The Rise and Fall of Shaman Queens of the East

The Rise and Fall of Shaman Queens of the East

The word ‘shaman’ conjures up images of Native American medicine men smoking peace pipes, dancing in a trance to drumming around a fire or African sangomas, adorned with leopard skin, throwing dollose bones and shells to divine and drinking beer from calabash. This is far removed from the concept of sophisticated, regal shaman queens of the East in China, Japan and Korea who used their talent and connection with the ‘Otherworld’ to the benefit of their kingdoms and populace. Later this feminine healing power was suppressed and persecuted by religious men, who regarded it as a threat to their faith.

Mongol Darkhad Shaman just starting Shamanic ritual at Khovsgol lake ( Munkhbayar.B / CC BY-SA 4.0 )

Woman Shamans on a Global Platform

Worldwide, women have been at the forefront of this field of spiritual healing. In some cultures, they even became leaders. From the Buryats in Mongolia to the Bwiti religion in Gabon, the first shaman was in fact a woman. Other examples of the surviving shamans include Machi (a traditional healer and religious leader) of the Mapuche in southern Chile and the Babaylan and Catalonan of the Philippines. Images and historical descriptions show women in many different roles such as invokers, healers, herbalists, oracles and diviners. They also performed as ecstatic dancers, shapeshifters and priestesses of the ancestors.

Himba woman of Namibia (Yves Picq / CC BY-SA 1.0)

In the practice of Katjambia in Namibia, a Himba medicine woman absorbs the negative energies into her own body before returning them to the sacred fire of her ancestors, who then release those negative energies. Similar descriptions were recorded by Greco-Roman visitors to Anatolia. At Castabala, in Cappadocia, the priestesses of Artemis Perasia, walked barefoot through a furnace of hot charcoal without experiencing any harm. The healing power of women shamans was occasionally stated in mythology as being able to restore life to the dead. Medea of Colchis revived a dead ram by putting it into a cauldron with potent herbs and incantations. The Nostoi (Returns), a lost epic of ancient Greek literature, tells of Medea who rejuvenated Jason’s father Aeson in a cauldron.

The Kuo Yu, (Guoyu), BC 5-4 is a Ming-era edition of a historical work written in the 19th century. Exact Date: The Lung- Qing--era keng-shen 庚申 year, ie 1570.

The Rise and Fall of the Second Largest Empire in History: How Genghis&hellip (2010)

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The Persian Empire: A Historical Encyclopedia [2 volumes] : A Historical Encyclopedia

Knowledge of ancient Persia is often gleaned from the writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans—two civilizations that viewed the Persians as enemies. This one-of-a-kind reference provides unbiased coverage of the cultural history of the Persian Empire, examining the Median, Achaemenid, Parthian, Kushan, and Sasanian dynasties and tracing the development and maturation of Iranian societies during a period of nearly 1,500 years. As one of the most comprehensive studies on the topic, this historical overview explores the region's rich past while providing insight into the cultures and civilizations the Persians came to rule and influence.

Using primary sources written and inscribed by the ancient Persians themselves, the encyclopedia studies the pre-Islamic civilizations of Iran in the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent. Incorporating contributions from scholars who discuss the rise and fall of various Persian dynasties, the work offers some 180 entries that cover such topics as religion, royal nobility, the caste system, and political assassinations. The content offers perspectives from a variety of disciplines—from anthropology to archaeology, geography, and art history, among other areas.

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The Rise And Fall Of The Powerful ‘Moorish Empire’ In Spain

In this article about the Moors, I will only share a quick overview of their rise and fall. I will not get into detail about their empire in this article. If you want more information about the Moors you can read The “Moorish” Empire: A Historical Epitome (Classic Reprint) and/or The Moors: The Islamic West 7th-15th Centuries AD (Men-at-Arms) .

There are tons of powerful books out there that you can read to learn about the “Moorish Empire”. You just have to do the research on your own.

Moorish History goes all the way back to the Roman Empire, but for now we will only focus on the “Moors Of Spain”. The Moors from Northern Africa led by “Lord Tariq(Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād)” along with around 12,000 Berbers/Arabs/North Africans went into Spain around 711 A.D. They went through “The Strait Of Gibraltar” and defeated the Visigoths at the battle of Guadalupe .

Those “Moorish Warriors” were responsible for setting up a foundation for the Muslims to rule “Spain” for over 700 hundred years until they where eventually conquered by the “European Christians” in the year 1492 A.D.

The Moors tried to conquer France, but they were turned back by “Charles Martel” and his Frankish Knights.

The Moors brought to Spain the sacred knowledge of ancient Kemet(Egypt), architecture, astronomy/astrology, advance mathematics, science, art and music. They also built 17 “ Universities “, bath houses, light poles, paved roads, and much more. Moors understood the sacred laws, and had the necessary skills to build paradise on earth. They were a noble people of many cultures, nationalities, and backgrounds.

“The “Moors” were profoundly versed in the occult science at Toledo, Seville and at Salamanca were once upon a time the great schools of magick”… H.P. Blavatsky

The Moors Promoted Unity Within The Cultures

Manufacturing was encouraged and the silk and brocade work of the peninsula became well-known in the trading centers of the world. With exception of the ruling class the “Moorish Empire” was all about equality, and giving the people equal opportunities to rise.

Christians, Muslims, and Jews all existed together in Moorish Spain, But “Islam” was the main ruling religion. Christian, and Jews received protection of the state and were allowed participation at the highest levels of the government. People within the “Empire” were encouraged to preserve their cultural traditions, as long as it didn’t interfere with, or disrespect “Islam”.

Most North African Moors converted to Islam for political, ambitious, and financial reasons. While other African Moors who were conquered by the “ Arab Muslims Dynasties ” were forced into practicing “Islam”. Also, Some “Moors” practiced ancient “African Science/Spirituality” in secret.

