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6th Century mosaic depicting Christ healing the Bleeding Woman – Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna (Image Source:

Creative Commons License D. CATHERINE | 2020
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The following exposition is neither intended to promote any particular religious worldview or stereotype, nor is it offered as any form of ideal hierocosmology or instructional praxis. It is simply a case-based study that explores a foundational totemic ‘type’ and some examples of its adoption and development (or dissociation and polemical distortion) in later allegory, symbolism and mythos. Inasmuch as the article attempts to identify or clarify some of the perceptions, beliefs and history of the periods discussed, as well as to unpack layers of typology*, myth, allegory and symbolism, this should not be viewed as an endorsement or advocacy of those perceptions, beliefs or convoluted layering.

In the interests of comparative typology, the article occasionally revisits and reassesses the typological interpretations of Gerald Massey (1828–1907). Although Massey is a debated figure whose works are at times challenging, particularly his early works, this is part due to the limited sources that were available in the late nineteenth century. As Massey himself noted in his 1907 work Ancient Egypt: “This is but the rough sketch of a pioneering pen;” and it is only as a pioneering rough sketch that his quotes should be viewed and appraised in this present article. The present writer believes that the selected Massey quotes make sense in the context of the article, and it would be a waste of Massey’s often insightful work to “throw the (proverbial) baby out with the bathwater”. Notwithstanding these limitations and Massey’s occasional venture into speculative error, he nonetheless developed a ground-breaking interpretation on early sign language, and the extent to which this mode of representation influenced totemic representation, mythology, uranography (the mapping of the observed celestial sphere), and—by way of typological adoption-reorientation—certain aspects of religious symbolism and allegory. One should also keep in mind that much of the early criticism levelled at Massey’s typological approach—the notion of a comparative typology outside of, functionally related to, and at times foundational to, religious typology (which nonetheless does require context-specific interpretation)—came from the religious and theologically biased Establishment of his time that ironically lacked sufficient ethnographical, paleoanthropological and semiotic education, as well as having an aversion to the historical-critical method that has subsequently proved most valuable in academia. Regarding Massey’s work in general—and the same might be said for this present article—it is ultimately the task and responsibility of contemporary scholars and researchers to review, assess and selectively extract what data is useful; to dismiss or correct where necessary; and to fine tune this otherwise valuable typological approach to interpretation.

On a final note; although metaphysical aspects are briefly discussed in the article, it is not primarily a metaphysical exposition, and these aspects can best be followed in the relevant works of e.g. Henry Corbin, Mircea Eliade, René Guénon, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Titus Burckhardt, Martin Lings, Algis Uždavinys, Tom Cheetham, Samuel Zinner, etc.

*Typology is the study of the classification and development of various ‘types’ or ‘kinds’ based on the association of similar characteristics. Characteristic types include e.g. prefigurative signs, symbols, motifs or themes (e.g. mythical and religious typology). From the perspective of comparative typology, it can be said that typological development occurs not only across time, within any given tradition, but includes development across different traditions and across different mediums and modes of representation and communication.

Part I: The Totemic Blood-Mother and the Supra-Totemic Pneuma, Nous or Logos

In the Gospels of Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:40-56 we read about a woman who had been “bleeding for twelve years” and was miraculously healed when she touched the garment of Jesus. Apart from a literal historical reading of these verses, the present writer will propose another interpretation based on a number of typological signatures which suggest that this episode originates as allegory. Moreover, notwithstanding its explicit faith-based orientation in the Christian canon (faith being the stated reason for the healing of the woman), the underlying typology and symbolism strongly suggest that it derives from a mystical, esoteric or proto-gnostic portrayal of the human:

1. Initially identified with the physical body (the corporeal “flesh”) and its uterine source, primarily in association with the life-giving blood of the mother, which literally provides nutriment for the developing fetus (at the foundation of the human body). It will be argued that the mother-blood or “blood-Mother”, perceived as genetrix and creative source, is to be viewed as totemic; compare “those born of women” in Matthew 11:11, Luke 7:28 and Thomas 46, and partly alluded to in Augustine’s remark (De Civitate Dei, 10.26) addressed to Porphyry: “But you do not believe that this mind [i.e. nous] is Christ; for you despise Him because of the body that He received from a woman, and because of the shame of the Cross.” Further associated with this identification with the blood-Mother are ancient customs, rites and taboos—first established in totemic societies—that originate in a formal recognition of the “coming of age” of the pubescent girl at the arrival of her menarche (first menstrual “period”). In Orthodox Judaism this rite of passage is ceremonially set at twelve years old, and the present writer proposes that this is the typological foundation of what appears to be a garbled reference to the woman “bleeding for twelve years” as per the gospel accounts. In other words, the typical age of the arrival of the menstrual cycle appears to be conflated with an allegorical figure—irrespective of age or sex—totemically identified with the Mother-blood (hence the woman or female ‘type’ as the typical form in the underlying allegory).

2. Yet the bleeding woman is purportedly healed of her supposed physical affliction when she touches the garment of Jesus. Normative Christianity will see in this a medical condition that was miraculously healed in a profound moment of faith. Contrary to this interpretation as per the gospel rendition, we will instead be focusing on the ‘garment’ of Jesus—the evident agency of the supposed ‘healing’—and comparing it with the supersensory “Robe of Glory” as a gnostic vesture and investiture that, for example, we read about in The Hymn of the Robe of Glory from the gnostic Acts of Thomas and in the gnostic Pistis Sophia (where Christ is essentially identified with the Robe of Light and Glory). These in turn can be compared with the “radiant, white clothes” of the transfigured Jesus (Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:3, Luke 9:29), Enoch’s transformative “clothes of [the Heavenly Lord’s] glory” (2 Enoch, 22), as well as the “robes” given to the “Sons of the Light” who are “glorified by those who give glory” in the gnostic Trimporphic Protennoia. All of the above, in their attributes of sovereign light and glory, should be considered ontologically homologous to the Mazdaean Xvarnah/Khvarenah “Light of Glory”, the Manichean “Pillar of Light” or “Column of Glory”, and the Ancient Egyptian “pure garment of the perfect Akh” (i.e. the luminous nous/pneuma).

The allegory of the healing of the bleeding woman is also partly discussed in Andrei A. Orlov’s article “Vested with Adam’s Glory: Moses as the Luminous Counterpart of Adam in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Macarian Homilies” which provides further evidence for the pre-Christian typology of the luminous ‘garment’ as an agency of ‘healing’. Gershom G. Scholem also discusses this mystical garment (ḥaluq) of light or glory in chapter 8 of his work, Jewish Gnosticism, Merkabah Mysticism, and Talmudic Tradition. Given the strong Judaic elements to this typology and its noticeably mystical or esoteric orientation, one wonders if the motif of the healing garment—as presented in the gospel episode—first originated in a form of esoteric or gnostic midrash? Assuming a Judaic typology, one also wonders if the Christian rendition in the Synoptic Gospels was primarily an attempt to counteract the mystical portrayal of the luminous garment (identified with Christ) that heals or saves? The mystical or esoteric (Jewish ‘gnostic’) interpretation makes more sense as a logical development of the Judaic typology than the canonical or normative Christian account where the garment is merely material and perceived as incidental to the event—its established agency and symbolism becoming redundant and ignored. This of course is not to deny the faith aspects of the Christian verses, but to emphasize that these verses are not drawing from literal biographical history.

Before continuing with these two distinctions and associated identities—and their relation to “what some scholars dub the ‘theology of clothing’ or the ‘metaphor of garment’”[1]—it is necessary to first examine one of the proposed origins of totemic culture as related to the mother-blood, menarche and key associated customs. It is hoped that the reader will be patient with this lengthy exposition, as it is integral to our understanding of the underlying typology of the “bleeding woman” and how this contributes to our understanding and hermeneutics of the broader motif as it might have been expressed in the religious context of the first century.

According to the late ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss in his discussion on totemism in Aboriginal Australia:

Matrilineal clans predominate in eastern Australia (Queensland, New South Wales), the western part of Victoria, and also in a small area in the southwest of Western Australia. From the alleged ignorance … of the role of the father in conception, it results that the child receives from its mother one flesh and one blood, continually perpetuated in the feminine line. Members of the same clan are therefore said to be “of one flesh,” and in the language of the eastern part of South Australia the same term as is used for flesh also means totem.[2] [emphasis added]

Gerald Massey, turning also to the totemic traditions of the Aboriginal Australians, observes:

According to the traditions of the Arunta, they [the pre-totemic humans] had no stone knife, no fire-stick, no rites or ceremonies of pubescence. Indeed, there were no men or women [formally identified as such] then extant. The nascent race was not yet humanized; it had to be created by becoming Totemic … It tends to show that human beings [female and male, formally delineated at puberty and first established on the ceremonial, ritual recognition of the menarche] … were a birth of Totemism. […] Thus the Arunta trace the origin of Totemism in its sociological aspect to the rites of puberty that were adopted for utility when the pre-human creatures were first changed into women and men by means of the rites. […] The Mother was the primal parent [on the basis of the blood source], and the Totem was a means of distinguishing one mother and one group of children from another … Which means that the earliest Totems were types of the female [emphasis added] … It is the same when the Snake-Clan of Arizona claim descent from a Woman who gave birth to Snakes. She was the Mother of that Totem and the Snakes were her children … And as it was in Totemism so is it in the Mythology and Eschatology … In the beginning was the Great Mother, because the first person recognized in Totemism was the Mother … The Indians who trace their descent from the Spirit-Mother and a Grizzly Bear acknowledge that the Bear, like that of the Ainos [Ainu], was a She-Bear, and consequently a Mother-Totem. The Tugas claimed descent from a She-Wolf, and the Tufans from a She-Dog. Descent from the Mother or in the female line was universally recognized by the aborigines. From this it follows that the zootypes first represented the Motherhoods; and when the males came to the fore the same animal would serve two purposes. As female it would represent the motherhood; as male the brotherhood … The Mother was always human beneath the Totemic mask which was needed, adopted, and worn to distinguish one human mother from the rest, so that she could be identified by others who were not her children.[3]

It is important to note that this aspect of totemic culture is established not merely on the blood-Mother as perceived originator. More specifically, the foundational rites and customs derive from those associated with the menarche itself as the first manifestor of the Mother-blood at the time of the transitional passage and transformation from prepubescence into pubescence in the (totemic) creation of women and men. At the time of its presumed inauguration, the formal recognition of this biological transition and transformation at puberty would have coincided (socially and culturally) with the transition and transformation of the pre-totemic humans into totemic humans. At the same time, in association with the menarche and menstrual periodicity, a type of social distinction-thus-division-thus-boundary and a sexual barrier/limit were respectively conceived. Massey remarks that “Plato in the Philebus writes, ‘We say that God exhibited the Bound.’ Earlier men said the goddess; that is, the feminine nature [viz. the menarche or menstrual period] which presented the limit that led to the recognition of law.”[4] It is probably worth adding that the Polynesian tapa (variously: border, corner, edge, fringe, groin, cloth, clothing, garment, dress, to announce, recite, name) may have an underlying typological and etymological relation to the Polynesian tapu/tabu (variously: holy, sacred, prohibited, forbidden, off-limits) from which the related English word ‘taboo’ is derived (and these suggested typological relations—between e.g. the boundary, the limit, weaving, cloth, the garment, to dress, to announce, and to name—will be discussed in due course).

The menstrual cycle simultaneously marks the uterine potential to create life in the generation and perpetuation of this totemic “mankind”, which is the origin of the “ancestral” lineage applicable to totemism and the associated origin of foundational notions of identity: “Who are you?” or “Where are you from?” The assigning of an animal as totem derives from the assigning of the representational zoö-type relevant to this monumental passage of transition, transformation or becoming (an example of which will be forthcoming). It should also be noted that this mode of representation in general originates in a Palaeolithic form of sign-language that itself originally stemmed from pre-linguistic modes of expression, representation and communication.

According to Massey:

The zootypes were extant in nature as figures ready-modelled, pictures ready-made, hieroglyphics and ideographs that moved about alive: pictures that were earlier than painting, statues that preceded sculpture, living nature-types that were employed when there were no others known to art[5] […] They [early Palaeolithic humans] could only apprehend the nature-forces by their effects, and try to represent these by means of other powers that were present in nature, but which were also necessarily superior to the human and were not the human faculties indefinitely magnified[6] […] The voice of thunder, the death-stroke of lightning, the coup de soleil, the force of fire, or of water in flood and the wind in a hurricane were superhuman [i.e. supra-human]. So of the animals and birds: the powers of the hippopotamus, crocodile, serpent, hawk, lion, jackal, and ape were superhuman, and therefore they were adopted as zootypes and as primary representatives of the superhuman powers of the elements. They were adopted as primitive ideographs. They were adopted for use and consciously stamped for their representative value, not ignorantly worshipped [at least not in this particular mode of representation]; and thus they became the coins as it were in the current medium of exchange for the expression of primitive thought or feeling.[7]

Lévi-Strauss, while discussing A. R. Radcliffe-Brown’s theory of totemism, notes:

The animals in totemism cease to be solely or principally creatures which are feared, admired, or envied: their perceptible reality permits the embodiment of ideas and relations conceived by speculative thought on the basis of empirical observations. We can understand too, that natural species are chosen [as representative totems] not because they are ‘good to eat’ but because they are ‘good to think’.[8]

Massey simply refers to this figurative (originally non-discursive) imaging as early humans “thinging their own thoughts”, but interestingly and plausibly considers it to be the origin of the later notion that these early humans “knew the language of animals”:

In various parts of Africa it is related that in former times men knew the language of animals, and they could converse together. This is but another way of saying that the animals formed certain ideographic types by aid of which the primitive men could express ideas. Language uttered by means of animals [i.e. representational analogues in zoömorphic form] became the language of animals in the later description … These are the speakers of the African fables, who had to talk [although originally expressed by way of mimetic modalities] because the human speakers were not in possession of any other mode of thinging their own thoughts.[9]

To give a general, cursory example of this mode of representation—which involves a substitution on the basis of perceived resemblance, correspondence, congruence, or sometimes on the basis of close or habitual association[10]—consider the snake: with its limbless form and mesmerising slithering locomotion, the snake became a representative type of the flowing, undulating body of waters or winding streams (and thereby also the guardian of, or power behind, water); with its zig-zag movement and fiery, venomous strike, it came to represent the dart and deadly strike of lightning; according to its ability to inflict death—especially under the concealed darkness of night, and especially the python or large boa as a coiled constrictor and devourer of life—the snake became a type of the devouring darkness (compare also the crocodile as co-type); and according to the remarkable shedding of its skin in the process of self-renewal—and the periodic nature thereof—the snake also came to represent renewal, regeneration, transformation, transition, and periodicity. Moreover, as a representative type of the flow of liquid, of the perceived influx of darkness, and of transformation or cyclical renewal, the snake in this combination likewise came to represent either the menses or the menstrual period (in parallel with the dark phase of the moon), as well as the associated transitional/transformation passage or period of puberty at the time of the menarche.

To give a more contextual example of a type-based, representational analogue, we will briefly examine the frog as representational zoötype and totem. Through repeated observation, early humans would have noticed, for example, that the juvenile tadpole in water would in due course develop or transform into a mature frog that could go beyond the water element and inhabit land. Even before the development of discursive thought and lexical-based language, the Palaeolithic human mind effectively perceived and understood this change as a process of what we would later come to name ‘metamorphosis’ or ‘transformation’: changing, developing or transitioning from one form or state to another in a process of ‘becoming’. The amphibian that was observed to have changed, transformed or transitioned from tadpole form (in water) into frog form (on land) was later assigned as a zoötype representative (i.e. zoömorphic analogue) of the power, period and/or process of transition, transformation, change or becoming.

Extrapolating from a nineteenth century account of a native, adolescent girl in southern Africa it can be ascertained that when the prepubescent girls transitioned into pubescence with the arrival of their menarche, they were assigned the frog totem; thereafter, during each monthly period of menstrual flow, the menstruating women were totemically associated with the zoötype and were said to have ‘turned into’ or were ‘visited by’ a frog during this period.[11] Of course they obviously weren’t perceived to have actually become frogs, but what was meant in the totemic expression was that the women, during the period of their menstrual flow—the totem of which was founded on the passage of transition and the process of transformation from prepubescence into pubescence—were assigned the frog that represented or signified ‘becoming’, ‘change’ or ‘transformation’. In other tribes, the same arrival of pubescence or period in the monthly menstrual cycle might have been represented by e.g. a snake (because it periodically sheds its skin—a type and sign not only of renewal, but also periodicity, transition and cyclical time). Regarding this particular characteristic, Massey writes:

The serpent in the pangs of sloughing is a phenomenon once witnessed never to be forgotten. There is a startling fascination in the sight of that image of self-emanation proceeding from itself, the young, repristinated, larger life issuing of itself from the mask of its old dead self like a spiritual body coming forth from the natural body, the unparalleled type of self-emanation, of transformation, of a resurrection to new life, of “Time, or Renewal coming of Itself”.[12]

According to one Zulu totemic association, the elder women in the time of their menopause or death were linked to the tale of the ‘disappearing’ lizard. Massey explains (and please note that he uses the dated term ‘primitive’ in the non-pejorative sense of that which is ‘belonging to an early age’, ‘first of a kind’ or autochthonous):

When it is held, as in Australia, that the lizard first divided the sexes and that it was also the author of marriage, we have to ascertain what the lizard signified in sign-language, and when we find that, like the serpent or the frog, it denoted [in this particular application] the female period, we see how it distinguished or divided the sexes and in what sense it authorised or was the author of totemic marriage, because of its being a sign or symbol of feminine pubescence [primarily founded on the menstrual period]. It is said by the amaZulu [in South Africa], that when old women pass away they take the form of a kind of lizard. This can only be interpreted by knowing the ideographic value in the primitive system of sign-language in which the lizard was a zootype. The lizard appeared at puberty, but it disappeared at the turn of life, and with the old women went the disappearing lizard.[13] … The native women of Mashonaland [a province in Zimbabwe] also tattoo themselves with the lizard-pattern that is found on their divining tablets when they come of age … Thus the lizard in one instance, the serpent in another, the frog in a third, is the type of beast or reptile into which the young woman is said to transform at the particular period. Hence the lizard, frog, and serpent remain as fetishes with the aborigines … At the coming of age the girl changed into a lizard, a frog, or a serpent as a mode of indicating her status as a woman, whether in nature [i.e. representative of the menarche and menstrual cycle] or in Totemism [i.e. a symbol of the Motherhood]. Thus three different types, the lizard, frog, and serpent, are identified as figures of the fact in nature, with the “beast” or reptile into which the young girl made her transformation in the mysteries of motherhood which formed the mould of other later mysteries in Totemism and mythology; the types of which were worn by the Goddesses as well as by the Egyptian women.[14]

Massey further posits that the leaf-belt, grass-skirt (Oceania liku) or loin-cloth cover originated “in the ‘custom of women’ when the female first became pubescent”.[15] Once again this is predicated on the menarche and menstrual cycle, and by way of the latter is naturally associated with the condition of uterine fertility and fecundity (the biological potential and ability to conceive and reproduce). Further related to these festivals of puberty were the customs and taboos pertaining to archaic rites of marriage. Note also that the cord-tie or girdle are functional components in the fastening and wearing of the leaf-belt, grass-skirt or loin-cloth which constitute the first clothing that marked, distinguished and separated the totemic, clothed and taboo-keeping societies from the pre-totemic, naked and custom-less hordes (lacking all distinction, sense of barrier, limitation and restraint in their general promiscuity). This cord-tie or clothing simultaneously marked and distinguished the female and male pubescents from the non-sexed and unclothed prepubescents. According to Massey:

The woman who fasted or menstruated continued to sit on the bare ground in Egypt and other countries, because she had done so before the invention of weaving had dispensed with the natural necessity. The custom was sacredly continued in the symbolical rites of the Greek Thesmaphoria [Thesmophoria]. The African races, including the Egyptian, put on clothing with pubescence; and it was the feminine manifestation [i.e. the period of menstrual flow] that first taught the need of cover … The Tie is one of the earliest types of time and period. To tie up was a primitive method of expressing time, a time, or a number of times. The ark-tie [i.e. from the Ancient Egyptian ʿarq ‘to bend, tie, bind, limit, fasten, vow, pledge, oath’, also ‘to put on (typically a garment)’, also ‘to know, be wise, versed, skilled, to be complete’] … denotes a month, or other length of time. The arkhu is an Assyrian moon or month, and the riksu (Ass.) is a tie; rakasu is to tie or bind up. The araka is a Jain division of time. But the tying-up time preceded the tying up of time, as is indicated by ark (Eg.), to encircle and bind; arach Gaelic, a tie; and various languages show, under this type-name, that the first tie and tying up was in relation to the feminine period. The ark-tie [ʿarq-tie] is identical with the Inner African erige (Eafen), oleg (N’ki), the liku or loin-cloth of the Polynesians; the leek-leek of the Australians, the tie put on by the female at puberty. This being assumed of necessity, had to be repeated periodically, which led to reckoning the number of days the tie should be worn, and thus made the Tie a type of time.[16]

Massey adds:

The knotted tie is one of the most primitive and important of all the African fetishes to be found in Egypt. It is the gree-gree of Inner Africa. The Ankh-tie itself is originally merely a piece of string called a strap [unkh]. It is the sign of dress, of undress, to tie or fasten, and of linen hung up to dry. The tie in Egypt takes several forms in the Ankh, the Tet [Tyet], the Sa. The Ankh denotes life. The [Old Kingdom] Sa has ten loops or ties, which in the language of signs might signify a period of ten lunar months [= the gestation period of the human fetus] … The tie was the earliest form of the liku or loin-belt first worn by the female as the mother of life at the period that was indicated by nature for propagation and connubium.[17]

To reiterate: the menarche that distinguishes pubescence from prepubescence and was formally ritualised and ceremonialised in totemism to distinguish the totemic humans from the pre-totemic humans, presents as a type of division-thus-boundary (compare the Polynesian tapa); the menstrual flow period in general that came to be associated with sexual taboos, presents as a type of barrier or limit (compare the Polynesian tapu); and the menstrual cycle as relates to fertility, fecundity, procreation, matrilineal generation and associated totemic identity, presents as a type of bond. Distinction, division, boundary, barrier, limit, bond. These, in turn and in association with the cord-tie or knotted-strap, girdle, leaf-belt, grass-skirt, etc (compare the Polynesian tapa), are typologically related to the tying-up time (at the time of the menarche and periodic menstruation) and its corollary the tying up of time (i.e. the enclosing of time into a cycle thus circle, the sealing of a cycle/circle, the completion or full extent of a period of time, and the marking of a sacred time or space by way of establishing a boundary and a limit).

