Connect with us
Advertisement

Gilgamesh in Jericho

Benson C Saili
THIS EARTH, MY BROTHER   

Drifting King of Uruk within sniffing distance of Abode of Noah?


The death of Enkidu weighed heavily on Gilgamesh’s mind. He just could not get over it no matter how hard he tried.   His sorrowing was two-pronged.  First, he had lost a great friend, in fact the greatest of them all. 

Second, he was again confronted with the reality of the enemy he hated and dreaded the most – death. The same dilemma of yesteryears laid siege to him again: why should he die like Enkidu when he was three-quarters Anunnaki, more than a demigod? No, he said to himself, death was something that he had to avoid at all costs ad with every fibre of his being. And if he was indeed to ward it off, he should not trace his way back to Uruk but soldier on to Tilmun, the Anunnaki spaceport in the Sinai Peninsula. There, he’d either plead his way into a space-bound rocket or seek Noah, the hero of the Deluge, to boost him with the Elixir of Youth. Then death would be banished forever!

Now, without a ship, how was he going to get to Tilmun? He could hike a passing ship, which would be all too easy for him being a renowned king, but suppose there was another sabotage shipwreck or chance shipwreck and this time around he died?  He just could not afford to take chances when he was on his way to possibly attain immortality. The safer route to take, he reckoned, was the overland one, bang on foot. It would be arduous and likely perilous given the vagaries of weather and the beasts of prey that roamed the vast expanse of the mid-eastern wilds.  To get to Tilmun, he would have to traverse a distance of about 550 leagues, roughly 3000 km.

We’re talking months here, not mere days or weeks. But the task at hand far from daunted him. He had made lengthy overland ventures on foot in the past along with his father Lugalbanda as well as Enkidu himself and therefore was a seasoned adventurer. The only difference was that whereas in the past he had been with plenty of company, this time around he’d be all by himself. 

Salvaging what he could from the wrecked ship, in terms of both food and weaponry, the familiar bow and arrow and an axe, he set off alone, desolate with sorrow, on arguably the most daring journey of his life.   “To Utnapishtim (Noah) the son of Ubar-Tutu (Lamech), he took the road,” says The Epic of Gilgamesh.

THE TRAVAILS OF THE TRAVELLER

The journey was gruelling and bereft of certainty: every direction was a gamble. It was literally a leap in the dark. “He trod unbeaten paths, encountering no man, hunting for food,” the ancient scribes document for us.  "What mountains he climbed, what streams he crossed, no man can know.”

As he trudged along, Gilgamesh kept up a mental dialogue with himself and a constant invocation of his gods. During the day, he prayed to Shamash, the Sun God, and during the night, he prayed to Nannar-Sin, the Moon God. And all the while, Enkidu continue to sit astride his mind still.  “For his friend, Enkidu, Gilgamesh wept bitterly as he ranged over the wilderness.” At the same time, he implored the gods to keep death well at bay, to preserve his life as he journeyed along, as he was determined to reach the Land of the Living.

“With woe in his belly, fearing death, he roamed the wilderness … Must I lay my head inside the earth and sleep through all the years? he wondered to his gods. When I die, shall I not as Enkidu be? Let mine eyes behold the sun, let me have my fill of light, he begged of the gods.”

Although he ate frugally, the food he had carried in his haversack could not sustain him forever. When it ran out, he had only two possible means of sustenance – wild animals and wild fruits. That again depended on how hospitable a habitat was to flora and fauna. So far, he had been matching down generally barren land, with lizards and scorpions as the only creatures he encountered, both of which were not in the least appetising. 

During the day, the desert sun blazed down on him, severely taxing his energies, and during the night the extreme cold of the desert stung him to virtual immobility. But if his great friend Enkidu had passed on, boldness now was his friend. He swore to himself he would persevere for as long as he had   the merest ounce of energy in him. Occasionally, he’d encounter an oasis and would drink gargantuan quantities of water. Once in a very long while, he’d come across desertic plants and would greedily feed on the sap of their roots.   

GILGAMESH TANGLES WITH TWO LIONS – AND TRIUMPHS!

Amid his travails nonetheless, Gilgamesh was gaining ground and instinct – or was it his gods – was leading him in the right direction. He had unwittingly been heading due northwest.  “As day followed day, the terrain began to change: the flat desert wilderness, home of lizards and scorpions, was ending and he could see mountains in the distance. The wildlife was also changing.” This development gave him a tremendous fillip, only  for his spirits to sag yet again.

