Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tag of the Beast

666: Many scholars think it was a coded way of referring to the Emperor Nero; Martin Luther thought it might refer to a Pope named Benedict. Iron Maiden is somehow mixed up in all this.

Evidence suggests the infamous "Number of the Beast" might not be 666 at all, but 616--it all depends on the Language--Greek or Latin--upon which you work your gematria, a "system of assigning numerical value to a word or phrase, in the belief that words or phrases with identical numerical values bear some relation to each other, or bear some relation to the number itself as it may apply to a person's age, the calendar year, or the like." Clear?

According to a recent poll, almost a quarter of self-identified Republicans think Obama is the Antichrist! Or not. We're not the only ones who think this is a dubious statistic. Hell, by some accounts, even the Hutaree didn't even consider the end times to be at hand; they just wanted to Be Prepared, as it were.

Anyway, this photo is from the wall of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia church. Maybe the Antichrist is just some dumb stoner with a can of spray paint.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Yeah, I Know It's a Drag... But Wastin' Pigs Is Still Radical

You may have heard that a self-proclaimed Christian militia was raided over the weekend and nine arrested. According to the indictement, the group intended to kill a policeman and then attack (and kill) others at the funeral.

Apocalyptic thinking at its finest: "Preparing for the end time battles to keep the testimony of Jesus Christ alive."

Amazingly, the militia's website is still active. Now, you might not expect a group such as this to have a sense of humor, but you'd be wrong. Check out the "Beast Watch" section (itself inadvertently funny), which includes "The beast's number (humor)":


670 - Approximate number of the Beast
DCLXVI - Roman numeral of the Beast
1-900-666-0666 - Live Beasts! Call Now! Only $6.66/minute. (Must be over 18)
$665.95 - Retail price of the Beast
666 F - Oven temperature for roast Beast
666k - Retirement plan of the Beast
666 mg - Recommended Daily Allowance of Beast
666i - BMW of the Beast
668 - Next-door neighbor of the Beast

I actually found this funny and damn curious among all the serious allegations of "the mark of the beast" etc. Which leads me to ask. Can a militia who strikes my funny bone really be out to do so many dastardly deeds? Not that one has anything to do with the other....

I'm gonna hafta read that site in more detail -- while it lasts. As much as I'd like to point my finger and say a-ha! I told you so, and as much as the videos and photos of these guys supports the feds' claim, my immediate reaction was one of caution. Let's see what facts unfold. It's a given this will be seen by many as a setup and/or psy-op, but who knows? Maybe the paranoids are right.

Epistomology is such a wonderful minefield these days!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Watch your back

I don't know why, but recent posts got me to thinking about where I used to live in Ithaca, NY. Maybe it's the significant geographical loci, the low-grade onomamania, the apocalypticism. I dunno.

But something made me remember that in Ithaca there is a Sodom Road! Now, I get the idea of naming things after Biblical places, but Sodom? Not the most propitious name. I mean, buggery aside, the place was destroyed, no?

Leads me to wonder, why? Wtf?

Fortunately, some kind soul has photographed the street sign and released it to the public domain. Hence the proof you may require, above....

Some explanation:

"In its earliest years during frontier days, what is now Ithaca was briefly known by the names "The Flats" and "Sodom," the name of the Biblical city of sin, due to its reputation as a town of "notorious immorality",
a place of horse racing, gambling, profanity, Sabbath breaking, and readily available liquor. These names did not last long; Simeon DeWitt renamed the town Ithaca in the early 1800s, though nearby Robert H. Treman State Park still contains Lucifer Falls.

That early reputation for immorality, together with its more recent reputation as having a left-leaning population, has once again made Ithaca mildly infamous in some circles as the "City of Evil," due to a satirical campaign by members of a politically conservative online discussion board....According to religious conservatives, this idea is further buoyed by Cornell University's early nickname, "the godless university" which came about due to their lack of affiliation with any organized religion."

An evil place? Hardly. Cold as Hell, though....

P.S. There are others.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"God is stronger than the NWO"

Just happened upon this article today, about the Georgia Guidestones. In light of recent posts on sacred stones, the apocalypse and even the cultural/political conflicts of our times, it is especially relevant to our discussion. Sample quote:

"The four vertical slabs that dominate the Guidestones are inscribed back and front with Christian's 10 principles, each side in a different modern language. The capstone is inscribed in the alphabets of early human civilizations -- Egyptian hieroglyphics, Babylonian cuneiform, Sanskrit and classical Greek.

The center column has a slot through which the transit of the sun throughout the seasons can be observed, while a hole higher up focuses on Polaris, the north star. Another hole in the capstone focuses a beam of sunlight onto the central pillar at noon. Those features would allow the survivors of Christian's feared apocalypse to reproduce three of the basic tools of civilization: the calendar, clock and compass."

Can't believe this is the first we've heard of it! Actually, though, this article from Wired is much more intriguing. A mysterious stranger obsessed with secrecy turns up and says he and his group had wanted to do this for 20 years; a local minister predicts it will become a magnet for occult groups--and is right; the sandblaster who made the inscriptions reported hearing "strange music and disjointed voices"; Freemasons are intimately involved etc. etc.

Fun stuff....

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tea Baggers Gone Wild

Moore's supervillan Adrian Veidt watched one hundred TVs simultaneously to glean trends. Me? I read metafilter, a microblogging collective from which narratives arise occasionally from the chatter.

Today, for example, I learned today that the Tea Baggers, gathered to protest health care legislation, went wild today, spitting on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), shouting ni**ger at Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and "faggot" at Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), and holding a sign that read "If [Sen.] Brown Can't Stop It, A Browning [pistol] Can".

I also learned via metafilter that Idaho, South Carolina, and Georgia are making moves towards forcing the feds to take back the gold standard.

Finally, today, I learned that we're on the teetering on the edge: an information revolution may tip us toward an empathic society--if we don't kill ourselves off first.

Put this chatter together with the recent LoS conversations regarding apocalypse 2012, together with rumors that Robert Erickson totally punked those Tea Baggers into chanting "Columbus Go Home!" (see his previously madness), together with my five-year-old son announcing that god is not real (he's "legendary") ... and all I see is revolution in the air.

