Saturday, August 3, 2013

Samson Mosaic Uncovered in Ancient Jewish Synagogue

From The Jewish Press (online):

Ancient Mosaic Depicting Samson Uncovered in a Galilee Synagogue
By Rachel Avraham
Published July 4, 2013

Excavations in a late Roman era synagogue at Huqoq in Israel’s eastern lower Galilee have uncovered a new mosaic depicting the biblical hero and judge, Samson. Jodi Magness of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has been conducting archaeological excavations at Huqoq since 2011, notes that while scenes from the Bible are not uncommon in ancient synagogues, mosaics featuring Samson are. Last summer (2012), excavations in the Huqoq synagogue brought to light a scene depicting Samson and the foxes (Judges 15:4). This summer, another section of the mosaic floor was discovered which shows Samson carrying the gate of Gaza (Judges 16:1-3).

[Okay - Google Blogger is being pissy today and will not allow me to upload photographs all of a sudden -- tried several times during this post and the prior post done this evening and NADA.  Assholes!  So, where the image SHOULD  BE, there is THIS, instead. When will I finally run out of patience and move this blog to Wordpress...]

Wadi Hamam is the only other ancient synagogue in Israel which has a mosaic with a scene of Samson, while outside of Israel only one ancient building in Turkey which may be a synagogue has a Samson mosaic. However, the Samson mosaics are not the only unusual aspect about the excavations at Huqoq. Magness states, “In most ancient synagogues in Israel with a decorated floor featuring figured designs such as people and animals, the figured decoration is in the center of the synagogue and the aisles have geometric patterns.” However, at Huqoq, there are mosaics with figured scenes in the aisles.”

Magness is puzzled by why mosaics depicting Samson are found at Huqoq, as it was not in the tribal area of Dan. Furthermore, many rabbis of the Talmudic period were not fond of Samson because of his attraction to non-Jewish women. While Magness stated that some positive depictions of Samson survive in rabbinic literature, these traditions are preserved mainly in the Babylonian Talmud, not in the Jerusalem Talmud. Thus, the glorification of Samson in a synagogue mosaic in Galilee goes against the generally negative view of Samson held by many rabbis at that time.

According to Magness, the surviving rabbinic traditions that depict Samson positively “suggest that some Jews considered Samson as a prototype or forerunner of the messiah. He had the potential to be the messiah but wasn’t. The popularity of Samson is connected with those traditions, with traditions that viewed Samson as a deliver and redeemer of Israel. In the area of Mount Arbel and Tiberias, these traditions were popular. This may be why the Samson scenes appear here.”

Interestingly, the mosaics of Samson depict him as a giant figure, even though Samson was not described as such in the Tanakh. However, Magness notes that some rabbinic literature describes Samson as a giant. She emphasized, “By the time of the Mishna and Talmud, there were all sorts of traditions about different figures in the Bible.” Depicting Samson as a giant accords with traditions that considered Samson as a redeemer of the Jewish people!

Adjacent to Samson carrying the gates of Gaza on his shoulders are riders with horses, who apparently represent Philistines. According to Magness, “In the Bible, they have chariots; they are not riding horses. In later Aramaic translations (Targumim), there are descriptions of Philistines riding horses. It is a reflection again of something that doesn’t occur in the biblical account, but in later traditions.”


Magness is unsure how the Huqoq synagogue met its demise. In front of the synagogue’s bema, there was a pile of stones mixed with ash that was found elsewhere in the synagogue, apparently from the later robbing-out of the bema. Above the synagogue, a medieval structure was built. There are no signs that the synagogue suffered a violent or sudden destruction. Although the synagogue was built in the 5th century, Huqoq is mentioned in the Tanakh in connection with the settlement of the tribes of Asher and Naphtali, and it was a Jewish village in the late Second Temple period and in the time of the Mishna and Talmud. Ishtori Haparchi (1280-1355) mentions a synagogue in Huqoq in his time, perhaps referring to the medieval building above the late Roman synagogue. By the Ottoman period, Huqoq was a Muslim village.


On a whim, I checked "Samson" in Barbara G. Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, and lo and behold, here is what I found:


Hebrew version of the sun god called Shams-On in Arabia, Shamash in Babylon, identical with Egypt's Ra-Harakhti and Greece's Heracles, Samson's lion-killing, pillar-carrying, and oher feats were copied from the Labors of Heracles, signifying the sun's progress through the zodiac.  Samson's "mill" was the same as Omphale's wheel, to which Heracles was bound.  His loss of hair meant the cutting of the sun god's rays, in the season when he became weak.

