Feb 10, 2016

Weird Brazil: New Holland


Brazil was, historically, a Portuguese colony. It has, since its independence especially, formed its own identity (at the cost of the native identity, of course), but it's still widely seen as an offspring of Portugal. This, of course, leaves the native cultures and histories on the sidelines, but there have also been some other, more subtle influences after the arrival of the Portuguese.

Notably, the Northeastern region of Brazil was under the rule of the Dutch for a few decades. This ties into my own ancestry, in that my mother's last name is Breda, a name of Dutch origin - the br- root of the name tying us to fire and red dye again. The capital of this brief colony of New Holland was Recife ('reef'), or, as it was known then, Mauritsstad. It's the largest city in the Northeast, and the fifth largest in the country.

Taking a peek at the Recife flag, we see a lion holding a red cross (that Order of Christ again) with the words Virtus et fides - there's that ambiguous 'virtue' making another appearance. This lion is flanked by two blue-and-yellow 'pillars', with a star on one side and a sun on the other. This seems to be a hint at a second sun, but what is this actually referring to?

This theme is seen also in the state flag of Pernambuco, of which Recife is capital. It appears in the middle of Recife's coat-of-arms, above an orange obelisk lighthouse. Its motto is Ut luceat omnibus, "that it may shine on all". Like in Brasília, we see loads of solar symbolism. The lion which features prominently in Recife's symbology also ties to the Sun, in that the Sun is the astrological ruler of the Leo constellation.

Pernambuco's coat-of-arms also features a lion, a sun/star and a lighthouse.

One of Recife's most famous sites is the Forte das Cinco Pontas, or "fort of the five points". The fort was initially designed and built by the Dutch, with five bastions (Leo is the 5th sign of the zodiac). However, after the Portuguese took over once more, it was rebuilt into a four-pointed structure. Where is the missing point? Why, it points upwards. There are even a few palm trees in the center of the fort.

Recife is also famous for hosting the Galo da Madrugada, "dawn rooster", the Guinness record-holder for largest parade in the world. The rooster is symbolically connected to the phoenix and, obviously, to the rising sun.

Finally, Recife is also known as the Brazilian Venice, tying us back into the same Templar-Phoenician storyline that seems to be everywhere I look. As far as Pernambuco goes, the origin of its name is uncertain, but many claim that it was the local word for the pau brasil.

In the Brazilian flag, the star that represents the state of Pernambuco is Mu Scorpii, What's really interesting here is that Mu Scorpii is actually a binary star system, which was discovered seven years after the creation of the Brazilian flag. A binary system, just like Sirius. I have seen it argued that our own sun, Sol, is actually part of a wider binary system with Sirius, making them twin suns.

And speaking of twin suns, not only is there a Twin Brothers Park in Recife, but Brasília itself has it own pair of Twin Warriors, designed by one Bruno Giorgi:

So I ask once more: what kind of quest really led everybody here? Is this all just a case of colonizers bringing along their culture, or is there something deeper to the "conquest of the New World"?

Feb 5, 2016

Weird Brazil: Thick Woods

One of the downsides of living in a post-modern, globalized world is that, due to the ease of mobility, people have had a tendency to lose track of their roots, a factor with underestimated psychological effects. I was born in Brasília, and have lived here for most of my life, but the city was founded in 1960, which means that its inhabitants usually have roots in distant places. It was only a couple of years ago that for the first time, people born in Brasília made up more than half the population of the city.

The old adage goes something like "In order to know where one is going, one must first know where one comes from." For most of my life I had only vague notions of my family's history, on either side of the family. However, a few years ago I began to look into it, and what I found out really changed my perspective on myself.

Now, I understand the reasoning behind my father's family's reluctance to share their history with the younger ones - as it turns out, my ancestors had been quite wealthy, as they were owners of an engenho, basically the Brazilian equivalent of the American plantation - which meant that they had slaves. But it can be quite dangerous to withhold this type of knowledge, because it means that there is an aspect of ours that remains in the shadows.

And as a matter of fact, one of the matriarchs of the family freed all their slaves once her husband passed away, showing at least an attempt at some form of redemption. Good is always intertwined with bad. Anyway, the family remained influent - my greatgreatgrandfather was state governor - until the rise of Getúlio Vargas, who effectively dispossessed many oligarchic powers. As a result, the later members of the family just went into areas such as the military, diplomacy and teaching.

