[CLICK TITLE BELOW TO LINK TO ORIGINAL 2/11/17 POST]
Ta-Nehisi Coates rewrote the map of Wakanda. Of all his work on Black Panther and related comics, the new map impresses me the most. It is, while not wordy, the most literary action. While seemingly nonjudgmental, the most political. He de-anglicized some of the place names and outright removed those with – at best – unfortunate connotations, such as the Primitive Peaks and what is listed on earlier maps as Domain of the White Gorillas (Mostly Uncharted). He concretized Wakanda’s six major cities, in opposition to earlier versions of “mostly uncharted” or generic “Woods” surrounding a centralized city that counts.In passing, this might not even register with the average reader. Some people jump over extras, anyway, but more than that simply don’t sight-read everything and put it into an orchestrated context with a story set in the place a map is illustrating.
People do not often interpolate place names, nearness to waterways or distance from agriculture as even purposeful decisions made by an author. We do not consider it when we know the map is a fiction of a fictional place. We don’t question it when we know it’s an engineered clarification of a real space. And, to be fair, we really aren’t taught that we should, or taught how we can.
Sidenote: Coates and Stelfreeze are talking to something like seven different completely-formed and articulate audiences with every release of Black Panther.
Our primary introductions to maps probably presented them to us as objective and inarguable. It would feel different if a person went around naming everything and claiming it, in real time before us, as theirs or belonging to this ally, etc. Walk up to a local and go, “This thing you call _____ is now _____ because that’s my language and this is about me and what fits well in my mouth,” and the sense is very different than when it’s been done quietly, beforehand, without our witnessing.
The authorship of a map is usually entirely erased by the time we peruse it. That there was an author is obscured from us, in the case of real maps, so they will have the power of truth, and in the case of imaginal lands, so they have the power of conviction. To read a map without questioning the choices of labels, boundaries, or distortions is to be as colonized as the land is as the map is drawn.
We grow up reading maps and we spend year after year in school, most of us, learning cultural ecologies in History, in Cultural Geography, World Cultures, what have you, and yet, don’t consider these systems and narratives to have an angle. We expect the explanation of city life in Italy or rural life in Uganda to be as objective as the multiplication tables in Math class. We extend this to maps of fictional locales the same way we do not anticipate the math or science in a story will be false unless it highlights its falsity.
Sidenote: Anecdotal facts couched within otherwise pure fiction are still treated as objective truths by many in any given audience.
A smart author and in this case I am considering all major contributors as authors, visual artists, wordsmiths, anyone making a significant choice in regards image or text. Of course, not all comics – not all of any media – is up to the nominal authors, and sometimes you’re tasked with something, as Eliot R Brown was. A former technical artist and designer for Marvel, the first serious effort at a map of Gotham City was Brown’s first work for DC. And, it was a work where revisions seem to have piled onto revisions to the point where the work may be said to have lost any cohesive authoring, and not really, even, a steady hand stitching the piecemeal together.
In fact, the map as it has been published and republished/reused (in movies, advertisements, comics, etc) does not line up with the final version that Brown turned in.
Further down the control-scale we have the map generated for Marvel’s Age of Apocalypse, which just knocks out South America and the Middle East as “Atrocity Zone” or just irradiated wasteland, but also gives us San Francisco, Dallas, and Chicago while the “Human Settlements” in Africa (which, in comics scenes, plenty of exoticism and nonsense) are given no names or clarification.Sidenote: A cognitive map is a mental representation (and thereby a useful distortion) of the relative locations and attributes in a spatial environment. All maps of Wakanda, in print, are representative of cognitive maps.
The anglocentric nature of the map, that the only details are given over to the United States and to England, even in an anglophone comic, seems to run contrary to the intent of a map of the world, illustrating a world issue. It’s a serviceable map, but barely even that. And, even some people who worked intimately on the comics seem unsure how the map really came to be what it is. While the Gotham map may lack an authoritative author, it has authority, while this map does not even have that.
I mention these, primarily, to show the strength of the authorship and cohesive intent of the Coates and Manny Mederos map. But, divers hands or not, cognizant expressions or not, all of these maps are subject to the purviews of cultural ecology, behavioral geography, psychogeography, implicit history and the privileging of information and assumptions. Just because the Coates and Mederos map uses the phrase “political geography,” right on it, does not mean it has more of a political geography than those generated by cartographers or authors who did not use the phrase.Not intending something is never the same as not doing something. Intent does not govern effect. Warrior Falls and Black Warrior Creek to the east of “Mostly Uncharted” and north of Primitive Peaks, no matter how well-intended, had certain effects back when that map of Wakanda was created, and it has different, and perhaps more sharply-felt-by-a-wider-audience effects when considered today. Knocking out all of South America as “wasteland” and leaving Australia completely off your word map has effects. The AoA map isn’t a map of the world, but a map of an embarrassingly childish American perspective of the world. The Gotham map is articulate and full, and its use by storytellers as a settingSidenote: Cultural ecology is the study of human adaptations to social and physical environments. But, in fiction, the near-opposite occurs, and social and physical environments are adapted to primary characters and prefigured plots.
