All posts by Richard Cassaro

About Richard Cassaro

Husband, father, journalist, symbolist, speaker, mystic and author of the soon-to-be-published Written In Stone: Decoding The Ancient Masonic Wisdom Hidden In Cathedral & World Architecture (due out 9/2011). The book reveals amazing, never-before-seen evidence that the medieval Freemasons inherited ancient occult wisdom from a highly-sophisticated lost "Mother Culture" from which the first civilizations sprang, and that they encoded this wisdom into the architecture of churches, castles and cathedrals around the world. Learn more at:

The Dogon

The Dogon people live in West Africa. Over the past 100 years, their mythology, sculpture, and traditions have made them one of Mali’s major tourist attractions.

The Dogon lived in an area of sandy cliffs. For centuries, their ancestors were plagued by Islamic slave raiders. The Dogon retreated to these defendable positions, and dug in. They had food, water, and peace.

Dogon mythology is fascinating. Their creation myth is based on the Nommos, ancient astronauts who visited earth many millennia ago. According to legend, they came from Sirius, the Dog Star. One individual, known as Nommo, led the Dogons into civilization.

The Dogons worship the Nommos, amphibious creatures from another world. The Nommos came from Sirius, the Dog Star, in a vehicle that belched fire and thunder. These visitors subsequently moved into water, their natural environment.

The Nommo sacrificed his body, sharing it with to feed mankind. He was crucified on a tree, then resurrected, upon which he returned to his home planet. The Dogons believe that he will return in human form. The similarities between this myth and the stories of Jesus in the Christian tradition are too strong to deny.

The Dogon are devoted to harmony. Many of their rituals reflect this longing for harmonious relations. In one important ritual, everyone expresses their gratitude for the others – women, men, young, and old thank each other for their contributions. Greetings are often elaborate, with both host and visitor inquiring deeply into every aspect of each other’s lives.

Dogon funerals are lavish and expensive. Many “damas” include statuettes, masks, and ritual. Indeed, it has become a valuable source of revenue to the Dogon peoples. Tourists are willing to pay for the cultural experience and entertainment, and the extra money helps the Dogon perform their rights.

Villages contain many different buildings, depending on the use. Granaries are used as storage areas for grains and other items; men and women use different granaries. The “toguna” is a building that men use to discuss important issues and make decisions. These low buildings aren’t tall enough for a man to stand upright, which helps to avoid violence during heated discussions.

Dogon language is complex, with at least five different dialects. These dialects can vary widely, and there are many variations of each dialect. Therefore, Dogons from different areas may have difficulty in communicating.

The culture and mythology of the Dogon people draws visitors from around the world. While many religions include mysterious figures that come from the sky, the Dogons are unique. After all, few religions recognize ancient astronauts as a major contributing factor to their culture! These fascinating and peaceful people have lived for centuries in their amazing cliff top homes, their culture relatively unchanged by outside society.

The Dogon village of Banani, courtesy Wikipedia
A Dogon toguna, courtesy Wikipedia.


The lost city of Atlantis was first mentioned by Plato over 2300 years ago. According to him, this island was home to a mighty civilization around 9500 B.C. After trying, and failing, to capture Athens, Atlantis disappeared “in a single day and night of misfortune”. Was the story of Atlantis a myth, meant to forward Plato’s political theories? Or did Atlantis really exist?

Currently, there is no proof that Atlantis, the lost city, ever existed. The possibility was discussed throughout antiquity, and scholars through the ages have sought proof to no avail. Still, the mystery and romance of this fabled civilization captures our attention to this day. The Atlantis quest has influenced art, literature, and the theater. But the first written record belongs to Plato.

In Plato’s dialogue Timaeus, he described Atlantis as, “a confederation of kings, of great and marvelous power, which held sway over all the island, and over many other islands also and parts of the continent.”

Ancient Athens is described as a perfect society, while Atlantis is an example of the opposite. The Atlanteans were conquering wide areas of land and enslaving many people. A band of resisters from Athens defied Atlantis, and emerged victorious. Before the Atlantean empire could respond, a great tragedy occurred.

Earthquakes and floods ravaged the island, which was, “swallowed up by the sea”. Atlantis had disappeared, and a rich and vibrant (if land-hungry) culture had disappeared with it. But what proof is there that Atlantis even existed?

