Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Best and Worst on Film / TV

My list of the worst and best shows ever on Archeology are as follows.


1, Chariots of the Gods, Probably the worst but redeemed by being quite FUN in a really bad way. Probably the Plan Nine From Outer Space of documentaries.

Pacal’s Sarcophagus lid used in Documentary Chariots of the gods.

2, The Incredible Discovery of Noah's Ark, a absurd piece of nonsense where a gentleman fooled the makers of the documentary with a bit of "Noah's ark" that had been aged in Teriyaki sauce.

3, The Mysterious Origins of Man. Charlton Heston disgraces himself in this distorted screed against "orthodoxy".

4, In Search of Ancient Astronauts, which among other things contains an absurd and risible version of the Atlantis tale. I E., the Atlanteans were nuked by ET.

5, The In Search of TV series. Most episodes devoted archeology were out and out one-sided pieces for outrageous claims and theories and predictable for ignoring the "orthodox" view. An occasional good episode only slightly detracts from the god awful paranormal and fringe boosting of the TV show.

6, Kon Tiki Man, a hero worshiping TV series devoted to Thor Heyerdahl's carrier that very poorly dealt with the real problems with his theories. Really funny was the repeated statements that Heyerdahl's theories were "new" and "radical" when they are just the same old late nineteenth early twentieth century hyper diffusionism.

7, Underworld, Fingerprints of the Gods, and any thing else by Hancock. Classic examples of pseudoscience and distortion.

8, The Mystery of the Sphinx, once more a distorted, sensationalistic telling of the “mystery” of the age of the Sphinx.

The Sphinx

9, Michael Wood's embarrassing In Search of the Trojan War, which manage to dance around the question of how much history was in Homer's poems while serving great gobs of romance. In throw away lines Wood would admit that the historical kernel in the poems was small but then go right back to romance and leaving viewers with the impression that the modern study had shown that the historical kernel of the Homeric poems was substantial.


1, The Archeology TV series. Provocative and interesting.

2, The case of the Ancient Astronauts, A dagger through the heart of Chariots of the Gods.

3, Ape Man, a journey narrated by Walter Cronkite about how we became us.

4, Ancient Lives. Romer’s personal view of the ordinary lives of a group of Ancient Egyptians's, showing how they were and were not like us. An example of how ordinary dirt archeology can illuminate the past. Required viewing, and reading, for anyone interested in Ancient Egypt.

5, The Lost Pyramids of Caral. A interesting overview of the discovery of the site of Caral and what that tells us about the origin of civilization.

Pyramids of Caral

6, Legacy, Michael Wood's bite size look at several original civilizations, China, India, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Central America, built around themes, done with sympathy and sense. Wood’s In search of the Dark Ages is also excellent.

7, The real Garden of Eden, for reasons obscure to me this show about archeology on the island of Bahrain, (in ancient times Dilmun) has stuck with me.

8, The Secrets of Easter Island, a stake through the heart of Heyerdahl's ideas about Easter Island.

Statues on Easter island

9, Building a Pyramid. Who says "conventional" "Orthodox" ways of building the pyramids are not interesting and provocative?

Pierre Cloutier

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Rasna Speak

Etruscan Couple

Who were the Rasna? Well they are better known as the Etruscans a people who lived mainly in the area of modern day Tuscany in Italy. Rasna is what they called themselves.1

There is an air of mystery about them. In that they seem to have exerted considerable influence on Roman religious practice, and because most of what is known about them comes from their tomb and tomb furnishings.2

Rome to give just one simple example took that most distinctive of Roman costumes the Toga from the Etruscans.3 But the central mystery concerning the Etruscans, aside from the mystery of their origins4, is the mystery of their language.

Now it is a common perception that Etruscan is an undeciphered language and there for cannot be read. This is simply not true Etruscan can be read and the pronunciations of most words that we have found is in fact clearly understood. So Etruscan can indeed be read.5 There is a catch though. We may be able to read Etruscan but we do not understand most of it. So we are in the very strange position of being able to read a language but not to be able to understand it! 6

The main reason for this is almost breathtakingly simple. Etruscan is not related to any known language. Thus the comparisons that can be used to decipher the meaning of words we can read with other languages cannot be done.7

For example Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs could be read and understood because Coptic the sacred language of the Coptic Church of Egypt was a direct descendant of Ancient Egyptian. Further ancient Egyptian was a Semitic language so that there were also modern day linguistic relatives of Ancient Egyptian like Arabic, Ethiopian and Hebrew to help with deciphering the language.8

It is very important when deciphering a script to either know the language that is being written or a linguistic relative of the language being deciphered. In the case of Etruscan there is no known relative of the language known to exist.9 Some cases have special circumstances that helped the decipherment. For example Sumerian is a language that is not related to any known language, yet despite some continuing difficulties in pinning down the meaning of certain words or phrases it is today largely understood. The reason is that both the Babylonians and Assyrians spoke Semitic languages which were therefore deciphered by comparison with modern Semitic languages in the 19th century, viewed Sumerian as a sacred language and left copious documentation in Sumerian including large numbers of clay tablet dictionaries which gave the Sumerian word and its Babylonian and / or Assyrian equivalent. This to put it mildly greatly aided the decipherment of Sumerian. In fact it is hard to believe that even know the decipherment of Sumerian would have got very far without them. The fact that both the Babylonians and Assyrians used a script that was a modified version of Sumerian script also helped.10

Another aspect is that large numbers of inscriptions exist to work with in terms of helping with the decipherment. In the case of Etruscan the problem is that although c. 13,000 known inscriptions exist, many of them are one word and most of the rest are very short. Thus impeding efforts of decipherment.11

A further aid to decipherment is a bilingual inscription one in a known language and the other in the unknown language. In the case of Etruscan one is known it was found at Pyrgi in Italy and is in Etruscan and Punic, (The Semitic language of Phoenicia and Carthage).12 The Punic Inscription reads as follows:
To Lady Astarte. This is the sacred place made and given by Thefarie Velianas, king of Cisra, in the month of the Sacrifice of the Sun in gift within the temple and sanctuary [?] because Astarte has raised [him] with her hand [?], in the third year of his reign, in the month of Krr, on the day of the Burial of the Divinity. And the years of the statue of the goddess in her temple [are as many] as these stars.13

The Pyrgi Tablets
Left – Etruscan, Right - Punic

Other such inscriptions have been found however they are much shorter. In this particular case it appears that the Etruscan is nothing more than a very rough paraphrase of the Punic so its help in deciphering Etruscan has been less than might be expected.14

As mentioned above Etruscan inscriptions tend to be very short; in fact of the c. 13,000 known, c. 4,000 are graffiti and of the other c. 9,000 most are mainly epitaphs containing only names and formulaic expressions.15

In fact the longest known Etruscan document is part of a book found in mummy wrappings, now located in Zagreb, Croatia; it is about 1,200 words long it dates to about 150-100 B.C.E. It seems to be a ritual text of some kind.16

Etruscan Book found in Mummy Wrappings

Other documents include bronze sheep livers used for divination and an apparent land sale contract.17

Bronze Sheep liver with Etruscan Inscription

In all we know little about Etruscan Syntax and our total vocabulary in Etruscan is only c. 250 words! 18

Despite this our understanding advances although it seems that unless we make a major find of Etruscan literature we are never going to know much about the Etruscan language. It is rather sad that the Romans had little interest in it.19

1. Robinson, Andrew, Lost Languages, BCA, Toronto, 2002, p. 159.

2. IBID. pp. 162-163, Ogilvie, R. M., Early Rome and the Etruscans, Fontana Books, London, 1976, pp. 30-61, See also Pallottino, M., The Etruscans, 3rd Edition, Penguin Books, 1955.

