Guide to the classics: the Epic of Gilgamesh

Guide to the classics: the Epic of Gilgamesh

Image 20170322 27966 yag6gc
Gilgamesh explores what it means to be human, and questions the meaning of life and love. Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article

Louise Pryke, Macquarie University

“Forget death and seek life!” With these encouraging words, Gilgamesh, the star of the eponymous 4000-year-old epic poem, coins the world’s first heroic catchphrase. The Conversation

At the same time, the young king encapsulates the considerations of mortality and humanity that lie at the heart of the world’s most ancient epic. While much has changed since, the epic’s themes are still remarkably relevant to modern readers.

Depending upon your point of view, Gilgamesh may be considered a myth-making biography of a legendary king, a love story, a comedy, a tragedy, a cracking adventure, or perhaps an anthology of origin stories.

All these elements are present in the narrative, and the diversity of the text is only matched by its literary sophistication. Perhaps surprisingly, given the extreme antiquity of the material, the epic is a masterful blending of complex existential queries, rich imagery and dynamic characters.

The narrative begins with Gilgamesh ruling over the city of Uruk as a tyrant. To keep him occupied, the Mesopotamian deities create a companion for him, the hairy wild man Enkidu.

Gilgamesh in his lion-strangling mode.
TangLung, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

Gilgamesh sets about civilising Enkidu, a feat achieved through the novel means of a week of sex with the wise priestess, Shamhat (whose very name in Akkadian suggests both beauty and voluptuousness).

Gilgamesh and Enkidu become inseparable, and embark on a quest for lasting fame and glory. The heroes’ actions upset the gods, leading to Enkidu’s early death.

The death of Enkidu is a pivotal point in the narrative. The love between Gilgamesh and Enkidu transforms the royal protagonist, and Enkidu’s death leaves Gilgamesh bereft and terrified of his own mortality.

The hero dresses himself in the skin of a lion, and travels to find a long-lived great flood survivor, Utanapishtim (often compared with the biblical Noah). After a perilous journey over the waters of death, Gilgamesh finally meets Utanapishtim and asks for the secret to immortality.

In one of the earliest literary anti-climaxes, Utanapishtim tells him that he doesn’t have it. The story ends with Gilgamesh returning home to the city of Uruk.

Mesopotamian mindfulness

Gilgamesh and his adventures can only be described in superlative terms: during his legendary journeys, the hero battles deities and monsters, finds (and loses) the secret to eternal youth, travels to the very edge of the world — and beyond.

Despite the fantastical elements of the narrative and its protagonist, Gilgamesh remains a very human character, one who experiences the same heartbreaks, limitations and simple pleasures that shape the universal quality of the human condition.

Gilgamesh explores the nature and meaning of being human, and asks the questions that continue to be debated in the modern day: what is the meaning of life and love? What is life really — and am I doing it right? How do we cope with life’s brevity and uncertainty, and how do we deal with loss?

The text provides multiple answers, allowing the reader to wrestle with these ideas alongside the hero. Some of the clearest advice is provided by the beer deity, Siduri (yes, a goddess of beer), who suggests Gilgamesh set his mind less resolvedly on extending his life.

Instead, she urges him to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, such as the company of loved ones, good food and clean clothes — perhaps giving an example of a kind of Mesopotamian mindfulness.

The king-hero Gilgamesh battling the ‘Bull of Heaven’.
Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

The epic also provides the reader with a useful case study in what not to do if one is in the exceptional circumstance of reigning over the ancient city of Uruk. In ancient Mesopotamia, the correct behaviour of the king was necessary for maintaining earthly and heavenly order.

Despite the gravity of this royal duty, Gilgamesh seems to do everything wrong. He kills the divinely-protected environmental guardian, Humbaba, and ransacks his precious Cedar Forest. He insults the beauteous goddess of love, Ishtar, and slays the mighty Bull of Heaven.

He finds the key to eternal youth, but then loses it just as quickly to a passing snake (in the process explaining the snake’s “renewal” after shedding its skin). Through these misadventures, Gilgamesh strives for fame and immortality, but instead finds love with his companion, Enkidu, and a deeper understanding of the limits of humanity and the importance of community.

Reception and recovery

The Epic of Gilgamesh was wildly famous in antiquity, with its impact traceable to the later literary worlds of the Homeric epics and the Hebrew Bible. Yet, in the modern day, even the most erudite readers of ancient literature might struggle to outline its plot, or name its protagonists.

A statue of Gilgamesh at the University of Sydney.
Gwil5083, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

To what might we owe this modern-day cultural amnesia surrounding one of the world’s greatest works of ancient literature?

The answer lies in the history of the narrative’s reception. While many of the great literary works of ancient Greece and Rome were studied continuously throughout the development of Western culture, the Epic of Gilgamesh comes from a forgotten age.

The story originates in Mesopotamia, an area of the Ancient Near East thought to roughly correspond with modern-day Iraq, Kuwait and parts of Syria, Iran and Turkey, and frequently noted as “the cradle of civilisation” for its early agriculture and cities.

Gilgamesh was written in cuneiform script, the world’s oldest known form of writing. The earliest strands of Gilgamesh’s narrative can be found in five Sumerian poems, and other versions include those written in Elamite, Hittite and Hurrian. The best-known version is the Standard Babylonian Version, written in Akkadian (a language written in cuneiform that functioned as the language of diplomacy in the second millennium BCE).

The disappearance of the cuneiform writing system around the time of the 1st century CE accelerated Gilgamesh’s sharp slide into anonymity.

For almost two millennia, clay tablets containing stories of Gilgamesh and his companions lay lost and buried, alongside many tens of thousands of other cuneiform texts, beneath the remnants of the great Library of Ashurbanipal.

Tablet V of the Epic of Gilgamesh.
Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin, Wikimedia Commons

The modern rediscovery of the epic was a watershed moment in the understanding of the Ancient Near East. The eleventh tablet of the Epic was first translated by self-taught cuneiform scholar George Smith of the British Museum in 1872. Smith discovered the presence of an ancient Babylonian flood narrative in the text with striking parallels to the biblical flood story of the Book of Genesis.

The story is often repeated (although it may be apocryphal) that when Smith began to decipher the tablet, he became so excited that he began to remove all his clothing. From these beginnings in the mid-19th century, the process of recovering the cuneiform literary catalogue continues today.

In 2015, the publication of a new fragment of Tablet V by Andrew George and Farouk Al-Rawi made international news. The fragment’s discovery coincided with increased global sensitivity to the destruction of antiquities in the Middle East in the same year. The Washington Post juxtaposed the “heart-warming story” of the find against the destruction and looting in Syria and Iraq.

Ancient ecology

The new section of Tablet V contains ecological aspects that resonate with modern day concerns over environmental destruction. Of course, there are potential anachronisms in projecting environmental concerns on an ancient text composed thousands of years prior to the industrial revolution.

Yet, the undeniable sensitivity in the epic’s presentation of the wilderness is illuminating, considering the long history of humanity’s interaction with our environment and its animal inhabitants.

