History has seen some incredible, cut-throat politics and lurid scandals, including the reign of Queen Elgiva: a teenage Saxon princess who was caught enjoying a threesome (along with her mother!), in the bed of King Eadwig, on the day of his coronation and at a time when he should have been discussing affairs of state with his noblemen and courtiers.
Elgiva faded from the pages of history just four years later when King Eadwig conveniently died (he was probably murdered) and was replaced by his brother Edgar.
Today, there are many Roman rings of gold and silver in museums and archives. However, one Roman ring stands out as legendary. Known as the Ring of Senicianus, the Ring of Silvianus, or the Vyne Ring, this gold ring was stolen over 1600 years ago. The owner begged the gods to curse the thief and anyone else who possessed it. Owned by the National Trust today and on display at Vyne Manner, this golden ring may have been the inspiration of J.R.R. Tolkien’s One Ring in The Hobbit.
Sometime during the 4th century AD, Silvianus, a Roman stationed in Gloucestershire, England, visited the elaborate baths of the Celtic God Nodens. Located on a hill above the River Severn at Lydney, the Temple of Nodens celebrated the Roman-British deity that is associated with healing, hunting, dogs, and the sea.
Nodens is a cognate of the Old Irish Nuada Airgetlam, first king of the Tuatha de Danann who was disqualified from ruling Ireland because he lost his hand in battle. Nodens has also been associated with the Fisher King of Arthurian legends, the Norse god Njord of the Vanir (god of wine, fishing, sailing, and fertile land along the seacoast), and the Roman god Mars. By all accounts, Nodens could be a rascally deity and well inclined to help with a curse.
When Silvianus was at the Temple, his golden ring was stolen from him. Silvianus believed that it was Senicianus who stole the ring- how he knew this is not clear. Silvianus thus went to the Temple and prepared a lead plate known as a defixio or ‘curse tablet’.
He inscribed the tablet in Latin:
DEVO NODENTI SILVIANVS ANILVM PERDEDIT DEMEDIAM PARTEM DONAVIT NODENTI INTER QVIBVS NOMEN SENICIANI NOLLIS PETMITTAS SANITATEM DONEC PERFERA VSQVE TEMPLVM DENTIS
Which translates as:
For the god Nodens. Silvianus has lost a ring and has donated one half [its worth] to Nodens. Among those named Senicianus permit no good health until it is returned to the temple of Nodens.
The ring is large, perhaps intended to be worn on the thumb or outside of a glove. It has a diameter of 1 inch (25mm) and weighs 12 grams (0.4oz). The ring has ten facets and a square bezel engraved with the image of the Roman goddess Venus. When the pagan Silvianus owned the ring, the ten gold sides were bare. Yet a later Christian owner, perhaps Senicianus, had the ring crudely inscribed with the letters “SENICIANE VIVAS IIN DE.” Presumably, the inscriber meant to say “SENICIANE VIVAS IN DEO” or “Senicianus, may you live with God,” however, he misspelled ‘IN’ with two Is and therefore had no room for the O in DEO.
Little is known about the fate of Senicianus. The ring was discovered in 1785 in a plowed field on a farm near Silchester, England. Silchester is a town of Roman origins some 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Lydney. Some researchers say the ring was accidentally lost, others hold that it was purposefully discarded. Falling on hard times, the Silchester farmer sold the ring to the Chute family who lived in the nearby country house, The Vyne. The Chutes were known to be interested in history and antiquities, however, it was not until 1888 that Chaloner Chute took notice of the ring and published a paper on it. And it was not until 1929 that the connection between the Vyne Ring and Silvianus’ curse tablet was established by archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler. The connection cannot be entirely confirmed, however, Senicianus is an unusual name and the close dates of the artifacts seem to support Wheeler’s theory.
J.R.R. Tolkien, at the time merely a professor of Anglo-Saxon and Celtic literature at Oxford University, was asked by his friend Wheeler to help clarify who the obscure god Nodens was and what role he might play in the history of the Ring.
