If You’re Hankerin’ to Start Fiddlin’… or Playin’ Any Stringed Instrument…

Photo of an Arkansas Fiddler

…Then I’d like to tell you about an online site where you can find quality stringed instruments at great prices!

I came across Michael Sanchez of superiorviolins.com several years ago, quite by accident.   I played violin decades ago and was considering trying to pick it up again.  For some reason I decided to google the difference between a fiddle and a violin.  I had been trained as a classical violinist, but had been wondering what it would be like to play the fiddle.  Quite honestly,  I thought a  fiddle was an entirely different instrument than a violin.  So, I turned to the ever-faithful search engine and plugged in “what is the difference between a fiddle and a violin?”  Up popped a young man with a somewhat impish grin who explained the difference – same instrument,  the difference is in how you play it.  I then looked up his website and in the years since have become a faithful follower and customer.  I thought I would do a review for Dave Enjoys, because it’s always good to exercise caution when making purchases online, especially major ones, and I can assure people they can shop with confidence at superiorviolins.com.

Superiorviolins.com is actually one of two sites run by Sanchez.  A sister site is violintutorpro.com which is an amazing site offering tremendous resources to violinists and fiddle players alike.  I will be reviewing that site in a later article here on Dave Enjoys.  But for now, I’d like to tell you about superiorviolins.com, which is the store part of the sister sites.  Here you can purchase violins (including electric violins), cellos, violas, bows, cases and a variety of accessories.  The instruments range from very basic, beginner type instruments for around $250 all the way up to master level instruments for $15,000.  Michael carefully selects the instruments he sells to ensure that they are of the highest quality, no matter the price.  I love that you can try any instrument in the comfort of your own home before you buy it.  The higher-priced instruments require a down payment, and if you decide not to purchase you simply return it, paying only the return shipping price.

I have tried out several violins from superiorviolins.com.   My absolute favorite was the Elda Marina, which retails for $3500.  I couldn’t believe how much easier it was to play than the inexpensive old violin I had picked up at a yard sale!  It sounded as though I had gained instantaneously ten years of practice, just because of the beautiful tone this instrument so effortlessly produced.  I took the Elda Marina to my local music store and tried it out against some of their high-end models.  None could compare with the Elda Marina with its rich tone.  Unfortunately, right at the time I was planning to purchase the violin of my dreams I got hit with some unexpected financial obligations and wasn’t able to …even with the great sale price and payment plan.  It just wasn’t the right time for me.   I cried like I was saying goodbye to a friend I might never see again when I closed the lid on it for the last time before packaging it to return!

Tia Bruna as found on SuperiorViolin.com
Tia Bruna as found on SuperiorViolin.com

Several months later things were looking better again financially and I decided at this time to try out another model; a less expensive but highly recommended one, the Tia Bruna.  This is a beautiful violin with rich, deep tones.  I made the purchase and I am so glad!  The decades I had turned my back on the violin are being reclaimed as I faithfully practice.  A good instrument can make such a difference, including providing increased motivation to practice.  It is difficult to struggle along on an inferior quality instrument…a quality instrument makes practicing a joy.  I highly recommend that parents provide their children with the highest quality instrument they can afford…and Michael makes sure he does everything he can to make his instruments affordable and available to people, including frequent and generous sales, contests, trade-ins and easy payment plans.   By the time I applied my trade-in and the $100 I won in a contest to a really great sale price I was able to purchase a truly wonderful violin almost for a song.

So, all that to say, if you are looking for a violin, viola or cello, be sure to check out superiorviolins.com….Michael Sanchez is as honest and trustworthy as they come and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

Floating in a Sensory Deprivation Chamber: Personal Recollection.

Strange

Float Tank Path FinderAfter watching The Perfect Storm[1] I became a commercial fishing deckhand in Alaska for a summer.[2]

After watching some episodes of Fringe (see also Amazonand Altered States (see also Amazon) I decided I wanted to experience a sensory deprivation chamber.

What do these two scenarios have in common? My interest was sparked by the stories – stories which, to many, cause fear or aversion.

I have theories as to why I am this way (attracted to, rather than repelled by), but I’ll leave those for another time…

Sensory Deprivation

The cultural knowledge of sensory deprivation chambers / isolation tanks is generally sourced in their portrayal on the recent TV show Fringe, a pseudo-X-Files.[3] Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an image or a clip which does justice to the horrifying nature of the lead character’s (Olivia) experience in the chamber.

Luckily, the 1980 classic Altered States‘ trailer[4] is quite adequate in portraying the horror common in media depictions:

But what is it like to actually be in a sensory deprivation chamber?

Serene Dreams

These days you can find sensory deprivation chambers in stand-alone businesses or at spas spread around the country.  You’ll rarely hear them referred to as sensory deprivation chambers, instead you’ll hear of flotation therapy, or perhaps in medical or academic circles Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST).

