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may also occasionally contain implicit and explicit references to

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mephistopheles: A Possible Etymology


Mephistopheles:  A Possible Etymology
by Liviana (SuccubaSuprema)


I recall reading Faust when I was 13, in a delightful edition which had the original German on one page, and the English translation on the facing page.  Within a year, I had come across some source (I believe it was Richard Cavendish, 1967) claiming that the name "Mephistopheles" was derived from "Lucifuge Rofocale," which I thought dubious, even back then before I was a language geek.  Over the years since then, I've encountered assorted other claims for an etymology of the name, some of which were also dubious, while others had a semblance of greater credibility.  Suggested origins for the name have included Mefitz-tofel (K.J. Schröer, 1886), Mephitis ("Philologos," 2010), Megist-Ophiel (Julius Goebel, 1904), and others.  I must admit that I've not actively sought out these discussions, and have actually done very little investigation, because the origin of the name "Mephistopheles" has not been a fascination for me, and I would only encounter such discussions incidentally as I was researching other matters.

As might be supposed (by someone familiar with the folklore and legends of southern Europe) from the handle I use here ("SuccubaSuprema"), I do have an interest in the pre-Christian myths and legends of the Italic peoples concerning those beings who started off as woodland spirits, became spirits of the field, then night spirits, and finally dream spirits known as "Incubi" and "Succubae" (before the Church came along and perverted the legends into the idea that a "Succubus" was actually an Incubus in false female form, because, in the patriarchal view of the Church, of course no spiritual being could possibly be female ...).  These dream spirits naturally were said to be involved in the wholly natural phenomenon known as a "wet dream."  When the Church came along, this association was predictably seized upon as evidence that the spirits in question were "evil" and so on.  Having already distorted the original meaning of the Greek word "daimon" into a concept of "fallen angel," this Latinized term "daemon" was (also predictably) applied to the Incubus (and the very existence of a Succuba was denied, except insofar as an Incubus was, according to the Church, able to engage in deceptive illusion in order to appear female).  As such, when researching these folkloric beings, the student or scholar will encounter references to other beings alleged to be "demons" by the Christian religion.

As I have also made plain several times in the history of this blog, I am not only a language geek, but also a gamer.  I started playing RPGs in the late 70s, when the hardback rule books for the first edition of AD&D were still being published.  With the newer editions and expansions and so on, the mythical aspects of what is now D&D have been expanded, including the "Powers" (Gods, Demigods, Devils, Demons, etc) of the "Outer Planes."  Three or four years ago, I came across a mention of the "Succubus Queen" in D&D (who didn't exist when I started playing, or at least had not been named or implied by the literature available then), known as "Malcanthet."  I did a little research on this character then, and filed it away for future reference.

This afternoon, I was talking with a friend and referred to Shendilavri (the home of Malcanthet), and this occasioned my revisiting the information I had already collected about Malcanthet, as well as looking around to see what new information I might find on the internet.  In the process, I noticed that her current consort is named as "Mastiphal the Hunting Sovereign."  Many of the names found in what was once The Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia were based on (or taken directly) from actual real-world myths and legends, so I thought to see if this "Mastiphal" might have some such real-world origin.  After some digging around in search engines, I eventually came to a pdf file of the 1902 translation by R.H. Charles, D.D. (Professor of Biblical Greek at Trinity College, Dublin) of a text (generally regarded as apocryphal) known as "the Book of Jubilees" or "The Little Genesis," which, quoted by the 11th century Byzantine historian Georgios Kedrenos, was supposed to be the origin of the name "Mastiphal."  On searching the text of the work, however, I could find no instance of that name.  A less precise search provided the reason for the lack.  Somewhere along the way, someone had apparently mis-rendered the name as given in Syncellus and Kedrenos ("Mastipham" or "Mastiphat," and called "the archon of the demons") as "Mastiphal."  The Ethiopic text from which Doctor Charles made his translation gave the name as "Mastêmâ."  In his note 8 at page 80 of the text proper, Dr. Charles states:

