Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Fast of Ṭeveth and the non-end of the World

Jewish date:  10 Ṭeveth 5773 (Parashath Wayḥi).

Today’s holidays:  Fast of Ṭeveth (Judaism), Fourth Sunday of Advent (Roman Catholicism), Saturnalia and Larentalia (Roman religion), Feast Day of St. John Belushi (Church of the SubGenius), HumanLight (Secular Humanism).


1) Today is the Fast of Ṭeveth, which commemorates the siege on Yerushalayim.  More information can be found in “Asara B'Tevet” and “Fast of 10th of Tevet Marks Siege of Jerusalem”.  Needless to say, because of the fast, I am not particularly active today and will not wax poetic on anything.

2) Friday was supposed to be the end of the World according to various New Agers and a Christian sect known as “Almighty God”.  Also needless to say, these people were wrong.  The articles on the “Mayan apocalypse” did not stop, so today you get a followup.

Peace and have an easy fast.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Still waiting for the end of the World

Jewish date:  8 Ṭeveth 5773 (Parashath Wayyiggash).

Today’s holidays:  Feast Day of Peter Canisius (Roman Catholicism), the end of the World (predicted by New Agers), Winter Solstice (Neopaganism, Thelema), Divalia (Roman religion)


I did post yesterday on the predicted end of the World which is supposed to be happening today.  However, I have been deluged with a large number of relevant articles on the “Mayan apocalypse”, with reactions ranging from paranoia to commercialism.
Finally, I would like to round things out with a bit of relevant religious humor.  A while back there was a cartoon from Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:

This cartoon has been recaptioned into something relevant to today:

Peace, Shabbath shalom, and be happy this is not the end of the World.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Happy end of the b’ak’tun!

Jewish date:  7 Ṭeveth 5773 (Parashath Wayyiggash).

Today’s holidays:  Thursday of the Third Week of Advent (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Cheech/St. Chong (Church of the SubGenius), Mother Night (Neopaganism), Saturnalia (Roman religion).


I apologize for having not posted for some time now.  I have been busy with other matters, such as computer programming, and certain things have not been my highest priority.  (Trust me:  you do not want to hear me play the mezzo arpeggione right now, I have practiced so little since ’Elul.  It sounds like I am trying to torture my instrument to death.)  This week I have made a good deal of progress on a review of Neopagan material, but I still need to write about another two books.  (And after that I need to look into and write about Discordianism, the Church of the SubGenius, The Secret, older magical materials, and so on ad infinitum…)

In the meantime, I cannot ignore that many people are worried that tomorrow is the end of the World (as we know it, at least).  I strongly doubt this is correct.  While few think that this world will last forever, many have predicted its imminent demise in recorded history, and so far they have all been wrong.  I see no reason to think that the current crop of doomsayers are correct.  Rather than wax poetic  about why the current predictions of impending destruction are baseless, I am going to refer you to some good articles which explain why:

Those who want to understand why people predict the end of the World may wish to read “Psychology Reveals the Comforts of the Apocalypse” by Daisy Yuhas.

I have also found a number of articles detailing the unusual behavior of people expecting the end of the World:

I hope to post again next week.  Until then, please follow the advice written on the cover of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:  “Don’t panic.”



Thursday, October 4, 2012

A leap into the abyss of unreason: a review of the work of Gerald Gardner

Jewish date:  18 Tishri 5733.

Today’s holidays:  Ḥol hamMo‘edh Sukkoth (Judaism), Feast Day of Francis of Assisi (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Buster Keaton (Church of the SubGenius), Ieiunium Cereris (Roman religion).

A leap into the abyss of unreason:  a review of the work of Gerald Gardner

Consider the items reviewed so far in this series on Neopaganism:

1) Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches by Charles Leland (Leland; Adelman “Review of Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches”):  A purported text of an Italian pagan witch religion opposed to Christianity.

2) The Witch-Cult in Western Europe and The God of the Witches by Margaret Alice Murray (Murray “The Witch-Cult in Western Europe A Study in Anthropology”; Murray The God of the Witches; Adelman “Review of the Witch-Cult in Western Europe and the God of the Witches”):  Works by an historian claiming the persistence of a pagan religion in Europe and its persecution by Christianity.

3) The Golden Bough by James Frazer (Frazer; Adelman “Review of the Golden Bough”):  A multivolume work by an anthropologist on the workings of magic and religion, with an emphasis on the sacred king story.

4) The White Goddess by Robert Graves (Graves; Adelman “I Spit on Robert Graves: A Review of Robert Graves’s the White Goddess”) (OK, so the review as written two years ago, but it is totally relevant):  Work by a poet waxing poetic on the “poetic theme” of the sacred king.

The scholarship in all these works is problematic at best, and anyone who is sufficiently rational will feel wary about making use of any of them.  A rational person is going to think about the provenance of his/her materials, whether there is any paper trail for them, whether the claims in them make any sense historically, whether the internal logic is solid.  And when considering adopting a new religion, he/she is going to seriously consider the basis for a possible new belief system.  He/she is going to consider what the evidence is for the reality of the religion.  What evidence is that its gods exist?  What evidence is there that its claimed history is correct?  Does it make testable, nontrivial predictions?

But not all of us are even vaguely rational.  Gerald Gardner, the subject of this review, never had any formal education.  Though curious and interested in anthropology and archaeology, he never seems to have learned critical thinking skills.  He lived in a number of different places in his life, and he was exposed to a good deal of magic (ritual and ceremonial, not the tongue-in-cheek kind), such as the Ordo Templi Orientis, Spiritualism, and various local magic traditions—and he most sincerely believed that magic really works.  And thus Gardner uncritically synthesizes Leland, Murray, Frazer, and Graves and mixes in whatever else suits him, making the leap from a hypothetical witchcraft religion to a real one which later became known as Wicca—and never really considering that he is being irrational.  Like pseudoscientists in general, he seems to think there is scientific support for his views.  Gardner claims to have been initiated into a secret pagan witchcraft group, but whether or not this actually happened, he certainly is under a lot of other influence.

