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Voices of the Dead: The Strange Origins of Eye Idols

Voices of the Dead: The Strange Origins of Eye Idols

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Urfa man, known formally as the Balikligöl statue, is the oldest human-size statue of a man yet discovered in the world. He is currently housed in Şanliurfa’s Archeology Museum, Southeast Turkey. Urfa man was discovered in the Old Town section of Şanliurfa, but in antiquity belongs to the same thought world of Göbekli Tepe, a site half an hour away from the museum by car.

The late Professor Klaus Schmidt, former head of excavation at Göbekli Tepe, an unexpected archeological precursor between Neolithic mindsets and the birth of Sumerian and Egyptian civilizations, discerned Urfa man as inferior to Göbekli Tepe’s humanoid T-shapes, but minister to them. That Urfa man and the T-shapes might relate can be seen in the double V-shape neck design. Pillar 31, one of the dominant twin-pillars of Enclosure D bears a similar double V-shape at the neck. Significantly perhaps, this pillar’s companion (pillar 18) bears only a single V-shape marking. Urfa man is embracing his genitals, and the twin-pillars of Enclosure D are both depicted embracing the navel.

Figure 1. The ruins of Gobekli Tepe ( Wikimedia Commons )

An imposing figure standing over 6ft, it seems clear Urfa man was a cult statue even though only one of his kind has been found to date. That he may have had connection with fertility is persuasive, but ‘fertility’ can be applied as an answer to everything from the ancient world. Turning our attention to the strange, vaguely unsettling appearance of the face, Urfa man’s voiceless image cast by a conspicuously absent mouth and gazing obsidian-filled eyes is hauntingly enigmatic, but offers a link with another class of ancient statuary known as the eye idol. Shown here (fig.2) is a selection of eye idols currently at the Şanliurfa Museum. Though Urfa man is much larger than an eye idol, both may have imbued a related ‘voice technology’ in their manufacture.

Figure 2. Eye idols currently at the Şanliurfa Museum. Photo courtesy of the author.

If the controversial psychologist Julian Jaynes had been exposed to Göbekli Tepe and its monuments, he would likely have found a compelling candidate of his bicameral hypothesis in Urfa man. While we should remain sceptical of Jaynes’ thesis as a whole, he produced some perceptive, freestanding observations of ancient artefacts. Jaynes, who wrote on eye idols, suggests their mouthless design was to enhance more hypnotically the hallucination of the dead (kings, priests, ancestors, etc.) continuing to speak to the living. Jaynes traces the psychological folklore of vision:

Eye-to-eye contact in primates is extremely important. Below humans, it is indicative of the hierarchical position of the animal, the submissive animal turning away grinning in many primate species. But in humans, perhaps because of the much longer juvenile period, eye-to-eye contact has evolved into a social interaction of great importance. An infant child, when its mother speaks to it, looks at the mother’s eyes, not her lips. This response is automatic and universal. The development of such eye-to-eye contact into authority relationships and love relationships is an exceedingly important trajectory that has yet to be traced. It is sufficient here merely to suggest that you are more likely to feel a superior’s authority when you and he are staring straight into each other’s eyes. There is a kind of stress, an unresolvedness about the experience, and withal something of a diminution of consciousness, so that, were such a relationship mimicked in a statue, it would enhance the hallucination of divine speech. 1

Jaynes perceived eye idols not as ornamental, but as speaking statues containing voices of the dead - as figurines assisting as aids in the production of hallucinated voices. Some types of eye idol were placed near elements such as running water to increase their speaking power, while others were located in temple areas and feature markings that symbolise gods. Their physiognomy is featureless apart from the eyes. More comparable in age to Urfa man than the smaller, more portable idols of Tell Brak, are the eye statues of Ain Ghazal, which are similarly minimalistic in their portrayal of other facial features. Lewis-Williams suggests this was to enhance their supernatural sight or, a type of seeing beyond human experience, but little ventures what reciprocity these artefacts may have had. 2

In archeological schemes, human sculpture can be conceived as the artistic attempt to portray the body in realistic terms – the reason why Greco-Roman example is seen as the climax of this process – and though the genital embrace of Urfa man is ill-margined compared to that of his navel bracing T-shape overlords, they appear to coincide in intended design. Interestingly, some eye idols may have conveyed an unspecified sense of fertility too. At the so-called ‘Eye Temple’ of Tell Brak, Northeast Syria, not far from present-day Şanliurfa but distanced by millennia, thousands of eye idols were discovered. Some of these appear to be depicted ‘embracing’ a minor. 3(fig.3)

Figure 3. Eye idol embracing a minor

If Urfa man embraced a notion of fertility, and if he depicts a deceased person, it might not directly relate to the human, but symbolise the annual reappearance of the seasons, comparable to the Egyptian god Osiris who mysteriously germinated the world from his invisible realm of the dead. In relation to this, we recall the theme of a headless, ithyphallic man on pillar 43 (the ‘vulture-stone’) at Göbekli Tepe. This image merges a figure of death with a continuity of fecundity. 4 Conversely, so to speak, there have been detached stone phalluses discovered at the site.

It is likely that Urfa man, fervent in deceptive silence and stood at the boundary of the living and the dead, was consulted at night. His pale limestone material gleaming with a spectral appearance, with a possible influence of psychedelics, augmenting the experience of him ‘speaking’. Furthermore, there may have been wider interest in subliminal sounds and voices produced to even more tangible effect at Göbekli Tepe fulfilling an archaeoacoustic design. Some of the pillars were interred in weak foundations as if to drone musically in the wind. An attempt to auditorily mimic the faceless, cosmos-defining beings central at this site?

End Notes:

1. Julian Jaynes. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind , Penguin Books (London & New York) 1993 p169

2. David Lewis-Williams & David Pearce. Inside the Neolithic Mind , Thames & Hudson (London) 2009 pp73-75

3. Jeremy Black & Antony Green. Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia , The British Museum Press (London) pp79-80

4. We should avoid linking Urfa man with that figure too closely, since the man could be in a shamanic-type of ecstasy with the head (as organ of supernatural sight, of seeing beyond) temporarily detached. Jaynes, however, groups the symbolism, and use, of severed heads with the eye idol, in that both were devised to evoke aural hallucinations. The necromantic use of severed heads was also present in Neolithic Europe and, interestingly, closer to home in Harran. A magical grimoire known as the Ghayat al-Hakim (later translated into Latin as Picatrix) relates how the demon worshipers of old Harran kept a severed head which gave out prophesies.

Featured Image: Urfa man. Photo Credit Alistair Coombs.

By Alistair Coombs

The Strange and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board

In February, 1891, the first few advertisements started appearing in papers: “Ouija, the Wonderful Talking Board,” boomed a Pittsburgh toy and novelty shop, describing a magical device that answered questions “about the past, present and future with marvelous accuracy” and promised “never-failing amusement and recreation for all the classes,” a link “between the known and unknown, the material and immaterial.” Another advertisement in a New York newspaper declared it “interesting and mysterious” and testified, “as sProven at Patent Office before it was allowed. Price, $1.50.”

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The History of Spiritualism

This mysterious talking board was basically what’s sold in board game aisles today: A flat board with the letters of the alphabet arrayed in two semi-circles above the numbers 0 through 9 the words “yes” and “no” in the uppermost corners, “goodbye” at the bottom accompanied by a “planchette,” a teardrop-shaped device, usually with a small window in the body, used to maneuver about the board. The idea was that two or more people would sit around the board, place their finger tips on the planchette, pose a question, and watch, dumbfounded, as the planchette moved from letter to letter, spelling out the answers seemingly of its own accord. The biggest difference is in the materials the board is now usually cardboard, rather than wood, and the planchette is plastic.

Though truth in advertising is hard to come by, especially in products from the 19th century, the Ouija board was “interesting and mysterious” it actually had been “proven” to work at the Patent Office before its patent was allowed to proceed and today, even psychologists believe that it may offer a link between the known and the unknown.

The real history of the Ouija board is just about as mysterious as how the “game” works. Ouija historian Robert Murch has been researching the story of the board since 1992 when he started his research, he says, no one really knew anything about its origins, which struck him as odd: “For such an iconic thing that strikes both fear and wonder in American culture, how can no one know where it came from?”

The Ouija board, in fact, came straight out of the American 19th century obsession with spiritualism, the belief that the dead are able to communicate with the living. Spiritualism, which had been around for years in Europe, hit America hard in 1848 with the sudden prominence of the Fox sisters of upstate New York the Foxes claimed to receive messages from spirits who rapped on the walls in answer to questions, recreating this feat of channeling in parlors across the state. Aided by the stories about the celebrity sisters and other spiritualists in the new national press, spiritualism reached millions of adherents at its peak in the second half of the 19th century. Spiritualism worked for Americans: it was compatible with Christian dogma, meaning one could hold a séance on Saturday night and have no qualms about going to church the next day. It was an acceptable, even wholesome activity to contact spirits at séances, through automatic writing, or table turning parties, in which participants would place their hands on a small table and watch it begin shake and rattle, while they all declared that they weren’t moving it. The movement also offered solace in an era when the average lifespan was less than 50: Women died in childbirth children died of disease and men died in war. Even Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the venerable president, conducted séances in the White House after their 11-year-old son died of a fever in 1862 during the Civil War, spiritualism gained adherents in droves, people desperate to connect with loved ones who’d gone away to war and never come home.

The Ouija Board was marketed as both mystical oracle and as family entertainment, fun with an element of other-worldly excitement. (Bettmann/CORBIS) Elijah Bond, a Baltimore attorney, was one of the first to patent the Ouija Board. (Robert Murch) Charles Kennard of Baltimore, Maryland, pulled together a group of four other investors—including Elijah Bond—to start the Kennard Novelty Company to exclusively make and market the Ouija Board. (Robert Murch) By 1893, William Fuld, who’d gotten in on the ground floor of the Kennard Novelty Company as an employee and stockholder, was running the company. (Robert Murch) This patent file from the United States Patent Office shows that the office required the board to be tested before a patent would be granted. (Robert Murch) The makers of the first talking board asked the board what they should call it the name “Ouija” came through and, when they asked what that meant, the board replied, “Good luck.” (Robert Murch)

“Communicating with the dead was common, it wasn’t seen as bizarre or weird,” explains Murch. “It’s hard to imagine that now, we look at that and think, ‘Why are you opening the gates of hell?’”

But opening the gates of hell wasn’t on anyone’s mind when they started the Kennard Novelty Company, the first producers of the Ouija board in fact, they were mostly looking to open Americans’ wallets.

As spiritualism had grown in American culture, so too did frustration with how long it took to get any meaningful message out of the spirits, says Brandon Hodge, Spiritualism historian. Calling out the alphabet and waiting for a knock at the right letter, for example, was deeply boring. After all, rapid communication with breathing humans at far distances was a possibility—the telegraph had been around for decades—why shouldn’t spirits be as easy to reach? People were desperate for methods of communication that would be quicker—and while several entrepreneurs realized that, it was the Kennard Novelty Company that really nailed it.

In 1886, the fledgling Associated Press reported on a new phenomenon taking over the spiritualists’ camps in Ohio, the talking board it was, for all intents and purposes, a Ouija board, with letters, numbers and a planchette-like device to point to them. The article went far and wide, but it was Charles Kennard of Baltimore, Maryland who acted on it. In 1890, he pulled together a group of four other investors—including Elijah Bond, a local attorney, and Col. Washington Bowie, a surveyor—to start the Kennard Novelty Company to exclusively make and market these new talking boards. None of the men were spiritualists, really, but they were all of them keen businessmen and they’d identified a niche.

But they didn’t have the Ouija board yet—the Kennard talking board lacked a name. Contrary to popular belief, “Ouija” is not a combination of the French for “yes,” oui, and the German ja. Murch says, based on his research, it was Bond’s sister-in-law, Helen Peters (who was, Bond said, a “strong medium”), who supplied the now instantly recognizable handle. Sitting around the table, they asked the board what they should call it the name “Ouija” came through and, when they asked what that meant, the board replied, “Good luck.” Eerie and cryptic—but for the fact that Peters acknowledged that she was wearing a locket bearing the picture of a woman, the name “Ouija” above her head. That’s the story that emerged from the Ouija founders’ letters it’s very possible that the woman in the locket was famous author and popular women’s rights activist Ouida, whom Peters admired, and that “Ouija” was just a misreading of that.

