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 archeology.org 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.