May 16, 2008

Slutbucks, Serpent Towers, and the Myth of Melusine

Melusine Revealed

It would appear that Starbucks shares my fascination with ophidian goddesses. And, at least one Christian group is up in arms over their display of reptilian tails.

The logo comes from an old sixteenth-century Norse woodcut and features a bare-chested woman with a mermaid-style fish tail that is split in half.

The Resistance, a Christian activist group based in San Diego, says the woman looks like a prostitute and suggests the firm should be calling itself “Slutbucks” instead.

. . .

"The Starbucks logo has a naked woman on it with her legs spread like a prostitute," said Mr Dice.

. . .

"The woman is actually a siren, not a mermaid, which in Greek mythology lures people to them with their beautiful songs, and then kills them," said Mr Dice.

Yes, Mr. Dice. Female sexuality is very terrifying.

Mr. Dice is close. The image is associated with siren mythology, but to be specific, she is Melusine. She is, in fact, half serpent. Be afraid, Mr. Dice. Be very afraid.

There are a few different versions of the myth of Melusine. She is sometimes depicted with two tales, as in the Norse image taken by Starbucks; sometimes only one. This is one iteration of her myth.

The fairy, Melusine, was the daughter of the fairy Pressyne and King Elynas of Albany. She became the fairy Queen of the forest of Colombiers in the French region of Poitou. One day, she and two of her subjects were guarding their sacred fountain when a young man, Raymond of Poitiers, burst out of the forest. Melusine spent the night talking with Raymond, and by dawn, they were betrothed, but with one condition. Melusine requested that Raymond promise that he would never see her on a Saturday. He agreed, and they were married. Melusine brought her husband great wealth and prosperity. She built the fortress of Lusignan so quickly that it appeared to be made by magic. Over time, Melusine built many castles, fortresses, churches, towers and towns, each in a single night, throughout the region. She and Raymond had ten children, but each child was flawed. The eldest had one red eye and one blue eye, the next had an ear larger than the other, another had a lion’s foot growing from his cheek, and another had but one eye. The sixth son was known as Geoffrey-with-the-great tooth, as he had a very large tooth. In spite of the deformities, the children were strong, talented and loved throughout the land.

One day, Raymond’s brother visited him and made Raymond very suspicious about the Saturday activities of his wife. So the next Saturday, Raymond sought his wife, finding her in her bath where he spied on her through a crack in the door. He was horrified to see that she had the body and tail of a serpent from her waist down. He said nothing until the day that their son, Geoffrey-with-the-great tooth, attacked a monastery and killed one hundred monks, including one of his brothers. Raymond accused Melusine of contaminating his line with her serpent nature, thus revealing that he had broken his promise to her.

As a result, Melusine turned into a fifteen-foot serpent, circled the castle three times, wailing piteously, and then flew away. She would return at night to visit her children, then vanish. Raymond was never happy again. Melusine appeared at the castle, wailing, whenever a count of Lusignan was about to die or a new one to be born. It was said that the noble line which originated with Melusine will reign until the end of the world. Her children included the King of Cyprus, the King of Armenia, the King of Bohemia, the Duke of Luxembourg, and the Lord of Lusignan.

Le Tour de Melusine
Vouvant, Vendee

Said to have been built in a single night.

There is an intriguing association between water serpent myths and round towers found all over the world.

Like pyramids, circular towers of stone are found on both sides of the Atlantic. The common figure linking these structures, however, proves to be the serpent or snake. Cultures as diverse as the Celts of Ireland and the Hopi of Arizona associate this religiously and psychologically charged reptile with round temples reaching toward moisture-laden storm clouds.

Over 65 towers of exquisite masonry, many rising over 100 feet high, dot the green countryside of Ireland. The monasteries of Monasterboice, Domhnach, and Kilkenny were all built adjacent to earlier round towers. Some researchers claim these commanding structures were fire temples dedicated to sun worship. Why, then, are round towers frequently located next to healing springs or holy wells issuing from the subterranean realm over which the snake rules?

May 14, 2008

Vatican Approves Belief in Aliens

Ezekiel saw de wheel
Way in de middle o' de air
Ezekiel saw de wheel
In de middle o' de air

-- Traditional "Negro Spiritual"

The Vatican has weighed in on the debate over the existence of life on other planets and pronounced it plausible and consistent with a belief in God.

The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, was quoted as saying the vastness of the universe means it is possible there could be other forms of life outside Earth, even intelligent ones.

"How can we rule out that life may have developed elsewhere?" Funes said. "Just as we consider earthly creatures as 'a brother,' and 'sister,' why should we not talk about an 'extraterrestrial brother'? It would still be part of creation."

. . .

The interview, headlined "The extraterrestrial is my brother," covered a variety of topics including the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and science, and the theological implications of the existence of alien life.

Fumes also tried to salve the wounds of barbaric persecutions of its past.

Funes urged the church and the scientific community to leave behind divisions caused by Galileo's persecution 400 years ago, saying the incident has "caused wounds."

In 1633 the astronomer was tried as a heretic and forced to recant his theory that the Earth revolved around the sun. Church teaching at the time placed Earth at the center of the universe.

No indication, at this time, of similar advancement on gay tolerance or abortion rights.

May 13, 2008

Even A Broken Clock...


is right twice a day. And sometimes David Brooks writes a really worthwhile column. Today it's nice overview of the bridging of science and mystical thought.

Scientists have more respect for elevated spiritual states. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania has shown that transcendent experiences can actually be identified and measured in the brain (people experience a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe, which orients us in space). The mind seems to have the ability to transcend itself and merge with a larger presence that feels more real.

This new wave of research will not seep into the public realm in the form of militant atheism. Instead it will lead to what you might call neural Buddhism.

. . .

First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships. Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions. Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love. Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is.