According to Murch’s interviews with the descendants of the Ouija founders and the original Ouija patent file itself, which he’s seen, the story of the board’s patent request was true: Knowing that if they couldn’t prove that the board worked, they wouldn’t get their patent, Bond brought the indispensible Peters to the patent office in Washington with him when he filed his application. There, the chief patent officer demanded a demonstration—if the board could accurately spell out his name, which was supposed to be unknown to Bond and Peters, he’d allow the patent application to proceed. They all sat down, communed with the spirits, and the planchette faithfully spelled out the patent officer’s name. Whether or not it was mystical spirits or the fact that Bond, as a patent attorney, may have just known the man’s name, well, that’s unclear, Murch says. But on February 10, 1891, a white-faced and visibly shaken patent officer awarded Bond a patent for his new “toy or game.”

The first patent offers no explanation as to how the device works, just asserts that it does. That ambiguity and mystery was part of a more or less conscious marketing effort. “These were very shrewd businessmen,” notes Murch the less the Kennard company said about how the board worked, the more mysterious it seemed—and the more people wanted to buy it. “Ultimately, it was a money-maker. They didn’t care why people thought it worked.”

And it was a money-maker. By 1892, the Kennard Novelty Company went from one factory in Baltimore to two in Baltimore, two in New York, two in Chicago and one in London. And by 1893, Kennard and Bond were out, owing to some internal pressures and the old adage about money changing everything. By this time, William Fuld, who’d gotten in on the ground floor of the fledgling company as an employee and stockholder, was running the company. (Notably, Fuld is not and never claimed to be the inventor of the board, though even his obituary in The New York Times declared him to be also notably, Fuld died in 1927 after a freak fall from the roof of his new factory—a factory he said the Ouija board told him to build.) In 1898, with the blessing of Col. Bowie, the majority shareholder and one of only two remaining original investors, he licensed the exclusive rights to make the board. What followed were boom years for Fuld and frustration for some of the men who’d been in on the Ouija board from the beginning—public squabbling over who’d really invented it played out in the pages of the Baltimore Sun, while their rival boards launched and failed. In 1919, Bowie sold the remaining business interest in Ouija to Fuld, his protégé, for $1.

The board’s instant and now, more than 120 years later, prolonged success showed that it had tapped into a weird place in American culture. It was marketed as both mystical oracle and as family entertainment, fun with an element of other-worldly excitement. This meant that it wasn’t only spiritualists who bought the board in fact, the people who disliked the Ouija board the most tended to be spirit mediums, as they’d just found their job as spiritual middleman cut out. The Ouija board appealed to people from across a wide spectrum of ages, professions, and education—mostly, Murch claims, because the Ouija board offered a fun way for people to believe in something. “People want to believe. The need to believe that something else is out there is powerful,” he says. “This thing is one of those things that allows them to express that belief.”

It’s quite logical then the board would find its greatest popularity in uncertain times, when people hold fast to belief and look for answers from just about anywhere, especially cheap, DIY oracles. The 1910s and 󈧘s, with the devastations of World War I and the manic years of the Jazz Age and prohibition, witnessed a surge in Ouija popularity. It was so normal that in May 1920, Norman Rockwell, illustrator of blissful 20th century domesticity, depicted a man and a woman, Ouija board on their knees, communing with the beyond on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. During the Great Depression, the Fuld Company opened new factories to meet demand for the boards over five months in 1944, a single New York department store sold 50,000 of them. In 1967, the year after Parker Brothers bought the game from the Fuld Company, 2 million boards were sold, outselling Monopoly that same year saw more American troops in Vietnam, the counter-culture Summer of Love in San Francisco, and race riots in Newark, Detroit, Minneapolis and Milwaukee.

Strange Ouija tales also made frequent, titillating appearances in American newspapers. In 1920, national wire services reported that would-be crime solvers were turning to their Ouija boards for clues in the mysterious murder of a New York City gambler, Joseph Burton Elwell, much to the frustration of the police. In 1921, The New York Times reported that a Chicago woman being sent to a psychiatric hospital tried to explain to doctors that she wasn’t suffering from mania, but that Ouija spirits had told her to leave her mother’s dead body in the living room for 15 days before burying her in the backyard. In 1930, newspaper readers thrilled to accounts of two women in Buffalo, New York, who’d murdered another woman, supposedly on the encouragement of Ouija board messages. In 1941, a 23-year-old gas station attendant from New Jersey told The New York Times that he joined the Army because the Ouija board told him to. In 1958, a Connecticut court decided not to honor the “Ouija board will” of Mrs. Helen Dow Peck, who left only $1,000 to two former servants and an insane $152,000 to Mr. John Gale Forbes—a lucky, but bodiless spirit who’d contacted her via the Ouija board.

Ouija boards even offered literary inspiration: In 1916, Mrs. Pearl Curran made headlines when she began writing poems and stories that she claimed were dictated, via Ouija board, by the spirit of a 17th century Englishwoman called Patience Worth. The following year, Curran’s friend, Emily Grant Hutchings, claimed that her book, Jap Herron, was communicated via Ouija board by the late Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. Curran earned significant success, Hutchings less, but neither of them achieved the heights that Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill did: In 1982, his epic Ouija-inspired and dictated poem, The Changing Light at Sandover, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. (Merrill, for his part, publicly implied that the Ouija board acted more as a magnifier for his own poetic thoughts, rather than as hotline to the spirits. In 1979, after he wrote Mirabelle: Books of Number, another Ouija creationhe told The New York Review of Books, “If the spirits aren’t external, how astonishing the mediums become!”)

Ouija existed on the periphery of American culture, perennially popular, mysterious, interesting and usually, barring the few cases of supposed Ouija-inspired murders, non-threatening. That is, until 1973.

In that year, The Exorcist scared the pants off people in theaters, with all that pea soup and head-spinning and supposedly based on a true story business and the implication that 12-year-old Regan was possessed by a demon after playing with a Ouija board by herself changed how people saw the board. “It’s kind of like Psycho—no one was afraid of showers until that scene… It’s a clear line,” says Murch, explaining that before The Exorcist, film and TV depictions of the Ouija board were usually jokey, hokey, and silly—“I Love Lucy,” for example, featured a 1951 episode in which Lucy and Ethel host a séance using the Ouija board. “But for at least 10 years afterwards, it’s no joke… [The Exorcist] actually changed the fabric of pop culture.”

Almost overnight, Ouija became a tool of the devil and, for that reason, a tool of horror writers and moviemakers—it began popping up in scary movies, usually opening the door to evil spirits hell-bent on ripping apart co-eds. Outside of the theatre, the following years saw the Ouija board denounced by religious groups as Satan’s preferred method of communication in 2001 in Alamogordo, New Mexico, it was being burned on bonfires along with copies of Harry Potter and Disney’s Snow White. Christian religious groups still remain wary of the board, citing scripture denouncing communication with spirits through mediums— calls the Ouija board “far from harmless” and as recently as 2011, 700 Club host Pat Robertson declared that demons can reach us through the board. Even within the paranormal community, Ouija boards enjoyed a dodgy reputation—Murch says that when he first began speaking at paranormal conventions, he was told to leave his antique boards at home because they scared people too much. Parker Brothers and later, Hasbro, after they acquired Parker Brothers in 1991, still sold hundreds of thousands of them, but the reasons why people were buying them had changed significantly: Ouija boards were spooky rather than spiritual, with a distinct frisson of danger.

In recent years, Ouija is popular yet again, driven in part by economic uncertainty and the board’s usefulness as a plot device. The hugely popular Paranormal Activity and 2 both featured a Ouija board it’s popped up in episodes of “Breaking Bad,” “Castle,” “Rizzoli & Isles” and multiple paranormal reality TV programs Hot Topic, mall favorite of Gothy teens, sells a set of Ouija board bra and underwear and for those wishing to commune with the beyond while on the go, there’s an app (or 20) for that. This year, Hasbro released a more “mystical” version of the game, replacing its old glow-in-the-dark version for purists, Hasbro also licensed the rights to make a “classic” version to another company. In 2012, rumors that Universal was in talks to make a film based on the game abounded, although Hasbro refused to comment on that or anything else for this story.

But the real question, the one everyone wants to know, is how do Ouija boards work?

Ouija boards are not, scientists say, powered by spirits or even demons. Disappointing but also potentially useful—because they’re powered by us, even when we protest that we’re not doing it, we swear. Ouija boards work on a principle known to those studying the mind for more than 160 years: the ideometer effect. In 1852, physician and physiologist William Benjamin Carpenter published a report for the Royal Institution of Great Britain, examining these automatic muscular movements that take place without the conscious will or volition of the individual (think crying in reaction to a sad film, for example). Almost immediately, other researchers saw applications of the ideometer effect in the popular spiritualist pastimes. In 1853, chemist and physicist Michael Faraday, intrigued by table-turning, conducted a series of experiments that proved to him (though not to most spiritualists) that the table’s motion was due to the ideomotor actions of the participants.

The effect is very convincing. As Dr. Chris French, professor of psychology and anomalistic psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, explains, “It can generate a very strong impression that the movement is being caused by some outside agency, but it’s not.” Other devices, such as dowsing rods, or more recently, the fake bomb detection kits that deceived scores of international governments and armed services, work on the same principle of non-conscious movement. “The thing about all these mechanisms we’re talking about, dowsing rods, Oujia boards, pendulums, these small tables, they’re all devices whereby a quite a small muscular movement can cause quite a large effect,” he says. Planchettes, in particular, are well-suited for their task—many used to be constructed of a lightweight wooden board and fitted with small casters to help them move more smoothly and freely now, they’re usually plastic and have felt feet, which also help it slide over the board easily.

“And with Ouija boards you’ve got the whole social context. It’s usually a group of people, and everyone has a slight influence,” French notes. With Ouija, not only does the individual give up some conscious control to participate—so it can’t be me, people think—but also, in a group, no one person can take credit for the planchette’s movements, making it seem like the answers must be coming from an otherworldly source. Moreover, in most situations, there is an expectation or suggestion that the board is somehow mystical or magical. “Once the idea has been implanted there, there’s almost a readiness to happen.”

But if Ouija boards can’t give us answers from beyond the Veil, what can they tell us? Quite a lot, actually.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Visual Cognition Lab think the board may be a good way to examine how the mind processes information on various levels. The idea that the mind has multiple levels of information processing is by no means a new one, although exactly what to call those levels remains up for debate: Conscious, unconscious, subconscious, pre-conscious, zombie mind are all terms that have been or are currently used, and all have their supporters and detractors. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll refer to “conscious” as those thoughts you’re basically aware that you’re having (“I’m reading this fascinating article.”) and “non-conscious” as the automatic pilot-type thoughts (blink, blink).

Two years ago, Dr. Ron Rensink, professor of psychology and computer science, psychology postdoctoral researcher Hélène Gauchou, and Dr. Sidney Fels, professor of electrical and computer engineering, began looking at exactly what happens when people sit down to use a Ouija board. Fels says that they got the idea after he hosted a Halloween party with a fortune-telling theme and found himself explaining to several foreign students, who had never really seen it before, how the Ouija works.

“They kept asking where to put the batteries,” Fels laughed. After offering up a more Halloween-friendly, mystical explanation—leaving out the ideomotor effect—he left the students to play with the board on their own. When he came back, hours later, they were still at it, although by now much more freaked out. A few days post-hangover later, Fels said, he, Rensink, and a few others began talking about what is actually going on with the Ouija. The team thought the board could offer a really unique way to examine non-conscious knowledge, to determine whether ideomotor action could also express what the non-conscious knows.

“It was one of things that we thought it probably won’t work, but if it did work, it’d be really freaking cool,” said Rensink.

Their initial experiments involved a Ouija-playing robot: Participants were told that they were playing with a person in another room via teleconferencing the robot, they were told, mimicked the movements of the other person. In actuality, the robot’s movements simply amplified the participants’ motions and the person in the other room was just a ruse, a way to get the participant to think they weren’t in control. Participants were asked a series of yes or no, fact-based questions (“Is Buenos Aires the capital of Brazil? Were the 2000 Olympic Games held in Sydney?”) and expected to use the Ouija board to answer.