A cedar forest in Turkey.
Zeynel Cebeci, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY

In Gilgamesh, the wilderness is a place of beauty and purity, as well as home to a wild abundance. The splendour and grandeur of the Cedar Forest is described poetically in Tablet V:

They (Gilgamesh and Enkidu) stood marvelling at the forest,

Observing the height of the cedars …

They were gazing at the Cedar Mountain, the dwelling of the gods, the throne-dais of the goddesses …

Sweet was its shade, full of delight.

While the heroes pause to admire the forest’s beauty, their interest is not purely aesthetic. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are aware of the economic value of the cedars, and the text provides a clear picture of competing commercial and ecological interests.

Where to read Gilgamesh

Since Gilgamesh’s reappearance into popular awareness in the last hundred years, the Standard Babylonian Version of the epic has become accessible in numerous translations. This version was originally compiled by the priest, scribe and exorcist, Sin-leqi-uninni, around 1100 BCE.

The scholarly standard among modern translations is Andrew George’s The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts (2003).

Despite its all-around excellence, the two-volume work is decidedly unwieldly, and the less muscle-bound reader would be well directed to The Epic of Gilgamesh: A New Translation (1999), by the same author. Most readable among modern treatments is David Ferry’s Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse (1992), which gives a potent, poetic interpretation of the material.

Like the snake that steals Gilgamesh’s rejuvenation plant, the Epic of Gilgamesh has aged well. Its themes – exploring the tension between the natural and civilised worlds, the potency of true love, and the question of what makes a good life – are as relevant today as they were 4,000 years ago.

Note: Translations are sourced from Andrew R. George 2003. The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts, Volume 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Louise Pryke, Lecturer, Languages and Literature of Ancient Israel, Macquarie University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Christianity, Qumran and a relationship of Assimilation- An Essay

Note: This is an essay I recently completed for my university unit on the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was a fascinating subject and highly recommend it if you enjoy Ancient History.

Since Solomon Schechter first discovered The Damascus Document in a genizah in Cairo, scholars and enthusiasts have sought to connect Christianity with Qumran. The later texts found at the Dead Sea in 1947 spoke of a Teacher of Righteousness and a Wicked Priest, apocryphal visions of battles in the Heavenly realms, and detailed a shared Community life with a focus on purity and Law. The Scrolls have fired scholarly imaginations with theories and possibilities, ranging from Lawrence Schiffman’s hypothesis that Qumran had Sadducean roots, to Barbara Thiering’s extreme belief that John the Baptist was the Teacher of Righteousness and Jesus of Nazareth was the Wicked Priest.

Dated from the Second Temple period, a time of political and religious upheaval, the Scrolls provide another insight into the birth of Christianity, various Jewish sects, and ‘the common ground from which they all sprang.’[1]

The purpose of this essay is to explore the similarities of teachings, esoteric practices, and historical similarities between the Qumran sect and Christianity, revealing that even while they share many common elements there isn’t enough evidence to support a definitive relationship between the two.

To begin with, the most obvious questions regarding Christianity and Qumran is about Jesus himself as an Essene, a Teacher of Righteousness or a Wicked Priest depending which scholar you read, and whether New Testament documents found at the site.

Jesus of Nazareth was a charismatic rebel whose teaching ‘stands out invested with religious individuality and actuality’[2] but ultimately ‘nowhere in any of the scrolls is Jesus mentioned’[3] and the Greek fragments found in Cave 7 were not copies of New Testament writings.

Despite this there are numerous parallels in Jesus’ teachings with those practiced by the Qumran sect such as his emphasis on the kingdom, messianic self-understandings, and the similarities drawn from the beatitudes in Matthew 5:8 and 4Q525 such as, ‘ [Blessed is]…with a pure heart and does not slander with his tongue.’[4] Other comparisons in their teachings are their stance on divorce law, blasphemy and Jesus’ use of calling God ‘Abba’ or ‘Father ‘ is matched with three prayers found in Qumran using the related  phrasing ‘my Father, My God.’

This connection between Jesus and Qumran is often also linked with John the Baptist due to the proximity of his ministry to Qumran and his focus on ‘divine judgement, repentance and ritual washing.’[5] Barbara Thiering controversially argues not only for a direct connection, but that ‘The Teacher of Righteousness is an exact counterpart for John the Baptist’[6] and that his adversary The Wicked Priest ‘did almost everything Jesus was accused of by his enemies.’[7] A more plausible theory is that it is possible Jesus met Essenes during his ministry with some scholars like Riesner suggesting that Jesus stayed near their quarter in Jerusalem, and ‘the house used for the Last Supper was probably owned by an Essene.’[8]

Despite these similarities Jesus taught inclusivity and ate with those deemed unclean and marginalised not only by the Pharisaic Jews but the Essenes ‘were among those most ready to maintain purity through rigid rules of exclusion.’[9] On a theological standpoint, one of  focal points of Jesus’ teaching was ‘Forgive and you will be forgiven’[10] as well as other  provocative acts such as healing on the Sabbath, that Pharisaic Jews saw as a direct violation of the Mosaic Law. The latter is the strongest argument against Jesus being Essene (even a disgraced one as Thiering suggests) as the strict adherence of the Law was intrinsic to every aspect of Essene life including ‘sexual relations or the keeping of the Sabbath, meal practice or business dealings.’[11]

Despite the similarities in some areas of theology, The Teacher of Righteousness in Qumran, focused on the deep teachings and obligations of the Law and he was without the ‘genius of Jesus the Jew who succeeded in uncovering the essence of religion as an existential relationship between man and man and man and God.’ [12] The Scrolls themselves lack evidence of a direct relationship between Jesus and Qumran, but what they successfully do is provide another insight into Palestinian Judaism at the time of his teachings and reinforces the Jewishness of Jesus by reconstructing the world in which he had his ministry.

The next recognizable Christian figure that scholars like to associate with Qumran is the similarity in the seven letters of Paul and writings found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

According to Kuhn’s research there are over four hundred parallels between Paul’s teachings and those practiced at Qumran that focus on the ‘dualism of light and darkness within an ethical and eschatological framework,’[13] the concept of Community being a temple of God living under a new covenant, and the emphasis with which they concentrated on ‘God’s justice and man’s sinfulness, especially on justification by grace alone.’[14]

The core differences between Paul and Qumran once again is in theology especially with Paul’s faith in Christ and his different interpretation of the Torah. Before his conversion to Christianity Paul was a Pharisee and could have come into contact with Qumranian ideals during this time. He travelled extensively so it is also possible that he would have met Essenes on his journeys, much like Jesus of Nazareth did, or when he went to preach in Damascus, Antioch or his home town Tarsus.

Despite their strong conflicting views on Law and purity, Qumran and Christian theology do find more common ground in many of their esoteric beliefs, especially in the areas of healing and exorcism, Heavenly visions as well as reverence for the enigmatic character of Melchizedek.

