Author Archive

A March for Science in DC Set for Earth Day 2017

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In response to an Administration and Congress that seems hostile to science — particularly in regards to climate change — there is going to be a March for Science in Washington DC, this year, on Earth Day.

There are also a growing constellation of marches around the nation set for that day.

What began as a Reddit conversation has grown into a movement of scientists and science lovers standing up for evidenced-based policy making and inclusivity in the science community.

The date of the march isn’t just an average Saturday. April 22 is Earth Day, first celebrated in 1970.

The original Earth Day is seen by many as a turning point in the environmental movement. The year itself also marks a major turning point for the U.S. government and environmental policy. In 1970, Richard Nixon signed the Environmental Protection Agency into existence and it began operating that December.

I usually don’t post politically oriented stuff on here, but I think this goes beyond politics. It is dangerous to me when politicians have so little regard for facts and scientific reality. Somewhere around 99% of scientists around the world state that climate change is a reality, whereas only 50% of U.S. politicians agree with this. Without support for the greatest minds our society has to offer, we’re not going to go anywhere as a country or as a people. It was hostility to intellectualism that thrust Europe into the Dark Ages. There is so much potential in our day and age. Potential to explore the stars. Potential to power our cities with sunshine and wind. Potential to unlock the secrets of the human mind and genome. We can’t give that all up now out of fear and hate.

So if you’re interested in standing up for science, definitely check out this link.

Update: I just joined a chat room with the organizers. So I’ll post more updates if I get any relevant information that needs to be posted here.

 READ MORE DETAILS HERE


Bathory – The Lake

Country of origin: Sweden

Genre: Viking/Black Metal

Lyrical Themes: (Earlier Bathory) Satanism, Evil – (Later Bathory) Vikings/Paganism

Album: Blood on Ice

In this song, the narrator is told to give up his eyes so that he can “truly see.” That’s an interesting concept. The lyrics of this song also refer to a “one eyed old man,” no doubt Odin. And it was Odin who gave up his eye so that he could know the secrets of the Runes. Perhaps those who are less distracted by what they physically see, can truly see into the spiritual realm. There’s an expression that goes, “Only in the darkness can you see the stars.”

Lyrics: 

“The one eyed old man told me that the face that I will see
Has paralysed a thousand brave men sure of victory
I cannot fight blindfolded and I’d freeze if I should see.
So I need to sacrifice my eyes to see all from within.”

Read the rest of the lyrics here

 


360 Views of World Wonders

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See Site Here

Some of you, like me, may not be able to afford to travel. But the site above, Airpano, does offer pretty neat 360 degree views of various world wonders, whether they be sites of natural beauty, or structures of historical significance, like the Agra Fort in India, that was built during the Mughal Empire, as a fort that successfully united Hindu and Islamic traditions. So, lots of neat stuff to see. Check it out.


The Story of God with Morgan Freeman

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Watch Episodes Here

“The Story of God,” starring  Morgan Freeman, is documentary series on the National Geographic Channel that got started last year. In this series, Morgan Freeman explores various cultures and religions, and their take on religion-related topics, particularly about their belief in a God or a higher power.

The second season just got released recently.

Morgan Freeman’s voice is the perfect voice to narrate anything. I wish my whole life could be narrated by his voice.


Tolkien, Romanticism and Norse Mythology

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Two days ago, Tolkien fans toasted the legendary author on what would have been his 125th birthday. J.R.R. Tolkien in some ways is a mysterious person. He was a devout Roman Catholic with a strong interest in Norse Mythology. And it was his writing that took the Norse mythology that he studied and loved, and created an entire literary genre around it.


THE NORSE INFLUENCE

During Tolkien’s education at King Edward’s School in Birmingham, the then young Tolkien read and translated from the Old Norse on his own time. One of his first Nordic purchases was the Völsunga saga ( a late 13th century Icelandic prose rendition of the origin and decline of the Völsung clan).  Both the Volsunga Saga and the Nibelungenlied were texts that had roughly the same date and origin. And both of these provided some of the basis for Richard Wagner’s opera series, Der Ring des Nibelungen, featuring in particular a magical golden ring and a broken sword reforged. In the Völsungasaga, these items are respectively Andvarinaut and Gram, and they correspond broadly to the One Ring and the sword Narsil (reforged as Andúril).

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So hmmm…Tolkien was inspired by a story about a magical ring, that sounds kind of familiar…


THE ROMANTIC INFLUENCE

One important thing to understand about Tolkien is that he had an intense hatred of industrialization, which he considered to be devouring the English countryside. And much of the forces of evil in Lord of The Rings can be analogous to the forces of industrialization both Tolkien’s time, as well as our time today.

What is interesting to note, is that in the late 19th century and early 20th century there was a movement of “neo-romanticism.” The romanticism of the late 18th century had a strong emphasis on emotion, and the glory of the past and nature, as well as an intense disdain for industrialization. So neo-romanticism was a reinvention of that in later times.

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(Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, 1818)

In the Romantic as well as Neo-Romantic movements, there was a romanticized ideal of the past as a time when people were more noble and heroic. Many of these themes are obvious in Wagner’s extraordinary operas (for instance, Flight of the Valkyries). Afterall, as mentioned above, Wagner wrote a certain opera about a certain magical ring and the curse of material greed (very familiar sounding).

Of course, Wagner had very controversial associations, given his anti-semitic ideas, and the Nazis’ love for Wagner. So if Tolkien was inspired by Wagner, he certainly wasn’t going to go around saying so. Especially not after World War II.

But in Tolkien’s work, he did manage to express a sort of Romantic yearning for the glory of the past, as well as a contempt for the power and forces of greed in modern times. The Lord of the Rings Films are also like a work of Romantic art, in Peter Jackson’s emphasis on large, powerful landscapes in which man is only a tiny, and small wanderer lost in the power of nature.

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(Landscape from The Hobbit Trailer)

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(Here’s a piece of romantic landscape art in comparison. Albert Bierstadt’s Storm in the Rocky Mountains, 1866)


ELVES AND DWARFS

In continuation with the discussion about Tolkien’s norse influences, there are the elves and dwarfs in his story. They’re not something he just made up. They were based on Norse and Germanic mythology. The Prose Edda and the Elder or Poetic Edda contain descriptions of elves and dwarfs.

