Updated: Jul 22
How to get to Delphi?
How is it that two of the most important points on the European Michael axis are in Italy, but I can't find a way to get from one to the other on my winter Phi line?
The Sacra di San Michele in the Alps connects with Le Mans, the Mont Saint-Michael, Saint Michael's Mount and Skellig Michael as each one is on the preceding one's winter phi day sunrise line. So what about Monte Gargano / Monte Sant'Angelo in the South? How does it fit in? Have I made a mistake somewhere?
The Sacra di San Michele fitted in perfectly with everything from Ireland, through to England and France. And now the Monte Gargano site in the South of Italy, also called Monte Sant'Angelo, has eluded me. Here, the logic that I have found so far to try and understand the line has disintegrated and now I'm baffled. And yet Monte Gargano fits in well according to that same logic with the Greek section of the line, and it is also an exceptional phi day place in that it is a 'winter phi day = winter solstice day' place: the day, in winter, when the ratio of darkness to light is the golden ratio happens to be also the shortest day of the year. In the same way, Delphi is a place where summer phi days are also summer solstice days. You could say they are 'phi solstice places'. But what's going on between Monte Sant'Angelo and the Sacra di San Michele? What's going on is that I don't know Italy well enough. I followed the winter phi day sunrise line from the Sacra and came to this little seaside town with a Michael monastery called Recco. But then what? I'd never even hear of Recco till now, and it isn't mentioned in any of the lists of places on the Michael axis I've come across. I think Recco is for keeps because it has not just a church of San Michele but a monastery, and this is in keeping with some of the places included so far: mainly, the points on the line are Michael monasteries, or cathedrals on St Michael squares. Add to that the fact that Recco is on the sea, which is almost as good as being on a rock, and of course its right on a winter phi day line, from the Sacra in the Alps.
All the buildings I've looked at are probably the latest in a very long line of structures built on the same sites, with all the local variations you might expect. Perhaps at first they were marked by megalithic structures. The logistics involved certainly seem to predate what we think the Gothic and Romanesque cathedral builders were capable of - and yet, perhaps they deserve more credit than is generally allowed. Their buildings are obviously extraordinary. But I think that the line, if it exists, must go back at least to the time of Stonehenge. This means that over such a long period, the structures on these sites have been tugged into various shapes according to regional ideals, on one worldwide grid.
I am sitting in my kitchen and I just noticed on the table a packet of soda bread with the slogan is 'A Tradition Made Fresh Every Day', and I think that sums up the history of sacred places quite well, or more like 'A Tradition Made Fresh Every Couple of Centuries Or So'.
Here, the problem seems to be the sheer number of Saint Michael churches all over Italy - which ones, if any, were built in the place of megalithic structures? You only need two points to make a line, but more than ten, dotted here and there, and suddenly you have no line at all, just a headache. The other problem is that in Italy, there are so many more places from which to project summer and winter phi day sunrise lines, as well as perhaps sunset lines, and Michaelmas lines, etc, compared to say Ireland.
I realised I needed to get to know the lie of the land a little better, so I looked up and tagged every place called San Michele or Sant'Angelo I could find, and also in the south of France and the other side of the Adriatic. I drew tentative lines between some, even connecting with San Miguel places over in Spain. I was left with a tangled web of Michael places, and uncertainty.
But rather a crowd than a desert. At least I have something to work with.
The sanctuary dedicated to the Archangel Michael on Monte Gargano is not on the Sacra di San Michele's winter phi line. It just isn't. Should I by-pass it and head for Delphi? Or re-evaluate the criteria for including a site and include Monte Gargano. I think the by-pass for now.
Every other place, so far, starting with Skellig Michael, has produced a winter phi sunrise line which is a path to, or very close to, the next official point on the axis. So I went back to the Alps, and stuck with the winter phi line from the Sacra there, and arrived at Recco. But then what? There has to be somewhere on the winter phi line from Recco called San Michele or Sant'Angelo which then connects with the rest of the line to Delphi, but where? Maybe there will be a place dedicated to the Virgin Mary along the way instead, but they are hardly few and far between either. Or perhaps a megalithic site, but this is no longer the North Atlantic seabord, teaming with mysterious giant stone structures. Whatever I do find, will it somehow connect to the rest of the line in Southern Italy and Greece? At the moment, the orientation of the line between the Sacra in the North and Sant'Angelo in the South is wrong, compared to the rest of the line anyway. I might have to go even further back, to France, to see if I can resolve that.
I spent a lot of time looking up San Michele places in Italy, and there really are loads. That's my first difficulty: which one, if any will provide the stepping stone on the way from Skellig to Delphi? Also, none of them seemed to be on the winter phi day line from Recco. Then I had a look at a book I have on my kindle by Lucas Mandelbaum called The Axis of Mithras, a very interesting book about the link between places dedicated to Michael and places dedicated to the Roman god Mithras. His approach is to study the line as a broad corridor of Michael places, and he considers sites to be included in the axis on the basis of their link with the archangel, and with Mithras, taking in even the city of Lyon. I started out in North West Europe inspired by Robin Heath, and I just can't bring myself - yet - to include places in this axis if the fit is only approximate (although I do wish I could include Lyon, as it has a great statue of Michael the Archangel overlooking the city - also, I grew up in that city.) My approach has been more: let's see where this sunrise azimuth line goes to, and stop at the first important Michael connection.
The winter phi sunrise line from Recco goes through the Cinque Terra area, a group of five villages that are quite well known for being ridiculously picturesque. The village of Monterosse al Mare is right on the line from Recco, but has no Michael connection that I can see.
Just South from there, the line goes past a very Michael looking church, but it's dedicated to Saint Peter, in place called Porto Venere (Venere refers to Venus, but the name unfortunately conjures up images of syphilitic sailors). Where the church of Saint Peter is now, there was once a temple to Venus - quite a change. The church of Saint Peter is linked to the monks of Saint Columbus - a link to the early Christian Celtic church.
I say a 'Michael looking' church because it is on a rock on the water's edge. The church next to it is a sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady, something which often goes together with Michael churches. Is there a connection between the Archangel Michael and Saint Peter, other than their connection to stone and rock? Do they share a similar pre-Christian heritage? Perhaps no more than do Saint Peter and Venus.
There's also a VIIth century abbey on the smaller of the two islands, the Isola del Tino.
The church was officially consecrated in 1198, but the original church was Vth century. In the painting below you can see Saint Peter next to the Virgin Mary.
The nearby village of Lucca does however have a magnificent Michael church, as well as a cathedral. It's a bit off the line, though only by 3.3 miles, so at first I wasn't sure whether to include it.
San Michele in Foro is a romanesque church, which was built over the Roman Forum, hence the name. The church is mentioned for the first time in 795 as ad foro (in the forum). It was rebuilt after 1070 by Pope Alexander II. The statue on top of the church is a little more demure than some of them, with barely any leg or abs showing at all, and in fact both angel and dragon look a little tired, as if this ongoing battle has been going on for too long. Looking at this face of this Archangel, you can see that the powers attributed to Michael have already started to wane, at least in the eye of the artist, and of the beholders.
San Michele, a nearby church at Antraccoli, was founded in 777, and was enlarged and rebuilt in the twelfth century.
There's also a Pieve di San Giorgio, a Romanesque rural parish church, just outside of the city of Lucca, worth mentioning here because of the similarity between Saint George and Saint Michael.
Then the line goes to the town of Certaldo.
The church here was once dedicated to San Michele, but no longer.
Then we come to city of Siena, with three churches of interest, between 5 and 8 miles south of the line. Is this too far off? I was glad to find such a major place near the line, but uncertain, because it should really be closer. Siena might not be exactly on the line, but the whole area, the province of Siena is packed full of San Michele churches, and artwork showing the archangel. Here are just a few of them, in photo:
In the painting below, very unusually, the deed is done: the dragon lies in bits at Michael's feet, who is seated. And also unusual is his beautiful golden dress, which, contrasts quite strongly with the victorious strong gaze directed at the viewer.
