Perils of translation

Pomegranate

I came across this translation of a poem:

YOUR FACE AND THE TOLLING OF BELLS; by Ayten Mutlu

it was just like spring to laugh with you
and to touch the chimes of your face
lecherous and tranquil like a naked pomegranate

your face was the intimations of forenoon

at the meeting place of autumn
in the closed seas of your face
the birds flew like poisoned arrows
the summer blindfolded at the bottom of a wall

what is left of your face, a rusty shadow
the receding forest, the flower in mourning
pieces of broken glass the colours of spring

how do birds get accustomed to losing a sky?

ah, I’m late in getting to know the rain
like a naked pomegranate I am defeated and offended
where like the deteriorating autumn your old face
vanished with the tolling of the bells
(Translated by Suat Karantay)
(The Turkish PEN, 1995)

You can translate a poem but can you translate the meaning?  From this poem I will take one symbol, the “naked pomegranate”.  Coming from Ireland we have no symbology associated with this fruit.  It made an appearance every year at halloween as an exotic,  something out of the ordinary.  Most Dubliners called it a “Wine Apple”.

In more recent years the pomegranate has been more widely available and has crept in to a more regular role as an ingredient or a garnish in cookbooks.  But it has no deep meaning for us.

If you speak to people educated in the classics they may remember the tale of Persephone, daughter of Demeter, who was whipped off by Hades to his kingdom where she ate six seeds of a Pomegranate and hence we are condemned to 6 months of growth and 6 of death and winter was born.  This Greek tale begins to hint at a deeper symbology to the fruit.  The fact that the seeds represent a calendar, a marker of time or age.

The symbology of the pomegranate in the middle east runs very deep.  Because the tree is evergreen it was used as a symbol of immortality by the ancient Persians.  I can imagine middle eastern children playing a game of counting the seeds of a fruit to represent the years of their life.

Iranian mythology celebrates the ancient hero Esfandiyar who is easily a match for the DC Comics or Marvel superheros.  In one tale he eats a pomegranate and gains super strength like an ancient version of Popeye with his spinach.

The pomegranate appears in ancient Jewish architecture as a symbol of fertility and prosperity.  The fruit was one of the seven species brought by the 12 spies to Moses as proof of the fertility of Canaan.  It has been used as a teaching tool by Rabbis who say the fruit contains the number of mitzvot, 613.

Islam adopted the Jewish symbology of fertility.  Muslims consider the tree one of the four holy fruits along with dates, figs and olives and they depict it in representations of the garden of Eden.

In modern day Turkey as part of new year celebrations a pomegranate is cracked on the floor in a blessing ritual for prosperity in the coming year.  At wedding a bride may be asked to throw a whole pomegranate on the floor and will bear as many children as the seeds that fall out.

The Prophet Mohammed told his wives to eat the fruit so they would bear beautiful children.  From this hadith arises the notion that the fruit is a symbol of beauty.

So when the Ayten Mutlu speaks of a naked pomegranate in her poem she brings a rich weight of symbology of the fruit as a marker for beauty and for the hope of a new beginning and the disappointment of the declining of a life in the winter of years.

Unless you come from the Middle East, or do a lot of research into symbology, it is very difficult to grasp the meaning the poet is trying to convey.  Language and culture erect barriers that are very difficult for the translator to surmount.  Google can translate words, it takes a poet to translate meaning.

Ayten Mutlu is a Turkish Academic, Poet, Writer and Women’s rights activist.  Born this day in 1952.

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Chapter & Verse

Catholics don’t quote scripture.

I was watching Designated Survivor Series 2 Episode 10, Line of Fire.  Emily Rhodes (Italia Ricci) is in hospital with the mother of a baby who is undergoing an operation but her church does not permit blood transfusions.  The mother spits out the beginning of a bible quote and Rhodes completes it.  She then goes on to tell the mother that she went to Catholic school.

Carrie: Are you devout?
Emily: No. Nine years of Catholic School and I never saw God there.
Carrie: I’m sorry.
Emily: Don’t be. I see it other places, like in a Mother’s love.

