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August 20, 2014

1:17 AM

Hpw we find myths (Part 5)

Lets now consider something a wee bit closer to home.

People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. 1 don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.

Ring Around the Rosie" first appeared in Mother Goose in 1881. However, the nursery rhyme already enjoyed a colorful history by this point. It seems to have been recited in 18th century America and appeared in nineteenth century novels. The Old World poem seems to predate the American colonies as it has been associated with the London Plague of 1665 and the Black Death. The origin of the poem may actually rest with the original Black Death outbreak of the mid-fourteenth century. Under this interpretation, "Ring Around the Rosie" is actually a grim remembrance of a cataclysmic event as opposed to a cheery children's nursery rhyme.

The Black Death struck Europe with a fury in 1347. The disease migrated from Asia via trade routes. It decimated Asia, Africa, and Europe unlike anything before or since. The plague wiped out entire population centers. The disease depopulated the world by at least 20% and killed between 30-60% of Europe’s population. The cataclysm left lasting scars for the survivors and a death culture evolved. The period’s art often included skeletons and other dark symbols. The literature and correspondence smelt of death. "Ring Around the Rosie" seemingly transposes this culture into rhyme.

The first line, "Ring around the Rosie," or some variation, describes the buboes that formed. A bubo is a swelling in the lymph node. This swelling is often circular making up the "ring." The center turns black and is surrounded by a red rash. The "rosie" is the center of this reddish ring.

As the victim’s condition worsened, an odor emanated from them. The living began rotting before becoming a corpse. In response, healthy individuals used flowers to cover the odor. The poem recounts these attempts to disguise the smell in the second verse, "a pocket full of posies." The posies represented fourteenth century air fresheners.

The third stanza continues to recount symptoms. In the British version, children sing "Atch chew! Atch-chew!" copying the unmistakable sound of a sneeze. The American version altered the sneeze to "Ashes! Ashes!" Some believe ashes represent cremation. However, it could simply be an Americanization of the tale.

After the disease runs its course, the victims usually die. The last line in the poem announces death’s arrival with a dramatic "we all fall down." The use of "we" denotes the apocalyptic nature of the disease and the times. No one survives the apocalypse and no one survives the plague.

However, people did survive for one reason or another. Some folklorists doubt "Ring Around the Rosie" dates to the Black Death. The link between the poem and plague is made after World War II and some consider the ties tenuous at best. The lack of evidence is the best evidence against the poem coming from the plague generation. Folklorists have traced the poem to the 18th century, but not before. They argue that if the poem went back 650 years, then there should be a written copy of it dating back to the period, or at least before George Washington’s time. Despite this, documentaries on the subject often recount the nursery rhyme and attribute it to the period.

Whether "Ring Around the Rosie" is about the plague or not, the poem matches the symptoms of the disease. The first three lines recount the disease’s progression. The final line represents death. It is fascinating that a children’s fairy tale may in fact have its origin in the worst pandemic in recorded history.

And next Jack and Jill is rare in that there are several suggestions as to the real meaning of the nursery rhyme.

The original rhyme comprised four lines

Jack and Jill went up the hill

To fetch a pail of water.

Jack fell down and broke his crown,

And Jill came tumbling after.

One of the suggested meanings is that Jack was Louis XVI of King of France and Jill was his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette, famous for saying about the peasants "If they won't eat bread, let them eat cake".

 

The nursery rhyme relates to the execution of the king and queen of France and Jill went up the hill and the steps to the guillotine represented the hill, Jack (King Louis) was the first to be beheaded, and lost his crown then Jill (Marie Antoinette's head) came tumbling after.

One of the suggested meanings is that Jack was Louis XVI of King of France and Jill was his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette, famous for saying about the peasants "If they won't eat bread, let them eat cake".

The nursery rhyme relates to the execution of the king and queen of France. Jack and Jill went up the hill and the steps to the guillotine represented the hill, Jack (King Louis) was the first to be beheaded, and lost his crown then Jill (Marie Antoinette's head) came tumbling after.

So much that we take for granted is perhaps in fact truth disguised as fables or as we are considering myths. The problem lies in sorting out what is fact and what is fiction when we have years and perhaps centuries intervening.

