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Friday, November 29, 2013


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Coatlicue (pron. Co-at-li-cu-e) or 'Serpent Skirt' was a major deity in the Aztec pantheon and regarded as the earth-mother goddess. Represented as an old woman, she symbolised the antiquity of earth worship and she presents one of the most fearsome figures in Aztec art.

Great Wall of China

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Where the Great Wall of China meets the sea.

Isaac Sprague

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Isaac W Sprague (1841-1887), Living Skeleton. He was normal until age 12, when he started to lose weight. By age 44 he was 5'6'' and weighed only 43 lbs. He was examined by many eminent physicians who gave no diagnosis other than a general wasting syndrome. He ate as much as 2 normal sized men and carried a flask of sweetened milk to revive himself when he felt faint. He married twice and had 3 average sized sons. He died at age 46 after working in sideshows since he was 24.

Historic Royal Palaces' collections

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Historic Royal Palaces' collections are always growing. Find out about one of our latest acquisitions – Royal hair!

How to trace your roots in Ireland

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How to trace your roots in Ireland

MM visits the troops

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. 7th infantry . 3rd Infantry Division . 160th Infantry Regiment, Grenadier Palace . 25th Marine Division 
The next morning, she left the base of the infantry 7th. Marilyn and John O'Doul spent the night in a VIP tent, where soldiers were eager to display a sign "Marilyn slept here - 16 February 1954" in front of the tent. Marilyn then changed clothes: although still in the rangers and khaki pants, she donned a black sweater under a jacket of the military, with fur collar and left it open, and  left the base, escorted by officers. 
She went to the base of the 3rd Division Infantry where, upon arrival she was warmly welcomed by the soldiers. She posed in front of photographers, amateurs and professionals, hugging the shoulders of GIs, smiling - happy to meet and to be near-and touch-the movie star in Hollywood they love. Everyone wanted a photo and brought their camera, wrapped around their necks. The cold began to be felt for Marilyn because she held her jacket close to the neck. Marilyn then went on stage in front of the regiment of the 3rd Infantry. The stage was high and carefully decorated with nets and ropes of khaki in front of the stage. The back of the stage was in the blue and white striped logo with the name of the regiment. 
After song, Marilyn left the public having distributed signed photographs. The soldiers approached closely, and stared at her from her feet to her head. Marilyn is proud of receiving. Then she went to the base of the 160th Regiment Infantry, called Grenadier Palace, renamed "Monroe Valley" for the occasion. It was raining heavily while Marilyn sings and dances on stage, dressed in her little dress with sequins. And although the scene is well sheltered, Marilyn sings at the edge of the platform, on the non-sheltered section from the rain, without slipping on the floor made of wooden planks. 
And more was needed to encourage the soldiers who have been waiting for hours. Despite the cold and rain, and Marilyn did so with pleasure. Marilyn went on a tour of the base, hoisted on top of a tank of the army. 
Marilyn performed on stage outdoors, in another base that day, always taking the time to do a short tour to visit the base, to reach out to the officers, soldiers and colonel on site. The transfer from one base to another is done by helicopter, where Marilyn always comes in pants and a jacket of the army. She shakes many hands and signed autographs for crowds. It raised heartily the many photographers of soldiers a day. She then ended the day at the base of the 25th Marine Division. The regiment gave her a special prize in the form of a certificate, stating "Member of Honour of the 25th Division." And Sgt Guy Morgan gave her a wide satin scarf with the logo of their regiment. 
Marilyn patted a baseball bat, the sport of her husband Joe DiMaggio, and played with the help of South Korean players, all wearing the famous striped representative of the sport so popular for Americans. In the early evening, she appeared on stage with the band, which takes place under cover, in a large tent. 

Fascinating Maps Show The Origin Of Words

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These maps are so fun to look at and think about.

Ancient Faces

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Misconceptions about Beast Fables and Beast Tales

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Looking at the The Fox and the Wolf written by an anonymous author, the Nun’s Priest’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer, and two tales from the English translation that William Caxton made of Le Roman de Renart, the Historye of Reynart the Foxe.