Authors like Sir Francis Bacon and Sir Isaac Newton wrote about Atlantis. In the 19th century, many scholars believe that Atlantean and Mayan cultures were related. Many scientists and scholars have combed the records for evidence of Atlantis’ existence.

Edgar Cayce was a famed psychic who mentioned Atlantis in several readings. He believed that Atlantis was home to an advanced civilization, located in the Caribbean. He also proposed that the Atlantean’s used mysterious energy crystals to power ships and aircraft. In 1938, Cayce predicted that, “a portion of the temples may yet to be discovered under the slime of ages and sea water near Bimini… Expect it in ’68 or ’69 – not so far away.” In 1968, an underwater geological formation was discovered near Bimini Island. Searchers in the Atlantis quest believe this may be evidence of Atlantean civilization, and are searching for more clues.

Given Plato’s descriptions of the lost city of Atlantis, it seems likely that a volcano caused much of the damage. Scholars and scientists have scoured the planet looking for possible locations of Atlantis. Many locations have been suggested, and many theories discarded. But not all theories can be so easily ignored.

The most interesting theory suggests that an error in translation multiplied measurements tenfold. Rather than the 9000 years before, it was suggested that the tragedy occurred only 900 years before. A massive eruption on Thera, a Mediterranean island, is believed to have caused a tsunami – one so powerful that the Minoan civilization on nearby Crete was devastated. Satellite images of the island show a classic volcanic ring, and the volcano has erupted many times.

Dozens of locations around the world have been proposed as possible sites of the lost city of Atlantis. Until conclusive proof is found, the Atlantis quest will continue.

The Island of Thera. Could this be the home of Atlantis, the Lost City? Courtesy Wikipedia.


Lemuria is the name of the mythical land, possibly in the Indian or Pacific Ocean. At one point, it was believed to be a continent that had sunk beneath the water. Though scientists have since discredited this theory, the spiritual community has embraced Lemuria.

In the 19th century, scientists were confused. Fossil lemurs were found in India and Madagascar, but not in the Middle East or Africa. To explain how the same creatures could be found in lands so far apart, geologist Philip Sclater proposed Lemuria. This larger continent had once extended from India to Madagascar.

Of course, this was before continental drift was understood. Biologists and geologists sought to explain how similar species or rock formations could occur on different continents. Sunken land masses were a simple explanation. Once science understood how the surface of the earth moves, theories of Lemuria were discredited.

That has not prevented Lemuria, also known as Mu, from entering the public consciousness. Many writers have considered the topic in popular novels, linking Lemuria with UFOs, ancient Egypt, and more.

Classical Tamil literature describe a lost Kingdom comparable to Lemuria. Kumari Kandam was a large land mass that connected South India, Madagascar are, and Australia. If this landmass existed, it would have covered a majority of the Indian Ocean.

In many traditions, Lemuria is the home of a race of reptilian creatures, Acclaim bolstered by Australian aborigines and the Cambodian naga. Even the classic American cartoon Alley Oop got in on the act — Moo and Lem refer to the lost continents of Mu and Lemuria.

Popular culture abounds with references to Lemuria. HP Lovecraft mentions Lemuria, in his story, “The Haunter of the Dark”. Princess Llyra from Marvel comics claims Lemuria as her home. Video games like Final Fantasy XII and Golden Sun contain references to the lost land, too.

Although there is no proof of the existence of Lemuria, our lives have been greatly enriched by the mystery of this spiritual lost continent.

Phantom Islands

Phantom islands were once believed to exist, though have since been proven nonexistent. Often, these phantom islands were included on maps and woven into myth and legend. In fact, we now know they don’t exist.

When early explorers charted new territories, they occasionally made errors. Geographical errors crept in, leading them to misidentify the Baja California peninsula as an island. Other errors crept in to the optical illusions, fog banks, and even icebergs.

Today, it is accepted that most of these phantom islands never existed. However, that is not always the case. Thompson Island, originally spotted in the South Atlantic Ocean, was last seen in 1893. By 1898, it had disappeared. Thompson Island probably disappeared due to a volcanic eruption in the 1890s.

Ancient Egyptian Medicine

Ancient Egyptian medicine was practiced from 3300 B.C., and was to last until 525 B.C. Ancient Egyptian medicine was highly advanced, influencing the later Greek and Roman physicians.

