Monday, October 30, 2006

Wonders of the Ancient World

Image : Maussollos, the Satrap of Caria.

Only one of the ancient wonders of the world still survives - the Pyramids of Khofu, but votes are being taken for new wonders which we can still see today.

Can you name the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World off the top of your head? Just to refresh your memory ....

The Great Pyramid of Giza - A gigantic stone structure near the ancient city of Memphis, serving as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu. (Cheops)

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon - A palace on the banks of the Euphrates river for King Nebuchadnezzar II. The beautiful remains of the beginning of western civilisation have all been obliterated from the ancient land of Mesopotamia. Some treasures have been destroyed, not by time and natural decay, but by massive bombings in only the last few years.

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia - An enormous statue of the Greek father of Gods, carved by the great sculptor Pheidias.

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus - A beautiful temple in Asia Minor erected in honor of the Greek Goddess, Protector of young women and of wild nature.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus - A tomb constructed for King Maussollos, Persian satrap of Caria.

The Colossus of Rhodes - A colossus of Helios, God of the Sun, erected by the Greeks near the harbour of Rhodes.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria - A lighthouse built by the Ptolemies on the island of Pharos.

You can now Vote for the New Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Or at least, vote for six of them. You may choose places such as Stonehenge, Easter Island and more. Even the Kremlin is on the list.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Superficial aspects

This chalk on the footpath sketch is flat. The artist is Julian Beever who gives to his drawings an amazing 3D illusion.

It's easy to be deceived. Muralist, William Cochran, says ...

"How easily paint can fool the eye is a metaphor for how easily we're fooled by surface differences in each other, like race, attitude, language, and gender. These lock us into stereotypes of who it is OK to connect with.

What could be more amazing than the fact that we are divided by illusions every day, by superficial aspects of each other that fool us into thinking we are fundamentally different, when in fact we are all fundamentally the same."

We are all fundamentally the same.

More amazing art from Julian Beever

Sunday, October 08, 2006


The cult of Mithras was popular throughout the Roman world from the Middle East, via Italy, to its northern limits at Hadrian’s Wall and along the German border. At least until Constantine decided that Christianity would suit his rule better.

In essence, Mithraism was centred on the worship of the saviour god Mithras, born of a Virgin and a God, whose birthday is 25 December. Sound familiar?

Because of political aspirations, and a desire to confine the power of the Army, the state religion was named as the new cult of Christianity.

More on Mithras, God of Soldiers

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Paranormal survey

Monash University, in Melbourne, Australia is conducting an online survey of the paranormal.

Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, take a few minutes to complete this survey designed to help shed light on what types of experiences people are having (or not having as the case may be).

By paranormal the survey means experiences that cannot be explained using the current laws of science. These events include premonitions, out-of-body and near-death episodes, telepathy and apparitions. Many people believe in the paranormal but this survey is not about beliefs. It is about what people ARE and are NOT experiencing. The survey is open to anyone 18 years of age or older, regardless of whether they have or have not experienced the paranormal. The survey is anonymous and will take only 5 to 10 minutes to complete.

Survey Link

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The lunar effect

Does a full moon make you feel like partying? Do you feel more energetic during a waxing moon? Either way, Making plans around the phases of the moon can lead to many things, from good business deals to more lustrous hair.

Roch Voller, who works in the psychiatric emergency department of Melbourne's St Vincent's Hospital, understands first-hand the meaning of the term "the lunar effect". He always expects more patient aggression when it's a full moon.

Voller isn't alone in believing in the lunar effect.

A 1987 study by the Journal Of Emergency Medicine found that 92 per cent of nurses found full moon shifts more stressful and believed they should be paid more to work on those nights.

It seems it's not just those prone to lunacy who are affected.

Shareholders are also influenced. A 2005 study by the Journal Of Empirical Finance found stock returns were consistently three to five per cent lower around the full moon than on the days around a new moon.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bollywood portrays baby Krishna

Bollywood too has been contributing to the wider knowledge of mythology. After the phenomenal success of 'Hanuman' last year, Hindi film world would again witness one of the greatest heroes of all times, Krishna, an richly animated musical, aimed at children.

It's always entertaining to hear the stories of Krishna again. This becomes especially exciting when it is presented in an animation format, with Krishna in his childhood.

'KRISHNA', tells the story of Lord Krishna's birth, his childhood spent in Vrindavan and his slaying of Kansa, the evil ruler of Mathura. The film features various adventures of his childhood, including his clashes with demons like Pootna, Trinavarat and many more. This animated feature also brings to life Lord Krishna's naughty aspects like stealing butter, and other adventures.

Kannum vittum, onam unnanum

OnamThe Onam festival traces its way back to Hindu mythology and the fifth avatar of Lord Vishnu. It is a festival of colours, flowers and celebration as King Mahabali is welcomed back home.

The Vamanamoorthy temple (photo) in Kerala, is believed to be the very location where Asura king Mahabali offered his head to MahaVishnu's Vamana avatar to place the third feet of land that the noble king granted the brahmin boy.

Ceremonial celebrations at the temple go on for 10 days coinciding with the Onam festival.

On the ninth day of Uthiradam and the tenth day of Thiruvonam, the caparisoned elephants at the temple are taken in a procession to the music of Panchiratalam - the five instruments played by about 60 artisans.

The Pookkalam or flower carpets are the very soul of the Onam festival.

