Category Archives: History

Cubeer Burr, the Great Banyan Tree, and the Gymnosophists

Cubeer Burr The Great Banyan Tree by James Phillips
Cubeer Burr The Great Banyan Tree painted by James Phillips

Reposting this from 2011

A famed Banyan tree called in India “Cubeer Burr” was found on an island in the river Nerbedda, “ten miles from the city of Baroach, in the province of Guzzurat, a flourishing settlement formerly in possession of the East India Company, but ceded by the government of Bengal at the treaty of peace concluded with the Mahrattas in 1783, to Mahadjee, a Mahratta chief.

“Cubeer Burr is famed throughout Hindostan for its prodigious extent, ntiquity and great beauty. The Indian armies often encamp around it; and, at certain seasons, solemn Jattras or Hindoo festivals are held here, to which thousands of votaries repair from various parts of the Mogul empire.
Seven thousand persons, it is said, may easily repose under its shade. There is a tradition among the natives, that this tree is three thousand years old; and there is great reason to believe it, and that it is this amazing tree that Arrian describes when speaking of the gymosophists in his book of Indian affairs. These people, he says, in summer wear no clothing. In winter they enjoy the benefit of the sun’s rays in the open air; and in summer, when the heat becomes excessive, they pass their time in moist and marshy places under large trees, which according to Nearchus, cover a circumference of five acres, and extend their branches so far that ten thousand men may easily find shelter under them” – from Cultus Arborum by Anonymous published privately in 1890, sourced from Project Gutenberg

Read more from this book on tree worship at Project Gutenberg

The Banyan as Temple to the Gymnosophists

1825. — “Near this village was the finest banyan-tree which I had ever seen, literally a grove rising from a single primary stem, whose massive secondary trunks, with their straightness, orderly arrangement, and evident connexion with the parent stock, gave the general effect of a vast vegetable organ. The first impression which I felt on coming under its shade was, ‘What a noble place of worship!’” — Heber, ii. 93 (ed. 1844).

Kristen Szumyn in her article “The Barbarian wisdom of the ‘theoi andres” : a study of the relationship between spatial marginality and social alterity” writes (after Clement of Alexandria): “Herodotus associates the possession of ‘wisdom’ (sophias) and ‘knowledge’ (philosopheon) with one who has extensively ‘travelled’ (planes) to foreign lands. Such a person is counted amongst the saphistai, the wise men or teachers. The Greek philosopher’s visit to foreign countries was a doxographical and biographical topos specifically associated with the attainment of wisdom.

The philosophical and religious wisdom attained by such travellers was essentially ‘barbarian’.

As Diogenes Laertius noted:

The later Neoplatonic tradition held that ‘the study of philosophy had its beginning among the barbarians… the Persians have their Magi, the Babylonians or Assyrians their Chaldeans, and the Indians and their Gymnosophists; and among the Celts and Gauls there are the people called Druids or Holy Ones. These marginalised religious teachers and transmitters of spiritual wisdom are associated with the geographical and social periphery of society. This geographical marginality of the wise man is particularly evident in the Neoplatonic tradition of late antiquity; however this notion of the association between the sage and oriental or barbarian wisdom was a concept well established even in early Greek thought.”

Gymnosophists is the name (meaning “naked philosophers”) given by the Greeks to certain ancient Indian philosophers who pursued asceticism to the point of regarding food and clothing as detrimental to purity of thought (sadhus or yogis). 

The Digambar Jain monks in India even now remain unclothed; they have been identified as the gymnosophists by several researchers. Xuanzang mentions having come across Digambar Jain monks in Taxila during his 7th century CE visit to India in the same Punjab region where Alexander The Great encountered the gymnosophists.”

Plutartch wrote of Alexander’s meeting in the First Century with 10 Gymnosophists in the Punjab:

“He (Alexander) captured ten of the Gymnosophists who had done most to get Sabbas to revolt, and had made the most trouble for the Macedonians. These philosophers were reputed to be clever and concise in answering questions, and Alexander therefore put difficult questions to them, declaring that he would put to death him who first made an incorrect answer, and then the rest, in an order determined in like manner; and he commanded one of them, the oldest, to be the judge in the contest.

The first one, accordingly, being asked which, in his opinion, were more numerous, the living or the dead, said that the living were, since the dead no longer existed.

The second, being asked whether the earth or the sea produced larger animals, said the earth did, since the sea was but a part of the earth.

The third, being asked what animal was the most cunning, said: “That which up to this time man has not discovered.”

The fourth, when asked why he had induced Sabbas to revolt, replied: “Because I wished him either to live nobly or to die nobly.”

The fifth, being asked which, in his opinion, was older, day or night, replied: “Day, by one day”; and he added, upon the king expressing amazement, that hard questions must have hard answers.

Passing on, then, to the sixth, Alexander asked how a man could be most loved; “If,” said the philosopher, “he is most powerful, and yet does not inspire fear.”

Of the three remaining, he who was asked how one might become a god instead of man, replied: “By doing something which a man cannot do”; the one who was asked which was the stronger, life or death, answered: “Life, since it supports so many ills.” And the last, asked how long it were well for a man to live, answered: “Until he does not regard death as better than life.”

