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Spring/Summer 1998, Volume 15.2

Essay

 

Hugh Fox

The Home of the Gods:  Test-Theme Myth, Solstice-Myth and Archaeological Reality


Hugh Fox (PhD, U of Illinois) is a historian. His latest book is
Stairway to the Sun (Permeable Press, San Francisco, 1996).

 

I begin with the Japanese, the obvious connections between Ecuadorian (Valdivian) pottery and Jomon Japanese pottery at the same time level (3,000 B.C.):

It is always assumed that the Jomon peoples from the Japanese island of Kyushu, fisherman that they were, must have gotten carried to Ecuador by accident when they were out fishing one day in their dugout canoes. However, we have only to go to a number of Japanese sites to get all the different kinds and styles of Ecuadorian designs, so it looks like different groups from slightly different places in Japan made it over to the New World around 3,000 B.C., and the non-accidental nature of the voyages becomes a little clearer when we look at the mythology in Japan dealing with what Robert Lowie calls the test-theme (97 ff).

Lowie sees the test-theme as a myth about a hero of some sort coming to marry the daughter of a king and before he can marry the king's daughter, he has to pass a number of tests. In the Japanese version Oho-namuhi goes on a quest to marry the daughter of Susanowo and he has to pass tests in the House of Snakes and the House of Centipedes and Wasps. What this myth is really about is the sun passing through the zodiac during a solar year accompanied by the Morning and Evening Star, and at the end of the year the old sun dies and is replaced by the Morning Star which becomes the new sun. The "tests" themselves are zodiac signs: The Centipede-Wasp test is probably Scorpio, the House of Snakes the Tibetan zodiac sign of the serpent. There isn't any one simple zodiac-set involved here but different sets of zodiacs like the Hindu-Greek zodiac and the Tibetan Zodiac which. is very much like the Mexican Day Sign Zodiac which, in turn, for the most part duplicates the Hindu Lunar zodiac (Von Humboldt 328).

The easiest way to really understand this "test-theme" myth is to look at the late Greek poem, the Argonautica, where Jason comes across the ocean to the Land of the Sun-King, has to go through a number of tests like killing a dragon (again back to the Japanese House of Snakes test. The Dragon is the Tibetan zodiac sign just before the serpent), and then he carries off Medea, the sun-king's daughter. Jason is a symbol for the Morning Star (the whole crew of the Argonaut is made up of twins, i.e. the Morning and Evening Star symbols), Medea is Mother Earth. The New Sun couples with Mother Earth and the new year begins, the Earth is renewed. It's the Adam and Eve story. Adam is the New Sun/ Morning Star, Eve is Mother Earth, the serpent is the zodiac sign of the serpent and also a fertility symbol. The more you look into the Japanese version of this myth, the more parallels you can see with the Argonautica. First of all, the myth of Susano-wo is at the very heart of Japanese Shintoism. It is much more complicated than Robert Lowie would ever have us believe. And it has various "stages" or 11 episodes" that, on one hand, somewhat obscure its parallels with the Argonautica, but on the other point the way toward its basic solar symbolism. Stripping aside some of the metaphysical accretions added to the myths by Shinto metaphysicians, the woman involved with Susano-wo's first "coupling" is very simply the Sun-Goddess. Susano-wo is her brother.

In the Hopi version of this same myth, the two twins (Morning and Evening Star) that go to the House of the Sun (the Tropic of Capricorn) are identified as the sons of the Sun. In the Argonautica Medea is the daughter of Aeetes, the son of Helios, the original sun-king. So the same sort of sun-family interrelatedness is involved transculturally in various versions of the myth.

