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mysticism and misletoe

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    Posted: 27 Jun 2016 at 23:13
Mistletoe, used by Celts and Druids, is a symbol of mysticism.
Mistletoe is a hemiparasitic plant that grows on larger trees, tapping into its energy, but also gaining energy through the misletoe's own photosynthesis.  Where mistletoe has taken over, it may be difficult to tell what the original tree is.  Think of one kind of tree, an oak, but with the leaves of another.  Oak, traditionally the strongest tree in the forest, is often the host for mistletoe.

If one uses the same analogy for religion, then religion is like the oak, and mysticism in its relation to religion is like mistletoe in its relation to the oak.  Mysticism gets part of its energy from its host religion, whether it be Christianity, or Islam, Judaism or whatever, but it also has a separate existence and gets part of its energy from the Source, whether that be as mistletoe the sun, or as mysticism literally directly from God.  For Judaism, one has the Kaballah, for Islam, the Whirling Dervishes, the Sufis, and Christianity has its mystics such as Meister Ekhart as well.  If one looks only at the mysticism, one can mistake it for a different, new kind of "plant" like when hollywood stars study Kaballah, but bash Judaism.  There is a reason for that kind of mistake, mysticism is in its existence, a separate entity from its host religion, although it is dependent on it as well.

Some people suggest that maybe the burning bush in the Bible was an example of a particular bright yellow kind of mistletoe common in the Middle East, on a bush, thus giving it the appearance of "burning, but not being consumed."  It is one of those suggestions that while not proveable, has an air of plausibility, if one flat out rejects a miraculous explanation.


Edited by franciscosan - 04 Jul 2016 at 03:25
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franciscosan View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Jun 2016 at 00:33
The "golden bough" in Virgil's Aeneid is mistletoe.  Aeneas, the son of Anchises and Venus (Aphrodite) lead the refugees of the Trojan War to Italy, who became the ancestors of the Romans.  In order to venture into the underworld he was told by the Sybil of Cumae to 'find the golden bough.'  Sir James Fraser's collection on mythology is called, "the Golden Bough.'

So in the Greco-Roman world, the "golden bough" is key to the underworld.  In ancient Israelite religion, the "burning bush" marks the presence of Yahweh, the god whose name means, "I am who I am," in other words the God of all existence.  (Existence, btw, means 'standing forth,' and I would venture to guess, a bush that is burning, but not consumed, has an exceptional presence in one's attention.) 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Jul 2016 at 04:24
In Norse Mythology, a prophecy is made that Balder the god of beauty is going to be killed.  Frigga, Odin's wife and Balder's mother goes around getting everything to promise not to hurt Balder, the gods except for Hodur, the blind god, all join in games throwing things at Balder.  Loki, the god of mischief and fire, sees the games and in disguise goes to Frigga, and asks her about the event.  Frigga admits that there is one thing that she does not get a promise from, because it is so insignificant.  That of course, is mistletoe.  

Loki gathers together the mistletoe and fashions a dart, seeing Hodur neglected in the party, he offers him the dart so he can join in the revelry and guides his hand.  The dart hits Balder, killing him.

So if you neglect mistletoe, (the god of) beauty dies.  Mysticism is a little thing, but it is also very important.  Of course, since Balder (and Hodur) go to Hel, when Hel empties out during Ragnorak (Norse Armageddon), Balder and Hodur return to join the survivors on a new branch of the World Tree.
(for a fuller version, "Nordic Gods and Heroes," Padraic Colum)

In tree lore, mistletoe is a "tree that is not a tree," thus its special status.  Plato gives a riddle in the Republic that gives a different tree that is not a tree.

'A man that is not a man, threw a rock that is not a rock, at a bird that is not a bird, on a tree that is not a tree.'
Or, in other words, 'a eunuch threw a pumice stone at a bat on a reed.'
Other examples, of trees that are not trees, are the grape vine and ivy, associated with altered states and Dionysus (Bacchus).  

Reminds one a little of the transgender issue, and "Lola" by the Kinks.

So the golden bough, the burning bush, and the death of beauty.  Mistletoe does not appear very often, but when it does, it has deep significance.  But what does this have to do with history?


Edited by franciscosan - 01 Jul 2016 at 04:43
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote caldrail Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Jul 2016 at 11:34
According to you, Norse mythology, Greek philosophy, modern music, and rare guest star appearances :D
http://www.unrv.com/forum/blog/31-caldrails-blog/
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Jul 2016 at 04:13
Plato only alludes to this riddle, and criticizes it as taking advantage of, and playing on ambiguity.  But ambiguity exists and categories are not always as set in stone as we think.  The Korean American female who is also a rabbi.  The evangelical minister who is an FBI psychologist.  Of course, a minister and psychologist might not be so far away from each other after all.