Immediately all my alarm bells went off.  The writer got this scene so wrong.  Catholics don’t quote scripture.  Chapter and Verse is a mark of the protestant religion.  It is just not a Catholic thing.

The foundation stone of the Protestant religions is the vernacular bible.  When Martin Luther published his 95 theses in 1517 he was challenging the elements of church dogma that departed from the teachings of the bible.  The Catholic church was perfectly happy to continue with Latin mass and have the faithful rattle out their pater nosters and ave marias in ignorance of the meaning of their words.

It was not until the 1960’s following Vatican II that the Catholic church moved to mass in vernacular languages.  Even today Catholic children do not read the bible in lessons.  They learn prayers and catechism. Many Catholic families do not even own a bible.

At the core of the Protestant religions is the need for the faithful to read the word of God directly, without the clouding effect of interpretation through filters imposed by men such as the Pope, Bishops and Priests.

It is no accident that the timing of the Protestant reformation followed the invention of the moveable type printing press.  In order to become a Protestant you had to have access to a bible, and you had to be able to read it.  The vernacular bible was born.

It then became the mark of a good Protestant to reference the Bible on any point of faith.  If you could back up an action with a quote directly from the Bible that supported the validity of the action.  If you could place your quote precisely in the Bible, by quoting the relevant Chapter & Verse that made the point even more forcefully.

This focus on the word of God bleeds into all aspects of church design.  Catholic churches are gloriously decorated architectural wonders filled with images of saints, Holy Mary, angels, martyrs, votive candles, icons, side chapels, expensive ornamentation.  They are designed to be palaces fit to house the Lord.  You don’t speak directly to God though, you work through intermediaries.  You pray to saints to intercede on your behalf.  You then pay a priest to put in a good word for you too.  The economy of the Catholic church is founded upon the concept that you buy influence.

The most fundamental protestant churches are the plainest.  The focus is on the word.  The only object you need to commune with God is the Word of God and that is in the Bible.

In this regard the most fundamentalist Protestant religions share a great deal of common ground with the most fundamentalist Islamic sects.  Islam also focuses on the word, albeit in the Koran.  Islamic art avoids images of people in case they be interpreted as the image of God, a graven image and an object of idolatrous worship.

Below is the Sancaklar Mosque outside Istanbul.  It is a modernist Islamic space.  The design emulates the cave in which the Prophet Mohammed received the Koran from God.  The only decoration in this Mosque is a piece of calligraphy, the Word of God.  This is a space that would work well for any hard line Presbyterian.  It is a long distance away from the splendorous excess of the Vatican.

Sancaklar.jpg

Flag of the USA

USA flag

We all know the story about how the Flag of the USA has 50 stars which represent 50 states and 13 stripes which represent the original 13 colonies.

All lies.  To begin with, there are not even 50 states in the USA, there are only 45.  The “District of Columbia” is not a State.  Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Virginia are not states, they are “Commonwealths”.  Other commonwealths of the USA are Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands.  So the USA has 45 states and if you include districts and commonwealths the number is 52.  So why are there not 52 stars on the flag?

Also, why 13 stripes?  There were 24 British colonies in America when the rebellion began.  For instance, Florida was part of the British colonies, and is now part of the USA.  But it is not counted as one of the “original” colonies.

The truth is shocking.  When you hear the truth all will become clear.  Why are the USA attacking Afghanistan?  Why are they in Iraq?  Why do they bomb Syria?  Why did they support the “Arab Spring” revolts in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain etc?

Here is the truth, and please forgive me as I must bring you back in time all the way to the Crusades.

In the year 1120 the Crusaders found  a great secret, or treasure, in the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in the ruins of the ancient Temple of Solomon.  The order of Knights Templar was founded to guard this terrible secret.  So what secret could be so terrible?

What they found was an ancient prophesy from 1,000 BCE.  This prophesy spoke of a prophet who would arise in Mecca, that his name would be “Worthy of Praise” and that he would sweep the Jews from the face of the earth.  King Solomon was so worried by this prophesy that he had a great shaft dug on the Temple Mount.  He buried the prophesy in this shaft and covered it over.  He built a great temple on top of the shaft, in the hope that the God of the Jews would be praised, and would prevent the prophesy from coming true.

