Open thread

Since I am pretty much unavailable now and for the foreseeable future, and since this has traditionally been a place for people to reconnect when various sites go down, or they are de-platformed somewhere, for now I am leaving this thread open for communications by trolls, real people, and whatevers.

I might write one or two posts more, as the spirit moves, but probably not. I will try to monitor email for a short time, in case anyone has problems with access. (It is currently set up to pass users who have already had a comment approved.)

I will try to stop by later and remove the creeps, death threats etc.

Cheers, and carry on.


Mortalitas hujus anni, or Incantations to avoid plague

The “impetus” for creating this protective text…
was apparently the same epidemic of the plague of the 60s of the 7th century,
or some other, more local epidemic,
which an anonymous author calls mortalitas hujus anni
“the pestilence of this year.”

So we are in the midst of a modern day plague.

And we have no cures, no vaccinations, and no toilet paper.

Can we look to the magic of antiquity for answers?

Why not.

There were two basic responses to the medieval plague, and they were NOT handwashing and social distancing.

They were of course religion and magic, and the two did overlap from time to time, although how much is now a matter of conjecture.


The most obvious form of religious protection was the lorica, (meaning “breastplate” armour) a protective incantation with Irish roots and still well-beloved among our British cousins, over at the Church of England.

The most well known lorica is perhaps the Deer’s Cry, Faeth Fiada, part of the larger Breastplate of St. Patrick.  The backstory of this incantation is that it was intoned by Saint Patrick to hide his party of monks from heathen soldiers as they were passing nearby in the fog.

Here is a particularly beautiful one, composed by Arvo Pärt, which unlike some notable women, even has its own Wikipedia article:The Deer’s Cry (Pärt).

And if you liked that one, you will really like what their incredible sopranos do with Barber’s Agnus Dei.

But back to incantations for plague….

There is really a wealth of information in this Russian-language link, but at this point I am just going to mention it in passing, and let the google algorithm magic do its thing.

According to this Russian website, courtesy of Google Translate:

The “impetus” for creating this protective text, as suggested by M. Herren and on what he bases the dating of the text, was apparently the same epidemic of the plague of the 60s of the 7th century, or some other, more local epidemic, which an anonymous author calls mortalitas hujus anni “the pestilence of this year” (see [Herren 1973]). Latin loriks, of course, are usually attributed to the early Irish scholarly monastic tradition, and the transfer of this type of poetry to the vernacular soil is usually dated to a somewhat later time.

This is what everyone says.  You will find some version of it all over the internet.  The Lorica (the Saint Patrick one) is attributed to 8th century Irish manuscripts, written and preserved by monks, but I have yet to see one. The earliest one in use is easy enough to find though.

The copy-text for the original poem in 8th-century Irish was Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus: A Collection of Old-Irish Glosses, Scholia, Prose, and Verse, Vol. II, edited by Whitley Stokes and John Strachan (Cambridge, 1903). The poem appears on pages 354–358.

Here it is on Internet Archive.  With tons of footnotes.

And a beautiful thing it is.

This is not Latin, it is some kind of Irish.

And this is not the only place you will find it.  When Seamus Heaney (see my sidebar) and Ted Hughes (of Sylvia Plath fame) set out to compile a collection of all the poetry that they considered part of the necessary British heritage, but that they had not been taught in school, they included a translation of this protective poem in their anthology The School Bag, Faber & Faber, 1997.

How to make this into a search term…hmm…could try to copy it out…Crist lim, Crist reum, Crist in degaid ... and take it to YouTube…I bet someone has done it. Or try the Gaelic word lúirech as your search term.  Oh, it’s on Wikisource. We have the entire text.

A short digression and rant…

But we are still very firmly in sausagefest territory here. And looking at the translators listed by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes in their book doesn’t help any. One translator was Whitley Stokes, who first married Mary Bazely, the daughter of Col. Bazeley, Bengal artillery, and later married Elizabeth Temple, daughter of William Temple;… they had a daughter….

