Category Archives: History

Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) – All Souls’ Day

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Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular, the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican ancestry living in other places, especially the United States. It is acknowledged internationally in many other cultures. The multi-day holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.

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The holiday is sometimes called Día de los Muertos in Anglophone countries, a back-translation of its original name, Día de Muertos. It is particularly celebrated in Mexico where the day is a public holiday. Prior to Spanish colonisation in the 16th century, the celebration took place at the beginning of summer. Gradually it was associated with October 31, November 1 and November 2 to coincide with the Western Christian triduum of Allhallowtide: All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day.

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Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas, honouring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favourite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at the graves.

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The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico developed from ancient traditions among its pre-Columbian cultures. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors had been observed by these civilisations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years. The festival that developed into the modern Day of the Dead fell in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar, about the beginning of August, and was celebrated for an entire month. The festivities were dedicated to the goddess known as the “Lady of the Dead”, corresponding to the modern La Calavera Catrina.

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By the late 20th century in most regions of Mexico, practices had developed to honour dead children and infants on November 1, and to honour deceased adults on November 2. November 1 is generally referred to as Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) but also as Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”); November 2 is referred to as Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos (“Day of the Dead”).

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Mexican cempasúchil (marigold) is the traditional flower used to honour the dead.

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In Christian Europe, Roman Catholic customs absorbed pagan traditions. All Saints Day and All Souls Day became the autumnal celebration of the dead. Over many centuries, rites which had occurred in cultivated fields, where the souls of the dead were thought to leave after the harvest, to cemeteries.

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In many countries with a Roman Catholic heritage, All Saints Day and All Souls Day have evolved traditions in which people take the day off work, go to cemeteries with candles and flowers, and give presents to children, usually sweets and toys. In Portugal and Spain ofrendas (“offerings”) are made on this day. In Spain, the play Don Juan Tenorio is traditionally performed. In Belgium, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain, people bring flowers (typically chrysanthemums in France and northern Europe) to the graves of dead relatives and say prayers over the dead.

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As part of a promotion by the Mexican embassy in Prague, Czech Republic since the late 20th century, some local citizens join in a Mexican-style Day of the Dead. A theatre group produces events featuring masks, candles, and sugar skulls.

The Lion and the Unicorn

 

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Antique Cast Iron Painted Lion & Unicorn

The Lion and the Unicorn are symbols of the United Kingdom. They are, properly speaking, heraldic supporters appearing in the full Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. The lion stands for England and the unicorn for Scotland. The combination therefore, dates back to the 1603 accession of James I of England who was already James VI of Scotland. By extension, they have also been used in the Coat of Arms of Canada since 1921.

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The traditional legend of enmity between the two heraldic animals is recorded in a nursery rhyme which has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 20170. It is usually given with the lyrics:

The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town.
Some gave them white bread,
And some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake
and drummed them out of town.
The legend of the two animals may have been intensified by the Acts of Union 1707 and it was one year later that William King (1663–1712) recorded a verse very similar to the first stanza of the modern rhyme. This seems to have grown to include several other verses. Apart from those above only one survives:

And when he had beat him out,
He beat him in again;
He beat him three times over,
His power to maintain.

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This rhyme was played upon by Lewis Carroll, who incorporated the lion and the unicorn as characters in Through the Looking-Glass. Here, the crown they are fighting for belongs to the White King, which, given that they are on the White side as well, makes their rivalry all the more absurd. Carroll subverts the traditional view of a lion being alert and calculating by making this particular one slow and rather stupid, although clearly the better fighter. The role of the Unicorn is likewise reversed by the fact that he sees Alice as a “monster”, though he promises to start believing in her if she will believe in him. Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations for the section caricature Benjamin Disraeli as the Unicorn, and William Ewart Gladstone as the Lion, alluding to the pair’s frequent parliamentary battles, although there is no evidence that this was Carroll’s intention.

Royal coat of arms of Scotland HERE

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Two crowned and chained unicorns, the dexter supporting a banner of the arms, (only in this instance is the lion depicted facing away from the lance, whereas when flown correctly the lion should face towards or respect the lance or, in most cases, the flag pole); the sinister supporting the national flag of Scotland. The compartment features a number of thistles, the national flower of Scotland.

