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...