Sunday, December 26, 2004

Nectar of the Gods loses popularity

In Mexico, the "nectar of the gods" is in danger of extinction.

The popularity of the pre-Hispanic alcoholic drink, pulque, is fading in favour of more conventional beverages. Legend has it that pulque was being drunk in Mexico 10 centuries ago. It was certainly the preferred tipple of the Aztec elite and, being of divine origin, was used by priests in rituals. Commoners only stole a sip on pain of death!

Pulque is the sap of the maguey cactus, which grows in dry desert plains. It's extracted by workers who put a fat wooden tube in to the heart of the plant, and suck the liquid out. One litre of the milky liquid costs less than half a dollar.

But the so-called "nectar of the gods" is in danger of dying out as beer, rum and the ubiquitious tequila are taken up by young people.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Santa Free Zone ?

A group of Germans are fighting to get rid of Santa saying he has become a symbol of the commercialisation of Christmas.

Thousands of stickers have been printed declaring whole areas in Germany and Austria "Santa Free Zones" and pamphlets have been handed out on street corners reminding people that the traditional bringer of presents is St Nicholas and not the red-suited, white-bearded immigrant from the Americas.

Bettina Schade from the Frankfurter Nicholas Initiative said: "We object to the material things, the hectic rush to buy gifts, and the ubiquity of the bearded man in the red suit that are taking away from the core meaning of Christmas."

Santa Claus is not a typical Christmas tradition in Germany or Austria - the overweight red-suited man only turning up in the last decade or so.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Winter Solstice Concepts -- Beli Mawr

The Celtic commemoration of the rebirth of the sun is the Birth of the Divine Child, He who is known as Beli Mawr, The Shining One, Great Lord of Divine Fire.

On the longest night of the year, the Goddess gives birth to the Sun Child and hope for new light is reborn. The Birth is celebrated with games, merry-making and feasting which usually includes pork, the flesh of the sacred sow, and apples, the fruit of the tree of Avalon, the Blessed Isle of Death and Rebirth.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Christmas Spider

A charming old German story tells us that a long time ago, a mother was busily cleaning for Christmas. The spiders in the house fled upstairs to the attic to escape the broom. When the house became quiet again, the little spiders sneaked out and slowly crept downstairs for a peek. Oh! What a beautiful tree!

In their excitement, they scurried up the trunk and out among the branches. They were filled with happiness and glee as they climbed amonst the glittering beauty that surrounded them. But alas! By the time they were through with their explorations, the tree was completely shrouded in their dusty grey spider webs.

When Santa came with the gifts for the children and noticed the tree covered with spider webs, he smiled to see how happy the spiders were. But he also knew how heartbroken the mother would be if she saw her tree all dusty and grey. And so he magically transformed the webs to silver and gold thread. The tree now sparkled and shimmered and was even more beautiful than before.

And now that's why we have tinsel on our trees and also why every tree should have a Christmas spider hiding happily in its branches.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Goddess Brighid still going strong

Brighid is the goddess who survived the onslaught of Christianity. So greatly was she loved by the Irish people that they would have none of Christianity if they couldn't keep Brighid.

In relatively recent times her fame spread to Africa and Haiti in the hearts of slaves and deported Irish and Scottish indentured servants.

However she went through a radical transformation, and her aspect of Maman Brigitte is seen more as a Goddess of Vengeance.

The Haitian Voudou lwa -immortal spirit- "Maman Brigitte", is the wife of Baron Samedi, recognised worldwide as the jovial skeleton who wears a top hat, sunglasses, and smokes cigarettes or cigars.

Like the original Brighid, Maman Brigitte is revered for her ability to heal. Vodouisants approach her to request healing from life-threatening circumstances for she has the power to bring people back from the brink of death.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Sleep Spell

Color of the day: Lavender
Incense of the day: Maple

Everyone has a hard time falling asleep occasionally. Here's a spell for restful sleep. Begin by playing quiet music for a few minutes, and then go to bed. Imagine yourself as a beach of pristine sand, and sleep as the tide comes in to cover you. Say this rhyme:

Soft as sea on sand,
soft as mother’s love,
soft as moonlight above,
soft as the loving hand.
Sleep, gentle healer of flesh and mind,
come and restore what the day has drained.
Fill the long night till the Moon wanes,
then flee with dawn, leaving peace behind.

