Early Sumerian version of the caduceus.
LEARNING IS TO THE MIND
WHAT LIGHT IS TO THE EYE
Latin CUNEUS means WEDGE and FORMA means SHAPE
The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era; developed to write the Sumerian language of southern Mesopotamia. Cuneiform is the earliest known writing system and was adapted to write a number of languages in addition to Sumerian. Akkadian texts are attested from the 24th century BCE onward and make up the bulk of the cuneiform record.
TO SUMER THE WORLD OWES ALL ITS BASIC ARTS
OF LITERATE CIVILIZED LIFESTYLES
“SUMER--A STORE OF KNOWLEDGE”
A religion cannot become a global faith without BOOKS TO TEACH
THE BOOK OF GENESIS
The doctrine of the creative power of the divine word:
Let there BE light (electricity/fusion energy)
AN ANIMAL WHO SEES
“THE EYES OF THE LORD”
Genesis 2:8—NOW . . . the Lord God had planted a garden [cultivated parcel] in the East [sunrise], in EDEN—and there he put the man he had formed [Sumerian creation story: November 2022].
Genesis 2:15—the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of EDEN to WORK it and take care of it [Sumerian].
Genesis 2:9—In the middle of the garden were the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Genesis 2:16—And the Lord God commanded the man: YOU are free to eat from any tree in the garden BUT . . . you must not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. For when YOU eat of it you will surely die.
Genesis 3—Ancient symbol of immortality—renewal of life because it sheds its skin, the Serpent said to the woman: DID GOD REALLY SAY that you must not eat from any tree in the garden? The woman said: We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden. But . . . God did say . . . you must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden and you must not touch it, or you will die. The Serpent said: You will not die. Your EYES will be opened and you will be like God KNOWING good and evil.
[--Learning is to the MIND what Light is to the EYE--]
SO . . . the woman ate the fruit [no mention of apple]—so pleasant to the eye and for gaining wisdom. She also gave the man some and he ate it. Then THEIR EYES were opened: they were naked. [Gen. 9:20Noah planted a vineyard; when he drank some of the wine he became DRUNK and lay UNCOVERED in his tent]. Upset, the Lord God appeared (wearing a garment of skin -Gen. 3:23) and said to the man: Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from? The man pointed his finger at the woman and said: She gave me some. The woman said, pointing at the serpent, He deceived me and I ate.
Genesis 3:19—Pointing at the man, the Lord God pronounced: By the sweat of your brow you will EAT YOUR FOOD until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for DUST you are and to DUST you will return [Sumerian]. And turning to the woman who had enticed the man to eat the fruit—to punish her—he said: Your desire will be for your husband and . . . . . . he will rule over you.
THE LAMENTATION OVER
THE DESTRUCTION OF SUMER AND UR
The deity of the city-state UR was the moon-god Nanna/SIN;
He was symbolized by the crescent moon and star.
IT WAS THE BRONZE AGE:
Ur-Nammu was the first ruler of the Third Dynasty of Ur. The fall of the city happened during the reign of King Ibbi-Sin and occurred circa 2200 BCE. The baton went to Akkad
The Chaldean Aramaeans of Ur—[according to “UR OF THE CHALDEES” by Leonard Woolley]—are not to be found in Southern Mesopotamia [SUMER] before the beginning of the first millennium but from the 10th to the 6th centuries BCE. The Chaldeans were well-known astrologers, famous for predicting the future [MAGI from the east followed a STAR to Jerusalem [Matthew 2] to worship the new-born king of the Jews] and of course magic tricks! That’s why the Chaldean branch of Aramaeans [Hebrews/Jews] put “their history” in the book of Genesis. Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar [reigned 605-562 BCE] was the second Chaldean king.
THE BOOK OF GENESIS
is the PRELUDE
to the book of EXODUS and the religion of the Israelites
IT IS THE STORY OF—
THE FAMILY TREE
[Sumerian creation story: November 2022]
I spin like a spider myriad reflections
and embroider with strands of vivid observations.
I paint fantasies with frivolous perceptions
and build in the air with luminous illusions
brilliant tapestries and scintillating castles.
[copyright Olga Pitcairn]
Starting at Genesis 11:31
The biography— adventures—of Abram/Abraham
Our future “patriarch” has two brothers: Nahor who has two daughters and Haran, deceased, who has a son called LOT. The three brothers live with their father Terah in UR of the Chaldeans. Father Terah decides to immigrate to Canaan. Nahor decides to stay.
So . . . Terah leaves with son Abram and his wife Sarai and grandson Lot—taking along their wealth: livestock. They finally arrive in HARAN, a city to the north of Canaan. Terah is tired of “wandering” and they settle down there. He dies at age 205. Abram buries his father. Nephew Lot wants to know if they continue living at Haran or return to UR of the Chaldeans, his birthplace. Abram goes to a huge rock plateau. He sits on a boulder and contemplates the vast plain ahead that leads toward Canaan. With a sigh he recalls his father saying it was the land of milk and honey. As he nods, he folds his hands. Suddenly, out of the blue, a breeze tickles his right ear and someone whispers: ‘Abram, why not leave this place and settle in the land of your father’s golden dream?’ Eyes wide open, startled, Abram turns his head. Lo-and-behold, God is smiling at him. ‘Abram’, he says, ‘I promise—I predict—that you’ll be prosperous and multiply. I’ll make sure that you’ll become a great nation. I promise that you will be a blessing to all peoples on earth’.
So . . . in a nutshell: At age 75, Abram packs up and travels with childless Sarai, his nephew Lot, his entire household and livestock to CANAAN—where he pitches his tents near the great tree of Moreh at SHECHEM. Abram is contemplating his next move when out of the blue, God again appears to him. ‘Abraham,’ he whispers, ‘how about . . . if I‘ll give this land to your offspring?’ Face aglow, eyes shining, Abram whispers, ‘Lord, so that we can communicate, what you want me to do?’ The Lord puts his lips at Abram’s ear. ‘Build me an altar, Abram. Offer me a sacrifice; that will be the sign for calling on me.’ Encouraged by the thought that the Lord had offered the land to his future children, Abram builds an altar to the Lord. Looking from the hills at Shechem down to the fertile valley, he nods, murmuring to himself that his kids will need this land as well. Determined, he moves on, and pitches his tents between BETHEL and AI. He builds one more altar . . . in case; one never knows, better be prepared than sorry. He offers a sacrifice; and calls on the Lord who tells him to go on. Abram, eager to expand his territory, strolls on and enters the NEGEV. After a while he has a hard time grazing his flocks: having to compete with other herdsmen for water. To top it all, a famine in Canaan forces him to keep moving. Abram decides, with a nod from Lot, to travel with his household to bountiful, grain-rich EGYPT.
So . . . Abram enters his wife Sarai’s tent and sits down for a serious chat. She offers him a cup of goat milk and a piece of bread and then sits facing him. ‘Sweet honey,’ Abram says, ‘I can’t let my household starve.’ He takes a bite of bread and chews. Then he says, ‘This is our staff of life. So Lot and I decided to go to Egypt, our nearest breadbasket.’ He sips milk. “Sweet honey,’ he continues, ‘you are a beautiful woman.’ He nods at her. ‘When the Egyptians see you, they will say that you are my wife, and they will kill me but you will live.’ Sarai gets up and sits next to her husband. ‘Yes, Abram?’ she whispers. ‘What you want me to do?’ Abram takes Sarai’s hand. ‘How about . . .’ and he squeezes her hand. ‘I’m your sister?’ Sarai says with a slight nod of her head. All smiles, Abram says, ‘Thank you, sweet honey. You’ll spare my life and I’ll be treated well.’ He puts his arm around her and whispers in her ear, ‘Sister Sarai, we’ll see each other often, don’t you worry.’ Sarai fondles his earlobe and says, ‘I can’t show up in these rags, dear Abram. I need new garments.’ Abram nods and says, ‘Of course, sweet honey. Get your seamstress busy, and . . .’ he chuckles, ‘I’ll get you pretty purple sandals. That will be my gift.’ They embrace. To Be Continued
The geographical PICTURE --from this Genesis story—is that of IRON AGE PALESTINE—[1100-500 BCE] as only during that period all the cities/settlements in “the narrative” are known AND occupied.
When the Most High [ELYON] allotted peoples for inheritance,
When He divided up humanity,
He fixed the boundaries for peoples,
According to the number of the divine sons:
For Yahweh’s portion is his people,
Jacob His own inheritance.
The Origins of Biblical Monotheism
TO BE CONTINUED
MESOPOTAMIA AND THE BIBLE
Land was the property of the gods
Continuation from January
So . . . Abram and his family enter fertile EGYPT. As predicted, Pharaoh takes a liking to beautiful Sarai and Abram tells him that she is his sister. Sarai stays at the palace. Abram is welcomed with open arms by the Egyptians. His herdsmen are respected and are allowed to graze Abram’s flocks without hinder. Abram acquires more livestock and more servants; he is doing very well for himself. But then . . . a whistleblower, one of Lot’s servants, informs Pharaoh that, to tell the truth, Sarai is Abram’s wife. Needless to say Pharaoh is upset? He summons Abram to the palace and the two have an amicable chat. With his blessings, Pharaoh sends the couple with their considerable gains out of Egypt. Abram, Lot and Sarai discuss where to go.
So . . . in a nutshell: The family returns to the NEGEV and on to BETHEL where finally they pitch their tents. Abram says to Lot that he will ask God what to do. He goes to the altar he had built years before to call on God. Abram puts his sacrifice, a choice lamb, on the altar and kindles the fire. The aroma of burning flesh is enticing. Abram holds his hands high up and shouts, ‘Here I am Lord God. What you want me to do?’ There is silence. He repeats, ‘Here I am Lord God. What you want me to do?’ Silence. Mystified Abram returns to his tent wondering if God is angry. Then, in a flash, he remembers that, while they were at Shechem, God had promised the land of milk and honey to his offspring. So, Abram says to Lot, ’Let’s walk up the hill. You are aware that our herdsmen are quarrelling?’ Lot nods and sighs. ‘Let’s part,’ Abram suggests as they reach the top. ‘If you go to the left then I’ll go’—he points to Jordan—‘to the right. It’s your choice.’ Lot points to the right: the whole plain of Jordan.
So . . . Abram returns to his altar and waits for God to tell him what to do. From the altar a voice says, ‘Remember that I offered this land, Canaan, to your offspring?’ Abram folds his hands and bows his head as he says, ‘I do remember your offer, oh Lord.’ The flames on the altar crackle and the voice says, ‘You, Abram, stay in this land. Lift up your eyes and look north and south, east and west—all the land that you SEE I will give to you and your offspring FOREVER. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth. Go, walk the length and breadth of the land of milk and honey—for I am giving it to you.’ [so far, the couple has no offspring]
So . . . in a nutshell: Abram and Sarai pack up their large household and with their animals leave direction for the great trees of Mamre at HEBRON where they pitch their tents. Abram builds an altar to the Lord. When Abram hears that Lot, living near Sodom, has been taken captive by some kings, he marches with armed servants to his rescue. He brings Lot back with his possessions, women, and other folk. In Salem [Jerusalem] King Melchizedek, priest of God Most High [Elyon], celebrates Abram’s victory by offering bread and wine as he blesses him. Abram gives Melchizedek one tenth of the booty he acquired from the defeated kings.
UR OF THE CHALDEES
Back in HEBRON: One balmy evening Abram sits beneath a tree sipping fermented date juice. As he contemplates about what God had promised him, the Lord appears to him in a vision. Right away . . . Abram begins to lament that he has no children and that a servant, Elizier of Damascus, his right hand herdsman, will be his heir. God smiles at him and promises that he will have a son of his own flesh and blood. Above his head the leaves move softly. ‘Abram,’ a voice says, ‘look up at the heavens and count the stars. So shall your offspring be. I am the Lord who brought you out of UR OF THE CHALDEANS to give you this land to take possession of. Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated for four hundred years. In the fourth generation your descendants will return. This is my COVENANT with you: to your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates.’ Elated, Abram rushes to tell Sarai about this covenant God made with him. Sarai nods and reminds him that they have, as yet, no children, and suggests that he sleeps with her Egyptian maidservant Hagar. [according to custom that child will be hers] A year later, son ISHMAEL is born. Abram is 86 years old. There is a huge celebration welcoming Abram’s first-born offspring. Everyone is content except for barren Sarai who will never have a son from her own bloodline.
So . . . in a nutshell: God Almighty [Elyon] appears out of the blue to 99-year old Abram, who is taking a walk, and says, ‘Abram, I want to confirm my covenant.’ Terrified, Abram falls, face down, on his stomach. The voice continues: ‘I will greatly increase your numbers. You will be the father of many nations—from now on your name will be ABRAHAM, kings will come from you. The whole land of Canaan—the land of milk and honey—where you are now an alien I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you—and I WILL BE THEIR GOD. The covenant you are to keep is this: Every male among you shall be circumcised—this will be THE SIGN OF THE COVENANT between me and you. And, Abraham, Sarai is from now on to be known as SARAH. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her. MY COVENANT—I will ESTABLISH with ISAAC whom Sarah will bear to you—by this time next year.’
It is a very hot day—Abraham is sitting at the entrance to his tent when God, disguised as a man, appears with two males. He gets up to say welcome and invites them to a meal. They accept. Abraham tells Sarah to bake bread, and then rushes to his flock and orders that a calf be roasted. When the meal is ready the three eat at the entrance of the tent. Standing under a tree, Abraham watches them. They inquire after Sarah. He replies that she is inside the tent. Then God says, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah, your wife, will have a son.’ Inside the tent Sarah laughs—she can’t believe it; her womb is barren. God repeats his prediction. When the three men leave—Abraham joins them. As they walk direction Sodom, God says that they came to investigate about the wickedness of the people of Sodom. If it’s true, he will destroy the city. Abraham pleads for his nephew Lot and his family to be saved.
So . . . in a nutshell: Abraham packs up and moves to the NEGEV and settles in Gerar. The king, Abimelech, takes Sarah for his wife because Abraham tells him that she is his sister. God pays the king a visit in a dream and informs him that he is as good as dead because Sarah is a married woman. God orders the king to return Sarah to Abraham—a prophet who will pray for him to live. Out of curiosity, the king wants to know why Abraham said that Sarah is his sister. Abraham explains that Sarah is the daughter of his father Terah’s other wife; that’s how she became his wife. And, so as to show him her love, Sarah always says: ‘He’s my brother.’ Satisfied with the clarification, the king happily gives Abraham sheep, cattle, slaves and Sarah—telling her that he’ll give her brother Abraham one thousand shekels in silver as repentance. To Abraham King Abimelech says, ‘My land is before you; live wherever you like.’ Abraham prays to God. And God heals the king, his family, and household so they can have children again. He had closed every womb so that Abraham’s wife Sarah could not conceive and have a child with the king!
So . . . Abraham accepts King Abimelech’s offer and settles in his land. Sarah becomes pregnant, just as God predicted. Abraham is 100-year old when ISAAC is born. The infant is eight days old when Abraham circumcises him, as God had commanded. A feast is given once Isaac has been weaned: a toddler standing on his own two feet. Ishmael makes a face, commenting that he is the first born. Sarah, furious, says to Abraham, ‘Get rid of Ishmael and Hagar, his slave mother. He will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’ Abraham is greatly distressed because he dearly loves his son Ishmael. [by now a lean teenager] But God tells him that he’ll make Ishmael also into a nation. [a long story] Abraham should do what Sarah tells him because Isaac’s descendants will be the rightful heirs to the “Promised Land”: from the great river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates. [the pecking order: to be considered a Jew, mother must be a Hebrew]
So . . . Abraham has dug a well without King Abimelech’s permission and the king’s servants seize the well. The two men come to an agreement that in return for sheep and cattle Abraham has the right to stay in the land. They swear an oath. Abraham gives the king seven ewe lambs as a witness that he had dug the well and now owns it. He plants a tamarisk tree [today a flagpole] at this well. The place is BEERSHEBA. He calls upon the name of the Eternal God [Elyon]. Abraham stays in the land of the Philistines for a very long time.
In the late Stone Age, people in distress—petitioning the gods for life-saving rain—would offer as sacrifice their most precious first-born son. This practice fell into disuse and was replaced by a choice animal for sacrifice.
This is the story of how God challenged/tested Abraham—telling him to sacrifice his only son Isaac on his altar. In a nutshell: Father and son [age unknown] travel to Moriah where, on a mountain designated by God, the sacrifice will take place. They arrive, Isaac carrying the wood to kindle the fire. Abraham builds the altar and then adds the wood. The boy asks about the animal to be sacrificed. All choked up, Abraham is mute. He binds his son; then puts him on the wood pile, ready to sacrifice him. Isaac, petrified, stares at his father. But, lo and behold, the angel of the Lord calls out to stop the performance. A ram bleats in a bush. Abraham catches the animal. He unbinds his son and puts the ram on the wood and quickly lights the pile. The angel of the Lord shouts: ‘Because you have not withheld your only son, I will bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me!’ Isaac embraces his father, Abraham. They return to Beersheba.
So . . . Sarah dies in HEBRON, Canaan, when she is 127 years old. Abraham grieves. He buys from Ephron the Hittite the cave and fields of Machpelah near Mamre for 400 silver shekels, and buries his wife Sarah in this cave. His thoughts turn to getting Isaac a wife.