3. Ogilvie, p. 49.

4. See Pallottino, pp. 46-73. The argument is generally over if the Etruscans came from Asia Minor or were indigenous. Pallottino believes they were indigenous.

5. See Footnote 1, Doblhofer, Ernst, Voices in Stone, Paladin, London, 1973, p. 296-297.

6. See Robinson, pp. 157-165, Doblhofer, pp. 294-301.

7. IBID., Pallottino, pp. 229-238.

8. Doblhofer, pp. 38-84, Robinson, pp. 50-73.

9. IBID. Robinson, pp. 164-165.

10. Doblhofer, pp. 121-148.

11. Robinson, p. 165.

12. Robinson, pp. 170-171, Finley, M. I., Aspects of Antiquity, 2nd Edition, Penguin Books, 1977, pp. 114-118.

13. Finley, p. 115.

14. IBID. Robinson, p. 170.

15. Robinson, p. 165.

16. IBID. p. 172.

17. IBID. p. 175-181.

18. IBID. p. 181.

19. IBID. p. 163.

Pierre Cloutier

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Note on Numbers and Military Probabilities
in Ancient Sources.

A common problem with trying to sort out the history of the Greco-Roman era is trying to make sense of the numbers given in the different accounts of, for example, the size of armies.

In this essay reference as already has been made to the problem of wildly exaggerated numbers given by the Greek historians. This is a very wide ranging topic so the author will stick to Ktesias , Herodotus and Diodorus .

Regarding Herodotus the main question is where to begin. So a start will be his numbers for the invasion of Greece. We get the following:

1,207 Triremes, with 241,000 men & 36,210 Marines
3,000 other ships with 240,000 men
1,700,000 infantry & 80,000 cavalry
A camel and chariot corps for another 20,000
Total 2,317,610 men
Add 120 ships, with 24,000 men
300,000 more men
Total 2,641,610
men + Servants equal to above total
Grand total 5,283,320 men; Total ships 1,327 Triremes

This does not include camp women, wives, cooks, etc., of course.1

Island of Salamis, Greece

The numbers from Ktesias for the invasion of Greece are as follows:

800,000 men excluding servants
1,000 Triremes2

For the Egyptian Expedition the numbers are:
400,000 men in one army
80 Triremes in one fleet
500,000 men in another army
300 Triremes in another fleet3
The numbers from Diodorus for the invasion of Greece are as follows:
1210 "Warships", probably Triremes
1,000,000 men.4

Battle of Salamis

For the Egyptian Expedition the numbers are:

300,000 men in one army
300,000 in another army
300 Triremes5

Egyptian Delta

The above are the figures given for Persian forces in both the invasion of Greece and the Egyptian Expedition by several sources. The figures for men are simply absurd not to be taken seriously. They give the feel about being plucked out of thin air.

Herodotus for example in his careful listing of his figures for men, and in how he calculates them gives the appearance of being both exact and careful. The problem is it makes his figures look if anything even more absurd. For example Herodotus says:
Meanwhile Xerxes at Doriscus was occupied in numbering his troops. As nobody has left a record, I cannot state the precise number of men provided by each separate nation, but the grand total, excluding the naval contingent, turned out to be 1,700.000. The counting was done by first packing ten thousand men as close together as they could stand and drawing a circle round them on the ground; they were then dismissed, and a fence, about navel-high, was constructed round the circle; finally other troops were marched into the area thus enclosed and dismissed in their turn, until the whole army had been counted.6
This truly weak attempt by Herodotus to make his figures look plausible only succeeds in enmeshing Herodotus further in the absurdity of his figures. It appears Herodotus realized that at least some people hearing or reading his numbers would not believe them so this explanation was put in. It is hardly surprising that later writers criticized Herodotus for either gullibility or out-right lying. However it seems that:

He (Herodotus–Author) does seem to have believed in the traditional figures, if his arithmetical labours are any indication. That these numbers are a sheer physical impossibility does not seem to have occurred to him.7

Although it should be pointed out ancient writers, to the best of our knowledge, did not criticize Herodotus for including absurdly high figures for Persian armies and fleets.

No attempt to sort out, analyze etc., such figures can save them, certainly not Herodotus ' absurd explanations. For example dividing by 10, or a hundred. Herodotus’ figures for the number of men cannot be saved by such procedures. The bottom line is that they are pure invention is more likely than that they are not. In fact this is just one more example of Herodotus’ lack of understanding of military affairs.8

Regarding the number of ships here the figures are not quite as absurd. The 80 and three hundred ships recorded for the Egyptian Expedition certainly are plausible. But here we run into problems. The three hundred figure reads like a stereotype, not a real figure and the 80 could be nothing but a doubling of the Athenian 40.9

As for Herodotus' figure of 1,327 triremes this implies a total force of 301,610 men. Accepting Herodotus' figure of 200 men per ship.10 This figure is implausible, especially if we add in the supporting vessels.

Herodotus' figures for ships are not implausible if we accept that the figure he gives for triremes is for total ships. This is so because it was easier to supply and move men by ship than over land and on the sea the very expensive, both financially and logistically, cavalry was not a factor. Further food supplies could be moved much cheaper by sea than overland. Still there were limits so Herodotus' total figures are still implausible for the full fleet. Although it is probable that there were more men in the fleet than in the land army. As for the navy feeding the army it would have had enough problems feeding its self with trying to feed the army as well.11

If Herodotus' figures are, despite his efforts to justify and explain them, impossible, then neither the figures of Diodorus or Ktesias are in the least reliable. Both Diodorus and Ktesias seemed to have selected impressive large figures, quite literally, out of thin air and made no attempt or justify or explain them.

The best way to approach this is in terms of logistics, not crunching numbers taken from dubious sources. Since if the literary sources cannot be taken seriously than what we have left is probability.

Before we leave the "Oriental" hordes behind a good check on these numbers is the forces lead by Napoleon in his invasion of Russia, which totalled, along with reinforcements, about 612,000 men.12 Despite considerable logistic support and trying to live off the land, Napoleon's army was mainly destroyed by logistical and supply problems. Spread out over a vastly larger area than Ancient Greece and one that was more productive, Napoleon's army could not properly feed itself and was destroyed.13 If Napoleon could not feed and supply his army in Russia in 1812, with vastly superior logistic and supply resources it is hard to believe that the huge hordes of Persians mentioned by the Greek historians could have been supplied successfully.14

Logistically the problem, until very recently, has been that the size of an army depended not just on the resources of the nation, empire creating the army but on the local resources of the area where the army would be operating. It is clear that:

In the ancient world, where logistics placed severe constraints on the size and mobility of armies, even a small force, when disciplined and determined, could pose a threat.15
What this means, for example, is that despite the huge size of the Persian empire in relation to Greece, the main limit on the size of the Persian Army invading Greece was not the size of the empire but the size of the resources in Greece that could support an army. Since the army would have to be supplied locally it was Greece's ability to support the army that counted not the size of the Persian Empire. The relative strength of states counted in these circumstances not in terms of being able to mobilize vast armies on a battlefield, because logistics set limits on that, but the ability of states to finance and sustain and replace losses in war. Thus if the Persian Empire could only send an army of 50,000 men against a enemy because that was all the area could supply, it could still do so again and again, both financially and in manpower. Whereas its enemy may not be able to sustain such an effort or replace its losses to the same extent.

In one of Thucydides speeches, he puts in the mouth Hermocrates, a politician, during the debate at Syracuse about whether to resist the Athenians, the following:

There have certainly not been many great expeditions, either Hellenic or foreign, which have been successful when sent far from home. They cannot come in greater numbers than the inhabitants of the country and their neighbours, all of whom will unite through fear.16
It appears, given the likely-hood, that this represented Thucydides’ views that this also represents his general opinion about Persian numbers against Greek numbers. Further this shows that the general principal of a limit on the size of invasion / expeditionary forces was recognized by some thinkers in antiquity.