I went to a stand-alone (no other services like massage, facials, etc. offered) in Kearny (northern) NJ called Serene Dreams. It wasn’t a big building and (I think) there were two entrance doors. I tried the first, I have no idea what the second led to. This brought me into their waiting/reception area. It was cramped – a single couch and two bar chairs provided the seating. I was handed a small stack of papers to read and sign. The papers were the usual disclaimers regarding liability for bodily harm but they also included the somewhat unusual disclaimer for psychological injury.

After a few minutes I was led through a door into a long, wide hallway. There were two rooms on my left along the hallway, but these were both occupied, so I was led around the corner into their third (and last) room. The room looks like a high-end bathroom. There is a beautiful large shower with a gazillion different settings, a sink, and then a large white pod with water inside and a lid that closes.

Unfortunately these rooms do not include a toilet, which would seem ideal seeing one is about to spend an extended period of time floating in water and having a full bladder would be most unpleasant.

The door was shut and I was left alone. The procedure indicates that one first shower so as not to bring anything into the pod with you (the water is purified between each consumer), one can use provided vaseline to cover over any cuts, and there are ear plugs – which you’ll really want to use.

Once the shower is over you can enter the pod. Inside the pod you have a few items. First there is a large button that allows you to control the lighting. These pods aren’t strictly for sensory deprivation, apparently many use them with the lights on.  Secondly there is a help call button that you can press if you are in need of assistance. Finally, there is a bottle of fresh water to use if you get the pod’s water in your eyes.

Why would one need regular water while laying in a body of water? Because the water in the pod is loaded with epsom salt – so much that it causes your body to float. Get that into your eyes and it will sting (yes, I know from firsthand experience).

I climbed into the pod and closed the lid on top of me.[5] I laid down and began to float in the water and then I turned off the lights. It was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything, I knew I was inside a pod, resting in a body of water – but there was nothing to feel, nothing to see.

As I laid there I became aware of some of my bodily problem spots. My right knee was aching, one of my fingers on my right hand as well. The lack of external sensory input was causing me to feel more intensely my aches and pains. Over time these pains faded away and I floated.

They played soft music for the first ten minutes, so I knew when ten minutes had passed – but after that all was silence – there was no way to know the time. So, I laid there, and laid there, and laid there some more.

My brain wasn’t busy – somewhat surprisingly. Nor did I feel tired, I just floated. The water was body temperature, but half my body was above the surface and every once in a while it would feel a little chilly. As time passed the air became stuffy. It hadn’t occurred to me beforehand, but I realized in order not to cause sensation, they wouldn’t be able to pump fresh air into the pod (or if they did, it wasn’t at a speed that could replace the old air with new). I wondered how long one could stay in the pod before suffocating – obviously much longer than the hour I was scheduled for.[6]

Sometimes it felt like time was dragging on. “How much longer?” I would wonder. At the end of the hour the music started again, informing me that there was only ten minutes remaining. I was surprised – could that much time have passed already? It is a weird feeling to be in the absolute dark with no reference to time – one feels almost simultaneously that a dreadfully long period of time is passing and at the same time that it has been only a few brief moments.

When the music stopped I turned on the light, opened the pod, and took another shower. The second shower is to wash all the epsom salt off your body. If you didn’t take a shower you’d look like you were covered with chalk dust after drying for a minute or two…not to mention that if you got the water in your ears there is the small possibility that they could form into crystals and cause ear pain.

I made my way down the long hallway back to the waiting area[7]. Plunked down my credit card and had a nice chat with the receptionist who informed me about how Mugwort’s Tea before bed has helped her to remember her dreams. Hmmm, I might have to try that.

Not That Scary?

No, it wasn’t that scary. So are the portrayals in film completely unreal? Not exactly. In the film portrayals the individuals are almost always dosed with psychoactive drugs such as LSD or mescaline. In addition the individuals tend to spend a much more extended period of time within the sensory deprivation tank.

Was I Happy?

Sure, I was happy. I had done something I’d wanted to do for some years now and I hadn’t panicked or grown so bored I quit. I had spent an hour alone with my own brain and hadn’t gone crazy – which is something of an achievement.

I’ll admit, I hoped for more. I hoped I would fall asleep and have a vivid dream I could process.[8] I didn’t think I had fallen asleep, but when I got home I had a pain in my tongue and it was a little bloody. I have bruxism, which means I grind my teeth in my sleep. Unfortunately, this also means I bite my tongue in my sleep[9] so it seems I may have fallen asleep at least briefly. Still, the sleep wasn’t what I was after – it was the dream.

That said, if I want more out of it I will have to do it for a more extended period of time. Will I do it again for a more extended period? I’m unsure. I’m ADD[10] and laying still for an hour is a challenge for me, laying still for longer seems at the least extremely boring and perhaps edging into torture…but I might.

There is some science indicating that flotation therapy is helpful in chronic pain and muscle relaxation – and I felt some of that. Portions of my body stopped aching, but I think I’d need to be a regular to see any lasting results.

Minor Positive Criticism

I have only a few minor criticisms of the location I utilized (Serene Dreams in Kearny NJ).

