THE ANCIENT AMERICAS ( 1500B.C. – A.D.1500 ).

Ancient America was inhabited by a number of tribes. The Olmecs, Chavìns, Mayas, Moches, Anasazi, Teotihuacáns, Aztecs, Hopewells, Mississippians, Navajos, and Incas are among the most commonly known tribes. It’s established that the early inhabitants of America migrated from Asia by the Beringia land bridge 75,000 years ago. So on this blog I’ll be writing about my four favourite aspects of the ancient Americans, hoping to help thrust out a little of your quarantine boredom, or put you to sleep: either way works for me.

Rise of the Inca.

Around A.D. 1200, the Inca settled in Cuzco, which later on became their capital city. Expansion began during the reign of Pachacuti, the ninth Inca ruler, who, along with his son, Topa Inca Yupanqui, expanded their boundaries north and south by applying force. Historians have compared the both to the great Alexander of Macedonia. The empire was built on military might and a good road system. A common language, quechua, was established which further united the people under the emperor. Incas believed in many deities and priests offered sacrifices to please the deities,including human sacrifices. The Inca kept records by using a rope with knoted cords of different length and color called a quipu.The knots represented a different item or number. The Inca’s chief means of transport were the llamas.Machu Picchu ~ An Incan town.The great mounds.

In the 1800s, people believed the great earthworks to be the works of a race of giants. Some of the mounds are so large they can be recognized from air, others are ornate, and represent animals. The most mysterious one of them all is the great serpent mound; unlike others, it contains no graves or artifacts and the serpent is about to swallow a huge oval.The speculations are:The mound was used to mark time or seasons for planting and harvesting since the serpent’s head aligns with the summer solstice sunset and the tail points to the winter solstice sunrise. Scholars also suggested that the curves on the snake’s body align to the two solstices and equinoxes. Another speculation is that the mound was used to determine the true north and served as a compass, since the first curve on the snake’s torso after the head matches the Pole star of the Draco constellation. Another, is that it’s a documentation of a solar eclipse with the oval representing the sun. Or maybe just a place of worship for the snake god or goddess. We may never know for sure.

A Mayan creation myth.

Mayan beliefs are all based on the fact that everything is k’uh, sacred. Mayan creation myths are contained in two books; the Popol vuh and Chilam Balam. According to the Mayans, everything was in suspense, motionless and still and nothing but the creators existed. By nature, they were great thinkers, and they decided when the day dawned for the first time, the human being must appear. Thus they spoke, ” let there be light, let there be dawn in the sky and on earth, “. Mayans believed there were three humans’ creations; At first, people were made out of mud, but the gods realized they had no minds, therefore destroying them. They then made man out of wood and woman out of reeds before realizing their creations had no souls and therefore destroyed them by boiling water ( the few who survived became the monkeys of today ), the gods then made man and woman out of maize with the blood of the gods, after which they realized the men and women were too wise and a threat to their authority, and therefore wanted to destroy them. However, Huracán, the heart of heaven, made the humans less wise by clouding their minds and eyes.

Mayan ball game.

The Mayan ball game was one of the most important rituals. A rubber ball was kept bouncing by the players using the leather pads on their elbows, wrist, hips, torso and shoulders to symbolize the order of the universe.

Making a goal by passing the ball through a hoop was so rare that when a player scored, the crowd rewarded him with clothing and jewelry. In some cases, the losing team members were sacrificed to the gods. Human sacrifices could either be carried out by decapitation, removal of the heart from a living person, or throwing the person into a cenote, a natural well, as a sacrifice to the gods.

Voodoo.

For the longest time I can remember, I have had this notion that voodoo is all about black magic, dolls, zombies and nothing more…therefore never really given it a thought. Recently though, I came across a documentary on Papa Doc Duverlier and it changed everything. So here I am, writing about the new found object of my research in summary of course.

Voodoo is a religion that originated from West Africa and incorporates beliefs from other religions such as catholicism, free masonary,and American mysticism. Voodooists believe that the world is made up of lwa/loa (spirits) both in the material and the unseen.The role of humans therefore is to sevilwa (serve the spirits) which they do by giving offerings to the lwa, singing and praying,spirit possessions, religious rites, building alters, use of talismans and devotional items. The lwa are called upon during rituals by houngans who are the priests and mambo who are the priestesses and in return for the offerings are expected to give good health, money, advice and so on. Bokors are the practitioners of black magic such as creation of talismans that house spirits. In New Orleans voodoo, the devotees are led by voodoo Kings and queens such as the famous voodoo king and queen Bayou John and Marie Laveau respectively.