All maps are representative of cognitive maps. Presence and repetition, familiarity and novelty encourages our reflex perceptions and tells us our left from right, our uptown from downtown, why Australia is a continent and why Europe is one (and why some people expect Central America to be one). Maps aren’t topographies and geography. Maps, illustrate.
How we describe worlds describes us. What we accept, how we engage with maps, with the cultural and political ecologies drafted and concretized by authors can define us as readers. When I refer disparagingly to aspects of some of these maps, when I question or beg questions, I am not trying to insult, or even accuse the cartographers and authors. I am grateful for their good work, and for them having done it. Having done their work, the maps are – in many significant ways – no longer about them.
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction…”
While butterflies symbolize the transformation of life, they become as iconic of springtime in the west as rabbits which, due to their energetic breeding, represent fertility. Rabbits are designated as the token animal of Germanic goddess, Eostre [Eos in Greek]. Easter, for many is a season of blurred lines between the Christian celebration of the resurrection of a crucified patriarchal savior and the celebratory pagan ritual of bunnies delivering decorative and chocolatey eggs, all representing the bounty of new life springing forth throughout nature. The Easter Bunny joins a winning cast of rabbit characters we’ve grown up fondly with: Peter Cottontail… Roger… Bre’er… Thumper [from Bambi]… the Velveteen Rabbit… Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit… Bugs Bunny… We might even add the Duracell and Energizer Bunnies to this roster.
I’m one who’s loved Springtime all on its own, who hasn’t needed an extra excuse to indulge in unhealthy amounts of chocolate treats which [ahem!] I do year-round. The Easter Bunny was never a seasonal distraction for me. But looking through a #MeToo lens, it’s now not a big leap to see the dark side of EOStre‘s animal-spirit. From bedtime fairytales to movies to Easter, masses have been seduced & groomed through cute but de-natured props of patriarchal predation; a mostly male character lineup that’s won over hearts and minds. And somewhere there’s probably a Playboy Bunny tie-in…
Over the top? I ask, perturbed about how Easter has become such a distraction for me this year, and a dark one at that. As I scour the Internet for my own ‘easter eggs’/clues and disclaimers, a popular Mother Goose Rhyme plays like a riddle on a loop in my mind. Then the pictures below pop up as if to illustrate to me that various renowned architects have long been on this next-level trend of appropriating and translating EOStre‘s symbols. Is this their version of putting “Humpty together again”? My question seems to suddenly render Mother Goose mute…
Eostre‘s Greek counterpart – Eos “goddess of the dawn” – has been compared to Khemetic goddess Tefnut, in part because of the latter’s status as goddess of the morning dew. The dawn, like the vernal equinox announces a new day… awakening… new life/birth… springtime’s resurrection/rebirth of nature from the dark sleep of winter, etc. Figurines from the Neolithic period lay an ancient and abiding claim to the divine feminine as goddess of birth, regeneration and resurrection. Iconographies of a hybrid bird-serpent-goddess appear in ancient Khemet and Mesopotamia, which represent her co-creative powers as nurturer, transformer and deliverer of the resurrected seed from her divine masculine/god. [Left figure: Egyptian Predynastic Naganda “Bird Lady” IIa c. 3500-3400 BCE. Brooklyn Museum.] This ancient symbol has been adopted in recent times by a movement in the west whose focus on Goddess worship and femininity was precipitated by the imbalance created by homo-social male-dominated organized religions. The serpentine spiral represents kundalini energy – a life-force which both triggers the formation of the child in the female womb, and also holds the potential to uncoil from the spinal base to awaken consciousness or “3rd-eye” opening… as in Let There Be Light! [Genesis 1:3]
Hathor [Hwt-hr, meaning ‘Mansion of Heru’ ] was worshipped in Khemet as goddess of music, dance, beauty, fertility, childbirth, women, children and foreign lands. At the Temple of Dendera which was built for worship to the Goddess during the first Intermediate period of Khemet, Hathor‘s high priests were musicians and creative artists. The ancient personification of feminine love, joy, mother-hood, and nature – Hathor was the original Nile Goose that Laid the Golden Egg, which was the sun god. Women particularly aspired to embody this deeply loved goddess’s conjoined roles as wife, mother and lover which gained Hathor the titles: ‘Lady of the House of Jubilation,’ & ‘The One Who Fills the Sanctuary with Joy’. Known to assist the dead in their afterworld journeys, Hathor also used milk from her sacred sycamore tree to restore sight to Heru‘s lunar/left eye after his legendary bruising battle against Set – usurper of Khemet’s throne. “His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk and fitly set.” [SoS 5:12]