In the New Testament Jesus and his disciples are recorded to have performed multiple healings through a laying on of hands (specifically Mark 6:5, Luke 4:40, Luke 13:13 and Acts 28:8), a practice that is not found in the Old Testament, nor in rabbinical literature. The Genesis Apocryphon found at Qumran recounts the story of how Abram’s wife Sarai was taken by the Pharaoh of Egypt and how the Most High God ‘sent a spirit to scourge him, an evil spirit to all of his household.’[15] The Pharaoh is released from this evil spirit when Abram places his hands on his head and prays for him. These passages, composed before Jesus’ time, reveals that this way of healing was ‘not only practiced by Jesus and his first disciples, but other circles as well.’[16]

Exorcism was widely performed by Jesus and his followers, and fragments of The Apocryphal Psalms found in Cave 11 have sections devoted to songs or psalms with ‘the repeated use of the  term ‘demons’ and ‘healing’’ [17]suggesting that exorcisms were also performed at Qumran. While exorcism wasn’t an unknown practice amongst the Jews there was often a traditional minyan (witnesses) needed, with other ritual elements such as washing required beforehand, where Jesus and his followers performed them sporadically with only commands.

The War Scroll found at Qumran details a final devastating but ultimately victorious war between the gentiles and the demonic forces of Belial or Satan, and the Sons of Light with angelic armies commanded by The Prince of Light, the Archangel Michael. According to XVII:5 after the defeat of Belial and his armies God will ‘send eternal succour to the company of His redeemed by the might of the princely Angel of the kingdom of Michael.’ With vivid descriptions on battle formations, priestly duties and thanksgiving ceremonies, the composer makes reference to the Book of Daniel, where Michael is also mentioned extensively as doing battle against the forces of darkness. This theme is also found in the New Testament in Revelations 12:7 where Michael and his angels throw the dragon, or Satan, down to earth in a heavenly war. Like The War Scroll, Revelations is heavy with symbolic imagery and also ends with a victory and praises of thanksgiving as the New Jerusalem is established.

While these visionary books are obviously influenced by other apocryphal writings such as The Book of Daniel, The Book of Enoch and Isaiah, the core messaging in their end of days’ battle and the fundamentals of their eschatology is different. For the Qumranian’s the one that ‘shoots forth from the stump of Jesse,’[18]  the triumphant Davidic Messiah, is to put his adversary, the king of Kittim to death, while for the Christian’s Jesus, the ‘Root and the Offspring of David’[19] will come again, establishing a new Heaven and new Earth.

Striking in both the Qumran and Christian writings is the mysterious figure of Melchizedek. In the Hebrew Bible his first appearance in Genesis 14:18, Melchizedek is described as the king of Salem and a priest of the God Most High, who enigmatically blesses Abram, gives him ‘a tenth of all’[20] and abruptly disappears from the narrative, resurfacing in Psalm 110 where the Lord says to David, ‘Thou art a priest forever after the manner of Melchizedek.’ The New Testament writings of Hebrews speaks extensively on Melchizedek, his unique Yahwistic priesthood ‘made not by virtue of a Torah requirement of physical descent but by the virtue of indestructible life’[21] and Jesus being the High Priest. In The Heavenly Prince Melchizedek found at Qumran, Melchizedek is the heavenly deliverer Archangel Michael who presides over ‘the final Judgement and condemnation of his demonic counterpart Belial’[22] and with neither his birth or death recorded ‘it is easy to imagine him as eternal and therefore that this priest should be present in the heavens.’[23]

Both Qumran and Christianity could agree that Melchizedek was an immortal figure with a priesthood assigned to him, but the conflict arises not only in Melchizedek being the Archangel Michael but also the author of Hebrew’s views of the priesthood’s ‘superiority over the levitical priesthood’[24] and their comments on the requirement of bloodlines being ‘set aside because of its weakness and ineffectiveness – for Torah make nothing perfect’[25] which is a direct violation of the Qumranian view of the Law.

The Dead Sea Scrolls has also provided scholars with an abundance of new material regarding scriptural interpretation and given a wider understanding to the practice of pesher. The sect at Qumran believed that scripture had two levels; a literal version for ordinary readers and a second level that only readers of a higher knowledge could interpret the mysteries hidden by God. Christian writers have engaged in a similar interpretive process with Hebrew prophetic writings having been decoded for foretelling’s of Jesus, such as Isaiah 53.

The writers of the Scrolls and the New Testament literature both ‘recognized the authority of the five books of the Law of Moses, held prophetic literature in high regard,’[26] and sought to find greater meanings within them. The main similarity between both practices of prophetic interpretation is what Brooke describes as the process of ‘This is That,’[27] meaning that one or more of the items within in the text is compared to another.

There is a prominent difference between the two forms of interpretation, even if on the surface New Testament interpretations seem like pesher, the process at Qumran was the ‘primary or base scriptural text always precedes the interpretation’[28] while the Christians focused on proving fulfilment by having the scriptural text recounted after the event in which they are writing.

Moving away from the esoteric to religious history, the Near East saw multiple cultural and religious changes through the Persian, Hellenistic, Maccabean and Roman periods and this impacted on the Jewish belief systems of the times. This period saw the birth of Christianity and the evolution of Rabbinical Judaism, but it also meant that ‘many Judaisms did not survive – the Essenes and the Sadducees among them.’[29] Boccacini claims that Rabbinical Judaism and Christian do not have a ‘parent-child’ relationship but one of fraternal twins birthed at the same time. The discovery of the Scolls at Qumran supports the reality that many forms of Judaism existed at the time of Jesus with their own communities, interpretations of Law and eschatological and prophetic visions of the future.

The spread of Christianity ‘turned Judaism into a multinational religion’[30] with the Rabbi’s reinforcing the concept of Judaism as the religion of the Jewish people, so one could argue that the true historical relationship  between Qumran and Christianity is one that forced assimilation.

The Dead Sea Scrolls are a fascinating insight into the Second Temple Period and are a valuable study in understanding early Christianity and Judaism as well as revealing a pious and vividly literate people that valued their Law and mysteries above religious and social pressures.

The Essenes and Christianity are often curiously similar in their beliefs and practices with parallels being drawn between prominent teachings of figures like Jesus and Paul, their views and practices of healing, visions of Heavenly wars and redemption, and their reverence of figures such as Isaiah, Daniel and Melchizedek. They both held the Temple in Jerusalem with undisguised contempt and believed in a Messianic promise.

The centre of their belief systems they are so starkly different that a definitive relationship between the two can only seriously be drawn at them both being religious products of the time. Christianity with its inclusive ideals and resurrected Messiah flourished, while the Essenes strict and exclusive community could not survive, as it ‘lacked the pliant strength and elasticity of thought and depth of spiritual vision’[31] that allowed Rabbinical Judaism to endure as the dominant Jewish religion.

Note: All images used in this post were Public Domain

Bibliography

Vermès, G. 2011. The complete Dead Sea scrolls in English. 4th ed. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Allen Lane/Penguin Press.

Brooke, G.J 2005. The Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament. Fortress Press.

Thiering, B 2005. Jesus the Man. Random House.

Kuhn, H.W 1992 The Impact of the Qumran Scrolls on the Understanding of Paul. The Magnes Press.

