Quick Facts – Tsukumogami, The Tools with a Soul

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written by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, June 2014

In Japan, household items and tools that have passed the 100-year mark receive a soul. They are called Tsukumogami and the holiday dedicated to them is the Sweeping Soot, during the festivities old tools are thrown out into the alleys all over Japan.
There is a tale from the Kenpo period in which the Tsukumogami are having an avid discussion about having served their human owners and masters for such a long time without finding much recognition at all or receiving even the slightest hint of gratitude. They are complaining about such treatment and eventually decide to take revenge. The old tools, amongst them a bat and beadroll as the main aggressors gang up on their old owner Ichiren-Bonze and almost beat him to death.
The moral of the story is that all creation is equal and that all things created by God and also by man are Yin and Yang. The tools decide to wait for the Bean-Throwing Festival when Yin and Yang are counterchanged and ask that they – as soulless things – be given a soul and a life free from servitude. On the night of the Bean-Throwing Festival all tools anxiously gather together and in a flash of light, are being granted their wish, transforming into men, children, other changing into beasts, monsters or curious looking tools with somewhat of a face and extremities. Out of gratitude, they decide to build a shrine to the God of Creation and worship him as the “Deity of Transformation”.
Meanwhile, Ichiren-Bonze, deeply moved by his near-death experience, becomes an ascet and dedicates his life to spirituality and learning to treat all living and inanimate things with respect. After much strife and battle with the humans who looked with contempt and terror upon the Tsukumogami, they decide to find Ichiren-Bonze to have him teach them about Buddhism (Singon sect)and spirituality. With his help they attained Buddhahood at last.

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Hetanism and Tseghakron, Armenia’s ”national Pagan religion”

Written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014.

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Before we explore Armenian Hetanism, or in translation “Heathenry”, a bit further, let me take you on a very brief semi-political excursion.
The revival of Armenian Paganism has been widely criticized due to the political affiliations of its revivers.
Edik “Slak” Kakosyan and Garegin Nzhdeh both are known as “nationalists”. Most of us, especially in the West, have an idea on what nationalism is; we associate it with tyranny, dictatorship,racism, world wars and the death of millions.
Whilst these forms of nationalism are ghastly, fascist, absolutely and without a doubt condemnable, nationalism by definition neither includes these things, nor the glorification of violence in general. I am neither advocating nor condemning nationalism in this article, merely explaining the background of this (and other European) Pagan revival movements.
Often the survivors of a people that were wiped out systematically turn to fervent patriotism or nationalism and thus the nationalist movement in Armenia comes as no surprise.
(References re. the Armenian Holocaust by the Turks:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armenian_Genocide and also http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-479143/The-forgotten-Holocaust-The-Armenian-massacre-inspired-Hitler.html)
In 1991 Kakosyan had founded “The Order of Ari” (Order of the Aryans or also Order of Ari (the first form of men) or also Children of Man. Please note: Aryan in its original meaning also has nothing to do with nazi ideology and is just another word for indo-European. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aryan ), following up on Nzhdeh’s ideas, ideals and goals of the Tseghakron, “religion of the nation” as brought to life shortly after the end of the Armenian Holocaust around 1915. Kakosyan, while in exile, had also codified Nzhdeh’s Ukhtagirk, “Book of Vows” in which Nzhdeh was almost deified and compared to the Pagan high God, Vahagn, God of the sun, of war and the Aryan Armenian nation.

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(photo: Nzhdeh)

Although many were skeptical towards the latter mentioned Hetanism grew steadily, not just Pagans but even devout Christians soon started gathering at the Temple of Garni  to celebrate the ancient holy days and festivals and also celebrate their heritage. Some even insist that it helped them overcome the trauma of the genocide they still dealt with.
It has gained enough acceptance for the current president of the Republican Party of Armenia to out himself as a Hetanist. Former Prime Minister Andranik Margaryan is a big supporter of the Hetanist movement to this day.
Despite the fact that it was the conservative, republican and nationalist parties, clubs and organizations that helped Hetanism to its feet, the priests of the Temple of Garni are not allowed to join any political organizations, parties or make their personal political opinion publicly known. Hetanism is for every Armenian is the credo.

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(Temple of Garni)

Other than by Armenian intellectuals Tseghakron is favored by the rural population which often kept their folk traditions, customs and beliefs as inspired by the Old Pagan Religion. It is due to them that fragments (!) of the old poems and songs survived Christianization until this day, further filling in blanks about the nature of worship and spiritual everyday life. It was easier for them to relate to Storm- and Sungods, a spiritual duality and animism rather than Armenian Orthodox Christianity. They also often believe in the Gods as physical entities while neo-Pagan intellectuals subscribe to the concept of Nzhdeh’s “divinely inspired” Ukhtagirk: monism. –  According to this book, first there was Ar (reminding of Norse Ginnungagap or the Christian nothingness that was before God created light) and Ara the “universal architect”, who reminds of Zoroastrian Ahura Mazda or Hindu Brahma was the creator of the Gods, earth and universe and has no form, no qualities nor personality. He was later called Aramazd.
Etymologically Ar is the origin of words such as womb, blood, sun, art.
Just like many other ancient civilizations or belief systems, original Tsegakhron along with almost all sources, texts and artifacts, was destroyed by Christianity. Hence Hetanists rely on the Ukhtagirk for spiritual guidance regarding rituals, celebrations, holidays and conduct.
The historically most reliable source of information – despite single accounts of Hetanism in the works of Plato, Heredotus, Xenophon and Strabo – is the Hayots Patmut’yun, “The History of Armenia” by Movses Khorenatsi, which was written in the 400’s AD. Hetanism is only partly a reconstructionist religion, today’s followers fill in the blanks with elements from sibling-traditions such as Hellenism, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism.