By: Elizabeth Barrette

Try out new things on 21 November

Color of the day: Yellow
Incense of the day: Clove

This is a day for inventions. On this day in 1783, the French physicians Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent, the marquis d’Arlandes, made the first untethered hot-air balloon flight, flying five and a half miles over Paris in about twenty-five minutes. Also, in 1877 on this day, Edison invented the phonograph, the first device to record sound. In 1969, the first link for the arpanet was connected (the arpanet later evolved into the Internet).

This is an auspicious day for trying out new things, new technology, and new ideas. So make an effort to shake yourself out of your ruts.

Magenta Griffith

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Achille's Rage

In the Iliad, Achilles expresses an all-encompassing narcissistic rage, which blinds him to all human caring for many weeks or months. We may be inclined therefore to ask: What in Achilles' past could have led him to have such ruthless and overpowering rage? In attempting to answer that question and fathom the causes of rage, we might consider the psychodynamics of his relationship to his mother and her influence upon him.

Achilles' mother, the immortal nymph Thetis killed six of her sons as she thrust them into the fire, attempting unsuccessfully to make them divine. Finally, in her seventh attempt, with Achilles, she succeeded – but only in part. Because she grasped Achilles by his heels as she held him in the fire, his ankles were not sufficiently immortalized. As a result, Achilles remained vulnerable in his heels, where we could receive a mortal wound

What effect might this experience and divine parentage have had upon Achilles? Clearly, Thetis valued her own immortality and was so intent upon her children – born of a mortal father - also being immortal that she was willing to kill them in the process. Can we surmise here that she indeed disdained humanity and the facets of her children that were not immortal? Could she have imparted this shame to Achilles? Was she, in contemporary terms, a narcissistic parent, attempting to meet her own needs through her children, at their expense?

What influence might her behavior have had upon half human, half divine Achilles? Perhaps he wanted to believe that he was divine and superhuman, and experienced deep shame and humiliation in regard to his mortality and human limitations. Such shame could lead him to deep sensitivity in regard to feeling devalued – intense reaction to personal slights, difficulty letting go of violations and humiliations.

Often the narcissism of a parent leads to narcissistic vulnerability and rage in a child, who never feels valued for what he or she is, because he can not fulfill the parental ideal. Thetis' lack of appreciation and empathy for Achilles' suffering could also have influenced him developing a blinding self-centeredness, and callousness to the suffering he caused others.

Because of his rare, mixed heritage, Achilles may also have felt very separate from others, resulting in difficulty at times identifying with and caring for his comrades - except for Briseis and Patroclus with whom he formed deep attachments. In fact, his feelings for both were so profound that the threat of loss of each one sent him catapulting into maniacal rage. Here, too, we see indications of a young man who was not truly nurtured, who formed intense symbiotic bonds in an attempt to compensate for what he had never had.

Cure for unsightly warts

Skin warts were considered unsightly as far back as the 13th century. Here's a cure that dates from about 1250:

Procure a live eel - fresh or salt water – and cut off its head. Then anoint those parts of the body afflicted with warts, using the fresh blood of the eel. Allow to stand until the blood dries. Do not wash off for at least three days. Bury the head of the eel deep in the earth. Remember where you buried it, so you can check its decomposition. As the head of the eel rots over time, the warts will disappear.

(This cure generally works better in the summer months, because the eel's head rots faster)

Atlantis again - this time in the Sahara !

The Lost City of Atlantis is not deep beneath the ocean -- the ancient metropolis is buried under the sands of the Sahara Desert!

Archaeologist Dr. Carla Sage points out that according to ancient accounts, the Mycenaean, Cretan and Egyptian civilizations all traded with Atlantis -- which would have been unlikely if it lay in the North Atlantic as many believe.

