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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Journey to the Misty Mountain and Back

There and Back Again: JRR Tolkien and the Origins of the HobbitThere and Back Again: JRR Tolkien and the Origins of the Hobbit by Mark Atherton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book offers probably the most in depth look at the writing of “The Hobbit “ and “Lord of the Rings” Instead of offering the reader another biography of Tolkien, the author goes way behind the scene and offers us a view of what really inspired Tolkien’s writing. Such influences would include literary influences, life time experiences and his interest in philology or the study of languages.

The first two parts of the book kept me glued but the third and final part had me reading on in pain. Way too scholarly at the end, something that perhaps only a linguistic major would appreciate.

To begin with “The Hobbit was first meant to be told a children’s tale. “Roverandon was a tale he came up with in order to comfort a child after losing a toy dog. He would grade papers at Leeds and in his boredom he would draw upon the paper and hence the idea of the Hobbit. The shire of Hobbit’s home was originally inspired by the village in which Tolkien grew up in Sarehol which is near Warwickshire. There are several literary influences for “The Hobbit” Kenneth Grahm’s “Wind in the Willow” provides an inspiration about a Ground hog who lives like Bilbo, in a hole in the ground. “Babbit” is another story of escape where in a man who works in a futuristic boring factory town escapes away with a faery princess and comes back changed. “ The Merry Land of the Snergs” features Hobbit like creatures who are sort of bungling and one of them must save two human being. Besides literatue Tolkien also drew from Norse Literature especially the idea of the ring, the dwarf list came from a work called Volupsa.

Bilbo is put in on chance adventure one which he did not ask for. The dangers takes to Rivendel where there are dragon and elves and sorts of danger. Yet Tolkien has created a world that us unique. It is a well ordered world that believes in faery like beings that could come into a story and change everything around. Tolkien offered forward a definition of a faery story. It was a story in which a man or woman would travel into the world of faery and interact. It was not the same as an animal fable or a travel story. Tolkien considered it a faery story yet it had elements of a travelogue and an animal story. Obviously Bilbo is traveling but in Tolkien’s mythos there are talking animals especially in the History of the Middle Earth Series. You have Tevildo, a talking cat,Huor a speaking hound who fights against Morgoth. Beorn who appears as a shape shifter appears in the Hobbit and he communicates with his animal servants. Beorn could be based on a Norse legend called Bothvi who was a bear warrior that struch up an uneasy alliance with a Norse Kings.

“Not green, great dragons” scolded Mabel Suffield “rather great, green dragons” a correction in grammar but never a challenge as to whether or not dragon existed. Tolkien had a great desire for dragons. Yet he did not want one in his neck of the woods. Tolkien had red and gold dragon in his works but never green ones. Tolkien oft times considerd himself a Hobbit and in the “The Hobbit” Bilbo had a similar longing for dwarves. Tolkien’s main inspiration for dragon came from Norse Mythology and The Red Fairy Book. Dragon were oft to mean green as they always horded their gold

The review can get rather exhaustive so I shall closeout and advise reading the book. I give 4 stars out of 5.


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Friday, February 14, 2014

Carnal Magic

Carnal Alchemy: A Sado-Magical ExplorationCarnal Alchemy: A Sado-Magical Exploration by Crystal Dawn and Stephen Flowers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the newest trends in the magical world is the practice of sado-magic or BDSM practices in magical operations. In theory it works rather well, for magic to be successful you must visualize you goal, raise the energy and direct it then let your spell go. Sexual and BDSM practices are just one way.

Of course BDSM is nothing really new. Ancient cultures had flogging rites both to purify the soul and raise energy levels . The Greek in their rites to Dionysus and Artwmis are two prime examples. The native Americans practiced piercing and suspension in order to achieve trances . Various Christian orders also practiced flagellation . Most recently it was brought into updated practice by Gerald Gardner and Alesister Crowley .

The author himself belonged to the Order of Triskellion. The order's main purpose was to bring BDSM practices into magical and mainstream acceptability. They have since folded and Robert North has opened up the New Flesh Palladium.

BDSM has extensive history in both Japan and Europe. Flogging or caning is sometimes called the English Vice. In Europe some famous people involved at various periods of time would include Marquise De Sade, Leon Sacher Masocher, Robert North and William Seabrook.

