Ancient Egyptian Games: Senet

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The statues and pyramids, the Nile river and the desert, the hieroglyphics and the Rosetta Stone get all the press, but the ancient Egyptians enjoyment of play and especially games from athletic demonstrations of strength to board games which we’ll focus upon the most popular one here.  They had toys made of clay and wood and fashioned balls out of leather. They loved to dance and also loved to swim in the Nile River. Board games and pictures depicting people dancing in circles have been found in tombs dating back thousands of years.

senet

Senet was the most popular game of the ancient Egyptians.  The oldest hieroglyph resembling a senet game dates to around 3100 BC.  The full name of the game meant the “game of passing” in ancient Egyptian.  One of the oldest known Senet board representations ever found was a painting from 2,686 B.C. in the tomb of Hesy-Ra. The board game had three rows of ten squares. Some of the squares had symbols which represented bad and good fortune. Two sets of pawns were used to play the game. The object of the game was to be the first player to pass into the afterlife unscathed by bad fortunes along the way.  People are depicted playing senet in a painting in the tomb of Rashepes, as well as from other tombs of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties (c. 2500 BC).   The oldest intact senet boards date to the Middle Kingdom, but graffiti on Fifth and Sixth Dynasty monuments could date as early as the Old Kingdom.

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At least by the time of the New Kingdom in Egypt (1550–1077 BC), senet was conceived as a representation of the journey of the ka (the vital spark) to the afterlife. This connection is made in the Great Game Text, which appears in a number of papyri, as well as the appearance of markings of religious significance on senet boards themselves. The game is also referred to in chapter XVII of the Book of the Dead.  Senet also was played by people in neighboring cultures, and it probably came to those places through trade relationships between Egyptians and local peoples.

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The senet gameboard is a grid of 30 squares, arranged in three rows of ten. A senet board has two sets of pawns (at least five of each).The movement of the counters was decided by throwing four two-sided sticks or, in some cases, knucklebones.  Although details of the original game rules are a subject of some conjecture, senet historians Timothy Kendall and R. C. Bell have made their own reconstructions of the game.  These rules are based on snippets of texts that span over a thousand years, over which time gameplay is likely to have changed. Therefore, it is unlikely these rules reflect the actual course of ancient Egyptian gameplay.   Their rules have been adopted by sellers of modern senet sets.

Ta’amia

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Ta’amia was very popular with the Ancient Egyptians and continues to be popular in the middle east today. It was made with fava beans, but these can be substituted with chickpeas to make the well known version of Ta’amia known as falafel.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb fava beans soaked overnight and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1-2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • A pinch of salt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Sesame seeds to coat the cakes
  • Olive oil for frying

Preparation

  1. Ensure the beans are soft and remove their skins. Mix the beans together with all of the ingredients except the oil and sesame seeds and either mash or blend them in a food processor until you have a thick paste.
  2. Set the paste aside for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to set.
  3. Knead the mixture and form into small round cakes about 2cm thick.
  4. Sprinkle each side of the cakes with sesame seeds and shallow fry in hot olive oil for two to three minutes until golden brown.
  5. Serve with flat bread and lettuce tossed in olive oil, lemon juice and pepper. Alternatively you can also serve with a tahini dip.

Mindfulness: I’m too busy and other excuses…

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The practice of mindfulness takes patience and dedication and the litany of excuses not to practice are endless, but I will attempt to debunk a few of the more common ones.

“It makes me more anxious”

Some people, especially people with anxiety issues, find practicing mindfulness increases their anxiety.  This is an understandable reaction, but not enough to give up on the practice.  It is often found that the exercises focusing on breathing cause the most anxiety.  Simply focus on the non-breathing focused exercises to begin and once you become comfortable with mindfulness practice come back to the breathing exercises.

 I just can’t do it

What exactly does the person mean by this?  Is it just too hard?  Are they having difficulties concentrating?  Do they believe to be successful thoughts and feeling never intrude?  Many people say they can’t do it when they just mean it is really hard.  Truth is practicing mindfulness is a hard skill and the only way to get better is to keep pursuing it.

I don’t have time

This is one of the simplest problems to fix.  You can practice mindfulness anytime, doing anything.  If what you mean is you don’t have time for formal practice, let me remind you some of the exercises only take a few to ten minutes.  It is better to spend 10 minutes fully dedicated than an hour half-heartedly.  Try setting aside 10 minutes in the morning to practice mindfulness.