"Atlantis was clearly within easy trading distance of Troy and the other city states of the Mediterranean," she says. "I believe Atlantis was the capital of a vast North African empire with ports on the Gulf of Sidra. Atlantis was destroyed, not by earthquake, floods or volcanoes, but by the steady march of desert sands that smothered the civilization. The empire did not sink into the sea as is commonly believed -- it was swallowed by the dunes."

While the theory flies in the face of traditional views of Atlantis, Dr. Sage points to tantalizing evidence that supports the Sahara model.

Nomadic desert Bedouins, especially after sandstorms, often see marble columns sticking up out of dunes, notably near the Ahaggar Mountains of southern Algeria, the British expert reveals.

Even more surprising, scientists have discovered that within comparatively recent times in geological terms, the Sahara region enjoyed a temperate climate that would have made it an ideal site for human civilization.

"Eleven thousand to 12,000 years ago, when the ancient Greeks say Atlantis flourished, the Sahara was lush, fertile land," Dr. Sage observes. "Artwork etched in Saharan rocks at that time depicts giraffes roaming freely. Archaeologists have also found pictograms of domesticated cattle, horse-drawn chariots, as well as large caravans -- confirming that trade played an important role in the region."

But the alarmingly rapid transformation of the region from paradise to dry desert would have wiped out all agriculture and killed off livestock.

"More significantly, as sand encroached on the empire, clogging caravan wheels, it made travel nearly impossible -- which would have put an end to an empire based on trade," Dr. Sage says. "It was not until centuries later, around 100 B.C., that people began to use camels for transportation in the region -- an innovation that came too late for Atlantis, long since buried and forgotten under the dunes."

"A few diehards continue to believe that Atlantis was literally a continent in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean. "

If you read the full story you can see the original source, a somewhat off-putting source which has no claims to credibility. Still, it's a good story Full Story

Thursday, November 18, 2004

My Lord Bag of Rice and the Centipede

I thought a centipede was a creepy crawly behind my cupboard but once it was a terrifying, man-eating monster the size of a mountain. It lived in the mountains of Japan near Lake Biwa. The dragon king of that particular lake asked the famous hero Hidesato to kill it for him. The hero slew it by shooting an arrow, dipped in his own saliva, into the brain of the monster.

The dragon king rewarded Hidesato by giving him a rice-bag which could not be emptied and which fed his family for centuries. The dragon king also gave Hidesato a roll of silk that never ended, a cooking pot the needed no fire, and a bell hidden under a lake.

From then on Hidesato was known as My Lord bag of Rice

Full Story at Folklore @ Bella Online

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Our Neolithic Pets

The discovery of a Neolithic cat burial on the island of Cyprus has more than doubled the known history of cat-human companionship. French archaeologists found the remains of a 9,500-year-old wildcat buried a little more than a foot away from a high-status person of indeterminate sex. Both cat and human were buried with their heads facing west, which may suggest they had a close bond in life. The oldest previous examples of domestic relationships between cats and humans are from Egypt circa 2000 B.C.E.

Meanwhile, archaeologists excavating a Welsh crannog, or bog dwelling built on stilts, may have found evidence of a royal fondness for the corgi dog that predates Queen Elizabeth II's by more than a millennium. A foreleg bone discovered at Llangorse Lake--possibly the site of the royal residence of the Welsh kingdom of Brycheiniog in the late ninth century--is from a small, corgi-size dog. ("Corgi" comes from the Welsh for "dwarf dog.") Archaeologists plan to consult the Welsh Corgi Club and compare the bone to more recent corgi remains.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The story of Atlantis, a prosperous land that disappeared without trace, sunk into the sea by the anger of gods, is one of our oldest myths. It occurs in many civilisations, this Paradise Lost, and many different societies have used the myth for many different purposes. In our times we have innumerable books, discussion groups, films and websites, many of a highly speculative character. Best know is the classical Atlantis story told by ancient Greek philosopher Plato.

