Sunday, February 28, 2021

The Cult of the Mother-Goddess by E.O. James

 Here's Brahms Piano Sonatas.

 My house Friday, February 19:

My house the following Monday:

 As I write this on Tuesday, it is 78 degrees Farenheit outside.  I'm trying not to put on the air conditioner.


 Fascinating read of the origins of the worship of female idols.

James is mostly empirical with his observations with very little speculation, which I appreciate. He does not try to tell us who these goddesses were or why they were worshiped. He mostly describes the archeological finds and where they were discovered. The reasons they were worshiped are evidenced in early manuscripts or can be derived from surrounding artifacts.

In a nutshell, they were worshiped for fertility of both the land and humans.

He begins with the earliest known civilizations as developed in Mesopotamia, and works his way into surrounding Middle Eastern countries, Syria, Anatolia, Palastine and Egypt, then goes east as far as India.

He then turns around to go west and compares and contrasts the earlier goddesses and how they were possibly, if not probably, absorbed into the Greco-Roman Pantheon.

Finally he compares the attributes of the mother goddess and her relationships with men, both as husband and son and makes a case for how this resulted in a syncretism of Christian and pagan beliefs, explaining the rise of Mary as, not only the earthly mother of Jesus, but into the Mother of God, perpetual virgin, and co-redemptix of mankind.

What I find striking is that the exaltation of Mary did not occur before the 4th century and she was not offically recognized as the Christian Magna Mater until the 19th century, the same century when the infallibility of the pope was made official Roman Catholic doctrine.

The reverence of Mary as Magna Mater in the Greek Orthodox Church must have occurred earlier since the schism between Roman and Greek churches occurred during the middle ages.

In conclusion, this book answered a lot of questions I had concerning the history of Mariology in the Roman and Orthodox Churches. 

A question that does arise for me is how fertility goddesses morphed into the Co-Savior of mankind.  These are two very different functions.  The one is worshiped in order to provide earthly needs, the other for the salvation of the soul.

James' conclusion is a valid one.  Since both religions developed on parallel lines, starting at the turn of B.C. to A.D., it is logical to assume that, as Biblical illiteracy increased due to less people knowing Latin, that some pagans converting to Christianity could create sects deviating from the original faith and retained vestiges of their old worship practices. 

 But it is remarkable they carried over the attributes of the mother goddesses, but changed her purpose.  I also feel he did not satisfactorily explain how the relationship of Mother reigning over a subordinate son cropped up in pagan religions and then was attached to the Roman Catholic and Orthodox religion.  I felt James created the one relationship in order to explain the other.

However, there is still enough attributes of both pagan goddesses and the Mother of God to gain an understanding as to how Mary, who is mentioned only a few times in the Bible, rose to such prominence in Roman and Orthodox Churches, as well as the hundreds of years this development took place after the dawn of Christianity.

One wonders what Mary herself, who humbly referred to herself as the Lord's handmaiden "to do with as he pleased" would think of all this.


The author:

 The Reverend Professor Edwin Oliver James (1888 – 1972) was an anthropologist in the field of comparative religion. He was Professor Emeritus of the History and Philosophy of Religion in the University of London, Fellow of University College London and Fellow of King's College London. During his long career he had been Professor of History and Philosophy of Religion at the University of Leeds, Lecturer at the University of Amsterdam and Wilde Lecturer at the University of Oxford.

 He received his education at Exeter College, Oxford and at University College London, where he studied under the famous egyptologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie.

From Goodreads.


Sunday, February 21, 2021

Dr. Suess and Mr. Geisel: a Biography by Judith and Neil Morgan

 To be honest, I'm listening to music few of you would like, but just in case, here's Pavel Haas:  String Quartet.


 It has been unbelievable here in Texas.  Yesterday I spent the afternoon sitting at my window watching all the birds snatch up seed from my feeder.  I had to refill it today.






 "You're crazy to be a professor," she blurted after class. "What you really want to do is draw." She glanced at another page and smiled. "That's a very fine flying cow!"

These are the words of Helen, a young woman Theodor Geisel met at Oxford, who later became his first wife.

And I have to say that this is a very fine biography of one of my very favorite authors and illustrators in the whole world. You cannot beat Mr. Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss for creative genius.

I remember as a child being so delighted with the illustrations of Hop on Pop and The Foot Book that I felt I could almost eat the pages (you know I love something if I associate it with food).

Judith and Neil Morgan give an exuberant, yet honest narrative of Theodore Geisel's life, growing up in Springfield Massachusetts, trying to become an academic and failing (he dropped out of college, including Oxford).

It took Geisel a while to find himself, traveling across Europe, falling in love with and marrying Helen and then finding success as an advertiser illustrator/
propaganda cartoonist during both wars.

