The Hearts of Reformers

Wikipedia.

A well-known symbol of Lutheranism is the so-called Luther Rose, which features a black cross on a red heart at the center. It was devised for Luther in 1530 and features multivalent symbolism. Luther claimed that:

my seal is a symbol of my theology. The first should be a black cross in a heart, so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. Although it is indeed a black cross, which mortifies and which should also cause pain, it leaves the heart in its natural color. Such a heart should stand in the middle of a white rose, to show that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace. Such a rose should stand in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in spirit and faith is a beginning of the heavenly future joy, which begins already, but is grasped in hope, not yet revealed. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that such blessedness in Heaven lasts forever and has no end. 

“I wonder what symbol Calvin used?” I mused to my wife at dinner last night. “Probably a tulip,” she replied with eminent good sense. TULIP, of course, is an acronym for the five points of Calvinist theology, viz:

Total depravity
Unconditional election
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace
Perseverance of the saints

The problem is that this acronym doesn’t work in French or Latin, the two languages that Calvin operated in. Plus, the tulip may not have been introduced into Europe before Calvin’s death in 1564. 

Instead, as it turns out, Calvin did not use a flower, but a heart, held in a hand, illustrating the motto “Cor meum tibi offero, Domine, prompte et sincere,” that is, “My heart I offer to you, O Lord, promptly and sincerely.” 

The Josh Link

I’m not sure who drew this but I found it at The Josh Link

Calvin University.

This seventeenth-century medal was struck in memory of Calvin, and the image can be found at the Calvin University (Grand Rapids) website

Calvin University.

Calvin University itself uses a version of the emblem and motto. 

The more you know! Personal emblems, especially if properly heraldic, ought to make a comeback.

Some State Flags and Logos

Most states in the United States have seals depicting a composite or symbolic scene. Many states then proceed to use these seals as the basis of their flags. A good example would be the state of Minnesota:

Manifest Destiny for the win! Wikipedia.

But you call that a flag?! Wikipedia.

Unfortunately, more than half of all the states in the Union have flags of this nature. I need hardly point out that this is poor flag design. A flag should not be ornate – it should be simple and recognizable. If it is, a useful side effect is that it can inspire any number of logos based on it, all of which instantly suggest the state in question. What happy states are these!

Wikipedia.

Nashville Predators NHL team shoulder patch. icethetics.co

Tennessee Titans NFL team. Wikipedia.

1. The Tennessee flag features three stars in a circle. This beautiful and simple device has inspired a number of logos.

Wikipedia.

Baltimore Ravens NFL team logo. My Logo Pictures.

Wikipedia.

2. The Maryland flag is very distinctive, featuring the quartered Calvert-Crossland arms, which appear all over the place in that state. 

Wikipedia.

easternscheritage.com

discoversouthcarolina.com

3. South Carolina is instantly recognizable by its palmetto and crescent, which appear in many things associated with the state. 

Wikipedia.

4. Then there’s the three pillars and an arch of the state of Georgia. People don’t make nearly as much use of this as they ought to.

Wikipedia.

Arizona Coyotes NHL team secondary logo. Sportslogos.net.

Employeenetwork.com

5. Arizona’s starburst is very distinctive and has inspired a number of logos. 

Wikipedia.

Dallas Cowboys NFL team logo. Wikipedia.

Houston Texans NFL team logo. Wikipedia.

6. Texas is the Lone Star state, which makes Texan logos all too easy.

Wikipedia.

Columbus Blue Jackets NHL team logo. Wikipedia.

7. Another flag that deserves more use is that of Ohio, the only one in the Union that is not rectangular. 

Wikipedia.

logolynx.com

Bear Flag Museum.

8. California’s bear and star make for a nice combination.

Wikipedia.

9. Some folks like Rhode Island’s anchor, which is adaptable for all sorts of situations.

Wikipedia.

10. New Mexico’s flag, featuring the red sun symbol of the Zia people, can be employed to a certain effect. 

Wikipedia.

11. Indiana’s torch and stars device enjoys a certain popularity.

Wikipedia.

Colorado Rockies NHL team logo. Wikipedia.

12. Finally, there’s the stylized “C” of Colorado’s flag. This design dates from 1911 and seems quite ahead of its time.

Of course, many states still have recognizable logos or images, even though their flags aren’t that well designed. Wyoming and Pennsylvania (the Keystone State) come to mind:

Wikipedia.

