Saturday, November 6, 2010

Crossroads and The Key of Solomon

From Barbara G. Walker's The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets:

In the Greco-Roman world, crossroads were sacred to the elder Diana under the name of Hecate Trevia (Hecate of the Three Ways), mother of the Lares compitales, "spirits of the crossroads."  Travelers made offerings to the Goddess' three-faced images, and regular festivals called Compitalia were celebrated at her roadside shrines.(1)

Four-way crossroads were sometimes dedicated to Hermes, whose ithyphallic herms stood beside them until replaced by Christians' roadside crosses.  However, the Christian sign of the cross was copied from Hermes' cult and traced his sacred numeral 4 on the worshipper's head and breast.  Hermetic crosses were left at the crossroads of 10th-century Ireland and simply re-interpreted as Christian symbols, though they plainly displayed the twin serpents of the pagan caduceus, another sign of the older deity.(2)

Cross, herm, and caduceus merged in northern symbolism with the gallows tree of Odin/Wotan, "God of the Hanged," which led to the Christian custom of erecting a gallows at crossroads as well as a crucifix. The god on the gallows once played the same role as Jesus on the cross: a dying-god image rendered the crossroads numimous.  Pre-Christian Europeans held waymeets, or moots, at crossroads to invoke their deities' attention to the proceedings; hence a moot point used to be one to be decided at a meet.  The Goddess as Mother Earth, dispenser of "natural law," and creatress of birth-and-death cycles, was always present where the dying god died - as the women long remembered.  the English monk Aelfric complained of female customs dedicating newborn infants to the ancient Mother.  Women would "go to the crossways and drag their children over the earth, and thereby give both themselves and the children to the Devil."(3)
The Key of Solomon
As the crossroads ceremonies and their deities became diabolized, the Goddess of the waymeet became the queen of witches, who still worked magic there.  The Key of Solomon* said crossroads were the best of all places for magical procedures "during the depth of silence of the night.(4)  Ghosts of the hanged, of the heathen, and of anicent oracles still haunted crossroads.  Bernard Ragner** said a spirit voice would foretell the future to anyone who went to a crossroad at the last hour of Christmas Eve.  As late as the 1920's, English farmers still believed witches' sabbats were held at crossroads.  Neocromantic superstitions were encouraged by the custom of burying criminals and suicides in unhallowed ground at crossroads; clergymen said anyone so buried would walk as a ghost.  Sometimes, such corpses were pinned down with a stake: "A stake was driven through them when deposited at the cross-roads in order to keep the ghost from wandering abroad,"(5)  Presumably, the ghost could be consulted in situ, just as spirits could be raised from their graves in the churchyard by any necromancer.

Thus Hermes and Hecate, who led the souls of the dead in antiquity, became dread spirits of "witchcraft" in the same places that they once benevolently ruled.

(1)  Hyde, 137.
(2)  Campbell, M.I., 337.
(3)  Briffault 3, 58.
(4)  Wedeck 153.
(5)  Summers, V., 154-57.

* Key of Solomon
(Clavicule de Salomon)
A popular "Black Book" or magic book much used between the 11th and 13th centuries A.D.

** Bernard Ragner
Author of Legends and Customs of Christmas, 1925.

Invisible Critters in Action

Earlier today I tossed some bread outside for the birds and was surprised to see, about an hour later, that one piece in particular that had landed on the top of a railroad tie retaining wall had disappeared completely.  I had my suspicions - it wasn't the birds that made the bread disappear.

So, I decided to do a test.  Just before 12:30 p.m. I placed another slice of bread half-way on the top tie and half-way on the grass, fully exposed.  I watched it for a few moments but I saw no tell-tale movement of "tugs" of the bread from underneath.  I suspected that my close presence while placing the bread spooked the suspect bread thieves.  In this photo you can see the slice of bread resting half-way on the grass and half-way on the top of the railroad tie.  Should have got a close-up.

I went back to working indoors.  About 1:25 p.m. I checked again and saw the bread had been moved - quite a bit moved!  It was now fully off of the wall and on its way underneath the wall.  Even as I watched I could see tell-tale little "jerks" of the bread, signifying tiny critters underneath working on moving the bread.  Field mice!  There are several large 'holes" along the top edge of the retaining wall where I know they nest, and as long as they stay out of my house, it's live and let live.