During the Moorish Reign most of “Europe” were in the “Dark Ages”. The “Popes” at that time hoarded all the knowledge, and kept it within the “Vatican” to rule over the ignorant. Also, the “Black Plague” almost eliminated the majority of the “European” population.

Within their 700 plus year rule, the “Europeans Christians” and other people from around the world came to Spain to learn “Advanced Knowledge” . The problem arose when the Europeans took that powerful knowledge to rebuild their empire, and eventually used it against the “MOORS”. Also, there was constant in-fighting within the “Moorish Empire” for power which eventually led to their ultimate demise.

Ancient “Moor” With A Sword

The Powerful Moorish Empire Didn’t Fall Overnight

After years of war, the Spaniards finally conquered the last Moorish stronghold in Granada in 1492. The Moors who were exiled kept the “True Sacred Knowledge” secret to preserve tradition. But, the conquered Moors who remained in Spain were forced to give up this sacred powerful knowledge to the “European Royal Families” , or be tortured to death. These wise Moors where then recruited by the “European Royal Class” as silent advisors to the Kings and Queens”.

These Moors had no choice, but to submit to “Power”. Once the Moors became weak from years of internal conflict, and constant wars. The Europeans eventually took over “Spain”.

It took over 200 years of bloody wars to conquer the “MOORS”. When the “Christian Spaniards” conquered the last Moorish stronghold at Granada in 1492 A.D, the world conquest of the west began shortly after.

The New World Conquest

The Spaniards who were ruled by the “Elite European Christians/Catholics” began to go into Central America, Cuba, The Caribbean, North and South America in search for new land, food, wealth, and gold. Their goal was to build their future Empires.

When the “Spaniards” first arrived they tried to enslave the local indigenous natives, but that plan didn’t work out so well. So they decided to go into “Africa” and that’s when the “Trans Atlantic” slave trade began. Also, there where Moors already here in “America” before Columbus. “Christopher Columbus” was a ruthless conqueror who’s main goal was to find gold, and land.

Power, Politics, & Leadership

In Conclusion

The Moors were mostly made up of Africans, Arabs, and North African Berbers(Arab/African Mixed). Their “Powerful Empire” spanned southern Italy, Spain, North Africa and what you now call the “Middle East”. Moorish architecture is the articulated Islamic architecture of North Africa within parts of Spain and Portugal, where the Moors were dominant between 711 and 1492.

The Moorish Empire is very important within the narrative of “World History”. If the Moors” were never conquer by the “Europeans”. There wouldn’t be “America” as we know it today. Europe, and America owes much credit to the “Moors”.

When studying history you must always put the pieces of the puzzle together, and understand it has always been about Gold, Land, and Power. The Golden Rule is “Who has the Gold Rules”. When you learn true history, the truth shall always set you free.

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The Rise and Fall of Shaman Queens of the East - History

"Busongora's amazon queen Kitami cya Nyawera and the Rise and Fall of Mpororo"

During the reign of Queen Kitami cya Nyawera of Busongora a fugitive Rwandan prince named Murari Kamali arrived at the court of the queen and was granted asylum. Murari was a claimant to the Rwandan throne but he and his supporters were ousted by his brother Kigeri II Nyamuheshera . At that time Rwanda and Busongora shared a common border, and Murari and his people escaped and crossed into Busongora.

Murari entered Busongora and was led to the palace of Queen Kitami. The Songora queen is remembered mostly for the fact that she was greatly feared, she was exceptionally attractive, and most importantly, her most elite military units consisted entirely of female warriors. Murari stayed at Kitami's royal court and told her of his woes and during the recounting . Kitami fell in love with the sad prince. She decided to marry the Rwandan prince and about 9 months later she gave birth to their only son and they named him Kahaya Rutindangyezi . Now the name Rutindangyenzi means "He bridges rivers", and perhaps they hoped that he would grow up to be a peace-maker. After the birth of Prince Kahaya people began to refer to Kitami as Nyinakahaya - or Nyiragahaya in the Rwandan dialect .

Well, the idea of Murari being king consort in Busongora gave his brother - the king Kigeri III of Rwanda to the south - night mares . out of which he drew dire conclusions. Kigeri decided to invade Busongora in violation of a long-standing spiritual taboo prohibiting Rwandan kings from invading Busongora - on account of the belief that Busongora was home to the deity named Ryangombe, the cattle god. The commander of the Rwandan troops was called B ihira-bya- Muhuruzi . Biriha was a member of the AbaKono sub-clan of the AbEga clan.

The war between Busongora and Rwanda was brutal, and long and went this way and that way without decisive advantage for either side. T he capital city of Busongora - named Bunyampaka [the Rwandans called it "Ibumpaka"] and located in what is now Queen Elizabeth National Park - was sacked and burned by Rwandan troops. The Songora armies retaliated and occupied the region around Lake Muhazi in central Rwanda [present day Gahini] and took many Rwandan captives. A Rwandan queen named Nyirakimenyi was among the captives taken by the Songora armies.

In the course of the war the queen Kitami cya Nyawera was stung by a bee and died of toxic shock directly after. Kitami's death - around the year 1725 - caused bewilderment among the Basongora generals, and they decided that the war was futile. The Rwandan Royals also had good reason to seek an end to the war - besides war casualties, the reign of their king was troubled by misfortunes. Ncenderi, the Queen of Rwanda and wife to King Kigeri II would commit suicide before his reign was over.

To end the war, the Rwandans and the Basongora held negotiations and agreed to a truce that would ensure they would never again go to war. The terms of the peace were thus: the region of south Busongora known as Ndorwa was made a buffer state with Prince Murari [brother to Kigeri of Rwanda and consort to Kitami of Busongora] as its first king. The new buffer state was named Mpororo - probably meaning "place of vengeance" as it had been the scene of much bloody violence. Gisaka region in Rwanda that had been occupied by Busongora also remained autonomous and was only later reincorporated into Rwanda during the reign of Kigeri IV Rwabugiri in the 1880s.

