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Why did almost every ancient civilization have a found religion?

Why did almost every ancient civilization have a found religion?


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I'm studying to be an Anthropologist and I've always had this question but I cannot get a definitive answer. Almost every ancient civilization I have studied, whether it be in the Old or New World had some sort of religion. Why did all of them think that there was a higher power or powers? Why is it so consistent throughout the world?


We can't know for sure, because our information is so scanty about very early civilisations. The two obvious possibilities are:

  • Humans have an innate tendency to invent explanations for things they don't understand, and to treat them as having personhood.

  • Rather than being innate, this happened to be a cultural value among early humans, and has been passed down to us since then.

It's extremely hard to distinguish between these possibilities at this distance in time. While experiments could be designed to distinguish between them, they would involve bringing up newborn children without human contact. This is considered profoundly immoral, and thus the experiments should not be done.


Why did almost every ancient civilization have a found religion? - History

The Uniqueness of Jew-Hatred
Hatred of the Jew has been universal, permanent and deep. Death for the Jews has been desired and plotted by the tyrants of every age. Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Caesar, the Turks, the Christians, the Muslims, Stalin, Hitler and almost every great power that ever lived and flourished, defined the Jew as a target for abuse or complete annihilation. Jews have been expelled from nearly every country in which they resided ? England, France, Hungry, Austria, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, Portugal, Bohemia, Moravia, Russia, Poland and the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, and of course, from their ancient homeland, Eretz Israel .

Throughout the centuries, many millions of Jews were murdered, including millions of infants and children. The Babylonians and Romans killed three million Jews. The Christians and the Muslims, in their Crusades, inquisitions, conversion decrees, blood libels and general religious fervor over a span of 15 centuries slaughtered millions of Jews, often wiping out entire communities. Chmelnitzky and his bandits beheaded 300,000 Polish Jews during 1648-49, while Hitler put to death a third of our people, including one-and-a-half million children. In nearly every country where Jews have lived, they have, at some time, been subjected to beatings, torture and murder, solely because they were Jewish.

And though many of us thought that the evil of anti-Semitism perished in a post-Auschwitz world, we have been rudely awakened during the last few years, as it once again has reared its ugly face, particularly among Arab nations and sympathizers in Europe.

Why such hatred and fear of a people who never constituted more than a small minority? Why did almost every great culture and civilization see us as their ultimate enemy? Are we really such an evil people as to threaten the well-being of virtually every civilization for the past 4,000 years?

Most scholars and historians, including many Jews themselves, choose to view this ongoing obsession not as something uniquely connected to Jews or Judaism, but rather as a multitude of isolated events erupting as a result of distinct circumstances. For example, why do millions of Arabs hate Jews today? Why are thousands of them inspired to burn Jewish babies alive? Because ? the common explanation goes ? we are occupiers, occupying their country, and they yearn for liberation. If Israel would only grant the Arabs independence and hope, the venom would dissipate.

But why did they kill us before the "occupation" of 1967? Why did six Arab countries try to destroy Israel at a time when there were no settlements or settlers? Because, during the War of Independence in 1948 between the newly created State of Israel and its Arab neighbors, hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled their homes and ended up in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza. The Arabs were seeking to return to their homes inside pre-1967 Israel.

But why did the Arabs initiate this war against Israel in 1948 and thus create, through their own error, the refugee problem? Why did they not accept the United Nations' partition of Palestine and accept the reality of Jewish existence in the Jews' ancient homeland? For this we must search for another explanation.

The attempt continues to remove the notion of anti-Semitism from anything distinctly Jewish. The Germans, we are told, hated the Jews because they were scapegoats for a depressed economy. And the Christians wanted the Jews dead because they claimed we killed their god. Stalin murdered Jews because he believed they were capitalists, while Europeans of the Middle Ages were repulsed by the Jew because of his economic success, and on and on.

Yet, this approach is unconvincing. To deny that there is a single ultimate cause for all anti-Semitism, to reject that an underlying reason has sparked the hatred of billions of non-Jews for four millennia, contradicts both common sense and history.

Anti-Semitism has existed too long and in too many disparate cultures to tolerate a claim that each culture hated the Jews because of some distinct factor disconnected from being Jewish. To believe that Jew-hatred is just another form of racial or religious bigotry, lunacy, ethnic hatred, lack of tolerance, xenophobia, resentment of affluence and professional success, is to turn a blind eye to the core cause of this unique loathing. Of course, various factors may exacerbate anti-Semitism and cause it to erupt at a given time, but these factors do not explain the origin and genesis of this hatred.(1) One scholar put it well: Economic depressions do not account for gas chambers.(2)

Haman's Attempt
The famous Purim story, recorded in the biblical Book of Esther and read during the Purim festival, relates one more attempt, made some 2,500 years ago, to reduce the Jewish people to a pile of ashes, this time by a Persian minister named Haman. Haman approached the then-king of Persia, Achashverosh, and offered him a tremendous sum of money in exchange for permission to arrange a "Final Solution" of having every member of the Jewish people ? men, women and children ? put to death. The king responded: "The money is given to you (Haman), and the nation (of Israel) is yours to do with as you see fit."(3)

This interaction seems quite understandable to me. Achashverosh, a no less miserable anti-Semite than Haman, happily embraces the idea of a world devoid of Jews. Yet, the Talmud apparently feels it necessary to illustrate the situation by means of a parable.(4)

A Mound and a Ditch
"Achashverosh and Haman are compared to two people, one of whom had a mound of dirt in his field, and another one who had a ditch in his field. The owner of the ditch said to himself, 'How I wish the owner of the mound would give me his mound in exchange for money, so that I can fill my ditch.' And the owner of the mound said to himself, 'How I wish the owner of the ditch would sell me the use of his ditch, so that I can remove the mound of dirt from my field and dump it into his ditch.'

"After some time," relates the Talmud, "these two men encountered one another. The owner of the ditch said to the owner of the mound, 'Sell to me your mound!' The owner of the mound responded: 'Please, take it for free.'"

The Talmudic illustration is clear. Achashverosh is compared to the owner of the mound, which is a metaphor for the Jewish people. He desperately seeks to get rid of it. Haman is seen as the owner of the ditch, eagerly attempting to obtain the mound. When Haman offers to purchase the "mound" for money, Achashverosh gladly gives it to him for no payment at all, enthusiastically consenting to the annihilation of the Jews.

But here is the question: Parables quoted in Talmudic literature are never meant as entertainment, but rather as tools to clarify and crystallize an abstract or complex concept. Yet, what is so difficult to understand about a story of two people who despise the Jews with similar intensity and eagerly cooperate to destroy them? Why do we need a parable about a mound and a ditch to clarify the situation between Haman and Achashverosh?(5) And even if there is some difficulty in understanding what transpired between Haman and Achashverosh, how is it explained by means of this seemingly simple and superficial parable of a mound and a ditch?

What is more, the parable doesn't even fit the story it is attempting to illustrate. In the parable, the owner of the mound is seeking to dispose of his mound while the owner of the ditch craves to obtain the mound and fill his ditch with it. In the actual story, however, both the owner of the "mound," Achashverosh, as well as the owner of the "ditch," Haman, wish to dispose of the "mound" ? the Jewish people ? and get rid of it completely. You can't fill a ditch with a mound that you crave to annihilate!(6)

Two Layers of Anti-Semitism
What the Talmud is really attempting to convey via this parable is an answer to the question we raised at the onset of this essay: Why, nearly always and nearly everywhere, have Jews been hated? Why did Haman crave to kill every single Jew, down to an infant? Why would King Achashverosh be so eager to purge his country from all Jews? What have the Jews really done to attract such profound universal animosity?

It is this question ? perhaps one of the great questions of history ? that the Talmud is attempting to confront in this little passage.

Anti-Semitism, the Talmud is telling us, is multilayered, with a "body" and a "soul." The "body," or the outer, external layer of anti-Semitism as personified by Achashverosh, sees Jews as a "mound." The inner, deeper and more complicated layer of anti-Semitism personified by Haman views the Jew as the cause of a universal "ditch."

The external layer of anti-Semitism sees the Jew as a mysterious and suspicious stranger in world history, a foreign creep, a "mound" that simply does not belong here and ought to be disposed of. The Jew is perceived as a cancerous tumor, an alien growth, the ultimate intruder. The Jew may attempt to do everything possible to assuage the discomfort and mistrust the gentile feels toward him. He may sell himself, his soul, his people and his values. But it is usually to no avail: As long as the Jew is alive, he will remain, in many a non-Jewish eye, an irritable "mound", obstructing freedom and comfort.

Yet this crude outer shell, or "body," of anti-Semitism, is born of a deeper and subtler space within the non-Jewish consciousness: the soul behind anti-Semitism. Jewish existence opened a "ditch," a vacuum, in the heart of the human race, and every non-Jew, in one way or another, is aware of this truth, causing him to look at the Jew with admiration and affection, or with hate and repulsion, or with a mixture of the two.

Confronting a Ballad of Eternity
"What is the meaning," asks the Talmud, "of the term Mount Sinai? Sinai, in Hebrew, means hatred. Sinai is the mountain that gave birth to Jew-hatred." (Talmud, Shabbas 89a)(7)

Some 3,500 years ago, at the feet of a lone mountain, the Jewish people received a gift that transformed their life and destiny for eternity. No matter whether religious, secular or assimilated, that moment imbued Jewish life with the dignity of eternity, the nobility of the divine and the grandeur of the infinite. The gift of Torah inculcated Jewish life with tremendous moral and spiritual responsibility, but it simultaneously granted the Jewish heart, the Jewish home, the Jewish family and the Jewish community ? rich and poor alike ? a taste of heaven.

When the non-Jew encounters the Jew, he is, consciously or subconsciously, struck by a richness of spirit, a depth of living, a resonance of eternity and an echo of the divine that is not easily described, but very palpable. There is something about the Jew that is larger than life, and the non-Jew feels it, sometimes more acutely than the Jew.

The Jewish presence, challenging the world with a call from the infinite, forming a collective conscience of the human race, opened a hole, a "ditch," in the heart of humanity. The Jewish people, by the shared richness and fullness of their lives, compelled the world to confront a feeling of spiritual emptiness in the absence of a life guided by a higher morality, ultimate dignity and purpose. The Jewish people opened a profound wound in the soul of civilization, causing it to wonder of its obsession with power and material wealth is, at the end of the day, meaningless.

Few things are as unbearable and as frightening as the recognition of your life being insignificant and meaningless. Thus, the non-Jewish response to this "ditch" exposed by the Jewish presence was swift and sharp, and it came in two different forms.

Some non-Jews responded by actually elevating their lifestyles to a higher plateau. They assuaged the feelings of emptiness by forming a life and value system grounded on the Torah's weltanschauung. The American nation, founded on the Judaic ethic of respecting the liberty and individuality of man formed in the image of G-d, remains a vibrant and blessed example of this choice. This is why most of the Founding Fathers were authentic philo-Semites, cherishing and celebrating the Jew and his Jewishness.

John Adams wrote, "I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize man than any other nation." He wrote as a Christian, but added that even if he were an atheist and believed in chance, "I should believe that chance had ordered the Jews to preserve and propagate to all mankind the doctrine of a supreme, intelligent, wise, almighty sovereign of the universe, which I believe to be the great essential principle of all morality, and consequently of all civilization."(8)

This path, though, requires extraordinary discipline and sacrifice. Living with the G-d of the Torah is a tremendous burden. It demands that one challenge his or her ego, laziness and selfishness on a daily basis it requires one to surrender many instincts, cravings, lusts and natural dispositions. It is rewarding and fulfilling, but not easy.

Sadly, most non-Jewish cultures and civilizations opted for an easier and more instinctive method through which to "fill" their mental and psychological "ditch": Kill the Jew, they said, and the void will be gone.

This is the "soul," or the deeper, spiritual layer, of anti-Semitism, engendered by the very existence of the Jew, who by his history, value system, indeed, his very being, reflects the rays of a living G-d of morality, justice, love and humility. It is a resentment and hostility directed toward the cause of a persistent emptiness in life.

Today, more than ever, the choice is clear. You can overcome this emptiness by cultivating a life of goodness and kindness, a life consistent with the divine image at the core of every human being, a choice personified by so many of our non-Jewish neighbors in today's world. Or, if you choose to follow the crude and evil dimension of man's psyche, you can come to hate and be repulsed by the Jews.

The attempts of many a tyrant to destroy the Jew were, in essence, a demonic drive to dethrone G-d and declare Him dead. The alternative, keeping the Jew alive, meant to live with the unbearable pain of personal emptiness. This also means that antisemitism is not only a "Jewish problem," it is a disaster for every moral and decent non-Jew as well. "Watch how a nation, religion, a political movement treats Jews, and you have an early and deadly accurate picture of that group's intention toward others. Anti-Semites wish to destroy the perceived embodiment of that higher call to the good, the Jews. But they do not hate the Jews alone. They hate whatever and whoever represents a higher value, a moral challenge."(2)

Haman's Rage
Not all anti-Semites were aware of the "soul" of their hatred. Haman was. When the entire Persian elite bowed to Haman daily, with the exclusion of one Jewish rabbi, Mordechai, the Bible tells us that Haman "was filled with rage."(9) Why? Imagine thousands of people prostrating themselves before you on a daily basis, except one old ultra-religious man with a white beard. Big deal! Why was Haman so perturbed by the sight of one obstinate Jew not falling on his knees to worship him?

Because Haman, in a very deep place, knew that Mordechai had it right. Mordechai's behavior resonated in Haman's inner heart. It exposed the truth that Haman was not a god. Haman, craving to become a deity with ultimate power, was forced to confront the mediocrity and emptiness of his own ego.

He thus approached Achashverosh and said: I have a ditch in my heart, which I cannot bear anymore. I must rid the world of its Jewish presence. Achashverosh, a far less intelligent and complex person, responded: Great! The Jews, for some reason or another, always irked me regardless. I'd be more than happy if you can remove this cursed mound from my presence.

The Solution
One of the many conclusions of the aforementioned idea is that the proper method of dealing with Jew-hatred in all of its manifestations is not to attempt to eclipse or deny one's Jewishness and the unique role of the Jewish people in history. The gentile, instinctively and accurately, feels the "otherness" of the Jew the non-Jew innately senses the holiness embedded within the Jewish soul. When the Jew denies this holiness, when the Jew, embarrassed by his Judaism, tells the world, "I am just like you," the non-Jew senses a lie, a secret conspiracy, and he despises the Jew even more. The world will forever dislike Jews who dislikes themselves.

The Jew also knows that bribing, appeasing, and trying to bend over backwards to those who hate us will not supplant their hate with love. The animosity stems from too deep a place for it to be transformed through money or appeasement. Jews always knew that their primary and eternal hope remains in their relationship with G-d, the sole Master of the universe, through the Torah and its Mitzvos .

That is why, when Mordechei and queen Esther learned of Haman's decree, the first thing they did was engage in fasting, prayer, repentance and good deeds. Only after three days of fasting and introspection, did Esther use her position as the beautiful wife of the king and attempt to influence him, in the midst of a drinking party, to obliterate the decree against the Jews. Now, if Esther wished to impress her husband, she should have gone to a beauty-parlor, not fast for three days. Esther knew, as every Jew knows deep down in his heart, that salvation will not come from a man who sees the Jews as an eternal "mound." Salvation will come from G-d. Therefore, the first and foremost objective is to strengthen our relationship with G-d. Only afterward are we called to follow the course of nature and attempt to influence world leaders to help secure the survival of the Jewish people.

Once we have secured our relationship with G-d, there is hope that G-d will manipulate the hearts of the Jew-haters to assist, rather than destroy, the Jews.

[This essay is based on an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Purim 1965 (11)]


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The first pomegranate

Even the pomegranate’s domestication is cause for argument: where, when and by whom.

If “domesticated” is defined as being morphologically distinct from “wild” thanks to unnatural selection (by farmers rather than by evolution), then the domestication of wheat began over 23,000 years ago, in the Land of Israel that of the goat is a work in process, everywhere and the domestication of the cat never happened (except in Scotland, where breeders seem to feel that ears are a frippery).

By that definition, the pomegranate has been domesticated. The type we eat looks very different from the ancestral version, which by now survives only on an island in the Arabian Sea.

It seems the pomegranate was domesticated more than once, in several places around Iran, the Levant and Near East, possibly starting about 8,000 years ago. Much later it would reach the Far East too: Charred seeds thought to be from a pomegranate have been found in the tomb of a woman in Mongolia that may date back as far as 2,200 years, the period of the Han dynasty. The seeds were placed by her head. Everywhere it went, the pomegranate was eaten, used for medical purposes, and for dyeing. And sometimes to worm the kids. In contrast to other ancient practices that still exist but don’t achieve much, such as acupuncture, the anthelmintic (parasite-destroying) properties of pomegranate have been proved.

Hieroglyph shows a peasant couple harvesting papyrus, with pomegranate trees below. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt

Held in esteem by the peoples preceding them and all around them, it seems that the Israelites had access to the pomegranate at the same time their religion was taking shape. It appears time and again in the Bible, not in the context of Rosh Hashanah of course, which didn’t exist as a holiday by that name when the Bible was written. Some have even suggested the pomegranate – not the apple – was the original forbidden fruit, a belief that early Christians would embrace. For what it’s worth, both apple and pomegranate are indigenous to the areas postulated as models for the Garden of Eden.

In any case, even in biblical times, the Israelites, like the peoples around them, ascribed lofty properties to the pomegranate. The fruit’s role as a New Year symbol – like the holiday itself – would develop much later, though. One of the earliest written accounts connecting the pomegranate and fertility to the Jewish New Year itself was by Rabbi David Abudarham, who lived in Spain during the 13th and 14th centuries and was a student of the famed Rabbi Jacob ben Asher. His book Sefer Abudarham contains the first reference to eating pomegranate during the holiday, and to the prayer “may our blessings proliferate like the [seeds of the] pomegranate.”

But the cultural roots of the pomegranate’s spiritual aspects are much, much older.

The goddess and the shipwreck

The wild pomegranate apparently originated in Iran or in the Near East, depending which archaeologist you ask. What we can definitively say is that there are two extant species. The original, ancestral one survives only on the island of Soqutra, or Socotra, which lies between Yemen and Sudan and is (presently) controlled by Yemen.

Spoon with pomegranate branch motif - Egypt, New Kingdom, late Dynasty XVIII, probably reign of Tutankhamun Daderot

That ancestral species is called Punica protopunica. Its fruit is small and brownish and, in a word, inedible. Its main use is medicinal, though not all beliefs regarding protopunica peel paste have been empirically tested. But it is the forebear of the ruby-fleshed species that the rest of the world eats, Punica granatum (“grainy apple”), scientists say.

Today the tasty granatum grows throughout the Caucasus and Central Asia, from Iran to north India, carried possibly less by migrating farmers than by marauding conquerors.

