Beachcombed 13 July 1, 2011Posted by Beachcombing in : Beachcombed , trackback
Dear Readers, 1 July
June was the month in which Jessica the beloved family aupair went home, the month that a clan of mice set up shop under the stairs and were defeated by peanut butter and humane mouse traps and the month that Beach had several troubling dreams about a Mesopotamian mother goddess called Lindsey (with an ‘a’ or an ‘e’?).
The most popular and controversial post this month in terms of hits and emails was, perhaps strangely, Bishop Q, closely followed by the Green Demon at Quimper. Beachcombing’s personal favourite was the Lost Dauphin’s Heart: but, as he has often noted in the past, there is no accounting for taste. The most embarassing mistake of the month was, meanwhile, spelling sans-culottes wrong (thanks Ludovic) and saying that the vegetable orchestra was from Vietnam (they are from Vienna!): we live and we learn…. Beachcombing also tentatively slaps himself on the back for finding a new source for the Buckland heart-eating episode.
Beachcombing’s offworld but online gem of June was A Man Called DaDa the only blog that actually makes Beach laugh out loud – it’s the pictures and fatherhood that do it. Beach has been slurping up DaDa for a while now, but new to him was the Anatomy of Norbiton. Don’t read if you are in barren middle age and you happen to have a pistol lying around. It depresses, but is v. v. well written.
Beachcombing continues in his attempts to fill gaps in the English language and has opened a new page to this end. There he thanks Jamie the Gun for e.drift. He is also looking for a word for the Facebook generation (‘the poke-generation’?) to go with the @generation and also a word for the frustration caused by not finding a short, half-remembered reference in a large book.
Now to the comments…
Maximilian’s Shirt: Invisible sends this: ‘Here are a few more relics of Maximilian and Carlota. Also search for ‘piano’ for the Empress’s piano at this site. The author also has a photo of Maximilian’s ‘temporary coffin’. There is also a large collection of Carlota’s jewellery at Chapultepec Palace. I found (but cannot verify) this quote from Pope Pius IX when he gave Carlota shelter in his library: ‘Nothing is spared me in this life. Now a woman has to go mad in the Vatican’. And for more deathless images: The Empress on her deathbed; the Emperor in his coffin‘. Then KMH has a useful qualification. ‘Emperor Maximilian entered Mexico at a time of America’s Civil War. If he had survived, he would have faced an invasion from American military to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, a policy elucidated by past President James Monroe which made further colonization or interference in the New World cause for declaration of war.’ Thanks Invisible and KMH!!
Indian Coins in Ethiopia: On marine miracles in the Indian Ocean DB writes in ‘Regarding the boats sewn together. Have you read the Sindbad Voyage by Tim Severin, 1982. ISBN 0 09150560 7 The Sohar, an 80 ft replica of an Arab sailing ship, was sewn together with 400 miles of coconut rope and in 1980 sailed from Oman to Canton in about 7 months (23 Nov 1980 – 11 Jul 1981), in a reenactment of the seven voyages of Sindbad.’ Thanks DB!
Torturing Guy: Jones writes in to note ‘The papal courtier Platina (Bartolomeo Sacchi) was tortured. In this picture you can still see his dislocated arm several years after the ordeal’ Thanks Jones!
Christian Orgies: JEC has suggestions for a new avenue of research here and some information that will turn Mrs B’s hair a lighter shade of pale ‘I’m not sure about the provenance of pagan accusations of Early Church orgies, although I would not be in the least surprised to find they were cut from whole cloth. I’m thinking that before Constantine Imperator made Christianity the Official Religion Of The Roman Empire™, many a Mithraist or Vestal Virgins saw the powerfully attractive Christian religion, which had grown despite official prohibition and severe persecution, as a terrible threat to the status quo. Surely the adherents of established, competing religions would have felt no compunction about attempting to libel Christians with tales of their enthusiastic participation in ritual orgies. But, as you suggest, maybe there was something to the tales. If so, might there be any contemporary remnant of such attitudes of the Early Church? Funny I should ask. There’s at least one web site devoted to…Christian swinging. That’s right, ‘wife swapping’, as it used to be called in the 60′s when the subject was a guaranteed circulation booster of American ‘men’s’ magazines such as Argosy and True. The purpose of this site is apparently to enable Christian couples to hook up with similar pairs who want to expand their sexual horizons. Couples spending time there must have an expansive, if non-traditional, interpretation of the scripture about the ‘freedom of the believer’. Now, I’m sorry, but I’m not emotionally strong enough not to make the obligatory denial which so often follows similar revelations, so let me say here I have no personal knowledge of this phenomenon, or even of this website, as I only came upon it for the first time moments ago. My curiosity had been piqued after reading your orgy post. so I intentionally searched for ‘Christian swinging’, This might be no isolated group, and there could be several such websites. As a believer myself, I hope not. I think a Dr B online search and investigation of Christian swinging is absolutely necessary to fill in gaps of the Early Church’s history!’ Thanks as always JEC!
