Sweet Muse of Madness
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Upon the furrowed fields of the farmhold of Thessalia, an abandoned male infant was discovered.  Cybele and Attis, the matriarch and patriarch of this land, gave the baby a home and named him Single Seed, in honor of the fertilized soil in which the tiny boy was found.  Single Seed grew to be a strong and reliable laborer on the farmhold, and fell in love with the beautiful Ilithyia, daughter of Cybele and Attis.

The time came when Single Seed, desiring to improve his station in life, challenged the God-King of the Sacred Grove to mortal combat.  Victorious, the youth also slew the vanquished King’s wife and children, for a defeated King’s family was as a sickly grain that had to be cut down and discarded in order to protect the vitality of the Plain.  Then the God-King took on the name of Phanes, which, in the language of the People, meant Light of the World.

Through the intercessor Caretaker, Phanes asked Ilithyia to be his God-Queen.  She happily accepted.  Together, the new God-King and God-Queen brought forth twodaughters, Parthenia and Gamelia.

Now, as the battle hardened protector of the Sacred Grove and defender of his family in Sweet Muse of Madness, Phanes is confident that he can defeat any challenger.  Yet, from his hidden vantage above Thessalia, he observes the arrival of a visitor from the eastern lands across the World Sea, a seemingly harmless acolyte of a merchant-priest. Phanes senses that this acolyte is more than he seems.  Thus the God-King stands ready to face what may be the greatest force ever to threaten not only his own life, but that of his wife and children, as well as the Sacred Grove itself.

MYTHOLOGICAL CONTEXT

In the earliest days of any given religion, there have been competing interpretations, with one view finally prevailing and becoming institutionalized.  This was no less true of the religion of the ancient Greeks.  The Olympian pantheon, with Zeus at its head, was the official religion of classical Athens and Sparta in the fifth century B.C.E., but was the crystallization of a religious system that had been first clarified a few centuries earlier by Hesiod, a writer and philosopher who lived around the same time as the epic poet Homer.  In his work, the Theogony, Hesiod described entities such as Gaea, the Earth Mother, and Eros, as well as others, arising directly out of the boundless Abyss, Chaos.  These initial beings, according to Hesiod, eventually gave rise to the gods of Olympus.
But there was at least one other interpretation of the ancient Greek religion that enjoyed varying degrees of popularity through Greece’s history; the Orphic System.  Said to have been originally presented by the mythic musician Orpheus himself, the Orphic faith proposed that, in the Beginning, the Abyss brought forth a tremendous Egg, the top half of which was the sky, the bottom half the earth itself.  The Primordial Egg is found in one myth or another on virtually every inhabited continent, and has been demoted in modern times to the object of Easter egg hunts.  In the Orphic cosmology, the first being to exist within the Great Egg was Phanes, the essence of Light.  It was because of Phanes that the sky and the earth were beheld in all their glory.

Another aspect relevant to the character of Phanes in Sweet Muse of Madness, is the role of the God-King.

In the territories of indigenous peoples the world over, past and present, there was almost always to be found a sacred place, be it a mountain or grove or spring or waterfall, a place where it was believed the invisible forces of the land came together and were most powerful.  Such a sacred grove might be thought of as the “Navel of the World,” connected, as it were, by an invisible umbilical cord to the “Womb of the Earth Mother.”  Often there were individuals chosen by the tribe or self-appointed, who protected and cared for this nexus of vitality.  Sometimes referred to as shamans or priests, these individuals were also known as God-Kings.  Contrary to the majestic connotation of their title, the earliest God-Kings had a spiritual rather than a political function.  Their lives were not filled with the luxury and privilege we normally associate with traditional monarchs.  Indeed, the so-called “reign” of a God-King often was short, and ended violently, for such an individual was the personification of the land and its creatures, and therefore had to present himself as strong and healthy at all times, lest he be abruptly, and fatally, replaced.

One of the most famous historical examples of this ruthless and brutal God-King system was at a sacred grove near Lake Nemi, just a few miles outside of Rome, where it is said one priest-warrior after another defended his inviolate realm against all challengers in an attempt to prove himself worthy of being the “husband,” so to speak, of the Great Goddess.  Supposedly this bloody tradition continued among Roman nature worshippers well into the second century of our common era, even under the rule of the Emperors, until finally replaced by more peaceable practices.  We may speculate that, like the pantheon of the gods, the sacred grove God-King tradition was inherited by the Romans from the Greeks, who, in turn, received it from the Anatolians, and that the desire to protect the “Navel of the World” and its invisible umbilical cord to the “Womb of the Earth Mother,” was a desire that reached far into the mists of antiquity.

Over time, the priest-warrior tradition was joined by other non-combat forms of human sacrifice.  There are accounts, from various parts of the world, of farmers seizing a passing stranger, killing him, and throwing his genitals into their fields to fertilize the furrows.  Sometimes a youth from the community itself was chosen for the honor of dying to ensure an abundant crop.  Such rites may have continued even as smaller agricultural communities developed into city-states, and seem to have taken place in one form or another on every inhabited continent.

Archaeological evidence from the Sumerian city-state of Ur, which, in the Third Millennium Before Common Era rested on the Euphrates River, reveals what may be a ritual sacrifice of a God-King.  It is uncertain as to the exact cause of death, or the reason for it, but calendar references associated with the King’s passing suggest that he might have been sacrificed in accordance with astronomical, seasonal, or agricultural events. Indeed, the king’s wife, who may have been deemed a God-Queen, as well as the entire royal retinue, were also killed, by all indications without resistance, and buried with the king.  This evidence at least raises the possibility that even sovereigns of ancient city-states were not above the obligation, or privilege, depending on one’s point of view, of becoming the “human seed” that fertilizes the Earth Mother.

Of course, as the city-state, and later in history, nation-state God-Kings gained more political power, the most wily among them managed to substitute others, such as criminals or prisoners of war, for sacrifice, so that the kings themselves, and their heirs, could maintain influence over their societies. Eventually, straw or wooden effigies were offered to the Goddess instead of any human being.

Thus, whenever we in the present watch the parades of various human-shaped effigies at seasonal carnival celebrations around the world, and witness the burning of those effigies, we are beholding a “civilized” version of that which, long ago, involved both the voluntary and involuntary surrender of the life of the God-King.

The above general examples may be explored more deeply with specific sources through the books listed in the Reference Page of this website.