Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sic Transit

Unlike most of my readers, I do actually know God. We were at Eton together. I'm referring of course to His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Zere-Yacob of Ethiopia, who would be emperor if there were still an emperor, and, at least according to some Rastas, has inherited his grandfather's divinitas as well the imperium. I haven't seen him for something like forty years, but I particularly remember that once, the owner of a small grocery store nicknamed "Tudor Hole" on the Eton High Street invited us both to tea, because we were at that exact time the only two foreigners in the entire school. At least, the only two people who weren't white. He was a charming, slightly chubby boy. Perhaps he was as weirded out by the tea party as I was. Still, I think we liked each other.

I found myself thinking about him again last night. I don't know why, really; perhaps it was from a desperation born of having so much to do one just wants to procrastinate everything. But in the twenty-first century one can always google, so I decided to start hunting down my erstwhile schoolmate, post-apotheosis. I soon stumbled on an Imperial Ethiopian College of Heraldry (which was a bit of surprise — I hadn't realized that Ethiopia went in for any of that mediaeval pageantry) — operating out of Maryland! — and learned of many fascinating things, including the (alleged) fact that HIH had founded a knightly order which foreigners could join if they did something for Ethiopia. A few mouse-clicks later, I landed on the home page of some American guy who was an actual member of this order, and who revealed that "doing something for Ethiopia" was only to the tune of a $500 "passage fee" followed by an annual "oblation" of $250. Now at first it might seem outlandish that a knighthood could be purchased so cheaply, but then I got to thinking how many starving third world families $500 could actually save from death and I thought to myself, why not? If you rescue lives at the cost of puffing up someone's vanity, why not?

After all, I reflected, there are dozens of purveyors of titles on the web, offering duchies for dough, and this looked like something real that would actually benefit a country that needs help.

So I thought to myself (at 3 am), I mean, hey, why not. I'll bite. Then I started clicking around so more, to see where the money should actually be sent to ....

It was this point in my internet stalking that I came across a bitter online feud and the pointed use of the word "allegedly" to describe this too-good-to-be-true order. Someone said they had gone to see His Imperial Highness personally in Ethiopia, and the prince apparently didn't realize half of what had been going on in his imperial name. Bummer!

Well, I've often dreamed of visiting Ethiopia, so perhaps one day I will be able to call on the divine one himself, who, I am sure, has completely forgotten me. After all, he's had dynastic upheavals and revolutions to deal with. But if not that precise god, there's always James Earl Jones dressed as a giant bug, playing an Ethiopian Locust God in Exorcist II - The Heretic.


  1. Somtow,
    My brother John and his son were in Ethiopia and used to play basketball and chess with the staff of the Cuban Embassy. John was stopped one day by an Ethiopian policeman, and John stood up stiffly and started muttering in Russian. The policeman promptly saluted and left. My brother was teaching at some school in the capital.
    On another note, when I was a child I always heard stories about Prestor John and how Ethiopia was the location of his kingdom.

  2. dear somtow,
    as rastafari is my long lost cousins, (lion of zion ;) and as a youth i was a part of their religious endevours, through sacred plants and such, i am thrilled to hear you went to school with the prince. as they say...respect, maaaaan ;)
    btw if you do talk to him, ask him what did the queen of sheba, (which is basicaly ethiopia today) tought king solomon...
    maybe he has some inside information on this age old mystery...

  3. and if i may add a small comment about weirdness.
    it is indeed a big compliment.
    there are many views on the origin of the word wierd (or wyrd), some have to do with the concept of KARMA in gaelic mythology, some go to the Well of wyrd, which is the well that feed the nordic tree of the world, and there is also a reference to the valkyre as using the concept of wyrd (as fate or concequence) to 'weave' a result of a battle... my own favorite wyrd meaning is one of the old pagan cult/religion called wyrdians, which were worshipers of life itself, on all its aspects.

    so next time you are called wierd, it means you are truely alive,
    and a worshiper of life...