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The Sacred Archer

By Anthony Roe
Published Samhain 1998

At my old school, as at countless others, we always used to sing the hymn Jerusalem.. Our young voices thrilled at the visionary Blake’s words, “Bring me my Bow of burning gold; bring me my arrows of desire,” echoing the mandate of the sacred archer of old, even the Divine Archer of all time. for though archery as a secular practice has long since decayed into a merely recreational pursuit, the hieratic and sacerdotal role of the archer remains potentially valid. Folk memories and ancestral truths are manifest in the guise of the archer.

Matthew Paris in the middle of the thirteenth century included archers with characteristic long-bows in his drawings of battles. That most famous of archers, Robin Hood, could have shot with a similar weapon in Matthew’s lifetime. It is natural enough to move from the tales of Robin’s prowess to the victories achieved by the bowmen of England and Wales at Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt, but the long-bow, so described to distinguish it from the cross-bow, was recognised as a highly penetrative weapon centuries before.

The bow was a national weapon - in the Assize of Arms of 1242 the possession of a sword, bow, arrows and knife was enjoined on all free men - and archery was a generalised skill. Statutues relating to archer are numerous and range from the time of Edward I to Charles II, during whose reign the long-bow practically died out as a weapon, in spite of many patriotic attempts at resuscitation. The first statute, 13 Edward I (ce 1285), known as the Statute of Winchester, ordered all males of a certain rank to shoot from the age of seven, and this act was not repealed until 1557. Henvy VIII showed off his ability with the long-bow before the crowned heads and nobility of Europe at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. On another occasion during Yuletide festivities, the king surprised his then incumbent queen by appearing actually dressed as Robin Hood.

It is known that the Normans were acqinated with the cross-bow or arbalest, but besides this cumbrous weapon, as we learn from the Bayeux tapestry, they wree accustomed to use the simpler long-bow, a plain arched bow made of a single yew stave. These bows were used at the Battle of Hastings. A fatal arrow from one such killed King Harold.

Able authorities have stated that the long-bow was peculiarly the weapon of the northern races in general. The Danes and the Saxons used it in warfare, and it is noteworthy that we inherit the Anglo-Saxon words boga, boge, (bow) and arwe (arrow), the last term having been in use so early as ce 835. There is also evidence, based on examples of decorative ornament and on runes, that archery was practised in England about the year ce 750.

The Bow in Pre-History

We may fairly assume that the cross-bow, which is really a kind of portable ballista, does not belong to pre-Roman Britain, and that for centuries before the plain long-bow was in use. Long-bows made of yew were probably employed in the Neolithic period. A yew bow, consisting of a single stave about five feet long, was due out of deep peat near Cambridge in 1885, and was judged to be prehistoric. Switzerland has also yielded a few specimens, and the Ice Man found in the Alps had a quiver of arrows. The long-bow is certainly prehistoric in origin, and it may be inferred that it was in use in the Later Stone Age.

The Bronze Age rock engravings of Scandinavia, spread over a wide area, offer revealing insights into the sacred role of the archer. A sacred marriage shown in one engraving is of great interest, in spite of its crude execution, because of the archer who points his bow at the couple. He could be interpreted, as the axe-bearer has been in this context, as protecting the ceremony, but one suspects that the difference between the axe and the bow may be significant.

Professor Almgren compares a ceremony which was carried out in Lent at Viza in Thrace. It consisted of a mock betrothal of a boy dressed as a bride and aman who wore a goat-mask and a wooden phallus. A second man, also wearing a goat-mask, came up behind them and shot the bride-groom with an arrow. The “corpse” was mourned, and carried away in a mock-funeral; then it was suddenly restored to life. Finally a plough-share was forged and carried in procession round the village. The parallel is striking, especially as another group of engravings seems to represent the archer as a kind of adversary. There is a strong suggestion of antagonism between an archer and a disk-man, and an archer is fleeing before the stroke of an axe-bearer who is standing on a ship.

There is one engraving which seems to show the triumph over the adversary which preceded the consummation of the sacred marriage. In the Near East, as represented, for instance, by the cult of Dumuzi, or Tammuz, the sacred marriage was associated with the myth of the annual death and resurrection of the male consort of the mother goddess, Ishtar.