On the basis of taboo—formally instated with the establishment of totemic societies—the cord-tie, knotted-strap, girdle, skirt or loin-cloth cover was not to be untied or ‘lifted’ (particularly in reference to sexual intercourse) during the period of the menstrual flow. Perhaps this will account for a childhood initiation ritual—which may have been an anticipatory socialization ritual of taboo—earlier recorded on Kiriniwa Island, where food in the shape of a snake was arranged on a bed of leaves and then again covered with leaves: “The neophytes are brought in and told to uncover the food and eat. Of course the first thing which appears is the snake, of which they are supposed to be frightened, and there is a general rush away from it in terror.”[18] Assuming the taboo interpretation holds true, the lesson that was intended for the future married couples might be: Do not ‘lift’ the leaves (as cover and boundary or barrier) and do not partake of the ‘food’ when the ‘snake’ is present; which is to suggest: Do not untie the cord and lift the cover of the leaf-belt or grass-skirt (with the intent to engage in sexual intercourse) during the period of the menstrual flow (represented here by the snake on the basis of typological correspondences, as outlined earlier). The symbolic relations between the menstrual period, the period of social seclusion, and the eating (or not eating) of food, is briefly discussed in Part II of this present article.

When the period of menstruation was over and the natural boundary or barrier removed (i.e. the cessation of the flow), then the untying of the cord-tie or girdle or the lifting of the skirt or loin-cloth cover was permissible, and this subsequently also became a sign of, for example:

  • the time of the cessation of the flow period of the menstrual cycle;
  • the end of the social seclusion=boundary/barrier period (which, for the most part, assimilated to the lunar mythos: the lunar occultation period during its dark moon phase);
  • the time and opening of the sexually active period (the ‘opening’ time paralleling the ‘untying’ of the strap/girdle or the ‘lifting’ of the loin-cloth/skirt).[See also Part II]

The customary adoption of the cord-tie, leaf-belt, grass-skirt or loin-cloth at puberty (later symbolically developing into the initiatory or ceremonial girdle, garter, band, apron or veil) in ceremonial and totemic association with the menarche, menstrual cycle and the custom of ‘men-making’ (i.e. the totemic creation of ‘mankind’: the distinguishing and separation of the clothed, totemic and taboo/law-abiding societies from the naked and/or custom-less hordes) is also—by association with the mother-blood source—the origin of the metaphorical notion of a creative weaving or enclothing of the human fetus in (and by way of) the blood of the mother. To be distinguished and set apart in this way, was to be consecrated (made holy)—the foundation of the concept and etymology of the sacred. And from these distinctions and associations as established in the foundational initiatory rites at puberty and in totemism (with regards to identity), so too their typological appropriation and reorientation or transposition in the religious mysteries, initiations and eschatology. For example, Massey informs us that in Ancient Egypt:

The manes [soul/s of the deceased] in the Ritual [a.k.a. Book of Coming Forth by Day / Book of Emerging Forth into the Light / “Book of the Dead”] consist of the clothed and the naked. Those who pass the judgment hall become the clothed. The beatified spirits are invested with the robe of the righteous, the stole of Ra, in the garden. There was a special investiture by the god in the garden of Aarru [sekhet iarw, the Garden/Field of Reeds]. This clothing in the garden is likewise a part of the process by which the manes pass into the state of spirits. The investiture in the garden of Hetep [sekhet ḥetep, the Garden/Field of Rest, Peace, Plenitude, Bliss and Contentment] denotes a spirit made perfect in the likeness of the Lord. This is followed at a distance in the Hebrew Genesis. When the man and woman are invested in their coats of skin they also become spirits, if not as the spirits of the just made perfect. And Iahu-Elohim said, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good from evil”. [In the Book of Emerging Forth into the Light, t]he deceased pleads that he may attain the “investiture of the garden” (ch. 110). When clothed they issue in what is termed the “coming forth from the swathings in the garden of Aarru, and the coming forth in exultation” (Renouf, ch. 99). “I hasten to the land, and I fasten my stole upon me, that I may come forth and take possession of the wealth assigned to me” (ch. 110). “I range within the garden of Hetep; I fasten my stole upon me” (ch. 110). “I am the girdled one, coming forth in triumph” (ch. 117).[19]

To further clarify and elaborate on these two key distinctions and associated identities, which became the foundation of many typological offshoots and mystical transpositions that followed:

1. The human body, on the basis of fetal development, is biologically and structurally fleshed or ‘skinned’ (metaphorically ‘woven’ or ‘enclothed’) in, and by way of, the blood of the mother in utero during the gestation period. As such, the mother was thought to be giving of her own substance (in essence her life-blood) in the creation of her child. Possibly, according to the earliest of beliefs, the cessation of the monthly menses flow and the subsequent swelling of the mother’s belly in pregnancy (which led to the eventual birth of the baby about ten moon cycles later) might have been perceived as a retaining of the menses and its coagulation to form the human fetus? Of course our prehistoric ancestors would have come to realise that the fetus nourished and sustained via the umbilical cord did not involve the actual menses (i.e. the disused ova, endometrial tissue and associated blood) as regularly shed from the inner lining of the uterus and discharged, but this may not have been the initial perception. Irrespective of which line of perceived development of the fetus, the physical human body is initially infused with (conceptually ‘fed’ or ‘anointed’ in) the nourishing life-blood and life-force (compare the Ancient Greek ménos ‘life-force, energy, power’) of the mother as first-perceived ‘originator’, ‘sustainer’ and ‘provider’—which also extended into the sociopolitical domain of the sovereign matriarch. Massey, drawing from the works of the Egyptian priest Horapollo, notes:

The blood-mother was imaged as the virgin Neith who was represented in one phase by the vulture that was fabled, like the pelican, to pierce its thigh [the feminine thigh or haunch being an ancient sign of the source and foundation] and give its offspring her own blood for nourishment. This was as the conceiver of a soul that was incarnated by the blood-mother.[20]

The totemic blood-Mother as the perceived foundation of the earliest clan or society of ‘mankind’—those distinguished from all the other humans and animals—was thus perceived as the source, identity, gatherer, bond and unifier of all mankind (for upcoming reference, keep in mind e.g. the Ancient Egyptian tem ‘all, total, whole’). In a sense, the clan’s identity and livelihood were bonded and conceptually ‘tied’ to the totemic blood-Mother. As genetrix and creatrix by blood, She likewise encompassed and thereby ‘enclosed’ them—they being Her embodiment and incarnation—and She herself was ‘tied’ to the menstrual cycle. Hence the tie, knot, clasp, lock, seal or enclosed circle/ring/band/garter (the tie-up of a cycle) as a sign of a ‘bond’ in general, but especially the totemic bond, which is further related, having originated in the bond of the totemic blood-Mother, to the establishment of the human foundation in the womb enclosure (our first-identified abode, in-dwelling, and sacred seal). This of course is not to suggest the taxonomic origin of Homo sapiens; the delineation and identification under discussion here pertains to the phenomenon and culture of totemism. Accordingly in matrilineal societies the mother-blood and associated matriarch were viewed as the source, identity, bond and gatherer of the clan or tribe as a collective group of people, unified in the blood of the totemic Mother. As genetrix and creatrix by blood, the blood-Mother becomes the arch Founder and Builder of mankind, as well as the power behind the social Matrix. Massey continues (all emphasis added):

Under the Matriarchate there could be no blood-royal by derivation from the Male. There was but one blood, that of the Mother. It was impossible at first for the males to transmit. There was but one means of descent for the race. This was the Mother-blood. Hence the primitive customs for preserving it in purity and sanctity. The Mother-blood was not only known as the “one blood” of the race, it also denoted the “one flesh” or one stock. Descent from the Mother connoted the one blood or one flesh. The Mother was the foundress of the family, consisting of herself and children. The foundation of the human structure was in blood, the blood of the Mother. The fact was commemorated in blood-sacrifice when the victim was immured, or the blood was poured out at the base of the building; the custom, like others, is a mode of memorial that was continued in Sign-language when the origin and meaning of the act were inexplicable.[21]

In Ancient Egypt, for example, this “one flesh” or “one stock” as a cohesive, human collective was referred to as e.g. temū ‘mankind, a totality of humans, everyone, a totality of people’, which is etymologically related to tem ‘all, everything, entire, complete, total, whole’ (compare the Old Akkadian ṣimdu ‘full extent, span, reach’). Consider also the Ancient Egyptian demiū ‘fellow citizens’ as related to the noun demi ‘town, village, harbour, abode, habitation, settlement’ and the verbs demi ‘to be joined, to cleave to, to attach’, demā ‘to bind together, clasp’, demḏ ‘to assemble’, and zem ‘to bring/heap together’. Recall the aforementioned cord-tie, knotted-strap, band, garter or the various girdles in relation to the bond of the totemic blood-Mother; in this regard compare the Hebrew tsemed ‘together, team, pair’, tsamad ‘to join, bind’ (Arabic ḍamada), Arabic ḍamma ‘to bring together, join’, South West Semitic and Epigraphic South Arabian ḍmd ‘to couple, join’, Geʿez emd ‘yoke, pair’, Babylonian ṣamadu ‘to bind together’, Ugarit ṣmd ‘yoke’ (Aramaic ṣīmdā), Sumerian dim ‘bond, tie, rope, cord, knot’, dim-ma ‘to tie together, fasten, bind’, and dím ‘to make, fashion, create, build’.

Keeping in mind the totemic blood-Mother as arch Founder and Builder of mankind, consider now the Proto-Indo-European (P.I.E) verb *dem- ‘to build, arrange/heap together’ and the noun *dṓm ‘house, household’—the etymological roots of e.g. the Lycian tama- ‘house, building’ and the Latin domus ‘house’. “A Kabyle woman,” writes Marler and Haarmann, “views the interior of her home as an extension of her own body.”[22] It is likely according to this perception that we arrived at, for example, the Latin domina ‘lady of the house’, the English damsel and honorific title Dame, as well as the Italian donna ‘woman’ or Don ‘Lady’. According to Makilam—a Berber scholar raised in Kabylia, northern Algeria—“the house represents the inner temple of a woman and the essential fecundity of her body.”[23] Similarly, from Massey:

The Female was the dwelling and the door of life, and this was her image “in all the earth”. The likeness was also continued in the oval burial-place as sign and symbol of re-birth, and lastly as the oval window or the door in architecture; the Vesica in Freemasonry. The Mother’s Womb was not only a prototype of the tomb or temple; it also represented the house of the living. “When the magistrate of Gwello [Gweru, Zimbabwe] had his first house built in wattle and daub, he found that the Makalanga women, who were engaged to plaster it, had produced, according to a general custom, a clay image of the female member [genitalia] in relief upon the inside wall. He asked them what they did that for. They answered benevolently that it was to bring him good luck. This illustrates the pure form of the cult of these people who recognize the unknown and unseen power by reverencing its manifestation (in this instance) on the female side of the creative principle” (Joseph Millerd Orpen, The Nineteenth Century, August, 1896, pp. 192-3.) They knew the natural magic of the emblem if the European did not. Also, they were identifying the woman with the abode.[24]

Even in a metaphysical context; when discussing the “coming into being” of the town or city—considered to be the “founded” space within which “the process of generation” takes place (Timaeus 49-51)—Plato speaks of the “motherly space”: “nurse of all things that are generated,” the “receptacle … that we may liken to a mother”. So from the perspective of the biological mother, the totemic Mother and the divine Mētēr (Womb, Source, Origin), it can be said that the womb is our first ‘abode’, ‘habitation’ or ‘place of dwelling’. From the perspective of the biological mother and the totemic Mother—and following the insights of the aforementioned etymologies—the developing fetus (hence the perceived human foundation) can be thought of as being ‘built, arranged, heaped together’ and collectively ‘bound, joined, tied, clasped, enclosed’ in and by way of the mother-blood.

Elevated to the pinnacle of the Earth’s elements—whether they be numbered at five or seven according to variations in mythical accounts—the mother-blood element (e.g. Hebrew דָּם dam) as the creative foundation of the human flesh/body (mythical ‘clay’) was perceived as a type of ‘red earth’ (אֲדָמָה adamah). This simultaneously became the ‘royal’ element of the five/seven elements which in total and together comprised the mythical Great Mother (i.e. the Earth as primeval Mother of all the living). In its elevation to the pinnacle of the Earth’s elemental powers, this red blood element as ‘red earth’—and under its aspect as Foundation of Mankind—becomes the ‘Seat’ of sociopolitical power and the sovereign Matriarch. For forthcoming reference, within the context of symbolism, we should also keep in mind that the enclosed womb—when viewed as sacred vessel or protective abode for the fetus—is a natural analogue of the cave sanctuary or grotto shrine of the Great Mother Earth.

It is also according to the menstrual foundation that we arrive at the primeval lógos and ‘oracle’: the periodic feminine ‘expression’ or ‘utterance’ as ‘speaker’, ‘teller’ or ‘announcer’—for She was the manifester-thus-demonstrator/indicator and measurer of season (puberty), time (of the month) and cycle (menstrual). As manifester, indicator and primeval measurer of season, time and cycle—related also to the keeping of ritual observance and cyclical order—this feminine logos or earth-born “Lady Wisdom” becomes the personified founder, teacher and arbiter of the earliest sacred knowledge (paradigmatic distinctions) and associated customs, rituals, ceremonies, rubric, laws and order within human society, especially as established in totemism and taboo[See also Part III]. Massey concurs:

It was in relation to the time and the results of pubescence that woman became the teacher of man and the author of time and law, who as the genetrix Keres Legifera [legifera Ceres] is styled the Law-Giver. It was on account of her own dual manifestation in periodic time [menstruation and gestation] that the female was personified as Goddess of the Two Truths [cf. Ancient Egyptian Māʿaty], and made the earliest representative of the Logos, the Law, Justice, and Wisdom.[25]

On this point, consider once again the word ‘sacred’ in etymological relation to that which is ‘consecrated’ or ‘set apart’. This was not only based on the distinction of the totemic humans from the pre-totemic humans—coinciding with the formal, ceremonial recognition of the menarche—but from the earliest rites of puberty and associated customs of totemism and taboo arose the formal notion of the “permissible” that was to be distinguished and set apart from the “impermissible” (especially, if not principally, in the context of sexual relations)—thus the associated wisdom and faithful observance that was distinguished and set apart from the perceived folly and transgression. And from the innate ‘binding’ or ‘yoking’ of the clan to the totemic blood-Mother, so too the ‘binding’ or ‘yoking’ of the clan to the totemic taboos and rubric [‘directions in religious services’ (often in red writing)] as established by this primeval Lady Wisdom or feminine logos.

Many foundational typologies and initiatory customs in the ‘Mystery’ traditions can be traced back to the initiatory rites of passage that were first instated at puberty, themselves related to and founded upon ancient menstrual customs. Accordingly we find that the non-verbal, non-linguistic ‘oracle’ (the manifest menses and flow itself as periodic ‘utterance’, ‘indicator’, ‘demonstrator’ or ‘announcer’) is the silent-thus-mystical ‘word’ of the totemic Mother, who (along with the eros of passionate desire) was later symbolized by the red rose. This is likely the origin of the term sub rosa ‘under the rose’ that is used for anything pertaining to or requiring silence, privacy, confidentiality or secrecy, and typically occurring or conducted within a secluded or concealed environment. The sacred ‘Word’ of the totemic blood-Mother—qua the Mother-blood as source and bond of the first-created “mankind”—likely also accounts for e.g. the Cubeo story of their “first ancestors” as originating from “the speech of an anaconda”—as Balaji Mundkur relates: “Each sib possesses a list of names indicating its traditional genealogy and shared with sibs collectively known as ainheme (from ain, ‘anaconda’, and heme, ‘tongue’) to signify the ‘speech of the anaconda’ as the source of their ancestors.”[26] According to Massey, the Scythians appear to have a similar origin story: “As Herodotus tells us, the first Mother of the Scyths was a Serpent-woman. With the Kings of Abyssinia the line of descent was traced from the Serpent, which was therefore a Mother-Totem.”[27]

Of course by way of other matrilineal totems, the non-verbal Word of the Mother might later be represented by the actual characteristic call of e.g. the mother bear, sow, hippopotamus cow, bovine cow, vulture, etc. On the grounds of mimetic communication, the pre-linguistic matriarch herself may actually have summoned her offspring using the call of her totemic animal. Massey explains:

Before the names could be assumed … the animals were adopted for Totems, and the earliest names were more or less the cries and calls of the living Totems. The mothers would be known by their making the cry of their Totemic animal, to which the children responded in the same pre-human language. The Sow (say) is the mother, the children are her pigs. The mother would call her children as a sow, and the children would try to repeat the same sounds in response … When as yet they had no names nor any art of tattooing the Totemic figures on the flesh of their own bodies, the brothers and sisters had to demonstrate who they were, and to which group they belonged by acting the character of the zootype in the best way they could by crying or calling, lowing, grunting, or puffing and posturing like the animals in this primitive pantomime or bal masqué. Thus the sign to the eye and the sound to the ear were continued pari passu in the dual development of Sign-language that was both visual and vocal at the same time when the brothers and sisters were identifying themselves, not with nor as the animals, but by means of them, and by making use of them as zootypes for their Totems … An instance is supplied by Frederick Bonney in his notes on the customs of the River Darling Aborigines, New South Wales, which is also to the point. He observed that the children are named after animals, birds, and reptiles, and the name is a word in their language meaning the movement or habit of one of them (Journal Anthrop Institute, May, 1883). The sound may be added. The Totem (say) is an animal. First it was a figure. And from this a name was afterwards drawn, which at times, and probably at first, was the voice of the animal.[28]

That said, it is important to note that even without any actual verbal calling or naming, the existent clan itself as a collective or congregation can be said to be the living embodiment or incarnation of the totemic blood-Mother’s convocation (i.e. in relation to the feminine lógos/word as discussed earlier).

