[disinfo ed.’s note: Excerpted from The E.T. Chronicles: What Myths and Legends Tell Us About Human Origins by Rita Louise PhD and Wayne Laliberte MS.]
The biggest mystery associated with the gods is why they came here in the first place. There are a variety of theories as to why an advanced civilization would come to the Earth. The one that often surfaces is that there were problems on their home world such as overpopulation, pollution, or a shortage of natural resources. These issues could have caused a group of explorers to leave their planet and seek out new life and new civilizations. It could be that their home world was destroyed and a lucky few managed to escape. Perhaps the Galactic Federation of Planets needed to create a way station between heaven (Asgard) and hell (Hel). It does seem apparent from ancient sources that the subjugation of humankind was not their goal. Whew . . . that is a relief.
The truth is we really fall short on the why side of things. One thing we do have is some insight into the activities of the gods when they first came to the Earth during the Second World. Their actions, as you will see, make them look anything but holy or God-like. Our story continues . . .
We know from mythology that a great flood covered the Earth. Land reclamation has yet to happen. Water from the flood, according to Hindu tradition, took away many of their precious things, and one of the most precious things lost by the gods was something called amrita.
What is amrita? It was the drink of the gods, the elixir of life, the nectar of immortality. Amrita is a Sanskrit word meaning immortality or “without death.” Ambrosia is the Greek name for this divine blend. The consumption of this magical potion was reserved for divine beings—the gods. Mortals such as Heracles, who was provided ambrosia, gained immortality from it. Gilgamesh, in the Babylonian epic bearing his name, tied heavy stones to his feet so that he would be taken down into the depths of the water to reclaim a plant called The Old Man Becomes a Young Man which, when eaten, bestowed youth.
Indian tradition suggests that during this time the different races of gods banded together into two separate alliances—the devas and the asuras. The word deva originally meant “celestial or shining one.” They are described as the “good gods.” The asuras, on the other hand, are portrayed as being evil, power- seeking, sinful, and materialistic. The devas are traditionally depicted as looking like us, while the asuras are shown in the form of snakes, demons, and monsters. A truce was called in the wake of the flood, and these two groups reluctantly joined forces in order to recover their precious amrita from the watery depths. It is from our watery world that the plot thickens.
In the legend of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk we learn that the devas were losing their power and started to feel threatened by the might of the asuras. War inevitably broke out between the two groups. The devas feared that the asuras would win and take control of the entire world. They prayed to the god Vishnu for guidance. Vishnu suggested that the gods (the devas) per- form the ceremony known today as the Churning of the Ocean. This would enable them to obtain their beloved amrita and help to restore their power. Despite this sage advice, the devas realized that they were not strong enough to perform the ceremony by themselves. They enlisted the help of the asuras under the pre- text that they would mutually share the amrita.
The story goes on to tell us that they took Mount Mandara and used it as a rod to churn the ocean. The devas and asuras were unable to find a rope big enough to go around the mountain, so they enlisted the help of King of the Nagas (the serpent king), Vasuki. Vasuki was wound around the mountain with the devas in the east and the asuras in the west. Each side pulled on the snake, alternately causing the mountain to rotate. The churning caused Mount Mandara to sink into the ocean. Vishnu, in his second incarnation on Earth, magically appeared as Kurma the tortoise. Kurma went to the bottom of the ocean, and Mount Mandara was placed on his back. Churning operations continued.
The devas and asuras churned the ocean for a thousand years. Suddenly, a deadly poison called halahala emerged, some say from the ocean, others say from Vasuki himself. The poison threatened to suffocate both the devas and asuras. Only the god Shiva could save them from this potential disaster. Shiva, trident in hand, arrived on the scene in the nick of time. He drank the noxious poison and rescued the devas and asuras from their likely demise.
The gods continued churning the milky ocean even longer, then out of the ocean sprang a number of gifts. They included Sura (the goddess and creator of wine), the apsaras (the heavenly nymphs), Kaustubha (the most valuable jewel in the world), Uchchaihshravas (a seven-headed flying horse), Parijaat (the wish-granting tree), Kamadhenu (the first cow and mother of all other cows), and Lakshmi (the goddess of fortune and wealth). The final gift to emerge was Dhanvantari, the heavenly physician, with a pot containing their precious amrita. We will be coming back to this story as we continue our journey through time.
