Why you should care about Palmyra

Warning: there are some potentially triggery photos in this post, NOT of human-targeted terrorism but of the destruction of human and polytheist heritage. I personally find them highly disturbing, but I think they’re photos everyone needs to see.

First of all, let me say: believe me, I know. For most of my life (and I’m going to be 50 in a few weeks) I’ve been hearing about the horrendous things happening in the middle east. It has been a war-torn region for millennia, and that certainly hasn’t changed in our own century; if anything, people have become even more creative about spilling blood and spreading terror in that part of the world with the advent of modern weaponry. However, I get it: as polytheists, we tend to tune out the horrible reports (or at least here in America we do) because 1) there is nothing we can do about it, 2) it’s so far removed from us, and 3) the middle east is a monotheist problem, right? All of the conflict there stems from the fact that the big three monotheist faiths are all fighting over the same scrap of ground. Why should we care about that?

Well, here’s why we should care.

“Whenever we take control of a piece of land, we remove the symbols of polytheism and spread monotheism in it.” – an ISIL terrorist (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant)

This is no idyl threat; during the past several months, ISIL has been bombarding the media with images of its trail of destruction as it demolishes priceless historical artifacts throughout Iraq and Syria–not all strictly linked with polytheism, although polytheism is a special target. Here are some selfies of ISIL thugs demolishing statues and a monument in the central museum of Mosul, Iraq. (They later burned down the central library in that same city.)

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Moving onward to Palmyra–the ancient city known as the Pearl of the Desert due to its (former) richness in archaeological treasures, ISIL seized control of the 2,000 year old Temple of Baalshamin in May, and at some point afterwards laced it with explosives. This temple was specifically targeted because Baalshamin (“Lord of the Heavens,” a title most often associated with the Canaanite god Baal Hadad, a god of storms who is sometimes equated with Zeus) was linked with the goddess Allat, who was also represented in the temple. ISIL has a special hate on for Allat (a goddess of lions who is sometimes equated with Ereshkigal and Aphrodite, among others) because She is mentioned in the Koran: apparently Mohammed specifically demanded the destruction of Her temple in Taif.

Here is the Temple of Baalshamin as it was only a few months ago. Archaeologists have remarked that it was one of the most perfectly preserved structures of its kind IN THE WORLD.

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Here is a photo taken from inside the temple:

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And then:

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Here is an aerial view of what remains:

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A 2,000 year-old treasure, erased from the face of the earth.

Not satisfied with this, the following week after releasing photos of their demolition of the temple, ISIL terrorists destroyed the even larger Temple of Bel, also in Palmyra. Bel is a Mesopotamian deity, identified with Marduk, but this particular temple, dedicated in 32 AD, was built in the Greco-Roman style and there were actually depictions of Hellenic gods (such as Herakles) in the temple as well.

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Aerial photos showing that this temple as well simply no longer exists:

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There are other priceless structures in Palmyra that ISIL hasn’t gotten around to destroying (yet), and the famed city of Damascus is only 500 miles away, easily within their reach.

Nor do they plan on stopping there: ISIL leaders have already declared their intentions to seize control of Egypt, Spain, China, and parts of North Africa. I don’t think I need to spell out what that will bode for the priceless archaeological treasures located in those countries (the Great Pyramid, the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Karnak, the Great Wall, the Alhambra, etc., etc., etc.) but just in case I do:

“Whenever we take control of a piece of land, we remove the symbols of polytheism and spread monotheism in it.”

And this is not even to mention the atrocities they have perpetrated on the inhabitants of the lands they conquer–the rape and slavery of women, the brutal execution of a man in his eighties who wouldn’t reveal the location of hidden artifacts to them, the beheading of British and American civilians, and so forth.

