The Flight of the Sorceress

The Flight of the Sorceress
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Wednesday, March 30, 2011


One of the major theme points of The Flight of the Sorceress resolves around Original Sin and its relationship with the Pelagian Heresy, the counter doctrine that good works alone can win the Kingdom of Heaven. St. Augustine, the great proponent of Original Sin, is a moving force in my novel. His work City of God provides a dramatic backdrop to Glenys’s revelation of sexual trauma.  

St. Augustine was a native of town in what is now eastern Algeria. In 396 A.D. he became the Bishop of Hippo Regius. This area, along with modern Tunisia and much of Libya is in the province that the Romans called Numidia. The Roman province of Numidia lends itself to many scenes in my historical novel, The Flight of the Sorceress. Major scenes take place in ancient Carthage and the Auras Mountains in Tunisia. Numidia, what is now called Al Maghreb, in the years of The Flight of the Sorceress was a Christian land. Its spiritual leadership was in the hands of men like St. Augustine, pillars of the Roman Catholic Church and they held power under the auspices of the Roman legions.

But Numidia was also a land inhabited by Jews, a large number of whom were refugees from the pogrom of Alexandria in 415 A.D., a story that is recounted in detail in The Flight of the Sorceress (although, in the novel, only the westward migration of refugees is related.)

Readers should be aware that there was a Jewish presence in Numidia for several thousand years. But that is no longer true. Libya, in the last century, before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, had about 40,000 Jewish citizens. By 1967, that number deceased to 7,000. In 1961, all but six Jews were deprived Libyan citizenship. By the time Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi came to power in 1969 only about 100 Jews remained in Libya.  Under Qaddafi’s rule, the last remnant of the Jewish population was forcibly expelled. All Jewish property was confiscated. All debts to Jews were canceled. Emigration for Jews was legally prohibited. Today, there are no Jews in Libya. It is the only North African state that can make such a claim. Indeed this ethnic cleansing of an ancient minority population was so complete it would make a Nazi drool with envy. In fact, Qaddafi was so hung up on this Jewish thing that after he took power he demanded that the U.S. Air Force, which then had a large airbase (Wheelus AFB) close to Tripoli reassign its Jewish personnel (about 135 of them) out of the country. The entire base closed down shortly afterward.

When the faction dominated by the Augustinians kicked the Donatists out of the Catholic Church by force of Roman arms in 411 A.D. did it lay the groundwork for a military enforcement of religious dogma? Did that set a precedent for the forcible expulsion of Jews from Alexandria four years later? Did it preface the subsequent demise of Christianity in Al Maghreb at the hands of Muslim conquerors two centuries later? Is it a stretch to think that Qaddafi is an inheritor of that very same state of mind? Does intolerance have a half-life longer than Cesium?   

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