Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: Chaldean

3rd Publishers Weekly’s Review of My Books

Front Cover for Healing Wisdom Book 4 (300)

It’s difficult to get one book reviewed by Publishers Weekly let alone 3 books! But it can happen – as it did in my case, 3 books in a row!

Much love to my teachers Lynn V. Andrews and Nancy who worked with me on this fourth and final year of Lynn’s 4-year school.

Publishers Weekly review:

Accomplished spiritual coach and author Namou (The Flavor of Cultures) concludes her four-part memoir by describing her final year in Lynn Andrews’s shamanic school, Storm Eagle. Her new mentor, for the fourth year of the school, is Nancy. Just as in the other three books of this series, this new spiritual teacher has a profound impact on Namou’s journey. Nancy explains that the fourth year is about the apprentices working on themselves and that the year is designed to “help you come out into the world.”

A major portion of the book focuses on the preparation for the graduation ritual, and the ritual itself, which Namou describes in detail that draws the reader in. Familiar names from the previous books in this series make appearances. By the conclusion of this fourth book, it is apparent how Namou has benefitted as a person and writer. The weaving of family life and spiritual life throughout the series helps forge Namou into the person she is today, and she uses what she has learned to help others on their spiritual paths.

Link to full review

The Truth About the Veil

The Veil

Last week, I did a radio interview with Stu Bryer of WICH in Norwich, Connecticut. We talked about several subjects, including the Syrian refugees and the veil. While I believe that veils that completely disguise people are problematic for safety purposes and unnecessary in a Western country where people choose to live, I also feel that we should explore the issue of veiling in a more historical and personal context.

During my trip to Baghdad in 2000, I visited my parents’ Christian village in Mosul and asked my cousins to find me an abayya in the souk. He found one I liked, disputed with the merchant over a few dinars, wanted to walk out, and at my plea, agreed on a price. I left with an abbaya that today still has some of the spices I’d carried in my luggage in a journey that lasted from Baghdad to Detroit three days.

What’s an abbaya? It’s a veil that reminds me of my mother and the neighborhood women who’d sometimes wear it when they went to the market. Since Saddam encouraged women to wear western clothing and he was against Islamic fundamentalists, the burka wasn’t allowed in Iraq. Usually older women wore the abbaya. They did so for religious purposes, as Islam requires women to dress modestly in order to keep the focus of beauty on spiritual and not superficial attributes. Wearing the veil was also a way to avoid harassment. But mostly, they wore it because it was part of a culture that predates Islam by many centuries.

In the Near East, Assyrian kings first introduced both the seclusion of women in royal harem and the veil. Prostitutes and slaves, however, were told not to veil, and were slashed if they disobeyed this law. This practice also appeared in classical Greece, in the Byzantine Christian world, in Persia and in India among upper caste women. It’s suggested that afterwards it spread among the Arabs.

Muslims in their first century were relaxed about female dress. As Islam reached other lands, regional practices, including the covering of women, were adopted. Yet it was only in the second Islamic century that the veil became common, first used among the powerful and rich as a status symbol. Muhammad’s wives originally dressed in veil in order for people to distinguish them from other women.

Throughout Islamic history only a part of the urban classes were veiled and secluded. Rural and nomadic women, the majority of the population, were not. The veil did not appear as a common rule to be followed until around the tenth century. In the Middle Ages numerous laws were developed which most often placed women at a greater disadvantage than in earlier times.

For 2,000 years, Catholic women have veiled themselves before entering a church or any time they are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (e.g., during sick calls). It was written into the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 1262, that women must cover their heads – “especially when they approach the holy table”

For many centuries (until around 1175) Anglo-Saxon and then Anglo-Norman women, with the exception of young unmarried girls, wore veils that entirely covered their hair, and often their necks up to their chins. It was in the Tudor period (1485), when hoods became increasingly popular, that veils of this type became less common.

Sometimes a sheer was draped over and pinned to the bonnet or hat of a woman in mourning. They would also have been used as a simple method of hiding the identity of a woman who was travelling to meet a lover, or doing anything she didn’t want other people to find out about. Veils were also sometimes worn to protect the complexion from sun and wind damage (when un-tanned skin was fashionable), or to keep dust out of a woman’s face. Conversely, veils are often part of the stereotypical image of the courtesan and harem woman where the mysterious veil hints at sensuality and the unknown.

Among the Tuareg of West Africa, women do not traditionally wear the veil, while men do. It’s believed that the veil wards off evil spirits, but most probably relates to protection against the harsh desert sands as well. This veil is worn from 25 years of age and is never removed, even in front of family members.

