Posts Tagged ‘Cultural history’

Lockdown reading has incorporated a very interesting book, Napoleon, Life, Legacy and Image, by Alan Forrest.

I admit Napoleon Bonaparte does come over as a very intriguing character.
But what went so horribly wrong?

I was comparing maps of Europe before and after Napoleon’s period and was amazed at how he had changed the face of Europe with his campaigns.
Ok, but look at the maps, with fingers in ears, and very dark glasses, to blot out the cries of abandoned, mutilated, and dying from his campaigns.

There is an area of open ground near where I live, away from the town, where troops from the Napoleonic wars were later housed. Those it was thought the public should not see.
What was there for those people of support, help?

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It was so easy to escape Elba. So, after The Hundred Days, when it was proven yet again he could still wield his magic and get the French governors to grant him men, munitions, arms and uniforms for a very foolhardy attempt on the combined forces of Europe and England, after the last great battle of Waterloo (a shambles for the un-trained new French recruits), what then could be done with The Emperor?

How wise was the choice of the distant old-volcanic island of St Helena?
In remoteness, Wiki tells us that St Helena island lies some 1,950 kilometres (1,210 mi) west of the coast of southwestern Africa, and 4,000 kilometres (2,500 mi) east of Rio de Janeiro on the South American coast. 

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Saint+Helena,+STHL+1ZZ,+St+Helena,+Ascension+and+Tristan+da+Cunha/

 It is one of the most isolated islands in the world and was uninhabited when discovered by the Portuguese in 1502 : Wiki again.
Between January and May 1673, the Dutch East India Company seized the island, but English reinforcements restored East India Company control. The company experienced difficulty attracting new immigrants, and there was unrest and rebellion among the inhabitants. Ecological problems, such as deforestationsoil erosion, vermin and drought, led Governor Isaac Pyke to suggest in 1715 that the population be moved to Mauritius, but that was not acted upon and the company continued to subsidise the community because of the island’s strategic location. A census in 1723 recorded 1,110 inhabitants, including 610 slaves.

Alan Forrest describes the place: an impoverished and windswept outpost… Battered by Atlantic storms … a bleak and inhospitable island – especially during the long winter months -.
But then, this: it was an important staging post for ships for the East India Company and sustained a population of up to five thousand, including a British garrison, a large number of slaves from Madagascar, and Chinese indentured labourers (page 141)

The importation of slaves to Saint Helena was banned in 1792, and the phased emancipation of over 800 resident slaves took place in 1827, some six years before the British parliament passed legislation to abolish slavery in the colonies. Wiki again

This is very sobering.
So much for the greatness of those times.
Napoleon promoted himself and his Empire as a great moderniser, and sold himself and his aims as liberalising, especially in his last appeals for recruits. After the Ancien Regime, yes, he certainly was.
Alan Forrest carefully brings our attention to the matter of Toussaint Louverture, and his fight for Saint-Dominingue, modern day Haiti.
Those who espouse Liberalism usually hide many such shadows, as does modern Neoliberalism. As does every regime. The victims are always with us.

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And so, when we look at that map of St Helena now, among the new township, its fast-food outlets, its Jehovah’s Witness church, is a Boer Cemetery.
When not the victims of dum-dum bullets, used to cause greatest wound-damage, others were shipped off to this distant place.
Who knows what the toll on hope and survival must have been.
In 1900 and 1901, over 6,000 Boer prisoners were held on the island, notably Piet Cronjé and his wife after their defeat at Battle of Paardeberg.[30][31] The resulting population reached an all-time high of 9,850 in 1901. Wiki
Yes, you did read that right: 9,850
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Helena
Are such places of commemoration for those un-named people from Madagascar, and elsewhere? People probably like you and me, but in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It is with a sense of relief that at least Napoleon’s body was exhumed, burned on the spot, and his ashes returned to France in 1840/1, twenty years after his death.

Ok, from all this I admit to a longing for that ‘uninhabited island’, pre 1502.

Where is the best place for old statues of the famous?

First of all, what does ‘best’ mean?
Secondly, what does ‘old statues’ imply?

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One of the first casualties of commemorative statuary is its significance. Its meaning, if you will. And this is usually lost in a matter of a few years, not decades.
No one questions the right of a siting, once placed. And no one questions the statue’s right to be, once the first newsworthiness has been dampened down.
Is this so?
It is all about suitable platforms for concerns: there are ways of stifling ‘voices off,’ for ‘the greater good’.
What was the mind-set in erecting them in the first place? To celebrate benevolence? In a few, mostly much later, cases.
What is greatness? How celebrations of it override all other considerations, the horrors of its means, its chequered achievements.

What then follows a long period of comparative amnesia. In this period all significance, meaning, becomes lost, and what takes over is familiarity. Its good friend contempt tags along, but is usually on the whole well behaved.

It is only a great many years later, several generations, that a new generation of fresh-eyed people are prompted, or are very, very rarely home-grown, to question the validity and probity of these commemorative items.

The only way to keep the more questionable statues ‘active’ is within context, as in a museum. The Colston statue in Bristol https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-56250697 is one currently in question.
A way towards resolution has been suggested by exhibiting the slave-trader ‘s statue in a museum along with Black Lives Matter banners.
It is still within the city his questionable wealth did so much for, but it is kept within contemporary concerns.

