Amanda Laoupi: The Pelasgian Spiritual Substratum of the Bronze Age Mediterranean and the circum-Pontic world (3)
The pair of Athena and Hephaistos
Moreover, Hephaistos’ and Athena’s case as a celestial dual archetype is another strong Pelasgian motif (Laoupi, 2006a). Hesiod, as well as Roman sources, claims that Hera gave birth to Hephaestus parthenogenically, without Zeus' participation, since she was angry at him for birthing Athena from his own head without first procreating with her. Thus, Hesiod in Theogony (924-929) highlights the analogy between Athena and Hephaistos (Apollodorus, 1.19; Cicero, 3.22). Plato in Critias (109B-D) declares that Hephaistos and Athena are of the same father, they are of the same nature (Graves, 1969). The Roman equivalent of Athena (Minerva) was Hephaistos (Vulcan). The sequence of the Twelve Gods appears in the Rustic Calendar, in Manilius and at the Altar at Gabii. Aries and Libra had Athena-Minerva and Hephaestus-Vulcan as their guardian gods. Aries symbolizes the head from which Athena sprang.
At this point we should emphasize that the double symbolization of Hera-the moon goddess and Athena as planet Jupiter was the kernel of one Homeric archaeoastronomical substratum. This aspect explains the names of the planets in the planetary conjunction of 1953 BCE and a periodical phenomenon with a 10 year interval (Iliad, II.156; IV.8; V.418; VIII.418- 419), when the Moon and planet Jupiter, in their major luminescence, conjuncted in a specific zodiacal asterism (Wood and Wood, 1991). The other substratum seemed to represent the fire spirits within the figures of ‘Pelasgian Hera’ and Athena.
The Neoplatonists (a revival of Platonism in the 3rd century CE) accepted the Twelve Gods as a legacy from Plato. Generally speaking, Vesta represented Earth, Neptune Water, Juno Air, and Vulcan Fire. So, Jupiter, Neptune and Vulcan belong to the Creators of the universe, Vesta, Minerva and Mars to the Guards, Ceres, Juno and Diana to the Life-givers and Mercury, Venus and Apollo to the Uplifters. The creative and paternal gods make the universe, the life-givers give it life, uplifters harmonize it, and the guards preserve and protect it (Gillman, 1996-1967).
In this conceptual framework, Hephaistos was treated as the creator of the asterisms, a creative force in the Universe (Iliad, I.597-607), and his mythical fall on Lemnos as the god’s stay below the horizon, in the realm of Thetis (the asterism of Eridanus) where he created the asterisms of the Southern Hemisphere (Wood, 1991). Although in the verses of the Odyssey (xviii.283), the workshop of the god is on the island of Lemnos, in the Iliad (XVIII.369) this is located in the heavens. The asterism of Perseus is more probably connected with Hephaistos not because of its shape, but to its relationship with the meteor swarms of Perseides, visible between July, 25 and August 4 (Wood, 1991). These flames are also described as burning the sky (Iliad, V.4-8).
In addition, the two gods (Athena and Hephaistos) were considered as grand teachers of Humanity (Homeric Hymn to Hephaestus). Their archetypal symbolization is related to exo-terrestrial invaders that cause terror and destruction on Earth (comets, asteroids, plasma and planet’s outbursts). Additionally, what is most astonishing is the correlation between metallurgy and natural phenomena that enhance its expansion: ‘iron, though that is the strongest substance, melts under stress of blazing fire in the mountain forests worked by handicraft of Hephaistos inside the divine earth’. Once again, the sacred knowledge is derived from both gods, Hephaistos and Athena (Odyssey, vi.233 & xxiii.160; Homeric Hymn 20 to Hephaistos; Hesiod, Theogony 820 ff; Solon fr. 13; Plato, Protagoras 320C - 322A).
Athena, on the other part, is a mistress of disguise, as Homer constantly points out. Pallas Athena represented the proto-planet Venus (Typhon = the cometary tail of proto-Venus), in her cometary behaviour, and was worshipped among the peoples of Mediterranean (Wallis, 1972; Talbott, 1994). That Venus, later identified with the goddess Aphrodite and the planet Venus’ dual appearance in the sky (evening = female/morning = male), was Aphrodite barbata (bearded), or the Cyprian goddess Aphrodite with a beard, a strong image of bisexuality (Pauly-Wissowa R.E.). Athena keeps also to her primordial androgynous image, as male, bearded serpents were found on a pediment of the Archaic Athenian Acropolis (Talbott, 1974). Planet Venus was symbolized by the ‘crux ansata’ (Egyptian ankh), a combined phallus and vulva.
