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July 23, 2014

1:18 AM

An Irish Island that wasn't there

It is difficult for someone like myself with so many different thoughts, comments, articles, through the years, to decide just where to take my readers. My first thought is to give you examples of several myths and how they have facts based in history. But then another thought is why not show several at a time and let the reader sort out the facts. But then on the other hand (as a Libra we must have everything balance) . We will start with some big enough to get your hear around (metaphorically speaking). So my first thought was to take you back to the first record Myth The Epic of Gilgamesh an epic poem (concerning creation) from Mesopotamia, is considered the world's first truly great work of literature. first surviving version of this combined epic, known as the "Old Babylonian" version, dates to the 18th century BC and is titled after its incipit, Shutur eli sharri ("Surpassing All Other Kings"). Only a few tablets of it have survived. The later "Standard" version dates from the 13th to the 10th centuries BC and bears the incipit Sha naqba imuru ("He who Saw the Deep", in modern terms: 'He who Sees the Unknown). Approximately two thirds of this longer, twelve-tablet version have been recovered. Some of the best copies were discovered in the library ruins of the 7th-century BC Assyrian king Ashurbanipal. Which boils down to Storytelling, the Meaning of Life1

But instead I decided to direct your attention to It is undisputed that the most famous ‘lost island’ is Atlantis. But there is another islan…d which is just as mysterious called Hy-Brasil

The island is said to be located to the west of Ireland and is known as Hy-Brasil in Irish mythology..

"Hy-Brasil was noted on maps as early as 1325, when Genoese cartographer Dalorto placed the island west of Ireland. On successive sailing charts, it appears southwest of Galway Bay. On some 15th century maps, islands of the Azores appear as Isola de Brazil, or Insulla de Brazil. After 1865, Hy-Brasil appears on few maps since its location could not be verified.Regardless of the name or location, the island’s history is consistent:

It is the home of a wealthy and highly advanced civilization. Those who visited the island returned with tales of gold-roofed towers and domes, healthy cattle, and opulent citizens." That last paragraph is quoted from the fascinating article "Hy-Brasil – the Irish Atlantis" by Fiona Broome.

Hy-Brasil is known by various names: Also called Bersil, Brazir, O’Brasil, O’Brassil, Breasil, Brasylle, Hy-Brazil, or Hi-Brasil.

Brasil is clearly visible on a number of maps, including Wagenhaer’s map from 1583 and Giovanni Magini’s 1597 map of the Atlantic islands.

In his book "Ireland – A Journey Into Lost Time", P.A. Ó Síochán says that knowledge of a lost land is "inherent all through Celtic literature and history".

In Ireland, he says, "the legend concerned a lost island in the Atlantic off the west coast, called Hy-Brasil: Hy meaning island and Brasil (Breasal) meaning mighty and beautiful in the Gaelic."

"It lay to the west and north-westwards from a junction with the Aran islands and the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare."

According to legends of long ago, Hy-Brasil was a secret land once ruled by priests. These priests held the secrets to the universe and had access to ancient, but powerful knowledge. In folklore, this island country takes its name from Breasal, the High King of the World, in Celtic history.

The island is said to be cloaked in mist, except for one day each seven years, when it became visible but could still not easily be reached.

Over the centuries a number of maps have charted the position of the island. On maps, the island was shown as being circular, often with a central strait or river running east-west across its diameter.

A Catalan map from around 1480 labels two islands "Illa de brasil", one to the south west of Ireland and the other south of "Illa verde" or what is now known as Greenland.

There have been numerous expeditions in the past to search for this mythical land. One expedition in 1497 was led by John Cabot. He reported that he had found the land and it had been "discovered in the past by the men from Bristol who found Brasil".

Some historians note that the renowned navigator Pedro Alvarez Cabral also claimed to have reached the island during his voyages in the 1500's.

The 1600's had a wealth of reports about the island. In 1674 a Captain John Nisbet and his crew were in familiar waters off the west coast of Ireland. They were enshrouded in fog.

As the fog lifted, they saw that they were close to an island, so anchored in three fathoms of water.

According to reports, four crew members took a small boat and landed on the island. They spent a day there before returning laden with gold and silver. They claimed that an old man who lived on the island had given it to them as a gift.

When they returned to Ireland, a second ship under the command of Alexander Johnson set out to find the island. According to reports of the time, they too found an hospitable island and returned to confirm the previous report.

The last sighting of the island occured in 1872. Author T. J. Westropp and several companions claim to have seen the island appear and then vanish. According to reports this was the third time that the author had seen Hy-Brasil and had brought his mother and companions to witness it for themselves.

The island was once again brought into the public mind in late 2010 with a TV series revelation.