The Rig Veda refers to amrita as soma as well, but as we will explore, amrita and soma may be two different substances. Greek texts distinguish two different foods of the gods: ambrosia and nectar. Ambrosia is described as something that is eaten, while nectar is a beverage that is drunk.
Soma, or soma ras (juice of soma), is well described in the Rig Veda. The word soma comes from the root word “su” and suggests the concept of pressing or pounding. Soma is touted for its ability to allow the gods to rise above all obstacles and overcome their fears. It is said to bring about hallucinations and feelings of ecstasy to those who drink it. It can also help to create a bridge between the mortal world and the worlds of the gods. Soma is associated with the moon and is said to help promote inspiration and the creative process. The Rig Veda calls soma the “master poet.”
Its prominence in Indian society even elevated this substance to god status, placing soma in a position higher than Indra him- self. Texts indicate that soma is created when the stalks of the soma plant are pounded between two rocks. The golden-hued liquid that is released by the stalks is filtered through wool and collected. The juice is then mixed with other ingredients including water, milk, and barley and is said to taste similar to honey.
The identity of the plant used in making soma is a mystery. In his book Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality, Robert Gordon Wasson speculates that it was made from juices of the psychoactive mushroom Amanita muscaria. Consumption of this mushroom can create feelings of euphoria, hallucinations, as well as feelings of increased strength and stamina.
Wasson cited the red color of the mushroom as an indicator of its relationship with the god Soma. He goes on to propose that texts contained within the Mahabharata indicate the likelihood of his identification. The Mahabharata tells the story of the holy man Uttanka. Uttanka was traveling through the desert and was thirsty. He met an outcast who offered him some of his urine to drink. Disgusted, Uttanka refused. Uttanka was later told by Krishna (a later incarnation of Vishnu) that the outcast had offered him Soma-urine. Had he accepted it, he would have joined the immortals.
The account of Uttanka further supported Wasson’s hypothesis that Amanita muscaria was the most likely candidate. The active ingredients in the Amanita muscaria mushroom, unlike other hallucinogens, passes through the kidneys unmetabolized. The urine that is expelled by the ingester has been found to be as potent as the mushroom itself.
Another possibility as to the composition of soma comes to us from recent discoveries in Russia. Excavations in the Karakum Desert of Turkmenistan have provided evidence that soma may actually have been a combination of cannabis and ephedra or cannabis, ephedra, and poppy. Bowls found in one room of the site were analyzed showing traces of both cannabis and ephedra. Both of these plants were found growing in and around the area of the excavation. In another room, vessels that were used to prepare the drink were discovered. Small amounts of cannabis, ephedra, and poppy were recovered from the sides of the pots and pitchers.
In Persia, we find a similar brew called haoma which played a role in Zoroastrian doctrines. The Avesta, a collection of Zoroastrian sacred texts, informs us that haoma had to be pressed to extract its intoxicating juices. Its effects upon consumption of this plant included healing, sexual arousal, increased physical strength, and mental alertness. It is also described as being mildly intoxicating. The ephedra plant is believed to have been used to manufacture haoma in this region.
Soma is most often aligned with the Greek’s nectar. The word nectar comes from the Greek word nektar, which means “drink of the gods.” Some historians claim that nectar was a kind of honey or fermented honey wine, but its connection to immortality is vague. The difference between amrita, soma, ambrosia, and nectar does become clearer when we visit Norse mythology.
In Norse tradition, there is a distinction between the sub- stances that were ingested to obtain immortality versus wisdom. Immortality, according to this tradition, is associated with golden apples. The Mead of Poetry (Old Norse skáldskapar mjaðar), on the other hand, is tied to the concept of the attainment of wisdom and poetic inspiration.
