Archive for the ‘Curse’ Category

The Mark of Cain

The Mark of Cain

When God judged Cain for the murder of Abel he became fearful for his life. The Bible speaks of God putting a mark on Cain to protect him from others.

And the Lord said to him, Therefore, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him (Genesis 4:15).

God’s mark of protection on Cain was to help provide for his safety. However, it did not prevent Cain from being attacked or murdered. The mark merely warned that anyone who killed Cain would himself suffer a worse death.

Large Population

The fact that God had to put a mark on Cain suggests that the population was large enough that Cain needed to be singled out for protection. The text does not tell us what the mark was or that it was passed down to succeeding generations. As to what was the mark of Cain there have been a number of suggestions.

Not Necessarily On His Person

Certain Bible commentators have argued that the mark was merely a sign of confirmation that Cain would be protected from others. We are not told what sign God gave him, but whatever it was it calmed his fears for his life.

The phrase set a mark upon Cain (King James Version) does not necessarily mean that there was some mark upon his person. The phrase more likely means a sign for him. This could mean that God gave some sign to appear for Cain’s reassurance. Thus the idea of mark may mean some type of token or pledge. There are two other instances in the Old Testament where God gave similar signs to confirm His Word (Judges 6:36-40) and Elisha (2 Kings 2:9-12).

Appointed A Sign

The Revised Version translates the phrase appointed a sign for Cain. This indicates that whenever someone approached Cain some sign was given to deter that person from attacking. Though we are not told what this sign was, it protected Cain from those who wished to harm him.

Physical Sign

Others have argued that the mark was something physical. This would either be on his person or something that was with him. Possible solutions include: a dog to provide direction for Cain, a physical mark on his forehead, horns, or a brightly colored coat. One of the horrible suggestions that has been made is that Cain was marked with black skin. There is absolutely no basis whatsoever for accepting this terrible interpretation.

mark_of_cain_by_nikitajuice-d5tkzho

Not Told

None of these proposed solutions to the mark of Cain can be proven or disproven – we are simply not told what it was.

Mark On The Forehead

The prophet Ezekiel was told to put a mark on the foreheads of certain people.

And the Lord said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, a put a mark on the foreheads of men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are down within it (Ezekiel 9:4).

Scripture also tells us that in the future, God will mark His people for protection. For example, in the Book of Revelation we have an episode where people have a mark placed upon them. A special group of people, the 144,000, receives a mark from God that guarantees their protection. The Lord commanded:

Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads (Revelation 7:3).

Those not having the mark of God were not protected from the coming judgments.

Mark Of The Beast

In the Book of Revelation we also find the mark of the beast. Satan always counterfeits the things of God. As God marked the 144,000 as a special people to be protected, Satan will mark all those who worship him with his name and number on their right hand and forehead. As is true with the mark placed on the 144,000 by God, the mark here speaks of ownership.

And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads (Revelation 13:16).


Both of these marks were for the purpose of keeping the people safe who received the mark. Therefore we can conclude that the mark of Cain fits other portions of Scripture where a mark is given as a sign of protection.

From God To Nod!

After his judgment, Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and built a city in the land of Nod. The exact location of Nod seems to be unknown to the readers of Genesis. It is described as being east of Eden. This is another geographical reference away from the Garden. As humankind goes further east, they go further from God’s presence.

Successful Materially, Not Spiritually

Thus this part of humanity, cut off from God’s presence, organized and built the first city. From the simple pastoral and agricultural life humankind now created urban society with all its complications. Cain’s city developed music and metallurgy. The mention of metal working at that very early period causes a problem because it occurs long before the historical bronze and iron ages. It is possible that the knowledge of metallurgy was wiped out in the Flood of Noah. The techniques discovered and employed in this time were then rediscovered at a later period.
Though this community was successful in material matters, their spiritual life continued to be far away from God’s presence.

Paradise lost...

Paradise lost…


Summary

The mark of Cain was to help keep him from being physically harmed while he was a stranger and a vagabond. It did not guarantee his safety, it only promised a worse fate for those who harmed him. We cannot be certain whether the mark was an actual physical sign or something else. Marking humanity is something we find in the Book of Revelation. God marks his people with a sign on their forehead. The Antichrist also marks his people with a sign on their forehead and right hand. In both instances, the marks indicated ownership and protection.

