Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Skull cups...

The bones became the mountains.
The teeth made into rocks. 
The hair became the grass and trees.
The eyelashes became Midgard. 
They threw the brain up in the air and it became the clouds. 
The skull became the sky.

Disembodied skulls and thigh bones reoccur in my life.

From the School of Radiography, where we kept bones in cupboards and boxes for educational purposes, to Karma Ling, where skulls and bones were in almost every image, and a part of daily ritual.

I suppose I had more reason than most to find the idea of a long barrow as a house for skull and femur, normal, and to feel that the separation of the living from the dead is an artificial divide.

This normality is for me, symbolised by the skull cup. For the use of the skull cup is old, much older than Herodotus (500 BC) describing the Scythians as people who drank from the skulls of their enemies. The use of a skull as a bowl goes back to the Upper Palaeolithic of western Europe, that is 15000 years ago, and continues to this day.

The three most common themes associated with it are; conquering an enemy, drinking his power, and the breaking of a taboo. It is an act of cannibalism that may be repeated without the need to actually eat another person. In Tibetan Buddhism the imagined skull cup boils upon a hearth made of three skulls, brewing an offering for the gods and ghosts. Quite a lot of the practices for 'Wrathful' deities use images and ideas actually practised by the Aghoris of India.

But, back to Britain and the Palaeolithic, the three skulls in Gough's Cave (Chedder cave system) were found with human bones that had been cracked open...kind of makes me think of Rec. But also of funeral parties where the dead are eaten, such as were recently practised in Papua New Guinea as a way of respecting the dead and keeping them with the living. Likewise skulls of Aborigines in Australia as used by the relatives of the deceased. The skulls had been cut and smoothed out, to make bowls, the oldest skull cups yet found, I think.

Mummification is similar, the dead are not disposed of into the modern 'Void of Nowhere' awaiting Revelation because this idea doesn't exist for the people involved, or it just isn't used. Mummification occurred to preserve an individual, but also mummification creates a new object, possessing immense psychological / spiritual power. Cremated remains are placed in stupas. Mummified lamas still sit in meditation in some shrine rooms ~For instance Kalu Rinpoche is at Samdrub Darjay Choling, Sonadar near Darjeeling.

A Bronze Age settlement at South Uist, Cladh Hallan dated to 1300 BC, seemed to have begun as a cremation ground. Then a hearth was created over the buried cremated remains, and finally three circular houses, were built around the fire pits. In the north-east region of each house there was a composite burial, skeletons that looked as if each belonged to an individual, but in fact each skeleton was made from other bodies.

The meme of skull cup as trophy display, a way to 'own' one's enemy, is possibly less common in human history than skull cup as communion with the dead.

And with the gods of the dead.

Skulls covered in turquoise, or jade or other precious jewels sometimes became masks.

This mask is Smoking Mirror,Tezcatlipoca. A skull has been overlaid with turquoise and lignite mosaic work. Iron pyrite eyes sit on a conch shell background, and his nose is lined with red spondylus shell.

To wear the mask is to become the god.
And it was made to be worn..

To draw it all together, the bowl of the skull once pulled from the earth or fire belongs to the ancestors, is an ancestor. The circles that pre-date the long barrows: the causewayed enclosures were often spaces between contested lands, a no-man's land that belonged to everyone.

So the circle, the henge, the rings of stones linked by avenues to other rings, linked to tombs, both in reality and in the mind of those who used these spaces became the houses of ancestors....eventually.

Meanings are changed by use.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The house of ash...

Tim Daw has done an extraordinary thing.

He realised that we, the living, need somewhere beautiful, safe and monumental to home our dead.

Normally the cremated remains, the ashes are taken to a garden of remembrance close to crematoria.

 "...dispersed in the Garden of Remembrance at the crematorium under the careful supervision of crematorium staff..."

The final goodbye is supposed to take place just before the body descends to the furnace.

At my dad's funeral, we drew up close to the entrance of the crematorium just as the previous funeral party was leaving. Guys in grey boiler suits were throwing flowers and wreathes from that funeral into wheel barrows and hastily laying out the new wreathes for my dad.

It was ugly.
A default, English funeral.

20 minuets latter...
I expect the people arriving after us had a similar experience.

In my family the message was clear, the dead are gone.
Death means it is all over.
Get used to it!

The funeral over
Me, absolutely not over it...

Despite the concept of of death as the end, that I'd been brought up to believe in. It felt wrong that there was no grave. I didn't know what happened to his ashes, scattered in the garden of remembrance I guess...but if I went there all I'd remember is the men in boiler suits. There is no connection in my mind between who he was whilst alive, and the crematorium.

What makes it worse for me is that I never said goodbye to him...leaving a sadness that feels impossible to mend. I have no place to leave flowers, or to go to, to mourn. In the end it hurt so much I held a symbolic funeral for him at Stonehenge. I needed to place his memory safe within its walls..

Many people, feel as I do that there must be something better than scattering ashes 'under the careful supervision of crematorium staff'.

Tim Daw's answer was to commission a long barrow to be built on his land. Instead of containing long bones and skulls, Tim's barrow is a columbarium; a place to house the ashes of the dead.

Yesterday afternoon I parked my car on the unnamed road close to Cannings Cross, and set off up the lane to take a look at Tim's barrow.

The day was very wet.

Thick clouds rolled off the hills.

Over to my right is Walker's Hill, location of another long barrow, Adam's Grave, a Neolithic chambered tomb excavated in  1860 by John Thurnam who found inside three or four incomplete skeletons and a leaf-shaped arrowhead, and some way over to my left and up on the hills, is Kitchen Barrow about which I know nothing!

