Way of the Shaman


Ambrosia - Food of the Gods 3

Promises of paradise rise on phoenix wings to Dione of Dodona. The Oracle-goddess is the keeper of the secret. Her branches whisper in succoth, the tree-roofed tabernacles of the Exodus, as we journey to the Promised Land. A pillar of cloud leads the way trailing the pine-scent of burning amber, whose sunshine juices ('succus') flow into the Land of Milk and Honey.

Behind us lie footprints in the sand:

succinum - Sokos - amber - amarus - bitter - alloeh - aloe - plant of immortality - anbar - ambergris - burning - sun - son of heaven - divine fire - ambrosia... Socotra

Aristotle advised Alexander the Great to conquer Socotra so his doctors could use its aloes for healing his soldiers. The island is an Eden, about 150 miles from the horn of Africa below and Yemen above, guarded by contrary winds and swirling currents. Its natural treasures set in the Indian Ocean made it a focus of East-West trade from ancient times; and Indian settlers gave it the Sanskrit name Dvipa Sukhadhara, 'Island of Bliss', that has become Socotra. The name goes back to 500 BC at least, when the Persian King Darius knew the island as Iskuduru - from 'sukha-da-ra'. But it may be much older, as the Harappa civilisation on the west coast of India was flourishing in 3000 BC, at much the same time as Egypt and Sumer.

The aloe shares its name, 'plant of immortality', and its bitter taste with the buckthorn of Gilgamesh, which Graves identified as a purgative for initiates to the Mysteries. In M's soul-journey for me, the old woman in the cave spits and vomits at the start to indicate this purging of impurities; and Enrique Rubio has a similar experience with a Mazatec shaman. Even the ambrosia can cause vomiting, as reflected in a nickname for the South American ayahuasca ('vine of souls') - 'the Purge'.

Sukh (bliss) and succinum (amber) seem to mirror the connection we have seen between ambrosia and amber. So it makes sense for Greek Sokos ('made of amber') to father guardians of the Mysteries; and for one of his sons, Melisseus ('honey-man'), to discover ambrosial honey. Less is known of Sokos' wife Kombe. However, a Greek settlement at Kom Ombos in Upper Egypt gave the name Suchos to Sobek (Set), who shares a Twin temple there with Horus. Some connection between Sokos-Kombe and Suchos-Kom Ombos seems very likely.

Melisseus is one of the Curetes or Corybantes linked with the Cabiri, Dioscuri and Dactyli. They are companions of the deity, and often blacksmiths, like the Shemsu Hor (Followers of Horus). Light is the metal they turn into swords to guard the Mysteries. Demeter entrusted the Mysteries to the Cabiri, says Pausanias; while Xenophon says Triptolemus gave them to Heracles and the Dioscuri. Melisseus may also have heard something of them when he joined Dionysus in India. Nonnus records this narrrow escape:

Melisseus also scared all the dusky host [of Indians] with boldness unshaken. True to his name, he imitated the bee up in arms with her terrible sting. Morrheus hurled a hurtling stone against the quick Curete who faces him, but he missed Melisseus, he missed him - for it is not seemly that a Corybante should be killed with a millstone. Dionysiaca 28.275


The Dioscuri appear to have given Socotra its alternative name - 'the Dioscorides'. Alexander may have introduced it after occupying the island in 333 BC, but why for the Dioscuri? Probably because they were the patron deities of sailors and Socotra can be hazardous to reach. But if the Island of Bliss was associated with ambrosial mysteries, it may also have been named after them as guardians of the Mysteries.

The Dioscuri reflect Socotra's east-west connection in their identification with the Hindu Asvini. The Asvini are semi-divine 'honey-coloured twins' known as 'the knights' or 'horsemen'. Larousse says,

Their equivalence to the Greek Dioscuri cannot be called in question; they are Indo-European, and not solely Indian. They bring up the morning light of the sky...[and] at the evening twilight they play a similar part, and perhaps they must be identified with the Morning and Evening Star. p329 Encyclopaedia of Mythology

They are healers, who in one popular story rejuvenate the wealthy old man Syavana to the delight of his young wife Sukanya. In gratitude, Syvana persuades Indra to let the Asvini enjoy soma, the food of the gods. The Indian twins receive the ambrosial key from Indra, as their Greek counterparts do from Demeter. And so the unique Eden-island of Socotra is appropriately named after them and their Mystery. The bliss they bring is evident in the young wife's name 'Suk-anya'.