In Plato's version we have a moral tale, not a report of historical events, but rather a moral that uses the story of Atlantis in the background. Was it true ? And if so, where was it ? Atlantis has been assigned to almost every possible place on earth, up to and including Antarctica. But Plato has told us where to find it.

" Atlantis is an island outside the Pillars of Heracles and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean."

The name isn't derived from the Atlantic Ocean but from the giant Atlas, who held the sky upon his shoulders. Later, as Greek geographical knowledge grew, it gave also name to the high Moroccean mountain range -- and there's the clue, geography.

The most accepted location of Atlantis is Santorini. In 1650 BCE a series of earthquakes shook the region setting off a cataclysmic volcanic eruption on the island of Thera. This explosion can be directly connected with the decline of Bronze Age Greece. You can find information and some excellent photographs of Thera listed below this article

However, Geographer Ulf Erlingsson, discards Santorini in favour of Ireland. Plato describes the measurements, geography and landscape of Atlantis as 200 miles wide, 300 miles long, including "... in the centre of the whole island, there was a plain which is said to have been the fairest of all plains and very fertile". This may be a description of Atlantis, but it's also a descrption of Ireland.

Erlingsson believes the legend of Atlantis came from Dogger Bank, an isolated shoal in the North Sea, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) off the northeastern coast of England. Dogger Bank sank after being hit by a huge flood wave around 6,100 BCE.

“I am amazed no one has come up with this before, it’s incredible,” said Erlingsson

Photographs of Santorini

Was Atlantis in Ireland ?

Was Atlantis in Gibraltor ?

Monday, November 15, 2004

On the cover of the new Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals and Festivals you'll find pictures of a Catholic Mass, a blessing of the sea in China, Mardi Gras in Brazil and a "Star Trek" convention.

Through the book's 500 pages, there are the more-or-less expected descriptions of black churches, Jewish rituals, Protestantism and even Paganism. Then there are the more, shall we say, unorthodox entries, like puberty rites, snake handling, television and sports watching, and cannibalism.


The entry explains: "Cannibalism has been categorized using various schemes based on the function of the practice (ritualistic, nutritional or gustatory) and whether or not the victim is an 'outsider' or an 'insider' (exocannibalism and endocannibalism, respectively)."

When an anthropologist edits an encyclopedia of religious rituals, the meaning of both "religion" and "ritual" can be expected to be cross-cultural and interdisciplinary. We're talking way outside of church. Even the just-completed political season was a religious ritual for many Americans, said Frank Salamone, the anthropologist and sociology department chairman at Iona College who edited the book. "Politics is a civil religion," he said. "Being out there on a cold New Hampshire morning, kissing babies, shaking hands, singing 'God Bless America' — it's all ritual. For the people who follow every step, there is great meaning."

That's what it's all about: The search for meaning. Salamone, 65, a faculty member at Iona for 23 years, believes the search for something greater than ourselves can lead people to religious rituals of all sorts.

He refers to the "rites of passage" framed by Belgian anthropologist Arnold van Gennep, who held that a person can be changed or enter a new phase of life by going through three steps: Removal from society, immersion in a separate society or class (perhaps at a "Star Trek" convention) and a return to society as a different person. "Born again," Salamone said. "Whether you're going to Mecca or on another pilgrimage, everyone on the same road, on the same path, is part of a brotherhood or sisterhood. Rituals take you from one place to another. There's a reality behind what you see. People are changed."

He spent three years putting together the encyclopedia, which is published by Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group) and sells for $150. It is designed to be used primarily by high school and college students.

Salamone, who has studied religion for four decades, decided what subjects would be covered and assigned some 80 contributors from around the globe to write entries on their areas of expertise. He had to edit each piece and make a slew of deadlines while teaching at Iona.

Salamone's patterns of study are broad. He is speaking at an anthropological conference in Atlanta next month about how members of the Hausa ethnic group in Nigeria use magic to cast spells on one another during wrestling matches.

"At root, all rituals are the same," he said. "All of theatre comes out of the sacred. Football takes that place for a lot of people. It's the same magic you get from hearing a Christmas carol you knew as a child." He also is a practicing Catholic with an unorthodox, you might say anthropological, bent.

