VIDEO:Introducing French Afro-Cuban Twin Sisters Ibeyi & Their Yoruba Doom Soul

Ibeyi, made up of Cuban-born, Paris-based twin sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz, is an electronic doom soul duo who are forging a new spiritual sound with their debut EP Oya. The 19-year-old musicians are XL Recordings‘ newest signees, and their introductory singles “Oya” and “River” possess a hypnotic blend of hip-hop, electronica, and blues infused with Yoruba prayers and folk songs that will transport you to a higher realm upon first listen.

Singing in French, English, Spanish and Yoruba, Ibeyi count among their primary influences Nina Simone, Meshell Ndegeocello, James Blake and their late father, the celebrated Cuban jazz percussionist Miguel “Anga” Diaz. Ibeyi’s vocal range, which wavers from the raspy and wraith-like to the sonorous and divine, is ideal for their sonic palette which revels in the phantasmagorical groove of liturgical Yoruba songs. Besides singing in Yoruba–which was brought to Cuba by West African slaves–Ibeyi honor their father’s legacy and Afro-Cuban heritage through their percussive production and use of live instruments. Beatsmith Naomi plays both the cajón and the batá while Lisa-Kaindé remains more in tune with the musical mythos of Ibeyi’s sound by weaving Yoruba lore deeply into their lyrics. “River” is dedicated to the goddess Oshun (the mother of the Ibeyi, and their first single and EP are both named for  Oya (the benevolent orisha who took the Ibeyi in after Oshun was accused of witchcraft for birthing twins and kicked them out).

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Nobody Is Actually Upset About The Starbucks Cup
The media inform us Christians are upset about Starbucks cup for making Christmas even less religious than normal. The evidence is sorely lacking.

For those of you who are confused, here’s a quick explanation of where things stand. On November 5, Raheem Kassam of Breitbart London wrote a pretty tongue-in-cheek report on the new “This is really not a Christmas cup but sort of vaguely holiday-themed” to-go cup from Starbucks …

Then some Christian shock jock type ran with it and made a video, and a set of hashtags, and Facebook links to his ad-supported web page. This, I think, is what produced not just the Christian response of “No, really, we don’t care” but the many articles claiming that Christians were freaked out by Starbucks cups. Not sure which response was first, to be honest, or if they all occurred at the same time.

New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik joked … that we need “a, but for whether any actual human is outraged over a reported ‘outrage.’”

the sooner this regrettable meme dies, the better

Coptic Christian Liturgical Text

Egypt (c. 8th-9th Century)

Wealthier monasteries would have possessed manuscripts even after the Arab conquest of the region in the mid-600s. Coptic, the latest stage of the Egyptian language, is written with the Greek alphabet, supplemented by seven additional signs. The Arabic text to the right side of each page was for the use of those who no longer easily read Coptic. Crosses worked in interlaced geometric patterns often appear in Coptic manuscripts.

-The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Inverse Incantations

[Rev. 9.27.2016]

The use of manufactured “nonsensical” language in the practice of witchcraft can effectively strengthen symbolic efficacy while also intensifying the state of non-ordinary awareness that is critical to a successful working. The following procedure is intended to render normal speech unintelligible, and may be employed to construct words of power or a liturgical language for ritual use. I have developed a more involved method of accomplishing the same, referred to as Psychean Argot, though the procedure herein presented has proven far more expedient. The method is as follows. 

Step 1: Construct the statement of intent, chant, prayer, etc.

Torrential rain occurs now

Step 2: Rewrite the statement backwards

won srucco niar laitnerrot

Step 3: Omit double consonants and omit unpronounceable consonant clusters (sruco, laitnerot) by dropping the second and subsequent consonants of the cluster until the word is pronounceable.  

won suco niar laiterot

Step 4: Establish lexical stress and use as desired.

wón sucó niár laitérot


For those who are interested (I know I’ve had some people message me about the date of Pascha, others about the Triodion) this is a very good, introduction to the sources used in Orthodox liturgical services. This goes over the books used basically.

This is my music professor, Hierodeacon Herman, and I think he might spend all his time reading the services. He knows them backwards and forwards. Brilliant man, beautiful voice, and truly a man with a heart after God. 

I think one of the reasons people are reluctant in becoming affirming is because their beliefs hit home in a new way. They can’t imagine Church tradition being wrong. I’ve had a conversation that went somewhat like this, “Surely Church Tradition can’t have been wrong. If that’s the case then the Church has been a force of oppression for years…” and the realization sinks in. They can’t imagine that their own personal beliefs and the traditions of the Church play into systems of oppression. It’s a big realization to reconcile, and to be honest I’m still trying to fathom how the Church has done some of the things its done. Christians surely need Christ just as much as anyone.


