Sumerland

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THE LEGACY ISSUE 2 1995
SHAPES OF ANGELS
by Paula O'Keefe

The Watchers and the Nephilim

"There were giants in the Earth in those days, and afterward, when the sons of God went in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. They wee the mighty men of old, the men of renown." Genesis 6:4

As they have always done. Hardly a folklore or magical tradition on Earth exists that does not include the wisdom of the immortals passing to humankind through love, desire and miraculous birth: Greek demigods, Indian culture heroes, Merlin the mage and mage Yeshu son of Mary are cousins under their many-coloured skins. So do we always acquire our teachers, heroes and spiritual guides. It's a story we've passed through myriad variations and always loved.

The chapter of this long story which is of most interest to a Nephilim fan is also the most recent one, dating to the early days of the Christian Era, before 630CE. In those days the books we now call Apocrypha (from the Greek apokryphos, "hidden or secret.") had not yet been excised from the Bible, and so carried the authority of Scripture. These books tell the story of the angels called Grigori or Watchers, who descended to Earth to take human wives and educate young humanity. Two hundred of them, led by the great angel Semjaza-Azazel, are said to have come here in the age between Creation and the Flood. With them they brought knowledge of a diverse range of arts and sciences, from mining and metalworking to the use of herbs, astronomy, writing, and birth control. They taught all these to humankind, and even more importantly, they taught the art of magic. "Amezarak taught all those who cast spells and cut roots... Amaros the release of charms, spells and magical skills... Baraquiel, astrology..." The authors of the Apocryphal books, whoever they were, make it clear that in their time magic was considered a celestial gift, a skill that humanity had acquired directly from the hands of angels, and one as important to humankinds' survival and advancement as the use of metals or paper and ink. If it were not so important, after all, why would Azazel and his band have bothered to give it to us?

And if it were not so important, they would probably not have suffered so badly for their gift. The archangels Michael, Gabriel, Sariel and Uriel, still in Heaven, observed the Watchers' work on Earth and angrily complained to God "See what Azazel has done," they said (in I Enoch IX and LXV:6-7), "revealed the eternal secrets which were made in heaven... and has made known spells and ... knowledge to men... and the sons of men practice his practices in order to know the secrets. (Humans have) learnt all the secrets of the angels, and all their secret power, and all the power of those who practice magic arts..." They were furious that these powerful secrets have been brought to humankind, and just as Jove punished Prometheus for giving humanity the forbidden gift of fire, Jehovah sent his angels to punish the Watchers. They were defeated in battle, forced to watch as their families were slaughtered, and then imprisoned in the mountains, deserts and sea of the Earth until Judgement Day, when they will be cast into the lake of eternal fire. Thus dealt the Merciful Father with those who helped and taught the human race.

But the work they had done was not the only trace the Watchers left among early man. They had not only wives but children, and these were the mighty Nephilim, the "giants in the earth" of Genesis.

Sources differ as to the nature and deeds of the Nephilim. Some stories and translations say that they also married and had children, called Eljo or Elioud; that they were great craftsmen and artisans who built the Tower Of Babel and forged the magical sword used by King Hrothgar in the epic Beowulf. Others describe them as monstrous cannibal ogres, cruel and insatiable, who become dangerous to all Earthly life. We may never know where if anywhere, the truth lies. It is not even certain that they and their bloodline were all destroyed; there are numerous giants in the Old Testament and all of them are described as 'those born to the giant,' clearly believed to be descendants of the Nephilim. But the Apocrypha are very definite on one point: the giants' half-mortal, half-divine nature has trapped then on Earth. Their physical bodies were killed by Jehovah's angels, but their spirits remain here, disembodied and restless, roaming the world until, like their fathers, they face the final judgement. In the books of Jubilles and Enoch, these Nephilim ghosts are described as demons and blamed for many crimes.

"And now the giants who were born from souls and flesh will be called evil spirits upon the earth. From the day of... the slaughter and destruction of the giant Nephilim, the mighty ones of the earth, the great famous ones, the spirits that have gone out from their souls as from the flesh will destroy without judgement." (I Enoch XV-XVI)

Which would mean, if you believe, that the Nephilim are with us still. And some of us believe, because here they are. It's complicated and difficult to understand what the image of the Nephilim means in the name and music of Fields Of The Nephilim. Over the years Carl McCoy, when asked, sometimes quoted the story of the Watchers' giant children and sometimes mentioned a theory of alien visitors. He has spoken at length of the ideas put forth by the author Zechariah Sitchin, who beleieves that the Nephilim (or Nefilim) came in spaceships, bringing a secret science from the stars, to become the deities of ancient Sumer and the creators of humankind through genetic engineering: he has also dismissed this theory as "interesting, though his viewpoint isn't mine." The only thing of which can be reasonably sure is that McCoy acknowledges the influence of non-human beings on his life and work, and often expresses the sense of their presence. Cthulu, H.P. Lovecraft's name for astral chaos in a god-form, has appeared several times in his lyrics, as has the chaotic sea-monster Leviathan, the deities Diana and Mithra, the angel Raphael, and entire stretches of Sumerian prayer.

But - to my mind - the strongest and clearest sense of an arcane presence in the band's music is found in the lyrics to "Sumerland", and we mnay find our answer there, "On this Earth I shall wait, by the roots of my soul" - as we've seen, the Watchers are imprisoned inside the Earth, awaiting judgement. "And they're here, they want to take you, to the shame of your past" - the terrible day, I imagine, where archangels sent by God wiped out the Watchers' community in one day and night; the lyric sweeps from "Take me to the dream" to "Take the dream", encouraging any soul to find what the singer's own soul finds, our heritage, our planets superhuman past.

And then comes the song's trancelike center. "Sleepers in you, shapes of angels, so deep within you, feel your soul drowning, unloosen your soul..." there they are, dead but dreaming, buried in the foundation of our world for thousands of years. The source of magic: Their dreams are mixed with ours, the souls of their children have been riding our winds for an age. And truly, it doesn't matter what we believe they are. In Sumerian lore Kingu, second in command to the Dragon Goddess of Chaos Tiamat, was the source of the blood that was used in the making of human beings; Sitchin believes the alien Nefilim created us in their astonishing laboratories; the Watchers took human wives and educated them and their children in arts no human being had ever known. There are spirits descended from the stars, travelling in our blood from an older age. Shapes of angels. And we're coaxed to join our dream to theirs like water to water, submerge with them, open to their presence within us - "we could dream together, we could sleep forever" - in an oceanic acceptance of all the human soul is and has been. They did not just help to make us what we are; they became part of what we are. That to me is the real soul of what Fields Of The Nefilim have done and what the Nepfilim are likely to do. They awaken a sense of awesome possibility, of how vast and mysterious our life and universe are, and how much there is for us to know. Ancient stories say that the secrets of heaven were brought here for our use - how can we forget them?

The memory of them is in his music, for anyone who can hear it.