The main voodoo deities.

Bondye is the chief spirit and all the other spirits answer to him. He however isn’t involved  human affairs.

Damballa is a lwa associated with serpents, water, rain and life. He helped Bondye create the earth and is portrayed as a large serpent. He is also in charge of healing magic, knowledge and wisdom. He’s depicted circling the earth, entertwined with his wife or among the branches of the sacred tree. He is known as the protector of physically challenged people. The humans possessed by him do not speak but hiss instead.

Ayida is the female consort of Damballa and is the lwa associated with rainbows, snakes, fertility,and water. She’s depicted as a large rainbow coloured serpent wearing a jeweled headdress and most of the time she’s entertwined with her husband Damballa.

Erzuli is the lwa of love,beauty, femininity and womanhood. She’s portrayed in different forms such as the black madonna or mulatto woman with expensive clothing and jewelry. She’s called upon when it comes to motherhood or feminine sexuality.

Papa legba is a spirit depicted as an old man with a straw hat, tattered clothing, cane and is escorted with a dog. He is the spirit in charge of crossroads and is believed to grant access to the spirit world. In other places he’s a fertility spirit depicted with an erect penis and in others he’s seen as the protector of children and a trickster.

Bawon Samdi is the spirit in charge of graveyards and is associated with death. He’s depicted in formal clothing that involves a top hat, tailcoat, black cane with a skull handle and dark glasses which are believed to protect his eyes from the bright light once he’s out of his dark realm. The firstborn male to be buried in the cemetery is believed to become the manifestation of Bawon Samdi. Bawon is also believed to be associated with resurrection. He is the lwa connected to powerful acts of magic such as calling upon long dead ancestors.

Maman Brigitte is the wife to Bawon Samdi and therefore associated with death and the afterlife. She is the only lwa depicted as a white woman with fiery red hair in bright sexual clothing. She is believed to be a protector of women and a powerful healer (if an illness is to great for her to heal, then she eases the pain by guiding her believer to the afterlife). The first female to be buried in a cemetery is believed to be the manifestation of maman Brigitte.

Ogou is the lwa of metals and is associated with blacksmiths and warriors. He is depicted as a big handsome masculine man with a machete and a three legged iron couldron. He’s also in charge of guarding sacred temples, protecting of his followers and punishing unjust people especially those who break oaths sworn in his name. Ogou is known for his passion to beautiful women and cigars.

Others include Agwe who is lwa of the sea and waters, Mami wata who is a water spirit in form of a mermaid and Agassou who is the half human-half leopard spirit who makes money out of cigars.

Voodoo zombies.
Zombies are believed to be people brought back from the world of the dead and controlled by bokors to carry out tasks or labor. The idea of a soul trapped in its body and yet has no control of its own body strikes fear in the hearts of many.


Voodoo dolls
Voodoo dolls serve a different purpose in the religion which does not include inflicting pain on enemies. The dolls are used in rituals such as healing, they are hung from trees in cemeteries to open and maintain communication with long dead ancestors and attract lwas and invoke their influence on a person.

THE SHASU OF YHWH.

I was reading on the origin and development of the worship of Yhwh right through the bronze age, iron age ,the canonization of monotheism to the present day, when I came across the mysterious Shasu of Yhwh. That had me researching on who this people were and why there is so much speculation on them by researchers. Before I get to the Shasu part, it’s interesting to note that Yhwh is the name of the state God of ancient Israel and Judah. His name is a tetragrammaton that was used to remind the people to use the epithet ‘Adonai’ ( lord ) instead of the holy name. There is so much on this topic and I’ll leave that for another day. Shasu, pronounced ‘Shaswe’, is a word that literally means ‘ people who went by foot ‘ and was used by the Egyptians to refer to lawless bandits, nomads and pastoralists or people from different middle East ancient nations be it Edomites, Hapiru, Midianites etc.The Shasu of Yhwh came into the picture when ruins of an ancient temple of the ancient city of Soleb, in Nubia were excavated ( present day northern Sudan ). The temple was built by Egyptian pharaoh Amenhotep III, to honour the god Amun-Ra. Within the temple there are a series of columns each with a relief sculpture of a prisoner with his hands tied at his back and a name ring identifying his territory, which were territories conquered by Amenhotep III.