In the Shinto version, there isn't any sex involved. It certainly isn't like the Mocbica-Phoenician version of the story where Herakles (here the sun-god who is the equivalent of Jason) is shown atop Mother Earth / Mother Eve, with the Tree of Good and Evil sprouting ("apples" and all) out of her vagina:

In the Shinto version the whole "exchange" between the Sun-Goddess and her brother (the Sun-God-to-be) is involved with 'jewels":

When Susano-wo was ascending to Heaven in order to bid farewell to Amaterasu-o-mi-kami [his sister, the Sun-Goddess] Kushi-akaru-tama-nomikito met him on the way and offered him some sacred large curved jewels. Susano-wo accepted the gift, and presented the jewels to Amaterasu-o-mikami, and thus established a covenant between those two Kai, and by virtue of those jewels, the child Akatsu-no-mikoto... one of the Heavenly Ancestors, was born... called Wakigo (child [ko]) carried on the side [waki].'(Herbert 291)

So what, in other versions. is a very sexual encounter between the New Sun and Mother Earth (symbolically the daughter of the sun), in the Greek version between Medea, the sun-king's daughter, and Jason, the symbol of the New Sun for the post-solstice New Year, here becomes an asexual affair involved with the exchange of jewels.

In the Shinto version of the story, Susano-wo next goes to the mountain where the dragon lives. In the Argonautica Medea helps Jason kill the dragon by drugging him. Here in the Shinto version Jason meets a husband and wife whose children are being eaten by an eight-headed, eight-bodied dragon, they make a special, super-strong sake and pours it into each one of his eight mouths: "The serpent drank it up and fell asleep" (p.314). And then, as in the Argonautica, Susano-wo/Jason kills the serpent.

In "real-time," the House of the Sun in ancient world-myth was Tiawanaku, Bolivia, because of its special location close to the Tropic of Capricorn, the p[lace where, symbolically, the sun "turns" at the end of the solar-year.

In the Shinto version of the myth the place where the dragon lives is Mount Tori-kami-no-take which is a kind of distorted echo of the name Tiawanaku: TO-R-KA-MI-NO-TA-KE; TI-A-WA   NA   KU.

"To instead of "TI," "KA" instead of "WA," "NO" instead of "NA," "KE" instead of "KU"—with a couple of extra syllables thrown in. In the Sumerian version of the same myth, Gilgamesh, the land at the end of the sun-hero's quest is ANAKU, the Tin-Lands. ANAKU as in TIAWANAKU, in the middle of the Bolivian tin-fields: TI-A-WA-NAKU; A-NAKU.

In the Shinto version the dragon has a sword in one of his tails in the Argonautica, Jason has to sow the dragon's teeth and from the teeth the earth-born men are born and slay each other (with swords). In both cases there is some sort of motif associated with the dragon-tree:

In Gilgamesh, of course, a Tree of Life bearing thom-apples that "make old men young again" is to be found at the end of the quest, and Gilgamesh himself retrieves one of them from the bottom of the lake at the worldcenter, but it is eaten by a serpent which then sheds its skin-- an obvious symbol of individual rebirth that echoes the cosmic rebirth of the year at the time of the winter solstice.

Behind the whole idea of the House of the Sun/ Land of the Sun King, which is also the World-Center where the World-Tree is (also the Home of the Gods), is the basic, fundamental theological principle of the entire ancient world, from Paleolithic times on—The Year 'ages,' the days grow shorter, the Sun-God gets older, he descends into the Underworld, and he is I replaced' by the 'star'/'planet' which has accompanied him through the whole year, the Morning Star. The Morning Star/New Sun then couples with Mother Earth and the New Year begins, a kind of Universal Fertilization takes place and everything begins again. And there is an actual place where this whole death-rebirth drama takes place: Tiawanaku, Bolivia.

The Japanese Shinto version of this myth of Susano-wo coming to TOROKAMINOTAKE/TIAWANAKU emerges from Japanese pre-history. By the time it is "shintoized," it is transformed and meditated on and transformed some more. But the basic story deals with the Son of the Sun (the Morning Star/ Susano-wo) coupling with the Daughter of the Sun (Mother Earth) after fighting/ "sacrificing" the Year-Dragon. The dragon/ snake must die, but in some way it is reborn again, as a symbol of the renewing power of the Earth itself.