The take this:
Canterbury Cathedral has decided not to remove its troubling statues, but has enclosed them within contextual displays:

I have often wondered about statues of Oliver Cromwell.
The one near me is now was taken away from the city centre, and is now tucked away in a suburban park. His name is still a curse-word in Ireland. I should not think Scotland views him well either.:

This graffiti targets his Irish campaigns.
Amongst his horrors, though, he did invite Jewish people to return to England, after a shameful 400 years.
The commission and erection of these statues is an odd case, a regicide commemorated in the midst of Queen Victoria’s imperialist and expansionist reign, at the same time as the burgeoning of the Irish Home Rule political movement.
Cromwell himself oversaw the first wave of colonial transportation to the Caribbean. Writing to parliament after leading the slaughter at Drogheda in September 1649, the general reported that the ‘officers were knocked on the head, and every tenth man of the soldiers killed, and the rest shipped for the Barbadoes’: https://www.historyireland.com/volume-25/issue-4-julyaugust-2017/features-issue-4-julyaugust-2017/curse-cromwell-revisiting-irish-slavery-debate/

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There is always a backlash to the backlash.
Will the media smother that? Keep it out of the public eye and mind? That is one way to ‘control’ these things, to use the methods used against you against your detractors. The ‘oxygen of publicity’ (- is that to feed a fire, or to enliven the blood? Language has its own codes).
But is it legit to do this? Or are you tying yourself down/in with dubious systems?

You can also take something as everyday as language.
What often started as a metaphor, either a clever coining, or even a euphuism skirting around some iniquitous doing, in no time at all loses its double nature, and the image used becomes the unquestioned, acceptable, tool of communication.
Terms either lose their meanings, or are used for skewed rather than straight meaning. It is the way time, usage, in other words, people, affect and are affected.

Correction can only be advantageous when done within contemporary parameters, that is, with the understandings and acceptances of current methods.
To revert solely to original meanings would make them redundant for contemporary concerns.
Original meanings coupled with contemporary meanings are essential for the fuller understanding.


BE THE LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

Be the light in the darkness is the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2021.Be the light in the darkness

We will continue to do our bit for as long as we can, secure in the knowledge that others will continue to light a candle long after us.

– Gena Turgel MBE, survivor of the Holocaust (1923-2018)

Watch the UK HMD Ceremony

https://www.hmd.org.uk

https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2021/jan/27/holocaust-remembrance-day-in-pictures

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-55816309

Last night we watched a biopic of English band, Joy Division, released in 2007.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joy_Division_%282007_film%29
This is not CONTROL, the film of Ian Curtis’ life, but a documentary.

It is the sort of documentary that you can bring away a different aspect every time you watch.
I can see many other aspects to the events, people, times, but for me this time it was this:

The distance of time gives such a perspective on many aspects of that era.
We both grew up in the same era and area of northern England.
Footage from the time shows just how shocking conditions were, conditions that we took for granted, our normal.
London, of course, was different, another world as far as living conditions and expectations were concerned.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joy_Division

And, yes, the north was badly, terribly, neglected.
The main industries were gone or were going, and as yet there was little to replace them.
The scars of war were still being healed. Twenty-five years afterwards.
Which also shows very clearly how little input had been provided by hugely south-centric governments and planning.

The biggest jolt came, though, with comments/reminiscences of their first meeting, by Annik Honoré.
She was a major member of Plan K, and was to become Ian Curtis, Joy Division’s, lead singer’s girlfriend (she has since died, 2014. Ian Curtis died in 1980).
The band were booked to play at Plan K, in Brussels. It was 1979.
It was their first trip out of England.
This also is very telling. There was so little money available, and so there was little outside travel.

Annik described them, as compared to her fellow Belgians and Europeans of the same age, as
undernousished, wearing thin, cheap clothes … thin coats in Winter.
They were barely 21 year’s old.

And we were. This was all of us.

On the whole most people in Europe were better fed, more aware of the world, more clued-in.

Why was this?
England had joined the EU only a few year’s previously. The effects had not yet been felt, recognised. Nothing yet had trickled down through society.
We were still living in English isolation.

Given five years and we were in a boom. It burst, but the way ahead had been seen, and we built on it. The fabric of life, and living standards, had improved hugely. Five years’ time and we could hardly believe how we had been back then.

I do not blame Ian Curtis’ death on these conditions. Is there a link? I don’t know.
This is not the angle I am looking at it all from.
But I will say that since those days there is a very well established epilepsy and autism centre, and care groups, set up in the area Ian Curtis lived and died.

Joy Division got their impetus from Punk.
The Punks used to say, Never trust anyone over 25.
The over-25s had already forgotten was it was like to be young.

Maybe We should now say, When the BIG decisions have to be made, never ask anyone under 50.
The under-50s never knew how horrible and grim it was. What we took for normal back then.

And now, with the huge unemployment from the prolonged periods of quarantine under Covid, on top of Brexit….
Goods are already becoming hard to buy; what there is available is becoming expensive. Quality of life, of services, and foodstuffs, is already falling.

Never trust anyone… who had not lived through those horrible times… to decide for you.

And do we turn against this present government for forcing this?
No, we turn on each other.

Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society by Marcel Detienne and Jean Pierre Vernant (Harverster Press), is a deeply researched and innovative book.

In Book XXIII of the Iliad, towards the end of the funeral games for death of Patroclus, there is a chariot race. One of the contestants is the relatively young and inexperienced, Antilochus, son of the wise Nestor.

Nestor says to his son, …these are slow horses, and they may turn-in/ a second-rate performance. The other teams/ are faster. But the charioteers/ Know no more racing strategy than you do./ Work out a plan of action in your mind/ dear son, do not let the prize slip through your fingers. (translation Robert Fitzgerald).