Arrangements are made in every home to welcome not just King Mahabali but also the peace, prosperity and happiness that he symbolises.

Mythology in the sand

Sand sculptureThe beautiful reproduction of the Last Supper is made of sand, just one of the exhibits in the International Sand Sculpture Festival (FIESA) 2006.

The sculptures were constructed in two months by 40 sculptors, all with a mythological theme. Scenes of Greek, Celtic, Scandinavian, Assyrian, Indiana, Egyptian and African mythologies were displayed to the public during four months.

FIESA is a mega-exposition of sand sculptures made by internationally recognized sculptors in an exhibition area of 15,000 square metres with sculptures up to 15 metres in height. This year 35,000 tons of sand were been used to create theme of “Mythologies”.

Black cats and luck

There are many tales of shape-shifting black cats in communication with the Devil in European folk-belief. But black cats have a positive image as well. Charles I owned a black cat. Although we usually associate spaniels with the English king, he looked upon his cat as great good luck and lived in fear of harm befalling his little companion.

The day after the black cat died, Charles was siezed.

There are many cat charms relating to ships and the sea. Fishermen's wives would keep a black cat at home to prevent disaster at sea, these cats became very valuable and were often stolen. For good luck, cats were kept on board ships. If a sailor were approached by the ship's cat it meant good luck, but if the cat only came halfway and went away again it meant bad luck.

The very worst thing to happen, guaranteed to raise a storm and bring bad luck to everyone, was to throw the cat overboard.

More on Animals in Mythology

The Bat and Death

Being associated with death means being associated with rebirth. The appearance of a bat signifies the need for transformations, for letting go of old habits or ways of life and adopting new ones. Bat shows how change is necessary although it can be painful to let go of the past. As an animal of night and the dark it can also guide people through the darkness of confusion and help them face their fears.

The Bat means the opportunity for change and transformation, a coming out of the dark and being reborn. When you meet a bat, welcome him as the Blessed Bringer of Change.

More on Bats in Mythology

Celebrant versus Celibate

I had a strange reaction from a clerk in the post office who was bemused when I dropped in to pick up a parcel sent to me. It was a biggish box, and the address had Reverend clearly written in front of my name.

Clerk : I didn't know you were a priest.

Me : A minister, yes. But chiefly I'm a Funeral Celebrant.

Clerk : A celebrant? I thought you had children.

Time flies

Time flies. It certainly does.

I've spent the last four months doing a Funeral Director's course, which is quite different from the grief counselling. But all tied in with my celebrancy.

Back to the blog .............

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula This is a peek inside a cavern of roiling dust and gas where thousands of stars are forming.

The image, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, represents the sharpest view ever taken of this region, called the Orion Nebula. More than 3,000 stars of various sizes appear, some of them never before seen in visible light, in a dramatic dust-and-gas landscape of plateaus, mountains, and valleys that are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon.

The Orion Nebula is a picture book of star formation, from the massive, young stars that are shaping the nebula to the pillars of dense gas that may be the homes of budding stars.

The bright central region is the home of the four heftiest stars in the nebula. The stars are called the Trapezium because they are arranged in a trapezoid pattern.

Ultraviolet light unleashed by these stars is carving a cavity in the nebula and disrupting the growth of hundreds of smaller stars. Located near the Trapezium stars are stars still young enough to have disks of material encircling them. These disks are called protoplanetary disks or "proplyds" and are too small to see clearly in this image. The disks are the building blocks of solar systems.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A warrior emerges from the dust

Detail of painted Roman Statue
The marble head of a warrior woman has emerged from Vesuvius' volcanic rock.

Buried by the eruption that nearly 2,000 years ago covered Pompeii and the nearby towns of Herculaneum and Stabiae with nine to 20 feet of hot ash and pumice, the painted marble bust was found in a collapsed escarpment near Herculaneum's Basilica.

Almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake 17 years before the eruption, the Basilica was rebuilt by proconsul Marcus Nonius Balbus. It was unearthed in the 18th century, when the entire town of Herculaneum was discovered by chance during the construction of a well.

The statue has coloured hair and make up, and her pupils and eyelashes look just like they did when Herculaneum was buried by the eruption.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Delenda est Carthago

I remember having to learn this sentence at school, it demonstrated a rule in Latin, a very important rule, one which I have completely forgotten. But let's start with a quick explanation for the ones who weren't force-fed Latin grammar in their childhood.

Delenda Est Carthago, Carthage must be destroyed, or more exactly: "Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam" which translates as "And therefore, I conclude that Carthage must be destroyed", was the motto of arch-conservative Roman Senator Marcus Porcius Cato. He is generally referred to as Cato the Elder to distinguish him from his grandson of the same name, who also rose to prominence in Roman history and is known as the Younger.

Cato was relentless. He used this motto, this tagline, everywhere.

Rome had already fought two wars against Carthage, most of us are vaguely familiar with the second of these during which Hannibal crossed the Alps with his elephants. Cato, veteran of both wars, was appointed an ambassador to Carthage. He was astonished, and appalled, at what he saw there.

He saw the mighty harbour with wharves piled with the wealth of many countries; the marketplace with abundant food from many parts of the world, warehouses filled with spices, rich and rare merchandise, gold, precious oils and ivory. He saw the graceful houses with their sculpted gardens, the towering public buildings, the massive city walls; the wealth of Carthage was great and wonderful. And he was sickened.

