"Then there is a book in which you will find a tremendous amount of valuable material. It is by R.B. Onians and entitled The Origins of European Thought about the body, the mind, the soul, the world, time and fate (Cambridge, 1952). I urge anyone who intends to become an analyst to get that book. Under this funny title any amount of material has been collected on spittle, hair, sneezing, coughing, getting drunk by wetting your lungs, the diaphragm and all its mythological material. Onians is a classical scholar but he has brought in primitive and comparative religious material, and you can look up every part of the body, as well as the involuntary human actions, such as scratching your belly, and what they mean. The origins of European thought have a strange background! The book has an excellent index and you will find a lot that you will be able to use in dream interpretation."
An Introduction to the Psychology of Fairy Tales, Marie-Louise von Franz, Spring Publications, 1975.
Though this book is called Origins of European Thought, the material presented is universal, and purely archetypal in content. On a deeper level, when Onians introduces Sanscrit terms, we could say that the more complex strata of his material reveals the origins of Indo-European Thought. Unfortunately, much of the material is inaccessible to readers who do not have a working knowledge of classical Greek, as Onians leaves all the terminology under examination in Greek. Nevertheless, one can work around this obstacle, and still gain some valuable insights.
- "In the unconscious, cerebral is genital. The word cerebralis from the same root as Ceres, goddess of cereals, of growth and fertility; the same root as cresco, to grow, and creo, to create. Onians, archaeologist of language, who uncovers lost worlds of meaning, buried meanings, has dug up a prehistoric image of the body, according to which the head and genital intercommunicate via the spinal column: the gray matter of the brain, the spinal marrow, and the seminal fluid are all one identical substance, on tap in the genital and stored in the head."
- Norman O. Brown, Love's Body
The Origins of European Thought : About the Body, the Mind,
the Soul, the World, Time and Fate
by R. B. Onians "How do Homeric notions of the main processes of conciousness differ from our own?..." (more)
Here, for example is a section on "horns" where [...] - represents a Greek word:
"The classical Greek practice of preserving and fastening up at the shrine the head of the ox sacrificed was explained … by the belief that it contained the y u c h (psyche), the life-power and the life-substance. This practice dated from Minoan times. The importance attached to the horns can now be explained. In Homer’s time they were peculiarly honoured, being coated with gold before the animal was slain. In Minoan-Mycenaean times they had special sanctity, whence they have been called ‘horns of consecration’, actual horns or conventional representations of them. Their usual position is upon an altar or a shrine. They are ‘the place of consecration’. The victim may in the sacrifice have been identified with the deity as in the [...] and in Babylonia. The horns of the altar had special sanctity amongst the Jews and have been recognised as originating, like the Minoan ‘horns of consecration’, in actual horns. With the Minoan we may reasonably relate not only the Homeric practice but also the survival at Delos of an altar consisting of horns. That cows, etc., on occasion use horns as weapons (as other animals use teeth and claws or hoofs) will not explain these facts. Why were the horns thus holy as if in them were concentrated the divine potency? Because, it can now be seen, they were a permanent concentration, an outcrop, of the life-substance in the head, of the seed that was also the strength, of the [...] in which was the psyche. What grows out of the head is almost inevitably believed to be an issuing of what is within the head. " pp.236-237
It would be interesting to explore this material, for example, in relationship to the ox-sacrifices in African traditional religion. Horned deities, are of course, richly documented in the mythologies of the Mediterranean cultures, and a mass of Folklore material. Saturn, or Satan, is the archetype where the horned personification of evil, has come to rest, right down to the little red devil, Hot Stuff, of children's comic books. Horns, in this light, do not get a good press. Horns are seen as demonic, however one interprets the term. Wings, by contrast, are associated with angels, flight, and a route to heavenly realms. Though of course, there is a tradition of fallen angels, of bad angels, as well.
Continuing along this line of thought, we notice that horns feature in a few of the animals that identify the signs of the Zodiac. We have the horns of Aries the Ram, Taurus the Bull, Capricorn the Goat, to mention three. Another family of horned myths revolves around the Stag and related species. This is a very rich area for exploration, ranging all the way from the Paleolithic cave paintings, through the myth of Diana and the Stag, to contemporary shamanism. Another level to this symbolism, not so obvious on the surface, is the fact that a double spiral is embedded in the horns of the above-mentioned three signs of the zodiac, evidenced by the sign for Aries, which consists of a double spiral: ^
Then we have theriomorphic beings, such as the satyri, the centaurs and the Minotaur, to mention a few of this species.
Arthur Bernard Cook, in his monumental work Zeus, has presented a wealth of material on ritual horned altars, as well as Sir Arthur Evans in his article on the "Mycenaean Tree and Pillar Cult" (1901)
As Onians shows, the horns cannot be separate from the symbolism of the Head. They grow out of the skull. Aries, is traditionally the ruler of the head. Horns have another symbolic aspect that may not be apparent on the surface. They usually take the form of two spirals. These two spirals, one moving clock-wise and the other anti-clock-wise, also have a very ancient lineage. They can be found at the entrance to Newgrange in Ireland, and rock-cut temples on Malta, amongst countless other examples. A double-spiral also appears, in the sign of Cancer. Could it be that these double-spirals, do not refer to the head, per se, in a reductionalistic sense, but to the brain, to the mind itself? And by association to the left and the right hemispheres of the brain.