Category Archives: History

Chola Dynasty I

The legacy of the Cholas, its monumental temples, were discovered by accident when in 1838 an English explorer while hacking his way through the dense jungles of Southern India, Tamil Nadu to be precise, came across what would later be dubbed the erotic temples of India because of the lurid and lucid sculptures, carvings and engravings that adorn the walls of these temples.

The temples were discovered in the same manner that Henri Mouhot discovered the lost temples of Angkor. Henri Mouhot after working in Siam was travelling through Cambodia collecting zoological and botanical samples when while cutting his way through the dense forests of Cambodia he stumbled across the temples of Angkor.

The first question that comes to mind with regards to both these temples is; are these temples in any way connected? I don’t believe that they are and I am certain that we are dealing with two distinct and separate blends of Hinduism. For starters the Cholas are Shaivites and the Angkor temples at a first glance look to be built by Vaishnavites.

The Cholas have left us with many unanswered questions for example who they were or if they were indigenous or otherwise and the discreet and secretive blend of Hinduism that they practiced which gave them the ability to build these mammoth architectural splendors remains a mystery.

The first question is easy enough. The Cholas were indigenous or as indigenous as a people can be but there are two possible points of origin that date back to about 3300 BC.

They are by no means a new people and it’s fair to say that they have been around for sometime but it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be around for much longer and by the turn of the century the Cholas or what remains of them or those that carry the Chola genes will no longer be there simply because of migration and mixed-marriages.

Now the Cholas carry the designation thevar behind their names and a bulk of the Chola army though they are known as thevars are kallars. According to a study done by the department of human genetics and anthropology, university of Madras and the anthropology and the human genetics unit of the university of Kolkata, West Bengal India, titled genetic structure of the early immigrants (Mukkalathor) – the term Mukkalathor means the people of the three clans who are collectively known as thevars (kallars, maravars, and agamudaiyars) the kallars may be one of the first tribes to migrate out of north Africa – Southern Europe and places their point of origin in the Sinai Peninsula.

However, we have to keep in mind that most of the early Eurasian migrants to the subcontinent took the route along the Nile across the Sinai Peninsula and went all the way according to some sources to North Australia. Now there is another interesting fact that I am going to point out here.

The kallars, as was the norm with the Cholas, were a fully militarized caste and one of the weapons they used is a valari or a boomerang and it was used by the Chola army. Likewise the indigenous people of Australia also use boomerangs so there are some similarities there.

Assuming that the Cholas were migrants or early migrants and if I was to set a migration date it would be between 3300 BC – 1300 BC or during the time of the Indus Valley Civilization, it started to decline at about 1300 BC, and the most significant factor that led to the decline of the Indus Valley Civilization, as far as I am concerned is migration.

I don’t think the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization was precipitated by war but rather the natural inflow of people or a movement of one group of people from one point to another and sometimes depending on their frailties, the original inhabitants could have succumbed to illnesses.

The original inhabitants of the Indus Valley observed a very strict diet and from all accounts they were mostly ascetics or people deeply stooped in religious practices as were the Cholas as made evident by the hundreds if not thousands of temples that they’d constructed all over South India and these type of strict adherence to religious practices requires an adherence to specific diets and as a result future generations, a few hundred years or so down the track, may not have the ability to withstand or combat various common illnesses.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Black Elk (Seven Sacred Rites of the Lakota) E-Book

Chapter I

Black Elk was a famous medicine man from the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) and second cousin to the famed Native American warrior Crazy Horse who rebelled against the Federal Government for intruding on Native American territories.

Born on December 1st 1863 in Little Powder River Wyoming he was a medicine man of substance and his experiences, during which he becomes aware of the Seven Sacred Rights of the Lakota, reaffirms the outer body experience as propagated by Jung, which occur as a result of either natural sleep or induced sleep i.e. hypnosis. It confirms what parapsychologists like Jung have asserted for years in that the mind is a vast untapped resource and has never been fully explored.

When Black Elk was nine years old he was struck by a sudden illness that left him unconscious and unresponsive. During this time, he experienced visitations from cosmic entities who he described as thunder beings (Wakinyan) and who he perceived to be the forefathers or the ancestors of the Oglala Sioux. According to his accounts these spirits were kind and loving, and were very giving in their paternal affection.

His experiences further reaffirm the shamanic principle ardently advocated by well-known exponents of shamanism like Mircea Eliade in that, the shamanic gift is bestowed upon a person or an individual after a prolonged and sustained life threatening illness or experience. From all expert accounts, Black Elk’s narrative of his experiences are most likely true. He died on August 19th 1950 in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

According to Black Elk, it started with repeated visitations from an ancient man, whose head was filled with white hair and who was wise beyond reason. The man was always alert; his eyes were constantly looking in all directions and he was full of fatherly affection. The old man surprisingly enough bears a striking resemblance to the heavenly father. He then imparts the Seven Sacred Rites of the Lakota to Black Elk.

The first of the Seven Sacred Rites is Inikagapi or Inipi (the rite to renew life). A sweat lodge is held in a dome shaped structure made of saplings and covered with hide or tarps and it symbolizes the shape of the universe or the womb of a pregnant woman.

Heated stones are placed in a large crevice located in the center of the lodge and water is poured over the stones by an itancan (leader) to create steam. The purpose of the ceremony is to pray for the spiritual and physical wellbeing of all sentient beings. The lodge utilizes all the powers of the universe: earth and the things which grow on the earth and powers derived from the other elements, water, fire, and air.

Before embarking on any type of spiritual journey the body has to be detoxified, and any remains of toxic residue in the body will be removed by sweating. The result of sitting or meditating in a dome shaped structure with heated stones placed in the middle is excessive sweating.

It is also important to realize that Black Elk specifically mentioned the shape of the structure. Dome shaped structures are symbolic to all religions and theologically the dome acts as a transmitter. Any vibrations resulting from chanting in this type of structure will be carried to the heavenly father.

The second rite is Hanbleceyapi (crying for vision). The vision quest is undertaken by an individual with the help and guidance of a holy man. A person elects to go on a vision quest to pray, communicate with the spirits, and to gain knowledge, strength, and understanding.

The person pledges to stay on an isolated hill for one to four days with a blanket and a pipe, but without food or water. Upon returning, the vision may be discussed with the Wicasa Wakan (holy man). Often the meaning of the vision is not readily apparent and the individual may be told to wait for knowledge and understanding.

The second rite is the seeking of visions or an attempt to bridge the gap between the conscious and subconscious mind, through the medium of sleep or deep meditation or dreamtime, whereupon, the subconscious mind will reveal the mysteries of the world to the dreamer in the form of vivid images.

Experts in the field have suggested that implanting the thought of bridging the gap between the conscious and the subconscious mind or seeking visions prior to falling asleep will help the subject achieve dream quest more easily.

The subject in short is instructing the conscious mind to abate or to stop resisting and thereby allows or permits the subconscious mind to take control.