The column of interest was one inscribed, ‘ The land of Shasu of Yhwh, ‘. The immediate conclusions to the inscription were; Around 15B.C, Amenhotep knew about Yhwh, the Exodus must have happened much earlier in history since the pharaoh of the exodus had no clue who Yhwh was ( Exodus 5:2 ) and that a group of people referred to as the Shasu inhabited Canaan and worshipped Yhwh. However, Soleb isn’t the only place the name Yhwh was found, the name was also found in temples built by Ramses II at Amara West and Aksha (still present day Sudan ). In Amara, the inscription read, ‘Yahu in the land of Shasu,’, it also mentioned six groups of Shasu; the Shasu of se’ir ( Edom ), the Shasu of laban, the Shasu of sam’ath, the Shasu of wady hasa, the Shasu of pysps and the Shasu of yhwh.

The Shasu word is also mentioned in the papyrus Anastasi VI, an Egyptian text from the 13th BC. It records the transfer of Shasu tribes specifically the Edomites to the eastern Egyptian delta referred to in the Bible as Goshen, inorder to keep them and their cattle alive. This corresponding to the Bible story of Jacob and his sons ( Genesis 42 – 45 ). The papyrus Anastasi I also uses the term Shasu to refer to a community of giants who lived in Canaan. Speculations link this giants with the very ones the Israelites met during their exodus.

The ifs.

The land of shasu of Yhwh could mean that the shasu of Yhwh were a settled people who had a land of their own and sometimes moved about. Yhwh could also be a geographical place where the shasu wandered such as se’ir, laban, sam’ath etc. The naming of a place by the deity worshipped in the locality not being uncommon in the ancient middle East. In the Bible, however, it’s referred to as Midian, and it’s where Moses first spoke to Yhwh in the form of a burning bush ( Exodus 3:5 and 15 ).Another speculation is that Yahu/Yhw/Jahu in the land of shasu, could also mean that the region was inhabited by two different groups; The Yahu and the Shasu. The theory could be proof of historical conflicts between the shasu, being remnants of the Turkic mongolian colonizers, and the Yahu, being the Judah tribes. The shasu therefore could be nomads who lived in co-operation with other populations but were quick to violence at times of risk.

Some scholars also argue that the worship of Yhwh started with the Edomites and Midianites. This is proven by Edomites of the mines of Timnah,who converted an earlier Egyptian temple to the worship of Yhwh. The biblical verse of judges 5:4 supports this theory by saying:

Lord when you left the mountains of se’ir, when you came out of the region of Edom, the earth shook…

The shasu of Yhwh were therefore hypothetically from northern Edom/ se’ir originally, and later on formed the community of Israel.The shasu of yhwh could also be the Israelites. Mentioned on the ancient inscriptions at Karnak, there was an uprising of a group of Shasu and Habiru who worshipped Yhwh along the border of Egypt and sinai ( 1300 – 1290B.C). Seti I along with his son Ramses II, routed them into Canaan after years of bondage in Egypt as prisoners of war( 1500 – 1200 ).They settled in Se’ir and Midian and others at the hills of Judah to form the ethnic group of Israelites. Egyptian scribes, from then onwards, adapted the term shasu for any group of people that came from the region. This theory is highly disputed since both groups of Shasu and Israelites are depicted in different clothings and hairstyles.

The last of the speculations is that, the Shasu of Yhwh were originally a group of people that escaped Egypt, went through some divine intervention passing through Midian where they picked up the worship of Yhwh from the Midianites . They find their way to the hills of Judea, and spread the message of liberation and Yhwh to the tribes that had fled the canaanite city states. A new community arises composed of nomads, run away slaves and canaanites all united under the freedom loving Yhwh. Their stories, first told and preserved by word of mouth, are later written down to form the Bible.

The interesting bit about the Shasu of Yhwh is that you can choose what speculation to go by!

History’s women.

