First Day On My New Regime

Today marks the first day in my latest attempt at a regular lifting regime. I haven’t really gone to the gym on a regular basis since I started kickboxing (late October/early November), and in the past month and a half I’ve been faltering with kickboxing too. My history teacher, who himself is an avid fitness enthusiast, offered to help enlist me in a three times a week workout schedule, and showed me his typical workout patterns, which his extensive research apparently reveal to be very efficient for non-professional weightlifters.

The theme is to start on a mild weight setting with a given muscle/muscle region (frex, chest, or shoulders, or back, or biceps & triceps), and do twelve repetitions. After a short break, I’d resume with five to ten pounds more, with two less reps. Five more pounds, and this time eight reps, then five more pounds with six reps. Finally, I’d return to the first weight (or a weight I feel more comfortable with) and do twelve reps again, and immediately after, with no break, do a slightly different exercise that concerns the same muscle region. Below is today’s workout schedule, with my accomplished reps and weights.

Chest

  • Benched 65 pounds twelve times
  • 75 pounds ten times
  • 85 pounds eight times
  • 85 pounds six times (I struggled with 95 pounds as I have a weak chest)
  • 65 pounds twelves times, again, and then
  • 14 or so butterflies with twenty pound weights.

Shoulder

  • Twelve military presses with fifteen pound weights
  • Ten with twenty pound weights
  • Eight with twenty pounds
  • Six with twenty five pounds
  • Twelve with fifteen pounds
  • Twenty shrugs with thirty pound weights

Back

  • 12 pull-downs at 65 pounds
  • 10 pull-downs at 75 pounds
  • 8 pull-downs at 80 pounds
  • 6 pull-downs at 85 pounds
  • 12 pull-downs at 70 pounds
  • 15 rows at 65 pounds

Biceps/Triceps (we switched off between the two muscles)

  • 12 push-downs at 25 pounds
  • 10 push-downs at 35 pounds
  • 20 bicep curls with 20 pounds
  • 12 push-downs at 25 pounds
  • 15 bicep curls at 25 pounds
  • 8 push-downs at 40 pounds
  • 12 side-curls (not sure what the technical term is) with 15 pounds
  • 12 push-downs at 25 pounds
  • 12 tricep overheads at 25 pounds

Overall it was a great workout, Thursday is leg workout day, it’ll be tough but I look forward to it.

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The Adventures of 1/72-Man!

I went up to the attic the other day, and unearthed a veritable treasure-trove of old 1/72 plastic miniatures. Some of the ugly, aged Airfix variety, others the more modern Haet, Italeri and so on. I used to play with them back at university, so I dragged box after box downstairs, and set to work sorting them. I segregated a load of Napoleonics: mainly French, and a few Brits, and all long painted, albeit far from well! I glued a load of sand to their bases, and painted it brown. Then I experimented with a product called Army Painter Quickshade (known to non-wargamers or to less profligate spenders as wood varnish). It applies shade to models quite nicely, no matter the inexpertness of the initial paintjob. Given my initial paintjob . . . anyway, it went well, but the subsequent layer of matte varnish fogged, but I put that down to the resurgent cold weather. Resurgent seems the wrong word when the temperature is going down. Resubmergent, perhaps!

Anyway, I have sprayed French Chasseurs, Carabiniers, Hussars and members of the Imperial General Staff tonight. I’ve dug up a load more French infantry. I shall have to count these fellows and see what I can field in total. Can Waterloo be far off? As I may have mentioned, my primary armies were the French and the Brits. Although there are units from the non-Peninsular portion of Europe, they are decidedly in the minority. For instance, by Shako rules, I am capable of fielding only four battalions of Austrian infantry (12 figs/btn, as Austrian btns have an extra base), and a couple of regiments of cavalry. Similar quantities of Prussians and Russians are awaiting my eventual attention. Thanks to the Imperial general Staff box (Italeri), I’ve got plenty of command chaps to head the divisions.

I’m going to take a count in a while of the strength of French infantry not yet based and painted. That which has been amounts to three lots of Bavarian skirmishers (3 stands apiece), which is possibly ahistorically numerous, and almost certainly ahistorically geographical for the Peninsular; two battalions of Guard (which are definitely out of time and place!); a battalion of French skirmishers (using Line figures – whoops!); and eleven full battalions of Line. The Brits amount to a mere formed battalion and skirmishing force (3 stands) of 95th Rifles. The Brits are far worse off on the Divisional Commanders front, as I’ve barely anything in the way of mounted Brit officers. A quick google turns up just a load of dismounted chaps, and my squinting eyes discern a bagpiper. How apt for this time of year.

I intend to get these models (British and French, that is) painted and based, then have a few games with Niall. Shako’s a delightfully fast system, and once we have a few games under our belts, we should be able to expand to Shako II, which a friend kindly bought me.