The act of abstaining from food and water further weakens the body and the conscious mind and it debilitates the ability of the conscious mind to resist and allows the subconscious mind to assert itself.

Chapter II

The third rite is the keeping of the spirit (Wanagi Wicagluha). Death is a transition from one existence to another. The demise of the body does not mean death of the spirit or the soul and the spirit or the soul continues to exist long after the body has turned to dust or has been reduced to ashes.

The third rite of the Lakota is similar to the death rites of many other ancient cultures in that the spirits or the souls of the dead linger around their families or their prized possessions for a period of time before they crossover. It is a time that is used to coax the spirit into continuing with the journey.

The spirit especially in cases and circumstances of unnatural deaths has to be made to come to terms with death. Normally a special place is erected in honor of the spirit and it is done to commemorate the passing and to remember the deceased.

This special place may or may not correspond with an altar (what an altar is or isn’t is a question of perception) and friends and relatives are sometimes invited to join in during what is called a feeding ceremony or an occasion during which offerings of food are made and shared with the spirit.

The rite continues for a year and after a year the spirit is freed or released. During this rather testing time close family members of the deceased are forbidden or prohibited from taking part in any celebrations or festivities.

It has to be made clear that the mourning period is undertaken with love for the departed in mind. It is a grieving period that allows both the family members and the deceased to say their goodbyes. It is in essence a period of letting go and abstaining from celebrations and other festivities allows everyone to come to terms with the passing in the appropriate manner. It is also a time for silent reflection.

In 1890 there was a religious movement that consolidated numerous Native American believes. It was called the Ghost Dance and among other things it advocated that proper practice of the dance would reunite the living with the spirits of the dead and would bring spirits to fight on their behalf. It is reflective of the importance that is attached to spirits in Native American culture and tradition.

Spirit keeping is also a common facet among many other shamanic cultures and features prominently in Tungus cultures and its variants. The Tungus people are of Siberian origin and the near-death phenomenon similar to the experience Black Elk went through when he was nine is a prerequisite to becoming a Tungus Shaman.

Now, if Black Elk had been born in Siberia he would not only have been a medicine man but he would also have been recognized as a capable shaman and would have been accorded a position befitting a shaman in the community.

In these ancient cultures that adhere to time honored traditions, the shaman is also a healer (it is possible that there were early Siberian migrants to the Americas. The distance between Siberia and Alaska is only 55 miles. The territories are separated by a body of water known as the Bering Strait).

According to the near-death principle, once a shaman prospect has gone through the near-death experience he or she would not only be able to see spirits but he or she would also be able to communicate with them.

Similar dynamics also apply to the Tamang shamans (hill shamans) of Nepal and they too acquire the ability to see and speak to spirits. Hence, the ability to see or commune with spirits is an ability that is accepted in certain communities and societies.

These spirits also require sustenance and it is the duty of the shaman to provide the spirit with the type of sustenance that is deemed suitable and that would differ from community to community or from society to society. Likewise, it is the duty of the deceased’s next of kin or the keeper of the spirit to provide the spirit with suitable food.

Therefore, the notion of relatives and friends sharing a meal with a spirit is not at all far-fetched and to the contrary it is, depending on the culture, something of a norm.

It is also an accepted principle that the spirit after death needs to be coaxed into undertaking the journey that follows and the mourning period or the “keeping of the spirit” is a time during which relatives of the departed help the spirit to cross over.

Let me cite the practices of another ancient culture as an example. Let us briefly go to Leh and Ladakh in Western Tibet. Here the mourning period is forty-four days i.e. it takes forty-four days for the spirit of the departed to cross-over and during that time a priest is close at hand and he or she reads verses from the Tibetan Book of the Dead or the Bardo Thodol to help the spirit to cross-over.

According to the death rites of many of these ancient cultures, the period following death and prior to the crossing over is a perilous time for the spirit and it is confronted with a series of images conjured by the mind that are a result of its fears and inhibitions and therefore it needs the assistance of its family members to help it along the way.

It is slightly different from the Ghost Dance which according to my understanding is more akin to the summoning of the spirit and this normally applies to spirits of some fortitude or spirits that have been around for some time and it is more or less like the induced trance state. It is practiced to this very day.

The mourning period differs from one culture to another and from people to people but the one year period is similar to that of the East Indian culture where relatives of the dead are required to mourn the dead for a period of one-year and during the mourning period they are prohibited from taking part in any festivities. Therefore, we won’t be wrong in stating that the mourning period among the Lakota is strikingly similar to that of the East Indians.

Another amazing similarity is the feeding of the spirit. In the East Indian culture offerings of food are made at periodical intervals at an altar over the duration of a year. It includes offerings of vegetarian dishes and the favorite sweets of the deceased and relatives and friends are invited to be a part of the somber occasion.

Chapter III

The fourth sacred rite of the Lakota is the sun dance and once again it is reminiscent of the Tungus Shaman. The dance is conducted around a tree or a pole that symbolizes the tree. In Lakota cosmology, the tree represents the center of the universe.

It is possible to draw parallels between the tree in the Lakota sun dance and the shaman tree of the Tungus shamans. It is difficult to speculate if Black Elk ascended a shaman tree during his life-threatening illness or otherwise but it is an accepted principle among Tungus shamans that a shaman acquires his or her abilities to see and communicate with spirits after he or she ascends the shaman tree. The top of the tree or its highest tier according to Siberian folklore is occupied by Gods of the highest level.

Among Yakutian (Siberian) shamans, each shaman is allotted his or her own tree and the well-being of the shaman is dependent on the tree. Chopping down the tree spells death for the shaman. In some instances, dead shamans are entombed in the hollow of a tree and this it is where the shaman’s spirit resides i.e. it becomes the shaman’s spirit tree.

In Altai shamanic circles the tree is symbolic of the world’s center and the tree is the dwelling place of many magical animals and each of these animals have a specific function. Like spirit guides, they have the ability to foretell the future, determine destinies and act as celestial guardians.

Sitting perched on the upper boughs of this tree are two birds who call out the days of the living and who have the ability to see where the spirits of the dead will go following their demise. In the middle branches sit two silver clawed eagles that act as guardians of the living. These eagles also call out to lost heroes directing them as to the proper cause of action.

At the base of this tree there are two black dogs, with flashing eyes that gaze constantly at the underworld. Altai folklore also suggests that all trees have spirits for example when a hero in an epic poem leaves his son in the care of the spirits of the birch trees.

Trees are also worshiped in Mongolian shamanic circles. These trees are like normal trees i.e. they are not the dwelling places of spirits but by virtue of worshipping these trees one is blessed with good fortune and therefore it is possible to say that it is the spirit of the tree as opposed to the spirits of the heavenly deities that reside on the tree that bring about a turn of good fortune.

It is also possible to equate the tree with the Hungarian Tree of life and draw inferences from the legend of the sky-high tree. Interestingly enough the legend also mentions a horned buffalo. According to the legend the tree is divided into many tiers and the highest tier is occupied by the legendary bird-hawk, Turul, and other celestial and heavenly beings.