The aforementioned state is the state of Mato Grosso, or "thick woods". The state, now divided in two, is a bit of a non-factor in the national discourse, as it's not very populous - much of the state is forests and swamps. In my view, though, this makes it a bit of an occult place, begging for a more in-depth look.

Mato Grosso was basically just raided until the early 18th century, when gold was found. Much like in the US, it was in large part the search for gold that propelled the westward expansion - though not much Manifest Destiny around here. It was exactly this which first led my own family there from Portugal. From what I've gathered, my first ancestor in Brazil was a member of the Order of Christ, into which he got not by blood but essentially by getting rich.

After the Pope dissolved the Templars, many of them fled to Portugal, where they were welcomed with open arms. There, they became the Ordo Cristo, and it won't be a surprise to anyone that Portugal (Portu-graal) thereafter became a major naval power. They then set their sights west, just as the Templar offshoot in Great Britain did. The Order of Christ was a major player in the expansion towards the West, as is evident in their coat-of-arms:

So you've got your Templar cross, your phoenix rising (a prevalent theme in the construction of Brasília) and your golden mountain. Gotcha. The motto is virtute plusquam auro, or 'for virtue more than for gold'. Now, what exactly do they mean with 'virtue'?

Speaking of golden mountains, Mato Grosso is where the proto-Indiana Jones, Percy Fawcett. disappeared looking for the Lost City of Z (incidentally, I just learned that there is a movie coming out this year about this very story). Z is pretty much Eldorado, a mysterious "city of gold". But what exactly was he expecting? Wiki:

"Fawcett left behind instructions stating that if the expedition did not return, no rescue expedition should be sent lest the rescuers suffer his fate" .

His disappearance became shrouded in myth and legend, and nobody knows what happened to him. Where he disappeared, though, is where it gets interesting. Fawcett believed that Z was somewhere in the Serra do Roncador, or "Snorer's Sierra". This name is due to the section of the mountain where the wind passes through in a way that produces a snore-like sound.

Supposedly, Fawcett discovered this location in a vision induced by "Tibetan rituals". Nowadays, this sierra is visited by scores of new-agers of all sorts of beliefs. At the heart of the sierra, there is a crystalline lake called "the Portal". Supposedly there are absolutely no life forms in the lake's water, and it's rumored to be a "portal to Atlantis". Incidentally, the Snorer's Sierra is on the same latitude as Brasília, to the West.

So essentially, Fawcett was looking for a portal to another dimension, the location to which he discovered in a trance state. Huh. The nearest city to the sierra is Barra do Garças, Its own coat-of-arms, curiously, features a couple of antennas, in addition to a cow, a diamond and six stars. I couldn't find out the meaning behind the stars, but it's worth nothing that the stars in Orion's Belt point to the Souther Cross one way, and to the constellation of Taurus, and the Pleiades, on the other.

The city's website nonchalantly features a UFO:

But let's go back to Mato Grosso itself. The principal indigenous tribe in the state are the Xavante. The Xavante believe that the Earth is inhabited by four "types" of people: the underground, humans, the underwater and the celestial. They also say that when a person dies, their spirit doesn't go up to heaven, but rather remains on Earth, and that the Sun and the Moon are "primordial twins" living through experiences on Earth to later take them to the Creator.

In one of their stories, a man was once contemplating the stars, when one of them came down to Earth and became a beautiful woman, and both fell in love. Sitting on palm leaves, they traveled to the sky. After a while, the man came back to tell his parents he wished to remain in the skies, and off he went, to be with his beloved.

Another interesting myth is one which describes a man who was part of a hunting group, when he got sick and boils began to grow on him. His fellows left him behind, but two vultures appeared and took him to the skies. When he returned, not only was he healed, but he had also brought the potato, which the tribe hadn't known about.

It seems easy to imagine why Percy Fawcett would go looking for inter-dimensional contact in the lands of those tribes, to communicate with immaterial entities much as the Xavante shamans do. The Xavante placed a heavy emphasis on the concept of duality, of opposite and complementary forces, pretty much like the Tao. Their alphabet had 13 consonants and 13 vowels, and all the tribes are divided in two groups. Marriages are always between members of different groups. And course, there is this world, and another world...

