Friday, 30 August 2013

Sumerian reconstruction.

Though I spent three or four years practicing Tibetan Buddhism, this was not 'my' religion. If there had been a community of Sumerian re-constructionists around, I would have joined them.

But I don't think that I would have learnt as much about faith and devotion, or basic etiquette such as never blowing out candles (disrespectful to fire), don't put sacred texts on the floor, or throw anything away in the rubbish bin that has a sacred image on it (if you accidentally put a text on the floor, touch it to your head as an apology)

Sacred images should be destroyed by fire.

Water used for offering bowls is thrown onto the land, not down the sink.

Images of gods are to some extent the god...
Behave with respect before the image.

It is easier to learn from a religion that has maintained its oral tradition.
And to learn behavior when you see it rather than read about it.

Plus, a lot of what is done is not done for the reasons people say it is...

Tradition is a method of transmission; even if you don't know the meaning of an action, something of the original meaning is transmitted.

So...the Older Gods...

Chose us
We don't chose them.

We don't pray to the gods because they are nice
We pray because that's the way it is.

If the gods chose to make life better or worse for us, we still pray.
Prayer is an offering

The gods are terrifying
They are other

And after death?

There is no salvation...
No heaven and no hell

After death there is decay and amnesia.

The cult of the Otherworld?
Of 'The Light Without End', isn't 'Babylonian' at first.

It seems to be a 'Persian' concept.

Becomes 'Orphic'

Becomes the mystery religions...
Promise a place in Heaven for those who have received the initiation.

One of the reasons following the myth of Persephone; especially the rites of Eleusis, is so interesting, is because it gives an insight into the time when 'Orphic' salvation met prosaic, gloomy. 'Babylonian' ash-lands, and The Road That Goes One Way...

We live in a culture that is often ignorant of the influence Mesopotamian beliefs and knowledge have had on it. Traces and parallels of Mesopotamian religion run through the bible and Homer. So many of the bible stories are Mesopotamian: Noah (Atrahasis), the garden of Eden (Shamhat and Enkidu) and the story of Job...just for starters.

Then we have mathematics, the sixty minuet hour and geometry...

Something seems to have been lost when Akkadian/Sumerian was forgotten.

Cuneiform and Akkadian were replaced by Aramaic (starting around 800 BC), then  Dumuzi became Tammuz and Inanna became Astarte.

The stories shift like water fitting the vessel that contains it.

Regardless of how much information we collect
There is no one alive today who knows how the original rites were performed.


I don't see the need
Mesoptamian religion was so much an 'arm of the state'..a city temple housing the statues of the city gods provided work for the priests (in carrying out ceremonies), a place for well to do fathers to leave their daughters (celibate priestesses) for the exorcists and scribes, for the butchers sacrificing animals, for cooks preparing food. So many animals were slaughtered that it is logical to imagine that once the food had been offered to the gods and the essence consumed by them, the now Holy food was distributed to various outlets; to shops and to the poor.

The temple, as all temples inevitably discover, has to become a business.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

How to: religious practice.

As I said a few months ago, after getting married to a suicidal despot from hell, I went off the rails and then beyond the pale, and took myself off to receive a 'formal education' in a non-Christian religion.

Don't get me wrong.
It wasn't a logical choice, there was no plan. I took the crazy route because nothing made sense.

Up until then I'd taken the path of the pandita, the intellectual.
I read books and tried to do stuff on my own.

As a child I spent a lot of time tying grass stalks together as memorials for the dead of the Vietnam war; latter I got my best friend to spend hours with me grinding up herbs symbolizing ailments and remedies.

I should have been taken away to the local wise-woman and taught how to speak to demons, but you know, life isn't perfect!

Obviously the church as a way to make offerings and to spread good will around the multiverse didn't cut the mustard for me.

Far too light-weight.

To balance up my lack of education from the wise woman,  and my school diet of science, I read all of Jung- any and every book I could find.

Then all and every book on magic too.
Anything about sex, death and alchemy and the flow of psychic energy and the Kabbala (which introduced me to practice of visulisation).

But then I became a useful person, wielding the thunderbolt of a thousand volts, casting X-ray images in silver, and got married...

The meditation was a desperate attempt to endure what was unendurable.

So how did I get beyond the 'peace and calm' of the Tuesday night Buddhist meditation and into the whole yogini, kit and caboodle of 'Tantrik ritual' do I hear you ask?

No simple answer I'm sorry to say.
Everyone has to find his or her own way...

Anyway, it wasn't that easy for me to get past the facade of therapy and into the old-stuff beyond the facade, and basically it happened by accident...being in the right place at the right time and by asking the right questions.