Having set foot in what he hoped was Nannar-Sin’s territory, that is Canaan, and arriving at a mountain pass at dusk, he from a distance spotted a pride of desert lions lying as if in ambush. He felt an almost numbing chill crawl up his spine.  He couldn’t run, for even if he still had the energy to do so, they would catch up with him anyway. And the idea of making a U-turn was simply out of question. He’d rather he was mauled by the lions than make a retreat.

The first thing he did was to pray to the god of the region, Sin. “To the place where the gods rejuvenate my steps are directed … Preserve thou me!” The prayers steadied his nerves and eventually  he fell asleep as he sat leaning against a rock. It was a sound sleep in that he dreamt. And the dream was all joy and happiness and not gloom and doom.

When he woke up in the middle of the  night, he was buoyed up as he interpreted the dream  to mean he would prevail against all odds. Thus inspirited,  he advanced to confront the still lingering giant cats, armed only with a  bow and arrows and a tucked in axe. He had to be pin-point accurate in his aim: the lions were quite a number and he only had a limited number of arrows.

He had his well-honed hunting skills to thank. “Gilgamesh like an arrow descended among the lions, striking the beasts with all his strength.” Unfortunately, he ran out of arrows when there were two more lions to take care of. To tackle these ones, he had to employ another weapon. Enkidu had taught him how to fight the fiercest beasts but since he wasn’t at full strength, engaging two full-grown  lions in combat at one go would be foolhardy.

Bravely inching closer, he drew his axe from his belt and squared up to fight them. He was indomitable.  He pole-axed the more menacing one first. When the other saw what he had done to its companion, it charged at him, but he dodged in the nick of time. Minutes later, man had triumphed:  the King of Beasts was slain by the King of Uruk. “He smote them, he hacked away at them,”  The Epic of Gilgamesh says.

The Gilgamesh feat was commemorated throughout the ancient world by artists who included the Hittites, the Cassites, the Egyptians, and the Mayans of the northern Andes in South America. A Sumerian cylinder seal, from circa 1700 BC, which illustrated scenes from the epic tale, shows a half-naked and unkempt Gilgamesh battling the two lions. The Old Testament’s Samson story – of him  killing a lion (JUDGES 14:4-6) – was modelled on the Gilgamesh story.

Having vanquished the lions, Gilgamesh first threw a  party,  exhilarated that his destruction of the two beasts, practically  with his bare hands, was a very good omen indeed. “He ate their flesh as raw meat, with their skins he clothed himself … It was an omen that he will  overcome all obstacles, he believed.”

GILGAMESH IN CANAAN AT LONG LAST!

Early the following morning, Gilgamesh proceeded to cross the mountain pass, trekking in a much more purposeful  manner now having traversed a distance of over 375 leagues, or 2100 km. A huge sense of relief suffused him when at the foot of the mountain he spotted two major landmarks. 

The first was a shimmering body of water, a “low-lying sea that looked like a vast lake” which he would later learn was “driven by long winds.”  Gilgamesh knew about what his people called the “Salt Sea” or the “Sea of the Waters of Death”. In the Bible, it is called Yam Hamelalb, meaning “The Sea of Salt”. Today, we call it the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the only one of its kind in the world. At 430 metres below sea level, it is the lowest body of water on the planet.  The sea is the world’s most saline (salty) and it is so saturated with dissolved minerals that it cannot sustain plant or marine life, the reason it is called a dead sea.

The second principal landmark Gilgamesh made out about 15 km into the plain adjoining the inland sea was a “closed up about” city “whose temple was dedicated to Sin”. This was a city fortified with a wall. In the Bible, the city is called Yeriho, meaning “Moon City”. This is Jericho in English. Jericho was named in honour of Nannar-Sin, the Anunnaki’s Moon God who was the overall god of   Canaan.  Jericho was Gilgamesh’s first encounter with civilisation after months of endless wandering. One of the oldest cities in the world, Jericho was in existence as early as 7000 BC and had been a flourishing urban centre since 3500 BC. The saga of Gilgamesh happened circa 2900 BC.

