Otto Rahn

Dan Franke asks: “You want a medieval studies Nazi Germany mystery? Look no further.” From Wikipedia:

Otto Wilhelm Rahn (18 February 1904 – 13 March 1939) was a German writer, medievalistAriosophist, and an officer of the SS and researcher into the Grail myths. He was born in Michelstadt, Germany, and died in Söll (KufsteinTyrol) in Austria. Speculation still surrounds Otto Rahn and his research.

From an early age, Rahn became interested in the legends of Parzival, the Holy GrailLohengrin and the Nibelungenlied. While attending the University of Giessen, he was inspired by his professor, Baron von Gall, to study the Albigensian (Catharism) movement and the massacre that occurred at Montségur.

In 1931, he travelled to the Pyrenees region of southern France where he conducted most of his research. Aided by the French mystic and historian Antonin Gadal, Rahn argued that there was a direct link between Wolfram von Eschenbach‘s Parzival and the Cathar Grail mystery. He believed that the Cathars held the answer to this sacred mystery and that the keys to their secrets lay somewhere beneath the mountain peak where the fortress of Montségur remains, the last Cathar fortress to fall during the Albigensian Crusade.

Rahn wrote two books linking Montségur and Cathars with the Holy Grail: Kreuzzug gegen den Gral (Crusade Against the Grail) in 1933 and Luzifers Hofgesind (Lucifer’s Court) in 1937. After the publication of his first book, Rahn’s work came to the attention of Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, who was fascinated by the occult and had already initiated research in the south of France. Rahn joined his staff as a junior non-commissioned officer and became a full member of the SS in 1936, achieving the rank of Obersturmführer.

It was an uneasy partnership for Otto Rahn; later, he explained his SS membership to friends in the following way: “A man has to eat. What was I supposed to do? Turn Himmler down?” Journeys for his second book led Rahn to places in Germany, France, Italy and Iceland. Openly homosexual, frequenting anti-Nazi circles, and having fallen out of favor with the Nazi leadership, Rahn was assigned guard duty at the Dachau concentration camp in 1937 as punishment for a drunken homosexual scrape. He resigned from the SS in 1939.

But the SS would not allow anyone to resign without consequences. Soon, Rahn found out the Gestapo was after him, and he was even offered the option of committing suicide. He vanished. On 13 March 1939, nearly on the anniversary of the fall of Montségur, Rahn was found frozen to death on a mountainside near Söll (KufsteinTyrol) in Austria. His death was officially ruled a suicide.

Crazy stuff! 

Advance Australia

Courtesy Stephen Basdeo, some “Victorian tat” produced in celebration of the golden jubilee in 1887:

Courtesy Stephen Basdeo.

I love the economic statistics and time zone chart. I was curious about the arms of “Australasia.”

Obviously there was no colony or dominion of “Australasia,” and I had never seen these arms before. They appear to consist of a ship, a sheep, a crossed shovel and pickaxe, and a wheat sheaf – presumably symbols representing major Australian industries – all between the arms of a cross charged with the five stars of the Southern Cross constellation. What exactly do they represent?

A little googling reveals that they are the “Advance Australia” arms, so called from the motto beneath the shield. They were never official, and thus exist in a number of variations. (As you can see, this one has the sheep in first quarter and the ship in the second, and an anchor in place of the pickaxe.) Apparently they were used by certain Australians in the late nineteenth century to express a desire for Australian union – recall that in 1887 Australia consisted of six separate colonies: Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania.

Some others:

Australian federation did take place in 1901. Presumably the “Advance Australia” arms remained the de facto arms of the new Commonwealth, before an official grant was made in 1908. 

Wikipedia.

As you can see, the new grant recycled the motto, but the shield was different: it

had a white background, with a red cross of Saint George, blue lines outside the cross, and a blue border containing six inescutcheons featuring a red chevron on white, representing the six states.

However:

The Scottish Patriotic Association was vocally opposed to the shield’s design, noting that it should display the Union Jack to represent British and Irish settlers. 

This activism was successful, and in 1912 Australia got a new grant which it continues to use to this day.

Wikipedia.

Australia’s six states are more explicitly represented here. Clockwise from the top left, they are: New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia, and South Australia. 