What we must postulate, I think, is some sort of widespread information-network in Neolithic Times. I don't even want to touch on the idea that there was an earlier House of the Sun in the Atacama Desert in Chile that went back to the Paleolithic and which was also somehow in contact with the Old World (based on the similarities between Paleolitl-dc artifacts from Chile and their counterparts in the Middle East/North Africa). Everywhere I look in the ancient world I seem to see the same story about a sacred continent somewhere across the ocean, connected with tin, deathrebirth, the sun, the solstice-point, the solar-year, trials of the sun-hero….

In classical Chinese myth, for example, there is a mythical land across the ocean called Huaxu, where people live to a very old age. Washu = Wanaku. The world mountain (Mount Illimani) becomes Mount Kunlun. The 8-headed dragon in the Shinto version here becomes a tiger with 9 human heads. There is a tree of immortality, the Tree of Good and Evil in Genesis, the thorn-apple plant of immortality in Gilgamesh (Walls 18).

Among the primitive aboriginal tribe, the Garos, in India, the Japanese dragon and Chinese tiger become a monster boar and the heads are reduced to 7. As I point out in my book The Mythological Foundations of the Epic Genre: The Solar Voyage as the Hero's Journey, the sun-hero Jason Herakles) is called Goera and the final "test" he has to go through is to fight the head of the tiger-clan, Wana Wangga, another obvious analogue-name for Tiawanaku (165 ff.).

And throughout the Americas the Tiawanaku-story is found everywhere as in the Orinoco basin tribe, the Makiritare:

There was Kahuna, the Sky Place.The Kahuhana lived there... there wasjust light. in the highest Sky was Wanadi... he gave his light to the people, tothe Kahuhana.... (196)

Among the Sumerians the people who live at Anaku are the Annunaki. Here among the Makiritare the Annunaki are the Kahuhana, Anaku becomes Kahuna and Wanadi (derived from Wanaku) becomes the name of the sun-god instead of the name of the place.

Among the Hopi the place where the twins (the sun-heroes as Morning and Evening Star) go to be "tested" is the House of the Sun, which in Hopi is Tawakihu /Sun, his House.

Again a reference to Tiawanaku: TA- WA- KI - HU; TIA- WA NA- KU.

Among the Zuni hidians it is known as ITTWANA, again with the echo of WANU (Tiawanaku) in the WANA. Only in Zuni the name means The Place in the Middle. When I asked an Aymara Indian the last time I was at Tiawanaku, "What does Tiawanaku mean?" he answered, "That is not our name for the place. We call it Taipe Cola-the Stone in the Middle." And this idea of middleness or centricity is the way the name appears in a host of languages in the Caribbean--on the route to Tiawanaku from Europe. In the Guianas, for example, ANNAKA meant the middle, in Quiche Maya NAK meant stomach/belly, in pre-Colombian Haitian NACAN meant middle or center ... not merely because Tiawanaku is near the Equator, but because quite literally it was the center of ancient myth, a kind of sacred mythic core (Douay 34-35).

In other ancient languages of the proto-Indo-European peoples who made their way to Tiawanaku in Neolithic times, the NAK/NAB root relates not merely to "centricity," but also to fertility, water, growth... or even ends up as a description of the sort of geographical position that Tiwanaku itself occupies- a place in a valley between mountains, in the high-plain / altifflano area.

In Southern Dravidian, for example, NADU means "fertile land" and also center. In Basque NAVA/NABA means a "plain amid mountains." In Arabic NABA-HA means "high tableland," in Etruscan NAPA means "valley." In Hebrew we come back to the idea of fertility again and NABA means "fountain" or "spring" (Lahovary 316-7), a connotation that is picked up in the New World among the Guarajo Indians in Columbia where NABA means river or wave and the NABAROA are water-serpents, which in turn in akin to the Sanskrit NAGA/Serpent, the origin of our word

SNAKE: NAG-A; NAK-E; SNAKE.

This serpent-link is interesting too, because on the ruins at Tiawanaku, what we might call the ancient Middle Eastern/ Indus Valley script-hoard is drawn upon and the name Tiawanaku itself is written:

The way it is written on Tiawanaku, vertically, instead of horizontally, of course, is almost a kind of map of South America with the sun in the center, the sun (Tiwanaku, the Tropic of Capricorn) in the middle of the water, the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. 

