Tag Archives: history

Feather of Two Truths

 

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Osiris and the Sacred Scale, courtesy of National Geographic

The days on earth ended

And the days in Afterlife began

As the Final Judgment of Osiris,

The Lord of the Underworld

To weigh the sins of the man

On the Scale of Two Truths

Against the Sacred Feather

In the Hall of Goddess of Truth

Waited for him to say “Never!”

 

The assisting gods recited

The long line of sins on earth

To which the man answered,

“No, I had committed none,

None of the sins from birth to death.”

Then Osiris ordered the goddess

To put the man’s heart on the scale

And the Sacred Feather in her arms

To be on the other side of the scale.

 

The heart as light as the Sacred Feather

Kept the Perfect Balance of the Scale,

And the Supreme Judge decided to declare

The man to be true of voice by the Scale

And allowed him to enter in eternal bliss

Celestial Garden among the Stars

That never died but lived forever

Sailing as his happy heart wished

And filled with Eternal Euphoria.

 

P.S.: This poem was based upon my reading of the ‘Book of the Dead,’ an ancient Egyptian guide to the Underworld instructing the dead what to expect, where to go, and how to behave when entering the Underworld. The ancient Egyptians regarded death as new life, the beginning of the Afterlife where the souls of the virtuous dead lived in a heavenly landscape that looked so much like Egypt on earth. The blissful afterlife was meritorious by the ruling of Osiris, the supreme ruler of the Underworld, who questioned the souls of the dead according to a long list of sins that mankind was prone to commit by nature and put their negation of sins on a test by putting each of their hearts on the divine scale to weigh against Maat’s Feather.” Maat was the goddess of truth, and as she put the heart on the other side of the scale, the balance would remain the same if the heart was free of sins. Only such a sinless, weightless heart would give the soul of the man a passport to Paradise. Fascinating. 

She-Ras, Xenas, and Wonder Women

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Ancient Amazonians courtesy of google

Before the mercantile empire of ‘Amazon’ amid the Sea of the Internet, there once was an eponymous band of fierce women warriors whose famed ferocity and fearlessness was enshrined in the Classical literature and history. It is said that they were real women soldiers living in ancient Eurasia with husbands and children who seemed to know something about how to maneuver the sphere of personal life and that of military commitments. The subject of this mysterious ancient militant women from this month’s National Geographic History intends to deconstruct such mysticism surrounding the factual evidence thereof and demystify the origin of the meta women fighters modern feistily feminists and politicians love to panegyrize.

First, the origin of Amazonian warriors comes not from the Amazonian jungle who are believed to be scantily clothed with breasts deformed women prone to attack men without reason. They were, in fact, the female warriors among Scythian and other nomadic Steppe cultures across the Eurasian plain as embedded in Homer’s The Illiad, Herodotus’s Histories, and Plato’s Laws. The recent discoveries of 4 female corpses bearing combat-related injuries, such as slashed ribs, fractured skulls, and broken arms are claimed to be of the lost Amazonians prevalently seen among Scythian women riding to battle alongside their men.

Notwithstanding the above archeological excavation and factual evidence, my personal sentiment toward the adulation of the female combatants is anything but the elevated opinions about them. Although Homer in The Iliad praises Amazonians for being the equals of valorous men, I wonder if he would have wanted to take one of them as his better half in reality. Plato in Laws recommends that boys and girls should be trained for horse-riding, archery, javelin-throwing, etc., which is very indeed commendable, but I opine that no every girl should be forced into such training because every girl is not of the same aptitude or disposition. Of all these complacently abstract perspectives on women soldiers, Herodotus seems to be only one who has a comparatively objective view on Amazonians not as a glorified tribe of female bravery but as a tribe of women freed from conventional conjugality. They were a group of shipwrecked women tended by local men with whom they moved to new lands and happily lived after while maintaining their own separately private lives as something of common law marriage couples.