As a matter of interest it is import to realize that shamans are divide into white shamans and black shamans i.e. those that commune with white spirits and those that commune with dark spirits and as a result most shamans draw their energies from one source or another.

It is also further possible to surmise that the strength of the spirit that guides the shaman depends on the tier it occupies i.e. the higher the spirit is on the tree, the stronger its abilities and these are the spirits that guide warriors through the valley of dreams during vision quest or the seeking of visions.

The sun dance reaffirms the connection between spirits and nature. The dance is held every summer on the day of the full moon and is blessed by the radiance of Celeste. The festivities are accompanied by music and dance and various plain bands gather to perform during the dance. It is from all accounts a lively and entertaining occasion.

Dancers, pledge to make offerings of their flesh to strengthen the nation and to fulfill personal vows. The choice to participate is always at the discretion of the dancer and it is usually the result of receiving a sacred dream. It is also sometimes undertaken to seek the assistance of spiritual entities in healing a sick loved one.

Chapter IV

The fifth sacred rite of the Lakota is Hunkapi or the right to foster or forge new relationships and it solidifies existing bonds and paves the way for new alliances. It is reflective of the personal relationship that one shares with the center of the universe or the tree that symbolizes the center of the universe.

It can also be interpreted as the rite of procreation or a rite that facilitates the expansion of familial bonds which of course is essential to perpetuate the continuity of the people and to preserve the longevity of the nation.

The nation is strong for only as long as its people continue to foster and forge new relationships and persist with repairing any damage that may have resulted with the passage of time or from past indiscretions. It is also a means to address grievances and to set aside any past disputes and in certain cases to start anew.

The rite may also be a means to enhancing the bond one has with the totem pole (the totem pole may at times represent the sacred tree that is synonymous to the center of the universe).

A totem pole in short, is a sacred object that is relative or unique to a clan, a tribe or even a family and it is perceived to be a spirit-being that is sacred to a specific person or a group of people and it is in the interest of those that are connected to the totem pole to keep the spiritual relationship alive. In more contemporary terms the spirit-being that the totem pole represents is akin to a guardian angel.

The fifth rite may also equate to fostering better relations with one’s spirit guide. According to Native American legends and traditions there are many spirits that may act as guides for example animal spirits, elemental spirits and tree spirits. These spirits not only act as guides in the valley of dreams during vision quest but also as guardians and in certain cases healers.

Spirits in Native American culture and tradition are synonymous to deities in some other cultures and these spirits are the harbingers of good tidings and the bearers of good fortune.

These spirits are similar to deities in eastern cultures (many of these deities are peculiar to specific localities) and just as there are numerous deities, there are also numerous spirits, too many in fact to list down or compile.

It is a rite that is reflective and parabolic of cultures that are keen on fostering better relationships with all beings, regardless of whether these beings are spiritual or corporeal, and to some extent it is an admittance that we share this world with many other beings, some that may not be visible to the naked eye.

It would be a good idea to keep an open mind and to acknowledge the fact that spirits may not always equate to the lingering spirits of the dead and may equate or may be synonymous to the spiritual matter that forms the core of all things, both animate and inanimate.

The sixth rite of the Lakota is Isnati Awicalowanpi or the puberty ceremony. The ceremony takes place after a girl’s first menses, and it is held to ensure that the girl will grow up to have all the virtues of a Lakota woman and that she understand the meaning of her new role. It is also conducted to formally announce her eligibility as a potential wife and a mother.

There is an exact same ceremony that is held in the East Indian culture as soon as a young girl reaches puberty. It is viewed as an important event in the life of all young girls and celebrated accordingly.

The seventh rite is Tapa Wankayeyapi or throwing the ball. It is a game which represents the course of a man’s life. A young girl stands at the center and throws a ball upwards and to the four corners as others vie to catch it. The first person to catch the ball is considered to be more fortunate than the rest – the ball is symbolically equated to knowledge.

This rite acknowledges that all persons have a right to knowledge but they must be willing to work hard and compete to obtain it. Among other things, it instills a sense of fair competitiveness especially among young children.

Vision Quest

Vision quest or the seeking of visions is undertaken to seek random visions. In most instances the seeker is searching for an event that will unravel or manifest itself in the future and the event at the time it appears to the seeker may or may not make sense to him and the seeker may require the help of an elder or a medicine man or a shaman to help him interpret his vision. He may or may not be part of the vision.

Let’s compare these visions to visions of clairvoyance or precognition and let us try and identify the common factors and determine the factors that differentiate vision quest visions from visions of clairvoyance or pre-cognition.

Clairvoyance and pre-cognition are abilities to see into the future and from that aspect they are sometimes comparable to visions that appear during meditation but the subject does not have the ability to control the visions that appear in the form of a dream. The visions often appear in sudden flashes or bursts of images and disappear as quickly as they’d come leaving behind a lingering memory and days, months or years later when the event does unfold the subject is left with a sense of déjà vu.

This in simplistic terms is what clairvoyance or pre-cognition really is. It happens to most of us at some time or other and we are often left searching for answers and we often put it down to the unexplainable or divine intervention.

Those who know what these visions really are, these visions more often than not occur when the body is asleep, are deemed to have the gift of clairvoyance and pre-cognition and they use it for their own benefit (which is the way it should be) and some use it to help others.

Vision quest or the seeking of visions however is slightly different in that, it not only reveals future events but it is also reveals past events, i.e. a vision from the past, and this becomes of use when we are trying to come to terms with the present. There is a valid reason for most things and the answer sometimes lies in the past.

The images appear, for those who have experienced them; in full Technicolor i.e. they are identical or synonymous to actual images, sometimes with sound and at other times without. These images are very real and sometimes the dreamer or the seeker experiences an outflow or an outpour of emotions and it may be love, anger, hate, or any of the other normal emotions that we are all subjected to.

This outflow or outpour of emotions can leave a person sagged, sapped or drained until he or she learns to appreciate them for what they are i.e. they are merely intimations for future events or a blast from the past, maybe from a previous existence (regressive hypnosis or past life regression therapy proves that we can remember or recollect instances from our past lives).

Someone may well ask the question, what is the significance or relevance of going over something that has happened in the past? Well the simple answer is if we knew what happened in the past then we can make amends in the future. Past life regression is also used to remedy lingering illnesses like joint pains which according to same sources may not be the result of an injury sustained in this life but a result of an injury sustained in a past life that makes itself evident in the present life.

Vision quest or the seeking of visions takes the innate ability that most of us have to another level in that it tries to stimulate or induce these images or visions i.e. they do not occur naturally during sleep or meditation but are the result of subjecting oneself to a rigorous process.

It can be done in the manner which the Lakota do it though I must admit that going without water does make me slightly apprehensive and therefore it should only be done with the help and guidance of a holy man or someone who is well versed with the process.

