Saturday, March 1, 2008

Hala Sultan Tekke: Shrine of the Mother's Breast

I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried, darlings! HIStory speaks to us - if only we will listen.

While doing the prior posts on the Hind of Hinds and the Ka'bah of Mecca (a/k/a the Goddess Kybele/Cybele and the Vesica Piscis) I came across a reference to the Hala Sultan Tekke. Upon doing further research, as I had no idea what the Hala Sultan Tekke was, I discovered that this third most sacred spot of the Islamic religion (located on Cyprus) is a shrine to Umm Haram, who is accounted, historically, as Mohammed's wet nurse.

The old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" is so very true in this case. The dome of this shrine is obviously a breast.

Okay, slap my face for being sacriligeous. BUT - early descriptions ascribe the shrine as "the Old Woman's tomb" - and who is the Old Woman but Shaybah - Sheba, the Hind of Hinds, one of the titles of Artemis (see prior posts on Hind of Hinds). A further clue to the pre-Islamic origin of this shrine is that it was considered a sacred spot to Christians as well -- probably a relic from pre-Christian days. We all know that in the presently accepted chronology of HIStory, the Christians pre-dated the Muslims. My conclusion is that this is an ancient sacred place dedicated to a goddess - since it is on Cyprus, probably Artemis or Diana.

The site was/is? also sacred to the Sufis - a "heretic" sect of Islam who worshipped the goddess principle in all creation: The term tekke (convent) applies to a building designed specifically for gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood, or tariqa, and may have referred to an earlier feature of the location. Coincidence? I think not...

"Tariqa" means "path, way, or method" according to this entry at Wikipedia. The early Christians called their system of beliefs "The Way," - but "The Way" is much more ancient than the earliest Christians.

The Way to The Truth is a recurring theme in religion. According to Charles Muses in his essay "The Ageless Way of Goddess; Divine Pregnancy and Higher Birth in Ancient Egypt and China," the "theurgy" (literally, a divine working - theo + urg) - showed the way to a divine rebirth while still carnate, a method of creating an eternal body (he called it a "higher body") that would be available to one upon death. He called it "The Way Home." He stated:

The preparation and technique for that path, which transforms one as one treads it, exist in fragmentary form in the old human recors. But those insturctions, that operational method, are always available in great clarity to those who again reach that place of accessibility in awareness. Then one can start the heroic quest described in these lines from an obscure poet, Kyril Demys, three decades ago (who also wrote "Song of the Far Journey"):

The doors are many
but the key is one ...
that space has room
for a winged and wondrous child
and whirled a little world to being....
That child alone
shall fly the abyss
and reach the Second Sun.

Muses says that in ancient Egypt, this knowledge was incorporated into a system of belief called "The Lion Path," and in ancient China, it was called "The Way of the Tiger."

The Black Stone at Mecca

(Photo: the Sacred Yoni, one corner of the Ka'bah at Mecca - the part of the sacred black stone pilgrims kiss).

From prior post about "The Hind of Hinds - Continued:"

From Barbara Walker’s "The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets:"

At Mecca the Goddess was Shaybah or Sheba, the Old Woman, worshipped as a black aniconic stone like the Godess of the Scythian Amazons. The sacred Black Stone now enshrined in the Kaaba at Mecca was her feminine symbol, marked by the sign of the yoni, and covered like the ancient Mother by a veil. No one seems to know exactly what it is supposed to represent today.

The Black Stone rests in the Haram, "Sanctuary", cognate of "harem," which used to mean a Temple of Women: in Babylon, a shrine of the Goddess Har, mother of harlots. Hereditary guardians of the Haram were the Koreshites, "children of Kore," Mohammed’s own tribe. The holy office was originally held by women, before it was taken over by male priests calling themselves Beni Shayban, "Sons of the Old Woman."

What is the black stone of Mecca? Here's the answer from The Edge:
The Black Stone - the Omphalos of the Goddess
Bob Trubshaw

Long-suffering readers of Mercian Mysteries will know of my obsession with 'omphali' - the sacred centres which each civilisation seems to create or adopt. Many of these involve stones - the Lia F il (Stone of Destiny) at Tara or the various 'king stones' (such as Kingston upon Thames) where medieval English kings were crowned. Our monarchs still sit on, or at least above, the Stone of Scone for their coronation. But some of these sacred stones have special interest - they are (or are said to be) black. Such Black Stones also tend to have the legend that they have fallen from the stars. Clearly, meteorites the size of these large boulders would explode into tiny fragments on impact, and also leave a substantial crater. The literal truth is not important; rather the symbolism of such stones being a link between this world and the heavens is an integral aspect of the Cosmic Axis which is invoked by all sacred centres.

Perhaps the best-known Black Stone, and now by far the most revered, is the Ka'bah at Mecca. Ka'bah means 'cube' and this describes the shape of the black stone structure on a marble base which stands in the centre court of the Great Mosque, Masjidul Haram, at the centre of Mecca. It stands about 50 feet high by about 35 feet wide. Set into the eastern corner is the sacred stone, covered by an elaborately embroidered black drape. As any non-moslem in the temple would be slain on sight, and photography is generally prohibited, this stone is shrouded is mystery. However, Rufus Camphausen has succeeded in tracking down three accounts of the pilgrimage to Mecca, two of which do contain photographs [1-3]. What these reveal is a polished black stone of which less than two feet is visible, set in a large, solid silver mount. The whole resembles - quite deliberately, for reasons which will emerge - the vulva of the goddess. That moslems now refer to it as the Hand of Allah does not diminish the urge for all those who complete the pilgrimage to Mecca to touch or kiss this sacred object. [Smile...]

The Black Stone has long since been broken and the silver band holds together the fragments. Tradition holds that it was a meteorite and the stone was white in colour when it first landed and then blackened. The faithful attribute this change in colour to the belief that the stone absorbs the sins of the pilgrims, but it is consistent with known meteorites which are white at first but oxidise over a period of time.

'A principal sacred object in Arabian religion was the stone. . . . Such stones were thought to be the residence of a god hence the term applied to them by Byzantine Christian writers of the fifth and sixth centuries: 'baetyl', from bet'el, 'the house of god'.' [4]

'In north Arabian temples the image of the deity sometimes stood in the open air or could be sheltered in a qubbah, a vaulted niche. . . . Not to be confused with the qubbah is the word ka'bah, for a cube-shaped walled structure which . . . served as a shelter for the sacred stones.' [5]

Camphausen, in his article [6], reveals that the misogynic moslem religion has its origins in goddess worship. Allah is a revamped version of the ancient goddess Al'Lat, and it was her shrine which has continued - little changed - as the Ka'bah. The known history of Mohammed reveals that he was born around 570 CE into a tribe of the Quraysh, who not only worshipped the goddess Q're but were the sworn guardians of her shrine. By 622 Mohammed was preaching the ways of his god, Allah, and was driven out by his own tribe as a result.

The triple goddess
Pre-islamic worship of the goddess seems to be primarily associated with Al'Lat, which simply means 'goddess'. She is a triple goddess, similar to the Greek lunar deity Kore/Demeter/Hecate. Each aspect of this trinity corresponds to a phase of the moon. In the same way Al'Lat has three names known to the initiate: Q're, the crescent moon or the maiden; Al'Uzza, literally 'the strong one' who is the full moon and the mother aspect; then Al'Menat, the waning but wise goddess of fate, prophecy and divination. Islamic tradition continue to recognise these three but labels them 'daughters of Allah'.

According to Edward Rice [7] Al'Uzza was especially worshipped at the Ka'bah where she was served by seven priestesses. Her worshippers circled the holy stone seven times - once for each of the ancient seven planets - and did so in total nudity. Near the Ka'bah is the ever-flowing well, Zamzam, which cools the throats of the countless millions of pilgrims.

In an oasis of always-flowing water, the Black Stone in its mount became an unmatched image of the goddess as giver of life. Only in the Indian continent do such physical symbols for the male and female generative powers - the lingam and yoni - continue to be worshipped with their original fervour.

It is easy to imagine that in pre-moslem times the goddess's temple at Mecca was pre-eminent - whether to celebrate life, ask protection, pray for offspring. Legend tells how Abraham, unable to produce children by his wife Sarah, came here to make love to his slave Hagar. Later, when Hagar came back to give birth, she could find no water and Abraham created the holy well of Zamzam to save the life of his first son.

When Mohammed wanted to surplant Al'Lut with Allah, this was the one Temple he must conquer. Although Mohammed did conquer the Ka'bah, little else changed. The faithful still circle the Holy of Holies seven times (although, I hasten to add, now fully clothed). The priests of the sacred shrine are still known as Beni Shaybah or 'Sons of the Old Woman' - Shaybah being, of course, the famous Queen Sheeba of Solomon's times.

Sheeba appears under the guise of Lilith in the Near East and as Hagar ('the Egyptian') in the Hebrew mythology of the Old Testament. So, rewriting the legend given above, Abraham begot his son, Ishmael - the ancestor of all Arab peoples - by the goddess on the Black Stone of the Ka'bah.

While we are tracing names, Q're (or Qure), the maiden aspect of Al'Lut, seems certain to be the origin of the Greek Kore. Camphausen suggests that the holy Koran (qur'an in Arabic) is the 'Word of Qure'. Even moslems admit that the work existed before the time of Mohammed. Legend said it was copied from a divine prototype that appeared in heaven at the beginning of time, or the Mother of the Book [8]. Al'Uzza, the mother aspect of Al'Lut, may give us the pre-dynastic Egyptian snake goddess Ua Zit [Uadjet] who develops into Isis.