Skirting the Dead Sea, Gilgamesh headed in the direction of Jericho, at whose outskirts he saw what looked like  an inn. As he drew nearer, he saw a woman who was holding “a jug of ale, a bowl of golden porridge.” Gilgamesh’s unkempt appearance threw a shudder into her. "He is clad in skins … His belly is shrunk … His face is wind-bitten and battered. His face is like a wayfarer from afar.” Being all alone and concerned that he might be dangerous, she retreated into the inn and bolted herself in. 

For some time, Gilgamesh paced up and down the premises before he began knocking on the door intently. When she asked him who he was, he told her he was not a savage but was actually a monarch called Gilgamesh, the famous King of Uruk, and that there was no way he could harm her. In fact, he needed her help. Since he sounded gentlemanly, she unbolted the door and invited him in  but not without a residual sense of trepidation.

SIDURI CONFIRMS NOAH’S EXISTENCE

When the two sat across from each other, the lady introduced herself as “Siduri, the Ale Woman”. She was the owner of the tarvern she was running and brewed her own beer and Gilgamesh was quick to note that indeed there were   fermentation vats all around them. Siduri then asked him why he looked more like a tramp or criminal than a king. Gilgamesh patiently recounted to her all that he had been through, including encounters with Huwawa at the Cedar Mountains, the Gudanna at Uruk, the shipwreck in the Strait of Ormuz, the death of Enkidu, and the confrontation with the  desert lions at a mountain pass. 

 “I’m still grieving for Enkidu,” he said. “It was he who made me a better man many times over  and taught me a whole host of skills, including wrestling with beasts. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have had a prayer against those lions.” Since Gilgamesh wasn’t smelling that great, Siduri prepared him water to bath and whilst he was away she prepared food. About an hour later, Gilgamesh emerged from the bathroom.

Siduri was amazed at his wholesale transformation: he looked one hell of a hunk and almost as light-skinned as the gods – the Anunnaki.  She was now coming round to the conviction that he really did mean what he said: he was a king. It were months of hardship, the  caked dirt, and the dishevelled hair  that made him look so revolting and so disreputable. “I’m impressed,” she said as they ate together, looking at him admiringly now. “You look like a god.” 

Gilgamesh smiled. “I’m actually more than two-thirds god,” he said. “My father Lugalbanda was the son of the goddess Inanna-Ishtar. My mum Ninsun is a full goddess: she’s a daughter of the great god Enki and the great goddess Ninmah.”  “You surely have a great pedigree,” she said. “So what brings you here?”

“I come in search of my ancestor Utnapistim (Noah), the hero of the Deluge,” he said. “I’m given to understand that he’s still alive and he lives in the Land of the Living near Tilmun.  I’m hopeful that if I meet him, he’ll provide me with the Elixir of Life and I too will live forever like him, like the gods. My friend Enkidu was overtaken by the fate that awaits all mankind: he’s turned to clay. I want to avoid ending up like him.””

“Utnapishtim is very much alive  yes,” she admitted. “I have it on good authority that he dwells in the Land of the Living and has aged only marginally compared to the way he looked during the Deluge. So you seek immortality Gilgamesh? You too want to be like Utnapishtim?”
  “Correct. I don’t wish to die. After all, I have more of the gods’ blood in me than a mortal’s.”

GILGAMESH REFERRED TO NOAH’S BOATMAN

Siduri first laughed before she advised him to be content with his condition as a mortal and make the most of his sojourn in this world. But Gilgamesh simply was not persuaded. “What is the quickest way to Tilmun?” he asked. “Is it across the body of water or circling it overland through the desolate mountains?”

Siduri said the quickest route was across the Dead Sea but it  didn’t matter anyway: he’d never make it. “The Sea of the Waters of Death is impossible to cross,” she told him. “From days of long ago, no one arrived from across the sea. Valiant Shamash did cross the sea, but other than Shamash, who can cross it? Toilsome is the crossing, desolate is its way.  Barren are the Waters of Death which it encloses. How then, Gilgamesh, wouldst thou cross the sea?”

Paraphrased, what Siduri was saying was that only Shamash, the Lord of Tilmun, was able to cross the Dead Sea and that from the beginning of time, no mortal had ever been able to replicate his feat. The sea was so stormy and treacherous that even if Gilgamesh was to survive the ordeal of the crossing, he would still succumb to the poisonous Waters of Death.