And as if all this weren't enough: in the Brazilian flag, the 26 (13 + 13) states and the Federal District are each represented by a different star; the star that represents Mato Grosso is none other than Sirius. It makes one wonder what exactly is going on with the state's own starry-eye flag:

On a final note, the Xavante are frequently seen covered in a red dye, which connects us the very name of the country: 'Brazil' comes from pau brasil, a tree with a reddish wood, sought after by the Phoenicians Sephardic Jews who made up a large portion of the country's early colonizers. It's the same root where my own name comes from, Bruno, and it's whence we get words such as burn, blaze, and so on.

Sirius, Templars, portals to other dimensions, contact with celestial beings...Mato Grosso is full of mystery, and I only looked into all this because of my curiosity about my origins. So many gaze longingly towards the future, but I would that the keys to understanding lie, rather, in the past.

Mar 27, 2015

The Problem with the Future

Today on Cracked, we find an article discussing the Mars One project, arguing that the whole thing is, in the long run, good for us. The author makes some fair points, such as the distinction between a failed venture and an actual scam. Unfortunately, she completely misses the most important way in which Mars One can teach us a few things about ourselves: our unhealthy relationship with the future.

Hint: that's actually a mirror

I assume most are familiar with the concept that science fiction is not about the future: the future is simply used as a mask that allows us to take an objective look at the present. Whether a given metaphor was intentional by the author or not, sci-fi/fantasy is just that: a series of metaphors that tell us about ourselves. One of the reasons Lord of the Rings is so popular is the wide array of lenses through which it can be seen, regardless of Tolkien's intentions: a historical metaphor, a social critique, a psychoanalytic novel, and so on.

The problem comes exactly when we start to take visions of the future as fact more than as symbolism, and the Mars One project shows exactly that. Everyone's watched enough sci-fi flicks nowadays to have seen myriad possibilities of space travel and so on. We seem to assume, however, that the way things will naturally play out. Just a matter of time until we're all beaming around the stars in our star cruisers, tripping out in the holodeck to pass the time. But the fact is that we have absolutely no clue what the future actually holds for us.

Waiting for the iPhone

One of the points the Cracked article makes is that, regardless of whether Mars One was snake oil, we'll eventually get to Mars anyway:

"If you gave $30 from your grocery money to a group that may or may not be moving us toward Mars, you're on the plus side of history, I promise." 

First of all, not too many people nowadays can afford to slash 30 bucks from their grocery money, so this comment seems kind of insensitive. What's really revealing, though, is the "I promise". This type of phrasing, in this context, seems to indicate that the author is trying to reassure herself more than anyone else. "I do believe in Mars, I do, I do!"

SFF has never, to my knowledge, been so popular across the deck, but the reason behind this is unfortunately sinister. People have an intuition that the lifestyle they've had for decades is going away, and they're right. The rich hoard more and more of the dwindling resources of our planet, while John Doe just lost his job because he can't afford repairs on his car. It becomes clear every day that so much of what we're living through is a charade, from politicians being self-serving tools of faceless corporations to doctors prescribing ineffective drugs in order to enjoy a paid vacation to Cabo. But we're all way too unsure of ourselves to actually recognize this intuition for what lies in store for us.

We're onto you, Obama

It's becoming increasingly clear that humans aren't meant to get off the Earth. There hasn't been a manned Moon mission in decades. The ISS has been out in orbit for a while now, but if there's been some return on the billions of dollars invested, I'm not aware of it. The problems are not only physical (propulsion), but also physiological (radiation exposure) and psychological. However, it seems that the space grass will always be greener.

And why should we want to get out of here? Why is it so much easier, in the minds of so many people, to get out of Earth than to take care of it? This is exactly what ruined Interstellar for me: cinematographically it was incredible, of course, I'll admit I was quite awed by the soundtrack and sound effects; however, the idea that underlies the whole film is that "we should abandon our home rather than take care of it" - and this is a concept by which I cannot abide.