Many now believe that the Ring of Senicianus was the inspiration for the ring in The Hobbit . In an article published in History Today , Mark Horton, professor of Archaeology at the University of Bristol, and Dr. Lynn Forest-Hill, Education Officer for the Tolkien Society, explain:
Silvianus loses his gold ring at Lydney, as Gollum lost his under the Misty Mountains. Silvianus believes his ring has been stolen by someone whose name he knows – Senicianus – just as Gollum thinks his ring has been stolen by Bilbo Baggins. Silvianus curses by name the person he suspects. Similarly, when Gollum works out that Bilbo has found and kept his ring, he cries out in rage: ‘Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it forever!’ Both Gollum and Silvianus know the identity of the persons they regard as thieves who have stolen their gold rings and both declare these names with maledictions.
It is important to recall that the ring in The Hobbit (1937) , which gives the wearer invisibility, is different from that ring in The Lord of the Rings books (1954-55), which gives the wearer unique sight, extended life, and untold power. Author J.R.R. Tolkien has acknowledged the difference, writing, “The only liberty … has been to make Bilbo’s Ring the One Ring: all rings had the same source, before ever he put his hand on it in the dark.”
Interest in the story of The Vyne Ring has been re-awakened by a new exhibition at the National Trust's historic Vyne Estate, which asks the question: what is it that inspired author JRR Tolkien? Martin Parsons sets off On The Trail Of Tolkien to find out, following the author's story from Birmingham to Oxford and beyond. The journey examines Tolkien's early life around Sarehole Mill, visits the city's real-life inspiration for The Two Towers and soaks up Tolkien's influences in Oxford: from the academia of Exeter College, to his meetings with CS Lewis at the Eagle And Child pub, to the Tolkien family home in Northmoor Road. The story of Tolkien's connection with The Vyne Ring is also explored with historian Mathew Lyons and Professor Michael Fulford of Reading University, as Martin joins the archaeological dig at Silchester where the famous 'cursed' gold ring was discovered...YouTube
A film for the National Trust by Honalee Media.
Scientists report that they may have found the earliest written record of a solar storm in ancient Assyrian tablets.
Recent analyses have found evidence of an extreme solar storm that left energetic particles in tree rings and ice cores across the world sometime around 660 BCE. With this in mind, a research team in Japan and the United Kingdom wondered if they’d be able to find evidence of this storm in ancient astrological records—and they may have found something in Assyrian tablets.
Back in the 19th century, archaeologists uncovered thousands of tablets dating back to the Assyrian empire in Mesopotamia, which documented treaties, stories, including the now-famous epic of Gilgamesh, and astrological reports. These reports included observations of the planets, phenomena like comets and meteorites, and of course, predictions of omens. The researchers (today’s researchers) scanned through a collection of these astrological reports in search of auroral-type events, which they define as “reddish luminous phenomena in the sky” and are caused by the Sun’s particles interacting with the atmosphere. Many of the reports weren’t dated, but the researchers could at least produce date ranges based on the astrologer who wrote the report.
They found three reports that seemed to mention auroral phenomena: one reporting a “red glow,” another a “red cloud,” and a third reporting that “red cover[ed] the sky,” according to the paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The records correlate with date ranges of 679 BCE to 655 BCE, 677 BCE to 666 BCE, and 679 BCE to 670 BCE, respectively. Assyria might seem too far south to view the aurora, being at approximately the same latitude as North Carolina, but past research shows that the North magnetic pole was much closer to the Middle East in the 7th century BCE (and especially strong solar storms can cause the aurora to move south).
These records seem to correspond to tree ring data and ice core data showing quick increases in radioactive elements associated with solar activity during this time. Obviously they’re just correlations—but perhaps these tablets are the earliest-yet records of intense auroral activity.
The ice core and tree ring data suggest that the 660 BCE storm would have been quite powerful. A blast of particles following a solar flare could have even punched a hole in the ozone layer. It’s one of the strongest candidate solar proton events on record, alongside similar-looking events from 775 CE and a weaker event around 993 CE.