For a while, Gilgamesh silently pondered what he had heard. It seemed there was no end to the obstacles on the way to Tilmun,  that every ray of hope was immediately nullified by a new road retarder. Noting that the man  from Uruk looked troubled, Siduri decided to lift his spirits a bit. She disclosed to him that Noah had a boatman who worked for him and his name was Urshanabi. Urshanabi, she said, lived in the forest where he kept custody of certain treasures of Noah.

He was the only mortal capable of navigating the waters of the Dead Sea. “Urshanabi comes across from time to time for supplies,” she said. “Go and wait for him, let him see your face. If it suits him, he will take you across the sea to Utnapishtim’s abode on a raft made of logs.” The revelation no doubt excited Gilgamesh. He straightaway asked for directions to Urshanabi’s cottage. Siduri did likewise, then said, with a suggestive wink, “If you don’t find him, please come back to me.” Clearly, the lone lady was smitten by the giant and good-looking royal. 
  
NEXT WEEK:  EUREKA MOMENT FOR GILGAMESH!

Continue Reading

Columns

A Begrudged Child

21st June 2022

Princess Diana was at once a child of destiny and a victim of fate

It is no secret, General Atiku, that the British monarch constitutes one of the most moneyed families on this scandalously uneven planet of the perennial haves on the one hand and the goddamn havenots (such as you and me General) on the other hand.

In terms of residences alone, the House of Windsor lays claim to some 19 homes, some official, such as Buckingham Place and Windsor Castle, for instance, and the greater majority privately owned.
Arguably the most eminent of its private residences is Sandringham House at Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, England.

It is at this sprawling, 8,100-hectare estate the Queen spends two months each winter, at once commemorates her father King George VI’s death and her own accession to the throne, and more often than not celebrates Christmas. King George VI and his father King George V both drew their last breath here.

A 19th century Prince of Wales, Albert Edward (who would later become King Edward VII), acquired Sandringham in 1862 and it has remained royal property ever since. On the death of King George VI in February 1952, the property passed to his successor Queen Elizabeth II, the incumbent monarch, who assigned her husband Prince Phillip its management and upkeep. The estate also houses a parish, St. Mary Magdalene Church, which the outwardly religious Queen attends every Sunday.

Albert, General, had several additional properties built on the estate the year after he acquired it, one of which was the ten-bedroomed Park House. The house was built to accommodate the overflow of guests at Sandringham House. In the 1930s, King George V leased Park House to Maurice Roche, an Irishman and a bosom friend to his second son, who at the time was Duke of York but would in future be King George VI.

Roche was the 4th Baron Fermoy, a title in the Peerage of Ireland created by Queen Victoria way back in 1856. He and his wife Ruth had three children born at Park House, the second-born of whom was Frances Ruth Roche (futuristically Frances Shand Kydd), born in January 1936.

In 1956, Frances married John Spencer, a fellow noble, and following an “uneasy spell” at Althorp, the Spencer family estate of 500 years, the couple took up residence at Park House, which would be their home for the next 19 years. On July 1, 1961, Frances, then aged 25, and John, then aged 37, welcomed into the world their thirdborn child and youngest daughter, Diana Frances Spencer.

She would, on a positive note, become Her Royal Highness Princess Diana of Wales and the most famous and popular member of the Royal family. On the flip side of the coin, she would, as you well know General, become the most tragic member of the Royal family.

GIRL CHILD WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN A BOY

If there was one thought that constantly nagged at Diana as a youngster, General, it was the “guilt” of having been born anyway. Her parents first had two daughters in succession, namely Elizabeth Sarah, born in 1955, and Cynthia Jane, born in 1957. Johnnie was displeasured, if not downright incensed, that his wife seemed incapable of producing a male child – a heir – who he desperately needed as an aristocrat.

He even took the trouble of having his wife see a series of doctors in a bid to establish whatever deficiency she possessed in her genetic make-up and whether it was possible to correct it. At the time, General, it was not known that it is the man who determines a child’s sex and not the woman.

John’s prayers, if we can call them that General, were as much answered as they were unanswered. The longed-for male heir was born on January 12, 1960. Named John after his father, he was, as per the official version of things, practically stillborn, being so piteously deformed and gravely ill that he was dead in a matter of only ten hours, a development of which Earl Spencer would in future remark thus, albeit with tongue-in-cheek: “It was a dreadful time for my parents and probably the root of their divorce because I don’t think they ever got over it.”

Again as per the official version, General, John was gutted and hurriedly got into stride, this time around utterly positive that having had two daughters in succession, it would be two sons in succession. But nature, General, is seldom that predictable or orderly.