Now, the mythical Great Mother—at least in her primeval form as the expansive, living Earth with the elemental forces inherent—likewise presents as earth-oriented Lady Wisdom or the feminine logos in that She too is a manifester (‘announcer, teller’), demonstrator and ‘keeper’ of season, time and cycle. This can be seen in e.g. the germination of seedlings, green vegetal growth in spring or during the seasonal inundation, floral blooming, fruiting, the deciduous leaves which change colour and fall during autumn, etc—commonly and symbolically expressed as the tree or papyrus-reed that ‘told’ (i.e. gives knowledge of, the primeval ‘book’), which later developed into the tree that ‘foretold’ as ‘oracle’.

The acquisition, during the Palaeolithic, of knowledge associated with both the totemic Blood Mother and the overarching mythical Great Mother—especially as this knowledge developed in the invention and keeping of customs, laws and ritual observance—required certain perceptual, cognitive, representational and communicative capacities and skills; together these constituted the aboriginal sacred knowledge and wisdom in female type or form.

It is primarily, though not solely, according to these totemic typologies—notably as manifester (‘announcer, teller’), demonstrator, indicator, measurer and ‘keeper’—that the associated snake becomes a ‘whisperer’, harbinger, messenger/carrier or guardian of secret knowledge or the sacred wisdom (thus also the serpent or its co-type the crocodile—in hybrid form as the dragon—as guardian of the secret or consecrated treasures that we hear about in myth and folklore). Of course the snake that is also often encountered amongst the winding or ‘snaking’ branches of vines, trees and bushes becomes—in early mythos—the typical animating force of vegetative growth and the typical guardian of the precious fruits of the vine, tree or bush.

Inasmuch as the totemic Blood Mother and the mythical Great Mother both manifest and embody the power, process and period of change, transformation, renewal, becoming, generation, regeneration and transition, in these particular aspects they have been assigned, respectively, the snake as totem and the mythical serpent as representative zoö-type of that power, process, period or passage. Here too, in both totemic and mythical association with our feminine logos or primeval Lady Wisdom, we find the typological and symbolic origins of the Wise Serpent. The biblical Genesis seemingly conflates the two, in that the totemic Blood Mother as silent oracle (the mystical word of the female, in association with the uterine or placental ‘Tree’) and arbiter of the knowledge of what is permissible and prohibited (as per taboo) is conflated with the mythical Great Mother Earth manifesting her seasonal forces and transformations which were symbolized by the Tree, Reed or Grain-Field (compare related female serpent/vegetation deities Renenutet and Wadjet in Ancient Egypt). Under the typological influence of the snake totem and the mythical serpent—and in association with the feminine Word or earth-born Lady Wisdom/Knowledge and her customary taboos—these two Mothers, two Trees and two Serpents have become conflated and recast in the mythologem of the woman Eve (titled “Mother of all the living”) who was tempted by the whispering serpent to ‘eat’ of the ‘fruit’ from the Tree of Knowledge of Good (permissible) and Evil (forbidden).

It should also be noted in passing that these totemic and mythical ‘trees’—as outlined and topically relevant to this current article—by no means exhaust the rich typology and deep symbolism of the tree, the latter of which has significant metaphysical import when referencing the cosmo-ontological Tree of Life (the noetic ‘fruit’ of which was favourably prescribed to Adam and Eve). For example, according to Mircea Eliade:

It is in virtue of its power, in virtue of what it expresses (which is something beyond itself), that the tree becomes a religious object. But this power is in fact validated by an ontology: if the tree is charged with sacred forces, it is because it is vertical, it grows, it loses its leaves and regains them and is thus regenerated (it “dies” and “rises” again) times without number, because it gives out latex, and so on. By simply being there (“power”) and by its natural laws of development (“regeneration”), the tree re-enacts what, to the primitive understanding, is the whole cosmos. The tree can, of course, become a symbol of the universe, and in that form we find in it more developed civilizations; but to a primitive religious mind, the tree is the universe, and it is so because it reproduces it and as it were sums it up as well as “symbolizing” it.[29]

Moreover, certain gnostic sects appropriated and transposed/reoriented the typology of the primeval Wise Serpent (feminine logos)—later known as the Good Serpent (male logos)—assigning it to their gnosis of the saving Nous-Logos (compare the “first-born Son”) which originated in the eternal Pleroma (the fullness of the supra-totemic ‘Womb’) or else the supreme Mother as either Barbelo or Meirothea. In the cosmology and metaphysics of Gnosticism and Neoplatonism, these levels of a timeless and infinite reality are not only qualitatively elevated above corporeal, earthly and cosmic existence—the temporal or transient realm of time and space—but the nous (divine Intellect, the organ of supra-rational intuition) and its gnosis (intrinsic knowing or principial knowledge) are also considered as surpassing the discursive mind (mens), ratiocination, and the mundane or positivist knowledge of empiricism. From a typological perspective and with specific reference to the constraints and limitations of the discursive mind, ratiocination and reductive or ontologically dissociated forms of knowledge, this is at least one of the origins of the bad serpent that tempted Eve to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (as per the orthodox rendition).

In normative Christian traditions, the serpent is often associated with temptations to worldly indulgences, unconscious drives, carnal desires/sins (“of the flesh”), or the source of evil itself. This association offers one interpretation of the (good) Son’s heel bruising or crushing the head of the (bad) Serpent, as well as the notion of the lower extremity (heel) of the Son surpassing even the upper extremity or foremost part (head) of the Serpent—the latter portrayal having a typological parallel in the Gospel of Matthew (11:11) where Jesus says: “Truly I say to you; among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Interestingly, when Genesis 3:15 mentions the “seed” of the Mother bruising the head of the serpent; keeping aside for the moment this verse’s biblical orientation and message, what was likely originally indicated in the foundational typology of the Serpent, Tree and Seed was the favourable prescription to engage in sexual intercourse during the biologically productive phase of the menstrual cycle (essentially the ovulation period that provides fertile, viable ‘seed’; compare the Tree/Waters of Life and the Good Serpent) in contradistinction to (i.e. in accordance with the taboo against) sexual intercourse during the biologically unfavourable or counterproductive phase of the menstrual cycle at the time of the menses discharge period (the non-fertile or generatively ‘dead’ seed; compare the Tree/Waters of Death and the Bad Serpent). It is imperative that this is not misunderstood; keep in mind that we are referring to the typological origins of Genesis 3, not the contextual reorientation, interpretation and meaning of the scripture which applies the typology by way of allegory and symbolism. We will revisit these representational ‘types’, tropes and mythologems in the last part of this article.

2. The intelligible nous when understood as Hiero-Intelligence (Latin intellectus divini, the inherent ‘divine Intellect’, principally the Arabic ʿaql al-awwal ‘the First Intellect’ or ʿaql al-kulli ‘the Universal Intellect’) ontologically pre-exists, transcends and surpasses the discursive thinking mind (Greek ménos, Latin mēns) as well as the faculty of reasoning and rational thought (Greek diánoia, Latin ratio). Plato in his Republic (7.518c) informs us that the nous as the “indwelling power of the soul” is “the instrument by which everyone apprehends [reality or the true nature of things]”. Plato also refers to it as an “organ or instrument of knowledge” (7.527d) and that “for by it alone is reality seen” (7.527e). According to the sixth Shīʿī Imām, Jaʿfar al-Ṣādiq:

When man’s intellect is certified by divine Light [thus nous patrikos or intellectus divini], he will become understanding, wise, a guardian of the Qurʾān, and knowledgeable. Then he will know where he is, what he is and why he is there.[30]

In the Christian mystery and mystical traditions, the human soul that is spiritually awakened by way of the activated nous—coinciding with the ‘Word of Truth’ (logos alētheias)—is metaphorically envisaged, or imaginatively perceived, to be enclothed in the radiant garment or cloak (Arabic khirqa) of Christ: the supersensory “Robe of Glory” as a symbol of ontological transfiguration, enlightenment and ordainment. In some of the gnostic sects, this Light and Glory are considered attributes of the supreme aeon of the divine ‘Mother’ Barbelo.

Compare 2 Corinthians 5:1-2: “For we know that if the earthly tent [flesh and skin of the body] which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this [earthly] house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven.” Note here that the ‘house’—whether earthly or heavenly (the latter elsewhere referred to as a celestial ‘dome’ or cosmic ‘womb’)—is a co-type of the ‘tent’ and ‘clothing’.

As previously mentioned, this heavenly clothing is a homologue of the “radiant, white clothes” of the transfigured Jesus, Enoch’s transformative “Clothes of Glory”, the “Robe of Glory” in the gnostic Acts of Thomas and Pistis Sophia, the “robes” of the glorified Sons of Light in the gnostic Trimorphic Protennoia, and these in turn can be compared with the Mazdaean Xvarnah ‘Light of Glory’, the Manichaean ‘Column of Glory’, and the Ancient Egyptian “Stole of Ra” or “pure garment of the perfect Akh” (the luminous nous/pneuma). Eszter Spät in her discussion on the Yezidi khirqe “sacred shirt” in her doctoral thesis Late Antique Motifs in Yezidi Oral Tradition, notes:

The garment of Adam before his Fall and the complex symbolism it is linked with falls into the category of motifs shared by various movements that were rooted (at least partially) in Judaism. This is what some scholars dub the “theology of clothing” or the “metaphor of garment.” The notion of an angelic robe or heavenly garment worn by Adam (and Eve) before the Fall was a leitmotif of Jewish apocalyptic tradition, from where it passed on to some schools of orthodox Christian thought. It probably originated with certain interpretations of Genesis 3.21 on the “garments of skin” the Lord made for Adam and Eve.[31]

Spät then proceeds to discuss the various garments of light or glory mentioned in various traditions and compares them with the “luminous khirqe in Yezidi hymns” which she describes and qualifies as “a divine garment of cosmic dimensions, as a means of attaining religious enlightenment, and as an eschatological symbol.”[32]

The point here being that under the biological and totemic influence of the blood-mother, the human being receives a body and skin of flesh (compare the Mandaean Adam Pagria, the apparent Physical Man); and under the spiritual influence of the divine or supra-totemic Mother/Son/Father, the noetically awakened soul receives or progressively assimilates to an intelligible Form of Light which is considered their essential identity—referred to by Henry Corbin as “Adam-Christos”[33]; compare the Mandaean Adam Kasia Ziwa ‘Hidden Man of Light’ (the Ishraqi Insan Nurani or Shakhs Nurani) and the Elchasaite True Prophet Elkesai called ‘the Hidden Power of God’. In certain gnostic traditions of the Shīʿa, this corresponds with the “Imām of one’s being”,[34] who is simultaneously the “Eternal Imām” and “Hidden Imām” as “the mystical Pole of poles (Qutb al-aqtâb)”.[35] From the perspective of mystical Christianity, this likewise corresponds with the “Christ of one’s being”[36] who is none other than Christus aeternus, as noted by Corbin:

[I]t is with the lineage of the Imams, even more than in the line of prophets, that the theme of the True Prophet “hastening toward his place of repose” is brought into play … To the idea of the Christus aeternus there corresponds the idea of an Imam who remains unique and eternal through the persons of his theophanies.[37]

Although the intelligible nous is here distinguished from the sensible body, the primary and underlying typology in both instances is still established on the formative womb, the blood-mother as perceived Life-giver by way of her liquid sustenance (literally the giving of Her life-blood in the physical formation of humanity: an incarnation of the Mother-blood as mystical Word), and the creative fleshing of the fetus as a type of totemic weaving or enclothing. Similarly, the clothing of Christ in his aspect as atoning Saviour (the giving of His Life and Light on behalf of those baptized or anointed in His Name and Word) is often visually depicted as some form of red or crimson cloak. Of course in the war-like eschatological reorientation of the typology—following the “wine-stained” or “blood-sprinkled” garments of the avenging Messiah in Isaiah 63:1-6, itself typologically related to the Egyptian Horus-Osiris as “the Red Lord who orders the block of execution … He to whom the crown of greatness is given” (Book of Emerging Forth into the Light, Chapter 17) and who epitomizes the Egyptian Māʿa Kherū ‘True Voice/Word’ (compare the logos alētheias)—Christ in Revelation 19:13 is described as being “clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His Name is called The Word of God”.

In the case of the former, earth-oriented typology—based on the blood-Mother as primeval ‘utterance’ (‘word’) and formative genetrix—this scarlet weaving, enclothing, skinning or anointment likewise becomes the symbolic raiment of the soul in the afterlife in its re-generation, re-configuration and re-birth or re-newal (compare the symbolic use of red ochre pigment since the Middle Palaeolithic). Massey explains:

[T]he earliest mode of artificial anointing is that of Inner Africa, where the ointment was composed of red ochre mixed with grease or oil. In one of the [Khoi-Khoi] songs there is an allusion to the red ochre of anointing, and this is actually contrasted with the flesh-forming source. Lightning, the daughter-in-law of fire, is thus addressed: “Thou who hast painted thy body red like Goro,” i.e. with ochre or red-clay, “Thou who dost not drop the menses,” or redden that way. The [Khoi-Khoi] also had a certain image or fetish-god which their women were accustomed to anoint by covering its head with a kind of red earth and buchu or sweet-smelling herbs. This was their typical Messiah [as ‘Anointed’]; and we learn from Egyptian thought and expression that anointing or coating with red ochre was a symbolical mode of refleshing. It was in this manner that Ptah refleshed the spirit for its rebirth from the womb of the underworld; and the red earth represented the human or Adamic clay. In anointing the fetish image, the [Khoi-Khoi] women were imitating nature in fleshing the child for birth. Instead of calling on the saviour to come, they enacted the rebirth of the Messiah in the process of refleshing or, as it came to be called, anointing or embalming.[38]

In the context of totemic symbolism, Massey adds:

The skin [of the assigned totem animal] is likewise assumed by the Manes [soul/s in afterlife] as their Totem in the other life; different ideas being expressed by different kinds of skin. In the Ritual [Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead] (ch. 145, 31) the speaker who has just been baptized and anointed in process of regeneration when he transforms into the likeness of Horus the adult says he has the skin of a Cat for his badge. The cat being a seer in the dark, the skin shows that he is no longer as the sightless Horus [Horus in blood], but is the Horus with the second sight or beatific vision [Horus in spirit or nous]. With the [Native Americans] the skin of the Totemic animal is placed at the side of a man who is dead or dying. It has also been stuffed at times and hung above the grave. The sign is the same for the dead man as for the dead animal. In each instance the skin means renewal, repetition, resurrection for another life. It has been a common custom for the dead to be buried in the skin of an animal, or in shoes or boots made from the skin of an animal. When Field-Marshal the Duke of Wellington was buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral his boots were taken with him to the tomb, and in a sense he was buried in the skin. The significance of the skin is everywhere the same. The slipper thrown after the newly-wedded has the same meaning. Leather is made from the skin that denotes a renewal of life, and the act expresses the desire for the couple to be blest with children. We have seen that the skin was equivalent to the animal as a type of renewal. This may afford us a clue to the custom of swearing oaths in making covenants on the skin, which would be like swearing by the future life, the hope of immortality, or “by the eternal God”. The earliest masks were formed of the head and skin of the Totemic zootype. They also represented the invisible powers and finally became the heads of goddesses and gods. Masks were assumed when deities or spirits were represented in the mysteries. Thus, when a mask is put on by the Inoit girl at the time of her first menstrualia it denotes the presence of the Nature-power that reveals itself in this particular way as one of the mysteries of Nature … We have seen that the change made by the young girl into an animal at puberty was an origin of wearing the mask. This we assume to have been primary. Next, the practice was continued in Matriarchal Totemism. Then the customs of cutting in subincision, of wearing the skin, and of becoming the Totemic beast, are applied to the male in the later mysteries of young-man-making.[39]

As in the eschatology, so too in the religious mysteries and mysticism. The red enclothing, skinning or anointment is similarly the symbolic raiment of the spiritually nourished or renewed soul in its initial phase of ontological incubation or trans-formation. The red hue on a qualitatively higher spiritual arc becomes the crimson, purple, amaranth-red or amethyst-purple that is typical of the clothing or episcopal ring worn by the Christian Bishops. Regarding this scarlet, crimson, purple or wine colour in general, often depicted in art as some sort of cloak or stole that is draped over a white robe, we find homologues in other traditions. For example, in the Grail mythos the Knight Galahad wears a red tunic, cape or armour; and in the Ishraqi philosophy of Suhrawardī (1154–1191 CE) we see a ‘solar’ or ‘oriental’ parallel in the Crimson Intellect (ʿAql-e Sorkh) viewed as Archangel and regarding whom Henry Corbin writes:

This story [of the Crimson Archangel] also opens with an account of the fall of the soul into captivity in this world, in the cosmic crypt. At the moment when the visionary succeeds in evading the surveillance of his jailers (like Avicenna’s retreat to his personal Estate), he sees a visitor approaching from a distance. It is a being of youthful beauty and dazzling, red-glowing splendor. The being explains this color to the visionary by evoking the crimson of the dawn and evening twilight. Before dawn and after sunset: these are moments of in-between, where one side looks towards the brightness of day, and the other side towards the darkness of night. Also like the rising of the moon, this is the place of the messenger, the Angel of humanity, between the celestial realm and the world of becoming. Elsewhere, Suhrawardi has written a lengthy development of the symbolism of the two wings of Gabriel, Angel of humanity: one wing is of pure light, yet the other is a glowing red, for it is mixed with the shadows of this world.[40]

These “shadows of this world” in relation to the solar or noetic realm find symbolic correspondence in the sensory, physical forms that are the manifestations of the supersensory, Ideal Forms (Platonic eidoi, Arabic amthāl). The “glowing red (wing)” at twilight, especially at dawn, corresponds with the red blood/flesh and anima illuminated by the active, underlying presence of the nous (the hypostatic “wing of pure light”). In the gnosticism of the Nuṣayrī Shīʿa—more specifically as expressed in their liturgy of the ‘Grail’[41]—we likewise hear about a celestial “Red Dome”, underneath which the Imām appears in a glorious light and reveals the mystery of the “Wine of Malakut”. From gnostic Mandaean sources, the late E.S. Drower similarly relates:

In the Masiqta [Mass of the deceased], the wine-cup represents the womb of the cosmic Mother in which the body of Adam Kasia [the ‘Hidden Adam’] is formed [i.e. the Supernal Anthropos; compare the ‘Hidden Imam’ as Eternal Imam].[42]

From the Qumran Hymns (1QH 15.8–18.29) in the Dead Sea Scrolls we read:

You alone created the Righteous One, establishing him from the Womb … to Stand [cf. Arabic qiyam, qiyamah] before You in Everlasting abode, illumined with Perfect Light forever with no more Darkness in unending Eras of Joy.