Aucamville Project 5

The Aucamville Project is an attempt to document the LoS-ian aspects of where I live. It is both a personal journal and a microhistory; it is also the praxis my belief that one must invest one's surroundings with meaning, a nexus of subjective experience, often whimsical, with fact, symbol and whatever else can sweeten the pot. Aucamville is a small place, a blip on the map, but it has a long and rich history I will share here as things reveal themselves and constructions are made.

What is Aucamville? Strictly speaking it is a town in France. France is divided into several regions. Aucamville is in the Midi-Pyrénées region. These regions are divided into departments and Acuamville is in the Tarn-et-Garonne, the prefecture of which is Montauban. Next comes the canton, in our case Verdun-sur-Garonne. Then we have the commune, which includes a village and the surrounding areas. This is Aucamville.

The village has about 800 residents and scattered about the commune are 200 more. It is a farming community which sees annual harvests of wheat, corn, sunflowers and small amounts of hemp. There are a few fruit and nut orchards. There is at least one person who raises ducks and geese, turkeys, chickens. Some burros mill about in a field towards Verdun, but for what purpose is anyone's guess. In addition to a café there is also a nice retaurant, a hair stylist, a butcher and a baker. No candlestick maker, but there is a caterer. Several artisans: masons, plumbers, etc. are based here.

The origin of the name is subject to some debate. Some passionately believe it comes fom a Germanic name---Ogmarus--or a Wisigothic name--Auka. For support, they point out that the village was referred to as Ochamsvilla prior to the 13th century. Others, citing the goose in the village arms, say it comes from the Latin "auca" or goose. In Occitan and Spanish, auca is still the word for goose. The name first appears in the 12th century.

This second theory is my preferred. Aside from the goose in the coat of arms, it was apparently customary back in the day to present the local aristocrat and the abbot of Grandselve Abbey the fattest goose of the season. Abbé Firmin Galabert's Monographie d'Aucamville (1890) is an invaluable resources and this is his theory, even though a neighbor poo-poos Galabert for being to pro-clerical and sympathetic to the aristocracy. Goose raising was an important aspect of the village economy until a few decades ago, when the pond just below the mairie was filled in to become a park. The town lights a Midsummer bonfire (for St. Jean, ostensibly) there every year.

20-10-2010: I take this back, in light of further reading. The Germanic theory is well-established in other contexts so it stands to reason the same is true here. An interesting argument about this topic by people far more learned than I can be read here if you read French.

Neolithic objects can be found in the area. I have in my possession a net sinker, made of shaped river stone, given to me by a neighbor. Gallo-Roman remains are also to be found. A local ditch yields some bricks which long ago served to solidify a spring. A cemetery lies under plowed earth 100 yards behind my house. A Gallo-Roman villa once stood in what is someone's backyard, within eysesight of my front window. The original village was located about half a kilometer to the northwest of its present location; it was rebuilt after the original was destroyed by fire. It sits on a small hill, which might have made it more attractive for its strategic views and defensibility.

Like most communes, there are several lieu-dit outside the village. These "named places", or hamlets, can consist of as little as one farm. Ours, just outside the village proper, is called Fondemenge, which means spring (fon) consecrated to God (demenge), pronounced more or less like the French dimanche, or Sunday. This too was once a large farm. There are now 6 houses cheek by jowl and two or three more a bit more private. The grouped houses are linked by a patus, a medieval land statute which requires each person to share the land and leave the passage free. This was in essence to have a common grazing area or place to let ducks waddle about. Endless headaches ensue.

The place gets its name from the springs, previously mentioned. There is one which is open and another has a small brick vault and iron gate. As the tale goes, pilgrims stopped here on their way to Santiago de Compostela, to camp. A chapel to St. John the Baptist is just up the road. There was also an oratory to St. Blandine in the village, where wet nurses used to visit and pray for abundant milk. The spot is now marked by cross, as the oratory was dismantled and sold off for scrap during the Revolution. Grandselve Abbey was razed at this time.

The village church is dedicated to Saint Bartholomew, and the ogives and ribs of the vaulted ceilings are colorfully painted with red, yellow and blue stripes. Many icons are present, including the omnipresent Sts. Germaine, Thérèse, Bernadette and Jeanne D'Arc. The capitals at the entrance (two pillars) depict gnarly dragons; while one of them is weathered smooth, the other is well-preserved. The church dates from the 13th century but its present form is a 16th century makeover. It contains the relics of several obscure and quite possibly non-canonical saints.

The local salle de fête is now a rather ugly concert/activity hall, but was once a thriving open-sided pavilion where livestock were bought and sold. A truck scale, inoperable, is still visible before a house which was once some kind of broker's office.

Next to this is our local monument aux morts, an obelisk commemorating the war dead. I will one day sneak a photo of my grand-uncle who died in Ardennes into the monument, to go along aside the pictures of other men of the village. In every French village you have such a monument. A village of 300 will have a dozen or more names listed.

There is a château in the commune, which in the past belonged to a Marquis. It has been successively occupied by a cult, led by a self-syled "patriarch" and now, a real estate developer. I can't say which one is worse.

Given the village's relative lack of development and its proximity to the ever-expanding Toulouse, this last occupant may foreshadow things to come.

This is a picture of my house circa 1918. Only the end part, where you can see the wagon, is mine. It looks nothing like this now....

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Aucamville Project 4: Triangulating the center

They say every French town or village has its center, a plaza where three important elements are to be found: the mairie (town hall), the church and the café, the centers of political, religious and social life, respectively. In Aucamville, where the "town square"--in this case a triangle--once stood, this holds true, despite the fact that the plaza has been replaced by a departmental highway which cuts the town in two. What was true in the past has disappeared, but the focal points remain clustered together.

Aucamville also has three municipal wells. One of these is right next to the mairie, surrounded by a pair of trees in front of which stands an imposing crucifix.

In Journey to the Center of the Earth we spoke of the idea of stones as representing both the limits of sacred spaces and as their center. We spoke of the axis mundi which Wikipedia describes thusly:

"The image expresses a point of connection between sky and earth where the four compass directions meet. At this point travel and correspondence is made between higher and lower realms."

