Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Heavenly throne


Remains of an early Christian basilica, built in 4th c. AD and abandoned in 6th c. AD. It was built on a little plateau called “Nebeske stolice” (Sky chairs), located 1800 meters above the sea level on the Kopaonik mountain, central Serbia...

The interior of the basilica was richly decorated, floors were covered with mosaics, while walls were painted with frescoes. Size of the basilica and its lavish decorations are suggesting that it was connected to a large nearby settlement, whose remains are yet to be found...

I mean, if you wanted to be close to god...I just love the name: "Nebeske stolice". It means "Sky chair" but could also mean "Heavenly throne"...

Mast

I was walking through the forest yesterday and I noticed that the oaks were full of acorns. I think this year could be a "mast year"...

Mast is English term used for the fruit of forest trees, most of all acorns and beach nuts, that have accumulated on the ground...

These were and still are in some parts of the world (Pic: knocking acorns for black pigs in Spain), used for fattening domestic pigs. Basically for quickly getting then build a lot of meat and fat before the first frost arrives and it's time for pig slaughter...

A mast year is when the trees that produce these fruits have a bumper crop and produce much more fruit than they normally would...Like this year in Dublin...

The English term "mast" (food for pigs) derives from the Old English "mæst" (food for pigs) with uncertain etymology. Apparently "from West Germanic; probably related to meat"...

If we go to the etymology for "meat" we find "Compare also Old Irish mes (animal feed) and Welsh mes (acorns), English mast (fodder for swine and other animals), which are PROBABLY from the same root as meat"...

Now have a look at this: Proto-Slavic "mastь", pronounced "mast" meaning fat, lard, grease. It is also found as "mas" without final "t". Derived from it are "maslo" (butter) and "maslina" (olive)...All fatty, oily things...

Also have a look at this: Proto-Slavic "męso", pronounced "meso" meaning meat, but not derived from the same PIE root as "meat"...

So 

We use "mæst" (Old English-uncertain origin) to fatten the pigs so that they can give us a lot of "mastь" (Proto-Slavic)...

Or 

We use "mes" (Old Irish-uncertain origin) or "mes" (Welsh-uncertain origin) to fatten pigs so they can give us a lot of "męso" (Proto-Slavic)...

I always found this very funny 🙂 Particularly the fact that "there are no etymological links between these words"...

For those interested in oaks and acorns and particularly human consumption of acorns here are few articles that talk about it

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Sacred fig goddess

Here is another "seal with a narrative scene", one of many made by people of the Indus Valley civilisation between 2200BC and 1900BC. The problem is, no one has a clue what the "narrative" is about. So let's see if I can shed any light on this mysterious "narrative scene"

This seal is rom Mohenjo-daro. The description of the scene is: "The horned image is standing amid a sacred fig or pipal tree, and a second horned image is kneeling in front of the tree, presenting an offering of a human head on a short stool"...

The interpretation of the scene is: "The standing figure is probably a deity while the kneeling figure could be a shaman or devotee"...Nothing about the tree, nothing abut the animal, nothing about the weird marching impish figures...No wonder we have no idea what's going on here

Ok. Let's start with the the climate in the area where this seal was made. We can see that the year consists of winter and spring with a little bit of precipitation, a summer with a lot of precipitation, and two dry part, Apr-May and Oct-Nov...



This two little dry periods are very very interesting. Why? Because Oct-Nov is when you sow grain in Indus Valley, and Apr-May is when you harvest grain in Indus Valley...For a civilisation dependent on grain farming, like the Indus Valley Civilisation, these are important dates...

So let's have a look at the seal, and check if the tree, the animal and the imps have anything to do with the grain farming agricultural year...(Spoiler: they all do)

The tree is the "sacred fig". 

It flowers in Nov-Dec (during grain sowing) it's leaves fall off in Mar-Apr and regrow in Apri-May (during grain harvest) and the fruit ripens in May-Jun (beginning of monsoon)...Interesting... 


Is the deity standing in the tree? Or is the deity "growing out of the tree"? Or is the deity actually the tree? 


I don't know. But there is another deity which was depicted standing in a tree, growing out of a tree, being the tree at the same time. And not just any tree. Fig tree.

This deity was Egyptian Hathor. The goddess with cow horns...


The goddess with cow horns...Just like the goddess on the Indus Valley seal...

Hathor, whose sacred tree was Sycamore fig. 


And who was actually identified with the fig tree itself. 