In Germanic mythology, dwarfs are short, humanoids who dwell in mountains and in the Earth. They are associated with wisdom, smithing, mining and crafting. Dwarfs are also described as short and ugly.

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(Here’s a dwarf!)

In terms of elves, there are the Dökkálfar (Old Norse “Dark Elves”, singular Dökkálfr) and Ljósálfar (Old Norse “Light Elves”, singular Ljósálfr). The Dark Elves dwell in the Earth and are swarthy. While the Light Elves live in Álfheimr (one of the nine Norse worlds) and are fairer than the sun to look at.

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(Here’s an elf!)


GANDALF THE GREY

The figure of Gandalf the Grey is also influenced by the Norse deity Odin, who was described as a wanderer, an old man with one eye, a wide-brimmed hat and a long beard. In a letter of 1946, nearly a decade after the character was invented, Tolkien wrote that he thought of Gandalf as an “Odinic wanderer (Carpenter 1981, #181)”. Much like Odin, Gandalf promotes justice, knowledge, truth, and insight.

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(Gandalf fan art)


OTHER INFLUENCES

However, Norse myth wasn’t the only cultural influence. Tolkien’s work was also influenced by Old and Middle English, he based the Elvish language on Finnish, Greek mythology (in terms of the island Numenor being an allusion to Atlantis), Celtic influence in terms of the exile of the Noldorin elves and the parallels of that with the mythical Tuatha Dé Danann, and Arthurian Legend .

Tolkien was also influenced by his own Christian religion as well. The biblical narrative about the fall of man influenced The Silmarillion (in terms of the fall of the elves).


POETIC WRITINGS

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The poem below is from The Fellowship of the Ring. I think it definitely shows the Romantic influences in Tolkien’s work. I.E. the yearning for ancient ways. The contempt for greed.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

Also read: “I Sit Beside the Fire and Think


RELATED LINKS

tolkien

Tolkien’s grandson on how WW1 inspired The Lord of the Rings (BBC, 1-3-17)

J. R. R. Tolkien Fans Are Toasting the Lord of the Rings Author on His 125th Birthday (TIME, 1-3-17)


Burzum – Jesu Død

Genre: Black Metal

Country of Origin: Norway

Themes: Rediscovering the ancient Pagan ways


“Jesu Død” is Norwegian for “Jesus Dead.”

I understand that old school black metal can be difficult to listen to for many people, because of the low production value. It often sounds like someone is shouting into a one track tape recorder with glass shards in their mouth, and then blasting the music out through a wet sponge and a coffee filter.

But I love it. I love the dark, gritty atmosphere of it. I like playing it in the background as I work on creative writing or draw a picture. It’s got an ancient, primeval madness that well produced music can’t quite capture.

Varg Vikernes is the one man artist behind Burzum. He is controversial because he went to prison for burning churches and for murdering Mayhem guitarist Øystein ‘Euronymous. He is also controversial for his racist and antisemitic views. Views that are obviously not supported on Metal-Gaia. However, people must remember that Black Metal in itself is a very controversial art form. It’s a forum within which many artists express hatred for institutionalized religion, and a longing for the old, brutal pagan ways. But it is also a forum in which people have expressed favor for contentious ideas like National Socialism and so on.

Sometimes it can be difficult to reconcile the fact that you may love an artist’s music, but don’t support their views. I mean, you can love Megadeth without supporting some of Dave Mustane’s wacky political ideas. And that goes for Ted Nugent as well. I mean, who doesn’t like Cat Scratch Fever?

In the end, I guess we must remember that art is a forum within which people push the limits of conventional thought. And thus sometimes those artists will believe in extreme things, and promote those ideas through their music. But it is up to the listener to use their own logic and reasoning to decide for themselves what they believe is true.

And sometimes, you’re just a person who likes the music, and doesn’t give a fuck about the rest. That’s okay too.


I Sit Beside the Fire and Think – Tolkien

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I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door

I Sit Beside the Fire and Think is a song by Bilbo Baggins, which he sang softly in Rivendell on 24 December T.A. 3018, the evening before the Fellowship of the Ring set out upon their quest. Bilbo sang the song in the presence of Frodo, after giving Frodo the mithril-coat and Sting. The song is a contemplative piece, sung by a now-aging hobbit recalling past events that ends in anticipation of hearing returning friends.

But could it also have another meaning? A longing for the return of ancient ways? For the return of the spring after a long and cold winter?

Source for poem: Tolkien Gateway


10 Rock + Metal Bands That Play Weird Instruments

I can’t say that I’m surprised that Eluveitie and Korpiklaani both made it onto the list. My favorite by far though has to be Jackyl with their infamous chainsaw in “The Lumberjack.”

(Original article on Loudwire)


Spirit Animals

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I came across an article I really liked about spirit animals on shaman.com, so I will share it here.

“The spirit animals , as the name suggest are creature’s spirits inhabiting the two realms of existence . Our own and the realm of the spirits .  They are the reflection of the one’s true inner self . They are an embodiment of  what a person’s needs most at the moment . The spirit animals are part of almost every shamanic traditions worldwide .”

It is helpful to remember that different cultures might have slightly different interpretations of what certain spirit animals symbolize. But what is important is that getting in touch with these animals can help you better yourself, or help you enhance a part of yourself that is lacking. The reason why animals are helpful to us humans is because many of us have forgotten how to get in touch with our instincts. We over intellectualize our lives and our problems. And we forget that at a deep, primitive level, we might already know the solutions to the issues we face. This is why an animal as a pet, a friend, or a spirit you see in a vision or a dream can potentially guide you to the right path.


Here are a few examples of spirit animals. Text taken from original article.

Deer

The deer is a symbol of healing , kindness and unconditional love . He is kind and compassionate . Furthermore this spirit animal rises your intuition  . If you see a deer in your dream is a symbol of natural beauty and gentleness . It represents your ability to deal with problems , your determination and grace .