Archers are not uncommon in the engravings. The bow appears in a few scenes which seem to represent hunting, but it is nothing like as common as the axe, sword and spear. It might also be plausible to say that when an archer appears other than in a hunting context he is likely to be playing a sinister part, but this theory would have to take into account the example of an archer who stands protectively behind a plough-man figure.

Archery in the North

In the story of the bow and arrow there is other evidence of its sacred use and supernatural associations. The bow appears occasionally in the hand of an archer on gold bracteates of the Migration period, and also on the Gallehus horns from fifth century Denmark. In one scene an archer is aiming at a horse which seems to be marked out for sacrifice and in another at a hind with her fawn. The archer who appears on the Franks Casket, Northumbrian work in whalebone of the late seventh century, and again on Gotland stones of the Viking age, likely represents a figure of mythological importance, and the scholar Schneider associated him with the Balder myth. Whether the name given in runes on the Franks Casket is that of the archer Egill, who according to later sources was the brother of Wayland the Smith and a skillful archer, is not certain; possibly here is a supernatural figure with the bow whose story was all but forgotten by the time of the written sources.

The bow-god in later Scandinavia was Ullr, whose name occurs commonly in place-names in a broad belt from Uppland to southern Norway, and whose cult must therefore have been an important one at one time. Unfortunately his personality appears to have been already partly forgotten at the time from which our earliest literary evidence derives, and we have to make do with rather sparse hints. It seems fairly clear that he was in some way connected with winter, if only because he was known to travel on skis or skates, and this might just be linked with an earlier role in which he was the opponent of springtime regeneration. If he could be represented as trying to intervene with the sacred marriage, the same line of thought might show him menacing the ritual opening of the ploughing season. It seems to fit quite well; the most obvious objection is that the connection with winter does not exhaust even the little that is known about Ullr’s personality.

As the Norse god connected with the bow, Ullr was believed to have been an early Germanic deity of the sky because his name is related to a Gothic word meaning “majesty” or “glory”. Places called after him in Norway and Sweden are often in the neighbourhood of those named after Freyr aand other Vanir deities, so that he may be one of them. He is called “god of the bow”, and “god of the shield”, and the shield was called his ship. This puzzling image has not been satisfactorily explained, and prompts the question whether he was originally connected with the shield-like disc associated with the sun in the Bronze Age. He is also said to cross the sea on a magic bone, which has been interpreted as him moving on skates over the ice, and, according to Snorri Sturluson, wore snow shoes. By the time of the written sources, Ullr is little more than a name, but he seems at one time to hav been a deity of some importance, judging from the number of places named after him. These names are based on two forms of his name, “Ullr” and “Ullin”, which suggests that there may originally have been a pair of archer deities.

The bow is also found in association with some minor goddesses, who appear to be fertility deities connected with the Vanir, but about whom we know little. Skadi, daughter of a giant and wife of Njord of the Vanir, parted from her husband because she came from the mountains and he wished to dwell by the sea. After she returned home, she was said to wear snow shoes and carry a bow. Some have thought that Skadi was originally a male deity, perhaps representing winter, or that she had some association with the Lapps, who used the bow in hunting.

Two goddesses associated iwth Jarl Hakon were also skilled in the use of the bow: Thorgerd, a mysterious supernatural figure worshipped with great devotion by the Jark, and her sister Irpa, about whom we know almost nothign. When these sisters once aided the Jarl in battle, they appeared as giantesses, shooting arrows so swiftly that it was as if one flew from each finger. There is some reason to think that Hakon’s family came from Sweden and that this cult was connected with the Vanir. This scattered evidence about the bow does suggest links with the Vanir and with the deities of fertility.

Ullr, or Uller, as winter-god, was the son of Sif and step-son of Thor. His father was one of the dreaded frost giants and he delighted in the chase. As god of hunting and archery, he is represented with a quiver full of arrows and a huge bow. As the yew furnishes the best wood for the manufacture of these weapons, it is said to have been his favoured tree.

