Lego My Logos!

I finished Logos this afternoon by John Neeleman, and I have to say it’s a long read.  Most of that length, however,is necessary as a story vehicle.  Neeleman takes you on a walking tour of the main character Jacob’s life, from childhood until an ultimately happy ending (more on that later).  The story starts in the opulence of Roman occupied Jerusalem and ends in the opulence of Rome.  Along the way are sojourns in the barren deserts of Palestine and the lush oasises of the Levant.  The landscape itself is featured so often that it is a major character central to the plot.  The character of Jacob, a rich Jew and son-in-law of Ananias of Bible fame, goes from having everything, to having nothing, to slowly climbing his way back onto the top, very similar to Barabbas.   He even comes to a reconciliation with the Christians at the end, just like Barabbas.  However, Jacob is an emotional child through out much of the book.  He reflects a lot of men and people.  He rages when he should be calm and loses his nerve when he needs it the most.  While the loss of nerve is a realistic character trait, Jacob’s naivety and ability to be easily won over by those that have terribly altered his life is somewhat beyond the suspension of disbelief.

Logos deals not only with one man’s life journey, but also with the fictionalized lineage of the Christian faith.  Turns out the Baptists were wrong.  The story of Christ is just a made up story, pulled from tidbits of reality, the myths of the Middle Eastern world, and the Jewish belief in a Messiah.  Modern Pagans have been saying this for years.  While of course this is a figment of Neeleman’s imagination, this story is very plausible.  And, just as I always suspected, Paul is a very slimy person and a liar.  And gay.  In fact a lot of these characters come across as gay, bi, and into dominance and submission.  Of course, in reality, that’s the whole of the Roman world.  Although Jacob has three wives, one legal and two common law, he still engages in common adolescent and early adult bi-curiosity. Jacob is often put into positions of power and expected to be dominant, but he is never able to fulfill that role and constantly defers to the Alphas around him.  He may look like a bear for most of the novel, but all he really wants to be is a cub.

Neeleman never gives in to the temptation to explore the homosexuality that is constantly poking at the robes of this novel begging to get out, but he does indulge his readers in several incredibly hot heterosexual sex scenes, which is wonderfully refreshing.  Sex between Jacob and Hannah, the legal first wife, is very kosher and married.  Sex between Jacob and Maryam, his second wife, is fiery and wild, just like the sand they lie in.  Sex between Jacob and Hypathia, his third wife, is opulent and bestial.

It helps to have a small background in Biblical history, but it’s not necessary.  If you want to read related books, I suggest Agrippa’s Daughter by Howard Fast, and Dr. Hillman’s double trouble duo: Original Sin and Hermaphrodits, Gynomorphs, and Jesus.  

So, what about this ending I alluded to?  Well, the ending had such promise to go so many ways, yet in the end it went the way you could see it headed toward, which left me a little disappointed.  I had really hoped that Jacob would finally get a steel rod for a backbone, but Neeleman never gave him one.

Info From Novel Publicity–I didn’t write any of the Following stuff, just an FYI

About the Book – About the Author – Prizes!!!

About the prizes: Who doesn’t love prizes? You could win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards or an autographed copy of LOGOS! Here’s what you need to do…

  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on another participating blog:

That’s it! One random commenter during this tour will win the first gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win–the full list of participating bloggers can be found HERE. The other two prizes will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official LOGOS tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

About the book: While novels and cinema have repeatedly sought after the historical Jesus, until now none have explored what may be a more tantalizing mystery—the Christian story’s anonymous creator. Logos is a literary bildungsroman about the man who will become the anonymous author of the original Gospel, set amid the kaleidoscopic mingling of ancient cultures. Logos is a gripping tale of adventure, a moving love story, and a novel of ideas. None of this should be regarded as out of place or incompatible in a novel about Christianity’s origin. Dissent, anarchism, and revolution—and incipient Christianity was no less these things than the Bolshevik, the French or the American revolutions—inevitably have involved ideas, adventure, and romance.
In A.D. 66, Jacob is an educated and privileged Greco-Roman Jew, a Temple priest in Jerusalem, and a leader of Israel’s rebellion against Rome. When Roman soldiers murder his parents and his beloved sister disappears in a pogrom led by the Roman procurator, personal tragedy impels Jacob to seek blood and vengeance. The rebellion he helps to foment leads to more tragedy, personal and ultimately cosmic: his wife and son perish in the Romans’ siege of Jerusalem, and the Roman army destroys Jerusalem and the Temple, and finally extinguishes Israel at Masada. Jacob is expelled from his homeland, and he wanders by land and sea, bereft of all, until he arrives in Rome. He is still rebellious, and in Rome he joins other dissidents, but now plotting ironic vengeance, not by arms, but by the power of an idea.
Paul of Tarsus, Josephus, the keepers of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and even Yeshua, the historical Jesus himself, play a role in Jacob’s tumultuous and mysterious fortunes. But it is the women who have loved him who help him to appreciate violence’s dire cycle.Get LOGOS through Amazon, or Barnes & Noble.