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Eagle

The eagle is a proud animal . He symbolizes strength , leadership and bravery . The eagle teaches us courage . He gives us the ability to bravely face our fears . The eagle is a spirit that aids the leaders . Dreaming of an eagle may be symbol of pride , freedom courage , fierceness . It can also mean a self-renewal .

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Wolf

The wolf teaches us wisdom . He is the pathfinder . He is a symbol of leadership and intelligence . Dreaming of a wolf may symbolize self confidence and pride . It means you are a loner by choice .

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READ MORE HERE AT THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE AT SHAMAN.COM

OTHER SITES

ANIMALS AT DRUIDRY.ORG

SPIRIT ANIMAL INFO

ANIMAL SPIRIT GUIDES


Political Earthquakes at Twilight

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I don’t normally say anything about politics on this blog, but seeing the dramatic direction that politics is taking in light of America’s current election results and Britain’s Brexit, I had a few thoughts I wanted to write down. Not about the candidates, but about political trends as a mirror of deeper problems within, an omen of the world to come.

What I see evolving as a key catalyst in our political trends today is a growing existentialist dread people have about today’s world order, whether people are liberal, conservative, or whatever they are.

Today we live under a sort of soulless corporate, capitalistic world order that puts out the message that they’re building a better world for all of us – that everyone is important – and that if we work hard, everyone can have a piece of the pie.

But people have figured out that the world is being run by a powerful club, and they’re not part of the club. And now they’re willing to lash out in anger. In violence. To put anyone in power who even hints at doing something to destroy that club. I am not justifying the anger, the violence or the choices. I am just commenting on why people are doing what they do.

We live in a world where people are hungry for change, purpose and meaning. You see the growth of extreme religions as a result of this. Extreme Islam. Extremism in Christianity. Even extremism in Hinduism in India. The extremism and polarization of political movements.

Beneath this is a deep crisis of identity as we all become cogs as part of one large corporate, capitalist machine. And so I think this is why people are now latching onto extreme forms of identity, whether it be religion, race or nationality. Because we live in a time where there is a crisis of authenticity. Where everything seems fake, hopeless and meaningless. Where people are tired of false truths and fake platitudes.

But in addition to that people are terrified. Scared of the loss of their jobs, livelihood, but also scared of something ominous and foreboding to come.

I think this is why it is important for people to connect with new but ancient spiritual truths. Truths that can connect them with the Earth and to themselves. To something eternal. Hopefully a re-connection to our Earthly and eternal roots can be the spiritual medicine to inoculate us against the effects of a disastrous world that has stood against the laws of nature.

But all and all, we are living in a time of dramatic changes ahead. A time of political earthquakes. The twilight of an era. For better or for worse.


Celtefog – The Rain Is Coming From The North

Country: Greece

Genre: Pagan Black Metal

Lyrical Themes: Respect for nature, winter, revenge against humanity.

Damn. When Greece makes black metal they definitely know how to make it dark and intense. Another big Greek Black Metal band to pay attention to is Rotting Christ.

The style of Celtefog also reminds me of the style of atmospheric black metal bands from the American North-West, like Agalloch.

This is definitely a haunting song to listen to as nature around us darkens and we prepare for the winter months


RELATED LINKS

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Encyclopedia Metallum

Facebook

Official Website


Aztec War Poetry

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The following “Song-Poems” are taken from the Cantares Mexicanos, a late 16th-century collection transcribed by a Franciscan monk, Bernardino de Sahagún – of  Náhuatl-language (Aztec) poetry known as “flower and song” (” xóchitl in cuícatl “):  stylized, symbolic poem forms composed and performed by nobles – including kings.   These song-poems were believed to be carriers of sacred ritual energy. (Original Source: “War is Like a Flower“)


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To the God of War:  Huitzilopochtli

Huitzilopochtli, the Warrior,
He who acts on high
Follows his own path.
Oh marvellous dweller among clouds,
Oh dweller in the region of the frozen wings.
He causes the walls of fire to fall down
Where the feathers are gathered.
Thus he wages war
And subdues the Peoples.
Eager for war, the Flaming One descends,
He rages where the whirling dust arises.
Come to our aid !
There is War, there is burning.
Those Pipitlan are our enemies…

Explanation of Terms:

Huitzilopochtli: Aztec god of War, from the Náhuatl words for

“hummingbird of the left-side/south-side” – the hummingbird being

known for its aggression, daring, and persistence

Pipitlan: a people to the south of Tenochtitlan (capital of the

Aztec Empire, site of present-day Mexico City)


Heart, have no fright.
There on the battlefield
I cannot wait to die
by the blade of sharp obsidian.
Our hearts want nothing but a war death.
You who are in the struggle:
I am anxious for a death
from sharp obsidian.
Our hearts want nothing but a war death.


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Sacred crazy flowers,
flowers of bonfires,
our only ornament,
war flowers.


How do they fall? How do they fall?
These hearts, ripe fruit for harvest**.
Look at them,
These fall, the hearts — oh our arrows
These fall, the hearts — oh our arrows.

Explanation of Terms: **These hearts, ripe fruit for harvest  –  a reference to the

human hearts that must be offered to Tonatiuh – the Sun god –

to ensure he will make his daily journey across the sky;

Tlaloc, the Rain god, also required human hearts – and

Waging War was the surest method to get them…)


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Where are you going? Where are you going?
To war, to the sacred water.
There our mother, Flying Obsidian,
dyes men, on the battlefield.
The dust rises
on the pool of flame,
the heart of the god of sun is wounded.
Oh Mactlacueye, oh Macuil Malinalli!
War is like a flower.
You are going to hold it in your hands.

Explanation of Terms: Mactlacueye  –  volcano north of the present-day city of Puebla;

locally known as La Malinche

Macuil Malinalli  –  a friend of Aztec King Nezahualpilli (1465-1515)


Spooky Ancient Irish Myths on Halloween

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Samhain is the ancient Irish festival that became Halloween as we know it.

