The Homeric tales of the Iliad and the Odyssey do not add up. There was no “Troy” in Turkey until Alexander built one. There are no giant waves and major tides in the inlet of the Bosporus straits closest to the alleged Troy. There was no alliance of Greeks in 1200 B.C. as they themselves begin their history with a traditional date of 776 B.C. Nor was there a Trojan Empire in Anatolia where the powerful Hittite empire ruled and recorded history meticulously.
History has a way of building foundations on sand. For centuries it was assumed the Greeks and Romans built the civilization enjoyed by Europe. That is, until Sumeria and Assyria rose literally from the earth in the Middle East. Sumerian and Babylonian texts even challenged the origin of concepts in the Old Testament like the story of Noah—a recycled Sumerian epic. Conquered empires were forgotten until just in the last two centuries when their texts were unearthed and translated.
One of the greatest misconceptions was that stargazers in Egypt and Babylon were first to devise systems to measure time and predict eclipses. Long before those Middle-Eastern pyramids were built, an advanced culture stretching from Scotland’s Northern Isles to Portugal and Northwestern Africa was active in a vast shared culture that stretched along the Atlantic.
Here is where the gods arose. Here is where Atlas held up the sky. Here is where Apollo ventured every nineteen years. It was, in fact, a pre-Celtic Atlantean culture, complete with a series of city states and trade alliances of which the Eastern Mediterranean culture was only partially aware.
The Greeks and even the Egyptians inherited their earliest gods from the west. The Greeks were brought the alphabet from the Phoenicians, those sea peoples who controlled the Straits of Gibraltar, also known as the Pillars of Hercules. The Phoenicians also brought to Greece the heroic tales that were first told among the Atlantic Celts of Ireland and Brittany. These tales were passed down through the generations orally for centuries by the Bards.
Homer simply wrote them down using that emerging technology called writing. He then re-wrote them for the stage where they were performed for the masses who could not read. The Iliad and the Odyssey took three eight-hour sessions to recite. They would be part of the entertainment at fairs and religious festivals.
Homer’s source is betrayed by the hidden remnants of the pre-Celtic world, and in words that barely survive, in closer to modern Celtic-based languages.
The Odyssey can be described as a Celtic immrama. This is a tale that conveys a death and rebirth allegory. Many islands will be visited by the voyager, mostly unintended. The Christianized Voyage of Maelduin has the travelers visiting thirty-one islands populated by giants, great beasts, shouting birds and the inevitable “island of women.” Ulysses, too, is on such a voyage.
Our first clue is that Ulysses is the son of Laertes, the Celtic word for thief. And a thief with a boat is more typically a pirate. His first act upon leaving Troy is to sack the city of the Cicones.
Next in the Odyssey we find our hero Ulysses trapped in a cave with the demonic Cyclops who is eating two of his men at each meal. Ulysses sharpens a stick described as large as a ship’s mast. He plied the giant with the wine. He told the monster his name was Noman. In return for the wine, the giant replied that his gift for the hospitality was that Noman would be eaten last. When the giant passed out the surviving men rammed the sharp stick into the giant’s eye.
His screaming could be heard outside the cave and his fellow Cyclops called out to see what was wrong. The giant answered, “No-man” is hurting me. His neighbors took his behavior for drunkenness and did not intervene.
The word used in Homer for “noman” was “outis.” In Celtic, however, “outis” was a word meaning “sharp stick.” It was then the translation that adds to the story. The art of “punning” is ancient and is favored by the Celts and not the Greeks.
After the disaster on the island of the Cyclops, they boarded their ships and took off. “We came next to the Island of Aiolia,” nicknamed the Island of the Winds. Described as having bronze walls, it may be a fortified island, or just a place where sheer (red) cliffs reach down to the sea. Homer tells us the ruler of Aiolos had twelve children, six sons and six daughters married to each other. The king receives Ulysses well and plies him and his men with food so that Ulysses will stay long enough to tell him of the war and other news. His host provides him, according to Homer, with a bag that contains favorable winds, enough to get him home. Homer tells us for nine days the “bag” is tied to the ship and they do have suitable winds which carry them. Relaxed because he is close to home, Ulysses falls into a deep sleep. His men open the bag, thinking it conceals a treasure. Instead it is a wind that blows them in a reverse direction.