Black Frdiay

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A look back at the origins of the post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy, plus a recap of some of the crazier incidents over the years.

Dr. Eric Williams at CARICOM Conference 1974

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Voice clip from '74.

10 Civilizations You've Never Heard Of

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10 civilizations most have never heard of...

Michael Manley's 1979 Vision For CARICOM

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Voice clip from '79.

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Christmas

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to be informed about the history of Christmas see this informative list.

Casting Light on Clandestine Marriage

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Byzantine babies

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Feasting And The Culture of Anglo-Saxon Food

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29 November 1530 – The Death of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey at Leicester Abbey

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Today is the 483rd anniversary of Cardinal Wolsey's death, so a fitting day to share this post about his death and burial.
At around 8am on the 29th November 1530, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey died at the Abbey of St Mary de Pratis, Leicester.
Wolsey had been arrested for high treason at Cawood Castle, his home in North Yorkshire, on 4th November and taken into custody by the Earl of Northumberland and William Walsh. He bade farewell to his household on 6th November as he, Northumberland and Walsh set off for London. They travelled from Cawood to Pontefract and Doncaster, and then to Sheffield Park, home of the Earl of Shrewsbury, arriving there on the 8th. By this time, Wolsey had been taken ill with dysentery and so the group stayed at Sheffield until 24th November. In the meantime, Sir William Kingston, Constable of the Tower of London, had been dispatched from London to escort Wolsey to the Tower and he arrived at Sheffield on 22nd.
When Wolsey had recovered enough from his illness, the group travelled on to Hardwick Hall and then Nottingham. By 26th November, Wolsey’s health had taken a turn for the worse and when they arrived at Leicester Abbey Wolsey allegedly told the abbot, “Father abbott I ame come hether to leave my bones among you.” He spoke the truth. On the morning of the 29th November 1530, after making his last confession, Wolsey said his famous words:
“I se the matter ayenst me howe it is framed, But if I had served god as dyligently as I have don the kyng he wold not have geven me over in my grey heares.”
Spartan Publishing Lauren
In his last hours, Wolsey was worried about the heresies he felt were taking root in England, so before he died he asked Sir William Kingston to advise the King to act against them. He then lapsed into unconsciousness and the abbot performed the last rites. He died at around 8am. His body was laid out in his pontifical robes for people to see before he was buried at the abbey, where he still rests today.
Sidney Dark, in his 1935 book on Wolsey, writes:
“The London crowd was robbed of the sight of his death upon the open block, but there were no doubt great rejoicings on the night that the news of his death reached the capital. Only among the Yorkshire villages had Wolsey set a new light burning in the evening of his life, a light that was remembered long after he had gone from among them, in the form of happier and more prosperous homes; and it may not count for nothing in the final scale of things that a few tears were shed for him, when the news of his death came to London, by a poor fool in the King’s service who mourned the death of a kind master.”
It was a sad end to someone who had served his King faithfully for many years, but at least Wolsey had died peacefully in bed, rather than on the scaffold. His burial in Leicester meant that he was denied the black marble sarcophagus he had commissioned from Benedetto da Rovezzano. Henry VIII planned to use the sarcophagus himself, but this never happened and it now houses the remains of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson, who was laid to rest in it in St Paul’s Cathedral after his death in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Click here to read more about Cardinal Wolsey’s life and career.

Notes and Sources

  • ‘Wolsey, Thomas (1470/71–1530)’, Sybil M. Jack, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  • The Life and Death of Cardinal Wolsey, George Cavendish
  • Henry VIII, J J Scarisbrick
  • Wolsey, Sidney Dark