He was part of the "Hollywood Five" where he became lifelong friends with the famous director Frank Capra and Chuck Jones of Bugs Bunny fame. Eventually he and Jones would collaborate to make one of the most firmly rooted American Christmas traditions: watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas (with my favorite horror actor, Boris Karlov as the voice of the Grinch).

We learn not only of Geisel's genius, but also his darker side. He suffered from his demons like everyone else. He was concerned with poverty, never quite understanding how much money he was making from his books.

He loved children, although never had any of his own. He was a champion and warrior of making books that would build children's reading vocabulary without dulling their imagination.

Unfortunately he also felt qualified in his later years to make anti-war and environmentalist propaganda books as well. Both of which were as naive as they were preachy. I mean, I think everyone knows that if people would just do the right thing there'd be no war or pollution. It's called sinful behavior. If you can't acknowledge the latter, don't complain about the former.

I was also a little shocked that he threatened legal action against pro life groups who were chanting "A person's a person no matter how small!" I mean, what the...? I guess only the people Geisel considers people are people. Very disappointing.

He also had an extramarital affair that probably led to his first wife's suicide. He married the affair and, by all accounts, were happy until death they did part, which was 25 years later.

What I conclude from all of this is that Theodore Geisel was a simply brilliant wordsmith and illustrator. As a philosopher he was certainly entitled to his opinions, but the rest of us can give them all the credit they're worth, at least, according to our own viewpoints.

I highly recommend this book, because there is so much information about Geisel, how he created his famous books, each book is given special description, the publishing business and, really, how does one create a whole book inside the limitations of a young child's vocabulary, while stretching his reading skills?

No easy task that, and Geisel accomplished better than anyone else. 




Monday, February 15, 2021

Emil Holzhauer: The Portrait of an Artist and my own art critic


 Maurice asks himself the burning question:  But is it art?

 Listening to the Beethoven's Piano Concerto no. 5 played by Alfred Brendel,  an Austrian artist who played every. single. work. written by Beethoven for the piano, both solo and ensemble by the ripe old age of twenty-eight.

 As I mentioned in a previous post, I happen to be friends with the woman who is the present curator of Holzhaur's works.  If you'd like to see his work you can go to this link.

 This book is written in the style called, "creative non fiction". I'm not quite sure what that means other than that I suppose the essential people and events in this book are true, while the actual conversations, facial expressions etc. are a product of the author's imagination, albeit, I'm sure Edwards did her utmost to maintain biographical integrity.

As she could well do since she was a neighbor of the author in his latter years.

Emil Holzhauer was a member of the "Ashcan" school of art. While it was popular at the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century to create pretty, ornate paintings, pleasing to the eye, the Ashcan School, founded by Robert Henri, went in the opposite direction. They painted gritty scenes in the New York Bowery, the segregated shanty towns where the black community lived. They did not limit themselves to the rich and decorous, but also painted the poor and pungent.

Edwards' biography traces Holzhauer's life from his harsh upbringing by an alcoholic father and loving, but passive mother in Germany, to immigrating to New York City as a young man still in his teens who spoke no English. There he worked in factories, using his skills as an engraver, while attending Henri's school at night.

During WW's I and II, he faced severe discrimination as a German. Nevertheless, he managed to slowly over his lifetime achieve his own style and taught at different art schools, even though he himself lacked a college education.

By the time he was in his fifties, he had finally achieved national fame and his paintings have hung in the Art Institute of Chicago, New York Galleries as well as in the galleries of various colleges.

The University of Northwest Florida in Niceville, Florida has been the fortunate recipient of many of his works because that is where he settled in his old age having by this time tired of the fast paced, glitzy culture of the northeast.

Anyone interested in art and artists will enjoy this book as a source of inspiration to how one man with self-discipline and determination cut his own way through life and left the rest of us a priceless legacy. 


I bought my copy of the book on eBay and found this inscription inside.



Sunday, February 7, 2021

84, Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff

 Here's some nice winter music.


What a delightful, charming book!

Not very long, written in the second person in the form of letters between the author and a manager of a bookstore in London.

Starting in 1949, Helen Hanff, a writer for the Ellery Queen TV series and aspiring Broadway Theater playwright, orders books from her Manhattan apartment, from a man who is the chief buyer of Marks and Co., an antiquarian bookstore of rare and old books on 84 Charing Cross Road, London. Their letters start off professionally, but gradually get more and more personal as the years go by.

By the time the bookstore man, Frank Doel, dies in 1969, other bookstore staff and Doel's wife were also corresponding with Hanff, as well as an elderly neighbor. By the 60's Helene, Frank and the rest are firm, fast friends, yet they are never destined to meet in person.