  • It would have been really great to have a toilet in the room.
  • The pod wasn’t quite big enough for me. I would occasionally drift into the walls. This wasn’t a major issue, but it did decrease the sensory deprivation experience.
  • I think I may have gone into the pod backwards (feet where my head should have been). This is probably a me problem…

Concluding Thoughts

Flotation therapy isn’t scary at all. Sensory Deprivation is a bit more testing – the pitch blackness and silence may get to some – probably would get to me over a longer period of time. To experience a more interesting psychological experience once would probably have to increase the length of the session significantly or, as the forefathers of this technology did (see Dr. John C. Lilly for example), utilize psychoactive drugs…ummm, okay, scratch that second idea.

  1. [1]Other materials had primed me, this was just the tipping point. I had previously loved Richard Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast and Louis L’Amour’s Education of a Wandering Man.
  2. [2]I was a salmon set-net commercial deckhand in Ninilchik. This is not nearly as dangerous as the scenarios portrayed in The Perfect Storm or Deadliest Catch.
  3. [3]I had hoped Fringe would be a satisfactory replacement to the X-Files (also Amazon) and at the get-go it appeared to be…but once it became evident that the story arc was becoming one dimensional by focusing on a mega-arc of parallel dimensions, I became disappointed and stopped watching. Monsters of the week episodes had always been my favorite part of the X-Files – which managed to keep an overarching myth without succumbing to it.
  4. [4]The depiction in Fringe was at least in part inspired by Altered States portrayal.
  5. [5]If you are claustrophobic, this may not be for you – luckily, if you aren’t going for sensory deprivation, you would just leave the lid open.
  6. [6]After some further research, I’m fairly certain that the pod was circulating air, it just wasn’t enough to prevent the staleness.
  7. [7]The lights were dampened and it was a somewhat more foreboding environment, if I had been coming in instead of going out, I might have felt a spooked.
  8. [8]I’m not a fan of DREAM INTERPRETATION but I am a fan of dream interpretation. I mean, I believe that sometimes there are overarching themes which spread across dreams which can be insightful to us, but I’m not a fan of attempting to deconstruct every portion of the dream and assign it meaning. I assume that if my brain really wants to tell me something, it will say it repeatedly (and this has been my experience).
  9. [9]I wear a bruxism guard most nights to prevent this
  10. [10]ADD not ADHD. I don’t have the hyperactive component.

Fluidstance and the Thief

Occasionally folks reach out to me with a product or service they would like for me to review – Fluidstance was one of said companies. They told me they were shipping me The Level so I could put it through its paces. I eagerly anticipated its arrival…and I waited for it…and I waited some more.

As time passed I figured they must have decided not to send me The Level after all…maybe they decided my blog wasn’t getting enough traffic, maybe they had run out of units to send out to bloggers. I was giving up hope.

Then I received a followup email asking how things were going with The Level. I was confused. Wait, you sent me The Level? When? FedEx delivery confirmation shows that the package was successfully left on my doorstep nearly a month ago. Gahh!

Photo of legs standing on Fluidstance The Level

This is the first time I have ever had mail stolen off my front porch (at least that I am aware of) and it sucks. I was really looking forward to giving The Level a try.

I find my knees begin to hurt after a period of standing at my desk and I have to revert to sitting and I hoped that using The Level might allow me to spend longer periods at a time standing.

So, it sucks for me, but it also sucks for Fluidstance, since they sent me a moderately expensive product for review and I can’t review it because someone stole it.

As a poor substitute, I’ve compiled some resources together below to help those who are interested in learning more about The Level do so.

Gahhh! I just went through the first forty results in Google for “fluidstance” to garner the above reviews and now I am even more disappointed than before. Without exception, every one of the reviews I found in those first forty results where positive!

“But Dave, you should have Google ‘fluidstance review’, that would have given you better results.” You are so right, so I did and found the following:

Well, no, those additional reviews don’t make me feel any better about having mine stolen before I ever laid eyes on it.

Mom’s Night Out (Movie Review, PG)

There are things I review on my blog that I think everyone will love and then there are things I post here that I think some people will love…this one is for the some people, not everybody. (It has a 5.4/10 on IMDb but only 18% on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Mom's Night Our

I love slapstick comedy (think Home Alone, Baby’s Day Out, etc.) but there is very little of it being produced these days (if you are aware of some good ones I should be watching – let me know!). Mom’s Night Out falls into this category. I laughed so hard I almost cried. Sheila, my mom, and two of my sisters (Faith and Mary) were all watching it with me, I don’t think any of them enjoyed it quite as much as I did…though they may have enjoyed it more because of my near-tears laughing antics.

Mom’s Night Out is a Christian movie in the sense that it was made by Christians, but it is not a Christian movie in the sense of proselytizing. This film is funny and heart-warming and its take-away is a bit over-the-top, but hey, don’t most comedies have one of these at the end anyways?

Okay, now on to some geeky stuff I like to share and probably nobody reads… 🙂

Actors

I always like to see who they were able to line up for a movie and what they were in before…this film has some fairly well-known talent including Sarah Drew, Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, and David Hunt.

There are also several significant actors from the Christian film industry – which are likely known by those who watch these films and not by the larger world. These include: Andrea Logan White, Alex Kendrick, Jason Burkey, and Kevin Downes.