After their deaths, Castor and Pollux (the Dioscuri) are immortalised in the constellation of Gemini (the 'Twins'). Now two places are named after them - one on earth and one in the heavens. Graham Hancock notes Gemini is the Duat, or netherworld, of the Egyptians ['Heaven's Mirror' p282]. It is no gloomy hell, and indeed 'Blissful Isle' may be a good description; Dvipa Sukhadhara is also 'Abode of the Blessed', from dvipa = island, sukh(a) = bliss, adhara = support. The Duat's deepest divisions are ruled by Sokar (often twinned with Osiris), so it is no coincidence he sounds like Socotra and Sokos. And Sokar, we shall see, means 'sugar' - the 'honey without bees'. This ambrosial significance is repeated in the Asvini who are known for their love of honey, and in Pollux (Polydeuces in Greek) whose name means 'very sweet'.

So the Island of Bliss has a heavenly counterpart in the stars; and it is named after Greek, Indian and Egyptian guardians of the Mysteries, who hold the bitter-sweet secret of ambrosia.

'Sukha' can be further broken down into su meaning 'excellent' and kha meaning 'hole, or aperture of the body'. The sexual suggestion is supported in the original meaning of 'having a good axle hole'. But if Socotra is the hole, where is its axle? Santillana and von Dechend explore world axles in their book, 'Hamlet's Mill'. Ancient peoples identified connecting times and places between here and the stars. The heavens revolve around the Pole Star, and the zodiac moves round the earth, like a wheel round an axle. If Socotra is the hole for the axis to the next world, it makes sense that Castor and Pollux were understood as the axes or 'pillars' between heaven and earth.

Socotra, in many ways a literal Eden with unique plants from a time gone by, is connected also to the Eden in the stars: Abode of the Blessed.


Dracaena cinnabari, the mushroom-shaped Dragon's Blood tree, is endemic to Socotra (a member of the lily family, like the aloe). It has even been suggested 'Socotra' comes from the Arab words suq = market and qutra = qatir = dragon's blood, although others say this is untenable on philological grounds. But the Arab word for 'dragon's blood' literally means 'the blood of two brothers', which returns us to the Twins.

We learn more about dragon's blood from its Persian word, which we know as 'cinnabar'. This was used both for the red resin of the tree and for red sulphide of mercury - a connection between the Twins and mercury that continues in astrology, where Gemini is ruled by Mercury. The two cinnabars had some similar uses, especially as a dye with powerful 'red' symbolism and as an aid to immortality. Alchemists called the phoenix the 'cinnabar bird' for this reason, and the first alchemists, the Egyptians (al-kmt), called their phoenix the 'Benu', meaning 'purple heron'. In one myth, the Benu springs from the dying heart of Osiris (paired with Set). So the phoenix becomes a mercurial extension of the rejuvenating Twins, and of Dracaena cinnabari.

Roman Mercury is Greek Hermes and ibis-headed Thoth, the first alchemist. Ibis and heron are related wading birds that nest together; and the long, curved beak of the ibis is thought to represent the crescent moon, while the phoenix-heron is the sun. In the creation myth of Heliopolis, Ra, the Sun-god, rises as a phoenix to utter the creative Word, which takes form as his son Thoth. 'I am the way, the truth and the life', says Jesus, the Word made flesh. 'Sweet is the truth' agree the followers of Thoth, with their New Year gifts of sweets.

Thoth, like Hermes and Mercury, is the voice or messenger of the Divine. And in Greek and Jewish thought, the Word or Logos is the mediator between heaven and earth. Christ was a phoenix from earliest times, being one with the Father. These four - Thoth, Hermes, Mercury and Christ - are joined by Enoch, who is the first human soul to become the Christ in rabbinical tradition. And Peter Dawkins writes:

Ancient myth refers to Enoch as the Phoenix King (ie Atlantis). His country Atlantis, is also known as Phoenicia, the land of the phoenixes.

Devotees of Ganesa, like those of Thoth, make offerings of sweets, which represent the sweetness of bliss (ananda). Alain Danielou refers to him as 'Ganesha, Korybas or Hermes, Lord of Obstacles, Guardian of Gates and Mysteries'. And as 'Korybas' implies, his followers the Ganas may be compared with other guardians of the Mysteries, like the Cabiri, Korybantes, Dioscuri etc. Upon his birth, his mother Parvati receives a sweet from the gods called 'great intelligence' and 'nectar of immortality' (cf. the Tree of Knowledge and Tree of Life).