What the team found surprised them: When participants were asked, verbally, to guess the answers to the best of their ability, they were right only around 50 percent of the time, a typical result for guessing. But when they answered using the board, believing that the answers were coming from someplace else, they answered correctly upwards of 65 percent of the time. “It was so dramatic how much better they did on these questions than if they answered to the best of their ability that we were like, ‘This is just weird, how could they be that much better?’” recalled Fels. “It was so dramatic we couldn’t believe it.” The implication was, Fels explained, that one’s non-conscious was a lot smarter than anyone knew.

The robot, unfortunately, proved too delicate for further experiments, but the researchers were sufficiently intrigued to pursue further Ouija research. They divined another experiment: This time, rather than a robot, the participant actually played with a real human. At some point, the participant was blindfolded—and the other player, really a confederate, quietly took their hands off the planchette. This meant that the participant believed he or she wasn’t alone, enabling the kind of automatic pilot state the researchers were looking for, but still ensuring that the answers could only come from the participant.

It worked. Rensink says, “Some people were complaining about how the other person was moving the planchette around. That was a good sign that we really got this kind of condition that people were convinced that somebody else was there.” Their results replicated the findings of the experiment with the robot, that people knew more when they didn’t think they were controlling the answers (50 percent accuracy for vocal responses to 65 percent for Ouija responses). They reported their findings in February 2012 issue of Consciousness and Cognition.

“You do much better with the Ouija on questions that you really don’t think you know, but actually something inside you does know and the Ouija can help you answer above chance,” says Fels.

UBC’s experiments show that the Ouija could be a very useful tool in rigorously investigating non-conscious thought processes. “Now that we have some hypotheses in terms of what’s going on here, accessing knowledge and cognitive abilities that you don’t have conscious awareness of, [the Ouija board] would be an instrument to actually get at that,” Fels explains. “Now we can start using it to ask other types of questions.”

Those types of questions include how much and what the non-conscious mind knows, how fast it can learn, how it remembers, even how it amuses itself, if it does. This opens up even more avenues of exploration—for example, if there are two or more systems of information processes, which system is more impacted by neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s? If it impacted the non-conscious earlier, Rensink hypothesizes, indications of the illness could show up in Ouija manipulation, possibly even before being detected in conscious thought.

For the moment, the researchers are working on locking down their findings in a second study and firming up protocol around using the Ouija as a tool. However, they’re running up against a problem—funding. “The classic funding agencies don’t want to be associated with this, it seems a bit too out there,” said Rensink. All the work they’ve done to date has been volunteer, with Rensink himself paying for some of the experiment’s costs. To get around this issue, they’re looking to crowd-funding to make up the gap.

Even if they don’t succeed, the UBC team has managed to make good on one of the claims of the early Ouija advertisements: The board does offer a link between the known and the unknown. Just not the unknown that everyone wanted to believe it was. 

​12 Strange And Disturbing Facts About The Original My Little Pony

Some people are weirded out by the immense popularity of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. But other than the terrifying Equestria Girls, FiM has nothing on the original My Little Pony cartoon. Here are a dozen weird bits of trivia about the classic show and the toys that may blow your pony minds.

1) The First Pony Was Not Little

My Little Pony actually started out as My Pretty Pony. It was a larger, 10-inch horse doll that was part of Hasbro's Romper Room line in 1981, but was moved over to Hasbro proper in 1982, shrunk, and released as MLP then. The original My Pretty Pony still had brushable hair, but could wiggle her ears, swish her tail, and blink. However, she only came in one color: brown. Still, given that all actual MLP figures were just solid hunks of plastic, that's quite the downgrade.

2) The Ponies' Friends Were Corporate Shills

When the first MLP cartoon aired in 1986, it was titled My Little Pony n' Friends, because the first half would be an MLP cartoon, and the second would be based on another Hasbro toyline marketed to girls. These included The Glo Friends (based on the best-selling Glo Worm toy), Moondreamers, and Potato Head Kids, which was about a bunch of potato children being marginally watched over by Mr. Potato Head.

3) The Ponies Were Not Good At Naming Themselves

Hopefully all of you remember the fantastic "Porn Star Name or My Little Pony Name?" quiz from the classic Brunching Shuttlecocks site. Seeing as Cherries Jubilee, Ruby Lips and Chocolate Delight are all pony names, it was kind of brilliant. However, some ponies had horrible names that didn't make them sound like they starred in pornography, including — and these are all real — Whizzer, Salty and Steamer. Actually, these do sound like potential porn star names, just really, really niche ones.

4) How Baby Ponies Are Made

My Little Ponies breed like rabbits taking fertility treatments, which we know because 10 of the original MLP characters had babies who they invariably named after themselves, either out of vanity or lack of imagination. Thus the child of Lickety-Split would be named Baby Lickety-Split. This means that even as an adult horse, she would still be named Baby Lickety-Split… unless there's some kind of ritual where Baby Lickety-Split kills her mother in order to formally pass into adulthood.

5) Some Ponies Are Immaculately Conceived

That said, My Little Ponies could breed without traditional sex. The Baby Ponies — a special line of babies unique from the regular Babies — were "born from their mother's reflection," which is super fucking weird when you think about it because that means looking into any reflective surface would potentially make a tiny homunculus of yourself pops out (or pony-nculus, I guess). However, Wikipedia stress that "several Baby Ponies never had their own mother", which seems like a cruel thing to note.

6) My Little Ponies Liked A Little Light Bondage

Several My Little Pony playsets came with bridles, which seems fucked up to force sentient talking horses to wear.

7) Some Ponies Wore Diapers

In 1989, Hasbro released a special line of Drink n' Wet Ponies. They are actually more horrifying that you realize. Here's the official story behind them, as per the original packaging:

Wearing their new diapers, the Drink n' Wet Baby Ponies scampered outside to toss a bouncy ball. They threw the ball higher and higher into the sky, until it bumped into one of the rainbow's stripes. Magical crystals fell from the stripe and onto the baby ponies. The little ponies quickly splashed into their wading pool to wash off the sticky crystals. As they splashed in the water, the rainbow crystals on their wet diapers changed into little hearts, making the diapers as pretty as can be. Now, whenever the diapers get wet, colorful hearts magically appear. And that is how the Drink n' Wet Baby Ponies got their magical diapers."

Note that the magically appearing hearts does nothing for the literal pounds of horse shit that must fill these diapers regularly.

Ancient World Review

"Urfa Man, known formally as the Balikligöl statue, is the oldest human-size statue of a man yet discovered in the world. He is currently housed in Şanliurfa’s Archeology Museum, Southeast Turkey. Urfa man was discovered in the Old Town section of Şanliurfa, but in antiquity belongs to the same thought world of Göbekli Tepe, a site half an hour away from the museum by car." Source: Ancient Origins (2015).

Notes: Gobekli Tepe, a very ancient complex of monumental stone shrines decorated with bizarre statues and animal relief carvings, is especially mysterious because it was built during the Neolithic, apparently by Stone Age hunter-gatherers.

According to Ancient Origins, the Urfa Man cultic (?) statue may be similar to the "Eye Idols"--figurines with huge staring eyes that have been discovered at Tell Brak, one of the oldest cities in the world which dates back to the 7th millenium BC:

"Urfa man’s voiceless image cast by a conspicuously absent mouth and gazing obsidian-filled eyes is hauntingly enigmatic, but offers a link with another class of ancient statuary known as the eye idol."

Urfa Man idol shown at 11:19.

According to Julian Jaynes, author of The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, the missing mouths of these eye idols were meant to "enhance more hypnotically the hallucination of the dead (kings, priests, ancestors, etc) continuing to speak to the living."  Jaynes argued that early humans weren't conscious in the modern sense of the word, but heard auditory hallucinations that they considered to be the voices of the gods.

"Jaynes perceived eye idols not as ornamental, but as speaking statues containing voices of the dead - as figurines assisting as aids in the production of hallucinated voices. Some types of eye idol were placed near elements such as running water to increase their speaking power, while others were located in temple areas and feature markings that symbolise gods." (Ancient Origins)

The speculation here is that the Urfa Man statue may be one of Jayne's "bicameral idols." If true, then the Neolithic people of the time may have actually heard the statue speak to them.


The name Baphomet appeared in July 1098 in a letter by the crusader Anselm of Ribemont:

Sequenti die aurora apparente, altis vocibus Baphometh invocaverunt et nos Deum nostrum in cordibus nostris deprecantes, impetum facientes in eos, de muris civitatis omnes expulimus. [8]

As the next day dawned, they called loudly upon Baphometh and we prayed silently in our hearts to God, then we attacked and forced all of them outside the city walls. [9]

Raymond of Aguilers, a chronicler of the First Crusade, reports that the troubadours used the term Bafomet for Bafumarias. [10] The name Bafometz later appeared around 1195 in the Occitan poems Senhors, per los nostres peccatz by the troubadour Gavaudan. [11] Around 1250 a poem bewailing the defeat of the Seventh Crusade by Austorc d'Aorlhac refers to Bafomet. [12] De Bafomet is also the title of one of four surviving chapters of an Occitan translation of Ramon Llull's earliest known work, the Libre de la doctrina pueril. [13]

When the medieval order of the Knights Templar was suppressed by King Philip IV of France, on Friday 13 October 1307, Philip had many French Templars simultaneously arrested, and then tortured into confessions. Over 100 different charges had been leveled against the Templars, including heresy, homosexual relations, spitting and urinating on the cross, and sodomy. [4] Most of them were dubious, as they were the same charges that were leveled against the Cathars [14] and many of King Philip's enemies he had earlier kidnapped Pope Boniface VIII and charged him with nearly identical offenses. Yet Malcolm Barber observes that historians "find it difficult to accept that an affair of such enormity rests upon total fabrication". [15] The "Chinon Parchment suggests that the Templars did indeed spit on the cross", says Sean Martin, and that these acts were intended to simulate the kind of humiliation and torture that a Crusader might be subjected to if captured by the Saracens, where they were taught how to commit apostasy "with the mind only and not with the heart". [16] Similarly, Michael Haag [17] suggests that the simulated worship of Baphomet did indeed form part of a Templar initiation rite.

The indictment (acte d'accusation) published by the court of Rome set forth . "that in all the provinces they had idols, that is to say, heads, some of which had three faces, others but one sometimes, it was a human skull . That in their assemblies, and especially in their grand chapters, they worshipped the idol as a god, as their saviour, saying that this head could save them, that it bestowed on the order all its wealth, made the trees flower, and the plants of the earth to sprout forth."

The name Baphomet comes up in several of these confessions. Peter Partner states in his 1987 book The Knights Templar and their Myth: "In the trial of the Templars one of their main charges was their supposed worship of a heathen idol-head known as a 'Baphomet' ('Baphomet' = Mahomet)." [18] The description of the object changed from confession to confession. Some Templars denied any knowledge of it. Others, under torture, described it as being either a severed head, a cat, or a head with three faces. [19] The Templars did possess several silver-gilt heads as reliquaries, [20] including one marked capud lviii m , [21] another said to be St. Euphemia, [22] and possibly the actual head of Hugues de Payens. [23] The claims of an idol named Baphomet were unique to the Inquisition of the Templars. [24] [25] Karen Ralls, author of the Knights Templar Encyclopedia, argues that it is significant that "no specific evidence [of Baphomet] appears in either the Templar Rule or in other medieval period Templar documents." [26]

Gauserand de Montpesant, a knight of Provence, said that their superior showed him an idol made in the form of Baffomet another, named Raymond Rubei, described it as a wooden head, on which the figure of Baphomet was painted, and adds, "that he worshipped it by kissing its feet, and exclaiming, 'Yalla', which was", he says, "verbum Saracenorum", a word taken from the Saracens. A templar of Florence declared that, in the secret chapters of the order, one brother said to the other, showing the idol, "Adore this head—this head is your god and your Mahomet."

