Figs and Sin
Human practice of creating Myth is an important past time. It gives us a story, both of a symbolic history as well as an ideal set of values. I am especially drawn to pre-patriarchal mythologies as there are universal and eloquent themes that establish a base set of values for us all. Indeed it appears that these early mythologies hold within them archetypal keys that, once deeply investigated, reveal essential understanding of our universe. Modern historians basically stop at the classical Greco-Roman era, ignoring the genius of societies that created the civilizations to begin with. The Greeks and Romans were astute in their inclusivity so it becomes quite simple to find the origin of the stories directly in the Myths. When one follows the threads, incredible discoveries ensue bringing great depth to the Archetypes.
What could be revealed when we study our ancient knowledge of the Earth and the spirit-biology of plants?
Who knew that the prolific Fig would be such a symbol? A fecund and self-fertilizing plant, whose blossoms form inside the fruit, has appeared in countless ancient texts and artefact. Toothsome, full of sustenance, the delightful rainbow of types yield themselves to endless preparations; dried, a paste, savory, sweet or fresh. Cultivated and foraged since before memory, they have found their way into the spiritual lexicon as well.
(Marzipan Figs By OppidumNissenae - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41972371)
In Indo-Mediterranean tradition, the fig was a sacred tree often associated with fertility rites. In Dravidian thought ‘it owed its powers of fecundation to its milky sap, because the milky sap was of the same essence as rasa', that particle of universal energy contained within the element of Water. Rasa may be likened to ‘the waters below the firmament’ of Genesis 1: 7. Milky sap is also the fluid of life, ojas, which calls the child in the womb into being. Countless rites of sympathetic magic bear witness to the symbolic importance of trees with milky sap, and hence arises the Dravidian custom recorded by Boulnois of hanging a calf s placenta, wrapped in straw, from the boughs of a banyan-tree in order that the cow should give milk and calve again in future. Throughout India the banyan is held sacred to Vishnu and Shiva. Its worship is associated with that of serpents, the association of tree and serpent being pre-eminent in calling into existence the powers of fruitfulness." (http://dreamicus.com/fig.html )
Michelangelo, Detail, Adam and Eve in the Sistine Chapel (Temptation and Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden)
The connection of serpent and fig is especially impactful to modern times as it morphs into the Christian origin myth. The Tree of Life/knowledge/World Tree, with its attendant serpent- (a being who represents many things at the time- including Gaia, wisdom and eternity) may be a fig tree. Not coincidentally, many initiation rites in the ancient world involved eating figs and up and coming Christians come to use the symbol of eating of the tree of knowledge as the reason we are cast "out of the garden" as humans. This early marketing campaign cleverly contains the more ancient story of Agricultural empowerment and profound pagan symbols of the Snake and Sacred Tree while serving to lambast these symbols and direct culture away from this paradigm (and bring people to the new God, and priesthood of Yahweh)
We remember that Adam and Eve clothed themselves in fig leaves as they were expulsed from the Garden, perhaps indicating that they move forward into the world as knowledge holders and cultivators, that the original sin is believing we have the power of Gods since we are able to master Agriculture. This, masked as sex between Adam and Eve- is the original sin. Laying this burden of the first sinner to be woman only strengthens my perspective that women were the first Agriculturalists.
(N. Syria/Hittite - Hurrian/Cyro-Minoan Phoenician- Goddess of the grain)
I think it is interesting that the Fig is a super sexy fruit. It has the sweet appeal of laden testes and once open is particularly female-ish, sensual to eat fresh, yum! How could it represent anything BUT sexy yumminess? It also could serve to represent the ancient understanding that within the female is the male and that Goddess energy is essentially parthenogenetic. (ie: Sympathetic magical comprehension may tell us that this fruit appears to be both testes and yoni-esque, and blossoms within itself....) This thought-culture changed: Agriculture and Animal Husbandry brought us a deeper understanding about reproduction and as we gained the skills to plow, propagate seed and breed animals, we must have had an awakening and a tremulous growing identity. The heady power of independence! We begin to understand the magic and mystery of nature’s fecundity and we can master it! We can do it on our own dammit! Then, like adolescents leaving home we punish the Mother for the coddling. Human society, once completely and globally wrapped in the Mystery of Mother the Parthenogenetic Creator is now faulted: we have found the secret of the seed. The masculine was duped. The masculine had something to do with it after all. The first Sin: duality. In our hubris, sex becomes the symbol, perhaps warning us of over-population and self-interest out-of-balance.
