In part one of this series I addressed some of the differences between the religious practices of hunter and planter based societies, ending with their attitudes toward human sacrifices. One final aspect of human sacrifice I must address amongst planter based societies is the killing of the divine king. James Frazer's legendary work The Golden Bough dealt heavily with this custom, noting numerous instances of regicide the world over performed as a ritual closely linked with the fertility of the lands.
"On the whole the theory and practice of the divine kings of the Shilluk correspond very nearly to the theory and practice of the priests of Nemi, the Kings of the Wood, if my view of the latter is correct. In both we see a series of divine kings on whose life the fertility of men, cattle, and of vegetation is believed to depend, and who are put to death, whether in single combat or otherwise, in order that their divine spirit may be transmitted to their successors in full vigour, uncontaminated by the weakness and decay of sickness or old age, because any such degeneration on the part of the king would, in the opinion of his worshippers, entail a corresponding degeneration on mankind, on cattle, and on the crops.
(The Golden Bough, James Frazer, pg. 237)
The sacrifice of the king cut to the very heart of matriarchy. Remnants of this custom have survived till modern times in fables such as that of the Fisher King from the Arthurian cycle in which an aging monarch has become wounded, leading to the decline of both the monarch's health and the lands themselves. Before elaborate rituals were designed to sacrifice the king for the sake of fertility, it was the fertility of the queen and her daughters that demanded blood.
"...the Matriarchal (and exogamic) Age, to the time when succession was not through the first-born son of the King, but through the daughter. The king was therefore not king by inheritance but by right of conquest. In the most stable dynasties, the new king was always a stranger, a foreigner; what is more, he had to kill the old king and marry the king's daughter. This system ensured the virility and capacity of every king. The stranger had to win his bride in open competition. In the oldest fairy-tales, this motive is continually repeated. The ambitious stranger is often a troubadour; nearly always he is disguised, often in repulsive form. Beauty and the Beast is a typical tale. There is often a corresponding camouflage about the king's daughter, as in the case of Cinderella and the Enchanted Princess. The tale of Aladdin gives the whole of this fable in a very elaborate form, packed with technical tales of magic. Here then is the foundation of the legend of the Wandering Prince -and, note well, he is always 'the fool of the family.'"
(The Book of Thoth, Aleister Crowley, pgs. 54-55)
One of the oldest fables derived from the Matriarchal regicide custom is that of Oedipus, the central character in one of the oldest surviving Greek tragedies. The tale of Oedipus has been filtered through the customs of Patriarchy so that years after the wandering prince (Oedipus) has killed the king and married the queen, he learns that the man he killed was in fact his father and that he has married his own mother. To the Crowleyian school, this represented a degradation in which the consort had been turned into a beast and the mother into a whore.
"Patriarchy had been established because the Father had been discreted from the herd; he was distinguished or identified in the early stages by a totem or clan, and -later -as a specific individual. In consequence, the cult of the Great Mother was degraded and the primal goddess became the whore, and, in the curious language of the ancients carried over by Crowley, virgin to all (Pan). This means that she received all comers and could not identify the father of her children; hence they were the fatherless, the bastards of Bast.
"The Scarlet Woman, Babalon, was the outcome of this change in primitive sociology. When soli-lunar time-reckoning replaced the star-reckoning, and the fatherhood superseded the motherhood in mythology, religion and society, Set, too, was cast out and became the 'devil' of the later cults."
(The Magical Revival, Kenneth Grant, pgs. 62-63)
Thus we glimpse the origins of the Beast and Scarlet Woman spoken of in the Book of Revelations. This is blatantly obvious when we consider the sacrificial customs of ancient Crete in regards to the legends surrounding the Minotaur and the labyrinth. It was at Knossos, generally described as a palace, that both were said to reside.
"Knossos may not have been a palace... Amongst the many problems with that interpretation is the fact that although parts of the complex are extant to the third floor, most are just the remains of the basement... the life of the royal family in those cramped and damp lower levels, rather than in the more desirable, although missing, airy upper stories. The separate building adjacent to the complex... was the summer palace, although it is unlikely that the king would go only so far as next door for his vacations. And the stone materials out of which the complex is constructed do not seem durable enough for much use, since the ruins suffer today from the abrasive feet of the tourists who have visited it since its discovery.
"The confusing maze of corridors, moreover, is an inept design for a residence. But a maze is what one finds at Knossos. A labyrinth, to use its real name, a word assimilated into Greek from the pre-Greek language, as is the name of Knossos itself. A labyrinth is the 'place of the 'labrys.' A 'labrys' is a double axe, an axe with edges that cut in both directions. It was a symbol of the religion practiced at Knossos, like the crucifix in Christianity. Ornamental golden exemplars have been found, as well as much sturdier implements for actual use.