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Saturday’s Shennanigans

I’d been looking forward to Saturday for a long time! Si, Tammy and Nathan arrived a little earlier than expected, and I drove us all down to Biddulph Grange County Park. It was originally a walk constructed for the local rich-types, but these days is open to the public. We had a little trouble, as I’d assumed everyone would be wearing hiking boots, rather than walking shoes, so I was the only person not teetering over the mud. I crashed and splashed through it as usual. We passed a smallish lake (the Fish Pool) which had maybe half a dozen ducks, and a central island, and the old boathouse, which contains no boats. Then we walked up a hill to the Cave, which is not a natural cave, and used to be a covered tunnel before the far end was shut up. Another family was just coming down the boggy slope, and the poor mother told us had only recently had a knee operation!

We went into the cave, and for once my carrying a torch proved useful. For some reason, Nathan and Si and I had all brought torches, but the dog of the family which had just left was as drawn to torchlight on stone as cats are to laser pointers! Si saw the dog, halfway down the slope, catch sight of our lights, and race back up again. Nathan and I had gone quite a way in when suddenly a small creature scurried eagerly about our legs, nearly tripping us! So lights off, and the disappointed doggy departed. We trundled back out of the cave, and carefully descended the boggy area, helping poor Tammy, whose legs weren’t quite up to leaping from dry stone to dry stone like her husband. Then we set off in search of the “Round Rock”. After a few minutes we discovered a large boulder, with steps carved into the side. Needless to say, after the boathouse that wasn’t and the cave that wasn’t, neither was this Round Rock round! Still, we climbed up the stairs and I took a snap of the others atop it.

Then down we came by way of the Himalayan Walk. You’ve guessed it: no yetis were in evidence, just a runner and a couple with a dog. We came up against the edge of the park, and headed back, following the brook that leads to the visitor centre (closed at this soggy time of year, but with toilets open!). Back home by car for a moment, where Si checked out Nathan’s suggestion about acquiring a better ‘net connection. Si and Tammy are really being screwed by their provider at the minute. Anyway, we headed on down to the local ‘Spoons (as they victual vegans) to meet Mawbs and Berni. We then had meals arrive at sporadic intervals – mine first, but half of it missing! – which rather irked Nathan. He’s a bit of a stickler for competence on the part of staff. But finally everything arrive and we noshed down. Well, I’d been chomping away for a while by then to avoid cold curry. Afterwards, we nearly left, but instead ended up spending maybe two hours on the quiz machine! I don’t think we can have lost more than a fiver between the six of us, so it didn’t turn out too ill. Someone had the bright idea that we should buy a quiz machine, memorise all the answers, and then use that knowledge to win in pubs. This time next year, Rodney, we’ll be millionaires!

Then we popped into the off-licence down the street, where everyone collected a few beers, and then back to mine. we chatted for a bit, discussed watching a film, but settled on a game of Cranium. Mawbs was wary at first, but after the first game he was most enthusiastic for a rematch. The game has won another convert! Both games were a little odd insofar as whenever we played a Club Cranium (in which one player from either team attempts to get his teammates to guess the answer) we had simultaneous exclamations of knowledge from both sides. Naturally, this reminded me of Fortean TV (a show from the ’90s produced by the same company which made Eurotrash), and I brought down an old video for everyone to watch. I was a little wary that they might not enjoy it at first, but I don’t think I’ve seen an audience laugh more heartily at people eating fish (an alleged asthma cure). An excellent day, and one I hope to repeat before too long! I’m very happy to have seen everyone.

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The past has incident! The present has mud. The future’s hiding behind that hill.

Written last night before I slept.

I live in the past. Would someone please send me a history book so I know what to expect? Today I almost talked to a fellow I used to know at school, a friend of my brother. I say “talked”, but I mean contacted via Facebook. I say “say”, but I mean “think” or “type”. I didn’t because it would be a cumbersome conversation – and not because I’d stop every sentence to redefine terms. It would be awkward and brief and upsetting for us both. Why? Because while he has doubtless done well, I have proved incapable of dealing with the world. That sort of thing gets people down. They can’t feel happy for your successes; they have to feel sorry for your failures.

So I didn’t do that. What did I do? I took the car to the garage to have a light replaced. Do I hear mechanically-minded readers gasp across the internet? You try replacing the front right sidelight of a Peugeot 206. One needs either a specialised device or the hands of a bodybuilding child, supreme confidence that one won’t drop the strip of metal wire which locks the light in place, and some pliers, preferably shaped like the bill of one of those birds that plod along the seashore, jimmying their cock-eyed beaks sideways into shells. Yeah.

So I walked home, dropping in on the health-food shop in Biddulph and picking up some things. I had a salad, dawdled online, did some pressups, had a protein shake . . . after many years, I eventually picked up the ability to notice when I was boring people, and my alarm just pinged. Tomorrow I’ll spend less time online, and more reading. I watched Midsomer Murders with the family. It’s a little ritual. Although these days Niall wanders off to look at shares and stockmarkets online.