John Grimes describes Ganesa's incarnation in the treta yuga:

Parvati enquired of her lord, Siva, 'on whom are you meditating?' Siva replied, 'On he who is the supporter of the entire universe.' She asked, 'Can I meditate on him too?' Siva said, 'Of course', and initiated her into the Ganesa mantra 'GAM'. She retired to the Lenyadri hills and performed penance for 12 years. Then being pleased with her worship, Ganesa appeared before her and granted her a boon. She said that she wished that Ganesa would be born as her son, and he said, 'So be it.'   p192 Ganapati, Song of the Self.

Ganesa's task in this yuga was to regain the ever-full bowl of amrita (ambrosia), which had been swallowed by the monster Sindhu. Taking a peacock for his mount, Ganesa cuts open Sindhu's body and empties it of the life-giving nectar.

In the following yuga, the Elephant-god turns red after killing Sindura, of the flawless pink complexion: the beautiful child of Lord Brahma had become an unstoppable monster after gaining power over the 3 worlds. It is from the name Sindura that Persian zinjifrah is thought to derive, which becomes Roman cinnabaris. And Pliny reports the belief that Indian cinnabar was the mixture of elephant and dragon's blood after their titanic clash. Sindura-Ganesa is the red 'cinnabar bird', the phoenix of the new age, like Mercury, Hermes, Thoth, Christ and Enoch.

As Ganesa kills ambrosial Sindhu and Sindura, so Heracles kills the dragon Ladon guarding the golden apples of the Hesperides. Gaia's wedding gift to Hera was the exclusive food of the gods. And streams flowing with ambrosia no doubt contributed to the islands' alternative name, the 'Fortunate' or 'Happy' Isles - echoing Socotra. They are thought to lie past the pillars of Heracles (Gibraltar), in the Canary Islands, where the closest relative of Socotra's Dragon's Blood tree grows, Dracaena draco. This tree rose from the blood of the dragon Ladon, like Socotra's from the blood of Sindura-Ganesa or the two brothers. So when Triptolemus entrusts the secrets of the Mysteries to Heracles and the Dioscuri, they stretch from the Canaries in the farthest west to Socotra in the farthest east of the ancient Greek world. The sun's amber path between the Fortunate Isles and Abode of the Blessed illuminates the ambrosial Mysteries of death and rebirth.

Dragon Ladon is the serpent of Eden, and also 100-eyed Argus killed by Hermes to free Io (Demeter/Persephone, Isis). He is dragon-tailed Cerberus guarding the entrance to Elysium, and the winged panthers or serpopards guarding the Tree of Life. He is the winged-snakes of Hermes' caduceus, and the seraphim of Moses and Isaiah. He is the Twins and other guardians of the Mysteries. He is the ambrosial blood of Broteas, Jesus and Odin. He is the red cinnabar bird, and as Wikipedia notes: 'The long neck of Purple Heron looks particularly snake-like.' He is the Pole Star (phoenix) and the guarding constellation of Draco, who loses his golden stars to precession. He is guardian of the treasure, the treasure itself and the heroic thief, as the many become one at the centre. He has, and is, the secret of the Mystery. He is the Dragon's Blood tree.


The Greeks believed the phoenix came from Southern Arabia or Ethiopia - between which are the Dragon's Blood trees of Socotra. The website 'Socotra - Island of the Phoenix' includes this quote from Pliny:

[The Phoenix] ...That famous bird of Arabia - the size of an eagle with brilliant gold plumage around the neck while the rest of the body is a purple colour except the tail which is azure with long feathers intermingled of a roseate hue. The throat is adorned with a crest and the head with a tuft of feathers... It is sacred to the sun. When old it builds a nest of cinnamon and sprigs of incense...and then lays its body upon them to die. From its bones and marrow there springs a small worm, which changes into a little bird...The first thing that it does is perform the obsequies of its predecessor and to carry its nest entire to the City of the Sun near Panchaia (Socotra) and there deposit it upon the altar of that divinity...

Interestingly the vivid red of cinnabar is called vermillion, which comes from the Latin vermiculus, meaning 'little worm'. Worm, or wurm/wyrm in Old English, also meant 'serpent or dragon'. The cinnabar bird is also the winged serpent or dragon.

Virgil refers to 'Panchaia with all her wealth of spicy sands'; and Diodorus of Sicily locates it 'among the islands in the Arabian Ocean, along the coast of Arabia Felix'. An 18th century BC Egyptian tale even refers to Socotra as 'paa-enka' ('Island of the Genius'), home of the king of the Incense Land. So Socotra fits the available references to Panchaia, and though Pliny does not say the phoenix is born there, it is perhaps implied in the association. The 'City of the Sun' he mentions is 'Heliopolis' in Egypt, of which more shortly.