This notion apparently comes from an essay entitled 'Symbolism of the Centre' in Images and Symbols by one Mircea Eliade.

The axis mundi concept spans many cultures and is expressed in many ways. We looked at stones, last time, but it may have been more appropriate to speak of trees.

We'd like to take a look at the Christian context in order to bring it to bear more fully on our local spring.

One locale proposed for the center of the world is the Garden of Eden, with four rivers going out into the four directions of the world. This brings to mind the Cross, of course, as does the very notion of the axis mundi proposed by Eliade: "where the four compass directions meet." At the center of the center stand two trees: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

This brings us back nicely to the idea of twin pillars we have discussed so often on LoS. In I ♥ Phoenicia, we quoted the Jewish Virtual Encyclopedia, which tells us that some scholars have suggested the pillars of Jachin and Boaz "had a mythological significance, as "trees of life," or cosmic pillars...."

Again, according to Wikipedia:

Eastern Orthodox Church has traditionally understood the tree of life in Genesis as a prefiguration of the Cross...."


"The cross of Christ is also referred to as the tree of life, and in the service books, Jesus is sometimes likened to a "divine cluster" of grapes hanging on the "Tree of the Cross" from which all partake in
Holy Communion."

Some scholars believe the two trees were actually one tree; others note that they are manifestations of the world tree archetype found, like the axis mundi, among many diverse cultures.

Again (sorry), Wikipedia:

"Living cross. One of two possibilities: Either a natural cross made of living vines and branches. Or, a man-made cross with vines or plants planted at its base. In the all-natural version, it refers to the legend that Jesus' cross was made from the
Tree of Life. In the man-made cross with plants planted at the base, it contrasts the "new" Tree of Life (the cross) with the Book of Genesis Tree of Life. In both cases it shows Jesus' death (the cross) as a redemption for original sin (Tree of Life)."

In southern France, one can see crosses clearly alluding to this all over the place; in Aucamville alone, a relatively small town, there are many roadside crosses which are more or less trellises upon which a riot of flowers grow. Recall our post on Notre Dame des Aubets, which is a blatant celebration of floral and vegetal motifs and is the site of an ancient spring. Santa Héléna, a local folk saint, seems to be entombed in a baldaquin of flowers. John the Baptist is honored in an Aucamville chapel which again, featured a healing spring.

Recall if you will the idea the four rivers flowed from the center of the Garden of Eden, where these trees (or tree) stood. Obviously, there was a spring there, or, as they say in French a source.

Now think again of Aucamville; the center of town, triangulated if you will by the mairie, the church and the café, is marked by a crucifix, or representation of the Tree of Life. This in turn serves to mark the spot of the central municipal well.

If there is the Tree of Life, reinforced by the crucifix, perhaps there is also the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Its counterpart would then be the well, the source of water, in this case, sanctified. The Tree of Knowledge is generally considered to represent the reason for original sin. Water baptism is said to be a cleansing, perhaps a symbolic mirror of Christ's death and resurrection. Catholics believe it frees us from the taint of....original sin.

Heady symbolism in the town triangle, for such a avowedly secular state. Ritual cleansing has roots in various mystery religions and is practiced by Catholics each time they enter a church and Muslims before prayer. At the Kaaba, towards which they pray, there is also a sacred spring.

Back to the crucifix:

"....Christ's death was a perfect sacrifice that destroyed the power of sin, and therefore death, over humanity. Particular significance is offered to the lance wound from which flowed blood and water. The blood is linked with the Eucharistic blood received at Masses and the water with the cleansing of original sin at baptism (the two sacraments believed to be necessary to achieve eternal life). "

So symbolically, the two trees are inextricably linked. One necessitated the other. Two pillars set before a theological space, markers of a doctrine. The crucifix and the spring. What else can you see in the picture?

Two trees.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Political Saviors

In light of commentary generated by our last post last, we thought it might be a good idea to put up some other images with play with religious symbolism. We add these without editorial comment in the hopes that others will share their take on them. (This means you Anonymous and Terry!)

Unlike the Obama photo, these are straight photos and not Photoshop manipulations, if that makes much difference at all. I think this is more a case of snarky photographers than anything else, but some of them, the first one in particular, are real eye-poppers.

Also, two of these photos have been on LoS before and alas, I don't have dates or any context or info about where they originally appeared, as I collected them mainly just to have them hanging about the hard drive. So, apologies for omitting these crucial details.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Obama as Jesus, or Hippocrates?

The picture above was originally used to illustrate the following NYT article (As Health Vote Awaits, Future of a Presidency Waits, Too, 03/14. ) Conservative bloggers and commenters were not amused.

Reaction ranged from seeing it as more liberal bias (naturally), a deification of Obama, a spit in the face of Christians, etc. The Althouse link is representative of the reactions we came across, albeit less vitriolic than what you can find, say, at the Free Republic. ("Low life Marxist, Muslim Bastard" anyone?)

Others have noted the even-armed cross is a reference to the medical profession, featured as it is on hospitals and pharmacies across the nation and indeed, the Christian world. This would be our assumption.

But still, the photo is not a trick of reflections and light, the photo is an illustration by Nola Lopez on a photo by Damon Winter.

What strikes us is this: why are some conservatives, especially Christians, so quick to strike a victim pose? Isn't that what they hate about liberals?

Secondly, why do they say liberals think of Obama as some sort of messiah, the "One"?

Are they simply offended because that slot's already filled, by Ronald Reagan?

The hubbub seems to have had an effect. If you follow the link, the photo/illustration has been removed....

Monday, March 15, 2010

Aucamville Project: 3: Regional election results

You may have read that Sarkozy's ruling UMP was dealt a blow in yesterday's first round of regional elections, where in an expression of general discontent the citizens of France swung over to the Socialists. The NYT report makes note of the "record abstention" and that:

What struck French analysts was the good performance of a coalition of green parties, known as Europe Ecology, led by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, and the revival of the far-right, anti-immigrant National Front, which was running almost even with the ecologists for third place."

Aucamville would appear to fall exactly in line with the national trend.

As you can see from the
table on the following page (official results):

In Aucamville there are 709 registered votes. 320 abstained! Of the remaining 389 voters, 12 turned in blank ballots, leaving 377 people who expressed a preference.