Bishop Q: First up is Roy: ‘Episcopa is most definitely clear in that fragment and a very clear feminization of Episcopos (overseer/bishop). The simplest explanation here is that Q is indeed the wife of a Bishop. How could this be as the Church prohibited clergymen from marrying? The answer is that the clergy were not prohibited as a whole from marrying until much later. The Synod of Elvira called for celibacy among both married and unmarried clerics. The date of this event was around 305 A.D. In 325, Constantine actually rejected a ban on priests marrying, and thus the practice continued. The (third) Council of Carthage at the close of the 4th century clarified this, stating that Priests, Bishops, and Deacons must abstain from intercourse with their wives, meaning that clergymen continue to marry well after the Synod of Elvira. The practice became less frequent as time went on. It wasn’t until after the great schism between the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches that clergymen were actually banned from marrying in the West (though their counterparts in the East could indeed continue to marry). Therefore, the simplest explanation would be that this lady was the wife of a Bishop.’ Next comes Invisible: ‘Hmmm, a pretty problem, your episcopa. I am woefully ignorant of 4th-9th century Roman church history, but I can tell you that your statement about heretics, Montanists or crazy Bretons does not quite hold water in, say, 12th century Spain. I reference the Abbey de Santa Maria la Real de Las Huelgas. The Abbesses there, as it was a royal foundation (Alfonso VIII of Castile) enjoyed royal prerogatives and quasi-episcopal powers. The Abbess had the ability to issue licenses authorizing priests to preach, say mass and hear confessions in her churches. She had the power to recommend candidates for ordination (there are hints that she herself could and did perform ordinations.) She could dispense vows or annul them and give permission to her nuns to enter and leave the enclosure. Some Abbesses of Las Huelgas held that they could hear confessions, preach, give the habit to their nuns, and read the gospel in public. The Abbess was ‘Lord’ with the usual untrammeled secular powers over at least 50 villages. She held her own civil and criminal courts, could censure clerics in her jurisdiction and could confirm other Abbesses in their offices. At a General Chapter of the Cistercians in 1189, the Abbess of Las Huelgas was made Abbess General of the Cistercians for the Kingdom of Leon and Castile, with the right to convoke an annual general chapter at Burgos. It was joked that if the Pope were ever to marry, the only lady appropriately equal to him in rank would be the Abbess of Las Huelgas.’ Beachcombing has vague memories of a similar abbess from Calabria? Invisible moves on to Joan Morris ‘You’ve probably seen the lamentably titled The Lady Was a Bishop: The Hidden History of Women with Clerical Ordination and the Jurisdiction of Bishops, Joan Morris, The Macmillan Company, 1973 (height of feminist history craze). Good information, though. Let me list a few of the ‘episcopa’ mentioned by her in an early chapter. An episcopa Terni mentioned in canon 20 of the Council of Tours – is this the same lady in the inscription? In the same Council of Tours, canons 13 and 14, deaconesses and subdeaconesses are mentioned. An episcopa is listed in a Vatican Library manuscript taken from an epitaph from the cemetery of the Basilica of Saint Valentiniane. The INSCRIPTION READS: (Hono)rabilis femina episopa. The way in which some consecrated widows are recorded also resembles the formulas used by bishops. They are said “to sit in a basilica”. For example (taken from Marini): RIEXEM PPLI AANV VIDVA SEDIT BASILICA ASEVISV RAVIT QUE OBIT EST The author has relatively little information about episcopal women of the early Christian centuries except to suggest that since the term episcopus means ‘overseer’ that the women overseers – episcopae – show the beginnings of a tradition that lasted for centuries.’ Beach doesn’t have easy access to Joan Morris, though he finds some of these references surprising and would want to check them – particularly ‘Terni’ at the Council of Tours.* In any case, Invisible continues: ‘By the way, Episcopa Theodora was alive (and obviously well-respected) when that portrait was made as evidenced by the square halo. Some other info from The Lady Was a Bishop. Dating from the fifth century, the Wisigothic Sacramentary gives instructions for the ordination of abbesses. In the prayer it is stated that before God there is no discrimination of the sexes and that women, like men, are called to collaborate in the spiritual struggle. They were invested with sacerdotal robes, the pallium and the miter. In the Sacramentary of the Moisac Monastery the rite for the abbots and abbesses was identical. They prostrated before the altar and received the stole. You will see a photo of one of the Abbesses of Saint Walburga, Eichstatt, Germany. She is carrying her abbatial crosier and is wearing her pectoral cross and what look damnably like episcopal gloves and ring. Morris gives some good examples of archaeological and heraldic evidence for the episcopal insignia given to abbesses – one rarely sees more than the cross and crosier today. Some abbesses also actually wore mitres, although not in the same pattern we recognize for male bishops. Here is a short article on mitred abbesses. Here is the table of contents of The Lady Was a Bishop. Women Overseers of Churches, ‘Stones Will Cry Out’, Canonical Institutes and Religious Orders, The Episcopal Jurisdiction of Abbesses, Exempt Women’s Orders in England, Quasi-Episcopal Abbesses in France, Ditto in Germany, Italy, and Spain. How the Quasi-Episcopal Abbesses Lost Status. Appendixes: The Taboo of Women During Pregnancy and Menstruation; The Status of Women in the Gospels; In Defense of Saint Paul; Empresses and Queens with Powers of Rex et Sacerdos [mostly Byzantine empresses, Edgitha, Matilda of Quedlinburg, Adelheid of Pavia, St Margaret of Scotland], The Ordination of Abbesses, Abbesses with Powers of Confession; Dual Cathedrals and Their Significance to Women; The Effect of the Council of Trent on the Status of Women, extensive notes and bibliography.’ KMH has a Biblical reference to share: ‘Bishop Q could have been the wife of a bishop who informally shared some of the bishops duties, especially for females. The biblical requirements for a bishop are given in 1 Tim 3:2-7, among which is that the man must be the husband of one wife. The meaning precludes polygamy or divorce, and suggests a higher status for the wife as a devout Christian, perhaps leading to her assistance with the females of the diocese.’ Finally, there is SY ‘Beach, you refer to the stone as being from Umbria not Rome (as in some sources). The confusion is that the stone was found in Terni (Umbria) but is now at St Paul’s Outside the Walls. Note that one (p. 34) useful source claims that the ‘q’ may be part of a phrase giving her age at death: qua e vix etc. This sounds credible. I would just underline what you said. This is a wrecked inscription. We may be missing some important elements.’ Thanks Invisible, Roy, SY and KMH!!
*Canon 20 of the Second Council of Tours must be the canon in question as this touches on female office in the church but there is no reference to a woman bishop Terni there. It is a nice example of the creation of a factoid as several online sites refer to this bishopess Terni, almost certainly a misunderstanding of the site of the discovery of the Q episcopa stone. Beach – who has committed far greater sins against history in his time – guesses that JM read about this in a foreign language and got things mixed up, perhaps in a paragraph where Canon 20 and the discovery of the Terni stone both featured. Thanks again to Invisible for sending in some extra bibliographical references to help clear this up. Beach promises though that he will leave the Abbot Real de las Heulgas well alone! Canon 20. . . . Illud vero quod aliqui dicunt: vidua quae benedicta non fuit, quare non debet maritum accipere? cum omnes sciant quod nunquam in canonicis libris legitur benedictio vidualis: quia solum propositum illi sufficiere debet. Sicut in Epaonensibus canonibus a papa Avito vel omnibus episcopis conscriptum est: Viduarum consecrationem, quas diaconas vocitant, ab omni regione nostra penitus abrogamus. Et expressius decretum est in synodo Arelatensi: Professas viduas si in incontinentia perstiterint, cum raptoribus esse damnandas.’ ‘With regard to what some people say: ‘Why may a widow who has not been ordained (lit. blessed), not accept a husband?’ — while everybody knows that never in our canonical books we find written about an ordinatio (lit. blessing) of widows: because a simple intention should suffice for them. As has been written in the canons of Epaon by Archbishop (lit. Pope) Avitus and all bishops: We abrogate the consecration of widows whom they call ‘women deacons’ completely from our region. And as has been decreed even more clearly in the Synod of Arles: Widows who have made a vow, if they persevere living in a sexual relationship, have to be condemned together with those who rape them.’