Ullr was also considered a god of death, and was supposed to rid in the Wild Hunt, at time even to lead it. As the ice with which he yearly enveloped the earth acts as a shield to protect it from harm during the winter, Ullr was surnamed the shield-god, and he was specially invoked by all persons about to engage in a duel or in a desperate fight. In Christian times, his place in popular worship was taken by St Hubert, the hunter, who, also, was made patron of the first month of the year, which began on 22nd November, and was dedicated to him as the sun passed through the constellation of Sagittarius, the Archer. To the Anglo-Saxons he was known as Vulder, but in some parts of Germany he was called Holler and considered to be the husband of the fair goddess Holda.

Ullr remains a mysterious and shadowy figure, one of many Northern deities and cults which had fallen into oblivion by the time that Snorri wrote his account of the gods. Ullr, the winter-god, resembles Apollo and Orion in his love of the chase, which he pursues with ardour under all circumstances. He is the Northern bowman, and his skill is quite as unerring as theirs.

The Classical Archer Deities

Some authorities believe that Apollo came from Asia and was either a Hittite god, a Hellenic double of the Arab god Hobal, or a god of Lycia. Others, because of his close relations Hyperboreans, a people supposed to live in sunshine beyond the north wind, think that he was a Nordic divinity, brought by the Greeks from the north in the course of their migrations.

Apollo was first of all a god of light, a sun-god. Because the sun is murderous with its rays that strike like darts, and at the same time beneficient because of its prophylactic powers, Apollo was thought of as an archer-god who shot his arrows from afar, Hecatebolos, as god of sudden death; but also as a healer-god who drove away illness, Alexikakos. His attritutes are the bow, the quiver, the shepherd’s crook, the lyre.

In the Iliad (Book 1) Phoebus-Apollo, “God of the silver bow”, appears by night and shines like the moon. Intellectual development and the interpretation of myth need to be taken into account to recognise in the Homeric deity the much later Sun-god and to liken his bow and arrow to the Sun and its beams. Originally he was more closely related to lunar symbolism. In this context, he is described as the god of vengeance, with his death-dealing arrows, “Lordly bearer of the silver bow”.. He is hailed in literature as possessor of over two hundred different attributes. The Romans identified him with none of their gods. Alone of the deities adopted by the Republic and the Empire he remained himself, immaculate, unique and peerless.

The daughter of Leto, and Apollo’s twin sister, Artemis was born, they said, on the sixth day of the month of Thargelion - a day before her brother - on the isle of Ortygia which only took the name Delos after the birth of Apollo. As soon as she was born she had, in fact, gone to find her father Zeus and, embracing his knees, begged from him, not ornaments and jewellery, but a short tunic, hunting boots, a bow and a quiver full of arrows.

As skilled as her brother, she bent her bow of sparkling gold and let fly her deadly arrows. She was associated with the moon. In ther aspect of light-goddess, she had the same functions as Apollo. Like him armed with bow and quiver, she bore the epithet Apollousa, the destructress; or Ischeaira, who liked to let fly her arrows, strike down mortals with her fearful darts, and assail their flocks with deadly disease. She caused Actaeon to be devoured by his own hounds.

Like Apollo she was the deity of sudden death, though it was usually women who she struck. She was, however, equally benevolent and brought prosperity to those who honoured her. Artemis, particularly venerated in Arcadia with its wild mountains, was worshipped throughout Greece, notably in the Peloponnese, at Sparta, at Caryae in Canonia, at Athens, Aegine, Olympia and Delos, where the laurel was consecrated to her. She was revered, too, in Crete, Asia Minor and Magna Graecia.

She was “Boisterous Artemis, archer of the golden bow, Bowman’s sister” (Iliad 20), racing through the forests with her accompanying nymphs and her hounds, ever ready to shoot her arrows, and is “the wild goddess of the woods”. The wild beasts which accompany Artemis in the chase are those instincts intrinsic to the human condition which must be brought to heel if one is to reach that “City of the Righteous”, according to Homer, so beloved by the goddess.

The Romans embraced her as Diana. An Italian goddess of mountains and woods and of women in childbirth, Diana was anciently identified with the Greek goddess Artemis from about the fifth century bce who possessed a similar character and function. Her cult was widespread, her most famous shrine being a Nemi while at Rome she was worshipped in a temple on the Aventine.

