Month: October 2020

Petrus Alfonsi: Angel Cortez

A Man of Three Worlds

 

Pertus Alfonsi (1062 – after 1116) was born a Sephardi Jew under the name of Moses. The date of his birth and death are largely unclear. He was bilingual knowing both Hebrew and Arabic. There are some theories that he was a doctor and involved in Spanish courts (al-Andelus at the time). Petrus has made a huge impact in scientific, literary, and astronomical history. He translated astronomical tables into Latin which helped many to be able to understand the rotations of the planets and out solar system.

 

St. Peter

 

Petrus converted to Christianity in 1106 while he lived in the capitol of Aragon. It is unclear why he decided to convert but it was likely because he moved to a more catholic dominated country and worked under catholic reign. This is when he took the Christian name of St. Peter and the second name of his grandfather, King Alfanso I. In the following decade he moved to England which is when he began the journey leading him to make such a large impact on scientific, literary, and astronomical history.

 

 

Career

 

Petrus lived in both England and France. It is believed that he worked under the court of King Henry I and the Duke of Normandy. Because of Petrus’s status and location, he was well connected to various scientists and philosophers all of whom would set a foundation for scientific learning and a revival of Aristotelianism. Petrus’s location and history gave him an advanced level of knowledge in Christianity, Judaism, and the Muslim faiths which

 

Major Works

 

The Diciplina Clericalis and the Dialogi Contra Ludaeos (Dialogues against the Jews) were Petrus’s most major works. The Dialogi Contra Ludaeos is written as a dialogue between Petrus and his “old self” Moses before he was converted to Christianity. The dialogue covers three religions: Christianity, Judaism, and the Muslim faith and which is the better faith to be. Petrus displays a high amount of knowledge of all three.

 

The Scholars Guide

 

 

Diciplina Clericales (The Scholar’s Guide) is also a dialogue. This dialogue is between a father and a son. It is more of a warm and wise mood as oppose to the confrontational mood of the previous work. The relationship of the father and son is a lot like a student and teacher.

This was also the first frame-tale narrative to make its way through the Indian, Persia, and Arabic people. This work is full of fanciful animal tales, wisdom, and humor. And creative settings like Baghdad, Babylon, and Mecca. Also, more mundane settings like a home or a store.

 

Diciplina Clericales has been translated into many different languages. There are medieval versions and prose versions. There are also versions in French, Spanish, Catalan, Gascon, Italian, German, English, and Icelandic. The reason these stories were so well liked and thus translated into many different languages and forms is because they could appeal to many readers. They gave illustrations of morals, could be used in preaching, or just enjoyed as a story. Some of these stories were even put into tale collections like Aesop’s Fables.

 

Friendship

 

Two complimenting pieces in Petrus’s Scholars Guide are The Parable of The Half Friend and The Parable of The Whole Friend. The Parable of The Half Friend is a dialogue between the father and son. The father asks the son how many friends he has. The son says he has hundreds to which the father responds he has no real friends if he thinks he has this many. The son is perplexed and asks how he can find out if his friends are true or not.

 

The father gives the son the advice to stage a crime of murder and ask his friends to help him hide the body. One by one he goes to each of his friends with a bloody bag and they all turn him away. The son asks his father if there are any true friends to which the father says, “He who helps you when the world fails you is a true friend.”.

 

I think this fable can apply to many of us today in the world of social media. For example, on Instagram I have 500 friends but how many came to my aid when I was going through a hard time? Only a handful and only about three out of those opened their homes to me. You can have many, many half friends but only a true friend would go as far as to give you all they have which brings us into the next fable, The Parable of The Whole Friend.

