poetic rhetoric that, ingenious as metaphors and play of words as they could be, they do not conform to historic reality. A straight answer to that objection is simply that myths during millenniums have constituted the cultural heritage, the right and the morale, and the media and learning way of the primitive tribes (even in the Iron Age, even to our days), so that it were but a mystical experience of our ancestors with its natural environment, or a matter to be taught through mythology and learned by the new generations, the result is the same one: that the tribes felt (or they learned to see) latent in the stone the vital spirit. (By the way, that “vital” in English means both “life” and “death”). Life was inside the stone and from there it embodied in new alive beings. Hermai were stony pillars (with a phallus in its centre) representing the god Hermes, agricultural as much as psicopompo: that refers to its work of carrying the dead souls to the subsoil world, which shows a correct association between death, fertility and subsoil (the ctonic world).
Stones not only were material for construction. Calculation is a term coming from the Latin calculus that means cobblestone, since we started to account both with the help of the fingers as much as of small stones. The word “ostracism” comes from the Greek ostrakos (that is cobblestone again), since they used to write on there the names of the persons they wanted to keep away.
Since the natural force that made possible the seasonal regeneration of Nature, plants, and new births in the own clan, that natural force was the spirit of the dead person, we can conclude that the spiritual, sacred world, was all it related to Death, the own Spirit (of the dead person and also, in general, of all the nature) and its subsequent foreseeable (re)birth in new beings. An erected stone was the symbol (of the spirit) of the tribal totem, a sign of identity of the group that, besides that, it could also be used as a territorial signal for the strangers.
[When we (re)write “(re)” we do it to signify that the (re)births, (re)generations, would be that of Nature or of the clan as collective group and not as a resurrection or reincarnation of the individual, the concrete person that passed away. The individual resurrection, still in force, was a posterior preposterous pretension. Sacrificial death was a generational ritual thanks to which survival was assured to the Nature and the tribal group rather than to the individuals. The individual’s death made it possible the survival of the group. As to the cenotaphs, empty tombs, they made sense, they were in memory of individuals passed away whose absent body could not be buried. Enclosing his image of course would have helped]
Therefore, we can define the “sacred” world as that related to death (dead world, spirit, gods) including within it Life as it is showed in seasonal cycles, the rituals and the spirits and their representations (then personi-fications, and later divinised); but... restricting it to selected spaces, determined moments, dated festivals and definite persons that were sacred by means of the pertinent rites.
Our world was a sacred world because the sacred Spirit was everywhere, in all the natural elements. Since the Spirit was sacred and the first “kings” incarnated the ancestors’ (totemic) Spirit, the first kings were sacred, before being divinized. The term “king” should be read as meaning the person of the highest -though temporary- dignity in the old tribes, married to the Priestess in hiero-gamatic union and most probably called to be sacrificed for the benefit of the group. That is why they could not be touched –the prohibition still continues with the Japanese Mikado and some primitive tribes- not only because any damage caused to him would result in a same damage for the whole group (once he embodied the tribal spirit of the ancestors), but also because the power that gave him its sacral character could jeopardize anybody that approached him.
In proof of it see what happened to Christ, Moses, Orpheus and Semele. Nolli me tangere, said Jesus to its mother Maria and to Mary Magdalene after having resurrected, “do not dare to touch me”, and said well, since it was coming back from the dead world.
Rites and magic
Being the spirit in the air, in the water, we have seen that
in stones, we will see that in the wood, and the fire, anywhere, everywhere, any
time, at all times, we lived in a permanent danger and risk to be deadly hurt by
the spirit, which shared life as well as dead world, since all our environment
and our daily life seemed to be “sacred”. In order to avoid this unbearable
stress, which would not permit us to live peacefully in our daily routine, we
devised the rites so as to “sacralize” only those things and situations
which were done sacred by means of a strict performance and specific
words established for that purpose.
Rituals were magical but Magic did not work on its own. It needed our action, precise rites and specific words, to be active, to take place. And since rites were the tool and the framework of the magic practices, although we know that the reader is acquainted with the basic elements of the magic in the primitive world, we will try a summary with some examples. Magic was the result of an attitude of dignity and defence against Natural aggressions and a titanic effort to control Nature. It is in that sense that Magic has been rightly said that it is the mother of Science. It was a matter of predicting the stations, the events (or catastrophes) and, predicting them, we pretended to cause them (or we defended us of them). All of this through simple mind associations of space and time contiguities: if a frog appears in this space when it is raining, I will be able to make the clouds rain by just putting a frog on this very spot. And it worked! (or so they believed, and that is the important thing to us, although much more to them). It did not matter that we did not yet know to relate the causes with their effects, it sufficed with growing in self-esteem and learning that we could make real the utopia.
The magic permitted us to surpass a passive suffering attitude, with regard to inclemency and natural calamities of which we were defenceless victims, by adopting another different, arrogant one, daring to threaten Nature to force it to behave according to our desires. It was the shout “neither God neither master!” of Prometheus (he gave humans the fire), or non serviam! of Luci-fer (the bearer of the fire), what made for us possible to dominate Nature through magic, then by measuring the course of the constellations and the stars (the calendar), and later with agriculture and water canalizations.
In effect, when by means of the magic, exerted through rites with the proper words, we forced Nature to obey us and behave according to our wishes, the result was that everyday that we commanded the Sun to rise again on next morning indeed we succeeded, and we have plenty of historical daily constancies of it. When the Sun happened to obey our orders (our rituals) stopping its sunsets exactly at the point of the winter solstice in the horizon that “we had decided”, and started its way back towards the summer solstice with the gorgeous renaissance of flowers along the spring times and of the grains in the summer, can you imagine the emotion, the frenzy that would impel us when in effect it occurred, as in effect it happened, that the sun –thus we believed it- recovered its vitality after the wintertime thanks to our magic practices?
If the magic was a find based on the error to associate the events by its contiguity in a time or in a specific space, or by the contact, or by simple resemblance (mimetic, empathetic, homeopathic: homeopathic and by exorcisms went the medicine, if similis similem querit, also then similia similibus curantur), then we turned out to be vulnerable in the parts of the body in which more clearly our soul -or spirit- was declared, such as our hair, our real name that was kept in secret, our image, the tread of our foot, or the shadow that projected our body…, for which the sacred person was transported -is it still!- with sandals on stretchers to leave no track in the ground and covered by a pallium to avoid the projection of his shadow on the floor (“pall” in English means also “shade”, inducing the origin of the term).
Furthermore, the simple representation of an alive being, its mere image (either quite flat as the painting or in three dimensions as with the sculpture) permitted us to seize its soul -or thus we believed it, given the sacred and magical character with which we perceived it-. It tests of it is so much the caves paintings that permitted us to hunt bison, mammoths, or any animal that they might put in front of us, as the present television does by exhibiting the images of the people that lose their stirrups for having the chance to share their souls to anyone. Now we understand the panic of the members of some tribes to be photographed or the peaceful pleasure with which we keep in the wallet, near the heart, the picture of the dearest person.
Prohibitive that we are showing ourselves to discouragement, when discussing on this matter, still remain arrests to add that the “natural forces” that we managed to submit were named (by Greek) daymons, to which we personalized and started to control them by putting them concrete names. The gods, which we created from the spirits, all of them began being “daymons” and some of them remained to half of the road, as pure abstractions, without reaching to their personification. Thus Violence, the Fear, for examples, stayed as pure abstractions while the warfare deserved its personalization in the god Ares/Mars. On the other hand we created divinities by doing divine (protective and oracular: divining) to the (spirits of the) ones passed away in sacrificial rituals who, dying, they were assured the immortality in the spirit of the group. In that sense the identification of the ancient kings with the tribal gods was theologically correct (or coherent, that is what we meant).
God is but a mental conception of ours. Conception, to conceive, means to give birth either to a concept or to an alive being. The process of abstraction needed to create the concept of god permitted us to give him an immortal life that we humans cannot dispose of. For gods are pure concepts, words, cold dead, and therefore immortal, while death obliges us to live with passion, with emotions, that they would not have sense neither room if we were to live for all the eternity, for ever. Zeus had been predicted by the Temis oracle that a son of his would kill him. Perhaps be therefore that, precisely for that reason, he did not stop from copulating, as if he sought death desperately, trying to engender a son who could dethrone him, who could make him to die. Perhaps he happened to envy human beings that can die and therefore live a real and passionate existence (although their individual sacred death would do them immortal, all to achieve with it that their group as such never dies in real life, which looks but a play word).
Images have very much to do with magic, just see the roots of both words. Add now imagination. The magician is supposed to be and expert and skilled in images, performances, masks, representations. Are you following? But magic and religion are contradictory, they oppose to each other. Magic relies on humans themselves, is aggressive to God (Nature), and depends on its own, while Religion relies on a personal God, is submitted to Him, faithful pray to be given and for-given. Besides, pagan magic is poly-morphist (not poly-theist, since it is not a religion) while all religions are by their own nature monotheist.
And this could be the reason why monotheist religions reject images, why monotheism has persecuted magic and magicians up to death.
The Roman Catholicism is not really a religion at all, because in practice it is not monotheist, it works through icons, worship the old goddess, despite of its declared theoretical dogmatic monotheism. Catholicism, like it or not, believes in Magic, and practices it. Moreover, since magic was right when it was invented but a nonsense nowadays when we know the preposterousness of confusing the cause-effect relationship with mere mental associations based on space-time contiguities, which is but superstitious, this is why Catholicism gives rise to so many superstitions delaying mental development and forcing backward their faithful brains to primitive stages.
Images, in times of magic, by the sake of magic, had the soul of those they represented. In order to get the ancestors to be present at the funerals of a patrician who died, the roman patricians carried all the ancestors’ images they had at home to share the procession of the one dead (in times as recent as of the Roman Empire). Miguel Angel was not insane when striking his Moses’ sculpture with a hammer, he ordered it: Talk! Being so, the sculpture of Galatea had not to be sought a soul to be alive, it was already alive, she had its own soul, she really was what she represented. That is why Pygmalion could join her, the Aphrodite intervention being just a tale, the image was not but Aphrodite/Desire itself, we have discovered it, we are not easy to deceive, we were not born yesterday. Got it?
Was the vertical stone a phallic symbol? We do not think so, at least at the beginning. The Egyptian obelisk might fairly well represent the Phallus (with capital words, as we will see it deserves), but that was in recent times. Min (the penis) was the name and figure of (the Egyptian) Ammon at Luxor. The obelisk, oriented to its azimuth, succeeds in hiding its own shade
Phallus deserved its personalization in Greece as Priapo, a gardener bearing a sickle especially loved by Gea, but only for her while of leisure and fun. The penis could not be sacred in old times when its reproductive function was unknown, until later on (towards the 4000, 5000 BC?) we realized the connection between copulation and birth. We dare to make such statement on the basis of the Greek myths, which we believe are a reflection of feelings and values of the minoic-mycenic culture, in which the references persist to females pregnancy as if due to the action of the spirit through the water of the rivers or of the rain (as in the case of Danae) or through the winds (the spirit pleases to travel by the air), especially Boreas, the Fecunder, the North wind, so that their rumps were to be oriented towards the North if they wanted to become pregnant. We knew since the VII millennium how to domesticate animals, and therefore to breed them, but still we were convinced that the spirit embodied in our new-born came through natural elements and not by the copulation itself. Thus it is coherent that a Virgin became pregnant from a Holy Spirit, were her name Maria or not, or that so many women (as Leda, Ino, Alcmena…) in the myths became pregnant from Olympic gods (they were but personalization of the Spirit), regardless their regular copulation with their mortal husbands.
The belief in humans’ pregnancy by “the spirit” forced the prohibition to eat beans since the spirit lodges in them as can be verified by the noisy wrath with which it escapes from our bellies. This banning was mainly directed to males since the spirit could not embody in new babies within males’ womb, and the taboo was so strong that it was still in force in classic Greece in times as recent as the IV century BC. It was with Ciamites that the taboo was suppressed and from then on The Beans’ food festival was celebrated in Athens on the 8th of the month Pyanepsion (October, November the 1st). Such a date is consistent with the Death day, celebrating the beginning of the Death of Nature in the wintertime. Today the 2nd November Dead day has been separated from the All Saints day (November the 1st in Europe, to which is added Halloween in the USA), as if not all of them were the same thing: that is, the seasonal revival cycle of the sacred spirit.