Conspiracies, Mysteries, Secret Societies – Ohh My!

As a child I somehow acquired several books along the lines of Reader’s Digest’s Unsolved Mysteries of the Past and I always loved these sorts of books – learning about all the things that we can’t quite explain or understand. More recently I read (and reviewed) Man, Myth, & Magic (Vol. 1).

mystery box

More recently I picked up Brad and Sherry Steiger’s Conspiracies and Secret Societies. This volume was an enjoyable read, unfortunately, it lacked the more detailed methodology I prefer when reading these sort of books.

Namely, there is a bibliography at the end of the work but no notes on which articles utilized which bibliographic resources – and the bibliographic resources are quite varied in quality. Additionally, while the Steiger’s indicate they are taking a neutral voice, they oftentimes state things as if they were true and it is unclear whether they are pronouncing known facts or simply explaining the position of those who believe in x conspiracy.

All said, I can’t recommend the book as a reliable reference work, but it does provide a nifty jumping off point to learn about various conspiracies. Just keep in mind that what you read may be fanciful imaginings.

What I really wanted to share in this post is my list of interesting topics from the work – the things I’ve found interesting or would like to research further in the future (this is something I do recreationally). The reasons I am interested in various topics varies just as much as the topics – sometimes I think the idea is plausible while at other times I find the idea so implausible I want to know more about those who dreamed up such and such. Others seem far-fetched but are interesting enough for further exploration…

Topic Note
AIDS/HIV Origins of the disease.
Airship of 1897 What was it? Mass delusion?
Alchemy Predecessor to chemistry, attempted to turn base metals into gold.
Alien Abductions
Al-Qaeda Origins, relationships.
Alternative 3 Was there a 1960’s secret space program that sent a group of our brightest to colonize the moon?
American Protective Association Tried to keep Roman Catholics out of political office.
Anarchists On the Steiners’ list: William Godwin, Max Stirner, Henry David Thoreau, Mother Jones, Lucy Parsons, Emma Goldman, Big Bill Haywood, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, Nicola Sacco, Bartolomeo Vanzetti, Noam Chomsky.
Anthrosophy Founded by Rudolf Steiner.
Apocalyptic Millennialism Variety and history of beliefs about the end times.
Army of God Anti-Abortionist Terrorists.
Aum Shinrikyo Means “Supreme Truth” – a relatively recent (1987) cult responsible for terrorism in Japan.
B-25 Ghost Bomber Where did this bomber disappear to after crashing into a river?
Dr. Fred Bell Died after being on Jesse Ventura’s conspiracy show, invented the “X-1 Healing Machine”, etc.

Okay that is enough for one day…I’ll add some more of the topics I found interesting another time.

Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ

I’m a little behind on posting this review – it was on March 6th that Sheila and I went to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, New Jersey but I trust that my memory is not becoming so feeble that I cannot recall some of the details of the experience to share with you today.

I hadn’t been in an aquarium in years – my memories of aquariums came from childhood and perhaps once or twice during my teenage years – and, honestly, were pretty boring.

I was excited to see that they currently had a Dinosaurs of the Deep exhibit as I have always had a fascination with sea monsters. They even had a 4D experience, unfortunately we came soon after a snow storm had blown through and apparently the experience was being streamed from somewhere and the receiver had been knocked out of alignment, so that was a bust – which was a real bummer. I’m sure it is back up and running now, if you happen to go and see it, I’d love to hear how it was!

Dunkleostus

There were a bunch of static dinosaur exhibits (large models of the dinosaurs) and these were interesting to look at for a moment or two.

My favorite part of the aquarium was the Stingray Beach Club. They had a pool filled with stingrays and they would swim around and circles and you could pet them as they went past. I found one in particular – a greenish yellow one (yeah, not the usual colors) – that seemed to really enjoy being petted. While all the others seemed to keep pretty constant in their circular motion around this large pool, this one would turn around and come back again, and again, and again.

Photo of a Stingray

There was a large tank with many sea creatures in it including sharks, stingrays, and sea turtles – we stayed and looked at these guys for quite a while. You know, hammerhead sharks look really funny up close! And sea turtles are so gigantic and majestic!

Photo of Hammerhead Shark

Unfortunately, because of the snow, Penguin Island was closed, so we were unable to visit that portion of the Aquarium either. They also have a Touch-A-Shark section but they were touring some other sort of amphibious creature at the time (which I cannot recall but did not find nearly as interesting as petting a shark).

They had a whole section specifically dedicated to shark that was pretty cool and you could walk through a glass tunnel that went through the water the sharks were in (so there were sharks swimming all around you).

They also had hippos which were pretty interesting, but only if you came at specific times. Most of the day they just soak in the mud, at specific times though they get up and walk around (probably b/c they’ve been trained that they will get food at those times).

Photo of a Hippo

Other cool animals we saw included Eels, the Arapaima (aka pirarucu), Pacific Sea Nettles, Spotted Lagoon Jellies, Giant Pacific Octopus, and Poison Dart Frogs.