What about the origin of a bride’s veil? Some say that the veil was introduced in ancient Rome to keep away the evil spirits. It’s also said that it was a symbol of purity, chastity, and modesty. Other say that the origin of the bridal veil was due to the circumstances of an arranged marriage. In days past, men bargained with an eligible young lady’s father for their hand in marriage. After the ceremony, the veil was lifted to reveal the bride’s features. This was to keep a groom from backing out of the deal if he didn’t like what he saw.

With my mother, the veil was used for convenience, when she didn’t want to change from her nightgown in order to go to the bakery and buy bread. Or when my cousin wanted to meet her lover without anyone noticing her. Or it was worn by those who found it attractive or simply liked having it flutter around their ankles.

When I was a little girl, I used my mother’s veil to play house. I couldn’t wait to grow up and have my own veil, not knowing then that one day wearing fabric in such a manner, or not wearing it, could cost women their lives.


The Power of Western Women

Photo by: Pedro J Perez

Photo by: Pedro J Perez

Last night, I wrapped myself in a red blanket as I listened to my teacher Lynn Andrews talk during a conference call with her apprentices. She said something which I never heard her say before. She said, “I really believe that the world is going to be saved by the women of the west.”

Many societies have thrived as a result of powerful women. Enheduanna of ancient Iraq was the daughter of Sargon of Akkad. She is the world’s first recorded writer. She was a high priestess in Ur of the Chaldees until her father’s death, the new ruler of Ur removed her from power. Kubaba, a Sumerian Queen in ancient Iraq, is the world’s first recorded woman ruler in history. She was said to have reigned peacefully for one hundred years.

Matriarchal communities existed in the past, and there a number of them surviving today. One society in the high mountains of China is known as the Kingdom of Women. Their reputation for “free Love”, along with the breathtaking landscape of their homelands draws increasing numbers of tourists.

Jennifer Morse writes in her book Apprentice to Power the following conversation she had with Lynn:

“The nature of the earth is feminine, so we women naturally understand the nature of things,” Lynn said. “Deep down, each woman knows that she knows. But we are taught that we don’t know. For men, the energy of this plant is not familiar. So they don’t know. But they are taught that they do.”

“So it’s all set up backwards,” said Jennifer.

Lynn smiled. “Yes, it is. We have to teach them.”

Perhaps this explains the thousands of years of unnecessary wars and violence. The biggest difference between matriarch and patriarchal communities is that where women rule, there was and is no need for violence. Maybe that’s the core problem in the Middle East. It is overly male dominated, which has created an incredible imbalance in that region.

For me, I am incredibly grateful for the dozens of powerful western women who have supported my work throughout the years, and I would not be a bit surprised if it is, like Lynn says, western women who end up saving the world.

Wise Words from a Republican

George Brikho

“We created ISIS, and we need to destroy ISIS,” said George Brikho. “ISIS is funded by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, our supposed allies.”

These words by a Republican running for Congress in 2014 caught my interest in an event I recently covered. Unlike most Republicans, what Brikho said was honest, bold and heartfelt, not staged. He is obviously not afraid to look at the root of ISIS’ formation, which he blames on our foreign policy as well as the current and past administrations.

“Today’s Republicans are not behaving like Republicans,” he said. “Today it’s all about the money changers. Wars are being made for profit. Corporations are directing politicians. It’s no longer about liberation for the people.”

His solution is simple – stop getting involved with other countries and going to war, because the more war we get into, the more debt we have.

“Saddam and Kaddafi wanted to sell their oil their way through OPEC,” he said. “It’s like you have a store or any another business. You have the right to set the prices and do business the way you want.”

Saudi Arabia is the leader of OPEC. It is also the only member of the OPEC cartel that does not have an allotted production quota. Oil can be bought from OPEC only if you have dollars. In November 2000, Iraq began selling its oil in euros. When OPEC oil could be sold in other currencies, like the euro, that’s not too good for the U.S. economic dominance.

“Leaders of other countries were not happy about what Saddam and Kaddafi were doing and wanted things to be done the way they wanted them to be done,” said Brikho. “So they went in and polarized that nation into submission. Then the federal banking comes in, and the new leaders are given money to rebuild, and in order to be able to give this money back, those countries, who never taxed their citizens before, start taxing their people the way we do.”

I wondered why this Republican was not talking like most Republicans. What was so different about him?

“I’m a statesman, not a politician,” he said. “I’m a concerned American, and I work for the people. I am willing to expose anyone whose allegiance is to money and not the people.”

On his website, it says:

The Constitution of the United States of America is the most intelligently crafted governing document in the history of mankind. The US Constitution protects personal liberty by limiting the power of our government. Unfortunately, our government violates its boundaries on a daily basis. Our federal government must be restrained.