So, at this point you might be thinking, “Wow, all of that is terrible, Beth, but These are not MY gods.” For most of you, that may be technically true. In fact, the gods of Canaan and the Levant are not MY gods either, strictly, speaking. But because I was Jewish by adoption, they’re also not NOT my gods. And I would argue that, in some sense, They are EVERYONE’S gods because they were the very first gods to be disinherited by the onslaught of monotheism. In fact, I personally plan to begin paying cultus to a few of Them, to show hospitality and solidarity as Their ancient places of worship are destroyed.

Also, note that, once again, ISIL is NOT planning on stopping with Syria. If they get into Egypt (and who is going to stop them? certainly not the Egyptians) we will be forced to say goodbye to an even more staggering number of irreplaceable sacred treasures. (I know there are quite a few Kemetic pagans who read this blog.)

“Whenever we take control of a piece of land, we remove the symbols of polytheism and spread monotheism in it.”

Where will it end?

To some extent, as a culture, we have become numbed to horror, because we are continually bombarded with it by the media. The human mind can only assimilate so much of this before it shuts off and looks away; this is a built-in reaction based in self-preservation. I totally get it. When we’re inundated with so much, it all becomes meaningless after a while.

But guys, we NEED to pay attention to this. Because someone needs to.

“That’s great,” you may be saying, “and I agree, but what can WE do?”

I sympathize; it is easy to feel hopeless in the face of this kind of terror. From a mundane standpoint, we ARE all basically impotent, here; after all, it isn’t like we can go to Syria and slaughter the terrorists ourselves, however much we may wish we could.

But we are polytheists, and we have Allies, don’t we? And our Allies–our Beloveds, our Families, and Their friends and Allies– are majorly, majorly Pissed Off about this. Big Time. Earlier in the week, I mentioned a special focus for the Hunt this year. THIS is it. ISIL needs to be stopped, and the Hunt doesn’t much care for those who destroy the sacred places of the dead. The gods don’t much care for those who destroy the sacred artifacts and temples of Their families, friends and allies, either. Both are out for blood.

So, what can you do? Well, here in the Nunnery, we have plans. I will share some of what we’re doing as Hunt season progresses. I’ll also be offering ritual supplies and devotional items for some of the displaced deities in my shop, for those who may want to show Them support and solidarity.

In the meantime, take care of yourselves and be watchful–even on the astral. Especially on the astral. These people mean business–but so do we.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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34 thoughts on “Why you should care about Palmyra

  1. I cried a little when I read this. I know about what’s been happening to the temples and monuments, I wanted to do something but never knew what. What can I do? I’m only human, I’m not a soldier, and I doubt any of my magic could affect ISIL. It’s good to know that something will be done. Now someone please tell me how to help.

    • I think one of the best things we can do right now is to send support to the Powers whose places are being destroyed, and let Them know that They will not be forgotten. Another thing, for those whose life circumstances permit, is to wear your polytheism proudly and loudly. This may not seem like much, but if ALL of us do these things it will send a signal out into the astral that WILL be detected by those who want to crush our faiths. (The ISIL people are, surprisingly, heavily into dreamwork; perhaps their dreams won ‘t be quite so pleasant, going forward into the season.) And no, no single one of us has the power to counter them magickally. (And certainly not physically.) But many people believe the witches of England collectively kept the Nazis from invading during World War II. Maybe we can collectively support the Hunt’s work in attempting to bring down ISIL.

  2. I cried when I read this too, and it really pisses me off enough to feel my berzerker rising. Its all about control for these one track minded barbarians. I believe me doing ritual would make some kind of difference. Ive been asking for help from a higher source for a personal problem and now this will also be high on my list. No wonder my dreams have been so involved and caktic lately. If I cant afford to buy tools, Ill make them myself. I’ve done it before. Now I see part of why I saw all the Olympians together. They are gathering for war.

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  4. Wow. I was aware of the situation in Palmyra and the Temple of Baalshamin but I didn’t know that the latter was destroyed. I was following the situation, here and there, but these things infuriate me to such an extent that I have to take a break from them. In any case, I agree. While we can’t do all that we’d like I still think we can do something. Blessings.