Why? Well, "no one knows"...I think because the Sycamore fig harvest coincided with beginning of Monsoon in Egypt... I talked about this in my post "Holy cow"...

I think that the fig tree deity from Indus Valley is a goddess too. A goddess associated with life giving Indus river. Just like Hathor was associated with life giving Nile river. Both goddesses also associated with a fig that ripens when monsoon that feeds her river arrives...

Ok...So what about the animal? 


Well originally I thought that this was a Markhor goat. 

The same animal depicted on this Indus Valley Civilisation "Narative seal"

In "Conservation and status of markhor (capra falconeri) in the northen parts of north west frontier province, Pakistan" we can read that Markhor goats mating season in Indus Valley is Oct-Dec. And that the baby goats are born Apr-Jun. 

This would make a lot of sense from the animal calendar marker point of view. Oct/Nov is the beginning of the Rabi, dry season in Pakistan. And the time when grain is sown. And Apr/May is the end of the Rabi, dry season. And the time when grain is harvested. Just before the beginning of the monsoon...I talked about this in my post "Kharif and Rabi season".,..

But actually, it could be better than this...The animal on the seal could be a "mythical" composite animal. 

It has a head of a Markhor goat, (possibly) neck of an Indian tiger although these stripes could just be the long Markhor neck hairs, (possibly) body of an Indian rhino although it could just be a body of a bull and (possibly) legs of a bull although they could just be legs of a rhino...

WTF???

Well, look at this:

In "Conservation and status of markhor (capra falconeri) in the northen parts of north west frontier province, Pakistan" we can read that Markhor goats mating season in Indus Valley is Oct-Dec.

On the "Wild life protection society of India" website page "The Indian Tiger - Quick Facts" we can read that "Although tigers mate and produce cubs throughout the year in India, peak breeding activity is in winter and early summer." Now in India, the seasons are as follows:

Winter: December to February.

Summer or pre-monsoon season: March to May.

Monsoon or rainy season: June to September.

Post-monsoon or autumn season: October to November.

Which means that Indian tigers mate between December and March

In the "Social and Reproductive Behaviour of Great Indian One-horned Rhino, Rhinoceros unicornis in Dudhwa National Park, U.P., India" we can read that "Indian rhinos prefer to breed between the months of March to June"

And Apr-May is the time when Eurasian wild cattle, Aurochs, started calving. These guys...I talked about this in my post "Ram and bull"...


 Also depicted on Indus Valley seals...You can see why I am not sure about necks bodies and legs...


So if we put all these animals, and the beginnings of their mating or birthing periods, together we get our mythical animal: 

Head: Markhor goat, start mating Oct/Nov

Neck: Indian tiger, start mating Dec/Jan

Body: Indian rhino, start mating Mar/Apr

Legs: Aurochs, start calving Apr/May

Put together, the time periods these animal calendar markers mark, we get a complex animal calendar marker, which marks the period between the planting of the grain and harvesting of the grain...Rabi season...Just like the Markhor goat alone with its mating-birthing...

Do we have any other indication on the seal that this could be right? Well yes. So what about the imps? 

Well many people have already suggested that these are "7 sisters" or "7 mothers", the Pleiades...Interestingly, around 2000BC the evening rising of Pleiades was Oct-Nov (grain sowing) and morning rising of Pleiades was Apr-May (grain harvest)...

So, the same period...

Now what's the story with the so called "bangles" worn by the imps and the deity? Are they bangles at all?



Or are they stylised grain bristles?


You know what else can be represented by 7 grain imps with what looks like crescent moons coming out of their heads?

The time between the sowing and harvesting of grain. Oct/Nov - Apr/May...

So these could be these 7 grain growing months??? It all fits...

During which time you open 7 sealed grain storage pithos jars...

7 seals...Have you seen this article about "7 seals"?

So...We have: 

1. Sacred fig flowering and leaf regrowth + ripening

2. Markhor goat mating and birthing

3. Pleiades evening and morning rising

All marking the grain sowing and grain harvest + monsoon

All on one seal, all neatly arranged into a "narrative scene", whose narrative we can hopefully now understand a bit better. What do you think?

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Seal with narrative scene

The seals like this one were made by people of the Indus Valley civilisation between 2200BC and 1900BC. They are called "seals with narrative scenes". Except no one has a clue what the "narrative" is about. Example: this narrative seal depicts master of the animals...


I don't know who the guy is. A god? Possibly...But I know who the two animals are and what they represent...

