Category Archives: Cultures

Origins of Magicians

old guy

Well here’s a fascinating article by Robert Sepehr.

Article

“The Medes were people of Indo-Iranian (Aryan) origin who inhabited the western and north-western portions of present-day Iran. By the 6th century BC (prior to the Persian invasion) the Medes has established an empire that stretched from Aran (the modern-day Republic of Azerbaijan) to Central Asia and Afghanistan. Today’s population of the western part of the Iranian Plateau (including many Persian-speakers, Kurds and Azeris) consider themselves their descendants.

Apart from a few personal names, the original Aryan language of the Medes is almost entirely unknown, but it was most likely similar to the Avesta and Scythian languages (photo-Indo-European/Iranian). Herodotus mentions that” “The Medes had exactly the same equipment as the Persians; and indeed the dress common to both is not so much Persian as Median”.

Eventually, the older tribes of Aryan Iran lost their district character and amalgamated into one people, the Iranians. In Arabic texts, as in the Greco-Roman tradition, Zoroaster is the “founder” of the Magicians, Arabic ‘Majusya’. There are many views on the timeline for Zoroaster’s life. The traditional Zoroastrian date for Zarathustra’s birth and ministry is around 600 BC Green sources placed him as early as 6000 BC. Zoroaster spoke of duality and ceasing balance at the end of time; his goal, was to show humans their connection to one source of light and consciousness. According to the Zend Avesta, the sacred book of Zoroastrianism, Zoroaster was born in Azerbaijan, in northern Persia.

A Magus was a Zoroastrian astrologer-priest from ancient Persia, and was also referred to as a sorcerer or wizard. The terms magic and magician derive from the word “magus”. The English term may also refer to a shaman. The Greek word is attested from the 5th century B.C., as a direct loan from the Old Persian “magus”.

Professor of Chinese at the University of Pennsylvania, Victor H. Mair, provides archaeological and linguistic evidence suggesting that the Chinese “wu” (shaman; witch, wizard; magician) was also loanword from Old Persian magus “magician; magi”:

The recent discovery at an early Chou site of two figurines with unmistakably Caucasoid or Europoid features is startling prima facie evidence of East- West interaction during the first half of the first millennium Before Current Era. It is especially investing that one of the figurines bears on the top of his head the clearly incised graph (cross with potents) which identifies him as a “wu” (shaman; witch, wizard; magician).

The Aryan, or Indo-European, root appears to have expressed power or ability. This meaning continued, e.g. in Greek “mekhos” (see mechanics) and in Germanic magan (English may), magts (English might, the expression “might and magic”). The original significance of the name for Median priests, thus, seems to have been “the powerful”. The modern Persian “Mobed” derived from an Old Persian compound magu-pati “lord priest”.

The plural “Magi” entered the English language ca. 1200, referring to the Magi mentioned in Matthew 2:1. The singular following only considerably later, in late 14th century, when it was borrowed from Old French in the meaning magician together with magic.

In Farsi, Magi is ‘meguceen’, which meaning “Fire Worshipper”, and it is the origin of the word “magician”. While, in Herodotus, “Magos” refers to either an ethnically Aryan member of one of the tribes/peoples (ethnous) of the Medes, or to one of the Persian priest  who could interpret dreams, it could also be used for any enchanter wizard.

In Hellenism, “Magos” started to be used as an adjective, meaning “magical”, as in magas techne “ars magica” (e.g. used by Philostratus). Sources from before the Hellenistic period include Xenophon, who had first-hand experience  at the Persian Achaemenid court. In his early 4th century BC Cyropaedia, Xenophon depicts the Magicians as authorities for all religious matters, and imagines the Magicians were responsible for the education of the emperor-to-be.

According to to Robert Charles Zaehner, author of the book, The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism:

We hear the Magi not only in Persia, Parthia, Bactria, Chorasmia, Aria, Media, and among the Sakas, but also in non-Iranian lands like Samaria and Egypt. Their influence was also widespread throughout Asia Minor. It is, therefore, quite likely that the sacerdotal caste of the Magi was distinct from the Median tribe of the same name.”

