Isis: Goddess of Egypt & India
Chris Morgan

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Isis, Goddess of Egypt & India
Chris Morgan
Format: Softcover/Illustrated, many in colour.
ISBN: 978-1-906958-71-8
£14.99/$22
Subjects: Egyptology/Indology.

– A Temple of Isis in India –
On India’s south-western or Malabar coast is situated an ancient Hindu temple which is these days devoted to the famous Hindu god Shiva and his consort the fearsome goddess Kali. This is Kurumbha-Bhagavathy Devi outside of the modern city of Cochin or Kochi in Kerala state.

Travel back in time and the temple housed other gods. Once it was the home of the Buddhist/Jaina goddess Pattini whose mortal husband was tried and killed in a series of brutal events still commemorated in the temple’s ritual year. Before this and the story gets even stranger, as there are said to be remains of a secret, underground shrine, the home to a mystery cult dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis.

At the time of Christ, there was indeed a Greco-Roman merchant colony based in this part of India. Greek, Roman & Near Eastern merchants travelled to India after a regular, if epic, sea journey of two thousand miles across the Arabian Ocean, making their first landfall at a port known in the ancient world as Musiris. Clues to the religious practices of these ancient traders is evident not just in the surviving architecture but in very many, sometimes unique features of the later cults, continuing into the modern day.

Some of the best examples come from the rites of Pattini as once practiced at Kurumba-Bhagavathy Devi. Experts have often identified in the story of her husband’s death and resurrection, something of the Near Eastern cult of Attis. But a more recent and credible theory is that the temple once hosted the mysteries of the cult of Isis, whose husband Osiris was also cruelly cut down but then resurrected by her magical prowess.

So without more ado let me tell the whole story from its beginnings on the banks of the Nile. The story of Isis and Osiris is the basis of Egypt’s most popular religion. In what follows I trace the origins of this to the Egypt’s pyramid age in the middle of the second millennia BCE. Arguably it is even older. A great deal of this book is devoted to describing what is known about the cult of Isis and Osiris from Egyptian records. This, I shall argue, is the basis for what comes later in the time-line, when the world was dominated by the Greek and Roman Empires. Isis and Osiris became the focus of a global religion and the basis of the most popular of all classical mystery cults. This is precisely the time at which a small, Near Eastern shrine was built in South-West India to service the needs of the merchant trading post. Mysteries of Isis were popular among all social classes in the ancient world, but especially mariners.

In India we have a building which could itself be thought of as storing the memory of influences from each new wave of belief. We can follow the progress and transformation of its changing occupants, as each absorbs some of the archeological memory. Finally we arrive at its current incarnation and the celebration of the Bharani festival, which marks the beginning of the hot summer before the coming of the Monsoon rains. Many non-orthodox rites will enliven the tale. The mysterious society of Atikals that returns to their lost temple every year to conduct secret rites culminating in twelve hours of ‘Misrule’, during which hundred of thousands of devotees appear from all over Kerala.

There are other devotees who carry sticks, which they swirl in their dancing; others brandish the sickle sword. Most of these pilgrims are non-Brahmin ritual specialists such as the Veliccappadu. Their name means “a channel who sheds light” for they are spirit mediums, men and women, followers of Kali who utter oracles when in trance. They dress in red and wear heavy anklets and bells.

In the final part of my story I present a complete and ‘lost’ version of the most famous drama of all time, the celebrated myth or passion play of Isis and murdered husband Osiris, clearly recognizable even in its current idiom based as it is in South Asian ritual drama. The drama is reproduced in its entirety as it reveals many previously unknown aspects of one of the world’s oldest myths.