High Magic’s Aid:  the prequel to Wicca:  Strange as it may sound, witchcraft was illegal in Britain well into the 20th century, and anyone daring to practice it who did not wish to be arrested had to do so in secret.  Before the government collectively changed its mind and permitted witchcraft, Gardner published an historical (or pseudo-historical) novel, High Magic’s Aid (Gardner High Magic’s Aid), which prefigures much of what Gardner later taught and practiced openly:
  1. This book is blatantly anti-Christian with a special anti-clerical emphasis, viewing Christianity as corrupt and a money-making scheme.  The hatred of Christianity is so uncompromising that anyone who is seriously Christian has no redeeming features.  Emphasized is the worship of saints, and downplayed is the idea that a Christian might ever pray directly to God.  Christian clergy are depicted practically as magicians; they are the only people with knowledge of magic, even though they are not supposed to practice it.  Christianity is depicted as completely against pleasure, sex, and even cleanliness.  Christianity is depicted as anti-intellectual—despite having an educational system—and really only concerned with death.  Scripture is blamed for Christian barbarities (thus showing a gross ignorance thereof).  There is also some rather painful lecturing in the book.  Readers should expect to find things prefiguring Atlas Shrugged (Adelman “Faking Reality: A Moral Review of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged”; Rand) and His Dark Materials (Pullman The Amber Spyglass; Pullman The Golden Compass; Pullman The Subtle Knife)—and no form of Christianity ever practiced by real humans.
  2. Cribbed from Murray, witches in this story are a pagan cult quietly surviving, known about by the Church, yet never mentioned openly.  These witches are polytheists, worshipping the “Old Gods”, such as Artemis and her daughter “Ardrea”.  (Your humble blogger does not remember an Ardrea in the stories of the ancient Greek religion, and doing a quick search on-line turned up nothing on her.)
  3. Witchcraft is depicted as pro-pleasure.  The Church thus purportedly opposed witchcraft out of fear the people might turn to it instead.  (The idea that Christians might believe that Christianity is the truth and thus worthy of being believed and practiced somehow never comes up.)
  4. Various practices which are standard in Gardnerian Wicca are depicted:  Scourging (not enough to draw blood or cause much pain).  Herbalism.  The ritual of Drawing Down the Moon, in which a High Priestess can reportedly become inhabited by the Goddess.  Sabats (regular meetings of witches).  A woman on the altar at the great sabat.  Fertility cult practices.  Ritual nudity.  Astrology.  Not bringing animal sacrifices or using blood in rituals.  The ritual sanctification of magical tools, not to mention the standard set of tools themselves.  A witch priesthood.  Ritual groping (which is something your humble blogger cannot make up).  And much of the liturgy.
There is one big difference between the magic of High Magic’s Aid and that of Gardnerian Wicca that anyone should notice:  despite the paganism of these fictional witches, the magic is transparently Christian trying to rip off Judaism and the Qabbalah.  Gardner’s characters constantly make use of Jewish/Hebrew names and attributes of YHWH in their magic, not to mention verses from the Hebrew Bible, often with no real idea what the terms they use mean.  This is not merely religiously insensitive; it is completely illogical.  If Judaism or Christianity is correct, the Deity cannot be expected to give aid to anyone acting in ways He finds offensive (e.g., writing verses from His scripture on the floor and calling out His names while naked), especially those who do not believe in Him (e.g, pagans).  If this fictional witchcraft is correct, the magicians, who are all either pagan or who convert to paganism, are still effectively calling on the god of their enemies, which is still theologically a very bad idea if they want to get help.  By the time witchcraft became legal in England and Gardner went public, even the irrational Gardner seems to have figured out this makes no sense and changed his rituals accordingly.

The founding documents:  Once witchcraft became legal, Gardner produced a number of works without any pretense that he was writing fiction.  The most famous of these is The Book of Shadows, which is primarily a liturgical manual.  Purportedly it was handed down to him from the group that initiated him, but one of his high priestesses, Doreen Valiente, admitted that she and Gardner had written parts of it, and other parts are known to have been copied from preexisting sources, such as Aradia, Freemasonry rituals, the poetry of Rudyard Kipling, The Key of Solomon (Mathers), and the writings of the occultist Aleister Crowley.  The Book of Shadows was supposed to be secret, but it was leaked and has been published in various venues, including The Gardnerian Book of Shadows (Gardner The Gardnerian Book of Shadows), A Witches Bible Compleat (Farrar and Farrar), and Witchcraft:  A Multidenominational Wicca Bible (Wilborn).  Besides rituals (discussed below), The Book of Shadows contains instructions on how to remain hidden and what to do when captured by Christian witch-hunters.

Published publicly were Witchcraft Today (Gardner Witchcraft Today) in 1954 and The Meaning of Witchcraft (Gardner The Meaning of Witchcraft) in 1959.  The emphases in these are more historical and theological.

History (or rather pseudo-history):  There is an aura of validity and prestige in age.  Many new religious movements try to add to their own validity and prestige by misrepresenting themselves as an older religion.  Gardner pulls the mother of all age misrepresentations by claiming the continuous worship of a horned god back to the Paleolithic based on figurines.  (As if anyone could be completely sure of what anyone living before there was writing was thinking.)  This Gardner plugs into Murray’s claims of crypto-paganism and Christian persecution of witches, totally failing to deal credibly with the plausibility problems; everything which fits the hypothesis he considers correct, and everything which does not fit he blames on Christian misunderstanding.  Never does it occur to him that one would expect at least a few authors of witch trial accounts would figure out that that there is a difference between Satanism and paganism.  Gardner also buys totally into Graves’s matriarchal pseudo-history and his business of a White Goddess and sacred kings.  He also tries rolling various ancient European paganisms into his “Old Religion”, despite blatant contradictions.  (E.g., Gardner’s Witchcraft is against animal and human sacrifice, unlike historical paganisms.)

