Monday, 17 February 2014

The imagined past.

This is the photograph on the cover of The Significance of Monuments by Richard Bradley. It is an image of an Aberdeenshire stone circle and horizon. About 30 flash photograph sections with the camera on a pole, taken from the centre of the stone circle, from a height of 6.5 metres.

The usual introduction to prehistoric monuments is:
An image in a book
Photos that try to encapsulate the whole from the outside- usually from the air.

That meander into simplicity and complexity.

The real experience is of a reconstruction
That references something...

The noise of the Heritage experience drowns out past and present...
Dislocating the orientation of self with the monument and the present moment.

Therefore I recommend  The Significance of Monuments by Richard Bradley without any reservation to anyone who wants to follow the clues and to join the dots accurately.

I loved the insight this book provides.
Such as?
Such as the possibility that long barrows referenced abandoned houses.

The oldest long barrows often contain a single burial...
Now it is standard to say that long barrows represent collective burials and show that Neolithic farmers venerated their ancestors; that the Bronze Age round barrows with their single burial show change in religion through burial rituals...from collective to individual.

From lots of jumbled bones and no grave goods to single, crouched and whole skeletons, Beakers and copper daggers.

Obviously it isn't so clear cut.
Not all long barrows were open and collective
Most round barrows contain more than one person

Well anyway, abandoned houses.
As if when a family died, their home was abandoned and became a long mound
Because houses were long...

The shape of a long mound spoke of death.

I include this music here now, because it is what I'm listening to as I write...
And it speaks of an imagined future...
The perception of time is important.

I began reading Part Two of The Significance of Monuments this morning.
The subject was causeway enclosures.

And a suggestion that the circles represented the idea of a long gone, ideal village.

Basically people of the early farming communities in Britain were creating a lost world of an imagined past- even then.

The debris found at causeway enclosures lead to the suspicion that they were places where many people met to exchange goods, animals, arrange marriages and party hard. They were places where there was conflict. They were often at the edge, and on a hill. The space is wrapped around with trenches and fences and gates. The earth strewn with arrows. There are the skeletons of dead people whose end was far from peaceful.

But the idea that fascinated me is to ask how people recreate the past. The forces that lead to this are equally interesting, but for now it is simply the form new 'archaic' rituals take...that call me.

And why modern archaic doesn't need to be authentic to work.
A re-creation is less likely to hit the mark than ritual born from a flash of inspiration.

I realise now that I'd been thinking, heck, surely people 5,000 years ago knew what they were doing?

Possibly not.


Thursday, 13 February 2014

Ereshkigal in Proto-Indo-European myth...

When trying to validate the concept that 'our' myths have their origin in the Rig Veda, or rather, when trying to follow the paths the story-lines share, I keep on finding that what I have taken as pretty solid evidence keeps on crumbling away.

In the oldest of the Persephone stories, the dragon, the stranger, the mountains, the river took the sister of the Queen of Heaven.

And gave to her the Underworld.

No one could get her back...This story- from the tablet known as: Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld was probably composed during the Ur III period 2100-2000 BCE.

Is that older or younger than the Rig Veda?

It isn't hard to believe that a concern with water- too much or too little, with cattle and with women is pretty universal when farming begins. So, let's call that layer, Neolithic.

What lies deeper within?

The enveloping force personified as a serpent, is the enemy.
The weapon of choice is the thunder-bolt:
And the sacred drink: soma.

He slew the Dragon lying on the mountain: his heavenly bolt of thunder Tvaṣṭar fashioned.
Like lowing cattle in rapid flow descending the waters glided downward to the ocean.
Impetuous as a bull, he chose the Soma and in three sacred beakers drank the juices.
Maghavan grasped the thunder for his weapon, and smote to death this firstborn of the dragons.
When, Indra, thou hadst slain the dragon's firstborn, and overcome the charms of the enchanters,
Then, giving life to Sun and Dawn and Heaven, thou foundest not one foe to stand against thee.