This is the story in a nutshell [Genesis 24]
Abraham receives news that his brother Nahor left UR of the Chaldeans and had settled in PADDAM ARAM. He recalls that nephew Lot has two sisters: Milcah and Iscah, and that Milcah is married to Nahor, her uncle. [an Aramaean]
So . . . Abraham asks his chief servant, Eliezer of Damascus, who manages his household, to get Isaac a wife from the “old country” where he has relatives. In case he dies, the manager should not get Isaac a Canaanite wife and orders him to swear; Eliezer puts his hand under his thigh. Abraham tells him that an angel of his Lord God will guide him on this trip. Eliezer wants to know what to do if the girl refuses. Abraham replies that he is then released from his oath. Satisfied knowing his marching orders, the manager takes 10 camels along with their caretakers, loads them with “goodie bags”, and departs. Finally, he arrives at PADDAM ARAM: it is evening. A long story: of meeting Rebekah at the well outside the city. It turns out she is the daughter of Bethuel—son of Nahor and Milcah. Eliezer asks for their hospitality and gives her a gold nose ring and two gold bracelets. The girl runs home and tells her mother and brother Laban of meeting this rich man who wants to board with them. Laban rushes to the well and invites Eliezer and his camels to stay with his mother. When Eliezer sits down for dinner with the family, he says: ‘I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say.’ Laban says: ‘Then tell us.’ Eliezer reveals that he’s Abraham’s servant. He explains at great length that he came to look for a wife for son Isaac. And with the help of Abraham’s God he arrived safely at this house. He gives Rebekah gold and silver jewelry and precious garments; also gifts for mother Milcah and brother Laban. When, together with her nurse, Rebekah leaves her home, the family wave farewell, and saying: ‘Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands: may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies.’
Upon arrival at Kadesh in the NEGEV Eliezer introduces Rebekah to Isaac; who takes her into the tent of his mother Sarah. [buried in Hebron!] And Rebekah becomes Isaac’s wife. [they are cousins]
So . . . Abraham takes a new wife (concubine) named Keturah. They have 6 sons. When Abraham approaches the age of 175 he instructs that his estate, everything he owns, belongs to son Isaac. The 6 sons by Keturah receive gifts and Abraham sends them across the Jordan into the Arabian Peninsula. Sons Ishmael and Isaac bury Abraham next to Sarah in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre: in HEBRON.
According to the science of Archaeology:
THE IRON AGE of the LEVANT
starts circa 1150 BCE
According to Judaism, MOSES wrote five books known as The Pentateuch:
It seems that Moses lived in the Late Bronze Age: Exodus (27)—altar with bronze overlay; (30)—a bronze basin. And, also, the Early Iron Age: Deuteronomy (3:11)—bed made of iron (4:20)—iron-smelting furnace; (8:9)—the rocks are iron; (27:5)—any iron tool.
GOD’S COVENANT WITH ABRAM:
Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated FOUR HUNDRED YEARS.
Jacob, grandson of Abraham, [buried in Hebron] and his descendants number 70 when THEY ENTER EGYPT. Joseph, son of Jacob, is already in Egypt, having been sold by his brothers (Genesis 37:12) to Potiphar, an official of Pharaoh. So when Jacob enters Egypt, he is accompanied by eleven sons and their families: Reuben—Simeon—Levi—Judah—Issachar—Zebulun—Benjamin—Dan—Naphtali—Gad—Asher.
THE ISRAELITES ARE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY
THE BOOK OF EXODUS
A new Pharaoh—unacquainted with the past history of the Israelites—says to his own people that they must deal with the Israelites because if they must fight a war these outsiders will join the enemy.
The story begins with the slaughter of baby boys. Pharaoh issues an edict that the two available Hebrew midwives must kill their baby boys but to have mercy on girls. The midwives fear God’s wrath and ignore the instruction. Pharaoh is angry. The midwives’ excuse is that Hebrew women give birth before they arrive on the scene. Then the fearful order comes that every baby boy born to a Hebrew woman must be thrown into the Nile.
It so happens that a Levite woman, married to a Levite man, gives birth to a baby boy. When the infant is three months old she makes a papyrus basket, coats it with tar and pitch, puts her baby boy in it and—her daughter watching—pushes the basket to a spot among the reeds along the banks of the Nile where Pharaoh’s daughter likes to bathe. When Pharaoh’s daughter arrives to take her bath she spots the basket. Curious, she opens it. The baby cries. Pharaoh’s daughter shrieks that it must be a Hebrew boy! The baby’s sister approaches and offers to fetch a wet nurse—and, voila!—the Levite woman shows up. Pharaoh’s daughter tells her to look after the boy. To top it all . . . the woman gets paid for this job!
The baby thrives and grows up into a handsome boy. The story line has it that the Levite woman decides to take the child to the palace and introduce him to Pharaoh’s daughter. Enchanted by his good looks, she adopts him, and gives her son the name MOSES—Egyptian for ‘I drew him out of the water.’
One day . . . now an adult, Moses decides to look up “his own people, the Israelites”. He witnesses an Egyptian beating a Hebrew. Flying into a rage, Moses kills the Egyptian, and then buries him in the sand. The next day, Moses watches two Hebrews fighting. Fuming, he steps up to interfere. In the blink of an eye, God recalls his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Hebrew men are ungrateful; there’s always a whistleblower. That’s how Pharaoh hears of Moses having killed and buried an Egyptian. Fearing for his life, sure-footed Moses flees to Midian.
The Story Continues
IMAGINATION IS THE BEGINNING OF
ALL MAGICAL OPERATIONS
“I AM WHO I AM”
Continuation from February
Fearing for his life, sure-footed Moses flees to Midian. He sits on a rock near a well when seven women approach to water their father’s flock. Shepherds make a go for the women; Moses interferes. The knight-errant offers to draw water and fill the troughs. The women say thanks and leave. Father REUEL, a priest of Midian, is astonished to see his daughters return home early. Excited, they relate that a very good-looking man chased away the shepherds; and he then drew water for the flocks. The priest orders his daughters to invite the man for dinner. Glad to get a roof over his head, Moses accepts. The priest gives him daughter Zipporah in marriage. They have a son: Gershom—Moses says that now he is an alien in a foreign land.
The chronicler then relates that Moses—tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, (previously known as Reuel)—is walking in the direction of Horeb, the mountain of God. When Moses arrives at Horeb he looks around for shelter. Out of the blue the angel of the Lord appears in flames and fire from inside a bush that does not seem to burn up. Startled, Moses goes to inspect the bush. ‘Moses,’ a voice within the bush shouts, ‘do not come closer! Remove your sandals, because this place is holy ground. Moses, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses puts his hands over his face while God informs him of the misery of his people, the Israelites, in Egypt. ‘Moses’, he says, ‘I have a job for you. I want to rescue the Israelites and as promised bring them to Canaan. Go to Pharaoh and tell him to let the Israelites leave Egypt.’ All shook up, Moses says, ‘Who am I? Pharaoh will just laugh.’ God says, ‘Moses, I’ll be with you. Fetch the Israelites. Bring them to Horeb so they can worship me here.’ Moses doesn’t feel up to the job and shouts, ‘What if they ask me what your name is?’ The fire crackles. God says, ‘Tell them that I AM WHO I AM sends you to rescue his people. Contact the elders of Israel and say that the Lord has sent you, and by that name, the Lord, I am to be remembered forever from generation to generation.’ The flames leap high. ‘Then you and the elders,’ God continues, ‘go to the king of Egypt and tell him that the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, is asking for permission to let them leave for three days so they can offer sacrifices. And if the king is unwilling, I shall strike the Egyptians where it hurts. Then negotiate again so the Egyptians will be glad to see the Israelites leave for worship. I’ll make sure that they’ll give our women silver and gold and precious clothing.’ God softly chuckles. ‘That’s the way to plunder the Egyptians.’ Moses rolls his eyes as he says, ‘What if they do not believe me and say that you did not appear to me?’ God’s voice is stern when he says, ‘What is that in your hand?’ Moses says, ‘My staff,’ as he shrugs. ‘Throw it on the ground,’ God orders. When Moses obeys and his staff turns into a snake he wants to run but God says, ‘Take it by its tail.’ Gingerly, Moses complies and the snake becomes again a staff. ‘When you do this trick’ God says, “they’ll believe you that I appeared. Now, put your hand inside your cloak!’ Moses obeys. When he removes his hand it is leprous, white as snow. He chokes. ‘Put your hand back into your cloak and then remove it,’ God orders. Moses follows the suggestion and is astonished when his hand looks normal. ‘However,’ God continues, ‘if the Israelites do not believe you after the first sign, they will believe you now. And if they do not believe these two signs, then take a bowl with Nile water and pour it on the ground. It will turn into blood.’ Moses is at a loss what to say. ‘O Lord, I’m tongue-tied,’ he croaks. ‘This is not a job for me.’ The Lord says, ‘Who gave you your mouth? It is I, the Lord. Now go! I’ll help you speak and teach you what to say.’ Moses goes on his knees and begs, ‘O Lord, please send someone else.’ Furious, God says, ‘Your brother Aaron, the Levite, speaks well. He’s on his way here to meet you. I will help him how to speak to the people for you. It will be—as if he is your mouth and—as if you are God to him. But you, Moses, must perform miracles with the staff. By the way, the men who wanted to kill you are all dead.’
At Horeb. According to God’s plan, Moses waits for Aaron to show up. They kiss. Moses relates to his brother everything that happened to him. And that God showed him all the tricks. And of his important commission! They are excited as they say farewell: Until we meet in Egypt. Relieved knowing about the news that his enemies are dead Moses returns to his father-in-law. He asks for permission to leave for Egypt as he wants to know if any of his people are still alive. Jethro says, ‘Go. I wish you well.’
The story line in a nutshell. Moses puts his wife and sons on a donkey and is on his way to Egypt. To fulfill God’s assignment he holds God’s trickster staff firmly in his hand. The instructions are to perform all the magic tricks so the Israelites will depart for greener pastures: Canaan. God predicts that Pharaoh will be stubborn and resist. The ultimate message will be: that as God considers Israel his ‘first-born’ son, Pharaoh is obliged to let his people leave to worship their Lord God. And if the king refuses . . . God will kill Pharaoh’s first-born son! Something happens that makes God foam with fury because at a resting place where Moses has pitched his tents, he appears out of the blue. Sitting at the entrance of her tent, Zipporah sees God, eyes ablaze, standing under a tree. Zipporah’s bosom heaves, she smells trouble, and grabs her kitchen flint knife, lifts up her son’s tunic, holds his penis in her other hand and cuts off his foreskin. She rushes up to Moses who is taking a cat nap and touches his feet with the bloody item while saying something to the fact that now Moses has been circumcised. [Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me; ever since . . . the flint knife is used by rabbis]
As predicted, Moses (80) and Aaron (83) meet up in Egypt. They gather the elders of Israel and tell them about their God who wants to help them out of their misery. To great applause, Moses performs for them the signs. The Israelites are prepared to worship the Lord. Then the brothers pay Pharaoh a visit. As predicted, the king is in no mood to let Israel leave for a three day worship because they must work making bricks. Greedy Pharaoh orders his slave drivers and foremen to put the whip on them so they work even harder. The situation becomes unbearable for the Israelites. God takes Moses aside and informs him about the covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when his name was God Almighty, Elyon. The name change to Lord happened only recently, and it is the Lord [previously Elyon] who will bring them out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. The Lord orders the brothers to gather the clans, starting with the firstborn of each branch. The Lord’s refrain is: Bring the Israelites out of Egypt. God says, ‘Moses, I made you like God to Pharaoh ----- and your brother Aaron your prophet.
The brothers show up at the palace to show God’s power to Pharaoh. Moses orders Aaron to take his staff and do the snake trick. The king summons his magicians; who then also perform the snake trick. But not to be outdone Aaron grabs his snake, spits on it, and the creature swallows up the staffs! Pharaoh still refuses to let the Israelites leave for worship. On orders from God, Moses and Aaron, while standing with the king on the banks of the Nile, do the water into blood show. Fish dye, the river smells awful; nobody can drink the water. However, not to be outdone the king’s magicians are capable to repeat the trick. Pharaoh returns to his palace.
Seven days later God orders Moses to meet Pharaoh and demand that he let God’s people leave. If he refuses, God will smother the land with frogs. Aaron must stretch out his staff over the canals and make—voila!—frogs come up! The Nile River will teem with frogs; in Pharaoh’s palace, his bed, the houses of his officials—frogs will even invade his ovens and kneading troughs. The Egyptians will starve! Though the Egyptian magicians are great copy cats Pharaoh is ready to capitulate. He makes a pact with Moses: to beg his God to take the frogs out of the land. Moses promises but says that the Nile frogs stay. So, God removes the dead frogs piled up into heaps: the land reeks—such a stench! Needless to say that two-faced Pharaoh changes his mind and will not let the Israelites leave!
Accordingly, God has a new task for Aaron. He must strike with his staff the dust of the ground so that gnats have the opportunity to arise. And indeed . . . all the dust becomes gnats! The horrible creatures attack the people as well as the animals. This time the magicians are unable [or unwilling] to produce gnats! Wringing their hands, they tell Pharaoh that it’s the finger of God. But Pharaoh is still stubborn and resists. Then God’s message is that he’ll send flies to Pharaoh and his people but not to the Hebrews living in Goshen. This does the trick. Because Pharaoh makes a deal with Moses and Aaron that the Israelites don’t have to travel. They can offer sacrifices to their God right here, in Egypt. Moses argues that their sacrifices may be unpalatable to the inhabitants and they’ll get stoned. He insists that they must travel three days. After much wheeling and dealing, Pharaoh agrees that they can leave for the desert . . . but not too far! Moses accepts; he prays to God to make the flies leave the land. So . . . the flies leave for greener pastures! And, pronto . . . Pharaoh forgets his promise!
God’s message for Moses to deliver to Pharaoh is that he will send a “terrible plague” on his livestock: horses, donkeys, camels, cattle, sheep and goats but he will spare the livestock of the Israelites. To make sure that the Hebrew God has not destroyed the animals of his worshiping people, Pharaoh sends men to investigate. Imagine, their God kept his word! But still, Pharaoh will not let the people go.
Then God tells Moses and Aaron to take handfuls of soot from a furnace and Moses must toss it into the air in the presence of Pharaoh. The soot becomes fine dust—covering all of Egypt. And the people and animals are covered in festering, itchy, boils! Somehow . . . God manages to harden Pharaoh’s heart—so the king refuses to listen to Moses and Aaron. (Just as God predicted) God says to Moses to confront Pharaoh and tell him that the God of the Hebrews says to let his people go so they can worship him. And that now it will be the full force of all his plagues: So that Pharaoh will admit that there is no other god like the God of the Hebrews in all the earth—His name must be proclaimed! If Pharaoh again refuses, God will send the worst hailstorm in mankind’s memory. Moses advises Pharaoh to put all his livestock in the fields into shelter because the hail will fall on every person and animal. Some officials who feared the Hebrew God’s words take their slaves and livestock indoors. Then God orders Moses to stretch out his staff toward the sky so hail will pour down. Moses dutifully points, and thunder, hail, and lightning flashes down to the ground. [The hail destroyed flax and barley but not wheat and spelt] The only place free from hail is the land of Goshen. Pharaoh calls for Moses and Aaron to see him. He apologizes, saying he sinned. And he asks Moses to beg his God to stop the thunder and hail and he will let the Israelites go. Moses replies that he’ll pray to his God but he also knows that Pharaoh and his officials still do not fear their Lord God. However, Moses asks his Lord to stop the hail and rain. When the request has been granted, Pharaoh sins again, and refuses to let the Hebrews leave.
Next, the Lord confides in Moses that he has on purpose hardened the hearts of Pharaoh and his officials so that he, the Lord, has the opportunity to perform miracles. And . . . that Moses can tell his children and grandchildren how the Lord God dealt heartless with the people in Egypt—and that all the people finally will know that the Lord is the Hebrew God. Well . . . Moses and Aaron go to the palace and confront Pharaoh. ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself?’ Moses shouts. “Let God’s people leave so that they may worship him. If you refuse, we will bring locusts in your country tomorrow! They will devour what little you have left after the hail, including every tree growing in your fields. All the houses of your people will be filled with locusts. I tell you, king, this will be a first!’ Fuming, Moses turns on his heels, Aaron follows folding his hands. The officials attack Pharaoh, saying: ‘How long will this man be a snare to us? Let them go and worship the Lord, their God.’ Pointing at the king, they shout, ‘Do you not realize that Egypt is ruined!’ The officials run after the brothers and persuade them to return to the palace. Pharaoh says, ‘Go, and worship the Lord, your God. But . . . just who will be going?’ Aaron stares at Moses, who blinks at him. ‘All the Israelites’, Moses says, ‘and also our flocks, because we are to celebrate a festival to the Lord.’ Raising his brow, Pharaoh shouts, ‘Hah! You can’t fool me. Everyone and livestock! No. Only the men can go and worship. That’s what you have been asking for!’ Moses and Aaron are driven out of the palace. The next day, the Lord tells Moses to stretch out his hand over Egypt so a wind blows across the land bringing winged locusts in “great numbers”. They invade Egypt. The ground is pitch-black. What vegetation had been left after the hail . . . these locusts devour—nothing green remains on trees and plants. Never before has there been such a plague of locusts. Pharaoh summons Moses and Aaron and confesses that he sinned against the Lord, their God, as well as against them. The king promises to sin no longer and asks for forgiveness. ‘Please,’ he begs, ‘take the deadly plague out of my country.’ So Moses prays to the Lord, who changes the direction of the wind, and the locusts end up in the Red Sea. Again, God hardens the king’s heart; he refuses to let the Israelites go.
After that ordeal, the Lord says to Moses to stretch out his hand toward the sky so that for three days (total) darkness will spread over Egypt. No one can see anything and they are all locked up in their houses. But in Goshen the Israelites have light. Well . . . Pharaoh [as predicted] summons Moses and says, ‘Go. Worship the Lord. You can take along your women and children but not your flocks. They stay here!’Moses argues that they need the livestock for sacrifices. Pharaoh gets all worked up and, pointing at Moses, shouts ‘Get out of my sight! If you dare to return and look me in my face . . . you’ll die!’ Moses wonders what God will do so he’ll not die, and, as he retreats, mumbles, ‘Just as you say. I’ll not show up again.’
