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The Etruscans: The Great Ancient Civilization of Italy

If you are a regular reader of my blog then you know how much I am interested in ancient civilizations across the world. It has been a fascination of mine my whole life and have amassed a decent part of my personal library cover this topic. One region of the world I really enjoy studying is the Mediterranean; from the Roman empire to Greece to the Carthage, etc. One particular ancient civilization in that region I feel really had a big part in shaping the future civilizations of not only Italy but the surrounding area are the people who were known as the Etruscans. From their culture, art, rituals, deities, occult practices and more, these people have a fascinating history which is what today’s blog is all about.

Who Were The Etruscans?

Despite their amazing achievements and lasting influence, the Etruscans remain one of Italy’s great mysteries. Fleur Kinson sheds a little light.

For most of us, ‘Etruscan’ is one of those words we’ve met many times but, if pressed, couldn’t precisely explain. We might know the word has some connection with Tuscany. We might even know that the Etruscans were a people, and that they did impressive things of some kind. But like ‘Phoenicians’ and ‘Carthaginians’, they tend to be a name with no picture – another obscure, long-dead ethnic group only familiar perhaps to people with a classical education. If you plan to visit anywhere in central Italy, it’s really worth sharpening up your hazy understanding. You’re going to meet that word ‘Etruscan’ everywhere you go; a lot of irritation can be saved by clearing it up here. A word of warning, though: it’s a well-founded cliché that anyone who starts learning about the Etruscans quickly becomes hooked on the subject. If you can’t bear to acquire a new interest, look away now.

For half a millennium or more, the Etruscans were Europe’s most advanced civilization outside Greece. Made wealthy by international trade, they spent their time making wine, building roads, draining marshes, painting vases, founding cities, creating sculptures, and constructing aqueducts. Hmmm… sounds a bit like the Romans, doesn’t it? Well it should. Consider three facts: i) at least two of Rome’s earliest kings were Etruscans; ii) most Romans had some Etruscan ancestors; and iii) the Romans took many of their ideas on art, law, religion, public institutions, water management and road-building directly from the Etruscans. You owe more to these unfamiliar ancient people than you probably imagine.

The Etruscans themselves, keen on living for the moment, didn’t seem to care whether or not they preserved their glory for posterity. When their civilization was subsumed into Roman, they didn’t bother asserting a self-consciously distinct ethnicity and melded with the newcomers. Thus an artistic and fun-loving culture was half erased from history – a culture in which banquets were eaten in bed while dancers pranced about and wine-throwing games were played. A culture with strong erotic sensibilities, but also with rudimentary sexual equality – something lost, alas, on the Romans.
With so little testament to the particularities of Etruscan existence and so much testament to the spectacular existence of the Romans, popular and academic attention has understandably always concentrated on the latter. Indeed, scholarship on things Etruscan only really started in the last century or two – and studies still abound with words like ‘mysterious’ and ‘enigmatic’. Etruscan civilization might have been rescued from historical oblivion, but only just. Continue reading HERE.

Unravelling The Enigmatic Etruscans – Documentary

Occult and Spiritual Practices

As some of you may know, the Etruscans much like most ancient civilizations were spiritual people with certain holidays, death rituals and magical practices. It was basically intertwined into their culture much like what we saw with the Romans before they converted to Christianity.

A couple of years ago I came across the reprint of a book originally published in 1963 titled, Etruscan Magic and Occult Remedies by author Charles Godfrey Leland. This amazing book goes into such depth on the magical and occult practices of the Etruscans even with detailed descriptions of potions and spells.

The book itself is described as a “scarce antiquarian book”which was essential to have reprinted and I for one am grateful this was done.

This is my personal copy of Etruscan Magic and Occult Remedies and you can purchase your own copy HERE.

Etruscan art and the afterlife

Terracotta kantharos (vase), 7th century B.C.E., Etruscan, terracotta, 18.39 cm high (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Early on the Etruscans developed a vibrant artistic and architectural culture, one that was often in dialogue with other Mediterranean civilizations. Trading of the many natural mineral resources found in Tuscany, the center of ancient Etruria, caused them to bump up against Greeks, Phoenicians, and Egyptians in the Mediterranean. With these other Mediterranean cultures, they exchanged goods, ideas, and, often, a shared artistic vocabulary.

Unlike the Greeks, however, the majority of our knowledge about Etruscan art comes largely from their burials. (Since most Etruscan cities are still inhabited, they hide their Etruscan art and architecture under Roman, Medieval, and Renaissance layers.) Fortunately, though, the Etruscans cared very much about equipping their dead with everything necessary for the afterlife—from lively tomb paintings to sculpture to pottery that they could use in the next world.

From their extensive cemeteries, we can look at the “world of the dead” and begin to understand some about the “world of the living.” During the early phases of the Etruscan civilization, they conceived of the afterlife in terms of life as they knew it. When someone died, he or she would be cremated and provided with another “home” for the afterlife. ​Continue reading HERE.

In The Etruscans: A Captivating Guide to the Etruscan Civilization of Ancient Italy That Preceded the Roman Republic, you will discover topics such as: Politics, Government, and Social Structure
How an Individual Lived
The Origin of the Etruscans
The Etruscan Orientation, c. 600-400 BCE
The Roman Conquest, c. 400-20 BCE
Mythology and Religion
Art and Music
The Etruscan Language and Writing
Architecture
Surviving Text and Literature
And much, much more!

An intriguing phenomenon

Sleep and Death Carrying off the Slain Sarpedon (cista handle), 400-380 BC, Etruscan, bronze – Cleveland Museum of Art  
© Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

With an extinct language that is only partly understood, much of what was initially known about Etruscan civilization comes from the commentary of later Greek and Roman writers. One hypothesis about their origins, the one favored by Herodotus, points to the influence of ancient Greek cultural elements to argue that the Etruscans descended from migrating Anatolian or Aegean groups. Another, championed by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, proposes that the Etruscans originated and developed locally from the Bronze Age Villanovan culture and were therefore an autochthonous population.

Although the current consensus among archaeologists supports a local origin for the Etruscans, a lack of ancient DNA from the region has made genetic investigations inconsistent. The current study, with a time transect of ancient genomic information spanning almost 2000 years collected from 12 archaeological sites, resolves lingering questions about Etruscan origins, showing no evidence for a recent population movement from Anatolia. In fact, the Etruscans shared the genetic profile of the Latins living in nearby Rome, with a large proportion of their genetic profiles coming from steppe-related ancestry that arrived in the region during the Bronze Age.

Considering that steppe-related groups were likely responsible for the spread of Indo-European languages, now spoken around the world by billions of people, the persistence of a non-Indo-European Etruscan language is an intriguing and still unexplained phenomenon that will require further archaeological, historical, linguistic and genetic investigation.

“This linguistic persistence, combined with a genetic turnover, challenges simple assumptions that genes equal languages and suggests a more complex scenario that may have involved the assimilation of early Italic speakers by the Etruscan speech community, possibly during a prolonged period of admixture over the second millennium BCE,” says David Caramelli, Professor at the University of Florence. SOURCE

The Etruscan civilization lasted from the 8th century BCE to the 3rd and 2nd centuries BCE. In the 6th century the Etruscans expanded their influence over a wide area of Italy. They founded city-states in northern Italy, and to the south, their influence expanded down into Latium and beyond. Early Rome was deeply influenced by Etruscan culture (the word “Rome” is Etruscan). The Etruscans also gained control of Corsica.

The Archeological Story

(Marco Merola)
Archaeologists working in a large necropolis 75 miles from Rome recently discovered the impressive tomb of an Etruscan noble family dating to the 7th century B.C.

In the nineteenth century, the ancient tombs of Vulci, some 75 miles northwest of Rome and 25 miles west of Viterbo, were a stop on travelers’ Grand Tour of Europe. Since the late eighteenth century, when the first official excavations were undertaken on the orders of Cardinal Guglielmo Pallotta, numerous burials, ranging from the simple to the spectacular, had been found in the area. In the Necropoli dell’Osteria, roughly translated as the “Necropolis of the Pub,” travelers encountered impressively built and richly decorated burials dating from the seventh to fourth centuries B.C. belonging to the Etruscan culture that had once inhabited the region. Some of the tombs had evocative names given to them in contemporary times in order to attract more visitors. There was the Tomb of the Sun and the Moon, the Tomb of the Inlaid Ceiling, and the Tomb of the Panathenaica, named after the sacred athletic and literary games held every four years in Athens to celebrate the goddess Athena. Continue reading HERE.

Excavations of a 2nd century BC burial site in the southern Tuscany region of Italy is providing new insights into Etruscan identity that survived the Roman conquest of Etruria.

The site was discovered in 2017 during a construction project, revealing a settlement and associated burials, which was investigated by researchers at the time but never published.

The settlement is one of few Etruscan sites untouched by looters in antiquity or modernity, allowing researchers to analyze grave goods that are relatively intact, and further understand the distinct Etruscan burial rituals.

According to researchers, the entrenched and distinct characteristics of the Etruscan population survived in the presence of the dominant Roman power and its associated law.

The Etruscan traditions continued for over two centuries following the Roman conquest, shaping the local area with a fusion of both civilization’s social, cultural, and economic habits, until the area was devastated during the Social War between the Roman Republic and several of its autonomous allies (socii) in Italy. SOURCE

Artifacts from Tomb of the Silver Hands, via the Archaeological Institute of America

While trying to relocate the lost Etruscan tombs of Vulci, archaeologists found over twenty unrecorded graves, tombs, and large funerary complexes. Here, they discovered the Tomb of the Silver Hands, which contained some unique finds that shed light on Etruscan society.

Researchers assigned this name to the remarkable tomb because they found two beautifully styled silver hands, still with gold plate remnants, inside the grave. These hands were part of a sphyrelaton, a wooden funerary figure meant to represent the departed and protect the soul after the body was cremated.

In previous research, it was assumed that tombs containing sphyrelatons belonged to warriors or noblemen, but archaeologists found evidence to the contrary in the Tomb of the Silver Hands. Upon closer inspection, it became clear that this tomb belonged to a high-ranking woman in Etruscan society.

Researchers have also discovered evidence suggesting that both men and women were highly literate, regardless of social status. This is indicated by inscribed objects that have been recovered during archaeological excavations. Mirrors, perfume vases, and cosmetic containers with inscriptions have been recovered among grave goods, as well as inscribed ceramic tablets buried with them in tombs.

This image of equality starkly contrasts what we know of the women of ancient Rome. According to ancient Roman records, women were considered unequal to men and were not seen as full citizens. Instead, young Roman women were limited to education as it pertained to running households and were even subject to legal penalties if they remained unmarried by a certain age. SOURCE

Where Did the Ancient Etruscans Come From?

