Monthly Archives: May 2013
Recognizing the signs of birds is one of the most ancient sciences. Another post at Return to Mago blog.
The god Jupiter has occasionally appeared to me over the years, and I have found his presence surprising for two reasons. The first is that he surely understands that I am a feminist, and a Dianic at that, and am therefore rather miffed about the role his cult has played in the suppression of matrifocal religion. The second thing that has surprised me is that Jupiter’s energy has not seemed offensive and thuggish. He looks stocky and muscular, with an impressive amount of hair and beard, but his energy feels solid yet gentle.Jupiter is considered the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Zeus, the father god of the thunderbolt, who rules the pantheon. He is also the namesake for the large red planet, considered in astrology the planet of good fortune. Some scholars say that the Indo-European Roman Jupiter became merged with Zeus due to Greek influence in late classical times. Others say that an Etruscan god Tinia, who may himself have been drawn from Greek influence, became merged with the Roman Jupiter. Still others say that both Jupiter and Zeus are forms of a proto-Indo-European supreme sky father deity. An alternate idea is that a pre-Indo-European god of unknown name became merged with Jupiter after Indo-European conquest. None of these hypotheses are exclusionary: a proto-Indo-European Sky Father may have merged with prominent local gods in the Greek and Roman peninsulas, later becoming merged again, with another god Tinia thrown into the mix during a period of Etruscan influence.There is not much written for the lay reader on the earliest form of Jupiter. Most people simply do not find early Roman religion very interesting. We do know that his earliest known shrine was southeast of Rome and pre-dated Rome, and that a confederation from the Latin cities convened there for ceremony twice a year. Stewart Perowne says of Jupiter’s temple in Rome, “It is rather a shock to find that he was neither godlike nor human: he was just an old stone, Jupiter Lapis.” But now my interest is piqued. Here we have the material connection, the fundamental source in nature.Jupiter Lapis “the old stone” oversaw both individual oaths and the ratification of treaties. Perowne asserts that this “goes back to the neolithic days, perhaps even before them . . . When the metal-users arrived they associated these venerable and rather terrifying flints with the greatest deity they knew, the god of light, Jupiter, who among other functions was the punisher of perjurors.”But if Jupiter Lapis really is a Neolithic deity, he must be defined by a different relationship than Sky Father. Primary male deities from pre-patriarchal Europe, though they may also be consorts or fathers, are identified by their connection to the Great Mother: they are known as sons or brothers, not fathers. Could Juno be Jupiter’s mother, not his wife? Cicero, who records the oath sealing of Jupiter Lapis in the first century B.C.E., presents another possibility. He describes a statue at the temple of Fortuna in Praeneste, apparently no longer extant, which depicts the infant Jupiter on the lap of this goddess. The infant reaches for her breast, with his sister Juno beside him.Patricia Monaghan describes the goddess Fortuna, whose cult is very ancient, as “the goddess who controlled the destiny of every human being. No mere ‘Lady Luck,’ she was the energy that drove men and women to reproduce themselves….” Jupiter as child of Fortuna makes perfect sense. Our journey to find the Son has led us back to the Mother.SourcesCampbell, Joseph. The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology. New York: Penguin, 1964.Cicero. De Divinatione, II 85.Jordan, Michael. Encyclopedia of the Gods. New York: Facts on File, 1993.Monaghan, Patricia. The Book of Goddesses and Heroines. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1990.Nova Roma. Iuppiter.Perowne, Stewart. Roman Mythology. London: Hamlyn, 1969.
Just as there is an aphorism that “the victors write history,” there is another that says “history is continually rewritten.” Both of these sayings apply to this rehabilitation of the biblical queen. Hazelton views Jezebel’s story as an earlier version of tensions between liberalism and religious zealotry, drawing direct parallels to present day conundrums over Christian, Jewish, and Muslim fundamentalism. Hazelton’s prose is spellbinding, and though the book does not read like a novel, the story is riveting all the same. Rhetorical asides are satisfying and engrossing. There are many good, satisfying quotes from this book:
When your story is written by those in passionate opposition to everything you believe in, it will be, to put it mildly, warped. Everything becomes twisted; every action, every gesture, becomes not only suspect but turned on its head. The wildest rumors are passed off as fact. Inconvenient facts are ignored or edited out, relegated to oblivion, until all we are left with is not a real person but an image, a morality-tale character, which is how Jezebel would become a kind of wicked witch of the east.