119 voters, or 31.56%, chose the Socialist Party. Sarkozy's UMP was a close second at 106 votes, or 28.12% of the electorate. Perhaps most disconcerting, though unsurprising, was the 3rd place showing for the far right Front National, with 54 votes (14.33%). On the other hand, the Greens did surprisingly well, hot on the heels of the FN with 49 votes (13%).

The rest of the vote was split, again, much to my surprise, among various far left parties. The Communists pulled in 16 votes (4.24%), while two far left coalitions pulled in 7 (1.86%) and 16 (4.24%) votes each.

This means that the center and far right got 160 votes (or 42.44%) as opposed to the center and far left who got 207 votes (54.9%). This leaves the resolute center, represented by the centrist wing of the centrist MoDem (Mouvement démocrate) with 10, or (2.65%).

So, depending on your proclivities, this will gladden your heart or darken your brow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Journey to the Center of the Earth

According to our Google analytics, among the most highly-viewed pages on LoS is a post about the "DC pentagram" titled Weird scenes from above, and thus it has been since we started using analytics. Since The Lost Symbol hit the shelves it has consistently been number one or two in our list. In the post we took a brief look at the pentagram, which doesn't require squinting one's eyes or leaps of faith; in other words, it is clearly there, albeit incomplete. We focused on the Masonic elements contained within the form; there are actually quite a few.

In response to popular demand (one person anyway), we've decided to take another look at the subject (full disclosure: this could lead to a gift of beer--fingers crossed--and thus our purpose does not lie entirely outside of the mercenary!)

A Bit of Background

(The next few paragraphs originally appeared on the Plastic Tub--a site not dead, but sleeping.)

The center of D.C. was originally designed by Pierre Charles L'Enfante, a Frenchman who had attained the rank of Major in the Continental Army. L'Enfante was fired by George Washington before the completion of his plan, which was significantly modified by surveyor Andrew Ellicott and his assistant Benjamin Bannaker when they began their work in 1791. Contrary to some popular internet "theorists", none of the three men were Freemasons. [So I said, sneering.  Actually, turns out L'Enfant was a Mason, revealed here in 2011.  My only defense is that at the time of writing this, most scholars believed L'Enfant wasn't a Mason--Duarade, 11/13/11] Over time, Washington evolved naturally and the street plan strayed from L'Enfante's vision. At one point, for example, what is now the National Mall was a muddy field used for grazing cattle and marred by an ugly railway station.

In 1901, a Commission chaired by Senator James McMillan of Michigan was formed to restore the Mall to L'Enfante's original vision. Among the experts he engaged was Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., a landscape architect who was, like McMillan, not a Freemason.

Tracing the Pentagram

Dupont Circle (1) and Logan Circle (2) form the two leg-points of a pentagram. The legs trace down 15th St. and Connecticut Avenue where, if continued, would form the bottom tip of the star at the center of the White House (4). They are, however, broken at K Street by Farragut Square (6) and McPherson Square (7). The lines pick back up after the Squares, but they are broken again at LaFayette Park (9).

K Street forms the bar of the pentagram and culminates at Mount Vernon Square (3) and Washington Circle (5).

The star is incomplete. From Logan Circle, Rhode Island Avenue seeks to complete the pentagram, but it stops, leaving the left arm incomplete from where RI meets Connecticut (connect it cut?) until Washington Circle. [One is reminded of the unfinished pyramid on the dollar bill.]

Pennsylvania Avenue, New Hampshire Avenue, New York Avenue, and P Street form a near perfect pentagon around the star, but from Logan Circle to Mount Vernon Square (the opposite of the broken arm), it is unfinished.

Please see the original post for a list of the Masonic elements of the pentagram; you will find that the squares and parks are all (but one?) named after Freemasons, and the HQ of the Southern District of the Scottish Right is smack dab in the middle of the pentagram's "crotch."

Of further interest is the flattened appearance of the pentagram. Usually pentagrams are more symmetrical, designed so that they fit perfectly into a circle; the D.C. pentagram, however, most nimbly fits into an ellipse. Just south of the White House, this is mirrored in that part of the National Mall known as "The Ellipse," an elliptical road 1 km in length in President's Park which is centered upon the point of the pentagram. The Ellipse was part of L'Enfante's original design. In 1919 a marker known as the Zero Milestone was dedicated there. The Zero Milestone, inspired by the Imperial Roman "Golden Milestone," was intended to be the point from which all distances to D.C. are calculated. It has engravings on five faces; the north features a winged helmet of the type associated with Mercury, or Hermes. "As Above, So Below," anyone? L'Enfante, incidentally, intended this point to be one mile east of the Capitol.

This will do little to assuage the fears of those who fret the US is the New Rome and heading in the same direcion, but there it is. The exact location of the Golden Milestone, or Milliarium Aureum, is unknown, but surviving fragments marked as such "are now believed by some to be identical with the Umbilicus Urbis Romae (or Navel of the city of Rome), a structure in the same area of the Forum which served a similar but not identical purpose."

The exact nature of both of these structures notwithstanding, it would seem that if one or the other served as the center of the Rome and thus the Empire, it would also by extension be considered the center of the world.

The idea of a "world navel", or axis mundi, is one of those archetypes that would seem to be found in a variety of disparate cultures worldwide. For our purposes, let's take a look at some Western examples.

Sacred Stones

In Greek, the word for "navel" is omphalos. According to myth, Zeus sent two eagles across the world and the point at which they met was thereafter to be considered its center. Not surprisingly, several places set up stone markers, also called an omphalos, to commemorate the spot; the most widely recognized was at Delphi, regarded as a holy site all across the Hellenic world.

There is even an omphalos at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This refers to the medieval cosmology which places Jerusalem as the center of the world and thus, the universe itself.

This in turn is probably based upon the Jewish tradition which saw Jerusalem as the world navel. In this tradition, the Ark of the Covenenant rested on a rock in the Temple called the Foundation Stone. The tradition, which began in Hellenic times, may in fact have been inspired by or a competition with the oracle at Delphi.

Whatever the case, it remains the holiest site in Judaism and Jews worldwide pray towards it. According to the Talmud, the world was created from this rock and it was from nearby dirt that God first formed Adam. Several important events in the spiritual evolution of Judaism were said to have occurred here.