Greek and Latin and biblical literature used to be part of everyone's education. Now, when these were dropped, a whole tradition of Occidental mythological information was lost. It used to be that these stories were in the minds of people. When the story is in your mind, then you see its relevance to something happening in your own life. It gives you perspective on what's happening to you. With the loss of that, we've really lost something because we don't have a comparable literature to take its place. These bits of information from ancient times, which have to do with the themes that have supported human life, built civilizations, and informed religions over the millennia, have to do with deep inner problems, inner mysteries, inner thresholds of

passage, and if you don't know what the guide-signs are along the way, you have to work it out yourself. But once this subject catches you, there is such a feeling, from one or another of these traditions, of information of a deep, rich, life-vivifying sort that you don't want to give it up.

So we tell stories to try to come to terms with the world, to harmonize our lives with reality.

Think about what you have heard or read over the years and how much you have accepted and just too for granted.... Then get back with me.

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August 6, 2014

7:27 PM

Did anyone lose a continent?

Part 4

 Gentle Readers,

 Rather long this time but worth the read. Check out the pic at the end.

Over 2,300 years ago, Plato wrote an account of an ancient City long forgotten; a thriving, wealthy, peaceful civilization known as Atlantis. The entire island was said to have disappeared into the Atlantic ocean after a day & night of fierce earthquakes & floods.

Ever since this first account was written, people of all ages & from all walks of life have been fascinated by the Legend. The world's scholars & scientists have searched for evidence to suggest that Atlantis was once a real city, many have staked their careers & reputations on their strong beliefs, but the majority consider it to be a fairy story written by Plato to express his own aversion to war & corruption. However, recent discoveries are giving hope to the believers...

Why is it that after thousands of years, so many of us still search for the answer to this mystery? Did it exist or didn't it. We can't seem to let go of it, as if deep down we know it existed, as though we possess some collective memory of it within our subconscious, which doesn't let us accept it as myth. Like the ghost of someone long gone that lingers on until the mystery of their death has been resolved and they can finally be at peace, their story having been told.

Ever since the first recorded history of Atlantis, written by the Greek philosopher Plato over 2,360 years ago, debate has raged as to whether or not Atlantis ever really existed. Plato described it as an extraordinary Utopian society, thriving around 9,600 BC, which valued peace, art and wisdom, possessed advanced technological knowledge for the time, and enjoyed riches beyond that of any subsequent civilization. The land was said to have been very fertile, with abundant food, water, animals, wood, and flowers. But, as the story goes, after several generations of ruling the leaders became increasingly greedy and corrupt, and started to wage war on their neighbouring countries. They conquered parts of North Africa and Europe and were about to attack Egypt and Athens, when the Athenian army valiantly drove them back and defeated them. It is shortly after this victory by the Athenians that violent and devastating earthquakes, and the resulting tidal waves and floods, destroyed the Athenian army, as well as the entire Island continent of Atlantis, submerging it beneath the sea "in a single day and night".

The question is : Did Plato write this as a moralistic story, or as a true historical account?

 

Plato's 2 writings pertaining to Atlantis are the "Timaeus", and the "Critias", written in 360BC, at which time Plato would have been aged about 67 or 68. These are the earliest known written records about the Lost Continent of Atlantis, all other written references to Atlantis have been written since, and have been based on these writings by Plato.

The Timaeus and the Critias are actually written in the form of dialogues between 4 main characters: Socrates (.Greek philosopher, and Plato's teacher.), Critias (.poet & historian.), Timaeus (.an Italian astronomer.), and Hermocrates (.a general from Syracuse.). All were real people.

The Timaeus includes only a passing reference to Atlantis, but the second writing, the Critias, has a much more in depth description of Atlantis leading upto it's downfall.

The story is told by the character Critias, who was possibly Plato's maternal great-grandfather. Critias had heard the story as a child from his own Grandfather, Critias the Elder, who had heard it from his father Dropides, who had heard it from his friend Solon, a great Athenian Law-giver reputed to have been an honest and true man.

Solon had been told the story of Atlantis during his stay in Sais, Egypt, by an elderly Egytian priest who claimed to have acquired the knowledge directly from ancient records in his keeping. After hearing of the account, Solon had intended to record it himself, for posterity's sake, but for one reason or another he never did.

Just for the record, Solon really did visit Sais, Egypt, although the date Plato gives for this is about 20 years off. This at least is indisputable fact.

The Egyptian records that the priest was referencing have to this day never been found. But there are theories that hidden in a hall underneath the sphinx, or in the top of the great pyramid, is a secret chamber containing ancient records of invaluable historical, and perhaps future, importance. Several excavations have been attempted to find this secret room, but all have lead to dead ends. It is unknown exactly where this rumor originated, it may have been Edgar Cayce, an American psychic / clairvoyant of the early 1900's, who predicted (sometime before his death in 1945) that in 1998 a "Hall of Records" would be found.

