Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The ancient site of Clava Cairns in Celtic Guide

Celtic Guide is a fine online magazine published by Mr. James McQuiston. The monthly periodical is an excellent resource for Celtic history and a real joy for the history buff or for anyone who just likes to read some great stories. The pieces included in all eight issues of Celtic Guide are highly readable and dispense with the `scholarly tone' of narrative which so often mars articles concerning history. Mr. McQuiston is an able editor and consistently produces a magazine which reads like a collection of fine, themed short stories. I was honored to have my piece on Clava Cairns included in the most recent issue and I'm very proud to be among such good company. One of my fellow writers at Ancient History Encyclopedia, Mr. James Blake Weiner, will be publishing a piece in the September issue of the magazine. If you like Celtic history, or just a pleasant read, have a look and I hope you enjoy the time spent.  All eight issues of Celtic Guide may be found here: http://celticguide.com/

The August issue alone is here: http://celticguide.com/pdfs/aug12.pdf

My article begins:

Over 4,000 years ago our ancestors raised huge megaliths and positioned them in the earth with care. Sites such as The Ring of Brodgar in Stenness, Orkney, or the famous Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, mystify and enchant visitors from around the world today. There are many other more modest sites, however, which reward a visitor’s time and effort just as much as these more famous places and, perhaps, more so. Five miles east of the city of Inverness, Scotland, just down from Culloden Moor, rests one such site: the Balnuaran of Clava - popularly known as Clava Cairns.

Dating from the late Neolithic period, Clava Cairns consists of three well-preserved cairns and a number of free-standing stones strategically placed for astronomical purposes. There is no doubt among the scholarly community that the site was used both as a burial ground and as some sort of celestial marker. According to Andis Kaulins of Megaliths.net, Bal meant Pole and Nuaran, River of Light, thus designating Balnuaran as the center of the heavens from which the ancients could chart the stars.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Maya Calendar and The End of the World: Why the One Does Not Substantiate the Other

My article on the ancient Maya Calendar and the supposed end of the world on 21 December 2012. I know, it's a topic done to death in the past few years and I'm as tired of hearing about it as anyone else. Having studied the Maya Civilization for many years and spoken with Daykeepers at sites such as Uxmal and Chichen Itza I feel I can say authoritatively that the world is not going to end this December - at least not owing to any ancient `predictions' from the Maya. The article may be read in full here: http://www.ancient.eu.com/article/416/ and begins below.

The Popol Vuh recounts the story of twins who journeyed to Xibalba. For the Maya, their round of adventures serves as a metaphor for timeless, repeating cycles and for the regeneration of earth and all living things. – Gene S. Stuart, Mayanist

In recent years, there have been many books, and even more websites, concerning the calendar of the ancient Maya and the end of the world in December 2012. There is no need to list and further popularize such works as they can be found easily enough. They are prominently displayed in sections devoted entirely to the subject in popular book stores and even a cursory search of the internet will reveal a multitude of them. While each separate work and author has its own particular bias and agenda to promote, and so offers a different interpretation of the Maya Calendar, the underlying reasoning for a belief in the end of the world in 2012, at least as associated with the Maya Calendar, runs thusly: The present cycle of the ancient Maya Long Count Calendar begins 11 August 3114 BCE and concludes on 21 December 2012 CE and, because of this, the end of the world is a certainty.

In order for the Maya Calendar to be able to accurately predict an end to the world in any way, it would need to begin at the beginning of the world. It is clear from the archaeological, geological, and historical record that the world is much older than the beginning of the Maya Calendar in 3114 BCE. The great Cities of Mesopotamia such as Akkad and Eridu had already risen to their height by the time the calendar is dated as beginning. The dynasties of Egypt were already old and the Chinese and Indian civilizations in full flourish. The Maya calculated the date of 3114 BCE as the beginning of the world based upon an earlier calendar by the Mixe-Zoque people. Their forward astronomical predictions were based upon careful observations of the skies but were understood according to the belief system which governed their understanding of how the universe worked and that understanding was that time was cyclical, not linear. Vastly different from the theological and cosmological understanding espoused by the three `great’ monotheistic religions, time was, itself, a deity, and, as such, had no end. There is, therefore, nothing in the cosmology of the Maya which suggests an end to anything, much less an end to the world.



