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Tuesday, 15 March 2016
Topic: Movie Review



  If you are looking for a different take on the Biblical epic, you must get thee to a theater and see Risen.  This movie is a wonderfully-paced Biblical thriller that presents the search for the Nazarene Jesus after his death and “disappearance.”  Kevin Reynolds (The Count of Monte Cristo) directs a stellar picture both faithful to the spirit of the story, and novel enough to interest even the most jaded audience.  It packs all the emotion of a Passion of the Christ with the Roman perspective of a Gladiator.


  The movie stars Joseph Fiennes (Luther, Enemy at the Gates, Hercules) as Roman tribune Clavius rising through the labrynthine infrastructure of Roman military authority, thanks in no small part to his usefulness against warrens of Jewish Zealots in first century Judea.  After the execution of a rabbi named Yeshua (Jesus), the entombed body turns up missing.  Pontius Pilate, portrayed by Peter Firth (Shadowlands, Amistad ), prefect of Judea, assigns Clavius with the daunting task of finding the body and the responsible party before the situation becomes an ill-timed fiasco, with none other than Emperor Tiberius arriving for an inspection of the province.


  The questions presented in the movie are ones I have often wondered about as a historian.  The Romans typically left no stone unturned (pun intended) in an investigation.  What this movie does that makes it so unique is that it presents a manhunt from the perspective of a Roman commander.  This man, Clavius, had life-and-death responsibilities and the weight of authority on his shoulders, and has to marshal resources to get the job done.  But Clavius—harsh but fair—is looking for a reasonable answer to a question that defies reason.  His incredulity is understandable, and we sympathize with him, until he is brought face to face with the impossible answer to his question:  the hiding place of the disciples and among them, the man Yeshua who disappears before his very eyes.  He is heretofore haunted by the face he saw at the crucifixion, there smiling and laughing in front of him.  It impels him to follow the disciples to Galilee.


  Clavius was an officer.  He prayed to the god Mars faithfully.  He dreamed of a life of accomplishment and peace beyond the savagery of war and blood.  When Mars fails to deliver, in desperation he secretly prays to Yahweh, promising (in Roman fashion) temples, sacrifices, and games in his honor, if he can help him find the body of the missing Yeshua.  It is in Galilee, not at the end of a long career, that Clavius’ questions are answered, and that ever-sought after peace is found.


  Risen is an amazingly, well-done picture.  It had me waiting for the next scene.  I might add that it has something for everyone.  If you are going for the message and Biblical epic, you won’t be disappointed.  If you want a big Roman picture—Clavius and his men have some moves—with swords and fighting, you too will not be disappointed.  If you want a murder-mystery, this is the ultimate in the genre.  Risen is cerebral and physical, and manages to be epic and faithful to the Gospels without being preachy…..and yet, it preaches.  I highly recommend it.

Posted by anthrojudd at 2:05 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 15 March 2016 2:08 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 8 March 2016
Topic: Witchcraft


Sorcery—the practice of evil magic, anathema in every way to what a society considers moral.  Essentially, this is the anthropological definition of sorcery (or witchcraft, with which it is often used synonymously).  The characterization is also true from a Biblical perspective, with the qualification that the devil is the root source.  As it was to the prehistoric and ancient worlds, sorcery is still problematic today.

   To fully understand sorcery and its threat, we must more completely grasp the origins and the conveyance of sorcery from its beginnings through history.  Students of the Bible and the history of giants understand what I am getting at.  The Bible implies in Genesis and works like Enoch and the apocryphal texts enumerate that sorcery began in the antediluvian world.  The Fallen Angels—Watchers, whom Genesis 6 refers to as the Sons of God—descended on Mt. Hermon in the days of Jared.  They mated with human females and produced the Nephilim, the first generation of giants and chimerae.  In exchange for this genetic access, the Watchers taught a combination of practical sciences and sorcery.  All these events contributed to the corruption of humanity, the wide-spread wickedness on the earth, predicating the great flood.