There are a number of other exhibits that include turtles, frogs, and a variety of fish.

Overall, for someone who didn’t particularly enjoy aquariums in the past, it was an enjoyable experience (and I look forward to going to more aquariums in the future). If you are like me and tend to get bored quickly, a two or three hour walk-through of the place should suffice.

If you can’t make it down there, the Adventure Aquarium’s website is a pretty cool place to explore.

[These images are modified snippets taken from the Adventure Aquarium website]

Meeting in the Middle.

While Sheila and I were dating we lived fairly far apart. I found a really nifty site that helped with this dilemma – its called MeetWays.

All one does is enter the starting address for both parties and then the type of meeting place you are looking for – e.g., a restaurant, library, movie theater, or park.

MeetWays then finds options for you that are close to equidistant between the two addresses.

Meetways Results Screenshot

A Little Dishwasher Humor…

I wanted to buy a dishwasher magnet – you know one of those cool ones that says “Dirty” and “Clean” on it so you know what the dishes are…

You say you can just open the dishwasher and look? Well why didn’t you say that before I bought the magnet? 😛

I shouldn’t have been surprised – but was – to find a number of humorous variations on the dishwasher magnet, the best I’ve shared below…Feel free to guess in the comments which one Sheila and I bought. 🙂

Gruppy / Happy Dishwasher Magnet

I Wouldn't If... Dishwasher Magnet

Schrodinger's Cat Dishwasher MagnetBacon Time Dishwasher MagnetUber Dirty Dishwasher MagnetChemistry Dishwasher MagnetShakespeare Dishwasher MagnetSigmund Freud DIshwasher Magnet

Man, Myth & Magic Volume 1

Perambulations

When I first venture into a new library I like to peruse the shelves and just get a feel for where everything is and what gems lie in wait for me.

Recently I visited the Mary Jacobs Library in Rocky Hill, NJ. During my perambulations[1] through their facilities I stumbled across the ten volume encyclopedia Man, Myth & Magic.

Editions

John William Waterhouse's Magic Circle (Dec. 31, 1885).
John William Waterhouse’s Magic Circle (Dec. 31, 1885).

Originally published as a series of periodicals in 1970 it was compiled into an encyclopedia in 1983 and 1985 and had further revisions in 1995 and 1997. It is to this most recent edition I refer (unfortunately, there has not been any further updates to this series).

Quality

I wasn’t sure what to expect, volumes of this sort tend to vary widely in quality. Some are reliable, academic works while others are unsubstantiated ramblings. This volume falls more in the former than latter.

Contributors

Its contributors are widely varied and a fascinating lot in and of themselves. A few names I recognized:

  • Roland H. Bainton – Professor of Ecclesiastical History (Yale); author.
  • F.F. Bruce – Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis (Manchester); author.
  • William Sargant – physician in charge of the Department of Psychological Medicine, St. Thomas’ Hospital; author.
  • M.C. Tenney – Professor of Theology (Wheaton); author.

There are brief summaries regarding each author and editor in the book which I found delightful to read in and of themselves.

Bibliography

This first volume contains a bibliography-to-die-for covering the subject material of all ten volumes. A few volumes that stuck out to me at first glance as being potentially fascinating:[2]