The first thing Hazelton does is to dispense with the common portrayal of Jezebel as a sexualized being, a harlot. This was rather disappointing for me, because that was what motivated me to buy the book. I had read in another review that this book challenges the idea of the “sacred prostitute” in ancient Near East religions. I myself have become frustrated with the “sacred prostitute” terminology, having come to the conclusion that expressions of sexuality in ancient religions bears no resemblance to prostitution, sacred or otherwise. The concept of the “sacred prostitute” has long been politically used to denigrate priestess cults, and more recently to glorify prostitution. I would love to see this phrase stricken from our spiritual conversation.But if I hoped to find a more nuanced exploration of feminine sexuality in religion I was disappointed here on many levels. Hazelton begins her dismissal of the harlot angle by expounding on the limitations of nineteenth century archaeologists, always exasperating because at this point I can see clearly where such a setup is heading. After raking the pioneering archaeologists over the coals, she concedes that they did not come up with this sacred prostitute theory out of nowhere, then proceeds to accuse the Greek historian Herodotus of inventing the concept whole cloth. Hazelton’s treatment of this subject exemplifies problems with her narrative found throughout the book: the naïve acceptance of twenty-first century archaeological perspective, which has its own patriarchal biases; the impulse to conflate goddesses along with a generally poor understanding of Semitic polytheistic cultures; and a tendency for her analysis to fall into the very absolutism she decries in the prophets of Israel.But despite the flaws in perspective, I would not write off this book. The political drama surrounding the story is fascinating, and although this is not my forte, it seems that Hazelton has a good grasp of Old Testament history. She has visited most of the places where the action occurs, and her description of the settings adds an immediacy to her account. There is a map in the front of the book which is helpful.In the end I agree with Hazelton’s refusal to examine Jezebel’s life and legacy in sexual terms. The new framing works, at least for now, though perhaps in the future a biographer will dismiss the theme of religious fanaticism as emphatically as Hazelton dismisses the sexual theme. Like many a good myth, the story of Jezebel will probably always be more useful than it is true.
I am pleased this week to write about my forthcoming book Invoking Animal Magic: A guide for the Pagan priestess. The book reflects my research into the legends and folklore of various animals, as well as my direct experience in ritual and spellcasting. Rather than write an exhaustive encyclopedia of the “meanings” of different animals, I have elected to identify some of the principles of animal magic in Euro-shamanism and discuss them in a general way. The nine animals I have chosen to explore in depth are representative of different types of animals: those that live underground, those that migrate, those that fly, those that hibernate, etc.Nine is the number of pregnancy, and while I have no illusions that a book is anything like a baby, the process of bringing forth a book is like giving birth. The book is something that came from me, but at the same time is not me. I keep thinking about the last lines of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Metaphors”:
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,Boarded the train there’s no getting off
Yes, the train has left the station. All the revising, the endless fact checking has to come to an end somewhere. Errors in fact and grammar must now stand. Even scarier is the thought that decades later I may disagree with what I’ve written. How much of what I thought twenty years ago is true for me today?But mostly I’m excited about the start of another journey, looking forward to talking to people about my ideas and curious about the direction they will take me and others.The website for Invoking Animal Magic has more information and an excerpt. The book will be available to hold in your hands in a few months. If you live in the UK, you can pre-order on Amazon. You can receive an email when the book is ready for purchase by going to the US Amazon page or leaving your email address under “subscribe” on the Invoking Animal Magic webpage. Even better, ask your local metaphysical store to carry the book. If you are interested in writing a book review from a pdf copy, let me know.Here’s to an intriguing and illuminating adventure!