Riddle a historian of medicine at the University of North Carolina,
USA, has recently published a book called "Contraception
and Abortion from the Ancient World to the Renaissance". In
it, Dr. Riddle asserts that women in ancient times had knowledge
of herbal contraceptives that were very effective, and that their
use was both widespread and commonly accepted. One of Riddle's most
interesting examples is the importance of the Greek city-state of
Cyrene in the ancient Classical world.
on the coast of what is now Libya, the foothills around Cyrene produced
a plant which the Greeks called silphon and the Romans silphium.
This plant, according to the Greek physician Soranus, when pressed
into a sap and swallowed, would prevent conception or induce an
abortion. So in demand was "Cyreniac juice" that for at
least eight hundred years the Cyrenians waxed amazingly rich on
its export. In fact a silver Cyrenian coin from the 5th Century
BCE, has a picture of the plant on one side, reminding the world
where their wealth came from. Sort of as if the Swiss put "Ortho-novum"
(the most widely used birth control pill today), on the Swiss franc.
widespread was it's use, that a playwright, Aristophanes, has one
of his characters bemoan the fact that it's impossible to get a
girl to bed him because the trade with Cyrene is interrupted by
the war, showing how truly bad the war was on the home-folks. Pliny
the Elder in Roman times remarks that in his time silphon costs
its weight in silver and is worth it. Alas, by the 4th Century CE,
silphon had died out, apparently harvested to extinction. Herbalists
then turned to one of it's cousins in the giant fennel family, asafoetida
(an herb known to many occultists now) as a substitute.
maintains that these are no "old wives tales". While silphon
itself cannot be tested, he cites experiments that show extracts
of asafoetida being 100% effective in preventing conception in lab
rats when given within three days of mating. Nor is it the only
plant. Riddle's colleague, Norman Farnsworth, a pharmacologist,
has tested 450 plant species worldwide that are used as contraceptives,
many of which he believes were both known and used in ancient cultures.
how did we lose this knowledge? Riddle suggests two answers: one,
that the knowledge was lost when medicine became the speciality
of just a few men working with even fewer books during the middle
ages; second that it actually survived in the hands of midwives
and village healers, who got killed off by the Inquisition. Riddle
notes that many of the "crimes" witches were accused of
dealt with causing abortions or infertility, and that a motto of
witchfinders was "the devil works through herbs".
what I find most interesting is that this changes everything we
thought we knew about the "family life" of our Pagan ancestors.
The "old" view that women could either be celibate priestesses
or mothers (with a man to provide for the little ones) is just a
Christian myth. Think about how the "Pill" and the "sexual
revolution" have changed our world in just 30 years. Now imagine
a culture where women have had choice and control of their fertility
for eight hundred years. . . This story was compiled from an article
in the Seattle Times and from conversations on the Internet. (See
Even Half Right
friends in the science of parapsychology have done another study
trying to convince each other that telepathy exists. The latest
try is by Cornell psychologist Daryl Bem and Charles Honorton of
the Psychosocial Research Lab in Princeton, New Jersey. In the January
issue of the Psychological Bulletin, Bem and Honorton present what
they feel is "replicable evidence" (meaning you can do
it over and over in a lab) of what they call "anomalous information
have developed what they call "the Ganzfield Procedure"
where they use a sender and a receiver. The sender concentrates
on a specific visual image, such as a tree or a tidal wave. The
receiver is in a separate acoustically sealed room with Ping-Pong
ball halves over their eyes and headphones filled with white- noise
over their ears (sounds a lot like the old binding and blindfold
trick of traditional Wicca, I know). After a half-hour of this,
the receiver picks from one of four images. Normally, they have
a one-in-four chance of getting it. Bem and Honorton report that
their receivers got a "statistically significant" result
of one-third correct images.
I suppose that it's good that they are trying to give telepathy
some validity in the religion of Science, that also means that 66%
of the time they got it wrong! Sigh. Most occultists I know would
consider that an awfully poor showing. Aren't there any magick users
in New Jersey?
a more modern note, one hundred years ago, a group of Christians
decided to hold something called the Parliament of World Religions.
It far exceeded their original concept, giving much of the very
Christian west it@#146;s first serious look at such "heathen"
faiths as the Hindu pantheons and Taoist philosophy. After spending
days together, giving lectures and reading papers, Bishop and Brahman
all went home having learned there was lots more in the world than
their own schtick.