I’m going to go for a run tomorrow. It’s hard to drag oneself out of bed for a run in the rain, or at least the cold. Still, I’m keeping to the diet well, and the exercise is all falling into place. I’m not yet recovering fast enough for my tastes, but no doubt that will improve. Friends are coming up Saturday, and we’ll go for a walk in a local park. I must take my camera. Come Sunday and I have to drive to Sheffield to check on a friend. I and many others hope he’s ok. Fingers crossed. With that cheery thought I shall close my weary eyes.

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Whimsy, whimsy, how does your garden grow?

Note: this was written last night before I went to bed.

I’m finally reading Neil Gaiman, American Gods. It’s entertaining and interesting. I can appreciate literary artifice, but what has always appealed to me most is the story itself. Likewise, I’m reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude. I have been delaying finishing it. I think I don’t want to let it do. I have done that many times in the last few years. I don’t want to let go of something I am enjoying; I fear I’ll lose it for good.

I still need to finish Stephen King, On Writing. It’s strange that many of the things King advises are at odds with what I learned in school. For King “he said” is perfect, but in school it was banned, bland. For King adverbs are poison. In school they were near mandatory. I’m sure there are many reasons (I can think of one) for the discrepancy, but it’s the difference itself which catches my eye.

I hope this fitness programme works. I still don’t know what I’ll do afterwards, but maybe I should just keep putting one foot in front of the other for now. If I look at the horizon I might trip and land in the mud. I had a good walk today. I went up along the canal, then took a ramble though some boggy fields. The public footpaths hereabouts are puzzling. They start and stop without reason, and they curl all over themselves like Spaghetti Junction. There’s mud all over, on the canal path as well as the fields. There was ice still in the water.

A pair of ducks swam warily away from me as I walked back, the female pushing a lump of ice before her. “Silly ducks,” I said. I do like ducks. There’s a pond near my home, and the people who live nearby have been overfeeding the ducks. So now we get as many as twenty-seven ducks of several species coming to our front door, mendicants for food. Well, time to sleep, I think.

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Tom-Tom Club Search Engine – For Faggots Like Abdul

Fuck this blog, it doesn’t allow proper use of HTML. Just follow the link instead.

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Facebook Will Be Shut Down March 15th

PALO ALTO, CA – Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook will be shut down in March. Managing the site has become too stressful.

“Facebook has gotten out of control,” said Zuckerberg in a press conference outside his Palo Alto office, “and the stress of managing this company has ruined my life. I need to put an end to all the madness.”

Zuckerberg went on to explain that starting March 15th, users will no longer be able to access their Facebook accounts.

“After March 15th the whole website shuts down,” said Avrat Humarthi, Vice President of Technical Affairs at Facebook. “So if you ever want to see your pictures again, I recommend you take them off the internet. You won’t be able to get them back once Facebook goes out of business.”

Zuckerberg said that the decision to shut down Facebook was difficult, but that he does not think people will be upset.

“I personally don’t think it’s a big deal,” he said in a private phone interview. “And to be honest, I think it’s for the better. Without Facebook, people will have to go outside and make real friends. That’s always a good thing.”

Some Facebook users were furious upon hearing the shocking news.

“What am I going to do without Facebook?” said Denise Bradshaw, a high school student from Indiana. “My life revolves around it. I’m on Facebook at least 10 hours a day. Now what am I going to do with all that free time?”

However, parents across the country have been experiencing a long anticipated sense of relief.

“I’m glad the Facebook nightmare is over,” said Jon Guttari, a single parent from Detroit. “Now my teenager’s face won’t be glued to a computer screen all day. Maybe I can even have a conversation with her.”

Those in the financial circuit are criticizing Zuckerberg for walking away from a multibillion dollar franchise. Facebook is currently ranked as one of the wealthiest businesses in the world, with economists estimating its value at around 7.9 billion.

But Zuckerberg remains unruffled by these accusations. He says he will stand by his decision to give Facebook the axe.

“I don’t care about the money,” said Zuckerberg. “I just want my old life back.”

The Facebook Corporation suggests that users remove all of their personal information from the website before March 15th. After that date, all photos, notes, links, and videos will be permanently erased.

Comments are disabled. Please discuss this subject in the forums.

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D&D game: Setting info Pt I

Philosophy of this Game

This is supposed to be an action-based game that isn’t too serious. The players should have a lot of agency in how the game world works, beyond the outline I gave below.

All players are “human”, though their mechanical race can be any of the 4e races. A dwarf is a short and stocky person, a dragonborn is a person with draconic lineage who has begun manifesting a dragon-like superpower, however you want to justify it. Mechanics are divorced enough from narrative that you can describe any class or race however you might like.

All adventurers, just because they’re adventurers, are the baddest dudes in the world. There is no one badder than you, no one. You are all that stands between the remnants of civilization and the Invasion from Outside.