The relief on the left comes from Hathor‘s Temple of Dendera. Resembling a modern-day light bulb, the Dendera Light as it’s referred to is a depiction from the Hermopolis theology of creation. This theology presents the Ogdoad [8 primordial male-female twin deities] and the Cosmic Egg – from which all life is born. The lotus flower from the primordial sea of Nun gave birth to the sun god, Atum-Ra in a stage known as the first occasion (Dunand, 2004). This flower – pictured around the neck of the goose & at the base of the Dendera Light – is symbolic of Upper Khemet, from where the Nile River flows. The surrounding bulb in the Dendera light relief represents the field of the universe or Cosmic Egg/”Golden Egg” within which the process of creation… birth… enlightenment… springtime… resurrection occurs, and kundalini awakens – as depicted by the rising serpent within. Originally accessible only to high priest initiates, the accompanying texts at Dendera warn against abuse of such knowledge… seemingly in agreement with and reference to the West African mythology from Mali of the Dogon:
“In the beginning, Amma, alone, was in the shape of an egg: the four collar bones were fused, dividing the egg into air, earth, fire, and water, establishing also the four cardinal directions. Within this cosmic egg was the material and the structure of the universe, and the 266 signs that embraced the essence of all things. The first creation of the world by Amma was, however, a failure. The second creation began when Amma planted a seed within herself, a seed that resulted in the shape of man. But in the process of its gestation, there was a flaw, meaning that the universe would now have within it the possibilities for incompleteness. Now the egg became two placentas, each containing a set of twins, male and female. After sixty years, one of the males, Ogo, broke out of the placenta and attempted to create his own universe, in opposition to that being created by Amma. But he was unable to say the words that would bring such a universe into being. He then descended, as Amma transformed into the earth the fragment of placenta that went with Ogo into the void. Ogo interfered with the creative potential of the earth by having incestuous relations with it. His counterpart, Nommo, a participant in the revolt, was then killed by Amma, the parts of his body cast in all directions, bringing a sense of order to the world. When, five days later, Amma brought the pieces of Nommo‘s body together, restoring him to life, Nommo became ruler of the universe. He created four spirits, the ancestors of the Dogon people; Amma sent Nommo and the spirits to earth in an ark, and so the earth was restored. Along the way, Nommo uttered the words of Amma, and the sacred words that create were made available to humans. In the meantime, Ogo was transformed by Amma into Yurugu, the Pale Fox, who would always be alone, always be incomplete, eternally in revolt, ever wandering the earth seeking his female soul. “
In Genesis1:28: “God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth‘” (NRSV). As a well-intentioned environmental steward mansplains from biblcal text: “First the word “subdue”. In Hebrew this is kabash. You can’t get around it; it does mean… “enslave”, and even in the harshest instances “molest” or “rape”… Ummh, Yurugu/Set better stay in his lane!!! In my own well-intentioned effort to not throw the baby out with the bathwater, I’ll follow the lead of the Shulamite sistah who knows “love is strong as death” [Song of Songs 8:6]. She is the Southern Queen to whom the God of Revelation [3:11] says: “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” May our circle 4ever B unbroken... ❤ ❤ ❤ 121
Dunand, Françoise, and Christiane Zivie-Coche. 2004. Gods and Men in Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395 CE. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
‘Nakumbuka‘ means ‘I remember’ in Kiswahili. November 11th has been recognized as ‘Nakumbuka Day’ by the Pan-African Associations of America since 1994 when the first ceremony was held at San Diego State University in California. It was set aside as a day to remember the African victims of the European enslavers, colonizers and agents of genocide whose horrendous acts created a bloody trail of devastation and left families on the continent unable to lay their grief to rest after several hundred years. It has been estimated that the Middle Passage claimed upwards of 60 million African lives, not counting the huge losses on plantations in Europe, the Caribbean, North-, Central-, and South-America. In seeking free labor to build its empires, European and American Capitalism’s emergence crippled a continent and its descendants socially, culturally and economically during the timelines of African slavery, colonialism, and now neo-colonialism.Historically, 11/11 marks the end of 20th-century hostilities during World War 1 between two main Western blocks: the Central Powers [Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey…] vs. the Allied Powers [Britain, France, Russia, Italy, the United States…]. Their truce, an Armistice with Germany, formally went into effect on 11/11/11: the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 [100 years ago]. In 1954, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day in the US, although 11/11 is observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states as Remembrance Day – aka Poppy Day – honoring veterans who died [8 million+] in this so-called War to End All Wars. WW2 followed in 1939 after “Germany, angry over war reparations imposed by rivals and eager for revenge, eventually turned to Adolf Hitler.”