In 1980 Sgt Jim Penniston was stationed at Bentwaters military base. During the UFO incident in Rendlesham Forest, he claims that when he touched the glyphs on the craft he received a message in the form of a picture in his minds eye of a series of 1s and 0s ( binary code),This picture stayed in his mind and would not go away . The day after the incident while at home he felt compelled to copy them down into his small pocket note book that he had previously used to describe the craft and Glyphs . They made no sense to him at all and he thought they could possibly be be gibberish .However ,only after he had wrote them down did he gain a sense of relief.

On the History Channel program ‘Ancient Aliens’ this binary code was deciphered by Internet programmer Nick Ciske.

Below the decoded message followed the co-ordinates of an area off the west coast of Ireland which correlates to the site of Hy-Brasil.

The decoded message read:

EXPLORATION OG (F) HUMANITY ( unclear) 8100

52° 09' 42.532? N

13° 13' 12.69? W[

CONTINUOUS FOR PLANETRY ADVANC(E)

FOURTH COO(R)DINATE (Time?) CONTINUOUS? ( Unclear) BEFORE

 

So, did ( does) Hy-Brasil actually exist?

Some people claim that what people are actually seeing is an area near Ireland called the Porcupine Bank.

Porcupine Bank is an area of the Irish shelf approximately 200 kilometers west of Ireland. The relatively raised area of seabed lies between the deep-water Porcupine Sea bight and Rockall Trough.

The northern and western slopes of the bank feature species of cold-water corals.

Could it be possible that during times of extreme spring tides that this Bank is exposed to the surface of the sea? As early as 1870 a paper was read to the Geological Society of Ireland suggesting this identification.

If so, this could explain the reports of land which subsequently disappear quite quickly.

Of course another possible theory is that Hy-Brasil is in fact the lost realm of Atlantis which was said to be situated beyond the Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar).

The supposed location of Hy-Brasil is indeed beyond the Pillars and therefore fits into the Atlantis location as mentioned by Plato. Is this enough to say that they are one and the same? Certainly the location and the mythology would agree

Atlantis may be the island of Ireland

The mythical land of Atlantis, thought to have plunged into the sea and given the Atlantic Ocean its name, may actually have been the island of Ireland.

The new claim that equates the island mentioned by classical scholars with Ireland has been made by a physical geographer at Uppsala University, Dr Ulf Erlingsson.

Going by the best-known description of Atlantis, that of philosopher Plato, Erlingsson has drawn parallels he said make it almost 100% statistically certain that the physical features of the islands match.

According to Erlingsson: "Just like Atlantis, Ireland is 300 miles long, 200 miles wide, and widest over the middle. They both feature a central plain that is open to the sea, but fringed by mountains. No other island on earth even comes close to this description."

Dealing with the defining Atlantean event, its collapse into the sea, Dr Erlingsson says the story has become garbled over time but refers to the Dogger Bank in the North Sea, which is known to have become flooded in prehistoric times.

Erlingsson maintains that the Atlantic Empire can be associated with the megalithic monuments of Europe and Northern Africa, and equates the Atlantean capital with Tara or Teamhar na Rí, the ancient seat of the high kings of Ireland and itself a collection of historical sites, not all contemporary.

Plato`s "temples of Poseidon and the ancestors" are analogous to the Brú na Bóinne cemetery complex, which contains the great passage tombs at Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange.

Myth from Ireland, Hy-Brasil

Traditionally, the link between Ireland and Atlantis was through the mysterious sunken island of Hy-Brasil, located somewhere in the Atlantic. This island, which is said to have been named after the king of Ireland, Bressal, is said in local folklore to be visible once every seven years off the west coast of Ireland. Some believe this is a possible candidate for Atlantis, hence the naming of the ocean, the Atlantic Ocean.

In 1684, the Irish historian O’Flaherty spoke about the enchanted island of Hy-Brasil: According to Celtic tradition, "Country O’Breasal lay roughly where the sun touched the horizon or immediately on its other side.

"From the Isles of Arran and the west continent often appears visible that enchanted island called O’Brasail and, in Irish, Beg Ara.

Whether it be real and firm land kept hidden by the special ordnance of God, or the terrestrial paradise, or else some illusion of airy clouds appearing on the surface of the sea, or the craft of evil spirits, is more than our judgments can pound out.

"There is now living, Murrough O’Ley, who imagines he was himself personally in O’Brasail for two days and saw out of it the Isles of Arran, Golam Head, Iross-beg Hill, and other places on the western continent which he was acquainted with. The manner of it he relates, that being in Iross-Ainhagh, in the south side of the Barony of Ballynahinshy, about nine leagues from Galway by sea in the month of April, A.D.1668, going alone from one village to another in a melancholy humour upon some discontent of his wife’s (!) he was encountered by two or three strangers and forcibly carried by a boat into O’Brasail, as such as were within told him — and they could speak both English and Irish. He was ferried out hoodwinked in a boat, as he imagines, till he was left on the seaside by Galway, where he lay in a friend’s house for some days after being very desperately ill, and knows not how he came to be there.

