Happy Thomas Morton Day (NOT)!

New English Canaan by Jack Dempsey

Alles In Ordnung! This May Day is the 390th birthday of America’s first English poetry (posted on the Maypole of 1627 on Massachusetts Bay). And as usual there were no remembrances or celebrations in honor of the poet, Thomas Morton of Merrymount—whose brave, good-humored, multi-creative life among cultures on the New England frontier was snuffed by the frightened, dour and brutal Plimoth Pilgrims and Boston Puritans (our “founding fathers'” founding fathers).
Morton’s adventurous, cool-headed, jolly, multicultural, sexual and visionary 1627 May Day Revels scared the shit out of his racist Bible-toting neighbors as a bad example in front of the servants—and they still do. A successful place dedicated outright to “Maia, The Lady of Learning” was as un-future-American as it gets. Hence we return to the past’s foolhardy centuries of Morton’s malicious neglect.
The good ol’ Boston Globe failed even to acknowledge receipt of the wisp of an article linked below. After all, the first order of Business from Boston’s first “court of law” was an order to burn down Morton’s thriving trading-post and to hoist him out of the country. No matter what the proposal toward his deserved resurrection, Boston and Quincy find a way of not getting it done. Who needs, after all, new annual Revels that would be America’s oldest civic festival? Why should taxpayers or sponsors foster community, commerce and creativity?
The American Poetry Review, The American Poetry Society, and The American Poetry Foundation—like Salem’s “National Poetry Month”—are also annually uninterested in the Renaissance/American roots of their reason for being. Chicago’s spankin’ new multimedia American Writers Museum is already in silent lockstep. And while The Quincy Patriot Ledger cut this linked-below piece in half (why? cyber-“space considerations”?), it shares their page with the annual runner’s marathon called the Dedham Ramble—which its organizers dedicate to “a writer oppressed by government.” Naturally, this means reaching abroad to feature Ireland’s James Joyce.
Joyce was “oppressed” not by government, but by Ireland’s crass Christian corpse of a culture. An expat still learning from Morton and Joyce knows how they feel. When you kick all the angels out of town, you fill the woods with monsters.
Hope for today you’ll read aloud and feel a moment of Morton’s extraordinary music—“The more I looked, the more I liked it….”—at http://ancientlights.org/canaan2.html.
Both sides of The Great Waters, the real good guys go on waiting on the hill.

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VIDEO, ‘New History, New Hope’—Why Minoans and Sea Peoples Matter To Us

PEOPLE OF THE SEA Final Front Cover

Hope you’ve enjoyed the 9 pages here of a Photo-Journey through this story’s ancient Mediterranean world! Here’s a link to a short new talk on YouTube, “New History, New Hope”—on why it’s important that the story we tell ourselves about ourselves (our cultural tradition) has a living relation to demonstrable facts, new discoveries and understandings. Surely, we have hindsight for a reason? Isn’t learning the key to both survival and evolution?

Discussion welcome as always! 


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PEOPLE OF THE SEA Final Front Cover


1 eastern Med map

The Eastern Mediterranean Bronze-to-Iron Age circa 1400-1100 BCE. Deucalion’s and Pyrrha’s diplomatic gifting-tour takes almost two years: from the Paphos region of Cyprus to Ugarit, Byblos and Tyre, Ascalon and Gaza—and thence from Egypt’s Pelusium and Pharos to the vast territories of Libyan tribes. There, winter and gifts among the Meshwesh initiate trade in sylphium, the rare but renowned contraceptive plant.

Minoan seal

Your life under sail is in good hands with crusty captain Ramose: his peers are the true “sea-kings” of the age, because their skills against all odds disperse the benefits of international contact. Now comes the trip’s biggest leap across open sea, and for pesky fun on the way Ramose poses a WHAT AM I? riddle, below.