Egyptian doctors could set bones and perform simple surgery. Their extensive knowledge and pharmacology at was backed by magical incantations. Ancient Egyptian physicians followed certain steps which would be recognizable to any modern doctor – examination, diagnosis, followed by prognosis and treatment. Many people would be surprised to hear that these treatments were often effective.

Ancient Egyptians did not believe in dissection. A dissected body was unable to rise, to live again. However, the Egyptian knowledge of anatomy was incredible, mainly due to their experience in mummification. Egyptian physicians understood there was a connection between heartbeat and pulse, and even vaguely understood the cardiac system.

Many of the suggestions of ancient Egyptian physicians were actually very effective. The Egyptians believed in cleanliness, and were known to shave their body hair, which may have prevented infections. They also proposed that could help could come from a good diet, avoiding foods like crawfish or unclean animals.

Interestingly, the use of kohl as eyeliner was once seen as a simple fashion statement. Studies performed on small pots of kohl found in tombs revealed a surprising fact. The ingredients in this online or are very effective antibacterial agents. This highly valued makeup could prevent infection, and possibly even save the eyesight of those who used it.

Of course, other practices were not so benign. Many pharmaceuticals contained animal dung. Feces will often contain certain molds, and these may occasionally have curative qualities. However, fecal bacteria can cause dangerous infections.

Religion and magic were intertwined in ancient Egypt. If the gods could cause ailments, then entreaties to the gods could help that disease disappear. Physicians commonly used magic and incantations to effect recoveries. Amulets were also a popular choice to prevent disease or stimulate healing.

The ancient Egyptians are proud to claim the earliest recorded physician, Hesyre, doctor to Pharaoh Djoser in the 27th Century BC. In 2400 B.C., we see the first recorded reference to a female doctor, the lady Peseshet.

Ancient Egyptian physicians were not just general practitioners. There were many specialties, including ophthalmologists, dentists, gastroenterologists, and even proctologists. Pharaohs and other royalty enjoyed their own physicians; the common people could visit medical institutions for treatment.

Over several millennia, the ancient Egyptians contributed a great deal of medical knowledge to ancient mankind. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, studied at the temple of Amenhotep, using these lessons to advance medical practices in Greece. Pliny the Elder, Herodotus, and Homer wrote extensively on the Egyptian contribution to the understanding of medicine. Is it any wonder we think they are just so darn swell?


Anthropology is the study of people, their language, culture, and evolution. Early European explorers were curious about the peoples they met while exploring the world. They began to study the people they encountered. Along the way, they developed comparisons – and were surprised by the wide range of cultures they found.

The study of anthropology came to the United States in the early 19th century. At that time, there were many civilizations sprinkled across the continental United States. Native American culture and traditions differed from tribe to tribe and between regions. Anthropologists sought to understand these cultural differences.

Most anthropologists studied Native American tribes out of simple curiosity. However, not everyone’s intentions were benign. As the government sought more control over the Native American population, the study of anthropology was used to try and “civilized” the natives. Clearly, there was a conflict between gaining knowledge and using that knowledge in ways that were oppressive or coercive. These conflicts led to many discussions over what was suitable and what was not.

Over the years, anthropology has changed greatly. In the United States, anthropology is based on a “four-field” approach in which several disciplines work together to enhance our understanding of other cultures. These four fields include biological, cultural, and linguistic anthropology, as well as archaeology.

In biological anthropology, people are studied for their physical characteristics. Scientists seek to understand how we evolved into our current form. They studied genetics, human evolution, primatology, forensic anthropology, and more.

Cultural anthropology is the field that studies culture and social organization. Through field studies, researchers collect data on language, political structure, legal system, mythology, family structure – all areas of culture that we often take for granted, at least until confronted with a completely different cultural viewpoint!

In the field of linguistic anthropology, researchers study language. They don’t just study the words that we use; they also study how that language is used, and how it relates to culture.

Archaeology is the study of man-made artifacts. Usually these artifacts are of ancient origin, though archaeologists also study modern ethnographic populations. Archaeologists search for these artifacts, carefully noting the precise location of each found object. Generally speaking, archaeology is often seen as a separate specialty. In reality, anthropology and archaeology share a lot of the same information.

