Skulls, Ethiopia, Islam, Christianity, children’s books, and an elizabethan genius

I feel obliged to point out yet again how intriguingly disgusting lots of tantric rituals are:

thod tshal

is a skull cup which differs from the usual one (

thod pa

) in having the scalp with hair still attached



skull cup?! You mean, the one that Aldi sells in ten-packs?

And yes, ‘cup’ does mean they drink things out of it. ‘Things’ tends to mean semen, which, by some convoluted logic, represents the Buddha. Why you want to drink the Buddha out of a skull still escapes me, but I’m sure there’s a reason for it somewhere.

In other news, I’m feeling terribly cosmopolitan at the moment. Lots of interesting and obscure non-Indian languages keep turning up – Mongolian, Uighur, Tibetan Chinese. I can’t actually


any of them, of course, but it’s nice to know that someone once cared about things I read enough to have pan-Asian debates over what it meant. And some of the scripts look very, very pretty.

Then there’s the growing fascination of Ge’ez. Ge’ez is a fascinating, undervalued and under-studied ancient language of Ethiopia. It has no connection whatsoever to my course, but it does seem to be connected to just about everything else.

Ethiopia, Ge’ez, Islam, Enoch, Dee, and Philip Pullman

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