Tag Archives: book

‘The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind’, by Claude Lecouteux – review

The Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan MindThe Return of the Dead: Ghosts, Ancestors, and the Transparent Veil of the Pagan Mind by Claude Lecouteux

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Salman Rushdie spoke of ghosts as the souls of the dead tending unfinished businesses on earth. Be it everlasting phantasmal whistling from the desolate fields of the buried or flickering of lights with sounds of footsteps in manmade abodes, but mind you that sometimes they come back. It is not about the fashionable New Age enlightenment advocating the veracity of paranormal activities involving ghost hunters, would-be, or self-proclaimed practitioners of occultic practice. It is academically certifiable, according to the eminent French Medieval Studies scholar Claude Lecouteux in his treaties on the formidable return of the souls departed.

The belief systems that the souls of the dead will and can come back to where they have left are universal in all cultures, including the dominant Christianity. Christianity, especially the Church of Rome, has drowned upon syncretism of pre-existing uniform pagan beliefs that paying due respect to the dead by offering food on their anniversary of death is an obligation and prevention of malice thrown upon the living. Lecouteux affirms in the discourse of the truth of revenants by the ecclesiastical records of Pope Gregory the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and Augustus. Even the ancient pagan luminaries, such as Ovid, Pliny the Elder, and the Younger, and Plato, corroborated the Wondering Souls’ existence roaming among the mortals. These great benefactors of humanity averred that sometimes, by the mysterious will of God, the dead are not entirely gone to the world beyond or occasionally permitted to manifest in reality. Therefore, it is worth giving such notions a preferential credit over the sensational testimony of ghost hunters, psychics, or gypsies.

Lecouteux illustrates peculiar funereal practices, especially of the Northern Europeans, such as putting the deceased’s head between the legs, sealing the roofs, windows, or any openings of a house of the dead lest the departed remain in the place of the living. After a breath of life leaves the corporeal temple, it ceases to exist and is, therefore, doesn’t belong in this world. Lecouteux’s treatise becomes a historical narrative of the deceased’s whys and wherefores in a confused state of spiritual anomy, refusing to cut a tie to the terrestrial world that they don’t belong any longer.

The book is my second read written by the French scholar following The Secret History of Poltergeists and Haunted, an excellent read in its multidisciplinary approach to validate the historical events of the fantastic phenomena in the narrative style conflated with Thucydidian objectivity and Herodotusian parataxis. Although this book retains the cracking narrative tradition of his, it is not as enthusiastically stimulating as the other book on the more popular noisy spirits for the sake of the subject itself. Perhaps, my being of the modern era accustomed to the sensory effects influenced by films and other visual aids may contribute to a rather unjust opinion on this book about revenants. Notwithstanding the preferential subject matters, this book will be a valuable textual source for historical, cultural, or social research about the universality of belief systems molded into a syncretism of the Church’s established religious doctrine. Or to put it simply, this book will pique anyone not easily succumbed to occult fad but equipped with a curious mind on the restless wandering souls, thus helping fortify his or her belief that sometimes they do come back.



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‘The Molly Maguires’ (1970) – film essay

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There are two kinds of morality: one is speculative morality by which your thinking directs you to find the truth about the way things are. The other is practical morality, in which your eyes dictate you to find the applicability of your moral precepts to real-life situations. Since your ultimate end is happiness in life, you choose what deems to be reasonably advantageous means to achieve the purpose. Now here is where your moral dilemma arises from a crossroad of modus vivendi and modus operandi often directive of ego, the appetite of the sense, in the sovereign of free will beyond the boundary of Natural Law.

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The question of conditional morality in the face of life’s challenges is the thematic context of “The Molly Maguires” (1970), an American film directed by Martin Ritt. It is a drama of the secret society of Irish immigrant mineworkers led by Jack Kehoe (played by Sean Connery) battling to better conditions in the Irish immigrant community of coal miners in the 1870’s Pennsylvania. The story begins when Pinkerton Detective James McParlan (played by Richard Harris), employed to infiltrate the organization, arrives at the poverty-stricken mining village. McParlan himself is also an Irish immigrant from Ulster and sees his fellow compatriots slaving away at the worst working conditions in the gate of a subterranean pit of anthracite with the danger of death always lurking in all wither. The proverb of “Blood is thicker than water” may have smeared in his tortured muscles because McParlan can not be immune from the anger and vengeance that binds the Mollies together as he shares his sweats and laughs with them. The Mollies sabotage the means of production in their ingeniously effective ways and even kill the members of the powers that be if necessary, to deliver their resentment to the oppressors of failed wishes and frustrated dreams in the necessity of meager livelihood. The biblical message of “Refrain from anger, turn from wrath. Do not fret” rings hollow in the selfishness of leisured life that has no regard for those whose fortune’s malice overthrows their states.