Modern scholars agree that the name of Baphomet was an Old French corruption of the name "Mahomet", [4] with the interpretation being that some of the Templars, through their long military occupation of the Outremer, had begun incorporating Islamic ideas into their belief system, and that this was seen and documented by the Inquisitors as heresy. [28] Alain Demurger, however, rejects the idea that the Templars could have adopted the doctrines of their enemies. [29] Helen Nicholson writes that the charges were essentially "manipulative"—the Templars "were accused of becoming fairy-tale Muslims". [29] Medieval Christians believed that Muslims were idolatrous and worshipped Muhammad as a god, [4] with mahomet becoming mammet in English, meaning an idol or false god [30] (see also Medieval Christian views on Muhammad). This idol-worship is attributed to Muslims in several chansons de geste. For example, one finds the gods Bafum e Travagan in a Provençal poem on the life of St. Honorat, completed in 1300. [31] In the Chanson de Simon Pouille, written before 1235, a Saracen idol is called Bafumetz. [32]

It is also possible that the term Baphomet originates from Byzantine Greek. [ citation needed ] Since the Crusaders had their first direct exposure to Greek culture during the time of the First Crusade, bringing back with them stories and strange terms from the East, it is possible that the word was adapted from the Greek name of Muhammad, Μωάμεθ (Moameth), who was at times referred to as "devilish" in near-contemporary sources such as Constantine VII's De Administrando Imperio. [ citation needed ]

While modern scholars and the Oxford English Dictionary [34] state that the origin of the name Baphomet was a probable Old French version of "Mahomet", [18] [28] alternative etymologies have also been proposed.

According to Pierre Klossowski in Le Baphomet (1965, Editions Mercure de France, Paris translated into English by Sophie Hawkes and published as The Baphomet in 1988 by Eridanos Press): "The Baphomet has diverse etymologies… the three phonemes that constitute the denomination are also said to signify, in coded fashion, Basileus philosophorum metaloricum: the sovereign of metallurgical philosophers, that is, of the alchemical laboratories that were supposedly established in various chapters of the Temple. The androgynous nature of the figure apparently goes back to the Adam Kadmon of the Chaldeans, which one finds in the Zohar" (pages 164–165).

In the 18th century, speculative theories arose that sought to tie the Knights Templar with the origins of Freemasonry. [35] Bookseller, Freemason and Illuminatus [36] Christoph Friedrich Nicolai (1733–1811), in Versuch über die Beschuldigungen welche dem Tempelherrenorden gemacht worden, und über dessen Geheimniß (1782), was the first to claim that the Templars were Gnostics, and that "Baphomet" was formed from the Greek words βαφη μητȢς , baphe metous, to mean Taufe der Weisheit, "Baptism of Wisdom". [37] Nicolai "attached to it the idea of the image of the supreme God, in the state of quietude attributed to him by the Manichaean Gnostics", according to F. J. M. Raynouard, and "supposed that the Templars had a secret doctrine and initiations of several grades", which "the Saracens had communicated . to them". [38] He further connected the figura Baffometi with the pentagram of Pythagoras:

What properly was the sign of the Baffomet, "figura Baffometi", which was depicted on the breast of the bust representing the Creator, cannot be exactly determined . I believe it to have been the Pythagorean pentagon (Fünfeck) of health and prosperity: . It is well known how holy this figure was considered, and that the Gnostics had much in common with the Pythagoreans. From the prayers which the soul shall recite, according to the diagram of the Ophite-worshippers, when they on their return to God are stopped by the Archons, and their purity has to be examined, it appears that these serpent-worshippers believed they must produce a token that they had been clean on earth. I believe that this token was also the holy pentagon, the sign of their initiation ( τελειας βαφης μετεος ).

Émile Littré (1801–1881) in Dictionnaire de la langue francaise asserted that the word was cabalistically formed by writing backward tem. o. h. p. ab, an abbreviation of templi omnium hominum pacis abbas, "abbot, or father of the temple of peace of all men". His source is the "Abbé Constant", which is to say, Alphonse-Louis Constant, the real name of Eliphas Levi. [ citation needed ]

In 1818, the name Baphomet appeared in the essay by the Viennese Orientalist Joseph Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall, Mysterium Baphometis revelatum, seu Fratres Militiæ Templi, qua Gnostici et quidem Ophiani, Apostasiæ, Idoloduliæ et Impuritatis convicti, per ipsa eorum Monumenta [41] ("Discovery of the Mystery of Baphomet, by which the Knights Templars, like the Gnostics and Ophites, are convicted of Apostasy, of Idolatry and of moral Impurity, by their own Monuments"), which presented an elaborate pseudohistory constructed to discredit Templarist Masonry and, by extension, Freemasonry. [42] Following Nicolai, he argued, using as archaeological evidence "Baphomets" faked by earlier scholars and literary evidence such as the Grail romances, that the Templars were Gnostics and the "Templars' head" was a Gnostic idol called Baphomet.

His chief subject is the images which are called Baphomet . found in several museums and collections of antiquities, as in Weimar . and in the imperial cabinet in Vienna. These little images are of stone, partly hermaphrodites, having, generally, two heads or two faces, with a beard, but, in other respects, female figures, most of them accompanied by serpents, the sun and moon, and other strange emblems, and bearing many inscriptions, mostly in Arabic . The inscriptions he reduces almost all to Mete[, which] . is, according to him, not the Μητις of the Greeks, but the Sophia, Achamot Prunikos of the Ophites, which was represented half man, half woman, as the symbol of wisdom, unnatural voluptuousness and the principle of sensuality . He asserts that those small figures are such as the Templars, according to the statement of a witness, carried with them in their coffers. Baphomet signifies Βαφη Μητεος , baptism of Metis, baptism of fire, [43] or the Gnostic baptism, an enlightening of the mind, which, however, was interpreted by the Ophites, in an obscene sense, as fleshly union . the fundamental assertion, that those idols and cups came from the Templars, has been considered as unfounded, especially as the images known to have existed among the Templars seem rather to be images of saints.

Hammer's essay did not pass unchallenged, and F. J. M. Raynouard published an Etude sur 'Mysterium Baphometi revelatum' in Journal des savants the following year. [45] Charles William King criticized Hammer, saying that he had been deceived by "the paraphernalia of . Rosicrucian or alchemical quacks", [46] and Peter Partner agreed that the images "may have been forgeries from the occultist workshops". [47] At the very least, there was little evidence to tie them to the Knights Templar—in the 19th century some European museums acquired such pseudo-Egyptian objects, [ citation needed ] which were cataloged as "Baphomets" and credulously thought to have been idols of the Templars. [48]

Later in the 19th century, the name of Baphomet became further associated with the occult. Éliphas Lévi published Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie ("Dogma and Rituals of High Magic") as two volumes (Dogme 1854, Rituel 1856), in which he included an image he had drawn himself, which he described as Baphomet and "The Sabbatic Goat", showing a winged humanoid goat with a pair of breasts and a torch on its head between its horns (see the illustration). This image has become the best-known representation of Baphomet. Lévi considered the Baphomet to be a depiction of the absolute in symbolic form and explicated in detail his symbolism in the drawing that served as the frontispiece:

The goat on the frontispiece carries the sign of the pentagram on the forehead, with one point at the top, a symbol of light, his two hands forming the sign of occultism, the one pointing up to the white moon of Chesed, the other pointing down to the black one of Geburah. This sign expresses the perfect harmony of mercy with justice. His one arm is female, the other male like the ones of the androgyne of Khunrath, the attributes of which we had to unite with those of our goat because he is one and the same symbol. The flame of intelligence shining between his horns is the magic light of the universal balance, the image of the soul elevated above matter, as the flame, whilst being tied to matter, shines above it. The beast's head expresses the horror of the sinner, whose materially acting, solely responsible part has to bear the punishment exclusively because the soul is insensitive according to its nature and can only suffer when it materializes. The rod standing instead of genitals symbolizes eternal life, the body covered with scales the water, the semi-circle above it the atmosphere, the feathers following above the volatile. Humanity is represented by the two breasts and the androgyne arms of this sphinx of the occult sciences.

Witches' Sabbath Edit

Lévi's depiction of Baphomet is similar to that of The Devil in the early Tarot. [50] Lévi, working with correspondences different from those later used by S. L. MacGregor Mathers, "equated the Devil Tarot key with Mercury", giving "his figure Mercury's caduceus, rising like a phallus from his groin". [51]

Lévi believed that the alleged devil worship of the medieval Witches' Sabbath was a perpetuation of ancient pagan rites. A goat with a candle between its horns appears in medieval witchcraft records, [52] and other pieces of lore are cited in Dogme et Rituel.

Below this figure we read a frank and simple inscription—THE DEVIL. Yes, we confront here that phantom of all terrors, the dragon of all theogonies, the Ahriman of the Persians, the Typhon of the Egyptians, the Python of the Greeks, the old serpent of the Hebrews, the fantastic monster, the nightmare, the Croquemitaine, the gargoyle, the great beast of the Middle Ages, and—worse than all these—the Baphomet of the Templars, the bearded idol of the alchemist, the obscene deity of Mendes, the goat of the Sabbath. The frontispiece to this 'Ritual' reproduces the exact figure of the terrible emperor of night, with all his attributes and all his characters . Yes, in our profound conviction, the Grand Masters of the Order of Templars worshipped the Baphomet, and caused it to be worshipped by their initiates yes, there existed in the past, and there may be still in the present, assemblies which are presided over by this figure, seated on a throne and having a flaming torch between the horns. But the adorers of this sign do not consider, as do we, that it is a representation of the devil on the contrary, for them it is that of the god Pan, the god of our modern schools of philosophy, the god of the Alexandrian theurgic school and of our own mystical Neoplatonists, the god of Lamartine and Victor Cousin, the god of Spinoza and Plato, the god of the primitive Gnostic schools the Christ also of the dissident priesthood . The mysteries of the Sabbath have been variously described, but they figure always in grimoires and in magical trials the revelations made on the subject may be classified under three heads—1. those referring to a fantastic and imaginary Sabbath 2. those which betray the secrets of the occult assemblies of veritable adepts 3. revelations of foolish and criminal gatherings, having for their object the operations of black magic.

Lévi's Baphomet, for all its modern fame, does not match the historical descriptions from the Templar trials, although it was likely inspired by the "Baphomet" figures depicted in Hammer-Purgstall's Mysterium Baphometis revelatum. [54] It may also have been partly inspired by grotesque carvings on the Templar churches of Lanleff in Brittany and Saint-Merri in Paris, which depict squatting bearded men with bat wings, female breasts, horns and the shaggy hindquarters of a beast. [55] [ unreliable source ]

Contemporary context of socialism, romanticism, and magnetism Edit

Lévi's references to the School of Alexandria and the Templars can be explained against the background of debates about the origins and character of true Christianity. It has been pointed out that these debates included contemporary forms of Romantic socialism, or Utopian socialism, which were seen as the heirs of the Gnostics, Templars, and other mystics. Lévi, being himself an adherent of these schools since the 1840s, regarded the socialists and Romantics (such as Lamartine) as the successors of this alleged tradition of true religion. In fact, his narrative mirrors historiographies of socialism, including the Histoire des Montagnards (1847) by his best friend and political comrade Alphonse Esquiros. Consequently, the Baphomet is depicted by Lévi as the symbol of a revolutionary heretical tradition that would soon lead to the "emancipation of humanity" and the establishment of a perfect social order. [1]

In Lévi's writings, the Baphomet does not only express a historical-political tradition, but also occult natural forces that are explained by his magical theory of the Astral Light. He developed this notion in the context of what has been called "spiritualist magnetism": theories that stressed the religious implications of magnetism. Often, their representatives were socialists that believed in the social consequences of a "synthesis" of religion and science that was to be achieved by the means of magnetism. [1] Spiritualist magnetists with a socialist background include the Baron du Potet and Henri Delaage, who served as main sources for Lévi. At the same time, Lévi polemicized against famed Catholic authors such as Jules-Eudes de Mirville and Roger Gougenot des Mousseaux, who regarded magnetism as the workings of demons and other infernal powers. [1] The paragraph just before the passage cited in the previous section has to be seen against this background: [56]

Let us state now for the edification of the vulgar, for the satisfaction of M. le Comte de Mirville, for the justification of the demonologist Bodin, for the greater glory of the Church, which persecuted Templars, burnt magicians, excommunicated Freemasons, &c. let us state boldly and precisely that all the inferior initiates of the occult sciences and profaners of the great arcanum, not only did in the past, but do now, and will ever, adore what is signified by this alarming symbol.