Again a Celtic or pre-Celtic word, still used in Breton and Welsh speech is “Bag.” It means ship. It makes more sense that the king provided the gift of a ship to replace a damaged vessel.
The ship of Ulysses was damaged. They landed on an Atlantic Isle where the ruler gave them a ship. They coasted towards home using only the currents rather than the sail. As Ulysses slept, his men may have rushed things by opening the sails. They were close to home, but now picked up an unfavorable wind and instead of completing the voyage home, they found themselves again on the island.
An important part of the story is Ulysses reaching the home of Circe, the land of the goddess. Once her sanctuary was the Cir-kle, our “circle.” It was a circle in which the witches would enclose themselves to bring down the forces that would intercede with their power. The circle became the kirkos, and in Scotland and other northern realms the “Kirk” provides us with our word “church.” Both, of course, are sanctuaries. Both are places where we call on the gods, spirits, angels and others to provide us health, wealth and a better afterlife.
Homer describes Circe, mixing her potion of grated cheese, barley meal, yellow honey and drugs to make Ulysses’ men turn into pigs.
There may be more to the story. The Ork-ney Islands north of Scotland, and the Hebrides to the west were places where the goddess ruled in 1200 B.C. Ulysses’ men stumbled across a ceremony of Circe’s that called on the Sow as an oracle goddess. It was death to profane the Goddesses’ mysteries and Ulysses’ sailors simply walked in uninvited. The potion given to the men was preparing them for a grisly death.
Before the Greeks were in Greece the annual and semi-annual sacrifices to the goddess for fertility were ghastly rites. From Britain to Africa, a king ruled for a year with the consent of the goddess, or her representative priestess. For a year he acted as king and was treated royally, but at the end of his reign he was the sacrifice for a healthy crop. The death of Hercules was celebrated with the sun-god Hercules being tied to a T-shaped oak. He was bound, beaten, blinded and impaled with mistletoe before being hacked to death. His blood was sprinkled on everyone present. The story survives in the traditional song celebrating John Barleycorn.
Later a child would take the place of the virile king, and finally animal sacrifice replaced human sacrifice.
It was up to Ulysses to placate the priestess. He was then given a sacred apple and told he must visit the underworld. Hades was to be feared but Circe demanded he visit a dead seer. It is a typical feature in Celtic tales that an oracle was located near a shore, often an island. Caves also feature prominently in Celtic voyage tales and they often involve a cave that is on an island.
In tracking Ulysses through the Atlantic seas it is a relatively short trip from the Orkney home of Circe to Iceland. There the dark can last well into day, volcanic eruptions can be hellish and an underworld entrance is easy to imagine. Jules Verne placed the entrance to the center of the earth here.
Just as close is an island off the coast of Ireland. Even into the last century the cave of Lough Derg, on an island in Ireland, was a place where Irish Christians came to spend a night. It was an odd initiation, described as a purgatory, necessary to shed the stain of accumulated sins. Often the night spent in the darkness of the cave found the penitent confronted with visions. The cave itself would be called St. Patrick’s Purgatory. The church had found it impossible to erase the odd pagan tradition. At least a Christian name would help put an end to an old practice. Finding it impossible to stop the practice, the cave was finally sealed and a chapel built outside the cave. Thousands of pilgrims continue to perform the penances, which climax in a sleepless night in the chapel.
If we view the voyage of Ulysses as an initiation rite, the death and rebirth of the hero may have been at this point. With the guidance of Circe, as well as her gifts that he will need on this part of the voyage, the hero Ulysses successfully does what few have done before. He sails to the Oracle of Hades and lives to return.