And for three or was it four? years, I was taught ritual by a lama who had been ritual-master at Palpung monastery, and I completed the Nundro . Though my lineage is Kadgyu, I had a Nygma 'candy man' who gave me the texts and recordings of secret teachings...

I am forever indebted to the people who put so much faith in me.
..I am struggling to find a way to justify it!

My loyalty has always been to the older gods.

Deity worship.
Has stages.

1/ The first is to cast a protective circle and then to dissolve reality.

The circle is made how ever your tradition explains it, in a Tibetan ritual the protection is mind-made; a visulisation.

Reality is dissolved by the recitation of a mantra, in effect reminding oneself that this where ever and anywhere, has become Sacred space.

Just a note here: practice can be performed anywhere, there is no need for a temple, or shrine room except that it makes it easier to feel as if one has stepped into sacred space. All space is sacred; just the symbols and toys make it easier to remember that.

So why the protective circle?

All space is sacred, but many spaces are not empty (in the normal sense of the word, forget Buddhism!). There are entities we do not see, the loca-palas for instance; local deities who may take umbridge at you deciding to use their ground without permission, or without making offerings to them first.

It is best to avoid any such conflict by using a place that has been used for many years already.

So why the net?
All places are open to ghosts and other beings, geks for instance...

2/ Next the practitioner reminds herself why she is there, what is to be accomplished and why and then gets on with the next stage.

3/  One calls on all the gods to witness your intent and to bless and to help and then one calls the god you wish to worship in particular. At this stage you know that it is all mind made and a game, nevertheless continue...

You imagine the god  before you and you offer the traditional offerings of pure water, beautiful flowers, incense, music and also the specific offerings- this is not a time or place for thinking soft and lovely,  if the god is not one of the fluffy ones.

Offer what the God would truly enjoy.

I guess at this point some would kill an animal to offer its blood and life-energy.

My point of view is that I can't offer anything I don't own, and I only own myself....

The next part is secret, sorry.
What happens in the secret part depends upon the practice, but usually it involves calling the Real god into oneself.

You may well ask why a God would wish to be in union with a human?

But you will have to ask someone else...

And the final stage is to dissolve everything into emptiness (in the Buddhist sense) and giving away all the blessings, slowly returning to yourself.

Now, I feel a bit mean for not expanding on the secret part.
What I've told you is common knowledge.

As Colin Low explained in his 1990 essay:


      1. Open the Circle
      2. Open the Gates
      3. Invocation to the Powers
      4. Statement of Intention and Sacrifice
      5. Main Ritual
      6. Dismissal of Powers
      7. Close the Gates
      8. Close the Circle

Colin's wit is super-dry, be warned.

I am reminded in reading his words that the 'modern' occult, took much from Buddhism.

Blavatsky, Helena Roerich and Henry Steel Olcot all added rather po-faced and portentous versions of what they thought they had heard, to the eclectic mix of rites and theory that became Theosophy.

Theosophy also gave us, Charles W. Leadbeater, who, among other things (tantrik sex for one) left us a Baedeker guiide to the astral plane.

On the other hand, Alistair Crowley would have fitted in very well with my fellow practitioners- since authentic Tibetan Buddhism is quite dark, often anarchic and we always needed renovations to the building we lived in, and no one had much money...

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Bacchus bar, Birmingham UK.

The walkthough.

Sacred space that may be entered by almost anyone:
Computer games...
The juxtaposition of "two distant realities" united to create a new one.

Dionysos hands you a pitcher-full of hyper-fake
Consume to aid the truth that normality
Is reality dream-augmented by more than 50%

Don't be put off by that chalk board.
Welcoming places dedicated to the Gods are hard to find in this town.
In any town.

The entrance takes you below the Burlington Hotel, and underneath the street- the one that is reputedly the oldest in Birmingham

Katabasis via marble stairs
Grandfather Jung says, "My, if only it was really that easy"
Me "Perhaps it is"

On the way down
Wall paintings reminiscent of those found at  the Villa dei Misteri
Theater-set broken pillars
A promise of darkness..
Twinkling lights beyond the door...

Game of Thrones meets Quake3Arena

The music was quite, quite wrong.

Though I say it looks Q3A
I was trying to imagine it with Quake 1 music.

Here is Quake as it appears in the mind of RideFlame. Player.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


"An Immediate and Sensory Link to the Past"

A couple of weeks ago I went to document the late 1960's iteration of Stonehenge and to asses the new.

Reader, forgive me, but I refuse to see Stonehenge as a 'Prehistoric' monument.