According to Cayce, the contents of the hall and the location are as follows:

"A record of Atlantis from the beginning of those periods when the Spirit took form, or began the encasements in that land; and the developments of the peoples throughout their sojourn; together with the record of the first destruction, and the changes that took place in the land; with the record of the sojourning of the peoples and their varied activities in other lands, and a record of the meetings of all the nations or lands, for the activities in the destruction of Atlantis; and the building of the pyramid of initiation, together with whom, what, and where the opening of the records would come, that are as copies from the sunken Atlantis. For with the change, it [Atlantis] must rise again. In position, this lies -- as the sun rises from the waters -- as the line of the shadows (or light) falls between the paws of the Sphinx; that was set later as the sentinel or guard and which may not be entered from the connecting chambers from the Sphinx's right paw until the time has been fulfilled when the changes must be active in this sphere of man's experience."

Plato was writing the Timaeus and the Critias as the first 2 parts of a trilogy, which was to follow on from one of his previous works called The Republic, and it is believed that in this trilogy Atlantis was going to play a significant part.

But as you will notice when you read the Critias excerpt below, he never finished it! It breaks off at the most exciting part, never to be finished, or if it was finished, the end part has been lost. So, out of the trilogy only the first book was completed, the second was half done, and the third was never even started.

 

Excerpt from The : Timaeus

 

Critias says :

Many great and wonderful deeds are recorded of your state in our histories. But one of them exceeds all the rest in greatness and valor. For these histories tell of a mighty power which unprovoked, made an expedition against the whole of Europe and Asia, and to which your city put an end. This power came forth out of the Atlantic Ocean, for in those days the Atlantic was navigable; and there was an island situated in front of the straits which are by you called the Pillars of Heracles; the island was larger than Libya and Asia put together, and was the way to other islands, and from these you might pass to the whole of the opposite continent which surrounded the true ocean; for this sea which is within the Straits of Heracles is only a harbour, having a narrow entrance, but that other is a real sea, and the surrounding land may be most truly called a boundless continent. Now in this island of Atlantis there was a great and wonderful empire which had rule over the whole island and several others, and over parts of the continent, and, furthermore, the men of Atlantis had subjected the parts of Libya within the columns of Heracles as far as Egypt, and of Europe as far as Tyrrhenia (Italy).

This vast power, gathered into one, endeavoured to subdue at a blow our country and yours and the whole of the region within the straits; and then, Solon, your country shone forth, in the excellence of her virtue and strength, among all mankind. She was pre-eminent in courage and military skill, and was the leader of the Hellenes. And when the rest fell off from her, being compelled to stand alone, after having undergone the very extremity of danger, she defeated and triumphed over the invaders, and preserved from slavery those who were not yet subjugated, and generously liberated all the rest of us who dwell within the pillars. But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea. For which reason the sea in those parts is impassable and impenetrable, because there is a shoal of mud in the way; and this was caused by the subsidence of the island.

 

Excerpt from The : Critias

 

Critias says :

Let me begin by observing first of all, that nine thousand was the sum of years which had elapsed since the war which was said to have taken place between those who dwelt outside the Pillars of Heracles and all who dwelt within them; this war I am going to describe. Of the combatants on the one side, the city of Athens was reported to have been the leader and to have fought out the war; the combatants on the other side were commanded by the kings of Atlantis, which, as was saying, was an island greater in extent than Libya and Asia, and when afterwards sunk by an earthquake, became an impassable barrier of mud to voyagers sailing from hence to any part of the ocean. The progress of the history will unfold the various nations of barbarians and families of Hellenes which then existed, as they successively appear on the scene; but I must describe first of all Athenians of that day, and their enemies who fought with them, and then the respective powers and governments of the two kingdoms. Let us give the precedence to Athens.

