Rants & Essays

Something About a Big Red Disc

By Marcus Pan

New York City can be a nasty place. There are smells here that would knock a donkey on its ass. Really...and hell, that's only ONE of five (six?) senses. Scenery? I won't even go into it. But I gotta tell 'ya. When you're standing on the roof of a 12 (or something) story building at 5:30AM, and you're high above the street so none of the olfactory stimuli is rising high enough to offend your pet donkey, and – hell, it's 5:30 what the hell kind of nut is going to be up and about at 5:30 in the flippin' morning? Oh wait. Nevermind then. As I was saying, when you're standing on the roof of a 12 or so story building at 5:30AM and that sucker is climbing up there, everything else can be easily tossed aside.

Sun's rising now. Just sliding up there, Apollo pulling it along on his gold-spewing chariot with his fiery steeds. Or, if you like, Helios rising. Or Ra lifts his staff up with the jeweled hilt to shine down and...oh hell, pick a religion, there'll be something about the sun in there. And is it any wonder? Lookit the thing - it's huge. It's hot. It's what...4.8 billion or million or somesuch miles away and it can still feed a flower. Is it any wonder that this thing's going to be worshipped?

Hunters/gatherers - take American Indian for example (I'm part Cherokee myself - bet you didn't know that, huh? No, not kidding...s'why I wear the wolf bracelet and ring - anyone notice that yet?). Early on they were hunter/gatherers. "Roam where the buffalo roam." They noticed the sun as something that went up, something that went down, then it came up again. Big red disc in the sky. Because they were hunters/gatherers they looked at the woods for their deities - in the beginning. Civilization took its toll and eventually the hunter/gatherers decided to sod off the whole walking around thing. Teepees, which were easy to roll up and carry off, became stick/grass/mud huts which were meant to stand in place. Ever try rolling up mud? Sure you have - you were a kid once. I hold a BA in mudpie assembly line production. The Pet Rock guy took my customers.

Anyway, I'm digressing. I always digress. So now we have huts. And of course, the buffalo are still wandering so they'd send out their hunters to go find them, beat 'em up, take 'em home, but they weren't bopping around the planet all that much anymore. They settled in. Live in the mud, hung out in the dirt - and hey, what's this green shit? What would happen if we took some of this green shit, put it over here, and suddenly BOOM - agriculture - shrinking buffalo ribs were being added to with your various green bits o' leafy things. Cool, we've discovered how to supplement our food supply. No need to follow the buffalo any more - we don't need as much as we used to.

And suddenly, they looked up and it wasn't long before it hit them that this big shiny red disk up there was pretty damn important to their food supply. And, again, BOOM some shaman shrieked out another god in one of his peyote-ridden episodes in the sweat hut. And the sun became a deity.

The A-Indians were pretty savage as far as old races go. Take it back, oh, a while. Say...a couple thousand years? A bit west, there was a race of people that discovered the sun quite early. Hell, the sun pretty much killed 'em for all intents and purposes. And thus it was given the name of Ra - and attributed a personality that was revered and feared. Mythological dieties weren't exactly NICE - and because people at the time found themselves to be pretty flawed they added these flaws to their gods. Maybe it was to make them feel better, maybe it was to be more realistic - but there was no all-forgiving, never-makes-a-mistake entity in their book. That whole schtick came about thousands years later when some guy was claimed to have died and got back up again (by the way, on the Shroud of Turin thing - bulldinkies...carbon dating misses the Jesus-death period by at least 300 years, and I've seen an image that could vaguely resemble Jesus in my bowl of Cheerios one time so don't feed me that line either). Did I mention that the cross symbol that Pontius Pilot hung our good buddy on was adapted from the Egyptian ankh? (Did I mention that the Christmas tree idea was adapted from the Druid/Celtic tradition of decorating a tree with food offerings after the reap on the Winter Solstice? Did I mention that Halloween is a bastardization of the Druidic ritual of All Hallows Eve, in which relatives would lay out places at their table for passed away loved ones because they believed on this day the veil between life and death was weak and they'd come home to eat? Oh and the mask/costume shite wasn't a game - masks were to scare away evil spirits much like gargoyles etched into the spires of churches. Nearly everything's bastardized at this point...) I wear one of those too...the ankh to Egypt was the symbol of Ra - life, fertility, power.

And no wonder - the sun KICKED THEIR ASS. They had ONE river. ONE! The Nile. And on either side was pretty much sand and dirt. Can't grow much in sand and dirt. But they were pretty advanced - agriculture existed there too, but it was world's tougher than American soil. But they learned quite early that peeling a cactus was a bitch and didn't make for good stew, so they did their best at the growing idea.

So the sun to them was a being of utter terror. The Egyptians were also egotists - their pharaohs were CONSIDERED gods. Pharaoh Amun Ra [sp] actually thought he WAS Ra. He turned all their religious holidays (and there were a lot - lots 'o gods, lots o' worshippin' to do) into sun days. Matter of fact, Egypt can be considered the FIRST civilization to ever attempt a singular-god religion (at least as far as historical records indicate). Ra was IT. Amun Ra banished and tore down ALL OTHER gods and refused to see them worshipped, revered - even mentioned. It was the religion of the Sun - and that's it. Think how damn impressive that red disc in the sky was to a civilization that for the period of one man's rule that it was all they worshipped.

They switched right back to multi-deitical religion afterwards. Promptly after taking a big theoretical dumpage on Amun Ra’s grave. He pissed off a lot of people with that sun-only maneuver...

Let's hop up a continent. The Egyptian kingdom can probably be considered one of the longest lasting civilizations in all of Earth's history. Well, frankly, I'm not quite sure how long Babylon was said to last - but I don't think it had nearly a span as Egypt. Siskel and Ebert give Egypt a thumbs up...

Let's hop back up the continent as we said. The Greco-Roman empire was another multi-deitied group. They, however, made their gods even pissier. Probably because they were pretty silly and petty in a lot of ways. Competition was a big thing in Greece and Rome - hell, they started the whole Olympic thing in the first place (and they did it NAKED - that's gotta hurt people...). They were also big on cultural things. Loved music, danced a lot, created a buttload of instruments. And who was the greatest musician among their gods? Apollo/Helios. The sun. Go figure.

And why not? Sitting on the 7th floor or on the roof of a building at 6AM, when that sucker comes up you notice. It dwarfs everything else. So when it came up this morning, I figured that it's only right that this big red disc up there got all this attention. It was the most powerful figure in most religious histories on the planet. It was the first thing to be revered as the ONLY deity worth caring about in at least one - probably more - societies of old.

However, there's also the moon...oh lookit the time. Nevermind on that one...for now.

Apologies for the length, breadth and digressive nature of the above piece of blathering that I vaguely call "writing."

The above essay is an excerpt from the Journal of Marcus Pan Part Six. This was in entry 737, dated June 15, 2000 @ 7:44PM.