Norse legend tells us that a truce was established between the Æsir (the gods of war) and the Vanir (the gods of fertility) after their great war. Both groups, disgusting as this sounds, spat into a vat to seal their truce. From their saliva Kvasir was born. Kvasir was a very wise man who traveled the world giving knowledge to humankind. One day he paid a visit to the dwarfs Fjalar and his brother Galar. The dwarfs killed Kvasir and poured his blood into two vats. They mixed his blood with honey, thus creating mead. Anyone who drank the mead was endowed with wisdom and the power of poetry. The story goes on and we find that the giants, after a series of unfortunate events, end up getting the mead as reparation from the dwarfs. Odin, the head of the Æsir pantheon, through an act of trickery, turned around and stole the mead from the giants, taking it back to the Æsir and sharing it with the other gods.
The story of the Mead of Poetry on the surface may not appear to reveal the relationship between the Hindu concept of soma and the mead of the Norse. Dustin Tranberg ties the two together in his book Soma and the Mead of Poetry:
The Vedic soma and the “mead of poetry” found in the Prose Edda, share several qualities. For example, both are connected to the idea of “pressing,” as of pressing the juice from a fruit. In the hymns of the Rig Veda, soma is pressed out in to bowls. The Icelandic Skaldskaparmal tells of the manufacture of the mead of poetry from the blood of a being named Kvasir, whose name “has often been associated with Danish ‘kvase’ (to squeeze to extract juice) . . .”
The Maya of Central America also utilized a mead-like substance with intoxicating properties. It was called Balché and was sacred to the gods. It was made by soaking the bark of the balché tree (L. violaceus) in honey and water.
It is impossible to determine the exact composition of this mysterious drink. What has been passed down to us is that the gods are often portrayed as competing with each other for this intoxicating brew. Indra was a big fan of soma, as was the Hindu god of fire, Agni. Odin went so low as to steal it from the giants, who managed to get it away from the dwarfs, who got it by killing Kvasir. It seems like everyone wanted to have it for themselves.
It does seem clear from the ancient accounts that soma, nectar, skáldskapar mjaðar, and Balché were all drinks that caused intoxication. It is also clear that the substances of these drinks did not come from the depths of the milky ocean as descried earlier, but were herbal in nature.
To help us identify what it may have been, we believe that a likely candidate may come from a system of values that we inherited from our distant past.
If you look around the world, countless doctrines and beliefs have shaped our society. They have no clear or rational purpose. They only make sense in one context: that they were important, real, or of value to the gods. We in turn follow these traditions either because we did not know any better or because we had a strong desire to emulate the gods.
Take for example our concept of heaven. Have you ever wondered why there is a widespread belief that God, with a big G, lives in heaven? Where is heaven? Is it located up in the sky? Likewise, there is the corresponding belief that the dead, or sometimes the wicked, go to a place deep within (or beneath) the Earth. This place was reportedly inhabited by demons. Are we just stating something that was a point of fact? Did the gods live in, or come from, the sky? Did demons live underground, deep within the Earth sometime in our distant past?
The tradition of worshiping a ruler as a god also falls into this category. The Egyptians, like many early cultures around the world, perceived their rulers as gods or sometimes direct descendants of the gods. Could this tradition have been passed onto us because in the earliest of times the pharaoh or ruler was actually a god or demigod?
The cultural tradition of the deformation of cranial bones is yet another example. Cranial deformation (head flattening) is a practice found in South America, Australia, Europe, and China. It is thought to be an indicator of increased intelligence, higher social status, and a closer relationship to the spiritual world. Did these cultures practice cranial deformation because they were emulating the physical appearance of their gods? Did dogma prevail? Did the now mortal rulers, who took over after the reign of the gods, try to fool the population into believing that they too were gods? Did the descendants of the faux gods accidently turn cranial deformation into an essential requirement of royalty, thereby following a tradition they did not understand?
References to the importance and value of gold are echoed in mythology worldwide. It, over any other material found on the Earth, has been a symbol of wealth, social standing, and power throughout time. Nations have fought and died over it. Legends of lost cities of gold and hidden treasures pervade our culture. But why?
Gold, by nature, is a soft, dense metal. It is extremely malleable and has to be mixed with other base metals in order to increase its hardness. Other than its bright yellow color and shiny luster, it seems odd that the ancients would go to such extreme lengths for this metal if its only purposes were for making coins, jewelry, and works of art.
