Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Welcome to Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer
(Art by Isaura Simon)

The Greeks Were the Vikings of the Bronze Age

May 17, 2022

The Greeks were the Vikings of the Bronze Age. They built some of history’s first warships. Whether on large expeditions or smaller sorties, whether in the king’s call-up or on freebooting forays, whether as formal soldiers and sailors or as traders who turned into raiders at a moment’s notice, whether as mercenaries, ambassadors, or hereditary guest-friends, the Greeks fanned out across the Aegean and into the eastern and central Mediterranean, with one hand on the rudder and the other on the hilt of a sword. What the sight of a dragon’s head on the stem post of a Viking ship was to an Anglo-Saxon, the sight of a bird’s beak on the stem post of a Greek galley was to a Mediterranean islander or Anatolian mainlander. In the 1400s [B.C.E.], the Greeks conquered Crete, the southwestern Aegean islands, and the city of Miletus on the Aegean coast of Anatolia, before driving eastward into Lycia and across the sea to Cyprus. In the 1300s they stirred up rebels against the Hittite overlords of western Anatolia. In the 1200s they began muscling their way into the islands of the northeastern Aegean, which presented a big threat to Troy….

The Trojan War, pp. 2-3

Emphasis mine.

Terrifying Initiation Ordeals

May 17, 2022

But Zarathustra escaped from prison and also from attempts to murder him. He lived to fight many battles against the forces of evil, battles where he pitched his magic powers against the powers of evil sorcerers. Later he became the archetype of the wizard, with a tall hat, cloak of stars and an eagle on his shoulder. Zarathustra was a dangerous, somewhat disconcerting figure, prepared to fight fire with fire.

He led his followers to secluded grottoes, hidden in the forests. There in underground caverns he initiated them. He wanted to provide them with the supernatural powers needed to fight the good fight….

Zarathustra prepared his followers to face Ahriman’s demons, or Asuras, by terrifying initiation ordeals. He who fears death, he said, is already dead.

It was recorded by Menippus, the Greek philosopher of the third century [B.C.E.], who had been initiated by the Mithraic successors of Zarathustra, that, after a period of fasting, mortification and mental exercises performed in solitude, the candidate would be forced to swim across water, then pass through fire and ice. He would be cast into a snake pit, and cut across the chest by a sword, so that blood would flow.

By experiencing the outer limits of fear, the initiate was prepared for the worst that could happen, both in life and after death.

The Secret History of the World, Chapter 10

Author’s emphases are in italic. Mine are in bold.

Intermediate World of Spirits

May 15, 2022

Neither angels nor devils, jinn can move in both directions, as is clear from the romance of Sayf al-Kulut and Badiat: they can surpass the devil’s works in wickedness and also act vigorously on behalf of the supreme God and goodness. In the sura called ‘The Jinn’ in the Koran, the jinn tell us, ‘That among us there are the righteous, and there are the less so—of diverse persuasions are we’….

In a plot, the supreme being can act as a narrative force embodied in providence, but there are limits to the spectrum of his behaviour. Even the furious God of the Old Testament does not possess the degree of idiosyncrasy and vitality that less strictly perfect beings, intrinsically various and unruly, can add to a story. It is not simply a question of the devil having the best tunes, but a reflection of the inherent demand that this kind of fairytale storytelling makes: for surprise, for wonder, for astonishment. The Greek myths could imagine gods and goddesses behaving badly and the stories correspondingly fizz with inventive plots: with the fairytale and the tales from [A Thousand And One] Nights this variety and spice, so necessary to a good story, moves out of the ranks of the divine into the intermediate world of spirits.

Stranger Magic, p. 48

The American Spiritual Temper Is Unconsciously Calvinist

May 13, 2022

[The] American spiritual temper is…uniquely oriented toward the will. Our soil produces more magicians than mystics. We inherited part of this strong will impulse from a source that most of us now find repellant: the Calvinist religion of the early settlers. According to Calvinism, God likes some people better than others and expresses his approval through earthly gifts. Health, wealth, and happiness are proof of God’s favor. Poverty and suffering are telltale signs of sin. Whether people will be favored or rejected by God is already decided before they are born. Some are predestined to be saved, and some are earmarked for damnation.

Contrary to what you might expect, this peculiar doctrine didn’t plunge its believers into despair or stop them from making an effort. On the contrary, it spurred them on. By working hard, amassing wealth, and keeping their lives in good order, they could prove to themselves and others that they were among the elect. This was the source of the Protestant work ethic.