"There have been open-minded Catholics throughout history who have been willing to learn from other traditions, from Aquinas to St. Thomas Moore, all the way to John XXIII," he said. "That's the kind of Catholicism I embrace, the idea that anything good comes from God."

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Lakshmi for Luck !

Lakshmi is addressed as mata (mother) instead of just devi (goddess).

As a female counterpart of Lord Vishnu, Mata Lakshmi is also called 'Shri', the female energy of the Supreme Being. She is the goddess of prosperity, wealth, purity, generosity, and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm. She is an essentially domestic deity and householders worship Lakshmi for the well being and prosperity of the family.

Businessmen and women also regard her equally and offer her daily prayers. Money, grain, cattle, land, gold, and silver are forms of wealth. Who doesn't need them? It is said that wealth comes if Lakshmi grants it.

A devotee prays to her thus:
'Pradurbhootosmi Rashtresmin Kirtivriddhim dadatu me' (I am a citizen born in this country. Grant me fame and wealth)and 'Vasa me grihe'(Reside in my house). Those who praise Lakshmi live long. Their health is good. They will lead a glorious life.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Race to save Iranian Treasures

A team of Iranian archaeologists announced their preparedness to join the experts currently working at the Izeh historical site to help identify, document and save the ancient Elamite site which is being submerged as the Karun 3 Dam becomes operational and its reservoir fills up.

The region is home to an ancient site from the Elamite era which includes graves, ancient caves, as well as several items dating back to the Stone Age, although they will be flooded when the dam’s reservoir is filled.

Ali Mahforuzi, head of the archaeology team, said that Khuzestan is the paradise of archaeology in Iran.

The dam experts have announced that the reservoir would be filled within the next six months; therefore, archaeologists have very little time to survey the historical site and rescue as many artifacts as they can. When the Aswan Dam was being constructed in Egypt, the temple of Ramses II with a 22-meter statue was removed from its original place in an emergency operation with the cooperation of UNESCO.

However, Mahmud Mireskandari of the underwater archaeology team at the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization (CHTO) stated that Iran possesses neither the necessary underwater archaeology expertise nor proper equipment so it will be almost impossible to save the site unless foreign experts are invited.

“Definitely, the water pressure, the bad climate, and the changing temperature of the water will wash up the whole site, especially the hills, and there will be no way to save them, so only the historical artifacts will be rescued before it is too late,” he added. Dr. Mostofi, who had conducted several research projects at the site almost forty years ago, said, “Hearing such sad news was a big shock to me. By submerging the site, it seems we will soon lose sight of our Elamite historical sites forever. Each ancient site is like our fingerprint, showing our national identity. Safeguarding the site is the duty of every individual, and I believe all archaeologists are prepared to help.”

According to the original schedule, the dam was to become operational last August, but then the action was postponed until November, and over the past three months CHTO experts and archaeologists have been conducting activities at the site.

The story of Izeh being submerged gradually seems like a bitter dream for many. Although it seems too late, any effort by any individual to save at least part of our ancient heritage is praiseworthy. The dam is located about 28 kilometers east of the city of Izeh on the Karun River.

Tehran Times

Builders destroy historic palace

Builders who unearthed the 500-year-old Ming Dynasty ruins of an imperial palace in the ancient Chinese capital Nanjing went ahead to stay on a contract schedule and totally destroyed the site.

Workers unearthed several large marble pillar bases but still failed to put down tools, and by the time they'd finished, had dug a huge pit 2,000 square metres (21,500 square feet) wide and three to four metres (9.9 to 13.2 feet) deep out of the palace foundations.

The remains were believed to be part of the eastern palace of the Ming Dynasty imperial palace, which was built by Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty.

Local relics protection officials had rushed to the site to stop the work after local residents tipped them off. Wang Zhigao, a relics protection expert from Nanjing Museum, said he and his colleagues reached an agreement with the construction team to temporarily suspend work but the request was then ignored until police got involved.