The Basongora Royals, before they decamped from Mpororo , handed Murorwa - one of the Songora royal drums - to the new King Murari. This is how Mprororo became an independent state. When Murari passed-on, the throne was inherited by Kahaya Rutindangyezi. Kahaya went on to have many sons and daughters. Mpororo prospered much and made a great name for itself, so much so that it is remembered well even today.

Now some time later Kahaya Rutingangyezi led Mpororo to war with another state [probably Rwanda]. As his troops were making battle he sent for reinforcements from his six sons who were governors and leaders of military units. However, the sons declined to come to their father's aid. When it appeared that he might be defeated, he tried to commit suicide by impaling himself with his sword but was saved by a Songora general called Kagina who came to his aid with enough troops to stave off disaster. Kahaya survived and was to live many more years.

Kahaya thanked Kagina [who incidentally was a member of my own clan the "Balebeki" - pronounced 'Baah-leh-bekie', and meaning 'Lord-Kings']. The descendants of Kagina are called Bagina - a sub clan of the Balebeki . In anger at the rebellion by his own sons Kahaya buried the royal drum "Murorwa" at a still undisclosed location and cursed his own boys, and then married-off his daughters to nobles in Nkore and Busongora. After Kayaha's death Mprororo broke up as none of his sons could agree as to who should succeed their father as king.

The state of Mpororo had lasted about 50 years - until about 1775 when it was broken-up into six independent states led by the six sons of Kahaya: Nshenyi state under king Rukaari, Rujumbura state under king Kirenzi, Igara state under king Mafunda, Kajara state under king Kihondwa, Bwera state and Rukiga state. Despite this break-up, all the people of the new states continued to self-identify as primarily as Bahororo, and still do to this day.

Mpororo Kingdom remained more famous than its successor states. In 1887, Henry Morton Stanley was denied permission to cross Mpororo. Stanley's view of the Bahororo was unfortunate: "I had to negotiate with the people of Mpororo who were absolutely savage and never before came into contact with the stranger besides being in perpetual blood feud."

Stanley's fellow traveller was Sheikh Ahmed bin Ibrahim , a Muslim trader. The Sheik claimed, "The Wanya-Ruanda-Bahororo are great people but they are covetous, malignant, treacherous and utterly untrustworthy. They have never yet allowed Arabs to trade in their country. There is plenty of ivory there during the last eight years. Khamis Bin Abdullah, Tippu Tip , Sayid bin Habib and myself have frequently attempted to enter there but none of us has ever succeeded. You cannot proceed through Mpororo for the people are Shaitan (Satanic) and the Wanya-Ruanda-Bahororo are wicked and because something happened when the Wangwana (bad people) tried to go there, the natives never tolerated stranger people and are full of guile verily."

The reports of Stanley and the Arab slave traders poisoned the reputation of the Bahororo, as well as the Banyarwanda and the Basongora. When Capt. Frederick Lugard and others came to conquer Central Africa, they were afraid of both Bahororo and Basongora and consequently they were cruel towards them. In 1910, the British colonial occupation forcibly annexed all the states of Mpororo and added them to the neighbouring kingdom of Nkore .

All throughout its history Nkore had only ever had 3 provinces, now the counties of Isingiro , Nyabushozi and Kashaari . With the addition of old Mpororo, Nkore more than doubled in size. However, even today many people still proudly refer to themselves as Bahororo [people of Mpororo] despite attempts to make them Banyankore [people of Nkore]. Shema , which was part of Busongora and had never been part of Mpororo, was also annexed to Nkore in 1910.

Bahororo and Basongora who incorporated illegally into Nkore who have continued to agitate for even a token acknowledgment from the Nkore Royals have received no formal response. However, many of the people who are opposed to the re-establishment of expanded Nkore Kingdom of 1910 have been Bahororo who understand that re-establishing Nkore on territory that rightly belonged to the states of Mpororo or the Kingdom of Busongora is unfair.

The memory of Kitam-kya-Nyawera inspired - in the early 20th century - the powerful politico-religious movement known as Nyabingyi that was important during the struggle against colonial occupation. Spirit mediums who were priestesses of the Nyabingyi religion, claimed that Kitami had also been priestesses of Nyabingyi [God] and that they could speak for Nyabingyi [God] - and for Kitami - when they were in a possession trance.

The various hereditary Nyabingyi priestesses of the 18th century often spoke while in trance and only while veiled or behind curtains. In the late 1800s, the Queen of Rwanda Kingdom named Muhumuza became the leading Nyabingyi spirit medium. After her husband - King Kigeri IV Rwabufiri - had died, Queen Muhumuza was exiled from Rwanda, she went in search of the lost drum Murorwa , and also began a resistance movement that sought to unify Central Africa. In the process of resisting the colonial occupation she became the de-facto ruler of all the Mpororo states while leading what became known as the Nyabingyi resistance movement. Although centred on Mpororo, t he Nyabingi Resistance was active in all of Central and East Africa [especially Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, and Eastern Congo] between 1850 and 1950.

By the 1890s the Priestess-Queen Muhumuza was the most feared anti-colonial resistance leader in all of Africa. As late as 1891, Emin Pasha also wrote: "The Queen of Mpororo had never seen anyone, not even her own subjects. All that they ever know of her is the voice heard behind the curtain of a bark cloth. Such theatrical practices have gained for her throughout Karagwe, Mpororo, the reputation of a great sorceress capable of bewitching people and also benefiting them."

Muhumuza organized armed resistance against the German, British and French colonialists. Regretably, she was captured in 1913 and detained by the British in Kampala, Uganda. She died in prison in 1944. She was eulogised by Marcus Garvey when he found out about her demise. She was described by officials of the European colonial government as "an extraordinary character."