I checked again at 1:35 p.m. and the bread had been pulled further into their lair beneath the top railroad tie.

At 1:43 p.m. the bread was now well on it's way to disappearing, and even as I watched further jerking movements of the bread attested to frantic action now that the mice sensed victory near at hand!

At 1:54 p.m. I noticed that the crust on the outer-most edge of the bread had been totally removed and even as I watched, there was a constant tugging of what remained of the visible crescent of bread , pulling it underneath the edge of the wood tie. 

The final check at 2:12 p.m., bread has disappeared.  Rustling of leaves and tiny movements signal mice still hard at work storing away what is left of the bread slice :)  Bon apetit! 

I was listening to the Wisconsin Badgers football game on the radio and the final minutes, where we capped a decisive victory over Purdue (yippee!) took my attention away from the mice.  Judging from their earlier progress, the mice probably already had the piece tucked away underneath the railroad tie by about 2:00 p.m. and were busy working on deconstruction and storage when I took this final photograph. 

The Expression of Gratitude

A very interesting column from the Sri Lanka Daily News Online - not about a chess champion, but about a chess champion's father.

Saturday, 6 November 2010
Susantha Karunaratne’s Animisa Lochana Poojawa
The Morning Inspection

More than two millennia ago, an exceptional human being and according to some one endowed with the greatest mind ever, Siddhartha Gauthama, the Enlightened One, stood for a week in front of the tree Asathu. This was upon attaining Enlightenment. The Buddha, we are told, paid tribute, showed gratitude and taught lesson by this simple but significant act of gazing upon the tree that given him shade in the long moments of reflection that resulted in the fruition of Nirvanic comprehension. Hour after hour, day after day, for an entire week, the Buddha gazed upon the tree, without blinking once.

Tree. Inanimate. Symbolic. One might say it was unnecessary for someone who has vanquished his kleshas, but then again, it also indicates ‘teacher’ and exemplifies the virtue of humility.

Chess Champion
Gratitude is rare. We prefer to indulge ourselves by believing that achievements are self-wrought. I am thinking of gratitude and remembered the Buddha’s Sath Sathiya (the Seven Weeks post-Enlightenment) and especially the first week where the focus was on unwavering appreciation because of a man called Susantha Karunaratne.

I met Susantha because his seven years old daughter, Yathra, was representing Sri Lanka in the Girls Under Eight category at the World Youth Chess Championship. Yathra is the current Girls Under Eight Chess Champion of Sri Lanka. This doesn’t say much because at that age, it is more luck than anything else that sees someone win and another lose. It is more about the other person making a blunder than one’s chess skills. Still, ‘Champion’ does have market value and parents do market such things to get their children into better or at least more popular schools.

Yathra attends a primary school in Kurunegala. Susantha, like his wife, is an artist. He used to do some work in advertising, graphic design and printing, but had ‘retired’ recently because he, like his wife, wanted to pursue his passion, painting. They are not super wealthy and live frugal and simple lives, not necessarily out of poverty as out of choice.

Primary school
I assumed that the girl was attending a big-name school in Kurunegala. ‘Maliyadeva Balika?’ I asked the father. He said ‘no’ and explained.

‘It is possible to get her into Maliyadeva because of her achievements, but we thought this was wrong. She goes to a primary school in Kurunegala. It is a good school. The principal has done a lot of hard work to turn the school into what it is now. He has helped Yathra a lot.

He encouraged her and gave her a lot of recognition. The entire school knows her. It would be wrong to abandon this school for a big school now. It is a primary school. Once she finishes the fifth year we can try to put her into Maliyadeva. We are grateful for what this school has given to our daughter.’

The Karunaratnes live in Kalugamuwa, located between Narammala and Kurunegala. Yathra is a Grade three student at the SWRD Bandaranaike Model Primary School in Wehera, Kurunegala. According to Susantha, this was a school that had been on the verge of being shut down. It had been revived four years previously and much work had been put in to make it a school that parents consider sending their children to.

