How DO you get rid of Pazuzu?


Hello again.

Recently, I’ve been on something of a hiatus/sabbatical/terrible-and-extended-period-of-complete-and-total-writer’s-block. It wasn’t planned, and it has been hard to get back into my regular cole-like round of thinking and writing about the world around me.

There are reasons for this. Some are practical- I write all day and, as a result, words have become sort of hard to access in my ‘leisure’ time; I’ve been fighting to ensure that insurance companies fulfill their contracted obligations and that lawyers are remaining on top of required procedures and such; I’ve been trying to catch up on some summer reading (too many books, not enough time); and (I have to admit) I’ve become a little hooked on Modern Family (HOW did I not watch that show before? Simple- and regretful- answer has to do with the fact that I was prejudiced against Al Bundy. BIG mistake. He’s great in this show. As are the rest of the cast and the talented writers who bring hilarious and touching family life to the small screen).

Others are existential. I’m having a bit of trouble with the current state of this here planet of ours, and I keep having moments that tempt me to surrender my Human Race Membership Card.

What the HELL is happening lately?

Fellow humans, you are CHEESING. ME. OFF. (slight tangent- why ‘cheesing’? Cheese is good. I like cheese. A lot).

There are too many fronts (and I use that word deliberately- what with warfare everywhere) on which we are refusing to act with the humanity I KNOW we can access. Choosing up sides- and responding atavistically out of emotional investment in the certainty that one perspective is the ONLY perspective worth entertaining.

Can I resign? Or opt out? For a time, anyway. At least until some semblance of rationale is restored?

Basically, I’ve been distracted. And neglectful. Maybe a little bit lazy. Living in Ignoresville– like the majority of us- rather than doing something about it all.

Shouting into the wind about these things is draining- and the complete lack of effect is dispiriting, to say the least.

But.  Excuses are just that.  Excuses.

So. In a world gone crazy, I’ve been doing my very best to re-engage as best I can. And doing so has meant resorting to my default impulse- gathering as much information from as many perspectives as possible and reflecting upon my response to the input of others.

I’m trying to get behind the headline ‘news’ and soundbite grand-standing to suss out origins and cause and effect and such-like-things. Among the things I’ve been tapping into most frequently are the myriad programs and documentaries that one can find on the CBC on any given day (at least until Harper’s Cons systematically destroy its greatness). Since it’s the summertime (according to the calendar at least- temperatures haven’t really been demonstrative of ‘summer’- here in my City by the Lake, anyway), CBC radio programs are rebroadcasting some really great shows- and many of them are linked by commonality of topical- and timely- theme.

(Although there’s some pretty fantastic new stuff, too. Anyone catch Jian chatting with Mr. Tom Petty a couple o’ weeks back? Jebus. THAT was a great interview. I might have to say more about that sometime in future- assuming I maintain this limited ability of stringing words together).

After listening to a diversity of shows, I’ve come to the conclusion that best summation of our current messes- at home and internationally- boils down to that old salt, most famously articulated by the poet/philosopher George Santayana.

Amen, Brother.

I’d go even further.  Those who refuse to take the time and effort to learn about the past don’t have clue one how to handle the present and future.

Among the most poignant commentaries that reinforce this analytic truth (as I assess such things) was an episode of The Current that featured and interview with Scott Anderson about his book Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East (which has now been bumped to the top of my summer reading list).

Synopsis? Anderson illustrates that since the period before WWI, the West just keeps on blundering into a region of the world about which we have zero understanding. The colonial ideal- as dictated and perpetuated by arrogance and drive for economic, political and religious power- set the groundwork for the percussive events that continue to ripple, violently, through the region and beyond.

On a connected theme, Ideas had a two-part documentary called ‘The Chosen’, talking about the concept and its origins in Bronze Age ideology and mythology, and how it has continued to shape belief and political motivations since.

It made me angry. Things like ‘Sense of Mission’ (that proselytizing to the ‘ignorant’ of other lands/cultures is not only acceptable, but MANDATED and supported by the ruling powers- religious AND political), the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’ and ‘Manifest Destiny’ stem out of the variety of ways in which the biblical conceptualization of ‘Chosen-ness’ have been interpreted over the ages.

It supports our narratives of violent conquest. Things like Divine Providence and Blessed Partisanship. The imposed authority of the Pope and the secular governments (under things like the ‘Divine Right of Kings’) granted ‘authority’ over all non-Xian peoples.

Despite the fact that this Western-centric interpretation of the concept has been discussed and disputed for centuries- notably and quite wonderfully by the 17th century philosopher, Baruch/Benedict Spinoza, who maintained that the there was no such thing as ‘eternal’ Chosen-ness- it persists in our conceptualization of the ‘right order’ of things.

Spinoza’s idea of god was one that is abstract and impersonal- and therefore equally indifferent to all people, regardless of tribal/religious/political affiliation. To him, being the Chosen of this god was something that is experiential and socially constructed- and therefore subject to change outside of its originating historical/geographical/temporal context.