Other features found in Homer can be found in the passageway between the Orkney Islands and Caithness in northern Scotland. The seer directed Ulysses to pass through Scilla and Charybdis. Scilla might be the Seil-aa, from the ancient tongue that would become the Seal Waters. Anyone who has surprised a colony of seals sleeping in a cave could make the comparison to sirenic creatures with somewhat human faces. A whirlpool also exists in the Pentland Firth called Swelkie. A more innocent version might be that a whirlpool exists opposite a large seal or walrus colony.
Three thousand years after the original telling of the story it is easy to wonder what was meant to be real and what was allegory. Celtic poetry contains riddles, puzzles, puns and, all too often, the impossible. One favorite device was the concept of the thin line between opposites. This was significant in Celtic myth. Lines without breath symbolize the supernatural. Banished spirits can be contained in places “between the bark and the tree.” A place where on one side the voyager is at risk of being pulled in and on the other side risks being pulled out, sounds like such a device.
Ulysses survives the natural and supernatural dangers to find himself in Helios, where the cattle of the Sun king were left to feed.
In the Welsh language Ap-Heol was the Son of the Sun. This form of the word Apollo was echoed in Egypt where Ap-Ul was the opener of the ways. So far was the knowledge of the ways of the heavenly bodies carried. From Scotland, Ireland, England and Carnac to Egypt were the legends of the importance of the sun’s movements were recorded in stone. Given the sailing direction from the barren and often dark north it would not be illogical to look in England, Wales or along the Atlantic.
Ulysses alone escaped the wrath of the king. “From that place I drifted for nine days.” On the tenth he came to the island of Ogygia. There dwells Calypso the goddess both terrible and beautiful. There, Ulysses was the captive of the bewitching Calypso. This goddess wants him for a husband. Where Circe was apparently a more powerful goddess, Calypso is more human.
In the clutches of the radiant and bewitching Calypso, life should be a paradise for Ulysses, yet it is a prison. Our hero spends his days on the shore wishing to again see his own wife and son. This part of the tale shocked the Greek audience. A man, especially a heroic figure such as Ulysses, could not be kept by a woman.
A Celtic, or pre-Celtic audience, may not have reacted in shock. Women were priestesses, queens, warriors and even teachers of martial arts. Celtic custom often saw young men going into the household, away from their natural father, for their upbringing.
Finally Ulysses is freed.
Where was Ogygia? Seventy-five percent of the early inscriptions called Ogam are found in the southwestern corner of Ireland and the Aran Islands. On these islands, off the coast of the Atlantic west side of Ireland there exist substantial stone forts, including Oghil Fort, and its “og” name is shared with nearby Oghil village. The Fort was a mighty semicircle of three concentric enclosures sitting on the brink of a three-hundred-foot sheer cliff.
It is possible, however, that the Irish Ogam had existed when Phoenician traders sailed north for tin. Phoenicians took the letters along with their cargo of tin and carried back the letters to the Mediterranean and along the way the composition changed. The ‘A’ became the most important first letter and had two horns representative of the bull or ox.
If the Odyssey existed outside the Mediterranean then so did the Iliad, the story of the Trojan War, Helen, the Horse and all the rest. Strabo, one of the greatest early historians, said that after the war the coastal city of Troy was destroyed by flood and fire. Hisarlik, where modern historians claim Troy is, was never flooded.
We can find a city known from ancient times near Lisbon in Portugal. The city is called Troia, and its ruins are literally poking out from the sands. This Troia was destroyed in 1200 B.C., and again in Roman times, and still a third time in the eighteenth century when Neptune’s wrath sent a massive earthquake that was followed by fire killing 30,000 people in less than an hour.
The blind Homer took a tale from four hundred years before his time and placed it near his home, but the real war was fought between the city-states of the Atlantic coast.
Steven Sora is the author of many books dealing with esoteric history including the forthcoming Triumph of the Sea Gods coming to a bookstore near you in August. You can also get it from Atlantis Rising.