The next child was in fact a daughter, the now iconic Diana, for the third time around. Although John is recorded as having marvelled at what a “perfect physical specimen” her newly-born daughter was, he was forlorn beneath the façade, as a result of which Diana, who as a child did sense a lingering frustration on the part of her father on her account, would openly intuit that she was an unwelcome child, a “nuisance to have around”, thanks to her “failure” to be born a boy. From a very age thus, General, Diana had concluded that she was not well-fated and presciently so!

Although the heir, Charles Spencer (the future Earl Spencer) finally arrived on May 20, 1964, Diana perceived very little if any change in the way she was contemplated by her parents. In fact, both she and Charles could not desist from wondering whether had John lived, they would have been born at all. Seemingly, they came to be simply because their father was desperate for a heir and not necessarily that he wanted two more children.  With the birth of Charles, General, John called it a day as far as the process of procreation was concerned.

GODDESS OF THE HUNT

Why was Diana so named, General? Throughout her life, it was taken as an article of faith that her name derived from Lady Diana Spencer, a member of the Spencer clan who lived between 1710 and 1735, dying at a pitifully tender age of only 25. Certainly, the two namesakes turned out to have precious much in common as we shall unpack at a later stage, as if the latter-day Diana’s life was deliberately manoeuvred to more or less sync with the ancestral Diana.

It emerged, however, General, that the connection to an ancestor was actually secondary, or maybe incidental. The primary inspiration of the name was at long last disclosed by Earl Spencer on September 7, 1997, the day of Princess Diana’s burial. Delivering the elegantly crafted eulogy, Earl Spencer had this to say in relation to her naming: “It is a point to remember that of all the ironies about Diana, perhaps the greatest was this – a girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting was, in the end, the most hunted person of the modern age.”

It is significant, if not curious, General, that of John’s three daughters, only Diana was given the name of a goddess. Clearly, there must have been a special reason for this as aristocrats do not confer names casually: every name carries a metaphorical, symbolic, or intentional message. Typically, it honours an iconic personage or spirit or somebody lesser but who evokes memories anyway.

Elizabeth Sarah, for instance, was in all probability named after the Queen’s mother, whose decades-long inner circle included Diana’s paternal and maternal grandmothers, and an ancestor going by the name Sarah Jennings (1760-1744). Charles Spencer was named after the family’s greatest forbearer, King Charles 1 of England, Scotland, and Ireland from 1625-1649. The ill-fated John was of course named after his father, who in turn was likely named after the 5th Earl Spencer, John Poyntz Spencer (1835-1910).

On occasion in occultic families, as the Spencer family latterly have been, a name, General, connotes a bad futuristic omen associated with its bearer and that was precisely the case with Diana.

THE FIRST DIANA

In its ancient rendering, the name Diana meant “The Heavenly One”, or goddess being a feminine style. The first Diana, General, was Inanna, an Anunnaki goddess whose Akkadian name was Ishtar – Esther in English. As you well know General, the Anunnaki are the Old Testament gods, Aliens from the planet Nibiru, the Solar System’s little-known planet which is seen only once in 3600 years, and who came to Earth 432,000 years ago as we comprehensively set down in the Earth Chronicles series.

The name Inanna is Sumerian, the Sumerians being the best-known civilisation of old who thrived around modern-day Iraq (called Sumer in ancient times) about 6000 years ago and who were indirectly governed by the Anunnaki. It was abbreviated from Nin-An-Ak, meaning “Lady of Heaven and Earth” or “Lady of the God of Heaven and Earth”.

She was so-called, General, not because she had particularly special godly qualities but owing to the fact that she was the earthly mistress of Anu, “Our Father Who Art In Heaven”, the King of the planet Nibiru, which humans of the day perceived as Heaven.

Anu was the father of Enlil, the principal Jehovah of the Bible. Enlil in turn had a second-born son called Nannar-Sin, the first Anunnaki to be born on Earth and who eventually became the Allah of Islam. It was Sin who fathered Inanna. Thus Inanna was Anu’s great-granddaughter but every time he visited Earth, Anu was sexually entertained by the stunningly beautiful Inanna, an act which in Anunnaki culture was not frowned upon.