There are three rites of passage in Hetanism, the Knunk, a baptizing/saining ritual for those who convert or rather, revert to their ancestors’ religion. Second is Psak – wedding and then the last rite or death ritual. These are held individually within smaller communities and kindreds or even solitary but also regularly at The Temple of Garni in the Kotayk province (ca. 3rd century BC), the only Pagan, Hellenic styled Temple which survived the Christianization and was dedicated to Zoroastrian/Armenian Sungod Mihr and Greek Zeus before it was rededicated to Vahagn.
Other Hetanist holy days include amgonst others
Terndez on Feb. 14th which is similar to Pagan Valentine’s Day,
Hambardzum (Ascension Day celebrated 40 days after “Easter”),
Vardavar which was connected with The Goddess of beauty – Astghik and her love with Sungod Vahagn. Khaghoghorhnek is a day for the remembrance of the ancestors (Sept. 20th),
Zatik is the Aryan New Year and birthday of the Sungod Vahagn  (March 21st) on which winter is separated from spring, in fact Vaha meaning God and Agn meaning Fire (note: In Hinduism Agni is the God of Fire as well) and the Navasard.

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As in all other Pagan religions the Sun and Moon were sacred, days were dedicated to each, Hetanists prayed facing the East and were also buried facing East in the hope of “rising in the afterlife”. The Moon was venerated, but also slightly feared as it was associated with (female) mysteries, death and also (evil) spirits and believed to be a “young maiden in the sky” whereas the Sun was actually a young man smiling down upon the land.
As far as we know women were still treated well, often not just equally to men but they were looked at as sacred children of the Moon/Great Mother.
Depending on the specific (sub-)cult or community, the stars were believed to be the children of Sun and Moon or the ancestors and the Zodiac, sun and moon phases were paramount in order to determine one’s destiny. They were the means by which Ara (the great impersonal life force) communicated with the people.
Bronze age pictures, statues and bas-reliefs depict the lion, bull, deer, bear, horse, sheep and ox as well as the stork, eagle, rooster, crane and swallow in a spiritual or “holy” context and indicate that Hetanism was a totemic religion.
The worship of the elements appears to also have been a part of original Hetanism, but it is their fervent worship of the element of Fire which earned them the name of “ash-worshippers” by early Christians that came in contact with this religion. Fire represented not only physical light or illumination but also metaphysical enlightenment. To this day putting out a fire, and if it is only a candle, requires more than just snuffing or blowing out the wick, for many Armenians there is a ritual to be followed in order not to invite unwanted spirits. Even less spiritual Armenians and non-Hetanists at least put out fire or a candle with care and some basic respect.
Some of the ancient Gods, demons and beings are still found in Armenian fairy tales, though they are often not called by their original names out of fear of persecution by the church back then.

I mentioned earlier that Ara(mazd) basically translates to life. Now, it is interesting to note that his wife’s name was Sandaramet and she was the female equivalent of Hades, basically Death embodied.
Aramazd’s “shepard on earth” or attending incorporeal spirit was Tir, meaning “writer”. He walked the earth, recording mankind’s deeds and thoughts, taking his accounts of it back to Aramazd who then judged each individual according to his/her deeds and thoughts after death. Tir represented both hope and fear and whenever someone had cursed loudly or spoken badly about someone whispers would be heard, warning of Tir’s possible presence.
Mihr was Aramazd’s son, the God of Fire to whom many temples were dedicated. Much like Norse Týr was replaced by the foreign Wotan/Odin, Mihr faded into the background after Vahagn became more popular.
Aramazd’s daughter Anahit’s Greek equivalent was Artemis. She was called “the spotless Goddess” or “Golden Mother”, representing purity and chastity. She was Armenia’s protector and benefactress.
Anahit’s sister Astghik married Vahagn. He was also called Vishapakagh, “uprooter of dragons” (snakes), as he roamed the lands in order to free Armenia and its population from evil spirits, demons and monsters.
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(Vahagn as Vishapakagh)

Aramazd’s third daughter’s name was Nooné. Especially the rural population could relate to her best since she was the Goddess of contrivance. Odds were often against her but she always somehow emerged from trouble, woes and tight spots triumphantly.
Except Vahagn most of these Deities were rather gentle deities, this is also reflected in the Armenian holy days which often central around love, beauty and fidelity.