The Occult in the Age of Enlightenment

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Solomon’s Secret Arts
The Occult in the Age of Enlightenment
Paul Kléber Monod
Yale University Press  412pp  £27.50
Twenty-first century Britain is a society in which the fascination with the ‘occult’ is flourishing. Paul Kléber Monod’s new book seeks to illuminate one phase of the convoluted history of this phenomenon: its fate and fortunes during the long 18th century. The period 1650-1815 is synonymous with the onward march of scientific reason and the onset of the Enlightenment. It is widely assumed that these developments consigned esoteric knowledge of the supernatural to the category of ‘superstition’ and undermined its credibility in educated circles. Solomon’s Secret Arts is a spirited challenge to this still influential narrative. It vigorously contests the view that serious intellectual interest in astrology, alchemy and ritual magic was a casualty of the rise of Newtonian science and rationalist thinking. Monod approaches the occult as ‘an old ritual garment, worked and reworked at regular intervals’, an ‘invented tradition’ that has repeatedly adapted itself to new cultural conditions. He sees it as a ‘hybrid plant’ comprised of two chief strands: a tradition of Renaissance thinking rooted in Gnosticism, Hermeticism and Neoplatonism and a set of practical techniques for accessing spiritual power.
Monod traces, through a series of biographical sketches, the continuing pursuit of prisca sapienta, the hidden, higher wisdom thought to have been possessed by Adam, Moses and Solomon. Building on existing work, he casts additional light on the involvement of Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle in the occult sciences and introduces us to a colourful cast of characters who dabbled in these arts: from the amateur Rye astrologer Samuel Jeake, the Anglican scholar of druidism William Stukeley and the Somerset exciseman John Cannon; to the magical architect John Wood of Bath, the Italian charlatan Count Cagliostro and the radical visionary poet William Blake. Along the way we are offered fresh insight into the shadowy history of Freemasonry, which established its first lodge in Britain in 1717; into mystical religious movements, such as Swedenborgianism; and into the mysterious world of animal magnetism and Mesmerism.
Monod’s analysis is alive to how occult thinking responded to a changing environment: to the growth of the publishing industry, to the evolution of party politics, to the emergence of pieties of emotion and sentiment such as Methodism, to the threat presented by the French Revolution and to the upheavals associated with early industrialisation. Examining its evolution in three phases, he posits its partial withdrawal from the public to the private realm, followed by its temporary resurgence in respectable middle-class culture in the late 18th century. Connecting the dots between the demise of the Renaissance occult tradition and the rise of 19th-century Romanticism, which represented a reaction against the rationalist project of the Enlightenment, his book is a logical consequence of revisionist trends that have refined long-standing claims about ‘the disenchantment of the world’.
Monod’s attempt to chart the shifting relationship between science, reason and the ‘occult’ is certainly suggestive, but not always wholly convincing. His assertion that ‘organised religion’ was the real nemesis of the latter, for instance, is insufficiently developed; so, too, is the argument that it was effectively stifled in Scotland by the Presbyterian establishment’s severe hostility towards anything that smacked of diabolism. Some recent work on aspects of Scottish supernaturalism, such as persisting Protestant belief in fairies, runs against the grain of Monod’s analysis here. In general the book is less precise about the nexus between esoteric knowledge and the sphere of vernacular magic and witchcraft than might be wished. The tension between the secrecy he sees as a defining feature of the occult and tendencies that pulled in the opposite direction, such as its popularisation via the commercial press, might also have repaid further attention. 
More seriously, in using the ‘occult’ as his central category of analysis, Monod may be in danger of deploying an anachronism. Until the late 18th century the word was not used as a noun, but as an adjective to describe something recondite, opaque and unknown. Its closest contemporary counterpart was the term preternatural, which denoted a puzzling occurrence whose causes were hidden from external view. Surprisingly, Monod pays no attention to this concept. In speaking of the ‘occult’ he also runs the risk of exaggerating the coherence of the fluid phenomenon he studies, which he describes as eclectic, quirky, mutable and vague and as often lacking ‘the theological or ethical dimensions of a religion’. He admits he does not believe it objectively exists. Reminiscent of the perspective adopted in Keith Thomas’ celebrated Religion and the Decline of Magic (1971), Monod’s scepticism here will unsettle some readers. It sits a little oddly with his mission to lay to rest ‘a conception of the occult as the eternal bogeyman of modernity, bent on the undoing of reason and progress’. Nevertheless this thoroughly researched and interesting survey succeeds in underlining the ambivalences of the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment in Britain. It highlights the slippery and contested character of these movements and compels us to rethink their relationship with intellectual traditions that they marginalised.
Alexandra Walsham is Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge and author of The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity, and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland (Oxford University Press, 2012).  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Remembering the Pilgrims

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The interior of John Billington's home is filled with period pieces
See Photos Here


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Gone With The Wind Fans's photo.