It's the same thinking that feeds these fantasies of leaving the Earth, to the point that most people, or at least most secular Westerners, assume it's inevitable. But this thinking betrays the same fallacy that the religious are accused of making: that salvation lies outside of ourselves. They've just replaced "God" with "science" and "heaven" with...well, the heavens. We see this in the crumbling infrastructure of the United States, and how it makes people move rather than take care of what they already have. And the reason for all this is very simple: for us to take better care of our surroundings, we need to change, and that is the last thing we want to do.

You deserve that wasteland, Matthew McConaughey

This intuitive need for change is so strong that those who are unable to deal with it are projecting this desire to the outside world. "We need a change in the two-party system." "We need a reform in education." "We must overhaul our prison system." All of these are projections of a need for inner change, because these inner changes require sacrifices that many are not willing to make. Lots of people make a big fuss about climate change, but how many have actually traded their car for a bike and dumped their ACs?

Space exploration is an incredible metaphor, not a reality, at least not for now. It is pointless to focus on some distant date as the time when "things will be right." The fact is that we have no idea what the future holds in store for us. Think about how life must have been like a thousand years ago - could anyone at that time imagine even a fraction of what we have today? So why worry about the eventual destruction of Earth, which is probably billions of years away?

They say that "depression is too much past, anxiety is too much future," and this is clearly what's going on. How many people today don't exhibit the classic symptoms of anxiety, restlessness, fatigue, lack of concentration? We are constantly thinking about the future, to the point that it loses all practicality. One of the issues that plague the credibility of climate scientists is their insistence on making grandiose pronouncements about some distant future, when we can barely tell what's going to happen tomorrow.

So forget about the future. Mars One is a clear example of Freud's "frantic activity as a defense against impotence." We see bankers and CEOs and senators getting away with all kinds of egregious crimes, and we are mostly powerless to do anything about it, so instead we focus our attention on the unreal, and in this point the future has a leg up on more classic fantasies: it might happen. That it probably won't is entirely beside the point.

Or Anti-Interstellar

Space exploration must be taken for the metaphor that it is. It is not outer space we are destined to explore, but rather inner space. We are meant to navigate the constellations of our souls, to investigate the hidden planets of our minds and bodies. The idea that unexplained phenomena are to a large extent the interference of "extraterrestrial beings" is much more a reflection of our state of mind than any truly objective analysis - the thousands of years of mystical and spiritual experiences on the part of mankind belie any need to go looking for answers "out there".

The very title of the article I mentioned shows me what's wrong: "4 Reasons the Mars One Fiasco Was Actually Good for Humanity". I'm sorry, what? Who the hell are to judge what's good or what's bad for humanity? We have a hard enough time doing that for ourselves, how are we to objectively prescribe good and bad for everyone? These are all empty arguments, projections of inner struggles. Instead of judging what Mars One means for humanity, perhaps we should take a dose of humility and wonder what it means for us.

EDIT: The same day I post this, I see this image on Facebook:

Mar 14, 2015

Weird Brazil: New Akhetaton

In this new series, we'll be taking a look at the esoteric, the paranormal and the odd in various places throughout Brazil. I thought I'd start with Brasilia, since this is one place I actually have a first-hand experience with - a whole lifetime's, in fact.

Brasilia might at first glance seem be different, a bit quirky, but it all goes way farther than that. As I've always said to anyone who'll listen, Brasilia is the weirdest city in the world, in the sense that there is no other place, at least in modern times, that is even close to similar to it. Now, perhaps that's a bit dramatic, but I'll let you be the judge of that.

Now, when it comes to ages-old cities, it's hard to see a lot of intentionality when it comes to the designs and patterns of the city. They grow organically, and have the marks of hundreds of generations and their respective beliefs and methods. However, cities such as Washington D.C. or Brasília, which were planned to be capitals of nations, have a coherent vision behind them.

Brasilia was founded in 1960 by President Juscelino Kubitschek (who bears many resemblances to another famous JK, John Kennedy - in fact, JFK was sworn into office 11 days before Kubitschek stepped down), following a mandate from the 1891 Constitution that a new capital city should be founded at the heart of the country. Brasília was, actually, Kubitschek's meal ticket in the presidential campaign.