Her cult has been considered as deriving from that of the Great Mother Goddess of Asia and the Aegean, with its main centres at Ephesus and Delos. Diana was called Agrotera, that is the Field-Diana, or the Huntress and Elaphebolio, because she killed the deer.

Diana retained only briefly her primitive character as a goddess of light, mountains and the woods. She was rapidly hellenised. At her temple on the shores of Nemi the priest was traditionally an escaped slave. In order to obtain this office he had first to kills his predecessor in single combat. From then on he, too, was a target for any assassin who might wish to supplant him.

In western Europe, the Roman goddess Diana became the chief of the witches. The history of this goddess in the ancient province of Dacia (the Carpatho-Danubian regions now inhabited by the Romanians) throws light on the development of European witchcraft. Diana was Hecate’s name on earth. The name Hecate is derived and interpreted from ekastos, “far-darting”, an epithet of Apollo. It is very probable that the name Diana replaced the local name or an authchthonous Thraco-Getic goddess. In any case, the archaism of the rituals and beliefs related to the Romanian Diana is unquestionable. The name of the goddess in Romanian became Zina, from dziana, meaning fairy.

The Slavs of certain countries such as Lusatia, Bohemia and Poland - in other words the Slavs who were in contact with the Teutonic races - created a goddess of the hunt. Young and fair, mounted on a swift steed, she galloped through the forests of the Elbe and the Carpathians, weapon in hand. Even her name - Diiwica among the Serbians of Lusatia, Devana amongst the Czechs, Dziewona amongst the Poles - connects her with Diana. A form Jana, sometimes employed for Diana, evokes the idea of the luminous sky. Leland gives Tana as the old Etruscan name for Diana, whihc is still preserved in the Romagna.

In Aradia, Charles Leland quotes from the Vangelo, or Gospel of the Witches, bequeathed to him by Maddalena, a Florentine fortune-teller and hereditary witch from the Romagna Tuscana, following his friendship with her in the 1880s. He gives the invocation to Diana: “Bella dea dell’arco! Bella dea delle freccie!” (Lovely Goddess of the bow! Lovely Goddess of the arrows!”). Interestingly, in recounting the evolution of Diana’s worship, he tells how “Many slaves escaped. They fled to the country .... they plotted escape and robbed their masters, and then slew them. So they dwelt in the mountains and forests .... all to avoid slavery”, a distant echo of the background to the rituals at Nemi perhaps.

Diana in the Celtic World

There is no evidence for a cult of Diana in the strictest sense in Gaul before the Roman period; but that it became extraordinarily widespread is witnessed by the way in which Church Councils and other ecclesiastical bodies and authorities reacted against it as late as the sixth and seventh centuries.

The cult of Diana reached Britain. “And there withall Diana gan appere with bowe in hand right as an Hunteresse” wrote Chaucer in the Knight’s Tale. Ben Jonson has a Hymn to Diana. It is likely that Diana, symbolising the virginal and queenly aspects of the oldest Italic mythology, absorved the cult of a continental Celtic goddess who semane resembled hers and must have been close to the Irish form De Ana, or Goddess Ana, mother of the gods and patron of the arts.

When the Romans alighted with Diana on the shore of Britain they also had the strange god Mithras in their midst. With his distinctive Phrygian cap and mystical initiations he captivated the legions. And he was the Divine Archer. He discharged his arrows against a precipitous rock, and there gushed forth from it a spring of living water to which the suppliants thronged to cool their parched palates...

Bas reliefs show Mithras drawing his bow and aiming his arrow at the rock. Another shows this stance in company with the god of the winds. Mithras was a significant adversary of Judeo-Christianity, which imitated Mithraism. In their art, for example, sculptors drew inspiration from the figure of Mithras causing the living waters to leap forth by the impact of his arrows to create the figure of Moses smiting with his rod. Mithras shooting his arrows against the rock became Moses causing the waters of the mountain of Horeb to gush forth.

On the Receiving End ....