Pliny continues:

The same Manilius states also, that the revolution of the great year is completed with the life of this bird, and that then a new cycle comes round again with the same characteristics as the former one, in the seasons and the appearance of the stars.

The 'great year' referred to a cycle of years, such as the 19-year Metonic cycle of the sun and moon, or the 60-year conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn, or the 2160-year cycle of Sirius, or the 25,920-year cycle of the precession of the equinoxes etc. The fire-bird from the Dragon Tree of Socotra symbolises rebirth and the completion of a cycle, just like the fire-stone from the weeping sisters of the Sun.


Something like the mystery of Panchaia and the phoenix is the mysterious land of Punt, which the Egyptians claimed for their homeland. Suggestions for its location have ranged from neighbouring Ethiopia and Somalia, to Southern Arabia, distant India or Indonesia, and long gone Atlantis and Lemuria. Egyptian trading expeditions to Punt are recorded, mainly in search of incense and spices. Clearly they did not sail to Lemuria, but they may have sailed somewhere with its long ago associations, and nowhere better than Socotra with its unique plant life. In 'Atlantis - The Antedeluvian World', Ignatius Donnelly notes,

It is to Atlantis we must look for the origin of nearly all our valuable plants. Darwin says, 'It has often been remarked that we do not owe a single useful plant to Australia, or the Cape of Good Hope--countries abounding to an unparalleled degree with endemic species--or to New Zealand, or to America south of the Plata; and, according to some authors, not to America north of Mexico.' In other words, the domesticated plants are only found within the limits of what I shall show hereafter was the Empire of Atlantis and its colonies.

JS Gordon in his 'Land of the Fallen Star Gods' draws together various options for the location of the Egyptians' homeland, before concluding that over 100,000 years ago,

Egypt itself appears to have been colonised from the west via Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia by (northern) Atlantes...[and later] colonised from the east by other (Caucasian) Indo-Aryans via north-west India, the Levant and Arabia. p63


The first dynasty of the combined kingdom of Lower and Upper Egypt made Memphis its capital in about 3100 BC. Ptah was its primary deity, the blacksmith creator of the cosmos, and his soul (later Osiris's) incarnated in the Apis bull. Memphis remained the administrative capital of Egypt even after Thebes took precedence around 1500 BC. So it is quite likely the place from where Moses set out for the Exodus. Adjoining it was the necropolis of Sakkara, from where deceased pharaohs made their own exodus to the Promised Land. The first stone pyramid was built there (in the third dynasty), and before that sunken tombs called mastabas.

Sakkara is thought to be named after its cemetery god Sakar/Sokar/Seker. As Ptah-Sokar, his consort was the Lioness-goddess Sekhmet ('a title of Hathor' - Larousse); and by the Middle Kingdom he appeared in the triad Ptah-Sokar-Osiris. Falcon-headed, he was the Night Sun who assisted the rebirth of the Day Sun. Thus he was god of death and resurrection. Like the Asvini with their powers of rejuvenation, he was depicted both with the dying sun at the end of the day and the rising sun at dawn. The amber Sun-stone ('sekal' in Egyptian) with its warm touch and golden colours promised rebirth from the darkness of his tombs. For of all places, Sakkara, the birth-place of the pyramids, would know the a-mbrosial secrets of death and rebirth.

Sokar had a most significant title in the Egyptian books of the Duat - The God who is Upon his Sand. Hancock explains,

'The Duat consists of a total of 12 distinct 'Divisions' each placing a new test or ordeal in the way of the pilgrim soul on its afterlife journey... In the Fourth and Fifth Divisions [the 'Kingdom of Sokar'] the pilgrim is described as 'the hidden traveller upon the way of the holy country whose secret things are hidden', and his goal is to discover...'the hidden thing which is on this secret way'.' HM 146.

The Egyptians located the Duat by Gemini, as we have seen. This was the constellation of the Twins who gave their name to Socotra - which we can see now as Sokar's Kingdom. There, the 'plant of immortality', flourished in the 'Abode of the Blest'. At the heart of Sokar's Kingdom in the Fifth Division of the Duat is a 'pyramidical mound' surmounted by a cylindrical object with two birds, which Hancock compares with the bas relief of the Churning of the Milky Ocean (amrita) at Angkor Wat. Here, at the lowest and darkest point of Death's kingdom, the immortal ambrosia is made.