This story of Original Sin comes out backwards in the telling, yet in a sense I agree. When we turned away from the Tree of Knowledge, THAT was the Sin. When we understood (*grokked*) this Symbol (and the snake and the Fig) we "Encountered" Nature, we communicated WITH Nature and were able to HEAR nature: ie: The First Science, Shamanism. We recognized ourselves as intrinsic parts of Nature. We were made after all, according to these stories, in the image of God…. So I agree the First Sin may have come from woman tangentially, She created Agriculture, but the pair of them took Mastery over Nature and turned away from the Tree of Knowledge which is the true Sin of the story.
We separated ourselves from the Tree of Knowledge and developed the egoic sense of self as separate from the Garden.
Interestingly the Tree of Knowledge was a pre/proto-Neolithic symbol related to early iconography of the Goddess Kybele/Artemis whose first sculptures were made from the wood of the World Tree/Tree of Life/Tree of Knowledge. We, in Genesis, were turning away from Parthenogenesis, one-ness/non-duality.
In the bible the story is written that they are eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Michelangelo's painting in the Sistine Chapel better describes this story when looked at more wholly.
This is interesting when we examine the Snake in this image. Notice how she seems to split in two and becomes not only the offerer of the fruit of knowledge, but the avenging angel as well? Almost as if there is a good relationship with the Snake and the tree’s gifts represented on the left and on the right the landscape is barren and the snake becomes an avenger with a sword pushing them away from the Tree of Knowledge. This Angel perhaps represents the Snake transforming from wisdom of Pythia to become the archetype of the evil of judgement, vengeance and separation from God/dess. ie Duality.
Although the wearing of the fig leaf is not present in this painting it is told to us in the Myth of the Expulsion. The wearing of the Fig leaf indicates that when we leave the Garden, we must rely on our own cultivation of food, and not the intimate relationship with the gifts of Gaia. This "covers the Sin" The Sin is not in receiving the gift from the Snake, but turning away from the Garden and listening to that particular voice of God (through political and religious marketing) that cast us out.
I think if we look back contextually at the symbols it adds a lot to the story. Where were the paradigms intersecting? What were the politico-religious goals of the conquerors and what was the story of the conquered?
In Mesopotamian mythology (according to Wikipedia)
“Adamu (or Addamu/Admu, or Adapa) goes on trial for the "sin of casting down a divinity"His crime is "breaking the wings of the south wind."
….Another origin of the word may be linked to the concept in the original sense of New Testament Greek ἁμαρτία hamartia "sin", is failure, being in error, missing the mark, especially in spear throwing; Hebrew hata "sin" originates in archery and literally refers to missing the "gold" at the centre of a target, but hitting the target, i.e. error. “
The transition from Goddess to Christianity had a long several thousand year period of the dis-empowerment of the Goddess cultures during the rise of the Apollon era. This historical period is one of our own culture's primary identity sources, we have built our civilization on the Greco-Roman world-view. It is here where we find the justification of rape and mastery of the earth.