The followers of Muhumuza are also responsible for having kept alive the memories of the Songora queens Kitami and Nyakahuma, and for conserving and transmitting so much of the history of the ancient Busongora and Mpororo. Possessions by Nyabinghi have continued - affecting women mostly - even today, especially in the frontier regions between Uganda and Tanzania.

The Jamaica based Niyabinghi Theocracy Government , a Mansion of Rastafari, was named after the resistance movement and Nyabingi spiritual belief system as led by Muhumuza. The followers of muhumuza always pay tribute to Kitami-kya-Nyawera as one of the ancient Nyabingi priesthood. The Igongo Museum in Uganda [Mbarara] has a special display dedicated to Kitami-kya-Nyawera that is popular with Rastafarians and others who associate Kitami with the Nyabingyi Movement.

The Cockettes: Rise and fall of the acid queens

By Douglas Cruickshank
Published August 23, 2000 7:44PM (EDT)


It began almost by accident, as a lark dreamed up by a man named Hibiscus. From 1969 to 1972, the Cockettes -- an outrageous theatrical troupe comprising gay men, women and babies -- used their LSD-infused exuberance, imaginations and a gift for dressing to the nines in thrift-store drag and glitter to illuminate a series of funny, flamboyant and utterly unprecedented midnight musicals performed at a run-down San Francisco movie theater.

The live shows, with names like "Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma," "Pearls over Shanghai" and "Journey to the Center of Uranus," were chaotic and witty costume extravaganzas featuring singing, dancing and in-your-face sexuality. As the Cockettes' legend grew, they attracted fans such as Truman Capote ("The Cockettes are where it's at!") and Rex Reed who, in his nationally syndicated column, called the performances "a landmark in the history of new, liberated theater."

Inevitably, the Cockettes became media favorites, showing up everywhere from Rolling Stone to Paris Match. They made a film, "Tricia's Wedding," a transvestite send-up of then-President Nixon's daughter's nuptials, and appeared in other films --"Elevator Girls in Bondage" and "Luminous Procuress." When they were invited to bring their stage shows to New York, the cream of the city's art and culture scene -- Oscar de la Renta, Diana Vreeland, Robert Rauschenberg, John Lennon, Gore Vidal and Anthony Perkins -- partied with them and showed up in force for the opening night performance. And that was when the party ended.

San Francisco filmmaker David Weissman and his partner, editor Bill Weber, are now in the final stages of completing "The Cockettes," a feature-length documentary on the theatrical troupe that Weissman credits with, among other things, inspiring "the glitter rock era of David Bowie, Elton John, the New York Dolls, and the campy extravaganzas of Bette Midler and 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show.'"

"Their influence was enormous," Weissman remarked during the following conversation about the ebullient acid queens of his documentary. "Their whole presence was completely new and garnered a lot of attention. Drag had not received anywhere near that degree of visibility, particularly in a cultural context, outside of the gay community, prior to the Cockettes." And during their star-crossed New York debut, columnist Lillian Roxon, commenting on the troupe's impact on pop culture, wrote, "Every time you see too much glitter or a rhinestone out of place, you [will] know it's because of the Cockettes."

David, can you describe the San Francisco scene that gave birth to the Cockettes?

It was almost perfect -- the Cockettes' first show was New Year's Eve 1969-70. So, symbolically, they defined the cusp -- from the 1960s to the '70s, from the Haight-Ashbury psychedelic, hippie era into the beginnings of the sexual revolution and gay liberation.

How were things changing then in the San Francisco counterculture?

The Haight-Ashbury scene was going through a decline that had started about 1968, which was due to the influx of millions of people from all over the world and enormous media attention, along with an increase in crime and the use of bad drugs -- speed, cocaine, heroin. All those elements combined to degenerate the spirit of what the Haight had been before. But there were still a lot of interesting, creative people living in the Haight, and it remained a counterculture epicenter for the world. Of course, there had long been a gay scene in San Francisco.

Yes, since the 1930s or '40s, perhaps earlier.

Absolutely. But the Cockettes didn't really come out of the traditional gay scene. They emerged largely from the hippie, counterculture world of the Haight-Ashbury. But there was a pretty broad range of gay life here then. Remember, it was before Stonewall, although San Francisco had had its own gay activism -- as early as the mid-1960s there was a lot of activity here. So, in a way the community was already much more receptive and more progressive in relationship to gay issues than most anywhere else in the world, or at least anywhere in the United States. Yet, it was before the official beginning of the gay liberation movement, which theoretically started with New York's Stonewall riots in 1969.

How did the Cockettes begin? Who was the main creative force behind the group?

There was a magic moment when a lot of things came together. It all coalesced at the Pagoda Palace Theater on Washington Square in North Beach, which at the time was running a series of midnight movies every weekend called the Nocturnal Dream Shows. This was started by a filmmaker named Steven Arnold and a guy named Sebastian. They would show very eclectic screenings ranging from Betty Boop cartoons and Busby Berkeley movies to you name it. The audiences were these crazed hippies on acid who dressed up in costumes to attend.

What took place at the Pagoda Palace before midnight?

It was a Chinese movie theater showing Chinese-language films. The Chinese audience would file out at midnight into this massive crowd of crazed, decked-out hippies waiting to come into the Nocturnal Dream Shows. Now, the Dream Shows started as just a movie series, then the Cockettes, whose live performances became part of the after-midnight entertainment at the Pagoda Palace, emerged from the imagination of a man named Hibiscus, who died in 1982.

What was his background?

