Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Dolmens II

The dolmens of the world tend to lack any of the markings of the more established religions. Even the more specific known symbols of the pre-Christian religions of Europe rarely find a place on the dolmens. These monuments and other megaliths though do have carvings and other marks quite commonly and the meanings of these symbols has fueled much speculation.

To sort this out we can explore the traditions connected with the European megalithic sites. As noted, the greatest monuments often have only relatively late notices in the literature. Stonehenge is first mentioned only in 1135 by Geoffrey of Monmouth. The impressive ruins of Carnac despite rather detailed early descriptions of the surroundng area are only related in 1779 by Sauvagère in Recueil d'Antiquités dans les Gaules who attributes them mistakenly to the Romans.

However, it may be through the folklore linked with these monuments that we can work back and connect with the more ancient literature. In northern Europe, the dolmens and other megaliths are often associated with fairies, elves and other folkloric peoples or creatures. These mythological beings may at one time have been real cultures that over the centuries or millennia became transformed through the telling of tradition.

In the medieval literature, these peoples play a rather distinct role and are often associated with faraway mystical places. In the chansons de geste, Arthurian cycles and other romantic epics, the fairies are linked with the lush paradisical place called the "island of apples" or Avalon.

A land of apples is also found in earlier Greek and Norse myths. In the Greek versions, this place is located "beyond the river Oceanus at the outer limits of the world." As mentioned earlier, the river Oceanus was seen as existing both to the west and to the east. This could be either according to the astronomical view of a globular world or to the popular and medieval one of a flat circular world.

"As for Okeanos, the Greeks say that it flows around the whole world from where the sun rises, but they cannot prove that this is so." - Herodotus 4.8.1

"The unending flow and ebb of Tethys, of the sacred flood of Okeanos fathomless-rolling, of the bounds of Earth that wearieth never of her travail, of where the Sun-steeds leap from orient waves." - Quintus Smyrnaeus 2.115

"[The] rivers [of the world] are many, and mighty, and diverse, and there are four principal ones, of which the greatest and outermost is that called Okeanos, which flows round the earth in a circle; and in the opposite direction flows Akheron, which passes under the earth through desert places." -Plato Phaedo 112E

"The root-fixt bed of refluent Okeanos surrounds the circle of the world and its four divided parts, girdling the whole earth coronet- wise with encircling band." –Dionysiaca 2.247

The golden apples of the Garden of Hesperides were a gift from Gaea during the wedding of Zeus and Hera, have been located in many places including Africa and America. The golden apples in many ways resemble the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden. The tree possessing these apples was said to be guarded by a serpent or dragon sometimes called Ladon.

The serpent Ladon protecting the golden apples

Earlier I mentioned that the forbidden fruit of the Bible has often been equated with the banana. Could this also be the case with the "golden apples." The tree was cared for by the sisters known as the Hesperides. As one of his labors, Hercules went to fetch the golden apples and came to a land known as Hyperborea.

The country of Hyperborea was said to be located in the far north beyond the north wind or the Boreas in Greek (Latin Aquilon).

However, like Avalon, Hyperborea was described as a lush warm paradise where the natives ran naked and carefree. Abaris, a Hyperborean priest, was said to have carried a magic arrow and is linked with the founding of magic and shamanist traditions in Greece and also to a particular school of medicine. It was said that the Sun was worshipped here in the form of Apollo, and both Kronus and Leto, the grandfather and mother of Apollo were stated to have come from Hyperborea.

It was here that Hercules finds Atlas or in some versions Prometheus. Interestingly, Titans alone seemed to know the way to the mystical Garden of the Hesperides.

The Norse myth of Iðunn also mentions golden apples and contains the following motifs: 1) The tree's fruit provides eternal youth to the gods of Asgard, 2) Loki takes the form of a bird to steal Iðunn and the golden apples, 3) Loki and Thor hide the apples in the belly of the Midgard serpent.

You may notice here the combination of the tree, the bird and the serpent that we discussed earlier.

Vennemann believes the Hesperides are linked with North Africa and that even that the name is of Afro-Asiatic origin. He has suggested pre-Indo-European peoples like the Picts and the Scandinvian Vanirs were Afro-Asiatic speakers.