Consequently, as we can detect two Heras, two Athenas and two Hephaistos in the Epics, we can also find the two Aphrodites, the Ouranian/Selenian and the planetary Venus. Athena “she herself had no womb, for when she carried children, it was in a basket” (Deutsch, 1969). In the Orphic Hymns (32.10 - 11) she is clearly addressed by the words: ‘born as male and female’, ‘agile and luminous’ and ‘draco’.
Furthermore, Hephaistos was a Comet God (Laoupi, 2006a). Hephaistos or Hephaestus, the god of volcanic and thermal activity, of wild and destructive fires, the patron of smiths and metalworkers, builders, architects, stonemasons, carpenters and wood-workers, seems to represent not only the earthen/ subterranean fires but the fire of extra-terrestrial origin, ever awesome and uncontrollable. Divine smiths are peacemakers, too, for they are connected to celestial and subterranean fields, by acting as mediators between them. But, there is an agent – neglected until recently - which could destroy civilization and cause earthly turbulence, the exo-terrestrial encounters. Astronomical evidence indicates that our ancestors viewed a much more active sky than we do. Particularly during the past twelve thousand years, such deliveries were not uncommon. Much evidence suggests that humanity witnessed, and was affected by, the break-up of a very large comet during this time period.
Physically, Hephaistos was a muscular man with a thick neck and hairy chest who, because of a shortened, lame leg (? lame = one-footed) and club foot (with feet facing backwards), supported himself with the aid of a crutch. Bearded, he most often dressed in a ragged, sleeveless tunic and woolen hat. Most frequently, he was portrayed in art holding the tools of his trade, especially the blacksmith's hammer and tongs. Sometimes, he was surrounded by the Kabeiroi (Herodotus, III.37), the dwarflike blacksmith servants of the Mother Goddess who were helpers in his subterranean forge. His sacred animal, the ass/mule (Hyginus, Astronomica II.23; Antoninus Liberalis, 28) was also among the sacred animals of Seth - the Egyptian parallel of Typhoon (in Egypt, there was a temple of Hephaistos; Herodotus, III.37). The ass also was an ideographic hieroglyphic of the number thirty, and symbol of the luni-solar month. Finally, as a feminine symbol of the full moon, the ass carried the solar light, the ‘Lord of Light’ (Valentia Straiton, 1927).
Vase paintings show Hephaistos upon a mule, symbol of sexual barrenness. The Roman authors represented him in the form of a phallus in the hearth fire (comet’s phallus’ tail). A comet in its typical apparition may be symbolized as an angel with wings, a helmeted head and a long-haired creature, a phallus with testes or as a head with two massive arms (de Grazia, 1984b). Herodotus II.51) mentions that:
“the mysteries of Cabeiri-rites which the men of Samothrace learned from the Pelasgians who lived in that island before they moved to Attica and communicated the mysteries to the Athenians. This will show that the Athenians were the first Greeks to make statues of Hermes with the erect phallus, and they learned the practice from the Pelasgians...”
The characteristics attributed to him remind us of the coma when comets are hit by the solar wind. The word comet derives from the ancient Greek epithet καρηκομόων (hairy), thus, comets were the ‘hairy stars’ (αστέρες κομόεντες). This epithet is already present in the Homeric Epics (Barrett, 1978; Heidarzadeh, 2008). The description of an ancient Greek painting by Philostratus the Elder (Imagines, 1.1), too, notices that Homer inspired the ancient artist in the scene of Skamandros and Hephaistos:
“... The fire which envelops Hephaistos flows out on the surface of the water and the River is suffering and in person begs Hephaistos for mercy. But the River is not painted with long hair, for the hair has been burnt off; nor is Hephaistos painted as lame, for he is running; and the flames of the fire are not ruddy nor yet of the usual appearance, but they shine like gold and sunbeams. In this Homeros is no longer followed...” And it is noteworthy that one of the two god’s substances is characterized by speed, an attribute not consistent to his malformation. But the epithet lame in ancient Greek may also be interpreted as strong-armed and ambi-dextrous.
Even more, one of the three cities of Troy (Laoupi, 2006a), described by Homer, is referred to the period around 1800 BCE, when the polar star Thuban (a Draco), following the phenomenon of the wobble of the Earth’s axis (Precession of the Equinoxes), gave its place (Indra killing the dragon?) in the Heavens to the star b Ursus minor. The fall of that Troy was, also, symbolized by the retirement of the constellation Ursus major from the area of the celestial North Pole.