We still relish and prize gold for its intrinsic qualities. Its primary use is in the manufacture of ornamental objects such as jewelry. Today, in our high-tech world, we recognize and utilize the phenomenal inherent properties gold offers. We use ultra- thin sheets of it to reflect infrared radiation on spacecraft and spacesuits. Its noncorrosive and highly conductive proper- ties also make it an excellent choice in the electronics industry. Assuming that the Egyptians, Sumerians, and people of ancient Peru were not manufacturing cell phones, computers, or heat shields, it still leaves us with the question as to why gold was and is valued so highly. My response is we value it because it was important to the gods.
We know from the story of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk that the gods sought out the life-restoring properties that amrita offered. We know that immortality was conferred upon the Greek gods and mortals who consumed ambrosia. Accordingly, humans who ate ambrosia grew faster, stronger, and more beautiful. These were all qualities that were considered divine. Eating ambrosia also endowed humans with immortality.
Today, recipes for ambrosia call for fruit that is sweetened with sugar, marshmallow, or honey. Is our modern concept of ambrosia supported by mythology? We do find some collaboration in mythology as to the nature of amrita, ambrosia, immortality, and gold. Norse mythology provides us with two separate clues. The first comes from the Völuspá, a poem in the Poetic Edda. The Völuspá recalls the war between the Æsir and the Vanir. We have already discussed the conclusion of this battle when we talked about the Mead of Poetry earlier in this chapter. The cause of the war, however, was a fight over gold.
The Nordic poem the Völuspá informs us that war broke out between the Æsir, the Sky Gods, and Vanir, the Fertility Gods, after the Æsir tortured the Vanir goddess Gullveig. The Æsir burned Gullveig three times in a magical fire, only to have Gullveig come back to life. The Vanir were miffed. The Vanir, in reparation for the Æsir’s ill treatment of Gullveig, demanded status equal to the Æsir. The Æsir refused and instead waged war against the Vanir. Unfortunately, the war did not go as well as the Æsir had hoped. The Æsir suffered defeat after defeat, and finally, to save face, arranged for a truce. Both groups spat into a vat and the Mead of Poetry was created.
In case you were wondering, the entomology of the name Gullveig also adds support to the claim that gold was associated with immortality. The first part of the name Gullveig, Gul, means “gold.” The second part, veig, has two potential meanings. Both meanings make sense in the context we are offering. The word veig is sometimes translated as “alcoholic drink.” At other times it is translated as “power” or “strength.”
The second source coming from Norse mythology is connected to the goddess Iðunn, the goddess of eternal youth. Iðunn was the keeper and protector of the magical golden apples we mentioned earlier. Consuming these apples allowed the gods to maintain their eternal youthfulness.
Now, these apples were the fruit of a magic tree, and were more beautiful to look at and more delicious to taste than any fruit that ever grew. The best thing about them was that whoever tasted one, be he ever so old, grew young and strong again. The apples belonged to a beautiful lady named Iðunn, who kept them in a golden casket. Every morning the Aesir came to her to be refreshed and made over by a bite of
her precious fruit. That is why in Asgard no one ever waxed old or ugly. Even Father Odin, Hoenir, and Loki, the three travelers who had seen the very beginning of everything, when the world was made, were still sturdy and young. And so long as Iðunn kept her apples safe, the faces of the family who sat about the table of Valhalla would be rosy and fair like the faces of children.
—Abbie Farwell Brown, The Days of Giants: A Book of Norse Tales
Another legend revolving around golden apples comes to us from Greek mythology where we learn about the Garden of the Hesperides. The Hesperides were nymphs who looked after a garden, which was located in the far western corner of the world. In one section of their garden, Hera, Zeus’s wife, planted a tree that bore golden apples. These apples, when consumed, also conferred immortality.
A similar life-giving fruit can be found in Chinese mythology. Legend holds that certain peach trees were endowed with mystical virtues that bestowed longevity on those who were lucky enough to taste them. The trees were located high on top of the mountains of Kunlun in Xi Wangmu’s, the goddess of immortality’s, palace. The trees are said to put forth leaves once every 3,000 years. It would take another 3,000 years for the fruits on the tree to ripen. A large banquet was held for the gods once the fruits had matured. All of the gods would attend and consume the fruit, and thus their immortality would be restored. This event was called the Festival of Peaches.