Side note:  Gardner also buys into Murray’s belief in fairies, only he identifies them as Greek pagans.

Theology:  Mixing Graves, Murray, and Frazier, Gardner is a polytheist.  Besides accepting that there are local gods (as would be expected from historical paganisms) and having some idea of the non-exclusivity of religions, he believes in the Horned God Cernunnos and the Triple Goddess Aradia.  These deities are not all-powerful gods like YHWH, the Trinity, or ’Allāh, but rather lesser beings.  The Triple Goddess and the Horned God are defied aspects of nature.  They are also flagrantly sexual to an extent that mainstream Abrahamic believers consider totally alien.  Unlike most Abrahamic deities, the Triple Goddess and the Horned God are not all-powerful, and they actually need human help.  This is where ritual comes in.

Ritual and magic:  In mainstream Abrahamic religions, rituals, such as prayer and sacrifice, are (normally) pure communication; the worshipper hopes that his/her god will look favorably upon him/her, and only the naïve or foolish would think that their prayers could actually force their god to do something.  Gardnerian ritual, on the other hand, is magical in nature and meant to accomplish something beyond communication.  Part of the ritual is simply trying to work magic towards practical ends, such as healing and helping people.  The group rituals are thus geared for creating the emotional states in a whole coven at once that magicians believe are necessary to work magic effectively and thus magnify the effects.

Another large part of Gardnerian ritual may be described as a mystery cult.


The mystery of Wiccan ritual is the passing of the seasons and the lifecycle of crops.


This mystery is symbolized by the divine version of the sacred king story, which, as you will remember, is a love story gone horribly wrong:  god meets goddess, god and goddess fall in love, goddess lames god, goddess has god killed by his other self, goddess gives birth to the same god, thus bringing the story back to the start.  (And, no, that is not a typo.  Like the cycle of the seasons, the sacred king cycle is a closed loop.)  Gardnerian ritual takes celebrants through the entire sacred king story—including the whole business of ritual murder—over the course of the year.  Members of a Gardnerian coven play out the parts of Aradia and Cernunnos’s various aspects ceremonially.

The Horned God and the Triple Goddess are not merely male and female, but lovers (or rather a god in love with a goddess with serious relationship issues).  This theology is reflected in practice.  Part of this is symbolic, with all the ritual tools being either “male” or “female”.  But much of it is quite literal.  Whenever possible, Gardnerians prefer to have all religious interactions, both ritual and pedagogical, be between a male and a female.  Group rituals are led by a high priest and a high priestess, and there is a strong preference for covens to consist of equal numbers of men and women.  (Actually priests and priestesses; the priesthood is universal for the initiated.)  More extreme—and extremely alien to Abrahamic believers—is ritual sex (the “sacred marriage” or “great rite”) performed by celebrants representing the Horned God and Triple Goddess.  This also fits in with the witch-trial accounts of witches mating with the Devil, subsequently retconned as a representative of Cernunnos.  This may be performed symbolically by inserting an athame (ritual knife) into a goblet—or it may be performed quite literally.  Consistent with this sexuality and borrowing straight from Aradia and the witch-trial accounts, Gardnerian ritual is supposed to be performed naked.  (And, yes, outdoor ceremonies in England during the winter are at best difficult.)

Also:  High Magic’s Aid borrows from the Black Mass of the paranoid Christian fantasy of Satanism by depicting a woman on the altar at the great sabat.  In the third-degree initiation as performed, it is proclaimed that woman was the original altar (Wilborn 184; Farrar and Farrar, vol. 2, p. 36).  To someone from an Abrahamic religion, this is utterly incomprehensible, as for such people an altar is an inanimate object on which offerings are burned.  This is, however, likely the origin of a LaVeyan Satanist claim that altars were originally flesh and only later stone (LaVey 135).

Hebrew, Judaism, and the Qabbalah:  Though Gardner stops being quite as blatantly obtuse as he was in High Magic’s Aid about Hebrew, Judaism, and the Qabbalah, he continues to botch anything Judaic and pretend it somehow supports his beliefs.  Standard Jewish theology (and frequently heretical Jewish theologies as well) accepts the existence of one and only one god, YHWH, also known as ’Elohim.  Prefiguring The Hebrew Goddess (Patai), Gardner completely botches this most basic fact of Jewish theology and tries to rationalize in a goddess as well.  He misunderstands the divine name ’Elohim as being a feminine plural noun, claiming it to be a plural of the divine name ’Eloahh, which he misinterprets as being a feminine noun.

Tangent:  Hebrew grammar lesson which may fly above the heads of those who have never studied Hebrew:  The feminine form of ’el (“power”, “god”) is ’elah.  The he’ on the end of ’Eloahh is part of the root, notated by the mappiq in the he’’Eloahh, not having a feminine ending or being one of those few feminine nouns without a feminine ending, is thus a masculine noun.  ’Elohim is not a true plural but an honorific, and it is normally treated as a masculine singular noun.

Gardner is unfazed by the simple fact that there is zero support in the Hebrew Bible for duotheism.  He actually takes Graves’s delusional rewriting of the Hebrew Bible seriously.  He claims that the duotheism was symbolized by Yakhin and Bo‘az, two columns at the door of the First Temple and that “wicked priests” perverted the concept of “Gods of Love” into “a solitary God of hate and vengeance” and falsified the Hebrew Bible.  (He thus blindly accepts an old anti-Semitic misunderstanding of the Hebrew Bible and is unaware of any verses dealing with love and forgiveness.)  Gardner also makes the ludicrous charge that Jewish monotheists were opposed to paganism due considering beauty evil.  (Hint:  beauty is never identified as evil in the Hebrew Bible.)