If you know the answer, post it at this link: 


First right answer wins


 …Launching out north and west for Sicily, for the first time we lost all land. Seven frightening nights we rocked out there against the wind, tiny creaking toys: the moon was waning-weak and if the sailors were nervous, so was I. Ramose wasn’t just sailing aslant each sun that set ahead of us. One eye on a cloud or star, he sniffed wind, fished out seaweed, dragged a reckoning-rope; then he ordered turns and turns-again, as if he saw interlocking rivers in the waves. Turns in the middle of nowhere! Breezing up-deck past me with a riddle-tune, adept of the world:

No wing or oar can reach me,

no colors like my own:

no sailors ever beach me,

except as skull and bone…

People of the Sea BACK COVER ART

Fans of these fields might know what our ship’s company do not—that making for Sicily takes them past yet another half-known but astounding age of matricultural achievement. Today you can walk the gigantic stone temples of Neolithic Malta and its handful of isles (active for 2100 years after 3600), whose people imagined their Earth Mother in sculptured masterpieces full and fertile, sleeping on Her side, dreaming the world…

Sicily map fr Holloway

Not long ago in these waters, a whole Minoan fleet paid the price of Crete’s mistakes. But thanks to Brown University’s R. Ross Holloway (1982’s Italy & The Aegean 3000-700 BC, and The Archaeology of Sicily 1991), we can see little Thapsos building up and reaching out in post-Minoan times. The gifts we bring are two-fold: family rescued out of Achaian hands back at Knossos, and new ways of building in the Cyprus-style warehouses shown below.

Local people, then, are linking themselves back into the greater world, in time even crafting market knock-offs of fancy eastern styles of pottery. The so-called “breasted tree” design in the vessel below has Cretan and Canaanite cousins, where the worship of life goes on eternally now through wheeling seasons…

Thapsos w Cyprus style warehouses, after 1400, Holloway p35 Fig 47     Thapsos culture home, Bronze Age Sicily, fr Holloway p 33 Fig 43

Thapsos early fig, later vase

So for now there seems a future here even if, like Crete, the place isn’t far enough from a giant and restless volcano (Aetna). Deucalion leaves an offering most dear toward that future (the family’s in the book), and the boat turns back toward sunrise, coasting now carefully homeward…


If Thapsos rises looking eastward, Mycenaean/Achaian Pylos grows too, gazing west back across the Adriatic. One of multiple power-centers competing on the southern future-Greek mainland (like Tiryns and Mycenae), Pylos records show a fortified warrior-aristocracy with a figure called wanax its emerging kind of king: his hold on loyalty, the flow of wealth derived from often-predatory adventure. In time here, Sacker of Cities will honor heroes who pass the loot in gold and goods, horses, women and children (rationed on figs while they pound flax for textiles).

High styles again derive from Crete. You judge whether that’s by hook or crook, in the goods of the new-found grave of Pylos’ Griffin Warrior (click on his ring):

Griffin Warrior's ring

Achaian woman fr Mykenai

If a seat reflects honor at a Mycenaean socio-political gathering, the majority of images we have show seated women. But, while priestesses still work the land through country sanctuaries alongside priests, women’s political or other powers are unclear. For Deucalion and Pyrrha, there’s a “tone of trade” here different from any other place:

Pylos hall

…They had a woman of court, Eritha, to handle our gifts, which house-pride would only accept as trade. We looked to make an inside friend, and Eritha poured wine, a hard Achaian jaw to her handsome forties, a peaked cap that let brown locks curl down her temples to her blue robe. She began to moan last year’s crops, pointing from her terrace mouths to feed along the bay…

In short, she needed twice the usual trade-lots for her countryside’s speckled chunks of purple basalt. Pyrrha calmly mentioned droughts in Cyprus, crews and cargoes lost in storms, and we had not doubled our demands…

–This is all I can do for you. Most people don’t mind, Eritha shrugged. Pyrrha minded, but she managed to regain old terms with a bribe of Gaza myrrh, and a Meshwesh jug of something quite reliable. And still Eritha wore some kind of a cheated smile, as we were marched and driven out…

Cyclades 1

Well, at least it sweetens return to the post-Minoan islands like the Cyclades. Yes, the waters of the Aegean Sea (4 times saltier than the Atlantic) really are that luminous crystal-blue. And, if night finds you under sail between islands, you’ll see the indigo “wine-dark sea” Homer mentioned, with bright pools of phosphorescence rising and falling all around you, like a dark mirror of the starry sky…

Cyclades 2

Pelasgoi (or Pelasgians, “people of the open sea,” the general name for these islands’ earliest tribes) were mixing traits of the east (Anatolia) and western mainland for at least 2000 years before Crete’s Minoans came on the scene with their thalassocracy or trade-protective fleet. The Cyclades’ small family groups lived well on seafood (some with 50-man boats), sheep and goats, pigs, emmer wheat, wild barley—and no doubt their artists’ quick observant eye and good humor taught Crete a thing or two. Their spiritual and social ways, like Crete’s too, centered on Earth Mother and their ancestors:

Cycladic figures, Gi-Gaia and ancestors

Cycladic warp-weighted loom, harper

In the whole Cycladic-Minoan town found buried under Theran ash on Santorini, you can see the rich, eye-ravishing, egalitarian hybrid of life-ways these combinations produced—and not a king in sight. Yet, hopping islands homeward from Kythera and Naxos toward Miletus, Deucalion and Pyrrha see “a tide…dragging the anchor of the islands.”