If the dragon is dead, perhaps the archangel is out of a job.
This San Michele has obviously seen better days.
You can see from the state of these churches that the cult of the archangel has waned a little.
Many of these places I have found purely thanks to these photos posted by LigaDue on Wikimedia Commons. A huge grazie to LigaDue for their amazing photos, and very accurate GPS coordinates. They seem to have documented all the San Micheles in the province of Siena. Thanks to them, it's clear that the province of Siena is Michele country. I imagine them researching all the San Micheles in the area over successive weekends, followed by gorgeous lunches in excellent village restaurants.
One thing these churches show, through the cracked and peeling paint, the rising damp, sometimes even from their re-dedication to some new saint, is that the heyday of the Michael cult is well and truly in the past. In paintings, the Archangel Michael remains youthful, beautiful. His shrines haven't fared so well, pertaining, as they do, to the human world.
It's clear the entire province of Siena is jam-packed full of Michael churches, all completely different from one another.
There are also a few San Giorgio churches in the area, including this one in the city of Siena.
What I have come across so far is unbelievable precision in the layout of the line and the whole network - till now... Which one of these places is the most important? Is my line the right one? Is there even any line?
I decided to re-read Lucas Mandelbaum's book The Axis of Mithras. He documents the line very well, going from the shrine in the Alps, Sacra di San Michele, to Monte Sant'Angelo in the South, via Spoleto, Perugia and Larino, with enviable ease. (Well, in fact, he works in the opposite direction, from South - East to North - West.) Lucas Mandelbaum is very good on the many places in Europe with Michael or Mithras connections, especially France, Italy and Germany, another country I don't really know well. His knowledge of Italy is impressive, and he has all sorts of interesting comments, such as Spoleto and Larino being possibly older Michaelitic sites than Monte Sant'Angelo, or where Mithraeums, that is, shrines to Mithras, have also been found, and their relation to Michael sites. He doesn't mention Siena or Recco though.
And so I found the Italian town of Spoleto, in the Province of Perugia. I don't know how I'd missed it, but I had. It's on the winter phi line from Recco, exactly on the line, and has a small run down church dedicated to San Michele, and a cathedral too. Its Saint Michael church is so small it's not even mentioned anywhere online that I can find. To get a photo of it, I had to take a screen shot on Google Earth.
Recco - Spoleto: 120° 213.6 miles
The winter phi sunrise line from Recco is 119.91°
Spoleto is a small city in Perugia, in Umbria. The church of San Michele is on the side of a small hill near the city centre, a tiny little place on a narrow street. It's so unprepossessing that it's not even mentioned in the list of churches in Spoleto on Wikipedia. It's a far cry from La Merveille at the Mont Saint-Michel, but if the shoe fits...
To be fair, the city of Spoleto does have some pretty amazing churches that are worth mentioning: the Basilica of San Salvatore, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the monastery and church of San Ponziano, the Basilica of Sant'Eufemia, the churches of San Domenico and San Gregorio Maggiore, and the Xth century San Paolo inter vineas. That's alot for a small place
If you want to stay there, I also I found a XIIIth century Castillo di Sant'Angelo in Mercole, and a Palazzo Dragoni on TripAdvisor : you can make your own choice between angel and dragon.
Date Sunrise Azimuth Hours of Daylight
29 September 92.35° 11:51:14
15 May 63.12° 14:37:29
6 January 120.53° 09:10:45
6 December 120.46° 09:10:45
22 May 60.89° 14:51:09
22 July 60.86° 14:50:13
The summer phi line goes just yards past a wonderful looking place in the Sibilline mountains, the sanctuary of Madonna dell'Ambrogio, between Monte Priora (2.333 m) and Monte Castel Manardo (1.817 m), by a little waterfall. The sanctuary website explains that the Virgin Mary appeared here to a little girl called Santina. They call it the little Lourdes of the Sibillines. Funny how the archangel Michael appears before bishops and popes, but the Virgin Mary appears to little girls.
After that, heading towards the coast, the line goes past two places called San Michele, but not through them.
The winter phi sunrise line from Spoleto leads South-East to a tiny little place called Larino.
What I already like about Larino is that Lucas Mandelbaum mentions it in The Axis of Mithras, so I feel as though I'm on the right track again. It's absolutely full of interesting places: thermal waters, a Roman amphitheatre and forum, a romanesque / gothic cathedral, built on a previous structure, and a even a (slightly drab) ducal palace from the XIth century. It's surrounded by olive groves. I can't find an actual church dedicated to Michael, but there is a Via San Michele that runs past the amphitheatre, and directly into our winter phi day sunrise line. Does this make it a potential Michael place.... I'm not sure, kind of. There are, apparently, scraps of a mural of Michael the Archangel in the cathedral, which is dedicated to San Pardo.
There's something odd about Larino, it's just so tiny, only 6,600 inhabitants, and a cathedral and all those magnificent churches. It was probably once an important place. Why build so many religious buildings in a town without the means to support a big population? Or were the religious buildings (Christian or pre-Christian) put there first, and the town grew up around them? And if that is the case, why were the religious buildings put there? The coat of arms is an angel wing. Is there any actual Michael connection or not? A faded fresco in the cathedral, a Via San Michele, an angel wing on the coat of arms, and it's on a winter phi sunrise line from Spoleto: that's it.
Then I stumbled upon something strange.
I was looking aimlessly around Italy on Google Earth at even more San Michele places, the tangled web, when I saw three that might just line up, on the Western side of the 'boot' of Italy. As it happened, they didn't match up exactly into a line, but this brought my attention to Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, which I had marked already with a pin, next to the Vatican City. It occurred to me that maybe a Michaelmas line from there might lead to Sant'Angelo in Monte Gargano, to the East, that shrine which is supposedly crucial to the Michael - Apollo - Artemis axis which keeps eluding me. It would really suit me I thought, if I found that Monte Gargano were part of another line altogether, that it's not on the Skellig Delphi line at all.... Could it be to Rome what Stonehenge is to Skellig Michael, the first stop on a Michaelmas line? I looked at the sunrise azimuth for the 29th September on sunearthtools.com.
The answer was no... but something interesting did come of it at least. Larino Cathedral is on the Michaelmas sunrise path from Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome.
Castel Sant'Angelo 29 September sunrise: 92.34°
Castel Sant'Angelo - Larino Cathedral: 92.34°
(Castel Sant'Angelo - Santuario di San Michele Archangelo Monte Gargano: 93.08°)
The first Michaelmas sunrise line I found was by chance, I drew a ridiculously long line from Skellig Michael on Google Earth with an azimuth matching sunrise on the 29th September on Skellig, and I could hardly believe it when I saw the line run through the Stonehenge area. So then I extended the line further, not straight, but with a new azimuth from Stonehenge: Michaelmas sunrise at Stonehenge, and I got to Brussels, and then from there to Aix-La-Chapelle or Aachen. So when I saw this Michaelmas line extending out from Rome, I thought it must be of some significance.
So what is this Castel Sant'Angelo?
Do all roads lead to Rome?
What a weird place! Are those windows or light boxes on top? Why is it round?
It was initially commissioned by the Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. Later emperors were laid to rest there too. The building was later used by the popes as a fortress and castle. It was built between the years 134 and 139, and was damaged during the sack of Rome in 410, after which it began a new life as a military fortress, and was damaged again in 537. The Archangel Michael was seen sheathing his sword as a sign of the end of the plague of 590 on top of the castel, not once but twice, the second time by the pope himself . The authorities were obviously keen that the story be believed and widely circulated: here was a building that was not only Christian but protected by the Archangel Michael, and part of a network of places where the archangel had appeared. Here was a place where perhaps pre-Christian deities had been worshipped once, but now the Christian supernatural guys were, literally, on top. And just to be sure to be sure, the authorities renamed the place Sant'Angelo and the apparitions were followed by the destruction of several pagan shrines in the city. The castel has also been a castle, a prison, and now a museum, and it was the setting for the third act of Tosca, Puccini's opera. How is it that a building designed to be a mausoleum should be so easily transformed into a military fortress or a prison? Why was it built as a circular building? Why so close to the Vatican City? I can't imagine say the Taj Mahal, the most famous mausoleum in the world, working as a military building too - it's too delicate, too open. Why was this mausoleum designed to be, well, closed?
