Messages in Maps… [re-post]

[CLICK TITLE BELOW TO LINK TO ORIGINAL 2/11/17 POST]

Messages in Maps: Psychogeography, Cultural Ecology and the Prefigured Place

Travis Hedge Coke

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.

Unbreaking the Egg

“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. dogonAfter 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

 

Refs:

Dunand, Françoise, and Christiane Zivie-Coche. 2004. Gods and Men in Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395 CE. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Tut’ankh’amun ~ Reflections

The “KING TUT: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh” tour ends its world premiere today [January 13th, 2019] before moving on to Europe and eventually back to Africa where the exhibition will remain permanently at the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Since March 24th, 2018, the California Science Center has been hosting the only scheduled US exhibition of over 150 personal belongings from 18th Dynasty King Tutankhamun’s 3,300 year-old burial site that were among those removed after the 1922 European discovery and raid of his tomb in Africa’s Valley of the Kings, west of the Nile River. Each of King Tutankhamun’s burial artifacts are presented in the exhibition as narrative pieces of the pharaoh’s quest for immortality as he journeyed through the underworld after his death at the young age of 19 to find his place in the afterlife.

Of the several culturally-significant pieces in the exhibition, two are particularly striking:

1. King Tutankhamun’s gilded ankh-shaped mirror case ~ One of the best-known ancient symbols that is often depicted in the firm grip of a Khemetic deity’s hand is the ankh. With its feminine oval and masculine crucifix, the ankh represents what the ancients regarded as the key of life. When used in hieroglyphic writing, the ankh may mean “mirror,” “floral bouquet,” and/or “life.” Several ankh-shaped mirrors were created in ancient times and, like the one now missing from King Tut’s belongings, were thought by many to reflect eternity. Mirrors were believed to possess magical properties which would respond to the user’s intent, ranging from superficial vanity [Old-School ‘selfies’?] to revelations of the light/shadow afterlife from the reflected physical prism…

Click to hear “Be My Mirror” by Prince [unreleased track]

The Khemetic mirror thus potentially became an imaginative portal to the multi-dimensional realms expressed in the words “as above, so below… as within, so without” – words which are also reflected in proverbs from Amun~Mut’s temple: “All is within yourself. Know your most inward self and look for what corresponds with it in nature… Men need images. Lacking them they invent idols. Better then to found the images on realities that lead the true seeker to the source… The key to all problems is the problem of consciousness… The Kingdom of Heaven is within you…” The Festival of Lanterns honoring Goddess Neith involved the burning of oil lamps through the night to create a reflection of heaven on earth… a scene depicting a feminine portal opening, or a parting of the veil between mirrored worlds. Similarly, Goddess Seshat – dressed in her signature panther-skin dress – is known in her own right as the “opener of Heaven’s door.” Thus the key of life [‘ankh’] in essence infers the creative interplay between multidimensional and complementary creative forces – within/without… above/below – which in turn confer special standing upon rulers in the earthly realm such as King Tutankhamun.

Tut’ankh’amun was originally named Tut’ankh’aten [“living image of Aten”] after his father Akhenaten, the controversial King who upended Khemet’s centuries-old religious system in Uaset [Gr. ‘Thebes’], to the worship of the singular sun disc Aten from a new religious center in Amarna. Following Akhenaten’s death and a brief intervening period of rule by two pharaohs, aided by powerful advisers, the 9-year-old prince ascended the throne his father had held. During his own 10-year reign, the young pharaoh reversed his father King Akhenaten’s legacy by restoring Khemet’s long-standing god Amun to supremacy and its religious capital to Uaset. He then reaffirmed this allegiance by formally renaming himself Tut’ankh’amun – the name we’re most accustomed to, meaning “living image of Amun.” Thus, the king chose the image ‘above’ and ‘within’ that he wanted to mirror and/or to become as…

2. The King’s mode of underworld/afterlife transportation ~ The black panther depicted in this artifact from Tutankhamun’s tomb acts as a fascinating spiritual and cultural “mirror” between past and present. The biggest movie of 2018, Black Panther, was released in the month just prior to the “KING TUT: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh” exhibition opening at the California Science Center. As I wrote in a previous post, the scene in the movie in which a presumed-dead King T’Challa journeys through the plane of his Wakanda ancestors… mirrors this specific rendering of King Tutankhamun whose other, signature golden image is itself a “death mask” – perhaps implying that his physical death was an illusion.