The seeker pledges to stay on an isolated hill for one to four days with a blanket and a pipe, but without food and water to experience these visions. During this time he may seek the guidance of spirits to help him with his quest and therefore it is somewhat possible to surmise that guidance from spirits helps us channel our innate abilities. The smoking of the pipe may also stimulate the process.

Spirit Trees

The bond between a shaman and his or her spirit tree has been a long-established principle of shamanism and many cultures of antiquity adhere to the principle that the abilities of the shaman are very much dependent on the shaman’s spirit tree, to the extent that the metaphoric tree has taken on a life of its own and has become a central feature or facet of shamanism.

The shaman tree can be divided into two types. The first type or category of shaman trees are trees where spirits or spiritual entities reside. These trees have their origins in the realm of folklore and are often divided into different tiers. The strength of the spirit is dependent on the tier that the spirit occupies. Spirits that reside on higher tiers are stronger than those that occupy lower tiers. It is therefore possible, in this manner, to distinguish between inferior spirits and spirits of a higher capacity.

The second type of shamanic trees are trees that have a spirit i.e. these trees have a soul and it is the soul or the spirit of these trees that help and assist shamans during shamanic rites and rituals. The tree that is most commonly associated to having a spirit of its own is the birch tree and the use of birch trees, milk, white colors and white ribbons are prevalent in Altai shamanism. The color white symbolizes purity and this aspect of Altai Shamanism is also known as the milk faith.

In addition to that there is also a tree that is called the world tree which without doubt has its origins in popular myth and it is more commonly referred to as the eternal poplar. According to Altai shamanic principles, the roads to the lower and higher levels of the world run along the trunk(s) of this tree and the tree unites the various levels of the world.

In ancient Turkic-Mongolian circles, these trees along with the sun, moon and the stars were venerated as deities and the bond between the shaman and the spirit tree is strengthened by repeatedly performing shamanic rituals in honor of these tress.

The worship of trees was also rampant among animistic cultures. It is a common precept among followers of the animistic faith that all things for example trees, mountains, rivers etc. have spirits. Tatar oral narratives handed down for generations give us an example of the spirit of the Alps. He is, according to legend, strong, swift, tall and proud.

It is usual among animistic cultures to characterize and attached tangible attributes to natural objects. In his book Religion in Primitive Cultures, Edward Taylor defines animism as the doctrine of Spiritual Beings.

In addition to birch trees, other trees like oak, cedar and ash were also worshiped in ancient Europe and it was widespread in pre-Christian Europe. This type of worship also extended to plants especially plants with healing properties and it’s not unheard off or uncommon to assign plants especially those with medicinal value some sort of divine status.

Animism, as a religion, gives all things, animate and inanimate, character, and that includes attributing salient or prominent features like gender, strength and height to name a few, to the object(s) of worship and the characteristics that are attributed to the object(s) are a general perception of what the object(s) represent and this representation becomes the soul or the spirit of the object.

The spirit of a tree for example may be described as strong and uncompromising if the tree remains and has remained stolid for years. The spirit of the tree may be described as tainted if the bark is covered with blight and it is beset with insect infestation. Similarly, a withering tree that has lost its leaf cover may be described as a dying tree and the spirit of the tree can be described as being on the verge of being set free to either become an acorn that will grow into a new tree or achieve salvation or liberation.

Likewise, a monolith that has stood the test of time may be ascribed with attributes of being strong and enduring and may even be worshiped in some circles as bestowing providence and good luck.

It is very similar to the ancient Persian belief that all things have at their core a soul. It is practically impossible of course to determine if a tree actually does have a soul or otherwise but according to most sources, the worship of trees can bring about a turn of good fortunate unless of course the spirit of the tree is tainted or polluted.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Black Elk II

The third rite is the keeping of the spirit (Wanagi Wicagluha). Death is a transition from one existence to another. The demise of the body does not mean death of the spirit or the soul and the spirit or the soul continues to exist long after the body has turned to dust or has been reduced to ashes.

The third rite of the Lakota is similar to the death rites of many other ancient cultures in that the spirits or the souls of the dead linger around their families or their prized possessions for a period of time before they crossover. It is a time that is used to coax the spirit into continuing with the journey.

The spirit especially in cases and circumstances of unnatural deaths has to be made to come to terms with death. Normally a special place is erected in honor of the spirit and it is done to commemorate the passing and to remember the deceased.

This special place may or may not correspond with an altar (what an altar is or isn’t is a question of perception) and friends and relatives are sometimes invited to join in during what is called a feeding ceremony or an occasion during which offerings of food are made and shared with the spirit.

The rite continues for a year and after a year the spirit is freed or released. During this rather testing time close family members of the deceased are forbidden or prohibited from taking part in any celebrations or festivities.

It has to be made clear that the mourning period is undertaken with love for the departed in mind. It is a grieving period that allows both the family members and the deceased to say their goodbyes. It is in essence a period of letting go and abstaining from celebrations and other festivities allows everyone to come to terms with the passing in the appropriate manner. It is also a time for silent reflection.

In 1890 there was a religious movement that consolidated numerous Native American believes. It was called the Ghost Dance and among other things it advocated that proper practice of the dance would reunite the living with the spirits of the dead and would bring spirits to fight on their behalf. It is reflective of the importance that is attached to spirits in Native American culture and tradition.

Spirit keeping is also a common facet among many other shamanic cultures and features prominently in Tungus cultures and its variants. The Tungus people are of Siberian origin and the near-death phenomenon similar to the experience Black Elk went through when he was nine is a prerequisite to becoming a Tungus Shaman.

Now, if Black Elk had been born in Siberia he would not only have been a medicine man but he would also have been recognized as a capable shaman and would have been accorded a position befitting a shaman in the community.

In these ancient cultures that adhere to time honored traditions, the shaman is also a healer (it is possible that there were early Siberian migrants to the Americas. The distance between Siberia and Alaska is only 55 miles. The territories are separated by a body of water known as the Bering Strait).

According to the near-death principle, once a shaman prospect has gone through the near-death experience he or she would not only be able to see spirits but he or she would also be able to communicate with them.

Similar dynamics also apply to the Tamang shamans (hill shamans) of Nepal and they too acquire the ability to see and speak to spirits. Hence, the ability to see or commune with spirits is an ability that is accepted in certain communities and societies.

These spirits also require sustenance and it is the duty of the shaman to provide the spirit with the type of sustenance that is deemed suitable and that would differ from community to community or from society to society. Likewise, it is the duty of the deceased’s next of kin or the keeper of the spirit to provide the spirit with suitable food.

Therefore, the notion of relatives and friends sharing a meal with a spirit is not at all far-fetched and to the contrary it is, depending on the culture, something of a norm.

It is also an accepted principle that the spirit after death needs to be coaxed into undertaking the journey that follows and the mourning period or the “keeping of the spirit” is a time during which relatives of the departed help the spirit to cross over.

Let me cite the practices of another ancient culture as an example. Let us briefly go to Leh and Ladakh in Western Tibet. Here the mourning period is forty-four days i.e. it takes forty-four days for the spirit of the departed to cross-over and during that time a priest is close at hand and he or she reads verses from the Tibetan Book of the Dead or the Bardo Thodol to help the spirit to cross-over.