Parliament printed a collection of the papers and it became a standard
for years after for folks who wanted to learn about more than that
"old time religion". So, you ask, who cares? Well they
are having another Parliament this year (1994) and this time Witches
and other Neo Pagans are going to be up there with the Bishops and
Brahmans, educating the worlds religious bodies about what they
do. The Parliament runs this August for ten days starting on the
27th. Lets hope that this one does for all of us what the last did
for Eastern thought - increasing understanding and tolerance of
other spiritual paths.
Red Sea Parts
professor of oceanogragpy, Doron Nof, belives she has found the
answer to one of those great Bibical miracles, the parting of the
Red Sea. According to Dr. Nof, a steady east wind blowing for ten
hours will part the Sea at the likeliest spot for an exodus. She
says that such winds, while rare, are not uncommon, and that they
can stop suddenly, leading to a very high wave that could bury people.
Just another case of natural magic being appropriated for a "Cause".
back to archaeology for a moment, the January issue of Archaeology
Today has a wonderful article on a new theory of those paleolithic
stone figurines which late eighteenth century "experts"
dubbed "Venuses" (ala Venus of Willendorf), and many modern
Neopagan types are enamored of as proof of the first Goddess worship.
team of archaeologists discovered a large trove of figurines in
Morovia, near the border of what was until recently Czechoslovakia.
The natural question they asked (along with everybody else), was
@#145;what the hell are these?". Doing some truly brilliant
investigation, which included using hospital CAT-scans, they believe
that the figures were not built to last, but be temporary. Playing
with making their own from the same materials, they found that not
only do the figures explode with a loud satisfying bang, they fall
into piles rather than fly off like hand grenades. They conclude
that maybe these are really spell objects - not statuary at all.
Personally, I think of those piles glowing in firelight, and wonder
if maybe we shouldn@#146;t think of divination, else why have animals
and other figures as well as the well known gravid one? Instead
of First Goddess, perhaps one of the earliest divination systems?
Third Eye and Melatonin
how all the Eastern mystics keep asking that you look for the third
eye, which they locate in the Pineal gland? Well, the third eye
is getting a new look at it by science. It seems that our little
gland produces a substance called Melatonin which besides doing
such nifty things as regulating the brain's circadian clock and
the body's reproductive cycles, it may have many uses in relation
to our health. In Holland, Dr. Micheal Cohen has developed a new
female birth control pill that uses Melatonin instead of Estrogen.
Not only does it work very well as birth control, but it seems to
prevent breast cancer as well. Other researchers in the USA are
looking at Melatonin as an actual cancer cure. It seems that Melatonin,
which decreases in the body with age, may raise the body's immune
system and actually increase our life span when added back into
the system. Maybe Ledbeater had something after all, with his theories
about the chakras, and in particular the "third eye".
of the Sands
land facing satellites, an American filmmaker has found what Lawrence
of Arabia called "the Atlantis of the sands" in southern
Oman [Reported in The New York Times (5 Feb, 1992)]. By looking
at land-sat photos, the ruins of the lost city of Ubar where traced
from more than 30 miles up. Ubar was fabled for over two millenia
as a wealthy many-towered city with huge fruit groves growing out
of the desert before vanishing in the seventh century AD. Archeologists
belive that Ubar controlled the trade in frankincense prized throughout
the mideast for its use in magickal practice, ranging from burning
in temples to embalming the dead in Egypt. At one time, frankincense
was literally worth its weight in gold . As for how Ubar vanished,
experts on site believe that the city was built over an underground
water reservoir and sank from too much water being drawn out.
archaeologists from the University of Arizona, while working on
a site at the ancient city of Idalion near Nicosia, Cyprus, believe
they have uncovered a link in the mythological story of Aphrodite,
Greek Goddess of love , and her mortal lover Adonis. Excavating
at the site they uncovered a temple with statuary to a male God
with inscriptions in both Greek and Phoenician indicating the cross-cultural
nature of the ancient city. The Greek inscription are to @#145;Apollo
Amyklos@#146; and the Phoenician to @#145;Reshef Mikal@#146;. Above
this temple lays "the ancient, venerable, sanctuary of the
Great Mother, who was later identified as Aphrodite by later Greeks"
. This information comes from an AP wire article which unfortunately
doesn@#146;t give us any more of interest like dates of the findings.
More on this as developments are reported.
section is something we introduced in issue #24. What we would like
to present here is news from the world of science and acadaemia
that Magickal types might find interesting food for thought. If
you have something that might be of interest please send it to NPI
care of Shadowplay. Note: NPI is not interested in hand fastings,
births, deaths of animal familiars, or anything of the kind - unless
we like you and you@#146;re either 500 years old, an alien from
outer space ,or from another plane of reality..
modern magickal folk know about the cave paintings done ten to twelve
thousand years ago at Lascaux, France. Among the beautiful portraits
of animals and hunting parties is one of a human figure with horns,
used by some of the Wiccan writers of the Sixties to "prove"
that modern Wicca was (of course) practiced by our remote Neolithic
forebearers. Well, a new discovery near the town of Port Mers on
the south coast of France shows that the Lascaux crowd were small-time.
