XV - Mushroom Cosmography

The cult of the mushroom produced its own cosmography. The volva of some vast primeval fungus split asunder, the lower hemisphere containing the amniotic fluid of creation, the biblical “deep”, and the upper being forced upwards to make the canopy of heaven. In the Accadian version of the myth it is the creator, phallic god Marduk, “womb favorer”, who splits the volva asunder. In this case, the volva is seen as the egg of a mighty serpent called Tiamat, the equivalent of the biblical tehöm, “subterranean deep”, or, as its Sumerian origin implies, “womb”.


It is Tiamat’s body which forms in its two parts heaven and earth.’ Properly speaking, the “serpent” in the mushroom physiology is the stem that arises from the volva to bear aloft the upper half as its expanded head, or, in phallic terms, its glans penis. Cosmographically, the mushroom stem is represented by a great mountain whose top is lost in the clouds of heaven. This was the seat of the gods, the Olympus of the Greeks, Sãphôn (“north”) of the Semites, both names having reference to their cosmic functions.


Olympus can now be shown to mean “city of the support of heaven”,2 the Semitic Sãphon, “north”, means properly “the fulcrum”. In Greek mythology, Atlas is a mighty giant standing in the west, holding aloft the heavens on outstretched arms. His name, as that of the mountain in North Africa that was identified with him, means “heavenly shade”, Sumerian *ANDUL.AN.4 We noticed previously how our own word “giant” comes from a similar Sumerian designation, found in Greek form as the name of the mushroom.5 In the Semitic world of Canaan, it was Mount Hermon, “organ of support”,6 which held up the sky.


Farther south, Jerusalem, “city of the heavenly womb”, as we may now interpret the name, was conceived as bearing up the “groin” of the sky as a phallus carries the splayed legs of a woman in coitus,7 and the axe-shaft the head.8 The other name by which the Holy City was known, “virgin daughter of Zion” had a similar connotation.9


The “Atlas”-type of a man with arms outstretched supporting the roof we met earlier in discussing the origin of the name Pollux, the stem of the mushroom supporting the canopy, the upper half of the “womb” of his brother Castor.10 It was there seen that the derivation of “Pollux” from the Sumerian LU-GEShPU, “strong man”, was paralleled in the formation of the New Testament name for the brothers James and John, the “Boanerges”, so—called “Sons of Thunder”.


In the one case LUGEShPU became *pu_lu_ges and thus “Pollux”, in the other, a phrase *GEShPU..AN_UR became *pu_an_ur_ges and thus “Boanerges”. In mushroom terms, James (Jacob) is the “pillar” and John is the red— topped canopy. A very similar vocalic jumbling from the Sumerian occurred in the case of another Greek mushroom word which extended into extraordinarily disparate fields of reference, phoinix, our Phoenix.


As the designation of the palm-tree it signified fancifully a kind of overgrown mushroom, the fronded leaves representing the canopy, the tall trunk, the mushroom stem. The Greek word comes from Sumerian *GEShPU_ IMI, with just the same meaning as *GESIiPU_AN_UR, “strong man (holding up) the sky”, the Boanerges.


The development was as follows: *pu_imi_ges to *pu_ini_ges to the Greek phoinix.” It is the same mushroom connection that brought the Phoenix into the category of “womb- birds” mentioned earlier.12 We noticed that the Phoenix was the centre of much speculation among classical and Christian writers about resurrection from the dead.


Sumerian’s common name for the palm-tree, GIShIMMAR, like the cognate Hebrew tamar, contains the element MAR, representing an inverted “V” shape. So it appears in words for the head of a double-axe or mattock, for a rainbow, and for a woman’s crutch, or womb.13 The Hebrew word and its cognates extend to forms like a sign-post, a column of smoke spreading into a “mushroom-cloud” at the top. The “small palm-tree” forms a significant part of the Temple decorations (I Kgs 6:29).14


The close relationship in imagery between a mushroom and a palm- tree may help us to understand a curious reference in Pliny’s description of the Essenes by the Dead Sea. He says that having renounced all sexual pleasures in their ascetic existence, they contented themselves with the “company of palm-trees” (socia palmarum).15


Even the female variety of the palm one would have thought was hardly adequate consolation for celibacy. It is more likely that our author had heard that the cult centered around the “Phoenix-fungus” or “-gourd” and he knew the name only as referring to the tree. Perhaps the Greek phoinix is best known for its derived form Phoinikia, the home on the Levantine coast of those intrepid seamen of the ancient world, the Phoenicians.