There is no plot, but the reader (or listener as in my case) is drawn in to the individual lives of all the correspondents as well as their families.

At first I thought this was a nice piece of fiction, but it is non fiction and after Doel's death, Hanff published their letters and launched her writing career.

And I must say, if you are an avid lover of books, you will enjoy reading about all the books that Helene Hanff orders and Doel's efforts to find particularly obscure and hard to find editions.

The story is not long. I was on my way to stay with my parents in Niceville, Florida from Texas. I started the audiobook as I was leaving Jackson, Mississippi and finished it by Pensacola, Florida.

If you need some cheer to liven up these dark, unsure days, take a break and read this sweet book.

Meet my new baby.  Josh and I went to a reptile show.  He found some millipedes to take home and I found this precious baby.  I think I'm going to call her Crystal.  She's a white-faced pearl drop cockatiel.  She's missing her crest feathers.  Another bird chewed them off.  She needs me.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Unsavvy Traveler: Women's Comic Tales of Catastrophe Edited by Rosemary Caperton, Anne Mathews, and Lucie Ocenas

  I'm listening to Carols From King's, Choir of Kings College.



I  found this book in an out of the way diner in a small town in Louisiana, somewhere off I-10, just before New Orleans. Don't ask me the name, I don't know it, but it was serendipity that my husband and I found it.

Not only was the down home cooking good, it also had, on the other side of the cash register, some tables laid out with used books for sale. I got this book for two dollars. The stories that were good certainly were worth the two dollars.

I love road trips and traveling all over the world and I have my own horror stories about certain places I traveled to, so I appreciated the nightmares these women went through.

A girl teaching in China finds a waitress at a restaurant has stolen her jacket. She chases her down, tackles her and then runs back to the school compound where she works with a mob of angry Chinese on her heels.

A woman decides to see the Gorillas in the Mist, in Central Africa. Her idea of a "romantic encounter" with the Silver Backed Greys turned out not remotely as she planned. But I'm sure she's ready for Survivor.

Another young lady learns that the Japanese are too polite to blame you when your toilet breaks and floods the apartment below.

Others went on cruises that went horribly wrong. Two women find that they're not on a cruise at all but have been duped by the one woman's brother in working on his sloop. Shanghaied by your own brother. Sad. At least they abandoned ship on one of the Caribbean Islands and somehow made it back to the States and home.

I think my favorite was of the woman who decided to join with another woman and man to cross the densely forested mountain range from one side of Papua New Guinea to the other only to find she was not ready for such strenuous hiking and is soon abandoned by her hiking partners and must find her way alone to civilization. All I can say is that she is very, very lucky to have survived to write about it.

I won't lie. Some of the stories stink. I really REALLY hate writers who shape their stories into propaganda for their political ideologies. (Cubans are starving to death because of American Republicans. If it were written today they'd blame Trump. He's such a useful scapegoat. I guess America/Trump is also forcing the Cuban government to imprison thousands of their own people for being stupid enough to believe that a country lacking individual freedom, including free enterprise is why they are starving. I guess that's why so many are trying to come to the U.S.)

That gripe aside, many of these stories are excellently written and provide a wonderful vicarious experience traveling all over the world. I'd recommend it. 


Meet Maurice, my art critic.  He thinks there's too much blue.  What do you say?





Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Big Red Book of Modern Chinese Literature Edited by Yunte Huang


 Here's some Medieval Dances.


 Sorry, I've been out of circulation.  New Year's Day, my mother became ill and had to go to the hospital.  A few days later, she passed into the arms of her Savior.  I was holding her in my arms when she breathed her last. From my arms to His. It will be one of my most precious memories of her.



A very interesting anthology of Chinese writers of the 20th century. A lot of poetry and excerpts from longer works.

I felt it gave me a good taste of the transformation, or I should say, the many transformations that have taken place in China in the past century. Each writer has his own unique view of his country and society.

Some of them are written in the manner of a folk tale, others are surreal and others simply good fiction that reveals reality.

What I did not realize is that while Christianity and Islam are illegal (except for state sanctioned churches) many Chinese still practice Buddhism and even become monks. Is it because the roots are too deep to uprooted? Or does Buddhism pose no threat to the government.

Preceding each work is a brief biography of the author, which, to me, was just as interesting as their writing.







                                 Frances May Barrow February 3, 1937-January 14, 2021

                                        Her faith is now sight.  Revelation 7:15-17


Saturday, January 2, 2021

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A true Story of the Deadliest Cook in America by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

As I write I am at my parents dining room table with the window open behind me.  It is a balmy 68 degrees.  This Evenfall Tis Snowing, is playing. Aside from the obvious that it is not snowing here, the sound of acapella harmony goes perfectly with the calm here.