Hetanism is a small religion mainly heard of and lived in Armenia itself, although the Armenian Diaspora (especially in the US) is finally starting to catch on and embrace its native Pagan roots. Hopefully it will grow and prosper just as much as the majority of the other indo-European Pagan religions currently are. At least I am hoping for some timely in-depth literature on this fascinating religion!

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(Celebrating Vardavar at Garni Temple)

Pagan Virgin Births and the Case of the misunderstood Savior

Written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, 2014.

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It is with astonishment that I continually witness Pagans deeming Mary’s virgin birth of Jesus greatly amusing at best and dangerously discriminating of women at worst. Most Pagan paths view sexuality as healthy and many as sacred. Especially those who grew up in a religion where the reverse was the case, virgin births appear to spark all sorts of enmity or at least skepticism.

In fact, virgin or miraculous births were not only established, but the event itself as much as mother and miracle-child held in high esteem in many pre-monotheistic religions. I shall explain the reasons thereof after delivering a few more examples of Pagan virgin births. These were mostly of religious figures, but also of especially enlightened humans, leaders, thinkers. Like Greek philosopher Plato for example.

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Numerous Greek Gods and Goddesses are considered “parthenos”, virginal or of “pure conception”. Many will be surprised to hear that Zeus, commonly known as the stereotypical philanderer, also was considered parthenos.

Although the virginity of Isis has been disputed, since one single depiction of Horus’ conception shows Isis impregnating herself with dead Osiris’ severed phallus, in all other accounts and depictions she is shown as a falcon hovering over Osiris’ dead body and miraculously conceiving Horus this way. Isis, like a plethora of virgin goddesses and human mothers, remained virginal her whole life.

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Let us also take a closer look at Osiris himself. He was called “KRST,” the “Anointed One.” Born of the virgin Isis-Meri on December 25th. His earthly or adoptive father’s name was Seb, which translates to Joseph. He taught at the temple at age 12 and was baptized at age 30, inbetween this time he had vanished or at least nothing is known about his life from 13-29. He was baptized in Iarutana river (Jordan) by Anup which translates to John. Anup was later beheaded. His suffering, death, and resurrection are celebrated annually by his disciples on the spring equinox, in other words, Easter.

The nymph Moye bathing in a river in China is touched by a lotus plant, and the divine Fohi is born.

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Siddharte Gautama Buddha was born of the Virgin Queen Maha (=the great) Maya. (Interestingly maya is also the Hindu concept of this plane of existence being an illusion.) Maya dreams of a white elephant with six white tusks entering her right side, shortly after which she notices she is pregnant. In “The life of Buddha” we read that he descended on his mother Maya, “in likeness as the heavenly queen, and entered her womb,” and is “born from her right side, to save the world.” He teaches in temple at age 12, Jesus does at age 13. Other similarities to Christianity: In Tibetan Buddhism, Buddha was tempted by Mara, the “Evil One” while fasting. He healed the sick, fed the hungry and obliged followers to renounce the world.

In Siam (Vietnam), a teenage girl is impregnated by sunbeams while taking a walk in her garden. She later gives birth to Codom, the “great and wonderful deliverer”.

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Quetzalcoatl (also: Kukulkan or Kukulan) is a Mesoamerican god-man whose name means snake or also precious feathered serpent. He  – together with his twin Xolotl – was born of the virgin Coatlicue. He was associated with the planet Venus, the morning star, as was Jesus. (And on another note: So was Lucifer, but that is a subject for a whole other article. 😉 ) He renounced Tezcatlipoca, the “Prince of Darkness”. His blood resurrects the dead. He is often depicted as bearing a cross on his shoulders. In addition to that he is also often depicted with a cross on his head and his temples bore a cross on top of their roofs also. The cross here represented the four directions, as fitting for a wind-god, but some sources speak of the cross representing the four elements, also.

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Mithraism was a religion followed by Romans just before the forceful conversion to Christianity. It contained the following:  Virgin birth, born in a stable or cave, visited by wise men bringing treasures, twelve disciples, last supper, died on a cross and was resurrected. Mithras Day was celebrated on December 25th. (Even though Jesus was NOT born on that day it is after all the day his birth is celebrated.)

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Attis of Phrygia was born of a virgin around the Winter Solstice. He was nailed to a tree for the salvation of mankind. He was buried around Eostre/Ostara but on the third priests found the tomb empty. His followers were baptized in blood to wash away their sins, after which they called themselves “born again”. Dionysus of Greece strikingly resembles this tale. On top of the above mentioned he was identified with the lamb and called “Only begotten son”, “Sin bearer” and “Redeemer”.

Devaki with Krishna

Indian Krishna’s nativity was heralded by a star and he was born of the virgin Devaki. Krishna traveled widely, performing miracles such raising the dead, healing the sick and feeding the hungry. The crucified Krishna is pictured on the cross with arms extended. Pierced by an arrow while hanging on the cross, Krishna died, but descended into Hell from which He rose again on the third day and ascended into Heaven. Krishna is the second person of the Hindu trinity.