Erechtheion temple, the holiest of all Athenian temples (from the South) – Acropolis of Athens, Greece. Photo by Amanda Laoupi, September 2013.
There is a strong correlation between night skies (constellation of Draco), nocturnal festivals and the chthonic cults in Athenian Acropolis (Gerding and Gerding, 2006; Boutsikas, 2007 & 2011; Boutsikas and Hannah, 2012). The historian Herodotus (VIII.41) reports that the great snake (of the goddess Athena), living at the Erechtheion, guards the Acropolis and monthly receives offerings made of honey cake. But the snake's occasional refusal to eat the cakes was thought a disastrous omen. At the time of the Persian invasion, the snake refused to eat the offering. “And when the priestess announced this, the Athenians deserted the city the more readily because the Goddess herself had deserted the acropolis".
The interrelation between Athena and Erechtheus in the Erechtheion is found already in the description in the Catalogue of Ships in Homeric Iliad (II.549). The temple of Hephaistos (aka Theseion) was also built across the Parthenon in the Athenian Agora. The Greek architect and archaeologist J. Travlos (1971, pp. 213-227) suggested that the place included the cults of Poseidon/Erechtheus (Theseus being the grand-son of Erechtheus), Boutes, and Hephaistos along with the Sanctuary of Athena Polias, containing adytons for the grave of Erechtheus and the xoanon of Athena (for the aspects of Athena’s cult see also Hatzisteliou – Price, 1978; Jeppesen, 1987). On the Parthenon Frieze, Athena and Hephaistos were also depicted as a couple - no 36 & 37 (Plato, Critias 109c-110; Plato, Laws 920d; Plato, Protagoras 321d; Pemberton, 1976; Mark, 1984; Long, 1989).
During antiquity, another legendary event was also recorded, relating to the prehistory of the Erechtheion. Erechtheus was at war with the Eleusinians (Euripides, Erechtheus fr. 65.16-21; Isocrates, Panathenaicos 193; Elderkin, 1941, p. 116) and Eumolpos family from Thrace (Pelasgian substratum of the cults) who claimed their rights on the site of the Erechtheion. Moreover, Skiros and his group of people came from Dodona (pristine cult center of the Pelasgians) to help the Eleusinians in their war against Erechtheus. The god Poseidon stood on Mount Hymettus, on the slopes of which the industrious Pelasgians cultivated the barren soil, turning it into fertile land (Herodotus, VI.137: the Athenians got jealous and chased them out to Lemnos island). Later on, according to Herodotus’ Histories (VI. 138):
"The Pelasgians dwelt at that time in Lemnos [6th century BCE] and desired vengeance on the Athenians. Since they well knew the time of the Athenian festivals, they acquired fifty-oared ships and set an ambush for the Athenian women celebrating the festival of Artemis at Brauron. They seized many of the women, then sailed away with them and brought them to Lemnos to be their concubines."
Finally, the Homeric Zeus of the Pelasgians (Ζεύς Πελασγικός) was probably the initial deity of Athenian Hekatompedon along with Aphrodite Ourania (Elderkin, 1941, p. 123). In fact, Zeus was considered to be the protector of olive trees before Athena (Sophocles, Oedipus at Kolonos 705-706) and he was addressed under the epithets ‘morios’ and ‘elaious’ (Hesychios, s.v.).
In the later Erechtheion, in its southwestern corner, there was a pool of water, the guardian of which was a semi-anthropomorphic Cecrops, similar to Python at Delphi. And, the gift of water proposed to Athenians by Poseidon, in exchange of the olive tree by Athena (see also the ‘war’ between Poseidon and Athena’s favorite hero Odysseus, Sora, 2007) should probably not be referring to the salt water of the sea but to φρέαρ or στόμιον, similar to ἂντρον or στόμιον of Python at Delphi (Sophocles, Antigoni 1217; Strabo, IX.419; Elderkin, 1941, p. 118 ff). Another explanation considers the fact that there was an altar of Hephaistos in the Erechtheion, in the same chamber as that of Poseidon/Erechtheus, Hephaistos being the Homeric husband (Odyssey, viii.270) of Aphrodite Ourania, goddess of the Sea (Ἀφροδίτη Πελαγία).
