Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Snow Queen

Video Source: Youtube.

This is the Snezhnaya Koroleva [The Snow Queen] a 1957 Soviet animated film directed by Lev Atamanov. It was produced at the Soyuzmultfilm studio in Moscow and is based on the story of the same name by Hans Christian Andersen (Hat tip: Gina Theou).

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

World War III of Material Consciousness

Image Source: Astroquest Astrology.

Some think history repeats itself; some think that it is a progress. Sometimes it involves transformation. Astrologers believe that we are undergoing the second last of seven fateful revolutionary celestial events, which have been jarring the world's destiny from 2012 to 2015. Specialists in this esoteric field refer to a so-called 'square' between mighty planets Pluto (underworld, reforged power, control, epiphanies and metamorphoses) and Uranus (invention, innovation, sudden change, surprises), which occurred on 15 December 2014.

Skyscript describes Pluto's symbolic energy as follows:
Sometimes considered a 'higher octave' of Mars, Pluto is similarly powerful and penetrating, but on an unconscious and psychological level. It gradually permeates the subconscious with its drives, leaving the conscious unaware until suddenly and explosively it emerges in an instinctive response that brings sweeping and often devastating change in the psyche and way of living. It can thus be a force for great personal good or ill. It evokes the principles of resurrection and determination, which when positively expressed bring resolution; when negatively expressed, coercion.

Pluto governs the conversion of apparent lost causes into successful projects, but at times the receding of objectives when their point of realisation seems imminent; cycles of death and rebirth; disregard for vested interests; extremes of good and bad (including luck); the frustration and annihilation of plans; idealistic socially motivated organisations; ideas ahead of their time; the inspiration to put an end to failing conditions; involvement in organised groups and movements desirous of social reconstruction, which may include altruistic interest groups, political parties and think tanks, professional associations and trade unions, and also gangs and underground organisations; the negation and transformation of conditions; non-recognition of the legitimacy or impositions of officially established authorities; righteous indignation on behalf of social causes; and the voluntary relinquishment of worldly interests in order to advance spiritual development, or of home, country or fortune for marriage. It manifests in writers and dramatists who seek to inculcate reformist doctrines into their literary works. It is compulsive, intense, and sometimes manipulative.
Click to enlarge. Image Source: Tarot.com.

Skyscript describes the significations of Uranus as follows:
Seen sometimes as a 'higher octave' of Mercury, Uranus enables communication without the conventional mechanism of speech and physical conduction methods. It is therefore associated with radio waves, electromagnetic radiation and electricity, and nuclear radiation. It evokes originality, which when positively expressed manifests as inventiveness; when negatively expressed, as deviance.

Uranus confers contempt for conventional conceptions of morality; distaste at being controlled and at arbitrary forms of outside authority; executive ability; flashes of intuition; perspicacious and reliable insight into others' personal motivations; interest in the principles of religion and science, and in scientific investigation of material phenomena; an inclination to part with customs; and mechanical ability that favours engineering. It is aloof; altruistic; cool; critical; crushingly assertive; conscious of personal authority and power; directed by inner impulses; eccentric; erratic; firm-opinioned; frequently fatalistic regarding personal destiny; heroic; iconoclastic; illuminating; imaginative; impersonal; impulsive; ingenious; insistent upon independence; innovative; inventive of new ideas, methods, moral codes and occupations; liberating; moved by new circumstances; off-hand; organising; peculiar; positive; persevering when faced with obstacles to surmount; power-conscious; promoting; prone to sudden changes of mind and view; prophetic; revolutionary; romantic; self-centred; self-reliant; spasmodic; spontaneous; unbendingly willful; unsentimental; variable; and violently reactive against potential privations of freedom of thought and action; but when restricted, potentially anarchistic; bohemian; eccentric; fanatical; and invective and sarcastic without provocation.

Uranus signifies everything anomalous or unconventional; and the sudden smashing and transformation of outdated established Saturnian structures and restrictions. It also signifies bereavements, blind impulses, catastrophes, changes (especially sudden changes), constructive and mechanical ability, enemies, estrangements, exiles, people in power or authority, public affairs, romances, sudden events, sorrows, suicides, tragedies, and uncertain fortunes.

The glyphs for Pluto and Uranus are noted at 90 degrees to one another in this depiction of the planetary square. Image Source: Lunar Planner.

Astrologers believe that the same aspect - a conflict between power and innovation - affected other revolutions in history: Latin American independence in the 1820s; the 1848 revolutions; the Boxer Rebellion in China at the turn of the 19th-to-20th centuries; the first airplane flight of 1903; the founding of the Bolshevik Party, 1903; the Theory of Relativity of 1905; the first IBM computers of 1965; the social revolutions of the 1960s. It also appeared during the 1929 financial crash.

Image Source: Astroquest Astrology.

The astrological aspects are the same today as they were during the onset of World War II. However, the conflict now takes place in the realm of money and material consciousness, and governments are related insofar as their power hierarchies and economic systems are concerned. FemCentral considers the 2012-2015 Pluto-Uranus squares to be a World War III of finances, economic systems, our whole way of understanding money, materialism, and from that - our encrypted consciousness of the dividing line between the material and immaterial, which can involve religion:
Uranus was last in Aries from 1928-1935. This was the time of the Great Depression. Hitler. Rumblings of World War. During that period, Pluto was also square Uranus, as it is now. However, at that time, Pluto was in the sign of Cancer. It is currently in the sign opposite Cancer, which is Capricorn. ... I’m not predicting World War III. Yes, Uranus is in the same place it was in World War II, and it’s square Pluto, as it was then. But, Pluto was in emotional Cancer at that time. Now, it’s in the sign of tradition. Establishment. Money. This is what people are rebelling against. This is what will change.
From Astroquest Astrology:
I would suggest that by the time Pluto leaves Capricorn in 2022 we will have witnessed an entire change in our understanding of what it is that defines us and what it is that we hold dear and give 'value' to in life. This is the time when decadent regimes collapse and new ruthless regimes rise from the ashes. In the business world, many upheavals take place, as new business strategies replace the old economic models and business practices.