Symbolically, the number 11 holds the dual vibration of Twins [Gemini], whose relationship acts as a barometer on the scales of Truth, Justice, & Balance [Libra] within this New Age we are said to have entered of Aquarius – the 11th House of the Zodiac. Helena Blavatsky and her disciple, Alice Bailey are credited with founding the so-called ‘New World Religion’ which, since its unofficial start on 11/11/11, has gained many New Age adherents. In The Externalisation of the Hierarchy , Bailey prefaced her New Age spiritual advocacy with an extensive critique of the [Europatriarchal] World Wars: “Intense nationalism… [a] separative outlook… [and] selfish interests have controlled the reasons for which every nation has entered this war…” [p. 373-]
Spiritually, 11/11 allows a sacred moment for grief over the harsh realities of war… lives lost which are formally given global remembrance from western stages. We ritually observe these post-war programs …our hearts made gentle through words, tears, bouquets, wreaths and lapel poppies, many worn in solidarity by non-western officials. Lest we forget, 40,000 African American troops of the 92nd and 93rd divisions saw battle during WW1 under French command. This distinction tends to be under-acknowledged in the self-indulgent discourse-of-power and narrative of a human community made ‘global’ through Europe’s wars. Hopes for equal recognition in combat are marginalized alongside cries from slavery’s descendants for Reparations from the neo-colonial ‘matrix,’ as the intensely Eurocentric Poppy-Day program runs its annual sequel. Meanwhile, the spiritual free-quency of MA’AT-consciousness – Truth, Divine Order, Harmony, Balance, Justice, Reciprocity, UbuNtu… – will only be detained for so long as another casualty of war. At some point Africa’s cultural immune system has to recover from the induced state of sleep paralysis to reclaim its own narrative and sovereignty…
“MA’AT, who links universal to terrestrial, the divine with the human is incomprehensible to the cerebral intelligence… Peace is the fruit of activity, not of sleep… The key to all problems is the problem of consciousness… If you search for the laws of harmony, you will find knowledge… The best and shortest road toward knowledge of truth is nature… If the Master teaches what is error, the disciple’s submission is slavery. If he teaches truth, this submission is ennoblement… The kingdom of Heaven is already within you; if you understand yourself you will find it… The body is the house of the God/dess. That is why it is said, ‘Wo/Man know thyself’… By knowing one reaches belief. By doing one gains conviction. When you know, dare… You will free yourself when you learn to be neutral and follow the instructions of your heart without letting things perturb you. This is the way of MA’AT…”
This selection of proverbs are from God/dess Amun/Mut’s Luxor Temple [pictured right], located on the east bank of Africa’s Nile River in Uaset. It is known as Ipet-Resyt, meaning “The Southern Sanctuary” which is connected via an Avenue of Sphinxes to the Ipet-Sut – “The Most Selected of Places” in Karnak, both dedicated to the worship of Amun-Re and His Godhood with Divine Feminine Consort, Mut. Per-ankh – “Houses of Life” were designated as spaces for education in such Khemetic temples because knowledge was considered sacred… a divine mystery of the balance between masculine and feminine co-creatives/Twins. Bound to nature and the cosmos for all time, these proverbial teachings are written in the stone [EWF] of Luxor Temple’s walls. “People need images. Lacking them they invent idols. Better then to found the images on realities that lead the true seeker to the source.” Resembling the human form in repose, the Luxor Temple’s unique design itself appears symbolically dedicated to resurrection and reparation of the sovereignty of truth, life & unity-consciousness… an architectural ‘body’ on Mother Africa’s Earth, poised as if to awaken and rise to Her Heavenly Twin.
In pop culture, this awakening is thematic to The Fifth Dimension’s 1969 ‘Age of Aquarius’ – prophetic anthem of a New Age which many believe dawned 42 years later, on November 11th, 2011 [11/11/11]. ‘42‘ is a number that is sacred to MA’AT, Goddess who serves to protect the world from chaos. [In today’s world this ‘chaos’ has occurred within the policed-state of an elite cabal’s Victorian/neo-colonial/false-matrix 3D system of control and mass-manipulation.] The Principles of Ma’at predate the ’10 Commandments’ as humanity’s oldest written sources of moral & spiritual instruction. Recorded in the Khemetic funerary Book of Going Forth by Day AKA Book of the Dead, these were based on 42 declarations made by Ani in the Hall of Judgment of his having lived in accordance with MA’AT’s principles, such as: “I have not done iniquity; I have not stolen; I have not made any to suffer pain; I have done no murder nor bid anyone to slay on my behalf; I have not spoken lies; I have not caused the shedding of tears; I have not dealt deceitfully; I have not lusted nor defiled the wife of any man; I have not caused terror; I have not done that which is abominable; I have not stopped my ears against the words of Right and Truth; I have not stirred up strife; I have not wronged the people; I have done no harm nor have I done evil; I have not worked treason; I have never fouled the water; I have not spoken scornfully; I have not behaved with arrogance…” [Papyrus of Ani – c.1250BCE]
“We’re in the feminine aspect now… That’s where society is… Men have gone as far as they can, right? …I learn from women a lot quicker than I do from men. …At a certain point, you’re supposed to know what it means to be a man, but now what do you know about what it means to be a woman? Do you know how to listen? Most men don’t know how to listen.” [Prince, 2014]
MA’AT‘s consort is DJEHUTI, the Magician archetype of the Divine masculine with whom the Goddess creates the Balance & Harmony needed to prevent the universe from falling into chaos and disorder. Symbolized by her hallmark feather, the Truth MA’AT has found in her aspect as AUSET [proverbial ‘True Seeker’ and wife of Khemet’s beloved King AUSAR who was mutilated when SET – the parasitic system’s god of chaos and disorder – usurped his throne] is key to humanity’s awakening and ascension to Heaven-on-Earth. During her seeking, AUSET hears the cries of the downtrodden, children, her beloved [now god of the afterlife]… and responds with compassion and wisdom as she awakens, ascends, dances, re-members… #11/11… #UbuNtu… #Auset/Ausar… #Hathor/Heru… #Ma’at/Djehuti… #Mut/Amun [#Uaset/Sah]… #Nakumbuka… ❤
“If you don’t own your masters, your masters own you.” On his B’Earth’Day [June 7th] in 1993, Prince changed his name to the unpronounceable ‘Love Symbol’ of his recently released 14th studio album following disagreements with Warner Brothers [WB], the label which originally signed him in 1977. It was a public act of rebellion against WB’s restrictions over him and his prolific creativity. Likening their contractual relationship to one of indentured servitude or slavery, Prince explained: Read More
“When the moon is in the 7th House… And Jupiter aligns with Mars… Then peace will guide the planets… And love will steer the stars… This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius…” [Lyrics from “Age of Aquarius” by the 5th Dimension, 1969].