Cosmology

The Astral Sea: This is the heavens, the home of the gods.
You’re all familiar with the two-axis, nine-alignment D&D cosmology, right? The heavens may work that way, or they may not. The gods are remote and their ways are mysterious to your character.
Now, what gods are available for your characters to worship and whose worship is most widespread in Nentir Vale? Make it up. You can worship a dumb D&D god with a dumb name or you can worship someone badass like Odin or Tezcatlipoca or you can make up a god.
From your perspective, the Heavens are a great plane like the Earth, but with various cosmic domains that are the home of various gods and pantheons. Of course, there are also “devils” which are evil creatures of the Astral Sea, who struggle against the gods.

The Elemental Chaos:
The Astral sea is the realm of eternal form and the Elemental Chaos is the realm of eternal energy and potential. All religious and cosmologies agree that interaction between the Elemental Chaos and the Astral Sea created the world as we know it, but also led to the fracturing of those realms into the subdomains of the various gods/pantheons and primordials.
The Elemental Chaos was home of the Primordials, who can be thought of like the Norse Vanir or the Greek Titans, pre-god beings who originally were the supreme beings before being overthrown by the gods of the Astral sea.
The Elemental Chaos also contains the Abyss, the home of the demons, beings devoted purely to destruction and corruption. It is suggested that the demons are a reflection and creation of all the evil within human hearts.

The Shadowfell & The Feywild:
The Shadowfell and Feywild are planes that exist alongside and mirroring mundane reality. Objects that exist in reality are mirrored in the Shadowfell and Feywild.
The Feywild is a wild and verdent place, fairy-talish in a Grimm’s sort of way. At some time in the distant past, many people entered the Feywild to escape a cataclysm. Many people (Gnomes, Elves, and Half-Elves in game terms) display some sign of fae heritage, and some still live in the wierd fairy cities of the Feywild (Eladrin).
The Shadowfell is a realm of death and stillness. It is where the souls of the dead linger for a period before going to wherever they ultimately go. The atmosphere of the Shadowfell is dark, gloomy, and still. The Shadar-Kai are people who live in the Shadowfell in the same way the Eladrin do in the Feywild.

The Far Realm: Beyond creation, beyond even the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos, is the Far Realm. Even the most skilled arcanists have only the vaguest idea of what it might be, though it is certainly inhabited by profoundly alien entities, a mere glimpse of which is rumored to drive people insane.

History of the Prime Material Plane:

At some point in the distant past, there were two separate cosmic forces, one of infinity energy and potential and one of infinite stillness and form. They touched, somehow, and all of creation came to be.

The Gods and Primordials fought their great war for creation before time even existed, which ended with the exile of the Primordials and the gods confining themselves to the Astral Sea.

The world between the Astral Sea and Elemental Chaos was originally vague and formless, and the Feywild and Shadowfell did not yet exist. The Dragons arose from the stuff of the Earth, and the eldest dragons, of whom the evil Tiamat and the good Baphomet are the only ones whose names are still known, walked the shapeless Earth.

The gods, apart from creation, shaped humanity from the stuff of the Earth as their agents. Culture Hero overthrew the dragons, and Baphomet and Tiamet ascended to the heavens. Culture Hero and his brothers shaped the world, the continents, and the mountains into their current form.

Goblins and most of the classic D&D monsters are the agents of the demons in the same way that humans are the agents of the gods. They mix the features of humans, animals, and demons in various monstrous ways. As humans strive for civilization and maintaining Truth and Order, goblins are dedicated to destruction, violence, and corruption. Goblinization and animals becoming monstrous is a sign that the fabric of reality has been warped, perhaps in preparation for a full-scale demonic invasion.

The gods and the devils warred in heaven, as a result of which, a “fall of Man” event occurred and people became mortal and lost the ability to reshape creation.

The first human empire to arise after that, Baal Tuath, attempted to return to the days before the Fall. They discovered magic and built great cities in a place somewhere far from Nentir Vale. The wizard-kings of Baal Tuath made a deal with the devils seeking knowledge which resulted in the fall of their empire. The descendants of those cursed sorcerors are the tieflings, people who manifest occasional signs of their infernal curse.

Other human empires came and went, the most remarkable of which was Arkhosia, ruled by a caste of warrior kings called the Aryans, who claimed to be endowed with powers by Baphomet to bring truth and justice to the world. Whatever the truth of that, occasional descendents of Arkhosian warriors show the powers of the dragonborn. Arkhosia collapsed from within a thousand years before present due to internal corruption and the invasions of barbarians.

With the fall of Arkhosia, only a handful of human societies beyond the chiefdom level still exist in the world. The place you’re from is one of these few points of light, Nentir Vale.

About the Setting (Nentir Vale)

This will be detailed more in the next post once I’ve gotten backgrounds from everybody. Please remember that in your backgrounds you’re creating the immediate game world that you’re playing in.
Nentir Vale is a valley tucked between an inhospitable mountain plateau and an endless plain. Think Ferghana Valley. Like the Ferghana, it’s a few hundred miles from an ancient trade route which connects an Arkhosian successor state with another shattered empire.
About 20,000 people live in an area about 150 miles long and 40 miles wide where it trickles into the plain. Most live in tribal villages with a couple hundred people at most, but there is a Lankhmar-esque mud fortress city towards the mouth ruled by a despotic warlord of some sort. I dunno, run with that!