Hancock continues:

The most striking characteristic of the Fifth Division of the Duat is that the texts describing it contain numerous clues and hints linking it to the three great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza. Indeed, the respected Egyptologist Selim Hassan goes so far as to state that the Fifth Division 'had its geographical counterpart in the Giza necropolis'. HM 147

If Hassan is right, the Kingdom of Sokar is reproduced in the pyramids of Giza. These three pyramids have recently been thought to align with the stars of Orion's belt. And as Hancock notes, 'the Orion constellation was seen by the ancient Egyptians as the celestial image of Osiris, Lord of the Duat' [HM 96]. We have already seen that Orion was closely related to the Bee and Panther deities, and likewise Osiris was worshipped in the 'Mansion of the Bee' and his priests wore leopard-skin robes. So the ambrosial honey associations of the Asvini, Dioscuri and Sokar extend to Osiris, whose Orion constellation is beside Gemini in the sky.

Osiris is also 'Lord of Rostau' - the land and tunnels of the Giza pyramids. The title was previously Sokar's, who became worshipped as the resurrected Osiris (otherwise a title of Horus). In this context, Sokar is the phoenix of Socotra born from the dying heart of Osiris. The phoenix 'is' the benben stone (pyramidion) at the top of the Pyramid, which we shall see represented at the same time the whole pyramid and its spirit, the Bennu bird. The pyramidion also appeared on sacred pillars such as the obelisk of Thutmosis I, where 'an inscription tells us that the pyramidion was originally covered with electrum - an alloy of gold and silver' [HM 108]. This 'electrum' was the Greek name for both the alloy and for amber. As amber is the Sun-stone, this association with the Sun-bird is appropriate.

Beside Giza is Heliopolis, 'older than any other city in Egypt' they told Diodorus Siculus in 1 BC. Its Egyptian name was Innu, 'Pillar' (or Anu, 'House of the Sun'), for it witnessed the beginning of time in its Temple of the Phoenix. The oldest surviving version of the story comes from the pyramid texts of Sakkara, as Hancock relates:

Before the first tick of the First Time, we are told that Atum [also Tum or Tem], the god before all gods, the 'Complete One', the All-Father, lay motionless in the waters of the primordial void...which the ancient Egyptians called the Nun... At the moment preordained, he stirred and surged up through the viscid waters of the Nun...causing something to emerge out of nothing... a piece of divine magic which the ancient Egyptian scriptures used three parallel and interlinked symbols to express. One was the Primeval Mound - the first land to burst forth from the waters of Nun - the second was the sacred Benben stone, the third was the Bennu bird [the Phoenix]. HM 105-6

The god materialised as the Primeval Mound: 'O Atum!' we read in Utterance 600 of the Pyramid Texts. 'When you came into being you rose as a High Hill, you shone as the Benben stone in the Temple of the Phoenix'. The place that the Egyptians regarded as the site of the original Primeval Mound, at the exact geographical centre of Heliopolis, was a raised area called the 'High Sand'. HM 106-7

This High Sand immediately recalls the mound of Sokar, 'The God who is Upon his Sand', with its cylinder and birds. Hence Hassan's statement that the Fifth Division 'had its geographical counterpart in the Giza necropolis'. For the pyramids of Orion/Osiris recreate the primeval mound, with the phoenix on top like the star on a Christmas Tree. The creation myth makes clear that the mound and the cyclical phoenix are two aspects of the same thing - the eternal spirit of life represented by Atum or Sokar or Osiris. This is the same myth as the dove flying from Noah's ark to find the first land above water. And so we should not be surprised to meet Atum again at the start of the Exodus.

But first 'The God who is Upon his Sand' has a secret to reveal in his name.


Sand had two roles in the graves of Sakkara. It was poured down the shaft of the sunken mastaba tomb, which was then covered by stone. And it was made into a mound within the mastaba - representing the primeval mound above the waters of Nun. Thus the sands of Sakkara represents death and rebirth, like the sand of their patron Sokar.

Extraordinarily though, there is an ancient Sanskrit word 'sakkara' that means 'gravel or grit'. This word becomes transferred to the new brown granulated sugar invented in India. Alexander's soldiers marvel at this 'honey without bees' in 333 BC, as Darius' invading soldiers had done in 510 BC. This 'sakkara' became the Sanskrit word for sugar, and then the Arabic for sugar, 'sokar' (later 'sucre' in French). Meanwhile the original Indian or Egyptian word became, or came from, the netherworld god Sokar.