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Daniela Poggiali, personal picture

Italian police have arrested a nurse suspected of killing up to 38 patients because she found them or their relatives annoying.

Daniela Poggiali, 42, was arrested in Lugo, in northern Italy after the unexpected death of an elderly patient admitted with a routine illness, the Central European News has reported.

Rosa Calderoni, 78, died after an injection of potassium, prompting a police investigation which implicated Ms Poggiali in 38 other mysterious deaths.

Chief prosecutor Alessandro Mancini told a press conference reported by Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera that police had found a disturbing selfie on Poggiali’s phone showing her giving a thumbs-up in front of a recently deceased patient.

He added Poggiali was “unperturbed” when she was arrested a few days ago.

Poggiali’s co-workers have spoken out about her behaviour with one saying they suspected her of giving strong laxatives to patients to embarrass the colleagues working after her.

Another nurse described her as a “cold person but always eager to work”.

We have dispatched hunters to check on her place, the hospital, and vicinities, looking for signs. This report will be updated as we discover new hints.

SEASON FINALE!!! Tarantino Blues Part 1 of 8

SOON

A “vision”, as told by Henry Goodman
Robert Johnson been playing down in Yazoo City and over at Beulah trying to get back up to Helena, ride left him out on a road next to the levee, walking up the highway, guitar in his hand propped up on his shoulder. October cool night, full moon filling up the dark sky, Robert Johnson thinking about Son House preaching to him, “Put that guitar down, boy, you drivin’ people nuts.” Robert Johnson needing as always a woman and some whiskey. Big trees all around, dark and lonesome road, a crazed, poisoned dog howling and moaning in a ditch alongside the road sending electrified chills up and down Robert Johnson’s spine, coming up on a crossroads just south of Rosedale. Robert Johnson, feeling bad and lonesome, knows people up the highway in Gunnison. Can get a drink of whiskey and more up there. Man sitting off to the side of the road on a log at the crossroads says, “You’re late, Robert Johnson.” Robert Johnson drops to his knees and says, “Maybe not.”

The man stands up, tall, barrel-chested, and black as the forever-closed eyes of Robert Johnson’s stillborn baby, and walks out to the middle of the crossroads where Robert Johnson kneels. He says, “Stand up, Robert Johnson. You want to throw that guitar over there in that ditch with that hairless dog and go on back up to Robinsonville and play the harp with Willie Brown and Son, because you just another guitar player like all the rest, or you want to play that guitar like nobody ever played it before? Make a sound nobody ever heard before? You want to be the King of the Delta Blues and have all the whiskey and women you want?”

“That’s a lot of whiskey and women, Devil-Man.”

“I know you, Robert Johnson,” says the man.

Robert Johnson, feels the moonlight bearing down on his head and the back of his neck as the moon seems to be growing bigger and bigger and brighter and brighter. He feels it like the heat of the noonday sun bearing down, and the howling and moaning of the dog in the ditch penetrates his soul, coming up through his feet and the tips of his fingers through his legs and arms, settling in that big empty place beneath his breastbone causing him to shake and shudder like a man with the palsy. Robert Johnson says, “That dog gone mad.”

The man laughs. “That hound belong to me. He ain’t mad, he’s got the Blues. I got his soul in my hand.”

The dog lets out a low, long soulful moan, a howling like never heard before, rhythmic, syncopated grunts, yelps, and barks, seizing Robert Johnson like a Grand Mal, and causing the strings on his guitar to vibrate, hum, and sing with a sound dark and blue, beautiful, soulful chords and notes possessing Robert Johnson, taking him over, spinning him around, losing him inside of his own self, wasting him, lifting him up into the sky. Robert Johnson looks over in the ditch and sees the eyes of the dog reflecting the bright moonlight or, more likely so it seems to Robert Johnson, glowing on their own, a deep violet penetrating glow, and Robert Johnson knows and feels that he is staring into the eyes of a Hellhound as his body shudders from head to toe.

The man says, “The dog ain’t for sale, Robert Johnson, but the sound can be yours. That’s the sound of the Delta Blues.”

“I got to have that sound, Devil-Man. That sound is mine. Where do I sign?”

The man says, “You ain’t got a pencil, Robert Johnson. Your word is good enough. All you got to do is keep walking north. But you better be prepared. There are consequences.”

“Prepared for what, Devil-man?”

