If the body is a sacred gift for the soul, then our bones, the architecture upholding muscles, flesh, and all interwoven nerves, must embody a certain type of power as well. Across cultures, the sacrum, a triangular bone in the pelvis, is considered to be one of these holy bones. Yet how did the sacrum get its name, and could it actually be the seat of the soul? Or perhaps it only upholds the sacredness of evolution for being the pivotal point of upright movement?
A spade-shaped section of five fused vertebrae sitting between the hipbones and above the coccyx, the sacrum is the keystone of the pelvis and central to human bipedalism. Identified by a line of holes along the sides of the bone, the sacrum serves as a stress point for an upright human—bearing the brunt of weight when sitting for extended periods of time, acting as a pivotal axis for the body, and a connection point for muscles of the legs. Not only central to movement, the sacrum also serves as a backbone cup for the reproductive system and is the hinge for symmetry. Due to its density and strength, it’s no surprise the sacrum is the last bone to disintegrate and thus, has been considered a bone of power, a resurrection point for the body and portal of the soul.
Hailing from the original Greek hieron osteon to the Latin os sacrum, both translations equal out to holy bone or sacred bone, but the cultural dispersion of the name has stronger tendrils. The Egyptians considered the bone as one of Osiris’ lost pieces when he was dismembered, while the Mesoamericans named the sacrum the second skull, connected to our first skull through the white serpent of the spine. Both skulls contain concentrated sacredness: the head skull a portal of the mind and thought, while the skull at the base of the spine a portal for reproduction and rebirth. Even when nothing else remains of a buried body, the shape and structure of the sacrum can act like the rings of a tree, used to identify the sex, size, age, and weight of the owner.
The basic shape of the sacrum also alludes to the animal spirit within. Carved and shaped into an animal skull, the sacrum also represents the animalistic roots of human ancestry and has been worn as such a symbol. Once you see the pelvis and the centralized sacrum within carvings and symbols, it becomes almost impossible to unsee it.
Continuing in the Mesoamerican vein, the sacrum cups and protects the reproductive system, acting as a cave, even as our mouths are also entrances to the cave of our bodies. This idea feeds into the mythology of the cave, where dark mysterious openings are entryways into the otherworld, a pathway between one state of life and another, whether that be death or a parallel universe. If our bodies are maps, then the entry point of the cycle of life emerges from a sacral point (birth), and develops via our mouths—where we eat, drink, communicate, and smile. As the pathway continues down the white bone snake, we finally end back from where we came—to death and rebirth through the pelvic sacred bone.
Expression of the sacred is done through these portals. Where our skulls allow us to sing and chant, the second skull in the pelvis expresses sacredness through dance and sex, eager and swaying. Both portals are vital in relating to this world and its people, as well as accessing the primality of creation.
But what of resurrection? If the body represents a map from this world to an otherworld, how can the bones encompass the concept of rebirth? Spirits are articulated as being the point of resurrection, the essence where personality, memory, emotion, and thought are housed. Yet, the Old Testament, Psalm 32:21 states, “He watches over all the bones; one of them shall not be broken,” indicative that one bone must survive the test of time, and observation pins the sacrum as the final bone strong enough to remain.
Beyond Christianity, Native American tribes have indicated that the bones of their bison kill would one day rise, the herd resurrected to cross the country, and thus initiate the cycle of predator and prey, survival and death. For the Egyptians, Osiris’ resurrection happened at the hands of the goddess Isis, who gathered his pieces and used her power to make him whole again. His sperm bag, his most valuable piece, is an interpretation of the sacrum’s purpose, evoking his ability to continue the life and death cycle as one of his most important purposes, more sacred than godhood.
Thus, if analysis of one bone can determine a human’s sex, weight, and age, it stands to reason that within those data points lies the identity of the soul. Evolutionarily created through a fusion of vertebrae, inscribed on the bone is the tale of a life. Thus, when resurrection occurs, that person can be brought back to life—not from spirit, but from its vessel.
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Patel, Zarana et al. “Multicentric Morphometric Study of Dry Human Sacrum of Indian Population in Gujarat Region. NJIRM 2011, Vol.2 (2). April-June Special.
Sugar, Oscar. “How the Sacrum Got Its Name” JAMA, April 17, 1987. Vol. 257, No. 15.
Stross, Brian (2007). “The Mesoamerican Sacrum Bone: Doorway to the Otherworld.” University of Texas, Austin.