Until a moment arrived when we realized the cause-effect relationship on this important matter: coupling and subsequent reproduction. It is our opinion that the male consciousness of the role of its phallus in procreation was a relevant landmark in the process of the patriarchate overcoming the secular maternal society. With the knowledge of its reproductive function, the exaltation of the penis arrived. By then the cities had already been walls-fortified and the male had done himself leader of professional armies, what obliged all the cultures to adopt the monarchy in view of the efficiency tested of the invention. The phallus permitted the entrance of the males in the sacrificial rites so that the penis fecundates not only the female but also the fields of cultivation and nature at large. That permitted them to burst in the secrets of the magic that until then had come being exclusive of the priestesses. Entering the rite as the victim to be sacrificed after having copulated (hiero-gamy) with the (priestess of) Gea, was an investment that gave its fruits not only in the new crops but also in the entrance of the male in one of the most important exercises of the power established, in the sacrifice ritual. Osiris, Atis, Adonis… would be the new protagonists, no matter how long still would Isis, Aphrodite… continue to be their couples, and then, not before, could Priapo be represented as gardener and bearer of scythe (sickle), that more than of death was an instrument of reaps and harvesting. In addition, it was then, together with other factors, such as the production tools’ property, weapons, the iron plow, magic and technical instruments for the chase, etc., that male could undermine since inside the maternal institutions in favour of a new order in which his sex would prevail, said so much in sense of power as of genitals, the phallus as spear. It is not joking that we wonder if the new patriarchal order was owed more to military leadership or to the penis –archaeologists and historians has the Science to clarify the priority-, but one must see how frenzy shook the male and how grew himself in his self-esteem when looked at his navel… and saw that it was good, it pleased himself. Perhaps it comes from then that he began to fill his chest stuffed of sparkling tinny-ringing medals. Therefore, only since then the sacred stone would simulate the penis, either in figure of sacred penis or of the obelisk, representing something that before had not been foremost for reproduction. It was not, therefore, phallic the original menhir when we felt it proclaimed the spirit of the dead.
When the monuments were done megalithic, they could mark the territory of the tribe and serve as a signal for strangers to our clan, but this was a compatible value added with its original sense to recall us the spirit of the group (and therefore totemic). It is however important to retain that if the stone menhir was the symbol of the spirit of the dead (and we already know that being its image it was indeed the very spirit itself) and that our life’s continuation, both as individuals and as a group, depended upon the dead, we can’t figure out something more sacred than the menhirs themselves. It is convenient to know that the feeling and conviction of the stone as embodying the spirit of our life and our groups’ were that of the Greek as much as of the Middle East’s Mesopotamians or the Cuzco’s Incas, that is, all over the world.
Stones embodying the tribe’s spirit
We’ll advance one step further and dare to add that in the stone there is not only its spirit, alive, but the spirit of the tribe (we are then dealing with totemic), of the ancestors, and once we dared so far, we fearless add of Nature at large: the whole environment which is around us, or at least that that we need for survival. Still further, why not? it is the dead corpse that makes it possible, that guaranties, that his tribe will keep alive, that his group will be able to survive. It was from the dead corps that his previous life, rather Life, whether or not would stop via stones, will now be ready to embody in new lives, not only of individuals, but of the tribe and of nature at large, that is of the trees, of the rivers, of the air, of the winds, of the water, of the mountains... and revitalize all of them. Which seems too much, I accept, but it is just the consequence of the spirit, Life, be a continuous where all dead/live beings live, within which we all are, even the unanimated, since for our ancestors they also were alive.
Species rely on the death of their individuals. Otherwise live beings would not leave room for new alive to be borne. More over, by reproducing ourselves the following generations can change their genetics by adapting to changes in the environment. Ever alive individuals would not be able to evolve. Nature looks after the species and does not care about individuals. It is necessary that individuals die to make possible for the species to survive.
Thus, death was not the end of life but all the contrary, its beginning, as we can see all around when the sun arises every day after having fallen down under the earth, or under the ocean, yesterday; when plants and trees grow from their seeds that have been threshed, buried and rotted; or when we see human beings reproducing themselves from the wombs of females after having been buried intro the womb of the earth. Dead corpses become seeds that, after being buried, will result not only in our own reproduction but also of whole nature itself. Therefore, and this is important, all life came from subsoil (plants, trees, water springs, volcanic fire, human beings…), from under the Earth.
The rites are dramatic representations of the myths. If we pay attention to the rites of Atis in Phrygia (as paredro of his mother/lover Cibeles), of Adonis in Cyprus and Phoenicia, of the Assyrian Tammuz-Dumuzi in Mesopotamia, of Dionysus in Eleusis and as Zagreo in Crete, of Osiris in Egypt, and so many others more, in all the cultures, included the prehistoric American ones, in all these rituals the sacrificed corps of the victim was threshed (remember the seed?), as we do with the cereals, to sow it, so that after being buried and rotten under the ground, it could arise in new plants (new lives), many of them by each one of those previously buried. The human body is alive, but when it dies it becomes seed, that is the explanation, isn’t that easy?
These ceremonies looked to be important, were not they? bet they were, indeed, they were for survival. Was it much, was it everything that was on the stage, was not worth for an individual to die…? if in turn, once selected among many others voluntarily presented as candidates, to be sacrificed, he would gain immortality as god, he would become god as protector of the tribe, he would reproduce himself by copulating with the priestess, and he would be of the best benefit for the whole group: that of survival. No wonder that the audience was to be controlled in order to avoid that attendants, due to enthusiasm at the ceremony, or in collective hysteria if is wanted, tried to emasculate themselves to imitate to the victim and to participate actively in the ritual. This is why I have already said somewhere else that, if a culture is more or less civilized according to their capacity of sacrifice and suffering in benefit of the following generations, not any culture was more civilized that that in which human sacrifices were carried out, when were volunteers.
We already know that it was not the hence before than the egg, but the egg before than the hence. The hence was not created a determined day at a given hour, but evolved from previous species (“eggs”, seeds) as Darwin had definitely stated. Only it is not so new, our ancestors knew it very well.
Therefore, to resume, already as Homo Sapiens Archaic, before our species, does more than 200.000 years ago, we started to bury the dead corpses. That meant that we had taken already awareness of our own death, of the death and reborn of the Sun in each day and of the eternal return of the seasonal cycle, in which the life apparently dies but then is reborn with new vitality. And imitating our Mother Gea, the ctonic Nature, whose womb gives birth (alumbra, da a luz) from the subsoil to a new life in springtime, in spring waters, in the vegetable field where seeds were buried, in the trees that sink the roots under the land, by imitating Her we buried us in Her womb to repeat in us the vital cycle that would assure our survival as one species more.
The Latin proverb novare aut perire (“to be renewed or to die”) was not fully right for our ancestors since they needed perire ut novare (“to die so as to give rise to a new life”). The ritual of tearing the dead corpses into pieces (sparagmos), different in numbers accordingly with dates, cultures and purposes, was all but cruelty since the human seed was to imitate the threshed cereal if we were dealing with magic, with rites, with survival.
The rock sphinx was a protective stone, usually shaped with a
woman face, a winged lion body and the tail of a serpent. It used to protect the
cities, not less than tombs. Although the term is of Greek origin, it comes from
the Egyptian shesep-ankh, which signifies “live image”. The dead
person’s spirit is alive in the stone, Life stars where Death takes
place. As deep and rotund as that. We have already said it, and again insist,
because at this point the reader must be acquainted with the feeling and
conviction of our ancestors that Death was not the end of Life but, on the
opposite, it was the origin of Life. Otherwise we would not be able to go
in the origin were just the Goddess (Gaia/Gea) and all the other was engendered in her.
Sculptures to embody individuals’ spirits (statues)
The more abstract was the represented alive being the less personalized (identifiable as a concrete person) would the stone be. Thus, the image of the Phoenician goddess Cibeles used to be represented as a plain vertical grey dark stone (belite) not only in its country of origin but in Greece, in Rome and even in the roman necropolis in Spain at August Emperor times, whereas the stony bust of a roman patrician’s grandfather would sure be a live portrait of him when he was (really) alive. We can give for sure that the effigies of the pharaohs in their tombs would have a fort seemed with the real personage. If a god effigy was that of Ares, for instance, his attributes (helmet, shield, spear…) were to be well expressed and designed so as not to confuse him with any other god when we sacrificed to him right before departing for war. Therefore, Aphrodite should wear her girdle as much as Zeus his ray or Hermes his winged sandals. What we mean by the previous comments is to underline that in old times tribe itself was of more significance than the individuals and therefore the stone was to be more abstract, less designed to some person in concrete, while in more recent times the image represented would be more recognizable as a concrete person, and much more if the person happened to be of special relevance to the group he belonged. It was but a natural process that occurred in the sculpture as a way to give life to a concrete person passed away.
Such sculpture would develop itself as a concrete god according to the benefits we expected to receive from the dead one, and thus no doubt the temples effigies were recent images of persons that in the past were dead in their tombs. This explains why the god effigies were sacred, forbidden to be seen by anybody who were not sacred himself (the priests), hidden at the bottom of the temple (as dead happened to be hidden at the bottom of the tombs, not to say at the bottom of the Earth womb, her uterus, ought to be said), dead alive that were to be fed, cleaned and maintained, as it happened with dead buried in tombs. Take into account that the core of worshipping was the offerings, ceremonies aimed at keeping the god alive and in good health, for which they have to sacrifice animals, cook and prepared them to be eaten by the gods, or the priests on their behalf. Remember that on His health relied the whole group (tribe, city, state) healthy life and wealth.
We can assert, and we do it, that image not only represented a person but that it was the person itself. In proof of it, we bring the testimony of Laodamia, which incidentally was not a single case:
Protesilao was the first Greek to die in Troy just as it had been predicted it would happen to the first who disembarked on Troy’s beach. Laodamia used to sleep with the statue of her beloved Protesilao and when she was informed of his death, in the funeral ceremonies where his statue was burned, Laodamia threw herself to the flames in order to die with him.
Once the statue (effigy) representing a person is the person itself, no wonder that the sacred kings used to “die” by burning their own effigies while their own bodies were kept safe alive, or that in times as recent as the Middle Age the condemned persons that were absent were burned in effigy, to comply with the sentence. The inscriptions in the statues made them talk in first person by themselves, didn’t they?
The sculpture evolved from the (sacred) stone where life was embodied. The life that beat in the sculpture (vga. of Galatea or of Protesilao, call upon Pygmalion or Laodamia if you keep yourself sceptic) is beautifully expressed in the following myth, that of Lelaps and Teumesia, a dog and a fox (or a deer, or a hare…, depending on the locality):
Lelaps, "hurricane", was a Cephalous’ dog in Thebes to which the God had granted the gift of never failing the prey when hunting. Teumesia (or Alopex-Echo) was a she-fox, also in Thebes, that plundered unpunished not only the poultry coops but also some baby each year, to which the God had granted the gift of being not never hunted. The Thebans decided to confront Lelaps against Teumesia. It was in the plains of Thebes, everyone saw it, and they came from everywhere. None of the two could fail: Lelaps could not fail the chase, but Teumesia could not be hunted, so what would occur? No matter how much, how long, how far, they ran the two, when Lelaps was launched to her neck, Alopex did him a harsh tricky dodge and the dog slid out with the four legs stretched and lost eyes. The result was uncertain and everything -or nothing- could occur. Gods were called to intervene and Zeus decided: in a curve Lelaps closed her well and he finally jumped on her. But Teumesia also jumped to avoid him…, and in full leap were the two of them when they both became stone.
Both gained, as it must happen anyway. He already was falling on top of her, but she had not yet been hunted. In another version they were a Dog and a Hare that, glorified by their feats, are pursued eternally in the firmament at night as constellations. The history of Lelaps and Teumesia is a pedagogical and exquisite parable, no matter how much apparently was only a hyperbolic compliment praising a fascinating statue.
Wood and fire, water and clay
Special attention has been given to stones as material support to embody the spirit of Life because our ancestors made such a choice by sacralizing them and we stand here to respect them and their decisions. However, looking at the world around within an animist context, as they did, trees and their wood, air and their winds, bones, mountains, rivers and water, clouds, fire and so many others could have been deserved, and indeed they deserved it, to be sacred at occasions for determined purposes, even up to be used as totemic symbols, too.
Deepening into the wood, drys is the Greek name of the oak tree and druid the priest, the consecrated one, the man-oak tree, son of the oak tree. For the Celtics the mistletoe and the tree in which grows, if this was the oak tree, they were object of worship and of devotion even in the Roman epoch. The word drys in Celtic means also “tree” and “letter”, the comments on which now would take us too far away. Only let me add that the Celtic alphabet 18 letters were named after 18 trees.
The trees give us their fruits, and shadow, and fire too, when struck by stormy rays. Out of wood we made the boats as well as the coffins that make easier and more comfortable our trip to the subsoil world, where a new regenerating cycle of the eternal return death-life starts again.
It is in the woods where daymons (natural violence) most impress us. This might be the reason why our first shrines (nemus) were established there: to control them, by hosting them. First of them were the places where an oak, struck by a ray, were in fire which had to be maintained. And not only we succeeded but we were so glad because of that, that we named “happiness” eudemonia, from eu “fair”, and daymons “natural forces”, since we had made such aggressive force to become fair, beneficial, to us. Still today, in the XXI century, Eyengui, the Forest, is the pigmies’ divinity of the baka tribe, close to Cameroon and Central African Republic.