Cato understood that two expansionist empires could not co-exist. The world would be ruled by one power or the other, Imperialist Rome with her armies or the commercial empire of the Phoenicians, and he saw but one way to ensure Rome would triumph. Rome must move fast and strike first with all her force, a pre-emptive strike, Carthage must be destroyed.

It was easy to demonise the Phoenician people as brutish, murderous barbarians. The religion was different, the language and lifestyle different, they looked different. In Carthage, people were somehow less human than those in Rome. The Romans viewed Hannibal himself in mythic terms, as a folk monster, a devourer of children, a cruel and cunning invader who was stopped only by epic courage and perseverance from the vastly morally superior people of Rome.

The only defense, Cato said, was to attack. To destroy it.

Eventually, Cato's persistence paid off, and Rome started the third and final Punic War against her trade rival.

Cato's slogan was implemented in typical thorough-going Roman style. The walls of Carthage were torn down, the city put to the torch, the citizens were sold into slavery and the Senate decreed that no one could live where Carthage once stood. Some stories say the fields were sewn with salt.

In any case, Carthage was destroyed.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Consider the Egg

As easter time approaches, it's a chance to consider the egg.

The glorious egg, with its deep links to Creation mythology, is one of the oldest symbols of life and rebirth known to us. Many gods, demons and heroes have sprung from eggs. It's a symbol of new life in cultures as far apart as Polynesian, Chinese, Phoenician, Egyptian and Greek and represents resurrection in Christian belief.

Hindu mythology brings us a vivid picture of how the world-egg became the world we now live in. There was one, a warm, glowing, single egg. It rocked gently, a crack appeared, and the world was born. Half the shell became the earth and the other half became the sky. Mountains were created from the inner membrane and clouds from the outer. The veins formed rivers, the fluid became the ocean and the yolk formed the sun. It makes a kind of sense when you consider the egg.

Portrayals of winged eggs commonly float above Egyptian mummies, carrying the soul to another birth. A great bird, Tien, dropped an egg in China and a man emerged from it. Another egg of note is that of the phoenix, the bird which dies in flames every 14,000 years after setting its own nest alight. From the resulting ashes, a new egg emerges from which hatches a new phoenix, which dies in flames ... and so it goes.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Venus and the Female Body

She was born out of the sea, a child of the sky god and the fertile sea womb, arising fully mature from the primordial waters. She surged from the foam, stepping delicately onto a floating seashell, and the wind of the west blew her softly to Cyprus.

She was originally known for her amorous nature, and associated with the arrival of Spring, as the bringer of joy for gods and mortals alike.

Venus and the Romans : The people of Rome had a special love for Venus. She is the mother of Aeneas, the Trojan hero who carried his father Anchises on his back from the ruins of Troy, and, after many adventures and tribulations, arrived in Italy to found the great city of Rome.

The dictator Sulla made her patron of Rome, and both Julius Caesar and the emperor Augustus named her the ancestor of their (Julian) family: the 'gens Julia'. Full of the Roman virtue of gravitas, Caesar introduced the cult of Venus Genetrix, the goddess of motherhood and marriage. She was portrayed no longer as amorous and sensual but matronly and chaste.

Venus as archetype : Society reflects its idealised women by archetypal images of femininity and sexuality. The rise of Christianity celebrated a sweet and vulnerable womanhood, seen particularly clearly in the image by Botticelli of the young gentle maiden. You can't fail to notice, however, that she has breasts.

Earlier cultures recognised the domain of emotion, passion and creativity as one with intense and volatile attributes of fecundity and fruitfulness. They gave us a sensual Venus with a proudly swollen belly, with prominent thighs and buttocks.

My renter, In the Outer, informs us an altercation has arisen " .. about the cover of the recent issue of Leadership which features a statue depicting in clear view some fine "marble bosom". Rather than discuss the import of what the issue was dedicated to, it appears that readers are more concerned with the supposed propriety of depicting a statue with bare breasts on the cover page of a magazine dedicated to ministers and ministry.".

You'll have to read the rest of his post, it will certainly make you wonder about people who have problems with a marble statue depicting the beauty of the female body.

I do indeed hope they are never subjected to a real live one.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Judas : What was he on about?

The Passover Plot : Special 40th Anniversary Edition : Hugh J Schonfield Theologian Schonfield argued that the crucifixion of Christ was a conscious re-enactment of Biblical prophecy and Judas acted with Jesus' full knowledge and consent in "betraying" his master to the authorities.

The act of Judas has been much discussed in context of free will, I spent hours in my younger days thinking about the whole betrayal business. The mainstream position has been that although Jesus knew that Judas would betray him, Judas was still acting in free will and was culpable for his actions. There's certainly some contradiction here in the idea of "the betrayal of God". The possibilities seem to be these:

* Jesus did not foresee the betrayal by Judas.
* He was unable to prevent it.
* He allowed Judas to betray him.
* Judas was an informed accomplice in Jesus' planned destiny.

My Renter, In the Outer, looks at a new discussion on Was Judas Misunderstood?

Monday, February 13, 2006

Paccariscas of Peru

The Paccarisca was usually saluted with the cry, "Thou art my birthplace, thou art my life-spring. Guard me from evil, O Paccarisca!"

An Oracle Spirit was present near these holy stones so the paccariscas were treated with great reverence and people were loth to stray too far from them.