As Heracles was controlled by Omphale, and Ra was "made weak" by Isis, so Samson was deprived of his strength in due season by Delilah, "She Who Makes Weak."  Another interpretation of her name was Lily of the Yoni, that is, the female principle that deprived the phallic god of strength by drawing his "rays" or energy into herself.  Hair-cutting was a common mythic symbol of castration, since phallic power was supposed to reside in a man's hair, according to ancient eastern beliefs. (1)  The castrating priestess Delilah was a Semitic copy of Heracle's deadly consort Deianira [note the DEI - means goddess/god], the instrument of his destruction.  Blinding, also, meant putting out the "phallic eye."

Talmudic tradition viewed Samson's "grinding" in Philistia as a symbol of fornitication - suggesting a sacred-king cult in which a strongman assumed the role of the sun hereo, deflowered all the virgins until his strength was gone, then faced castration and sacrifice.(2) [In other words, another version of ancient king sacrifice.]  It has been supposed that Sampson's wrecking of the Philistine temple stood for the sun's power to dry and crumble a structure made of mud and bricks. [Nah.  I think it's a rather more recent gloss added by archivists who didn't want to see an old, traditiuonal hero made so wimpy due to a female's power, while at the same time demonstrating the strength of their phony patriarchal god, Yawheh/Jehovah.]


(1)  Rawson, E.A., 25.
(2)  Legman, 520; Silberer, 97.

Lettuce and the Ancient Egyptian God Min

Min - a creator god.  You may not know the name but you may recognize the sillouhette:

You know, the mummy with the erection...

Turns out the dude luuuuvvvveeeeedddd lettuce - so much so that it was coveted by the ancient Egyptians as an aphrodisiac (wonder if today's Egyptians still believe the same thing, hmmm.....)

Read all about it, tres cool!

From the Smithsonian online, see also story at the Daily Mail online.

July 16, 2013

When Lettuce Was a Sacred Sex Symbol

Lettuce has been harvested for millenia—it was depicted by ancient Egyptians on the walls of tombs dating back to at least 2,700 B.C. The earliest version of the greens resembled two modern lettuces: romaine, from the French word “romaine(from Rome), and cos lettuce, believed to have been found on the island of Kos, located along the coast of modern day Turkey. 
But in Ancient Egypt around 2,000 B.C., lettuce was not a popular appetizer, it was an aphrodisiac, a phallic symbol that represented the celebrated food of the Egyptian god of fertility, Min. (It is unclear whether the lettuce’s development in Egypt predates its appearance on the island of Kos.) The god, often pictured with an erect penis in wall paintings and reliefs was also known as the “great of love” as he is called in a text from Edfu Temple. The plant was believed to help the god “perform the sexual act untiringly.”
Salima Ikram, Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo who specializes in Ancient Egyptian food explains Min’s part in lettuce history. “Over 3,000 years, [Min's] role did change, but he was constantly associated with lettuce,” she says.

The first of these depictions appeared around 1970-80 B.C. in the The White Chapel of Senusret I, though there may be earlier examples, Ikram says.

This relief, from the funerary temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu, for example, depicts Min’s harvest festival. At the center is a statue of Min. Behind him, a procession of priests holds a small garden of lettuce. Min is also sometimes depicted wearing a long, red ribbon around his forehead that some say represents sexual energy.

“One of the reasons why [the Egyptians] associated the lettuce with Min was because it grows straight and tall—an obvious phallic symbol,” Ikram says. “But if you broke off a leaf it oozed a sort of white-ish, milky substance—basically it looked like semen.”
When the butt of modern Romaine lettuce is cut off, a similar substance oozes from the plant and gives it a bitter flavor. Lettuce’s scientific classification lactuca sativa, is derived from the Latin word for milk and shares the same root as lactose, the sugar enzyme found in dairy products. (Ed. — corrected thanks to feedback from reader joelfinkle) (While we’re talking etymology, raw lettuce dishes known as herba salata (“salted greens”) gave rise to the English word “salad.”) Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book provides further options for what the lettuce milk of the “ithyphallic god of increase” may represent:
Lettuce was sacred to him because of the “straight vertical surge” of their growth, milky juice they exude which could be taken as a symbol of mothers milk or semen.
Ancient Egyptians used the lettuce differently than those who would come later. The leaves had a greenish blue color and were often removed from the plant due to their bitter taste. Instead of being part of a meal, the seeds from the bud of the flowers were harvested and pressed for their natural oils which were used for cooking, medication—even mummification. Lettuce oil was a standard in the Egyptian materia medica and even today is used as a traditional remedy for hair regrowth.