Gardner in particular tries to find support for Witchcraft in the Qabbalah, of which he shows no more understanding.  He claims that the Qabbalists adore ‘Ashtoreth—an ancient Semitic pagan goddess.  Gardner also attributes the alleged falsification of the Hebrew Bible to Ḥizqiyyahu (Hezekiah) and claims the Qabbalists believe this and worship the Goddess.  These claims are completely unlike anything your humble blogger has ever read in Qabbalistic source material or books about the Qabbalah by people who know what they are talking about; if Gardner did not fabricate these claims himself, he probably copied them from someone who was lying or delusional.  Gardner is also completely unaware that the Qabbalah is rooted in and is dedicated to justifying Judaism; as such, trying to rip its constructs out of context and pretend they support another ideology is grossly dishonest.  (For information on the Qabbalah and why its theology does not realistically qualify as duotheistic, as well as why duotheism is hopelessly incompatible with Judaism in general, see “The goddess who never existed: a review of Raphael Patai’s The Hebrew Goddess” (Adelman “The Goddess Who Never Existed: A Review of Raphael Patai’s the Hebrew Goddess”).)

Despite trying to reduce the amount of Judaic material in his rituals, Gardner does not eliminate it altogether.  In a first-degree initiation (1949 version), a priest closes a doorway saying, “Agla, Azoth, Adonai”, and anyone who knows anything about Judaism will recognize ’Adhonay as one of the names of YHWH.  In another version of the first-degree initiation, the initiator is supposed to make the sign of the “Cabalistic Cross”, which is groping the new recruit’s forehead, breast, right shoulder, left shoulder, and breast again while saying “Ateh Malkhuth ve-Geburah ve-Gedulah le-olam”, intending to mean “Thou art the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever” (Farrar and Farrar, vol. 2, p. 16; Wilborn 160).  This is bad Hebrew and bad Qabbalah.  If the Hebrew was correct, it would be “’Attah Malkhuth uGhevurah uGhedhullah le‘olam”.  The Qabbalah is wrong on two counts.  The first is that the symbolism of the Sefiroth is wrong.  The ten Sefiroth correspond to different parts of the human body, or more specifically the bodies of a man and his wife.  Ḥesedh/Gedhullah corresponds to the man’s right arm, Gevurah corresponds to the man’s left arm, and Malkhuth corresponds to his wife.  The second count is that the Sefiroth are organs of YHWH, not humans, so the identification is implausible.  In the rite for the summer solstice, Michael (= Mikka’el) is invoked as “the Power of the Sun” (Farrar and Farrar, vol. 1, p. 101), even though he is actually an angel.

Gardner thinks grimoires attributed to Shelomoh (Solomon) are genuine, no matter how out of character with Judaism they are.

Gardner also claims the witches have a tradition that their ancestors gave Jews shelter during persecutions and learned the Qabbalah from them.  He also claims the existence in the old days of crypto-Jewish “wizards”.  Your humble blogger is unaware of any corresponding Jewish traditions of contact with crypto-pagans or crypto-Jewish magicians.

Syncretism:  Gardner tries to reach back to a pan-European paganism, and in doing so he rolls together a number of different historical paganisms together to achieve something close to duotheism (belief in two gods).  In The Book of Shadows, as part of the Charge of the Goddess, Aradia is said to have been worshipped  as “Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, Cerridwen, Diana, Arianrhod, Bride, and by many other names” (Farrar and Farrar, vol. 1, p. 42; Wilborn 121), as if all these goddesses were really all the same.  (Your humble blogger kids you not, even though Artemis is an eternally virgin huntress and Aphrodite a polyandrist.)

A consequence of trying to roll together a number of different historical European paganisms into a single religion is that who Aradia and Cernunnos are is a bit hazy.  Aradia is supposed to be the Earth, but at the same time she is the Moon and the “Star Goddess”.  Cernunnos is an underworld deity, but at the same time he is the Sun.

Morality:  Gardner lays out very little in the way of a moral code.  Even the famous Wiccan Rede (“An it harm none, do what ye will”) does not go back to Gardner.  Gardner thinks of witches as good and benevolent, not interested in hurting others—the sort of people that one might argue need regulation the least.   The rules that Gardner does lay down in the Old Laws deal with the regulation of covens, keeping Witchcraft secret, and magical professional ethics, not how witches should lead their lives when magic and the coven are not impacted.  In the second-degree initiation, the initiate is told that whatever he/she does will return to him/her threefold—but it does not mean that any action is strictly prohibited, only that one must face the consequences of what one does.  Drawing on Murray and Leland, Gardner embraces what is arguably an anti-Christian approach to morality, or rather an approach to morality opposed to a version of Christianity which probably never existed.  Gardner sees Christianity as anti-pleasure, anti-sex, anti-beauty, and anti-life,  and correspondingly he sees Witchcraft as being pro-pleasure, pro-sex, pro-beauty, and pro-life.  Someone who is opposed to a Christianity he thinks is overly controlling and restrictive (despite Paul’s antinomianism) is not the sort of person to lay down inviolable rules.  What Aradia wants from her worshippers, as noted in the Charge of the Goddess, is for her followers to enjoy themselves.  What does not affect that seems of little consequence to her.

Theological rating:  F.



Adelman, Aaron Solomon. “Faking Reality: A Moral Review of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.”  (2012).  [].
---. “The Goddess Who Never Existed: A Review of Raphael Patai’s the Hebrew Goddess.”  (2010).  [].
---. “I Spit on Robert Graves: A Review of Robert Graves’s the White Goddess.”  (2010).  [].
---. “Review of Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches.”  (2012).  [].
---. “Review of the Golden Bough.”  (2012).  [].
---. “Review of the Witch-Cult in Western Europe and the God of the Witches.”  (2012).  [].

Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. A Witches Bible Compleat. New York: Magickal Childe Publishing, Inc., 1984. Print.

Frazer, James George. The Golden Bough. 1922.  [].

Gardner, Gerald B. The Gardnerian Book of Shadows. 1949-1961. [].

Graves, Robert. The White Goddess:  A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. Amended and enlarged ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1948. Print.

LaVey, Anton Szandor. The Satanic Bible. New York: Avon Books, 1969. Print.

