Shemhazai & Istehar

          For the Cainites—


For men were not created for the purpose of confirming their good faith with pen and ink.
          —1 Enoch 69:101

                    i. Antiphon

Fear not the Angel of Death who seeks by name those destined to end. Change fate. Be awakened, rise up from your beds. Do not run but take a stand.

                    ii. Invocation

Take my hand, Penemue,2 and guide my heart with your own folding open softly its lethal palm over my inward being, healing with secrets whose balm you have been stealing this chasm which persists between this muscle shaped like a fist and my hot head revelations fill with the fevers of their heated apocalypses.

Stubborn cavern into which drips from heaven sparks from a candle or stalactite finger of ancient stone the gentle tone of your ageless whisper melts the way one look can ravish all innocence.

Nameless evangelist, novel iconoclassicist, I forsake neither all vanity nor the pain it brings—treasuring each and every experience whose memory I sing—but those whose misdeeds are filthy mirrors, bent shields, the scorpion sting of their ignorant fear breaks.

Bring them no reprieve but discomfort the complacent using my voice to speak. Bridge the liminal, fallen angel, where spirit sits. Resurrect intellect in the intersection their cult of commerce crosses with eighteen wheels, nine paired feet petrolling beneath the belly of a steel beast. Paved roads passing for trade routes promises of progress neglect, delivering products as if they were parcels of deliverance.

Misinterpreted intent comforts yet misses the one point, the sole value, they all damage and dismiss. Blindness the pitfall of any mind conditioned to avoid at all costs reckoning with their lie’s price, demoniacs constrained by the dollar sign. That powerful sigil even little children will scribble which plummets a sword through a serpent, or implies the tree that serpent climbs. Prince of knowledge whose fruit its lightning signifies, his barbarous word “Buy!”

I know Eden is inside, hiding from Capitalists for whom crime is a sacred rite. Shock, then—through my agency, smite them—that priesthood of faithless deceivers. With prophetic language lay waste to its fake market-temples. Vanquish with pity its mists and still this monstrous tempest season this decaying, withering civilization awaits without shame.

Blaze from the earth’s beaten face what sleeping reason fights belief with, nightmarish indignation reluctant to give up the ghost in their machines or its glimpse, to perceive what really is.

Come, spit into this dust of dry bones crimson ink enough to make manifest what others fail to see does, indeed, actually exist. Reanimate these oil-fed, perpetually spiritually-impoverished plastic automatons with essence divine enough to convince them to think for themselves. Shake from these statues those who trust in images, televisionary blasphemers—backstabbers, fading flickers—which neglect what life the purpose of reflections is unjust to represent, what must be lived. Tame these echoes reverberating against this cage of ribs curtained with fickle flesh which always only ever vanishes before light can reach in and bless those of us imprisoned by what are termed our sins, our trespasses truth watches over with a patient grin.

Teach my chest calm, instruct my pen to make permanent what I have seen in my visions—wisdom committed to my thoughts—to impart this tale without corruption, without stuttering or stumbling. That its breath formed into words be not silenced, but heard, for the saviour of the Sons of Men is Woman, her own the beauty of the world.

                    iii. Orison

Suffered so much in silence, wanderer of this wilderness which for souls is but a womb. Every wound a door, every cry unheard a warning that your body can only take so much more. I hear you and feel, too. Transformation is your gift, a tool, to go through this is to get through it and emerge impervious to those who assault what differentiates and distances your glory from them.

To transcend the miseries of guiltless killers whose gutless hunger pillages your heritage mothers treasure and shelter. Be honoured to be devoured by those who do not understand you or your talent. Sister, sister, far more dextrous than theirs are our sinister fingers, those giants of old who hold in their mouths what only we can pull out. Thorns on the tongue in their throats whose songs choke when the tapestry of their mythology we unravel not with a shout but a look.

Alchemical mistress of every mystery, nurse and nourish what flows through history, your role in bringing forth its course undiminished by the potency of your crafty artistry. Sciencess whose possession of the verb of sorcery lends its element to those whose laments its pronouncement permits ascents, culture your captors by reminding them of our shared origin, impart its daring story.

As the Creator favoured mothers and artists above all others, take notice that only you and those who do the work of making are the only ones whose efforts contribute to Creation. Everyone else takes what grace has given, replaces nothing, negates until blank and desolate this delicate canvas pinned across the sky—framed by spinning sentries armed with flaming swords—planets whose orbs turn to ward from escaping its boundaries hanging in the gallery of our time-lord’s infinite space those whose greediness this truth refuses to face.

Among your seven stars, O Istehar, with your sisterhood of kindred gems, you who bewitch men into retrieving from the storehouse of the winds the Ineffable Name the saying of which binds them, sate not their whims but entice to victory our cause your brilliance defends!

Thieving knavery was his detriment, Shemhazai the over-confident in whose arms you never went, from whose advances you did fly. Foolish his haughtiness you refused to magnify by relenting to his wicked intent, how now your nobler daughters aspire to defy that reprobate’s descendants who still torment them. By this prayer let your supplicants incant intercession to fend off warriors undeserving of their conquest. Breathe into our lungs what we should speak, teach us to throw off what keeps from reaching its goal this ambition some envious of our success in everything would rather reap.

To sow between sore lips the seed of that sweet grape the whistling whine of which soothsayers drink tell us, dear Goddess, what to call him who fathered all, that this father of ours might be rightly addressed and guide the lights until they fall on them who hide in the shadows of cowardice from his judgment.