It so happens . . . that Moses is highly regarded by the Egyptian people and the officials—after all, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him. So when the Lord appeals to Moses for one more “miracle plague” to perform, Moses listens carefully to the plan God has in mind. Moses is to tell the Israelites to ask their “neighbors” for articles of silver and gold because they are leaving permanently and need extra wealth, besides their livestock, to survive their journey. Pharaoh will refuse to even listen to Moses. Pharaoh hates having to admit how successful the Lord has been performing these wonders. The supreme plot is: [prelude to Passover festival and the actual exodus] the Lord will go throughout Egypt around midnight. And every firstborn son in Egypt will die, starting with the firstborn son of Pharaoh to the firstborn son of any slave girl who grinds the flour for baking bread, as well as the firstborn of the cattle. The wailing will be heard throughout Egypt—screams of sorrow, and lamentations at the palace and temples. The officials will go on their knees and beg Moses to ask the Lord to leave with their livestock forever, never to show up again. [and also get rid of the Hebrew God]
So . . . God gives instructions on how to start the Exodus. First, a date is to be set; and on the 14th day of that month each man is to take a lamb for his family and slaughter it. Every household must take some blood and using a sponge wipe the blood on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they are to eat the lamb. They must eat the meat roasted, not cooked, with bitter herbs and bread made without yeast—and in haste because it is the Lord’s PASSOVER: When he will pass over Egypt and strike down every firstborn—of men and animals— but not the houses drenched in blood. This event is to be a seven-day festival to the Lord. No work is to be done except for preparing food and eating unleavened bread. This festival they should observe when one day they enter the Promised Land. And . . . so it happens: At midnight the Lord strikes down all the firstborns mentioned—the wailing is deafening. Pharaoh summons for Moses and Aaron to come. Red-faced, breathing heavily, Pharaoh bellows, ‘UP! Leave my people! You and the Israelites! Go, worship the Lord as you requested. Take your flocks and herds and go!’ Pharaoh folds his hands and pleads ‘Don’t forget to bless me.’ [I had no choice; your God made me do it]
THE LORD GIVES MOSES AND AARON REGULATONS
RESTRICTIONS FOR THE PASSOVER FESTIVAL
[to be “celebrated inside a house”—nomads live in tents]
When the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites, a land flowing with milk and honey, you are to observe this ceremony in this month. Only circumcised males may eat the Passover lamb. For 7 days eat bread without yeast, and on the 7th day hold a festival to the Lord. That’s when you are to give to the Lord the first offspring of “every womb”; the firstborn males of your livestock. Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey. Redeem every firstborn among your sons with a lamb. Tell your sons that the Lord brought you out of Egypt after he had successfully killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal as punishment for Pharaoh’s hard-headed refusal to let us go. This festival where you sacrifice the first male offspring of every womb is like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt.
Afraid they all may die, the Egyptians urge the Israelites to hurry and leave. They ask the Egyptians to give them farewell gifts of silver, gold and nice garments. (That’s how they should plunder the Egyptians said the Lord) So the Israelites take their dough—without yeast added—put it in kneading troughs and carry them wrapped in cloths on their shoulders. Moses takes the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath: You must carry my bones up with you when you leave this place, Egypt.
The story unfolds as predicted (Genesis 15:13). Over400 years have elapsed since Jacob’s family entered and until their exit. The party consists of three million Israelites: 600.000 men armed for battle—the twelve divisions—women and children riding on donkeys, and droves of livestock: flocks and herds (Numbers 1:46—603.550 men) (Deuteronomy 1:10—today you are as many as the stars) (Genesis 15:5—count the stars)
According to the story—it “seems” the Lord worries that if he’ll show the Children of Israel the shorter road into Canaan—where they may have to face fighting the Philistines—they’ll “chicken” and hurry back to Egypt. So . . . God makes the wise decision to lead his people around the desert direction the Red Sea. Anyway, they depart from Rameses destination Succoth where they camp. In the morning the women make flatbread—the dough without yeast they carried with them—for everyone! Then they depart for Etham—an angel of the Lord in front of the army and guided by the Lord in a pillar of cloud. At night the Lord hovers above the camps in a pillar of fire so that the Israelites feel protected.
To Be Continued
THE HISTORY AND POWER OF WRITING
WRITING is the graphic expression of actual SPEECH
The PEN is the TONGUE of the MIND (Horace)
WRITING was permanent MEMORY/SPEECH:
Storage of ideas
on stone, clay, animal skin, papyrus and lately computer chips
HE WAS A WISE MAN WHO INVENTED GOD
The LAWS of Hammurabi written in stone
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS written in stone
Exodus 20 & Deuteronomy 5
The book of Exodus starts with the slaughter of Hebrew baby boys drowning them in the Nile River. Now that they have left Egypt the story starts with a grand sweep: The Lord’s strategy for his chosen people to make it to Canaan as promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Continuation of March:
Then they depart for Etham: with an angel of the Lord in front of the army and guided by the Lord in a pillar of cloud. At night the Lord hovers above the camp in a pillar of fire so the Israelites feel protected.
The plot of “parting the Red Sea” is the Lord’s brilliant idea of destroying the Egyptian army once and for all. He confides to Moses what he intends to do: He’ll make sure that Pharaoh will fume with anger upon hearing of the Hebrew’s escape in the dark of night and will follow them with 600 charioteers and annihilate them. Moses is awe-struck—holding his breath. When the Lord gives him instructions what to do, Moses is eager to participate and do his share.
Standing on a rock so everyone can see him, Moses tells the Israelites that he received a message from the Lord. And the message is that they must make a right-about-face and go for Pi Hahiroth near the sea (across from Baal Zephon) and camp there. Some men start to argue with Aaron but they follow Moses and the “crowd”. When, to their horror, the Israelites see the Egyptian army approaching they shout at Moses: ‘Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? Better to serve the Egyptians!’
To get their attention Moses waves his left hand above his head. ‘Calm down!’ he shouts. ‘The Lord will fight for you and told me that the Egyptians you see today you will never see again. Watch this!’ Holding in his right hand his staff, Moses waves his magic wand direction sea and . . . lo-and-behold . . . slowly—the waters divide . . . a highway on dry ground appears . . . with a wall of water on the right and a wall of water on the left. The men gasp, the children shriek and the women cover their faces with their hands, peeking between their fingers. ‘Children,’ Moses shouts as he hands over his staff to his brother, ‘follow Aaron!’ Holding hands with their mothers and siblings, they rush forward, followed by the animals. The legions of armed Hebrew men and Moses make up the tail end.
Pharaoh, in hot pursuit with a cavalry of chariots, sees the magic highway ahead and the throng of Israelites. Moses is holding his hands above his head clapping; from experience Pharaoh knows that those are magic hands. He stops and consults his general who suggests that he’ll launch the attack along with the army. Pharaoh is to make up the tail end to ward off those evil hands. So . . . the general charges into the highway and as he nears the Israelites . . . the dry ground turns into mud! The wheels of his chariot come off and the chariots behind him pile on top of each other. The scene of whinnying horses and screaming charioteers wallowing in the mud is horrific. That’s when the Lord whispers into Moses’ ear: ‘Turn around and stretch out your hand over the sea. The waters will swallow up the enemy.’ And so it happens that the army drowns—the shore is blanketed with dead Egyptians. Not one of them survives to tell this tale. The Israelites begin to fear their Lord when they see the power of their God in full force. They put their trust in the Lord and Moses.
WATER becomes the main issue for humans and the animals
So . . . for 3 days the Israelites wander through the Desert of Shur without finding water until they come at Marah where, alas, the water is bitter! The wailing of the adults and the sobs of the children is heart-breaking. God gives Moses a piece of wood to throw into the water so it will turn sweet. After a needed rest, the party goes to Elim—an oasis with 12 springs and 70 palm trees. For some time they camp there until Moses reminds them it is time to continue toward Canaan. On their way to Sinai they travel through the Desert of Sin. This time the Israelites grumble about food. The memory of pots of meat in Egypt makes them salivate and say that they would rather have died in Egypt than starve here. So . . . Moses consults God. The people must gather and he’ll promise them meat.
Moses and Aaron order the clans to show up. Moses points to the horizon and . . . lo-and-behold . . . there hovers “the glory of God in a cloud”. ‘Tonight’, he says, ‘you will eat meat, and tomorrow morning you will eat bread.’ In awe, the clans return to their camps and wait in anticipation.
And . . . lo-and-behold—the sky turns darker and darker. Magic happens . . . birds drop down and glut the camps. Shouting with excitement everyone collects quails. In the morning the desert floor is covered with thin, frost-like flakes. ‘These are wavers with honey,’ Moses says. ‘This is the Lord’s bread’. They are told to collect this bread every day, but on the 7th day, the Sabbath, they must rest. Then Moses tells Aaron to get a “jar”. He puts four pints of the bread in it and then shows the jar to the Lord for “his blessing”—the Testimony. This special jar [magic bread box] is to be kept “for generations to come” until the Israelites reach the border of Canaan.
Access to water, or rather scarcity, becomes a cause for uprisings within the camp. At Horeb, Moses uses his staff to tap a rock for water. He also holds his staff to “win wars” when they enter foreign territory. Supported by Aaron and an elder, Moses stands on a hill holding up high the staff of God to encourage Joshua, who, of course, wins the battle against the Amalekites. ‘Write this down on a scroll,’ God says to Moses, ‘as something to be remembered. That we destroyed the Amalekites.’ Moses builds an altar and calls it “The Lord is my banner”.
Out of the blue, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, shows up with Zipporah and her two sons to unite them with their father Moses. Jethro watches Moses playing judge, settling clan grudges all day long, even in the evenings. He suggests that Moses select trustworthy, capable men to help him out with these duties because he looks burned-out. Saying farewell, Jethro returns to his country.
The story in a nutshell: Scene—the Israelites are camping at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
Moses goes up the mountain to receive instructions. The Lord says: ‘You are to tell the house of Jacob if the Israelites obey me and keep the covenant (circumcision) then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, [God is pushing himself to be accepted] you will be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Let me know their decision.’
Moses returns to the camp and delivers God’s offer. The Israelites accept whole-heartedly. Moses goes up the mountain telling God that his people accept Him as their Lord. God then tells Moses that the Israelites must prepare themselves to meet God and wash their clothes—[cleanliness is next to Godliness]—and abstain from sexual relations for two days. On the third day they must stand at the foot of the mountain and not touch the ground or they’ll die. When the ram’s horn sounds they may meet their Lord.
As planned, on the morning of the third day there is thunder and lightning, a thick cloud covers the top of the mountain and then the sound of a trumpet. Accordingly, Moses leads the people to the foot of the smoke-covered mountain. The sound of the trumpets becomes deafening as God descends in fire from the sky. Moses calls out to God. And . . . wrapped in a cloud the Lord descends in the very top where He hovers—ordering Moses that he and Aaron join him. The priests and the people, trembling with fear, say to Moses: ‘Do not have God speak to us or we will die!’
So . . . With Aaron as his witness next to him, Moses addresses the people as follow: ‘You have seen for yourself that I have spoken to you from heaven.
These are the Lord’s Ten Commandments:
1:--I the Lord am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.
2:--You shall have no other gods besides me.
3:--You shall not swear falsely by the name of the Lord your God.
4:--Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
5:--Honor your father and your mother.
6:--You shall not murder.
7:--You shall not commit adultery.
8:--You shall not steal.
9:--You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10:--You shall not covet your neighbor’s house: you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, of anything that is your neighbor’s.
The Lord God says: Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold. [the one dollar bill: In God We Trust] Do not invoke the name of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.
Next: More laws to be obeyed: on servants; personal injuries; protection of property; social responsibilities and laws of justice and mercy, and restrictions on the Sabbath. Three times a year the people are to celebrate a festival to the Lord.
1:--The Feast of Unleavened Bread.
2:--The Feast of Harvest.
3:--The Feast of Ingathering.
The Lord says to Moses that he’ll have an angel to guard him along the way who will escort, at a slow pace, the Israelites into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites. They must not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices. Again, the Lord establishes their borders from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines (Mediterranean) and from the desert to the River Euphrates. God’s blessing will be on their food and water if they worship Him.
Moses—the obedient servant—follows God’s orders and without using tools builds an altar at the foot of the mountain. Next to the altar he sets up twelve pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. When young men offer young bulls to be sacrificed Moses remembers that God had told him not to offer the blood of a sacrifice along anything with yeast. He collects half of the blood and puts it in bowls—the other half he sprinkles on the altar. He takes the Book of the Covenant (the scroll with the instruction of circumcision) and reads it to the people. They say: ‘We will obey.’ Then Moses takes the bowls with blood, sprinkles it on the people, and says, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord made with you in accordance with these words.’
Then Moses, Aaron and 70 elders of Israel go up the mountain to pay their reverence to the Lord—whose feet are on a pavement made of sapphire: clear as the sky. God invites his guests to eat and drink. As they leave, God tells Moses to come back but this time alone to receive the tablets of stone with the law and commandments. With a heavy heart Moses returns and enters the cloud that covers the mountain.
In a nutshell:
DRAMA in capital letters. In his absence the Israelites become aggressive and demand that Aaron give them a god to worship so they can make sacrifices. [eat MEAT!] They give him gold earrings to make them an idol. So, Aaron builds an altar and throws the jewelry into the fire and out comes . . . voila! . . . a golden calf! Up in the mountain the all-seeing Lord mentions this to Moses. Embarrassed, Moses reminds God that he promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that their descendants will inherit the land of milk and honey. God is annoyed being reminded and they have a heated dispute about the Israelites’ sinful behavior. Angered, Moses goes down the mountain with the two stone tablets. Joshua meets him and says that the shouting in the camp is the sound of war. Moses sees the golden calf and the people dancing and hot with rage smashes the tablets on the ground at the foot of the mountain. He confronts Aaron who tries to explain—but to no avail. Fighting erupts in the camp; a revolt is going on. More than 3000 men die. Moses returns to the clouds in the mountain and tells God about the disaster; who punishes the people with sending them a terrible plague. Then God orders Moses to continue toward Canaan as intended but he no longer will protect them because they are a stiff-necked people. [this god is a control freak] More drama: God changes his mind! More promises: promises galore! Replacing the smashed ones, God gives Moses two new stone tablets. More threats about worshiping other gods, foreign gods! He, the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous god! [desperate to be accepted!] After forty days and nights have elapsed Moses returns, face radiant, holding the stone tablets written with the finger of God Himself to his people. He has a very special message for them: They cannot work on the Sabbath because it is a holy day and whoever does any work must be put to death. [the kibosh is born]
In a nutshell:
Moses asks Aaron to summon the people as he has a message from their Lord. The Israelites arrive. [brainwash the gullible] Moses says that—the Lord desires that every man offers—freely and with all his heart—gold, silver, bronze, blue/purple/scarlet yarns, fine linens, hides, acacia wood, olive oil, spices, incense, onyx stones and other gems . . . so as to make Him a sanctuary and he can dwell amongst them while they travel. That—he has been given instructions on how to construct this portable temple, the Tabernacle—Tent of Meeting. That—he also has been asked to get all the furnishings made: the throne of God—an acacia chest in gold called the ark of the Testimony with inside the stone tablets, the lamp-stand, and the table. Moses describes the exquisite, colorful priestly garments with the ephod, the breast-plate, and the Urim and Thummim stones [dice] for making decisions. The descriptions are in detail—superb workmanship is required. The many projects keep the people busy like bees/working ants. Needless to say that to keep God content there are elaborate rituals performed with strict rules.
EXODUS 40: In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out, but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out—until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel all their travels.
THE DEATH OF MOSES AS TOLD BY THE LORD GOD
Moses dies at the ripe old age of 120. No one knows where his grave is.
Because Moses broke faith with the Lord in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and he did not upheld God’s holiness among the Israelites, God tells him that he may see the land of milk and honey “only from a distance” [revengeful/sadist] Moses climbs to Mt. Nebo in Moab—across from Jericho—and sees the whole land. God nods and says: ‘This . . . is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said: I will give it to your descendants.’
VERITAS ODIUM PARIT—TRUTH BEGETS HATRED
CAN RELIGION BE SUBJECT TO “ENGINEERING”?
Men never do evil so completely
and cheerfully as when they do it from religious convictions.
The Lord makes grass grow for cattle
And plants for man to cultivate
Bringing forth FOOD from the earth:
WINE that gladdens the heart of man,
OIL to make his face shine
And BREAD that sustains his heart.
THE DIVINE LANDLORD
LAND WAS THE PROPERTY OF THE GODS
It was cultivation of land
that alone provided the basis
for the development of
The story of:
In the BEGINNING
In principio erat verbum:
(Gospel of John 1:1)
comprising of WORDS
The history of man is the history of LANGUAGE:
A TOOL FOR COMMUNICATION
Book covers of:
SOFT PORN: 100 pages; E-BOOK
FAMILY DRAMA: 180 pages; E-BOOK
CREATION OF AN INCLUSIVE RELIGION: 707 pages; E-BOOK
STONE AGE CUISINE
Not yet published—copyright Olga Pitcairn
Stories—told by Stone Age women on cooking their “BELLY—FOODS”: the grains WHEAT and BARLEY in ancient Mesopotamia, RICE in Asia, and CORN-MAIZE in Mesoamerica. In Peru, South America, high in the mountains women cultivated POTATOES—that grow under the ground—as their staple food.
Bread/Pasta, made of WHEAT, was once known as the Staff of Life. Today—eaten world-wide—RICE is the belly-food par excellence. It is eaten in Asia from sunrise until sunset. In Mesoamerica CORN-MAIZE is still the staple food of the peoples; globally it is cultivated for feed. POTATOES, introduced to the West by Spain, became the belly-food for tillers of the soil: the peasants of days gone by. Today—potato chips are for snacking; imagine life without fish ‘n’ chips or . . . burgers and French fries!