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At least one folk tale speaks of Balder having been conceived by Frigga magically/not by physical means.  Balder was the God of Light, Righteousness, bringer of a new era. Whether he was sacrificed or murdered is a matter of interpretation, but he, too, will come back from the Underworld to reign over a new world.

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(Zoroaster/Zarathustra)

The prophet Zoroaster was claimed to have been born of a virgin, as was Tibetan Indra, Baal of Phoenicia, Tammuz of Syria, Bali of Afghanistan, Esus of the Druids… I could list yet another dozen virginal births, but let’s keep it at these most obvious examples.

So, back to Pagans, often feminists, opposing everything to do with virgin births: The interpretation that no human woman can live up to the expectation of this kind of physical “purity” is mislead. These tales are less about physical purity or “sinful sexuality”. When I attended Christian Science services for a while they raised an interesting point. The Bible speaks of man having been created in the likeness of God. What is God? Spirit. No matter if in monotheism or polytheism Gods are known to be able to take shape or “manifest” but they are, ultimately, spirit/of the spiritual world.

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The impregnation by “spirit” illustrates nicely mankinds spiritual heritage. Even in the case of human mothers the children of these virginal births were godly or (a) God, emphasizing the gnostic principle that if we are made in the  likeness of the divine and ARE like God(dess in essence, we are a part of the divine or basically the divine is in us as much as we are in it – one.
(Even Jesus claimed “I am in the father as the father is in me”, leading people to believe he was the “only begotten son of God” or “God in the flesh” instead of realizing that the same held true for them.)

If mankind lived by this principle, in the awareness that everyone is godly, including themselves, there would be no war, no murder, no fraud nor deception and no feeling of being better than anyone else. What war for monetary gain would be justified to be started if you knew what you are doing to another people will ultimately hurt yourself because you are all connected through the same source? (“Three times three”, “Do unto others…”, “golden rule”.)
While our human traits, talents, backgrounds all make us different individually and we are separated by different traditions and cultures (and hurray to that kind of diversity!), our spiritual traits all make us “the same” or equal. Virgin birth – basically a wonderfully comforting and liberating message of “As above, so below”.

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The Runes – A General Introduction

written and copyrighted by Týra Alrune Sahsnotasvriunt, May 2013

ImageIn Paganism, many dabble in runes. However, in order to understand runic vibrations one must understand a bit of cosmology. Whether you accept it is up to you, however, it won’t change the nature of the runes.

They have been described as the building blocks of the universe (or rather in Germanic/Norse cosmology: multiverse). Maybe comparing them to something we’ve all been taught at school might illuminate the issue at hand a bit better: DNA.
You’ve all seen a picture of a strand of DNA before, it looks like a ladder (or in Northern terms: it is the world yew tree Yggradil).
The ladder is constructed of different amino acids. These four acids combine in various patterns to make up the rungs of that ladder. Alone the runes already hold power, but in the right combination they create life, they ARE the building block of the universe itself. The more they interact, the stronger and more effective they are.

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In order to understand the worlds, let me begin with the first three, namely Muspellheim (the “fire world”), Nifelheim (the “world of ice”, and Ginnungagap (the “empty space”) that arose from this duality. Fire and Ice world are the polar worlds: matter and energy, order and chaos, light and dark, etc.
However, without the gap, there would be no uncharged place for the worlds. Ginnungagap is the empty field upon which we build, the place that cleanses, purifies, destroys and rebuilds (recharges) and so forth. It is the basic of the circle of life.

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Ginnungagap amidst Muspelheim and Nifelheim. Ginnungagap from which the giant race and hence mankind was born.

In my specific belief system we know that the runes are created in the springs beneath the world tree Yggdrassil, in Urd’s/Mimir’s well. Those charged waters supply the great tree and through the tree reach the nine worlds. The waters are formed by the mixed states of Muspellheim and Nifelheim.
When they are joined in Ginnungagap they are transformed into a vibrant pool. In those waters, the runic energies take their most basic form. Each possessing a unique trait of both worlds. They remain charged but stable while in the empty space.
As they are drawn into the tree, they begin to combine into the tree (DNA ladder), each combination forming a unique pattern with a specific purpose. They feed the worlds with the power needed to be sustained.

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The last eight runes of the elder Futhark are referred to as Týr’s Aett, Týr-Saxnot being our original chief God. In his Aett we find the world tree rune Ehwaz (“Yew” for the world tree Yggdrasil) as well. See https://paganmeltingpot.wordpress.com/2014/09/17/yggdrasil-yew-not-ash-tree/

Some worlds need more of Muspell (fire) and other more of Nifel (ice). The tree itself acts as a control gate, dispensing the energies as needed. Midgard, home of the humans, is the most balanced, receiving a very even mix of fire and ice.
The runes continue to vibrate as they seek to combine, for although they become relatively stable in their designated worlds they still continue to vibrate in the way we think of life more or less. (I could imagine those interested in quantum physics might find that interesting.)
They are still always seeking to recombine in new ways, that is chaos and stability working hand in hand. No stagnation, but rather: evolution.