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Unicorn (coin)

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The unicorn was a gold coin that formed part of Scottish coinage between 1484 and 1525. It was initially issued in the reign of James III with a value of 18 shillings Scots, but rising gold prices during the reign of James V caused its value to increase first to 20 shillings, and then 22.[The obverse of the coin shows a crowned unicorn. The significance is that the unicorn is one of the heraldic symbols of Scotland, occurring most notably in the royal coat of arms of Scotland as crowned and chained supporters.

According to the British Museum, it became the coin favoured by Scottish kings when making gifts to foreigners, as in 1503 when James IV gave 100 unicorns to Lord Dacre, the English ambassador.

A half-unicorn (lower left in photo) was introduced with a value of 9 shillings during the reign of James IV. It also rose in value due to gold prices under James V, first to 10, and then 11 shillings.

The unicorn was replaced during the reign of James V with the gold crown, or Abbey crown, which had a value of 20 shillings.

 

Artúr mac Aedan of Dalriada

Among the men proposed as the historical King Arthur is a young Dalriadan prince named Artúr or Artuir. Could this prince have been the historical King Arthur?

3b7f2299758652591408e24836e39d46Birthdate: 556
Birthplace: Dalriada, Argyll, , Scotland
Death: Died 590 in Scotland
Immediate Family:
Biological son of Áedán mac Gabráin, Rí na Dál Riata and Ygerna del Acqs (Fictional)
Foster son of Domelch verch Maelgwyn
Husband of Gewenhwyfer De Bretagne
Brother of Domangart mac Áedán, Rí na Dál Riata; Eochaid Buide mac Aidan, Rí na Dál Riata; Conaing Macaedan; Bran Dál Riata; Gartnait Dál Riata and 3 others

The political situation in northern Britain was complex during Artúr’s lifetime, the last third of the sixth century A.D. Northern Britain was inhabited by four ethnic groups in close proximity: the Irish (Dalriada Scots), Picts, Britons, and Angles. Interaction between these four groups was extensive in warfare, alliance, and intermarriage.

The Irish had settled in western Scotland before recorded history but probably during the late Roman period (Nieke and Duncan 1988:6–11). The political history of the Dalriada in Britain is traced from the time of Fergus Mor (d. 501), who moved the seat of the royal dynasty of Dalriada from Ireland to northern Britain.

Scottish Dalriada was confined to the western coast of modern Scotland, including Arran, Jura, Islay, Mull, and numerous other smaller islands, with its seat at Dunadd in Argyll (Nieke and Duncan 1988:7). From 574 to 606/8, Dalriada was ruled by one of its most dynamic and successful kings, Aedan mac Gabran (Bannerman 1974:80–91), the probable father of Artúr.

The Picts held most of modern Scotland north of the region between the Firths of Clyde in the west and Forth in the east. Most of Pictish history has been lost but they are believed to have followed a unique mode of royal succession (Anderson 1980:165; Farmer 1990:46). With extensive intermarriage between all four groups, sons of foreign princes and kings often successfully claimed the Pictish throne (Anderson 1980:167–175). Dalriadan territory expanded mostly at the expense of the Picts, with whom the Scots were at a nearly constant state of war throughout the sixth and seventh centuries. During Artúr’s lifetime dominance continually fluctuated between the Picts and the Scots, and Artúr participated in these wars. More HERE

Artúr is mentioned in three medieval manuscripts. In Book I, chapter 9 of Adomnan’s8 Life of St. Columba (Anderson and Anderson 1991:32–33), written c. 700, Aedan asks Columba which of his three sons Artúr, Eochaid Find, or Domangart will succeed him. This chapter illustrated Columba’s prophetic powers, having him predict Aedan’s successor and the fates of three of his sons, including Artúr. The History of the Men of Scotland (Senchus Fer nAlban), a royal genealogy and military roster cataloging the strength of each of the three main tribal groups or cenéla of Dalriada (Bannerman 1974:154–6, 91; Anderson and Anderson 1991:160), was originally compiled in the seventh century, probably c. 650–700.9 Artúr is mentioned in the genealogical section of this document. Artúr’s death is also mentioned in the Annals of Tigernach (abbreviated AT), which date from c. 1088.