What few people know, however, is the inspiration behind Kubitschek's vision for Brasília:

"Taken by my admiration for that autocratic visionary, Akhenaton, whose almost legendary existence I had happened upon in my readings in Diamantina, I took advantage of my stay in Egypt to undertake an excursion to the place where there had been Tell El-Amarna/Akhetaton."

Akhetaton, or "Aton's Horizon", was Akhenaton's dream of a city dedicated to the Sun God, Aton. As I'm sure many of you know, Akhenaton was an Egyptian pharaoh who broke off with the ages-old religion of the region, eschewing an entire pantheon in favor of only one god. He built a new capital city, with an overtly solar motif. Whether you see the triumph of monotheism in the past 2,000 years as a result of Akhenaton's actions of not, his city did not last long.

Many Spiritists believe that Juscelino Kubitchek was the reincarnation of a pharaoh, if not of Akhenaton himself. Kubitschek's home state of Minas Gerais* is a hotbed of Spiritism, and Kubitschek himself was a Spiritist - his ascension to the presidency was akin to, say, a Catholic president getting elected in a highly Protestant country. It is doubtful, though, that he believed himself to actually be a pharaoh.

Or is it?

The Solar symbolism in Brasilia is absolutely undeniable, though. Probably the city's most famous building is the National Congress building, and on April 21st, the date of Brasília's founding, the Sun rises exactly between the two towers. Astronomical alignments were, of course, a noteworthy feature of Egyptian architecture. In Brazil it's quite significant as well, as can be attested by the flag, which features 27 stars representing 26 states and the federal district (as seen in the sky at Rio de Janeiro on November 15th, 1889) - the flag deserves a whole post of its own, though.

The residence of the President in Brasília is called the Palace of Dawn, or Palace of the Rising Sun if you prefer. As a matter of fact, the city is all about the rising Sun. One of the guiding principles behind the city in that one can see the horizon at all times, regardless of where one is.** This why, in the original Brasília, buildings taller than six floors were only allowed to be built along the smaller vertical axis. The weather contributes as well: Brasília's climate is the cerrado, the South American savannah. Thus, the Sun shines practically all year long, and rain is relatively scarce (it's so dry here that often the air humidity is so low that it would be grounds for a state of emergency anywhere else - that's why I always get sick the first few days I'm in a coastal city).

There's even a saying here that says that, since Brasília is a thousand kilometers away from the nearest ocean, "the sky is Brasília's sea". And indeed it is. Since it's so dry, the city is extremely dusty, and these reddish dust particles create an unparalleled sky when mixed with the sunrise or sunset light.

The very name of the city suggests Solar light. Brasília is evidently derived from Brazil, which was taken from the characteristic pau brasil, or brazilwood. This tree was highly sought after because a red dye can be produced from it - the root br- suggests fire, as in the words 'bright', 'brilliant', 'brazier', 'brave', 'brown' and so on (and my own name, Bruno). 'Brasília' is pronounced the same way as "Bras Ilha", which essentially translates to "fire island".

Below is the sketch that won Lucio Costa the contest for the design of the city, the so-called Pilot Plan:

It's called the Pilot Plan due to its similarity to the shape of a bird, the supposed inspiration for its design. The this bird faces the East and the rising Sun tell me that it's clearly phoenix symbolism. Each wing (the neighborhoods are actually called South Wing, where I live, and North Wing), is roughly eight by two kilometers, which happen to be the dimensions of the original Tell Al-Amarna (it also faces the same direction).

Juscelino Kubitschek himself died under mysterious circumstances, after the military seized power the U.S.-backed coup in 1964. There was a brouhaha recently about exhuming his corpse for another autopsy, but nothing was found - officially. His legacy, however, clearly lives on. He enjoys the same hero-president status in Brazil as JFK does in the US, though we are much less historically-minded as a people. Below is the cover of a TIME magazine edition depicting Kubitschek as a Solar hero:

The weirdness, though, goes way beyond that. Brasília is surrounded by places full of mystical connotations, such as the Chapada dos Veadeiros, which features a so-called "UFO airport", and the Snorer's Sierra, where legend says there is a portal to the Inner Earth (or to Atlantis, depending on your source). As Chris Knowles pointed out recently, much of the architecture seen these days seems oddly "ufoidal", and this is no less true in Brasília.