The consumption of both a food and a beverage as the source of immortality are echoed in the Sumerian tale of Adapa and the Food of Life. Adapa was the mortal, although powerful, son of the god Ea. One day, while he was out fishing, high winds over- turned his boat, throwing him into the sea. This angered Adapa, who stopped the breeze that once cooled the lands.
Anu, the chief god, heard of the problem and wanted to know what had happened. He discovered that Adapa had broken the wind and summoned Adapa to appear before him. Ea prepared Adapa on how to handle his appearance before Anu. He warned Adapa of the potential foul play he might encounter with the following words:
When thou standest before Anu
Food of death they will set before thee,
Eat not. Water of death they will set before thee, Drink not. Garments they will set before thee,
Put them on. Oil they will set before thee, anoint thyself. The counsel that I have given thee, forget not. The words Which I have spoken, hold fast.
Two messengers of Anu appeared and escorted Adapa on his ascension to heaven. Anu asked for his side of the story, and Adapa explained what had happened. For his honesty, it appears (there is damage to the original stone tablet) that Anu tries to offer Adapa a gift.
“ . . . What can we do with him? Food of life Bring him, that he may eat.” Food of life
They brought him, but he ate not. Water of life They brought him, but he drank not. Garments They brought him. He clothed himself. Oil They brought him. He anointed himself.
Anu looked at him; he wondered at him.
“Come, Adapa, why hast thou not eaten, not drunken? Now thou shalt not live.” . . . men . . . Ea, my lord
Said: “Eat not, drink not.”
Take him and bring him back to his earth.
A similar prohibition to eating a certain kind of food comes to us directly from the Bible in the all-too-famous story of Adam and Eve. Not much after the creation of the world, according to the story, Adam and Eve are hanging out in the Garden of Eden. God told them they could eat fruit off any tree except for the one in the middle of the garden. God declared, “If you eat from that tree, heck, if you even touch that tree, you’re gonna die.” (OK, we took a little bit of creative license in representing God’s words.)
Enter the snake. He tells Eve that God is lying. If she eats from the prohibited tree she would be God-like and know good from bad. Eve eats from the Tree of Knowledge and shares it with Adam. God figures the whole thing out and confronts Adam and Eve. Adam tries to blame the whole thing on Eve, and Eve turns around and blames it on the snake. Everyone—Adam, Eve, and the snake—gets into a lot of trouble.
God is concerned about Adam and Eve’s bad behavior. He did not want them to eat from another special tree in the garden, the Tree of Life. Eating from the Tree of Life would bestow immortality on Adam and Eve, which would make them God-like. God, to avoid any further problems with the couple, kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. For their misdeeds, instead of the life of luxury they experienced in Eden, they had to start working for a living in order to survive. The fruit most often associated with this tale? The apple.
It is worth noting that for something that we value so highly, very little information comes to the present regarding specific legends associated with the miraculous properties of gold. Was amrita a form of gold that was ingested? It is possible, but the jury is still out. Regardless of what the precious commodity the gods were searching for in the milky ocean was, it has come down to us that the gods really did like gold and all things made of gold. Many texts describe the abodes of the gods as being decorated with gold. The gods are also described as adorning themselves with golden trinkets or riding in golden chariots.
Even the Bible discusses God’s desire for gold. Moses, after receiving the Ten Commandments, is instructed by God to build a sanctuary in which he would come and dwell among them. God then provides Moses with the instructions on how to build the Ark of the Covenant. He is also told of other objects God requires to accessorize the tabernacle, including: a gold-covered table for offerings of bread, gold lamps, as well as plates, bowls, and pitchers all made of pure gold.
The Aztec word teocuitlatl provides us with another link connecting gold to the gods. Teocuitlatl translates as “the excrement of the gods” and is associated with their sun god Tonatiuh. The Inca describe gold as “the sweat of the sun” and associate it with Inti, their sun god. In Egypt, gold is thought to represent “the flesh of the gods” and their sun god Ra. Ra is depicted as a golden man. A similar tradition comes to us from India, where Indra is described as being golden in color. Indra and the other devas are also referred to as “the shining ones.” The term “the shining ones” has also been applied to the gods of the Sumerian pantheon.