The architecture is quite complex.
It has a square base, a large cylindrical body, and a third cylindrical body but smaller in diameter, on the top of which the statue of Hadrian pulling a quadriga. By coincidence, Apollo too drives a quadriga across the heavens, delivering daylight and dispersing the night. Is Hadrian's quadriga a symbol of victory, or an allusion to the sun? Is Hadrian comparing himself to Apollo? Hadrian's mausoleum was added to over the centuries, but the fascination with circles and domes remains evident. Each central room within the mausoleum was designed around a dome, a perfect square within a circle.
Who designed it? Perhaps Hadrian himself, at least in part. Apparently, he was always drawing domes, because when Hadrian suggested a solution to a problem the then emperor Trajan was trying to figure out with his architect, Apollodorus of Damascus, the architect turned around and said: "Be off, and draw your gourds. You don't understand any of these matters". By 'gourds', the architect apparently meant 'domes'. Later, when he was emperor, Hadrian showed some drawings of his to the same architect, with a view of creating his designs, and he was laughed at. Years later, the poor architect Apollodorus of Damascus was put to death by Hadrian.
What else did Hadrian build? The Temple of Venus and Roma, the Villa of Hadrian at Tivoli, where the emperor recreated buildings and works of art observed during his travels, possibly too the Serapeum of Alexandria. He also oversaw the reconstruction of the Pantheon, a temple, with a vast concrete cylindrical drum, hemispherical dome, central oculus, and theatrical light effects, which had originally been built during the reign of Augustus. Incredibly, the Pantheon still has the largest unsupported dome in the world.
The present site of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem was once a temple to Jupiter or Venus built by Hadrian, called Jupiter Capitolinus. In 130, Hadrian started a Roman colony in Jerusalem, and a few years later he ordered that a cave there containing a rock-cut tomb be filled in to create a flat foundation for a temple dedicated to Jupiter or Venus. The temple, usually referred to as Jupiter Capitolinus, remained until the early 4th century, when the church was built in its place.
That cave, which Hadrian had had filled in, was then cleared, and identified as the burial site of Jesus, one of the holiest sites in Christianity.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre also contains the other holiest site in Christianity: the site where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, the "Calvary" or "Golgotha".
What did this place mean to Hadrian? What did it mean to the pre-Christian world in general? It is very close to the location of the (now gone) Temple of Solomon, which was then replaced with the Second Temple, also gone.
Various caves are also, of course, important to Mithras and Michael cults.
What did Hadrian believe in (apart from himself) ? What was he inspired by?
What energy, what presence. Hadrian is mostly remembered for abandoning his predecessor Trajan's expansionist policies and territorial gains in Mesopotamia, Assyria, Armenia, and parts of Dacia. He preferred to invest in the development of stable, defensible borders and the unification of the empire. Here is a dialogue between Hadrian and Epictetus, that is worth reading to get a sense of the man.
A DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE ROMAN EMPEROR HADRIAN AND EPICTETUS, THE PHILOSOPHER, ABOUT A.D. 110. ——— TRANSLATED BY HENRY MEIGS. ——— Hadrian. Let us loose our girdles! examine our bodies naked, and see what we can gain? Epictetus. It is a mere note. Hadrian. What sort of a note? Epictetus. It is a silent messenger. Hadrian. What is a picture? Epictetus. A false truth. Hadrian. Why do you say that? Epictetus. Because we see pictures of apples, flowers, animals done in gold and silver—but these are not true. Hadrian. What is gold? Epictetus. A servant of death. Hadrian. What is silver? Epictetus. The seat of envy. Hadrian. What is iron? Epictetus. The instrument of all arts. Hadrian. What is a sword? Epictetus. The law of camps. Hadrian. What is a gladiator? Epictetus. A lawful homicide. Hadrian. What people in good health are yet sick? Epictetus. Those who meddle with other people's business. Hadrian. What is a man never tired of? Epictetus. Of making money. Hadrian. What is friendship? Epictetus. Concord—agreement. Hadrian. What is the longest thing? Epictetus. Hope. Hadrian. What is hope? Epictetus. A waking dream! The expectation of a doubtful event. Hadrian. What is that which a man cannot see? Epictetus. Another man's thoughts. Hadrian. What is the sin of men? Epictetus. Covetousness. Hadrian. What is liberty? Epictetus. Innocence! Hadrian. What is common to all kings and miserable men? Epictetus. To be born and to die. Hadrian. What is best and worst? Epictetus. Words. Hadrian. What is that which pleases some and displeases others? Epictetus. Life. Hadrian. Which is the best life? Epictetus. The shortest. Hadrian. Which is the most certain thing? Epictetus. Death. Hadrian. What is death? Epictetus. Perpetual security. Hadrian. (again.) What is death? Epictetus. A condition to be feared by no wise man; the enemy of all life; deity of the living; boundary of all relation; plunderer of children; an agreeable last will and testament; a funeral sermon; the last tears; oblivion of the dead; a burthen for the monument; and the end of all evils. Hadrian. Why do we crown the dead? Epictetus. As the symbol of his transit from life to death. Hadrian. Why are the thumbs of the dead together? Epictetus. That we may, after his apparent death, know that he is really dead. Hadrian. What is a corpse-bearer? Epictetus. A man whom many avoid and whom none can fly from. Hadrian. What is a funeral-pile? Epictetus. The final payment of debt. Hadrian. What is a trumpet? Epictetus. An incitement to battle; a camp signal; a call to the arena, to the theatre and circus; a mournful note for the funeral. Hadrian. What is a monument? Epictetus. A stigmatized stone; a speculation for an idle fellow. Hadrian. Who is a poor man? Epictetus. He is like a dry deserted well which every body runs. Hadrian. What is man? Epictetus. He is like a bath: first a warm one; then oil for him as infant; then a sweater when he is a boy; a dry heat when he is a young man; then a cold bath in old age. Hadrian. What is man? Epictetus. He is like an apple! which hangs on the tree until it is ripe; just our bodies fall when mature! more often while green! Hadrian. What is man? Epictetus. He is like a lamp or candle set in the wind! Hadrian. What is man? Epictetus. He is a guest; a lawful dream; a calamity-tale; Death's real estate; Life's delay; a thing which Fortune makes jokes of! Hadrian. What is Fortune? Epictetus. A noble matron, who whips her slaves! Hadrian. What is Fortune? Epictetus. The nearest turning post on the race-ground; a chance for another man's goods; he who has it shows out splendidly; when it quits him he is left in the dark—no one can see him! Hadrian. How many sorts of Fortune have we? Epictetus. Three: a blind one, hitting none knows how; a crazy one, which gives and instantly snatches it away again; third, and last, a deaf one, who can't hear the prayers of poor wretches. Hadrian. What are the gods? Epictetus. Visions! mental deities! Are you timid? then Fear is your god! Are you able to rule your passions? then Religion is your god! Hadrian. What is the sun? Epictetus. The splendor of the world! giving and taking away day; a clock measuring the hours! Hadrian. What is the moon? Epictetus. A day-helper; eye of night; torch of darkness! Hadrian. What are the heavens? Epictetus. An immense dome. Hadrian. What are the heavens? Epictetus. The air of the world. Hadrian. What are the stars? Epictetus. The destinies of men. Hadrian. What are the stars? Epictetus. The boundaries of all government. Hadrian. What is this earth? Epictetus. The barn of Ceres. Hadrian. What is this earth? Epictetus. The storehouse of life. Hadrian. What is the sea? Epictetus. A very uncertain road to travel on. Hadrian. What is a ship? Epictetus. An everywhere hotel. Hadrian. What is a ship? Epictetus. Neptune's church; an annual packet. Hadrian. What is a sailor? Epictetus. A sea lover; a land deserter; a despiser of death and of life too; a client of the waves. Hadrian. What is sleep? Epictetus. The image of death. Hadrian. What is night? Epictetus. The laborer's rest; the highwayman's profit. Hadrian. Why is Venus painted naked? Epictetus. All the loves are painted naked as well as Venus, and because naked beauty pleases most; but it ought not to be done. Hadrian. Why did Venus marry Vulcan? Epictetus. To show how hot love is. Hadrian. Why was she squint-eyed? Epictetus. Because her loves were depraved ones. Hadrian. What is love? Epictetus. The trouble of a peaceful breast; modesty or shame in a boy; blushes in a girl; a fury in a woman; ardor in a young man; a joke in old age; a crime in a seducer. Hadrian. What is God? Epictetus. He who holds all things in His hands. Hadrian. What is sacrifice? Epictetus. A drink-offering. Hadrian. What is without society? Epictetus. A kingdom. Hadrian. What is a kingdom? Epictetus. A part of the government of gods. Hadrian. What is Caesar? Epictetus. The head of public light. Hadrian. What is the Senate? Epictetus. The ornament of the city, and the splendor of its citizens. Hadrian. What is a soldier? Epictetus. The wall of the Empire; the glorious servant and defender of the country; the index of power. Hadrian. What is Rome? Epictetus. The fountain of the Empire of the world; mother of nations.
