Golem, from the Hebrew word for a shapeless mass, pronounced 'goylem' in Yiddish. Most famously, the legend of the Golem of Prague, a man-like creature formed from clay and given life by a rabbi who wrote the unspeakable name of God on the being's forehead. The is no connection to J R R Tolkein's Gollum.


Thanks to TheLady for her help.
The patchwork entity that is my soul
Calls itself Frankenstein in the cold mirror
The amalgam of parts
The golem that rots
An empty machination
Formed of bailing wire and tinkertoys
And a few scraps that were not torn
Meager shards, salvaged from the gutter
Rag Doll
Rag Doll
Just another scrap of cloth
It is all that I own.




This not being one of my higher ranked nodes, I reckon it could use some improvement. Okay, so the poetry bites. It's old, and I'm not much of a poet. Nonetheless there's a concept behind it that I still like. If I remember correctly (and I frequently do not) the feeling that went into it's creation was that I could do nothing unique or original. It seemed at the time that every idea I dreamed up was just a mixing and rehashing of old ideas. Thus I was not a unique human, and just some sort of animate construct, created from random scattered bits of pretty cloth and wire, whatever idea I happened to find 'shiny' enough to be appealing. Symbolically speaking, of course.

Really though, there's a truckload of excellent symbolism behind the Golem. So, I'm going to make my best attempt a factual write up on the legend. Be warned, however, that I am about as far from an expert on the subject as you can get. The entire list of my Hebrew credentials is that Yom Kippur fell on my birthday a few years back.

The golem is a piece of Hebrew legend which has its basis in qabalah (hebrew: learned wisdom. See cabala, Kabbalah). One of the main ideas behind the cabala is the potencey of language. It involves a belief that every word, letter and number in the Torah is divine, that the words themselves hold the power of creation within them, and that by devoted study and meditation on the book, one can discover these secrets. One of the things one can accomplish with such learnings is the creation of a golem.

The golem, in the most general sense, is an artificial being brought to life by some form of magic. In the context of the Kabbalah, there are several recorded ways to create a golem. Nearly all of them involve a ritualistic use of language, such as placing a scroll with the name of God written on it in the golem's mouth, or writing 'emeth' on the golem's forehead. Purity is extremely important in the creation of a golem. The clay must be taken from virgin soil, and the water used must have never been placed in a vessel. The people (or person) who seek to create the golem must purify themselves physically and spiritually beforehand. The idea is that impurities are barriers that stand between the creator of the golem and God. Thus, the golem will always be imperfect, because a human cannot be perfectly pure. Usually they are depicted as being mute.

The most famous golem is probably 'The Golem of Prague'. He was supposedly created to protect the Jews of Prague from the blood libel, which he did.

There are many parables about individuals who create a golem, only to have some misfortune occur as a result, usually because they used the golem for a task which was not pure in purpose.

Anyway, perhaps you can see why I find the myth fascinating on many levels. The idea of inanimate matter that walks and lives appeals to the biologist in me. We can, if we so choose, view ourselves in such a manner, as spontaneous golems of a sort, or perhaps more appropriately as golems who don't know who their creator is. It's interesting to contrast one's impression of what it might be like to be a golem with what it is like to be a human in such a context. It's easy to empathize with the golem. Individually they are mysterious, mute and must perform the tasks given them by their creators, but do they think, do they feel? The golem is a silent, powerless character, much like ourselves. Language is a powerful thing, I think, and the legend of the golem has a lot of that in it.

Plus, I always wanted to be somebody's protector. A Catcher in the Rye, so to speak.

So that's my golem stuff. Please, if you have any corrections, or better information, /msg me. Looking for this stuff online is insane. Not only is Kabbalah spelled about forty different ways, but 90% of what turns up is not good information, but how-to guides by crazy wannabe mystics. Makes me feel like I stepped into a page out of Focault's Pendulum.


On an amusing side note, dictionary.com says:
"There are no less than two dozen variant spellings of kabbalah, the most common of which include kabbalah, kabala, kabalah, qabalah, qabala, cabala, cabbala, kaballah, kabbala, kaballah, and qabbalah"

In Final Fantasy lore, Golem is a summonable critter that will block attacks for your party for a short while. While useful, it is limited to physical attacks - Carbunkle makes for a sort of companion creature as it blocks magic. The appearance is pretty much what you'd expect a golem to look like - a big animate rock statue.