Interestingly, with reference to the imām; this Arabic word meaning ‘leader, pattern’ not only etymologically derives from the root ʾamma ‘to precede, be in front, lead’ (and this also alludes to the ontological pre-existence and metaphysical primacy of the Eternal Imām who Stands before both creation and congregation), but is also related to the Arabic ʾumm ‘mother, matriarch’ and ʾummah ‘community, people’ (a feminine gender that also has totemic connotations of being—or fulfilling itself in—a cohesive whole, a divinely infused communal pleroma). At this point it is worth sharing Corbin’s exposition regarding the daughter of the Prophet Muḥammad, where Fāṭima—as viewed in Shīʿite gnosis—is additionally ascribed an esoteric station: Fāṭima Fāṭir (Fāṭima the Creator), as well as Fāṭima Sophia (Fāṭima as divine Wisdom) and Fāṭima al-Zahrā (Fāṭima the Resplendent):

All creatures being formed from their soul, the ontological status of the universe of creatures in relation to the holy Imāms as cosmogonic powers is a feminine status … And furthermore, since Initiation is nothing but the spiritual birth of the adepts, in speaking of the “mother of the believers” in the true sense, we should understand that the real and esoteric meaning of this word “mother” refers to the Imāms. Indeed, this spiritual birth is effected through them, and the following saying of the Prophet refers to this: “I and ʿAlī are the father and the mother of this community.” … Now we already know that the ontological rank of the Soul and the reality of the Soul are the very rank and reality of Fāṭima-Sophia. The Imāms are masculine as agents of cosmogony, since creation is their soul; as authors of spiritual creation they are feminine, since they are the Soul and since the Soul is Fāṭima. This, therefore, is why we read that Fāṭima is the theophany of the supreme pleroma, and that is why the theophanic and initiatic function of the holy Imāms is precisely their “Fāṭimic” degree of being (their fāṭimīya, which we faithfully translate as “Sophianity”), and this is how Fāṭima comes to be called Fāṭima Fatir, Fāṭima the Creator … She is the theophany and she is the Initiation; she is majmaʿ al-nūrayn, the confluence of the two lights, the light of Prophecy and the light of Initiation. Through her, creation, from the beginning, is Sophianic in nature, and through her the Imāms are invested with the Sophianity that they transmit to their adepts, because she is its soul … [T]he degree of being of Fāṭima-Sophia recapitulates the whole of the degrees of knowledge, of gnosis, so very completely that the rank of the respective preeminence of the prophets in regard to their knowledge of God is measured by their knowledge of Ḥaẓrat Fāṭima. Even those who were the most eminent from among the hundred and twenty-four thousand Nabīs [Prophets], those who, prior to Muḥammad, were entrusted with the mission of revealing a heavenly Book, even they are still below the rank of Fāṭima-Sophia, because it is she who is the source of all their knowledge, revelations, and thaumaturgical powers, for Fāṭima-Sophia is the tabula secreta (lawḥ maḥfūẓ).[43]

How similar this is to the Sethian gnostic Mother, Meirothea, of whom we read in the second century CE Trimorphic Protennoia:

I am the Image of the Invisible Spirit, and it is through me that the All took shape, and (I am) the Mother (as well as) the Light which she appointed as Virgin, she who is called ‘Meirothea’, the incomprehensible Womb, the unrestrainable and immeasurable Voice … I am a single one, since I am undefiled. I am the Mother of the Voice [compare the Quranic umm al-kitāb ‘Mother of the Book’, as well as Fāṭima-Sophia as the tabula secretaGuarded Tablet’], speaking in many ways, completing the All. It is in me that knowledge dwells, the knowledge of [things] everlasting. It is I who speak within every creature, and I was known by the All. It is I who lift up the Speech of the Voice to the ears of those who have known me, that is, the Sons of the Light … I am the Womb that gives shape to the All by giving birth to the Light that shines in splendor. I am the Aeon to come. I am the fulfillment of the All, that is, Meirothea, the glory of the Mother. I cast voiced Speech into the ears of those who know me. And I am inviting you into the exalted, perfect Light. Moreover, (as for) this (Light), when you enter it, you will be glorified by those who give glory, and those who enthrone will enthrone you. You will accept robes from those who give robes, and the baptizers will baptize you, and you will become gloriously glorious, the way you first were when you were (Light).

Likewise the divine Mother in the gnostic Mandaean tradition:

Praised is Simat-Hiia [Treasure of Life], Mother of Kings. For from Her all worlds proceeded, because She was appointed as the result of secret mysteries … The ‘Mother’ of Naṣoraean Gnosticism … in her highest aspect … is the divine Mother, complement of the Father. In her celestial character she has several aspects and several names: she is the ‘Wellspring’ (Aina), Mother of Life; she is Simat-Hiia, ‘Treasure of Life’, spouse of the great principle of divine enlightenment; she is zlat, archetype of pure Bride and she appears too as Nazirutha, the true Nazoraean faith. In the first and second aspects she is mother of all spirits of life and light … the Great Secret Wellspring … She is the Womb, the Door of Mysteries through which kings have passed.[44]

When Sophia or Fāṭima are included—or the Virgin Mary as Theotókos ‘God-bearer’ (and in this particular instance we should compare our totemic Mother in an embodied state of spiritual purification, where the zoömorphic totem gives way to the anthropomorphic ‘totem’, thus Mary Mater Ecclesiae ‘Mary, Mother of the Convocation’ who is primed to receive the Word of Truth)—then the feminine rose is likewise reoriented as (typologically transposed into) rosa mystica to symbolize not merely sanctification and devotion but also the inner quietude and especially the inherent concealment thus “secrecy” of the divine “mysteries”—further associated with the secluded retreat of the saints, mystics and sages. It is thus that one can speak of, for example, an ontological incubation: ‘gestating’ (awakening) the Light-seed of the inborn noetic Intellect (intellectus divini). What we are seeing in the associated rose symbolism here, is a shift from the non-verbal thus silent Word of the totemic (earthly, bio-social) blood-Mother to the inexpressible thus non-discursive Word of the supra-totemic (celestial, divine) spirit-Mother—or else a combination of both, such as we see in the case of Mary as Mother of Jesus, or Fāṭima as Bearer of the Imamate. According to James Cutsinger:

As the Mother of that supra-temporal Word, Mary is thus the “matrix of all the sacred forms,” a truth expressed, “according to a symbolism common to Christianity and Islam,” when it is said that she “has suckled her children—the Prophets and sages—from the beginning and outside of time.”[45]

From a typological perspective it should be noted that the feminine womb, vaginal canal and the vulva—often in symbolic correspondence with the earthen cave or grotto as sanctuary or shrine—are figured as proto-types of the sacred abode and source of the primeval ‘word’: the life-giving blood and ‘oracle’ of the totemic ‘Mother’. These then typologically prefigure the temple Holy-of-Holies and the Holy Mother Church-qua-Convocation as sanctuaries of the ‘Word of Truth’ (being the life-quickening spirit of the ‘Son’ or Deus revelatus as ‘breath’ of the ‘Father’ or Deus absconditus). In this regard we find various architectural and iconic homologues in, for example, the prayer niche (Arabic miḥrāb), the pointed Gothic arches, the oval-shaped church windows and doors, the mandorla of the Virgin Mary, the ichthys symbol of Jesus Christ, etc—many of which also incorporate chthonic, stellar, lunar and solar symbolism. Mahmoud Mostafa, in his article ‘Feminine Symbols in Islam’, writes:

So what are examples of the Divine Feminine in Islam? We begin with the most basic and well-known divine quality of Rahmah, which is unconditional love, and is the preeminent divine quality that is accepted universally by Muslims. God’s best known, and most often used name among Muslims is Rahman. This name comes from the root verb R-H-M and it means womb and this of course is a uniquely feminine quality. God is the Divine Womb that encompasses all things and from which all existence comes into being or is birthed … The interior space of traditional mosques is defined by two things, a dome and a prayer niche (Mihrab). The Mihrab is a really important aspect of the mosque, it orients the worshippers to the direction of Mecca. But the Mihrab also holds a profound feminine symbol. In the Quran we are told that the blessed Virgin Mary used to keep solitary retreat in the Mihrab. It was while she was in solitude in the Mihrab that she was visited by the Angel Gabriel and given the revelation that she would bear and give birth to Jesus. Mary symbolizes the receptive feminine energy that opens to the divine effulgence and gives birth to divine spirit into the physical world. Mary is the archetype of the devoted human heart that is in complete trust and surrender to the Divine … The Mihrab is known as Mary’s Station (Maqam). Mary is the Owner of the Station of the Mihrab, her spirit stands at the front of every worshipper in every mosque. She is the Inner Imam of every mosque. The dome of the mosque encompasses the prayer space and symbolizes Mary’s womb and the Mihrab [prayer niche] symbolizes the birth channel from which Jesus, the Messiah, comes into the world. When we are inside the mosque we are held within Mary’s womb, which is a reflection of God the Rahman, and when our hearts are properly oriented towards the Mihrab we may be prepared to receive Jesus, God’s Spirit, into our hearts.

At this stage it should additionally be pointed out that the whole notion of a dichotomous blood/breath (thus flesh/spirit) typology is based simply on the blood-generated fetus which, at the time of birth (compare the transitional rite of passage at puberty, itself typologically transposed in the religious initiatory rites), is lifted out from the liquid, uterine environment and is born into the air element where the newborn in-spires its first breath. Being ‘born again’ or ‘reborn’ in the subsequent religious, ontological or eschatological sense suggests a transformation or transfiguration of self and a shift in essential identity (“Who are you and where are you from?”)—this time metaphysical—from the totemic blood ‘Mother’ to the supra-totemic divine ‘Mother’ or ‘Father’ (so-to-speak). From the perspective of dualist Gnosticism, compare the soul’s perceived captivity in the “cosmic crypt” (a.k.a. “the land of Egypt”, or Qayrawan as the occidental city of exile and confinement) in contradistinction to the soul’s emancipation within the divine pleroma (the gnosis of which constitutes the acquisition of the auspicious divine “Pearl” or “Robe of Glory”, the former of which Matthew 7:6 tells us should “not be cast before swine”—here connoting an identification with the blood-Mother under the totem of the sow). Further glimpses of the dichotomous blood/breath typology can be seen in e.g. the breath-extinguishing floodwaters in contradistinction to the dry, breatheable refuge of Noah’s ark; Moses parting the Red Sea and crossing dryshod with the Israelites; Jesus walking on water; and the waters of the Sea of Galilee upon which sailed the boat belonging to the “Fishers of Men”).

It hasn’t escaped the notice of the present writer that there are theological distinctions to be made between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit of Christian doctrine, but topical focus precludes going into a detailed discussion of this doctrine, and such expositions can certainly be sourced elsewhere and applied to each respective sect or tradition.

With these distinctive typologies in mind and returning to the gospel episode, one could argue that the purported healing of the bleeding woman wasn’t an actual miracle performed, and it is not simply a parable of some moral or ethical teaching or worldly wisdom (which isn’t to say that these aren’t integral and important aspects of religious doctrine in general, just not relevant to this current case-study and typology). It is arguably, first and foremost, a mystery teaching conveyed by means of typology and allegory. It is quasi-symbolic, in that it alludes to a deep spiritual meaning: the divine ‘inclination’ (Hebrew חָנָה ḥanah), the associated ontological awakening for whomever, when, by divine grace (חֵן ḥen), they are brought into the persuasion (pistis) of the Word of Truth (logos alētheias), resulting in an ‘indwelling’ (shekhinah) of the divine spirit (ruaḥ ha-qodesh, rūḥ al-quddus, pneuma theou/hagion). Here, notwithstanding dualist Gnosticism, the human being becomes the ‘temple’ of the heavenly Lord, and with the heart or core of one’s being (the organ of supra-rational intuition) as the innermost sanctuary. Recall in 1 Corinthians 3:16 (reiterated in 6:19 and John 2:21): “Do you not know that you are the Temple [naós, literally the Temple’s innermost sanctuary] of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

When viewed through the polemical lens of Gnosticism, this becomes a sublimation of the totemic blood-Mother (the ‘bleeding woman’) as well as a reorientation of the Anima/Psyche towards its spiritual source: a turning away from the carnal indulgences of the world, toward a life that is spiritually inclined, purified and devoted to the divine order (which especially includes the intrinsic noetic reality symbolised by e.g. the radiant ‘garment’ or ‘robe’ of Adam-Christos). Compare the so-called “curing” of the red-haired and/or red-clothed Mary Magdalene (often depicted carrying a red egg) who reportedly had seven “demons” “cast out” of her by the Son of Man (Mark 16:9, Luke 8:2). These “seven demons” likely originate in the seven cosmic archons or sons of Sophia (alternatively “Ruha and her seven sons” as per the Mandaean rendition[46]) themselves typologically indebted to the Old Great Mother—the beneficent and life-giving Earth, the primeval “Mother of all Living”—with her seven elemental progeny inherent: e.g. darkness, light, water, air, fire, earth, and the crowning royal element which was the life-giving mother-Blood (“Red Earth”).

Compare St Paul’s elemental principles or cosmic forces (stoicheia kosmou) in Galatians 4:3: “Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world;” and Galatians 4:8-11: “Formerly, when you knew not God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now, after that you have known God, or rather are known of God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elements [or principles], to which you desire again to be in bondage?” Compare also the first-century gnostic development by way of “Simon Magus” (dunamis ‘divine Power’) and his sublimated consort “Helen” (ennoia ‘divine Thought’) who “paid no attention to them [i.e. ‘the angels who formed the world’], but, as being free [from the ‘bondage’ of the cosmic archons], they live as they please…” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, I.23.3). Notwithstanding Paul’s and Simon Magus’ allergic reaction to earthly or cosmic ties’ (pejoratively termed by them “bondage”), it nonetheless becomes apparent that in the same way that the knot, tie, girdle, band or garter are a sign of the ‘bond’ and ‘covenant’ of the source blood-Mother in the rites of puberty and in the totemic mysteries, so too the knot, tie, girdle, garter, band, saving rope or variations thereof are appropriated and reoriented in many of the mystical or mystery traditions to symbolise the ‘bond’ and ‘covenant’ of the supra-totemic Pneuma/Sophia or Nous/Logos as sovereign ‘Lady’ or ‘Lord’.

On this point, one wonders if the P.I.E. *leg- ‘to collect, gather’ (the etymological root of the Latin logos ‘word, speech’ and legere ‘to read’) and *leig- ‘to tie, bind’ (the etymological root of the English religion via the Latin religare ‘to bind fast’ + legere ‘to read’) are cognates according to earlier pre-linguistic typologies associated with the totemic blood-Mother or earth-born “Lady Wisdom” as:

  • primeval logos—the mouthpiece of emanation, the announcer of the female period of pubescence
  • primeval book—in her elemental and seasonal manifestations
  • primeval legislator—in the customs, rites, taboos and social norms of totemism
  • the encompasser, gatherer and bond of all the generations whose identity is tied to the matrilineal blood source (a covenant in blood?)

Likewise, as primeval regulator, ordinator or legislator, She herself “wrote the first rubric; and her red was blood.”[47]

In the astronomical mythos of the ancients, the aforementioned seven elements gained souls and became the seven celestial sovereigns as seven successive pole-stars in the circuit and cycle (Great Year) of axial precession. Seven successive pole-stars as seven “Sons” at the summit of the “Mount of Heaven”—associated with seven successive time-cycles that are allied to the Great Bear constellation as Mother of Revolutions, Mother of Time Cycles and Mother of Generations, and with the pole presiding in the constellation of Draco circa 3900 BCE – 1700 BCE—become the seven summits as “seven heads” (a.k.a. “seven kings”) and “seven mounts” of the Beast and Dragon as typologically retained in the eschatology of Revelations. Incidentally, in other portrayals in myth and folklore, this topography might be expressed as e.g. seven caves, seven trees, seven pillars, or a tree with seven branches, etc. The “ten horns” of the Beast or Dragon are possibly a typological vestige of the ten lunar crescents/months that are especially associated with the fetal gestation period. This typological reorientation in Revelations appears to be inspired in part by the solar-era polemic against the chthonic forces and the dark night hours, and in part by a religious aversion to the menstrual blood (and by association the totemic Mother-blood). For it is surely the totemic blood-Mother (at the pinnacle of, and in consort with, the seven earth elements that are inherent to the mythical Great Mother Earth and represented in zoömorphic form) who provides liquid nourishment for the human fetus in-utero (developing over the ten-lunar-month gestation period) who in Revelations is distorted and transmogrified into the Great Harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the [seven] kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality;” “the woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns;” the woman “clothed in purple and scarlet;” the woman who now (inversely!) nourishes herself on (is drunk on”) “the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses of Jesus”!

Much like the “Son of Man” (who is also the principal “Fisher of Men”) casting out the “seven demons” from Mary Magdalene, we likewise hear in the gnostic Mandaean tradition about the “Fisher of Souls” who takes the inimical “Seven” in his net and destroys them. G.R.S. Mead remarks:

The Jonah-legend provided a very suitable setting wherein to depict the life of a prophet who caused his hearers to repent, and it may be that Jesus referred to John as ‘a greater Jonah’ [Matthew 12:41]. The most striking image in the mythic story is the Great Fish. Now the belly of the Great Fish for the Jewish allegorists, and indeed it is plainly stated in the legend itself, was Sheol, the Underworld, the Pit. But another mythic Great Fish, or perhaps the same in another aspect, was the cosmic monster Leviathan. And symbolists, allegorists and mystics got busy with this mythic figure. Thus we find that Leviathan was the name given by the Ophites of Celsus, who are plainly of Syrian Babylonian origin, to the Seven—that is to the cosmic animal psychē, the hierarchy of rulers and devourers of the animal souls of men as well as of animals proper, each of the Seven being symbolized [a la totemism] by an animal figure, probably an animal-faced (lion, etc.) dragon or fish. In the Mandaean tradition the Fisher of Souls takes the Seven in his net and destroys them …[48]

In the context of the current case-study, this ‘casting out’ or sublimation is often portrayed as a ‘healing’, and this healing is arguably effected through gnosis. Both the healing of Mary Magdalene and the saga of the Fisher of Souls are thematically related to the Mandaean account of the (gnostic) ‘healing’ of Miryai by Anush Uthra ‘(the) Archangel of Humanity’ (compare Angelos Christos) who is the emissary of Manda d-Hayye ‘Gnosis of Life’:

… I became a Healer to Miriai. A healer was I for her, for Miriai, and I gave her complete health. I was called a Healer of Kushta that cureth and taketh no fee.[49]

The Mandaean kushta ‘truth’ is akin to the Greek alétheia ‘truth, reality’ and the Arabic ḥaqīqah ‘truth, reality’ with a similar onto-cosmological meaning: essentially, divine Truth and the true Reality, which—according to Plato, Plotinus, the Shīʿite gnostics, and the Hesychast Fathers from the Eastern Orthodox Christian traditions—is to be apprehended and understood principally by way of the nous. In the Philokalia of Eastern Orthodox tradition, nous is described as follows:

[Nous is] the highest faculty in man, through which—provided it is purified—he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on the basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart … The intellect is the organ of contemplation [Greek theoria, Arabic mushāhadah], the ‘eye of the heart’.[50]

Elsewhere in the Mandaean Drasha d-Yahia (Book of John)—and with potential parallels in the Annunciation of Mary and in the Archangel Gabriel’s Message to Muhammadwe read:

He [the Eagle as a symbol of Manda d-Hiia ‘Gnosis of Life’] descended unto her [Miryai], folded before her his wings, settled down by her, narrated and proclaimed to her; and they held out the loved hand of Truth to each other. He embraced her in potent embracing, lay her down and set her on the throne. “Miryai,” he speaks to her, “with favour look upon me, remember me in the Life’s presence. I am thy Good Messenger, the Man [Anush (Uthra)], who gives ear to thy discourse. I beseech thee for the high Truth, the Truth which the Jordans have chosen.”[51]

Not unrelated, from an ontological perspective, Philo of Alexandria in De Vita Contemplativa (68) reports:

They [the Alexandrian women Therapeutae] take no heed of the pleasures of the body, and desire not a mortal offspring, but an immortal one, which only a soul which is loved by God is able to give birth to, by itself, because the Father has sown in it lights of intelligence which enable her to see the doctrines of Wisdom [i.e. sapiential or principial knowledge; knowledge in God].