Uranus another outer planet, impersonal and inevitable in Aries will in 2012 be moving in and out of a square with Pluto, triggering many changes on a global level. ... Uranus and Pluto last squared each other in 1929 and we all know what happened in Wall St. then. Interestingly Uranus was also in Aries while Pluto was in Cancer, the sign opposite Capricorn where it is now. The Great Depression of the 30's had its biggest impact on families (Cancer) the concerns this time round are about governments defaulting and perhaps more banks collapsing (Capricorn). Interesting times!
There is a 2012 book on how the square pertains to the early teens of the 21st century: Uranus Square Pluto by Wendy Stacey. You can see the financial crash of 2008 further related to the square at Astroquest Astrology, here. Tarot.com comments on the 2012-2015 series of squares:
Some large institutions may fail, while other big corporate interests may consolidate and increase their power. We may witness political uprisings and social and religious revolutions. It could, in fact, mark an evolutionary leap for our entire species in terms of social and technological advancements.
Image Source: Universal Life Tools.

Universal Life Tools speaks similarly of this revolutionary aspect:
PLUTO in CAPRICORN is about inspiring major transformations in the hierarchical structures of governments, corporations & all those in places of power. ... ‘Pluto holds the vibration of transformation and evolution and Capricorn is about rolling your sleeves up and getting down to work… and together they influence the very foundations of governments, financial institutions, medicine, education… structures are/will break down in order to be rebuilt through evolutionary change’.

URANUS in ARIES is about rebellion against old paradigms and revolutionary change. ... ‘Uranus is the shake up planet governing revolution and evolutionary change…. exhilarating people to rebel against old fear based paradigms’.

When both PLUTO in Capricorn and URANUS in Aries square each other (sit at 90 degrees of each other on a 360 degrees astrological wheel ...) we are feeling an intense desire to rebel, revolt and not sit back and take it anymore.  We are so dissatisfied with the lies, deceit and propaganda, we just want to jump ship and start a new.   Yet at the same time, we know from a higher consciousness that running away is futile, as we need to work pro-actively to dismantle & tear-down and then rebuild, restructure and transform from the ground up.

In Addition to the Pluto/Uranus Square, on the 15/16 December 2014 Uranus is in opposition (180 degrees) to the MOON in LIBRA, and hence Pluto in Capricorn is SQUARING the MOON in LIBRA which together creates a Cardinal T Square. ... [T]he 15/16 December 2014 Cardinal T-Square will potentially create much emotional volatility and a strong impetus to break free from the perceive limiting restrictions of our social, political, hierarchical structures.  It may feel like a volcano is building inside of your as the intensity of the T-Square peaks on the 15/16 Dec. If you can hang in there and focus/build this intensity within, as we then come into the Summer/Winter Solstice on 21/22 December as the Sun moves into Capricorn,  combined with Uranus moving direct in our celestial skies, this will be the most effective time to channel these newfound inspirations from the T-Square and implement authentic steps in your life for personal and evolutionary change.
Wisdom of Astrology comments on the personal impact on individuals here, claiming that this 6th square and the December solstice will call on people to find balance in this conflict. We have to change, but what does that mean, exactly? The astrological predictions are fanciful and symbolic ways of describing the social, political and economic processes of change as well as individual experiences of those processes. We are confronted with the question: are we puppets fated by the universe, or agents of our destinies? How we transform ourselves will begin with a challenge to the financial system, and end with a personal exploration of the transition from the material and immaterial. This marks a realignment of priorities and approaches to material problems. Wisdom of Astrology argues that the end outcome of these speculations must involve an individual adoption of responsibility, a broad atomization of leadership:
This is the challenge of our times—to open to our own brilliance and re-create the world.  We have to become conscious co-creators of life—we have to consciously evolve ourselves and our society to the next stage of human awareness.  Facing what’s going on can’t make us so depressed that we give up and opt out.  That’s what patriarchy hopes we’ll do.  That’s a failure to evolve, because the next step for humanity is conscious community in the Age of Aquarius. We have to be living examples of those principles for the future good of our world.

... We have to face what’s happening in our world—face our collective choices of war and fear and of giving over power to our ‘new kings’—the corporations and banks.  If we withdraw our support from those corporate entities as much as possible, they will die out from lack of life.
To live our spiritual values means that we have to become social activists and live out our beliefs.  And so we become leaders in our own small way.  That is the Aquarian ideal, you know—everyone at the Round Table is equal, free and responsible for the collective welfare.
Image Source: FemCentral.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Look Skyward: The Geminids

Image Source: Space.com.

The nights of 12-14 December 2014 will see the height of the Geminid meteor shower, a brilliant display from an extinct comet, named for the son of the ancient Greek sun god. For a complete worldwide guide on watching these falling stars, go here.

A Geminid fireball over the Mojave Desert (2009) &copy: Wally Pacholka. Image Source: AstroPics / TWAN via Scibuff.

