Mercifully for our literary heritage, logic plays a very small part in religious mythology. In the case of the “twin” stories, it seems equally strange that the children are usually featured as both of the same sex, usually boys or men. Whether they represent the male or female aspect of the mushroom, the “penis” or the “womb”, can only be determined by reference to the original meanings of their names (a discriminatory problem with which we today are not entirely unfamiliar).
This we can now do, thanks to our being able to trace the names back to their Sumerian origin. Thus the biblical brothers, Cain and Abel, represent the “womb” and the “penis” respectively. The first name comes from the Sumerian *GAR...EN, “seed-container”,1 and the second from BAL, “borer; phallus”.2 A fuller form of Abel’s name, including the word TI, “organ”, “instrument”, produced the biblical proper name Tubal— Cain, the patron of metal-working, son of Zillah (Gen 4:22).8
These last references provide a good illustration of the way the Bible takes the fungus names of their heroes and heroines and provides the characters with their “parents” and “trades”. Tubal— Cain’s mother is Zillah, which, in the Aramaic-speaking community in which these stories must have originated, would have meant that he could be called “Bar—Zillah”, that is “son of Zillah”.
The Semitic word for “iron” (properly “axe—head”) is barzelJ’, so naturally Tubal—Cain is a “metalworker”.
The mushroom reference is to another meaning of barzelã’, “womb”, actually the female “groin” (Sumerian *B14fl_sIL(A), the “junction” of the body, where the legs meet the trunk, or, in the case of the “axe”, where the haft is inserted in the “V”— shaped head). So two names for the fungus, the combined Tubal-Cain and barzelã’ are spun out by the biblical myth-makers into a hero, his mother’s name, and his trade.4
The ancient botanists give us an androgynous plant-name Eryngion (Greek Eruggion), in which we can now recognize “Hermes” (ERUM) (the phallus) and “Cain” (the womb).5
Pliny says of this plant:
Among its many reputed therapeutic properties, the Eryngion was said to correct “a deficiency or excess in menstruation, and all affections of the uterus”.7
It was also known as Hermaion, referring simply to the first element in its name, ERUM, “penis”; “Hermes”. Another phallic name of the plant was Moly, properly the “knobbed-plant”,8 a common designation of the magic fungus in mythology. Eryngion also appears among the names given the Aloe, otherwise called Amphibion, “double— life”.9
The prophet Tiresias was said to have been “amphibious” because he lived both as man and woman;10 so perhaps our fashion designers have found themselves a new word in place of “uni—sex”. Pliny says of the Aloe that its bulbous root resembles a Squill, “the root is single, as it were a stake sunk into the ground”.11
That is, the androgynous herb had a bulb (volva) and a phallic stem. It may be that we should find in the double-sexed Eryngion, in whatever form the name appeared in Semitic, a name of the mushroom and the origin of one part of the Cain and Abel story.
After Cain had slain his brother Abel, Yahweh condemns him to be a fugitive and wanderer on the earth (Gen 4:12). Cain complains bitterly that his punishment is more than he can bear.
Being an outcast, without tribal protection, he will be at the mercy of all:
The Hebrew phrase is
strongly reminiscent of our bi-sexual plant name Eryngion (*ERUM_
The miscreant replies rather petulantly with
a question which has become a byword in discussions on the social
responsibility of the individual: “Am I my brother’s keeper (shömër—)"
The most famous of all twins in classical mythology are Castor and Pollux. They were born from an egg, the fruit of their mother’s union with Zeus, who appeared to her in the form of a swan.14 Their sister was Helen,15 connected as we saw earlier, with the resin of the conifer, source of the Amanita muscaria, as was believed.16 The mushroom affinities of the twins are therefore well established.