Muslims also hold a special reverence for this stone, for it was from this point that Muhammad once ascended into heaven (called the Journey of Al-Israa and Al-Mi'ara) for a private discourse with Allah. It is one of the holiest sites in Islam.

The holiest site, however, is in Mecca, which, like the Jews towards Jerusalem, is the direction towards which all Muslims pray. Within a shrine called the Kaaba is the Black Stone, al-Hajar-ul-Aswad. This stone, whose fragments are held together by a distincly vaginal-looking silver frame, is said to be black after absorbing all the sins of the faithful who make the pilgrimage here for the express purpose of kissing it.

Returning to Christianity, there is a metaphorical reference to a sacred stone; the Catholic Church, for example, bases its authority on the following quote by Jesus: "On this rock (also cephas in Aramaic, petra in Greek) I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it."

Indeed, the center of the Catholic world and for centuries a good chunk of Christendom, was St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, where the apostle is said to be buried. The keyhole-shaped piazza in front is decorated with an obelisk, perhaps the intermediary between all these later sacred stones and the more unfinished megaliths of prehistory.

Jerusalem and Rome were two of three places where medieval pilgrims could go in order to be absolved of all their sins. The third was Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain. This was a sacred place before the Christian Era, but its Christian significance came after

"a series of miraculous happenings: decapitated in Jerusalem with a sword by Herod Agrippa himself, his [Saint James the Great's] body was taken up by angels, and sailed in a rudderless, unattended boat to Iria Flavia in Iberia, where a massive rock closed around his relics, which were later removed to Compostela."

Is it surprising that the focal point of another sin-eating cult should prominently feature a sacred stone?

As we have previously noted in another post, boundary stones have been used to demarcate territory since the Sumerian city-states. It would also appear to mark the limits of sacred space as well: the obelisks at Egyptian temples come to mind, as do the stone circles of the Druids. A random thought is that perhaps these pagan cultures used several stones whereas in montheistic cultures, a single stone became the focal point. The theory has some merits. That stones were both centers and boundaries of these cultures gives the religious significance "nationalistic" overtones, at least in the sense of a "special" or "chosen" people, or ethnicity. Which is not so far-fetched when we consider that in many ancient cultures the king was literally a god, up until the Romans, for whome the state itself was a kind of cult.

American Freemasons use the slogan: "Making Good Men Better." This is symbolized by the rough ashlar, or stone, and the smooth ashlar, and represents central Masonic doctrine. Perhaps this is at the origin of its conflict with the Catholic church. Instead of a doctrine of original sin, which must be expiated, there is a doctrine of inherent goodness, which must be revealed, progressively. The doctrine of perfectibility, or at least an improvement upon nature, is implicit. One is reminded of the Renaissance Neoplatonism which inspired Michelangelo's sculpture: the latent, perfect form was revealed by gradually chipping away the extraneous. Or, to use another metaphor, the wild woods must be pruned in order to reveal the order inherent in creation, as in a park. Men can thus be improved, in part, by transforming nature itself.

City Planning

Which brings us back to DC, whose plan may be Masonic only insamuch as it represented an opportunity to design from scratch a rational, orderly city reflecting the idea of the clockwork universe. Unfortunately for those who'd jump all over that, none of these designers were Freemasons. But there is a city whose plan is in fact based upon Masonic symbolism and designed by a Freemason: Sandusky, Ohio Karl W. Kurtz:

As far as I have been able to check in the past several years, Sandusky is the only city in the world originally laid out on Masonic symbols.

Hector Kilbourne, the first Master of Science Lodge No. 50, Sandusky in 1818, was the surveyor who made the original plan of the city. He proceeded with well-defined ideas and painstaking care in making the original survey as well as giving names to the streets in honor of the statesmen, warriors and others prominent in the early history of the country.
Brother Kilbourne in laying out the city ran the lines or streets in order to form a true representation of the Square and Compasses. This has been clearly shown in the accompanying illustration.

The original plan of the city, as here represented, may be said to represent an open Bible, Square and Compasses in correct position to proceed with labor upon opening the Lodge.

Others have claimed for Brussels what many claim for D.C. The claims seem equally unfounded. The only Masonic symbol we have been able to find in Brussels is in the layout of the Parc de Bruxelles. English Wikipedia has a paltry entry which flat out asserts it is based upon Masonic symbolism, a claim which is repeated ad nauseum on the net by guidebooks, many of them fully respectable one, such as Frommers.

French Wikipedia has this to say:

Les symboles maçonniques que d’aucuns ont voulu voir dans ce tracé — le compas notamment — ne sont attestés par aucun document. C’est, du reste, un dessin couramment utilisé dans le tracé des jardins paysagers depuis le XVIIe siècle.

In other words:

"The symbols some have wanted to see in the plan - notably the compasses - are not attested to in any document. It is, however, a design commonly used in the layout of landscaped gardens from the seventeenth century."

Neither statement of course negates the possibility it was Masonically inspired; but short of documentary evidence it seems a bit brash to declare so bald-faced and sure, that is was. That is was a common design may only serve to bolster the conspiracy theorist's idea that them Masons are tessellating the plane all over the place. Perfecting nature, however, is a Masonic doctrine, and this is not the first time we have associated the idea of parks with a Masonic and Enlightenment ideals. Indeed, this park dates from 1775, smack dab in the middle of the Enlightenment.

The park is also, for all practical purposes, the center of the city, as it is flanked by both the National Palace and the Belgian parliament.

Interesting to note, when for political reasons the Baron de Stassart retired as Grand Master of the Grand Orient of Belgium on 16 June 1841, "6,000 people gathered in the Parc de Bruxelles to show their solidarity with him, a considerable number for this era."

Consider this photo of the principle entrance to the Parc de Bruxelles. This type of pillar topped by a fir-cone is so ubiquitous that it has become banal. But we propose that its very ubiquity is pudding proof of its resonance.

For a more detailed look at the significance of the two pillars, we suggest at least skimming the following previous posts: Pillars of the Community and I ♥ Phoenicia. Both discuss at great length the origin of dual pillars, as well as their relation to Freemasonic symbolism. In the former, we can find a brief discussions of the perrons of this part of Europe, especially that of Liège, which seems to be the mother of all perrons.