So what he does is, up to the home straight, he managed to hold on level with the others; in fact he was neck and neck with Menelaus in joint second position. Then they came upon a narrowing of the track where a landslide had encroached. Antilochus would not rein in, which caused Menelaus to do so, and so gave Antilochus the chance he needed and he pulled ahead.

He came second.
However, Menelaus would not let it go at that: Antilochus, you were clear-headed once./ How have you acted now?….

Antilochus, to maintain amity split his winnings with Menelaus.

Another version of this is, Antilochus drove his chariot with a clear plan, which was to force the brinkmanship with Menelaus. This he did successfully: he had inspected the course, found the narrowing, and planned around it.

His error was to be too obvious; he should have got away with it by making it look as though his horses had run away with him. He would have had to prepare for this, though, by surreptitiously displaying moments of loss of control earlier in the race. He would have won the same, but also kept his prize, and his prestige.

This second version is the way of the true cunning.

With this version, the book says, we begin to notice clusters of words, phrases, that occur again and again. In Greek we have

Metis – informed prudence

Dolos – cunning

Kerde – tricks

Kairos – ability to seize the opportunity

Pantoie – multiple

Poikile – many coloured

Oiole – shifting

They all describe the polymorphic, polyvalence of wily intelligence

The most important is Metis. She was once a goddess, first wife of Zeus. She helped him in the fight to dethrone his father, Chronos. Her reward? To be swallowed by Zeus. After all, he cannot have such an unruly presence in his ordered realms. Swallowed she gave him the power to foresee events.

Such is the fate of all who help a dictator to power: we saw it in Soviet Russia, where Stalin cleared away all the old, original, Bolsheviks from government. It is indeed everywhere to be seen still.

The book also calls upon the work of Oppian, second century AD Latin writer of hunting and fishing treatises.

Hunting and fishing are worlds of duplicitous dealings, he says. To be good at either craft, art, one must have the ability to appear to be/do one thing whilst being/doing another. One must be a master of camoflage, subterfuge.

He wrote, ‘In this world of hunting and fishing, victory is only to be won through metis.’
That word again.

There are a number of essential qualities one must have.

1 – Agility, suppleness, swiftness, mobility

– one must move as swiftly as one’s prey; be able to ‘leap from stone to stone’ etc.

2 – Dissimulation

– one must be able to lie in wait whilst appearing not to do so etc.

3 – Vigilance

– one must be sleepless, untiring; or, appearing to sleep whilst being fully alert, watchful.

One must be, in essence, ‘a master of finesse’: polupaipalos. One must be a master of cunning and multiplicity.

There are a number of animals highly regarded for their metis, their cunning:

The wily fox

A master of strategy and cunning. His den is underground; it has innumerable exits.

He knows how to make his body itself a trap: when stalking, birds say, he can lie as if dead for hours in order to disable their vigilance.

In fables, the book notes, the fox’s words ‘are more beguiling than those of the sophist.’

Anything shifting, scintillating, that shimmers, beguiles the senses: one is no longer fully alert but distracted, lulled even. One then, is prey to the master of metis.

The octopus

The octopus ‘is a knot made up of a thousand arms, a living, interlacing network.’ And, just as the fox’s den has innumerable exits, so does the octopus have innumerable means of escape and capture.

It is like the snake, and thereby we see Typhon here.

It is also like the labyrinth – this is the fox’s den again.

For Oppian, the octopus is ‘as a burglar… under the cover of night.’

We see in this the octopus and its use of its ink to cover its escape, but also to hide in it in order to capture prey.

For the master of cunning this is the smokescreen he/she uses to gain the required object.

…like the fox, the octopus defines a type of human behaviour…’ that one must ‘present a different aspect of oneself to each of your friends…’ like the octopus that can change colour to fit in with its environment, background.

The book also notes: ‘The octopus-like intelligence is found in two types of man’: the sophist, and the politician.

Each is an apparent contrary of the other.
Contrary, and yet also, oddly, complementary.

And here lies another aspect of cunning: as well as appearing as one thing whilst being another, he must also use both qualities where and when necessary.

The octopus is supple enough to squeeze through a chink to escape, but also solid enough to hold its prey in a hard and fast clutch.

This is known as ‘the bond and the circle’: the circular reciprocity ‘between what is bound, and what is binding‘. This can be seen in the use of the fishing net; the more one struggles, the more one becomes ensnared.

Ten centuries separate Homer from Oppian – throughout this period can be cited a number of examples of this complex of ideas.

The underground den of the fox, and the sea environment of the octopus, throw up a metaphysic where gods and goddesses rule mankind’s fortunes.

The fox is decidedly chthonic, he has the qualities of the old gods of the race of Chronos, the Giants/Titans etc, the pre-Olympians. He is a emissary from Chaos, where ‘there is no up, or down, no side to side’: the unformed space, brimming with potential, but not active as such.


– So much like a definition of the astrophysicist’s ‘Quantum soup’.
Uncanny? Or is there a.cultural/educational link in the imagery?

This is the state of mind of the master of metis: all awaits its birth in the intent, concentration, and single-mindedness, of the hunter/master of cunning.

The octopus lives in the sea, medium of the goddess Thetis. She has similar properties to those which Metis had.

The fate of Metis may also answer what happened to the biblical  Lilith; they did seem to share many qualities, and most of these centred around closeness of identification with animals.
The realm of Middle-eastern demons does not seem to have its counterpart in Greek culture.

It also answers the question Why. Why what?
Why Aeschylus fell foul of the Orphics for supposedly betraying their secrets in his play Agamemnon. For Cunning was claimed by the later Orphics as theirs.
I could suggest it has a kindred spirit in Bacchus, also.