Roman Cat:Kudos to Jonathan Jarrett from A Corner of Tenth Century Europe who broke the ‘al vino’ crux in the poem that had defeated even the brilliant Camape. ‘Al vino’ is actually ‘al vivo’ with the sense of the cat being painted to/from life. There is a distinction allegedly. Thanks Jonathan and thanks Camape for confirming Jonathan’s hypothesis!
Historical Oaks: PCB confesses – ‘When I was 19 or so, the gods of hitchhiking dropped me in the small village of Copt Oak, Leicestershire, where the locals in the pub told me the name came from an oak that had had its head chopped off in silent protest of Lady Jane Grey’s untimely shortening. I think this is perhaps a false memory, resulting from too much Guinness and the passage of time, but I note a similar tradition in nearby Bradgate Park, where the oaks are likewise copt.’ Next comes Luis: ‘a small but hopefully valuable addendum to your historical oaks’ post, in Allouville-Bellefosse, a small town of Normandy stands an oak dating from the middle ages, that saw William the Conqueror armies. After having avoided being destroyed by numerous lightning hits, it was so popular that the local parish decided to build a chapel in its trunk that had became empty at the end of the seventeenth century. In 1793 the revolution crowd wanted to burn it at stake, for it was a religious building, but the parish decided to rename the chapel Temple of Reason and this saved it. It still is a popular landmark, in average health conditions but very well cared and cherished by the locals.’ Then Judith W, creator of the Zenobia website has found one of those classical references that escaped the befuddled Beachcombing – the prophetic oaks of Dordona. Thanks for the memories PCB and Luis and Judith!!!
King Arthur in Australia: When Beach wrote all this he naively thought that he might get a couple of emails about the Latin sense of antipodes, not a theory that ancient or medieval Mediterranean travellers had actually made it to New Zealand!! However, KMH kindly supplied the following from www.beforeus.com: Mount Moehau, on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula, plunges steeply into the sea. Draped in subtropical rain forest, downcut by waterfalls and precipitous gorges, the region oozes mystery and enchantment. Here, says Maori legend, the Turehu people, light-skinned, with reddish hair, made their last stand. The Maoris say they found them in parts of New Zealand. As the Maoris encroached, the Turehu retreated further into the hills, particularly of the Coromandel Peninsula. Here the mountains of Moehau, steep and remote, became their final refuge. Since they sought concealment near the misty summit of Moehau, the Turehu were sometimes spoken of as the “Mist People”. Their voices and the ghostly piping of their flutes could often be heard in the dense forest. Huge gourds they grew. They built forts from interlaced supplejack, a long thick woody vine that trailed across the tall forest trees. According to other Pacific islanders, people answering the same physical description had come from the east — from the direction of South America — long, long ago. And would you believe, in South America I ran into similar traditions of a light-skinned, red-haired, blue-eyed race. According to legends, these people had settled and built cyclopean stone cities (whose ruins survive), but following a war had fled westward across the Pacific. Was there some link, here? Could they have been the same people? And pushing the question a little further, could these people of historical tradition have been the descendants of some ancient traders whose story we shall now relate? The evidence suggests that a significant portion of the early American civilization came from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. Its intermediaries were Phoenicians and Hebrews, who were accompanied by Thracians and Scythians, who were accustomed to hire themselves out as mercenaries. They sailed from Ezion-geber on the Red Sea to a destination called Ophir, whose actual location has been traditionally difficult to determine. This should, however, occasion no surprise, since the Phoenicians adopted a policy of secrecy as to their routes and destinations after the Greeks displaced them on the eastern Mediterranean some 150 years before the expeditions that sailed from Ezion-geber. Their route may be tracked across the Pacific by observing such traces as still exist of the presence of nations which formed the personnel of these expeditions. This is possible because the Phoenicians, on their longer routes, were accustomed to establishing stations for repairing and revictualling their ships and ports of call. How long did these voyages continue? We have no means of determining accurately. However, it is likely that they continued for some 300 years, until the Assyrians and Babylonians occupied strategic land and closed areas of Middle East territory that were crucial to the continuance of the voyages. At the time of the conquest of Peru, the Spaniards noticed that many of the Inca ruling caste were paler of skin and had reddish tints in their hair, as distinct from the native mountain peasants of the Andes, who were generally of distinctly Mongoloid ancestry. Inca legends spoke of certain white and bearded men who advanced from the shores of Lake Titicaca, established an ascendancy over the natives, and brought civilization. Ancient representations in stone, as well as portrait jars from the ruins of the city of Chan, in coastal Peru, show white, bearded men. And mummified corpses of chiefs from the oldest layers of graves in this region bear hair that is auburn or blond, wavy and fine. Reports frequently surface concerning ancient “white” tribes still surviving in isolated pockets of the Americas. South American legend records that some of the bearded white men who built the enormous stone cities found in ruins there eventually left to sail westward… into the Pacific Ocean. Polynesian legends still current are living proof that the bearded white men arrived safely in Polynesia. But there is evidence more substantial than legend on some of these islands: pyramids, helmets and panpipes. As well as proof that irrigation, trepanning and head-deformation were practised. These same Pacific Islanders knew that the earth was round — and they had a vast astronomical knowledge, as well as a calendar curiously similar to that in the Americas. On some of the islands, early missionaries found people of a lighter skin, who sported reddish hair and blue eyes. Which made me prick up my ears when I learned of a discovery on the other side of the world. Some sarcophagi had been found at the old Phoenician city of Sidon. On these were some lavishly colored representations which suggest that some of the deceased were blue-eyed and had dark red hair. Now I prefer not to speculate. It’s just a thought. At the beginning of this letter to you, I was musing on a New Zealand Maori tradition of light-skinned people with red hair and blue eyes, having long ago been driven by the Maori people into a last refuge on the Coromandel Peninsula. And the thought just crossed my mind. Could some descendants of the crews of the Hiram-Solomon maritime expeditions have reached even the remote land of New Zealand? In distributing their products to the ends of the earth, the Phoenicians brought within the range of their influence practically every center of population, civilized and uncivilized, known to the ancient world. This is just one of the intriguing mysteries I’ve been digging up for you in the Ark of the Covenant pack. The Phoenicians teamed up with the Hebrews to sail the world in search of gold, silver and other treasures for Solomon’s Temple. Then being constructed in Jerusalem. And the very center-piece of that wonder of the world was the mysterious golden chest known as the Ark of the Covenant… Box of life, death and incredible golden wealth. It’s been estimated that the gold alone could be worth 2 billion dollars.’ SY writes in meanwhile to show that not just the Phoenicians but also the Celts got to the antipodes! The man to watch here is apparently one Martin Doutré. Beachcombing has no words… Thanks KMH and thanks SY!