So, then, turning to the judge, Alexander bade him give his opinion.

The judge declared that they had answered one worse than another. “Well, then,” said Alexander, “thou shalt die first for giving such a verdict.”

“That cannot be, O King,” said the judge, “unless thou falsely saidst that thou wouldst put to death first him who answered worst.”

—Plutarch, Life of Alexander, “The parallel lives,” 64.,

A selection of references to the Banyan tree:
c. A.D. 70. — “First and foremost, there is a Fig — tree there (in India) which beareth very small and slender figges. The propertie of this Tree, is to plant and set it selfe without mans helpe. For it spreadeth out with mightie armes, and the lowest water-boughes underneath, do bend so downeward to the very earth, that they touch it againe, and lie upon it: whereby, within one years space they will take fast root in the ground, and put foorth a new Spring round about the Mother-tree: so as these braunches, thus growing, seeme like a traile or border of arbours most curiously and artificially made,” &c. — Plinies Nat. Historie, by Philemon Holland, i. 360.

1624.-
” … The goodly bole being got
To certain cubits’ height, from every side
The boughs decline, which, taking root afresh,
Spring up new boles, and these spring new, and newer,
Till the whole tree become a porticus,
Or arched arbour, able to receive
A numerous troop.”
Ben Jonson, Neptune’s Triumph.

c. 1650. — “Near to the City of Ormus was a Bannians tree, being the only tree that grew in the Island.” — Tavernier, Eng. Tr. i. 255.

1667.-
“The fig-tree, not that kind for fruit renown’d;
But such as at this day, to Indians known,
In Malabar or Decan spreads her arms
Branching so broad and long, that in the ground
The bended twigs take root, and daughters grow
About the mother-tree, a pillar’d shade
High over-arch’d, and echoing walks between. ” Paradise Lost, ix. 1101.

1691. — “About a (Dutch) mile from Gamron … stands a tree, heretofore described by Mandelslo and others… . Beside this tree is an idol temple where the Banyans do their worship.” — Valentijn, v. 267-8.

1717.-
“The fair descendants of thy sacred bed
Wide — branching o’er the Western World shall spread,
Like the fam’d Banian Tree, whose pliant shoot
To earth ward bending of itself takes root,
Till like their mother plant ten thousand stand
In verdant arches on the fertile land;
Beneath her shade the tawny Indians rove,
Or hunt at large through the wide-echoing grove.”
Tickell, Epistle from a Lady in England tò a Lady in Avignon.

1771. — “… being employed to con- struct a military work at the fort of Triplasore (afterwards called Marsden’s Bastion) it was necessary to cut down a banyan-tree which so incensed the brahmans of that place, that they found means to poison him” (i.e. Thomas Marsden of the Madras Engineers). — Mem. of W. Marsden, 7-8.

1810.-
“In the midst an aged Banian grew.
It was a goodly sight to see
That venerable tree,
For o’er the lawn, irregularly spread,
Fifty straight columns propt its lofty head;
And many a long depending shoot,
Seeking to strike its root,
Straight like a plummet grew towards the ground,
Some on the lower boughs which crost their way,
Fixing their bearded fibres, round and round,
With many a ring and wild contortion wound;
Some to the passing wind at times, with sway
Of gentle motion swung;
Others of younger growth, unmoved, were hung
Like stone-drops from the cavern’s fretted height.”
Southey, Curse of Kehama, xiii. 51. [Southey takes his account from Williamson, Orient. Field Sports, ii. 113.]

1834. — “Cast forth thy word into the everliving, everworking universe; it is a seed — grain that cannot die; unnoticed today, it will be found flourishing as a banyangrove — (perhaps alas! as a hemlock forest) after a thousand years.” — Sartor Resartus.

1856.-
“… its pendant branches, rooting in the air,
Yearn to the parent earth and grappling fast,
Grow up huge stems again, which shooting forth
In massy branches, these again despatch
Their drooping heralds, till a labyrinth
Of root and stem and branch commingling, forms
A great cathedral, aisled and choired in wood.”
The Banyan Tree, a Poem.

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Re-enchanting the Winter Solstice: an invitation – The Art of Enchantment by Sharon Blackie

“Turn on the radio or the TV, and we’re deluged by ads urging us to buy, buy, buy. Burn the planet, so that for one lunatic day of the year we can wear red hats and snowflake-embroidered sweaters and drink and eat more than is moral, frankly, and imagine everything is perfect and there’s nothing wrong with us – we’re all quite sane, honestly, and we’re sure the planet will be just fine. But we don’t need to ask for whom the jingle bells toll: they’re tolling for us – have been for decades – and still we can’t seem to help ourselves. Buy, buy, buy. If ever we needed to reinvent our approach to this season, it’s now. Because that’s what we’re supposed to be acknowledging and celebrating here: the season.”

“Whatever other religious rites and symbols might have been bolted onto it, this winter holiday is about winter, and all of the things that are happening around us at this time of the year. Very specifically, it’s about a real astronomical event which happens every year: the Winter Solstice. Winter Solstice happens during the shortest day and longest night of the year, when the sun’s elevation in the sky is at its lowest. The word ‘solstice’ literally means ‘sun stands still’, for at this time the sun appears to halt in its incremental journey across the sky and to change little in position. ‘Winter Solstice’, then, actually refers to a single moment; for this reason, other words are often used for the day itself: ‘midwinter’, or simply ‘the shortest day’.”