Greener pastures
Wijayananda Dharmasena, the principal of the school, I am sure, is old enough and wise enough to understand that people like to graze on greener pastures. I feel that at the back of his mind, he must have wondered how long young Yathra would remain in his school. He must be proud, though.

Susantha Karunaratne is a self-effacing man who is highly talented. He can paint. He writes poetry. He is soft-spoken.

He can crack a joke and he can laugh. He is simplicity personified. He is not at all interested in changing the world to fit his dimensions of perfection.

He is not a teacher. He is just himself.

Susantha and his wife, I feel, gaze upon this school in a manner that is not too dissimilar from the Buddha’s gaze on the tree Ajapal. There’s gratitude.

Humility. Example. A lesson. Some would say, bodhisatva gunaya or exemplifying the virtues of a to-be Buddha. Susantha would laugh and say ‘you are kind and good-hearted’ to such a person.

2010 Women's World Chess Championship

Here is the list of the 64 players - after reviewing the regulations, it appears these are based on events from 2008 and 2009, so I must keep that in mind when I do future bitching about the field of players:

Tnmt RankNameCountryTitleW_titleRating
1Kosteniuk, AlexandraRUSgwg2507
2Koneru, HumpyINDgwg2600
3Hou, YifanCHNgwg2591
4Kosintseva, TatianaRUSgwg2581
5Dzagnidze, NanaGEOgwg2551
6Stefanova, AntoanetaBULg2548
7Muzychuk, AnnaSLOmwg2530
8Cramling, PiaSWEg2526
9Harika, DronavalliINDmwg2525
10Ju, WenjunCHNwgwg2524
11Lahno, KaterynaUKRgwg2522
12Cmilyte, ViktorijaLTUgwg2514
13Chiburdanidze, MaiaGEOgwm2502
14Socko, MonikaPOLgwg2495
15Sebag, MarieFRAgwg2494
16Ruan, LufeiCHNwgwg2480
17Mkrtchian, LilitARMmwg2479
18Zatonskih, AnnaUSAmwg2478
19Zhu, ChenQATg2477
20Zhao, XueCHNgwg2474
21Paehtz, ElisabethGERmwg2474
22Hoang Thanh TrangHUNgwg2473
23Pogonina, NatalijaRUSwgwg2472
24Danielian, ElinaARMgwg2466
25Muzychuk, MariyaUKRmwg2462
26Shen, YangCHNwgwg2461
27Ushenina, AnnaUKRmwg2460
28Skripchenko, AlmiraFRAmwg2460
29Dembo, YelenaGREmwg2454
30Zhukova, NataliaUKRgwg2447
31Rajlich, IwetaPOLmwg2446
32Turova, IrinaRUSmwg2439
33Khukhashvili, SopikoGEOmwg2430
34Houska, JovankaENGmwg2421
35Romanko, MarinaRUSmwg2414
36Munguntuul, BatkhuyagMGLmwg2409
37Foisor, Cristina-AdelaROUmwg2403
38Huang, QianCHNwgwg2402
39Ovod, EvgenijaRUSmwg2387
40Cori T., DeysiPERwgwg2384
41Shadrina, TatianaRUSwgwg2384
42Kovanova, BairaRUSwgwg2380
43Ding, YixinCHNwgwg2370
44Zawadzka, JolantaPOLwgwg2368
45Fierro Baquero, Martha L.ECUmwg2363
46Muminova, NafisaUZBwmwm2360
47Lomineishvili, MaiaGEOmwg2347
48Zhang, XiaowenCHNwgwg2339
49Baginskaite, CamillaUSAwgwg2336
50Vasilevich, IrinaRUSmwg2333
51Soumya, SwaminathanINDwgwg2332
52Meenakshi SubbaramanINDwgwg2328
53Demina, JuliaRUSwgwg2323
54Ozturk, KubraTURwmwm2264
55Caoili, ArianneAUSwmwm2242
56Nadig, KruttikaINDwgwg2230
57Yildiz, Betul CemreTURwmwm2225
58Zuriel, MarisaARGwmwm2208
59Aliaga Fernandez, Ingrid YPERwfwf2154
60Kagramanov, DinaCANwmwm2101
61Mona, KhaledEGYwgwg2093
62Heredia Serrano, CarlaECUwmwm2087
63Greeff, MelissaRSAwgwg2082
64Mezioud, AminaALGwmwm2029

I will be rooting for USA's IM Anna Zatonskih who, I believe, qualified by virtue of being the 2009 U.S. Women's Chess Champion.  FIDE is always behind the curve, never ahead of it.  The players for the 2010 title are not the current best female players in the world.

