archetypes & roles
History is replete with numerous myths of dying and resurrecting gods — Osiris, Persephone, Dionysus, Inanna, Odin, Baal, Ganesh, Krishna, Jesus the Christ.
What if there was no historical Jesus? Is Jesus a god or a mortal son of God?
Generally we regard the Jesus figure mainly from writings in the New Testament — although there were various Jesus movements in early Christianity.
When considering whether the Jesus narrative is comparable to a dying and rising god myth, we tend to pick one of these Christian narratives. Yet there could be other stories that bear revelation.
Why does the idea of a heroic saviour — who suffers, dies and is reborn — resonate? What is the draw of a Paul Atreides in yet another retelling of Dune?
Jewish scripture removes much of the mystique from Christianity while the similarity to the Jesus of the synoptic gospels to those of pagan gods — though less specific — remains no less relevant.
Which begs us to consider the power in the symbol of a suffering servant character — a source that would have motivated gospel writers to emphasize this — when telling the Jesus narrative.
An often neglected figure in the history of religion helps dispel the mystery — the shaman. Since ancient times, nomadic clans of hunter-gatherers have employed healer-seers who are in charge of their well being and safety.
One of the first initiations into becoming a shaman is either a near death experience or a dismemberment dream or vision.
According to Mircea Eliade in Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy — the shaman typically underwent a spiritual secondary birth with an initiation ritual in which he symbolically dies, in an altered, ecstatic, trance state, travels to the spirit world, and is reborn with shamanic powers.
Death and resurrection was hardly confined to stories about pagan demigods. The long prehistory of world religions features the same theme applied to legends of human shamans. As is the case with the Christian gospels’ narrations of a human, suffering, and Jewish Jesus.
This same principle is applied to our current celebration of death and rebirth in many cultures around the world today. As seen in our coming holidays — All Hallows Eve, All Souls Day, Dia de los Muertos [Day of the Dead].
Let us all rejoice in life and living.