As in Crete, where once stood a thriving Minoan-built center of community and trade, they find mostly ruins from Thera volcano’s devastations, and the new presence of mainland Mycenaeans.

Their eyes remember “negotiation, kinship alliances, the movements of women,” but now they see “intrusion, force, the mainland corporate state.” Those terms come from archaeologist John Younger’s 2013 review of many scholars who studied Minoan-vs.-Mycenaean differences in the Cyclades. They described Minoan building that facilitated mixing, light influence and trade—while, as in conquered Crete, later times saw more signs of separation, more-exclusive feasting practices, crudely commercial installations and, in spite of the possible benefits, a lack of “conceptual connection” between mainland ways and islanders’. With Crete’s protection gone, fear of conquest is giving more weight to the warriors—and isle by isle, new opportunists work that fear to their manly advantage… 


Coasting their way southeast at last through the Dodecanese (“Twelve Isles”), the stops are old Minoan-familiar ports, Miletus, Cnidus and Caunus: homes of the Carians (“people of Great Mother Car”), whose sailing-sons or Leleges had a major role in Crete’s broad “loose confederacy.” Now, it’s more of same: Mycenaean raiders (whose home-records list the slaves taken here) in their waters, and at their backs the predatory might of the Hittites…

Iasos, in Caria, sw Turkey

Some dreadful new kind of world is closing in—and yet, for a few feasting moments, it’s welcome-back to certainties in Cyprus…

Cyprus 1

But People of the Sea is a story, in part, of a man and people learning their way out of violence: the cutting edge of their world, and a challenge no stranger to ourselves. Naturally, then, the betrayals of an older wiser way come from within Deucalion, from within the families around him—and they’re no sooner landed than all of them suffer a new kind of shocking surprise, from Karfi men whom Deucalion himself helped turn toward a self-destructive answer…

Cyprus cult meal

Here in closing are three reflections born of the story so far—and, a glimpse of “what’s coming” indeed.

1) There’s a vast old world of different cultures out there, all interconnected, and they have spiritual and social ways to mix, learn and benefit across differences;

2) The signs tell a rising tide of change toward kings and violence; and,

3) The West’s ancient matricultural web is going to need all its memory and strengths to survive what’s coming…

Sea People warriors

People of the Sea, PROLOGUE art  [260] Sea Peoples' battle with Egypt & Ramses III, c 1190s BCE

Ascalon site

Philistine coffin crowd

Mideast Roads and Israelite 'gilgal' gathering camp

The map at left shows the highways of trade between Egypt and the East. Sea Peoples/Philistines built their share of the land on a promise from a real Pharaoh: keep order on those roads, or else. The gilgal or early Israelite gathering-camp at right relates, according to archaeologists, to their “separatist” claim upon the whole multicultural region from sea to Babylon, on a promise from a god known only to them. Outsiders were free to be servants, to leave, or to die.

Yet in fact, with so much in common—from intense religious life to bad experience with Egypt, from their tribes’ fierce joyful independence to their mutual hatred of kings— the old narrative of a fated Culture War between Philistine “pagans” and The Chosen Of The One True God no longer holds. The more archaeologists dig, the more they use the word “entanglement” as the real daily norm. (In parallel, it’s clear now that The Trojan War wasn’t fought over Helen.)

Something more thumpingly obvious must have come between these worlds. That’s what People of the Sea searches out in the lives of human families on all sides.


Qadesh stele from Canaan WITH HORNS-DISC

The changes they bring to us are as luminous as liberating.