Isis: Goddess of Egypt & India (Extract)

Hippalos
Kamil Zvelebil


Hippalos
Kamil Zvelebil

For those interested in my study “Isis in India” you might enjoy this electronic version of Zvelebil’s factional account of the life of Hippalos. The late Kamil Zvelebil was a great scholar of South India, although not such a good novelist . . . even so it has much value as an account of an interesting and little known period of Indian History. The print edition currently unavailable and there is a small charge for the ebook – although you can read a sample chapter first…

Softcover/272pp/3 maps/ISBN: 1869928-415/
OUT OF PRINT

Greek and Indian sources tell of an Alexandrian Greek navigator called Hippalos. He discovered a direct route across the ocean from the Red sea, to legendary Musiris in South India. 2000 miles of open ocean in 30 days and nights. India: when the Kama Sutra was first written down. India where Buddhists and Hindus hate each other with a vengence and where mighty dynasties are embroiled in bloody war. Against this powerful backdrop the heart of Hippalos is tested to its limit as friends fight for survival and a passionate love affair grows. Hippalos’s journey, based on fact, offers us a way through the vast ocean of Indian story. You will be entertained and then initiated into the secrets of ancient India as you have never before seen it.

About the author:
Kamil V. Zvelebil, born in 1927, is professor-emeritus of Indian studies at the universities of Chicago, Heidelberg, Utrecht and Prague and also an ordained Zen Buddhist monk.

Amazon/Kindle

Siddha Quest for Immortality
Kamil Vaclav Zvelebil

978-1869928-438


Siddha Quest for Immortality
Kamil Vaclav Zvelebil
Format: Softcover
ISBN: 1869928431
£19.99/US$28
Subjects: Ayurveda/Tantra.

In South India there is a society where priests and lay people claim supernatural powers. Where a sophisticated medical system underlies a quest for physical longevity and psychic immortality.
And where arcane and sexual rituals take place that are far removed from the Brahmanic tradition.

That society is the Tamil Siddhas. In the Siddha Quest for Immortality world Tamil expert K Zvelebil offers a vivid picture of these people: their religious beliefs, their magical rites, their alchemical practices, their complex system of medicine, and their inspired tradition of poetry.

In the Poets of the Powers, Zvelebil introduced English speakers, for the first time, to the astonishing power of Siddha writing. The Siddha Quest for Immortality includes many newly-translated examples of poetry that is deeply religious but not without humour. But physical longevity was also central to Siddha belief, and fascinating chapters on Siddha medicine describe routines by which one can maintain health, and tell how drugs are created from such varied ingredients as cowdung, human urine, honey, oil, and milk.

Part of a Tantrik-Siddha Ritual

‘In the centre of a ritual circle…sits a chosen woman, completely naked, who symbolizes Devi, i.e., Sakti…caste or community is of absolutely no importance in the selection of this woman…This Sakti, thoroughly washed and perfumed all over her body with various perfumes sits on a sort of pedestal with widely spread legs so that her yoni (vulva) is well visible. The leading Siddha will kiss the yoni, and bless various non-vegetarian foodstuffs through the contact with the yoni by touching and rubbing with them the vulva of the Sakti. Then these offerings are distributed among the participants and consumed…’

The Siddha Quest for Immortality
‘While the non-Siddha proclaims that, in order to escape the wheel of birth-and-death the only course open to man is the attainment of spiritual freedom crowned by physical, bodily death, the Siddha maintains that one must overcome physical death in this life itself and ‘live forever’…the great work that lies before man is to purify one’s body and sanctify one’s life, and integrate the two…into one eternal monad, so that body and life become identical.’
The Poets of the Powers

‘Siddha writings are at once most thrilling, even sensational but at the same time the darkest and only very little-known texts in Tamil. They represent a complex and provocative puzzle: flashes of stunning intuition, knowledge, even deep wisdom as well as results of effective practice seem to be mixed with incredible naivete, hardly acceptable superstitions, and dark and amazing claims.’

Plagiarists and impostors?

‘Even Indians themselves, when raised on the niceties of early twentieth century English or Anglo-Indian culture, described the Siddhas as “plagiarists and impostors”, “eaters of opium and dwellers in the land of dreams, their conceit knowing no bounds.’

Siddha Iconoclasm
‘You begging bullocks!
In ochre robes,
with matted hair,
with water-vessels,
rosary-beads and walking sticks,
you have forsaken your women
and roam about the country wide and large
begging for a grain of boiled rice!
Idiots!’