As I got closer, I realised that the long barrow is indeed long

I don't know why this surprised me, it isn't as if I have never seen one before.

All this whale-like, weight of earth and stone was a presence of gravity and stability that changed the way things sounded.

I could hear its weight.

I walked around it, thinking of John North and his theories about stars, thinking about rain clouds and mud until I arrived at the entrance.

The entrance is guarded by a double serpent...
Lord Ningishzida

Well not exactly, the symbol is derived from the double helix of DNA and represents the continuity of life, the transmission of life through us.

Tim arrived and opened the gate.

The whole barrow is made of stone covered in earth. Inside are columns and niches all constructed using the same technique as a dry stone wall, every stone fits and balances and squashes to create an amazingly beautiful, golden copper coloured passage, and chambers.

It was longer inside than I'd imagined, also each chamber had a domed roof.

It reminded me of La Hougue Bie in Jersey.

And of a 'secret' church I'd visited in Hella, in Iceland. Used over one thousand years ago by Irish missionaries who found the indigenous Icelanders unenthusiastic about hearing the good news.

The space reserved for me and my family is in the east chamber. Curiously when the barrow was completed, the first to make use of it were the butterflies who also chose the eastern chamber.

Whilst inside the barrow I realised that I had never given a seconds thought to modern cremation urns. One vessel in a niche attracted my attention, I though it was a model of a planet. A sphere of primarily blue and green.

Someone else had left a statuette of Anubis which contained the ashes of a beloved dog.

The atmosphere inside the barrow was far from sad, or heavy or gloomy in any way. It is said that the form of the long barrow came to Britain via LBK culture- linear band keramic. People who originated in the north of Europe between about 6000 and 5000 BC. LBK culture is defined by a pottery style; pottery decorated with linear bands. It was also the first culture associated with farming in northern Europe.

The people who decorated their pots with long wavy lines built long houses; for ceremonial feasts, for the living...and they built long houses for the dead. They held feasts for the living and possibly for the dead, there too.

In keeping with their tradition that the dead should have their own homelike space, the inclusion of pets and ornamental urns is perfect.

Reformation ideas of the dead being nowhere until the return of Christ only help people who have a strong desire to believe this. Most of us need to reintegrate the memories of the person who has died with the present. Pre-reformation belief included the dead in the lives of the living. The living could sponsor prayers, and make donations on their behalf, to the poor.

When all that was outlawed, traditional ways of reintegrating the dead with the living were lost...

I returned to where I'd left the car.
Beside the concrete trilithons that had once been used in an experiment to see how difficult it would have been to make Stonehenge.

An experiment Tim plans to repeat.

The long barrow is beginning to turn green, plants are growing all over it and Tim wants it to be a place where people can come to sit on top of the barrow, to picnic and to be alive with the dead. It is facing the winter solstice sun rise for those of us who like to think of Shamash, the summer sun, his golden hair now cut off, grown weak and old, dragged down by the rain seeking regeneration under the ground in his secret chamber. But ultimately the barrow at All Cannings is a continuity of a much wider, perhaps universal tradition, that the living need a place for their dead.

Link: The barrow at All Cannings.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Akitu: blood part 2.

Though it is perfectly sensible to describe sacrifice as a means of purification as used in the Mesopotamian festival of Akitu, I could write a similar post about the ritual use of chlorine- linking its bleaching effect to the symbolic purity of white. Linking its use in the first world war as a means of purifying Europe of one's enemies.

Well, those symbolic links are there.

I want to go back to the Akitu because I think that animal sacrifice understood as a descent into primal chaos and a return to celebration, as the establishment of order, began I think, with a misunderstanding of the Akitu.

A misunderstanding of how ritual works.

The name (Sumerian) Akitu, means barley, and the oldest Akitu was probably once linked to Dumuzi and Geshtinanna therefore originally to the power within the soil. Like the November poppy celebration, a lament for lost youth perhaps.

The Akitu, or rather the Great equinox festivals began in the great city of Ur. And were celebrated with a parade of the God's statue representing the return of Nanna from his period of seclusion within the Akitu house  ~ link~

The position of the stars, the Pleiades, 'The Seven' threatened disorder to the year, a threat that ended with the appearance of Nanna- and an extra month on the calendar every so often.

It is said that the Seleucid era Akitu became an enactment of the creation of the ordered world by Marduk, from the remains of Tiamat via a recitation of the Enuma Elish and that the Akitu was a celebration of divine kingship.

It contains some puzzling elements, if that was the case.

Rather than honouring the king as the embodiment of Marduk the divine king who cut the primordial mother Tiamat into two halves and created the world, the king must kneel before the priest who will take away his symbols of authority and slap him around the face a few times, demanding that he makes a confession of any ill will towards Babylon.

The translation of the Akitu that caused this festival to be seen as a great cosmic enactment, is a Seleucid era tablet (312 – 63 BC). At that time, post Alexander The Great, Hellenistic kingdoms were established throughout the Middle East and a Syrian king ruled in Iraq.

If this was a time of increased anxiety for the priesthood it is hard to know.

What ever else has been said about the Akitu, clearly the festival contains a warning about the nature of kingship, whilst making the symbolic destruction of the temple a locus of anxiety.

For the temple represented the continuity of civilisation.
Without it, Babylon would fall.

Seen in this light, the rites of ''purification' of the temple are not purification.
They are its symbolic destruction.

The water taken from a well in which the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates mixed, is the unpredictable flood.