I think this shows that Hadrian was a thinking man. The sun is 'The splendor of the world! giving and taking away day; a clock measuring the hours!', the heavens are 'an immense dome'. These answers are Epictetus's, not Hadrian's, and yet they explain, at least in part, Hadrian's obsession with domes: to build one is to represent the heavens on earth, and to invite the light of the sun inside, and measure its course during the day, and over the months of the year.
I've mentioned The Axis of Mithras a few times already, and it has been a huge help to me in trying to piece the Italian Micheles together into some kind of pattern. But I need to go back to Lucas Mandelbaum's book now, because of Mithras. Of course, the emeperor Hadrian pre-dated the surge in popularity of Michael churches and shrines that kicked off in the 5th and 6th centuries across Europe. But it's clear, if only from the connection between Stonehenge and the Michael axis, that the network of Michael places is much older than Christianity. What form did it take under the emperor Hadrian? Was he involved in the cult of Mithras?
It certainly flourished during his reign.
Mithraism was a cult or mystery religion centred on the god Mithras that was practiced in the Roman Empire from about the 1st to the 4th century, when it was stamped out by the Roman Christians. The religion was inspired by Iranian worship of the god Mithra, but was different in many ways, and it's not clear how much was borrowed and how much was new. Mithraism was especially popular among the Roman military.
Why does Mithras have to ride the bull to kill it? When Hercules is depicted killing a bull, they both face each other. Very often, Mithras's right leg is straight, which is not the case with Hercules. Also, who is this little dog jumping in? He is often included. Is it Orion's dog, the constellation Canis Major? In the sky, the order is different: Taurus is to the right of Orion, and Canis Major is to the left. What is the snake below doing there?
Saint Augustin himself started out as a Mithraist but, on seeing many of his fellow believers being put to death, he decided to convert to Christianity, and despite this dubious start, he became a bastion of Christian thought, writing such classics as The City of God and his Confessions.
Most of what is known about Mithraism now is from the many images that have survived of Mithras, showing him being born from a rock, slaughtering a bull, and sharing a banquet with the god Sol (the Sun). In these depictions, the image of bull-slaying (tauroctony) is always in the central niche.
In his book, The Axis of Mithras, Lucas Mandelbaum shows the strong connections between the cults of Mithras and Michael.
In his book The Undying Stars, David Warner Mathisen writes about an ancient culture with advanced scientific and spiritual understanding which 'creates a worldwide grid of megalithic sites'. (p. 274) He identifies myths as conveyors of an 'understanding of the universe and human experience that is holographic and shamanic (ecstatic), and adds: 'Among the ancient sacred traditions following this pattern are the "myths" of ancient Egypt, ancient Sumer and Babylon, ancient Greece, and the events in the Pentateuch. In other parts of the world, the same patterns can be seen in the Norse myths, and in the sacred traditions of the Maya, Inca, Aztec, and of the tribes of North America and the Polynesians of the Pacific Ocean.' (p 275)
The commonalities between all these traditions are one of the things that make David Warner Mathisen's writing so interesting. So how did these myths, this understanding manifest themselves in European culture after the Greeks? There seems to have been a good deal of hubris and secrecy built around this inherited knowledge, a will to conceal and rebuff, and conversely to elevate and promote the holders of this knowledge. The power wielded by this group was upheld, like all power, by deception and by violence.
“Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.” as Niccolò Machiavelli says in The Prince , but also “Hence it comes that all armed prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed prophets have been destroyed.”
This pretty much sums up the history of Christianity.
Unfortunately, the upshot to that is that tolerance can only be taught and upheld through the intolerance of intolerance, a nasty contradiction which places the most vulnerable at the mercy of the most resolute and bloodthirsty, no matter what ideals are upheld. Even in the name of peace, the threat of violence must be real. And to conceal this, the illusion of the love of peace must be part of the most fervent militants' message, and has been a signature of Christian dogma.
But violence and illusion are not enough to control people and sustain power. You also have to win over the interests of the people, to make them prosper materially and not hate you. Again, Machiavelli: “Being feared and not hated go well together, and the prince can always do this if he does not touch the property or the women of his citizens and subjects.”
So once people fear you but those who don't defy you can be allowed to make money and look after their families, what then? How do you uphold and sustain a religion, a civilisation built on secrecy and violence?
Perhaps by initiating the military into certain secrets, as a reward for good service, a little at a time? One of the ways identified by David Warner Mathisen is through the 'institution of the Mithraic Mysteries' (p. 276).
Here is possibly the connection between the Michael lines and the custodians of ancient astronomical and geographical knowledge.
Mathisen writes that 'the priests in Judea who guarded the sacred texts of the Old Testament and administered in the Temple system were originally Egyptian', and that their descendants, or at least those who went to Rome, created texts that were meant to be taken literally by the masses but which encoded things for their understanding only. And so the Mithraic mysteries came to 'embody many of the hidden teachings and symbols whose inner meanings the priestly families had kept secret for centuries.'
This would definitely make sense of the many connections between the ancient Egyptian religion and Christianity, such as Isis and Horus depictions being very similar to Mary and Jesus depictions. Also, the Ra religion, the veneration of the sun as the one and only true god, though never completely accepted in the Nile valley, was I think the first example of monotheism. And some movements within Christianity came originally from Egypt. It must also be said, though, that many other traditions survived for a long time along side early Christianity, which were then possibly absorbed locally into Christian tradition, especially by turning deities into saints and important pagan dates as saint days. The Early Christian Celtic church also held strong for a long time, and is often credited with single handedly saving Western civilisation, see for example the excellent How The Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe by Thomas Cahill.
