Necromancy, Leopard Cults, and Other Things

Recently I finished reading The Garden of Blood and Bones, which was recommended to me by a few of my friends. What I was surprised to find was that Palo actually has some pretty deep roots in the necromantic arts of the leopard cults. Leopard and tiger societies are of particular interest to me, they seem to have much of the same themes regardless of where they are found, like necromancy, shapeshifting, psychopomping and so on. It’s hard for me to sum up particulars, in part because the author himself did not seem write the book for the layperson and so some definitions elude me, but needless to say it was a very good supplement to my research.

Speaking of necromancy, Kabron led me to research kapalas. I wanted to get some more information on animal kapalas versus human. While I was poking around, I happened to come upon depictions of other objects monks will make out of the dead besides begging bowls and trumpets. Things like kapala malas, and kneecap prosperity amulets.  The latter was of particular interest, because I happened to have brought one of those things home from an antique shop, which I later made into this.  It wasn’t intentional, mind.  I thought I was bringing home a morbid little carving out of buffalo or yak bone.  It goes to show what a numbskull I can be.  I even fished it of a bowl with the label “kneecap skull bead”, as if yak or buffalo kneecaps are that tiny to begin with.  Come to think of it, it all made so much sense.  The thing certainly ‘felt’ different, but I just assumed it was my own perceptions reading into things too much.  I even called the shop in question, and they said they came from Nepal, and were indeed kneecaps, but couldn’t say what kneecaps they were.  After having shown the piece around, the general consensus is yes, it is human.  Or was.  The icing on this cake came when I met up with a friend over the weekend, who brought along a really old mala made from what she also assumed was yak bone.  Spoiler alert: turns out it wasn’t.  It only took a cursory glance for me to get my hair up on end, and some quick research confirmed the matter.

So, the synchronicities continue.  Transition, change and death has certainly been the name of the game here lately.

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Beast of Pan

It’s been a good long while since I’ve written anything here. There’s a lot going on in my life at the moment. I’m hoping if I throw myself into some writing and projects, I can begin to feel normal again, whatever that is.

Fairly recently I had taken a trip to the zoo with a very good friend of mine. The zoo had a petting area filled with various farm animals, including a selection of different types of goats. Now, for those of you reading who don’t know me, I have a strong affinity for goats. I think they knew it too, because they would come right up to me, rub up against me and solicit my petting. I managed to get very good at goat massages quickly, and by the end of the trip I felt like I’d become a professional goat masseuse. So I suppose it stands to reason that eventually I would end up with a swarthy goat as a sort of spirit guide. Meet Kabron:

Kabron

This sassy fellow came by way of another very good friend, and after sitting in the collection for a few years, he seemed to find it in him to go about pestering me. And for those of you who know Spanish slang, yes he is quite the fucker and the asshole too. But that’s alright, he gives good advice and guidance, and enjoys tobacco offerings. He manifests to me as a shaggy black billy-goat, with some of the interesting decorations on his skull, like the skulls on his horns and the dangly earrings, for example.

The irony of this continues not only in the interesting Dionysian happenings around me lately, but also the meaning in my pen name and magical name, “Pantherios”. The name can mean “all beast” or “beast of Pan”. Leopards and other panther-like creatures were frequently seen in the train of Pan and Dionysus. As the “all beast” the panther was believed to be able to mate with many different kinds of animals, creating the leopard and the giraffe (cameleopard) for example. This also shows its roots in Christian symbolism, which shows the leopard as signifying unlawful unions and bastardy. I’ll have more to write later on panther symbolism, and my goat-fu. I’m still catching up on a lot of things..

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The Vineyard

The Vineyard

A photo from my latest vineyard/winery visit.

Yes, I’ll be posting here again soon. I’m still collecting my thoughts after a busy month.

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Brew Review: Chateau Jiahu (Dogfish Head)

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In Jiahu, a Neolithic site in Henan province in northern China, 9000 year old preserved pottery vessels yielded residues of a fermented beverage of rice, fruit and honey.  Dogfish Head teamed up with a molecular archeologist and created Chateau Jiahu.

If you like sake, you’ll probably like this beer.  It definitely has that taste.  The same with the grapes, in a way it’s almost reminiscent of Midas Touch (which I will also review here later), only sweeter.  Golden ale with a nice head, it’s crisp and refreshing and sweet.  Good for enjoying on a warm summer evening with a good book.  Personally I find it’s nice when paired with cheese and crackers.

I plan on doing more “brew reviews” in later posts.  These will not only include beer but other libations like whiskey, bourbon and wine.  The photo taken above is mine.

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Switching things around..

Doing some random meta stuff.  Expect URLs to get switched around a bit.

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The Limits of Acceptability

Even in cultures where people believed in blood descent of a nonhuman ancestor, or shapeshifting (physical or spiritual) doesn’t mean that was always acceptable or compatible in that society.  For example:

De Groot wrote of a palace dignitary called Shi Tao-suen in Hubei province in the fourth century who one day foolishly told a gathering how he became so deranged in his youth that for a whole year he regularly changed into a tiger, in which form he killed and ate countless victims, stealing their valuables for good measure.  Some of his victims’ relatives were listening, and they immediately seized him and handed him over to the magistrates.  They in turn had him thrown in jail, where he starved to death.