To see the meteors, look for the easy-to-spot constellation of Orion. The constellation of the twins, Gemini, is nearby, to the left of Orion. The meteors appear to originate from Gemini. The shower is known for its slow moving meteors and exciting fireballs. Space.com: "If you have not seen a mighty Geminid fireball arcing gracefully across an expanse of sky, then you have not seen a meteor," note astronomers David Levy and Stephen Edberg." NASA:
Geminids are pieces of debris from an object called 3200 Phaethon. Long thought to be an asteroid, Phaethon is now classified as an extinct comet. Basically it is the rocky skeleton of a comet that lost its ice after too many close encounters with the sun. Earth runs into a stream of debris from 3200 Phaethon every year in mid-December, causing meteors to fly from the constellation Gemini. ...

On Dec. 13, Cooke and a team of astronomers from Marshall Space Flight Center will host an overnight NASA web chat from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. CST, answering questions about the Geminid meteor shower. The Geminids are expected to peak just before dawn on Dec. 14, with a predicted peak rate of 100 to 120 meteors per hour.

To join the webchat on Dec. 13, log into the chat page at: http://www.nasa.gov/connect/chat/geminids_2014.html

A few minutes before the chat, a chat window will be active at the bottom of the page.

In addition, a Ustream feed from a telescope at Marshall will be available: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc
Even if you can't see the meteor display from your part of the world, you can watch them online. The online Slooh Community Observatory will host a live webcast of the Geminid meteor display on Saturday night beginning at 8 p.m. EST (0100 Dec. 14 GMT). You can also watch the Slooh webcast directly: http://live.slooh.com/. NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke will also host a live Geminids webchat on Saturday night from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. EST (0400 to 0800 GMT), as well as a live webcast.

You can watch the webcasts of the Geminid shower live on Space.com, starting at 8 p.m. EST, courtesy of Slooh and NASA. The Italy-based Virtual Telescope Project will also host a Geminds webcast, beginning at 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT).

Although the bright moon will be high in the sky by 11:30 p.m. local time Saturday (Dec. 13) (during the shower's peak), skywatchers can still catch a potentially incredible show before the moon creeps above the horizon, washing out the sky. Stargazers might be able to see an average of one or two Geminid meteors per minute Saturday before the moon rises.

By around 9 p.m., the constellation Gemini — the part of the sky where the meteors seem to emanate from — will have climbed more than one-third of the way up from the horizon. Meteor sightings should begin to really increase noticeably thereafter.
Be ready to make a wish!

See all my posts on Astronomy.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Mars Colonizers and the Secrets of the Universe

Image Source: BBC.

Space exploration will tell us the secrets of the universe. This is because space exploration is a synthetic act. It demands a united vision from, and intense cooperation among, diverse experts. It will require a Millennial convergence of many fields of research and knowledge, which have been divided and sequestered through overspecialization over the past two hundred years. No matter the focus - from cryptocurrencies to the relationship between anti-ageing and cancer - every area of human endeavour and study seems set for epiphany. We are coming from many different paths to a higher consensus of understanding which we cannot yet see.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Cultural Footprint of Jodorowsky's Dune

Image Source: Amazing Stories.

For every generation, there is a window of opportunity to create what Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky's son Brontis called, "a dreamed life." This is the Beautiful Alternative, the path not followed, the epitome of achievement not attained due to failure, impediments, lack of resources or similar circumstances. In cinema, Jodorowsky's 1970s' adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune (1965) is considered by director Richard Stanley as "the greatest movie never made." A 2013 documentary on the subject argues that, at a critical time in the 1970s, this film marked the dividing line between what really matters artistically and real world limitations. And the fact that this particular film was not made because of monetary problems, and the unwillingness of the studios to bring such a radical vision to popular audiences, changed Hollywood and the entertainment industry forever.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tomb of a Sleeping Queen?

Image Source: AP via National Geographic.

From Marie Antoinette, a modern Austrian princess, we go back through time to another queen, Olympias. We go back through Austria, or Österreich (the 'Eastern Reich,' the modern remnant of the Eastern Roman Empire), and before Rome, back to Greece. In Greece, archaeological circles are buzzing about a newly-discovered burial chamber from the time of Alexander the Great (Hat tip: Graham Hancock). It is 2,300 years old and is the largest ancient tomb in northern Greece.

The burial mound stands near ancient Amphipolis, 600 kilometers (370 miles) north of Athens. The tomb inside the mound is massive, marble-walled and ornately decorated, and must house the body of a royal personage, perhaps Alexander's mother or wife.

It is unlikely to be the tomb of the famous king himself, whose grave is lost somewhere in Egypt - another mystery waiting to be solved. The site is dated after his death, in the latter quarter of the 4th century BC, approximately between 325 and 300 BCE. Alexander died in 323 BCE. A member of the Argead dynasty ('from Argos'), Wiki describes him simply: "The most notable ancient Greek King and one of the most celebrated strategists and rulers of all time. Alexander at the top of his reign was simultaneously King of Macedonia, Pharaoh of Egypt, King of Persia and King of Asia." Because of his blinding legacy, still evident today, Alexander's impact arguably surpasses that of any other leader of the ancient world, including the Persian kings, the Egyptian pharaohs, and successive Roman emperors. Unsurprisingly, that interpretation is disputed by modern Iranian scholars. Legacies aside, the tomb dates from ancient Greece's highest moment of glory and power before the flowering of a multicultural Hellenistic imperial culture, which eventually led to the emergence of the Roman Empire after the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Marie Antoinette's Millennial Rococo

Image Source © Cathy Fitzgerald via etsy.

The Internet has made history ahistorical, a treasure box for post-Postmodern plunder. Globalization allows designers to create a crazy quilt of anachronistic, cross-cultural references. Even as traditions are upended, they gain new life. For example, the world has never been more republican, but royal families survive as minor celebrities. There is also a subculture devoted to some royals who have achieved historical dead movie star status.

Image Source: etsy.

Popular history of these dead stars survives in role-playing clubs and historical reenactment communities, fueled by the Internet. The craft merchant site Etsy gives a snapshot of the cult around Marie Antoinette.

Even in her lifetime, she fell prey to a modern pattern of celebrity. She entered the French court as a teen-aged magnet of attention, and set the highest standard of beauty among her contemporaries. After giving birth in front of an audience of hundreds of courtiers she complained:
"I put on my rouge and wash my hands in front of the whole world!"
There are many cryptic and apocryphal quotations associated with her, including the falsely attributed, 'Let them eat cake,' to dismiss the starving people of Paris. This was actually a quote from Rousseau, published when Marie Antoinette was only nine years old and still living in Vienna.

Her mother, the great Austrian empress Maria Theresa, purportedly consulted a seer on whether her daughter would be happy in France; and the seer supposedly replied:
"There are crosses for all shoulders."
Finally, one of the most famous quotations associated with the ill-fated French queen is:
"I have seen all, I have heard all, I have forgotten all."
She still represents ornately-adorned beauty and lavish, glittering excess. She is also popular in Gothic circles as a morbid symbol of retribution for wastefulness and exploitation, a pale face of warning. This mixed message of wealth and justice, beauty and death rings true today, and so her popularity endures.

Addendum (23 October 2015): Tea at Trianon found an English transcript of Marie Antoinette's trial, here.

Image Source: etsy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembrance Day Irreducible

Portsmouth Naval War Memorial, Hampshire, UK. Image Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

A common inscription on 20th century war memorials is taken from Ecclesiasticus 44:7:
"All these were honoured in their generations, and were the glory of their times." 
The quotation, used in this context as opposed to its original biblical chapter, recalls that war is a bloody moment of transformation, which freezes in time because of the sacrifices of its participants. It suggests that war serves, in a terrible way, a social purpose which is poorly understood, and that social purpose, or change, comes at a cost. Rituals around Remembrance Day focus on values, veterans and memories. Behind that, there is the irreducible truth of episodic and savage convulsions in history, which force transformation.

Remembrance: First World War French Officer's Time Capsule

Hubert Rochereau’s room in a house in Bélâbre, France. Images Source: Bruno Mascle/Photoshot Images via the Guardian.

The Guardian recently reported on a time capsule which preserves a French soldier's room exactly as he left it before he left for the front during the First World War. It haunts the viewer and brings back to life a European domestic world that would be forever transformed by the war. The family stipulated that the room should not be changed for 500 years:
The name of dragoons officer Hubert Rochereau is commemorated on a war memorial in Bélâbre, his native village in central France, along with those of other young men who lost their lives in the first world war.

But Rochereau also has a much more poignant and exceptional memorial: his room in a large family house in the village has been preserved with his belongings for almost 100 years since his death in Belgium.

A lace bedspread is still on the bed, adorned with photographs and Rochereau’s feathered helmet. His moth-eaten military jacket hangs limply on a hanger. His chair, tucked under his desk, faces the window in the room where he was born on 10 October 1896.

He died in an English field ambulance on 26 April 1918, a day after being wounded during fighting for control of the village of Loker, in Belgium. The village was in allied hands for much of the war but changed hands several times between 25 and 30 April, and was finally recaptured by French forces four days after Rochereau’s death.

The parents of the young officer kept his room exactly as it was the day he left for the battlefront. When they decided to move in 1935, they stipulated in the sale that Rochereau’s room should not be changed for 500 years.

Image Source: HuffPo.

Photos from HuffPo include a photo portrait of the officer. Images Source: Matthieu Bock of Europe1 via HuffPo.

Image Source: news.com.au.

Image Source: tumblr. 

Image Source: tumblr. 

World War I, Day by Day

Monks watch the bombardment of Liège by a Zeppelin Airship. "Deutscher Luftflotten Verein" in the Battle of Liège (6 August 1914). Image Source: WWI Propaganda Cards.

To remember the centenary of the beginning of the First World War in 1914, the BBC has a general Website (here) and posted several podcast series (here; thanks to -C.). Among them, 1914: Day by Day (here) is narrated by historian Margaret MacMillan and gives a day-by-day account of the opening of the war in 1914, based on archival documents. By presenting this history in short recordings, one gains an understanding of how a great war could unfold on a daily basis and how contemporaries reacted. Imagine their shock and growing fear, their realization that this war was different from all the ones before it, when the Bank of England was forced to close on 31 July 1914, or when German Zeppelins bombed the Belgian city of Liège, the first air attack on a European city, on 6 August 1914.

Zeppelin attack on Liège 9 August 1914 (Albert Ebner Kunstanstalt München). Image Source: WWI Propaganda Cards.

The bombardment of Liège (Gustav Liersch Berlin Kr. 45 Art by: Hans Rud. Schulze). Image Source: WWI Propaganda Cards.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Charm of Early Faith and Everlasting Life

Image Source: ReJesus.