Returning to the geomantic significance of the Ka'bah, Professor Hawkins has argued that it is exceedingly accurately aligned on two heavenly phenomena. These are the cycles of the moon and the rising of Canopus, the brightest star after Sirius. In a thirteenth-century Arabic manuscript by Mohammed ibn Abi Bakr Al Farisi it is stated that the alignment is set up for the setting crescent moon - an ancient symbol of the virgin-goddess which still appears in the national flags of many islamic nations. In some flags - Algeria, Mauritania, Tunisia and Turkey - the crescent is accompanied by a star, perhaps representing Canopus.

The Egyptian city known as Canopus seems also have been a goddess temple, as the Greek historian Strabo (63BCE-21CE) considered the place to be notorious for wild sexual activities. Such references typically refer to temples where sacred 'prostitution' or ritual promiscuity were part of the worship; invariably sacred objects depicting the genitals of either god and/or goddess were venerated. Such sacred promiscuity continued to be part of the Pilgrimage to Mecca, at least for some moslems. The Shi'ites from Persia were allowed to form temporary 'marriages' for the period of the pilgrimage. Any children born as a result were regarded as divine or as saints - a custom with worldwide parallels (English surnames such as Goodman, Jackson or Robinson perhaps derive from similar sacred unions with god in the form of Green Men characters such as Jack o'the Green or Robin Greenwood; I would also suggest that the original sense of 'godparent' and 'godchild' has similar origins.)

Aniconic black stone once venerated at the Temple of Aphrodite, near
Paphos, Cyprus. From photograph by Bob Trubshaw. [photo not included in this post]

More Black Stones
Deities of other cultures known to have been associated with stones include Aphrodite at Paphos, Cybele at Pessinus and later Rome, Astarte at Byblos and the famous Artemis/Diana of Ephesus. The latter's most ancient sculpture was, it is said, carved from a black meteorite.

The earliest form of Cybele's name may have been Kubaba or Kumbaba which suggests Humbaba, who was the guardian of the forest in the Epic of Gilgamesh (the world's oldest recorded myth from Assyria of c.2500BCE and, as scholars reveal more of the text, increasingly the source of most of the major mythological themes of later civilisations [9]) [10]. The origin of Kubaba may have been kube or kuba meaning (guess what) - 'cube'. The earliest reference we have to a goddess worshipped as a cube-shaped stone is from neolithic Anatolia [11]. Alternatively, 'Kubaba' may mean a hollow vessel or cave - which would still be a supreme image of the goddess. The ideograms for Kubaba in the Hittite alphabet are a lozenge or cube, a double-headed axe, a dove, a vase and a door or gate - all images of the goddess in neolithic Europe.

The stone associated with Cybele's worship was, originally, probably at Pessinus but perhaps at Pergamum or on Mount Ida. What is certain is that in 204 BCE it was taken to Rome, where Cybele became 'Mother' to the Romans. The ecstatic rites of her worship were alien to the Roman temperament, but nevertheless animated the streets of their city during the annual procession of the goddess's statue. Alongside Isis, Cybele retained prominence in the heart of the Empire until the fifth century CE; the stone was then lost. Her cult prospered throughout the Empire and it is said that every town or village remained true to the worship of Cybele [12].

The home of Aphrodite was at Paphos on Cyprus. Various Classical writers describe the rituals which went on her in her honour - these seem to include the practice which is now known by the disdainful term of 'sacred prostitution'. In any event, the tapering black stone which was the object of verneration at this Temple still survives, even if it now placed inside the site musuem [13].

Also on Cyprus is another highly venerated islamic site - the third most important after Mecca and Medina - the Hala Sultan Tekke. This, too, has a black rock, said to have fallen as a meteorite as part of the tritholon over the shrine. The shrine is to a woman - the aunt and foster mother of Prophet Mohammed [14]. Could this, like Mecca, have been originally a goddess shrine? Unfortunately no other clues are forthcoming.

Another site stated to have a Black Stone was at Petra, but I have been unable to discover where this was or who was worshipped there - could any readers who know please write in!

To add a little local flavour, numerous standing stones in the British Isles are reputed to have fallen from the stars. The now-lost Star Stone marked the meeting of Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire; an also-vanished stone at Grimston, Leicestershire, was also said to have such an origin. However, whether or not such stones were ever associated with goddess worship we will never know.

It would take far too long to discuss to what extent the cult of the goddess's Black Stone may have been perpetrated as Solomon's bride in the Song of Songs, who is 'black but beautiful' or to come to terms with the black images of Demeter, Artemis and Isis who have their direct continuation in the Black Virgins of Europe - patrons of the troubadours, the gnostics and the alchemists, as well as the present Pope. Those who wish to follow such ideas would do well to read The myth of the goddess [15] which, in a sober but inspirational manner, re-evaluates how the feminine deity has remained with us throughout history.

Further information on these topics appears in a follow-up article by Alby Stone Goddess of the Black Stone.

[1] Richard Burton, A personal narrative of a pilgrimage to Al-Medinah and Meccah, London 1856.
[2] Hussein Yoshio Hirashima, The road to holy Mecca, Kodansha (Japan), 1972.
[3] Anon., Pilgrimage to Mecca, Sud-Editions (Tunis) 1978 and East-West Publications (London) 1980.
[4] Encyclopedia Brittanica.
[5] ibid.
[6] Rufus C. Camphausen, 'The Ka'bah at Mecca', Bres (Holland) No.139, 1989. My thanks to Rufus for bringing this article to my attention; this article of mine is in large part a synopsis of his longer work. See also 'From behind a veil', Flora Green, in The cauldron No.61 (reprinted from The Merrymount messenger Winter 1991).
[7] E. Rice, Easter definitions, Doubleday, 1978 (cited in Camphausen).
[8] Barbara G. Walker, The crone, Harper & Row, 1985 (cited in Camphausen).
[9] See Robert Temple's recent translation He who saw everything, Rider, 1991.
[10] Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, The myth of the goddess, Penguin, 1991.
[11] Maarten J. Vermaseren, Cybele and Attis, trans. A.M.H. Lemmers, Thames and Hudson, 1977 (cited in Baring and Cashford, op. cit.).
[12] ibid.
[13] 'Aphrodite's island', Penny Drayton, Wood & water, Vol.2, No.41, Jan 1993.
[14] ibid.
[15] Baring and Cashford, op. cit.

Originally published in Mercian Mysteries No.14 February 1993.
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Created April 1996; updated August 2001

It's not coincidence that the form of the sacred black stone is generally described as the shape of the sacred yoni (see photo above), formed by two crescent moons crossed over each other, also the form of the fish of the Goddess, the vesica pisces - a well known architectural form incorporated into many of the great cathedrals constructed during the medieval period dedicated to the Virgin Mary - the Queen of Heaven.

For some interesting graphics, see The Goddess, her eternal symbols
Basic information on the Vesica Pisces from Wikipedia
Some more interesting graphics and information at the Library of Alexandria

Amsterdam, 2001

We'd planned the trip for months. Having received invitations via our connection with Ricardo Calvo (may Goddess rest his soul), Isis, Michelle, dondelion and yours truly were going to travel from Montreal to Amsterdam with a layover at London's Heathrow from November 29 through December 5? (I forget the exact dates) to attend a symposium at the Max Euwe Centrum sponsored by the Initiativ Gruppe Koenigstein. (Photos: views of my Hotel Schmitt room).

All our travel plans were in order - airfares paid for, hotel accomodations secured.

And then, 9/11 happened.

Ricardo and I got into a nasty email fight about 9/11 and I was going to cancel my reservations - who needs the European a-holes was my feeling at the time. Hey, my nickname isn't Patton for nothing!

But under this crusty exterior I'm a softy, and I was eventually prevailed upon from several different directions to attend the gathering; and, being "fiscally prudent", I didn't want to have to pay $100 to cancel the airlines reservations for use at a future date. At the time, I couldn't imagine travelling anywhere overseas ever again and I didn't want to waste good money.

In due course, Isis, Michelle and I rendevouzed with Don in Montreal; we had a one night/day layover there before departing on an overnight flight to London. We travelled on to Amsterdam where we stayed for, I believe, 6 magical days. dondelion gave a presentation on his never-finished always being edited "Fool's Guide to Pawn Promotion." Isis and I also put together written presentations and, together with dondelion's "Fool's Guide," they were spiral bound and we (stupid!) hauled several copies overseas in our luggage! (Photo: view toward the Reicksmuseum from my Hotel Schmitt room).

When we got to the symposium we realized we didn't have near enough copies of our "presentations." dondelion and I had a real adventure running out during the 1.5 hour lunch break, tracking down an "insta-print" place and having to pay for the job in cash (that meant running out and locating a cash machine) - as they refused to take my "foreign" credit card - the jerks! Ever get lost in a semi-circular city? We did - but somehow managed to find out way back to the hotel (no thanks to my never-failing go the wrong way sense of direction) and from there, the few blocks further to the Max Euwe Centrum.

Every single copy of our spiral bound presentations were snapped up - we even gave up our ceremonial keepsake copies (but I stole one back later on when someone's back was turned for an instant and he'd left his copy sitting on a table...)

I'm sure I've written about all of this before - but I'm too lazy to try and track down the back-link - I really must put in some kind of internal search... Here is my absolutely informative, fantastic and innovative paper on Goddess Iconography in Ancient Board Games - should have gotten the Nobel Prize for it, I think.

This was all brought back to mind when I was earlier perusing some photographs from the trip I've got stored on my hard drive. We had a wonderful time in Amsterdam, although I didn't eat a bite at the Saturday night celebratory dinner gathering at an Asian restaurant. Everyone else seemed to be having a rip-roaring time, but for me it was a total bust. When I ordered "peanut chicken" I didn't expect to receive something that looked like slime-coated mush served on long toothpicks. We also received bowls of hard, glued-together, cold, white rice. No butter or margarine available to flavor it. Not a salt or pepper shaker in sight. Strange-colored globs of stuff were presented as "salad." I'm still not sure what those globs were, exactly - probably best not to know.