A tablet from Knossos dated to the 14th century BCE mentions the word a-pa-i-ti-jo which may correspond to Hephaistos or Hephaistion, that is “sacred to Hephaistos” (Landau, 1958; Chadwick and Baumbach, 1963, p. 201; Chantraine 1970, p. 418; contra, Frisk 1972, p. 102; Barbanera, 2013).
The Swastika symbol
The Swastika, on the other hand, is an ancient world-symbol full of occult meaning. It is an alchemical, cosmological, anthropological, and magical sign, and contains seven keys to its inner meaning (Zenith and Nadir; North, South, West, and East; the Centre). The motif seems to have first been used in Upper Palaeolithic Eurasia. The earliest known swastika is engraved on the under-wings of a flying bird, made of mammoth ivory, dating as early as 18 to 15 kya (Campbell, 1991; Johnson, 1998, p. 236; Fuiten, 2005, p. 57 ff.). It was also adopted in Native American cultures, seemingly independently. The swastika (from Sanskrit svastika in Devanagari, a writing system of Northern Indian languages) is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles in either left-facing or right-facing direction. The swastika is a holy symbol in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Archaeologically speaking, there is a profound relationship between the swastika and fire (sun, wheel of creation, architecture of Cosmos) through creation and evolution. The swastika is found all over Hindu temples, signs, altars, pictures and iconography where it is sacred. It is used in all Hindu weddings, festivals, ceremonies, houses and doorways, clothing and jewellery, motor transport and even decorations on food items like cakes and pastries. The word first appears in Classical Sanskrit, in the Ramayana and Mahabharata Epics. In the Bhavishya Purana (one of the 18 major Hindu Puranas, written in Sanskrit and attributed to Rishi Vyasa, the compiler of the Vedas), it is a weapon of the snake king (dragon), Takshak.
The association of the Sanskrit term ‘svastika’ with this symbol may be traced in the Astika Parva (Mahabharata), which relates the birth of a cosmic bird par excellence - Garuda. This fabulous winged deity had a radiance like that of the Sun, could change shapes at will, and destroyed other gods and kings by casting down fire and stirring up storms of reddish dust which darkened the Sun, Moon and stars. Clearly Garuda was a symbol of an Earth approaching comet.
The Han Dynasty silk comet atlas is used as a compelling explanation for the ubiquity of the swastika motif. A reproduced portion of this silk atlas with its comet drawings was probably related to the breakup of the progenitor of comet Encke and the Taurid meteoroid stream (Clube and Napier, 1982, p. 155) Victor Clube and Bill Napier). This object could have produced several very bright comets in short period (~3.3 years) orbits that crossed the Earth's path. Moreover, comet Encke's polar axis is only 5 degrees from its orbital plane (Whipple and Green, 1985). Such an orientation is ideal for having presented a pinwheel like aspect to our ancestors at a time when comet Encke was more active. In fact, an out-gassing comet that could produce a pinwheel appearance to someone looking down the comet's axis of rotation would look very different to an observer viewing the same comet along its equator (Sagan & Dryuan, 1985).
According to the Comet/bird hypothesis, when a comet approaches so close to Earth, the jets of gas streaming from it, bent by the comet's rotation, became visible, looking like a swastika. This observation is drawn from an ancient Chinese manuscript that shows comet tail varieties (Sagan and Druyan, 1985). Accordingly, the swastika-like comet on the Han Dynasty silk comet atlas was labelled a ‘long tailed pheasant star’. Thus, many swastika and swastika-like motifs may have been representations of bird tracks, including many of those found by Schliemann at Troy (Kobres, 1992).
Ancient Greek architectural designs are replete with interlinking swastika motifs. A swastika border is one form of meander. The Greek goddess Athena, as traced in Minoan religion, Artemis and Astarte were sometimes portrayed as wearing robes covered with swastikas.
Furthermore, according to Eastern Mediterranean geoarchaeological evidence (the impacted earth, the grey pottery/metallurgy and the radioactive environments), the ‘flame of Hephaistos’ or his ‘red breath’ (characterized as purest flame) was a leitmotif among the Ancients (Orphic Hymn 66 to Hephaistos; Homer, Iliad II.426, IX.467, XVII.88 & XXIII.33 and Odyssey, xiv.71; Hesiod, Theogony 864; Aristophanes, Birds, 436; Quintus Smyrnaeus, XIII.170, XIII. 367 & IV.160; Suidas, s.v. 'Hephaistos').