Aside from the fact that the knock-out format has been totally discredited as a way to determine a chess champion and in the Men's Cycle - oh, excuse me, the Open Cycle - it has not been used for years - this will be a nice way for players such as Amina Mezioud of Algeria to take home a check for playing one game of chess - minus FIDE's 20% cut, of course.

Here is the prize structure:

3. 9. Prizes for the Women's World Championship
3. 9. 1. Prize list
1st round 32 losers x 3.750 = 120.000
2nd round 16 losers x 5.500 = 88.000
3rd round 8 losers x 8.000 = 64.000
4th round 4 losers x 12.000 = 48.000
5th round 2 losers x 20.000 = 40.000
6th round 1 loser x 30.000 = 30.000
Women's World Champion = 60.000

TOTAL: 450.000 USD
3. 9. 2. A payment of 20% from the above prize fund shall be made to FI?DE.

If you are interested, you can find all the FIDE rules and regulations governing the Women's World Chess Championship here - for as long as the link lasts (it's FIDE, it won't last very long).   Excerpted portions:

3. Women's World Chess Championship 2010
3. 1. Qualifiers. There are 64 qualifiers:
  1. The Women's World Champion, runner-up and semi-finalists of the previous Women's World Championship (4 players)
  2. The World Junior Girl Champions U-20 of 2008 & 2009. (2 players)
  3. The five best rated players from the average of the FIDE rating lists of July 2008 and January 2009 (5 players).
  4. Fifty-one qualifiers from the Women's Continental Championships and Zones (51 players).
  5. Two nominees of the FIDE President (2 players).
3. 1. 1. Replacements. Women's World Champion, semi-finalists of the previous women's world championship, World Junior Girl U-20 Champions and rated players can be replaced only from the rating list. Continental and Zonal qualifiers will be replaced from their respective events, except that in the Zonal Tournament the replacement must have scored at least 50% of the maximum possible score. Otherwise the place passes to the Continental Championship.

3. 1. 2. For the purpose of deciding the 5 rated players-qualifiers, as well as any replacements, the average from the following lists will be used: rating lists of July 2008 and January 2009 divided by 2. In case of equality two decimals will be taken into consideration. If the numbers are still equal then the number of games from the two periods shall be decisive. That means the player with the greater number of games shall qualify. If the numbers are still equal then the January 2008 list shall be decisive. If the Elo in this list is still the same, the player with the greater number of games in this list will qualify.

3. 1. 3. Players who appear in the inactive list in both July 2008 and January 2009 lists will not be able to qualify as a rated player. If the player is inactive in one list but appears in the other, then the rating that is published shall be taken as the average.

3. 1. 4. The list of qualified players and the reserves will be published on the FIDE web site.

3. 2. Tournament format

3. 2. 1 There shall be five (5) rounds of matches, comprising two (2) games per round, with the winners progressing to the next round. The 6th round (final round) shall be played over four (4) games and the winner will be declared Women's World Champion.

Round 1: there shall be 64 players
Round 2: there shall be 32 players
Round 3: there shall be 16 players
Round 4: there shall be 8 players
Round 5: there shall be 4 players
Round 6: there shall be 2 players
3. 2. 2. Schedule of the Women's World Championship

Opening Ceremony/Players` meeting 1 day
Round 1: 2 days play 2 days
+ tiebreaks 1 day
Round 2: 2 days play 2 days
+ tiebreaks 1 day
Round 3: 2 days play 2 days
+ tiebreaks 1 day
Round 4: 2 days play 2 days
+ tiebreaks 1 day
Round 5: 2 days play 2 days
+ tiebreaks 1 day
Free Day 1 day free 1 day
Round 6: 4 days play 4 days
+ tiebreaks 1 day
Closing Ceremony 1 day
TOTAL 23 days

Yeah, it's in a Muslim country and it's over Christmas.  Sucks big time.  FIDE has such sensibilities...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...