Could it be? Eternal youth is powerfully attractive. Searches for a “fountain of youth” are legendary and continue today. It’s a grail of sorts, endlessly speculated on, and relentlessly worked on in the laboratory: the quest for longer, healthier life. The scientific quest isn’t to just work generally toward a way for all people reach a biological maximum, it’s to expand this. In the last decades there has been more than a little success. Currently, much talk is of: telomeres, stem cells, organ replacement, etc. The point is we are all dying, we just want to die as slowly as possible.
There are many stories and legends about eternal life or eternal youth. One story of an eternal adult life is The Wandering Jew, by Eugene Sue; it is compelling, sad – even heartbreaking - but also heartwarming. The Eternal Child is a legend found in all lands, with roots reaching deep into-and-beyond the daughters of prehistoric ice ages. Various myths and fairy tales tell of one such child: Circassian Helen. These stories were shared by unknowns who are lost deep in the mists of long-ago time. It is a story with child-appeal - and the appeal of eternal childhood. It conveys inspiration, along with uninterpretable cautions and warnings. It’s the most plausible of the “long-life myths.” Helen-of-many-names dates from circa 42,000 BC; she is the ancestor of the ice age Sun Child, Sun Maiden, then Sun Goddess, Helen. (Helen being the word for the golden mean, for perfect beauty)
This beautiful Sun Child’s story, preserved through history by oral tradition, ice age inscriptions, and later, legends, mythologies, and folklore, begins in the battle for survival. Days of death come as the terrible winter of an ice age descends. The “Fires of Aurignacia” must be learned: one learns all about starting fires, or dies. Humankind survived near ten thousand years of terrible, terrible cold, with only a few mild pauses. Through the deepest cold month, sitting together, women sang and worked in triple walled houses. Beside warming fires (ventilated, lest they die of monoxide) they sat spinning, weaving, and making tools, with only tiny oil lamps for light. As these determined women spun, they shared stories with young children, teaching them how to survive (the origin of 'spinning a yarn). Brave men, boys, and some girls ventured out to hunt.
These ice age parents wanted their children to be born during the most favorable time of year – this was critical for survival. It was also love, along with planning to their best abilities, for a much-wanted child. In France there is a magnificently revealing series of inscriptions where, written in stone, is recorded the tendency for families to start children at the Spring Equinox. According to Duncan-Enzmann, these are calendrics, timing birth and early infancy for maximum probability of survival. Babies born at the Winter Solstice had close and constant care from mothers, sisters, and helpers during the winter months when few ventured outside for very long. In warmer weather there were many natural predators, viruses, bugs, etc., and there was much to be done to prepare for the next winter, leaving less time for infants. All these factors made winter babies desirable.
We owe a magnificent tribute to our Ur-Mothers, daughters, aunties, grandmothers, and friends, who, together in deepest glacial winters, battled day and night to keep children alive and provide for them, working with only the light of tiny stone lamps. All together they did their best to keep precious Winter Solstice babies alive and healthy. It’s drama. The greatest of all dramas.
Then the cold months passed, together they were winning. The sun returned. The new child was near four moons old; her hair shone like golden sunlight. Day and night, week after week, one, then another of the women held her, fed her - and she lived. Little Sun Girl, born just as the Sun is reborn. All together, women and girls, men and boys, kept her alive. And next door a little boy has survived.
Love is powerful. Generation after generation: mother to daughter, precious sunny daughter to mother. Together they study the heavens – they must, the cycles of nature hold great power and their lives are in the balance. Oral tradition and picture writing preserved accumulated knowledge. These determined women inscribed their observations on bone, stone, leather, and ivory, on megaliths and cave walls. The beautiful blonde daughter became the symbol of the sun; both were and are necessary for survival. Millennia later, Sun Goddess Helen was symbolized by Venus; a clock so accurate that only toward the middle of the twentieth century was it replaced by quartz, atomic Cs, and perhaps soon, nuclear clocks.
This history is woven into our very genetics. Mothers and fathers together created the Sun Child, who grew in mythology to be the Goddess Helen. Many religions promise eternal life to those who follow the right path. Mythologies of eternal childhood are scattered around the globe. The Sun Child’s ancestor, Circassian Helen, flits in and out of history, her young eternal life creating myths and legends that precede the Sun Child by many thousands of years.
The ancient story of Circassian Helen is one of chance and accident, as are many legends of life changing events. Once Upon a Time, little girl Helen, playing as children do, nearly drowned when a river, during spring flood, reached over its banks and grabbed her, dragging her to the edge and finally dumping her into the torrent. There, a spheroidal tree root - Mississippian pilots call them river spiders – gripped, tore, and lacerated her. These roots, these things in the water, were between five to twenty feet in diameter, and sort of compare with tumbleweeds on land. With her are a few animals, also gripped by the tangled and hooked roots. And then, as if by miracle, the twirling river spider, bounding to the surface, hurls her away into a bramble thicket on the shore. There she lay until her mother found her; she was lacerated, cut, bruised – and inoculated by countless viruses. Mother nursed the child and she recovered; but she was forever changed. The viruses, which inject, or perhaps subtract, changed into a genome. As a result, Helen no longer ages.
We now know that only a small percentage of cells actually cease reproducing themselves and cause aging. There are syndromes such as progeria, also anagyria, which are rarely talked about. There are also conditions in which life, including human life, never matures. In the animal world there are genetic syndromes in which an aged creature can regress to a juvenile state. There are creatures that regenerate lost limbs, and some cut in two will become two creatures, such as the cold water Hydra of North American waters.
Mythical Circassian Helen, gifted with all of the above, heals lost members, regularly grows new teeth, never ages, and - somewhat frighteningly - has a brain continually improving. Yet, eternally a child, she perpetually directs herself toward playing. A child’s work is to play. Most alarming of all is the myth that a pint of her blood transfused will yield the recipient an extra century of life. Imagine the tales of greed, horror, murder, mayhem, and corruption this, if true, would generate. In these legends, Circassian Helen ably defends herself - she vastens (manipulates using quantum entanglement) and can stop a heart hundreds of feet away. Scraps of recorded legendary events follow her never-ending life. She appears in Chinese myths, and is referred to in others as the “Distant Watcher”. Imagine, how being forever a playing child would, in a way, also be lonesome. In folklore, passed on from generation to generation, she still wanders by herself with a dog cart in 1000 AD. In 2000 AD she is still, and forever, alone.
I was once asked: “If the Hand of the Grail appeared, offering you eternal life – eternally to be the age you are – would you accept?” This offer lasts only seconds. No time to hesitate. Now I ask you, would you accept?
Image: Llewellyn Tarot, Ace of Cups
About Symbologist Michelle Snyder
Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales. Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids
Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon