Pentagram Pizza without External Validation

pentagrampizza• Pharoah Tutankhamun was a lot more important dead than he ever was during his short life. So for him, can we say that the embalmers and craftsmen did give him immortality?

• Magic is a way of living: or why Dion Fortune got it wrong, from Anne Hill.

• Sannion on why you do not need external validation in your practice . . .

• . . .  followed by Galina Krasskova on the same topic: “How can you ever find your way, or center yourself fully in the road of devotion if you’re endlessly willing to change your path on the whim of a random person’s say so? How an there ever be integrity in what you do if you’re constantly worried about how others are going to respond?”

“Yana Dropped Off First”: Vanishing Pagans of Egypt and Syria

To begin with, there were just a handful of them. And some are going silent, as Cara Schulz writes for the Pagan Newswire Collective:

The situation in Syria appears to be more grave, according to the last messages I received from the five Pagans I chat with regularly.  They spoke of the fighting and how places looked like Beirut,  buildings just shells of themselves, rubble blocking the streets.  They detailed neighbors going missing.  Islamic fundamentalist patrols that monitor behavior and took violent action against people who violated rules and customs. They debated fleeing, worried about being outed as a Pagan, and started destroying or burying altars.  Three began attending local mosques to show their devotion to Islam.

I would bet that in a generation, even the Egyptian Christians will be gone, off to North America or somewhere else. I have even met a few in my area — and we see very few Middle Easterners. In this case, it was the family coming to visit their daughter who had married an American and then moved with him to this area — and then I heard that they were still in the United States. Trying for political asylum?

Sex with Ghosts, Vengeful Mummies, etc.

At The Hairpin, A Q&A with author, photographer, and ossuary expert Paul Koudounaris.

Two quotes:

Back in grad school I was known as the Fox Mulder of the art history department. Everyone else was working on Rembrandt and I was looking at woodblock prints of witches. . . .

If you consider Psycho, the one thing that makes Norman Bates absolutely unfit to be a member of human society is that he has his mother mummified and dresses her in clothes. That what marked him as a lunatic. But back in 1700 in Sicily that would have marked him as the paradigm of a loving son. At that point death was not a boundary, it was just a transition and the dead still had a roll to play.

I have my own ossuary on the mantel, but it is for birds and small mammals. It started with the discovery of a sharp-shinned hawk “in kit form” by the driveway when M. and I moved into this house.

The Daily Grail.

D&D in Ptolemaic Egypt

What were they doing with 20-sided dice? Here is one speculation:

The symbols for eta, theta, and epsilon can be clearly seen. Maybe it was used to determine which frat the ancients were going to pledge, but I’d like to think it was used to roll for hit points for warrior and sphinx classes. Now all we need is for someone to 3D-model this so we can print it out and make up our own ancient Egyptian version of D&D.

I suspect some kind of divination tool myself.

Puppy Mills for the Gods

When I read an article like “Millions of Mummy Puppies Revealed at Egyptian Catacombs,” I realize how little we know about what was really going on with popular religion there centuries ago.

It’s one thing to study the tombs of high-ranking individuals. We still put high-ranking individuals in fancy tombs, and we make pilgrimages to them. I have stood teary-eyed just contemplating the tomb of Thomas Jefferson, for example.

But puppy mills for the gods?

They estimate the catacombs contain the remains of 8 million animals. Given the sheer numbers of animals, it is likely they were bred by the thousands in puppy farms around the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, according to the researchers. The Dog Catacombs are located at Saqqara, the burial ground for the ancient capital Memphis.

“Our findings indicate a rather different view of the relationship between people and the animals they worshipped than that normally associated with the ancient Egyptians, since many animals were killed and mummified when only a matter of hours or days old,” Nicholson said. “These animals were not strictly ‘sacrificial.’ Rather, the dedication of an animal mummy was regarded as a pious act, with the animal acting as intermediary between the donor and the gods.”

If that is not sacrifice — what is? Giving something to get something is part of what sacrifice is about, isn’t it?

Ancient Egyptian religion has this bureaucratic feeling to it—all of those catacombs and holes like post office boxes full of dead things. They even mummified cuts of meat for tomb offerings (go through the photo sequence). I wonder if about 80 percent of the country’s linen production went into wrapping up bodies to be put away.

