In their most ancient depiction of the “denar” by L. Caesius, the Lares appear to us as two seated young men holding sticks, facing the same way as if they wanted to observe something. Between them sits a dog. It also seems that as “Lares Praestites”, they were covered in dog skins’. However, the stories around Larentia clearly show that in the milieu of the twins, the dog can also become a wolf. A she-wolf raises the twins Romulus and Remus, the first augurs, and the stormy Lupercales festival appears in her restricted circle.
Even in Nordic mythology, the wolf always appears together with the gods of magic. The Fenrir wolf is Odin’s antagonist at the end of the world and should indeed be considered as the antagonist, whose release from the bonds not only causes the end of the world but also causes Odin’s death. All the rest is embellishment and ornament.
We recognized the net in which the wolf is imprisoned as the same with which Loki is bound. Here too, the wolf occupies a precise position. The gods transform a son of Loki into a wolf who tears his brother to pieces, whose entrails Loki is tied to stones in the shape of skittles. If the wolf had not been connected to the net and chains from the beginning, transforming into the wolf of one of the sons to tear his brother to pieces would be a truly strange measure. The wolf is considered a very cruel animal that devours everything. When Ingjald declared himself inferior to his companions, he was fed a wolf’s heart which drove him back to measureless cruelty. The image of a man who is completely calm and rational during the day but who at night soon falls asleep and then wanders through the woods as a wolf while his body lies in the house, as if lifeless, is recurring in the stories.
In the Egil saga, Kveldulf, the “evening wolf”, said that he could always give good advice but roamed around as a wolf at night. All of his prophecies turned out to be correct. The prophetic art must therefore be connected in some way with the wolf: since human beings are precisely such and not wolves, they must, at least at night, assume the appearance of this animal. The designation of the wolf as “grey Norn” is not entirely uncommon, and if the wolf is an animal of Odin, it hardly owes it to the god of war. Odin never fights himself but determines the luck of war.
The starting point common to all these conceptions (the wolf or dog of the twins, the wolf with the net, and the seer wolf) is the original form of the game of dice, the board game, which is still evident in Schunachschepa.
At this point, one of Heidrek’s riddles also comes in, who so gladly draw their images from the game board!”. It is riddle No. 26, which says:
What is the name of the animal that kills flocks and is externally made of iron? It has eight horns but no head and runs when allowed to. King Heidrek, can you guess?
Your riddle is good, Gestumblindi; it is easily guessed: it is the bear in the board game: it runs as soon as you throw it.
When stalking prey, the bear is a hardy walker. But it appears too clumsy for its characteristic to be seen precisely in the race. Here the bear seems to have taken the place of the wolf, or at least there is a possibility of exchange between one and the other. As there are werewolves, there are also people who, like Bödvar Bjarki, can take on the appearance of a bear while sleeping. But the wolf is often referred to as a wasteland walker because of its restless and restless walking.
The peculiarities in the question concern the pawn. The lack of a head speaks for the pin shape. The fact that it is empty and made of iron is entirely probable: we know of iron pawns among the Hittites. The eight horns are presumably the number that makes it enter the field. Running indicates his excellent mobility on the chessboard.
Gestumblindi is Odin, the “blind” god. Now we no longer ignore that his eyes are found in the form of dice eyes in the well of Mim, together with the horn of Gjallar. Mim’s children play, and Gjallar’s horn is blown at sunset when Odin loses his Mana to the wolf Fenrir.
In chess, no piece resembles a wolf or a bear. But this game developed from a well-defined war game, alongside many others. In the Middle Ages, a game that corresponds to our “wolf and sheep” was still enjoyed with dogs and rabbits, whose rules we know. In the “wolf and sheep” and in the medieval game of the rabbit, it is a question of making a circle around the dog or wolf so narrow that the animal remains imprisoned. In the same way, a game probably existed in which a lucky roll – perhaps the eight – freed the wolf, who re-entered the race.
The fast dog is called Lailaps, a “hurricane” in Greek legend. Is it perhaps a coincidence that his master is called “Mr. Xephalos” (“head”)? Lailaps and his prey, the fox, are turned into stones by Zeus. The legend certainly could not have been clearer.
King of the Beans and Masquerade
Let us return for a moment to the dialogue, the game of question and answer between the priest and his god, and see what is said about the substitute king. “All the pomp does not last more than seven days”. In these seven days of the Saturnalia the whole state apparatus rested. Schools remained closed, as did commercial life, and all sorts of activities and deliberations were suspended pending the return of regular times. An authentic interregnum, then.
In reality, things were not as evident during the interregnum as it appears in Lucianus. Frazer devoted ample space to this topic in his book Der Goldene Bogen. If the king deprived of his Mana did not die, certainly at least his replacement died, who was hardly allowed to return to private life, as Kronos could do after his short reign. The few days of unbridled lust were the reward for the mortal sacrifice he offered to the king. After all, he replaced the king, who had reached his last hour. One had to die because otherwise, one would not have been able to return to the primitive condition of grace.