How large were the armies that invaded Greece and Egypt ?17 Two conclusions can be drawn. First the numbers given by the Greek Historians cannot be taken seriously has figures for the size of the Persian armies, except has evidence of what the Greeks believed. Second Thucydides decision not to give figures at all of the size of the Persian armies is probably the best course, because we do not know and baring some "find" can not know, the actual size of the Persian armies.
Greeks Fighting Persians

1. Herodotus, Herodotus: The Histories, Penguin Books, London, 1954, Book 7, s. 184-186.

2. Ktesias in Photius, The Library of Photius, Vol. 1, SPCK, London, 1920, Book 72, s. 27.

3. IBID. Book 72, s. 36-37.

4. Diodorus, Diodorus Siculus, v. 4, William Heinemann, London, 1989, Book 11, s. 3-5.

5. IBID. Book 11, s. 74-75.

6. Herodotus , Book 7, s. 60.

7. Waters, K. H., Herodotus the Historian, Croom Helm, London, 1985. p. 152.

8. Buckley, Terry, Aspects of Greek History, 750-323 B.C., Routledge, London, 1996, pp. 15-16. For a Critical discussion of Herodotus' accouint of the Persian Wars see Buckley, pp. 161-188.

9. Bigwood, J. M., Ctesias' Account of the Revolt of Inarus, Phoenix, v. 32, 1976, pp. 11.

10. Herodotus, Book 7, s. 184.

11. See Lazenby, J. F., The Defence of Greece, Aris and Phillips, Warminister, England, 1993, pp. 88-92.

12. Riehn, Richard K., 1812, Napoleon's Russian Campaign, John Wiley & Sons Ltd., Toronto, 1991, p. 395.

13. IBID. pp. 138-155.

14. It is a common, but incorrect belief that Napoleon's army was destroyed by the Russian winter. This is only partly true. By far the worst losses were in the advance to Moscow, from disease, starvation etc. See Riehn, pp. 199-201, 404-407.

15. Daniel, Elton L., The History of Iran, Greenwood Press, London, 2001, p. 48.

16. Thucydides, Thucydides: History of the Peloponesian War, Penguin Books, London, 1954, Book 6, s. 33.

17. For a thoroughly unconvincing attempt to partially justify Herodotus' figures for the land army see Cook, J. M., The Persian Empire, Schocken Books, New York, 1983, pp. 114-116. Cook does not deal with the considerable logistic problems of such a large force or the added burden of such a large armies’ camp followers.

Pierre Cloutier

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Comments on a Top 100 Movie List

Just for fun, and as a change of pace from my usual postings, here are my comments on a top one hundred movie list published last year on The Times OnLine.1

100 - Jurassic Park
Right at the start the list tells us it doesn't mean anything remotely serious. The film is fun but come on!!
99 - La Belle et la Bete
I assume they mean the c. 1948 version. A good choice.
98 - My Fair Lady
No Julie Andrews, and a totally cliche ending utterly unfaithful to Shaw's play. Terrible!
97 - Point Break
96 - Lost in Translation
Vague people doing vague things for what seems like an eternity.
95 - Grand Hotel
A cliche ridden bathic mess redeemed ONLY by Greta Garbo's brilliant performance.
94 - La Haine
Can't comment haven't even heard of it.
93 - Cool Hand Luke
Interesting choice, and a good movie.
92 - A bout de soffle
Another can't comment I haven’t heard of it movie.
91 - Short Cuts
90 - Trainspotting
One of the best films, if the not the best I've seen in the last 20 years.
89 - A Touch of Evil
Good choice.
88 - Wild Strawberries
A great Bergman film but not his best, Where is Fanny and Alexander?
87 - Silence of the Lambs
A good movie but lets face it Anthony Hopkins performance is over the top campyness and the whole movie in retrospect is major silly.
86 - Nosferatu
I assume, and hope, they mean the 1920's silent film classic and not the late 70's remake.
85 - Dog Day Afternoon
Good movie but NOT a top 100.
84 - Festen
Can't comment haven’t heard of it.
83 - Spartacus
A blockbuster crowd pleaser and quite good.
82 - Chungking Express
81 - North by Northwest
One of the ultimate Hitchcock films.
80 - Tokyo Story
Pretentious and dull.
79 - Deliverance
Good but in the top 100?
78 - The Lady Eve
Hate it with a passion.
77 - Pather Panchali
So dull!!
76 - From Here To Eternity
The film is iconic but very overrated.
75 - The Good, The Bad the Ugly
Pure sleazy popcorn. The list makes another silly choice.
74 - Rosemary’s Baby
Stunningly dated.
73 - Great Expectations
I assume they mean the late forties version. No I wouldn't put it in any top 100 list.
72 - Days of Heaven
Stunning visuals, but very weak in acting and script. Should NOT be in a top 100 list.
71 - This Is Spinal Tap
The ultimate mock documentary.
70 - The Conversation
A seriously underestimated film. Good choice
69 - Hidden (Cache)
68 - The Maltese Falcon
A vastly overrated "classic".
67 - The Piano
Schmaltzy horror.
66 - Toy Story
Good film but a top 100?
65 - The Thin Blue Line
I assume they mean the documentary , and if so it is a very good movie.
64 - Do The Right Thing
Good film but what is it doing in this list?
63 - On The Waterfront
Another wildly overrated film. Its not a contender.
62 - Taxi Driver
Good choice.
61 - Rashomon
Good choice. Two in a row!
60 - The Crying Game
What is this film doing here?
59 - Pulp Fiction
A pretentious overrated piece of garbage.
58 - Dr Zhivago
Have the people who made this list actually SEEN this movie?
57 - Raging Bull
Good Choice.
56 - Whisky Galore
Can't comment haven’t heard of it.
55 - The Matrix
They are trying to be funny I hope.
54 - Roman Holiday
A piece of light mindless cotton candy. At best a mild diversion.
53 - Mildred Pierce
Yes Joanne Crawford is great but see the Carol Burnett parody Mildred Fierce, for the reason this film cries out to be made fun of.
52 - La Dolce Vita
Interesting choice.
51 - Cabaret
Maybe the best filmed musical ever.
50 - Blade Runner
No particular objection, but if Blade Runner is here why not Forbidden Planet?
49 - High Society
A musical version of The Philadelphia Story, simply inane!!
48 - Shoah
Good Choice, numbing and brilliant.
47 - Fargo
Liked the movie but a top 100?
46 - All About Eve
On this list for reasons of iconic status and camp appeal and not because of the film’s merits.
45 - The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
Have the compilers of this list seen this movie?
44 - A Streetcar Named Desire
Great play, but sorry can't get over "Stella, Stella!!!", hyperventilated by Marlon Brando.
43 - Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Another reason NOT to take this list the slightest bit seriously.
42 - Blue Velvet
Double Ugh!!
41 - A Star Is Born
I hope they mean the 1930's version and not the execrable 50's or 70's versions.
40 - The Life of Brian
Isn't Monty Python and the Holy Grail better?
39 - The Graduate
Ok I liked this film but in the top 100?!
38 - Rear Window
Another Hitchcock masterwork good choice.
37 - Beau Travail
Pretentious glop.
36 - Jaws
Another reason NOT to take this list seriously.
35 - Withnail and I
Painful and boring to sit through but of much help if you need sleep.
34 - The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Another popcorn flick; whats it doing here?
33 - One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
Jack Nicholson plays Jack Nicholson like he will do countless times since. Can't get beyond my Nickolson is really annoying syndrome to judge merits of film.
32 - The Empire Strikes Back
Ok this is a good film and the best of the Star Wars flicks but in the top 100!?
31 - His Girl Friday
A version of the The Front Page, good choice.
30 - Rebel Without a Cause
Overrated flick because of serious icon factor with very overrated James Dean.
29 - Duck Soup
Good Choice.
28 - Gone With The Wind
Should be higher on list.
27 - A Clockwork Orange
Good and interesting choice.
26 - Goodfellas
Another overrated modern "classic".
25 - Picnic at Hanging Rock
Can't comment haven’t heard of it.
24 - The Philadelphia Story
Yes another good choice but were is Bringing up Baby?
23 - Some Like It Hot
I liked this film but in the top 100?
22 - The Breakfast Club
Only in list because compilers saw it when they were teenagers.
21 - The Towering Inferno
This film deservedly is on many worst film lists. It is horrible on so many levels. Whats it doing here when it should be flushed down the toilet with the rest of the shit.
20 - The Wizard of Oz
Good Choice.
19 - The Exorcist
Aside from the yuck factor whats it doing here?
18 - Don’t Look Now
17 - Annie Hall
After Woody's blow up with Mia I can't bare to watch any film with him in it.
16 - Metropolis
YES! YES!! A truly great film even after its rather horrible mutilation.
15 - Apocalypse Now
Good Choice.
14 - Jungle Book
What Jungle Book? If they mean the late 60's Disney animated flick then I've lost it. The compilers are definitely relieving their childhoods.
13 - 2001 A Space Odyssey
Incomprehensible but brilliant.
12 - Alien
What is this film doing here? Besides Aliens is way better.
11 - The Sound of Music
A piece of saccharine glop frozen in rock candy more accurately called The Sound of Mucus. Has cliches within cliches.
10 - The Godfather
Good choice.
9 - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Eternal boredom of a Tortured Mind would be a better title.
8 - Sunset Boulevard
Good movie but on list mainly for iconic aspects. Other than Gloria Swanson's performance a seriously overrated movie.
7 - Kes
Can't comment haven’t heard of it.
6 - Vertigo
Another great Hitchcock but were is Psycho?
5 - The Shining
This film is A) Crap and B) Jack Nicholson does Jack Nicholson too death and C) Crap.
4 - Chinatown
Good Choice even with Jack Nicholson.
3 - ET The Extraterrestrial
Manipulative, syrupy, saccharine crap of the vilest kind. Compilers are relieving their childhoods again and inflicting this running pustule on us.
2 - There Will Be Blood
Hated it.
1 - Casablanca
OK its a great film, but the best film ever made? Seriously another iconic film that suffers from being incredibly overrated.