Hibiscus was from a New York theater family. He came to San Francisco in 1967. He was a very flamboyant character, very theatrical and charismatic. Over a period of time he got connected with people who shared an interest in a flamboyant street presence -- in dressing up, wild costumes and street theater. And on that particular New Year's Eve, a whole group of them got together and -- there are a lot of different stories as to how it actually happened -- apparently Hibiscus had asked Steven Arnold and Sebastian if he could bring a bunch of friends, men in dresses and beards and also women, and do an intermission act at the New Year's show. It wasn't on the program or anything. The Cockettes came up on stage and they did a can-can dance to the Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman." Everybody wound up with half of their clothes off -- it was this wild bacchanal. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. There had never been bearded hippie drag queens before.

In traditional drag performances a man would impersonate a woman, but this was something different.

Right -- this was not about female impersonation. This was what came to be known as gender-fuck, but it had not been done before. And everybody was stoned out of their brains and they had a ball. That's how it happened. That first night was just a one-time idea to do a can-can during intermission.

Then they actually started writing scripts?

No, that took a while. For the early shows, Hibiscus, who was sort of the leader of the group in the sense that he was the charismatic one, would draw people together and come up with themes, but the themes were very loose for the few months the shows were just casual reviews. It was anarchic -- everybody making up their own parts. It was very much about costume, dress-up and a theatrical attitude. Then, over time, the Cockettes started to become a big draw for the Palace and the show started getting a little more structured and developing in ways that had not been anticipated at the beginning. This was great, but it also started to cause problems.

Hibiscus always had this idea of doing a free theater company. And while he loved the Cockettes, the fact was that they were doing this as part of a commercial endeavor. That was problematic because he believed that if you're going to perform it should only be for free. Hibiscus had a more anarchic vision of what the Cockettes should be.

Did they get salaries?

They got a little money. Everybody has different memories of how much money they got, but it was not much. Sebastian became their manager and the whole issue of money started to stir things up. But the show started getting bigger and better -- more structured, scripted -- and they became quite popular.

What gave you the idea to do the documentary?

It's funny, I never really thought about making documentaries before, but this movie is something that I was born to make. I've always had an interest in the world of drag as subversive, political humor. And for a long time I was interested in trying to do a book about the Angels of Light, the group that Hibiscus started after the Cockettes, but that never worked out. One day, I happened to be sitting at a cafe talking to a friend about the Cockettes and I said, "You know, somebody really needs to make a film about them, because they define such an incredible, historical moment." That's where I started. Then I asked Bill Weber, who is an extraordinary editor, if he might be interested in participating as my partner.

How did you go about raising the money?

Raising money is an ongoing process. First we had to determine whether or not the surviving Cockettes were willing to participate. And from the beginning we got a great reaction from them. They understood that we were serious and that we were going to approach this with integrity, respect and the appropriate amount of irreverence. Secondly, we needed to get a sense of whether or not there was enough material out there to allow a movie to be made. And we very quickly determined that there was -- a lot of material: news articles, photographs, film, audio interviews, etc.

How close is the film to completion?

We've done about 90 percent of our shooting. And we've interviewed a number of Cockettes and other people, like John Waters. A lot of Cockettes have died. Starting in the early '70s there were many deaths from drug overdoses. And then, beginning in the early '80s and going all the way through to the present, there have been a lot of deaths from HIV, AIDS. But, amazingly, there's still a solid core group of key Cockettes who have been interviewed for the film.

Were the Cockettes simply a long-running, theatrically tinged party or were they serious artists -- or a little of both?

A little of both -- or rather, a lot of both.

Their New York debut was something of a disaster, wasn't it?

Yes, that was quite a fiasco. It all got started because there was a performance here in San Francisco that was attended by Rex Reed and Truman Capote. Reed wrote a wildly raving article about the Cockettes being the greatest thing that was happening in the world culturally. That started a big stir in New York and the Cockettes got very excited about going to New York and performing. What wound up happening was an incredible culture clash that was a disaster for the group. You see, the Cockettes really existed in the reality of the Palace Theater and that reality encompassed the audience and San Francisco.

The expectations of the San Francisco audience were completely different from those of New York audiences. The New Yorkers expected a high degree of professionalism and sophistication. The Cockettes just weren't thinking in those terms, so you had a clash of East Coast and West Coast cultures. To some extent it brought out all the contradictions of what the Cockettes were. They were basically a ragtag group of hippies acting out their imaginations on stage.

They'd taken street theater indoors, but in New York they were seen as just amateurs?

Yes. The New York disaster was primarily opening night, which, of course, is the worst night to have a disaster in the theater. But there were a lot of reasons why opening night went wrong that probably could have been avoided. They took two different shows to New York and opening night they did the much weaker, less interesting, less original of the two -- "Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma." And they also didn't have time to rehearse, really.

And expectations were very high.

The Cockettes were wined and dined and partied all over town by people like Robert Rauschenberg, Diana Vreeland and the Warhol folks. They were treated like royalty at the same time that they were being put up in this roach-infested hotel and not being paid anything really. So they were running around getting free food at parties, along with lots and lots of drugs. Consequently, when it came time to perform, they were a mess. They were tired from partying too much. The sound was bad in the New York theater, and their sets for the Palace Theater, which they brought with them, were just cardboard. The stage in the New York theater was more than twice as big as the Palace's, so their sets looked like little rinky-dink things. There was just not a lot of advance thought put into bringing the show from San Francisco to New York.

The Cockettes apparently felt, "Well, we've done these shows 50 times. We know the material we're not big on rehearsing anyway, because our whole thing is about spontaneity, freshness and whatever happens, happens." I think it says a lot about the Cockettes story: People had very grand delusions that often produced good results, but New York wound up being a big disaster.

They came back to San Francisco and continued for some time, but the luster was gone. In New York they hit both the top and the bottom.

You see their impact on pop culture as being quite broad. How were the Cockettes influential?

