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Sunday, November 28, 2010

In Ishmael's House by Martin Gilbert


Sir Martin Gilbert has done it again. He has produced a masterpiece on the Jews from Arab countries. His work is very thorough giving the reader a vivid picture of what it was like for Jews to live under Muslim rule. He cites many sources and has an excellent bibliography in the back for those who wish to delve deeper into the subject.

Jews have been living amongst Arabs in the Arabian peninsula for thousands of years. By and large they were mostly traders. They got on well with their fellow denizens often time forming alliances with various tribes based on self interest. Judaism and Christianity made an impact on life in the Peninsula. There was even a Jewish Kingdom in Arabia headed by Dhu Nawas. His kingdom would later be over run by Byzantine allied Ethiopians. When Muhammad preached his message the Jews did not heed his call they chose to stick to their own religion. This lead to a war where in Jews were driven out of the Arabian Peninsula.

Else where in the Middle East the Islamic Armies often had Jewish allies helping them conquer Byzantine cities. Byzantine Christians discriminated against Jews rather heavily. Jews were rewarded by giving trading rights and rights to resettle in Jerusalem. Since that time Jewish existence has been rather schizophrenic under Muslim rule. On the bright side they were given a right to secure dwelling and even rose to high positions of authority. Something of this nature never really occurred in the Christian Lands. The Jews in Arab Lands never experienced a Holocaust, Inquisition or Russian massacres. On the other side of the coin Jews were never totally equal. They were a Dhimmi or protected person who was tolerated but never seen as an equal. Various Dhimmi laws were put in place to remind the Jew that he was less then his Muslim country man.

Muslim Spain providing the best example. Jews were thoroughly integrated into the country. They were invited in to conduct business and trade. Jews became doctors and philosophers and often reached high positions in the Kings court. Sometimes directly beneath the King himself. Moses Maimonides was the Sultan's official doctor in Egypt. In Iraq the Exilarch was accorded high honors even Muslims bowed to him. Turkey was the hven for Jews fleeing persecution in Christian Spain. Later in History Turkey would show an example of great tolerance to Jews. Jews were given their own court system and could conduct business as they saw fit. For Jews it was heaven.

The Dhimmi laws on the other hand left he Jews degraded. Being forced to wear different clothing, pay special taxes that could often mean poverty and impoverishment for Jews were always present. Granted not all Muslim rulers chose to enforce these laws but they were on the books. The laws were inherited from the Byzantines. Sometimes Jews were limited as to what careers they could pursue. There were rare occasions that Jews faced massacres and forced conversion.s

The last part of Jewish existence in Arab countries ended on a poor note. Many Arabs were hostile to Zionism and the establishment of a Jewish State on previously Muslim land. This did lead to government sponsored discrimination, torture and imprisonment just for being Jewish. The Jews were often attacked by mobss of people which resulted in property destruction, loss of life and rape.

Perhaps one day the Jews and Arabs can exist together in friends as equals. Using the example of Spain and Iraq and Turkey and then improving upon that.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Tree of Enchantment




A spiritual pathway is shown to us by Orion Foxwood a well renowned Faery seer who has drunk from many a well of wisdom. The path to enlightenment lies within, as does your journey through the tree of enchantment. Before you begin your journey you must first have self understanding. You have three different souls and one spirit.Your consciousness is able to move from one to the other, with proper training. The first soul is your surface walker. This is your everyday body that roams the planet earth. Your dream walker is the being that walks beneath in the underworld. It is very emotional and corresponds to water and oceans. Your Star Walker is your higher self the one that roams about in the Astral realms.

Your journey begins with the realization that although you have freewill you are really connected to everything on this planet. The Division of separation is just an illusion. You start with your ancestors. You contact and work with your ancestors by setting up an altar for them and an ancestor pot. You make daily food contribution of the food and drink they enjoyed in this world. Your objective is to reach the River of Blood. It is at the River of blood that you heal your ancestors and get guidance from them. They can also protect. Sometimes there is a melancholy as you feel their sorrow but on the other bank which is the Bank of Truth. You will travel down the River of Blood and contact the Supernal Ancestor of Man. It is both male and female and lives on an island of bones. It has a silver object for you. This reconnects you to mankind.

