Who are the real pawns? What is their role in the passage between heaven and earth? The concept of Mana helps us understand who can be the real King.
The Right Holder of Mana
We find the interregnum between the sunset and the rebirth of the ancient king in Babylon, on the feast of Akitu, to which we have already referred several times. Its climax coincides with the sacred wedding of the king after the rebirth, and the masquerade, the reversal of all values, is linked to these.
On the seals, the god is depicted going by boat to his bride. The substitute king, disguised as a lion with a human head, is led in chains. Above the boat, also mimicked by a man, there is a series of objects, among which a plow and a container can be recognized. One wonders whether these objects, placed so conspicuously next to the god, do not constitute the symbols that legitimize the risen man as the just one in his wife’s eyes. But why a plow and a container? A Scythian legend, handed down to us by Herodotus, perhaps provides us with an answer.
Targitaos, the first man, son of Zeus, and daughter of Borsysteus reigned a thousand years before the invasion of Darius in the land of the Scythians. He had three sons: Lipochais, Arpacais and Kolochis. Once four golden objects fell from the sky: a plough, a yoke, an ax of war, and a vessel. The two eldest sons of Targitaos tried, one after the other, to lift these objects, but the hot metal burned their fingers. Instead, when the younger Kolochais approached, the metal stopped burning, and he could take the objects. It was deduced that Kolochais was destined to be king, and he founded the royal family of the Paralates (4, 5).
In the suffix -chais, which appears in all three names, there is the Iranian “chschacha”, which is “the king”. Their names, therefore, characterized the three as aspirants having the same right: only one was the bearer of the Mana. The Scythian Targitaos has been equated with the Iranian Tachma urupi.
The latter, the “mighty Tachma”, is, according to Arthur Christensen, similar, if not identical, to Hoschang, nicknamed Paradata, who appeared a little earlier in the dynastic succession. His power and sphere of action are described with approximately the same expressions.
After all, a succession between them is never declared or hypothesized. In the Greek world, Paralata can easily be read as Paradata, given the graphic similarity of l. and d.
Paradata and Indian Prthu are the same. The latter’s predecessor is Vena, killed by wise men for a severe fault committed. With his death, poverty, and sterility take over everywhere. He, therefore, begins to rub the limbs of the dead. First comes a horrible being, unfit to be king; then comes Prthu, who is beautiful and armed with a bow. Prthu is proclaimed king and praised for all his deeds, even if these are yet to be done, as everything is perceived as magical and a guarantee of what is expected of him in the future. Prthu fulfills the tasks assigned to him and tames the runaway Earth-Cow with his bow; from now on, this can be milked, and the primitive fertility returns.
Of course, one could imagine a more suitable instrument than a bow for taming a cow. But precisely, the beauty and possession of the bow constitute, in the Iranian way, the distinctive signs of the bearer of the Mana. What interests us most here are the names Targitaos-Tachma and Paradata-Prthu. In Targitaos the Hittite god Tarhund and the Etruscan god Tarchon/Tarquinius/Tarchetios are hidden. Our starting point is precisely the nocturnal apparitions of the latter.
Paradata is also known to us from the Luwian-Hittite camps of Arzawa. In western Asia Minor, home of the Luwian Hittites, the legend is reflected in Paris (genitive Paridos). It is possible, or at least probable, to hypothesize a connection of Paradata with the Iranian term for Paradise, which initially meant “the fence”. Then the handsome Paradata with the bow is the “man of the enclosure”. But the beauty with the bow was once a hunter. He didn’t hunt a cow to milk it; he hunted a deer. Even the Hittite archer hunter, Rundas, is the Kuomo of the enclosure”, that is, of the game table whose central field is Paradise. The Middle Ages could interpret the hunter’s irruption into Paradise in the “hortus conclusus”, only in a Christian-allegorical sense.
Paris is among the princes who can demonstrate that he has the Mana. If he is the one who awards the fatal apple, he gets it by being preferred to his brothers. He also remains the favorite in the future and gets the best that, according to the Greek conception, can be obtained: Elena. As if that weren’t enough, he possesses the objects, thanks to which Prthu irrefutably certifies that he possesses the Mana: the bow’s beauty. Even his activity, not exactly princely, as a shepherd, must have consisted mainly in milking the cows. From the point of view of the history of culture, the shepherds in the fortress of Troy cannot be explained otherwise. The only element in the story of Paris that seems to be missing is the objects that have fallen from the sky. But even in Troy, something fell from the sky, something on which the good and evil of the city depend: the Palladium.
To claim that we know precisely what Palladium is is undoubtedly not possible; we don’t know much more than the fact that it fell from the sky. But since Pallas Athena derives her name from this, it was probably an “ancilium”, the shield with a notch on one side, the image of which is so frequent in the first gaming tables.
Even if Kronos jokingly identifies himself and his regency with the carnival king – who is instead chosen by dice – the substitute king is not him but is chosen by the dice. He is the one who has lost Mana, and who must be replaced. This is also the meaning of Ragnarök, of the end of the world: the loss on the part of the gods of the ability to maintain the golden age and the fact that for this reason, they set in the universal fire until a new age of gold takes the place of the lost one.