Brewing developed with farming, but psychoactive plants just grow....As has been noted elsewhere, the Rig Veda often describes the effect of Soma and soma itself as fluid as rain, as brilliant as the lightning flash and radiant, like the sun:
He has clothed himself with the fire-burst of the sun..
Soma shines together with the sun...
Hasan Javaid Khan names the plant as ephedra.

When people first crawled inside mountains and discovered absolute and total blackness, they knew it to be sacred. The space of limitless potential. They drew animals because they saw animals in the rock illuminated by flame...the animals they had killed, and the animals that would flow like water through the land.

At that time the mountains were full of the power of the Underworld and that power was represented by the omega symbol of the womb.

Ereshkigal- Queen of the Great Earth was mother of wild things, Lady of the Stony Ground, her children are killed by hunters and harmed by captivity. Should any domesticated animal stray into her wasteland, it will die.

By the Neolithic period, the earth was the zone of regeneration, as the 56 Aubrey holes were dug at Stonehenge to receive cremated remains. The land was Aruru- birth giver.The origins of the solar symbols, the cross and the circle, were probably obscure even then, belonging to the time before farming. Likewise the internal structures of megaliths and perhaps even the carvings on the stones at Bryn Celli Dhu and Newgrange belonged to the time before farming. Many of the carved stones of Newgrange had been placed carved side backwards, as if they had been taken from another, perhaps older, structure and the carvings were incidental...

But the power lingers, and old pattens are repeated and preserved in Stonehenge and at The Sanctuary.

By 2200 BC in Britain, the importance of the sun as agent of growth made the glitter of gold and copper and the solar cross, extra significant. The winter sun is the male sun who takes longer and longer journeys travelling through the ground,seeking regeneration.

Nevertheless, the Underworld has a solar connection, and Ereshkigal was sister to the sun.

The Hittites had a sun goddess called Arinna who had a male reflection,  the "sun god in the water" His name was Ishtanu (Ištanu; from Hattic Estan, "Sun-god"). In Luwian he was known as Tiwaz or Tijaz depicted bearing a winged sun on his crown or head-dress, and carrying a crooked staff.
Hymn to Istanu (Hittite), CTH 372.1.39-46:
When in the morning Istanu rises in the sky, then on the upper lands and lower lands, all of them, comes your illumination, Istanu. You are the one that judges the case of the dog and the pig; the animals’ case, that do not speak with the mouth, you judge; the evil and wicked man’s case you, Istanu, do judge.
The Akkadian version of The Descent of Inana preserves the idea of the sun changing sex in the story of Dumuzi spending half the year in the Underworld until his sister returns to swap places with him.
The mother who gave birth, Ereshkigal,
lay there sick (with grief) for her children,
her pure limbs no linen veiled
her bosom had nothing drawn over it
her nails were like a copper rake upon her,
the hair on her head was like leaks....

And Ereshkigal becomes mother of demons.
The shivers and chills of death
that fritter the sum of things
spawn of the god of heaven
spawned on an evil spirit
the death warrants, beloved sons of the storm god
born of the queen of the Netherworld
who were torn out of heaven and hurled from the earth as castoffs
are creatures of hell, all.
Up above they roar, down below they cheep
they are the bitter venom of the gods
they are the great storms let loose from heaven
they are the owl (of ill omen) that hoots in the town
spawn spawned by the god of heaven, sons born by earth are they.
Over high roofs, over broad roofs like a floodwave
they surge
from house to house they climb over.
Doors do not hold them, locks do not restrain them,
through the doors they glide like snakes
through the hinge boxes they blow like wind.
From a man's embrace they lead off the wife
from the man's knee they make the child get up
and the youth they fetch out of the house of his in-laws
they are the numbness of the daze
that tread on the heels of man.
The Queen who loves battle-axes (from 'The Death of Ur-Nammu) .

Why did the Mesopotamian  Bronze Age story require Ereshkigal to be 'taken by the Kur'?

Because the story was written during the time of Sumerian renaissance, when the Akkadians were trying to restore their Sumerian identity after the Gutians (possibly from Kurdistan, beyond the Zagros mountains) had been expelled, and whilst the horror of abduction and murder by the foreigners from the mountain was still raw?