Beliefs in its powerful properties, and its depictions in art, have abounded since prehistory. The contexts of ancient pomegranate art are religious and/or elitist. This was no Mesopotamian equivalent of the potato.

Among the great many ancient depictions of pomegranates are decorations on a vase found in a mansion in the Sumerian city of Uruk, founded over 5,000 years ago (and today in Iraq). Uruk was a vast metropolis for the time and was reportedly ruled by the great Gilgamesh himself in the 27th century B.C.E.: the city survived until the 7th century C.E. The Sumerians, who are believed to have been one of the earliest farming civilizations, offered pomegranates to the goddess Ishtar, who considered them sacred. In other words, the religious aspects of the pomegranate have been around almost as long as its cultivation.

The fruit also appears in Assyrian palace reliefs dating to almost 4,000 years ago, and in statuary: in the ruins of Nimrud, excavators found (among other things) a pomegranate made of ivory, and a relief of a strange winged being with a tiny pomegranate on its collar.

One of the roughly 8,000 cuneiform tablets found in the Neo-Babylonian Eanna temple archive from around 600 B.C.E. records a sacrificial offering of 500 pomegranates (and dates) to Ishtar. Only fine fruits, mark you: inferior pomegranates would not be served to the Lady of Uruk in her in “sacred meals”.

The Sumerian adoration of Ishtar and her pet tree could in and of itself be indicative of where early Jews came across adulation of the fruit. Like the holiday of Rosh Hashanah itself, Jewish regard for the pomegranate could have begun in Babylon. As Elon Gilad explains, by the time the Jews returned from there to Israel in 516 B.C.E., the start of the Second Temple period, their religious practices had profoundly changed compared with the pre-exile era.

Or regard for the pomegranate may have begun before. The Canaanites that the Israelites would have met revered the fruit: pomegranate depictions have been discovered in the 13th century-B.C.E. pagan temple at Lachish.

Pomegranate art has been found in Jericho, one of the world’s oldest cities, dating from before Jews existed. A wooden box was found in a tomb associated with the Hyksos, mysterious occupiers and rulers of ancient Egypt for a time around 3,700 years ago. That box was found to contain carbonized pomegranate seeds. Again, one wouldn’t store fruit of inferior status in a precious receptacle.

In any case, the Hyksos are accredited with taking the pomegranate along with them as they savaged their way south and west, eventually conquering ancient Egypt.

Apropos, the ancient Egyptians seem to have been appreciative of this foreign fruit. Prof. Cheryl Ward of the Archaeological Institute of America notes the pomegranate’s depiction in temples and tombs dating to the post-Hyksos Egyptian 18th dynasty, which stretched from around 1550 B.C.E. to 1292 B.C.E. Pomegranate-themed artifacts in Tutankhamen’s tomb include a scepter and vases in the form of pomegranates, one made of precious silver. What use these receptacles would have been to the pharaoh or his minions is not clear, other than possibly decorative, like the ceramic pomegranates sold everywhere in Israel towards Rosh Hashanah. They really aren’t useful except as emergency presents or paperweights.

Regarding Asia, some think the fruit made its way there from Eurasia via Silk Road traders. In China the fruit had roughly the same symbolism: fertility, eternal life, marriage, prosperity, abundance and reincarnation.

In any case, pomegranates were clearly being farmed from the early Bronze Age, and were regarded as a delicacy. Further testimony to the fruit’s lofty status is the extraordinarily preserved 3,400-year-old Uluburun shipwreck off Turkey, which had been laden with elite-oriented cargo, as its finders put it. That cargo included precious stuffs like resin, statuary made of ivory, metals, ostrich eggs – and pomegranates.

Xerxes rides to war

The roots of Judaism itself lie in the mists of history, as does Jewish iconography that connects the pomegranate to fecundity. The history of the Jews is intertwined with that of surrounding cultures, from whom not a few beliefs and practices were evidently expropriated, not least the thought that the pomegranate has anything to do with anything other than worming the family.

Throughout the Levant, going back at least 5,000 years, the pomegranate was associated with life itself, with marriage and fertility – and also with death.

The ancient Persians seem to have been especially enthralled by its symbolism.

Though the religious motivations of great kings so long dead must remain opaque, the Persian king Xerxes is thought to have been a follower of Zoroastrianism, a religion whose roots seem to go back as much as 4,000 years, if not more. The followers of Zarathustra revered the pomegranate tree as a perennial and therefore, as a symbol of divine eternal life. (Not that the Zoroastrians thought people could achieve eternal life: the role of humans was to battle the lie.)

Anyway, the Greek historian Herodotus, who lived in the 5th century B.C.E., describes Xerxes riding out of Sardis with his soldiers, hoping to complete his father Darius’ failed conquest of Greece. Xerxes’ warriors bore modified spears, which may have attested to their belief in their own immortality, or to hope of striking terror into the breasts of fruit-fearing enemy:

“Behind him came a thousand spearmen of the best and noblest blood of Persia, carrying their spears in the customary manner after them a thousand picked Persian horsemen, and after the horse ten thousand that were foot soldiers, chosen out of the rest of the Persians. One thousand of these had golden pomegranates on their spear-shafts instead of a spike, and surrounded the rest the nine thousand who were inside them had silver pomegranates. Those who held their spears reversed also carried golden pomegranates, and those following nearest to Xerxes had apples of gold” (The Histories, 7.41).

While Xerxes did manage to maintain the Persian grip over Egypt, and while he did almost burn Greece to the ground, ultimately his troops lost to the Greeks, at the famed battle of Salamis, in 480 B.C.E.

For their part, the ancient Greeks may not have ascribed quite the same belligerent qualities to the pomegranate. But they also associated it with deities, specifically to their own fertility goddess, Demeter and to her daughter Persephone.

There are several versions of the tale explaining why. The smitten Hades, god of the underworld, reportedly abducted the unfortunate Persephone, a deity herself, being the daughter of Zeus and fertility goddess Demeter, says Homer.

Where she was abducted changes with who is telling the tale. Wherever it happened, Demeter was enraged by the act and set out to search for her, meanwhile shutting down fertility, causing the world to become barren. Persephone herself, in hell, fasted, on the grounds that if she ate there, she would have to remain for eternity. Spurred to action by the wails of the starving world, Zeus ordered Hades to return Persephone – which he did. But first he beguiled her into eating enough pomegranate seeds to keep her by his side in the underworld for at least part of the year. Ancient sources differ on whether she had to stay there for three months or six, but in any case, her time underground is winter, and her time above ground with the other gods is summer.

The bounty of Canaan

While the peoples around them tended to revere or respect the fruit for its association with life and fertility, the Jews would become more specific.

Like Zoroastrians, the ancient Hebrews became monotheistic, a slow and painful process, it would seem, judging by the numerous biblical references to angering Yahweh with their idolatrous ways. Like the pagans around them, the Hebrews gave the pomegranate myriad symbolisms.

It is listed as one of three fruits brought to Moses by his scouts, to demonstrate the fertility of the Holy Land, a.k.a. Canaan:

“And they came unto the brook of Eshkol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs” (Numbers 13:23).

Among the evidence of pagan respect for pomegranates are a skeleton dated to the 13th century B.C.E. found at Nami, Israel, which had been buried with bronze pomegranate scepters and Canaanite graves with clay pomegranates.

Come the 10th century B.C.E., King Solomon is supposed to have built the First Temple, whose pillar capitals featured pomegranate imagery (1 Kings 7:20). Sadly, these decorations were looted by invading Babylonians in the 6th century B.C.E., as the prophet Jeremiah describes with much pain.

In fact – maybe – the only artifact found from the First Temple is a two-inch tall ivory pomegranate. Some think it crowned a scepter. Some think it’s a fake. Writing on the fruit’s neck has been interpreted to read “holy to the priests, belonging to the House of Yahweh.” Some think the pomegranate is real and the writing is a later addition, i.e., fake. The jury is still out.

“The fact that alleged forgers used the already-ancient ivory pomegranate to simulate a temple artifact supports its recognition (even by criminals) as a sacred symbol,” suggested archaeologist Mary Abram of Brigham Young University in 2009.

Still later, the priests serving in the Second Temple had pomegranates embroidered on their robes, according to Exodus 28. It is also one of the seven species (two grains and five fruits that were permissible for offerings in the Temple). Pictures of pomegranates appear on ancient Judaic coins.

The tradition that the pomegranate has 613 seeds, corresponding with the 613 mitzvot in Torah, is a late development based on misunderstanding of the Gemara, the Orthodox Union explains. Different pomegranates have different numbers of seeds, period.

Come the Muslim era, the pomegranate would retain a mystique. The Koran describes it as a blessed fruit, though falling short of attributing special powers to it:

“And He Who has brought into being gardens, the trellised and untrellised - and the palm trees, and crops, all varying in taste, and the olive and pomegranates, all resembling one another and yet so different” (Surah Al-Anaam, Chaper 6, Verse 141).


Almost all living people outside of Africa trace back to a single migration more than 50,000 years ago

Australian Aborigines have long been cast as a people apart. Although Australia is halfway around the world from our species’s accepted birthplace in Africa, the continent is nevertheless home to some of the earliest undisputed signs of modern humans outside Africa, and Aborigines have unique languages and cultural adaptations. Some researchers have posited that the ancestors of the Aborigines were the first modern humans to surge out of Africa, spreading swiftly eastward along the coasts of southern Asia thousands of years before a second wave of migrants populated Eurasia.

Not so, according to a trio of genomic studies, the first to analyze many full genomes from Australia and New Guinea. They conclude that, like most other living Eurasians, Aborigines descend from a single group of modern humans who swept out of Africa 50,000 to 60,000 years ago and then spread in different directions. The papers “are really important,” says population geneticist Joshua Akey of the University of Washington, Seattle, offering powerful testimony that “the vast majority of non-Africans [alive today] trace their ancestry back to a single out-of-Africa event.”

Yet the case isn’t closed. One study argues that an earlier wave of modern humans contributed traces to the genomes of living people from Papua New Guinea. And perhaps both sides are right, says archaeologist Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany, a co-author on that paper who has long argued for an early expansion out of Africa. “We’re converging on a model where later dispersals swamped the earlier ones,” he says.

A decade ago, some researchers proposed the controversial idea that an early wave of modern humans left Africa more than 60,000 years ago via a so-called coastal or southern route. These people would have launched their migration from Ethiopia, crossing the Red Sea at its narrowest point to the Arabian Peninsula, then rapidly pushing east along the south Asian coastline all the way to Australia. Some genetic studies, many on mitochondrial DNA of living people, supported this picture by indicating a relatively early split between Aborigines and other non-Africans. But analysis of whole genomes— the gold standard for population studies— was scanty for many key parts of the world.

Three large groups of geneticists independently set out to fill the gaps, adding hundreds of fully sequenced genomes from Africa, Australia, and Papua New Guinea to existing databases. Each team used complex computer models and statistical analyses to interpret the population history behind the patterns of similarity and difference in the genomes.

A team led by evolutionary geneticist Eske Willerslev of the University of Copenhagen zeroed in on Australia and New Guinea in what Akey calls a “landmark” paper detailing the colonization of Australia. By comparing Aboriginal genomes to other groups, they conclude that Aborigines diverged from Eurasians between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago, after the whole group had already split from Africans. That means Aborigines and all other non-African people descend from the same out-of-Africa sweep, and that Australia was initially settled only once, rather than twice as some earlier evidence had suggested. Patterns in the Aboriginal DNA also point to a genetic bottleneck about 50,000 years ago: the lasting legacy of the small group that first colonized the ancient continent.

The majority of Aboriginal people here in Australia believe that we have been here in this land for many thousands of years. I am ‘over the moon’ with the findings.

Colleen Wall, a co-author on the Willerslev paper and elder of the Aboriginal Dauwa Kau’bvai Nation in Wynnum, Australia

In another paper, a team led by population geneticist David Reich of Harvard University comes to a similar conclusion after examining 300 genomes from 142 populations. “The take-home message is that modern human people today outside of Africa are descended from a single founding population almost completely,” Reich says. “You can exclude and rule out an earlier migration the southern route.”

But the third paper, by a team led by Mait Metspalu of the Estonian Biocentre in Tartu, makes a different claim. Analyzing 379 new genomes from 125 populations worldwide, the group concludes that at least 2% of the genomes of people from Papua New Guinea comes from an early dispersal of modern humans, who left Africa perhaps 120,000 years ago. Their paper proposes that Homo sapiens left Africa in at least two waves.

Reich questions that result, but says that his and Willerslev’s studies can’t rule out a contribution of only 1% or 2% from an earlier H. sapiens migration. Akey says: “As population geneticists, we could spend the next decade arguing about that 2%, but in practical terms it doesn’t matter.” The most recent migration “explains more than 90% of the ancestry of living people.”

Still, changes in climate and sea level would have favored earlier migrations, according to a fourth Nature paper. Axel Timmermann and Tobias Friedrich of the University of Hawaii, Manoa, in Honolulu reconstructed conditions in northeastern Africa and the Middle East, based on the astronomical cycles that drove the ice ages. They find that a wetter climate and lower sea levels could have enticed humans to cross from Africa into the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East during four periods, roughly around 100,000, 80,000, 55,000, and 37,000 years ago. “I’m very happy,” Petraglia says. His and others’ discoveries of early stone tools in India and Arabia suggest that moderns did expand out of Africa during the early migration windows. But those lineages mostly died out. The major migration, with more people and reaching all the way to Australia, came later. “Demographically, after 60,000 years ago something happens, with larger waves of moderns across Eurasia,” Petraglia says. “All three papers agree with that.”

The studies show Aborigines’ ties to other Eurasians but also reinforce Australia’s relatively early settlement and long isolation. As such, they reaffirm its unique place in the human story. The continent holds “deep, deep divisions and roots that we don’t see anywhere else except Africa,” Willerslev says. That echoes the views of Aborigines themselves. “The majority of Aboriginal people here in Australia believe that we have been here in this land for many thousands of years,” Colleen Wall, a co-author on the Willerslev paper and elder of the Aboriginal Dauwa Kau’bvai Nation in Wynnum, Australia, wrote in an email to Science . “I am ‘over the moon’ with the findings.”

For more coverage on our evolutionary roots, visit our Human Evolution topic page.


Why most of the civilizations were taken over by the Europeans?

I wasn't going to respond any more, but your replies were so full of lies and errors, I had to respond just one more time to show how dishonest you are.

I didn't invent the arguments, as you imply. You made the statements that the Ottomans invented the gun technology that they didn't, as any one can see for themselves. It wasn't just tactics, you made it clear you said the Ottomans invented the weapons technology also, as you can see from a couple of your post. It is impossible to debate someone if they are going to deny what they said every time they get caught being wrong as you are doing here.

Note, your above statement is wrong, yet you dishonestly pretend you didn't say it. You are pretending you didn't say it, because I provided too much documentation show how completely wrong what you said was. Your talk of "civility" is seriously undermined by falsing implying persons of making things up, when in fact your dishonestly pretend not have said something.

What you said was not subtle nor true. Since the witch trials started even before the Reformation, as I pointed out in the case of the Valais Witch Trials, and occurred in both Catholic and Protestant countries, as I showed, and what you said ceraintly was not true. Not only do you make exactly the same kind of unsupported generalization that you repeatedly accuse me of making, your are clearly wrong to boot. As usual, the true is the opposite of what you say.

Here is what you said. Protestant encouraging of the peasant would not account for the witchcraft trials in Catholic country, where the Protestants wouldn't have any influence. Typically, you provide not source for your claims.

AssyrianMelodies

Lucius

Sorry, right, yes: instead of "western civilization," I should have written, "Europe."

All I meant was that Britain had Hong Kong. France had Indo-Chine. Spain had the Tierra del Fuego. Germany had Namibia. Portugal had Timor. Denmark had one of the Virgin Islands. Italy had Somaliland.

China didn't have any treaty ports in Europe.

That mutual emulation of so many active rivals thing really works.

Savaran

Barbarians always invade, take other's land and goods. that's why many countries invaded by europeans.

Kauchenvinci-0

Barbarians always invade, take other's land and goods. that's why many countries invaded by europeans.

Lucius

Kauchenvinci-0

Bart Dale

First of all, I want to apology for a number of my remarks in some previous post, I lost my temper when I wrote them, and then thought I had deleted them, but apparently all I ended up doing was double posting.

It is you that has to prove the Church destroyed most of the runes - the burden of proof is on you that they did, not me that they didn't. However, the absence of any evidence, either written or physical such destruction, is all the proof I need that it didn't happen. On top of it, as I already showed leading medieval scholars showed respect enough toward runes to study them is further proof. If you can't provide contemporary written accounts or physical evidence of widespread destruction of runes and ogham scripts, then it didn't happen, and you had no right to make that claim in the first place.

(Throughout this thread you have made aspersions like that without any evidence to back them up., and didn't back them up, and really had no right to make them in the first place. Your knowledge of medieval European history seems based on long outdated bias, rather than real historical facts. In the days of the internet, which is so easy to look things up, that is really unacceptable. )

Now, with that out of the way:

2) Define European language.

4) Define European legal systems.

I admit, I really lost my temper too, and I agree my behaviour was wrong.

In answer to your question

The people who live on the European continent. In the case when I use Europe, it means the people who lived in Europe, or their descendents that move to other areas, but still kept their European language and customs. So that would include Americans, and the ancient Greek colonies that were actually in Asia Minor. Note, Greece in Europe.

I don't include Turkey with Europe, because only small fraction of its land in in Europe, and the language of its people originated in relatively recent (medieval times) from outside Europe. The majority Turkey is in Asia, and its language is an Asian language, and did not arise in Europe. In addition, while most of Europe had a Christian background at one time, Turkey and the Ottomans were Muslims, which did put a difference.

Also culturally, what we call Europe was interconnected with each other that the Ottomans and Turkey were outside of. For example, some of the greatest classical music composers were Russian, and during the 18th century, the Russian elite followed French fashions and styles in a way that was not true for the Ottomans.

The languages that were spoken in the continent of European. Note, that some European languages have spread beyond Europe. European languages are largely Indo-European, and 3 main family groups dominate - Latin based, Germanic based, and Slavic based. Fino-Uralic is also an important group, including Hungarian and Finnish.

3) Define European custom. - That is so broad based question it would take multiple threads to discuss. I will list below the sources of European civilization, which is what you may have been asking.


4) Define European legal systems.

European legal systems either derive from Roman legal systems (Case law), in particular the Napoleonic legal code, or the English Common law. Due to European influence, unless they were a former British colony, most countries in the world have adopted some form of the Roman law, frequently the Napoleonic legal code, which was derived in large part from the Code of Justinian, which was updating of ancient Roman law.

You statement is in error in several areas.

a. First of all, Romans were were never ruled by "God-Emperors". The term "God-King" or "God-Emperor" means a ruler who is considered a god while they are ruling, which was not the case in Rome. Roman society who was ruled by men, who didn't become gods until they died and were no longer ruling. They had to be vote that honor by the Senate, and not every Emperor was awarded that honor.

b. Also, the later Romans were Christians since the time of Constantine, when the Roman Empire was still one of the most powerful empires in the world at the time (Han Empire had already fallen, the Gupta's had yet to arise_). Even the later Romans/Byzantines were capable of impressive of engineering feats, such as the construction of the Hagia Sophia.

c. Also what you describe covers only some aspects of society, it does not completely define Roman society as you imply. By that same logic, todays Turks are not descended from the Ottomans - they are not ruled by a Sultan whose empire depended on plundering and conquering their neighbors, and ripping and stealing children from their homes to support the Ottomans plundering and pillaging of their neighbors, and the enslavement of their own parents under Ottoman rule. You could even say todays Turks are even less descended from the Ottomans than todays Western Europeans are from the Roman, since today's Turks don't even use the same writing system as the Ottomans

It is a nonsense to say that the Romans stopped being Romans the minute they became Christians, which is what you are saying. Sure modern Europeans are not identical to their ancestors, but the same can be said for Chinese and Islamic societies. None are ruled by the same governments or institutions as in medieval times either.

True, but all the elements in ancient Europe (aka Roman Empire) were not in place yet. Current Western civilization (i.e. European) is the combination of 3 main factors:

(1) the heritage of the ancient Mediterranean civilization as transmitted from the Romans. ( Roman included heritage from Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, and later their own unique contributions)

(3) The customs of the Celtic, Germanic and Slavic people

It was only in the middle ages that all 3 elements were combined. It took a few centuries for them to gel, but when they did, Europe and its descendants virtually conquered almost the entire world, not just parts of it.

I did not credit Islam with only bloodshed alone. But the Ottoman Empire was upon bloodshed as plunder as you accuse the European empires.

Again, that kind of statement is pure speculation you always accuse me of. Major social changes occurred in Europe that were not the result of the the discovery of the New World. It is the overwhelming consensus of scholars that the invention of the printing press that contributed to the Reformation, and the press was invented and had spread before Columbus ever set sail. The Reformation began only some 25 years after the Columbus discovered the Americas, and by then the impact of American crops hadn't been felt.

Even before the Americas were discovered, feudal lords had been losing their power, and the rise of the English parliament started before the New World was discovered, and had little to do with its discovery.

Even before the discovery of the New World, the Europeans had pushed to the forefront of gun technology, inventing things like matchlocks, and the corning of gunpowder.

Even before the discovery of the New World, the Europeans had developed stern post mounted rudders, frame first ship building, multi-masted ships with combination of both square and fore/aft sails for best performance.

Even before the discovery of the New World, the Europeans had developed the ability to cast iron.

New World crops helped, but Ming and Qing China also benefited heavily from New World crops such as sweet potatoes, but they didn't spark a great technological leap there.

As far as remaining disease ridden, the discovery of the New World didnt change that. Centuries after the New World was discovered, many of the cities of Europe were still plagued by disease - think you could call 17th and even 18th century London rather dirty and disease ridden, so the discovery of the New World wasn't responsible for their change. (For that matter, much of the Islamic world was disease ridden as well. Cairo and Egypt, like Europe, were hard hit by the plague, and the plague continued to bother Cairo for centuries.

As I said, it took time for the various different roots of modern European culture to merge, and form. It took Europe a long time to recover from the collapse of the Roman Empire. Like a train leaving the station, it starts off slowly at first, but as time goes on, it goes faster and faster. The "train" of Western (i.e. European) civilization started going so fast, it dragged ever other cultures with it. But as I repeatedly pointed out, the beginning of that technological rise started "before" the discovery of the New World.

And I will throw the question back to you - why didn't the Muslims invent reading glasses, and make them widely available before the Europeans did? The lack of any kind of written evidence, or physical evidence shows that the Muslims didn't.

Why didn't the Muslims discover Kepler's law of planetary motion? Why didn't the Muslims invent the telescope or microscope, or how blood circulates?


And why didn't Muslims invent the intaglio printing method of etching and engraving? Why 3 centuries after the printing press was invented, were the Muslims still not using it?

And you own question undermines your theory that it was the discovery of the New World that was responsible for the European's rise. The New World had been discovered 3 centuries earlier by the time of the 19th century, and most of the New World crops had spread throughout the world, Asia and Africa, so if it were New World crops. The timing doesn't support that it was all due to the discovery of the New World.

The fact your are an ex-Wikipedian says a lot. Fortunately, most Wikipedia posters are not like you. Wikipedia has its problems, but in general it is as reliable as a most of what you what you find on the internet. Your example is typical of the distortion that I find so annoying. Wikipedia just listed a series of explanations, and the world "anti-Polish" or "plot" was not anywhere on it that I can tell. Wikipedia didn't create these theories, it was just reported the various theories people regarding that. People can judge for themselves how much value to put on the various theories. .

Right, so Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti, and the like are all based on English legal systems? [/

Hernan Cortez was an Englishman?

Again, please stop accusing me of making claims I never did. I never said those were based on English legal system, nor did I did imply it.

If you had done any research on the subject, as I did, you would know that most of the countries around the world, those that are not based on English common law like the UK and US, are based on the Roman law (ex Napoleonic code), which is a European legal system. The former British colonies, like the US, legal systems, are based on the British common law. Between those 2 systems, it accounts for the majority of the world, which is what I said.

Product of the Golden Horde, huh? I guess I missed the part of the Mongols all being Christians, as the Russians were, and all speaking an European language as the Russians did. Yep, those Russians were just like the Mongol Golden Horde as you claim, including being blonde haired and blue eyed, just like all those Mongol.

Those posters that would be wrong that say the Russians are not Europeans. The Russians speak a European language, and they were Christians, they lived in Europe, and after Peter the Great, their architecture, clothing, music, etc., followed Western trends. Exactly how are they not European?

Resorting to ad hominem attacks, I see, because you have no real argument. You could always look things up for yourself, you know, if you don't trust my sources.

As usual, what you said was not true. The following were not a Wikipedia sources - only 1 on the sources I listed was Wikipedia (matchlock).


I did not know that someone who provided no sources was so critical of Wikipedia, so here are a couple replacement sources for the ones on matchlock

You could always look it up for yourself and find out if it is true. I thought the Valais witch trial would have been known to someone who claims to know about Witch Trials. The fact you don't know about it, just proves my point about your ignorance. There is nothing wrong about being ignorance, but there is when you constantly cast aspersions, such as the ?Church destroying most of the runes, without making any effort to get the facts first.

Here is my evidence, and it is not an Wikipedia article.

. Persecuting suspected witches was not an elite plot against the poor nor was practicing witchcraft a mode of peasant resistance. Catholics and Protestants hunted witches with comparable vigor. Church and state alike tried and executed them. It took more than pure Reason to end the witch craze.

After the first wisps of this change in the late 14th century, the flames burst forth around 1425 in the Savoy region, in what is now southeast France, and in the canton of Valais in Switzerland, near the borders of France and Italy. About 500 more witch trials followed before the Reformation began in 1517. Who Burned the Witches?


Wednesday AMA | Ancient Greek History, Near Eastern History 900-200 BC and Hellenistic Bactria

Apologies, I'm a few minutes late starting the thread but I had to go out to the supermarket and it took a bit longer than expected.

I have just completed a Master of Arts degree in Ancient History. My Bachelor's is also in Ancient History.

My big project for this past year was research on Hellenistic Bactria, for my MA thesis (now bound and handed in and everything). Between this and studying in the MA generally, I've come into a position of knowledge of portions of Near Eastern history. My knowledge of Greek history is from a combination of my BA and extra research that I did in the past year.

I have something of an all encompassing need for historical knowledge, ever since I was very young. I can become interested in many aspects and periods of history, but the relative lack of exploration of the ancient world is part of what attracted me to focus on that. Also, my secondary school education focused exclusively on the early modern period and later, so I grew bored of more recent history. I have become especially fond of examining states, their infrastructure, and the interactions that lead to the fusion of different cultures. There are lots of different processes that cause these sorts of fusions to occur, nearly every time they happen it is in a unique way. I never cease to find it fascinating to examine.

I am comfortable fielding questions about many aspects of Ancient Greek culture generally, but my focus is not on literature. If posters with a good knowledge of Greek literature want to chime in on questions I am more than happy for you to do so. I am comfortable with people answering questions directed at me generally, if you feel you have something to say.

I will be able to answer questions asked here all day, although I will not always reply instantly because INTERNET ADDICTION (but also just because I might need a bit to properly digest or fact-check).

Just for clarification, the region traditionally known as the Near East includes Mesopotamia, Syria, the Levant and Western Iran. It can also include parts of Anatolia, Egypt, Armenia and parts of Arabia, but this is usually dependent on the period in question and on the particular historian.

So, ask me anything about Ancient Greek History, Near Eastern History 900-200 BC, and Hellenistic Bactria!

EDIT: I need to head to bed for now, but I'll take another look at questions come the morning my time, so anyone who has questions left that they want to ask go right ahead.

EDIT: I am now awake again! If there are any more questions today, then I'll be happy to answer them.

First, thanks for doing the AMA. You've been a rock-solid contributor for a long time now, and I don't think it's far off to say that you are one of the most important posters here many of your previous posts have made it to r/DepthHub and r/bestof, and I think it's fair to say that you're personally responsible for a solid portion of AskHistorians's growth. Thanks. I'll totally buy you a beer some time.

Second, I have several questions, all in a theme:

In a conversation about Herodotus last week, you remarked that

many continue to use Herodotus as the basis for their image of Near Eastern history between 700-480 BC. . He is often the only source that Classicists have used for their entire image of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, along with Xenophon's Anabasis. This is where the image of the Persian Empire as a horde of bogeymen comes from I think that modern historians have often gone too far in the other direction, and made the Persians seem like superduper Utopian world uniters, but the image of the Persians as crude, effete, decadent despots that they reacted against is one that Herodotus accidentally generated.

Could you expand on this somewhat? What has recent research taught us about the Persian empire? It seems you've already indicated that it's problematic, but to what degree does the traditional narrative of Western (Greek) "freedom" as opposed to Oriental despotism hold up in recent scholarship?

How does the Hellenic world differ from the Hellenistic? And, in particular, what elements of Greek culture were brought to the Middle East by Alexander's conquest and the subsequent "Hellenistic" period? It seems that I'm constantly hearing about how the Greeks conquered the Persian empire and, despite Alexander's early death, transformed the Middle East. What exactly did they bring, and how did things change?

Next, the Romans are often described as the heirs to the Greeks in Western Civilization. I know this might be a bit out of your time period, but do you think this is an accurate assessment? What specific elements of Greek thought, culture, politics do the Romans adopt and develop?

And, lastly, we often locate in the Greeks the origins of the West. Western Civ surveys are sometimes referred to as "Plato to NATO." What elements of ancient Greece are with us today? Are there substantial institutions developed in Greece that we continue to rely on? Or are the Greeks more of a distant mirror, people in whom we see ourselves but who did not necessarily or uniquely contribute to our contemporary world?

I know these are substantial questions, so take your time and answer as little or as much as you like. I look forward to it.

The Persian Empire's archaeology was mostly done by French archaeologists, and Alexandrian+Classical Greek Historians were mostly a) anglophone and b) not interested. This meant that the two fields really lagged behind in terms of how Persia was being understood. Iɽ say it took until the 1980s for this to change, and for Greek historians to start taking Persian scholars seriously.

I think the narrative is pretty much considered dead as a dodo in current scholarship. As I said, a few too many treat the Persian Empire as being nice. Empires are not nice. But I would also say that Persia was a very complicated, interesting and developed state that really did need its own field to emerge in order to really understand it.

The Hellenistic world is international and outward looking. Definitions of what is and isn't a Greek become more fluid, and based around language and religion over ethnicity. The Hellenic world had international outlook, but limited mostly to colonies in Italy, Sicily, Asia Minor and the Eastern Mediterranean. The Hellenistic world starts combining various Greek cultures together, and also combines Greek cultures with others. I would describe Graeco-Bactrian culture as a part fusion between Greek, Persian, Bactrian and Mesopotamian cultures, for example.

Architectural elements, both in style and in terms of buildings (gymnasiums, theatres etc), are the most obvious physical element to be introduced into the Near East/Middle East. Coinage became the default, though payments in kind were still legal and common. Greek writing really did seep in everywhere, as did the Greek language as a lingua franca to compliment Aramaic. They also learned things themselves, of course much astronomy and mathematics was taken back from Mesopotamia into Greek academia.

They also represent the continuity of several prior elements to the Near East- the tendency to combine religious elements into new fusions, the bringing together of multiple intellectual traditions, the enablement of communication over large distances using common languages. These are not uniquely Seleucid or Alexandrian at all, the precursors to these are obvious as far back as the Assyrian Empire. In this sense, to treat the Seleucids properly you have to see them as being heirs to the prior Near Eastern Empires, and not just 'OMG Greeks, they introduced so many things'. To some extent, Greeks are important in the Near East simply for being there. But as in the previous paragraph, there were things that they did bring to the table that was distinctly Greek.

I think that the Romans could be considered heirs to the Greeks, but I dislike the narrative of civilizations leading from one into the next towards our happy, happy future :P. The Romans combined many elements of Greek culture with their own, as far back as the Republic. The Roman intelligensia sneered at Greeks whilst also fawning over their literature and knowledge. Most Roman literary genres are those of Hellenistic Greek cultures, with a few throwbacks. Their religions interwined in a way that makes them very annoyingly similar after a certain date, whilst clearly Roman traditions continued to be maintained. And let's not forget that the Byzantines are the other big legacy of the Roman Empire, as well as Western Europe, and the Byzantines were as much a product of Greece as they were a product of Rome. Greek philosophy was not always agreed with, but Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy was widely examined. Stoic and Epicurean philosophy both began in Greece and were then adopted by the Romans.

We do not follow Greek democratic theory. But our image of democracy was at least created in partial imitation of Greek democracies, and certainly with them as inspiration. They did not invent scientific method, but many elements of Greek philosophy were what lead to the development of scientific theory in the West. They also transmitted vital mathematical and astronomical theories from the Ancient Near East that might have been lost. They are pretty much entirely responsible for us using coinage it was not Greek in invention, but they transmitted it everywhere.

But, as I said before, I dislike the 'Western civilization' narrative. I think their direct influence is overstated, and instead it is our own interpretation of the Greeks that has proved so pervasive. It also overlooks that Greeks were responsible for a large part of the development of the Islamic world and Central Asia, the Greeks are not a legacy that we can specially claim for ourselves.


The Pentagram in Depth

Notice: this article is copyrighted. Please do not copy any part to any web page, newsgroup, Book of Shadows, etc., other than a brief excerpt and link.

The five-pointed star or pentagram is one of the most potent, powerful, and persistent symbols in human history. It has been important to almost every ancient culture, from the Mayans of Latin America, to India, China, Greece, and Egypt. It has been found scratched on the walls of Neolithic caves, and in Babylonian drawings, where it marks the pattern the planet Venus makes on its travels- a secret symbol of the Goddess Ishtar. Scriptures, especially Hebrew, are abundant with references to pentagrams. So, why does this symbol have such a sinister reputation today?

The Pentagram in the Ancient World

The earliest pentagrams were rough diagrams found scratched into stone age caves. While they are believed to have some spiritual significance, the meaning of the star-shape to early humans is a mystery. In the civilizations that followed, it held various meanings, usually astronomical and religious. Pentagrams served to mark directions in Sumerian texts, and represented the five visible planets. Later, it was the sign of the planet Venus and the goddess.

According to the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, five was the number of man, because of the fivefold division of the body, and the ancient Greek division of the soul. According to Pythagoras, the five points of the pentagram each represent one of the five elements that make up man: fire, water, air, earth, and psyche. (energy, fluid, breath, matter, and mind also liquid, gas, solid, plasma, and aethyr, or spirit) The Pythagoreans held the pentacle sacred to Hygeia, the Goddess of healing, whose name (HGIEiA) was an anagram in Greek for the elements water, earth, spirit, fire, and air.

This particular symbolism has persisted for centuries, and has greatly influenced theologies of diverse traditions. Early Christians wore the pentagram as an emblem, possibly to represent the wounds of Christ, or possibly due to connections between early Christians and the Pythagorean mysteries.* Later, the pentacle was important to many doctrines of esoteric Medieval and Renaissance belief systems- alchemy, kabbalah, and Ceremonial magic.

The Pentacle and Magick

Renaissance-era ritual magicians, like the Greeks, used the Pentagram as a microcosm of the human body. The practice of Ritual Magic was used to create a state of closeness with god through the use of symbols and rituals to imitate the divine state. It was believed that like affects like, that the connection between the world of symbols and the world of actions could also be manipulated for evil purposes. One of these magicians, Giordano Bruno, warned of such misuse of the powerful pentacle by Black magicians. (The pentagram is still central to the practice of ritual magic, and is used in the foundation of many of its rituals.)

In the Jewish kabbalistic tradition, which borrows many Pythagorean ideas, the pentagram represents the five upper sephiroth on the Tree of Life- five numbers, being indivisible by any but themselves, which represent pure archetypal forces: justice, mercy, wisdom, understanding, and transcendent splendor.

Christian Pentagram?

Christian Kabbalists of the renaissance were especially enamored of the pentagram, which they viewed as a mystical proof of the divinity of Christ – to them, it symbolized Christ as the Holy Spirit manifest in the flesh. A favorite gematric feat was to add the Hebrew letter Shin (symbolizing fire and the holy spirit of Pentecost) to the Biblical four letter name of God (YHVH, most commonly [and incorrectly] pronounced ‘Jehovah’) yielding YHShVH- Y’heshua, or Jesus. (There is a secret biblical connection, as well, in the name of the Christian holiday of Pentecost- the day the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles of Jesus is one of many geometrical ‘proofs’ in the New Testament disguised as stories)

There are many connections between the pentagram and Christianity. Before the cross, it was a preferred emblem to adorn the jewelry and amulets of early Christians (followed by an ‘x’ or a phoenix). The pentagram was associated with the five wounds of Christ, and because it could be drawn in one continuous movement of the pen, the Alpha and the Omega as one. It was also an expression of a secret Gnostic heresy, found hidden here and there throughout Christian history- a symbol of Isis/Venus as the secret goddess, the female principle. The most notable instance of this symbolism is in the Arthurian Grail romances, which are Gnostic and kabbalistic teachings disguised as tales of knightly quests.

The pentacle as a symbol of the feminine principle was was embodied by the rose. The small, five petaled roses found in many Gothic cathedral’s ornamentation are not-so-secret pentagrams:

The Pentacle in Wicca and other NeoPagan Traditions

Currently, the most common religious uses of the pentagram are by Wiccan, Neopagan, and Satanic groups. In most Wiccan and Neopagan traditions, its symbolic meaning is derived from Ceremonial magick and nineteenth century occultism- the four elements ruled by the spirit- although as these theologies mature, they have added to its meaning.