I like Spinoza’s thinking (he also wrote about good and evil as relative concepts. The dude had it going on).

Thematically linked, these two great programs speak to the origins of one of the acts of insanity that is happening right now. Just one. And it’s one about which I tend to speak with heightened awareness of the volatility of the subject matter.

Another, recent, episode of The Current spoke about the media-handling of the current conflict- and whether or not there are biases at play that make it impossible to develop a clear picture of what is actually happening. Everything about the situation leads to contention and accusations against those who hold differing opinions.

I won’t share mine. I don’t, as a rule, discuss the politics of this particular region. There is generally too much emotional investment at play- and that emotion is all-too-frequently sourced in something other than a complete understanding of the history of the region. I don’t claim to have anything like a complete understanding of the history of the region, but mine is certainly more comprehensive than most.

And I don’t see an end. I can’t see an end. Not when all sides (and there are far more than just two sides in this conflict) base their claims and perspectives in ideological constructs that have no place in a civilized, humanistic world.

None. At all.

I don’t often really look at the search terms that seemingly bring people to this page, but one sort of jumped out at me, recently, for a few reasons and raised some questions:
1) Why is someone looking to get rid of a Mesopotamian demon?
2) What, content-wise, in any of my posts, might lead a search engine to think that I am offering advice on how to get Pazuzu gone?
3) Who, other than students of Ancient Near Eastern mythology and/or super-fans of The Exorcist franchise even knows who Pazuzu might be?

Side note: I quite like Pazuzu- he’s a pretty groovy fictional personification of evil- pretty high up there in the pantheon of cool demons- and I’m not sure why he needs to be exorcised.

If, in this case, we look to Pazuzu- an Assyrian/Babylonian demon king- as an example of the metaphorical personification of things that humans found troubling at one point in time (to the Mesopotamians he embodied the southwestern wind that brought storms/locusts and drought/famine to the area), as the metaphorical personification of something I find troubling in this time (the imposition of outsider mores/values/beliefs without understanding of the indigenous order of things), I’m all for getting him exorcised the hell outta here.

But, like all things that stem from those worldviews that originate in the Ancient Near East, it’s never that cut-and-dried. The foundational dichotomy of the area wasn’t based in relative good and evil (as people like Spinoza describe it) but in order and chaos- and tools of chaos were often used to prevent the onslaught of MORE chaos.

In addition to being feared as the bringer of the foul southwest wind, Pazuzu was also invoked to combat the power of his rival goddess- Lamashtu. He is a force of chaos, but as the king among demons he is useful to humanity as a protector against other, different, evils.

Lesser of two evils, indeed. Although he was, in fact, the greater of a whole bunch of evils- as far as the pantheons of such superstitions organized these things.

So perhaps he- and all his ilk- do need exorcising, after all.

I keep thinking about one of my Mum’s favourite adages: Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Fighting wrong by doing wrong- and using the tools of ‘evil’- is never the right thing to do.

Something to keep in mind, regardless of which side of any particular conflict in which you might be ideologically and/or emotionally invested.

It’s the beginning of the August long weekend/Civic Holiday- ‘Simcoe Day’, here in TO.  The Caribbean Festival is in full swing, demonstrating, as it does every year, the strong multicultural community about which we can be proud- while we remind ourselves how fortunate we are to live in a place where ideological differences can, generally, be resolved without violence.

A little optimism- and music- is therefore in order.

(Especially if you’ve managed to stick with me all this way- I think the writer’s block might be gone.  Sheesh.)

U2.  A tune about different sides standing together, inspired by the Polish solidarity movement.

Under a blood-red sky
A crowd has gathered in black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspaper says, says
Say it’s true, it’s true…
And we can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one.

I… I will begin again
I… I will begin again.

Apparently, the distinctive bassline of the classic tune came about as a result of Adam trying to suss out the chords to this song:

One man on a lonely platform, one case sitting by his side,

Two eyes staring cold and silent,

Shows fear as he turns to hide. We fade to grey.

In times of fear and uncertainty we have a tendency to slip into grey areas- that can lead to actions that reflect the darkness of our human nature and end up desensitizing us to the bombardment of bad news that is everywhere.  It becomes hard to find perspective and embrace the good stuff that continues to happen in spite of the terror and hatred that stem from adherence to ideologies that promote separation and ascendency of one side to the detriment and destruction of others.  Ideologies that are followed, blindly, without any awareness of origin or the political maneuvering that has kept them on our collective human radar.

That lack of awareness is causing anomie and existential separation and is crippling all us citizens of the world.

in the paper today
tales of war and of waste
but you turn right over to the T.V. page


Hey now, hey now
Don’t dream it’s over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us- We know they won’t win.

We’re all in this together.  Happy Long Weekend, Peeps!

Exorcising Some Daemons (with help from the Shuffle Daemon)

I’m not especially good at writing while in the midst of crisis.  I tend, by nature, to shut down completely, totally unable to communicate effectively- or even terribly coherently- when I’m preoccupied with things that are weighing me down.

