Wednesday, May 15, 2013

From Boys to Dogs...

If I were the Goddess, I would be VERY pissed off at whoever ritually killed one of my faithful companions!  However that may be, this article confirms prior research by others that I've written about in this blog that dogs were seen as symbols of death and the underworld, and were closely associated with the Great Mother Goddess who performed a myriad of roles in various cultures across the globe, including the role of the Death Goddess/Goddess of Rebirth.  Remember the ancient triad of goddesses: Virgin, Mother, Crone (or Old Woman).  An eternal cycle of birth, life, and death, and then again, rebirth, life, and death, and again and again.  So, if one believes in the "rebirth" part of this incredibly old belief system, any faithful canine companion killed could or would eventually be resurrected again -- maybe.  Where these ancient myths and beliefs get nebulous is in explaining the precise method for getting the hell out of Hell (okay, couldn't resist the pun) once you were there! 

As you know, some ancient board games' playing pieces included dogs or other canines, and in some ancient board games pieces were called "dogs."  Check out this exquisite surviving example of a dog gamine piece from ancient Abydos, Egypt (c. 2850 BCE), below.  Given it's age, I assume it was a gaming piece from a Mehen game.  Mehen was played on a circular board formed out of a coiled serpent, one of the ancient protectoress goddesses of Egypt.

Gives a whole new twist to "The Dogs of War."

See enlarged description below.
(From The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA)  This piece is an ivory dog which was probably intended as a gaming piece. It is prone, looking straight ahead and it's tail is curled over its right haunch. It has pendant ears and is depicted wearing a collar around its neck. This piece is well carved, and because of the precious material, was likely made for a noble person.

Period:  ca. 2850 BCE (Archaic)
Medium:  hippopotamus ivory    
Accesion Number: 71.622
Measurements:  1 3/16 x 2 9/16 x 13/16 in. (3 x 6.5 x 2.1 cm)
Place of Origin:  Abydos (present day El Balyana, Egypt)
The ancient Egyptians didn't believe in reincarnation; they believed, instead, in an entirely different existence after death that took place in the Land of the Dead, traditionally placed in the western Desert in the very early times and then later up in the sky somewhere.  So, a sort of parallel existence in this other realm, where the worthy souls who made it there (remember the weighing of the heart ceremony against the Feather of Justice of the Goddess Ma'at) also ate, slept, made love, hunted, fished, and generally lived a fantastic life.  I figure it had to be up in the "heavens" because how else could Horus be pooped out of Goddess Mut's body every morning to begin his journey across the sky all over again? 

Whatever the ancient Egyptians believed (and are we really sure we've got it right -- I have my doubts), other cultures were pretty darn blunt about believing in this cycle of life/death and - I think it is implied - actual physical reincarnation.  Just exactly how the process of being reincarnated worked, though, I've no idea, and I don't think they did either. 

This underlying belief in some kind of reincarnation, however, and however nebulous it was, may be a key to understanding what to most civilized people's way of thinking today was an inordinately cruel and vicious ritual!  Killing one's faithful and loving companion?  I'd as soon turn my knife on the killer of his own dog than kill my own!  Or kill myself instead.  But, I will try to keep this archaic belief system in mind while recording this research here:

The National Geographic

Boys Killed Pets to Become Warriors in Early Russia

In Russia, dismembered dogs point to ancient initiation rite.

Heather Pringle
Published May 14, 2013
At first, archaeologists Dorcas Brown and David Anthony were deeply puzzled. While excavating the Bronze Age site of Krasnosamarkskoe in Russia's Volga region, they unearthed the bones of at least 51 dogs and 7 wolves. All the animals had died during the winter months, judging from the telltale banding pattern on their teeth, and all were subsequently skinned, dismembered, burned, and chopped with an ax.

Moreover, the butcher had worked in a precise, standardized way, chopping the dogs' snouts into three pieces and their skulls into geometrically shaped fragments just an inch or so in size. "It was very strange," says Anthony.

To him and Brown, both of whom teach at Hartwick College in Oneonta, New York, the skilled and standardized method of butchering the dogs pointed to some sort of ritual. Pam Crabtree, an archaeozoologist at New York University, who was not a member of the team, agrees. She notes that the butchery pattern was entirely different from those used in prehistoric Europe and other parts of the world for slicing off dog meat to eat.

"The bone was chopped into small bits, and it was not the way you would do it if you were looking at getting the major muscle groups," Crabtree says.

So how to account for the mysterious remains at Krasnosamarskoe? Why did someone apparently sacrifice these animals?

Ancient Rite of Passage

In search of clues, Anthony and Brown combed the mythology, songs, and scriptures in Eurasia's early and closely related Indo-European languages. Many ancient Indo-European speakers associated dogs with death and the underworld. Reading through prayers composed by tribes in India possibly as early as 1400 B.C., the researchers found a description of secret initiation rites for boys destined to become roving warriors.

At the age of eight, the boys were sent to ritualists, who bathed them, shaved their heads, and gave them animal skins to wear. Eight years later, the initiates underwent a midwinter ceremony in which they ritually died and journeyed to the underworld. After this, the boys left their homes and families, painted their bodies black, donned a dog-skin cloak, and joined a band of warriors.

Brown and Anthony think that similar rites may have taken place at Krasnosamarskoe at the onset of the raiding season, which ran from the winter solstice to the summer solstice. And they speculate that part of the ceremony required the boys to kill their own dogs. The dead canines ranged in age from 7 to 12 years, suggesting that they were longtime companionspossibly even hounds raised with the boys from birth.

"That makes a lot of sense," concludes Brown. To take on the mantle of a warrior, an innocent boy had to become a killer.

Recent research conducted by military psychologists, moreover, suggests that the transition from civilian to soldier can be very difficult. In other words, "you have to train people to kill," says Brown.
For the Bronze Age boys at Krasnosamarskoe, this training may have included killing one of their childhood companionstheir faithful dog.


Not all cultures taught their children to be so monstrous, however.  There are many examples of surviving dog burials where it was apparent, given the care with which the canine was entombed, that the dog was treated with great respect, dignity, and love - yeah, love. 

One can only wonder how many boys ran away with their dogs before their "numbers came up" for the ceremony/test?  How many of them died in the wilderness trying to escape?  Were they allowed to just leave and never be seen again?  How many boys balked when it came to killing their dogs, and what were the consequences for doing so?  Besides this "butchering" process that took place - which the researchers assume the boy had to do (OHMYGODDES!) was there a ritual cooking and eating of the sacrificed dog's flesh?  What happened to the heart of any boy who "chose" to kill his dog because of cultural pressure to do so?  What would that boy feel, and think, about his elders, and the "rules" that made him do such a thing? 

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