In the days of old the gods had the whole earth distributed among them by allotment. There was no quarrelling; for you cannot rightly suppose that the gods did not know what was proper for each of them to have, or, knowing this, that they would seek to procure for themselves by contention that which more properly belonged to others. They all of them by just apportionment obtained what they wanted, and peopled their own districts; and when they had peopled them they tended us, their nurselings and possessions, as shepherds tend their flocks, excepting only that they did not use blows or bodily force, as shepherds do, but governed us like pilots from the stern of the vessel, which is an easy way of guiding animals, holding our souls by the rudder of persuasion according to their own pleasure;-thus did they guide all mortal creatures. Now different gods had their allotments in different places which they set in order. Hephaestus and Athene, who were brother and sister, and sprang from the same father, having a common nature, and being united also in the love of philosophy and art, both obtained as their common portion this land, which was naturally adapted for wisdom and virtue; and there they implanted brave children of the soil, and put into their minds the order of government; their names are preserved, but their actions have disappeared by reason of the destruction of those who received the tradition, and the lapse of ages. For when there were any survivors, as I have already said, they were men who dwelt in the mountains; and they were ignorant of the art of writing, and had heard only the names of the chiefs of the land, but very little about their actions. The names they were willing enough to give to their children; but the virtues and the laws of their predecessors, they knew only by obscure traditions; and as they themselves and their children lacked for many generations the necessaries of life, they directed their attention to the supply of their wants, and of them they conversed, to the neglect of events that had happened in times long past; for mythology and the enquiry into antiquity are first introduced into cities when they begin to have leisure, and when they see that the necessaries of life have already been provided, but not before. And this is reason why the names of the ancients have been preserved to us and not their actions. This I infer because Solon said that the priests in their narrative of that war mentioned most of the names which are recorded prior to the time of Theseus, such as Cecrops, and Erechtheus, and Erichthonius, and Erysichthon, and the names of the women in like manner. Moreover, since military pursuits were then common to men and women, the men of those days in accordance with the custom of the time set up a figure and image of the goddess in full armour, to be a testimony that all animals which associate together, male as well as female, may, if they please, practise in common the virtue which belongs to them without distinction of sex.

Now the country was inhabited in those days by various classes of citizens;-there were artisans, and there were husbandmen, and there was also a warrior class originally set apart by divine men. The latter dwelt by themselves, and had all things suitable for nurture and education; neither had any of them anything of their own, but they regarded all that they had as common property; nor did they claim to receive of the other citizens anything more than their necessary food. And they practised all the pursuits which we yesterday described as those of our imaginary guardians. Concerning the country the Egyptian priests said what is not only probable but manifestly true, that the boundaries were in those days fixed by the Isthmus, and that in the direction of the continent they extended as far as the heights of Cithaeron and Parnes; the boundary line came down in the direction of the sea, having the district of Oropus on the right, and with the river Asopus as the limit on the left. The land was the best in the world, and was therefore able in those days to support a vast army, raised from the surrounding people. Even the remnant of Attica which now exists may compare with any region in the world for the variety and excellence of its fruits and the suitableness of its pastures to every sort of animal, which proves what I am saying; but in those days the country was fair as now and yielded far more abundant produce. How shall I establish my words? and what part of it can be truly called a remnant of the land that then was? The whole country is only a long promontory extending far into the sea away from the rest of the continent, while the surrounding basin of the sea is everywhere deep in the neighbourhood of the shore. Many great deluges have taken place during the nine thousand years, for that is the number of years which have elapsed since the time of which I am speaking; and during all this time and through so many changes, there has never been any considerable accumulation of the soil coming down from the mountains, as in other places, but the earth has fallen away all round and sunk out of sight. The consequence is, that in comparison of what then was, there are remaining only the bones of the wasted body, as they may be called, as in the case of small islands, all the richer and softer parts of the soil having fallen away, and the mere skeleton of the land being left. But in the primitive state of the country, its mountains were high hills covered with soil, and the plains, as they are termed by us, of Phelleus were full of rich earth, and there was abundance of wood in the mountains. Of this last the traces still remain, for although some of the mountains now only afford sustenance to bees, not so very long ago there were still to be seen roofs of timber cut from trees growing there, which were of a size sufficient to cover the largest houses; and there were many other high trees, cultivated by man and bearing abundance of food for cattle. Moreover, the land reaped the benefit of the annual rainfall, not as now losing the water which flows off the bare earth into the sea, but, having an abundant supply in all places, and receiving it into herself and treasuring it up in the close clay soil, it let off into the hollows the streams which it absorbed from the heights, providing everywhere abundant fountains and rivers, of which there may still be observed sacred memorials in places where fountains once existed; and this proves the truth of what I am saying.