The King Arthur Conspiracy: How a Scottish Prince became a Mythical Hero by Simon Andrew Stirling – Amazon

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Vardo Horse

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The Irish Cob or Coloured Cob, known as the Gypsy Horse or Gypsy Vanner in the United States, is a type or breed of domestic horse from the British Isles. It a small, solidly built horse of cob conformation and is often, but not always, piebald or skewbald. It is the only broken-coloured horse breed of the British Isles and is particularly associated with the Pavee and Roma travelling peoples of Britain and Ireland. There was no studbook or breed association for horses of this type until 1996. Other names for this breed include Gypsy Cob and Tinker Horse. The Drum Horse is similar in appearance but larger.

From about 1850 travelling people in the British Isles began to use a distinct type of horse to pull their vardos, the caravans in which they had just begun to live and travel. The colour and look of the breed were refined in the years after the Second World War. Horses of this type were first exported to the United States in 1996.

There are many breed societies for the Gypsy horse, with mostly, minor variations in their respective breed standards. The range of desired heights is generally from 13 to 16 hands (52 to 64 inches, 132 to 163 cm) in the United States and Australasia, but in Ireland and continental Europe, the desired height limit goes up to 16.2 hands (66 inches, 168 cm) for some types and they permit both lighter-boned as well as larger horses than typically desired by the American organisations.

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Gypsy Wagon by Binkski

The Gypsy Horse was bred by the Roma of Great Britain to pull the vardos in which they lived and travelled. The Roma had arrived in the British Isles by 1500 AD, but they did not begin to live in vardoes until around 1850. Prior to that, they travelled in tilted carts or afoot and slept either under or in these carts or in small tents. The peak usage of the Gypsy caravan occurred in the latter part of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th.

More HERE 

Cabinet of Curiosities

Cabinets of curiosities (also known as Kunstkabinett, Kunstkammer, Wunderkammer, Cabinets of Wonder, and wonder-rooms) were encyclopaedic collections of objects whose categorical boundaries were, in Renaissance Europe, yet to be defined.

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Modern terminology would categorise the objects included as belonging to natural history (sometimes faked), geology, ethnography, archaeology, religious or historical relics, works of art (including cabinet paintings), and antiquities. “The Kunstkammer was regarded as a microcosm or theatre of the world and a memory theatre. The Kunstkammer conveyed symbolically the patron’s control of the world through its indoor, microscopic reproduction.” Of Charles I of England’s collection, Peter Thomas states succinctly, “The Kunstkabinett itself was a form of propaganda”. Besides the most famous best documented cabinets of rulers and aristocrats, members of the merchant class and early practitioners of science in Europe formed collections that were precursors to museums.

The term cabinet originally described a room rather than a piece of furniture. The classic cabinet of curiosities emerged in the sixteenth century, although more rudimentary collections had existed earlier.

Read more HERE

Mermaid Heraldry

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Coat of arms of Haarlem supported by mermaids. 1625 Pen and brown ink and brown wash.

Mermaid

In heraldry and Coats of Arms, the mermaid or merman is a favourite symbol for seafarers or anything related to the sea. The merman was also referred to as a triton and siren was occasionally an alternate name for the mermaid. Both are symbols of eloquence.

In heraldry. the merman is usually found as a supporter and less often as a charge on a shield.

The mermaid is much more common and is generally represented with the traditional mirror and comb in her hands.

A Melusine is a mermaid with two tails disposed on either side of her, commonly found in German heraldry.

Read more HERE & HERE

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Rosie Hardy

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The shell grotto – The Serpentine Passage – Margate UK

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The Shell Grotto is an ornate subterranean passageway shell grotto in Margate, Kent. Almost all the surface area of the walls and roof is covered in mosaics created entirely of seashells, totalling about 190sq metres of mosaic, or 4.6 million shells. It was discovered in 1835 but its age and purpose remain unknown. The Grotto is a Grade I listed building and is open to the public.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shell_Grotto,_Margate