   After the flood, despite the fact that the Watchers had been punished and imprisoned, additional generations of giants emerged and the knowledge of sorcery and science disseminated, with the giants of the post-flood world being the gods of ancient polytheistic religions and often, the founders of societies and civilizations.

   This series will examine in brief the emergence of Watchers and giants, their role in the creation of sorcery, and the survival of sorcery in later traditions and practitioners.  We will look at—if you will—the connective tissue.  At the source of it all, is understanding the tutelage of sorcery.  A Watcher (and later demons) taught these skills to people, just as we know people who become demonized are taught and used by their oppressors. 


 We will continue with a look at the antediluvian origins of sorcery next time.

                                                              © 2016 Judd Burton



Posted by anthrojudd at 2:23 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 8 March 2016 2:27 AM EST
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Friday, 4 March 2016
Topic: Giants
When an idea has its time, there is little that can be done to stop it.  As such, it is safe to say that with all the research being conducted on giants, “giantology” has become its own field of study.  There are certainly qualified researchers—academic and otherwise—who do great work in a multi-faceted field employing mythology, history, languages, archaeology, and anthropology.  So there we have it:  our own –ology, the study of giants.


However, our field is not without persons inexperienced or untrained in scientific process, testing, or logic.  It is a field already sensational because of the nature of its subject matter, but there seems to be a tendency to sensationalize the topics of giants, which only serves to lampoon giantology.  Hence, there are right ways to go about it, and wrong ways (which I’ll discuss in this series).


There are all manner of qualifiers which we might attach to the discipline.  “Biblical” is usually the first that comes to mind, because of the Old Testament traditions of giants in the text.  “World-“ or “Mythological-“ are others, and tend to focus on the ethnological breadth of traditions around the world over space and time (Giganthropology, if you will).  “Historical” is yet another, which settles on the documented accounts of giants in the ancient and modern worlds.  As a part of the family of giantology, for material evidences archaeogiantology would be the recovery of physical and artifactual remains of giants.


Species need a proper taxonomy as well, if we as giantologists are to place giants into the frame of faunal biology.  In the most nominal and general terms, we are dealing with hominids of gigantic stature.  Hence the scientific name Homo colossicus (“giant man”) or the more immediately recognizable as Homo gigantis (man of/from the giants) could suffice.  Tribal divisions as outlined in the Bible would have little to do with taxonomy, but geography might.  So the older giants might be Homo gigantis antediluvensis, or giants with Holy Land provenience might be Homo gigantis levantinus, or giants from North America showing physiological singularity might be Homo gigantis americanus, and so on and so forth.  There is however the matter of satisfying the supernatural pedigree of giants in the taxonomic designation.  In this scenario, Homo titanus (Titanic man), both addresses the supernatural origins (as Josephus equates the Nephilim with the Greek Titans) and satisfies the taxonomc criteria without being overly ostentatious. 


Giantological research basically proceeds along one of three axes, or a combination of them.  Firstly, the mythological/oral tradition/anthropological evidence comes to us from the mythological traditions of cultures from around the world.  Secondly, the historical evidence for giants resides in written records preserved by ancient, medieval, and modern writers.  Lastly, the material axis calls on archaeology and paleontology to recover physical remains of giants and the artifacts and features left in their wake.  As a rule of thumb—in the order I have outlined—the evidence becomes scarcer.  Genetics, epigenetics, physics, geology, and biochemistry also have the potential to provide new insights as well.


Research ethics should also be a high priority for any giant researcher.  Thorough, scientific methodology should be applied to every project.  Any original research in the form of journal articles and books should account for sources.  This practice is responsible, and allows others to follow and corroborate or amend your work.  There are any number of publications on the topic of giants with no footnote citations (far too many in my opinion).  If we are to make a case to the world, our research needs to be presented in the language of science, ethically and responsibly.  Dissemination of research project results should be equally mindful of such ethics, and should be in a timely manner.   Most journals will likely be reticent to publish which means that other venues and even original peer-reviewed journals dealing with giants should eventually materialize through the efforts of (much needed) scholarly societies and professional organizations who study giants.