Sugar and sand seem miles apart, but they have more in common than their grains. For this sugar is the miraculous honey without bees, which is the ambrosia of the gods; and this sand is the regenerating spirit of Sokar, the amber phoenix. They come together in the 'sukh' names of our journey - Sakkara, Socotra, Sokar, Sokos and succinum. And now we turn to the last - the whispering branches of succoth.


If Moses was a member of the Egyptian ruling class somewhere between 1500 and 1200 BC, it is likely he set off from Memphis-Sakkara to lead the Exodus. There is little or no independent confirmation of the biblical account, but the Book of Exodus begins with the children of Israel being forced to build 'treasure cities' for the Pharaoh at Raamses and Pithom. After God's Herod-like murder of Egyptian children at Passover, the Pharaoh agrees to release the Israelites and they move from Raamses to Succoth, which is also called Pithom.

'Pithom' comes from Egyptian 'Pa-Tum' meaning 'House of Tum'. Tum (Tem, Atum) was the Creator god who emerged in the primeval mound and phoenix at Heliopolis. He is also Atum-Ra, the weeping Sun-god, and the phoenix Enoch. He is just the god required as the Israelites begin their journey to a new life in the Promised Land. Furthermore, in the papyrus of Anu he is associated with Osiris, Ptah and Sokar:

Praise be to thee, O Osiris, eternal Lord, Un-nefer, Heraakhuti, whose forms are manifold and whose attributes axe majestic, Ptah-Seker-Tem in Anu, lord of the hidden shrine and creator of Hetkaptah (Memphis).

So the Socotran gods assemble at Pithom, which is also called Succoth. And these gods, who are one god, will soon have another name, Yahweh. 'Succoth' - translated as 'booths' or 'tents' or 'tabernacles' - becomes the link between old and new, when Tum's other name becomes the most important festival in the Promised Land. What is so special about his 'tents'?

Our first clue comes from the tribe of Issachar, who are among the children of Israel at Succoth. 'Issachar' is translated variously as 'reward', 'man of hire' and 'worshipper of Sokar'. In Deuteronomy 33:18, Moses says in his last blessing, "Rejoice, Zebulon, in your going out; and Issachar in your tents." And the men of Issachar who later join David (1 Chronicles 12:32) are "men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do", which means they knew how to interpret the stars. So the Issachar tribe appear to be astronomer priests in the Egyptian style, who worship Sokar in tents which are their identifying symbol.

The Jewish festival of Succoth (tents) is also called the Harvest Festival, or Ingathering, or Festival of Tabernacles. It extends over 8 days in autumn to remember and celebrate the Exodus from Egypt. The Exodus took so long - 40 years - because of God's anger with the Israelites for worshipping the Golden Calf. He really wanted to destroy them altogether, but Moses talked him out of it - as Abraham tried to do at Sodom and Gomorrah. The story of Sodom and Gomorrah comes from a Canaanite End of the World myth, and a similar meaning applies to the Golden Calf. Exodus is about a new beginning and a new world. Instead of Noah escaping the flood, or Lot escaping the fire, Moses escapes death in Egypt with the Jews. Such a story requires an end of the (old) world, and God's massacre would normally have provided it. But Moses takes on the task himself. He sees the Golden Calf (bull) on his return from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments; and, despite his words to God, becomes so enraged that he commands his new priests (the Levis) to 'slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour'. 3000 die to produce the inconsolable weeping of amber and honeybees and new souls for the new world. It is a symbolic number, like the 40 years of the Exodus, and comes perhaps from the Egyptian belief that it took 3000 years for a soul to return and reanimate its mummified body (Herodotus).

After Moses talks to God on the mountain, he brings back not fire like Prometheus, or ambrosia like Tantalus, or fruit like Eve, but tablets of stone with the Ten Commandments. Each of these symbols, however, has the same meaning - which is the renewal of divine communion/energy. And although Moses has God's permission (unlike the others), the consequence is the same - the death of the old and birth of the new. Before the new communion with the Divine, there must be a purification. So Moses throws the Golden Calf onto the fire, grinds it into powder and dilutes it for the Jews to drink its 'bitter waters'. This is the purging role of the aloe (anbar), the buckthorn of Gilgamesh and the bitter amber (amarus). In the context of the fallen Sun, the cataclysm and the treasure from God, the purgative fits perfectly into the ambrosial ritual.