The fictional name ‘Wakanda’ in turn reflects the names of real-life kingdoms such as Buganda through which the source of the great Nile River flows, and from where powerful panther kings – entitled Kabaka – still hold sway. As the earthly mirror of the Milky Way in heaven [called Maziwa Mkuu in Kiswahili, meaning ‘great milk’] this sacred River is the true, nature-based Ma’atrix that gave rise to the spiritual-consciousness of ancient Nile Valley civilizations  such as Khemet and Buganda. Black panthers are a melanistic variant of the African leopard whose skin features significantly in the regalia of Kabakas and royalty of surrounding kingdoms in present-day Uganda, as well as in the dress of Khemetic deity Seshat – the above-mentioned “opener of Heaven’s door.” Conferring high status on the wearer, this skin [which may also lie beneath a royal leader’s feet] represents the musambwa or territorial spirit in the Uganda region who appears in the form of a panther/leopard and acts as a supernatural guide and protector of the kingdom…

The Baganda have a saying about their royals: A Kabaka does not die, but gets lost in the forest.” It alludes to their immortality and the possibility of return for those chosen ones who are able to find their way through the forest. Depending on how one examines the mirror/ankh, this ‘forest’ could metaphorically reflect the prophesied 400-year wilderness period [Genesis 15: 13-14] since enslaved Africans first set foot in America. The timing of Black Panther‘s release, T’Challa’s mirrored visual of King Tutankhamun’s crossed crook and flail which are symbols of the biblically-mirrored Great Shepherd – reflects this larger, multi-layered Savior narrative… A true visionary, Ryan Coogler re-links the cultural elements while critiquing the European world’s appropriations, e.g. through Eric Killmonger’s retort to the British Museum director: “How do you think your ancestors got these? Do you think they paid a fair price? Or did they take it… like they took everything else?” 

Now, as the “KING TUT: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh” exhibition moves on from America for the last time, I can’t help wondering what happened to the King’s priceless mirror…?

May this Year of Return  reawaken humanity to its best reflection and most magnificent Heaven-on-Earth manifestations…

***

UPDATE: EGYPT MOVES TO STOP SALE OF KING TUT STATUE IN LONDON AUCTION [click for article]

 

 

Ascension ~ “Black Orchid”

“…She has touched the farthest star
Her beauty speaks of what we are
And her freedom makes us free
Her now is in eternity, infinite to all that see
And her dreams have been achieved
Now there is a sound of laughter
Nature sings out her name
For the world to know her fame… 
~ Black Orchid ~” [Stevie Wonder – from ‘Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants’]

During the months of July and August, 2018 Mother Earth is responding to an amazing shift in the Harmonics of the Spheres. The Sun’s gravitational pull has aligned to one side of itself all of the planets in the solar system, each with their own unique frequencies. Read More

Mazisi Kunene ~ Creative Power

Mazisi Kunene – freedom fighter, literary icon, Africa’s poet laureate, and South Africa’s first poet laureate – was born in Durban, in the modern-day province of KwaZulu-Natal on May 12th, 1930. Kunene championed African oral traditions, conveying their inherent value in his writings which were originally in Zulu before being translated into other languages. Read More

Auset ~ Divine Seeker

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…

Panther ~ Black Rite-of-Passage

“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

Tears of the Big Waters [a story]

The California sycamore in the meadow of the Topanga canyon hilltop rustled as if it had just spoken. Nya Okatsa’s back remained molded against the wizened tree trunk as the sudden jerk from Malik’s head in the cradle of her crossed legs belied the nonchalant sprawl of the rest of his six-foot frame on their picnic blanket. He squinted upwards, his eyes sorting through the noonday sun and shadow as the overhead canopy settled from the agitated mid-July gust that had just blown. Seeing the coy arch of Nya’s brows within her silhouette, Malik broke into a broad grin – unfazed by her confession that she’d been a tree-whisperer from birth. Read More

KuNtu: A Well-Painted Home

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

HaNtu: Afrofuturism “In the Stone”

~ Posted in honor of African-American Music Appreciation Month, June 2017 ~

“The artist is meant to put the objects of this world together in such a way that through them you will experience that light, that radiance which is the light of our consciousness and which all things both hide and, when properly looked upon, reveal. The hero journey is one of the universal patterns through which that radiance shows brightly.” [Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss] Read More