You know what that means. Now I am going to have to dig out Euripedes’ The Bacchae from about thirty years ago, and re-read it in this light!

I would suggest the violation of Orphic secrets was in Aeschylus’ use of the net:

Agamemnon returned home after ten years at Ilium. In the meantime his wife, Clytemnestra, had taken another lover.
Added to, or because of, that, in order to gain a favourable wind to take their ships across to Ilium in the first place, Agamemnon was advised to make a personal sacrifice to the gods. He chose his own daughter Iphigenia.

Quite rightly, Clytemnestra was inconsolable. And so the consequences would be terrible.

When he arrived home after ten years Clytemnestra was well prepared – she had made ready a pathway strewn with royal purple. He walked over this, in effect insulting the gods by setting himself on their level.

This was planned. His next error was take the obligatory bath prepared for him as all weary travellers of renown did. In the bath she snared him with a net, and then he was killed.

There began a terrible period of retribution we know as The Orestia.

Clytemnestra was a mistress of cunning: she planned this long in advance; she made it look as though Agamemnon had violated honour to the gods (the purpled path), and she used trickery to ensnare him with the net, used honeyed words to lure him. The deed, though, was committed by Clytemnestra.
Cunning specifies that a third person should do the deed, whilst the possible suspect, herself, gives herself a solid alibi.

The hacker who ricochets his signal throughout the world communication system is a modern practitioner of cunning.

It is these lapses from the absolute, that Greek drama is all about.

I have given two instances of users of cunning connected with The Iliad; the third, of course, is Odysseus, master of tricks. Who knows how many more are yet to be found.

One last note: for the master of cunning, it is only a matter of time before he is revealed, makes an error, or is supplanted.
The master of cunning may seem to be laying low, but he is constantly on the go, obliterating traces, changing habitat, watchful, always watchful. He does not drop his guard. Ever.

A Bintel Brief, by Liana Finck. Published by Harper Collins Books, 2014.
$17.99 paperback. ISBN 978-0-06-229161-5.

Liana Finck is a cartoonist and illustrator. She published A Bintel Brief as an illustrated book, in 2014.

What does the phrase mean? It is Yiddish for ‘a collection of letters.’ A Bintel Brief, the book as we have it here, is in fact a taster, an introduction to the earlier and more complete publication of the collection of letters that were originally published in the Yiddish newspaper Der Forverts/The Forward, from 1906 onwards.

Liana Finck’s book is subtitled Love and Longing in Old New York. The newspaper the letters are taken from was the main Yiddish newspaper for the European diaspora of Jewish and others from Europe at the turn of the 20thCentury. The letters are an important part of the history of New York.
There are many current books exploring the periods of early 20th Century New York. This is an important addition.

Liana Finck’s book also plays with perspectives.
She frames her book with the illustrated story of her relationship with the letter-page creator, editor of the newspaper, Abraham Cahan. It opens with the discovery of a notebook of newspaper clippings in Yiddish, which she could not read, at her grandparents’s house. She was later sent the notebook.
Abraham Cahan rises into her modern world from the letters; he tries on new clothes’ styles.
Which is he, now?

We read here the questioning of what the letters could mean to our modern sensibilities.
She gives six letters from the collection.
Read and discover.

The Watch, for example – this is the door-opener.
A poor Jewish family in a run-down apartment block in 1900s New York. They scrimp and save, go without, in order to buy… a watch. A watch? ‘From now on,’ the mother says, we will not starve again. We will have something to pawn to buy food, when the times are hard.’

And then the watch goes missing.  She swears, she writes in her letter, she can hear it ticking in her neighbour’s room. But they are worse off than they are. They had no watch to pawn.
What should she do?

In a way the answer Abraham Cahan gives does not matter, what matters is the humanity of the woman: they are worse off… what should she do ie that does not leave them even more worse off?
That is what we get from the letters: the humanity of people.

Liana Fink suggests we go to the collected letters and read and read. 
Here, humanity is wide open to us.

Maybe she should have reported her neighbor to the police? If you think so, then read The Former Assistant Detective.
A young man, trainee detective. His boss is very pleased with his progress. He would earn his badge soon.
How about this little job? He has to trap a certain restaurant owner selling liquor. He poses as a customer, orders a meal and Scnapps. It is all delivered. As he goes to confront the owner; he looks around: there are the owner’s wife and children, emaciated. They were barely paying their way. How could he possibly report them? It would have broken them.
He confronted the ex-waiter not paid his wages, who reported them. He got the man his money, and he in turn dropped the case.
If this was to be his job, though….
The editor replied to this letter, saying guard against… ‘sinking into the corruption of immoral police practices.’

The downtrodden always bear the brunt of institutionalised corrupt practices.
And so it still goes on.

You could say that his mode of conduct there was proper policing, real policing, community policing. Ah, but that was 1906/7.

So what of humour? Try Nasye Frug, and the wedding presents. 
Every letter has its own wide range of emotions.

Liana Finck’s illustrations really bring it all to life. Her illustrations are clear, atmospheric, succinct.  
As we read we picture bits, get impressions. Liana Fink has researched properly; through her illustrations we get authentic detail, we actually ‘see’ properly what we read.

I mentioned earlier that perspectives shift.
Here we have six letters from a whole collection. Of these six Liana Fink has edited and shaped their content and style to the book’s format.
And then she tops it all by having the editor, Abraham Cahan, say that he actually wrote some of the letters.
What! 
He needed to fill space, maybe. But he used actual life incidents, lost experiences, unresolved cases.