As you work with the runes you send back the energies and your specific intentions through the tree. It is but a giant cycle, each rune depending on the other as much as each world, each being, each God and man doing so. That is the beauty of Germanic cosmology.
Vibrating runes each have a unique “sound”. When Galdr (Norse rune magic) is performed, we are calling out to the “free radicals” of the runes and the loose combinations, bringing them in, structuring them into a new creation of our design.

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Rune Yoga. Not a traditional (historic) Germanic practice, but definitely something interesting to try at least once.

Often, I encounter people who – as I initially stated – “dabble” in runes. Maybe it is now that you can see as with all other magical practices that runic magic is to be performed with great care and respect. Any magical practice, once removed from its context and origin, practiced without full understanding, may either not work at all as the “free radicals”/energies swerve around without a place to dock or they may also bring VERY unwanted results; this especially in the case of runes, as they make up the cosmos!
This creates instability and the “radicals” that fill those voids then, will likely change the structure of other things. It is of course rather easy to google the meaning of single runes, but just as with the Tarot, Lenormand, I-Ging or other, that is not all there is to them.
While Fehu may stand for wealth, it may also stand for something quite different in combination with other runes or in the context of the question asked in a reading.
Becoming a rune master requires a lot of study, dedication and ultimately, a lot of emotional investment as well. It often takes a year or two until one is trained enough to begin working on bindrunes.

2e99c1457477b27e34cd64bbe4d3dabdPersonally, I recommend starting out your runic journey by learning the names and simple meanings of every rune. Learn to chant them, take a week each to get to know them, bond with them, form a relationship with them. After that, learn how to protect yourself.
Those of us who cast a circle, create a Vé, wear a pentagram, Týr’s rune, Eye of Horus or other pendant of protection know how imminent it is to keep yourself safe during magical workings, simply because as with all magic, accidents may not just but are bound to happen in the early stages. It is best to know how to counter and/or neutralize your own unstable magical creations to avoid even more damage, chaos or confusion.
Once you feel comfortable with the runes -with ONE Futhark you ought to stick to for a while – and the spirituality they are deeply embedded in, you can begin your Galdr lessons. Be prepared for an interesting rollercoaster-journey through the multiverse!

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Anglo-Saxon Runes

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Hungarian Runes

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Turkic Runes as used in Mongolia. The huns and Germanic peoples had frequent and regular interactions.

Second impressions from the mosque

Copyrighted by Penny Rebel, 2012. Do not republish or quote from without contacting author.

There seems to have been some kind of misunderstanding amongst those who actually read my 5-pages long experience.
While it was first impressions at THIS mosque, it wasn’t my first time AT one.  For everyone who accused me of bigotry and not having read the Quran. You are wrong again. I have not just read but studied the Quran. Home alone as well as with others interested in religious science, many of them coming from Muslim backgrounds.

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It’s funny how the only religion that ever caused difficulty within our family was indeed the Islam. Not the Catholic, otherwise Christian, Jewish members of our family. Let alone the Buddhists and Pagans in our family. My uncle was not a moderate, he wasn’t really a Muslim at all. He celebrated a few of the Iranian holidays like agnostics and even atheists celebrate Christmas, as a Western tradition or family holiday. He didn’t believe in the Quran and he was fed up enough with the Iranian regime that he had escaped it. His family, however, was different. They were Muslims alright. Portraying themselves as moderate while visiting us in our country, but not so moderate after all when confronted about their specific beliefs. Excusing terrorism, extremism and being Israel-haters. To those that cry for “coexistence” I hear you. And I agree. However, it is important to make a distinction between religion or spiritual paths and politicized warcults. Islam is such a warcult, cloaked as religion and founded by a pedophile. History attests to that.

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But! – Enough with this little introduction. Back to the Sunni mosque.
So today I came „better dressed“, long Abaya (traditional baggy kind of dress), Islamic overcoat, and perfectly tied hijab.
Sister Rhada, our Islam class teacher, along with the girls I’d already gotten to know last time, greeted me with hugs and kisses and I got a few more from complete strangers. Rhada asked around who would teach me the rest of the namaz (contact prayer), since I don’t remember all the words anymore, and just to see how they would react I asked whether I would be allowed to pray Shia style out of respect for my Iranian family. There was a slight pause and apparent discomfort on their behalf, but my request wasn’t officially denied. We’ll see what happens next Sunday when sister Sara, who volunteered, teaches me how to pray.
This class also included the praise of Muslim life in contrast to Western life which was made out to be sinful, the road to hell and infidels should be avoided if they couldn’t be converted. Fervent nodding at all of this.

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Sister Rhada also mentioned good deeds being key to Muslims, and not just the zakat but deeds that were voluntary and came from the heart. “But!” She remarked loudly, “These deeds only have worth if you are Muslim. Remember how the people in this country are crazy about Mother Theresa and such people? Well, that’s very nice she did good deeds, but she’s an infidel and will still burn in hell for all eternity.” She laughed insanely after that, shaking her head and everyone else chimed in. Oookay…
We were also taught about the “big devil” America, the evil Jews and that it was easy to call the “Mujahedeen” terrorists when they were really just “fighting back”. And on it went. I’d heard enough, but still decided to wait until this “class” was over. I had to admit they were being very clever about selling their extremism. Explaining it with personal tragic stories, calling it rebellion instead of extremism, freedom instead of oppression, speaking of how everyone in Islam was family, the advantages of the “Ummah”, love bombing the crap out of possible converts. Clever, clever, clever.