Extracts from the book Occult Secrets of Vril (chapter 7: Magicians)

About the author:

Robert Sepehr is an author, producer and anthropologist living in Los Angeles, CA.

He specializes in linguistics, paleogenetics and archeology.

Also read:

Talk like  Buddhist


I happened upon this and thought I would share it 🙂 . A lot of these might sound easy, but they are challenging to put into practice! 

“How to Communicate Like a Buddhist
BY CYNTHIA KANE
I used to lie awake at night and worry about work, family, friends, boyfriends. Honestly, I would obsess about all of it. And while all these thoughts and emotions were going on inside I rarely expressed any of them. Instead, a colleague would knock on my cubicle while I was in the middle of something and I’d roll my eyes and say in a passive aggressive tone, “what can I do for you now.” Or my boyfriend would ask me to empty the water out of the tea kettle and I’d argue about why leaving it there made sense. Sometimes someone even asking me a simple question like what do you want for lunch would be difficult to answer. There was so much clutter in my head that I couldn’t focus or slow down to express myself accurately. Everything irked me and had me reacting impulsively damaging my relationships. Of course I wanted to interact differently I just didn’t know how.
So I went out and learned everything I could about how to communicate to express myself in a clear, direct, and accurate way. And after years of reading, going to lectures / seminars, and retreats I came up with a practice grounded in the elements of right speech in Buddhism that takes away the clutter, cultivates kind and calm conversations, and helps shift us out of the internal chatter and into the present moment.

Conscious Communication

To speak consciously, clearly, and concisely without anxiety

To respond instead of react

To speak in a way that’s kind, honest, and helpful

To know when to speak and when to stay quiet

To stay engaged when listening

To express yourself so that others can hear you

To nip potential problems in the bud before they become meltdowns

To be comfortable in silence – no longer needing to fill the space”
…and from the Dalai Lama:

Biological Influence

 

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I stumbled across an episode of Forum with Stanford neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky the other day, and the show was so stunning I HAVE to share it. The influence of our biology on our decision-making is profound, and I find it fascinating.

Apparently, our brains are wired to become aggressive and angry when we’re fearful; to default into “us and them” mentality (which causes a host of social problems), and to make decisions based purely on smell and hunger. You gotta listen to it. We are homo sapiens. It’s so easy to forget while running our errands, getting to work on time, raising our kids. But WE ARE ANIMALS, and our biological impulses have a HUGE influence on our behavior.

Dr. Robert Sapolsky is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, and has spent a lot of his life around primates and studying their behaviors. He finds interesting correlations with human behavior, and discusses them at length in his new book “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst”.

Here’s the audio of the show. It really takes off eight minutes in… let me know what you think!

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The Art of Secret Societies

Did anyone see this exhibition in NYC last year?? Here’s an excellent article by on Hyperallergenic.com:
Mystery and Benevolence
“Installation view of ‘Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection’ at the American Folk Art Museum (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless noted)

A strange visual language developed from the 18th to the 20th century behind the closed doors of American secret societies. It’s a languae made up of all-seeing eyes, ominous skulls, hourglasses, arrows, axes, and curious hands holding hearts. Each of these icons was deeply symbolic for the thousands of people — mostly men — who participated in rituals of borrowed meaning, where ancient Egypt, biblical Christianity, and some homegrown amusements like wooden goats on wheels met the rise of American folk art. The American Folk Art Museum’s (AFAM) Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection examines this often hidden history through its arcane artifacts.