  • E.M. Butler’s Ritual Magic (Cambridge University Press).
  • Joan Evans’ Magical Jewels of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Particularly in England (Gale).
  • C.G. Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy (Princeton University Press).
  • J. Read’s Prelude to Chemistry: An outline of Alchemy (MIT Press).
  • J.C. Baroja’s The World of Witches (University of Chicago Press).
  • H.C. Lea’s Materials Towards a History of Witchcraft (AMS Press).
  • Margaret A. Murray’s The God of the Witches (Oxford University Press).
  • Montague Summers’ History of Witchcraft and Demonology (Routledge & Kegan Paul).
  • H.R. Trevor-Roper’s The European Witch-Craze in the 16th and 17th Centuries (Peregrine).
  • Paul Boyer and Stephen Nisssenbaum’s Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft (Harvard University Press).
  • John Demos’ Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Early Culture of New England (Oxford).
  • R.E.L. Masters’ Eros and Evil: the Sexual Psychopathology of Witchcraft (Penguin).
  • Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudon (Harper & Row).[3]
  • St. Elmo Nauman’s Exorcism Through the Ages (Philosophical Library).
  • Paul Carus’ History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil (Open Court).
  • Richard Emmerson’s Antichrist in the Middle Ages (University of Washington Press).
  • F.R. Johnson’s Witches & Demons in History and Folklore (Johnson N.C.).
  • Jeffrey Russell’s Lucifer: the Devil in the Middle Ages (Cornell).
  • Jeffrey Russell’s Satan: the Early Christian Tradition (Cornell).
  • William Howard Woods’ History of the Devil (Putnam).
  • Reginald Thompson’s The Devils and Evil Spirits of Babylonia (AMS Press).
  • A.L. Herman’s The Problem of Evil and Indian Thought (Orient Bk. Dist.).
  • Wendy O’Flaherty’s The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology (University of California Press).
  • Richard Stivers’ Evil in Modern Myth and Ritual (University of Georgia Press).
  • K. Amis’ New Maps of Hell (Arno).
  • R. Cavendish’s Visions of Heaven & Hell (Harmony/Crown).
  • Kaufman Kohler’s Heaven and Hell in Comparative Religion (Folcroft).
  • Jacques Le Goff’s The Birth of Purgatory (Chicago University Press).
  • John Macculluch’s The Harrowing of Hell: a Comparative Study of an Early Christian Doctrine (AMS Press).
  • Bernard McGinn’s Visions of the End: Apocalyptic Traditions in the Middle Ages (Columbia University Press).
  • James Mew’s Traditional Aspects of Hell (Gale).
  • D.L. Sayers’ Hell, Purgatory (Penguin).
  • H.B. Swete’s The Apocalypse in the Ancient Church (Macmillan).
  • Daniel P. Walker’s Decline of Hell: Seventeenth Century Discussions of Eternal Torment (University of Chicago Press).
  • David Aune’s Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World (Eerdmans).
  • A. Guillaume’s Prophecy and Divination among the Hebrews and Semites (Harper & Row).
  • E. Howe’s Astrology: The Story of its Role in World War II (Walker).
  • Wilhelm Wulff’s Zodiac and the Swatsika: How Astrology Guided Hitler’s Germany (Arthur Barker).
  • C.G. Jung and R. Wilhelm’s The Secret of the Golden Flower (Harcourt, Brace and World).
  • Carl Jung’s Synchronicity: an Acausal Connecting Principle (Routledge & Kegan Paul).[4]
  • F. Altheim’s A History of Roman Religion (Dutton).
  • Henri Frankfort’s Ancient Egyptian Religion (Harper & Row).
  • W.K.C. Guthrie’s The Greeks and their Gods (Beacon Press).
  • Georgia Pesek-Marous’ The Bull: A Religious and Secular History of Phallus Worship and Male Homosexuality (Tau Press).
  • L. Spence’s Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt (Harrap).
  • George W. Cox’s Mythology of the Aryan Nations (Kennikat).
  • E.A.W. Budge’s The Book of the Dead (Universal Books Company).
  • J.G. Griffiths’ The Origins of Osiris (Argonaut).
  • E.O. James’ The Cult of the Mother Goddess (Praeger).
  • H. Licht’s Sexual Life in Ancient Greece (Greenwood).
  • S.G.F. Brandon’s Creation Legends of the Ancient Near East (Verry).
  • S. Langdon’s The Babylonian Epic of Creation (Clarendon Press).
  • Joan O’Brien and Wilfred Major’s In the Beginning: Creation Myths from Ancient Mesopotamia, Israel, and Greece (Scholars Press).
  • Edward Westermarck’s A Short History of Marriage (Humanities).
  • Philippe Aries’ Western Attitudes Towards Death: from the Middle Ages to the Present (Johns Hopkins).
  • S.G.F. Brandon’s The Judgment of the Dead (Scribner).
  • John Hick’s Death and Eternal Life (Harper & Row).
  • J.M. Clark’s The Dance of Death in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Jackson).
  • L.P. Kurtz’s The Dance of Death and the Macabre Spirit in European Literature (Gordon Press).
