The Gods In The Jewels Of Ooombis



Any work that pretends to span all of human history must, from time to time, dwell on the various deities worshipped by mankind over those years. The Jewels of Ooombis is such a work. It starts way, way back when Cro-Magnon man ruled his portion of the planet (an area of what is now Southern Europe) – and then proceeds through the entire spectrum of history until it reaches the not-too-distant future.

Throughout that time it touches on various religions. It’s got to because this or that deity has guided many decisions that have informed man’s domination of the planet. Wherever he has lived, and whenever, he has needed a crutch to lean on, a light to guide him, an intellectual explanation that adequately answers such fundamental questions as why, how, what and when. Given a brain that can formulate the question he has always needed an answer, and in early times, historically, when his cosmology was restricted to what he could see and touch the development of his gods replaced the answers that more informed times would provide.

Let me establish my own perspective first. I am not in any way a believer of any deity that is external to me. If there is a power that controls my life then that power is within me in every way (excepting environmental matters which are physical or obvious). To me deities are remnants of an earlier and simpler time when the already defined questions were answered in what must have seemed a logical way. They became entrenched in cultures as the only surviving intellectual consideration from earlier generations. They gained a substance that took them way beyond the original conceits that gave them their frustrated birth. And, importantly, the mystical demands of intelligence created new positons in the Situations Vacant department of primitive societies: the need for a guide through the realms of the gods, a wise man or woman who could claim to be a medium between the absolutely physical and mundane, and the wonders beyond reality.

I don’t mind other people believing in their gods as long as they don’t try to involve me in them, or let illogical belief systems impinge adversely on my life (which, unfortunately, they do from time to time). I look at it like this: the inhabitants of the Sumerian society portrayed in Volume Two (The Eagle and the King) believed in Shamash with the same fervour and devotion as present day Christians believe in Christ or Muslims believe in Allah. In more recent time Mayan society had what is to us a surreal set of beliefs that are virtually as different from Christian or Muslim beliefs as it is possible for a religious dogma to be. But it was no doubt the fundamental tenet upon which the society existed, and believed with the kind of unflinching certainty that religions demand.

But ancient or modern, they all have one thing in common: they are all equally convinced of the veracity of their deities and take equal offence if those deities are abused in any way.

My belief is that religion is a counterproductive remnant of countless generations when primitive hominins (including early homo sapiens) paid tribute to the local medicine man cum seer cum charlatan until it became a genetically reinforced survival mechanism. It's easy to see how that entrenchment happened: a combination of irrational fear (the sort that all human flesh is heir to) and the seer's henchmen created a caste in which the need to believe was slowly established almost as an instinct.

Added to that, various faiths have discovered that if their prejudices are wafted in front of the very young often enough then they become truths. When I was young there was Sunday School, then morning assembly at school during which God was worshipped with tuneless hymn and muttered prayer before the day’s miscreants were publicly thrashed as part of the same ceremony, God of Love and Pain, Praise and Justice - and this was an ordinary state technical school. Then there was grace before lunch both at school (for what we are about to receive etc etc) and at home sometimes, too - and so on. It was a continuous thing and because so many very clever people subscribed to the hocus pocus of religion, it must be true. It took me most of my life to shake off what amounted to brainwashing!


Religions have always had their control mechanisms, and this was just as true in the earliest years of human civilisation as it is today. (Some clothing requirements, usually intended to restrict females, are a case in point). It always strikes me as odd that women have been expected to cover themselves from top to toe even though the real guilty party in the carnal stakes is the male and his hormones! And this isn’t a dig at Islam – as recently as Victorian times women in Britain had to make sure they didn’t even flash an ankle because ankles were as indecent as breasts and vaginas! Indeed, by repute piano legs were ordered to be covered up as they represented an offence to all getlemen everywhere. I guess the truth is more prosaic, that it was fashion to have floor-length drapes, and this was misinterpreted by the mischievous.

It was even part of the Christian faith that women must get to be like men before they could gain admittance into the Kingdom of Heaven; at the very least they must be submissive to men, which lowly place and obvious contradiction would make it difficult indeed to become like men! The real truth, of course, is that the female gender has the babies and requires a mate in order to be fertilised. So if she has a plethora of physical attractions and the if man is tall and strong and virile asnd consequently pleasing to her eye, then she will have babies a-plenty, alright.

Shamash (in The Eagle and the King) was a sun god. The sun has, logically, been seen as a god by many societies and in many different religions. I guess it is the most logical natural phenomenon to be looked upon as the governor of life because, in a physical and very real sense, it is exactly that. But the folks in the City State of Kish had more than one god. Primitive societies invariably do. The Egyptians (who were far from primitive even though it was still the bronze age) had a plethora of deities covering every aspect of life, until the Pharaoh Akhenaten decided on monotheism as a means of reducing the number of tributes the population had to pay to a huge number of demanding representatives of a crowd of deities, thus ensuring himself a bigger bite of the national cherry. He even had a new Capital City built adjacent to a splendid view of the rising sun in order to completely break from the past. I wonder if there is any relationship between that decision and the monotheism practiced by the Jews who made their way out of Egypt a mere generation or two later. There is no documented connection, but much that once was known has been long forgotten, so who can tell? Anyway the trail from then to the present day is well documented. Whatever the truth, it makes me think.