“You know where you are, Robert Johnson? You are standing in the middle of the crossroads. At midnight, that full moon is right over your head. You take one more step, you’ll be in Rosedale. You take this road to the east, you’ll get back over to Highway 61 in Cleveland, or you can turn around and go back down to Beulah or just go to the west and sit up on the levee and look at the River. But if you take one more step in the direction you’re headed, you going to be in Rosedale at midnight under this full October moon, and you are going to have the Blues like never known to this world. My left hand will be forever wrapped around your soul, and your music will possess all who hear it. That’s what’s going to happen. That’s what you better be prepared for. Your soul will belong to me. This is not just any crossroads. I put this “X” here for a reason, and I been waiting on you.”

Robert Johnson rolls his head around, his eyes upwards in their sockets to stare at the blinding light of the moon which has now completely filled tie pitch-black Delta night, piercing his right eye like a bolt of lightning as the midnight hour hits. He looks the big man squarely in the eyes and says, “Step back, Devil-Man, I’m going to Rosedale. I am the Blues.”

The man moves to one side and says, “Go on, Robert Johnson. You the King of the Delta Blues. Go on home to Rosedale. And when you get on up in town, you get you a plate of hot tamales because you going to be needing something on your stomach where you’re headed.”

A deal with the Devil, pact with the Devil, or Faustian bargain is a cultural motif widespread wherever the Devil is vividly present, most familiar in the legend of Faust and the figure of Mephistopheles, but elemental to many Christian folktales. In the Aarne-Thompson typological catalogue, it lies in category AT 756B – “The devil’s contract.”

According to traditional Christian belief in witchcraft, the pact is between a person and Satan or any other demon (or demons); the person offers his or her soul in exchange for diabolical favours. Those favours vary by the tale, but tend to include youth, knowledge, wealth, or power. It was also believed that some persons made this type of pact just as a sign of recognising the Devil as their master, in exchange for nothing. Regardless, the bargain is a dangerous one, for the price of the Fiend’s service is the wagerer’s soul. The tale may have a moralizing end, with eternal damnation for the foolhardy venturer. Conversely it may have a comic twist, in which a wily peasant outwits the Devil, characteristically on a technical point. Among the credulous, any apparently superhuman achievement might be credited to a pact with the Devil, from the numerous European Devil’s Bridges to the superb violin technique of Niccolò Paganini.

“I went to the crossroad
Fell down on my knees,
I went to the crossroad
Fell down on my knees;
Asked the Lord above,
Have mercy now,
Save poor Bob, if you please.”

— Robert Johnson’s “Crossroad Blues”

Robert Johnson, born Robert Leroy Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938) is among the most famous of Delta blues musicians. His landmark recordings from 1936–1937 display a remarkable combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that have influenced generations of musicians. Johnson’s shadowy, poorly documented life and death at age 27 have given rise to much legend. Considered by some to be the “Grandfather of Rock-and-Roll”, his vocal phrasing, original songs, and guitar style have influenced a broad range of musicians, including John Fogerty, Bob Dylan, Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix, The Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers Band, The Rolling Stones, Paul Butterfield, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, The Band, Neil Young, Warren Zevon, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton, who called Johnson “the most important blues musician who ever lived”. He was also ranked fifth in Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. He is an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Around 1936, Johnson sought out H. C. Speir in Jackson, Mississippi, who ran a general store and doubled as a talent scout. Speir, who helped the careers of many blues players, put Johnson in touch with Ernie Oertle, who offered to record the young musician in San Antonio, Texas. At the recording session, held on November 23, 1936 in rooms at the landmark Gunter Hotel which Brunswick Records had set up as a temporary studio, Johnson reportedly performed facing the wall. This has been cited as evidence he was a shy man and reserved performer, a conclusion played up in the inaccurate liner notes of the 1961 album King of the Delta Blues Singers. Johnson probably was nervous and intimidated at his first time in a makeshift recording studio (a new and alien environment for the musician), but in truth he was probably focusing on the demands of his emotive performances. In addition, playing into the corner of a wall was a sound-enhancing technique that simulated the acoustical booths of better-equipped studios. In the ensuing three-day session, Johnson played 16 selections, and recorded alternate takes for most of these. When the recording session was over, Johnson presumably returned home with cash in his pocket; probably more money than he’d ever had at one time in his life.