And is an ancient Middle Eastern snake-glyph, the stylized representation of two snakes copulating. In Sumerian it is NAKU, in Hebrew NAKASH.

When I was first 'deciphering' this sign on the ruins at Tiawanaku, I was in New York one time visiting the renowned Kaballist/ Talmudic scholar, Menke Katz, and without telling him anything about my overall research, I wrote on a piece of paper, put it on the table in front of him."What do you make of this?"

Without a moment's hesitation, he said: "Hebrew Nakash, snake.

Hebrew Nakash, Sumerian Naku, Sanskrit Naga.

So what I had done was to take a letter off an ancient ruin in the Andes, put it in front of a great Hebrew scholar and he had told me the Hebrew Version of what I'd already concluded it was -the sign for the NAKU in TIAWANAKU.

You can see how the ancients "dwelt" on puns, multiple meanings. Tiawanaku appears in multiple forms and variants throughout the ancient world, sometimes very recognizable as Tiwanaku (like in the Sumerian Anaku or the Hopi Tawakihu), sometimes twisted out of shape a bit as in the Japanese Torikaminotake. Sometimes referred to with another name altogether.

Among the Hindus, for example, the home of the gods, is called MERU, which in ancient Libyan (M-R) meant "land across the ocean" (again the old sense of the home of the gods on the other side of the world), but which in a variety of proto-Indo-European languages is associated with light/ shining: MIRU—Dravidian, to shine, bright, sparkling; MERE -Hebrew, to shine, to see (Lahovary 266).

The actual "origin" of the name Tiawanaku, I believe, goes back to Luwian, the proto-Indo-European language of ancient Crete, where you find TIAWANAKU practically duplicated in TI-WA-TI-NA-KU, which in Luwian means YOUR LORD BRINGS LIFE (Woudhuizen 36-37).

We already know that Tiawanaku is written in which T represents the sun. Now in Luwian the same identification is reinforced with TIWATA as the Luwian form of address for the Sun-God (16).

In fact the whole coupling of Father Sky and Mother Earth is related to parallel words in the ancient Mediterranean:

Wanassa is known as the name of the Cypriot goddess identified with Astarte... Wa-Na-Ka-Te. The designation 'The Queen' is widespread in the ancient Near East as the cult title of the Mother Goddess. In the vegetation cult 'The Queen' is closely linked with a youthful consort who dies and is resurrected. In many languages he is called simply'The Lord'(e.g. Adonis). Wanax appears to be the Mycenaean correspondent. (Palmer 249)

So WANAX, the young sun-god, mates with WANAKATE at TIAWANAKU, the place to which the Lord (i.e. sun god-Tiwat) brings life. I think the ancient links between Crete, Mycenae, Cypress and Tiawanaku are really clear. They are the "clearest," most direct of all the links we have seen so far.

Tiawanaku, then, appears almost universally, in a wide variety of almost exactly duplicated (like the Cretan) or wildly distorted forms (like the Japanese), as the place in the ancient world where the coupling of Mother Earth and Father Sun takes place-the House of the Sun. Which also duplicates the actual geographical location of Tiawanaku, located as it is, just a few degrees from the Tropic of Capricorn.

But let me get back to that troublesome anomaly, Meru, again for a moment. Some years back I was able to use the word Meru/Miru to reinforce Heyerdahl's linkups (in Aku Aku) between Tiawanaku and Easter Island at very early levels. The first inhabitants of Easter Island are the Miru-people. Archaeologically, on the earliest levels you find the exact same types of statues on Easter Island and at Tiawanaku. The Miru tribe comes from Tiawanaku… Meru… and don't forget the East Indian equivalent of Tiawanaku among one of the so-called aboriginal tribes in India, the Garos, whose version of the Voyage to the House of the Sun Myth is about Goera (the new-sun figure) going to the land of Wana Wangga, the head of the tiger-clan: WAN-A WAN GGA; TI-A WAN AKU.