Being descendants of a male dominated history, the idea of women figures leading and doing the extraordinary is not only alien but unnatural.
I however,support the notion that human societies were originally matriarchal; Women were respected for birthing children, they took up important leadership positions in the society, held together the society and most of the deities were female, but around 3000 B.C. , the patriarchy was born. Lucky for us, history has evidence of women who dared to stand out such as Hatshepsut, Zenobia, Catherine the great, Joan of Arc, Trung sisters, Cleopatra, khutulin, Noor Inayat Khan… The list is long , but in this blog I’ll write about four of my favourites;

Hatshepsut : ( 1479 B.C. – 1458 B.C. ).

After the death of her father, King Thutmose I, twelve years old Hatshepsut married her step brother Thutmose II to become queen. Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had one daughter, Neferure. He had other children through secondary wives including his heir Thutmose III. Upon Thutmose II’ s death, the throne went to his young son Thutmose III and it was Hatshepsut’s duty to handle matters of the kingdom until her step son was of age. The ambitious queen assumed the powers of a pharaoh and fought to maintain her position. She not only wore the traditional fake beard worn by pharaohs, but also had sculptors and painters portray her as a man with a beard and muscles. She was a wise ruler who surrounded herself with political supporters such as her chief minister, Senenmut. Rumor had it that Senenmut had been her lover, there is little proof to this claim… but who doesn’t love a good gossip? As pharaoh, she made great building developments in Egypt and brought back wealth through trading expeditions. Hatshepsut died in her mid forties and was buried in the valley of Kings. Her step son ruled after her death and later on during his reign, had evidence of Hatshepsut as a powerful female ruler in the lineage of the male dynasty erased.

Jeanne d’Arc : ( 1412 – 1431 ).

Jeanne ( famously known as Joan of Arc / The maid of OrlĂ©ans ) was the daughter of a peasant farmer, living in medieval France. At the age of twelve, Jeanne claimed to have seen visions that were always initiated by a bright light and followed by voices of saint Margret, saint Catherine and Archangel Michael. The voices commanded her to remain a virgin and leave her home to save Orleans. She believed herself to be choosen by God to lead France to victory in the hundred years’ war with no military training and skills. Jeanne convinced the Prince, Charles of Valois, to allow her to lead an army to OrlĂ©ans where they defeated English and Burgundian forces and emerged victorious. Jeanne inspired the army to win battles, worked as a battle field nurse and encouraged Charles to match to Agincourt and seize the crown. She was captured by Anglo-Burgundians and accused of witchcraft, dressing like a man and heresy. The French king Charles, distanced himself from the accused witch and heretic making no attempt to negotiate her release. At the age of nineteen, Jeanne met with her death when she was burnt at the stake and. Twenty years later, her name was cleared and was sainted by pope Benedict XV.

Theodora: ( 527 CE to 548 CE ).

Theodora’s story is the typical ‘from rags to riches kind of story ‘. She, like her mother before her, worked in the Hippodrome as an acrobat, actress, dancer and stripper. In 525 CE she left the Hippodrome and traveled to Egypt as a mistress to a man. After the love affair ended, she made her way back home a converted Christian. After returning to Constantinople, she got the attention of emperor Justinian. However, Byzantine laws did not permit aristocrats marrying actresses, therefore Justinian revoked the law and married Theodora adopting her illegitimate daughter too. The emperor demanded his wife be crowned as an equal. Theodora is portrayed as a scheming, immoral empress who used her sexuality to control the emperor, but let’s not forget that those are men’s perspectives ( any woman who dared to choose a path other than the usual submissive one was downright demonised ). She was an active politician who fought for women rights, prohibited the trafficking of young girls and made adjustments in the divorce laws. She also supported her husband and this was seen during the Nika revolt where she gave a moving speech about the honor of a ruler and saved her husband’s throne. It’s believed Theodora died of cancer at the age of fourty eight.


The Trung sisters. ( AD 39 – AD 43 ). These sisters were heroines of the first Vietnamese independence movement. Trung Trac, the elder sister, was widowed when her husband was killed by a Chinese general for plotting to overthrow the Chinese Han dynasty colonists. The spirited sisters however were no match for the well trained and equiped Chinese troops. The sisters were defeated, and unable to accept defeat, committed suicide by drowning themselves at the juncture of the Red and Day rivers.

Cursed from laziness.

This is a guest blog by one of my closest friends, Kevin.

They called me lazy for not working hard… They called me lazy just because am cursed.