Goat of Mendes Edit

Lévi called his image "The Goat of Mendes", possibly following Herodotus' account [57] that the god of Mendes — the Greek name for Djedet, Egypt — was depicted with a goat's face and legs. Herodotus relates how all male goats were held in great reverence by the Mendesians, and how in his time a woman publicly copulated with a goat. [57] [58] E. A. Wallis Budge writes: [59]

At several places in the Delta, e.g. Hermopolis, Lycopolis, and Mendes, the god Pan and a goat were worshipped Strabo, quoting (xvii. 1, 19) Pindar, says that in these places goats had intercourse with women, and Herodotus (ii. 46) instances a case which was said to have taken place in the open day. The Mendisians, according to this last writer, paid reverence to all goats, and more to the males than to the females, and particularly to one he-goat, on the death of which public mourning is observed throughout the whole Mendesian district they call both Pan and the goat Mendes, and both were worshipped as gods of generation and fecundity. Diodorus [60] compares the cult of the goat of Mendes with that of Priapus, and groups the god with the Pans and the Satyrs.

The link between Baphomet and the pagan god, Pan, was also observed by Aleister Crowley [61] and Anton LaVey, who said:

“Many pleasures revered before the advent of Christianity were condemned by the new religion. It required little change-over to transform the horns and cloven hooves of Pan into a most convincing devil! Pan’s attributes could neatly be changed into charged-with-punishment sins, and so the metamorphosis was complete.” [62]

The Baphomet of Lévi was to become an important figure within the cosmology of Thelema, the mystical system established by Aleister Crowley in the early 20th century. Baphomet features in the Creed of the Gnostic Catholic Church recited by the congregation in The Gnostic Mass, in the sentence: "And I believe in the Serpent and the Lion, Mystery of Mysteries, in His name BAPHOMET." [63]

In Magick (Book 4), Crowley asserted that Baphomet was a divine androgyne and "the hieroglyph of arcane perfection", seen as that which reflects: "What occurs above so reflects below, or As above so below".

The Devil does not exist. It is a false name invented by the Black Brothers to imply a Unity in their ignorant muddle of dispersions. A devil who had unity would be a God. "The Devil" is, historically, the God of any people that one personally dislikes. This serpent, SATAN, is not the enemy of Man, but He who made Gods of our race, knowing Good and Evil He bade "Know Thyself!" and taught Initiation. He is "The Devil" of The Book of Thoth, and His emblem is BAPHOMET , the Androgyne who is the hieroglyph of arcane perfection. He is therefore Life, and Love. But moreover his letter is ayin, the Eye, so that he is Light and his Zodiacal image is Capricornus, that leaping goat whose attribute is Liberty.

For Crowley, Baphomet is further a representative of the spiritual nature of the spermatozoa, while also being symbolic of the "magical child" produced as a result of sex magic. [65] As such, Baphomet represents the Union of Opposites, especially as mystically personified in Chaos and Babalon combined and biologically manifested with the sperm and egg united in the zygote. [ citation needed ]

Crowley proposed that Baphomet was derived from "Father Mithras". In his Confessions he describes the circumstances that led to this etymology: [66]

I had taken the name Baphomet as my motto in the O.T.O. For six years and more I had tried to discover the proper way to spell this name. I knew that it must have eight letters, and also that the numerical and literal correspondences must be such as to express the meaning of the name in such a way as to confirm what scholarship had found out about it, and also to clear up those problems which archaeologists had so far failed to solve . One theory of the name is that it represents the words βαφὴ μήτεος, the baptism of wisdom another, that it is a corruption of a title meaning "Father Mithras". Needless to say, the suffix R supported the latter theory. I added up the word as spelt by the Wizard. It totalled 729. This number had never appeared in my Cabbalistic working and therefore meant nothing to me. It however justified itself as being the cube of nine. The word κηφας, the mystic title given by Christ to Peter as the cornerstone of the Church, has this same value. So far, the Wizard had shown great qualities! He had cleared up the etymological problem and shown why the Templars should have given the name Baphomet to their so-called idol. Baphomet was Father Mithras, the cubical stone which was the corner of the Temple.

Lévi's Baphomet is the source of the later tarot image of the Devil in the Rider-Waite design. [7] The concept of a downward-pointing pentagram on its forehead was enlarged upon by Lévi in his discussion (without illustration) of the Goat of Mendes arranged within such a pentagram, which he contrasted with the microcosmic man arranged within a similar but upright pentagram. [67] The actual image of a goat in a downward-pointing pentagram first appeared in the 1897 book La Clef de la Magie Noire, written by the French occultist Stanislas de Guaita. [1] [3] It was this image that was later adopted as the official symbol—called the Sigil of Baphomet—of the Church of Satan, and continues to be used among Satanists. [68]

Baphomet, as Lévi's illustration suggests, has occasionally been portrayed as a synonym of Satan or a demon, a member of the hierarchy of Hell. Baphomet appears in that guise as a character in James Blish's The Day After Judgment. [69] Christian evangelist Jack T. Chick claimed that Baphomet is a demon worshipped by Freemasons, [70] a claim that apparently originated with the Taxil hoax. Léo Taxil's elaborate hoax employed a version of Lévi's Baphomet on the cover of Les Mystères de la franc-maçonnerie dévoilés, his lurid paperback "exposé" of Freemasonry, which in 1897 he revealed as a hoax intended to ridicule the Catholic Church and its anti-Masonic propaganda. [71] [72]

In 2014, The Satanic Temple commissioned an 8.5 ft (2.6 m) statue of Baphomet to stand alongside a monument of the Ten Commandments at Oklahoma State Capitol, [73] citing "respect for diversity and religious minorities" as reasons for erecting the monument. [74] After the Ten Commandments monument was vandalized, plans to erect the Baphomet statue were put on hold, as the Satanic Temple did not want their statue to stand alone by the Oklahoma capitol. [75] The Oklahoma Supreme Court declared all religious displays illegal, [76] and on 25 July 2015 the statue was erected near a warehouse in Detroit, as a symbol of the modern Satanist movement. [77] [78] On August 16, 2018 the Satanic Temple unveiled a Baphomet statue in Little Rock, Arkansas, where another 10 Commandments monument had been installed in 2017, citing the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. [79]

Baphomet appears in Dungeons & Dragons as a powerful demon lord and is also known as the "Horned King", or the "Prince of Beasts". Baphomet is followed by minotaurs and other savage creatures. He desires the end of civilizations so all creatures may embrace their most basic, brutal instincts. He is described as a massive, black minotaur, with blood around his mouth and red eyes. He wears an iron crown topped with the heads of his enemies, along with spiked armor. He wields a huge glaive, named "Heartcleaver", but commonly fights with his hooves, claws, and horns. He rules of the 600th layer of The Abyss, known as the "Endless Maze", and is the sworn enemy of Yeenoghu, another demon lord.

Baphomet also serves as the main antagonist in the PC game Tristania 3D and is the worshipped deity of the evil Courbée Dominate society. The game's storyline describes in depth that in fact Philip IV of France was the one who had worshipped Baphomet, not the Knights Templar, and he deliberately eradicated the entire order to make sure that this secret would remain undiscovered. In the last level, the protagonist must enter the afterlife to seek out and defeat Baphomet, however, he is protected by the shadows of his fallen worshippers in the previous levels, along with the ghost of Evil Empress and the protagonist's former accomplice, Evil Twirl. The game depicts Baphomet very close to the original, except that it has a male torso and dragon-like wings, as opposed to feathered ones. Baphomet's main attack is a lethal wall of fire, which causes severe damage and can be manifested in rapid successions. Baphomet also can turn himself invisible during his attack periods. Successfully defeating him will win the game, albeit it is noted that defeating him does not mean that he is killed.

An interpretation of Baphomet, referred to as The Sword of Baphomet, forms part of the main plot in the 1996 point-and-click adventure game Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars developed by Revolution Software. It is the first game in the Broken Sword series. The player assumes the role of George Stobbart, an American tourist in Paris, as he attempts to unravel a conspiracy, much of which is influenced by and includes factual and fictional references and narrative devices relating to the history of the Knights Templar.

In the 2005 puzzle-Metroidvania La-Mulana and its 2012 remake, Baphomet appears as the boss of the Twin Labyrinths.

In the popular PC video game Doom II: Hell on Earth, in the final mission "Icon of Sin", the titular antagonist has a look similar to that of early depictions of Baphomet.

In July 2015, YouTube star and singer Poppy depicted the deity in the music video for her single "Lowlife". Poppy can be seen imitating the famous pose of Baphomet.

The 2018 Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has a large statue of Baphomet displayed at the Academy of Unseen Arts. The Satanic Temple has accused the show of plagiarizing their depiction of Baphomet, though later settled out of court. [80]

In the video game Doom Eternal, in the final mission "Final Sin", the Icon of Sin has a resemblance to early depictions of Baphomet.

Iannis Stamatakos has pointed out that the name Baphomet, when interpreted through the universal transliteration of the letters with the Greek, is a basic atbash crypt, which splits the word in the middle and places the last part to the beginning of the word, spelling the word "Metapho(R)", with the letter B inserted to add complexity.

In the 2019 film Godzilla: King of the Monsters, "Titanus Baphomet" is the name of one of the Titans/Kaiju listed by MONARCH.

In Doom Patrol, "Baphomet" is the name of a supernatural oracle who can be summoned by Niles Caulder. Having no fixed form, she can assume what-ever form she fancies, currently using the form of "Falada", a magical horse from the fairytale, "The Goose Girl".


Murti literally means any solid body or form with definite shape or limits produced from material elements. [1] It contrasts with mind, thought and the immaterial in ancient Indian literature. The term also refers to any embodiment, manifestation, incarnation, personification, appearance, image, idol or statue of a deity. [1]

The earliest mention of the term murti occurs in primary Upanishads composed in the 1st millennium BCE, particularly in verse 3.2 of Aitareya Upanishad, verse 1.13 of Shvetashvatara Upanishad, verse 6.14 of Maitrayaniya Upanishad and verse 1.5 of Prashna Upanishad. [14] For example, the Maitrayaniya Upanishad uses the term to mean a "form, manifestation of time". The section sets out to prove Time exists, acknowledges the difficulty in proving Time exists by Pramana (epistemology in Indian philosophy), then inserts a theory of inductive inference for epistemological proof as follows, [15]

On account of subtleness of Time, this is the proof of its reality
On account of it the Time is demonstrated.
Because without proof, the assumption which is to be proved, is not admissible
But, that which is itself to be proved or demonstrated, when one comprehends it in its parts, becomes the ground of proof, through which it brings itself into consciousness (in the inductive way).

The section includes the concept of Time and non-Time, stating that non-Time as that which existed before creation of universe, and time as which came into existence with the creation of universe. [15] Non-time is indivisible, time is divisible, and the Maitri Upanishad then asserts that the "year is the mūrti of time". [15] [17] Robert Hume translates the discussion of "mūrti of time", in verse 6.14 of the Maitri Upanishad, as "form". [18]

Most scholars, such as Jan Gonda, Max Muller, PV Kane and Stephanie Jamison, state that there were neither murti nor temples nor idol-facilitated worship in the Vedic era. [19] The Vedic Hinduism rituals were directed at nature and abstract deities called during yajna with hymns. However, there isn't universal consensus, with scholars such as AC Das, pointing to the word Mūradeva in Rig Veda verses 7.104.24, 10.87.2 and 10.87.14. [19] This word may refer to "Deva who is fixed" or "Deva who is foolish". The former interpretation, if accurate, may imply that there were communities in the Vedic era who had Deva in the form of murti, and the context of these hymns suggest that the term could possibly be referring to practices of the tribal communities outside of the Vedic fold. [19]

One of the earliest firm textual evidence of Deva images, in the sense of murti, is found in Jivikarthe Capanye by the Sanskrit grammarian Pāṇini who lived about 4th century BCE. [20] He mentions Acala and Cala, with former referring to images in a shrine, and the latter meaning images that were carried from place to place. [20] Panini also mentions Devalaka, meaning custodians of images of worship who show the images but do not sell them, as well as Jivika as people whose source of livelihood was the gifts they received from devotees. [20] In ancient Sanskrit texts that follow Panini's work, numerous references are found to divine images with terms such as Devagrha, Devagara, Devakula, Devayatana and others. [20] These texts, states Noel Salmond, strongly suggest that temples and murti were in existence in ancient India by about 4th century BCE. Recent archaeological evidence confirms that the knowledge and art of sculpture was established in India by the Maurya Empire period (

By early 1st millennium BCE, the term murti meant idols, image or statue in various Indian texts such as Bhavishya Purana verse 132.5.7, Brihat Samhita 1.8.29 and inscriptions in different parts of India. [2] The term murti has been a more generic term referring to an idol or statue of anyone, either a deity, of any human being, animal or any art. [2] [21] Pratima includes murti as well as painting of any non-anthropomorphic object. In contrast, Bera or Bimba meant "idol of god" only, and Vigraha was synonymous with Bimba. [2]