One of his daughters, Maïve, compiled a book of Indian Fairy Tales [WikiSource] in 1879 (she was 12 years old) based on stories told to her by her Indian ayahs and a man-servant. It also included some notes by Mrs. Mary Stokes.

Who is that, Maïve’s mother? Or Whitley’s mother? Accuracy, please. His sister, Margaret Stokes, was an artist and wrote two books on early Irish saints.  Where are they?  We need moar saints.

Okay, moving on…


We know the monks did not pull these invocations or loricas or whatever out of thin air, they were based on something, probably druidic and even Icelandic stuff. We just have to go back further in history, before the monastery stuff.  Just list, and see what comes up in the algorithms.  Everything plague is trending right now, we should be able to find plenty.

Ha!  Vikings!  Good.

Two nineteenth century collections of Icelandic folklore contain folk-prayers bearing the title brynjubaen. This word is a compound…. The first occurrence of the word brynjubaen in print seems to be in Jón Árnason‘s classic collection of Icelandic folklore. There he prints three prayers entitled brynjubaen [singular: brynja], giving as his source manuscripts (kver) from western and southern Iceland. These are violent incantations aimed at banishing the petitioner’s enemy to the…

This Icelandic brynjubaen is promising.
But we didn’t count on the libraries being closed in time of plague, so these things are probably locked up tight behind a paywall, waiting for the results of the Darwin Award competitions.  Anyone who is still standing afterwards with library card intact, gets to read it.
So we will leave this for later…

Names for plagues

So if you have a kind of plague or disease, what kind of name do you call it?  And do you use Latin or what.

There are a ton of these in the Irish literature.

The “jaundice of Conallus,” is a type of localized plague. (See Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland, Dublin, Hodges, Smith, and co. 1856)

Then there’s flava ictericia, “yellow jaundice”, mortolitas magna (the great mortality), and the great pestilence called “The Boye Conneall.”

I’m just going to put these out there, with their sourcing, and move on.

Neimhidh afterwards died of a plague, together with three thousand persons, in the island of Ard-Neimhidh”, in Crich Liathain”, in Munster. …  … This is translated Flava Ictericia, the yellow jaundice, by Colgan.

Cron-Chonaill.  This is translated Flava Ictericia, the yellow jaundice, by Colgan. Acta Sanctorum, p. 831, col. 2 : “Mortalitate Cron-chonnuill (id est flava ictericia) appellata, hi omnes sancti, præter S. Kieranum et S. Tigernachum extincti sunt.”

“Colum of Inis-Cealtr is also mentioned in the Annuls of Ulster as dying of the Mortolitas magna in 548, and in the Annals of Clonmacnoise, at 550, as dying of the great pestilence called “The Boye Conneall;” but the Editor has not been able to discover any further account of him


Cétnad nAíse
, a pre-Christian Irish lorica with seven sea daughters

Let’s go back and look at again.  This is in Russian, but it has some great stuff, if you can get past the translation barrier.

First, we find a reference to the Cétnad nAíse, (see here for dicussion of the various translatons), subtitled “A Chant of Long Life” (Admuiniur secht n-ingena trethan).   This is very exciting, because finally we have something with women in it – seven daughters of the sea.  The text also seems to be much earlier than the 8th c stuff, and it is a type of lorica, but it does not seem to have so much of the trappings of Christianity as Faeth Fiada (the “Deer’s Cry”).  The original is found in only one copy of a Middle Irish metrical treatise.

Translations of Cétnad nAíse:


The Song of Amergin

Here is a similar poem:

When Amairgen G lúngel, son of Míl’s, first steps upon Ireland, with his right foot, (obviously some kind of ritual meaning) he composes a poem with a series of thirteen “I am…” lines,  from the Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of Invasions).  There seem to be a lot of these floating around, with no indication of which is canon.  More versions here, and invocations.  Another one here. This is nice.

I am a stag of seven tines,
I am a wide flood on a plain,
I am a wind on the deep waters,
I am a shining tear of the sun,
I am a hawk on a cliff,
I am fair among flowers,
I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke.
I am a battle waging spear,
I am a salmon in the pool,
I am a hill of poetry,
I am a ruthless boar,
I am a threatening noise of the sea,
I am a wave of the sea,
Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen ?