No wonder trees were often consecrated for varying purposes (fire shrines, sacred wood boats, boxes to keep corpses inside…) since, as the stones, they come out from the Earth womb (world of the Goddess, of the dead corpses, of the spirit of Life), from the subsoil where they spread their roots.
They protect us even of the gods: anything can get ride of them by simply hanging it from a tree branch since the gods know to see what occurs in the sky, in the land and in the seas, but not in the intermediate spaces. That’s why, is said, in Tracie dead persons were hung from the branches of the trees, although the aim could be other: because by imitating the hanging fruits, the dead corpses hung from the branches incited the tree to give fruit in abundance. The proof of it is that most of the times they succeeded, as Daedalus did in Athens by hanging the swinging articulated dolls, which deserved to be devoted annual agricultural festivals. The scites in Central Asia did not practice an intensive agriculture but were semi nomad shepherds, and hung the dead corpses from the trees’ branches for that very purpose. Or Rhea put her newborn Zeus in a basket hanging of a branch in Crete, so that Cronos could not see it (or to force the tree to grow, one never knows). For the same purposes, either to have it protected or to encourage fertility in trees, the Goat Gold Skin to be rescued by Jason and Medea hung of a tree in Eea (beyond the Black sea). Since both reasons, one to hide it so as no to be found, not even by the gods, the other one to compel the tree to give fruits to our desires, both are compatible indeed, we might as well add others such as the need to protect the dead corpses from hyenas and other carrion animals, or for prophylaxis, and any other reason we may wish. But the original motives stand there, and it has been my duty to display them.
In India and other Eastern locations still today men and women marry trees. The tree protects the house, therefore in many cultures one in front of it is planted when a son is born. Among old Egyptians, in the central sanctuary of each nomo there was a sacred tree. They were trees the first oracles. The whisper of the leaves moving with the wind in the evergreen oak served as oracle to the Greeks in Dodona and as expression of the spirits in Australia, China, Philippines, Korea... The miaokia, to the west and south of China, have still in each village the sacred tree (totemic, in which therefore the spirit of their ancestors, that is, that of the tribe, resides). Divinities with several branches often can correspond to anthropomorphized trees. Trees cause rain, besides giving shadow and food, and wood for the construction and for fire, and to do rafts or boats that permit us to float and to transport on the water. Characteristics all they important, so much as to deserve a pair of myths:
Leto, the mother of the twins Apollo and Artemis, seized the branches of two trees, the olive and the palm (or two laurels), to help herself when the moment to give birth arrived.
Erisicton, brother of Forbante, in Tesalia dared to cut down a tree without having asked permission from its nymph (the spirit of the tree) and therefore was punished by the goddess: he suffered from then such hunger that could not stop eating, and ate so much that finished being eaten by himself,
this wisely advises us about what can happen if we do not care much about our ecological environment. Also:
Indo-European oak tree, Zeus, and the “quercus” of the Mediterranean, Hera,
the myth says, and says well, since the three centuries XI to IX in which they melted (the dory culture with the native one), with serious conflicts, are called “dark” by the lack of data that we have on them (even the scripture disappeared!), in which the mythical and social values (goddesses, gods included) of the native tribes made crisis by suffering the imposition of the new patriarchal order.
The tree was not only the first totem (if the stone was not that beforehand: the old Hera image in Argos was of a pear tree wood, not of stone), first refuge, first orchard, later first fire, but its wood was also the material support of the numbers, the scripture, the calendar and even the alphabet (small sticks from different sacred trees expressed different Celtic letters and numbers, read R.Graves’s The White Lady). The gifts of the God arrive still of the trees, at Christmas time. And we, puzzled by our origin, continue researching our genealogical tree or speaking of returning to the roots as a metaphor for finding our origins, or calling un-rooted to those whom we dislike.
What about fire?
A simple small stick could light to other, and this to a tree, and then to a forest, and then to all entire world. How is it possible? Is fire in its inside –so small a piece? Is it not extraordinary its mystery -and its benefits- that the most ferocious animals flee all away when they see it?
The daymon, or the god that brought it with the ray, came down the tree accompanied by the noise of thunders, showing the high dignity the fire must be invested in its own world. The place where the daymon of the fire pleases to be embodied is in trees. Above all in the oak tree. It is there that ray descends and there remains the fire. Water and fire seem to be opponents –but the myths like the opponents at times to express their stories in negative- and nevertheless the fire-ray is produced in the rainstorms. Ray-rain/fire-water. The Hydra (water) spits fire-flames that die out if moisturized with water. The gods helped Achilles in Troy by burning the river that wanted to swallow the hero. Poseidon, which later would become the god of the waters, started his career as daymon of the woods.
The fire is inside the wood, the fire is the soul of the wood, as the spark is in the soul of the stone. Since the god of the ray pleases to reside in the wood of the trees, Zeus druid is melted with the oak tree.
Shepherd knows it well, that his main enemies, the wolves and the witches by the nights, with the fire they do not stay, scared they escape away. The fire served to heat us, to defend us against the carnivorous, to cook them after doing us omnivorous, and to harden the tip of the spears and the clay that we used for pottery.
Red is the heating colour of the fire, as it is of the sun, as can easily be seen when it rises and sets, and that of the blood, which warms our bodies, as it is that of the lava when is thrown up from the volcano, as it is that of the metal when is hot. The preferred colour for the old Goddess was the black of the night. Night black and blood red were the two main types of the primary Greek pottery.
At oldest times we had to be in permanent alert protecting the fire from extinguishing, given the difficulty that implied to have to produce it from the spark, but it developed from protected to protector (of the family, of the house, above all in India where most of the rituals do centre in Agni, the god Fire) and now the hearths host protective fires in permanent alert, themselves.
Fire was to be kept alive, and vestals were the priestesses in charge of it. They were mortally forbidden to make love since that activity could deviate their attention from the fire and let it die out. The fire kept alive was a sacred fire. When the fire was out, it had to be in either from a new ray, or by fast rotating a drill in a piece of wood, in a ritual way.