Your next destination in the Guardians and this is a horned god who is in charge of nature and maintains the laws. He is also the one who guards the way to the weaver who is in charge of generation, destruction and regeneration. Creation and destruction on our planet through the three threads she weaves. Both of these divine beings are attended by other beings. The guardian is enthroned by representative of thee four elements. The weaver is attended by three women of fate and sometimes washer women. Faery women that cleanse you before meeting the weaver. Meeting the weaver will help break the chains of illusion and fear and show you your true purpose. After meeting these two divine beings you go to the well of the dreamer.

The Well of the Dreamer is surrounded by by thorny rosebush. If your heart is pure and humble then they will open us for you if not they will cut you. The dreamer is the one who dreamt this world into being. We are all part of his dream. The Dreamer is an androgynous being that is asleep. During the age of Aquarius he will open one of his eyes and the world will experience enlightenment. The dreamer who is the creator of this world is a child of the Star Father and the mother Goddess who is identified as the Utterer. The Dreamer is likened to a piece of Star that fell to earth and penetrated it. This is the reason that there is life on the planet Earth.
The of Faeries lies in the underworld. Brigh is their queen. The faeries came down to Earth with the Dreamer. We each have a Faery counterpart whom will experience enlightenment with us.

Next we travel to the Astral realms were we experience contact with the the Star Father and the Utterer. We also meet the Holy Fire or formless fire. This is the life force that permeates us all. This is the master creator. It is a long journey and do not think you will make it in a year. Such a journey may take life times.

Anyone wanting to learn about Faery seership would be well advised to read from this book. The book outlines the path that you will take and it gives you exercises to help you traverse along the path. Mr. Foxwood has studied Traditional Witchcraft and Appalachian magic traditions. This book get 4.5 broomsticks out of 5

Friday, November 12, 2010

Queen of the Great Below

Ereshkigal she is the Goddess of the Underworld, dark and frightening, people often times shun her or refuse to work with her. Not much is known about the is Sumerian Goddess save for a two frightening stories which make her seem menacing and evil.

Gugalanna her first husband perishes fighting against the Sumerian hero Gilgamesh. He died defending Inanna’s honor. Inanna is the sister of Erishkigal. Whenh Inanna goes to visit her sister who is in morning. Namtar , Erishkigal’s vizier, makes Inanna take off an article of clothing before descending each of the seven gates of death. Finally, Inanna stands before her sister naked and in a wrath filled rage is slain by her sister and hung up on a hook like a rotting piece of flesh. The Gods eventually send two a sexual being to rescue her.

The second story involves an invitation to the Heavens. Since she is Queen of the Underworld, the Queen of the Great Below, she is unable to attend the feast. Namtar her servant is sent up to retrieve her food. All the rise except for one Nergal, the Sumerian God of War. Upon hearing this Ereshkigal is enraged. She threatens to let loose the dead. Nergal then sojourns in the Great below for six days. There is passionate love but Nergal leaves before the seventh day. Ereshkigal is enraged once again the boundaries are about to burst. Finally Nergal return and becomes her husbabnd.

Ereshkigal ruler of the Underworld is not the evil Goddess many believe her to be. She is a teacher, a tough teacher. Her method is not of softness but sometimes her ways are harsh. Ereshkigal is the Goddess who tells you to deal with your shit, she is the one who maintains the boundaries. In a word she is the Goddess of No. The Goddess of No is the Goddess who makes you defend your boundaries, a warrior.

Death is transition it is change. Ereshkigal is a Goddess who makes you give up the excess baggage you do not need. She is a Goddess who perfects you by challenging you and giving you challenges.

Janet Munin has compiled a set of writings that will open your eyes about the ways of this Goddess. There as stories of experiences some of them close to tragic as people loose things they no longer need. There are stories about ordeals and pain in order to bring about perfection. Some of the writers have contributed prayers and meditations. This is not a comprehensive book that will tell you how to work with the Goddess it is a book that will open the door. To work with this Goddess you will have to use your intuition, Ereshkigal does not spoon feed.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Jews and Arabs: Their Contacts through the ages

Reading todays headlines one constantly see and hears news about Arabs and Jews clashing. It was not always so. While the Jews suffered horribly under Christian Europe being faced with pogroms and massacres they tended to fare better under Islamic rule. Life was better but not perfect.

