Think Free


Princess Leia – A Star Wars icon lives on

Carrie Fisher who plays Leia – Wikipedia

There’s a new Star Wars film out which some say is the best since The Empire Strikes Back, and Princess Leia is up next for revision.

A nice coincidence, especially since actor Carrie Fisher, who plays the original Leia, also plays Leia in later years as Senator and General Leia Organa.

In the Star Wars Trilogy, Princess Leia is Luke Skywalker‘s twin sister and Darth Vader‘s daughter.

Reflecting attitudes of the late 1970s, Leia is cast as a feminist and still serves today as a feminist role model.

A few people say she’s not a great feminist icon, but on the whole Leia is seen that way.

Perhaps the critics don’t like the male chauvinism that pervades the early Star Wars scripts.

Han Solo, for instance, condescendingly says he knows, despite Leia’s apparent disgust toward his sexual advances, that she “really wants it.” And Leia’s role in the film sometimes evokes a more traditional female sex role stereotype.

As noted in a sidebar at Wikipedia:

Leia wearing her iconic golden “metal bikini” slave outfit at Jabba’s palace. Leia’s appearance has been voted one of the most memorable swimsuit moments of cinema history.¹

English: Christy Marie as Slave Leia Organa.

Christy Marie as Slave Leia Organa – Wikipedia

Is this a showcase for the feminist sentiments of the time? I suppose it depends on the person interpreting. Like most social movements, feminism moves within a total context so has been evolving… slowly.

Before her untimely death in 2016 Fisher occasionally introduced vintage films with Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne.

She also struggled with mood swings that she managed with drug use. Embracing the diagnosis of “bipolar disorder” given to her by the medical establishment, she evidently had no other way to decode her feelings and the medical model arguably didn’t help too much.

This is unfortunate. I often feel that if some took a broader view of their unconventional psychological experiences they might get a better grip on them—without the use of heavy drugs or, as Fisher underwent, ECT.²

General Leia is in theaters as I write this. The posthumous release of Fisher’s performance in The Last Jedi is helping to make box office records.

Like all Hollywood greats, Fisher lives.

¹ This quote is from several years ago. The link and caption has changed to 

² Recently I was surprised to learn that the medical establishment still practices ECT. When I took psych in the 1980s ECT was frowned upon as a part of psychiatry’s dark history. That this practice continues today, with such spurious scientific backing, imo is horrific.

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 The Ultimate Star Wars Quiz: Find Out Which Character Matches Your Personality (

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 “The Last Jedi” Felt Like a Dream. I’m Not Sure I Even Really Saw It. (



Suttee – A violent and cruel remnant of Hinduism that continues today (without any attempt to legitimize it spiritually)

Sati handprint on the entrance to Junagarh Fort. Sati was the practice where a woman burned herself on the her husband’s funeral pyre or when her husband died in battle defending the fort.

Suttee or Sati (Skt. “good woman”) has two meanings, both related to wife-burning.

In the ancient and medieval Hindu tradition, suttee occurs when a husband dies, is cremated and his wife enters the flames to be consumed along with him.

Although usually seen as horrendous by non-Hindu standards, the practice was formerly legitimized with an alleged spiritual significance.

The wife entering into the flames was once seen by Hindus as an act of sacred devotion to the husband—a devotion that continued into the afterlife. At least, this was the official take on things. It’s hard to know if women were simply forced or if they voluntarily entered the fire.

17th century Muslim rulers showed some opposition to suttee¹ and British colonialists outlawed it in 1829 while occupying India.

"Ceremony of Burning a Hindu Widow with t...

“Ceremony of Burning a Hindu Widow with the Body of her Late Husband”, from Pictorial History of China and India, 1851. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Suttee also refers to the contemporary and illegal practice of wife-burning in apparently accidental kitchen fires.

As mentioned in the Indian media and elsewhere,² unscrupulous husbands murder their wives by faking kitchen fires. That is, some Indian men apparently marry and murder women merely to obtain dowries.

This may sound incredible but one must remember the considerable geographic size and massive population of India, along with developmental issues which can make the enforcement of social justice difficult.

1 The complexity of the situation is outlined here:

² See and

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Alanis Morissette – Time smooths jagged edges

Alanis Morissette live at the Moon&Stars Festi...

Alanis Morissette live at the Moon&Stars Festival Locarno 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Alanis Morissette  (1974 – ) is a pop-rock songwriter and performer born in Ottawa, Canada. Her wildly successful album Jagged Little Pill was in stores when I was doing my doctorate in Ottawa. So I felt a special connection to it. Also, I was happy to see another Canadian make it big.