Eating a French King’s Heart: Chris has found the refrence using google search on Hare’s Story of My Life, vol 5, p. 358. In 1882 Augustus was staying with the Hussey family and the story came up in the context of witchcraft! ‘Talk of strange relics led to mention of the heart of a French king preserved at Nuneham in a silver casket. Dr. Buckland, whilst looking at it exclaimed, ‘I have eaten many strange things, but have never eaten the heart of a king before,’ and, before any one could hinder him, he had gobbled it up, and the precious relic was lost for ever. Dr. Buckland used to say that he had eaten his way straight through the whole animal creation, and that the worst thing was a mole – that was utterly horrible.’ Thanks Chris!!!
Leonardo’s Tank: Andy the Mad Monk points out something that Beachcombing had completely overlooked. ‘One other aspect people forget about the tank is the canon. These would have been gunpowder weapons. As soon as the first one was fired, the inside of the tank would have been filled with thick, acrid fumes, and the people inside would have choked. The powder in the touch hole would have been enough for this. The canon would have also jumped out of its mount from the recoil (guns sooting missiles have a much greater recoil than blank firing ones).’ Thanks Andy!!
Giving Birth in a Coffin: Invisible writes in: ‘Uggh, today’s post on burial alive/giving birth in a coffin. Can’t cope…. But it did remind me of a folktale on the subject often called ‘Milk Bottles’. I can’t find my copy of Things That Go Bump in the Night by Maria Leach, so here is a variant. And, of course, there is Jan Bondeson’s 2002 book, Buried Alive: The Terrifying History of Our Most Primal Fear. Also Rodney Davies: The Lazarus Syndrome. Robert Wilkins has something to say about burial alive in The Bedside Book of Death. I think I remember a section on premature burial in The Buried Soul: How Humans Invented Death by Timothy Taylor, which should also be on your bizarre bibliography reading list for the author’s take on Celtic triple-death bog burials. Mary Roach in Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, probably also has some info on burial alive. I have it, but haven’t read it yet. And this further reminded me of an amusing anecdote from The Percy Anecdotes via archive.org, irregular scan and all. There is probably a better edition of this out there somewhere, maybe in the Tales from the Terrific Register series The Dead Alive and that I quote here: ‘Some hypochondriacs have fancied themselves miserably afflicted in one way, and some in another; some have insisted that they were teapots, and some that they were town clocks; one that he was extremely ill, and another that he was actually dying. But, perhaps, none of this blue-devil class ever matched in extravagance a patient of the late Dr. Stevenson, of Baltimore. This hypochondriac, after ringing the change of every mad conceit that ever tormented a crazy brain, would have it at last that he was dead, actually dead. Dr. Stevenson having been sent for one morning in great haste, by the wife of his patient, hastened to his bedside, where he found him stretched out at full length, his hands across his breast, his toes in contact, his eyes and mouth closely shut, and his looks cadaverous. ‘Well, sir, how do you do? how do you do, this morning?’ asked Dr. Stevenson, in a jocular way, approaching his bed. ‘ How do I do!’ replied the hypochondriac, faintly; ‘ a pretty question to ask a dead man.’ ‘Dead!’ replied the doctor. ‘ Yes, sir, dead ; quite dead. I died last night about twelve o’clock.’ Dr. Stevenson, putting his hand gently on the forehead of the hypochondriac, as if to ascertain whether it was cold, and also feeling his pulse, exclaimed in a doleful note, ‘ Yes, he poor man is dead enough ; ’tis all over with him, and now the sooner he can be buried the better.’ Then stepping up to his wife, and whispering to her not to be frightened at the measures he was about to take, he called to the servant. ‘ My boy, your poor master is dead ; and the sooner he can be put in the ground the better. Run to C m, for I know he always keeps New England coffins by him ready made; and, do you hear? bring a coffin of the largest size, for your master makes a .stout corpse, and having died last night, and the weather being warm, he will not keep long.’ Away went the servant, and soon returned with a proper coffin. The wife and family having got their lesson from the doctor, gathered around him, and howled not a little while they were putting the body in the coffin. Presently the pall-bearers, who were quickly provided and let into the secret, started with the hypochondriac for the churchyard. They had not gone far before they were met by one of the townspeople, who having been properly drilled by Stevenson, cried out, ‘ Ah, doctor I what poor soul have you got there ?’ ‘ Poor Mr. B ,’ sighed the doctor, ‘ left us last night.’ ‘Great pity he had not left us twenty years ago,’ replied the other ; ‘ he was a bad man.’ Presently another of the townsmen met them with the same question, “And what poor soul have you cot there, doctor?’ ‘ Poor Mr. B’ answered the doctor again, ‘ is dead.’ ‘ Ah, indeed !’ said the other ; ‘ and so he is gone to meet his deserts al last.’ ‘Oh, villain!’ exclaimed the man in the coffin. Soon after this, while the pall-bearers were resting themselves near the churchyard, another stepped up with the old question again, ‘What poor soul have you got there, doctor?’ ‘ Poor Mr, B ,’ he replied, ‘is gone.’ ‘ Yes, and to the bottomless pit, said the other ; ‘ for if he is not gone there, I see not what use there is for such a place.’ Here the dead man, bursting off the lid of the coffin, which had been purposely left loose, leaped out, exclaiming, ‘ O you villain ! I am gone to the bottomless pit, am I ? Well, I have come back again to pay such ungrateful rascals as you are.’ A chase was immediately commenced by the dead man after the living, to the petrifying consternation of many of the spectators at .sight of a corpse, in all the horrors of the winding sheet, running through the streets. After having exercised himself into a copious perspiration by the fantastic race, the hypochondriac was brought home by Dr. Stevenson, freed from all his complaints ; and by strengthening food, generous wine, cheerful company, and moderate exercise, was soon restored to perfect health.’ Meanwhile PhilP has a thought or two: ‘Occam’s razor works best on this problem. If there was an attempt to save the child of a near term dying mother and it failed wouldn’t the two have been buried in the same coffin? If so, the most available space in the oblong box would have been near the lower legs. For a real premature burial, do not neglect The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis. While the book is controversial, the mechanism for inducing an intentional premature burial and exhumation of the still-breathing ‘zombie’ is plausible, and no horror was beneath the Tonton Macoutes.’ Thanks PhilP and thanks Invisible!