The Celtic saint Brettifa / Brettiva / Brigid, or whatever (see the notes at December 21: the feast day of Thomas the brewer), another one of these Icelandic connections,  also had something to do with plague, but now I have forgotten where I saw it, it’s probably in that Russian text somewhere.

According to Wikipedia, Bridget of Sweden made a pilgrimage to Rome in 1350, at the peak of the plague, so this might prove a promising path of inquiry.

There is also a Saint (and Celtic goddess) Brigid of Ireland. And a cross of St. Brigid. Here is the cross and how to make it.

Since there are a lot sheltering at home right now, here is also the St. Brigid house blessing.

May Brigid bless the house wherein you dwell
Bless every fireside every wall and door
Bless every heart that beats beneath its roof
Bless every hand that toils to bring it joy
Bless every foot that walks its portals through
May Brigid bless the house that shelters you.

How to make a cross of St. Brigid

And here is how to make the three-cornered Brigid cross.

Another tutorial on making the three-armed Brigid cross. The rushes are pulled, not cut.  Ha, no iron that would interfere with magic spells.  Similar to the triskelion or Manx three legs symbol.
Here is a Brigid ‘lúireach’ or lorica, a modern one, Lúireach Bhríde, written by poet Annemarie Ní Churreáin (tsk, her Wikipedia article has a nasty template on the top)


Yes I am better, thank you, thank you

“Lead us not into temptation.”
„Leid ons niet in verzoeking.”

Thank you to my readers for all your good wishes.

And thank you for sending me prayers by candle. This one has been specially blessed.

They say a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.

So here is the candle, and I pass it on to my readers, along with the prayer and the blessings.

Thank you also for access to news subscriptions – you know who you are.

If you have not signed up yet, the Washington Post has dropped their paywall for coronavirus articles.

You can sign up here for free. Read today’s coronavirus updates online here.

And yes, we still have no toilet paper.

Okay, now Sucks Watch.

I see Sucks has just backed off from a lot of weirdness, good idea.  There are some good people keeping watch there.

And for anyone who has a guilty conscience – you know who you are:

He sees you when you’re sleeping
He knows when you’re awake
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

It is not my purpose to start an in-depth discussion of child protection and safe-guarding here…but…

It would be better for him to have a millstone hung around his neck and to be thrown into the sea than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. – Luke 17:2

If you know someone who is weak, do not start discussions that may tempt them beyond their capacity, or draw other evil-doers together to feed on each others’ weaknesses. Remember what happened to NAMBLA (see Urban Dictionary) and Edward Brongersma in Holland.  Just walk away.

Of course there is always a saint for all of this, so if this is you, there is hope, do take care to check out Alessandro Serenelli and Saint Maria Goretti in my old essay on “Saints for survivors of child abuse“.

There is hope for the abusers as well. Serenelli’s family life was filled with drinking and mental illness, but he did find peace at last.

Remember the example of John Newton.  He was once one of the worst potty-mouths in the world, but ended up writing “Amazing Grace“.

If you are enabling someone else with a problem, stop.

In its original context, enabling refers to a pattern within the families of people addicted to alcohol and drugs, wherein the family members excuse, justify, ignore, deny, and smooth over the addiction. This notoriously allows the addicted person to avoid facing the full consequences of his or her addiction, and the addiction is able to continue.

In a wider sense, enabling can describe a pattern of behavior that becomes organized among the family and friends of not just an addicted person, but any person who is exhibiting poor choices that harm themselves or others and for which they are not being held responsible.

…This may also encompass poor choices around so-called “soft addictions” such as gambling, pornography, or excessive video gaming. He or she may refuse, or appear unable, to fulfill normative roles of adulthood. If a parent, he or she may underperform or disregard the responsibilities of parenthood. He or she may frequently disrupt romantic partnerships. The enabled person often displays poor money management, as well as disorganized academic and/or career-planning choices. He or she may quit or be fired from a series of promising jobs and educational or training programs. The enabled person often describes himself/herself as a victim of circumstances or of other people.