In many of these traditions, it can also symbolize the unity of mankind with the earth or with the realm of the spirit, the human body, and more.

Point up, or Point Down?

A “point down” pentacle is nothing new- nor is it necessarily Satanic when it appears as such. Historical depictions of the pentagram were as likely to be points down as point up. A distinction between one or the other was rarely made by the ancients. Even today, one must not assume a point down pentagram is Satanic, as it is just likely to be Masonic, Wiccan, or simply upside-down. Some inexperienced Wiccans will occasionally claim that a point down pentacle is Satanic, but such a symbol has at times represented the Wiccan horned God, and is still today an emblem of the Second Degree initiation in Gardnerian Wicca.

The Satanic Pentagram

In the minds of many, the pentagram is inextricably linked with black magick and Satan worship. The Satanic pentagram is a difficult symbol- it is the newest and least used, but at the same time the best known and most controversial. The Satanic pentacle is almost always presented upside down, or inverted, with a single point facing downward, and it is this pentacle that is presented incorrectly as ‘evil.’

The adoption of the pentacle as a Satanic emblem is quite recent, dating only to the latter half of the twentieth century. To the Satanist, this glyph is a representation of “Black magic,” symbolizing the triumph of matter and individual desires over religious dogma- earth over an illusory promise of heaven. It is not analogous to the upturned cross (which is a symbol of rebellion against Christian culture), and is not “anti-Wiccan.”

In modern Satanic theology, the pentagram is far more likely to represent the individual, or the choice to pursue individual glory or immortality rather than union or absorption with the divine- where some traditions advocate the sublimation of the ego or submission to god, Satanism exalts and glorifies it, deifying the human being. The symbol most commonly associated with Satanic practices is the “Sabbatic goat” or Goat of Mendes pentacle, often confused with Baphomet, a figure from Templar legend, and Pan, the Greek goat God. It rarely has any deeper meaning an irony when one considers that its association with Satanism has made the pentagram a feared symbol to many, and the subject of countless conspiracy theories.

The Goat’s Head

The goat itself is related to medieval superstitions about the behavior of witches, who were often depicted dancing with or riding on goats (who often represented Satan himself). The goat in that context is often seen as an ironic symbol of sexual repression (the association being a clear allusion to the unrestrained sexuality represented by this ancient fertility symbol), so one can see why the symbolism might appeal to modern Satanists, as a symbol of freedom from sexual and religious taboos.

The Pentagram in Freemasonry

In Freemasonry and related traditions, the pentagram is usually referred to as the “blazing star,” and in addition to more traditional Pythagorean symbolism, is sometimes symbolic of the descent of the divinity of Christ into the world of matter, a remnant of Masonry’s ties with medieval Christian Kabbalah and hermetic tradition. In this, it represents the Star of Bethlehem. Freemasonry emphasizes Pythagorean geometry in its system of allegorical symbology, and as the pentagram was the chief of the Pythagorean symbols, it is not at all surprising to find it among Masonic symbols. Even so, it is still a relatively minor symbol in freemasonry, and largely ignored in today’s lodges.

The Masonic use of the pentagram has nevertheless provided endless fodder for conspiracy minded evangelicals who see its use as proof of a vast Satanic Masonic network. Many absurd connections have been made between the Satanic pentagram and the Masonic star by enthusiastic conspiracy theorists, who fail to note that the first association of the reversed pentacle with ‘evil’ is a relatively recent attitude- adopted long after Masons had been using the star without controversy for a very long time. The 19th century magical scholar Eliphas Levi is the first known to have vested the downward pointing pentacle with any real negative meaning, elaborating perhaps on Bruno’s earlier claims. It was not until the mid twentieth century that Levi’s ‘Mendes’ pentacle was adopted as an emblem of modern Satanism. No Satanic or black magic group is known to have used a pentagram before then, and even the oldest representations of black masses and other ‘satanic’ activities contain no pentagrams.

The Pentagram of the Founders

Surprisingly, the pentagram also plays an important part in the symbology of the early United States government (a fact not lost on the conspiracy theorists, of course.). Many of the Founding Fathers were Freemasons, to whom the Pentagram is an important symbol (see above). The five pointed star appears in much of our early iconography- the US flag, the Great Seal, and on our currency. It is even to be found in the US Capitol, where the White House sits at the apex of a giant pentagram, one of many interesting features in Capitol geometry:

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be’-la (bela`, “destruction” the King James Version Belah, Genesis 46:21):

(1) Bela, the son of Beor, was the first king of Edom previous to the kingdom of Israel and reigned in the city of Dinhabah (Genesis 36:32 1 Chronicles 1:43). Septuagint Codex Alexandrinus, Balak.

(2) Bela, the firstborn son of Benjamin (Genesis 46:21 1 Chronicles 7:6 1 Chronicles 8:1). He was the head of the family of the Belaites (Numbers 26:38), the father of Addar (called Ard, Numbers 26:40), Gera, Abihud, Abishua, Naaman, Ahoah, Gera, Shephuphan (compare Shephupham, Numbers 26:39), Huram (1 Chronicles 8:3-5 Numbers 26:40).

(3) Bela, a son of Azaz, of the tribe of Reuben, was a man of great power and wealth. His possessions reached from Nebo to the Euphrates (1 Chronicles 5:8).

Connections between the pentagram and Christianity are many.[3] It adorned jewelry, amulets, and battle attire of early Christians, especially before the cross was introduced. This was not only because the pentagram was associated with the five wounds of Christ, but also because it could be drawn in a single stroke, through one continuous movement of a pen, representing beginning and end (Alpha and Omega) as one.[3]

However, in Nordic countries (such as Norway and Sweden), the pentagram was used to ward off trolls and evil, in general, and was drawn on doors and walls.

=Se’lah, rock, the capital of Edom, situated in the great valley extending from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea ( 2 Kings 14:7 ). It was near Mount Hor, close by the desert of Zin. It is called “the rock” ( Judges 1:36 ). When Amaziah took it he called it Joktheel (q.v.) It is mentioned by the prophets ( Isaiah 16:1 Obadiah 1:3 ) as doomed to destruction.

It appears in later history and in the Vulgate Version under the name of Petra. “The caravans from all ages, from the interior of Arabia and from the Gulf of Persia, from Hadramaut on the ocean, and even from Sabea or Yemen, appear to have pointed to Petra as a common centre and from Petra the tide seems again to have branched out in every direction, to Egypt, Palestine, and Syria, through Arsinoe, Gaza, Tyre, Jerusalem, and Damascus, and by other routes, terminating at the Mediterranean.” (See EDOM [2].)

zo’-ar (tso`ar the Septuagint usually Segor, Zogora):

The name of the city to which Lot escaped from Sodom (Genesis 19:20-23,30), previously mentioned in Genesis 13:10 14:2,8, where its former name is said to have been Bela. In 19:22, its name is said to have been given because of its littleness, which also seems to have accounted for its being spared. The location of Zoar has much to do with that of the cities of the Plain or Valley of Siddim, with which it is always connected. In Deuteronomy 34:3, Moses is said to have viewed “the Plain of the valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, unto Zoar,” while in Isaiah 15:5 and Jeremiah 48:4 (where the Septuagint reads unto “Zoar,” instead of “her little ones”) it is said to be a city of Moab. The traditional location of the place is at the south end of the Dead Sea. Josephus says (BJ, IV, viii, 4) that the Dead Sea extended “as far as Zoar of Arabia,” while in Ant, I, xi, 4, he states that the place was still called Zoar. Eusebius (Onomasticon, 261) locates the Dead Sea between Jericho and Zoar, and speaks of the remnants of the ancient fertility as still visible. Ptolemy (v. 17,5) regards it as belonging to Arabia Petrea. The Arabian geographers mention it under the name Zughar, Sughar, situated 1 degrees South of Jericho, in a hot and unhealthful valley at the end of the Dead Sea, and speak of it as an important station on the trade route between Akkabah and Jericho. The Crusaders mention “Segor” as situated in the midst of palm trees. The place has not been definitely identified by modern explorers, but from Genesis 19:19-30 we infer that it was in the plain and not in the mountain. If we fix upon the south end of the Dead Sea as the Vale of Siddim, a very natural place for Zoar and one which agrees with all the traditions would be at the base of the mountains of Moab, East of Wady Ghurundel, where there is still a well-watered oasis several miles long and 2 or 3 wide, which is probably but a remnant of a fertile plain once extending out over a considerable portion of the shallow south end of the Dead Sea when, as shown elsewhere (see DEAD SEA), the water level was considerably lower than now.

Robinson would locate it on the northeast corner of el-Lisan on the borders of the river Kerak, but this was done entirely on theoretical grounds which would be met as well in the place just indicated, and which is generally fixed upon by the writers who regard the Vale of Siddim as at the south end of the Dead Sea. Conder, who vigorously maintains that the Vale of Siddim is at the north end of the Dead Sea, looks favorably upon theory of W.H. Birch that the place is represented by the present Tell Shaghur, a white rocky mound at the foot of the Moab Mountains, a mile East of Beth-haram (Tell er-Rameh), 7 miles Northeast of the mouth of the Jordan, a locality remarkable for its stone monuments and well-supplied springs, but he acknowledges that the name is more like the Christian Segor than the original Zoar.

Also the Australian author Anne Hamilton clears up the history of the pentagram by marrying word and number together and finding that it represents equal relationships as in love in unity, trinity, eternity, cross, tree of sacrifice, logos, integrity, faith but most of all a powerful protective force of love if upward pointed. Downward rejects trinity spiritually and in unity with male and female, human and divine. The mathematics say it all better than any sermon which I have no time for. Its not about a brand of religion its about a code that crosses into the Torah, the Koran and the Bible. Hope this helps.

Even if someone read all of our posts. They wouldn’t care only a select few can understand symbolism in today’s propaganda,The ability to manipulate reality into relative actualism, receiving intellect from God’s eturnal love as your actual eturnal self with no fear. The ancent term for these rare individuals is called a profit today we’re referred to as (indigo children) to old to for impressing people and to Young to decifer your schematics from god. God as in The great eturnal moment of now. Many don’t know Our solar system rotates like an oval around the Galaxy. every 24,000 years is one resolution the closest we’ve ever been to the center was 5505 BC 2nd dynesty of Egypt ramiseess the ll. During the pyramids. An era that lasted 3000 years. The silver age started 2012 the system is coming around the turn. Its Time to wake up sheeple. It’s time to know death is really dying

Can anyone tell me the what those five symbols are that are at the each point of the pentagram I’ve been looking everywhere but I can’t seem to find any information

Yes, it is a tetragrammaton with an added “shin” to sp[ell Y’shua (Jesus).

It seems often missed that symbols are based in nature. Many plants grow in 5, as Fibonacci observed. Their leaves often project this. So they really aren’t mysterious other than what we make them mean. The cross, for example is really the intersection of the vertical axis with horizon. It enabled us to square ourselves with the roundness of earth making us more comfortable, as well as leading us to the concept of a right angle. The The pentagon, along with the square eventually lead us the Pythagorean theorem ultimately enabling us to discover calculus giving us the means to explore our solar system and beyond. Of course this is because, for some reason, we can think logically and analyse the world.

facinating reading..if I was to get a tattoo of a pentagram on my inner forearm..which way should it be positioned..from what I have read it doesn’t really matter but just for interests sake what are your opinions..
I am a supernatural fangirl is why I chose this symbol..and I want it in a place where i van see it..
thanks

Hey, um I have a necklace that I’ve had ever since I was little, no idea who it came from, but it is an upright pentagram with a woman’s face(including her hair) in the middle, and I was just wondering if I had missed something or just didn’t read something right, and I’m wondering what the meaning behind it is, because I can’t seem to find it anywhere

I know why the pentagram was scratched in the caves. They seen it come in from the night skies. I have seen a set of stars coming in from the night skies myself in over the last five years. They rose up out of the south skies. I’ve shown them to several people in the past. The came in on the left side of the sun. If all else holds true they will come back around on the right side of the sun in early morning hours. We have around five years let.

Do you know this symbol and how it works well in magical spell casting? A Grace is a circle, square,circle and an 8 pointed Star drew in a continues line like a pentagram

The goat comes from the New Testiment ST MATTHEW 25:31-40. Those that have helped each other have helped the lord. Those on the right that hearken are the lambs and those on the left are on the wrong side, the goats. If it’s linked to witches then it’s because those that burned them, made testiment that witches where goats. Interesting, Pentecostal churches hold the name of the star, they are the only churches today that define themselves with the gift of tongues. They seem to also be word/earth bound. Material and not the spirit.

You may feel free to email me with a follow up comment as I may not return to this site to check comments. This site provided useful information which I had feelings to be true. Such as the upside down pentagram not being evil but rather a tool. I have traveled extinselvely around the world, and it was an extremely vivid dream I had in a specific place in Europe which has a history of Kabbalistic roots that has sent me researching. I was a sacrifice slave of ISIS in this dream. The terrorists would chop body parts of children, men and women they had as captives for secret ceremonies. ISIS was not islamic but portraining that they were and did the biddings of its financiers who conducted the ceremonies. The dream was layered. I went beyond the experience of being a slave to die into an individual set free into a vast void desert, and given a dead rat in a bag by my ex-captures. I came upon a tent with maji robes for me to wear inside. There was a table in the center. A group of maji arrived to perform a ceremony. After chanting and some activities a small spark started on the table and traced an upside down pentagram that was not there before. The spark stopped at one point in the pentagram which had a symbol of a dismembered hand. Upon attaining the symbol the maji left the tent. I asked questions but received limited answers. I was told this was a step prior to the next step. After the dream I had a strong sense that I had been to this specific area of Europe before specifically to the location, and walkway in a previous life. I spent some time researching the symbol of the hand which in Kabbala is represented by the number 1000. A week after I returned I pulled into a parking spot with a dead rat, and intentionally took the spot. That night I had a strong feeling that the entire ISIS orchestration, and crimes committed against innocent people in Iraq, and Syria would change. The following day Russia defeated ISIS in Aleppo which would become the turning point in the proxy war in Iraq and Syria forever. There was also a news article citing that the mass Graves of civilians had mutilated bodies with limbs missing. This gave me a sensation from my dream of innocent people being de-limbed for the ceremonies.

In the last 4 to 5 years leading to this dream I was sensing images, and words. I am a dean’s list graduate in psychology so I know what’s crazy, and this was not visual aditory manifestation on a physical level. I was shown planes crashing the year 2 Malaysia airlines crashed, I was told repeatedly the word refugee crisis beyond belief before people fled in vast quantity into Europe shutting down boarders. I was also given 2 dreams in relations to these 2 examples. The first one I was blown up in the Malaysia airplane, the 2nd I led millions of refugees to a tree that has native America symbolism. I have found a lot of peace in learning Zohrastrian, and Buddhism which allows me to center my mind on good, kind thoughts to escape these experiences.

I am interested in educational information on using this skill if it is one that I do not know how to control. My intent is always kind, and good even though what I ask for is rarely given to me. I don’t want material things from this life even though I wish I had the capacity to afford it. I would use wealth for a greater purpose. I don’t get these visions or sensations by request. Seems other factors must be in place.

I know why the pattern was scratched into the cave walls and its true. They seen it in the night sky growing closer and closer.
Because I too have seen the pattern in the night sky. It came in over a three year period.

Hi.
It fascinates me how the sides of a pentangle exactly relate to the golden ratio. It would have been useful to include information and diagrams of this in your article.

Good blog. Well researched and written. I write this to balance out the some of the negative comments.

despite the vast amounts of supposed information in this article…you are extremely ignorant. Now before i waste my time here, i want to see if you are still tending this article here and then I will converse and inform you. how’s that sound, blowhard..ok with you?

What is the name of a star, thats in the form of a pentacle, but instead of it being a right side up star, the tip of the star does not meet or complete, and instead the lines go up to the circle as to not form a tip??

I’m not certain what you refer to, but I believe there is a goetic sigil or similar that is designed that way, could that be the one you’re referring to?

TY, it is simply the design, I have seen a few pendants made in this way, they are the same as a complete pentacle they just merge with the circle and so it is still eternal.

According to me pentagram is more than a symbol in other words its more of a portal that connects different world. Instead of directly saying it as a portal it can be said as KEY to those portals. If im correct i have seen some exorcists use them as a symbol to banish the demons. But the mystery thats bugging me is that “If one gets a chance to open this portal(just saying) will good or bad occur to this wolrd?”
Feel free to comment on this.

Forgot to mention this
Basically human beings are made of two types: the good and the bad. In other words we can in every human there resides an angel and a devil
what happens when the good person opens up this portal and the bad person opens up the portal?
Will the outcome be the same?

in reply to your question…”what happens when the good person opens up this portal and the bad person opens up the portal?
Will the outcome be the same?”…

just like Beauty, which is in the eye of the beholder, so is power..or..merging! what YOU do with it..or it’s benefits…is entirely up to YOU..” Do What Thou Wilt, Shall Be the Whole of the Law”, .Power has no sense of mortal. ”right or wrong”…it is what it is. Power, the Force, the Primordial Energy, doesn’t give a damn!…Why?, because no matter how many changes it goes through it ALWAYS returns to it’s source..the place of it’s greatest Harmony..” Energy cannot be Created or Destroyed”(Einstein).however if offered the Gift Of Power, use it, but refuse it. Don’t call it YOURS…here lies the first temptation…the more you refuse it, the more you will be tempted.. To seek power, is not to be thought of ,in mundane terms..( I will rule the World!)…but is a refining of the human bestial state,(the raw energy) ..the Philosphers Stone is a good example…lead into Gold…. I wish you good fortune and power….

I would add that the phi ratio (1.618) inherent in the pentagram is also key. Inscribe a smaller pentagon at the center of the pentagram so that every corner of the pentagon touches the inner corners of the star. The ratio between the arm length of the star and any one side of the pentagon are 1:1.618. This ratio is ubiquitous in nature (the human body, galaxy spirals, hurricane spirals, pinecones, etc.) Thus, the pentagon/gram is a physical representation of regeneration/life.

I believe that anything in this world can be used for good or bad.The pentacle/Pentagram is not a symbol for evil, it all depends on the intention of the practitioner.

iam planning to have my pentagram seal of solomon tattoo would you advise it?

I am doing some studies on pentagrams and stumble across one that has me baffle. I would like anyone to reply that has knowledge about what practice of the arts that might use a pentagram similar to this! And what spell or ritual this might be? It has a horned figure in it which I figure represents the horn god, also it has a kneeling figure in a white robe with dark hair and stumps on the back which I feel represent a fallen angel maybe. Also what is unusual is instead of solid lines it has like stitch lines like in sewing. The ritual perform with this pentagram involves sexual transgression on the intended victim and after they bring this feeling they beat and belittle the victim with no mercy they also come after the victim in the physical world. They use items that might leave bruises on the victim in the shape of dog prints and inverted crosses. A very brutal ritual or spell. The victim is belittle in public by people also. It is a old pentagram and I have no picture of it to send being it is not mine. I have found very little on it only that it is a very ancient pentagram and ritual. Any information would be helpful and I would be very grateful for. Thank You! Post any information on my web site or email if it pleases you.