Scientists hope to better understand and eventually be able to predict these storms, since they’d wreak havoc on our electrical infrastructure. And if you’re an ancient Assyrian, surely a red cloud would be a bad, bad omen.- Gizmodo
Currently housed at the University of Cambridge Library, the historic Book of Deer is said to have been discovered by the University's librarian, Henry Bradshaw, around 1860. It is said to be the only pre-Norman manuscript revealing tenth century northeastern Scottish culture's society and religious traditions, and is the earliest known Gaelic document in existence.
Although fascinating to historians for multiple reasons, the greatest intrigue for those drawn to this ancient text lies within the handwritten notations made in its margins and other blank areas, and not necessarily within the text itself. The notations, also referred to as 'notitiae', are written in the type of Gaelic typically spoken by the upper classes in the early twelfth century region of Buchan at a time later than the original text, indicated land grants or 'charters' and represented the legal rights to land believed to have belonged to the original Deer monastery of Aberdeenshire in Scotland, thus presenting a clear connection to the Deer region.
Although a Cistercian Abbey can be traced back to the year 1219 in a nearby region, any links to an earlier monastery have never been established and appear to have vanished entirely other than within the hand writings of the Book of Deer. If the writings are, in fact, valid, and not forgeries, they indicate the earliest Gaelic documents in Scottish existence - dated back to three centuries earlier than the next earliest historical writings confirmed. Although their credibility has been called into question by some, others argue the writing is completely authentic and believe clues to the location of the actual monastery will be found eventually. Through continued study and ongoing excavations like the fall of 2015's endeavor which sought to use ground-penetrating radar as well as other archeological work being planned and funded primarily by the namesake Scottish Book of Deer Project, such a discovery may well occur in time.
The text of the book comprises eighty-six folios including portions of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, the full Gospel of John, an Anointing of the Sick (especially relevant as the church sought to secure the Picts' faith over traditional folk healers when sick), the Apostles' Creed, and an old Irish colophon arranged into a small Gospel Book. (There is also an interesting element within the text, largely considered an error in the Gospel of Luke, which indicates a man named Seth to be the first man and grandfather of Adam.) These types of books were usually made for personal use at the time rather than for use in church, and were called "Irish Pocket Gospel Books." Cambridge University was provided the book by King George I after he bought the library of Bishop John Moore in 1715, but its original transport from its roots in Aberdeenshire remains a mystery. Some have speculated that the Wars of Scottish Independence may have provided the circumstances for its theft.
Although some have suggested the penmanship appears identical among the various notations, others have stressed the differences and proposed the possibility of five different writers. Some of the accompanying artistry, however, is especially unique and noteworthy. Decorative adornments of letters, large Evangelist illustrations and simple drawings can be found throughout the book, and its style suggests similarities to early Irish manuscripts such as the old Irish manuscripts of the Book of Dimma and Book of Durrow.
Of particular relevance aside from the land grants' writing are areas which centered around the monastery's creation in Deer by the saints Drostan and Columba, after they were given the original land from a Pictish authority named Bede. Additionally, some of the writings asserted the monastery was free to remain of paying certain fees. David I of Scotland is also mentioned in the writings, as he is said to have given the monastery certain immunity from lay service and future demands for payments. As a result, during the time of David's rule in Scotland, he enjoyed heightened 'sair sanct' status throughout his reign.
The entire book has now been shared with the world via the digital images of the Cambridge University Library.- Ancient Origins
Book of Deer- WIKIPEDIA
Book of Deer- Cambridge University, Digital Library
Image: The Nebra sky disc, a bronze disk of around 30 centimeters. The symbols are interpreted generally as the Sun or full moon, a lunar crescent, and stars (including a cluster of seven interpreted as the Pleiades). Two golden arcs along the sides, interpreted to mark the angle between the solstices, were added later. A final addition was another arc at the bottom surrounded with multiple strokes (of uncertain meaning, variously interpreted as a Solar Barge with numerous oars, the Milky Way, or a rainbow). Permissions*: see below.
Indiana Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents, reports on the find of a Bronze Age city. “Archaeologists have uncovered a 5,000-year-old city thought to be ten times larger than Jericho as well as a 7,000-year-old temple in northern Israel, officials announced Sunday.”