At this point, the following questions arise spontaneously: if things are so closely connected as to be able to explain the Saturnalia with the Völuspá and this one with those, where then, in the Völuspá, is the substitute king? Is Odin perhaps sacrificed without anyone else taking his place? If he loses his mana and the wolf, Fenrir triumphs over him, where is he who can prove, with bow and beauty, that he is right? Who reigns instead of Odin after the end of the world? Baldr, together with his brother and the innocent assassin Hod. But it’s impressive what Snorri says about Baldr.
A second son of Odin is Baldr, the good, of whom nothing but good can be said. He is the best god, and everyone praises him. He, too, is good-looking and of such a white complexion that it gives off a clear clarity. Even a herb, whiter than any other, has been likened to his eyelashes. So you can imagine the beauty of her hair and his body. He is the wisest of the Ases, can speak best, and is merciful. But what is strange is that none of his laws remain in effect. This last observation gives us the key to explaining his death. Baldr is a marvelous god, more than all the others. But he doesn’t have the mana. None of his sentences remain in force; his decisions are ineffective. He is the substitute king, who dies, but after the fall of the gods, he is the chosen one, and now no one will be able to say of him that his decisions are ineffective. The alternative sacrifice, which is spared in Schunachschepa, is fully accomplished in Baldr. He returns to the place of Odin, like Paradata to that of Vena fallen into guilt. Even the weapon that must demonstrate that he is indeed right, the owner of the Mana – or at least the one who has the right to it – is present: we are referring to the bow. And this, too, leaves him and turns against him. A powerful shot is not needed to kill the king abandoned by his Mana: the weakest and least independent plant, the mistletoe, is enough to pierce him.
The reversal of motifs testifies to the connection between them no less than their repetition. Thus it is possible to link Baldr to Paradata and Paris. He is the beauty with the bow that belongs to the lost Mana and the alternate victim. As we have seen for Roman fortune, mana is also predestined and subsequently deserved fortune; but it’s still a fortune. So here is that in the festival in honor of Saturn, that is the god abandoned by his Mana and which involves Paradise in its fall but this, at least, returns once a year – the central point consists precisely in recognition of destiny as a game of ‘gambling: nor could it be otherwise.
Thus the circle closes. The ties that wrap around the god’s feet constitute the ritual knot, equated by the Hittites to the game board. Thus we come to the concept of “everyone”, to the “people” of the clay doll market. Since the figures on the game board are mostly made of stone, the poor god is forced to swallow his children in the form of stones. Therefore, it is not a question of Kronos, time, which devours the hours and days: the ancient world is not so romantic after all! The “homo ludens” see real things everywhere. In this way, he makes the “lituus” a sickle, with which the stone is cut. Stone and crooked stick, once peacefully coexisting, come into conflict. Even the Paradise, to which they belong, the favorite center of the game table, continues its happy and luxuriant development. But playing is acknowledging fate and, at the same time, deciding. And the decision rests with the king, who has the Mana and keeps himself spotless.
Of all this, Lucianus could not, of course, be more aware. To him, forced to accept the play of the imagination of countless generations as a teaching of the faith, everything seemed strange, if not incomprehensible. So why shouldn’t he have done a little irony?
The dice found in tombs in Anterior Asia and the Indus Valley and now 5,000 years old, are the same ones that adults and children still play with today. The same goes for pawns. However, the dice is not an object that can constantly be easily reinvented. No indigenous tribe has any; it is a complex instrument that presupposes a background rich in concepts.
The oldest mythical king known to us is the Egyptian Menes; His name is written on a game board; this ancient writing means: Menes was not a king; he is the
game board. Destiny comes before every king and every god. Thus in Asia Minor, Alalu, the pawn, stands at the top of the generations of gods. But the game board is also the starting point of people and their destinies, so Menes becomes the first king. The Greeks call him Min, the North Germans Mannus.
However, as the die rolls through the millennia keeping its task unchanged and its meaning unchanged, i.e. that of capturing luck, so do the conceptions connected to it proceed, but which, unlike the stable tool of stone, majolica or clay, have come down to us not without gaps. On the contrary, they have changed interpretation, if only due to the unstoppable fantasy of the “homo ludens”. We, therefore, cannot evaluate a 1000-year hiatus, a snatch of the thread, and a subsequent re-emergence in an entirely different part of the earth as evidence of an unimaginable relationship. Dice cannot be conceived without a myth, even if this, from a religious point of view, shouldn’t be worth more than the little “mascot” in our car. It is on the same level as the no longer very current chimney sweep and the lucky pig on our New Year’s greeting cards.
Even in the future, let’s continue to smile at the superstition about luck symbols. For the historian, it constitutes a veritable mine, which reveals itself to be increasingly rich precisely where the objects have fallen lowest in our consideration. In this way, however, they are removed from any change, just like every popular costume is nothing but a fashion that has remained unchanged since the most distant times. What should we say when we note that our childhood games of jumping or balls correspond precisely to the subdivisions of the game boards found in the third-millennium BC tombs? C.? Even the designation of “heaven” and “earth” is a transposition of the ancient heaven-hell ritual oracle.
Very ancient things, once known to men, moon and fate and origin of time, when shuddering, they had to interpret creation; very ancient interpretation, which, dedicated to the god, after millennial losses turned into an easy circle. Mysterious now they hover, in the sing-song games of the children, teachings around us, which are never silent - Manfred Hausmann, Der dunkle Reigen, 1951. Previous Chapter: Rites and Games in the Ancient World: 9 the Substitute King