One could easly criticize this list for its omissions and what it includes. However, utterly, incredibly it does not include Citizen Kane!

1. Top 100 Films - The Full List from Times OnLine, Here

Pierre Cloutier

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Yeshua bar Yosesf

Jesus and Children

It is Easter and I thought I would write a little about Yeshua, better known as Jesus. It is amazing how influential an historical figure he has been and will undoubtedly continue to be and yet how little we know about him.

All the material that can be known about him that has any historical value is from four very short accounts of the last few years of his life. These documents are of course the four Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. Of those Four only the first three contain much information about the “real” Jesus. John, however important for the development of the image of Jesus and the theology concerning him, is not a good source about the life and doings of the “real” Jesus. Only the first three Gospels tell us much of anything about Jesus.

In this particular essay I shall not be sorting out / or explaining the search for the “real” Jesus but instead examine my personal ideas of Jesus in terms of the resurrection event.

The central focus of Christianity is of course the Resurrection event. The belief that three days after Jesus died he rose from the dead. The idea is of course rationally absurd. However the idea’s appeal does not depend on its “rationality”, but on emotional appeal.

In the Pagan religions Gods were anthropomorphized, given human qualities. Jesus’ deification represented not simply another version of this idea but the idea of God not simply resembling a man but being a man. This ideas appeal is not based on rational criteria but on the profoundly emotional appeal of the idea of God being one of us. To quote a popular song:

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home1

Gods / God are by mere conception profoundly alien to mankind. No matter how anthropomorphized God / Gods are alien how could they / he / she possibly understand what it is like to be human, to be fragile, too know real fear? Certainly the High God or all powerful, inconceivable deity of Christianity, Judaism or Islam is profoundly “other”. The impersonal deity of Deism or Hinduism is also profoundly other. There is something human and appealing about God being “one of us”.

In traditional Christian theology Jesus came to earth to live a human life in order to redeem man and the world from sin through his suffering. Again this idea does relate to notions of the dying God often related to fertility myths about the death and rebirth of a God or Goddess related to the end of winter and the coming of spring with its new growth. Certainly Easter occurring in spring does not lack for a fertility element. The risen Jesus is quite obviously a symbol of the new growth of spring and the end of winter. Jesus like spring conquers winter / death.

In traditional Christian terms man is burdened both by original sin and by man’s capacity to do evil. Jesus came to earth to become a sacrifice in order to cleanse man of sin and to redeem the world.

This idea, while on a rational level rather illogical,2 has great indeed enormous appeal on an emotional level. It partakes of the idea common in many religions of the suffering God whose sacrifice helps to sustain the world. Most commonly this motif exists in fertility cults about the dying and resurrected God whose death and rebirth represent the advent of winter and then the coming of spring. Its appeal is based on the fact that it appeals to us as evidence that God loves us, that God cares for us. So much so that God is willing to die for us.

Faced with the seeming disinterest of the universe the idea that God cares that much appeals and to those who feel abandoned, betrayed or otherwise put upon a possible source of great comfort. For those at the bottom end of the scale such a notion that in fact they do matter to GOD, if not to their fellowman is enormously appealing. The comfort such an idea gives should not in anyway be underestimated.

I myself find the idea of Jesus dying for our sins to be personally not very appealing instead I find the idea of God made man in order for God to find out what it is like to be human an appealing idea.

In Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, there is the story of Solzhenitsyn’s encounter with a man who believed that God became man in the form of Jesus of Nazareth in order to find out what it was like to human. This idea would be considered by practically all Christians to be a heresy because it goes against the idea of Jesus coming to earth to redeem humanity. But this idea is implicit in certain Christian ideas of the nature of Christ.

Most modern day Christian sects accept the idea that Jesus was both all human and all divine, i.e., both fully God and fully human. The full implications of accepting the full humanity of Jesus are not in my opinion fully appreciated by most people, including most Christians.

If for Jesus was fully human, then he must have felt fear, terror, anger and other emotions and in a fully human way not merely has some sort of window dressing over his essential Godhood. There are various reasons for this aside from stories and comments in the Gospels which indicate Jesus could indeed be angry and / or afraid. In order for Jesus’ death and resurrection to be meaningful in terms of redeeming the world, Jesus’ death had to be real. It could not be God playing at being human otherwise it would be meaningless.

The full humanity of Jesus means of course that Jesus would feel human joy, and despair and of course human anger and, although this aspect as been ignored or shied away from, human sexual desire.

Jesus being Human and God is in fact a basic requirement of the salvation belief because if Jesus is always God than his suffering on the cross etc, can not be taken seriously. After all just how can God be harmed? How can God die? But humans can be both harmed and of course die. Humans can also die pathetic and / or terrible deaths. Deaths that reek of humiliation and anguish.

Jesus on the Cross

Certainly Jesus’ death in a roman context reeked of horror and humiliation. Death by Crucifixion was at the time reserved for the lowest sort of criminal, slaves and traitors, rebels against Rome, highwaymen etc. It was designed to be humiliating, prolonged and very painful. Afterwards the body was generally thrown away as carrion or left on the cross to be picked apart by scavengers. Although sometimes through bribery or pleading a body was allowed to be taken down and buried, as apparently happened in the case of Jesus.