The agricultural year in Indus valley is divided into two parts, two harvests, with two completely different crops: 

Kharif season (May to November) - wet season in Indian subcontinent

Rabi season (November to May) - dry season in Indian subcontinent

The bottom animal is Auroch, the wild Eurasian cattle, now extinct. It marks the period end of Apr, beginning of May. The beginning of Kharif season. This is our Taurus, which marks the beginning of the calving season of the Aurochs...

They are the "unicorns" depicted on Indus Valley seals like this one dated to ca. 2000 BC.

There is another type of cattle, unrelated to Aurochs which was also depicted on Indus Valley seals: Zebu cattle. Like the bull depicted on this seal dated to ca. 2000 BC.

These two symbols are interchangeable because mating of both of these two types of wild cattle took place during the Kharif season, May-Nov...

The top animal is Markhor goat.  

With Ibex goat


it marks the period end of Oct, beginning of Nov. The beginning of Rabi season. This is because the mating season of both Markhor goats and Ibex goats starts in Oct/Nov...

Here are zebu bull and goat (ibex this time) marking two growing seasons in Indus Valley on an Indus Valley civilisation pot. I talked about this in my post "Kharif and Rabi season"...

The whole bull (summer), goat (winter) has to do with their reproductive seasons. Wild cattle mate in summer. Wild goats mate in winter...I talked about this in my post "Symbols of the seasons"...

Oh yeah, one other very important thing. The grain sowing season in Indus Valley is Oct-Nov (Goat) and the grain harvest season in Indus Valley is Apr-May (Bull)...Kind of important to know if you are an early grain farmer and have no calendar...

Also the planting of the summer crops starts in Apr-May (Bull) and the harvest of the summer crops ends in Oct-Nov (Goat)...So is the man (god) whoever, on the left telling people when to start planting for each growing season?



As for the fish, have a look at the this seal 

and the post that discusses it: "Fig with bulls"

And that's all I have to say about this narrative seal...I think we now have a bit more narrative than we had before. Oh and "the master of the animals" seems to have gone away...Here is what I think about "the master of the animals". In short, there is no such a thing as "Master of the animals"...

More "masters of the animals" to be found in this paper, where the original seal drawing is from …

I will talk about few other items from this paper soon...

Sunday, 17 January 2021

Tanngnjostr and Tanngrisnir

One of the versions of the Scandinavian Yule Goat has long sharp teeth...

Meet Tanngnjostr and Tanngrisnir, the magic goats of Thor...They are the guys that pull his chariot...

Have you ever thought why a thunder god would travel in a chariot pulled by goats? I did...I puzzled and puzzled until my puzzler was sore...Then I presented the result of my puzzling :) in my post "Goat riding thunder gods"...

Now as you can imagine, Thor's goat were not ordinary goats...No god would ride on a chariot pulled by ordinary goats...

First, they have teeth like carnivores which eat raw flesh, based on their names Tanngrisnir (Old Norse "teeth-barer, snarler") and Tanngnjóstr (Old Norse "teeth grinder")...

Also they are immortal. As described in this story:

Once Thor travelled together with Loki. When evening came, they sought cover in a farmhouse. Thor then killed his goats with his hammer, Mjolnir, and skinned them, roasted them and everyone ate the meat...

But, he said, nobody must break any of the bones to suck the delicious marrow. 

But Thialfi, the farmer's son, broke one of the bones, because the marrow inside the bones tastes by far the best.

Next morning Thor spread the two skins on the ground and laid all the bones on them. Then he swung his hammer, Mjolnir, and the skins and bones moved around until suddenly the two goats stood whole and completely alive again, ready to drive on...

But one of them had a bad leg! Thor got really angry, and Thialfi had to admit what he had done. As punishment Thialfi had to come with Thor as a servant...

And this is why one of Thor's goats is lame...

Sounds familiar? The goat that gets killed and then resurrects? I talked about the goats that get killed and then get resurrected during European winter rituals in my article "Krampus"...

The goats whose death and resurrection symbolizes the end of winter and the beginning of spring...The death of winter earth and birth of spring earth. Otherwise known as resurrection of nature... 

But what about the goats with teeth? What's that about? Well there is a very strange fairy tale found in Serbia, Germany and Italy...It's about a goat...A very annoying goat. 

Goat which is constantly complaining that it doesn't have enough to eat...Until its owner has enough...

In the German version of the story, the annoyed owner "shaves the goat off" and then whips it until it runs away...