Fire from Delphos was taken to the Greek colonies to keep alive their links with the metropolis. The bride’s mother carried a torch (her family spirit) to accompany her daughter to the husband’s strange house. Imitating the eternal return of the Nature seasonal cycles that make possible new life out from dead, fire rings were rolled through the slope of the hills to refill the sun energy in the wintertime. Imitating the eternal return of the seasonal cycles all the fires were out when the sacred king was sacrificed and in when the new king started his temporary, seasonal, “kingdom”, along with the new natural cycle. When the sacrifice was held by means of the fire, the pyre was made out of wood of oak tress, so that the oak spirit was burned in both, the body of the victim and the wood of the pyre itself. Thrice happened to be in the case of Heracles: he was oak, he was burned in oak wood, and his shirt was prepared to burn him. Each 9 (3 by 3) years in Lemnos all the fires were put out to be re-lighted when the new “year” started again, remarking the seasonal cycles, that is: obliging Nature to regenerate itself. At Valencia “Fallas” festivals, in the spring equinox, thousands of (alive) effigies, burned to ashes, illuminate the city through the night, announcing the new seasonal year.
Fire is often used as a rite to immortalize. Demeter, Tetis and Medea tried to immortalize their children Demofonte, Achilles and her children of Jason, respectively, by means of the procedure to burn them. Medea is not cruel by killing his brother, his children or the kings or the princesses she meets along her life: she just does the rites to immortalize them, to take them to death where life then arises. Still today a light or a lamp is lighted in the place where somebody died, so as to keep him alive (or, more correct, to recall the dead his duty to continue life again). Because fire is a symbol of life, and therefore life.
I know I said the same things before when I talked about stones. But is it not true that the spark is the soul of the stone, it is inside the stone, it comes out from the stone if you strike it the right way, as much as the fire is the soul of the wood? Listen to it how happily crackles when is fed by the wood from where it lights on. When we are hypnotized by looking at fire flames, does it happen that we are fascinated by the swinging of its blazes or is it that we feel that it still keeps embodying the mystery of Life?
The transition of the spirit since the individuals dead to the new beings to be born was represented with flowers (that eventually are due to produce new plants or fruits) or torches (since fire was a Life symbol for new nascituri to be given to “light”).
In all of them, we recognized the spirit -the soul- to be in the stone, in the wood, in the fire… test it, hit the stone, get close the wood, and just light it on. To describe something fairly funny and alive we say it in Spanish que tiene chispa (spark) and in English that it is sparkling.
What about water?
In the hierograms of the oldest scriptures the spiral sign meant both the water and the goddess. Most of the cultures, may be all of them, figure out some water (an ocean or a river) to be crossed in sacred boats for the souls to reach the subsoil world. From the water (like newborn) are rescued many heroes at the starting point of their lives. In the baptism rite, one must be taken out from the water to symbolize a new life, an adoption, a change of family, a new birth, like the births take place right after the “waters breaking”, and we are not playing with words. The newborn god Hephaestus was immediately thrown down from Olympus to the sea (as if its fate were to have to renovate continuously itself). In the temples the pond was never missed, and it does not seem enough to explain it just for its practical functions.
What about clay? Or textile, or esparto grass…
Prometheus created the first human being, his brother Epimeteo, out of the clay. And he instilled life in it by introducing a spark stolen from the ray of Zeus. Yahweh made Adam out of clay and Eva out of a bone of Adam.
Stone tombs, wood sarcophaguses, baskets, boats, for deaths and births
We already know that life, or spirit, was embodied in the stones, in the bones, in the fire, in the wood, and that it went on alive even in the dead corpses and would go into new alive beings. We have already learned that stone figures or wood or clay images had taken life from their own, such as it is showed by the samples of Galatea, Adam and Eva, Pandora, the Kadmo spartoi in Thebes, the ones grown out from the teeth of the dragon sowed by Jason when he went to recover the mutton’s gold skin, the stones sowed by Deucalion and Pirra after the Deluge, the first man created by Prometheus whose life was given to him by means of a fire spark…
Since life of human beings came out from stones and later were buried in them, it would fit that the coffins were also made out of stone, to put there the dead corpses and carry them to the same place they came from. The tombs were excavated into the stone, under the rocks, as the temples would be later constructed with stones. It also happened with the boats where the dead would be carried to their world. A stone head-down boat is at an offshore Galitzia village, San Andres de Teixido, at northwest coast of Spain, ready to carry dead souls to somewhere, where I have not been told yet. The Minorca navetas are of the same shape, and also head-down, fit to transport more than a dozen in a comfortable way. Although the wood seems a better material for boats, as in the case of the Egyptian sacred ship exclusively used to carry the dead pharaohs to their tombs at the other side of the Nile river. We were made out of stone, or of clay, or of wood, or of bones…, so were made our images, gods images, we are already capable to get the point that far. Is there anybody left still feeling as stranger about all that?
Out of stone were also made the kouroi and sirens that protected the tombs of the dead persons (though I know that they protected us from the spirit of the dead persons, by watching them not to get out from below land). Sarco-phagus means the “flesh eater”, although I am tempted to add “sacred-body” eater.
Coffins were made out of wood because this material could be handled better. In addition, of clay were made the urns in epoch of Bronze Age, containing the ashes of the burned dead that would be buried in subterranean chambers in their native land, returning to their roots, never better said.
Baskets, chests and coffers (included that of the Jewish Alliance, or that other of Noah, when the Flood), are abundant in the myths, which gives notice of their sacred nature, when they carried the newborn or the dead corpses from which life reproduces itself (or the spirit, call it totem or god): that is, when they were in touch with death. When in the myths such boxes-sarcophaguses are located in the water, it can easily be associated with the amniotic liquid that covers the foetus that it is going to be given birth, to be lighted (in Spanish, dar a luz, alumbrar), to leave behind the dark womb of the mother-land. The baptism was a rite of adoption where the one to be adopted is considered to be born. For that purpose, he is extracted from some water, and the “new” mother simulates pains of labour while the one to be adopted goes down on its knees and passes under “his” mother legs, imitating his own birth. By this rite, the new son enters his new family, his new life. It is from water, in this case, that life comes. Moreover, the coming alive is not less than a stranger who is going to become a king.
Peribea simulated labour pains in the coastal Sycion when out of the water she collected (rescued) the basket in which the baby Oedipus was abandoned.