The car park is still in the same place, just all parking is on what was once the overflow car park.

There is a parking charge
I guess it to be either £3 or £5.
I don't know because I have NT membership...

Looking towards the closed road and the stones.
The road beyond the entrance to the car park to the junction with the A 303 (the red X) is gone.

Looking at the closed A344.

There used to be a perilous turn off the A 303 which took the traveler past the stones on the A344, and another right turn soon after, into the car-park.

You can't do that any more...

Now the traveler stays on the A 303, passing Stonehenge.
There are signposts telling you where to go.

It is always busy.

So many people!
Early 1960s Visitor numbers between 300,000 and 400,000 per year.
1977 Visitor numbers reach 800,000.
1982 Visitor figures down to 500,000.
1983 Visitor figures begin to rise again, reaching 600,000.

1,023,000 visitors to Stonehenge in 2010/11 (excluding the Solstice and including free education visits and stone circle access).

Next photo is the entrance queue.
We were here pretty early!

Looking back towards the car park, towards the cursus.

Stones behind me, looking towards the closed road (A344).
Back to the entrance,
The buildings: pay-booths, shops, toilets were built some time in the 1960s.

Flat roofed, metal and concrete.

Britain post war trying to be 'modern' and yet there is still something post-war, 1950s pre-fab about the design.

After the queue
The 'time tunnel'

Entrance to the field containing Stonehenge is through another favorite structure of the 1960s, the underpass.

The walls of the underpass are painted to give you the impression- it fails- that you are walking into the Late Neolithic.

Somewhere between queuing, paying and walking through the turnstiles, time one is supposed to intuit, has spun backwards.

You are now moving rapidly through the centuries...

The 'Mesolithic'.
And find yourself looking at an illustration of how the stones were transported from Fyfield.

Men wore biblical dress

Hair was a safe 1960s length
Not short like a conscript.
Not too long like a 'bloody hippy'.

Hauling stones was man's work!

After zig-zaging through the underpass this is your first view of Stonehenge.

Almost at the time tunnel exit.
Looking back to the underpass.

Now, when you paid you were offered an audio guide.
I have always avoided this because well...I know it all anyway (!)

Worse, it makes everyone look as if they are listening intently to a troubled friend on their phone.

I picked up an audio guide.

The audio guide directs one to stand close to a small metal plaque with a number on it.

Only 'one' is not one.
One is one of 1,023,000/365 = 2842 people a day...
2842/10 (hours of opening) = 284 people...

Actually, that doesn't seem so many..
No matter!

They were all there when I was.

Bottlenecks occur around the numbers.
People wonder around, distracted...
I was one of them.

Which brings me to the final part.
The A 303 isn't so far away from the SSE border of Stonehenge.

A 303.

But it used to be that you could stand pretty close to the Heel stone, just behind the fence and look towards Stonehenge.
The Heel stone.

The Heel stone is NE from the center of the circle and the traditional entrance (or exit) leading towards the river.

Well now, you are never going to get that close to Stonehenge again, unless you pay.

There was some talk of putting the A 303 underground.
"Our vision is a 6,000-acre prehistoric natural wilderness containing over 450 ancient monuments, as well as Stonehenge itself. To achieve this, we would close the A344 and return it to grassland. The A303 would be sent through an underground tunnel where it passes the site. We would remove the existing (and woefully inadequate) visitors centre and car park and build a new Visitor Complex at least a kilometre away from the Stones. By making Stonehenge harder to get to, we would make it more accessible. Visitors would be able to roam freely (and free of charge) among the monuments, unfettered by fences. [LINK]
Though that sounds good- ignoring the paradoxical ' By making Stonehenge harder to get to, we would make it more accessible'- I can't imagine there ever being a time when, "visitors would be able to roam freely (and free of charge) among the monuments, unfettered by fences".

How far is the new perimeter going to be...
Have I missed my chance to walk the cursus when ever I feel brave enough (cows and military land = fear!)

I resent the land being owned and partitioned.
Stonehenge around the solstices is a brutal experience anyway...police and traffic queues..

Keep well away
Unless you are into modern tourist rituals.

Fortunately there is more to Wessex than Stonehenge.
Knap hill for instance.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

A good Puritan...

Ralph Josselin was minister at the town of Earles Colne, in Essex. On the 28th of June 1651 he gave a sermon as part of the funeral rites for Mrs Smythee Harlakenden.

As a good Puritan he had gladly purged all traces of art and colour from his church when Parliment had required it.

Post Reformation the bible and the pulpit dominated the church.