This universal concept of gold-toned, shiny gods is a curious one. Were the gods actually golden in color? An interesting and solitary legend may provide insight into this enigma. It is the legend of El Dorado. El Dorado originally meant “the gilded per- son” or “golden one.” The name, in later years, came to describe the lost, fabled City of Gold.
The real story of El Dorado is the tale of the ruler of the empire near Lake Guatavita in Colombia, South America. Each year, on the appointed day, the ruler would coat his body with a resin made of turpentine and then cover it with a fine layer of gold dust, thus gilding his body. He would then take a raft into the middle of the lake and make offerings of gold, emeralds, and other precious things to the gods. His final act was to throw himself into the waters to bathe, washing the gold covering off himself, thus ending the ceremony and signaling the beginning of the day’s festivities.
Another potential clue regarding the use of gold as a skin coating for the gods comes from ancient funerary rites. Masks, whether worn by the living or the dead, played a role in magically transforming an individual from a mortal state into that of the divine. Death masks, like the one worn by King Tutankhamun, allowed the deceased pharaoh to arrive safely in the afterworld and to gain acceptance as an immortal by the other gods. In Cambodia and Siam, gold masks were placed on the faces of their dead kings. The royalty of the Inca were also buried with golden masks. Did the gods cover their bodies with gold? Is that why gold was considered the flesh or sweat of the gods? If the gods appeared to us as being golden in color, could we in our endeavor to emulate the gods (and obtain immortality) have covered ourselves in gold as well? Peter T. Markman and Roberta H. Markman, in their book Masks of the Spirit: Image and Metaphor in Mesoamerica, tell us:
Thus, the funerary mask moves a symbolic step beyond the ritual mask worn by the god impersonator in recording the final and complete transformation: the man has become a god.
Why did the gods come here? We really still do not know. Their behavior, regardless of their true mission, is reminiscent of mafia kingpins, drug overlords, or, to be honest, drug-seeking junkies. Did the gods come here to supply their habit, or did they discover an added benefit to life here on Earth? Could the precious amrita that the gods desperately churned for in the milky ocean be similar to the addictive, mind-expanding “spice” as depicted in Frank Herbert’s sci-fi thriller Dune?
One last point before we move on. We discovered something out of the ordinary in our endeavor to find references to gold in mythology or in the archeological record. While it may seem unrelated at first, we think you will find it as fascinating as we did. Gold mining, as some recent alternative history writers would like you to believe, was not the first kind of subterranean mining done on the Earth. If it was, we have yet to discover the location of the ancient mines that were used during the times of the gods. We also have yet to unearth the glistening fruits of their labors. The earliest objects made of gold were unearthed in 1972 in the Varna Necropolis. The Varna Necropolis is located on the Black Sea in northeast Bulgaria. This site has yielded over 3,000 pieces of finely worked gold jewelry buried with the grave goods. The site has been dated, based upon radiocarbon dating, to between 4600 and 4200 BCE.
The intriguing point is this: When you delve into the history of mining on the Earth, what you find is not the prevalence of early gold mining around the world, but the mining of some- thing else—ochre. Ochre, simply put, is produced when iron oxide (hematite) is extracted from the earth and crushed into a fine powder. It has been used for millennia as a pigment for paint, pottery, and textiles. Ochre exhibits various colors ranging from red through purple, brown and orange to yellow, depending on its chemical composition. Historians believe that ochre was an ancient and universal symbol of blood, the liquid of life. What confounds both scientists and historians alike is that ochre, like gold, has no utilitarian purpose. So why go through the effort to dig up something that seems so unnecessary from deep within the Earth?
The oldest subterranean ochre mine discovered to date is the Lion Cave, located in the Kingdom of Swaziland in southern Africa. Scientists, based upon radiocarbon dating, feel secure in stating that this cave was first mined as early as 43,000 years ago! And they believe mining operations may have begun much earlier! The Lion Cave is rich in ochre. Researchers believe that at least 100,000 tons of ochre have been removed from this one mine.
