THANET-TENEDOS | THRINAKIA-CORNWALL | OGUGIA-AZORES | SCHERIA-LANZAROTE | ITHAKA-CADIZ, JEREZ
ATLANTIC TENEDOS AND THE SEIRENES
(ISLE OF THANET)
|England South coast. Odysseus departs from Kirke on Schouwen, Zeeland., (The Netherlands)
|and leaves the coast for Kalupso, S. Miguel, Azores
Tenedos-Thanet: geographical indications
Tenedos is mentioned by Homer only a few times:
- I,38, where it is mentioned together with Chrusa and Killa and appears to be a part of the realm of Apollo.
- XIII,32, where Poseidon stables his horses in an underwater cave between Thanet and Imbros.
- XI,625, where Homer tells in short it has been destroyed by Achilles during one of his raids, on which occasion he got a number of women away from it.
- In 8,509 Homer tells us in short how, after the construction of the wooden horse, the Achaeans sailed away from Troy, after having demolished their camp and having set the remains on fire first. They sailed a long way, far from sight, and hid near Tenedos (Vergil Aen. II,21-24).
- In 3,159 Nestor tells that, after the war was over, half of the Achaean fleet landed on Tenedos on the way back home to sacrifice to the gods before crossing the sea.
As we have seen in Introduction Troy, both Cailleux and Wilkens identified Tenedos with The Isle of Thanet. It was a part of the realm of Apollo or rather part of the district of present-day Westminster Abbey, and in that sense part of Priamos' kingdom, enemy territory for the Achaeans, which explains why Achilles destroyed it. The location of Thanet about 300 km from The Wash and just in front of the Channel, plus its religious character, make Nestors story fit into the whole image. The parsage of the Wantsum strait and the difficult journey across the Ocean could have been reasons to sacrifice.
As far as its relative position with respect to Imbros concerns, see Introduction Lemnos and map.
The Achaean stratagem of leaving the site and giving the impression of going home is very well understandable from the Thanet point of view. From there, from the northern bank of the Thames, the Achaeans could quickly return to Troy by land (135 km) and sea.
Thus, all the data mentioned by Homer turn out to be perfectly applicable to Thanet.
According to Vergil, Tenedos was 'famous, glorious and rich as long as Priamos' kingdom existed but now it is only a bay and a suspect anchorage for ships.' Of course, Vergil had the Greek Tenedos in mind (now Turkish Bozcaada), an insignificant island that also in the past was nothing else than a port for ships waiting to pass into the Black Sea. The Greek Tenedos was called Tanatus by the Romans, derived from Greek thanatos death, as if it was an island of the Dead. It is interesting Thanet had the Roman name Tanatus too. Therefore, this name has been transferred to Greece from the Atlantic, where the Isle of Thanet was an important Celtic religious centre and where the Seirenes with their piles of rotting bones were situated, as will be explained below. This transfer of names is confirmed by the location of both Thanet and Greek Tenedos. As Thanet is located between the mainland of Brittany and the river Maas (the Meuse, Mosa =Helion) across the sea, so Tenedos is located between Musia and the Thracian coast, called Gallaiké and Briantiké by Herodotus, names that obviously are derived from Galliké and Britaniké, regions that later were colonized by Gallo-German emigrants.
In 12,39 Kirke announces Odysseus' next destination: the Seirenes. From now on no clear instructions concerning distance, course, and wind are given, as Kirke explicitly says in 12,56: Once your comrades have rowed you beyond those creatures I cannot advise you in detail of the best course to take. I will tell you the choice, but you must decide.
Wilkens, however, sees a clear indication in the Seirenes themselves. They'd represent the constellation Gemini, that in his Zodiac-system (p.224) indicates a south-western course. So he believes we should look for the Seirenes at the Solent, the strait north of the Isle of Wight, but neither he nor Gideon comes up with an argument for this choice. Cailleux, on the other hand, found detailed and convincing arguments for his identification of Tenedos with the Isle of Thanet. Gideon claims that this route is irrational (p.87) but neither he nor Wilkens takes into account the nature of the scenes during the test phase Odysseus is in after his visit to Kirke. It's simply not true that Odysseus could choose from two alternatives to get home (Gideon p.83). He has no choice; he has to undergo all trials and carry out Kirke's assignments. During the test of the Seirenes he has a mystical encounter with the two ultimate seductresses, whom no man can resist and through whom he has to pass the test of continence.