The communion table and the act of taking the sip of wine and fragment of 'bread' was a way to remember Christ, an act of memorial, no longer a mystical renewal of Christ's sacrifice.

The sermon given by Ralph Josselin that June, was printed, and can still be read under the very long title of:
The state of the saints departed, Gods cordial to comfort the saints remaining alive. : a sermon preached at the funeral of Mrs. Smythee Harlakenden wife to William Harlakenden esquire, June 28. 1651. By R.J. pastor of the church at Earls-Colne in Essex.
It provides a fascinating insight into post-Reformation attitudes towards the dead, for those of us who like to untangle the threads of English culture, and particularly the beliefs that surround death.

The first thing to note is Ralph Josselin's use of farming metaphors; the language of harvest home. Death is a celebration when the soul. like corn is, 'safely gathered in' and a funeral is really a festival of thanksgiving.

Ralph Josselin describes Mrs Harlakenden as 'gathered to Jesus'.

'Ripened in faith by many afflictions', she was 'like a rick of corn brought in', he says.

This language was still used in churches when I was about sixteen (I can only guess at why I was there, I'd probably wondered in by accident) it struck me- as a child of the city- that the language was horribly old, an echo from prehistory.

But then, I'd been reading The Golden Bough and so I tried not to laugh as I watched Little John Barleycorn, dancing through the centuries.

I had to stifle a fit of the giggles.
It got that bad!

Three decades latter, John Barleycorn tells me more about the seventeenth century, and certain Cambridge professors, than it ever did about prehistory.

But back to the sermon.
Farming metaphors in this case liken the body to the seed; and the soil in which the seed must lie before becoming corn, to the earthly life.

After its allotted time in darkness the corn is gathered in, and, taken 'home'

Smythee Harlakenden had gone to god 'in her due season'.
So really, death should be a joyful occasion...

But of course, it is not and Ralph Josselin tries to explain how the pain of separation must be borne, because to fail to bear it was to be selfish.

He writes: 'Did god not make thy wife and thy daughter whom thou bemoanest more for himself than for thee?'

The bereaved must get 'above' grief by remembering that the dead had exchanged this earthly cottage for heavenly mansions and the company of family and friends for the company of Jesus!

Why then the tears, what is there to cry about?!

To sink into grief is to stew in self-pity, a pointless exercise, a willful torment and a sign that one distrusts the providence of god.

'God' said Ralph Josselin, 'would have us forget the dead'.

I wasn't exactly brought up to think this way, but I live in a country where a stiff upper lip designates self-control and the funeral rituals of my family occurred the way they did because we live here.

Living somewhere doesn't mean one agrees with what happens, but it means that one will have to pretend that one agrees, most, if not all of the time.

The first funeral I attended convinced me that the rituals were so at odds with what I felt, that something very terrible must have happened in this country.

Grief, is an honest response.
What, terrible thing must have happened to make lying a necessity?
I was in it, I felt the need to lie, but I resented it.

After a few funerals: my grandmother and aunt, my uncle Joe (by now I'm about 20 years old) I began to get the pattern.

After the funeral has been booked a member of the family cooks a turkey.
The turkey (cooked and cold) is brought over on the morning of the funeral. People will come back to the house of the dead, where they will talk about how good the dead person was, and re-tell memories of happier times and eat sandwiches.

But before then not a proper thing to do at a funeral.

The black cars
The awful crematorium.
The men in grey boiler suits removing the flowers from the previous funeral and replacing them with ours..

The other cars driving out from under the portico as your funeral cars arrive

Kind of conveyer belt...

Once inside.
Quiet, preferably inaudible sobbing is permissible for close family, but you must take care not to let the misery spread outwards and affect anyone else. If you are asked how you are feeling now, it is imperative to smile and say that you are OK.

Protestant theology teaches that souls are either bound for heaven or hell at the moment of death.

Really, according to this theology, there is nothing that you can do for them.

It is just better for everyone if you put on a brave face.

So it is little wonder then that I went off to learn more, that I refused to agree that this purity of resolve would do when it feels so alien and plain wrong.

And yet, here is a second example of a prohibition on tears for the dead.

When Jinpa died we would go to his room each evening and sit by his coffin to recite prayer, and yet again the rule was not to cry or show sadness because Jinpa was still around. The reason for the prohibition on tears is that it takes time for consciousness to drain away, it takes days not minuets to be properly dead, and so we didn't cry, for his sake. Crying would disturb him, better to surround him with prayers and to make offerings to the deities and to know that Jinpa would be following the same rituals with us as a familiar habit...whilst dead until gone.

The prohibition on sadness in the latter case made sense to me.
In the former, it was just cruel.