One wonders why the people have given their powers away.

“We have become too comfortable, to where unconsciously we’re allowing for things that don’t benefit us to happen,” he said. “For instance, a third of our paycheck goes to our government. This is modern day enslavement. You don’t need a cage to be a slave.”

I researched the difference between a statesman and a politician and found an interesting quote by James Freeman Clarke, who said, “The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation.”

I also found an interesting article by Mike North who wrote that the founders of this nation were not politicians, but were statesmen, adding, “We are suffering from a drought of statesmen and a flood of politicians. It’s like a diet full of calories with almost no nutrition. Statesmen are like vegetables. Many people don’t like them, but they’re good for you. Politicians are like too much ice cream. Yummy, I’ll worry about the stomach ache later.”

I feel we should be grateful that George Brikho is helping our country fill this drought, and do, what I think is so crucial for our nation to do, which is to become politically fit.

You can read Mike North’s full article here:

Having Great Powers


I covered a story a few weeks ago about the genocide in Iraq. The event was organized by Assyrian activist Nahren Anweya and other influential group of people who are of Christian Iraqi decent. I later followed up with Nahren with questions for the article I had to write, and in the process, met with her briefly.

During this time, she mentioned, “Oh, I forgot to share my experience of helping to save 400 Yazedis from a sinking ship last week.”

What? I thought.

She told me the incredible story.

“A Yazedi man called me on Facebook thinking I have great powers not knowing I’m an ordinary individual, and he claimed that there were four ships filled with Yazedis. One of them had 400 passengers and it was stranded in the open water between Greece and Italy. He was hysterical and pleaded for help. I called my brother-in-law who is in the navy and informed Fox News and we were able to save all of them and bring them to Greece. They were very thankful and they were crying.”

The man knew that she was a woman with great powers, not an ordinary individual. And yet the beauty of people with great powers is that they are usually humble, and consider themselves ordinary individuals because they know that within everyone lie those same great powers – if only they were to tap into them.


The Blessings of a Henna Party

My husband’s niece had her henna party last weekend and it was fun and meaningful. For me, henna parties have become much more exciting to attend than weddings. Aside from the fact that they are filled with so much tradition, in our Chaldean community henna parties are much more intimate (with about 200 guests) whereas the weddings are, in my opinion, a bit overcrowded (at 500 guests and up).

Despite the small number of guests (at 200), one of the most important pre-weddings ceremonies in Arab and Hindu weddings is the Henna Party. A Henna Party represents the bond of matrimony and signifies the love and affection between the couple and their families. It is believed that henna gives blessings, luck, and joy.

The ceremony is a colorful, musical and lively event. The women dress in extravagant, heavily embroidered gallabiyas and the men wear a dishdasha and a 3-piece head cover. Large trays of fruits and nuts, sweets, and chocolate are carried by the women as they lead the future groom to his future bride.

The bride and other females get decorative henna designs on their hands. According to tradition, the darkness of the henna color on the bride’s hands represents the deep love between would-be-couples. Another tradition says that the bride is not allowed to work in her marital house until the time her henna fades away. Then it is work nonstop (no tradition says that, but any wife or mother understands what I’m talking about). Any wife or mother also knows that it’s all worth it, and the henna and other pre-wedding celebrations are beautiful steps that walk us into our new world with enough blessings to last us, and our children, a lifetime.

Sally's Henna

Serving Our House through Journalism

Photo By: Vickie Thomas

Left to write: Marlon Walker of the Detroit Free Press, Weam Namou, and Charlie LeDuff of Fox News, and moderator Kathy Chaney, Producer/Reporter at WBEZ 91.5FM              (Photo by Vickie Thomas)

While in my birth country ISIS continues to wage war against journalists, here in the United States journalism continues to flourish, opening doors to new voices – as is the tradition of the United States.

It’s true that a lot of minority groups in America do not receive the air and press time they deserve. But it is also true that in America, there is an opportunity for people to break the mold without risking their life. Here, an association of black journalists says “welcome” to an Iraqi-American journalist like myself, because what they see and appreciate in each other is the heart of journalism, which is an appetite for truth and education, an appetite which journalists in many other countries cannot dare quench.

On October 11th, at the 2014 NABJ Conference in Detroit, sitting on the panel next to award winning reporter Charlie LeDuff of Fox News and reporter Marlon Walker of the Detroit Free Press, listening to the easy and lively manner in which they spoke about how they dealt with “Conflict in the Community”, the topic of our discussion, I realized that a large part of the problem many Middle Easterners and Arabs have is inner conflict. Born and raised under authoritarian regimes, they have difficulty expressing their truths in constructive ways. Rather than influence public opinion and government policy, they try to influence each other – which often builds tension within their own communities rather than create progress.