The above statements are all but a summary of the field of giantology.  It is changing daily.  There are many other issues to be fleshed out, which I will address as I can.  For now, here are the rudiments for a discipline of giantolgy, each bearing consideration.


To learn more about these issues read “An Ethnology of the Giant Tribes and Clans in the Ancient Levant”:


                                                                                                                                                                © 2016 Judd Burton

Posted by anthrojudd at 5:33 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 4 March 2016 5:35 AM EST
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Wednesday, 13 January 2016
Topic: Giants

Recently, I read a series of blog entries from the site Remnant of Giants containing analysis of another article on the mythology of the Watchers.  This article, "Turning to the Angels to save Jewish Mythology" is a summary of recent research by Dr. Jonathan Ben-Dov, senior lecturer in Bible at the University of Haifa.  The full article may be read by clicking here.  The general claim of the article and subject of subsequent blog entries is that the Jewish tradition of the Watchers drew on other mythologies of the ancient Near East.

On one level--for the sake of argument--this is possible.  The academic stance has long been at least a version of this thesis.  There is certainly a long-established body of evidence demonstrating the influences of cultures from Mesopotamia and Egypt on Hebrew culture.  However, most scholars contend that the idea of the Watcher angel (or at least the books that expound upon them) is a relatively late ideological construct (Second Temple Period), having been based on much older deities from the above-mentioned societies and their beliefs.

However, if we subscribe to a supernatural worldview--and moreso, a Biblical worldview--references and depictions of celestial beings such as the Watchers, giants, and indeed the flood, in ancient cultures are in actuality separate descriptions of the same events and personalities.  Yes there are definitely going to be similarities in these depictions, the authors and artists are working from the same source material.

What the apocryphal material, such as Enoch, Jubilees, Jasher, and the lke, represent is the record of memory much older than the Hebrew language as a written system.  Of course one will find similarities between Mesopotamian and Hebrew accounts.  Not only were they geographically proximate, but this situation allowed for diffusion.  These stories circulated.

Very interesting article with interesting points.

Posted by anthrojudd at 3:43 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 13 January 2016 3:44 AM EST
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Thursday, 30 July 2015
Topic: Giants

As it has been more than 12 years since its discovery, I thought that I would post the classic article on the Tomb of GIlgamesh, the god-king of Uruk, often equated with the Biblical Nimrod.  The timing of the discovery is interesting in that it coincided with the deployment of U.S.military forces in Iraq in the spring of 2003.

I always tell my students that mythology can always be a medium for at least some historicity.  Gilgamesh seems to be no exception, as his name not only shows up in the Sumerian King's List ( in the early Third millennium BC as the ruler of the city of Uruk.  This is just as it is recounted in the great heroic poem, The Gilgamesh Epic, in which he is described as being 2/3 divine and 1/3 human.  For more background information on Gilgamesh, see the Epic and the Enuma Elish.



Was Gilgamesh a historical personage?  I believe he was.  Was he the fabled god-king of myth?  I believe it is at leat possible, if not plausible. You must decide for yourself as you weigh the evidence.

Posted by anthrojudd at 2:55 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 29 July 2015
Greetings followers of all things Burton Beyond. You'll note that there are some new arrivals on the main page. In an effort to shudder and consoidate (kill two birds with one stone, fill in the blank with whatever simplifying metaphor you like) I've added a Twitter feed for BB news. The latest addition is an RSS feed from the blog, so that you may read and interact as you please. I'm still playing around with this last one, and the look may change over the coming weeks, but these feeds will stay to make your navigation of more effecient. Godspeed and thanks again.

Posted by anthrojudd at 11:03 PM EDT
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Sunday, 2 November 2014
Topic: Halloween

As promised, my edited volume of Ruth Edan Kelley's history of Halloween, THE BOOK OF HALLOWEEN.  Ok, it's an All Soul's Day release, but still in the season!

