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in our e-book     The Board Game on the  Phaistos Disk

by H. Peter Aleff


Phaistos Disk Story

Summary of Volume One

Table of Contents

Riddle introduction

Translation examples

New perspective

Rosette symbolism

Rosette examples

Gameboard tracks

Heads on Disk   >>>

Philistine connection

Philistine fluted crown

Senet as key to Disk

Senet enduring magic

Calendar gameboards

Marks on Senet squares

Senet and Phaistos Disk

Metonic cycle on Disk

Command- Life- Down

T-shirt sign Tartarus

Preview Vol. 2

Reader responses

Game of the Goose
and Labyrinth

Goose Introduction
Riddle of Goose
Goose Game Rules
Labyrinth Riddle
Phaistos Disk Riddle
Labyrinth clues 1
Labyrinth clues 2
Labyrinth clues 3
Labyrinth rules 1
Labyrinth rules 2
Goose versus Disk
Solomon's Labyrinth 1
Solomon's Labyrinth 2

Before Quantum
Quantum Now
Rules for Quantum
Quantum Responses
Quantum Reviews 1
Quantum Reviews 2
Quantum Reviews 3
Quantum Rewards

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Footnotes :


34 Abram Smythe Palmer: "The Samson-Saga and its Place in Comparative Religion", 1913, edition consulted Arno Press, New York, 1977. See "Samson's Hair" and "Samson's Seven Locks", pages 31 to 57.


35 S. H. Hooke: "Middle Eastern Mythology", first published 1963, edition consulted Penguin Books, London, 1988, page 102 top, citing the end of the myth of Telepinus.


36 Martin P. Nilsson: "The Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology", first printed 1972, edition consulted University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, 1983.


37 Martin P. Nilsson: "Homer & Mycenae", first printed 1933, edition consulted University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1972.


38 John Chadwick: "The Mycenaean World", Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 1976, Chapter 6: "Religion", pages 84-101.


39 "New Larousee Encyclopedia of Mythology", first published 1959, this edition from Crescent Books, 1986, page 109 bottom right.


40 F.A. Wright: "LempriŤre's Classical Dictionary of Proper Names mentioned in Ancient Authors", first published 1788, edition consulted Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1978, page 61 middle right: "Apollo is generally represented with long hair ... his head is generally surrounded with beams of light."


41 David Ulansey: "The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries -Cosmology and Salvation in the Ancient World", Oxford University Press, New York, 1989, page 97, Figure 7.2 [Apollo with radiant crown from Pompeii], reproduced from Otto J. Brendel: "Symbolism of the Sphere", plate XVII, copyright 1977 by E. J. Brill.


42 Joseph Campbell: "Historical Atlas of World Mythology, Volume II: The Way of the Seeded Earth, Part I; The Sacrifice", Harper & Row, New York, 1988, page 96 top.


43 Max MŁller: "Comparative Mythology", 1909, edition consulted Arno Press, New York, 1977, page xx.


44 Robert Graves: "The Greek Myths", 91a-d, first published 1955, edition consulted Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, England, 1982, Volume 1, pages 308-309 for story, and Volume 2, page 401 right, for translation of "Nisus".


45 Aischylos' Choephoroi 613-22, and others, as cited in Timothy Gantz: "Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources", Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1993, page 257.


46 Robert Graves: "The Greek Myths", 137d, first published 1955, this edition Penguin Books, Harmonds- worth, England, 1982, Volume 2, page 169, citing Tzetzes "On Lycophron" 34 and Hellanicus, quoted by scholiast on Homer's Iliad xx.146


47 For the scribal use of "bald", see Sir Alan Gardiner: "Egyptian Grammar", Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, first published 1927, edition consulted 1982, page 450, sign D 3 = three locks of hair, used with a negation particularly to indicate portions "missing" from a copied inscription.


48 Adolf Erman: "Life in Ancient Egypt", first English translation published in 1894, edition consulted Dover, New York, 1971, page 232.


49 Felix Guirand, Ed.: "New Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology", Crescent Books, New York, first printing 1959, edition consulted 1986, page 15 bottom left.


50 See the information on baby-blinding with fluorescent light in the "Medicine" section of this site.


51 Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano: "Aztec Medicine, Health, and Nutrition", Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, 1990, pages 54 and 55.


52 Arthur A. Demarest: "Viracocha: The Nature and Antiquity of the Andean High God", Peabody Museum Monographs Nr 6, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1981, pages 32 to 35 and 61.


53 Isabel Hilton: "Royal Blood -- Letter from Kathmandu", The New Yorker, July 30, 2001, pages 42 to 57, quote on page 45.


 Volume 1: its siblings Senet and Snake Game,


 and its surviving sequel the Royal Game of the Goose


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Heads on the Disk

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3. Heads on the Disk, bristled and bald

The only one of the four rosettes on the Disk which does not mark the end of a path shares its space with a bald head that occurs again in the nearby center field of that side in the same combination, but nowhere else. All the other heads on the Disk have a hedgehog hairdo of bristles radiating outwards, so the absence of hair sets these two bald rosette-companions apart.