A murti in contemporary usage is any image or statue. It may be found inside or outside a temple or home, installed to be moved with a festive procession (utsava murti), [11] or just be a landmark. It is a significant part of Hindu iconography, and is implemented in many ways. Two major categories include: [8]

  • Raudra or Ugra - are images that were meant to terrify, induce fear. These typically have wide, circular eyes, carry weapons, have skulls and bones as adornment. These idols were worshipped by soldiers before going to war, or by people in times of distress or errors. Raudra deity temples were not set up inside villages or towns, but invariably outside and in remote areas of a kingdom. [8]
  • Shanta and Saumya - are images that were pacific, peaceful and expressive of love, compassion, kindness and other virtues in Hindu pantheon. These images would carry symbolic icons of peace, knowledge, music, wealth, flowers, sensuality among other things. In ancient India, these temples were predominant inside villages and towns. [8]

Beyond anthropomorphic forms of religious murti, some traditions of Hinduism cherish aniconism, where alternate symbols are shaped into a murti, such as the linga for Shiva, yoni for Devi, and the saligrama for Vishnu. [9] [22] [23]

Murti, when produced properly, are made according to the design rules of the Shilpa Shastras. [24] They recommend materials, measurements, proportion, decoration and symbolism of the murti. Explanation of the metaphysical significance of each stage of manufacture and the prescription of specific mantras to sanctify the process and evoke and invoke the power of the deity in the image are found in the liturgical handbooks the Agamas and Tantras. [25] In Tantric traditions, a murti is installed by priests through the Prana pratishta ceremony, where mantras are recited sometimes with yantras (mystic diagrams), whereby state Harold Coward and David Goa, the "divine vital energy of the cosmos is infused into the sculpture" and then the divine is welcomed as one would welcome a friend. [26] According to Gudrun Buhnemann, the esoteric Hindu tantric traditions through texts such as Tantra-tattva follow elaborate rituals to infuse life into a murti. Some tantra texts such as the Pancaratraraksa state that anyone who considers an icon of Vishnu as nothing but "an ordinary object" made of iron "goes to hell". [27] The use of murti and particularly the prana pratistha consecration ceremony, states Buhnemann, has been criticised by Hindu groups. These groups state that this practice came from more recent "false tantra books", and there is not a single word in the Vedas about such a ceremony. [28]

Oh Tree! you have been selected for the worship of a deity,
Salutations to you!
I worship you per rules, kindly accept it.
May all who live in this tree, find residence elsewhere,
May they forgive us now, we bow to them.

Brihat Samhita 59.10 - 59.11 [29] [30]

The artists who make any art or craft, including murti, were known as shilpins. The formally trained Shilpins shape the murti not in accordance with fancy but in accordance with canonical manuals such as the Agamas and the Shilpa Shastras texts such as Vishvakarma. [7] The material of construction range from clay to wood to marble to metal alloys such as panchaloha. [31] The sixth century Brihat Samhita and eighth century text Manasara-Silpasastra (literally: "treatise on art using method of measurement"), identify nine materials for murti construction – gold, silver, copper, stone, wood, sudha (a type of stucco, mortar plaster), sarkara (gravel, grit), abhasa (marble types), and earth (clay, terracotta). [32] [33] For abhasa, the texts describe working methods for various types of marble, specialised stones, colours, and a range of opacity (transparent, translucent and crystal). [32]

Brihat Samhita, a 6th-century encyclopaedia of a range of topics from horticulture to astrology to gemology to murti and temple design, [34] specifies in Chapter 56 that the pratima (murti) height should be 7 8 <8>>> of the sanctum sanctorum's door height, the Pratima height and the sanctum sanctorum room's width be in the ratio of 0.292, it stand on a pedestal that is 0.146 of sanctum room width, thereafter the text describes 20 types of temples with their dimensions. [35] Chapter 58 of the text describes the ratios of various anatomical parts of a murti, from head to toe, along with the recommendation in verse 59.29 that generally accepted variations in dress, decoration and dimensions of local regional traditions for the murti is the artistic tradition. [36]

The texts recommend materials of construction, proportions, postures and mudra, symbolic items the murti holds in its hands, colours, garments and ornaments to go with the murti of each god or goddess, vehicles of deities such as Garuda, bull and lion, and other details. [40] The texts also include chapters on the design of Jaina and Buddhist murti, as well as reliefs of sages, apsaras, different types of devotees (based on bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, karma yoga, ascetics) to decorate the area near the murti. [41] The texts recommend that the material of construction and relative scale of murti be correlated to the scale of the temple dimensions, using twelve types of comparative measurements. [42]

In Southern India, the material used predominantly for murti is black granite, while material in North India is white marble. However, for some Hindus, it is not the materials used that matter, but the faith and meditation on the universal Absolute Brahman. [43] More particularly, devotees meditate or worship on the formless God (nirguna Brahman) through murti symbolism of God (saguna Brahman) during a puja before a murti, or the meditation on a Tirthankara in the case of Jainism, [44] thus making the material of construction or the specific shape of the murti not spiritually important. [45]

According to John Keay, "Only after achieving remarkable expertise in the portrayal of the Buddha figure and of animal and human, did Indian stonemasons turn to producing images of the orthodox 'Hindu' deities". [46] This view is, however, not shared by other scholars. Trudy King et al. state that stone images of reverential figures and guardian spirits (yaksha) were first produced in Jainism and Hinduism, by about 2 century BCE, as suggested by Mathura region excavations, and this knowledge grew into iconographic traditions and stone monuments in India including those for Buddhism. [47]

Major Hindu traditions such as Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and Smartaism favour the use of murti. These traditions suggest that it is easier to dedicate time and focus on spirituality through anthropomorphic or non-anthropomorphic icons. Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita, states in verse 12.5,

It is much more difficult to focus on God as the unmanifested than God with form, due to human beings having the need to perceive via the senses. [48]

In Hinduism, states Jeaneane Fowler, a murti itself is not god, it is an "image of god" and thus a symbol and representation. [3] A murti is a form and manifestation, states Fowler, of the formless Absolute. [3] Thus a literal translation of murti as 'idol' is incorrect, when idol is understood as superstitious end in itself. Just like the photograph of a person is not the real person, a murti is an image in Hinduism but not the real thing, but in both cases the image reminds of something of emotional and real value to the viewer. [3] When a person worships a murti, it is assumed to be a manifestation of the essence or spirit of the deity, the worshipper's spiritual ideas and needs are meditated through it, yet the idea of ultimate reality or Brahman is not confined in it. [3]

Devotional (bhakti movement) practices centred on cultivating a deep and personal bond of love with God, often expressed and facilitated with one or more murti, and includes individual or community hymns, japa or singing (bhajan, kirtan or aarti). Acts of devotion, in major temples particularly, are structured on treating the murti as the manifestation of a revered guest, [49] and the daily routine can include awakening the murti in the morning and making sure that it "is washed, dressed, and garlanded." [50] [51] In Vaishnavism, the building of a temple for the murti is considered an act of devotion, but non-murti symbolism is also common wherein the aromatic Tulsi plant or Saligrama is an aniconic reminder of the spiritualism in Vishnu. [50] These puja rituals with the murti correspond to ancient cultural practices for a beloved guest, and the murti is welcomed, taken care of, and then requested to retire. [10] [52]

Christopher John Fuller states that an image in Hinduism cannot be equated with a deity and the object of worship is the divine whose power is inside the image, and the image is not the object of worship itself, Hindus believe everything is worthy of worship as it contains divine energy emanating from the one god. [53] According to the Agamas, the bimba murti ( स्थूलमूर्ति / बिम्बमूर्ति ) is different from the mantra murti ( मन्त्रमूर्ति ) from the perspective of rituals, gestures, hymns and offerings. [ citation needed ]

Murti and temples were well established in South Asia, before the start of Delhi Sultanate in the late 12th century CE. They became a target of destruction during raids and religious wars between Islam and Hinduism through the 18th-century. [57] [58] [59]

During the colonial era, Christian missionaries aiming to convert Hindus to Christianity wrote memoirs and books that were widely distributed in Europe, which Mitter, Pennington and other scholars call as fictionalised stereotypes, where murti were claimed as the evidence of lack of spiritual heritage in primitive Hindus, of "idolatry and savage worship of stones" practices akin to Biblical demons, calling Murti as monstrous devils to eroticised bizarre beings carved in stone. [60] [61] [62] The British Missionary Society with colonial government's assistance bought and sometimes seized, then transferred murti from India and displayed it in their "trophies" room in the United Kingdom with the note claiming that these were given up by Hindus who now accept the "folly and sin of idolatry". [63] In other instances, the colonial British authorities, seeking additional government revenue, introduced Pilgrim Tax on Hindus to view murti inside major temples. [64] [65]

The missionaries and orientalist scholars attempted to justify the need for colonial rule of India by attacking murti as a symbol of depravity and primitiveness, arguing that it was, states Tanisha Ramachandran, "the White Man's Burden to create a moral society" in India. This literature by the Christian missionaries constructed the foundation of a "Hindu image" in Europe, during the colonial era, and it blamed murti idolatry as "the cause for the ills of Indian society". [61] [66] By 19th-century, ideas such as pantheism (universe is identical with god), contained in newly translated Sanskrit texts were linked to idolatry of murti and declared as additional evidence of superstitions and evil by Christian missionaries and colonial authorities in British India. [66]

The polemics of Christian missionaries in colonial India triggered a debate among Hindus, yielding divergent responses. [67] It ranged from activists such as Rammohun Roy who denounced all murti, [67] to Vivekananda who refused to denounce murti and asked Hindus in India and Christians in the West to introspect, that images are used everywhere to help think and as a road to ideas, in the following words, [68]

Superstition is a great enemy of man, but bigotry is worse. Why does a Christian go to church? Why is the cross holy? Why is the face turned toward the sky in prayer? Why are there so many images in the Catholic Church? Why are there so many images in the minds of Protestants when they pray? My brethren, we can no more think about anything without a mental image than we can live without breathing. By the law of association the material image calls up the mental idea and vice versa.

Religious intolerance and polemics, state Halbertal and Margalit, have historically targeted idols and material symbols cherished by other religions, while encouraging the worship of material symbols of one's own religion, characterising the material symbols of others as grotesque and wrong, in some cases dehumanising the others and encouraging the destruction of idols of the others. [69] [70] The outsider conflates and stereotypes the "strange worship" of the other religions as "false worship" first, then calls "false worship" as "improper worship and false belief" of pagan or an equivalent term, thereafter constructing an identity of the others as "primitive and barbarians" that need to be saved, followed by justified intolerance and often violence against those who cherish a different material symbol than one's own. [69] In the history of Hinduism and India, states Pennington, Hindu deity images (murti) have been a religious lens for focusing this anti-Hindu polemic and was the basis for distortions, accusations and attacks by non-Indian religious powers and missionaries. [70]

Ancient Indian texts assert the significance of murti in spiritual terms. The Vāstusūtra Upaniṣad, whose palm-leaf manuscripts were discovered in the 1970s among remote villages of Orissa – four in Oriya language and one in crude Sanskrit, asserts that the doctrine of murti art making is founded on the principles of origin and evolution of universe, is a "form of every form of cosmic creator" that empirically exists in nature, and it functions to inspire a devotee towards contemplating the Ultimate Supreme Principle (Brahman). [73] This text, whose composition date is unknown but probably from late 1st millennium CE, discusses the significance of images as, state Alice Boner and others, "inspiring, elevating and purifying influence" on the viewer and "means of communicating a vision of supreme truth and for giving a taste of the infinite that lies beyond". [73] It adds (abridged):

From the contemplation of images grows delight, from delight faith, from faith steadfast devotion, through such devotion arises that higher understanding (parāvidyā) that is the royal road to moksha. Without the guidance of images, the mind of the devotee may go astray and form wrong imaginations. Images dispel false imaginations. (. ) It is in the mind of Rishis (sages), who see and have the power of discerning the essence of all created things of manifested forms. They see their different characters, the divine and the demoniac, the creative and the destructive forces, in their eternal interplay. It is this vision of Rishis, of gigantic drama of cosmic powers in eternal conflict, which the Sthapakas (Silpins, murti and temple artists) drew the subject-matter for their work.