The resurrection event is both inexplicable and understandable. Inexplicable in that purely rationally speaking it is impossible. But on a faith level it is perfectly logical. Men fear death and the fact is being offered hope that death is not the end, that death can be conquered, that God does not want us to really die is an obvious source of comfort. Of course its similarity to ideas of the resurrecting God / Goddess whose rebirth signals the advent of spring is also obvious.

I do not know what he resurrection event was, however I can not accuse Jesus’ disciples of bad faith. Jesus had died a terrible death and that seemed like the end yet something convinced his disciples that Jesus had conquered death. Somehow it was decided that death was not the end but a beginning that Yeshua / Jesus had defeated death. Could it have simply been originally simply the idea that Jesus’ death did not mean the end of his mission and that was shortly to bloom full blown into the idea that Jesus had defeated death and been bodily reborn? Who knows! Was the power and personality of Jesus such that even Jesus’ death did not convince his disciples that the end of Jesus’ mission had come? The scattered fragments of what Jesus said and did in the four Gospels are a weak guide but perhaps they preserve something of the quality and charisma of Yeshua / Jesus. If so maybe, just maybe, that is what happened.

What ever it was the idea that Jesus conquered death is an attractive one for people, so too the idea that God would die, really die, for us out of love for us.

I myself think somehow, I know not how, Jesus conquered death. That this belief is completely and utterly irrational and illogical does not bother me. It sooths and comforts me and that is enough for me.

It is said that Jesus now belongs to the world. What the actual Jesus would have thought about all this is unfathomable. Both as a first century C.E. devout Jew and God incarnate. Although I suspect that Jesus has both fully God and fully man would likely have thought himself as possibly going insane much of the time.

Perhaps a popular song from the 70s gives some idea of the continuing appeal of Yeshua bar Yosesf, the carpenter from Nazareth:

Just another poor boy, just another poor boy,
And the tears were falling from her face like rain,
Just another poor boy, just another poor boy,
And they hung him on a hillside far away,
And on the ground she lay ... poor boy ... oh my Lord...
Oh my Lord ... oh my Lord...

Just another poor boy, just another poor boy,
And the tears were falling from her face like rain,
Just another poor boy, just another poor boy,
And they hung him on a hillside far away, just another poor boy,
Just another poor boy, just another poor boy,
And she never dreamed she'd see his face again...3

Jesus resurrected

1. Osbourne, Joan, from the song What if God was One of Us?, Here

2. This is not the place for arguments about predestination or the power of God, but an analysis of those ideas reveals the logical contradictions and difficulties of these ideas and how they reflect on the idea of Jesus as an offering to save the world from sin.

3. De Burgh, Chris, from the song Just Another Poor Boy, Here. I strongly recommend the album this song came from Spanish Train it is in many way profoundly insightful and surprisingly religious, if not in a conventional sense.


Vermes, Geza, Jesus the Jew, Fontana/Collins, London, 1973.

Pelikan, Jaroslav, Jesus Through the Centuries, Harper & Row Pub., New York, 1985.

Boulton, David, Who on Earth was Jesus?, 0 Books, Washington, 2008.

Crossan, John Dominic, Who Killed Jesus?, HarperCollins Pub., San Francisco, 1995.

Crossan, John Dominic, The Historical Jesus, HarperCollins Pub., San Francisco, 1991.

Pierre Cloutier

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Witch Religion
A Fantasy

Witches Sabbat by Goya

A persistent myth in the historiography of Witchcraft and the Witchcraze is the idea that underneath the distortions of the witch hunters and the hysteria of alleged “Devil Worship” was a real “Witch religion” that the Church was suppressing. The idea that the craze was about something that was nonexistent is very hard for a lot of people to swallow.

The modern origin of this notion can be reduced to three figures. The French historian Jules Michelet in his book La Sorciere1, published originally in 1862. Another writer who helped to launch the idea of an organized Witch religion was the writer Montague Summers, who wrote among a number of Books on Witchcraft, including The History of Witchcraft and Demonology, who published translations of many Witch Hunter manuals including the infamous Malleus Maleficarum, published 1486, by Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger. 2 The third writer was Margaret Murray, an Egyptologist, who wrote The Witch-cult in Western Europe, (1921) and God of the Witches, (1933).3

To begin with Jules Michelet. His book La Sorciere contains a description of the Black Mass which is a tissue of conjecture and fantasy. It was based on his idea that the “witch” religion was a response to severe oppression by the en-serfed peasant population:
They decked an altar to the arch-rebel of serfs to him who had been so wronged, the old outlaw hunted out of heaven, “the Spirit by whom earth was made, the Master who ordained the budding of the plants.”4
Thus does Michelet begin his description of the Black Mass, which he proposes was an ideological attack against the oppressions inflicted on the peasantry by Church and State.

Michelet goes on to describe the ceremony as being organized by a “Witch”:
At the back of all is the Witch, dressing up her Satan, a great wooden devil, black and shaggy. By his horns, and the goat-skin near him, he might be Bacchus; but his manly attributes make him a Pan or a Priapus. It is a darksome figure, seen differently by different eyes; to some suggesting only terror, while others are touched by the proud melancholy wherein the Eternally Banished seems absorbed.*5
She is described:
The Devil's bride was not to be a child : she must be at least thirty years old, with the form of a Medea, with the beauty that comes of pain; an eye deep, tragic, lit up by a feverish fire, with great serpent tresses waving at their will: I refer to the torrent of her black untamable hair. On her head, perhaps, you may see the crown of vervein, the ivy of the tomb, the violets of death.6
The ceremony then proceeded to the "Black Mass" where challenging the powers that be the peasants under the “Witches” supervision worshiped Satan and really worshipped themselves and heaped contempt on the Church, Nobles and State. In the ceremony were such details as the "Black Mass" being celebrated on a women’s back.7

Michelet than describes the stories of the “orgies” and incest and pronounces them basically and quite justifiably as incredible. But he then goes into a long declamation in explaining why those things may have happened.8

It is all in all a good read but quite fantastic and in fact a complete myth. The ceremony Michelet describes is a reconstructed fantasy with little basis in reality. It is formed from not his reading of the source material but from his deep sympathy for two oppressed groups-peasants and women.9

To quote a modern historian concerning the veracity of this fantasy:
Now none of this figures in any contemporary account of the witches’ sabbat. Not one mentions a priestess, or so much as hints that a single woman dominates the ritual. As for the ‘black mass’ celebrated on a women’s back - that notion was born in an entirely different historical context: the ‘affair of the poisons’, which took place in Paris around 1680. Nor was the sabbat, even at its first appearance, imagined as a festival of serfs – already in 1460, at Arras, rich and powerful burghers were accused of attending it, along with humbler folk. To give his account even a shadow of plausibility, Michelet has to pretend that all extant accounts of the sabbat date from the period of its decadence; the true, original sabbat being something quite different. The argument is not likely to commend itself to historians.10
Michelet’s fantasy did unfortunately bear scholarly fruit.