In Australia, stone tools were discovered on the site of one of Australia’s largest iron ore sites. Iron ore is rich in iron oxide (ochre). The stone tools were found at the Hope Downs mine and are estimated to be at least 35,000 years old. In Peru, the Nazca people, made famous for the Nazca Lines, also mined ochre. They removed from one site, Mina Primavera, over 4,089 tons of material.
Ochre was used as part of the funerary ritual, as Dr. Dennis O’Neil informs us:
By 90,000 years ago, several Neanderthal cave sites provide the first reasonably good evidence of intentional burial of their dead. They presumably buried relatives and friends in shallow graves dug into the soft midden soil of their living areas at the mouths of caves and rock shelters. Usually the bodies were flexed in a fetal position. Frequently, the bones were stained with hematite, a rust-red iron ore. It is likely that the bodies were either sprinkled with hematite powder or the powdered pigment was mixed with a liquid medium, such as vegetable seed oil, and painted on the bodies.
—Evolution of Modern Humans
In Australia, at Lake Mungo in southwestern New South Wales, excavated burial sites have yielded ochre-covered bones. Carbon dating of these bones indicates that these individuals lived approximately 62,000 years ago. Ochre, in addition to its use as part of the funerary ritual, was used to cover the body of the living. It is still being used by many indigenous cultures as part of their ritual tradition. Māori women of New Zealand are known to cover their bodies with ochre. We are told that they use it as a kind of insect repellant. Groups like the Himba people of South Africa are still using ochre. Women coat their bodies with a mixture of butterfat and ochre. It is seen as a symbol of beauty. The first Europeans, upon reaching Newfoundland and encountering the native population, observed that they covered them- selves in red ochre. The Europeans referred to this group as “the red Indians.” Across the country in California, Native American tribes such as the Chumash were known to use red ochre as body paint as well.
Why was something like ochre so important to ancient populations around the world? The prevailing wisdom tells us that these cave dwelling hunter-gatherers used it for painting cave walls and for ritualistic purposes. The bigger question is: Why would our ancestors start this practice in the first place?
Gary Gilligan, in his God King Scenario series, provides an interesting observation regarding the clothing worn by the ancient Egyptians. He notes that in every Egyptian relief, whether it is of a farmer in a field, a stone worker, a soldier in battle, or even the pharaoh, each person is illustrated wearing a loincloth while working out under the blistering sun. He notes that even today the intensity of the summer heat requires the population to cover their bodies from head to toe to protect themselves from being severely burnt in the scorching heat.
What is interesting when looking at these images is that all of the people depicted are painted orange or ochre in color even though pigment colors, including white, yellow, and brown were available. Why were these individuals shown this way? Did they in life cover their bodies with ochre? Today, we still coat our bodies with fine particles of iron oxide. We use it to create a barrier between our skin and the sun’s rays. We call this product sun- screen. Variations of this protective substance can be found in any drug or grocery store in the skin care aisle.
Did the gods, upon their arrival on the Earth, also have to protect their skin from increased levels of ultraviolet radiation? Did they cover their bodies with a thin layer of powdered gold in order to protect their skin from the sun’s harmful effects? Did our ancestors, in emulating the gods, choose to cover their bodies with ochre to look more godlike?
We would like to present a final piece of evidence associated with the use of iron oxide or ochre. Iron oxide formed early in the Earth’s history due to the unique conditions which existed at that time. The early photosynthetic cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) that came into existence when life first appeared on Earth released free oxygen into the atmosphere. Oxygen is a by-product of photosynthesis. The free oxygen in the atmosphere mixed with iron particles that were dissolved in the seawaters that covered the Earth. Iron readily combines with oxygen when it comes in contact with water to produce iron oxide. We recognize the by- product of this chemical reaction as rust. Iron oxide, unlike free iron, is insoluble. Once formed, the iron oxide precipitates out of the water. In the case of our early Earth, it created thin layers of iron oxide on the primeval sea floor.
Oxygen levels did not build up in the Earth’s atmosphere right away. It was about one billion years ago that the available iron became saturated and oxygen released during the process of photosynthesis remained free in the air. This change to the Earth’s atmosphere is what ultimately allowed animal life to move out of the oceans and onto dry land.
Did you know that over the last fifteen years, unmanned probes to Mars have verified that the redness of Mars’s surface is due to an abundance of iron oxide? Need I say more?