At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards;
at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement.
And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered.
Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline.
Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

from ‘Burnt Norton’, T.S. Eliot

“The significance of Winter Solstice is two-fold: it’s the darkest point of the year, and yet it’s also the moment at which we begin the journey back from that long darkness and into the slow, sometimes painful but ultimately joyous, return of the light. For most people today, Winter Solstice is at best a curiosity, and at worst a complete irrelevance. But it wasn’t always so.”

“There are many myths and stories about the birth and rebirth of gods which occur at this time, and about battles between the darkness and the light. Here on the westernmost fringes of Europe, we know that Winter Solstice was significant to our ancestors because of the great monuments which were built to acknowledge it: monuments which were aligned to the sunrise on the day of the Solstice (at Newgrange in Ireland and Maes Howe in Orkney, for example). Fires used to be lit at midwinter to welcome the return of the light: the death of the old sun and the rebirth of the new. And lighting those fires was an act of faith, because Winter Solstice occurs at the height of what was historically a time of great uncertainty: starvation, disease and death was common during the cold and barren winter months.Our ancestors may have lived in the long-ago faraway, but the great cycles of the planet and the great cycles of the natural world are just as relevant to us today as they ever were.”

“‘Modern’ as we imagine ourselves to be, there is something in each of us which still fears the long dark, and Death seems always to stalk us here, in these shadowy days between Samhain and Imbolg. Once we understood these patterns, and the teachings which follow the rise and fall of the year. But once we were married to the land, and understood many things which now are lost.I think it’s time we began to understand them again.Perhaps we’ve abandoned our focus on the season because we fear the long dark. And the long dark is fearful because we’re afraid that one day, the light won’t return after all. Our logos-obsessed intellect tells us that it couldn’t be so – but the mythos which lives on in our imagination and physical senses knows that it’s perfectly possible that it won’t. In this time of global darkness, that fear is more visceral than ever.

And on a more personal note, we know full well that one day we won’t wake up to the light; one day we’ll get permanently stuck in the dark, and die.The dark might be fearful, but it’s part of life. And like all parts of a well-lived life, there’s a richness and a beauty in it which offers both revelation and transformation. Our unease in the dark reflects our fear of endings, as well as our anxieties about new beginnings – and it’s a natural enough response. It’s not something to be avoided: it’s a sign that we’re still breathing, still alive to the world around us. It’s time to stop shuffling through the dark days, medicating ourselves with excess. It’s time to become fully alive to the world around us. It’s time to fully engage with the season.

And yes, for our ancestors, midwinter was very much a time for feasting. The animals had been gathered in, and after months of hard work in the spring, summer and autumn fields, now it was time to rest. But although they might have known the value of a good feast, our ancestors also knew when to stop. They knew when enough was enough, and how to hold the sacred balance between give and take which maintains life for all.”

“We do not know these things any longer; we’ve forgotten, and forgotten well. We buy our toys and gadgets, and use them like sawdust to fill up the gaping emptiness at our centre. And then we wonder why Christmas is always such a disappointment – why it never quite seems to live up to the promises the advertisers made to us. Where was the snow, and where were the reindeer, and the glittering stars in a truly dark night sky? Where was the real, fully lived magic?

And, focused as we always are on assuaging our own all-too-human alienation from the living world around us; and fixating at all costs – at any cost – on our messed-up relationships or emotional ‘process’ or our tortuous pathways to personal ‘wellbeing’, we certainly don’t make time to grieve for the polar bears starving in the Arctic due to man-made climate change, or to think about what we might conceivably do to stop it. We just buy another plastic-wrapped bauble, and say to hell with the oceans: it’s Christmas.”

“So it’s okay to feast – but only if you understand when enough is enough. And only if you’ve thought about how you’ll survive once the feasting is over, and it’s the famine road which stretches ahead. More than anything, then: before the feast, always make sure that you understand what it is to fast. Because survival depends on preparation, and preparation depends on knowing what is essential. It depends on knowing how to find out what is essential, and that means letting the long, cold dark strip you down to the bare bones. Let winter strip you bare like an old oak tree. Let the final leaves that you’re clinging onto fall. Let it all fall, and see what still keeps you standing.”

“Winter Solstice is a time of renewal. It’s a time to immerse ourselves in the cycles of nature: of death and rebirth, of darkness and light. It’s a time to think about change and transformation, and to appreciate the still point in the rich, fecund dark before the next cycle gets fully underway. Above all, it’s a time to step out of your head sometimes and let your body – that soft, honest animal part of you – fully embrace the long, cold dark. Without that, you can have no real understanding of what the light even means. So promise yourself this, today: that through the rest of this winter season, you’ll stay awake to the land around you, and to the nonhuman others who inhabit it with you. And that, when the light returns and the famine days are over, and the great cycle of growth begins again, you’ll braid yourself a wedding ring from newly cut rushes, and marry yourself to the land.”