Ancient Faces

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The truth about Gandhi's sex life

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Thrill of the chaste: The truth about Gandhi's sex life

Full Excerpt;

It was no secret that Mohandas Gandhi had an unusual sex life. He spoke constantly of sex and gave detailed, often provocative, instructions to his followers as to how to they might best observe chastity. And his views were not always popular; "abnormal and unnatural" was how the first Prime Minister of independent India, Jawaharlal Nehru, described Gandhi's advice to newlyweds to stay celibate for the sake of their souls.

But was there something more complex than a pious plea for chastity at play in Gandhi's beliefs, preachings and even his unusual personal practices (which included, alongside his famed chastity, sleeping naked next to nubile, naked women to test his restraint)? In the course of researching my new book on Gandhi, going through a hundred volumes of his complete works and many tomes of eye-witness material, details became apparent which add up to a more bizarre sexual history.

Much of this material was known during his lifetime, but was distorted or suppressed after his death during the process of elevating Gandhi into the "Father of the Nation" Was the Mahatma, in fact, as the pre-independence prime minister of the Indian state of Travancore called him, "a most dangerous, semi-repressed sex maniac"?

Gandhi was born in the Indian state of Gujarat and married at 13 in 1883; his wife Kasturba was 14, not early by the standards of Gujarat at that time. The young couple had a normal sex life, sharing a bed in a separate room in his family home, and Kasturba was soon pregnant.

Two years later, as his father lay dying, Gandhi left his bedside to have sex with Kasturba. Meanwhile, his father drew his last breath. The young man compounded his grief with guilt that he had not been present, and represented his subsequent revulsion towards "lustful love" as being related to his father's death.

However, Gandhi and Kasturba's last child wasn't born until fifteen years later, in 1900.

In fact, Gandhi did not develop his censorious attitude to sex (and certainly not to marital sex) until he was in his 30s, while a volunteer in the ambulance corps, assisting the British Empire in its wars in Southern Africa. On long marches in sparsely populated land in the Boer War and the Zulu uprisings, Gandhi considered how he could best "give service" to humanity and decided it must be by embracing poverty and chastity.

At the age of 38, in 1906, he took a vow of brahmacharya, which meant living a spiritual life but is normally referred to as chastity, without which such a life is deemed impossible by Hindus.

Gandhi found it easy to embrace poverty. It was chastity that eluded him. So he worked out a series of complex rules which meant he could say he was chaste while still engaging in the most explicit sexual conversation, letters and behaviour.

With the zeal of the convert, within a year of his vow, he told readers of his newspaper Indian Opinion: "It is the duty of every thoughtful Indian not to marry. In case he is helpless in regard to marriage, he should abstain from sexual intercourse with his wife."

Meanwhile, Gandhi was challenging that abstinence in his own way. He set up ashrams in which he began his first "experiments" with sex; boys and girls were to bathe and sleep together, chastely, but were punished for any sexual talk. Men and women were segregated, and Gandhi's advice was that husbands should not be alone with their wives, and, when they felt passion, should take a cold bath.

The rules did not, however, apply to him. Sushila Nayar, the attractive sister of Gandhi's secretary, also his personal physician, attended Gandhi from girlhood. She used to sleep and bathe with Gandhi. When challenged, he explained how he ensured decency was not offended. "While she is bathing I keep my eyes tightly shut," he said, "I do not know ... whether she bathes naked or with her underwear on. I can tell from the sound that she uses soap." The provision of such personal services to Gandhi was a much sought-after sign of his favour and aroused jealousy among the ashram inmates.