Leland, Charles Godfrey. Aradia, or, the Gospel of the Witches. 1899. [].

Mathers, S. Liddell MacGregor. The Key of Solomon the King (Clavicula Salomonis).  1888.  [].

Murray, Margaret Alice. The God of the Witches. 2001.  [].
---. The Witch-Cult in Western Europe A Study in Anthropology.  1921. [].

Patai, Raphael. The Hebrew Goddess. Jewish Folklore and Anthropology. 3rd enlarged ed. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1990. Print.

Pullman, Philip. The Amber Spyglass. His Dark Materials, Book 3. New York: Ballantine Books, 2000. Print.
---. The Golden Compass. Scholastic Children’s Books, 1995. His Dark Materials, Book 1. First Ballantine Books ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997. Print.
---. The Subtle Knife. Scholastic Children’s Books, 1997. His Dark Materials, Book 2. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997. Print.

Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. New York:  Random House, 1957. New York: Signet, 1957. Print.

Wilborn, Bruce K. Witches Craft:  A Multidenominational Wicca Bible. Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books, 2005. Print.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

מחאת בני עקיבא למען הר הבית (עם המשטרה אדישה) • Bene ‘Aqiva’ Temple Mount protest (with the police apathetic)

תאריך יהודי:  ה׳ אלול תשע״ב (פרשת שופטים).

Jewish date:  5 ’Elul 5772 (evening) (Parashath Shofeṭim).

החגים של היום:  מלכהות של מרים (הקתוליות הרומית), יום החג של סנט איגנציוס ריילי (כנסיית תת־הגאון).

Today’s holidays:  Queenship of Mary (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Ignatius Reilly (Church of the SubGenius).



הייתי בהפגנת הר בית ביום שני. (המשטרה עדיין גרועה כשזה בחופש דת ליהודים בהר הבית.) המחאה הזאת הייתה יוצאת דופן בכך שהיא אורגנה על ידי קבוצת נוער בני עקיבא. היו גם הרבה מצלמות שם, של צוותות חדשות ושל משתתפים.

I was at a Temple Mount protest on Monday.  (The police still suck when it comes to freedom of religion for Jews on the Temple Mount.)  This protest was unusual in that it was organized by a youth group, Bene ‘Aqiva’.  There were also a lot of cameras there, both of news crews and by participants.

אולי שמעתם שהמשטרה, עובדת קשה למען למחוק את כל התקדמות שאולי הם עשו, מתייגת כל מחאה בסיסמה: ״הר הבית בידינו״ (במקור נאמר על ידי מוטה גור בהתאחדות ירושלים בשנת 1967), שוקלת את זה ״הסתה״.  (כאילו שהמוסלמים צריכים הסתה להתנהג רע.  כשהם ממציאים דברים שלא קיימים להתלונן עליהם, ״הסתה״ היא רק אמתלה ולא סיבה.)  המשטרה הגידה לילדים לא להשתמש בסיסמה.  כמה שלטים הובאו שלא היה נוחים למשטרה, והוויכוח היה קולני, יותר מדי.  תודה לה׳, המשטרה לא עשתה דבר בתגובה ל״הסתה״ הזאת.  מצד השני, אף על פי שהיו כמה שוטרים בקרבת מקום, לא ראיתי אותם שמים לב למחאה בכלל.

You may have heard that the police, working hard to erase any progress they may have made, have taken to labeling protesting with the slogan “The Temple Mount is in our hands” (originally said by Moṭah Gur when Yerushalayim was reunited in 1967), considering it “incitement”.  (As if the Muslims needed any incitement to behave badly.  When they invent nonexistent things to complain about, “incitement” is just an an excuse, not a cause.)  The children were told by the police not to use the slogan.  A few signs were brought which disagreed with the police, and the disagreement was vocal, too.  Thankfully the police did nothing in response to this “incitement”.  On the other hand, even though there were a few police nearby, I did not notice them paying any attention to the protest whatsoever.

המחאה התקיימה בסוג פרק, הטיילת.  תמונות אלו, שעבורן שימשתי ברמות שונות של פונקצית הזום, יתנו מושג כלשהו על מקומו ביחס להר הבית.
The protest took place at a sort of park known as the Ṭayyeleth.  These pictures, for which I made use of various levels of the zoom function, should give some idea of its position to the Temple Mount.

פסל ליד הטיילת.  אני רק צלמתי אותו.  אני לא יכול להסביר את זה.
A sculpture near the Ṭayyeleth.  I just photographed it.  I cannot explain it.

בניין ארגון הפיקוח על הפסקת אש של האומות המאוחדות הקרוב.
The United Nations Truce Supervision Organization building nearby.

כמה מהילדים עם שלטי מחאה:  ״אבן השתייה הוא לא הפקר!״ ו״לא מקילים ראש במקום קדוש!״
Some of the kids with protest signs:  “The Foundation Stone is not ownerless property!” and “Do not belittle a holy place!” 

גרפיטי בערבית באנגלית.
Graffiti in Arabic and English.

מפגין עם שלט שואל ״הר הבית לא בידינו?!״  המשטרה לא עשתה שום דבר לעצור אותו.
A protester with a sign asking “Is not the Temple Mount in our hands?!”  The police did nothing to stop him.

עוד סטודנטים מפגינים.
More student protesters.

השלט החדה הוא ״שומרים מפקד לירך!״
The new sign is “Maintain control of your city!”

השלטים החדשי הם ״לא עוד לביזוי מקדשנו!״, ״מדינה יהודית?!״, ודבר מה שאני לא יכול לקרוא די ממנו בתמונה הזאת.
The new signs are “No more demeaning our Temple!”, “A Jewish state?!”, and something I cannot read enough of in this picture.