(Meanwhile, in ancient Scotland, they were doing funny things with skeletons.)

Necrophilia: An Ancient Egyptian Tradition?

This may be the worst sort of environmental determinism, but what is it with Egypt? Is there something in the Nile water?

For centuries Egyptian Paganism seemed to function—on one level—as as sort of post office of the dead. All those mummified cats, ibises, crocodiles, etc. neatly stacked in little p.o. boxes. What’s with that?

And of course there was the elaborate bureaucratic ritual that accompanied the mummification. The Greek historian Herodotus (a bit of a gossip) commented,

The wives of men of rank are not give to be embalmed immediately after death, nor indeed are any of the more beautiful and valued women. It is not until they have been dead three or four days that they are carried to the embalmers. This is done to prevent indignities from being offered them. (Link is to a different translation, but quite similar.)

Then, for several centuries, Egypt was mostly Christian. Christians liked to store the body parts of saints in their churches, which is why the Emperor Julian (PBUH) referred to them as “charnel houses.” What went on in the funeral business I do not know.

Today, in majority-Muslim Egypt, the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television network reports that Egyptian women’s rights campaigners (there are some) are protesting two laws proposed in the “Islamist-dominated parliament”:

She was referring to two laws: one that would legalize the marriage of girls starting from the age of 14 and the other that permits a husband to have sex with his dead wife within the six hours following her death. . . . . Egyptian prominent journalist and TV anchor Jaber al-Qarmouty on Tuesday referred to [cleric] Abdul Samea’s article in his daily show on Egyptian ON TV and criticized the whole notion of “permitting a husband to have sex with his wife after her death under a so-called ‘Farewell Intercourse’ draft law.”

Because nothing expresses grief over losing one’s spouse quite like that.

UPDATE: Another source says that no such law was proposed. Was Al-Arabiya fooled?

World Religions versus the Blue Bra Revolution

Washington Post writer Sally Quinn looks at photos of Egyptian soldiers beating an abaya-shrouded Muslim woman, and a light bulb goes on for her about major religions:

Why would men, particularly under the guise of religious belief, want to keep women down? Because they understand that women’s sexuality is something that they cannot live without, it is something that renders them powerless. Women can have babies, women can breastfeed, women are the lifegivers.

Sounds like much of the Pagan discourse beginning in the 1970s, if not earlier! Read more about her hoped-for “blue bra revolution.”

In related news, Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority is nervous.

For decades Copts have suffered attacks by Islamists who view them as “kafir”—Arabic for nonbelievers. But there is now a sense among Middle East experts that they have become more vulnerable since the revolution.

This year, mobs have looted and attacked Coptic churches, homes and shops throughout Egypt. Churches have been burned down, and one Copt had his ear cut off by a Muslim cleric invoking Islamic law.

Strong gains by Islamist parties in the recent elections have further raised fears among the Christian minority that they won’t have a place in the new Egypt.

An acquaintance of mine is married to an Egyptian Christian woman. Her parents recently came for what he said is a month-long visit — I see them around town with their daughter now and then. I am starting to wonder if they actually plan to go home or to seek asylum. Maybe they are weighing their options.

Ægypt in Northern California: Isis Oasis

Loreon Vigné

In 1957, a young artist named Lora Vigné and her husband moved from Southern California to San Francisco.

“It was 1957, the beginning of the Beatnik era, and we fitted the description,” she writes in her memoir, The Goddess Bade Me Do It!

No poser bohemian, she was already producing commercial ceramic pieces and enamel jewelry of her own design. She opened an art-supply store in North Beach and later a gallery, the Noir Gallery, at Stockton and Sutter streets downtown. Here she is on the cover of I Am a Lover (1961), a photo book of North Beach life at the peak of the Beat era.

(Her husband, Dion, was an artist, experimental filmmaker, and a doomed lover of Miss Poppy.)

By the late 1960s she had a thriving business and owned several properties in the city. She also owned ocelots, having created a large indoor/outdoor space for them between two of her houses, houses located on Isis Street.

A shrine to Isis.