Roman Remains: Ailsa writes in with Chester memories: ‘Regarding archaeological finds on display in unusual places, have you visited the ones in the back of Spud-U-Like in Chester? There are a lot of Roman remains in the shops within the city walls (also with visable Roman remains) as well as a lot of medieval building still in use. Well worth a trip.’ Thanks Ailsa!
Monster in Spain: Invisible writes ‘I really enjoyed the post where you proposed creating a cryptozoological myth about a Bigfoot-type creature in, I believe, a remote area of Spain. (The reader’s follow-up, suggesting killing the German tourist and adding a curse element to the story was also brilliant.) Found this on the Fortean Times website this morning.’ Your work?’ Beachcombing can promise that he had nothing to do with this, though there is an outside chance (?) that he inspired it. Thanks Invisible!
Strange Riots: Roy writes in with the following ‘The Disco Riot reminded me of the 10 cent beer night riot at Cleveland in 1974. 25,000 fans gathered in attendance to watch the Rangers play the Indians. Or rather, to drink cheap beer. As the game progressed, the inebriated crowd grew rowdier and more drunk, escalating from random flashing and streaking to shouting death threats at Rangers players. Fans began to throw trash on the field at increasing rates. Finally, in the last inning, a fan tried to steal one of the Ranger player’s hats. The player slipped, and the manager of the Rangers, Billy Martin, assumed the player was under attack. Martin grabbed a bat and led the charge of the Rangers players. A large number of Cleveland fans surged onto the field, wielding knives, bottles, chains, and portions of the seats. Fans also were hurling steel folding chairs, one of which hit the head of the Cleveland pitcher. Meanwhile, the Indians manager, Ken Aspromonte, feared that some of the Rangers players would be killed. He ordered his team to grab their bats and try to defend the Rangers. Soon, the Indians and Rangars players were running for their lives. The game was forfeited to the Rangers because order could not be established in a timely manner (shortly after a fan threw a knife at the leg of the umpire). The bases were stolen, quite literally, by the fans. The umpire crew chief remarked that the fans were ‘uncontrollable beasts’, and that he had never seen such behavior ‘except in the zoo’. The Cleveland police finally arrived on scene to restore order. Additional 10 cent beer nights were changed to limit the amount of alcohol that could be consumed.’ Classics reminds Beach, instead of some interesting prison riots (an untapped genre?): ‘Sandwiches have been responsible for a lot of grief in correctional facilities. In February 2011 inmates in Monroe County (GA) rioted when they were given sandwiches instead of a hot meal. In 2002 a riot in Lincoln Prison, in your own UK, was sparked by rumors that hot meals were to be replaced by sandwiches. Then as an aside the legendary 1929 prison riot at Colorado State Penitentiary Riot saw one of the guard hostages spared because at an earlier date he had given his sandwich to an inmate. As one who has spent a little time inside – sandwiches have a lot to answer for.’ Then, finally, Shawn writes in with a thought: ‘As I recall, the 1968 Democratic Convention chaos was labelled a ‘police riot’.’ Thanks Shawn, Classics and Roy!!
Churchill Buries Chamberlain: Umrbiel writes in ‘I’m not sure I agree that ‘nobody could have guessed that Britain had ‘turned the corner’ in late 1940’ – By the fall, the climax of the Battle of Britain was past, and with it imminent threat of invasion. The ‘Destroyers for Bases Agreement’ had taken some of the pressure off in the Battle of the Atlantic. Most importantly, Churchill had by that time forged a strong working relationship with FDR (whose reelection occurred only a few days before Chamberlain’s demise, but was never in serious doubt), guaranteeing that the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ would provide increasing support. While all that might have been of limited comfort to the folks in London enduring the Blitz, the merchant and naval sailors in the Atlantic, and the troops in North Africa, I think the top-level planners realized that the long-term odds were as much in their favor as they’d been in World War I. For additional perspective on this, I highly recommend the recent book, The Wages of Destruction – an economic history of Nazi Germany, it puts in perspective a lot of the industrial and economic factors that drove the war.’ Thanks Umbriel!!
Animal Effigies: K has written in with an inspired idea: ‘This may well be way off, however, my first thought after reading your article was perhaps these mounds may refer to astronomical features…i.e., Ursa Minor and Draco respectively.’ Memories of the pyramids and the belt of Orion. Then Tina comments on the serpent mound: ‘You mentioned the serpent mound and I wanted to ask you if you ever considered that perhaps it has some sort of astronomical significance? The serpent appears to be eating an egg or round object. Usually, in the cycle of life the serpent would be seen eating its own tail (Uroborus), no? In Isaiah 59:5, there is a reference to eating Viper/Snake eggs and dying. Isn’t it more like saying, ‘And this is the end of the world…’ not now, of course. But, maybe the symbolism of such a belief. Or, is it a reference to older times when giant snakes ate Dinosaur eggs? But that is far fetched even for me because I doubt the Amerindians saw that first hand!’ Beach should note again that there is this oft repeated idea that the serpent is eating the sun. Next is Scapa Flow who writes in with an interesting perspective from on high. ‘Although nothing thrills me more than the idea of a Native American Balloon Corps 1500 BC I think a far more realistic way of seeing the figures from above would have been using the humble ladder. The tallest wooden structure today is a 118m tall tower in Poland (if I remember correctly) and I have seen archaeological remains of 60-70m tall wooden structures here in Japan. Is it a folly to imagine that early native Americans spent a bit of time building wooden structures that allowed shamans and high priests to climb far above the earth? I can imagine that a temporary wooden structure could be able to reach 60m without too much (think about those Jenga blocks we played with as kids).’ Thanks to K, Scapa Flow, Tina and Ruth (who found the beautiful photo included in the post)!!!