Mithraism took vengence on the Christ in the famous martydom of Sabastian, who was bound to a tree and shot at with arrows. A commander of the army in Milan in the fourth century CE, Sabastian exerted his influence to strengthen and save fellow Christians during the Diocletian persecution. He was denounced and ordered shot to death with arrows, though when it was discovered that he was still alive, he was beaten to death. He became patron of archers, and as he was a centurian, patron saint of soldiers. His emblem displays gold arrows on a red field.

The English have their own St Sebastian - St Edmund, the martyr-king of East Anglia, after whom Suffolk in distant days was named “Selig”, a Saxon word meaning “blessed” or “holy”.

Of all the happenings on the county river Waveney, the strangest and most famous was the murder of East Anglia’s patron saind, the great king Edumnd, at Hoxne (pronounced Hoxon) in the ninth century ce. The teenage King Edmund was humble believer who strove to secure peace for his people. He courageously faced up to the Danes, refusing to forsake his faith.

He gave himself up to his enemies under the hope of saving his people by this sacrifice. The Danes, votaries of Ullr, first scourged him with rods and then, binding him to a tree, shot arrows at him and finally cut off his head. (So much for the Wiccan Rede - Ed) Legend tells how a wolf guarded the head for three weeks until it was duly interred. A burial chapel marked theplace of his martydom for thirty three years (the cabalistic number of sorrow) until the translation of the saint to Bury St Edmunds and the monastery and cathedral there.

When Julian Tennyson, great grandson of the poet, published his Suffolk Scene in 1939 he included the story of St Edmund as told to him by an old villager, who had learned it from a Reverend Dyson. A plaque dated 1878 on the Goldbrook bridge there over the river Dove, a branch of the Waveney, simply read: “King Edmund taken prisoner here 870AD”. The old man remembered how his parents had recalled seeing, some ninety years before, the removal of an old oak, in which was found embedded an ancient arrowhead.....

Now when William the Conqueror died, he was succeeded by William Rufus who reigned for thirteen years (1087 - 1100 ce). The execution of Edmund had been murderous, the demise of Harold fateful, but the death of Rufus was mysterious, taking place amidst woodland trees with distant echoes of the Nemean grove, against background traces of the Wild Hunt …..

William was priding himself on having become a powerful king when death put an end to his greatness. On 2nd August 1100, while he was hunting in the New Forest, Sir Walter Tyrrel, shooting at a deer, missed his mark and his arrow, glancing from a tree, pierced the king to the heart. Tyrrel escaped to France.

Some historians say that the death of Rufus was murder, planned by his enemies or his younger brother, Henry, but the truth is not known. The popular account of the story tells that he was a greedy and heartless king who was so little cared for that his body was carried in a cart to Winchester, then the capital of England, and was buried like that of a common man. The chronicler Oadaver Vitalis, however, says that the peasantry of the area came to watch as his body passed by and that they wept and lamented as it did so. In fact, Rufus was buried in a hasty but fittingly royal funeral ceremony in Winchester Cathedral, below the tower at the point where the transept crosses the nave. (How history does repeat itself …. Ed). A few years later, the tower collapsed and destroyed Rufus’ tomb - which gave weight to the Church’s attempts at the time to blacken his reputation and portray him as Godless.

Henry the First (1100 - 1135 ce), the youngest son of the Conqueror and younger brother of Rufus, was called Beauclerc, which means “fine scholar” because he was very learned for a king in those days, well-versed in classical tales, and certainly knew of the goddess Diana and her cohorts, as well as being cunning and ambitious. As soon as he heard of his brother’s death, he hastened first to Winchester to seize the royal treasury, and then to London where he was crowned king.

After reigning for thirty-five years Henry was succeeded by King Stephen. Although Stephen, Count of Blois (35 miles south-west of Orleans in France) had sworn to support Queen Maud, he yet claimed the crown for himself and many of the nobles and clergy were in his favour as they did not wish to be governed by a woman. He promised that they should be allowed to build castles on their estates and no fewer than 216 were set up. He also gave them mandates to hunt in their own forests. By such promises Stephen gained great support and was crowned.

He ruled for nineteen years, and in the forests he set up roamed the archers of old. His own bodyguard was also well-armed with the bow. Interestingly enough, this royal protection still exists. The present Queen’s bodyguard in Scotland is the Royal Company of Archers.

