Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sallustius, Gardner & Wicca: "A general statement of their creed." (Modern Paganism and the Ancient Mysteries, Part One)

"Have we any way of ascertaining what the Mysteries taught?"

According to Gerald Gardner, ancient Paganism managed to survive in Europe, despite all attempts by the Christians to extirpate it, in the form of the so-called witch cult, a term he takes over from Margaret Murray. It was this witch cult, in Gardner's view, that served as the primary matrix from which Wicca was born.

In Chapter XIII of The Meaning of Witchcraft, Gardner states (on page 170 of the 2004 Weiser edition), regarding ancient forms of Paganism and their relevance to Wicca, that "the only kinds of paganism with which we are concerned here are those which may have had some influence on the witch cult." Gardner then names three such sources of influence in particular: (1) "Druidism, the religion of the Celts", (2) "the religion of the Great Mother Goddess or the old Hunting God", and (3) "the Mystery Cults of the ancient world".

Having cited the Mystery Religions as an important part of Wicca's connection with the ancient Pagan past, Gardner then poses the question, "have we any way of ascertaining what the Mysteries taught?" To which he immediately provides the answer:
"Fortunately, we have. In the fourth century A.D., when paganism was engaged in a fierce struggle with the new creed of Christianity, Sallustius, who was a close personal friend of the Emperor Julian (called the Apostate because he tried to restore the old religion), wrote a treatise called Peri Theon kai Kosmou, About the Gods and the World. It is probable that this treatise was a kind of manifesto of the highest type of paganism prevailing at that time, and it is evident that its author was an initiate of the Mysteries."
[p. 171]
At this point, Gardner launches into an extended commentary on the contents of Sallustius' "Pagan Manifesto", with lengthy quotations from several sections of that work. (Gardner uses the English translation of classicist Gilbert Murray, the full text or which is available online in several places, such as:,, and The translation was originally published in Murray's Five Stages of Greek Religion.) At the end of this, having given a fairly detailed summation of selected aspects of Sallustian Paganism, Gardner then states:
"Now the thing that will, I think, strike most the consciousness of the reader who is well versed in the teaching of the higher type of spiritualist and occult circles generally is not the antiquity of this teaching of Sallustius, but its startling modernity. It might have been spoken yesterday. Further, it might have been spoken at a witch meeting, at any time, as a general statement of their creed .... [T]he spirit of his teaching, the spirit of the Mysteries of his day, which is also the spirit of the beliefs of the witch cult, is timeless."
[p. 174]
Anyone (genuinely) interested in looking for the (actual) roots of Gerald Gardner's Wicca would be well advised to think long and hard on what he has written here.

In coming installments in this series on Modern Paganism and the Ancient Mysteries, I will look in far greater detail at Sallustius' Peri Theon Kai Kosmou, as well as other sources cited by Gardner, in order to explore the relationship between ancient and modern Paganism.

[The rather astonishing photo of Gerald Gardner at the top of this post was found at Fearlono's rather astonishing blog: The Cottage of Electric Hell.]

Modern Paganism and the Ancient Mysteries:
  1. Part One: Sallustius, Gardner & Wicca: "A general statement of their creed."
  2. Part Two: Gerald Gardner, Sallustius, and the Problem of Evil
  3. Part Three: Gerald Gardner, Sallustius, and Reincarnation
  4. Part Four: "Divested of their garments"

Erotic Metempsychosis (Ronald Hutton & Reincarnation, Part Seven)

"Unto them from whose eyes the veil of life hath fallen may there be granted the accomplishment of their true Wills; whether they will absorption in the Infinite, or to be united with their chosen and preferred, or to be in contemplation, or to be at peace, or to achieve the labour and heroism of incarnation on this planet or another, or in any Star, or aught else, unto them may there be granted the accomplishment of their wills; yea, the accomplishment of their wills. AUMGN. AUMGN. AUMGN."
[Liber XV, the Gnostic Mass]

"those whom we have loved most in the present life"
[An excerpt from Ronald Hutton's talk to the 2009 Dion Fortune Symposium.]