* Permissions: Dbachmann at the English-language Wikipedia, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publishes it under the following license: GNU head Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.w:en:Creative Commonsattribution share alike This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Attribution: DbachmannYou are free:to share – to copy, distribute and transmit the workto remix – to adapt the workUnder the following conditions:attribution – You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.share alike – If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same or compatible license as the original.
In December 1933, nineteen-year-old Patrick Leigh Fermor set out alone on a great adventure, a walking trip from Amsterdam to Istanbul, or as Fermor still called it, Constantinople. (It was renamed in 1930.) He had no idea when he left that he would not return until 1937. In 1977, he collected his notebooks from the trip and wrote A Time of Gifts and its sequel Between the Woods and the Water.
Although Leigh Fermor had one notebook stolen from him with all the rest of his gear, he otherwise must have kept careful account and his memories of the trip must still have been vivid, for the result is an entrancing account of scenery and architecture, tales of chance encounters, glimpses of foreign customs and celebrations, and so on. Jan Morris, who wrote the introduction, calls him “one of the great prose stylists of our time,” and Wikipedia, quoting an unnamed British journalist, “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene,” presumably for his work with the Cretan resistance in World War II as well as his writing. (He was also a friend of Ian Fleming.)
After his journey, Paddy settled in Athens and then Rumania with Princess Balasha Cantacuzene, a fascinating older woman separated from her husband. However, after World War II broke out, he hurried back to England, not realizing how long it would be until he saw her again.
Paddy spent most of the war in Crete working with the resistance. He is famous for kidnapping a German general and removing him to Egypt, an act meant to improve Cretan morale. (A movie, Ill Met by Moonlight starring Dirk Bogarde as Paddy, was made about this feat, but Paddy was unhappy with how far it drifted from the facts.) For the rest of his life, despite the unfortunate political differences that evolved between England and Greece after the war, Paddy was beloved in Crete.
After the war, Paddy lived a gadabout life with many famous friends, only settling down in Greece with his wife Joan in his late middle age. He and Joan had been together 27 years before they married and for many of those years, had an open relationship.
Paddy chose the profession of writer and wrote several books about his travels and adventures. He was a raconteur who demonstrated an impressive range of knowledge and was interested in everything. Apparently very charming and loved by many people, he was not always sensitive to the feelings of others.
From his drinking bouts with Dutch barge men to his extended stays in various German, Austrian, and Czech castles, Leigh Fermor plunges enthusiastically into every experience on offer. At one moment he is sleeping in a barn, in the next hanging out with fashionable youth in Vienna. Along the banks of the Danube he is mistaken for a 50-year-old smuggler. All of these adventures as well as his observations of nature are described in beautiful, evocative prose. To add interest to the modern reader, he is describing a Europe that no longer exists.
Halloween: A celebration of Celtic Tradition, Christian Dogma, Victorian Mischief, Costumes and Free Candy
Long before the modern Halloween the Ancient Irish and Europeans were celebrating Samhain, pronounced SOW-WIN, a great druidic (Druids were Celtic Priests) festival that marked the boundary between our world and the spirit world. In druidic times Samhain. (This marks the Celtic beginning of the New Year and winter. This celebration starts at sunset on October 31 to sunset November 1. Samhain, means November in the Celtic culture, it is the Gateway to winter, where the veils are especially thin between these worlds of the seen and unseen. The Celts called the unseen realms the ‘Otherworld’, a place of beauty, rest, and renewal.- Cherokee Billie) marked the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year.
The Celtic New Year’s Eve was a mysterious moment which belonged neither to the past nor the present. Samhain was considered the third and last harvest of the growing year. Fruit and nuts were the last gifts of nature to be gathered and the apple in particular was the symbol of this harvest. Traditionally great bonfires were lit at Samhain upon which in druidic times may have been the site of human sacrifices to ensure that the winters reign was not unending.