Mysterious Universe reports on the discovery this September of a sacred charm, which demonstrates the earliest known use of magic in the Christian religion. (Hat tip: Graham Hancock). The spell is written in Greek on a 1,500 year old papyrus and dates between 574 CE and 660 CE. It was uncovered by researcher Roberta Mazza among other papyrii in the archives of the Library at the John Rylands Research Institute in Manchester, UK. Mazza assumed that folds in the papyrus indicate that the charm was likely worn inside a locket for protection. She remarked:
"The almost illegible text says that it was  released in the village of Tertembuthis (modern el-Ashmunein [in Egypt]) and is a receipt for the payment of grain tax which was certified by the tax collector from the village. Therefore we may reasonably guess that the person who re-used the back for writing the amulet was from that same village or the region nearby, although we cannot exclude other hypotheses. ... The amulet maker would have cut a piece of the receipt, written the charm on the other side and then he would have folded the papyrus to be kept in a locket or pendant. It is for this reason the tax receipt on the exterior was damaged and faded away."
Earliest known Christian magical spell refers to the bread at the Last Supper as manna from heaven. Image Source: Capital OTC.

The amulet links the Jewish Old Testament idea of manna, or food from heaven created at twilight on the sixth day of Creation, to the sacred bread eaten at the Last Supper, as described in the New Testament. This connection suggests that manna was the bread at the Last Supper, and it granted everlasting life to those who consumed it because it came from a celestial and sacred source. Manna is a curious symbol which bridges the physical and the metaphysical. As a charm, the papyrus embodies and coveys to its bearer some of that transitional power:
Whether or not it is overtly acknowledged as such, modern Christianity certainly maintains many of the primary components that could allow us to make such comparisons; namely that of prayer, and belief in its healing power as wrought by a merciful creator of all existence. And although it is aged by some 1500 years, the papyrus charm newly rediscovered at John Rylands Research Institute in the UK signifies the earliest known instance of such superstitions being observed in conjunction with a physical token of some kind.
The charm's text combines words from Psalm 78:23-24, Matthew 26:28-30 and other Biblical passages and reads:

“Fear you all who rule over the earth.
Know you nations and peoples that Christ is our God.
For he spoke and they came to being, he commanded and they were created; he put everything under our feet and delivered us from the wish of our enemies.
Our God prepared a sacred table in the desert for the people and gave manna of the new covenant to eat, the Lord’s immortal body and the blood of Christ poured for us in remission of sins.”

Monday, November 3, 2014

Small Worlds

Rotifer showing the mouth interior and heart shaped corona (40x) by Rogelio Moreno (2014). 1st Place.

Here are some of the winners from Nikon’s annual Small World microscope photography contest. (Hat tip and Images Source: Wired.)

Rhombohedral cleavage in calcite crystal (10x) by Alessandro Da Mommio (2014). 2nd Place.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Feast of the Faithful Departed

Image Source: Salt and Light.

Today is All Souls' Day, when Catholics and other Christians celebrate the souls of the faithful departed. Salt and Life blog summarizes the meaning of this feast:
All Souls are our family and relatives, our neighbors and friends, our ancestors, that “cloud of witnesses” who accepted the godly realism of their lives, shared it with others already on earth, and continue to do so now before the throne of the Lamb in heaven. For this reason, they are truly blessed, and give us a reason to hope, to believe, to struggle and to live. The feast of All Souls and the month of November is a source of consolation for each of us.
All Souls follows the carnival of the dead in October, when unsettled and unforgiven spirits are freed to bewitch and unnerve, to drag away unsuspecting people and seduce them with the pleasures of the world and ensnare them in purgatorial diversions. What follows Hallowe'en's excesses is the celebration of All Saints on 1st November. And then on the 2nd of November, All Souls, a renewal of perspective, a pulling together, a recollection of what really matters.

The Christian feasts incorporated pre-Christian holidays, creating a yearly calendar that is a moral and psychological journey, bound up with the cycles of nature. Just as it is normal to go through periods of self-doubt, to lose one's way, it is natural, having found a new path, to experience a sense of renewed direction and purpose.

While this psychological journey is represented in other religions, the central challenge of the Christian tradition has always incorporated a tension between the individual and the collective. The historically Christian societies seek to resolve this central paradox: how can one battle to achieve the greater good in individualistic societies, which abhor an all-dominant collective? Which comes first: the individual or the community?

If Hallowe'en is a voyage into the excesses of the self, then All Souls is a reminder that there is a departed, silent collective, whose journey was somehow victorious. These souls still bear witness on the living. Even from a non-Christian or secular perspective, the symbolic message of such a journey is epic and compelling. Will the ghosts of 107 billion people bring counsel to those who are living stewards of reality?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Hallowe'en 2014!

Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), Fairy Mab (c. 1815-1820). Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington. "Mab is the chief fairy in folklore and literature. Fuseli's source for this subject was John Milton's poem L'Allegro (around 1630). The painter claimed that he was attempting to express 'female Nature'. Fuseli emphasises the themes of sensual indulgence and sexuality, with a fairy slumped into a bowl of junket (sweetened cream) and another little spirit holding a spoon and bowl, symbolising male and female genitals."-Tate. Image Source: Madame Pickwick (Hat tip: -C.).

Happy Hallowe'en! This marks the end of the Countdown to Hallowe'en blogathon. I was too busy blogging to check all the other participants, but be sure you do so (here). I did have a chance to look at Plaid Stallions, Dark Mind of a Feminist, The Ghost Town, The Grim Gallery, Limer Wrecks, Russian Nerd, Radiator Heaven, and Wonderful, Beautiful, and Strange Finds, and I was not disappointed!