Two thousand years later when the Crusaders dug up this prophesy they saw that it had come true.  The prophet was Mohammed and his name means “praiseworthy”.  The armies of Islam were sweeping the world.  When this prophesy came to light there was a secret meeting between the Pope in Rome, the Patriarch in Constantinople and the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.  They agreed to a plan to set up an organisation to combat Islam.  This organisation was the Knights Templar.

From the very beginning the Knights Templar was set up with great wealth and great secrecy.  To cover their real purpose they were given a role to “protect pilgrims on the roads to the holy land”.  But this was only ever a cover.

At this stage I want you to remember two images.  One is the image of the Templar Banner, red crosses on a field of white.

Flag Templar

The other is the banner of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, gold crosses on a field of blue.

Flag Jerusalem

To cut a long story very short, the Knights Templar amassed a huge treasure.  They then used this treasure to establish a country, the USA, which has the purpose of fighting Islam  They pretended to disappear, and had a sham trial of the order by the French King in 1307.  In truth they went into hiding.  They searched for a home where they could establish their new kingdom.

Look at any image of the Ships used by Columbus and what is the first thing you will notice?  The Templar cross!  Yes, Columbus was a member of the Templar order, on a mission to find a country in the New World where the war against Islam could grow.  Columbus was not the only Templar sent to establish the new world.  Look at the “San Antiago”, the ship of Amerigo Vespucci, look at the “Mathew” the ship of John Cabot, or “The Golden Hind” the ship of Francis Drake and even the Mayflower.  What they all have in common is that they carry a white flag with a red cross.  They were all Templar ships.

When the founding fathers of the USA designed their flag they did not want to be obvious.  So the flag of the USA has a hidden set of meanings.  We can begin with the Templar Cross.  They took a simple white flag and on it they wrote the Islamic Creed, the Shahada.  It reads

Lā ʾilāha ʾillā l-Lāh Muḥammadur rasūlu l-Lāh

which means There is no god but God, and Mohammed is the messenger of God

Put a number against each word in the creed.

1Lā 2ʾilāha 3ʾillā 4 l-Lāh 5Muḥammadur 6rasūlu 7l-Lāh  

They placed these words in a vertical column on the flag, 7 words, each of which was then covered with a red stripe, a symbol of the triumph of the Templar Cross over Islam.  So the stripes actually say “Death to the Islamic Creed”.  On the original flag, stored in the Smithsonian Museum in a secure vault, the Shahada is actually embroidered beneath the stripes in a green silken thread, as green is a colour sacred to Islam.  This is why there are 7 red stripes on the US flag.  7 stripes for 7 words.

So what do the stars mean?  The Star is a symbol used in Islam to represent the Hope that one day all the world will submit to Allah and his prophet Mohammed.  The religion is based on 5 pillars;  1 Shahada (the creed) 2 Salat (pray 5 times a day) 3 Zakat (give alms to the poor) 4 Sawm (fast during Ramadan) and 5 Hajj (make a pilgrimage to Mecca).  The 5 pointed star is the symbol of the 5 pillars of Islam.

There are 49 countries in the world that have majority Islamic populations.  The blue section of the flag of the USA is based on the blue flag of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.  There are 49 white stars to represent each of the majority Islamic countries, and one more star to represent Muslims who live as a minority in other countries.

If the USA succeed in conquering a Muslim country and converting it back to Christianity they will replace the white star with a gold cross.  The aim of the USA is to have a flag with 50 gold crosses.  If this happens the Prophesy of the Ancient Temple of Solomon will be broken.

Every morning in every school in the USA children make a pledge to the Flag of the USA.  Soldiers in the US Army make the same pledge.  The words of the pledge are:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under Godindivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

So you see, this is a prayer to make the world one nation under a Christian God.

Anyone buying this?  I love a good conspiracy theory!

PS, if you see Muslims burning a US flag, tell them they are burning the words of the Shahada.  That’s blasphemy, punishable by stoning to death!