Can you see it? It is to-be-king-Oedipus
whom we were dealing with, and his adoption by his new family in Sicion. Though
may be only one instance is not enough. Ok, let’s see some others, where the
hero (called to be regenerated, to be worshiped as god or protector after his
death) was thrown in a basket to the water to be rescued, to make it
clear that he was to be adopted as stranger by the tribe (: because of the
exogamy institution, which is not the right moment to be dealt with):
Auge with her son, Hipotoo, Pelias, Amphion, Egiste, Moses, the Roman Romulus as well as the Persian Cyrus, all of them discovered and announced by shepherds. Aphrodite enclosed the Phoenician Adonis (the Lord, Adonais, Tammuz in Mesopotamia) in a chest that delivered to the underground goddess of the spring, Persephone, so that she kept it in a dark place (being her kingdom the darkest one, the Hades, the dead persons’ subsoil).
The Israelites Ark of the Covenant plaid the role of a
sarcophagus containing the corps of an invisible god, and the Noah’s Ark was
the womb wherefrom a new generation of humans and animals would be reborn. So
was the wooden funeral boat of Osiris. As it was the Pandora’s box (womb).
Did I go too far? Ok, read then:
Acrisio enclosed his daughter Danae in a cell underground, where Zeus fertilized her with a golden rain, engendering Perseus whose life his mother Danae saved by throwing the newborn baby to the sea in a chest of wood. Fegeo enclosed Arsínoe in a chest before selling her to the king of Nemea. Cicno, so called in honour of the swan that saved him from the water when as newborn he was thrown to the sea, enclosed his son named Tenes in a box that he threw to the sea. Cypselo (beehive) from Corinth was hidden by her mother Lábdaca in a hive so that he was not killed (were not dead). The Cretan Glauco was brought to life (re-generated) by Melampo who took him out of a honey barrel where he had been enclosed (there were tombs in form of hive in Mycenae and in Crete). By preparing the sacrificial death of her husband Heracles, Deyanira kept in a chest the shirt with the poison that was to burn him, and for that reason, this cloth could not see the light until the day arrived when Heracles would wear it. His body, burned by both the fire pyre and the shirt, gave name to Thermopiles (ardent passage). The Athenian Demofonte, king of Tracie, went insane after having opened the chest that his wife Fílide had given him. Of the box (the womb) of Pandora (the first woman, the Greek Eva), all the human misfortunes (that is, the human beings) came out (they were born).
Also Reo was exposed to the water in a chest by her father Estafilo. By the way she arrived to the island of Delos where she gave birth to Anio, first case -unique?- of a newborn in Delos, since to give birth, to get sick or to die were all prohibited in this island, where the sun-god-of-the-light Apollo was born. All cultures destroy the conquered or the previous ones. Since the Goddess culture was that of the Night-Death, in the subsoil where light never reaches, the new Olympic patriarchal order would put itself in the opposite site, that of Life-Light, although it were just for the sake of it, and so Death was ignored (preposterous as it were), denied and declared out of the Law, as it happened when necropolis had to be set outside the city walls: and the city was the law.
The coffin of wood took the form of a ship to make the trip to the ultra-tomb through the waters of Caronte (insinuating therefore a womb where to be able to re-generate). Still easier?: Apollonius from Rhodes in The Argonauts explicitly defines the ship Argos as a mother’s womb.
Is there anyone able to give more? But do we still need more? We can deepen further, and make it more complicate, if we wish.
The tribute that the first “kings” had to pay for acceding to the throne through his (hierogamic) union with the (priestess of the) goddess, was the sacrificial death (voluntary, for the benefit of the clan). So confirmed Anquises, seduced with deceits by the goddess Aphrodite: that for him there was not remedy, that he could not escape from death, once he had copulated with the goddess. This being so, as it was, when in more recent times the sacred king wanted no longer to die, broke with this tradition and tried to escape from death ritual, he sought subterfuges: substitutes, foreigners, children, effigies…, to be sacrificed in his place, to revitalize the nature (or more concretely, the next seasonal crop) and the life of his clan, while he simulated his own death, so after the sacrifice rites he would be “reborn”. That was precisely the sed rite of the pharaohs, so close to us as the XIX dynasty and subsequent, in which they simulated their death for some days to be regenerated with more vitality and lucidity. Well, what is all this for? All this is to understand that when
king Enopion of Hiria hid temporarily in a chest of wood underground each time that Orion approached him, and
King Euristeo of Mycenae hid temporarily in a coffer of stone within a cave excavated in the rock each time that Heracles approached him…,
…it was clearly meant (at least to me) that those kings were simulating their death to escape from the ritual death, and to avoid facing competitors intending to dethrone them.
Already the pieces are fitting with each other. Now we can understand that the chests -boxes, baskets…, of stone, of clay, of wood- were the appropriate sites to place the human bodies, so that buried underground (the redundancy is express), they can get reborn, be regenerated, as the plants and the animated beings do it, all of them out from the womb of the Earth.
When the new method, incineration, was devised for dead, it did not replace inhumation but rather confirmed it. Ashes were put in urns that were to be buried themselves.
It is in the myth of Argeius, son of Licimnus, in Traquis (or of his own twin-brother Ificles with regard to his mother Alcmena) that
Heracles had promised that he would take care of the youth (either Argeius or Ificles) and that would return with him from the war that was going to begin against the molionidas of the Elide. However, since the youth fell dead in the battle, Heracles burned his corps to ashes and put them into a box to comply with his promise by carrying the ashes back to his homeland, making thus possible to bury him (the urn with his ashes) in his native land.
What suggests that the incineration was
instituted to this aim: that of permitting to bring the remainders of the
corpses passed away in battle out of the territory of its clan. If so, the
incineration would have been a secondary effect of the warfare once they were
institutionalized –with professional armies and leader to command them- in the
Bronze Age, time in which it really took place.
Should we not have deepened and gone far away enough, we’ll dare to advance one step further by asserting that all the people die petrified when the gods look at them, above all if they look at them by turning their head back.
Another as flat as strange phrase that also needs gloss and some comments.
Perseus returned with success from his mission to behead the Medusa Gorgona, whose look petrified (killed) everybody that she happened to look at them. He did it without looking at her directly so avoiding becoming himself petrified. In the wedding of Perseus and Andromeda, whom he had saved from the marine dragon, the uncle of the bride, Fineo, provoked a fight in which Perseus showed the head of Medusa to his opponents that remained petrified. They were, besides Fineo, Abaris, Actiages, Agirte, Alcionides, Anfimedon, Anfix, Astreo, Atis, Celedon, Clito, Cliton, Cromis, Dano, Elis, Eriteo, Erix, Etemon, Etion, Flegias, Forfante, Hipseo, Lecabas, Molfeo, Nileo, Petolo, Polidemon, Tesalo, Toactes...