According to the death rites of many of these ancient cultures, the period following death and prior to the crossing over is a perilous time for the spirit and it is confronted with a series of images conjured by the mind that are a result of its fears and inhibitions and therefore it needs the assistance of its family members to help it along the way.

It is slightly different from the Ghost Dance which according to my understanding is more akin to the summoning of the spirit and this normally applies to spirits of some fortitude or spirits that have been around for some time and it is more or less like the induced trance state. It is practiced to this very day.

The mourning period differs from one culture to another and from people to people but the one year period is similar to that of the East Indian culture where relatives of the dead are required to mourn the dead for a period of one-year and during the mourning period they are prohibited from taking part in any festivities. Therefore, we won’t be wrong in stating that the mourning period among the Lakota is strikingly similar to that of the East Indians.

Another amazing similarity is the feeding of the spirit. In the East Indian culture offerings of food are made at periodical intervals at an altar over the duration of a year. It includes offerings of vegetarian dishes and the favorite sweets of the deceased and relatives and friends are invited to be a part of the somber occasion.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Black Elk I

Black Elk was a famous medicine man from the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) and second cousin to the famed Native American warrior Crazy Horse who rebelled against the Federal Government for intruding on Native American territories.

Born on December 1st 1863 in Little Powder River Wyoming he was a medicine man of substance and his experiences, during which he becomes aware of the Seven Sacred Rights of the Lakota, reaffirms the outer body experience as propagated by Jung, which occur as a result of either natural sleep or induced sleep i.e. hypnosis. It confirms what parapsychologists like Jung have asserted for years in that the mind is a vast untapped resource and has never been fully explored.

When Black Elk was nine years old he was struck by a sudden illness that left him unconscious and unresponsive. During this time, he experienced visitations from cosmic entities who he described as thunder beings (Wakinyan) and who he perceived to be the forefathers or the ancestors of the Oglala Sioux. According to his accounts these spirits were kind and loving, and were very giving in their paternal affection.

His experiences further reaffirm the shamanic principle ardently advocated by well-known exponents of shamanism like Mircea Eliade in that, the shamanic gift is bestowed upon a person or an individual after a prolonged and sustained life threatening illness or experience. From all expert accounts, Black Elk’s narrative of his experiences are most likely true. He died on August 19th 1950 in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

According to Black Elk, it started with repeated visitations from an ancient man, whose head was filled with white hair and who was wise beyond reason. The man was always alert; his eyes were constantly looking in all directions and he was full of fatherly affection. The old man surprisingly enough bears a striking resemblance to the heavenly father. He then imparts the Seven Sacred Rites of the Lakota to Black Elk.

The first of the Seven Sacred Rites is Inikagapi or Inipi (the rite to renew life). A sweat lodge is held in a dome shaped structure made of saplings and covered with hide or tarps and it symbolizes the shape of the universe or the womb of a pregnant woman.

Heated stones are placed in a large crevice located in the center of the lodge and water is poured over the stones by an itancan (leader) to create steam. The purpose of the ceremony is to pray for the spiritual and physical wellbeing of all sentient beings. The lodge utilizes all the powers of the universe: earth and the things which grow on the earth and powers derived from the other elements, water, fire, and air.

Before embarking on any type of spiritual journey the body has to be detoxified, and any remains of toxic residue in the body will be removed by sweating. The result of sitting or meditating in a dome shaped structure with heated stones placed in the middle is excessive sweating.

It is also important to realize that Black Elk specifically mentioned the shape of the structure. Dome shaped structures are symbolic to all religions and theologically the dome acts as a transmitter. Any vibrations resulting from chanting in this type of structure will be carried to the heavenly father.

The second rite is Hanbleceyapi (crying for vision). The vision quest is undertaken by an individual with the help and guidance of a holy man. A person elects to go on a vision quest to pray, communicate with the spirits, and to gain knowledge, strength, and understanding.

The person pledges to stay on an isolated hill for one to four days with a blanket and a pipe, but without food or water. Upon returning, the vision may be discussed with the Wicasa Wakan (holy man). Often the meaning of the vision is not readily apparent and the individual may be told to wait for knowledge and understanding.

The second rite is the seeking of visions or an attempt to bridge the gap between the conscious and subconscious mind, through the medium of sleep or deep meditation or dreamtime, whereupon, the subconscious mind will reveal the mysteries of the world to the dreamer in the form of vivid images.

Experts in the field have suggested that implanting the thought of bridging the gap between the conscious and the subconscious mind or seeking visions prior to falling asleep will help the subject achieve dream quest more easily.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Pannonia

Pannonia is the ancient name for Hungary and the seat of the nation’s first monarchy. The kingdom was established in the first half of the 800s following the marriage of Emeshe and Ugek and after the birth of their son, Almos.

Before his birth, Almos’s mother, Emeshe, had a dream in which Turul, the giant mythical Hawk in Hungarian mythology, who often acts as a messenger of the Gods, flew down from its perch on the tree of life and impregnated Emeshe with a drop of its saliva.

When she was giving birth to Almos, a tiny spring welled from her womb and slowly grew in size swelling with water until its torrents swept through the snowy mountains and the valleys wedged between them into the flat lowlands that lay on the other side.

There it stopped and grew into a wondrous tree with golden branches. The highest precinct on this tree was occupied by the mighty bird-hawk, the legendary Turul, and the land the tree stood on became the land of her descendants, the land of fabled kings and warriors.

In other historical circles, Almos is also known as the Voivode of Levedia. Levedia was a territory/kingdom located along the banks of the River Inhul, a tributary of the Southern River Buh in Ukraine and the Magyars, if the legend were true, followed the river to its end. The term Voivode or war leader coincidentally is a Slavic term and a Voivode is usually only appointed during times of war. The use of the term clearly implies a Slavic nexus.

At the time Almos or the Voivode of Levedia had his dream, the Magyars were besieged by enemies and after a long and protracted war they were on the verge of capitulating. On the eve of what was to be the deciding battle, a worried Almos or Voivode Levedia went to sleep and while sleeping he had a vivid dream.

In the dream his army was attacked by a flock of ravens that appeared out of nowhere and his men were overwhelmed by the flighted beasts. Just as his army was about to succumb, a mighty hawk appeared from the sky and led Almos and his men to safety. The hawk was none other than the majestic bird of prey, Turul.

The battle the following morning did not favor the Magyars and their lines faltered in the face of repetitive attacks. When all appeared lost, a hawk appeared from the sky and Almos remembering the dream the night before, ordered his men to retreat and follow the flight of the bird. The path led them along the River Inhul and after weeks of travelling they arrived in a fertile land that was to become their new home, Pannonia.

Almos who established the Kingdom of Pannonia was its first ruler and Pannonia flourished for about 150 years until the coronation of Stephen I in 1001. Stephen who himself was the son of a Magyar chieftain, acquired the throne from the last great Magyar King of Hungary, Geza.

