Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Hunger Games - Christian Symbolism?

I've just finished reading the first book of The Hunger Games Trilogy. I really enjoyed it actually. I was inspired to read it after seeing the video for Coldplay's Atlas single (which is on the soundtrack to Catching Fire - the second Hunger Games movie). The video looked a little bit esoteric and it aroused my curiosity. I wasn't really aware of The Hunger Games at that point. In fact, the first time I'd even heard the name was just a few months ago when a younger, cooler girl I work with asked me if I'd read them, and then looked in horror when I said I didn't even know what they were.

Having seen the Coldplay video, I then had a little Google search and came across various conspiracies suggesting that the book and movie franchise are part of some New World Order template to prepare the ground for a real life 'hunger games' of the not too distant future. That kinda made me wanna go and read the books more.

Anyway, reading the first one I was more struck by the Christian symbolism than by any Illuminati nods and winks. I don't know if this symbolism is intentional, but I found it quite striking. Bread is a symbol of 'hope' throughout the book. There are 12 districts in Panem (the nation where it's set), there were 13 but one was destroyed - the crucified Jesus and his twelve disciples? The Capitol (the central controlling metropolis) is Rome (complete with Roman names - Octavia, Flavius, etc). The Games where the contestants fight to the death no doubt the games where Christians were thrown to their death. The name Panem even comes from the Latin phrase panem and circenses (bread and circuses). The two main characters (Katniss and Peeta) even spend some time half-dead in a cave! In fact, come to think of it, Katniss and Peeta - Catholic and St. Peter?? I think I'm pushing it too far now.

I think I'll definitely have to read the next two.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Recently Read: Power Trip by Damian McBride

I've just finished 'Power Trip' by Gordon Brown's former special adviser Damian McBride. It was a fascinating read. Concise, well-written and very engaging. I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in the Blair/Brown period of British politics.

The book more or less confirmed my general view of the Blair/Brown rivalry. Gordon Brown and his entourage come across as good and conscientious, albeit flawed, individuals. Whereas Blair and the Blairites come across as self-interested, self-serving careerists. Ed Balls comes across in a particularly good light, and Ed Miliband comes across quite well too - although I was left with a much more mixed opinion of him. I'm convinced that the bounce in popularity that Labour have recently received in the press is more due to this book than to the Labour Party conference itself, which to my mind was as dull and cringeworthy as ever. I think that political journalists across the board have read this book, seen the two Eds in a much more capable and competent light and that this has coloured their write-up of the Labour conference accordingly.

The book also clearly illustrates that the Blair/Brown divide in the Labour Party was more due to policy differences than personal differences. At times we've been led to believe that it was Brown's personal ambition that drove him to thwart Blair's plans, but clearly he was more driven by a genuine fear that Blair was taking the country down the wrong path (which in my opinion he was).

For anyone of a conspiratorial mindset it was interesting to note how close Brown was to Robin Cook before the latter's untimely death. This following passage about Brown finding out about Cook's death stood out;
"Gordon was so upset he could barely speak. He and Robin had only recently resolved their long-standing feud and become firm friends again, talking almost every day. It was central for Gordon's plans for his premiership that Robin would become his Deputy Leader or Chancellor, or be restored as Foreign Secretary, symbolising a break from the Blair years more than any other appointment could, following Robin's resignation over the Iraq War."
It's hard to underestimate how much of a U-turn that would have represented in regards British foreign policy. Now I'm not gonna sit here and state that therefore he was killed by some security service, but I'd be lying if I said the suspicion had never crossed my mind. Especially given all the intrigue surrounding the death of weapons expert David Kelly.

Anyhow, whatever did or didn't go on during those turbulent years, I find it hard not to feel that Brown was essentially a force for good and that Blair was ...well, er, not a force for good.

Books, especially books written by people in politics, should always be viewed with a degree of scepticism, however I feel that this one may be one of the more honest political ones we'll read in recent times. Recommended.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Recently Read: Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part 1

I've just finished this. A total breeze to read, the character of Sir John Falstaff is genius. Anyhow, some of the odd bits I noticed.

The word mammet popped up. I wasn't sure what this meant but guessed from the context that it meant doll. I looked it up and it did indeed mean doll - or idol, which is kind of the same word I guess. The online dictionary definitions gave some more interesting information on the word;
Amid the conflict between the Protestants and Catholics, mammet was used by the Protestants in a derogatory manner to denote "an image of Christ or of a saint, etc.
A puppet, a favourite, an idol. A corruption of Mahomet. Mahometanism being the most prominent form of false religion with which Christendom was acquainted before the Reformation, it became a generic word to designate any false faith; even idolatry is called mammetry.
1. obsolete a false god; idol. 2. dialect ( English ) a figure dressed up, such as a guy or scarecrow. [C13: from Old French mahomet  idol, literally: the prophet Mohammed,  from the belief that his image was worshipped]
What if Mohammed was a corruption of mammet? Just saying.