This geographical use of the name raises another interesting aspect of mushroom cosmography. Here the mushroom has to be imagined horizontally, lying on its side, so that the canopy forms the curving sweep of the Palestinian coastline. This, then, is the “crutch” of the earth, the “legs” being represented by the coast of Asia Minor in the north, and Egypt and North Africa to the south (fig. i). For the Mesopotamian myth-maker, the sun’s glowing orb plunged every evening into this “vulva” of the west.16


The conception of the land mass at the eastern end of the Mediterranean as the earth’s vaginal entrance is reflected in the biblical name of the area, Canaan, Hebrew Kena’an, now to be recognized as from the Sumerian *KI...NA_AN (-NA), “nuptial couch of heaven”.17


Within the same general concept of fertility geography, the offhore island of Cyprus was reckoned as a “glans” poised for entry into the Canaanite womb, as is suggested not only by its name, Greek Kupros, from a Sumerian *GU_BAR..USh, “head of the erect penis”,18 but also the importance of the fertility cults of Cinyras, already noted, and of Aphrodite.19

In any population centre in the ancient Near East where a fertility religion was practised, the royal city and its cultic centre, the palace— temple, was the seat of the god’s creative activity. It was thus the “uterus” to be sanctified and fertilized by his presence.20 It is in such terms that the topography and nomenclature of Jerusalem/Zion has to be understood.

One story for the choice of the site for the Jewish Temple places it on “the threshing floor of Araunah” (II Sam 24:I5ff.). David had made a census of the people, the necessary prerequisite to an efficient income— tax system. Yahweh (who had suggested it [v. i]) punished this act of impiety by sending a pestilence upon Israel from which seventy thousand men died in three days. The avenging angel was just about to smite Jerusalem in a similar way when the god called a halt, and at that spot David raised an altar to Yahweh and later his son Solomon built the Temple.21


Appropriately enough the place was a threshing floor, the Hebrew word for which means originally, as we see, “seed_container”.22 The name of the owner, Araunah, may be explained similarly from the Sumerian as “pounder of the womb”, that is, the phallus that grinds up the ingredients in the uterine “mortar”. So the site of the god’s creative activity for the future was the “belly” of the city and, in the eyes of the local religionists at least, of the world. So today the centre of the earth, the “navel”, is portrayed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, as in classical times the worshippers of Apollo found it in the temple at Delphi.23


South of the Temple area lay the Jebusite stronghold of Zion proper, the mons veneris, as it were, of the city (fig. i.). On its south—western flank was the Pool of Siloam (“place of washing”) where Jesus sent the blind man to wash off the clay poultice he had laid on his eyes (John 9:7).24

The water of the Pool came from an underground conduit cut in the time of Hezekiali from the spring of Gihon on the other side of the hill. It was considered of such sanctity that the Temple cultus demanded that only Sioam water should be used in its special rites.25 Beneath the mons veneris was the junction of the two valleys circumventing the city on three sides (fig. 5). From the west, and sweeping round the south, was the valley of the “son(s) of Hinnom”, the site, as we saw earlier, of the Molech cult.26


The name of the valley in Hebrew is simply an attempt to put into recognizable Semitic a phrase whose original Sumerian meant “penis—sheath”, that is, “vagina” (*B&J_ERuM).27


Below Zion, the valley combined with another, the Kidron, which cut the city sharply off on the east and separated it from the Mount of Olives. The resultant depression ran down through the desert to the south and east into the Dead Sea basin, the bowels of the earth (fig. 6). This gorge was the original “valley of the shadow of death”, as its Hebrew designation salmaweth is wrongly translated in Psalm 23 4, and elsewhere. The real meaning of the original Sumerian *SILA_MUD means rather the opposite, “way of birth”, that is, “birth.canal”.28


Now the point of Molech having his “sperm-dedication” ceremonies here is clearly seen. So also can be appreciated the Psalmist’s concern that his shepherd-god Yahweh should guide him by “rod and staff” through the valley, that he should fear no evil. As a baby’s fragile body needs the firm but gentle hand of the midwife as it is pressed into life through the vagina, so the religious mystic needed to put his hand in his god’s as he passed through the experience of re-birth.


The Arabs call the valley the Wady of Fire.29 It is well-named. Not only does the summer sun raise the temperature within its gorges to almost unbearable heights, but at its lower end it debouches onto the Dead Sea, the nearest point on the world’s surface to the generative furnaces of mother earth’s womb.