Such was the natural state of the country, which was cultivated, as we may well believe, by true husbandmen, who made husbandry their business, and were lovers of honour, and of a noble nature, and had a soil the best in the world, and abundance of water, and in the heaven above an excellently attempered climate. Now the city in those days was arranged on this wise. In the first place the Acropolis was not as now. For the fact is that a single night of excessive rain washed away the earth and laid bare the rock; at the same time there were earthquakes, and then occurred the extraordinary inundation, which was the third before the great destruction of Deucalion. But in primitive times the hill of the Acropolis extended to the Eridanus and Ilissus, and included the Pnyx on one side, and the Lycabettus as a boundary on the opposite side to the Pnyx, and was all well covered with soil, and level at the top, except in one or two places. Outside the Acropolis and under the sides of the hill there dwelt artisans, and such of the husbandmen as were tilling the ground near; the warrior class dwelt by themselves around the temples of Athene and Hephaestus at the summit, which moreover they had enclosed with a single fence like the garden of a single house. On the north side they had dwellings in common and had erected halls for dining in winter, and had all the buildings which they needed for their common life, besides temples, but there was no adorning of them with gold and silver, for they made no use of these for any purpose; they took a middle course between meanness and ostentation, and built modest houses in which they and their children's children grew old, and they handed them down to others who were like themselves, always the same. But in summer-time they left their gardens and gymnasia and dining halls, and then the southern side of the hill was made use of by them for the same purpose. Where the Acropolis now is there was a fountain, which was choked by the earthquake, and has left only the few small streams which still exist in the vicinity, but in those days the fountain gave an abundant supply of water for all and of suitable temperature in summer and in winter. This is how they dwelt, being the guardians of their own citizens and the leaders of the Hellenes, who were their willing followers. And they took care to preserve the same number of men and women through all time, being so many as were required for warlike purposes, then as now-that is to say, about twenty thousand. Such were the ancient Athenians, and after this manner they righteously administered their own land and the rest of Hellas; they were renowned all over Europe and Asia for the beauty of their persons and for the many virtues of their souls, and of all men who lived in those days they were the most illustrious. And next, if I have not forgotten what I heard when I was a child, I will impart to you the character and origin of their adversaries. For friends should not keep their stories to themselves, but have them in common.

Yet, before proceeding further in the narrative, I ought to warn you, that you must not be surprised if you should perhaps hear Hellenic names given to foreigners. I will tell you the reason of this: Solon, who was intending to use the tale for his poem, enquired into the meaning of the names, and found that the early Egyptians in writing them down had translated them into their own language, and he recovered the meaning of the several names and when copying them out again translated them into our language. My great-grandfather, Dropides, had the original writing, which is still in my possession, and was carefully studied by me when I was a child. Therefore if you hear names such as are used in this country, you must not be surprised, for I have told how they came to be introduced. The tale, which was of great length, began as follows:-

I have before remarked in speaking of the allotments of the gods, that they distributed the whole earth into portions differing in extent, and made for themselves temples and instituted sacrifices. And Poseidon, receiving for his lot the island of Atlantis, begat children by a mortal woman, and settled them in a part of the island, which I will describe. Looking towards the sea, but in the centre of the whole island, there was a plain which is said to have been the fairest of all plains and very fertile. Near the plain again, and also in the centre of the island at a distance of about fifty stadia, there was a mountain not very high on any side.

In this mountain there dwelt one of the earth born primeval men of that country, whose name was Evenor, and he had a wife named Leucippe, and they had an only daughter who was called Cleito. The maiden had already reached womanhood, when her father and mother died; Poseidon fell in love with her and had intercourse with her, and breaking the ground, inclosed the hill in which she dwelt all round, making alternate zones of sea and land larger and smaller, encircling one another; there were two of land and three of water, which he turned as with a lathe, each having its circumference equidistant every way from the centre, so that no man could get to the island, for ships and voyages were not as yet. He himself, being a god, found no difficulty in making special arrangements for the centre island, bringing up two springs of water from beneath the earth, one of warm water and the other of cold, and making every variety of food to spring up abundantly from the soil. He also begat and brought up five pairs of twin male children; and dividing the island of Atlantis into ten portions, he gave to the first-born of the eldest pair his mother's dwelling and the surrounding allotment, which was the largest and best, and made him king over the rest; the others he made princes, and gave them rule over many men, and a large territory. And he named them all; the eldest, who was the first king, he named Atlas, and after him the whole island and the ocean were called Atlantic. To his twin brother, who was born after him, and obtained as his lot the extremity of the island towards the Pillars of Heracles, facing the country which is now called the region of Gades in that part of the world, he gave the name which in the Hellenic language is Eumelus, in the language of the country which is named after him, Gadeirus. Of the second pair of twins he called one Ampheres, and the other Evaemon. To the elder of the third pair of twins he gave the name Mneseus, and Autochthon to the one who followed him. Of the fourth pair of twins he called the elder Elasippus, and the younger Mestor. And of the fifth pair he gave to the elder the name of Azaes, and to the younger that of Diaprepes. All these and their descendants for many generations were the inhabitants and rulers of divers islands in the open sea; and also, as has been already said, they held sway in our direction over the country within the Pillars as far as Egypt and Tyrrhenia.

