2,900-Year-Old Gravestone Reveals Ancient Belief System

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A 2,900-year-old gravestone from the ancient kingdom of Sam'al, located in what is today southeastern Turkey, has shed light on an ancient religious belief heretofore unknown. The gravestone, called a stele, is in nearly pristine condition and archaeologists were able to translate all the writing on it. Now they've gained new insight into what people of the Iron Age believed about souls and death.

A team of archaeologists from the University of Chicago will discuss their findings at a conference this weekend. The man who created the stele was named Kuttamuwa, and he describes himself as a "servant" of King Panamuwa. Kuttamuwa's stele, in pristine condition, was found in a suburb of the walled city, far from the palace - archeologists speculate it was probably the man's own house. Though the city of Sam'al was influenced by local Semitic cultures in many ways - including their language - Kuttamuwa and Panamuwa are names that show the Indo-European cultural influence. Also, Kuttamuwa was cremated, a practice shunned by Semitic tribes of that era.

Apparently Kuttamuwa had his stele made while he was still alive, and last summer the archeological team found it, translating its inscription like this (there are question marks for translations they aren't sure of yet):

I, Kuttamuwa, servant of Panamuwa, am the one who oversaw the production of this stele for myself while still living. I placed it in an eternal chamber(?) and established a feast at this chamber(?): a bull for [the storm-god] Hadad, ... a ram for [the sun-god] Shamash, ... and a ram for my soul that is in this stele.

Written in an alphabet derived from Phoenician, the language is a West Semitic dialect similar to Aramaic and Hebrew. The stone depicts Kuttamuwa himself, eating at a table laden with food and drink.

What this reveals, according to research lead David Schloen, is that Kuttamuwa's people believed in a split between body and soul. This was a relatively novel belief at the time, and many neighboring peoples like the Israelites believed the body and soul were one. Kuttamuwa, however, planned for his soul to remain in the stele while his body was cremated. That's why he requested a "feast" in the chamber to feed his soul. Researchers found remains of food offerings in ancient bowls around the stele.

According to archeologist Schloen:

Kuttumuwa's inscription shows a fascinating mixture of non-Semitic and Semitic cultural elements, including a belief in the enduring human soul—which did not inhabit the bones of the deceased, as in traditional Semitic thought, but inhabited his stone monument, possibly because the remains of the deceased were cremated. Cremation was considered to be abhorrent in the Old Testament and in traditional West Semitic culture, but there is archaeological evidence for Indo-European-style cremation in neighboring Iron Age sites.

Funerary Monument Reveals Iron Age Belief [via University of Chicago]


The Ancient City of Petra

Situated in present-day Jordan and hidden amidst nearly impenetrable mountains to the east of the valley connecting the Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea, stands the ancient city of Petra. One of the world’s most visually stunning archaeological sites, Petra (meaning ‘the rock’ in Greek) is an abandoned necropolis of temples and tombs cut into towering cliffs of red, pink and orange sandstone.

Primarily known as a commercial and ceremonial center of the Nabataean culture during the centuries before and after the time of Christ, the region of Petra was inhabited in far greater antiquity. Archaeological excavations have revealed a rock shelter of the Upper Paleolithic period, dating to around 10,000 BC, and a Neolithic village from the 7th millennium BC. While evidence of habitation during the Chalcolithic and Bronze ages has not yet been found, the region of Petra was again occupied in the early Iron Age, around 1200 BC, by the Edomite culture of the Old Testament (Edom, meaning red, is the Biblical name for this region of the Middle East).

During the 6th –4th centuries BC, the Nabataeans, a nomadic tribe from the northwestern part of Arabia, entered and gradually took over the lands controlled by the Edomites. The first historical mention of the Nabataeans is in a list of the enemies of the King of Assyria in 647 BC, during which time Petra was still occupied by the Edomites. There are several reasons, religious and economic, suggested for the Nabataeans selection of Petra as their capital. The city of Petra is situated at the beginning of Wadi Musa, meaning the Valley of Moses, and this site had long been venerated as one of the traditional sites where Moses struck the ground and the water gushed forth. The region was also revered by the Nabataeans as the sacred precinct of their god Dushara.