The two lads are known jointly as the “Dioscouroi”, which the classical writers took to be a dual form of a Greek phrase dioskouros, “son of god”. They therefore called the lads, “the sons of Zeus”.17
In actual fact, their name is not a plural form, or even Greek. It is a jumbled Sumerian title, *ush...Gu.4J_TJ], “erect phallus of the storm”. The Greek rearrangement of the various verbal elements began with *ud_ ush—gu—ri became *di_us_ku...roi, and thus to Dioskoroi or, as it is otherwise written in the texts, Dioskouroi.18
We know their name in the rather more accurately transmitted form of USh-GU—RI—UD, “Iscariot”, the name of Jesus’ betrayer in the New Testament story.19 Elsewhere, the writers and theologians read the name Dioscouroi in the manner of the classicists, by splitting a presumed singular into two, “son of God”, as a title for their hero Jesus. Interestingly, the Sumerian original has come down into Persian as another name of the mushroom, saqrãtiyün.20
The name Castor is cognate with the Greek gaster, “belly, womb” (our “gastric”, etc)21 and it is from the more general sense of “pod” that the name came to be applied to the plant from whose pods comes the medicament, castor_oil.22 We have already noticed how this wider “pod” significance has led biblical commentators to wonder how Jonah found shade from the sun under the Castor-oil bush.23
A similar misunderstanding underlies the widespread belief among the ancients that this valuable medicine could be obtained from the testicles of the beaver (Latin castor):
So Nicander speaks of “the testicle that is fatal to the beaver”.25 The confusion here is between the “seed-bag” of the male, the testicle or “egg”,26 and the woman’s uterus, “fetus-container”. But the reference to cutting down trees, accurate enough of the riverside animal, may also contain an allusion to the fungus whose presence on broken and rotting wood must have seemed proof of the same destructive powers as were possessed by the beaver.
One may also conjecture that the added note about having once gripped “part of a man’s body” it would not release its hold, has originated from a piece of earthy humor concerning the female organ. Pollux was the strong man. His name is a somewhat jumbled form of the Sumerian phrase LU-GEShPU, “strong man”, and so “guardian, jailor”, from which also was derived the Greek phulax, of just that meaning.27
In mythology Pollux is depicted as a “boxer, one good with his fists”, the picture thus presented being that of the forearm and clenched fist, with the same phallic allusions as were implied in the Services’ term for the penis, “short arm”.28 The development of the name Pollux and the Greek phulax from the Sumerian LU-GEShPU has a particular interest for us.
The last syllable PU was detached and placed before the rest of the phrase, giving pu-I ugesh, and thus brought into its derived forms (the longer Greek form of the twin’s name, Poludeukes, comes from the same original to which a word DU, “adversary” has been added, in full *LU_GBShPU_DU). It is this same GEShPU, “strong man”, (the preformative LU simply indicates the meaning “man” for what follows) which forms the main part of the New Testament name for the brothers James and John, “Boanerges”.29
The whole Sumerian phrase from which the Greek nickname comes was *GEShPU...AN...UR (read as pu-an-ur-ges) meaning “mighty man (holding up) the arch of heaven”, a fanciful image of the stem supporting the canopy of the mushroom, seen in cosmographical terms. In a later chapter we shall deal in more detail with mushroom cosmography generally, based upon a view of the universe which saw heaven and earth as born from the volva of some vast primeval fungus. The name “Boanerges” has given scholars a lot of trouble in the past.30
For one thing it has been assumed to be Aramaic, a kind of semi jocular nickname applied to the fiery-tempered brothers by Jesus in the colloquial Aramaic of Palestine of the first century, but which is incomprehensible in any known Aramaic dialect. The text adds the “explanation” of the name as “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3 :I7). Again, it has been assumed that the reference is to the brothers’ suggestion that they call fire down upon the Samaritan village that would not receive the Master and his friends (Luke 9:54).
The trouble has been that “Boanerges” does not, and in that form cannot mean “Sons of Thunder”. For one thing the first part “Boane—” is not the Semitic bnë-, “sons of”, even though it sounds something like it; for another, the remaining part, —rges does not mean “thunder”.32
All the same, the whole phrase has an air of authenticity which might deceive the cursory reader, and this was certainly its intention. Its real import was a secret name of the mushroom, found otherwise in “Pollux” and in other terms with the same meaning of an upholder of a heavenly canopy. We have too readily assumed, in seeking an explanation for the strange incompatibility between “Boanerges” and its “translation”, that the text was defective, that later scribes being unfamiliar with Aramaic had miswritten the nickname.