Emeshe, the mother of Almos, is central to the legend. The word “Emeshe” in Sumerian simply means “High Priestess” and her story starts in 819, during the reign of the Assyrian King Ashur-Banipal, when a descendant of the Scythian King Magog married the daughter of Enid-Belia.

In contemporary literature the daughter of Enid-Belia is known as Emeshe but it is difficult to say for certain if the word Emeshe is used in reference to the princess’s name or if it is indicative of her status as High Priestess of the Temple of Kham, an office that she held prior to her marriage.

The word Kham in Sanskrit means sky, and the words Emeshe and the Temple of Kham, if read together can be interpreted in the following manner: – High Priestess of the Temple of the Sky or High Priestess of the Temple of the Sky God. It implies or suggests a Sumerian-Sanskrit radix and it unearths a new and unexplored facet of Sumerian-Sanskrit mythology.

Anu is the highest ranking deity in the Sumerian epoch but the extent of his worship remains undetermined. He is commonly acknowledged to be the Sumerian “father of the gods” and as such he wields or wielded extensive powers.

The priests and priestesses of Kham are the descendants of Emeshe who according to popular myth and legend are gifted with the ability to read the will of the Gods.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Slavic Myths

Myths and legends are often road-maps that tell us the route a particular society or community has taken in its evolutionary process. Similarities between myths and legends reaffirm age old cultural ties while dissimilarities make each and every community unique.

The Chronica Slavorum written by the twelfth century Saxon historian Helmold tells us something about the early Slavs. It lists down a series of lesser known Slavic deities worshiped principally in Western Slavia.

Chief among these deities is Belobog the Sun God who represents the light of the dazzling sun and underlines the importance of the solar entity in Slavic circles. The affinity to the sun clearly tells us that a majority of the early Slavs belonged to farming communities whose mainstream economic activity was agriculture.

These communities have a higher propensity than others to settle down and establish an agrarian routine and engage in religious activities – another facet of early farming communities.

Divinity in early Slavic settlements was represented by the color white and is reflective of the healing powers or properties of the sun. A manifestation of this positively radiant energy is the Sun God or Belobog.

The importance of agriculture in early Slavic communities is further reinforced by the simple fact that they also had a winter Sun God, Hors and as legend would have it, he is the reincarnation of Belobog, sometimes known as Dazbog, following his defeat to his arch enemy (Chernobog).

Hors is often depicted as the winter sun. In addition to symbolizing the importance of the sun throughout the year, Belobog and Hors also represent the seasonal cycle.

We can to some degree deduce from the importance that is attached to Hors that early Slav communities might have also cultivated winter crops.

Belobog’s arch enemy or the sum collective of all evil to the early Slavs is Chernobog or the accursed and where he resides crops and life wither.

The light or the solar entity illuminates the path to longevity and prosperity while darkness or the night denies academic knowledge and spiritual liberation.

This interpretation of good and evil is dominant in many agrarian communities or societies because of the importance that is attached to the sun. Without the sun crops would fail and famine would sweep through the land. It is a simple concept that has far reaching implications.

That however does not mean that the Dark Gods were not worshiped. Among certain Slavic tribes the Dark Gods and their emissaries were worshiped just as ardently or as fervently as the Sun God and to these tribes they were the principle source of alternate magic or black magic.

From the above, it is clearly evident that the early Slavs placed a huge emphasis on farming and like most agrarian cultures or communities were reliant on the sun.

A century or two after the birth of Christ, Slavic communities incorporated a new element in many of their settlements and that was the appointment of a warlord or voivode, who was elected during times of war.

Leadership of the respective settlements changed hands during these precarious times and power was placed in the hands of a war leader selected by the people.

Thus we can surmise to some degree that the early Slavs were an agrarian community who had to militarize or mobilize, despite their agrarian nature, at the turn of the last century possibly because they were under threat from repeated invasions or marauders.

One of the most interesting or intriguing facets or aspects of Slavic myths are Rusalkas or the returning spirits of women who die prematurely. In short, Rusalkas are the returning spirits of women who have died under suspicious, unnatural or mysterious circumstance like murders, suicides and accidents.

This part of the myth is not unusual and it is prevalent in many other cultures, especially if the dead women were maidens, but what is unique to Slavic tradition is that Rusalkas return to haunt waterways. Now, if we were to use Max Heindel’s classification, Rusalkas would be classed or categorized as water spirits.

They appear in the form of lonely, desolate women and this aspect of the myth gives it a romantic twist or turn that moves or stirs the imagination.

There is nothing to suggest that Rusalkas are evil or malicious and they are normally depicted as enchanting young ladies. A lot however is dependent on the narrator.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Holodomor

The crime of genocide is defined by Article 2 of the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”.

Joseph Stalin became the leader of the Soviet Union following the death of Lenin in 1924. He was appointed the Secretary General of the Communist Party in 1922 and he rose to a position of power after cleverly ousting Zinoviev, Lenin’s long time second in command and Trotsky, Lenin’s heir apparent.

Even before he was gripped by serious illness Lenin’s hold on the communist party had begun to decline. In May 1922, he suffered a cerebral stroke which according to Trotsky caused him deep inner fear and he started to progressively isolate himself from the party and the rest of the public.

Two months prior to that, in March 1922, the Congress of the Communist Party had acquired sufficient autonomy to decline the expulsion of, contrary to Lenin’s wishes, the party leaders of the former Workers Opposition, Shliapnikov, Medvedev and Kollontai and it further declined Lenin’s proposal to lengthen the probationary period for peasants to make the party more proletarian or worker orientated.

It was clear in the years prior to Lenin’s death that the Communist Party might not accede to Lenin’s wishes and if that were to be the case then the chances of either Zinoviev or Trotsky taking Lenin’s place would also diminish accordingly.

Following Lenin’s death in 1924, the Communist Party appointed Stalin as the leader of the Soviet Union. His appointment was not without opposition and both Zinoviev and Kamenev, another founder member of the first politburo founded in 1917 to manage the Bolshevik revolution, made it clear privately that they did not favor Stalin but were unable to do much about it because they needed his help in opposing Trotsky’s faction.

It was a three-way battle and eventually Stalin would emerge triumphant. In October 1927, Zinoviev, Kamenev and Trotsky were ejected from the Central Committee and on November 14th of the same year Zinoviev and Trotsky were expelled from the party.

Stalin had emerged triumphant. The son of a humble shoemaker from Tbilisi, Georgia, he was determined to undo his more learned rivals and bring about the modernization of the Soviet Union.

Having consolidated his power Stalin would go on to unveil his five year plans designed to put the Soviet Union at par with its more contemporary neighbors. The first five-year plan was implemented in 1928 and would continue until 1932.

Stalin embarked on a scheme that would allow the Soviet Union to surpass its western rivals and part of the scheme included bringing about an end to the private ownership of land. He unearthed a series of ambitious plans, to industrialize the country and to restructure the farming system.