Some think cannabis is mentioned in Exodus 30:23, where God tells Moses to make an anointing oil of myrh, cinnamon, calamus and cassia. They translate 'kaneh bosm' - literally aromatic reed - as 'cannabis' rather than 'calamus'. Wikipedia notes:

Cannabis was well known to the Scythians, as well as by the Thracians/Dacians, whose shamans (the kapnobatai - "those who walk on smoke/clouds") used to burn cannabis flowers in order to induce trances.

And Herodotus (450 BC) describes the Scythian use of cannabis:

...Inside this tent they put a dish with hot stones on it. Then they take some hemp seed, creep into the tent, and throw the seed on the hot stones. At once it begins to smoke, giving off a vapour unsurpassed by any vapour bath one could find in Greece. The Scythians enjoy it so much they howl with pleasure...

So it may be significant that God appears through Exodus as a 'pillar of cloud' by day; and in Exodus 40:35 Moses cannot even enter the tent, which is so cloudy with the presence of God. The prohibition on burning any incense but amber, which we saw earlier, may have been introduced to prevent or regulate this practice. Certainly in Exodus 30, God insists the oil is for priests only and anyone else using it will be expelled.

The Golden Calf itself is mostly thought to be the Apis bull of Osiris. The death of this bull signifies the end of a cycle and a rebirth - as we saw at the birth of Orion. Its worship at Sinai is not a momentary aberration of the Israelites, who are told: 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt' (Exodus 32:8). And later King Jeroboam of Israel builds two golden calves saying, 'Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Israel' (1 Kings 12:28). These gods were still being worshipped 200 years later when Israel was conquered by the Assyrians in 721 BC [map]; so there is no doubt that other gods than Yahweh were worshipped in the joyful tents of the 'worshippers of Sokar'.


God tells Moses to institute the Festival of Succoth, so 'your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt' (Leviticus 23). There was in fact a deity 'Succoth-Benoth', meaning 'tents of daughters', who is mentioned in 2 Kings 17:30. Some think she was brought into Israel by Assyrian colonists, although there is no goddess Succoth-Benoth in the Assyrian records. Otherwise it seems possible to read 2 Kings 17 as saying the Babylonians in Israel chose to worship Succoth-Benoth, on the advice of an Israelite priest, to propitiate the local deity. Certainly there were many local deities choose from, if King Solomon's practices are a guide. For he set up altars to Ashtoreth, Milcolm, Chemosh and Molech, apparently to please his 700 wives. And 1 Kings 11:8 adds, 'likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods'.

The 'tents of daughters' were the booths where priestesses of the fertility goddesses (like Ashtoreth - who is Phoenician Astarte and Babylonian Ishtar) had sex with the devout. Wikipedia says of 'sacred prostitution':

It was common in Israel too, but some prophets, like Hosea and Ezekiel, strongly fought it; it is assumed that it was part of the cults of Canaan, where a significant portion of prostitutes were male.

Succoth-Benoth was therefore probably a Love-goddess associated with Venus, like Baltis or Hathor. And if her booths were roofed with trees branches, she may have been a Tree-goddess too, like Dione of Dodona. The purpose of these 'succoth' or tents was ultimately a communion with the gods, like the purpose of ambrosia.

We saw that 'Issachar' means 'reward' and 'man of hire', as well as 'worshipper of Sokar'. And as 'sacred prostitutes' were male and female, it may be that they explain the rejoicing over 'Issachar in your tents'. Deuteronomy 23:18 tells the Israelites not to 'hire' themselves out as male or female temple prostitutes. It continues though because in 2 Kings 7, Josiah brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the grove. Strong's Hebrew dictionary throws more light on the meaning of the words. 'Houses' (of the sodomites) is the same word as 'house' (of the Lord), and means a variety of buildings including a temple (1004); 'sodomites' means a male temple prostitute (6945); the 'hangings' of the women is the same word 'bayith' as the 'houses' of the sodomites, and 'house' of the Lord (1004); and 'grove' means the grove of the goddess Asherah (842).

So although it seems rather extraordinary in these changed times, it was in keeping with their religious traditions for the Israelites of the Exodus to have sacred prostitutes. And these were most likely from the tribe of Issachar, the hired men (and presumably women) of the worshippers of Sokar.


The 'succoth' after which the Festival is named, are the makeshift huts in which the Hebrews lived during their 40-year Exodus. The faithful build replicas of these booths, which become their homes for the 8-day festival. The booth should not be enclosed - ie, with just 3 sides and a partial roof through which to see the stars. The roof should ideally be of tree branches, and the idea is to create a holy space close to God in nature. The booth recalls the ancient practise of gathering under whispering trees to commune with the deity. Temple pillars have the same role of reproducing the sacred groves.