Joan E. Taylor in ‘Spiritual Mothers: Philo on the Women Therapeutae’ adds:

It is interesting to remember that when Philo addresses the significance of Miriam singing in the story of Exodus, he describes her as representing sense-perception that has been made ‘pure and clean’ (Agr. 80), perhaps then also virginal … The Therapeutae may have accepted Wisdom’s promise, and—reading allegorically—may have brought this promise of future fruit forward in time, so that now those who participate in the community do not desire mortal but immortal offspring in their present experience.[52]

Similarly, Corbin states that “the soul of the Gnostic will also be the ‘mother’ of the one who in the spiritual reality of Light is its ‘child’.”[53]

If we follow the baseline totemic typology within the context of allegory and symbolism, it could be argued that the healing of the bleeding woman—elsewhere the healing of Mary “Magdalene” (compare the “Migdal [Tower] of the Flock” as “stronghold of Daughter Zion” in Micah 4:8-11), or the healing of Miryai as “daughter of the priests” and “Treasure of Life”[54]—this, while feminine in type, does not necessarily refer to one particular woman or womanhood in general, but can apply to both a community (e.g. Arabic ʾummah, compare Israel as Daughter Zion) and an individual (e.g. Imām, compare the Essene Teacher of Righteousness as Lady Zion/Wisdom), whether male or female, as embodied exemplifications of the totemic Mother perceived as “cured” or considered sanctified, righteous, true and faithful according to the religious culture of the time. Here too we find the origin of “John the Beloved” and James “the Beloved” (i.e. the beloved of Christus aeternus) and the subsequent traditions of Johannite and Jamesian gnosis. This will also account for the conflicting traditions that name either John (God is Gracious=ḥanan) or Mary (the super-totemic Mother who conceived by virtue of God’s Grace or Favour = ḥen) as the beloved disciple of Christ. According to Corbin:

[I]n certain cases, this feminine Hujja [‘Proof’ of God] refers to a masculine initiate. That is the case, for example, in the work of Qadi Nuʿman: Jesus’ virgin birth refers to his initiatory birth. During a time of occultation of the Imam, Jesus was called to his mission by an initiate who had received, for that purpose, the vocation of his Angel (his heavenly hadd, hadduhu al-ʿali): this is the meaning of his spiritual birth “without a father.” This interpretation is likewise applied to other cases, but it does not by any means lead us to a pure and simple elimination of the Feminine. For this much remains: either the Feminine appears under the guise of certain masculine designations, or else the Masculine presents itself under a feminine aspect. In either case, what is involved is a symbol of totality, a recurrence that is at least implicit of the symbol of the androgyne (the mas femineus of the alchemists, the mannliche Jungfrau of Jacob Boehme): what is envisaged here is the Feminine in its creative spiritual function. This is how one should understand the feminine aspect under which the Imam is likewise perceived when he is designated as the “spiritual mother” (madar-e nafsani) of his initiates. As the possessor of taʾwil, he brings about their spiritual birth (wildda ruhaniya) and thereby exemplifies the heavenly Eve of the Adam ruhani.[55]

Returning to the context of the first century; if we consider that the revered royal and priestly lineages and political institutions of the Jews in Judea were significantly infiltrated, influenced or (perceived as) being polluted by the Herodians and Romans pandering to their ‘baser’ elements—compare the Dead Sea Scrolls’ railing against the “Three Nets of Belial”: “fornication”, “riches” and “pollution of the Temple” (CD iv.14–21)—it would be a worthwhile future study for someone to explore the “healing” of “Mary Magdalene” or “Miriai” in that specific context (noting also that the name Mariamne was revered and popular within the Hasmonean lineages, yet considered defiled in association with Herodian lineages). As alluded to earlier, Philo’s Mariam, Micah’s “Migdal of the Flock”, the Christian Mother Mary and the Mandaean Miriai might be personifications of an embodied state of spiritual purification or righteousness (a spiritual elevation or righteous lineage of the totemic blood-Mother), as well as the auspicious sophianic doctrine itself (compare Lady Zion in relation to Lady Wisdom, and the Mandaean claim that the divine Mother “appears too as Nazirutha, the true Nazoraean faith”). To reiterate, according to Cutsinger:

As the Mother of that supra-temporal Word, Mary is thus the “matrix of all the sacred forms,” a truth expressed, “according to a symbolism common to Christianity and Islam,” when it is said that she “has suckled her children—the Prophets and sages—from the beginning and outside of time.”[56]

According to Samuel Zinner’s exegesis on the Qumran Hymns:

In 1QHa XI the hymnist portrays himself as a pregnant woman who gives birth to “a wonderful counsellor” (line 10), “a boy,” “a male” (line 9), but one who in line 8 is curiously described in plural or corporate terms as “children,” with which we can compare “their birth” in line 11 … If we read the hymn as an ideal projection upon the yaḥad’s founder, then we may interpret it as follows. The members of the yaḥad saw their founder, the Teacher of Righteousness, as a mother who gave birth to a corporate child, the yaḥad, a term that has simultaneously unitary and plural dimensions, since it is a plural gathering, but the word is based on the number one, eḥad … Furthermore, the Teacher’s child is “a wonderful counsellor,” and so is theologically exalted in itself, no doubt reflecting the nature of the yaḥad’s founder. The imagery of 1QHa XI is paralleled in 1QHa XV 20-21: “You have made me like a father for the sons of favour, like a wet-nurse to the men of portent; they open their mouth like a child [on the breast of its mother], like a suckling child in the lap of its wet-nurse.” But the Teacher of Righteousness’ parental role is patterned after that of God himself/herself, as is clear from 1QHa XVII 35-36: “Because you are father to all the sons of your truth. In them you rejoice, like one full of gentleness for her child, and like a wet-nurse, you clutch to your chest all your creatures.”

… The notion of the Teacher of Righteousness as a suffering Lady Zion fits in well with 1QHa XI’s portrayal of the Teacher as a maternal Lady Wisdom in the throes of birth. In any case, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah is interpreted in a simultaneously individual and corporate modality in the Qumran Hymns, namely, the Teacher of Righteousness and his community, which are the same as Lady Zion and corporate Israel. Thus the old theological argument about whether the Suffering Servant is the messiah or Israel is a bit off the mark from a Qumran perspective.[57]

In this sanctified/righteous community or elevated ontological ‘station’ (Arabic maqām), an observant assembly or a revered individual respectively—inasmuch as they are believed to be a member of the true convocation or super-totemic “flock”—effectively becomes ‘Mary’ (or Lady Zion, or Miryai, or the Naṣirutha) who receives the divine ‘Word’ (or Torah, or Kushta, or Manda d-Hiia), whether this be in noetic actuality or scriptural potentiality. As stated in the Mandaean Haran Gawaita—which often conflates the totemic Mother (the communal body in a state of purity) and the super-totemic divine Feminine—we read: “And from Miriai, the Perfect One, Yaqif [James] and Bnia-Amen [the Sons of Truth] went forth.”[58] Much like the Qumran 1QHa XI portrayal, what we have in the Mandaean account is the ‘healed’ Lady Miriai (compare Lady Zion/Wisdom) from whom comes forth James the Righteous (compare the Teacher of Righteousness), and then follows the communal body (the “Sons of Truth”) as an extension of both and bonded to both.

To reiterate with relevance to contemporary mystical or mystery traditions; this not only denotes a ‘healing’ and elevation of the totemic blood-Mother (the sanctification of the individual and communal body), but simultaneously and principally alludes to a recalibration, ‘healing’ and elevation of the human soul itself in order to reflect the celestial Sophia (“the Wisdom from above” as per James 3:15f). According to Corbin:

If the mystic thus came to exemplify the Image of the Creative Feminine, we understand how Maryam could become its prototype and how, in one of the finest pages of his Mathnawi, Jalaluddin Rumi could substitute her for the mystic. The episode of the Annunciation now becomes one of the symbols verifying the maxim that he who knows himself knows his Lord: Essentially it is the “sophianity” of the mystic’s being (typified by Maryam [who is also titled “Seat of Wisdom”]) which conditions his vision of the Angel [Angelos Christos, a.k.a. Gabriel as the Angel of Humanity / Anush Uthra] …

Because it is impossible to prove God, there is no other answer than to “make oneself capable of God.” Indeed, as Jalaluddin Rumi also says, each of our eternal individualities is a word, a divine Word, emitted by the Breath of Divine Compassion. When this Word penetrates the mystic’s heart (as it penetrates Maryam through the Angel’s Breath), that is, when the “secret of his Lord” unfolds to his consciousness, when divine inspiration invests his heart and soul, “his nature is such that there is born within him a spiritual Child (walad maʿnawī) having the breath of Christ which resuscitates the dead.”[59]

In the Letter of James (1:17) this divine Inspiration is referred to as “the Perfect Gift from above” that “comes down from the Father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” [in other words, the Father of Lights—the divine Absolute—is the undifferentiated and unconditioned “Light of lights” (Arabic nūr al-anwār)]. The “Perfect Gift from above” parallels the Mandaean “Miryai, the Perfect One, from whom “James and the Sons of Truth went forth”. For James (1:18), the mediating “Word of Truth” which has “brought us forth”, and our ability to apprehend or attain gnosis of it, is inherent within all humans and accordingly marks us as the “first fruits” (Greek aparchēn) of God’s creation (apo + arché meaning ‘from Origin/Principle’). To add, from Zinner:

[T]he Qumran hymn [1QHa XI 3-18] is representing the Teacher of Righteousness as a maternal version of Lady Wisdom, and his/her nemesis as a maternal version of Lady Folly. For a maternal model of Lady Wisdom, see the minority witnesses in Sirach 24:18: “I am the mother of beautiful love, of fear, of knowledge, and of holy hope; being eternal, I therefore am given to all my children. . . .” Already in Proverbs 8:32 Lady Wisdom addresses her devotees as “my sons.” In James 1 there is a close correlation between Lady Wisdom and the trope of divine feminine motherhood. Verse 5 speaks of the gift of divine Wisdom; verse 15 states that desire “when it has conceived gives birth to sin.” Finally in verse 18 we read that “the father of lights” (verse 17) has “brought us forth,” that is, given birth to us from his womb, “by the word of truth,” which theologically corresponds to the Wisdom of verse 5.[60]

This “Word of Truth” (that James says “comes down from the Father of Lights”) and associated gnosis are similarly referred to in the Mandaean Drasha d-Yahia as the “Letter of Truth” which has “come here to thee [John/Yoḥanan] from thy Father”.[61] Directly thereafter and mirroring the John encounter, the personified “Gnosis of Life” proclaims that he “came into the world” and “came to thee, O Soul” “in Robes of the Eight”—which in the Mandaean saga of the Fisher of Souls is set in contradistinction to the elemental or cosmic seven ‘below’. In parallel with the motif of the Robe that Heals (alternatively the Son of Man or Fisher of Souls casting out the inimical seven), the personified Gnosis of Life proclaims that by his coming into the world (by way of Anush Uthra, the ‘Archangel of Humanity’) “the wicked spirits shall change into good”. Quite frankly, this is also how “those born blind” (i.e. blood-bound physical beings) were miraculously given “sight” (noetic perception) by a historically elusive Jesus mixing “spittle with dirt to make a mud mixture, which he placed in the man’s eyes” (John 9:1-6; and note that this particular mystery-as-miracle occurs on the day of the Sabbath—a time of ceasing or cessation—the significance of which will be discussed below).

Part II: Typologies of Time, Periodicity and Number as Related to the Menarche, Menstrual Period and Ancient Rites of Puberty, and Some Examples of Their Typological Adoption-Reorientation in Myth, Folklore and Religion

The previous section developed a rationale for assigning a totemic status to the mother-blood in relation to the formal rites of female pubescence. These were shown to be established on the menarche (considered as first manifester thus ‘utterance’ of the totemic blood-Mother) and the subsequent menstrual cycle that marks the biological ability to conceive and procreate in the perpetuation of this totemic “mankind” (the feminine “word made flesh”). The totemic blood-Mother and the menstrual cycle were further examined in relation to:

  • customs of sexual taboo and paradigmatic notions of social distinction, boundary, barrier and limit in typological association with the cord-tie or knotted-strap, leaf-belt, loin-cloth, apron, etc, that were adopted at the time of the menarche and ceremonially worn during the rites of puberty;
  • the accrual of knowledge and the observance of social laws and norms in typological association with the non-verbal Logos of the feminine blood-Mother as aboriginal Lady Wisdom;
  • the foundations of matrilineal identity in the “womb of generation” and the related “fleshing” of the corporeal body—in typological association with the red garment and bond of the totemic blood-Mother, and how this contributes to our understanding of the gospel verses mentioning “those born of women”;
  • key representational zoö-types assigned as totems of the blood-Mother in her typical aspects as genetrix/originator, life-giver, nourisher/sustainer, transformer, renewer, etc, as well as of the related feminine Logos (or aboriginal Lady Wisdom) in her role as Founder, Regulator/Ordinator, Initiator, Instructor/Teacher, Legislator/Arbiter, etc.

In the current section we will focus on key typologies of time, periodicity and number as related to the customs and taboos associated with the menarche, menstrual cycle, the menstrual sabbath and foundational rites of puberty, and give some examples of their typological adoption-reorientation (or distortion) in myth, folklore and religion.

According to Gerald Massey in Natural Genesis (cited here at length, due to relevance, and with the present writer’s additions or commentary in red):

Time is the register of observed periodicity, and there is but one five-day period in nature dependent on spontaneous manifestation that begins and ends in five days [actually anywhere between about three to seven days, but with five traditionally being the given median or average and symbolically corresponding to the five digits on the left hand]. Neither stars, moon, nor sun, trees, flowers, nor fruits, waters nor winds, birds nor fishes, heaven nor earth, were the direct demonstrators, revealers, or messengers of a recurring five-day period. Nothing in nature but the female animal [i.e. in association with the period of menstrual flow] could furnish this primordial measure of time, and this was the five-day week of the oldest races that was followed by a festival on the sixth day. When the African girl is initiated in the mysteries of puberty, she puts on an apron [compare the skirt of Baubo/Iambe[62]] … made of certain leaves that are considered sacred to this use alone. Sometimes these are leaves of the palm, i.e., the phoenix-tree. This apron is worn during five days after initiation … In his book on the South Sea Islands, [William Wyatt] Gill describes a form of the mythical deluge which the natives said had lasted only five days. It was the red deluge of the red circle or cycle […]

Further, the Fijians have a peculiar custom called ‘dré-dré.’ The word means to laugh at, cause to laugh, a practice of laughing. This is variously, but always significantly, applied. One form of dré-dré is the habit of girls calling sweethearts by laughing. ‘Vaka-dré-dré’ is the custom of laughing on the fifth night after the day of death, for the purpose of consoling relatives. In the same language dré or dra signifies blood; dra-dra denotes the time of the menses and menstruation. In the earliest reckoning these lasted during five days, and the custom of ‘laughing to call sweethearts’ is sacred to the evening of the fifth day! This therefore stands self-identified as a token of the five-day period—the [subsequent] laugh of dawn [on the sixth day]—which was answered at first with rejoicing and laughter that was afterwards continued as a sign of the period over and passed [i.e. the cessation of the menses; compare also the Greek Baubo lifting her apron/skirt and exposing her genitals—the gesture of which prompted Demeter to laugh] … We can see the very natural genesis for the custom of the girls laughing on the fifth night as a call to the males, who were lawfully permitted to respond to them […]

Several other curious laughing customs might be cited in relation to an opening period [an ‘opening’ in the sense of fecundity, renewal and procreation] and sometimes symbolised by the breaking of an egg. At the festival of Easter, when the year was opened in April (aperio), there was a laughing chorus performed by those who celebrated the opening of the spring, when the winter was over and gone, as did the Fijian girls at the close of the fifth day and the dawn of the sixth. We have a relic of the laughing custom in the old saying, repeated by Racine in Les Plaideurs, ‘He who laughs on Friday will weep on Sunday;’ Friday [the fifth day of the week that starts on the Monday] being considered as one of the taboo days when the festival was celebrated on the seventh day [on Sunday …]

When the Parsee female menstruates, she has to remain so negative [i.e. withdrawn, secluded, silent] that she must not speak (even in prayer) and act at the same time. Her word of prayer ‘is to be taken’ and ‘retained inwardly;’ in consonance with the negative nature of the period [and also reflecting the manifest menses and flow perceived as non-verbal ‘oracle’ of season, time, period and cycle]. It was a law that no less set time than five days was to be allowed for the period, according to the Parsee ordinance. The menstruous woman who became clean in three days, was not to be washed before the fifth day, but after the fifth day she was to sit down in her cleanliness until the ninth day. The whole of the evidence tends to the conclusion that the earliest teller of time was the period of feminine puberty. This oracle uttered the first of the Two Truths of Time, both of which were assigned to the woman, and represented in Egypt by the two serpents that formed the double crown of maternity; one serpent typified menstruation, the other gestation [because the snake with its periodic skin-shedding and self-renewal became one of the types or symbols of e.g. periodicity, transformation, re-newal or re-production]. One was the serpent of five days (hence the serpent with five heads), and one of ten moons or nine solar months. In Egypt, these Two Truths are also signified by the two crowns, red and white; the red being negative. But colours were before crowns; and during the negative period the [native African] women [of some tribes] are not permitted to drink milk. Should the custom be infringed, the husband may be mulcted in the relatively heavy fine of two or three head of cattle. Formerly the period of abstaining from milk, as it is termed, was fixed at seven (or eight) days, but the teacher Eno recommended that the length of time should be measured by and last only during the flux [of menses]. This is very generally followed […]

It has been shown that the sun and fire represent the principle of life, the fire that vivifies. Thus [in many tribal societies] when the woman menstruated she was shut up where she could look on neither during her period [largely assimilating to the lunar typology of the absent moon during its 3-day period of darkness]. When the Aht girls attain puberty, they are placed in a kind of prison completely surrounded by mats to shut out every ray of sunlight and glimpse of fire. There they remain for several days; water is given to them during this period, but no food […]

The lesson to be conveyed at first by this custom was the keeping holy of the primeval Sabbath; and thus sedulously and painfully was the lesson rehearsed to make the impression permanent for life. So sacred was the keeping of the law implied by the numbers 6 and 7, that our common English expression of being ‘all at sixes and sevens, as the old woman left her house,’ or the mixing of these numbers indistinguishably, still denotes a condition of complete confusion and general demoralization in which there is neither law, order, nor organization [the domain of aboriginal Lady Wisdom or feminine logos]. Religious rites and ceremonies were instituted as memorial teachings, and these were impressed so indelibly that the stamp remains and the customs survive when they are no longer understood […]

It can be shown that we owe the figure of 5 to the genetrix of the earliest time, the mother-goddess of Time itself and that this figure is a form of the crooked sickle of Kronus that was derived from the khepsh thigh of the hippopotamus which represented the constellation of the Great Bear [later becoming the ‘leg’ of Set or Ptah]. The old mother was sometimes portrayed at the polar centre with the kat knife in her hands; this signifies so much time cut off, made separate, and distinguished. Another form of the cutter is the crooked sickle [khopesh]. Now, it has already been suggested that the khepsh of the hieroglyphics … was modelled from the khepsh thigh of the Great Bear constellation … the name of which it retained. The khepsh in either form is a symbol of Khep, the goddess of the seven stars. With the khepsh or the kat knife … she cut off her quota of time yearly, as the mother of time, or the revolutions by which time was reckoned. From this crooked khepsh we can derive the sickle of time, still extant as the astrological sign of Saturn.

In the earliest reckoning of the planets the sun and moon were not included, consequently there were but five. Horapollo says the star seb denotes the number 5, because only the five stars (planets) by their motion perfect the natural order of the world. When there were but five planets, Saturn was the fifth, and thus his sign… as a figure of 5 would be his numerical symbol. But when the sun and moon were reckoned as the chief of seven planets, then Saturn became the seventh, and Jupiter the fifth. This was Seb-Kronus in Egypt, who took the place of the earlier Sevekh-Kronus. Here then was another fifth planet, and in our astronomical signs the symbol of Jupiter is that of Saturn reversed and each is a figure of 5. This remote origin will explain why our figure of five is to be found among the Kamite hieroglyphics carved on the rock in Pitcairn’s Island; amongst the Vei (African) characters, and in the Lolo syllabary brought from Western China. It is the figure of Seb-Kronus, of Sevekh-Saturn, and the crooked sickle of old time because it had been the still earlier sign of the Thigh constellation (Ursa Major), and the genetrix who was the mother of time in heaven and of the reckoning by the number 5 on earth [i.e. the duration period of the menstrual flow].

Regarding the women, who, at the time of their menstrual period, were “shut up where [they] could look on neither [sun nor fire]”, the present writer has earlier suggested that this largely assimilates to the lunar typology of the absent moon during its 3-day period of darkness, which is equally perceived as a withdrawal of/from the solar light. The 29.5-day lunar cycle is a natural analogue of the menstruation cycle of approximately 28 days, both of which are termed mēnsēs ‘monthly’ in Latin. Note that the light of the moon, in its waning phase, dips lower in the sky until it eventually ‘disappears’ into the western horizon during the dark-moon phase of about 3 days. From a mythical perspective, the moon was believed to plunge into either the waters (perceived to be) surrounding the earth, or those flowing through the netherworld, and finally into a subterranean, central ‘well of life’ by which it was thought to renew itself (i.e. a mythical continuation of the primacy of the “life-giving” waters sourced from the depths of the earth, and as far back as before the sun was recognised as giver and renewer of light in the moon). The moon perceived as occulted within the earth was therefore ‘out of sight’. Since this dark period of the lunar cycle typologically corresponds with the period of menstrual discharge during a woman’s cycle (the menstrual cycle being a type of ‘terrestrial moon’), the ‘out of sight’ moon is thus mytho-typologically linked to the menstruating woman now similarly ‘secluded’ during her period of about 3 to 7 days, with an average and median traditionally set at 5 days.