Humanity is said to be currently moving to its new astrological Age – an event which happens roughly every 2,000-plus years. We’re living through a transitional period Read More
From ancient times to the present day, Africa’s collective imagination has to one degree or another been influenced by the leopard as a symbol of its cultural and spiritual potency. The black panther is the melanistic color variant of leopards in Africa, so perhaps the phenomenal success of the movie of the same name can be used as a current barometer of that potency. North, south, east, west, and diaspora – the leopard is a powerful symbol of African warriors, sages, magicians, priests, gods, goddesses, queens, and kings. In West Africa, sculptures from Ife and Benin portray the leopard as a symbol of wisdom. This statue from ancient North Africa depicting King Tutankhamun riding through the underworld on the back Read More
Born in 1803 and orphaned at age 5, Maria W. Stewart was an American domestic servant who became a teacher, journalist, abolitionist, lecturer and women’s rights activist. She urged “daughters of Africa” to reject the negative images of Black womanhood that were/are so pervasive, but to instead possess the power of self-definition – in effect to seek, find, and anchor their Divinity as Goddess Auset. In an 1833 speech, Stewart said: “Like King Solomon, who put neither nail nor hammer to the temple, yet received the praise; so also have the white Americans gained themselves a name, like the names of the great men that are in the earth, whilst in reality we have been their principle foundation and support. We have pursued the shadow, they have obtained the substance; we have performed the labor, they have received the profits; we have planted the vines, they have eaten the fruits of them.”
The power of images [for good or ill] has been well-known since ancient times in Africa, as evident in the following proverb from the Luxor Temple of Amun-Mut-Montu/Khonsu: “People need images. Lacking them they invent idols. Better then to found the images on realities that lead the true seeker to the source.” The Gods of Khemet created a number of art-for-life’s-sake images that would, when properly looked upon, indeed lead the divine seeker to the source. Knowing the little strength of the angel of the church in Philadelphia, the God of Revelation encodes one of these key images in His instructions: “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it… hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown…” [Rev 3: 7-12 KJV]
The Divine Seeker or ‘true seeker’ – from a ‘daughters of Africa’ perspective – is represented in the archetype of Auset, Queen and wife of Khemet’s beloved King Ausar. According to their mythology, the respect Ausar was able to command on earth and in the nether-world as the bringer of civilization made his ‘younger brother’ – a god with pedophilic issues named Seth [Gr.] – so jealous that, in his bloody coup for the throne, Set[h] murdered and cut the king into 14 pieces which he scattered throughout the wilderness to prevent Ausar’s resurrection. In modern terms, Set [god of the wilderness, chaos, violence, foreign oppressors…] is understood to be the adversary who enslaved Africans and stole land and other treasures via colonialism. Thus the ‘wilderness’ is the diaspora where his predatory neo-colonial rule and campaign of chaos and extermination expanded. Auset must search this wilderness for the pieces of her beloved while holding fast to her crown of life which, imaged as the royal throne, represents her shero’s journey and consciousness of who she is.