About the author: John Neeleman spends his days working as a trial lawyer in tall buildings in downtown Seattle. He lives in Seattle with his wife and children. He also represents death row inmates pro bono in Louisiana and Texas. As a novelist, his editorial model is historical fiction in a largely realistic mode, though there are hallucinatory passages that reflect Neeleman’s concern with philosophical and spiritual matters, in part a residue of his religious upbringing. He was raised as a seventh generation Mormon, and rebelled, but never outgrew his interest in metaphysical concerns.
Connect with John on his publisher’s website, Facebook, Twitter,or GoodReads..
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Primal Shamanism

This is a guest post by CrystalLynn of “Of Eve and Iktomi” http://eveandiktomi.blogspot.com/
What does Spirituality mean to me?  It means running and running, naked through the dark forest behind our pasture.  It’s the sinister sex in my husband’s eyes right before the chase begins.  It’s holding my children close and stroking their hair when they need the protective, nurturing energy that only their mother can provide.  It’s lying down like a sacrifice on the Goddess Rock when I need to ground myself.  It’s saying the funeral rite for an animal that decided to leave this world too soon.  It’s a family reunion every Samhain.  It’s a dream- or a Journey- where I can glean information and insight into my, or my friends’, problems.  It’s scratching, biting, growling- the sweet ecstasy of sex and the bloody exhilaration of the fight.  It’s invoking the Warrior.
 
In other words, it’s Primal.
I am what you might call a Primal Shaman.  I do very few organized rituals.  I do rituals and quests in my dreams or visions.  But the raw spirituality that I tap into goes much, much deeper than my human intellect can penetrate.  Which is not to say that I’m not an intellectual person.  I very much am.  I overthink things.  I know the logical fallacies, am fascinated by math and science and literature and art, and also theology, spiritual discourse, and mythology.  I give a nod to Athena every once in a while- but in my heart, my core, my soul, I am Primal.  My body is the heartbeat of the tribal drum.  My spirit is the lilting tear of the tribal flute.  In order to Journey, I need to hear the footfalls of animals, the echo and mirror of my animal self.  The One who instinctively knows that death is coming.  The One who fights to protect my family.  The One who can intuitively tell when there’s a problem.  The One who understands the pulse of the Earth and the ripples of the Water.  The One who calls Fire and Wind to fight for change.
 
I live on a small farm, close to nature.  Death is a page turn away from life, here.  We are not sheltered.  We see animals suffer and die, and it pulls on our gut in sorrow.  We see nature fight to stay alive, and it makes us want to fight for life even more wholeheartedly.  We wield the knife when it is our turn to end a life in order to put food on the table.  Holding the animal down, swiftly ending the life in a shower of blood, hearing the last breath, it is Life, and it feels right and natural.  And at the same time my heart is full of sorrow at the need to take a life.  It is full of respect for the one who sacrificed his life so that I can live.  Modupe*.  Thank you.  We, the Hunters, honor your spirit.  Sometimes I need to end a life when the life becomes too full of suffering.  In that case, death feels like a sweet release, the last breath is full of relief at last.  Sometimes I need to end the suffering of a young life, and my anger brims over at the unfairness of life.  But even the anger is natural and right.  This is my funeral rite for those who died before their time:
May your body find relief and union with the Earth, which birthed you.
May your spirit find fulfillment on its journey.
May you find rest and peace wherever you now dwell.
And, if it is your destiny, please return to this Earth in a stronger body.
 