Posted by anthrojudd at 6:00 PM EDT
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Friday, 31 October 2014
Halloween Origins
Topic: Halloween

Here are some essays on the Celtic and Roman roots of Halloween:

SAMHAIN (Celtic)

ON November first was Samhain ("summer's end").

"Take my tidings:
Stags contend;
Snows descend--
Summer's end!

"A chill wind raging,
The sun low keeping,
Swift to set
O'er seas high sweeping.

"Dull red the fern;
Shapes are shadows;
Wild geese mourn
O'er misty meadows.

"Keen cold limes each weaker wing,
Icy times--
Such I sing!
Take my tidings."

--GRAVES: First Winter Song.

Then the flocks were driven in, and men first had leisure after harvest toil. Fires were built as a thanksgiving to Baal for harvest. The old fire on the altar was quenched before the night of October 31st, and the new one made, as were all sacred fires, by friction. It was called "forced-fire." A wheel and a spindle were used: the wheel, the sun symbol, was turned from east to west, sunwise. The sparks were caught in tow, blazed upon the altar, and were passed on to light the hilltop fires. The new fire was given next morning, New Year's Day, by the priests to the people to light their hearths, where all fires had been extinguished. The blessed fire was thought to protect the year through the home it warmed. In Ireland the altar was Tlactga, on the hill of Ward in Meath, where sacrifices, especially black sheep, were burnt in the new fire. From the death struggles and look of the creatures omens for the future year were taken.

The year was over, and the sun's life of a year was done. The Celts thought that at this time the sun fell a victim for six months to the powers of winter darkness. In Egyptian mythology one of the sun-gods, Osiris, was lsain at a banquet by his brother Sitou, the god of darkness. On the anniversary of the murder, the first day of winter, no Egyptian would begin any new business for fear of bad luck, since the spirit of evil was then in power.

From the idea that the sun suffered from his enemies on this day grew the association of Samhain with death.

"The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year,
Of wailing winds, and naked woods, and meadows brown and sere.
Heaped in the hollows of the grove, the wither'd leaves lie dead;
They rustle to the eddying gust, and to the rabbit's tread.
The robin and the wren are flown, and from the shrub the jay
And from the wood-top calls the crow, through all the gloomy day.

"The wind-flower and the violet, they perished long ago,
And the wild rose and the orchis died amid the summer glow:
But on the hill the golden-rod, and the aster in the wood,
And the yellow sun-flower by the brook in autumn beauty stood,
Till fell the frost from the cold clear heaven, as falls the plague on men,
And the brightness of their smile was gone from upland, glade, and glen."

--BRYANT: Death of the Flowers.

In the same state as those who are dead, are those who have never lived, dwelling right in the world, but invisible to most mortals at most times. Seers could see them at any time, and if very many were abroad at once others might get a chance to watch them too.

"There is a world in which we dwell,
And yet a world invisible.
And do not think that naught can be
Save only what with eyes ye see:
I tell ye that, this very hour,
Had but your sight a spirit's power,
Ye would be looking, eye to eye,
At a terrific company."

--COXE: Hallowe'en.

These supernatural spirits ruled the dead. There were two classes: the Tuatha De Danann, "the people of the goddess Danu," gods of light and life; and spirits of darkness and evil. The Tuatha had their chief seat on the Isle of Man, in the middle of the Irish Sea, and brought under their power the islands about them. On a Midsummer Day they vanquished the Fir Bolgs and gained most of Ireland, by the battle of Moytura.

A long time afterwards--perhaps 1000 B.C.--the Fomor, sea-demons, after destroying nearly all their enemies by plagues, exacted from those remaining, as tribute, "a third part of their corn, a third part of their milk, and a third part of their children." This tax was paid on Samhain. It was on the week before Samhain that the Fomor landed upon Ireland. On the eve of Samhain the gods met them in the second battle of Moytura, and they were driven back into the ocean.

As Tigernmas, a mythical king of Ireland, was sacrificing "the firstlings of every issue, and the scions of every clan" to Crom Croich, the king idol, and lay prostrate before the image, he and three-fourths of his men mysteriously disappeared.