Since Brasília was built in a mostly uninhabited region, there are people from all corners of the country, lured by the positivist vision of a Solar utopia. Syncretism pretty much runs wild here, to the point that many practices and beliefs are hard to describe. I probably have more friends who pray to orixas than friends who go to church. Sadly, evangelicalism is widespread, and I'm pretty sure their techniques were imported through the same channels that fed the military in the 1960s.

There is certainly much more, but that's for a future post. Suffice it to say that there is much more to this odd city than might appear, and unfortunately people usually can't see beyond the superficial layers. There's even an effect in Brasília where strangeness is the standard to the point that people aren't aware of just how palpable the weirdness is.

Akhenaton's Solar city as a monument to the future may not have turned out quite the way he imagined it, but it's clear that after all these years his dreams have yet to fade away.

* The capital of Minas Gerais translates to Beautiful Horizon

** Brasília was the first modern city to be declared a UN World Heritage Site

Sep 16, 2014

A Little Village in Gaul

These past few years my life has been taking me on a very strange journey, a journey across space and time that brings together elements that might at first seem so disparate. This journey has followed the footsteps of Mediterranean seafarers, but not in a way that mainstream historians would regard them. These master sailors ranged from modern Lebanon to the North Sea, from Egypt to the Azores and probably even America. They have appeared in many guises, and are likely not all of the same origin. There are, however, so many threads connecting them all that it is impossible to ignore them.

What I would say is the central thread is the downright weirdness that seems to accompany them wherever they go, something very Mysterious. It is exactly because of this that we don't read much about this in high school textbooks - but it is nonetheless absolutely essential if one is to understand just what the hell has been going on in human history. We usually take it for granted that humanity, slowly and gradually, has made discoveries and inventions, a bit out of the blue as it were. Doesn't it seem odd, though, that evolution has worked in a timescale of millions of years, yet we have moved from cave-dwellers to astronauts in practically the blink of an eye?

What has made this perfectly clear to me is the study of astrology. It becomes clear at first that, though the details are far from worked out, there is definitely something there. But it doesn't take long before you start to wonder how the hell we came upon such knowledge in the first place. There is absolutely no way that this was accomplished through mere observation, especially considering how hard it was to preserve knowledge thousands of years ago.

One of the earliest recorded mentions of astrology comes from a tablet describing a dream of the Sumerian ruler Gudea of Lagash, in which the gods revealed to him the means to study the heavens to favor the construction of a temple. And this sort of account is absolutely everywhere. It seems pretty clear to me that most of our knowledge has been acquired not by recording and experimenting but by contacting the gods themselves.

Now, we can debate about who or what the 'gods' actually are, but from the Mystery cults of the Mediterranean, through the old Gnostic religions and up to more modern groups such as secret societies and spiritualists, there is something fleeting that calls our attention and begs us to find out more. It is, however, too much for a deep immersion into the technical and the factual. These people have always made it a point to shroud themselves in secrecy. Perhaps then we might get some ideas if we approach the issue tangentially, studying not history books or religious texts, but comics, a medium that is familiar to visionary artists.

But you can get your Jack Kirby fix over at the Secret Sun. Here we're going to take a look at the travels of the most famous Gaul around, Asterix.

Asterix and Obelix is a French 'bande dessinée'* comic series created by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, which follows the exploits of the titular characters, who are part of the last village in Gaul to have resisted the advance of the Archons Roman Empire. They achieve that thanks to a magic potion concocted by the village druid that gives them superhuman strength. The magic potion in and of itself is enough to go on, but let's take a look at who these Gauls really were.

The Gauls were a Celtic people who lived mostly in what today is France. France, of course, is no stranger to cultures associated to mystery cults, having been the home of the Cathars, the Normands, and others. From Wiki: "[D]uring the 7th and 6th century presumably representing an early form of Continental Celtic culture, the La Tène culture arises, presumably under Mediterranean influence from the GreekPhoenician, and Etruscan civilizations". 