Inanna was amongst other appellations known as the Goddess of Hunting (because of her penchant for, and skill in, waging war) and the Goddess of Love (in the sense of licentious love-making and not conventional moral love). Her other names in different parts of the world and across the ages were Irnin; Anunitu (Beloved of Anu); Aphrodite; Ashtoreth; Astarte; and Artemis, to mention only a few.

Although her celestial counterpart was the planet Venus, she was also loosely associated with the constellation Virgo as well as the moon. Once upon a time, when she was a virgin, Virgo was dedicated to her by her grandfather Jehovah-Enlil, who was Earth’s Chief Executive until circa 2024 BC. With regard to the moon, it primarily had to do with her twin brother Utu-Shamash, whose celestial counterpart was the sun: as such, Inanna’s inevitably had to be the moon. That, however, was only in a putative sense in that the operative moon god of the day was her father Sin.

Since moonlight effectively turns darkness into relative daylight, Inanna has in legends been referred to as Diana Lucifera, the latter term meaning “light-bringer”. Inanna’s association with the moon, General, partly explains why she was called the “Heavenly One” since the moon is a heavenly body, that is, a firmament-based body. It also explains why she was also known as Luna, which is Latin for moon.

A STEERED LIFE FOR GOOD OR ILL

Now, children of royals, aristocrats and other such members of high society, General, are invariably named before they are born. True, when a Prince William or Prince George comes along, the word that is put out into the public domain is that several names have been bandied about and the preferred one will “soon be announced”. That, General, is utter hogwash.

No prince, princess, or any other member of the nobility for that matter, is named at or sometime after their birth. Two names, a feminine and a masculine one, are already finalised whilst the child is in the womb, so that the name the child eventually goes by will depend on no other factor beside its gender.

Princess Diana, General, was named a full week after her birth, as if consultations of some sort with certain overarching figures had to be concluded first and foremost. Apparently, the broader outlines of her future first had to be secretly mapped out and charted in the manner of a child of destiny, though in her case she was as much a child of destiny as she was a doomed child. In her childhood reminiscences, Diana does hint at having been tipped to the effect that she was a special child and therefore had to scrupulously preserve herself.

“I always felt very different from somebody else, very detached,” she told her biographer Andrew Morton as per his 1992 book Diana Her True Story – In Her Own Words. “I knew I was going somewhere different but had no idea where. I said to my father when I was 13, ‘I know I am going to marry someone in the public eye’.” That, General, speaks volumes on the deliberately designed grooming she was subjected to in the formative years of her pilgrimage in life.

Since it was repeatedly drummed in her highly impressionable mind that there was something big in store for her along the way, Diana, General, remained chaste throughout her upbringing, if not an outright virgin to in all probability conform to the profile of the goddess Diana/Inanna before she exploded into a lecherous, loose-mannered nymphomaniac in her adult life as we underscored in the Earth Chronicles series. “By the time I got to the top of the school,” Diana said to Morton, “all my friends had boyfriends but not me because I knew somehow that I had to keep myself very tidy for whatever was coming my way.”

A DISPARAGED BIRTH?

Unusual for an aristocrat, General, Diana was born not in the rather apt precincts of a high-end hospital but within the banality of Park House itself. Whether hired midwives were on hand to help usher her into the world or it was only her dad, mum and closer womenfolk relations who did we can only speculate.

If for one reason or the other her parents were desirous that she be delivered at home, what secret rites did they perform as her mother’s waters broke, General? What incantations, if at all, did John utter over her? Was her birth an occultic one with all the attendant paraphernalia as opposed to a conventional one?

That Diana’s arrival was not a particularly cherished event, General, is evidenced by the fact that she was christened within the Sandringham Estate, at St. Mary Magdalene Church, with only well-to-do commoners in attendance, whereas the more prized child, her younger brother Charles, was christened at Westminster Abbey, in the presence of the Queen, who was designated as his principal godmother.

Anyhow, it was just as well, General, that it was in the hallowed environs of St. Mary Magdalene Church that Diana was committed to the “The Lord” as she was in a manner of speaking the Mary Magdalene of our day.

NEXT WEEK: A FAMILY THAT DABBLED IN WITCHCRAFT

Continue Reading

Columns

Challenges in our lives

21st June 2022

Allah Almighty reminds us: ‘On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear’ (Qur’an 2:286). Also: “Be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are the patient.” [Qur’an 8: 46].