Nowadays, you don’t find many card-carrying Calvinists. I’ve never met one personally. But I have known many who pursue yoga or Buddhism or even paganism in a Calvinist way. The Calvinist impulse has broken free of its Protestant origins and entered the collective unconscious of Americans. When I spell out its doctrine explicitly, you probably think it’s the dumbest spiritual teaching you ever heard. Yet, at some level, you are almost sure to be influenced by it. Rare is the American who isn’t.

You might say that you don’t believe in predestination, but if you are fond of the phrase “meant to be,” you’re leaning in that direction. If you think that an unhappy marriage, poor health, or money troubles are a sign that you’re on the wrong spiritual track, or that spirituality will fix it, you are making a Calvinist assumption.

In medieval Europe, people looked to the impoverished and emaciated for spiritual teachings. Austerity was the mark of a saint. In America, the prerequisite for any spiritual teacher is a life that works. We don’t turn for guidance to someone who can’t pay their electric bill. Consciously or unconsciously, we assume that the spiritually accomplished lead healthy, prosperous, and well-ordered lives….

On Becoming an Alchemist, pp. 149-50

The Cost To Be a Knight

May 13, 2022

Fighting as a knight involved expense that became greater over time. In the twelfth century [C.E.] the knight’s basic equipment (horse, helmet, hauberk, and sword) required the annual revenue of 150 hectares. Three centuries later it cost the yearly income of 500 hectares. The horses alone of Gerard de Moor, Lord of Wessegem, amounted in 1297 to 1,200 livres tournois….

Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels, p. 177

Odic Shields and Shrouds of Concealment

May 9, 2022

In magical theory and practice, [an odic shield is] a field of etheric energy established around the outer edge of the human aura to protect the user from hostile magic or assaults of spirits. Several different methods have been used to establish and maintain an odic shield. The shroud of concealment, which is used in rituals of invisibility, is a closely related phenomenon….

In Golden Dawn magic, [the Shroud of Concealment is] a shell of etheric substance built up around the magician by intensive ritual work that prevents other people from perceiving the magician. The creation of the Shroud of Concealment is fundamental to the Golden Dawn method of magical invisibility….

The New Encyclopedia of the Occult

One Sharp Knife

May 8, 2022
Joe:
One sharp knife can feed you, clothe you, keep you warm and dry.

— “Band of the Hand” (1986)

Why There Is No Justice in The World

May 7, 2022
Chandler Jarrell:
What’s this knife?
Kala:
The Crossed Dagger of Ajanti. They brought it to this world to kill the second Golden Child, the bearer of Justice. His death was a great loss.

— “The Golden Child” (1986)

To Feed and Protect Our Families

May 7, 2022
Don Raphael Aiuppo:
The world that I found had no room for me, so I had to create my own. Me and men like me. We spilt blood to do that. To do something important, which was to feed and protect our families. Today, our grandchildren remember only how to spill blood. They don’t even know why!

— “Squeeze” – Wiseguy, Season 1

Never Run From Anything Immortal

May 7, 2022
Unicorn:
Don’t look back, and don’t run. You must never run from anything immortal; it attracts their attention.

— “The Last Unicorn” (1982)

A Weapon Against the Dark But Also a Beacon That Summons It

May 5, 2022

“You see,” [Ravenor] remarked, “why I prefer to use my mind with restraint. Here in Queen Mab…indeed everywhere…any manipulation of the warp causes ripples. The more you use such powers, the greater the force of them, then the greater the reaction. I am a weapon against the dark, Beta, but I am also a beacon that summons it. We must keep ourselves guarded and hidden….”

Penitent, Chapter 19

‘Woke Up’ Has Always Been an Anthropomorphism

May 4, 2022

Harb stared at [Dr. McCoy]. “Moira?? You’ve got my Games machine hacking into strange computers and stealing data??”

“Harb, Harb! ‘Borrowing.’ ”

“But you cannot do that, Doctor,” Spock said, looking rather distressed. “I am not speaking in the ethical mode, but in terms of possibility. The Games computer does not have outside access, does not have any of the access or authorization codes you need, does not have—”

“Spock,” McCoy said, “there’s one thing this computer definitely does have. A personality. And you know who put it there.”

Sarek looked at Spock, very surprised. “I did not know you were doing recreational programming, my son.”