השלטים החדשים הם ״די לביזוי באבן השתיה״, ״ואין פוקד את הר הבית בעיר העתיקה!״ (ציטוט מ״ירושלים של זהב״), ו״מדינה בלי עבר—היא ללא עתיד!״

The signs are “Enough demeaning the Foundation Stone”, “And there is no visitor of the Temple Mount  in the Old City” (a quote from “Jerusalem of Gold”), and “A state without a past is without a future!”

שלט שהוזכר לעיל שונה ל״הר הבית בידינו!״  המשטרה עדיין לא עשתה שום דבר.
A sign mentioned above was modified to read “The Temple Mount is in our hands!”  The police still did nothing.

דובר מכנסת.
A speaker from the Keneseth.

העיתונות ״האמיתית״ הייתה שם באמת.
The “real” press was actually there.

ראו גם:  ״‪Bnei Akiva Rally on Behalf of the Temple Mount‬״.  לא הייתי יחיד שם עם מצלמה.

See also:  “‪Bnei Akiva Rally on Behalf of the Temple Mount‬”.  I was not the only one there with a camera.

האם אני מצפה להרבה בדרך של תוצאות מהמחאה הזאת?  לא.  זאת נערכת במקום מחוץ לדרך עם רק עוברי אורח אחדים.  אבל זוהי התחלה, במיוחד משום שהרבה בני נוער היו שם.  יהי רצון ה׳ שילכו מעורבות פוליטית גדולה יותר וטובה יותר ולעזור לשנות את המדינה לטובה יותר.

Am I expecting much in the way of results from this protest?  No.  It was held in an out-of-the-way place with few passersby.  But it is a start, especially since a lot of youth were involved.  May they go on to bigger and better political involvement and help change the country for the better.





Thursday, August 2, 2012

The mystery of 15 ’Av

Jewish date:  14 ’Av 5772 (Parashath Wa’Ethḥannan).

Today’s holidays:  Feast Day of Eusebius of Vercelli and Peter Julian Eymard (Roman Catholicism) Feast Day of St. Robert Goddard (Church of the SubGenius).


Tomorrow is 15 ’Av, commonly called Ṭu be’Av or Ḥagh ha’Ahavah (“the Festival of Love”).  My posting has three purposes:

1) As I posted two years ago for the same holiday, 15 ’Av has become something of the Israeli equivalent of Valentine’s Day.  Every Jewish man with a special woman in his life is hereby forewarned to prepare a romantic gesture for her.  The consequences for forgetting may be severe.

2) I find myself trying to understand the celebration of 15 ’Av.  The primary text of interest is Ta‘anith 26b for the Mishnah and Ta‘anith 30b-31a for the Gemara’.  In the old days, young unmarried women in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) used to dress in borrowed white dresses and go out into the vineyards on 15 ’Av and Yom Kippur.  There they would dance and sing about why young men should marry them.  And the strange thing is that no one does this anymore.  There are matchmaking and romantic events scheduled, but the actual vineyard dancing is no longer practiced.  (Well, almost.  I have actually seen reference to a vineyard dancing event tomorrow—but it is for women only and thus completely misses the point of the ritual.)

The Mishnah and Gemara’ give no indication why the dancing is no longer practiced.  The Gemara’ concentrates on historical events that occurred on 15 ’Av:  permission for the 12 tribes to intermarry among themselves, permission for the tribe of Binyamin (Benjamin) to intermarry with the other tribes, cessation of deaths in the Desert, permission of Jews in the northern kingdom of Yisra’el to go into Yehudhah for Pesaḥ, Sukkoth, and Shavu‘oth (which is a very big deal in the days when there is a Temple where one is required to go to bring sacrifices), permission to bury those slain by the Romans at Bethar, and cessation of cutting wood for the altar for the year.  (See “The Meaning of Tu B'av” for an accessible summary.)  There is also some discussion of the garments the young women wore and what they would sing.  But there is nothing to indicate why the practice has ceased.  Rashi and Tosefoth, the standard commentaries, also are silent on this.

I asked a local rav about the possibility of resurrecting the practice.  (If the Talmudh acknowledges the practice as valid and lists not the slightest objection, it is easy to ask why we are not doing it.)  His answer was that people today would not react the same way to it and that Ḥaredhim would probably be outraged.  There is a lot of truth in this.  Women singing and dancing in public with the intent of getting the attention of men is unheard of among observant Jews today, and it is difficult to talk to other observant Jews about the idea of resuming the practice without them joking about modern secular dancing practices and (real or imagined) resultant improprieties.  What puzzles me is how something that used to be considered completely acceptable has come to be considered unthinkable, and I do not have a sufficient solution.  I suspect that at least in part this may be due to the influence of Christians and Muslims Jews have often lived—and still often live—among.  Christians have often had rather negative attitudes towards sexuality (thank you, Paul), and Muslims today periodically make the news over bizarre overreactions to real and imagined sexual offenses by women.  But a suspicion is not knowledge and may well be wrong.

If anyone has any information on this puzzle, please let me know.  (And, yes, I have read “Boy meets girl on Tu Be’av”, and it strikes me as rather speculative and does not really explain the cessation of vineyard dancing.)

3) Obviously I am not going to dance in a vineyard, first because I have been told not to resurrect the practice, second because I am a man, third because I do not have access to a vineyard, and fourth because I have not really learned how to dance.  However, the goal of finding a wife still remains for me, and it is the right time to be working towards this goal.  And since I have not accomplished this goal yet, I have to try new things until I am successful (at which point I will replace it with the goal of keeping said wife happy).  And so I am about to try something a bit unusual...

This is me standing under a grapevine.  (Actually, due to the heat and dryness of this summer, it is a raisinvine.)  And now for my singles ad:

39-year-old educated rationalist Dathi Le’umi nonconformist in Giv‘ath Shemu’el seeks intelligent, religious woman with compatible hashqafah and (preferably) a sense of humor. More details available upon request. Don't be shy; I don’t bite.  Referrals welcome.



Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Israeli police still suck more than I thought

Jewish date:  10 ’Av 5772 (Parashath Wa’ethḥannan).