"In the western ocean, five or six leagues from the continent there is a sand bank about thirty fathoms deep in the sea. It is called in Irish, Imaire Bay, and in English, the Cod-fishing Bank. From this bank about twenty years ago, a boat was blown southwards by night; next day about noon the occupants spyed land so near them that they could see sheep within it, and yet durst not, for fear of illusions, touch shore, imagining it was O’Brasail, and they were two days coming back towards home.

"Some few generations ago, the crew of a fishing boat passing an island which they did not know, landed thereon to refresh themselves. They had no sooner landed than a man appeared and told them they had no business there as the island was enchanted. They therefore returned to the boat, but as they were going away the islanders gave one of them a book with directions not to look into it for seven years. He complied with the request and when he opened and read the book he was able to practice surgery and psychic with great success. This man’s name was Lee, and the book remained as an heirloom with his descendants."

In 1872, Irish folklorist T.J. Westropp and his companions reported they saw the island appear and vanish beneath the waves. In fact, as late as the early 20th century, Irish fishermen were claiming to have "sailed as far as Hy-Brasil

Myth or truth?

To Be continued....

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July 14, 2014

3:28 AM

Mysticism a part of the fabric of Myth

I am especially interested in the comments about mystical experiences and how they (or the lack of them) affect understandings of the Bible.

Mysticism and mystical experiences can be defined in a very narrow or broader sense of the word. In the narrow sense, they are relatively few and might be dismissed, by religious and non-religious people alike, as aberrations and not very important. In the broad sense, to use a medieval Christian definition, mysticism is about "the experiential knowledge of God."

As experiences, they have been categorized in a number of ways. Some are "eyes open" experiences in which a one sees what one would ordinarily see, but it looks different: transfigured, suffused with light, filled with radiant luminosity (which is what the word "glory" most often means in the Bible. Moses saw a bush that burned without being consumed; a text in Isaiah proclaims that the whole earth is filled with the glory of God; a psalm declares that the firmament, the sky, proclaims the glory of God.

Some are "eyes closed" experiences. These include visions (of angels, Jesus, Mary, saints – and in other traditions, Kirishna and the Buddha and more). They also include experiences of union/communion in meditative and contemplative states of consciousness.

Some are experiences of the whole of creation suffused with God, the sacred. Some are experiences of God, the sacred, "within." Mystical theology – in Christian forms and other forms – affirms both. Such experiences change the meaning, the referent, of the word "God" and "the sacred." Instead of these words referring to a person-like supernatural being who may or may not exist, they refer to a presence, a glory, sometimes experienced – that is, known.

For skeptics as well as for dogmatic Christians, such experiences do not prove anything. The former dismiss them as weird states of consciousness that lead to unwarranted inferences. The latter distrust them because they seem to lead to conclusions incompatible with dogmatic understandings of Christianity. For them, only the Bible (and/or the teaching authority of the church) matters. Indeed, some conservative Christians think of mystical experiences as diabolic.

For me, because of several such experiences, and because of my study of mystical experiences in multiple religions, they are the reason that I continue to be Christian. And that I continue to think that the religions of the world at their best are sacraments of the sacred and vehicles of good.

 

So in the last ten years or so, I have switched to "mystic" and "mysticism." For me, the root meaning of those words is "union" or "communion" with God. Thus I am also aware that some people who have not had mystical experiences may nevertheless live in union or communion with God. Perhaps the best-known example is Gandhi. He never reports ecstatic mystical experiences. An yet it seems clear to me that he lived in union with God. Mystics are not always prophets. Sometimes they are overly introverted. Christianity demands that mysticism be carried into the streets The test, the criterion of discernment, as William James wrote more than a century ago, quoting a saying of Jesus from Matthew, is, "By their fruits, you shall know them." If the result, the consequence of mystical experience, is compassion and growth in compassion, then it is of God, from the sacred.

 

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July 8, 2014

3:16 AM

The Search begins (Mythology fact or fiction)?