It's hard to differentiate the Zeitgeist from specific performers. Clearly, a lot of the glitter-rock stuff came very shortly after the Cockettes. Also there were Bette Midler's big extravaganzas -- she was performing at the Continental Baths in New York at the time the Cockettes performed in the city, and I know she went to see them. And Elton John's glitter phase came very shortly after the Cockettes. Did the Cockettes make glitter rock happen? It's hard to say. But they unquestionably created quite a stir in terms of their gender-bending, their campy, glittery presentation and just in terms of the drag. Drag had not received anywhere near that degree of visibility, particularly in a cultural context, outside of the gay community prior to the Cockettes.

I think it is impossible to deny that their influence was enormous. They were featured in Paris Match. They were in Rolling Stone all the time. Their whole presence was completely new and garnered a lot of attention. People loved photographing them. And when Diana Vreeland met them in New York, she was completely wowed by their costumes which were 50-cent thrift-store clothes. I think that their influence was significant in that they created a whole new genre of performance and visual presentation.

When will the film premiere?

I hope to have it done by the beginning of 2001.

You'll be able to do that?

I think we will. It depends on fundraising -- always a slow process. Documentaries raise their money through contributions from foundations, government and individuals. Because of the subject matter, we're not going to get any NEA money for "The Cockettes." We have received a number of foundation grants and we're working to get individual donors. But this is an unusual project. It's not a sober, social-issue documentary about the Holocaust, poverty in Latin America, abortion or something of that nature. The people who donate to documentaries based on specific social issues are not likely to fund a film about the Cockettes. On the other hand, this is going to be an extremely fun movie and I believe that it has an important, historical and social story to tell, but in a very entertaining context. I think that will work in our favor over the long run. It will give the movie more visibility than most documentaries get because it's a very wild story.

Douglas Cruickshank

Douglas Cruickshank is a senior writer for Salon. For more articles by Cruickshank, visit his archive.

History Orders ‘Barbarians Rising’ Docudrama About Rise & Fall Of Roman Empire

History has ordered Barbarians Rising, an eight-part docudrama that tells the story of the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. The limited event series is a global co-production for History channels produced by October Films, slated to premiere in 2016 across 185+ territories.

Barbarians Rising is told from the perspective of the barbarian rebel leaders. The Roman Empire called them &ldquobarbarians&rdquo &ndash tribes the Romans viewed beyond the fringe of civilization that lived a brutish and violent existence. However, these were also men and women who launched epic struggles that shaped the world to come. The docudrama features nine of history’s greatest warriors – Hannibal, who vowed a blood oath at the age of nine Spartacus, the slave-turned-rebel who led a barbarian revolt Boudica, the Celtic warrior Queen Arminius, the stolen son of Germany Attila, scourge of the east as well as fighting units, the Goths, a fierce people betrayed by the empire and the Vandals, the wandering raiders who dealt Rome&rsquos final death blow.

Adam Bullmore is executive producer, Simon George (World War II From Space) is executive director, and Michael Waterhouse (The Bible) is series producer for October Films. Executive producers for History are Kristen Burns, Russ McCarroll and Sally Habbershaw.

Europe 500 CE

The western Roman empire has fallen to German invaders, but the eastern Roman empire remains intact.

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What is happening in Europe in 500CE

This map shows the history of Europe in 500 CE. The Roman Empire survives in the east, but the western provinces have fallen to a group of German tribes.

The Roman Empire in decline

The past three centuries have seen the Roman Empire experience many changes. The great days of ancient Rome are past, and the city of Rome itself has ceased to be the seat of political power. Emperors have spent more and more time close to the frontiers, to deal with the ever increasing threats, both from beyond the frontiers and from their own armies.

During the 4th century a dramatic transformation was set in train when the emperor Constantine (reigned 311-337) converted to Christianity. Under his successors Christianity became the official religion of the empire. Constantine also founded a new imperial capital, Constantinople.

The fall of the Roman empire in the west

During the 5th century the western provinces of the empire were overrun by German tribes. A number of Germanic kingdoms were established here, and their territories expanded to cover the entire territory of the former western empire. For a time, the whole of Western Europe was threatened by the fearsome Huns, a people from the central Asia who, under their king Attila, looked as if they might take over the whole Roman empire. In the event, however, they were defeated by a coalition of Romans and Goths (451).

Finally, in 476, the last Roman emperor in the West abdicated. This left the kingdoms of the Visigoths, the Burgundians and the Franks to divide Gaul between them, while the Visigoths and Seubi shared the Iberian Peninsula. North Africa has been occupied by another German tribe, the Vandals. Southern Britain is being settled by north German peoples who came to be known to history as the Anglo-Saxons.

By this date, even Italy, the heartand of the old Roman empire, is under barbarian rule, with the king of the Ostrogoths ruling from Ravenna, formerly the seat of the western Roman emperors.

The fall and survival of Roman civilization

Graeco-Roman civilization has taken a major hit in these former Roman provinces, and society is experiencing huge changes. The city-based way of life enjoyed by the Romans is in steep decline.

The shrunken towns are now dominated by Christian bishops, who have proved to be the only figures capable of protecting the townsmen in these turbulent times.

The Roman Empire is far from extinct. It has shrunk to its eastern half, but, governed from its capital of Constantinople, it remains powerful and prosperous. Here, Roman civilization continues to thrive, though in an altered form as it morphs into Byzantine civilization. Above all, the Christian Church has a huge influence on its society and culture.

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The Rise and Fall of Shaman Queens of the East - History

After the kot massacre in 1903 BS, Nepal was ruled by hereditary Rana prime ministers who came to power according to rules of succession and exercised absolute power. Kings were a puppet in their hands. With life blood support from the British East-India Company, they tried to sustain their rule with suppression of public freedom and strong control over education and outside influence. Mostly their reforms were either for gaining public support for their autocratic rule or for enlarging their luxury. Various circumstances had led to the rise of Rana Regime, as those described below:

1. Political instability

The era after Prithvi Narayan Shah was characterized by power politic and conspiracy. Pratap Singh Shah ruled only for about 3 years and then came his 3-years old son Rana Bahadur. The army commanders who came back from the battlefield indulged similarly after the Anglo-Nepal War. Such political instability paved a way for the rise of the dictator, Jung Bahadur.

