The Quest for Immortality: Anomalies…

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Given that much of the Epic of Gilgamesh

has found its way into the Hebrew Book of Genesis

in a somewhat garbled form…

Why, we may wonder,

is the flood story re-told almost word for word?

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We say ‘almost’ because there are some intriguing discrepancies.

Unlike Utnapishtim, Noah is in no sense regarded as immortal.

The rainbow, as a necklace and love gift of Sky to Earth,

is infinitely preferable to the covenant

of a contrite and remorseful God,

and is also highly poetic.

Yet, as a reason for implementing the ‘catastrophe’

in the first place, noise and godlessness

can be regarded as equally arbitrary?

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The institution of Patriarchy seems already well established

in the culture that produced the Epic…

The only Goddess to remain on the Divine Council is Ishtar,

although it is apparent that the Moon God,

Nanna, was once also feminine.

Be that as it may a number of Gilgamesh’s titles

still appear to be ironic?

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With this in mind, in the final analysis,

perhaps, it is not Lords, nor indeed Ladies,

of the Deep which are needed

so much as disseminators of its wisdom,

and that task falls to all those who receive it…

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Our thanks to those who could not make it but tuned in anyway.

Our heartfelt thanks to those that did make it.

See you all next time!

The Quest for Immortality: Snakes…

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In the Ancient World snakes were renowned for wisdom.

For most westerners they are now associated with both temptation and sin…

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As with much else in the Epic of Gilgamesh,

we are treated to a brief, tantalising glimpse of the Old World Wisdom.

May it be sufficient to sustain us…

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Our serpent emerges from Beyond the Veil,

and slithers to the Watering-Hole,

where Gilgamesh, ‘The One Who Never Sleeps’, again lies sleeping…

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‘The sleeper and the dead, how alike they are!’

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So says Utnapishtim, the immortal

who lives in a paradisical garden of ‘jewel-bright’ trees,

at the source of two rivers.

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But if sleep and death are so similar, what then is dream?

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In his dreamless sleep Gilgamesh still clutches his prize,

the herb of eternal youth, retrieved by him,

from The Deep over which he now considers himself the lord…

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As Gilgamesh sleeps,

the snake steals the herb,

eats it,

sheds its skin,

and then returns,

back Beyond the Veil…

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Could anything be clearer?

 

 

 

 

The Quest for Immortality: Masks…

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It has to be owned…

The Temple Space has never looked finer.

Mind you, we say that every year!

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Even Coyote, a late, somewhat incongruous

addition to proceedings looks well:

‘How will people know what not to do, unless I show them?’

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Our Veil of the Beyond,

stumbled upon during ‘Leaf and Flame’ for the oath-takings,

and finding its feet in ‘Feathered Seer’ for the walk-of-fear,

seems now, almost perfected!

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Is a veil also a mask?

Are there deeper significancies to ‘dressing the temple’?

What did our face look like before we were born?

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In waking life our roles, which for many, define us

are the masks behind which our true selves cower and tremble.

Yet, get the player to put on a mask for a drama and watch them unfurl!

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After slaying Hu-Wa-Wa, whose mask is an intestinal tract,

Gilgamesh finds himself embroiled in the labrynthine like coils

of his own mind, deep within the bowels of the Temple of Ishtar…

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Gilgamesh spectacularly fails this test as he has done so many others,

and again strides forth to meet his destiny…

As must we all.

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The Quest for Immortality: Gods…

 

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The workshops serve as a Celtic Cauldron of Plenty…

Everyone gets what they most need.

How is this possible?

How is it possible that three years on

from first tentatively considering the Epic of Gilgamesh

as a potential subject for treatment at such an event

it can still be teaching us things?

Lots of things!

Like a Celtic Cauldron of Plenty it keeps on giving…

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Quite early on we wondered about the conception of the Sumerian ‘Gods’,

and precisely how they could be said to ‘move amongst the people’?

And when our numbers grew,

we knew that we had to embody them in the East of our Temple.

One by one we lost them,

to illness or circumstance or both…

Before we had quite lost them all,

it had become inevitable that the East would be populated by a vacuum…

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…And then during the preparation for, ‘The Bull of Heaven’,

one of our Companions suggested that the Fates could also play the Gods…

And people who had initially shrunk from playing one role,

eagerly took on two…

And brought them both home!

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The workshops serve as a Celtic Cauldron of Plenty.

Nobody gets everything.

Everybody gets something.

And we now know how the Sumerian ‘Gods’

can be said to move amongst the people…

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The Quest for Immortality: Dreams…

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When the people of Uruk rebel against the tyranny of Gilgamesh,

they petition the Gods…

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Hearing their plea the Goddess, Aruru, fashions the twin of Gilgamesh

from the clay of her heart

and sets him loose in the wilderness

where he lives and runs with wild animals…

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Then Aruru sends Gilgamesh a dream.

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Although vivid the dream is obscure to Gilgamesh

so he seeks an interpretation from his mother, the Goddess Ninsun…

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In this dream Enkidu, the wild man, is likened to a boulder

which falls to earth from the sky.

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The people of Uruk adore this fallen sky-stone

and treat it as though it were a divine-child.

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The Quest for Immortality: Terms…

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… The terms Ego and Id had not yet been applied to the components

of the human psyche when Gilgamesh was written

but the self same dynamics are evident within it

and were clearly known about and well understood.