And the sheep slaughtered inside the temple is the memory and the experience of war handed down and replayed, over and over from generation to generation. The sheep bleeds as the dead, killed ultimately by the actions of avaricious, power seeking kings.

The priests and exorcists who take part in the purification are banished from the temple. The blood does not make them clean.

There is no primordial establishment of order out of chaos in the Akitu.
The country's blood now filled its holes, like metal in a mold;
bodies dissolved -- like butter left in the sun.
There is just fear and memory and the need to deal with it, preferably in a symbolic way, a magic spell for continuity despite all that can and will occur in Iraq.

Monday, 10 November 2014


It is an undeniable fact that religious behaviour includes killing. It is also undeniable that killing a living creature is a serious thing, rarely a frivolous or mindless activity. When killing is done so that people may eat, it becomes a Holy act when the food is offered to the Gods first. Killing for reasons other than food production is sacrifice. This is true for religious and non religious people alike..

One of the oldest and most common uses of sacrifice is purification.

On the fifth day of the Akitu festival at the spring equinox, the preists of Marduk would go down to the river four hours before sunrise and bathe in the waters of the Tigris. Two hours after sunrise the purification of the temple began. The temple was sprinkled with water from a well containing mixed waters of Tigris and Euphrates. The door of the temple was smeared with resin from a cedar tree and a sheep was beheaded, its body dragged through the temple, presumably so that its blood ran with the water on the floor and walls.

Incense was burnt, and the body and head were left for a while before removal, to be thrown into the river. It was understood that all who had been involved in this were now themselves ritually unclean for hours or days.

In the Akitu, an Akkadian example, blood and the body of the sheep attract the elements or elementals that the temple should be rid of.

The power of blood to draw spirits towards it is described by Homer...Link.

There we beached our ship, and landed the sheep, and made our way along the Ocean stream, till we came to the place Circe described.
Perimedes and Eurylochus restrained the sacrificial victims while I drew my sharp sword from its sheath, and with it dug a pit two foot square, then poured a libation all around to the dead, first of milk and honey, then of sweet wine, thirdly of water, sprinkled with white barley meal. Then I prayed devoutly to the powerless ghosts of the departed, swearing that when I reached Ithaca I would sacrifice a barren heifer in my palace, the best of the herd, and would heap the altar with rich spoils, and offer a ram, apart, to Teiresias, the finest jet-black ram in the flock. When, with prayers and vows, I had invoked the hosts of the dead, I led the sheep to the pit and cut their throats, so the dark blood flowed.
Then the ghosts of the dead swarmed out of Erebus – brides, and young men yet unwed, old men worn out with toil, girls once vibrant and still new to grief, and ranks of warriors slain in battle, showing their wounds from bronze-tipped spears, their armour stained with blood. Round the pit from every side the crowd thronged, with strange cries, and I turned pale with fear. Then I called to my comrades, and told them to flay and burn the sheep killed by the pitiless bronze, with prayers to the divinities, to mighty Hades and dread Persephone. I myself, drawing my sharp sword from its sheath, sat there preventing the powerless ghosts from drawing near to the blood, till I might question Teiresias.’

A similar use of blood as described in the Akitu is found in Ezekiel. 45:18-20
18 Thus saith the Lord God; In the first month, in the first day of the month, thou shalt take a young bullock without blemish, and cleanse the sanctuary:
19 And the priest shall take of the blood of the sin offering, and put it upon the posts of the house, and upon the four corners of the settle of the altar, and upon the posts of the gate of the inner court.
20 And so thou shalt do the seventh day of the month for every one that erreth, and for him that is simple: so shall ye reconcile the house.

Errors in codes of behaviour lead to impurity. 
The purification is from error.

Impurity is no longer caused by something in the air.
God, in this belief system, accepts the sacrifice of blood to purify sin.

So it is that Jesus pays for the sins of all humanity by his blood.

The passage from Ezekiel does not specify what is to happen to the flesh of the animal. As in the description of the Akitu, blood is the focus of the sacrifice. More importantly though, the blood of an animal must be drained before the flesh may be eaten (Lev. 3:17; 7:26; 17:10–14; Deut. 12:15–16, 20–24). Seeming to mean that blood cannot be accepted as food, it can only be used to cleanse...Link.

And Orestes...

Orestes is sitting in front of the omphalos stone at Delphi holding the sword he used to kill his mother, Clytemnestra. Behind him Apollo is about to purify him of blood-guilt by showering him in the blood of a piglet.

The blood of an animal is used to attract the badness out of a location or from someone because blood is magnetic to the unseen.

Clearly this sacrifice of a piglet by Apollo is not a sacrifice for Apollo. Only the Chthonic Gods in the earth...are believed to accept blood.

Something I dispute...
As Pu'abi's servants swallowed poison to be with their mistress, so Ereshkigal asked...
What's the hurry?
Everyone comes to me in the end...

Meanwhile the Indo-European examples of sacrifice don't follow the Mesopotamian rules. In fragments of stories and translations the sacrificial animal is totemic of the Gods, and/or of the king. It is as if the living animal is an avatar of a God and the divine aspect of kingship. The sacrifice of the animal creates a conduit between this world and the world of the Gods.

Though the practice of reading a liver, a favourite Babylonian activity...was meant to be more accurate if the liver was part of an animal mid way between life and death. This may not have conformed to the conduit idea. The land of the dead could have been the land of the future and an animal brought close to death was in effect just closer to what was going to arrive here.

The chamber of the tomb contained a lacquered wooden coffin which had burial goods placed around it. A total of 11,500 artifacts were recovered from the tomb. The name of the tomb derives from a famous painting of a white horse which is depicted on a birch bark saddle flap, also referred to as a mud-guard. The horse, a Cheonma (Korean pegasus), has eight legs and is depicted with wings on its feet.