The perron was both a symbol of judicial authority and financial independence and was the place where official proclamations were read. It could literally be considered as the center of the city. Some have speculated that the fir-cone on the perron at Liège is a Gallo-Roman import, where others see it as a local, perhaps Druidic, symbol. For our discussion, it doesn't really matter, and we have already noted that the idea of a world navel marked by a worked or unworked stone is a concept spanning different cultures.

An obvious question presents itself: Why is this so?

But that's a whole 'nother bag of bananas....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meat Island

In meat-and-island-related news this week:

* CNN fell for a fake story about a 140-year old hotdog found on Coney Island frozen in a block of ice with a receipt.

* A man watching Shutter Island was stabbed in the neck with a meat thermometer in retaliation for shushing a fellow movie-goer for talking on a cellphone.

Previously on LoS:
Sausages in suitcases: A visit to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Not-so-lost tribe

The idea of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel has a long and storied history (ever hear of British Israelism, for example?)

One contender for a lost tribe are the Lemba people of South Africa:

"They do not eat pork, they practise male circumcision, they ritually slaughter their animals, some of their men wear skull caps and they put the Star of David on their gravestones."

Just another myth? The BBC reports that British scientists have confirmed the tribe's Semitic origins in the most convincing way possible--DNA tests. The tests support the Lemba oral tradition that a group of seven or so Israelite men came to the region and intermarried with the local population; there are about 80,000 Lemba today.

They also have a prized possession, a replica of the Ark of the Covenant. Which is interesting because so many legends connect the Ark with Africa, especially in Ethiopia, but this is a lot farther south.

In any event, strange that BBC is reporting this without pointing out the tests took place over a decade ago! Still, it's news to us.

You can now cock an eyebrow and say: fascinating!

Date Me and/or Die

From CNN:

"Before he was a convicted serial killer, Rodney Alcala was a winning bachelor on "The Dating Game ... Within months of his Dating Game appearance, Alcala would become a killer, prosecutors said, abducting and murdering a 12-year-old girl in 1979. Before the decade was over, Alcala would claim four more victims, according to testimony at his trial ... Though Bradshaw chose Alcala as her date, she refused to go out with him, according to published reports. Being rejected can have a profound impact on serial killers, Brown [a noted crime profiler] suggested. 'One wonders what that did in his mind,' Brown said. 'That is something he would not take too well. '"

You've got to wonder how often we might start to see stories like this in the future. Is there a correlation between whatever's wrong with people who want to be on reality-tv and whatever's wrong with people who assault others without remorse?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Aucamville Project 2: Chapelle St. Jean-Baptiste de Marguestaud

Long ago, this was an important place of pilgrimage; those with fevers used to come here on the feast day of St. John the Baptist. They had to throw some coins into the spring of Laparra [parra--"grapevine", or "climbing vine"] and leave without looking back.

The chapel was made out of baked-mud clay
[torchi--mud mixed with sand, straw and lime] in 1713 on the site of a much older chapel; it is a typical example of building methods in the area.

It was a pilgrimage site each year on 24th of June, chosen because of a nearby natural fountain. After touching or drinking the sacred water pilgrims set of for another magical spot at Beaupuy.

Local memory has it that the fountain spontaneously healed upset stomachs. This
little Lourdes has not stood the test of time, perhaps the Revolution wiped it out.

It was part of the priory of Aucamville until the 13th century. In the 16th century it became an annex of Saint Barthélemy of Aucamville.

The sacred fountain still flows in the middle of a field and serves as a water trough for the farm animals of the owner; needless to say the animals are all in excellent health.

Architecturally speaking, it is probably unique in the region.


I translated this moons ago from a pamphlet I can no longer find, so I can't credit it. The details are quite slim, but I think it's interesting in the context of our last post about the sacred spring at Aubets and the healing waters of Lourdes (which the author did not fail to notice).

See also our post on St. Fris, which recounts a legend in which a king and his valet transform seven gold coins into even greater wealth by submersing them in water on the night of St. Jean. This night also appears in relation to Aubets; a nearby hill was a site of important celebrations on this day since before the Christian era.

There are other parallels to the St. Fris legend, which suggest more concrete links between the Virgin, various saints and healing waters--St. Fris earned his moniker when his tomb became a healing spring. Fris is also linked to St. Jacques, who features prominently in the Chapel of Notre Dame de Aubets and whose symbol, incidentally, is a seashell.

Aucamville Project 1: Notre Dame des Aubets

The Chapel of Notre Dame des Aubets (from Fr. aubiers, "sapwood"), which isn't in Aucamville but the neighboring village of Le Burgaud, sits in the middle of fields which in late Summer are covered in a picturesque carpet of sunflowers. The interior is well-maintained and its door is always unlocked. When I last visited a large white candle was lit. I did my bit for the place upon leaving by sweeping out bits of leaves and flowers, but then again, my kids were probably responsible for tracking most of them in. Between taking notes and keeping them from clambering all over the altar I caught the two of them puffing away at the big white candle with tremendous glee. Kids have no respect these days.

According to a brief history inside, the chapel is situated along one of the many trails to Santiago de Compostela and is attested to in a famous 18th century map, prosaically entitled Chemins de Saint Jacques Compostelle. It sits on a route which includes Arles, Montpellier, Castres, Toulouse, Gimont and Auch. The chapel can be found just after passing Naples, where a stop was required at the Chapel of St. Mark. One then passed through the forêt des loups. The route then continued to Belleserre, where upon a hilltop one finds a cross inscribed “St. Jean PPN” (St. Jean priez-pour nous). This place was dedicated to San Jouan d’on Haoure (St. John on High) and has been sanctified ground since before the Christian era. People went there on June 24th (Nativity of John the Baptist, whose celebrations are often remnants of pre-Christian midsummer festivals) to sing hymns, picking oak twigs along the way to have them blessed. Pilgrims then continued on to visit a chapel dedicated to St. George before arriving in Auch and the cathedral dedicated to Mary.