Worship of stones is common no matter where you are in the world. The rocks are the very bones of the earth and hold the mysteries of creation, of unimaginable time and the space between the stars. Many Native American creation myths place humans as coming forth from the womb of the great terrestrial mother. From earliest times people everywhere have sought refuge in caves, lived in them and raised their children, rejoiced around the fire and learnt the subtlety of the human psyche.

Paccariscas are found at Callca, in the valley of the Yucay, and at Titicaca there is a great mass of red sandstone on the top of a high ridge with almost inaccessible slopes and dark, gloomy recesses where the sun took refuge in the time of the great flood. The rock of Titicaca is the Paccarisca of the great Sun himself.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Love is in the air ... again

It's that time of year again, when chocolates and flowers start doing the rounds and Valentine cards with messages of undying love appear, like mushrooms, overnight.

Have you noticed the mythological allusions in the greeting cards? You can't miss Eros with his tiny arrows, or Cupid as he is more commonly termed to avoid any indelicate reference to biological urges. Tales of legendary lovers abound, Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, or Hero and Leander. Even Romeo and Juliet get a re-run. But are these loving couples really good role models for a succesful relationship?

Take the young lover theme for example. The original pair were Pyramus and Thisbe, teenagers from opposing families in Ancient Babylon who fell in love, mixed up some messages to each other and ended up dead. Not a very inspiring story to start with, although Shakespeare improved on the material and West Side Story certainly sold a lot of tickets. But overall, it's a most unsatisfactory conclusion.

Then there's the couple kept apart by honour. The story of Tristan and Isolde, like that of Lancelot and Gionevere, is often held up as an example of true and perfect love. All the ingredients for a satisfactory narrative are present; the lightning bolt of desire, the inevitable tragedy, ritual sacrifice, the denial of satisfaction and the purity of renunciation. These days, the path of honourable chastity has lost popularity.

But what else can you expect from the barbed darts of the spiteful Eros? Even Apollo wasn't immune.

While swaggering round one morning the Sun God came across Eros sharpening his darts and, full of his own importance, disparaged the puny weapons. One of these arrows which Eros honed so carefully was to instantly cause infatuation, the other to repel it. The former was of gold and sharp-pointed, the latter blunt and tipped with lead. Full of malice, Eros took up the leaden shaft and struck the nymph Daphne, and with the golden one, he shot the cocky Apollo right through the heart.

Poor Daphne, who wished only to remain unmarried and alone in the deep woods, was immediately pursued by the lustful Apollo. Bent on rape, he chased her relentlessly through the woods. The desperate nympth, finally overcome with exhaustion, turned into a laurel tree. You must admit that while the story may be interesting for mythological reasons, it's not much of a yarn.

Eros even wounded his own mother Venus in the bosom with one of his arrows. Before the wound healed she beheld Adonis, and that was that! Utterly captivated, she left her pleasant garden, and followed the youth through the woods and over the hills and far away. Not the kind of behaviour to be encouraged in mothers at the best of times.

And then there's Zeus. Any love story involving Zeus is essentially a contradiction in itself, the Great Philanderer was at best an overbearing boasting Casanova or at worst, an arch-rapist, that is, until he met Ganymede.

In earlier days, all Greeks were familiar with the tales that told of the many affairs of Zeus, of the ill-fated love of Apollo and Hyacinth, of Achilles and Patroclus, and of many other such passionate friendships between gods or heroes and handsome youths. These stories are not so popular today and many in these modern times have forgotten Ganymede, the most beautiful boy in the world, but in any case, apart from the youth suffering an untimely death, his story isn't universally suitable for a Valentines Day greeting card message.

Perhaps the best Valentine's Day greeting is a simple kiss, a hug, and three little words. It's kept the world going around for a while now.

I've put together a list of Real Love Legends on the main website at All Info About Myths & Legends and don't forget, you can get the Legends and Lore eZine free every fortnight

Friday, February 03, 2006

Brighid, Queen of Heaven

In the Northern Hemisphere Imbolc is still celebrated. Take my renter for example, Fading the Surface Noise, she will be building a bonfire with '.. old Christmas trees, symbolizing the spark of new growth & creative inspiration.' And honouring Brighid

Brighid is the most powerful religious figure in all of Irish history. She has moved through the ages with scarcely a change and travelled effortlessly down the centuries. Over hundreds of generations Brighid moves with grace and power, fulfilling different roles in different times.

The Irish say that Brighid gave us whistling, that she invented this one night when she wanted to call her friends. And that she taught us how to keen the mournful song of the bereaved woman. This keening links Brighid to the great mother goddesses of the eastern Mediterranean, and like them, she was identified with fertility of the soil, and with the earth itself.

More on Brighid, Queen of Heaven

Thursday, February 02, 2006


Lupercalia was a Roman ritual of purification and fertility dating from such an ancient time that even the Romans of the first century Common Era had totally forgotten what it was all about.

On February 14, the Luperci, young men who were naked except for the skins of goats they had just sacrificed, ran from the Lupercal around the bounds of the Palatine, both to purify that ancient site in a ceremony of lustration (lustratio) and, striking the women they met with strips of goat skin, to promote fertility.