As an article in Archeology magazine reports, two years ago
a diver found an underwater entrance to a miles long complex of
caves that are above water. Here explorers have counted 15,000 Neolithic
paintings and are still looking. The earliest are charcoal outlines,
that give way over the centuries to finely done color works. Because
the artists were using organic materials, carbon dating methods
are able to tell when they where done. The earliest outlines date
from 25,000 BCE. with the majority dating from 19,000 to 15,000
BCE. The most widely held theory about cave paintings is that they
were part of magical rituals done by the Neolithic shamans. Oh yes,
old horny is found here as well, along with what one explorer describes
as a penguin with feathers!
the July issue of Archeology, comes an article on the findings
of a new Celtic burial site in St Albans, England. Reconstructing
the remains in a large square grave, archaeologists have a new slant
on Celtic death customs. They believe that the dead were first put
in the grave reclining on a couch, surrounded by their weapons,
best jewellery, and a large feast. At a later time, (exactly when
the experts aren't sure) the whole thing was dug up and everything
cremated together, then placed back in the original grave. The subjects,
so to speak, of this interesting practice, were of two Celtic tribes
that were under Roman occupation from 150 to 145 BCE. It seems also
to have been limited to noble class warriors or rulers. Personally,
I find the idea of a couch very interesting and possibly suggestive.
What if Roman Celts referred to their warleaders as resting until
their return (ie cremation)? Maybe, if he existed, a Roman Celtic
warlord named Arthur had such a ceremony ....
on a Dark Matter
the May issue of the Smithsonian is an article that looks
at a new theory of what the universe is made of - dark matter. A
group of astrophysicists at Cal Tech, U.S.A., were doing studies
of the motion of stellar particles when they noticed that the speeds
of the particles were not as theory would have them be; some unknown
gravity potential was changing their speed, "dragging"
at them, much as the Earth's gravity drags at a baseball when you
throw it. Looking at everything from atomic particles to the motion
of stars and galaxies, they have concluded that most of what the
universe is made of is what they call "dark matter". Dark
matter is composed of particles (which they give names like WIMPS
and MACHOS - I kid you not) that are invisible, with no atomic weight
or electrical charge, but a very strong gravity.
to the theory, dark matter interpenetrates everything, including
you as you read this, and moves in intergalactic size "streams".
In fact, our galaxy, the Milky Way, and three other nearby ones,
are moving "downstream" towards a large flux of dark matter.
everything really could be said to be in the Dark Mother's embrace,
the Dark Matter and the Dark Mother being one and the same principle.
Seattle Times had an interesting note in the July 13th issue
on the discovery of what is believed to be the oldest cloth. A team
of archaeologists from the University of Chicago and Istanbul University,
while working near the upper Tigris River in southeastern Turkey,
discovered a semi-fossilized piece of cloth, wrapped around an obsidian
and deer-antler tool. The cloth is believed to be linen, and using
carbon dating, the team has determined that the cloth is 9,000 years
old. The previous oldest find is dated at 6,000 BCE.
seems that the more science digs (so to speak), the more we find
that our pagan, magic using ancestors were intelligent, technology-using
folk, ie "civilized", further back in time. Making linen,
as any cloth-maker will tell you, is not something done by ignorant
savages named Ugh or Oop; yet, just 30 years ago the scientific
community would have painted just such a picture of nomadic herders
scratching the odd crop out of the ground, rather than the planned
cultivation, housing, looms, skill and time needed to make something
like linen. By the way, knowing folk who have obsidian and antler
athame's I wonder what the wrapped "tool" was used for?
The practice nowadays of having one wrap magickal tools in silk
can be a bit expensive here in the cold north; maybe we should start
using linen and cite an older tradition?
from the July 3 issue of the New York Times comes an article
about His Holiness, Pope John Paul II of the Catholic Church. It
seems the Pope has issued a condemnation of feminist Catholic women
who are "worshipping an earth goddess or Mother Earth"
as part of their services. In a stern statement His Holiness said
that such "pagan worship" was an attempt to "undermine
Christian faith" and close to witchcraft. Hmmm ... I wonder
what he thinks about the worship of Mary? Anyway, I hope these "feminist
Catholics" keep on; Mother Earth could use all the support
She can get. By the way, for those who don't keep track of such
things, the Office of the Inquisition of the Catholic Church is
still in business.