By Dr Sharon Blackie: writer, psychologist, mythologist

Source: Re-enchanting the Winter Solstice: an invitation – The Art of Enchantment

William Stukeley’s 1740 book on Stonehenge online 

Harvard University Library hosts a digitised copy of William Stukeley’s 1740 book, Stonehenge, a temple restor’d to the British Druids. Printed in London in 1740 the book includes more than 30 illustrations showing how Stonehenge appeared when Stukeley visited it in the early 18th century, along with his theories concerning the monument’s origins and use.

Image: Prospect of STONEHENGE from the southwest from William Stukeley’s, Stonehenge, a temple restor’d to the British Druids, Harvard University Library

 

https://iiif.lib.harvard.edu/manifests/view/drs:46626364$68b

The Forgotten Treehouse Bars of Bygone Summers in Paris

Many years ago when I was very young, a genteel old gentleman asked me my name, and I was so young that I gave him my full name. My surname was Robinson, and the old man told me that he had dined at a restaurant at the top of a tree, in Paris, and the restaurant was called Robinson. I remember thinking he was just being silly, to amuse me. After all, how could there be a restaurant in a tree? And why would anyone call a restaurant “Robinson”?

So I was flabberghasted when a post appeared in one my newsfeeds on social media.

robinson4-930x631

“Les Guinguettes de Robinson was the place to be in the summer of the 1850s. Parisians descended to the small district south of the city en masse to relax high up in the branches of chestnut trees and dance in the forest. It all began in 1848 in the hamlet of St. Eloi when an inkeeper was inspired by the popular myth of Robinson Crusoe.”

robinson17-930x600

He created a restaurant perched in an old Chestnut tree he called the Grand Robinson. It was an instant success and competing taverns and restaurants multiplied quickly, adopting the same Crusoe theme along the Rue Malabry. In 1888, “Le Grand Robinson”, not to be confused with “the Grand Arbre”, which set up shop just opposite, had to change its name to “Le Vrai Arbre de Robinson” (the Real Tree Robinson”), in order to set itself apart from the competition.

Customers in chestnut treehouses were served lunch of roast chicken and champagne, their meals hoisted up to them in baskets via rope pulley systems. In 1855, a food critic wrote that ‘lavish tables were set and lovebirds without feathers but forks in hand exchanged happy kisses in the breeze, witnessed only by the foliage’.

 

pavillonlafontaine

For Parisians who couldn’t flock to the seaside during the summer months (but could now escape the city thanks to the expansion of the “suburban” railway lines around Paris in the late 1850s), Les Guingettes de Robinson provided a uniquely enchanting and exotic summer adventure. For over a century, this Robinson Crusoe Village was a Parisian paradise.

For many more photos and the history of what happened to these restaurants, see Messy Nessy Chic The Treehouse Restaurants of Bygone Paris

I reckon the old man must have been a very dapper young gent when he visited, and I envy him those memories of dining in a tree top in Paris.

 

Tree Folklore: Birch, the Lady of the Wood – Jo Woolf

All images © 2016 Jo Woolf

(from Tree Folklore: Birch, the Lady of the Wood – #FolkloreThursday)

Beith’ or birch is the first symbol of the Ogham alphabet, representing the letter ‘B’, and ancient birch woodlands are immortalised in many Gaelic place names: examples include Glen an Beithe, Allt Beithe, and Beith in Ayrshire; the old name of ‘birk’ also appears in many parts of Scotland and England. It’s interesting to note that a fungus known as witches’ broom (Taphrina betulina) grows on birch trees, causing dense clusters of short twigs that look like untidy birds’ nests. Having stimulated this sudden growth, the fungus then feeds on the new shoots without inflicting too much harm on the tree itself.Birch with witches’ broom fungus.

Traditionally, birch is said to be full of the light of the warrior-god Lugh, and the old belief in its power to drive out evil is strong and persistent: even in Victorian times, naughty schoolchildren would find themselves on the wrong end of a birch switch; and ceremonies of ‘beating the bounds’, many of which have survived into the present day, involved the ritual tapping of local boundaries with staffs of birch or willow. Cradles made from birch were believed to protect new-born babies from malicious spirits, and in the folklore of the Highlands, it was said that a pregnant cow herded with a birch stick would bear a healthy calf; and if the animal was barren, she would become fertile.

In Norse mythology, the birch was sacred to the goddesses Frigg and Freya, who are believed by some scholars to share the same origin; and in Welsh legend, the tree was linked with Blodeuwedd, the wife of Lleu Llaw Gyffes – interestingly, the Welsh equivalent of Lugh. The Irish warrior Diarmuid and his lover, Grainne, slept on beds of birch twigs when they fled from the wrath of Fionn mac Cumhaill, to whom Grainne had been promised in marriage. “The birch has always been associated with the spirits of the dead and with those that mourn, for, in sympathy with the sorrowing, ‘weeps the birch of silver bark with long dishevell’d hair’.” Trees and How They Grow by G Clarke Nuttall, 1913.