“The Celts believed the year was divided into two parts, the lighter half in the summer and the darker half in the winter. Samhain, or Halloween as it is now called, was the division between these halves. The Celts believed that the veil between our world and the other world was thinnest at this time. Oíche Shamhna (October 31) is Halloween and Lá na Marbh (November 1) is the Day of the Dead, or All Saints Day, when those who have passed away are remembered.

According to the American Folklife Center at the U.S. Library of Congress, Celts wore costumes to confuse the spirits now roaming our world and to avoid capture. (Irish Central)”

Want to learn more about Celtic Halloween legends? Read the rest of the article at Irish Central


Within the Ruins – Enigma – And Surprise Inspector Gadget and Mario Riffs?

Location: Westfield, Massachusetts

Genre:  Metalcore (early), Progressive Metalcore (later)

Themes: Life, Inner struggles

This song, “Enigma,” certainly has the right name. While I’m not necessarily an avid fan of metalcore, I have to say these guys are amazing. And this song itself is definitely an interesting listen. As I was listening, at one point I said to myself, “WTF? Is that the Mario theme?” (at around 1:30) And then I heard something else familiar start up at (2:20). For a few seconds I had to think it through before I realized, “Oh! That’s Inspector Gadget!” So this is definitely a fun listen.

LINKS

Official Website

Facebook


Burzum – Filosofem [FULL ALBUM]

Genre: Black Metal, Ambient

Lyrical Themes: Myths, Folklore, Odalism, Darkness, Philosophy

Country of Origin: Norway

“In 1991, when Satanel disbanded, Vikernes revived his solo project, changing the name to Burzum (which translates to “darkness” in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Black Speech, which is spoken by orcs and other creatures of Mordor). Handling all instruments and vocals by himself, he recorded Burzum’s first four full-length albums in a span of just over one year. In addition to all that, he joined Mayhem on bass, as well.” (Encyclopedia Metallum).

Varg Vikernes of Burzum became notorious for his church burnings and murder of Mayhem’s leader Euronymous in 1993. He served 21 years in jail for these actions, but is now free today.

While his views are controversial, the music of Buruzm, like much great old school black metal, is gritty, unpolished, ambient and evokes an era of ancient, primeval pagan magic.


Muslims and Vikings

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When people typically think about interactions the vikings had with non-vikings, they think of what Christian monks wrote about the “godless” heathens and their spiky “horned hats” (vikings didn’t wear horned hats).

In this year dire forewarnings came over the land of the Northumbrians, and miserably terrified the people: these were extraordinary whirlwinds and lightnings, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the air. A great famine soon followed these omens; and soon after that, in the same year, on the sixth of the ides of Ianr, the havoc of heathen men miserably destroyed God’s church on Lindisfarne, through rapine and slaughter. (The incident is dramatically recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles in the year of the Lord 793 AD: Source)

Fiery dragons eh? That’s some good historical accuracy right there.

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But not all cultures and civilizations had the same reaction to the vikings.

The Norsemen during the “Viking Age” (the period between the 8th century to the 11th century) were a fairly sophisticated, sea-fairing people. While they did participate in raids, they also farmed, explored and engaged in commerce. They were prolific explorers for their time, exploring a vast region of territory, from the Americas to what is modern day Iraq.

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In this incredibly prodigious age of exploration, the Norsemen met a variety of people (including Native Americans in what they called “Vinland”). And given that the Norsemen had trade routes in what we today know as Spain and Iraq, they had their fair share of encounters with Muslims. What is interesting is that the Viking Age (8th-11th century) also coincided with the Golden Age of Islam (8th-13th century.)

The Golden Age of Islam was a time when the Islamic world was ruled by various caliphates and science. This period is traditionally understood to have begun during the reign of the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid (786 to 809) with the inauguration of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, where scholars from various parts of the world with different cultural backgrounds were mandated to gather and translate all of the world’s classical knowledge into the Arabic language.

Unlike Western Europe during the dark ages, in the Near East, there was an explosion of science, scholarship, learning, philosophy, health care, poetry, cultural influence and wealth.

The Norsemen, who had a keen interest in trade, knowledge and exploration, had pretty active mercantile relations with Muslims during this era. In fact, aside from a few raids in Muslim Spain, a majority of Muslim-Viking interactions were dominated by commerce.

The proof of this is that Islamic goods have been found in ancient Scandinavian burial sites. A big find occurred in March, 2015, when a viking woman in a burial ground was found with a ring engraved with the inscription “For/To Allah.”

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Why did she have this ring? Who knows. Perhaps she had no idea what the words meant, and it was merely a gift that ended up in her person as a result of trade relations with Muslim lands. Perhaps she herself was a Muslim. Maybe she just thought the ring was pretty. All we have is speculation. But the importance of the ring is that it shows that the Vikings were part of the Islamic trade network.

In fact, it is said that the Norsemen were obsessed with the silver dirham (Arabic coins). These were coins that had great value during the Viking Age. In Viking York and Dublin between the 10th-12th century, the dirham was used as a common currency (1001 Inventions).

This is highlighted by the discovery of King Offa’s (an Anglo-Saxxon King) coins in the British Museum engraved with ‘There is no other God but the one God. He has no equal,’ and on the outer margin of the coin “Mahommad is the Apostle of God, who sent him with the doctrine and true faith to prevail over every religion.” (Muslim Heritage)

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(The Map above shows Viking and Muslim invasions in Europe. Source)

MUSLIM ACCOUNTS OF THE VIKINGS

So what did the Muslims think about their fair haired trade partners from the north? We can discover this in their writings.

The most famous account comes from Ahmad ibn Fadlān. In fact, the movie The 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas is even based loosely on this historical account. Fadlān was a 10th century traveler who was a member of the embassy of the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad. On his way to meet with the Volga Bulgars, he wrote an account of his visit with the  Volga vikings, who he called the Rus. 

He mainly described them as being good looking, but crazy and unsanitary.

I have never seen more perfect physiques than theirs – they are like palm trees, are fair and reddish, and do not wear the tunic or the caftan.