At Potapovka, near Samara on the Sok River, excavations conducted from 1985-1988 exposed four burial mounds, or kurgans, dated about 2200-2000 B.C. Beneath kurgan 3, the central grave pit contained the remains of a man buried with at least two horse heads and the head of a sheep, in addition to pottery vessels and weapons. After the grave pit was filled, a human male was decapitated, his head was replaced with the head of a horse, and he was laid down over the filled grave shaft. This unique ritual deposit provides a convincing antecedent for the Vedic myth...Link
But...in my time...

The slaughter houses that provide food for us, the rendering plants and factories producing pet food are invisible to protect us from transgressing new sacred zones. The purpose of making somewhere sacred is to protect the psyche, in this case by preventing the truth of the horror within, being seen by someone unprepared.

The religion of this land is born of the machine age, and our mass religion is scientism. In keeping with this religion, it is accepted that killing an animal must be preformed in a non-religious, and preferably, mechanised way.

Killing an animal for any reason other than food, is a modern sin, and recognition that killing has taken place creates miasma. Meat must be made unrecognisable, folded in weird and traditional ways. Fish fingers or cod loins are linguistic re-packagings. There are no fish fingers and cod fish do not have loins...

The recognition leads to impurity unless the encounter is ritualized and placed within a sacred zone..

The taboos and rituals born out of scientism, are supported by liturgies of statistics founded on endless rituals of tests.

The purpose of which is to maintain the health and happiness of the majority through science.

In my time the scientific priesthood regulate the activity of the people on the killing floor - who are there in the main, because they need the money. Unhappiness and bad working conditions can be cured by SSRIs, there is never any need for suffering.

Remember this is the best system and everything works better here than elsewhere, where animals may be killed anywhereSarcasm!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014



When I read Jung I took to recording my dreams.
Most were clearly a reordering of the day's events.
Others were reoccurring themes that changed over time, eventually resolving into some kind of major change in how I approached the situation.

And then..there is a third kind of dream.

I don't usually remember my dreams now.
But the other night...I dreamt of Armageddon.

I'm hardly a card carrying Christian.
Armageddon is one more Ragnorok.

And also a location designating a troubled crossing between mountains and countries specifically Assyria and Egypt.

Nevertheless I found myself on the Clee Hill. A coach trip. We were going to the Ludlow fayre. The narrow road stretched around the hill like the Lambton worm.

Without any warning (this is the dream...) the coach driver pulled off the road and onto the hill itself.

The coach stopped at a crazy angle on the steep hill. The doors opened and we all got out to look at what the driver wished to show us.

A deep hole in the earth.

The driver said that this is the place where, at the end of the world, the Whore of Babylon will confront god the father and all his angels.

I heard myself say, 'Whore of Babylon? Oh well I will be OK then' which was something of a mistake.

At that point of recognition I felt the touch of lightning. Not a strike, I was not struck by lightning. It was the fizz and fire of static and light...

And, just like that!
Armageddon had begun.

Not with a bang
Nor a whimper

So I threw myself down into the grass to watch.

It began with a procession.
A sad parade of misery and tragic misunderstandings and paranoia that is the beginnings of war. It appeared as a festival, a confused Mardi Gras.

Floats of illogical, ugly, greedy and stupid, serpentine and misshapen.... a procession of politicians, beheadings and billion dollar black holes. I was in a land where the psychopathology of war is acceptable.Years ago fighter jets used to play at the Clee Hill, practising flying low under the radar.

Even in the dream, the meaning of the parade was easy to translate.

The floats are of this world.
The lightning was something more.
The only word I know is melammu.
"Supernatural glamour"

Therfore this dream was a mixture of type one -rehash of the day's events and stuff going on in the world- and a type three. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Bryn Celli Dhu.

Bryn Celli Dhu
This is what it was like in 1847

What you see today is a reconstruction.

The standing stone in front of the mound is a copy of the original, carved stone which is now hidden in the closed off, archaeological section of Cardiff Museum. There is a theory that the original stone was not a part of the passage grave complex. It belonged to a stone circle that pre-dated the tomb and had been buried. There is of course another theory, and several others after that....


Originally located in this area (as shown in photo) below the soil was a stone slab tilted towards the north, but laid on its width to a north south axis. Under which was a pit, which had been hardened by fire? Hazel charcoal and a single burnt bone from the human ear were located. On top of which was two pieces of pebble sized jasper covered in purple clay. North of this was a patterned stone on purple clay, with signs of wedge stone located at its western end. This has led to suggestions it was upright at one time. If the site is visited today, a reproduction of the original carved stone now stands in an up right position, a few meters west of its original location...link.

Five postholes revealed carbonised pinewood set, within gravel that were positioned in an arch. Where its southern most appear to be on the centre axis of the monument ENE. It has been suggested that these postholes could have been incorporated with a wattle screen. On the side away from the main entrance was shallow clay bowl, into which an ox skeleton was located. Its head having been arranged in a manner as to face or look straight into the entrance of the chamber passage. It's commented that in the north of this burial, a line of uprights was located. A similar line of stones were also removed from the south side these appear to become problematic, as it was not on the same axis as the passage chamber....link.
And so I went to Cardiff museum because I'd been told that all the finds from Bryn Celli Dhu were there..

The staff at the museum were exceedingly kind to me and literally opened locked doors, and led me through the dark so that I could see the original standing stone.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Ma'at, Mot and Mort.