Among the songs Johnson recorded in San Antonio were “Come On In My Kitchen”, “Kind Hearted Woman Blues”, “I Believe I’ll Dust My Broom”, and “Cross Road Blues”. “Come on in My Kitchen” included the lines: “The woman I love took from my best friend/Some joker got lucky, stole her back again,/You better come on in my kitchen, it’s going to be rainin’ outdoors.” In “Crossroad Blues”, another of his songs, he sang: “I went to the crossroads, fell down on my knees./I went to the crossroads, fell down on my knees./I asked the Lord above, have mercy, save poor Bob if you please./Uumb, standing at the crossroads I tried to flag a ride./Standing at the crossroads I tried to flag a ride./Ain’t nobody seem to know me, everybody pass me by.”

When his records began appearing, Johnson made the rounds to his relatives and the various children he had fathered to bring them the records himself. The first songs to appear were “Terraplane Blues” and “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”, probably the only recordings of his that he would live to hear. “Terraplane Blues” became a moderate regional hit, selling 5,000 copies.

In 1937, Johnson traveled to Dallas, Texas, for another recording session in a makeshift studio at the Brunswick Record Building, 508 Park Avenue. Eleven records from this session would be released within the following year. Among them were the three songs that would largely contribute to Johnson’s posthumous fame: “Stones in My Passway”, “Me and the Devil”, and “Hellhound On My Trail”. “Stones In My Passway” and “Me And The Devil” are both about betrayal, a recurrent theme in country blues. The terrifying “Hell Hound On My Trail”—utilising another common theme of fear of the Devil—is often considered to be the crowning achievement of blues-style music. Other themes in Johnson’s music include impotence (“Dead Shrimp Blues” and “Phonograph Blues”) and infidelity (“Terraplane Blues”, “If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day” and “Love in Vain”).

Six of Johnson’s blues songs mention the devil or some form of the supernatural. In “Me And The Devil” he began, “Early this morning when you knocked upon my door,/Early this morning, umb, when you knocked upon my door,/And I said, ‘ Hello, Satan, I believe it’s time to go,'” before leading into “You may bury my body down by the highway side,/ You may bury my body, uumh, down by the highway side,/So my old evil spirit can get on a Greyhound bus and ride.”

It has been suggested that the Devil in these songs does not solely refer to the Christian model of Satan, but equally to the African trickster god, Legba..

“. . . the Devil hangs close to the Mississippi River . . . putting
down his X . . . [and] Voodoo oozes from New Orleans
for a reason . . .” 
— The Crossroads Blues Society

 

In the last year of his life, Johnson is believed to have traveled to St. Louis and possibly Illinois, and then to some states in the East. He spent some time in Memphis and traveled through the Mississippi Delta and Arkansas. By the time he died, at least six of his records had been released in the South as race records.

His death occurred on August 16, 1938, at the age of twenty-seven at a country crossroads near Greenwood, Mississippi. He had been playing for a few weeks at a country dance in a town about 15 miles (24 km) from Greenwood.

There are a number of accounts and theories regarding the events preceding Johnson’s death. One of these is that one evening Johnson began flirting with a woman at a dance. One version of this rumor says she was the wife of the juke joint owner who unknowingly provided Johnson with a bottle of poisoned whiskey from her husband, while another suggests she was a married woman he had been secretly seeing. Researcher Mack McCormick claims to have interviewed Johnson’s alleged poisoner in the 1970s, and obtained a tacit admission of guilt from the man. When Johnson was offered an open bottle of whiskey, his friend and fellow blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson knocked the bottle out of his hand, informing him that he should never drink from an offered bottle that has already been opened. Johnson allegedly said, “don’t ever knock a bottle out of my hand”. Soon after, he was offered another open bottle of whiskey and accepted it, and it was that bottle that was laced with strychnine. Johnson is reported to have started to feel ill into the evening after drinking from the bottle and had to be helped back to his room in the early morning hours. Over the next three days, his condition steadily worsened and witnesses reported that he died in a convulsive state of severe pain – symptoms which are consistent with strychnine poisoning. Strychnine was readily available at the time as it was a common pesticide, and although it is a very bitter-tasting substance it is extremely toxic, and a small quantity dissolved in a harsh-tasting solution such as whiskey could possibly have gone unnoticed, but (over a period of days due to the reduced dosage) still produced the symptoms and eventual death that Johnson experienced.