For generations, researchers have wondered who the Etruscans were and where they came from. As early as the fifth century B.C.E., Greek historian Herodotus wrote that the enigmatic people first lived in a faraway land before migrating to the Italian Peninsula.

Now, reports Ariel David for Haaretz, a sweeping genetic survey has confirmed the Etruscans’ origins, suggesting they were local—and proving Herodotus wrong. The new DNA analysis, which was centered on 82 individuals who lived between 800 B.C.E. and 1000 C.E., shows that these ancient people shared many of the same genes as their Roman neighbors. Researchers collected genetic samples from skeletons found across the former region of Etruria, which spanned Tuscany in northern Italy and the central part of the peninsula, as well as the island of Corsica.

As the study’s authors write in the journal Science Advances, “[T]he local gene pool [was] largely maintained across the first millennium B.C.E.” That finding changed dramatically during the time of the Roman Empire, when imperial expansion sparked the incorporation of populations from across the Mediterranean.

“This huge genetic shift in imperial times transforms Italians from a people firmly within the genetic cloud of Europe into a genetic bridge between the Mediterranean and the Near East,” lead author Cosimo Posth, a geneticist at the University of Tübingen in Germany, tells Haaretz.

Earlier archaeological and genetic research indicated that Italy was initially settled about 8,000 years ago by people migrating from Stone Age Europe and, later, the Eurasian steppes and Anatolia.

“The Etruscans look indistinguishable from Latins, and they also carry a high proportion of steppe ancestry,” Posth tells Andrew Curry of Science magazine. Continue reading HERE.

So as you can see with just this blog post, even though it would appear we know quite a bit about the Etruscans, in reality there is so much that has either been lost in time or yet to be uncovered. I personally hope that Archeological excavations along with preservation and studies of ancient Etruscan site continue so that we can further understand these fascinating people who truly had a hand in shaping the Mediterranean world.

Further Resources

History Documentary BBC | Etruscan civilization

Etruscan Life and Afterlife: A Handbook of Etruscan Studies

Worlds Intertwined: Etruscans, Greek & Romans

Why the Romans Don’t Want You to Know About the Etruscans

10 things that you may not know about the Etruscans

Who were the Etruscans?

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The Dacians: Wolf Warriors and Their People

The history the ancient Roman empire is a subject I have studied extensively for many years and with that always expanded my studies of interest regarding the different tribes of people and other civilizations they encountered and battled in their expansion across Europe, Norther Africa and into the East. One of these groups of people are one of my favorites during that period of history and they were the Dacians. The Dacians much like the Celts were not always one unified group of people but in Dacia, which today is modern Romania, they were many different tribes of people who lived in one territory but it would be their encounters with Rome that would eventually cause reason to become one Wolf and rip into the Lion of Rome. Here is their story.

The date and credibility of the earliest reports concerning a Dacian people are contested. The ancient assumption, that slaves, who figured in New Attican (4th century B.C.) plays under the name of Daos, were in fact Dacians, is less than plausible, for the first confirmed report of the Dacians’ existence refers to a time at least two centuries later, whilst the Romans first reached the Danube even later, between 76-73 B.C. The utility of our data is limited both by the fact that only fragments of the detailed chronicles survive, and by the fact that the reflections on individual peoples found in these chronicles often compress events stretching over several historical periods. Thus historical research has not been able to establish clearly whether King Oroles of Dacia made war against his eastern neighbours, the Celtic Bastarnae, in the 2nd century B.C., or in some much later, equally indeterminate period. There is a similar lack of consensus over such an essential question as the identity of King Rubobostes, who is claimed by one source to have built up the power of Dacia; was he the first significant Dacian ruler, some time during the 2nd century B.C., or was his name merely a misspelling of Burebista, the king who is generally credited with founding a powerful Dacia? A further difficulty derives from the fact that more than one name has been attributed to the Dacians. The tribes that spoke Thracian and lived in the eastern half of the Balkan peninsula, the lower Danube valley, and Transylvania were called by a variety of names in Greek and Roman literature. The Thracians proper, who had very early contact with Greek culture, inhabited a region bounded in the north by the Balkan Mountains and in the west by Macedonia, while the Getae lived in a region north of the Balkan Mountains, along the lower reaches of the Danube. The Dacians of Transylvania, who were the {1-43.} last Thracian-speaking people to come to the notice of Greco-Roman world, are also called Getae in Greek sources; and Roman historians, who drew upon Greek sources, often — and arbitrarily — translated the appellation ‘Getae’ as ‘Dacian’, even when, as it happened, they were referring to authentic Getae. Thus caution must be exercised when dealing with the fragmentary sources that mention Dacians in the context of the wars, waged by the Romans in the 2nd and 1st centuries B.C., on the northern borders of Macedonia, against various Thracian, Getian, and Celtic tribes. Continue reading HERE.

The Dacians or Geto – Dacians were part of the great people of the Thracians. They were organized into tribes that are scattered throughout the Tisa, the Carpathians, and the Black Sea, and one side of the lower Danube. They had a developed civilization , made money, searched for gold and silver and they made from them, with great skill, jewelry, religious objects, etc… was the first king who united , in 82 BC, the Geto-Dacian tribes into one kingdom, great and powerful. He had a conflict with the Roman emperor, Cesar. Burebista was assassinated in 44 BC. After the assassination of Burebista, the kingdom broke into 4 – 5 smaller kingdoms.

They dealt mainly with farming, bee keeping, grazing and making pottery. It have been found many ceramic vessels.

The ancient Greeks called them Dacians or Geto – Dacians. The Romans cold them Dacians and their territory was called Dacia. They were well known for their organization, their bravery and diligence. Continue reading HERE.

Romania was internationally recognized in 1878, but its history is much older. To understand the people who inhabit this country, one must go back thousands of years and meet the first king who united the local tribes, Burebista. He and his successor, Decebal, warred against Roman legions, and although they displayed extraordinary bravery and military prowess, it wasn’t enough to preserve their independence. In this book, you will discover how Romania developed from a distant Roman province on the fringes of the Roman Empire to a modern state in eastern Europe, one ready to adopt Western values.

Romania lies on Europe’s eastern border, and as such, it is often neglected in history. Although it is a culturally very rich country, the world displayed little interest in its promotion. By reading this captivating history of Romania, you will learn about the turbulent past of the region, the many wars it fought, and the people who led them. You will also learn the truth behind the character of Vlad the Impaler and decide for yourself if he was a ruthless, bloodthirsty ruler or a politician, tactician, and national hero.
Map of the Roman province of Dacia, part of modern-day Romania and Serbia, between the era of Trajan (106 CE) and the evacuation of the province in 271 CE. Roman settlements and legion garrisons with Latin names included. SOURCE

The Carpathian Mountains were a favorable environment for the Dacians’ economic development, primarily due to seasonal migration of livestock from the hills to the mountains (a practice called “transhumance”), the Dacians’ main occupation being sheep-herding. For practicing sheep-herding, the Dacians created paths through the mountains in order to reach the Carpathians’ abundant pastures. Transalpina is nowadays the most famous tourist route as the highest altitude road crossing the Carpathian Mountains; it still serves as a transhumance route, a tradition kept alive since the Dacians’ times.

Apart from transhumance, the Dacians were known for beekeeping and for their knowledge in the usage of medicinal plants. The tradition of producing honey and collecting medicinal plants was maintained until today in the traditional Transylvanian village and ancient works from the 1’st and 2’nd century BC certify that the Dacian practitioners of natural medicine had principles similar to those of the school of Hippocrates, father of medicine.

The usage of medicinal plants was woven with the spiritual-mystical side of the Dacian people and transposed into their rich mythology. Thus, according to the supreme Dacian deity, Zalmoxe, one could not try healing the body without healing the soul. Hereby, the Dacian people showed that they understood the connection between the body and the soul, these psycho-somatic notions being probably particularly rare at that time.

The Dacians believed in the immortality of the soul, for them death being only a passage from the material world to the spiritual one, governed by Zamolxes. The harmonious blending with Christianity led to the conservation of some aspects and traditions; Some Dacian deities evolved into Christian characters such as St. Elijah or Romanian fairy tale characters such as Prince Charming (Făt-Frumos – son of the sun) and Ileana Cosânzeana (daughter of the moon). SOURCE

The Dacian Wars

Deep within the wild and mysterious Carpathian Mountains of modern day Romania, nestled upon a series of hillsides, lie the ruins of an ancient metropolis that reached its heyday nearly two thousand years ago. It’s name was Sarmisegetuza, and it’s from this great mountain stronghold that Decebalus, the last king of the Dacia, masterminded his wars against the Romans.

After securing peace with Domitian in 89 CE, the Dacian King – Decebalus – was viewed as a rex amicus (a king friendly to Rome). However, the peace was seemingly weighed in favor of the Dacians, which irked the Romans. Worse still, the empire was suffering from shortages of metals – both gold (affecting the currency) and iron and copper (for arms and armor) – which needed to be addressed as a matter of priority. Fortunately for the Romans, Dacia was rich in these precious raw materials, and the belligerence of Decebalus and the lopsided Domitianic treaty meant that conflict could be justified. This is the casus belli given by Cassius Dio, writing some time after the war, but who nevertheless remains the most complete account of Trajan’s campaign.

Trajan’s Dacian War actually occurred in two stages. The first war lasted from 101-102 CE. The Romans advanced into Dacia from the city of Viminacium. The city had been the base for the Roman invasion of Dacian territory during Domitian’s war previously. After crossing the Danube River and marching into the heart of Dacia, Trajan and the Roman forces decisively defeated a Dacian army at the Second Battle of Tapae. With winter looming, Trajan hesitated in the advance on Sarmizegetusa, the Dacian capital. Decebalus took advantage of the pause and marched to assault the Roman province of Moesia.

A first battle, near the future city of Nicopolis ad Istrum, was a tentative Roman victory. The second engagement, the Battle of Adamclisi, was a hard-fought Roman victory. Decebalus, seeing that defeat was inevitable, requested a truce. Trajan agreed, under the provision that the Dacians yield territory held by the Romans, as well as the weapons and materials they had received after the treaty of 89 CE. Although Decebalus acquiesced to the terms, this would only be temporary… Continue reading HERE.

Historians believe that the Dacians and Getae were essentially the same group of tribes during successive periods, related to Thracian tribes from territory south of the Carpathian Mountains, but their exact relationship in place and time is a subject for debate. Those called the ‘Getae’ by ancient Greek sources were actively expanding by at least the 4th century BC; some enlisted as mercenaries in Roman armies during the 1st century BC, and others later clashed with the army of Augustus, fighting alongside the Sarmatians. The people whom the Romans called the ‘Dacians’ are best known from wars against the emperors Domitian in AD 85–89 and Trajan in 101–106. At their peak, the Dacians and Getae defeated neighbouring peoples stretching from modern Slovakia to southern Ukraine and it is believed that the effectiveness of their weapons caused modifications in Roman infantry armour.