Flusser, D 1957 Healing through the Laying-on of Hands in a Dead Sea Scroll. Israel Exploration Journal, Vol. 7, No. 2, pg. 107-108

Delcour, M 1971 Melchizedek from Genesis to the Qumran Texts and the Epistle to the Hebrews. Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic, and Roman Period, Vol. 2, pg 115-135

Boccaccini, G 1995 Multiple Judaisms, Bible Review (Feb 1995) 38-41.

Schiffman, L 1990 The Significance of the Scrolls. Bible Review Vol VI, pg 19-28

Messianic Jewish Shared Heritage Bible. (2012). 1st ed. Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image.

[1] Vermès 2011 pg 25

[2] Vermès 2011 pg25

[3] Brooke 2005 Pg19

[4] 4Q525 Beatitudes pg455

[5] Brooke 2005 pg24

[6] Thiering 2005 Pg19

[7] Thiering 2005 pg19

[8] Brooke 2005 pg24

[9] Brooke 2005 pg 25

[10] Luke 6:37

[11] Brooke 2005 pg38

[12] Vermès 2011 pg25

[13] Kuhn,1992 Pg 334

[14] Kuhn, 1992 pg 335

[15] IQapGen,IQ20 XX:15

[16] Flusser 1957 pg108

[17] Vermès 2011 pg 316

[18] The Book of War 4Q285, fr.7

[19] Revelations 22:16

[20] Genesis 14:18

[21] Hebrews 7:16

[22] Vermés 2011 pg532

[23] Delcor 1971 pg125

[24] Delcor 1971 pg125

[25] Hebrews 7:18-20

[26] Brooke 2005 pg 53

[27] Brooke 2005 pg 60

[28] Brooke 2005 pg 60

[29] Boccacini 1995 pg41

[30] Boccacini 1995 41

[31] Vermés 2011 pg25

The female werewolf and her shaggy suffragette sisters

 

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This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Jazmina Cininas, Lecturer in Fine Art, Printmaking, RMIT University – Check out her incredible artwork here on her website

As Melbourne lights up for tomorrow’s White Night Festival, the façade of RMIT’s Storey Hall annex will transform into an illuminated billboard of morphing lupine femmes. The portraits – my original linocuts of female werewolves – might seem curious bedfellows for a Melbourne icon of deconstructivism. However, there is a long connection between female werewolves and suffragettes – and this building has a feminist history.

In the early 19th century, Hibernian Hall (now Storey Hall) was leased to the Women’s Political Association, whose purple, green and white flag flew from the rooftop. Across the world, the Women’s Social and Political Union was also making its mark — literally — on London’s Suffrage Atelier. Founded in 1909 by Alfred Pearce and the Housman siblings, Clemence and Laurence, the atelier’s print workshop advanced feminist causes, making and circulating pro-suffrage publications, and providing employment for female illustrators.

The Houseman siblings are better known, however, for their collaborative novella of 1896, The Were-Wolf. Written by Clemence with illustrations by Laurence, The Were-Wolf sees its title heroine, White Fell, find her way into the hearts of a Swedish family — while they find their way into her belly.

White Fell is part of a groundswell of female werewolves who surfaced in Victorian gothic literature, fuelled by paranoia surrounding the suffragette movement. The hirsute sisterhood are notable for preying on families and upending the gendered status quo, recognisable by their supernaturally shining eyes, foreign accents and aristocratic penchant for white fur. Inverting contemporary werewolf conventions, these shaggy suffragettes also revert to wolves — not women — after death, thereby revealing their “true” lupine selves.

Cultural constructions of women as intrinsically lupine have existed throughout the centuries, whether as nurturing mothers (think Romulus and Remus), ravening man-eaters, or as inherently demonic.

The female werewolf has been far more prevalent than her relatively modest profile suggests, flourishing most conspicuously at times when the female gender came under attack. We see this not just in the suffragette era but also — with rather more dire consequences — during the Early Modern witch-hunts.

A severed head and rampant misogyny

The earliest record I have found of a reputed werewolf (male or female) being brought to trial is that of Catherine Simon of Andermatt in Switzerland. In 1459, Catherine confessed to having transformed into a wolf with the aid of a salve (ointment) and causing an avalanche.

Witch riding a wolf, woodcut in Ulrich Molitor, Von den Unholden oder Hexen, c. 1491.
Wikimedia Commons

Catherine’s crimes were considered so serious that her executioner was charged to “divide her into two pieces, of which one shall be her head and the other her body, which shall be so completely severed that a cartwheel can be rolled between them”.

Her remains were burned, and the ashes cast into the Reuss River as further insurance against her causing harm.

This climate of religious paranoia and misogyny is captured in a sensational German broadsheet by Georg Kress, Of 300 Witches and Their Pact with the Devil to Turn Themselves into She-Wolves at Jülich, 6 May 1591.

It depicts the destruction of men, boys and cattle by a horde of ravening she-wolves, complete with rhyming descriptions of brains being sucked and hearts being eaten.

Kress’ introductory proclamation that his broadsheet is “published in print for all pious women and maidens as a warning and example” makes it clear that women were considered in greatest need of the lessons in the text.

Even pious women, it seemed, needed to be mindful of their inherent bestial natures and moral susceptibility – a sentiment echoed in witch-hunting treatises of the day.

Georg Kress’s broadsheet depicting women werewolves.
Wikimedia Commons

Werewolves and vampires

As the witch craze subsided and society’s critical gaze turned instead towards the excesses of aristocratic depravity, werewolves were swept up in the vampire wave. This peaked in 1730s Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland, with Austro-Hungarian Countess Erzsébet Báthory setting the template for the clichéd Eastern European lycanthrope (werewolf).

Jazmina Cininas, Erzsebet was frequently mistaken for a vampire (2011). Reduction linocut, 37 x 28 cm.

Rumoured to have butchered and bathed in the blood of 600 local virgins for cosmetic purposes, Erzsébet has since been claimed by the vampire “cause”. However, she first came to the attention of the popular imagination in Sabine Baring-Gould’s The Book of Werewolves, published in 1865.

Her legend includes a she-wolf familiar (an animal spirit that accompanies her and helps bewitch enemies) and a family crest composed of wolf fangs, which, like her infamous bloodbaths, seem to have had little basis in fact.

Nevertheless, Erzsébet reflects the intimate link between werewolves and vampires, an intimacy that is also shared in medicine.

A medical foundation for the werewolf myth?

In the 1980s, biochemist David Dolphin suggested that porphyria, a hereditary blood disease that causes severe anaemia, might be treated with injections of blood products, thereby popularising the notion of a medical origin for vampirism.

Visible symptoms of congenital porphyria. W. Hausmann, Strahlentherapie, Suppl. 8, 1923.

Porphyria symptoms include severe phototoxicity, demanding its sufferers avoid sunlight or risk progressively “beastly” skin lesions, especially on the face and hands. Reddish teeth and urine and extreme hairiness (notably on the forehead) complete the litany of ailments that have also seen porphyria proposed as a medical foundation for the werewolf myth.

