Passover: the First Cup

Passover comes after Purim and is my favorite holiday, since it celebrates a successful slave revolt. Whether that revolt actually happened is irrelevant; what matters is that the Passover legend shaped the consciousness of the Jewish people and was adopted by other people struggling to liberate themselves—most notably African slaves in the United States. The […]

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Esther = Ishtar: the Pagan Origins of Purim

Cakes for Purim Purim has been called “the Jewish Halloween.” In its origins, however, I’d say it was more like Carnival. On Purim Jews in various countries dress up in costumes, get drunk, put on plays, sing, parade, burn effigies of Haman (the traditional enemy), and eat little triangular filled cakes. Central to the holiday […]

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Oil for the Lamps of Assyria

Natural oil seep, Iraq You and I live in a petroleum-based global economy. Most likely you’ve heard of the theory of “peak oil,” meaning that there’s only so much oil in the ground. Once we start running out, prices will skyrocket. Scientists, economists, and oil industry representatives have been arguing about this theory for years. […]

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Scurrilous Cartoons in Ancient Egypt

It has been quite a week for the cartoon industry. Seems like everyone either insists they are Charlie, or wants to murder them. I checked out the Charlie Hebdo covers published by The Huffington Post and found them adolescent and poorly drawn, sometimes obscene but never particularly funny. Certainly not worth the effort of killing […]

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Surgery in Ancient Egypt

Last week I blogged about how copper, known to the ancient Egyptians as a means of fighting infection, is being revived now as an antimicrobial agent in hospitals. The Egyptians were good at surgery as well. You were more likely to survive an amputation in that time and place than in Medieval Europe, because the […]

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