Her style is a mix of Janis Joplin and Joni Mitchell. She’s been called the “Queen of alt-rock angst” by Rolling Stone magazine,¹ but there were other Alternative Queens before her, not too long ago.

Alanis Morissette: Live in the Navajo Nation

Alanis Morissette: Live in the Navajo Nation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some of Morissette’s more recent melodies seem to combine Native American Ghost Dance music with traditional pop-rock influences. And it seems that her jagged edge has smoothed out a bit over the years.

As with many pop stars, Morissette seems to enter into another reality while performing. Raised in a devout Roman Catholic family, she now practices Buddhism.

Not really a global force in music today like Sia, Katy Perry or Adele, Morissette’s last album Havoc and Bright Lights (2012) did have limited success in North America and generated a hit in Europe.


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Sappho of Lesbos

English: Marble bust of the ancient Greek poet...

Marble bust of the ancient Greek poet Sappho. From Smyrna (Izmir), Turkey. Roman copy of a Hellenistic original. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sappho (610-580 BCE) was a Greek lyric poetess, born of a noble family on the island of Lesbos. She wrote within the context of the cult of Aphrodite and the veneration of the Muses. Because it was unusual for women to write, she is one of the few known women poets of the Greek archaic period.

Only 8th and 9th century copies and fragments or her work and one complete address to Aphrodite remain, along with more fragments obtained from papyrus discoveries since 1898 and as recent as 2004.¹

Sappho was married and wrote verse and songs for weddings, usually performed by young girls. She also arranged poetic gatherings where she and other women composed and read poetry, as was the custom of women of good standing in Lesbos. From this she developed several close relationships.

Hermaic pillar with a female portrait, so-call...

Hermaic pillar with a female portrait, so-called “Sappho”; inscription “Sappho Eresia” ie. Sappho from Eresos. Roman copy of a Greek Classical original. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Her extant work reveals no clear evidence of physical intimacy with these women. She was exalted in antiquity, appearing on a list of the 9 best lyric poets and often called “the 10th Muse.”

But politics changed, as they always do, and other ancient figures caricaturized her and the entire island of Lesbos as a center for lesbianism. As such, she went into temporary exile in Sicily, later returning to Mytilene, the place of her family home on Lesbos.

She is often cited today as an inspiration for lesbian love. Speaking about herself and her associates, she once wrote:

I think that someone will remember us in another time.

¹ See A Brief History of Ancient Greece, Oxford 2009, pp. 93-95.

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On the Web:

  • “Sappho (Σαπφώ) was born in the seventh century BC, in the island of Lesbos. Her love of women reflects a deeper love for civilization.”

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A Sibyl

A Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The term Sibyl represents alleged prophetesses who were consulted in ancient Greece and Rome. They apparently prophecized in ecstasy, under the temporary possession of Apollo. The Oxford Classical Dictionary notes that

Originally the Sibyl seems to have been a single prophetic woman, but by the time of Heraclides (1) Ponticus… a number of places claimed to be the birthplace of Sibylla, traditions concerning a number of different Sibyls began to circulate, and the word came to be a generic term rather than a name.¹

Ten Sibylline oracles have been recorded by history. The best known Sibyl is said to have resided in a cave at Cumea, near Naples—The Cumean Sibyl.

In Vergil‘s Aneid this Sibyl is visited by Aeneas before his descent to Hades. She is also believed to have composed the original Sibylline books.

Study for the Phrygian Sibyl fresco by Raphael...

Study for the Phrygian Sibyl fresco by Raphael for the Chigi Chapel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These prophetic works were taken to Rome, where they were guarded by two nobles. Extended volumes of Sibylline books survived into the 4th century CE.

M. C. Howatson and Ian Chilvers relate a story about the Cumaean Sibyl where the god Apollo asks what she would want in return if he were to make love with her. She asks for a lifespan equal in years to the number of grains in a heap of sand. It turns out there are 1,000 grains of sand. She forgot, however, to ask for youthfulness, so grew wickedly old and miserable, wishing only to die.²

Another famous Sibyl lived in Erythia in Asia, “The Erythian Sibyl.”

Sibyls appear in Christian art and literature. Early Christian interest in the Sibylline oracles raised them to a status comparable to the Old Testament Prophets. As Celia E. Schultz puts it:

The fact that many of the Sibylline oracles touch on Christian and Jewish themes is a reflection of the popularity of the Sibyl as a prophet of the Messiah for early Christian writers.³

Picture of Shirley Ardell Mason, aka Sybil Isa...

