Charcoal Making

The guy from Primitive Technology makes a reusable charcoal mound. As usual, he demonstrates the method without speaking, using only things he has made himself.

A Few Words on Shamanism

Mircea Eliade one of the first anthropologists to explore Shamanism and write about it in the early sixties writes in his book: Shamanism: Archaic techniques of ecstasy:

“Shamanism in the strict sense is pre-eminently a religious phenomenon of Siberia and Central Asia, The word comes to us, through  the Russian, from the Tungusic ‘saman’…..It has been sought to explain the Tungusic term by the Pali ‘samana’ which is part of the problem of Indian influences on Siberian religions.”

In the book ‘Shamanic voices’ by Joan Halifax we can read the first hand stories as told by shamans and medicine men of today from all corners of the globe including: Australia, South America and Mesoamerica, North America , Siberia, Greenland and Africa.

Shamanism in all cases is performed by a chosen few either because they come from a hereditary line of shamans or because they were chosen by experienced shamans to become shamans. Shamanism proper does not seem to accept volunteers.

Joan Halifax quotes from the Ikinilik:

“I am not a shaman, as I have neither had dreams nor been ill”

In all cases without exception something out of the ordinary must happen for someone to become a shaman. After that person has gone through the ordeals of his initiation his job is always that of a healer, a seer a connoisseur of the language of the spirits of the area and a spiritual advisor to the people.

(Personally I doubt very much that a shaman can operate outside his habitat. How can a shaman from Africa use his helpers and spirits to heal if he resides in America or UK?Also shamans have to adhere to strict diets which are dictated by the specific spirits of the area where the shaman lives. So in India for instance the shaman will never eat meat, but in Siberia they must.)

To do his job the shaman learns or has innate knowledge of how to cultivate the trance state which enables him to draw power from the other world and to bring it to the people who need it. His spirits, guardian animals and helpers advise him as to what tools he needs to make and the content of the rituals he performs and so he busies himself making strange power objects, potions etc

The following quote from the Huichol is revealing  as to the world that the shaman accesses in order to draw his power:

“There is a doorway within our minds that usually remains hidden and secret until the time of death. The Huichol word for it is ‘nierika’. Nierika is a cosmic portway or interface between so-called ordinary and nonordinary realities. It is a passageway and at the same time a barrier between worlds. Nierika a decorated ceremonial disc, is also said to mean mirror as well as face of the diety.”…

Joan Halifax writes that “Nierika is the threshold through which one passes on the voyage to the world of death and visions.”

The initiations that the ‘would be shamans’ have to go through vary from place to place but are always harsh. Sometimes someone is empowered after a period of illness when they are said to die and then be reborn or granted life so that they can then go on to heal, or they may be empowered after an accident such as being struck by lightening or bitten by a poisonous snake etc

Many would be shamans die during their ordeals because these require almost superhuman strength to survive.

From the Escimo/caribou:

Igjugarjuk was compelled by the mysterious divine force Sila to become an ‘angakoq’ (shaman). As a young man he was besieged by dreams that he did not understand…..

The old man Perqanak was chosen as his instructor. In the depth of winter, Igjugarjuk was put on a sledge just large enough for him to sit on and taken far from his home. When he reached the appointed spot, he remained on the sledge while Perqanaq built a snow hut so small that the neophyte could barely sit cross-legged in it. Not permitted to set foot on the snow he was lifted from the sledge, carried into the hut, and placed on a small piece of skin. He was not allowed any food or drink and was exhorted to think of only the Great Spirit and of the helping spirit that should presently appear….. Igjugarjuk declared that the strain of those thirty days was so severe that he “sometimes died a little”.