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The moral dilemma in which McParlan finds himself results from a clash of his id, speculative intellect, and ego, practical intellect, that binds him in the natural inclination to happiness, which he intends to obtain from a love of his landlady and prestige of social standing. Besides, as the fellowship of the Mollies enters a realm of his newfound fraternity of brotherhood, McParlan forces himself to subject natural human feelings to a rationalization of thinking under the sway of the reason for success. He sets his virtue by compromising moral precepts to realistic means of life in choosing what deems to be the most practical way of achieving his ultimate ends via a chariot of ambition without the charioteer.

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This film does not turn out to be a grand social movie that its synopsis seems to present but a compelling drama of human nature and actions in contemplation of what constitutes moral actions. This film is not only about the Irish immigrant coal miners but also about those whose precious dreams and wishes are hard to materialize in the harsh reality of life. You will see that values are variable, and that virtue is a settled way of performing what you think right. Perhaps, Oscar Wile is right in saying, “Morality, like art, means drawing a line someplace.” Nevertheless, one thing is sure that you cannot do an immoral act for moral reasons, even if every human action is just as such right, come what may.

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The Heroic Age Revisited: ‘The Tale of Troy’, by Roger Lancelyn Green – review

The Tale of TroyThe Tale of Troy by Roger Lancelyn Green

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

History is a branch of literature woven by artists and artificers with stories full of events, places, and people embroidered on the latticework of time, which mirrors the invariable pith of humanity to posterity. In truth, history is a literary creation of reality in the habiliment of artistic imagination, which we call mythology. In this regard, The Tale of Troy by Roger Lancelyn Green is a refreshingly cracking retelling of historical Trojan War knitted together with mythological strands as though to be seen from a magical casement to the misty antiquity, which Herodotus defines as the Heroic Age of the Five Ages of Man (which, by the way, Ovid interestingly omitted in his Roman version of the Ages of Men) when divine immortals responded to your pleas directly and promptly and freely made love with their beautiful mortal subjects with unquelled divine lust.

Drawn on a compendium of classical narratives of ancient writers, principally Homer’s Iliad, Green retells the beginning and end of Trojan War, reprises the scenes of the heroic characters and capricious Immortals, and remasters the thematic theater of dramas collapsing a great divide of time and space with his genius story-telling skills as an erudite but affable raconteur. Green takes you to the wedding banquet of Menelaus and Helen in Sparta where the goddess of discord Eris first presented an apple of discord, to Paris of Troy happily living with Oenone, a mountain nymph, on Mount Ida, to the Greek Camp outside the Wall of Troy where Agamemnon and Achilles were having a row over their beautiful Trojan female captives, and to Odysseus’s 10-year journey back home in Ithaca. The tale of Troy regenerates more stories about the fates of the characters following the end of the epic war, which leads to the dawn of the Iron Age, the Age of Man, in which we live. The Tale of Troy is a literary equivalent of Matryoshka, a frame story that presents manifold stories that delight you with pleasant surprises.

The great Roman poet Horace once said it’s harder to treat a story in your own way. In fact, to retell a story is harder than to create one from void because it requires a special ability with the aid of natural wit to make the original source texts adapt to the contemporary readership of the time the author belongs to. To that effect, this book is a magical casement of the misty past told by a Homeric storyteller of our modern time who will take you to where the ancient ocean sends forth the breeze of the shrill Aegean Sea to let you sail an imaginary voyage with the Greek Kings and the Trojan refugees, while the Olympian gods are watching you from Mount Olympus.

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‘Joan of Arc: A Life from beginning to end’ by Hourly History – review

Joan of Arc: A Life From Beginning to EndJoan of Arc: A Life From Beginning to End by Hourly History

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

They condemned her as an irreparable heretic, apostate, idolater, and witch and then burned her at stake even though she saved them from their enemy. And yet, in spite of such egregious treachery of her own countrymen, she knew no surrender to fear with stalwart faith in the Cause she intransigently believed to be her divine mission from the greatest man above as the flame rose to her nose, and then engulfed her therein, turning her to ashes. She was no less a figure than Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, the Virgin of Lorraine, whose bravery and belief – be it ever spiritual or psychological- epitomizes existential will to meaningfulness to live a purposeful life, as is vividly and elegantly related in this book.