Something else which popped up was the name Turk Gregory. It's context suggested someone very warlike. A Google search didn't turn up much other than a few suggestions that it was a reference to Pope Gregory VII. Although why he would be designated 'Turk' is anyone's guess. It made me think of Fomenko's contention that Turkey was synonymous with Russia at one point in history. Maybe the answer lies in that direction.

Falstaff also utters this line;
"You rogue, they were bound, every man of them, or I am a Jew else, an Ebrew Jew."
The Hebrew with the 'H' missing seemed worth making note of. It made me think of Eboracum - the ancient name for the city of York. I've just had a little Google search and this popped up (Wikipedia);
The name "Eboracum" is thought to have derived from the Common Brythonic Eborakon which probably means "place of the yew trees". The word for "yew" was probably something like *eburos in Celtic (cf. Old Irish ibar "yew-tree"
I think I'm heading back to the woodland British Israelism of my last post with this stuff. Treezus Christ.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

St Oswald - Phantom Time and Catholic Crimes

I was watching a documentary about the Anglo-Saxons and it got me thinking about St Oswald again. There are two St Oswalds;

One a 7th century King of Northumbria, the other a 10th century Archbishop.

It seems odd to me that there would be two saints of the same name in the same country separated by three hundred years. Especially as the first one was particularly important. You'd have thought when the second one came along they would have differentiated him by giving him a different name or something. It makes me wonder if this could be some sort of Fomenko style duplicate. Maybe the 300 year gap is a symptom of the Phantom Time Hypothesis.

Many aspects of these saints lives seem quite frankly made up as well. The second Oswald supposedly died washing the feet of the poor. And Bede tells a story of how the first piously broke up a silver dish and gave it to the poor.

The name Oswald also seems quite curious too. It means "Divine ruler". "Os" meaning God and "Wald" meaning wield in Anglo-Saxon. A pretty apt name for a venerated saint don't-cha think. "Wald" also means forest in German. I can't help but wonder if that meaning would work better - Forest of God, or maybe even Tree of God. This would tie in with stuff like the Dream of the Rood where there seems to be some sort of Pagan-Christian strand where the cross is more a real tree than an actual wooden cross.

The Waldensians also spring to mind. They were supposedly named after their founder Peter Waldo, but this seems tenuous to me. I'd wager that they originally worshipped outside in forests - or that they even maybe worshipped trees to some extent. Maybe both they and the Oswald myths and legends are echoes of a Northern Christianity that was suppressed and co-opted by the Catholic church.

On the topic of Oswald myths this caught my eye on the first Oswald's Wikipedia page;
Reginald of Durham recounts another miracle, saying that his right arm was taken by a bird (perhaps a raven) to an ash tree, which gave the tree ageless vigor; when the bird dropped the arm onto the ground, a spring emerged from the ground. Both the tree and the spring were, according to Reginald, subsequently associated with healing miracles. Aspects of the legend have been considered to have pagan overtones or influences—this may represent a fusion of his status as a traditional Germanic warrior-king with Christianity. The name of the site, Oswestry, or "Oswald's Tree", is generally thought to be derived from Oswald's death there and the legends surrounding it.
Not very Christian at all.

I should also mention the Oswald legend associated with Roseberry Topping which I spoke of in an earlier post. It tells the story of Oswald's son Oswy (who in the conventional historical record is actually Oswald's brother - hmm?). In it he drowns in childhood in a spring at the summit of the Topping - fulfilling a prophetic dream his mother had. A fuller version of the legend can be found here -

Interestingly there's a church dedicated to St Oswald in the nearby village of Newton-under-Roseberry.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Red Hair and the Reformation

The is something I've been ruminating on for a while now. It's speculation of the worst kind, but it's curious nonetheless, and it's namely this; whenever I look at European history and the great religious divide I also see that divide echoed in hair colour. Or, to put it another way, European history, viewed through a certain lens, can be viewed as Red Hair vs The Catholic Church.