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage said the workers faced prosecution for deliberately damaging cultural relics. Much of China's cultural heritage has disappeared with many relics smuggled overseas. Illegal excavations are rampant while the drive for profit has seen countless ancient sites damaged or destroyed.

(photo : AFP

Monday, November 08, 2004

Ancient Hot Chocolate

When Cortez and his army arrived in the land of the Aztecs, they were unimpressed by the little dark brown beans many of the Aztecs were carrying, until they learned they were used like money!

These beans were cacao beans, a popular trade item before getting ground, roasted, and made into hot chocolate (without milk-- no cows!) As popular as it was for the Aztecs, chocolate, or xocatl, was originally developed as a food by the Maya.

Sometimes it was made without honey, as a bitter drink, and occasionally even contained chiles, to make it spicy. The Aztecs, Maya, and others also added a cinnamon-flavored bark (canela) native to Mexico and Mesoamerica, but this is not readily available, so the cinnamon in this recipe is the oriental variety available in modern supermarkets.

2 ounces (squares) bitter, unsweetened bakers' chocolate
1 cup hot water
3 tablespoons honey
dash salt
3 cups hot water
4 sticks cinnamon bark

Chop the chocolate and heat it in 1 cup of water until melted. Add honey and salt. Beat the hot chocolate with a balloon wire whip as you add 3 cups of hot water. Serve the foamy hot chocolate with cinnamon-bark stick stirrers.

Want to give some ancient cooking a try ? Check the Forums at for advice on ancient cuisine

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Cosmetic lasts 2000 years

This little pot is an extraordinary archeological find. Just six centimetres across and five centimetres high, and containing a cream made from animal fat, starch and tin oxide, it was found in an ancient drain at the site of a Roman temple complex in London.

Marks left by the last fingers to use the cream pot are still visible on the lid ! Fashionable women of Roman Britain used it to bestow a pale and appealing look after their session in the baths. Someone would certainly have been in hot water for losing the jar !

White face paint was fashionable in Roman times and this colour would normally have been derived from lead acetate, but for Romans exploiting British mineral resources, the tin would have been a more than acceptable substitute.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Aboriginal Trail

I found an excellent guide to plants used by the Aboriginal people. The plants in this guide are listed by their botanical names, because common names often vary in different parts of Australia. The Aborigines spoke many languages, and so they also have many different names for plants. Some Aboriginal names have become our common names Geebung, for instance, for Persoonia species

At least half of the food eaten by Aborigines came from plants. Just as we eat root vegetables, greens, fruits and seeds, so did the Aborigines. Fruits, seeds and greens were only available during their appropriate seasons, but roots could usually be dug up all the year round, because the earth acted as a natural storage cupboard. Important foods were replanted. The regular digging-over of the soil, and the thinning out of clumps by collection of plants, together with burning to provide fertiliser, is not very different from what we do in our own gardens, and the whole country was in a way an Aboriginal garden.

Plants were used for many other things besides food. The long leaves of sedges, rushes and lilies were collected to make baskets and mats, and soaked and beaten to free the fibres to make string. The bark of trees made buckets, dishes and shields; River Red-gum bark was particularly good for making canoes, and old scarred 'canoe trees' can still be seen. Some rice-flower shrubs (Pimelea spp.) have such strong fibres on the outside of the stem that they have been called 'bushman's bootlace', and were used by the Aborigines to make fine nets in which to collect Bogong Moths to eat.

Medicines also came from plants native mints (Mentha spp.) were remedies for coughs and colds, and the gum from gum-trees, which is rich in tannin,was used for burns.

The particular plants which were eaten varied, of course, in different parts of Australia; in this guide it's only possible to mention a few of them.

Find bunya pine, banksia, geebung, yam daisies, pepper trees and more at The Aboriginal Trail

Monday, November 01, 2004

Happy Bast Day !

The feast day of Bast is celebrated on October 31. The Egyptians whooped it up with merry making, music, drinking, feasting and dancing.