In the Serbian version of the story, which is probably the oldest which survived, the owner kills the goat, skins it, salts it, puts it on the spit over the fire to roast it, when the goat jumps off the spit and runs away shouting: 

"Ja sam jarac živodarac (živoderac), živ drt neodrt, živ klat nezaklat, živ pečen neispečen, živ jeden neizeden. Zubi su mi kao kolac, pregrišću te kao konac."

In some versions of this story the goat calls himself (živoderac) which means "skinned alive"...In some versions he calls himself "živodarac" (from život darac), which means "life giver" and which actually rimes with "jarac" (goat): jarac živodarac...

Knowing the symbolic meaning of the resurrecting goat (the bringer, giver of spring, life) I think that what the resurrected goat says is:

"I am the life-giving goat, skinned yet not skinned, slaughtered yet not slaughtered, roasted yet not roasted, eaten yet not eaten. My teeth are like stakes, I will bite you in two like a thread..."

Wow...Just like in the story about Thor's goats...Resurrecting goat...With deadly sharp teeth...Wow indeed...

Now...What the goat does next, in both Serbian and German version of the story, is that it decides to hide in an empty fox's lair...

In the main Italian version of the story "Grandmother Goat decides to move into the Grandmother Fox's house"...

Anyway, the fox asks the fox to get out of its lair, but fox refuses and instead:

In the Italian version of the story, the goat shouts: "I am Godmother Goat. I have a sword at my side, and with my horns I will tear you in pieces"

We don't know if the German goat shouted anything or not...

In the Serbian version, the goat shouts again: "I am the life-giving goat, skinned yet not skinned, slaughtered yet not slaughtered, roasted yet not roasted, eaten yet not eaten. My teeth are like stakes, I will bite you in two like a thread..."

In all the versions of this story, the poor fox enlists the help of different animals, who one after the other come to try to get the goat out of the fox's lair...They all fail, until finally:

In the Serbian version a hedgehog kicks the goat out...

In the German version a bee kicks the goat out...

In one Italian version a mouse in another a little bird and in yet another a cricket kicks the goat out...

WTF...I mean this is a bonkers story. Did all these people smoke the same shit when they came up with the same crazy story? Or did they all preserve the same ancient story slightly changed over time?

Well I think that the only way to understand this part of the story is to turn to real animals that feature in it: Goat, Fox, Hedgehog, Bee, Field Mouse, Little Bird, Cricket...And check if maybe they are here as calendar markers...

Spoiler: they are...

I have already talked about the mating habits of Wild Ibex Goats and how because their mating season in Eurasia spans winter months (Nov-Jan), they became calendar markers for winter...

Winter which in continental Europe is cold and dark time of hunger, when trees are bare, grass is covered with snow, no food grows...Is this why the goat is constantly complaining it's hungry? Because it represents the hungry part of the year? And is this why the death of the goat (symbol of winter) and its resurrection (symbol of spring) is the part of the winter goat rituals across Europe? I talked about these rituals in my article "Krampus"...

That's cool. But why evil toothed goats?

There is a Romanian legend about a grandmother who insulted the month of March. She did so either by badmouthing Him or by going up to the mountain with a herd of goats too early. March then borrowed frosty days from February and froze her to death...

Interestingly in Serbian folklore, "babini jarci" (grandmother's goats) and "pozаjmenci" (borrowed days), both mean "cold stormy snowy days in March or April"...Which can turn green spring full of life into this...

I talked about this link between goats and winter cold in my posts "Babele" and "Gryla"...

What's this all about? What's with goats and grandmothers?

Well:

The pale winter sun which doesn't bring warmth but instead brings freezing cold (cloudy winter days are warmer than bright winter days)...In Serbia this sun is called "Zubato sunce" (Toothed Sun, Sun with teeth)...The same expression translatable to "Sun with teeth" is also found in Greece, just below Serbia and in Romania, just above Serbia...

What is the "sun with teeth"? This is the sun that causes the "frostbite", a burn like wounds which cause parts of your body to fall of...Or have to be amputated...Hence "toothed" sun which literally bites the part of your body off...

Now, in Serbian folklore, the word Baba (Grandmother) was used for Earth, Mother (Grandmother) Earth...But the word also means "Hag" and was used as the name for Frozen Winter Earth...The goddess of death...I talked about this in my posts "Babele" and "Gryla"

Across the Balkans, Baba was also "the one that controls the bad, wet, cold weather". 