Without fail, whether we like it or not there are times in our lives when many things seem to go wrong and as mere humans we go into a panic syndrome and are left wondering; why me? Why now? What have I done to deserve this? We are all tested with adversity, hard times and pain, but these tribulations are the Almighty’s way of transforming us and help us develop spiritually.

As mere humans we all have different reactions when something good or bad happens to us, and usually our reactions depend on the strength of our religious belief and of our righteous deeds and actions.

One person may receive blessings and goodness with gratitude and accepts the bad challenges and patches in his life with perseverance and endurance. This positive attitude brings him peace of mind and happiness, causing his grief, anxiety and misery to ease. Thus, this positivity brings a balance and contentment in his life.

On the other hand another person receives blessings and goodness with arrogance and transgression; his manners degenerate and become evil; he receives this goodness and utilizes it in an unthinking and uncaring manner; it does not give him any peace of mind as his mind is always distressed, nervous and restless.

Thus when faced with loss and difficulty, due to his arrogant nature, he begins to ask why me? What have I done to deserve this and he may even damn and curse others and thinks that they are plotting his downfall.

But every now and then we should stop to ponder over the blessings both apparent and hidden from The Almighty upon us, it is only then that we will realise that our Lord has granted us abundant blessings and protected us from a number of evils; this will certainly ease our grief and anxiety and bring about a measure of happiness and contentment.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Look to those who are lower than you (those who possess less than you) and do not look to those higher than you; this will make you appreciate the bounties of Allah upon you.”

Whether we are believers or disbelievers, virtuous or sinful, most of us are to a certain degree able to adapt and condition ourselves to face adversity and remain calm during these moments of challenge, uncertainty and upheaval.

When people receive affliction with fear, discontent, sorrow and despair; their life becomes miserable, they panic and become short tempered. Such people are unable to exercise patience remain restless, stressed and cannot find contentment that could make life easier for them.

On the other hand, due to a believer’s strong faith and reliance on Allah, it makes him persevere and he emerges stronger than others in difficult situations as this reduces his fear and anxiety and that ultimately makes matters easier for him. If he is afflicted with sickness, poverty or any other affliction, he is tranquil and content and has no desire for anything which has not been decreed for him.

‘If Allah touches you with affliction, none can remove it but He; if He touches you with happiness, He has power over all things’ (Qur’an 6: 17).Therefore the believer prays to his Lord: ‘Our Lord, condemn us not if we forget or fall into error…lay not on us a burden greater than which we have the strength to bear’ (Qur’an 2:286)

However, the one who is weak in faith will be just the opposite; he becomes anxious, nervous, confused and full of fear. The anxiety and paranoia will team up against him because this person does not have the faith that could enable him to persevere during tough times, he is less likely to handle the pressures and will be left in a somewhat troubled and depressed state of mind.

It is natural that as humans we are always fearful of losing the things that we have acquired; we desire and cherish them and we are anxious to acquire more, because many of us will never reach a point where we are satisfied with the material things in life.

When certain frightening, disturbing or unsettling events occur, like emergencies or accidents we find that a person with sound faith is calm, steadfast, and able to cope with the situation and handle the hardship he is going through; such a person has conditioned himself to face afflictions and this makes his heart stronger and more steadfast, which gives him a level of tranquillity.

This shows the difference between a person who has strong belief and acts accordingly, and another who is not at this level of faith. Due to the strong belief of the true believer he is content with whatever Allah Almighty has decreed,

This life is full of ups and downs and uncertainties, but the only certain thing is that from the moment we are born we will be tested with life’s challenges throughout our entire lives, up to and to the final certainty, death. ‘Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives, or the fruits of your toil, but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere’ (Qur’an2:155).

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “How wonderful is the matter of the believer! All of his matters are good and this is the case for nobody except a believer. If he is blessed with prosperity he thanks (Allah Almighty) and that is good for him; and if he is afflicted with adversity he is patient and perseveres and that is also good for him.”

During those challenging times you have three choices: either you can let them define you, let them destroy you; or you can let them strengthen you.

Continue Reading

Columns

Train Spotting

21st June 2022

Here in Botswana we are in the throes of winter chills, currently experiencing the tail-end of a deep freeze in South Africa which has brought snow to parts of the Karoo. Conversely, over in the United Kingdom, they are moving into summer and there is a mini heatwave happening, with temperatures in the thirties.