PEOPLE OF THE SEA Final Front Cover



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PEOPLE OF THE SEA Final Front Cover

1 eastern Med map

The Eastern Mediterranean in the Bronze-to-Iron Ages circa 1400-1100 BCE. “Coasting” vessels of trade and diplomacy most often kept the shore in sight and traveled these regions in a “clockwise” direction in keeping with prevailing winds. The famous Uluburun shipwreck (late 1300s, modeled below) carried exotic gifts and goods from 9 different cultures from Mesopotamia to Sicily. 

Uluburun ship reconstruction

Welcome back aboard! You’ve already come a long way—like our Cyprian diplomat Pyrrha, her new post-Minoan partner Deucalion “Sweet Wine,” and others in their company (including a Libu or Libyan leader and people from Sicily, hoping for their homes)—out of the ruins of Crete (Days 1-4 here) to new homes in Alashiya-Cyprus (Day 5), to Syria’s Ugarit (6) and the cities of Byblos, Ascalon and Gaza (7).

Crusty old master Ramose cares for nothing but his ship’s safe passage, and his pastime taking pokes at passengers’ pretensions. The land has turned our boat toward the sun and the most powerful nation of this world, where (in these islanders’ matricultural, king-suspicious eyes) a vast priesthood and a state of ranked and vested interests endow their Pharaohs with power-absolute, that he may take and conquer where they will. Everybody says Egypt shaped this world: fewer confess where the petty Baal-kings of Canaan find their grandest example.

Nile 2

Nile portage

Ramose threads the mouth of The Nile, whose changeable marshes and canals can “dead-end in crocodile swamp or bring you a town with gold-peaked buildings.” As ever, the “tourists” stick out as they gaze open-mouthed at works in stone that seem beyond human construction—and this visit reaches only the Lower Nile’s vast “breadbasket,” through a gauntlet of inspections, officials and judicious gifts.

egypt hall art
The visit, like the state here, narrows down to the sanction of a single seated individual while others stand, bow and plead: this time, just for refreshment of trade-connections. Deucalion’s struggling to learn, because he’s drowning (an almost-priest) in the gilded glyphs that speak urgent unintelligible messages everywhere—“I must have been dazed. Even a window looking at a one-tree marsh felt like relief, and there were none in the great hall for business….”

[275] Egyptian imperial hall of audience & throne

Reconstruction of a (slightly later period) hall of audience

In their quarters there’s a glimpse of yet-more works by dispossessed Minoan artists. Well, if old Cretans bear old Egypt a grudge as one player in their downfall, this world as it is needs facing, so life can go on. Now we’re coasting westward, next stop the island Pharos, with a past as powerful as its future. 

Balos beach Crete (like Pharos)

This image of modern Balos, Crete, gives a fair idea of early Pharos—except that you don’t see the massive breakwater forming Pharos’ first great sheltered harbor with a half-ring of 24-ton stone blocks. By Deucalion’s time in the wake of the Thera volcano catastrophe, this first colossus was half-shattered. But 1990s underwater archaeology by a Franco-Egyptian team supports scholar Dorothy I. Sly and others (see Philo’s Alexandria, 1996) that this construction dated back to Middle Minoan times (after 2000 BCE): a massive cooperative project between two “highly sophisticated shipping cultures” using Cretan design and Egyptian labor. So began the centuries here of cosmopolitan traffic:

'foreigners' fr Egypt--l to r likely Syrian, Libyan, Canaanite, Philistine, Hurrian

Egyptian images of (left-to-right, likely) Syrian, Libu/Libyan, Canaanite, Philistine, Hurrian or Hittite. Their textiles, hairstyles and jewelry must have staggered the living eye where foreign trade brought out their best.

Another link with old home can mean opportunities. From the last days of Knossos we see a Cretan officer leading a troop of African, probably Libyan or Libu men:

Minoan captain of the Blacks fresco

When Night of the Griffin (Day 4 here) destroys ancient Knossos, some of them join Deucalion to leave these lives they want no longer. Such is Merire on the boat with him now, rejoicing that his country’s coast is coming into sight—and such is the long coastal-African journey that here, in his far Meshwesh tribal country, is where they’ll winter.

This is the matricultural homeland of Great Mother Ngame, “Dripping Rain,” some say the mother of the islanders’ Athene. Her men wear the textiles and web-of-X tattoos of their families and their connections: this woman bears a palm in a bull-horned planter, her cap of likely goatskin like the young ones dedicated to Athene:

Temehu Libyans with web tattoos, fr Bates 1914 Plate III

Libyan F with horned planter

There’s trade in grain and olive oil, in citrus-wood and the tasty fish-sauce garum. But now comes promise of a trade very high in the hopes of Pyrrha and Cyprus’ women. For only here in this stretch of Meshwesh Libu’s actual coast grew the plant—much, it’s believed, like Giant Fennel (below)—called sylphium.