Now, thanks to our present discoveries, we are able to take a more appreciative view of the craft of the New Testament cryptographer. Neither he nor his copyists had made a mistake; we had, in taking the text at its face value. The name was not a jocular expression given by an Aramaic-speaking rabbi to two of his friends. It is not, as we now realize, Aramaic.
The clue to its mushroom affinities has lain all along in the “translation” which, as such, is of course quite spurious. But “sons of thunder” is a well-known name for the fungus, found elsewhere in Semitic texts, and supported by the old Greek name keraunion, “thunder— fungus”, after keraunos, “thunder”.33
The reference is to the belief that mushrooms were born of thunder, the voice of the god in the storm, since it was noticed that they appeared in the ground after rainstorms. Later, we shall have to look again at this “Boanerges-Sons of Thunder” group, for it is a particularly clear example of a number of such instances in the text of the New Testament where a genuine mushroom name is followed by a spurious translation for the sake of the plot of the story.
As here, the false renderings have usually some particular relevance for the sacred fungus, even though they do not interpret, as they affirm, the accompanying foreign word. What they do indicate very clearly is the unreal nature of the whole surface story of the Gospels and Acts. Put very simply, if the writer has gone to the trouble purposefully to conceal his secret name for the mushroom by giving it a misleading rendering, near enough in this case to deceive the cursory reader, then it follows that behind the story of Jesus and his companions there lies a secret layer of meaning which was not intended to be read or understood by the outsider.
Since mushrooms nowhere appear in the surface story, and yet are clearly involved in the cryptic names, it must mean that the secret level of understanding is the significant one for the intended reader as for the cryptographer; what appears on the surface is unreal and never expected to be taken seriously by those within the cult. There is no escape from this dilemma: if our new understanding of “Boanerges” is correct, the historicity and validity of the New Testament story is in ruins.
A subterfuge of this nature, bearing as it does on what we now see was a widespread and very ancient mushroom cult, can only mean that the “real” Christianity was heavily involved with it; in which case the story of Jesus was a hoax for the benefit of the Jewish and Roman authorities engaged in persecuting the cult. We shall give this matter more extended consideration later.34
To go back to Pollux:
This configuration of an upright supporting an apex or fork came to have a profound sexual significance.
The upright was the strong arm or erect penis supporting the “burden” of the womb. The very word “burden” in Sumerian GUN, came down through Latin cunnus into our presently impolite designation of the female genitals, “cunt”.35 The “organ of burden”, AR-GUN, appears dialectally in the name of Mount Hermon,36 the Canaanite version of Olympus,37 supporter of the heavenly arch. Even trees having a broad comus like an enlarged mushroom were vested with sexual powers.
The Plane tree38 has had this significance from the beginning of recorded history. It was its shade that tempted the Sumerian goddess manna, wearied from her long travels, to sleep awhile. It stood in the garden of one Shukallituda, who found the lovely goddess sleeping and could not resist the temptation she offered. When she awoke to the discovery that she had not slept alone, she laid a terrible curse upon the land.
The earth and wells were inundated with blood, like the land
and river of Egypt when Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave
(Exod 17: i7ff.).
Our own word “harmony”, too, comes from the same source, for the word means properly “ajoining together” the matching of the bearer and the burden. One who does this in carpentry is a “harmonizer”.42 He makes the hole and fits the joint; like Phereclus, the ship—builder, he is a Harmonidës, “son of a carpenter”.43 So, too, is Jesus called in the New Testament (Matt 13:55; cp. Mark 6:3), for the mushroom was seen as both the “drill” and the effected “joint”.
The ancient form of the drill was not unlike the mushroom in shape. In essentials it was a short rod surmounted by a bun-shaped whorl like a spindle for winding thread. At the lower end was the bit of iron or flint. We can see it so represented in the Egyptian hieroglyphs as and . The Sumerian ideogram for “carpenter” is ,46 the notched whorl in this case being to take the string of the bow that gave the instrument its spin.