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I had a dream

As an inaugural entry this should give you some insight into my subconscious. This is a dream I had the other night.

I woke up and it was half past nine, with warm sunlight filling the room. I was shocked! How could I have slept so long? Then I woke up and it was half past one in the morning, pitch black. I heard a noise outside, and went to my window. I looked down into the yard and there was an alligator eating the food we’d left out for the badger. I moved back cautiously, not wanting to disturb him, and hurried to Mum and Dad’s room, where I hissed the news at them. I then went to tell Niall. Everyone crowded into my room to see. I made some wry observation about them getting into the house, and lo! There was a baby one sat on the landing outside my bedroom. I picked him up by the tail to avoid bites. I took him into my room and asked the family for somewhere to put him. He was about two foot long and quite chunky, so I didn’t think we had a good place to keep him. We ended up dropping him into an old fish tank. Unfortunately, I held his tail too long, and the last few inches came off just as I was putting him in the box. Then I left the room to observe the alligators from the kitchen window. But as I passed the downstairs toilet I descried the door open in the gloom. I’d just the whole family in the TVs room! I pressed myself against the wall as a green laser swung about on the wall opposite the toilet door. A figure all in black came out of the toilet, seemingly holding a gun. I leapt for him, bashing him into a door, and crunching him down on the stairs.

It turned out to be a friend, and I’d forgotten that I had agreed that he and his girlfriend could use the house as a meeting place for some Guides they were taking on a trip. That sorted out, I went to the kitchen window and saw carsful of people pulling up, getting out in fancy dress – Great Auks, various other improbable animals, they walked unharmed past the alligators (a second had arrived) and a large buzzard or bustard, which were eating the badgers’ food, still. I went to let them in, and got confused because there were several glasses of orange juice on the cupboard by the front door. I picked some up and went through to the Dining Room, where I tried to give them to the Guides – although they seemed young enough to be Rainbows. I needed more orange juice, so I went to get some from the larder. This had moved about eight feet and altered its configuration, so I ended up stuck in there with an exhausted and pretty Guide Leader’s tricep pressed into my face as more people pushed in.

Then the scene shifted and we were in Liverpool. My two friends and I were going into a dismal building, evocative of Soviet Russia. We had to go up three flights of stairs to get to my mother’s mother’s house so we could pack away her things. We gathered some things, went down, came back up, went down with more, and by now the bottom of the building was a railway station. The lady at the kiosk asked us when and where we were going, and enthused about the superior quality of that service on this day as opposed to any other. So the bus driver (of this station which became a train and then a bus) asked me to go upstairs to talk to the passengers up there. I climbed the three flights again, and the rowdy passengers up there were irritated that he hadn’t done something they’d asked.

Then I was in a Victorian-esque street, wrapped in fallen snow, where an angry industrialist was ranting to his secretary that “I used to run this town!” and complaining about the mayor, who then walked into view. The two exchanged angry greetings, then the mayor said to his staff “This never would have happened in the old days! I used to be in charge here!” I then realised that I had somehow got very far from home, and night suddenly fell. I hailed an open-topped horse-drawn carriage to take me home. I soon realised this wasn’t actually a Victorian place as a modern motorcycle zoomed past us. My carriage then drove into a pub which stood in our way. The carriage slipped out of existence, and I continued floating on my own through a door into the back of the pub. This rear area was a strip club, and a number of women lounged about in various states of undress. The bouncer would only let me leave through the back window if I let him write something in red marker on my shaved head, so I hovered in the air, admiring the women, and joking with him, as he stood on a stool to write, that “You’d better not just put tits on there!” He grinned, and soon finished, opening a half-window, half corrugated-aluminium construction on the back wall. I floated out, and remembering I was nineteen miles from home, decided I had better hurry.

I jumped to a tall red-brick wall on the left of the street, running along it, then leaping off to land on the next wall. A man, his wife and two small boys were hurrying across the street in front of me, and I think one of the little boys wanted to catch me, because I was flying. I stopped on a part of the wall which was damaged at the top, and I found a rough paper document proclaiming itself to be someone’s (I forget whose) passport. It was only the outer sheath, the inner documents were gone. The man, who was Peter Serafinowicz with a moustache, was comforting with his wife one of their children because the other had disappeared. I leapt off the wall, and into a large square. I saw that the buildings were too high for me to leap over, so I went to the far right corner to see if I could get through. Instead oriental female martial artists flung throwing stars at me in silence, and I had to jerk myself out of the way and retire. An important British government official (I just knew he was) in a suit, bowler, with umbrella and briefcase (come to think of it, he resembled George Darling in the film Mary Poppins) told me that it was imperative that I go through the building, as these people were a terrible threat (to national security?)