She who wrote (circa 1800 BCE): Akkad/Mesopotamia
High-Priestess of UR, Enheduana was the daughter of King Sargon. She wrote a prayer in Sumerian to the goddess Inanna, daughter of Nanna, the moon god.
My morning hymn of praise
(copyright Olga Pitcairn)
Oh Inanna-Ishtar—Lady of Heaven!
Daughter of the Moon—beautiful you are.
Oh Joy of Eanna, the House of Heaven!
Child of the night, beloved Morningstar!
Oh Inanna-Ishtar—Queen of Heaven!
Shepherdess of the Igigi—benevolent you are.
Oh brilliant One, the Torch of Heaven!
Light of all mortals, oh blessed Morningstar!
WRITING: A TOOL FOR COMMUNICATION
IN THE BEGINNING . . .
MAN THE TOOL-MAKER
To begin with:
I want to pay homage to my pioneer sister ENHEDUANNA: She who wrote in ancient Mesopotamia; to the Roman citizen APULEIUS and his pornographic, hilarious tale The Golden Ass; to Miguel de Cervantes of Spain and his epic novel DON QUIXOTE; to SHAHRAZAD: She of the Arabian Nights (whatso woman willith, the same she fulfillith, however man nillith); and the romantic Tales of the Alhambra by 19th century raconteur Washington Irving: the Knickerbocker. These tellers of tales used their TONGUE (what’s your mother tongue—first language), TOOL OF COMMUNICATION, to entertain the world at large.
MAN THE TOOL-MAKER
IN THE BEGINNING . . .
My aim is to record chronologically—as long as the Stone Age lasted in the Fertile Crescent, Mesopotamia, from circa 12000 BCE until the Bronze Age, circa 3300 BCE—the story of Stone Age Cuisine; copyright 1990 CE, the Age of Microwave Food, and updated in the year 2023 CE.
Once upon a time - - - in the mist of times - - - a long time ago - - - the familiar tune was ADAPT or DIE.
When fruits and plants—our FOOD—became scarce, we watched the hyenas and birds of prey devouring meat morsels from carcasses. HUNGER is the best chef - - - and - - - we jumped on the bandwagon! Clawing with our little hands at bony leftovers, we licked, savored blood. We began to regard our HANDS as having MAGIC—and on the walls of caves we left our handprints.
One auspicious day - - - one of us, a frisky one, stepped on something and shrieking sat down. He looked at his foot: his sole oozed blood. He then looked at the object that had done this and took it in his hands—it was a stone with pointed edges. Firmly grasping this eyesore, he got up and, with a big grin on his lips, joined the group. Around the campfire he passed his stone around so everyone could touch it. In the morning, he looked for a smaller stone. He lifted his foot to get a good look and then started to chip—and—chop: making a row of points. Grinning, he joined the group searching for an abandoned carcass. With gusto, he cut slivers of meat . . . stuffing them in his mouth! Someone jumped on him to take the stone; instead he got the tip of his nose snipped off. Baffled, the thief stared at the drops of blood dripping on his hands. Watching, touching their noses, everyone was shaking their heads and then wanted to know more about this “magic” stone. So our hero told them that he had a dream—he closed his eyes for a few seconds, and then opened them—wondering if he could make the stone sharper so he could get more meat. In his dream he saw clearly HOW he should make—he gestured with his hands—this “tool” that he gave the name FLINT KNIFE. Everyone clapped their hands and shouted: MAGIC HANDS!
FLINT KNIVES - - - for cutting up flesh for food
LASER BEAMS - - - for surgery on the human body
As luck would have it, our adventurous go-getter, with time on his hands, started eyeing the cattle passing by his cave. At full speed a lion chased a bull and killed it to eat—to stay alive. The frisky one grinded his teeth, wishing he could kill an animal so he had plenty to eat. He looked at the long stick next to him on the ground that he carried to chase away critters in his path. Then he looked at his flint knife. If . . . he grinned, and started to put two and two together . . . Eureka! He hit the bull’s eye when he made a spear. He practiced on smaller animals: spearing them. But he was desperate to make a kill. When a fawn scrambled up a hill he got his break. Nostrils flaring, his heart pounding, Frisky threw his spear with full force . . . and lo-and-behold the fawn fell to the ground.
Well . . . everyone was in a hurry to make his own spear! We decided to hunt in groups. Chasing, leaping around the animal, we threw our spears until the creature collapsed. By now we were experts at skinning and cutting up the corpse. We all got our share of this satisfying food. One day, at the cave, as we sat around the campfire, Frisky put a chunk of meat on the tip of his spear and held it above the flames. The aroma was tantalizing; everyone’s nose quivered. And then Frisky took the morsel and stuffed it in his mouth . . . he rolled his eyes, chewing the juicy tidbit. You bet there was an avalanche of copycats?! A child dashed to the back of the cave and grabbed a chunk from a pile of meat. He took a stone and pounded the chunk flat. Then he went to the fire and put his cutlet on a hot stone—it sizzled! Frisky clapped his hands and waved at the child to sit next to him. He took the little one’s head in his hands and, looking into its eyes, nodded. Eureka!, he shouted, and licked the child’s eyes. From that day on, child Eureka paved the way for changes in the mental landscape: eyes, ears and bellies the trailblazers. Wanting to kill a bird on a tree-branch, Eureka used a “tool” he had just made and, curious, wanted to try it out. It was a fluke that the slingshot saw the day of light. But other go-getters kept the ball rolling by sowing the seeds for providing food. By leaps and bounds, the bow and arrow became universal. [and still used by native South Americans in the Amazon Basin]
the BOW and ARROW, a TOOL for providing MEAT—FOOD
in order to survive
the HUNTING RIFLE for killing animals “for sport”.
Firearms have become WEAPONS—TOOLS for killing people; warfare.
NEOLITHIC CULINARY DELIGHTS
500 lbs of research
100 lbs of determination
1 large bucket of imagination
2 handfuls of laughter
1 pinch of luck
Please, take the ancient recipes with a grain of salt!
Neolithic Culinary Delights is presented as a novelty cookbook.
WHEN DID WE BEGIN TO COOK—WHY COOK?
It so happens - - - that around the globe “Mother Nature” bestowed a cornucopia of edible food plants. Our great civilizations were founded on FOUR STAPLE FOODS: THE BELLY FOODS. From literally quite nothing we created societies whose daily fare was limited because of the necessity to grow food that produced the most per acreage.
these wild grasses were cultivated in the Near/Middle East (ancient Mesopotamia)
a wild grass cultivated in most of Asia
a wild grass growing in Mesoamerica
a plant - - - that produces its food under the ground and was cultivated by the people in the mountains of Peru (Lake Titicaca area) South America
In a nutshell:
Neolithic Culinary Delights is a Stone Age journal—the adventure story of Eva, a roaming cave-woman who, by becoming a house-bound agriculturalist, resolves the pangs of hunger. Why want to grow food?! Well, how about . . . that my feet were killing me walking all day collecting food for myself and my kids? So I made up my mind to do something about that; especially as I am lazy by nature. Ha-ha! Why bother growing food—that means WORK—when nature provides? Well . . . I remember that this adventure . . .
THE AGRICULTURAL REVOLUTION . . .
was a global event!
THE MIDDLE EAST
THE ZAGROS MOUNTAINS
When I was a cave-woman I shared a cave with my three children and five other women and their children. Our ancestors, who also had lived in caves, roamed the earth for ages. When the days became nippy and the nights chilly we moved to warmer places. As we were often on the move, I couldn’t carry much with me: a basket of grass I made for food-collecting, a stone for pounding tough roots, a sturdy digging stick, and my precious flint knife.
Our men had tamed some wolves and together they hunted cattle, deer, boars, antelopes and smaller animals for food. They returned to the cave when the catch was large enough to share. But most of the time we, women and children, had to look after ourselves. Three kids and I and the five women and their offspring meant that in our territory we had to search every day for food: the children had to be fed! One season we had a short supply of “hares”, a small furry animal the children caught by setting traps. My hare-kebabs, chunks of hare-meat on sticks marinated in onion salsa and roasted above the open fire, were a big hit with my own kids. Sometimes the weather played tricks. Many moons past, for two summers we were flooded by rains, even hail storms, and the pickings were meager; we looked like skeletons and many children died. We had to—so to say—move along with the FOOD SUPPLY: the migrating animals that also depended on eating the same plants.
Let me tell you about the time when the weather, or rather climate, was changing. I was told . . . that the polar caps and glaciers had melted and this abundance of water made the rivers larger, many ponds became lakes, and sea levels rose by 350 feet! Millions of square miles of fine hunting-gathering territory disappeared. The animals, our meat-supply, also disappeared. Hunting became difficult for the men and . . . meat became a luxury! Due to this calamity, we also had to adjust to unknown, foreign plants. We suffered from nutritional stress because the environment had made life extremely competitive and . . . HUNGER was always at the cave entrance! So we had to choose between moving farther north with the animals to really unknown regions or stay in one place and grow food on a permanent basis.
It so happened . . . that my grandmother, who collected the seeds of plants at every place we passed, had thrown these near our caves and water supplies. When we returned we had our little fields of food. My mother, a very observant woman, had noticed that seeds of certain grasses growing near our winter cave wouldn’t grow at all around our summer cave. As my grandmother and mother had experimented before my time, I now also took a great interest in those plants and observed in which areas they grew easily and abundantly. WHY GROW FOOD THAT NEED A LOT OF CARE?
So, one rainy day, huddling around the campfire, I uttered a simple question: HOW ABOUT getting a permanent place and grow food, keep goats, and . . . I wish I hadn’t suggested this. Because in unison the men shouted: ‘You must be joking! We need real food. MEAT!’ However, I had the full support of my female companions. In the end we compromised. At each of our caves the men would cut down the shrubbery on an area of land of our choice and then burn the vegetation. Once the ashes were cold, we, women, would scatter seeds of plants we liked best. Mother Nature would take care of them. For a long time the “slash and burn method” was popular. The first season was a great success, we harvested plenty. No more foraging! But then we had a drought. We became somewhat desperate . . .
On our trip to the northern caves we met another family. They told us that three valleys yonder some people had settled down permanently and survived by growing plants and herding animals. They lived in caves called “houses”. Around the campfire we again discussed this adventure of settling down. Well, we decided to find out how these people were doing. And so we crossed the three valleys. From the top of the mountain we saw the settlement down in the valley and we were more than amazed. Everywhere plants flourished along and near the river. Higher up on the slope were the cave-houses. In a hurry we descended towards their settlement and were welcomed by yapping wolf-puppies, children, and old folk: two men and five women.
We quickly found out—we spoke a similar tongue—that we belonged to the same group-tribe. Right away, the children became friends and off they went to play. We learned that the women were away working in the fields and the men were away grazing the animals. The old folk took us to a log-cabin telling us that this was their clubhouse. I was truly amazed when we entered—it was big! The oldest woman, she told me her name was Nana, gave each of us a small hollowed out gourd. She poured from a larger gourd in our cups red water she called sour cherry spirit. It was yummy! The men waved their cups, saying it was schnapps. Nana offered us food called pita. She told us that besides the clubhouse they had five more dwellings: each was occupied by two families and their pets. There were 10 families: 20 adults and 38 children. Two small cabins were used for their extra, leftover food— surplus food!
The seven had no families and lived in the clubhouse—the community dining hall, and . . . now also our lodgment. Nana told us that in the evenings everyone stayed in the clubhouse when the weather was bad. They entertained each other: singing, dancing, telling stories—they had fun . . . laughing a lot. Some women occupied their time making thread from sheep fleece; others made from these threads cloth and made tunics for covering their bodies. By the time Nana finished telling us about their way of life, the women and older children returned from the fields with baskets heaped with greens. They were very excited meeting us and soon we got to know each other. Before long, the men came down from the mountain with the sheep, goats, and yapping wolves called doggies.
When it was time to eat we went indoors. Grass plates with home-grown greens were put in the center of the room. Warm pita, topped with pungent oregano, passed around in large baskets. The men apologized for not serving us meat, but soon we would eat kebabs. We finished the meal with a fruit called melon. My son Joe, the only child still alive as I had lost my daughter and the baby, rolled his eyes as the sweet juice dripped down his chin. In our honor the male nannies served a beverage called BEER. With a wink at Nana, they told us it was made from fermented barley. Very soon we became very merry! Some girls got up to dance, shaking their rattles. Two boys took to thumping their drums. We had a memorable evening, you bet! Our hosts promised to introduce us the next day to what life in a Stone Age settlement really was like.
We awoke when the doggies barked. The two men went outside—their work was making pita in a nearby lean-out shed named kitchen. Nana and the other women rekindled the fire. Finally, the first meal of the day, called breakfast, was ready. Everyone came indoors and left with their portion of pita and a handful of berries. We could eat as much as we wanted; and to us, cave-dwellers, this was big news. The children ran around the compound while the men stood in groups, eating. Chatting all the while, the women came and went. It was a lively scene. Only at the occasional tribal meeting in the past had we seen that many people together. Our children were happy to have playmates. Finally everyone left for WORK. Our husbands joined our hosts who were leaving with their animals for greener pastures. This was an adventure for us all!
It was a beautiful morning when our group split up. I went along with Ruby and Pearl and their children. Walking to their field, the two explained that the land belonged to everyone and that all food grown was for everyone to eat. Extra food was stored in the cabins. Our first work was watering the seedlings they had planted some days before. We went to the river with large hollowed out gourds and scooped water. It was a coming and going: watering; it kept us busy for quite a while. Then we had a rest and chatted. Pearl decided that the next job was weeding. Ruby told me that most of the real work had been done: like preparing the fields and sowing the plants wheat and barley. I learned that pita was made from wheat grass. Barley, the beer plant food, did well, especially the two-row kind. Pearl said that if they were to grow the six-row variety then they would have three times more grains on the same size of land and, of course, less work. I was all for this: less work! Ruby told her that they had already started this project and that at some later day . . . they were looking forward to collecting huge amounts of barley. After the weeding was done Pearl said that her kids loved eating sweet melons. We should prepare a field for growing this gourd. Before returning to the settlement we cleaned our hands and faces in the river.
Upon our return Joe greeted me wildly, throwing his arms around me, telling me about the wonders he had seen. So nobody had to go to the river when they were thirsty, the men had made an underground water-hole that they named wishing-well. They let down a leather string with a hollowed out gourd attached and then pulled up filled with water. And that Tom and Tim, the old men, looked after the boars they kept in a fenced place. That Tim had slaughtered a sheep for our meal. That an old woman fed seeds to big birds and that the kids collected the eggs. Nana and the women were preparing the kebabs and pita. The men returned with their animals. Adam told me about his experience; he liked the work! The sheep kebabs were as delicious as my hare-kebabs, Joe and Adam agreed. The pita was topped with seeds named sesame. I was curious to know more about their food and I asked Nana. She said that after we finished eating she would unfold the story of the grasses that came to be our FOOD.
Nana sat cross-legged in the center of the clubhouse with a large pita in her hand. ‘Children,’ she started saying, ‘pita is our belly-food.’ Nanny Tim rushed up holding a cup and sat next to her. ‘Beer,’ he said, ‘is our whoopee-water!’ Laughing, we clapped our hands in unison. Nana shook her head and said, ‘Tim, go to your place’—she pointed—‘and kindle the fire. Go!’ Tom clapped when his mate joined him. I giggled: Nana made sure who was boss.
Nana held the pita above her head—everyone was laughing—and hollered ‘Attention!’ Then she said, ‘Eva, come and sit with me because this story is for you.’ I got up, took Joe’s hand, and we sat in front of Nana. She gave Joe her pita saying ‘This is your belly-food.’ She smiled, and started:
‘What I tell you now I heard from my grandmother, who heard it from . . . her grandmother . . . and other ancestors.
All over this earth Mother Nature fostered different grasses to grow and with our helping hands, these magic hands’—she spread them in the air for all to see—‘these grasses we cultivate to nourish and sustain our families. The most nutritious is WHEAT, providing us with a lot of calories to keep working! Eva and Joe, so you know . . . the grains of grasses are dry fruits. We eat pita every day so we have energy to get up and work. The hardiest grass is the shallow-rooted BARLEY. The grains come off easily, that’s why barley’—Nana chuckled—‘is known as a naked grass. It will grow practically in any location (except in tropical areas, the dessert, and icy zones). That’s the reason we like growing a lot of barley.’ Nana pointed at Tim. ‘Making beer is done in a jiffy!’ She licked her lips. ‘So that they grow fat, we feed our cattle some of our surplus barley. We also nursed many other grasses for food. RYE and OATS turned out to be popular; especially oats, eaten at breakfast. We grow all these cereals.’ Nana cackled like a hen laying an egg. ‘My grandmother told me that a long time ago a birdie told an ancestor that in a far away land we revere the grass CORN-MAIZE. And in other lands, where it rains a lot, communities grow the grass RICE.’ Nana paused. Then she announced: ‘Some other time . . . I’ll praise the miracle grass RICE.’
All too soon, the newness of farming wore off with our family group. They told Adam that they preferred to be free like the birds. After enjoying a farewell party with plenty of beer and merry dancing, they left, promising to check up on us. With tears in his eyes, Joe waved at his cave playmates, who told him that they would miss him.
