Friday, November 14, 2008
Saturday, November 01, 2008
A window in Sogmatar.
Continuing my theme of Doors, Windows and Other Things Seen on My Travels, here is a window in a little concrete hut in the ancient village of Sogmatar, in the wild and sombre desert, south of Sanliurfa, in Kurdish Turkey.
It looks a bit primitive, but I actually had a very nice lunch in that concrete hut: enormous just-baked flatbreads, dished up with chunks of goat's cheese, fat tomatoes and juicy cucumber, followed by slices of fresh watermelon - served by a Kurdish shepherd. It was the simplest of meals, yet memorably delicious.
Sogmatar is an ancient and incredibly atmospheric centre of paganism. There is a temple to the Moon God, Sin, cut out of one of the cliffs. The eerie dead gods stand inside, in effigy, eroded by time. Assyrians, Romans and Hittites alike all practised human sacrifice in and around Sogmatar: you can still see the channels cut for the flowing blood.
The strange and deserted village of Sogmatar features significantly in my thriller, The Genesis Secret, coming out in March.
UPDATE: This is weird. After uploading this post, I clicked on that photo for the first time, and properly enlarged it. If you look closely you can see in the top left corner, a strange emblem of a bird - some kind of raptor, an eagle or a falcon.
The resonance of this, for me, is significant: my thriller is partly based on the survival of ancient and unnerving Mesopotamian faiths, possibly dating back to the end of the Ice Age. Certainly some religions in the area are very old: e.g. Yezidism. The Yezidi still live in Iraq, and they worship a bird called a Peacock Angel.
My theory is that all these faiths stem at least from Sumerian times and maybe before. A common motif is the worship of birds: the Yezidi have their peacock god; birds are a common symbol in the 9000 year old village of Catalhoyuk, central Turkey; and birds appear frequently in the 12000 year old temple of Gobekli Tepe (about twenty miles from Sogmatar).
And birds were definitely adored by Sumerians and Akkadians etc: as flying spirits of the desert, embodiments of wind and sky; these spirits were often intensely evil (like the winged Demon Pazuzu, used in the Exorcist).
Turkey is of course 100% Muslim these days. Even the Yezidi have gone (supposedly). And yet - there's that bird on the wall. That slightly sinister emblem. Intriguing.
Posted by sean at 11:14 am