Showing posts with label legends. Show all posts
Showing posts with label legends. Show all posts

Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Good Game

If your ideal career involves breaking and entering, eating free food, and judging the state of other people's housekeeping, you might have a future in witchcraft--if you lived in medieval Europe that is.

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Cathedral in Milan
In the early 1380s Sibilla and Pierina, two women living in Milan were brought up on charges of witchcraft. They were accused of the usual witch malarkey--eating babies, bumping uglies with the devil, baptizing wax figures. However, the 'crimes' that they confessed to are far more interesting than any sort of heresy.

Sibilla and Pierina both claimed to be members of 'The Good Game', or the dominae nocturnae. This game was a group of ladies who met with the fairy court in the night. They sang, danced, partied, then left to roam the countryside. While roaming, they would enter houses, many of which would have a full meal and a mirror on the table to satisfy their nocturnal visitors. Should the meal be satisfactory, and should the house be tidy and upkept to the ladies standards, they would place a blessing of prosperity on the home.

The witchcraft tradition of medieval Europe is filled with pagan practice, and merged with tales of faeries, ghosts, and demons to the point that It's difficult to ascertain what the medieval witch's actual craft was, and what is pure myth. It is difficult to ascertain if the dominae nocturnae was an actual society (or gathering) of women, or just a corruption of a fairy story.

Unfotunately, Sibilla and Pierina were both taken seriously by the courts of their time. They were both burned to death in 1390.

Sources
The Mythology of Witchcraft
Night Witches and Good Ladies

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Stone of Destiny

The Stone of Destiny, or the Stone of Scone, is living proof that legends can be true. The Stone is a symbol of Scottish Nationalism, and the place where every Scottish king until the late 13th century was crowned. Like the Scottish people, the Stone has had a tumultuous history. But, like the Scots, the Stone has survived centuries of English rule.

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The Stone of Destiny, also known as the Stone of Scone, after
the Abbey/Palace where the Stone was kept before the English
invasion.
The Stone supposedly has biblical origins. Supposedly, when Jacob wrestled with God, changed his name, and dreamt of a promised land at Beth-el (Genesis 28:11-12 , Genesis 32:28Hosea 12:4*) he laid his head upon a stone. Legend is, the Stone of Destiny is that stone.

And how did that rock end up in Scotland? Well, supposedly Jacob held on to it. If you know anything about the Old Testament, you'll know that several decades later Jacob ended up moving his family to Egypt, where they stayed for quite a while. Here's where the Bible and Celtic legend meet. See, the Celts (well, some of the Celts) believe that they are descended from the Milesian race. The Milesians left Egypt at about the same time as the Children of Israel. Scottish legend says that Scota, a daughter of the Pharaoh, fled Egypt for Spain with her Greek husband, and that she took the stone with her.** From Spain they went to Ireland, and from Ireland, several members of the party went to Scotland. The Stone was first used in a coronation in Ireland, but it made the trip across to Scotland, where it resides today.

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Scone Palace, where the Stone resided prior to 1296.
Now back to verifiable history. For thousands of years the stone was used in Scottish coronation ceremonies. It was just as much part of the coronation ceremony as the orb and scepter are today. The Stone was kept at Scone Palace, which is located in modern Argyle. The stone remained here until 1296 when Edward I conquered Scotland for the English. Edward took the stone back to England with him, and had it housed in the bottom of a chair, whereupon every proceeding English monarch would be crowned.


Fast forward about 700 years to 1950. The United Kingdom is somewhat less united, but it's still going strong. There's been a surge of Scottish nationalism (unsurprisingly), and a crew of four enterprising young Scots broke into Westminster Abbey, and stole the stone out of the chair. They then proceeded to sneak it back into Scotland, avoiding roadblocks and the British police. A few months went by, and the thieves left the stone in the ruins of Scone Abbey, wrapped in a Scottish flag. The stone was returned to Westminster Abbey, and was present for the coronation of Elizabeth II.

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Edward's Chair, the throne upon which every English monarch
has been crowned. For several hundreds of years the Stone
resided in this cavity at the bottom of the chair. Today,
a replica stands there.
The Stone remained at Westminster Abbey until 1996, when it was finally returned to the Scots by the English government. The stone now resides in Edinburgh Castle, where it will stay until the next English monarch is crowned. After the coronation, the stone will be returned to its rightful place back with the Scottish people.

One of the questions lingering in my mind, however, is what is going to happen with the Stone when the Scots achieve independence? (Don't look at me like that, it's going to happen eventually. I'm just pointing out the signs of the times.) Will the Stone still be used in English Coronations? Will Charles or William be crowned atop the stone just as all their Hanover/Windsor predecessors were?***

Now, there are a few other mysteries surrounding the Stone. There have been continued doubts about the authenticity of the stone since its removal to England. One rumor is that the monks at Scone Abbey gave Edward I the stone cover of a cistern instead of the actual Stone of Destiny. (For more fascinating, in depth information on this, check out the Sons of Scotland link in the sources) More recently, there is speculation that the 1950 thieves replaced the stone with a replica, or another rock entirely.)

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Edinburgh Castle, where the stone now lives.
Whether or not the Stone actually came from Ancient Israel, there is no doubt that the Stone of Destiny is a strong and powerful symbol of Scottish Nationalism. It represents the Scottish people, and is a concrete reminder of a long and storied heritage of rebels and warriors. And while the Kings who were crowned upon the Stone may have been lost to history, the Stone itself will never be forgotten.

*Standard using-the-bible-as-a-source disclaimer: While the Bible may not be accepted as truth across all religions and creeds, the Old Testament provides a valuable insight into the laws and culture of the Israel-Palestine-Mesopotamia-Egypt areas of the BCEs. Whatever you believe, you cannot deny the influence that Judeo-Christian writings and ideas have had on history. I reference the LDS Edition of the King James Bible. Why? Because I'm familiar with it.

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Flag of Scotland
**I must take a moment to express my doubts. The Stone weighs about 336 pounds. I can't imagine hauling something that heavy from Beth-el to Egypt to Spain to Ireland to Scotland. But people do crazy things in the names of sentimentality and religion, so my doubts may be unjustified.


***Of course, we do have to consider the fact that Queen Elizabeth might just live forever. Scientists would have you believe that immortality is impossible, but I have faith in the old gal. If anyone can live forever, it'll be her.

Sources
History of the Irish Race by Seamus MacManus
The Sons of Scotland
Scone Palace
Ask History
Edinburgh Castle
Encyclopedia Britannica
Historic UK