The Dacian Draco

A Dacian Draco relief of Trajan’s Column.

The Dacian draco was a military standard used by troops of the ancient Dacian people, which can be seen in the hands of the soldiers of Decebalus in several scenes depicted on Trajan’s Column in Rome, Italy. This wind instrument has the form of a dragon with open wolf-like jaws containing several metal tongues. The hollow dragon’s head was mounted on a pole with a fabric tube affixed at the rear. In use, the draco was held up into the wind, or above the head of a horseman, where it filled with air and gave the impression it was alive while making a shrill sound as the wind passed through its strips of material. The Dacian draco likely influenced the development of the similar Roman draco. SOURCE

This Dacian Draco military standard hangs above my desk in my living room.

Gods and Goddesses of The Dacians

GEBELEIZIS, He is the Thunder. He is a celestial god. His attribute is the eagle. Gebeleizis, represents the clear sky. Everything that disturbs his harmony, storms, clouds, have to be combated. That’s why the Dacians shoot arrows towards the sky, in the clouds – to drive them away, to help Gebeleizis (this custom is related by Herodotus).

The goddess Bendis is corresponding to Artemis, in the Greek mythology, or Diana, in the Roman mythology. Therefore, Bendis is a goddess of the moon, of the forest. Herodotus wrote that this goddess is adored by the Thracian women, being borrowed from the populations at the north, who can only be the Dacians.

The cult of this goddess was confirmed by the archeological discoveries (a head of bronze found at Costesti, a medallion of clay, discovered at Sarmizegetusa, and a bronze bust from Piatra Rosie).

Her cult survived during the period of Roman occupation, in the form of Roman godess Diana. The name of Diana can be traced in the Romanian words zana, sanziana (Sancta Diana) or cosanziana (Quo Sancta Diana).

Derzelas (Darzalas) is a Thracian chthonic god of health and human spirit’s vitality.

Darzalas was the Great God of Hellenistic Odessos (modern Varna) since the 4th century BC and was frequently depicted on its coinage and portrayed in numerous terra cotta figurines, as well as in a rare 4th-century BC lead one, found in the city. There was a temple dedicated to him with a cult statue, and in 238 AD, games (Darzaleia) were held in his honor, possibly attended by Gordian III. Darzalas was often depicted in himation, holding cornucopiae with altars by his side. Continue reading HERE.

Herodotus goes on to describe a ritual that the Getae perform once every five years. For this ritual, the Getae would cast lots to determine who to send to Zalmoxis as their messenger. He would be given instructions as to what favors the Getae want their god to grant them on that occasion. After that, the messenger would be sent to Zalmoxis via the following means:

“They arrange three lances, with men to hold them, and then others grab the hands and feet of the one being sent to Zalmoxis and throw him up into the air and on to the points of the lances. If he dies from being impaled, they regard this as a sign that the god will look favorably on their requests. If he does not die, however, they blame this failure on the messenger himself, call him a bad man, and then find someone else to send.” SOURCE

Dacians and The Wolf

The wolf is the symbolic animal of the Dacians, who also called themselves “wolves”. The legend says they could turn into wolves. Some legends say that a big white wolf fought next to the Dacians when their capital Sarmizegetusa fell to the Romans. SOURCE

The oldest mentioning of the werewolf comes from 6th century BC and has its origins on the actual territory of Transylvania, according to the ancient historian Herodotus, all of this happening centuries before any other European references in regard with this subject.

The Legend of the Great White Wolf states that in lost times, a high priest of Zamolxis was roaming through Dacia’s forests in order to help the needy. Zalmoxis realizing the potential of his servant, called him into the mountains to be close to him. Far beyond human territory, the beasts of Dacia considered him their leader, wolves appreciating him the most. After some time Zalmoxis summoned him and asked him to serve in another way, and with his approval, the deity transformed him into a large and mighty White Wolf, the most respected and feared beast from all of Dacia. His purpose was to gather all the wolves from the forests and protect Dacia when needed. Whenever the Dacians were in danger, the wolves came to their aid when they heard the howl of the Great White Wolf.

The incorrect international adaptation of the werewolf concept, due to the lack of information and folklore research, reinvented him as a negative character, although according to the Dacian mythology this creature has a divine role of man’s protector.

The Dacians used to call themselves “daoi”, a word inherited from the ancient Phrygian language, daos, meaning wolf, as they had a strong connection to these animals. Their battle flag called Draco was formed out of a wolf’s head with its mouth wide open alongside the body of a dragon, symbolizing the spirit of this vivid animal guardian.

Thus, the basic legend of the Great White Wolf has its origins in the Dacians’ respect for the wolf and from this picture the werewolf idea came to life. However, its purpose was a noble one, as the werewolf was protecting the Dacian people in times of war. SOURCE

The legend of the Big White Wolf is part of the Romanian folklore. That means it has been passed down from generation to generation since ancient times. Here is my own translation of the legend from Romanian to English:

The Big White Wolf is not an animal, he is human…

Once, in forgotten times, a priest of Zamolxis was wandering the realms of Dacia without respite. He was helping those in need, and conveying to the Geto-Dacians that the great god was watching over them. In contrast to all others, without being old, he had hair and beard as white as snow. His faith, courage, and perseverance were known not only by humans and by Zamolxis himself, but also by the wild beasts. The god, realizing the value of his servant, keeps him at his home in the mountains to have him closer. Far away from humans, the priest continued to serve with the same determination as before. In short time, the wild beasts of Dacia came to obey him and consider him their leader. He was most adored by the wolves, for they were the only ones without a leader, only hunger keeping them in a pack.

After a while, Zamolxis speaks to his priest and decides that time has come for the priest to serve him in another shape, thus transforming him into an animal. However not into any animal, but into the most feared and respected beast of Dacia. Into a White Wolf, as big and strong as a bear, giving him the mission to gather all the wolves from the forests in order to defend the realm. In this way, whenever the Dacians where in danger, the wolves came to their aid. It was enough for the Big White Wolfs howl to be heard and from wherever they were, the wolves jumped forth to defend those who had become their brothers. But the White Wolf was also a judge, punishing the cowards and the traitors.

One day however, the god summoned his servant again, this time to give him the possibility to choose for the last time whether he wants to remain wolf or become human again. Although feeling sorrow in his heart, knowing what times are to come, he decides to remain by his god, hoping that this way he will better serve his territory and his people. Despite the vigilance of the Geto-Dacians, of the wolves and of the Big White Wolf, the Romans manage to infiltrate into their ranges. When the big invasion was about to start, the Romans planted in the hearts of some cowards the seed of mistrust towards the big god. Thus, some Dacians start fearing that the god will not be by their side in the great battle. The traitors taken over by fear start killing all the wolves that come in their way hoping that one of them would be the Big White Wolf whose head they could offer to the Romans in exchange for their lives. The wolves that managed to escape run into the heart of the mountains and never returned to help the brothers who had betrayed them. The White Wolf and Zamolxis withdraw into the Sacred Mountain from where they will see with grief in the heart how the Geto-Dacians will be conquered by the Romans because of the betrayal.

Dacian Wolf Legend

The Dacians had such a rich culture in all regards and it still carries great influence in Romania and surrounding areas to this day. As you have seen there is so much written about them and yet there is still so much we do not know but hopefully through ethical Archeology and other research we can uncover more about the fierce and proud Wolf warriors and their people of Dacia.

Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire – Episode 6: Dacian Wars (Documentary)

Further Resources

The Dacians, The Wolf Warriors

The Celts and The Dacians

The Dacians: Wolf Warriors

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The Picts and Who They Were

Being someone who really enjoys learning about ancient civilizations, culture and the people who lived through those times I truly find fascinating. Whether it is the Hittites who fought the ancient Egyptians, The “Sea People” of the Mediterranean or the Tartessians, they all had a hand in forging modern society. Today I want to share with you the still in many regards mysterious people of Scotland known as The Picts.

Origins of The Picts

By the fourth century AD, the predominant race in northern Scotland were the Picts, the name was coined by the Romans who referred to them as ‘Picti’ meaning ‘painted ones’, which referred to the Pictish custom of either tattooing their bodies or covering themselves with warpaint. The Irish referred to them as Cruithni, meaning “the people of the designs”. What they called themselves has gone unrecorded.

The Picts were descendants of the Iron Age people of northern Scotland, believed to have originated in Iberia as hunter-gatherers, they moved through lower Britain and entered Scotland around 7000BC. Recent DNA tests have proven the Picts were closely related to the Basques of northern Spain. The connections between northern Britain and Celtic Spain are supported by many myths and legends. The dolmens, standing stones and the trail of “cup and ring” designs carved on stones by the prehistoric people of Iberia make their way from Spain and Portugal and northern France to Ireland and Scotland and represent the earliest evidence of the movement of prehistoric man from Iberia to Britain. SOURCE

The Picts is a survey of the historical and cultural developments in northern Britain between AD 300 and AD 900. Discarding the popular view of the Picts as savages, they are revealed to have been politically successful and culturally adaptive members of the medieval European world.

Who Were The Picts?

From the accounts of Britain made by the classical authors, we know that by the fourth century AD, the predominant people in northern Scotland were referred to as “Picts”.

Throughout history, these Picts have been shadowy, enigmatic figures.

From the outset, they were regarded as savage warriors but by the time the Norsemen were compiling their sagas and histories, the memory of the Picts had degenerated into a semi-mythical race of fairies.

Theories abound, although these days it is generally accepted that the Picts were not, as was once believed, a new race, but were simply the descendants of the indigenous Iron Age people of northern Scotland.

The cloud of uncertainty that surrounds the Picts is simply because they left no written records.

Because of this, we have no clear insight into how they lived, their beliefs or society. All we know of them is from second-hand anecdotal evidence, lifted from the various historical writers who recorded their own, possibly biased, impressions of the Pictish people.

The earliest surviving mention of the Picts dates from AD 297.

In a poem praising the Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus, the orator Eumenius wrote that the Britons were already accustomed to the semi-naked “Picti and Hiberni (Irish) as their enemies.

From Emenius’ statement, we can see that the Picts were already a major thorn in the Roman Empire’s side. And they continued to be a problem for their neighbors – continually harassing them for centuries after the Roman legions abandoned Britain. But who were they? Continue reading HERE.