With the advent of Agriculture we began to see God being born on Earth. He is still created by a self-manifesting Mother- with the unseen spiritual seed of God. God, when born on Earth, looks like man and begins to enlighten humanity and/or wreak havoc. Zeus is the first of the Greek Gods to be born on Earth- not too coincidentally in the same cave that the indigenous Cretens cite as their original birthplace. Remember also that this fact is “hidden” from his Father as Cronus did not want to be usurped the way he killed his father before him! The Cretens cover Zeus' birth cries with the cacophony of sword on shield, the tools of war. Hmmmm, the plot thickens. Zeus and his siblings eventually kill his father Cronus and later Apollo takes over the Temple of Gaia after killing the female Python that protects it.
God-Man has begun to overpower the Gods and the Divine Feminine.
(Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851)
Apollo’s oracles (operating in the same place and with the same rituals as the Priestesses before Apollo) become named the Pythia, named for their continued connection with the Mother. Eventually their prophecies become "translated" by a Priesthood and it is here that we see the formalized trappings of the patriarchal arch of History. An arch whose structure was built on war and wealth, division and politics.
In my understanding it is Gaia that is dying for our sins.
(Apollo and Daphne, Andrea Appiani, 1794-1795
Daphne turns herself into a tree to escape Apollo's rape #metoo)
In the same region and a few thousand years later, after the churning of History, we began to see a new God arise. He is a lot like the consort-son of the Goddess who must be sacrificed and buried in the Earth to become re-born in the Spring to ensure the ongoing cycles. His name is Christos. It is not Christ himself that represents the patriarchy. Jesus (and early Aramaic and Gnostic Christianity) offered an alternative consciousness to the idolatry of paganism, which by now was pretty thoroughly corrupted. Instead, Jesus offered teachings on our native union with God. He softens Jahovah/Jaweh and becomes an intercessory.
< Annunciation:; Mary becomes pregnant with Jesus)
Jesus' story, of being born of a woman and God, continues to allude to the sovereignty of the Divine Feminine and her central aspect in the human story. Although human, it is no secret that her image is celebrated, perhaps even more than Christ! Parthenogenesis still lived!
(Some of the oldest images of Virgin Mary)
It is not surprising that Mary was eventually buried at Efes, near where one of the greatest temples of all time stood for eons, The Temple of Artemis.
The magnificent Temple of Artemis was built up to seven times or so, starting potentially in the Neolithic era when her name was Kybele. This Temple complex, like many Sacred Bee Goddess temples/schools, held aloft the symbol of the Goddess well into the patriarchal era. At Efes, even Christians proclaimed and invoked the name Artemis as protector of the city! And then they bury Mary there. Coincidence? I think not. Continuity, methinks.
Eventually, at Efes, a council was held that declared (on it’s third attempt) that Jesus was God after all, and not just the Son of God. This proclamation changed history and was announced in a temple built upon the site of the Temple of the Muses. This proclamation tried to erase the Feminine role altogether: Mary stayed mortal, Jesus became Immortal. Although society still recognized the Goddess Artemis, even in the Bible, the writing was on the wall.
Although the nearby Temple of Artemis was built many times and was considered to be one of the Greatest Wonders of the Ancient World, after Mary was buried at Efes, people ceased walking the Sacre Via Artemis. The Temple was sacked and dismembered-repurposed for Christian and Islamic construction alike. Some stones became a Christian fort, others were shipped to Istanbul to help create the magnificent Islamic Hagia Sophia, a library representing the female face of god….hmmmmmm....
(Top left: Hagia Sophia, Istanbul. Top right: deep green color of one of the 127 columns from the Temple of Artemis. Bottom: the columns of the Temple of Artemis in the Hagia Sophia are 60 feet tall)
The pilgrimage of Artemis instead became a tour of Christian Holy places, many of which were built in or near Efes (Ephesus), Turkey. In a sense, Christians bury the Mother, who despite bearing the son of God, is a mortal. This act, the Crusades and coming rise of Islam, nearly served to eclipse Artemis and her followers. Burying Mary at Efes was a brilliant psycho-cultural act. In essence an attempt to bury the Goddess. Seekers may come to seek Artemis, the protector of the city, the descendant of Gaia-Kybele, and they find her temple burned and the humble home and grave of Mary instead.