So although the name Tiawanaku doesn't seem to have made it into classical Hinduism, it still survived in the tribes outside the classical Hindu pale. In German mythology Tiawanaku is called Valhallah, in Greek myth it is Colchis, the Land of the Sun King Helios and his son, Aeetes. There is yet another variant in Greek myth, when Herakles goes to Tiawanaku and it is called the Islands of the Hesperides, perhaps some late mythic confusion between the Caribbean and the Andes by people who themselves never made the voyages in the first place. Hesperos in Greek means West. The point I'm trying to make is that in ancient worldwide myth there was one sacred place across the Atlantic or across the Pacific, associated with a central shining mountain and some sort of rejuvenating "apple." This is where the gods themselves live, and the old become young again when they eat these apples of immortality (as in Sumerian and Germanic myth).

The Japanese voyaging to the Ecuadorian coast, then, were not voyaging by accident. They were pilgrims on their way to the Magic Mountain. So were the ancient peoples of the Dimeni culture in Thessaly, ancient Cretans, Sumerians, Anatolians, Chinese. There are volumes still to be written linking pots and artifacts of the New and Old Worlds at the 3,000 B.C. level and earlier but what I have been concerned with here is to point out that the voyages to ANAKU, TIAWANAKU, TIWATINAKU, KAHUNA, TOROKAMINOTAKE, TAWAKIHU, ITIWANNA, etc. are all voyages to the same place and that the voyages weren't accidental, but voyages of pilgrimage to the sacred center of the ancient world. Is it any wonder, then, that when Spaniards like Cieza de Leon first came to Tiawanaku, stuck up in the middle of the Bolivian high plain, and found this gigantic, megalithic ruin grander than anything they had ever seen before, they were totally astonished:

... there is no knowledge of who the people that built these great foundations and strongholds were, or how much time has gone by since then... . Some of the stones are very worn and wasted, and there are others so large that one wonders how human hands could have brought them to where they are now... what struck me most when I was observing and setting down these things, was that from these huge gateways other still larger stones project on which they were set, some of which were as much as thirty feet wide, fifteen or more long, and six thick, which was a tremendous thing. When one considers the work, I cannot understand or fathom what kind of instruments or tools were used to work them... . I consider this the oldest antiquity in all Peru. It is believed that before the Incas reigned, long before, certain of these buildings existed... they also say that bearded men [descendents of the Sumerians/Indus Valley peoples?] were seen on the island of Titicaca and that these people constructed the building of Vinaque [Huaril, I say that it might have been that before the Incas ruled, there were people of parts in these kingdoms, come from no one knows where, who did these things, and who, being few and the natives many perished in the wars. (283-4)

Cieza de Leon was staring at the ruins of the Home of the Gods, Valhallah, Mount Meru, the House of the Sun, the place where in all ancient myth Father Sun (Tiwat) coupled with Mother Earth (Wanakate) at the end of the solstice year, and the New Year would begin. Only he couldn't have known it, could he?

In the sixteenth century, the cultures that had been so active in ancient times were still buried and unknown. No one knew about the Sumerians or the Indus Valley people or anything about the Mother Goddess Cultures of ancient Crete or Thessaly (mainland Greece) or Asia Minor (Turkey), or the Jornon culture in Japan. You couldn't go into your local bookstore and buy the Argonautica or the Odyssey. No one had any hint about the Twin Myth among the Hopi or the Maya classic Ponol Vuh. Spain was barely Spanish. The Spaniards had just driven out the Arabs after 1,000 years of Arab control of the Iberian peninsula. Whatever myths Cienza de Leon may have known about a magic land across the ocean, must have been very vague, very attenuated and watered-down indeed.