You ever look at a bird and think, ‘ What if i was born a bird, perhaps then things would be a lot easier?! ‘

I remember as a child, together with my friends, fantasizing of colorful futures and very eager to grow up. The older I got, the more my thoughts faded to a bleak future.
I was in class recently, listening to our laboratory technician talk about the isolation of bacteria from Lake Magadi for them to be cultured in the laboratory and later used for detergents. It struck me then that the very bacteria were employed and purposed for even before they came into existence! It had me thinking what if I was born as one of them.
Why does it have to be this difficult for humans? Why is it that nothing comes easy?

They say the Bible has all the answers to life, right? So I decided to go through my Bible, and Boom! There it was;

Cursed is the ground because of you: Through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.

~ Genesis 3: 17 – 19. ~

It made sense now, ‘ I’m cursed! And that is the price every human being has to pay. It’s part of being human, ‘.

River valley civilizations.

Most of the earliest civilizations flourished due to agricultural activities in River valleys. Archaeologist have uncovered civilizations at the river valleys of; Nile,Tigris and Euphrates, Indus river and Huang He.

Here is a little bit of discussion on the river valleys civilizations.

The Nile Valley.

Of the four river-valley civilizations, the Nile civilization is the most famous. The Nile valley’s first inhabitants called their land kemet meaning ‘ black land ‘, after the soil. Later on, the ancient Greeks renamed the area Egypt. The early inhabitants of Egypt relied on the annual flooding of the Nile for water and grew cereal crops such as wheat and barley. The Nile also provided ducks and geese in it’s marshlands and fish in the water. Papyrus growing wild along the banks of the Nile was harvested and used to make ropes, baskets and writing materials. Around 3000 B.C., Egypt was united by King Menes who ruled both lower and upper Egypt from his capital at Memphis. Menes marked the beginning of the first Egyptian dynasty ( from 3000 B.C. until 332 B.C. , a series of 30 dynasties ruled Egypt ). The Egyptians built lasting monuments to honour their god-kings such as the pyramids and the Sphinx. Religion guided every aspect of the Egyptian life and many deities were worshipped; deities were often represented as half human and half animal. The Egyptians carved picture symbols onto pieces of slate known as hieroglyphics, which was their earliest form of writing. They made several achievements such as advances in mathematics and architecture ( the pyramids and temples are proof of this ), worked out an accurate 365 days calendar and Egyptian doctors wrote directions on papyrus on how to treat wounds and diseases.

Tigris and Euphrates.

The name Mesopotamia means ‘ land between the rivers ‘ in Greek. Around 3500 B.C. , the Sumerians arrived at Mesopotamia and settled. They formed 12 city states which governed themselves independently. The city states each worshipped their own deity and had common features such as the Ziggurat . Archaeologist believe that the writing system the Sumerians invented, the cuneiform, dated to about 3100 B.C. Sumerians wishing to learn cuneiform studied at special schools called eddubas. The professionals later on produced literal works such as the epic poem Gilgamesh, that was written down about 1850 B.C. The Sumerians invented the wagon wheel, the potter’s wheel, the sundial, a 12 month calendar, a metal plow and many more inventions which have prompted one scholar to observe that ‘ History begins at Sumer! ‘.

Indus.

Archaeologist dated the Indus river valley civilization to about 2500 B.C. , they named it The Harappan civilization, after one of it’s major cities Harappa. Another important Harappan civilization city was Mohenjo-Daro. From their ruins, a fortress built on a brick platform overlooked each city ( probably serving as a government or religious center ). Below the fortress, each city was laid out in a grid pattern.

Most Harappan people worked the land and grew wheat, barley, rice and cotton. They also worked bronze and copper into tools, mass produced clay pots, wove cotton cloths and traded with other people including Mesopotamians. The lack of written records has made it difficult to learn as much about the Harappan civilization. By 1500 B.C. the civilization disappeared and historians have many speculations on what could have caused it; probably flooding or Invaders.

Huang He.

The Huang He civilization began around 4000 B.C. and had continued to the present day. The Shang dynasty controlled the river valley from about 1700 B.C. to 1000 B.C. The people developed myths to explain their past. The Shang Kings communicated with the deities and had special powers to call on ancestors by the use of Oracle bones ( They had a priest scratch a question on an animal bone or tortoise shell, the bone would be exposed to intense heat and the cracks on the bone would be interpreted as answers ). They invented writing from the use of Oracle bones, perfected their metal casting skills, carved ivory and Jade statues, wove silk and made fine pottery from kaolin.