 

Gentle Reader,

The comparative study of the mythologies of the world compels us to view the cultural history of mankind as a unit; for we find that such themes as the fire-theft, deluge, land of the dead, virgin birth, and resurrected hero have a worldwide distribution—appearing everywhere in new combinations while remaining, like the elements of a kaleidoscope, only a few and always the same. Furthermore, whereas in tales told for entertainment such mythical themes are taken lightly— in a spirit, obviously, of play—they appear also in religious contexts, where they are accepted not only as factually true but even as revelations of the verities to which the whole culture is a living witness and from which it derives both its spiritual authority and its temporal power. No human society has yet been found in which such mythological motifs have not been rehearsed in liturgies; interpreted by seers, poets, theologians, or philosophers; presented in art; magnified in song; and ecstatically experienced in life-empowering visions. Indeed, the chronicle of our species, from its earliest page, has been not simply an account of the progress of man the tool-maker, but—more tragically—a history of the pouring of blazing visions into the minds of seers and the efforts of earthly communities to incarnate unearthly covenants. Every people has received its own seal and sign of supernatural designation, communicated to its heroes and daily proved in the lives and experience of its folk. And though many who bow with closed eyes in the sanctuaries of their own tradition rationally scrutinize and disqualify the sacraments of others, an honest comparison immediately reveals that all have been built from one fund of mythological motifs—variously selected, organized, interpreted, and ritualized, according to local need, but revered by every people on earth.

A fascinating psychological, as well as historical, problem is thus presented. Man, apparently, cannot maintain himself in the universe without belief in some arrangement of the general inheritance of myth. In fact, the fullness of his life would even seem to stand in a direct ratio to the depth and range not of his rational thought but of his local mythology. Whence the force of these unsubstantial themes, by which they are empowered to galvanize populations, creating of them civilizations, each with a beauty and self-compelling destiny of its own? And why should it be that whenever men have looked for something solid on which to found their lives, they have chosen not the facts in which the world abounds, but the myths of an immemorial imagination—preferring even to make life a hell for themselves and their neighbors, in the name of some violent god, to accepting gracefully the bounty the world affords?

Are the modem civilizations to remain spiritually locked from each other in their local notions of the sense of the general tradition; or can we not now break through to some more profoundly based point and counterpoint of human understanding? For it is a fact that the myths of our several cultures work upon us, whether consciously or unconsciously, as energy-releasing, life-motivating and -directing agents; so that even though our rational minds may be in agreement, the myths by which we are living—or by which our fathers lived—can be driving us, at that very moment, diametrically apart.

No one, as far as I know, has yet tried to compose into a single picture the new perspectives that have been opened in the fields of comparative symbolism, religion, mythology, and philosophy by the scholarship of recent years. The richly rewarded archaeological researches of the past few decades; astonishing clarifications, sim plifications, and coordinations achieved by intensive studies in the spheres of philology, ethnology, philosophy, art history, folklore, and religion; fresh insights in psychological research; and the many priceless contributions to our science by the scholars, monks, and literary men of Asia, have combined to suggest a new image of the fundamental unity of the spiritual history of mankind. Without straining beyond the treasuries of evidence already on hand in these widely scattered departments of our subject, therefore, but simply gathering from them the membra disjuncta of a unitary mythological science, I will attempt in the following pages the first sketch of a natural history of the gods and heroes, such as in its final form should include in its purview all divine beings—as zoology includes all animals and botany all plants—not regarding any as sacrosanct or beyond its scientific domain. For, as in the visible world of the vegetable and animal kingdoms, so also in the visionary world of the gods: there has been a history, an evolution, a series of mutations, governed by laws; and to show forth such laws is the proper aim of science.

 

Watch this space . . . .

 

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June 28, 2014

3:43 AM

The mythological matrix paradigm

 Gentle Readers,

My new study is going to be called (after the similitude of the big bang theory) the mythological matrix paradigm. Dr Bart Bart D. Ehrman is the author of more than twenty books, including the New York Times best-selling Misquoting Jesus and God's Problem. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and is a leading authority on the Bible and the life of Jesus. He has been featured in Time and has appeared on Dateline NBC, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, CNN, the History Channel, major NPR shows, and other top media outlets. He lives in Durham, N.C. Has written a new book called How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee.Personally I like his writing Like all good teachers/professors Dr Ehrman writes with a readability that captures the interest of even the most jaded of bibliophiles.

And so I plan to write about his subject (at this point I have not read his latest offering). The question before us is a simple one "Is Jesus Christ the Son of God or is He God the Son (the second person of the Tri unity)?

But in order to answer this simple question, we need to examine the historical evidence of what is called mythology. A mythology, in the sense of a collection of myths, is an important feature of many cultures. Whether we call these traditional tales myths or ideology, theology or propaganda we can find at its very root historical events Myths may arise as either truthful depictions or overelaborated accounts of historical events, as allegory for or personification of natural phenomena, or as an explanation of ritual.

The main characters in myths are usually gods, supernatural heroes and humans. Added to the historical query that we are going to look at is another dilemma and that is the rejection by not a few that Jesus was ever a real person! Which bothers me quite a bit. Consider if you will that most of us live lives that are not remarkable, we haven’t invented something that would save the world. We haven’t written the greatest best seller. In other words we have like the majority of human kind lived an ordinary life, And so a hundred years from now who could say "So and so lived here on earth!" How could we prove that we existed? So when we come to the person we call Jesus 2000 + years in the past what are we to think? Sounds like a real treasure hunt.

