The Golden Bough: Customs of the Ancient World
“For myth changes while custom remains constant; men continue to do what their fathers did before them, though the reasons on which their fathers acted have been long forgotten”
The Golden Bough, 1890
Ancient ritualistic practises seem to have united both myth and custom. It becomes clear that people of the ancient world recognised the relevance and importance of nature, and too, the role of nature in sustaining the ancient peoples too. To such peoples, it was not only gods whom were adorned as nature, harvest and crop spirits, but it was the sacred marriage between male and female deities which represented the ever return of nature too. Indeed, it was common on such occasions for sexual intercourse to be had as a represnation of this marriage. This said, abstinence from sexual intercourse was also not uncommon; with the belief that the sexual energy would promote a fuller harvest yield. It was not uncommon either, for young men and women to be sacrificed, also in order to bring a greater harvest yield.
Ancient people believed that trees had spirits, of which, yielded their own power; dependant too, upon the type of tree, of which could be called upon and commanded by the magician. Immediately, one seems to be prompted to consider again the use of sympathetic magick; but one must consider too, the use of ritual. Since it was not only the seasonal ritualistic sacrifice of or too a tree spirit, which would be practised by ancient peoples, in order to ensure a plentiful harvest to follow. A number of other ritualistic practises were conducted by ancient people, mainly in aid of greater harvest yields and the promotion thereof. Drawing back to the earlier mention of gods taking animal form, ancient people would both adorn such animals as well as sacrifice them during seasonal ritualistic practices. Further, the animal, as well as other various crop yields such as corn, bread, rice and oats could have been blessed and eaten in consecration of the harvest; a ritualistic practise known as ‘eating the god’. Such traditions may be drawn into the practises of sympathetic magick, since, the eating of such food was intended to invoke the qualities of the associated god, in those who ate of them. The practise of sacrificing and eating of sacred animals, as a sacred ritualistic practise of sympathetically adopting the qualities and characteristics thereof, seems to draw one to reconsider the sacrificing of the king at the end of his reign.
“Be as thou Art shalt be the union of the Law. Love is the Law, Love within Will”
The House Thēvdos – 1 – Frater LHT – V5
Perhaps one might ponder that the act of sacrificing could have been one of highest accord in ancient times. Or rather, that the act of being sacrificed was perhaps the greatest known honour; this being why the king himself would too be sacrificed. There seems something perhaps the present day mindset omits about the importance and relevance of sacrifice. Not that one should take up such a practise of course, but instead, one might gain insight from considering what the sacrificial practices entailed. Namely, was it a literal and indeed physical sacrifice of a person or animal? For example, perhaps the often scorned child sacrifices so often attributed to Mr. Crowley, weren’t cases of killing babies or children at all, but an entirely different practise altogether.
One might wish then to investigate further the idea of regicide. Firstly, if one considers the King as the incarnation of the divinity or soul of the land in which he rules. On might then also consider that as the King's vitality declines, so too might the vitality of the land he rules. So then, suppose there to be an intricate link between King and land. Suppose too then, that if a people grow fearful of the land and indeed the world, they too become fearful of the King, and thus seek to overthrow him. One might posit the above as an analogy, in that the King could indeed be synonymous with a form of divinity, and so it is divinity itself which begins to become feared. Thus, as divinity "dies" (becomes neglected until left wholly in oblivion), so too does the (objective) land die. Further, if a man fears their King; their own divine nature, then such a man would see his own divine natures fall into oblivion; perhaps synonymous with the death of the King. Further to this, Frazer might lead one to ponder the King as representive of the collective subjective universe (SU) too. In which case, regicide could represent a form of the collective relegating of divinity into oblivion. For added context and perhaps insight, one might find the following example of use. The year 1799 marked the end of the French Revolution, whereby the French monarchy was overthrown, and a self-appointed king (dictator) was put in its place. Regarding this, Edmund Burke stated “the Age of Chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever”. A powerful statement indeed, one that seemed representative of the wider European lands’ relinguishing of divinity into a greater state of oblivion.
“Do what thou wilt shalt be the whole of the Law. Love is the Law, Love under Will”
The House of Thēvdos - 2 – Frater LHT, from Liber vel AL Legis 1:57
Further, one might postulate from the statement of Burke, as well as from the analogous and in some cases, literal, overthrowing or death of a King; becomes representative of a race to the bottom or an allegience to nihilistic absence. One might ponder the dichotomy between religion (religare; to bind) and negligence (negligare; to unbind) regarding divinity, as well as the Will. One might suggest then that religion, whilst seemingly but a shadow to Ancient magickal practises, serves or at least aims to serve to bring one closer to divinity. Albeit, many present day religions seem to miss the mark considerably.
