« Back to posts

On Kingship

- by Linn Barnes

The wheel of the year is always spinning, and, while

there are no fixed points between ‘then’ and ‘when’

but we do hypothesize a  ‘now’,  in spite of the grammatical

and philosophical  challenges.  Try and think of a ‘now’ before when it was

a ‘then’; or, a ‘now’ on ‘it’s’ way to ‘when-dom’.  ‘Nows’ are tough to pin down.

However, today, ‘now’, kind of, the dawn of the winter solstice, 

the moment when the earth begins to tilt toward the longer and finally warmer days

until the summer solstice, when it tilts back toward the dark, all of this

has enormous mytho-historical significance.

The old, very old, legends suggest that there were 

two gods  responsible for ‘managing’ the year.

First, the god of the waning year, from June 21 

until the second god,  his twin or ‘tanist’, of the waxing year, took  over 

on December 21, the winter solstice, until he once again was replaced by the

god of the waning year, and so forth.

These two figures were seen as a necessary pair 

of twins, rising and dying over and over again, insuring 

the continuity of the tribe and the endurance of tradition. 

This is the stuff some modern religions are built on,

however that may express itself.

These two king-gods were known to the ancients as 

‘sacred-kings’, really only one, but thought of as two, which,

of course, rings plenty of bells in our religious calendar.

The interesting thing here is that these two iterations of 

the same spirit were ‘obliged’ to die, no exceptions; one died, 

the other took over, when it died and the other was re-born.

Over and over and over, the year spun, each reigning ‘king-god’

managing things in accordance with custom, in compliance with tradition.

it would have been inconceivable that one of these figures

act out of the ‘ordinary’, or, ‘selfishly’, or, in any interest other

that the benefit of the tribe to which he was bound.

Any behavior remotely resembling anything which would

threaten the continued existence of the tribe by one of these twins

was unthinkable.  However, since there were ‘elected’ representations 

of these spiritual entities, and, since humans are never anything like the gods, 

it is conceivable that mischief was possible. 


The point is inescapable:  the transgressor would be replaced or the

tribe would suffer and vanish. 

There were no exceptions and there was no merci. 

The tribe would collectively demand that the 

king must die, even out of season to atone for his misdeeds.

There was no middle ground. 

You rode the ‘king’s highway’, 

you fulfilled your part of the ‘deal’. 

If not, you were replaced, with extreme prejudice.

Quaint, right?