Petra’s prominence also derives from its proximity to ancient caravan routes, its easily defended location, stable water resources and proximity to rich agricultural and grazing lands. The Nabataean capital was strategically situated only twenty kilometers from the crossroads of two vital trade routes; one linking the Persian Gulf (and thereby the silks and spices of India and China) with the Mediterranean Sea (and the empires of the Greeks and Romans), the other connecting Syria with the Red Sea. In their early years, the Nabataeans probably only plundered these caravans but as they grew more powerful they seem to have levied tolls as a guarantee of safe conduct. By the third and second centuries BC, the city of Petra had developed into a rich and powerful center of the caravan trade. During the next four hundred years, their dominion spread as far north as Damascus and their capital city was beautified with splendid temples, tombs and many hundreds of freestanding residential and commercial buildings (the less substantial houses and stores have long since crumbled to sand). The earliest tombs and temples, dating from 300 BC, show Egyptian and Assyrian characteristics, and with the Greek and later Roman influences the Nabataeans developed their own distinctive architectural style. All these structures were laboriously cut into the soft sandstone rock that would have long ago crumbled if not for the fact that this region of Jordan receives very little rain.

In 106 AD, the entire Nabataean kingdom came under the control of the Roman Empire. During the ensuing centuries Petra continued to prosper as the Romans carved many buildings as well as a great theater capable of holding 3000 spectators. While the political and economic power was completely in the hands of the Romans, the Nabataeans continued to adhere to the practices of their own religion. With Emperor Constantine’s proclamation of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire in 324 AD, Petra and the lands of the Nabataeans came under the sway of the Byzantine Empire for the next three hundred years. An inscription in the so-called Urn Tomb indicates that the interior was converted to a Christian church in the fifth century, when there was a Bishopric of Petra.

The Christianization of the Roman Empire signaled the end of the golden era of Nabataean culture and the magnificent city of Petra. Decline slowly set in. With the establishment of the Umayyad Caliphate in Damascus in 661 the region of Petra fell under the control of Islam and the commercial importance of the city plummeted. A series of earthquakes in the 7th and 8th centuries destroyed many of the cities in the region, further weakening the agricultural and commercial infrastructure. Following the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad in 750, the region of Petra was neglected and thereafter virtually disappears from the historical record. Abandoned to time and the elements, Petra was unknown to the outside world - with the single exception of an insignificant Crusader fortress built in the 12th century - until its ‘rediscovery’ in 1812.

Studying the Middle East with the funding of an English explorers society, a young Swiss adventurer, Johann Burckhardt, was slowly making his way from Damascus to Cairo by a little known and dangerous land route. Fluent in Arabic and posing as a Muslim traveler, he heard tales from desert Bedouins of the extraordinary ruins of an ancient city hidden in the remote Sharra Mountains. No European had seen the fabled city, or lived to tell about it, and Burckhardt recognized that he would have to resort to deceit to gain entrance. A plan developed in his mind. He would hire local Bedouins as guides, telling them that he intended to sacrifice a goat at the shrine of Aaron (the brother of Moses), whose tomb he believed was in the vicinity of the ruined city. At the village of Elji (now called Wadi Musa), Burckhardt persuaded two Bedouin to escort him along the Valley of Moses and toward the shrine of Aaron. There is only one reasonably safe path leading to the shrine from Wadi Musa and, luckily for Burckhardt, it passed directly through the ruins of Petra. Winding his way along an extremely narrow gorge the explorer came unexpectedly upon the great rock temple of Khasneh. More than 30 meters high and carved entirely out of the face of the sheer cliff, the Khasneh has become the symbol of Petra and was immortalized in the Hollywood movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The Bedouin leading Burckhardt to the tomb of Aaron became increasingly suspicious of his intentions with the result that he neither reached the tomb nor was able to view the major shrine of the Nabataeans, known as Al Deir (he did, however, perform his mock sacrifice at the foot of Jebel Haroun).

Located in a remote gorge, northwest of the center of Petra, Al Deir is the largest and most visually stunning of all the structures in Petra. Carved entirely out of the red sandstone of a mountain wall, the temple is 50 meters wide by 45 meters tall and has an 8-meter tall entrance door. Inside the single empty chamber (12.5 by 10 meters), the walls are plain and unadorned except for a niche in the back wall with a block of stone representing the deity Dushara. The chief deities of the Nabataeans were Dushara, Al-Uzza and Allat. The name Dushara means ‘He of the Shara’, referring to the Sharra Mountains on the northern border of Petra. Like the Hebrew god, Jehovah, Dushara was symbolized by an obelisk or standing block of stone (and this indicates influences from archaic Sumerian, Egyptian and megalithic cultures) and his symbolic animal was the bull. The goddess Al-Uzza was symbolized by a lion and was the ‘peoples’ deity, where as Dushara was the god of the nobility and the official cult. The goddess Allat was associated with natural springs, of which there are several in the otherwise extremely arid lands of the Sharra Mountains.