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  6. You mentioned them using dreamwork and magic of their own – how are you learning this and what have you learned so far? The brand of Islam that Daesh supports is openly hostile to magical workings and Islamic mysticism alike. I’m not saying it’s not so – fundamentalists are always hypocritical – but I want to know more. Partly because I’d like to do whatever countering I can do.

    This also brings to mind two things. Re: being careful in the Astral: I was going to go on a seidh-journey the other night (the Friday before the full moon) and all the Powers were like, “NO! Tonight is not a safe night for flying!” It was like an astral rough-seas warning, and even with all my warding, protection, and guides I was told not to fare forth.

    Another poster mentioned something about the Olympians taking up arms. I’ve been noticing it with the Norse deities as well, and with cross-pantheon interactions. When I was discussing their recent mass-recruitment campaigns with a friend, I saw the Lady sitting and polishing a sword and singing joyful songs of war. “More drink and cheer and laughter. More blades and blood and sorrow and sagas.” she said, when I looked up. “More good sons and good soldiers.” This is not a side of Her that I’m used to seeing, and wouldn’t have shared it here but for the fact that it seems pertinent given people speaking of the Powers getting up in arms (literally) about this.

    • Perhaps “dreamwork” is not quite the right word; I didn’t intend to imply that they’re claiming to use magic. (If they are, they certainly aren’t claiming it publicly.) But the Arab culture DOES seem to set great stock in dreams, and there is apparently an End Times dream/mythos they adhere to; they aren’t basing their rhetoric on it now, but some commentators are predicting they will switch over to that if/when Damascus falls, in an effort to rally as much of the Islamic world over the them as possible. I haven’t been able to find the link to the article I read yesterday discussing their weird attachment to dream influences, but this article at least refers to their leader’s mention of being influenced by dreams: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/isis-chief-baghdadi-prophet-mohammed-dream-rumour-spreads-amid-tension-before-mosul-battle-1492161

      And yeah, Odin is talking about it being a GOOD Hunt this year. Coming from Him, this is at once heartening and chilling.

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  8. The infernal pantheon is all the fuck over this, as you could expect. Can we coordinate a counterattack-working somehow? I would be totally down, as would most of your commenters, I imagine.

    Also, I’ve been having the most terrible recurring nightmares recently, and I can count the number of times I’ve had recurring dreams of any sort *in my entire life* on one hand. I’ve had several of my magical necklaces break at the most ominous of times and ways…I kept having a recurring nightmare about my necklace for Asmodai breaking, and then IT DID, in precisely the way I had dreamed. I had a panicky meltdown. Also, I have a necklace I’ve only worn ritually on a handful of occasions, which I put away securely wrapped in bubble wrap, and when I pulled it out on the night I was to swear marriage oaths to my husband…it was broken. We had to carry on without it. I am DEEPLY disturbed.

    I keep having recurring dreams and waking visions of this black, tentacled thing crackling with electricity, tearing people away from their gods and loved ones, completely isolating them, and then it eats their loved ones and crumbs of their corpses rain down on them while they scream. And worse things, but you get the idea. Since I NEVER get recurring dreams I’ve been trying to figure out what the hell this is, and I think this might be it, so throwing that out there in case anyone else is experiencing something similar.

    • I’m not surprised that They are, since there are so many links between ancient middle eastern polytheism and the infernals. I would love to see everyone who wants to coordinate do so, and I’ll keep everyone posted about what we’re doing here. Even though Jo and I live in the same house and are both polytheists (and even share the same Odin), we both do magickal work best solo (well, solo where other humans are concerned; we each Work with the Hunt on our own), so we’ll likely be working separately on this but possibly at the same time. We’re thinking dark moons for coordinated efforts–that’s apart from anything folks just want to do on their own–but the dark moons for the excorciation, binding, and cursing Work in concert with the Hunt.

