The Mythology of the Headless King

Trigger Warning!!!!…..this image and my comments may create discomfort….

Kathy Griffin’s controversial image to me is inappropriate in the public sphere for many reasons. Yet to me it’s also a very common traditional mythological archetype in European/Western culture. The image is disturbing, but not for the violence implied. It’s disturbing for the ancient mythological Western archetype it represents.

There are too many images of beheadings of Gods, heroes, and figures on urns and in myth to recount here. The most famous is the cutting of the head of Medusa. But Griffins image reminds me of so many European Celtic beheading myths…..where a male hero, monster, or king at the end of the year is ritually slain then beheaded – like Bran in Welsh mythology. The story of the talking-head that delivers prophecy or change is very common in Greek and Western myth.

The original and more ancient concept however is of the Mother causing the demise of her son, as in the Norse Viking tale of Frigga causing the death of her Sun God son Baldur at the end of the season around the Winter Solstice. The purpose of the headless or dying sun king story was to reenact the Earth losing the Sun that disappears in the Winter and which through sacrifice alone is brought back or reborn on January 1st. And so the image of a female figure with the bloody headless king cuts right to the heart of the original myth.

What does this have to do with Griffin’s violent image? Her image is a VERY COMMON MYTHOLOGICAL TROPE…a stark symbol of the Earth Mother or feminine animus in Western Myth causing the death of the old king so the new prince or young sun king can be reborn. It’s a reflection of our Western Mind’s constant focus on conflict, change, death, and resurrection which our conflict-politics in American culture so accurately portray.
Notice we love conflict and change in politics. None of our politicians or sports heroes last very long. We need them to rise and fall like the seasons. That’s very different from equatorial countries and cultures who have very long stablizing non-confrontational cultures and mythologies.
That’s all part of our ancient ancestors yearly mythological sun worships constructs. They are buried in all our book stories and movies and 3-part story arcs. They are found in our dualistic religions and dualistic politics.
It’s just that Kathy’s image “cuts to the core” of all that mythology so beautifully. She is holding the medusa, the dead sun king that is required on the Winter Solstice…..she is the quintessential Femme Fatale or dark form of the violent Earth Mother that’s hidden in Greek/Jewish/Christian Biblical myth….the Lilith or Mary Magdalen that will bring forth the dark, sinister form of the Earth Mother that arrives as the witch on Halloween to take away the dying sun and give birth to a new one.
It’s sad we fear these mythological images. They are just colored pixels on a screen. But it’s in the mythological mystical constructs hidden deep in our culture, our ancient selves, we truly fear, because we refuse to understand our history in the Modern World, we refuse to understand or accept the darker, animalistic origins and beliefs of our ancestors, and so we not only repeat the same stories and images over and over and over again in books and movies, but when they are made whole and stark like Kathy’s image we run in fear from the secret symbols that our lower brain triggers and that arise in us unconsciously. It’s why so many of our movies have NO mythological or emotional context. Kids today are divorced from the deeper psychology of all this.
This story and imagery is exactly what the Shamams, Priests, Rabbi’s, and Druids used in their own story telling…..and it’s why they used them so adroitly to trigger emotional responses in us for thousands of years.
– the Author

#mythology #mythopoeia



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