Giant Fennel, rel to SYLPHIUM

A little medicine decocted from sylphium was “so much a surer thing against childbirth than wild carrot, or a pessary, or wool soaked in lemon and oil” that by Roman times, the traffic for it driven by demand wiped out the species. For now, with its new trade built on the miracle-return of Merire’s family, it has the promise of a powerful long-term instrument.

After all, if signs of troubling patriarchal change bear out in these lifetimes and beyond, people like Pyrrha who look and build ahead have a will to hold on to tribe-protective ways as old as evolution—practices lumped by patriarchal time into the dismissive empty syllables of “fertility cult.”

Ahh, yes: that heathen multi-deity polyamorous sex-obsessed worship of base blind natural lust without ethics, real comfort or consequence, from which we are saved by kings, chaste obedience, and rumors of reward after all our suffering.

Unless of course women’s skills and powers in sexuality and reproduction might actually foster optimum conditions for many happy children: “happy” meaning a number in balance with natural conditions, but not enough for forced-labor-gangs and predatory war.

What happens to this knowledge? Time and tale will tell.

People of the Sea BACK COVER ART

Next stops: Sicily, Pylos, Islands—and Home!


PEOPLE OF THE SEA Final Front Cover



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PEOPLE OF THE SEA Final Front Cover

1 eastern Med map

The Eastern Mediterranean, Bronze-to-Iron Ages circa 1400-1100 BCE. Below, a prime trading currency and gift, a “talent” or ingot of smelted bronze—meaning copper mined mostly in Cyprus mixed with even more precious tin from east and west. The shape fits a human bearer’s shoulder, and matches Deucalion’s Cretan double-axe.

bronze talent

New homes in Cyprus for Deucalion’s fellow post-Minoan refugees—and out of that comes invitation (from Pyrrha to you likewise) to share this gifting tour. Such might be the social and strategic trips around this world made by real people, whose exchanges of each other’s “exotic goods” we find all through the archaeology, because they kept important relationships strong. For a man “almost a Minos” like Deucalion, this world (so much bigger and more diverse than he dreamed) is a lesson, too, in his own new insignificance… 

Byblos coast

“Coasting” south along the Near Eastern coastline from Ugarit (Day 6 here), the shores of Byblos mark half the journey from Syria to stops in Canaan. Clues here suggest a “court” with both a Goddess and a priest-chief storied like Adonis, while Minoan-painted frescoes still adorned the walls and silver bowls (below right) found their way to Crete. 

Byblos temple1600-1200    [23] silver bowl fr Byblos, first MM period

This is a tour as well of how Deucalion’s old world is yet alive, but changing. He studies Pyrrha’s even-handedness in each foreign household, but she lets loose that what she sees is troubling:

            –Where I see women covering up, she said, –I see men who can’t control themselves, and women settling for boys. Where are their teachers? Fool me: the rites sing pretty Goddess, but the young girls love The One behind, Anath, because She’s fierce and lusty. What tames them down and spoils them? City things? They learn to want husbands who cower for place. He beats her where her powers temper his. And she would rather sport gold than show her teeth. Life gets easy: all it costs is the light inside. It is not good omen, Pyrrha finished…

Ascalon site

In the Canaanite coastal city of Ascalon (part of whose inland wall you see above), people feel the recent brutality spread across the land by Egypt’s “second Amenophis”—for Pharaohs, after all, never did tolerate any petty-kingdom interference with “their” roads of East-West trade.