Farm ownership was to be transferred from the hands of private owners to the state by force and many of the independent land owners and their families were forcefully evicted from their rightful homes and were sent to Siberian labor camps or “Gulags”.

By the 1930s Stalin’s plan to restructure the farming system or farm collectivization as it was called had spread to the Northern Caucasus and the rest of Ukraine with devastating effects. It was an induced storm that battered the Northern Caucasus at a velocity and an intensity that left a million dead in its wake.

Almost half the grain supply in Ukraine was confiscated to force independent stake holders to surrender their holdings and this precipitated widespread famine. Villages were blacklisted and surrounded by armed detachments. All food and food supplies were removed and delivery of any type of food or groceries was prohibited.

A blacklisted village simply meant death by starvation for its inhabitants. Over one third of the villages in Soviet Ukraine were blacklisted, representing a population of nearly 10 million. Thirteen counties in the Kuban Region of Southern Russia were also blacklisted. The locals called it Holodomor, a word used to describe the man made famine which struck the Ukraine and adjacent Cossack territories between 1932 and 1933.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Shab E Cheleh (Yalda)

Shab E Cheleh or as it is more commonly known, Yalda, is a festival celebrated on the day-night of the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year or the day with the longest night of the year) and it is celebrated in honor of Mithra or the Sun God to usher in the new year which begins on the following day. It is symbolic of birth or rebirth (of the sun) and it coincides with the last day of the Persian month of Azar or the day evil is perceived to be at its peak (because the night is longer on this particular day than any other day of the year).

Before we go further it is worth mentioning that the worship of the sun is a dominant facet or aspect of most agrarian or agricultural communities and that is simply because it is impossible to grow or cultivate any type of crops without the aid and the assistance of the sun.

The Khordeh Avesta gives us an indication of the significance and the importance that is attached to the symbolic worship of the sun and Mithra is represented as a God who is immortal, radiant, swift footed, omniscient and omnipresent.

The following verses give us some indication of the importance that is attached to Mithra. “We praise the immortal, radiant and the swift-footed horse, the Sun. We praise Meher (Meher is a quality of Ahura Mazda that is synonymous to the truth or the face of truth) Yazata of wide pastures (who is) the speaker of true words, the sitter in the assembly, of a thousand ears, well-shaped, ten thousand eyes, the exalted, surveying from a watchtower or a large fortress, brave, sleepless (and) ever-wakeful. We praise (him) the lord of all countries (who is) Meher Yazata, whom Ahura Mazda created as the most glorious of the spiritual Yazatas”.

Shab E Cheleh is a Persian festival and among other things it tells us that the early Persians were an agricultural people. They attached a lot of importance not only to sun but to all matters relating and pertaining to agriculture including the tools, implements and the animals that aided or facilitated agriculture for example the plow, ox and horses.

It is not uncommon to find ceremonies to honor or commemorate all the aforementioned or at the very least include them in the festivities among agrarian communities or societies. So these festivals don’t always just revolve the harvest or the produce.

Interestingly enough the Rig Veda also mentions Mithra. It personifies Mithra in the following manner: – “Mithra, of holy strength, I call upon thee who maketh the oil−fed rite complete. Mithra cherisher and lover of law and through law have thee obtained thy power. Mithra whose ways are firm, thou are a power that none deceives, a god of consecrated might. I call upon thee Mithra to guard us with all aids and to make us exceedingly rich”.

From the above passage, we can adduce that the sun is worshiped not only as a God that ensures bountiful harvest and warehouses full of grains but also as a guardian of the people and as a dispenser of justice.

Mithra is not only symbolic of the sun but also represents all its qualities including its munificent and luminescent rays. The rays of Mithra or the sun are perceived to have therapeutic properties i.e. healing and strengthening powers.

The magical rays of the sun are dispersed to the four corners of the world by Vayu or the wind. Vayu in the Khordeh Avesta is identical to Vayu in the Rig Veda i.e. Vayu is the wind or the wind god.

Shab E Cheleh is also celebrated to symbolize the rebirth of the sun and to usher in the new sun on the following day. The festival is perceived as a victory over the forces of darkness by the forces of light and just exactly how that victory is achieved is transcribed in the Khordeh Avesta.

The spiritual component of Mithra (light) fragments into thousands of individual entities each with an individual soul and with the aid of Vayu (the wind) disperses and displaces all evil.

The following day or the first day of the Persian new month Dey, is dedicated to the worship of Ahura Mazda, the Lord of Wisdom, and because the days are now longer than the night, it is deemed that victory has been achieved. The first day of the new month is also celebrated as Deygan.

During the celebrations flames are kept continuously burning, as a symbol of victory, reminiscent perhaps of the Atash Behram or the fire of victory. Fire in both Vedic and Zoroastrian circles signifies purity and righteousness and it is the holiest element in both religions. Anything witnessed or attested to by fire spans an eternity (seven life-times).

The festival is celebrated in a colorful manner that is filled with dance, music, photo presentations, reading of poems and other similar activities that bring out the flavor or the essence of the festival.

Fruits and flowers especially fruits with a reddish or purple hue are also widely used during celebrations including pomegranates and these fruits and flowers are picked and selected to represent and coincide with the reddish-golden hue of Dawn, a Goddess who is synonymous to Yalda.

Now, while we are on the subject of Dawn, it is worth mentioning that she is a Goddess who is mentioned in Rig Veda and that basically means that her worship is very old and that it predates that of more contemporary Goddesses.

Dawn is by no means a conventional Goddess but her worship was nonetheless significant. She is one of the few Goddesses that are described as being blonde haired (light-haired to be precise) and blue-eyed in certain versions of the Riga-Veda and she was regarded or considered to be, according to the ancient religious texts, as one of the four loveliest or prettiest women to grace the earth.

We have to keep in mind that texts like the Rig-Veda and their interpretations are written in an archaic poetic form and a lot depends in the way and manner these texts are translated from Sanskrit.

The worship of Dawn is a novel diversion from the type of worship that is normally associated to texts like the Rig-Veda and the Goddess is worshiped for might, power and opulence, in an unorthodox but simplistic manner.

Her worship to some degree stimulates the imagination and one cannot but help conjure vivid images in one’s mind of great warriors, sitting around a table, drinking mead and feasting on the meat of the beast that dies each day only to be reborn the following morning (Sæhrímnir), in the halls of Valhalla, waiting for Ragnarok.

Copyright © 2018 by Dyarne Ward

Nestor Makhno II

In the days that followed the initial years of the revolution Ukraine disintegrated into a state of lawlessness. Russia’s involvement in the First World War (Jul 28, 1914 – Nov 11, 1918) provided much needed reprieve for Makhno.

While the Cossacks were preoccupied with the war, Makhno recruited and built his resistance movement and by the end of the war his troops numbered in access of 50,000. It was by no means a small movement and Makhno had managed to bolster his numbers fairly quickly. It was clearly a sign of the uncertainty of the times.