Harb looked from Spock to Sarek. “I asked him to, sir. It’s easier for me to work with a machine that has some flexibility in its programming ability. The ‘personality’ overlays have that: they’re effectively self-programming. I had a personality program in here before that was a great joy to work with—the For Argument’s Sake personality generator—but it was a little limited. So I asked Spock if in his spare time, he would add some memory to it, and increase the number of associational connections.”

Sarek looked at Spock. “You surpassed the critical number, did you not? And the machine—”

“‘Woke up’ has always been an anthropomorphism,” Spock said, a little defensively, “and at any rate there is no evidence that—”

“The point is that a computer that’s had that done to it acts alive,” Jim said, “and some of them have created problems. That way lies M5, for example.”

“I would never do any such thing,” Moira’s voice said reproachfully, “and you know it. My ethical parameters are very stringent.”

“Not stringent enough to keep you from calling a system that should be locked up tighter than the Bank of Switzerland,” Jim said, “prying it open, and yanking out reams of confidential material that—”

“It was the right thing to do,” Moira said. “Dr. McCoy explained the situation to me. And he is my superior officer, Captain, after Mr. Tanzer. Programming requires me to obey a commanding officer’s orders. So I asked the bridge computers to handle the downlink, and as for the satchel codes, they appear in various altered forms in my own programming, because it was Spock who designed them—”

“From my algorithms,” Sarek said, very quietly, paging through the printout.

“Yes, well, Father, they were the best and most complex available—” Spock looked nonplussed….

Spock’s World, Chapter 7

Search Functionality Added

May 4, 2022

Finally! It was sorely needed as this website already has almost 500 URLs.

The search form is in the sidebar and thus available from every page.

The Air of the Town Makes You Free

May 2, 2022

Into [European feudalism’s] backward-looking, ritualistic, rigidly structured life, the growing economic forces at work in the new towns brought stress. As the trade in surplus goods increased, merchants found that the raw materials they needed were controlled by feudal lords who neither understood nor cared about commerce. Transportation of goods through their lands was both dangerous and costly. Alternative sites for commerce had to be found and the towns seemed to offer the best alternative.

Free from the feudal bonds of the countryside, the urban dweller was envied by his peasant counterpart. ‘Stadtluft machtfrei’ (the air of the town makes you free), they said in eleventh-century Germany, because after a statutory period of residence there a serf would automatically become a freedman. Soon enough the townspeople, with their economic strength and their craftsmen supported by the general surplus, began to demand from kings and emperors those statutes which would reinforce their freedom in law. Merchants who had no place in the feudal pyramid of serf, knight, priest and king now had the money to buy social status.

As the aristocrats began to commute their serfs’ dues from service to cash, money began to weaken the old social structure. Ambition began to express itself in outward show. ‘It is too easy to change your station now’ complained the Italian, Thomasin of Zirclaria. ‘Nobody keeps his place!’ The word ‘ambition’ took on common usage for the first time.

The Day the Universe Changed, p. 31

No Rules In Mortal Combat

April 29, 2022

They would fight not only without quarter but also without rules. In mortal combat, unlike a friendly tournament, nothing prevented a man from stabbing his opponent in the back or through the eye-slits of his helmet, or blinding him with sand, or tripping him, or kicking him, or jumping on him if he should slip and fall. In a duel fought in Flanders in 1127 the two exhausted combatants finally threw down their weapons and fell to wrestling on the ground and punching each other with their iron gauntlets, until one reached under the other’s armor and tore away his testicles, killing him on the spot. Chivalry might have been alive and well in jousts of sport, and even in the preliminary ceremonies of the judicial duel, but once the actual combat began, chivalry was dead.

The Last Duel, Chapter 9

To Test Your Powers Or Prove Their Own

April 28, 2022

Elric turned his stern gaze on [his apprentice].

“As a group we seek wisdom. As individuals we can be eccentric, peevish, perverse, opinionated—apt to take offense upon small occasions. Act with restraint. Be courteous. We get along best at great distances from one another.”

“Every convocation has its confrontations, its challenges. You’ve been sheltered in the past. Once you’re initiated as a full mage, you won’t be under my protection any longer. Others may challenge you, to test your powers or prove their own. Do not rise to the fool’s challenge to be a fool yourself….”

Casting Shadows, Chapter 1

Battle-Hardened But Still a Squire

April 25, 2022

Jean [de Carrouges]…held the rank of squire. Rather than the “gallant youth” this term often brings to mind, he was a battle-hardened veteran already in his forties, one of those “mature men of a rather heavy type—knights in all but name.

By 1380 [C.E.], Jean…commanded his own troop of squires, numbering from four to as many as nine, in the campaigns to rid Normandy of the English. In war he sought to burnish his name and enrich himself by seizing booty and capturing prisoners to hold for ransom, a lucrative business in the fourteenth century. He may also have sought a knighthood, which would have doubled his pay on campaign…. [A] knight’s daily pay on campaign was one livre, while a squire received half that.

The Last Duel, Chapter 1

Emphases mine.

A squire would not be knighted if he could not afford to maintain that higher station. Thus the drive for booty and ransoms.

Why There Are So Many Dungeons

April 23, 2022

While I like the old idea of living dungeons, those would be very rare—even singular.

The mythic underworld seems more usable, but its natural entrances at the surface would likewise be very rare. “Man”-made dungeons that delve sufficiently deep could become artificial entrances.

But why would so many sentient beings construct so many “mundane” dungeons? Especially when those dungeons are unneeded, excessive, and weirdly laid out. Because dungeon building is an insanity that can arise in anyone who builds and inhabits a sufficiently large permanent structure of any kind.

So aristocratic castles; wizard towers; religious temples; dwarven homesteads; humanoid cave towns. Anything.

Where does the insanity come from? Obviously, it is the mythic underworld reaching out, weakly; desiring another connection to the surface world.

As to how such mundane dungeons are built, that is another post.

Double Winners of the Medal of Honor

April 19, 2022

The last scene of the 1985 motion picture “Rambo: First Blood Part II” has Colonel Troutman saying

“You’ll get a second Medal of Honor for this, John.”

Being an Army Brat, that statement made me curious as to whether that is possible. So I started researching. It turns out the answer was “not anymore.” In fact, there have been nineteen double winners of the Medal of Honor.

The Medal of Honor was created in 1862 during the U.S. Civil War. It was the only military decoration for valor until 1918 when the “Pyramid of Valor” was established by an Act of Congress. It created the Distinguished Service Cross (Army), Navy Cross, and other lesser awards. Henceforth the Medal of Honor could only be awarded once to an individual.

A recent Act of Congress has since removed this restriction. Regardless, it is highly unlikely anyone will ever again be awarded a second medal. There has been an unwritten rule since the end of World War II that no awardee is to die on active duty. Thus one will never again be allowed in a combat zone.

Of those nineteen men, two were considered for a third award.

For those wishing to learn more about these men, I recommend the book Double Winners of the Medal of Honor by Raymond J. Tassin. Dr. Tassin gives each man a chapter that starts with childhood and pre-service life, provides context to the conflicts participated in, fleshes out the cited actions (not all of which were combat!) via storytelling, and concludes with post-service life and death.

Daniel Daly, double winner of the Medal of Honor
Daniel Daly, USMC

Lastly, I give you the nineteen (in chronological order):

  1. Thomas Custer (Army)
  2. John Cooper (Navy)
  3. Patrick Mullen (Navy)
  4. Frank Baldwin (Army)
  5. Patrick Leonard (Army)
  6. William Wilson (Army)
  7. Albert Weisbogel (Navy)
  8. Henry Hogan (Army)
  9. Robert Sweeney (Navy)
  10. Louis Williams (Navy)
  11. Daniel Daly (Marine Corps)
  12. John McCloy (Navy)
  13. Smedley Butler (Marine Corps)
  14. John King (Navy)
  15. Ernst Janson (Marine Corps)
  16. Matej Kocak (Marine Corps)
  17. Louis Cukela (Marine Corps)
  18. John Pruitt (Marine Corps)
  19. John Kelly (Marine Corps)

The Wand Is a Symbol of the Will

April 18, 2022

Far and away the most common magical instrument in legend, as well as in actual magical practice, the magical wand was originally one of many devices in the toolkit of the ancient and medieval ceremonial magician. In the Key of Solomon, the most famous of the medieval grimoires, it is one of more than a dozen tools carried by the magus and his five disciples, although its importance is marked by the fact that the magus himself, and not one of the disciples, must carry it…. Many other grimoires give it a lesser place, or omit it altogether.

The writings of French magician Eliphas Levi, who kickstarted the nineteenth-century [C.E.] magical revival, paid much attention to the wand as a symbol of the will, and it was Levi who assigned the wand to the element of fire, still its most common attribution….

The New Encyclopedia of the Occult