[NB] Women in the Sumerian Deadlands

Just a couple quotes. These relate to two earlier posts, one on the Sumerian diasporas and their legacy in occult thought and another discussing the way in which this material has helped illumine my own spiritual experience.

These are both from Dina Katz’s The Image of the Netherworld in Sumerian Sources. I have made some changes to her transliteration of names to avoid using special characters.

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[NB] Conceptualizing Sumer’s Diasporas

I mentioned a while back that I tend to think about there being two major magical diasporas flowing out of Mesopotamian antiquity, a celestial and Magian one and a cthonic and Goetic one. I have been rereading Dina Katz’s excellent The Image of the Netherworld in the Sumerian Sources with some of that in mind. Appendix 4, a translation of Edina-Usagake (“In the Desert by the Early Grass”) has me thinking I may be missing a third element of that world, the feminine aspect of it.

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[NB] The Mother’s Tribe

This post follows the Absalom one closely, stepping forward in the material to look at another way of looking at the mother in the Judaic mythology, this time in the prophetic book of Isaiah. Again, let me emphasize that there are a number of good historical dimensions to this material (especially Isaiah with its even clearer historical roots), including questions of provenance and propaganda, but I want to keep those to the side while I talk about the mythological dimensions of it.

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The Cosmic Face of the Earth

I’ve come at this a little metaphorically before, but I want to address it more directly. When I talk about the materiality of the witch’s work, of the concrete alliances with the place and its ecosystem, that necessarily implies that the witch’s work is local. And it is. It needs to be emphasized, though, that it is a local operation undertaken with a cosmic force.

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Mooncalf

Our moon is distinctive by virtue of being an extrusion of the Earth itself, a dead twin. It’s occult power derives in part from this doubling process, for it is not just a neighbor but an affine, an ancestral body. Remember Lucretius who suggested that substances formed from atoms because of an inherent tendency to swerve? Well, look to the moon and its influence on us as a constant introduction of subtle swerves, on the physical and occult planes. Consider the way the moon slowly churns the ocean and where life began.

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The Work of the Mother

I have made the contrast between the great ancestress and the Mithraic mode before, but I want to turn toward it more directly. There is something in it of the contrast between a feminine and masculine mode, but it is more than that, encompasses and overruns that. It reflects a fundamental difference in attitude toward the world and our place in it.

At its heart, the contrast relates to how they approach the mystery of the heavens. What I have called the Mithraic mode isn’t really just about the Mithraic mysteries. Rather, the Mithraic mysteries are a convenient hook upon which to hang a discussion of a certain kind of gnosticism, one that seeks to free the soul from the world and ascend beyond it.

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The Powers of the Earth

It’s a strange time, isn’t it? The last few days it feels like the strains on this modern world have given way to full-blown cracks and that we have begun to tilt inexorably toward a future we are ill-prepared to face. Israel surges into Gaza, a plane falls from the Ukrainian sky. The last few days where I live, the weather has been clear, crisp, delightful in a way summers in the Southern U.S. rarely are. The natural world has been closer: a turtle directly on my path, a young mockingbird exploring the window at which I stood, a corner crow cocking its head at me as it regarded me through the window. They are speaking softly, meaningfully, without yet meaning anything. While tensions flare around the wreckage of the plane, while Israel commits itself to expanding its attack. There is worry and despair, but also exhilaration and hope.

I’ve been wondering about writing while all this goes on, but for the moment I have decided to work away as I have. It may not be much, but it is one of my disciplines and I do believe that discipline ripples outward. Though it cannot stay the tide, perhaps if there is enough discipline, it will at least hold back some of the flood. If not, well, then at least I am occupied with something other than anxiety.

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[NB] Holy Mother: Bulls, Vultures, Venus

Apparently, I’m all about the library angels these last couple of posts.

While I was picking up a copy of Chesnut’s Devoted to Death for my partner, another book caught my eye. It turned out to be some existential / therapeutic examination of death, but it opened with an epigraph about Çatalhöyük, describing the centrality of the bull and the vulture to the imagery of the so-called ‘great goddess.’ I would have shrugged it off had I not turned around and come face to face with Michael Rice’s The Power of the Bull in which Çatalhöyük gets its own chapter.

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