The precise location of his grave remains a source of ongoing controversy, and three different markers have been erected at supposed burial sites outside of Greenwood. Research in the 1980s and 1990s strongly suggests Johnson was buried in the graveyard of the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist church near Morgan City, Mississippi, not far from Greenwood, in an unmarked grave. A cenotaph memorial was placed at this location in 1990 paid for by Columbia Records and numerous smaller contributions made through the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund. More recent research by Stephen LaVere (including statements from Rosie Eskridge, the wife of the supposed gravedigger) indicates that the actual grave site is under a big pecan tree in the cemetery of the Little Zion Church north of Greenwood along Money Road. Sony Music has placed a marker at this site.

In 1938, Columbia Records producer John Hammond, who had heard Johnson’s records, sought him out to book him for the first “From Spirituals to Swing” concert at Carnegie Hall in New York. On learning of Johnson’s death, Hammond replaced him with Big Bill Broonzy, but still played two of Johnson’s records from the stage. Robert Johnson has a son, Claude Johnson, and grandchildren who currently reside in a town near Hazlehurst, Mississippi.

Even in death Johnson could find no rest and even now the site of his actual final resting place is still debated among historians and devotees. In Mississippi there are two grave sites bearing his name. Just like the location of Johnson’s crossroads, his final resting place may never be known for certain, although the most likely contender is the grave located in Quitto, near Itta Bena, Mississippi.

Without Robert Johnson and the music of the Delta Blues much of the music we know and love so well today would not exist. Certainly soul and R&B owe a tremendous debt to Johnson, but in every sense, rock and roll would not be rock and roll had Johnson never existed or made that sinister deal with the Devil. It may just be that Johnson did make that deal after all and some think that there is evidence existing today that proves it.

They call it the Crossroads Curse and there are those who point to this theory to prove that the curse of Johnson’s devilish bargain has had far-reaching and unexpected consequences.

It has been said by many that Johnson never particularly liked the song, although he obliged his record producer with at least three known versions. Nevertheless, modern musicians who weren’t even born when Johnson was walking the roads of the Mississippi Delta have since learned to worship at the shrine of his talent and it is this song – “Crossroad Blues” – in particular that is most associated with modern adaptation as well as modern tragedy.

Popular rock musicians who have performed the song include Eric Clapton and Cream, The Allman Brothers Band, and Lynyrd Skynyrd; and Led Zeppelin has lifted several of Johnson’s more sexual allusions for use in their lyrics. The Crossroads Curse may have touched even Kurt Cobain, the founder of Nirvana. Each of these bands has been the target of intense professional and personal tragedies that make some wonder whether the Devil isn’t still taking his payment all these long years later…

Eric Clapton and Cream recorded “Crossroad Blues” for their “Cream: Wheels of Fire” LP at the height of their fame. Within a few short years, the band was disbanded and Clapton was wallowing in the throes of heroin addiction. Years later, having cleaned up his life and enjoying a profitable solo career, Clapton was tragically struck by the death of his two year old son who fell from an apartment window to death several stories below.

The tragedy surrounding The Allman Brothers Band is practically legend in the annals of rock and roll. At the height of their fame, in 1971, Duane Allman, who is said to have loved performing “Crossroad Blues” live, was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident at another crossroads near Macon, Georgia where he swerved his motorcycle to avoid hitting a truck. He died later from his injuries. Just over a year later, in 1972, another band member, guitarist Berry Oakley, was killed while riding his motorcycle; he died less than a mile from the spot where Duane Allman had met his death. Though the band soldiered on, Duane’s brother Gregg felt compelled to immortalize his brother’s connection to a crossroads in the song “Melissa”:

“Crossroads will you ever let him go?
Or will you hide the dead man’s ghost?”

Johnson’s recordings have remained continuously available since John Hammond convinced Columbia Records to compile the first Johnson LP, King of the Delta Blues Singers, in 1961. A sequel LP, assembling the rest of what could be found of Johnson’s recordings at that time, was issued in 1970. In the UK, both albums were issued as a two-LP set by Blue Diamond Records in 1985 under the same name, King of the Delta Blues Singers. An omnibus two-CD set (The Complete Recordings) was released in 1990 and produced by Beryl Cohen Porter [Sony/Columbia Legacy 46222], containing all 41 known recordings of his 29 compositions.