And finally, take care of yourselves, wash your hands, and stay 6 feet away from other people.

Cuz you know what will happen if you don’t….

Miraj and the seven heavens

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
“The first thing created by Allah was the pen.”

Prophet with gabril and buraq 1March 23 is the observance of Israʾ and Miʿraj, the night journey taken by the Prophet on the heavenly steed Buraq, perhaps to Jerusalem – as this was the direction of the prayers in those days and the basis for later attempts at military conquest – and most definitely to the seven heavens.  Scholars are agreed that the journey could be either physical or spiritual.  In Islamic countries this is good for a day off school, but in these times school is already out, and we are only left with the possibly of spiritual journeying.

So let’s jump right into the world of Sufi mysticism, cosmology, etc, represented by Ibn Arabi, Rumi, and the like.

What are the seven heavens?  Before there was a Big Bang theory, there was something called neo-Platonism and Hermes Trismegistus.  It was huge.  It tried to explain all of human knowledge.  Sound familiar?  Yup, it was the encyclopedia of its day.

On the first day of Creation, God created seven heavens.

The first heaven is visible to man, and its only function is to cover up the light during night time. It disappears every morning (see Pargod, Velon; the Curtain of Heaven).

The second heaven is Raki’a (“Firmament), where the planets are fastened to (see firmament).

prophet and buraqThe third heaven is Shehakim (“Clouds”), where the manna is made for the pious in the hereafter.

The fourth heaven, Zebul (“Lofty Dwelling”), contains the celestial Jerusalem together with the Temple, in which Michael ministers as high priest and offers the souls of the pious as sacrifices.

The fifth heaven is Ma’on (“Dwelling”), where the angel hosts reside and sing the prise of God. They only sing at night, for by day it is the task of Israel on earth to give glory to God.

The sixth heaven, called Makhon (“Residence”), is where most of the trials and visitations for the earth and its inhabitants are ordained. It is a place where snow and hail, storms, smoke, and noxious dew are stored. The doors between those celestial chambers are made of fire, which are supervised by Metatron.

prophet and buraq 3The seventh heaven, ‘Aravot (“Highest Heaven”), contains everything that is good and beautiful: right, justice, and mercy, the souls of the pious, the souls and spirits of unborn generations, the dew with which God will revive the dead on the day of resurrection. It also contains the Throne of God, surrounded by the ministering angels.

So, back to Islamic mysticism.

The first thing that Allah created was the pen, al-‘aql al-kull.

In various Sayings, the Prophet stated: “The first thing God created was my spirit/my light/the Pen/the Intellect. He created everything else from that.”
Since we have this as a given, it seems only appropriate to begin any account of existence with the First Light or the Universal Intellect (aql al-kull; also known as the First Intellect, aql al-awwal).
The Pen (kalam) is actually a shaft of white light; in Europe they called it Calamus, in a quaint latinization. It is represented by the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, the Alif, which is a vertical straight line.

Here is another explanation.  This is very basic.

In the Christian tradition, the world is created by the Word, assumed to be the spoken word of God in Genesis, “Let there be light”.  John 1:1 tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This goes right back to Einstein’s theory of relativity, and the difference between matter and energy, if there is one.  The basic unit of anything is sound, vibration.

But Islam takes this a step further, and makes it a written word.  The first thing that the angel Gabriel says to Mohammed in the cave is “iqra” (إقرا) (read/recite). This was the first word of the Koran to be revealed. The Koran is written word.

The Prophet (saws) said “The first thing that Allah created was the Intellect,”

[Tirmidhi]. He also said, “The first thing that Allah created was the Pen,” and “The first thing Allah created was my Light.”The scholars said these all amount to the same thing by simile, the Pen is an Intellect created from Light it can be understood as a light similar to the light of our own intellect which we see in our mind and that light in our head imagines the sum total of our knowledge, the Pen was a light which imagined the sum total of the knowledge Allah gave it.