Ahmad ibn Fadlan describes funeral rites which generally conform to the Norse rituals of Scandinavia, but were very exotic for an Islamic intellectual:

In the case of a rich man, they gather together his possessions and divide them into three portions, one third for his household, one third with which to cut funeral garments for him, and one third with which they ferment alcohol which they drink on the day when his slave-girl kills herself and is burned together with her master.

An account of the men:

Each man has an axe, a sword, and a knife and keeps each by him at all times. The swords are broad and grooved, of Frankish sort. Every man is tatooed from finger nails to neck with dark green (or green or blue-black) trees, figures, etc.

An account of the women:

Each woman wears on either breast a box of iron, silver, copper or gold; the value of the box indicates the wealth of the husband. Each box has a ring from which depends a knife. The women wear neck rings of gold and silver, one for each 10,000 dirhems which her husband is worth; some women have many. Their most prized ornaments are beads of green glass of the same make as ceramic objects one finds on their ships. They trade beads among themselves and they pay an exaggerated price for them, for they buy them for a dirhem apiece. They string them as necklaces for their women.

He described “The Rus” as being hospitable.

The Rus are a great host, all of them red haired

But also filthy

They are the filthiest of God’s creatures. They have no modesty in defecation and urination, nor do they wash after pollution from orgasm, nor do they wash their hands after eating. Thus they are like wild asses. When they have come from their land and anchored on, or ties up at the shore of the Volga, which is a great river, they build big houses of wood on the shore, each holding ten to twenty persons more or less. Each man has a couch on which he sits. With them are pretty slave girls destines for sale to merchants: a man will have sexual intercourse with his slave girl while his companion looks on. Sometimes whole groups will come together in this fashion, each in the presence of others. A merchant who arrives to buy a slave girl from them may have to wait and look on while a Rus completes the act of intercourse with a slave girl.

Is this entirely accurate? We don’t know. Such writings of course are always subject to bias. Because of his Islamic concepts of ritual washing, perhaps the sanitary practices of The Rus were dirty in comparison. There is also reason to believe that the vikings were much more open about sexuality than their Christian and Islamic neighbors, so having sex to a live audience may not have been a big deal. It is also said that the Norsemen traded furs, honey and slaves in exchange for the valuable silver dirham.

Human Sacrifice:

When a great personage dies, the people of his family ask his young women and men slaves, “Who among you will die with him?” One answers, “I.” Once he or she has said that, the thing is obligatory: there is no backing out of it. Usually it is one of the girl slaves who do this.

The rest of the account can be found at Viking Answer Lady

Other Accounts: 

 Ibrahim ibn Ya`qûb (al-Tartushi), an Andalusian man who was born into the Jewish community of Tortosa (Turtush)  said about the Viking women that “they part with their husbands whenever they like. They also have an artificial make-up for the eyes; when they use it their beauty never fades, but increases in both man and woman.”(Muslim Heritage)

Ibrahim was probably referring to the fact that Norse women were free to divorce their husbands whenever they liked. Whereas in the Islamic religion, while women can get a divorce, the procedure is much more complicated. It is also believed that Norse men and women wore dark makeup around their eyes to protect their eyes from their glare of the sun off snow and water, just as the Egyptians did in the desert.

According to 10th Century explorer and geographer Ibn Rustah, the Vikings were “handsome, clean and well-dressed” and he praised them even further.

They keep their clothes clean and the men adorn themselves with armbands of gold… They are generous to each other, honour their guests and treat well those who seek refuge with them, and all who come to visit them. They do not allow anyone to annoy or harm these. And whenever anyone dares to treat them unfairlythey help and defend them.” (1001 Inventions).

More quotes on Viking dress and the treatment of servants:

I have seen the Rus [Vikings] as they came on their merchant journeys and encamped by the Itil…” (Ibn Rustah“They [Vikings] treat their servants well and dress exquisitely because they are such keen traders” (Ahmed Ibn Fadlan) (1001 Inventions).

Accounts of Vikings who converted to Islam: 

The possibility of some vikings converting to Islam is not that far fetched, considering that some vikings traded and settled in Muslim lands. After all, this is similar to how many vikings converted to Christianity because of trade relations and surrounding cultures.

Evidence pertaining to the Vikings converting to Islam includes a memoir recorded by the 16th century geographer from Muslim Civilisation, Amin Razi who is reported to have stated that:

They [the Vikings] highly valued pork. Even those who had converted to Islam aspired to it and were very fond of pork.”

Another written account is by Omar Mubaidin, whi states: “Vikings would make numerous raids against both Muslim and Christian states in the Iberian Peninsula. Eventually, a community of settled Vikings, who converted to Islam in southeast Seville, would be famous for supplying cheese to Cordoba and Seville.”

CONCLUSIONS

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National Museum of Finland : Islamic, English, and German coins, latest coin dates from 1006-1029 (Image: Source)

From what I’ve read, it seems that the relationship that the Vikings had with Muslims during the Viking era was predominantly one of trade, while there were a few raids here and there. However it seems that there were less Viking raids against Muslim lands than Christian lands. One, this is probably because of geographic proximity. The Christians were located much closer to Scandinavian lands. Two, this is probably because during the Viking Ages, the Islamic Near East was far more developed than Western Europe. So it was more difficult to raid Islamic lands. The Viking attempts at invading the Iberian peninsula were not very successful.

From the written accounts that I’ve read, it seems that many of the Muslims who documented their encounters with the Rus found them hospitable, brave, and lively, but also unsanitary and a bit crazy.

Is this entirely accurate? Who knows. But at least these accounts didn’t include fire breathing dragons.


VIDEOS


LINKS

Risala: Ibn Fadlan’s Account of the Rus (Viking Answers Lady)

5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT VIKINGS AND MUSLIM CIVILISATION (1001 Inventions)

A Tale of Two Civilisations: The Viking and the Muslim World (Muslim Heritage)

When the Arabs met the Vikings: New discovery suggests ancient links (The National)

Old Arabic texts describe dirty Vikings (ScienceNordic)

Muslims vs Vikings (Islam21c)


The Infinite Nature of the Divine – The Bhagavad Gita

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“Try and contemplate the vastness and mind-boggling impermanence of the entire physical universe, Arjuna, and you just begin to gather an idea of My absolute permanence. By ruminating on the utter immensity of the cosmos you begin to receive hints of the incomprehensible scope of My omnipresence. I am present everywhere in all this vastness.” – The Bhagavad Gita (Purushottma Yoga)


Music and Science Fiction

heavymetal

Facebook Community Here

Above is a facebook community made to discuss all things connected to music and science fiction. What would you listen to in a time traveling Delorean? How about while riding a space elevator to Mars. Check it out.