When the city outlawed keeping bigger cats, she went looking for a rural home, which turned out to be an 8.5-acre site in Geyserville, Sonoma County, that had housed a retreat center for followers of the Baha’i faith from the early twentieth century until just recently before she bought it. It came with a lodge, a commercial kitchen,  the original Victorian farmhouse, and a theatre/worship building.

With the vision of Lora, now Loreon, and fellow devotes of Isis, it became Isis Oasis.

On November 18th, the first day of the American Academy of Religion annual meeting in San Francisco, I found myself in a two-vehicle caravan around Sonoma County on what we called the “Mojo and Materiality Tour.” Isis Oasis was the first stop. I was not sure what to expect. Something embarrassingly kitschy?

Loreon (wearing the same Egyptian-style eye makeup as in her old beatnik photos) was soon drinking tea with us all. She and I swapped stories of our visits to Clonegal Castle in Ireland, home of the Fellowship of Isis.

We wandered through the buildings. It is Ægypt in the California wine country—not the fractious, Islamist Egypt of today but an Ægypt of the imagination, where Isis is still worshiped, where there are priestesses, peafowl and big-gish cats, where visitors sleep in bedrooms thematically decorated to evoke Egyptian goddesses.

(Isis Oasis also makes an appearance in Erik Davis’s coffee-table book of California religion, The Visionary State: A Journey through California’s Spiritual Landscape.)

The only question, of course, will be the passing of the sistrum at some future day.

Steps to the large theater and temple.

Isis Oasis was the first stop on the tour. Now that I am home after the train journey, I will soon have more posts about the tour and the annual meeting itself.

Those Wacky Muslims

We keel you! (Part 241).

French magazine fights back after firebombing. Cartooni-jihadis also swarmed its Facebook page, leading the group Reporters Without Borders to call on Facebook to “renounce censorship” and let the editors access their own page.

I give them credit for guts: They plan to republish the “guest-edited by Muhammend” edition.

• Arab spring? Let the killing begin! Coptic Christian high school student murdered  by his own teacher (with help). Does teacher-education in Egypt include a course on strangling and bludgeoning, or is that learned in continuing-education classes? This sheikh perhaps inspired him.

I expect that we are going to see a whole lot of Coptic Christians in North America very soon, the ones who survive.

• Toy guns made in China are part of an anti-Islamic plot.

Refresher: Aisha  was the prophet’s 9-year-old wife. And he consummated the marriage right away. But, hey, it’s a different culture, and who are we to judge?

An Islamist group whose name means “Western education is forbidden” kills 63 people in Nigeria.

Declaring War on Bikinis and Pyramids

Why is this not surprising news? With the “Arab Spring” fading into the long hot summer, the Islamic militants in Egypt are focusing on their favorite targets (besides Coptic Christians): women, eroticism, and Paganism.

Some slight changes will be made in public beaches, to make the situation better than it was before,” Ali Khafagy, youth director of Freedom and Justice [part of the Muslim Brotherhood] in Giza, told The Media Line. “Bathing suits and mixing on the beach are things that go against our tradition. It’s not just a matter of religion. When I go to the beach I don’t want to see nudity.”

Right. “Slight changes.” There speaks the voice of incipient dictatorship.

And then there is Egypt’s big money-maker: tourism. A lot more people come to see the ruins of Pagan Egypt than to see any mosque in Cairo, but do the radical beardies care about that?

But bathing suits are not the only worry of Egypt’s Islamists. Abd Al-Munim A-Shahhat, a spokesman for the Salafi group Dawa, has said that Egypt’s world-renowned pharaonic archeology – its pyramids, Sphinx and other monuments covered with un-Islamic imagery – should also be hidden from the public eye.

“The pharaonic culture is a rotten culture,” A-Shahhat told the London-based Arabic daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday, saying the faces of ancient statues “should be covered with wax, since they are religiously forbidden.” . . . .

The Islamist challenges to the tourism industry in post-revolutionary Egypt have led to the establishment of the Coalition to Support Tourism, whose members also met with [Muslim Brotherhood official] Al-Katatny on Monday. The coalition, which includes a broad array of travel industry organizations and figures, argued that the real problem isn’t modesty but the absence of any strategy on the part of Egypt’s new parties to protect the country’s faltering tourism industry.

Would you book a cruise up the Nile right now? I doubt that many people are.