Watch the space....

 

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June 12, 2014

2:28 AM

The Divine Feminine (Part 5)

Food for thought:

The divine names YHVH and Adonai (found as a name in its own right and used as a substitute for YHVH) are both often translated "Lord" and seen as masculine. To the Kabbalists, however, the name YHVH invokes masculine and feminine aspects of the Divine: the Yud and Vav are masculine, the two letters Hei are feminine. And the name Adonai specifically refers to the Shekhinah, who is the underlying structure of all reality, like the "adnei hamishkan" {see Exodus 34:31 etc.}, the sockets that held together the structure of the Sanctuary ["adnei" has identical letters with Adonai].

Many Kabbalistic teachings present the Shekhinah as the feminine presence of God among us, "in exile", who is presently estranged from her masculine counterpart, the transcendent Divine "in heaven". It is our spiritual task to restore the intimate unity of these two aspects of divinity. Therefore, in prayerbooks and Passover Haggadot influenced by Kabbalah, including several editions very commonly used today, various prayers and rituals are preceded by the formula "l’shem yichud Kudsha brikh hu uSh’khinteh" – "for the sake of the union of the Holy One Blessed Be He and His Shekhinah".

Note the similarity of this formula with the ancient one we began with –

"for the sake of the union of the Holy One Blessed Be He and His Shekhinah"

"I bless you in the name of YHVH and His Asherah"

The Zohar in fact teaches that Asherah is a name of the Shekhinah; see Zohar I (Berepooh) 49a.

Fifteenth Century, Germany

In Christian Germany, in the high Middle Ages, pre-Christian beliefs still made themselves felt. Myths about the Germanic goddess Holda (Frau Holle), associated with birth, love, death, the earth, and winter, mingled with memories of the Greco-Roman Venus. The wandering 13th-century minnesinger (troubadour) Tannhäuser was said to have been ensnared by Venus and lived with her inside her mountain in Germany, the Venusberg; this was the subject of a 16th century ballad (and, much later, one of Wagner’s operas.) The power of Venus was felt by Jews as well as Christians, as this love spell, from a manuscript in Hebrew and German/Yiddish, shows:

Take an egg from a hen that is all black and has never laid an egg before. Take the egg she laid on a Thursday. Take the egg on Thursday night after sunset, and bury it at the crossroads. And on Tuesday, take the egg from there after sunset. And buy a mirror for the egg, and bury the mirror at the same crossroads after sunset in Frau Venus’ Namen [in the name of Lady Venus] and say, "allhie begrab ich diesen Spiegel in der Liebe, die Frau Venus zu dem Tannhäuser hat" [here I bury this mirror in the love that Lady Venus has for Tannhäuser]. And let it lie there for three days, and take it out; and whoever looks into it will love you.

From Munich Hebrew manuscript 235, 13a, c. 15th century; text in Josef Perles, "Holda, Venus, Tannhäuserlied, Hollekreisch…" Jubelschrift zum siebzigsten geburstage des Prof. Dr. H. Graetz (Breslau, 1887), p. 25. Thanks to Rabbi Jill Hammer.

In other magical or healing texts, medieval German Jews called on Frau Holda, and on Mother Earth.

German and French Jews have a longstanding folk tradition of baby-naming called Hollekreisch -- probably meaning "Holle’s cry" and related to the ancient belief that babies are with Frau Holda/Holle under the earth before coming into our world. In the Hollekreisch ceremony the baby is lifted up in its cradle, as if out of the earth.

The classic scholarly work on Jewish magic, by Julius Trachtenberg, mentions "that women worshipped Perchta (one of the goddesses identified with Holle) by offering her their hair, and that German braided bread was called perchisbrod. Trachtenberg discards the idea that this is the origin of challah, the Jewish braided bread, which was also called perchisbrod" -- but there would certainly appear to be a connection.

Paraphrased and quoted from a forthcoming article, "Holle’s Cry" by Rabbi Jill Hammer. The information from Trachtenberg is in Jewish Magic and Superstition p. 40-43.

1845, Eastern Europe

From the private journal of the Hasidic Rebbe R’ Isaac Safrin of Komarno

In 1845, on the twenty-first day of the Omer, I was in the town of Dukla. I arrived there late at night, and it was dark and there was no one to take me home, except for a tanner who came and took me into his house. I wanted to pray the evening prayer and count the Omer, but I was unable to do so there [because of the bad smell], so I went to the synagogue alone, and there I prayed until midnight had passed.

And I understood from this situation the plight of the Shekhinah in exile, and her suffering when she is standing in the market of tanners {Zohar III:115b}. And I wept many times before the Master of the world, out of the depth of my heart, for the suffering of the Shekhinah.