"Then came
Tigernmas, the prince of Tara yonder
On Hallowe'en with many hosts.
A cause of grief to them was the deed.
Dead were the men
Of Bamba's host, without happy strength
Around Tigernmas, the destructive man of the north,
From the worship of Crom Cruaich. 'Twas no luck for them.
For I have learnt,
Except one-fourth of the keen Gaels,
Not a man alive--lasting the snare!
Escaped without death in his mouth."

--Dinnsenchus of Mag Slecht (Meyer trans.).

This was direct invocation, but the fire rites which were continued so long afterwards were really only worshipping the sun by proxy, in his nearest likeness, fire.

Samhain was then a day sacred to the death of the sun, on which had been paid a sacrifice of death to evil powers. Though overcome at Moytura evil was ascendant at Samhain. Methods of finding out the will of spirits and the future naturally worked better then, charms and invocations had more power, for the spirits were near to help, if care was taken not to anger them, and due honors paid.

POMONA (Roman)

OPS was the Latin goddess of plenty. Single parts of her province were taken over by various other divinities, among whom was Pomona (pomorum patrona, "she who cares for fruits"). She is represented as a maiden with fruit in her arms and a pruning-knife in her hand.

"I am the ancient apple-queen.
As once I was so am I now--
For evermore a hope unseen
Betwixt the blossom and the bough.

"Ah, where's the river's hidden gold!
And where's the windy grave of Troy?
Yet come I as I came of old,
From out the heart of summer's joy."
--MORRIS: Pomona.

Many Roman poets told stories about her, the best known being by Ovid, who says that she was wooed by many orchard-gods, but preferred to remain unmarried. Among her suitors was Vertumnus ("the changer"), the god of the turning year, who had charge of the exchange of trade, the turning of river channel, and chiefly of the change in nature from flower to ripe fruit. True to his character he took many forms to gain Pomona's love. Now he was a ploughman (spring), now a fisherman (summer), now a reaper (autumn).

At last he took the likeness of an old woman (winter), and went to gossip with Pomona. After sounding her mind and finding her averse to marriage, the woman pleaded for Vertumnus's success.

"Is not he the first to have the fruits which
are thy delight? And does he not hold thy
gifts in his joyous right hand?"
--OVID: Vertumnus and Pomona.

Then the crone told her the story of Anaxarete who was so cold to her lover Iphis that he hanged himself, and she at the window watching his funeral train pass by was changed to a marble statue. Advising Pomona to avoid such a fate, Vertumnus donned his proper form, that of a handsome young man, and Pomona, moved by the story and his beauty, yielded and became his wife.

Vertumnus had a statue in the Tuscan Way in Rome, and a temple. His festival, the Vortumnalia, was held on the 23d of August, when the summer began to wane. Garlands and garden produce were offered to him.

Pomona had been assigned one of the fifteen flamina, priests whose duty it was to kindle the fire for special sacrifices. She had a grove near Ostia where a harvest festival was held about November first. Not much is known of the ceremonies, but from the similar August holiday much may be deduced. Then the deities of fire and water were propitiated that their disfavor might not ruin the crops. On Pomona's day doubtless thanks was rendered them for their aid to the harvest. An offering of first-fruits was made in August; in November the winter store of nuts and apples was opened. The horses released from toil contended in races.

From Pomona's festival nuts and apples, from the Druidic Samhain the supernatural element, combined to give later generations the charms and omens from nuts and apples which are made trial of at Hallowe'en.

Posted by anthrojudd at 3:16 AM EDT
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Friday, 24 October 2014
Flesh and Blood
Topic: Vampires
'Tis the season to talk about all things "monster."  Last night, Derek Gilbert of View From the Bunker Radio interviewed me on the topic of vampires, zombies, and undead.  Derek is an excellent broadcaster and we always have a great exchange.  Much of what we cover begins with the historical and folkloric and then moves to examination under the Bilical paradigm and implications for poular culture.  This show will not disappoint.  The program will be posted this weekend for your listening pleasure.