“Bucking Horse and Rider,” a registered trademark of the state of Wyoming. Wikipedia.

Wikipedia.

And as the logos reproduced above for Indiana and Arizona show, a state’s outline provides a ready-made image for the state in question. Americans love these jigsaw-puzzle pieces. I think what makes American state outlines so memorable is the combination of straight with squiggly lines. Whereas it would take effort to distinguish between the shapes of (say) Staffordshire and Wiltshire, apart from Hawaii all US states have at least one straight border, “anchoring” their shapes so to speak in one’s memory (although the shapes of Colorado and Wyoming, both square quadrilaterals, suffer the opposite problem).

But the fact remains that the overall standard for US state flags is rather low.

University of Wyoming Athletics logo. Wikipedia.

UPDATE: You could read Wyoming’s bucking horse rider as either male or female, but the rendition above looks male to me, and I would be not be against inventing a variant that presents as female, perhaps through the addition of a ponytail. I’m surprised that the University of Wyoming, whose teams are the “Cowboys” and “Cowgirls,” does not do this already. Governmental usage could then alternate between the two renditions, which would be especially appropriate for the Equality State

Ernst Kantorowicz

From the Chronicle of Higher Education (hat tip: Paul Halsall), a remembrance of a mildly famous mid-century episode:

The Right-Wing Medievalist Who Refused the Loyalty Oath: On Ernst Kantorowicz, academic freedom, and “the secret university.”

In 1950, Ernst Kantorowicz, a distinguished professor of medieval history, was fired from the University of California at Berkeley for refusing to sign an oath of loyalty, which had been mandated, in a fit of Cold War panic, by the University of California’s Board of Regents. Kantorowicz principally objected to the Board of Regents’ requirement that all professors with U.S. citizenship declare in writing that they upheld the Constitution and were not members of any organization advocating the government’s overthrow.

Kantorowicz was by no means alone in his refusal to sign. Across the UC system, another 36 tenured professors lost their jobs alongside him. As it turned out, California’s Supreme Court overturned the sackings. By then it didn’t matter much for Kantorowicz. He had already found a job at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Looking back, this incident may seem trivial enough: just another display of Cold War paranoia, just another demonstration of supine conciliation on the part of university authorities.

But we shouldn’t let Kantorowicz’s firing fall out of institutional memory. If anything, his act has become more rather than less significant, because, paradoxically, the reasons he gave for his refusal were so peculiar, so out of touch. They were remote from ordinary ways of thinking about the professoriate’s role and status then. They are even more remote now. This very remoteness can suggest new ways for professors to relate to the university system today, as it becomes unmoored from centuries-old traditions and legitimations and as the empire of obsolescence expands.

In refusing to sign the loyalty oath, Kantorowicz did not appeal primarily to the notion of “academic freedom” as articulated by John Dewey and others earlier in the century. Nor did he refuse to sign because he was any kind of leftist. To the contrary, he was (as he put it in the pamphlet he wrote about the affair) a “conservative” who, as a volunteer fighter against the Munich 1919 uprising, had actually killed Communists.

His reasons appealed to a different conceptual or institutional tradition than any acknowledged either in modern politics or by modern academic administration. He believed that a professor is “entrusted with” an office in a particular “body corporate,” or corpus mysticum, i.e., a university. That status was defined in medieval Europe when universities were established as a universitas magistrorum et scholarium — as bodies made up of students and professors and nobody else.

As a corporation, the university had a particular legal status. It could not be identified with the sum of its members; it was rather a disembodied entity, permanent and immortal. What enabled the scholar to participate in the university was professorial office, which endowed its bearer with “dignity.” Dignity, thus conceived, is not a personal comportment but a quality essential to office. Or rather: In a permanent, mystical institution, dignity fuses office to the private personality, as Kantorowicz put it in his most famous book, The King’s Two Bodies (1957).

As a corpus mysticum, the university is a corporation in a different sense than the modern business enterprise. Because students and professors were the embodied corpus mysticum, regents or janitors, for instance, do not themselves belong to the university proper. They are attached outsiders. Janitors, for instance, merely keep the campus clean. Regents ensure that formal university procedures as mandated by the state are observed. But as members of the university’s body corporate, professors were not employees at all.