Adam, Joe and I moved in with Ruby and Pearl and their families. When I became with child, everyone was excited. Adam asked Nana if I could stay with her at the clubhouse because he and Joe were away all day long looking after the animals. That’s when, observing the old women, I wondered about . . . how to improve daily life for us. I wondered about cooking the grains in water. But how? Then I recalled that when Joe was little, he made with earth and water small balls and, playfully, had thrown them in the fire. The following day these balls were like the pebbles he collected at the lake. I looked at the gourds:—Eureka! I went with a basket to the river and collected earth. Near the clubhouse was the wishing-well. I filled an empty gourd with water. I sat nearby on a log. I experimented with water and earth—making what I called clay. To make a long story short, with my little hands I made a clay gourd that I named pot. I put this pot in the sun to dry. Adam was excited when he saw my pot. But he didn’t like me sitting on the ground working hunched over the clay. So he put a small tree trunk in the ground reaching my waist; then he fixed a tree plank on top of this tree trunk; and then he put a ball of clay on the plank, saying this was my “stand”. I could work standing on my feet so I wouldn’t hurt my belly. I gave him a big hug and a kiss. I went to the kitchen and asked Tom to cook my pot in the fire; saying it was for cooking food. Grinning, he fanned the fire. The following day, Tom showed me the cooked clay pot that he had put on a large stone at the entrance to his kitchen. He turned around and pointed at the fire. ‘Imagine life without fire,’ he said. ‘Eva, I baked your pot!’ . . . . . . [2023 CE: imagine life without electricity!]
One day, when Tom and I sat on the log near the wishing-well, I asked him what had motivated him to stay here. This is his story: ‘Once . . . we were three family groups. At one of our tribal meetings we decided to grow food; live a new way of life. Many of us, especially babies, had died of strange causes. So we settled on this spot. As you know, we now have ten families. The women can have babies more often. Nana, the other women, and Tim . . . well, Eva, our own families had perished from hunger. We decided to take care of the younger generation so we can have a larger group. We now have enough to eat. The men used to grumble because’—Tom softly chuckled—‘they are now stuck with routine. Eva, for me, living with my group means security. For Joe and the baby security is everything.’ I heartily agreed; and he was the best nanny of them all.
Our new lifestyle, and being with child, had its advantages—it unleashed my creativity. Soon—Cave Cuisine—became the talk of the settlement. The families hugged me when they liked a dish best. I made barley porridge with sour cherries, or nuts. I cooked a dish I named minestrone: I plucked and singed several birds, depending on size. With my flint knife I cut up the birds and put the pieces in a pot. I added onions, garlic, and greens and five handfuls of barley. Then I added water to cover and slowly cooked the soup until the barley was soft. I learned that barley is a thirsty grain and needs a lot of water. When eggs were plentiful I cooked those in water. Then I peeled them, and mashed them with a flat stone, adding some goat milk. I served the creamy eggs with pita, topping with chives.
One day, I went to the kitchen and Tom said, ‘Eva, I cooked something special for you. I named it Omelet Eva. Have a bite,’ and he offered me the omelet on a grass plate. ‘It’s yummy,’ I said after eating it. ‘Tell me about it.’ With a big grin, he said, ‘I made it with eggs and goat milk. And then I put some sesame seeds on the hot stone and cooked it like pita.’ I nodded, saying ‘The children will gobble it up. How about topping it with the sweet you call honey? By the way . . . Joe told me that when you looked at a bee-house that you got the picture of making cave-houses. Is that so?’ He nodded. ‘That’s why we are busy bees.’ Tom laughed. ‘Always working!”
We had shifted from preparing foods requiring little time, like kebabs, to food requiring much labor: planting, harvesting, storing, and then grinding the cereals for cooking so we had a meal and survive. Barley was being harvested and then our pita wheat. Everyone worked from sunrise to sunset. Then my daughter saw the light of day; she arrived before the families went up the mountains to collect fruits and nuts.
With fewer mouths to cook for, Tom and Tim had time to look after the settlement’s tools. When not feeding my baby, we named her Rose, I joined them outside at a shed; repairing the tools, getting them ready for the planting season. ‘Tom,’ I said, ‘can you tell me about tools?’ He said, ‘Honey, for every new tool made with our loving hands’—he grinned—‘we need a new word so we can talk about it. Like this.’ He held up an animal rib with teeth of flint attached. ‘We gave it the name sickle. And as you saw for yourself, we use it for cutting our food grasses. And for cutting down trees we use this large chopper we named axe. We make up names for everything so we can talk.’ Tim came to show me a tool that looked like my knife but was as dark as the night. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is also a sickle but from my ancestor who lived in a land where mountains have fires inside and the stones are like this one. I gave it the name obsidian. Feel it, Eva, it is very sharp, much sharper than Tom’s sickle.’ Tom, eager to show me something he was holding in his hands, said, ‘Eva, look at this, it’s a tool made from flakes of stones. It’s another kind of knife and we use it for skinning an animal and making leather.’ The pestles and mortars for grinding the cereals were made of sand-stone. Tim then showed me a basket with bone needles. ‘My grandmother,’ he said, showing me something, ‘made these from bones that she made shiny. She named them beads. And her daughter put these beads on a leather string and named it necklace. I’ll make a necklace for Rose.’ He looked at Tom. ‘Necklace,’ Tom said with a flutter of his eyelids, ‘that’s a catchy word.’
After many seasons had passed, we were surprised by the arrival of some of our former family group who had departed for greener pastures of freedom. Boss Nana insisted giving a welcome party. Of course everyone clapped: the word party meant beer and dancing. Adam was curious to hear their story and asked them to gather at the wishing-well. Nana, Tom and Tim were also ‘all ears’ and joined us. A young man stood up and said, ‘My name is Darwin. The elders asked me to tell you about our adventures after we left you many moons past.’ Joe got up and face flushed with excitement sat next to Darwin. ‘My name is Joe,’ he said, ‘and I’m just dying to hear your story.’ All smiles Darwin said, ‘I remember you, Joe. You were crying when we left. But we came back.’ Tom and Tim clapped. Darwin continued: ‘We followed the deer and met families who had settled in valleys with plenty of water. Some spoke a tongue that was new to us, but we managed using our hands.’ Nana clapped. ‘The most impressive settlement,’ Darwin continued, ‘was in a region’—he pointed a finger at the sky—‘over there, where the stars guided us. This settlement was the largest we saw. The people spoke a tongue we understood. They told us that every family had their own plot of land and planted what they liked. Next to their dwellings they put their food in a shelter they dug in the ground called pit. The boss of this settlement told us that this was a village. In the center of this village was a large open space called market. Families came to exchange food stuffs, and things like this.’ He pointed at his necklace with a large shiny reddish-brown bead made of wood. ‘By word of mouth we learned that this exchange of goods was known as bartering.’
Nana stood up, saying ‘We also barter. How about you give me your necklace and you can have mine?’ Tom and Tim laughed loudly. Darwin grinned and shook his head. ‘Nana, you busy-body, we know that you like parties. Well, after having bartered their goods, the villagers often stayed for a chat. The village boss told me that at special times he also gives parties that he calls festivals.’
Joe looked at Darwin when he said, ‘Has this village a name?’
Darwin took a pita offered to him by Nana and said, ‘The name of this village is FLOUR POWER.’
Hearing about Flour Power I felt like—Eureka! I waved at Adam to follow me as I left. We had a heart-to-heart talk about going to this village. Joe and Rose would enjoy a better life, especially meeting more children their age. Amazingly, Adam liked it! He also wanted to improve his future. When we told Joe that we planned to move to this village he jumped for joy and asked if we could join Darwin: who suggested picking us up on their return to Flour Power. Of course Ruby, Pearl, and Nana were teary-eyed, but Tom and Tim clapped, saying migrating from our community to a village would improve their opportunities in every way, and perhaps some of their own new generation would join us later.
When Darwin and his family group returned—at the same time as our fruit-and-nut pickers—we had a terrific party. The Darwin women and girls twirled holding clappers that made sounds similar to hand-clapping. These clappers were small and round and made of wood on which were attached strings that they winded around their fingers so that these clappers would not fall to the ground. The women told us that they got these from a family that specialized in making wood objects. The family made wood-sandals!
After having recovered from drinking too much beer we got ready—deciding what we could not do without and take along whatever we could carry. Then, after breakfast and a long, last talkfest, our community waved us off, shouting . . . ‘Have a safe trip to FLOUR POWER!’
THE VILLAGE OF FLOUR POWER
Zagros Mountains: Luristan, circa 4500 BCE
It was just wonderful to walk again as in the olden days. I carried toddler Rose when she was tired. For Joe this trip was a unique event; I was able to teach him the knowledge my ancestors had imparted to me about edible and non-edible plants on which we survived. We traversed sensational canyon scenery, following a river called Simareh. Along the way, we got to know many settlements and their peoples where the men herded their sheep and goats as pasture was abundant; small rivers cascaded down the steep mountain walls. I saw plants I had never seen before and was told that peoples from the south had brought the seeds along when they came up north: tribes were traveling a great deal.
Kinsmen of our tribal family told me that they had gone up north to a lake called Van to visit a settlement where they made obsidian tools. They said that the waters of this lake were bright blue. They bartered sea-shells and beads for obsidian tools, so necessary to obtain goodwill and safe passage on their journeys.
In our settlement I had invented the pot, so I was, naturally, interested in the pottery of other settlements. I noticed the varieties of shapes and color. At one smallish “village” they baked the pots in an oven called kiln. I had never seen an oven before and was excited. Two elderly women offered to show me the know-how of making their pots. So I asked our family to stay one more day.
In exchange for food and care, the two women made pots for all the families. They said that all clay is not the same. Baked in the oven—they called this process firing—the different clays gave earthenware a special color. That’s how one can tell where the pottery was made. Their kiln had two rooms called chambers. The vessels to be fired were put in the top one that had large holes at the bottom—the lower chamber burned the pile of wood; good ventilation was necessary so the upper chamber was piping-hot! The pots were baked! I recalled Tom and my first pot. The two women were proud of their invention making pots in a jiffy. They showed me the wood plank on the ground with the stand on top. One of them sat on a stool in front and used her feet to turn the plank around and around. How nifty! When we parted my two friends gave me a bowl with a wavy design--their mark, they said. This was the beginning of my passion: collecting pottery—“Made in Mesopotamia.”
Continuing our journey south, the days were dry and warm and crisp at night. We collected berries, pears, apples and nuts. Some women were experts at netting smaller animals. The men hunted. We camped at places known to our group. At one of their favorite ‘watering-holes’ the men decided to stay for a while. There were boars in this area. They were excited because when chased the boar becomes ferocious and they were planning to kill one. The doggies came in handy for distracting them. Before sunset the men gathered, and then left to perform some magic; necessary for a victorious hunt. Adam never told me about this because women weren’t allowed to know about these secret rites.
I was looking at plants I had not seen before and pondered if any could be edible, when a loud snort startled me. I faced a mother boar and her young. We stared at each other: terrified! I recalled how my knees were shaking. Then a chorus of yapping doggies approached. This distracted the mother enough to turn around. Silently begging for help, I clutched my necklace. Then mama-boar turned her attention to me again. That was all I could take . . . and I ran screaming toward a pistachio tree with low hanging branches. With my heart in my mouth I climbed as fast as I could . . . all the while mama-boar snorting, letting me know she was not tolerating me. All shook up, I gave thanks to the tree spirit that boars could NOT climb. Then the doggies came. Until today I can’t recall exactly what happened while the doggies were yapping, mama-boar was a-squeaking and the men were shouting. Really, a fantastic commotion took place. But I vividly recall that it ended so loud! The squeaking peals of mama-boar paralyzed me. Don’t forget, it all happened underneath my pistachio tree. Suddenly there was silence . . . like magic! I finally dared open my eyes. The doggies were wagging their tails while sniffing at the little boars and the hero stood next to dead mama-boar. Holding their spears high up in the air, the men silently danced around them. When we returned to our camp, I told our group my horror story. And overnight I became a heroine!
With two friends helping me, I prepared a dish commemorating this event and named it Paté de Boar. To honor the tree that saved my life, I added pistachios. Here is the recipe: Ask the hero to skin the head and singe the ears. Cut up the tongue, ears, and cheeks and soak these in water with sour-green in season. Save brains and eyes. Boil water in pot with onions, garlic and leeks. Add the meat pieces and cook until soft. Add brains and cook. Take meat out of pot and chop until meat is mashed. Add wheat flour. Add chopped pistachios. Make cakes. Cover the cakes with boar fat. Cook on hot stones. P.S.: The eyes, cooked in the broth separately to ward off the evil eye, are a delicacy and reserved for the hero hunter.
We continued our journey Darwin said that we were nearing our new paradise. One morning I’ll never forget, we stood on the hill which overlooked the plain leading to this marvel called FLOUR POWER in the distance. It was very emotional and a significant event in my life as all my longings and all my dreams were involved. I held Rose in my arms and said to Joe that this was our magic moment. We watched the shepherds leaving the village with their flocks—hundreds of sheep and goats. The goats went toward a rocky area; these agile animals like to leap. Guided by doggies, the sheep went direction plain to graze.
Darwin joined us, giving Joe a pat on his shoulder. He smiled at me when he said that the village was famous for pomegranate trees. Someone grew acacia trees and made from the bark a medicine for stomach troubles. Darwin pointed to the village built on an elevation and said that the cliffs protected the villagers from attacking raiders. But on the other side they had to build a wooden fence with a door called gate. The fields and orchards were beyond, where a river flowed. There was a well outside the gate and one inside the village that had about one hundred houses.
Adam wanted to know about the importance of Flour Power in this region. Darwin said that very large villages were called cities. And that Flour Power, in exchange for protection, had to give some of their surplus food to SUSA, a city within five days walking. The city had a standing army.
‘What’s a standing army?’ Joe wanted to know. Darwin laughed, and then said, ‘A standing army is a large group of men ready to go and kill intruders with spears, and bow and arrows they call weapons. These men are called warriors and, Joe . . . in exchange for defending the peoples they do not work in the fields to grow food. They also get shelter.’ Joe shouted, ‘I want to be a warrior!’ I pulled his ear, saying ‘No. You are helping me in the kitchen.’ Joe made faces, so Adam said, ‘Darwin, who is leader in Susa?’ Darwin put his hand on Joe’s shoulder and said, ‘He is called king. And if you want to be a warrior, Joe, you’ll have to ask the king.’ He turned to Adam saying ‘By the way, some villagers no longer grow their own food but exchange their handiwork for food. If you need sandals, you go to Charlie and do your wheeling-and-dealing.’ I nudged Adam and said, ‘You are very good at bartering.’ Darwin chuckled. ‘In that case, Adam,’ he said, ‘you’ll be a trader; work that requires footwork selling goods from house to house.’
Darwin turned to me. ‘Eva, if you don’t grow your own food then you must work. So . . . what’s your plan?’ He took Rose who had been waving her arms at him. ‘Well . . .’ I said looking at Adam. ‘Is there a clubhouse where we can stay until we have our own house?’ Darwin shook his head. ‘I know a family who runs a boarding shelter, not fancy, but you’ll have a roof over your head to start with.’ Adam rushed to say ‘Are you also boarding at that shelter?’ Darwin smiled broadly. ‘I’m staying at a family with a daughter I want as my wife.’ I clapped. ‘Congratulations!’ I took Rose in my arms. ‘Let’s go!’
As we approached the fenced area of the village Darwin told us that our shelter was near the gate named Kushki. At the well men hauled water. He said hello and they waved, saying something in a tongue we barely understood. Darwin said that in Susa people spoke a different tongue, and if Adam wanted to be a trader, he should learn their words.
We stood inside gate Kushki. Ahead of us a wide street with houses on either side led to the market place. Darwin took Joe’s hand and we followed—passing two houses they made a right turn. In the back of the house was an orchard. A white-haired woman was picking fruit. She said hello, smiled at Darwin, and gave him a red fruit. He gave it to me saying that this was a pomegranate. He spoke with the woman in her tongue. We understood, he was pointing at us, that this was the boarding shelter. All smiles, Darwin said that they had room for us, but she needed a deposit because she would cook us one meal daily until we had found work. Adam took from his satchel an obsidian knife. The woman’s face lit up and she nodded at Darwin. Gosh, so easy, the deal was done!
Our host family became our sponsors. Bill and Barb were kind and helped us adjust; we had to learn new words! Neena, the white-haired woman, had a friend who spoke our tongue and she joined us in the orchard. She informed us about available work: always in demand: field-work was tops, and grinding wheat for making pita, and baking pita and selling pita in the market; making beer and selling beer; making leather goods; making pots for cooking and storage for grains; making bricks for building houses, and shepherding. The most coveted line of work was the Susa city job: transporting wheat and barley in ox-carts for their granaries. The work involved loading the cereal in the cart and unloading at destination. The caravan was escorted by warriors.
Neena took Rose along when she went with her grand-daughter Jane to the market bartering greens in season that Barb grew at their fields. Bill took Joe under his wings and showed him brick-making. The two older sons of the couple were shepherds. For Adam it was stressful adjusting to this village life because he was responsible for feeding us; no longer able to hunt for meat! We had never thought that uprooting, [emigrating] was this tough. We started to quarrel! He called me “feather-heart” because I wasn’t practical, always on the look-out for doing something new. Certainty was fine I said, but not for improving life. Life was one big risk with hunger lurking everywhere. I didn’t mince words when I said it was a matter of adapting or dying. Then Bill told us that a friend of his who lived most of the time in Susa needed an extra shepherd to look after his village flocks. Adam might consider taking this work. His reward was the newborn speckled goat kids. Beaming with gratitude, Adam embraced Bill.
I decided to take a stroll to the market place and find out about work as cook; after all, my cave-cuisine had been much appreciated. I took Rose with me, who asked if the boy next door could join us. Harry was her age and his work was collecting fire wood for his mother. He would introduce us to the villagers bartering their goods. Along the route were the two-room brick-houses; like our boarding shelter with a walled-in-courtyard for the family’s goat that produced milk for making yogurt. Harry had told Rose that goats were cherished; she was called wet-nurse of infants. The family oven was also in the courtyard and a drainage hole for excess water and family “waste” led outside the wall. Pomegranate trees were everywhere. Harry said that shepherds take the fruit with them to quench their thirst, and travelers to Susa to refresh their mouths. I wondered if I should use the water of this fruit for my barley-hare-soup.
