Thursday, 28 July 2016


For those of you unlucky enough not to be on the Raven Mailing List, and who therefore miss out on our Newsletter, here is an extract from an article on Sun Deities from our July 2016 issue


     Possibly even older than Ra is the god who was worshipped by the Akkadians and later Assyrian and Babylonians, Shamash.
    The main symbol of Shamash is a winged sun disc (the Egyptians had a similar symbol to represent Ra).
     Originally it was the moon deity who had precedence as the chief of all the gods, and it is speculated that this was because to nomadic peoples the moon and stars are more important as measures of time and indicators of direction. Once people became settled farmers then the solar deities became the powerful ones.
     Shamash is the son of the Moon god Nannar, which might also indicate the supreme power changing from moon to sun. He rides a chariot across the sky, driven by his charioteer, Bunene.
     Shamash is God of Justice, as the sun dispels darkness, so Shamash sheds light on a situation and brings the powers of justice to bear. As he dispels physical darkness, he also dispels the darkness of the soul and banishes demons and evil spirits. As illness was believed to be caused by the actions of evil spirits, it was Shamash who was prayed to for relief from the demons of illness.
     In later times he amalgamated other solar deities into himself - as Ra also can be seen to be both Ra, Kephera and Horus, who yet can be viewed as deities in their own right. So Shamash became thought of as part of a trinity with Ninurta being the Sun God of the Sunrise and Spring time, and Nergal the Sun God of midday and the Summer Solstice. In the same way as Ra aged, so did Shamash, becoming more the God of the Sunset who passed through the Underworld at night and was reborn at dawn.
     Yet even while he was in the Underworld, Shamash carried out his role as God of law and order, becoming the judge of the spirits of the dead.

Shamash, Great Lord, Merciful God
Who hears prayer, who grants life
On the servant who reverences you, have mercy.

Prayer to Shamash from a cylinder seal.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Intruder Allert

     It was a warm and sultry afternoon.
     Graham had taken China out for a walk, and I was in the living room, reading the Radio Times while ignoring the Formula 1 Testing session on the TV in the background.
     Then suddenly I heard the sounds of a helicopter, or some flying machine coming low overhead. This does happen regularly, so wasn't a huge cause for concern, although this did seem particularly loud and therefore close. The regular beats of the rotors were pulsing very close by.
     Hang on they were now being mixed with the sound of crockery and glass. And it wasn't outside, it was coming from the kitchen.
     Oh my Goddess! The back door to the garden was wide open, as it usually is from sunrise to sunset during the summer, there was someone in the kitchen - and they were ransacking the place!
     I hurried through to the kitchen,  hoping that my sudden appearance would make whoever it was take fright and run away. To be honest, the thought that they might not run away didn't occur to me.
     So I went in to the kitchen, expecting to see an intruder.
     And there they were!
    A pigeon was in the small window above the sink, a window stuffed with small tasteful nick-nacks in porcelain and glass, and was attempting to beat its way out through the glass while flailing madly with wings and feet and sending afore-mentioned nick-nacks flying and ricochetting around the kitchen and off the crockery stacking in the drying tray.
     It must have flown in through the open kitchen door and being a bird of little brain, and in a panic, instead of flying out again was trying to dig its way to freedom through the window.
     I tried to reach it, but I am only short and the nearest I could get to it was its tail. So I carefully tried pulling it towards me and ended up with a fist full of feathers.
    The pigeon looked sideways at me, and I looked sideways at the pigeon, and both of us decided there was no way I could reach it to get it outside. So I went for plan B - leave the kitchen, shut the kitchen door behind me (leaving the outside door open still) to make sure the bird couldn't get any further into the house and wait for Graham to come home.

    When Graham arrived home with China, It took him all of two minutes - including the swearing - to capture the pigeon (now in the front kitchen window) and put it outside on the lawn. It flew off none the worse for the experience - apart from the loss of a few tail feathers.
     So much for a peaceful Friday afternoon off work.

Monday, 4 July 2016

The Owning of Dogs

     The third of July is the start of the Dog Days, the heliacal rising of Sirius, the dog star.
     And on the 2nd of July, Saturday this year, we took our lovely girl, Maeve on her last journey to the vet. It was the last act of love and care we could do for her.
     Maeve was named after the Queen of the Fairies and she was a slender, yet strong and lively, blue merle, rough collie, with a mischevious sense of humour.
     Anyone who has owned dogs will tell you that each one is unique, with their own distinct personality.
     When you take on another dog, after the loss of one, you are never replacing the previous pet. Nothing can do that. It is like saying that a new baby would replace another child. Every child, and every dog, is a unique individual with their own likes and dislikes, and very much their own personality and sense of humour.
     After our previous dogs had died, our breeder friend Angela (Wicani Collies), asked us if we would consider giving a home to one of her adult dogs, China. It took us no time flat to say 'Yes! Please!' and off we went to meet China and possibly (? Who am I kidding!) bring her home with us.

     But China lived in the kennels with another adult female, Maeve, and when China was let out to meet us, Maeve came too.
     China and Maeve were as different as chalk and cheese. China is a happy, placid dog. Not the sharpest knife in the box, but solid, loving and always happy to finish off any food Maeve might leave. China was also the boss of the pair, even if it was Maeve who was the brains of the partnership.
     Maeve was a year younger, more slender and delicate in build and with a sharper, more Mercurial nature. She was shy and would hide from visitors, where China would push her way in.
     Maeve was also the dog who let us know if we had visitors coming, or if anyone was passing the house, or the birds were being too boisterous in the garden, usually by 'woofing' loudly, well away from the 'danger' and as near to us as possible.
     China's place was on the sofa, Maeve's place was on the floor. But this meant she had the opportunity to lie on my feet, or nestle up to Graham, since he also prefers to sit on the floor.
And if we were having supper, Maeve would be the one who 'helped' me to eat mine. To the extent that I would look at her and say to Graham, 'Tonight we will have a Marmite sandwich and some cereal to follow.' Then it was a bite of sandwich for me, and a piece for Maeve, and any cereal left over (of course, there was always some) would also go the way of Maeve too.
     One of her favourite games was not-letting-me-get-up-until-we-have-had-a-cuddle. And she loved having the top of her head rubbed while she pushed back against my hand making ecstatic, appreciative noises and nearly falling over.
    When she became ill, I asked Anubis to look after her, and as I write this I have an image of two dogs walking away. One a tall, slender, black, Egyptian hound, with a smaller, fluffy white collie trotting along beside him.
     Of course we are sad when they have to die. I have shed many tears for Maeve, as I have for other dogs and cats I have known over the years. But those tears are largely because I will miss her. I know that she is fine and happy in spirit.
     The joy of having her, and all the other creatures who have shared my life, far outweighs any sadness.
     All those who love their pets know: Our lives are richer and better for having known and loved them.