What your witness to is the use of the pentagram in the crusification of Jesus or the angle Emmanuel. The people who initated the killing of Jesus had to do so in the spiritual context before the physical so they perform the rights or curse on his spiritual body before the physical body. Everyone thinks that the religions are not connected but they all are ( ie. the new age wiccans follow these practices of the past that have a long history in christianity. – Solomon the king illustrated and wrote of these practices that the modern witches use today.) True faith or connection to God does not need any of these practices.

The Bible condemns these practices

what are the 5 symbols in the pentagram in the “The Pentacle in Wicca and other Neopagan Traditions” section picture?

Hi Ben. They are Hebrew characters that spell out “Leviathan.”

Do eastern stars believe in god

The short version is yes. I don’t believe they admit atheists (the Masons prohibit them), although deity is generally left up to the member.

Much of the “secret work” can be found on the Web. I will not stray from that info, as I am an Eastern Star bound by our rules. However, it is public knowledge that the five points of the star represent five heroines from the Bible:Adah, Ruth, Esther, Martha, and Electa. The meetings open and close with prayers and, too often, we offer prayers for those members we have lost.

Eastern Star is a service organization that has fundraisers to support their “good works,” the chosen phrase for their services. Our order provides scholarships for high school graduates going to college to become teachers, as well as supporting causes foe dyslexia, among others.

What, exactly, are you basing your ideas off of Jesse? I want to l want to know what historical text you are using to back up your claims. Did your pastor tell you that? Are you getting it from some conspiracy website or crackpot blogger? I want to know where you got the idea that the pentagram is a Satanic symbol.

While I think the author of this article (Jennifer?) adequately answered your question in the piece itself, I’ll attempt to elaborate just a bit more.

As noted above, it might have been Alphonse Louis Comfort (using the Pen Name Eliphas Levi) who first suggested an inverted pentagram was associated with black magic.

To get an accredited view of why the pentagram is associated with modern Satanism, however, you need to jump to late 1960s San Francisco, where former circus organist Anton LaVey initiated his official “Church of Satan,” a “church,” by the way, officially sanctioned for special tax status by the United States government.

In recorded interviews, LaVey (who enjoyed cultivating the “evil” persona), explained, essentially, that the church and its symbol, the inverted pentagram, were a philosophical slap in the face of what he viewed as Puritanical Christianity.

Many (probably most that I’ve heard speak, or with whom I’ve spoken) early Church of Satan members didn’t believe in the person (disembodied or not) of Satan or Lucifer. They were avowed atheists who enjoyed their association with LaVey’s church because of its liberal attitude of self indulgence and aggrandizement.

Why LaVey and company specifically elected to employ the pentagram (and the late 20th century) “Goat of Mendes” symbol is a matter of conjecture at this point, as the founders are dead.

It’s certainly possible that they drew from Levi’s art and written work, but equally likely that they knew of the connection between early Christian symbolism of the pentacle, and employed it, in inverted fashion, as a further attack on Christian symbology, just as they used the inverted cross.

Most of LaVey’s Satanic symbolism was created in almost a tongue-in-cheek fashion, with some of his ideas coming from visual artist and magician (the stage kind) Tom Palmer, who later changed his name to Tony Andruzzi (a man I knew decades ago).

The Baphomet character mentioned above, which was created from the imagination of Eliphas Levi, in 1854 (see his work “Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie”), had a pentagram on its forehead.

The popular modern image of the Goat of Mendes (the term probably comes from the people of Mendes, in ancient Egypt, whose symbolic god was the image of a ram), was not drawn until the mid/late 20th century.

Hope this helps answer your question.

By the way, speaking of the US government, the well-written piece above doesn’t mention the most celebrated symbolic use of the pentagram in America.

The inverted star appears as the foundation of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the highest honor bestowed by the United States government upon one of its citizens, for actions of conspicuous gallantry, above and beyond the call of duty, in military service.

The medal originated in the US Civil War. The representation of the inverted star is now a matter of speculation. Some military historians believe the medal was designed the way it was simply to keep a uniform appearance with other important medals (the MOH was inspired by European military awards of the time). Such medals always had two, not one, points of connection to the ribbon or chain from which they were suspended. This design was simply easier to apply to a star which was upside down.

The star, obviously, was and is important in American history. It’s used as an identifier on US military armament and equipment, and of course, on the flag, where each star represented a specific original colony, and later, state.

Thus, another notion is that the star, being an important American symbol, was represented upside down on the medal to pay homage to fallen soldiers and sailors. Many recipients of the medal were, in fact, killed in action while conducting themselves in a manner which (often) saved the lives of others, but resulted in their own demise. The star, consequently, appears to “bow down” in reverence to this ultimate sacrifice.

The Jesse person you responded to, Pete, is probably correct that the pentacle will symbolically be associated with the occult for the foreseeable future (though not, as he — or she? — writes, necessarily Satanism). While the pentagram was employed in Cabalistic, Pagan and other, what’s now considered esoteric, ritual and symbology in historical periods long ago, it was not associated directly with modern occult ideology until the 20th century.

Let’s hope Jesse reads this, too.

Sorry, but you are wrong as to how and why the pentagram is known to represent Satan. I love all of the deceptions, that are meant to keep people from the truth. Not really, I DESPISE IT.

The reason the Pentagram is used to represent Satan, is the fact that the pentagram is the symbol of wisdom, which Satan bestowed upon mankind. I am certain that most of you know this, as most of you responding are surely cultists yourselves. The pentagram is a symbol of the knowledge, that Satan bestowed upon mankind, enslaving mankind to that Wisdom and in turn, the beast system. The lie is that Satan set mankind free, by giving knowledge. The opposite is true.

I didn’t follow. Could you please elaborate? Are you saying the lie is that people think satan set man free? I am so confused by this topic. I know some think satan is good/Jesus is bad…some say that satan saved us from evil… it is all hard to keep track of…like trying to figure out genealogy in Greek mythology. Very convoluted. Truth should be obvious and yet isn’t. I am curious what you think. Nameste

Hi, I’ve seen an article that suggests that although a pentagram can be used in satanic rituals or black Magick, it can also be used as a form of protection. Is this true?

Yes. In fact, despite modern connotations of black magic, it would actually have been used as a protection from magic.

I know of a person who wore a pentagram for protection – it seemed to ease her headaches. One must note, that such protection doesn’t come from symbols or dead objects, but from spirits binded with them. God doesn’t give his blessing in such a strange way, so coming into such relations with demons of amulets might cause severe trouble. My advice? When in doubt, consult a trusted priest – I’m not an expert, just a follower of Christ.
Bless ya!

if she believed that the pentagram would help her it could have been a case of a simple placebo effect. her belief is what cured her rather than a mystical power. Or at the very least a coincidence. just wanted to throw that out there.

If god forgives everything why doesnt everybody go to heaven? It’s because we’re already here. The choices that we make are what get us there.. We all can chose to have all the heaven we want or the hell we want.. We are All free to accept or reject gods love..now with that said. Were all created in gods image..but what is god?? He’s pure love! So how can god hate anything?? Now.. Look at Term “fallen angel” it doesnt mean they literally fell from heaven to earth.. it means they fell from the grace of GOD! So in a sense we all are fallen angels.. And as far as lucifer goes.. If we are all created in gods image “love” nothing can hurt us.. “the devil is nothing more then our false ego” we create him ourselves..Whatever we believe is..to some the pentagram can be an “evil” or “demonic” symbol.. To others it can represent the virtuvian man.. “which is the believe that god created us all mathematically perfect in his image.. Like him” look up the golden ratio PHI 1.618..answers are out there you just have to be open minded and willing to look… A little bit about myself.. I have the pentagram and holy trinity tattooed and my for arms and I have angel wings on my back with the word “fallen” down my spine.. I am very spirtual and I don’t just believe what I’ve be “told” I take the time to look things up for myself… I am in no way trying to say.. “Oh you’re wrong and I’m right”.. What ever you believe is.. That’s the only point I’m trying to make.

Hey I’m religious, but been told u can’t believe in this an that, due to being Christian, I’m always trying to learn whts out there, iv learned that much where my own faith is fighting with possibilitys, as well as fact, it’s to hard to explain on here, but as I learn about space, other beens, ancient history I thought about symbols, the cross a simple image in a way but an image that has changed lives, methods, logic , evolution in its own way, so I wanna know more about what’s not taught in today’s age, how did people know the stars, an everything else, they did almost 1000, 2000, years before Christ so to speak n for some reason I think the pentagram was a tool or a gift of rememberance of some sort,n it’s history of where it came from so to speak maybe the source,of why,how,when we had maybe a greater power I can’t explain it in text,I’m still religious it’s common sense not to do harm an all that,I believe in spirits but iv learned that much that I’m starting to believe religion is a possible way of stopping from knowing truth that we don’t know, so if u know anything to do with ancient Symbols ect I just want someone else’s opinion that has faith but is more open minded to see scientific truth, an why certain events example, technology being up an down,
I might be crazy but talking bout possibilitys n trying to find them is hard but what I’m looking for is very out there but yer plz

From what your saying you have been following religion and you are now on the path of FAITH. The two are so different. Jesus led the way. Faith the belief without seeing or knowing that GOD exist. Religion the unification of Legion or the gathering up of the fallen angels in a cohesive manner to lead others away from faith. Finding truth is the utmost priority of humans. All symbols, tools etc. are distractions that what Jesus teaches. All the simple acts written about him in the bible do not suggest that he practice anything we deem religious today. His church was outside on the grass talking to people about God. Instead we worship in churches (religion). His way of connecting to God was lighting a candle and saying a simple prayer. We do so much hail this or that in churches who are we bowing to. Keep to the simple path stupid my earthly father once told me do not be a follower of men or woman. And then he let me choose for myself, and do you know something he was correct. God is everywhere and everything and you stole choice form the tree of life through ADAM so make a choice by starting to ask questions. Even from your priest, and if they refuse to answer keep asking till they give an answer or you find truth.

Good answer. These churches are harlots. Revelation talks about Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abomination of the earth.

It is talking about the Roman Catholic Church. All these churches spawned from her. They all keep her tradition. Sunday worship/Sun worship, Christmas, Easter, Valentines day, mothers day, ect.

Saturday is the 7th day. Atheists, pagans, ect all partake in these holy days that come from Babylon. Catholicism is paganism covered by Biblical names

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

Religion is a collection of wisdom. Religious leaders are politicians manipulators and controllers.

Maybe an example of this would be “”The letters inscribed in the Pope’s mitre are these: Vicarius Filii Dei, which is the Latin for the Vicar of the Son of God. ” which equates to 666 IMHO this is a warning, although the religion maybe good (or the wisdom maybe useful) the leader is not.

Also IMHO Jesus came when he did to put a stop to the corruption being spread by the only priest groups that the Babylonians sparred due to their conformity.

Hopefully that may have triggered something for you.

God loved Jacob, but hated Esau.

It’s quite clear in the old testament that God loves some humans and hates others.

God loves us all, in that scripture, it refers to the blessings they received. Jacob was more blessed, because he was more diligent and obedient. It is not saying that God did not care for Esau. I am Christian, but I have been taught from birth to ask questions. If you don’t question everything, then you will just be another blind sheep.

Esau seems to be redeemed in the resolution of the story of jacob and esau. When it says that God hates Esau, it is a metaphorical personification of what Esau stands for. God was making a metaphorical distinction between the believing spirit of jacob and the disbelieving spirit of esau. God was not hating the literal figure of Esau, God loved Esau the man.

Sometimes the words do not translate well. Old testament was collected over 1000s of years language words change in that time. So you would have to do some research to get as full a definition as possible from the untranslated word.

Some that I have look into are:
Kill in the ten commandments would be a much closer Murder but would still leave out the fact that it also encompassed character assassination.

I am a jealous God, the word translated as jealous actually refers to the protective love of a mother? Not exactly what we think of as jealousy.

Lucifer is morning star or light bearer and is a title not an entity strangely enough Jesus claims this title in Revelations. So where all the luciferian stuff comes from IDK.
Rev_22:16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.

Just some of my observations.

Hi Joshua
What you said resonates very strongly with me. I am being called to look into all of this as we speak..Thank you for sharing your truth. We have the power to touch others in ways we don’t even realize. I send you my gratitude and love…

Wrong, it is and always will be linked to the devil , the devil has been here since the beginning of time angels were here before man and satan is a fallen angel the pentagram in all forms is linked to demonic activity mostly disguised as good , always about oh its for the elements or the earth , but the bible warned that the worship or admorishan of the earth or elements or stars in all forms its a disguise for demons, Demons are very real “For god so loved the world that though we were yet sinners christ died for us, god sent his only son , who was the word of god , fully god fully man to take our place in exchange for our sins he paid the price believe it or don’t , it is the truth.

If god forgives everything why doesnt everybody go to heaven? It’s because we’re already here. The choices that we make are what get us there.. We all can chose to have all the heaven we want or the hell we want.. We are All free to accept or reject gods love..now with that said. Were all created in gods image..but what is god?? He’s pure love! So how can god hate anything?? Now.. Look at Term “fallen angel” it doesnt mean they literally fell from heaven to earth.. it means they fell from the grace of GOD! So in a sense we all are fallen angels.. And as far as lucifer goes.. If we are all created in gods image “love” nothing can hurt us.. “the devil is nothing more then our false ego” we create him ourselves..Whatever we believe is..to some the pentagram can be an “evil” or “demonic” symbol.. To others it can represent the virtuvian man.. “which is the believe that god created us all mathematically perfect in his image.. Like him” look up the golden ratio PHI 1.618..answers are out there you just have to be open minded and willing to look… A little bit about myself.. I have the pentagram and holy trinity tattooed and my for arms and I have angel wings on my back with the word “fallen” down my spine.. I am very spirtual and I don’t just believe what I’ve be “told” I take the time to look things up for myself… I am in no way trying to say.. “Oh you’re wrong and I’m right”.. What ever you believe is.. That’s the only point I’m trying to make.

I don’t doubt the bible but would you mind posting the verse in which it says so? I mean, worshipping something other than God is of course something that should not be done as a Christian, but we can admire the elements can’t we? God DID create the world after all.

There is a big difference between Admiration and Worship (Or “Glorification”), is there not?!
Christ (The Annointed) is our only true protection. All other things (Amulets, Rings, Pentagrams/acles et al) are a deception of the Fallen One. Magic/Majik means “Deception”!
The Priests of On (Egypt) in the Court of Pharoah were Black Magicians/Sorcerers who were also able to turn Water to Blood and their Staffs to Snakes, Remember?!
This implies that even the Fallen Angels have limited power over the Elements.
The Anti-Christ also will be one “Understanding Dark Sentences”.
Meaning he will be an Occultist/Sorcerer.

Look at the popes of Rome. The Bible does not call him antichrist. He is called the son of perdition. Antichrist is a spirit. And many antichrists are here. All roads lead to rome

Joseph used a silver cup for divination

The Levite Priests used ephod and rune stones for divination

Moses used a staff for magick, remember he did grow up around the Egyptian King’s court and would have been trained in all sorts of magick at an early age

Jesus was visited by Zoroastrian Magi’s from Iran (magick)

So correct for a religious zealot

Dear Jesse, you are still not answering the question as to where exactly you get your Intel from and simply accusing symbols, stars, etc. as being from the Devil without any real proof.
The Bible has been manipulated over the Centuries to warp and limit the true spiritual potential in all of us humans.
Just to give you an example, The King James Bible was edited during the reign of King James of course, and how do you know The Holy Spirit or God worked through him to give us an accurate picture of his Sacred mandate.
Going back even further, Emperor Constantine, The Council of Nicaea, (and the unified consensus of what to believe and how to believe in Christ) demonstrates the interference and manipulation of man concerning this “Sacred” book.
Why do you think you go to church on “Sun-day”?
Have you heard of the Nag Hammadi texts? I think it would pay for you to go back and research this subject in more depth as opposed to simply give us the “watered down” version of Christianity which in my humble opinion takes your personal power away by having an external source of salvation.
“Know Thyself, for the Kingdom of God lies within”…….

The Bible has suffered the minor inconvieniences that all translations do when going through the translation process. I would not go so far as to say that the Bible has then been “warped” in the manner you suggest and certainly not warped for the purpose you suggest. While the council’s goal was to determine the nature of Christ (primarily due to the Arian beliefs that were present at the time, confliction with the Jesus is God theology of what is today orthodox), it was through discussion and proofs of the religious documents available to them. There certainly no “manipulation” of these documents which have been stable, i would argue, for centuries. The documents were not in question, merely the doctrine, the interpretation of those documents.

who’s to say that the meaning wont change again? its obviously changed quite a bit, i’m curious for its next meaning. as for God and Satan. I believe there was a being that created the world but that doesn’t care we are an experiment and as long as we feed its ego(i.e. worship, sacrifice, or whatever pleases it) it will step in and help some. i am by no means attacking anyone’s faith but non of us knows what lies beyond for all we know this is it.

So we should take your expert opinion over evidence bhahahaha. It must be true because you say so..right? I think if god was trying to tell you beware of the pentagrams he would say beware of the pentagrams. Ravings of a untreated lunatic under the guise of religious opinion.

So then is this also true of the upside down cross? Why let the adversary take anything from God for his own? He has no claim to anything no symbols no name nothing unless you by free will give it to him. I personally choose to give him nothing.

. . . “the upturned cross (which is a symbol of rebellion against Christian culture). . . ” Yes, the inverted cross may be used by some as a “F*** you” to Christianity, but it should not be an insult. The Cross of St. Peter is inverted because Peter did not believe himself to be worthy enough to die in the same manner as his Lord. Thus he was crucified upside down. Basic fact checking here.

This fact always comes to my mind when I see “satanic” musicians wearing inverted crosses.
“Good Lord!” – I say to myself – “St. Peter followers?”

Hi Im here doing research on the pentangle because Im a HUGE Adam Lambert fan and i noticed on the back cover of his “Beg For Mercy” album there’s a pentangle on it. Its not upside down but Im just checking to see if its anything bad because Im a Christian and i don’t wanna fan girl someone demonic but so far my research proves that if the pentangle is right side up (which it is on the album) then its nothing bad and in fact a Christian symbol so in other words thank the lord for this website . woooooooooooooooooo

Hi Divonia. I’m a big fan of Adam Lambert as well and went to see him with Queen in January and it was awesome! I’m also a Christian and noticed some of Adam’s tattoos had some interesting symbols on them so I decided to check them out. He has one of the Greek god Pan (half man, half goat). Adam said “Tattoo has nothing to do w Satanism… That’s stupid. Greek Mythology? Yes. PAN” However Pan, in a set of tarrot cards, is used to depict the devil. A pentagtram the correct way up may have the Christian connection but it’s also a main symbol for paganism upside down the pentagram is associated with goat worship. He also has a tattoo with the sickle moon with the circle inside it which prepresented the solar deity (Baal-Hadad), shown as a disk in a crescent, the ancient symbol of cosmic conception assicated with the Egyptian sun god Ra (who Adam sings about) is also associated with Lucifer worship. The all-seeing eye tattoo Adam has is the eye of Osirus which is used in freemasonary. See here for more details: http://simplyheavenlyfood.tumblr.com/post/48812148207/the-eye-of-horus-not-just-a-trend-a-symbol
I like Adam and think he is an amazingly talent solo singer and a great new front man for Queen (I can bear witness to this) there is some cause for concern there as well – for Christians anyway. God bless!