The unprecedented support may also have been due to the fact that Makhno’s insurrection had gained popular support and many idealists and liberalists within Russia sympathized with Makhno’s efforts. Printed materials including pamphlets and leaflets were distributed nationwide, and support for his efforts was on the rise.

Makhno’s Revolutionary Army liberated many urban areas in Northern Ukraine from the folds of the Ukrainian Nationalist Movement, a predominantly Cossack movement, loyal to the czar.

Makno and his army soon acquired a name for carrying out brash and brazen attacks, which included numerous armed robberies. His raids were bold, imaginative, creative, and soon became the stuff of legends.

He was very much in the Robin Hood mold and like the fictional hero; he stole from the rich to help the poor. Makhno was a master strategist and a brilliant commander and it was inevitable that he’d build up a sizeable following.

He was soon conferred the title little father “Batko”. He was by no means a tall man, approximately 5’4’ in height but his exploits towered well above that of giants.

Makhno’s style and tactics were best defined as anarchism. It wasn’t something that he had acquired naturally and there were some Czech influences there because he was mentored by a Czech teacher prior to being imprisoned but having said that, it could also have been a derivative of the anarchist philosophy of Mikhail Bakunin.

In 1920, in the City of Poltava, located along the banks of the Vorlska River in Central Ukraine, a predominantly Cossack part of Ukraine, a general uprising began against Bolshevik rule.

The historical city was shaken by the tremors of insurgency. Dissatisfaction and anger over the continued suppression of the proletariat boiled over and spiraled into a rebellion. The resentment towards the Bolsheviks was so strong that units of the regular army defected in a display of open hostility.

The situation was further aggravated by the conscription of Polish youth into the military to send them to the Polish front, to battle Polish forces under the command of First Marshall Jozef Pilsudski, and the compulsory requisitioning of food.

It was an area that was under the influence of the Ukrainian Party of Socialist-Revolutionaries (Borotbists) who had broken all ties with the Bolsheviks and were leaning towards an independent struggle.

There were attempts to merge the party with the Communist Party of Ukraine but the Borotbists walked out and in March 1920 decided to dissolve their party.

The Borotbists took their name from the word Borotba which connotes struggle and is symbolic of the Ukrainian uprising. The party largely comprised of peasants from the lower strata, whose most common source of income was farming and the performance of other menial tasks.

Two months later armed with rifles and small arms, a fight broke out with the local requisitioning units. In a minor battle the rebels overcame the Red Army Units and having won the skirmish, they released the captured prisoners.

The response was swift and lethal and included targeted hits and assassinations. Scores of people were killed. Makhno proved resilient and continued to attack where and when the enemy least expected and eventually the Bolsheviks called for a ceasefire.

Makhno accepted on the condition that thousands of political prisoners were freed. He was then invited to a conference which was nothing short of a trap that Makhno successfully eluded. He continued his fight for freedom but his grass-root supporters had diminished considerably by then, due to repeated and calculated attacks. His numbers were waning.

In August 1921, an exhausted Makhno was finally driven by Mikhail Frunze’s Ukrainian Red Army into exile while the remainder of his followers, fled to Romania, Poland, Berlin and Paris.

Makhno remained a noble and valiant hero of the people to the very end. He died on July 6 1934 in France at the age of 45, as a result of tuberculosis, evading capture and surrender to the very end.

Copyright © 2017 by Dyarne Ward

Nestor Makhno I

The Ukrainian Revolution occurred at a similar time, almost concurrently, as the Russian Revolution (1917 – 1921) and was in fact a revolution within a revolution. The Bolsheviks revolted to free Russia from czarist rule and their motives or intentions at time was to free the masses from the clutches of the decadence they were trapped in.

“Freeing the people from the clutches of decadence” however came at a huge cost and even as I write this I can’t help but wonder if revolutions are indeed what they are made out to be and if it isn’t easier to just work with the system to try and achieve a specific result or an objective.

Lenin was once quoted as saying “I don’t care if we exterminate 90% of the population, as long as the remaining 10% are communists”. The price as far as I am concerned was just too high. The success of the Russian Revolution came at a cost of 20 million lives.

At the start I was under the impression that Ukraine was a nation striving to achieve its own identity but having spoken to people who have been to Ukraine since then, I am convinced that there are two sides to the coin and that there is a segment of the population that firmly belief that Ukraine’s history should be read in light of Russia’s and at times it is not possible to distinguish or differentiate between the both.

I am not motivated by the current conflict in Ukraine and it matters not who is right and who is wrong. What matters is the long term prosperity of the Ukrainian people regardless of ideology, religion or ethnicity.

The success of the Russian Revolution sent shockwaves throughout Europe. In Poland First Marshall Jozef Pilsudski launched a preemptive strike into Ukraine in an attempt to prevent the inevitable with the proposition of setting up a new federation comprising of the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia), Finland, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia.

Aligned with him were the citizens of Western Ukraine who rallied under the umbrella of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic comprising mainly of people of Polish origin. The Russian Ukrainians who lived in Eastern Ukraine assembled under the banner of Symon Petliura’s Ukrainian People’s Republic. The coalition fired the first salvo and the rebellion, to break away from Bolshevik rule, lasted until October 1920.

The conditions prior to the revolution were deplorable. Capitalism did not develop organically in Ukraine and the wealth of the nation was divided among the ruling elite. Ethnic Ukrainians were confined to the realms of the proletariat

From the perspective of pro-Ukrainian writers, the revolution in Ukraine that ran concurrently with the Russian Revolution was not only an uprising against Imperial Russia but also an uprising aimed at ending Bolshevik rule in Ukraine. I tend to agree.

In the aftermath of the October Revolution of 1917, anarchism was the order of the day. The czarist rulers of Russia, in an attempt to re-install democracy, freed thousands of political prisoners and dissidents, in an effort to win popular support.

Lenin was quick to seize the opportunity and many of the disillusioned political prisoners were persuaded to embrace the politics of the Bolsheviks. Shift and change was in the air and it’s difficult to determine if the bulk of the masses were in favor of Lenin’s ideological reforms or if they merely wanted change. Whatever the reasons, the Bolsheviks swept to power.

Post their victory, the lush and fertile fields of Ukraine were trampled on by the boots of militants. The tide of battle flowed back and forth with a bulk of the proletariat, who comprised of farmers and poor peasants paying the price. The Bolsheviks would be quick to state that freedom came at a cost but they had no measure of the price that was to be extracted or extorted.

Featuring prominently on the Ukrainian side of things was someone who can aptly be described as a modern day Robin Hood, Nestor Ivanovych Makhno, the commander of an independent anarchist army.

Makno was born in Huliaipole. An Ukrainian from peasant stock, he spent many years as a political prisoner for his guerilla style strikes against those aligned with the czar. Released as part of social reforms and in an attempt to strike a balance between the ruling class and the proletariat, Makno and hundreds of his comrades would go on to structure and engineer another minor revolution.

Copyright © 2017 by Dyarne Ward