When I looked to see where the London Mithraeum was exactly, on Google Earth, I was surprised to see that it was so close to saint Paul's Cathedral, and that the churches in it's immediate surroundings were, apart from St Clement's, of oranges and lemons fame, all dedicated to Michael and Mary. The distance between St Mary Abchurch and Saint Mary's Aldermary, steeple to steeple, seems to be 1200 feet, on Google Earth, and Saint Paul's Cathedral, from the dome, to Saint Mary's Aldermary is about 1158 feet. This is about the same as the distance between the churches of Saint Mary Abchurch and Saint Michael Cornhill, about 1168 feet, which are aligned with Saint Mary Woolnoth between them. The distance between the mithraeum and the centre of Saint Paul's seems to be about 1840 feet. Divided by 1.618 this is 1,137.2, which is very close to 1158 and 1168, two figures mentioned just now. The distance between Saint Mary Aldermary and Saint Mary Abchurch is about 1,200 feet. They are aligned with the mithraeum and Saint Paul's. The mithraeum is exactly between the two Mary churches, Aldermary and Abchurch. The Mithraeum to St Michael Cornhill is 1,200 feet also. Saint Mary Woolnoth is exactly between them. The distance between the two St Michael churches is 1875 feet, approximately, steeple to steeple. This is the same as Saint Paul's to St Mary's Aldermary. The azimuth between the two Michael churches, steeple to steeple? 64.29° . I thought that seemed familiar so I checked the phi days for London on sunearthtools.com, and bingo, 1st May is the summer phi day, and sun rises on that day with an azimuth of 64.29°. Incredible. The line extended further touches the sides of the Gherkin and the Lloyds building. Extended further still, both East and West, to the coast, the line didn't seem to have any significance beyond London. The line between St Michael Paternoster's and St Paul's corresponds to the azimuth of sunset on the summer phi day, 1st May. And the line between St Paul's and St Michael's Cornhill has for its azimuth the same as sunrise on Michaelmas, 29th September.
Christopher Wren designed and placed every single one of these churches, including St Paul's, after the great fire of London. So what was he up to?
So before Christianity turned against Mithraism, how did it use the cult of Mithras to expand its territories across the Roman Empire? It seems to have operated both a way of marking out land as sacred in particular places in a way the initiates could understand - and where mithraeums were built, there are today, still standing many churches dedicated to Saint Michael - as well as making knowledge of various secrets within the cult a reward for loyalty. I think this is why the Saint Michael churches and monasteries, and cathedrals built on Saint Michael squares mark out a sacred network, linked to the sun, the earliest known object of monotheistic worship, that is perhaps well-known among inner circles of power today in the various Christian denominations.
'This approach consisted of the use of the Mithraic Mysteries as a secret underground network that guided the expansion, and the use of literal Christianity as the more open and popular manifestation of the same metaphors and symbols. Only the external and non-esoteric interpretations would be shared with the masses. Not long after the priestly families came to Rome, they began to exert their influence over the other groups of Christians around the empire, eventually imposing a hierarchy centered in Rome upon what had previously been a non-hierarchical and largely gnostic phenomenon. (...)
Subsequently the holographic and shamanic understanding was ruthlessly stamped out. Shamanic culture and knowledge remained in parts of the world where the combined forces of the church and "western" arms had not yet come to dominate.'
(The Undying Stars, David Warner Mathisen p. 276)
And yet, ultimately, the mystery religions were eradicated. Another version of who's who in the religious world won the day - what we know today as Roman Catholicism. What happened then to all those secrets has been written about and speculated upon by many writers.
The cave, the subterranean, the chthonic, these are an important part of the Michael cult, and must have strong pre-Christian roots. Just what those roots are is an interesting question. Persephone and Hades are probably the best known underworld deities, and in the Greek myths alone there is also Angelos, Demeter, the Erinyes, Gaia, Hecate, Melinoe and others. The chthonic deities are associated with animal sacrifice, particularly at night time. Mithras is of course associated with caves and the underworld, and tauroctony, as we've seen, and was part of an important cult in the Roman world. Another is Attis.
Attis is lord of the underworld, of water, and earthquakes and is the consort of Cybele in Phrygian and Greek mythology. Both Attis and Cybele are associated with the cultic slaughter of a bull in ancient Rome and known as a Taurobolium.
Attis is to the Phrygians in many ways what Adonis is to the Greeks and Osiris to the Egyptians. He is a vegetation deity, a fertility deity with the ability to regenerate himself. (Other vegetation deities include Ba'al, Dumuzid / Tammuz, Ceres, Demeter, Dionysus, Cronus, Pachamama, Persephone and Saturn.) The deity's life is a constant cycle of death and rebirth, replicating the seasons, and the patterns of growth and harvest in the farming world, and in nature generally. As such, he or she is at the mercy of the sun and its apparent cycle.
The cult of Attis seems to have originated in Asia Minor in about the VIIth century BCE. Attis was originally a local semi-deity of Phrygia, associated with the town of Pessinos, at the foot of Mount Agdistis. The mountain was personified as a daemon, or the Great Mother Cybele. Later, Attis was incorporated into the Greek world before arriving in Rome in around 204 BCE.
Many of the stories concerning vegetation gods are a bit gory and weird, and if you read James Frazer's The Golden Bough, you'll see that many of the ceremonies associated with the corn/wheat/rye/barley gods are quite violent in nature, most of all in South America, but in Europe too. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Golden_Bough/Lityerses
I just re-read those chapters and they left me feeling a bit faint. Birth and death are of course intimately connected, but never more so than in a vegetation deity's life story. Add to that castrations, animal or human sacrifices, and you have a proper myth.
This is what Pausanias has to say about Attis's birth: Pausanias, Description of Greece 7. 17. 8 (trans. Jones) (Greek travelogue C2nd A.D.) :
"The local [Phrygian] legend about him [Attis] being this. Zeus [i.e. the Phrygian sky-god], it is said, let fall in his sleep seed upon the ground, which in course of time sent up a Daimon, with two sexual organs, male and female. They call the daimon Agdistis. But the gods, fearing Agdistis, cut off the male organ. There grew up from it an almond-tree with its fruit ripe, and a daughter of the river Sangarios, they say, took the fruit and laid it in her bosom, when it at once disappeared, but she was with child. A boy was born, and exposed, but wastended by a he-goat. As he grew up his beauty was more than human, and Agdistis fell in love with him. When he had grown up, Attis was sent by his relatives to Pessinos, that he might wed the king's daughter. The marriage-song was being sung, when Agdistis appeared, and Attis went mad and cut off his genitals, as also did he who was giving him his daughter in marriage. But Agdistis repented of what she had done to Attis, and persuaded Zeus to grant the body of Attis should neither rot at all nor decay. These are the most popular forms of the legend of Attis."
I'll never see almond trees in the same way again. Incidentally, the German for almond tree is Mandelbaum, which by coincidence is the name of the author of The Axis of Mithras, Lucas Mandelbaum.
The mention of Attis's beauty is reminiscent of the way the Archangel Michael is usually portrayed: handsome, youthful, ethereal. And of course Adonis, his Greek counterpart, is the archetype of handsome young men.
Furthermore, an angel has no gender, and in the second half of Attis's story, he places himself, as it were, between genders,after his mutilation . Also, he is born of a union between a daughter of a river and a hermaphrodite. This hermaphrodite is a daimon, a spirit, called Agdistis, personified as a mountain. Agdistis is the goddess Kybele (Cybele).
Strabo has this to add:
Strabo, Geography 10. 3. 12 (trans. Jones) (Greek geographer C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The Phrygians in general ... hold Rhea [Kybele] in honor and worship her with Orgia (Orgies), calling her Meter Theon (Mother of the Gods) and Agdistis and Phrygia the Great Goddess."
Strabo, Geography 12. 5. 3 :
"Pessinos (Pessinus) [in Phrygia] is the greatest of the emporiums in that part of the world, containing a temple of the Meter Theon (Mother of the gods) [Kybele], which is an object of great veneration. They call her Agdistis."
Ovid tells the story of Attis this way:
Ovid, Fasti 4. 222 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) : "‘What causes the impulse [of the devotees of Cybele] to self-castrate?’ I was silent. The Pierid [Mousa (Muse)] began : ‘A woodland Phrygian boy, the gorgeous Attis, conquered the towered goddess with pure love. She wanted to keep him as her shrine's guardian, and said, "Desire to be a boy always." He promised what was asked and declared, "If I lie, let the Venus [Aphrodite] I cheat with be my last." He cheats, and in the Nympha Sagaritis stops being what he was: the goddess' wrath punished him. She slashes the tree and cuts the Naiad down. The Naiad dies: her fate was the tree's. He goes mad, and imagines that the bedroom roof is falling and bolts to Dindymus' heights. He cries, "Away torches!", "Away whips!", and often swears the Palestine goddesses have him. He even hacked his body with a jagged stone, and dragged his long hair in squalid dirt, shouting, "I deserved it; my blood is the penalty. Ah, death to the parts which have ruined me!" "Ah, death to them!" he said, and cropped his groin's weight. Suddenly no signs of manhood remained. His madness became a model: soft-skinned acolytes toss their hair and cut their worthless organs.’"