The designs are typically symmetrical, one of the reasons why they’re fairly easy to draw. Popular Sleeve Tattoo Designs: Of course your tattoo needs to be individual and unique to you so these are just some suggestions of ideas that have been done often and make great full sleeve tattoo designs. You can practice tattooing by experimenting with as many mediums as you can.

I have a very old clock wit the pentagram and norwegian writings. I wonder if i can get a translation and meaning of it.

Hi Indra,
Can you please show me the images of the clock which you have mentioned.

Greetings!
My Concerns may seem Minute, However, When Did The Pentagram Stop Being A Christian Symbol? I Am A Clairvoyant Christian And Ive AlwaYs Been Interested In The 5 Pointed Star, Bit I Found This Site When I Was DoNg Research On Its Background. If Someone Could Tell Me When It WasNoLongerRecognized As A ChristianSymbol, That WouldBe VeryHelpful.

Ps I HaVe No Clue As To Why My Letters And WordS Are Messed Up, So I Apologize

Hi, I’m not an expert, but I don’t think the pentagram ever stopped being a Christian symbol. I think what happened to the Pentagram is similar to the swastika. The swastika is still a universal religious symbol meaning various good things like love, wisdom, unity, etc. but given the abomination of Nazism the swastika now has very, very negative connotations to the modern mind. Analogously, the pentagram was used by Satanist groups (who incidentally don’t really believe in Satan but ‘practice’ it as a counter-cultural statement). These Satanist got lumped in with the “Devil Music” know as Rock n’ Roll and the 60′s counter-culture and thus the pentagram gained a negative association with conservative Christian groups. Hence, I’d say the shift from Christian to anti-Christian (of course this shift is not absolute, just a cultural perception) occurred in the mid 20th century. I also conjecture that the pentagram was never a hugely important symbol in Christianity of course this varies between sects and I’m not saying it has no role, but Christianity has many other central symbols like the cross, the trinity, etc. Maybe this all helps, or maybe I’m just rambling, either way, peace out and much love

Pretty simple really, it is ancient, for older than 2000 years when Christianity was invented.

If you guys use it in Christianity, you are far from the first religion to use it

Technically, Christianity would have been around since the creation of Adam and Eve. The old testament is Christian, and starts with the first people on the planet. Depending on what you believe or accept.

The Old Testament is the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. It is Pre-Christian.

Shalom
I have a 5 pointed Star in my mouth, it’s been there since I was 16, my parents did as well, I was told that it represents members of The Order of the Eastern Star.
An international humanitarian organization composed of women who are wives of advanced Masons.

I was told that the history of the pentagram 𔄝 Star” can also be traced to many ancient cultures. The symbol was used in the 4th century BC in Mesopotamia, both as the seal of Solomon and of Jerusalem for the Jewish people.

As well, among my ancestry, which is linked back to King Solomon and Queen Sheba, the 5 star in Ethiopian Hebrew represents the female, and of course through persecution and inquisitions, many Jewish Ethiopian were force to convert to Islam or Christianity.

The Order of the Eastern Star is an organization that is run separately from Free Masonry. They are related, yes, but The Order of the Eastern Star is not strictly for the wives of Masons. It’s one of the female counterparts.

Your wrong. The Eastern Stars was invented for females (wives and daughters) only related to Masons and because of their decline they started accepting women out of that circle. I am a Mason and my wife an Eastern Star, if I’m correct they can’t have a meeting “without” a Mason brother present who himself is initiated into the Eastern Star order.

Forgive me the silly question, but what do you exactly mean by “I have a 5 pointed Star in my mouth”. Is it a tattoo or what?

The Pentagram is also represented in Nature as in the equatorial cross section of the Pawpaw fruit. Its magic is thus connected with powerful forces of Nature and should be handled responsibly.

Hello,
I’m researching an 1856 seated liberty quarter with two counterstamps. The obverse counterstamp is a five-pointed star with five lines intersecting at the center. The reverse has a cross counterstamp. Is there someone at this site who would like to see images of this old coin and perhaps give me some insight to it? If so, please contact me by email and I will send the images. Thanks very much.
John Sculley

Sorry, it also has a dot in the centre.

I have a very old ring which shows a pentagram design with a dot between each of the five points. Any clues? I’ve been told it’s a Templar ring but can’t find any reference to the design anywhere.

Why does the Pentagram have Hebrew letters on it?

Hi Jorge. You’ll find in your travels that this is fairly common in pentagrams from the renaissance era, as they were incorporated in magical practices largely by Christian magicians. Hebrew, being the language of the angels, was important in both Jewish (obviously) and Christian magic. In these times, pentagrams were quite sacred, and not regarded as evil as they often are today.

Language of the Angels? I’m pretty sure they’re more advanced than speaking human languages.

I found this article fascinating. I especially love how the pentagram was explained as to how the forefathers of this country used it. I already knew this. I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness….and, they try to unearth everything “pagan”. I also knew it was connected to the Masons. But, I did not exactly how. I am a student of the Craft, and now where one. I always was mystified how people become terrified at a symbol. And, I wear it as such. It’s no different than a Christian wearing a cross. I do not bow down and revere a Symbol. If, Christians or any other kind of believer doesn’t have enough brains or freedom to research there own belief system/s, and, the origins on which that system is founded….Then I’m sorry. I find that person/s kind of dull and boring. After, I got away from CHUCHIANITY, and did research, I had no right nor merit to proselytize people into religions I knew nothing about! Any path that helps us mature as a person should not be ridiculed by a casual observer who knows little about the foundation of their own! This is MY PERSONAL OPINION.

what are those 5 words around the pentagram are they islamic

i was just wondering with the elements in a pentagram where would they be positioned because i was reading another website saying “However, when Fire is in contact Earth, the Earth dries up, becomes lifeless, empty. The same happens with jewels: energy of Earth gemstone is suppressed by the Fire gemstone. Water and Fire destroy each other combination of Air and Water creates a negative, “rotten” power.” so how do i come up with a pentgram with the five elements when they are all conected

Slash the guitarist had a shirt on the other night. It had Mickey Mouse and in the middle of the head was a star with a goat in the middle. What does this symbol represent?

Slash is a satanist. Common in the rock industry. FYI he’s an awesome guitarist.

Hello just to say I loved your site, nothing is simple and flashing colors that do not affect the vision and the best is that it brings numerous symbols and despite studying the Celts, Druids and be a practitioner of Wicca symbols found that did not know, thanks for sharing with the world the your knowledge.

Your Portuguese friend Lhiannon

Hey in regards to levays satanic pentagram deos the markings in the outer circle have a particular meaning or are they there for no appernt reason been loking everywhere no answer. Some one believe there enoihain(angelic language) but i dont have a satanic bible to cheak as anton levay conscribed his enochain differntly to other style on wikipedia :p

In regard to the one pictured, it spells out “Leviathan” in transliterated Hebrew characters.

What are the symbols of healing on the pentagram?
What are the symbols of luck on the pentagram?

why does it have hebrew letters around the pentagram?

I’m doing research on cemeteries and I found an upside down pentagram, it has a bible in the center, I couldn’t see the symbols in the points as well one lookes like a chalice, and one like a hand like the type that is drawn usually holding a bible. any ideas what it’s from?

That is almost without a doubt the emblem of the Eastern Star, a Masonic affiliate:

Bela (bē’lə), in the Bible.
1 First king of Edom.
2 Benjamin’s first son. An alternative spelling is Belah.
3 City later called Zoar.

Sela (“rock”) in the bible….
A town in northern EDOM When Amaziah, king of Judah, conquered and slew 10,000 Edomites he changed its name to Joktheel (II Kgs 14:7 II Chr 25:12ff). The name Sela has been preserved in modern es-Sela, where a small Edomite-Nabatean fortress has been discovered 5 miles (8 km) southwest of Tafileh. The identification of Sela with Petra, ancient REKEM has no foundation in fact.

But then again, way back when… the pentangle, or 5 points…. were Christian Symbols…..

beautiful ‘ and ‘ saddle ‘ in portugese

I have an amulet with a pentangle given to my mother by her uncle which has the words ‘bela’ and ‘sela’ inscribed around the encompassing circle. Do you have any idea what the words mean?


The Religion With No Name

In this article, Brian C. Muraresku outlines his theory of the world’s oldest surviving religion.

&ldquoThe man of a traditional culture sees himself as real only to the extent that he ceases to be himself. Plato could be regarded as the outstanding philosopher of &lsquoprimitive mentality&rsquo &ndash the thinker who succeeded in giving philosophic currency and validity to the modes of life and behavior of archaic humanity.&rdquo 1

&ndash Mircea Eliade

The Real Hippies

What&rsquos become of religion these days? Seriously. More than a billion people across the planet are religiously unaffiliated. That includes one in every five Americans and Europeans, and &ndash believe it or not &ndash almost half of the British public. Impressive as those numbers are today, just imagine the future of the Western world. Fueling the growth of this segment, after all, is a younger generation that is either uninterested in or entirely fed up with the organized religions of their parents and grandparents. Despite being four months older than the statistically oldest Millennial (born in the distant past of 1980), I can still report the cohort&rsquos emerging preference: 32% of Americans aged 18 to 34 choose not to identify with a particular faith. This is far more than any previous generation, including those groovy Boomers, whose comparative figure in the 1970s was an underwhelming 13%. The below graph gives due credit to the real hippies.

At the end of his brilliant career, mythologist Joseph Campbell concluded that what we&rsquore all seeking is not the meaning of life, but an &ldquoexperience of being alive&rdquo. Across the 200,000-year history of our species, the triggering of &ldquopowerful, pervasive, and long-lasting&rdquo states of mind has been the essential function of bona fide religion. 2 Recently, our fields, stages and screens &ndash the altars of the 21 st century &ndash have assumed that sacred responsibility, making organized religion obsolete in a world where the full range of human emotion is available at the tap of a thumb. A half century ago, this is really all John Lennon was trying to say. When people are willing to wait in line for days (yes, days!) to get the latest iPhone or audition for American Idol , what the hell isn&rsquot &ldquomore popular than Jesus&rdquo? But fear not. There is nothing particularly new or disturbing about that 72% of my &ldquospiritual but not religious&rdquo generation intent on reclaiming ownership of its heart and mind. Before the rise of Churchianity, in the long-forgotten cradle of Western Civilization, our ancestors were also drawn to a spiritually independent lifestyle &ndash free from any doctrine or dogma. What united them, however, was not just an &ldquoexperience of being alive&rdquo, but something they thought was the single most important event a human being could ever experience. Its participants, without fail, left permanently transformed. Before religion goes the way of the fax machine, we owe this phenomenon some serious consideration &ndash for the sake of our ancestors, and ourselves.

The Place Where Science Was Born

At the tender age of 14, I began eight years of intensive training in Latin and Greek. Accounting as they do for 60% of the English language, I was told the mandatory Jesuit curriculum would bump my SAT scores. An appeal was also made to the Founding Fathers, who were themselves fairly obsessed with the Classics. James Madison&rsquos opinion that Athens and Rome had &ldquodone more honor to our species (humanity) than all the rest&rdquo was by no means unique in the late 18 th century. The principal drafter of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, looked to classical literature as &ldquothe ultimate source of both delight and instruction&rdquo 3 &ndash admiration that hearkens back 700 years to the Renaissance, when the key feature of the new humanism that came to shape our Western world &ldquowas an educational and cultural program based on the study of classical Greek and Latin authors&rdquo. 4 It is no coincidence the National Mall near my home in Washington DC is flanked on either end by rather explicit tributes to the Athenian Parthenon (Lincoln Memorial) and the Roman Pantheon (Capitol Building). 5

Back in the day, I was particularly attracted to Greek, at once so alien and familiar. The process of learning an exotic alphabet was a little weird, especially for a language credited with seeding not only English, but so many of the institutions and disciplines we take for granted today: democracy, law, medicine, architecture and economics not to mention philosophy, history, ethics or the very concept of a university. Our love of entertainment, sports and music goes directly back to the theaters and stadia of Ancient Greece. And it was from scratch, let&rsquos not forget, that a handful of enterprising minds created the sciences we hold so dear: from cosmology and physics, to biology and mathematics. No one articulates this more lyrically than Carl Sagan: &ldquoAnd so it was here [in the Greek isles of the eastern Mediterranean between 600 and 400 BC] that the great idea arose &ndash that there might be principles, forces, laws of nature through which the world might be understood without attributing the fall of every sparrow to the direct intervention of Zeus. This is the place where science was born!&rdquo


A rare edition of Plutarch’s Lives from Thomas Jefferson’s personal library, complete with a scrap of paper showing his handwritten notes.
Photo by: Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos

From the very beginning, therefore, I understood Greek as a kind of initiation into ancient systems of thought that had somehow influenced everything, then inexplicably went missing. But in a country that was so unambiguously created as the extension of classical insights and achievements, why did almost nobody learn this stuff anymore? Why had this branch of knowledge become the eccentric province of a privileged few? These questions hounded me into college, where I was given a generous scholarship to exhaust my curiosity as a full-time Classics geek.

Ancient Greek Gurus and the &ldquoSecret Doctrine&rdquo

Having already invested my high school years in two dead languages, the exploration of yet another seemed in order. My budding interest in religion was kind of leading in the same direction as other disaffected youth before me &ndash a path if not pioneered then certainly popularized by the Beatles and my hero, George Harrison, specifically. 6 His celebrity peaking just as the first wave of Eastern wisdom hit Western shores, George&rsquos enormous impact on global spirituality is nowhere better depicted than Martin Scorsese&rsquos 2011 documentary: Living in the Material World. My own linguistic and spiritual longings therefore coincided in an obvious next step &ndash Sanskrit &ndash which would open the door to millennia of Hindu and Buddhist teachings. Freshmen mornings found me chanting the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. My introduction to Theravada meditation came over lunch. Afternoons were reserved for my old pals, Homer and Plato. Most evenings carried me into the wee hours, deciphering hundreds of lines of ancient text. It pretty much stayed this way for four years &ndash impossible almost anywhere else but the rather liberal Brown University. For my senior thesis, I translated a poem from an ascetic order called Jainism, which likely predates both Hinduism and Buddhism. The only appropriate way to bid farewell to these mystical, sitar-heavy years &ndash before selling out to a Wall Street law firm &ndash was to hike through India with my best buddy, who has since fled Delhi to run a yoga retreat in Goa. The point being, at a time when I really should have been attending more naked parties, something was urging me head first into a distant and dusty past.

I will never forget the moment in sophomore year when the line between East and West began to blur, sparking a whole new appreciation for those often-overlooked ancestors who birthed our civilization into being. Up to that point, my afternoon seminar on Homer&rsquos Odyssey seemed out of place for a day otherwise dedicated to obscure breathing exercises and reading about karma, reincarnation and the chakras. One fateful day, I had happened upon a passage from the 5 th -century AD philosopher, Proclus, where he makes reference to a &ldquosecret doctrine&rdquo (αππορητον θεωρίαν) hidden away in the Iliad and Odyssey . 7 I was mesmerized! What a crazy idea to associate with the foundation of all Western literature. Why, rather than speaking plainly, would our very first attempt at the written word transmit a covert agenda? And what on earth could that agenda possibly be? Bizarre as it sounds, Proclus was not alone in thinking a surface reading of Homer&rsquos epics would completely miss the point. His tradition, Neoplatonism, arose in the 3 rd century AD as an effort to preserve the purest teachings of the godfathers of Western thought, Pythagoras and Plato. 8 One of the early stars of this school was Porphyry, who wrote a long and complicated commentary on just a few lines of Book 13 of the Odyssey that, at first glance, are very pretty but easily forgettable .

Classicists label this passage the &ldquoCave of the Nymphs&rdquo. The wily hero, Odysseus, after a 10-year journey through a million obstacles in the wake of the Trojan War, is finally homebound to his native Ithaca. Just before his ship touches down on Greek soil, Homer pauses to describe the extraordinary harbor that will, at long last, welcome back its native son. It houses a sacred olive tree and a miraculous cavern populated by nymphs. The hero&rsquos patron goddess, Athena, selects this cave as a hiding place for the gold and bronze valuables Odysseus has just inherited from the friendly Phaeacians, a mysterious but hospitable sea-faring people. 9 In a blatant omission that has perplexed scholars for centuries, however, Homer never fully resolves the ultimate fate of this meticulously buried treasure. Mentioned just once more in passing, it seems like a rather superfluous detail, as does the cave itself.

Following this strange episode, Athena magically transforms Odysseus into a withered, old vagabond. It makes the ambush and graphic execution of his wife&rsquos suitors a little easier. Under the leaves of the holy tree in that curious harbor, Odysseus assumes a new identity and spends basically half the book in disguise. Reflecting on this scene almost a thousand years after its creation, Porphyry says something that should forever change how we think about the origin and purpose of Western Civilization. The translation from Robert Lamberton&rsquos Homer the Theologian is worth reproducing:

&ldquoHomer says that all outward possessions must be deposited in this cave and that one must be stripped naked and take on the persona of a beggar and, having withered the body away and cast aside all that is superficial and turned away from the senses, take counsel with Athena, sitting with her beneath the roots of the olive, how he might cut away all the destructive passions of his soul.&rdquo 10

What the hell? That sounded almost monastic, and much closer to the Eastern religious tradition than anything I had heard about the Ancient Greeks. In fact, the essence of the Buddha&rsquos so-called Four Noble Truths were right there, staring me in the face. To summarize: (1) nothing lasts forever in this disjointed life (2) by clinging to the ups and downs of such an existence &ndash the good as well as the bad &ndash we suffer and are continuously reborn (3) this cycle of reincarnation can only be stopped by stripping away the unhealthy attention we place on all things impermanent and (4) it is through right conduct and self-examination &ndash in disciplines like meditation &ndash that we can train the mind to see beyond the illusions of the phenomenal world and our physical body, thereby achieving liberation.