I wrote this post while staying with my parents in Florida.  It's so nice to watch the sunset over the water every evening.

Here's my dad at White Point, a beach on the other side of Choctaw Bay from Destin.  Not bad looking for an 84 year old, eh?

"Typhoid Mary" was the nomenclature yellow journalism, compliments of William Randolph Hearst and other contemporary newspapers, gave Mary Mallon, an Irish immigrant.

She worked as a cook in several well to do families, earning a very good living. Then one summer the family she was currently working for had an outbreak of typhoid. This was in 1907.

The family and servants who came down with typhoid survived then enjoyed a natural immunity and that might have been the end of it, except the couple that leased the house to them wanted an investigation. Houses known to carry typhoid were often razed to the ground, and since no other renters had suffered before or after this particular family, it seemed more likely that an individual was responsible for the outbreak.

Thus arrives George Soper a health investigator. By this time, it was known that typhoid was caused by Salmonella Tyhpi (not to be confused with Salmonella: food poisoning caused by eating raw chicken or handling turtles). Salmonelle Typhi is a microorganism that is carried by individuals, often people who show no symptoms themselves. These people are called "healthy carriers".

After eliminating all other possibilities and following the trail of typhoid victims from one house to another he arrived at the common denominator: the cook. Who was the cook? Mary Mallon.

Mary Mallon was a healthy carrier and, being a volatile, belligerent person to boot, she was not persuaded nor cooperative with Soper when he arrived at the kitchen of her current employment. How could she be responsible for making people ill, when she wasn't ill herself?

All Soper asked for was a stool and urine sample, but she refused. And then she chased him down the street with a carving fork.

Eventually Mary was arrested and forced to give samples and then was quarantined on North Brother's Island between Queens and the Bronx, which was then used as a hospital.

The author then ponders the question: where does a private individual's rights end and where does the public welfare begin? A rather pertinent question today as well in view of all that's come down the pike in our present situation.

Are draconian measures sometimes warranted? It's rather hard to prove one way or the other and I'm not sure exactly where I stand. Here in Texas we have more freedom than other places. I wear a mask, going inside stores and work, but otherwise my life is unchanged. However the quarantine seems to have increased the number of bankruptcy and mental health issues with the suicide rate increasing. Where is the balance? I'm not sure.

It's easy to feel sorry for Mary Mallon because of the rather draconian way she was handled. It is also interesting to note that other typhoid carriers who were also responsible for deaths were not arrested, but allowed to be free as long as they promised not to work in the food business in any way. (Some kept their promise, some did not).

On the other hand, no one wanted to arrest her or force her to give samples. Her belligerent and combative nature probably encouraged officials to be less than easy on her. The newspapers did not help in that they made every effort to sensationalize her story, even exaggerating how many people were struck with typhoid at her hands.

Still, even though she was stuck on an island, she had her own house, food was provided, they even gave her a little dog. She also became close friends with many of the nursing staff.

After five years she was released on probation and a promise that she would not cook nor serve food professionally.

Being a single, middle aged woman, her only employment was as a cleaning lady, which earned only a fraction of what she earned as a cook.

Then Mary Mallon disappeared.

In 1915, an outbreak of typhoid struck a children's hospital. Soper and the New York City healthy officials investigated and discovered that a "Mary Brown" was working there as cook. It did not take long to uncover Mary Brown as Mary Mallon. Mary was taken to trial and sent back to North Brother's Island. After a total of twenty-six years in quarantine, she eventually died alone, but found consolation in her Catholic faith.

I thought the author, Susan Campbell Bartoletti covered her topic well and was fairly objective, other than blaming Mary's attitude on a lack of faith in science. "If she only believed in science..." was a mantra repeated often.

At one point Bartoletti exclaims, "the THEORY of transmitting typhoid through healthy carriers PROVED..."

I capitalized the subject and verb of the above sentence for emphasis.

Excuse me, but a theory does not prove anything. It proposes something. If something is proven, it is no longer a theory, it becomes a fact or a law of nature.

It seems to me that Bartoletti's own understanding of science is not as grounded as it should be. Maybe she should be more scientific in looking critically at theories until they do become facts.

Not to start anything, but that is why it is still the Theory of Evolution, not the Law of Evolution.

Things don't become facts just because we want them to.

That quibble aside, I'm glad to finally know the story about a woman who has gone down in history, perhaps justifiably so, indeed tragically so, as infamous.

White Point, Florida on New Year's Eve.  There are worse ways to spend the last day of 2020.

Prayers for you all that 2021 end this pandemic and that you all enjoy good health and love with your families.