The Germans seated on my left side steadfastly ignored all my polite attempts to engage them in conversation, the Russians across the table who did speak German but no English were attentive but communication was, by necessity, somewhat stilted since I speak neither Russian nor German. We did a lot of "sign" language.

I gave all my food away to a couple of very hungry graduate students who shared the end of the table with us to my right. They were extremely cute and quite entertaining, so I didn't mind. I left early after paying my bill, using all my available cash and borrowing some from dondelion (this restaurant did not accept credit cards - what?) and with a few more borrowed gilders from dondelion, I stopped at a McDonald's on the way back to the Hotel Schmitt and took a Big Mac and fries back to my room. Heaven!

In due course, I had my 15 micro-seconds of fame when I was mentioned in the Russian chess magazine "64" in an article written by one of the charming Russians who'd sat across the table to my left (Issac Linder, Jr.):

And the group of the American enthusiasts already entirely exceeded in its excursus into the antiquity all fantastic visions:she proposed conference the collection of statements, in which on complete ser'eze is asserted the godly origin of chess. Jain Newton from the state of Wisconsin even did organize during December 1998 discussion on internetu of?Is of chyuess tyue din of to tyue Of goddess?? and it found numerous adherents of view, as if all ancient games were vnusheny to people more than.

Leave it to a man to spell my name wrong! It's Jan - not Jain - even though I suppose I'm somewhat religiously sympathetic to the Jains...

The Babelfish translation is, of course, totally horrific. The original question that got Goddesschess going was "Is Chess The Game Of The Goddess?" - and it was posed by Isis, not by me, at the old Art Bell message boards. But in typical Patton fashion I more or less hijacked, cajolled and cohersed everyone posting there at the time to follow my lead, and about six months after that initial discussion thread started, the very first Goddesschess website appeared. The rest, as they say, is herstory.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Night Miscellany

Hola! It's late, and I'm tired, so this will be short (yeah, I always say that, don't I, lol!) First of all - important news! It snowed here on 2/25 - some 3 inches. Not enough for me to pull out the shovel after the season we've had and five foot high snow banks on either side of my driveway (I can't get the shovel up over them now) persuaded me to wait until spring and let it melt (I hoped). The demon snow plow driver came through the next morning (2/26), but he didn't hit my home-made bomb hidden in the depths of an iced-over snow bank on the south side at the end of my driveway, purposely constructed to jut out into the road so that he would hit it. Drat! But - it snowed again last night, tee hee hee. Three more inches. I took off work today just to shovel out, since freezing rain was forecast and temperatures, while forecast to get into the low 30's today, were also supposed to drop down to 14F tonight - you know what that means. Yes, more ice upon ice upon ice, and I'd have to put iceskates on my hands in addition to those on my feet just to move around outdoors. It seemed prudent to take the time to shovel out the driveway since there was now more than 6 inches of snow/ice coating it, or I'd be skating down to the road from my front door at least until the end of June. And so, I was outside shoveling when the plow came through, about 7:25 a.m. He was on the opposite side of the street at first, but then he did a u-turn at the corner and came back up my side of the street. While I stood there, shovel in hand, half-way down the drive struggling to shovel out a 3-foot wide pathway for myself, he drove by at full speed, piling up a fresh 2 foot high bank of snow boulders at the base of my driveway. Words cannot express my thoughts at that moment... And then, it happened. A miracle. About a block away, the front end of his plow went KABOOM and fell off the garbage truck in a mangled, crumpled mess of molten steel. Evidently one of my ice-encrusted bombs hit paydirt. Tee hee hee. Unfortunately, only the plow was killed, not the demon driver himself. Drat! I will try again... For your reading pleasure: Bigfoot at Berkeley (new basketball recruit?) Oh crap - scientist creating a "life form" that will "eat" carbon dioxide. Trees "eat" carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, which human beings breath. What will happen to the trees if they don't get enough to eat? They'll die. We're already screaming and yelling about the destruction of the trees in the Amazon basin. Not enough oxygen, HUMANS DIE. End of story. Duh! Steampunk Magazine? Oh puleeeeze... Attorneys are (fill in your own words here) or, reasons why I stopped practicing law five years after I graduated from law school: 'night, darlings!

Fitting Euology for Fischer

I haven't publicized most of the Fischer articles that have appeared since his death, but this one - I thought it was fitting, it struck me as true. From the Phillipines Friday, February 29, 2008 Pestaño: Bobby Fischer: a new perspective By Frank 'Boy' Pestaño Chessmoso SINCE the death of Bobby Fischer last month, more than 100 eulogies have been written including three by Chessmoso. The one that elicited a lot of feedbacks, however, was the New York Times blog post by Dick Cavett, the host of the Dick Cavett Show, which aired on national television in the USA for more than 50 years. The newspaper got a lot of feedbacks, which was so moving to Cavett that he penned another piece, thanking the readers. One of these read, “brilliant, insightful, and very touching–by far the best eulogy of Bobby I’ve read, and, amazingly, from someone not in the chess community. Bravo, Mr. Cavett.” featured the article (if you want to read it) and also received a lot of feedbacks. But the one that impressed me the most was the article by Bryan Green, which I liked so much that I e-mailed him to ask his permission to reprint a part of it in this column so I can share it with you. A full reprint is not possible due to space limitations. However, if you want to read, check out his blog at (Italicized parts are mine) “Bobby Fischer was what we call a child prodigy. He was the Mozart of chess. He won the US Chess Championships when he was 13 years old! The real question is how did he do it? He obviously had talent. But what was that talent? Was it the ability to memorize outrageously complex positions? Was it the ability to think 9, 10, 11 moves ahead? Was it the ability to devise devious traps for his opponents? No. It wasn’t. He may have eventually been able to do those things, but those were not the talents that made him the greatest chess player ever. His talent was his obsession. He developed the ability to do all of the above things, but they didn’t come naturally. They were painstakingly develop through intense and focused effort. The type of effort that most people simply can‘t generate. Border-line superhuman. Cavett says it better than I do: “We assume that geniuses are blessed creatures, who don’t have to work hard to achieve their goals. Hard for us, easy for them. But Bobby, as a kid -- IQ pushing 200 -- put in 10 to 15 hours a day of brain power and heavy concentration that would kill an ordinary person. (Or at least me.)” Does this mean that prodigies are made, not born? Yes and no. Because the simple fact is you can’t force a person to put in the quality of effort that Fischer put into his chess. That type of effort has to come from somewhere inside. It doesn’t come from fear of punishment or hope of reward. It comes from love. Love in the form of need and at the mercy of obsession. One thing he does articulate well is that greatness isn’t all talent. He says you need talent to be truly great (which we can take to mean his level), but he follows that by saying many of the top players aren’t that talented; they’ve “just worked like dogs” and “they keep at it...they’ve got the character, they don’t get distracted by other things in life until they’ve gotten what they wanted out of it.” I don’t know what caused Bobby Fischer to slowly come unhinged. I don’t know what caused him to isolate himself from the world and I don’t know what drove him to despise Jews and America. But I do think I know what made him into a child prodigy and a World Chess Champion. He believed his effort would improve his ability. And then he worked longer, harder, and with a higher level of quality than any of his competitors. (Harder than anyone, at anything, ever?) You can call it talent or effort, motivation or love or obsession. Whatever you call it, it’s what makes you a champion.” The greatest ever. (

Top Model's Body Found in Seine

Body of top model Katoucha found
February 29, 2008, 8:20 am PST

PARIS - The body of Katoucha Niane, one of the first African women to attain international stardom as a model and a vocal opponent of female genital mutilation, was found in the Seine River, police said Friday.

Known simply as Katoucha, the former top model for Yves Saint Laurent and other top designers was found Thursday near the Garigliano bridge in Paris, judicial police in Paris said.

An autopsy showed no signs of foul play, pointing to the possibility that the 47-year-old may have fallen accidentally into the river, they said.

She had been missing since January and was last seen returning home from a party. She lived in a houseboat near Paris' Alexandre III bridge, and her handbag was later found on the boat.

The Guinean-born model told The Associated Press in 1994 that she ran away to Europe at 17 aiming to be a model. Her big break came when Jules-Francois Crahay, then the designer at Lanvin, spotted her in a line-up. The label hired her as a fitting model. Her first catwalk modeling was for Thierry Mugler at the start of the 1980s.

After quitting the runway, she turned to speaking out actively against female circumcision, describing her own experience at age 9 in a book, "Katoucha, In My Flesh," which was published last year.

"I will never get the incomparable pain out of my head," she wrote in the book, which she dedicated to her three children.

Vanity Fair's fashion and style director, Michael Roberts, said Katoucha was "one those girls who used her fame to spotlight the misfortunes of others."

"She always seemed so gracious and very lovely," he said. "She was sunny and she was bright, and I liked her a lot."

Katoucha set up her own label in 1994 after years of modeling for the likes of Christian Lacroix and Saint Laurent. Singers Cher and France's Johnny Hallyday were among the stars who turned out for her show.

"I don't pretend to be like Lacroix, Saint Laurent or the others," she said at the time. "But I was certainly in a great school by wearing their clothes and going to the fittings. I learned several basic lessons, including: Don't cut the fabric until you've got the 'toile,' or heavy linen prototype, just right."

Katoucha was the daughter of Djibril Tamsir Niane, an archaeologist and writer. She said that her father was initially disappointed that she didn't become "a professional intellectual, with a university degree," but later reconciled to her other successes.
Associated Press writers Joelle Diderich and Jean-Pierre Verges in Paris contributed to this report.

Hmmmmm, yes, I suppose people can accidentally fall into a river (supposedly here in Wisconsin I believe some nine male college students have done so over the last several years after leaving bars at closing time, staggering drunk, so it is said...), but as an outspoken critic of female genital mutilation, there are some people out there [fanatics] who would do anything to shut Niane up.

The Hind of Hinds - Continued

I came across information about the "battle queens" of Arabia on the internet perhaps a couple months back, and was fascinated by the subject – so much so that after doing some further research, I laid out some $$$ to buy a couple of books that promised to provide further information on the subject. I was able to get them "used" at great prices and they will add enormously to my fledgling library of research and reference materials.

The books are: The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara G. Walker, paperback edition published by HarperSan Francisco © 1983, ISBN 0-06-250925-X – and – Women Warriors, A History, David E. Jones, paperback edition published by Brassey’s, Washington, © 1997, first paperback edition 2000, ISBN 1-57488-206-6.

Last night, I posted information on the "Hind of Hinds" – Hind al-Hunud, who battled Mohammed and the spread of his matricidal religion, Mohammedism (a/k/a Islam). Hind al-Hunud was one of the great battle queens. A brief note on the meaning of "hind" – in the Bible, in the Song of Solomon, "hind" was a reference to a particularly beautiful and delicate female deer and was used as a metaphor for the beautiful young shepherd girl for whom King Solomon had the hots. "Hind" also refers to the "hind-quarters" – that is, the rear-end or buttocks or ass (in the vernacular) of an animal, and probably a human, too. (A personal observation, many modern men are "ass" men – they appreciate a large rear-end on a woman, just as some are "boob" (breast) men, some are "eye" men and some are "leg" men).

Geographically, "Hind," is an area that encompassed, on today’s map of the world, parts of northwestern India, southwestern Pakistan and southeastern Afghanistan, along the northwestern coast of the Arabian Sea.  This area is reputed to be where the game of chess was – perhaps – first invented.

What follows in the next post is from Walker’s Woman’s Encyclopedia, which will give you a wealth of background information and details about the cultures that gave rise to the cult of the Lady of Victory. The material is so rich, I hardly know where to begin to even form a commentary on it – but the easiest and probably the wisest thing to do is to just let you read and you can form your own conclusions.

See also:

The Hind of Hinds, February 28, 2008, Goddesschess blog

The Hind of Hinds - Continued

From Woman’s Encyclopedia, pages 51-54: Arabia

Before Islam arrived in the 7th century A.D., Arabia was matriarchal for over a thousand years of recorded history. The Annals of Ashurbanipal said Arabia was governed by queens for as long as anyone could remember.(1)

The land’s original Allah was Al-Lat, part of the female trinity along with Kore or Q’re, the Virgin, and Al-Uzza, the Powerful One, the triad known as Manat, the Threefold Moon.(2) [Side Note: Annals of Ashurbanipal – Assyrian royal chronicles on cuneiform tablets, dating form the 7th century B.C., found in the king’s famous library at Nineveh by 19th-century archaelogists.]

At Mecca the Goddess was Shaybah or Sheba, the Old Woman, worshipped as a black aniconic stone like the Godess of the Scythian Amazons.(3) The sacred Black Stone now enshrined in the Kaaba at Mecca was her feminine symbol, marked by the sign of the yoni, and covered like the ancient Mother by a veil.(4) No one seems to know exactly what it is supposed to represent today. [Yeah, but all those Arab dudes still kiss it as part of their worship ritual!]

The Black Stone rests in the Haram, "Sanctuary", cognate of "harem," which used to mean a Temple of Women: in Babylon, a shrine of the Goddess Har, mother of harlots.(5) Hereditary guardians of the Haram were the Koreshites, "children of Kore," Mohammed’s own tribe.(6) The holy office was originally held by women, before it was taken over by male priests calling themselves Beni Shayban, "Sons of the Old Woman."(7)

Mohammed’s legends clearly gave him a matriarchal family background. [He would not have been seen as legitimate, otherwise, by the people of the time unless he HAD the necessary matriarchal lineage!]  His parents’ marriage was matrilocal. His mother remained with her own family and received her husband as an occasional visitor. Mohammed lived with his mother until her death, because she was his true parent according to the ancient system; "children belonged to the woman’s family … paternity in the biological sense was relatively unimportant."(8) She may well have been one of the "aged priestesses" who served the temple in Mecca.(9) The traditions of such priestesses may well date back to Assyro-Babylonian um-mati or "mothers," the only people permitted to enter the Holy of Holies. Archaic Arabian shrines were usually served by seven high priestesses, recalling the lawgiving Seven Sages, who were women.(10) The first collection of the books of law called Koran – the Word of Kore, or Q’re – was attributed to them. [Side Note: Seven Sages – Legendary figures in both Greek and Arabian lore, identified with a variety of seers and philosophers, the earliest ones usually female, confused with the Seven Sisters, or Pleiades.]

Pre-Islamic Arabia was dominated by the female-centered clans. Marriages were matrilocal, inheritance matrilineal. Polyandry – several husbands to one wife – was common. Men lived in their wives’ homes. Divorce was initiated by the wife. If she turned her tent to face east for three nights in a row, the husband was dismissed and forbidden to enter the tent again.(11)

Doctrines attributed to Mohammed simply reversed the ancient system in favor of men. A Moslem husband could dismiss his wife by saying "I divorce thee" three times. As in Europe, the change from matriarchate to patriarchate came about only gradually and with much strife.

Many Koreshites remained faithful to the Goddess and to their queen, Hind al-Hunud: the Hind of Hinds, similar to the title of Artemis. She was also called Lady of Victory. But her victories came to an end with one of the last queens, whose husband betrayed her and surrendered her city of Makkah to the enemy.

Legend claims the stepdaughter of the divine Hind married Mohammed himself.(12) However, the history of early-medieval Arabia is nearly all legend. Like Buddha, Confucius, Jesus, and other founders of patriarchal religions, Mohammed lacks real verification. There is no reliable information about his life or teachings. Most stories about him are as apocryphal as the story that his coffin hangs forever in mid-air "between heaven and earth," like the bodies of ancient sacred kings.(13)

Footnotes omitted. 

See also The Hind of Hinds, February 28, 2008, Goddesschess blog. 

The Hind of Hinds - Continued

With or without Mohammed, Islam succeeded in becoming completely male-dominated, making no place for women except in slavery or in the seclusion of the harem. Islamic mosques still bear signs reading: "Women and dogs and other impure animals are not permitted to enter."(14) Nevertheless, traces of the Goddess proved ineradicable. Like the virgin Mary, Arabia’s Queen of Heaven received a mortal form and a subordinate position as Fatima, Mohammed’s "daughter." But she was no real daughter. She was known as Mother of her Father, and Source of the Sun: "the illumination that separates Light and Darkness; the Tree of Paradise; the Red Cow who suckles all the children of the earth; Fate; the Night, the World, the Moon; the Pure Essence of being."(15) Like her western counterpart Mary, she was compared to the Burning Bush, and the Night of Power; "she personified the center of the genealogical mystery."(16) Fatima’s name means The Creatress. A Shi’a text, Omm-al-Kitab, said she appeared "at the creation of the material world," crowned, seated on a throne, holding a sword, and "ornamented with a million varicolored shimmering lights" which illuminated the entire garden of Paradise. She was the first to occupy the Seat of Dominion, "the resting place of Allah, the Most High."(17) Her symbol as Holy Virgin, the crescent moon, still appears on Islamic flags.(18) She is called Al-Zahra, "Bright-Blooming," a former title of the Great Mother. It is said the symbol of her hand, surmounting the solar disc, "represents the whole religion of Islam."(19) Within Islam, deviant sects like Shi’ites or Sufis carried on Tantric worship of the female principle, maintaining that the feminine powers of sexuality and maternity were the powers that held the universe together.(20) The greatest medieval poet of Sufism, Ibn al-Farid, was known as "the sultan of lovers."(21) He said true divinity was female, and Mecca was the womb of the earth. As woman-worshipping minstrels of medieval Europe were attacked for their devotion to the Goddess of Love, so the Sufis were attacked for their "voluptuous libertinism." Ibn El-Arabi, the "greatest master" of Sufi mystics, was accused of blasphemy because he said the godhead is female.(22) [Side Note: Shi’ites – Minority sect of Islam, tracing descent of a sacred caliphate from Mohammed’s daughter Fatima and her husband ‘Ali. One line of Shi’ites established the powerful Fatimid caliphate, now represented by the Khojas, Bohras, and the Druze of Syria.] Shi’ites split off from orthodox Islam and claimed to follow a purer line of imams directly descended from the Fatimids. In the 11th century they united under Hasan ibn al-Sabbah, i.e., Hasan ben-Shaybah, another "son of the Matriarch." Hasan seized the fortress of Alamut and made it the headquarters of a brotherhood of warriors, the hashishim or "Assassins" (see Aladdin). The fortress fell to the concerted attacks of Mongols and mamelukes in 1256, after having waged war on Turks and Christian crusaders alike for more than a century.(23) Still the Shi’ite sect survived to the present, awaiting the coming of the Virgin named Paradise (Pairidaeza), who wil give birth to the Mahdi, the "moon-guided" Redeemer, whose title in Europe was the Desired Knight.(24) One of the hidden secrets of medieval bardic romance is the Arabian origin of the Waste Land motif, most prominent in the Holy Grail cycle of tales. Despite monkish efforts to convert it into a Christian chalice, the Grail was generally recognized as a female symbol, whose loss implied fear for the fertility of the earth. Crusaders had seen for themselves the desolation of Arabia Deserta, one of the most lifeless regions on earth. They heard the Shi’ite heretics’ explanation for it: Islam had offended the Great Goddess, and she had cursed the land and departed. Now nothing would grow there. Western mystics thought the same calamity would strike Europe if the spirit of the Mother were not brought back from the limbo to which the Christian church consigned her. This may have been a reason for the frenzy of cathedral-building in honor of "Our Lady," the Queen of Heaven, during the 12th and 13th centuries. The Waste Land theme haunted the collective psyche of the early Renaissance with a threat of conditions actually realized in the land of the infidel. (Not sure what she means; is this an allusion to the Black Plague, or to some sustained period of drought?) Traces of the matriarchate survived to the present among some of the Arabs of North Africa, ancient home of "Libyan Amazons."(25) Targi and Tuareg Berber women remained free of many sexual restrictions. Virginity was not prized. On remarriage, a woman could command twice the bridge-price of a young virgin. Men of the Walad ‘Abdi tribe insisted the success of their crops depended on the sexual freedom of their women, whom the French labeled common prostitutes. Hassanyeh Arabs of the White Nile allowed wives to be unfaithful on certain days of the week, according to the marriage contract drawn up by the bride’s mother – who took pride in preserving her daughter’s sexual liberties.(27) Most of Islam, however, restricted women as much as possible. Many Islamic theologians said women couldn’t enter paradise, and must not receive religious instruction because it might bring them "too near their masters."(28) Notes: I’d be happy to provide you with a PDF of the Bibliography if you email me – you can find the contact info at Goddesschess. (1) Assyr. & Bab. Lit., 120. (2) de Riencourt, 193. (3) Sobol, 55. (4) Harding. 41. (5) Pritchard, S.S., 96. (6) Shah, 390. (7) Briffault 3, 80. (8) de Riencourt, 188. (9) Briffault 3, 80. (10) Briffalt 1, 377. (11) de Rienourt, 187-89. (12) Beard, pp. 293-94. (13) de Camp, A.E., 153. (14) Farb, W.P., 144. (15) Lederer, 181. (16) Campbell, Oc.M, 446. (17) Campbell, Oc.M., 445-46. (18) Briffault 2, 630. (19) Budge, A.T., 469. (20) Bullough, 150. (21) Encyc. Brit., "Sufism." (22) Shah, 263, 391. (23) Encyc. Brit., "Assassins." (24) Lederer, 181. (25) Wendt, 52. (26) Briffault 1, 286; 3, 200, 314. (27) Hartley, 166. (28) Crawley 1, 58.