This head of Odysseus was discovered in 1957 on the west coast of Italy between Rome and Naples, on the grounds of the former villa of the Roman Emperor Tiberius at Sperlonga. The original sculpture likely dates to the 1st century BC.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the absence of any competing explanation for why Homer would waste his time introducing a Phaeacian treasure that in no way affects the plot, Porphyry&rsquos metaphor of abandoning life&rsquos pleasures and comforts in exchange for true peace and happiness seems fair &ndash just as Odysseus must shed his riches, and play the beggar, prior to his homecoming. But what the Neoplatonists are suggesting is something altogether more radical. This is a philosophy in which the senses are interpreted as obscuring, rather than revealing, the truth. Porphyry&rsquos warning to &ldquoturn away from the senses&rdquo (τἀς αἰσθήσεις ἀποστραφέντα) is pretty clear in the Greek. In fact, it could even be translated &ldquodissuade the senses&rdquo. The apparent authority of our sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell &ndash while great for keeping us focused on &ldquoall that is superficial&rdquo so we don&rsquot walk into each other &ndash should nonetheless be challenged once in a while. Wonderful as they are, the senses don&rsquot deserve 100% control over how we perceive the world. Likewise, the &ldquopassions&rdquo or &ldquoemotions&rdquo (πάθη) that accompany everyday life are described as &ldquodestructive&rdquo or, perhaps better, &ldquoplotting against&rdquo us (ἐπίβουλα). Intent on distracting us from what is essential, Porphyry gives the okay to &ldquocut down&rdquo or &ldquotrim&rdquo (επικοψη)that annoying mental chatter.

For these quasi-Buddhists who could spot Homer&rsquos &ldquosecret doctrine&rdquo, the Odyssey is an 8 th century BC invitation to a worldview in which things are not always what they seem &ndash where the reality of everything around us must be questioned. 11 Like the hero, Odysseus, we are called to reassess the mere surface of things &ndash both the outer, sensory world and our innermost being. Underneath the illusion (what the Hindu or Buddhist literature would term &ldquomaya&rdquo), the real world &ndash our true home &ndash waits to be discovered.

For explicit instructions on how to &ldquodissuade&rdquo those overbearing senses and &ldquotrim&rdquo the unruly passions, we need look no further than Porphyry&rsquos guru, Plotinus. Born in Egypt in 205 AD, this virtually unknown genius is where all Neoplatonism begins. Over the last 17 years of his life, Plotinus wrote a massive, six-part treatise in Greek entitled the Enneads (available here for free). In a passage that acknowledges the entire Odyssey as a parable of spiritual liberation, Plotinus is quick to distinguish our journey home as an inner, rather than outer, adventure: &ldquoWe must not look, but must, as it were, close our eyes and exchange our faculty of vision for another. We must awaken this faculty which everyone possesses, but few people ever use.&rdquo 12 This seems like a recipe for Western meditation, in very plain and unmistakable language. And much like the Hindus or Buddhists who believe such exercises can penetrate the illusions that surround us, both inside and out, Plotinus taught his students to &ldquoawaken&rdquo (ἀνεγεῖραι)this underused &ldquoother sight&rdquo (ὄψιν ἄλλην) in order to reach &ldquothat other world&rdquo, where &ldquoeverything is color and beauty&rdquo not on the surface but &ldquoright from its very depths&rdquo. 13 This might resemble the world more likely encountered in dreams, where everything is experienced &ndash keep in mind &ndash without the aid of those alert, problem-solving senses. But Plotinus&rsquo realm is different. His gives shape and meaning to the universe as we know it &ndash the magical source, in fact, of reality across all times and dimensions.

In a final surprise twist, Plotinus cautions that access to this elusive kingdom cannot be &ldquoacquired by calculations&rdquo or &ldquoconstructed out of theorems&rdquo. 14 Logic, reason or conscious reflection will have zero impact on our ability to explore it, which can only occur through what Classicist Pierre Hadot referred to as &ldquoprivileged experience&rdquo 15 &ndash &ldquoeyes closed&rdquo (μύσαντα ὄψιν)in contemplation. The covert agenda attributed to Homer had now made itself known. What Proclus had only hinted at became crystal clear with Plotinus, as the barrier between East and West crumbled away. It occurred to me, of course, that these guys were getting carried away with their Homer &ndash inventing a &ldquosecret doctrine&rdquo where none existed in the nostalgia for a bygone era. Was it really possible for &ldquothe place where science was born&rdquo, as Carl Sagan pointed out, to have also birthed a completely contradictory worldview? Where matter is just a byproduct of something much more fundamental. Where the senses &ndash and everything we think we know about the world &ndash are not to be trusted. And where each of us possesses a latent ability, which &ldquofew people ever use&rdquo, to explore the ultimate nature of reality. Imagine the implications if, for the entire history of Western Civilization, we&rsquove had it all upside down.

Ten Thousand Eyes

As it turns out, the Neoplatonists weren&rsquot just making this stuff up. The idea of a non-physical world that creates and sustains the one we inhabit &ndash accessible only by some kind of extrasensory power, some non-ordinary state of consciousness &ndash was introduced to Western philosophy over 600 years before Plotinus&rsquo Enneads by the godfather himself: Plato. My chance run-in with Neoplatonism had me totally reevaluating how it all began. Sure enough, scattered across a number of Plato&rsquos 4 th century BC masterpieces, the &ldquosecret doctrine&rdquo shines apparent for all to see.

&ldquoThat other world&rdquo mentioned by Plotinus is trademark Plato, familiar to many as the Theory of Forms. In perhaps his most famous passage from the Republic , the so-called Allegory of the Cave, Plato establishes our physical world as the mere shadow of a more genuine reality lying just beyond our conventional awareness. This retro, three-minute Claymation video is an excellent refresher. Later in his Timaeus, Plato again refers to the sensory universe as a &ldquocopy&rdquo (εἰκόνος) or &ldquomodel&rdquo (παραδείγματος) of something much more permanent and absolute. 16 This perspective is not necessarily the most intuitive. It flies in the face of our everyday experience, where things seem real enough just the way they are. Plato calls &ldquouninitiated&rdquo (ἀμυήτων) however, those who would object to his theory of everything. In the Theaetetus, he scorns those poor folks &ldquowho believe that nothing is real save what they can grasp with hands and do not admit &hellip anything invisible can count as real&rdquo. Funnily enough, there is a term to describe this &ldquouninitiated&rdquo philosophy, which seems to have conquered much of the Western world today: naïve realism. It is important to remember that this worldview is a choice and not a fact. It puts a lot of faith in the images formed by the brain &ndash a gullibility that keeps magicians in business. But this kind of blind acceptance is certainly not how our civilization hit the ground running.

Anticipating his Neoplatonic disciples by hundreds of years, Plato likewise doubts the reliability of our senses. The entire body, as a matter of fact, is suspect. A memorable line from the Phaedrus compares our condition in this world to &ldquoan oyster imprisoned in its shell&rdquo. 17 It is only by avoiding the &ldquofollies of the body&rdquo that we can &ldquogain direct knowledge of all that is pure and uncontaminated,&rdquo declares the Phaedo. 18 Not surprisingly, Plato insists that the same untapped ability identified by Plotinus is our sole means of achieving spiritual release from this confused, temporary moment we call life. Just like Plotinus&rsquo &ldquoother sight&rdquo (ὄψιν ἄλλην), Plato testifies in the Republic that &ldquothere is in every soul an organ or instrument of knowledge&rdquo which is &ldquoblinded by ordinary pursuits&rdquo. Though relatively few of us seem to take advantage of this amazing faculty, once activated, it can perceive more than &ldquoten thousand [ordinary] eyes&rdquo. Translated by some as the &ldquoeye of the soul&rdquo, 19 Plato with no hesitation declares that it is our &ldquoexclusive means of beholding the ultimate truth&rdquo (&muό&nuῳ &gammaὰ&rho &alphaὐ&tauῷ ἀ&lambdaή&theta&epsilon&iota&alpha ὁ&rhoᾶ&tau&alpha&iota) 20 &ndash an obvious allusion to the so-called &ldquothird eye&rdquo or ajna chakra of Hindu mysticism, considered the visionary portal to domains unseen.

To dispel any doubt that Plato was the George Harrison of the 4 th century BC, deftly packaging Eastern spirituality for a Western audience, note the concept of karma embedded in the Phaedrus. Plato makes &ldquosome ancient guilt&rdquo or &ldquowrath&rdquo (παλαιῶν ἐκ μηνιμάτων) responsible for families passing misfortune from one generation to another. Not exactly what you&rsquod expect from the people who gave us logic and rationality! Finally, no guru would be complete without a shameless advertisement for reincarnation. Plato&rsquos other well-known episode from the Republic , the Myth of Er, features a fallen solider who comes back from the dead to share his incredibly vivid account of the afterlife. The resurrected Er speaks about the process of reincarnation at length, for which there are no less than three ludicrous words in Greek: metempsychosis, metensomatosis and palingenesis. As Plato concludes in the Timaeus, the only escape from this wheel of death and rebirth is to conquer the same &ldquodestructive passions&rdquo that Porphyry warned against &ndash the ups and downs, the &ldquopleasure and pain&rdquo (ἡ&delta&omicron&nuῇ &kappa&alphaὶ &lambdaύ&piῃ), inherent in all &ldquodesire&rdquo (ἔρωτα). 21

Ancient Cultural Internet

If Plato had written in Sanskrit instead of Greek, first off &ndash the &ldquosecret doctrine&rdquo would be indistinguishable from esoteric Hindu or Buddhist scripture. And second, you would never guess this was the father of all Western thought talking. We live in a make-believe world, imprisoned by the body, and the only way out is a hidden power we all have but never learn about? The ultimate reality &ndash the stuff that really counts &ndash is invisible? Karma, reincarnation and the chakras are all credible? By the time I finished college, that old line between East and West made absolutely no sense whatsoever. What made even less sense was the fact that mainstream, Western academia never addressed what I thought was a mind-blowing realization. I was never taught to read Homer in the manner of Proclus, Porphyry or Plotinus. And while the Allegory of the Cave and the Myth of Er certainly came up in my Plato seminars, the focus was always honing our grammar and vocabulary skills, and never the totally neglected but amusing fact that Western Civilization was evidently founded by a bunch of hippies.

It was in the years following, while I was supposed to be practicing law, that I realized Plato wasn&rsquot just making this stuff up either. By the 4 th century BC, in fact, he was simply the latest in a long line of mystical philosophers alluded to in a 2 nd -century AD fragment by Numenius, who informs us that the &ldquo initiations [emphasis mine] and doctrines and cults &hellip established by the Brahmins, the Jews, the Magi, and the Egyptians&rdquo were indeed &ldquoharmonious with Plato&rdquo. 22 Given all the above similarities, the case for an Indian influence on Ancient Greek thought seems beyond dispute. 23 For our connection to North Africa and the Near East, groundbreaking scholarship by just a few Classicists has amassed the evidence for what a recent article in The Guardian dubbed an &ldquoancient cultural internet&rdquo connecting &ldquoa series of networked cultures in multi-voiced conversation&rdquo. A quick glance at the titles alone offers a great snapshot of this exciting line of research: Martin Bernal&rsquos Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization M.L. West&rsquos The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth Walter Burkert&rsquos Bablyon, Memphis, Persepolis: Eastern Contexts of Greek Culture and The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age and most recently, Tim Whitmarsh&rsquos The Romance Between Greece and the East. Rather than a &ldquoGreek Miracle&rdquo where Western Civilization springs fully-formed out of nowhere, Burkert sets the prevailing view: &ldquowe can agree that it was there [Asia Minor, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine and Egypt] that the first high cultures developed and spread their achievements to neighboring regions.&rdquo 24 While it might seem obvious for younger nations to have learned from those who came before, like any good offspring, this is actually a long-overdue concession in the study of Classics. Either way, a much more accurate picture of our classical past is finally emerging from all these &ldquotangled roots&rdquo. And it&rsquos a picture that sets the stage (with all due respect to Dan Brown) for solving the greatest riddle of our civilization: where the hell do we come from?


“Phryne in Eleusis” (1889) by Polish painter, Henryk Siemiradzki
Source: Wikimedia Commons

A Psychedelic Sacrament

We can rest assured that the our Ancient Greek ancestors &ndash the very same ones who laid the foundations for almost every critical aspect of our society today &ndash were not entirely off the mark when it came to tackling life&rsquos biggest questions. They were a diligent and practical people in all respects, whether physical or metaphysical. They faithfully preserved an enormous wealth of ancient wisdom it was their unique position, in the Mediterranean of the first millennium BC, to inherit and then pass along to Western Civilization. The &ldquosecret doctrine&rdquo traced from the Neoplatonists to Plato himself, back further through Pythagoras and a number of other pre-Socratic philosophers to Homer in the 8 th century BC, brings us face to face with those &ldquohigh cultures&rdquo in the Fertile Crescent and India whose pivotal role in our story is only now gaining appreciation. This was a world with far less distinction between East and West, or religion and science, than exists today. Way before any of our modern religions &ndash including Hinduism and Buddhism, or Judaism, Christianity and Islam &ndash a common initiation rite culminating in an ecstatic visionary experience linked many of the Bronze Age cultures that flourished after 3,000 BC: from Ancient Egypt to Sumeria, from Crete to the Indus Valley Civilization. Over the succeeding two thousand years, these were the civilizations that eventually gave rise to the &ldquoancient cultural internet&rdquo from which Homer and Plato were able to download, in the words of Graham Hancock, &ldquoa &lsquoscience of the soul&rsquo developed through thousands of years of inquiry and experimentation and applied with high precision to the fundamental questions of life and death.&rdquo 25

In the end, this explains Plato&rsquos preferred definition for his trade: &ldquotrue philosophers make dying their profession.&rdquo 26 What could be more fundamental? It was not from piles of books or heated debates that Plato came to his conclusion about the need to awaken the &ldquoeye of the soul&rdquo in order to see clearly through this, our carnival world of smoke and mirrors. 27 It was from an experience! As a matter of fact, it was a highly ritualized and carefully programmed experience which brought the initiate to death&rsquos door and back, complete with unshakeable knowledge of exactly what happens when we die and renewed appetite for making the most of our precious, fleeting moment under the sun. They saw something! And whatever it was, it changed them forever and made naïve realism a complete joke. 28 They were reborn into a new vision of who we are and what life is all about. This should come as no surprise. The Greek word for &ldquodoctrine&rdquo in the &ldquosecret doctrine&rdquo (αππορητον θεωρίαν) has nothing to do with an actual, written teaching. Derived from a Greek root meaning to &ldquosee&rdquo or &ldquobehold&rdquo (θεωρίαν) Lamberton clarifies: &ldquorather than a fixed and unchanging &lsquodoctrine&rsquo, [the secret doctrine] seems to refer to a mystical and privileged &lsquocontemplation&rsquo or mode of seeing&rdquo.

To awaken Plotinus’ “other sight” or Plato’s “eye of the soul” – our “exclusive means of beholding the ultimate truth” – many intriguing signs point to our hippy ancestors engaging the unrivaled technology of the natural kingdom. We will of course never know for sure, but the psychoactive properties of the many plants and fungi at the Greeks’ disposal is unlikely to have escaped the investigation of these early scientists. 29 While Hadot’s “privileged experience” can be cultivated in any number of ways, including meditation, the most reliably fast-acting across the ages has been through psychedelics (a beautiful Greek word meaning “that which makes visible the contents of the psyche”), the significance of which will have to be explored in future discussion. 30


Prior to the celebration of the Eleusinian Mysteries in the Fall, the enigmatic Lenaia festival took place in January. Rosemarie Taylor-Perry theorizes that the purpose of this ceremony was to add herbs and psychotropic plants to fermenting wine which would later be imbibed during various rituals in the Greek religious calendar. Likely additives are thought to have included: “absinthe, belladonna berries, cannabis, datura flowers, mandrake root, [or] poppy sap or straw”. The above shows an artist’s rendering of a vase currently housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris, where women are clearly depicted adding some kind of herb, plant and/or fungus to the pithoi (storage containers) of sacred wine. source: “Lenäenvasen” by August Frickenhaus, Zum Winckelmannsfeste der Archäeologischen Gesellschaft Zu Berlin (1912), p. 12, available here

But by the time they made their way to our Greek ancestors from lands south and east, the sacred rites consisted of seven months of detailed instruction, followed by nine days of elaborate procession and fasting. A recreational activity this was not. Only then were Plato and the rest of Athens&rsquo greatest minds like Sophocles and Aristotle &ldquoinitiated into that which is rightly named the holiest of mysteries&rdquo and allowed &ldquothe blessed sight and vision&rdquo as a grand finale to all their effort (as attested in the Phaedrus). 31 For nearly two millennia, these so-called Eleusinian Mysteries were the most popular initiation rites in Ancient Greece. They welcomed not just the elite but any Greek-speaking pilgrim, male or female, to participate in its secret rites. The great initiation hall at Eleusis, 11 miles northwest of Athens, was officially administered by the state for a time, testifying to the centrality of this experience in the society we have come to idolize and imitate in so many other ways. This was not a fringe movement by any means.

An Unknown Upper Paleolithic Ancestor

But how far back does this confrontation with death reach? With the authenticity of my feminism in deservedly serious jeopardy, I am relieved to finally highlight the scholarship of the first woman to appear here, Mary Settegast. It is frankly embarrassing how men, both ancient and modern, have cornered the market on these topics. It seems only appropriate that as we examine our pre-literate roots (before writing came on the scene in Egypt and Mesopotamia around 3200 BC), Settegast should lead the way with her phenomenal Plato Prehistorian: 10,000 to 5,000 BC Myth, Religion, Archaeology. In a remote and nearly forgotten episode of our archaic past, just as the Paleolithic was giving way to the Neolithic, something extraordinary has been tucked away, awaiting inspection. An &ldquoUpper Paleolithic culture, probably Anatolian, of which hardly anything is known&rdquo 32 seems to have been in possession of the &ldquosecret doctrine&rdquo. Exclusively by word of mouth, they managed against all odds to convey the sacred rites by which it was communicated past the boundary of the last Ice Age &ndash 11,500 years ago &ndash where they suddenly show up at the Catalhoyuk site in modern-day Turkey in 7,500 BC.


Map taken from Karageorghis, V. 2000. Ancient Art from Cyprus. The Cesnola Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY, p xiv.
Source: http://www.brynmawr.edu/collections/nehinterns/cypriote/cyprusmap.html

For the obvious reason that there are no records of this event, where linguists must concede their specialty to archaeologists, the unbelievable antiquity of the spiritual roots of Western Civilization has never been properly considered part of the Classics curriculum (nor part of our history in general). This is prehistory, after all. As a result, few aside from Settegast have ever explored the possibility that the initiations of Ancient Greece trace back in an unbroken, continuous line to the hunters and gatherers of the Paleolithic eastern Mediterranean. The evidence is certainly there, however, for &ldquoa thriving center of cult life, one whose shrines were enriched by decorations and statuary which recall the later mystery religions of Iran and Egypt, as well as the Aegean and Anatolia&rdquo. Indeed, the findings at Catalhoyuk are seen by Settegast to &ldquosuggest that the freeing of the soul in life, the rebirth of the living individual onto a higher plane of being, was the goal toward which the Catal[hoyuk] rites were aimed&rdquo. 33 We seem to have a match!