The Picts were a people of northern Scotland who are defined as a “confederation of tribal units whose political motivations derived from a need to ally against common enemies.” They were not a single tribe, nor necessarily a single people, although it is thought that they came originally from Scandinavia as a cohesive group. Since they left no written record of their history, what is known of them comes from later Roman and Scottish writers and from images the Picts themselves carved on stones.

Conflict with the Romans

The Romans referred to Scotland as Caledonia, a name derived from the Pictish tribe Caledonii. By AD 80 the Romans had succeeded in subduing the tribes of Britons which occupied the area south of the Forth and Clyde, but those to the north proved harder to conquer.

The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus recorded ‘ …the Picts, divided into two tribes called Dicalydones and Verturiones. are roving at large and causing great devastation. In the early-600s, the Spanish bishop and encyclopaedist, Isidore of Seville wrote of them:-‘the Picts, whose name is taken from their bodies, because an artisan, with the tiny point of a pin and the juice squeezed from a native plant, tricks them out with scars to serve as identifying marks, and their nobility are distinguished by their tattooed limbs.’

Gnaeus Julius Agricola advanced to the River Tay, constructing a legionary fortress at Inchtuthil, north of Perth. The Picts, under the leadership of Calgacus (‘the Swordsman’), met the Romans under Julius Agricola, at the Battle of Mons Graupius in 84 A.D. when the Romans marched on their main granaries. Prior to this, the Picts had avoided open battle, preferring to carry out guerilla-style raids. Tacitus records a speech which he claims to have been made by Calgacus before the battle in which he describes the Romans as: “Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace. Continue reading HERE.

Pictish Carvings

The Aberlemno I roadside symbol stone, Class I Pictish stone with Pictish symbols, showing (top to bottom) the serpent, the double disc and Z-rod and the mirror and comb.
This film begins where Symbols and Signs ends and traces attempts to explain the meaning of the Pictish symbols through the translation of Ogham and Latin inscriptions on a small number of the symbol stones. The film focuses on a number of key Pictish stones including those at St Vigeans, Auchenblae and Aberlemno. The film asks whether a Pictish ‘Rosetta Stone’ has been discovered which reveals the meaning of the symbols.

The Picts left no written records but instead their legacy comes down to us in the carved stones that can be found around Scotland. See our guide to the ten best places to see Pictish and Celtic carvings in Scotland. Researchers continue to explore the meaning of the carvings found on Pictish stones, which often feature symbols, animals and people.

The occasional new find such as the imprint of the hand of a Pictish copper smith continue to build on our knowledge, whilst projects such as the Northern Picts Project carry out award-winning research into the Picts and their landscape. SOURCE

The Picts have fascinated for centuries. They emerged c. ad 300 to defy the might of the Roman empire only to disappear at the end of the first millennium ad, yet they left major legacies. They laid the foundations for the medieval Scottish kingdom and their captivating carved stones are some of the most eye-catching yet enigmatic monuments in Europe. Until recently the Picts have been difficult to trace due to limited archaeological investigation and documentary sources, but innovative new research has produced critical new insights into the culture of a highly sophisticated society which defied the might of the Roman Empire and forged a powerful realm dominating much of northern Britain.

This is the first dedicated book on the Picts that covers in detail both their archaeology and their history. It examines their kingdoms, culture, beliefs and everyday lives from their origins to their end, not only incorporating current thinking on the subject, but also offering innovative perspectives that transform our understanding of the early history of Scotland.
Picts: History and Heritage provides an overview of some of the key developments in the evolution of the Pictish kingdom between the 5th and 9th centuries. Using recent studies on the political centralisation of Pictland and its external relations with neighbouring kingdoms, the film traces some of the key developments in the history of Fortiu until the Gaelic takeover at the end of the 9th century.

Timeline of the Picts: Key Figures and Events

When the Angles of Bernicia overran the British kingdoms, one of which was the Anglian kingdom of Deira, they became the most powerful kingdom in Britain. Deira and Bernicia together were called Northumbria.

It is believed the Picts were probably a tributary to Northumbria until the reign of Brideimac Beli in 685 AD. The Anglicans suffered a severe defeat at the Battle of Dun Nectain that stopped their northward expansion. The Picts sent the Angles back south to Britain.

By the mid-9th century, Vikings had destroyed the kingdoms of Dal Riata and Northumbria, greatly diminished the power of the Kingdoms of Strathclyde and founded the Kingdom of York. During a major battle in 839 AD, the Vikings killed the King of Fortriu, Eogan man Oengusa.

Sometime in the 840s AD, Cinaed mac Alpin (Kenneth MacAlpin) became the king of the Picts. He united the Picts and the Scots, and together these tribes formed the new Kingdom of Scotland. At this time, they routed out the Vikings. SOURCE

What Happened to The Picts?

It is believed that, over several decades, the Picts merged with the Gaels. Pictland, also called Pictavia, gradually merged with the Gaelic kingdom of Dal Riata to form the Kingdom of Alba, which eventually came to be called Scotland.

Alba expanded, absorbing the Brythonic kingdom of Strathclyde and Bernician Lothian. By the 11th century, historians believe the Pictish people and their identity had been subsumed into the “Scots” conglomeration of people.

During the Dark Ages, the Pictish language did not suddenly disappear, but a process of Gaelicisation (which may have begun generations earlier) was clearly underway during the reign of Kenneth MacAlpin. Eventually, the inhabitants of Alba became fully Gaelicised Scots, and the Pict identity was forgotten. Later in British Isles history, the idea of the Picts as a Celtic tribe was revived in myth and legend. SOURCE

Further Resources

The Picts: 13 Amazing Facts about the ancient people that protected Scotland from the Roman Empire

Land of the Picts: New excavations reveal the truth behind the legend of these fearsome northern warriors

The Kingdom of the Picts

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Tartessos: The Iberian Lost Civilization

One of my passions regarding history are lost or little known ancient civilizations and when I come across or a friend shares with me something about a civilization I have not heard of before I tend to dive into it to learn as much as I can. Recently a friend of mine introduced me to the lost and little known ancient civilization known as Tartessos. Tartessos was a civilization that was located in Southern Spain along the Mediterranean and suddenly disappeared around 500 BCE. So after extensive research I found the best resources to share with you regarding this fascinating civilization.

Tartessos expansion through its existence.

“Tartessos” is the name given by the Greeks to the first Western civilization they knew, which was inhabiting the southwest of Spain. It was the first organized state of the Iberian Peninsula and was highly developed politically and culturally by the end of the second millennium before Christ.

The kingdom of Tartessos was the first one in Spain which had relations with the historical eastern Mediterranean civilizations, like Greeks and Phoenicians, and had with them important commercial relations. Therefore, and for their wealth in minerals, the Tartessos reached great importance. The country of the Tartessos is mentioned in many historical sources as a rich and splendorous kingdom.

The kingdom of Tartessos was located in a region crossed by the river “Tartessos”. This river was later called “Betis” by the Romans and “Guadalquivir” by the Moors.

Roman authors describe the region:

“Tartessos is a river in the land of the Iberians. It reaches the sea by two mouths and between these two mouths lays a city with the same name (Tartessos). The river is the longest in Iberia, has tides, and now is called Baetis”.

That means; with the name Tartessos the Greek and Roman authors identified a river, a kingdom and the capital of this kingdom, located at the mouth of that river. Further details about the location of this capital we find here:

Ephorus (Escimno, 162) writes that the capital Tartessos was two days of travel (1000 stadiums) from the Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar). From Gibraltar to the present mouth of the Guadalquivir there are 900 stadiums.

Despite many detailed descriptions, the capital of Tartessos has not yet been found as the geography of the area has changed during those last 3000 years:

The eastern mouth of the river is the only one that now exists. It is located in the province of Cadiz, and was much wider historically.

The western mouth does not exist anymore, but it is considered that it was located between the current towns Matalascañas and Huelva. In this area today we only find a number of lakes.

Historically, between these two river arms there was a large lagoon, and in this lagoon there was at least one island where the legendary city probably was located.

Neither this lagoon nor any islands exist today, all this is an area of marshes which form a part of the Doñana National Park along the Costa de la Luz. Investigations in Doñana lead to the conclusion that there have been two natural disasters (tsunamis) that caused the islands and dry areas to sink, one of which happened around 1500 BC and the other 200 AC. Continue reading HERE.

With Tartessian tentatively identified as Celtic, and at the very least Indo-European, this might this change our view of the ancient Celts.

Tartessian language

The Tartessian Fonte Velha inscription (Bensafrim, (Lagos)) beginning with “lokooboo niiraboo too aŕaia i kaaltee…” meaning “Invoking the divine Lug of the (Gallaecian) Neri (tribe), this funerary monument for a noble Celt…”. Fonte Velha (Bensafrim, Lagos). Tartessian or Southwest script. Fonte Velha (Bensafrim, Lagos).

Tartessian is an extinct Paleo-Hispanic language found in the Southwestern inscriptions of the Iberian Peninsula, mainly located in the south of Portugal (Algarve and southern Alentejo), and the southwest of Spain (south of Extremadura and western Andalusia). There are 95 such inscriptions, the longest having 82 readable signs. Around one third of them were found in Early Iron Age necropolises or other Iron Age burial sites associated with rich complex burials. It is usual to date them to the 7th century BC and to consider the southwestern script to be the most ancient Paleo-Hispanic script, with characters most closely resembling specific Phoenician letter forms found in inscriptions dated to c. 825 BC. Five of the inscriptions occur on stelae with what has been interpreted as Late Bronze Age carved warrior gear from the Urnfield culture.

Beyond the Aegean, some of the earliest written records of Europe come from the south-west, what is now southern Portugal and south-west Spain. Herodotus, the ‘Father of History’, locates the Keltoi or ‘Celts’ in this region, as neighbours of the Kunetes of the Algarve. He calls the latter the ‘westernmost people of Europe’. However, modern scholars have been disinclined – until recently – to consider the possibility that the south-western inscriptions and other early linguistic evidence from the kingdom of Tartessos were Celtic. This book shows how much of this material closely resembles the attested Celtic languages: Celtiberian (spoken in east-central Spain) and Gaulish, as well as the longer surviving langiages of Ireland, Britain and Brittany. In many cases, the 85 Tartessian inscriptions of the period c. 750-c. 450 BC can now be read as complete statements written in an Ancient Celtic language.
Two of the carved figures likely depict goddesses wearing gold earrings. (Image credit: Samuel Sánchez )

Archaeologists in Spain have unearthed five life-size busts of human figures that could be the first-known human depictions of the Tartessos, a people who formed an ancient civilization that disappeared more than 2,500 years ago. 