The Greeks and Romans later popularized the leafy veggie as an appetizer during the 81-96 A.D. reign of Domitian. When they first introduced a set order of courses, the meal included a salad at the beginning to stimulate the appetite and also at the end to encourage digestion, according to author Gil Marks. It was still considered a medicinal goldmine by the Greeks and Romans, but for a different reason than the Egyptians—they believed it helped people sleep. Under Domitian’s reign, as the story goes, the ruler would force his guests to eat lettuce before the meal so as to make them struggle to remain awake for the remainder of the visit.

Another interesting lettuce-related story in Ancient Egypt, not for the faint-of-stomach: In Egyptian history there are many battles between the Egyptian deity Horus and Set, the god of the desert. Though the argument was usually over which of the two had the rightful claim to rule Egypt, one rather odd battle involves lettuce. According to Papyrus Chester-Beatty I, as interpreted by Ikram, Set at one point tries to overpower Horus by seducing him and then having intercourse with him. Horus places his hand between his legs, catches Set’s semen and throws it into the river. “Horus [then] tricks Set by basically spurting his sperm and throwing it into a lettuce plant, ” Ikram says. Because Set eats the semen-covered lettuce, in the eyes of the gods, Horus was dominant—at least until the next battle.

Got to love me a little Min, darlings :)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

What's Happening at the World Chess Hall of Fame

Hola Darlings!

I have been on hiatus and may be so (although on good days I will be here) for the foreseeable future.  I have been dealing with health issues, which is an absolute fricking bummer, let me tell you!  I have experienced a set-back and at the present time, I do not know if things will get better. This sucks, big time!  But I'm here tonight, at least for a short time -- nope, I haven't croaked yet, Thank Goddess.  I'll do what I can, when I can.   

Received this email today from the World Chess Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, and it's really cool, about all the goings-on in St. Louis.  Enjoy!  Some day, Goddess willing, I will travel there again.  It's only about a 30 minute jet ride from Milwaukee.  Would love once again to visit the World Chess Museum and the Scholastic Center and Chess Club right across the street from it, and walk the surrounding neighborhood.  It is a beautiful area.  I posted tons of photographs during my visit  - when the hell was that?  September, 2011?  Don't take my word for it. The heart meds I'm on causes "fuzzy brain" syndrome, unfortunately.  Ach!  If you're interested in reading about the Chess Collectors International Regional Meeting that took place in St. Louis, MO that coincided with the Kings Versus Queens Chess Tournament hosted by the St. Louis Scholastic Center and Chess Club, please do a word search on this blog.  Without further ado, here's the email:


July was a great month here at the World Chess Hall of Fame! We received some exciting press coverage in the Wall Street Journal and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for our upcoming exhibition A Queen Within: Adorned Archetypes, Fashion and Chess, celebrated International Chess Day on July 20, and hosted Jon Crumiller, who led a fantastic guided tour and discussion of Prized and Played. Looking ahead, we're excited to see what the rest of summer and fall will bring!
Due to upcoming exhibition needs, please note that Bill Smith: Beyond the Humanities has a new closing date of August 25. From September 4 - 15, we will host a small exhibition in our first floor gallery highlighting the Piatagorsky Cup, a series of high-profile chess tournaments during the 1960s sponsored by chess benefactor Jacqueline Piatagorsky. This exhibition will coincide with the groundbreaking Sinquefield Cup tournament taking place at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and serve as a preview to Jacqueline Piatagorsky: Patron, Player, Pioneer, appearing on our third floor October 25, 2013 - April 18, 2014.
Following the closing of Prized and Played: Highlights from the Jon Crumiller Collection on September 15, we will be closed to the public September 16 - October 18 for the installation of A Queen Within. But even though our exhibitions will be in transition, we will be keeping busy behind the scenes! In addition to preparing our upcoming shows, we are thrilled to host two concerts on September 18 and 25, in coordination with the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra respectively. Stay tuned for more information on these special events!
Whether your plans this month involve vacations, back-to-school errands, or just staying in the air conditioning, we at the WCHOF wish you a safe and happy August, and hope you will make time to visit us soon!
Susan Barrett, Director

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...