A passage in tractate bMegillah 11a-b conveys a tradition of three kings who have “ruled over the whole firmament” (Heb. shloshah malkhu bakipah): Ahab, Ahasuerus and Nebuchadnezzar. These emperors, however, are surpassed in proficiency and the range of power by king Solomon about whom it is said that “he ruled over the denizens of the upper world as well as of the lower (Heb. al haelyonim veal hatachtonim)”. The phrase itself came to function as a merism denoting the totality of the supernatural creatures, both good and evil.
Elyonim veTachtonim is also the code name for the project aimed at reconstructing the comprehensive inventory of the entities of various classes in the early rabbinic literature [ERL]. Since the task is laborious, the sources vast and the human resources scarce, the project expands gradually but slowly.
What's the purpose?
First of all, the database serves the function of a specialized thematic concordance and as such provides the means for a quick localization and juxtaposition of all the appearances of a given entity. Second, the detailed division into separate units allows the introduction of the quantitative methods of analysis, some of which are already published in the "summaries" sheets of the database. Third, the manipulation with the hashtags and filtering commands makes it possible to discern some particular regularities like the correlation between the given entity, topic and genre. This is just a small fraction of the potential applications, and the larger the database the more diverse the purposes.
Why the formal language?
For the sake of clarity and ease of use. Make sure to accustom yourself with the terminology presented in the respective tabs. From there on proceed to the database to see how it works.
Why the xlsx format?
The xlsx is a popular spreadsheet format compatible with both online and offline software including Microsoft Excel Online, Libre Office Calc and Google Sheets to name just a few freely available applications. Although it might not be the most convenient and user-friendly solution, the format allows for a wide variety of additional operations performed on the data itself.
Why the Blogger platform?
The mission of Elyonim veTachtonim is to remain open-access, open-source and cost-free for both the creator and the user - thus the free hosting platform. What is more, Blogger was selected from among other alternatives, because it gives vast possibilities in terms of the web site customization.
Who's behind it?
My name is Wojciech Kosior and I work in the Centre for Comparative Studies of Civilisations at the Jagiellonian University (Cracow, Poland). To learn more about my research visit my homepage. If you wish to remain updated in regards with the present project, follow me on Academia.edu, Google+, Facebook or sign up for the e-mail notifications.
What's behind it?
The project bases on the following theoretical paradigms and specific ideas:
- cognitive linguistics [CL] of G. Lakoff, M. Johnson and Z. Kövecses: imaginative rationality, the basic categories of the source and target domains and the pivotal role of the anthropomorphism in the perception of various non-animate phenomena;
- cognitive theory of religion [CTR] of S. Guthrie, P. Boyer and J. Barrett: the conception of the partially invisible and minimally counter-intuitive supernatural anthropomorphic agents and its realization on the linguistic level;
- formal analysis of myth [FA] of V. Propp: the structuring role of certain narrative patterns organized out of a limited number of motifs and the fixed roles of particular actants;
- corpus linguistics [CL]: distribution of particular words and phrases throughout the corpus and other regularities as witnessing to the actual popularity of given ideas;
- formal literary analysis [LA].
Wait, is that all?!
The more detailed theoretical background of the database and the project shall be published soon.