How the Neighborhood Has Changed

Hardscrabble Creek is a real place, and every now and then, I like to post a photo or two from home. I found the first photo while researching something else, and I took the second one today. In both of these photos, Hardscrabble Creek runs behind the buildings farthest from the camera.

greenwood_road_1887

Collection of Denver Public Library.

About half a mile from home, taken about 1887. The false-front building in center is A. C. Monroe’s “Cash Store.” Click image to enlarge.

Greenwoord Road 2014I think the store was just to the left of the large house. The 4,800-square-foot house was built in 1989. The black tree trunk in the foreground was burned in a 2,500-acre fire in 2012 that destroyed several houses on this side of the road but missed the house shown and its neighbors on that side.

Several homes to either side of the big house (outside the photo) were built in the teens and twenties of the 20th century. Some were part of a small resort that was started to cater to the new phenomenon of automobile-driving tourists.  (There is a four-part series on lost 1920s highways and old campgrounds on my other blog.)

The hillside behind the buildings is mostly private land. It was logged in the late 19th century, obviously, and due to wildfires probably had fewer, larger ponderosa pine trees before the loggers arrived.

When logging stops and fires are put out, this is what you get. Large surrounding areas did burn in 2005, 2011, and 2012, however.

Tarot Cards — They Are for Catholics Too

Thomas L. McDonald, Patheos’ “Technology | Culture | Catholicism” blogger has a five-part series on the history of the Tarot cards. It starts here.

The real history of the Tarot, however, begins in the early 15th century in Italy, and their story is an important part of gaming and cultural history that was lost for centuries. They were created to play games, not tell fortunes. . . . .

Catholics have been conditioned to avoid Tarot because of its New Age and occult connotations. That’s a mistake: Tarot is part of our heritage. It reflects Catholic culture, symbolism, history, and theology. Its images are useful not just for play, but for contemplation, as Catholic mystic Valentin Tomberg explores beautifully in Meditations on the Tarot.

Tarot belongs to us, not to the con artists.

He is absolutely right that there is a great deal of bogus history about the Tarot, involving wild tales of a gallery of paintings of the trumps in a secret hall underneath the Sphinx of Egypt, and so on.

I think too that one of the reasons that ceremonial magicians have struggled to mesh the trumps with the Cabala and so forth is that the Tarot is a hybrid system itself, partly from here and partly from there.

I wrote something on those lines myself once, alas in the pre-Internet era, for Gnosis journal.

Robin of Kent (and His Merry Men)

A British historian argues that Robin Hood was based on a guerrilla bowman nicknamed Willikin of the Weald, although he might have passed through Sherwood Forest. (A snippet of the longer article from History Today)

That puts him fighting for “bad King John” (a minus) but against the French (always a plus for an English folk hero).

Whoever he was, check out his filmography. Where that leaves Herne the Hunter, I don’t know.

The Green Man: A Symbol of Ethnic Resistance?

“Green man,” Norwich Cathedral, England.

Green man masks are a staple seller on Merchants’ Row at any Pagan festival. I found a weather-resistant example at Beltania a couple of years ago, and now it hangs by the front door.

As Paul Kingsnorth writes in Aeon:

There are plenty of hypotheses [about his origin], and it depends on whom you talk to. Those inclined towards paganism like to claim that green men are relics of pre-Christian religions that have been incorporated into churches. I have heard, variously, that the green man represents the spirit of the greenwoods, the rebirth of nature, a rebellion against Christianity, or a symbol of the constancy of nature. Everybody who knows the green man has their favourite theory about what he is and why he is there.

But Kingsnorth goes on to offer a different origin story for the Green Man: that he is a symbol of ethno-political resistance to the Norman Conquest of 1066.

It would seem that if that is true, however, there would have to have been a cover story to tell to the Norman bishop in charge of the cathedral. And as one of the commenters points out, the Green Man figure is not unique to England. So maybe the nature-spirit reading of this figure still “has legs,” even if the Green Man himself does not.