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Maya Civilization

My article on the Maya Civilization on Ancient History Encyclopedia. The link to the full piece is here:
http://www.ancient.eu.com/Maya_Civilization/

The article begins:
The Maya are an indigenous people of Mexico and Central America who have continuously inhabited the lands comprising modern-day Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, and Chiapas in Mexico and southward through Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. The designation Maya comes from the ancient Yucatan City of Mayapan, the last capital of a Mayan Kingdom in the Post-Classic Period. The Maya people refer to themselves by ethnicity and language bonds such as Quiche in the south or Yucatec in the north (though there are many others). The `Mysterious Maya’ have intrigued the world since their `discovery’ in the 1840's by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood but, in reality, much of the culture is not that mysterious when understood. Contrary to popular imagination, the Maya did not vanish and the descendants of the people who built the great Cities of Chichen Itza, Bonampak, Uxmal and Altun Ha still exist on the same lands their ancestors did and continue to practice, sometimes in a modified form, the same rituals which would be recognized by a native of the land one thousand years ago.




Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Hour of Tiamat by Lisa M. Taylor

Lisa M. Taylor writes in the genres of the paranormal and fantasy and takes a reader on an incredible ride in her book, The Hour of Tiamat. The story weaves together many wonderful and timeless themes but the tale of the quest, of the heroic journey toward redemption, is chief among them. Drawing upon the legacy of Lovecraft, and adding dimensions from Sumerian lore and her own imagination and experience, Ms. Taylor presents a fascinating story with great pacing and a solid style.

To borrow from the book's promotional site:

We've all heard of the Mayan predictions of a vast change coming in the year 2012; but it turns out the ancient Sumerian people had a very similar prophecy…
The dreaded Necronomicon, a book of fable said to contain all the ancient knowledge of the Sumerian civilization has surfaced and fallen into the hands of four teenagers in a small Texas town. Tonight, after years of studying its dark teachings in secret, they gather to call back to Earth those Gods that tried to enslave humanity over ten thousand years ago, and in turn become rulers themselves.
Under threat of his life, Tristan helps them complete the ritual; but does that mean it is too late to stop this apocalypse? With Evelyn, whose past and future seem inextricably linked to Tristan, their friend Hunter and a host of surprising paranormal helpers, Tristan will race against murderers, monsters, and time itself to shut the ancient gate before our evil creators are upon us again.

And here is an excerpt from the novel:

Tristan kept his breathing shallow as he trailed behind Malaki and Tara, keeping in the trees and watching where he stepped. The animals, it seemed, were just as restless as the day before, and he had to fight not to jump every time some creature brushed him.
The more his eyes adjusted to the darkness, the more animals he saw on either side of him. They seemed to be following Malaki and Tara too, but he shook his head at the thought. They couldn’t be. The wolves and deer, rodents and birds, reptiles and bobcats, they had no reason to follow. What could they possibly know? Yet he saw all of those and more as he walked slowly and quietly, and he had to fight harder and harder to keep his breathing quiet.
“We’re here,” he heard Tara breathe quietly ahead of him. Sure enough, just up the path was the tell-tale clump of bushes that hid their cave of stashed goods. Well, it was now or never. The pistol was in the bags inside the cave, but he still had his knife on him. Why did it always have to be by knife?
He hesitated for a moment at the thought of killing again, a familiar churning in his stomach, but the rage coursing through him erased any hesitation. They would give anything to kill the only two people in the world he loved. He realized that this time, it was probably kill or be killed, and he found it didn’t matter.
“Branches in this bush are broken, they’ve been here,” Malaki said as he jogged ahead of Tara, starting to make his way through the brush. Okay, Tristan thought. Then Tara is first. And without a sound, he cocked back his arm, cold metal held between his fingertips, and flung the shining blade from the darkness, running after it even as the point sunk into Tara’s side, sending her sprawling sideways.
“What the…” Malaki started, turning at Tara’s muffled gasp of surprise, but by the time Malaki was free of the bushes again, Tristan was pulling his knife from Tara’s side, cold eyes trained on Malaki. Tara wasn’t dead, but didn’t seem to be able to move, and she grasped her side, breathing heavily, trying to hold in the steady stream of warm blood. Her dark eyes focused on the two momentarily before her head fell to the ground.

And, here, Lisa M. Taylor's official website:

http://lisamtaylor.net/the-hour-of-tiamat.html

And, here, the book listed on Amazon in hardcover (also available in Kindle):

http://www.amazon.com/The-Hour-Tiamat-Lisa-Taylor/dp/1463424396