On the Internet, reddit is Creepy Central; you can look at these subreddits for Hallowe'en chills, but you may regret it.
Theodore Von Holst (1810-1844), Bertalda, Assailed by Spirits (Bertalda von Kuhleborns Geistern erschreckt) c.1830. Von Holst was Fuseli's student. This painting is taken from the novella Undine (1811) by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué. Image Source: Wiki.

Below the jump, see more creepy sights, read spooky stories and listen to ambient suspense and ambient horror music. All copyrights belong with creators and are reproduced under Fair Use for non-commercial appreciation and discussion only.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: The Death Rites of the Toraja

Tau tau - Toranjan effigies of the dead - on a balcony in Indonesia. 'Tau tau' means 'like a person' or 'little person.' Image Source: Wiki.

The most elaborate funeral rituals in the world occur among the Toraja people of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. The locals have partly converted to Christianity, and partly to Islam. The remainder adhere to a system of polytheistic animism known as Aluk ('the Way' or 'the Law' - a religion of laws and habits); in this tradition, death is central to the culture. Because death rituals were and are so important to this culture, they persist among converts to other religions who have otherwise abandoned Aluk, at least insofar as life-oriented rituals are concerned. Thus, one might have a hybrid religious life: a Christian wedding but a traditional, animist funeral.

Among the Toraja, dying is an epic journey with several stages, starting with an in-between state where the living make the dead walk through all the places they frequented in life. These are complicated funerals which can last for years, because the higher the status of the deceased individual, the more expensive and involved the funeral, including sacrifices of many buffaloes and pigs and the involvement of the entire community in some ceremonies. Family economies revolve around the stages of death, rather than the stages of life. Ancient Origins:
During their lives, the Tarajans work extremely hard to accumulate wealth. But unlike other societies, the Tarajans do not save their money to give themselves a good life, rather they save for a good send off in death. In fact, it is the extravagance of the funeral, not the wedding, which marks a family’s status.
At the second stage after death, the physical presence of the dead person splits in two between the corpse and a doll version of the corpse, called the tau tau; the act of carving is divided into several stages, punctuated by sacrificial offerings:
The tau-tau is fashioned before the second phase of a major mortuary ritual for the dead commences. During the manufacture of the doll, the woodcarver sleeps near (or even under) the house where the deceased lies on view. Actual work on the effigy also takes place in the vicinity of his house, possibly even on the floor of the rice barn opposite the tongkonan. When the image is completed it is placed beside the dead. Just like the deceased, the tau-tau receives food to eat (an offering, indeed, for giving food to the tau-tau is a ritual process). All this occurs before and during the second phase of the ritual, in other words for quite same time, as the time lapse between the first and the second phase of the ritual can be considerable.
Expenses include everything from the required carving and dressing of the tau tau effigy to buying the corpse new clothes and cleaning the body at least every three years, in a ritual called Ma’nene.

Further cruel sacrificial blood-letting (and subsequent meat distribution according to social status to both the corpse and living villagers) which follows is matched by the eerie fact that the body is not buried until the family raises funds to cover vast funeral expenses. Therefore, one may confront a corpse hanging around the house and town until his or her relatives can afford to inter the body:
When a Torajan dies, family members of the deceased are required to hold a series of funeral ceremonies, known as Rambu Soloq, over many days. During this time, the deceased is not buried but is embalmed and stored in a traditional house under the same roof with his or her family. Until the funeral ceremonies are completed, the person is not considered to be truly dead but merely suffering an illness. The dead relative is referred to simple as “a person who is sick” or “the one who is asleep”. Remarkably, this could even last several years after death, depending on how long it takes the family to raise money.
These practices have fueled a counter-surge of funeral tourism among foreigners, fascinated by this grim religious fixation on the liminal stage between life and death.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Virtual Reality, Unexplained

Still from the Wyoming Incident (2006). Image Source: Crushable.

Explore the faked and the unexplained in the mass media and you enter a realm which is one part crime and one part law enforcement, where disinformation mingles identity theft with social control, vigilantism and espionage.

Image Source: imgur.

"A computer-generated 10-year-old Filipina called 'Sweetie' was used to identify over 1,000 child sex predators around the world. An Australian man has become the first person convicted from the operation, the rights group behind it said." (2014) Image Source: Business Insider.

Fake identities and Internet stings give way to the unaccountable. There are things out there on the Web which are just 'out there,' with no explanation. Some are anonymous experiments in mass communications. Post something weird, see what happens. What kinds of urban legends form? How quickly? From reddit:
Some people post frightening material to trick the unsuspecting. Take the Wyoming incident in 2006 and 2007, in which pranksters posted cryptic videos with frightening messages (see below). These videos supposedly carried forward footage from an earlier television broadcast signal intrusion onto the new medium of the Interent. Speculation on the meanings and origins of the videos went viral, and a strange blog, Unknown Videos - Warning, joined in the fun before it turned out that the clips of earlier television hacking and the new videos online were faked. You can read the account of the incident on Crushable here. If you want to explore more bizarre faked online horror, visit the Website Creepy Pasta - the term refers to creepy stories which float around the Interwebs. Note: some viewers may find the videos below the jump to be disturbing.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Lake Natron

Lake Natron, a body of water in northern Tanzania can be deadly due to its high salt content and proximity to an active volcano, known among the Maasai people as the 'Mountain of God.' Local legend has it that when the volcano erupts, god is walking the earth. The volcano's proximity to the dead lake fits, since volcanoes are mythically considered doorways to the Underworld or hell. Indeed, Lake Natron looks like a toxic pool out of a fairy tale, the dead marsh a hero would cross before he might enter a dark kingdom. At its deepest point, the lake is just under ten feet deep, and is surrounded by the calcified bodies of creatures unfortunate enough to get trapped there. The process which preserves them resembles that of ancient Egyptian mummification (Images Sources: HuffPo, Viral Maze, Nick Brandt).