Further extracts below:
Extract

Foreword

The Tamil Siddhas cannot be regarded as one homogenous ‘movement’ or ‘school of thought’ manifesting a unified, well-defined, uniform ideology. A great number of elements have entered into their thinking, some of them pan-Indian, some of them apparently specifically South Indian or Tamil. On the other hand, their overall ideology has, of course, several basic doctrinal tenets in common. As we shall see, some of these tenets are in amazing correspondence with the most recent developments in modern physics of post-relativity and quantum theory era. The schema of dense and subtle matter is one of those tenets: according to ultimate Siddha thought, subtle matter constitutes the inner body of man; matter is nothing but crystallized energy, and a manifestation of infinite and universal mind (‘subtle matter’ reappears in the theories of physicists of our day). An accomplished Siddha is someone who has learned to harmonize his awareness with this subtle (sub-atomic?) matter of which he is composed. The Siddha alchemist can live in the mode of constant appearance and disappearance, manifestation and dissolution, of subtle matter and energy; and all matter forms a continuum. Neither matter nor consciousness are ultimate, for both have their source in something still ‘beyond’, in Civam which can not really become object of knowledge. Hence the Siddha poet speaks often of ‘silence’:

Silence, unmoved and rising,
Silence, unmoved and sheltering,
Silence, unmoved and permanent,
Silence, unmoved and brilliant,
Silence, broad and immense like the Ganga,
Silence, unmoved and increasing,
Silence, white and shining like the Moon,
Silence, the Essence of Siva.

The only possible predication of the ‘something’in which both matter and consciousness have their source is Void, Emptiness. Hence, again, one of the key-terms appearing in Siddha poetry: vettaveli, cuniyam ‘utter emptiness, void’, veliyirveli (liter.) ‘void in emptiness’ i.e. supreme, absolute Emptiness; or, simply, veli (liter ‘open space; space; openness’) ’emptiness’:

Gods made out of wood
Gods made out of stone
Gods made out of palmyra fronds
Gods made out of bone
Gods made out of rags
Gods made out of dung
Gods made out of saffron bags
There are no other gods
but
VOID
(Civavakkiyam 503/510)

must be stressed, however, that by this emptiness is not meant a substantive emptiness like ‘an empty box’. It is emptiness which is a plenum (more about all this will be said in subsequent chapters). And man can come into contact with this Void. How, that is precisely what the Siddhas tell us.

These, then, are, in very simplified words, some of the ultimate and basic doctrinal points common to all those thinkers, poets, alchemists and physicians designated as cittar (Siddhar, Siddhas) in Tamil India. Now, to speak of less lofty matters, the reader must be made aware that, nowadays, when it comes to Siddha medicine and medical practice, there even exist, in Madras, a government Siddha dispensary, and a government Siddha medical college. Also, let us return to what divides the Siddhas from one another; let us mention at least one of their important ‘inhomogeneities’ – the Siddha attitude to sex.

The Siddha attitude to sex often manifests features which are in mutual contrast, and thus represents a good illustration of the heterogeneous character of the Siddha ‘movement’. On the one hand there are Siddha poets who express utter disgust and revulsion towards women and any sexual activity (e. g. Pattinattar who in Potu 14 speaks of men who ‘for the sake of a cunt / perish day and night’, and in 31 mentions ‘women / who smell of their / sensuality’, whose ‘limbs stink of their discharge’). Pattinattar is not the only one, although he probably represents the most vigorous manifestation of the ascetic, stern, misogynist trend of Siddha thought. On the other hand, in drastic contrast – so at least it seems – there is an entire group of Siddha alchemist-medicine men who are obviously raised in the Tantrik tradition, and who in fact take part in rituals based on the Tantrik cakrapuja. This stream of Siddha thought and practice will be dealt with in some detail in chapter 12 of this book, but here I wish to indicate very briefly the most salient features of such Tantrik-Siddha ritual.