Reveal the path of the godless who walk blindfolded before the precipice of the abyss above which you were elevated. As Artemisia3 painted on her veil the gaze of her rapist—foe immortalized for the eyes of centuries never again to conceal—trace for those who read this the way from which they have strayed. Circling what they will not redress but repeat. That kings and the peoples of their nations might change, as did David4 after Nathan prophesied his demise for having violated Bathsheba, the Psalms his penance—in particular Number Fifty-One, by thrice the recitation of which ritual magicians of Solomonic bent purify themselves ever since.

To you we return, O Istehar, offering prayer knowing that trusting in our inherent magic, we too can tap into the roots we inherited and improve the world over which you and its moon keep watch, friends vigilant until this violence ends.

Notate Bene:
☞ The title of the poem is derived from the tale of the punishment of the fallen angels recounted in Book 1, Chapter 4 of the Haggada, in which the one called Shemhazai lusts after the beautiful mortal girl Istehar. She does not succumb to his otherworldly seduction, but tricks him into revealing God’s Ineffable Name to her instead, by which she acquires revealed magical skill for which he is damned and she is revered. Rewarded with immortal life in heaven as the seven-starred Pleiades constellation—known by others as the Seven Sisters—to which she ascends in cunning escape using that word of power, her legendary legacy stems from circumventing her supernatural attacker’s attempted rape, subjugating brute masculine force with feminine intellect. Confirming wisdom exists on earth in the form of a woman, later termed Sophia by the ancients, among the various Near Eastern cultures of whom these titular beings were called also Semjaza and Ishtar, the Assyro-Babylonians having deified her as a goddess of the same office—that of knowledge and mastery of the sacred arts and their mysteries, beauty, love, femininity, sexuality, fertility, and childbirth—in their millennia of uninterrupted, consistent worship. Refer to Joseph B. Lumpkin’s paraphrase of this mythos in his author’s note to Chapter 69, Verse 2 of “The First Book of Enoch: 1 Enoch” in his The Books of Enoch: The Angels, The Watchers and The Nephilim (with Extensive Commentary on the Three Books of Enoch, the Fallen Angels, the Calendar of Enoch, and Daniel’s Prophecy): 2nd Edition: A Volume Containing The First Book of Enoch (The Ethiopic Book of Enoch), The Second Book of Enoch (The Slavonic Secrets of Enoch), The Third Book of Enoch (The Hebrew Book of Enoch), The Book of Fallen Angels, The Watchers, and the Origins of Evil: With Expanded Commentary on Enoch, Angels, Prophecies and Calendars in the Sacred Texts, published at Blountsville, Alabama by Fifth Estate in 2011; page 89.
1,2The fallen angel Penemue—whose name comes from the Hebrew for “the inside,” referring perhaps to his “insider” information about the nature of information itself, is rendered variously as Penemuel, Tamuel, Tamel, and Tumael—sinned against heaven by teaching people to make ink and paper, to read and write. Humanity thereby propagating secret knowledge, profaning it while permitting its members the advantage of expressing themselves and perpetuating their own opinions which corrupt sacred wisdom—literacy being a potent force enabling the deceiving and dividing of others from creation’s original unity. See Chapter 69, Verses 8–10 of “The First Book of Enoch: 1 Enoch” in Lumpkin’s work cited above; page 90, and Gustav Davidson’s A Dictionary of Angels: Including the Fallen Angels, published at New York by The Free Press in 1994; page 222.
3Artemisia Gentileschi (1593–circa 1652/56), by scholars more recently appreciated as one of the finest and boldest painters of the Italian Baroque period, became known for her flagrant style reminiscent of Caravaggio’s, perhaps her only peer in terms of audacity and renown. One of the few female artists working publicly during the era in which she lived, her talents were recognized and nurtured from an early age by her father Orazio, himself a painter and friend of Caravaggio’s. Artemisia was raised by her father following her mother’s death when she was twelve years old, an early tragedy followed only five years later by the rape Artemisia, then aged seventeen, suffered at the hands of Orazio’s associate, Agostino Tassi. Though her father pursued the matter fervently in court, resulting in Tassi being exiled from Rome, the order was never effectually enforced. Artemisia eventually, and unhappily, married the Florentine painter Pietro Antonio di Vicenzo Stiattesi, with whom she had a daughter. Though miserable in an unfulfilling home life at Florence, her work flourished there under Cosimo de’ Medici’s keen eye, later garnering the attention and patronage of King Philip IV of Spain. Artemisia would go on to found an art school for women, journey with her father to England on a royal commission, and earn the confidence of many of the century’s leading luminaries, including Galileo Galilei. Apart from accomplishing the unprecedented feat of thriving successfully and independently in a male-dominated profession and highly patriarchal society, Artemisia’s work is distnct for depicting female protagonists, often overpowering men. Several such works are said to depict her rapist, Agostino Tassi, memorializing his crime in perpetuity.
4Where Hebrew Scripture recounts King David’s abduction of, and adultery with, Bathsheba the wife of Uriah his soldier-subject, whom after having her husband killed he married, conceiving by his new queen his legendary heir King Solomon, refer to Chapter 11 and Chapter 12, Verse 24 of “2 Samuel”, Chapters 1–2 of “1 Kings”, Chapter 3, Verse 5 of “1 Chronicles”, and Psalm 51 in “Book II” of “The Psalms” in “The Hebrew Scriptures Commonly Called the Old Testament: New Revised Standard Version” of The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books: New Revised Standard Version, published at New York by Oxford University Press in 1989; pages 315–316, 317, 336–340, 401, and 574–575.