Wicca was not merely a cobbling together of texts and ideas from existing writers and traditions. Had it ever been that, it would hardly have established itself as an important and distinctive new religion.

In particular, it has made a highly individual and effective answer to both of the key questions posed to any religious tradition: what happens to the souls of members after death, and who are the superhuman beings whom they should honour.

The Wiccan answer to the first of those is that humans reincarnate, upon this same earth. What is distinctively Wiccan about it is the assurance that we also have an ability to do so at the same moment as those whom we have loved most in the present life.

This belief in group rebirth tackles three of the most painful aspects of the human fear of death: of complete oblivion, of divine punishment for sins, and of being parted for ever from those whom we love.

There can be no doubt that it was brought into Wicca by Gerald Gardner himself, simply because it was a belief personally precious to him. It features as the central theme of his first novel, 'A Goddess Arrives', which he planned out, even according to his own testimony, before he encountered Wicca.

It is at the heart of the first recorded Wiccan Hallowe’en liturgy, suitable for a feast concerned with the dead. It is also discussed, as one of the greatest of divine truths, in a section of a higher degree initiation rite that was added in the early 1950s, under Gardner’s supervision.

Nothing like it is found in Fortune’s work, but then it is not prominent in that of any other previous writer: it is one of Gardner’s own, distinctive, contributions to religious thought.

"Pining for his lost love .... "

[Some excerpts from Lynn L. Sharp's Secular Spirituality: Reincarnation and Spiritism in 19th Century France.]

In the spring of 1842, Mme Dumesnil, the beloved friend of Jules Michelet, lay dying. In an agony of spiritual suffering, Michelet cast about for resolution to the meaninglessness of death. He read the work of Pierre Leroux, De l'humanite, which assured him that collective humanity lived on, but gave him no promises for the individual soul. Michelet, convinced of the immortality of the soul, refuted Leroux's ideas with a vision of metempsychosis of the individual soul progressing toward perfection. Pining for his lost love, he refused to accept Leroux's idea that the individual personality would disappear, subsumed and reborn into humanity in general. He later pointed to Jean Reynaud as the source of his ideas on the immortality of the soul. Michelet's struggle, and the answers he came up with, are just one example of the importance in answering questions that fascinated French Romanticics: What kind of life after death exists for those who reject traditional Christianity?
[p. 1]

Two streams, East and West, brought metempsychosis to our social reformers and they drew freely from both, although Ballanche, Leroux, and Renaud would all claim they looked to Western philosophy for the truth of metempsychosis. The first, the Western sources, were as recent as the Enlightenment and as ancient as the early Greeks. Pythagoras was the earliest source to argue for metempsychosis; Plato repeatedly promoted it among his dialogues; the Romans, too, offered visions of metempsychosis, although perhaps with less enthusiasm. Cicero repeated Plato's ideas while the Life of Apollonius of Tyana (c.e. 216 by Philostratus) described Apollonius' journey to the East, to the land of the Brahmins, where he learned of metempsychosis; Plotinus too promoted the idea of multiple lives before acheiving a higher state. Several Enlightenment writers helped spread ideas of multiple incarnations, including John Toland [1670-1722], who connected it to the ancient Celts. Leibniz [1646-1716] rejected Pythagoras' version but nonetheless argued for an updated, gradualist version .... "
[p. 8]

Although German thinkers explored reincarnation, and Weimar poets such as Herder [1744-1803], Goethe [1749-1832], and Schiller [1759-1805] were fascinated by it, it is more likely that the French fascination with metempsychosis came from the Indian East than from their neighbors directly to the East. The "Oriental Renaissance" happened chiefly in France, despite the interests of the British and the Germans in these topics ....