There are those who refer to this Gorgona myth as that of the “evil eyes” curse, which is but the envy of the neighbour that wishes you some damage, and since we confused wish with reality when we were animists in old times, if somebody happened to wish you any damage that was something that could make you tremble, indeed.
Freud saw in the snakes-hair of Medusa the childlike panic when facing the vision of the female pubis hair for the first time. Still we say, at least in Spanish, “to remain of stone” when somewhat is astonishing enough to keep us immobilized. Remind also
the vision of Yahweh by Moses, who was hurt because of it; that of Zeus by Semele, who got charred at the view of the god; or the Lot’s wife conversion into a statue (of salt, that means sterility, a land covered by salt becomes sterile) when she looked at by turning the head back; the veil with which Deucalion and Pirra should be covered on throwing backwards stones that were to become new people (at the time they were forbidden to look at them by turning the head back); or the mortal look of Orpheus at his beloved Eurydice, whom he unwillingly “killed” when he looked at her by turning his head back, when they were still leaving the dead world; or the conversion in stones of Aglaura, and Bato, and so many more when Hermes looked at them. It happened to Arsíone that remained petrified on looking at the corpse of his lover Arcenofonte, or to Anaxáreta when she saw the corpse of Ifis.
Moses was on the verge of suffering a fatal mishap on seeing Yahweh in the Mount Sinai. Eurydice was deleted from the Earth when, out coming from the Hades, was seen by her lover Orpheus, and Semele rested charred before the view of Zeus.
In the worships of Hades (World of the dead persons) the assistants deviated the view; Cronos, after having castrated his father Uranus with a sickle, threw hits genitals backwards; the same thing did Zeus when he castrated his Father Cronos; remember Deucalion and Pirra that had to throw the stones-bones backwards…
to sow…, really, to sow them: the sewer does not stop when he walks seeding around. Were not the stones the bones of the Mother Earth to be sown in order to repopulate the Earth? Were not the Thebans descendent (spartoi) from the dragon teeth that Kadmo seeded? Or the warriors that grew up out from the dragon teeth that Jason also seeded?
We find suspicious the oldness pretended in the Cronos myths once they already knew the function of the penis in our reproduction. The blood of the “gods-kings” Osiris, Atis, Adonis…, once sacrificed, was dissolved in water that was sprayed on the furrows, ploughs and the trees, to revitalize their natural environment. The Hittites said that
Kumarbi devoured his father Agnus genitals, which fecundated him by becoming seed (it would be worth of knowing this term in the Hittite language) inside his stomach.
Could it be easier?
Neither is strange in that the look of Hermes
killed, since he was the related-to-death god who was in charge of carrying the
dead souls to their world. It’s but a way of saying to assert that Death
kills those whom it happens to look at.
On the other hand, the proximity of gods derives in curse, their look annihilates both those daring to look at them and those looked by them. Their presence in our intimacy is origin of the worst wrongs. See, if not:
The gods had attended the wedding of Kadmo and Harmony and the latter’s four daughters fatal end was like this: Ágave devoured her son Penteo in figure of a lion, Ino killed her son Melicertes when trying to escape from her husband Atamans, Semele was charred by the view of Zeus, and Autonoe saw her son Acteon becoming a deer and being devoured by his own dogs. The gods accepted the invitation to dinner by Licaon and the result was the universal Flood. The gods attended to the feast of Tantalus and there you have the stories of his descendants, the pelopidas and atridas that started to fight since the womb of their mother. The gods shared the wedding of Tetis and Peleus, and there was forged Troy with the famous apple of the Discord.
Nothing to wonder if we know, as we do, that gods were but the spirits, and the spirits were all dangerous. They were so bad that we had to convert them in benefactors in a process so complicated that we had to divinize them, and that was the way we created God. This is not the right moment to explain it at large, but it will be enough to know that all diseases were caused by (bad) spirits, that in fact they were but the spirits themselves, and therefore medical care meant to be able to exert exorcisms, to take the (bad) spirits out from the diseased. Even in most recent times gods/spirits used to be always seen as suspicious. It was generally admitted by the Greek people in classical times that none should loudly laugh in public because the gods could see him, and then he could be punished with mishaps and afflictions, since the gods envied the humans if these happened to be happy. All this has to do with the remorse of the survivals with regard to the beloved dead, and their panic to be punished by the spirit of the dead, whom we feared so much that we still keep on this care.
Nonetheless, a life without God (without
values) does not deserve to be lived. What it really happens is that Gods get
bored with human beings when nothing important occurs to them. For that reason
they shake us, from time to time. And what would it turn to be of us without
Finally yet importantly, the architects and their constructions, secularly allied with the power, have given always faith of the dominant values in the society in which they have carried out their works. The term “secular” that I have utilized does not seem correct (in Spanish means also “since ever”), once known that their sacred character was still kept in the Rome Empire when the head and responsible for the construction of bridges was not less than the Highest Ponti-ficate. The stone sacred character was evident in the antiquity when from menhirs to dolmens, megalithic monuments, astronomical sanctuaries as Stonehenge near London or the taulas of Minorca, the pyramids, the tombs and mausoleums, or even every communal building, all were made with stones or wood which kept them somewhat related to Death (not our present death that is the end of the life, but the death buried from which life arises in its seasonal cycle revitalizing the spirit of the group, of the clan, of the tribe, of the human species at large). We know that, but may be we de not realize that, without need to mend us beyond, in the Middle Age (and Modern) no construction could be built above the height of the church, and nowadays the highest buildings in the cities are those of the of the multinationals, Banks and Insurances companies, which is but consistent with the worship to the actual God, Money, “in Which we trust” (just have a look at the 1 $ bill).
As epilogue, a mere proposal: admitting that the stone as a technological clue gives its name to the Oldest Stone Age, we would dare to suggest -and thus we do it– that at least in Anthropology the term Palaeolithic be substituted by that one of Hierolithic, the Age of Sacred Stone. I think it would identify better its contents, scope and aims of its studies, at a time that would mark the direction to be taken by the new researches
In my childhood, at the school, I remember we were taught a
matter so called Sacred History. It isn’t there such a thing. It is Prehistory
that is sacred, whatever is the framework to narrate it, whoever is the teacher
to do it, since they were -our prehistoric ancestors- the ones who made the
choice and decided that their story was to be sacred, such was their privilege
and we must stand for it.
Zeus, is there now anyone of mortal
SE-1.368.03 juan j.
(There are not sources quoted neither bibliography, the paper being based in personal hypothesis and myths that can be found in any elementary manual, not being relevant a precise and full text of theirs)