Again, regarding the mention of the Aht girls, who, upon attaining puberty, “are placed in a kind of prison completely surrounded by mats to shut out every ray of sunlight and glimpse of fire;” these typological correspondences are particularly interesting, although certainly contrived and oppressive. The separation and seclusion is not only related to the absence of the soli-lunar light that vivifies, but also—and crucial to our comprehenion of these archaic customs—the typological correspondence primarily alludes to taboos pertaining to fertility/fecundity and procreation, which in the prehistoric or ancient world was considered of utmost importance to the survival and perpetuity of the tribe or clan. In other words, just as the sun’s light is absent from the orb of the moon during the dark phase of the moon with its visual absence, so too there were concerns and taboos over sexual intercourse and the mixing of sperm with the unproductive period of the menstrual cycle (perceived as a time inimical to producing life, and thus associated with death). So these women who were secluded during menstruation were not only kept away from fire and light (in primitive typological resonance with the lunar occultation), but primarily were being kept away from the sexual and seminal ‘fires’—let loose only on the night or day following the “ceasing” of the menstrual “flow” (discharge period). It is also only in this way and according to this typology, now feeding back into the lunar mythos, that e.g. the Egyptian lunar Osiris is said to have entered the moon only on the sixth day of the month—in typological accordance with the terrestrial ‘moon’ cycle of menstruation: the hidden-thus-secluded and “no” (i.e. sexually prohibited) period, and the visible-thus-sociable and “yes” (i.e. sexually permissible) period. And when it is said that “water [only] is given to them during this period [of the menstrual flow], but no food,” this is because the liquid water corresponds in type with the liquid menstrual flux (compare the flood and the drowning water element which extinguishes the breath), whereas solid, dry food corresponds in type with the dry, post-menstrual state (compare the island, solid ground, elevated tree, raft or ark as the breathing place out of the water) where there was a cessation of the menstrual flow. Massey further notes: “Bread, when fermented, and breath are synonymous [i.e. typologically isotopic], and in English the breathing-place is called the Bread-basket.”[63]

Compare Jesus at the marriage-feast in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1–12), where water (typologically associated with the blood-Mother and thus the associated physical flesh) was transformed into wine (i.e. fermentation being one the primary representational types of the in-spired breath of spirit). Firstly, this parallels the typology associated with the episode of Jesus offering the eternal Life-Giving Water to the Samaritan woman who was drawing earthly water from Jacob’s well (John 4:4–26), which in turn and in part parallels Jesus’ healing of the bleeding woman of twelve years. Secondly, the episode of Jesus transforming water into wine at the marriage-fest in Cana is in part typologically founded on the ancient rites of puberty and connubium, where—following the five days of seclusion and sexual abstention during the menstrual rites—there was a festival on the sixth day (note at the marriage-feast in Cana of Galilee, there were “six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification”). When Jesus abruptly says to his mother: “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come; this oddity in the context of marriage festivities can be explained by the foundational typology where the time of the menarche (as associated with the totemic blood-Mother in her feminine type as a woman) and the duration of the menstrual period (the five days’ liquid flow) naturally precede the time of the menstrual sabbath (i.e. the cessation of the flow) on the sixth day that was originally designated as the day or time of dryness—thus the place of breath/pneuma elevated above the drowning element of water/blood, and consequently the breath of spirit in association with the time of in-spiration, transformation, transfiguration or transubstantiation. On the typical sixth day of these rites of puberty there was a festival celebrating fecundity (the time, or the days just prior to and including the day of ovulation, associated with the biological ability to conceive the so-called “bun in the oven”—the ‘leavened bread’ baked by the ‘heat’ of gestation) and celebrating archaic marriage customs. Of course this comes with a caveat; it is important to note that we are exploring the typological origins and not the contextual interpretation of these biblical verses—viewed here as allegorical mystery teachings—that have nothing to do in actuality with menstruation, puberty, enforcing archaic marriage customs, or any festival of the sexual ‘fires’. The one obvious exception to this list—at least within orthodoxy—would be the sacramental use of fermented alcohol as related to the rite of the Eucharist and the mystery of transubstantiation.

Returning briefly to those archaic customs of seclusion away from light, dry/solid food and the seminal substances during the period of the menstrual flux; even in many contemporary traditional societies (for example Hinduism, Judaism and Islam), menstruating women are similarly kept away or secluded from the scriptural “Word” and also the temple, synagogue or mosque. In many if not all Orthodox Christian communities, although menstruating women are allowed to enter the church as one of the congregation, they are yet still prohibited from receiving the sacraments (such as communion, baptism, etc) and from touching the holy relics or icons. In conservative or orthodox Hindu, Jewish and Muslim societies, women in general are at the very least segregated by way of structural partitions in the temple, synagogue and mosque, and this appears to be a typological vestige of the ancient taboos (compare the related typology of boundary, barrier or limit) pertaining to the totemic Mother-blood at the time of the menstrual period—women being associated with the feminine ‘type’, and eventually in some instances completely reduced to the menstrual typology (and in other religious sects her entire body is completely, though sadly unaturally, covered by what was originally the associated loin-cloth donned at puberty!)

The point here being that a significant amount of mythical and religious typology, customs and rites derive—oftentimes in garbled forms, and occasionally via typological development in the astronomical mythos—from the rites, customs, ceremonies and festivals pertaining to the mysteries of the menarche, the menstrual cycle and the initiatory passage into puberty. Once again it is prudent to point out that a distinction needs to be made between the typological origins of a motif, custom or rite, and the interpreted meaning of that motif, custom or rite as expressed, reoriented or distorted in the various contexts (e.g. totemism, myth, folklore, religion, etc).

Returning now to the woman who had been “bleeding for twelve years” and was healed after contact with Jesus; it is no coincidence that this episode is framed within the story of the twelve-year-old (daughter of the religious leader Jairus in Galilee) who supposedly had died but was miraculous raised back to life by Jesus (compare the Hindu goddess Ṣaṣthī ‘Sixth’ who resurrected a stillborn baby that was only conceived after twelve years of its mother being unable to conceive). The dying-and-resurrecting twelve-year-old girl typologically parallels the termination of the twelve-year prepubescent stage of life and the passage into the subsequent pubescent stage of life—the threshold of which is marked primarily by the menarche. But this typology is further used allegorically by the early Christians in order to indicate a doctrinal shift from Judaism (in particular those sects emphasizing a nationalist Messiah, royal houses or priestly lineages that were oriented toward the Temple in Jerusalem) to the nascent Christianity (particularly those sects emphasizing a supraphysical, spiritual orientation—the Heavenly Jerusalem and “the Son of Man, coming on clouds from Heaven”). The typology is also used symbolically by mystery and mystical traditions in order to indicate a parallel, ontological shift in essential identity from the totemic Mother in blood to the supra-totemic Mother/Father/Son in Spirit (recall Corbin’s mystical interpretation of “the breath of Christ which resuscitates the dead”).

Recall another purported miracle recorded in The Infancy Gospel of Thomas (II.1–3)—with similar renditions in the Qurʾān (3:49, 5:110) and the rabbinical Toledoth Yeshu—where twelve clay sparrows were brought to life by Jesus and with a resulting contention as to the timing of this act (which typologically coincides with the culmination and termination of the five-day menstrual period and the start of the sixth day of cessation and dryness or ritual cleanliness). Jesus was…

five years old … playing at the ford of a brook … he gathered together the waters that flowed there into pools, and made them straightway clean, and commanded them by his word alone. And having made soft clay, he fashioned thereof twelve sparrows. And it was the Sabbath when he did these things (or made them). And there were also many other little children playing with him. And a certain Jew when he saw what Jesus did, playing upon the Sabbath day, departed straightway and told his father Joseph: Lo, thy child is at the brook, and he hath taken clay and fashioned twelve little birds, and has polluted the Sabbath day. And Joseph came to the place and saw: and cried out to him, saying: Wherefore doest thou these things on the Sabbath, which it is not lawful to do? But Jesus clapped his hands together and cried out to the sparrows and said to them: Go! and the sparrows took their flight and went away chirping. And when the Jews saw it they were amazed, and departed and told their chief men that which they had seen Jesus do.

In other words, to cut to the chase, the present writer would argue that an elaborate amalgam has occurred over time and is comprised of the following:

  • The zoömorphic symbol (the bird as a winged animal and therefore unbounded by the earth) representing air and breath. This is adopted as a symbol of the soul/spirit, which, in some systems of belief, is thought to be constrained by, or arrested in, physical existence (symbolized by clay, or a toad, or the Occident). Similarly, when Jesus is anointed as Christ during his baptism, then the subtle or intangible Holy Spirit (Latin spiritus ‘breeze, breath’; compare the Greek pneuma ‘wind, breath, breath of life’, and Arabic rih ‘wind’, rūh ‘vital-breath, spirit’) is represented in zoömorphic form as the dove: firstly as a winged bird of the air element, and secondly in that it symbolises Peace as one of the central divine attributes (hence the religious greeting “Peace be upon you” or the liturgical salutation “Peace be with you”). The breathing of life into the clay forms should be seen as a typological development of Genesis 2:7 (compare Qurʾān 15:26), “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground [a.k.a. earthen clay], and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” This is also to suggest that the ‘miracle’ of the clay birds arguably originated as the Mystery of the ‘clay birds’.
  • The puberty rite at approximately twelve years old—originally founded on and marked by the arrival of the menarche. This has already been discussed at length. The numerical typology of twelve that is associated with the menarche (and by association the menstrual cycle) will also account for the peculiar superstition, in some of the Hindu temples, of keeping a distance of twelve feet from menstruating women.
  • The duration and cessation of the menstrual discharge period at a traditional average or median of five days (hence five, as the total number, alternatively signalling the culmination, closing or termination of the menstrual flow). Once again this is loosely associated with the totemic Mother-blood—the ‘flesher’ of the human body in utero—the waters or pools of which Jesus supposedly makes clean by his divine Word (the ‘cleansing’ of the ‘waters’ being a typological isotope of Jesus ‘healing’ the ‘bleeding woman’). In other words this is a garbled, gnostic representation of the shift of essential identity from the totemic ‘Mother’ in blood/flesh to the supra-totemic ‘Mother/Father/Son’ in ‘breath’/spirit, and likewise a reorientation from the earthly feminine Logos to the heavenly masculine Word.
  • The Sabbath (the Christian timing and observance of which was in contention with the Jewish timing and observance) introduced within the context of so-called “pollution” and “cleanliness”—highly topical issues in first-century Judaism, especially noted in the Dead Sea Scrolls’ references to the “three nets of Belial”—and the underlying notion of correctly observing the Sabbath by way of ceasing.

Quite frankly, the first ever concept of a sacred sabbath (Hebrew שַׁבָּ shabbat, deriving from שָׁבַת shavat ‘to cease, rest’) as a time or day of ceasing or rest was at the culmination of the five-day menstrual period when there was a cessation of the menstrual flow on day six (these are an approximate mean of course, though traditionally set and fixed symbolically for ritual or ceremonial observances). In the gnostic allegory, where the typology is transposed, this is the point at which Jesus breathes into the inanimate clay birds and they are then gifted life and can fly (thus attuned to the air element and further representing emancipation from the perceived bondage of the clay/earth element). And now instead of the shabbat of the menstrual flow (the foundation of the typology), the narrative shifts to a parallel typology pertaining to the “cleanliness” of the “waters” in relation to a perceived violation of ritual observance (a “pollution” of the “Sabbath” associated with what is perceived to be an incorrect observation of periodicity/time).

For further typological consideration—and these religious or mystical transpositions can be explored in more detail by other researchers—compare the “Five Holy Wounds” on the crucified body of Jesus, as rendered in the blood-filled Passion narrative (taking place on the fifth day of the week), further related to the “suffering sun” in Ancient Egyptian mythology. Gerald Massey explains in his Lectures:

One part of this mystery was the portrayal of the suffering sun-god in a feminine phase. When the suffering sun was ailing and ill, he became female [typologically founded on either the menstrual period, or simply the toil of corporeal existence founded on the uterine source and totemic mother-blood], such being a primitive mode of expression. Luke describes the Lord in the garden of Gethsemane as being in a great agony, “and his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling to the ground.” This experience the Gnostics identified with the suffering of their own haemorrhoidal Sophia, whose passion is the original of that which is celebrated during Passion week, the [Ancient Egyptian] “week of weeping in Abtu,” and which constitutes the fundamental mystery of the Rosy Cross, and the Rose of Silence. In this agony and bloody sweat the Christ simply fulfils the character of Osiris [who, in the character of the mutilated one, is accordingly titled Desh-Desh], the red sun [deshrety], the sun-god that suffers his agony and bloody sweat. Tesh [sic. desh, desher, deshrew, deshret, desherty, etc] means the bleeding, red, gory, separate, cut, and wounded; tesh-tesh [desh-desh] is the inert form of the god whose suffering, like that of Adonis, was represented as feminine, which alone reaches a natural origin for the type [i.e. typologically founded on the bleeding and cramp-pains during the menstrual period, and possibly also including the birth-mother’s labour pains].

Looking further afield to other traditions and comparative typologies, especially numerical (and once again, these can be explored in more detail by other researchers): note for example in Egypt that sis is ‘six’ and ses is ‘breath’ (Latin spiritus, Greek pneúma),[64] Sanskrit ṣaṣ=six, Hebrew šeš=six. According to Massey:

The festival of the sixth day of the new moon was in commemoration of the feminine period [more specifically the day after its termination—the first day of its cessation], a lunar sabbath of the sixth day. It was on this day that Osiris re-entered the moon as Lord of the Sixth day’s festival. It is said of him, “Thy beauties are in the midst of the Sacred Eye, in that name which is thine, Lord of the Sixth day’s festival!” … On the sixth day of the new moon, the Druidic priests went six together in number to gather the sacred branch of mistletoe … the renewal typified by the shoot. The Hindus perform a religious rite on the sixth day [Ṣaṣthī] of the moon. Also, on the sixth of Jyaistha [or Jyestha], the first half moon, women who are desirous of bearing lovely children walk in the woods, and eat certain vegetables; they carry a fan in their hands … a symbol of breath or breeding [likewise, on the sixth day of Jyestha, the marriage festival of Shiva and Parvati (Śītal Ṣaṣthī) is celebrated] … The sixth day remains in the Roman calendar identified as the day of transfiguration, August the 6th being memorized … In the Coptic calendar another festival of the ascension is marked by the morning rising of the Pleiades, the typical six stars. The number 6 is associated with the Jewish purification. This is illustrated at the marriage in Cana of Galilee, where there were “set six water-pots of stone after the manner of the purifying of the Jews.” There was but one purification to which the number is primarily related, and here the mythos is turned into miracle by the Christ transforming the water into wine—at the marriage feast … In Italian pictures of the Annunciation, Gabriel the angel presents a six-leaved lily to the virgin as the number of the logos. Six denoted the “Sacred Flower,” as Orpheus calls Bacchus. Horus the child is called “the soul rising out of the lotus-flower.” So the six-leaved lotus springs from the navel of Vishnu, as the flower of breath and of reproduction out of the water. The Water-Iris was a very sacred flower of 6 with our British Druids.[65]

Note also that the Hebrew ṣiṣ denotes the gold head-plate associated with the exalted station of the Jewish High Priest and is thus related to James the Just who in the gnostic Apocalypse of James (II) was reported to have “sat above the fifth [i.e. on the sixth] flight of steps [of the Temple], the highly esteemed place, while all our people [lacuna: listened intently to his] words [informed by the ‘Word of Truth’]”. These, in addition to others previously cited, are just a few of a number of examples and relations that are of symbolic significance when we unpack archaic typologies that were adopted and reoriented or garbled in the religious mysteries, including Gnosticism. To give a generalized example of this typology and emerging dichotomy:

blood/body, carnality, darkness, pollution, illness, restraint/punishment


breath/soul/spirit, divinity, light, cleanliness/purity, healing/wellness, emancipation/reward

The post-menstrual sabbath (of the sixth day according to ancient rites of puberty and procreation) was later extended into and superseded by the post-creational or supra-cosmic Sabbath (of the seventh day according to religious doctrine)—marking a paradigmatic shift from the menstrual and physical foundation (mythical ‘Seat’) to the spiritual and metaphysical foundation (mythical ‘Throne’). Thus, in the Qur’ān (32:4) we read: “It is God who created the heavens and the earth and everything between them in Six Days, then He established (Himself) upon the Throne.”

Of course in the biblical narrative of Genesis, the “Creation of Man” [Mankind]—at the pinnacle of the created cosmos and elevated above the animals—still occurs on the sixth day, typologically mirroring (as discussed earlier and in Part I):

  • The mother-blood element—as the creative, life-giving fetal source—elevated to the pinnacle of the earth elements.
  • The foundational rite of puberty where a totemic humanity is created—simultaneously delineated into females and males (compare Genesis 1:27: “Male and female He created them”)—and distinguished from the pre-totemic creatures (compare Genesis 1:28: “…and subdue it [the earth], and rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth”).
  • The related menstrual rites of puberty which concluded on the night of the fifth day, with a festival of celebration on the sixth day that also signified that sexual reproduction was permissible (in those archaic societies) and that embryonic conception and fetal creation is biologically possible (compare Genesis 1:28: “And God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’…”).
  • Additionally note that the venomous, periodically skin-shedding and self-renewing snake is an archaic type/symbol of the power and process of renewal, transition, transformation, change, becoming, generation and regeneration; and with its limbless form and mesmerising slithering locomotion is a type or symbol of the undulating liquid flow. In the transitional and transformative passage from prepubescence into pubescence, the girl traditionally “becomes a woman” and accordingly was clothed in the leaf-belt, grass-skirt or loin-cloth cover that signals the mother-blood as well as the state of puberty and fecundity (symbolised also by the fruit and seeds of the fig, persea, pomegranate or apple tree). The snake (or lizard, frog, etc, as previously discussed in Part I) was assigned as a totem, representative of this particular rite of passage or transformation, and thus the snake is also associated with the blood-Mother and the fruit of the Tree. In keeping with the age-old taboo of not engaging in sexual relations during the period of menstrual flow (associated with the snake totem of transformation and the leaf-belt clothing indicating puberty and fertility), compare the first-created woman Eve who, following the bad serpent, transgressed taboo by eating the peri fruit (the transgression being distinguished and delineated by the primeval Lady Wisdom regarding the totemic Tree of the Permissible=Good and Forbidden=Bad), causing both her and Adam to be cast out from a state of purity and subsequently condemned to wearing the typical fig-leaf clothing as a sign of their alleged transgression and ‘shame’. In the original customs and rites of puberty and the associated totemic mysteries, however, the fig-leaf belt or grass skirt was proudly adopted and worn as a symbol of personal transformation at the time of Her red issue of blood.

None of this inherently affects or is intended to reject the metaphysics of being-and-becoming and how this manifested in historical time and temporal space. It is merely to show that—in some instances—the totemic typologies have been appropriated and re-purposed as allegory for the religious expression of otherwise (at the time, certainly) inexpressible metaphysical realities and cosmological processes.

With regards to the identities typologically associated with the fifth and sixth days (in the foundational typology) or the sixth and seventh days (in the spiritual/mystical transposition), Paul (1 Corinthians 15:45–48) similarly distinguishes between the “First Man Adam” as a living soul “which is natural … from the earth, earthy”, and the “Last Adam” (=Christ) as a life-giving Spirit “which is spiritual … from heaven”). In other words these are respective associations and identifications with the totemic blood-Mother/Anima and the supra-totemic Father/Son or Spirit/Nous (depending on which particular tradition one is referring to—it’s not an exact science when it comes to typology and comparative symbolism).