Which is why shepherd's in Slovenia believed that "baba" stones (exposed bedrock) like this on, were linked to weather. And which is why they sacrificed to them during their spring ascent to the mountain pastures...And why stones are used by slavs in weather manipulation magic...I talked about this in my post "Weather stones"

Because if you were a shepherd on your way up the mountain pastures and you got caught in one of the late spring snow storms, the chances of your survival were very slim...So you had to make sure that Baba (Mother Earth as Winter Hag) doesn't get angry...

By the way

Yin = Earth, dark, cold, wet, down...Winter

Yang=Sun, bright, warm, dry, up...Summer

Both absolute Yin (freezing dark wet cold winter) and absolute Yang (roasting bright dry hot summer) are time of death...Life only flourishes between these two absolutes, Yin and Yang, Mother and Father, Earth and Sun...I talked about this in my post "Yin and Yang"....

So I think this is why we have Baba's (Grandmother's) goats. Both Baba and Goat are symbols of winter. So Baba's goats are cold winter days (brrrrrr)...The same cold winter like days which can "bite your fingers, toes, nose, ears..." off...Hence scary toothed killer goats from Serbian and Norse folklore (mythology)...

So we know now why the goat from the Serbian fairy tale has teeth. I think that this is also the reason why Thor's goats have teeth like carnivores which eat raw flesh. But does this mean then that Thor is not god of rain storms, but the god of snow storms??? 

As I explained in my post "Goat riding thunder god", the fact that Norse, Baltic and Slavic thunder gods ride goats, is one of the biggest mysteries of the European folklore. One which opens (for some an uncomfortable) question about the origins of these goat riding gods...But Thor and his flesh eating goats are a great example how mythology gets changed by climate. How life bringing rain storm god who rides on a good goats from Eastern Mediterranean became death bringing snow storm god who rides on evil goats...

Finally let's get back to our fairytale. The goat is lounging in the fox's hole and the poor fox is trying to get it out. What is all this about?

I think to figure this out, we have a look at mating seasons of Wild goats and Foxes. Why? To see if these seasonal activities, which occur every year at the same time, are so easily observable and impossible to ignore, that they make good calendar markers...

Throughout the Ibex range, their mating season starts from Oct/Nov and lasts until Jan. Which is why eventually goat became a calendar marker which means: when Ibexes mate, Oct/Nov, beginning of winter, and winter itself.

Foxes mating season is Jan/Feb...Mating takes place during the night...Foxes make really loud mating calls which can easily wake you up and are basically impossible to miss...Hence I think fox could be a calendar marker which means: when foxes mate = Jan/Feb, the end of winter, winter itself.

Is this the reason why the Italian version of the weird Goat and Fox fairytale, Goat and Fox are actually called Grandmother Goat and Grandmother fox? To point to the fact that both Goat and Fox are animal calendar markers for winter...They both mate in winter, the time of Baba (grandmother, hag), one at the beginning the other at the end...

Remember the annoying always hungry goat was annoying for a while, before it was thrown out, killed and ran away...So I think that the time when the goat enters the fox's hole is towards the end of the winter, beginning of spring, Jan/Feb. Right at the time when foxes are out partying...So the goat finds empty fox's lair and takes over...

The fox has finished with her looooove (Feb/Mar) and is pregnant and needs her lair because the litter arrives in late March, and the cubs remain exclusively inside the lair for about six to eight weeks...

As calendar markers then, "when goats mate" would be succeeded by "when foxes mate" and then by "when fox cubs are born"...

So that would I think explain the fighting over the fox hole...

But are the animals that finally manage to get the evil undead big toothed goat (winter) out of the fox's lair  picked randomly or are they also calendar markers? 

Spoiler: they are not picked randomly. 

In the two oldest versions of the story (according to ethnographers), Serbian and German:

Serbian: Hedgehogs - Hibernate in holes from October to April

German: Bees - Hide in hives from November to April

Let's not forget the Italians. The animals that manage to throw the goat out of the fox's hole (hose) in Italian versions of the story are: 

Field mice, hide during winter, appear after the snow has melted and start mating in March - April


Birds, here probably migratory birds, appear in March - April



And for crickets...Well European field cricket turn into adults and appear in April



So in all cases, the animals that finally get rid of the scary goat, which is the symbol of winter, cold, are animals that reappear in nature in April...Once winter is finally finally finally over. And any possibility that the winter hag (Baba Marta - Grandmother March in the Balkans) can return is gone. In April... 

How interesting....

So, crazy story full of random rubbish, or a complex animal calendar markers filled allegory?

By the way, this could also explain the negative aspects of the dancing goat character from the European folklore. The taker of presents (good things nature gives) and why it has to die for people to rejoice...