The Hind of Hinds - Continued

I want to relate a couple of very interesting "hallucinations" I had last night that are related to the material above and – well, you’ll see where this goes -- I’ve mentioned in earlier posts about how I tend to have hallucinatory "dreams" – not sure what to call the state, exactly, it tends to happens in that area where I’m half awake, or not quite asleep. Last night, or I should say, early this morning, it was between 2 and 3 a.m. when I am prone to wake up these days – anyway, I did my usual, wake up, roll over, look at the clock, roll back to settle into the pillows and I saw what, for the life of me, appeared to be the outline of a bear sitting in my wing chair by the south window. Now darlings, I knew it couldn’t possibly be a bear sitting in my chair, not at 2 in the morning, but it was quite distinctly the outline of a bear, even after I shook my head and blinked my eyes a couple of times and tried to "wake up." It was still there. I laid back down and watched it for awhile; it’s head was moving! It didn’t occur to me until I was having my morning coffee that it was moving in a barely perceptible nodding motion. I was totally stumped as to why this hallucination would not go away even though I thought I was almost fully awake; I fell back asleep – perhaps it was 10 minutes later while continuing to look at the "bear in the chair." It’s a bit hard to explain – this half-baked/half-awake thought process, but since the bear did NOT attack me, I KNEW it was an hallucination, not the real thing (forget about the logic of how a bear would happen to get into a locked house without any noise, happen to wander upstairs into my bedroom, and happen to sit in my chair quietly waiting for me to "wake" up), and so I wasn’t afraid to try and fall back asleep, only annoyed that whatever it was wouldn’t go away. As often happens in these post-menopausal times (women of a certain age in the audience will know exactly what I mean), I then proceeded to wake up about every 45 to 55 minutes for the next couple of hours – sometimes this happens until the alarm goes off at 6 a.m., but last night/early this morning it only happened two more times, and so I was able to get in a last couple of hours of "quality" sleep before the alarm went off. Anyway, when I next awoke, I turned my head and crinked my neck up just to get a look and sure enough, the bear was still sitting in the chair by the window on the south wall. Damn! And still ever so slightly nodding it’s head. I could see it distinctly because my south window overlooks a street light perhaps 50 feet away, and it casts enough light through the curtains to cast eerie shadows inside my bedroom (cue spooky music….) Hmmmmm. Then I rolled over toward the west wall and caught a glimpse of something that set my heart to pounding – a giant serpent! I nearly leaped out of bed -- Of course it wasn’t a giant serpent, it was my "pharmacy" style floor lamp that I have sitting next to the computer hutch, but to my half-awake eyes it took on the form of a gigantic hooded cobra. Hmmmm, a bear and a snake? Very weird. Someone must be trying to tell me something, I thought, as I settled back into my pillows and went back to sleep. OKAY! A bit of back story. The serpent I understand because for the past couple of weeks delion and I have been nattering back and forth about things Egyptian, etc. and I’ve been refreshing my memory by checking out information on Uadjet, the serpent tutorial Goddess of "Upper" (Southern) Egypt, very ancient, who also represents the Sun God (Ra/Re) and, in one of her aspects, is also His Sacred Eye. So the lamp-turning-into-cobra makes sense, in a "dream" way. But the bear? Now, mind you darlings, this all happened before I ever cracked open Walker’s Woman’s Encyclopedia today and copied out the information on "Arabia" published above. As it so happens, when I first opened the book, I came upon an entry of Atalanta: Amazonian huntress, the best athlete in Calydon. As an infant, Atalanta was suckled by Artemis herself, in totemic form as a She-Bear. When she grew up, she took part in the famous hunt of the Calydonian Boar and drew first blood, pausing only to kill two centaurs who tried to rape her on the hunting field. Ah ha! Bells went off in my head. Artemis was the bear! But not only a bear, Walker links her to the "Hind of Hinds" (Hind al-Hunud): "Many Koreshites remained faithful to the Goddess and to their queen, Hind al-Hunud: the Hind of Hinds, similar to the title of Artemis" – but I didn’t know that until I read and then posted the entry on Arabia from The Woman’s Encyclopedia today! So – my admittedly amateur interpretation of my "waking dreams" is that the Goddess (in bear and serpent forms) approve/approved my intent/plan to post more about the ancient battle queens here – even before I knew I was going to do it. Well, they are goddesses, they can "see" the future! A couple notes. Based on what I read in Walker, Fatima, the putative daughter of Mohammed, is a "sister" of the ancient Egyptian cow-goddess Hathor. One of Fatima’s titles is "Red Cow," and Fatima shares many other titles and attributes with Egyptian Hathor. Hathor was also considered a moon goddess, because her horns formed a "crescent" moon. Hmmm, where have we seen that symbol before? Oh yeah, on the flags of many countries where Islam is the majority religion. Hmmm….

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Native American Lucy Gerand Remembered

From the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber (Washington, USA) Native woman who shaped Island history is remembered Feb 27 2008 Native American Lucy Gerand, a longtime Island resident who provided some of the earliest known stories about life on Vashon, finally received a headstone on her unmarked grave last Friday in a quiet ceremony at the Vashon Cemetery. Gerand, who died Jan. 7, 1929, of tuberculosis [at age 93], according to the state Department of Health’s death register, was one of very few Vashon Native Americans who left behind a record of what it was like to live on Vashon with her tribe in the 19th century. Despite her place in history, her grave has been unmarked for the past 79 years — until several people, including part-time Islander Bill Slaughter, began working towards a more appropriate recognition for a woman who they consider one of the Island’s most significant. Friday’s ceremony marked that moment. Attended by about 20 people, it represented a collaboration among several groups: The Puyallup tribe of Indians, represented by tribe official David Duenas, the Vashon Cemetery District, represented by district board member Lisa Devereau, and several Islanders interested in Native history, including Rayna Holtz of the Vashon Library and Slaughter, an independent researcher born on Vashon. The event at the cemetery began with the laying of a granite headstone, inscribed with the words, “Puyallup Elder, Lucy Gerand, 1836-1929.” Moments later, as though on cue, two eagles began circling high above the site. Duenas saw it as auspicious. “The eagles represent the spirit on its journey,” Duenas said. “Her (Gerand’s) spirit has probably been waiting here until now. They are helping her to go on her journey.” “There are three deaths,” Judy Wright, the Puyallup tribe historian, told the small group. “The death of the body. Placing the body in the ground. And nobody remembering the person. We’re here today to remember Lucy.” Gerand lived on Quartermaster Harbor with her second husband Tom, digging clams and selling them in Tacoma. She became important as a historical witness after she was interviewed by anthropologist T.T. Waterman in the 1920s, providing him with a motherlode of information about the region’s place names, living sites and buildings created by Vashon Native Americans. Waterman’s work based on these interviews appears in the book “Puget Sound Geography.” Gerand also testified in a 1927 Native claims case against the United States. She and two others complained that the Medicine Creek Treaty of 1854 did not provide sufficient land for the number of people to live on, as reported in a March 1927 issue of The Tacoma News Tribune. The aim of the treaty was to move Puget Sound Native people, including those living on Vashon and Maury Islands, onto reservations to make way for white settlers coming from the east. The Native peoples were made up of many groups that were put together as Puyallup, Nisqually and Squaxin by the federal government, which ruled Washington as a territory until 1853, when it became a state. The treaty was signed by representatives of both sides. Slaughter, now a psychiatrist living in Boston, retains a great interest in the Island and especially the history of its Native peoples, a history that he says represents a kind of ethnic cleansing. “There’s unfinished business here on Vashon,” he said about the Native population. He and Devereau agreed that there are many unmarked graves like Durand’s on Vashon, in the cemetery and elsewhere. They want to mark them and to make the history of the Native people on Vashon more known than it has been. As evidence of how the Native American history on Vashon has been largely erased, Slaughter referred to Oliver Van Olinda’s 1935 book “History of Vashon,” which states, according to Slaughter, that there were no Native people on Vashon when the first settlers came. The federal Indian Agent, though, counted approximately 40 in 1852, and by the time settlers began to arrive, the reservation resettlement had already been instituted. But not without a fight. Chief Leschi of the Nisqually, who died in 1858, claimed not to have signed the treaty and fiercely resisted confinement on a reservation, according to He allegedly led an attack on Seattle on Jan. 26, 1856, and was hanged in 1858 on unrelated (and, in the opinion of many pioneers, false) charges of murder and rebellion. Slaughter said that the so-called “Indian War” came about because Leschi said that the land given to the Nisqually was inferior to the ancestral lands where the tribes had been accustomed to living along the Nisqually River. One of the rights granted by the United States to the Puget Sound Native people was to fish the waters they had always fished, but, according to the 1927 Tacoma News Tribune story, the Medicine Creek treaty contained language that itself erased the right. The issue was not finally decided until 1974, when, after years of conflict between the government and Native people, a court case decided that the Native people did indeed have a fishing right, but only to half of the catch. At Friday’s ceremony, the mood was playful and respectful as people traded stories and listened to the words of Duenas. Near the end, Island artist Israel Shotridge came forward and asked permission from Duenas to perform a chant. Shotridge, who was accompanied by his wife Sue, is a Tlingit from Ketchikan, Alaska. Duenas, in the inclusive spirit of the event, welcomed Shotridge and remembered that he had once been in Ketchikan. “The elders there were very receptive to us,” he said. Also present was 95-year-old Islander Helen Puz who remembered that as a young girl, she had been aware of Gerand’s presence. Puz lived in Burton in the 1920s while Gerand was living in Dockton. “She and her husband Tom used to dig clams in Quartermaster Harbor,” Puz said, “and I remember seeing them on the ferry to Tacoma, carrying their clams to sell in the market.” ********************************************************************************* This is rather interesting - this website reports Lucy Gerand as the last native princess of Vashon Island, who died in the 1940's at the age of 100! This website's timeline indicates Lucy Gerand was born in 1842, which would have made her 87 at the time of her death. The Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture holds a woven basket made by Lucy Gerand's mother, c. 1919.