We stood at the entrance of the walled market. Women lined up at the well. Nearby on a long brick bench underneath two shady trees older women were chatting. A few paces further, on a platform, stood a statue without head showing prominent nipples and a wide pelvis . . . and without arms or legs. Eyes shining, Rose said that her name was Pikki-Me: meaning tree of life. She was made of wood because trees have roots that go deep. Harry tugged at my arm and said that his mother had told him that Pikki-Me was a family tree. A commotion at one of the shops drew my attention.
Rose took my hand. ‘Look, modar,’ she said, ‘Joe is having big words with Bill.’
‘And Neena and Jane are waving!’ Harry rushed to join them.
Rose laughed as we neared the group at the shop where the bickering took place. ‘I heard Joe saying that he doesn’t want to make bricks because his hands get dirty.’
‘Tell Joe that he’ll get fifteen jars of barley for making three hundred bricks!’ Jane said as she took Harry’s hand. ‘Neena will hoard his extra barley so we can marry and start a family.’
‘Modar,’ Joe said stepping up, ‘I want to make beer.’
“And Rose’—Harry took her hand—‘will barter your beer.’
Shaking his head, Bill joined me and said, ‘Eva, Adam and I will be picking bones about your Joe. I’m trying my best to get him work and he refuses!’
‘Modar,’ Rose said, ‘how about . . . if we ask pedar for his input and hear what he has to say. Joe and I are putting up roots in Flour Power. We must build our life!’
I took my daughter’s hand and said, ‘Yes, Rose. Let’s talk with pedar what you and Joe will do to make a living.’ I held out my other hand for Joe.
Then I said looking at Bill, ‘We are grateful for your help getting Joe work and we hope that you’ll join us because Adam has nothing but praise for you.’
I smiled at Jane. ‘Your grandmother says that you are a clever girl; so I want you to listen to our talk, and maybe Rose will give you her ear.’ I squeezed Rose’s hand.
‘Harry,’ I said, ‘tell your mother to also come. I want to know more about Pikki-Me.’
Harry’s eyes were teary when he said, ‘How about me . . .’ He looked at Rose.
I couldn’t help smiling and said, ‘Harry, you’ll be our guest of honor. You have given me my hunch. Take her hand. And, Neena, let’s all walk to the orchard and wait for pedar to return so we can have a talkfest.’
When we arrived at the orchard—Bill said that he had a meeting with the village boss, so he left. Neena said that she needed a nap and went indoors. Rose and Jane made a dash for the brick-bench. Joe wanted to talk with Darwin about his beer future, so he left. Harry took my hand and suggested going to his orchard and meet his mother.
Her name was Sue. We sat on a brick-bench in her courtyard. Harry went inside the house and returned giving his mother a wood image the size of a large pomegranate. Sue smiled as she stroked the image, saying Pikki-Me was her object of affection because she was her family tree. I was curious to know more about this wood carving that had no head, no arms and no legs that she so cherished, and without asking I reached out to hold her. As she pointed at the large nipples, Sue nodded, saying the image represented maternal love. Sitting next to her, Harry said that his father had a crush on her belly because that’s where babies began life.
I wanted to know who had made this handicraft. Sue took the image, saying Pikki-Me represented mother earth—who gave birth to fruit trees: fruits are their babies, their children. Now enraptured, Sue put the image in her lap and said that many moons before she saw the light of day, an ancestor had made Pikki-Me from wood; because trees were living beings stretching their roots underground. Earth was Magic. And Pikki-Me was their symbol for the magic of life.
Harry took the image and kissed her belly, saying to his mother that she should tell me about their ancestor Nana and what she did. Sue laughed and patted his arm. She then told me that her Nana, who had returned to the dust of the earth, had asked a wood carver arriving in Flour Power to make a very large image of Pikki-Me. Nana said that everyone in the village should worship the image of life represented by her Pikki-Me. The boss had liked it and told the villagers to come to the market place and celebrate Pikki-Me: the tree of life. And every day since, villagers had put food on her platform, reminding everyone that mother earth nourished all living beings. Every full moon villagers showed up at the market place, singing songs praising her. The young ones danced, and the adults drank beer. With a big grin on her face, Sue said there was much merrymaking. Harry returned the image to his mother and said that she should ask father to get me a Pikki-Me from baked clay. Thrilled with the offer, I got up to give him a hug when Rose and Jane showed up, shouting that pedar was eager to see me so we could have a family talkfest. I held out my hand to Sue, saying we valued her words of advice and wanted her at our family meeting. Harry jumped for joy.
In the courtyard—Neena and Barb were at the oven. The children were watching them as Adam, holding a basket, gave them the kebabs to cook. Sue and I joined them.
Chuckling, Adam said, ‘All the village knows what happened at the market place. The old women went to the boss to complain about Joe. Only women make beer. And if men take over, they will be out of work.’
‘Eva!’—Neena winked at me—‘Get this . . . stingy Steve gave Adam the kebabs on credit for sheep meat. He doesn’t want barley.’
‘I wanted to celebrate,’ Adam said, ‘that everyone is talking about our Joe. He may get an offer working for our boss . . . perhaps be his right hand!’
‘I oversee,’ Sue said, ‘making wheat flour at our workplace. I’ll be happy to get Joe involved in our trade. My husband makes the pitas and trades them at the market place where we have a shop.’
Shouting Darwin, Rose ran to the orchard. All smiles, Joe and Darwin joined us.
‘Son,’ Adam said, now laughing, ‘you are the talk of our village because you don’t want to get your hands dirty!’
‘Making bricks is hard work,’ Barb said as she put one more kebab on the fire. Neena nodded looking up, her face shining with sweat. ‘But you’ll make a good living. Bill is doing very well producing housing bricks for arriving settlers looking for work.’
Jane took Joe’s hand. ‘We have workers do the dirty work,’ she said. ‘Mason, my father’s assistant, takes care of the brick-makers.’
‘Jane,’—Harry put his arm around her—‘I want to work for your father making baked Pikki-Me. How about we set up shop at the market place?’ He looked at me and smiled.
Someone clapped hands. The boss and Bill entered the courtyard. ‘Harry,’ the boss said with a big grin, ‘that’s terrific. Flour Power will become famous because every trader will want one to take home as a souvenir.’
Sue laughed. ‘Alex,’ she said to the boss, ‘you know that my ancestors started grinding the wheat and traded in flour. That’s how our village got its name.’
“Wheat flour made into pita is our belly-food,’ Neena said and clapped.
‘That’s why Susa,’ Darwin said as he joined boss Alex, ‘leaves your village in peace. As Neena said, Flour Power is their belly-food place. Susa needs flour to keep their people from rioting.’
‘But the city sends us their tax collector,’ Alex said with a sigh. ‘And he needs a bribe or he’ll assess our wheat output double.’
Adam clapped his hands to get our attention. ‘Alex,’ he said, ‘my son wants to make beer. I heard that this work is done by women only. Tell me why Joe can’t make beer.’
Alex raised his eyebrows. ‘Your son can make beer. That’s not the problem. But he can’t set up shop in the market place. For setting up shop you need a license from me.’ He stared at Adam; then continued: ‘Serving customers has been, from day one, woman’s work. They don’t need permission to barter home-brew. They can barter anywhere . . . not only the market place.’
‘Can Joe set up shop outside the village?’ I wanted to know.
‘I am wondering . . . serving my brew in a beer-garden,’ Joe said. ‘Perhaps in an orchard outside the village.’
‘Joe, to start with, you need a lot of barley,’ Alex said as he looked at Adam. ‘I collect all barley output and it’s bartered at my, I mean, our village shop.’ He looked at me. ‘Eva, Darwin told me that your cave-cuisine is tops. And a birdie told me that you want to set up shop and cook for those who can’t cook. The birdie chirped that it is take-away food.’ He rubbed his thumb and forefinger as he said, ‘Traders will take to it. I’ll give you a license because it will benefit our village.’
‘How about giving Joe barley on credit,’ Adam said as he joined Joe and Darwin.
‘The kebabs are done.’ Barb shouted. ‘Let’s eat!’
Neena laughed. ‘And I’ll serve my . . . homebrew!’
Adam put his arm around Joe, gave Alex a huge smile, and said, ‘Yes. Let’s eat, drink, and make merry!’
Neena’s homebrew was delicious. She told her secret to Joe, that she had added fragrant yellow flour given to her by a trader from Susa who once stayed at her shelter. The two made a pact: Neena would show Joe how to make beer and in return she wanted a portion of his beer-garden trade gain.
Barb served Alex the choicest kebabs with a salsa of onion juice and chives. Bill, Jane and Harry arranged between them a deal making kiln-fired images of Pikki-Me. They had the approval of Alex. But Bill insisted getting also the consent from his father Jack, who was in Susa making deals at a pita-making shop that used his flour. Harry asked his mother; Sue smiled and nodded.
Alex, Darwin, Joe, Adam and I made deals. As my position was strong because I had Alex’s endorsement for a take-away food shop in the market place, Alex pledged Adam that he would give Joe the much-needed barley credit. The men embraced, sealing the deal for a beer-garden outside the village gate that led to his pomegranate orchard. I made sure that my Rose would serve the customers. Sowing the seeds for starting a family trade had taken roots . . .
When Alex and Darwin had left, arms around each other, Barb asked me, rolling her eyes and giggling, to join her for one more cup of beer. She told me that one of her friends in the fields had told her about my boar story, and that I had created Paté de Boar, a recipe that included pistachios. Her families owned the mountain behind the fields where pistachios grew in abundance and she offered me to help them collecting the nuts. I was thrilled to hug again my life-saving tree; so I accepted on the spot without asking Adam! Sue saw us laughing and toasting, and joined us; wanting to know about our merrymaking. She said that she was very happy with the Pikki-Me deal her Harry had made with Bill. This deal had a great coming. Jack had told her that the temple priest in Susa—they worshipped the ruler of light, the sun—needed women to serve the worshipping men. The priest collected the barley and wheat grains the women got for their services. I wanted to know about these services. Sue laughed. Jack had told her that the work was honorable because the priest had said so. Well . . . the women were sex-workers. Now all smiles face shining, Sue got up to leave saying the Pikke-Me images would trade like hot pitas. And that her Harry would become a successful trader like his father. I wanted to know more about the temple sex-workers. Barb said that they were easy on the eye, mature women with experience and that the women most likely were widows with no surviving children, and that this was how they eked out a living. I wondered if these sex-workers had a special name. She said that they were known as Tamars.
Barb and I were going to meet Lucy, an owner of the pistachio orchard, at her workplace. As we crossed the market place she pointed out the gate called Anor behind Pikki-Me. She gave me an elbow when she said with a chuckle in her voice that this would be the gate to Joe’s beer-garden.
We went through the gate called Bachban that was opposite from our entrance gate Kushki; the market place divided them. Here the dwellings were close to each other, without a shade tree. These houses were for the people making a living in the fields or helping out with chores, Barb said. Close to the gate stood a magnificent shade tree where several women and men were chatting. Barb went to two women who greeted her; the women did the heavy work in her garden. The four of us walked to Barb’s workplace, laughing and chatting. Every day I learned new words!
Lucy was all smiles, saying she had been looking forward meeting the woman who had survived a boar hunt thanks to a pistachio tree. Barb gave me a hug as she said that she and Neena couldn’t wait to hear about my pistachio trip. Lucy gave her a small sack with nuts, and we departed.
I was thrilled that Lucy understood my tongue. She had been trading with nomads, bartering foods that transported easily—dried fruits like figs, raisins, berries, and sweet dates. These nomads had exchanged sacks, containers of woven sheep wool, for food.
I was in awe when we arrived at her family-dwelling. Five rooms! They were big traders! She said that there had been five nut-collecting generations living here since pistachios saw the light of day. Laughing, Lucy squeezed my arm. And for sure, there were more nut-collectors than my fingers could count sitting near the oven where her grandmother was making pitas. In a recess of the room nearby sat a tiny, toothless, shriveled-looking woman. She cackled when Lucy introduced me. It had been old-nana, Lucy said, who had insisted meeting me. So I sat next to her and held her hand. Lucy explained her words: That when she was a child a mama-boar had also chased her, and she, also, had climbed a pistachio tree. Little old-nana squeezed my fingers. Lucy said that her old-nana considered me family, and I would get special favors. I wanted to know about these favors. She said that I would get the rights to always get pistachios when, and how much, I wanted. Lucy chuckled when she said that old-nana wanted me to make a pita using pistachios. Well . . . Eureka! That’s when making pistachio cookies saw the light of day! I laughed, and kissed old-nana’s hands. She pulled me close and kissed me on my lips! That’s a deal, Lucy said, laughing; her belly shook.
Lucy gave me and her niece Bella sacks and we walked to her plot. She showed me how to shake the pistachio branches so the ripe nuts dropped to the ground. As we took a break, two male relatives showed up. They gave us a snack of sliced turnips. Then they left, taking our heavy sacks.
Lucy told me that her ancestors were once woodlanders and knew the mountain regions all the way from Lake Van to Susa. They had decided to put up roots near Flour Power. None of them liked tilling the soil and instead made a living by trading nuts for greens and flour. Collecting nuts didn’t require much labor and gave them more freedom. Lucy told me that her family liked talking. I became totally absorbed listening when they were telling stories. Words . . . magic words! That’s where her family kept their ‘inside-eye’. She put her hands over her eyes. The inside-eye was . . . I had a hunch: Eureka?
Then . . . Joe showed up with a relative of Lucy he had met in the market place. Father, Rose and he had been wondering why I had not yet returned; it was high time, he said. I had a pang of guilt, but my heart warmed that they had missed me. When, giving him her sweet smile, Bella served Joe a sesame pita I was alarmed, because he became what I called ‘googly-eyed’. To make this a short story, Joe had fallen in love with Bella—on the spot! We had a face-to-face talk. Bella’s smile had lit up his world and he wanted to marry her. I told him that first he needed a house and establish his beer-garden and then marriage. Barb and Bill knew that Jane was smitten with Joe. I smelled tension in the air. To make things worse, old-nana had also seen Joe’s face and had gotten the message.
So I took Lucy by the arm, saying we needed a stroll. I told her that Barb’s daughter Jane had set her eyes on Joe. And we shouldn’t tell Barb about Bella, Jane’s competition. Joe and Neena were involved making beer together. And if Neena got even a whiff of Jane being replaced by another girl, the family would hold hands together; and my family would be homeless. I then suggested that together we go into trading my pistachio cookies. [About this exciting venture I’ll tell later . . . because the birth of my cookie recipe changed all of our lives]. Anyway, she would get a portion of the gains for herself. Lucy understood. We linked arms and made more deals. I would make a cake using her dried fruits. We laughed a lot when we came up with the name TUTTI-FRUTTI . . .
Before Joe and I returned to Flour Power, I embraced old-nana. She cackled, and then gave me a wet kiss on my lips! I pinched her cheek. Lucy had told her about our cookie and cake adventures. In high spirits, Lucy joined us to Flour Power—we carried four sacks of pistachios. Joe and Tony, the relative who had taken him to their homestead, carried four sacks of dried fruits. A deal had been made that every full moon Tony and Joe would . . . visit old-nana . . . and return with sacks filled with pistachios!
One story told by Lucy’s grandmother had touched my heart. It was about a spider weaving her web, and of bees talking with each other where the sweetest flowers were to get honey. I then recalled that Tom, who had made Omelet Eva, had told me that he liked honey, and when he saw bees entering their dwelling place he got his hunch of making cave-houses. Lucy’s grandmother learned from watching insects how to get food the easy way and started weaving her own web. By word of mouth—talking with nomads she had found out how to trade successfully. With a big grin, she had called it web-working.
Well, my first web had to be the take-away food trade in the market place. My barley-hare-soup had always been a favorite meal. But, hares, where to get hares? Before entering the garden-fields of Flour Power, we had a rest and ate dried figs. In a flash I felt like Eureka and asked Tony if he knew a hunter to get me hares for my special hare-soup. He laughed. He was a hunter, and would be happy to supply me with hares. Lucy had told him about our cookie deal, and he very much liked making a similar deal with me. I got the picture that I would have two web-deals with this family—respected by the villagers. It would give Joe and me, newcomers on the trade-scene, a thumb-up. I looked at Joe; he was beaming. I said, with a nod, that this was a super deal and extended my hands to seal the deal. So . . . we held hands—promising to make our deals a success.
When we were alone I asked Adam, who was better at bartering, to have a talk with the owner of the kebab-shop, Neena had called him stingy Steve, if he would be willing, of course for whatever food he wanted in return, that I join him in his shop: sharing; that I had the approval of boss Alex to trade my barley-hare-soup. He put his lips at my ear and said that I should wonder about containers to serve the take-away soup!
Unexpectedly Darwin dropped by with a girl on his arm; he introduced her as Victoria, the daughter of his host. Gosh, they were getting married! Her parents wanted us to attend the party. Darwin asked Neena to make her special beer laced with fragrant yellow flour. He winked at Joe. Then he announced that once married, he and Vicky would go to our settlement. Nana, Tom and Tim were waiting for them. He was going to be their ‘boss’ and introduce them to the good life. Boss Darwin would put the settlement—he was planning to name it Blue Beads—on the nomad trail. Village Blue Beads would be trading beads. Teary-eyed I looked at Rose; Tim had made a lovely necklace for her when she saw the light of day . . . Neena served beer.
Darwin continued telling us that necklaces made by Victoria, wife of boss Darwin of Blue Beads, would be in great demand. Vicky had set her eyes on opening shops in many other villages and hopefully even the city of Susa. Her necklaces would get to be known as Made in Mesopotamia. Bill and Adam clapped hands, shouting that it was the spirit-of-trade that kept them alive.