3.1. The sun-rayed head and Samson

Absence of hair typically meant loss of strength or life, as in the biblical story of Samson from Judges 13-16. The reason for this is clear from Samsonís name which meant "little sun". Long hair was a symbol of the sunís radiant power, and ancient sun gods as well as solar heroes from India to Ireland were usually portrayed with long hair34.

3.1.1. Hair as life-force of sun-heads

We find the same equation of hair with life-force as in the Samson story also in many other cultures. According to the Ugarit Tablets from around 1400 BCE, the Hittites hung the fleece or hair of a ram sacrificed to the sun-god on a pole to bring life, health, and fertility to the land35. The same meaning seems preserved in the Greek myth of Jason and his quest for the Golden Fleece, and the Classical Greek historian Herodotus (II, 43) relates that on the yearly renewal festival of the Egyptian Zeus, meaning the ram-headed sun god Amon, his priests hung the fleece of a ram sacrificed to him on his statue.

In Greek mythology, which preserves many traits from long before Samson's time, from Mycenae36, 37, and Bronze Age Crete38, the sun god Apollo had the surnames "Phoebus" = "the brilliant" and "Chrysocomes" = "of the golden locks", and this immortal never allowed his long hair to be touched by a razor. He and the other sun god Helios were both frequently pictured with a radiant crown of hair40-42, and the spikes on the crowns of mortal monarchs were meant to imitate these rays43.

The life and throne of King Nisus (= "brightness") depended on his bright lock of hair; he lost both when his daughter cut off this lock to offer it to King Minos of Crete44, 45, so establishing yet another connection of this belief with the Crete of the Disk.

Many centuries later, the loss of hair was still used to denote a passage through the underworld, and the path from Phaistos could still have served as a mnemonic aid for the progress of Herakles:  this Greek solar hero/god entered the belly of the underworld monster Tiamat and re-emerged three days later from that death-like darkness without a hair left on his head46.

Likewise, Herodotus also reports that cutting off oneís hair was in many countries a sign of mourning and death (II, 37). One among many biblical examples of this custom comes from Jeremiah 16:6:

"Small and great shall die in the land.

They shall not be buried.

None shall lament for them,

nor gash or make themselves bald."

In Egypt, the scribes used "bald" as a synonym for "defective" or "missing"47, and a disproportionate number of the medical prescriptions for these wig-wearing people promised help to both genders in making their hair grow or in causing the hair of hated ones to fall out.

(To grow hair, donkey tooth crushed in honey "worked really well. Try it!" Making hair fall out was easy by boiling "an'art worms" in oil and then placing them on the rival's head48.)

Hair was also the best medicine for restoring the life-force: a lock of the sun-god Ra's hair healed an otherwise incurable wound of the earth god Geb

This mythological cure by a few rays of sunshine may well express the effects of the spring sun on the desolate winter earth, or the revitalizing power of the morning sun on a dark and cold world.

It also anticipates by thousands of years the modern medical discovery that sunshine can cure some otherwise intractable disorders, such as rickets resulting from deficiencies in vitamin D. 

The healing method in this myth matches a growing body of photo- biological and medical literature about the manifold health benefits of sunshine and its full- spectrum imitations; such light is, for instance, the only known cure for the debilitating Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

Moreover, by wisely limiting the dose of healing light to only one lock of the sun god's hair, instead of wrapping the patient into his full mane, the ancient Egyptians are still far ahead of the current medical doctrine which downplays and denies the damage excess light can cause

The ancient observations about the healing power of sunlight could well also have led to the halos of light that surrounded the heads of the Greek and Roman healing god Asklepios and later of Christ (whose German title "Heiland" means " healer") and his ailment-relieving Saints.

Even native American civilizations shared the belief that hair equals sun-rays and thus life force. For the Aztecs, hair embodied the concept of "tonalli" which meant solar heat and irradiation, and also a personís fate, soul, and spirit; shaving the hair, particularly on the crown of the head, diminished the tonalli and turned the shaved person into a slave

Similarly, the Incas represented the strong summer sun as a mature man with long hair and a beard and the weak winter sun as a child without either, and the contemporary highlanders in their area still hold that the rays of the sun are his beard52.
This similarity of beliefs does not imply the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel sailed across the Atlantic to teach the native Americans about Samson-style barbering, but it suggests that the association between hair and sun rays and life force may be intuitive.  It seems to occur naturally among people who use visual symbols and metaphors to reflect on intangible concepts.

We find an echo of this in modern childrenís books where the rays of the sun are usually shown as its hair whenever it is pictured with a face.

The symbolism of cutting oneís hair as a sign of mourning and magic identification with the dead survives today, as illustrated by the reaction of the people in Nepal when their royal family was gunned down in 2001 by one of its members. A report from that country in The New Yorker describes the official mourning period:

"Civil servants were ordered to refrain from eating salt for three days and to shave their heads. Thousands of ordinary citizens followed suit; barbers offered their services free. Kathmandu began to look like a city of off-duty monks."53

With this widespread and persistent symbolism of hair as sign of life and strength and of baldness as the loss of these qualities, the bald head on the Disk fits the "death" meaning of the rosette exactly. It is also compatible with the "rebirth" meaning of that sign because the path to renewal in the afterlife went first through death, and only the dead could be reborn.




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