Tracking the Weretiger, Patrick Newman

This happened in a time and place where attacks from tigers were a very real concern and people tended to see the human state as being more fluid.  Do I justify throwing someone in prison without due process and allowing them to starve?  No, I also don’t justify eating people and stealing their belongings, either.  I’m being hypothetical.  The most likely scenario in this story was that a tiger did indeed kill a bunch of people, this guy was looking for attention and claimed he was a were-tiger, and the people reacted within the parameters of their beliefs at the time.  Lesson learned: don’t proclaim every little thing about yourself in the open.  It may not be welcomed.  You can apply that same lesson to the present time.  There is a time and place for it.  In public areas probably isn’t the answer, and you probably won’t get the type of attention you seek.  If society accommodated every person’s whims to act out, no one would get anywhere.  Conformity isn’t always a bad thing.  Here’s another example, from the same book:

In Pante Cermen in Aceh, Wessing heard of a man in the early 1970s who, as well as shaking and jumping about a lot, apparently sprouted fur and claws when enraged.  It first happened when a tiger ate his brother and he got angry thinking about it, then happened several times subsequently when fellow villagers upset him in some way; until they learned not to.  Each time they had to roll him up in a rattan mat to return him to normal.

I emphasized that last sentence for a reason.  Normal.  Normal.  They didn’t restrain him because he thought he was an animal, they restrained him because he was creating a public nuisance.  There is a time and place for that sort of thing, and indeed times and places were made for people to act out their animal natures, such as shamanic ceremonies, and ancestral or other familial rites.  Those are acceptable parameters.  Attacking people, stealing their possessions and terrorizing the village are not acceptable.  Acting in a way which causes a social disturbance is not acceptable, which was why these ceremonies and special places were created for people to give vent to their animal natures.  This was done with the trust and understanding that people would conduct themselves for the good of the community outside out those boundaries.  Something to be learned there.

Along with Tracking the Weretiger, Valmik Thapar’s ‘Cult of the Tiger‘ are good books for further research.  I’ll probably be quoting them again in future posts.

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On Promoting Dysfunction

So, lately I’ve been alerted to a big argument on the internet (always a good start) over the over people who are comparing therianthropy to being transgendered.  Have all of you stopped rolling your eyes yet?  Good, moving on.  Given that I’m not cisgendered myself (and know or am friends with many who aren’t), I decided to toss in my opinion.  I’m certainly no expert, nor am I visible in any therianthropy circles…and there is a reason for that.  That reason can largely be explained by what I’ll be writing about in this blog post.

I managed to find this essay written by a fellow named Akhila, who strongly supports the comparison and asserts in his writing that therianthropes are indeed a marginalized group.  Unfortunately, his arguments are founded on very shaky ground.  For example, his definition of therianthropy, “Therianthropes are people who identify in part or whole as nonhuman animals; who feel they are some kind of nonhuman animal inside, instead of or along with being human.”  This is a very dubious definition, and a contradiction.  Neurologically, you can’t identify with anything without comprehending it on a human level, using human thought processes in some way, shape or form.  Everything you perceive is calculated and categorized in a human way, whether you acknowledge it or not.  Just as your body is fundamentally, biologically human.  In fact, one can’t even be a therianthrope without first being human.  Just break down the word “therianthrope” or “were-[insert animal here]”.  Both ‘were’ and ‘anthropos’ translate to ‘man’ or ‘human’.

Throughout the essay, he encourages self diagnosis, which in turn helps to foster an atmosphere of dysfunctional and antisocial behavior.  For example, one of the individuals he quotes, someone by the name of Tsu, openly defends pedophilia and bestiality using much the same arguments as these types use to defend therianthropy as being on par with, or even more marginalized than, those who are transgendered or transsexual.  This argument basically boils down to, “I can’t help it, it’s who I am, so you shouldn’t persecute (read: criticize) me.”  What happened to wanting to be socially acceptable and functioning?  Functionality is seriously underrated these days.  These types complain that at least the transgendered have surgeries available to them.  Uhm well, not all of them do.  Some have medical problems and struggle with finances and can’t afford these things.  And you know, at least a therianthrope won’t get the hell beaten out of them by just stepping into a public bathroom.  Contrary to popular belief, most people will leave you alone about your personal beliefs about yourself as long as you don’t create a public nuisance, like growling at coworkers, for example.  And, assuming there really did exist surgeries to transform you into an animal, would you really want to?  Personally I prefer the creature comforts of being human, and not having to worry about starving to death or getting a fractured skull while trying to fetch dinner.  I’ll keep my supermarkets, electricity and single batch bourbon thanks.

Except, these types want to have their cake and eat it too.  They want every type of accommodation available to them while simultaneously defending their right to act out every desire that comes to their head.  They say that the social justice types are coming down on them for their use of trans narratives, but they also turn around and use the language of social justice to shut down critics and dissenters.  If therianthropes really want to be taken seriously, perhaps they should start with being less accepting of antisocial and destructive behavior.  Perhaps they should promote an atmosphere of functionality and respectability.  Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening any time soon.

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