Furthermore, in The Infancy Gospel of Thomas the discrepancy between or confusion over the Sabbath on the sixth or seventh day typologically parallels the cessation of the menstrual flow on approximately the sixth day, as determined by the feminine logos or primeval Lady Wisdom, and this (as explained earlier by Massey) is likely the origin of the idiom, “All at sixes and sevens, as the Old Woman left her house”. This numerical discrepancy is also probably why The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Saviour (XXXVI) has Jesus performing the ‘miracle’ of the clay birds at seven years old, and not five years old as per the previously cited Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Jesus at five years old, making the waters clean, is also typologically related—though yet again in a garbled manner—to the gospel episode of the Samaritan woman (John 4:4–26) who supposedly had five husbands and a sixth in contention. While drawing liquid sustenance from the temporal, subterranean waters of the well at Sychar or Shechem, the Samaritan woman encounters Jesus (described as a “Gift of God”, compare James’ “Perfect Gift from above”) who instead offers her the eternal, divine Life-giving Waters. It is then said, “whoever drinks of the water … will never thirst again. The water that I [Jesus as Christus aeternus?] will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). Compare the gnostic Gospel of Thomas (13), where—in contradistinction to Simon-Peter (designating the Law) and Matthew (designating the cosmic Wisdom)—the gnosis-imbibing Thomas (designating the noetic Contemplation of the supra-cosmic divine Pleroma) had refrained from describing what Jesus is in reality, and to which Jesus favorably responded: “I am no longer your teacher, for you have drunk and become inebriated from the bubbling wellspring that I have personally measured out.” Or, as expressed in the (First) Apocalypse of James: “(The Lord said to James) […] And then you will reach Him-who-is, and you will no longer be James; rather you are the One-who-is […] ‘I am from the Pre-existent Father, and a son in the Pre-existent One’.” This of course is reminiscent of the Gospel of Thomas (12) which alludes to the pre-existence of James the Tsaddiq, “for whose sake Heaven and Earth came into being”.

Part III: The Totemic ‘Man’ (Human, Person) and the Development of the Mēns (Mind) in Association with Observations Pertaining to the Mēnsēs (Menstrual) and Mēnsis (Lunar) Cycles

The following section briefly examines the lexical designation “man”-kind, as well as the associated etymological aspects that may give hints as to the cognitive development, skills and culture that was characteristic of these early humans. It will be suggested that these signifiers or lexemes, far from being random or arbitrary semiotic inventions, were informed by earlier proto-linguistic or non-linguisitic levels of representation and communication operative within totemic culture—especially as related to:

  • the Mother-blood (genetrix) perceived as originator of mankind (as a totemically bound collective); perpetuated along matrilineal lines of biological generation and sustained along matriarchal lines of social development—thus the blood-Mother as Founder, Builder and Matrix (as per Part I of this article);
  • the menarche and subsequent menstrual cycle as the primary manifestor of the Mother-blood and as the first manifestor, measurer and keeper of time, period and cycle (and the knowedge thereof)—thus becoming (the earth-born) Lady Wisdom as feminine Logos and primeval Oracle, Regulator/Ordinator, Initiator, Mentor, Teacher, Legislator, and Instructor of mankind (as per Part I of this article).

The Old English term ‘man’ is derived from the Proto-Germanic *mann (human, person), from the P.I.E. *man- which signifies the human person (male and female). Compare the Sanskrit mánu ‘human, thinking, wise, intelligent’ and the German mensch ‘person, human’. In this present article it will be inferred that the P.I.E. *man- ‘human, person’ is cognate to the P.I.E. *men- ‘state of mind, to think’, which, in turn, is etymologically related to the Ancient Greek ménos ‘energy, life force, the power given to thought’ (thus ‘to think’) and the Latin mēns with the same associated meaning (viz. discursive thinking). The P.I.E. *men- ‘state of mind, to think’ is not only the etymological root of the word ‘mind’ (Sanskrit mána/mánas) but also the Latin monēre ‘to warn, admonish’. Importantly, keep in mind that monēre also means ‘to advise, counsel, guide, teach, instruct’ (compare the English noun mentor ‘one who advises’ and the Sanskrit mantr ‘one who thinks/advises/counsels’; a related English verb monitor means ‘to observe, check’).

Given the Afro-Asiatic (A.A.) *m-n ‘to count, reckon, think, know’ and forthcoming proposals regarding lunar observations, the lunar cycle and the menstrual cycle (recall the aforementioned earth-born Lady Wisdom or feminine Logos as primeval Mentor, Instructor, Legislator or Regulator/Ordinator), the present writer will further infer that the P.I.E. *men as ‘state of mind’ can also be extended in verb form to mean ‘to observe, reflect, measure, reckon’ with a resulting knowledge that may be used to ‘guide, counsel, advise, teach, tutor, etc’ (Latin monere). Thus, from an anthropological perspective, the perceptual and cognitive aspects of P.I.E. *men and A.A. *m-n would lead to e.g. knowledge, technical skills and expertise in the fields of e.g. tool-making, craftsmanship, building, language, writing, etc (compare the Spanish mana ‘skill/ability’), which mani-fest in works by ‘hand’ (Latin manus, from the P.I.E. *man- ‘hand’; the manuscript is the manus-script ‘written by hand’). Possibly related—in the sense of a distinction in, and an accomplishment of, good works and an achievement of excellence—is the Latin manus ‘good’ from the P.I.E. *ma- ‘good’. On this point, compare the Egyptian men/mensh ‘good, perfect, excellent, sound’, and mā/māt/māʿat ‘true, good, truth/justice, law, order, harmony’. Note also that the Egyptian menkh means ‘to work in wood, to carve, craft, cut’, and menkhū/t refers to ‘well-doing, good deeds, good counsel’.

The term ‘man’, although often referring to the male adult/pubescent, likely originated in and originally distinguished (according to the inferred P.I.E. base *men) the power of thought as expressed in the reflective, reckoning, measuring and discursive mind of the human being (compare the A.A. *m-n ‘to count, reckon, think, know’), and thus represents one line of development of the common name for the human person. Along another related line of development, note that the human ‘hand’ (P.I.E. *man-, Latin manus) was an early calculating device (i.e. the fingers) and measurer of height/depth (i.e. four fingers or the palm)—as well as being the active, grasping, tool-making/using component of the body—and is therefore likely also related to the active, reckoning, measuring, discursive mind as P.I.E. *men-, as well as the P.I.E. root *méh₁- or *me- ‘to measure’ and *med- ‘to measure, consider, think about, reason, decide’. It is probably also not insignificant, from the perspective of prehistoric tallying, that there are 28 knuckle-joints or finger-segments clearly discernible on our hands (14 on each hand), and this noticeably approximates in number to the days comprising the monthly menstrual and lunar cycles.

One should also factor in that the earliest of human societies were matriarchal, not patriarchal. As alluded to above, the present writer further proposes that the P.I.E. *men- is related to—if not originally mytho-philologically derived from:

  • the reflective light, phases and orbit of the moon (P.I.E. *mḗh₁n̥s)
  • the time measured (P.I.E.*méh₁- / *me- / *med-) or reckoned (A.A. *m-n) by the moon in the cyclical month (P.I.E. *méh₁-nōt, Proto-Germanic *mēnōþs, Ancient Greek mḗn, Latin mēnsis)
  • and especially if not primarily the female menstruation cycle (Latin mēnsēs = pl. monthly)—the reckoning and observation of which formed the earliest distinction and measurement of time, period and cycle (compare the Ancient Egyptian men ‘to establish, to abide by, to hold firm, to remain stable’)

According to this proposal, #men- (in the sense of a measured and established ‘period’ of time, a ‘cycle’, ‘circuit’ or ‘rounding’ in growth, and a particular ‘life-force, power or energy’ originating in the womb) is not only related to monthly menstrual and lunar cycles but is also related to the 10-moon/month gestation period whereby the human embryo and developing fetus is infused with and nourished by the life-blood and life-force of the pregnant mother.

Part IV: The Sacred Tree/Waters of Life and the Forbidden Tree/Waters | A Typological Approach

Blog placenta tree of life export
The placenta and umbilical cord as “Tree of Life” – watercolour & ink on paper, Vickie Hingston-Jones ©2012 (Image Source: Tree of Life – Placenta Art on Pinterest)

In Part I of this article we briefly explored how the tree that ‘announced’ or ‘told’ (i.e. manifested, demonstrated, indicated, gave knowledge of) and was observed to have ‘kept’ time, season, period and cycleknowledge essential to human survival—became one of the primeval manifestations of the feminine lógos that would later come to be known as Lady Wisdom (initially being an aspect of the Earth as ‘Mother’ source). In addition, the tree (as well as the vine, lotus, and the field of reeds or grasses) that produced life-sustaining shoots, fruits, seeds/grains or sap, as well as providing crucial shelter, shade, habitat/refuge (in her branches), wood for construction materials (especially as used for the house, the boat/ark, and the built enclosure or consecrated sanctuary) and fibre for clothing materials (especially as associated with the clothes first adopted at puberty); this tree or productive field became not only a microcosm of the Earth as primeval “Mother of all the living” but also a type and symbol of the Provider, Sustainer and (Source) Abode.

In Part I we also noted the menstrual foundations of the earliest forms of sacred knowledge (paradigmatic distinctions), customs and laws that constituted the primeval or aboriginal Lady Wisdom, and the menstrual cycle in general as associated with the uterine foundations of a totemic offspring (‘mankind’) endowed with this acquired wisdom of the totemic blood-Mother. Recall also how the totemic Blood-Mother (in association with the womb and the placental ‘Tree’) became conflated with the overarching mythical Earth-Mother (the Great Abode of all life), both of which were symbolised by the Tree that provides life-sustaining nutriment.

From a mytho-typological perspective, the life-giving Great Mother in phyto-type form as the tree of origin, sustenance and sanctuary is ancient and encountered cross-culturally. According to Massey:

The mother of Adonis was said to have been metamorphosed into a tree, and in that shape to have brought forth the divine child. On the coins of ancient Crete the genetrix is portrayed, like Hathor or Nupe, in the tree. In the Phrygian mysteries, called those of the mother of the gods, a pine-tree was cut down every year, and the image of a youth was bound on the inside. This was on the first day of the feast of Kubele. “What means that pine,” asks Arnobius, “which on certain days you bring into the sanctuary of the Mother of the gods?” This he identifies with the tree of the genetrix, beneath which the youth Attis laid hands upon himself, and which the mother consecrated in solace of her own wound. The ‘dark pine’ that grew in Eridu [in Sumer-Babylonia] was the seat, shrine, and couch, of the Akkadian genetrix Zikum—She who was the tree that bore the child as Tammuz or Duzi: “In Eridu a dark pine grew. It was planted in a holy place. Its crown was crystal white, which spread towards the deep vault above. The [depths] of Ea was its pasturage in Eridu, a canal full of waters. Its station (seat) was the centre of this earth. Its shrine was the couch of mother Zikum [elsewhere, Zigara]. The (roof) of its holy house like a forest spread its shade; there (were) none who entered not within it. It was the seat of the mighty mother.”

In Egypt the sycamore-fig is the chief type of the tree of life from which the Great Mother, as Hathor [or Newet], pours out the divine drink. Hathor was the sekhem, or shrine of the child, in the shape of the sycamore tree; also, this type of the tree, genetrix, womb, shrine, and tomb may be traced back by name to inner Africa. The typical tree is the—dsigma, in Nupe; tsigmo, in Kupa; tsugma, or tsugba, in Esitako; tsimo, in Gugu; tagma, in Ebe … In Hebrew the typical tree as the [šiqmah הָוֹמהִמ] is the sycamore-fig tree. Also we have a species of fig-tree called the sycamine in English. The fig is an emblem of the womb, the sekhem (Eg.), one of those feminine types like the pomegranate, the Persea fruit [Mimusops schimperi], or the lotus which contain their seed within themselves, and it is the fruit of the sycamore fig-tree. In the African Gura, the abode as a hut is the saguma. The Swedish skemma is a store-house for the fruits of the earth. In Egypt the sekhem had become a sacred shrine representing the mother; the abode of Horus in utero. The Turks have a tradition that when Mary and the child were being pursued by the murderers whom Herod sent after them, they came to the tree at Maturea [Arabic Matariyya] which, having the power of opening and shutting, opened to receive the parents and saved the child [incidentally, the oldest living sycamore-fig tree in Egypt is the “tree of the Virgin Mary” in Matariyya]. In this legend the sekhem, or sycamore tree, becomes the Egyptian ‘Sekhem,’ which means the shut-place, and shrine. The typical tree of inner Africa, the sekhem of Egypt, Zikum [Ziqum] of Akkad, survives in the Quran as al-Zakkum [al-Zaqqūm], the tree of knowledge; but how different says the text, from the abode of Eden. Here it issues from the bottom of hell, and is planted solely for the torment of the wicked. The fruit of it resembles the heads of devils or serpents (for the word signifies both), so that it is still the tree of the serpent, and the damned are to eat of it and fill their bellies therewith, washing down the fruit with scalding liquor. The natural genesis of the typical tree is self-evident. Norden describes the sycamore-fig as a very tree of life in Egypt. He says the people almost live off it. This tree is always green and bears its fruit several times a year, without observing any change of season. Ficus sycomorus in Egypt sometimes measures fifty feet in girth. But equatorial Africa is the paradise of the sycamore tree, which grows there to a size befitting [symbolically] the roof-tree of the world.[66]

In addition, the nourishing tree as a type of nursing mother is evident in e.g. the sycamore-fig trees of the Ancient Egyptian Hathor and Newet and in the Persea/Isht tree of Isis. Some examples, within an eschatological context, can be seen in the tomb depictions and funeral texts below:

Hathor tree food drink
Hathor as Lady of the Sycamore, providing drink and food for the deceased
Isis Ishd tree drink
King Tuthmosis III nursed at the breast of his mother Isis in the form of a Sycamore Fig or Isht/Ishd tree
Nut sycamore fig tree - food drink
The Sycamore Fig Tree of Newet, giving drink and food to Pa-Nehsy (Ramesside priest of Amenhotep I, 19th Dynasty) – depicted in TT16, the tomb of Panehsy in Drā Abū el Nagā, Thebes
Ani - Nut sycamore fig tree - food drink
Vignette of the deceased ʾAnī receiving water from the tree goddess as “Sycamore of the Sky” (Book of Coming Forth by Day: The Papyrus of Ani, Plate 16, Chapter 59)

Also keep in mind that the English sapient ‘wise, discerning’ comes from the Latin sapere ‘to taste, be wise’, which derives from the P.I.E. *sep- ‘to taste, perceive’. Perhaps this etymology hints at an underlying typological relation between the ‘sapient’ human (Homo sapiens) and the liquid sustenance termed sap, soup, supper, etc, that a person would sip, sup, sop, etc—or perhaps more correctly, hints at an underlying and unifying typological link between the P.I.E. *sab- ‘juice, fluid’, *sub- / *seue- ‘to take liquid’, and *sep- ‘to taste, perceive’? Once again this comes with a caveat: we are tracing typological development first founded on the human fetus receiving placental nourishment at its biological and totemic foundation in the womb, as well as the post-natal (and air-breathing) newborn nursing at its mother’s breast—the typology of which was appropriated, conflated (together with the symbolic tree) and transposed in the context of re-generation and re-birth or re-newal in the eschatology and mysticism.

Along another line of symbolic development—in relation to the biological and totemic blood-Mother as genetrix (‘Origin’ and ‘Provider’)—the umbilical life-blood may have been perceived (according to archaic typologies) as a type of “waters of life” (compare the placenta and umbilical cord in utero as a type of “tree of life”). As such it is possible that the fluidic menses-as-discharge was perceived as a type of “waters of death” (so to speak). Which is to say: when the survival and strength (in numbers) of the tribe were of vital importance in prehistoric or ancient societies, then sexually reproductive conception was related to the generation and perpetuation of life. Keep in mind that the sperm is unlikely to fertilize a receptive egg during the time of woman’s period; as such, the menstrual discharge finds symbolic correspondence in the “waters of death” (i.e. perceived as inimical to conception=life).

Also, in these societies during an era of sexual promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases were thought (according to taboo) to be easily contracted by not observing and keeping periodicy (i.e. engaging in sexual intercourse during the time of a woman’s period). This likely added to the notion of a “waters of death”. And just as we get the opposite ‘poles’ of day and night, the summer solstice and the winter solstice, the period of growth/production and the period of decay/inertia, the time of the full moon and the time of the dark moon, etc, so too in the female biological cycle we get—as viewed through the perceptive lens of archaic taboos—the ‘productive’ periods of ovulation/gestation and the ‘unproductive’ period of menstrual discharge.

Earlier in Part I of this article we saw how clothing (e.g. the cord-tie, knotted-strap, girdle, garter, band, leaf-belt, grass-skirt, etc) was linked—via the earliest rites and customs associated with the menarche—to the totemic blood-Mother and Her metaphorical weaving of the “garment of flesh”. We also saw how the totemic blood-Mother and the associated feminine logos or Lady Wisdom (the menstrual manifestor as announcer, demonstrator, keeper and arbiter of time, period, season and cycle) were assigned the totem of e.g. the snake as a representative type of periodicity and renewal, the process of transition and transformation (totemically founded on the menarche), as well as the attainment of knowledge (paradigmatic distinctions) pertaining to the reckoning and measurement of time and cycle, the law of taboo, and associated customs, rites and ceremonies. We also briefly discussed the typology of Genesis 3:15’s seed of the woman (the prescriptive productive period of the menstrual cycle and the life-giving placental ‘tree’ which was likened to the Tree/Waters of Life) which was set in contradistinction to the seed of the bad serpent (the proscriptive unproductive period of the menstrual discharge—the dead or death seed which was likened to the Tree/Waters of Death). Now, keeping a handle on these foundational typologies and totems in relation to the menarche and menstrual cycle, let’s revisit Genesis 3 in its entirety (and note especially the references to the “knowing of good and evil”, the snake as messenger, the “voice [or logos] of [the] wife” here set in contradistinction to the “voice [or word] of the Lord”, the “fig-leaf covering“, the “seed of the woman” versus the “seed of the bad serpent”, the “bringing forth of children”, Eve titled as “mother of all the living”, and the human “garments of skin” as “clothing”):

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat of any tree in the garden?’”

2 The woman answered the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden, 3 but of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You must not eat of it or touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent told her. 5 “For God knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom, she took the fruit and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

7 And the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed together fig leaves and made coverings for themselves.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the breeze of the day, and they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

9 So the Lord God called out to the man, “Where are you?”

10 “I heard Your voice in the garden,” he replied, “and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”

11 “Who told you that you were naked?” asked the Lord God. “Have you eaten of the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?”

12 And the man answered, “The woman whom You gave me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” “The serpent deceived me,” she replied, “and I ate.”

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and every beast of the field!
On your belly will you go,
and dust you will eat,
all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your seed and her seed.
He will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”

16 To the woman He said:

“I will sharply increase your pain in childbirth;
in pain you will bring forth children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

17 And to Adam He said:

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
from which I commanded you not to eat,
cursed is the ground because of you;
through toil you will eat of it
all the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it will yield you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your bread,
until you return to the ground—
because out of it were you taken.
For dust you are,
and to dust you shall return.”

20 And Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

21 And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil. And now, lest he reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever…”

23 Therefore the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 So He drove out the man and stationed cherubim on the east side of the Garden of Eden, along with a whirling sword of flame to guard the way to the tree of life.

So here is the proposed typological progression: the life-giving placental ‘tree’ and the ovulating uterus (a time of fertile generation, viewed positively thus ‘good’) became conflated with the period of menstrual discharge (a time of relative sterility and unproductiveness, viewed negatively thus ‘bad’). Since the menses was the first manifestor/demonstrator, measurer and keeper of time, periodicity and cycle—thus the feminine logos as one of the foundations of human knowledge as established in number, ratio, law, order, prescription and taboo—the aforementioned conflation is thereby expressed as the Tree of the Knowledge of Good (Permissible or Prescribed) and Bad/Evil (Impermissible or Forbidden). These issues pertaining to reproductive sterility and to venereal disease (perceived to be as a result of a transgression of menstrual “cleanliness” and ritual “purity”)—both of which were considered a consequence of not “keeping/observing” correct time and periodicity (the domain of aboriginal Lady Wisdom)—are (by way of the ‘nether’ vaginal canal, the ‘cavernous’ womb, the placental ‘tree’, and the transgression of menstrual taboo) the typological ground from which was derived (albeit in a distorted form) the mythical “Tree of Zaqqūm” in the ‘pits’ of flaming hell (Qurʾān 17:60, 37:62-68, 44:43-46, 56:52-56). This typological distortion likely originated in patriarchal polemic against the perceived “sins of the flesh” typically associated with carnal desire and pleasure—recall that the physical body is biologically and totemically associated with the life-giving Mother blood. The underlying typology here seemingly conflates the menses-as-discharge with the nutritionally enriching placental tree, as well as with the holy celestial tree that was planted in the sanctuary of the Akkadian mother-goddess who was actually named Ziqum (also Zigara ‘lofty place, sky, heaven’).