What is pertinent about the possible devotions of King Stephen is his use of the emblem of the Archer. Sagittarius is shown on a coin of Gallienus of about ce 260, with the legend “Apollini Conservatori”, and on those of King Stephen, emblematic of his having landed in England in 1135 when the sun was there.

Close examination of the pages of certain medieval tracts reveals actual marks of the Sovereign Archer, perhaps applicable to forest-sited cults. Paracelsus in his Archidoxes gives the seal of the sign Sagittary with the divine arrow figured with invocatory words.

Astrologically, the constellation of Sagittarius was the House of Jupiter, that planet having appeared here at the Creation, a manuscript of 1386 calling it the Schoter, “ye principal howce of Jupit”; but it was also the domicile of Diana, and the constellation was known as Dianae Sidus, a character assigned to it as far back as the Babylonian inscriptions.

Layard tells us that the Babylonians represented the Supreme Deity as an Archer shooting a three-headed arrow. We have noted that the bow is represented as the weapon of Diana and of Apollo, and the arrows of Apollo symbolised the lightning of the Supreme Power.

“The sun beams are my shafts, with which I kill

Deceit, that loves the night and fears the day;

All men who do or even imagine ill

Fly me, and from the glory of my ray,

Good minds and open actions take new might,

Until diminished by the reign of night.”

wrote Shelley in his Hymn to Apollo. With this may be compared the words of the Psalm (xviii 14): “Yea he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings and discomfited them”.

The Bow in Hindu Mythology

Archery is at one and the same time the office of the king and the hunter and a spiritual exercise. The bow is universally the weapon of royalty and also of the warrior, linking war and the chase. Sexual symbolism is also apparent. All this is subsumed against the background of divinity. The bow constantly recurs in the imagery of the Hindu Puranas, where it is expressly the emblem of kingship. It is Arjuna’s weapon, and the battles of the Bhagavad-Gita are battles between bowmen.

Shiva’s bow, like that of the zodiacal Archer, displays the way of the sublimation of desire. The warrior whose heart is pure will immediately hit the bull. His arrow is fated to strike the enemy and bring down the emblematic beast. The second of these actions is designed to bring order to the world, the first to destroy the ill-omened powers of darkness. This is why the bow is a weapon of war.

As the emblem of Vishnu, the bow symbolises the tamas, his destructive, disintegrating aspect which is at the basis of sense-perception. Kama, the god of love, is depicted with five arrows, which are the five senses. This is reminiscent of the use of the bow and arrows of Eros. Arrows are emblematic of Shiva, who is in any case armed with a bow resembling a rainbow. his arrow is identified as the five-sided lingam, which is also light. The bow set in the hand of Shiva is, like the lingam, the emblem of the power of the god. Odysseus’ bow symbolised the sole authority exercised by a king. None of Penelope’s suitors was able to bend it; he alone succeeded and slew them all. Compare Joseph’s saying: “But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong.” (Genesis 49, 22-25)

Apollo’s bow and arrows are solar energy, with its rays and purifying and generative power. In Job (29, 19-20) the symbol of the bow means strength: “My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch. My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand”, a passage redolent of mago-sexual imagery.

The bow is also a symbol of fate. As a rainbow, it displays the will of god himself in mystical religion, as in the story of Noah. To the ancient inhabitants of Delphi, to the Children of Israel, to cultured and primitive peoples alike, the bow symbolised spiritual authority and the ultimate power of decision making, and was the attribute of all those who held their office from the Gods.

Apollo enforced his rule upon Olympus whenever he wished, just as Jehovah smote the enemies of his Chosen People. The Homeric Hymn in Apollo’s honour exalts his power in these words: “the gods tremble before him and all spring up from their seats when he draws near, as he bends his bright bow.” Humans ahve every reason to bow to his commands. He is an archer and master of their fate. In the Iliad, Homer calls him “death-shooting God, Apollo with the fateful arrow”. Whoever is the target of his winged arrows is doomed.

The arrow is a symbol of the intercommunication between Heaven and Earth. In its upward flight it is connected with the symbolism of the axis mundi. The divine archer is the one who walks between the worlds. In the Old Testament, whose whom Jehovah could use to accomplish his works are called “sons of the quiver.”

