This article is by way of unfinished business.
I wrote an article many years ago on how pub names reveal a lost part of our history – the heart of the world-wide pagan fertility cults. Pub signs reveal the pagan Queen/Goddess in her triple nature as, Maid, Queen and Wise Woman, along with the colours that went with those stages of her calendar year – White, Red and Black. Her most feared aspect was as a mature woman in the summer months, for which she wore the colour red.
When the king finally overthrew the Queen and took the reins of power – as immortalised in the children’s nursery rhyme, The Lion and the Unicorn were fighting for the crown, the Lion beat the Unicorn all around the town…, he set about erasing all references to the old ways. In particular, hostelries were ordered to erase any mention of the colour Red for it had been during this aspect of her yearly cycle he had been cruelly sacrificed.
But what of the part played by the king himself? This too, I discovered, is reflected in the names of pubs. I will never forget the thrill I felt when I saw a pub in a remote village called, The Old Sun. This was what I had unknowingly been looking for.
We think we know all about the old pagan fertility cults, but we do not. The very centre of that cult was completely erased and lost. The proud warrior queen, Bouddicca, was an unusual survivor of the old ways. The lost heart of the cult was eventually pieced together in the 1950’s by the scholar, Robert Graves in his book, The White Goddess. He discovered that in pagan times it was the Queen who ruled and she was all-powerful. (Think of the game of chess: who is the most powerful piece on the board?)
Her consort, the King, was believed to personify the power of the Sun. He was also tragically sacrificed at mid-summer so that the power stored within his body might be used to fertilise the lnd and be shared amongst the people. He was succeeded by his ‘Tanist’ or ‘twin’ who became the Waning Sun and who met his death at mid-winter when the sun – and therefore the Sun King – was perceived to die before being reborn at the New Sun the day after the winter solstice. Therefore, at mid-winter, the King was called the ‘Old Sun’, whilst his successor was called the ‘New Sun’.
So, when on our travels around the country in the 1990’s I saw pubs called, The New Sun, or The Rising Sun, my suspicions became roused that such names harked back to the old pagan fertility cult. And when, finally, I saw a pub named, The Old Sun, I knew this was all the confirmation I needed.
Here is the telling passage in P L Travers’ Mary Poppins, which I use in, Mary Poppins: The Secret Goddess:
When the Compass sends Mary Poppins and the children to China, they are greeted by an old Mandarin significantly wearing a gold brocade kimono. He proceeds to greet them in a manner that mimics the sun’s yearly journey:
‘The old gentleman, seeing the little group formed by Mary Poppins and the children, bowed so low that his head touched the ground (The Old Sun). The old man, rising ceremoniously, (New Sun) began to speak. ‘Gracious Sir,’ she (Mary Poppins) began, ‘it is with deep regret …must refuse your expansive and more-than-royal invitation. The lamb does not leave the ewe… than we depart from your shining presence. But noble and ten-times-splendid (mid-summer sun) Sir, we are in the act of encompassing the world….
The Mandarin, for such indeed he was, bent his head and was preparing another elaborate bow when Mary Poppins very quickly moved the compass again.’
As Robert Graves tells us, the head of the Sacred King symbolised the sun itself. At its lowest ebb, midwinter, the sun was called the ‘old’ sun. The head of the old Mandarin therefore represents the ‘old sun’ and his low bow – so that his head actually touches the ground – is describing the sun’s descent and return to the womb of Mother Earth at the winter solstice – as it was understood then. The ‘rebirth’ of the sun is described in the phrase, ‘rising ceremoniously’, when, indeed, there was much ceremony attached to this important and life-giving event. As the sun reaches midsummer it has become a ‘shining presence’ that has increased in strength ‘ten-times’. As the Mandarin is about to make another ceremonious bow, symbolising the start of the sun’s downward passage once again following the midsummer solstice, Mary Poppins hastily points the compass in another direction. The meaning behind this action is that she does not want the ‘Sun King’ to be sacrificed at mid-summer, as he once was. The Mandarin’s descending bow would signify that the King of the Waxing Year had just been most brutally put to death. She wishes to have nothing to do with the evil cycle of the Sun King’s death and rebirth and death once again.
I discovered that the king, therefore, had been sacrificed on a high place and that, often, churches in high places had been deliberately built on these former sacred pagan sites. Later, it became clear the winter sacrifice was carried out in a very different physical location, either in marshland, woods, or underground, and which symbolised the sun returning to the womb of the Earth Mother.
All these energies have been cleared so they have no power over us.
P.S. Perhaps I should just mention how aspects of this cult keep appearing in our media. How often do we see three women one of whom is blonde, the other red haired and the third black haired, ie the Triple Pagan Queen. Or in film, it is always the Maid who is the clever heroine and the mature woman is either the villain or stupid, think of the the Queen, Snow White’s wicked stepmother and the Seven Dwarves. She is white-skinned, red lipped and has black hair ie the three colours of the Triple Goddess – white, red and black. And so it goes on – a thread that runs through so much but of which we are oblivious. Once upon a time, it would have stoked fear in many men, the source of which they had no ability to track. But, as mentioned, those energies are no more and men are free from the subconscious fear.