The Golem Project is a very cool experiment in simulated evolution. A computer was given a physics model and some basic parts, such as tubes, hinges, and pistons. The program then randomly "evolves" creatures, starting from a basic tube and adding stuff to it. The goal is motion, and the program is very cool. The URL of the project is: http://golem03.cs-i.brandeis.edu/index.html. Check it out and get your own Golem.

Many a tale of enchantment records how primal forces ran wild once they were unleashed. Jewish legends tell of spell-guickened creatures called golems that sometimes grew dangerously independent of their maker's wishes.

Golems were human figures molded from clay and brought to life by men schooled in sacred texts. It was said that rabbis animated the golems by placing in their mouths parchments inscribed with the name of God, at the same time reciting passages from the scriptures. Such rites were once performed as spiritual exercises - demonstrations of the power of the holy word.

But golems came to be employed for mundane purposes. The most famous of these beings - the golem of Prague, named Joseph by the man who made him - defended the Jews in the Prague ghetto against the depredations of their Christian neighbors. Because the longer Joseph lived the larger and more powerful he grew, he was an effective deterrant to violence. He was also useful as a builder and an errand boy: he could not speak, having no soul, but he could obey.

However, like other creatures of magic, golems had a willful streak, and their ever-increasing size made them a threat to the very folk they were summoned to serve. So it was with Joseph, who ran amok on Sabbath Eve for reasons no one could determine, levelling the ghetto walls with his massive shoulders and leaving buildings ablaze in his wake. He might have brought the entire ghetto to ruin had his creator not caught him, pulled the parchment from his lips, and recited backward the scripture that had started him in motion. All that was left when the man was finished was a lifeless mound of clay.

Golem is a window manager for the X Window System, developed by Jordan DeLong. The author develops and maintains the project from a FreeBSD box, although Golem also happily runs on Linux. It has only been tested on the x86 platform, but judging from its source code, it doesn't appear to have any platform-dependent nastiness in it.

In fact, it doesn't really have much nastiness in it at all, because it doesn't have much anything in it. It just manages windows. It has a plugin-based architecture that allows it to be configured to support various things, like a taskbar, a pier (like Window Maker's dock), Enlightenment-style animated window open and close operations, and such stuff. It can also be configured to not have any of all that, if you prefer to have other programs handling those things, or just don't want them. Configuration is done in the old-school UNIX way, by editing a configuration file (typically in ~/.golem/golemrc) with a text editor.

While it can be used with GNOME or KDE, it is also very well-suited for people looking to put together a homebrew desktop environment. If you like the UNIX paradigm of small components that do one thing, and do it well, you need to comment out four lines in the aforementioned file to have a window manager that only manages windows and nothing else.

Golem is quite themable, and its theme format is not quite as messy and arcane as the one found in Enlightenment. It also doesn't require you to learn LISP, like Sawfish does. Unlike those two, a Golem theme must store its graphics in the XPM format. The jury's still out on whether that's a feature or a bug, though.

The current version is 0.0.5, and was released on the 21st May, 2002. Although the version number pretty much screams "beta version" right into your face, it appears to be a quite stable and usable program. The project has a website at http://golem.sourceforge.net/ .

If you like your window manager to be big, featureful and manage things not related to windows (like putting graphics on your root window, or popping up tooltips and help), Golem probably isn't your best choice. Go with Afterstep, Sawfish or Enlightenment instead. If you want to be able to reconfigure your window manager using a GUI, Golem will also sorely disappoint you. Enlightenment is hard to beat in this area anyway, unless you use GNOME or KDE, in which case Sawfish, Metacity and KWin are even better.

If, however, you just want your window manager to manage windows without being too minimalist, Golem is definitely a nice option. Similar programs include Sawfish, Oroborus and Phluid.

As an aside, the binary size of Golem (compiled on my i686 box, with the -O2 compiler option set) is just 83 kilobytes. Oroborus is even smaller at 42K, Sawfish takes up 154K, and Enlightenment takes up 665K.

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