When I saw a recent photo of a jet nose-diving at a Chinese air show, it jogged a long-standing question in my mind. Why do anthropologists and archaeologists call rock-art pictures such as the ones in this post “maces”? My suggestion for an answer is “Because their academic world-view does not allow them to see these pictures as airplanes or spaceships.”
Here’s a precolumbian Mesoamerican “avian-motif stone” that served as a macehead:
Later maces look quite a bit different:
In the spring 2011 article “America’s Ancient Cave Art,” from the Paris Review, via slate.com, John Jeremiah Sullivan makes an interesting observation. He and his colleague are lying on their backs in a Tennessee cave, looking up at a “panel” of images:
…And last a picture of a crown mace, a thing shaped like an elongated bishop in chess, meant to represent a symbolic weapon, possibly held by the chiefly elite during public rituals. It’s a ‘type artifact’ of the Mississippian sphere, meaning that, wherever you find it [in the U.S.], you have the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, or, as it used to be called (and still is by archaeologists when they think no one’s listening), the Southern Death Cult. In this case the object appeared to be morphing into a bird of prey.
The University of Arkansas offers a website with many good pictures of local rock art, including many pictures of maces, and also this rather amazing rock art picture:
Meanwhile, while researching “mace,” I wasn’t surprised to discover that (as with the ancient Thunderbird gods), the U.S. Air Force is using the name. The USAF used to have a surface-to-surface missile it named the Mace, and still has a tactical squadron of jet fighters called the Royal Maces.
Images of maces appear in a variety of Mississippian art forms, such as pottery vessels, rock art, copper plates, and marine shell gorgets and engraved cups. The contexts in which maces are shown suggest that leaders used them in ritual to symbolize authority and power. Conquering heroes are shown wielding maces in dramatic action poses, while vanquished foes are symbolized by broken maces. Although the mace was most likely not used as a literal weapon, its shape, something between that of a battle axe and scepter, speaks to superiority and dominion – essential attributes of a ruler in warrior society. — Dickson Mounds website.
Raised with Sunday School sensationalism, I was aware that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, but the finer points escaped me. The info I picked up from Geppetto and Pinocchio’s Disney adventures inside Monstro was not much help, either. Now I’ve learned the whole Jonah story, or as much of it as has survived the ages.
The Jonah best-known to Yahweh-followers is an Israeli prophet circa 8th century BCE, whose story is told in the Bible’s Book of Jonah. Many Christians call him a saint. Jewish tradition has it that Jonah was the boy that Elijah is famous for bringing back to life. He is one of the 12 minor prophets in the Tanakh, and the Book of Jonah is read every year on Yom Kippur. Jonah (Yunus in Arabic) is a very important Islamic prophet, and the big fish story in the Qur’an is very similar to the Bible’s. Jonah may be the Oannes of the Babylonians, and the Jason of the Greeks.
The whale in the story was originally a big fish, becoming a whale in a 16th-century Bible mistranslation. Even so, scientists assert that there is no known sea creature that would swallow a man whole. Some whales eat plankton and would choke on a herring. Others, while capable of consuming something the size of a man, have shown no interest in doing so, and prefer to chew their food first. The big fishes under consideration all have deal-breaker problems, such as sharp turns in their gullets, or throats only four inches wide.
And let’s not forget: Jonah stays “in the belly of the fish” for three days and nights, praying about how sorry he is. What kind of fish would allow that? And how did all this happen?
It all starts when Yahweh tells Jonah, a minor prophet, to go to the city of Nineveh and warn its people that Yahweh is offended by their behavior and they have 40 days to shape up or the city will be destroyed. Instead of doing Yahweh’s bidding, Jonah leaves town and gets on a ship going the other direction.
If you’re familiar with how Yahweh mistreats his prophets, you can’t help rooting for Jonah. But it’s very hard to hide from God, as Jonah discovers when Yahweh sends a “mighty tempest in the sea,” such a ferocious storm the sailors have never seen anything like it. Jonah tells them it is his fault and that they should throw him overboard. With some moral qualms, they do (although why he didn’t just jump, I don’t know), and the storm stops. The sailors become on-the-spot true believers in Yahweh, and fire up the sacrificial altar (throw some shrimp on the barbie, in Australian).
Jonah, meanwhile, is right where Yahweh wants him.
Jonah 1:17 Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
After three days and nights in the belly of the fish, after Jonah repeatedly says he is so, so sorry, and he will do whatever Yahweh wants:
Jonah 2:10 …the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.
So then Jonah goes to Nineveh and tells everybody they’d better repent, and, to his fury, they listen to him. Everybody from the king on down to the sheep fasts and puts on sackcloth and ashes, repenting.
Why is Jonah upset? Because these people are Assyrians, hated enemies of Judah and Israel. He wants Yahweh to nuke them. He is angry that he had to go warn them, and he is angry that they listened to him and aren’t going to get destroyed, and his pride is hurt because he is going to look like his prophecy has failed. He actually camps outside the town for a while, hoping it will get destroyed. Yahweh asks him if he is angry, and he replies, basically, “You bet I am.” But Yahweh is impressed with the sackcloth and ashes, and spares the city, while Jonah continues to wish Yahweh’s mercy would be reserved for the Israelites.
I think it’s obvious, from a 21st-century perspective, that the fish/whale/sea monster that Jonah entered and stayed in for three days and nights was a vehicle that Yahweh sent to fetch him, just as the flying elephants and thunderbirds and dragons associated with sky gods were vehicles under their control. The sky vehicles are now called UFOs, and the sea monsters are now called USOs (Unidentified Submarine Objects).
