One of this past weekend’s news items included the following story: Octagonal dies Aged 24. Octagonal, known a the ‘Big O,’ was a champion, New Zealand-brew thoroughbred stallion that won multiple races during the 1990’s. Born on October 8, 1992, Octagonal’s career included a “second placing in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes, his 28th start, with 14 wins, seven second placings and one third for in $5,892,231 stakes.” Octagonal became Australian Horse of the Year in 1996, earned and retiring to stud status in 1997, went on to sire a number of other thoroughbred horses. On October 15, 2016, Octagonal was euthanized due to poor physical health at the age of 24; as many articles of the day stated, “although still bright and alert mentally, the horse was struggling physically in recent weeks and was euthanised on Saturday morning.” The intent is to bury Octagonal at the Australian Woodlands Stud reserve, where Octagonal spent the better part of the past 16 years of his life. (more info can be found here)
What’s in A Date?
Or jumping tracks to Sir Frazer’s The Golden Bough, and the Potential Tribute to Virbius and the Killing the Corn God
The deity Virbius, as Frazer states, is the “first of the divine Kings of the Wood at Aricia.” Viribius was the male companion of the Goddess Diana, and assisted as a companion to Diana’s supreme reign in the sacred wood. Virbius was alleged to manifest into this plane of existence as Hippolytus, and kept Diana’s Greek counterpart, Artemis, company in the sacred wood of Aricia. Forgoing any interest in other women’s love or attention, Hippolytus spurned Aphrodite; Aphrodite in turn enthused Hippolytus’ stepmother, Phaedra, to fall in love with Hippolytus. Hippolytus turned away the “wicked approaches” of Phaedra; Phaedra, now also upset with a lack of acceptance from Hippolytus, forged a false story to her husband and Hippolytus’s father, Theseus, and accused Hippolytus of having made inappropriate advances on to her. Theseus believed his wife, and in anger summoned his sire Poseidon to destroy and kill Hippolytus in revenge for the false wrong. The execution eventually occurred; Poseidon summoned a fierce bull from the ocean and attacked Hippolytus and his horse drawn chariot on the shores of the Saronic Gulf. The horses, terrified at the Poseidon creation, bolted and threw Hippolytus from chariot, eventually dragging him to his death.
This myth was utilized by members of his and Diana’s worship to preclude the allowance of horses into the sacred grove of worship; horses were not allowed access to the grounds of sanctuary due to the injury they inflicted upon their dead deity. However, Frazer states, there was the possibility of an annual exception; a once a year ritual wherein the horse was allowed access into the sacred grove for use of death and sacrifice, similar to the sacrifice of the goat once a year in Athens to praise Athena. Frazer argues that the common thought of horse sacrifice, ie that being of the slaughter and death of an enemy of the deity, is incorrect. Frazer states that the horse was not slaughtered as “an enemy to the deity of the grove,” but rather as being representative of the deity of the Arician grove. At a unique time in the calendar of the ancients, wherein the fall harvest was to soon begin, the horse represented the fructifying sprit of the both the deity of the tree and the deity of the corn. The horse’s sacrifice of said spirit was in fact representative of the killing of the god that they adored, who in turn would resurrect the following spring and bring with it a new, successful yield of crops for the adoring populace.
The Roman Sacrifice of the October Horse
In a similar event or ritual celebrated in ancient Rome that Sir Frazer touches on…on October 15th of every year, a chariot race was run on the Roman Field of Mars. The victor’s right hand horse was then speared and sacrificed to Mars for the purpose of ensuring good crops. A symbol of the corn spirit, the horse was sacrificed in October to ensure a beneficial, autumnal harvest. The horse’s head was cut off and adorned with a string of loaves. Wards of the Sacred Way and Subura then performed a “scrum” to determine who kept the head. If the Sacred Way resulted in possession of the decapitated horse’s head, the horse’s head was fastened to the wall of the king’s house. If Subura won out, the horse’s head was fastened to the Mamilian tower.
Not wanting to let any of the horse go to waste, the Romans also severed the tail of the horse and carried it to the king’s homestead. The tail is where the Romans alleged the fructifying, or ability to be fruitful and productive, power resided in the horse’s tail. The blood of the deceased horse was also collected and stored; this blood would later be used at the ritual of April 21, wherein the Vestal Virgins mixed it with the blood of sacrificed unborn calves (killed six days prior to the 21st of April). This mixture of blood was then “distributed to shepherds, and used by them for fumigating their flocks.”
Much like the sacrifice of the deity of the Arician grove, as embodied by the horse, the Roman autumnal rites celebrated within the Field of Mars also acted a blessing of the harvest. The dead horse’s head, tail, and blood, as being archetypal of the corn deity’s principal parts, and being stored at the king’s residence, acted as a form of blessing upon the upcoming Roman harvest.
Another Potential Conclusion
As discussed above, we have a key date in the world of the occult and antiquity ; that date being October 15 and having correlation to the Roman ritual of the October Horse. Is this just coincidence? Did the caretakers of our hero and former champion, Octagonal, a prized stallion of Australian horse racing, just happen to make a decision to put him to sleep on the random day of October 15, 2016? Why not October 14, or October 16, or some other date? Or is there once more a possibility that, for whatever reason, there is some occult, ritualistic significance to the date and time of the euthanization of the champion horse that means something to someone?
To be honest, I cheated on this. I had recently listened to a podcast with David Charles Plate, and there was a discussion regarding Stanley Kubrick, The Golden Bough, and Hollywood executives. Plate mentioned that Kubrick, being in possession of the rare, extended Golden Bough series, would lend or give these said executives copies of these books. The idea of interest was not so much the “controversy” of Frazer’s work regarding folklore and religion, but more so on the idea of rituals and ceremonies that permeated in the ancient world. Having been working though an unabridged copy of the Sir Frazer’s Golden Bough, I scanned the pages for key dates in the month of October. When the pages turned into a discussion of the deitiezed corn spirit in the symbol of the horse, the Roman sacrifice of the horse, and the date of October 15, I made a mental note to keep tabs on the news on October 15. Subsequent to some searching for news articles regarding “horse” and “death” this previous Saturday morning, and some 1300 words later, I somehow arrived here.
Whether the date was indeed intentional or not, I of course can not say. I do know that the world and industry of horse racing and breeding includes a very small, very wealthy, and very educated portion of the world’s population. Whether that implies that this group embraces rituals from ancient Rome, Greece, or Aricia symbolizing the birth, death, and resurrection of a deity of corn, tree, or something else, is a question others may have a better answer to.
At the end of the day, I possibly simply read an unfortunate news story about a beautiful and well loved horse having passed away. To all those who were close to him and were saddened by his early demise, I do pass along my condolences and sympathies.