Porphyria is not alone in its medical claim on the werewolf legend. Congenital generalised hypertrichosis (hereditary full-body hairiness), commonly known as “werewolf syndrome”, has seen Mexico’s Gomez-Aceves family listed in the 2000 Guinness Book of Records as the world’s hairiest family. Some members have achieved further celebrity status as wolf children in local circuses.

Louisa Lilia Lira de Aceves is the best-known female family member. Her hirsutism has been proposed as a genetic atavism, a “throwback” to an earlier evolutionary stage. Such thinking perpetuates Social Darwinist anxieties in the face of humanity that does not conform to the norm. However, human difference was not always viewed in this light.

Hirsute marvels

When the hairy Gonsalvus sisters received public attention in 16th-century Europe, for instance, they did so as marvels rather than monsters. Seen as evidence of divine wit and inventiveness, they led privileged lives as members of royal retinues in France and Italy.

The sisters, whose equally hirsute father had been captured as a child on the Canary Islands and brought to the French court of Henry II, lived in an age of colonial expansion marked by conquest, discovery and wonder.

Lavinia Fontana Portrait of Antonietta Gonsalvus.
Wikimedia Commons

The family’s hirsutism was viewed in the same light as the other extraordinary flora, fauna and peoples being brought back to Europe from the New World. Their place in the royal entourage was seen to demonstrate the king’s erudition and power, rather than voyeurism as we understand it today.

The religious iconography of the age also provided a sympathetic model of the hairy woman. A hairy pelt symbolised saints’ and wild folk’s penitential rejection of society’s vanities, in favour of a more virtuous co-existence with the wilderness.

Contemporary readings

Similar sentiments have resurfaced in contemporary times. In fiction and film, the female werewolf has increasingly been presented as gaining virtue and empowerment from, rather than being corrupted by, her lupine self. Novelist Angela Carter opened the floodgate in 1979 with her feminist re-writings of fairy stories, The Bloody Chamber, notable for her re-imagined Little Red Riding Hood that borrows heavily from archaic versions of the tale.

Carter’s newly menstruating Red is more than happy to usurp her grandmother’s place in the bed, embracing the wolf and growing her own pelt by morning.

In breaking with taboo, Carter provides a template for Red Riding Hood as a coming of age tale. In Carter’s version, the onset of menses represents a pubescent girl’s sexual awakening, her transforming body and appetites signalling, and celebrating, her becoming one with the wolf.

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This, in turn, has led to a uniquely feminine manifestation of lycanthropy (werewolfism) whereby a new generation of novelists and filmmakers draw on the correlations between the werewolf’s lunar cycle and a woman’s monthly cycle.

Independent filmmaker Jacqueline Garry employs this motif in her 1999 film, The Curse. Garry’s heroine, Frida Harris, was inspired by 1980’s news reports about Sandie Craddock, a UK barmaid who stabbed her co-worker to death.

Journal entries and psychiatric reports testified that Craddock was rational for most of the month. However, during her “moon time” (ie in the days surrounding her menstruation), she experienced uncharacteristic aggression. Craddock was released on the grounds of extreme PMS with a court order to take hormone replacements.

The menstrual-werewolf motif is also central to the cult Canadian film, Ginger Snaps (2000), in which suburban teenager Ginger Fitzgerald is attacked by a werewolf attracted to the smell of her first menses. Ginger’s alarming transformations include insatiable appetites and unwelcome body hair. This, in turn, causes increasing anxiety for her conflicted younger sister, Brigitte, who is forced to come to terms with her own nascent sexuality.

The third instalment in the trilogy, Ginger Snaps Back: the beginning comes full circle, returning the sisters to Canada’s pioneer past. There, Old World superstitions cast the sisters as inherently susceptible to demonic suggestion.

The nebulous figure of the female werewolf has encompassed different, often contradictory, identities over time, absorbing changing perceptions of women, wolves, morality and the monstrous.

The advent of menstrual lycanthropes and Red Riding Wolves is part of an ongoing evolution and revolution in werewolf lore. Borrowing from the past, it creates new imaginative possibilities for the lupine woman.

The Conversation

 

The real-life origins of the legendary Kraken

Original article on The Conversation by Rodrigo Brincalepe Salvador –PhD student in Paleontology, University of Tubingen

The Kraken is perhaps the largest monster ever imagined by mankind. In Nordic folklore, it was said to haunt the seas from Norway through Iceland and all the way to Greenland. The Kraken had a knack for harassing ships and many pseudoscientific reports (including official naval ones) said it would attack vessels with its strong arms. If this strategy failed, the beast would start swimming in circles around the ship, creating a fierce maelstrom to drag the vessel down.

Of course, to be worth its salt, a monster needs to have a taste for human flesh. Legends say that the Kraken could devour a ship’s entire crew at once. But despite its fearsome reputation, the monster could also bring benefits: it swam accompanied by huge schools of fish that cascaded down its back when it emerged from the water. Brave fishermen could thus risk going near the beast to secure a bounteous catch.

The history of the Kraken goes back to an account written in 1180 by King Sverre of Norway. As with many legends, the Kraken started with something real, based on sightings of a real animal, the giant squid. For the ancient navigators, the sea was treacherous and dangerous, hiding a horde of monsters in its inconceivable depths. Any encounter with an unknown animal could gain a mythological edge from sailors’ stories. After all, the tale grows in the telling.

Scientific legend

Giant squid found in Ranheim, Norway, measured by Professors Erling Sivertsen and Svein Haftorn. NTNU Museum of Natural History and Archaeology, 1954

The strength of the myth became so strong that the Kraken could still be found in Europe’s first modern scientific surveys of the natural world in the 18th century. Not even Carl Linnaeus – father of modern biological classification – could avoid it and he included the Kraken among the cephalopod mollusks in the first edition of his groundbreaking Systema Naturae (1735).

But when, in 1853, a giant cephalopod was found stranded on a Danish beach, Norwegian naturalist Japetus Steenstrup recovered the animal’s beak and used it to scientifically describe the giant squid, Architeuthis dux. And so what had become legend officially entered the annals of science, returning our image of the Kraken to the animal that originated the myths.

After 150 years of research into the giant squid that inhabits all the world’s oceans, there is still much debate as to whether they represent a single species or as many as 20. The largest Architeuthis recorded reaches 18 metres in length, including the very long pair of tentacles, but the vast majority of specimens are much smaller. The giant squid’s eyes are the largest in the animal kingdom and are crucial in the dark depths it inhabits (up to 1,100 metres deep, perhaps reaching 2,000 metres).

Like some other squid species, Architeuthis has pockets in its muscles containing an ammonium solution that is less dense than sea water. This allows the animal to float underwater, meaning that it can keep itself steady without actively swimming. The presence of unpalatable ammonium in their muscles is also probably the reason why giant squid have not yet been fished to near extinction.

Hunter or prey?

For many years, scientists debated whether the giant squid was a swift and agile hunter like the powerful predator of legends or an ambush hunter. After decades of discussion, a welcome answer came in 2005 with the unprecedented film footage from Japanese researchers T. Kubodera and K. Mori. They filmed a live Architeuthis in its natural habitat, 900m deep in the North Pacific, showing that it is in fact a fast and powerful swimmer, using its tentacles to capture prey.