These days we prefer flowers and chocolate

The Irish called this month Feabhra or an Gearran, the gelding or horse. The horse was used to draw the plough, but Gearran also means 'to cut' and 'Gearran' can be used to describe the 'cutting' Spring winds. To the Anglo-Saxons, this was Solmonath, "sun month," in honor of the gradual return of the light after the darkness of winter. According to Asatru traditions, this month is Horning, from horn, the turn of the year.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Lucky Tips

The number 8 is a hot favorite at the moment. Just after Chinese New Year, it's a perfect choice. Even numbered days are considered lucky, the 2nd and 8th day of the New Year being the most popular, and don't forget to wear red on these days for extra luck.

Best tip of all, don't take lucky tips seriously

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Kuan Yin, Mother of Compassion

Women everywhere have prayed to her. Sometimes it is as the Tibetan Tara, sometimes as the Christian Madonna or the African Yemaya or any other of a dozen names. As Kuan Yin, Mother of Compassion, she is universally beloved.

Kuan Yin is invoked for healing of a sick child, relief from pain and help in all times of trouble. Like Artemis, she is a virgin Goddess who protects women, offers them an alternative to marriage, and grants children to those who desire them.

Bodhisattva: She is said to be a bodhisattva, one qualified to enter Nirvana but who chooses to remain in the earthly realms and not enter the heavenly worlds until all other living things have completed their own enlightenment and liberated from the pain-filled cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. "I am cultivating this method of great compassion and hope to save all living beings," said Kuan Yin. "Any living being who calls my name or sees me will be free from all fear and danger."

read more >>>

Happy New Year!

Eleventh in the cycle, Dog Years follow the Rooster years. The Chinese name is GOU, the sign of fidelity.

.. Happy New Year...

May all your hopes, dreams and desires come to fruition in the Year of the Dog, 2006.

And remember, all dogs go to heaven.
They say people born in the Year of the Dog are the nicest of the lot, Read more >>

Drop in and wish my tenant at Northern Bound a Happy New Year, and if you have any theories as to why we can build skyscrapers but not a simple ancient pyramid, let her know.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A Queen Unearthed

A life-size statue believed to represent Queen Tiy, the grandmother of King Tutankhamun, was just unearthed in Luxor, Egypt, according to a Johns Hopkins University press release.

Tut's grandmother was the cousin of two famous queens of ancient Egypt: Nefertiti and Hatshepsut. The statue, dated to between 1391 and 1352 B.C., reveals the family's renowned beauty.

Tiy was the daughter of Yuaa, a priest of an Egyptian fertility god, Min. He likely was a "foreigner" from Syria. Less is known about her mother, Tuaa, but it is believed that Tuaa was of royal descent, probably from the royal family of Mittani, which was a kingdom in northern Syria.

Tiy married Pharaoh Amenhotep III when she was 12 years old. Her husband, who consulted her regarding state affairs and official policies, acknowledged her intelligence and ambition.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Otzi's Revenge?

Has the Spirit of Otzi the Iceman claimed another victim? Has Frozen Fritz fingered the seventh man who disturbed his grave?

When a naked human body was found trapped in the ice at an altitude of 10,500 feet up the Alps in 1991, he was at first thought to be a lost hiker. But Otzi is from 3300 BCE. He was a dark-complexioned man in his 40s, about 5-feet 2-inches tall, some healing fractured ribs, and arthritis. He also had a stone arrowhead embedded in his left shoulder. In addition, traces of blood from four other people have been found on his clothes and weapons, Otzi didn't die peacefully.

Otzi's Curse: And, like the Curse of the Pharoahs, there are stories of the Curse of the Iceman. Now eight deaths are attributed to the 'curse'.

One - Rainer Henn, forensic pathologist, who picked up Otzi's body, killed on his way to a conference to discuss Otzi

Two - Kurt Fritz, who uncovered the Iceman's face, accident

Three - Journalist Rainer Hoelz, who filmed the recovery of Ötzi from the ice for the ORF network, died of a brain tumor.

Four - Helmut Simon who discovered the Iceman's body, froze to death in the snow

Five - Dieter Warnecke, Simon's assistant, who died of a heart attack hours after Simon's funeral.

Six - Archeologist Konrad Spindler, leading expert on Otzi.

Seven - Molecular biologist Tom Loy who examined Otzi's DNA, died in unclear circumstances in Australia last November

Eight- Professor Friedrich Tiefenbrunner, member of Spindler's team, died during open-heart surgery earlier this month

New tenant

Not laying down in a bog, but laying down in the rent-a-blog to your right is Northern Bound, a talented writer and artist.

I may ask her the price of making me a small incense holder, I think she needs some encouragement to create some more objets d'art, drop in and share some enthusiasm.

The Haraldskaer Woman

The Haraldskaer Woman is one of the few early finds that still survive today. When they were found in the Gunnelsmose ("Gunhild's bog") on the Haraldskaer estate in Denmark in 1835, it was believed that the remains were those of the Norwegian queen Gunhild.

According to the Jomsvikinga saga she was killed and drowned in a bog at the instigation of the Danish king Harald Blatand (Blue Tooth).

King Frederick VI had a beautiful sarcophagus carved for this alleged royal mummy, in which it was laid to rest in the church of St. Nicholas in Vejle. Not everyone was convinced that the remains derived from Queen Gunhild, and a heated controversy arose.

In 1977 those who had opposed this interpretation were, posthumously, shown to be correct. A carbon date proved that the body predated the period in which Queen Gunhilde lived by some 1,500 years.