Auset ~ Divine Seeker – shows up as the Shulamite in the Song of Songs, the biblical book attributed to King Solomon who, though featured in the song, is not the true ‘Majesty’ Auset seeks. Famed for wisdom, wealth, and possessing 700 wives and 300 concubines, Solomon represents the unease of one who is trapped in an excess of creature comforts, including his gross objectification of the divine feminine. It’s very clear that the Shulamite [Auset] is critical of the modalities of capitalist exploitation, including occupation and sharecropping which have created Solomon’s trappings of power and, in turn, required military guardians. She says: “Behold his bed, which is Solomon’s; threescore valiant men are about it… They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night.” [SoS 3:7-8 KJV] “Solomon had a vineyard at Baalhamon; he let out the vineyard unto keepers; every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver. My vineyard, which is mine, is before me: thou O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.” [SoS 8:11-12 KJV]
The Song of Songs represents Auset’s mourning as she communicates with and searches for the pieces of her Twin Flame in a ‘wilderness’ [diaspora] caused by the misdeeds of Set, including murder, mutilation, scattering, plunder and rape. Auset’s crown of life, denoting her consciousness, purpose and allegiance, is significantly different from those which are worn in the capitals of Europe – their opulent design and materials conspicuously symbolizing conquest of peoples and control of resources. Without this Africa-centered understanding which would acknowledge Auset’s presiding role in Ausar’s resurrection and return, biblical scholars and translators promote other interpretations even while struggling to explain her divinity and/or justify her existence in ‘their’ holy book. Introducing herself to an audience of the “daughters of Jerusalem,” the Shulamite [Auset] makes clear: “I am black… My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.” [SoS 2:16 KJV] Local to Upper Khemet – southern source of the Nile River – the lily is also the symbol of resurrection in Khemetic imagery. “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me.” [SoS 7:10 KJV]
Euro-patriarchal translations and commentaries surrounding the Shulamite’s introduction of herself have varied from “I am black and beautiful…” [New Revised Standard Version Catholic Ed] to more sinister/racist ethnic notions – specifically, as Maria W. Stewart pointed out, against Black womanhood:
- “I am black but beautiful…” [Douay-Rheims Bible]
- “I am black but lovely…” [New American Standard Bible 1977]
- “I am black, but comely…” [American KJV; American Std. V; Webster’s Bible Trans; JPS Tanakh 1917; Darby Bible Trans; English Rev. V]
- “I am very dark, but lovely…” [English Standard Version]
- “I am dark but beautiful…” [New Living Translation]
- “I am dark, but lovely…” [New KJV 2000; World English Bible; NET Bible; New Heart English Bible]
- “Dark am I, and comely…” [Young’s Literal Translation]
- “Daughters of Jerusalem, I am dark like the tents of Kedar, yet lovely like the curtains of Solomon…” [Holman Christian Standard Bible]
- “I am dark, O ye daughters of Jerusalem… desirable as the booths of Kedar, as the tents of Solomon…” [Jubilee Bible 2000]
- The word “black” does not necessarily mean that the skin is black, but rather sunburnt, dark brown… the livid or swarthy appearance of one who has suffered long from famine and wretchedness. There is certainly no reason to take the word as an argument for the bride being Pharaoh’s daughter… She has been living in the fields, and is browned with the ruddy health of a country life… The country maiden feels the greatness of the honor, that she is chosen of the king… [Pulpit Commentary]
- …she was “black” in herself through original sin and actual transgression; in her own eyes, through indwelling sin, and many infirmities, spots, and blemishes in life; and in the eyes of the world, through afflictions, persecutions, and reproaches…: “but comely” in the eyes of Christ, called by him his “fair one”, the “fairest among women”, and even “all fair” through his comeliness put upon her, the imputation of his righteousness to her; through the beauties of his holiness upon her; through the sanctifying influences of his Spirit… being in a church state, walking in Gospel order… “desirable”(y) to Christ, and to his people. [Gill’s Exposition of the Bible]
Certainly, if such white male interpretations of the black female principal in the Song of Songs prevail, then they should at the very least co-exist with culturally-centered interpretations of the African Queen. One version of the Song of Songs’ backstory – which has received extensive Jewish, Islamic, and Ethiopian elaborations – describes King Solomon being tested with hard questions during his visit from the “Queen of the South” AKA the Queen of Sheba. The Kebra Nagast [“Glory of the Kings”] tells the national saga of Ethiopian Emperors being descendants of King David as a direct outcome of their Queen’s visit with his son Solomon. Followers of the Rastafari movement believe Emperor Haile Selassie I – the last descendant of the Solomonic line to rule Ethiopia [from 1930 to 1974] – to be the Messiah and Lion of the Tribe of Judah. The African Queen’s storied visit is acknowledged in the bible thus: “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” [Matthew 12:42 & Luke 11:31 KJV]
Told in highly symbolic language, the Song of Songs is itself a riddle worthy of the Queen of Sheba who purportedly used riddles to test Solomon’s wisdom, and to apparently expose the limitations of Euro-patriarchal translations and analyses [above]. Who knows what manner of ‘darkness’ lies in the tents of Kedar or curtains of Solomon to which the Shulamite is being compared by such biblical professionals?! She is not “original sin” in need of white male prescriptions for “salvation.” Nor does she seem particularly desirous of the kind of ‘majesty’ Solomon represents – at least not in my reading of the Song of Songs in which the Shulamite’s mission is that of the African Goddess Auset. As divine seeker who wears a distinct crown of life, it’s critical that Auset be able to distinguish between chaos/shadow/idol versus truth/substance/source as the above-mentioned proverb from the Luxor Temple states. Only in this way does she prove herself worthy of the crown and title bestowed on all true African Queens: “She Who Sees Set and Heru.”