The chapel originated in 1254, dedicated to Notre Dame de Onez under the protection of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, aka the Hospitallers. A spring was located at the spot and as such it may have been a sacred place since long before--much as the hilltop in Belleserre. 250 years later reconstruction was carried out by Chevalier Odet de Ganges, authorized to dedicate the new chapel to the Trinity and Virgin of Compassion. At this time a chaplain set up residence. Ho ho, alas our old pal the Revolution came to town and in 1789 the chapel and the chaplain’s house were razed. A half-century later, in 1845, another reconstruction was undertaken. It wasn’t until quite recently that the current edifice was erected. The earlier building was again razed, except for the belltower, and built anew for a cost of almost almost half a million francs.

This history of periodic reconstruction is interesting for a site that today is quite literally in the middle of nowhere and attests to the perception of sanctity of the place. The vitality of the cult may also be seen today in the number of ex-votos found in the chapel as well as by the fact that Notre Dame des Aubets is crowned. According to the Order of Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1987):

“ should be noted that it is proper to crown only those images to which the faithful come with a confidence in the Mother of the Lord so strong that the images are of great renown and their sites centers of genuine liturgical cultus and of religious vitality.”

The iconography of the church is somewhat standard for the region. In addition to St. Jacques de Compostela one can find icons of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, Saint Germaine of Pibrac and Jeanne d'Arc. These three saints, along with Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, have always struck me for their similarities. They represent the pious little girl, cruelly suffering yet remaining steadfast in her faith. As Thérèse and Germaine are also associated with miracles involving roses, they also seem to be stand-ins for or even manifestations of the Virgin Mary. At least mediators between the faithful masses and the very busy Virgin....

There is also a sculpture of Our Lady of Lourdes outside, which is quite common for churches and chapels in the south of France. Given that Aubets was also the site of a spring, the presence here of such an icon may be a reference to it, thus linking Lourdes with Aubets. As previously meantioned, a number of ex-voto plaques can be found attesting to the place as one where favors are sought and granted. We will find this to be true of other places in the area as well. Suffice it to say for now that springs have been sacred places since well before the Christian era and thus Lourdes and Aubets are merely the continuation of an ancient tradition of healing waters.
Another pair of icons in this place gave me pause. To the left of the altar, one finds a small statue of Joseph and Jesus, who can be identified by the globe in his hand. On the right there is another pair, a woman and child. At first this struck me as very odd until I realized I was seeing St. Anne and a young Virgin Mary, identified by her crown of stars. What struck me as so odd is that in this combination, we seem to be looking at contemporaries; why display Jesus as an infant with his father, and facing them his mother as a child? It actually wouldn't be so bizarre, as some sources indicate Jospeh was a widower and significantly older than Mary. But then again, he wouldn't have had Jesus on his arm in this case.

I would love to go hog wild and posit that what we are seeing is Jesus and a sister, but alas, that would reveal that I'd been reading (as I had been at the time) too many books inspired by Holy Blood Holy Grail! But Jesus did apparently have brothers and sisters, collectively called the desposyni by 2nd/3rd c. Christian writer Sextus Julius Africanus. According to the Gospel of the Hebrews, some of these desposyni had positions of honor in the church as late as this time. Unfortunately, this gospel is lost. There is also confusion as to exact family link these desposyni had with Jesus; the terms used in the book could be "brother" but it could also be "half-brother" or even "cousin." We'd definitely like to know more on the subject.

Anyway, a calm little refuge in the middle of the fields. The iconography is redolent of St. Jacques and vegetal motifs, such as floral crosses. The spring, the pre-Christian holy sites in the area and the quite blatant celebration of plants and flowers may indicate a pagan provenance.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Belle Paule of Viguier

This was an early translation I did; the translation is quite free and in many ways is more of an adaptation of an article originally found at the (apparently) now defunct Author Le Disciple gave his blessing for publishing it. It originally appeared on my old website but eventually all that stuff will migrate to LoS.

Paule of Viguier was widely considered to be the most beautiful woman of her time. The Maréchal de Montmorency called her “one of the marvels of the universe.” She went about the streets with her face hidden in order to avoid attracting unruly crowds.

She was in love with her cousin, Baron Philippe de Fontenille, but her parents preferred that she marry a member of parliament from Raynauget. He died young, leaving a considerable fortune to his companion, and thus the most beautiful woman in France was able to marry her true love.

She died just shy of one hundred years old.

“Accompanied by two chaperons, ugly next to such a marvel, arrives a young woman all of twenty years, holding her dress in two hands so that it doesn’t drag upon the ground. Her hazel, almond-shaped eyes fix upon the line of an imaginary horizon, not out of pride, nor to ignore the low people, but done so as not to add to public disorder if she happens to rest her eyes on someone in particular. Despite the ample cloth of her dress, one divines the forms of Venus.

She walks, she glides—perhaps a little haughty—but she must be. People find themselves watching her pass as if she were a Madonna on a procession day. She is passing, she has passed, she moves farther away. It is finished.”

Posterity has unfortunately not left us with any portraits of her. The one on this page can be found in the Mairie of Toulouse in the “Salle des Illustres.” [Painted by Henri Rachou in 1882] Does it reflect the truth? One never knows. Her charm and beauty seems to have run in the family; her mother, born of Lancefoc, was already greatly admired, as all of her six children would later be.

A contemporary of Paule, Gabriel de Minut, seneschal of Rouergue, described with exactitude the complete anatomy of her beauty in a book entitled “De la Beauté” (“On Beauty”) which is comprised of “The Paulegraphy,” an intimate geography, published in Lyon in 1587 after the death of her husband, Baron de Fontenille. Did De Minut want it believed that he had received the favors of a woman known for her virtue, or did he in fact chance to observe, perhaps through a door slightly ajar, the body of this beauty? No one knows, but his sentences describe at length Paule de Viguier.

“Her forehead was large and harmonious, her hair was of golden blond, falling in curls over her shoulders.”

“Underneath this, a nose which doesn’t breath hard or wrinkle, and no matter how hot or cold it gets never changes color.... A nose so well-formed and clean that it is not necessary to offer her a handkerchief, by way of being kind, even if in the warmest, stillest summer...."[1]

“God placed a mouth which eclipses in beauty all the mouths that were ever forged in the forge where mouths are forged.”