How do the Seirenes fit in the Thanet identification?
Let's put all the data about the Seirenes at a glance:
1. There are two Seirenes;
2. The wind dies down; the water is smooth without waves;
3. The ladies are at screaming distance from the ship, that obviously is sailing through a kind of strait (Gr. diokontes rapidly sailing through, 182);
4. Odysseus' comrades get wax in their ears, while he himself is tied to the mast;
5. The Seirenes transfer knowledge (188) and know everything: present, past and future;
6. The mates strike the sea white and not grey as Homer describes it elsewhere and in line 180.
7. The Seirenes seduce with their songs every ignorant man;
8. One can stop a ship here, drop anchor or run aground;
9. The ladies are sitting in a meadow full of flowers (159) and not on a rock, as Gideon and many others imagine it.
10. There is a huge pile of bones of rotting men.
How do these data fit in the Thanet identification?
Ad 1: Two Seirenes
Thanet was separated from Kent by a strait, some 3 km wide, that, as a shipping route from the Thames to the Channel, was that important that the Romans built two fortifications on both entrances at the shores of Kent, called Rutupiae and Reculbium, now Richborough and Reculver. Caesar, at his first arrival in England, got ashore near Rutupiae, which name can be derived from rout-hof - garden at the rota (=tide mouth of a river). During the Middle Ages, however, this strait has been silted up. Into this channel, formerly called Wantsum or possibly Stour, two rivers flew out, the Great and the Little Stour. Cailleux identifies these two rivers with the two Seirenes, who were depicted as mermaids with fish- or snail tails, a usual image of rivers, and with a human head, a usual image of the moon, in other words: tidal rivers.
Be aware that Homer doesn't make any reference to birds, as the Seirenes are often depicted on Greek vases and even on modern pictures! These mermaids or god-fish can be found anywhere in the world. So, Christianity has kept a fish as a symbol for the ancient Gallo-German religion of reincarnation.1
On the Saxonian word "meermin" (- mermaid, meaning "sea-girl") Homer builds his story of seductive ladies because it has the root "minne" -love too (PH, th. 14). With this derivation the Seirene becomes a sexually exciting lady, offering "min" to sailors who, wanting to pass the strait and the test, must resist her.2 In the real world, however, the two Seirenes are the two rivers Stour, that try to pull in a ship at high tide or put it aground at low tide. So, the second layer of the story is a warning for navigators not to pause here but to pass the strait as quickly as possible.
However, in the third, mystical layer of the Odyssey, the two rivers have religious, purging functions. They were baptizing rivers bringing new life, lustration and spiritual purity. Therefore, the following etymology can be made of Seirene: from sair-ain = purging or adorning river. There are many river names beginning with sar or saar, like the Saar, the Sarine in Switzerland, the Rio Sar in A Coruña. On Thanet, some places may recall the Seirenes, like Sarre, that seem to be derived directly from Seir-ain, and the Hill of the Two Sisters near Reculver, where a church is with two towers, that since time immemorial were called Twin Sisters and in ancient times might have been very old nautical beacons.
With these Seirenes, the spirits of the two Stours, the spirits of other European tidal rivers with names like Elves and Muses can be compared and equated because Elf is the name of many rivers in Scandinavia and forms the root of the Elbe and the Alfeios, while Muses are connected with the Meuse (Mosa, Maas=Helion).
