Monthly Archives: December 2016

Icono-Graphy, Egyptian Hieroglyph Style

It turns out that a lot of Egyptian artworks don’t just _include_ inscriptions. Sometimes, the picture _is_ an inscription. Egyptologists call this kind of thing a “rebus,” and sometimes they are very beautiful and clever.

For example…

The Greeks and Romans were fond of an Egyptian god they called Harpocrates, and the Egyptians called Har-pa-khered, or Horus the child.

Har-pa-khered was portrayed as a boy with his finger on his lips or in his mouth. (For which reason the Greeks and Romans associated him with shushing and silence.) The hieroglyphic sign for the syllable “khrd-/hrd-“, and hence the word “khered”, is a boy with his finger on his lips or in his mouth. So basically, statues of Har-pa-khered are not just pictures, but writing. His posture says his name, or at least his title. 🙂

Another example is Aten, aka Ra-Horakhty (Ra, Falcon of the Horizon). The hieroglyphic sign for the syllable R’ is a sun disk. The sign for the sun on the horizon is the sun disk with three rays pointed downward. And the picture used to depict Ra-Horakhty is the same thing, albeit with a few extra rays!

Here is a “rebus statue” of Ramesses II. As you see, he is also portrayed as a minor with his hand in his mouth, but he’s a baby or toddler (“mes”) instead of a child (“khered”). The falcon over him would normally be “Hor”, Horus, but this specific one is portrayed as “Ra,” because he has the sun disk on his chest. At the kid’s foot is a sedge stalk, and the word for sedge is “su.” So the statue is read as “Ra-mes-su.”

Here is another rebus statue. It shows Senenmut, the head steward and architect of Queen Hatshepsut, aka Pharaoh Maatkare. He is kneeling, offering a statue of a rearing cobra (the uraeus or i’irt, a symbol of royalty and of Lower Egypt, as well as of the goddess Wadjet). The uraeus is wearing a sun disk (“Re”) between cow horns, which are associated with female deities like Hathor; “Maat” is the daughter of Ra/Re. On either side of the uraeus at the bottom, there are upraised arms supporting it; these praying arms are the syllable sign for “k-” and hence, for the “ka” soul. So Senenmut is really presenting a statue of “Maat-ka-Re.”

The actual hieroglyphic inscription on his right arm says, “The good goddess Maatkare given life.” The inscription on the bottom and back shows Senenmut’s name purposefully eradicated, just as Hatshepsut’s names usually were. (There are 22 statuettes like this from Senenmut’s tomb. The first Wikimedia pic is of one from the Brooklyn Museum; the second pic is at the Kimbell Art Museum.)

So this is something to look for, in Egyptian art.

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Fake Outrage

Yup, the media tried to gin up outrage stories on Christmas again.

Reince Pribus wrote up a nice Christmas message from the Republican National Committee without mentioning any Republican, and without trying to tie the holiday to politics. In fact, he declared American Christians’ allegiance to Christ as the “new king,” proclaimed anew every Christmas. (Possibly referencing Poland’s recent national re-coronation of Jesus as King of Poland; but probably just as a reminder of the world beyond politics.)

Apparently this extremely obvious truism was something new to CNN and other news outlets, because they reported that Pribus was calling Trump a king. When reminded that the obvious topic of the message was the birthday boy, Jesus, the media moved to claiming that Pribus was obviously drawing comparisons between Jesus and Trump… even though Trump was never mentioned at all.

Obama is the one with delusions of royalty and godhood, guys.

The other story was even sillier. The Daily Mail said that Melania Trump wore a “very short skirt” to Episcopalian Midnight Mass in Palm Beach.

It was maybe an inch, inch and a half above the knee, and she is a tall woman with a very long thigh and leg. So no, it was not short. Laura Bush would have had no problem wearing that skirt to church. (Although it would have been knee length on Laura Bush.) It wasn’t tight or loose, either; it just looked fitted. I couldn’t pull off a golden Christmas outfit, but it looked quite classy on her. So I say, “Good for her.”

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WHIO: Making a Difference special

A compendium of stories about local charity efforts.

Sewing Hearts: a local program making burial clothing for miscarried or stillborn babies (“Angel dresses”). They use material from donated wedding gowns. The clothing is sent to hospitals or given directly to grieving mothers.