Rather than scrapping together a miserable existence, our uncivilized forebears in Asia Minor may have been busy perfecting a ritual that would somehow survive 7,000 years, to be assimilated by a huge swathe of the Ancient Greek world. Only slightly east of the place where democracy and the sciences first came to light, Catalhoyuk &ndash the land of Homer and the Trojan War &ndash couldn&rsquot be better situated. But if a smoking gun is going to emerge anywhere to prove the merits of this theory, my bet is the on-going dig at another site due east named Gobekli Tepe (90% of which remains unexcavated). First opened in 1995, the presence of a ritual complex in the 10 th millennium BC has already been confirmed &ndash making this, per the Smithsonian, &ldquothe world&rsquos first temple&rdquo. Topographic scans have indicated that additional structures waiting to be unearthed could date even further back to 13,000 BC! Was Gobekli Tepe the brainchild of the same unknown &ldquoUpper Paleolithic culture&rdquo behind Catalhoyuk? Are these the true spiritual ancestors of Western Civilization?

If a Stone Age people really did manage to transmit those secret rites in the absence of written language for thousands of years, then the visionary experience that was their core can properly be termed the longest-surviving religion the world has ever known. Ironically, no one&rsquos ever heard of it. It does not have a name, and perhaps it never did. But if any religion is going to recapture the hearts and minds of a spiritually thirsty generation, this is the one! When the mysteries finally showed up in Ancient Greece &ndash across the most improbable expanse of time &ndash Plato and his disciples were keen to seek admission and initiation. Amazed and transformed by their glimpse of immortality, the creators of Western thought ensured that the tireless efforts of our Upper Paleolithic and Neolithic ancestors did not go to waste. Under penalty of death for exposing the big secret, they nonetheless committed their visions to a language which almost nobody understands today. It was worth the risk for our species to retain memory of the single most unique event a human being could ever experience. This was a serious and cherished experience that worked for their world, and no doubt works for ours &ndash the spitting image as we are of so many Ancient Greek institutions and disciplines. Our society can no longer afford its unexplained ignorance of the &ldquosecret doctrine&rdquo, something so integral to our founders&rsquo worldview. To dismiss this religion is to deny our birthright, and to totally misinterpret the whole point of Western Civilization. Unlike any other in the history of our planet, this religion has stood the test of time. It is our collective responsibility to acknowledge its influence in our past, to reincorporate it into the 21 st century and &ndash in continuing imitation of our ancestors &ndash to carry it forward to those new worlds being birthed in this solar system and beyond.

Endnotes

2  Clifford Geertz, &ldquoReligion as a cultural system.&rdquo The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (1993), pp. 87-125, at p. 94.

3  Demetrios J. Constantelos, &ldquoThomas Jefferson and His Philhellenism&rdquo, Journal of Modern Hellenism, No. 12-13, 1995-96, at p. 160.

4  Cassirer, Kristeller and Randall. The Renaissance Philosophy of Man (1946), at pp. 3-4.

5  William C. Allen&rsquos History of the United States Capitol, p. 19:"The dome and portico were both reminiscent of the great Roman temple known as the Pantheon built in the second century A.D. by the emperor Hadrian. Thornton&rsquos adaptation of the Pantheon for his United States Capitol linked the new republic to the classical world and to its ideas of civic virtue and self-government." See also &ldquoLincoln Memorial Design and Symbolism&rdquo on the National Park Service website: "The individual responsible for this design was architect Henry Bacon who modeled the memorial after the Greek temple known as the Parthenon. Bacon felt that a memorial to a man who defended democracy, should be based on a structure found in the birthplace of democracy."

6  Their 1967 meeting with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation movement, marks a turning point in Eastern philosophies becoming more widely available to a Western audience.

7  Robert Lamberton, Homer the Theologian, at p. 173.

8  Neoplatonism itself arose from Neopythagoreanism, hence the dual reverence held for Pythagoras and Plato.

13  Hadot at p. 38. See also Plotinus, Ennead V, 8, 10, 30.

14  Hadot at p. 40. See also Plotinus, Ennead V, 8, 4, 36 and V, 8, 5, 5.

22  Lamberton at p. 60. See also p. 209 of Eusebius of Caesarea Preparatio Evangelica.

27  Algis Uzdavinys, The Golden Chain: Anthology of Pythagorean and Platonic Philosophy, at p. xi: &ldquoThe task of the ancient philosophers was in fact to contemplate the cosmic order and its beauty to live in harmony with it and to transcend the limitations imposed by sense experience and discursive reasoning &hellip and it was through this noetic vision (noesis) that the ancient philosophers tried to awaken the divine light within, and to touch the divine Intellect in the cosmos. For them, to reach apotheosis was the ultimate human end.&rdquo

31  Phaedrus 250b. In addition, Plato&rsquos Symposium 209e uses the word &ldquoepoptes&rdquo, confirming Plato&rsquos knowledge of and admission into the Eleusinian Mysteries.

32  Settegast, at p.169, quoting Mellaart.

Biography

Brian C. Muraresku graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University in 2002, with a concentration in Latin, Greek and Sanskrit. He obtained a law degree from Georgetown University and was admitted to the New York Bar in 2005. Muraresku has been practicing international law for 10 years, while maintaining an obsession with the mysterious spiritual foundations of Western Civilization. He lives in Washington D.C. with his lovely wife, Pilar, and enjoys dancing to Bob Marley with their energetic 14-month old, Julieta. He can be contacted at [email protected]


Man’s First Friend

In a study released Friday, a team of archaeologists presented new evidence that horses were domesticated in 3500 B.C.—about a thousand years earlier than previous estimates. What was the first domesticated animal?

The dog. No one can pinpoint exactly when humans first started keeping dogs as pets, but estimates range from roughly 13,000 to 30,000 years ago. Archaeologists can tell domesticated canines apart from wolves through skeletal differences: Dogs had smaller teeth, for example, and a reduced “Sagittal crest”—the bone ridge that runs down the forehead and connects to the jaw. The earliest dog bones, discovered in Belgium in 2008, are from 31,700 years ago. But ancient dog skeletons have also been unearthed in western Russia, near its border with Ukraine, and elsewhere across Europe, Asia, and Australia, suggesting that canine domestication was a widespread phenomenon.

Scientists have also used DNA evidence to estimate the origin of domesticated dogs. The so-called “molecular clock” theory posits that if you know the speed at which DNA mutates, you can develop a chronology for doggie evolution. Say you know when wolves and coyotes separated and became different species, and you know what their genomes currently look like. You can then determine how long it took for those genetic changes to occur. Based on this methodology, dogs as a species are estimated to be 15,000 to 20,000 years old. But critics argue that gene substitution is not a constant process—it speeds up, then slows down—making the estimates rough at best.

How did dogs get domesticated in the first place? The first ones were basically just tame wolves. Some researchers believe wolves were first attracted by the garbage produced by early human settlements. Those canines brave enough to approach humans, yet not so aggressive as to attack, got fed. Eventually, they no longer needed the strong jaws and sharp teeth of their feral counterparts. Their noses got smaller, too. (Dogs characteristics can change a lot in only a few generations.) After this initial process of “self-domestication,” humans started breeding dogs to help with hunting, herding, standing guard, and carrying stuff. Humans also deliberately bred dogs to be more adorable.


Why did almost every ancient civilization have a found religion? - History

At first, the evidence against this revisionist interpretation will strike twentieth century Americans as irrefutable. We're better off in almost every respect than people of the Middle Ages, who in turn had it easier than cavemen, who in turn were better off than apes. Just count our advantages. We enjoy the most abundant and varied foods, the best tools and material goods, some of the longest and healthiest lives, in history. Most of us are safe from starvation and predators. We get our energy from oil and machines, not from our sweat. What neo-Luddite among us would trade his life for that of a medieval peasant, a caveman, or an ape?

For most of our history we supported ourselves by hunting and gathering: we hunted wild animals and foraged for wild plants. It's a life that philosophers have traditionally regarded as nasty, brutish, and short. Since no food is grown and little is stored, there is (in this view) no respite from the struggle that starts anew each day to find wild foods and avoid starving. Our escape from this misery was facilitated only 10,000 years ago, when in different parts of the world people began to domesticate plants and animals. The agricultural revolution spread until today it's nearly universal and few tribes of hunter-gatherers survive.

From the progressivist perspective on which I was brought up, to ask "Why did almost all our hunter-gatherer ancestors adopt agriculture?" is silly. Of course they adopted it because agriculture is an efficient way to get more food for less work. Planted crops yield far more tons per acre than roots and berries. Just imagine a band of savages, exhausted from searching for nuts or chasing wild animals, suddenly grazing for the first time at a fruit-laden orchard or a pasture full of sheep. How many milliseconds do you think it would take them to appreciate the advantages of agriculture?

The progressivist party line sometimes even goes so far as to credit agriculture with the remarkable flowering of art that has taken place over the past few thousand years. Since crops can be stored, and since it takes less time to pick food from a garden than to find it in the wild, agriculture gave us free time that hunter-gatherers never had. Thus it was agriculture that enabled us to build the Parthenon and compose the B-minor Mass.

While the case for the progressivist view seems overwhelming, it's hard to prove. How do you show that the lives of people 10,000 years ago got better when they abandoned hunting and gathering for farming? Until recently, archaeologists had to resort to indirect tests, whose results (surprisingly) failed to support the progressivist view. Here's one example of an indirect test: Are twentieth century hunter-gatherers really worse off than farmers? Scattered throughout the world, several dozen groups of so-called primitive people, like the Kalahari bushmen, continue to support themselves that way. It turns out that these people have plenty of leisure time, sleep a good deal, and work less hard than their farming neighbors. For instance, the average time devoted each week to obtaining food is only 12 to 19 hours for one group of Bushmen, 14 hours or less for the Hadza nomads of Tanzania. One Bushman, when asked why he hadn't emulated neighboring tribes by adopting agriculture, replied, "Why should we, when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?"

While farmers concentrate on high-carbohydrate crops like rice and potatoes, the mix of wild plants and animals in the diets of surviving hunter-gatherers provides more protein and a bettter balance of other nutrients. In one study, the Bushmen's average daily food intake (during a month when food was plentiful) was 2,140 calories and 93 grams of protein, considerably greater than the recommended daily allowance for people of their size. It's almost inconceivable that Bushmen, who eat 75 or so wild plants, could die of starvation the way hundreds of thousands of Irish farmers and their families did during the potato famine of the 1840s.

So the lives of at least the surviving hunter-gatherers aren't nasty and brutish, even though farmes have pushed them into some of the world's worst real estate. But modern hunter-gatherer societies that have rubbed shoulders with farming societies for thousands of years don't tell us about conditions before the agricultural revolution. The progressivist view is really making a claim about the distant past: that the lives of primitive people improved when they switched from gathering to farming. Archaeologists can date that switch by distinguishing remains of wild plants and animals from those of domesticated ones in prehistoric garbage dumps.

How can one deduce the health of the prehistoric garbage makers, and thereby directly test the progressivist view? That question has become answerable only in recent years, in part through the newly emerging techniques of paleopathology, the study of signs of disease in the remains of ancient peoples.

In some lucky situations, the paleopathologist has almost as much material to study as a pathologist today. For example, archaeologists in the Chilean deserts found well preserved mummies whose medical conditions at time of death could be determined by autopsy (Discover, October). And feces of long-dead Indians who lived in dry caves in Nevada remain sufficiently well preserved to be examined for hookworm and other parasites.

Usually the only human remains available for study are skeletons, but they permit a surprising number of deductions. To begin with, a skeleton reveals its owner's sex, weight, and approximate age. In the few cases where there are many skeletons, one can construct mortality tables like the ones life insurance companies use to calculate expected life span and risk of death at any given age. Paleopathologists can also calculate growth rates by measuring bones of people of different ages, examine teeth for enamel defects (signs of childhood malnutrition), and recognize scars left on bones by anemia, tuberculosis, leprosy, and other diseases.

One straight forward example of what paleopathologists have learned from skeletons concerns historical changes in height. Skeletons from Greece and Turkey show that the average height of hunger-gatherers toward the end of the ice ages was a generous 5' 9'' for men, 5' 5'' for women. With the adoption of agriculture, height crashed, and by 3000 B. C. had reached a low of only 5' 3'' for men, 5' for women. By classical times heights were very slowly on the rise again, but modern Greeks and Turks have still not regained the average height of their distant ancestors.

Another example of paleopathology at work is the study of Indian skeletons from burial mounds in the Illinois and Ohio river valleys. At Dickson Mounds, located near the confluence of the Spoon and Illinois rivers, archaeologists have excavated some 800 skeletons that paint a picture of the health changes that occurred when a hunter-gatherer culture gave way to intensive maize farming around A. D. 1150. Studies by George Armelagos and his colleagues then at the University of Massachusetts show these early farmers paid a price for their new-found livelihood. Compared to the hunter-gatherers who preceded them, the farmers had a nearly 50 per cent increase in enamel defects indicative of malnutrition, a fourfold increase in iron-deficiency anemia (evidenced by a bone condition called porotic hyperostosis), a theefold rise in bone lesions reflecting infectious disease in general, and an increase in degenerative conditions of the spine, probably reflecting a lot of hard physical labor. "Life expectancy at birth in the pre-agricultural community was bout twenty-six years," says Armelagos, "but in the post-agricultural community it was nineteen years. So these episodes of nutritional stress and infectious disease were seriously affecting their ability to survive."

The evidence suggests that the Indians at Dickson Mounds, like many other primitive peoples, took up farming not by choice but from necessity in order to feed their constantly growing numbers. "I don't think most hunger-gatherers farmed until they had to, and when they switched to farming they traded quality for quantity," says Mark Cohen of the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, co-editor with Armelagos, of one of the seminal books in the field, Paleopathology at the Origins of Agriculture. "When I first started making that argument ten years ago, not many people agreed with me. Now it's become a respectable, albeit controversial, side of the debate."

There are at least three sets of reasons to explain the findings that agriculture was bad for health. First, hunter-gatherers enjoyed a varied diet, while early fanners obtained most of their food from one or a few starchy crops. The farmers gained cheap calories at the cost of poor nutrition, (today just three high-carbohydrate plants -- wheat, rice, and corn -- provide the bulk of the calories consumed by the human species, yet each one is deficient in certain vitamins or amino acids essential to life.) Second, because of dependence on a limited number of crops, farmers ran the risk of starvation if one crop failed. Finally, the mere fact that agriculture encouraged people to clump together in crowded societies, many of which then carried on trade with other crowded societies, led to the spread of parasites and infectious disease. (Some archaeologists think it was the crowding, rather than agriculture, that promoted disease, but this is a chicken-and-egg argument, because crowding encourages agriculture and vice versa.) Epidemics couldn't take hold when populations were scattered in small bands that constantly shifted camp. Tuberculosis and diarrheal disease had to await the rise of farming, measles and bubonic plague the appearnce of large cities.

Besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming helped bring another curse upon humanity: deep class divisions. Hunter-gatherers have little or no stored food, and no concentrated food sources, like an orchard or a herd of cows: they live off the wild plants and animals they obtain each day. Therefore, there can be no kings, no class of social parasites who grow fat on food seized from others. Only in a farming population could a healthy, non-producing elite set itself above the disease-ridden masses. Skeletons from Greek tombs at Mycenae c. 1500 B. C. suggest that royals enjoyed a better diet than commoners, since the royal skeletons were two or three inches taller and had better teeth (on the average, one instead of six cavities or missing teeth). Among Chilean mummies from c. A. D. 1000, the elite were distinguished not only by ornaments and gold hair clips but also by a fourfold lower rate of bone lesions caused by disease.

Similar contrasts in nutrition and health persist on a global scale today. To people in rich countries like the U. S., it sounds ridiculous to extol the virtues of hunting and gathering. But Americans are an elite, dependent on oil and minerals that must often be imported from countries with poorer health and nutrition. If one could choose between being a peasant farmer in Ethiopia or a bushman gatherer in the Kalahari, which do you think would be the better choice?

Farming may have encouraged inequality between the sexes, as well. Freed from the need to transport their babies during a nomadic existence, and under pressure to produce more hands to till the fields, farming women tended to have more frequent pregnancies than their hunter-gatherer counterparts -- with consequent drains on their health. Among the Chilean mummies for example, more women than men had bone lesions from infectious disease.

Women in agricultural societies were sometimes made beasts of burden. In New Guinea farming communities today I often see women staggering under loads of vegetables and firewood while the men walk empty-handed. Once while on a field trip there studying birds, I offered to pay some villagers to carry supplies from an airstrip to my mountain camp. The heaviest item was a 110-pound bag of rice, which I lashed to a pole and assigned to a team of four men to shoulder together. When I eventually caught up with the villagers, the men were carrying light loads, while one small woman weighing less than the bag of rice was bent under it, supporting its weight by a cord across her temples.

As for the claim that agriculture encouraged the flowering of art by providing us with leisure time, modern hunter-gatherers have at least as much free time as do farmers. The whole emphasis on leisure time as a critical factor seems to me misguided. Gorillas have had ample free time to build their own Parthenon, had they wanted to. While post-agricultural technological advances did make new art forms possible and preservation of art easier, great paintings and sculptures were already being produced by hunter-gatherers 15,000 years ago, and were still being produced as recently as the last century by such hunter-gatherers as some Eskimos and the Indians of the Pacific Northwest.

Thus with the advent of agriculture and elite became better off, but most people became worse off. Instead of swallowing the progressivist party line that we chose agriculture because it was good for us, we must ask how we got trapped by it despite its pitfalls.

One answer boils down to the adage "Might makes right." Farming could support many more people than hunting, albeit with a poorer quality of life. (Population densities of hunter-gatherers are rarely over one person per ten square miles, while farmers average 100 times that.) Partly, this is because a field planted entirely in edible crops lets one feed far more mouths than a forest with scattered edible plants. Partly, too, it's because nomadic hunter-gatherers have to keep their children spaced at four-year intervals by infanticide and other means, since a mother must carry her toddler until it's old enough to keep up with the adults. Because farm women don't have that burden, they can and often do bear a child every two years.

As population densities of hunter-gatherers slowly rose at the end of the ice ages, bands had to choose between feeding more mouths by taking the first steps toward agriculture, or else finding ways to limit growth. Some bands chose the former solution, unable to anticipate the evils of farming, and seduced by the transient abundance they enjoyed until population growth caught up with increased food production. Such bands outbred and then drove off or killed the bands that chose to remain hunter-gatherers, because a hundred malnourished farmers can still outfight one healthy hunter. It's not that hunter-gatherers abandoned their life style, but that those sensible enough not to abandon it were forced out of all areas except the ones farmers didn't want.

At this point it's instructive to recall the common complaint that archaeology is a luxury, concerned with the remote past, and offering no lessons for the present. Archaeologists studying the rise of farming have reconstructed a crucial stage at which we made the worst mistake in human history. Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.


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