Now Atlas had a numerous and honourable family, and they retained the kingdom, the eldest son handing it on to his eldest for many generations; and they had such an amount of wealth as was never before possessed by kings and potentates, and is not likely ever to be again, and they were furnished with everything which they needed, both in the city and country. For because of the greatness of their empire many things were brought to them from foreign countries, and the island itself provided most of what was required by them for the uses of life. In the first place, they dug out of the earth whatever was to be found there, solid as well as fusile, and that which is now only a name and was then something more than a name, orichalcum, was dug out of the earth in many parts of the island, being more precious in those days than anything except gold. There was an abundance of wood for carpenter's work, and sufficient maintenance for tame and wild animals. Moreover, there were a great number of elephants in the island; for as there was provision for all other sorts of animals, both for those which live in lakes and marshes and rivers, and also for those which live in mountains and on plains, so there was for the animal which is the largest and most voracious of all. Also whatever fragrant things there now are in the earth, whether roots, or herbage, or woods, or essences which distil from fruit and flower, grew and thrived in that land; also the fruit which admits of cultivation, both the dry sort, which is given us for nourishment and any other which we use for food-we call them all by the common name pulse, and the fruits having a hard rind, affording drinks and meats and ointments, and good store of chestnuts and the like, which furnish pleasure and amusement, and are fruits which spoil with keeping, and the pleasant kinds of dessert, with which we console ourselves after dinner, when we are tired of eating-all these that sacred island which then beheld the light of the sun, brought forth fair and wondrous and in infinite abundance. With such blessings the earth freely furnished them; meanwhile they went on constructing their temples and palaces and harbours and docks. And they arranged the whole country in the following manner:

First of all they bridged over the zones of sea which surrounded the ancient metropolis, making a road to and from the royal palace. And at the very beginning they built the palace in the habitation of the god and of their ancestors, which they continued to ornament in successive generations, every king surpassing the one who went before him to the utmost of his power, until they made the building a marvel to behold for size and for beauty. And beginning from the sea they bored a canal of three hundred feet in width and one hundred feet in depth and fifty stadia in length, which they carried through to the outermost zone, making a passage from the sea up to this, which became a harbour, and leaving an opening sufficient to enable the largest vessels to find ingress. Moreover, they divided at the bridges the zones of land which parted the zones of sea, leaving room for a single trireme to pass out of one zone into another, and they covered over the channels so as to leave a way underneath for the ships; for the banks were raised considerably above the water. Now the largest of the zones into which a passage was cut from the sea was three stadia in breadth, and the zone of land which came next of equal breadth; but the next two zones, the one of water, the other of land, were two stadia, and the one which surrounded the central island was a stadium only in width. The island in which the palace was situated had a diameter of five stadia. All this including the zones and the bridge, which was the sixth part of a stadium in width, they surrounded by a stone wall on every side, placing towers and gates on the bridges where the sea passed in. The stone which was used in the work they quarried from underneath the centre island, and from underneath the zones, on the outer as well as the inner side. One kind was white, another black, and a third red, and as they quarried, they at the same time hollowed out double docks, having roofs formed out of the native rock. Some of their buildings were simple, but in others they put together different stones, varying the colour to please the eye, and to be a natural source of delight. The entire circuit of the wall, which went round the outermost zone, they covered with a coating of brass, and the circuit of the next wall they coated with tin, and the third, which encompassed the citadel, flashed with the red light of orichalcum.

The palaces in the interior of the citadel were constructed on this wise:-in the centre was a holy temple dedicated to Cleito and Poseidon, which remained inaccessible, and was surrounded by an enclosure of gold; this was the spot where the family of the ten princes first saw the light, and thither the people annually brought the fruits of the earth in their season from all the ten portions, to be an offering to each of the ten. Here was Poseidon's own temple which was a stadium in length, and half a stadium in width, and of a proportionate height, having a strange barbaric appearance. All the outside of the temple, with the exception of the pinnacles, they covered with silver, and the pinnacles with gold. In the interior of the temple the roof was of ivory, curiously wrought everywhere with gold and silver and orichalcum; and all the other parts, the walls and pillars and floor, they coated with orichalcum. In the temple they placed statues of gold: there was the god himself standing in a chariot-the charioteer of six winged horses-and of such a size that he touched the roof of the building with his head; around him there were a hundred Nereids riding on dolphins, for such was thought to be the number of them by the men of those days. There were also in the interior of the temple other images which had been dedicated by private persons. And around the temple on the outside were placed statues of gold of all the descendants of the ten kings and of their wives, and there were many other great offerings of kings and of private persons, coming both from the city itself and from the foreign cities over which they held sway. There was an altar too, which in size and workmanship corresponded to this magnificence, and the palaces, in like manner, answered to the greatness of the kingdom and the glory of the temple.