Cats are magnetic animals with a strong power to fascinate or repel, and most of us faced unexpectedly with one admit that we either love them or we can't stand the sight of them.

Historically, the cat was first endowed with archetypal power in Egypt where it came to be regarded as a Sacred animal. For the cat is identified with Bast

Bast is the goddess of the rising sun, the moon, truth, enlightenment, lesbians, sexuality, pleasure, fertility, bounty, birth, plenty, the home, music, dance, the arts, hemp, and serpent-slayer of the sun. She was the beloved goddess of Ancient Egypt and the protectress of women, children, and domestic cats.

Usually shown as a cat headed woman holding a sistrum percussion instrument, she represents the Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess. But Bast moves, with the moon, to the fruitful woman with swelling womb.

Bast was the possessor of the Eye of Horus, the sacred utchat. Over time the utchat became more associated with cats and was often cat shaped. Egyptian women used these cat amulets as fertility tokens, praying to have as many children as cats have kittens.

Our modern names for the cat are derived from the word utchat: cat, chat, cattus, gatus, gatous, gato, katt, katte, kitte, kitty, etc. one variation of her name was Pasht, and from this we get the remaining Indo-European words for the cat: pasht, past, pushd, pusst, and puss.

The negative, darker side of Bast is her twin sister, Sekhmet. As the lioness goddess, Sekhmet symbolises the destructive forces in Nature, and together the sister goddesses make up a whole - the balance of light and dark

Sekhmet is the Goddess of sunset, destruction, death, rebirth and wisdom. She is typically shown as a black skinned woman with the head of a lioness and eyes and hair of orange or red. The cycle of life and death was created when the primeval Goddess Sekhmet-Bast divided into the two sisters. Sekhmet represents the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess.

The feast day of Bast was celebrated on October 31st, with music, song and much enthusiastic dancing. A great week-long festival was held in the holy city of Bubastis attracting devotees from all over the country to celebrate along the riverbanks and through the city streets. Herodotus tells of crowds swelling to 700,000. You could perhaps say that Hallowe'en was originally celebrated as the Feast of Sekhmet and Bast.

Today, ruins mark the joyful city of Bubastis, the once-proud temple is nothing but tumbled blocks and Bast is largely forgotten.

Take a moment to honour this ancient egyptian goddess. Light a green candle, her sacred colour, and be affectionate to a cat, her cherished animal.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Days of Death, Darkness and Halloween

Turning points are filled with portent. The time between one day and the next, the meeting of sea and shore or the closing of an old year and opening of the new are made of mystery and magic. The turning of the year was the time when the veil between the worlds was at its thinnest, and the living could communicate with their beloved dead. In the Celtic calendar this was celebrated as Samhain, an ancient fire festival. It was connected with the return of the herds from summer pasture, the rekindling of fire for the coming year and the examination of the omens for the future. The souls of the dead would revisit their earthly homes on this day. Magical times indeed.

By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, replacing Samhain with a time to honour saints and martyrs. It was called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (Middle English Alholowmesse) and the night before was All-hallows Eve. The celebration grew to include November 2 as All Souls' Day, a day to honour all of the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.

In America the ancient festival is transformed into the realm of folk observances with Halloween. The tradition of "trick-or-treating" dates back to All Souls' Day parades in England when the poor would beg for pastries called "soul cakes". In return, the grateful beggar would promise to pray for the family's dead relatives. Eventually "going a-souling" was taken up by children who would visit houses in their neighbourhood and be given ale, food, and money.

In Mexico and Latin America a three-day celebration begins on the evening of October 31. Many families build an altar to the dead in their homes and decorate it with flowers, photographs, samples of the deceased's favorite foods and fresh water. A wash basin and towel are left out so that the spirit can wash before eating and candles are burned to help the dead find their way home. Relatives tidy the graves of their departed family members and, on November 2, gather at the gravesite to picnic and reminisce. In past times, the Inca were so devoted to their dead that they would place their mummified bodies at the table during holidays so they could share thefamily meal

In my Australian childhood, we celebrated Bonfire Night on November 5 with fireworks (crackers), bonfires, and we burnt effigies of Guy Fawkes. In popular legend Fawkes was an Englishman who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament with barrels of gunpowder. He was caught, tortured, imprisoned, and finally, in a particularly grisly manner, publicly executed.