Ad 2 and 3: The serene sea and the strait
The calm and the wave-less water refer to a strait or channel protected against wind and swell from the sea, because, just before, Odysseus sailed across the sea with a strong tailwind (167) and, even if the wind dies down, the swell would continue for hours. Thanet becomes an island at high tides when the channel is filled up. Obviously, Odysseus sails to the northern entrance of the channel and starts rolling up the sails, in order to prevent them annoyingly flapping as soon as the wind, after the bend in the channel, running then south east, would get grip on them (See map Thanet). So, they sail rapidly through the channel, the Wantsum slack water channel, along which the Seirenes are sitting at screaming distance. Odysseus and his comrades use the oars and make every effort to pass the ladies before low tide.3
Ad 4: The wax
The bizarre story of Odysseus tied to the mast, while the ears of his mates are stuffed with wax, can be explained, if we look at the situation symbolically. Odysseus is bound by his oath of continence and his mates had to keep watch on him. The Saxonian words wachs, was, wax, watch, wake, waaks are almost homonyms but in Greek this ambiguity doesn't exist. As a poet Homer choose the nice wax story and concealed the connotation waaks, watchful in the watch-keeping of his comrades.
Odysseus cuts the wax to pieces with a sharp bronze knife. What is the meaning of this knife of Thanet? In Greek mysteries this knife may be found under the name of the ax of Tenes", because in the legend formed around Tenes one can recognize Thanet. His schoonmoeder (=mother-in-law) tried to seduce Tenes, who refused to give in to her. So she told his father Tenes wanted to rape her. This he believed and as a punishment he let his son float into the sea in a boat that finally reached Leukofrus (White Rock). The next thing Tenes did was to kill with an ax all men who had sexual intercourse with "foreign" women. Therefore, the island was named after him Tenedos instead of Leukofrus, as a remembrance of the abolition of the promiscuous orgies in ancient religion and the establishment of the new morality.4 This ax story can be found in many legends all over the world, e.g in Rome in the legend of Tanaquil and Tarquinius, in Lydia in the legend of the Gordian knot, a knot in a girdle (gordel) that only a king could untie, in India in the story of Rama with the ax, in Spain with the Iler-Caones on the banks of the Ebro, where the Holy Virgin would have left her girdle, that is still kept and venerated in Tortosa!5
The connexion with Thanet is further indicated by the word schoon-moeder, a corruption from Scoünos-mother. (S)Counos is another name for Thanet (see below). So, a Counos-wife is a Thanet-wife, a Seirene.
All in all, this bizarre Tenes-myth seems to be a corruption of our Homeric Seirenes-story. The mother-in-law is the Seirene who tries to seduce Tenes (Odysseus). However, he doesn't give in and sails to Leukofrus (White Cliff), like Odysseus, who sails along the White Cliffs of Albion and through the "white" Wantsum channel. The ax of Tenes, who kills the seduced men, is Odysseus' knife with which he cuts the wax in pieces to protect his men against seductive "foreign" women, the Seirenes
Ad 5: Knowledge
The Seirenes know everything, even the future. There is a classic source, S.P. Festus (18, p.368), who speaks about predicting virgins, he calls Tenitae, which means girls of Thanet. With their knowledge the Seirenes symbolize the Druidic schools, as there must have been in Monkton, Menstre and Sarre (see below). It is commonly known known that Gallo-German people were intensively involved with predictions, see Introduction Religion
Ad 6: White
'The sailors strike the sea white' (Gr. leukaino), says Homer, as if he wishes to indicate that Odysseus has arrived in White Country, Albion, the land with the white chalk cliffs. Besides, the ancient name of Greek Tenedos was Leukofrus (White Rock), a reminiscence to old Albion. After they passed the Wantsum slack water sands, the colour of the sea changes in normal grey.
Ad 7 and 8: Ignorance
Every skipper who sails into the channel without knowledge of navigation, depths, currents, tides is in danger of being sucked in or running aground. The same applies to those who allow themselves to be distracted and doesn't pass the slack water quickly enough.
Ad 9 and 10: The bones and the flowering meadow
The island of the Seirenes must have a meadow full of flowers (12,45 and 167) and certainly isn't a series of naked rocks, like those in the Mediterranean between Sicily and Naples, called Sirenuses (PH 63).
Bones and flowers are basic for the ancient religion and orgies. Bones were piled up in towers or depots that had a second floor, upon which, during the Floralia orgies, selected virgins copulated with the heroes and initiated. So, Thanet was, just like Scaldia (Schouwen), a centre of the reincarnation cult.