Yet French thinkers did not lose their loyalty to the West. [Pierre-Simon] Ballanche [1776-1847] and others looked back to Plato and Pythagoras as responsible for "initiating" the West into the knowledge of Eastern thought. Ballanche argued that the East and West shared the same insights into the progress toward perfection .... [Pierre] Leroux [1797-1871] argued that the concepts of metempsychosis developed in Eastern thought had already existed in "seed form" in the great writings of the ancient West. [Jean] Reynaud [1806-1863] argued that even before the Christians, the Druids had subscribed to ideas of reincarnation, which they had taught to Pythagoras himself.
[pp. 9-10]

"And he is always looking for his other half."

[The speech of Aristophanes on Eros, from Plato's Symposium. Translation by Benjamin Jowett.]

Aristophanes professed to open another vein of discourse; he had a mind to praise Love in another way, unlike that of either Pausanias or Eryximachus. Mankind, he said, judging by their neglect of him, have never, as I think, at all understood the power of Love. For if they had understood him they would surely have built noble temples and altars, and offered solemn sacrifices in his honour; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done: since of all the gods he is the best friend of men, the helper and the healer of the ills which are the great impediment to the happiness of the race. I will try to describe his power to you, and you shall teach the rest of the world what I am teaching you.

In the first place, let me treat of the nature of man and what has happened to it. The original human nature was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, of which the name survives but nothing else. Once it was a distinct kind, with a bodily shape and a name of its own, constituted by the union of the male and the female: but now only the word 'androgynous' is preserved, and that as a term of reproach.

In the second place, the primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands and the same number of feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run fast.

Now the sexes were three, and such as I have described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three; and the man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the man-woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all round and moved round and round because they resembled their parents. Terrible was their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods; of them is told the tale of Otys and Ephialtes who, as Homer says, attempted to scale heaven, and would have laid hands upon the gods.

Doubt reigned in the celestial councils. Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts, as they had done the giants, then there would be an end of the sacrifices and worship which men offered to them; but, on the other hand, the gods could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained. At last, after a good deal of reflection, Zeus discovered a way.

He said: 'Methinks I have a plan which will enfeeble their strength and so extinguish their turbulence; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg.'

He spoke and cut men in two, like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or as you might divide an egg with a hair; and as he cut them one after another, he bade Apollo give the face and the half of the neck a turn in order that man might contemplate the section of himself: he would thus learn a lesson of humility. Apollo was also bidden to heal their wounds and compose their forms. So he gave a turn to the face and pulled the skin from the sides all over that which in our language is called the belly, like the purses which draw tight, and he made one mouth at the centre, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is called the navel); he also moulded the breast and took out most of the wrinkles, much as a shoemaker might smooth leather upon a last; he left a few, however, in the region of the belly and navel, as a memorial of the primeval state.

After the division the two parts of man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they began to die from hunger and self-neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart; and when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as we call them,--being the sections of entire men or women,--and clung to that.

Thus they were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their position, and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and go their ways to the business of life. So ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, seeking to make one of two, and to heal the state of man.

Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the tally-half of a man, and he is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once called androgynous are lovers of women; adulterers are generally of this breed, and also adulterous women who lust after men. The women who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male, and while they are young, being slices of the original man, they have affection for men and embrace them, and these are the best of boys and youths, because they have the most manly nature.

Some indeed assert that they are shameless, but this is not true; for they do not act thus from any want of shame, but because they are valiant and manly, and have a manly countenance, and they embrace that which is like them. And these when they grow up become our statesmen, and these only, which is a great proof of the truth of what I am saying. When they reach manhood they are lovers of youth, and are not naturally inclined to marry or beget children,--if at all, they do so only in obedience to custom; but they are satisfied if they may be allowed to live with one another unwedded;

And such a nature is prone to love and ready to return love, always embracing that which is akin to him. And when one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and one will not be out of the other's sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together, and yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not appear to be the desire of lover's intercourse, but of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment.

Suppose Hephaestus, with his instruments, to come to the pair who are lying side by side and to say to them, 'What do you mortals want of one another?'

