Monday, June 15, 2020

A brief history of the written word - Part one - by Vijaya Schartz


I was always fascinated by the multiplicity of languages, cultures, and different kinds of writing. My research about the origins of the written word only proved that not all the experts agree, but this is what I gathered. 


In every Asian country, there is a legend saying that writing was a science of the gods, and they taught it to man as a means to impart their knowledge. This explains why the most ancient writings are religious in nature and tell of the life and exploits of the ancient gods, as well as ancient teachings, like the knowledge of medicinal plants, acupuncture, etc.
 

In China, Cangjie, who, according to legend, brought writing to the court of the Yellow Emperor, was a very unique individual. He was described as having four eyes. Not your typical human being. 

A Chinese character is an entire word in itself, often a graphic representation, an image that evolved over time. The pictogram for rain, for example, represents a stylized window and the falling rain seen through that window, with a flat cloud above. The writing is read from top to bottom and from right to left, allowing continuous writing on long scrolls. 


Since Chinese is an agglutinant language, it doesn’t use prepositions or other small connecting words. The placement of the word inside the sentence clarifies the meaning (who is doing what to whom, how, why, where, whether it’s a noun, a verb, an adjective, etc.)
 

In the late 6th Century AD, a mass political exile saw large numbers of Chinese emigrating to Japan. They took with them the teachings of Confucius and their system of writing. Since the native islanders of the time (the ancient Ainu tribes) didn’t have writing, they used the Chinese ideograms to write their own language. Then different emigrants came to the islands and mixed with the Ainu and the Chinese to form the Japanese people. They wrote with Chinese characters, same meaning, different pronunciation, using the same brush strokes. 


However, the Japanese used a number of one-syllable connecting words to form sentences, and there were no phonetic syllables in Chinese. So, they added a number of small, simple connecting characters, called Hiragana, representing phonetic syllables, which are also used today to teach children to read and write, before they can memorize the thousands of complicated pictograms or ideograms (Kanji) necessary to read and write the main language.
 

Legends of India say that the Mahabharata, an ancient epic depicting the exploits of the gods during their time on Earth, was recited by the sage Vyasa from the oral tradition, while Lord Ganesha himself (the Elephant God) penned it down… implying that only the gods could write.
 

Other legends of India also portray the gods teaching writing to their people. Sanskrit is one of the oldest forms of sophisticated written language, used to write the Vedas. But it doesn’t use images, only letters linked together to form sounds and words. Sound is very important in India. Some sacred sounds are so powerful (like the mantras) that they are believed to manifest divinity.
 

In 3400 BC a cuneiform type of writing developed in Mesopotamia. Legend says it was given to the Sumerians by their Anunnaki gods, those who from the heavens came. The oldest tablets tell of the interactions of the Anunnaki with their human workers, stories of the flood, etc. The characters represented stylized Sumerian or Akkadian objects. Soon, these symbols were also used to represent specific sounds.
 

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs seem to have derived from Sumerian cuneiform writing. Sometimes they represent an object, an animal, a river, a sacred symbol. However, a bird doesn’t necessarily mean a bird, but the phonetic sound of the bird’s name, which is used as a syllable in a longer word or name. To indicate that, the full name of a Pharaoh, for example, is enclosed into a cartouche. 


Since I want to keep this post brief, I will continue this history of the written word in parts 2 and 3, in the next two months.

In the meantime, you can read my CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE series, where history and Celtic legends collide. Years of research went into it, and the result is an edgy medieval fantasy saga. Find it at - Amazon - B&N - Smashwords and more.  
From history shrouded in myths, emerges a family of immortal Celtic Ladies, who roam the medieval world in search of salvation from a curse. For centuries, imbued with hereditary gifts, they hide their deadly secret, stirring passions in their wake as they fight the Viking hordes, send the first knights to the Holy Land, give birth to kings and emperors... but if the Church ever suspects what they really are, they will be hunted, tortured, and burned at the stake.


HAPPY READING!


Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes
http://www.vijayaschartz.com
amazon B&N - Smashwords - Kobo FB 

Monday, March 30, 2020

Coping with stress in difficult times - by Vijaya Schartz

Stuck at home? Listening to the news with growing anxiety? Dealing with confinement and social distancing, while worrying about your income or losing your 401K, can push our stress to intolerable levels. Here are a few of my stress relieving secrets to do at home. If it helps me keep my sanity, it might work for you as well.
 
It's me, front right, with the white shirt. You can do this at home.
Tai-Chi – an exercise you can do alone, at home. It doesn’t require any space and it doesn’t matter if you do it well or not, as long as you keep moving in a slow and constant flow. There are a number of free videos on U-tube. Just follow along as best you can. Apply yourself and you’ll get better as you go. It’s a practice that can help you deal with stress all year long and has a side effect of improving your general health. I practice Tai-Chi Essentials, which is derived from the 37 form, and developed exclusively for health purposes. (Harvard Medical school guide to Tai-Chi) 



Cat videos – When stressed, I find myself watching more and more cute cat videos on Facebook. Join a group like “I love cats” or a group with puppies if you are a dog person, and indulge in soft furry cuteness to free your mind of stressful thoughts and concerns. A good laugh, a chuckle, a few awwwws and your spirit can soar again. 

On TV – Last weekend, Animal Planet held a “Too Cute” marathon, featuring kittens and puppies and ducklings, and other furbabies. It was a big success, and they will probably do it again soon. Another advantage, it will also keep the kids, or grandkids also stuck at home, occupied and happy. 


Watching romantic movies and Christmas movies – Just like romance novels, romantic movies and Christmas movies are the perfect escape. You know in advance all will be okay at the end, so you feel safe sharing the obstacles the characters have to surmount to find their happily ever after. From your DVR, or Netflix or your favorite movie source. Some channels, like Hallmark and Hallmark Mysteries have also started to replay Christmas movies. I love them. 

Sit coms – my favorites are The Big Bang, Two and a half men, The Golden Girls. I always watch an episode or two late at night, before going to bed. It clears my mind for a good night sleep. 

I also like to cuddle with my cat, solve Crossword puzzles, and cook special meals for myself. I live alone, so I cook a batch then freeze individual portions to eat later. 

But the best relaxation device is a good novel or a favorite series. I prefer popular fiction, action, adventure, romance, mystery, fantasy, science fiction. Any story that can get you out of your worries and into a new, exciting world will buy you many hours of pure escape. 

The Curse of the Lost Isle - Celtic Legends series, is available in ebook and paperback HERE

I hope this helps you cope with these stressing times. If you want to check out my other books, visit my website or my page on amazon, B&N or your favorite online bookstore. Here are my latest releases (all are standalone stories with different sets of characters. The series indicates that they are set in the same universe). 

Happy Reading.


Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong Heroines, Brave Heroes
http://www.vijayaschartz.com
amazon - B&N - Smashwords - Kobo - FB