There is almost no saga in which the lost grace is not seen in the kingdom or the alternative sacrifice. Let’s think back for a moment to Schunachschepa. The legend introduces the prince here, whose sacrifice was promised but not fulfilled, and who must be replaced. The whole complex of legends teaches that the death of the Brahmin, who “is of higher value than a warrior”, constitutes the true sacrifice for the king struck by dropsy and that the prince, who then disappears definitively from history, was there only forcibly entered. The most obvious fact is the close connection between losing and recovering royal mana and gambling.
The feast of Saturnalia demonstrates that the substitute king is not Kronos but that the days of his feast fall exclusively under the sign of this substitute rulership. “Later, we want to play for nuts, according to the ancient custom, choose the king, and do whatever they tell us.” This custom, already described here as ancient, has continued to the present day. In Vlamen Jordaens’ portraits of peasants, we repeatedly find the feast of the bean king, which could constitute the most cheerful illustration desirable for Lucian’s dialogue. According to this custom, a bean is added to desserts. Whoever finds it in their slice becomes bean king and gets a paper crown. His power is undoubtedly even more limited than that of Kronos, who jokingly identifies himself with the king of the party. But even here, gambling in the form of a bean was considered an oracle tool in ancient times, and the substitute regency is closely connected.
While in India, we played with nuts – which recalls our Christmas nuts and walnuts in Lucianus in pre-Columbian America, we played with beans. We are informed mainly through Peru about those people’s board games or corresponding sand games. And it is remarkable that in this country, not only is the game played using inscribed beans as pawns and thin sticks as dice, but the demon of the game is at the same time a deer-demon: a fact which indeed cannot be explained without resorting to direct connections. Since there is no connection between board games and deer, the coincidence cannot be accidental. The closest connection occurs concerning the Celtic Cernunnos, who has as attributes the chessboard and the deer’s antlers, which he is rarely without. On Siberian playing mats – the only ones that have come down to us – roaming deer that have come down to us are depicted on the playing field.
No trace of the dying god and substitute king has yet been found in Peru; conversely, they appear very clearly among the Aztecs. Tezkatlipoca, the “smoking mirror”, constitutes one of the most interesting parallels between Eurasia and pre-Columbian America. His oracle tool is the round, dimming mirror, the absence of which would surprise us. But Tezkatlipoca is not only the always young god and, as “black”, closely linked to the Underworld; he also possesses a characteristic that always distinguishes the god of vegetation: he limps. One of his legs is mutilated. The meaning of this figure among the Aztecs is not known to us. In Eurasia, the foot, placed to command attention, symbolizes increased power.
Like all nature, the god of vegetation must die and be resurrected when it is in danger of aging, like Saturn. An all-gray god and one that is always young, from a mythological point of view, are the same thing. Here too, the god can rise again only when a victim is found to take his place, a victim who is worthy of him. We are looking for the most beautiful of prisoners of war. Before going to the sacrifice, he lives for a year as a king. He learns continuously to have a regal attitude; a whole court is flanked by him, including four of the most beautiful maidens at his service dressed as goddesses. And not only does he, as in the Mesopotamian festival of Akitu, hold power for better or worse, but he is an actual prince, even if only for a year. He roams the streets playing the flute. And on the day of his sacrifice, he slowly and dignifiedly climbs the steps of the pyramid of the temple with his flute.
Here he breaks the instrument. The annual sacrifice of the bravest is undoubtedly a costly event if, as in America, wars waged “ad hoc” do not provide a readily available raw material. So soon, it was decided to have recourse, for the sacrifice, not to the best, but to the worst, whose death no one regrets. This already occurs in the Mesopotamian myth of Akitu. But the worsening of the quality of the sacrifices offered led, perhaps already very soon, to an extraordinary reversal of values. Once again, the rule is confirmed that only opposites can correspond to each other: the young to the old, the insignificant to the brave. That is why very often, in the ancient Orient, we find, on seals and reliefs, an animal, and preferably a donkey, as a substitute king“; and at this point, the step towards the disguise of all present is short. The flute is also an attribute of the Phrygian Attis, constituting another reference to the ritual links between the various myths.
In the Middle Ages, the primary contrast was between free and slaves; as we have seen, this relationship is turned upside down. The slave can not only be served by the master but, above all, give him ridiculous orders. Behind all this is not equalizing justice, as one might suppose, but rather a total devaluation of slaves. Even at Carnival, one chooses – in a certain sense as a self-sacrifice – preferably the caricature, a possibly very great ugliness and lowering of the level.
The fact that this was then separated from Christmas has specific historical reasons. In Rome, the custom of the Saturnalia was moved towards the calends, towards the beginning of the year, when this was, in turn, moved from March to January”.
And yet it is still not possible to completely separate the masquerade from Christmas customs. The processions, which, like many other things, do not hide behind the Christian screen, prefer the king with his star. But even more clearly than this disguised king speaks in favor of the unity of the individual original conceptions, however, twisted they may be, the oracle of Saint Sylvester, i.e., the casting of lead.
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