Mastêmâ.  In the Latin version this name appears as Mastîma, and in the Midrashic Book of Noah as [Hebrew letters which read ShR HMShTMH, that is, Sar ha-Mastemah, or "Prince Mastemah" -- although more likely intended as "Prince/Ruler of Mastemah," since "Mastemah" as a name would be a feminine name].  Hence the form in which it appears in Syncellus and Cedrenus as [this next is my rendering into Latin characters of the Greek letters:  Mastipham, ho archOn tOn daimoniOn, meaning "Mastipham, the Archon of the Demigods" the latter word which most will incorrectly translate as "demons" -- which is probably what Dr. Charles understood it to mean, and almost certainly what Kedrenos intended], or Mastiphat is less accurate.  Outside the Jubilee literature, as Römsch has remarked (p. 418), this word is not found as a proper noun except in the Acts of Philip (ed. Tischend., p. 98):  [more Greek I'll render into Latin characters as:  ho de MansEmat, tout' estin ho Satanas, hypeisElthen eis ton Ananian kai eplEpOsen auton thymou kai orgEs, which means something like "the  Mansêmat, which is the Satan,  entered into Ananias and seized him with wrath and anger"].  As a common noun it is found twice in Hos. ix. 7, 8 in the sense of "enmity."  The word appears to be the hiphil of [Hebrew letters which are ShTM (= ShTN)], i.e. [Hebrew letters MShTIM], and is therefore the equivalent of [Greek letters ho Satanas] in point of meaning and derivation.
   [Boldface floral lavender notes inside square brackets are mine, including the transliterations from Hebrew and Greek into Latin letters, as well as the translations given from Hebrew and Greek into English. -- Giovanna]

While reading all of this, the idea of a connection with the name "Mephistophiles" did not occur to me until after I had sorted and made some sense of the Hebrew and Greek and began then to wonder how "Mastiphal" had come about from these references.  I looked more closely at the name and these references, and decided that the spelling "Mastiphal" was most likely a Latin scribal error for "Mastiphat," and suddenly the connection hit me.  "Mastiphal" might be confused with some kind of Greek shorthand by someone who knew no Hebrew and was reading Syncellus or Kedrenos in Latin.  From that, "Mastiphiles" could easily be chosen as the probable name intended, which would mean "friend of scourges" or "lover of scourges."  Transposition of letters being an intentional practice when dealing with alleged names of spirits has a long and not unfamiliar history, and so "Mastiphiles" could naturally become "Maphistiles."  From that name, the change to "Mephistophiles" is rather obvious.  Many variants of this name have shown up throughout history, including (but not limited to) Mephistopheles, Mephistophilus, Mephistophilis, Mephostopheles, Mephisto, and Mephastophilis.

If the Muse has breathed in me as a result of these (admittedly somewhat cursory) investigations, then the mysterious "Mephistopheles" would have his name from "Mastiphiles" ("lover of scourges"), which in turn was derived by erroneous reading of "Mastiphat," itself an inaccurate rendering of "Mastêmâ," Hebrew for "enmity" or "hatred" and considered to be another name for ha-Shaitan, "the Adversary," originally viewed in Iyov (the book of "Job") as the Hebrew God's Prosecuting Attorney.




Copyright 2014 by Giovanna (SuccubaSuprema).  All Rights Reserved.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Right Wing and Allegations of Treason


The Right Wing and Allegations of Treason

by Liviana (Giovanna L.)




Representative Jeff Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina, joins a long list of Far Right Wing Extremists in branding with the "traitor" label those perceived as "liberals":

GOP's Duncan blasts Feinstein as a "traitor"

There’s been far too much of this sort of garbage rhetoric. The week before, Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said of the torture report, “[I]t’s almost treasonous, and it borders on treasonous.”

Remember, these far-right lawmakers aren’t concerned about torture; they’re concerned with the Senate Intelligence Committee publishing a report documenting torture.

... Duncan was more direct in calling Feinstein a “traitor” – all because she had the audacity to work with her colleagues from both parties on a report documenting U.S. activities.

Duncan, by the way, is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee’s oversight panel, and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s panel on counter-terrorism.
After World War I, liberals and leftists were accused of treason by Far Right Wing Extremists in Germany.  These allegations were also embraced by a certain Far Right Extremist political party in Germany, known as the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or, in brief, as the Nazi Partei.  The Nazis had a lot in common with the Far Right Wing Extremists in the United States today:

  1. Intense nationalism
  2. Pro-capitalism
  3. Anti-communism
  4. Glorification of War
  5. Appeal to Patriotism
  6. Appeal to the Middle Class
  7. Appeal to Traditional Values


Note those last three say "appeal to ..." for a very good reason, one we can find in various writings of Niccolò Machiavelli.  In Il Principe (or The Prince), he states rather plainly that it is important for a leader to seem to be religious, and says:  "Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are."  Elsewhere, he offers an observation which is astounding for its accuracy:

... perché lo universale degli uomini si pascono così di quel che pare come di quello che è: anzi, molte volte si muovono più per le cose che paiono che per quelle che sono.
-- Niccolò Machiavelli, Discorsi sopra la prima deca di Tito Livio, Libro Primo, Capitolo 25.

