Sunday, January 25, 2015

Bear Family: Speaking Truth to Power

The most recently evolved of the Carnivores, Bears appeared on earth about 20 million years ago. They now contain the largest meat eaters on land. Despite their heavy bones and massive skulls, Bears are fast sprinters, able to keep pace with Horse. In addition, many Bears are good tree climbers, foraging for fruit and nuts. Lifting large boulders, They eat Insects, that live under the rocks. Swimming for long distances in the cold Arctic Seas, Polar Bears hunt Seals. In their pursuit of food, Bears are quite resourceful.

Throughout history, people’s lives have intertwined with Bears’ lives. These Predators stand up, eat the same foods, and protect their children, much like people do. Because of these similarities, people feel a kinship with Bears. Humans and Bears have been wary, respectful, and tolerant of each other. However, contact with the other usually ended in disaster for both people and Bears.

Bears are one of the oldest recorded totemic beings. For many peoples, Bears offer their nurturing, protection, and wisdom. Ancient legends tell of people sharing caves with Bears. (People were contemporaries of Cave bears (Ursus speleus) in Eurasia.) Early people often sought permission from the elders and from the Bears, before hunting a Bear. In addition, special ceremonies were often held to ensure the Bear’s Spirit were at peace, after the killing.

Various peoples have traditions of Bears as intimate members of their cultures. Among Native Americans, Bear, “the animal that walks like a man”, would care for lost children and raise them. Among the Basque and Siberian peoples, if a person was killed by Bear then they came back as a Bear. Arcadians of the Mediterranean Basin claim that they are descended from Bears, as well.

Bears urge people to speak truth to power. In the face of power, truth is their best ally and weapon. Knowledge of Bears has helped people to avoid being killed. In addition, this powerful Animal appears in people’s dreams offering individual truths. Bears go into the dark regions where people fear to go, and speak truth to power for them.

 Bear Family’s Teachings Include:
“This innate visceral fear of bears lives somewhere inside all of us. Stone Age man still hunkers in the cave of our emotions and his survival is still threatened by predators. This Stone Age fear will always exist but we can control it with understanding. To make it easier to coexist with bears, because without them our lives will be greatly diminished.” Copyright: “Bears of the World”, Lance Craighead.

“Bear has two sides to his personality. On one hand he is curious, cheerful, good-natured, and deliberate. On the other hand, he is quick to anger, because he is sure of his own power, and will defend his family to the death. Bear’s only enemies are man and forest fires.” Copyright, “Alaska Bear Tales”, Larry Kanuit.
Note: Because of DNA evidence, Giant Pandas are grouped with Bears, while Red Pandas are classified with Raccoons.

Conservation Note: Bears are endangered, and are protected by laws worldwide.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Time and Babylon (1 of 2)

In Mesopotamia, a region long settled by other peoples, the Babylonians had to establish their dominance. By adopting various myths from the Sumerians, and then amending them, they created a sense of the long view of time. Into this invention of time stretching into the infinite past, the Babylonians inserted themselves, thereby breaking the timeline into two parts: before and after their arrival. They grafted the legacy of the Sumerians to themselves. Moreover, possessing a concrete sense of time, the Babylonians then subdivided it in a number of ways, each division of time serving a religious or imperial need. They bifurcated time into two distinct parts – one: circular and repeating, the other: an arrow into the future. These two splits of time complemented each other in the Babylonian mind.

 Every New Year which began at the Spring Equinox, the Creation Myth (Enuma Elish) was read. This myth begins with the original creation of the world by Tiamat, the God of Chaos, and Apsu, the God of Waters. Later Enlil, a God from the succeeding generation becomes the “Father of the Gods.” Eventually, He cedes his powers to Anu, from yet a newer generation of Gods, who seeks to overthrow the original Gods. After Apsu is killed, Tiamat wages war on the newer Gods. In desperation, Enlil goes to Marduk, the principal deity of Babylon, for help. On condition that He is made the Ruler of the Gods, Marduk agrees. After killing Tiamat, Marduk remakes the world from her body.