Druids’ Eggs: Invisible writes in with a fourth suggestion: ‘This is rather a long shot but I wonder if these Druids’ eggs are the gall of what I know as Cedar Apple Rot, but which is also called Cedar Apple Rust. Tough skinned, tentacles like a squid. Possibly the ‘cups’ refers to the non-spongy parts of the gall before the telia get water-logged. I have no idea if these float or if they appear on trees in whatever part of Gaul Pliny was referencing. They look exceedingly nasty and feel worse. I can’t account for these galls emerging from snake balls (which are usually associated with mating), unless the snakes (grass? Western whip?) live around cedar trees.’ Anaconda is also interested in snakes. ‘Are you aware that snakes do often writhe together. Some snakes have male on male fights that could lead to misunderstandings and often three or four snakes take part simultaneously. Some snakes also coil together in winter, apparently for warmth.’ K also writes in with some ancillary thoughts on the DE, ‘After reading your article quoting Pliny the Elder, I was struck by the similarities in his language to certain ideas in alchemy. In my curiosity, I think I stumbled on something that many have been the influence to what Pliny was speaking of: [quoting one Zen Music] ‘‘It’s a symbol from the ancient Orphic Mysteries, the egg representing the cosmos, the serpent the creative spirit. The egg is also the soul of the philosopher, the serpent the mysteries. At the time of initiation the philosopher’s soul hatches from the egg, i.e. is reborn from physical into spiritual existence. The Orphic egg is usually represented as an egg surrounded by a coiled serpent. The egg symbolizes the belief in the Greek Orphic religion that the universe originated from within a silver egg. The first emanation from this egg, described in an ancient hymn, was Phanes-dionysus, the personification of light: In Greek myth, particularly Orphic thought, Phanes is the golden winged Primordial Being who was hatched from the shining Cosmic Egg that was the source of the universe. Called Protogonos (First-Born) and Eros (Love) – being the seed of gods and men – Phanes means ‘Manifestor’ or ‘Revealer’, and is related to the Greek words ‘light’ and ‘to shine forth’. An ancient Orphic hymn addresses him thus: ineffable, hidden, brilliant scion, whose motion is whirring, you scattered the dark mist that lay before your eyes and, flapping your wings, you whirled about, and through this world you brought pure light…’’ Thanks Invisible and thanks Anaconda and thanks K!
Google Burns the Library at Alexandria: Jonathan Jarret over at a Corner of Tenth Century Europe partially disagrees: ‘I do indeed care about this one, though I would have to agree that you may have gone over the top with the rhetoric. Google is of course not destroying this stuff, merely messing up good access to it. One can understand that the scale they’re working at (though the grunt work is usually being done by volunteers or temps in academic libraries, which is where the real quality problem comes from) permits minimum checking, though it is disheartening to see a service that works on keywords so inattentive to metadata; but, what they could do to solve that is make the meta-data checking even easier and more responsive, and possibly also accept revised or improved scans –and there is two-way traffic between Google and archive.org, so bad Google copies are sometimes replaced –but they have a bottom line to make. For a lot of the awful early copies, for example, we have to blame not Google but Stanford, who were one of the earliest participants with Google in the whole Google Books venture. The real problem is that Google have been allowed to do this at all; given that, we can expect little better, and we can still hope that they will improve things. So on that score I refuse to lose hope. It needs a lot of user contribution but it can get better. There may of course be a better plan altogether, which I go on to below. I would meanwhile, however, raise a controversial finger and suggest that the real firelighters for the libraries have been electronic journal providers. Stories of people getting rid of books are thankfully rare, and even if they do, though it is painful for us to contemplate it, because we love such items, it is usually the books with the fewest readers that get the chop (the pulp? the second-hand shop?). The real danger is to journals. Probably we can all think of actual institutions, direly in need of shelf space (because these worthy but misguided places still buy books too) who having acquired a JSTOR subscription or whatever at who knows what expense, have then junked their eighty-year run of the English Historical Review or similar because that really is online, in good quality, and they really need the space. And no-one will buy that, no-one has the space much though they would like it except for another library, which is probably in the same plight and sees no point. Then the library’s budget is cut, the subscription price goes up and they have to cancel it. (The money is probably put towards a sports coach.) Goodbye, access to all journals concerned; no going back. That’s where the fires have started, IMO. So, what can we do? We can join in with this: and get it done properly. While I feel your pain, in other words, I think that circulating a solution may be better than becoming the Ginsberg of Google Books…’ Patrick from US Military History has even stronger opinions: ‘While I agree to the extent that often Google Books has corrupted or at least bad scans, at least the scans are there. I too, tend to check Archive.org first because their digital copies are invariably of higher quality. That being said, there are many books that are only available on Google Books and so I will still use them. I live in Germany and I simply must rely on digital copies of books a lot of times because as much as I would like to, I don’t have the money to buy a physical copy of every book I use. I therefore prioritize my buying and use the digital sites to make up that lack. I too, think Google goes a little overboard with their copyright policy, but you yourself have pointed to an at least marginally quasi-legal work around through the use of proxies. The fact remains that Google Books does a good service by making the contents of some very eminent libraries available online. Libraries that many people will never be able to visit. For that alone, Google is to be commended. It is easy for people to get ten-different kinds of worked up when ‘evil’ big business does something that is not to their standards. The question I have is, who else is making such a huge effort at digitizing books? The answer is no one else is doing it on the scale Google is because only Google has the funding, we can complain and maybe Google will institute better QC methods into their scanning, but from where I sit it seems just as likely that they could decide it is a flawed product and stop doing it and for all the good Gutenberg and Archive.org do, they do not have anything like the deep pockets that Google has. Then again, I don’t automatically assume that something is bad if a corporation is doing it.’ Beachcombing would reply by saying that he is certainly not anti business and he is glad that it has fallen to a corporation rather than a state to undertake the task. However, he has an overwhelming sense that humanity is only going to ever do this once and it is being done very, very badly… Thanks Jonathan and thanks Patrick!