He recounts:

“When I was to be a shaman, I chose suffering through the two things that are most dangerous to humans, suffering through hunger and suffering through cold. First I hungered five days and was then allowed to drink a mouthful of warm water; the old ones say that only if the water is warm will Pinga and Hila notice the novice and help him. Thereafter I went hungry another fifteen days, and again was given a mouthful of warm water. After that I hungered for ten days, and then could begin to eat, though only the sort of food there is never any taboo, preferably fleshly meat and never intestines, head , heart, or other entrails, nor meat that had been touched by wolf or wolverline when it lay in cache. I was to keep to this diet for five moons, and then in the next five mons might eat everything; but after that  I was again forced to eat the diet that is prescribed for all those who must do penance in order to become clean.”…

 Even in cases where a European has approached shamans asking for initiation he has to undergo physical hardship such as fasting and walking for days on end and also ingest ‘power plants’ which bring on near death experience.

The anthropologist Michael Harner (who founded the ‘centre for shamanic studies’ and even a degree course on shamanism!) was initiated by the Jivaro Indians of Ecuador. Part of his initiation included ingesting the sacred drink ‘ayahuasca’, the “soul vine” also called “the little death”.

Michael Harner  after his fieldwork sought to bring together all the various shamanistic techniques mentioned by Mircea Eliade and to train anyone who wants to be a shaman in any place in the world.

Indeed his well written and user friendly book “The way of the shaman’ has been a best seller since the 1980 and gives a taste of shamanism.

A very different type of shamanism (if it can be called that at all), was shown by Carlos Castaneda. He advocates that the ultimate way to wellbeing and healing is by attaining freedom of perception: a state where one can ‘see’ energy as it flows through the universe.

Although he himself endured many hardships through his initiations to become a ‘seer’ the modern form of ‘Tensegrity’ which he founded can be followed easily by anyone but it does not claim to produce shamans. It is something altogether different. A way to true wellbeing,  power and knowledge.

….And so I think is ‘Heesht

It sounds more like a meditation or  mystical path where one aligns oneself with the rhythms of nature. This I believe is a worthwhile exercise but not ‘shamanism’ -as the history of its practice shows-.

What is interesting is that in shamanism the initiatition process or incident is so powerful that you can only undergo it once in your lifetime and its effects are long lasting. They last for a lifetime (as long as one doesn’t abuse the power through alcohol or other)

In meditation  and mystical paths on the other hand it is more a case of continuous practice to have access to the unknown. Experience has shown that both ways have validity.

Byron Zeliotis


Heesht – The Way of the Peasant

From the Saroeso library

The Way of the Peasant

Starts with a dreamy child who is fascinated by the agility of ants and watches dreamily the movement of the grass as the wind blows or rain falls on water, making a mirror of a still pool, reflecting the unseen.  Heesht watches and follows with interest the autumn flocks of birds as they patrol in their thousands.  Heesht’s interest is not diverted by the singular movement but surveys the all as one.  It does not shift, it is not captured by one thing or another.  It is as though the spiders web of captivity of interest does not exist.  The butterfly of thought is not caught in the web of why, where or how.  Heesht follows the moment and rides the continuously changing reflections.  Heesht sees the rising and falling of clouds of insects in the air and is held by the web of movement’s interest. It follows the rising and falling of the smoke from the fire as it tells its tale and watches the snow and the sleet following the wind and the weather.  Heesht listens to the bells of the sheep ringing in the hills and sees the slow rising and falling of the hills and valleys and the swelling and shrinking of water in the tides on the seashore.  It sees the circling of the lights around the northern or southern star and the paths followed by the sun and the moon in their travels around the sky.

To recognise a budding shaman on its growing is the main task of a shaman.  Heesht shows itself at a very early age and can be spoilt at this age. The faculty must be nurtured at an age when it is assumed the child has few chances to act on its own. All grown ups can remember the unnerving gaze of a young child: it just looks at you, not judging, with the result that you judge yourself, and this ends with you liking yourself or otherwise. It triggers off your own mirror in effect, and you see yourself through its eyes. You must look for the child with this faculty and the ability to sustain its state for longer than 100 breaths.  Timing is essential in detection of the budding Heesht, then further tests: does the child appear to see entities not physically present?   One danger is mistaken kindness – one must not pity the child, but one must feel what it feels.  Does Heesht like clouds, insects, birds or animals?  Does it spend its time in high places watching them; is it fascinated by flowing water, thunder, lightning or the stars in the sky?  Is dusk or dawn interesting to it?  Mistaken attempts to attract its interest must be resisted – you remember what happened to you when you were enjoying a scene, and the other person said ‘Did you see…’ that bird? or that sight? or that beautiful experience?