FEILE NA MARBH - the dead walk abroad At Samhain the spirits of the dead sought the warmth of the fireside and communion with their living kin. This time was also known as Féile na Marbh (the Feast of the Dead). As the veil between worlds thinned, all manner of spirits walked abroad at Samhain, including those of loved ones passed on. An empty chair by the fire was often left free along with a candle in the window to guide the ghosts home for comfort and seek their blessing for the coming year. In time the candle was placed inside a turnip lantern upon which a demon’s face was carved to scare off unfriendly spirits. The tradition of wearing of costumes and masks at Samhain developed to deceive these same unfriendly spirits lest they recognised you and called you to the Otherworld before your time. Nervous living folk would attempt to appease the wandering spirit with gifts of fruit and nuts, which may be the origin of the ubiquitous treat or treating.
APPLE MAGIC Samhain was also a time for divination and apples were predominant among the tools used to tell the future. Bobbing for apples or snapapple was used as a race among unmarried contestants – the winner who took the first bite of the apple was destined to be the first to wed, alternatively the winner was destined for good luck in the coming year. An unmarried girl would attempt to peel an apple in one long strip and cast the peel over her shoulder. The peel would reveal the initial of her future husband. Before the stroke of midnight a person would sit in a room in front of a mirror lit by only one candle and cut an apple into nine pieces. With their back to the mirror they would ask the question they wanted answered and eat eight of the apple pieces. The ninth would be thrown over their left shoulder. Then they would turn and look over the same shoulder into the mirror where they would see a symbol or image that would answer their question.
BARM BRACK A fruit loaf called barm brack was baked at Samhain with tokens wrapped in greaseproof paper. If you found a token in your slice of barm brack this also foretold your future. The type of tokens varied by family but common examples were: A ring – marriage within the year A silver coin – riches A rag or pea – poverty A stick – an unhappy marriage In some areas Colcannon, a dish of mashed potatoes, cabbage with either ham or bacon, was cooked with similar tokens placed into the dish.
HOW SAMHAIN BECAME HALLOWEEN With the coming of Christianity to Ireland in the 7th century Pope Boniface IV introduced All Saints Day, a time to honour saints and martyrs, to replace the pagan festival of the dead. It was originally celebrated on May 13th but in 834 Pope Gregory III moved All Saint’s Day to 1st November and it became the opportunity to remember all Saints who had died and all of the dead in the Christian community. October 31st became All Hallows Eve (or Hallow e’en)Halloween is an annual holiday celebrated each year on October 31, and Halloween 2019 occurs on Thursday, October 31. - YouTube
Until the Victorian era, these two traditions continued in their own right. However, since the Victorian times, these two traditions seem to have merged together a little, and the Christian’s Halloween has absorbed some of the darker aspects of Celtic Samhain. This seems to be why today we have the spooky festivities on Halloween.
It is important to note, that Halloween and Samhain are still two separate celebrations, the latter being mostly for Celtic Pagan followers. However, some do argue that the Christians tried to ‘Christianise’ the Pagan Samhain with their own Hallowe’en, although this is disputed.
Why do we celebrate Halloween?Today we tend to celebrate Halloween because it falls on the eve of All Saint’s (Hallows) day where all saints are honoured. But also this celebration is mixed with the Pagan Samhain, where the spirits of the dead can rise up and walk with the land of living. It just so happens that these two rituals fall on the same date, where Christian and Pagan celebrations intertwine.- DISCOVER MIDDLE AGES.COM
For Further Reading about the evolution of Halloween:
Festival of the Dead (FEILE NA MARBH)- WIKIPEDIA
Barm Brack- Wikipedia
Tricks and Treats: The Story of Halloween
Halloween: Origins and Traditions
English Folklore: The Forgotten Death of Mischief Night
Mischief Night -WIKIPEDIA
The practice of burying wooden boats alongside the tombs of Egyptian royals began in the Early Dynastic Period, just after the reunification of upper and lower Egypt around 3100 B.C. Egyptologists still debate the exact significance of the boat burials. Some believe the vessels were intended as barges to carry the deceased ruler down the mighty Nile River to the afterlife. Alternatively, the boats could have been intended to provide transportation through the unknown waters of the underworld. In any case, they clearly played a crucial role in the elaborate rituals surrounding royal funerals in ancient Egypt. Some pharaohs during the Old Kingdom (Third to Sixth Dynasties) even had several boats buried alongside them as part of their pyramid complexes.