An elaborate processional way leads to Al Deir from the center of Petra and the enormous flat courtyard in front of the temple, capable of accommodating thousands of people, suggests that the temple was the site of large-scale ceremonies. There are traces of a stone ring in the courtyard but no other indications of the type of worship that was practiced by the Nabataeans. While the exact age of the temple is unknown, on stylistic grounds scholars date it to the mid-1st century AD. The Al Deir is sometimes called ‘The Monastery’ because of a belief that it served as a church during Byzantine times. A few small crosses carved on the interior walls show that the Christians used the temple for some purpose.

According to certain traditions it was in the region of Petra that Miriam, the sister of Moses, died and was buried. Her mountaintop shrine was still shown to pilgrims at the time of St. Jerome in the 4th century AD but its location has not been identified since. Some scholars have suggested that the temple of Al Deir may be the site of her grave but this was certainly not the original or the primary use of the temple.

The splendid ruins of Petra, which were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, have for some years been faced with a worrying threat; salt blown in from the Dead Sea is encrusting the relatively delicate sandstone and slowly weakening the buildings.

Other important sacred places in Petra include Al-Madbah, The High Place of Sacrifice, on the summit of Jabal Madbah; a cult site devoted to the spirit of water on the mountain of Umm al-Biyara; the mountain of el-Barra where stands Aaron’s tomb; and, at the entrance of Petra, three massive Jinn (spirit) stones sacred to the local tribes. Fifty miles north of Petra, on the peak of Jebel Tannur, stands the important Nabataean shrine of Khirbet Tannur.

Readers interested in more extensive information on the religious practices and enigmatic dolphin iconography of the Nabataeans will enjoy Deities and Dolphins: The Story of the Nabataeans; by Nelson Glueck.


Ra | Egyptian Sun God | King of the Gods

Depicted as a falcon crowned with a sun disk or a man with a falcon's head.

Ra was the God of the Sun. He sailed across the heavens in a boat called the 'Barque of Millions of Years'. At the end of each day Ra was thought to die and sailed on his night voyage through the Underworld, leaving the Moon to light the world above. The boat would sail through the twelve doors, representing the twelve hours of night-time. The next dawn, he was born again.

It was not always smooth sailing. During the day Ra had to fight his chief enemy, a snake called Apep. He was helped by the other gods, such as Seth and Bastet.

The sun disk on Ra's head often has a cobra round it. A cobra appears on the forehead of Pharaohs, like Tutankhamun.

Ra was the greatest of the gods and he kept his power in his secret name, which only he knew. He had started to grow old, and sometimes he dribbled. Isis collected some of his saliva and made it into a snake. She hid the snake where Ra would walk. When Ra trod on it, it bit him, and Ra screamed in pain. All the gods gathered round, but none could heal him. Isis said "If you tell me your secret name, this will give me enough magic power to heal you." Ra didn't want to do this, but eventually the pain was so bad that he had to. Isis healed him, and ever since then she has the magic powers that Ra had.



Pygmalion saw so much to blame in women that he came at last to abhor the sex, and resolved to live unmarried. He was a sculptor, and had made with wonderful skill a statue of ivory, so beautiful that no living woman could be compared to it in beauty. It was indeed the perfect semblance of a maiden that seemed to be alive, and only prevented from moving by modesty. His art was so perfect that it concealed itself, and its product looked like the workmanship of nature. Pygmalion admired his own work, and at last fell in love with the counterfeit creation. Oftentimes he laid his hand upon it, as if to assure himself whether it were living or not, and could not even then believe that it was only ivory. He caressed it, and gave it presents such as young girls love, bright shells and polished stones, little birds and flowers of various hues, beads and amber. He put raiment on its limbs, and jewels on its fingers, and a necklace about its neck. To the ears he hung earrings and strings of pearls upon the breast. Her dress became her, and she looked not less charming than when unattired. He laid her on a couch spread with cloths of Tyrian dye, and called her his wife, and put her head upon a pillow of the softest feathers, as if she could enjoy their softness.