They would be unable to explain. And suppose further, that when he saw their perplexity he said: 'Do you desire to be wholly one; always day and night in one another's company? for if this is what you desire, I am ready to melt and fuse you together, so that being two you shall become one, and while you live live a common life as if you were a single man, and after your death in the world below still be one departed soul, instead of two--I ask whether this is what you lovingly desire and whether you are satisfied to attain this?'--

There is not a man of them who when he heard the proposal would deny or would not acknowledge that this meeting and melting into one another, this becoming one instead of two, was the very expression of his ancient need.

And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called love. There was a time, I say, when we were one, but now because of the wickedness of mankind God has dispersed us, as the Arcadians were dispersed into villages by the Lacedaemonians. And if we are not obedient to the gods, there is a danger that we shall be split up again and go about in basso-relievo, like the profile figures showing only one half the nose which are sculptured on monuments, and that we shall be like tallies. Wherefore let us exhort all men to piety in all things, that we may avoid evil and obtain the good, taking Love for our leader and commander.

Let no one oppose him--he is the enemy of the gods who opposes him. For if we are friends of God and at peace with him we shall find our own true loves, which rarely happens in this world at present. I am serious, and therefore I must beg Eryximachus not to make fun or to find any allusion in what I am saying to Pausanias and Agathon, who, as I suspect, are both of the manly nature, and belong to the class which I have been describing. But my words have a wider application--they include men and women everywhere; and I believe that if our loves were perfectly accomplished, and each one returning to his primeval nature had his original true love, then our race would be happy. And if this would be best of all, the best in the next degree must in present circumstances be the nearest approach to such a union; and that will be the attainment of a congenial love.

Wherefore, if we would praise him who has given to us the benefit, we must praise the god Love, who is our greatest benefactor, both leading us in this life back to our own nature, and giving us high hopes for the future, for he promises that if we are pious, he will restore us to our original state, and heal us and make us happy and blessed.

This, Eryximachus, is my discourse of love, which, although different to yours, I must beg you to leave unassailed by the shafts of your ridicule, in order that each may have his turn; each, or rather either, for Agathon and Socrates are the only ones left.

"For then each half yearned for the part from which it had been severed."
[Excerpt from The Nature of Love: Plato to Luther, by Irving Singer.]

For instance, consider the speech of the playwright Aristophanes [in Plato's Symposium]. He describes the nature of love by recounting an ancient myth. In the beginning the human race consisted of three sexes -- the male, the female, and the hermaphroditic (which combined characteristics of both male and female). Each of these primordial human beings was spherical and had four hands, four legs, two identical faces upon a circular neck, and a single head that could turn in opposite directions. They were very powerful, but also very proud. They attacked the gods, were defeated, and would have been destroyed but for the clemency of Zeus. In order to retain the honors and sacrifices afforded the gods, he allowed the human race to continue. But to preclude the possibility of future rebellion, he weakened the spherical beings by dividing each of them in two. He also let it be known that further insolence would cause him to bisect man again, leaving the unfortunate one leg to hop on and a face that resembled a bas-relief or a profile on a tombstone.

Among our spherical ancestors love did not exist. It came into being only after they were cut in two. For then each half yearned for the part from which it had been severed. Whenever the parts encountered one another, they embraced and sought to grow together again. Nor would they separate even to seek food. The race would have died of starvation had Zeus not taken pity upon the bisected creatures. He moved the reproductive organs around so that by embracing one another some of the mortals could beget new members of the race. Previously procreation had occurred without intercourse -- "by emission onto the ground, as is the case with grasshoppers."

Ever since these prehistoric events, every human being has been only half of himself, each forever seeking the opposite portion that would make him whole again. Men who are halves of the hermaphrodites are lovers of women: adulterers come from this group, also promiscuous females. Women who are halves of a feminine whole are lesbians. Males who belong to the masculine whole are lovers of men in their youth and lovers of boys when they reach maturity themselves. "Such boys and lads are hte best of their generation, because they are the most manly." Love itself "is simply the name for the desire and pursuit of the whole."