Rood Screens

Medieval churches often had “rood screens” (“rood” means “cross”) also known as chancel screens, separating the Sanctuary and choir from the body of the nave. The rood screen had the rood — the Crucifix — often flanked by images of the Virgin and St. John and by oil lamps. This screen totally separated the sanctuary from the place the people sat so that the sanctuary was truly treated as the Holy of Holies.

In Eastern Catholic churches and in Orthodox churches, the sanctuary is separated from the congregation by a lovely iconostasis — a screen or wall with at least two icons (some are covered with them). An Iconostasis is below.

The iconostasis has three doors: the Door of the Proskomide (preparation for Liturgy) on the left; the Royal Door in the middle which leads directly to the altar; and the Deacon’s Door at the right (from the parishioner’s point of view).

The precise origin of the screen and its connection with the rood is somewhat obscure, and apparently varied in different churches. The custom of screening off the altar is very ancient, and emphasizing, as it did, the air of mystery surrounding the place of sacrifice, was possibly a survival of Judaism; but the placing of a screen, more or less solid, between the chancel and nave – i.e. between clergy and people – must have originated from practical rather than from symbolic reasons…“ –Catholic Encyclopedia 1908

Jewish scholars have found ancient evidence of the use of chancel screens. The medieval synagogue was divided into the superior “sanctity of the ark” from the “sanctity of the synagogue”. The use of chancel screens was related to the fence the surrounded the temple, past which gentiles were forbidden to enter. Below is a plan of the  Jewish Temple. Note that the entrance into the temple was from the East. Only Israelites were permitted to pass the eastern gate and enter the court of Israel. On the West side of this court, and just before the entrance into the Holy Place, was the “altar of burnt offering.” This was the altar on which animals were sacrificed. Into the next compartment (the Holy Place) only the priests could enter — they also entered from the East. And into the third room (the Holy of Holies) only the High Priest could go on the Day of Atonement — again he could only enter it from the East.

The rise of Renaissance architecture saw the disappearance of the choir area, the bringing forward of the sanctuary, and the general disappearance of the rood screens. The sanctuary was, instead, separated from the nave (as they should be today if there is no rood screen or iconostasis) by altar rails at which communicants must kneel to receive the Eucharist.

Aside from being the place of the Altar, the sanctuary is the place where the Tabernacle, which holds the Blessed Sacrament, is kept and over which there should always be burning a tabernacle light.

On Rood Screens and Iconostases: A Quick Look, from New Liturgical Movement

Beyond the Barrier: The Unifying Role of the Choir Screen in Gothic Churches

Rood: from the Catholic Encyclopedia at

Notes on Chancel Screens in Some Pre-Romanesque and Romanesque Churches

The Constantinian St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome a  3-D reconstruction (X-XI century AD) in a YouTube video


Waste not, want not

Some books in old bindings may not be entirely what they seem… in addition to housing the text of the main book, they may also harbor fragments of much older manuscripts! Known as “manuscript waste,” these fragments range from single teeny tiny strips to reinforce the binding’s inner structure to entire pages that could be recycled into covers. The strength and durability of vellum means that sometimes when such waste is found, its work of origin can be determined.

From around the 15th to the 17th century, attitudes towards religious practice fluctuated throughout Europe. A particularly violent shift occurred in England under the reign of Henry VIII, in which monasteries (and their books) were all but destroyed. This, as well as numerous less noticeable changes of religious opinion, meant that many religious manuscripts (particularly liturgical works like songbooks) were suddenly outdated; And due to the fact that the majority of medieval manuscripts were written on vellum, an expensive and sturdy material, people were loath to simply throw them away. Instead, they recycled the vellum in creative ways, reinforcing not only book bindings but clothes as well!

(The practice of reinforcing bindings with waste didn’t stop in the 17th century- examples of books using printed paper waste can be found in bindings done all the way up to the 20th century!)

(Books from Senate House Library, the University of Glasgow Library, and my personal collection)

C.S. Lewis on Worship

“Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best - if you like, it ‘works’ best - when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping. The important question about the Grail was 'For what does it serve? 'Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god.’

A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question 'What on earth is he up to now?’ will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, 'I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was 'Feed my sheep;’ not 'Try experiments on my rats,’ or even, 'Teach my performing dogs new tricks.’”

- From Letters to Malcolm