Bizarre Musical Instruments: Many wrote in with this extraordinary site that celebrates unusual instruments and that is well worth a visit. Thanks to all of you. Ruth communicates, meanwhile, that the glass armonica still lingers! ‘Check out http://www.glassarmonica.com/ and http://www.williamzeitler.com/’ Invisible, on the other hand, writes ‘I have been a church organist for over 45 years. Believe me, the organ has MANY strange ‘instruments’, like the clarabella, sesquialtera, unda maris, bombarde, trompette en chamade, viola d’amore, and the zimbelstern, a whirlygig of bells that tinkles in a random and highly obnoxious manner. To get the full range, just check out some of these stop names…. . I have heard of organists who called their cats after organ stops… But for true organ oddities… Organs of marble! of porcelain! of bamboo! (very popular in the Philippines). Open air organs, an organ in the shape of a hand, the organ of Dr Caligari with irregularly angled pipes! And John Cage’s work for organ designed to be played as slowly as possible. It’s all here! An instrument often used in churches without organs was the serpent–yes, snake-shaped and covered in (usually) black leather. It provided a thumping bass accompaniment to choirs and congregations. But back to instruments made of human bones. As you mentioned, Central Asia is a hotbed of this musical morbidity. You can even get a CD on Amazon called Kang Ling, Tibetan music played on the trumpet made from a human thighbone. (Use of Human Skulls and Bones in Tibet by Berthold Laufer) The Inca also had flutes made of human bone and drums made with human skin. I assume the Aztecs did also. Apparently people are still using human bone instruments today, either in a ‘magickal’ way. Or as the soundtrack to a show about a serial killer. Oh dear….. Then, although not made of bone, there are the ‘cursed trumpets’ of King Tut. I always thought that the banjolele, that cross between the banjo and ukelele, as played by Bertie Wooster in Thank you, Jeeves, was just the comic invention of P.G. Wodehouse. But no – they actually exist and have a fan base. You can buy one on Amazon. Not that I would. The neighbors would complain.’ Then Ricardo to the rescue: ‘Search for the American composer and instrument builder Harry Partch. He was also a hobo for part of his life, actually. And off course, if you want to wage war on your neighbours… find a Calliope.’ Beachcombing has been listening to the music of the Calliope on Wikipedia all morning, haunting and ghastly. Virginia writes in with the following link, ‘This may not exactly fall under the heading of a ‘strange’ instrument, but finding someone who makes and plays replicas of the aulos is perhaps a bit unusual.’ Thanks again to all who wrote in with musical advice!!! This is clearly a rich field.
Ancient Beliefs in Modern Egypt: Several emails here and lots on saints. Donnal writes in to remind Beach that several early Irish saints were allegedly Irish gods ‘in disguise’, the best example being Brigit. Cainand describes several Greco-Roman gods as well that became saints: Demeter, Aphrodite and Venus: Beach should mention here that he has previously visited the Buddha as a Catholic saint. Finally, Neville writes in with the most curious piece of information of all. It seems that the whippet (dog) is portrayed on Ancient Egyptian tombs and that ‘whippet’ is, in fact, a Coptic word! Can this be true? ML also writes in with the subject of a future post: ‘I can direct you to a ritual which indisputably has been going on continually for three and a half thousand years, i.e. since the bronze age, although it may be more tribal in nature than religious. I refer of course to the scouring of the white horse of Uffington. It was archaeologically dated in 1994 to between 1400 to 600 BC. To stop it disappearing forever under the sward it has to be cleaned (‘scoured’) every seven to ten years. Accordingly, the ritual must have persisted throughout Celtic times, has outlasted the Romans, survived the Dark Ages, and the Norman conquest and the turmoil of the Civil War. I find this to be quite extraordinary and to do not know of any other ceremony anything like as old as this must be.’ Thanks Donnal, ML, Neville and Cainand!
Impostor: Luis, an old friend of the blog writes in: ‘I’ve just finish reading your post about the impostors and it rang a bell, about the very popular story of Martin Guerre. This is a real event that happened in the 16th century in South of France. A farmer that was missing for 8 years got back to his village to meet with his family. He pretended that he was forced to be enroled in the army and that he managed to escape somehow. Hi wife and everybody in the village recognized him categorically, however after 3 years when he asked a part of the incomes of his uncle, the uncle confronted him, saying that he wasn’t Martin Guerre. They went on a trial and and at the moment the prosecutor was convinced dismissing the case and stating that Martin Guerre was the genuine guy, a man with a wooden leg showed up saying that he was the real one. Martin Guerre, in fact Arnaud du Thil, was sentenced to death. This story has much impressed Jean de Coras, the prosecutor, so much in fact that it was later related by Montaigne in The Essays (book III les boiteux) … and was told in extenso by Alexandre Dumas, in his Crimes Célèbres: This is a very well know story because a movie named Le retour de Martin Guerre (featuring Gérard Depardieu and Nathalie Baye) was a huge (and deserved) success. It’s amazing how people is wishful to be fooled preferring a lie than to accept the (uncomfortable) truth, Arnaud du Thil was very convincing because he had met and spent a long time with Martin Guerre, so he picked and learned loads of intimate information that he used with the wife and the villagers.’ KMH, meanwhile, looks at the other side of the coin: ‘Do you have a minimum time period for the returned relative, such as three years? One case that comes immediately to mind was that of Elizabeth Smart who was kidnapped and held for nine months before returning to her parents. The bizarre case (perhaps involving the Stockholm syndrome) was well publicised – otherwise she may not been recognised and released from the kidnappers. Just today I came across another case of a female kidnapped and held hostage who was able to return. In this instance the captivity was for 19 years. Her name is Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was abducted at a bus stop at age 11.’ Thanks KMH, and thanks Luis!
Cyclops Origins: KMH has also been worrying about one-eyed giants ‘Here is a defense of Cyclops. If we had no physical evidence of the giraffe, I am sure that most learned people would regard it as a physically preposterous myth, violating known laws of biology. If coelacanths had not been discovered living today, we would be certain that they had all died off some 65 million years ago. Also, if Troy, Babylon and other sites mentioned in ancient texts hadn’t been unearthed, they would be regarded at present as only mythical (as they were in the 19th century). So, the only thing lacking is a Cyclops skull for examination. We know giants existed in ancient times from the frequent discoveries of their large bones, and accounts of their activities. But what advantage could one eye possibly possess over two? One explanation is that the Cyclops race didn’t posses a normal eye, rather an abnormally large pineal gland that functioned perfectly as a “third eye” enabling the Cyclops to see ‘astrally’ rather than physically. The pineal gland is widely regarded as the location of the third eye when it is activated by drugs, or other methods. Its power is greatly increased if the bone in front of the gland is removed. The third eye requires that the two normal eyes be closed for full effectiveness. It isn’t clear if the Cyclops in question was born with a hole in the skull or not, but there may well have been a race of these beings, perhaps a remnant of ancient genetic experimentation. They would have been the only giants we know of who could see in the dark… Hoping you can clearly see my reasoning. Also Cyclops skulls may be more difficult to find than hen’s teeth, but there seem to be rare reports, I vaguely remember other finds in the 20th century, but at my age any investigation is better left to the younger generation.’ Thanks as always KMH!!!