The carved stone faces, which archaeologists date to the fifth century B.C., were found hidden inside a sealed pit in an adobe temple at Casas del Turuñuelo, an ancient Tartessian site in southern Spain. The pieces were scattered amongst animal bones, mostly from horses, that likely came from a mass sacrifice, according to a translated statement published April 18.

“The unusual thing about the new finding is that the representations correspond to human faces,” Erika López, a spokesperson for the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), said in the statement. 

Archaeologists from the CSIC called this discovery “a profound paradigm shift in the interpretation of [Tartessos],” since this ancient civilization, which existed from about the eighth to the fourth centuries B.C., was long considered an aniconic culture in which divinity was represented through animal or plant motifs, rather than idolized humans, according to the statement. Continue reading HERE.

Tartessos was an ancient harbor city on the southern Iberian (ancient Spain) coast. Greeks considered it an important and wealthy trading partner, rich with metals, silver and gold. In this video, we talk about the rise and fall of the forgotten Tartessian Civilization.
7th century BCE pectoral (brooch on the chest) from the Tartessian Culture. Archaeological Museum of Seville. (SOURCE)

Before the Tartessians

Southwest Andalucia had been an area of rapid development ever since the Neolithic people arrived about 5800 BC. The fertile valley of the Rio Guadalquivir and, to a lesser extent, the narrow coastal strip along the Mediterranean coast, together with the wetter climate in the west caused by the prevailing winds off the Atlantic Ocean meeting the west facing highlands of the Sierra Morena, Sierra Grazalema and the Alcornocales, reduced crop failures and encouraged an increase in population, compared to the more arid, eastern parts of Andalucia.

The increase in population had encouraged the formation of family clusters, that became settlements whenever population densities rose above a certain level. This appears to be a phenomenon or urge that is built into the human psyche since it has occurred all over the world at different times, despite there being no possibility of communication between those populations separated geographically and in time.

How the societies developed following the initial clustering depended on the environment, climate and outside influences. In some parts of the world societies have developed to a certain level and then failed, only to be reborn, sometimes on numerous occasions. So it was with the Tartessians.

Soon after the Neolithic period started, people started to claim the land in western Andalucia. From about 4700 BC, they built megalithic structures, symbols on the landscape populated by ancestors, thereby proclaiming their ages long ownership of the land. The megalithic phenomenon expanded from Huelva and Cadiz provinces, up the Guadalquivir valley into Granada and Almeria. The so-called ditched enclosures appeared. These are now thought to have been communal areas demarcated into spaces in which different activities occurred, ceremonial, metalworking, animal butchery as well as in some instances, dwelling spaces. Single burials became multiple burials and, towards the end of the period, regressed back to individual burials, often cremated. The huge site of Valencina de la Concepción at Seville is the most researched site that combines all these features. Continue reading HERE.

Endowed with extraordinary wealth in metals and strategically positioned between the Atlantic and Mediterranean trading routes at the time of Greek and Phoenician colonial expansion, Tartessos flourished in the eighth and seventh centuries BCE. Tartessos became a literate, sophisticated, urban culture in southwestern Iberia (today’s Spain and Portugal), enriched by commercial contacts with the Aegean and the Levant since at least the ninth century. In its material culture (architecture, grave goods, sanctuaries, plastic arts), we see how native elements combined with imported “orientalizing” innovations introduced by the Phoenicians. Historians of the rank of Herodotos and Livy, geographers such as Strabo and Pliny, Greek and Punic periploi and perhaps even Phoenician and Hebrew texts, testify to the power, wealth, and prominence of this western-most Mediterranean civilization.

Archaeologists, in turn, have demonstrated the existence of a fascinating complex society with both strong local roots and international flare. Yet for still-mysterious reasons, Tartessos did not attain a “Classical” period like its peer emerging cultures did at the same time (Etruscans, Romans, Greeks).

This book combines the expertise of its two authors in archaeology, philology, and cultural history to present a comprehensive, coherent, theoretically up-to-date, and informative overview of the discovery, sources, and debates surrounding this puzzling culture of ancient Iberia and its complex hybrid identity vis-a-vis the western Phoenicians. This book will be of great interest to students of the classics, archaeology and ancient history, Phoenician-Punic studies, colonization and cultural contact.

Further Resources:

The inscription from Mesas do Castelinho, south Portugal, was discovered in September 2008. With 82 readable signs it is now the longest of the corpus of 95 Tartessian inscriptions. These texts survive from the Early Iron Age in the south-western Iberian Peninsula, the earliest writing from Atlantic Europe. By recombining word roots, prefixes and endings previously attested, the new inscription permits a major breakthrough with the language, confirming word divisions and contributing to the critical mass of evidence. It is now possible to take the case for Tartessian as an Indo-European and specifically Celtic language a step further, to ask what sort of Celtic language Tartessian was and how its syntax and sound system compares with those of Celtiberian, Gaulish, Old Irish and Welsh.

The Iberian civilisation that vanished

The Ancient People Who Burned Their Culture to the Ground

First ever human depiction of lost Tartessos civilization uncovered in Spain

Tartessian

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The Power of Salt

The Power of Salt by W1tchsbrew

Be sure to check her Etsy shop Wood ov Wyrd

Salt in History:

For centuries, salt has been known as a very magical, and also valuable, ingredient. 

Salt was very important in the grand scheme of human civilization. 

In the early days of mankind, prior to industrialization, the process of harvesting salt was time consuming and labor intensive. This meant that salt was a valuable commodity and only wealthy people could afford it. 

The first records of salt being produced and consumed were in the Sichuan province of China around 3000 BCE. Salt was also used in ancient Egypt from as early as 2000 BCE, for curing fish and meat.

The ancient Romans actually paid their soldiers with salt. The word “salary” even has its root in the Latin word for salt.

Natron or native soda, a natural compound of sodium salts, was a very important product in ancient history. It was produced in Egypt, Middle East and Greece. Natron was used for medicine, cookery, agriculture, in glass-making and to dehydrate Egyptian mummies.

The first Native Americans “discovered” by Europeans in the Caribbean were actively harvesting sea salt on St. Maarten.

When the major European fishing fleets discovered the Grand Banks of Newfoundland at the end of the 15th century, the Portuguese and Spanish fleets used the “wet” method of salting their fish onboard, while the French and English fleets used the “dry” or “shore” salting method of drying their catch on racks onshore. 

Its the only rock we eat. In this video, we’ll focus on the Story of Salt. Once considered sacred now superfluous. What could me more common than the salt and pepper at our tables? Let’s take a deep dive into the rich history of this amazing mineral!

Due to this early food processing, French and British fishermen became the first European inhabitants of North America since the Vikings a half-century earlier. 

Had it not been for the practice of salting fish, Europeans might have confined their fishing to the coasts of Europe and delayed “discovery” of the New World.

Historically, salt also had military significance. For instance, it is recorded that thousands of Napoleon’s troops died during his retreat from Moscow because their wounds would not heal due to the lack of salt. 

In 1777, the British Lord Howe was jubilant when he succeeded in capturing General Washington’s salt supply.

If we look more into to American history, destinies were decided by salt. During the Civil War, salt was a precious commodity used, not only for eating, but for tanning leather, dyeing clothes and preserving troop rations.

Aside from flavoring and preserving food or even tanning and dyeing, salt has also been used in bleaching, and the production of pottery, soap, and chlorine. Today, it is widely used in the chemical industry.

There are many different kinds of salt with many different uses. In its natural state, salt is normally found as the mineral halite, commonly called rock salt. 

Not surprisingly, the word halite is derived from the Greek word halos meaning “salt.” Halite is usually found in and around salt springs, salt lakes, and in the ocean.

Best-selling author Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history: salt. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions.  Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details, Salt is a supremely entertaining, multi-layered masterpiece.

Salt in Folklore: 

In many Eastern belief systems, such as Buddhism and Shintoism, salt is used both as a purifier and to repel evil.

In parts of Germany, Normandy, and Scotland, salt is used in or around a butter churn to keep witches from souring the butter or harming the cow from which the cream was obtained.

Irish folk remedies include the use of salt, combined with a recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, to cure those who might have been “fairy-struck.”

 A similar story comes from Bavaria and Ukraine, in which salt is used to determine if a child is bewitched.

Egyptian caravans setting out on a journey across the desert used to perform a ritual that involved burning salt on hot coals. This was done to ensure that evil spirits wouldn’t get in the way of the travelers.

Types of salt and their uses:

Himalayan Pink Salt

The purest of all salt, Himalayan pink salt is harvested from the Khewra Salt Mine in the Himalayan Mountains of Pakistan. Easily recognizable because of its pink color, this salt contains all 84 natural minerals found in the human body.

Health benefits:

One of the most notable health benefits of Himalayan pink salt is its ability to help detoxify the body and soften the skin. This special type of salt has a unique combination of minerals, including magnesium, calcium, and potassium, that help to stimulate circulation and detoxify the body.

Metaphysical uses:

Himalayan Salt has very similar properties to Rose Quartz and is an excellent crystal for love, especially self-love. If you struggle with low self-image or are trying to rebuild your confidence after an emotional blow, keep it near the mirror you use most before you go out.

It is recommended that those who work in environments of negativity should keep a piece of Himalayan Salt nearby as it is excellent for dispelling negative energies. 

It is also said to aid in bringing prosperity and abundance into the home. 

Place it near a statue of Aphrodite to draw love into your life, or near the threshold to bless those who cross it.

Sea Salt

Sea salt is harvested by evaporating seawater. It is used as seasoning in foods and for preserving foods. It is also called bay salt or solar salt. 

Production of sea salt has been dated to prehistoric times. 

Folklore even tells a tail explaining how the sea became salty. There are many versions of the story from Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland, all involving a magic mill, which grinds salt and ends up at the bottom of the sea, generally due to someone’s greed.

Health benefits: 

Sea salt is mostly composed of sodium chloride, a compound that helps regulate fluid balance and blood pressure in the body. Since it’s minimally processed, it contains some minerals, including potassium, iron, and calcium. 

Sea salt aids in digestion, nourishes the adrenal glands, balances electrolytes and reduces fluid retention. 

Metaphysical uses:

Sea salt possesses the healing powers of the ocean. You can add it to magical healing baths, incorporate it into spells or save it in a jar as a protective charm.

Sea Salt is known for its purifying, protective, and healing powers.  

Black Salt

Black salt. also referred to as Kala Namak salt, is harvested from volcanic rock salt from the Himalayas, usually Pakistan. 

Black salt has a very pungent odor and flavor and is therefore used in small quantities. This salt is seen as a great flavor enhancer and is used in dishes that have a strong flavor and aroma, such as curry, spicy dishes, pickles, and salads.

Health benefits:

This salt is rich in iron, magnesium and calcium. Is also has antioxidant properties and surprisingly low sodium levels.