Birch can mark the threshold between this world and the next: in The Wife of Usher’s Well, an old ballad which appears in Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, a mother grieves for the loss of her three sons whom she had sent “o’er the sea” – perhaps to find their fortune in war. Superstition decreed that the dead should not be mourned for more than a year and a day, or else their restless spirits might return to haunt the living; but the woman took no heed of this advice, and in the depths of winter the ghosts of her sons appeared, wearing hats of birch to protect them from the physical world which they had left behind

Jo Woolf

  • All images © 2016 Jo Woolf

More at the Source: Tree Folklore: Birch, the Lady of the Wood – #FolkloreThursday

The lost children of Hamelin | Maria J. Pérez Cuervo

“In the year of 1284, on the day of Saints John and Paul, the 26th of June, 130 child­ren born in Hamelin were seduced by a piper, dressed in all kinds of colours, and lost at the calvary near the koppen.” The town of Hamelin hasn’t forgotten this loss. The street where, supposedly, the children were last seen is called Bungelosen­strasse: street without drums”. Even so many years after the event, no one is allowed to play music or dance there.

Oral tradition preserved and enriched the story until the Brothers Grimm included it in their compil­ation of German legends, Deutsche Sagen (1816–18). In the Grimms’ version, mediæval Hamelin is hit by a plague of rats. A seemingly hero-like figure appears, in the shape of a mysterious stranger dressed in red and yellow clothes. He promises to rid the town of the vermin, and the townsmen promise him money in exchange. The rat-catcher has a strange, almost supernatural gift: he plays a tune on his pipe that lures the rats into the river Weser, where they all drown. But, blinded by their greed, the townsmen refuse to honour their promise and pay the Piper his fee. The Piper leaves the town, plotting his revenge. When he returns to Hamelin, he wears the attire of a hunter. He plays a melody that hypnotises the children, who follow him to the mountains, never to be seen again. The cruelty of the denouément strikes us doubly, because it surpasses our expect­ations. What initially looks like a classic ‘Overcoming the Monster’ plot turns into a nightmarish tale of disproportionate revenge.

 

The main difficulty when trying to trace the roots of the legend is the lack of primary sources. The earliest surviving reference to the tragedy of Hamelin is a note in a manuscript copy of the Catena Aurea of Heinrich von Herford (c.1370), generally referred to as the Lüneburg Manuscript. According to both this manuscript and the inscription found in the Rattenfängerhaus, the events took place on 26 June 1284. There are, however, reports of scholars who accessed earlier documents that are now lost. Dutch physician and demon­ologist Johann Weyer mentioned in the fourth edit­ion of his Delusions of the Devil (1577) some of the historical sources that contained mult­iple references to the tragedy of Hamelin: “These facts are thus written in the annals of Hammel and are religiously guarded in the archives. They are to be read also in the sacred books of the Church, and to be seen in the painted panes of the same; of which fact I am an eyewitness. Besides, as confirmation of the story, the older magist­racy was accustomed to write together on its public documents: ‘in the year of Christ and in that of the going out of the children’, etc.” [1] Weyer was probably referring to the book of statutes of Hamelin, Der Donat, (c.1351), or to a collection of local historical documents called the Brade.

The Market Church in Hamelin exhibited another piece of the puzzle, a glass window dating from the 1300s depicting the stranger dressed in multicoloured clothes taking away a crowd of children dressed in white. The window was destroyed in 1660, but it inspired a 1592 watercolour by Augustin Von Moersperg that preserves its essence and represents the main geographical elements of the legend – the town, the river Weser, and the mountain, with a dark entrance to a cave.

The Black Death

Although neither the Lüneburg Manuscript nor the glass window suggest that rats played an important part in the Hamelin events, folklore has assimilated the figure of the Pied Piper with that of a rat-catcher. The first surviving reference to rodents appears in the 16th-century Zimmern Chronicle (c.1559–65), followed by Weyer’s aforementioned Delusions of the Devil, both written almost three centuries after the tragedy. If the rats were most likely a later addit­ion rather than an original element of the Hamelin episode, they gave depth to the tale and resonated in the popular imagin­ation thanks to a play of macabre symbolic associations. The image of a rat-infested mediæval town instantly brings to mind thoughts of the plague. Plagues and epi­demics have had a continuous impact on the collective imagination, taking us back to the Ten Plagues of Egypt in Exodus: biblical plagues were a punishment from God. The Piper, able to defy the curse with the power of his music, is thus invested with supernatural abilities.

In mediæval representations, Death presented himself as a skeleton wearing a colourful pied attire, a jester who always laughs last (perhaps the reportedly widespread fear of clowns – see FT226:34–41 – might even derive from this image). The Pied Piper thus becomes the lord of the rats, the Black Death (known at the time as the Great Death or simply the Pestilence) personified, and the one responsible for taking the lives of the 130 children of Hamelin.

Associations of the Piper with the Black Death aren’t limited to the subtext of the tale. The plague has also been used to contextualise the story; Jacques Demy’s 1972 film, featuring singer/songwriter Donovan as the Piper, is a good example. However, the peak of Black Death in Europe was between 1348 and 1350, that is, more than 64 years after the date of the children’s disappearance if we follow the Lüneburg Manuscript’s chronology.