In other words, for Kantorowicz, a professorship was a public trust. No one had control over professors. No one measured their performance. The dignity of the professorial office called upon its bearers to act according to their “conscience,” which was held to be inseparable from the professor’s “genuine duties as member of the academic body corporate.” Furthermore, dignity required them to enact their conscience with “passion” and “love.” It involved a willingness to sacrifice their embodied self for the sake of the office: a concept of sacrifice whose historical origins included God’s sacrifice of Christ’s humanity.

Yeah, I’d say that sounds out of touch! For more on this episode read the whole thing, and the chapter on “The Nazi Twins” in Norman F. Cantor’s Inventing the Middle Ages (1989). 

Maps and Flags

As I was writing earlier about the Cassville Affair, I knew that what I really needed was a Civil-War-era map of this area. Well, thanks to a visit to the Kennesaw Mountain National Park, where I went hiking yesterday, I have found one! On display in the museum there is a copy of a map of north Georgia by “William E. Merrill, Captain, U.S. Army, 1864” – i.e. an essential piece of intelligence used by Sherman when he came through on the Atlanta Campaign. Park Ranger Jacob Boling informed me that, as a Library of Congress document, one can view it online, and the images below are screen shotted from this. 

So here is the triangle of Kingston, Adairsville, and Cassville, the former two connected by the Western & Atlantic railroad, the latter two by a road indicated by a line and a series of dots (there is no legend to indicate what this might mean, although I assume that line-and-dot roads were more developed than mere line roads). 

You will notice two roads leading away from Cassville to the east, with the southern one splitting just above the second S in Cassville. The northern branch, on the larger map, ends up at Pine Log, so I reckon that that is now the Cass-Pine Log Road. The southern branch, I assume, is what Albert Castel called the Canton Road, and the larger map suggests that it may have linked up with what is now Stamp Creek Road in order to get to Canton. The road that extends north-northeast from Cassville I could imagine as the (then) Spring Place Road, because it does eventually get to Spring Place on the larger map.

But note what appears on the road on the way to Adairsville, right underneath the word “Plateau” – another road heading north-northeast, and ending at what is clearly Moesteller’s Mills. So there were two possible roads on which Hood’s troops could have been stationed, waiting to ambush whatever troops came down the Adairsville-Cassville road. 

What actually happened remains a mystery, but it’s useful to have a better sense of the contemporary geography.  

A little to the east, we find notice of Rowland Springs, “most exclusive resort in Georgia,” connected to what is now Stamp Creek Road. Notice the little building on Stamp Creek itself – does this represent one of the furnaces?

A glimpse of the area to the east of Cartersville before the creation of Lake Allatoona. I assume that “Etowah” on the map is only a railway depot, the actual town of Etowah being further up the river, around “Etowah Iron Works.” You can see the railroad spur connecting the Etowah Iron Works with the W&A, which was worked by the Yonah of Great Locomotive Chase fame. I’m not sure what the separate Allatoona Iron Works are, but I guess they are now submerged in the lake? I’m curious to know what “Laffing Gall” was.

Further up the Etowah River we find Canton, the seat of Cherokee County. One road leads to Battle Ground (i.e. Ball Ground), another leads to the “Shoal Creek Post Office,” presumably an early reference to Waleska, which is just south of the intersection of Shoal Creek and what is now GA-140. Note also Buffington, one of the collection points for Cherokee Removal.

Of course, one wonders how accurately this map represents this area as it was in the 1860s.* It was “compiled from the Cherokee land maps, from surveys of the Topl. Engrs., and from the state map of Georgia,” but there would have been very difficult for the Union cartographers to check anything before publication. It has certainly changed since then – unlike in Ohio (or Ontario), Georgia’s roads were not constructed on a grid, but were much more ad hoc in their arrangement, and as new roads were created, old ones disappeared. This process continues to be true to this day. 

* UPDATE: Sure enough, other maps of Georgia from the same era in the Library of Congress collection don’t quite agree with Captain Merrill’s map, nor with each other. Dang.

Henry Schenck Tanner’s 1853 map of Georgia and Alabama has Kingston too far to the north, and Adairsville in Gordon County!

Krebs and Lindenkohl’s 1864 map of Northern Alabama and Georgia features a different set of roads radiating from Cassville.

*********

Also in the museum: flags! As you enter, two variants of the flags of the combatants in the Civil War: one USA flag with gold stars, and a CSA flag with a “couped” and unfimbriated saltire. 

I liked this flag with its Laconic phrase

This one is the flag of the Cobb Mountaineers, a version of the Stars and Bars with an unusual arrangement and number of stars. 

Aztec Death Whistles

Something I did not know about (posted on Free Republic): 

Aztec Death Whistles Sound like Human Screams and May Have Been Used as Psychological Warfare

When odd, skull-shaped grave items were found by archaeologists decades ago at an Aztec temple in Mexico, they were assumed to be mere toys or ornaments, and were catalogued and stored in warehouses. However, years later, experts discovered they were creepy ‘death whistles’ that made piercing noises resembling a human scream, which the ancient Aztecs may have used during ceremonies, sacrifices, or during battles to strike fear into their enemies.

The Aztec Death Whistles were Not Common Instruments

Two skull-shaped, hollow whistles were found 20 years ago at the temple of the wind god Ehecatl, in the hands of a sacrificed male skeleton. When the whistles were finally blown, the sounds created were described as terrifying. The whistles make the sounds of “humans howling in pain, spooky gusts of whistling wind or the ‘scream of a thousand corpses” writes MailOnline.

Roberto Velázquez Cabrera, a mechanical engineer and founder of the Mexico-based Instituto Virtual de Investigación Tlapitzcalzin, has spent years recreating the instruments of the pre-Columbians to examine the sounds they make. He writes in MexicoLore that the death whistle in particular was not a common instrument, and was possibly reserved for sacrifices – blown just before a victim was killed in order to guide souls to the afterlife – or for use in battle.

There’s more (including pictures) at the link. You can watch a demonstration of one of these death whistles on YouTube (hat tip: Dan Franke). 

Historians at Work

Two recent and somewhat disquieting articles:

• T. Becket Adams, “The word ‘historian’ has taken a beating

Has any word suffered as greatly in the Trump era as “historian”?…

Beschloss lambasted President Trump in October, for example, after the commander in chief returned to the White House following a weekend at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center battling COVID-19. Upon his return, the president saluted Marine One from the South Portico stairs.

“In America,” said Beschloss, “our presidents have generally avoided strongman balcony scenes — that’s for other countries with authoritarian systems.”

First, to call this an overreaction to the Marine One salute would be an understatement. Second, the bit about U.S. presidents avoiding “balcony scenes” is not even close to being true. A 10-second investigation of the Associated Press’s photo archives disproves his assertion entirely….

This is to say nothing of historian and Politico magazine editor Joshua Zeitz, who said in June after federal officers cleared protesters from in front of the White House in preparation for an in-person appearance by the president: “Historian here. A head of state using a standing army to occupy an American city, compel citizens off the street, stifle free expression and assembly—using paramilitary forces to smoke clergy out of their churches at the head of state’s whim—is pretty much the founders’ nightmare.” A historian who is apparently unfamiliar with even the basics of the Whiskey Rebellion is not much of a historian at all. 

Adams has his political biases, as you can see, but I think he describes a real phenomenon that deserves disapprobation whatever one’s perspective. I too dislike historians commenting on the news in attention-grabbing, superficial, or just plain false ways, all under the cover of their professional status. Judgment and prudence must always govern one’s actions, even one’s appearances in the media (and even on Twitter!). 

• Graeme Wood, “The Next Decade Could Be Even Worse: A historian believes he has discovered iron laws that predict the rise and fall of societies. He has bad news.

The year 2020 has been kind to [Peter] Turchin [of UConn at Storrs], for many of the same reasons it has been hell for the rest of us. Cities on fire, elected leaders endorsing violence, homicides surging—­­to a normal American, these are apocalyptic signs. To Turchin, they indicate that his models, which incorporate thousands of years of data about human history, are working. (“Not all of human history,” he corrected me once. “Just the last 10,000 years.”) He has been warning for a decade that a few key social and political trends portend an “age of discord,” civil unrest and carnage worse than most Americans have experienced. In 2010, he predicted that the unrest would get serious around 2020, and that it wouldn’t let up until those social and political trends reversed. Havoc at the level of the late 1960s and early ’70s is the best-case scenario; all-out civil war is the worst.

The fundamental problems, he says, are a dark triad of social maladies: a bloated elite class, with too few elite jobs to go around; declining living standards among the general population; and a government that can’t cover its financial positions. His models, which track these factors in other societies across history, are too complicated to explain in a nontechnical publication. But they’ve succeeded in impressing writers for nontechnical publications, and have won him comparisons to other authors of “megahistories,” such as Jared Diamond and Yuval Noah Harari. The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat had once found Turchin’s historical model­ing unpersuasive, but 2020 made him a believer: “At this point,” Douthat recently admitted on a podcast, “I feel like you have to pay a little more attention to him.”