In this connection she has him say, one day, in The Bobalink when asked what the bird had taught him:
‘For the first time in my life I knew who I was (and who I wasn’t): 
I was not an advice-giver, not really; 
I was not a newspaper editor, either; 
I was not a story-writer. I was not a novel-writer. 
I was not a socialist. I was not a capitalist. I was not a Yiddishist. I was not an American or Lithuanian or a Jew. 
I was a birdwatcher!’

That is, he was an obsessive, and yet meticulous in his observations. He was avid, compulsive, and revelled in all the varieties of life before him.
But this was fiction. 
Or is it the fact on which fiction is based?

I became so enthused about this book, I now have had to stop myself saying: you must read The Melancholy Cantor! Or, the illustrations to Father? are outsTANding.

All I can say is the humanity of the people shines out of their letters, even now.
No matter what clothes they wear.

Not only that, but you also get a traditional soup recipe!

For more on Liana Finck, see:

https://lianafinck.com

On the 7th day of the 7th month, every year, is the Tanabata Festival in Japan.
Why only then?
It is all based a story from early Japan.

This is the story, one of the many, connected with the Milky Way in the night sky. In Japan it is known as the River of the Sky.

It is the story of two lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi, who represent the stars Vega, and Altair. They are only allowed to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month, every year, at the River of the Sky.
It is a based on poems in the Manyoshu volume, ‘Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves’.  It can be traced back, in turn, to an old Chinese tale, The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd. The corresponding Chinese festival is the Qixi Festival, of the 7th of the 7th.

The Weaver Girl,  was, of course, a princess, and… was she weaving the pattern of the stars and constellations? Her father grew concerned that in her lonely profession she was not able to meet any young men. He invited the cowherd (who herded the cows of heaven?), to meet her.

The meeting went very well, and in time they fell in love. They were able to marry.
On marriage, however, they neglected their duties.
It was thought best for all if they were separated, and only allowed to meet once a year. On meeting, though, they found themselves on opposite sides of the Sky River. Orihime wept so much and so hard that a flock of magpies took pity, flew down and made her a bridge with their wings.

If it rains on the seventh day of the seventh month, though, the magpies may not be able to come.

Tonight he takes his one journey of the year
             Over the Heavenly River, passing Yasu Beach –
He, the love-lorn Oxherd longing for his maid,
Whom he can never see but once a year,
Though from the beginning of heaven and earth
They have have stood face to face across the Heavenly River

……………………………………………………………………………………….
 Tonight, this seventh night of the seventh moon – 
Strangely it thrills my heart.

(excerpted from: Japanese Love Poems, Selections from the Manyoshu. Edited by Evan Bates, Dover Publications Inc., 2005)

People write messages, poems, prayers, and hang them from trees on this day.

Astronomically, on this date, the distance between Vega, part of the Harp constellation, and Altair, The Eagle constellation, is bridged by a group of stars called The Coathanger, more properly Brocchi’s cluster.
This arrangement forms a straight line with a few dotted stars above this in the centre.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brocchi%27s_Cluster

600px-Collinder_399_Paslieres_2007_08_05

Is this Hikoboshi’s boat?

johan-huizinga

I’d been email-chatting with an historian, one of a new group, with their own angle, agenda, their own name. I signed off saying I was just going to re-read some Huizinga.
And that was it. I did not hear from him again.
I had gone beyond the Pale.

That is the problem with Academies, they become so culty, hemmed-in with codes and etiquettes. I had obviously mentioned an historian who was not ‘in’ with their group.
I was going to re-read him because I found so much of value there. But it wasn’t what they valued.
He did it differently.
Heaven forbid.

Johan Huizinga is mostly known in the English-speaking world for his magisterial The Waning of the Middle Ages – the more correct title, apparently, is The Autumn of the Middle Ages – published in 1924. It is this book made the man’s name. He became a leading Dutch, indeed European, historian.

His dates are 1872 to 1945.
That last date in particular I want you to note: died February, 1945. He had been interned in 1942 after criticism of the invasion forces. Eventually, after much clamour and agitation by the international history community, he was released. He was released in that terrible winter of 1944/5.
It is now estimated that 10,000 Dutch people died that winter, after the Nazi’s cut off food and energy supply lines, in retaliation. As the Allied forces moved through France, the Belgian and Dutch citizens could see liberation so near, so inevitable. They cheered them on. When the advance was stalled in the Ardennes, the Nazi’s took their revenge.

He began his academic career as a student of Indo-Germanic languages; he then studied comparative linguistics. He taught Oriental Studies for many years. It was not until his 30s he turned to medieval studies. Here he excelled.

His book on the later middle ages gives us the clamour and spectacle of the period, the life-lived-in-public aspect.
He also fills in with some of the gaps in current information on, for instance, such figures as Georges Chastellain, and others grouped as the grands rhetoriqueurs:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grands_Retoriqueurs.
This gives us, in turn, the real nature of the much acclaimed period. In this book he sets the increasing brutality and violence of the time against its constructed images of courtois and chivalry.
The book investigates the Burgundian Court in its positioning as potential alternate power-base to the royal court.
Professor Ralph Strom-Olsen of Madrid University, put up a very interesting paper on this: Georges Chastellain and the Language of Burgundian Historiography, that is available on Academia.edu from http://fs.oxfordjournals.org/

He has other books, influential in modern fields. Take Gaming – for this the ‘go to’ book is his Homo Ludens, published 1938.
Homo Ludens puts forward, and illustrates, the theory that our main and enduring activities as civilized people, is a form of play, serious play; that is, play with rules.
He traces word games as the origins of rhetoric, to Cicero’s monumental legal disputes; he sees here also the dress-up aspect in legal and royal court costume.