The Prophet (saws) said “The first thing that Allah created was the Pen and He said to it: Write! So it wrote what is to be forever (the rest of time).” (Tabarani and Abu Nu’aym)

The Prophet (saws) said, “The first thing created by Allah was the pen, then, He ordered it to write, so it wrote everything that will happen till the Day of Judgment.” (narrated by Tirmidhi, Abu-Dawud, and Ahmad).

The muqataat letters of the Quran are the letters that some surah’s begin with, Alif Lam Mim etc, it can be established from ahadith with ease what the letter nun (pronounced noon) means, which is Allah’s name for space, in terms of quantum mechanics (the physics of small particles) and the subatomic world it refers to the outer most layer of subatomic space, we are referring here to the depth of space as we go inside Atoms and the particles they are made from.

There is actually very little written about the meaning of the mystery letters at the beginnings of the Koranic verses, and very few people who have attempted to explain them. (See Muqattaʿat.)

I do believe that Sucks’ very own Abd is one of them, but the references are impossible to find, even in the so-called biographies of Abd that keep getting spammed around. Abd would be doing a service to stop the bizarre flame wars and conspiracy theories he’s fanning around the wiki-lands and point to any scholarship he has published on the subject, and explain these letters in plain English, along with any associated cosmology, if that is not too much of a challenge.

If you want to go further down this linguistic rabbit hole, in the style of Ibn Arabi, try the free ebook, Mirror of the Free, by Nicholas Swift. (Did you know that in Arabic, nafs is both breath and spirit?  Or something like that.)


This is not only for Islamic mysticism, Avicenna delved into such metaphysics, it is a pity western philosophy reached its own dead end with such stiff concepts as replacement words for praxis in German instead of exploring this language.  See here:

“There are also ambiguities in his use of such terms as al-‘aql al-kulliyy (the universal intellect) and al-nafs al-kulliyya (the universal soul). Although in one place he makes it clear that these expressions refer to concepts that exist only in the mind, distinguishing them from ‘aql al-kull (the intellect of ‘the whole [universal]’) and nafs al-kull (the soul of ‘the whole [universel]’), the distinction is not uniformly observed.”

So what are they tweeting about in the Islamic world today?

Jordan’s King Abdullah tweets a prayer for the safety of Jordan, on the occasion of the remembrance of the noble Israʾ and Miʿraj:

تمر علينا ذكرى الإسراء والمعراج الشريفين في ظرف استثنائي يذكرنا بما مر به نبينا محمد، صلى الله عليه وسلم، من ضيق وشدة، انتصر عليهما بالصبر والإيمان. أسأل الله تعالى أن يلهمنا الصبر حتى يعم الخير وتحل السلامة على الأردن والعالم، بتوكلنا على الله، ووحدتنا واقتدائنا بسيرة نبينا محمد

We do hope it will be more effective than the pope’s prayers for Italy.

Saudi crown prince MBS is tweeting “spread love” and is surrounded by dudes in white gowns and red head coverings. Let’s hope they are not spreading something more viral.

Shall we take a moment to remember the dead, detained or disappeared, including the women who drive, and are now being tortured in Saudi prisons?

The NYT did a puff piece on MBS yesterday.  They did mention the men – princes and businessmen – that MBS had locked up in a hotel at the beginning of his ascent to power,  but it did not mention these women at all.

But I will.

Last week the trial of Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul was postponed.

Her family says they will not give up:

Loujain al-Hathloul first realised that speaking up could make a difference when she was five years old. Her father, a navy veteran who wanted his children to be strong swimmers, took her to the local pool where other visitors chastised him for bringing a girl in a pair of swimming trunks to the male-only area.

“He told them that if they were uncomfortable with what a five-year-old girl was wearing then that was their problem,” said Loujain’s sister, Lina. “After that, lots of fathers started taking their little girls along to swim.”

And a lot of women in Saudi Arabia are now driving, legally.

“In whatever you do, make sure you’re happy while doing it”, tweets MBS.

Does that include having women imprisoned and tortured?  For driving?  For shame, MBS, for shame.