A poem recorded and un-dated by Thorkild Jacobson in The Treasures of Darkness page 77

Alas! that day of mine, on which I was destroyed;
alas! that day of mine, on which I was destroyed

For on it he came hither to me in my house,
for on it he turned in the mountains
into the road
into me.

For on it the boat came on my river towards me,
the boat moored at my quay,
for on it the master of the boat came in to me,
for on it he reached out his dirty hands towards me,
for on it he yelled to me:"Get up! Get on board!"
for on it the goods were taken aboard in the bow,
for on it I, the queen, was taken on board in the stern.
For on it I grew cold with shivering fear.

The foe trampled with his booted feet into my chamber!
He reached out his dirty hands towards me!
He reached out the hand towards me, he terrified me!
That foe reached out his hand towards me,
made me die with fear.

That foe intimidated me- I did not intimidate him.
That foe stripped me of my robe,
clothed his wife in it,
that foe cut my string of gems,
hung it on his child
I was to tread the floors of his home...

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Lessons from a godless town.

I find my mind wondering to the sunken lake at Eridu, 9000 years ago and to the broad bright sky and the rivers of stars. To the leap of fire from precious, scented wood, full of oils; to the weird flash of golden lightning within quartz.

Perhaps all religions began with something of the cargo cult about them; an observation, a sense of the numinous, a misunderstanding. Though what it was that was observed and subtly misunderstood is hard to decipher.

And then there are those who see Superman as Christ.
Does it matter?

Despite my beginning, or perhaps because of it (I read a lot of Jung when I was a teen) I have little patience for the Jungian interpretation of religion and ritual when it is used to reduce the gods to phonemes in a language of self-revelation; even if it is empirically true that a person upset by the destruction of an old building could be said to be acting under the sway of the goddess of memory, Mnemosyne and needs to catalogue such buildings and create a way to remember...and a person who suddenly desires the most beautiful, revealing dress has been called by Aphrodite.

There is something way too small about this.
It just wont do.

Forgive my arrogance.

The other way to look at it is- and yes, this is the version I try to use- is to know that it isn't easy to see through things (a re-hash of the metaphor of the veil, the inability to drop habitual tendencies). If Clark Kent appears to be Jesus to you because you believe at this point in time that the gods are aspects of humanity writ large, and gods are internal 'complexes' projected interpretation is that you just don't know any better :)

But you could
If you wanted to.

It will cost a lot of time, feel like you have fallen down a rabbit hole, you will attend the mad hatter's tea party again and again.

You will find yourself dragged into doing dumb stuff and probably have to spend hours reading obscure books, and waste money buying candles and incense, and you wont be able to talk to anyone about it if you are in some godless small town...

Post Reformation, over here the dominant concept of this world has become scientism. This world is imaged as the true book of god, and the imperative to- as the Buddha put it- to seek out your own salvation with diligence. In the light of that upbringing, better to recognise divinity just for a second- no matter how obscured by cultural fog- than not.

Post Reformation, the ancestors are beyond prayer, their words are given merit only for historical or artistic content alone. The past was a pathological place full of mistakes, so I'm told...

I keep on reading.

I read because I want to get closer. In reading I relate everything I've so far read to what I understand in the words of the writer whose precious words have come to me...

Daughter of Sargon, take it away...

To run, to escape, to quiet and to pacify are yours, Inana.
To rove around, to rush, to rise up, to fall down and to ...... a companion are yours, Inana.
To open up roads and paths, a place of peace for the journey, a companion for the weak, are yours, Inana.
To keep paths and ways in good order, to shatter earth and to make it firm are yours, Inana.
To destroy, to build up, to tear out and to settle are yours, Inana.
To turn a man into a woman and a woman into a man are yours, Inana.
Desirability and arousal, goods and property are yours, Inana.
Gain, profit, great wealth and greater wealth are yours, Inana.
Gaining wealth and having success in wealth, financial loss and reduced wealth are yours, Inana.
Observation, choice, offering, inspection and approval are yours, Inana.
Assigning virility, dignity, guardian angels, protective deities and cult centres are yours, Inana.... Enheduana.