However, like Avalon, the Hesperides and Hyperborea are linked in some ways with voyages to the north as well as the west. While there is some indication of polar days and nights, these lands are thought of as having warm, even tropical climates.

Could we have here some vague recollection of northern journeys that eventually led to the South Seas as postulated by Hornell and others? In the medieval romances, Ogier the Dane was said to have spent a long time in Avalon where he reportedly made many conquests in the "Indies."

We find later too that Prester John becomes entwined in the romance literature connected, for example, with Parzival and Ogier, often with the further geographical link of the Indies. We will discuss this in greater detail later on in the blog.

Vennemann has also suggested that the word "apple" was borrowed into Indo-European from Afro-Asiatic 'abol "genitals." However, Pedersen notes that the apple words like those for "river bank," i.e., German uber and Welsh aber, show an alternation between the letters "a" and "u" and he believes this may be related to Austronesian influence.

Of the symbols found on the megaliths, one of the most common is the cup mark. Monuments in Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Korea, Europe, India and other regions all display, often profusely, these concave etchings.

Oppenheimer notes that in Sumatra and eastern Indonesia, these cup marks are found in parallel rows in a pattern similar to a Mancala board game (Sungka in the Philippines). In fact, these cup etchings are actually used to play this Indo-Pacific-wide game locally. Similar patterns have been found on megaliths in Turkey and East Africa, and amongst the rock carvings of Scandinavia. That a game would be played on a sacred tomb should not be thought of as strange. In many ancient cultures, ancestral tombs were looked at as not less than a home away from home, where family activities such as eating and playing were encouraged.

Other cup marks seem to represent something else entirely and are often shown with surrounding concentric rings. In the view of the dragon and bird clan, these symbols might represent the holy volcano in a Mt. Meru design with the concave cup symbolizing the volcanic crater.

Megalithic cup and ring marking from Achnabreck, Scotland

Megalithic cup and ring marking from Ballochmyle, Scotland

In some cases, these cup markings are connected by grooves that follow the natural contours of the stone. They have been thought of in many ways to include outlines of tomb structures and representations of constellations. Some believe the groove system is designed to help drain water off the rock although this is usually not obvious. It may be that the builders saw the stone's contours as a representation of a natural landscape and that the grooves represented water ways leading from one mountain (cup mark) to another.

The early Greeks divided history into different ages of which the first was the Golden Age. During this period, Kronus ruled over the Titans, the Golden Race, in Hyperborea also sometimes described as the "Saturnian isle." After the volcanic overthrow of the Titans, the Golden Age continued in the mysterious otherworldly "Isles of the Blessed." The period was known as one of innocence and natural living.

Plato writing in Cratylus notes that the Golden Race were also known as "demons" although the meaning of that word was different in earlier times. Referring to Hesiod, he states:

And therefore I have the most entire conviction that he called them demons, because they were daemones (knowing or wise), and in our older Attic dialect the word itself occurs. Now he and other poets say truly, that when a good man dies he has honour and a mighty portion among the dead, and becomes a demon; which is a name given to him signifying wisdom. And I say too, that every wise man who happens to be a good man is more than human (daimonion) both in life and death, and is rightly called a demon.

Hesiod described the early Golden Race as "holy demons upon the earth, Beneficent, averters of ills, guardians of mortal men."

It is probably not by coincidence that the word "demon" has come to refer to the "fallen angels" of Biblical lore.

Indeed we have shown that the fallen angel camp "ruled" first through their willingness to exploit the trade routes without moral reservation. However, the eruptions and corresponding alliance of the dragon and bird clans allowed for the "overthrow" of the old regime and their expulsion from "Eden."

Paul Kekai Manansala


On the folklore of the megaliths

Evans-Wentz, W. Y., The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries, 1911.

Dumézil, Georges, “The Gods: Aesir and Vanir,” in Gods of the Ancient Norsemen 3-25 (1973).

MacRitchie, David. Ancient and Modern Britons : A Retrospect, W. Preston, 1986 (reprint).

On Vennemann's and related theories

Linguistic abstracts, http://www.germanistik.uni-muenchen.de/theoretische_linguistik/vennemann.html#abstracts