Green Devil of Quimper: Andrea starts off the attack: ‘The good people of Brittany may have seen a demon-changing colors because lead gives off those colors when it burns. Google ‘lead spectra‘. Invisible then takes the detail a little further: ‘When I was a child it was a great treat to be allowed to throw pine cones treated with various chemicals into the fireplace and watch the fire flare up in different colors: red, green, and blue. I recall being told that green was made with copper. You can still buy such mystic fireplace powders today. My money’s on copper as the origin of the Green Devil. Lead burns blue–was there copper solder, trim or guttering somewhere in the mix? Or is verte possibly blue-green? Verdigris is often blue-green in color. If bells were present, as they almost certainly would have been in a church of this time, they would usually be made of an alloy of about 80% copper to 20% tin. Here is a page with a table that breaks down the colors and their metals. Perhaps some architectural historian or structural engineer can offer suggestions as to specific metals liable to have been present in this church tower. I found this interesting fact about church bell towers: some churches have an exconjuratory in the bell tower, a space where ceremonies were conducted to ward off weather related calamities, like storms and excessive rain. The main bell tower of the Cathedral of Murcia has four. And this site with information on the deadly mix of church towers and lightning. Then a criticism of Beach’s translating powers (ahem): ‘Where in the French text does the milk from the wet-nurse of good morals appear? I am not seeing this AT ALL – just water, manure, a loaf and a Host and holy water. And breast milk, no matter how moral the wet-nurse, is not a canonical requirement for exorcism. Incidentally, the agnus dei mentioned was usually a wafer of wax embossed with the image of the Lamb of God. Not, perhaps, the most effective fire-fighting tool except in a mystical sense.’ The translation was evidently made from the later text included in the source page and in the link above and the nursemaid is there, but she is a gratuitous if colourful addition: ‘Et pour dernière résolution l’on fit jeter un pain de seigle de quatre sols, dans lequel on y mit une hostie consacrée, puis on prit de l’eau bénite avec du lait d’une femme nourrice , de bonne vie, et tout cela jeté dans le feu’. Lesson: don’t be lazy and always write your own translations or at least check properly those you steal. Beach is contrite but probably won’t have time to put this into practice. Kate remembers: ‘an American (possibly Maritime Canada) story that was similar; a church or other public building burned to the ground and the spectators noticing the melting lead or copper roof producing colored flames. No demons, though!’ Moonman writes: ‘I still think it was more than the mundane ball lightning. You don’t dump 50 carts of manure in your church for nothing. Doesn’t manure burn or at least stink to high heavens? Nice way to desecrate a church, but then they already had a devil doing that. Don’t know what it could have been without resorting to the paranormal. Would be nice if there were artefacts left from the event though. Isn’t this the kind of thing they made money from back then (‘Step up, step up, get your piece of devil-rid-church-pyramid, rids demons, succubi, rats and lice’)?’ Now it is Ole Jonny Brænne’s turn (via Moonman). The following extract comes from The Register, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, 1906 June 19, page 7 and is entitled ‘A Fireball in Church’ and might be a warning of what we are not looking at here. ‘Terror overwhelmed the congregation at Wookley Church, near to Wells, on Sunday, not by reason of the fiery denunciation of the preacher, but by the prescence of a fireball which struck the building. The ball hit the steeple, broke it in two, and came crashing through the roof. The wrecked steeple fell on the church and did much damage. The ball of fire shot across the church, emitting a strong odour of sulphur. Several persons among the congregation fainted. Some were slightly burnt by the ball: but, after the service was concluded, hastily without a sermon, the clergyman induced the people to return, and offered special prayers thanking God for their marvellous escape from death.’ Thanks Andrea, thanks Invisible Old Jonny Braenne, Kate and Moonman!!
Dauphin’s Heart: Invisible writes in approvingly: ‘This post was one of your best – history, mystery, and suspense with a surprise ending. However, I don’t think we can compare keeping track of this human organ, which had a very chequered career, with being able to ascertain the cause of World War I or why the Roman Empire fell. It is amazing that the Dauphin’s Heart survived at all, let alone that we have a paper trail documenting its progress. There are objects at auction that have a lesser provenance. The bigger questions of why nations go to war or why empires fall cannot be so simply charted. How much your post today reminded me of “Lost Hearts”, the M.R. James ghost story about an occultist ingesting the hearts of the young in his quest for enlightenment! But it reminded me even more of the lengthy history of incorrupt (and mystical) hearts in the lives of the Saints of the Catholic church. I was going to list some of them, but this chapter (conveniently posted online although I do have the book) summarises many of the key elements: Transverberation: the piercing of the heart as by a fiery spear usually described as a pain of unbearable sweetness. The statue of St. Teresa in ecstasy by Bernini is a good illustration. The scar of the piercing is usually found in the heart after death. Symbols of the Passion: These are found impressed in the cardiac tissue after death. Several hearts showing the instruments are on display throughout Europe. Clare of Montefalco seemed to have the most detailed example. Hearts enlarged and inflamed and beating in strange ways. Also exuding mystical oils and sweet scents and being found incorrupt. And, weirdest of all, the exchange of hearts, where Christ gives the visionary His own heart for hers/his. It was fairly common in the Middle Ages to bury the heart and the entrails of royalty apart from the body (see The Royal Funeral Ceremony in Renaissance France by Ralph E. Giesey and ‘Heart Burial in Medieval and early Post-Medieval Central Europe’ in Body Parts and Bodies Whole from Studies in Funerary Archaeology 5, edited by Katharina Rebay-Salisbury et al). This probably began as a measure to prevent unpleasant decomposition incidents, but since royal blood/tissue was sacred, one could equate the royal bits with saints’ relics. Churches were honored to received the bowels and heart of royalty. There was also a practical element. While bones could be boiled and bodies carried in casks of spirit, it was easier to embalm and carry a heart if someone of importance died overseas. It was not until the late 18th-early 19th c. that people began to think of heart burial in that overwrought way as romantic and sentimental–as in the case of Trelawny supposedly snatching Shelley’s heart from the pyre. Bury my heart at Wounded Knee. Or, sordidly, the story that Thomas Hardy’s heart, slated for burial in Wessex, might have been eaten by a cat. There are rumors that a pig’s heart was substituted.’ As always, thanks Invisible!
Against All Odds: Judith from Zenobia suggests Marathon. The only problem with Marathon is (as Judith acknowledges) while the numbers given for the Athenians and their Plataean allies are probably reliable the number of the Persian forces are much debated. The odds could have been as low as 2.1 or as high as 8.1 or 10.1. Marathon stands out though for another reason: if the low Athenian casualties – seemingly confirmed by archaeology – are correct then the kill rate of Greek to Persian was extraordinarily high. Thanks Judith!
Happy July to you all!