In the same way, we witness a lot of births here.  As a Mother, I never fail to find the event miraculous.  Suddenly, Life appears where before there was only bloody tissue.  Being a Mother is a very Primal thing as well.  We are Warriors and Nurturers all at once.  We follow instinct and intuition.  Adrenaline and anxiety are part of our every day life.  Our babies drink from our body and are strengthened.  We experience a soul-connection with our children.  Our children come from our own body, and we are forever joined.  Just as with our mates, we are forever joined in a soul-bond.
To be Primal is to be intimately connected, not just with our children and mate, but with the Elements- the Earth which gives us food; there is nothing more Primal than walking barefoot in the garden and plucking a ripe tomato from the vine.   The Water which nourishes and cools us, like the breath of life after a hard day of work under the hot sun.  The Fire of passion which ignites the spark of life.  The Wind and Air which carries the changing seasons, heralding the start of a new cycle.

In my belief system, we have only one Soul, but multiple Spirits.  ”Worship” to me is not about prostrating ourselves before some distant power- it is about connecting with the different Spirits that live in us, and the Spirits outside which help to teach us.  I have the Spirit of the Warrior in me.  I have the Spirit of the Mountain Lion.  I have the spirit of the Rabbit.  I have the spirit of the Spider.  Animal spirits are archetypes- a way to describe a certain energy and personality.  I’ve known animals that had human Spirits, too!  Maybe your pet has the Spirit of a human child- animals raised in a human household often do.  And humans, like me, who live close to Nature often have very Primal Spirits.  My husband has the Spirit of the Tiger, and also the Warrior.  My daughter has the Spirit of the Dragon, and another which is cat-like.  My son has the Spirit of Coyote.  (Yes, I have a 3 year old with a Trickster Spirit.  My protective instinct has been tested over and over again!)
The hoofbeats of the running horses shake the ground.  The wind blows through their manes, making them toss their heads.  The hills grow thorns, wild and free, and the ocean waves crash upon the rocks.  Everything that has Power is Primal.  Everything that defies control is Free.  Ours is the Spirit of the Rebel, the Spirit of the Hunter, the Spirit of all those who would run as fast as the Wind, who would growl with the heat of Passion.  Our gods are nameless, named, and the ones who name.  We are as Old as the Earth and even older.  We can close our eyes and feel our roots go to the core of the earth, and feel our Soul soar past the sky to the deep Void of the Universe.  We dance, we kill, we give birth, we sing with raw emotions that tug at something inside you.  Some part of you that is afraid of the predator, some part of you that longs to dance with us, and truly feel Alive.

Ase*.

*Modupe (Moe-due-pway) is the Yoruban word for “Thank you”.  Ase (Ah-shay) is the Yoruban word for “So mote it be.”  It is an acknowledgement of the spiritual energy that is at play.  I use the Yoruban language because it is a very spiritual, primal language that speaks to me.
These folks are pretty fucking primal too:

The Scourge Part 1

“The Goddess’ scourge is light—usually.”

           A scourge by any other name is still a scourge.  A scourge is the name given to what is basically a many-tailed whip used in Wicca.  People in the scene often call it a flogger, or if it has knots, a cat, and to outsiders it’s a whip, but all these boil down to a scourge.  According to Merriam-Webster, the word first appears in its current form in the 13th century and is originally derived from the Latin word corrigia, which means “thong” or “whip”.    It’s a ritual tool that many Wiccans either don’t own, don’t use, don’t understand, or have purely for show.
            Scourges and other whip like implements have been associated with religion forever. 
In Ancient Egypt, Osiris was often depicted with a crook and a flail, symbols of authority but also symbols of agriculture.  These symbols of agriculture could sympathetically translate to virility symbols.  There is more about the flail (which looks an awful lot like a scourge) in the “Ritual” section of this blog.
The Ancient Romans used scourges, whips, and switches sympathetically in their magic and rituals. These implements were seen as being phallic and were used in fertility rites, primarily Lupercalia.  According to a Hellenic expert, while Lupercalia is primarily a Roman festival, it has its origins in Ancient Greece. Originally male adolescents in Arkadia would reenact the feast of Lycaon every year. At the original feast, Lycaon prepared a feast for the Olympian gods that included some human flesh, perhaps from one of Lycaon’s male relatives. This so enraged Zeus, that he struck Lycaon’s house
with a thunderbolt and Lycaon turned into a wolf.
At the Arkadian reenactment, the teenagers would gather on a mountaintop and
partake of a meal of animal entrails. However, among the animal guts was hidden one piece of human intestine. If a participant ate this juicy morsel, he would turn into a wolf and was only able to become human again if he refrained from eating human meat for nine years. Another way that the boys could achieve this lupine transformation was to swim across a special mountain pool. Once again, after nine years, they could regain their human form.  