The Parable of The Whole Friend is the parable the father tells the son next to explain what a whole friend would do for another. In this parable there are two friends who try to accept the blame for a horrible crime which would result in them getting killed. The fact that they would accept punishment of death just to save the other shows how true of friends they are. When I read this tale even, I struggled to think of who I might do this for. The only person that came to mind is my own broth

Make Room for Rumi

ONE BIG, FAT REASON WHY WE SHOULD ALL MAKE ROOM TO READ RUMI

What do you think of where you hear the name Rumi? Many think of him as the poet that he is, some think of a spacious area, or “roomy” area because they miss the context, and some do not think of anything because they have never heard of him. Regardless of if you’ve heard about him or not, Rumi is a name definitely worth looking into. This article is my attempt to convince you to read his poetry. Why you may ask? Because Rumi, although very old and very dead, adds some incredible things to our reading experiences and to our lives in general! First, to love a poet, it is always best to know the poet. So here I introduce to you… Rumi.

WHO IS RUMI?

Rumi, short for Mowlānā Jalāloddin Balkhi, was a poet that lived from around 1207-1273, making him..yes, very old and very dead. He was born in the Balkh Province in Afghanistan and came from a long line of Islamic mystics and theologians (“Jalal al-Din Rumi”, Poets.org). Rumi was going to follow in his fathers footsteps, but then was transformed by his friendship with mentor and friend Shams-e-Tabrizi, whom inspired his poetry concerning the fusion of the divine and human soul, something he experienced and wanted to vocalize (The Norton Anthology of World Literature, 381). Rumi, within his life as a poet, would go on to write endless poems detailing this spiritual connection to and love for the divine. Some of his notable works include the Masnavi and the Divan for reference.

https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20140414-americas-best-selling-poet

So here’s this guy that likes to talk about divine love…so what? Why does it matter, here and now? One big, fat reason Rumi’s poetry, although written in context about specific criteria, is that it has been interpreted widely across many cultures around the world. It seems to be a common thread across many cultures and millions of people, connecting us all by two main ideas, one of which is in his original context and one outside of it: love and spirituality. I will be going into more depth about these two themes and giving examples from Rumi’s poems to cushion my points! Let’s do this!

OUT OF CONTEXT: EVERYONE NEEDS A LITTLE LOVE!

https://gifer.com/en/dGX

Love is a universal language, and Rumi perfectly embodies this in his poetry. People around the world have read Rumi as a guide to healthy love. So much so, that Rumi is considered to be “the Middle Eastern poet most widely read in the Western world” (381). Rumi’s poems are focused on the love of God and the divine, but his poetic verses about love can be attributed to any context: spiritual love, friendship, romantic relationships, familial love, and even a love of things such as a hobby or pet (seriously, it’s true!) Although these are not the original contexts implied by Rumi himself, the interpretation is one reason I believe that his work is so popular.

In his poem “O Amazing Love”, he very clearly states the impact that love has on us as readers and as human beings. “If you can’t wrap this love / around you like a cloak at midnight, / don’t put on something else, / go back to bed. / Let this love run spinning / through your brain. / It’s what holds everything together, / and it’s the everything too!” (d2L). Rumi is stating here (based on out-of-context interpretation) that love, whatever it may look like (spiritual, romantic, etc), will be experienced in it’s own time and to wait in rest until it comes. A huge factor, especially in Western culture, that appeals to this interpretation is the idea that everyone must have love. Movies are made about it and it’s the primary focus of today’s pop hits (cue Justin Bieber!). The popularity of Rumi, it seems, in the Western world may be attributed to this idea gained from his poetry out of context. We all crave love and his poems share wisdom about this mortal love, regardless of what it looks like! Another example of his attention to love and the decontextualization of love is further into this same poem: “Every day / we come and gather / a hundred blossoms / here to scatter / among you. / Don’t worry, there are / no hidden motives, / just too much / love blooming / to keep for ourselves.” (d2L).

Rumi was a wise man when it came to love, something that people all over are seeking to dive into within their own interpretation of his texts.

IN CONTEXT: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD…LITERALLY! 