Wikipedia.

Although here is the full coat of arms of New South Wales, granted in 1906 and apparently inspired by the “Advance Australia” arms.

Spotlight on Ken Wheeler

From the Reinhardt Alumni Facebook page, some publicity for one of Reinhardt’s star professors:

Spotlight on Dr. Kenneth Wheeler:

I have had a wealth of fun experiences at Reinhardt, especially in the classroom. Sometimes the work we do is sober and serious, but I love the laughter I have shared with my students as we have recognized human foibles, the ironies of life, and as we have sometimes guffawed at ourselves in our efforts to read difficult handwritten documents from the past. Years ago, in China with other Reinhardt professors, we heard a lecture from a professor who clearly had more he wanted to say, but he decided not to overburden us: “Learning should be light,” he said. It was a charming moment, and I have tried to take a lightheartedness with me into the classroom so that our learning can be joyful, which makes us eager to know more.

Everybody Needs Reverse Polarity

From the Guardian:

End of Neanderthals linked to flip of Earth’s magnetic poles, study suggests

Event 42,000 years ago combined with fall in solar activity potentially cataclysmic, researchers say

The flipping of the Earth’s magnetic poles together with a drop in solar activity 42,000 years ago could have generated an apocalyptic environment that may have played a role in a major events ranging from the extinction of megafauna to the end of the Neanderthals, researchers say.

The Earth’s magnetic field acts as a protective shield against damaging cosmic radiation, but when the poles switch, as has occurred many times in the past, the protective shield weakens dramatically and leaves the planet exposed to high energy particles.

One temporary flip of the poles, known as the Laschamps excursion, happened 42,000 years ago and lasted for about 1,000 years. Previous work found little evidence that the event had a profound impact on the planet, possibly because the focus had not been on the period during which the poles were actually shifting, researchers say.

Nowscientists say the flip, together with a period of low solar activity, could have been behind a vast array of climatic and environmental phenomena with dramatic ramifications. “It probably would have seemed like the end of days,” said Prof Chris Turney of the University of New South Wales and co-author of the study.

The team have collectively termed this period “the Adams event”, a nod to Douglas Adams, the author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in which 42 was said to be the “answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything”.

Read the whole thing

UPDATE: From AAAS’s Science magazine: (hat tip: Robert Black):

Ancient kauri trees capture last collapse of Earth’s magnetic field

Several years ago, workers breaking ground for a power plant in New Zealand unearthed a record of a lost time: a 60-ton trunk from a kauri tree, the largest tree species in New Zealand. The tree, which grew 42,000 years ago, was preserved in a bog and its rings spanned 1700 years, capturing a tumultuous time when the world was turned upside down—at least magnetically speaking.

Radiocarbon levels in this and several other pieces of wood chart a surge in radiation from space, as Earth’s protective magnetic field weakened and its poles flipped, a team of scientists reports today in Science. By modeling the effect of this radiation on the atmosphere, the team suggests Earth’s climate briefly shifted, perhaps contributing to the disappearance of large mammals in Australia and Neanderthals in Europe. “We’re only scratching the surface of what geomagnetic change has done,” says Alan Cooper, an ancient DNA researcher at the South Australian Museum and one of the lead authors of the study.

The study not only nails in fine detail the timing and magnitude of the magnetic swap, the most recent in Earth’s history, but is also among the first to make a credible, though speculative, case that these flips can affect the global climate, says Quentin Simon, a paleomagnetist at the European Center for Research and Teaching in Environmental Geoscience in Aix-en-Provence, France. But some paleoclimate scientists are skeptical of the team’s broader claims, saying other records show few traces of climate upheaval.

More at the link

Medieval Reenactment

There is something quite fun about live-action reenactments of the illustrations that one finds in medieval manuscripts. (From Bored Panda, hat tip Lachlan Mead.) 

Those of us who went to college can remember the amazingly fun times we had with our coursemates. However, I doubt that, in our spare time, any of us did anything as weird as one band of students from the Czech Republic.

A group of Czech students has the weirdest understanding of leisure we’ve seen so far. They decided to recreate weird and bizarre scenes found in illustrations from medieval books. And we know how strangely artists from the Middle Ages saw the world around them.

Click the link to see them. 

Renaissance Education

From Intellectual Takeout (hat tip: Tim Furnish):

5 Pieces of Education Advice from the 15th Century

Around the year 1460 AD, a renaissance educator named Battista Guarino sat down to write a treatise on education. His methods and recommendations aren’t very different than those educators through the centuries have followed; however, those of us in modern America seem to have forgotten them.

To refresh our memories on these tried and true education practices, five of Guarino’s tips are laid out below:

1. Find a good teacher.

In Guarino’s eyes, a good teacher needed two major qualities. The first was respect:

“In the choice of a Master we ought to remember that his position should carry with it something of the authority of a father: for unless respect be paid to the man and to his office regard will not be had to his words.”

The second was a controlled, non-violent or overbearing manner:

“The habitual instrument of the teacher must be kindness, though punishment should be retained as it were in the background as a final resource.”

2. Encourage rote memorization.

Guarino believed that a working knowledge of Grammar was fundamental to education. Yet, Guarino knew that good grammar could not be attained unless the student employed continual repetition and memorization.

“Let the scholar work at these Rules until they are so ingrained, as it were, into the memory that they become a part and parcel of the mind itself. In this way the laws of grammar are accurately recalled with effort and almost unconsciously.”

3. Study classical languages.

Like many classical scholars, Guarino perceived Greek and Latin to be essential components of a good education. He noted:

“I am well aware that those who are ignorant of the Greek tongue decry its necessity, for reasons which are sufficiently evident. But I can allow no doubt to remain as to my own conviction that without a knowledge of Greek Latin scholarship itself is, in any real sense, impossible.”

Guarino went on to say that Greek brought clarity and understanding to vocabulary definitions, as well as providing a solid foundation for future language learning.

4. Read extensively.

Like many educators, Guarino recommended a heavy reading regimen, particularly in history and poetry. Some of the authors he spoke approvingly of include Vergil, Ovid, Seneca, Juvenal, Aristotle, Plato, and Cicero – certainly not reading material for the faint of heart!

5. Teach students to become independent learners.

Guarino knew how important it was for students to spread their wings and continue learning after they were done with their formal schooling. In order to begin this process, he recommended that students be always ready to teach what they had learned to others. He also emphasized neat and thorough note-taking, a practice which he insisted “quickens our intelligence and concentrates our attention.”

I can’t tell you to read the whole thing, because that is the whole thing. Is this useful advice for today? I would say that most of it is, and for most levels of education. In turn:

• All teachers must have a certain presence in the classroom, including self-assured knowledge of the material and comfort in their own skins. And yes, all teaching needs to feature a healthy blend of positive and negative incentives for students. 

• Rote memorization is sorely underrated these days – it doesn’t stifle creativity, but gives you something to be creative with! It is not a bad thing to exercise your mind-muscle, and the more you do so the easier it becomes.

• Classical languages too have their utility – although I would say that about any foreign language training. Greek does have a complexity that will force you to become aware of certain fine distinctions, plus you get to learn the etymologies of any number of English words. However, learning Mandarin, Arabic, or Spanish are also intellectually stimulating in their way… and will probably open up more employment opportunities!

• That people should read extensively goes without saying, although our canon is now a lot wider than Guarino’s, a good thing. But I still say that reading is important. Movies, television, and video games all have their merits, but fluency with the written word is a very important skill. 

• Finally, every teacher everywhere claims that they’re preparing “lifelong learners,” which at its worst is an excuse for not actually teaching anything (they might not know anything now, but think of how much they’ll know later!) But yeah, true education should inspire a love of learning that continues after graduation. I do believe that some people have more capacity for this than others, though, and that’s OK. (Taking notes by hand might not have anything to do with it, but it’s still a useful thing to do, better than taking notes on a computer.) 

A Followup

In October I wrote about the Cassville Affair, which transpired on May 19, 1864. Many of the pictures in that post I had taken in the summer. One historical marker I looked for and missed is marked on this map:

Google maps.

The upper one, entitled “Confederate Line,” is designated as “5” in my previous post. I cruised up and down Mac Johnson Road in search of the second one, and couldn’t find it. I thought that it had been stolen, like the sign for Trahlyta’s Grave

But it turns out that all I needed was for the summertime vegetation to die off. Driving on the road again this afternoon I spotted the GHC historical marker, which essentially repeats the information in the “Confederate Line” sign. 

As a bonus there is another marker close by, in the form of a granite block on the ground, with a plaque attesting to the existence of the McKelvey House. Nothing beside remains of this house, although you can tell that there was once something there.

I repeat my statement that if the Cassville Affair is worth so many markers, other things should be entitled to them as well. 

Blue Beads in Alaska

From Gizmodo (hat tip: Robert Black):

Found in Alaska, These Blue Beads Could Be the Oldest Evidence of European Goods in North America

 
European-crafted glass beads found at three different indigenous sites in northern Alaska date back to the pre-colonial period of North America, in what is an intriguing archaeological discovery.

Somehow, these blueberry-sized beads made their way from what is now Venice, Italy, to the Brooks Range mountains of Alaska at some point during the mid-to-late 15th century, according to new research published in American Antiquity.

The authors of the paper, archaeologists Michael Kunz from the University of Alaska Museum of the North and Robin Mills from the Bureau of Land Management, suspect the beads were trade goods that, after passing through China’s Silk Road, eventually made their way through Siberia and eventually into Alaska via the Bering Strait. If confirmed, it would be “the first documented instance of the presence of indubitable European materials in prehistoric sites in the Western Hemisphere as the result of overland transport across the Eurasian continent,” the authors wrote in their study.

No biggie, right? In other words, indigenous North Americans had their hands on Renaissance jewelry prior to the arrival of European colonists, if this interpretation is correct. Mind blown.

These glass beads, with regional names like “Early Blue” and “Ichtucknee Plain” and scientifically known as the “IIa40” variety, have been found in North America before, including the Caribbean, the eastern coast of Central and North America, and the eastern Great Lakes region, but those finds date back to between 1550 and 1750. In case you flunked grade 2 history, Christopher Columbus reached the Americas in 1492. Dating these beads to the pre-colonial era is thus very significant.

Read the whole thing

Thomas A. Dorsey

A Wikipedia discovery, with a local connection:

Wikipedia.

Thomas Andrew Dorsey (July 1, 1899 – January 23, 1993) was an American musician, composer, and Christian evangelist influential in the development of early blues and 20th-century gospel music. He penned 3,000 songs, a third of them gospel, including “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” and “Peace in the Valley“. Recordings of these sold millions of copies in both gospel and secular markets in the 20th century.

Born in rural Georgia, Dorsey grew up in a religious family but gained most of his musical experience playing blues at barrelhouses and parties in Atlanta. He moved to Chicago and became a proficient composer and arranger of jazz and vaudeville just as blues was becoming popular. He gained fame accompanying blues belter Ma Rainey on tour and, billed as “Georgia Tom”, joined with guitarist Tampa Red in a successful recording career.

After a spiritual awakening, Dorsey began concentrating on writing and arranging religious music. Aside from the lyrics, he saw no real distinction between blues and church music, and viewed songs as a supplement to spoken word preaching. Dorsey served as the music director at Chicago’s Pilgrim Baptist Church for 50 years, introducing musical improvisation and encouraging personal elements of participation such as clapping, stomping, and shouting in churches when these were widely condemned as unrefined and common. In 1932, he co-founded the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses, an organization dedicated to training musicians and singers from all over the U.S. that remains active. The first generation of gospel singers in the 20th century worked or trained with Dorsey: Sallie MartinMahalia JacksonRoberta Martin, and James Cleveland, among others.

Author Anthony Heilbut summarized Dorsey’s influence by saying he “combined the good news of gospel with the bad news of blues”. Called the “Father of Gospel Music” and often credited with creating it, Dorsey more accurately spawned a movement that popularized gospel blues throughout black churches in the United States, which in turn influenced American music and parts of society at large.

“Rural Georgia” = Villa Rica, a town about an hour to the southwest of Reinhardt. Note that this is not Tommy Dorsey, the famed big band leader.