So triple check on the seafaring Mediterraneans then. And who were the Gauls' main adversaries? The Romans, of course, who have terrorized their fair share of mystery cults, whether under the order of the Roman emperor or of the Pope. The bird chosen to represent France nowadays is the rooster, a figure which is certainly very familiar to those who hang out in occult circles. The same rooster appears under the guise of Abraxas, a common figure in Gnostic texts. I should also add that the Portuguese word for rooster is 'galo'.

In the comic series, the chief of the village, in the original French, is called Abraracourcix - a name which clearly resonates Abraxas. It is also interesting that the Gauls use round winged helmets, which allude (intentionally or not) to the Winged Disk:

The thought that led me to this post was that the names of the main characters are, essentially, Asterisk and Obelisk, and you might have seen that combo around in the Egyptian hieroglyph that represents Sirius. In the glyph the obelisk represents Osiris and the asterisk, or star, none other than Horus himself.

Obelix, Asterix's companion, is frequently seen lugging around a menhir, or large standing stone, which you might have seen, oh, all along the Mediterranean coast, from the obelisks of Egypt to the stone circles of Britain. The deal with Obelix is that, as a child, he fell in a cauldron of magic potion, and thus has superstrength on a permanent basis, with the caveat that he can't drink any more potion. In other words, we have someone who fell and came back with new characteristics - just like Osiris. As an interesting aside, the god most frequently invoked in the comics is Toutatis: "victims sacrificed to Teutates were killed by being plunged headfirst into a vat filled with an unspecified liquid."

The cherry on top is Obelix's dog, Idéfix - Sirius is, after all, the dog star.

In each comic book, the heroes set off (often by boat) to distant lands across the Mediterranean coast, visiting the old stomping grounds of Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Normans, and so on. The first ones are pretty standard fare, but they start to get weirder and weirder, featuring magic carpets, UFOs and Atlantis. This became pronounced especially after the death of co-creator René Goscinny. What about Albert Uderzo then?

Uderzo is not originally French (he was naturalized later on), but an immigrant from northern Italy, specifically the town of Oderzo in the province of Treviso - a stone's throw from the city of my mother's grandparents, near Venice. It doesn't take a big stretch of the imagination to connect Venice to Phoenicia - coastal cities where trade and mystery cults boomed. Brazil's famous carnival is a descendant of the Venice carnival, which itself is a remnant of the old Saturnalia and Lupercalia festivals.

The Venetian coat of arms, featuring a winged lion with a crescent on its head, seemingly delivering knowledge

Many wonder if, in fact, the Phoenicians weren't the first Western people to arrive in South America. I've heard persistent rumors that any Phoenician artifacts that have been found in Brazil have been shipped off to distant warehouses, presumably so that the history of the country, and therefore the national myth, don't have to be rewritten - after all, if historians are wrong about this, what else are they wrong about?

The name 'Brazil' comes from brazilwood, a reddish wood found locally, which was extensively traded in the form of red dye. Red dye, of course, was something the Phoenicians themselves were particularly fond of. The root 'BR' is related to 'fire' or 'ember', and can be found in various languages: brun in French, braun in German, or brown in English, the color of burnt; brasa in Portugese and Spanish, or brazier in English. My own name, Bruno, has two possible origins - either 'brown' or 'brilliant', in both cases of Germanic origin. Both are, in fact, the same, deep down. My full name transliterates to "fire of the saints of the coast".

My gut feeling is that the Hi-Brazil story of Irish legend can be traced back to stories of these old Phoenician travels - they traded all the way up to Ireland, after all. But why this big aside? One of the more recent comics, Asterix and the Falling Sky was dedicated to Uderzo's late brother Bruno. It was the 33rd comic in the series.

The title is a reference to a frequent expression used by the Gauls: their only fear is that "the sky will fall on our heads." However, the 'sky' indeed falls, in the form of a ball-of-light UFO. I haven't been able to get a hold of the comic yet, so I can't go into much detail, but we can see a few strange things are afoot. The comic is ostensibly a reaction to the invasion of Japanese manga in France in the 2000s, and the aliens apparently a parody of the US, but I think it goes a bit deeper than that.

The story is that aliens come to Earth because of the Gaul druid's magic potion, which is "famous throughout the Universe." The evil aliens Nagmas want to learn its secrets and weaponize it, while the alien Toon, who arrives in a "spaceship resembling a gigantic yellow sphere", seeks to the destroy it. The magic potion, however, makes the Gauls immune to the aliens' weapon, and they are easily dispatched. As he leaves, Toon erases everyone's memories of the events, supposedly because he was embarrassed at having turned into a giant upon drinking the magic potion.

There are several references to anime and manga, but it seems Uderzo seems to have struck a deeper chord, probably unintentionally. The aliens each have several identical henchmen: golden-armored rat robots called Goelderas on one side, and Supermen stand-ins on the other. Basically, then, Earth is the site of the battle of two alien races, one polarized positively, the other negatively. You don't have to be Giorgios Tsoukalos to make connections here.

Uderzo clothes this in references to Japanese manga and American imperialism, but the undertone is what's really interesting. He seems to treat the whole episode as an aside due to the presence of extraterrestrials, who conveniently erase everyone's minds, just as Hergé did in his Tintin comic Flight 714 to Sydney. That seems to be an awful lot of trouble for a giggle.

But there's more, of course. In All at Sea, a group of slaves, led by a caricature of Kirk Douglas's Spartacus, rebel and manage to capture Julius Caesar's prize ship. Where do these these slaves hail from, you ask?

They ultimately decide to make way to the Gauls' village, since it's the only place they know of that is not under Roman control. Meanwhile, back in the village, Obelix is upset that the druid refuses to allow him to drink the magic potion, so he waits until they are all gone and swallows the entire cauldron. This, however, causes him to turn to granite.

As one of the characters notes, Obelix has become stoned after drinking too much magic potion. One might expect that this occurred quite frequently when initiates into mystery cults were overeager and consumed too much of whatever entheogen was used, thus reaching a sort of catatonic state. Afterwards, Obelix returns to a human state, but he has become a child. So here we have Obelix once again resonating Osiris, 'dying' and 'coming back to a new life'.

The druid suggests they set sail for Atlantis, where he imagines they will have a cure for Obelix's condition. According to him, "the Atlanteans are descended from a very ancient civilization far more advanced than our own." After a series of naval snafus, they arrive, and are immediately greeted by children riding dolphins. This reminds me of a story I once heard about Atlantis: supposedly, the hyper-advanced Atlanteans tinkered with the DNA of dolphins and whales, allowing their bodies to receive more advanced, self-aware souls.

After landing, they are greeted by more children, including centaurs. Their leaders explained that they were able to find a formula to turn any adult back into a child, and that all Atlanteans chose to do so. In other words, they found an elixir of eternal youth. This Atlantis also features flying cows and giant fruits, seemingly poking fun at all these "crazy stories", but you and I know it goes deeper than that. It's also curious that the boat the Gauls use to travel to Atlantis looks more like a Phoenician ship than a Roman ship, not to mention the masonic checkered gold-and-blue sail.

In another comic, Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield, Asterix and Obelix take the village chief to a distant spa to treat his aching liver. In this spa, the chief bathes, gets massages, and diets. These spas are descendants of the old Greek off-city sites dedicated to Asklepios, where people would go to be healed of their various physical and psychical ailments. Asklepios is, of course, intimately related to the serpent by way of the caduceus, serpents that feature of course in depictions of our old god Abraxas. The spa is run by another druid, called Diagnostix - 'diagnosis' meaning "to know through separation".

The plot in the comic spins around the famous Arvernian shield given up by Vercingétorix after the Romans defeated the Gauls, a shield which ended up with none other than chief Abraracourcix. Abraxas himself is frequently depicted carrying a round shield. To top it off, this round shield features a white five-pointed star, which will be familiar to anyone in the arms of Captain America. Asterix and Obelix also meet a store patron called, in the original French, Alembix, a reference to the alembic of traditional alchemical use.

There's obviously much, much more, but for now, I'll leave you with a message, a message to go out and find your own magic potion. As depicted in Dreamworks' Kung-Fu Panda, one of my favorite animations, there is no secret formula. The magic potion is merely a gateway to contact with the gods, these gods that have taught us all so much. Through the use of this potion, a potion that is different for each of us, we will be able to take a stand against the archonic forces that strive to maintain the status quo for control purposes. Be free and be your own, and get that cauldron started.

* literally "drawn strip", something I'm sure the Egyptians were acquainted with