This has been a problem in the past- having to meet deadlines while trying to cope with stress (like completing the re-write of chapters of my dissertation when, three months before the thesis defence, I lost someone very close to me)- but I am trying to push myself to keep up the work output even at those times when stringing words together seems pretty impossible.

I am learning from my fellow bloggers.  I have seen multiple examples of writing-as-therapy that I find both inspirational and enviably well-presented.  Check out the ‘blogs I think are groovy’ section (look to the right and then down- under the Meta info).

Some great stories to be found here on the WordPress.

The recent sources of angst in my life have got me to thinking about the purging and letting go of things, even when those things are held dear, even ‘sacred’, in some cases.

Exorcism is generally associated with the removal of something malevolent or demonic. Yes, even here in the 21st century, we retain enough of a fascination with externalized forms of evil that exorcists are still in high demand in certain places in the world.

I have written a number of posts  (this one most recently) about the idiocy associated with the belief in externally manifested evil, but the fact that industrialized, seemingly rational and modern nations still see a ‘need’ for specialized practitioners to rid the possessed of demonic influence remains incredibly hard for me to wrap my brain- over-extended though it may be at the moment- around.

A family I knew long ago actually experienced tragic loss at the hands of a purported exorcist, as a family member- with a history of mental illness- died in the course of a church-mandated healing ceremony intended to rid the ‘victim’ of a demonic presence.  This all took place in the environs and under the aegis of an internationally respected college in the centre of Canada’s largest city, and not so long ago that we can pass it off as ‘back in the bad old days’.

It’s still happening today.  I recently mentioned a television show that featured exorcism-gone-wrong as the crime requiring solution by the program’s protagonist.  The current Il Papa has allegedly performed exorcisms.  There is a movie in theatres right now that is ‘based on a true story’ about the possession of a family and the house in which they live.  Only the intercession of the powerful mediums- who provided the story that became the film- offered the family any hope of salvation.

There aren’t any ‘magic words’ that can miraculously exorcise demons- of the mind, of circumstance, of illness or despair (or a combination of any of these).  Change and healing require support (therapeutic, psychological, medical, pharmaceutical, a friendly shoulder- the varieties are myriad), time and a sharing of words rather than a recitation of formulaic chants and cantrips meant to drive out the evil that has taken up residence in the unsuspecting victim.

These shared words can help us understand that we need not be victims (regardless of experiences that may be victimizing in nature*) and that others have experienced the same troubles- and those much worse- than we are now going through, and have come through the dark times and returned to contribute beauty and goodness in spite of the darkness that entered their lives for a time.

(*During one of the worst periods in my life, a person that I love and respect emphatically reminded me that although I had, indeed, been victimized, I was NOT a victim.  The distinction is important- partly about attitude and partly about an awareness that I had resources and support I could alwasy rely on.  That said, I realize that not everyone is as fortunate as I am and I therefore would never presume to judge degree or perception of victim-hood.)

Don’t get me wrong.  I love William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist.  In so many ways it is a beautiful film (green pea soup notwithstanding).  It is more about the redemption of Father Dimi than it is about a victory over some ancient Mesopotamian demon (Pazuzu is the demon of the southwest wind) who found a toe-hold into Washington D.C. in the 1970s through a child who played with a Ouija board.

The movie is visually stunning, and presents a sense of menace and terror far greater than the shock and gore offerings we tend to see these days.  And Oldfield’s Tubular Bells is the perfect haunted song to accompany the ominous sense of fear and foreboding that pervades the film.

The mythology behind The Exorcist and its sequel, Legion, along with the prequels that were made (I won’t even discuss The Exorcist II– even with the cool shots of James Earl Jones and the images of the Ethiopian rock-cut churches.  Where the heck did that story come from anyway?) deal with the archetypes of evil and the fears we are forced to face.

Bet Gabriel-Rufael Church- Lalibela, Ethiopia

(House of the (arch)Angels Gabriel and Raphael)

Being scared- by a book or a movie- can be fun- and sometimes exhilarating.  Stories that scare us serve an important purpose in human societies (think about those stories collected by the Brothers Grimm, for example).  That doesn’t mean that there really are demons out there, or that we need a whole union of priest/shaman/charlatan-types who remain on call to rid us of those demons we innocently attract to ourselves.

Fears of Madonna and ‘Vampire-Culture’ aside, the brotherhood of those who market themselves as capable of removing demonic threats by chanting, tossing magic water and dead languages around HAVE to be viewed as an obscene anachronism in 2013.  Don’t they?

But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t perform a little bit of self-exorcism every now and again.

It is healthy- and cleansing- to periodically clear out the corners of our hearts and minds and remove all that is plaguing and possessing each of us.  We can do so through some good ol’ self-examination (perhaps following a bit of a wallow in some temporarily-gratifying self-pity), perspective, the wisdom of our fellows and a little help from our friends.

And if that doesn’t do the trick, there’s always Mike Oldfield.