 

This tradition traveled to Rome via Hermes’ son, Euandros, who exported the cult of Pan Lykaios and the festival of Lykaia to Italy. This festival later became the festival of Lupercalia, which is described in the opening lines of Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar.

Once the wolf festival was transported to Rome and became Lupercalia, many
different stories and deities became associated with the celebration.  To honor Pan, two goats and a dog were annually sacrificed. The dog was sacrificed because they were sacred for their ability to protect flocks and because Pan raised hounds.
           Skin from the sacrificed goats was used for the flails that the Lupercalia runners would whip the female spectators with. It was believed that through this aggressive behavior Pan would bless the ladies with fertility. 

 

 

In Julius Caesar, Caesar tells Antony:
Forget not, in your speed, Antonius,
To touch Calpurnia; for our elders say,
The barren, touched in this holy chase,
Shake off their sterile curse.
Act I, Scene 2

Pain, Blood, Drugs, and All Those Fun Things: Taboo or Mystique?

            As discussed in my previous blog, pain and the Sadomasochistic practices that bring it about can fall into many different categories.  Some of these fit categories that most folks are comfortable talking about in public and fit into the “safe” side of Wicca and Paganism, but some of the categories do not.  As was also discussed in a previous blog, while these practices represent the dark side of how things work that doesn’t make them evil.  It makes them real.

Taboo and mystique walk hand in hand.  If something is taboo and forbidden then of course it gets whispered about and a certain mystique starts to grow around it.  The more we are told that we shouldn’t want something then the more we want it.  What is it like to get scourged?  Oh, I shouldn’t want to know because it’s painful.  Pain shouldn’t cause me pleasure.  My patron God shouldn’t make my knees weak and my vagina wet.  What if the thought of your God does make you wet while you’re getting scourged in ritual?  Is that not an act of love and pleasure and therefore the most meaningful kind of worship?
            The “Charge of the Goddess” teaches us not only about acts of love and pleasure, but it also teaches us about inner mysteries.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for within yourself you will never find it outside of yourself.  If the thought of a blood rite doesn’t make you feel swimmy headed and wonderful while you’re planning your handfasting, then it probably won’t when it actually happens. 
Personally, I think some taboo associated with the topics touched upon in this blog may be appropriate.  It certainly does heighten the mystique.  But also some things are not suitable in a family situation.  It just depends on you, your beliefs, your partner(s), and your group(s). 
            However, beware of too much mystique.  If something is built up beyond imagining, then the real thing will never measure up.  How are you going to feel if the pig doesn’t go down easy and you have to shoot your sacrifice three times?  It happens because it’s real.  If you’re easily disappointed when mystiques get shattered, then perhaps some of these taboos should take place in an inner or astral temple.  As anyone who works with these wonderfully imaginative religious places can tell you, the mystique rarely falls short of reality when you commune with the God and Goddess in your head. 
Aren’t you glad it’s the maiden and not the crone?

The grittier side of Paganism, or what this blog is about

While I practice with several different groups, I classify myself as Wiccan.  Wicca is a religion of balance, which often takes the form of opposites.  For every light, there is a dark, and so forth.  For some people, though, the light is all they want to see in Wicca and other Pagan religions.  They want to forget that many of the deities that they worship have light and dark sides to them.  And dark, by the way, doesn’t equate to evil.  On the contrary, the dark is often very necessary for the light to exist and is simply a sterner side of a deity or the world.  The nature that so many Pagans profess to enjoy and love is very dark.  The Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” is a prime example of this.


With that being said, in this blog I will strive to explore some of the grittier (or perhaps dark) sides and practices of Wicca and Paganism.  Just because I write about something doesn’t make it true; just because I write about something doesn’t mean that a majority of believers practice it; just because I write about something doesn’t mean that I necessarily practice or condone it.  This blog will be part editorial, part research project, and part informative site.

Over the course of the next several months I hope to delve into such subjects as S&M and Wicca/Paganism, blood sacrifice, the Great Rite (in its original form), hunting and the Wild Hunt, and avatars/deity possession.

Please note:  If you are at a ritual and any thing takes place that you are not comfortable with, you always have the option of leaving.  You should also tell somebody about your misgivings.  If anything vaguely sexual takes place in a ritual that involves someone under the age of 18, you should contact the police.