Posted by anthrojudd at 5:42 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 17 April 2013
When Structures Fail You
Topic: Education

Many of us these days are worried about the state of education in this country.  As a teacher, I certainly am.  I'm probably going to anger a good number of people with this post, which is fine.  It's not the first time, and it won't be the last.  Let me begin by qualifying this post:  I love teaching.  It is very gratifying to me, and it is a chance to inspire a new generation of students and scholars.  Therefore, I also treasure my students.

But there is something very wrong in America, my friends.  A dark, malevolent unhinging of our educational system has been taking place for the last several decades.  Oh, it seems innocuous, I mean after all, kids are still graduating from high school, right?  They're getting diplomas, right?  They're getting an education, right?

I've been doing this for thirteen years, so I don't make these statements lightly, nor do I make them from the armchair.  I have taught in the high school classroom and the college lecture hall, and I hae ha ample opportunity to see what is happening to our public education system, but the real problem stems from K-12 public education.  You read that correctly: K-12.  Now, I have taught with some fine educators in the public school system--competent, dedicated individuals.  So let me say this:  teachers--for the most part--are not to blame.  The blame rests squarely on a system that has become so bureacratized and corrupted by such horrendous ideologies as class warfare, eugenics, and social engineering to name a few.  Likewise, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of politicians, policy makers, and administrators who have perpetuated this system.  So I bear little ill will toward teachers, but have little patience for the system anymore.

It saddens me because I run into people all the time who have never read a book in its entirety.  They have never read Twain, Hawthorne, Melville, Cervantes, or Shakespeare.  They cannot reference world geography, basic American history, perform the most basic math, or recite a poem.  Now there are those who can--of course--who have read on there own.  But this level of rigor and value, has long vacated the curriculm found in our public schools.  By and large, this is not the fault of students.  It is the fault of a corrupted system.

I believe in public education, but we have taken the methods that work, that keep a high level of rigor, and replaced them with standardized testing and a bland, often inaccurate, ineffectual curriculum.  You have to have seen this, whether you have children or not.  This kind of widespread decline in education is not accidental.  What did we throw out?  We threw out what worked.  We threw out education that was either partial or entirely based on classical education, reading, engaging the material, and creativity.  We are steadily throwing out grades, in many schools failing grades are not even given.  Classical education....hmmmm....."isn't that a little antiquated?  I mean, what can Cicero and Herodotus really do for us?  Isn't that just for fancy prep schools?"  No!  We have the means to implement it across the board!  It works!

"Yeah, but this is the twentifirst century, and students now will be working in fields that we can't even fathom," say the educational theorists.  Well, I've heard that before.  My response?  Every generation can say that out about the one learning under them.  When ebooks became widely available on the internet, entire works of classical literature, I noted to an educational administrator once that "if someone were of so a mind, they could garner without cost from the internet, all the great works of the classical curricula and give themselves a classical education."  Her responce distills how the persons working under the current educational paradigm think:  "To what end?  The purpose of an education is to get a job." 

"Whoa!!! Hold on on.  What?!?!?!"  Education is an end in itself.  To one degree or another it should instill autodidaction in students, so that they can use those skills to acquire a job.  JOBS are EPIPHENOMENA of education.  Education for education's sake is, sadly, a virtue that is lost on the current system of public education.

What do we do to change it then?  Can we?  First we must consider that the current paradigm--the rules as it were--no longer serve true education--period. 

Consider the words of Commisioner Jim Gordon in the recent Batman movie THE DARK KNIGHT RISES commenting on a currupted and ineffecient justice system no longer serving true justice:

"There's a point, far out there when the structures fail you, and the rules aren't weapons anymore, they're... shackles letting the bad guy get ahead. One day... you may face such a moment of crisis. And in that moment, I hope you have a friend like I did, to plunge their hands into the filth so that you can keep yours clean! "

Are we in such an educational crisis?   I think many of us know the answer to that....and feel the weight of shackles.

More later.......



Posted by anthrojudd at 1:06 AM EDT
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