I can’t stay focused

Mindfulness is simply about staying in the present moment with acceptance.  Please throw any other expectations out the window.  The object of practicing mindfulness for many is to feel better.  It is with this in mind that we reach a paradox.  To feel better you must practice mindfulness, but if you focus on feeling better you have trouble staying focused on mindfulness.  So throw away the goal while practicing mindfulness and you will achieve that goal.

I fall asleep

Some people find they drift off when they practice mindfulness.  If the person has trouble sleeping this can be a good thing, simply practice mindfulness of part of your preparing for bed routine.  There are several factors to consider if this is a common issue:

  • Do you need more sleep? If you are sleep deprived your body will want to take advantage of this quiet time.
  • Is there a better time of day to practice? If at the end of the day you are always exhausted, simply begin practicing in the morning.
  • Did you eat a big meal shortly before practicing? Watch out for a food coma!
  • Is there a different position you can try? If you practice mindfulness lying down, simply try it is a sitting position.
  • Are you closing your eyes? Keep your eyes open while practicing.

You have to plan for the future

Some people believe that practicing mindfulness means you never consider the past or the future.  This simply is not the case, but you may be able to do those things mindfully whereas you do not currently.  Often planning for the future isn’t planning at all, but instead it is worrying.  Mindfulness actually helps you in planning for the future by keeping you grounded in reality of the present moment.

The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts

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THE THREE TREASURES

  • Taking refuge in the Buddha
  • Taking refuge in the Dharma
  • Taking refuge in the Sangha

The Three Pure Precepts

  • Do not create Evil
  • Practice Good
  • Actualize Good For Others

 The Ten Grave Precepts

  • Respect life – Do not kill
  • Be giving – Do not steal
  • Honor the body – Do not misuse sexuality
  • Manifest truth – Do not lie
  • Proceed clearly – Do not cloud the mind
  • See the perfection – Do not speak of others errors and faults
  • Realize self and other as one – Do not elevate the self and blame others
  • Give generously – Do not be withholding
  • Actualize harmony – Do not be angry
  • Experience the intimacy of things – Do not defile the Three Treasures

Necrography of Paris: An Introduction

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Necrography of Paris

There are a multitude of reasons for visiting Paris: the museums, the food, the cultural significance, but one of the primary reasons I propose you visit Paris is the necrography. The cemeteries of Paris are their own set of museums of the rich, famous and infamous. From Napoleon at Les Invalides, to Victor Hugo at The Pantheon, to Edgar Degas at Montmartre, to the unknown multitudes in the catacombs, but first A few words on Edith Piaf, Moliere, Jim Morrison, and the many other at Paris’s largest cemetery Pere Lachaise which I lived a few blocks from and wandered many times.

Pere Lachaise the oldest of the current cemeteries of Paris opened in 1804 under the direction of Napoleon. Later the same week Napoleon crowned himself emperor. At the time Paris was in dire need of a new cemetery’s with skeletons protruding from churchyard grounds. The old Cimetiere des Innocents was overloaded with corpses breaking through the walls of an adjacent apartment house spilling into the basement. The scandal that resulted, as well as the odor, led to laws that forbid the burials in the city’s cemeteries and churchyards. In 1786 a quarry south of Paris had been opened for the overflow of bones.

At the start people did not flock to the new cemetery. In an effort to give the cemetery more distinction they performed reburials of two noted authors Moliere and La Fontaine. Soon Pere Lachaise was considered the most prestigious as other cemeteries were built. To this day if you can afford the heavy price it is the preferred burial plot in Paris. Its 118 acres of famous men and women from France and the world can be explored in a multitude of fashions with several different entrances, my preferred entrance can be accessed from the Rue de la Roquette which turns into Avenue Principale. All of the roads within the grand cemetery are named and posted like a small city of the dead all their own. Picking up a free map at the entrance or downloading it is highly recommended. ( https://api-site.paris.fr/images/74643)

Following Avenue Principale leads you to some renown grave sites the first of which is Colette. Sidonie Gabriella Colette (b. January 28, 1873, Saint-Sauveur; d. August 3, 1954, Paris). The author of Gigi and Claudine at School among others. It wasn’t until 1904 that she was allowed to use her own name on her stories. She was never much into conventional morality. After separating from her first husband she toured the country working as a mime, approvingly baring her breasts when the script required it. She would go on to have two further marriages. She wrote, “It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses.”