Perhaps then the ‘sacrifice of the King’ could be interpreted differently, in such a way that supposes that the King isn’t sacrificed , but instead, sacrifices himself. To elaborate, one may suppose that the King deems his own sacrifice as part of his duty. Drawing one again to consider grace as a vital trait of Kingship. One might suppose too, that the sacrifice of the King, pertains to the duty of divinity toward every man (SU) and their Objective Universe (Kingdom). Additionally, the sacrifice of the King, might also describe a sacrifice made by a King who does not continue his bloodline. Thus, he sacrifices himself by way of his own continuation and future lineages. One might consider the sacrifice of the King to be related to the male bodied and female souled human.To elaborate, this soul/body combination implies homosexuality and thus, a lack of bloodline lineage, and thus, could be akin to the sacrifice of a King. The spiritual traits of a King being purposefully omitted here, and of course, would not rely solely on the homosexuality variable, of course. Namely, that being a homosexual, isn't necessarily symonymous with Kingship.
One might wish to consider what occurs when the King physically dies or is killed. Frazer proposes that since a King is an incarnation of the divine spirit of soul of the land in which he rules, that upon his death, the divinity is released and returns to the land. This suggets further, that the sacrifice of a King, closely precedes another King ascending in his place, and might serve perhaps as a parting gift from the late King, to his people and Kingdom. As is implied, by the returning of divine force to a land, the land could subsequently become enriched with fertility and more. Second to this, the releasing of the soul or spirit of the King, implies that it may be channelled by another, for their own means. There lying the dishonourable appeal for someone to plot to murder the King. Frazer also describes the Ancient tradition of scapegoating, whereby a person is made to embody all the ills of a Kingdom, and in their death, they take all ills of the Kingdom with them. In relation to this, Frazer describes the individual transference of sin, misfortune, and disease to inanimate objects, animals and other persons. This Ancient world practise was also practised publicly by way of festivals, in which the collective transference of undesired spirits and other such undesirable essences could be transferred into a person, whom would be the scapegoat to be sacrificed. Interestingly, this practise could be conducted regarding the soul too. In that one could house one’s soul in inanimate objects, trees and plants, and animals for sake of protection. Additionally, the use of totems for soul storage could also take place. This practise entailed the ritual enactment of the persons death and the transferring of the soul into the totem. If one considers the application of this practise in physical death, then one might postulate that a Kingdom or Kings totem might too preserve the Kings spirit, and the benefits of that spirit to the Kingdom. In any case, it would seem that in the Ancient world, death was not feared, but instead welcomed, revered and in some cases, eagerly awaited.
So drawing back to the spirits of the trees, the worship of trees by ancient peoples was largely practised across Europe; likely due to the large amounts of forest land and tall trees within. Indeed, it was Germans, Lithuanians, Celts, Greeks, Italians and more whom revered the sense of sanctuary the natural forests granted. Not forgetting of course, to the Ancient man, the world was viewed in a rather pantheistic way, and trees were no exception.
Rather, trees were heralded as most sacred, and to harm or kill a tree in Ancient times, could be punishable by death. Not only was the appeasement of a particular tree practised, but folk at times, would even threaten a tree with death if it didn’t produce any fruit. To add further context perhaps, one might consider the belief of such people too, that trees were the spirits of the dead. Moreover, there were two trains of thought regarding this. One would suppose that the spirit was bound to the tree and so, if the tree died, then so too would the spirit with it. The other train of thought supposed that the tree was but hosting the spirit, of which could leave and return as it wished. In either case, this only emphasises why trees were heralded by ancient peoples. One might also suggest that such a practise is not only in likeness, but a form of, honouring those who came before oneself. Indeed, Frazer later notes the latter train of thought becoming the dominant one amongst Ancient peoples.
Such spirits were not merely spirits, and indeed were heralded as gods; for there were many. Often, these spirits were given more human form, or at times, would be given a wholly human form; with some believing that such spirits also resided in bodies, as incarnate men. This brings one to consider this belief of Ancient people, as the origin of the acknowledgement of the Heptomad and all associated pantheons and god forms. Further, perhaps the tree spirits might be known by seven main identifiers. One need only consider the planetary correspondences to bring further thought to this.
Not only could one suggest a link between the tree worship of Ancient peoples and the Heptomad, but one can also postulate, as Frazer does, a link between tree worship of Ancient times, and present day festivals. Namely, Frazer proposes that festivals such as the Solstices, May Day and even St Georges Day were originally celebrations of the tree spirits themselves. Further, with personifications of the spirits represented in models and puppets, and names adorned such as Lady May, Jack in the Green and the Green King; one immediately is drawn also to consider the Green Man. One might also consider the manifestations of such a multitude of spirits, otherwise known, Pan. The presnt day aspirant, certainly would have plenty to consider if he sought to adopt a more traditonally based lifestyle. Indeed, he may Be as his ancestor and Do as his ancestor.
V:5 ☉ in ♑︎