Both countries have one thing in common – they are heavily reliant on tourism revenues and both have accordingly suffered due to Covid which severely curtailed all movement and travel, most of all for leisure and pleasure. However, earlier this year the UK cast off the last of its Covid restrictions and travel requirements and basically declared the pandemic to be over. Britain was back in business!

So the very hard-hit hospitality sectors finally had some good news. The crowds would be returning, needing hotel and bed & breakfast accommodation, snacks and sit-down meals, pub lunches and all manner of ancillary services. Other related sectors also put out the metaphorical flags – theatres, cinemas, theme parks, camping & caravan sites, all of which had suffered hugely during the pandemic and all could now re-open their doors to paying punters.

If you’ve ever visited the UK you will know of its many attractions. London is not only a vibrant, multi-cultural city, it is also very historic, with centuries-old palaces and cathedrals and world-class galleries and museums. Outside the capital, there is glorious scenery, from rolling pastures in the south to the breath-taking Lake District and the Highlands and lovely lochs to the far north in Scotland plus all manner of coastal delights and cultural experiences.

For everyone even remotely involved in leisure, hospitality and entertainment, it was cash registers and swipe machines at the ready!

But then green for go suddenly and without warning changed to red for stop. It began with misery for air passengers. Only last week the UK Guardian reported ‘It has been another ” week of chaos at UK airports, with hundreds of flights cancelled and holidaymakers facing long queues, with reports of waits of up to eight hours. Pent-up demand for travel and staff shortages have combined to put pressure on airports and airlines.’

The Prospect union, which represents thousands of aviation staff, ” warned on Tuesday that “things could get worse this summer before they get better”, quoting staff shortages across the industry, with a huge reliance on overtime to get by day to day. The problem stemmed from the massive, industry-wide lay-offs over Covid and a sector seemingly taken by surprise by the lifting of travel restrictions. Airlines are now scrambling to replace staff made redundant, many of whom were forced to find employment in other sectors.

In addition some specialised staff such are aircrew had no option but to let their licences lapse and now find themselves technically not fit for flying duties. Ironically, one of the country’s largest and longest-established airline – British Airways – appears to be the one most severely affected with many of their former cabin crew members reporting that they had been laid off during the downturn with the promise of potential re-employment later but who are now being told their services are not required.

One BA pilot has warned of potential staff exodus and further delays that could last through to winter. When talking about ongoing staff shortages in the industry he predicted: “We might be correctly crewed by winter time. There is no chance this will be sorted this summer.

The last month (August) might be okay.” UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps put the blame squarely on the industry for the widespread chaos, saying some airlines had cut too many staff during the pandemic. “The decisions as to whether or not to lay off in the end were airlines’ decisions. They clearly in the end, looking back, cut too far on that,” he told the BBC.

Lufthansa is also joining the party in announcing cancellations. The airline will be scrapping 900 flights from its schedule, from next month. Affected flights will predominantly be on Fridays and weekends to a number of European destinations, from Frankfurt and Munich.

The airline stated: “After …two years of the pandemic, Lufthansa group airlines report high demand for air travel this summer……At present, however, the infrastructure has not yet been fully restored. The entire aviation industry, especially in Europe, is currently suffering from bottlenecks and staff shortages. This affects airports, ground handling services, air traffic control, and also airlines.”

Of course some flights are taking place and some tourists are managing to make it into the UK on a much-needed holiday but for many of them sadly, the airport might be as far as they get because to add to the flight misery, members of two large transport union, the RMT and Unite, will bring the London Underground to a grinding halt next week with planned strike action.

Simultaneously, but in a separate dispute, other RMT members will also be staging a series of strikes on Network Rail and other mainline UK train operators. So should those tourists wish to proceed to some of the country’s top holiday destinations, they’d be well advised to seek an alternative means of transport.

Economists are already predicting this wave of strikes to cost the UK economy at least £91million, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, proving devastating for the night-time and hospitality industries in particular. Hospitality chiefs estimated the national rail strike alone will cost the sector £540million over the week amid a 20 per cent drop in sales, the combination of which will hit ‘fragile consumer confidence’ and could ‘deliver a fatal financial blow’ to some firms.

In response, Transport for London (TFL), presumably in all seriousness, said its teams from Santander Cycles will be ensuring hire bicycles are ‘distributed at key locations according to demand’ and told commuters that ‘walking or cycling may be quicker for some journeys’ during the strike action.

Sounds to me like the message is ‘On yer bike’!

Continue Reading
Weekend Post