.... [T]he myth of Aristophanes -- like other speeches in the Symposium -- serves a definite function within the final formulation. When his turn comes to speak, Socrates comments on an unascribed "theory" to the effect that lovers are people searching for the other half of themselves. He offers an emendation that seems minor but really changes everything. Love is not desire for either the half or the whole "unless that half or whole happens to be good. Men are quite willing to have their feet or their hands amputated if they believe those parts of themselves to be diseased." In making this point, Socrates moves far beyond the position of Aristophanes. For if love is desire for half or whole only as they are good, the motive force in love is a yearning for goodness, not just completion. From this Socrates concludes that love is always directed toward what is good, indeed that goodness itself is the only object of love. In loving something, man is really seeking to possess the goodness which is in it. Not temporarily but permanently, not casually but with that fervent longing men have alway associated with love. And so, in brief compass, we start with the primitive myth of Aristophanes and end up with the first highly sophisticated conclusion of Plato's erotic philosophy: "Love is desire for the perpetual possession of the good."
[pp. 50-53]

"To transform together into the afterlife at the same hour."
[From: Ovid's Philemon and Baucis, by tracykarl99 at Based on Book VIII of Ovid's Metamorphosis.]

Philemon and Baucis might be placed in the category of happy tales with happy endings. There are very few of these in the Metamorphoses. So, to break from erudite instruction, I will begin in the middle, (Book VIII), with this tale of gods in disguise meeting humans and testing their good will. The story is being told to Theseus, who has wandered into a grotto of rivers. The rivers are personified so that Lelex, “mature in years and mind”, is telling the tale among nymphs, other rivers and Theseus.

Lelex begins;

"The power of heaven is great and has no bounds;/ Whatever the gods determine is fulfilled./ I give you proof. Among the Phrygian hills/ An oak tree and lime grow side by side,/ Girt by a little wall. I saw the place - "Lelex is making a case in favor of the gods, as their reputation has been scoffed at by one of the listening attendees. In Lelex’ tale, the two gods, Jupiter and Mercury, the Latin equivalent of Zeus and Hermes, referred to as ‘the heavenly ones’, roam the quaint land “in mortal guise”, searching for a place to rest; but, every inhabitant’s door is shut to the strangers in disguise. Finally, they reach the door of an elderly couple, Philemon and Baucis.

The old couple welcome the strangers, not knowing they are gods, and then Baucis begins preparing a meal for them. She has the guests sit by the fire, spreading a “simple rug” on a rustic bench, as she prepares the cabbage, which her husband, Philemon, has retrieved from the ‘spring fed garden’, just outside their back door.

A sumptuous, yet frugal, and traditional meal is provided by the unassuming, old couple. The comforts of home are emphasized, how ever modest, with the goddess Minerva evoked in reverence for the beauty of the food, which comes from the earth;

"Then olives, black and green, she brings, the fruit/ of true Minerva, autumn cherry plums -"

The poetry is rich with lovely details of earthenware bowls, the aroma of steam coming from the feast, and the ‘zeal’ of happiness radiating from their faces. Then the old, cottage-dwellers notice that the wine-bowl seems to fill itself up every time it is drained, right there at the table. Philemon and Baucis begin to realize that something mysterious is taking place. They bow their heads and join ‘in timid prayer’.

There is the graceful imagery of the goose flying up from the boiling pot, out toward the heavenly ones themselves, ‘swift-winged’. Then the deities admit: “We two are gods”, they say. And they explain to the couple the evilness of their neighbors and how they shall all be destroyed, but that they, Philemon and Baucis, shall be spared for their humble generosity.

Following the gods, Philemon and Baucis hobble up to the furthest hill and turn to see the land consumed in a great flood, and even as they bewail the loss of their little cottage, it is transformed before their eyes into a gleaming temple with columns and a gold roof.

Then one of the gods is revealed as ‘Saturn’s son’, who asks gently whatsoever the old couple wish to have. After conversing quietly, Philemon and Baucis answer that they would like to be the priests and guardians of the gods, to keep after the temple, and when the time has come to depart their life, they wish to never see the other buried, but to transform together into the afterlife at the same hour.

