Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricanes and Hamlet's Mill

Hurricane Irene 2011 is beginning to slam into the east coast of the United States, and we wish all those in the path of the storm safety during this uncertain time.

The authors of Hamlet's Mill discuss the origin of the term "hurricane" and some very interesting connections this word reveals with mythologies from around the world. It turns out that the trail back from the word is very important indeed.

In discussing the importance of the shaman's drum, they point to evidence recorded by earlier scholars that the cover of the drum in some traditions had to come from the hide of a black bull, and represented Taurus in heaven (124). They then note the connection to important drums in Chinese mythology, related to an important ox-like creature with one leg (this is a prelude to the discussion of the origin of the word "hurricane"). They write:
There is no need for a detailed inspection of Chinese mythical drums, merely a few lines from an "Ocean of Stories":
In the Eastern Sea, there is to be found an animal which looks like an ox. Its appearance is green, and it has no horns. It has one foot only. When it moves into the water or out of it, it causes wind or rain. Its shining is similar to that of the sun and the moon. The noise it makes is like the thunder. Its name is K'uei. The great Huang-ti, having captured it, made a drum out of its skin.
This looks prima facie like the description of an ancient case of delirium tremens, but the context makes it sober enough. This is a kind of Unnatural Natural History which has small regard for living species, but deals with events from another realm. The One-Legged Being, in particular, can be followed through many appearances beginning with the Hunrakán of the Mayas, whose very name means "one-leg." From it comes our "hurricane," so there is no wonder that he disposes of wind, rain, thunder and lightning in lavish amounts. But he is not for all that a mere weather god, since he is once aspect of Tezcatlipoca himself, and the true original One-Leg that looks down from the starry sky -- but his name is not appropriate yet. 125-126.
The authors of Hamlet's Mill are particularly good at giving hints like this and making you figure out for yourself exactly what they mean. In this case, the bread-crumb trail of clues leads through many important lines of discussion, beginning with their assertion that the Maya Hunrakán (whose name, remember, means "one-leg") is associated with the Aztec Tezcatlipoca, who is usually depicted with one foot missing (or, more precisely, one foot skeletal and the other foot normal).

Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend explain that the connection with the leg of a bull (or a one-legged ox-like creature, in the case of the Chinese myth cited above) is quite clear in mythology going back to ancient Egypt, in which the Big Dipper going around the pole star was associated with the leg of a bull (it not only looks like a large spoon but also like a bull's leg and haunch), and because the Big Dipper is associated with the pole or central axis of heaven, we should suspect that these myths with one-legged bulls (or one-legged gods) have something to do with the unhinging of the axis of heaven and the casting down of the previous age (the Age of Taurus, replaced by the Age of Aries).

Through a long series of discussions, de Santillana and von Dechend demonstrate that the mythologies around the world discussing the end of the reign of Saturn are also mythological code for this same celestial circumstance (the changing of the world ages due to the unhinging of the axis), and also in a mysterious and confusing way, so are some mythological aspects of Mars. They bring up examples from many mythologies to confirm this mysterious Mars / Saturn connection, and note that the god Tezcatlipoca actually has two aspects, Red Tezcatlipoca and Black Tezcatlipoca.

The authors of Hamlet's Mill present compelling evidence that these two aspects of Tezcatlipoca represent the curious combination of the aspects of Mars (Red Tezcatlipoca) and Saturn (Black Tezcatlipoca). They explain:
One of the motifs, destruction, is often associated with the Amlethus figure. The other belongs more specifically to Mars. There is a peculiar blind aspect to Mars, insisted on in both Harranian and Mexican myths. It is even echoed in Virgil: "Caeco Marte." But it does not stand only for blind fury. It must be sought in the Nether World, which will come soon. Meanwhile, here is the first double figure of Mars and Kronos. In Mexico, it stands out dreadfully in the grotesque forms of the Black and the Red Tezcatlipoca. There is a certain phase in the Great Tale, obviously, in which the wrecking powers of Mars unleashed make up a fatal compound with the avenging implacable design of Saturn. Shakespeare has, with his preternatural insight, alluded to both when he made Hamlet warn the raging Laertes before their final encounter:
Though I am not by nature rash and splenetic
Yet there is in me something dangerous
Which let thy wisdom fear . . .

Hamlet's Mill, 176.
Below is an image of Red Tezcatlipoca and an image of Black Tezcatlipoca from the pre-Columbian Codex Borgia. Note the one skeletal foot on each:

For some understanding of the connection of Hamlet (who appears in earlier mythology as Amlethus, as well as several other names) with Orion and thus with Osiris and ultimately with Saturn (the god-king who ruled over a previous Golden Age but was cast down and now sleeps in the underworld or some other distant realm or island, as both Saturn and Osiris do in ancient myth), see this previous post.

Thus, the origin of the term "hurricane" is important indeed, involving as it does a god in myth who combines the implacable characteristics of Saturn and the raging characteristics of Mars, and who is associated with the axis of heaven (where his missing leg is circling the pole) and with the unhinging of that axis, which initiated the inexorable grinding of the ages and the end of the lost Golden Age.

The fact that these characteristics are embedded in myths spanning from ancient Egypt to ancient Greece to ancient China and even to Central America is powerful evidence for the existence of a single civilization which bequeathed a legacy of astronomical knowledge to all of these cultures, or to ancient contact across the oceans, or some combination of both possibilities.

These deep concepts are important to understand. They are explored further, along with a much more detailed discussion of the concept of precession which is central to this subject, in the Mathisen Corollary book.