City of lost children

In the earliest accounts of the Hamelin events, we are told that the children were “lost”, but not necessarily dead. The Brothers Grimm, at the end of their version, add that “some say that the children were led into a cave, and that they came out again in Transylvania,” a conclusion retained by Robert Browning in his 1842 poem The Pied Piper of Hamelin. The terms from the Lüne­burg Manuscript used to describe the place of the children’s disappearance (Calvary, Koppen), have been interpreted in different ways. Historian Hans Dobbertin assimilated the word Calvary, place of the skull, to the word Koppen, meaning head. In the Bible, Calvary or Golgotha was the place of the execution of Jesus – a mountain or a hill. This might suggest that the children of Hamelin were executed, or perhaps the word Calvary is merely used to describe the skull-like shape of a hill, like the biblical Golgotha.

Scholars such as Heinrich Spanuth, Jürgen Udolph and Dobbertin have sugg­ested that the Piper could have been an emissary sent by the ruling nobility to promote a campaign for the colonisation of Moravia, East Prussia, Pomerania or the Teutonic Lands to the East. The expression “children of Hamelin” could have been a general term for all the inhabitants of the town who listened to this brightly dressed “recruiting sergeant”, and their exodus a response to politico-economical factors.

In this light, the story of the Pied Piper might be seen to bear certain similar­ities to that of the Children’s Crusade, an extraordinary series of events that purportedly took place in 1212. In both episodes, the border between history and myth is a porous one. The Children’s Crusade appears in mediæval sources, but historians now question its authenticity. The crusade was said to have been led by a child shepherd named Nicholas, from Cologne, Germany, who preached that the purity of children would allow them to conquer the Holy Land; the legend says that they starved and died along the way.

The piper as a trickster

The scarce and enigmatic reports of the loss of an entire generation in Hamelin reverberated down the centuries. Literal interpretations of the story present the Piper as a kidnapper or a psychopathic pederast. This vision has endured in popular culture (even the 2010 remake ofNightmare on Elm Street suggests that there are some similarities between the characters of Freddy Krueger and the Piper), but its underlying idea was first expressed five centuries ago, in the work of German physicist and Humanist Jobus Fincelius (De miraculis sui Temporis, 1556), who believed that the Piper was the Devil in disguise: “Of the Devil’s power and wickedness will I here tell a true history. About 180 years ago, on S. Mary Magdalene’s Day, it came to pass at Hammel on the Weser in Saxony, that the Devil went about the streets visibly in human form, piped and allured many children, boys and girls, and led them through the town-gate towards a mountain”. [4] This idea is repeated in Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), where the Piper turns up as an example in episode two, A Digression of the nature of Spirits, bad Angels, or Devils, and how they cause Melancholy.

The 19th century romanticised the figure of the Pied Piper, just as it did other outsiders –the pirate, the gypsy, the bandit. Goethe’s 1802 poem Der Rattenfänger, clearly inspired by the Hamelin legend, presents the rat-catcher of the title as “the bard known far and wide, / The travell’d rat-catcher beside; / A man most needful to this town”. Along similar lines, the most popular retelling of all is Robert Browning’s 1849 poem, where the children of Hamelin are happy to leave a town governed by greedy, dishonourable adults. The Piper, the “travell’d rat catcher” of Goethe’s lines, arrives in Hamelin offering a fresh start for a new generation.

Appropriately setting the figure of the Piper to music (and why so late?), Goethe’s poem would, in turn, be adapted by Rom­antic composer Schubert and, later, Hugo Wolf. The Romantic take on the Piper contains an idea that has proved unsurprisingly appealing to musicians: the transformation of youth by a mysterious outsider who has inherited the musical skills of Orpheus or Pan  – a theme that’s been revisited by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, Megadeth and even ABBA.

Over more than 700 years, the Pied-Piper of Hamelin has become an archetypal Trickster figure (see FT175:40–41; 185:53–55). The Trickster is known for challenging the establishment, breaking the rules and spreading anarchy. In his dual nature, he can be seen as malignant or mischievous, but he is also a messenger of the gods and an agent and symbol of transformation. The Pied Piper, like the Trickster, is a shape-shifter who wears a number of different masks – the psychopath, the hero, the rebel… even Death himself. Like Shakespeare’s Puck or Barrie’s Peter Pan, he spreads a net of enchantment, leading our children to the Otherworld. Whether this Otherworld was a new land to colonise, an altered state of consciousness or the realm of the dead remains a mystery.

[note: this is an abridged version of the original article – please follwo the link for the full article]

[note too! I can’t find a credit for this image of the Pied Piper, but I love his cloak here! If anyone knows the source of the image, please let me know and I’ll add it – Jaq]

Source: The lost children of Hamelin | Maria J. Pérez Cuervo

Chirologia, or The Natural Language of the Hand (1644) | The Public Domain Review

handlanguage

Is gesture a universal language? When lost for words, we point, wave, motion and otherwise use our hands to attempt to indicate meaning. However, much of this form of communication is intuitive and is not generally seen to be, by itself, an effective substitution for speech.

John Bulwer (1606 – 1656), an English doctor and philosopher, attempted to record the vocabulary contained in hand gestures and bodily motions and, in 1644, published Chirologia, or the Naturall Language of the Hand alongside a companion text Chironomia, or the Art of Manual Rhetoric, an illustrated collection of hand and finger gestures that were intended for an orator to memorise and perform whilst speaking.