  • Peter Armour’s The Door of Purgatory: a Study of Multiple Symbolism in Dante’s Purgatorio (Oxford University Press).
  • E.G. Gardner’s Dante and the Mystics: a Study of the Mystical Aspect of the Divina Commedia (Haskell).
  • R.D. Gray’s Goethe the Alchemist (AMS Press).
  • David Bindman’s William Blake: His Art and Times (Thames & Hudson).
  • Ronald Grimes’ The Divine Imagination: William Blake’s Major Prophetic Visions (Scarecrow).
  • Richard Carlisle’s (editor) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mankind (Marshall Cavendish).
  • R. Cavendish’s King Arthur and the Grail: The Arthurian Legends and Their Meaning (Taplinger).
  • Sabine Baring-Gould’s Curious Myths of the Middle Ages (Oxford University Press).
  • K.M. Briggs’ An Encyclopedia of Faeries (Pantheon).
  • Basil Cooper’s The Vampire: in Legend, Fact, and Art (Robert Hale).
  • Basil Cooper’s The Werewolf: in Legend, Fact, and Art (Robert Hale).
  • Paul Newman’s The Hill of the Dragon: an Enquiry into the Nature of Dragon Legends (Rowman).
  • W.F. Albright’s Yahweh and the Gods of Creation (Eisenbrauns).
  • Alexander Heidel’s Gilgamesh Epic and Old Testament Parallels (University of Chicago Press).
  • Donald Leslie’s The Survival of the Chinese Jews (Humanities).
  • James H. Lord’s The Jews in India and the Far East (Greenwood).
  • D.S. Bailey’s The Sexual Relation in Christian Thought (Harper & Row).
  • Lawrence Besserman’s The Legend of Job in the Middle Ages (Harvard University Press).
  • James Gaffney’s Sin Reconsidered (Paulist Press).
  • A.D. Nock’s Early Gentile Christianity and its Hellenistic Background (Harper & Row).
  • J.A. Phillips’ Eve: The History of an Idea (Harper & Row).
  • Norman Powell-Williams’ The Ideas of the Fall and of Original Sin (Longmans).
  • Bruce Vawter’s Job and Jonah: Questioning the Hidden God (Paulist Press).
  • I. Engnell’s Studies in Divine Kingship in the Ancient Near East (Allenson).
  • Heinrich Dumoulin’s A History of Zen Buddhism (Pantheon Books).
  • Mary Boyce’s (editor) Zoroastrianism (Barnes & Nobles Imports).
  • M. Anesaki’s History of Japanese Religion (Tuttle).
  • C.H. Gordon’s Ugaritic Literature (Argonaut).
  • M.P. Nilsson’s History of Greek Religion (Greenwood).
  • H.J. Rose’s Ancient Roman Relgiion (Hutchinson).
  • T.C. Allen’s The Egyptian Book of the Dead (Chicago University Press).
  • J.H. Breasted’s Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt (Peter Smith).
  • E.A.W. Budge’s Egyptian Heaven and Hell (Open Court).
  • J.C. Gibson’s Canaanite Myths & Legends (Attic Press).
  • Brian Branston’s Gods and Heroes from Viking Mythology (Schocken).
  • E.O. James’ The Ancient Gods (Putnam).
  • Gilbert Murray’s A History of Ancient Greek Literature (Folcroft).
  • Slater Brown’s The Heyday of Spiritualism (Hawthorn).
  • C.E. Hansel’s ESP & Parapsychology: A Critical Re-evaluation (Prometheus Books).
  • F. Pdomore’s Modern Spiritualism (E.J. Dingwall).
  • Morton Kelsey’s God, Dreams and Revelation: a Christian Interpretation of Dreams (Augsburg).
  • Leo Oppenheim’s The Interpretation of Dreams in the Ancient Near East (American Philosophical Society).
  • F. Fordham’s An Introduction to Jung’s Psychology (Gannon).
  • Erich Fromm’s The Greatness and Limitations of Freud’s Thought (Harper & Row).
  • E.J. Dingwall’s (editor) Abnormal Hypnotic Phenomena: a Survey of Nineteenth Century Cases (Barnes & Noble).
  • Stefan Zweig’s Mental Healers: Franz Anton Mesmer, Mary Baker Eddy, Sigmund Freud (Ungar).
  • Shane Leslie’s St. Patrick’s Purgatory (Burns and Oates).
  • J. Ancelet-Hustache’s Master Eckhart and the Rhineland Mystics (Harper & Row).
  • Edmund Beaman’s Swedenborg and the New Age (AMS Press).
  • Robert L. Moore’s (editor) Carl Jung and Christian Spirituality (Paulist Press).
  • F. Neilson’s Teilhard de Chardin’s Vision of the Future (Revisionist Press).
  • David Bakan’s Sigmund Freud and the Jewish Mystical Tradition (Schocken Books).
  • Ernest Bates and J.V. Dittermore’s Mary Baker Eddy: The Truth and the Tradition (Halsted Press).
  • Lawrence Foster’s Religion and Sexuality: Three American Communal Experiments of the Nineteenth Century (Oxford University Press).
  • Handbook of the Oneida Community (AMS Press).
  • H. Henson’s Oxford Group Movement.
  • Tom Driberg’s The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament (Knopf).
  • George R. Scott’s The History of Corporal Punishment: a Survey of Flagellation in its Historical, Anthropological and Sociological Aspects (Gale).
  • George H. Williams’ The Radical Reformation (Westminster Press).
  • Lynn Dumenil’s Freemasonry and American Culture, 1880-1930 (Princeton University Press).