Playing and Knowing is an intriguing chapter, challenging us to consider acquisition of knowledge, experimentation, indeed logic, as forms of play-activity.
How can we know anything until we put aside certainty, the known, and step out into maybe-land? But this play is deadly serious: riddle-solving, the penalty of death, are part and parcel of the game.

The point is, he stimulates thought, he makes us look at our institutions differently.
The range of this subject can be seen to refer us back to to the subject of Professor Huizinga’s first PhD: The Role of the Jester in Indian Drama.
https://gamingconceptz.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/huizingas-magic-circle.html

You can go to the crazy end and cite the late 1960’s Playpower ideals here. Oz Magazine founder, Richard Neville’s book, Playpower, was the bible for attempts at neutralizing governments and their powers through play, through the skewing of seriousness and power politics, by returning to origins, and seeing what all its accumulated kudos really was.

Another book of his well worth searching out is Men and Ideas, first published in translation in 1959.
This collection of essays is concerned with ‘the task of cultural history.’
The books have dated, that is, their range of subject matter and methods of treatment, have been left behind by modern tastes.
But the general reader will not find a more stimulating essay on Peter Abelard, than this.

His essay on John of Salisbury is also outstanding.
Who was he? He was a 12th Century English cleric, who became apologist for Thomas a Beckett. From modest beginnings he worked his way up, studying under Peter Abelard, was secretary to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Theobald; he even met who was to become known as St Bernard of Clairvaux.
John’s main legacy to us, however, is his Policraticus; the study is a slice of his time.
http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/source/salisbury-poli4.html
Chaucer valued it highly for its political relevance, its clear thinking, its civil conscience.

His essay on Erasmus, which was the heart of the collection… is it the translation? No; I think Johan Huizinga became exasperated with his subject. The reader comes away with the impression he blamed him for wasting his opportunities, for not being as good as he should have been.

I would dearly love to give as much information on his wife, Mary Schorer.

maryshuiz
Her story must be as fascinating, and as eventful.

Their son, Leonard Huizinga, became a prolific and popular Dutch novelist, with his comedic Adriaan and Olivier series.
There is also another son, of whom I can find nothing.

See also:
http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/history/historian/johan_huizinga.html

 

One of the pleasures of library-exploring is turning up the odd document like this.

In a history of the local region (I am not from the area, and so it still had its strangeness) I came across a first-hand account of the entry of the Jacobite Rebels of 1745, into a small town in East Cheshire (Macclesfield).
I have excerpted as follows, keeping to the printed orthography the best that I can with a modern keyboard:

… the next morning [Sunday], the 1st instant [December, 1745], about 10 o’clock, we had notice from the country people that the Rebells were within a quarter of a mile of the town.

………………………………………………………………………

   When the first emotion of my own fright was a little abated, I ventured to peep out of a Garret window, but seeing my wife and her two sisters below at the Gates shame roused my courage, and I ventured to stand by ‘em, and saw the whole army pass by my own door, except a regiment of Horse commanded by Lord Elcho,
(https://www.electricscotland.com/books/david_lord_elcho.htm)

and some forces which came in late. But those I saw the next day. The quarter-masters first came into town, who, with their guard, were about 20 in number. They rode to the Cross and enquired for the constables.
…………………………………………………….. They enquir’d for Sir P Davenport’s house…
( he was away) …. and soon afterwards rode to his house, and after viewing it inside and out, marked the door with the word ‘Prince.’ I had now so much valour that I ventured to speak to one of ‘em, and enquir’d wt number of forces wo’d be in Town that day. He answ’d 10,000, upon wch I returned home much dismayed.
Immediately afterwds came in a regiment of Horse by way of advance guard, said to be commanded by the Duke of Perth ……………………………………
This regiment seem’d to be very poorly mounted. I believe for the most part were on such horses as they pickt up… but many of the men were lusty clever fellows. Not long after this, came foot in very regular order, with Bagpipes playing instead of drums, the colonels marching at the head of each respective regiment. And all the forces, as well as Horse and Foot, were in Highland dress, except the Bodyguards, which wore blue trimmed with red.
After about 4 or 5 Regiments had passed us by it was said the Prince was coming up…. and it happen’d that a halt was made just opposite my door for a minute or two, which gave us full opportunity of having a full view of him. He was in Highland Dress with a blue waistcote trim’d with silver, and had a blue Highland cap on, and was surrounded by almost 40 who appeared as his Guard.  He is a very handsome person of a man, rather tall, exactly proportioned, and walks very well …
He walked on foot from Manchester, as he had done, ‘tis said, all the way from Carlisle; and I believe they made their very best appearance into the Town, expecting to be received as at Manchester; but there was a profound silence, and nothing to be seen on the countenances on the Inhabitants but horror and amazement…..

… an order came to the Mayor to proclaim the Pretender… Poor Mr Mayor was obliged to be at it…They made the Town Clerk repeat the Proclamation after ‘em….