A calm eruption from the great volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai or 'Mountain of God' near Lake Natron. Image Source: Geological Sciences.

The photos here of frozen bodies went viral on the Internet, supposedly depicting a lake of death which instantly turns to stone all creatures that touch it. The peculiar ecosystem actually favours flamingos. Photographer Nick Brandt placed dead creatures around the lake's shoreline in 'living' poses; his photos are artfully faked poses of corpses. The Mary Sue:
No one is disputing that Natron is a dangerous place for most species, of course. As the New Scientist says, the lake can reach temperatures up to 60 °C and has an alkalinity between pH 9 and pH 10.5 ... [and] can ... burn the skin and eyes of animals who aren’t adapted to it. It also does preserve many of these animals’ bodies, specifically due to the combination of chemicals that are deposited into the water via runoff from a nearby Great Rift Valley volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai.
Unfortunately, the nuances of this lake’s ecosystem seem to escape many a casual observer, and what people appear to be taking away from most coverage is this: that there’s a lake in Africa that kills literally every creature that comes near it (which is false), and that it’s capable of killing those creatures instantly by turning them to actual stone (which is also false).
... [T]he preservation process is not something that happens instantaneously — it happens over a much longer period of time. Though the photos taken by Nick Brandt depict the petrified birds on perches and in naturalistic poses as if they were just petrified, they are all entirely staged. Brandt said as much in an e-mail to NBC news: “I unexpectedly found the creatures — all manner of birds and bats — washed up along the shoreline of Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania[... .] I took these creatures as I found them on the shoreline, and then placed them in ‘living’ positions, bringing them back to ‘life.’”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Through the Cat's Eye

.Gif Source: Z. Scott / We Invent You.

If Dogecoin is anything to go by, dogs are the new cats of the Internet, except in October, when cats are the cats of the Internet.

Cats are prominent in stories in which human and animal senses overlap. The cat symbolizes an unaccountable metamorphosis from animal to human and back again, and is often used as a metaphor for the transition from wilderness to civilization and the precariousness of civilization. The symbol of that transition must be ancient, because the earliest known example of domesticated felines dates from 9,500 years ago.

Bakeneko are Japan's feline answer to werewolves: "Bakeneko prostitutes [who could take near-human form] were a common urban legend / folklore during the Edo period." Image Source: 百物語怪談会 Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai.

Among the Japanese yōkai, or supernatural creatures, one finds the demonic bakeneko (化け猫, "changed cat"). The bakeneko symbolizes this transition from wilderness to civilization because, as Wiki puts it,
"Cats in particular ... have acquired a great number of tales and superstitions surrounding them, due to the unique position they occupy between nature and civilization. As cities and towns were established and humans began living farther apart from nature, cats came with them. Since cats live close to humans yet retain their wild essence and air of mystery, stories grew up around them, and gradually the image of the bakeneko was formed."

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Sasquatch Screams in the Forest

Trailcam, probably bovine, but found on a sasquatch site. Image Source: Bigfoot Hunt.

I don't believe in sasquatches, but I don't go camping in distant woods with recording equipment, either. Lots of people do; bigfoot is big business. The cryptid primate is also attracting the attention of big science. Finding another great primate species is not inconceivable, as this 2004 report on a newly-discovered species of giant, 2-metre-high chimpanzees from the Congo testifies. The Royal Society went so far this year as to do DNA testing on what might be bigfoot hair samples. You can see the July 2014 publication on their results here. Their oddest finding was that one of their hair samples came from an extinct polar bear:
"Sequences derived from hair sample nos. 25025 and 25191 had a 100% match with DNA recovered from a Pleistocene fossil more than 40 000 BP of U. maritimus (polar bear) but not to modern examples of the species."
They concluded that some hair from the Himalayas came not from a yeti, but from a "previously unrecognized bear species." The study further remarked that the samples presented simply did not come from any unknown primate:
With the exception of these two samples, none of the submitted and analysed hairs samples returned a sequence that could not be matched with an extant mammalian species, often a domesticate. While it is important to bear in mind that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and this survey cannot refute the existence of anomalous primates, neither has it found any evidence in support. Rather than persisting in the view that they have been ‘rejected by science’, advocates in the cryptozoology community have more work to do in order to produce convincing evidence for anomalous primates and now have the means to do so. The techniques described here put an end to decades of ambiguity about species identification of anomalous primate samples and set a rigorous standard against which to judge any future claims.
For recent BFRO bigfoot encounter records in North America, go here. For 2014 news reports on bigfoot sightings, go here, here, here and here.

Bigfoot videos also spawn hybrids with Millennial media genres: the law enforcement dashcam video (closer look here); the 911 call; the outdoors adventure TV show video; trail cams (see also here, here and here); tourist footage (shows the comic ingenuity of a British Columbian town when gophers and Bighorn Sheep just weren't cutting it in terms of bringing in Chinese tourists); community TV shows; and the paranormal research teams with night vision equipment. There is of course no real 'found footage,' but 2013's film Willow Creek filled that gap.