Marquise De Sade was a libertine who believed in developing his imagination. He was also into non consensual torture. Masocher who had a bad experience with an aunt discovered his love for pain. He was also into contracts and agreement. Seabrook practiced bondage and suspension techniques aimed at achieving the trance state. He wrote books about the Middle East and witchcraft.

The book next covers the two types of universes. The subjective is like our dream world and the objective is the physical universe. You can manipulate the objective in order to alter the subjective or manipulate the subjective in order to alter the subjective.

To those experienced in BDSM and magic the safety techniques and the creating of a sacred space will not be ground shaking but to the newbie may well be revolutionary .

Would have been nice to have a few sample rituals to serve as a guideline included. I wonder what deities beside Artemis and Dionysus work well with flagellation and bondage . Perhaps the book could be extended and this information included.

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Hidden Jews of Turkey

The Donme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular TurksThe Donme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks by Marc Baer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the Thracian city of Edirne , a want to be messiah is given a choice, conversion or death. Seems harsh but considering that Sabbtai Tzvi was talking of over taking the Sultan then the penalty seems rather reasonable . The Jewish messiah converted . His followers were in disarray and of those he had many. The mainstream Jewish establishment opposed him for his heretical views and changes to the Jewish religion .

Some Jewish followers returned to the fold. Others converted along with him. Some completely left the fold. Many Ottoman Jews were of Spanish Descent so converting to another religion was deemed an acceptable way to save your life.

Those Jews who converted to Islam and secretly followed his teaching were called the Donme. Outwardly they were Muslims but in private they followed Shanbtai Tvi's teaching in secret. For two hundred plus years the Donme had a twisting and turning history in Turkey.

Alienated from other Jews and quasi excepted by Turkish Muslims the Donmeh were able to carve out a niche for themselves. There were three sects of Donme. The kapnanci, Karakas and Yakubi.

The first two groups of Dinmeh allied themselves with certain school of Sufi Islam. The Kapansi were allied with the Bektashi school. The second Karakas was allied to the Mevlevi school. The Yakubi were unaligned.

The Dinme kept themselves apart from everyone else in the Ottoman Empire. They married amongst themselves, went to their own schools, built their own mosques, had their own graveyards and neighborhoods. The different groups did not even mix with the other groups of Donme.

The Karrakas group openef the Tarraki school. The Kapanci opened their own school called something like Teriket. The schools taught a progressive curriculum of European languages and business acumen. They also taught morals and the values of hard work.

Each group of Dinmeh lived in their own neighborhood. Their style was rich and some what different then the rest of the Turks. Many of the houses were interconnected with underground tunnels. This served for rituals , secret meetings and safety.

The Dinme were not recognized as having their own millet. They were considered Muslims albeit with some suspicion as to how sincere they were. The Dinme had their own mosque with their own variation on Jewish practice and Muslim practice. They also had their own communal leader complete with their own laws and jails. The Turks frowned on such autonomy.

The Dinme became part of Ottoman society , even rising I to high positions of government . They were also successful business people, often times importing tobacco and timber. The Donme were also well travelled.

Their main city of habitation was in Salonica , located on the Grecian part of the Ottoman Empire . In 1909 change was in the air. Many Donme played an active role in Young Turks and their reform. So did the Sufis and the Masons. Many Donme were Masons. The Masons took an active role in helping the Young Turks come to power.

It was during this time that serious suspicions fell upon the Donmeh. The Islamist accused them of promoting immorality and undermining the spirit of Islam. The secularist felt they were not genuine Turks and were trying to undermine the Turkish nation

World War I would bring profound changes for all Ottoman citizens. Armenians and Greeks were massacred. The treaty of Lausanne innaygurated a swap of populations between Greece and Turkey. Muslims to Turkey and Christians to Greece. It was not easy for newcomer and neither side really trusted the Dinme. People were short changed on property exchanged and new comers with different customs were not always welcome with open arm.

The World War II years brought even more negative change. Being Turkish was a racial category. Jews, Donme , Armenian , and Christians were given a wealth tax and forced into conscripted labor. In the end the Dinme were forced to assimilate.

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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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