Darwin and Victoria left with the promise that we would come to their wedding celebration at the market place to be sealed by boss Alex.
Adam and I had a talk about serving the soup. Eva, he had said, you can’t expect people to bring their own cup. You are not opening a soup kitchen. You are a take-away food shop! Traders from around here will eat your food. You have to come up with serving the soup in your own cup. Talk to your eyes, your second sight—to wonder, he had said. I embraced him, saying he had saved me from evil days. He had put his lips at my ear and said that we were a team. And Joe and Rose would join us. I had put my lips at his ear, saying coming to Flour Power had been a blessed adventure and that we would eventually become a family of traders.
Now I had to come up with a cup that was handy as well as to be done with. I was looking and looking: wondering—watching Neena make pita; a large one curled up, making a cavity—a shallow bowl. ‘Eureka,’ I shouted, ‘take-away—throw away!’ And I jumped up, took the pita-bowl from the oven and put it on a stone to cool. Then I embraced Neena, telling her what I planned to do. She suggested I ask Sue and Jack, they were trading pita in the market place, if they would make my pita-pot. She chuckled when she said that people could also eat the pot: nothing to throw-away!
I stood at the shrine of Pikki-Me to thank her for the good fortune she gave Flour Power, when Harry rushed up. He took my hand, saying his father had returned from Susa and I should meet him.
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TO BE CONTINUED
Jack and Sue were sitting on their brick-bench in the orchard underneath the pomegranate tree. Her face lit up when Harry and I entered. She introduced me as the woman who was in love with her Pikki-Me and had suggested that Harry and Jane together with Bill, her father, trade baked images of Pikki-Me. With a huge smile on his face Jack left. Sue pointed to the empty seat and I sat next to her. Jack returned with what looked like a large sack.
‘Harry,’ Jack said, ‘what I’m going to show will be terrific for trading.’ He held up the sack that had two long sling-loops on either side. ‘Hold out your arms so I can demonstrate.’ Jack put the sack at Harry’s back, took a sling-loop, and put it through his extended arm until it reached his shoulder. He did the same with the other sling-loop. He pulled at the opening of the sack, saying ‘Sue . . . now Harry has his hands free. He can carry on his back the images when he goes from door to door.’ Sue took two pomegranates and dropped them in the sack, saying ‘Back-sack!’
Jack then showed Sue that if she put the sack in front, the opening was now in the front. ‘For carrying a baby,’ he said pointing at his belly, ‘a baby pouch.’
We laughed. I was dying to know more about these sacks. Jack said, ‘I met at the market of Susa a group of women weavers who run a workshop. Their husbands are herders and give them the sheep wool so they can weave and trade their cloth. One day at the temple, they decided working together—making these travel bags.’
I clapped my hands and shouted ‘A back-pack, Jack!’ I then told them about my pita-pot that I needed for serving my barley-hare-soup. They were enthusiastic, eager to help me. Jack promised to experiment with the flour and make the perfect pot. I offered them a portion of my take-away food gains.
Harry came with a jug of beer and four cups to celebrate one more deal.
The wedding of Victoria and Darwin at Flour Power.
For this occasion the shrine had been moved to the center of the market place. Boss Alex had ordered that the village girls bring flowers-of-the-field to pretty-up Pikki-Me. Neena told me that a birdie had told her that Vicky’s parents had given the boss enough barley in exchange for jugs of beer for the party. They also had given Alex bowls of flour to serve enough pitas for 60 guests. Neena was curious how much gold the parents would give their daughter. Vicky would wear bangles; the more bangles the more she was protected from starvation, the fear of hunger. I had no parents; they had perished when I was a little child. I should tell Adam to start thinking of accumulating gold for when Rose would marry. Neena and Barb had asked the village seamstress to make them and Jane new tunics. Adam gave me a young goat as exchange for Rose’s and mine outfits.
Before sunset we got dressed. With thin thorns Neena pinned pink flowers on the shoulders of our tunics. She had made belts by braiding strong grasses, adding flower tassels. So when our party walked to the market place, we looked like “fashion plates”; the tassels swung as we moved.
White flowers in clay pots surrounded the well. On the brick-bench underneath the two shade trees sat the parents with their daughter. Darwin stood with boss Alex at the shrine. When we approached, Darwin greeted Adam and Bill, saying to Alex that he should thank Bill for being our sponsor. That our family of four was an asset to Flour Power—bringing prosperity. And that Joe and Rose, putting up roots, would turn out to be a blessing for all villagers by becoming shopkeepers. Someone clapped hands. Jack and Sue had sneaked up; wanting to know what was being discussed. Harry took Jane and Rose by the hand and they left. Neena took the opportunity to chat with Vicky and her parents. Alex inquired after my take-away food adventure. I took Sue’s hand and told him that she and Jack would make pita-pots for serving the barley-hare-soup, and that Adam had talked with the kebab shop-owner who was willing to share his place with me. Alex smiled from ear to ear.
Three boys sitting at the entrance of Alex’s pomegranate orchard started the festivities by slapping drums with their hands. Guests streamed into the market place. Alex gave a sign to the men at the beer-shop to serve the whoopee-water. Girls wearing necklaces of fresh flowers joined the drummers. Dancing, two clapping castanets, they sang.
The merrymaking was in full swing when Alex and Darwin escorted the bride and her parents to the shrine. Pikke-Me was adorned with garlands of rainbow-colored flowers-of-the-field and surrounded with baskets heaped with fruits. The drummers stopped playing and the girls stopped dancing and singing.
All eyes were on Victoria’s blue beads cascading down her cream-colored tunic. Five necklaces, Neena gasped standing behind me. Vicky’s hair was bedecked with white flowers and gold loops dangled from her ears. The flashing bangles on her arms were studded with green and dark red stones. Neena put her lips at my ear, saying the parents’ tribe was from the Kundus river region where precious stones were traded. Victoria was set for life by her parents. Knowing where to get those stones when he and Vicky needed more for her shops, no wonder Darwin would become boss of the settlement.
Alex and Darwin raised their arms to get attention. The guests were asked to face the ceremony. Alex asked Darwin to step up. Then he nodded at the father, who stepped up holding Vicky’s hand. Alex asked the father for permission to hand over his daughter as wife to Darwin. The father said yes; Vicky and Darwin held hands. The mother stepped up with a basket and put rose petals over their hands. The couple was now officially married.
The boys banged their drums. The girls came over and danced around the shrine. Some of the women guests joined the dancing. Men went to the beer-shop and returned holding cups, shouting their approval. The bridal party went to the brick-bench. Sue, Barb, Neena and I wished the couple much happiness. They were leaving the following day so we said farewell; and a message for Nana, Tim and Tom that their Eva sent kisses and wished them many moons of plentiful barley.
Adam urged me to get help with cooking the soup. Barb took me to the shade tree outside Bachban gate. She introduced me to Nancy, who liked working in the kitchen. We made a deal that she could take home 5 pitas and a portion of my soup as her contribution for working. Barb gave me for free greens and onions.
Recipe for Barley-Hare-Soup: One skinned hare—cut up meat in small pieces. Put water in pot; add carcass, greens, onions and two handfuls of barley. Boil. Simmer until water is tasty. Take out carcass. Add meat and cook until done. Garnish with finely chopped turnips.
Adam had made a deal with Steve, the kebab-shop owner, that I use his kitchen. My heart was in my mouth and butterflies were kissing in my belly on my first day of work. Rose insisted holding my hand. Gosh, Nancy had spread the news of my shop-opening. The villagers queued! And before long, I ran out of soup . . . My customers said that eating the pita-pot had truly been an eye-opener. Rose and Steve’s daughter Wendy became friends. Alas . . . the soup trade did not last long because Tony the hunter informed us that the hares had left the area. Adam chuckled when he said that most likely we had eaten them to deathday . . .
Well, Adam decided that Nancy help me with making the tutti-frutti cake. Neena agreed that I could use her kitchen until . . . well, until Adam had made a deal with someone else. While I was busy experimenting making dough, Nancy cut up the dried figs, raisins, berries, and dates. I made dough with Sue’s special barley flour by adding, instead of water, sweet date spirit. I giggled recalling Nana and the two men calling her sour cherry spirit schnapps. Nancy and I added some of the fruits and tasted; it needed two more handfuls of raisins. The next step was the shape of the cake. We sat on the brick-bench in the orchard discussing this problem when I had my Eureka-flash! Nancy was all for making the cakes like small bricks. When I told Adam, he immediately involved Bill the brick-maker: Could I have a kitchen at his brick-place outside the village . . . Neena and Barb clapped their hands. Deal done: Eureka!
While we were making our Eureka-deal, Rose and Wendy got Steve involved with their plan of using his kitchen for trading their goat-and-lentil soup. Wendy had overheard her father saying to her mother how much he missed the extra trade of kebabs when folks came for my barley-hare-soup. Get this . . . Steve and Adam made a deal for their daughters to trade the goat-and-lentil soup! When Sue heard about the soup she had laughed, because Rose had asked her for the lentils that a trader from Susa had exchanged for her flour. Sue agreed to supply the girls with the pita-pots.
Many moons had gone by when Adam, holding two cups of beer, said, ‘My sweet Eva, let’s sit in the orchard and enjoy looking at the sunset.’ I giggled silently hearing I was his sweet Eva—he was up to something! ‘Darling Adam, you are in the mood?’ and I raised a hand at my ear. ‘Come,’ he said, ‘let’s sit on the bench.’
So we sat. We sipped—and looked. I wondered what he wanted to say so I said, ‘Yes, Adam . . . what’s new?’ He put his arm around my shoulders. ‘Eva . . . I’ve pondered long and hard, it wasn’t easy, but I’ve decided to quit herding.’ My heart came up in my throat—I felt I was going to die . . . because Adam loved being a shepherd. I managed to swallow. ‘Adam,’—I put my head on his chest—‘herding is your life.’ He put his lips at my ear. ‘Eva, you are my helping-hand. I am the family care-giver.’
Hearing him say that I was his helping-hand, I felt like a hen that had her feathers ruffled; I felt like giving him a tongue-lashing, but decided it was better to hold my tongue. I sat up and said, ‘Adam, we came here to give Joe and Rose the opportunity from a life working every day in the fields for food, a hand to mouth work, to a better life, doing something else to stay alive. And now Joe and Rose are traders, putting their barley gains with Alex so they have credit and get bricks to make their own houses.’ Teary-eyed I took his hand. ‘Aren’t you pleased with your kids?’
Adam squeezed my fingers, looked into my eyes, and said, ‘Eva, I’m even more pleased with you. I, also, have a plan. I decided that my family needs me to supervise the shops.’ He smiled when he saw my open mouth . . . I had no words. He took my elbow. ‘Eva . . . let’s give Pikki-Me our thanks.’
In silence we walked to the market place to give thanks to Pikki-Me at the shrine. We stood in front of her image. The word helping-hand flashed in my eyes. A tear ran down my cheek. I said in a soft voice, ‘Your mother’—I pointed at Pikki-Me’s teats—‘gave you milk, her food, and she took care of you until you could eat plants growing in the earth.’ I took his hand and squeezed his fingers. ‘Please, Adam, don’t call her a helping-hand.’
Adam put his arms around me. ‘Eva, Pikki-Me does not need a head and hands because she is the image of life. We shepherds worship creation of new life. When a mother sheep dies we give the little one to another mother sheep to give milk until it can eat grass. Shepherds take care of their flock so the animals can feel safe and eat. And so I decided to take care of my own family. We keep away the wolves.’
My tongue was stuck in my mouth when I went to the foot of the shrine. I took some flowers-of-the-field from a jug. ‘Thank you, Adam, for wanting to look after me and the kids,’ I managed to say as I joined him.
‘A birdie told me,’ he said, ‘that Alex is rubbing his hands because our family working here contributes to the success of his village. The tax collector from Susa is coming. I must look over Alex’s shoulder and make sure that he doesn’t fleece us.’ Adam chuckled. ‘Neena had put her lips to Joe’s ear, saying Alex is foxy; Alex is a squirrel, putting away for himself more barley. To me, Neena said that when you gave the brick-makers your tutti-frutti cake for free, they spread the word that it was very tasty, and that travelers should take these cakes on their trips.’
Adam took the flowers I offered.
‘Sue said’—Adam smiled—‘that Nancy had her hands full collecting wheat and barley. And that she could do with one more helping-hand.’ Eyes shining, he winked at me. ‘I had a talk with Steve. He said that the girls are eager to serve another dish at his shop. They are busy experimenting with a yellow fruit given as exchange for their soup.’
‘Rose didn’t say a word about this to me,’ I said, feeling hurt she hadn’t said anything. ‘What’s this new fruit smell like, do you know?’
Adam chuckled. ‘Steve said that Wendy had told him that the traveler came from a region called Paritakka and called it citron. There’s a settlement called Golestan, famous for roses.’
‘Oh,’ I said, ‘I’ve been wondering about the rose petals. Is that the settlement where Victoria’s mother got them for the wedding?’ Adam took my hand. ‘Let’s go back to our bench and discuss your Rose’s pistachio cookie adventure.’
I sat on the bench wondering—if Adam had a deal going on for my cookies. He came and gave me a cup of beer. We sat—drinking.
‘Well, Adam,’ I said, giving him an elbow, ‘have you lost your tongue?’
Adam cleared his throat, took my cup, put our cups on the ground, and looking at me, face to face, said, ‘Eva . . . I’ve set my heart on making a very special house for you . . . and I made a mouth-watering deal with Alex—who is thirsty because his belly is half-starved.’ I opened my mouth to say . . . ‘Eva . . . Alex is giving Bill a special credit’—Adam breathed hard—‘and his brick-makers will start building our house after the next full moon on a plot of land he’ll give us for free in his pomegranate orchard where our Joe will work at his beer-garden. And, Eva, tomorrow we’ll go and you show me where you want your house.’ He got up.
My heart dropped to my feet because he wasn’t talking about my pistachio cookies. ‘But Adam . . .’ Adam took my hands and pulled me up. We stood facing each other. ‘Eva, I jumped at the deal!’
‘Adam’—I was teary-eyed—‘that is wonderful, but we were going to talk about my Roses’s pistachio cookies.’
‘Eva,’ he said all smiles, ‘that was the big deal! Your name is famous as a baker. The Eva Tutti-frutti Cakes are traded even in Susa. That’s why Alex also jumped at the deal, him saying that your cookies will be the talk of Luristan . . . thanks to the traders. And Alex, following his nose, is a foxy trader.’ He put his arm around my shoulder. ‘That’s why I got this terrific credit deal for building our house.’ I sniffled, murmuring silently the word helping-hand.
‘Look, Eva! Look . . . a shooting star!’ Adam took my hand and pointed at the dark sky. ‘That’s a sign of promise!’
‘Sue said that stars are messengers . . .’ I squeezed his fingers.
‘Eva, your famous cookie,’ he said, ‘will travel to faraway places . . .’
I sat underneath Lucy’s favorite pistachio tree near her house as my inside-eye traveled. As a herder, Adam was farsighted—always watching the sky: at the moon, the night light coming and going, and the stars . . . traveling. How far I had traveled from being a cave-woman foraging for food, but there had been days my hands were idle too, watching from the cave the animals . . . always watching for danger. My days at the settlement: working, cooking for the community, always cooking. Darwin’s words: promises. Joe so eager to see Flour Power, a different place: exciting. How my inside-eye had worked every day by watching the people and the shops. And how I wanted . . . our sponsors were very kind but I longed for living under our own roof. Yes, without the help of Bill and Barb we would have returned to the settlement. Joe and Rose had indeed put up roots; they had learned their tongue and worked. The villagers welcomed them with open arms. But I had heard whispers in the market place that Eva the newcomer, making a name with her food-shop, had travelers speak about her at far and away places. Adam had said: Watch your tongue, Eva.
Lucy called my name, saying old-nana wanted to speak with me. I knew it was about her pistachios, and smiling I went inside the house. As always, old-nana sat in her recess, feet resting on a footstool. Lucy had pulled up a wood bench for us so we could have a talkfest—that’s what old-nana liked most.
Cackling, eyes twinkling, old-nana held out her hand to Lucy and pulled her close. She mumbled in her tongue, Lucy nodding her head. Laughing, Lucy sat next to me. Old-nana had given her secret to me so my cookie would travel by stars into yonder. The secret: I should not use barley flour. And the shelled nuts should dry in the sun and only then be grinded for flour. I should mix this pistachio flour with wheat flour. I clapped my hands, saying to Lucy that I’d like to rename the cookie after her. Lucy said her old-nana had no special name and that Rose’s Pistachio Cookies she liked most.
A deal was made that Tony would recruit village workers picking nuts and transport the filled sacks to Flour Power. The family would receive a portion of my gains; as I had promised Lucy when we first met and old-nana had wanted me to make a pistachio pita. Tony held out his hand—to seal the deal the three of us shook hands.
Lucy served red water that a trader had given her, saying it was fermented grape juice. We all got very merry—Bella danced! I was amazed at myself: how easy I had adapted to this lifestyle . . . I pressed my lips—watch your tongue, Eva—to make sure I wouldn’t talk about the house Adam was going to build.
Sue was serving us sesame pita in her orchard. Neena came with a homebrew she made with root-flour of a plant a trader had given her. Joe called it ginger-beer. Nancy and I had to “test” it. It was delicious so we gave thumbs-up. Neena smiled from ear to ear. So we sat drinking and eating. I wondered how to start talking about the deal I made with Lucy and her family.
‘So you know, Eva,’ Neena said, ‘my friends on the bench at the market place can’t wait to eat your pistachio cookie. Tony has been recruiting workers. They spread the word.’
‘That’s why Nancy and I are here. To discuss with Sue’—I smiled at her—‘about the flour I need.’ I reached for another sesame pita. ‘Adam and I want you and Jack to join our venture. We already made a deal with Lucy and Tony.’