Reconstruction of an epic battle between a giant squid and its nemesis, the sperm whale. American Museum of Natural History.

Despite its size and speed, Architeuthis has a predator: the sperm whale. The battles between these titans must be frequent, since it is common to find scars on whales’ skins left by the squids’ tentacles and arms, which have suckers lined with sharp chitinous tooth-like structures. But Architeuthis doesn’t have the muscles in its tentacles to use them to constrict prey and it can never overcome a sperm whale in a “duel”. Its only option is to flee, covering its escape with the usual cephalopod ink cloud.

Although we now know it is not just a legend, the giant squid remains perhaps the most elusive large animal in the world, which has greatly contributed to its aura of mystery. Many people today are still surprised in learning that it really exists. After all, even after so much scientific research, the Kraken is still alive in popular imagination thanks to films, books and computer games, even if it sometimes turns up in the wrong mythology, such as the 1981 (and 2010) ancient Greek epic Clash of the Titans. These representations have come to define it in the public mind: a beast lurking in sunken ships waiting for reckless divers

Beware The Slenderman: how users created the Boogieman of the internet

Original article on The Conversation by Adam Daniel – Ph.d Candidate, Western Sydney University

For as long as humans have been interacting with new media technologies, they have also created monsters to haunt them. When photography became mainstream in the late 19th century, for example, it wasn’t long before entertainers and spiritualists were using the technology to “capture spirits” through the process of double exposure.

Similarly, the radio, the telegraph, the cinema and video have all become, at various points, “haunted” as their presence in modern life became more ubiquitous.

It is therefore unsurprising that the internet gave birth to its own boogieman: a supernatural creature called the Slenderman. The preternaturally tall and faceless man in a black suit is the subject of the HBO documentary Beware The Slenderman, released today.

The documentary will examine the mythology of the Slenderman and the horrific 2014 “Slenderman stabbing”, involving two US 12 year-olds who attempted to murder their friend in order to prove their loyalty to him.

Victor Surge’s original Slenderman image #1. Victor Surge/Deviant Art

The Slenderman came to life in June of 2009 in a post on the website Something Awful called Create Paranormal Images.

Credited to Victor Surge, an alias for artist Eric Knudsen, the Slenderman began simply as two photoshopped pictures. In each they revealed an unusually tall, faceless man with tentacles growing from his back, watching over a group of children.

These two simple photos instigated a communal act of creating the Slenderman’s mythology, an early example of what has come to be known as creepypasta: short form horror stories, often in the form of fake eyewitness accounts, that were easily shared via the internet.

These creepypastas became “digital campfires”, a virtual location that in some manner replicates the old act of telling scary stories around a campfire.

Victor Surge’s original Slenderman image #2. Victor Surge/Deviant Art

It could be argued that in a sense the Slenderman is a tulpa: a Buddhist term used to describe a being brought into creation through collective thought. Victor Surge described Slenderman’s proliferation as an “accelerated urban legend”. It differs from earlier urban legends in that, despite the audience’s awareness of its origins, it still managed to spread.

Key to the dispersal of the Slenderman legend is the manner in which he transcended the medium that created him. He quickly moved from photoshopped pictures, to web stories, and then into the various other forms of media, from the webseries Marble Hornets and TribeTwelve, to video games such as Slender: The Arrival and even into the cinema (in a poorly received low budget horror film).

Slender: The Arrival video game. from http://www.theslenderman.wikia.com

In an age of scepticism and increasing access to information, how do we account for this growth of a mythological monster? Horror scholar Isabel Pinedo poses one possible explanation, in that horror narratives can be an “exercise in recreational terror… not unlike a roller coaster ride.” In the case of the Slenderman, the communal participation in his creation is a way to bring about the pleasurable aspects of scaring ourselves, with the safety of knowing he is just a fictional construct.

However, even the participants of the original forum identified the risks in doing so. A user named Soakie was one of the first to identify the Slenderman as a potential tulpa, writing:

Even if we don’t really believe in supernatural, even if our rational minds laugh at such an absurdity … we are cutting [the Slender Man] out and sewing him together. We’re stuffing him with nightmares and unspoken fears. And what happens when the pictures are no longer photoshops?

One terrifying answer to this question emerged in May of 2014 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, when two 12 year-old girls allegedly enticed a third 12 year-old girl to follow them into the woods (a location which figures prominently in the Slenderman mythology). After doing so, they allegedly stabbed her 19 times in an attempt to prove their worth as Slenderman proxies.

The victim survived, having crawled to a nearby roadside where she was discovered by a passing cyclist. She has since recovered. It is this act, and the origins of the delusions of the two perpetrators, that is the subject of the HBO documentary.

Screenshot from Marble Hornets. DeLage/Wagner

What is clear from this event, and the Slenderman’s still evolving presence as an internet boogieman, is that unlike the urban legends of the pre-internet world, these new monsters may become untethered to their fictional origins. Despite a general awareness of his artificial creation, the Slenderman has, like Frankenstein’s monster, been stitched together by communal storytelling and escaped the bounds of his creator’s intentions to simply scare the members of the original forum.

Part of the Slenderman mythology is the Slender Sickness, a fictional illness that affects those who have been in the presence of the monster. Its symptoms include coughing fits, memory loss and, ironically, irrational acts of violence.

While it is highly likely that mental illness contributed to the actions of the perpetrators of the Slenderman stabbing, it’s also worth examining the effects of the new monsters of the internet and how effortlessly they can escape the bounds of “recreational terror”.

Digital Abundance in Publishing isn’t killing Culture – It’s saving it

Note: This is an essay I wrote recently for my degree and even though it has a strong Australian Publishing focus I still thought I’d share.

‘Publishing finds itself in the midst of a “phase shift” from the scarcity model of print to a complex, new world of digital abundance,’ (Lichtenberg 2011) and it is this shift that not only has seen the birth of the eBook, but forced traditional publishing houses to readjust their business models and created an insurgence of self-published writers into the market.

This wealth of books is predominately due to the changes in book production technology itself ‘which has enabled digital publishing, distribution and retailing, and the introduction of hand- held digital reading platforms and devices’ (Zwar 2016) forcing a change in marketing, promotion and book store trade, but also creating new and innovative opportunities for Australian writers and stories.

Literary writer and critic Jonathan Franzen famously claimed in an interview with The Guardian that self-publishing ‘is decimating literary culture in favour of the “yakkers and tweeters and braggers”(Bury, 2013) but the impact of self-publishing and its ‘economic and cultural significance…means that it should, finally, be taken seriously by scholars’ (Baker 2015) and not simply dismissed as a mere ‘vanity.’

Dramatic change within the publishing industry is not new and despite the pessimism in the 2000s about the future of books, ‘global sales of books (including print and eBooks) remain strong’ (Throsby 2015).