Ptolemaios calls Thanet Coünos. Since many names on both sides of the Channel are equal or similar, we might see Coünos as a second Schouwen, following this derivation: (S)coün< Scowen<Schouwen.6
Names of places like Monkton (Monks town) and Menstre (=Minster, Munster, Monster= monastery) on the island remind us of the ancient religion and the presence of Druidic priests. In Menstre Bronze Age archaeological artifacts have been found. As far as the virgins are concerned, they usually waited in confined buildings or lake dwellings near the coast for a god, symbolized by his high priest, for a king or prince with their feudal claims, for a stranger, who might be a god on earth, for a person initiated in the mysteries or for a war hero as Odysseus was. That's why the Seirenes welcome him as the great Trojan hero with the same words Kirke used when she received him, bent her knees before him and offered him her bed: Come, famous Odysseus, great glory of Achaïs! (2,184). Odysseus, however, doesn't give in to the old promiscuous rites, because he wants to be initiated in the new moral of monogamy (symbolized by Penelope).
The names Thanet and Coünos with the corresponding religious cult have been transferred to other countries by migrations. That is why in Susa, Ekbatana, and Babylon we find the cult of Venus Tanaïtis (Venus of Thanet), to whom parents gave their daughters in order to wait for god-sent heroes to copulate with. Nevertheless, these girls later ware allowed to marry, despite sexual intercourse with strangers. In the Syrian region Chaona (=Coünos) Atergatis is venerated as a woman-fish, an image comparable to the mermaid Seirene (see coin of Hierapolis near Aleppo with the egg of Aiaia in the middle).7
When Caesar crossed the sea to England, sailing from Itius Portus, now Boulogne-sur-mer, he went ashore near Thanet where he found people called Trinoantes. This name can be derived from trena-want, meaning scarf-separation/cape which might be translated as monastery of the scarves so that the Trinoantes are "the people of the monastery of the scarves". There the heroes were allowed to take or tear off the scarves (etymology: trena < trennen, separate), terms that have been preserved in Latin strena "special gift reserved for the strenuus" (strenuous hero with -s- affix).
However, a less dramatic explanation of their name is also possible. The separating channel is called Wantsum and so the name Trinoantes could mean People living at the Trena-want. In Welsh, however, Thanet is called Ruim, that may be derived from riem (=girdle) and may indicate defloration, but according to others ruim means "marsh"8.
Strabo (Artemidoros, book 4) speaks of a temple of Demeter on an island near Britanny, where similar rites were performed as on Greek Samothraké. Demeter (De-meter = the mother) is the same as mother-goddess Nehalennia. Just as Greek Tenedos is close to Samothraké, so Thanet is close to the Want-sum and to Samos of Thraké, identified as Norfolk, which makes it acceptable that Strabo meant Thanet.9
Cailleux even derives the name Britannia from these ancient religious rites, the etymology being bride-tania brides' land (=land of virgins or Seirenes).
The conclusion of our investigation is that all ten elements of Homer's story are applicable on the Isle of Thanet.
Another myth about Tenedos, not to be found in Homer but in Vergils Aeneïs, is the myth of Laokoön and his two sons. This myth appears to be applicable to Thanet too.
According to Vergil, the priest Laokoön, who dared to throw a spear into the wooden horse of Troy, was punished by the gods for this deed while sacrificing a bull on an altar at the coast. From Tenedos two snakes came down over the sea, swung around Laokoön and his two sons and strangled them, after which they disappeared under the altar of Apollo.
The snakes glided per tranquilla alta (-through quiet sea) with which words Vergil repeats Homer's "serene sea". The name Laokoön may be derived from Loo-cohen or Loco-cohen, meaning loco-priest or lower priest, under-priest of Kirke or Nehalennia, because the element -Koö- or Cohen has a connexion with Coünos, Schouwen (see above), the religious centre of this goddess, and possibly also with the verb schouwen, skowen (=inspect entrails), core activity of sacrificing priests.10
So, what happened here in reality?