Being a son of an Islamic scholar and teacher, Rumi had a passionate spiritual life with God, which was the original context for his poetry. Although this can be lost in translation and popular ideas (kind of like what I discussed above), his poetry is beautiful to be read in this original context, whether you are spiritual or not.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumi

Taking the same lines from “O Amazing Love” used above, I am now going to contrast using Rumi’s original context, or the fusion of love and the divine. “If you can’t wrap this love / around you like a cloak at midnight, / don’t put on something else, / go back to bed. / Let this love run spinning / through your brain. / It’s what holds everything together, / and it’s the everything too!” In its original context, Rumi is referring to our pursuit of God’s divine love; if we cannot attain it, he is telling us to remain patient. To keep this love “spinning through your brain” means to hold onto God’s love because everything flows from Him and abides by His love. This paints a beautiful picture of Rumi’s spirituality, even if you aren’t spiritual yourself.

It also lends a great and insightful perspective of how Rumi viewed divinity within his religion: Islam. There is so much social stigma surrounding Muslims; especially in America, they are viewed are terrorists and aliens. Rumi’s poetry is clearly in relation to his Islamic religious affiliation, something that a lot of readers do not know or tend to ignore because of that negative stereotype surrounding Islam. His poetry shows an abundant and beautiful love of and for God and the divine, when most stereotypes within Westernized cultures (again, America is a huge factor in this) assume that Islam is a violent spiritual relationship with the divine. This beauty and serenity is also shown in this line of the poem: “Every day / we come and gather / a hundred blossoms / here to scatter / among you. / Don’t worry, there are / no hidden motives, / just too much / love blooming / to keep for ourselves.” The imagery of the blossoms give a peaceful image of God’s love spreading amongst individuals, with no negative emotions getting in the way.

Rumi was and still is a prolific poet in our world. He uses the themes of love and spirituality to make a connecting thread throughout so many different cultures in our world today. There is a great importance to reading his poems, and other texts, both in its intended context and in our own interpretations, as I demonstrated above. So although he is very old and very dead, his passion has brought passion into the hearts of millions, and I believe that is something to definitely look into as a reader.

References:

“Jalal Al-Din Rumi” . poets.org/poet/jalal-al-din-rumi.

The Norton Anthology of World Literature,4th edition, vol. A. W. Norton & Company, 2020. p. 381.

*Quotations of poetry come from PDF under Rumi in the content section of D2L
https://learn.uco.edu/d2l/le/content/302906/viewContent/5473319/View
*photos have links below

How the Children of Lir had the Evilest of all Evil Stepmothers

The evil stepmother trope is very common, and you probably know of at least one story that includes a stepmother that has some sort of vendetta against her stepchildren. The stepmother in the Irish Myth “The Children of Lir” makes Lady Tremaine, the evil stepmother in Cinderella, look like a saint. Before I explain how this tale’s stepmother is possibly the worst stepmother in all of literature, I am going to give a little context to help you better understand this story. The tale “The Children of Lir” is one of many stories that make up The Irish Invasion Myths which includes many tales of the early history of Ireland. The stories in The Irish Invasion Myths are folklore that has been passed down from generation to generation and consists of tales of gods, goddesses, magic, fairies, and even evil stepmothers. Now that you have a little background knowledge of The Irish Invasion Myths lets dive into the story of “The Children of Lir”.

Image from Disney’s Cinderella

You might be asking yourself “Who is Lir?” this is a story about his children after all so it might be helpful to know who he is. Lir was a Danaan divinity or god who was the father of the sea-god Mananan (Mananan is not one of the children mentioned in this story). Lir married two sisters, the second being Aoife (pronounced Eefa) who is the infamous evil stepmother I have been raving about. Aoife did not have any children but Lir’s former wife had four children, one of them being a girl named Fionuala, and Aoife was extremely jealous of these four children. Lir loved his kids so much and devoted a lot of attention to them and Aoife did not like this at all.  Here is the first red flag with Aoife and a common characteristic of evil stepmothers, being jealous of your stepchildren for their father loving them. This jealousy isn’t what makes Aoife special, but I wanted to note it because I find this concept to be absurd, can adults stop being jealous of children it’s a little ridiculous. I digress. Because of this insatiable jealousy that Aoife was experiencing, she decided that in order to get the attention she wanted from her husband she would have to destroy her stepchildren.