The first eBook was made available in July 1971, and known as ‘eText #1 of Project Gutenberg, a visionary project launched by Michael Hart’ (Lebert 2009) in order to create electronic versions of literary works and make them available worldwide. With the internet born in 1974 and the release of the first browser Mosaic in 1993, the internet could now be used by anyone and authors, booksellers and publishers began ‘participating in heated debates on copyright issues and distribution control’(Lebert 2009). Although Project Gutenberg began the digital book process in the seventies, when thriller writer Peter James published his novel Host onto two floppy discs in 1993 he was ‘accused of killing the novel’ (Flood 2014) and ‘attacked as the harbinger of the apocalypse which would destroy literature’ (Flood 2014).

Despite the uproar, publishing had already started to became more mainstream in the mid-1990s with publishing disrupted first with photocopiers and digital printing accelerating book distribution, as well as print and digitised books beginning to be produced simultaneously. Books were suddenly easier to manufacture and distribute and ‘Australian publishers and printers were strongly encouraged to rethink their business’ (Carter and Galligan 2007) in order to take advantage and benefit from the new technologies.

In 1995 Amazon.com became the first online bookstore when it was launched by Jeff Bezos, creating a warehouse to consumer platform that changed how people buy books. Two years later leading bookseller Barnes and Noble created a new website to compete, publishing books through its own imprint for exclusive sale to boost trade, and other major book retailers soon followed. Digital reading devices were available as early as 1996 with Palm Pilots and smart phone reading apps as of 2001 with the Nokia 9210. When Amazon released the Kindle in 2007 it famously sold out worldwide in five and a half hours and the eBook became a new and ultra competitive publishing branch. This wrestle for eBook market domination came under legal fire when in 2014 Apple was charged with colluding with the Top 5 publishing houses to artificially raise the price of eBooks and was forced to repay 450 million dollars to their consumers.

Smaller online book sellers as well as ‘bricks and mortar’ stores suffered from the pricing wars of the larger booksellers with the ‘commercial and cultural effects felt worldwide’ (Carter and Galligan 2007). This internet trade market also created an issue with custom taxes and in 1997 the internet was ‘decided a free trade area…without any custom taxes for software, films and digital books bought online’ (Lebert 2009). International copy write and importation laws are still currently debated within Australia. The recent bid by the Productivity Commission to consent to parallel importation and reducing the copy write law to only fifteen years sent authors and publishers into an uproar.

Writers themselves embraced the internet and the ease with which they could publish and distribute their works through their own blogs and websites. In 2007 Amazon launched Kindle Direct Publishing concurrently with the Kindle device so that all publishers and writers could produce and sell to readers through their site. Worldwide platforms now include Ingram Spark, Smashwords and Lulu with accompanying Print on Demand imprints that allow readers to buy paperbacks of independent works.

‘Despite royalty rates of 70%, I think self-publishing is a terrible idea for serious novelists,’ claims literature writer Ros Barber (Guardian 2016) who is one of many who shares the misguided view that self-publishing is ‘seen as amateur, even as illegitimate’ (Baker 2015) when in fact self-publishing has a long history of our most beloved literature writers such as Charles Dickens, Walt Whiteman, Jane Austin and Marcel Proust forced to release their works on their own. Another criticism is that self published works aren’t edited to the same standard but traditional publishing does not necessarily guarantee quality, as there is ‘pressure to publish more books more quickly than ever’ (Opinionator, 2016) which results in errors like the famous continuity issues in the hugely successful The Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris (Harris, 2016).

A recent study undertaken by Macquarie University revealed that ‘one in five (19%) authors have self-published a print book or an eBook or both’ (Throsby 2015) in Australia in 2014 with genre fiction writers the most active in this field. Self-publishing has in many ways facilitated a way for writers to produce work freely without the restrictions of industry gatekeepers, and at least 59.4% of writers citing the reason behind their choice to self-publish was ‘to have creative and financial control of their work’ (Throsby 2015). With ‘65% of self-published writers being women’ (Baverstock 2013) it also has given an opportunity for glass ceilings to be broken and allowed new works to reach broader markets.

With so many additional writers being able to release their works, the market has grown abundantly with self-publishing representing ‘31 % of e-book sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store’ (Sargent 2014). This growth has allowed independent works to compete with traditional publishers but also has made discoverability more difficult. Self-published writers need to be marketers and self promoters as much as writers in order to reach their readers. Traditional publishing houses now expect their writers to engage in their own advertising as marketing budgets have shrunk and major publishers only focus the bulk of their promotion on their front list writers.

Writers must be proficient in ‘marketing, publicity, technology, and legal matters’ (Griffith University 2014) in addition to creating their original work. Self-published writers have embraced this as a part of publishing, while some traditionally published writers struggle with the idea of self-promotion as there is an expectation that the publishing house will market their work for them.

Despite criticism about ‘legitimacy’ self-publishing is growing with literature writers like Louise Walters experiencing the benefits when her publisher dropped her after her first book, and garnering the endorsement of the hugely successful, graphic novel trailblazer Alan Moore who recently stated that “most book publishers don’t want to take a risk on fiction” with his advice to instead “publish yourself. It’s become easier and easier”(The Digital Reader, 2016).

With new services such as Reedsey to assist in connecting writers to industry specialists such as designers and editors, self- publishing is moving through a new phase of professionalism with writers considering it a viable first option and not just as a ‘vain’ one after too many rejections from traditional houses.

Even lacking the obvious benefit of bigger marketing budgets and chain store distribution options like Big W and Dymocks, high quality self-published books have become a practical, legitimate part of the publishing industry that competes easily with traditional houses.

Australia is one of the world’s largest markets for books with an annual estimated turnover of $2.1 billion per year. The internet, TV and social media haven’t made books redundant but publishers are now aware that they have to find new ways to compete with these options in reader’s spare time.

Michelle Laforest from Harlequin Australia sees eBooks ‘as a format that gives publishers the opportunities to reach new markets in cost effective ways, and social media us giving tools to engage readers,’(Zwar 2016) and this attitude is reflected in the launch of Harlequin’s digital only imprint Escape Publishing in 2012.

In 2014 an overview by Nielsen BookScan reported an increase in Australia’s total book sales of 2.3% in volume and 2 % in value, mainly due to increased sales of children’s books. With Australia being one of the larger English speaking markets, authors are often networked in countries like the UK, US, Canada and New Zealand, giving them a larger international reach and income.

Presently, ‘approximately 33-36 percent of trade books sold in Australia are written by Australian authors according to industry estimates,’(Zwar 2016) but digital publishing is providing new opportunities for author’s to earn extra money through the publishing of their backlists and more daring projects.

In the academic fields, a digital marketplace provides opportunities for scholars to more easily share the wider findings of their research and engage new students. Traditional houses such as Momentum are taking on newer genres and more experimental works as well as Harlequin using their Escape imprint to take chances on a larger range of romance titles.

Opportunities in print are vastly smaller than its digital counterpart with traditional houses such as Allen and Unwin only selecting three different titles a year to do major promotional support, often beginning their campaigns a year in advance. Publishers often have difficulty convincing booksellers to buy in bulk, limiting the chances of sales on both sides if it is successful, with the majority of titles sold through large department stores such as Big W, who stock a wide range of genres for book buyers at discounted prices.