Interestingly in 1QHa XI of the Qumran scrolls, there aren’t two trees as such but rather two pregnant mothers (as co-types of the trees) who, as per Zinner’s exegesis[67], can be equated with Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly. The one mother as Lady Wisdom gives birth to a male child described as “a wonderful counsellor” and the other mother as Lady Folly gives birth to a serpent (that let’s loose a deluge akin to the waters of death). Here again we have a typological correspondence with Genesis 3’s son of good seed in contradistinction to the serpent of the bad seed. Moreover, the entire episode supposedly takes place in the pits of Sheol (however, keep in mind that 1QHa XI should be read as an allegory referring to the Teacher of Righteousness and his community—dwelling in the wilderness of the “Land of Damascus”—who were being persecuted by a man of injustice and his followers). As noted by Zinner:

… 1QHa XI’s “serpent” and the serpent’s several “spirits” are paralleled in Revelation 12:7’s “dragon and his angels”. The dragon is called in verse 9 “that ancient spirit” (see also verses 14-15), therefore, the serpent of Genesis 3. Revelation 12:15, “The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with the flood,” may be compared to 1QHa XI 14-16’s onslaught of water […] Curiously, Revelation 12’s “dragon, with seven heads” (verse 3) is parallelled in Ode 17:5’s [the Odes of Solomon‘s] “seven-headed dragon” … The serpent’s seed being destroyed alludes to Genesis 3:15, a verse that Revelation 12:17 also alludes to in its talk of the woman’s seed.[68]

These of course parallel the “accursed” Tree of Zaqqūm that has fruit “like the heads of devils/serpents” pouring out a scolding-hot ‘drink’ as “food for the sinful/unjust” in the caverns of hell (as an abode of torment and punishment). And both parallel Revelation 17: “… the woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns;” the woman “clothed in purple and scarlet;” the woman who is “drunk on the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses of Jesus.”

However, in the earlier “Accadian Poem of the Seven Evil Spirits” (transl. Rev. A.H Sayce, in Samuel Birch, Records of the Past), the holy tree of the mother goddess Ziqum and the sacred subterranean precincts of Enki-Ea within which the tree is rooted, are distinguished from and contrasted with the seven, non-sexed[69] evil spirits led by Tiamat (and take note that the Babylonian accounts themselves conflate e.g. the Ancient Egyptian seven beneficial earth elements or serpentine Akeriu[70] with the numberless, non-sexed wicked Sebiū that are the various afflictions resulting from heat, drought, famine, destruction, disease, dearth, darkness, entropy, etc, elsewhere associated with or represented by the evil ʿApep serpent[71]). Massey notes:

The seven nature powers evolved in the Egyptian mythos were the offspring of the great Earth-mother, not the progeny of Apep. They were native to the nether earth, but were not wicked spirits. They are spoken of in the Ritual (Book of the Dead, ch. 83) as “those seven Uraei-deities who are born in Amenta.” The serpent type is employed to denote the power, but it is the good serpent, the Uraeus serpent of life and of renewal, not the evil reptile Apep. These the Euphrateans changed into the seven evil spirits or devils of their theology. The spawn of Apep in Egypt are the Sebau, which were numberless in physical phenomena and never were portrayed as seven in number.[72]

The tree as a type of (life-giving) sustenance, shelter and refuge—in association with the sacred birth-mother and life-sustaining waters—can still be found in the Qurʾān however. For example in Surah Maryam (19:16-26) we read:

Relate in the Book, the story of Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the east … So she conceived him [Jesus] and she found refuge with him to a remote place. And the pangs of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree … But a voice cried to her, “Grieve not, for your Lord has provided a wellspring beneath you; and shake towards yourself the trunk of the palm-tree—it will let fall ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and cool your eye.

Similarly, the tree as a type and symbol of life-giving sustenance and sanctuary—and in much the same light as the Akkadian mother-tree of Zikum—can be seen in the Mandean story of Miryai:

Miriai am I, a vine, a tree, who stands at the mouth of Euphrates. The tree’s leaves are precious stones, the tree’s fruits pearls. The vine-tree’s foliage is glory, its shoots precious light. Among the trees its scent it diffuses, and it spreads over all the worlds. The birds of the air scented it; a flock settled down on the tree … and they would build their nest there … Of its foliage they eat … from its inner part they drink wine.[73]

To recapitulate: that which is life-giving, nourishing and protective as the feminine womb (undoubtedly one of the earliest prototypes of the sanctuary or shrine as Egyptian zekhem), and that which was holy, blessed and celebratory in the Akkadian tree sanctuary of the celestial mother Ziqum—rooted in the auspicious watery depths of Enki—have become conflated with the wicked, demonic and tormented in the infernal Tree of Zaqqūm as depicted in the Qurʾān. In 1QHa XI, the two women/mothers are still separate entities and distinguished from one another—and the principal woman/mother still retains an association with Lady Wisdom—although the episode still takes place in the ‘pits’ of Sheol. In other words—from a typological standpoint—the Mother totem and type (e.g. as tree-abode and tree-of-sustenance—the Tree as ‘suckler’ of the child) has been reduced solely to its perceived corruption as a result of a transgression of menstrual taboo. This is not to say that the Qurʾān’s Tree of Zaqqūm is symbolically referencing the actual placental tree or the period of menstrual discharge, but that there appears to be an underlying typological conflation and there certainly is some moral relation to the transgressions of the flesh (carnal desire) and the reported consequences for the sinful/unjust in the afterlife (according to scriptural interpretation).

Massey further notes:

Doubtless one cause of the curse pronounced upon the tree was on account of its being the tree of Hathor, the goddess of fecundity. No better or more beautiful description of Hathor in the tree could be found than the one in the “Wisdom of Jesus” (a.k.a. Ecclesiasticus, ch. 24:13-21, translated in the time of Euergetes). This Jesus, as Iu the Son of Atem, was brought forth by Hathor-Iusaas from the tree. As wisdom, she identifies herself with the tree of knowledge. The paean of her exultation might be called the hymn of Hathor. Hathor was the Egyptian goddess of love, though the love first personated by her was not the sexual passion. It was the love of the mother for her offspring; the love of the mother of life who fed the child in the womb and at the breast as the divine wet-nurse. In her pre-anthropomorphic form she is the mother imaged as the milk-cow (this being preceded by the water-cow [=hippopotamus]) and therefore not a type of sexual human love. As the wet-nurse she was also depicted in the tree of life and the tree of dawn, which dropped the dew as very drink of life. Hathor is the habitation (from hāt, the abode), one primitive form of which was the tree, and hence the tree of dawn was a typical abode of the young god born of her, or from her sycamore as the branch of endless years. [From Ecclesiasticus, Ch. 24:13-21:] ‘I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus, and as a cypress-tree upon the mountains of Hermon. I was exalted like a palm-tree in En-gaddi, and as a rose-plant in Jericho, as a fair olive-tree in a pleasant field, and grew up as a plane-tree by the water. As the vine brought I forth pleasant savour, and my flowers are the fruit of honour and riches. I am the mother of fair love, and fear, and knowledge, and holy hope; I therefore, being eternal, am given to all my children which are named of him. Come unto me, all ye that be desirous of me, and fill yourselves with my fruits. For my memorial is sweeter than honey, and mine inheritance than the honeycomb’.”[74] 

It is within the context of this complex typological development, as discussed in detail in this article, that we should hope to attain a fuller understanding of the breadth and depth of the typology, allegory and symbolism—including its metaphysical or mystical reorientation—associated with the Bleeding Woman and the Healing Garment of Jesus.


[1] Eszter Spät, Late Antique Motifs in Yezidi Oral Tradition, Doctoral thesis submitted to Department of Medieval Studies, Central European University, Budapest, 2009, p.107.
[2] Claude Lévi-Strauss (transl. Rodney Needham), Totemism, London: Merlin Press, 1991, p.42.
[3] Gerald Massey, Ancient Egypt: The Light of the World, London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1907, pp.75, 77, 64–66.
[4] Gerald Massey, Natural Genesis, Volume 2, London: Williams and Norgate, 1883, p.278.
[5] Massey, Ancient Egypt, p.7.
[6] Ibid., p.4.
[7] Ibid., p.6.
[8] Lévi-Strauss, Totemism, p.89.
[9] Gerald Massey, A Book of Beginnings, Volume 2, London: Williams and Norgate, 1881, pp.650–651.
[10] D. Catherine, ‘A proposed Palaeolithic mode of representation: Substitution on the basis of perceived similarity (“para-mimetic”) and close habitual association (environmental)’, Decipher, 2019: (Retrieved 2019-12-28).
[11] “The frog which transformed from the tadpole condition was another ideograph of female pubescence. This may be illustrated by a story that was told some time since by [Alice Werner in ‘African Folk-Lore’, Contemporary Review, vol. 70 (1896), p.378.] which contains a specimen of primitive thought and its mode of expression in perfect survival. It happened that a native girl at Blantyre Mission was called by her mistress, a missionary’s wife, to come and take charge of the baby. Her reply was, ‘Nchafuleni is not there; she is turned into a frog.’ She could not come for a reason of taboo, but said so typically in the language of animals. She had made that transformation which first occurs when the young girl changes into a woman. She might have said she was a serpent or a lizard or that she was in flower. But the frog that changed from a tadpole was also a type of her transformation, and she had figuratively become a frog for a few days of seclusion. Similarly the member of a totem also became a frog, a beetle, a bull or bear as a mode of representation, but not because the human being changed into the animal.” (Massey, Ancient Egypt, p.8).
[12] Massey, Natural Genesis, Vol. 1, p.293.
[13] Massey, Ancient Egypt, pp.7–8.
[14] Ibid., p.62.
[15] Ibid., p.31.
[16] Massey, Natural Genesis, Vol. 2, p.277.
[17] Massey, Ancient Egypt, p.116.
[18] Balaji Mundkur, The Cult of the Serpent, An Interdisciplinary Survey of Its Manifestations and Origins, Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983, p.57.
[19] Massey, Ancient Egypt, p.466.
[20] Ibid., p.69.
[21] Ibid., pp.70–71.
[22] Joan Marler and Harald Haarmann, 2007, ‘The Goddess and the Bear: Hybrid Imagery and Symbolism at Çatalhöyük,’ Journal of Archaeomythology 3/1, p.52.
[23] Cited in Ibid.
[24] Massey, Ancient Egypt, p.37.
[25] Massey, Natural Genesis, Vol. 2, p.272.
[26] Mundkur, The Cult of the Serpent, p.57.
[27] Massey, Ancient Egypt, pp.66–67.
[28] Ibid., p.51.
[29] Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, London and New York: Sheed & Ward, 1958, pp.268–269.
[30] Cited in Hassan ibn Fazl ibn Hassan Tabrasi, Mishkat ul-Anwar Fi Ghurar il-Akhbar.
[31] Spät, Late Antique Motifs in Yezidi Oral Tradition, p.107.
[32] Ibid., p.115.
[33] Henry Corbin (transl. R. Manheim and J. Morris), Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis, London: Kegan Paul International in Association with Islamic Publicaitons, 1983, p.67.
[34] Zachary Markwith, ‘Jesus and Christic Sanctity in Ibn ʿArabī and Early Islamic Spirituality’, Journal of the Muhyiddin Ibn ʿArabi Society, Vol. 57, 2015, pp.103–104.
[35] Henry Corbin (transl. Hugo M. Van Woerkom – version 1.0), Inside Iranian Islam, Spiritual and Philosophical Aspects, Volume II: Suhrawardî and the Persian Platonists, 2003, p.47.
[36] Markwith, ‘Jesus and Christic Sanctity in Ibn ʿArabī and Early Islamic Spirituality’, p.86.
[37] Corbin, Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis, pp.185–186.
[38] Massey, Natural Genesis, Vol. 2, p.358.
[39] Massey, Ancient Egypt, pp.93–94.
[40] Henry Corbin (transl. Joseph Rowe), The Voyage and the Messenger, Iran and Philosophy, Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1998, pp.156–157.
[41] Ibid., pp.173–204, especially pp.191–198.
[42] E.S. Drower, The Secret Adam, A Study of Nasoraean Gnosis, London: Oxford University Press, 1960, p.86, n.2.
[43] Henry Corbin (transl. Nancy Pearson), Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, From Mazdean Iran to Shīʿite Iran, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1989, pp.67–68 & 65.
[44] Drower, The Secret Adam, pp.11–12 & 10.
[45] James Cutsinger, ‘Colorless Light and Pure Air: The Virgin in the Thought of Frithjof Schuon’, 2007, p.24: (Retrieved 2019-08-12).
[46] Cited in E.S. Drower, The Haran Gawaita and the Baptism of Hibil-Ziwa, Citta Del Vaticano: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 1953, p.5.
[47] Massey, Natural Genesis, Vol. 1, p.112.
[48] G.R.S. Mead, Gnostic John the Baptizer: Selections from the Mandaean John-Book, London: Watkins, 1924, pp.18–19.
[49] Cited in Drower, The Haran Gawaita and the Baptism of Hibil-Ziwa,–vii.
[50] St Nikodimos and St Makarios, The Philokalia, Vol. 1, trans. and ed. G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware, London: Faber & Faber, 1983.
[51] Cited in Mead, Gnostic John the Baptizer, p.70.
[52] Joan E. Taylor, ‘Spiritual Mothers: Philo on the Women Therapeutae’, Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 23 (2002), London: The Continuum Publishing Group Ltd, pp.54 & 58.
[53] Corbin, Inside Iranian Islam, p.183.
[54] Cited in Mead, Gnostic John the Baptizer, pp.68 & 66.
[55] Corbin, Cyclical Time and Ismaili Gnosis, pp.183–184.
[56] Cutsinger, ‘Colorless Light and Pure Air: The Virgin in the Thought of Frithjof Schuon’, p.24: (Retrieved 2019-08-12).
[57] Samuel Zinner, ‘The Teacher of Righteousness and the Spouter of Lies as Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly in 1QHa XI’ (Essay: Rough Draft), 2016, pp.4–5 & 22–23: (Retrived 2019-09-23).
[58] Cited in Drower, The Haran Gawaita and the Baptism of Hibil-Ziwa, p.vii.
[59] Henry Corbin, Alone with the Alone, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn ʿArabi, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1997, pp.170 & 172.
[60] Zinner, ‘The Teacher of Righteousness and the Spouter of Lies as Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly in 1QHa XI’, p.6.
[61] Cited in Mead, Gnostic John the Baptizer, p.47.
[62] Compare the Greek Baubo/Iambe who lifted up her skirt to expose her genitals and this reportedly made Demeter laugh; compare also the associated ritual gesture of Anasyrma (“Ana-Suromai” according to Herodotus)—the ‘lifting of the skirt’ to expose the genitals (originally the female vulva and/or pubic triangle).
[63] Massey, Natural Genesis, Vol. 1, p.159.
[64] According to Gerald Massey (Natural Genesis, Vol. 2, pp.282–284): “In Egyptian ses, or sas, is the name of breath and breathing. Ses-mut is the breathing, i.e., breeding-mother or brood-mare. Ses [or sis] is likewise the name of number 6, a period of six days, a date, a time, an epoch of the sixth day, a six-sided block or cube. The word also signifies to reach land or solid earth, to curdle and accumulate, to breathe again, respire, embellish, and be beautiful, i.e., fit for sexual intercourse after the passage of the waters or the period of five days. [Compare the Sanskrit śuṣ and śuṣka, to dry, dry up, be dry]. This is shown by ses for clothing, with the sign of linen hung up to dry… and by seskh for perfect liberty, in being free to go. The number 5, then, is synonymous with the flow, the mystical inundation, and number 6 is identical with cessation in nature, as it is by name.
The Chinese have the six breaths, which are said to produce all things in silence. The one of heaven, as water, is also juxtaposed with the ‘Six of Earth.’ They say ‘Heaven’s One,’ the unity of essence, produced water. This was perfected by the ‘six of earth.’ The primordial water was the celestial Nun, the element out of which creation came, synonymous with number 5, or one hand. The number six of earth is identical with the Egyptian ses for six [Afrikaans ses], and ses to make land or earth, curdle, solidify, reach land, and respire.
According to the Hebrew legend, as related by Rabbi Manasseh Ben Israel, the souls of men were created during the six days of the beginning but independently of bodies. The sixth being the day of breath and embodying. The legend is thus related to the Chinese six breaths called the six of earth.
Ziz in Assyrian signifies as you were before, restored and flourishing. It also has the sense of to cease, stop, stand still, and become fixed. Zis-ta is ceasing; zuzu, a fixture, in agreement with the Egyptian ses to curdle, accumulate, reach land. This applies to the waters and the cessation of the five days’ flow, the sixth day being the last of the one period and the first of the other; and no other phenomenal fact can be found in nature that will furnish such an identity for number 6 and cessation.
In the Persian scriptures the end or cessation of the feminine flow is so closely connected with the sixth day and the number 6, that in one text we find the phrase of ‘the six months’ period’ for the six-day period of monthly occurrence. ‘The clothing which is to be wasted for the six months’ period is such as is declared in the Avesta.’ If it be woven, ‘they should wash it out six times with bulls urine; they should scour it six times with earth; they should wash it six times with water; they should air it six months at the window of the house;’ the numbers being in accordance with the monthly period reckoned as six days.
Ceasing, measuring, founding, resting, restoring, enjoying, knowing, judging, exchanging, or having intercourse, are all related to the sixth day, and are all found under the one type-name.
On the sixth day the waters cease, and…

sese, is to cease, in English.
seas, to cease, stop, stand fast, endure, Gaelic.
sisto, to stop, stand still, settle, Latin.
ziz, to stop, be restored as you were before, Assyrian.
zista, cessation, Assyrian.
ses, to reach land (after the waters), Egyptian
susa [śuṣ-, śuṣka], to dry, dry up, be dry, Sanskrit.
sasse, a lock in a river, a floodgate, English.
ses, to respire, to breathe again, Egyptian.
suspiro, to breathe, Latin.
sizing, yeast, English.
ziz, the mythical bird of breath, a feather, Hebrew.
sos, safe & sound, to be alive & well, (as it was on the sixth day) Greek.
cess, a boundary, English.
soss, a measure of 6 in tens, Assyrian.
sosu, a measure, Ashanti.
zuzu, a certain season, a period of time, Zulu.
sezela, to sniff and breathe, Zulu.
susela, applied to fledged birds, Zulu.

This was primarily the sixth day of creation, the day of rest which preceded the Sabbath, or the seventh day. Thus:

sosa, denotes rest, peace, [and anchorage, settlement,] Irish.
soso, denotes rest, Zincali.
saz, denotes peace, concord, Hindustani.
saz, denotes concord, happiness, Persian.

When the waters subsided, the ground was attained for breathing again, that is, for creating or procreating. Hence:

sus [asas?], the ground, rootage, origin, in Arabic.
susa, ground and origin, Zulu [cf. Niger-Saharan #-shishi, sand]
śiśna (from root śaś), the generator, Sanskrit.
ziskela, to take a wife, Xhosa.
zuza, to travail with child, bring forth, Xhosa.

Knowledge, wisdom, law, liberty, morality, all originated in relation to the six days of creation. Thus:

sos, or seis, is knowledge, in Gaelic.
sos, knowledge and wisdom, Irish.
sas, to be capable, Irish.
size, the assize, English.”

[65] Massey, Natural Genesis, Vol. 2, pp.285–287.
[66] Ibid., Vol. 1, pp.377–379.
[67] Zinner, ‘The Teacher of Righteousness and the Spouter of Lies as Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly in 1QHa XI’.
[68] Ibid., p.7–8.
[69] “Female they are not, male they are not.”
[70] “[T]hose seven Uraeus-deities who are born in Amenta [the Nether Earth].” (Book of the Dead, ch. 83).
[71] Gerald Massey cited in D. Catherine, ‘The Attrition of the Old “Great Mother” Earth and Her Offspring-as-Elements’, Decipher, 2019: (Retrieved 2019-12-12).
[72] Massey, Ancient Egypt, p.272.
[73] Cited in Mead, Gnostic John the Baptizer, p.65.
[74] Massey, Ancient Egypt, p.451.

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