Black salt stimulates bile production in the liver, and even helps control heartburn and bloating. 

Due to its generous content of potassium, this salt also helps in easing muscle spasms and helps them in working properly. 

Black salt for weight loss is an excellent addition to your diet if you are supposed to reduce your sodium intake while also avoiding water retention and bloating.

Metaphysical uses:

Black Salt has been used for many centuries for protection, cursing, hexing, banishing and reverse magick. 

Black salt absorbs negative energies and left over, stagnant vibrations.

It can also absorb negative energies from your environmental circumstances and is often used in spells or magical workings to create boundaries, assist with spiritual barriers, and provide protection.

Persian Blue Salt

Persian Blue Salt is one of the rarest and oldest salts on the planet. 

It is extracted from salt ponds in Semnan, Iran (formerly known as Persia) that formed over 100 million years ago. 

The blue color comes from a mineral call sylvinite. Due to the fact that this salt is mined from a buried ancient sea, it is very clean and pure as it has not been exposed to any modern environmental pollutants or contaminants.

It is salty and spicy in flavor. 

Health benefits:

As a potassium mineral, this salt brings benefits to the blood circulatory system, strengthens the heart, stabilizes blood pressure and helps digestion. 

This mineral is essential for strong bones and teeth. It also supports healthy muscles and nerves.

Metaphysical uses:

Persian Blue Salt is used in magic and rituals by Pagans, Wiccans, Hoodoo practitioners, people who practice witchcraft and by those who want a little psychic or spiritual help for its power with justice and legal matters. 

This salt is know for it’s protection from The Evil Eye, bad energy or bad luck. 

It also has great uses in magick for healing, tranquility, peace and absorbing negativity. 

Celtic Sea Salt

This high quality salt, harvested from the sea, has a superior flavor that enhances the natural profile of fruits and vegetables while strengthening the body. 

Celtic sea salt originates from the coastal area near Brittany, France.  It always remains a greyish damp salt no matter the conditions because of its moist nature. 

After collecting from the seashore, it is dried in wind and sunlight. This salt contains 34 minerals that add to its nutritional profile.

Health benefits: 

Rich in alkalizing minerals, Celtic Sea Salt energizes, replenishes electrolytes, fights bacterial infection, and aids digestion.

It helps to remove mucus and clear the congestion in the nasal cavity, aids in boosting the immune system, strengthens the heart, reduces the risk of high blood pressure and reduces muscle cramps. This salt also helps to prevent kidney stones, and controls the quantity of saliva production. 

Metaphysical uses:

Celtic Sea Salt gives an extra metaphysical boost as far as spiritual intention or “power”. 

In magic, this salt is excellent for repelling negative energies or entities, strengthening manifestation, cleansing, grounding, and banishing. 

Place some Celtic Sea Salt under your bed to keep nightmares at bay. Or put some in a bowl near your windowsill to keep any dark intentions from crossing over into your space. 

Alaea Red Salt

Alaea salt, sometimes referred to as Hawaiian red salt, is an unrefined sea salt that has been mixed with an iron oxide rich volcanic clay called “alaea” which gives the seasoning its characteristic brick red color. 

It is part of Native Hawaiian cuisine and is used in traditional dishes such as kalua pig, poke and pipikaula (Hawaiian jerky). 

Once exported to the Pacific Northwest to cure salmon, it saw a resurgence in popularity late in the 20th century. 

Health benefits:

Alaea red salt is a natural sea salt product that is comprised of some 80 natural elements, electrolytes and trace minerals such as potassium and magnesium. 

Red alaea is also rich in iron oxides, which makes for a great digestible form of dietary iron. 

Not only is this salt mineral rich but it’s rich in flavor too.

Metaphysical uses:

Traditionally, Alaea red salt was used to cleanse, purify and bless tools, canoes, homes and temples. 

Native Hawaiians believed that the Red Alaea clay gave the salt its spiritual power. To this day, it is still used in traditional ceremonies, ritual blessings, and purifying purposes.

In general, this salt is alleged to help with protection, blocking negative energies, cleansing and casting circles. In a casting circle ritual, this salt would normally be placed around the area that the spell or ritual is about to be performed. 

A salt circle is believed to help separate the energy of the ritual from the energy around the circle. When the spell is completed, the circle is then broken to release the energy.

Further Resources:

No creature can live without this magic mineral — and no living organism can produce it on its own. Amoebas, algae or humans — all life-forms are completely at the mercy of this simple chemical compound. In all bodies of water on earth, there is salt in abundance, and animals and humans have always been able to extract the valuable crystals from water — directly through their organs or with the aid of evaporation in salt lagoons.
Salt, once a highly prized trade commodity essential for human survival, is often overlooked in research because it is invisible in the archaeological record. Salt in Eastern North America and the Caribbean: History and Archaeology brings salt back into archaeology, showing that it was valued as a dietary additive, had curative powers, and was a substance of political power and religious significance for Native Americans. Major salines were embedded in collective memories and oral traditions for thousands of years as places where physical and spiritual needs could be met. Ethnohistoric documents for many Indian cultures describe the uses of and taboos and other beliefs about salt.
 
The volume is organized into two parts: Salt Histories and Salt in Society. Case studies from prehistory to post-Contact and from New York to Jamaica address what techniques were used to make salt, who was responsible for producing it, how it was used, the impact it had on settlement patterns and sociopolitical complexity, and how economies of salt changed after European contact. Noted salt archaeologist Heather McKillop provides commentary to conclude the volume.

Salt Folklore and Magic Using Salt in Modern Pagan Traditions

Salt in Folklore: 10 Things You Didn’t Know

History of Salt

A Brief History of Salt

The History of Salt

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The Druids: History and More

Being someone who is spiritual and has a passion for history one area that has fascinated me are the tales of the ancient Druids. From accounts by those of the Roman empire into the Renaissance age and even to this day where modern Druidism still exists. Druids existed in the religious practices of the ancient Celtic cultures and it is said even held sort of position as judges. The ancient Druids are still shrouded in mystery but enough is known to enable me to provide my readers with a ton of excellent resources which I hope will be enjoyed.

A Long History

About 2500 years ago, and possibly long before that, at each end of the Indo-European arc, tribal spiritualities emerged that would eventually grow to become flourishing modern movements, with adherents all over the world. While the earliest versions of what would later become the Hindu and Jain religions emerged in the Indus valley, in western Europe at about the same time, writers began to record the existence of Druidism.

Its practice was first noted in two Greek works over two thousand years ago in around 200 BCE although both works were since lost. In 50 BCE Julius Caesar wrote that Druidism originated in Britain, and although some claim that Druids could be found across much of Europe, from Ireland in the west to Anatolia (now Turkey) in the east, scholars now believe this is unlikely. Instead Druids were probably native just to the British Isles, Ireland and western Gaul (now France).

Although written accounts seem to have begun 2,200 years ago, Druidry was probably in existence for a good deal of time before then, and it seems likely that as a type of religion or magical practice it evolved out of earlier pre-Druidic cult practices. Continue reading HERE.

The Druids by Peter Berresford Ellis

In this compelling and highly reliable study of the Druids, respected Celtic scholar Peter Berresford Ellis sifts through the historical evidence and, with reference to the latest archaeological and etymological findings, gives the first authentic account of who the mysterious Druids were and what role they played in Celtic society.
The Druids emerge as the intellectual caste of ancient Celtic society. They were the doctors, the lawyers, the ambassadors, the advisers to kings. They also had a religious function. Ellis describes the special Druidic training, their philosophy, their belief in auguries, and their intriguing origins. He also shows that the current “New Age” image of the Druids as benevolent wizards comes from a woefully inadequate interpretation of the facts.

“By the bright circle of the golden sun,
By the bright courses of the errant moon,
By the dread potency of every star,
In the mysterious Zodiac’s burning girth,
By each and all of these supernal signs,
We do adjure thee, with this trusty blade
To guard yon central oak, whose holy stem,
Involves the spirit of high Taranis:
Be this thy charge.”-MASON

THE
THE VEIL OF ISIS;
OR,
MYSTERIES OF THE DRUIDS
BY
W. WINWOOD READE.
(1861)

In simple terms, the Druids were the priests of the Celtic tribes in Britain. But to state that fact does not convey the breadth of their influence in Celtic society. The Druids were a sort of super-class of priests, political advisors, teachers, healers, and arbitrators among the Celtic tribes.

They had their own universities, where traditional knowledge was passed on by rote (i.e. memorized). Druids had the right to speak ahead of the king in council, and may in some situations have held more authority than the king. They acted as ambassadors in time of war, they composed verse and upheld the law. They were a sort of glue holding together Celtic culture.

We know that the Druids used both animal and human sacrifice, and that many of their observances centred on oak groves and water. The Isle of Anglesey, in present-day Wales, was a centre of Druidic practice. SOURCE

Using ancient and medieval sources, alongside comparative analysis, the identity and beliefs of the druids take shape, from their organizational practices, to their philosophy and spiritual beliefs.

“The Druids officiate at the worship of the gods, regulate at public and private sacrifice, and rule on all religious questions. Large numbers of young men flock to them for instruction, and they are held in great honour by the people.”

Julius Caesar (Gallic Wars, VI:13)

A Complete History Of The Druids: Their Origin, Manners, Customs, Powers, Temples, Rites, And Superstition, With An Inquiry Into Their Religion (1810) by T. G. Lomax. This scarce antiquarian book is a facsimile reprint of the original. Due to its age, it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages. Because we believe this work is culturally important, we have made it available as part of our commitment for protecting, preserving, and promoting the world’s literature in affordable, high quality, modern editions that are true to the original work.

Theology

Since Druidry is a spiritual path – a religion to some, a way of life to others – Druids share a belief in the fundamentally spiritual nature of life. Some will favour a particular way of understanding the source of this spiritual nature, and may feel themselves to be animists, pantheists, polytheists, monotheists or duotheists. Others will avoid choosing any one conception of Deity, believing that by its very nature this is unknowable by the mind.

Monotheistic druids believe there is one Deity: either a Goddess or God, or a Being who is better named Spirit or Great Spirit, to remove misleading associations to gender. But other druids are duo-theists, believing that Deity exists as a pair of forces or beings, which they often characterize as the God and Goddess.

Polytheistic Druids believe that many gods and goddesses exist, while animists and pantheists believe that Deity does not exist as one or more personal gods, but is instead present in all things, and is everything. Continue reading HERE.