Today’s holidays:  The Fast of ’Av (Judaism), Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Brigham Young (Church of the SubGenius), Feast of Paschal Beverly Randolph (Thelema), Stikklestad Day (Germanic Neopaganism).

Short update on the police over here outright violating their job of enforcing freedom of religion and tolerance.  Not only did the police close the Temple Mount to non-Muslims on flimsy excuses about “provocations” (when to Muslims the very presence of Jews can be considered a “provocation”), but the Jewish reaction was refuse to go away and read the Book of Lamentations—the correct ceremony for the Fast of ’Av.  See “Police close Temple Mount to Jews on Tisha Be'av” and “Jews Read Lamentations Outside Temple Mount in Defiance of Ban” for details.  I congratulate the protestors for standing their ground and sending the police the message that “no” has consequences.  May it be the will of YHWH that every such baseless refusal of admission be met with even worse inconveniences.


The Israeli police suck more than I thought

Jewish date:  10 ’Av 5772 (Parashath Wa’ethḥannan).

Today’s holidays:  The Fast of ’Av (Judaism), Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Brigham Young (Church of the SubGenius), Feast of Paschal Beverly Randolph (Thelema), Stikklestad Day (Germanic Neopaganism).

Today is the Fast of ’Av, the culmination of the Three Weeks and Nine Days commemorating the destruction of the First and Second Temple.

Last week I posted “משטרת ישראל היא לא גרועה כמו קודם • The Israeli Police suck less than before”, which is about my visit to the Temple Mount last Sunday.  Ideally I would have liked to go today, but I am afraid to do much of anything outside during fast days due to dehydration and overheating, which are serious concerns in the summer.  (Especially the summer in Israel, which is hot and dry.  Even more especially during the summer in Israel feeling the effects of global warming, which make me not want to leave my apartment more than absolutely necessary.)  However, some brave souls do attempt to visit the Temple Mount on fast days.  It has been reported on Facebook that a large number of Jews showed up to ascend to the Temple Mount this morning, only to be turned away because the police decided to pander to Islamic supremacism rather than do their jobs.  I therefore declare the police to have increased their level of suck, and I encourage everyone to let the government, political parties, and anyone else relevant to know.

On the Fast of Tammuz, I posted “Pathological mourning”, arguing that we should not be ritually mourning as an end in itself, but, like all mourning, should be a means towards moving on and rebuilding the Temple.  I am not the only one who thinks mourning should not be an end in itself.  “Next Year in Jerusalem — Maybe”, “What Are We Fasting For?”, and “Ninth of Av Message on Moving to Israel – Rabbi Beryl Wein, Rabbi Zev Leff and Rabbi Shalom Gold” all argue for making ‘aliyyah (immigration to Israel).

And they have a point.  The destruction of both Temples was accompanied by exile.  The Hebrew Bible has an ideal that the Jewish people should live in Israel and YHWH promises that we will return.  However, we have done a lousy job of this.  The Book of Ezra records that when the Persian Emperor Koresh (Cyrus) allowed the Jews to return and rebuild the Temple, very few did so.  We are doing a better job today (about 50% of the way there), but life in the West is still rather comfortable, and it is easy even for religious Jews to put off moving to Israel indefinitely.  I know.  I used to be that way.  Food for thought.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

משטרת ישראל היא לא גרועה כמו קודם • The Israeli Police suck less than before

תאריך יהודי:  ו׳ באב תשע״ב (פרשת דברים).

Jewish date:  6 ’Av 5772 (Parashath Devarim).

החגים של היום: תשעת הימים (יהדות), יום חג ג׳ימז (נצרות קתולית), יום חג שיילוק הקדוש (כנסיית תת־הגאון), פורינאליה (דת הרומאים העתיקים).

Today’s holidays:  The Nine Days (Judaism), Feast Day of James (Roman Catholicism), Feast Day of St. Shylock (Church of the SubGenius), Furinalia (ancient Roman religion).



הערה: זהו עוד הודעה שבה אני מתכנן לשלוח לאנשים שונים בממשל, בפוליטיקה, ובג׳רוזלם פוסט.  לפיכך, אני כותב את זה גם בעברית וגם באנגלית. רציתי לעשות את זה בשני טורים מקבילים, אבל Blogger מסרב לעשות טבלאות, ואני ממש לא רוצה לכתוב את ה־HTML באופן ידני. סליחה על הסגנון שבחרתי, שנראה לי להיות הפחות הבעייתי, למרות שיש לו מראה די מוזר.

NOTE:  This is another post which I plan to send out to various people in government, politics, and The Jerusalem Post.  As such, I am writing it both in Hebrew and English.  I would do it in two parallel columns, but Blogger has no built-in facilities for making tables, and I really do not want to write the HTML by hand.  Pardon the style I chose, which seems to me to be the least problematic, despite looking rather strange.

החלטתי לבקר את הר הבית ביום ראשון (ג׳ באב תשע״ב, 22 ביולי 2012). תשעת הימים הם לזכר חורבן בית המקדש הראשון והשני,  לכן זה נראה לי מתאים.

I decided to visit the Temple Mount on Sunday (3 ’Av 5772 AM, 22 July 2012 CE).  Given that the Nine Days commemorate the destruction of the First and Second Temples, it seemed appropriate.