A disturbing proposition, to be sure, although there are no “iron laws” of history. Still, elite overproduction is a very real problem. Read the whole thing. 

And now, the Griffin

From Rebel News (Toronto):

A police department in Iowa is accepting submissions to change its logo because it allegedly “heavily resembles the KKK dragon.”

The Waterloo Police Griffin logo was adopted in 1964, and reportedly “leaves many citizens and residents feeling uncomfortable and distrustful when dealing with the Waterloo Police Department.”

The City’s Commission on Human Rights has launched a petition calling for the unreserved retirement of the eagle-lion mythical hybrid Griffin by tying it to the history of the KKK through its dragon logo:

“Although Black Americans have typically been the Klan’s primary target, it also has attacked Jews, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community and, until recently, Catholics.

“In addition, the undersigned absolutely resist any alteration of the Griffin and remain committed to organize until any trace of this Griffin is removed from any active paraphernalia utilized by Waterloo law enforcement.”

Griffins and dragons do share a superficial resemblance, in that both have wings and neither exist.

Wikipedia.

Here is an image of the Waterloo Police Department shoulder flash, taken from Wikipedia. The Department’s website says that:

In 1964 Former Police Chief Robert Wright conducted research in an effort to devise a patch to replace the old triangular patch that displayed only the lettering “Waterloo Police Department”. Chief Wright wanted to find a patch that would be unique and symbolic of police work.

During his search, Chief Wright came across the Griffin, an animal with the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. The Griffin is a Greek Mythological animal symbolizing vigilance, which means to act as a guardian to our priceless possessions.

Chief Wright enlisted the aid of Waterloo Daily Courier Artist Jack Bender in designing the patch to include the Griffin. The design was a bright gold background to set off a green eyed red Griffin with black lettering and border. That same patch has been part of the Waterloo Police Department uniform ever since.

I had never heard of the KKK Dragon but apparently the original iteration of that loathsome group really did have a dragon banner:

Flags of the World.

Flags of the World claims that “in the Klan’s Prescripts of 1867 the official banner of the KKK was carefully described. It was a triangular shaped flag (3×5 feet). It was made of yellow material with a red scalloped border about three inches in width. A black European flying dragon (dracovolans) was hand-painted on it along with the motto Quod Semper, Quod Ubique, Quod Ab Omnibus in Latin. (What always, what everywhere, what by all is held to be true.)”

My comments:

• There does seem to be a disquieting graphical similarity between the KKK banner and the Waterloo police badge, largely due to the gold background and the heraldic pose of the animal (“passant” in the lingo). It’s true that dragons and griffins are different animals, but they appear similar here.

• But I do hope that dragons (and/or griffins) have not been canceled, even passant creatures on a gold field. I would say the same thing about the fleur-de-lys, the mounted knight, and the Thor’s Hammer. If extremists decide to appropriate some symbol, the proper response is to take it back! Not allow them to ruin it for all time. 

• And does anyone really know about the dragon pennant? Hooded robes, burning crosses, and that blood-drop cross are all much better known symbols of the KKK. It seems a little pedantic to bring up this rather obscure item.

• It’s a shame that something so striking and unique should come under attack. One hopes that any secondary patch (which is what the department is soliciting) will be just as striking, although some of the proposals thus far aren’t very promising…

Castoreum

From Matador Network

The truth about artificial vanilla extract (and why you should always splurge for pure)

VANILLA IS IN our cupcakes, birthday cakes, and ice cream cones. It is sweetness personified, the taste of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies after dinner and licking frosting straight off the spatula. A little bottle of vanilla extract is a staple in pantries across America, and there is hardly a home baker in the country that questions where it came from when they pour a teaspoon into batter or dough. They definitely aren’t thinking about beaver glands. And yet these forest-dwelling, dam-building furry little creatures once played a central role in the production of artificial vanilla extract.

What beavers have to do with vanilla extract

Beavers have sweet-smelling butts. The castor gland, located underneath the beaver’s tail distressingly close to the anus, produces a slimy brown substance called castoreum. In nature, beavers use castoreum to mark their territory. Thanks to a diet of tree bark, the goo has a musky fragrance similar to natural vanilla.