I began to believe that a lot of the things that are supposed to be derived from a specific religion are simply fragments of feeling converted into ritual. Meanings are retro-fitted, to make sense of what is done.

Yet there are lineages of behavior and some forms that definitely fit one person better than others...

As The Descent of Inana makes clear, it is right to lament the dead by allowing the pain to beat the drums in the temple, to cut ones skin and to lie in the dirt:

Nincubura threw herself at her (Inana's) feet at the door of the Ganzer. She had sat in the dust and clothed herself in a filthy garment. The demons said to holy Inana: "Inana, proceed to your city, we will take her back."
Holy Inana answered the demons: "This is my minister of fair words, my escort of trustworthy words. She did not forget my instructions. She did not neglect the orders I gave her. She made a lament for me on the ruin mounds. She beat the drum for me in the sanctuaries. She made the rounds of the gods' houses for me. She lacerated her eyes for me, lacerated her nose for me. She lacerated her ears for me in public. In private, she lacerated her buttocks for me. Like a pauper, she clothed herself in a single garment...
And you can do it that way here.

There are no overtly anti-Catholic, anti-New Age, or more relevant to me, no anti-Mesopotamian re-constructionist laws (though animal sacrifice will get you into trouble)....

Just friends and family may not understand and worry needlessly.


Thursday, 8 August 2013

Reformation and the dead.

I live in a culture that has made birth, sex and death into horrific ordeals.

Cruelty, in the name of rationalism, comes value added.

Reformation- the act of stripping religion from religion- began as a cult, a 'back to basics'.

From its doctrine of this world as the only 'Holy text' came 'science'.

And a cynical money grab as church and monastery were stripped of gifts given to them by benefactors paying for prayer.

As a result, the dead were literally tipped into landfill.
Priests were disemboweled.

The memory of the dead for whom prayer had been promised.


John  Houghton.
"O Jesu, what wouldst thou do with my heart?"
Richard Whiting, the abbot of Glastonbury,  had though that by accepting the annulment of so many of his duty's that his monastery would be safe from dissolution.

Under the law, as he understood it, Glastonbury abbey did not fall under the Act for the suppression of the lesser houses.

He was wrong.
His abbey was much too wealthy to be allowed to remain.

On Saturday, 15 November 1539, Richard Whiting now aged 78 years was taken to Glastonbury with two of his monks, John Thorne and Roger James, from a prison in London. There all three were fastened upon hurdles and dragged by horses through the streets, and then to the top of Glastonbury Tor.

Here they were hanged, drawn and quartered.

In the new cult of Reformation, the dead are beyond prayer.

Anyone who says otherwise....
Is a threat to the state.

Purgatory is closed.

The new cult stripped away meaning.
Time in the grave- oblivion.
Resurrection- the next moment.

All you need is faith.

Yet death had been portrayed for so long as a journey; the dying understood that death led through heat, cold and pain, through hallucination, ultimately to the divine.

Purgatory allowed the living to help the dead.
It is too awful to believe them gone.

The Reformation was an anomaly.

It didn't fit.

The godly puritanism of no drink, no drugs, no piercings, no tattoos, no rituals that involve pain. No sacrifice...

Doesn't fit humanity.

British prehistory begins with graves containing ochre-stained bones.
Mammoth bones, rings and rods..

As if the dead care. if we care.

The Neolithic long tombs
Chambers for the ancestors
Latter sealed
To keep the ancient dead away from the living...

As if there are ghosts!
No...there are ghosts; guilt, fear, plague, misery, shades and shadows that feed upon humanity.

Bronze Age round barrows
Where heroes, heads to north lie
Kept company by latter additions, heads to South..

Sleeping kings
King Arthur and his knights.

All the preserved bodies
The cremated remains
The bones taken from old ground and reburied to hallow a new site...

The dead were always a part of this life.

Until they were removed to the future.

The triumph of Reformation mythology is pretty amazing.
I wouldn't have predicted its success.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013


The river of stars.
A brand name for the most delicious of delicious turkish delights
The one with mastik from Chios
Not around this year...

After the trees burned...

The river of stars...
Is the Milky Way

Oh, how much I dislike that name!

And it came to mind because of all the things I have ever read...
From the worlds of spirits
From the worlds of science
Holy work
...reanimate the land.

Mending it
Something real like permaculture far too real for me.

I've been stitching dreams into maps.

Micheal Dames
Doesn't get his facts right.

But he gave Silbury meaning

Erich Anton Paul von Däniken..
Bless his cotton socks!

The in-between, transition books and artifacts

So I drew the stars along the ground.