Later theologians associated this heat to which the soul returned for purging and rebirth with retributive punishment for sins committed, so “the valley of the sons of Hinnom”, or Gehenna as it became known, was identified with hell-fire, which had little to do with the original fertility concept.30


Reverting once more to the “vertical” aspect of mushroom cosmography, we have a good example in the Old Testament myth of Jacob and his ladder (Gen 28 :10ff).

And Jacob came to a certain place, and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamt there was a ladder set up on earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending aix! descending on it! . . .


Then Jacob awoke from his sleep, and said, “Surely Yahweh is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” Jacob’s name means “pillar”, properly “standing—stone” (Sumerian *IA_A_GuB).Si His equivalent in the Twin mythology of the classical world is Pollux, the “mighty man supporting heayçn”. In the New Testament he is represented by James (Greek Iaköb), one of the Boaner— ges brothers, and a “pillar” of the Church (Gal 2:9).


In mushroom terms, Jacob is the stem of the fungus, his “red- skinned” brother Esau is the scarlet canopy of the Amanita muscaria. As the phallic stem of the mushroom, Jacob is the “anointed one” running with the precious “semen” of the god.32 It is in the light of this aspect of mushroom physiology as seen by the ancients that the remainder of the Jacob’s ladder story has to be understood. So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone which he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on top of it (vv. i8ff.).


Another well-known Old Testament story illustrating the mushroom idea of a pillar reaching to the canopy of heaven is the myth of Moses and Mount Sinai. The name of the sacred mountain as we may now recognize means “brazier” (Sumerian ZA—NE) hence its description as “wrapped in smoke . . like the smoke of a kiln” (Exod 19:18).33 It is at the fiery head of this “brazier” that Moses meets Yahweh, and finds after the interview that his face is glowing so much that the people were afraid to approach him (Exod 34:29).


Another important detail in the myth is the writing by the finger of God of the ten commandments on tablets of stone (Exod 24:12).34 The origin of the “tablets” theme is the “bun”—shape of the primitive clay tablet, resembling the top of a mushroom. Indeed, it is from one of the names of the fungus, the Sumerian *T41_BA..LI, “twin-cone”, that, through Greek and Latin, we have received our word “tablet. The two slabs of stone in the story represent the two halves of the split mushroom volva.35


The “ten commandments” or “ten words” as they are known in the Bible, in their number and in their content are but word-plays on Sumerian fungus names.36 Later we shall look closer at these “Words” when we enquire more deeply into the moral content of the biblical writings. To the mushroom cosmographer, then, the universe was a “gigantic” (literally) fungus. At the base was the cup—shaped volva containing the waters of creation.


The central pillar, variously identified with sacred mountains, supported the heavenly canopy. In sexual terms, the phallic pillar supported the sky, as the groin of a monstrous woman. On a horizontal plane, the same overall picture presented the land mass of the eastern Mediterranean as the “crutch” and offshore islands as the tips of penes awaiting entry into the vagina of earth’s womb. Inland, the Jerusalem was the belly of the world, at least to the fertility cults centered in that city, and it was the beginning of the ever-deepening gorge of Gehenna which plunged down into the Dead Sea rift, the “bowels” of the earth.

Here, again, is a field for much further research. If names like Jerusalem and Zion are primarily Sumerian and not Semitic, then we must seek a very early Sumerian influence in this area, which left later inhabitants not only designations of the city and valleys but a fertility cosmography in which Jerusalem played a central role.


Other peoples elsewhere saw an equal importance in their own religious centers, as the Greeks revered Delphi, but whoever named Jerusalem, “city of the heavenly groin”, understood this area to be the belly of the earth, and thus the main seat of the creator—god’s activity.


The idea that it was a Hebrew king called David that, around 1000 BC. instituted Yahweh worship here, in a previously “pagan” land (II Sam 6), must therefore be seriously questioned. Indeed, these present discoveries of the place of mushroom worship in the religion of ancient Israel, and the origin and nature of much Old Testament mythology, raise such doubts about the historicity of many aspects of the story of the Israelites.


In the chapter that follows we shall see that even the account of the sojourn in Egypt must be radically re-examined. Whether it will ever be possible to draw a clear line of distinction between fact and fiction in the biblical records is very doubtful.


The story of David, the hero-king, is a prime example of the dubiety which must now hang over the Old Testament as being in any sense a work of history, or based on history.


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