A 1996 plastic jewel-case remaster of the Complete set [Sony/Columbia Legacy 64916] corrected fidelity and pitch problems from the cardboard-packaged box. The more recent CD re-releases of “King of the Delta Blues Singers” Volumes 1 & 2 improve the sound quality far more dramatically, but don’t include 10 alternate takes (and two accidental introductions) found on Complete. Volume one includes a recently discovered alternate take of “Traveling Riverside Blues” which is not included on the Complete collection. This now brings the number of known Johnson recordings to forty-two.

We received this report by Tom Clansy, our “Hunter-in-Bike”. He patrols south New jersey and got this talk from a 3o y.o. something couple. The folks looked pretty spooked, by Tom’s reckon.

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IN SOUTH TOM’S RIVER, HOME IS WHERE THE HUT IS
Buried in the woods of South Toms River, on the fringes of the Pine Barrens and society in general, stands a group of primitive structures that serve as the meeting grounds for a unusual group of folks who call themselves “The Gatherers.” Located on 88 acres of land loaned to them by the town, the Gatherers have spent more than a year hunkered down on the property sandwiched between the Garden State Parkway and Route 9. To the average person who turns down their dead end street the site of a twenty foot tall tee pee shaped hut off in the pines might seem like anything but the home base of a non-profit organization, but that’s exactly what the Gatherers are. They are even supported through grants from a seemingly disparate group of charitable foundations, including the South Toms River Municipal Alliance, the Golden Rule Foundation, the Puffin Foundation, and the American Legion Post #129.

The mission statement of the Gatherers, according to their literature, is to “take human beings, born in captivity, re-educate them, and re-release them into the wild. In this way, we strive to teach people to become caretakers of the planet. Our efforts will allow the Great North American forest to be restored to 60% of its original size within the next 100 years. Working with Primitive Survival experts, outdoor enthusiasts, boards of education, Native American organizations, schools, communities and corrections departments, we design and deliver primitive alternatives to conventional suburban development and community-building.” That might seem like a pretty idealistic goal, but the Gatherers are a pretty idealistic bunch.

Part spiritual sect, part naturalist commune, part survivalist training camp, the Gatherers not only practice what they preach, but they also preach what they practice––and in their own unique language! As their name suggests, the Gatherers hold regular gatherings at their camp site and invite people to join in their community storytelling and sing-a-longs. You might want to bone up on your Gatherer-ese before attending one of these festivities though. The group’s web site (Gatherer.org) offers a crash course in their native tongue and provides a comprehensive guide to deciphering the strange spellings of pronunciations of their words.

In the Gatherers’ language traditional letters and numbers are changed around into Gatherer-speak. Here are a few examples of how they explain the changes and instructions on how to pronounce the sounds:

4 = sounds like tl, a click Donald Duck would make using the tongue blowing air through the cheek. Might be called a lateral ejective.

0 = pretend to whistle while saying “ee,” your lips are pursed and rounded, the german o umlaut sounds like it.

If these descriptions are a bit confusing, one can go to the web site to hear audio files of demonstrations of this clucking, blowing and quacking vocabulary. You can also find a partial dictionary of this language at the same web site, which lists many words and their translations. For example, one does not eat the banana-like fruit known as the plantain, they eat the “9l0nagzmih”; the thatched huts in the woods of South Toms River aren’t on the Gatherer’s land, they are on the “qckinz9zc”; when one passes wind, he or she does not fart, they “buxr0e”; and if someone cuts you off on the Parkway, you do not give them the middle finger, you give them the “bco6ou6.”

The group professes to follow the spiritual laws of “tor0” and the principles of the “mne9o.” We were kind of unclear ourselves as to what tor0 and mne9o were and what they stood for, so we decided to pay the Gatherers a visit and see for ourselves just what was going on in the wilds south of Toms River.

To find the Gatherers’ encampment we followed a sandy path into the woods off of Surf Avenue in the town of Beechwood (this, we found out later, was not the most direct route, but these were the directions we’d been given). We crossed a small cedar-tinged creek and followed the trail of soft sand into the pines. It was a sweltering hot July day as we wound our way deeper into the forest. Suddenly we saw it, a huge cone-shaped lodge built with what looked like pine fence posts laid over a tee pee-like framework.

As we approached the primitive structure a young man emerged to greet us. He seemed to be in his early twenties, tan and thin, with bare feet and a large hunting knife strapped to his hip. We were happy to hear him speak English, as we had not yet perfected our Gathererese pronunciations. We introduced ourselves and he told us his name, admitting that it was hard to pronounce. He invited us into the lodge, instructing us to kick a stick suspended from a piece of rope as we entered.