Within this section are many other notable figures among them Georges Eugene Haussmann (1809-1891) a prefect who modernized and widened the streets of Paris. Interestingly he wished to do away with all cemeteries in Paris and instead have a huge (5,000 acre) cemetery 14 miles outside Paris and employ funeral trains to transport the coffins and mourners. The people of Paris resisted this idea. Eventually you will pass Camille Pissaro, Frederic Chopin and many others before arriving at one of the most visited and which a cult following of teens and early twenties make a vigil to nearly everyday.

James Douglas Morrison (b. December 8, 1943, Melbourne, Florida; d. July 3, 1971, Paris). Coming from a patriotic military family and with an IQ of 149 he dallied as a gifted philosophy student, poet, heavy drinker before finding the medium for which he would become infamous lead singer of the rock group The Doors. His fame soared between 1967 to 1970, yet he spent his final months in Paris while attempting to become a serious poet. His official death was a heart attack in his bathtub, but conjecture started immediately. There was no autopsy and he was secretly buried at Pere Lachaise. Of course Morrison had fantasized about faking his death and starting a new life under the name “Mr. Mojo Risin.” One of his more famous lyrics,

“ This is the end / Beautiful friend / This is the end / My only friend, the end. / Of our elaborate plans, the end / Of everything that stands, the end / No safety or surprise, the end / I’ll never look into your eyes…again”

Mindfulness Training

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Other than meditation how should I practice mindfulness?

 Walking Practice

  • “Kinhin” is Sanskrit
  • Slowly walk, a step on a three count
  • “Walking not in order to arrive, but just to walk.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

Chanting

  • Mantras or whole Sutras are chanted
    • Attunes the mind and body

 Bowing

  • Expression of respect or veneration
  • Greeting, thank you, or to take leave
    • Palm-to-palm, slight bow from the waist
  • Gratitude
    • Bow at waist, drop to knees, forehead to floor
  • Prostrations
    • Full Body Bow
      • “The act of unself-conscious prostration before a Buddha is … possible under the impetus of reverence and gratitude. Such “horizontalizings of the mast of ego”cleanse the heart-mind, rendering it flexible and expansive, and open the way to an understanding and appreciation of the exalted mind and manifold virtues of the Buddha and patriarchs. So there arises within us a desire to express our gratitude and show our respect before their personalized forms through appropriate ritual”  ~ Phillip Kapleau

Zen Practices of Mindfulness:

  • Akido
    • A dynamic defensive activity involving body movement and sparrinh with a short staff or sword.
  • Brush Painting
    • The fully engaged process of tapping and releasing energy to create an especially powerful composition.
  • Haiku
    • A seventeen-syllable poem (3 lines of 5-7-5) capturing the essence of a subject.
  • Ikebana
    • The arrangement of flowers in a spiritually and aesthetically satisfying manner.
  • Karate
    • A weaponless form of self-defense aimed at disarming an opponent or rendering his hostile motions harmless.
  • Kyudo
    • A form of archery combining spiritual and physical training.
  • No Drama
    • A style of theatre aimed at the direct communication of experience and emotion.
  • Pottery Making
    • An approach to making pottery that conveys special respect for the materials and process.
  • Shakuhaci
    • The playing of a bamboo flute in harmony with the breath and the emotional force moving the breath.
  • Tea Ceremony
    • An especially graceful and aware preparation of tea and management of the tea-partaking interchange between host and guest.
  • Zen Gardening
    • A meditative approach to creating, tending, and enjoying a garden

Phryne the Thespian

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Phryne the Thespian:

Phryne the Thespian was a notable hetaira, or courtesan, of Athens, who has been remembered throughout the millennia for her dramatic trial which she won by baring her breasts.

According to Athenaeus, Phryne was prosecuted on a capital offense, and was defended by the orator Hypereides, one of her lovers. Athenaeus does not specify the nature of the charge, though some other historical sources state that she was accused of profaning the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Although there is great debate among scholars about what really happened that day in court, Athenaeus wrote that Hypereides tore off Phryne’s dress in the middle of the courtroom to show the judges her beautiful body. His reasoning was that only the gods could sculpt such a perfect body; thus killing or imprisoning her would be seen as blasphemy and disrespect to the gods.

What appeared to be an unfavorable verdict for Phryne turned into a glorious victory for her after the inspired action of Hypereides. Phryne walked out the court triumphant, and her story went on to inspire many works of art, including the iconic painting Phryne before the Areopagus by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1861).

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