There is more than a phonetic connection between Ma'at, Mot and Mort.

Mort, from Latin Mors- is found in many English words connected with death: mortuary, remorse, mortal etc. Mort links the implacable, absolute nature of death with oaths and bonds through the word: mortgage- literally a death pledge and a sense of it is preserved in the marriage vows of the Christian church, "till death do us part".

The association between breaking an oath and death rests on an idea of justice as a restoration of fairness, of payback. In the now English word mort, there is a sense of misfortune arising from breaking a promise, but the misfortune is most likely going to be legal, rather than divine, and can be paid off.

Egyptian Ma'at, a goddess of justice, isn't usually connected with death. But she rides the Solar barque at sunset and provides a feather to weigh against the heart of the deceased. On the other hand, Canaanite Mot, is death incarnate, though he is rarely associated with justice.

More curiously though, in the stories of Ma'at and Mot there are themes of abductions, drownings in great rivers, a devouring wind, the grinding of bodies like wheat, and the winnowing of the remains, leading me to think of Demeter and Triptolemos- child of the thrice ploughed field- and John Barleycorn, Dumuzi/ Tammuz/Adonis and of course Persephone and Ereshkigal.

The function of justice in the stories of Ma'at and Mot is to re-balance and maintain the universe. This idea rests firmly on a belief that right and wrong are absolutes. Wrong-doing is punished to maintain order, as in the Christian idea of punishment by hell-fire, or reward in Heaven, and purgatory as a place to atone for bad deeds. This is taken as something so obvious that people have forgotten to ask why and how the order of the universe could be upset by injustice. We understand justice to be of paramount importance for society, but most of us fail to find any convincing link between justice on earth and the furnace of stars, or the pull of gravity, let alone the failure of crops to grow, until we start to think of carbon, global warming and cities drowning under Arctic melt-water.

The Egyptian goddess Ma'at set the order of the universe from chaos, at the moment of creation. She guards and personifies the correct order of things. She is harmony, justice, and truth. Cyclic festivals of restoration, of Ma'at were performed such as the Sed (the Feast of the Tail), or when ever crisis threatened stability.

In Ancient Egypt, stability was the king.

Ma'at seems to be at home in the Underworld. In the older Egyptian 'books of the dead' engraved on sarcophagi, or on tomb walls, Ma'at rode with the deceased in the solar sun-ship, 'the boat of millions'. In latter books drawn upon papyrus for wealthy clients, Ma'at provided the feather against which the heart of the deceased were weighed in a balance set up in the Hall of Two Truths.

All well and good, and pretty easy to understand, until we read that the "The Assessors of Maat" are 42 deities listed in the Papyrus of Nebseni, to whom the deceased make their Negative Confession. The Papyrus of Ani describes the 42 as "the hidden Maati gods, who feed upon Maat during the years of their lives;"

This is usually understood to mean that  they are the righteous minor deities who deserve offerings. Yet the metaphor is of feeding from justice.

This idea is preserved and rationalized  in 2 Corinthians 9:10.
And [God] Who provides seed for the sower and bread for eating will also provide and multiply your [resources for] sowing and increase the fruits of your righteousness [[a]which manifests itself in active goodness, kindness, and charity].
In Canaan, there is no little doubt that Mt is a word that means death.

But Mot seems to be death as an implacable, irresistible force for order, rather than death as an enemy of mankind.

This is shown in the story of Baal.

Baal, in Ugaritic myth is the Lord of Ugarit- lord of the World. And Baal is a deity accused of destroying the correct order of things as established by the elder god, El.

El, angered by Baal's behaviour chooses the sea, Prince Yamm to do battle with Baal, hoping that the sea will wash him away.

Instead, the sea is conquered and destroyed:
Baal...strikes the head of Prince [Yamm],/ Between the eyes of Judge river/ Yamm collapses and falls to the earth,/ His joints shake,/And his form sinks,/Baal drags and dismembers (?) Yamm,/He destroys Judge river (Smith 1994, p.323)
Baal is intent upon establishing his New Order, symbolised by building his temple. But he wont have any windows put in, possibly because of the belief that Mot (death) comes in through them (Coogan 1978). But Baal is not so scared, for he has conquered many cities and has no respect for the Old Order Mot represents, so he refuses to pay any tribute to Mot, and finally challenges him. Mot reminds Baal that by conquering the sea he has 'caused a cosmic collapse' (Coogan 1978, p82) and the punishment for such a crime is death.

Baal is worried, but still believes that there is a way out.
He plans to trick Mot.

Following the advice of the sun goddess, Baal finds a substitute family to live in his palace to trick Mot into taking the wrong man. Then he takes his servants and daughters to hide in the only place Mot would not expect to find them.

The Underworld.

But of course, this means that Baal is now dead. Because going into the Underworld is not something one can play at. It is the place of ultimate order as Inana found out.
"Be satisfied, Inana, a divine power of the underworld has been fulfilled. Inana, you must not open your mouth against the rites of the underworld."
Then Ba'al does depart and tarry not;
He sets his face toward El's Beloved, Mot,
in the midst of his city, Hamriya, the Bog,
Down into the pit where is the low throne that he sits on,
to the filth of the earth, which is Mot's estate.
One lip to the earth, one lip to the heavens, Mot stretches tongue to the stars.
Ba'al enters his maw and descends into his mouth,
like olive stuffed bread, Like the produce of earth, the fruit of the trees.
Mot makes him like a lamb in his mouth,
like a kid in his gullet is Ba'al crushed and swallowed.
Then Ba'al returns not to his palace,
Mighty Rider of Clouds comes not back...link.