Now that Gilgamesh has been dug up and deciphered, the Argonautica and the Odyssey and the Hopi myths and Makaritare Watunna and Maya Popul Vuh have been translated and are available, we can begin to develop an encyclopedic sense of the ancient world that the slightly post-medieval Spaniards never could have had. We are about to forever bury the myth of the Bering Strait peopling of the New World as the only contact between the New and Old Worlds in ancient times. A great deal of serious scholarship has been slowly accumulating in the last hundred years regarding Sumerian-Sanskrit loan-words in Quechua (Verrill and Lal), the links between ancient China and Chavin, the Olmecs, the Maya (Von Heine Geldern, Shao), very specific ancient technological links between the New and Old Worlds, like the sameness of axes and adz hafting (Beirne 139177). even the sameness of paleolithic artifacts in the Atacama Desert in Chile and North Africa, going back to, say, 60,000 B.C. (Le Paige). There is a whole library of research demonstrating that the New World was in contact with the Old World during the whole of pre-history, and that the designation "New" for a world where dinosaurs thrived and flourished millions of years ago, completely misses the point.

The next step in the reconstruction of the South American past is already in progress-the micro-visioning of individual movements/ migrations from specific Old World sites, the careful piecings-together of language-bits to form the big picture of exactly who came from exactly where, as close as we can ever come to knowing when.

We are in the middle of a very exciting moment in historical reinterpretation. Hopefully, in another few years, ancient South America will be viewed for what it really was-the sacred continent in world myth-and the ancient Americans will be seen in their true anthropological context as ancient Asians and proto-Indo-Mediterraneans coming both as refugees fleeing oppression and as pilgrims to the Home of the Gods / House of the Sun, the solstice points on the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer, later moved to Tiawanaku, Bolivia, the place where metaphorically the sun "turned" in its death and rebirth during the solar year and where-under the influence of sacred drugs-believers were transformed into jaguar shamans, seers in the core sense of the word-those who see reality for what it really is, full of mystery, the "presences" of the gods who surround us in an otherwise invisible, closed dimension.

 

WORKS CITED

Beirne, Daniel R. "Cultural Patterning as Revealed by a Study of Pre-Colombian Ax and Adz Hafting in the Old and New Worlds," Man Across the Sea. Ed. by C.L. Reiley. Austin: U. of Texas Press, 1971. 139-177.

Douay, Leon. Mouvelles Recherches Philologigues Sur L'Antiquite Americain. Paris: J. massonneuve, 1900.

Ford James A. A Comparison of Formative Cultures in the Americas. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1969.

Fox, Hugh. The Mythological Foundations of the Epic Genre: The Solar Voyage as the Hero's Journey, Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1989.

Heine Geldern, Robert Von. "The Problem of Transpacific Influences in Mesoamerica." Handbook ofMiddle American Indians. Austin: U. of Texas Press, 1966. IV, 277-315.

Herbert, jean. Shinto, At the Fountain-Head of Japan. New York: Stein and Day, 1967.

Humbolt, Alexander Von. Reserarches Concerning the Institutions and Monuments Of the Ancient Inhabitants of America. London: Longman, 1914.

Lahovary, N. Dravidian Origins and the West. Bombay: Orient Longmans, 1963.

Lal, Chaman. Hindu America. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1960

Leon, Cieza de. The Incas. Norman: U. of Oklahoma Press, 1959.

Le Paige, Gustave. Industrias Liticas de San Pedro de Atacama. Santiago de Chile: Editorial Orbe, 1970.

Lowie, Robert. "The Test-Theme in North American Mythology," Journal ofAmerican Folklore 21 (April-May 1960): 97ff.

Palmer, L.R. The Interpretation ofMycenaean Greek Texts. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963.

Roe, Peter The Cosmic Zygote: Cosmology in the Amazon Basin. New Jersey: Rutgers Press.

Shao, Asiatic Influences in Pre-Colombian American Art. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State U. Press, 1976.

Verrill, A.H. and R. America's Ancient Civilizations. New York: Putnam, 1953.

Walls, Jan and Yvonne. Classical Chinese Myths. Hongkong: Joint Publishing Co., 1984.

Woudjuizen, Fred. The Language of the Sea Peoples. Amsterdam: Najade Press, 1992.

 

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