Talk: "China's First Empire?"

UCLA Asia Institute China's First Empire? Interpreting the Material Record of the Erligang Culture A talk by Wang Haicheng Thursday, March 06, 20084:00 PM - 5:00 PM10383 Bunche Hall UCLA Los Angeles, CA 90095 In the last few decades Chinese archaeology has documented a widespread material culture known as the Erligang culture after a type site in near the modern city of Zhengzhou. Large-scale dissemination of distinctive materials seems to have been fairly common at the beginning of civilizations, probably the best known instance being the “Uruk expansion” in ancient Mesopotamia. Additional close parallels are found in by the Indus Valley civilization in the Old World and the Olmec civilization in the New World. In all four cases, the homogeneity of material culture over a large area suggests something more than casual contact: something of great magnitude was taking place, an intense interaction of some kind. So far, however, specialists have reached no consensus as to the social mechanisms involved, and do not agree about how things, ideas, and/or people spread. Although writing seems to have been in use in all four civilizations, inscriptions are few and poorly understood. Thus it is only from material culture that we can hope to learn anything about the archaeological issues involved. By comparing the four material cultures, I hope to draw up a list of possible models for cultural expansion, models that might not occur to us if we focused just on one region. Two major questions will be addressed: What are the criteria for correlating archaeological remains with political structures? What is the logic of privileging elite objects or utilitarian utensils in describing and interpreting the evidence of expansion? * * * Wang Haicheng earned his MA at Peking University (2000) and his PhD at Princeton (2007). He is currently a postdoctoral fellow in the Center for Chinese Studies at UC Berkeley. His research interests focus on comparative studies of Bronze Age China and other early civilizations, but he is also interested in the art and archaeology of the Silk Routes. His dissertation is a cross-cultural study of the uses to which writing was put by early states in China, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Central Mexico, and the Maya region, with the Andean states included for comparative purposes. His archaeological fieldwork has included both excavation and survey and has been divided between Neolithic and historical sites on the Silk Routes. For more information please contact Richard GundeTel: 310 825-8683 Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies

The Hind of Hinds

From Mary Beard's Woman as Force in History: A Study in traditions and Realities (1946).

The work she cited is Woman and the State on the Eve of Islam (1941), by Nabia Abbott (1897-1981), the first woman invited to the staff at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago in 1933, where she worked for the next 30 years until her retirement in 1963:

The love of power and strife that motivated Zenobia likewise characterized women of Arabia in the Islamic age. With a fury that may fairly be described as tigerish, women waged holy wars for and against the faith proclaimed by Mohammed. While the Prophet was still alive, one of his fiercest foes was a woman of a great clan called Hind, Hind al-Hunud, “the Hind of Hinds.” [I seriously doubt any of these women "loved" power and strife so much that it was their primary motivation in life!  This sounds to me like a woman brain-washed by the overwhelming sexist rubbish of the time, just after WWII, a massive exercise in testerone that resulted in the deaths of 50 million (or more) people world wide.]

According to Nabia Abbott, in an article on “Woman and the State on the Eve of Islam,” Hind al-Hunud lived in the kingdom of Kindah, founded in the fifth century A.D. She sprang from a people known as the Quraish, who had long been dominant at Mecca, the great city of the Prophet.

Tradition depicts her “as a woman holding to the heathen practices of Arabia, a wife whose virtue was not above suspicion, a mind that was quick to decisive actions.”

One of the heathen traditions to which she adhered was the cult of the Lady of Victory. Its function was to incite patriotism and lash patriots into ferocious fighting. The Lady of Victory was a woman of high social standing about whom the feminine cult members, likewise of high rank, gathered in the pavilion sacred to the local or tribal deity, within sight of the warriors whom they stirred to martial fervor by their war songs which they accompanied on their lutes. Around the Lady of Victory and her retinue the battle raged until it was lost or won.

In an armed contest between the Quraish and the forces of Mohammed, several of Hind al-Hunud’s relatives were engaged. That battle occurred at Badr. Her father, her uncle, and a brother were slain. But her husband, Abu Sifyan, survived and, with him, she prepared to wreak vengeance. When the time for the assault was ready, she as the Lady of Victory took her position in a sacred pavilion with fourteen or fifteen aristocratic women at her side. In the presence of these women the men were expected to fight, win or die. This time the Quraish were victors. The story then runs to the effect that, standing on a rock, among the corpses of the foe, the Hind of Hinds “exultantly flaunted in the face of the fallen enemy the general victory and her personal revenge, in spontaneous satirical verse which drew answer from the women of Mohammed’s party and later from Hassan ibn Thabit.”
Despite this triumph, the Hind of Hind’s husband afterward surrendered the city of Makkah to Mohammed. For that offense she wanted to kill her mate. But her husband defended himself by appealing to his people with the cry: “O people, become Moslems and be saved!” It was not long until Hind al-Hunud had to accept the Prophet’s religion herself. And her step-daughter, Ramlah bint Abi Sufyan, married Mohammed, as did other women, to forward their political designs or his, at least in part.


You can find Beard's Woman as Force in History transcribed in full here.  Make what you wish of the Marxist line, which I believe is pure bullshit, but thanks to their organization's volunteer(s) for transcribing this book for publication online. See also: Distinguished Women of Past and Present Nubian Queens in the Nile Valley and Afro-Asiatic Cultural History, Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban (page 6, under "Lady of Victory Cult")

See The Hind of Hinds, February 29, 2008, Goddesschess blog. 