Anthropologists have come under fire for “stealing” from other cultures, and have worked hard to overcome this bias. There is no doubt that anthropologists have preserved what little remains of many cultures, including Native American cultures that otherwise would have been lost. Their contribution to our understanding of culture, language, and more widens our understanding of the world and allows us to see through new eyes.


Archaeology is a branch of science that studies the pre-history of human culture. Generally, this is done by recovering and studying artifacts, architecture, and even environmental data. Usually, archaeologists study ancient civilizations; however, they also study modern cultures.

In the early days of archaeology, archaeologists were little more than tomb raiders. They eagerly sought out gold, treasures, statuary, and more from ancient sites. Many objects were lost forever, removed from their homeland and sold into private collections. Over the years, this has become very unpopular.

Modern archaeologists take great care to fully understand the context of each artifact they find. Artifacts are often left in their home country now, placed in museums and studied by international teams of scientists. Often, anthropologists are involved in the cultural study. As archaeology is a very complex subject, many professionals get involved – geologists, paleobotanists, paleozoologists, and even art historians.

In modern archaeology, there are three basic steps to be followed when studying a site: survey, excavation, and analysis.

In this survey phase, researchers look over a site. They look for interesting features, like houses, and other areas of interest. This nondestructive technique often involves simply walking over an area, seeking clues to features that have been buried. Aerial surveys are used to examine some areas, often using infrared, radar, and thermography. Magnetometers and metal detectors are also common tools in the search for clues.

In modern excavations, researchers carefully record the provenance, or precise location, of each object and feature. This is a three dimensional exercise, with more recent finds being near the surface, while older artifacts lie deeper down. The excavation phase is the most expensive, and can also be very destructive. Archaeologists now use more gentle methods than dynamite and back hoes. A site plan is developed before excavation begins in order to protect as many of the artifacts as possible.

In the analysis phase, researchers study artifacts and structures which were excavated. Often, this study can take many years. Each artifact must be carefully cleaned to remove years of debris. After cleaning, the artifacts are catalogued, then compared to other similar artifacts.

Of course, it’s not just the man-made artifacts that are interesting. The plants and pollen collected during the excavation phase provide valuable insight to the climate and plant life of each site. Bones are studied, leading to revelations on diet, disease, and more. All these pieces of the puzzle are studied in an attempt to better understand the history of humankind.

In popular culture, archaeology has been sensationalized. Movies like The Mummy and Indiana Jones portray the life of the archaeologist as one of never ending excitement. In truth, archaeologists will sometimes work for weeks, even months, searching for clues to ancient cultures.

Archaeology has come far from its primitive roots. Archaeologists are now at the forefront in the battle to stop looting. Through their efforts, we have a better understanding of the history and culture of mankind throughout the ages.file close

Ancient Chinese Medicine

Ancient Chinese medicine, also known as traditional Chinese medicine (or TCM), is seen as an alternative medicine. These traditional medical practices developed in China over several thousand years. TCM uses acupuncture, moxibustion, massage and herbal medicine to effect cures.

Ancient Chinese medicine got its beginnings with Taoist philosophy. For millennia, the ancient Chinese studied medicine. While traditional Chinese medicine was banned in China for many years, its popularity made a comeback in the 1960s under Mao Zedong. Today, TCM is taught and practiced in China, North America, and around the world.

TCM was influenced by Buddhism, Taoism, and neo-Confucianism. Despite these wide influences, Chinese medical professionals shared some basic ideas about the human body. The universe undergoes constant change, and humans, as part of the universe, are constantly changing as well. By living harmoniously, patients can maintain a balance. If the balance is lost, illness may result.

Unlike Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine believes that the human body works as an interconnected system, with all the parts working together. Western medicine tends to divide the human body into many parts. So while Western medicine can treat your kidney problem, TCM is more likely to see your kidney problems as being related to all other parts of your body, including your thoughts.

Today, modern practitioners of TCM combine ancient Chinese medicine with Western medicine. Diagnostic techniques include observing the patience time, face, voice, and ear. Areas of warmth or coolness are compared. Observation even extends to the sound of the patient’s voice and odors of his body.

Treatment for various diseases varies, based on the needs of the patient. Perhaps the most famous of ancient Chinese medical procedures is acupuncture and moxibustion. Slender needles are inserted along energy meridians. Often, cupping is used to draw out the bad and restore balance to the body.