PTAH ~ Hollywood Re-members…

The biggest night in show business is the annual Academy Awards show which pulls in a television viewing audience of 40 million (give or take). It’s where the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (founded in the 1920s) recognizes the merits of its most talented artists/craftspeople and honors them with a golden idol, a statue whose nick-name Oscar means ‘divine spear.’ The specter of Hollywood as an ideological battlefield where dreams and stories as cultural artifacts fight, bleed and die for acceptance in the dream factory run by mainstream [white] gods is not farfetched from the industry’s competitive, often cut-throat reality. Harsher still are the ironic implications of the Oscar award itself whose form Read More

Heru ~ Djedi Sky Walker

horus2“Sky God… God of Hunting… Warrior God… Lord of the Horizon… Divine Falcon… He who came forth from Hapi [Africa’s Nile God]… Dweller in Sopdet [Star of Auset]… God of Kingship… Heir of his Father…” are some of the epithets ascribed to Heru, one of Africa’s most storied gods of salvation. Heru‘s hunting prowess is represented in the falcon or hawk whose right and left eyes respectively denote the sun and moonheru-eye-primary-colors1; and who is said to hold the stars in his speckled feathers as his wings create the wind. The circumstances of Heru’s placement in the Holy Trinity which includes Ausar (his father) and Auset (his mother), and his triumphant role in the battle against evil [Set], make him a model for saviors, heroes, and the super-heroes of story, religion, comic-book universes and their silver screen adaptations. The Kemetic Trinity itself may conceivably be connected to the older African Triad of Waset, namely Amun~Mut~Khonsu. phoenix-pyramidAmong his many epithets, Amun (“Amen” in prayer) – Lord of All, whose name means “invisible… mysterious of form… the hidden one” who encompasses every aspect of creation – is referred to as “Eldest of the Sky.” [Papyrus Boulaq 17]

The classic battle of “good versus evil” evolves in the immortal myth of Heru versus his “uncle” Set who not only murders beloved King Ausar in order to usurp the throne of Kemet, but mutilates Ausar’s body and scatters its pieces throughout the wilderness (diaspora). Auset roams the wilderness in search of her husband’s 14 pieces which she reassembles and mummifies, minus his penis which remains missing. However, through the summoning of magical powers, Ausar is enabled to posthumously impregnate Auset with the seed of their son, Heru. (In some versions, Heru is interpreted as the newborn sun rising “from a lotus bloom that expanded its leaves on the breast of the primordial deep.”) Ausar’s “resurrection” creates Auset’s “virgin birth” of “savior” Heru who, in his later years goes on to avenge his father’s murder and challenge Set for the throne of Kemet. seth-vs-horusThis epic struggle – which additionally exposes the pedophilic proclivities through which Set tried to overcome his “nephew” – is eventually settled before a Council of Elder Gods in favor of Heru as Kemet’s rightful heir and victor of the battle over evil/chaos.

Over the millennia Set became associated with the Hyksos – hostile foreign invaders from the desert or wilderness who enslaved the native men along with their wives and children. Thought to have the white skin and red hair attributed to his followers, Set’s links to Africa’s parched, infertile desert (the “red place”) expanded to represent all deserts and foreign lands. sethHis glyph appears in the words for “turmoil… confusion… illness… storm… and rage” which eventually cemented Set’s negative brand as god of the desert, storms, disorder/chaos, violence and foreign oppressors.

heru crownWhile Heru represented Lower Kemet, his eventual victory over Set gave him the distinction of being a unification god, which is symbolized in the pschent crown the avenging hero/Heru is typically portrayed wearing. The deshret (red portion of the crown) represents the North/Lower Kemet, while the hedjet (white portion) represents South/Upper Kemet. Sema-tawy – an expression meaning “Uniter of the Two Lands” – was an alternative depiction, showing the human trachea (like the Nile) unifying Kemet with the entwined plants of the papyrus (native to Lower Kemet) and lily (native to Upper Kemet). horus_goldenheadHeru, the falcon sky god, was worshipped at KomOmbo in a temple which was also dedicated to Sobek, a crocodile god associated with Set. There are depictions of Heru alternatively wearing the double feather crown that is characteristically associated with Amun“Eldest of the Sky” – who in his own right also holds the title “Lord of the Throne (Nst) of the Two Lands.” [Papyrus Boulaq 17]

A proverb from the Luxor Temple of Amun~Mut~Khonsu adjures: “Popular beliefs on essential matters must be examined in order to discover the original thought.” Several scholars have discussed at length the relationships one finds between original African mythology and the later popular beliefs of Christianity, including those mentioned above (“holy trinity… resurrection… virgin birth… savior…”) and Heru’s association with the Messianic star of Auset – Sopdet – which heralds the annual flooding of the Nile. A related proverb from the Luxor Temple advises: “Men need images. Lacking them they invent idols. Better then to found the images on realities that lead the true seeker to the source” …