היה כדאי לי להביא כרטיס הרשמי של בלוגר (הדפסתי חבילה של עשר) וגם תדפיס של הבלוג האחרון שלי על ביקור בהר הבית.  (יש תוצאות מסרב לי רשות כניסה, והודעתי אותן למשטרה.  בנימוס, כמובן, אבל הודעתי ​​להם.)  היה גם כדאי (בכנות) לעמוד על כך אני חושב על לעשות ספר צילומים אודות כל העיר העתיקה (כולל הר הבית) ורציתי לצלם את האדריכלות.  כמובן, הרעיון שלי של מה נחשב אדריכלות הוא כנראה קצת שונה מזו של המשטרה והוואקף—צילמתי פסולת בניין, חומרי בניין, גרפיטי, ועובדים, וגם כמה בניינים—אבל נכנסתי.  ברור שאני הפר איסור הבלתי חוקית של התפילה היהודית.  השוטר ופקיד הוואקף המלווים אותי ואת שני יהודים דתיים אחרים ברחבי הר הבית גם נתנו לי מרחב פעולה מספיק (אולי בשל איומים אמיתיים מאוד שלי) שנראה לי שאם רציתי עזבתי אותם.  אחד המבקרים האחרים ואני דיברנו על אדריכלות, מציינים איפה היו חלקים שונים של בית המקדש ומרגיזים פקיד הוואקף בהעובדה שזה לא כשלעצמו מהווה תפילה ולכן לא היה לו סיבה להתנגד.  הערה מוארת: נראה כאילו המוסלמים החלו לקרצף חלק גרפיטי.  מצד שני, הקבוצה שלי התקרב לבמה המרכזית ממה שהלכתי קודם לכן, ועוד יותר פנימה נראה שיש גרפיטי הרבה פחות. היה גם עדיין הרבה כתובות גרפיטי ברחבי בקצוות.

It really pays to bring an official blogger’s card (I made a batch of them) and a printout of one’s last blog post on visiting the Temple Mount.  (There are consequences to them refusing me, and I let them know it.  Politely, of course, but I let them know it.)  Not to mention sticking strictly to the (true) story that I am thinking about making a photo book about the entire Old City (including the Temple Mount) and want to photograph the architecture really pays.  Of course, my idea of what constitutes architecture is probably a bit different than that of the police and the Waqf—I photographed rubble, construction materials, graffiti, and workers as well as some buildings—but it got me in.  It should go without saying that I blatantly disregarded the illegal prohibition on Jewish prayer.  The police officer and Waqf official accompanying me and two other observant Jews around the Mount also gave me enough leeway (possibly due to my very real threats) that I could have probably wandered off.  And one of the other visitors and I did discuss architecture, noting where various parts of the Temple were and annoying the Waqf official with the fact that this did not in and of itself constitute prayer and thus was no cause for him to object.  Bright note:  it looks like the Muslims have started scrubbing off some of the graffiti.  On the other hand, my group went closer to the central platform than I had gone before, and further in, there seems to be a lot less graffiti.  There was also still plenty of graffiti around on the edges.

עמודות לפני הכיבוש המוסלמי.
Columns from before the Muslim conquest.

זה ברמדאן, ומאז מוסלמים שומרי מצוות הצום בחודש הרמדאן, הם שמו למעלה יריעות לספק צל כדי שלא ימותו מהתייבשות. זה מאפשר להם להמשיך חבלה ארכיאולוגית בזמן צום.
This is during Ramaḍān, and since observant Muslims fast during Ramaḍān, they put up tarps to provide shade so they do not die of dehydration.  This makes it possible for them to continue archaeological sabotage while fasting.

כפי שצויין בהודעות קודמות, עדיין יש הרבה הריסות במקומות רבים בהר הבית בתוצאת החבלה הארכיאולוגית.  פקיד הוואקף לא יכול לתת כל הסבר אמיתי מדוע עוד לא ניקו את זה. (לשם השוואה, אחד תימצא שום הריסות זרוקה ליד הכותל המערבי.)
As noted in previous posts, there is still plenty of rubble in many places on the Temple Mount due to the archaeological sabotage.    The Waqf official could not give any real explanation why they not cleaned it up yet.  (For comparison, one will find absolutely no rubble lying around at the Western Wall.)

חומרי בניין.
Building materials.

נראה כי הם באמת עושים עבודה בתוך מבנה כיפת הסלע.
It appears that they really are doing work on inside the Dome of the Rock.

על הקצוות, אין הריסות בלבד, אלא שפע של צמחים גדלים בין האבנים.
Out on the edges, there is not only rubble, but plenty of plants growing between the stones.

ספונסרים גאים של חבלה ארכיאולוגית.
Proud sponsors of archaeological sabotage.

עובד על הגג. הוא לא היה שמח להצטלם, אבל אף אחד לא עצר אותי ואחד מהמבקרים היהודים הדתיים האחרים מצלם אותו.
A worker on a roof.  He was not happy being photographed, but no one stopped me and one of the other observant Jewish visitors from photographing him.

מכונת ניקוי.
A cleaning machine.

יש עדיין הרבה כתובות גרפיטי בערבית. המוסלמים עדיין נראה הרבה יותר לכתוב על המקומות הקדושים מיהודים.  (נראה לי שאולי טוב לי לחפש גרפיטי גם בכנסיית הקבר ובמסגדים…)
There is still plenty of Arabic graffiti.  Muslims still seem to write much more on holy places than Jews.  (Come to think about it, arguably I ought to also look for graffiti at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and at mosques...)

זה היה בשער של הר הבית שבו יצאתי. מישהו לא יודע בבירור שיש חדל להיות גבול בתוך ירושלים בשנת 1967.
This was at the gate of the Temple Mount where I exited.  Someone clearly does not know that there ceased being a border inside Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) in 1967.



ניסיון ביקור:  6.

Attempted visit:  6.

ביקור מוצלח:  3.

Successful visit:  3.

מצב פיזי: הרס מתמשך של כל דבר שאינו מוסלמי, עם ההריסות שנוצרה.

Physical state:  Ongoing destruction of anything non-Muslim, with resulting rubble.

התנהגות המשטרה: משופרת, אבל עדיין בכניעה לעליונות האיסלאמית.

Police behavior:  Improved, but still kowtowing to Islamic supremacism.

התנהגות הוואקף: עדיין באשליה שהם מחזיקים במקום. פרנואיד עדיין על יהדות, גם על הדיון של האדריכלות הדתית היהודית היסטורית.

Waqf behavior:  Still under the delusion they own the place.  Still paranoid about Judaism, even the discussion of historical Jewish religious architecture.

עיין עוד:

See also: