Category Archives: History/Deep History




It’s pretty clear that the first few chapters of the Kojiki are material that dates from a time of matriarchy and fertility religion, being set in order by a male scholar for a court milieu where customs and traditions of matriarchy and patriarchy are still somewhat in play. The Kojiki compiled, let it be remembered, for the Empress Gemmei.

The story of Izanami and Izanagi dates back to the Jomon era: some of its key passages are highly alliterative and assonant when translated into even modern Ainu 1). izanagiandizanamiwspearTraditional iconography of Izanami and Izanagi on the Floating Rainbow Bridge of Heaven, coagulating the first land using a jewelled spear, either features identical, gorgeously beautiful and handsome kami, holding the spear with four hands, or Izanagi holding the spear and Izanami standing, watching – most often standing slightly above him in pose that the proverbial cultural-anthropologist-from-Mars would recognize as supervisory!

After that, the “supremely-attractive-male” and the “supremely-attractive-female” make love for line after line of text: creating the eight-plus-six islands of Japan, and a whole list of deities.

Then they go on to embody a Japanese version of the Orpheus and Euridice story: except that here, when Orpheus disobeys, and looks at Euridice in Hades, she pursues him angrily   w i t h   a n   a r m y  …  (…compiled, let it be remembered, for the Empress Gemmei…) And when he blocks the Pass of Hades with a huge rock, it is very definitely Euridice who speaks first, and threatens: “My lovely [Izanagi], if thou do this, I will in one day strangle to death a thousand of the folks of thy land.” Then Izanagi replied: “My lovely [Izanami], if   t h o u   do this, I will in one day set up a thousand and five hundred parturition-houses, and in this manner each day a thousand people will surely be born…”

“…a thousand and five hundred parturition-houses…” No clearer manifestation of male usurpation of a traditionally female role could be imagined…

And finally we are told that Izanagi performs traditional river-purification (misogi) – just as most members of the Empress Gemmei’s court probably did regularly – and  – in a reboot/reset, a fresh creation story – a more familiar pantheon of archetypal kami is born: the sun, the moon, the stars…

1) see inter al:  A Modern Theory of Language Evolution, by Carl J. Becker, p. 324izanagiandizanamiainualliteration



Gary Snyder on attention, awareness, stillness…

…our earlier ways of self-support, our earlier traditions of life prior to agriculture, required literally thousands of years of great attention and awareness, and long hours of stillness.  And anthropologist, William Laughlin, has written a useful article on hunting as education for children. His first point is to ask why primitive hunters didn’t have better tools than they did. The bow of the American Indians didn’t draw more than forty pounds; it looked like a toy. The technology was really very simple – piddling! They did lots of other things extremely well, like building houses forty feet in diameter, raising big totem poles, making very fine boats. Why, then, does there seem to be a weakness in their hunting technology? The answer is simple: they didn’t hunt with tools, they hunted with their minds.

– – – Gary Snyder,  The Real Work,  p.107   (interview w/ Peter Barry Chowka,  summer 1977,  East West Journal )

“…in Susanoo-no-Mikoto…”

When we look at Japanese politics 1866-1945, it is so, so easy to simply pick out the similarities to Western-style politics and ignore everything else that is so very different – and hard to understand. And it is so, so easy, too, for that matter, to make judgements in hind-sight: as if a politically active person in 1924 could know where a new Emperor and a politically resurgent army could take the nation, its institutions, and the unluckily adjacent areas of Eastern Asia.

But to the celebrated but hypothetical ‘cultural anthropologist from Mars’, it would be clear  that in the late nineteenth century context  of sudden top-down, forced ‘Westernisation’ – which included the religious and the spiritual – one of the most prominent social contradictions would be that between the impulse to Westernise, and nostalgia for the established affective life of the culture…

read more:

An artist’s eye: Jomon pottery and the dirt…

incipient_period_jomon-potThe Jomon peoples of ancient Japan were making ceramics as far back as the Ice Age, and the huge diversity of styles tells us of civilizations come and gone long, long before the advent of Chinese-based writing. JomonYet through all this multiplicity, the vast majority of Jomon vessels have a rounded or narrow base, a noticeably elaborate rim, and a clear decorative division between the (smaller or larger) rim area, and the lower part of the vessel. jomon2jomon7

Clearly, many Jomon vessels were used for cooking – remnants of charred food have been discovered, and signs of fire damage.

jomonpot_mma_800But to an artist’s eye, and remembering that the Jomon were experts at storing – and probably at fermenting – food in pits, most of these vessels would show to their best advantage half-way – or two-thirds – buried in earth, especially in a natural context, and then again in the moment of being pulled from the ground, with a serendipitous pattern of dirt scraps still clinging to the decorative geometries of their lower part.




…wouldn’t it be fun to see a modern ceramicist try their hand at pottery created for this context…?

DAI-SHIZEN and the Industrial Revolution in America…

 – – – by Kimbal Anderson Sensei

So… two hundred cuts…

Since you didn’t have a clock, telling you:  you didn’t have anything to measure your usual way.

It’s different, isn’t it…

It seems like it was brief.  You just barely got started. And your energy feels fresh, rather than “I just got to get through this… it’s  one more job…”

So this is the thinking. It kind of fits into what Peter-san was talking about, about the Mummers…

For most of human history, people were not employees. They may have had tasks, but they were not employees. And one of the major reasons the Industrial Revolution was so difficult to get going in America was that no-one would come.

“Well, my cow is out…” or, “I stayed up last night because of my…” …because they lived according to natural cycles.

And they tried to take people and make them like the machine they built. And they said to them: “well, the machine makes us money when we start at dawn and we make it run until it’s  dark.  And the people said: “that’s crazy:  that would kill a  horse.”

It does. It’ll kill a horse.

So it was very difficult  to get going. It required some very interesting manipulation of the economy to put people in such a crisis that they could make them do it.

Because they were natural – – – not that they were lazy people:  it’s just that  people had a different clock.

If you were a farmer, having been such an animal, dawn was a nice time.  I enjoyed dawn. It wasn’t an  “Oh my god, here it is, dawn,  oh my god…” It was more like “Ah, it’s getting light .”  And there was always a certain beauty to it, even if it wasn’t a pretty sunrise… just that the light would creep across everything, and things would wake up in a certain way.

And I worked a lot. In order to make a farm work, you can’t take the day off all the time… In fact it’s rare  that you would ever do that.  And so I would say, as budo practitioners, think about living a life where you don’t require a vacation, where you don’t think in terms of “my life is a series of difficulties…”,  and that  “I need to escape them…” But rather start tuning into the rhythms that are all around you.

I think you’ll find,  that if you hook into the rhythms – which doesn’t mean laying around and doing nothing:  that’s even bad for you… that whole vegetable state that people  get into with info-tainment  and stuff… bad for you…  But how about  listening. Spend some time getting hooked up to nature. Mostly if you get outside and move  around, don’t you feel better?  Go for that walk, or whatever?

Start looking for the little cues of the habits of nature around you.

Do not blame clocks. Do not blame others.

Do it in spite of…

So if you are propelled into a situation where there’s …   right?…   Learn to do it within that.

It’s there. It’s always there.

Sometimes the other stuff is just so loud, it’s just been… it has been created to distract you from this kind of mind.

Hook back up.

You’re going to find that you have a lot more energy. And probably you’ll find that productivity – doing things that makes sense to you, and where you see some result…  whether it’s just helping someone else… – will make you happy, because it’s coming from the right kind of hook-up to everything  And If you didn’t think of yourself as a battery who’s run low, and you’re trying to keep  someone from stealing it who’s in power…

How about hooking up to the big force? See that as what’s happening. it’s flowing through you… you’re like the river’s moving through you.  It ebbs. It flows. It does stuff.

But it shouldn’t always be frantic or always tired.  That must be something else. That’s something else going on there.

Now, we do have to account for the weather. It does affect you. I don’t know about you…  but…  a stroll in the ice-box that Boise and the valley is in, today…  that’s cool every once in a while,  like,  REALLY,  VERY every once in a while… And the idea of living in it… you could be breathing air pollution so bad  it could kill you.  It’s not good for you.

But if you’ve ever walked through a really dense ice-fog, and watched the trees: what they do and that wh-ssssshhhh,  fairy-land thing… that’s pretty amazing.

So. work on this idea of awakening your old self to Dai-Shizen: so you can get your habits and the habits of the universe allied.

You’ll like it. You’ll like it. Things taste better.

Also you won’t be craving what the machine is offering you.

You won’t.

There are better external choices to make…

…petroglyph ‘na Alba’…


We are the world!!!…

It seems that with every new DNA-study, our deep history become more complex and more convoluted.  Simply looking at the history and types of Jomon-era pottery should make us wonder at the kaleidoscopic variety of cultures that we can see inhabiting Kyushu and Eastern Honshu over the several millenia that preceded the arrival of the Yayoi… Now the DNA tells us that people from the continent were present in Japan starting around 3,000 BC – which is precisely the time of the Idojiri pottery that looks so like Chinese bronze jars of the period – and the time that Sanmai Maruyama was at its high-point.

We might guess that even the first migrations out of Africa were along the coastline: in small boats. And that from that time, people would have maintained contact along all the coast traveled… Sanmai Maruyama is a perfect example of a coastal settlement that anyone sailing along the coast of Honshu – the main island of Japan – could have found with minimal instruction… and its style of pottery is mirrored in the “Bell Beaker Culture” trading network across Europe, starting at this time.

Over and again, archeology has turned up objects that traveled vast distances – through networks of exchange that we interpret as ‘trade’ – but that could as easily be seen as ‘mutual giving’ or even as ‘sanctifying the exotic’.

And DNA-archeology turns up individuals who seem way out of place… showing us that individual people traveled the length of continents along these networks of exchange – which were also information networks, helping us cope – inter al – with the constant, gradual climate change that tree-rings and sea-levels tell us about.

iceageeuropeanlady-1And, frequently, whole populations moved. Probably just as often as they have during recorded history. The ice-age peoples of Europe seem to have been only slightly related to present day Europeans.

The latter arrived in three waves, starting at the end of the ice age with brown-skinned, blue-eyed people from the Middle East…

And a thousand years after Sanmai Maruyama, as the world cooled, Celtscherchenman-1 inhabited the Western end of what is now the Gobi desert – towards the Eastern end of what became the Silk Road… As the landscape dried, they never left. A thousand years later, they mixed with Uighur refugees to become several of the present-day peoples of Central Asia.

And around that time, as the world warmed again, the Phoenician trading network started its great expansion. Roman historians in hindsight saw it as an ‘empire’ – the ‘Carthaginian Empire’. And linguistics tells us quite clearly that by 500 – 200 BC,  Phoenicians were the overlords, traders and farmers – and fruit farmers – in coastal regions of Germany and Scandinavia, bequeathing us such words as “penny”, “plough”, “earth” and “Atlantic” – cognate with the German “Adel” and Arabic “Atalun” and the king’s name “Atlas” (all meaning ’nobility’)… and the Scandinavian runes.  And they had settled en masse along  the East coast of England, and in Scotland (the Picts) and Ireland, where their Punic language has continued to underlie the grammar of both English and Gaelic: which is why the faithfully translated, Hebrew-style syntax of the King James Old Testament feels so archetypal to an English speaker.

But older, still, is one peculiar feature of Celtic languages only in the British Isles: initial consonant mutation. In Welsh, for instance, “father” is “tad”, “your father” is “dy dad”, “her father” is “ei thad”, “your fathers” is “fy nhadau”…  This is a very, very rare grammatical device in languages around the world – – – most languages that do this are clustered along the Atlantic coast of Europe and Africa, and they are most common in West Africa.  So we can imagine that, as the glaciers retreated, between 13,000 and 11,000 BC, settlers could have come up the Atlantic coast – from whatever civilization then flourished in the lush, green pastures of the Sahara – and settled the coasts of Ireland…or maybe they were only the kings… or the respected shaman… because initial consonant mutation, from one perspective, is just about pronunciation: and pronunciation is something that often we copy from respected leaders…

Circle Walking and Magic Numbers…

Much of basic Ba Gua Zhang training is borrowed from age-old Taoist meditation practices, such as circle-walking. So when I read that “Chinese teachers often describe the feet in this position as resembling the shape of the Chinese Character 8modern  Ba (Eight)” 1)   I have to wonder if the character was actually formed in reference to the walking meditation practice – the eight-step circle practice.  Certainly, it’s a modification of the oracle-bone  8seal  that happened some time in the two millennia BC – a time when the small number of people who could write in Chinese would have had a strong overlap with Taoist practitioners practising walking meditation…. and the newer character for “four” also looks like a partial floor-plan of the four-step circle practice…   4modern

1) Tom Bisio, Ba Qua Circle Walking Nei Gong,  pp. 67-68

…circle-walking with jo…