Two Items Involving Ronald Hutton

First, an interview by Ethan Doyle White with British scholar of esotericism Dave Evans, who did his doctorate with Hutton at Bristol and speaks well of him:

Having a conversation with Ronald is a delight, and I had him to myself every 3 weeks or so, for a precious half an hour, for almost 3 years. I am a very lucky person. He is indeed a very friendly man, but no pushover when you work for him- he is a superb adviser on academic work; firm but fair, and he will not allow crap work to get through the filters- he steered, cajoled, encouraged and generally supported some very difficult stuff I was doing, at the same time as managing his perpetually massive workload in other areas.

Second, news that Professor Hutton will be hosting a program for the Yesterday Channel (half-owned by the BBC, I am told) called Professor Hutton’s Curiosities, about little-known museums in the London area. I think that one of these is the Horniman Museum. Let me know if it is any good, since I do not have satellite or cable TV.

 

Ring-Dancing Monkeys and Black Death Rubbish

At Got Medieval, Carl Pyrdrum re-debunks the persistent, authentic-sounding story that the nursery rhyme “Ring around the Rosies” has anything whatsoever to do with the Black Death of the 1340s.

It does not.

As any good English plague survivor********** could tell you, the plague was caused by sin and best warded off by extreme piety and making sure your humours were in balance.***********

His version includes dancing monkeys, a feral cat, and Lancelot.

Here on the banks of Hardscrabble Creek, which is starting to rise as the snows are melting, we are fairly suspicious of authentic-sounding stories about surviving medieval practices. See also St. Patrick and the “snakes” who were not Druids.

“Wicca Man” Trailer

Here is the trailer for the new British documentary on Gerald Gardner, theatrically introduced by Ronald Hutton rather like an episode of the archaeology program Secrets of the Dead.

Britain’s Wicca Man – (C) Matchlight from Matchlight on Vimeo.

I am happy to hear Professor Hutton say that Wicca was developed in the 1940s—I would say the very late 1940s at that, definitely post-World War II.

It is time to give up on the whole legend of the hidden coven at the Rosicrucian Theatre, of Gardner’s 1939 initiation at Dorothy Clutterbuck’s house, of the 1940 Lammas working against a possible German invasion, and all of that.

There is no evidence for any of it except Gardner’s say-so, and if those things happened, they do not gibe at all with what we know that Gardner was doing in the 1939-1947 period, namely trying out a variety of different esoteric groups before he “found” the one that he liked—Wicca.

Another “Celtic” Illusion Shattered

This may come as a shock to some, but the Asterix the Gaul comics do not present an accurate view of the ancient Gaulish people, according to a new museum exhibit in Paris.

No dolmen-moving, etc.

Next thing, they will be telling us that Vikings did not wear horned helmets like Hägar the Horrible.

Shocking.

What Was Ancient Roman Childhood?

Historian Peter Thonemann reviews books on childhood in the Roman republic and empire in the TLS.

A lot is about trying to uncover the Romans’ balance between sentimentality and utility, particularly in the upper classes:

House-reared slaves, as Beryl Rawson shows in Children, Memory, and Family Identity in Roman Culture, could play a variety of roles in the Roman elite family, from surrogate son to erotic plaything. What is difficult for us to deal with is the notion that, as in the case of Statius’s beloved boy, they might have played both roles simultaneously.

And the inevitable problem:

Needless to say, both of the books under review see Roman children through the eyes of their parents and owners. How could it be otherwise? Aside from the odd cheeky remark about enjoying Cicero, the voices of ancient children are lost for good. A rare exception comes from the temple of Sarapis at Memphis in Egypt, where, in the mid-second century BC, an eccentric recluse called Ptolemaios faithfully recorded the dreams of two little Egyptian twin girls, Thaues and Taous: “The dream that the girl Thaues saw on the 17th of the month Pachon. I seemed in my dream to be walking down the street, counting nine houses. I wanted to turn back. I said, ‘All this is at most nine.’ They say, ‘Well, you are free to go.’ I said, ‘It is too late for me’.” It is salutary to be reminded quite how little we really know or understand about the experience of childhood in antiquity.

Read the rest.