The properties of castoreum have made it a popular additive in perfumes and to enhance vanilla, strawberry, and raspberry flavors in foods like ice cream and yogurt. Don’t rush into your kitchen and purge all your vanilla extract from your cabinets or toss your vanilla ice cream from the freezer, though. Castoreum is rarely used to flavor food anymore, and even if it were, the FDA has ruled that it poses no health risk.

The biggest challenge to processing castoreum for use in food is that it’s challenging to harvest, as you might imagine. According to National Geographic, the process is complex and invasive. First the beaver must be anesthetized and the castor gland “milked” to produce the secretion. The entire experience sounds unappetizing (would you really want to use castoreum on your food after witnessing where it comes from?) and uncomfortable, for the beaver in particular.

Since at least 2013, only 300 pounds of castoreum have been produced annually. Going farther back, in 2011, one vegetarian non-profit asked five companies that produce natural and artificial vanilla if they used castoreum in their products. “All five unanimously stated that castoreum is not used today in any form of vanilla sold for human food use” and that its more common use is in fragrances. Any pearl-clutching articles you may have run across spreading panic that there’s beaver butt oil in your food are greatly exaggerated.

Interesting stuff! Note that castoreum is not to be confused with castor oil, which is derived from castor beans; castor oil was indeed at one point used as a substitute for castoreum, thus its name. The word castor itself is Latin for beaver. I was disappointed to learn that this word is not the origin of “castrate,” after the beaver’s alleged practice of biting off its own testicles to leave as an offering for any pursuers. According to Wiktionary, “castrate” comes from castro, castrare, Latin for cutting. 

A beaver bites off his testicles in a thirteenth century bestiary. Oxford University, MS Bodley 764, f. 14r. Wikipedia.

Image from a medieval bestiary of a beaver biting off his testicles (English, thirteenth century). British Library, MS Harley 4751, f. 95. From the BL’s online catalogue of illuminated manuscripts

The beaver’s reputed defensive strategy may be found in Pliny the Elder and Aesop, and was widely believed in the Middle Ages, as the two illustrations attest. The beaver’s testicles are actually inside its body so biting them off is a physical impossibility, and the myth may have arisen on account of the beaver’s castor sacs which were visible (and highly prized). The word castor, referring to beaver, may derive from the Sanskrit word for musk. For more, see “Fantastically Wrong: Why People Used to Think Beavers Bit Off Their Own Testicles” on Wired

One Last Set

Today is Election Day, and I was curious to note the difference between last time and this time at our local polling station. Here is how it looked in 2016:

And this is what it looked like today:

In other words, sign-wise, there’s much more participation this time around. Supporters of the Democrats (Biden, Barrett, Warnock, and Ossoff) have gotten in on it, but supporters of the Republicans (Trump, Perdue, Loeffler, and Loudermilk) even more so, such that two of them have taken time out of their lives to festoon a Jeep with Trump flags and park it right near the entrance, and to sit out on lawn chairs answering questions. 

I admit that I was taken aback the first time I saw this. I thought that it was illegal to campaign in front a polling place on Election Day. But apparently Georgia law provides only a 150 foot no-campaign zone extending from the front door of the polling place, and the road is beyond this. 

I would not be against raising that number….

King Arthur Flour

Shopping at Publix just now I noticed that King Arthur Flour, perhaps the most medievalist company in the United States,* has gotten a little less medieval. Here is what their logo looked like until July:

prweb.com

And here’s what it looks like now:

An article in Adweek (which features some great animation) indicates that the makeover is, in part:

“The image of a white knight astride a horse felt very masculine, European and old fashioned. Though intended to symbolize King Arthur, the figure actually felt more like a medieval crusader… The cross on the flag further emphasized this religious crusader symbol and would alienate many consumers.” In contrast, the new brand removes hints of militarism or religious affiliation, while retaining the connection to the company’s heritage and the name King Arthur.

Be that as it may, it’s a shame that they couldn’t have found something a little more Arthurian – a sword in the stone, a Round Table, or the Holy Grail all come to mind…

UPDATE: From Theresa Rupp at the Scholarly Dilettante: “The Flour of Chivalry: King Arthur Flour and American Medievalism

* As it happens Canada also has a medievalist brand of flour:

Wikipedia.

I assume that Robin Hood’s redistributive economic policies will ensure that his image does not go the way of King Arthur’s.