‘How about us, Eva.’—Neena filled my cup with ginger-beer. ‘Barb is Lucy’s friend. And I also want to get involved.’
‘Of course, Neena,’ I said, ‘you are our best friend. Adam intends to talk about the deal with Bill.’ Silently I murmured watch your tongue, Eva.
Sue began to laugh . . . her belly shook. Nancy joined the laughter. Soon we all laughed, holding our bellies for dear life. Nancy held up her cup and said that this beer was the merriest!
I told Sue that I needed the finest-ground wheat flour as well as coarse-ground dried pistachios. How to make the perfect dough I planned to experiment by mixing the two flours. Sue and Neena clapped their hands. Then we kissed each other on both cheeks. When Nancy and I were leaving, Neena shouted, ‘We will miss you, Eva, when you move to your own house!’
When I told Adam that Neena knew about our house he laughed, saying she had seen us walking around the orchard with Alex, looking for our house plot. She had asked Joe . . . and Joe had told her about our deal with Lucy. My kitchen at Bill’s brick-place making cakes was famous and the workers had exchanged words with the workers Tony had recruited and so . . . Adam put his arm around my shoulder. With his lips at my ear, he said, ‘Eva, words that go around and around is called gossip. So . . . watch your tongue. Watch your words.’
Bela the tax collector from Susa came. He and Alex went around the market place talking with shop owners. Then the two went to see Bill at his brick-place. Joe showed Bela his beer-garden to be opened soon. Neena greeted him like an old friend and with a big smile offered the two men ginger-beer. Bela liked it, so he had two more cups. Then the two came, holding each other, to my kitchen. Adam invited them to sit on the bench reserved for Nancy and me. Giggling like little girls, the men ate tutti-frutti cakes. Bela asked Adam for some to take to Susa; he was interested in making a deal with Adam trading my cakes at his own shop. Belly-laughing, Bela took the sack I had filled with cakes, and said to Alex that they had to go into marketing –from one market to another market.
Alex informed all shop-owners that Bela wanted them to get a personal mark, a sign, that they were the makers of the goods they traded. To show that everything came from Flour Power, Alex had chosen two dots representing wheat and barley: Made in Flour Power as the village’s trademark. Without saying anything to me, Adam had gone to Victoria’s parents and had asked them to make for me the sign of a rose on a stone. He had chosen a stone called carnelian. He also found out where they got the rose petals, and had asked them to get me two rose bushes. Later I found out that he had traded half of his gains of the herd he had tended: 30 goats in exchange!
After having walked for days around the pomegranate orchard, I chose to have our house constructed just outside Anor gate instead of near the rocks facing the wide open spaces that recalled my cave days. I had to be practical; I knew I had to be within easy reach of my kitchen. I told Adam about my choice and he took me in his arms. Joe and Rose were also thrilled with the prospect living with us until they could have their own houses.
Adam was a bit of a show off . . . he and Bill got together, hold your breath, Bill was going to make us a four-room house! The brick-makers, directed by Mason, Bill’s right-hand, made sure that the bricks were of top quality. The plot near Anor gate was cleared. And within two full moons my four-room house was ready. I was happy, singing like a lark, when Adam showed me the floors that had a zig-zag-design of bricks instead of a mud-packed-floor. This was unheard of in Flour Power . . . and words went around and around; the word jealous was cooked up by Tony. He said not to trust people with green eyes: they were monsters. Gosh, we got the picture that being successful was dangerous; that jealousy, a feeling of the green eyes, was our enemy. So Adam, Tony and Jack had a talkfest; they decided to stay in the shade for a few moons.
One day, Tony and his workers arrived with a pistachio-tree and planted the tree behind our house, saying it was a gift from old-nana. He told me to give it water every day for a few moons until the tree had put up roots.
And then Vicky’s parents and four men showed up with two rose bushes. The men planted them next to the two brick-benches on either side of my front door. The couple gave Adam the carnelian stone—a lovely pinkish-brown color—saying the stone was not large enough for a full-blown rose. It had a carved rose-bud: my personal trademark for Rose’s Pistachio Cookies.
And then a courier from Susa arrived with a consignment for Adam. Alex was so curious that he came with him to the house. Adam jumped for joy, and told Nancy to get Jack so we could open the parcel. Smiling from ear to ear, eyeing the parcel, he winked at Adam. Then Adam gave me the parcel. I should open it. My hands trembled when I unstrung the rope of the sack. Gosh, a wooden box! Adam helped me open the top; I was shaking like a reed. He took out another sack that held an object; and he took it from the sack. My heart was in my mouth, I had a flash-moment, as I held out my hands to take the most beautiful, shallow bowl my eyes had ever set eyes on. The white-and blue bowl had a neck and sat on a platform that had clay pistachios. Alex, Jack and Nancy clapped their hands showing their admiration. I couldn’t keep my eyes away from this precious plate. Adam thanked the courier, gave him a sack with tutti-frutti cakes, and he left.
Then Jack told me that Adam had asked him to get me a fancy plate for my pistachio cookies. So when he was in Susa he had asked his pita-flour customer to order a bowl for a friend who was in the pistachio trade. He had given him in advance 10 sacks of flour in exchange. The pita-flour customer had talked to someone trading with a city in Sumer where they made pottery for their temple. This plate was master-workmanship and worth every sack of flour, Alex said, knowing about pottery because of his friends in Susa.
Nancy went to the beer-garden to get Joe and Neena to admire the plate. Joe got ginger-beer so we could celebrate and I could give the plate a name. Adam had really spoiled me so much that I no longer held it against him for having called me helping-hand. So when they held up their cups, waiting for me to name the plate, I took Adam’s hand. And pointing at the plate, I announced: “I name thee . . . The Pistachio Cookie Server!”
The cookie server sat on a small brick-bench inside our house near the front door. Looking at the blue-and-white plate, I got really involved creating my cookie and decided that it should have the color pink. But I needed more help in the kitchen. Nancy was my right hand. Rose should be included, involved, as she would inherit the recipe. Adam suggested that Lucy be ‘embraced’, Winking, he said that I should look out for the green-eyed monster. So, Nancy recruited two extra helpers: her nieces. We tasted the baked cookies after each batch. To make my story short, the final dough consisted of two scoops of wheat-flour, one scoop of pistachio flour and half a scoop of sesame oil. How we made the color pink was THE TOP SECRET; only we four knew. I will reveal that it took one full moon when finally I shouted Eureka! The first cookie batches I gave for free to the brick-makers, Mason, Alex, Sue, Neena, and Barb. They raved about the color, their eyes feasting. They rolled their eyes with pleasure, smacking their lips, saying this was the best food in all of Luristan. Alex, the foxy trader, said to Adam that he was giving our house the name VILLA EVA: because it was the largest and most famous house in his village.
The green-eyed monster arrived in the market place. Her name was Medusa, but she was better-known as Doozy. Alex told Adam that Doozy was a pain in the neck; she was related to his mother. Doozy had told him that she was trading cookies to match Eva’s cookies. Hers, called Pommie cookies, were made with pomegranate water and also were pink. Sue ate one, made a face, and said we should not worry. However, foxy Doozy traded her cookies at a very low exchange: Five pommies in exchange for one pistachio cookie. The trade war started. Adam consulted Alex, who said that he would take care of Doozy; she would leave his village. Sso said so done—Eureka!
While the trade war was in full bloom, I baked cookies for the wooden box; to be sent to the potter in Sumer as a thank you. Working every day, standing on my feet, was exhausting. Besides taking care of the bakery, I also ran the housekeeping. Joe and Rose were living with us. Adam took care of the distribution of the cakes and cookies; he had organizational talent and bartering was in his blood. He made sure to be on excellent terms with Bill and Barb’s two sons now living with them as well as Jane. The family was much involved with Sue, Jack, and Harry making clay images of Pikki-Me.
Eating greens was still a large part of our daily menu; Barb supplied us with her choicest. She was growing three new greens: called eggplant, cucumber, and anise. For the mixed greens I made a salsa of sesame oil, white grape water, and crushed mustard seeds, or mashed parsley. With the cucumbers I liked serving a salsa of yoghurt, sesame oil, and crushed garlic. The seeds of anise I used for making cookies.
Adam had bought me a slave girl from Susa who rubbed my aching feet, fan my face, and fetch me water when thirsty. Her name was Uta. For sweeping the floor and watering the rose bushes as well as the flowers I had planted in clay pots, we employed an old villager. He also acted as doorman when we were away so nobody could take my beautiful pottery collection. Anyway, I complained that I felt tired; I pointed at my heart. Adam suggested that I take a rest. Lucy told him that old-nana would be happy to see me. Tony took me to the family’s pistachio orchard.
As I was dozing underneath a pistachio tree, I heard a bird telling another bird . . . that he had heard from another bird that told him that in a land far away people grew food ‘under the earth’. Well, let me tell you about this country I visited myself, the other bird said. These people grew food ‘in water’. . .
I awoke, wondering about the birds telling their stories. How wonderful to know that everywhere people were struggling as we did—to grow food . . .
A messenger arrived at our door from the city of UR in Sumer. He had a very special message from Priest Inbatuk for Lady Eva, creator of Rose’s Pistachio Cookies. Inbatuk was priest at the temple of moon god Nanna, the deity and ruler of Ur. The priest thanked me for the cookies I had sent the temple potter. The message: Priest Inbatuk invited me and Adam to Ur. He wanted me to supervise the temple’s pastry kitchen! And I must give him the recipe for my divine pistachio cookie. I was speechless—I had no words—hearing that I was summoned to far away Ur, a famous city in the land of Sumer.
‘This is a big honor,’ Rose said as she put her arms around me.
‘No way,’ Adam said, ‘I’m running our shops. I can’t leave.’
Rose looked at Adam’s face; her eyes traveled to the messenger and me. I licked my lips. Rose smiled at Adam, saying she was taking the messenger for a beer at Joe’s. She held out her hand to the Sumerian and they left. In a flash I knew what to do, and said to Adam, ‘I’m going to Pikki-Me and ask her for advice’; and I left before he could say a word. I had learned that to change Adam’s decision—NO WAY—was next to nothing impossible. I once overheard someone say that he was a control freak. Well, he was efficient, confident, worked hard, and was very smart: it had brought him success in life. I could read his moods. We seldom had marital troubles due to my ability to compromise—so to speak: my flexibility.
I went to my kitchen and put shelled pistachio nuts on a plate. I went to the market place and put the plate as an offering at Pikki-Me’s platform between the flowers and fruits. I folded my hands, closed my eyes, and softly spoke that I was ready going to Ur, but . . . Adam . . . Lo-and-behold, her image appeared in my inside-eye—she smiled! Then she told me what to do . . .
I returned to Villa Eva. I put bowls with freshly cut roses on the floor in a corner. I put two wool-stuffed sacks on the bench near the door. I took handfuls of dried flowers-of-the-field and sprinkled them like raindrops around the room.
Then I went to my kitchen and prepared Adam his favorite soup: Bird-broth with turnips and leeks. I took the pot home and put it in the courtyard oven. I returned to the kitchen and took from a shelf a jug of fermented red grape water. I returned to the house and put the jug on one of the benches outside. I took from the recess in the wall above this bench two pretty, yellow cups and put them next to the jug. Then I went to our ‘room for private moments’ and changed my tunic. I dabbed attar of roses behind my ears.
I sat on the bench next to the jug and the cups—ready to say what Pikki-Me had told me. Adam waved as he approached. I took the jug and filled the cups. He said as I offered him a cup, ‘And . . . what Pikki-Me advised you?’
‘She said that we should have a toast first.’ I raised my cup. He laughed, raised his cup and we toasted.
‘Well, Eva, tell me about her words, I’m curious.’ Adam filled up his cup and then sat next to me on the bench.
I smiled. ‘Adam . . . let’s eat first, I made Bird-broth. And then I’ll tell you what Pikki-Me told me to do.’ He put his lips at my ear. ‘Is that attar of roses our Rose got from Vicky’s mother?’ I nodded. “She gave me some.’ I got up. ‘Let’s eat inside. You take the jug. I’ll get the pot.’ And I went to the oven.
Adam had pulled up a small wooden bench for the jug and cups. I put the pot on a flat stone next to the bench so I could serve him. Adam sniffed, saying it smelled delicious. He handed me his food bowl. I watched him slurp the soup, his eyes half closed. Suddenly his belly shook and shook. He put his bowl on the ground and laughed loudly. ‘Eva,’ he said reaching out for me, ‘are you preparing to tell me that we go to Ur so you can work at the temple pastry kitchen?’
I had not expected him saying this and I was lost for words. ‘Oh, no,’ I said, recovering, ‘Pikki-Me said that you are needed in Flour Power and oversee the shops and that I must stay with you because I am your wife.’
Adam stared at me, eyes wide. ‘I like your Pikki-Me’s advice,’ he said with a nod. ‘I’ll pay her a visit and bring her flowers.’ He reached for the jug and filled the cups. ‘Let’s toast. And then you tell me what she told you.’
‘Pikki-Me proposed that some day we set up shop in Sumer and we must prepare ourselves today.’ I took a sip of grape-water that I had sweetened with honey—it was delicious! Adam filled our cups, chuckling softly. ‘She said you know that trade is the breath of life.’
‘You bet!’ Adam cried out waving his cup.
‘And trade requires travel.’ I laughed, giving him an elbow. ‘So she proposed as follows.’ I held out my cup for a topper.
Adam roared with laughter. ‘Tell me! Tell me about her plan!’
‘Well,’ I said, ‘we must not hurt the priest by refusing to come to Ur. Rose said that it’s a big honor. So how about if Rose and Nancy go instead of us. And Tony prepares a caravan that includes his pistachios and Jack’s wheat grains so they can set up shops. The Sumerian messenger can guide them. Bill’s son Jim, married to Wendy, must join them because Jim had been in Sumer.’
‘You can’t let Nancy go,’ Adam said, sitting up straight. ‘You need her.’
‘I pondered about that,’ I acknowledged. ‘Uta will take her place. She told me that she is an Elamite whose ancestors came from the Indus river region. Uta likes working in the kitchen. Nancy and I can train her. No problem.’
Adam sat quietly staring at the bowl with roses. Then he looked at me and said, ‘I’ll have a talk with Nancy about Pikki-Me’s proposal.’ All smiles, he offered me his food bowl for a second helping. I knew it was best to hold my tongue.. Nancy would inform me.
I took the empty bird-broth pot and put it outside for Uta to clean. Adam joined me, embraced me, and putting his mouth to my ear softly bit me, saying, ‘Let’s have a private moment.’
All flustered, teary-eyed, Sue came to tell me the big news that her Harry had left for Susa with Jane. Jack had told the couple to marry but Jane had refused, saying she wasn’t ready to commit herself starting a family. She was eager to see Susa for herself, and determine, for herself, of setting up shop in that city. Jane’s role model was enterprising Vicky!
I wanted to know how Barb felt about her daughter’s elopement. So I went to see her. Get this . . . Bill said he would go to Susa and talk to Jane and make a deal. He would arrange with a brick-maker buddy to make the Pikki-Me clay images. In return, Jane would marry Harry. Bill was getting ready to leave in a few days. In a flash, I saw Joe and Bella’s wedding day coming up. I had to start preparing! But then Uta put her lips near my ear, saying she had overheard Nancy and my husband talking about a trip to Sumer . . .
It came as a shock to me that Nancy and Adam had made their own plan. Jim’s brother John, who worked for Joe—that had been Neena’s wish—was to join the caravan and learn about beer-brewing in Sumer. Nancy had told Adam that I was hoping Rose would marry John. I was furious hearing this because Rose had let me know that she had set her eyes on Lami, the son of Bela the tax-collector from Susa. Rose wanted to move on, live in a city. She wanted to open a family eatery with women serving. Lami had strings to pull and she would be successful.
So I made my own plan: Uta would replace Nancy. She suggested a magic drink so Nancy couldn’t leave Flour Power. She had seen a plant growing on the road to Susa that would do the trick; like the carrots Barb grew, this magic plant came from the land of her ancestors.
Adam agreed to Pikki-Me’s proposal. He, Tony, and the two brothers prepared the caravan that involved many village workers to carry the food. Nancy and her nieces started baking. I filled the wooden box with Rose’s Pistachio cookies wrapped in wool-cloth. I suggested that we give a party and ask Pikki-Me for her blessings.
Well, the caravan party assembled at the market place. Alex asked Pikki-Me for a safe trip and return. Beer was served with Jack’s special sesame pita. Suddenly there was a commotion at the benches near the well. Nancy had fallen on the ground. Rose was holding her head. To make this story short, Nancy was unable to walk. Rose decided to stay with her and told Adam she wasn’t going to Sumer. I then suggested that Uta take her place and deliver the cookies to priest Inbatuk. Adam was so distraught that he merely nodded. I took Wendy by her hand—she was Jim’s wife—telling her to be Uta’s helping-hand; everyone knew Uta was my slave. I also informed the Sumerian messenger that Uta was my mouthpiece and would deliver the cookies.
Alex and Adam told the caravan party about the changes that: with their blessings, Uta was replacing Nancy and Rose. Five boys thumped their drums and led the party out—on the road to Sumer.
My attention was now focused on the wedding of Bella and Joe. I decided to pay Lucy a visit. Tony was gone—I had to put out feelers who would give away the bride . . .
Nancy moved into Villa Eva nursed by Rose in her room. Bill had left for Susa to negotiate the deal with daughter Jane. Joe, now without John his helping-hand, had little time for a chat with me; I decided to surprise him. Adam had recuperated and was glad that Rose took care of Nancy; who by now was part of our family. So when I told him that I needed a rest and wanted to visit Lucy, he said he would arrange for an escort to take me.
TO BE CONTINUED
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