Although ancient writers mention it together with Keian, Cappadocian and Sinopic earths, all four being identified as red earths, Pliny’s comments distinguish a difference. This earth (terra lemnia, rubricata or sigillata) resembled cinnabar (XXXV.14), it had a pleasant taste, too, while Galen (XIII.246b) adds that “it differs from miltos because it doesn’t leave a stain when handled”. The same writer, during his visit to Hephaestias, analyzes the myth of Hephaistos and his relationship with Lemnos (the god himself cured his awful trauma from his landing on the island by using this earth), saying that “the mythical hill, also known as Mosychlos, appeared to be burnt due to its colour and from the fact that nothing grows on it”. Belon, during his journey in the 16th century CE, refers, also, to the yellow/white colours of the earth, equally explained by the presence of hydrothermally altered rocks.
The ritual of its extraction highlights its peculiarity. On the other hand, the god was well known as an ‘aithaloeis theos’, meaning the sooty god (Suidas, s.v. 'Aithaloeis theos') and in Lemnos, Hephaistos was worshipped as a god of healing, his priests possessing antidotes to poisons. Later on, the priestesses of Artemis had the right to use this earth (Hall and Photos – Jones, 2008). That Artemis was connected to the Anatolian nucleus of Amazons.
Hydrocarbon evolution due to past volcanic activity may be one explanation. Destruction layers with the presence of hydrocarbons and other characteristics mentioned above (like cinnabar, with its sweet taste, losing its power with the passage of time, or being periodically recharged) may be another evidence of past celestial events (combustion residues, chemical fusion).
Matriarchy as a key figure of Pelasgian origin
Another strong evidence of past matriarchal societies exists in the mythical cycles of the Amazons. Three Amazonian tribes (belonging to a greater Amazon nation) were famous in the ancient world, the North African, the Caucasian on the shores of the Black Sea, who, in the times of Theseus, came to Attica, and the Scythians (of Iranian origin), who, under the command of their queen, Myrina, subdued the Gorgons (the queen of which was Medusa), marched through Egypt and Arabia, and founded their capital on Lake Tritonis, later being annihilated by Hercules. Myrina was also said to be the first to land on the previously uninhabited island of Samothrace, building the temple there, perhaps a post hoc explanation of the validity of the veneration of the Great Mother across the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age circum-Mediterranean areas (Biaggi, 2006).
Their existence and deeds were a preferred topic amongst ancient Greek artists, especially Amazonomachy. The foundation of several towns in Asia Minor and in the Aegean islands is ascribed to them, e.g. those of Cyme, Ephesus, Myrina both on Lemnos island and of Mysia, Paphos and Smyrna (Stephanus of Byzantium, s.v. Myrina). Later on, in the 1540s, Francisco de Orellana, a Spanish soldier, spotted tribeswomen with bows and arrows on South America’s largest river banks and gave it the name Amazon. Their enduring legend survived till today (Pöllauer, 2003; Webster Wilde, 2000; Mayor, 2014).
Another clue that links the female characteristics in cults and in ceremonies was the central conception of bees and apiculture held in prehistoric societies (wherever the Pelasgian substartum was strong). The Anatolian Goddess is often shown wearing a beehive as a tiara, most frequently at Haçilar ca 8 kya. And rudimentary images of Bees dating to 6540 BCE are painted above the head of a Goddess in the form of a halo at the Neolithic settlement of Çatal Hüyük. The beehive was a strong symbol of the womb, too (see the controversial work by Mellaart, 1965; Mellaart, et al., 1989; see also Crane, 1999).
Moreover, the famous Omphalos Stone resembled a beehive with crisscrossing rows of bee-like symbols, like the ‘Net dress’ worn by Nut, the Egyptian goddess of the sky and keeper of the title ‘She Who Holds a Thousand Souls’ (bees were also a symbol of the Underworld). Bees and the making of honey was also the pivotal motif in the New Year’s rituals among the Minoans, at the Summer Solstice, when Sirius had his heliacal rise.
Dancing Bee Goddess, from The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe; note the swastikas
© Marija Gimbutas
In this Minoan iconography, the Bee goddess wears bull’s horns with a double axe above them, while winged dogs (symbols also of Hecate and Artemis) stand on both sides of her feet, a very strong symbolism related to Moon cults, as well (Cashford and Baring, 1993). Thus, the double axe could be a moon-sceptre and symbol of Venus’ crescent.
LM II–III seal from Knossos
(CMS- Corpus der minoischen und mykenischen Siegel, Berlin. II.3 63)