Isiladia Pure reflection field equanimity     mugagabe/


ignorance / wisdom 1
Adi aldatua abstract attention force reverie volitional formations 2
Aldamena scattered attention flow hidden agenda progenitive consciousness 3
Liluradurako attracted attention form field mest*


  Energy mind
Atzemana Captured attention force mind base 5
Euskora Held attention flow contact 6
Galdegai egina focussing attention field form feeling 7
Ezarria Imposed attention force agenda decision craving 8
Izatea identified attention flow clinging 9
Antzemena recognised attention form field becoming 10
Etiketa labelled attention force birth 11
Gainezkoa redundant attention flow death 12
Aztarna remnant form

Ikusia – sight
Soinua – sound
Dasta – Taste
Ukimena – touch
Suma – smell
Ahalegina – effort
orabidea – orientation

*mest = mass, energy, space, time

The basque words above are open to change –  we are not sure if we have the right ones – in fact the whole document is open to change and additions are welcomed.


A story from the Sareoso library…

I found myself in a huge market full of customers. It stretched from east to west, south to north. People of all colours surrounded me all seeking different vegetables and fruits, nuts, grains and pulses, all sort of clothing and tools and artefacts. The crowds gathered in clumps, mixed up, separated and joined again in groups, and I felt myself pushed and pulled and propelled into the midst and forced from one crowd to another until I came to a halt.

There on the pavement before me lay a heap of limbs clothed all in green, with a green hat: a Robin Hood hat, with a jaunty feather – at least it was once, but now it was draggled, its fronds squashed and muddied.

I helped the person to his feet. He was laughing uncontrollably. He picked up his hat and the feather off the ground and reached into the sack that he was carrying and took out a small comb, with which he began to smooth out the plume. It began to perk up and appeared more like an ostrich feather and looked like an adornment again. He put it into his hat where it began to look like a flag as it waved in the breeze made by the crowds and his own movements. He grabbed and held me by the right forearm and said urgently “Come on, we’re going now,”

For some reason I followed him, and he dived through the throngs of people in the market place. The people parted as if they were snow and we were water, and then we reached the gates out of the market. Before us lay the road which stretched into the distance.

“Come on,” he said, “come on.” I followed; I did not know why, I just followed. He came to a sudden stop and from his side he produced a 3-part stick which he spread out and reaching into his bag he drew out a circular frame and placed it on the top of the 3-part stick. He then pulled from his bag 3 counters: black crowned on one side, white shell shapes on the other, and after shaking them in a small leather bag laid them out in a row. The three pointed the way – – – which ever colour predominated, one took a turn in that direction. If all black, one stopped. If all white, started again. He did this so seriously I was quite impressed. His performance was spoilt by the dance he performed in the end. He giggled, turned to the left, giggled and turned to his front, giggled again turned again, did a backward flip and a forward somersault, packed up his table-top and folded his stick and put it on his back and without hesitation he followed the direction indicated by the counters along what was the coast road. It followed the path between the reed beds and the coast. We were surrounded by hordes of insects and as dusk fell, flock of birds alighted which seemed to spend their sleeping time in the reed beds.

We were met by a shore-dweller carrying a bag of scallops, and he offered them to us when he saw our preparations to spend the night under the starry moon. The idiot had stopped, and he reached into his bag and took out a stone. He took dried leaves from the reeds and struck a rock with his knife. The spark lit the fire on his dried grass. From this he started a blaze and he laid the shellfish on top of the fire, and after a few breaths, they were cooked and ready to eat. Then the fool asked to look into my shoulder pack and pulled out red gossamer cloak which I did not own and said, “You will need this”. I put it around me and indeed I felt warm immediately and as I covered my head, all sights and sounds disappeared. I was blind and deaf and fell asleep straight away.

