Friday 8 April 2011

Romulus and Remus: Establishment and Witch - Part 2

Okay, back to Romulus and Remus.   I'd first like to quote from the Wikipedia article about them, since I think it gives a pretty good summary.  The think to remember is that there are many versions of the myth.  This doesn't reflect all of them.

Romulus and Remus are Rome's twin founders in its traditional foundation myth, although the former is sometimes said to be the sole founder. Their maternal grandfather was Numitor, rightful king of Alba Longa, a descendant of the Trojan prince, Aeneas and father to Rhea Silvia (also known as Ilia). Before their conception, Numitor's brother Amulius deposed his brother, killed his sons and forced Rhea to become a Vestal Virgin, intending to deprive Numitor of lawful heirs and thus secure his own position; but Rhea conceived Romulus and Remus by either the god Mars or the demi-god Hercules. When the twins were born, Amulius left them to die but they were saved by a series of miraculous interventions. A she-wolf found them and suckled them. A shepherd and his wife then fostered them and raised them to manhood as shepherds. The twins proved to be natural leaders and acquire many followers. When told their true identities, they killed Amulius, restored Numitor to the throne of Alba Longa and decided to found a new city for themselves.

Romulus wished to build the new city on the Palatine Hill but Remus preferred the Aventine Hill. They agreed to determine the site through augury. Romulus appeared to receive the more favorable signs but each claimed the results in his favour. In the disputes that followed, Remus was murdered by Romulus. Ovid has Romulus invent the festival of Lemuria to appease Remus' resentful ghost. Romulus names the new city Rome after himself and goes on to create the Roman Legions and the Roman Senate. Rome's population is swelled by incomers, including landless refugees and outlaws; most are men. Romulus arranges the abduction of women from the neighboring Sabine tribes, which immediately leads to war but eventually results in the combination of Sabines and Romans as one Roman people. Rome rapidly expands to become a dominant force in central Italy, due to divine favour and the inspired administrative, military and political leadership of Romulus. In later life Romulus becomes increasingly autocratic, disappears in mysterious circumstances and is deified as the god Quirinus, the divine persona of the Roman people.

The image of the she-wolf suckling the divinely fathered twins became an iconic representation of the city and its founding legend, making Romulus and Remus preeminent among the feral children of ancient mythography. The legend as a whole encapsulates Rome's ideas of itself, its origins and moral values; for modern scholarship, it remains one of the most complex and problematic of all foundation myths, particularly in the matter and manner of Remus' death. Ancient historians had no doubt that Romulus gave his name to the city. Most modern historians believe his name a back-formation from the name Rome; the basis for Remus' name and role remain subjects of ancient and modern speculation. The myth was fully developed into something like an "official", chronological version in the Late Republican and early Imperial era. Roman historians dated the city's foundation from 758 to 728 BC. Plutarch says Romulus was fifty-three at his death; his reckoning gives the twins' birth year as c. 771 BC. Possible historical bases for the broad mythological narrative remain unclear and are much disputed. Very few scholars believe in the historicity of Romulus and Remus, but Andrea Carandini is one. He bases his belief on the 1988 discovery of an ancient wall which he names as the Murus Romuli on the north slope of the Palatine Hill in Rome, and dates to the mid 8th century BC.

In all versions of the myth, there are strong parallels between the birth of the twins and the birth of Moses in the Torah.  Both were meant to die but were saved.  Both were placed in baskets in a river, in this myth on the Tiber instead of the Nile.  Both were saved from the river.  Moses was found and raised by a princess, whereas Tiberinus, the river deity, directed the twins' basket to the reeds where they were rescued and suckled by a wolf.  There are a lot of parallels between how the Jews view Moses and how Rome viewed Romulus, but I won't go there here.

Whether the myth is true or not, whether Romulus and Remus really lived, whether they really founded Rome, doesn't really matter, like it doesn't with most myths.  The myth, Romulus, is Rome and Rome is Romulus.  The myth shaped Rome and Rome shaped the myth.  You can't have Rome as it was without Romulus.  And you can't have the modern Western world without Rome, because it grew out of Rome.  Most of Europe and the New World are the result of Rome.  Basically what is identified as the Christian world is the modern Roman world.  The West is Rome and Rome is Romulus.  We, the modern world, are the results of this myth.  Romulus formed the Roman Senate in the myth, and Western government, and also Western religious structures, come from the Senate.  It is all the product of Romulus, Romulus the son of a god, Romulus raised by wolves, Romulus the shepherd, Romulus the warrior, Romulus the leader, Romulus the kinslayer.

But what of Remus?  There is no Romulus without Remus.  They are twins.  The story of Romulus is the story of Remus.  There's a reason why Remus, so mysterious to historians, is always part of the story.  But all the stories are either about both doing something or about only Romulus.  Who was this Remus?  Why is he important?