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At the end of the class one of the converts asked for donations for a sister from Bosnia who had been lured to Germany and had been forced to prostitute herself. (By who I never found out unfortunately.) I was not surprised, but still shocked when I heard her say,  „Well, unfortunately she doesn’t wear hijab, but maybe you would still like to donate, if not I understand though.“ I’ll leave this uncommented at this point.
Later, the same sister (one of the ones who’d told us about her conversion last time) approached me. I’d seen her look over at me and lurk in one corner of the room, fidgeting with her hijab, waiting for me to pass her. I liked her even less after today’s comment.
„You are sister Penny, aren’t you?“ she asked.
I nodded and asked her name in return. At this point I wasn’t even surprised anymore to hear that her (convert) name was Arabic. So much for culture taking over religion/spirituality.
She’d heard me ask Rhada and a few other Muslim-born women about the hijab.
I made a short remark about this in my last „blog“ or „inside report“, so I’ll try to keep the following short: I had made my case and quoted the Quran as best I could from memory about there possibly being no  duty to wear the headscarf but to dress modestly instead. The original word used in the Quran actually also translates to „curtain“ and the paragraph that hijab-supporters rest their case on is actually about male guests at the prophet’s house. His wives were encouraged to „draw a curtain“ between the guests and themselves in order to be left alone and not get hit on. (Which was common at that time apparently; I read in another book that just like in many cultures all across Arabia it was custom to lend your wife to guests and that Muhammad did not want to share his wives, child brides and prisoners of war with other men.)

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For reference: the suras I’m referring to are 24:31-32, 33:59, 24:60. The word zeenah in Arabic was actually not natural beauty (physical/personal) but meant jewellery, make-up, etc. Interestingly in 7:31 the Quran speaks of the believers WEARING their zeenah to celebrate God. I highlighted the word „wearing“ to further argue my case that zeena does not mean hair or face, body or natural beauty.
Unsurprisingly, most women at the mosque disagreed. Many interpreted the word not to mean curtain or in that sense veil but really headscarf/abaya, even the word burqa was uttered. A very few of them said that the headscarf nowadays, especially in a non-Muslim country (is it?! I think Germany is becoming more and more Muslim, we have 3,000,000 born Muslims and thousands of converts every year, and Muslims openly called it “sexual” or “birth jihad”, too) was a symbol and a means of recognition amongst each other. One of them said, „When I go outside I don’t want to be hit on by non-Muslim men.“ Well, if it’s only non-Muslim men you don’t want to get hit on going back to your home country would of course be the logical alternative. In addition to that I can only attest to the fact that Western men generally do not hit on Muslim women in my country. Why? Simple. Out of fear of their male relatives and physical harm.

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I thought about this some more just now, especially since some rogue Middle Eastern looking guy whistled and winked at me on the subway when I was going back home today, (I was wearing hijab of course, coming from the mosque). So the head scarf doesn’t seem to do ANYTHING at all in that regard. (On a side note: I googled the issue and apparently there are indeed surveys/statistics by several universities proving me right, in addition to rape statistics of Muslim countries where women veil themselves.)
Back to the convert sister approaching me when I was still in the classroom: She asked me if I wanted to have a cup of tea with her and we went to “Kabul” restaurant across the street. It was interesting for me to notice how much more „involved“ the waiter seemed. Was it paranoia, I asked myself honestly, some sort of prejudice that „they“ all stick together? But then I’d never had the waiter/s at that restaurant stop to chit-chat and laugh, definitely not call me sister, or slightly bow every time he refilled our drinks or brought more Baclava. He definitely was more attentive and more appreciative also. „He doesn’t even recognize me,“ I mused increduled. I’d come to this restaurant for about a year, simply because it was cheap and usually the buffet was really great.
„You know, there is a reason I wanted to talk to you today,“ Nuriyah said after half an hour of polite small talk. „I heard you ask all these questions about the head scarf and covering up in general. And I thought that my story might help you understand this from a very different perspective”.
I leaned back with my Dugh (better known as “Ayran”) and she started talking.
„I hope you don’t mind my brutal honesty. I realize this might scare or intimidate you, but I see no point in sugar-coating things. There is a particular reason I’ve been looking for God the way I did. Desperately. Looking for a love that wouldn’t hurt or cheat…looking for rules in a very confusing world – or life – that would just give me back some dignity and a sense…of…well…I dunno. Reason to go on maybe. But anyways.
I don’t mean to bother you with details, but let’s just say that my childhood was very violent. And that that was the reason I always felt like meat. Like an object. I’m sure you know where I’m coming from with this…
When I became a teenager I started sleeping around. I was looking for trouble, and I always found it. Or it found me, even when I wasn’t looking. I hated myself for living that way, but I didn’t know any other way. I wanted to be loved, but at the same time I was terrified. I guess I had to prove to myself with every „relationship“ or affair that there was no human love and that this was a way of toughening up. I thought at some point I would be okay living alone. I did pick the most terrible guys after all. I knew how to get them. Short skirts, do my hair…“ she laughed haughtily. „Guys are so easy. They are slaves to their urges, they are so weak, they really have to be protected from us.“ I couldn’t help but frown, luckily Nuriyah was still staring out into space, lost in memories.
„At the same time I was asking myself why God would ever allow bad things to happen. Why me, bla bla. You get the idea. I started reading the Bible, going to church. But I just didn’t feel it.
I remember sitting on the subway one day, years later, and looking around. I saw a woman enter at the current stop. She wore a head-scarf and a long coat with her abaya. And I noticed for the first time that no one paid her any attention. The guys on the subway weren’t checking her out. It was like she wasn’t even regarded as a sexual being. She was just a thing, but not like I was, a piece of meat-thing so to speak. That was just so…FASCINATING to me,“  Nuriyah exclaimed with vigor. „And I thought, if only I could be this invisible. If only I didn’t get greasy bastards checking me out, asking me out, thinking they could just do that to me… And I just got this very strong sense that I had found the solution to the problem”.