To be continued. . .

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June 5, 2014

3:26 AM

Part 4 the Divine Feminine

 

And I will dwell (v’shakhanti) in the midst of the Children of Israel, and I will not forsake My people Israel {I Kings 6:13}.

 In the Mishnah, and often in later Rabbinic texts, Shekhinah is used as a synonym for God, particularly when the emphasis is on God’s closeness to and empathy with the Jewish people. The context of the Mishnah is the execution of criminals:

Rabbi Meir said: When a person is suffering, what does the Shekhinah say? As it were: "My aching head! My aching arm!" If, then, The Place [HaMakom, another Rabbinic name for God] suffers so over the spilled blood of criminals, how much more so over the blood of the innocent! {Mishnah Sanhedrin 6:5}

c. 250 CE, Syria

The Sages placed many restrictions on visual art, but many Jews did not follow their teachings. An ancient synagogue at Dura Europos, in present-day Syria, is filled with frescoes of Biblical scenes and other Jewish and Greco-Roman motifs, in a style which foreshadows Byzantine Christian art.

In an image recognizable from its visual context as the finding of baby Moses, Moses is being lifted out of the water by a nude figure. Though we would expect her to be Pharaoh’s daughter or her maidservant, scholars note that her depiction corresponds to the iconography of a Near Eastern goddess, Anahita (see Erwin R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols of the Graeco-Roman Period, 1964). Historian Raphael Patai (in The Hebrew Goddess) argues that this figure is the Shekhinah, the Divine Presence. The Jewish artist, aware of traditions that the Shekhinah was present with the baby Moses, made use of the conventions of the surrounding culture to depict the divine in female form.

From the Sages

The Midrashic literature of our Sages comes from the long period c. 300 - c. 900 CE. The dates and geographical provenance of any given work are often unclear.

 "I am with him in pain" {Psalm 91:15}.

 

Rabbi Yudan told a parable of a pregnant woman who was angry at her mother.

When she was giving birth, her mother went upstairs, and she was downstairs, screaming. Her mother, upstairs, heard her voice, and she too, upstairs, was screaming. The neighbour-women said to her, "Why are you crying out? Are you giving birth with her?" She said, "Is my daughter not in pain? How can I bear her crying out? I am screaming along with her, because my daughter’s pain is my own."

So, when the Temple was destroyed, there was a sound of crying and wailing all through the world. So it is said, "On that day the Lord YHVH called for crying and mourning" {Isaiah 22:12}. The ministering angels said to Him: "Can such things be in Your presence? Is it not written, ‘Splendour and beauty are in His presence, strength and joy in His place’ {I Chronicles 16:27}?"

He said to them, "Has not my House been destroyed, and My children captured, in chains? Shall I not suffer? Is it not written, ‘I am with him in pain’?"

{Midrash on Psalms, Solomon Buber edition, 20}

Late Thirteenth Century, Spain

In the Kabbalah (medieval Jewish mysticism), especially in the Zohar, the Shekhinah is a specific aspect of the Divine, the presence of God in the world, almost always depicted in feminine imagery. This imagery often emphasizes Her motherliness and compassion -- but at other times it accentuates Her harsh fierceness.

Rabbi Abba said: It is written, "The wisdom of Solomon"... {I Kings 5:10} What really is the "wisdom of Solomon"...?

(Rabbi Shim'on) said to him: Come and see!

We have explained, in many contexts, this name of the Moon [the Shekhinah] when she is blessed by all. It is written that she "grew" in the days of Solomon, because she increased and was blessed and remained full.

We have been taught: A thousand mighty mountains, in front of her, are just one bite for her. She has a thousand great rivers -- she swallows them in one gulp. Her fingernails clutch a thousand and seventy shores, her hands grasp twenty-four thousand shores. Nothing can get away from her to this side, nothing can get away from her to another side. Thousands and thousands of shields are tangled in her hair... The hairs of the Moon are tangled with each other. They are called shooting stars -- they do indeed shoot. Lords of strife, lords of weighing in the balance, lords of harshness, lords of arrogance; all of them are called hairs of royal purple. Her hands and her feet seize hold, like a powerful lion that seizes its prey. About this it is written, "he tears and none can rescue" {Micah 5:7}. All her fingernails call to mind the debts of human beings, writing and inscribing their debts with the authority of harsh judgement. About this, it is written, "The sin of Judah is written with an iron pen, with a fingernail of shamir" {Jeremiah 17:1}. What is shamir? {Cf. Tosefta Sotah 15:1 and parallels.} That which inscribes and pierces stone -- splitting it in all directions. The clippings of her fingernails are all those who do not cling to the body of the King, and suckle from the domain of uncleanness, when the Moon is waning. And because King Solomon inherited the full Moon, he wanted to also receive her in her waning, and so he set to work acquiring knowledge of spirits and demons, to receive the Moon in all her aspects. {Zohar I (Vayechi) 223a-b}

To be continued ...

