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Friday, 17 May 2013

An old blog from another place: may 30th 2009.

Walter Burkert uses a behaviourist interpretation of myth and ritual in his book, 'Homo Necans'. It is an interpretation I find fairly depressing, for it makes a vile kind of sense.

I prefer the Myst-like landscapes of Jung to the hard cities of Skinner et al.

'Homo Necans -The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth' recites a theme not unlike the relentless inward spirals of a Cure song. We start small and close to the earth before spiraling outwards into rites of purification, abstinence and the inevitable death of the maiden.

It isn't only that Durrington Walls, pig bones and the grave of the little girl at the center of Woodhenge conspire to remind me of Persephone. It was an incident that happened whilst we were there.

Persephone and pigs.
The Thesmophoria was the pig sacrifice ritual Woodhenge brought to mind, after I stopped thinking about the Tunkey pig (a local term "fat as a tunkey pig"- turkey pig, a pig fattened for Christmas) and the way people insist on having pork as well as turkey for Christmas dinner. The Thesmophoria was a women's festival to recall the loss of Persephone, not surprisingly, pigs also figure at Eleusis (cult center of Demeter) where the pig sacrifices had the anticipatory flavor of personal sacrifice.

Meanwhile, the themes within stories from all over the world relating to sacrificial ritual do seem to resonate with each other. As Campbell points out, the symbol of the earth mother is everywhere seen smeared with blood from sacrificed animals (or her sacrificed child) -the symbol is of life growing out of death.



From Aristophanes -admittedly a kind of Brian Rix rather than Pinter- the word for 'sacrificial pig' was used as slang for female genitals. A linkage exists between the blood of the hymen, the virgin sacrificed to marriage, and the image of Persephone raped by her uncle... and fertility.

The values of choice, love and respect are entirely absent here

But the mystery of the missing girl is a bigger story than the myth of Demeter and Persephone, and nor am I saying that there is any connection between the Greek myth and the rites carried out at Durrington.

Why are pigs connected with this particular myth?

Because Persephone fell into the underworld with pigs; when the Lord of the dark took Persephone, the pigs of the shepherd Eubuleus were pulled into the depths -in memory of this the women at the Thesmophoria threw piglets into a deep pit- what fell was latter dredged up and dug into the ground where, no doubt, crops grew better because of the nutrients from the rotted pig flesh.

Life from death, the male myth of the female par excellence!

Jung named the aspect of mind containing the unconscious beliefs about women -in a male mind- the anima. So it is that the anima has many other names and guises, but Persephone is specifically the victim and rarely imaged nowadays in her other form as the terrifying queen of the underworld. Meanwhile her mother, Demeter, is full of anger at the outrageous abduction of her child and there will be famine. Recalling the mythos of all who say that foreigners are marrying 'our' women and taking 'our' jobs and for the sake of purity and law and order there must be war...

The missing girl as queen, used to represent justice as a balance to the devastating wrath of Demeter. A kind of law of karma in which the wrong doers would get their just rewards; for Persephone stands beyond this world.

In Tibetan Buddhism, Dorje Phagmo has a tiny pig nestling in her hair which forever links her to Demeter and in at least one practice she becomes the angry woman.

The idea that a pig is simply a symbol of ignorance is fine, but doesn't really go far enough.

My subject at the moment is the missing girl, how is it that her voice has gone missing?

Funnily enough whilst we were stood close by the central grave within Woodhenge, two girls came over to listen to the talk being given by our guide. One of the girls asked a question,
'Why is this place called Woodhenge?'
our guide -out of respect for the fact that we had paid him and the girls had not- ignored them.

The girl asked again adding,
'Will someone tell me?'
... so I did.

It's funny isn't it how people are almost naturally lawful and respectful of authority. None of us knew as much about Woodhenge as the guide and so no one was more qualified than he to answer. It was patently disrespectful of me to speak. On the other hand he had just told us why it was called Woodhenge and the information he gave us is Open Source.

The scenario was symbolic, for me anyway, of how a dull kind of pig-ignorance takes hold of people enabling them to ignore and to close down, or perhaps worse-to purposefully ignore someone because they did not have the right to ask a question.