The Haraldskaer body, however, undoubtedly owes its survival to this case of mistaken identity. It still lies in the church today. (Vejle Museum, Denmark)

Monday, January 23, 2006

Castle Campbell

Castle Campbell: Viewed from a distance, this ancient Keep might seem to the mind of the poet,

"A palace, lifting in eternal summer
Its marble head from out a glossy bower
of leaves."

Yet a nearer acquaintance with its topography will speedily dispel this illusion. The approach to the Castle soon alters from the mild riverside way with which it begins, to the rugged and stern mountain path which terminates at the ruin.

The "bower of leaves" becomes a gloomy forest, and the "marble palace" vanishes into a grim and solitary ruin, frowning defiantly from the summit of a precipice, apparently inaccessible. The road is now narrowed to an extreme limit, and crosses the fearful chasm which partly surrounds the Castle by one of those shaky wooden bridges which terrify the soul of the timourous tourist.

The two streams, which flow around the Castle and fall into the Devon, have been named by some romantic twit in Victorian times, the Water of Care and the Burn of Greif (Gryfe). The ancient title of the ruin itself was said to be "the Castle of Gloom," and the site of the melancholy trio was "the Valley of Dolour."

This poetical combination, however, is just fanciful nonsense. Sad, but true. The name of Castle Gloom is a corruption of the Gaelic Chleum or Loch Leum, the Leap. The Water of Care is an easy transition from Caer, the prefix for a castle and its surroundings. Dollar is originally Balor, the high field.

Tradition says Castle Campbell was a portion of the dowry which Robert the Bruce bestowed upon his sister, Lady Mary Bruce, on her marriage to Neil Campbell of Lochow

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Chocolate Pope

David Wolfe says his love of cacao led him to create a chocolate religion. "I nominated myself the Chocolate Pope," he says. "The only two requirements for joining the chocolate religion are you have to love cacao and you have to help us get a "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" book into every hotel room in the world, because that is the chocolate Bible."

Before you run away shrieking, this a true story.

An eagle-eyed reader, AchadaMaia, spotted it in This Wolfe isn't a total nut. He's a raw food expert with degrees in mechanical and environmental engineering and political science. While trying to decide what to do with his life, he earned a law degree from the University of San Diego and became a minister in the Essene Church of Christ, a denomination which says it aims to restore Jesus' teachings on vegetarianism, reincarnation, and the feminine aspect of God. The Essene Church of Christ believes that these teachings were removed from the original New Testament.

But since eating his first fresh cacao bean--the natural form of chocolate-- in Hawaii, Wolfe has left his post at the pulpit and instead devoted his life to preaching the good word--about chocolate.

But let's leave the Chocolate Pope for a moment,

Is Chocolate good for you?

Neolithic Orkney

In the centre of West-Mainland Orkney, covered by a thick layer of turf and grass is Maeshowe Chambered Tomb, one of the major monuments of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as The Heart of Neolithic Orkney.

Inside the tomb is the biggest collection of Viking runes ever found in situ.

Most of the 23 inscriptions simply show a name followed by the "RR" for "reist runa" which tells us who carved the runes. But the inscriptions also tell us that those who carved the runes were well educated, and knew the classical futhork-alphabet with its 24 runes as well as the Anglo-Saxon variation with 33 different letters.

Written in tree or twig-runes is praise for Ingibiorg, the most beautiful woman in the world, accordng to Erlingr one of her admirers.

Thorhall Asgrimsson carved his runes with an axe that his great-great-great grandfather used to kill Gauk Trandilsson, a Viking from Ireland. Thorhall also mentions he was the Skipper of the Norwegian longship that brought Earl Rongvald from Bergen to Orkney on his return from the Holy Crusade.

For the best resource, see Neolithic Orkney maintained by Sigurd Towrie who incidentally is a look-alike clone of my nephew, Craig Murray of Hobart.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Secrets of the Irish Bog Men

The remains of two men preserved in the peat bogs of central Ireland were unveiled this month in Dublin. Peat wetlands in northwest Europe are well-known for their bog bodies, the cold, acidic, oxygen-free conditions preventing decay and mummifying human flesh.

One bog body, named Oldcroghan Man, was preserved so perfectly that his discovery sparked a police murder investigation before archaeologists were called in. Living well over 2,000 years ago, he was in his early 20s, and stood 6 feet 6 inches (198 centimeters) tall. You can still see his fingerprint whorls.

"He had very well manicured nails, and his fingertips and hands were indicative of somebody who didn't carry out any manual labour," says said Isabella Mulhall, the museum's Bog Bodies Project coordinator. "So we presume he came from the upper echelons of society. He had no scars on his body either, just the equivalent of two small paper cuts to one of his hands".

National Geographic News

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Games of the Gods

The Olympic Games, originally created to honour Zeus, were important national festivals of the ancient Greeks. Traditions and ideals laid down in these early Games, like the truly remarkable and effective Olympic Truce, still inspire us today. But the origins of the Games, mythologically speaking, are rooted in violence, deceit and death.

In an effort to redefine the Olympics and restore some of the forgotten ideals which inspired the games of ancient Greece, a revival of an ancient tradition has been proposed, the Olympic Truce, when warring peoples laid down their arms and sought the paths of peace for the duration of the Games. Call me a spoilsport if you will, but the origin of the Olympic Games is not the best example of brotherly love and peace on earth to men of good will.