Witches Sabbat c. 1510
Montague Summers is a rather unusual case has a scholar. He was a firm ally of the Witch Hunters of former times and approves with relish and joy their violence, terror and death dealing ways. Regarding the skeptics he says:
For we know that the Continental stories of witch gatherings are with very few exceptions the chronicle of actual fact. It must be confessed that such feeble skepticism, which repeatedly mars his summary of the witch-trials, is a serious, blemish in Professor Notestein's work, and in view of his industry much to be regretted.11
Keen intelligences and shrewd investigators such as Gregory XV, Bodin, Guazzo, De Lancre, D'Espagnet, La Reynie, Boyle, Sir Matthew Hale, Glanvill, were neither deceivers nor deceived.12
And Summer’s states that his purpose is:
In the following pages I have endeavoured to show the witch as she really was an, evil liver; a social pest and parasite; the devotee of a loathly and obscene creed; an adept at poisoning, blackmail, and other creeping crimes; a member of a powerful secret organization inimical to Church and state; a blasphemer in word and deed; swaying the villagers by terror and superstition; a charlatan and a quack sometimes; a bawd; an abortionist; the dark counselor of lewd court ladies and adulterous gallants; a minister to vice and inconceivable corruption; battening upon the filth and foulest passions of the age.13
Regarding the “Black Mass” or “Sabbat” Summers says:
The President of the Sabbat was in purely local gatherings often the Officer of the district; in the more solemn assemblies convened from a wider area, the Grand Master, whose dignity would be proportionate to the numbers of the company and the extent of his province. In any case the President was officially known as the “Devil” and it would seem that his immediate attendants and satellites were also somewhat loosely termed “devils” which formal nomenclature has given rise to considerable confusion and not a little mystification in the reports of witch trials and the confessions of offenders. But in many instances it is certain and orthodoxy forbids us to doubt the possibility - that the Principle of Evil, incarnate, was present for the hideous adoration of his besotted worshippers.14
Through it all Summers maintains that the “Witches” were indeed part of a vast Satan worshiping, subversive movement dedicated to the overthrow of Church and State. Summers did not let go of its relevance for his day:
It was far other in the twelfth century; the wild fanatics who fostered the most subversive and abominable ideas aimed to put these into actual practice, to establish communities and to remodel whole territories according to the programme which they had so carefully considered in every detail with a view to obtaining and enforcing their own ends and their own interests. The heretics were just as resolute and just as practical, that is to say, just as determined to bring about the domination of their absolutism as is any revolutionary of to-day. The aim and objects of their leaders, Tanchelin, Everwacher, the Jew Manasses, Peter Waldo, Pierre Autier, Peter of Bruys, Arnold of Brescia, and the rest, were exactly those of Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, and their fellows. There were, of course, minor differences and divergences in their tenets, that is to say, some had sufficient cunning to conceal and even to deny the extremer views which others were bold enough or mad enough more openly to proclaim. But just below the trappings, a little way beneath the surface, their motives, their methods, their intentions, the goal to which they pressed, were all the same. Their objects may be summed up as the abolition of monarchy, the abolition of private property and of inheritance, the abolition of marriage, the abolition of order, the total abolition of all religion. It was against this that the Inquisition had to fight, and who can be surprised if, when faced with so vast a conspiracy, the methods employed by the Holy Office may not seem——if the terrible conditions are conveniently forgotten——a little drastic, a little severe? There can be no doubt that had this most excellent tribunal continued to enjoy its full prerogative and the full exercise of its salutary powers, the world at large would be in a far happier and far more orderly position to-day. Historians may point out diversities and dissimilarities between the teaching of the Waldenses, the Albigenses, the Henricans, the Poor Men of Lyons, the Cathari, the Vaudois, the Bogomiles, and the Manichees, but they were in reality branches and variants of the same dark fraternity, just as the Third International, the Anarchists, the Nihilists, and the Bolsheviks are in every sense, save the mere label, entirely identical.

In fact heresy was one huge revolutionary body, exploiting its forces through a hundred different channels and having as its object chaos and corruption. The question may be asked——What was their ultimate aim in wishing to destroy civilization? What did they hope to gain by it? Precisely the same queries have been put and are put to-day with regard to these political parties. There is an apparent absence of motive in this seemingly aimless campaign of destruction to extermination carried on by the Bolsheviks in Russia, which has led many people to inquire what the objective can possibly be. So unbridled are the passions, so general the demolition, so terrible the havoc, that hard-headed individuals argue that so complete a chaos and such revolting outrages could only be affected by persons who were enthusiasts in their own cause and who had some very definite aims thus positively to pursue. The energizing forces of this fanaticism, this fervent zeal, do not seem to be any more apparent than the end, hence more than one person has hesitated to accept accounts so alarming of massacres and carnage, or wholesale imprisonments, tortures, and persecutions, and has begun to suspect that the situation may be grossly exaggerated in the overcharged reports of enemies and the highly-coloured gossip of scare-mongers. Nay, more, partisans have visited the country and returned with glowing tales of a new Utopia. It cannot be denied that all this is a very clever game. It is generally accepted that from very policy neither an individual nor a junto or confederacy will act even occasionally, much less continually and consistently, in a most bloody and tyrannical way, without some very well-arranged programme is being thus carried out and determinate aim ensued, conditions and object which in the present case it seems extremely difficult to guess at and divine unless we are to attribute the revolution to causes the modern mind is apt to dismiss with impatience and intolerance.

Nearly a century and a half ago Anacharsis Clootz, "the personal enemy of Jesus Christ" as he openly declared himself, was vociferating "God is Evil," "To me then Lucifer, Satan! whoever you may be, the demon that the faith of my fathers opposed to God and the Church." This is the credo of the witch.15
Witches Sabbat c. 1550

Further Summers states that:
Although it may not be generally recognized, upon a close investigation it seems plain that the witches were a vast political movement, an organized society which was anti-social and anarchical, a world-wide plot against civilization. Naturally, although the Masters were often individuals of high rank and deep learning, that rank and file of the society, that is to say, those who for the most part fell into the hands of justice, were recruited from the least educated classes, the ignorant and the poor. As one might suppose, many of the branches or covens in remoter districts knew nothing and perhaps could have understood nothing of the enormous system. Nevertheless, as small cogs in a very small wheel, it might be, they were carrying on the work and actively helping to spread the infection.16
So that Summers concludes:
There can be no doubt—— and this is a fact which is so often not recognized (or it may be forgotten) that one cannot emphasize it too frequently——that witchcraft in its myriad aspects and myriad ramifications is a huge conspiracy against civilization. It was as such that the Inquisitors knew it, and it was this which gave rise to the extensive literature on the subject, those treatises of which the Malleus Maleficarum is perhaps the best known among the other writers.17
For as Summers says elsewhere:
…yet when every allowance has been made, every possible explanation exhausted, there persists a congeries of solid proven fact which cannot be ignored, save indeed by the purblind prejudice of the rationalist, and cannot be accounted for, save that we recognize there were and are individuals and organizations deliberately, nay, even enthusiastically, devoted to the service of evil, greedy of such emotions and experiences, rewards the thralldom of wickedness may bring,…18
It is with very ill disguised relish that Summers describes the horrors of the witch hunt. There can be little doubt as the above quotes show that, Summers firmly believed in a vast conspiracy of Witch Satan-worshipers, against civilization. This leads to him to with, almost speechless credulity to accepting the mad ravings of the Witch Hunters. It is of interest that Summers quite deliberately compared the alleged Witch conspirators with his big bugaboo, the Bolsheviks. Further that he deeply regrets the ending of the inquisition and the drastic curtailing of state terror against “subversives”.

Among the groups Summers approves the violent and murderous suppression of is the Vaudois, also called Waldesians. This is almost funny except that what Summers is approving of is the violent suppression, i.e., torture, mass murder, etc., of a quite harmless group of proto-Protestant “heretics” whose patient endurance of martyrdom and persecution deserve respect not gleeful satisfaction in their misery. What also seems to have escaped Summers is that the Waldesians still exist.19

Summers thus accepts fully the fantasies of the Witch Hunters and approves of their murderous activities.