It is because of numerous logistics in traditional publishing such as higher costs in distribution, limited budgets and the change to the retail bookstore environment that make paperback publishing constrained and not as environmentally friendly, logistically sound or as profitable as digital.

The digital marketplace continues to provide opportunities for ‘scholarly publishers to participate in open access publishing – giving away content for free – while selling print format books’ (Zwar 2016) and for traditional fiction publishers releasing in an eBook means suffering less financial risk due to the minimised cost of producing digital works.

Digital publishing has no limitations when it comes to innovation with new technology constantly facilitating fresh ways of telling stories. Interactive books are now able to read and engage with children, unique apps are being perfected to help those with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, as well eBooks being ‘sound tracked,’ through companies like Book Track or collaborated with bands such as Hugh Howie recently announcing his deal with Imagine Dragons to compose his Silo Series.

Despite the upheaval and general disarray in the industry claimed by traditional Australian publishing houses in the past five years, ‘40% of authors respond that there is no change, 15% are better off and 15% are worse off ’ (Zwar 2016). Taking into account ‘the average income derived from practising as an author is $12,900’ (Zwar 2016) and publishing houses offering smaller advances, there are few authors in Australia that can afford to write full time on the traditional structure. Digital publishing has facilitated new prospects for these writers to be published through digital imprints, such as Escape and Momentum, or to publish it themselves to find their audiences. Despite the remaining stigma ‘over one quarter of authors have self-published work,’ (Zwar 2016) in order to keep their older titles available and supplement their writing income.

The Australian Book Industry is served by a framework of publishers, agents, writer’s centres, writer support networks and various university degrees in creative and professional writing. With the Federal Government’s recent slashes to arts budgets ‘our culture is in crisis. It is a crisis cutting deep and hard across our whole nation, forcing us to confront some of the most basic questions we as a people could ask” (Sewell, 2016).  Digital and self –publishing, while creating abundance and upheaval, should no longer be viewed as an undesirable result of technology but an opportunity for modernisation in the Australian Market and as a way to preserve Australia’s culture of talented writers and strong, diverse voices.

 

Bibliography

Bury, L. (2013). Amazon model favours yakkers and braggers, says Jonathan Franzen. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/sep/13/amazon-yakkers-braggers-jonathan-franzen [Accessed 23 Oct. 2016].

Lichtenberg, J. (2011). In from the Edge: The Progressive Evolution of Publishing in the Age of Digital Abundance. Publishing Research Quarterly, 27(2), pp.101-112.

Zwar, J. (2016) Disruption and innovation in the Australian book industry: Case studies of trade and education publishers. Macquarie Economics Research Papers. pp.1.  

Baker. D. (2015). Self-publishing matters – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. [online] Available at: http://theconversation.com/self-publishing-matters-dont-let-anyone-tell-you-otherwise-37986

Throsby,D (2015). Book authors and their changing circumstances: Survey method and results. Macquarie Economics Research Papers. pp.1.  

Lebert, M., 2009. A short history of ebooks. University of Toronto, 2009 p.p.6

Flood, A. (2014). Where did the story of ebooks begin?. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/12/ebooks-begin-medium-reading-peter-james

Lebert, M., 2009. A short history of ebooks. University of Toronto, 2009 p.23

Carter, D. and Galligan, A. (2007). Making books. St. Lucia, Qld.: University of Queensland Press.p152

Austlii.edu.au. (2016). COPYRIGHT ACT 1968. [online] Available at: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ca1968133/

Zwar, J. (2016) Disruption and innovation in the Australian book industry: Case studies of trade and education publishers. Macquarie Economics Research Papers. pp.296.  

The Guardian. (2016). For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2016/mar/21/for-me-traditional-publishing-means-poverty-but-self-publish-no-way [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].

Opinionator. (2016). The Price of Typos. [online] Available at: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/17/the-price-of-typos/?_r=0 [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].

Charlaine Harris. (2016). Charlaine Harris Frequently Asked Questions. [online] Available at: http://charlaineharris.com/?page_id=69 [Accessed 27 Oct. 2016].

Baverstock, A. and Steinitz, J. (2013), Who are the self-publishers?. Learned Publishing, 26: 211–223.

Sargent B. (2014). Surprising Self-Publishing Statistics. [online] Available at: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/pw-select/article/63455-surprising-self-publishing-statistics.html/

Study Guide CWR320 Publishing in the Market Place 2014, School of Humanities, Griffith University, Brisbane pg 45

The Digital Reader. (2016). Alan Moore’s Advice to Authors: Self-Publish, Because “Publishing’s a Complete Mess” | The Digital Reader. [online]

Sewell, S. (2016). Friday essay: the arts and our still-born national identity. [online] The Conversation. Available at: http://theconversation.com/friday-essay-the-arts-and-our-still-born-national-identity-68434 [Accessed 20 Nov. 2016].

 

Rare coin from King Antiochus’s rule discovered in Jerusalem

I’m currently studying The Dead Sea Scrolls as a part of my university degree and one of the areas of the Second Temple Period we cover is to do with King Antiochus and the Maccabean revolt. It was such a buzz that this was found this week as I read all about it! – Amy

 

An image of the coin

An image of the coin. (photo credit:TOWER OF DAVID MUSEUM)

Original Article found here on Jerusalem Post

Antiochus sparked the Maccabean revolt that led to the victory of the Maccabees and reclaiming of the Temple.

Nearly 30 years after the completion of excavations in the courtyard of Jerusalem’s Tower of David, outside the Old City’s walls, archeologists thought no stone was left unturned. However, during routine conservation work in the museum’s archeological garden, Orna Cohen, veteran archeologist and chief conservation officer at the Tower of David, spotted a metallic item among stones near a wall.

Upon closer inspection, Cohen determined the object was a bronze-leaf cent, once used in Jerusalem during the days of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, a decidedly unwelcome guest in the history of the city.

Antiochus was a reviled king who made draconian decrees, sparking the Maccabean revolt that led to the victory of the Maccabees and the reclamation of the Temple.

The coin was found near the Hasmonean walls that cut through the center of the citadel’s courtyard, next to the tower base built during the day of Yonaton and Shimon, brothers of Judah the Maccabee.

During the original excavation of the Tower of David, ballista stones and iron arrowheads were found, evidence of the battles that took place in Jerusalem in the days when the city struggled for independence against the rulers of the Seleucids.

A portrait of Antiochus is engraved on one side of the coin, which was worth roughly 10 agorot back then. On the other side, a goddess is shown wrapped in a scarf.

While researchers are having difficulty dating the relic with precision, it is known that such coins were minted in Acre, a city on the northern shore of Israel that was once called Antiochia Ptolemais, after Ptolemy, and as such the coin is dated sometime between 172 and 168 BCE.

Eilat Lieber, director of the Tower of David, said the timing of the finding is auspicious.

“It is thrilling to hold in your hand a piece of history that brings the stories of Hanukka right up to present day,” he said.