Goddess Auset is… ❤
“Great, another broken white boy for us to fix!” One of several funny lines from Black Panther delivered by Shuri in reference to CIA Agent Everett Ross. “What the hail!” My line when I left the theater on President’s Day with mixed feelings about the movie, but mostly about the droplets of ice which had just begun falling from LA’s South Bay skies onto my African head-wrap. Was this a sign? Movie promos had gone hard with Gil Scott Heron’s classic The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, I mused while trying to extract pieces of the odd weather from my son’s fro for inspection. But why not build a strategic alliance between African cousins rather than having T’Challa, in true bourgeois liberal fashion, make a Wakanda charity-case out of Killmonger’s Oakland after the fact? Mom, it’s not your story… Huh?! Read More
Queen Nyabingi is one of several likely inspirational fonts for Marvel’s comic book renderings of Wakanda’s Dora Milaje, an elite group of female bodyguards who will soon be slaying on the silver screen [2/16/18] in Ryan Coogler’s directorial rendition of Black Panther – the movie. Though fictional, Marvel’s African kingdom of Wakanda is geographically situated around the source of humanity’s genesis, which happens to be where the legendary Nyabingi greatly impacted history as well as our pathways to a pan-African consciousness. A real-life fusion of warrior-queen archetypes that arose in the ancestral Nile River mythologies of Khemet, Goddess Nyabingi’s spirit also lives in the diffusion of beats and flows that birthed hip-hop in today’s diaspora.
Best known for fiercely championing her spiritual, cultural, and political spheres of power through liberation struggles against the Euro-patriarchal rape of her region – rubberstamped at the 1884 Berlin Conference and euphemistically referred to in history books as the “scramble for Africa” – Nyabingi fought hard against her colonial adversaries. In Khemet, this collective adversary was known as Seth (god of the wilderness, storms, chaos, violence, famine, illness and foreign oppressors) who was so jealous of Ausar’s richly-endowed kingdom and popular reign that he murdered, mutilated and then scattered pieces of the king’s body [diaspora of enslavement] in order to ascend the throne and sow his dehumanizing brand of chaos in the name of progress…
Against this quintessential enemy of Africa and usurper of her resources, Nyabingi also becomes a force of reparations whose shamanic powers are transmitted through oracular healer-priestesses, traditionally called bagirwa. In this role, she is reminiscent of the Khemetic goddess Hathor whose fervent warrior aspect is identified in the leonine goddess Sekhmet. Nyabingi’s shamanic powers also mysteriously link her to Seshat, a Khemetic goddess whose characteristic dress is made of panther skin. Historically, spiritually-endowed women have stood out as leaders of liberation movements throughout the African continent – in part because, like rape, imposed rule has infringed upon the domains of the divine African feminine. Ideological descendants of parasitic shadow-queens such as Victoria [“grand-mother of Europe” 1837-1876] and/or the neo-colonial sychophants who uphold their standing in Africa’s sacred geographies and imagination, are complicit in the continuing rape of humanity’s Mother[land].
Goddess Nyabingi’s legend begins in Mpororo (Uganda’s southern region) where Queen Kitami’s rule was disrupted with the theft of her sacred drum by a man named Kamurari. Though Kamurari used the sacred drum to found a dynasty, it was the formidable ancestral presence of Queen Kitami upon whom the reverent title of ‘Nyabingi’ was bestowed by successive generations. Nyabingi’s compelling presence was deeply acknowledged as she spoke paranormally with and through her chosen female prophets and priestesses from behind the bark-cloth veils they wore.
By the time of Welsh-American journalist and explorer Henry Morton Stanley’s search for the source of the Nile River in the late 1800s on the heels of British explorer David Livingstone’s efforts, Goddess Nyabingi had earned a reputation in the colonial imagination as a “great sorceress.” Her priestesses exercised considerable political power in the Uganda/Rwanda [‘Wakanda’?] borderlands through such acts as collecting tributes from local chiefs. British and German colonials waged war against African women by making alliances with corruptible men, including these same local chiefs. One such example was the alliance they made with Mwame Musinga which led to his treacherous usurping of the throne that the widowed Rwandan queen-mother’s son – like Heru of Khemet through queen-mother Auset – was heir to.
In 1911, a rebel priestess named Muhumusa formed a spiritually-based military resistance against the wazungu (Europeans) in the name of Nyabingi. So effective was this resistance that the British fought back by passing the 1912 “Witchcraft Act” which threatened to burn the accused at the stake. Muhumusa’s eventual capture in 1913 led to her detention for life which ended with her death in 1945. However, other popular Nyabingi-inspired revolts such as the 1928 Rebellion arose from what a wazungu colonial described as “armed witchcraft dances,” resulting in the killing of colonial-puppet chiefs. “These fanatical women are a curse to the country!” a colonial commissioner was led to declare as the resistance leaders successfully fought and evaded capture.