Unidentified Man in Independent Order of Odd Fellows Regalia, Artist unidentified (United States, 1840–1860), quarter-plate daguerreotype, 4 3/4 x 3 3/4 inches (courtesy American Folk Art Museum)
Unidentified Man in Independent Order of Odd Fellows Regalia, Artist unidentified (United States, 1840–60), quarter-plate daguerreotype, 4 3/4 x 3 3/4 in (courtesy American Folk Art Museum) (click to enlarge)

Mystery and Benevolence was curated by Stacy C. Hollander, chief curator and director of exhibitions at AFAM, and Aimee E. Newell, director of collections at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library. It features over 200 objects recently donated to the museum by Kendra and Allan Daniel, who spent three decades buying up the once-secretive art. Installed in the museum, the objects are an exuberant display of the “golden age” of Masonic and Odd Fellows objects, when American decorative and folk art merged with the need for a sense of belonging in the new country.

“After becoming an independent nation in the 1780s, America was seeking to establish its own cultural identity; Freemasonry offered a source of images that resonated with the new nation’s values of equality and liberty,” Newell writes in the accompanying catalogue. “Freemasonry’s visual language and American style began to intersect almost as soon as victory over the British was declared, and continued to adapt as the nation grew and the fraternity evolved. ”

Much of the exhibition contextualizes this long-hidden art in the history of the societies, such as their charity work. The Odd Fellows, formed in 18th-century London, were organized as a benevolent group to support the sick, orphans, and those who died without money for a funeral. One of their mission statements is proclaimed in red and gold on a large wooden sign: “Bury the Dead.” There are also axes indicating how the Odd Fellows saw themselves as “pioneers in the pathway of life”; staffs topped with a heart in the hand were a reminder to be open to others.

Similarly, even the more ghoulish imagery had some meaning connected to charity, and selflessness. The skulls, hourglasses, and skeletons holding shields painted with the word “fidelity” were all reminders of mortality, and how one’s brief time on earth could be better dedicated to others. Reverend Aaron B. Grosh wrote in 1853’s The Odd Fellow’s Manual: “Only the good or evil of our lives will survive us on earth, to draw down on our memories the blessings of those we have aided, or the contempt and reproach of those we have injured.”

Installation view of 'Mystery and Benevolence'
Installation view of ‘Mystery and Benevolence,’ including items related to funerary traditions
Mystery and Benevolence
Independent Order of Odd Fellows Archway for Ensenore Lodge No. 438, signed “W. C. Baptist” (Auburn, New York, 1919), paint and gold leaf on wood with metal
Mystery and Benevolence
Installation view of ‘Mystery and Benevolence’

“The outward form of each symbol offers a different point of access, but in its context within the lexicon of the fraternity, deeper meanings are revealed to those for whom the symbols are signified,” Hollander writes in the catalogue. “In this, the art of fellowship is not dissimilar to the art of alchemy, its secret knowledge also protected by its practitioners.”

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Banner, Artist unidentified (United States, 1900–1920), paint on canvas, with wood and metal, 88 1/2 x 71 inches (courtesy American Folk Art Museum)
Independent Order of Odd Fellows Banner, Artist unidentified (United States, 1900–20), paint on canvas, with wood and metal, 88 1/2 x 71 in (courtesy American Folk Art Museum) (click to enlarge)

In As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850–1930, recently published by the University of Texas Press, it’s noted that from 1890 to 1915, an “estimated one in five men belonged to at least one society.” Fraternal societies still exist, although their numbers have greatly dwindled. According to the Masonic Service Association of North America, there were 1,211,183 members in 2014.

The Masons are the country’s oldest established fraternal order, with numerous lodges founded in the 18th century across the US. In one painting on view at AFAM, their most famous member, George Washington, stands proudly at a Masonic altar. The Odd Fellows soon followed and quickly gained an important membership of their own, as did other societies like the Knights Templar, Shriners, and Junior Order of United American Mechanics. All were mostly white, male, and protestant, albeit from across different economic classes.

The objects in Mystery and Benevolence are seductive with their strangeness and feel somehow accessible through the ordinariness of the materials. I remember visiting the Masonic Hall on 23rd Street in Manhattan, and the tour guide (a Mason) pointing out that all the grand architectural flourishes were fancy fakery. The Corinthian columns, the Renaissance murals, and the Gothic arches that adorned different meeting rooms were all plaster — beautifully painted, but mimicry of the exotic and ancient all the same.