"And like the cross, it was the symbol of the sacrificial death. The labrys was used to slaughter the bull, and the bull was the taurine manifestation of the bovine Queen's consort. Originally not a bull, but the consort himself, was the victim. Between the two edges of an axe that cuts in both directions is the sharp divide, the razor's edge, the midmost point -beyond which lies another world. The labrys symbolizes renewal through death, and when kings became less expendable, other humans came to be substituted in the king's role, supposedly as willing sacrificial victims, uniting the living with the dead to revitalize the fertility of the Goddess and of the mortal women who joined as a trinity of sisters in her worship. The labyrinth itself, with its contorted and confusing passageways, was emblematic of the Goddess, like a maze of entrails leading to the womb, which is the gateway of life and death.
"At the center of the labyrinth of Knossos was a courtyard, where the offering of human victims was performed as an acrobatic dance with a real bull. Both males and females were afforded this deadly honor, two groups of seven each year, at the time of Theseus, before he put an end to the practice. As the bull lunged, the dancers were expected to grasp the bull's horns and attempt to flip themselves in a somersault through the horns and over the bull's back, to land gracefully upright behind the bull. A difficult task, and more often, no doubt the dancer failed, but even a close brush with death might satisfy the need, or demonstrate the deity's moment of benevolence. The narrow and dangerous passageway through the horns was another way that these people symbolized the point where life and death convened."
(The World of Classical Myth, Carl A.P. Ruck & Danny Staples, pgs. 27-28)
Hopefully Crete sounds intriguing for it and very ancient Greece will be our main points of emphasis for the remainder of this piece. Crete and Greece are fine places to observe the customs of hunter and planter type civilizations in part because they are so well documented, and also because they became the inheritors of some of the most ancient religious traditions in the world. The hunter civilization that would enter into Greece around the 3rd millennium BC and would go on to dominate it were the legendary Indo-European peoples.
"What the Greeks remembered as north of them was also toward their east, beyond the mountain pass down which Boreas blew, beyond which lay the central Asiatic highlands. No one knows why they left. To seek a better life, perhaps. A better climate. Or perhaps it was just the spirit of adventure. To see what lay always beyond the horizon. Why not, after all? They were nomads, then. Hunters. They had no settled way of life.
"Their original language had developed in their different destinations into distinct dialects that were no longer mutually understandable. In India, it became Sanskrit, which is the classical language of Hinduism. Other branches of these migrations that brought them into Europe and Asia Minor evolved various ancient dialects of Germanic, Celtic, Anatolian, and Iranian, most of which are now no longer fully extant from the earliest periods. In the Italian peninsula, their dialect developed into Italic... It was a Slavic branch of these migrations that brought the Indo-Europeans into the Greek lands, where amongst their dialects evolved the language of classical Greek.
"Wherever they went, and despite the different notions they had picked up along their way, they retained a feeling for male superiority and for the freely roaming life they had followed in their homeland, so many centuries ago. They brought with them also their deities.
"Chief amongst these was a male, a Great Father. The Greeks called him Zeus. Zeus pater, as they often said, 'Father Zeus.' The Romans called this same god Jove, or Jupiter, which is usually the identical name, a dialectal variant, with the epithet of 'father' no longer separable in Latin, as in Greek. He was so much the supreme god amongst other gods that his name was also responsible for the word for 'god,' itself, in Latin, deus."
(ibid, pgs. 19-20)
But there was already another culture present in Greece when the Indo-Europeans arrived, this one a planter-based society with origins in the Middle East.
"When the Indo-European migrates arrived in the Greek lands, the place was already inhabited by a quite different type of peoples. Their common culture, with many local variations and languages, had spread to Greece from Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. Unlike the nomadic Indo-Europeans, the peoples of this other culture had learned to settle in cities and had taken up a way of life that demanded the solution to the basic problems of pollution and decreasing fertility, that are caused by the continuous living and farming of people in the same place.
"For them, the deity was not a freely roaming god, but a goddess, attached, as women are, to the demands of material nurturing. This goddess of earthly nature, this Great Mother had many names in the different languages of her peoples, some of these names were eventually assimilated into Greek."
(ibid, pg. 22)
Joseph Campbell, using a prehistoric type of pottery known Halaf, traces this Matriarchal culture to the region of the world that would give birth to Sumeria.
"The Halaf ware... is scattered through an area northward of this, with its chief center in northern Syria, just south of the so-called Taurus, or Bull, Mountains of Anatolia (now Turkey), where the river Euphrates and its tributaries descend from the foothills to the plain. And what is most remarkable is the prominence in this beautifully decorated northwestern ware of the bull's head (the so-called bucranium), viewed from the front and with great curving horns. The form is rendered both naturalistically and in variously stylized, very graceful designs. Another prominent device in this series is the double ax... Furthermore, in association with the female statuettes (which are numerous in this context) clay figures of the dove appear, as well as of the cow, humped ox, sheep, goat, and pig. One charming fragment represents the goddess standing, clothed, between two goats rampant -and on her left a male, the other a female giving suck to a young kid. And all the symbols are associated in this Halafian culture complex with the so-called beehive tomb.
"But this is precisely the complex that appeared a full millennium later in Crete, and from there was carried by sea, through the Gates of Hercules, northward to the British Isles and southward to the Gold Coast, Nigeria, and the Congo. It is the basic complex, also, of the Mycenaean culture, from which the Greeks, and thereby ourselves, derived so many symbols. And when the cult of the dead and resurrected bull-god was carried from Syria to the Nile Delta, in the fourth or third millennium B.C., these symbols went with it. Indeed, I believe that we may claim with a very high degree of certainty that in this Halafian symbology of the bull and goddess, the dove, and the double ax, we have the earliest evidence yet discovered anywhere of the prodigiously influential mythology associated for us with the great names of Ishtar and Tammuz, Venus and Adonis, Isis and Osiris, Mary and Jesus. From the Taurus Mountains, the mountains of the bull-god, who may have already have been identified with the horned moon, which dies and is resurrected three days later, the cult was diffused, with the art of cattle-breeding itself, practically to the ends of the earth; and we celebrate the mystery of that mythological death and resurrection to this day, as a promise of our own eternity. But what experience and understanding of eternity, and what of time, gave rise in that early period to this constellation of eloquent forms? And why in the image of the bull?"
(The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, pg. 142-143)
The Crowley disciple Kenneth Grant had a most interesting explanation of the bull symbolism.
"The cult was carried on in the worship of Mithras. Baphomet, the name Crowley adopted in the O.T.O means, quite simply, 'Father Mithras', i.e. the Bull-slaying deity. The Bull is the Sun, or rather Taurus is the constellation through which the solar influence was transmitted to humanity at the time of the Mithraic Cult; thus Mithras -like Sirius -was a sun-slayer, for as Churchward explains:
" 'The first celestiral hero was not the sun, but the conqueror of the sun and solar heat. He was represented by the dog-star not only as the fire-god, but a god over fire; and at the season when the sun was in the sign of the lion and the heat in Africa was intolerable, then Set, as Dog-Star, or Sut Har (Orion) arose, and as the sun had then attained its supreme height and began to descend, the Dog-Star, or Orion, was hailed as the conqueror of this cause of torment. The lion, as is apparent from its place in the zodiac, was the type of furious summer heat.... Out of the slain lion comes the honey.'"The god Set, who slew the solar lion, brought the inundation; he was the herald of the outflowing waters of the Nile that saved the land from annihilation. In magical terms, Set is the Beast that leaps forth from the 'slain' sun, or phallus, and rises as the phoenix from the deluge of waters."
(The Magical Revival, pgs. 71-72)
|the Egyptian god Set|
Here again we find our old friend Sirius, the occult meaning of which I've chronicled before here and here.
So much for the Scarlet Woman. Now we finally come to the drugs. Hopefully those of you that have made it this far will not be disappointed. We shall begin with the Indo-Europeans, and their drug of choice which they brought with them to Greece.
"Along with their deities and other aspects of their culture, the migrators brought with them their ancestral attitudes toward sacred plants. The classification of plants and animals would have been their earliest science. In the botany of foods and medicines, a specific mushroom had special sanctity for the Indo-Europeans and they maintained remembrance of the tradition wherever they migrated, often substituting other plants as surrogates for the original, either because it was no longer easily available in their evolving notions of religion or culture. This plant was a mushroom, the fly-agaric or Amanita muscaria. By this new interpretation Mycenae... was named for the mushroom or 'mykes.' The city got its new name when the hero Perseus, a son of Zeus born at the place, refounded it for the Indo-Europeans... Other cities that were taken over by the Mycenaean Greeks have similar traditions realigning the former peoples and their religion to the culture of the Indo-Europeans.
"Amanita figured in Indo-European shamanism. The mushroom contains mind-altering chemicals that allowed the priest or 'shaman' to escape from the body and commune spiritually with the deities in their celestial domain. Apart from the celestial orientation of their traditional, usually male-dominated shamanism, the mushroom's wild, uncultivated manner of growth fit the Indo-European nomadic style of life as a special found magical plant, mediating as a sacred drug with other of the Amanitas, that include edible mushrooms, as well as deadly poisonous ones. The thunderbolt of Zeus was itself a mediation between the Father God's realm and earth, as the ethnomycologist R. Gordon Wasson has shown in demonstrating the wide-spread belief that mushrooms appear where lightning strikes the earth. Amanita was divine food, not something to be indulged in lightly, not something to be profaned. It was the food of the gods, their ambrosia, and nectar was the pressed sap of its juices."
(The World of Classical Myth, Carl A.P. Ruck & Danny Staples, pgs. 25-26)
Given that several types of magic mushrooms (most notably psilocybe cubensis) are known for growing out of manure, especially cow manure, it is tempting to link the matriarchal bull-god planters with magic mushroom use as well. And indeed, it seems quite likely that certain segments of the populace (e.g. the initiated priesthood) were aware of the use of this drug. The noted psychedelic researcher Terence McKenna was of this mind.
"When our remote ancestors moved out of the trees and on to the grasslands, they increasingly encountered hooved beasts who ate vegetation. These beasts became the major source of potential sustenance. Our ancestors also encountered the manure of these same wild cattle and the mushroom that grow in it.
"Several of these grassland mushrooms contain psilocybin: Panaeolus species and Stropharia cubensis, also called Psilocybe cubensis... This later is the familiar 'magic mushroom,' now grown by enthusiasts worldwide.
"Of these mushroom species, only Stropharia cubensis contains psilocybin in concentrated amounts and is free of nausea-producing compounds. It alone is pandemic -it occurs throughout the tropical regions, at least wherever cattle of the zebu (Bos indicus) type gaze. This raises a number of questions. Does Stropharia cubensis occur exclusively in the manure of zebu or can it occur in the manure of other cattle? How recently has it reached its various habitats? The first specimen of Psilocybe cubensis was collected by the American botanist Earle in Cuba in 1906, but current botanical thinking places the species' origin in Southeast Asia. At an archaeological dig in Thailand at a place called Non Nak Tha, which has been dated to 15,000 B.P., the bones of zebu cattle have been found coincident with human graves. The Non Nak Tha site suggests mushroom use was a human trait that emerged wherever human populations and cattle evolved together.
"Ample evidence supports the notion that Stropharia cubensis is the Ur plant, our umbilicus to the feminine mind of the planet, which, when its cult, the Paleolithic cult of the Great Horned Goddess, was intact, conveyed to us such knowledge that we were able to live in dynamic equilibrium with nature, with each other, and within ourselves. Hallucinogenic mushroom use evolved as a kind of natural habit with behavioral and evolutionary consequences. This relationship between human beings and mushrooms had to have also included cattle, the creators of the only source of the mushrooms."
(Food of the Gods, Terence McKenna, pgs. 37-39)
Ur was one of the chief city-states of ancient Sumer. Its patron deity was a being known as Nanna, or simply Sin, the moon god and father of Ishtar, a female goddess who has frequently been linked with the Scarlet Woman of the Book of Revelations. The bull was one of Nanna's chief symbols, and he was frequently depicted riding on a winged bull. McKenna essentially argues that these bull/cattle cults were built around the use of psychedelic mushrooms.
|Nanna/Sin, the Sumerian moon god|
Interestingly, the Indo-Eurpoean peoples also became associated with cattle early in their nomadic wanderings.
"The Aryan tribes left the Himalayan foothills where the fly agaric, their Soma, is found. It becomes more and more difficult to obtain Soma, as the current story indicates. The native Dravidian people raise cattle as the Aryans do, and also use mushrooms as they do, but the mushrooms are different. They are small, bronze-colored, and grow in the dung of cattle after rainstorms. They are a species of Psilocybe mushrooms, possibly Psilocybe cubensis. The Aryans, unable to get their own mushrooms, use the intoxicant of the Dravidians as a surrogate and find it to be a powerful halluconogen. On occasion it also gives a poisonous reaction at first. Holding the mushroom by its white 'neck' or 'throat' (that is, the stem) causes it to stain a vivid dark blue. The always-intoxicated Shiva is white, because he rubs his body with ashes after bathing; these ashes turn white when they dry. By 'holding in the throat' his white neck turns blue. An additional clue is the fact that Shiva always rides his bull Nandi, just as Psilocybe mushrooms 'ride' the bull's dung.
"Blue-staining Psilocybe species usually will not grow outdoors in colder northern climes such as those in which the Aryans had been living before their migrations southward, so even though they raised cattle, they may not have encountered Psilocybe mushrooms until they moved further south. To be able to substitute one psychedelic mushroom that was no longer easy to get, with another that grew on the dung of their highly valued cattle must have seemed providential indeed."
(Magic Mushrooms in Religion and Alchemy, Clark Heinrich, pg. 34)
Likely there was a great deal of overlap between the bull cults of the Indo-Europeans and those that originated in Sumer. They may even have originated from the same source before branching off into radically different directions. That said, I can not see magic mushrooms playing a major role in Sumerian civilization (and the countless others that derived from it) outside of an initiated priesthood. Those reasons will be examined in the next installment in addition to what narcotic may have played a major role amongst the general populace.