(Tomb of Mary, Selcuk, Turkey)
However, the story of Artemis still lives.
In the late 1980's, mere miles from the Tomb of Mary, one of the finest and the most recent sculpture of Artemis was rediscovered. She is called Artemis the Beautiful and despite being buried (hidden, planted?) for thousands of years, her white marble is pure and nearly perfect.
(Photo by Laura Bee. Artemis the Beautiful, Selcuk, Turkey)
The Turkish, recognizing the importance of this sculpture and her sister, Artemis the Great, built a museum to house them. They decided to build the museum just on the other side of the hill from the site of the Temple of Artemis. The architecture was intentionally designed to give one the experience of going into a Temple, and it works.
After a maze of art and artefact, you enter a cave like space that has niches in the "rock" where 20 or so images of Cybele (Artemis's first name) are gently lit, as if with candlelight. Then you go up a small ramp and into a black room with white columns. On either end of this rectangular room house the Artemsi. So, in our lifetime, in a sense, the temple (a more modest version) has been rebuilt.
Importantly, these icons stand on the land where they were worshipped, and Artemis the Beautiful has never strayed far in her entire physical existence. If you believe that objects can contain energy, than you will recognize it when I say...it was palpable!
To me this discovery is a re-emergence of the Divine Feminine and not an accident. Her image has sprouted, as if by magic, from the soil. From the soil where they tried to bury the Goddess, instead, like a miracle, she re-emerges in nearly perfect form.
In THIS era, at THIS time. Right when we need Her. Her symbol, Her protection, the Wisdom inherent in the mind-set of the people who created Her.
One cannot bury the Mother as the Mother is the Earth Herself.
Gaia, humanity's first-named divinity the world over, re-absorbs her Goddesses, mortal representatives and priestesses, but she rises again with every grain stalk and fig seed and in the breast and belly of every mother.
She cyclically rises again and again, shedding her skin like the Pythia of Wisdom.
Her voice is in the wildlands where Artemis fled when she became the Elder Sister and twin to Apollo after her Greek absorption and diminutization in the face of corporeal patriarchy.
It is here that we find the loving wisdom in Nature and are able to restore our souls in the lap of the Mother.
We were never cast out of the Garden. We walked away from it. It is still here, and we can re-expand it. Nurture it. Return.
Mama always forgives, receives and gives. Let us ask ourselves, what have we done for Her lately?
Let us take stock of our Garden, the one given to us, the EARTH!
Then let us get back to bringing it-us -all into true physical real life balance.
Forget judgement and sin, control and mythic fluff. Instead let us mature for a minute, take accountability and give back to Her.
So what does this have to do with Figs? The fig is a clue that leads us back to the garden.
The Fig represents the ancestress-cultivator, the Fig Tree represents the Goddess. The Snake is the wisdom of the Earth and Gaia, the Gift She gave us is the gift of agriculture.
When I walked, in late Autumn, the grounds of the Temple of Artemis in Selcuk, I found a large fig tree. The temple grounds have been neglected, only a single column of hodge-podge leftovers stands there, and only at half the height of the original architecture....but there, in a corner grew the biggest Fig tree I have ever seen. I approached it, and to my surprise there was one perfectly sun-dried fig hanging on a low branch. I ate it and marveled in that moment, the thought of eating a fig from the Temple of Artemis!
Left to herself she blooms, and cultivated, She feeds us all, in all the ways.
Knowing that we are part of the Garden is to know the Goodness of God/dess.
Maybe this knowledge can bring us back to an Eden-state.
The story of the Divine Feminine is still being written. Like Artemis Herself She rises again.
We write the Myths for our people. Let us write a story we can live with.
How about we contemplate All of that...
while we go eat --- Figs!
(Still Life with Two Figs: by Julian Merrow-Smith)
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