Purported audio recordings of sasquatches (listen to them here) are more frightening than faked photographs of people loping around the bush in ape suits. Sasquatch Canada has an account from a witness who heard screams in the British Columbian forest:
Man Recalls Experience He Had in July 1998, Near Hope B.C., [Canada] 2:30 a.m.
I was I think maybe 17-18 years old. Myself and two friends were walking up Kawkawa Lake road, from first beach (where I lived), to second beach(where my buddy lived). It's important to me that you know I WAS quite drunk, and moderately stoned at the time(My parents had left me at home alone for a week for the first time). Anyway, it was about 2:30AM and we were making our way up the hill. We were hooting and hollering quite loudly as 3 drunk 17 year olds are want to do, being pretty immature. We came to a point where the road forks; the right takes you towards the Othello Tunnels and the Coquihalla highway via back roads and trails, and the other carries on towards second beach. On the left was a rocky bluff covered in trees and on the other side of the bluff would be Kawkawa Lake. We were just coming up on the bluff when the night was ripped apart by a scream/shout/growl the likes of which I had never heard before, or since. It was primal and it ranged from a deep roar to a high pitched screaming. It was like king cong, roy orbison and axle rose screaming in rage but SO LOUD. The vocal range was stunning. You felt it in your bones. I feel it is really important to tell you how overwhelming to the senses the sounds was. Anyway the trees on the bluff(cedar I believe), began to rock and shake like they were made of paper mache'. These were not small trees, but branches and needles were raining down on us and the road. Have you ever heard the expression "scared sober"? I am not at all ashamed to tell you that I lost some control of my bowels, I was so scared. The whole thing was certainly no more than 2 minutes, but probably less than that. I am old enough to know that time does funny things to your memory. I have never forgotten that incident. As time goes on I feel more and more strongly that it was a sasquatch I witnessed that night. I am open to suggestion as to what else could have made such a sound, and caused large trees to shake. I have heard suggestions of bear, but I doubt it. It was very dark and there were not many streetlights back then on that road. I strongly suspect that our "hooting and hollering" caused something to give us a strong warning to piss off.
Youtube proves that sasquatches become something else on the Internet, whatever they may or may not be in reality. Bigfoot is a centre of online community building. This is true in general: the weirder the draw, the more enjoyable (at least initially) the community can become for its sheer craziness. People love congregating around insane bullshit. Take this excerpt from a 'squatch' argument, where online squatch authorities battle with skeptics:
  • "That's a really big load of BS you just dumped on us. I've never seen a dead chimp, therefor I have no alternative accept to believe you when you say you know where the sasquatch cemetery is? BTW, nothing says loser quite so much as using the term 'squatch.'"
  • "Sick of fucking morons commenting on Sasquatch related videos. Do a fuck load of research lime I have then come back ,and I'll respect your opinions more. And saying squatch says I'm a loser does it? And why is that? Please do tell. I'm all ears. Nothing says loser more than a comment lime yours. Listen to every damn episode of Bigfoot hotspot radio on here. That's your first task. Especially the episode with coombo. Particularly EPs 18 to 35."
  • "Thanks for the suggestions, but I prefer a reality based life."
  • "'A park ranger saw a burial happening through his binoculars the day after a big squatch was shot by a camper'  what's your source?  The Weekly World News?"
  • "It is reality. Just a part of reality you yourself haven't witnessed yet. Spend a few weeks on a Sasquatch hotspot at the right time of year then come back here. Remember, just because you haven't seen something, doesn't mean thousands of other people haven't. You think you know everything about this planet. Think again."
  • "Thousands of 'new' species are discovered each year in jungles, wildernesses, deep forests etc. Did they exist before they were 'discovered' by humans? Even if you only count the land which is able to support humanoid life (ie don't include deserts, ice caps etc) then humans still only occupy HALF the habitable land on earth. 6 billion humans live on half the land on earth. The rest is still wilderness. And most of that land has never even been foot surveyed by humans because it is just too impenetrable. If you cannot drive a car or ride a horse through dense woods or rough terrain then you cannot carry food/ water or equipment. So you must walk. That means you cannot go more than a few miles - especially if you have to machete your way through thick bush which is slow and exhausting work. This means there are millions of acres that are effectively free of humans. And that is where most of the bigfoots live. A few stray close to human settlements and that is when they get filmed. Is it not conceivable that a few hundred thousand or even a few million bigfoots might exist in all that untouched land?"
  • "'It is reality.' No. It is fantasy. "Just a part of reality you yourself haven't witnessed yet.' Neither has anyone else. 'Spend a few weeks on a Sasquatch hotspot at the right time of year then come back here.' And perhaps eat some of the local wild mushrooms? ... 'Remember, just because you haven't seen something, doesn't mean thousands of other people haven't.' That's true. But just because thousands of people THINK they have seen something, (or merely claim they did) does not mean that they really saw what they think."
The dynamic is similar to online communities everywhere; a pecking order depends upon the duration and intensity of the member's communal involvement. You have to do your time in the trenches, or you can forget about being respected. At this point, these people could be talking about anything, from nuclear warheads, to terrorism, financial investment, corporate takeovers, cryptocurrencies, football, video games, space aliens or leprechauns. It really doesn't matter. The real, human action lies in the development of the community, not in discovering the true nature of sasquatches. And so, the more popular Bigfoot becomes, and the more humans congregate around Bigfoot, the more the elusive cryptid remains a complete mystery.