Each chapter draws up on the substantial aspects of Joan’s purposes, acts, and achievements rather than illustrates religious or spiritual overtones in anecdotes or legends to glow her in a halo. The narrative takes us to where Joan of Arc witnessed the English occupiers’ hectoring of her village folks, including little children by beating, and we feel her indignation at the perpetrators of such violence on her soil. We also come to know that the divine messages she received were not directly from God but through St. Michael, the archangel, St. Margaret, and St. Catherine as the messengers of God with the three divine missions. That Joan of Arc had three cardinal missions of (1) taking up arms; (2) rallying the French to defeat the English occupying army; and (3) putting the Dauphine Charles on the French throne betokens her guiding lights of her life, her purpose of life that constantly reminded her of a “why” to live for. So we follow Joan, a tall and lean girl with her raven hair cut in bob attired in shining armor that weighted about twenty pounds to the frontlines of hand-to-hand combats fighting against the English army without her helmet on to boost morale of the French soldiers and got her neck pierced by an arrow. Then the narrative puts us forward to the dark cell of Joan harassed by five lewd English guards and to the heaps of stake where her body was consumed to ashes.

The lucidly vivid descriptions of each chapter in cogently casual narrative are the elemental force of this book that brings the grist to the mill for the visualization of the whole story as though it were played on a screen. In fact, while I was reading toward the end of the book, a song called “Bigmouth Strikes Again” by the Smiths, in which Morrissey sings, “Now I know how Joan of Arc felt” was starting to being played in my mental stereo set with heightened emotions. It also illustrates the canonical facts that many of us may be unaware of: (1) that it was the French, including the dauphin who later became Charles VI wholly thanks to Joan, who sold her to the English; (2) that Joan, for none other reason than being only human, attempted at several escapes which ended in foils; and that (3) it was twenty-two years after her death on fraudulent grounds of treachery and heresy that the Trial of Rehabilitation exonerated her from such preposterously erroneous charges, thanks to the troubling conscience of Charles VI who belatedly endeavored to make it happen.

This is an excellent primer on further study on Joan of Arc with a comprehensive overview of the time as regards the relationship between the Church and the politics, the role of the Church, and its dominance over society, let alone people. It will induce you to look at Joan of Arc not as mythological French virgin whose legacy exclusively appertains to the French as their patron saint only, but as a human who tried to do what she believed was right despite any biological or social inhibitions that she had to rise above. In this regard, Joan is an emblematic figure of courage, hope, and self will to achieve her existential values as someone with purposes in life, someone whom we can identify with in one way or another in our daily struggles of contemporary life. Upon reading this book, you will come to understand what made the American humorist Mark Twain offer such approbation: “Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it.” Indeed, her steadfast attitude toward her firm belief is something we can deem truly inspiring and remedial to apply to our own way of fulfilling demands placed upon our daily tasks in life.

Ballad of Dido and Aeneas

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Aeneas leaves Dido, courtesy of pinterest

From a land ravaged by a wooden horse with a golden apple for the fairest of the divine beauties appearing to a prince so young, so impetuous in judgment thereof,

There came a poor beautiful stranger destined for the supernal fate to rule the mortal to the diamond eyes of a maiden queen ethereal in beauty, graceful in act and hapless in love.

Blindsided by Juno’s machination, swept by passion growing strong, growing stronger for the stranger,

The queen bade him with tears and roses in succession day and night, in desperate attempt to keep his presence, his body and his soul, all but an entreaty so futile,

So forlorn, with a promise of her kingdom and her fidelity in return for nothing but his surrendering of himself to her and herself to him till the mortal fate was ended, till one had to cross the River of Styx.

Alas, but the queen’s to be thwarted, she’s to be abandoned by the divine plan forced by the arrival of Mercury, god of war whispering to the poor stranger for the imminent departure for destiny far more magnificent, far more supreme,

As dictated by Jupiter, god of all regions crossing death and life forever who put forward a divine plan over mortal feelings however pitiable.

Thus did the stranger set to sail the seas full of perils ever more.

The queen defied, she cried, she pleaded, but all ended in nought as the poor stranger was to depart cruelly with no tender words of love that’s planted, nourished,

And admired by the queen so now distraught by his betrayal of her love with her plea wreathed in tears and flowers.

Now her love became her poison consuming all of her ever more,

Now he became her foe ravishing all of her in surrender of love.

But what of it when all’s ended in a sea of heartaches thousand times, with no reason to reign as a queen without her lover by her side?

Nothing, nothing’s to remedy her spirit that’s broken thousand times, for nothing, nothing would console the lonely queen in cruel abandonment,

But the last will to burn her body and soul consumed in madness of passion on an ancient funeral pyre that engulfed every part of her whispering to her departing spirit that love would come never more – Nevermore!

 

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