The male organ is the “borer” into the vagina, and the Latin phallus comes from the Sumerian BAL, “borer”,47 which also designates the weaver’s spindle (ideogram +48) and the mushroom. When the penis slides into the vagina, or the shaft into the axe—head,48 “harmony” has been achieved, and the ancients saw the extended mushroom as representing that happy state.
Now that we can understand the sexual significance to the ancient mind of the inverted “V” formation, it is possible to appreciate why it was from Adam’s rib that his partner was made:
The Hebrew name for “rib”, sela’ is the Sumerian SILA, represented by the “V” shape,50 and what the Old Testament writer clearly had in mind was a rib extending on both sides of the spinal column, giving the arched form associated with the open groin and the mushroom top.
From this “rib” the god fashioned the significant part of the woman, supplying the canopy for the erect stem, and “harmony” for the hitherto deprived Adam. The inverted “V” shape, the angular representation of the mushroom cap, was also the form of the old yoke that was laid across the shoulders of the servant or animal.
Again, it is the Sumerian GUN, “burden”, that is at the base of our word “yoke” (through the Latin jugum, Greek zugon).51 In the extended mushroom “ was seen an image of a neck bearing a yoke, and this idea came into the Twin mythology by portraying Castor as a “yoker” of horses, that is a horse—trainer.52 The “yoke” of a chariot was the cross-piece fastened to the central pole on either side of which the animals were fastened.
At its very simplest, the traction end of the war chariot could be represented by a cross, . The Greek word harma, ‘joining”, like the Latin jugum, “yoke”, could express “chariot”, as could the Sumerian MAR, “axe- head; rainbow; and groin”.53 From this “forked burden” came the sexual allusions of chariots and chariotry noticed earlier.54
To “drive a chariot” meant, then, to take an active role in the copulatory act. The sun is the great “charioteer” (Greek harmektër) of the heavens as it wheels across the sky and plunges into the vulva of mother earth at eventide. So Yahweh, the creator god, is seen riding upon the cherubim (Ps i8 :ii,55 etc) and, among the lesser heroes, Jehu “drove furiously” (II Kgs 9:20).
The Greek word for “horse—driver” is elatër. In derivation it is more related to the sexual affinities of the action than the equine, since it comes from the Sumerian E-LA-TUN, “strong water of the belly (womb)”, that is, in its sexual application, “spermatozoa”.56
As Elatërion we find it as the Greek name of the Squirting Cucumber, Ecballium elaterium, whose phallic shape and periodic exudation of a mucilaginous juice gave it sexual allusions57 which the modem Arab recognizes when he calls the plant, “donkey’s cucumber”.58 In actual fact the intensely bitter juice of the Elaterium is anything but productive of fertility, being a violent purge and an abortifacient.59
But like Hellebore, “strong water of defecation” as its Sumerian derivation shows the name to mean,60 the Squirting Cucumber gathered to itself many names that belonged primarily to the Amanita muscaria, no less bitter and with similar gastronomic and intestinal effects.61 In mythology the horse- and cattle-driving theme appears frequently.
The newly-born Hermes leaps from his cradle and precociously drives away his half—brother Apollo’s cattle.62 Castor fights with his cousins over their driving away cattle and is killed in the battle.63 The yoke laid across the neck of a servant or an animal or the upright pole of a carriage, had another, more sinister application.
It was also the crux (“cross”)64 or furca (“fork”)65 that the criminal carried on his shoulders to his place of execution, his wrists fastened to each end.
At the gallows, at this stage simply the upright set in the ground, the Greek stauros,66 the condemned man was hoisted up so that his legs were just clear of the ground and left there to die of exposure. To take some of the weight off the bonds at his wrists, the upright was sometimes provided with a horizontal peg to support the crutch, a kind of saddle (Latin sedile).66 a To “take up the yoke” or “cross” was thus synonymous with being crucified, and is a constant theme in the New Testament.