Two Druids, 19th-century engraving based on a 1719 illustration by Bernard de Montfaucon, who said that he was reproducing a bas-relief found at Autun, Burgundy. SOURCE

Caesar’s Account of the Druids

According to Caesar, who had encountered druids in Gaul, they were an essential class of the Gallic society. The Druids recognized a single leader who ruled the group until his death. They met at a sacred place in Gaul every year, while Britain remained the center of druidic studies. Caesar notes that the Druids who wished to undertake further druidic education often made pilgrimages to Britain to improve their knowledge which sometimes lasted over twenty years. 

The Druids did not take part in war and were exempt from military taxes and enlistment. Instead, they studied lore, medicine, astrology, and philosophy, among many other subjects. According to Caesar, they did not record their practices, but they did make use of the Greek alphabet in different spheres of their public and private accounts. Caesar’s most disturbing recording is the practice of human sacrifice, for which the Druids used criminals. The victim would be sacrificed through burning in a wicker man. 

The wicker man was a large wicker effigy in which the body was placed. Yet archaeology has not provided any evidence of this practice nor of its associations with the Druids. Indeed it is not unlikely that Caesar exaggerated specific claims to exemplify Gaul and Britain’s conquest. Caesar depicted the Druids as both learned and barbaric. But just how much of this account is exaggerated, we will probably never know. SOURCE

In this edition of “Ancient World History”, we are going to take you through a journey where you can learn about the rise and fall of the druids i.e., find out all about the history of druids.

Further Resources:

The Druids and Romanization

Who were the Druids?

Who were the Druids? A history of Druidism in Britain

The Buried Mysteries Of Wale’s Ancient Druids | Time Team | Odyssey

The Druid’s Book of Ceremonies, Prayers and Songs

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Salem Witch Trials: The Accused Sarah Good

Salem Witch Trials: The Accused Sarah Good by Odin’s Daughter

Sarah Good is part of the first accused. Her trial started on March 1st, 1692. Just as Bishop before her; she had gone through many examinations, witness testaments, review of evidence, indictments, depositions, outside testimonies, warrant for execution and even one for her original arrest. Sadly, along with her arrest, her 4-year-old daughter Dorothy (listed as Dorcas) and unborn child joined her. Her husband, though not vouching that she was indeed a witch, was nearing to become one.

Sarah Good, born Sarah Solart, in 1653. Her father was a successful innkeeper. Her first marriage was to servant Daniel Poole, who later died in 1686. Later she married again, this time to William Good. The family was worse for wear. Living the life of poor New Englanders due to her first husband’s debt. They lived in homes of friends and bounced around with two small children.

Sarah Good grave stone Salem, Massachusetts.

Sarah Good did not have a decent reputation in the town. She was known as unpleasant and disreputable. This very soon did not help her chances at life. On February 29th, 1692, a warrant for her arrest was established. She was questioned endlessly and repeatedly. She even broke once and named someone else to turn the attention away from herself. Many had accused of witchcraft in various forms. At one point during her trial, a girl in the room pulled a knife tip from the breast of her jacket claiming Good tried to stab her. A man stood up claiming that the accusation was a flat lie. That in fact that was the knife tip he broke off yesterday and threw away. He even produced the knife the tip came from. One would think, that just maybe, this incident would shed hope onto Good. It did not, the girl was told not to lie in court and the proceedings continued. Another point that added fuel to the fire, was her Husband. He did not declare her a witch but did say she was on her way to becoming one. Her bad reputation in Salem was the big nail in the coffin. It was even said she was an aged woman in or near her seventies with white hair and bad skin. Giving way to what we see to today as descriptors through media, stories and tales of witches and hags.

Sarah Good Salem stone marker, Salem, Massachusetts.
Warrant for the Apprehension of Sarah Good, and Officer’s Return

Sarah Good was sentenced to hang, but not before the birth of her unborn child. Sadly, the child born in prison was a girl she named Mercy. Shortly before she hung, Mercy died in prison. Her daughter Dorothy, sat in prison for 7 to 8 months before being released to her father under bond. She thankfully never had to stand trial. Only though she lived a mentally unstable life; she endured much questioning, little to no food, damp conditions, loneliness, physical examinations and cracked. She gave testimony against her own mother under extreme duress. She is said to have lived a life with insanity. Her mother was hung July 19th, 1692.

The infamous Salem witch trials began during the spring of 1692, after a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of witchcraft. As a wave of hysteria spread throughout colonial Massachusetts, a special court convened in Salem to hear the cases; the first convicted witch, Bridget Bishop, was hanged that June. Eighteen others followed Bishop to Salem’s Gallows Hill, while some 150 more men, women and children were accused over the next several months. By September 1692, the hysteria had begun to abate and public opinion turned against the trials. Though the Massachusetts General Court later annulled guilty verdicts against accused witches and granted indemnities to their families, bitterness lingered in the community, and the painful legacy of the Salem witch trials would endure for centuries.
Six Women of Salem is the first work to use the lives of a select number of representative women as a microcosm to illuminate the larger crisis of the Salem witch trials. By the end of the trials, beyond the twenty who were executed and the five who perished in prison, 207 individuals had been accused, 74 had been “afflicted,” 32 had officially accused their fellow neighbors, and 255 ordinary people had been inexorably drawn into that ruinous and murderous vortex, and this doesn’t include the religious, judicial, and governmental leaders. All this adds up to what the Rev. Cotton Mather called “a desolation of names.”

The individuals involved are too often reduced to stock characters and stereotypes when accuracy is sacrificed to indignation. And although the flood of names and detail in the history of an extraordinary event like the Salem witch trials can swamp the individual lives involved, individuals still deserve to be remembered and, in remembering specific lives, modern readers can benefit from such historical intimacy. By examining the lives of six specific women, Marilynne Roach shows readers what it was like to be present throughout this horrific time and how it was impossible to live through it unchanged.

Further Resources:

Salem Witch Trials: The Accused Bridget Bishop

Four-year-old Dorothy Good is jailed for witchcraft, March 24, 1692

The Witchcraft Trial of Sarah Good

Sarah Good Written By Sara Jobe

Salem Witchcraft Trials

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Salem Witch Trials: The Accused Bridget Bishop

Salem Witch Trials: The Accused Bridget Bishop by Odin’s Daughter

During the Winter of February 1692, unrest was building in the Village of Salem. Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams, through fits and mysterious maladies, were diagnosed with being affected with witchcraft. They soon released the names of the accused to their parents. Leading to more than one-hundred fifty accused. One even being a four-year-old child. Soon, June had arrived and here marks the first of the trials. One of whom was the most severely accused by her community, Bridget Bishop.

Born some time in the 1630s, Bridget Playfer, was born in Norwich, England. Soon to follow in the year 1660, she had her fist marriage to Samuel Wasselbe (spellings vary). It is unknown if Samuel had passed prior to her leaving for the new world or if he was still alive. She in the time of leaving England was in fact pregnant from this marriage, the infant did sadly pass in Massachusetts.

She then married again in Massachusetts in 1666, to a Thomas Oliver. They bought a large property that included orchards. They also conceived a daughter known as Christian. Thomas had 3 older children from his previous marriage. Thirteen years later and Thomas had passed away. In 1685, she remarried again, to an Edward Bishop.

Bishop Account by Samuel Parris

Due to the deaths of two previous marriages, gossip of her being a “witch” ensued. It grew into much more as time went on. Her first accusation was in fact in 1680 by a slave who claimed he saw her specter steal, pinch, and frightened horses; in total 10 people testified against her. There was a list of accusations: force girls to sign “the Devil’s Book”, poppets with stuck pins in them, specter visitations of various men, bewitching of others, declining health of others, stealing, arguments, seeing of imps on her property, her flying over her orchards, witches mark found on her body, and use of magic.

Bishop Account by Ezekiel Cheever

On June 10 th , 1692, Bridget Bishop was convicted of being a witch and using witchcraft. Being escorted by Sheriff George Corwin to Proctor’s Ledge. Where she was hanged at the edge of town publicly. She hung until she passed away. The first of the 19 to be hung and the very last to be exonerated by legislation in the state of Massachusetts in 2001.

Note: Her daughter did live on to be married, but soon died in 1693.

Based on twenty-seven years of original archival research, including the discovery of previously unknown documents, this day-by-day narrative of the hysteria that swept through Salem Village in 1692 and 1693 reveals new connections behind the events, and shows how rapidly a community can descend into bloodthirsty madness. Roach opens her work with chapters on the history of the Puritan colonies of New England, and explains how these people regarded the metaphysical and the supernatural. The account of the days from January 1692 to March 1693 keeps in order the large cast of characters, places events in their correct contexts, and occasionally contradicts earlier assumptions about the gruesome events. The last chapter discusses the remarkable impact of the events, pointing out how the 300th anniversary of the trials made headlines in Japan and Australia.
A girl fell sick in 1692. Her convulsions, contortions, and outbursts of gibberish baffled everyone. Then other girls had the same symptoms. The village doctor could suggest just one cause: Witchcraft.

Further Resources

First Salem witch hanging

Bridget Bishop Home and Orchards

Bridget Bishop becomes the first woman to be hanged during the notorious Salem Witch Trials in 1692

Salem Witchcraft Papers

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The Theban Alphabet: History and Mystical Use

A few years ago I began to look into the history and use of the Theban alphabet which are also known as Witches Runes, Witch writing, Honorian alphabet and the Runes of Honorius. This form of cypher dates back to Medieval times and has been a used in Mysticism and magical practices ever since. In recent years I began making Theban divination sets and find it to be quite a intriguing type of divination. So today’s blog post will be covering all about this interesting alphabet.

The Origins of the Theban

The Witch’s alphabet dates back to the 14th Century and is also known as the Theban alphabet.  Additionally it has been called the Honorian alphabet, Theban Script or the Runes of Honorius.  It’s exact origin is unknown nor is it’s original creator.  As it is with all undocumented ancient history, there is controversy surrounding the Witch’s alphabet.  It’s mostly been attributed to Honorius of Thebes, a Middle Age figure shrouded in so much mystery that some consider his very existence to be a myth.  Many students of the occult believe the Theban alphabet dates back much further, to before the 11th Century.  That group claims it originated as an alchemical cipher with an Avestan influence.  Avestan is oldest preserved Indo-Aryan language and it’s closely related to Vedic Sanskrit.  But this counter-theory is also undocumented and thus un-provable.

However, there is evidence to be gleaned from the shape of the characters and corresponding curve patterns that define Theban.  They show an unmistakable resemblance to characters found in the Avestan alphabet.  This alone doesn’t prove a theory.  There are major differences such as fewer characters and the inclusion in Theban of a symbol to denote the end of a sentence.  Theban does not have an upper or a lower case, so that symbol was critical.  Another comparison has been made with Latin.  There is a one-to-one correspondence between letters of the Witch’s alphabet and Latin alphabets with the exception of the letters j and u.  Those two letters are represented by the letters for i and v.  The Theban alphabet has also been called a runic alphabet but it’s clearly not.  Runes are characterized by straight lines and sharp edges, while the Theban alphabet is mostly based on arcs and curls. SOURCE

The first known recordings of the alphabet came from the astrologer Johannes Trithemius who included it in his 1518 published book Polygraphia. Trithemius stated the alphabet came from the Theban Honorius and it was revealed by Petries de Apono (aka Pietro D’Abano).