Investigative Journalism is such a phenomenon in the Arab World that Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) based in Amman, Jordan describes it on its website as “still an alien practice.” Many journalists from that region who growing up, were told to “Hush!” and “Mind your own business” have wounds to heal before they can grow wings like the American journalists who were told to “Speak up!” and “Dig for the truth”, who like Charlie LeDuff can confidently say, “This is my house too! We’re all living in the United States, sharing it.”

It is when people from the Arab world, who over the last decade have become one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the United States, fully comprehend, appreciate and believe in the words “This is my house too!” that we will best serve this house through journalism.

AKITU, Chaldean Babylonian New Year Festival


Akitu/Chaldean Babylonian New Year Festival is a festival that marks the renewal of life, the beginning of spring in ancient Mesopotamia. It is also referred to as Resh Shatti(m), which literary means the beginning of the year.

In Babylonian religion, whether during the first recorded unification of ancient Mesopotamia under the legendary king of Kish Meshalim (2550 BC) or during the Babylonian dynasties, it came to be dedicated to Marduk’s victory over Goddess Tiamat, the bloated female dragon that personifies the saltwater ocean; in short, the victory of civilization and order on Chaos.

It has been proposed that Thanksgiving may trace its earliest recorded origins to this ancient Mesopotamian harvest festival.

In honor of this occasion, the Chaldean Educational Center of American and UR Multimedia held its yearly AKITU festival event at St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church on Sunday, April 6th. The festival included Chaldean music, a book fair and photography exhibit, a show, and of course, food and drink.

My children’s favorite part of the event was eating the delicious kabob sandwiches! I loved seeing the women dressed in the traditional clothes my grandmothers and great-grandmothers once wore. My most favorite part was the information that artist, historian and author Amer Hanna Fatuhi shared about this festival.

“One of the roots of this festival is the sacred matrimony Hashadu, which represents the union of the male (sky) and the female (earth),” he said. “By mixing the sky and earth together, life grows, and you get the sacred matrimony, a renewal of life. This marriage was practiced by the king and the highest priestess.”

More information can be learned about this festival by reading Mr. Fatuhi’s book, The Untold Story of Native Iraqis.

Facebook: The Untold Story of Native Iraqis

A Chaldean Henna Party with an Indian Twist

My cousin and his fiancée decided to have an Indian-themed Chaldean henna. I thought this a wonderful idea and an opportunity for me to buy my first sari.

For over five thousand years henna has been a symbol of good luck, health, fertility and sensuality in many parts of the world. The art of henna (called Mehndi in Hindi & Urdu) has been practiced in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East, and it has led to “the Henna Night.”

The henna night is where the bride, her family, relatives and friends get together to celebrate the wedding to come. The vibrant and colorful night is filled with games, music and dance performances. Sometimes guests get henna patterns done on their hands.

In the old traditional way, the groom’s family would dance through the streets of the village until reaching the house of the bride. When the men enter where the bride is, the bride-to-be and groom-to-be are united. Their mothers then get both their hands done with henna. The bride-to-be usually gets gold jewelry as a gift. For Muslims, this is where the groom offers the bride her mahr, a mandatory required amount of money or possessions paid by the groom to the bride at the time of marriage, for her exclusive use.

Adopting beautiful traditions from other countries, while honoring one’s own traditions, is a profound statement. It is one way of saying “Namaste” to the world.


Interviewing My Mom

Mom 3

The story we leave behind is the best message we give to our children. My mom does not like to tell stories, but she has lived her life in a way that says a lot. Still, for years I’ve been trying to get detailed information from her about her childhood, her early marriage and motherhood. But while I have been successful in doing great interviews with the most prominent members in the Chaldean American community, I have not been too successful with her. She always tries to divert my questions.

Finally, on Wednesday, with the help of my sisters, we poked around until we learned that in the village of Telkaif in northern Iraq, snow did sometimes appear, during which time my mother and other children would slip and slide over it – basically ice skating with shoes.

“What was the biggest lie you ever told?” I asked her.

“I didn’t lie,” my mother said, indignantly.

“Yes, you did,” my older sister responded. “I remember when Babba gave you spending money, you would put it away and when it totaled to two dinars, you gave it to your mother.”

My mother shrugged. “I did do that. They needed it. They didn’t have much.”
“So that was for a good cause,” my sister said.

Even when my mother lied, it was out of the goodness of her heart.

Well, given that my mother is now 80 years old, I have a lot of catching up to do – with regards to jotting down her stories. So I pray that God blesses us with her presence for a long long time.