      I’ve been having disturbing dreams, too, though I always get them during Hunt season. I don’t think any so far have been explicitly Hunt-related. But I don’t want to scare anyone too much, here: this is dead serious, but cutting us off from our gods is something ISIL/Daesh CAN’T do. Not unless we let them. (Though they would certainly like us to believe it.)

        • What we are going to do is dig up the names of some of their leaders and prominent members and focus on their photographs (which are unfortunately all over the internet), in addition to the symbols they use for their own group. From what I was reading yesterday, at this point the best hope of putting a swift end to this would be either internal conflict within their group, or inter-fighting between them and Al Quaeda. Given the history of the middle east, neither of these is out of the realm of possibility. So there’s a potential focus: internal conflict and division leading to loss of focus, turning on each other instead of outward.

          • Considering how much they attack other Muslims, fighting between them and Al-Qaeda is quite likely – and would have the benefit of weakening BOTH those groups. I’ve already made up my mind to do magic next new moon to bring that about. If anybody else wants to join in the same day with the same intent, may our wills support each other and destroy those who would harm our gods and innocent people.

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  10. This really pisses me off to no end.

    Even if you don’t want to look at this in a religious light (“those aren’t my gods”), what they are destroying is a part of OUR history. History that they seem bent on to make disappear forever.

    Now I really understand why Thor hasn’t been in such a great mood, very on edge, as of late and has been a bit on the distant side. I will certainly be doing everything I can to try to send as much juice their way.

  11. I have not read this yet, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to sit and cry and rage when I do.

    I had my altars desecrated by a roommate a couple of years ago. Said roommate was an atheist pagan and she did it because I was moving out, and I wasn’t doing it fast enough to suit her, because I was in the hospital. I’m severely asthmatic and packing sets off dust and it triggered a hospital-worthy attack. (yes, she was a lovely, lovely person)

    When I got out of the hospital and saw what she’d done to my altars, I was in shock. I got them to my new home, sat down, and bawled my eyes out, and there came a point where I realized that the tears weren’t /just/ my tears. It hurts *Them*. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” came out of my mouth; I knew They weren’t mad at me, but it felt like I was sitting with someone who was grieving. And I was quite capable of remaking and hallowing those altars, and I did. Can you imagine the kind of grief They must feel about the destruction of a Temple?

    • Wow, what a horrible experience that must have been for you (and its a good example, on a smaller scale).

      Unfortunately, yes; I think some of Their rage and grief is trickling through to me (Odin knows these gods; He seems to know Everyone), and it’s partly why I find the photos so upsetting. (I cried when I first saw them and heard the news, and I can’t look at the photos for more than a couple of minutes at a time.) I mean, yes, this is human heritage, human history, so they are destroying something that belongs to humanity as a whole, which they have no right to do–and I’m sure the ancestors, especially those who built and worshiped at these temples, are also grieving. BUT the fact that they are also destroying something that belongs to the gods, that was consecrated and dedicated to Them–how fucking dare they? This is utterly unspeakable and I truly hope every last one of them is smited for it. It isn’t as though they are killing the gods by destroying Their places–thankfully, they have no power to do that–but their goal is to wipe out humanity’s memory of these gods. And the gods did value these places; it would be like, for us, having to watch someone maliciously desecrate a childhood home.

  12. Beautifully said, Beth. I am also outraged about this and there is only one I know to channel the berserk rage needed to end ISIL: to invoke Mother Kali. Every day I plan to ask her to destroy their ignorance, to destroy their hatred, and to destroy their arrogance, until there is no ISIL left.

  13. I see now why I’ve dreamt of being back on active duty for the past few nights. Nammu is from that area and white none of her temples still exist She is very displeased with the destruction going on. I would love to participate in any rituals or whatever gets put together – we are stronger together than apart. Thanks for doing this, Beth.

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