As he grew older (and following Kasturba's death) he was to have more women around him and would oblige women to sleep with him whom – according to his segregated ashram rules – were forbidden to sleep with their own husbands. Gandhi would have women in his bed, engaging in his "experiments" which seem to have been, from a reading of his letters, an exercise in strip-tease or other non-contact sexual activity. Much explicit material has been destroyed but tantalising remarks in Gandhi's letters remain such as: "Vina's sleeping with me might be called an accident. All that can be said is that she slept close to me." One might assume, then, that getting into the spirit of the Gandhian experiment meant something more than just sleeping close to him.

It can't, one imagines, can have helped with the "involuntary discharges" which Gandhi complained of experiencing more frequently since his return to India. He had an almost magical belief in the power of semen: "One who conserves his vital fluid acquires unfailing power," he said.

Meanwhile, it seemed that challenging times required greater efforts of spiritual fortitude, and for that, more attractive women were required: Sushila, who in 1947 was 33, was now due to be supplanted in the bed of the 77-year-old Gandhi by a woman almost half her age. While in Bengal to see what comfort he could offer in times of inter-communal violence in the run-up to independence, Gandhi called for his 18-year-old grandniece Manu to join him – and sleep with him. "We both may be killed by the Muslims," he told her, "and must put our purity to the ultimate test, so that we know that we are offering the purest of sacrifices, and we should now both start sleeping naked."

Such behaviour was no part of the accepted practice of bramacharya. He, by now, described his reinvented concept of a brahmachari as: "One who never has any lustful intention, who, by constant attendance upon God, has become proof against conscious or unconscious emissions, who is capable of lying naked with naked women, however beautiful, without being in any manner whatsoever sexually excited ... who is making daily and steady progress towards God and whose every act is done in pursuance of that end and no other." That is, he could do whatever he wished, so long as there was no apparent "lustful intention". He had effectively redefined the concept of chastity to fit his personal practices.

Thus far, his reasoning was spiritual, but in the maelstrom that was India approaching independence he took it upon himself to see his sex experiments as having national importance: "I hold that true service of the country demands this observance," he stated.

But while he was becoming bolder in his self-righteousness, Gandhi's behaviour was widely discussed and criticised by family members and leading politicians. Some members of his staff resigned, including two editors of his newspaper who left after refusing to print parts of Gandhi's sermons dealing with his sleeping arrangements.

But Gandhi found a way of regarding the objections as a further reason tocontinue. "If I don't let Manu sleep with me, though I regard it as essential that she should," he announced, "wouldn't that be a sign of weakness in me?"

Eighteen-year-old Abha, the wife of Gandhi's grandnephew Kanu Gandhi, rejoined Gandhi's entourage in the run-up to independence in 1947 and by the end of August he was sleeping with both Manu and Abha at the same time.

When he was assassinated in January 1948, it was with Manu and Abha by his side. Despite her having been his constant companion in his last years, family members, tellingly, removed Manu from the scene. Gandhi had written to his son: "I have asked her to write about her sharing the bed with me," but the protectors of his image were eager to eliminate this element of the great leader's life. Devdas, Gandhi's son, accompanied Manu to Delhi station where he took the opportunity of instructing her to keep quiet.

Questioned in the 1970s, Sushila revealingly placed the elevation of this lifestyle to a brahmacharya experiment was a response to criticism of this behaviour. "Later on, when people started asking questions about his physical contact with women – with Manu, with Abha, with me – the idea of brahmacharya experiments was developed ... in the early days, there was no question of calling this a brahmacharya experiment." It seems that Gandhi lived as he wished, and only when challenged did he turn his own preferences into a cosmic system of rewards and benefits. Like many great men, Gandhi made up the rules as he went along.

While it was commonly discussed as damaging his reputation when he was alive, Gandhi's sexual behaviour was ignored for a long time after his death. It is only now that we can piece together information for a rounded picture of Gandhi's excessive self-belief in the power of his own sexuality. Tragically for him, he was already being sidelined by the politicians at the time of independence. The preservation of his vital fluid did not keep India intact, and it was the power-brokers of the Congress Party who negotiated the terms of India's freedom.