On each day of the festival, the faithful circle round the altar shaking 'the four species':

...take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the HaShem your God

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23:40

Hillel ben David notes:

'The trees' is interpreted by the rabbis to refer specifically to an etrog (citron), and the 'palm fronds,' 'leafy branches,' and 'poplars' have been interpreted as a lulav (palm branch), hadasim (myrtle), and aravot (willows), respectively.

The poplar was the tree in which the sisters of Phaethon wept their amber tears. In Latin it is called the 'populus', meaning 'people'. One theory for the name is that 'people' gathered beneath 'poplars' to hear the word of God rustling in the leaves. Poplars belong to the willow family and are often confused in the Bible. It seems Armenian Sun worshippers called the Arewordik ('children of the Sun') were still noted for their reverence of the poplar, aspen and willow in the 12th century AD.

The basic commandment of the Four Species consists of holding them in your hand and then shaking them...

Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us by His commandments, and instructed us concerning the waving of the palm branch... Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the universe, for keeping us in life, for sustaining us, and for helping us reach this day.

The purpose of waving the four species (collectively called a lulav) is variously described as a prayer for rain, or Jewish unity, or for getting closer to God. The faithful wave the lulav as they circle around the sanctuary, and ben David compares it to circling the walls of Jericho and breaking down the barriers between oneself and God. The branches waved in the air seem to resurrect symbolically the trees of old; while the 'shaking' is especially reminiscent of the aspen, the 'Populus tremula'. God indeed spoke through poplars (mistranslated as 'mulberry') to David in 2 Samuel 6:

And let it be, when you hear the sound a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then you bestir yourself: for then shall the Lord go out before you to smite the host of the Philistines.

The Festival of Succoth gives thanks for the rebirth that is Exodus. It takes place in booths, close to God, that recall his talks through the whispering poplar. It celebrates the journey that started in Succoth, the House of Tum, with the worshippers of Sokar. It replays the sacred myth of the fall of the Sun and its rise again. There is great destruction in the desert followed by joy as Moses renews the holy communion with God. Cannabis may be part of the ambrosial cup, which is taken after the purifying purgative of the 'bitter water'. Through the whispering trees, the sacred prostitutes and divine ambrosia, the children of Israel feel closer to God than ever before.



And so we reach the Promised Land flowing with Milk and Honey.

In the journey from Roman succinum to Jewish succoth, the Light passes from amber Sun-stone to amber-weeping poplar. Along the way it shines on the amber guardians and honey-coloured Twins of the Mysteries, and on the amber phoenix. Its spotlight falls on the Island of Bliss, where the bitter juices of aloe, like those of the buckthorn, amber and the Golden Calf, prepare initiates for the plant of immortality. From Socotra it flies on phoenix wings to the second home of the Twins in the Egyptian Duat. Sokar rules the deepest regions here, churning ambrosia from the Milky Ocean of the stars. He flies from his graves at Sakkara to the benben stone on the Great Pyramid to become Osiris the panther and Orion the honeybee. Reborn from the dragon's blood of Osiris, he continues to the temple of the Phoenix in the City of the Sun. Here the immortal bird is the Creator-god Tem, who is also the weeping Sun-god Atum-Ra. From his home at Pithom, Tem joins the worshippers of Sokar on their Exodus to the Promised Land. With rejoicing in the smoky tents, or succoth, the children of Israel taste the purifying juices and honeyed ambrosia of a new communion with the Divine. Their bitter tears are transformed under poplar branches into the Light of amber, the honey of bees and the new souls of the chosen people.

Succinum, Sokos, Socotra, Sokar, Sakkara, Succoth reveal a connecting thread between different faces of the Divine. The promise of bliss extends through cycles of death, tears and purgation into rebirth. Some believe a major cyclic change is imminent, which was a theme in the Black Madonna dreams. However, the symbolism applies also to personal change. Black Panther's 'Look for Dione' appears now as a call to look for the Oracle-goddess and listen to her whispering branches. She speaks the Language of the Birds, which Jesus describes as 'for those who have ears to hear'. If a cyclic change is upon us, it is time to renew our communion with the Divine.

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[NB Nothing in these pages is intended to encourage experimenting with 'magic mushrooms' or other drugs. There are serious dangers, and in addition 'flying panther' mushrooms are easily confused with poisonous members of the same family.]

The Search for Bliss

Shaman by Jim Robinson