As with UFOs, people have been having encounters with USO “sea monsters” in oceans, lakes, and rivers throughout the world for thousands of years.
I’m sure that being forced into whatever “swallowed” Jonah was a severe shock to his system, but the “great fish” was no more a fish than the Lernaean hydra was a many-headed water serpent (with “poisonous breath so virulent even her tracks were deadly”), no more than Indra’s flying Airavata was a three-headed elephant. Mythical animals often have the characteristics of vehicles (such as being made of bronze).
Btw, as a Biblical prophet, Jonah had it easy — compared to Isaiah, for instance, who had to walk around naked for three years, or Ezekiel, who had to lie on his side for 390 days and eat “measured food.”
It looks like Adam is the only one getting any work done.
A recurring piece of information found in ancient creation stories is that humans were created to be workers. Although people commonly speak of freedom as mankind’s birthright, that’s not so if you believe the ancient texts — we were created to serve “God” or “the gods” as physical laborers.
Despite numerous images of Adam and Eve lolling about in the Garden of Eden, enjoying paradise, Bible scripture says otherwise. Adam’s (and presumably Eve’s) job was to take care of the garden:
Genesis 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it [apply fertilizer to it] and to keep it.
Many events in Genesis have strong parallels with earlier Mesopotamian “myths.” For instance, the Biblical creation story has long been recognized as sharing numerous key similarities with the Babylonian creation story, the Enuma Elish (“When on High”), which itself is thought to be a version of earlier Sumerian texts, such as the Eridu Genesis, updated to feature the contemporary Babylonian pantheon.
In both the Mesopotamian accounts and in Genesis, one god makes the suggestion (in the Mesopotamian versions, to a divine council) that they make man in “our” (plural) own image.
Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness….
The Akkadian text Epic of Atrahasis (an “exceedingly wise” king) re-tells the Enuma Elish story of the rebellion of the Minor Gods (the Igigi), who were working hard digging canals or mining gold, depending on the story, and the subsequent creation of humans by the Great Gods (the Anunnaki) so that humans could take over the work:
When the gods, like man, bore the work, carried the labor-basket—the labor-basket of the great gods—the work was heavy, much was the distress.
The seven great Anunnaki caused the Igigi to bear the work.
Forty more years they bore the labor night and day. They wearied, complained, grumbled in the workpits. “Let us confront the throne-bearer that he may remove from us our heavy labor….”
They set fire to their implements, to their spades [they set] fire, their labor-baskets into the flames they threw. They held them [as torches]; they went to the gate of the shrine of hero Enlil. It was night; at mid-watch the house was surrounded; the god did not know. It was night; at mid-watch the Ekur was surrounded; Enlil did not know.
When Enlil wakes up to find his house surrounded by irate minor gods, the Divine Council is called together to address the problem. Enki has a suggestion:
“While [Nintu the birth-goddess] is present, let the birth-goddess create the offspring, let man bear the labor-basket of the gods.”
They called the goddess and asked [her], the midwife of the gods, wise Mami: “you are the birthgoddess, creatress of man. Create lul[l]u-man, let him bear the yoke. Let him bear the yoke, the work of Enlil; let man carry the labor-basket of the gods.”
Nintu opened her mouth and said to the great gods, ‘It is not properly mine to do these things. He is the one who purifies all; let him give me the clay, and I will do (it).”
For the fascinating and appalling details of how Mami and Enlil proceed to create lulus (involving the killing of a god and the use of his flesh and blood and the spit of all the gods), see Enki and the Creation of Humankind.
In most ancient religions, the people were considered slaves of the city’s god, and the priests, as intermediaries, controlled everyone’s lives. It seems clear if you look at the history and current state of the world that slavery is more our birthright than freedom. We’ve been the worker-slaves of those “above us” — whatever form they take — for millennia.
The Triumph of David, circa 1630, by Nicolas Poussin. That’s Goliath’s head hanging on the right.
David’s Song of Deliverance is well known as a beautiful Bible song praising Yahweh—but you should see the parts they ignore.
King David of Israel wrote this song to thank Yahweh for delivering him from his enemies. It sounds as if Yahweh gave David superpowers and super-weapons (for instance, “by my God I have leaped over a wall”). When he says God has given him “the shield of thy salvation,” it sounds like he’s speaking literally. This kind of physical help in battle — saving David from his enemies — may well be where the concept of salvation originated.
2 Samuel 22:1 And David spake unto the LORD the words of this song, in the day that the LORD had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul:
… 7 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears. 8 Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of heaven moved and shook, because he was wroth. 9 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. 10 He bowed the heavens also, and came down; and darkness was under his feet. 11 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: and he was seen upon the wings of the wind. 12 And he made darkness pavilions round about him, dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies. 13 Through the brightness before him were coals of fire kindled. 14 The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered his voice. 15 And he sent out arrows, and scattered them; lightning, and discomfited them. 16 And the channels of the sea appeared, the foundations of the world were discovered, at the rebuking of the LORD, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils. 17 He sent from above, he took me; he drew me out of many waters:
… 30 For by thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall.
… 33 God is my strength and power; and he maketh my way perfect. 34 He maketh my feet like hinds’ [deer] feet; and setteth me upon my high places. 35 He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. 36 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great. 37 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me; so that my feet did not slip. 38 I have pursued mine enemies, and destroyed them; and turned not again until I had consumed them. 39 And I have consumed them, and wounded them, that they could not arise: yea, they are fallen under my feet. 40 For thou hast girded me with strength to battle: them that rose up against me hast thou subdued under me.
… 43 Then did I beat them as small as the dust of the earth: I did stamp them as the mire of the street, and did spread them abroad.