Aristotle talks about the law of noncontradiction, but the argument for it is that it seems self-evident.  How can something be something and not something at the same time?  On the other hand, a bird that is not a bird does sound like someone trying to describe a bat, or mistletoe a tree that is not a tree, or so forth.  How can a statement of x=a & x=not a make sense if the law of noncontradiction is self-evident?  One would like some more rigorous definition of the law of noncontradiction from Aristotle.

There is a poet named Hermodamas, a descendant of Creophylus who was said to be a host of Homer.  Hermodamas was said to have tutored Pythagoras.  There is a big question of how did the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer actually got written down.  The first problem is that it was a product of an oral tradition, the second is that the Homeridae, descendants of Homer, had a virtual monopoly on it.  It could be taught to their heirs, but no one else.  Hermodamas, however, was not a Homeridae, he knew the Homeric poems through the personal friendship of his ancestor Creophylus with Homer himself.  Therefore, Hermodamas was not breaking any rules, he was not beholden to the Homeridae.  Hermodamas knew what a Homeridae would know, but he was not a Homeridae, a tree who is not a tree so to speak.
A unnamed descendant of Creophylus and ancestor of Hermodamas, mentioned in Plutarch's biography of the Spartan lawgiver Lycurgus, gave to the Spartans the Homeric poems.  Plato talks about Creophylus betraying his friendship with Homer, but since Plato wants to outlaw poets in his Republic, one cannot take his reports at face value.  Hermodamas, through Pythagoras, may be our source for the works by Homer.  However, even then there is one more important step by which it became standardized and written down, the Peisistratan recension.


Edited by franciscosan - 04 Jul 2016 at 04:19
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Aug 2016 at 01:15
The Peisistratan recension (Peisistratos or in Latin, Pisistratus), occurred during the tyranny of Peisistratos and his sons, Hipparchos and Hippias.  Peisistratos ruled from about 560 to 521, the two brothers reigned until about 512, when Hipparchos was assassinated.  Hippias ruled for a time after that.
During their rule, the Panathenaea implemented a presentation of Homer, the Peisistatids (probably Hipparchos) standardized the order of the presenting of Homer, by the rhapsodes.  Also a version of Homer was written out by Orpheus of Kroton, Zopyrus of Heraclea, and Onamacritus of Athens, and what is garbled, but probably means the "epic cycle."  These three were also said to be responsible for Orphic poems, and the oracles of Musaeus.  
Pythagoreans had pastlifes, and so whomever Orpheus of Kroton is, being from Kroton, it would be likely that he was a Pythagorean, and that "Orpheus" is, well not a pseudonym.  But a name of his pastlife, like Pythagoras was Euphorbus in the Iliad.  Onamacritus might also be pastlife name, Aristotle mentions the name and nothing else except that he was an ancient lawgiver.  Zopyrus of Heraclea was definitely a Pythagorean, but the problem is he is later,  And if his city of Heraclea is the one we suspect it is, Heraclea of Lucania, then it wasn't founded until 433.  Long after the tyranny of the Peisistratids.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote franciscosan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 Sep 2016 at 01:47
Like mistletoe, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey are hybrid creation.
mistletoe is a hybrid in the sense that it relies on both photosynthesis and parasitically taps into its parent tree.  The Iliad and Odyssey are hybrid in that they come out of an oral tradition, using the traditions and formulas, but they are written, and being written they are much longer than other Epic poems, being 24 books long, a division made later in the Alexandrian Library.  One book per letter of the Greek alphabet.

That length is too long for an easy recitation/composition-on-the-spur-of-the-moment.  There is a physical limit to a scroll, scrolls cannot be too long or the weight of them would tear the scroll.  Even if the books (imposed later) don't make up an entire scroll, one can see that 24 books is a substantial number.  Furthermore, there are parts of other epics put to use in the Iliad and the Odyssey.  The Iliad and the Odyssey each are massive, including not only parts from other Greek Epics, but scenes from The Tale of Gilgamesh as well.

We do not have any other examples of Greek heroic Epic, just some didactic poems from Hesiod, and the Homeric Hymns.  But we do have a record of some others and how long they were.  The Cypria, the Aethiopis 5 books, the Little Iliad 4 books, the Sack of Ilion 2 books, the Nostoi (or Homecomings) 5 books, and the Telegonia 2 books.  Nothing like the size of either the Iliad (24) or the Odyssey (24).
and of course, we are not talking about other Epic traditions, such as Jason and the Argonauts, or the Theban cycle. 
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