Curiously enough, Ekidu, contains an ‘id’.

Perhaps Freud, himself, was familiar with the Old Epic?

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The two heroes of the epic who are, then,

actually two aspects of the same personality

meet in combat and, being perfectly matched, finally come to terms.

This appears to work for awhile but eventually fails.

Why?

Put simply, terms are ‘manufactured’ and based on ‘wants’ which are egoic,

whilst, the Id deals only in ‘needs’ which are ‘natural’ and,

therefore, also a part of the bigger picture

which the egoic will never be able to see…

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As if there were not already enough food for thought of a psychological nature

within the structure of this ancient tale,

there may also be a folk memory of literally seizmic proportions in there too!

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The Bull of Heaven was the Sumerian term

for the Zodiacal constellation of Taurus.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of quite how

such accurate Zodiacal knowledge was

acquired at this early date…

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In the Epic of Gilgamesh,

the Bull of Heaven is mythologically depicted

as coming to earth with attendant catastrophic consequences

for the earth and its inhabitants:

earthquakes, tsunami’s, that sort of thing…

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Is it beyond the realms of possibility that space debri,

in the form of a comet or asteroid,

striking the earth, could have been regarded as a fallen star system

and its effects recorded in the tale for posterity?

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The Quest for Immortality: Wilderness…

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…You begin to hear distant sounds…

The hub-bub of city streets…

At first faint…

Grows gradually louder…

Market sellers ply their wares…

Children shout and laugh at their games…

And behind the city sound-scape a lyre weaves its reedy resonances…

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You find yourself amid a thriving thoroughfare of Uruk…

The sun is high in the sky overhead…

The sand beneath your sandaled feet is warm and dusty…

You are moving against the flow of people who are heading for the central precincts of the Great Walled City…

They babble excitedly to each other…

Straining to get ahead…

They are caught in the moment, focused

And drawn to whatever attraction is pulling them centrally…

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But you are heading towards one of the huge pylon gates that break the massive stone blocks of the city walls…

Soon you find yourself alone…

The clamour of the city-folk fading behind you…

To be replaced by the steady rhythmic swish of your sandaled feet propelling you toward the city gate…

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As the great pylons start to overwhelm your vision…

You can see the resplendent figures of the city guard…

Their spears and swords glint in the sun…

They let you pass through the mighty stone structures…

And before long you are out in the wilderness that surrounds the great city of civilisation…

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The sun beats down but thankfully the shade of trees quickly envelops you…

And you press on…

As the sun sinks low in the sky…

You crest a rise and halt…

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Before you, stretches a lush ravine framed by two distant peaks…

You rest up watching the fading light…

Listening to the night awaken…

A large full-moon rises between the distant peaks…

As if from the centre of that moon a white, misty figure moves towards you…

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The Quest for Immortality: Giants…

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It was during one of our meetings…

Traditionally, the first three gatherings of the new year are given over to a read through of the first three ritual dramas of the April Workshop.

Unlike some of our stories Lord of the Deep was based on a traditional text, the oldest written epic currently known to humankind.

Though ‘written’ may be stretching it…

Given that the cuneiform text is preserved in baked clay tablets, ‘chiselled’ would, perhaps be more accurate.

And this being the case, the text is not whole but fragmentary.

Roughly twenty percent of the neatly transcribed columns consist of lacunae.

But there is something else missing.

Even were all the tablets intact the epic gives no motivations for the trajectory of its plot.

The story is so familiar, so well known, that it is assumed by the story-teller that the motivations are also second nature to the audience and really all that remains is a series of vignettes or snap-shots which move the story along to its inevitable conclusion.

For a modern audience this will never do.

Not only do the motivations have to be made plain they also have to be made dramatic in order to dynamically and meaningfully drive the story forward.

So when our Trapper enters the throne room of Gilgamesh with his incredible tale of a terrifying Giant wandering the wilderness we are quite justified in pointing out, as one of our companions did, that Gilgamesh too is a Giant so the trapper’s story should not be quite so incredible.

But only if the tale is expected to be taken literally!

If it is not then it means that the civilisation responsible for producing it were more advanced than the best part of Christendom, who to this day regard the story of the life and death of Christ as an actual historical occurance, accurate in all its details.

So, is there any evidence in the text itself that the Gigantism is not meant to be taken literally?

There is!

When Gilgamesh returns to Uruk after overcoming the ‘Forest Demon’, Hum-Ba-Ba, his people do not recognise him.

This is hardly credible if his Gigantism is supposed to be read literally.

But if Gilgamesh’s and Enkidu’s Gigantism is not literal what can it represent?

Try, the two most important aspects of the human psyche, the Ego and the Id…

The Quest for Immortality: Seeds…

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“And in their bed chambers at night…

The young-folk of Uruk cry themselves to sleep…”

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“When the wild-man succumbs,

the animals will leave him forever.

He will no longer be a part of the herd…”

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“Where Hu-Wa-Wa comes and goes

are tracks whose ways are well trodden…”

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‘This desperate wanderer must be a killer’,

thought Shiduri, ‘Why else would he

be heading straight for me?’

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“When Aruru came, she held up in the air

her necklace of lapis lazuli,

Anu’s gift to her when their love was young…”