Write Your Name in Germanic Runes

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CLICK HERE TO WRITE YOUR NAME IN RUNES

The Rune Converter I link to above transforms Roman alphabet, as used in modern English, into five systems of Germanic runic writing: Elder Futhark, Anglo-Saxon runes, Long Branch Younger Futhark, Short Twig Younger Futhark and staveless runes (note that it does not translate the words themselves, it only converts letters into runes).

Note that the present converter works with modern English only. Letters with Old Norse (or any other) diacritics will not be converted into rune

nameInRunes

(“Metal Gaia” in runes)


“Teutonic Terror” – ACCEPT

Genre: Heavy Metal

Country of Origin: Germany

Here’s some balls the walls packed heavy metal to livin up your evening. These teutonic titans have been around an impressive 48 years! That’s like twice as long as I’ve been alive. They formed back in 1968 as “Band X,”  but the band became “Accept” in 1976 when their vocalist  Udo Dirkschneider formed a new line up. So…technically the band really got started in 1976. While bassist Peter Baltes and guitarist Wolf Hoffmann have been in the band more or less since then, the current vocalist, drummer and guitarist Uwe Lulis are fairly new.

So these guys are a great heavy metal band that has been rocking out on their six string sabers for almost half a century. If you like bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, I’m pretty sure you’ll love Accept.

Storming the castles… swords In the air
Killing the monsters in their own lair
Lighting the torches… setting the stage
You get what you ask for… right in the face


500 Followers! Thanks All!

Today Metal Gaia reached 500 followers! We get readers from all over the world, including places like Hong Kong, Bulgaria, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Jamaica and far off exotic lands like Canada. Metal conquers all! Here’s some Judas Priest in thanks for your dedicated readership.


EX DEO (Roman Death Metal)

ROMULUS

THE FINAL WAR

Genre: Symphonic Death Metal

Lyrical Themes: Ancient Rome

Country of Origin: Canada

This is a side project of  Kataklysm’s Maurizio Iacono.”Ex deo” is Latin for “from/out of God”. So, if you enjoy Kataklysm, you will probably love rocking out to this Roman Metal project as well.


God King – Rise of Xerxes

It is unlikely that the actual king Xerxes walked around in golden underwear, speaking like an androgynous robot.

But what is powerful about this brief video is that it shows the power and the majesty that God Kings in the ancient world commanded over their subjects. Today modern people laugh at the idea of a King or Pharaoh being a living God. But in the ancient world, many people really did worship their rulers as Gods. Many people truly believed that their kings were the bridge between the world of the living and the heavens beyond. These rulers commanded a fanatic awe among their subjects that is hard for us to imagine. Like a celebrity, sports star, or dictator – but so much more.

So movies like this help us understand the psychology of the God King and his followers.


Ancient Spartan Women – The Backbone of the Warrior State

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(Image source)

In learning about Ancient Sparta, most of what is discussed is the lives of the men. Such as the fact that Spartan boys left home at the age of seven to be raised by the State in the agoge (the rigorous education program for all Spartan men). But as the cliche goes, behind every great man is a great woman. And it cannot be ignored that the strong Spartan women were the backbone of the warrior state.

Women in Sparta enjoyed a great deal more rights than their sisters in other Greek territories. They could own property, intermingle with the opposite sex, get an education, exercise and some even competed in the Olympic games (a thing forbidden to most women in Greece).

The elevated status of Spartan women was no accident though. Sparta at its very core was a military state, and just as laws were put in place to ensure the health and fitness of the men, there were also laws that encouraged strength and health of the women. After all, the Spartans believed that strong women produced strong sons and warriors.


 SPARTA’S FOCUS ON CULTIVATING WARRIOR CITIZENS

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In reading this article, you must disillusion yourself with most of what you learned in the 300 movies. While entertaining, a large part of the movie was completely inaccurate. Sparta was not some model democracy with warriors fighting for freedom. Sparta was a totalitarian, military society where the state ruled almost every aspect of life. And a vast majority of the people living in Sparta were slaves.

By 600 BCE Sparta had conquered her neighbors in the southern half of the Peloponnese. These conquered people were called “Helots,” and forced to do all the agricultural work on land owned by the victors. This made Sparta a self sufficient state, leaving the citizens with more time for physical fitness and training for war. Yet Sparta was a brutal state that depended upon the oppression of the very large slave population to thrive. For every Spartan, there were eight helots.

Not needing to import anything, Sparta isolated itself from the culture of the rest of the world. But they feared the prospect of revolt from their huge slave population, and thus the country became an armed camp.

In order to survive, the state had to ensure that every one Spartan was strong enough to defeat at least eight helots. To that end, Spartans learned from an early age discipline, hardship, and the skills of a soldier. As part of their upbringing, Spartan youths were encouraged to go out into the countryside and kill helots who looked like they might become community leaders.

Since boys left home at an early age, and husbands and fathers spent a great part of their time in military training with other men, the women had much more time and autonomy to themselves than other women in Greece.


YOUTH AND TRAINING FOR LIFE

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Young Spartans Exercising, From The National Gallery of London

According to Plutarch’s testimony, Spartans practiced infanticide in order to weed unhealthy children out of their society [1]. If a baby was weak, the Spartans would leave it on a hillside, or it was taken away to become a slave (helot). Infanticide was actually common in most societies up until today, but the Spartans were particularly picky. And it wasn’t just a family matter. The state decided the fate of the child. However, it is unclear whether this practice of infanticide applied just to boys, or boys and girls.