In most cases, unfortunately, not much has survived of these wooden funerary boats. Either they were dismantled back in ancient times, and the pits where they were buried were found empty, or they disintegrated, leaving the pits full of brown dust. One notable exception was found back in 1954 in the Great Pyramid built for the Fourth-Dynasty pharaoh Khufu in Giza. That vessel, which had been buried in pieces, was painstakingly reconstructed and put on display in all of its 144-foot-long glory.
Now, another funerary boat discovered buried in the sand near the Abusir necropolis is giving archaeologists hope that more such vessels may lie waiting to be found. During an excavation in 2015, a team from the Czech Institute of Egyptology uncovered the boat some 12 meters (39 feet) south of a large mastaba built of mud bricks. Despite the distance, they clearly linked the boat to the tomb due to the boat’s orientation and the pottery found inside it. Both date to around 2550 B.C., at the very end of the Third or the beginning of Fourth Dynasty.
Measuring some 62 feet long and made of wooden planks, the boat remains in surprisingly good condition after spending several millennia buried in sand. The wooden pegs holding the planks together can still be seen in their original positions, and even the battens covering the planking seams (made of plant fibers) survive, along with some of the ropes holding the boat together.
The funerary boat, and the tomb itself, does not appear to be linked to a pharaoh or other member of a royal family, as they were not buried close enough to a royal pyramid. Still, the tomb’s impressive size suggests the person buried within was a member of Egypt’s elite, with a significant connection to the reigning pharaoh. Though a stone bowl found in the tomb bears the name of King Huni, of the Third Dynasty, the identity of the tomb’s occupant remains unknown, due to the badly preserved state of the chapel area. (Interestingly, the oldest Egyptian funerary boat known to survive—a 20-foot-long vessel discovered at Abu Rawash cemetery back in 2012 and dating to around 2950 B.C.—also housed a non-royal, a high-ranking official during the First Dynasty.)
As Dr. Miroslav Barta, director of the Abusir expedition, notes in a press release: “[T]his is a highly unusual discovery since boats of such a size and construction were, during this period, reserved solely for top members of the society, who usually belonged to the royal family. This suggests the potential for additional discoveries during the next spring season.” The relatively well-preserved condition of the funerary boat found near Abusir also makes the find a particularly valuable one for Egyptologists, who will be able to see at close range how such boats were constructed. In 2016, the Czech team will join experts from the Institute of Nautical Archaeology (INA) at Texas A&M University in studying the techniques used to build the boat’s hull. -History.com
Nautical Archeology Notes- The Royal Ship of Khufu
Wikipedia- Khufu Ship
PBS- Building Pharoah's Ship
harvard.eduDigital Giza- Khufu Boat Pits
The village of Wurttemberg, located in Germany was the idle home for the Kepler family. Johannes Kepler's achievement, his ability to discover that the movement of the planets in elliptical orbits was almost as shocking as the intimate knowledge that his mother was a witch.
Tried for witchcraft in 1615, Katharina Kepler horrified her family and scandalized her sons achievement.
The story is beautifully told by Dr. Ulinka Rublack, a professor of early modern history at University of Cambridge.
For Kepler, the achievement of overthrowing Aristotle's belief in circular movements and a geo-centric universe was not easily for many to accept. A Heliocentric universe for a Lutheran wasn't any easier, it only lent credence to the image of his mother as a craven, unmoored individual.
Katharina's first accuser was her own son, Heinrich, a mercenary held in financial bondage throughout Europe. Having been arrested, she was thrown into prison and shown the tools of torture. She was released and returned home.
Dr. Rublack has unearthed a fascinating study of the social mores of early modern Europe during difficult social, geopolitical times. With her book, we are introduced to thinking of those that spent most of their time working at night, on rooftops with arcane maps and zodiacs.
University of Cambridge http://www.joh.cam.ac.uk/professor-ulinka-rublack