2. Contact of Jung Bahadur's family with the palace

From the early time, Jung Bahadur's family was in touch with the palace. His grandfather Ranajit Kunwar was killed in the battle of Kangada and his father Balnarsingh Kunwar was a bodyguard of king Rana Badahur Shah. Balnarsingh Kunwar had killed Sher Bahadur Shah, the murderer of Rana Bahadur Shah. He was appointed the chief of Dhankuta, Dadeldhura and Jumla in different time periods. Jung Bahadur in company with his father got the post of lieutenant. Later he got the post of a captain from king Rajendra. He had also worked as a private secretary to the crowned prince, Surendra Bikram. Following the murder of Mathabar Singh committed by him, his popularity grew all the more in the palace.

3. Support of East India Company

Following the Sugauli Treaty of 1873 BS, Nepalese politics was highly influenced by the English ambassadors. Pandeyand Rana's were instigated against Thapa, particularly Bhimsen Thapa by the two queens of the king Rajendra as well as the English. Ranas who came to power with the English support knew that they could sustain their autocracy as long as they could please the English. To win the confidence of the English, Rana'sgave valuable military support to British to suppress Sepoy mutiny and to win the two world wars. It is not merely a coincidence that Rana autocracy was thrown following the independence of India.

4. Nuptial relation with the royal family

In order to strengthen relation with the royal family, Jung Bahadur married Prime Minister Fattejung Shah's sister Hiranyagarva Kumari. To further tie up the relation, marriages of his sons Jagatjung and Jeetjung wee arranged with two princes of king Surendra. Later he gave away his two daughters in marriage to prince Trailokya. These relations helped Jung Bahadur to rise to stately social status and he could get more power in his hand.

5. Three Parvas:

The murder episode that took place on the night of Ashwin 2, 1903 BS has been regarded as Kot massacre. Some historians took this murder episode as a result of a conspiracy hatched by Jang Bahadurwhile others taking it in a different way thought that it was an inevitable event of mass killing with Jang Bahadur used for his own purpose. However, this episode of homicide was not only limited to the mass killing of high-level courtiers, assembling in the court of the palace in order to find out the culprit who had murdered Gagan Singh, a private person of Queen Rajya Lakshmi. After the Kot Massacre, Jung Bahadur was appointed to the post of the commander-in-chief.

The next day of the mass killing of the courtiers which was carried out at the Bhandarkhal garden at Ashwin 17 1903 BS is known as Bhandarkhal parwa and was thought to be the outcome of a conspiracy of Queen Rajya Lakshmi to kill Jung Bahadur. The Queen wanted to make her own son, Ranendra Bikram Shah, a King instead of Surendra Bikram Shah, the legitimate crown prince. But, Jung Bahadur was deadly against it. She, therefore, had an evil design of killing Jung Bahadur with the help of his opponents including Gagan Singh Khawas' family. Having been informed about all this, Jung Bahadur with the help of his brothers and his six platoons of soldiers managed to get all of his opponents killed in the bhandarkhal garden. Among those murdered in the event were Birdhoj Basnet, Mansingh Basnet and many other Basnets and 23 other people.

6. Royal approval of 24th Shrawan 1913 BS

King Surendra was a puppet in the hand of Jung Bahadur. Through the approval of 24th Shrawan, 1913 BS, he made Jung Bahadur the King of Lamjung and Kaski (Shree Teen Maharaj). Now Jung Bahadur could exercise very important executive powers including appointment and dismissal of officials, infliction of punishments and formulation of laws.

Fall of Rana Regime

Rana regime was established at the cost of many innocent lives and it was doomed to fail. Ordinary people from the very beginning had developed hatred and distaste for the system though they couldn't bring it out easily. Rana autocracy could eventually be overthrown by an armed revolution in 2007 BS.

The following are the major factors behind the downfall of the autocratic system.

Family Scuffle/ Clash

Conspiracies for power among the kith and kin of the Rana became a major characteristic of the period. Opponents from Jung Bahadur's own family hatched plots to blow him but in vain. Badrinarsingh, one of his brothers, tried to kill him. After his death sons of Dhirshumser (His own half-brother) wiped his sons away and changed the roll of succession in their favor. Ranoddip, who succeed Jung Bahadur was assassinated while in office. Jung bahadur's son Jagat Jung had also made efforts to rise to power in 1938 BS.

Exclusion of C-class Ranas from the role of succession

As an effort for limiting the role of succession in favor of his family line, Chandra Shumsher categorized Ranas into A Class (Those born from ordinary marriage relations), B-Class (Those from without marriage relations), C Class (Those from illicit relations) and declared the C class out from the role. Those excluded would naturally try to destroy those in power to recover their positions. Subarna Shumhser, an excluded, later formed the Nepal Prajatantrik Congress which changed into the Nepali Congress with merged with MP Koirala's Nepali Rastra Congress. The Nepali Congress party succeeds in the overthrowing regime through an armed revolution.

Anti-Rana movements

Ranas had themselves sowed seeds of their failure. Lakhan Thapa got martyrdom as he tried to finish Jung Bahadur when the latter was on his hunting excursion. Ranas' suppressive activities encouraged continuous efforts of protest. Chandra Shumsher suppressed the anti-Rana activities of Gorkha League (Rising awareness in India), Arya Samaj (Encouraging religious reformations). Krishnalal Upadhyay who wrote Makaiko Kheti, an analogical satire on the Ranas, was imprisoned. Later anti-Rana movements got momentum in Tulsimeher's Charkha Movement (That followed Mahatma Gandhi's policy of protest through weaving), Prachanda Gorkha (First political party established to overthrow Rana regime), Mahabir School and Library establishment (Working towards raising public awareness), etc. Though these activities were suppressed immediately, they could weaken the root of the Rana regime in the long run.