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I couldn’t help but interrupt, because while I felt for her harsh experiences as a child I know the kind of fanatic religious insanity this can cause. I’ve seen this in converts before and I’ve felt it myself, I just knew how to stop myself and not let fanaticism and fear take over.
„The problem.“ I stated, not askd. „The problem of men abusing children and women is…them not wearing a  headscarf?“ I tried to make myself sound a little friendlier, despite the obvious message of the latter question.
„Sister,“ she said softly, taking my hand into hers. My hand was ice-cold from the Dugh I held till a few seconds ago, but also just a little chilled from what she just insinuated. Hers are hot from her glass of chai. I can’t help but think, ‚Just like in reality. Hot and cold. I’ll never be on the same page with women like that.‘
„Sister, I know what this sounds like to Western ears. But look around you. We have become so desensitized to men ogling women or publicly hitting on them, even just touching them, no matter if it’s the famous slap on the ass or even „just“ touching someone’s arm. We are so lonely here without strong family values, that we will do anything to form some sort of bond, however superficial and wrong it is. We crave the attention and approval of others. Of men! Because that is the love we think we need and want. It is advertized everywhere, isn’t it? In the media? To get love you have to be sexy. Slim. Dress scantily. It is just another form of indoctrination. – ‘You are your body and nothing else.: And a means to destroy a society. Society is made up of families. Man, woman, children. Society is in fact, or should be, one big family. That is why we call each other brother and sister in Islam. We know that we are all one big family.

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Why do men cheat? Because they are slaves of their urges. For once. And also because women make it easy for them. Their wives do not know how wonderful it is to obey your husband because God made him superior, a protector, a nourisher. And because the other women aren’t taught how to protect their bodies and minds and souls anymores, so they end up mistresses. There are no girlfriends, they are all mistresses. The prophet, blessing and peace be upon him, was greatly concerned with women’s rights, you know!? He gave us the right to protect ourselves and also the men.“ She kept leaning forward, kneading my hand as she spoke, her eyes widening fanatically and smiling the brainwashed smile of a suicide bomber.
„Sister  Nuriyah“ I sigh heavily. „I understand how with your past and experiences you ended up in that kind of mindset. But even Rumi, a famous Persian poet of hundreds and hundreds of years ago wrote that if you cover something up, hide it away, make it unavailable the natural urge to see it will turn into obsession to uncover it, to possess it. And I agree. Men and women both have urges. Because the male urges are stronger WE are supposed to cover up in whole-body-condoms in order to protect them from themselves? That doesn’t make any sense and is not the conduct of responsible and self-aware adults. But alright, you want me to argue less than a “Westener” and more quranic. Then let me tell you that the Quran speaks of „modest clothing“ for BOTH sexes. I agree that is a good idea as in today’s world we rely way too much on outer appearances. On the other hand there is nothing modest about a woman wearing a sparkly hijab, diamond-covered bonnet underneath and skinny jeans with half a ton of make-up, bright-red lipstick included. I’ve seen some of the sisters in Little Orient when they weren’t attending mosque but were just out grocery shopping. The „goodies“ are all packed up, but the dress is meant to draw attention, it’s not modest and the only thing covered up is the hair and neck when they’re shaking their asses in their all too tight body-condoms.
There is no way around sexuality. God gave us this as a gift. It is what we make of it that is a problem, true. But what good does the strict separation of the sexes do? In most Arabic countries a man doesn’t have any contact to women on a personal basis except his mother and sisters, should he have any. Then he is expected to marry. Without knowing ANYTHING about women, how we work, what we like, how to treat or touch us. These are things a mother cannot teach you obviously, and as far as I know from friends, sex or talk of it absolutely is a taboo anyways. It is better to be honest and open about these urges and try to deal with them constructively. Oppressing them is psychologically as well as physically unhealthy. And it is far more dangerous to women, because if the accumulated urges and yearning take over no rational thought in the world can stop it anymore. Regular interaction, “the two sexes learning each other”, is important.
You speak of the hijab or Islamic clothing as the solution to the rape issue. I’m sorry for what you have had to endure, but that is offensive to every decent woman not covering herself up head to toe who got attacked by a man. I am definitely NOT a supporter of the rape theory which says that if the skirt was too short, if the hair was too shiny, if the smile was too tempting it’s the woman’s fault something happens. Or it was her fault simply because she is a woman. It should go without saying that you do NOT rape women, that walking down the street doesn’t equal “Take me now” and that NO means no.
Have you heard about the rapes in Afghanistan during the war? Women in burqa, let us not forget! Why the denial of rape crisis centers or domestic violence centers in Muslim countries? Qatar banned the idea, Dubai frowned upon it and doesn’t allow the issue or the first and only center to be mentioned in the media, in order not to „sully Islam.“ Islam condones violence and rape. Rape of children, of prisoners of war, of infidels”.