Seeing Romulus as the leader and Remus as the follower is easy with the focus on Romulus.  It's easy to think Remus just followed his brother's lead, never questioned, never argued, did whatever Romulus wanted.  But is this true?  The stories say they both proved to be excellent leaders and gained many followers.  It wasn't just Romulus the leader and Remus the follower.  This matches my dream with each of the twins leading a group.  But what more do we know about Remus?
Some versions of the myth tell of a disagreement.  The twins want to build a city, the city that would later be known as Rome.  They disagree on which hill to build it one.  They decide to use augury to decide.  Remus sees six eagles (or vultures) and Romulus sees twelve.  Remus claims it favoured him because he saw his six before Romulus saw any.  Romulus claims it favoured him because he saw more.  Romulus and his followers start building a wall (or a boundary, a trench, etc, depending on the version), while Remus watches, criticizing.  I'll finish this story in a moment, but first, what do we see here?  Is Remus just a follower?  Obviously not.  They disagreed, and Remus didn't just give in.

The end of this version is interesting, and gets to the root of where I've been heading.  Remus jumps over the wall as an insult to the defenses.  Romulus gets mad and kills Remus and says, so will happen to anyone who jumps over the wall.  This can, of course, be taken as talking about that anyone who tries to breach the defenses of Rome will be killed.  And this understanding would have been the one Romans saw in the myth.  And for a long time, anyone who went against Rome ended up losing.  But is there another way to look at it?

The wall, the trench, the boundary.  Liminal.  Crossing over.  Liminal space is important, because a boundary in the physical world reflects a boundary in the spiritual.  Witch lives in the liminal, one foot in each world.  Part of what makes Witch is the crossing over.  Some use the term jumping the hedge.  Is it a great stretch to compare this to jumping a wall?  Can we see Remus as Witch?<

Romulus is the one building, he is the establishment.  The government, the Church, order, the authorities.  Remus is on the sidelines, the outcast, Other, Witch.  Remus is a threat to Romulus, to what he is building, to his plans.  Other is always a threat to the establishment, whether the establishment is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, pagan, heathen, atheist, whatever.  Witch is always a threat.  Because the establishment doesn't like change.  Change can't be predicted, can't be controlled.  But Witch is change.  Change can't help but come.

So, we see Romulus as the establishment, and Remus as Witch.  Romulus isn't evil, nor is Remus.  But neither are good, either.  The Church isn't evil, the government isn't evil, science isn't evil.  Witchcraft isn't evil, either.  There is no inherent good or evil in either.  But both may do evil or do good, or more accurately do harm or help.  Romulus kills Remus, not because Romulus is evil, and not because Remus is evil, but because Remus is a threat.

But what is Romulus without Remus?  The important parts of the story are done with Remus' death.  And what is Remus without Romulus?  They are twins, they are one.  Romulus is Remus' reflection, and Remus is Romulus' reflection.  They are each others' soul.  So too with the establishment and Witch.  Without Witch, there is no change.  The establishment becomes stagnant.  And without the establishment, Witch becomes complacent.  You see this in today's witchcraft.  It has grown in numbers in the last sixty years, but so has the number of "witches" who aren't serious, who just think it's cool, who never dig deep.  The establishment and Witch, like Romulus and Remus, are two sides of the same coin, the outside expression and the inside expression.

Okay, back to my dream.  In my dream, both Romulus and Remus were obviously leaders as they each had large groups of people.  I only one I actually encountered was Romulus.  Was Remus already dead by then?  I don't know.  But as important as he is in myth, as important as he is in the discussion above, he must not have been important in the dream.  It was our interaction with Romulus, with the establishment, that mattered.

Romulus was the large group, the majority, as the establishment always is.  Or, I should say, followed by the majority.  We were the small group, the minority.  Romulus' people seemed like followers, lackeys.  It was him and those who followed him.  Our group felt like a team, one.  There was a leader, the secular leader, the representative.  And there was me, the priestess, the spiritual leader, the Bridge.  But we weren't above the rest, superior to the rest.  We were all equals even if we had different roles.

Romulus tries to force himself of the leader.  She is the physical, I am the spiritual.  She is this world, I am the Otherworld.  She is human, i am divine, fey.  Together, we are whole.  Together, we are Witch.  He forces himself on her, because he can touch the physical word.  He can touch the body.  But he can't touch the spiritual, he can't touch the soul.  I aid her in trying to fight him back.  We are one, so we fight together, the spiritual aiding the physical, the soul aiding the body.  It's only together we can fight back.

There is a lot more in my dream, though some of it is personal.  And there is a lot more to the story of Romulus and Remus.  But I'll leave both be for now.

~Muninn's Kiss

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