Picture of Shirley Ardell Mason, aka Sybil Isabel Dorsett (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1973 a popular novel, Sibyl, was written by Flora Rheta Schreiber based on the life of Shirley Ardell Mason, a woman diagnosed with so-called multiple personality disorder (MPD). In 1976 the book was made into a film with Sally Field as Sibyl.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, at least two other novels have been entitled Sibyl.

¹ “Sibyl” in The Oxford Classical Dictionary: Oxford University Press 1996, 2000 CD ROM version.

² Concise Companion to Classical Literature, Oxford 1996, p. 493.

³ Schultz, Celia E. “Sibyls and the Sibylline Books.” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome. : Oxford University Press, 2010. Oxford Reference. 2010. Date Accessed 16 Nov. 2015

The plethora of images listed below shows that, although closed down as an institution, the idea of the Sibyls continues to fascinate and inspire through the centuries.

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The Libyan Sibyl by Cliff

Michelangelo's rendering of the Erythraean Sibyl

Michelangelo’s rendering of the Erythraean Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sibylla Palmifera

Sibylla Palmifera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Michelangelo's Delphic Sibyl, Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo’s Delphic Sibyl, Sistine Chapel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sibyl seated among Classical ruins

Sibyl seated among Classical ruins (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Janssens, Abraham - The Agrippine Sibyl

Janssens, Abraham – The Agrippine Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guercino - Persian Sibyl

Guercino – Persian Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Detail of the vault (one of the 4 sibyls : Sib...

Detail of the vault (one of the 4 sibyls : Sibyl of Delphi) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sibyl velasquez

Sibyl velasquez (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo, The Liby...

Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo, The Libyan Sibyl, post restoration. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Cumaean Sibyl Deutsch: Cumäische Siby...

Cumaean Sibyl Deutsch: Cumäische Sibylle a Sibila de Cumas, por Michelangelo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Domenichino - Cumaean Sibyl

Domenichino – Cumaean Sibyl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Image by John Leech, from: The Comic History o...

Image by John Leech, from: The Comic History of Rome by Gilbert Abbott A Beckett. Bradbury, Evans & Co, London, 1850s Tarquinius Superbus has the Sibylline Books valued (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Prophet Hosea and the Delphic Sibyl Fresco...

The Prophet Hosea and the Delphic Sibyl Fresco Borgia Apartments, Hall of the Sibyls (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Mary Daly

Colleges and churches were often copied from E...

Colleges and churches were often copied from European architecture; Boston College was originally dubbed Oxford in America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mary Daly (1928-2010) was a prominent American academic at the Jesuit-run Boston College, and a self-described “radical lesbian feminist” thinker. She deconstructed patriarchal religious traditions and presented alternatives in related areas such as ecology, gender relations and human rights.

Notorious for her outrageously sexist attitudes, she believed women should govern men and refused to teach men in her advanced women’s studies courses. While some may say her actions were a justified response to years of men subjugating women, it seems that the old, tribal “eye for an eye” attitude is one which should be left to rest, having been replaced by Jesus Christ’s superior teaching of forgiveness.

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Sumerian Terracotta relief, Lilith, 1950 BCE. ...

Sumerian Terracotta relief, Lilith, 1950 BCE via Wikipedia

Lilith is a female demon in Jewish popular tradition. Talmudic lore up to the medieval period sees her as Adam’s demonic first wife, before the creation of Eve.

Her roots apparently stem from the Babylonian Lilit (“maid of desolation”), as well as the Sumerian lil (“wind”). Some believe that her name was confused with laylah, the Hebrew word for night.

In popular etymology up to the 19th century Lilith refers to “she who sucks blood in the night” (i.e. as a ghost or vampire). Lilith has also been called “the strangler of children.”

As the consort of the chief demon Sammael (the Jewish term for Satan after 200 CE), she’s “the Queen of all demons.”

In Kabbalistic literature she appears in men’s dreams as a seducer. Protective amulets were used against her. The owl was sacred to her. Depicted in the Talmud with a woman’s face, long hair and wings, she is found only once in the OldTestament (Isaiah 34:14).

From Palestine her cult spread to Greece, where she merged with Hekate. Recently she’s been regarded as a symbol of inspiration and autonomy for women, as evidenced in the Jewish feminist magazine Lilith, first published in 1976.