Fawkes was a member of a Catholic group who wanted to remove the Protestant King James from power. The plot was foiled at the eleventh hour - some of the plotters escaped, some turned King's Evidence and reported on the rest. The unlucky Fawkes was taken in chains to the Tower of London to be hanged, drawn and quartered. This was the Traitors Death and sent fear and horror throughout the populace. After Guy was dragged through the streets of London behind a horse cart, he was hanged only to be cut down just before death, his bowels were cut out (drawn) from his living body and he was then chopped into 'quarters'. The charge was treason, though when I was a child many people prefered to remember Guy as "the only man ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions."

Some historians say Guy Fawkes was not trying to blow up Parliament at all. Rather, he was trying to assassinate the king but ever since, the event has been retold to the people as "the attempt to blow up parliament" -- thus shifting the intended target from an unpopular monarch to a popular institution. Parliament somehow made political capital out of the Gunpowder Plot. Ever since 1607, bonfires lit up the night sky and warmed the air for celebration. The essential ingredients of the bonfire must have meant a lot for the people of the time - a place for cooking, light in the dark of night and of course warmth and a stage for all kinds of activity.

Under different names, and for reasons many have forgotten, the turning of the old Celtic Year is still celebrated with fire and deathly asociations.


Amaterasu, goddess of the sun and ruler of the heavens, was once so offended by the misdeeds of her young brother that she came down to Earth and hid in a cave. The universe was plunged into darkness and chaos and evil thrived.

The other deities gathered near the cave to discuss how to get her to come out. After much thought, they decided to hold a festival. A maidservant began to dance, and, as she whirled about, her clothing became loose and finally fell off. Amaterasu peered out of the cave to see what was going on. And laughed !

I know this story as that of Demeter and Baubo. How nice to find it again.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Goddess Questions

I had a question this morning - who would be the best female deity to represent Halloween ? I enjoy getting requests but (as I replied by email) this is a tricky one and I can't make up my mind as to my answer. A dark aspect to be sure, but which particular representation to choose ? Not the first time I find myself getting more and more difficult to please.

There has been an upsurge in goddesslore lately, I don't know where it all came from. Perhaps the dreadful times we live in produced it.

But there's certainly a lot of nonsense on the web about this goddess and the other goddess without any reference to any history or to meaningful research. Still, it's a lot better than nothing at all

I must write up a basic list of the various aspects of the divine feminine. A goddess a day for a start


What on earth do we do about Halloween ? Spend a pagan night of revel, while away a few hours of amusement, attend a christian service or ignore the whole thing ?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Australian Mythology

Once again I have readers asking for "real" Australian stories. Not the childrens' stories of 'how the frog caused the flood' but "real" stories.

I must explain that I'm non-indigeneous and only came to this country in 1842. Like just about every other Australian who came here in those times, my family had no choice in the matter, and if they had been given one, would have knocked it back faster than a rat up a drainpipe. I'm sure the twelve year old James, lash-marks and all, would have preferred Ireland, as would the 17 year old Mary who survived the Great Hunger in the midst of plenty (lest we forget). The inhabitants of South Uist, whose lives meant literally nothing compared to English sheep, didn't want to come here either.

I can write on the legends and lore of Europe, I spent years studying them, and I can wander through Celtic myths for they are in my very bones... but Aboriginal Lore is Aboriginal Law, and I have no right.

Legends and Lore

Legends and Lore includes all myths, legends, folk tales, ballads, riddles, proverbs and superstitions, an ideological manifestation of human creativity. Like other elements of human culture, mythology is not the creation of chance.

Legends and Lore of different times represent the thoughts, ideas, mental state, traditions, manners and customs, wit and wisdom of the people of that time. Apart from their entertainment value, they provide an insight into the present and past traditions and culture of a particular region