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I noticed that suddenly it was my hand that felt hot and sister Nuriyah’s that was rather cold and clammy. She swallowed hard, her face twitching, close to tears.
„Be that as it may…“ she stuttered, „I can only tell you why to me the hijab was a godsent.“
„But it wasn’t!” I threw my hands in the air in exasperation. „It was a man-sent! It is just another way of oppressing women, the physically weaker sex. They look at „us Western girls“ without it and think we are easy. Because that is what they are being taught, with the help of you converts. I know all those women who say they WANT to wear the hijab, that they are proud of it, that it is a feminist symbol. These women have no idea what feminism is. They know the liberal media and brainwashed majority of the population just needs to hear certain keywords and they will bow down repeating it like an invocation, defending the dumbest and most dangerous things. Like the hijab. I understand that you want to be or feel safe. Respectable. But I,“ and here I couldn’t take it anymore, the bonnet and head scarf just felt like a sweaty prison and I yanked them down and took a deep breath, „cannot support covering up one whole sex while the other gets to run around in muscle shirts and tight jeans with shaved chests, bling bling and porn sunglasses. That is simply hypocrisy. Women aren’t supposed to look appealing? Not to themselves either? Why not?! If menare that weak that they can’t control themselves it is the men that need help and altering, not us. Well, then maybe the emotionally weaker sex should start averting their eyes as is said in your Quran, eh”, I concluded. Nuriyah was very pale and very silent.
Look,“ I tried a more polite approach. „If a man stares at me I stare him down. Or I look away shaking my head. If he tries to talk to me I turn around and walk away. That should get the message across in most cases. I don’t need a head scarf for that
Nuriyah remained silent. She was staring down at the table. At some point she had let go of my hand.
The waiter approached, raising his eyebrow in surprise at me sitting there with my hijab down my neck and my hair all askew, face sweaty. I couldn’t help it. „Yo brother,“ I drawled in the broadest dialect of my hometown, leaning back on my chair, „how ‘bout some more tea, eh?“
He blinked, then nodded hectically to scramble away with a worried glance at his “sister” Nuriyah.
„I know you’re not completely wrong” she said finally. Her voice was thick with tears and I felt guilty about it. „But for me there was no other option anymore. Islam got me away from the drugs and the alcohol, the parties, the lonely nights, the not so lonely nights that gave me even lonelier days…“
I felt sorry for her and sorry for having spoken so honestly, then pulled myself together reminding myself that this was all about studying and phenomenologically bracketing. Nothing else.
When I had been in my teens I’d made the mistake of wanting to „help“ my study objects. And I got reeled into things I’d had no control over anymore. Converts were the worst, they were beyond reasoning. Only then did I notice that I never met a convert that didn’t have a tragic life story filled with loss, abuse or other.
We resumed to small-talk as the tea arrived. I carefully tried to avoid any kind of „heavy subject“. When we left KABUL it definitely felt like leaving a war zone. The irony was sort of tragic… We stood outside for a few seconds, awkwardness between us. „Where are you headed?“ I asked. She pointed to the left. „Ah, I’m going the other way.“ Callous lie. But I had to get some space to think. We exchanged quick, dutily hugs and each walked our separate ways. I turned into an alley, looked around, pulled out my mirror and pulled out my bright pink lipstick. I needed that now.  After having tried to live like a Muslim for weeks on end I had an incredible urge for a hot dog and some beer and made my way to the nearest vendor I knew. Taking the first bite I felt like shedding the oppressive rules and customs of Islam. I felt free again, my heart was lighter instantly and I never felt happier about living in a secular democracy.

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And to the fascists calling themselves liberals: STOP saying “It’s not all of them, the majority is moderate” – millions of victims throughout history and daily deaths, rapes, mutilations today disprove that. If you love Islam so much go live in a Muslim country and see how long you will last there. You want true tolerance? Petition for churches, synagogues or Pagan rights in Saudi Arabia.

http://www.faithfreedom.org/oped/sina51021.htm

http://freethoughtnation.com/why-is-islam-so-intolerant-and-violent/

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