The world is now a dead place.
Nothing grows.
Nothing gives birth.

Anat, Baal's sister searches for Baal and finds Mot

She grabs/seizes divine/son of the El, Mot; with blade
she does cleave/split him, with fan/sieve she does winnow
him, with fire she does burn him,
with hand-mill/mill-stone she grinds him, in the field
she does sow/scatter him, his remnants/pieces indeed devoured
by birds, his limbs/parts/portions indeed consumed
by fowl.
Mot like Ma'at, can now be eaten.

In English, any connection between Roman mors and farming has gone. Only justice in the form of contracts and law, remains. But in the stories of Ma'at and Mot we have something older.

To quote William Robertson Smith:
Religion did not exist for the saving of souls but for the preservation and welfare of society, and in all that was necessary to this end every man had to take his part, or break with the domestic and political community to which he belonged.

It is a strange idea, but it feels as if inherent in the stories of Ma'at and Mot is the idea that eating cultivated grain makes a person righteous, that righteousness is union with the spirits of order and justice contained within cultivated crops.To go back even further, perhaps in these stories we hear echoes of pride, disguised as a belief in the correctness of farming as the border lines and boundaries are being fixed in place by Neolithic pioneers partitioning land that had once been free for all to use, providing resources for the Mesolithic hunters and traders.

If this is the case, then echoes of Neolithic culture still bounce around religious celebrations such as the Tsok puja and the Eucharist .

Monday, 30 June 2014

The Underworld.

In the mouth of the universe, in the crush of stars.
In me.
In you.
In the rush of days and in the fall of time.

Always there.
Echoing back
The black line
The shimmer-line around reality.

The momentum of movement delays perception, the love of light, love in the glimmer of stars; keeps the mind away from the deep, away from the wolf river, the devouring river.

Through terror.
Is beyond heart and muscle.
Goes beyond the mind

Sudden loss of trust
The end of love
The mind falls.

Caught by the river
Washes beyond Tehom.

Below the deep

Where gravity holds images
Like a forest of the dead.
Frozen upon its surface.

Here all becomes silent.

No movement
Like a
is falling

As you fall without movement.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

I'm not in Wessex...mummification.

The weather forecast was for rain. For thunder. For sunny periods too. But this is Britain. So I'm not at The Sanctuary. Call me feeble, but leaving the house at 4 am to go stand in the rain didn't merit the cost of half a tank of petrol.

But I'm still thinking about the bodies buried by standing stones; at the Sanctuary and in the Avenue of stones which used to connect the Sanctuary to Avebury.

There is a possibility that the body at the Sanctuary was once a mummy.

We have a history of preserving the dead, in this country.  Bronze Age Skeletons found buried under houses at Cladh Hallan, South Uist, that on first appearance appeared to be of one person were found to have been made from two or three people.

Uhle excavation 1896.

The Incas mummified their dead by wrapping the body in many layers of textiles and leaves, creating a large bundle. They then placed a false head on top of the bundle, usually made of carved wood or pottery. There is no indication that the bodies in Britain were treated the same way. No evidence of a pottery head has been found.

And the bodies at Cladh Hallen looked like the the Inca mummy bundles found by Max Uhle during his excavations at Pachacamac in 1896.

As you can see, the legs have been pulled tightly up into the chest, the arms were tightly bound to the side of the body, and the forearms were around the legs.

The body at the Sanctuary was not so tightly contracted as those at Cladh Hallan. Nor is he or she in the same position. But there is a possibility that this body is composite, made of more than one person because the anatomy of the pelvis appears to be female, whilst that of the jaw appears to be male. But as Aubrey Burl has pointed out, the body is placed in a way typical for a male Bronze Age burial; lying on his right side.

Photo of Bronze Age burial by stone C 12 at the Sanctuary, Avebury, Wessex.

The first stage in mummification is to remove the internal organs, and then two methods of preservation could have been to soak the body in a peat bog, or to smoke them in a smoke house...And it had probably been going on for a long time, as long as a thousand years before the burial at the Sanctuary- mummified or not- took place.

Sometimes remains found in long barrows show signs of the flesh having been cut from the dead bone. The usual explanation to the question just why would one want to do that? is to say that soul or spirit is in the flesh and that removing the wet flesh helps the dead. Spirit trapped in wet flesh turning into maggots. Best cut it away...But perhaps bones with cut marks resulted from the creation of Jenny Hannover-type, custom built, mummy bundles.

Most bones found in long barrows are disarticulated, long bones and skulls. As the famous Dr Toope makes clear, the bones inside long barrows were not always left alone after the barrow had been sealed. Dr Toope took 'bushels of bones' from West Kennet from which he brewed medicine for his neighbours. Apparently 'corpse medicine' was very popular in his day.

Nevertheless, one whole skeleton was found at West Kennet in the north-west chamber.

The position of the legs and the arms, in this burial are similar to those of the body at the Sanctuary. The arms are by the side of the body, perhaps resting on the knees. The forearms are brought up towards the face.

One could argue that embalming fluid, is not so far from mummification.
Alcor is a 'living' mummification.
Just not everyone sees the dead as protectors.

In Britain a corpse is a source of infection, an empty thing. The ancestors are remembered as names. Instead the names of the dead are cut into stone and bronze, but the dead body is buried or burnt, or pieces of it are given to the living as transplant.

The Kuku Kuku people still preserve bodies...

And somewhere, in a cuboard to my right, I have Karmapa salt. I'm never very happy about that...I think I feel sad about it. Not sure? Anyway, Karmapa salt is salt that was used to draw out the moisture from the body of the Karmarpa.