In the next place, they had fountains, one of cold and another of hot water, in gracious plenty flowing; and they were wonderfully adapted for use by reason of the pleasantness and excellence of their waters. They constructed buildings about them and planted suitable trees, also they made cisterns, some open to the heavens, others roofed over, to be used in winter as warm baths; there were the kings' baths, and the baths of private persons, which were kept apart; and there were separate baths for women, and for horses and cattle, and to each of them they gave as much adornment as was suitable. Of the water which ran off they carried some to the grove of Poseidon, where were growing all manner of trees of wonderful height and beauty, owing to the excellence of the soil, while the remainder was conveyed by aqueducts along the bridges to the outer circles; and there were many temples built and dedicated to many gods; also gardens and places of exercise, some for men, and others for horses in both of the two islands formed by the zones; and in the centre of the larger of the two there was set apart a race-course of a stadium in width, and in length allowed to extend all round the island, for horses to race in. Also there were guardhouses at intervals for the guards, the more trusted of whom were appointed-to keep watch in the lesser zone, which was nearer the Acropolis while the most trusted of all had houses given them within the citadel, near the persons of the kings. The docks were full of triremes and naval stores, and all things were quite ready for use. Enough of the plan of the royal palace.

Leaving the palace and passing out across the three you came to a wall which began at the sea and went all round: this was everywhere distant fifty stadia from the largest zone or harbour, and enclosed the whole, the ends meeting at the mouth of the channel which led to the sea. The entire area was densely crowded with habitations; and the canal and the largest of the harbours were full of vessels and merchants coming from all parts, who, from their numbers, kept up a multitudinous sound of human voices, and din and clatter of all sorts night and day.

I have described the city and the environs of the ancient palace nearly in the words of Solon, and now I must endeavour to represent the nature and arrangement of the rest of the land. The whole country was said by him to be very lofty and precipitous on the side of the sea, but the country immediately about and surrounding the city was a level plain, itself surrounded by mountains which descended towards the sea; it was smooth and even, and of an oblong shape, extending in one direction three thousand stadia, but across the centre inland it was two thousand stadia. This part of the island looked towards the south, and was sheltered from the north. The surrounding mountains were celebrated for their number and size and beauty, far beyond any which still exist, having in them also many wealthy villages of country folk, and rivers, and lakes, and meadows supplying food enough for every animal, wild or tame, and much wood of various sorts, abundant for each and every kind of work.

I will now describe the plain, as it was fashioned by nature and by the labours of many generations of kings through long ages. It was for the most part rectangular and oblong, and where falling out of the straight line followed the circular ditch. The depth, and width, and length of this ditch were incredible, and gave the impression that a work of such extent, in addition to so many others, could never have been artificial. Nevertheless I must say what I was told. It was excavated to the depth of a hundred, feet, and its breadth was a stadium everywhere; it was carried round the whole of the plain, and was ten thousand stadia in length. It received the streams which came down from the mountains, and winding round the plain and meeting at the city, was there let off into the sea. Further inland, likewise, straight canals of a hundred feet in width were cut from it through the plain, and again let off into the ditch leading to the sea: these canals were at intervals of a hundred stadia, and by them they brought down the wood from the mountains to the city, and conveyed the fruits of the earth in ships, cutting transverse passages from one canal into another, and to the city. Twice in the year they gathered the fruits of the earth-in winter having the benefit of the rains of heaven, and in summer the water which the land supplied by introducing streams from the canals.

As to the population, each of the lots in the plain had to find a leader for the men who were fit for military service, and the size of a lot was a square of ten stadia each way, and the total number of all the lots was sixty thousand. And of the inhabitants of the mountains and of the rest of the country there was also a vast multitude, which was distributed among the lots and had leaders assigned to them according to their districts and villages. The leader was required to furnish for the war the sixth portion of a war-chariot, so as to make up a total of ten thousand chariots; also two horses and riders for them, and a pair of chariot-horses without a seat, accompanied by a horseman who could fight on foot carrying a small shield, and having a charioteer who stood behind the man-at-arms to guide the two horses; also, he was bound to furnish two heavy armed soldiers, two slingers, three stone-shooters and three javelin-men, who were light-armed, and four sailors to make up the complement of twelve hundred ships. Such was the military order of the royal city-the order of the other nine governments varied, and it would be wearisome to recount their several differences.