Some time later I became aware of the birds in the reeds waking, and found that the cloak was not covering my head. I awoke with a start and found that I was establishing my world again.

The shellfish gatherer was also awake and had gathered a heap of dried reeds and was making a fire, with the fool’s help. He put more shellfish on the fire and they were soon cooked. We broke our fast and planted the shells on the edge of the path. They were soon surrounded by insects and the awakened birds – who also broke their fast on the insects, and then they flew off in groups until they formed huge cloud-masses in the sky so that the waking sun was darkened.

The fool took out his 3-part stick, his counters and the tabletop, and taking his lead from them, he took the left fork in the trail which led up over sand hills clothed in samphire and spinach, which the fool gathered and put in his pack. He passed birds nests on the ground which contained eggs and he put these in his pack, dancing along and chuckling as he went. He stopped still and held his arm out. A sudden silence fell.

There before us were gathered a group of fifteen people with a central figure who was painted blue all over. She was fat and seemed to be asleep and naked except for a rabbit skin loincloth and rabbit skins draped over her shoulders. One of the group took her a leaf filled with snails’ eggs and snakes’ eggs. She rubbed them into her breasts and began to chant.

As she chanted a great snail appeared, and also a snake. The snail split into two and the snake danced with its double. The snakes’ eggs split and small snakes made their appearance. Meantime the snakes shot each other with arrows and made eggs where the arrows had pierced the other.

There was a roar, the sea rolled over the sand hills and we three were left standing on a tall sand hill, alone and surrounded by sea, which drained away, leaving us on the sand hill with a possible path to go forward.

The shellfish gatherer was shaking with fright and ran off, leaving the fool to throw his counters again. This time the path led up to higher ground where a great tree lay buried, its branches in the earth.  Its roots looked up to the sun and it was surrounded by little huts.

In each hut were two people, male and female, who sat worshipping the upside down tree.

The fool laughed again: “They will do it, and think it’s their choice. It is, but it’s no choice – it is their nature and they will flock together”.

In the west a bank of heavy clouds formed up, the sky was heavy and overcast. The clouds began to turn in on themselves.

“Quick, wrap your cloak around you”. With the cloak wrapped around me came the first large splatter of rain which was followed by hail falling by the bucketful making the earth respond like a drum, then there fell rain. It was like being under a waterfall under the cloak. I was untouched by the rain, and the following wind which lifted the plants out of the ground. Even the earth moved – it lifted underneath and stood on its end. It seemed to be like a dog shaking the rain off itself.

Then the world stood still and silent for a spell.

Then out of the sky there fell a rain of fish and strawberries, and strangely a rain of crabs, all pregnant with their clumps of eggs clinging to their legs.

I took off my cloak. The wind and rain had stopped and left the sand hills bare of vegetation but it left the sea as far as one could see – only where the hills had stood, there were just jagged rooks on end dividing the sand hills into a bay of pools. “Let’s go,” said Fool, splashing merrily thro’ the pools left by the storm. I protested to Fool “Where shall we go? It’s all sea and pools”.

“Don’t worry, the path will clear,” he said and danced on, getting us both very wet. The bay seemed to be draining itself and where a bay stretched before us, land appeared, a stretch of small hills and jagged rocks with odd creatures lay before us in each fold of the earth.

There now was a sort of animal like a seal whose flippers had become arms and legs and they inhabited the folds of land between the rocks and the caves they formed in the earth beneath.

Then there was a very loud bark and all the creatures turned their heads toward it. They then raised their heads and barked in response. Then there followed a horrible mixed up caterwauling which gradually subsided into a long sustained sound, and this faded into a sound of many voices breathing in and out together.

Eventually there was a silence, in and out breath in unison, and silence… The main barker gave a very loud bark and the individual creatures resumed their varying sounds as though they were talking and gossiping together in groups of families, even seeming to be quarrelling among themselves, singing and chorusing together in opposition to one another.

The fool set up his table and threw his counters. He laid them out and we set off on the path that went up onto high ground.