One thing that made Sparta unique among the Greek city-states is that the girl babies were just as well fed as their male counterparts. In Athens, the boys were fed better than the girls. But in Sparta, the strength of women as well as men was of vital importance to the state. So it was encouraged to feed girls enough for them to become big and strong. [2]

While boys were sent away to the agoge at the age of seven, it is believed that girls stayed home with their mothers. However, according to the writings of Pomeroy, there was some institutionalized education for girls. Girls were educated on and off through different periods of Spartan history. During the Hellenistic period it stopped, and under the Romans it was restored.[3]

Literacy was a skill limited to the elite. Though there is evidence from the classical period that women wrote letters to their sons while they were away in battle. [4] Women also studied what was called mousike – which was not just music, but dance and poetry [5]. There are surviving statues from the period showing women playing musical instruments.

The spartan exercise regimen for girls was to make them every bit as fit as their brothers. Spartan girls learned how to ride on horseback. Other events for girls included running, wrestling, throwing the discus, and “trials of strength” [6]. It is also possible that girls exercised in the nude in public, just like the men. After all, there is archaic Spartan art that shows girls exercising naked, while this was only true for men in Athens. Women also competed in various festivals, the most prestigious of which was the Heraean Games.[7]


MARRIAGE AND SEX

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While I have discussed the freedoms of Spartan women above, it seems likely that Spartan marriages were arranged by the parents with little thought of the preferences of the perspective bride and groom. Yet aside from this detail, women still had more freedom in marriage and sex than most Greek women.

SPARTAN GIRLS MARRIED LATE

 The average age of marriage for a Spartan woman was 18. While for other Greek women, the age was around their early teens. Some Spartan women even got married in their early to mid twenties (which was considered very late in the ancient world considering that people didn’t live very long). Because of this, Spartan women were much more mature when they got married, and were more likely to have a greater deal of control over their marriages than women who got married at a younger age.

Spartan women also typically married men who were closer to them in age. Men in their mid twenties or thirties. This might not seem that close in age to us modern folk today. But in the ancient Greek world, it was normal for a 30 year old man to marry a 14 year old girl. This was done so that women had the maximum amount of their breeding years to produce babies. But since the health and strength of the child was a bigger priority in Sparta than the number of children, getting married later made more sense. It is well known today that a woman will have a healthier child in her late teens and twenties, than her early teens, because she has been given more time to finish developing.

Yet despite all their relative freedoms, women in Sparta were still treated like breeding machines by the state. It is said that only a man who died in battle and a woman who died in childbirth would get their names inscribed on their tombstones.  [8][9]

FEMALE POWER IN MARRIAGE

spartan-wom

(Image Source)

Many Greeks in other lands thought that Spartan women had too much control over their husbands. Plutarch wrote that “the men of Sparta always obeyed their wives.” Aristotle was even more critical of the influence women had in politics arguing that it was contributing to the downfall of the country.   Women did not have a vote in the assembly but seem to have had a lot of influence behind the scene.

ATYPICAL MARRIAGE CUSTOMS

Marriage among the Spartans was different from the rest of Greeks for many reasons. For one, it seemed that there was a great effort to get rid of the practice of giving a dowry. Some say this is because the Spartan state wanted couples to create children on the basis of health and strength, instead of money.

Married life for Spartans was also unique in that it was normal for the husband to spend a good deal of time away from his wife. Men were encouraged to live at the barracks until their 30’s. Until then, husbands and wives could only meet with one another in secret. Also, even in his 30’s, a man would still spend a great deal of time eating and training at the barracks – instead of eating home cooked meals. One outsider who ate with the Spartans at the barracks remarked, “Now I know why Spartan’s don’t fear death.”

A MOST UNUSUAL WEDDING RITUAL

 On the night of the wedding, the bride would have her hair cut short, be dressed in a man’s cloak and sandals before being left alone in a dark room, where they would be visited and ritually “captured” by their new husband. Married women were forbidden from wearing their hair long. [10]

I guess after being around dudes forever, you have to make the transition to females go easier somehow.

WOMEN AND THEIR MULTIPLE LOVERS

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(Image Source)

In terms of other interesting sexual practices, some historians suggest that the Spartans engaged in polyandry: a practice where women were allowed to have sex with multiple male lovers. It is said that this was permissible because the state was the backbone of social life, not the family. Because of this, it is suggested that the identity of a child’s father was less important than it was in other cultures. Books like Sex Before Dawn even say that polyandry was a normal set up in many tribal cultures, where property was shared, rather than inherited along patrilineal lines. Since Sparta was a military state where property was divided and provided by the state, rather than familial inheritance, strength and health was the focus of sex and childbearing – not marriage and family.

 Herodotus says that the bigamy of Anaxandridas II was un-Spartan (Herodotus, Histories, V.40.2) but Polybius wrote that it was common at his time, and a time-honoured practice.(Polybius XII.6b.8) Along with plural marriage, older men seem to have allowed younger, more fit men, to impregnate their wives. Other unmarried or childless men might even request another man’s wife to bear his children if she had previously been a strong child bearer. [11]

DIVORCE

Women were allowed to divorce with little consequences. They did not need to fear losing their home and property, because they lived among the community as equal citizens. They were also not discouraged from remarrying. A Spartan woman was also not forced to relinquish her children, because the identity of the child’s biological father was not vitally important.


MATRIARCHAL DUTIES

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Because men spent so much time off at war, or training in the barracks, women were masters of the home. This is why women had social and political power in their communities. Due to this Aristotle was critical of Sparta, claiming that men were ruled by women there, unlike in the rest of Greece. Aristotle, Politics 1269b.

Aristotle also criticized Spartan women for their wealth. He attributed the state’s precipitous fall during his lifetime, from being the master of Greece to a second-rate power in less than 50 years, to the fact that Sparta had become a gynocracy whose women were intemperate and loved luxury. Aristotle, Politics 1269b–1270a.

All Spartan women took advantage of helot labor, so they did not have to spend their time doing the tedious work that most domestic Greek women performed. Therefore, the Spartan women had more time to participate in matters such as governance, agriculture, logistics, fitness, art, music, etc.