In the fifth chapter of Vāstusūtra Upaniṣad, Pippalada asserts, "from tattva-rupa (essence of a form, underlying principle) come the pratirupani (images)". [75] In the sixth chapter, Pippalada repeats his message that the artist portrays the particular and universal concepts, with the statement "the work of the Sthapaka is a creation similar to that of the Prajapati" (that which created the universe). [75] Non-theistic Jaina scholars such as Jnansundar, states John Cort, have argued the significance of murti along the same lines, asserting that "no matter what the field – scientific, commercial, religious – there can be no knowledge without an icon", images are part of how human beings learn and focus their thoughts, icons are necessary and inseparable from spiritual endeavours in Jainism. [76]

While murti are an easily and commonly visible aspect of Hinduism, they are not necessary to Hindu worship. [45] Among Hindus, states Gopinath Rao, [77] one who has realised Self (Soul, Atman) and the Universal Principle (Brahman, god) within himself, there is no need for any temple or divine image for worship. Those who have yet to reach this height of realisation, various symbolic manifestations through images, idols and icons as well as mental modes of worship are offered as one of the spiritual paths in the Hindu way of life. This belief is repeated in ancient Hindu scriptures. For example, the Jabaladarshana Upanishad states: [77]

शिवमात्मनि पश्यन्ति प्रतिमासु न योगिनः |
अज्ञानं भावनार्थाय प्रतिमाः परिकल्पिताः || ५९ ||
- जाबालदर्शनोपनिषत्

A yogin perceives god (Siva) within himself,
images are for those who have not reached this knowledge. (Verse 59)

Voices of the Dead: The Strange Origins of Eye Idols - History

C oming out of the East, the Black Death reached the shores of Italy in the spring of 1348 unleashing a rampage of death across Europe unprecedented in recorded history. By the time the epidemic played itself out three years later, anywhere between 25% and 50% of Europe's population had fallen victim to the pestilence.

The plague presented itself in three interrelated forms. The bubonic variant (the most common) derives its name from the swellings or buboes that appeared on a victim's neck, armpits or groin. These tumors could range in size from that of an egg to that of an apple. Although some survived

The Plague's Progress
the painful ordeal, the manifestation of these lesions usually signaled the victim had a life expectancy of up to a week. Infected fleas that attached themselves to rats and then to humans spread this bubonic type of the plague. A second variation - pneumonic plague - attacked the respiratory system and was spread by merely breathing the exhaled air of a victim. It was much more virulent than its bubonic cousin - life expectancy was measured in one or two days. Finally, the septicemic version of the disease attacked the blood system.

Having no defense and no understanding of the cause of the pestilence, the men, women and children caught in its onslaught were bewildered, panicked, and finally devastated.

The Italian writer Giovanni Boccaccio lived through the plague as it ravaged the city of Florence in 1348. The experience inspired him to write The Decameron, a story of seven men and three women who escape the disease by fleeing to a villa outside the city. In his introduction to the fictional portion of his book, Boccaccio gives a graphic description of the effects of the epidemic on his city.

The Signs of Impending Death

"The symptoms were not the same as in the East, where a gush of blood from the nose was the plain sign of inevitable death but it began both in men and women with certain swellings in the groin or under the armpit. They grew to the size of a small apple or an egg, more or less, and were vulgarly called tumours. In a short space of time these tumours spread from the two parts named all over the body. Soon after this the symptoms changed and black or purple spots appeared on the arms or thighs or any other part of the body, sometimes a few large ones, sometimes many little ones. These spots were a certain sign of death, just as the original tumour had been and still remained.

The violence of this disease was such that the sick communicated it to the healthy who came near them, just as a fire catches anything dry or oily near it. And it even went further. To speak to or go near the sick brought infection and a common death to the living and moreover, to touch the clothes or anything else the sick had touched or worn gave the disease to the person touching. "

Varying Reactions to Disaster

". Such fear and fanciful notions took possession of the living that almost all of them adopted the same cruel policy, which was entirely to avoid the sick and everything belonging to them. By so doing, each one thought he would secure his own safety.

Some thought that moderate living and the avoidance of all superfluity would preserve them from the epidemic. They formed small communities, living entirely separate from everybody else. They shut themselves up in houses where there were no sick, eating the finest food and drinking the best wine very temperately, avoiding all excess, allowing no news or discussion of death and sickness, and passing the time in music and suchlike pleasures. Others thought just the opposite. They thought the sure cure for the plague was to drink and be merry, to go about singing and amusing themselves, satisfying every appetite they could, laughing and jesting at what happened. They put their words into practice, spent day and night going from tavern to tavern, drinking immoderately, or went into other people's houses, doing only those things which pleased them. This they could easily do because everyone felt doomed and had abandoned his

A plague victim reveals
the telltale buboe on
his leg. From a
14th century illumination
property, so that most houses became common property and any stranger who went in made use of them as if he had owned them. And with all this bestial behaviour, they avoided the sick as much as possible.

In this suffering and misery of our city, the authority of human and divine laws almost disappeared, for, like other men, the ministers and the executors of the laws were all dead or sick or shut up with their families, so that no duties were carried out. Every man was therefore able to do as he pleased.

Many others adopted a course of life midway between the two just described. They did not restrict their victuals so much as the former, nor allow themselves to be drunken and dissolute like the latter, but satisfied their appetites moderately. They did not shut themselves up, but went about, carrying flowers or scented herbs or perfumes in their hands, in the belief that it was an excellent thing to comfort the brain with such odours for the whole air was infected with the smell of dead bodies, of sick persons and medicines.

Others again held a still more cruel opinion, which they thought would keep them safe. They said that the only medicine against the plague-stricken was to go right away from them. Men and women, convinced of this and caring about nothing but themselves, abandoned their own city, their own houses, their dwellings, their relatives, their property, and went abroad or at least to the country round Florence, as if God's wrath in punishing men's wickedness with this plague would not follow them but strike only those who remained within the walls of the city, or as if they thought nobody in the city would remain alive and that its last hour had come."

The Breakdown of Social Order

Thus, a multitude of sick men and women were left without any care, except from the charity of friends (but these were few), or the greed, of servants, though not many of these could be had even for high wages, Moreover, most of them were coarse-minded men and women, who did little more than bring the sick what they asked for or watch over them when they were dying. And very often these servants lost their lives and their earnings. Since the sick were thus abandoned by neighbours, relatives and friends, while servants were scarce, a habit sprang up which had never been heard of before. Beautiful and noble women, when they fell sick, did not scruple to take a young or old man-servant, whoever he might be, and with no sort of shame, expose every part of their bodies to these men as if they had been women, for they were compelled by the necessity of their sickness to do so. This, perhaps, was a cause of looser morals in those women who survived."

"The plight of the lower and most of the middle classes was even more pitiful to behold. Most of them remained in their houses, either through poverty or in hopes of safety, and fell sick by thousands. Since they received no care and attention, almost all of them died. Many ended their lives in the streets both at night and during the day and many others who died in their houses were only known to be dead because the neighbours smelled their decaying bodies. Dead bodies filled every corner. Most of them were treated in the same manner by the survivors, who were more

Citizens of Tournai bury plague victims. These are
fortunate to have coffins. Most victims
were interred in mass graves
concerned to get rid of their rotting bodies than moved by charity towards the dead. With the aid of porters, if they could get them, they carried the bodies out of the houses and laid them at the door where every morning quantities of the dead might be seen. They then were laid on biers or, as these were often lacking, on tables.

Such was the multitude of corpses brought to the churches every day and almost every hour that there was not enough consecrated ground to give them burial, especially since they wanted to bury each person in the family grave, according to the old custom. Although the cemeteries were full they were forced to dig huge trenches, where they buried the bodies by hundreds. Here they stowed them away like bales in the hold of a ship and covered them with a little earth, until the whole trench was full."

Boccaccio, Giovanni, The Decameron vol. I (translated by Richard Aldington illustrated by Jean de Bosschere) (1930) Gottfried, Robert, The Black Death (1983).

Strange Figures of Woodbridge Clay Pits

Several peculiar wooden sculptures that have a mysterious history about them were recently put up for sale at a prestigious New York City auction house. The origins of the “Woodbridge Figurines” are unclear, although the figures themselves are well known amongst folk art collectors. The figures, which range in height from three to nine inches, were found in a shack in the late 1960s near the old clay pits where Woodbridge Center Mall now stands. The carved wooden figures, which number more than 100 in all, closely resemble the primitive fertility idols used by prehistoric aboriginal tribespeople. They are described as deeply personal and weird, sometimes suggesting some sort of mental malady. Most are armless and some are partially painted. The faces are very defined and well articulated. Experts believe whoever made the carvings had the representation of a specific person in mind. Another strange characteristic of the idols is that each one had a hole bored into the top of its head, into which a small stopper was inserted like a cork in a bottle. The purpose for this is not known.

When people in the area were asked if they remember anything out of the ordinary in area of the old clay pits, folks said they could recall a strange church-like structure built in the 1940s on a hilltop off Karkus Ave. Others remember a bizarre family living near the Maple Hill dairy off Metuchen Avenue. Some say they remember squatters living in the area, which was made up of woods surrounding the township’s brickyard, often referred to as the “Clay Pits” or “Sand Banks.” To others the area was also known as the “Dog Patch.”

The family that lived in the woods was described as a primitive miniature society, and neighborhood children were warned not to venture into the woods or go near the family’s home because of their vicious dogs. Some say the family was descended from Hessian mercenaries from the Revolutionary War, who had deserted and fled into the woods.

The curious figures were purchased about twenty years ago in New York City from an unidentified person who told the buyer that a construction worker found them in a shack just before the construction of the Woodbridge Mall began. The buyer, wanting to find out more information about the figures, sent a gallery intern out to Woodbridge to investigate. The intern came back “spooked,” saying she never wanted to return. She heard a notebook existed containing names that pertained to the figures, but never found out more. She had also heard the stories of a strange clan living in the woods near the clay pits.

Other people remember a woman known as The Walker, whose sons were described as “inbred.” The church located there was not known for any religion, but it is remembered as having pews, being barely painted, with a sparse decor. John O’Connor, a former member of the Woodbridge Historical Society remembers stories of the church being a “healing place” that people would walk to and be cured of their ills. He mentioned that the site of the church, woods and the former Valentine Brick Company, is now the Fortunoff parking lot on Route 9.

Another member of the historical society contacted the owner of the property prior to the building of the mall trying to research the figures and the family, and was told the stories weren’t true. When asked what the true story was, the former owner would not say. The Woodbridge Figures are currently part of the private collection of Gael and Michael Mendelsohn of Westchester, NY, who are well known collectors of self-taught, folk and “Outsider” art.

Remembers the Clay Pits and “The Family”

My grandmother has lived in Woodbridge for many years. She knows a lot of people who remember stories of the clay pits. In the 1940’s, my grandparents, my uncle and my aunt lived in a big farmhouse (where the Woodbridge Bowling Alley is now) and the clay pits were right behind the house. The name of thewoman who lived in the shack was Eva. There were two boys who were inbred, and every time people would stare at them, the mother would yell out, “What are you staring at?”

My grandmother would forbid my father and my uncle to go to the clay pits because of the strange things she had heard about them. She said you could hear voices of the dead! She also knows a man who was in the shack when those figurines were being made but she doesn’t know why they were made. –Kathy B., Fords

An audio story told by Mark Moran with sound collage by Clay Pigeon. One of a series of Waking Weird episodes which can be heard broadcast live every Monday at 8:39 am (EST) at WFMU FM and Hear the program archives at Hear more audio stories HERE.