“This releases your aggressions and leaves your anger at the door,” he told us, letting us know that the Gatherers were a peace-loving tribe. The inside of the hut was surprisingly spacious, perhaps forty feet across, and very shady. Despite the heat, there was a fire burning in a sand pit in the center of the room. The young man, who was smudged here and there with soot and smelled like a smokey campfire, told us that he had come all the way from Israel to join the Gatherers in their work. He said that he and one of the other members actually lived in the large airy hut year-round. He told us that it became necessary to have someone there to watch over the place after an outsider burned down one of the groups’ woodland dwellings. Then he offered to take us to meet the “leader,” who he said was off in the woods somewhere building huts with the kids.

“The kids?” we asked, “What kids?”

“We have a kind of day camp here,” he replied, “where kids learn how to live off the land.”

“Are they local kids?” we asked.

“Yes,” he told us, as we began our walk into the forest.

Before long we saw another young man, shirtless and shoeless, standing over a pit in the sand. Down in the shallow hole was a group of young children, perhaps six or seven years old, who were clawing at the earth with sharpened sticks. I suddenly got the feeling I was in a scene from Lord of the Flies.

“What are they doing?” I asked our guide.

“Learning to build ground shelters,” he replied.

Before long we found the leader of the group, who was on a mission to collect logs with the kids to use as lodge posts. His name was Frank, though the youngsters, perhaps ten in all, called him “Mr. Frank.” Mr. Frank was also barefoot, and maybe in his mid-thirties. He was wearing black jeans, a bright red polo shirt, and a floppy suede hat. He was quite friendly and easy-going right from the start. We told him we were from Weird NJ and he regaled us with some local legends of pirate ghosts and hidden pinelands treasure. He said that he had lived in the Toms River area for seven years but was originally from Long Island, NY.

As we walked the sandy trails around the encampment listening to Frank speak about the Gatherers, the barefoot children, all girls except one, tagged along and repeatedly offered Mark and I wild blueberries to eat. They all seemed quite happy and well behaved and really seemed to like and respect Mr. Frank and the other Gatherers. But there was no way we were going to touch any of their wild berries!

Frank filled us in on the group’s plans to reclaim suburbia and knock it down to make room for more wilderness habitat. He said the land that they were currently occupying belonged to the town, and he wanted to show the town that it would be in their own best interests to destroy the surrounding neighborhoods (which were admittedly looking a bit run down) and revert them back to a natural environment where people would live in harmony with nature. He said that he envisioned a colony there in the future where people lived in primitive dwellings of their own design, and got up and went to work each day like they always had. These huts, he told us, would be supplied with electricity produced through clean energy sources, such as solar power, and would even have wireless Internet access.

Frank then went into the logistics of his plan, telling us things about tax bases and ratables, which I didn’t really follow, but we listened and nodded politely. He seemed to have the details of his utopian society in the woods all figured out. Now if he can just convince the local neighbors to leave their cozy homes to live in the woods with him––that would be the trick!

Frank told us the Gatherers are always accepting volunteers and new members to help out around the camp. He said that he recently traveled to Hungary to see the world’s foremost authority on thatching (an ancient art of intertwining reeds to make a water-tight roof) and plans to thatch the roof of the large hut to make it a more permanent year-round dwelling. He told us soon the entire area we were standing on would be covered with large primitive dwellings just like it.

As we said goodbye, or “bzczq,” to the Gatherers, Frank and the children were standing around a heap of dried leaves and grass that they had recently built on the sandy ground which looked something like a compost pile.

“It’s a human nest,” Frank said with pride. It reminded me of a prop from the movie Planet of the Apes, but I guess when you’re a Gatherer, home is what you make it.

A couple of years after our first trip to the Gatherers’ woodland commune we returned to pay another visit and see have far they had progressed with their plan to reclaim paradise. To our dismay we found that the makeshift shelters that they had constructed had all been disassembled. The timbers that had been used to construct the huts were either laying in heaps or scattered around the forest floor hither and yon. None of the Gatherers were to be found anywhere, leaving us to wonder––had they migrated to another woodland home deeper in the Pines like a primitive hunter-gatherer clan might? Or had they, like so many failed Utopian societies before them, been cast out of their own their own private Eden?