It was said that when Karmapa laughed, which he did all the time, one would hear him several houses away.

The Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje was to be mummified. The process is accomplished by using lots and lots of salt. A wooden box is built around the body and salt poured into this. Damp salt is removed, new salt poured in. But, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje was cremated in the end, and some of his salt is in my cupboard...because I knew someone who knew someone who was there.

Makes me feel like Herodotus when I say that.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Dreadlocks: 4 euphemisms.

The first of the four is from Tibet.
Ching bu.

In the Milarepa puja, Mila's hair (in English) is described as ..
"Matted hair hangs down his back..."
"U tra ching bu ku gyab drol/"

 The Tibetan term is ching bu. Lama Lodi would describe long sausages of the oat and water mix we used for 'butter sculptures' as ching bu when making tormas..

So matted hair is not exactly what was meant.

Second euphemism this time from Akkad.

The kurgarra and the galatur heeded Enki's words.

They set out for the underworld.
Like flies, they slipped through the cracks of the gates.
They entered the throne room of the Queen of the Underworld.

The queen of the underworld, Ereshkigal's hair is described as leeks...

Her hair swirled around her like leeks.
Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer translation

etcsl gives me:
"The hair on her head was bunched up as if it were leeks."
[siki]-ni ga-racsar-gin7 saj-[ja2-na mu-un-ur4-ur4]

My Teach Yourself Complete Babylonian and my lackadaisical approach to teaching myself, isn't up to the task of translating each word.

Jean Bottero translated Mesopotamian recipes, and leeks and garlic were included in many dishes, so it is likely that leeks were a metaphor for Ereshkigal's ching bu...

There does seem something a little odd about the leek:

‘Tis dangerous here to violate an onion, or to stain
The sanctity of leeks with tooth profane;
Oh, Holy nation! sacro-sancte abodes!
Where every garden propagates its gods.

But I'm not sure that Juvenal helps.

Mila Repa (repa refers to the simple cotton cloth he wore as a sign that he had accomplished tumo) would not have eaten leeks, not even the most tender cooked in butter. No onions, leeks or garlic because they affect the subtle energy systems (I was told). I believe it has more to do with sulphur and the use of mercury, alchemy being a part of the esoteric tradition- when I was given 'long life' pills rinchen rilpo and dutsi, I always assumed that they contained mercury...

I swallowed them anyway.

Which brings me to...Greece.
The snake.

Medusa of course and Angelina Joli in Alexander, because Pleutarch described Alexander's mother Olympias, as someone who practised the 'Orphic rites and the orgies of Dionysus' :

Olympias... affected these divine possessions more zealously than other women, and carried out these divine inspirations in wilder fashion, used to provide the revelling companies with great tame serpents, which would often lift their heads from out the ivy and the mystic winnowing baskets, or coil themselves about the wands and garlands of the women, thus terrifying the men. 

In the Epic of Gilgamesh the snake is neshu sha qaqqari: a lion of the earth. Lions are dangerous and so are snakes...It is the snake who prevents Gilgamesh eating the perfect little flower he had dived down so far, so deep to reach, that would have given him rejuvenation.

After all the trouble the gods had had before about humans becoming too many, they did not wish to see the whole sorry story of plagues, famine and finally the flood (drastic culling of the human race) have to happen again!

The  final euphemism:

Connection to the earth, the Net', to the power source..

The long-haired one endures fire, the long-haired one endures poison, the long-haired one endures both worlds. The long-haired one is said to gaze full on heaven, the long-haired one is said to be that light ... Of us, you mortals, only our bodies do you behold. ...For him has the Lord of life churned and pounded the unbendable, when the long-haired one, in Rudra’s company, drank from the poison cup (The Keshin Hymn, Rig-veda 10.136) Link...

Friday, 9 May 2014

Footprints on the wall.

By walking men's reversèd feet
I chanced another world to meet;
Though it did not to view exceed
A phantom, 'tis a world indeed;
Where skies beneath us shine,
And earth by art divine
Another face presents below,
Where people's feet against ours go.

We were in Glasgow.
Walking through a town that looked to me like a remastered version of Birmingham.
With my daughter and James.

Down a street on our way to the Necropolis...

There were footprints high up on a wall.

James stopped and explained that such footprints are a local tradition...
"It's a Glasgow thing"

I said that it was the same for us.
I remembered school, kids jumping at pale walls to leave their shoe prints.
Kudos to he or she who leapt highest.

Perhaps it is a Scandinavian thing?


I thought of the drawings cut into the rock at Bohuslän: a Swedish province in Götaland.

PSM V35 D810 Rock carving in lokeburg bohuslan

You see the boats, the men..
You see the shields...

and the foot prints.

Some have shoes, some are shoe-less.
All of them carved, so not quite the same thing as the dusty boot marks on walls, but nevertheless, to my mind similar.

Most of the footprints lead down the rocks, from higher to lower ground.

Many seem to lead out of a barrow cemetery, and commence a silent march towards the pools and bog land, where water and land merge. It is possible that they were heading towards the sea once close by, now more distant.

Thus did I by the water's brink
Another world beneath me think;
And while the lofty spacious skies
Reversèd there, abused mine eyes,
I fancied other feet
Came mine to touch or meet;
As by some puddle I did play
Another world within it lay.

There, the dead would wait patiently on the beach for the ships.

Now so many will tell you that the Underworld was imagined to be under us, that the dead walk upside down, their feet pressed firm to the same land we walk.