Oscar (Hollywood 1929-)/Ptah (Kemet 760BCE-)

Oscar (Hollywood 1929-)/Ptah (Kemet 760BCE-)

One only need look at the Oscar statue to begin to understand how deeply bound the American image industry is to African Gods and their mythologies. So it’s unfortunate that the silver screen has become a showcase for white self-idolatry with scripts that continue this type of exploitation and cultural imperialism including (i) Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Heru in the 2016 release of Director Alex Proyas’ vision of Gods of Egypt; (ii) Superman – as some would argue (ref: “Atlanta Black Star” article); and of course (iii) Star Wars:

Djedi were Masters of the Force in Kemet (ancient Egypt), magician priests who guarded powerful kings and their immortality. As with Star Wars, “Holy Grail” legends such as those of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table evolved much, much later out of these Djedi histories from Kemet. The Djed – meaning pillar or backbone – is one of the symbols carried by kings of Kemet which is key to their immortality. The ‘dj’ root of the word denotes the serpent which has been awakened by the Djedi, and is raised up through the pillar to the crown of the Djedi King. Harnessing the Force for this inner ascension thus distinguished the Djedi, enabling successful initiates to advance in their abilities to access supernatural powers for use in feats of magic, overcoming enemies, healing, teleportation, resurrection, and so on. Djehuti order and balanceThe ultimate Djedi Master of the Force is said to be Djehuti (“Thoth” in the later Greek appropriations), Chief Scribe to the Gods of Kemet who himself mentored Heru and intervened in his struggles against Set. Djehuti is consort to Ma’at – goddess who represents the Kemetic concept of truth, balance, order, harmony and justice. It was Ma’at who is said to have decreed Heru as the rightful ruler of Kemet over Set, thus dispensing one of her main roles of defending the order of the universe from the chaos of the dark side.

In the alternate Star Wars universe, the battle between good and evil is waged by the “Jedi”/Djedi knights such as Luke Skywalker against the “Sith”/Set forces of darkness. Thus, some would extrapolate that this highly popular franchise is just another example of how Tinseltown’s “entertainment”-industry elite itself, and through such practices, acts as Setdjedwasrelief – profiting while programming consumer masses for dysfunction in its questionable custodianship of Africa’s cultural and spiritual resources; at the very least by not attributing proper credit, but also with its racist circumscriptions of “black” versus “white” roles…

horus-and-mutEnter the “True Seeker” mentioned in the proverb – AKA the African Djed-I Queen! (Note: the linked post discusses the bond between the Djed pillar and one of the African Queen’s roles.) As yet another proverb from the Luxor Temple of Amun~Mut~Khonsu states: “A phenomenon always arises from the interaction of complementarity. If you want something, look for the complement that will elicit it. Set causes Heru. Heru redeems Set.” Queens of the First Dynasty bore the title “She Who Sees Heru and Set in relation to the Djed-I Queen’s ideal consort being worthy as Heru (in His divine-masculine/higher nature) who has overcome Set (his chaos-inducing dysfunctional-shadow/lower nature). As discussed more fully in my post “Pyramid Wisdom & Story” – which offers an interpretation of the “true love written in the stone” [EW&F] (see music video link, plus interior design of the Great Pyramid of Giza below) – the archetypes actively embodied in the Djed-I Queen’s Heru/Hero are: (i) King; (ii) Warrior; (iii) Magician; & (iv) Lover. Halls of Amun post

alignmentHeru – as “God of Kingship” and African Hero – is the Djedi Sky Walker represented in the Hunter/Warrior constellation that the shaft in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid of Giza points to. In Her aspect as Auset, the Djed-I Queen is the “Divine Mourner” and “True Seeker” who searches through the wilderness for Her true beloved – as Heru, in turn, hunts for His Djed-I Queen. She partners in the reparation of their Royal and Holy consortium, which weakens Set the stronger it gets. In Her aspect of Ma’at, the Djed-I Queen has discovered Her Truth and the Balance that must exist with Her beloved (Heru in His aspect of Djehuti ~ Magician & Scribe to the Gods) that will instill the Heavenly Order which prevents the universe from returning to a state of chaos (represented by “evil” Set). Her Lover – the Djedi King – is her Amun/Amen, and perhaps their HeruS/Hero journey is the quintessential telling of the epic and timeless story of the Love-of-Power [Set] being overcome by UBUNTU ~ the Power-of-Love ❤ ❤ ❤giza