To quote one writer about Summers:
What is certain is that he [Summers] was a religious fanatic: a Roman Catholic of a kind almost extinct – obsessed by thoughts of the Devil, perpetually ferreting out Satan’s servants whether in past epochs or in the contemporary world; horrified yet at the same time fascinated by tales of Satan-worship, promiscuous orgies, cannibalistic infanticide and the rest.20
Fortunately for us Summers never got to be Grand Inquisitor.
Witches Sabbat 1626
About Margaret Murray is must be said that an author more different from Summers can hardly be imagined. Whereas Michelet imagined Witchcraft and the “Black Mass” as a form of protest by the powerless, and Summers imagined a vast conspiracy by the forces of darkness; Murray imagined a powerful pre-Christian fertility religion. Now Murray was an Egyptologist and singularly unable to realize that her approach tended to credulity:
I have omitted the opinions of the authors, and have examined only the recorded facts, without however including the stories of ghosts and other “occult” phenomena with which all the commentators confuse the subject. I have also, for the reason given below, omitted all reference to charms and spells when performed by one witch alone, and have confined myself to those statements only which show the beliefs, organization, and ritual of a hitherto unrecognized cult.21
Although claiming to be working from contemporary sources it is of interest that Murray admits that she will omit the fantastic features of the testimony and down play their importance. This is fascinating because it is precisely those fantastic features that call into question the entirety of such testimony.

Murray describes her “finds” as follows:
Ritual Witchcraft or, as I propose to call it, the cult embraces the religious beliefs and ritual of the people known in late mediaeval times as ‘Witches’. The evidence proves that underlying the Christian religion was a cult practiced by many classes of the community, chiefly, however, by the more ignorant or those in the less thickly inhabited parts of the country. It can be traced back to pre-Christian times, and appears to be the ancient religion of Western Europe. The god, anthropomorphic or theriomorphic, was worshipped in well-defined rites; the organization was highly developed; and the ritual is analogous to many other ancient rituals. The dates of the chief festivals suggest that the religion belonged to a race which had not reached the agricultural stage; and the evidence shows that various modifications were introduced, probably by invading peoples who brought in their own beliefs. I have not attempted to disentangle the various cults; I am content merely to point out that it was a definite religion with beliefs, ritual, and organization as highly developed as that of any other cult in the world.22
Murray basically was describing a fertility religion and its chief God Murray described as:
The deity of this cult was incarnate in a man, a woman, or an animal; the animal form being apparently earlier than the human, for the god was often spoken of as wearing the skin or attributes of an animal. At the same time, however, there was another form of the god in the shape of a man with two faces. Such a god is found in Italy (where he was called Janus or Dianus), in Southern France (see pp. 62, 129), and in the English Midlands. The feminine form of the name, Diana, is found throughout Western Europe as the name of the female deity or leader of the so-called Witches, and it is for this reason that I have called this ancient religion the Dianic cult. The geographical distribution of the two-faced god suggests that the race or races, who carried the cult, either did not remain in every country which they entered, or that in many places they and their religion were overwhelmed by subsequent invaders.23
Murray conceived of the “Witch Cult” as being organized in a manner similar to a Church complete with record keeping:
The Chief or supreme Head of each district was known to the recorders as the "Devil’. Below him in each district, one or more officers according to the size of the district were appointed by the chief. The officers might be either men or women; their duties were to arrange for meetings, to send out notices, to keep the record of work done, to transact the business of the community, and to present new members. Evidently these persons also noted any likely convert, and either themselves entered into negotiations or reported to the Chief, who then took action as opportunity served. At the Esbats [Sabbats] the officer appears to have taken command in the absence of the Grand Master; at the Sabbaths the officers were merely heads of their own Covens, and were known as Devils or Spirits, though recognized as greatly inferior to the Chief. The principal officer acted as clerk at the Sabbath and entered the witches' reports in his book; if he were a priest or ordained minister, he often performed part of the religious service; but the Devil himself always celebrated the mass or sacrament. In the absence of all direct information on the subject, it seems likely that the man who acted as principal officer became Grand Master on the death of the previous Chief. Occasionally the Devil appointed a personal attendant for himself, who waited upon him on all solemn occasions, but does not appear to have held any official position in the community. 24
It is remarkable that not a single such “record” as been produced or was ever produced at a single Witch trial anywhere in Europe. Neither were any of the “notices”. Murray manages not to explain how this miracle came to pass. And it is clear that Murray’s model for her “Dianic” and its organization is in fact an organized Christian sect.

About the “Black Mass” Murray says:
The exact order of the ceremonies is never given and probably varied in different localities, but the general rule of the ritual at the Sabbath seems to have-been that proceedings began by the worshippers paying homage to the Devil, who sat or stood in a convenient place. The homage consisted in renewing the vows of fidelity and obedience, in kissing the Devil on any part of his person that he chose to indicate, and sometimes in turning a certain number of times widdershins. Then followed the reports of all magic worked since the previous Sabbath, either by individuals or at the Esbats, and at the same time the witches consulted the Master as to their cases and received instructions from him how to proceed; after which came admissions to the society or marriages of the members. This ended the business part of the meeting. Immediately after all the business was transacted, the religious service was celebrated, the ceremonial of which varied according to the season of the year; and it was followed by the ‘obscene’ fertility rites. The whole ceremony ended with feasting and dancing, and the assembly broke up at dawn.25
The actual service, according to Murray, involved a blessing and the partaking of wine and bread that was interpreted has a mockery of the Mass. It included bread wafers, sacramental wine and even a sermon and frequently used a women has an altar.26 Its interesting to speculate why Murray cannot see that this is obviously a parody of the Mass that the Witch Hunters imagined would happen in a obscene Satanic version of Christianity with Satan substituted for Christ. And since they thought that Witches worshipped Satan, so they would of course imagine Satan being worshipped in a “Black Mass”.

Murray even brings child sacrifice into it:
The child-victim was usually a young infant, either a witch's child or unbaptized; in other words, it did not belong to the Christian community. This last is an important point, and was the reason why unbaptized children were considered to be in greater danger from witches than the baptized.27
Aside from the paucity of actual bodies the fact is all sorts of people have been accused of child sacrifice, from Christians in the Roman Empire to the infamous “Blood Libel” against the Jews to modern day fantasies of a vast Satanic conspiracy of child and adult sacrifice.28

In her later books Murray went a little nuts. For example:
In the entire history of Rufus, more particularly in the stories of his death, it is clear that the whole truth is not given; something is kept back. If, however, Rufus was in the eyes of his subjects the God Incarnate, Man Divine, who died for his people, the Christian chroniclers would naturally not record a fact which to them would savour of blasphemy, and the Pagans, being illiterate, made no records.

The date of Rufus's death, August 2nd, seems significant; it is always emphatically called "the morrow of Lammas". Lammas, the 1st of August, was one of the four great Festivals of the Old Religion and there is evidence to show that it was on the great Sabbaths only that the human sacrifice was offered. If then my theory is correct Rufus died as the Divine Victim in the seven−year cycle.29
William Rufus, or William II of England was a son of William the Conqueror and nothing, but nothing, indicates that he was a pagan. Although the chronicles of the time complain that he was not sufficiently respectful of the Church, however that does not make him a pagan it was a common complaint of churchmen about Kings and others who occasionally seized Church property.

In God of the Witches Murray engages in similar fantasizing and historigraphical murder to shoehorn in Joan of Arc and Thomas Becket. Joan of Arc has a pagan is especially risible.