And so, after the remaining years of their lives have been spent tending the temple together in contented peace, Philemon and Baucis, at the very same hour, transform into two glorious trees – their leaves fluttering together on entwined branches and their trunks joined as one.

The teller of the tale then concludes his argument for the gods by saying:

"They now are gods, who served the Gods;/ To them who worship gave is worship given."

[From: Ovid's Philemon and Baucis, by tracykarl99 at This is truly an amazingly well written, thoughtful, and moving retelling of this ancient and beautiful love story!]

"This search for the other half ..."
A movie review of Hedwig and the Angry Inch
(By Doug Nelson, for the Misunderstood Blog-a-thon. Hat tip to CultureSnob.Net)

I did something I’ve never done before. I’ve been an avid (rabid?) movie fan since I was too young to remember. Even today it’s a rare day that I don’t watch at least two movies, more on weekends. But I have never, never (my inner drama queen insists I repeat this for emphasis) watched a movie and immediately turned around and watched it again from the beginning, all in one sitting.

But Hedwig and the Angry Inch caught me totally off-guard. It was not even close to what I’d expected. I rented it because of the rave reviews and the huge fan base (called Hed-heads) for its off-Broadway production. I figure any movie advertised as the next Rocky Horror has to have something going for it. Plus, I hated Moulin Rouge and really needed affirmation that the musical wasn’t dead.

Toward the beginning of the movie, we get a charming re-telling of Plato’s myth of how there used to be three types of humans on earth, each with four legs and arms, two faces, etc. Some looked like a man and a woman all rolled up together, others like two men or two women. They were so happy that the gods became jealous and split them in two, moving the scar around to our bellies so we would always remember. And now our search for love is really our search for our other split-apart half.

This search for the other half is the theme of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Of course, we all know how hard it is to find our soul mate, but what if you’re the victim of a botched sex-change operation in East Berlin before the wall comes down? Where/who/what is your other half? And if you’re less than whole, are they more than half?

The theme of split halves (people, cities, families) is repeated throughout the movie, in plot, direction, production design, even in the credits. That, plus the fact that it’s a rock musical, reminded me a great deal of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, with its hammer and wall themes.

Oh yes, the music. Quite frankly, it is wonderful. Written and performed by many veterans of the glam- and punk-rock scenes, it’s delivered in many genres, and actually serves as exposition for the plot in many cases. And, as in The Wall, animated segments frequently accompany the music. As does a follow-the-bouncing-ball sing-along and a Tommy-esque showdown and revelation. I watched this three days ago and I still catch myself humming a few lines.

The live version played off-Broadway for four years, and is still touring the world. It was singlehandedly responsible for reinvigorating a dying neighborhood in New York, and the theater they specially built for it is still successful today, even though Hedwig is no longer performed there.

All the acting parts are pitch-perfect, honed to this perfection by their long run in New York. John Cameron Mitchell makes his directing debut here, but is also the writer and stars as Hedwig. The direction is marvelous, with scenes that will break your heart, make you roll with laughter, or simply prompt you to issue a silent, “Cool!”

Mitchell is excellent, and has many touching scenes, but the most poignant scenes in the movie belong to Miriam Shor, playing his lover. (Yes, a woman dressed as a man is in love with a man playing a man dressed as a woman.) Tangent: Mitchell in drag looks so much like Rachel Griffiths it’s scary.

Anyway, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is fun, it’s smart, it’s sad (but in that good way), and I can guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it before.

6. "Reincarnation formula revived with 'Om Shanti Om'"
[By Arpana, from MonstersAndCritics.Com]

New Delhi, Oct 13 (IANS) Amidst comedies and love stories, Farah Khan's 'Om Shanti Om' revisits the reincarnation theme after many years. Trade analysts say it will work at the box office as it has all the right ingredients. And the main theme suits the Indian psyche.

'I think it's a good idea to make a film on reincarnation because people in India believe in it. My favourite film has always been 'Karz' and 'Karan Arjun'. I think 'Om Shanti Om' will do well at the box office because people like such films,' trade analyst Taran Adarsh told IANS.

