Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 7, Vol. 1, Autumnal Equinox 2004
Olympic Magick; A Global Ritual for the End of Time
In this time of war, terrorism, and geo-political pressures, the western world needs a good spectacle, an old time pagan celebration of man’s achievements, hopes and aspirations. With the world watching, the opening ceremony of the Athens’ Olympics provided one, producing a magical evocation of Hellenistic virtues reaching from ancient myths to modern technology and focusing finally on the untapped potential of humanity as a whole. Zeus, I think, would have been quite pleased.
From their beginnings back in 776 BCE, the Olympic games were a blending of divine theatre and human will. The gods presided, the humans contested, and those who won partook of the divine favor, and therefore gained a higher level of arête, or excellence. The games kept this most primal level of divine/human interaction open until 393 CE, when the Christian Emperor Theodosius I abolished them.
Fast-forward one thousand, five hundred three years to April 1896 and the first modern Olympics in Athens: A French student with classical visions and two Greek politicians pulled off a revival, although in a very modern and international style, of the ancient games by selling them as a way to display national pride and at the same time encourage a lessening of political tensions. This of course seldom happened, as the canceling of three Olympics, 1916, 1940 and 1944, due to world wars and the terrorist incursion in 1972 demonstrates all too clearly.
But the idea and the games survived to officially return, after 108 years, to Athens and in part to the small valley of Olympia where it all began. This, in and of itself, is a demonstration of arête, the excellence of the idea.
As the Olympic games had a major role in defining the Greek’s historical calendar, and as the Greeks were the first in the west to openly discuss the Great Year of precession, the number 108 (the years since the beginning of the modern Olympics and its return to Athens, and a factor of the precessional cycle, 10 x 108 = 1080 x 2 = 2160 or one zodiacal age), takes on a profound and synchronous significance. Would the 2004 Olympics somehow reflect this larger meaning, I wondered, as the world geared up last month for the event?
Although some of the details had leaked out to the international press as early as July, the full scope of the event seemed to take almost everyone by surprise. I will admit that I was as stunned by the power and grace of the imagery as I was by its esoteric significance. The Greeks, in honor of Zeus and arête, staged a vast ritual saluting the passage of one zodiacal age and the birth of a new cycle in the Great Year.
Just after sunset, the lights dimmed in the Olympic stadium and the video screen began a countdown, punctuated by a human heartbeat, of 28 seconds, one for each Olympiad since 1896. On the 28th heartbeat, the entire superstructure of the new stadium exploded with fireworks, which in turn ignited the five Olympic rings in the center of an artificial sea create in the arena. As the rings burned down, a small boy in a paper boat, flying the Greek flag, made his way across the faux ocean. Like Jason, he attracted the attention of a centaur, which, like the centaur of Sagittarius, launched a spear of light toward the center of the stadium’s sea.
From this arose an ancient image from Greece’s Cyclades Islands, an early and geometrically stylized representation of the human form dating from roughly the end of the zodiacal age of Gemini. Using lasers, geometric forms and even a stylized image of the solar system was projected on the image. As the light show gained in intensity, the sculpture broke apart to reveal a figure of the classical era, the zodiacal age of Aries, which in turn broke a part to reveal the age now ending, that of Pisces, symbolized by a man balancing precariously on a slowly spinning cube.
The light shifted and focused on a couple playing in the shallows. Eros appeared, hovering over the Lovers, and in effect directing the rest of the pageant. Eros here can be seen as the life force itself, something distilled and communicated by the evolving awareness of humanity. Eros starts over with the ancient civilizations of Mycenae and Minos, the classical period with its heroes and demi-gods, until finally Alexander in his chariot opens the Hellenistic era of the last zodiacal age. This age is swiftly covered, touching on Byzantium and the Greek war for independence and ending finally with 20th century Greece.
And, as the viewer, awash in images, feels that there is little in the west that has not been touched and transformed by Hellenism of some form or other, the tone changes. Eros descends to help a young woman shed the folds of her heavy outer garments. As she undresses, we see that she is very pregnant, her bulging stomach glowing with life force. All of human potential, we feel, is contained in that glowing embryo. The young woman floats out onto the sea of light, now filled with laser-stars, as the stadium grows dimmer. The stars sweep around her, reminding us of the verse in Revelation (12:1) about the Woman Crowned with Stars, then suddenly, the swirling stars transform into spinning DNA helices, the very blueprint if life itself.
There is a pause, as the image seeps deeper into the 100 million or so consciousnesses viewing the event, and then the announcer’s voice booms out: “The Great Moment has come!”
And indeed it has come. We are at another cusp in human history, another transition point between one mythic quality of time and another. Hellenism was the first to note the movement of cosmic time, the Great Year of precession, and so it fitting that as the Great Moment arrives, it is the Greeks who announce it to the world.
Now that is true arête.