In the centre of a ritual circle (cakkiram) sits a chosen woman, completely naked, who symbolizes Devi, i. e. Sakti, the Primeval Energy of the Cosmos, the Goddess, and it is characteristic of the Siddha views that caste or community is of absolutely no importance either in the selection of this woman (she can be a virgin as well as a prostitute, a young Brahmin girl as well as a ripe low- caste lady), or in the gathering of the participants. This Sakti, thoroughly washed and perfumed all over her body with various perfumes (according to an exact prescription; for details cf. chapter 12), sits on a sort of pedestal with widely spread legs so that her yoni (vulva) is well visible. The leading Siddha will kiss the yoni, and bless various non-vegetarian foodstuffs through the contact with the yoni by touching and rubbing with them the vulva of the Sakti. Then these offerings are distributed among the participants and consumed. The participating men, who for five days preceding the puja had been eating meat, drinking alcoholic beverages and using aphrodisiacs according to Siddha pharmacopoeia, will naturally be in a state of high sexual arousal which must however be strictly controlled, until ritual cohabitation follows with their chosen female partners which – and this is a basic and most important requirement – must never end in ejaculation of the sperm. The Siddha tenet underlying all this holds that the enormous force which is released by controlled sexual tension must be translated from the gross physical level to the ‘subtle’ body and ultimately to the psychic level whereby one attains various siddhis or supranormal powers and ‘immortality’.

This book consists of some sixteen sections. The introductory chapter describes in broad outlines general features of Siddha medicine (since this is what the book is mostly concerned with), and in the following chapter are spelled out ideological tenets of the specific Siddha quest of immortality. Next chapter deals with basic principles and beliefs of Siddha physicians. The following section gives first a rather detailed account of Siddha materia medica and its use, and moves on to the cure prescribed for a number of various diseases. Three very brief sections follow: on Siddha yoga, daily regime, and alchemy. The following chapter is concerned with the specific Siddha techniques for the attainment of longevity and ‘immortality’. Then follows a description of some doctrinal aspects of Siddhism as reflected in contemporary medical practice, and of a visit in a Siddha dispensary in Madras. Tantrik Siddha school and Siddha attitudes to sex are dealt with next. After the conclusions, a short anthology of selected Siddha poetic texts is offered to the reader. Index of terms in precise transliteration and select bibliography close the book.

Cunnilingus according to Tantrik Siddhas
[from a late medieval text in Tamil entitled Treatise on the Arrow of Lust

First Stage
Like a cow which licks tenderly its calf
spread out your tongue broad
and lick her yoni
lapping up the juices oozing out
like a thirsty dog which laps cool water
(continues)

MEDICINE OF THE GODS
Chris Morgan

978-1869928-377



Medicine of The Gods
Chris Morgan
Format: Softcover/ ISBN: 1869928377 / £9.99/US$18
Subjects: Ayurveda/Indology/Tantra.

Ayurveda is an Asian medical system which has its beginnings in the sixth century BCE and thrives even to the present-day. There was once a celebrated doctor called Caraka who lived in the second century of our era. He was one of the greatest physicians that has ever lived. He recorded the fact that the gods themselves were perplexed by the continued existence of disease, which was a hindrance to humanity’s progress to enlightenment. These same gods, he says, therefore prepared the way for Ayurveda, which literally means the ‘science of longevity’ to be taught to the human race. Thus the title of this book is Medicine of the Gods.

Medicine of the Gods is the first of a series that aims to introduce the physical and metaphysical concepts of Ayurveda to a non-specialist audience. Medical ideas underpin a great deal of Eastern thought especially Tantrism, alchemy, yoga and the science of love. The book is not intended as a series of health tips or as a textbook for the clinical practice of medicine, which in the Ayurveda tradition requires at least seven years intensive training. The book is aimed at students and lovers of South Asian culture, perhaps also anthropologists and others with a need for a straightforward introduction to the core principles of another scientific tradition.

Praise for first edition:
‘The author’s main purpose, introducing ancient Indian medical theory in a relatively trustworthy manner to the interested general reader in easy language, while at the same time being intellectually challenging, is served well by this book.’
-Rahul Peter Das in Traditional South Asian Medicine Vol 6 2001

‘This book contains virtually everything you could want to know about the Hindu system of Ayurvedic medicine, which began on or about the sixth century BCE and is still thriving today. The history, correspondences or “humours’, and other intriguing aspects of this intricate system are described in easy-to-understand language for those unfamiliar with Ayurveda. There is also a catalogue of ailments and how Ayurveda views each of them, and illness in general. I found this fascinating reading, both as a western herbal practitioner, and as a reader fascinated by how other cultures ‘
– Reviewed by Cerridwen Connelly in The Pentacle