But they also spent a lot of time bearing and raising children. Bearing and raising children was considered the most important role for women in Spartan society, equal to male warrior in the Spartan army.

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Also, despite the many glowing freedoms of Spartan women compared to women in other provinces, the state still preferred male babies in order to create a large and powerful military force. So women took pride in the warrior sons they birthed and raised. Having a son who died valiantly in battle was a source of great pride for a mother. By contrast however, having a son who was a coward was a source of great despair. The ancient author Aelian claims that women whose sons died as cowards lamented this [12]. By contrast, the female relatives of the Spartans who died heroically in the Battle of Leuctra were said to have walked around in public looking happy. [13]

When a warrior left for battle his mother would say, “Come home with your shield or upon it.”


RELIGION

The cults for women in ancient Sparta reflected society’s emphasis on their role as child-bearers and raisers. Consequently, cults focused on fertility, health and beauty. I will elaborate on the cults below.

THE CULT EILEITHYIA

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(Eleithyiae, Zeus & the birth of Athena | Athenian black-figure kothos C6th B.C.)

Eileithyia was the goddess of childbirth and midwifery. Some say there is a link between this Goddess and early Minoan culture.  19th-century scholars suggested that her name is Greek, from the verb eleutho (ἐλεύθω), “to bring,” the goddess thus being The Bringer.

In the Illiad she is described as following:

And even as when the sharp dart striketh a woman in travail, [270] the piercing dart that the Eilithyiae, the goddesses of childbirth, send—even the daughters of Hera that have in their keeping bitter pangs;
Iliad 11.269–272

THE CULT OF HELEN

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Most people are familiar with the story about Helen of Troy. The face that launched a thousand ships and all that. But much to my surprise upon researching this subject, she was also worshiped in some places as a Goddess. She had a festival at Laconia, the principle region of the Spartan state. (In fact the word “laconic” is derived from laconia, because the Spartans were known to speak in a concise, and to the point manner.) In the cult of Helen, women used objects such as mirrors, eye-liners, combs, and perfume bottles.


FAMOUS WOMEN IN SPARTA

QUEEN GORGO

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Because of the 300 movies, she is probably the first Spartan woman that most people today are familiar with. She was the wife of King Leonidas I, Cleomenes’ half-brother, who fought and died in the Battle of Thermopylae (that famous battle with Persian King Xerxes) you know..the bald guy in gold underwear who supposedly sounds like a androgynous robot. (Scene in 300 where he becomes a God).

But anyways, Gorgo is one of the few female figures actually named by the Greek historian Herodotus, and was well-known for her political judgment and wisdom.

Arguably, Gorgo’s most significant role occurred prior to the Persian invasion of 480 BC. According to Herodotus’s Histories, Demaratus, then in exile at the Persian court, sent a warning to Sparta about Xerxes’s pending invasion. In order to prevent the message from being intercepted by the Persians or their vassal states, the message was written on a wooden tablet and then covered with wax. The Spartans did not know what to do with the seemingly blank wax-tablet once they received it. Only Queen Gorgo figured out the puzzle. She advised them to clear the wax off the tablet and thus found the secret message. (“Herodotus ”History” [Translated into English]”. Ancienthistory.about.com. 2010-06-15. Retrieved 2011-07-24.)

ARACHIDAMIA

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(Image Source)

She was also a Spartan queen. She is most notable for her role in leading Spartan women against Pyrrhus during his siege of Lacedaemon in the 3rd century BC. In the face of the siege, the Spartan council of elders wanted to send the Spartan women off the Crete for their safety. But Arachidamia refused that offer. She entered the council with sword in hand, and contested this proposal, questioning whether the Spartan women were expected to survive the ruin of their own city. (Plutarch, Parallel Lives: Life of Pyrrhus § 27.2)

Instead she led the women into the battle effort. The women helped build a defensive trench, supplied the troops with defensive weapons, refreshment and took care of the wounded.

CYNISCA

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Cynisca was a Spartan princess and the first woman to win an Olympic victory. She also had a cult in Sparta.


IN SUMMARY

While much of history has concentrated on the role of Spartan men, it cannot be ignored that the Spartan women were a vital part of the warrior society. They raised warriors, and were brave leaders in their communities. They encouraged the men to be brave in battle, while also knowing how to take care of themselves and hold their own.

Life in the Spartan state was very difficult and harsh. So it took a harsh and strong woman, to raise a fierce society.


LINKS ON SPARTA

Spartan_woman

8 Reasons It Wasn’t Easy Being Spartan

Women in the Ancient World

Women in Sparta (on Wikipedia)

Social and Political Roles of Women in Athens and Sparta

SCANDALOUS” SPARTAN WOMEN:
EDUCATED AND ECONOMICALLY EMPOWERED


RELATED METAL GAIA ARTICLES

Ancient Egyptian Women – Marriage, Sexuality and Goddesses

Ancient Celtic Women

Ancient Norse Women


LONG BORING LIST OF FOOTNOTES

[1] Pomeroy 2002, pp. 34–35

[2] Pomeroy 1994, p. 36

[3] Pomeroy 2002, pp. 27–28

[4] Pomeroy 2002, p. 8.

[5] Pomeroy 2002, p. 5

[6] Hughes 2005, p. 59

[7] Pomeroy 2002, p. 24

[8](Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus, 27.3)

[9](Dillon 2007, p. 151).

[10] Cartledge 1981, p. 101

[11] Powell 2001, p. 248.

[12] Pomeroy 2002, p. 58

[13] Pomeroy 2002, p. 58.

Pomeroy, Sarah B. (1994), Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Women
in Classical Antiquity, London: Pimlico, ISBN 978-0-712-66054-9

Dillon, Matthew (2007), “Were Spartan Women Who Died in Childbirth
Honoured with Grave Inscriptions?”, Hermes 135

Cartledge, Paul (1981), “Spartan Wives: Liberation or License?”, The
Classical Quarterly 31 (1)

Powell, Anton (2001), Athens and Sparta: constructing Greek
political and social history from 478 BC, London: Routledge, ISBN
978-0-415-26280-4