   Soon after the advanced guard came into town there was a young Lowlander (but in Highland Dress) quartered himself and horse upon us… His dress was very unpromising, but his manner shewed he had had a genteel education and was a person of some account. As he was exceeding civil, the women took courage and soon fell into discourse with him. He stood at the gate during the greater part of the procession, by which means we had an opportunity of learning the names of the Chiefs as they passed by … Many of the officers appeared very well – some few indeed were very old – in particular Glenbuckett who seemed to be 80 at the least, and bended almost double on horseback… he had been bedridden three years before the Prince’s son arrived in Scotland…
Glenbuchat:
http://glenbuchatheritage.com/picture/number2205.asp
58 John Gordon 'Old Genbucket'


Many of the common men, tho’ dirty and shabby, were lusty fellows. There were many old men amongst the common soldiers… It was dark before the artillery came in, and as it grew duskish orders were given that the inhabitants should illuminate their houses upon pain of military execution…
The young Lowlander… whilst at dinner talked pretty freely, and said Manchester was a glorious town… he said it was strange the English could not see their own interest (by not joining the Scots): We had not been joined by 5 English men since we came from Scotland, but thought if they co’d get into Wales they should be joined by many there.

……………………………………………………………………….

… My sister Molly observed that he had said nothing of his… Religion. … ‘I can assure you (his response) ‘he’s no more a Bigot in matters of religion than myself, who am a Protestant.’ My wife amongst other discourse mentioned Religion and the confusion the people were in at Church that morning when they came in. Upon which he asked her – ‘ Well Madam, and who did you pray for?’ – Says she, ‘for his Majesty King George.’ Upon which he said, ‘You did very right’; but, says she,, ‘supposing you had come here last night, should we have been interrupted in our prayers by any particular directions?’ ‘No, the Minister would have been ordered to pray for the King without naming any names, as had been done at Kendal Church the last Sunday.’

……………………………………………………………………

As to their number, there was no judging of it from their March into the town, and they seemed to be very artful in concealing their numbers. They bespoke billets for 10,000; and said 5,000 would come in next day, but for my own part I don’t think they exceed 6,000 in the whole.

 

My document breaks off here.
The distances they covered, and times given for travelling, are very interesting.

From Kendal to Macclesfield in one week.
The route is at times relatively level, but it is by no means straight, and interrupted by hilly ground: the Trough of Bowland for one, and south of Manchester rambles around the foothills of the Peak District.
The modern road system gives the distance as 92 miles.

They entered the Manchester environs on November 23rd. Here they were joined by 300 volunteers. If we compare this with the statement, We had not been joined by 5 English men since we came from Scotland, then we can only assume the volunteers were fellow Scots, or Irish workers based in Manchester.

From Macclesfield to Derby is a relatively shorter distance: 44 miles.
They arrived there on December 4 to 6th.
It was in Derby, with the absence of reinforcements, and the fabled Welsh meet-up having fallen through, that the march on London was abandoned.
Cities were hubs of a wide range of nationalities seeking work. Even so, it must have been estimated that to reach Birmingham, the next major centre on their route, would not have proved worthwhile.
By this time the English government had revived from their shock, and coordinated a counter-response.

The Prince returned to Scotland, arriving in Glasgow on 26th December.

If you follow this link it gives the route of the march from Ashbourne in Derbyshire, to Derby.

www.gps-routes.co.uk/routes/home.nsf/openmap?openform&route=bonnie-prince-charlie-walk-walking-route

As you can see it was by no means an easy or straightforward route.
I can only marvel at the stamina of those ‘lusty men.’

For the outcome, follow this link:

http://www.northumbrianjacobites.org.uk/pages/detail_page.php?id=57&section=25

It is revealing what the young Lowlander says about religion: the fear of another series of bloody Catholic-Protestant reprisals was one of the major concerns that kept English people from joining the rebellion. It was only four generations after the Civil War, and the horror of that period must have been still working its way through their collective psyches.
How reliable were his comments? Would the situation have remained so?

Scotland’s Merlin, A Medieval Legend and Its Dark Age Origins, by Tim Clarkson. Published by John Donald, of the Birlinn Limited imprint, 2016.
ISBN 97819065669991

This is a meticulously researched and even-handed investigation of the Merlin phenomenon.

Our story comes from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s book, Historia Regius Brittania, AD 1139. The Merlin and also Arthurian topics were based on early Welsh sources.Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Arthurian characters were then transformed through the French chanson de geste. Their Vulgate Cycle became a magnificent and expanding series of tales around King Arthur, his court, and chivalry, and all in a British (southern) setting.
Geoffrey of Monmouth first published a collection, Phophetiae Merlini, in AD 1130.

Geoffrey of Monmouth’s main book mentioned Merlin only marginally. He later dedicated a whole tale to his story, Vita Merlini. This tale was not as popular as the earlier book; the tale was set in southern Scotland.
Sources used the name Myrddin Wyllt, for this figure. It was this Welsh form, Myrddin, that supposedly gave the name to Carmarthen, in south Wales: Caer Myrrddin ie the castle of Myrddin.
The Merlin story also occured in earlier Irish sources.

The Scottish Merlin story dates from the 6th century AD, where the Merlin character, known as Lailoken,  runs maddened from the carnage of the battle of Arfderdd (AD 573). He lived in the forests and woods of Celibon in southern Scotland as a madman, spouting prophecies. His sister persuaded the king to help her find him and bring him back. His prophecies became famous. He later returned to the woods.

The source this Scottish tale drew upon was the St Kentigern tale of Lailoken, the madman in the woods. Connected with this tale is the 9/10 century Irish King Sweeney/Suibhne tale. Once again there is the warrior running maddened from the battle, but this time through being cursed by St Ronan. He was a prince/chieftain. There are two very moving episodes where his wife contacted him, to bring him back into the world of people. The first one Sweeney turned away from her; the second time he turned to her, but she had turned from him thinking him beyond help.
Sweeney met Lailoken, who was called Alladhan in the tale, on his sojourn in Britain. The region is identified as the south Strathclyde region.