Small trees appeared along the path and we were soon walking in a forest, with bigger trees appearing in the woods. We followed what looked like an animal track through the wood: it seemed to be between glades or clearings under the trees, and the fool appeared to be following a strange copy of himself, but where he was clumsy and accidental, her figure was elegant and neat. Her headdress was a shroud of dragonflies and butterflies, but because the clouds of them were in motion one could not see her properly and she was too far away. She flitted though the trees between the clearing in the wood as a Will-o’-the-Wisp, giving me just a glimpse of her as the sun shone on her through the shadows. She seemed to be the epitome of nature, combining the elegance of a cat with the artful movements of a preening bird. His responses to her were not obvious – he became more serious, his movements more controlled. At her most elegant movements he became more soldierly, more self-disciplined. She looked like a reverse mirror of him: when he was at his most disconnected her movements became neater, more elegant, but who was copying whom I could not see.

As we progressed through the forest, for such it had become, the clearings became more obvious – wider, and they looked more ominous; they started as containing heaps of dried bodies, dead ants and dead grass-hoppers, then became the bones of rats and mice and progressed from ants to sheep and cattle, then on to foxes, cats and bigger predators.

In each clearing there was a proper body of the creature made up in dried clay, very lifelike and having a very real presence in the air surrounding it and as one progressed through the woods one found a person made up in its likeness and as you moved through to the predators each inhabitant became more menacing in his/her/its make up – the teeth became more terrifying, the horns more threatening and the scales more impressive, and all the while the fool and his counterpart carried out their endless dance.

I was getting very tired. The idiot seemingly had endless energy and made his way following the trail of the dancer.

We reached what seemed to be the depth of forest and found ourselves in a cathedral of trees and we became aware that all the occupiers of the clearing – bones, bodies and all – were in some sense accompanying us. There was a whole skeletal world following us and forming an edge to the clearing we found ourselves in.

“Quick, cover your head with the cloak!” the fool said.

For some reason I obeyed him, as through the tangle of low branches and low-lying plants a lion showed himself, followed by a mighty eagle and a magnificent bull, then a winged man – by which time I had covered my head completely – and all external impressions faded into silence. In my mind’s eye (for I had no sight, no hearing) the eagle had become a man, the lion became a bull, and a voice thundered, “From great to small and back, the cycle continues, and so it shall be to time’s end.”

I felt the tug of my cloak being removed and found the idiot had removed it.

I came to and he was operating his table again. The clearing was empty, the female had gone and there was a hole in the vegetation big enough for us to walk through.

A cloud of bats flew out of the gap, and another entered the space. We found ourselves walking between rocks down into the depths of the earth. A hoard of bats were flittering in and out, their high-pitched squeaks surrounding us with sound.

Then the path ended in a large cavern, so high and wide it looked as though it contained the whole world. The fool produced from his bag a large candle which, after many attempts, he lit. The walls of the large cavern contained a picture of the woodland glade, with the difference that here the heaps of bodies and bones were as though they were living. The artist that drew them drew them as living.

Most of the forms we recognised, but there were monsters which I did not recognise, though they did remind me of creatures I had known. The artist had included sea creatures, of which I had been told, but had not seen myself, and could not at present comprehend – only vaguely.

I found myself with a small light and an obsidian sheet, and could see a whole world in this light which flickered and waxed and waned and as it did so the walls of the cave were reflected on the sheet of black glass.

As the light shifted and changed, the substance of the reflector altered and a new vision of the cave came into view, and what with the sights and their accompanying sounds, smells and tastes, my mind was overwhelmed by its varying visions and senses.

I could see the heaps of spoil which each produced, all of which fell into a deep pit and descended into the earth of its world, only to disappear into the great chasm and joined the great void as though it were all water falling into an underground cave where all the forms which they once possessed became one. Each world which emerged by viewing the shadows on the black sheet became by turns the burial grounds and the history of its world before it fell into the depths of the great Sink.

The fool roughly pulled the cloak off me and said, “Stop dreaming, it’s getting serious!” and laughed uproariously.