The modern perspectives on the Amazonians as a manifestation of gender equality in the spheres of domestic and public life exceedingly lionize the necessity of upending what is perceived as traditionally patriarchal gender roles peculiar to the biological characteristic of men and women. Needless to say, the word “Equality” is highly admirable and desirable, especially on the frontline of livelihood, but you can’t force everyone – that is every woman- to be as aggressive or belligerent as these ancient female warriors were in fighting everyday strains of life. Besides, I see there are more widespread issues of racism, classism, lookism, and agism than sexism in daily life because womanliness adorned with beauty and sex appeal armed with the art of seduction can work wonder in every place, helping her to achieve social mobility. Reading the article intent upon the historical evidence of these Amazonians makes me realize that the advocation of public sentiment in practice overrules the consideration of single individuality in theory.

Terror made him write: ‘Ghosts, Apparitions, and Poltergeists’, by Brian Righi – review

Ghosts, Apparitions and Poltergeists: An Exploration of the Supernatural Through HistoryGhosts, Apparitions, and Poltergeists: An Exploration of the Supernatural Through History by Brian Righi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A ghost is really unfinished business. It was, it is, and it will be. The existence and belief of supernatural entities are universal in all human societies as regards the sense and sentiments common to all mankind. From the Far Eastern shore of Japan to the end of the Aegean Sea across a great divide of time, the forefathers of humankind revered, feared, or cherished the souls of the departed regardless of cultural and racial differences. Such human tendency of holding onto supernatural existence is, therefore, not an antediluvian pagan belief to be scorned or debased as a superstitious practice of the misty past but a natural phenomenon validated by historical eyewitnesses as presented in Ghosts, Apparitions, and Poltergeistsby Brian Righi.

Although the title of the book may mislead you straightforwardly to the world of ghostbusters and mediums, it is anything but a sensational book about that sort of thing aimed for the jolt of psychedelic horror. Righi is both an erudite and refreshing writer well conversant with the ancient histories of the world and the related academic subjects, who treats the ghostly subjects of the book enlighteningly and entertainingly with the sap of a fresh-eyed academic, gripping the mind of the learned reader without losing the attention throughout the pages. He references Plato, Pliny the Younger, and the other ancient notables to corroborate the existence of supernatural strangers still roaming their once earthly abodes either not knowing they are dead or refusing to emigrate into the beyond for undying attachment to their life on earth. The method gives his stance on supernatural phenomena power of reality vested in the authenticity of truth.

I find this book very much in accordance with my perspective on the souls of the dead, as it also corresponds to the Catholic belief in which the souls of the dead are officially revered in the fashion of feast days of saints and daily prayer for their deliverance from purgatory to heaven and asking them to pray for us to God. However, there is no prerequisite for reading this book as long as you want to know about why some of our once fellow-citizens of the terrestrial world are roaming about and living among us, seriously.

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This I think.

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“The concept of witchcraft as devil-worship by the church unleashed authoritarian control, & the denigration of women, many of whom were burnt at the stake, drowned, etc., simply for growing herbs or liking cats! For me, these are heroines & warriors.”

I happened on the above-quoted tweet, which impelled me to unravel in me a thread of complex feelings about a common popular conception of witchcraft as institutionalized persecution of women of unique professions and different opinions and canozing them as martyrs of Feminism or Paganism.

First of all, it wasn’t just that iconic ‘Men v. Women’ or ‘Christianity v. Paganism’ facade that dominated the thematics of witchcraft. Of course, religion played an important role in enforcing the authority of the church as the one absolute administrator of justice and punishing anyone who dared to defy it. However, when the Church itself incorporated paganistic esoterism in its rites of ceremony and mechanical device of prayer, it cared less about the divinity of a pagan deity that the cult worshipped, unless it openly threatened the dogmatic foundation of the teaching of the Church. Rather, it was more of a societal practice of giving a tight rein in communal harmony that allowed no misfits or outsiders or recluses. It was grudge-filled, insular-minded, and jealousy-driven vendetta against whom you wouldn’t particularly like or whom you would harbor a kind of animosity because the targeted subject looked unpleasing, unprepossessing, or simply ugly of introverted disposition.