It all began with the dysfunctional family of Tantalus. We can't blame him for his great-grandson Agamemnon being murdered by another great-grandson, Aegisthus, who was in turn killed by a great-great-grandson, Orestes, nor can we hold him to account for the fate of his daughter, Niobe, who lost all her children and was turned to stone. But it was Tantalus, king at Mount Sipylus in Anatolia, who was solely and totally responsible for murdering, and cooking, his own son, Pelops.

It's an appalling story, for those whose stomachs are strong, continue reading Games of the Gods, the Origin of the Olympic Games

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Last Charge of the Brave Heart

Dinna fear ye, Dinna fret ye
Black Douglas will no' get ye

Black Douglas: Sir James Douglas was known as the Black Douglas because of the terror his name aroused in the English. It was his task, in the end, of taking the Bruce heart, encased in a small casket made of silver, to Palestine.

The Bruce; History is strewn with warrior kings, born into times of upheaval, unrest and rebellion, their entire lives spent in battle mode. Robert the Bruce was one of these. When he died in 1329 of a virulent form of psoriasis, he left explicit instructions that his heart be taken to the Holy Land.

So off sailed the Black Douglas for Jerusalem bearing the heart of The Bruce.On the way to the Holy Land he ran into a spot of bother, arriving in Spain just as Alfonso XI of Castile was preparing to do battle against Osmyn, the Moorish governor of Grenada.

On March 25th, at Tebas de Ardales the forces of Islam and Christianity clashed. The Scots found themselves surrounded by Moorish cavalry and attempted to break through.

The Last Charge: Sensing impending defeat, Douglas led a last desperate charge. Rising on his stirrups he ripped the casket from the chain round his belt and, taking aim, hurled the heart into the melee, then charging after it.

The following day, when the main Spanish forces reached the site, the bodies of the Scottish crusaders were discovered on the battlefield. When the corpse of the Black Douglas was turned face up, the casket was found beneath his body, the heart still inside.

Robert the Bruce had lead his final charge.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Land of the Labyrinth

Crete 's mystery is extremely deep. Whoever sets foot on this island senses a mysterious force branching warmly and beneficently through his veins, senses his soul begin to grow. Nikos Kazantzakis

Ancient Crete was the crossroads linking three continents, and the cultural strands of Asia, Africa and Europe were woven here to produce a civilisation where the predominant deity was female. It lasted over 1500 years.

Arthur Evans was a middle-class Englishman and subject of Queen Victoria. While he ignorantly superimposed the English monarchical system onto Minoan society, he is admired for his intuition, his creative imagination and his profound scholarship.

It is to him that we owe the discovery of this marvellous civilisation, until his time only dimly reflected in legend. But he failed to grasp the nature of the Goddess-celebrating people who lived and worshipped here.

For Crete was the home of the Great Mother

Ariadne's Story is also part of this ancient island. To speak of Ariadne is to speak of Theseus, and of the Minotaur. Her story tells of blood and betrayal, of broken trust and cowardly abandonement on the glittering island of Crete, Land of the Labyrinth

Monday, January 16, 2006

Tristan and Isolde

A timeless tale of two lovers unknowingly drinking a magic potion and ultimately dying in one another's arms, the story of Tristan and Isolde is still told centuries after the songs and the ladies of the French Court are long, long forgotten.

The story of Tristan and Isolde is often held up as an example of true and perfect love. All the ingredients for a satisfactory narrative are present; the lightning bolt of desire, the inevitable tragedy, ritual sacrifice, the denial of satisfaction and the purity of renunciation. Essentially, we are told, this is a story with profound religious meaning.

Be that as it may, Tristan and Isolde is a ripping good yarn, a medieval Mills and Boone with enough minor characters and side plots to keep any writer of soap operas lucratively employed for a lifetime. There are all sorts of mystical reworkings and enthralling new spins on this irresistibly romantic old tale, it's been dished up to us in opera, science fantasy, romantic fiction, on stage and on the silver screen.

While you wait for the movie to reach you, read the rest of The Timeless Tale of Tristan and Isolde

Tablets of Stone

The Churches of Wales are many and beautiful. The photo is of Llangelynin Church near Rowen

The history of the Churches could be said to be a large part of the history of Wales. The two are so closely knit. The prehistoric Standing Stones, the Ancient Burial Chambers, the Hill Forts, and later the Castles and Churches of Wales. These are the remains, the bones, and also the monuments, the "tablets of stone" on which earlier people wrote.

Golf Origin Claim gets up the haggis

A Chinese researcher is challenging Scotland's proud claim to be the home of golf.

The Chinese were teeing off in 945CE, 500 years before the first Scot swung a club, Professor Ling Hong ling of Lanzhou University, claims. He says ancient records tell of a Chinese magistrate playing a game in which a ball is knocked into a hole with a stick. Ling says the game, called "hit-ball", reached Europe much later.

The Royal and Ancient Club in St Andrews had one comment "Golf originated here in Scotland!"

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Tristan and Isolde

The new film on the timeless tale of Tristan and Isolde is now showing. I have to wait until it crosses the equator before I get to see it, but I'm looking forward to another version of this old favourite.

The durability of the medieval romance says something about the human brain. Are we hard-wired for star-crossed love? That's worth a story in itself.

Year of the Dog

I was asked the other day for a quick overview of the Year of the Dog.

The date of the New Year is moving up fast, I was glad of the reminder. My year-long birthday will be over, no more endless carousing for another cycle, and for the next 12 years the Roosters will be on the wagon.