What however makes all of this even more hard to take is that Murray engaged in what amounted to deception in order to make her “Witch-Cult” believable by leaving out the more fantastic parts of the testimony:
The Forfar witches had many feasts; Helen Guthrie says of one occasion: “They went to Mary Rynd's house and sat doune together at the table, the divell being- present at the head of it; and some of them went to Johne Benny's house, he being a brewer, and rought ale from hence . . . and others of them went to Alexander Hieche's and brought aqua vitae from thence, and thus made themselfes mirrie; and the divill made much of them all, but especiallie of Mary Rynd, and he kist them all except the said Helen herselfe, whose hand onlie he kist; and shee and Jonet Stout satt opposite one to another at the table.”30
What did Murray leave out and not record and instead use three dots? Why the following:
…and brought ale from hence, and they (went) through a little hole like bees, and took the substance of the ale…31
And another example of Murray engaging in deception by suppression is:
Helen Guthrie of Forfar (1661) said “that her selfe, Isobell Shyrie, and Elspet Alexander, did meit togither at ane aile house near to Barrie, a litle befor sunsett, after they hade stayed in the said house about the spaice of ane houre drinking of thrie pintis of ale togidder, they went foorth to the sandis, and ther thrie other women met them, and the divell wes there present with them all . . . and they parted so late that night that she could get no lodging, but wes forced to lye at ane dyk syde all night”32
What Murray left out by using the three dots is:
…and the Devil was there present with them all, in the shape of a great hoorse; and they decided on sinking of a ship, lying not far off from Barrie, and presently the said company appointed herself to take hold of the cable tow, and to hold it fast until they did return, and she herself did presently take hold of the said cable, and she thought, and about the space of an hour thereafter, they returned all in the likeness as before, except that the Devil was in the shape of a man upon his return, and the rest were sorely fatigued…33
Above I had quoted Murray’s comment in her introduction that she had deliberately excluded “ghosts” and “occult” phenomena which Murray claimed only “confuse” the subject. Of course such features would also make her effort to “rationalize” the subject impossible by revealing the whole “Witch-Cult” to be a fantasy so the irrational features had to be rigorously excluded, downplayed and largely ignored as inconsequential.

As a critic has said:
Murray is of course aware of these fantastic features – but she nevertheless contrives, by the way she arranges her quotations, to give the impression that a number of perfectly sober, realistic accounts of the sabbat exist. They do not; and the implications of that fact are, or should be, self-evident. As soon as the methods of historical criticism are applied to Murray’s argument that women really met to worship a fertility god, under the supervision of the god’s human representatives, it is seen to be just as fanciful as the argument which Michelet had propounded, with far greater poetic power, some sixty years earlier.34
If the Witch religion is a delusion what accounts for the idea that it is for real? Well many people cannot imagine how such a coherent set of beliefs, or why people would conjure up such a fantasy, without some basis.

Given the events of the Twentieth century people should not be surprised. Not only did events like the infamous Great Terror in Russia during the thirties reveal that fear and terror and utter irrationality on the part of those in power could generate seemingly consistent and supposedly logical grand conspiracies with NO basis. In fact that such fear / paranoia could generate “confessions" from un-tortured people who gave “proper” answers from a combination of leading questions and knowing to a large extent what was expected. Torture, the threat of torture and coercion produced seemingly “convincing” evidence of widespread conspiracy. Many people, weak minded, and deluded freely “confessed” to things that never happened also further adding to the flames.35

To cap it off we in fact did see in the late Twentieth century see a reoccurrence of the fantasy of the great conspiratorial Satanic religion in the Satanic Ritual abuse scare. Practically the whole demonology of the Witchcraze was reproduced, including babies bred for sacrifice, a vast Satanic religion conspiring against civilization, the “Black Mass”, the Sabbat, and of course the worship of Satan.36

Like the Witchcraze this modern version of it saw lots of people voluntarily confessing to being abused or in some cases to being abusers and testifying in great depth with lots of consistency to events etc., that never happened. Along with this we also had / have large numbers of people confessing and voluntarily talking about being abducted by Aliens.37

Given that the coherence of the whole intellectual apparatus that seemed to make belief in a vast “Witch” conspiracy / religion collapses if similar fantasies can exist today and people by coercion and delusion aided by true believing “inquisitors” can create seemingly logical and sensible, “facts” despite the sheer absurdity of the idea then the idea that the “Witch” religion / conspiracy is a fantasy should not be so hard to credit.

The three authors writing above were arguing in different ways the argument from incredulity. It was simply incredible to them that so much consistent, seemingly plausible stories could be a fantasy; they must have some basis! They underestimated the human capacity for delusion and forgot that sometimes there is no fire just smoke. If the Twentieth century taught us anything it is that myths can be murderous fantasies. As Trevor-Roper said regarding the times of the Witchcraze:
Unfortunately, we have seen them return. With the advantage of after-knowledge, we can look back and we see that even while the liberal historians were writing., their Olympian philosophy was being threatened from beneath. It was in the 1890’s that the intellectual foundations for a new witch-craze were being laid.38
Thus does Trevor-Roper describe the beginnings of modern day anti-Semitism. We who have lived in a more recent time when supposedly sensible people at large conferences concerning law enforcement actually talked about mass human sacrifice by Satanic covens and conspiracies to take over the world by same should be warned that human delusion is ever present and no joke to its many victims.

Witches Sabbat by Goya
1. French version Internet Archive, Here, Translation in English Internet Archive, Here

2. Summers, The The History of Witchcraft and Demonology can be found at The Internet Archive, Here, Summers translation of the Malleus Maleficarum can be found at Sacred Texts, Here.

3. The Witch Cult in Western Europe, can be found at Gutenberg, Here, God of the Witches, can be located at Here.

4. Michelet, Jules, La Sorciere: The Witch of the Middle Ages, Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., London, 1863, p. 149.

5. IBID. p. 150.

6. IBID. p. 151.

7. IBID. p. 150-156.

8. IBID. p. 157-167.

9. Cohn, Norman, Europe’s Inner Demons, Revd Ed., Pimlico, London, 1993, pp. 150-152.

10. IBID. pp. 150-151.

11.Summers, Montague, The History of Witchcraft and Demonology, Alfred A. Knopf, 1926, pp. xi-xii.

12. IBID. p. xii.

13. IBID. p. xiv

14. IBID. p. 133.

15. Summers, Montague, Introduction to the Malleus Maleficarum, in Malleus Maleficarum, See Footnote 2.

16. IBID.

17. IBID.

18. Summers, 1926, p. 4.

19. See Wikipedia Waldensians, Here.

20. Cohn, p. 160.

21. Murray, Margaret Alice, The Witch Cult in Western Europe, Oxford University Press, 1921, p. 11.

22. IBID. pp. 11-12.

23. IBID. p. 12.

24. IBID. p. 186.

25. IBID. p. 124.

26, IBID. pp. 148-151.

27. IBID. p. 156.

28. See Nathan, Debbie & Snedeker, Satan’s Silence, Basic Books, New York,1995, Victor, Jeffrey S., Satanic Panic, Open Court, Chicago, 1993, Hicks, Robert D., In Pursuit of Satan, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, 1991, Hsia, R. Po-chia, The Myth of Ritual Murder, Yale University Press, New Haven CONN., 1988.

29. Murray, Margaret, Alice, William Rufus, in God of the Witches, in Footnote 3.

30. Murray, 1921, pp. 140-141.

31, Cohn, p. 157.

32. Murray, 1921, p. 98.

33. Cohn, p. 157. For more examples of Murray’s deceptions see Cohn pp. 154-160.

34. IBID. p. 160.

35. Conquest, Robert, The Great Terror: A Reassessment, Pimlico, London, 2008, pp. 71-131.

36. See Footnote 28. For a look at the Witch Hunters which reveals, unintentionally, how similar they are to modern investigators of “Satanic Ritual Abuse”, see Trevor-Roper, H. R., The European Witch-Craze of the 16th and 17th Century, Penguin Books, London, 1969, pp. 11-23, See also Crews, Frederick, The Revenge of the Repressed, Part I & II, pp. 91-133, Demonology for an Age of Science, pp. 134-152, The Trauma Trap, pp. 153-170, The Mind Snatchers, pp. 200-216, in Follies of the Wise, Shoemaker & Hoard, Emeryville CA., 2006.

37. IBID.

38. Trevor-Roper, p. 22.
Pierre Cloutier