Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Gnomes, Elves, Gods of Antiquity, a Universal Knowledge, Part 2

Universal knowledge of elemental beings

These beings have been described worldwide in similar terms, considered in connection with the same natural elements, and placed within a hierarchy at the summit of which there is not a single god but a group of gods.

Testimony to the existence of a dozen main gods is found not only in Greek, Roman or other European mythology, but is also found to varying degrees in Africa, Asia, and America.
Such conformity is amazing. Beyond the variations due to the differences of culture and environment, the conceptions and descriptions match in an astonishing manner. Where can this unanimity come from?

There are two hypotheses. The first one considers all the knowledge about elemental beings as a human invention that is propagated all over the globe. The second approach considers the fact that since so many peoples worldwide have believed in the existence of elemental beings and could depict them in a similar manner, it means that they all – no matter where they lived – saw the same thing and could thus describe a similar reality. There was therefore no transmission of an imagined conception but the development of a knowledge based on personally lived experiences.

Of these two hypotheses the first is the least plausible. It is a well-known fact that information transmitted by word of mouth and through intermediaries gets rapidly distorted.

In addition, at the time when these transmissions were supposed to have taken place natural obstacles such as oceans, high mountain ranges, and deserts were almost insurmountable barriers. Besides, a very strong missionary zeal would have been necessary to propagate that knowledge all over the world.

A knowledge for all times

According to ethnologists and historians, one of the characteristics of peoples believing in the existence of elemental beings is precisely the absence of a missionary spirit.

The fact that the belief in the existence of elemental beings is uniformly spread, not only in space but also in time, gives more credence to the second hypothesis.

Indeed, this belief has been alive since the earliest human history. It begins with the worship of nature spirits, the traces of which are found in cave drawings dating over 25,000 years ago. It continues with the worship of ancient gods in Mesopotamia (5 BC), in China and Persia (4 BC), in ancient Greece and Rome, as well as with the Aztecs and Incas (14th/15th century AD), with North American Indians (17th/18th century AD), up to the present day when animistic beliefs are firmly rooted in a sizeable portion of the world’s population.

What an extraordinary long life for a belief considered erroneous and stemming from human imagination!

Why not accept that these folktales and legends are founded on truth, that they were originally based on lived experiences and direct contact, and therefore that the elemental beings really exist?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gnomes, Elves, Gods of Antiquity, a Universal Knowledge, Part 1

From time immemorial, human beings, both children and adults, have been seeing elemental beings and relating their encounters to those around them. These narratives, which went beyond the ordinary, have been preserved and handed down from generation to generation. Over time – and often with a lot of distortions – they became folktales and legends of various peoples.

They tell of peasants whom these elemental beings guide as to the best time to plant, of shepherds who are helped to find their lost herd or to watch over them, of miners being shown where to dig, of fishermen directed to where to spread their nets, of mountain dwellers and seamen who are warned of the imminent arrival of an avalanche or storm.

They also tell of elemental beings teaching people new ways to utilize what is found in their natural environment: where to find a spring, which medicinal plants to use in taking care of various ailments, how to forge metals, what clay to use to obtain better pottery, which vegetal fibres to use in weaving.

The main elemental beings described in these narratives are gnomes, giants, elves, sylphs, water sprites and, less often, salamanders.

The main task of these beings is not rescuing or advising human beings but to take care of Nature itself, that is, to form, bring it to life and to organise it. They are active in one aspect or another depending on their kind.

Gnomes work with everything relating to the soil, that is, earth, stones, and rocks. Giants form the mountains, valleys, and caves. Elves look after the growth of flowers and plants, while sylphs animate and direct winds, clouds and storms. Water is the sphere of activity of water sprites: springs, streams, rivers, lakes and seas. Salamanders are in charge of everything relating to fire: fireplaces, forges, volcanoes, “will-o’-the-wisps” and so on.
Folktales and legends

In the folktales and legends the elemental beings are described as having a height and a size adapted to their task. Gnomes are stocky and dense like the rocks and the earth; water sprites are fluid and supple like the liquid element, and the giants are large like the mountains and plains they shape.