Women were the worse. Forget Community of Sisterhood. The Daughters of Eve can be both ecstatically passionate and formidably vengeful. A single unmarried woman, both young and old, living in the bliss of solitude, minding her own business away from the vociferous melee that she didn’t feel related was likely to be a lamb savagely herded by the hateful melee to the inquisitional slaughterhouse. Modus vivendi of social norms was the armor that would protect her from the arrows and spears of the public attack on sovereign individuality that we take for granted in our time.

Witchcraft is neither synonymous with Feminism nor Liberalism, both of which as proverbial party ideology have beocme the dogmatic foundations of Arts and Huaminities. It’s not a grand unified campaign against smart women with peculiar religious belief when you contemplate the fact that greatness results from simplicity, which is the answer to all complexities. The inquisition of popular sentiment in practice overrides freedom of individuals asserted in theory. Albert Einstein knew exactly about the dualistic nature of humanity that would return to the basic animalistic instinct such as persecuting the innocent because of their individuality: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe!” For this reason, I dare to defy the notion that the persecution of witchcraft was synonymous with the denigration of women in general.

 

 

Why Magic was popular and why it dwindled – review

Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century EnglandReligion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England by Keith Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Mankind in the face of contemporary existential strains of life has often attributed its frailties to the development of certain religious beliefs, leading to the shaping of the anima mundi of the time it possesses. Such a symbolic interactionist perspective on history is perspicaciously excised in Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas that shows us how collective splinters of folklore could influence the Modus Operandi of established religion.

The pith of folklore is a reputed natural human tendency in dealing with daily life amid double jeopardy of whimsical nature and more capricious mankind that results in finding pain relief in the form of supernatural elements. Keith illustrates the social and cultural climates of 16th and 17th century England where the efficacy of magic was reputed to overwhelm the consolation of the Gospel in the recourse to the powerful being that could supposedly give the supplicants the immediate panacea to their existential malaise. This popular attitude toward the magical measure of putative healing betokens the reason why there was no active mass active involvement in radical social reform or political radicalism; it was their way of mitigating the rigor of their daily duties that life imposed. The concept of chance was a welcome method of diverting the rules of merit and reward in prosperous life that only a select few would and could achieve to the game of luck played by goddess Fortuna’s Wheel of Fortune. By trusting the work of pure luck, people would not jeopardize their self-esteem because fortune was beyond their measures no matter how hard they worked hard to obtain it.

How the folk belief in magic influenced the established Christianity, particularly Catholicism, is the sine qua non of mesmerism of popular psychology and its portent efficacy of evangelization with a promise of magical healing. The church incorporated the magical elements of pagan belief to its rituals and doctrines of the catechism, such as transubstantiation and holy relics by reconciling the esoteric pagan knowledge with the orthodox Christian teaching. The investment of supernatural power through religious ceremony propitiated the minds of the low and high alike non-discriminately via syncretism until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and the English Reformation that necessitated the emerging of new natural science and mechanical philosophy and the accordant mode of thinking ultimately debilitating the supreme power of magic and the magical elements used in the church.

Keith is excellent in disabusing readers what might seem to be a trifle and pettifogging subject to advanced minds with his wealth of knowledge on the subject and human psychology narrated in plain language so that readers of all strata can access the secret garden of knowledge that he kindly invites us to visit and wallow ourselves in. This is my second time reading his work, and I am always amazed by his depth of erudition fabulously conflated with his witty remarks on events and vivacious descriptions of the period, all gleaned from his extensive research on the subject and keen scholarly observations thereon. This book is not a book of magical incantations, but about the power of the populace that made magic popular and unpopular as the seasons of mankind required new kind of belief system synonymous with the ethos of contemporary life.

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