So I went into the ground floor of a building. It was a shop with an open lay-out, rather like a mobile-‘phone or gadget shop. I tried to get to the far end, but the lights went out, and the shop dummies, which were made of a shiny dark grey clay, came to life and tried to attack me. I kicked one over and he smashed. Then the lights came on just as one was about to attack me. He was frozen in place, and after an agony of conscience I knocked him down with a large plate made of the same material as he was. Both smashed on the floor. I flew back into the square where I saw a round swimming pool filled with happy people. I think about this point I briefly became Bart Simpson. I recognised some foe on a walkway high above the pool, and flew up to engage him. After a brief struggle on the walkway, I knocked him off, and he landed beside the pool, his limbs tangled round his corpse. His three friends were remarkably phlegmatic about this, being only a bit surly when I decided to take over their gang. I was no longer Bart Simpson. I prodded the leader, a tall, muscled fella with dark hair, in his chest, and my sidekick (where’d he come from?) backed me up.

Then over to my right I could see what I recognised as the bridge over the Mersey, and I flew toward it, knowing I could follow that route home. it looked nothing like the real bridge, and it didn’t even cross a river. There were just acres of futuristic cityscape beneath me. But I knew I’d get home this way. Then I really woke up and it was 5:59. I sat down almost at once to write.

The spirits had done their work all in one night! It’s Christmas Day, Mr Scrooge! I don’t think I’ve remembered that much of a dream ever before.

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Odin & Tezcatlipoca: The Shaman Becomes a God