This creation story cements Babylon’s place in Mesopotamian history. After ages of rule by other peoples and their Gods, Mesopotamia is then recreated by the Babylonians. Generations of Gods follow each other ending with Marduk. Thus, Babylon becomes the terminus point for the timeless past, and the future that is now Babylon. The ritual of reading the Creation Myth every New Year was the intersection of circle with arrow time, and also the combination of both.

 In its various forms, the Gilgamesh Epic highlights the nexus of time and immortality. Within this epic is the story of a Great Deluge. Like the Creation Story, the time in the Great Flood is broken into two halves, the world before Babylon and after. According to this myth, the list of Kings before the Flood numbered ten. After the Flood, the Kings reigned from the City of Kish (in Sumer), with reigns consisting of 300 years to 1,200 years. In this story, comes a sense of a long past, a rupture, and then the start of a new age. Because Kish had great symbolic significance, the myth allows Babylon to become the heir to the ancient civilization of Sumer. The story gives to the people of Babylonia, the sense of a great destiny. Babylon is the New World remade from the older world. Once more, time in Babylonian perception was broken, and then welded together again.

 The Gilgamesh Epic, itself, focuses on the questions of death and immortality. After his friend, Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh comes to dislike death. Resolving to end death for all, he searches for the key of immortality. During his adventures, various Gods tell him to enjoy life and accept death gracefully. Through a series of mishaps, Gilgamesh is denied immortality for himself and his people. However, he realizes that his city will exist long after his death. His immortality would come from his legacy, which is his city. Babylonians saw this in terms of themselves as the legacy of Sumer. Again it was presented as endless time that was disrupted.

Time and Babylon (2 of 2)

 In Babylon, the year was divided into two halves – summer and winter, in explicit circle time. In the myth of Ishtar’s Descent Into the Underworld, winter comes about when Ishtar sends her husband Tammuz to take her place in the Land of the Dead. In desperation, Tammuz then seeks help from his sister, Gestinana. After much negotiation with the Gods of the Underworld, both siblings decide to take each other’s place for six months at a time.

Ishtar’s husband, Tammuz was the God of Crops and Flocks. The Babylonians saw Him as the life blood of the land and the sheep. When He went into the Underworld, winter came. At that time his sister, Gestinana reemerged, and presided over the autumn harvest and wine making. She became the Goddess of Wine and Grapes.

 At the Spring Equinox, the Babylonians started their New Year. To commemorate this, the King would enact a sacred marriage with the temple priestess of Ishtar. Their mating was to reaffirm the marriage of Ishtar, the Goddess of Fertility, with her husband, Tammuz. These marriage rites was to ensure that the King was accepted as one of the Gods, and blessed by Ishtar, who also blessed the crops. This was circle time, repeated every year at the same day.

 In contrast, the Fall Harvest was the beginning of the Royal Year. At this time, the King offered First Fruits for the blessings of the Gods for him and his city. Afterwards, he would begin a project such as building a temple. Counting regnal years in Babylon started with the harvest, and was often named for the King’s latest project. The passage of time was demarked by the reigns of kings and their deeds. Again the Babylonian sense of time was divided into two parts, one for the Gods and the other for the kings. Regnal time was inserted as an arrow to the future into the circle time of the harvests.

In their daily lives, the Babylonians were very conscious of the passage of time. They measured days, months, and years (with a nineteen month calendar to tract solar and lunar eclipses). They used artificial time to track governmental and commercial activity for regnal years and fiscal years. Against this backdrop of dividing time into smaller units came the sense of timelessness that rose from living in Mesopotamia. Being conscious of being a part of a succession of kingdoms in the region, the Babylonians both merged their myths with the Sumerians, and divided them into two parts, before Babylon, and after.  Time for the Babylonians was to split into two parts, one an arrow pointing towards the future, whilst the other a circle that returned back to Babylon.