Chinese herbal medicine is an important part of TCM. Through the study of herbology, doctors have learned to create herbal concoctions to cure their patients. Chinese herbology recognizes 50 herbs that are essential to Chinese medicine.

Other medical techniques used include massage therapy, physical exercise, mental-health therapy, and breathing and meditation exercises. Usually these techniques were used in conjunction with acupuncture, moxibustion, and herbology.

For several decades, Western medicine has researched ancient Chinese medicine to determine whether it is truly effective or works only on a placebo basis. Acupuncture especially has been heavily studied. In fact, acupuncture is seen to be an effective solution for addiction, chronic pain, asthma, stroke rehabilitation, and more.

Chinese herbal medicines, on the other hand, have not been as well studied. Part of the problem is that many ancient Chinese medicines are based in nature – ground tiger bones and bear bile are common. Unfortunately, these animals are endangered, and there are concerns over their use. Other medicines based on plants have been little studied.

TCM often uses potentially dangerous substances, like arsenic, cinnabar (a bright red mineral of mercury sulfide), and ma huang, known to Western medicine as Ephedra. These substances are toxic, and therefore rarely used in Western medicine. In fact, ephedra has been banned since 2004 by the FDA.

Within China, practitioners of TCM and Western medicine often work together. Outside of China, this relationship is one of skepticism. Still, many Chinese do not see a conflict between the two medical traditions. In fact, it is common for them to use medical professionals from both schools – using ancient Chinese medicine to stay strong and healthy, while visiting Western doctors for acute appendicitis.

For patients, ancient Chinese medicine may provide relief that is unavailable through western medicine. Through the use of exercise, meditation, and acupuncture, patients are in control of their own health. Western medicine is only now beginning to understand the importance of a holistic approach to health, something that the ancient Chinese have done for thousands of years.

Ancient Chinese acupuncture chart, showing common meridians. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.
Traditional Chinese medicines are still sold today. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Ancient Greek medicine

The first known medical school in Greece opened in 700 B.C. The ancient Greeks were masters at observation. Not only did they develop many theories on their own, they also greatly respected the Egyptian view of medicine.

Perhaps the most famous ancient Greek doctor known is Hippocrates. Not only did Hippocrates teach medicine to contemporary students, he also developed guidelines that are still used by doctors today. The Hippocratic Oath was an ethical code used by physicians. Students would pay for training, and medical professionals would offer instruction and hands-on experience.

The Hippocratic Oath also limited the actions of physicians. Doctors were allowed to do no harm, prescribe no deadly drugs, and perform no surgery to which they are incapable.

Hippocrates and other Greeks believed that the body was made of four humors:red blood, yellow bile, black bile, and green phlegm. Perfect health came from balanced humors, while illness was caused by an imbalance. Should a patient have too much of one humor, medical professionals would try to restore the balance. Therefore, an excess of blood would be treated with bloodletting; an excess of yellow bile would require vomiting and purging.

Aristotle contributed to the knowledge of ancient Greek medicine as well. Through his study of biology, he categorized and observed nature. His study of the human form, along with animal and plant species, led him to believe in the Great Chain of Being, in which all living things were created. Plants were at the bottom of the chain, while men, the peak of perfection, stood proudly at the top.

Herophilus, the first teacher of medicine in Alexandria, linked intelligence with the brain. He was able to distinguish between arteries and veins, and observed that a pulse could be taken from arteries. His diagnoses depended on distinguishing between different types of pulse, depending on the area of the body.

Over time, the Romans couldn’t help but notice that the Greeks had some great ideas on medicine. While early Roman reactions ran the gamut, eventually the Romans adopted Hippocratic medicine.

Due to the Roman acceptance of Greek medical theories, these theories spread throughout the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, upon the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church put all their support behind Galen’s teachings.

For many centuries afterwards, the influence of ancient Greek physicians was felt. Even into the 19th century, bloodletting was a common (though risky) proposition, based on ancient Greek medicine. Despite the risks of infection and death, physicians continued to use bloodletting as medical treatment.

Throughout history, few cultures have had as much of an effect on medicine as the ancient Greeks. They placed a high priority upon healthy lifestyles, and medical professionals were an important part of that. The skill of ancient Greek medical practitioners can be seen even today, and we continue to respect the influence that has made on our medical knowledge.

Hippocrates, photo courtesy Wikipedia.
The four humors of ancient Greece. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.