Likewise, the objects in this exhibition are visually stunning, from a late 19th-century staff wrapped with a snake to a towering column topped with a globe. There are some truly masterful pieces, like an intricate marquetry table by James J. Crozier, yet for the most part, the artists remain unidentified and the closest an object gets to a precious material is in the application of some gold leaf on the edges.

These are rare artifacts of an occult culture, each a labor of love for their ritual purpose, not originally intended as art, but as a tool of connection through shared rites. The value of these pieces goes beyond their folk art status. They represent a clandestine history embedded within the story of the United States, where for decades a large percentage of its men would amble over to the local lodge after dark, have a drink (or several), don a scarlet robe, then ponder a skeletal memento mori — or take a ride on a wooden goat around the lodge room.

Mystery and Benevolence
Hand staffs in ‘Mystery and Benevolence’
Mystery and Benevolence
Independent Order of Odd Fellows Axe for Newtown Lodge No. 4440 (United States, 1850–75); Independent Order of Odd Fellows skull and crossbones plaque (United States, 1875–1900), paint and gold leaf on wood
Washington as a Freemason, Publisher unidentified (United States, late-19th century), oleograph on linen, 28 1/2 x 22 3/8 x 1 3/8 inches (courtesy American Folk Art Museum, photo by José Andrés Ramírez)
Washington as a Freemason, Publisher unidentified (United States, late 19th century), oleograph on linen, 28 1/2 x 22 3/8 x 1 3/8 in (courtesy American Folk Art Museum, photo by José Andrés Ramírez)
Mystery and Benevolence
Pair of Cherubim, artist unidentified (United States, 1900–25), metal with traces of gold leaf. They likely were once on a replica of the Ark of the Covenant.
Mystery and Benevolence
Installation view of ‘Mystery and Benevolence’
Mystery and Benevolence
Odd Fellows axes in ‘Mystery and Benevolence’
Independent Order of Odd Fellows Staff with Serpent, Artist unidentified (United States, 1875–1900), paint on wood, 53 x 5 x 4 3/4 inches (courtesy American Folk Art Museum, photo by José Andrés Ramírez)
Independent Order of Odd Fellows Staff with Serpent, Artist unidentified (United States, 1875–1900), paint on wood, 53 x 5 x 4 3/4 in (courtesy American Folk Art Museum, photo by José Andrés Ramírez)
Mystery and Benevolence
Painting of a church and cemetery in ‘Mystery and Benevolence’
Independent Order of Odd Fellows Carpet, Artist unidentified (United States,1875–1925), wool, 61 x 35 1/2 inches (courtesy American Folk Art Museum, photo by José Andrés Ramírez)
Independent Order of Odd Fellows Carpet, Artist unidentified (United States,1875–1925), wool, 61 x 35 1/2 in (courtesy American Folk Art Museum, photo by José Andrés Ramírez)
Mystery and Benevolence
Installation view of ‘Mystery and Benevolence’
Independent Order of Odd Fellows Tracing Board, Artist unidentified (United States, 1850–1900), oil on canvas, 33 1/4 x 39 1/2 x 2 1/8 inches (courtesy American Folk Art Museum, photo by José Andrés Ramírez)
Independent Order of Odd Fellows Tracing Board, Artist unidentified (United States, 1850–1900), oil on canvas, 33 1/4 x 39 1/2 x 2 1/8 in (courtesy American Folk Art Museum, photo by José Andrés Ramírez)”
Mystery and Benevolence
Installation view of ‘Mystery and Benevolence’

Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collectioncontinues at the American Folk Art Museum (2 Lincoln Square, Upper West Side, Manhattan) through May 8.

 

http://hyperallergic.com/271755/folk-art-relics-from-the-golden-age-of-americas-secret-societies/

and…

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/08/arts/design/the-art-of-secret-societies-filled-with-codes-and-glyphs.html?_r=4