Farah has teamed up with her favourite actor Shah Rukh Khan and newcomer Deepika Padukone in the film, which is apparently inspired by Subhash Ghai's 'Karz'.

The film revolves around a struggling actor, played by Shah Rukh, who falls in love with a successful actress. But before his love could blossom and his career flourish, he dies in an accident.

Apart from the rebirth formula, Farah has thrown in all the right ingredients, including humour, music and masala.

The choreographer-turned-director did the same in her directorial debut 'Main Hoon Na'. She had banked on the tried and tested formula of uniting two brothers and it turned out to be a gold digger.

Critics described that movie as a good entertainer, and even three years after its release, Farah is basking in its glory.

''Om Shanti Om' will certainly work. The first half of the film is about the 70s and the second half is absolutely modern - Farah Khan has put all the right ingredients for a blockbuster,' said Saurabh Varma, vice president (programming and distribution), INOX Leisure Ltd.

'There is a tremendous demand for the film not only from multiplex owners but also single screen theatre owners. It's like an ice cream which has all the flavours and would satisfy everybody's taste buds,' Varma said.

Legendary director Bimal Roy was perhaps the first to embark on the theme of reincarnation. He popularised rebirth and reincarnation in Hindi cinema with his masterpiece 'Madhumati'. Released in 1958, the Dilip Kumar-Vyjanthimala starrer boasts of an engrossing story, mind-blowing performances and soulful music by Salil Choudhury.

'Madhumati' walked away with nine Filmfare Awards including for the best film, direction and music.

A decade later Adurthi Subba Rao recycled the theme in another hit 'Milan'. The Sunil Dutt-Nutan starrer revolved around two lovers who are united in their next birth. The film was a huge success and its music was equally appealing.

Ram Maheshwari's 'Neel Kamal' was released the following year. Audiences again lapped up the rebirth formula film, which had Raj Kumar, Waheeda Rehman and Manoj Kumar in key roles.

In 1976, Shakti Samantha adopted the subject in 'Mehbooba'. Featuring Hema Malini and Rajesh Khanna, the film was not a big hit but it did fair business at the box office.

Chetan Anand repeated the same lead pair and the subject in his well-scripted and deftly executed 'Kudrat'.

However, it was Bollywood's self-proclaimed showman Subhash Ghai who hit the bull's eye by recycling the reincarnation subject in his revenge thriller 'Karz'. The Rishi Kapoor starrer turned out to be one of the biggest hits.

In 1990, Gulzar repeated the theme in his critically acclaimed 'Lekin'. The film featuring Vinod Khanna and Dimple Kapadia couldn't stir the box office but its music, composed by Hridaynath Mangeshkar, was well appreciated. The song 'Yaara seeli seeli' sung by Lata Mangeshkar was hugely popular.

Filmmaker Rakesh Roshan too hit the jackpot in 1995 in 'Karan Arjun'. The onscreen chemistry between Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan did wonders to this rebirth saga.

But two years later when Sanjay Gupta tried his hand at reincarnation in 'Hamesha', he bit the dust. The Saif Ali Khan and Kajol starrer was a huge flop.

Going by past records, Farah's film, which releases Nov 9, may recreate the same magic that 'Madhumati', 'Karz' and 'Karan Arjun' wove.

Ronald Hutton & Reincarnation:

  1. Part One: Dion Fortune, Ronald Hutton, Wicca & Reincarnation
  2. Part Two: Ronald Hutton, Tertullian, John Italos, Anna Comnena & Reincarnation
  3. Part Three: Ronald Hutton, Reincarnation & the Renaissance
  4. Part Four: "Renaissance & Rebirth: Reincarnation in early modern Italian kabbalah"
  5. Part Five: Ronald Hutton,Vergil, Ovid & GradeSaver.Com
  6. Part Six: Ronald Hutton, Voltaire, and Metempsychosis
  7. Part Seven: Erotic Metempsychosis