For Bulwer, gesture was the only from of speech that was inherently natural to mankind, and he saw it as a language with expressions as definable as written words. He describes some recognisable hand gestures, such as stretching out hands as an expression of entreaty or wringing them to convey grief, alongside more unusual movements, including pretending to wash your hands as a way to protest innocence, and to clasp the right fist in the left palm as a way to insult your opponent during an argument.

Although Bulwer’s theory has its roots in classical civilisation, from the works of Aristotle, he was inspired by hundreds of different works, including biblical verses, medical texts, histories, poems and orations, in order to demonstrate his conclusions.

Source: Chirologia, or The Natural Language of the Hand (1644) | The Public Domain Review

The Cave Dwellers of Tinker’s Cave

The cave is down a steep and rocky climb on the east side of the island, which had a pre clearance population of close to 200, and is also known by its Gaelic name of “Uamh na gaisgeach”, translated as the “cave of the famous warrior.” It was used for Sunday services right up until 1912, when a new church was built on the island and then sporadically up until the 1970s. The original stone pews are still intact (comfort not being a priority back in the day) as is the alter, and the natural font that is perpetually replenished from water dripping through the rocky roof above. If you are feeling adventurous, then you can still get married here. It is a sad reminder of the death of rural communities and the importance of religion to them, but somehow the fact that the cave is still intact when churches have long since fallen into ruin, mean that it still remains like a weirdly intact postcard from a bygone era. Dwellers of the Tinkers Cave Dr Arthur Mitchell meets the cave dwellers For the poorest sections of society, living in caves was a necessary hardship. Right into the 20th century, society’s underclass had little choice when it came to securing shelter.

Cave dwelling was officially prohibited in 1915 by an act of parliament, with the intention of keeping the coastline free from fires during the war, but a 1917 government census shows 55 people as still listed as officially living in caves. One of the most famous of these, the tinkers cave on the south side of Wick Bay, can still be visited today. The name originates from the itinerant tinsmiths who would reside there for brief spells during the summer, but laterally people were living there all year round. Dr Arthur Mitchell, an eminent 19th century physician described a visit where he encountered no less than 24 people crammed into the single chamber, his photographs of a family posing at the cave mouth are strangely endearing. Inner city slums at the time were squalid places to live but no comparison to the hardships of having to winter in a cave, a visit is a way to remember just how short a time ago it was that this desperate poverty was commonplace.

Source: Forgotten Caves of Scotland: Fairies, Poverty and Murder! – True HighlandsTrue Highlands

Emperor Julian – To Apollo and The Sun

JulianBust

The Sun’s resplendent deity I sing,
The beauteous offspring of almighty Jove,
Who, thro’ the vivifying solar fount
Within his fabricative mind conceal’d,
A triad form’d of splendid solar gods;
From whence the world’s all-various forms emerg’d
From mystic darkness into beauteous light,
Perfect, and full of intellectual goods.
Hail! Supermundane king of light divine,
And fairest image of the unknown good:
For, as the light proceeding from the one,
The god of gods, and beauty’s matchless flower,
Intelligibles, with deific rays
Occult, illumes; so from Apollo’s beams
Exulting glorious through harmonic power,
The mental world with elevating light
Is fill’d exub’rant: and th’ apparent Sun
Largely diffuses thro’ the world of sense,
Light, all-prolific, beautiful, divine.
To thee, as bright Apollo, it belongs
All multitude in union to collect,
And many natures generate from one;
With vigour in thy essence to convolve
The diff’rent ranks of secondary forms;
And thro’ one fair hyparxis tocombine

All-various essences and fertile powers.
‘Tis thine, from multitude exempt, t’ inspire
In forms subordinate, prophetic truth;
For truth and pure simplicity are one:
And of preserving unpolluted power,
Thy liberated essence is the source.
Fam’d mystic bards of old, in sacred song,
By thee inspir’d, as th’ arrow-darting god,
Constant invok’d thee, with resistless sway,
Because thy vig’rous beams like arrows pierce,
And totally, whate’er of measure void the world
Inordinate or dark contains, destroy.
And last, thy revolution is the sign
Of motion, harmonizing into one
The various natures of this mighty whole.
Thy first bright Monad hence, illustrious god,
Enunciates truth and intellectual light;
That light, which in the essence of the gods,
Subsists with rays uniting and unknown.
Thy second, ev’ry thing confus’d destroys:
And from thy third, the universe is bound
In beauteous symmetry and just consent,
Thro’ splendid reasons and harmonic power.
Add, that thy essence, ‘midst the mundane gods,
A super-mundane order is assign’d;
An unbegotten and supreme command
O’er all the ranks of generated forms;
And In the ever-flowing realms of sense,
An intellectual dignity of sway.
Progression two-fold, hence, to thee belongs,–
One in conjunction with the mundane gods,
The other supernat’ral and unknown:
For when the Demiurgus form’d the world,
He kindled in the solar sphere a light,
Unlike the splendour of the other orbs,
Drawn from his nature’s most occult retreats,
A symbol fair of intellectual forms;
And openly announcing as it shines
To ev’ry part of this amazing whole,
The essence solitary and arcane