Works Used.
“Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses.” U.K. Higher Education Project. 2011. Web.
 Aveni, Anthony, “People and the Sky.” Thames and Hudson: New York. 2009. Print.
 Cicero, Sandra, “A Guide to the Babylonian Tarot.” Llewellyn: Woodbury, MN, 2006. Print.
 King, L.W., “Babylonian Religion and Mythology.” Wisdom Library. 1903. Web.
 Siren, Christopher, “The Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ.” 2003. Web.
“Sumerian Mythology FAQ.” 2000. Web.
 Smitha, Frank, “Civilization in Mesopotamia.” Macrohistory and World Time Line. 2014. Web. .

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Myth Decoding: Marduk and Tiamat (Babylon)

Marduk and Tiamat (Enuma Elish: The Epic of Creation)

 At first glance the story of Marduk and Tiamat in the Enuma Elish seems to be a creation story of Mesopotamia as told by the Babylonians. However, the subtext tells how humans mastered the volatile environment of Mesopotamia. Layered below this is the rise of Babylon to be the principal power of the region. The Enuma Elish describes the lives of the succeeding generations of Gods, their conflicts with the Gods before Them, and ends with Marduk as their ruler. Each generation of Gods probably represents a prior group of peoples who lived the region. Since Marduk is the major God of the Babylonians, this myth then becomes the story of how Babylon came to rule Mesopotamia.

 The myth starts by describing the ancient landscape of Mesopotamia, thousands of years ago. Apsu, the sweet water, mixes with Tiamat of the salt water. The symbol of their union is the mingling of the Tigris and Euphrates with the sea to produce the salt marshes. The sea was much farther inland then, and tides had more effect on the people living there. The landscape of the area is one of river bottoms, tidal marshes, swamps, and wetlands. Even the names of their children Lahamu and Lahmu which means mud reflect this as well. 

 The next generation of Gods were Anu, Enlil (Ellil), and Enki (Ea) of the Sumerians. Unlike the first group, these Gods focused on developing agriculture and decreeing divine laws. While Anu ruled the Gods, Enlil granted kingship, and Enki created people. (In a similar story to Apsu and the noisy Gods is Enlil and the noisy humans. In both cases, the Gods tried to destroy the noisemakers, since the activities of farming disturbed them.)

 In Tiamat’s case, the noisy ones were the next generation of Gods, who were replacing the original ones. They were draining the swamps, digging the canals, and irrigating the fields. These Gods were taming the “sweet water”, thereby killing Apsu as a God. The efforts of the new Gods threatened Tiamat, since They were transforming the salt marshes into farmland.

 Furious, Tiamat raises an army, which metaphorically reflects the violence of the times. Through continuous irrigation, salt made the land of the Sumerians infertile. Faced with dwindling resources including water, the various cities fought each other to gain these precious resources for their peoples. During this awful time, the suffering Sumerians wrote lamentations describing their misery -- bodies melting in the sun and cities shrouded in smoke. Into this war-torn landscape came the Amorites, who adopted the Sumerian culture, and established their main city of Babylon. Under their king, Hammurabi, the Babylonians cemented their empire and imposed law and order in Mesopotamia. 

 This creation myth, the Enuma Elish, relates how the Babylonians came to power and recreated the world, making order out of chaos. Their principal God, Marduk, assumes power over the other Gods and defeats Tiamat. The Sumerian Gods, Enki and Enlil cede their power to Marduk by granting “Enlil-ship” to Him. Meanwhile, the other Gods confer “Anu-power” on Him. Hence, several generations of Gods pass from importance. 

 After adopting myths from the Sumerians, the Babylonians rewrote the creation myth to include the rise and rulership of Marduk. After Tiamat came Enlil, who was the original head of the pantheon. With each succeeding generation, Enlil shared his power first with Anu and then with Enki. While They ceded their power to Marduk, Anu remained in the titular rule. In Enuma Elish, the Babylonians acknowledge their predecessors, the Sumerians and the others. But they end the myth with Marduk recreating the world and establishing his reign. He does this by building the world on the bones of Tiamat, one of the Gods of the original peoples living there. Marduk remakes the world as the Babylonians remade Mesopotamia.