The preceding article is an excerpt from the book Weird NJ book, “Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets, which is available on Amazon and through our web site at

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How Lovecraft conceived the name Necronomicon is not clear—Lovecraft said that the title came to him in a dream. [4] Although some have suggested that Lovecraft was influenced primarily by Robert W. Chambers' collection of short stories The King in Yellow, which centers on a mysterious and disturbing play in book form, Lovecraft is not believed to have read that work until 1927. [5]

Donald R. Burleson has argued that the idea for the book was derived from Nathaniel Hawthorne, though Lovecraft himself noted that "mouldy hidden manuscripts" were one of the stock features of Gothic literature. [6]

Lovecraft wrote [7] that the title, as translated from the Greek language, meant "an image of the law of the dead", compounded respectively from νεκρός nekros "dead", νόμος nomos "law", and εἰκών eikon "image". [8] Robert M. Price notes that the title has been variously translated by others as "Book of the names of the dead", "Book of the laws of the dead", "Book of dead names" and "Knower of the laws of the dead". [ citation needed ] S. T. Joshi states that Lovecraft's own etymology is "almost entirely unsound. The last portion of it is particularly erroneous, since -ikon is nothing more than a neuter adjectival suffix and has nothing to do with eikõn (image)." Joshi translates the title as "Book considering (or classifying) the dead." [9]

Lovecraft was often asked about the veracity of the Necronomicon, and always answered that it was completely his invention. In a letter to Willis Conover, Lovecraft elaborated upon his typical answer:

Now about the "terrible and forbidden books”—I am forced to say that most of them are purely imaginary. There never was any Abdul Alhazred or Necronomicon, for I invented these names myself. Robert Bloch devised the idea of Ludvig Prinn and his De Vermis Mysteriis, while the Book of Eibon is an invention of Clark Ashton Smith's. Robert E. Howard is responsible for Friedrich von Junzt and his Unaussprechlichen Kulten. As for seriously-written books on dark, occult, and supernatural themes—in all truth they don’t amount to much. That is why it’s more fun to invent mythical works like the Necronomicon and Book of Eibon. [4]

Reinforcing the book's fictionalization, the name of the book's supposed author, Abdul Alhazred, is not even a grammatically correct Arabic name. "Abdul" means "the worshiper/slave of the", and standing alone it would make no sense, as Alhazred is not a surname in the Western sense, but a reference to a person's place of birth, and its English translation starts with another "the". [10] Lovecraft's first use of the name Abdul Alhazred was a pseudonym he gave to himself as a five-year-old. [11]

In 1927, Lovecraft wrote a brief pseudo-history of the Necronomicon. It was published in 1938, after his death, as "History of the Necronomicon". According to this account, the book was originally called Al Azif, an Arabic word that Lovecraft defined as "that nocturnal sound (made by insects) supposed to be the howling of demons", drawing on a footnote by Samuel Henley in Henley's translation of "Vathek". [12] Henley, commenting upon a passage which he translated as "those nocturnal insects which presage evil", alluded to the diabolic legend of Beelzebub, "Lord of the Flies" and to Psalm 91:5, which in some 16th Century English Bibles (such as Myles Coverdale's 1535 translation) describes "bugges by night" where later translations render "terror by night". [13] One Arabic/English dictionary translates `Azīf (عزيف) as "whistling (of the wind) weird sound or noise". [14] Gabriel Oussani defined it as "the eerie sound of the jinn in the wilderness". [15] The tradition of `azif al jinn (عزيف الجن) is linked to the phenomenon of "singing sand". [16]

In the "History", Alhazred is said to have been a "half-crazed Arab" who worshipped the Lovecraftian entities Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu in the early 700s CE. He is described as being from Sanaá in Yemen. He visited the ruins of Babylon, the "subterranean secrets" of Memphis and the Empty Quarter of Arabia. In his last years, he lived in Damascus, where he wrote Al Azif before his sudden and mysterious death in 738. In subsequent years, Lovecraft wrote, the Azif "gained considerable, though surreptitious circulation amongst the philosophers of the age." In 950, it was translated into Greek and given the title Necronomicon by Theodorus Philetas, a fictional scholar from Constantinople. This version "impelled certain experimenters to terrible attempts" before being "suppressed and burnt" in 1050 by Patriarch Michael (a historical figure who died in 1059). [17]

After this attempted suppression, the work was "only heard of furtively" until it was translated from Greek into Latin by Olaus Wormius. (Lovecraft gives the date of this edition as 1228, though the real-life Danish scholar Olaus Wormius lived from 1588 to 1624.) Both the Latin and Greek text, the "History" relates, were banned by Pope Gregory IX in 1232, though Latin editions were apparently published in 15th century Germany and 17th century Spain. A Greek edition was printed in Italy in the first half of the 16th century. The Elizabethan magician John Dee (1527-c. 1609) allegedly translated the book—presumably into English—but Lovecraft wrote that this version was never printed and only fragments survive. [17] (The connection between Dee and the Necronomicon was suggested by Lovecraft's friend Frank Belknap Long.) [ citation needed ]

According to Lovecraft, the Arabic version of Al Azif had already disappeared by the time the Greek version was banned in 1050, though he cites "a vague account of a secret copy appearing in San Francisco during the current [20th] century" that "later perished in fire". The Greek version, he writes, has not been reported "since the burning of a certain Salem man's library in 1692" (an apparent reference to the Salem witch trials). (In the story "The Diary of Alonzo Typer", the character Alonzo Typer finds a Greek copy.) According to "History of the Necronomicon" the very act of studying the text is inherently dangerous, as those who attempt to master its arcane knowledge generally meet terrible ends. [17]

The Necronomicon is mentioned in a number of Lovecraft's short stories and in his novellas At the Mountains of Madness and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. However, despite frequent references to the book, Lovecraft was very sparing of details about its appearance and contents. He once wrote that "if anyone were to try to write the Necronomicon, it would disappoint all those who have shuddered at cryptic references to it." [18]

In "The Nameless City" (1921), a rhyming couplet that appears at two points in the story is ascribed to Abdul Alhazred:

That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die. [19]

The same couplet appears in "The Call of Cthulhu" (1928), where it is identified as a quotation from the Necronomicon. This "much-discussed" couplet, as Lovecraft calls it in the latter story, has also been quoted in works by other authors, including Brian Lumley's The Burrowers Beneath, which adds a long paragraph preceding the couplet.

In his story "History of the Necronomicon", Lovecraft states that it is rumored that artist R.U. Pickman (from his story "Pickman's Model") owned a Greek translation of the text, but it vanished along with the artist in early 1926.

The Necronomicon is undoubtedly a substantial text, as indicated by its description in "The Dunwich Horror" (1929). In the story, Wilbur Whateley visits Miskatonic University's library to consult the "unabridged" version of the Necronomicon for a spell that would have appeared on the 751st page of his own inherited, but defective, Dee edition. The Necronomicon passage in question states:

Nor is it to be thought. that man is either the oldest or the last of earth's masters, or that the common bulk of life and substance walks alone. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know, but between them, they walk serene and primal, undimensioned and to us unseen. Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They had trod earth's fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread. By Their smell can men sometimes know Them near, but of Their semblance can no man know, saving only in the features of those They have begotten on mankind and of those are there many sorts, differing in likeness from man's truest eidolon to that shape without sight or substance which is Them. They walk unseen and foul in lonely places where the Words have been spoken and the Rites howled through at their Seasons. The wind gibbers with Their voices, and the earth mutters with Their consciousness. They bend the forest and crush the city, yet may not forest or city behold the hand that smites. Kadath in the cold waste hath known Them, and what man knows Kadath? The ice desert of the South and the sunken isles of Ocean hold stones whereon Their seal is engraven, but who hath seen the deep frozen city or the sealed tower long garlanded with seaweed and barnacles? Great Cthulhu is Their cousin, yet can he spy Them only dimly. Iä! Shub-Niggurath! As a foulness shall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye see Them not and Their habitation is even one with your guarded threshold. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate, whereby the spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled once They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer is winter, after winter summer. They wait patient and potent, for here shall They reign again.

The Necronomicon ' s appearance and physical dimensions are not clearly stated in Lovecraft's work. Other than the obvious black letter editions, it is commonly portrayed as bound in leather of various types and having metal clasps. Moreover, editions are sometimes disguised. In The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, for example, John Merrit pulls down a book labelled Qanoon-e-Islam from Joseph Curwen’s bookshelf and discovers to his disquiet that it is actually the Necronomicon.

Many commercially available versions of the book fail to include any of the contents that Lovecraft describes. The Simon Necronomicon in particular has been criticized for this. [20]

According to Lovecraft's "History of the Necronomicon", copies of the original Necronomicon were held by only five institutions worldwide:

  • The British Museum
  • The Bibliothèque nationale de France of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • The University of Buenos Aires
  • The library of the fictional Miskatonic University in the also fictitious Arkham, Massachusetts

The Miskatonic University also holds the Latin translation by Olaus Wormius, printed in Spain in the 17th century.

Other copies, Lovecraft wrote, were kept by private individuals. Joseph Curwen, as noted, had a copy in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward (1941). A version is held in Kingsport in "The Festival" (1925). The provenance of the copy read by the narrator of "The Nameless City" is unknown a version is read by the protagonist in "The Hound" (1924).

Although Lovecraft insisted that the book was pure invention (and other writers invented passages from the book for their own works), there are accounts of some people actually believing the Necronomicon to be a real book. Lovecraft himself sometimes received letters from fans inquiring about the Necronomicon ' s authenticity. Pranksters occasionally listed the Necronomicon for sale in book store newsletters or inserted phony entries for the book in library card catalogues (where it may be checked out to one 'A. Alhazred', ostensibly the book's author and original owner). The Vatican also receives requests for this book from those who believe the Vatican Library holds a copy. [21]

Similarly, the university library of Tromsø, Norway, lists a translated version of the Necronomicon, attributed to Petrus de Dacia and published in 1994, although the document is listed as "unavailable". [22]

In 1973, Owlswick Press issued an edition of the Necronomicon written in an indecipherable, apparently fictional language known as "Duriac". [23] This was a limited edition of 348. The book contains a brief introduction by L. Sprague de Camp.

The line between fact and fiction was further blurred in the late 1970s when a book purporting to be a translation of "the real" Necronomicon was published. This book, by the pseudonymous "Simon," had little connection to the fictional Lovecraft Mythos but instead was based on Sumerian mythology. It was later dubbed the "Simon Necronomicon". Going into trade paperback in 1980 it has never been out of print and has sold 800,000 copies by 2006 making it the most popular Necronomicon to date. Despite its contents, the book's marketing focused heavily on the Lovecraft connection and made sensational claims for the book's magical power. The blurb states it was "potentially, the most dangerous Black Book known to the Western World". Three additional volumes have since been published — The Necronomicon Spellbook, a book of pathworkings with the 50 names of Marduk Dead Names: The Dark History of the Necronomicon, a history of the book itself and of the late 1970s New York occult scene and The Gates Of The Necronomicon, instructions on pathworking with the Simon Necronomicon. [ citation needed ]

A hoax version of the Necronomicon, edited by George Hay, appeared in 1978 and included an introduction by the paranormal researcher and writer Colin Wilson. David Langford described how the book was prepared from a computer analysis of a discovered "cipher text" by Dr. John Dee. The resulting "translation" was in fact written by occultist Robert Turner, but it was far truer to the Lovecraftian version than the Simon text and even incorporated quotations from Lovecraft's stories in its passages. Wilson also wrote a story, "The Return of the Lloigor", in which the Voynich manuscript turns out to be a copy of the Necronomicon. [24]

With the success of the Simon Necronomicon the controversy surrounding the actual existence of the Necronomicon was such that a detailed book, The Necronomicon Files, was published in 1998 attempting to prove once and for all the book was pure fiction. It covered the well-known Necronomicons in depth, especially the Simon one, along with a number of more obscure ones. It was reprinted and expanded in 2003. [25]

In 2004, Necronomicon: The Wanderings of Alhazred, by Canadian occultist Donald Tyson, was published by Llewellyn Worldwide. The Tyson Necronomicon is generally thought [ who? ] to be closer to Lovecraft's vision than other published versions. [ citation needed ] Donald Tyson has clearly stated that the Necronomicon is fictional, but that has not prevented his book from being the center of some controversy. [26] Tyson has since published Alhazred, a novelization of the life of the Necronomicon ' s author.

Kenneth Grant, the British occultist, disciple of Aleister Crowley, and head of the Typhonian Ordo Templi Orientis, suggested in his book The Magical Revival (1972) that there was an unconscious connection between Crowley and Lovecraft. He thought they both drew on the same occult forces Crowley via his magic and Lovecraft through the dreams which inspired his stories and the Necronomicon. Grant claimed that the Necronomicon existed as an astral book as part of the Akashic records and could be accessed through ritual magic or in dreams. Grant's ideas on Lovecraft were featured heavily in the introduction to the Simon Necronomicon and also have been backed by Tyson. [27]

Watch the video: The Blind Auditions: Wolf Winters Sings The Sound Of Silence. The Voice Australia 2020 (August 2022).