These warrior-queen-led uprisings were gradually suppressed through a collaborative colonial team effort involving coercive missionaries who would impose Christian baptism onto Africans under threat of punishment as political subversives of the Nyabingi resistance. Eventually, the reparations or healing aspects of the bagirwa’s cultural role regained precedence over the political-warrior dimension of the black freedom struggle.
By the 1930s the Nyabingi resistance had been effectively subdued in East Africa. However, it had caught fire in the Jamaican Rastafari movement which began with Europe’s colonization of Africa – AKA ‘Ethiopia’ and/or ‘Zion’ to believers – though the forced exile of enslaved Africans scattered throughout ‘Babylon’ dated back to centuries prior. The Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey Jr.’s 1920s prophecy – “Look to Africa where a black king shall be crowned; he shall be your Redeemer” – set the stage for how Jamaicans would come to regard the 1930 coronation of Haile Selassie as Emperor of Ethiopia (a neighboring East African country which had itself successfully resisted European colonization attempts). A member of the Solomonic Dynasty, Selassie was born Tafari Makonnen Woldemikael – hence the Ras-Tafari designation and belief in him as the prophesied messiah, Jah Rastafari or alternatively Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Though His Imperial Majesty, Emperor Haile Selassie, was welcomed with great enthusiasm during his 1966 visit to Jamaica, he was eventually dethroned [9/12/74] back in Ethiopia for reasons which began with the famine his country suffered in 1973.
The oldest of the Rastafarian subgroups is Nyabingi – a name which the Jamaican group believe to mean ‘Death to all Oppressors’ – connecting their faith with the African warrior-queen’s powerful spirit of liberation from tyranny. The Rastafari chant ‘bingi’ through prayer, music, dance, and biblical reasonings, calling on nature and the universe of her mystical powers to destroy the wicked reign of ‘Babylon’ – as they believe Jah alone has the right to do – and establish their New Jerusalem or Zion in Africa. In Jamaica, Nyabingi’s rhythmic heartbeat is played by men on a trinity of drums: Thunder (a bass drum also referred to as the “Pope Smasher” or “Vatican Basher”); Funde (the middle drum which maintains the dominant heartbeat and has the least improvisational role); and Akete or Repeater (the smallest, highest pitched drum that plays the most improvisational role as carrier of spirit).
Parallels between Nyabingi‘s prototype sacred drum, and its usage in East Africa can thus be interpreted and understood in the purpose and symbolism of Rastafari expression in the Caribbean. The natural and spiritual forces which connect Nyabingi in the pan-African consciousness also pulse and flow through her waterways: the northbound Nile River from its Great Lakes’ cradle to its ancient flowering in Khemet (known as the Gift of the Nile); and the waterways which map the Atlantic slavery routes with each hurricane that forms off of the West African coast, wreaking destruction at what some consider to be Babylon’s doorstep… “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it…” [SoS 8:7 KJV]
Seminal to the music of Rastafarians, Nyabingi drumming is the same powerful heartbeat pulsing in the reggae stylings of such renowned artists as Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse, Burning Spear, and many others who came up through the faith – rocking locs like the warriors in Kenya’s struggle for uhuru (freedom) against Britain’s colonial rule. Indeed, reggae’s popularity in the 1960s and 70s brought Rasta consciousness to the global masses, which worried those who did not want their liberational cultural faith (mis)appropriated and/or corrupted.
Such reckonings came out of lessons learned from Babylon’s predatory and parasitic dealings against its African host(ess), including: spiritual resources from Khemet having been re-scripted and weaponized through the work of missionaries in their colonial rape or ‘scramble’ for Africa’s natural resources; the twin-enterprise of slavery through which Africa’s human resources had been stolen and displaced in the so-called New World; as well as the appropriation of her cultural resources. In the Caribbean-Bronx [NY] alchemy which created hip-hop’s seminal heartbeat [through DJs such as Kool Herc], one feels Nyabingi’s continuing struggle to drive that final, fatal stake through the vampire’s collective… heart [???]. Nyabingi reminds us to not be complicit in the rape against the dominion of the divine African feminine, the spoils upon which ‘Babylon’ has built its arrogant and twisted sense of superiority and entitlement. #UbuNtu… #ReparationsNow
Ausar, god of the afterlife whom many believe holds the seven heavenly stars in his glorified form in the Hunter constellation, was said to have had a great passion for song and dance during his popular reign in Kemet. So much so that he recruited several African Muses to accompany him on a tour to teach the legendary Nile Valley arts of cultivation throughout Asia and Europe, and always had a troupe of musicians back at his court. These Muses became Goddesses in Kemet, but the later Greek conquest of Ausar’s kingdom led to their colonial conversion and subjugation under Apollo Musagete – “Apollo, Leader of the Muses” – of the Olympian world. Read More
I didn’t grow up a comic-book super-fan (more like occasional reader), nor grew to become enticed by Hollywood’s silver-screen adventures of super-heroes from the big-3 comic-book universes: Marvel, DC, and X-Men. Marvel’s recently-released trailer for the Black Panther movie (set for release on February 16th, 2018) may just have changed all that. Read More