I came across this article thanks to Warren Ellis; I see Ellis’s point clearly enough and it’s one that I have been more than a little concerned about myself, especially in the greater occulture. Kingsnorth, the Dark Mountain, and the broader halo of thinking that surrounds and informs them has significant influence on the scene. It’s a trend that extends well-beyond the greens, too. A lot of folks who are committed to ‘preserving a culture’ are edging along similar terrain, looking to join national autonomy to cultural safety.
I’m just riffing off of the recent reading and household discussion of Elizabeth Wayland Barber’s Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years. It’s a great book and part of its strength is its strength lies in its tight focus on the archaeological record. That costs her some breadth (though it is still a broad book)—for example, there is little said about Africa, Asia, or the Americas. This is generally fine given her argument that the regions she is studying serve as the cradle of string and subsequently weaving technology. Given her deep time frame, diffusion into Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia is easy enough.
A report of Harriet Tubman’s dream:
“She thought she was in a ‘wilderness sort of place, all full of rocks and bushes,’ when she saw a serpent raise its head among the rocks, and as it did so, it became the head of an old man with a long white beard, gazing at her ‘wishful like, just as if he were going to speak to me,’ and then two other heads rose up beside him, younger than he,—and as she stood looking at them, and wondering what they could want with her, a crowd of great men rushed in and struck down the younger heads, and then the head of the old man, still looking at her so ‘wishful.'”
After meeting John Brown in 1958, Tubman knew the dream to be of him, though she appreciated its import only after the failed raid on Harpers Ferry.
The more I look into the Christian syncretisms that developed in Mesoamerica with American thought, the more comfortable I am in asserting that the syncretisms were rooted in the deep and understanding appreciation of the Mesoamericans for the Christian mysteries. This wasn’t naive or protective (hiding ‘real’ Mesoamerican deities behind Catholic facade), but a visceral awareness that the celestial mysteries animating their religious understanding also animated the Christian mysteries.
In short: it wasn’t a Mesoamerican syncretism so much as a Mesoamerican synthesis, one mutilated by the inability of Europeans to appreciate and reciprocate the Mesoamericans’ insights. It seems, too, like this insight is portable, to other instances of ‘syncretism.’ So that what we are seeing is not ‘cultural’ in the sense we use the term, but ‘scientific’ (as a 19th century German might have used the term)—rational, comparative, synthetic.
As I have been reading about sidereal astrology, I have been trying to work out the conceptual points of contact and divergence between it, tropical astrology, and the material in the Sefer Yetzirah (SY). These last few days, reading the SY, it has begun to come into view. What I am seeing in even a summary account of India’s astrological traditions suggests that the tropical/sidereal distinction doesn’t capture the conceptual ferment in astrological antiquity I am glimpsing through the SY.
It makes me chuckle that the little PSA post I did yesterday got more comments, and more engaged comments, than much else I have written here. Clearly, I have to put a stop to that (I jest) and the only way to do that is to talk about the reasons why the Saadia tree came across as a bit of a revelation for me. This should be straightforward but more schematic than content rich. This is going to be a little fast. And you should expect tangents.
This mourning for Tammuz/Damuzi thing…Okay, let me run through some stuff.
There is a quote that comes from a tenth-century manuscript, Nabatean Agriculture, that contains much useful information. Somewhat controversially attributed to Ibn Wahshiyya, Nabatean Agriculture sounds like a fascinating text that mixed star lore and magic with extensive practical advice about agriculture; I wish there was a complete English translation available, but read about it here.
(As an aside, I’m also interested in the relationship between agriculture and star lore showing up independently in both Mesoamerica and the Middle East. There seems to be some good evidence for strengthening the thesis that ritual might have preceded agriculture and laid the groundwork for it, that the experience of time in ritual might have preceded the understanding of time necessary for agriculture. In the Americas, you have the mound complexes, and in the Old World, you have Gobekli Tepi.)
The quote in question describes how rites of lamentation were shared by devotees to both Tammuz (Dumuzi) and St. George at the time of the manuscript’s composition. I quote it here as an opportunity to consider the relationship between continuity and memory.
Following on the last post, it seems as good a time as any to pull some quotations from Sigal’s The Flower and the Scorpion. The first set of quotes follow on the discussion of the dead mother, focusing on the cihuateteo.
Jake Stratton-Kent’s ‘What is Goetia?’ is making the rounds. His approach to doing magic, centered in the individual rather than the art, the cthonic rather than the celestial, is familiar (in the sense of being resonant with my way of doing things; see the witch / wizard discussions), but I’m going to suggest that there is a better way to approach the matter than he does in that essay, one that takes the work outside the (to my mind stultifying) conventions of talking about a Western Magical Tradition ™.