Chess Star:13 (Nearly 14) Year Old Hou Yifan

From Marianias Variety, News & Views (Micronesia) 64: 13-year-old GM killer By Zaldy Dandan Variety Editor Friday, February 29, 2008 THE women’s champ of China — a world chess power — is only 13 years old and is already on her way to superstardom. Born in Nanjing, Jiangsu on Feb. 27, 1994, Hou Yifan started playing chess at the age of 6 and was admitted to the National Chess Center in Beijing when she was 10 so she could be trained by two of China’s veteran grandmasters, Ye Jiangchuan and Yu Shaoteng. Hou plays aggressively and in the Group B Corus tournament last month, she finished seventh to tenth place with a performance rating of 2598 — and victories over three grandmasters, including Nigel Short, the former world championship challenger. Game of the week. As our annotator, former Short trainer Lubomir Kavalek, puts it, “There are victories and defeats to be remembered forever.” And Hou’s trouncing of Short, “was an exceptional victory, a historical feat.” Short, who was thoroughly destroyed in 23 moves, said later that it was “especially embarrassing to lose to an opponent who is three years younger than my daughter.” White: Hou Yifan (2527) Black: Nigel Short (2645) Ruy Lopez, Berlin Defense Wijk aan Zee 2008 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 (Last September, Short tried the Cozio defense 3...Nge7 against Hou and after 70 moves the Chinese girl forced a draw.) 4.0-0 Nxe4 (Eliminating a central pawn is the main purpose of the Berlin defense.) 5.d4 Be7 (Vladimir Kramnik turned the Berlin endgame 5...Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8 into a formidable weapon against Garry Kasparov in London in 2000.) 6.Qe2 Nd6 7.Bxc6 bxc6 8.dxe5 Nb7 (To an untrained eye the knight on b7 looks ugly, but the variation was brought to light by the brilliant German attacker Adolf Anderssen in the 1860s. Even the world champion Emanuel Lasker later endorsed it. However, it is not played often today.) 9.c4 (Helping to contain black in the center. It was played in the 1868 by Johannes Zukertort and adopted a century later by the three-time Soviet champion Leonid Stein at the 1967 Interzonal in Sousse, Tunisia.) 9...0-0 10.Nc3 Re8 (A new, not very fortunate idea. Breaking white’s hold on the position by eliminating the e-pawn either by 10...f6 or 10...d6 is preferable. Bringing the knight back to the game with 10...Nc5 is possible.) 11.Rd1! (Both white and black rooks are involved in a pinning game, but white has more space to direct the action.) 11...Bf8? ( Instead of fighting for freedom, Short crawls back.) 12.Bg5 f6 (After 12...Be7 13.Be3 black loses time.) 13.Bh4 g5 (After 13...d6 white gets out of the pin with 14.Qc2 and 14...g5? loses to 15.exf6! gxh4 16.Ng5!, threatening 17.Qh7 mate.) 14.Bg3 d6 15.Ne4! Bg4? (In the game of pins, black ends up a distant second. He should have at least tried 15...fxe5 16.Nfxg5 h6 17.Nf3 Bg7 still with white’s advantage. His choice loses quickly.) 16.exf6! (Creating a monster pawn and avoiding 16.Nxf6+? Qxf6! that wins for black.) 16...Bh5 (Black is in dire straits. White wins either after 16...Bf5 17.Nfxg5 Rxe4 18.Nxe4 Qe8 19.f3; or after 16...d5 17.f7+!. And 16...Qd7 is met by 17.Qd3 h6 18.Ne5! dxe5 19.Qxd7 Bxd7 20.Rxd7 with a decisive advantage.) 17.Qe3 (After 17.Qd3!, moving the queen to the diagonal b1-h7, black’s position collapses faster since 17...h6 is refuted by 18.Nexg5! hxg5 19.Nxg5 and because of the threat 20.Qh7 mate, black loses material. Also after 17...Bg6 18.Nfxg5 black goes down either after 18...h6 19.f7+ Bxf7 20.Nf6+ Kg7 21.Qh7+ Kxf6 22.Qxf7+ Kxg5 23.h4+ Kg4 24.Qf3 mate; or after 18...Bh6 19.f7+! Bxf7 20.Nxf7 Kxf7 21.Qf3+ Kg8 22.Qg4+ Kh8 23.Bh4.) 17...Bh6 (After 17...h6 18.Nfxg5! smashes the gates.) 18.Ne5! Rxe5 (After 18...Qc8 19.f7+! Bxf7 20.Nxf7 Kxf7 21.Qf3+ Kg7 22.Qc3+ white wins.) 19.Bxe5 Bxd1 20.Rxd1 Qe8 21.Bc3 Nd8 22.f7+! (Finishing with flair. White needs the square f6 for her knight.) 22...Qxf7 (After 22...Kxf7 23.Qf3+ Ke7 24.Qf6+ Kd7 25.Qf5+ wins.) 23.Nf6+ (After 23...Kh8 24.Re1! Bg7 25.Qe8+ Qf8 26.Qh5 Bxf6 27.Re8; or 23... Kf8 24.Re1!, threatening 25.Qh3, white wins.) Black resigned.

9 Year Old Sues Chess Federation

From (Western India) Thursday, February 28, 2008 8:14:39 PM (IST) B'gady: Chess Prodigy Shabdik Moves Court against Federation Beltangady 28: A 9-year-old chess player Shabdik Varma, a student of Ujire SDM English Medium School has gone on appeal to the local Court against All India Chess Federation (AICF) for injustice meted out by the latter to him. Varma was recommended by the Federation to play in a tournament at Sri Lanka. He had made all the arrangements to visit Sri Lanka but owing to the indifferent attitude of the Federation his tour was cancelled at the eleventh hour. Later he issued a notice to the Federation seeking compensation for mental trauma that he had to undergo owing to the apathy shown by the Federation. However, Federation overlooked Shabdik's plea. Meanwhile Federation secretary D V Sundar said to have threatened Shabdik of moving court. "It is against Federation's rules to move court. By issuing notice to the Federation, you have broken the Federation norms which may in turn result in banning you from the future tourneys being organized by the Federation. Why should not we remove your name from our listed players?" asked a Show Cause notice issued by the Federation. Reacting sharply to this, Shabdik's lawyers Ajith and Badrinath have filed a written petition with the Sports Authority of India and the Indian Government. They have made an appeal with the concerned authorities not to follow separate rules for chess players based on their region. If their plea still goes unheard, chances are that they may move High Court in this regard. They have also appealed for a probe with regard to the apathy shown by the Federation.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Indecipherable Books Found

From The Epoch Times (China):
Indecipherable Ancient Books Found in Chongqing
February 24, 2008

The Tujia have been known as an ethnic minority with its own spoken language but without a written language. Yet a succession of ancient books in the same written language have been found in the Youyang Tujia habitation straddling the borders of Hunan, Hubei, Guizhou Province, and Chongqing City. For the past two years none have been able to read the ancient books.

Chongqing Morning Post published a report on February 15 about the story of Zhou Yongle, 38, a resident in Youyang Tujia and Miao Autonomous County. In the winter of 2006, Zhou arrived at Yiju Town to purchase antiques. He bought a pile of old books from a farmer and took them home. When he was tidying up the purchased books, an ancient book bound with thread drew his attention.

This special ancient book was made up of over twenty pieces of parchment that was commonly used in the Wuling Mountain Area. Characters vertically arranged on the parchment bear a striking resemblance to traditional Chinese characters. Written with brushes, the handwriting is neat and strong. Much to his amazement, he could not recognize any of the words. He was left dumbfounded.

With detailed observation, Zhou Yongle found Chinese characters next to each word that he had previously not noticed. The smaller Chinese characters seemed to serve as footnotes or translation. According to the translation done by the Chinese characters, the book should be titled Ancient Three Character Classic.

Zhou Yongle consulted such Chinese classics as the Shuowen Jiezi [1], Bronzeware script [2], and the Kangxi Dictionary [3]. With an eagerness to figure out the meaning of each character and the name of the writing system, he consulted cultural experts from the Ethnic and Religious Affairs Commission of Youyang County, and also local seniors, but to no avail. None were able to read the strange characters.

That's not the end of story. In the spring and summer of 2007, residents in the ancient town of Gongtan were all evacuated due to construction on the Wujiang Hydropower Station. Zhou went to an old house to again purchase antiques. Suddenly, a coverless old book caught his eye: characters on this book were exactly identical to those on his first discovered book.

After buying the book, Zhou thoroughly examined it and found that it was an ancient book used as a dictionary, with pages combined with thread and characters vertically arranged. Written with brushes, it was composed of big characters similar to those of his previous ancient book. Smaller Chinese characters beneath the content words served as footnotes. Comparison of the two books revealed that characters of the two books belonged to the same writing system, along with footnotes presented in Chinese characters. Based on the resemblance, Zhou concluded that the two books were written in the same language.

Zhou commented, "The Tujia are widely recognized as an ethnic minority with its own spoken language, but without its written language. If we could unravel the mystery of these undecipherable books discovered along the Wu River, and if we could prove they are words used by the Tujia, that would be a great discovery for the Tujia culture. Then the history of ethnic minorities would be revised."

So far, this kind of mysterious writing system, said Zhou, has been found only in Youyang County. Traces have never been spotted in any other areas.

[1] The Shuowen Jiezi was an early 2nd century CE Chinese dictionary from the Han Dynasty. It was the first comprehensive Chinese character dictionary.

[2] Bronzeware script is a family of scripts found on Chinese bronze such as zhong (bells) and ding (tripods)

[3] The Kangxi Dictionary was the standard Chinese dictionary during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty ordered its compilation in 1710 and it was published in 1716. The dictionary is named after the Emperor's era name.

Fashion Goddesses

In the news:

Kareena, Vogue's Summer Goddess!
February 27, 2008 12:31 IST
Actress Kareena Kapoor, the cover girl on India Vogue's March, 2008 issue.

At Emanuel Ungaro, the goddess in every girl
By Suzy Menkes
Published: February 27, 2008
Paris: Esteban Cortazar, an American with Colombian origins...zoomed in on the goddess in every girl, using the drapes for which Emanuel Ungaro was so famous on anything from a soft top worn with pants to a dress clearly destined for a red carpet celebrity like the sassy Eve, who sat front row.

Goddess gowns wow Milan
Jess Cartner-Morley in Milan
Friday February 22, 2008
Donatella Versace [kept] the sequinned flag of glamour flying, and this she did in fine style. After a series of chic day outfits in keeping with the demure mood of the week, she unleashed a knock 'em dead finale of goddess gowns...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Goddess Temples Potential Terrorist Targets

From The Hindu online Tuesday, February 26, 2008 : 2215 Hrs Vigil stepped up at Udupi, Mookambika temples Udupi (PTI): Police have stepped up a vigil at the famous Sri Krishna Temple and the Goddess Mookambika Temple in Kollur as a "precautionary measure" while ruling out any specific intelligence alert about possible terror attacks on them. "The district police have not received any specific intelligence information on these two temples facing any threat from terror groups," Superintendent of Police Devajyothi Roy told reporters here replying to a question. However, as a precautionary measure, patrolling had been beefed up in Udupi and Kollur and vigil was being maintained, he said. He said police had submitted a security plan to the Sri Krishna temple authorities to step up internal security, install CCTV cameras at entry and exit points three years ago, but no action had been taken to implement it so far. He said there was movement of naxalites in the forests of Western Ghats in Karkala and Kundapur and said the Anti-Naxal Force had been undertaking regular combing operations.