But the elemental beings in contact with matter are not the only ones in existence. All the folktales and legends also describe different groups of elemental beings standing a little higher than these, directing and coordinating their activities; and higher still a smaller number of elemental beings of a superior kind who are at the top of the whole hierarchy. The latter were considered by various peoples as the most powerful and the highest, and as such were venerated as gods.

These are the well-known deities of Greek and Roman mythology: Zeus, the god of the sky and all meteorological phenomena; Hades, the god of the underworld; Poseidon, the god of the sea; Artemis, the goddess of the hunt; Demeter, the goddess of vegetation; Hephaestos, the god of fire and crafts; Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty and fertility. The unanimity and universality of these tales and legends is surprising. Human beings all over the world and through the ages have indeed come in contact with elemental beings.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In the Jungle of Diets, Part 2

It’s not just about weight!

Although most diets aim at weight reduction or loss, many are also used as therapies. The body may not only be overweight from excess fat, but a profusion of waste materials can accumulate in tissues and organs without causing an increase in weight. To that extent dieting can make sense for rheumatism sufferers or sufferers from cardiovascular disorders and other diseases.

In a rheumatism sufferer for example, such a diet will be low in proteins to avoid an influx of uric acid and urea, which cause inflammation and blockage of the joints. In people with cardiovascular disease the choice is a diet low in fats to reduce cholesterol intake and prevent blood thickening and deposits in the arteries (arteriosclerosis). In cases of eczema acids are to be restricted, in oedema salts, and sweets in acne.
Purpose of dietetic treatment

In contrast to diets, nutritional therapies aim to rectify nutritional deficiencies, that is they aim to replenish vitamins, trace elements, amino acids, and so on, the lack or deficiency of which caused the disease in the first place. Any organism depends on a steady supply of nutrients for its proper function and growth. While temporary shortages are mostly without significant effects, chronic deficiencies can cause considerable damage.

Nutritional therapies are arranged to remedy missing nutrients in the body. Vitamin C deficiency for example is treated with citrus fruits. Mineral deficiency can be helped by vegetables and dairy products, which are foods high in minerals.

But sometimes it is not enough to just use certain foods, one must increase their consumption substantially in order to supply the adequate amount of a certain nutrient. A protein diet, which consists mainly of meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, can be used to remedy protein deficiencies. For osteoporosis a diet rich in dairy products (cheese, cottage cheese, yoghurt and so on) can be recommended, which assists calcium and vitamin D absorption. In certain cases it would be a good idea to add nutritional supplements to the diet and increase the vitamin and mineral intake. So for instance wheat germ is useful to increase supply of vitamin E, brewer’s yeast for the B vitamins, Spirulina for amino acids and linseed or rapeseed oil for vitamin F.

Which diet do I require?

Every diet should have a certain therapeutic goal. It does not any make sense to try a diet simply because it is praised in the media or it was recommended in a book, or because it is in fashion at the time or has helped another person.

The right diet or nutritional therapy should exactly correspond to the needs of the individual. Professional dietary advice is important, because there are manifold interactions in the body, so that what is intended to help may in fact cause harm in the end.

If a diet promises a quick result, without the person having to contribute anything, great caution is called for.

In view of the natural law of equilibrium every “one-sided” diet presents an unbalanced eating habit — when the aim is to eradicate an existing imbalance. Diets and nutritional therapies therefore are not part of the normal lifestyle and should not be maintained for too long. Nor is it beneficial to spend one’s life jumping from one diet to another with the aim of doing as many “healthy” things as possible.

Diets and nutritional therapies are temporary aids. During times when we are not on a special diet, we should strive for healthy eating habits which suit our needs. These requirements will naturally depend on our activities and the change of the seasons. When we always adjust ourselves to these conditions we thereby obey the law of balance – and, literally speaking, nourish ourselves in a balanced way.