In The Golden Bough by James Frazer, there are a couple of chapters on Attis.
The chapter 'The Myth and Ritual of Attis', begins like this:
'ANOTHER of those gods whose supposed death and resurrection struck such deep roots into the faith and ritual of Western Asia is Attis. He was to Phrygia what Adonis was to Syria. Like Adonis, he appears to have been a god of vegetation, and his death and resurrection were annually mourned and rejoiced over at a festival in spring. The legends and rites of the two gods were so much alike that the ancients themselves sometimes identified them. Attis was said to have been a fair young shepherd or herdsman beloved by Cybele, the Mother of the Gods, a great Asiatic goddess of fertility, who had her chief home in Phrygia. Some held that Attis was her son. His birth, like that of many other heroes, is said to have been miraculous. His mother, Nana, was a virgin, who conceived by putting a ripe almond or a pomegranate in her bosom. Indeed in the Phrygian cosmogony an almond figured as the father of all things, perhaps because its delicate lilac blossom is one of the first heralds of the spring, appearing on the bare boughs before the leaves have opened.'
James Frazer goes on to describe the great spring festival of Cybele and Attis:
'On the twenty-second day of March, a pine-tree was cut in the woods and brought into the sanctuary of Cybele, where it was treated as a great divinity. The duty of carrying the sacred tree was entrusted to a guild of Tree-bearers. The trunk was swathed like a corpse with woollen bands and decked with wreaths of violets, for violets were said to have sprung from the blood of Attis, as roses and anemones from the blood of Adonis; and the effigy of a young man, doubtless Attis himself, was tied to the middle of the stem. On the second day of the festival, the twenty-third of March, the chief ceremony seems to have been a blowing of trumpets. The third day, the twenty-fourth of March, was known as the Day of Blood: the Archigallus or highpriest drew blood from his arms and presented it as an offering. Nor was he alone in making this bloody sacrifice. Stirred by the wild barbaric music of clashing cymbals, rumbling drums, droning horns, and screaming flutes, the inferior clergy whirled about in the dance with waggling heads and streaming hair, until, rapt into a frenzy of excitement and insensible to pain, they gashed their bodies with potsherds or slashed them with knives in order to bespatter the altar and the sacred tree with their flowing blood. The ghastly rite probably formed part of the mourning for Attis and may have been intended to strengthen him for the resurrection. The Australian aborigines cut themselves in like manner over the graves of their friends for the purpose, perhaps, of enabling them to be born again. Further, we may conjecture, though we are not expressly told, that it was on the same Day of Blood and for the same purpose that the novices sacrificed their virility. Wrought up to the highest pitch of religious excitement they dashed the severed portions of themselves against the image of the cruel goddess. These broken instruments of fertility were afterwards reverently wrapt up and buried in the earth or in subterranean chambers sacred to Cybele, where, like the offering of blood, they may have been deemed instrumental in recalling Attis to life and hastening the general resurrection of nature, which was then bursting into leaf and blossom in the vernal sunshine. Some confirmation of this conjecture is furnished by the savage story that the mother of Attis conceived by putting in her bosom a pomegranate sprung from the severed genitals of a man-monster named Agdestis, a sort of double of Attis.'
Far from being a kind and benevolent mother figure, the goddess Cybele seems to have inspired a strange kind of devotion, marked by brutality and a kind of group madness. Other goddesses served by eunuch priests were Artemis of Ephesus and the great Syrian Astarte of Hierapolis.
James Frazer adds this description:
'Now the unsexed priests of this Syrian goddess resembled those of Cybele so closely that some people took them to be the same. And the mode in which they dedicated themselves to the religious life was similar. The greatest festival of the year at Hierapolis fell at the beginning of spring, when multitudes thronged to the sanctuary from Syria and the regions round about. While the flutes played, the drums beat, and the eunuch priests slashed themselves with knives, the religious excitement gradually spread like a wave among the crowd of onlookers, and many a one did that which he little thought to do when he came as a holiday spectator to the festival. For man after man, his veins throbbing with the music, his eyes fascinated by the sight of the streaming blood, flung his garments from him, leaped forth with a shout, and seizing one of the swords which stood ready for the purpose, castrated himself on the spot. Then he ran through the city, holding the bloody pieces in his hand, till he threw them into one of the houses which he passed in his mad career. The household thus honoured had to furnish him with a suit of female attire and female ornaments, which he wore for the rest of his life. When the tumult of emotion had subsided, and the man had come to himself again, the irrevocable sacrifice must often have been followed by passionate sorrow and lifelong regret.'
For a strange 15th century depiction of Attis, you can click below.
Beside the public ceremonies, there were also secret ceremonies for the initiates, which are very reminiscent of mithraism.
'The fast which accompanied the mourning for the dead god may perhaps have been designed to prepare the body of the communicant for the reception of the blessed sacrament by purging it of all that could defile by contact the sacred elements. In the baptism the devotee, crowned with gold and wreathed with fillets, descended into a pit, the mouth of which was covered with a wooden grating. A bull, adorned with garlands of flowers, its forehead glittering with gold leaf, was then driven on to the grating and there stabbed to death with a consecrated spear. Its hot reeking blood poured in torrents through the apertures, and was received with devout eagerness by the worshipper on every part of his person and garments, till he emerged from the pit, drenched, dripping, and scarlet from head to foot, to receive the homage, nay the adoration, of his fellows as one who had been born again to eternal life and had washed away his sins in the blood of the bull. For some time afterwards the fiction of a new birth was kept up by dieting him on milk like a new-born babe. The regeneration of the worshipper took place at the same time as the regeneration of his god, namely at the vernal equinox.'
The link with bulls being stabbed, and pits in the ground cannot be coincidental. A surprising aspect of this cult is that the main centre for sacrifices seems to have taken place, in Rome, 'at the sanctuary of the Phrygian goddess on the Vatican Hill, at or near the spot where the great basilica of St. Peter's now stands'. This is not the first time I've come across Saint Peter in relation to the Michael line, there have been various Saint Peter churches, and also the 15th May, one of the days which corresponds to many alignments, is the feast of Saint Peter. Mithras himself was born out of a rock, and Peter means stone. (The 15th May is also the feast day of Saint Isidore the farmer.)
The importance of the vernal equinox is also very clear.
I'm going to quote James Frazer at length again:
'Now the death and resurrection of Attis were officially celebrated at Rome on the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth of March, the latter being regarded as the spring equinox, and therefore as the most appropriate day for the revival of a god of vegetation who had been dead or sleeping throughout the winter. But according to an ancient and widespread tradition Christ suffered on the twenty-fifth of March, and accordingly some Christians regularly celebrated the Crucifixion on that day without any regard to the state of the moon. This custom was certainly observed in Phrygia, Cappadocia, and Gaul, and there seem to be grounds for thinking that at one time it was followed also in Rome. Thus the tradition which placed the death of Christ on the twenty-fifth of March was ancient and deeply rooted. It is all the more remarkable because astronomical considerations prove that it can have had no historical foundation. The inference appears to be inevitable that the passion of Christ must have been arbitrarily referred to that date in order to harmonise with an older festival of the spring equinox. This is the view of the learned ecclesiastical historian Mgr. Duchesne, who points out that the death of the Saviour was thus made to fall upon the very day on which, according to a widespread belief, the world had been created. But the resurrection of Attis, who combined in himself the characters of the divine Father and the divine Son, was officially celebrated at Rome on the same day. When we remember that the festival of St. George in April has replaced the ancient pagan festival of the Parilia; that the festival of St. John the Baptist in June has succeeded to a heathen midsummer festival of water: that the festival of the Assumption of the Virgin in August has ousted the festival of Diana; that the feast of All Souls in November is a continuation of an old heathen feast of the dead; and that the Nativity of Christ himself was assigned to the winter solstice in December because that day was deemed the Nativity of the Sun; we can hardly be thought rash or unreasonable in conjecturing that the other cardinal festival of the Christian church--the solemnisation of Easter--may have been in like manner, and from like motives of edification, adapted to a similar celebration of the Phrygian god Attis at the vernal equinox. '
(all quotations from James Frazer, The Golden Bough, https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Golden_Bough/The_Myth_and_Ritual_of_Attis)
Ovid tells us that Attis became an evergreen tree: a pine.
Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 103 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) : "Pines, high-girdled, in a leafy crest, the favourite of the Gods' Great Mother (Grata Deum Matri), since in this tree Attis Cybeleius (of Cybele) doffed his human shape and stiffened in its trunk."
Alfred Watkins notes in his book The Old Straight Track that many of the sites that are lined together by these tracks have one or two scotch pines growing there, which is remarkable in that there are no others in the area.
Attis's mother is personified as a mountain. Mithras is born of a rock. Saint Michael shrines are often on rocks or mountains or hills.
Attis makes things grow, and his story is an endless cycle of birth and death: he is connected to the seasons, and the sun. The Saint Michael shrines are connected to the path of the sun on certain important days in the sun's yearly cycle.
Attis is also connected to the world of the dead. The archangel guides the souls of the dead through the next realm.
Attis is linked to the sun. Michael is all about light, and fighting darkness.
Can a link be made?
On the other hand, the archangel Michael is better known for slaying, whilst Attis is all about making crops and plants grow. Any violence carried out by Attis is on his own person.
And there's another potential problem.
The constellation that best fits the archangel Michael is Ophiuchus, whereas Attis is, I think closer to the constellation that also characterises Osiris: Orion the Hunter.
I think the constellations and their links to the spirits, saints, daimons and gods, not forgetting angels cannot be over emphasised, they are the key to understanding them. If this is correct, this may mean that they are two distinct entities. Or it could mean that they are two facets of the same entity.
'This taurobolic altar is made from pentelic marble and is probably from Chalandri (ancient Phlya), Attica. The altars are associated with the cult of Rhea-Cybele and Attis and more specifically with the mystery celebration of the Taurobolia. Three sides are decorated with relief representations and there is an inscription on the fourth. One side depicts Rhea-Cybele enthroned, her right hand resting on the shoulder of Attis, who is shown leaning on a kalaurops, a staff used in cult ceremonies and for divination. The figures are flanked by pine-trees from which hang their symbols (a panpipe, drums and castanets). On the other side is a depiction of Cybele enthroned with Demeter to her right. They are flanked by Iakhos, god of the procession of initiates into the Eleusinian Mysteries, and Kore-Persephone. The third side has a representation of two crossed torches and various symbols. Two epigrams are inscribed. The first states that Archelaos of Athens, torch-bearer of Persephone at Lerna and key bearer of Hera, erected the altar to Attis and Rhea in return for his initiation into the Taurobolia Mysteries. In the second epigram, Archelaos is said to have been the first to celebrate the Taurobolia on this particular site. The altar dates from the decade A.D. 360-370, possibly from the reign of the emperor Julian the Apostate (A.D. 361-363). Inventory number: 1746. National Archaeological Museum of Athens. Athens, Greece.'
Images and text from Wikimedia Commons.
So exactly how is Attis depicted? There are so many variations: sometimes just a head, sometimes with Cybele and her lions, sometimes standing, sometimes reclining. Attis has a staff, the museum text above says it is called a kalaurops, but it's so short it's not much like an Archangel Michael or Saint George lance. The lions are important. The lions are probably Leo, and Cybele Virgo, and the constellation Leo does indeed precede Virgo in the night sky.
If the Archangel Michael is a Christian version of Attis, Adonis and Mithras, what can be learnt about the history and location of the places dedicated to the archangel?
Back to Rome for now. By the way, there was another sun and mountain god in Rome for a short while: Elagabalus, brought in by the emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus. He was of Syrian origin and known after his death as Elagabalus too. It was an early form of monotheism in Rome. The emperor was not much liked, partly because he had too many wives and lovers, and generally behaved just as he liked, and was assassinated quite young on 11 March 222, at the age of 18. (I can't help noticing that the year is 222, and 360 / 1.618 = 222.4969....I think I might be getting a little obsessed with phi .)
Rome Castel Sant'Angelo
Sunrise azimuth Hours of Daylight
29 September 92.33° 11:51:41
15 May 63.57° 14:32:12
24 May 60.78° 14:49:24
19 July 60.49° 14:50:09
14 December 121.07° 09:09:43
30 December 121.05° 09:10:03
The summer phi sunrise line doesn't seem to point at any Michael place in Italy, but it does go very near the Bosnian pyramids or Visočica hill (Is it a pyramid?), and then straight to the heart of the city of Belgrade in Serbia, where there is a cathedral to Saint Michael on a hill.
Rome Castel Sant'Angelo - Belgrade Church of Saint Michael: 449.53 miles, 60.63°
Rome summer phi sunrise line: between 60.78° and 60.49°.
Since there is quite a big difference between these two azimuths, neither being an exact match to an actual phi day number of hours (which would fall somewhere in between), I have marked both lines on the picture below, and the church of Saint Michael is, happily, just in between.
Just beyond Belgrade, the Phi Day sunrise line from Rome goes to the destroyed ancient city of Sarmizegetusa, or Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetusa, (renamed by Hadrian in fact) which was once the capital and the largest city of Roman Dacia, and is now in Romania. There was a temple to Mithra here.
Rome Castel Sant'Angelo - Belgrade Church of Saint Michael: 449.53 miles, 60.63°
Rome Castel Sant'Angelo - Sarmizegetusa: 573.32 miles, 60.67°
I think that's a pretty good alignment. And, curiously, 573.32 / 1.618 = 354.34, and there are 354.36708 days in 12 lunar months. (1.618 is the golden ratio)
And about 26 miles up the road, just off the alignment, is this archeological site, older still, Sarmizegetusa Regia. It was the capital and the most important military, religious and political centre of the Dacians prior to the Roman invasion, built on top of a 1200 m high mountain.
Did the Romans realign the regional capital with Rome to suit their beliefs, and place it on the phi day sunrise line from Rome?
Back to Rome. The winter phi day sunrise line, azimuth 121.07°, goes through the town of Frascati, which has a Via San Michele - perhaps it once had Saint Michael church - and then to a mountain peak named San Michele, and very close to a few Michael shrines.
There are two lines on this image, the other line is the Grosseto-Padula line, a new Michael line which runs very close to the Rome winter phi day sunrise line along the West coast of Italy - more on that later.
An azimuth of 121.96° would have taken us to the Santuario di San Michele alle'Grottelle in Padula, but it's just too far from the line. The winter phi day sunrise line from Rome, azimuth 121.07° does however go to the Nile delta, about 30 miles from the Giza plateau, but again, it's too far off to make any real connection.
Stonehenge - Rome
Another interesting thing about Rome, in relation to a network of sunrise lines in Europe, is that it is very close to the winter solstice sunrise line from Stonehenge, way up North in England. In fact, the azimuth for the 18th December sunrise at Stonehenge is the best fit: 127.95° , and the solstice itself is 128.05°. Stonehenge to Rome Castel Sant'Angelo is 127.94°.