It will also have been a euphemism for sexual copulation, the “yoke” being the “burden” of the woman’s crutch borne gallantly by the erect penis. It is with this implication that the cross became the symbol of the phallic god Hermes. It consisted basically of an upright piece of wood with a cross—piece at the shoulders, and in its more sophisticated forms with an erect penis at an appropriate place on the shaft, indicating its phallic implications. Sometimes the top of the upright was carved with a two- faced representation of the god’s head.
The Hermes cross symbol
was known throughout the classical world, and standing at crossroads
was welcomed as a source of comfort and inspiration by the
traveller.67 The similarity between this fertility symbol and the
instrument of execution must have been obvious to all, even to the
detail of the crutch-supporting sedile of the gallows finding its
parallel in the replica phallus half—way up the Hermes upright. It
is interesting that the eastern churches preserve this detail in
their traditional form of the crucifix with the double cross-piece:
Presumably this characteristic headgear was intended to represent the half-egg (Castor) of the mushroom and the stalk and canopy of Pollux. In Christian iconography this symbol became the orb , and the Sumerian ideogram for “fertility”,71 may possibly have been expressing the same motif: The idea of crucifixion in mushroom mythology was already established before the New Testament myth-makers portrayed their mushroom hero Jesus dying by this method.
The fungus itself was probably known as “The Little Cross”,72 and in the Old Testament the seven sons of Saul had been crucified as an expiatory sacrifice to Yahweh. The story runs that a three-year famine in the land drove David to seek from Yahweh an explanation for his disfavor. The god told him that there was a blood—guilt on Israel because David’s predecessor Saul had executed the Gibeonites. These deaths had to be expiated before the fertility of the land could be restored.
Thereupon David called the Gibeonites who demanded the atoning death by crucifixion of Saul’s seven sons, one of whose names was Armoni, “the joiner, carpenter”.73
After the deed, Armoni’s mother Rizpah (Hebrew r-z-p, “join”),74
Only after David had taken down the bodies and buried the remains, and those of Saul and Jonathan which had been similarly exposed, did “God allow himself to be entreated on the land’s behalf” (v. 14).75 The verb used in this gruesome tale for “crucify” means properly “disjoint”.76
In the story of Jacob’s wrestling match with the angel it expressed the dislocation of the hip-joint:
The “hip” motif is a recurrent theme in mushroom mythology. Adonis-Na’iman was killed, according to legend, by being run through the hip by a boar, sent, some say, by Artemis from jealousy. Dionysus, often connected with Adonis, was said to have been born from the hip of his father Zeus.
His mother Semele,
an earth-goddess, had been impregnated by the Father-god, but before
her son could be born, she was struck by a thunderbolt. Her divine
lover snatched the fetus from her womb and implanted it in his own
hip, from which in due course the young Dionysus was born.77
this version of the myth, Pentheus’ mother takes an active part in
the proceedings and returns from the frolic bearing her son’s head
proudly before her.82 In the Old and New Testament versions, the
chief victims’ mothers lead the mourners.
Alternatively, the mushroom story presents two figures, usually male, like Castor and Pollux, Cain and Abel, and so on. The most famous of all the mythological twins are Castor and Pollux, the “volva” and the “stem” of the fungus respectively. Their joint name, Dioscouroi, means “phallus of the storm”, and appears in the New Testament as the name of Jesus’ betrayer, Iscariot, and as the title of Jesus himself, “son of God”.
The risen mushroom, with canopy outstretched was seen by the ancients in the same sexual terms as the open groin of a woman penetrated by the male organ, or as an axe—head into which the shaft has been inserted. It was represented symbolically by the form of a cross, as a man or animal carrying a yoke, or as a criminal crucified.
So the fungus was known as “the little cross” and its dismemberment as “crucifixion”, giving in part that theme of the Christian myth.
The imagery that related the mushroom and the cross extended to “star” images, as we noticed in the case of the Dioscouroi’s cap. In many respects the sacred fungus was a child of two worlds, heavenly and terrestrial, and, as the modern Arab calls the mushroom, “star of the ground”,83 so in mythology there were always strong astral connections in its worship.
Some of these we shall examine in the next chapter.