Let them go.


The Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Germany, has a current exhibition of Surreal art by female artists. Whether the exhibition is even open right now is anyone’s guess, but check the website. It’s nicely interactive so you can browse or expand the text, as you have time for.

The exhibit weaves the Surrealism art movement together with stuff you already know about, like Frida Kahlo and the Mexican exiles, photography, stuff that is just plain weird, and the social movements of the day.

So, you know the drill.  Here is the list of the women featured by the museum, …and appearing on a list of a world-class institution like this has to confer “notability”.

Eileen Agar
Lola Álvarez Bravo
Rachel Baes
Louise Bourgeois
Emmy Bridgwater
Claude Cahun
Leonora Carrington
Ithell Colquhoun
Maya Deren
Germaine Dulac
Nusch Éluard
Leonor Fini
Jane Graverol
Valentine Hugo
Frida Kahlo
Greta Knutson
Jacqueline Lamba
Sheila Legge
Dora Maar
Emila Medková
Lee Miller
Suzanne Muzard
Meret Oppenheim
Valentine Penrose
Alice Rahon
Edith Rimmington
Kay Sage
Sophie Taeuber-Arp
Jeanette Tanguy (red link) (Wikidata) but her husband…you guessed it…does have  a Wikipedia article: Yves Tanguy... and whose second wife Kay Sage committed suicide…
Dorothea Tanning
Bridget Tichenor
Remedios Varo
Unica Zürn


Per Katherine, WikiMania Bangkok 2020 has been cancelled.

Long live WikiMania Bangkok 2021.

So what else is going on in the (virtual) C-suite?

Katherine’s Chief of Staff Ryan Merkley is quarantined.

His wife is taking medication for anxiety.  Must be nice to have enough health insurance to be able to afford Valium or whatever.  That’s Canada for you.  It looks like they’re not observing the 6-foot social distancing  though.  Must be some kind of Canadian metric system.

She has a new pink jumpsuit.  Stereotypical femininity, eh?

Also, they have sent the servants away with 2 weeks pay.

They usually share an office, but Ryan has kicked his wife out and taken the good space for himself, leaving her a small desk area under the stairs.  He’s got the paycheck, so maybe he needs more space, but just sayin’.

Everyone has a Kent Monkman? Oh, it’s a Canadian artist, what they call First Nation (indigenous) and apparently likes to draw men in fetishized women’s clothing. His main character seems to be Miss Chief Eagle Testickle.  In a piece commissioned for the Met, the women are doing all the work, rowing the boat, rescuing the drowning, and caring for the children, as Miss Testickle prances above them, dressed in a flowing negligee thingy, makeup, and stiletto heels.

“Stupendous. . . . Miss Chief is an avatar of a global future that will see humankind moving beyond the wars of identity—racial, sexual, political—in which it is now perilously immersed.” —New York Times

And there’s this.  Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Kelsey’s Monkman piece is right above her desk; Ryan’s I haven’t spotted yet, maybe he doesn’t spend as much time looking at scantily clad men as she does.

Oh, and it looks like she’s a member of the Feminist Air Force, whatever that is.


Vivaldi’s Domine Deus

[H/T Graaf]

Shall we go for baroque?

Vivaldi’s “Domine Deus” from the Gloria in D Major, RV589 is a well known solo for soprano and oboe.

Here is a very nice one, even if they don’t bother to credit the oboist.

The soprano here is more my style. This is the Chamber Orchestra & Choir of Utrecht Music Conservatory, in the Netherlands:

This is most excellent, with a star-studded cast, and includes the whole choral piece (playlist is in the first comment), and also includes charming footage of the group members interacting in the darkened church between recording sessions. The director is Rinaldo Alessandrini and contralto Sara Mingardo is also featured. Sadly, the oboe part is played by a violin, but don’t let that stop you from watching it, and getting out the good speakers to plug into your laptop. This is really most excellent.

If you want to play this yourself, here is the score so you can sing or play along. The rest of the score is below the fold.

Continue reading “Vivaldi’s Domine Deus”