Traditionally snakes are images of meandering rivers, in this case, the two rivers Stour, that at low tide split in two and, like hissing snakes, flow into the calm water. Then they swing around Lower Coünos, represented by Laokoön (the Higher (S)Coünos is Schouwen in Zeeland across the sea). The name Stour can be found in the enormous bull (Gallo-German: stier, (s)taur-us) that is being slaughtered. The two entrance capes of the Wantsum, Rutupiae and Reculbium, are represented by the two children being encircled. For the name of Kent, separated at low tide from Coünos-Thanet, was corrupted into Kind (-child). The altar of the myth indicates the religious centre and monastery of Menstre, an ancient shrine of Apollo.
The meaning of the myth becomes clear now. Since tide difference in the Thames area is approximately 4,5 m and at Ramsgate 4,8 m, there are dangerous currents towards both sides in the Wantsum. The myth seems to be a warning for sailors to be very careful in sailing through the strait because it can produce floods and drowning at high tide with a northern wind, while at low tide there is always a danger of running aground. These disasters are represented by the strangulation caused by the river-snakes.
The conclusion of this investigation is that Homeric Tenedos is the Isle of Thanet, centre of the old religion and feudal orgies, represented by the seductive Seirenes, but also centre of Druidic knowledge that is transferred by those same wise Seirenes. Despite their knowledge, Odysseus has to withstand these seductresses and show his continence in order to pass the test for his initiation into the new religion. The second, nautical layer of the two myths of Odysseus and Laokoön gives information to sailors about the geographical circumstances in the slack water channel Wantsum, the real dangers of running aground, floods and damage. Therefore, these myths are a clear example of the three layers in the Odyssey:
- the superficial layer of the poetic story itself
- the practical layer of nautical warnings and information
- the deeper layer of religious rites and initiation.
1. In Greek "fish" is ichthus, which word was considered to be an abbreviation of Iesous Christos Theou Uios Soter (-Jezus Christ Gods Son Saviour.)
2. In Spanish there are two words referring to the Seirenes: zurrona -"seductress, prostitute" and zurana -"wild dove without permanent partner".
3. See PH 404 and PA 172 sq.
4. See Introduction Religion in Homeros Odyssee p.891.
5. See PA 158 sq. for more details about the ax of Ramon and the festival of La Cinta.
6. The affix -s- is a normal variation, like Celt > Scelt, Scaldia: Taurus > Stour, stier.
7. See Introduction Kirke, ibidem p
8. Archaeological Notes on Thanet
9. For Samothraké, Nehalennia and Demeter see the various Introductions, ibidem p.707, 860, 917 and Introducton Troy.
|10. Cohen Gadol is the name for the high priest of the Celts. Gaedel, Gadhel, Gaël, Gwiddel = Kelt.
Abbreviations used for the books of Th. Cailleux (1878):
OC Origine celtique de la civilisation de tous les peuples
PH Poésies d' Homère
PA Pays Atlantiques, decrit par Homère
Citations of Homer: Roman cyphers = Ilias, e.g. XX,345; Arabic cyphers = Odyssey, e.g. 13,34.
Bibliography Atlantic authors:
Homeros Odyssee, by Gerard Janssen, Leeuwarden 2018
Gideon E. Troje lag in Engeland, Deventer 1991, reprint of Homerus, zanger der Kelten, 1973
Grave Ch.J. De République des Champs Élysées, Gent 1806, 3 parts.
Vinci F. The Baltic Origins of Homer's Epic Tales, 2005
Wilkens I.J. Where Troy once stood, 1990,
Dutch: Waar eens Troje lag, 2015 Leeuwarden.
Series: Odysseus' First Voyage
- part 1: Troy- Gog Magog Hills, England
- part 2: Ismaros and the Kikonen - Brittany
- part 3: Lotophages - Senegal
- part 4: Cyclopes - Fogo, Madeira, Cameroon
- part 5: Aiolia andAiolos - Corvo (Azores)
- part 6: Laestrygones - Cuba, La Havana
- part 7: Aiaia and Kirke - Schouwen, Zeeland
- part 8: Hades-Walcheren, Zeeland
Series: Odysseus' Second Voyage
- part I: Tenedos-Thanet and the Seirenes;
- part II: Skulla, Charubdis -St. Michael's Mount
- part III: Thrinakia-Cornwall
- part IV: Ogygia- Azores, Kalupso;
- part V: Scheria-Lanzarote;
- part VI: Ithaka-Cádiz, Jérez