Interesting Articles

Of the articles contained in this first volume I find the following particularly interesting:

  • Aberdeen Witches – Witches in Scotland, what is myth, what is fact, executions.
  • Agrippa – Involved in the occult.
  • Ahriman – The evil god of Zoroastrianism.
  • Aix-En-Provence Nuns – A group of nuns in the 17th century allegedly possessed by demons.
  • Alchemy – Attempts to turn base metals into gold and to perfect the individual.
  • Alexander the Great – The facts and the legend.
  • Angels – From Jewish and Christian belief.
  • Animals – All about their relationships with the spiritual – e.g., those that are sacred.
  • St. Anthony – Experienced apparent demonic attacks.
  • Aphrodite – Greek Goddess of love.
  • Apollo – Greek god, the oracle at Delphi was his.
  • Apple – It’s religious meaning goes far beyond Jewish/Christian thought.
  • Arthur: The Once and Future King – You know, King Arthur.
  • Asmodeus – A demon found in the book of Tobit.
  • Astarte – Queen of Heaven, regularly led Jews away from Yahweh, also known as Ishtar and Aphrodite.
  • Astrology – Predicting the future from the sky.

Grumblings

Overall I was happy with the Encyclopedia, but let me note two areas of disgruntlement.

The more minor involves the section on Astrology, which while decently long was still fairly confusing as far as how the system worked. I could have spent more time in it figuring it out, but I wasn’t that interested.

The more major one is the tendency of some secular historians to recast religious beliefs from their own perspective. I can’t remember where, but at least once (it may have been in angels) I noticed a significant disconnect from what those who practice Christianity would say about a belief and how it was presented.

This sort of playing loose and reinterpreting religious beliefs in a way that is outside what the practitioners of that religion would state as their belief is disconcerting. I don’t mind if it is done with a disclaimer and an explanation of how those within the religion would have viewed the matter, but when the external view is imposed without disclaimer it raises concerns for me – namely, how can I trust that you (the author) are providing me with a real account of other religions? If you cannot represent the beliefs of a major, well-known religion accurately, how do I know you have not misrepresented other, lesser-known religions?

This is a major concern – but it is something found in so many books that I can’t write the volume off for this reason alone – I simply take the article with a grain of salt…kind of like Wikipedia.

This trend seems to be most pronounced among scholarly authors (who, imho, sometimes get too big for their britches) but, thankfully, it appears to be a declining trend (from my subjective experience) – that is, academia seems more inclined to write objectively than it did for much of the 20th century when at least some authors felt the need to reinterpret instead of report.[5]

  1. [1]Yes, I used that word just because it was fun to do so. :P
  2. [2]Okay, I wrote this out largely for my own benefit…in case one day I think, “I really wish I could remember the name of that book on x I thought would be interesting to read.”
  3. [3]Okay, I’m just a sucker for Aldous Huxley.
  4. [4]If you haven’t noticed, Jung fascinates me.
  5. [5]Again, I have no issues with reinterpretation, I am interested in postmodern thought, etc., I only complain when the interpretation given is stated as if it where the de facto interpretation and thus the belief is significantly misrepresented.

Uppity Women of Medieval Times (Book Review)

Vicki Leon wrote a very enjoyable and informative book labeled humorously Uppity Women of Medieval Times. The book contains brief biographies of perhaps several hundred women from Medieval Times who achieved renown for all sorts of positive and negative reasons.

The tone of Leon’s book is well captured in this brief quote from the introduction:

Anna Maria van Schurman
A portrait of Anna Maria van Schurman by Jan Lievens.

“Life was especially hard on wives, even if you were the lady of the manor. There were no hardware stores and no football games, so husbands tended to be underfoot a great deal. Therefore, when women caught wind of the Crusades idea, they wholeheartedly supported it. ‘Okay, you’ll be gone what, a couple years? Make sure you rake the leaves and take out the garbage before you leave.'” (pg. xi)

Books like this are excellent for throwing our ideas of the way the world does and/or has operated into disarray. I love them because they force me to think about things in new ways – to be challenged as the oversimplifications of life are re-complicated before my eyes.

A few interesting women from this book:

  • Chiyome (Japan) – “around 1560 started her own rent-a-ninja business, training girls to become kuniochi or ‘deadly flowers,’ as they were called.” (pg. 8)
  • Anna Maria von Schurmann – “learned a dozen languages, graduated with a law degree from Utrecht University, studied medicine, taught philosophy, wrote books, and in her spare time was a sculptor and painter of note…” (pg. 16)
  • Olga (Russia) – “Around 945…she methodically went after the various rebel groups, wiping them out in ingenious ways designed to put the fear of Olga into the rest. The first batch she buried alive; the second, she had bailed in their baths.” (pg. 28)
  • Raziya (India) – Ruled over a powerful area in the country, memorized the Koran, charged into battle on her war elephant, was the first female leader of a Moslem state. (pp. 32-33)
  • Damia al-Kahina (North Africa) – “…rallied the Berber tribespeople…taken the Jews who’d gotten tossed out of Spain….beaten a famous Arab general…led [her] own army of Jews and Christians and leftover Byzantines to victory over invading Moslem forces….won five years of peace for her people–the only time…that anyone would unite North Africa until modern times.” (This is late 600’s AD) (pg 48)
  • Trotula of Salerno (Italy) – “…pioneered surgical techniques for repair of the perineum…wrote two important medical books…advocated the use of opiates to ease childbirth pan and prescribed hormonal treatments…to regulate menstruation and overcome sterility.” (pg. 92)
  • Louise Labe (France) – “…took up martial arts and became a superlative horsewoman and archer…got a kick out of jousting…During the siege at Perpignan [300 miles from her home]…she rustled up a flattering suit of armor and fought for [her countrymen.]” (pg. 108)
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine (1100’s) – “…ruled as queen of France for fifteen years and queen of England for fifty more, producing ten kids when she wasn’t busy with music, health care, or political maneuverings.” (pg. 126)

Okay, I could go on forever…and I barely touched on many of these women’s amazing exploits.

There is no doubt that women have historically been oppressed and marginalized in a male-dominated society – and I don’t want to minimize that in the least – rather I want to acknowledge the marvelous way in which women under the most adverse of circumstances rose to great heights and accomplished great things.

Go get Leon’s book. It is a fun and informative read!