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May 30, 2014

11:29 PM

Part 3 The Divine Feminine

face of God

 

c. 50 CE, Hellenic Egypt

Developing this image of divine wisdom further, the Jewish philosopher/Torah commentator, Philo of Alexandria, wrote (in Greek):

Now "father and mother" is a phrase that can bear different meanings. For instance, we should rightly say, and without further question, that the Architect who made this universe was at the same time father of what was thus born, while its mother was the knowledge possessed by its Maker.

With this knowledge, God had union, though not as human beings have it, and begot created being. And knowledge, having received the divine seed, and when her labour was completed, bore the only beloved son who is apprehended by the senses, namely the world which we see.

Thus, in the pages of one of the inspired company [the authors of Scripture], Wisdom (Sophia) is represented as speaking of herself in this manner: "God obtained me first of all His works and founded me before the ages." True; for it was necessary that all that came to birth in creation should be younger than the mother and nurse of the All.

(Philo, On Drunkenness, commenting on the phrase "father and mother" in Deuteronomy 21:18-21; translation slightly modified from Peter Schäfer, Mirror of His Beauty, 40.}

c. 225 CE, Land of Israel

The earliest canonical text of the Sages ("the Rabbis"), who shaped Judaism as we know it, is the Mishnah ("material to be learned by repetition"). It is a compilation of halakhic (legal) traditions, put together in the Land of Israel early in the third century CE. In the Mishnah, we first find the most famous Jewish feminine name for God, Shekhinah.

[In the main body of the Mishnah, "Shekhinah" appears in only one passage, quoted below. Even there, the word Shekhinah is missing in some early manuscripts. However, Peter Schäfer in Mirror of His Beauty, 2002 (p. 94) argues that the reading with Shekhinah, though censored out by some scribes, is authentic and original. Our standard editions of the Mishnah do include it.]

Shekhinah is a feminine noun derived from the verb shakhan, "to dwell". The verb is found in many verses in the Bible where God promises to dwell among us:

To Be continued ...

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May 24, 2014

10:58 PM

Part 2 the Divine feminine

the divine feminine

 

c. 586 BCE, Egypt

The Bible includes several hostile references to goddess worship by Israelites. One reference which gives the goddess worshipers a voice is in Jeremiah, chapter 44. The great prophet Jeremiah is among a group of Judeans who have taken refuge in Egypt after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (586 BCE). He rebukes them dramatically for idolatry. Their reply follows.

Jeremiah 44:15: Then all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to other gods, with all the women who stood by, a great multitude, and all the people who dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying: 16"As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD, we will not listen to you! 17But we will certainly do whatever has gone out of our own mouth, to burn incense to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we have done, we and our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, were well-off, and saw no trouble. 18But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine." 19The women also said, "And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make cakes for her, to worship her, and pour out drink offerings to her without our husbands' permission!?"

{New King James translation}

(Note on the Hebrew text: in an interesting example of censorship, the Masoretes who added vowel points to the text around 800 C.E. have made the title of the goddess ",em>m’lekhet hashamayim", which sounds like "the handiwork of heaven" – a way of saying "remember this is just an idol." But all translators agree that the pronunciation should be "malkat hashamayim", the Queen of Heaven.){ see the "Two Babylons" by Hislop}

Some suggest that these cakes for the Queen of Heaven are direct ancestors of the hot cross buns of today. See http://www.helleniccommunity.com/arts/hotcrossbun.shtml.

"Queen of Heaven" was adopted in Christianity as a title of Mary, the mother of Jesus. There is an interesting on-line shrine to her under this title at http://www.geocities.com/reginamundi77/.

Both Jeremiah and the worshippers of the Queen of Heaven are presented as sharing a theology of reward and punishment. To them, the destruction of Jerusalem was a punishment for the recent neglect of worship of the Queen of Heaven under the reign of reforming monotheistic kings. To Jeremiah, the destruction was a delayed punishment for the generations of idol worship that came before the monotheistic reforms – not necessarily a convincing argument.

Strikingly, elsewhere in the book of Jeremiah (chapter 31) the prophet creates, in a few poetic lines, an image of the ancestral mother Rachel as an intercessor who draws down God’s compassion for her people – a kind of alternative goddess image which has remained beloved among the Jewish people ever since:

 To be continued . . .

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May 23, 2014

1:47 AM

The Divine in feminne terms

the divine feminine 2

Gentle Readers,

Dr Ley and I started a discussion that left everyone one out. Not on purpose but here we will try to catch you up. Sorry, the enter key is mightier than the mind at times.  