The Epic of Gilgamesh makes it clear that the land of the dead is over there and not under anything...and yet in European myth the Otherworld coexists in the same time and space as this world. It is more complicated than a neat diagram, too big to fit within any map.

People of the The Ertebølle culture (ca 5300 BC – 3950 BC) fishermen and hunters grew healthy and strong on food from the sea, it is also said that they cracked open the jaws of their enemies to feast on the marrow within. They buried their dead with deer antlers and red ochre...sometimes...Both burial and cremation were practised.

But at Møllegabet in southern Denmark, an individual was buried in a canoe, which some see as the beginning of Scandinavian boat burials.

The journey into the Otherworld has a very long history.
The perilous journey over the celestial seas with the Sun down to the primal mound where Osiris waits, the ordeal of Ur Nammu as the boat sweeps him away from the battle field as he lies abandoned by his men are stories that do not tell of the others, silently waiting at the edges of this world..

Visio Godeschalci describes a journey to the underworld.
After death the traveller sees an immensely large and beautiful linden-tree hanging full of shoes, which were handed down to such dead travellers as had exercised mercy during their lives. When the dead had passed this tree they had to cross a heath two miles wide, thickly grown with thorns, and then they came to a river full of irons with sharp edges. The unjust had to wade through this river, and suffered immensely. They were cut and mangled in every limb; but when they reached the other strand, their bodies were the same as they had been when they began crossing the river...

Nevada's landmark 'shoe tree'..now cut down.
Impossible footsteps sums it up!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Dogville: Persephone in the Over-World.

When Grace runs away from her father, a gangster or an under-world boss, she takes refuge in Dogville. A small, ordinary, unassuming little town. There Grace sets about making her home and tries to live without those bad, bad underworld habits such as passing judgement, making choices about who is right and who is wrong.

About who should live and who should die.

Grace refuses to pass judgement... on those who rape, abuse and finally chain her to a large fly-wheel which she must drag through the town as she moves from house to house to do her un-paid work.
Grace, it seems, is incapable of passing judgement on any behaviour – no matter how reprehensible. To her, all of these behaviours are merely products of circumstance. Her father, who appears later, argues that this is arrogant condescension, and that Grace should expect of others what she expects of herself.
Finally Dogville scapegoats Grace, the good people of the town blame her for all that is wrong within their community. And Tom (a man who says that he loves Grace and yet has been the chief agent in her demise) goes to the gangsters and tells them where to find her. Though his actions may seem altruistic Tom expects a cash reward and doesn't know what will happen to Grace..

When the gangsters turn up in Dogville to claim Grace back, there is no cash reward for Tom. Nor is Grace  taken away.

Instead Grace condemns the town to death, and shoots Tom herself.

Persephone represents a darkening of knowledge, a subduction away from love and light into gloom, darkness and power. The Plutonian realm of the under-world is a place of riches and wealth, but also of death. In this story Persephone rejects the underworld and escapes to the upper-world of mortals. She clings to her memory of innocence and tries to be a saint. The result is at first positive. She is greeted with friendship and love. But this cannot last, the fact that the police are looking for Grace makes the towns-folk uneasy, they sense the presence of something 'dark' not quite right about her .

To make amends for this Grace/Persephone tries all the harder to be 'useful' doing the chores that, no-one needs but make life better.

One way to watch this film is to consider Dogville as an exploration of what happens if one chooses to abandon autonomy and takes refuge in powerlessness. Dogville is a mythic story about a girl fleeing the 'dark' forces of her underworld life. And the perils of ignoring the dark...those inner-voices of anger and dissent..

Grace gave away her power to 'save herself' when she accepted Tom's version of Dogville.

She did not know that Tom had his own agenda, his own coercive mission. Tom was desperate to assume power over Dogville by showing the town the 'error of it's ways' (Tom is an icon of liberal sentimentality, his 'altruism' nothing but ideology) . To this end he spends all his time observing the lives of others and refusing to engage in any useful work what so ever.

Tom says that he wishes to be a writer, what he really wants is to make other people behave 'better'..

Grace abandons her right to be autonomous when she chooses to accept what ever befalls her. She becomes complicit in her own demise when she surrenders her 'dark side' for fear of being deemed 'unacceptable'. The threat of being returned to the Underworld away from the promise of love is enough to silence Grace.

Sometimes Tom, apparently for the benefit of Grace, persuades Grace to stand up and tell the truth. This results in more humiliation for Grace as the town isn't interested in the concept that 'the truth will set you free' especially when Grace's 'freedom' will not benefit them.

The town just wants life to be trouble-free..

As a consequence when Grace finally understands that she had the right to be angry; to divide right from wrong and to act and to pass judgement...it has all gone too far.

Grace administers justice via the barrel of a gun.
It would have been better if Grace had walked away before Dogsville made her into a slave. But it is never easy to know exactly where that point is...

The target of this story is moral relativism. Grace doesn't seem to know the difference between right and wrong when she is the victim. This absence of discrimination causes her to to forgive repeated rape and constant dehumanization. Perhaps her arrogance prevented her from seeing what was happening, or her choice to be a good girl sealed the knowledge away in a separate section of her mind. Perhaps in an Alice Miller sort of way, she accepted abuse because abuse was so normal that she couldn't see it?

This Dogville version of Persephone in-the-over-world maintains Persephone's 'image' as a Queen of Hell, don't expect mercy. It isn't as satisfying a conclusion as that of Ripley/Persephone in the fourth Alien film (Ripley/Persephone transgresses the rules by uniting the monster within herself with the human).

In Dogville, Grace/Persephone remains polarised, and ultimatly the victim becomes the abuser.