My translation:

... for the general mass of men are satisfied with appearances, as if they exist;  indeed many times they are most moved by the things which seem to be rather than by the things that are.
-- Niccolò Machiavelli, Discourses on the first Ten Books of Titus Livius, Book 1, Chapter 25.

Something similar is attributed to Jesus in the sixth chapter of Matthew, verses 1-21, wherein is stated that those who pretend piety publicly in order to win the respect of other humans have only the reward of such human respect, but those who are pious in secret will have a heavenly reward.

Making an appeal to patriotism is not the same thing as being patriotic;  it means that the one making the appeal is exploiting the patriotism of those he or she seeks to influence.

Making an appeal to traditional values does not necessarily mean that the one making the appeal agrees with those values, but rather that he or she is willing to exploit the beliefs of those who do in an effort to influence them.  Accompanying this tactic is a not-very-subtle insistence that anything which challenges those beliefs is somehow disloyal and should be silenced, which is of course a practice antithetical to any free society.

Promising tax relief to the middle class while giving massive cuts to the upper class -- well, we need not even point out that the small cuts in income tax were subject to compensation by other taxes on the middle class, nor point the finger at the absurd government bailouts of mega-corporations and mega-banks which began, it must be stressed, under the administration of George W. Bush, even though Obama is subjected to the blame game by these Far Right Wing Extremists who never admit that their own party is equally guilty, and in fact endorsed such acts until they were done by a member of an opposition party (which, you know, is kind of par for the course;  Republicans railing against Democrats for things they themselves have done, or would have done in the same position -- and vice-versa, let it be stated, for the Democrats have likewise contributed to this fallacious polarization in the American political climate, albeit not so eagerly as have the Republicans).  Let me just say that the Far Right cares nothing for the middle class, except insofar as they can exploit the emotions, values, and needs of the middle class in order to obtain, or maintain, political power.

Tied into many of these features is the practice of scapegoating as a means of misdirection.  Blaming homosexuals for an alleged "moral decline," blaming Jews for economic woes, blaming immigrants for "taking jobs" (usually jobs nobody wants), blaming labor unions for economic woes, blaming "liberals" and "leftists" for publicizing the criminal acts of Far Right Wing Extremists, ... the list goes on.  And of course, always with the intent of diverting the attention of the public from issues which are actually relevant and important.  "Let's make an amendment to the Constitution in order to 'protect the flag', a symbolic gesture easy to rally the masses, rather than addressing issues which are more challenging to solve, and more pressing."  Or "Let's try President Clinton for getting a blowjob in the Oval Office instead of taking on the more challenging and more important business of making laws to better our nation and improve the living conditions of our citizens."  Or "Let's sue Obama for making health care insurance available to all, rather than addressing the appalling state of education in the nation."  Or any of a number of other examples.

Indeed, to accuse a patriot of being a traitor is the most outrageous of such obfuscations.  While I disagree with Senator Feinstein on many questions, her actions in bringing this information to the public, while embarrassing for American citizens, is the act of a patriot, and not a traitor.  Anyone who loves America ought to be tenacious in rooting out the rot which would turn our Democratic Federal Republic into what it has historically fought with the blood and tears of our people.  Our nation took part in prosecuting those guilty of crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Trials and on other occasions.  Such crimes ought never to besmirch the reputation of America, but if they have been committed by Americans in the name of America, then we must admit as much to the world, and those responsible need to be held accountable in our own legal system.  Such admission and prosecution are the only way forward.  Those who would put their party or their ideology above the good of the nation are themselves far more worthy of the appellation of "traitor."  I'm talking about you, "Representative" Duncan.



See further:

Fascism Anyone?

If conservatives really, really hate being called fascists ... #5

I got slimed by Rush: The real story of how Stephen Colbert schooled Limbaugh on U.S. history, patriotism

Stab-in-the-back legend

Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince and the Political Utility of Religion

Platform of the National-Socialist German Workers' Party (1933)
(Note point number 23 in particular, wherein the Nazis say:
"We demand laws against trends in art and literature which have a destructive effect on our national life, and the suppression of performances that offend against the above requirements."
It does sound very familiar, does it not?)