Abdication of King Tribhuwan and armed revolution

Even after the execution of the Praja Parishad leaders in 1997 BS anti-Rana agitation did not stop. Later the Nepali Congress started an armed revolution which was contributed by king Tribhuwan. The reigning king abdicated the throne and took asylum in the Indian Embassy. Finally, the Ranas agreed upon the Delhi Compromise which somehow marked their end.

World War II, Indian Independence, and waves of other international changes

Rana's could easily sustain their rule as long as they pleased the British East India Company. When the British colonial rule in India came to its end, their strong foundation had collapsed. Following the Indian Independence, the Nepalese democrats, who had fought in the Indian War of Independence, came back and used their expertise in the agitation in Nepal. The Nepali Congress collected funds and weapons and operated the revolution from India. The Delhi compromise was concluded under an active mediation of the Indian government, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in particular.

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The Rise and Fall of Aksum

The Kingdom of Aksum emerged from the port city of Adulis at the turn of the 3rd century, when the unnamed conqueror of the Monumentum Adulitanum conquered far inland and established a new capital at Aksum, in the geographic center of his new empire within the land of the Aua people. Within the lifetime of this conqueror, probably the king known as Gadara or Gadarat, the Empire of Aksum emerged from essentially nowhere, conquering a dozen different tribes and small states in the Ethiopian interior and extending his rule across the Red Sea into Najran and deep into Yemen. For the next 500 years, Aksum would be a force to be reckoned with.

Originally worshiping the ancient south Arabian gods, particularly Mahrem (Mars the war god is the Greco-Roman equivalent) the Empire of Aksum would conquer upper Nubia and the ancient city of Merowe under Ezana, who’s throne name was Ela Abreha, who among his other titles listed “Son of the Invincible Mahrem”. In the 13th year of Ezana’s reign, in 333, Coptic Christianity would become the official state religion. A quirk of their conversion was that their kingdom did not have enough bishops to convene their own metropolitan bishop, which was by design in order that the Patriarch of Alexandria retained the power to personally nominate the leader of the Christian religion in Ethiopia.

Little is known of the successors to Ezana and his brother Saizana (throne name Ela Atzbeha) which probably just means that their deeds were confined to the interior of East Africa where classical historians show remarkably little interest. A few of the kings would take interest in Arabian politics but things would shift dramatically with a series of events brought about by the king of Himyar, Yusuf Asar Yathar ibn Sharhabil, better known as Dhu Nuwas.

Yusuf Asar Yathar was a fanatical devotee of the Jewish religion. Over the centuries that Aksum had ruled over Najran, a number of churches had been built there and the population had mostly converted to Christianity. Dhu Nuwas was a member of the Tubba dynasty of Himyar, which had both Christian and Jewish branches, but he was fanatically devoted to Judaism and sought to cleanse the heresy of Christianity from the land of Yemen. His armies attacked and massacred the Christians of Najran and burned the churches in 524.

It is at this point that the most famous king of Aksum enters history. Kaleb, throne name Ela Atzbeha, was the great-great-great-grandson of Ezana, and himself a very pious man. When Najran was attacked by Dhu Nuwas, he mobilized the armies of Aksum and sailed across the Bab el-Mandeb, and conquered Himyar. Dhu Nuwas killed himself by jumping into the sea, and Aksum reached its greatest extent. This moment marks the high water mark for Aksumite power and influence, ruling an empire from the Danakil Depression, to Merowe in Upper Nubia, to the Blue Nile in the south and the southern Hejaz in the north.

Following the conquest of Yemen, Kaleb eventually abdicated the throne and retired to a monastery. Kaleb’s successors were not as capable rulers and due to probable incompetence (late or inadequate pay, or perhaps just the charisma of the instigator) a few decades after Kaleb’s retirement, the soldiers of Yemen mutinied and declared their general Abreha to be King of Yemen. Aksum sent a few armies across the sea to retake Yemen but Abreha defeated them all. After this point, never again would an Ethiopian state ever hold land in Yemen.

Abreha’s ambitions were not limited to Yemen, and the self-made King of Yemen sent an army of African war elephants against Mecca in an unsuccessful invasion in the Year of the Elephant, the same year that the Prophet Muhammed was born, in 570. The Tubba dynasty never accepted the rule of Aksum or Abreha, and fought an unsuccessful struggle to retake their family lands from the Tubba dynasty’s northern lands in Kindah, especially the king Yazid ibn Kabshat. The Sassanid Persian Empire sent an army under the great general Vahriz, but liberation was not forthcoming as the Persians annexed Yemen into their empire instead.

The war of Christian against Jewish in Yemen spread to Ethiopia, where a significant segment of the Aksumite Empire were Jewish, the Beta Israel of the southwest. In 700, this religious violence led to civil war, when the Jewish and Christian sons of a different Kaleb, throne name Qwestantinos, tore the kingdom apart. Disorder spread rapidly and the coast of Eritrea became a haven for pirates. The pirates attacked Jeddah in 714, triggering a strong response from the Ummayad Caliphate who seized most of Eritrea, built a fort at what is now Massawa to keep the pirates away, and appointed a Naib at Arkiko.

By this point, Aksum had declined massively. In the mid 9th century, the capital was moved from Aksum southeast to Lake Hayq, to a city known in medieval times as Ku’bar. In the mid 10th century, a succession dispute weakened the kingdom sufficiently that the Beta Israel invaded and conquered Aksum under Queen Gudit. While the Christian Kingdom would continue on, first under Kaleb’s dynasty and later under the Zagwe and a “restored” Solomonic dynasty from Bulga in southern Ethiopia, the Empire of Aksum was effectively dead, with all of its core historical areas ruled by others.

Watch the video: The Rise and Fall of Mikhail Tal Documentary. The Winter Kings (November 2021).