He perched on a rock and took out his counters and his makeshift table. He said, “It’s make your mind up time – what do you really want from all this? Gamble!” He made me throw them. He numbered the 6 from 1 to 12 and named them as the ‘Sigils of Being’, and then he started on the path out of the cave.

As we climbed upward it be came unbearably hot. He made signs that we should wear our cloaks and the heat diminished. It got colder and colder… then colder, and yet more cold, until it was a cold cutting wind that blew between the worlds.

We were on a mountain that stood amongst peaks in a world of ice and snow and overlooked a deep bowl which was the mouth of a volcano. A dead volcano.

We went down into the depths of this bowl, slipping and sliding until we had descended to the bottom, where there was a lake made of the melt water from the ice and snow which surrounded us. On the edge of this lake, we laid out to dry all 12 of the Sigils. The fool said, “Take the Sigil you have thrown.”

That I did.

“Take up the garment. Is it flexible?”


“Then dip it into the lake again and lay it out on the ice bank. Keep doing it until it is flexible.”

I had to do this many times. Eventually it became flexible and it contained no ice. I showed it to the Fool. He disappeared laughing, and all disappeared, only the marketplace remained, with all its would-be customers all paying on credit provided by the market manager – for all the products on sale were provided by the customers’ labour and expertise, and the source for all the raw materials was fire, water, air and earth, which was continually recycled via black holes and z.p.e. – the transformers of m.e.s.t. the eternal compost heap.

The active form = life.


Myths of British Ancestry

“Everything you know about British and Irish ancestry is wrong. Our ancestors were Basques, not Celts. The Celts were not wiped out by the Anglo-Saxons, in fact neither had much impact on the genetic stock of these islands. …

Myths of British Ancestry,  Stephen Oppenheimer, Prospect Magazine, 2006.

The Saros Series

Ok, so you’ve got the sun, the moon and the earth…


Very difficult to see these in the correct proportions, because the earth and moon are so tiny compared to the sun, which is so very far away. Note how far the earth and moon are from each other as well.

Anyway, an eclipse happens when the moon gets in the way of the sun’s light, as seen from the earth. What a very long way to throw a shadow!

In the diagram above, if you were standing on the earth in the place where the red lines touch it and you were looking towards the sun, you wouldn’t be able to see it because the moon would be in the way:


The disc of the moon as seen from earth strangely happens to be exactly the right size to exactly block out the disc of the sun. The sun is very much bigger but because it’s so far away it seems smaller. (Stars of course are suns as well, but they are ever so far away, so they look really tiny.)

If you weren’t standing on the earth where those red lines converge, you wouldn’t see the eclipse- the shadow of the moon is only cast on a small area, and this area moves around the surface of the earth in a very long-term pattern, which can be described thus:

Each eclipse belongs to a family of eclipses.

Each family will have an eclipse somewhere on the earth every 18.03 years.

The place where this eclipse occurs on the surface of the earth will move down in latitude a bit and round the earth by 120 degrees longitude (that’s a third of the way round the whole 360 degrees).

Each family starts with a partial eclipse at one of the poles and spirals round the earth having an eclipse in another place every 18.03 years until it reaches the equator, where the eclipses will be total, and then the pattern carries on round the other side of the earth, spiralling round until it reaches the other pole.


The eclipses also occur in a particular pattern around the zodiac.  Every eclipse pattern starts in a particular place in the zodiac. Each new eclipse (18.03 years later, remember) occurs 10 degrees further round the zodiac. So halfway through the pattern’s cycle – that is, after 650 years – the eclipses have gone once round the zodiac.

They go twice round the zodiac during the whole cycle.

If you put the zodiac around the equator and looked at the earth,


you could see all the eclipses in the pattern would look a bit like this:


There are around 70 to 72 eclipses in each family of eclipses

There are about 42 of these families all at different points of their cycle at any time, half going from North to South, and half from South to North.

© Sareoso April 2001

There’s more information about the Saros series on Wikipedia.