A gentleman, blind from birth, who worked as a hospital darkroom developer most of his life, and who donates blood every two weeks.

A local girl collecting toys for the children’s hospital.

A woman trying to start a halfway house for kids aged out of foster care.

A motivational speaker who grew up an alcoholic.

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Muskingum, Not Muskegan

I was just watching The FBI Files on Amazon Prime. The third episode of the first season is set in Ohio, and the narrator did a good job with most of the place names.

But he repeatedly mispronounced Muskingum (muh-sking-gum) as Muskegon or Muskegan.

I deduce that he came from someplace like Iowa….

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A Tale of the Longaevi

Many medieval Catholic scholars regarded the world as containing not only humans (of all shapes and sizes, potentially including dog-headed men, monopods, and other strange children of Adam and Eve), but also “longaevi,” the long-living ones, the elves and fairies and dryads. C. S. Lewis talks about this in his book about medieval thought, The Discarded Image, and Michael Flynn deals with this in some of his medieval-setting science fiction.

Like mortals, longaevi could be good or evil, foolish or wise. Nobody could quite slot them into the model. Were they demons tricking people by pretending to be good or fickle? Were they neutral angels who were punished for being lukewarm? Were they spirits of the dead? Or were they a species of creature distinct from angels and men, going about their own business? Do they have anything to do with Thomist teaching about all animals, plants, and material objects having little souls of their own, and the Christian teaching that all Creation is part of Christ’s salvific plan, someday to live together on God’s holy mountain?

Nobody came to a definite conclusion. Perhaps it’s one of those things we will someday find out.

Shadowdancer tells us a story from her own experience, of a being which might well be described as a longaeva: “The White Lady of the Mango Tree.”

Baruch 5:8 —
“….The woods and every sweet-smelling tree have shaded Israel, by the commandment of God.”

Isaiah 44:23 —
“Give praise, O ye heavens, for the Lord has shown mercy.
Shout with joy, ye ends of the earth.
Ye mountains, resound with praise;
thou, O forest, and every tree therein.”

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What Pompeii Looked Like

Gareth Blayney has beautiful prints of what you would have seen in shops in Pompeii, before the eruption.

Stunning. The phrase “artist’s impression” does not do them justice.

Dang it! I want one!

Heck, I want the (nonexistent) T-shirt!

He also has some nice prints of landmarks in ancient Rome, but the Pompeii prints are homier.

Also there’s an unexplained picture of a “T-Rex in Rome.” (Not that I’m against that….) I assume it’s from a science fiction book I haven’t read?

I wish somebody would commission him to do covers for some Roman historical fiction books.

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America’s First Fighting Captain: Jeremiah O’Brien

Once upon a time, right after the Battle of Lexington and Concord (and the somewhat dubiously naval Battle of Chelsea Creek), the tiny village of Machias, Maine (then part of the Colony of Massachusetts) decided to revolt against the United Kingdom. The question was largely theoretical, as you’d expect of a village of only twenty houses. But then, the very foolish young British Navy captain of the HMS Margaretta (escorting the merchant ships Polly and Unity on their errand to get wood for the British Army to build barracks) threatened to turn his six-pounder cannon against the town unless they took down their newly erected Liberty Tree.

The local militia took the threat seriously, and formed a desperate plan to capture the captain and his officers when they attended church on Sunday. This plan was foiled inadvertently (by a bored guy looking out the window, seeing men with muskets, and promptly jumping out the window and running into the woods), and the officers fled back to the Margaretta. Captain James Moore weighed anchor, abandoning the merchant ships he was escorting, and tried to escape downriver, while being fired upon by practically every man in town, while they followed in canoes and rowboats as well as along the shore on foot and horse.

On Monday morning, Dennis Wheaton was bored after their exciting Sunday. He started chatting to his buddy, John O’Brien, about how it would be easy to seize one of the merchant ships, and then use it to chase and capture the Margaretta. After all, she hadn’t sailed any farther than an island in the nearby bay. Two other friends came up, and got the idea floated to them. At which point, these four country lads went down the dock and captured the Unity.