From Biblical times until today, Jews have invoked the Divine in feminine terms--both "the Jewish God" and "other goddesses". This is a selection of texts for study, mostly in chronological order, with a minimum of commentary. As always, comments and questions are welcome by e-mail (JJLatpost.queensu.ca). Note: The Tetragrammaton, the four-letter Hebrew name of God, is given in transliteration as YHVH. For a brief discussion of the pronunciation and meaning of this name see http://www.msgr.ca/msgr-8/name_calling.htm

c. 750 BCE, Sinai Desert

An inscription on a piece of pottery, found in 1975/76 at Kuntillet Arjud in the

Sinai desert, reads Berakhti et’khem l’YHVH Shomron ul’Asherato. "I have blessed you by YHVH of Samaria and His Asherah."

("Shomron" could also be read "shomrenu", our Guardian; but note II Kings 13:6: "and the Asherah remained standing in Samaria".)

A similar inscription on pottery from the same site—which scholars think was a resting place, of a religious nature, for travellers following trade routes through the Sinai—says "I bless you by YHVH of Teman and His Asherah." There may be another reference to YHVH and His Asherah in an inscription on the building wall. And references to YHVH and His Asherah, from around the same time, have also been found in an inscription at Khirbet el-Qom, near Hebron in the Biblical heartland of the Land of Israel.

Scholars disagree as to whether Asherah in these inscriptions, and in several hostile Biblical references, is the Near Eastern goddess Asherah (known in Canaanite texts from Ugarit, Syria, as Athirat, a great mother goddess associated with the sea), or merely a ritual object that had an association with her. According to Biblical references, this would likely be a tree (see e.g. Deuteronomy 16:21)….

To be continued . . .

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May 19, 2014

7:59 PM

One Story "As above so below"

creation2

 

One way that Jews learn the story of  covenant with God is through learning the story of creation—a story common to all creatures on earth. Like other peoples around the world, Jews find holiness, joy, and beauty through encounters with the natural world. As the book of Job informs us: “ask the earth, and she will teach you.”

By exploring the cycles of life and death, dark and light,  air, water, earth, and fire, masculine and feminine, and by following the Jewish Calendar that combines the rhythms of earth, sun, and moon, we learn about ourselves and about the Divine. The kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) tells us: “As above, so below.” By studying the world and creatures around us, we gain insight into Divine truth. By acknowledging the variety and changeability of our world, we keep ourselves from unnecessarily limiting our views of what is Divine—or what is human.

Many Jewish traditions throughout time have recognized these things to be true. Jewish sacred texts and stories offer healing and meaning through multiple images of God drawn from nature: moon, gardener, mother bear, counter of the stars —not only judge and warrior. Mystical Jews have imagined the Divine as dwelling within the world, there for us to find if we search carefully.

Jewish tradition gives us blessings for many natural phenomena: smelling spices, seeing rainbows, comets, or flowering trees, or immersing in a spring of flowing water. These blessings teach us that we can discover the Divine through our senses as well as through our spirits. They also teach us about our interdependency with all life.

Judaism has many things in common with other earth-based traditions of the world. Israelite laws of covenant are based on laws of Near Eastern monarchies, its psalms are related to the songs of other peoples, and its stories of creation use elements of Near Eastern myth. Throughout history, Judaism has borrowed from and added to earth-based traditions. The kabbalistic tradition’s belief in the four cosmic worlds, for example, echoes the use of a four-element system in many shamanic traditions around the world, and the Passover seder is an adaptation of a Greek philosophers’ meal. Judaism, in return, has added to ideas of sacred time and space, work and rest, by creating the Sabbath. It has expanded mystical conceptions of transcendence and immanence though its images of God, and has had a profound impact on the Christian calendar through Jewish seasonal festivals. Judaism has promoted through its sacred texts and laws the belief that caring for the earth and for other creatures is a sacred task.

Yet modern Jews do not always have access to the story of the earth through their Jewish experiences. Jews have traditionally explored sacred text as the primary way to reach God, and sometimes the “text” of the earthy and the physical has been downplayed. So too, the feminine, which is often associated with the earth and with Divine immanence, has been suppressed in study and liturgy. Normative Jewish texts have tended to emphasize male, hierarchical images of God over other kinds of images, though there have always been Jewish conceptions of deity that include the feminine.

Along with many other Jews, seeks to celebrate and create Jewish rituals, prayers, and festival celebrations that honor the earth, the physical, and the immanence of the Divine. We seek to recover Jewish images, sacred texts, rituals, mystical traditions, and modern writings relating to the earth, the four elements, the cycle of life, and the masculine and feminine, as well as other creative images of the sacred within nature. To foster care and concern for the health and well-being of our planet. Finally, we seek to expose the connections between the story of Judaism and the one story of life on earth, honoring traditions of other peoples as sources of learning and holiness.

 To be continued . . .

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