 Works Used.
“Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses.” U.K. Higher Education Project. 2011. Web. .
 Aveni, Anthony, “People and the Sky.” Thames and Hudson: New York. 2009. Print.
Cicero, Sandra, “A Guide to the Babylonian Tarot.” Llewellyn: Woodbury, MN, 2006. Print.
 King, L.W., “Babylonian Religion and Mythology.” Wisdom Library. 1903. Web. .
 Siren, Christopher, “The Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ.” 2003. Web.
“Sumerian Mythology FAQ.” 2000. Web. .
 Smitha, Frank, “Civilization in Mesopotamia.” Macrohistory and World Time Line. 2014. Web. .

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Examining the Nexus of History and Legend

 The major area within Lore that fascinates me is the nexus between history and legend. What makes certain historical people legends? Why do some people and their exploits become mythic, and not others? How did these particular historical figures embed themselves into the public imagination?

 I became first aware of this phenomena with Davy Crockett. I had learned that he was probably taken prisoner of war after the Battle of the Alamo (1836), and later killed. Both the Alamo and Crockett loom large in people’s imaginations for different reasons. The Battle of the Alamo became a powerful story of martyrdom for Texas independence. Meanwhile Crocket was famous for his tales of his frontier exploits. Since the Disney series of the 1950s featured him dying during the battle, various people have objected to the notion of Crockett being a prisoner. However, there is confusion about where and when he died. Perhaps because of this murkiness, people refer that Crockett died a heroic death. His dying at the Alamo would number him amongst the Texan martyrs.

 Then there is the story of how Eliot Ness brought Al Capone (Alphonse Capone) to justice. Because of “The Untouchables,” the memoir of Ness during his days as a U.S. Treasury Agent in Chicago, and later the TV program that featured his exploits, people believed that he had put the notorious gangster Capone in prison. However, it was the IRA agent Frank Wilson, and his special task force who brought the charges of income tax evasion against Capone in 1931. Few people realize that Capone was convicted for not paying his federal income taxes, and not for his other heinous crimes.
 Did this epic story come from Ness igniting the public imagination with his colorful memoir? His writing makes for a compelling story of good overcoming evil. Since Capone seemed to be such a monster, and Ness so incorruptible and heroic, the two men became yoked together in a Christian morality play of good versus evil. Becoming larger than life, Ness and Capone morphed into equal and opposing forces locked in a titanic struggle.

 Is there a nexus between notoriety and mystery that propels someone to be a legend? Consider the continual popularity of the infamous mobster, Lucky Luciano (Salvatore Lucania (1897-1962)). What makes him memorable while his contemporaries are relatively forgotten? Although Frank Costello (Francesco Castiglia), a friend of Luciano, became known as the “Prime Minister of the Mob,” few outside of crime history have heard of him. Meanwhile, popular culture made Luciano “Public Enemy Number One.” Stories about his scars, attempted murder, and gangster life abound. Often, these tales have been embellished around a small grain of truth.  Many people viewed Luciano as the successful antihero, who thwarted authority. By living vicariously through his exploits, they could feel powerful themselves.

 Various historians have studied to understand how Luciano could have such a broad effect society and economics. How did he have a lasting impact that Capone did not? If Crockett was not connected to the Battle of the Alamo, how would he be remembered? How did one person become a name mentioned in passing, whilst another is a subject of serious study and fascination?

 I would like to explore how someone like Luciano became a factor in people’s lives. Was he, the catalyst who changed organized crime and law enforcement? What was his archetypical role in crime, history, and culture? What was the difference between Luciano and the others? What is the power of archetypes in history? With a focus on the crime history of the U.S. during the 1920s and 1930s, I would compare and contrast Luciano with other colorful gangsters to understand why.

Works Used.
Cipollini, Christian, “Lucky Luciano: Mysterious Tales of a Gangland Legend.” 2014. Strategic Media: Rock Hill, SC. Print.
Minister, Christopher, “The Biography of Davy Crockett.” 2014. Web. .
“Did Davy Crockett Die At the Alamo?” 2014. Web. .
 Tucker, Neely, “Eliot Ness and Al Capone, The Men, the Myths, and the Bad Man in the Dark.” The Washington Post. 18, February 2014. Web. .