This line from Stonehenge is an interesting one: heading North from Rome it takes in the parish of St. Michele Archangelo in Northern Italy (azimuth from Stonehenge 127.54°, 645.6 miles), the church of Saint Michel in Dijon, (azimuth 128.05°, 409.17 miles from Stonehenge, and there is also a church dedicated to Mary there, as well as a cathedral), the town of Volangis (Vol - angis / fly - angel? - 128.24°, and 293 miles from Stonehenge), the Basilica of Saint-Denis, North of Paris (128.23°, 242.25 miles), and the town of Gisors, (128.11°, 206.6 miles). I ran a quick check on Google Earth to see if anything else was the same distance from Stonehenge as Saint-Denis, and was amused to see that my house was, about 500 meters from the line, but not much else - the city of Chartres, but not the centre, the city of Ghent. Gisors - Stonehenge is a noteworthy distance, in that almost the same number of miles separate the Mont Saint-Michel from Saint Michael's Mount: 206.14.
The Basilica of Saint-Denis is an abbey church and was the burial place of many of the French kings as well as a place of pilgrimage. Saint Denis, the first bishop of Paris, was martyred on the hill of Montmartre in the 3rd century, in Paris, and his head was carried to the site of the basilica of Saint-Denis by his followers, to be buried there. Why was this site chosen? Who knows. There must have been a temple or sacred tree there. Is it because this spot, or whatever was there before Saint Denis's head was put there because it was on the winter solstice sunrise line from Stonehenge? And so the question of why the winter phi day sunrise line from Stonehenge provides gateways to the world of the dead for kings and emperors, at Saint-Denis, and also in Rome, must be asked.
(and why the head of a bishop must mark the spot...)
This detail on the church in Dijon showing Hercules fighting the bull in Crete shows very well the connection with the constellation Hercules: David Warner Mathisen points out that characters associated with the constellation Hercules have a bent right leg. I think it's strange that such a character made it onto the portal of this church, but then again, isn't he very like Mithras, slaying the bull, and isn't the character to the right like Cybele, the Mother Goddess.
Then again, Orion is the constellation nearest to Taurus in the sky, and could be seen as having a bent leg too.
Gisors has a romanesque and gothic church, Saint-Gervais-Saint-Protais, as well as a castle built by the Duke of Normandy. It was the last prison of the last Templar: Jaques de Molay. The castle was built as a fortress in the 11th century, and the original keep is an octagonal structure on a motte. Perhaps the motte is much older and was used by the castle builders.
At Gisors, there was once an elm tree.
"King Richard sent a message to the counts of Sancerre and of Barre, telling them that they took the king's bread and gave him nothing in return but if they were brave enough to come to the elm tree at Gisors, he would consider them truly courageous. The French nobles sent the message back that they would come the next day, at the third hour, to cut the tree down, in spite of him. When the English king heard that they were coming to cut down the tree, he had the trunk reinforced with bands of iron, that were wrapped five times around it. The next morning the French nobles armed themselves, and assembled five squadrons of their men, one of which was led by the count of Sancerre, another by the count of Chartres, the third by the count of Vendôme, the fourth by the count of Nevers, and the fifth by Sir William of Barre and Sir Alain of Roucy. They rode up to the elm tree at Gisors, with the crossbowmen and carpenters out front, and they had in their hands sharp axes and good pointed hammers, with which to cut the bands that were fastened around the tree. They stopped at the elm tree, tore off the bands, and cut it down, in spite of all resistance."
This is from The Minstrel of Rheims, a story written in about 1260. It is of interest because the tree, and the place itself were considered symbolic of something, who knows what, perhaps sacred. Also, this historical event actually happened, as the result of a tiff between king Henry II of England and King Philip II of France, in 1188, just after the fall of Jerusalem, the disastrous end of the second crusade. Philip ordered the tree to be cut down and hacked to pieces. This event was interpreted by Pierre Plantard as marking the beginning of the split between the Knights Templar and the Priory of Sion.
The line then goes on through Portsmouth onto Stonehenge.
Back to Larino. It may not have obvious Michael credentials on the face of it, but it's at a crossroads between two Michael pathways, one being my version of the main European Michael - Apollo - Artemis axis, and the other being a sunrise line from Rome, a Michaelmas line from a Michael place: the Castel Sant'Angelo.
Sunrise azimuth Hours of Daylight
29 September 92.33° 11:51:41
15 May 63.57° 14:32:12
15 December 121.1° 09:09:54
28 December 121.16° 09:09:43
29 December 121.08° 09:10:12
25 May 60.57° 14:50:22
19 July 60.55° 14:49:31
The Monte Gargano sanctuary is just 3.8 miles South of the Larino Michaelmas line. Is this too far too include it? I'm not sure.
In Larino, the winter phi days are very close to the winter solstice days. The winter phi day sunrise line doesn't seem to go anywhere significant, but I suspect that's to do with the fact that this is coming up to the end of winter phi day territory: just a couple of miles south of Larino (and Monte Gargano), the conditions for a winter phi day don't exist. The result of that is slightly problematic for my series of winter phi day sunrise lines linking up places from Skellig to Italy.
About 40 miles South-West of Larino is a town called Foggia, which has a church dedicated to the Archangel Michael. It is not exactly on the winter phi lines from Larino and Spoleto but it's close. Some interesting lines go through it or near it, which are worth mentioning
Firstly, the winter phi day sunrise line from Recco goes near it, about 2.6 miles from the church of San Michele. The winter phi day sunrise line from Spoleto also goes near, about 3 miles from the church, as does the winter phi day sunrise line from Larino. And a surprise line coming up from the South West is the summer solstice sunset line from the Temple at Delphi. Perhaps this summer solstice sunset line from Delphi will be the one to follow from now, especially as there are two villages of San Michele very near to it, further south, as well as Corfu.
Also, not market above, is another line: the Monterosso al Mare winter phi sunrise line goes through Foggia. (30 November, 119.99°).
The San Michele church in Foggia is in fact just 5 miles south of the place where winter phi days stop, so I think it can be considered as on the boundary between winter phi day and non-winter phi day worlds.
41° 32' 24.676" N / 41.5401877 - This is the exact latitude, as per www.sunearthtools.com, at which, and from which, going south, daylight is too long even on the shortest day, at the winter solstice, so that you can't have the required 9 hours 10 mins and 0.74 seconds of daylight for a winter phi day.
Before we leave Italy for Greece, there are just a couple of alignments worth mentioning. One seems to come from France through Italy. There are several Michael places between Rome and Naples that could be aligned.
There is a San Michele Sanctuary in a place in the South of Italy called Padula, mentioned already.
It's a cave basically, like at Monte Gargano on the East coast.
The sanctuary is built on the side of a hill called San Sepolcro, like the church in Jerusalem mentioned earlier. It was initially a shrine to the god Attis, before being transferred to San Michele Arcangelo and San Giacomo (Jacob).
You can imagine the gruesome ceremonies taking place, from the time of the cult of Attis. You can also see the similarities between the two cults, of Attis and the Archangel Michael, in their connection to caves. Here, the soul can come to purify itself, and to emerge transformed. The cave is the place of a catharsis which precedes the symbolic rebirth of a person. Here you return to the womb of Mother Earth, and re-emerge to a new life (hopefully all in one piece). And here both Attis and the Archangel Michael are go-betweens for people and the other world, from where they came and to where they return, endlessly.
Heading North-West there are a few Michael places, past Vesuvius, past Rome, towards France.
I traced a line on Google Earth and extended it to the Atlantic. It went by the Basilica to Saint Michel in Menton, on the Cote d'Azur in France.
Further North, it goes to the famous weird church dedicated to Saint Michael on top of a needle of rock in Le Puy, and the cathedral in Limoges.
If I trace the line back further still, on the same azimuth, there is a small town called Niors which has a church of Saint Andrew and a church of Our Lady, and then the Ocean.
Hmm, what if I extend the line further still.
I was slightly taken aback to see that it went very close to St Pierre et Miquelon, and yes, Miquelon is a form of Michael (Basque I think), Nova Scotia, New York and the White House in Washington D.C.
And if I extend the line south of Italy, still on the same azimuth? to Cairo, Egypt's capital, or rather, to Heliopolis, the ancient city of the Sun.
More on that in the next post.
And we can also look at the Delphi summer solstice sunset line that goes through Foggia and Le Puy.