As to offices and honours, the following was the arrangement from the first. Each of the ten kings in his own division and in his own city had the absolute control of the citizens, and, in most cases, of the laws, punishing and slaying whomsoever he would. Now the order of precedence among them and their mutual relations were regulated by the commands of Poseidon which the law had handed down. These were inscribed by the first kings on a pillar of orichalcum, which was situated in the middle of the island, at the temple of Poseidon, whither the kings were gathered together every fifth and every sixth year alternately, thus giving equal honour to the odd and to the even number. And when they were gathered together they consulted about their common interests, and enquired if any one had transgressed in anything and passed judgment and before they passed judgment they gave their pledges to one another on this wise:-There were bulls who had the range of the temple of Poseidon; and the ten kings, being left alone in the temple, after they had offered prayers to the god that they might capture the victim which was acceptable to him, hunted the bulls, without weapons but with staves and nooses; and the bull which they caught they led up to the pillar and cut its throat over the top of it so that the blood fell upon the sacred inscription. Now on the pillar, besides the laws, there was inscribed an oath invoking mighty curses on the disobedient. When therefore, after slaying the bull in the accustomed manner, they had burnt its limbs, they filled a bowl of wine and cast in a clot of blood for each of them; the rest of the victim they put in the fire, after having purified the column all round. Then they drew from the bowl in golden cups and pouring a libation on the fire, they swore that they would judge according to the laws on the pillar, and would punish him who in any point had already transgressed them, and that for the future they would not, if they could help, offend against the writing on the pillar, and would neither command others, nor obey any ruler who commanded them, to act otherwise than according to the laws of their father Poseidon. This was the prayer which each of them-offered up for himself and for his descendants, at the same time drinking and dedicating the cup out of which he drank in the temple of the god; and after they had supped and satisfied their needs, when darkness came on, and the fire about the sacrifice was cool, all of them put on most beautiful azure robes, and, sitting on the ground, at night, over the embers of the sacrifices by which they had sworn, and extinguishing all the fire about the temple, they received and gave judgment, if any of them had an accusation to bring against any one; and when they given judgment, at daybreak they wrote down their sentences on a golden tablet, and dedicated it together with their robes to be a memorial.

There were many special laws affecting the several kings inscribed about the temples, but the most important was the following: They were not to take up arms against one another, and they were all to come to the rescue if any one in any of their cities attempted to overthrow the royal house; like their ancestors, they were to deliberate in common about war and other matters, giving the supremacy to the descendants of Atlas. And the king was not to have the power of life and death over any of his kinsmen unless he had the assent of the majority of the ten.

Such was the vast power which the god settled in the lost island of Atlantis; and this he afterwards directed against our land for the following reasons, as tradition tells: For many generations, as long as the divine nature lasted in them, they were obedient to the laws, and well-affectioned towards the god, whose seed they were; for they possessed true and in every way great spirits, uniting gentleness with wisdom in the various chances of life, and in their intercourse with one another. They despised everything but virtue, caring little for their present state of life, and thinking lightly of the possession of gold and other property, which seemed only a burden to them; neither were they intoxicated by luxury; nor did wealth deprive them of their self-control; but they were sober, and saw clearly that all these goods are increased by virtue and friendship with one another, whereas by too great regard and respect for them, they are lost and friendship with them. By such reflections and by the continuance in them of a divine nature, the qualities which we have described grew and increased among them; but when the divine portion began to fade away, and became diluted too often and too much with the mortal admixture, and the human nature got the upper hand, they then, being unable to bear their fortune, behaved unseemly, and to him who had an eye to see grew visibly debased, for they were losing the fairest of their precious gifts; but to those who had no eye to see the true happiness, they appeared glorious and blessed at the very time when they were full of avarice and unrighteous power. Zeus, the god of gods, who rules according to law, and is able to see into such things, perceiving that an honourable race was in a woeful plight, and wanting to inflict punishment on them, that they might be chastened and improve, collected all the gods into their most holy habitation, which, being placed in the centre of the world, beholds all created things. And when he had called them together, he spake as follows - * .....

And that's where it cuts off! It's painful..... but myth or reality?

Watch this space....

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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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