The festival of Venus was at hand, a festival celebrated with great pomp at Cyprus. Victims were offered, the altars smoked, and the odor of incense filled the air. When Pygmalion had performed his part in the solemnities, he stood before the altar and timidly said, "Ye gods, who can do all things, give me, I pray you, for my wife" he dared not say "my ivory virgin," but said instead "one like my ivory virgin." Venus, who was present at the festival, heard him and knew the thought he would have uttered; and, as an omen of her favor, caused the flame on the altar to shoot up thrice in a fiery point into the air. When he returned home, he went to see his statue, and, leaning over the couch, gave a kiss to the mouth. It seemed to be warm. He pressed its lips again, he laid his hand upon the limbs; the ivory felt soft to his touch, and yielded to his fingers like the wax of Hymettus. While he stands astonished and glad, though doubting, and fears he may be mistaken, again and again with a lover's ardor he touches the object of his hopes. It was indeed alive! The veins when pressed yielded to the finger and then resumed their roundness. Then at last the votary of Venus found words to thank the goddess, and pressed his lips upon lips as real as his own. The virgin felt the kisses and blushed, and, opening her timid eyes to the light, fixed them at the same moment on her lover. Venus blessed the nuptials she had formed, and from this union Paphos was born, from whom the city, sacred to Venus, received its name.

Schiller, in his poem, the Ideals, applies this tale of Pygmalion to the love of nature in a youthful heart. In Schiller's version, as in William Morris's, the statue is of marble.

"As once with prayers in passion flowing,
Pygmalion embraced the stone,
Till from the frozen marble glowing,
The light of feeling o'er him shone,
So did I clasp with young devotion
Bright Nature to a poet's heart;
Till breath and warmth and vital motion
Seemed through the statue form to dart.

"And then in all my ardor sharing,
The silent form expression found;
Returned my kiss of youthful daring,
And understood my heart's quick sound.
Then lived for me the bright creation.
The silver rill with song was rife;
The trees, the roses shared sensation,
An echo of my boundless life."
Rev. A. G. Bulfinch (brother of the author).

Morris tells the story of Pygmalion and the Image in some of the most beautiful verses of the Earthly Paradise.

This is Galatea's description of her metamorphosis:

"'My sweet,' she said, 'as yet I am not wise,
Or stored with words aright the tale to tell,
But listen: when I opened first mine eyes
I stood within the niche thou knowest well,
And from my hand a heavy thing there fell
Carved like these flowers, nor could I see things clear,
But with a strange confused noise could hear.

"'At last mine eyes could see a woman fair,
But awful as this round white moon o'erhead,
So that I trembled when I saw her there,
For with my life was born some touch of dread,
And therewithal I heard her voice that said,
"Come down and learn to love and be alive,
For thee, a well-prized gift, today I give."'"


Behind the Language of Numbers

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Often associated with occult and astrology, numerology is any of the many systems, tradition, or beliefs in a mystical relationship between numbers and physical objects or living things.1 it is the study of numbers and letters significance . In the process of analyzing one's name or birth date, numerology is a tool to help understand the Eternal OM.

It is perceived to be attacking the laws and teachings of the Bible. It does not. The use of numbers in the Bible, Koran and some religious books have been noted in the interpretation by people of what is wisdom.

Numerology works in many ways. Through numerology, a person gains deeper knowledge and a broader idea of one's destiny. It also soundly enlightens someone with a better understanding of others, both in the good and bad aspect.

The birthday number is known to be the key of one' s fate. It influences the life and it is unalterable . Birth decides the note of harmony and vibration. It relates the material side of life. Since there are only nine numbers in numerology, each person is assigned to all these numbers.

The heart number on the other hand, helps someone to find the person's desires. While the heart number works for desires, the maturity number signifies the dominant traits that shapes his decision making process. While people may have any number names, the deciding factor is the destiny number.

Tested and believed, numerology can be used to find the time best for investing, getting a job, marrying, traveling or plans of moving.

The combination of the letters in the name and the date of birth gives clues of what character, strengths and weaknesses a person has. This information can be useful to get back on track and head to the same direction one is destined to take. Change sin one's life can be pleasantly surprising at how everything seems to be falling into place , and the happiness that one feels is realized. While going on the wrong way with what has been laid up on birth might be too stressful and might lead to an unfulfilled life.

Numerology when used in the right way unleashes someone from perceived limitations and pushes someone to the best he can be. Knowing the weakness, alerts a possible action to alter this into strengths. The use of numerology depends on the person. Either one uses the positive traits or ignore it. Either one notes the negative trait and develop it to a positive one or the reverse. The end of it still lies on the person.

*** Visit http://psychicguild.com for more related stories.

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