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Threads of the Covenant: The Jews of Red Jacket
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Jul 06, Jeanne rated it really liked it Shelves: fiction , jewish-stuff , z-at-bsbi. Overall, it was a really interesting collection of stories. It was clear from the character of the masks and other paraphernalia used in the ceremonials I witnessed, that the latter were almost, if not quite, wholly derived from the pueblo, rather than from the wilder, ancestry of the Jicarillas who performed them.
Inside of this enclosure, which was designed to screen from view the more secret operations of the priest dancers in question, stood a little conical skin lodge, the snow-white top of which appeared above the screen of evergreen, and within which the young girl, over whom these rites were being enacted, was ensconced, together with one or two old women of the tribe. As I have said before, each of the priests, on appearing and this they did successively; that is, the first on the first day, the second on the second day, and so on , wore a conical mask or helmet, which entirely concealed, not only the face, but also the head.
This mask was painted black or red, and upon the face of it appeared one of these hand symbols. Unfortunately, I did not see the mask as worn by the first priest, but, as worn by the second priest on the morning of the second day, it bore upon its face the symbol of the red hand; and as worn upon the third day, this symbol recurred, but, if I remember aright, was surrounded by an outline of another color, either black or yellow, whilst the hand painted on the mask as worn on the fourth day was black surrounded by white, that it might stand out more conspicuously; and in turn, below it, were two or more dots alternating with dotted circles.
From this I would infer that the signs of the red and black hands found in the ruined pueblos like those of Pecos, and on the cliffs at the mouths of caves, or in the houses of the cliff villages, symbolized respectively virginity, and maternity or betrothal. It is well known that these dots and dotted circles represent, primarily, grains of corn, male and female; and, secondarily, children, male and female.
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Their occurrence, then, below the painted black hand or symbol of maternity, would indicate that in this case they represented the children and perhaps grandchildren, male and female, of the matron it was hoped this young girl might become. In the case of the Pueblos the position of the hand symbols depends, as, no doubt, you have already inferred, upon the sort of ceremonial which is being performed in connection with them.
The rooms were entered by means of ladders through scuttles in the roof.
A hand-print is a signature. A hand-print in blood is a pledge of life in a sacred covenant. A hand-print in the blood of life is symbolic of a covenant of life with a view to the transmission of life. Formal documents have often been signed by a hand stamp, or a finger stamp, in blood or in ink. The monks of the convent of St. Catharine at Mt. Indeed, may it not be that the large red seal attached to important documents, at the present time, is a survival of the signature and seal of the bloody hand? Originally the covenant sacrifice at the threshold was with the one God of life.
But as monotheism degenerated into polytheism, the idea came to prevail of different deities in different portions of the door, or of different deities in different districts of country or in different offices of life. Each gate of an Assyrian city was dedicated to a special god, and named after it,—as the gate of Bel, the gate of Beltis, the gate of Anu, the gate of Ishtar.
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At the entrance-way of every gate gigantic winged bulls with human heads stood on guard, accompanied by winged genii. The idea of an offering, or of a dedication, to the local divinity, at the time the threshold is laid, is of wide acceptance.
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Much reduced in size and perched high on shelves, they face each other in the vestibules of the Chinese home; and in their most diminutive aspect they become little images, occasionally two-headed, which are carried about the person as charms, or hang from the eaves of Chinese houses. Tertullian, a Christian Father who wrote before the close of the second century, in warning believers against the seducements of idolatry, emphasized the clustering of deities at the doors and gates in the religions of Greece and Rome.
Although a Christian might not recognize these gods as gods, he is told to beware lest he seem to give them honor by adorning his gates with lamps or wreaths. To an idol you will have done whatever you shall have done to an entrance [or doorway]. You will now-a-days find more doors of heathens without lamps and laurel-wreaths than of Christians.
It was much the same in the Old World as in the New. In ancient and in modern times, and in widely different portions of the world, there are indications that the threshold of the home was the primitive altar; and that the side-posts and lintel of the doorway above the threshold bore symbols or inscriptions in proof of the sacredness of the entrance to the family home, and in token of an accomplished covenant with its guardian God, or gods.