5,500 Year Old Ceremonial Plaza Discovered in Peru

From The International Tribune
The Associated Press
Published: February 26, 2008

LIMA, Peru: A team of German and Peruvian archeologists say they have discovered the oldest known monument in Peru: a 5,500-year-old ceremonial plaza near Peru's north-central coast.
Carbon dating of material from the site revealed it was built between 3500 B.C. and 3000 B.C., Peter Fuchs, a German archaeologist who headed the excavation team, told The Associated Press by telephone Monday.
The discovery is further evidence that civilization thrived in Peru at the same time as it did in what is now the Middle East and South Asia, said Ruth Shady, a prominent Peruvian archaeologist who led the team that discovered the ancient city of Caral in 2001. Shady serves as a senior adviser to Peru's National Culture Institute and was not involved in the project.
The find also raises questions about what prompted "civilizations to form throughout the planet at more or less the same time," Shady said.
The circular, sunken plaza, built of stones and adobe, is part of the Sechin Bajo archaeological complex in Andes foothills, 330 kilometers (206 miles) northwest of Lima, where Fuchs and fellow German archaeologist Renate Patzschke have been working since 1992.

It predates similar monuments and plazas found in Caral, which nonetheless remains the oldest known city in the Americas dating back to 2627 B.C.
The plaza served as a social and ritual space where ancient peoples celebrated their "thoughts about the world, their place within it, and images of their world and themselves," Fuchs said.
In an adjacent structure, built around 1800 B.C., Fuchs' team uncovered a 3,600-year-old adobe frieze — two meters (six feet) tall — depicting the iconic image of a human sacrificer "standing with open arms, holding a ritual knife in one hand and a human head in the other," Fuchs said.
The mythic image was also found in the celebrated Moche Lords of Sipan tombs, discovered on Peru's northern coast in the late 1980s.
Walter Alva, the Peruvian archaeologist who uncovered the Lords of Sipan tombs, said the plaza found in Fuchs' dig was probably utilized by an advanced civilization with economic stability, a necessary condition to construct such a ceremonial site.
The excavation was the fourth in a series of digs at the Sechin Bajo complex that Fuchs and Patzschke began on behalf of the University of Berlin in 1992. Deutsche Forschung Gemeinschaft, a German state agency created to sponsor scientific investigations, has financed the most recent three digs.
The find "shows the world that in America too, human beings of the New World had the same capacity to create civilization as those in the Old World," Shady said.
Her discovery, Caral, made headlines in 2001 when researchers carbon-dated material from the city back to 2627 B.C., proving that a complex urban center in the Americas thrived as a contemporary to ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt — 1,500 years earlier than previously believed.
Associated Press Writer Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.

More coverage here.

Stanway Board Game Update

Here's an update on the Stanway board game I posted about on 2/13/08. The findings from this excavation, characterized in the press as a "Druid's" tomb, continue to generate lots of excitement among archaeologists and historians (with good reason).

Dr. Ulrich Schaedler, Director of the Swiss Museum of Games (La Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland), wrote a paper on the game board discovered in the "Doctor's grave" and presented it at a symposium put together by the Board Games Studies folks held in Marburg, Germany, in 2003.

We met Ulrich in Amsterdam in 2001 at a meeting of chess scholars and historians sponsored by the Initiative Group Koenigstein and he has been a friend to Goddesschess since. That's Ulrich in the center of the photo, taken at the Max Euwe Centrum in Amsterdam at the IGK Symposium, November, 2001. Ulrich has kindly agreed to allow Goddesschess to publish his 2003 paper on the Stanway board.

The complete Stanway monograph is now available through the Britannica Monograph Series and can be purchased at a discount price of $76 USD through March 31, 2008, thereafter available for $92 USD. Please help out the cause of archaeology and increasing knowledge by buying a copy of the research reports on this important excavation!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Priceless Chess Book

From The Guardian The Last Supper - now how about a nice game of chess? Sole copy of a manual of early puzzles excites Leonardo Da Vinci experts John Hooper, in Rome Tuesday February 26 2008 For centuries, it lay unnoticed in one dusty private library after the next. Then just over a year ago it was revealed to be a fabled volume - the only surviving copy of De Ludo Schacorum by Luca Pacioli, the Franciscan friar and mathematician. Yesterday, a new claim was put forward for the priceless, leather-bound manuscript: that its innovative and idiosyncratic illustrations are by Leonardo Da Vinci. If true, it would mean the Tuscan polymath, while not only painting the Last Supper and inventing everything from a hang glider to a mechanical lion, had earned the humbler distinction of being the world's first, modern chess-puzzle illustrator. De Ludo Schacorum, written in about 1500, is a collection of the sort of conundrums to be found today at the back of any up-market daily, in which the challenge is to get to checkmate in a set number of moves. It was not the first of its kind, but one of the most striking things about it, apart from the originality of its teasers, is the novelty and beauty of its illustrations. In most contemporary depictions, the pieces were represented by letters or numbers. Two depictions used figures, but they were crude, like the chess pieces of the day. In De Ludo Schacorum, also known as the Schifanoia (the "Boredom Dodger"), king, queen, bishop and knight are all represented by elegant and distinctive symbols. A Milanese sculptor and architect, told the Guardian that was just one of several reasons why he was "more than certain" that the illustrations were Leonardo's. Franco Rocco, who spent more than a year researching the issue for the owners of the manuscript, said: "I also discovered that the proportion of the pieces, and especially the pawns, coincides with the Golden Mean [an arithmetical ratio of approximately 1: 1.618], which fascinated both Leonardo and his friend Pacioli." He said the symbol used for the queen had been used by Leonardo for the design of a fountain that figures in the so-called Atlantic Codex. Serenella Ferrari Benedetti, cultural coordinator of the Coronini Cronberg Foundation, the non-profit making organisation that owns the manuscript, said Rocco had been "rigorous and thorough. We are absolutely certain his attribution is correct". Others may be more sceptical. The foundation has invited the director of the Los Angeles-based Armand Hammer Centre for Leonardo studies, Carlo Pedretti, to make an independent assessment. Leonardo met the fellow-Tuscan Pacioli at the court of the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. He provided the illustrations for his friend's great work on the mathematics of the Golden Mean, De Divina Proportione. When Milan fell to French forces in 1499, Leonardo and Pacioli fled to Mantua, where they were taken under the protection of the marchioness, Isabella d'Este, a chess enthusiast. De Ludo Schacorum was dedicated to her and her husband. Leonardo, who drew a portrait of the marchioness, is known to have understood, if not played, chess. He used a technical term from the game in one of his many manuscripts. All trace of De Ludo Schacorum was lost until 2006, when it was found among the 22,000-volume library of the late Count Guglielmo Coronini. The manuscript was one of a job lot of old books that the scholarly aristocrat from Gorizia in the north-east of Italy had bought in 1963 from a Venetian poet and bibliophile. Among Luca Pacioli's many achievements was to have been the first writer to codify double-entry bookkeeping. Known as the father of accountancy, he warned that no bookkeeper should go to bed until the debits equalled the credits.

Sacred Spaces: Neolithic artefacts discovered in church

Sacred spaces have often been used for thousands of years, with those coming after building over whatwas there before and using, building over and using, etc. etc. Here's a great example of that in practice: From The Northern Echo 4:01am Monday 25th February 2008 By Bruce Unwin PLANNED repairs to the central heating of a church have uncovered remains suggesting it may have been used as a place of worship in prehistoric times. Archaeologists now believe the medieval church of St Michaels and All Angels, in Houghton-le-Spring, Wearside, is on the site of earlier places of worship, possibly dating from the Neolithic period. Old burial grounds have been unearthed during work by the Archaeology Practice, but it has also revealed foundations of previous churches on the site. Stones uncovered beneath the church floor are thought to have been part of a Roman building, while there is also evidence of prehistoric activity in the area. Peter Ryder has led the three-man team carrying out excavations before a major refurbishment, which will include replacing the central heating system and restoration of much of the stonework. He said the site appears to have been a place of worship long before the existing medieval church was built. "It's thought the first church here was late Saxon or early Norman, but there's strong evidence of a prehistoric ritual site. "We've found big boulders, and during earlier work under the church yard, there was a line of stones, which is clearly a significant archaeological feature. "The boulders are probably prehistoric and there are large blocks of stone from an early structure, which could be Roman. "I have never seen them in a medieval structure, although a sarcophagus, a stone tomb with a lid, which looks Roman was found under the church yard." Mr Ryder has led the three-man team of archaeologists carrying out what he calls a "watching brief, not a full dig". The brief was commissioned by St Michaels' the Parochial Church Council after former Rector, the Reverend Dr Ian Wallis, oversaw plans for a re-ordering of the church. Hundreds of local people attended an open day to view items uncovered in the recent archaeological work, and, such was the response, it was repeated at the weekend. Further details are available on the parish website.

Smuggled Antiquities Intercepted

From Smuggled antiques worth $6m seized By Mariam M. Al Serkal, Staff Reporter Published: February 25, 2008, 17:58 Sharjah: Sharjah Port authorities have confiscated antiques worth $6 million that were smuggled into the country, a senior official said. “The Dh22m shipment was coming from Turkey and was expected to be received by Sharjah-based antique dealers who planned to transport it to Switzerland,” said Dr Sabbah Jasem, Head of Sharjah Archaeology Museum. Port officials confiscated more than 23 items dating back to the Roman Helenistic period, and immediately notified the Sharjah Directorate of Antiquities, which verified the authenticity of the antiques. “Sharjah strictly adheres to the international law of antiquities, and the smuggling of antiques through illegal ways,” said Jasem. He explained that antiques can only be transported between countries if the parties obtained a no-objection letter from the owners of the antiques. Jasem said this is not the first incident of its kind in Sharjah, and several items were previously confiscated from Pakistan and Afghanistan. “The Antiquities Department informed the Turkish Consulate in Dubai that these items were confiscated, and after four months the antiquities were delivered back to Turkey,” he said.
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