Since biblical times Jews and Arab have been in constant contact with each other. It is believed that when Abraham and his family left Sumeria in order to immigrate to Canaan certain branches of the family wandered into Northern Arabia. In the bible whyen Northern Israel clashes against the Kingdom of Aramea and Assyria they are joined by certain Arab tribes.

Arab tribes have been emigrating from the Arabia Peninsula and living among the host societies of the Fertile crescent since the beginning . They often melted into the host society. Many have thought that Abraham and his family were an Arab tribe that migrated from the peninsula but their semi nomadic ways and settling down to an agricultural life do not match with the bedouin lifestylwe which was to raise camel and roam where ever the camel would take them. While some scholars may hold that the Israelites were one such tribe to migrate out of the peninsula this author believes that certain sections of Abrahams's family migrated into Northern Arabia which woulld explain many of the cultural affinities.

Judaism developed amidst a sea of firece competition as the nation of ISrael was constantly sandwiched between the Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian empires. A good deal of the religion's growth happened living in exile. An important exile was the Roman exile which later sent many Judeans into NOrthern Arabia where they would set up Oases and fertile towns. THis firmly entreched Judaism in Northern Arabia. Muhammad no doubt had to have been influenced by Judaism. Islam is seen by some as a developed Judaism recast. Judaism had the biggest inpact on the developemenmt and birth of Islam.

As Islam grew and the Muslim armies began conquering more and more territiories from the Persians and the Christian Byzantines the religion of Islam and the Jews develo0pped into a very intersting relationship. On the one hand Jews living in Northern ARabia were driven from their town and everything was taken from them. The Jews living in the Byzantine Empire and under the Persians found themselves a new ally in hiopes their brethern would make life easier for them.

When Muslim armies set up a fort pretty soon settlers would follw and set up a town. THe town was based on people setting up businesses which sold good to Muslim soldiers. Most of these settloer were Jews. In fact after a conquest was completed the Jews would often be left behind to help administer and run thing. It was under Islamic rule that the Jews who were primarily an agricultural people became merchants and traders. Arab life seemed favorable toward that. Farmers were often times heavily taxed and subject to raids by bedouin bands. Agriculture became a dying business.

Jizya was a tax levies against Dhimmies or Non muslims. It was usually one gold peice per year. The average family made six gold pieces per year. It was a heavy tax in addition to many other taxes. As a result many Jews would tryu to move around to avoid the tax.

As histopry progressed Arab culture would have an iommense impact on the growth and developement of Jewish religon and. culture. Arabs were not fond of armies and state craft. They were into language poetry and philosophy. Jews were great religious thiners but not that poetic. The ARabs helped them. Modern hebrew was reconstructed on the grammar scheme of arabic. Jews also ndever had dual names like they had in Europe they used just Arabic names. In Europe the Jewish language of Yiddish was peppered with hebrew. In the Arab world they used just Arabic. Commenteries were written in Arabic as well. The reason why Jews did not bother with Two names is because Jews were easily identified by their distinct outfit. In the Islamic world their were many laws on the books that made the status of Jews unequal. The laws were not always applied with full force. Only Yemen were the laws fully enforced. Such laws made Jewish life precarious.

Jews and Arabs have much in common. The author believes they will patch their differences. S.D Goiten is a scholar par excellence who has written a thorough and informative book.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham


Scott Cunningham is one of the foremost experts on Wicca and traditional witchcraft. Everything he wrote about he either used and was successful with or he researched very thoroughly.

Magical Herbalism is a book about the magical usage of herbs. The first chapter explains the use of a magic knife your altar and your candles. THe books tells you how to consecrate your knife for magical and sacred use. And when working with herbs for the sake of certain outcomes he tells you which colors to use for candles and for cloth.

The next chapters explain the threory of magic and the powers that exist within us and within the herbs themselves. These power can be harnessed via visualization and incantation in order to help us to improve our lives.

The book has extensive information on how and when to plant your herbs. It is written in an easy to understand manner that even a beginner such as myself can make use of. The book also has recipes for different oils, bath and incenses.

The instruction on making and maintaining your magical garden are thorough and complete. More over they are easy to follow. The chapters on gardening offer great tips on magical pest control and rituals on sanctifying your garden.

If you are a beginner or advanced in herbalism or magic I strongly advise reading this book.

Baba-Sali

Baba-Sali
Holy Morroccan Sage engaged in Prayer

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One blond hair blue eyed Calfornian who totally digs the Middle East.
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