For many on this boat in People of the Sea, memory gives them eyes to see waste and mistakes that will bear unhappy consequence. Back in the Minoan world a new “instability” had come into the meaning of male power between words for “husband” and “lord”— presaging and marking change from men (and deities) who husbanded the steady-state world of agriculture (like Canaan’s Dagon, god of essential “dew”), and those ambitious of a war-based status, like Canaan’s Baal. Even in Deucalion’s day, a would-be “Baal-king” had a dubious “right” to full-blown power, seeing that Baal was “only” a son of supreme god El—while earthy Dagon, being displaced in central temples, was El’s own brother

crane nest seal

The Ascalon links run thicker than we think. Legend has it that here before long was a public shrine with a gazing-pool sacred to Earth Mother by the name Derceto (who’d soon take up cosmic conjugals with dewy old Dagon). Derceto, in turn, had another name, Diktynna—a Cretan maid who fought off rape by leaping into the sea. Rescued “by fishermen” who bore her in their nets toward new honors in Ascalon, her history spans Minoan/Near Eastern time and space, because families kept her ways alive (like those later with Pyto-Gayah, whose name connected Delphi’s Pythoness with Ekron in Palestine). Her sign was the X-form seen all through this journey: today in Crete, dikte is the word for, yes, fishnet-hosiery.

Connected to both the sea and the Spice Roads, Ascalon’s latest treasure is a first-find “Sea People” or Philistine cemetery (see for ex. National Geographic July 2016), with family generations in communal and individual tombs. Aegeans, Minoans, Mycenaeans and every other Mediterranean people did centuries of trade here. Not far into the future, Deucalion as a “Keeper of Days” (a carrier of ancient cycles of the sun, moon, soul and political power) will have his part in producing this Ascalon vase, whose signs describe life’s rhythms of light and shadow and rebirth:

People of the Sea, PART III of 3 art

Doubled spiral-wheeled X-forms of 8 calendric points, amorphous flanking shadows, and the Minoan sign for “Snake” and the powers of rebirth: explore Calendar House at Ancientlights.org and discover that Sea Peoples carried significant culture into Palestine.

Sailing south again brings the journey to Gaza, whose first name was Minoa in a long linkage with Crete visible still in historic times on the city’s early coinage (the inscription below mentions “Minos”: scanned from a very small image-source!).

Gaza 1   Gaza 2

Gaza coin


…The road of Egypt’s power ran through Gaza’s north-south gates, and ships and beasts of burden shared the travelers’ houses. Podargos my son loved his ride on a monstrous long-necked horse with one hump. It spat at our boat’s cranky master Ramose, and he spat back…

  Gaza’s men of the desert burned their fragrant wares in Pyrrha’s honor, and never let us see their wives in tents outside the walls or watching herds. It seemed that kings and occupations had worn away a place for queens: our gifts for the Egyptian lord were bribes to let us treat with caravans. The desert-men rejoiced in every courtesy, thought most of our sailors were women, and nights they loved dancing with each other or, if drunk, with girls of Cretan blood. Under infinite stars their music wailed out of skins and pipes every kind, with a clatter of little bronze discs above the drums…

Nile portage

Next stops: Egypt, Pharos, Libya…


PEOPLE OF THE SEA Final Front Cover



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PEOPLE OF THE SEA Final Front Cover

1 eastern Med map

The Eastern Mediterranean, Bronze-to-Iron Ages circa 1400-1000 BCE

One aim behind People of the Sea is to amplify the voices and spirit of the families who lived these historical journeys, but have never been heard before on their own terms. So, behind the story is a rhythm of structure that, like these lives, keeps reaching out for more—space, time, experience, understanding—and then coming to terms with it all before the next reaching-out again.

Hence like the weary refugees settling in with Deucalion now in Alashiya (Cyprus), you’re already looking (above) at the whole strange surround of Mediterranean peoples with whom your new life must come to terms. And as Pyrrha (the mother of your migration) promised, there’s magical opportunity here—you’re going with her on a long diplomatic gifting tour. Such were the seeds and nourishment of international bonds that archaeology finds more and more in every shipwreck and new dig. We need to know how interconnected were the peoples of these times and places, because it’s the real-world perspective that has to inform our understanding of our heritage…

Cyprus 'kingdoms'

Deucalion’s “post-Minoans” land and settle in the region of Paphos, pictured below. The cities of Alashiya (ancient Cyprus) were richly international—and, with Aphrodite their most-sacred deity, the island’s queens appear in historical records along with their “priest-chiefs” or so-called “kings.”

Cyprus 1   Paphos Cyprus

First stop along the vast eastward mainland is the great Syrian city Ugarit, where records speak of a Cretan merchant who gets a cordial gift of precious tin (for making bronze out of Cyprus copper) all the way from a city near Babylon. Such was Ugarit’s traffic with Aegean peoples that its streets had a “Cretan quarter,” and the archaeo-facts at every stop ahead make Deucalion feel that Crete his old home is (as we can see today) “gone and everywhere.”