Traditional New Year is such a hectic time, it comes straight after Christmas, why not celebrate the Chinese New Year instead? February 28 is New Years Eve and I've arranged a quiet afternoon on the riverbank at the back of my house.

Why don't you drink a toast yourself to the Year of the Dog

Buy at

Fashion for Women Warriors

The Museo Nazionale in Naples houses this Attic red-figured bell-krater.

It depicts a mounted Amazon attacking two Greeks who fight on foot. The Amazon is brandishing her spear against one of the Greeks. She wears a finely patterned sleeved and trousered combination, and a turban-like cap.

Is she wearing camouflage? A fine weave? A dye pattern in spots?

Friday, January 13, 2006


I can hardly believe this. I get so tied up in books I forget the technological miracle of the web, and specifically the webcam. My tenant Jeremy C Shipp at Haunted House Dressing may have a blog where hippos climb trees but if you can't find them instantly ..... you can watch the baboons instead with the National Geographic WildCam

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sometimes his stories kill trees

Come on, how could you not be intrigued by a man who was cut out of a Jenny Craig commercial?

Meet my new tenant, Jeremy C Shipp (handle JC), the author of four fantasy novels, three science fiction and one straight fiction novels, thirty theatre/film scripts and more short stories than most of us can shake a stick at.

But I'm perplexed. He has been involved in a number of independent film projects, the favourite being "The Making of Jeremy the Movie: The Movie." It's a movie based on a documentary about the making of a movie called "Jeremy." None of which really exsists.

Drop in and say hello to Jeremy at Haunted House Dressing, see if he perplexes you

Mini church

Wouldn't you love to have this at the bottom of your garden?

Bremilham Church, on a farm at Foxley-cum-Bremilham near Malmesbury, Wiltshire, Great Britain. It measures just 4m by 3.6m with single pew has space for four people and standing room for six more.

For many years it was used by the farmer who owned it to house turkeys, but when the current owners took over the farm they had it blessed and began using it for services again - one each year to mark Rogationtide.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Alexander Mosaic

In 2003, a team of artists from the International Center for the Study and Teaching of Mosaic (CISIM) in Ravenna, Italy, made an ambitious proposal to the archaeological superintendent of Pompeii: create an exact copy of the Alexander Mosaic and install it in its original home. More than two years, 16,000 hours of work, and $216,000 later, the most famous mosaic to survive from the ancient Roman world once again adorns Pompeii's House of the Faun.

One of the iconic images of the great Macedonian leader, the mosaic depicts a confrontation between Alexander and the Persian king Darius in the fourth century B.C. Since 1843, the mosaic has hung on the wall of the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, safe from the feet of Pompeii's two million plus yearly visitors, as well as from the rain and sun that have damaged the whole site.

So why bring Alexander back to Pompeii? The House of the Faun was once Pompeii's biggest and most impressive urban villa, filled with simple but elegant decorations designed to demonstrate the vast wealth of the house's owners. But today, although the sheer size of the house is still clear, the brightly colored paintings and mosaics, the gleaming marble and bronze statues, the fountains, and the hustle and bustle of a palatial villa are gone. Superintendent Pietro Giovanni Guzzo wants to change that. "I want visitors to have the impression that they are entering the same luxurious house in which the ancient Pompeian owners lived before it was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79."

Pompeii Sites

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Golden Age

In Greek Legend there is a story of an ancient Golden Age where people lived in peace and prosperity. To quote: "The first age was an age of innocence and happiness." The whole concept of this myth is that everything has become slowly worse and worse for human kind since the Golden Age. Up until recently modern academics have rejected these legends as pure "myth".

Yet the myth of the Golden age doesn't only come from Ancient Greece. Probably the most ancient religion that survives today is Taoism in China. Again this religion talks about a Golden age in the past. As explained repetitively in the Tao-Te-Ching written by Lao Tzu. The concept of the Golden Age is also in the story of the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned they were banished into the waste land and Adam had to work "by the sweat of his brow". The story of the Garden of Eden comes from a Golden age story from ancient Mesopotamia.

Also in the few Aztec and Maya writing that have survived again there is a myth of a very ancient Golden Age ruled by a compassionate Mother Goddess. This is shown in contrast to the later age of warfare and human sacrifice. In fact most ancient cultures of the world have some myth of a Golden Age of the ancient past

n the 1960s an archeologists called Mellaart lead a team to excavate a site in Anatolia in Turkey. This site turns out to be the oldest city ever discovered. Called Catal Huyuk it goes back over 9,000 years. What was discovered goes against all assumptions archeologist have about people living in Neolithic times.

They couldn't find any fortifications to defend the city or any weapons of war. Neither could they find signs of violence committed on people buried in graves.

It was also a city full of feminine imagery to the degree that Mellaart was forced to say that the people worshipped the Ancient Great Mother.

So unsettling was these discoveries that the site was closed down for thirty years and the academic world ignored the implications of this find. But there was on archeologist who was brave enough to challenge the accepted wisdom of the academic world.

The late Marija Gimbutas went digging in other Neolithic sites and found similar findings. She also highlights the Neolithic findings that Soviet scientists had made in Transylvania. As well as Goddess civilizations were found in Crete and Malta, all showing peaceful societies that worshipped the Great Mother. Gimbutas became a very controversial figure and her books and work was rejected by the academic world.

Full Article by William Bond