A temple is only a more prominent house. As a house was the dwelling of the earlier priest of his household, who was in covenant for himself and his family with the guardian deity of that household; so, afterwards, a temple was a dwelling for the deity guarding an aggregation of families, and for the priests who stood between him and the community.
This is no new or strange truth; it is obvious. The same cuneiform characters in old Babylonian stand for great house, for palace, and for temple;  as similarly, in ancient Egypt, the same hieroglyph represented house or temple,—a simple quadrangular enclosure, with its one doorway. The oldest form of an Egyptian temple known to us through the inscriptions of the Ancient Empire indicates that the prehistoric houses of worship in that land were mere hovels of wood and lattice-work, over the doors of which was a barbaric ornamentation of bent pieces of wood.
Strictly speaking, there were no temples in ancient Persia, any more than in early India. But the fire-altars that were first on the home hearth, or threshold, were made more and more prominent on their uplifted stepped bases, until they towered loftily in the sight of their worshipers. And Japanese antiquaries say that the architecture of Shinto temples is on the model of the primeval Japanese hut. The temples of Ise, the most sacred of the Shinto sanctuaries, are said to represent this primitive architecture in its purest form. The father of the family was the primitive priest in the Samoan Islands, and his house was the first place of worship.
The transition from house to temple seems to have been a gradual one in the primitive world. The fire-altar of the family came to be the fire-altar of the community of families. The house of a king became both palace and temple, and so again the house of a priest; for the offices of king and of priest were in early times claimed by the same person.
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In all stages of the transition from house to temple, the sacredness of the threshold, of the door, of the entrance-way, of the gate, was recognized in architecture and in ceremonial. Often the door, or the gate, stood for the temple, and frequently the threshold was an altar, or an altar was at the threshold. There are, indeed, reasons for supposing that the very earliest form of a primitive temple, or sanctuary, or place of worship, was a rude doorway, as covering or as localizing the threshold altar. This would seem to be indicated by prehistoric remains in different parts of the world, as well as in the later development of the idea in the earlier historic ages.
The only exception to this was where, as in India or Persia, the fire-altar on an uplifted threshold stood alone as a place of worship. And the very name of door, or gate, attaches persistently to the loftiest temple and to the most exalted personage. As the earliest altar was the threshold, the earliest temple was a doorway above the altar at the threshold.
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The threshold of the gate is used in the same sense, and frequently it is qualified by some epithet of nobility, loftiness, or goodness. In China, Japan, Korea, Siam, and India, a gate, or doorway, usually stands before Confucian and Booddhist and Shinto temples, but apart from the temple, and always recognized as of peculiar sacredness.
These doorways, in many places, are painted blood-color. Swinging doors, or gates, are represented, in the religious symbolism of ancient Babylonia, as opening to permit the god Shamash, or the sun, to start out on his daily circuit of the heavens. In ancient Egypt the doorway shrine of the gods was prominent, as in Babylonia.
This representation of a door was toward the west, in which direction Osiris, the god of the under-world, was supposed to enter his realm as the sun went down. On or around this false door were memorial inscriptions, and prayers for the dead; and before it was a table, or altar, for offerings to the ka , or soul, of the dead. As a doorway or a niche, square-topped, or arched, it was the shrine of the one worshiped; and as a panel, or independent stele, it was the place of record of the object of reverence.
Soon afterwards it became the custom to round off the stone at the top, and when, under the New Empire, pictures of a purely religious character took the place of the former representations, no one looking at the tomb stele could have guessed that it originated from the false door. Doors of this kind were sometimes richly carved and painted, and were deemed of priceless value by the recipient. In Phenicia,  Carthage,  Cyprus,  Sardinia,  Sicily,  and in Abyssinia,  a like prominence was given to the door as a door, in temple and in tomb, and as a niche for the figure of a deity or for the representation of one who had crossed the threshold of the new life.
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