Ugarit view north to Mt Zaphon-Casius, 'Baal's Mtn'  Ugarit gate
View from Ugarit toward Mt. Zephon, and gate to the city’s upper palace

Ugarit ruins

Ugarit man        Ugarit woman 1400s communal tomb

Mount Zephon above, as the highest of the region, was said to be the sacred mountain home of the Canaanites’ supreme deities, El and Asherah. The earliest-known version of their cosmic Creation story starts there, and comes from Ugarit’s recovered archives. As for the spiritual levels of People of the Sea, the story’s originally-ribald and forgetful “cosmic father” who forgets important things, its tale of how evil and death came into the world—and, its manifest lack of sin, curse or punishment due to human beings—certainly shows us a different cosmos than the one created from it later in The Bible’s Old Testament:

In the beginning El, Beneficent Bull who reigned from his mighty horned mountain, looked down on the sublimity and dewy freshness of the world. Turning his gaze in every direction, El basked in what he alone had created and accomplished. Yet, among all the green and gray distances surrounding him, half of what El saw was blue, in a place and a way that was not the sky. So did El descend his mountain, to see what this different blue was…

When El for the first time stood beside the ocean, he wondered at so vast a living thing, as it tossed and sighed and glimmered. Now, El saw two immaculate creatures at play in the waters and the waves, sporting and flashing and enjoying themselves. They seemed to be waiting for him. Their flashing eyes and solemn looks reached down into El’s great root, and stretched his being from one horizon to the other…

El cried out to them: they might call him father, or husband, as they pleased. They gave El one laughing answer—Husband!—and El knew that his being and doing had never been alone. These wonders in the waters were the handiwork of Asherah, El’s one wife older than stars, the walker in the sea, who had made all things beside him. Horny old fool, how had he forgotten? El’s laughter at himself shook the universe awake. And together they named these immortal younglings, Shachar the dawn, and Shalim, dusk: children of the sea, Elohim, the first divine offspring…

There were more than seventy powers like these consecrated from the harbors to the inland mountains of this land, with names and temples and confused crossings-over to make your head swim—each the patron of a family or a guild or some profession….Hawwah and Adham, wife and husband tending vineyards on the mountain, lived like all of the Elohim forever. And the crown of their realm was the world’s great Tree of Life…

Mot was the name of death in these Canaani lands and towns. He alone, Radharani said, received no worship and no offerings. After all, every day, the hand of Mot took for itself. And why was that?

El had forgotten himself in vanity. Baal Hadad had done likewise. So had another of the Elohim, Horon—a guardian of men against the desert’s wild beasts, as cunning as snakes at magic and in places underground. Horon took his chance to challenge El. With a single toss of one horn, El sent Horon head-over-backwards down the mountain. But Horon, raging, resolved on a hopeless revenge. In a flash he was a snake, and he sank his fangs into The Tree of Life. It changed into a hideous Tree of Death, and Horon cast around it a sickly fog, a mist that choked and dimmed the world…

From the Elohim, El sent Adham of the vineyards to fight Horon. So, they grappled up and down the thundering mountain. But Horon coiled up his vicious spite, and struck his fangs into Adham. As Adham felt this bite, and took this poison, he knew that he lived no more among his undying sisters and brothers…

This was the beginning of Mot. No greater grief could Adham suffer. Yet, to his comfort came Shapshu, the living sun, to be mistress of the dead and light the way. Adham the new creature, she called man, Adam. And because for him, there was no life without Hawwah, Shapshu gently folded her hand into Adam’s…

But this was not the deathless hand of his companion from their vineyards on the mountain. This mortal, woman, she called Eve, Life, The Mother of All Living to be born. Henceforth, said Shapshu, their immortality would be their children…

The Elohim together, moved by these wrongs and kindnesses, turned in wrath against Horon. The Elohim forced Horon to rip his Tree of Death up by the roots, and to restore The Tree of Life, that man and woman never want for its fruit; nor shall they want who are mujomena, mystis, or understanding…

Yet, for this undoing, Mot was not to be be undone. Shapshu the sun, for her part, never shone so bright. She burned away the last of Horon’s sickly fog, and the land and living things were fresh as dew again…

Byblos coast

Next stops: Byblos, Ascalon, Gaza…


PEOPLE OF THE SEA Final Front Cover



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