 

Of all the ruling, supermundane gods.
Hence too, when first thy beams the world adorn’d
The mundane gods were ravish’d at the sight;
And round thy orb, with emulative zeal
And symphony divine, desir’d to dance,
And draw abundant from thy fontal light.
‘Tie thine by heat apparent to exalt
Corporeal natures from the sluggish earth,
Inspiring vivid, vegetative power;
And by a nature secretly divine,
And from the base alloy of matter free,
Inherent in thy all-productive rays,
Thou draw’st to union with thy wond’rous form,
Exalted souls, that In dark Hyle’s realms
Indignant struggle for the courts of. light:
All beauteous, seven-rayed, supermundane god!
Whose mystic essence secretly emits
The splendid fountains of celestial light.
For ‘midst the ruling, super-mundane gods
A solar world, and total light subsists;
A light, which as a fertile monad shines
Superior to the three corporeal worlds.
By sacred Oracles of old, ‘tie said,
Thy glorious orb beyond the starry sphere
And in the last etherial world revolves.
But in thy course, harmoniously divine,
Thy orb, quadruply intersects these worlds;
And then twelve powers of radiant gods displays,
Thro’ twelve divisions of the zone oblique.
And still abundant in productive might,
Each into three of diff’rent ranks divides.
Hence, from the fourfold elegance and grace
Of times and seasons, by thy course produc’d,
Mankind a triple benefit receive,
The circling Graces’ never-failing gift.
All-bounteous god, by whom the soul is freed
Prom Generation’s dark corporeal bands,
Assist THY OFFSPRING, borne on mental wings,
Beyond the reach of guileful Nature’s hands
Swift to ascend, and gain thy beauteous world.
The subtle vestment of my soul refine,
Etherial, firm, and full of sacred light,
Her ancient vehicle by thee assign’d;
In which invelop’d, thro’ the starry orbs,
Urg’d’ by the Impulse of insane desire,

 

She fail’d precipitate, till Lethe’s shore,
Involv’d in night, unhappily she touch’d,
And lost all knowledge of her pristine state:
O best of gods, blest dæmon crown’d with fire,
My soul’s sure refuge in the hour of woe,
My port paternal in the courts of light,
Hear, and from punishment my soul absolve,
The punishment incurr’d by pristine guilt,
Thro’ Lethe’s darkness and terrene desire:
And if for long-extended years I’m doom’d
In these drear realms Heav’n’s exile to remain,
Oh! grant me soon the necessary means
To gain that good which solitude confers
On souls emerging from the bitter waves
Of fraudful Hyle’s black, impetuous flood.
That thus retiring from the vulgar herd,
And impious converse of the present age,
My soul may triumph o’er her natal ills;
And oft with thee In blissful union join’d
Thro’ energy Ineffable, may soar
Beyond the highest super-mundane forms;
And in the vestibule supreme survey,
Emerging from th’ intelligible deep,
Beauty’s transcendent, solitary Sun.

Translated by Thomas Taylor (1793)

The Roman Emperor Julian (331-363 CE) suceeded Constantius in 361 CE. He shocked the empire by renouncing Christianity, which earned him the title ‘the Apostate’ by Church historians. He issued an edict of religious freedom, rebuilt the Pagan temples, ended banishment of religious exiles, and eliminated special privileges for Christian officials. He founded the Neo-platonic school of philosophy. Julian spurned the decadant Byzantine palace; he dressed simply, studied philosophy, promulgated tax reform, and fostered study of the humanities and arts. However, his reign lasted only twenty months; he died in June of 363 in battle with the Persians, possibly at the hand of a Christian.


Wyld’s Great Globe in Leicester Square

800px-Greatglobe_sectionalWyld’s Great Globe (also known as Wyld’s Globe or Wyld’s Monster Globe) was an attraction situated in London’s Leicester Square between 1851 and 1862, constructed by James Wyld (1812–1887), a distinguished mapmaker and former Member of Parliament for Bodmin. At the centre of a purpose-built hall was a giant globe, 60 feet 4 inches (18.39 m) in diameter. The globe was hollow and contained a staircase and elevated platforms which members of the public could climb in order to view the surface of the earth on its interior surface, which was modelled in plaster of Paris, complete with mountain ranges and rivers all to scale. Punch described the attraction as “a geographical globule which the mind can take in at one swallow.”

By day the globe was illuminated by the light from the glass set into the dome directly above it and by night with gas lighting.Visitors entered the globe through an opening into the Pacific Ocean, then ascended through a series of four platforms. At each stage they could see a different portion of the world represented on the concave interior face of the globe. The platform scaffolding was built up from the conveniently desolate Southern Ocean; Antarctica was largely unknown at the time – Wyld dismissed stories of the existence of a great Southern continent:

“It was formerly imagined that a great continent must exist somewhere towards the South Pole, to counterbalance the mass of land lying in the northern hemisphere, but the discoveries of the English, under Ross, and of the American, French, and Russian navigators, prove, that although a large mass of broken land, with volcanoes now burning, exists there, the southern continent cannot be of a great extent.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wyld%27s_Great_Globe