“....a beautiful neck full and white, polished and neat and where there is nothing at all of what is commonly called “d'abreuvoir de pigeon”[2]

“I strongly and firmly maintain that the Pauline breasts have nothing to do with the Floral[3] breasts and if the breasts resemble two beautiful balls of ivory, in the middle of which sits a beautiful little strawberry, there is neither blossoming bush nor bloom in the vicinity which is not indebted to the breast yet nevertheless approaches but far from so perfect a beauty.”

“These beautiful and round, white and blushing, firm and solid and strong, gentle breasts have to defend them two beautiful and long, strong and firm branches of arms.”

“The door by which infants leave: As we have said many times, this region is inaccessible to all except one. I cannot say that the will to approach there does not sometimes seize some presumptuous, timorous spirits but it is only to have stories to tell their mothers.”

Thus you have a description that leaves you with the impression that Lord Gabriel de Minut knew the Pauline anatomy intimately. That is, perhaps, what he wanted you to believe. But he himself also declared: “There is yet to be born the man who can boast of having assailed the fort of bashful chastity of our loyal and worthy Paule, who was not immediately and bravely pushed back.”

The thought that such a beauty could belong to one sole man made the chroniclers suspicious. Perhaps fabulists. One among them recounts that on August 1, 1533, François I made his entry into Toulouse and was received by Jean Bernuy in his private residence. The king wanted to pay homage to the man who had guaranteed his ransom while he was prisoner of Charles Quint, King of Spain. In honor of his illustrious guest, de Bernuy gave a splendid party. That is the historical truth. But this chronicler adds that “la belle Paule” danced before the king, scantily clad.

This story is dubious, at best. This was a familial gathering and she was only fifteen. Her virtue was legend and she has been called “the honor of Toulouse and of her century.” One poet even found an almost perfect anagram for Paule de Viguier: “la pure vertu guide”: “Pure virtue guides.”

We owe it to François I that her nickname became famous. While he was received by the Capitouls, they lavished upon him the best welcome possible to make him forget the low taxes they had brought to the kingdom due to bad harvests. Upon his arrival François was told about one who—dressed in white and wrapped in a blue scarf—was to give him a bouquet of flowers, the keys to the city and recite compliments in French verse. Those who overheard him remember that François I, perhaps not quite remembering her family name, responded in a loud and strong voice: “Ah! La belle Paule?” The expression stuck and one no longer spoke of her as anything but the “Belle Paule.”

Long from settling into the role of an admirable beauty, she used her reputation and fortune to open the doors to her private residence to poets, writers and singers. It was the height of the Renaissance and Toulouse needed a little art and finesse because it had long stayed deaf to changes coming from the outside. Paule de Viguier contributed to the evolution of this mentality and the renewal of the arts in the city which was so dear to her. Perhaps she was too successful; according to legend, the Capitouls of Toulouse, under popular pressure, had to oblige her to appear at regular intervals at her balcony to calm the heated spirits unable to freely admire her otherwise.

When in 1564 Catherine de Medici came on an official visit to Toulouse she was piqued by curiosity and came to visit Belle Paule. Some wonder if it was her brother—who held high functions at the court with Nostradamus, doctor of the king who sojourned in Toulouse—who spoke of the admirable Paule to the queen mother? Catherine said of her: “Her beauty is well above her reputation.”

Born in 1518, Paule de Viguier died in 1610.

Not much is written of her death but some point before the Revolution, a mummy shown in the vault of the Cordeliers was said to be the body of la Belle Paule. Far from this indignity, she was placed among the number of the four marvels of Toulouse: “La bello Paulo, San-Sarni, Le Bazacle et Matali.[4]

Photo from the Mairie of Toulouse

[1] A nose which is "si beau et si net, que le mouchoir n'y est requis que pour lui donner, par une façon de faire fort gentille, en temps d'été le plus chaud, un peu de vent, plutôt que pour en tirer tant soit peu d'ordures et vilenies ." I can't figure out how to translate this.....

[2] I have found this exact phrase at only one place on the internet, and that is the site that this text is translated and adapted from. Abreuvoir generally translates to drinking trough. I suppose the term here is a weird metaphor for a form or movement of the neck. A bird’s head wobbling up and down at the trough? Or perhaps in form an overly concave neck ? I’m befuddled.

[3] Flora, mistress of Pompey, was renowned for the perfection of her figure.

[4] La Belle Paule, Saint-Sernin basilica, the Bazacle road and Matali (French violinist)


For other manifestations of the mythical feminine in Toulouse see:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Les Perforeilles

Our friends at Le Grand Os are sponsoring a weekend of "poetry readings" from 11-13 March at Theatre Le Hangar in Toulouse. That's in quotes because this will be more than goofballs reciting lame verse. There will be improvised music, weird dance-theater, pneumatic poetry, insolent jigs, slightly menacing paper gyrations and perhaps a glimpse of tit.

"Perforeilles" is a portmanteau of perforé and oreilles, which is to say perforated ears. Not that they will be of course. But your eyes may bulge at least once. Dance troupe Pasina et Cie (nepotic plug) will strut their stuff on the 12th. Poet Sébastien Lespinasse blew my mind when I saw him last. A stuttering whirl-a-gig of noise and wordplay, "poet" seems to be an injustice.

The French will already have their plugs and blogs and most of you LoS fans won't be anywhere near this event.

This is for the anglophone resident of "la ville rose" Googling "what to do in Toulouse" in hopes you'll come across this and take an interest. Yeah you, mofo! This here's some bona-fide French avant-garde weirdness to grok. Very nice people to boot. Artistes. Sippin' strong coffee and going unshaven. The wimmin-folk too.

Just kidding. It's really good stuff and if by chance you stumble across this and it's relevant, by all means, throw down some coin and take a gander. If you're into innovative and serious art by talented people with a sense of humour, you'll dig it. Promise.

If it's irrelevant to you, just send me the coin instead. I'll spend it on booze and dope.

Tarifs : 7/5 € la soirée – 15 € pass 3 jours
conférence du samedi 19h gratuite / bar et petite restauration sur place
Théâtre le Hangar - 11 rue des Cheminots - 31500 Toulouse
Renseignements et réservations : 05 61 48 38 29