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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