Origen, one of the early Christian “fathers”, in one of his sermons likens God to an archer. A twelfth century Italian illuminated manuscript shows God driving Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden with a flight of arrows, much as Apollo in the Iliad pursued the Greeks. Other twelfth-century miniatures depict God holding a bow and arrow.

The arrows of the gods never miss their mark. Those of Apollo, Artemis and Eros were always supposed to strike the heart. Love, Ovid informs us, uses two types of arrow wihch always hit their mark; if they are tipped with gold they kindle passion, but if they are tipped with lead they extinguish it. Mystical love strikes home like an arrow and rives the soul with torment which cannot be assuaged. In this mystical sense, its meaning is the struggle to achieve union with the godhead.

Of incarnations of the Divine Archer on Earth, we may instance Abaris, the Scythian who was a priest of Apollo. the god gave him a golden arrow on which to ride through the air. This dart rendered him invisible; it also cured diseases and gave oracles. Abaris later gave it to Pythagoras and is one of the few figures of Greek legend who can be related with shamanism. We may note that the healers, diviners or ecstatics who might be connected with shamanism have no relation to Dionysis. The Dionysical mystical current appears to have been an entirely different structure; Bacchic enthusiasm does not resemble shamanic ecstacy.

Greek shamans are related to Apollo, and it is from the North, from the land of the Hyperboreans, from Apollo’s country of origin, that they are said to have come to Greece. Such a one was Abaris. “Carrying in his hand the golden arrow, the proof of his Apolline origin and mission, he passed through many lands dispelling sickness and pestilence by sacrifices of a magic kind, giving warning of earthquakes and other disasters.” A later legend shows him flying through the air on his arrow, like Musaeus. The arrow, which plays a certain role in Scythian mythology and religion, is a symbol of “magical flight”. The occurrence of the arrow in many Siberian communities may be related in this connection. In shooting skywards, a stream of arrows is identified with mystical ascent, as that of Elijah, or of Paul into the Third Heaven.

The City of the Sun

To conclude, if we recall the words of William Blake:

“Bring me my Bow of burning gold!

Bring me my Arrows of desire!

Bring me my Spear! O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,

Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand,

Til we have built Jerusalem

In England’s green and pleasant land”,

We hear the call of the Divine Archer taking up his charge: the Bow of burning solar gold is the magical weapon through which he will express with his arrows that ardent desire and firm intent of his heart. The Spear is the attendant symbol of the arrow, with which he will pierce the clouds (Asboga, the Veil of Heaven) and race through like Phoebus-Apollo in his Chariot of fire. The Sword is also the Elemental Weapon of Fire (not of Air as often published: a classic occult double blind), with which the shaman-mage ceaselessly battles to build Jerusalem anew, that veritable City of the Sun described by Tommaso Campanella, called Adocentyn by Picatrix, in which reigns peach and great joy, the prize of all those who strive to accomplish the Great Work and establish Heaven on Earth, the true role of the Holy Warrior, the Sacred Hunter, the Sovereign Archer of old, in whose bow lies divine strength and whose arrows express the Will Divine.

References and Source.

1.Bayley, H - The Lost Language of Symbolism (Vol 2), Williams & Norgate (1912)

2.Cumont, F - The Mysteries of Mithra, Dover (1956)

3.Eliade, M - Shamanism, Routledge & Kegal Paul (1964)

4.Ellis Davidson, H R - Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, Penguin (1964)

5.Gelling, P and Ellis Davidson, H R - The Chariot of the Sun: and Other Rites and Symbols of the Northern Bronze Age (J M Dent & Sons Ltd (1969)

6.Guerber, H A - Myths of the Norsemen from the Eddas and the Sagas, George G Harrap & Company (1911)

7.Larousse - Encyclopaedia of Mythology, Hamlyn (1959)

8.Leland, C G - Aradia: the Gospel of the Witches, C W Daniel (1974)

9.Longman, C J & Walrond, H - Archery, Badminton Library (1894)

10.Tennyson, J - Suffolk Scene, Blackie & Son (1939)