The prophecies, Tim Clarkson, notes, were back-referenced: writers gave historical accounts of the figure, then fitted prophecies to past events (mostly AD 12th century local events).
The supernatural element to the story is an essential part, however.
The later Thomas the Rhymer legend took over a lot of the Lailoken characteristics.

The major researcher of the Merlin story was the Victorian scholar, William Forbes Skene. He went so far as to identify the site of Lailoken’s immediate locale, and supposed grave. He visited the most likely place for the tumultuous battle of Arfderydd, and identified from scattered sources the major figures of the battle.

The name can be traced back:
Merlin
Myrddin Wyllt (Myrddin the mad)
(Alladhan – Irish through the Dal Riata cultural and settlement connection)
Lailoken
Llallogan (Cumbric language)

2
What we now know of the Merlin story seems to be the remnants of a much older and more complex one.
Merlin, the wizard and prophet, was confidante of King Arthur. In old age he was lured away into the woods by Morgana La Fay/Vivian and imprisoned within a tree/cave.

It is always these three, though: the man who runs mad in the woods, the king/chief who he was close to, and the woman who is wife, sister, or lover.

There was something niggling me about framework of this tale. What did it remind me of?
It was the Gilgamesh story, all the way from 1800BCE, and what is now Iraq. Gilgamesh and his companion the wild man, Enkidu.

Tim Clarkson notes the similarity of basic theme, but not the three-person structure.

Enkidu was lured from his wild life and into Uruk with Gilgamesh, by the temple ‘prostitute’ Shamesh. On Enkidu’s death, Gilgamesh himself went wandering in Enkidu’s wilderness. He did not begin to prophesy, but he did go to seek out immortality. Already part god, he sought out the only survivor of the Flood to learn the secret of not-dying. He had to seek admittance from Siduri, the keeper of the tavern at the end of the world, to the domicile of the one survivor.
She allowed him through, but it was refused him.
One version has Gilgamesh later become a king of the Underworld, lord of the dead.

The Gilgamesh tale hinges on the roles of women: Enkidu accented to Shamhat; Gilgamesh refused the advances of love goddess Ishtar. That refusal cost him Enkidu, his state of mind, and his city of Uruk.
Gilgamesh spurned Ishtar’s advances; he sought out Siduri.

Contemporary with this tale is a tale from the Middle Egyptian period, The Tale of Sinuhe.
In this tale Sinuhe was returning from fighting in North Africa with the king’s son and their army. He overheard a messenger to the king’s son telling of the death of the king. The news caused him to lose his mind, and he wandered off. He wandered ‘like a rudderless barge’ and eventually ended up as warrior to a chieftain in what became Syria/Lebanon. Eventually he recontacted the new king, and was welcomed back to Egypt having won new territories for the king.
There is no prophesying, or seeking wisdom or secrets.

There are aspects of the tale, however, that suggest his wanderings as a vision of the realm of the dead, a traverse through the Underworld. He ‘comes forth by day’ back in Egypt of the semi-divine ruler, the new king.

 

How far can we take this?

Think of the Buddha in 5thBCE India: a prince who wanders off with other ascetics into the wilds. An extreme ascetic, he eventually accepted a bowl of food from a woman: In a famous incident, after becoming starved and weakened, he is said to have accepted milk and rice from a village girl named Sujata. Such was his emaciated appearance that she wrongly believed him to be a spirit that had granted her a wish.
He realised from this that extreme fasting was not the way, that there had to be a Middle Way – he went on to develop his Middle Way, and with followers.
Think of Jesus of Nazareth, once again in the wilderness, and preaching, praying. Think of his relationship with both Herod, and indeed, God. And think of the relationship with Mary Magdalen. Think of him spurning Satan in the wilderness.

Did both of these life stories purposely use the older tale of the madman/holy fool/seeker of mysteries in the wildness?

Ok, maybe the Jesus one is stretching it. But Wiki does give us this:

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wild_man):
The description of Nebuchadnezzar II in the Book of Daniel (2nd century BC) greatly influenced the medieval European concepts. Daniel 4 depicts God humbling the Babylonian king for his boastfulness; stricken mad and ejected from human society, he grows hair on his body and lives like a beast. This image was popular in medieval depictions of Nebuchadnezzar. Similarly, late medieval legends of Saint John Chrysostom (died 407) describe the saint’s asceticism as making him so isolated and feral that hunters who capture him cannot tell if he is man or beast.

And, of course, Esau was an hairy man.

In the Greek world the figure of Heracles seems closest to the wild man in the woods. He does seem to have similarities in some respects to the earlier Enkidu figure.
The Roman world gives us Silvanus – although, as protector of woods, there is an echo here of the role of Humbaba, the cedar wood ogre of the Gilgamesh tale.

There are copious examples of ‘wild man’ tales – some become blended with other tales: Robin Hood, maybe even Hereward the Wake fits here. Think of William Tell. The madman element is essential, though, and these tales seem to omit that.

Where, if at all, does the Green Man figure fit into the story? He is more like the Roman Silvanus. Maybe that was the source of the Green Man legend: left-overs once again of Roman occupation, or even of Romans who stayed on after the dissolution.

What was it about the Lailoken tale that made it so memorable, though? There must have been many driven mad by battle over the centuries.
Was it the St Kentigern connection, hagiographic reverence, and the huge trade in Saint’s stories?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

/8 the tribal chief, and the wife/sister/lover?