This caused a little ruckus, and many of the townsfolk gathered around. The young men explained what they had done, and their brilliant plan. John managed to convince his eldest brother, Jeremiah (who was one of the militia leaders) to get with the plan. The crew of the Polly was a little more awake and not in the mood to have their ship captured, but one of the other militia leaders headed to East Machias with some men to capture another merchant ship. They would manage the capture all right, but then run their ship aground and have to send a rowboat to warn the Unity that they couldn’t help out.

In the end, 34 men boarded the Unity. The youngest O’Brien brother, Joseph, was only sixteen, and his elder brothers forbade him to go. He snuck aboard anyway, as the 35th man. (The brothers also had to dissuade their old dad from coming along.) The village crew included Wheaton, the other five O’Brien brothers, and Jeremiah’s free black servant Dick Earl.

Once they were close to the bay, the villagers decided to hold an election for captain. Jeremiah O’Brien was elected unanimously. He immediately offered the chance for anyone to leave before battle, and three men took him up on it. They were down to 31 men. (32 including Joseph down below.)

They planned their attack. They would catch up, then board and storm the English Navy’s little warship. They had some muskets and fowling pieces, a little naval wall piece, a few swords, and a lot of pitchforks. They also had the advantage of having several excellent marksmen among their fighters.

But the Margaretta had forty men, with muskets and cutlasses for every man. And those six pounders. And several wall pieces. It was ridiculous for these American rebels to think that they could win, much less go around yelling, “Surrender in the name of America!” The first two Americans to man the wall piece were blown away by one of the cannon. The next American to try his hand at the wall piece blew off the Navy helmsman’s head. The Navy sailors scattered, which gave the Americans room to board. Pitchforks proved to be a pretty nasty boarding weapon, and the Americans took weapons away from the Navy men who dropped them. The Navy captain took notice of his opposite number directing the battle, and started throwing hand grenades at Jeremiah O’Brien. Jeremiah had two buddies acting as his wingmen, though, and they both deliberately aimed their muskets at the Navy captain, wounding him fatally in the chest. That was pretty much the end of the battle.

So in point of fact, the men of Machias did beat the British lion. They captured the Margaretta and hid her upstream, landed on a beach and camouflaged with tree trunks. Then they turned the Unity into an official naval vessel of the Machias Committee of Safety and then of the Massachusetts Navy, under her new name of the Machias Liberty. Despite inadequate funding from Boston, they managed to make life difficult for the British in their patrol area and all the way to the Bay of Fundy. Other ships captured by O’Brien included the Diligent and the Tapnaquish. After a lot of political maneuvering, Massachusetts let O’Brien go, and he became first a Ranger captain on the land, and then a privateer captain, commanding the Resolution, the Cyrus, the Tiger, the Saint Vincent, and the Hannibal, all privately owned. His brother John also became a privateer captain, wreaking all sorts of havoc.

Eventually Jeremiah O’Brien was captured, first imprisoned in Brooklyn and then in Plymouth, England. He escaped to France along with other American prisoners and returned home. He became a Selectman and a customs collector, remaining a civilian homebody during the War of 1812.

But in 1814, the British came back to Machias Bay, taking the small American fort at Machiasport and moving upriver on barges to take Machias. O’Brien put on his Revolutionary War uniform, mounted his one-eyed white horse, rode at breakneck speed to the village, and tried to rally the villagers to resist. But the men of Machias were not what they had been, the British Army forces were pretty darned numerous, and he couldn’t persuade anyone to follow him. (To be fair, he was 70 years old, which was a lot older then.) He retired cursing in spectacular fashion.

The British occupied the village without destroying anything. When they searched the houses, the villagers made sure there were no arms for them to find. (Because all the guns were hidden out in the woods.) Captain O’Brien ended up offering cider and cake to the men who searched his house. The British officer asked their host to give them a toast.

Captain Jeremiah leapt up. “Here’s to the success of the American arms!”

There was a moment of awkward silence. Then the British laughed, and their officer counter-toasted, “Here’s to the health of the King!”

Captain Jeremiah O’Brien died in 1818. His family were Protestant Irish from Dublin: dissenters in Ireland, Baptists by conviction, and members of the Congregational Church in Machias. His son, also named Jeremiah, would become a Congressman for Maine. His descendants and relatives are still many.

You can read all about it in The Life of Captain Jeremiah O’Brien of Machias, Maine, by the Rev. Andrew M. Sherman.

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