In The Eagle and the King there is human sacrifice bound to a religious prayer. I have no idea whether virgins were sacrificed in Kish or whether Shamash, according to its priests, demanded it. We must remember that we are talking about a work of fiction, and by definition it will contain much that is the invention of its author. In addition there are huge gaps in our knowledge of such distant times, and what we think we know is based on the flimsiest evidence. We must remember that the written record was in its infancy. Around 5000 years ago cuneiform writing was very basic and could hardly have been expected to convey complex metaphysical conceits.

In addition I have no idea whether King King Etana would have turned to such a thing as human sacrifice. By suggesting he was reluctant I may be providing him with a virtue he didn't have, or by permitting him to allow it I might be doing him a cruel disservice. However, I require it for plot purposes, and if I'm wrong - well, he's been dead for centuries. Indeed, he was interred in the earth almost five thousand years ago, long before any biblical characters walked and talked.

The Romans, until Christianity was adopted, had a huge number of deities. Temples were built to them and statues erected. The whole lot must have consumed a disproportionate percentage of the empire’s kitty when this or that Caesar decided that a new and splendid temple be built for the focus of worship to this or that god. The cost of such monuments was probably made easier by the fact that much of the labour came free as a consequence of wide-spread slavery that oiled the wheels of Roman society. But Christianity was on the move, and after a series of gory executions of its practitioners, it was adopted as the official faith by the Roman state.

During medieval times the dominant faith throughout Europe was the Roman form of Christianity, and that particular faith at that time placed a great emphasis on regular worship. Even those who were considered too poor to enter churches were expected to gather outside and listen to the droning lessons preached in Latin, which they couldn’t understand. And likewise prayers were said in that ancient tongue, and readings from the bible intoned to the confusion of one and all. Yet Latin wasn't the language of the Jews in whose midst Christ apparently walked and talked and had his being.


Monasteries were established for men who reputedly dedicated their lives to their deity, and who supposedly lived in isolation from the world and its temptations, but it often crosses my mind that it was not unusual for a nunnery or convent to be established not so far away, sometimes within easy walking distance. Convenient, some might say, cynically. What might the more normal monks with a normal libido have been doing of a summer's evening when there were nubile nuns around? It's a titillating thought, and probably quite unworthy! But that's an aside. Claudette, the blind French girl, finds her way to one of these nunneries, where she is cared for as she slowly recovers but where her lesbian inclinations (evolved from a mishmash of a debilitating physical injury and simple home-spun theology) are not tolerated, and she is swiftly cast out when her true nature is discovered, along with her lover (The Pirate and the Child). Few religions over human history have been prepared to accept such aberrations and those who inherited diverse sexualities have rarely been understood or their behaviour tolerated if it was discovered. Even in my lifetime male homosexuality – or rather the physical practice of it - has been a criminal offence, and the establishment of that law in Victorian times had the influence of the church behind it.

The only main society without organised religion as the basis of the way they lived in the series is that supposed to have existed in present day Italy before the Roman Empire was established. Kaphkar had no god, and the tribe that adopted him didn't apparently worship a deity either (The Giant and the Gems). It was a society at ease with itself, yet had established certain festivals that had about them the flavour of worship. In the winter, for instance, they made offerings to the gods in order that a new season might come, and future harvests be good. So there was the imprint of worship despite the absence of organised faith.


Probably the most decent people in the series were the Native Americans before their discovery by Europeans. Here I must admit that they are a purely fictional creation with an invented past and imagined present. I apologise to any who might be offended that a noble history has been corrupted by fiction, but that's the kind of book this is, so hard luck! Shasta (The Pirate and the Child) is changed from a roughneck into a civilised and respected citizen of a peaceful society. The particular tribe, of course, never existed, but its belief in the Ancestors is a logical religious system. There is a logic to ancestor worship in its broadest sense, because our ancesotors are our most obvious creators. Ancestor worship is to be found in most corners of the world, which I suppose is comforting!

I feel that I have had to write this page because I got quite close to Claudette’s homespun version of Christianity as I got to know her, and her decision that God is Love is an equation that appealed to me, and like all equations it can be turned around, in this case somewhat mischievously. There’s a beautiful logic to it, but I doubt whether any accepted faith would go along with me! After all, love is a confusion: love for God, love of a man for a woman, love for a child by its parents or the parents by a child. Although we usually think of adult sexual love when we think of the "l" word, we must always remember that there are others! It's been a long time since a man's love for a woman expressed in public has been seen as anything but a bit dirty which, maybe, is a shame and ultimately down to the control exerted by various religions over many millennia.

I guess the truth is that the church in simpler times had to control its worshippers, and one aspect of control is that of removing the pure intentions from physical love by demonising it. Sex has, by its nature, got to be a powerfully driven activity. Of all the things we do, sexual behaviour is the most essential if the reason for our lives is to prepare the way for the future. Without new generations our species will fade into history - and there are some who may well think that would be a good thing. So our behaviour is driven by the need to breed - and this basic most fundamental drive is all that's left of our primeval past that is stronger than the need to believe in the irrational. Religious leaders know that, and religious dogma tries to control it. Even the marriage ceremony is still mainly the province of the church, a remnant of what was once a powerful means of the few directing the lives of the many - and marriage is the institution sacred to the expression of sexual love.

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