We’ve all been jealous of someone and if you say you haven’t your lying, but deciding that you must destroy the person or people that you are jealous of seems a little extreme right? So, Aoife decides that she has to take the children away from their father so she can destroy them. She takes them to a neighboring Danaan king, Bōv the Red, and orders her attendants to kill the children. KILL THEM! Aoife tries to kill her four stepchildren because she is jealous of them, that is pretty evil if you ask me. Well the attendants refuse to kill the children so you think they are safe right? Wrong. She decides to take matters into her own hands, this is where things take an interesting turn, and tries to kill them herself but “her womanhood overcame her”. There are obviously a lot of issues with this statement so I’m not going to get into it but what I am going to say is that it is a little disappointing. I mean yes, it’s good the children aren’t being killed but for Aoife to have all of this disdain and resentment towards her stepchildren just for her “womanhood” to be what stops her from killing them is a little misogynistic if you ask me. Even though Aoife spares the four children’s lives that doesn’t mean she just let them run back home to their father. No, she casts a spell on the children turning them into white swans and says that they must spend 300 years on Lake Derryvaragh, 300 years on the Straits of Moyle (between Ireland and Scotland), and 300 years on the Atlantic by Erris and Inishglory.

Image from The Names Upon the Harp Illustrated by P.J. Lynch        

Just to recap Aoife’s wicked ways, she is jealous of her four stepchildren because of the love they receive from their father, so she tries to kill them and when that doesn’t work, she turns them into swans and forces them to remain that way for 900 years. I would say that the children of Lir would trade Aoife for Cinderella’s stepmother in a heartbeat. When the children do not arrive at Bōv’s palace he questions Aoife about their whereabouts and when he learns what she did to them he turns her into a demon of air and flies away shrieking. What is a demon of air? Your guess is as good as mine but what I do know is that is the last we hear about her in this tale. So, after Aoife ruined four children’s lives and probably Lir’s life she is just turned into some demon and allowed to fly away. For all we know she could be out there torturing every stepchild in Ireland. If you’re a stepchild that lives in Ireland, I am sorry. Because of all of these horrendous things she does to her stepchildren Aoife should win the award for the evilest evil stepmother whose story has ever been told.

Even though Aoife’s story stops here I am going to tell you the rest of the story because I couldn’t leave you wondering how it ends now could I? Now that Aoife has been turned into some sky demon Bōv and Lir set out to find the children. As we know they are in Lake Derryvaragh, where they will be for 300 years, but they are not normal swans. The children/swans are capable of human speech and still have the characteristic Danaan gift of making beautiful music (Danaan deities were known for their musical skill). The time at Lake Derryvaragh was not bad to the children, people came from all parts of Ireland to hear the music and it was a time of peace for the land. These 300 would be the best of their time spent as swans and the worst was yet to come. After the first 300 years was over, they had to move on to the Straights of Moyle. Here they suffered immensely of loneliness, the cold, and storms. At times their feathers would freeze to the rocks on the cliff and they would be separated during storms. It is safe to say that this trial had a lot more hardship than the first. Once the second set of 300 years was finished the children/swans moved to the shores of Mayo where they also suffered greatly, in this place is where they met a farmer named Evric who is said to be the one who told and preserved their story. The story takes a very odd turn here, but it is basically over. In this place they meet a hermit who essentially converts them to Christianity, and they sing the offices of the Church together. Under the Hermit’s care a man tries to steal the children/swans for his soon to be wife because she had her of their great beauty and song. During this attempted kidnapping is when they change from their swan form however, they do not change into Danaan divinities but withered, very old humans on the brink of death. The Hermit baptizes them then they die and are buried together in the same grave and that is the end of this tale.

The next time you watch Cinderella or any other story that involves an evil stepmother, before you feel sorry for the stepchildren ask yourself “Has this evil stepmother tried to kill her stepchildren then turn them into swans to face 900 years of suffering just to be stripped of your deity status and die a shriveled old human?” If the answer is no then they are probably better off with their stepmother than the children of Lir were with theirs.