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa studied under Johannes Trithemius. Agrippa started referring to this script as the Theban alphabet in his book Three Books of Occult Philosophy and said it was from Honorius of Thebes.

Since Petries de Apono was close with Pope Honorius IV, some believe him to be the source; or his granduncle, Pope Honorious III. However, there is no proof of this because there has not been any work from either of them that contains this alphabet, including the manuscript written by Pope Honorious III called Grimoire du Pape Honorius.

Another belief connects to the fourteenth-century manuscript The Sworn Book of Honorius authored by Honorius of Thebes. According to lore, Honorius of Thebes was a scribe who complied this information together during a large assembly of deeply knowledgable magical practitioners. However, this is still speculation because the only copy of The Sworn Book of Honorius that remains today states that the Theban alphabet’s origins are from Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa. SOURCE

The Theban alphabet from Francis Barrett’s 1801 book, The Magus

Uses in Magick and Divination

With the exception of the letters J and U / V, this alphabet is a one to one substitution cipher. That means that each character of the Theban alphabet corresponds to one of the letters in the Latin alphabet.

That makes this alphabet very easy to use in your magic writings and other workings. It’s simple to switch one letter for another to obscure what you’re writing.

Especially when the Theban alphabet was created, the Christian church was doing its best to stamp out any ancient practices, paganism, or witchcraft. Writing in a script that couldn’t be translated allowed magicians and witches to record their work without fear of being killed by the church.

The Theban alphabet is popular among witches to give their writings a mystical quality and to hide the meaning of what they are writing. Wiccans and other witches have adopted many substitution ciphers to hide and obscure the contents of their books of shadows. SOURCE

The Theban alphabet can also be used in a similar way in divination like is done with Ogham and Elder Futhark Runes which you can learn more reading HERE and HERE.

Based on the ancient magical writings of 14thcentury magus, Honorius of Thebes, the Theban Oracle is a codex employed for centuries as a means of devotion and divination. Used by such masters of the occult sciences as Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, Dr. John Dee, Francis Barrett, and later Gerald Gardner, it has remained relatively obscure and elusive to the modern practitioner. Until now.

In this book, author Greg Jenkins, PhD, offers both the complete history of this medieval magical system and a working manual for the modern mage to utilize it. In these pages, you’ll find:

• How to make and care for your own set of stones.
• A variety of methods for divination, from using just one stone to using nine stones and more.
• How to use the Theban stones for spellcasting, including love and purification spells and Theban incense and candle magick.
• A complete lexicon of the Theban alphabet with a who’s who of Theban history along with divinatory meanings and how they relate to the modern world.
• A quick reference to the sacred herbs and angelic orders associated with each symbol.

Prepare yourself to discover the hidden mysteries of the ancients and the magick within you.

In conclusion the Theban alphabet is one that can be used in a variety of ways for spiritual divination and witchcraft practices. It has a fascinating history with origins shrouded in mystery and has been a part of Occult and Mysticism for centuries. Today you can see it used for spells in Grimoires, Book of Shadow and more giving the Theban a practical use still to this day.

An explanation of what the Theban Alphabet is and what is its purpose.

Further Resources

Theban Alphabet

A History of the Theban Magical Library

Theban Magic

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Romulus & Remus and the She-Wolf of Rome

The history of the ancient Roman Empire has been a fascination of mine for decades and I have always enjoyed anything and all things from that amazing time period from its fruition to the fall of the Roman empire and into the time of the Byzantine Empire. The humble beginnings of Rome far before it became an empire has a really interesting story regarding two orphaned brothers and a She-Wolf simply known as La Lupa and the First lady of Rome. From this it has been always recognized that Rome was founded on April 21, 753 BCE. So today’s blog post will be covering all about Romulus, Remus and the famous She-Wolf of Rome.

La Lupa the She-Wolf

According to tradition, Rome was founded in 753 B.C. by the twins Romulus and Remus. Sons of the god Mars and a mortal woman named Rhea Silvia, a direct descendant of Aeneas, the twins were abandoned by their uncle in the Tibur river. A she-wolf discovered them on the banks of the river and suckled them until they were taken in by a passing sheperd, Faustulus. Faustulus raised the boys together with his own twelve children until they decided to found a city of their own. They chose the spot by the Tibur where they had been rescued by the wolf, which was near the base of the Palatine hill in Rome. The representation of the wolf suckling the twins became a popular subject in Roman Republican and Imperial art. SOURCE

Cristina Mazzoni, She-wolf: The Story of a Roman Icon. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010

“Lupus est homo homini.” Plautus Asinaria 495

This famous quotation, through its various translations, perfectly encapsulates the themes explored in Cristina Mazzoni’s new book. Man is a wolf to other men—as Plautus undoubtedly meant it——but a wolf can also be interpreted as a human being in particular circumstances. In both Italian and Latin the word lupa can describe a she-wolf or a prostitute, either a ferocious animal or a female human of voracious sexual appetites. This paradox has informed interpretations of the legend of Romulus and Remus since antiquity, where the she-wolf figures as animal, mother, and whore simultaneously, and the complexity and ambiguity of this formative being have given her long life as a symbol representing a myriad of concepts, individuals, and entities. Mazzoni sets herself the ambitious task of exploring the she-wolf in all her forms and interpretations, from the famous Lupa Capitolina to her appearance in modern art, archaeology, poetry, and literature. Continue reading HERE.

Symbolism of the She-Wolf

The she-wolf of Rome represents the following concepts:

  • The she-wolf represents Roman power, which made her a popular image throughout the Roman Republic and Empire. The connection between the Roman state and the she-wolf was such that there were at least two dedications to the she-wolf performed by priests.
  • Wolves, especially she-wolves, are a sacred animal of the Roman god Mars. It is believed that they acted as divine messengers, thus seeing a wolf was a good omen.
  • The she-wolf is associated with the Roman Empire’s wolf festival Lupercalia, which is a fertility festival that starts at the estimated spot where the she-wolf nursed the twin boys.
  • The she-wolf also comes across as a mother-figure, representing nourishment, protection and fertility. By extension, she becomes a mother-figure to the city of Rome, as she lies at the very heart of its establishment. SOURCE
Mosaic depicting the She-wolf with Romulus and Remus, inspired by the legend of the founding of Rome. From Aldborough (UK), about 300-400 CE (Leeds City Museum).

Romulus and Remus

Romulus and Remus were the direct descendants of Aeneas, whose fate-driven adventures to discover Italy are described by Virgil in The Aeneid. Romulus and Remus were related to Aeneas through their mother’s father, Numitor. Numitor was a king of Alba Longa, an ancient city of Latium in central Italy, and father to Rhea Silvia. Before Romulus’ and Remus’ conception, Numitor’s reign was usurped by Numitor’s younger brother, Amulius. Amulius inherited control over Alba Longa’s treasury with which he was able to dethrone Numitor and become king. Amulius, wishing to avoid any conflict of power, killed Numitor’s male heirs and forced Rhea Silvia to become a Vestal Virgin. Vestal Virgins were priestesses of Vesta, patron goddess of the hearth; they were charged with keeping a sacred fire that was never to be extinguished and to take vows of chastity.

There is much debate and variation as to whom was the father of Romulus and Remus. Some myths claim that Mars appeared and lay with Rhea Silvia; other myths attest that the demi-god hero Hercules was her partner. However, the author Livy claims that Rhea Silvia was in fact raped by an unknown man, but blamed her pregnancy on divine conception. In either case, Rhea Silvia was discovered to be pregnant and gave birth to her sons. It was custom that any Vestal Virgin betraying her vows of celibacy was condemned to death; the most common death sentence was to be buried alive. However, King Amulius, fearing the wrath of the paternal god (Mars or Hercules) did not wish to directly stain his hands with the mother’s and children’s blood. So, King Amulius imprisoned Rhea Silvia and ordered the twins’ death by means of live burial, exposure, or being thrown into the Tiber River. He reasoned that if the twins were to die not by the sword but by the elements, he and his city would be saved from punishment by the gods. He ordered a servant to carry out the death sentence, but in every scenario of this myth, the servant takes pity on the twins and spares their lives. The servant, then, places the twins into a basket onto the River Tiber, and the river carries the boys to safety. Continue reading HERE.

The 21st April 753 BC is traditionally the date of the founding of Rome by twin brothers Romulus and Remus. (Romulus would later murder Remus.) Legend has it that they were abandoned as babies by their parents and put into a basket and then placed into the River Tiber. The basket was discovered by a female wolf who nursed the babies for a short time before they were found by a shepherd. It was the shepherd who brought up the twins.
According to legend, Romulus was born to a Vestal Virgin and left for dead as an infant near the Tiber River. His life nearly ended as quickly as it began, but fate had other plans. A humble shepherd rescued the child and helped raise him into manhood. As Romulus grew older, he fearlessly engaged in a series of perilous adventures that ultimately culminated in Rome’s founding, and he became its fabled first king.

Establishing a new city had its price, and Romulus was forced to defend the nascent community. As he tirelessly safeguarded Rome, Romulus proved that he was a competent leader and talented general. Yet, he also harbored a dark side, which reared its head in many ways and tainted his legacy, but despite all of his misdeeds, redemption and subsequent triumphs were usually within his grasp. Indeed, he is an example of how greatness is sometimes born of disgrace.

Regardless of his foreboding flaws, Rome allegedly existed because of him and became massively successful. As the centuries passed, the Romans never forgot their celebrated founder.
The founding of Rome is a legendary tale about the twins and demigods, Romulus and Remus. In Roman mythology, Romulus and Remus were the sons of Rhea Silvia and either the god Mars or the demigod Hercules. Also, in order to synthesize the myth of Aeneas, a Trojan prince who had fought in the Trojan War before setting off to Italy to establish the Roman bloodline, Romulus and Remus were believed to be direct descendants of Aeneas.
During Rome’s 2767th birthday celebrations, Larry Lamb heads to the city to investigate the Romanian Empire. In this first episode, Larry learns how Rome was founded by exploring the story of Romulus and Remus, using the works of ancient Roman historian Livy as a guide. He also goes on to discover how Rome would later become a city.

Further Resources

The legend of Romulus and Remus

Romulus and Remus: Roman mythology

Capitoline She-wolf

The She-Wolf: Mother to Other Species