The ancient Norse and the Aztec Empire were separated by an ocean and thousands of years of human history. No demonstrable connection exists between the two cultures, yet their respective chief gods, Odin and Tezcatlipoca share common elements. What do these commonalities teach us about the universality of religious experience?
Before comparing the gods of these two cultures, we should consider their differences. The ancient Germanic people who worshipped Odin (or Wotan or Othin) generally lived in remote farming and fishing settlements separated by oceans and forests. Agriculture produced little of their food compared to hunting, fishing, and herding cattle. Until well into the medieval era, most of Scandinavia was only nominally politically united and the highest authority most people recognized was likely a local lord who was only first among peers. Temples were almost unheard of and most religion was practiced by individuals in small forest shrines.
In ancient Mesoamerica, whether in the jungles of Guatemala and Yucatan or the highlands of Central Mexico, people generally lived very densely relying on agricultural surplus. From the very earliest days of agriculture in Mesoamerica we see evidence of highly organized polities and temple-based organized religion. The Aztecs, or Mexica, as they called themselves, were only the latest in a series of empires to dominate central Mexico.
Despite huge apparent differences between these cultures, common factors do exist. Types of religious practice correspond to a culture’s mode of adaptation to their environment. Foraging bands of hunter-gatherers tend to have very simple monotheistic or pantheistic beliefs, and the divine rarely has numerous distinct attributes of his own. Primitive farmers and herders live in a world surrounded by malevolent spirits, all personifying certain aspects of nature. These spirits must be placated with rituals and sacrifice, but they are usually considered local to specific places and not named or particularly person-like. It is only with the advent of the state and its elaborate social hierarchies that named gods with specific cult practices come into being, and it is at the beginning of state organization that we find Dark Ages Norse culture and the 15th-century Aztec Empire.
Prior to the advent of state religion, the shaman is a common figure in spiritual life. Very often he is blind, insane, or crippled, and his physical weakness and inability in the material world gives him power over the spirit world. He enters ritual trances and directly interferes with the spirit world on behalf of humanity. With the rise of the state, the magician is unecessary, and indeed, is a thread to the state’s established religion. In the Aztec empire, magicians and shamans existed, but secretly, as magic was punishable by death.
The Norse earldoms were much less organized than the Aztec empire, and shamanic practices were still widespread even as Christianity displaced the old gods. In Roman accounts of the beliefs of primitive Germanic tribes, Odin plays a very small part. The population of Scandinavia increased sharply from the fall of the Roman empire until overpopulation forced many Northmen to take to the seas in the Viking Age, which is marked at one end with the raid on Lindisfarne Abbey in 793 AD and at the other with the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, after which Norway, Denmark, and Sweden became medieval kingdoms like any other. Odin is virtually unheard of in the earliest accounts, but with the increased social stratification of the Viking Age, he becomes the dominant figure in Norse mythology.
As the very beginning of the Prose Edda of Snorri Sturluson is the following passage, where the skald or bard Gangleri is seeking a wise man in the hall of the king Hárr:
Gangleri began his questioning thus: “Who is foremost, or oldest, of all the gods?” Hárr answered: “He is called in our speech Allfather, but in the Elder Ásgard he had twelve names: one is Allfather; the second is Lord, or Lord of Hosts; the third is Nikarr, or Spear-Lord; the fourth is Nikudr, or Striker; the fifth is Knower of Many Things; the sixth, Fulfiller of Wishes; the seventh, Far-Speaking One; the eighth, The Shaker, or He that Putteth the Armies to Flight; the ninth, The Burner; the tenth, The Destroyer; the eleventh, The Protector; the twelfth, Gelding.”
From examining this list of names, we can begin to make an understanding of who this often enigmatic figure was to the Norse. Odin is most often referred to as the Allfather, both because he is the head of the Aesir pantheon and because he created mankind. In the Prose Edda, he and his brothers Vili and Ve shape the world from the flesh of the slain giant Ymir. Odin also created the first humans, Ask and Embla, and endowed them with wisdom and reason.
Odin and his family established their seat as Asgard (Place of the Aesir) in the center of the Earth. Thor, Freyr, Balder, Njord, and all the other Aesir are descendants of Odin. Like the Greek Titans, a secondary pantheon called the Vanir exist in Norse myth. The Eddas are somewhat blurry concerning exactly who they were, but they are most likely remnants of fertility cults that predated historical Germanic culture. References to them in the Eddas associate them with forces of nature, primal mysticism, and the ocean. Whoever the Vanir were, the Eddas say that they were defeated by the Aesir led by Odin and forced to sign a peace treaty subordinating them to the Aesir.
Odin was also known as Spear-Lord or Striker, referencing his role as god of war and the hunt. Among his many magic possessions was the spear Gungnir, which never missed a target. Odin instigates warfare between people by hurling Gungnir into their midst. It is in Odin’s interest to stir up warfare and dissent between people, and unlike the Greek gods, he tends to stay neutral in conflict, continuing it for its own sake. The valkyries, his battle maidens, collect the einherjar, souls of valiant warriors killed in battle at Odin’s drinking hall of Valhalla, where he prepares them to serve as the army that will fight behind him in the battle of Ragnarok at the end of the world, where he will ride into battle at the head of the Aesir.
From Asgard, Odin could send out his ravens Hugin and Munin (Thought and Memory) to spy on the entire world, but he often wandered the Earth in various disguises in order to acquire new knowledge. Among his magical artifacts was the head of Mimir, the god of wisdom, whose head had been cut off in the war with the Vanir, which could tell him the future. Mimir’s wisdom had come from drinking daily from a magic well which lay at the root of the world-tree Yggdrasil, which was guarded by dwarves. Odin descended into the depths of creation and gave the dwarves his eye to drink from the well gain powers of prophecy. We see from this that Odin, despite being the creator of the world, was not omniscient, and had to rely upon magic and other forms of trickery to stay ahead of his enemies. His wisdom, while supernatural in extent, was similar in form to that possessed by human beings, who, indeed, had been created in his image.
Odin was also the god of poetry and inspiration. Like most of his other abilities, Odin gained the power of poetry through trickery. The dwarves had brewed a “mead of inspiration” from the blood of the primal poet Kvasir which was guarded by the giant Suttung. Odin disguised himself as a farmworker and seduced the giant’s daughter Gunnlöd, stealing the mead and bringing it back to Asgard, from where he shares it with the skalds.
The names He that Putteth the Armies to Flight, Burner, Destroyer, and Protector all refer to Odin’s already roles as god of mankind and central role in the eventual destruction of creation at Ragnarok, which we have already briefly discussed. A complete account of this myth would be outside the scope of our discussion, but a few elements stand out. The enemies of the Aesir and the einherjar at Ragnarok will be the fire and frost giants, who predated Odin and all of creation, the monstrous serpent Jormungandr who encircles the world, and the wolf Fenris, who swallows the moon and vomits it up every month. These are creatures of elemental chaos and disorder fighting against the champions of mankind and reason. At the end of the battle, the gods are dead, but the world is renewed and two new humans arise.
The last name on the list given by Gangleri is perhaps the oddest. Why would a god be called the Gelding? Odin’s greatest power was probably his knowledge of the runes, which he gained by sacrificing himself on the world-tree Yggdrasil and piercing his own side with a spear, where he hung for nine days before arising. Roman commentators described ancient Germans sacrificing animals and even humans to Odin in this manner. Runes were a symbol of secrecy and used for divination and cursing among the ancient Germans long before they were a writing system for the Norse. The use of runes for magic persisted in Scandinavia until the 19th century, and those who practiced this form of sorcery were nearly always women. In the Lokasenna, a section of the Poetic Edda, the fire giant Loki mocks Odin for practicing magic, which he says is women’s work. Besides disguising himself and sacrificing himself in many ways, Odin was not afraid to do things which might be considered shameful in his pursuit of knowledge
From all this, we see the Norse conception of Odin in the Eddas as a figure in many ways more human than divine, whose wisdom and magic opposed the primal chaos of the world.
The Mesoamerican god known to the Aztecs as Tezcatlipoca, or Smoking Mirror, was known by many names like Odin. Like all the gods worshipped by the Mexica people, there are centuries old beliefs about him from across Mesoamerica, but the Aztec beliefs are best known, though sparse compared to our understanding Old World religions.
All Mesoamerican gods have complex and often contradictory natures. Tezcatlipoca was a god of sorcery, darkness, volcanic eruption, and other evil, but was usually paired with the culture hero and god of healing Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent). The Tezcatlipoca referred to in this essay was called “Black Tezcatlipoca” and Quetzalcoatl “White Tezcatlipoca”. In some cases, Xipe Totec (The Flayed Lord), god of rebirth and renewal, and Huitzilopochtli (Hummingbird on the Left), the war god and patron of the Aztec nation, were included as “Red Tezcatlipoca” and “Blue Tezcatlipoca.”
These four gods were associated with the four directions, four seasons, and the great cycles of the Mesoamerican calendar. The “five suns” myth, of which various Aztec forms exist and is also attested in the Southwestern U.S. and Central America, has each of the four major gods ruling over an age of mankind. The order of the gods and how their eras ended varied, but all ended the reign of one god in great natural disaster and violence before the god of the next age rebuilds the world. This essay will use “Tezcatlipoca” to refer to just Black Tezcatlipoca as he is known to have been worshipped by the Aztecs.
From the earliest Maya depictions, Tezcatlipoca was always shown with one foot replaced by an obsidian mirror. The best known story of how Tezcatlipoca lost his foot says that he used it as bait to trap the primal serpent Cipactli. With the monster defeated, Tezcatlipoca and his brother Quetzalcoatl then created the world from the parts of her body.
The mirrored foot gave Tezcatlipoca his name. Obsidian was especially sacred to ancient Mesoamericans, who associated it with volcanos and traded for obsidian dug up as far away as Yellowstone Park. The obsidian mirror gave Tezcatlipoca powers to see anywhere in the world or into the future. It also had the ability to reflect plague and dissent upon mankind. Not all its abilities were evil. As lord of the world, Tezcatlipoca reflected good fate and fortune onto people as well.
The temple of Tezcatlipoca in the Aztec capital of Tenochitlan was located in the center of the city across from the Great Temple of Huitzilopochtli. It was attended by a dedicated caste of priests whose responsibilities included sacrificing human victims to their god.
Like Odin, Tezcatlipoca was known by many names, including “We are his Slaves”, “Enemy of Both Sides”, “Lord of the Near and Far”, “Night Wind”, “He by whom we live”, “Two Reed”, and “Possessor of the Sky and Earth”. Most of these reflect his role as lord of creation and master of fate.
In each of these myths, we can identify a number of common elements.
First, the god in question and his brother or brothers spring from a primal deity with few distinct characteristics of its own. Each god and his brothers represent an element of this undifferentiated whole. Together, they overcome some cosmic beast, whether sea serpent or frost giant, and establish the order of the world, including the other gods.
Each is believed to rule over just the current age, which is doomed to come to an end at some point and be replaced with a new divine order. The cosmic beasts, including giant sea creatures, are enemies of both.
Tezcatlipoca seems to have held his great powers by virtue of being lord of creation, whereas Odin had to earn his through trickery. Nevertheless, the myth of self-sacrifice is central to how each gained his powers. In an era before modern medicine, a man missing an eye or a foot would be considered crippled, yet Odin and Tezcatlipoca are both more powerful than any man. Just as skills of sorcery were considered to be channeling cosmic forces that predate the divine order in Norse culture, witches and wizards in Aztec culture existed outside the religious order and only one god had the ability to use these powers, which he gained through his self-sacrifice.
A difference can be seen in the fact that Odin was more distinct from his creation than Tezcatlipoca was. However, the Eddas came after hundreds of years of belief in Odin’s cult and probably represented some innovations which came after exposure to Christianity and Greco-Roman myth. It is certainly probable that myths of Tezcatlipoca as a wandering sorcerer instead of a disembodied force of nature could have arisen had Mesoamerican culture been one of scattered settlements like Scandinavia instead of great centralized empires.
As cultures develop greater levels of complexity, we see legends of gods as organizing principles against the chaos of the natural world. Humans living close to nature are often overwhelmed by their insignificance compared to the forces of storm, ocean, and earthquakes. Shamanic magic is a means by which people channel these great forces. The shaman in primitive societies is very often a blind, crippled, or insane person whose physical and mental weakness is contrasted by his great mystic power. As the gods displace the shamans, the shaman becomes a god. The theme of the crippled magician god creating a world which is doomed to come to an end is common to people emerging from shamanism to full statehood whether on the tundras of the far north or the jungles of Mexico.
“The Poetic Edda.” Trans. Henry A. Bellows. Internet Sacred Text Archive Home. Web. 15 Nov. 2010. .

“The Prose Edda.” Trans. Arthur G. Brodeur. Internet Sacred Text Archive Home. Web. 15 Nov. 2010. .

Sahagún, Bernardino De, Miguel León Portilla, Charles E. Dibble, and Arthur J. O. Anderson. Florentine Codex. Santa Fe: School of American Research and the Univ. of Utah, 1982. Print.

Polomé, Edgar C., and Lee Milton Hollander. Old Norse Literature and Mythology; a Symposium. Austin: Published for the Dept. of Germanic Languages of the University of Texas at Austin by the University of Texas, 1969. Print.

Clendinnen, Inga. Aztecs: an Interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. Print.

Campbell, Joseph. Primitive Mythology. New York, NY: Penguin, 1976. Print.

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