I first noticed this when I was researching red hair and discovered that quite a few of the famous figures from history that came up against the Church of Rome were red-haired. Galileo, Oliver Cromwell, Elizabeth I, not to mention others that were possible or borderline redheads - Robespierre had red/chestnut hair, Martin Luther is portrayed in some paintings with red hair, Henry VIII was possibly red-haired (he must have at least carried the gene for red hair given that he produced red haired offspring). Now it would be ridiculous to suggest that all redheads were pro-reformation, freedom-loving revolutionaries. In fact, quintessential Catholic martyr Mary Queen of Scots was also a redhead - and Henry VIII was hardly a liberal reformer, but still the red-hairedness seemed noticeable to me.

Another thing which got me thinking along these lines was the relationship between Judaism and red hair. As anybody who's read some of my other posts will know I believe that Judaism (or branches and variants of it) were present in northern Europe from the beginning and not just found in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Just as Phoenician traders travelled to and from Britain in pre-Roman times so too did the cultures and religions.

Anyway, it would seem that from the earliest times Jewishness was associated with red hair in Europe. This is from Wikipedia;
"Red hair is also fairly common amongst the Ashkenazi Jewish populations, possibly because of the influx of European DNA over a period of centuries. In European culture, prior to the 20th century, red hair was often seen as a stereotypically Jewish trait: during the Spanish Inquisition, all those with red hair were identified as Jewish. In Italy, red hair was associated with Italian Jews, and Judas was traditionally depicted as red-haired in Italian and Spanish art."
I often wonder if the Reformation sprang from some collective cultural memory of the northern (Jewish?) Christianity that existed before it was suppressed by the Catholic Church. Another parallel can be seen in the witch hunts that happened across Europe. It's commonly said that red hair was a sign of witchery, in fact I've heard some Internet commentators describe the witch hunts as a genocide against redheads. Interestingly the pointed hats associated with witches and wizards in the popular imagination, bring to mind the pointed hats that medieval Jews were forced to wear to distinguish themselves from non-Jews.

The focus on scriptures and the reverence for the Old Testament is also something characteristic of the Reformation movement which seems markedly Jewish.

Another thing which makes the Reformation seem somewhat ginger to my eyes is the artwork of the Northern Renaissance. Of course, Germany and the Netherlands were hotbeds of reformation and revolution, and the artwork of the time seems to have a particular flavour. Artists like Lucas Cranach the Elder and Albrecht Durer seemed to revel in redness. The fact that orange was adopted as the colour of Protestantism also seems quite apt. Obviously this adoption is due to the Protestant William of Orange and his kin - so named because they held the Principality of Orange in what's now modern day France. I wouldn't contest such well documented history, but still it would be interesting if there was a more esoteric angle to the adoption of the colour.

I also recently read an article that suggested that the 45th parallel acts as a natural boundary for red hair in Europe. The idea being that beneath this line the amount of sunlight makes it disadvantageous to have red hair and that therefore nature selects against it. I can't help but wonder if this line maybe parallels the northern Protestant/southern Catholic divide as well. The big argument against this though is Ireland - possibly the most red-haired country on Earth and historically one of the most Catholic. This seems like a big anomaly to me. Maybe if I can find out why Ireland became so Catholic it'll help me gain more insight into all this.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Mary Magdalene the Mermaid

I was recently researching online about mermaids and I came across this on Wikipedia;
A ceasg is a mermaid in Scottish mythology, a supernatural half-woman and half-grilse (salmon). It is also known in Scottish Gaelic as maighdean na tuinne ("maid of the wave") or maighdean mhara ("maid of the sea"). The ceasg is said to be able to grant three wishes to anyone that captures her.
Now mhara means sea, and I'm guessing is the equivalent of mer and also Mary. Now if you switch maighdean mhara (maid of the sea) round you get mhara maighdean (sea maid), which looks, or rather sounds, like Mary Magdalene. Tenuous I know, but still worthy of mention I think. So does Mary Magdalene mean sea-maid/mermaid?

Something else which springs to mind is the fact that in Tudor times mermaid was used as a euphemism for prostitute. In fact Mary Queen of Scots (another Mary) was branded with the slur. And Mary Magdalene was of course portrayed as a prostitute.

Another tenuous link I came across was with Madeleine cakes - cakes cooked in the shape of a shell. Shells, particularly cockle shells, are associated with female sexuality. They're likewise associated with the goddess Venus and various other watery, womany, fertility-type goddess figures. The name Madeleine is a variant of the name Magdalene. Magdalena sponge cakes also come to mind.

Also the name Mädelein in German means "little girl" - similar to the term maid or maiden. Again going back to maighdean mhara - maid of the sea.

Actually, come to think of it, Maid Marian might also be some kind of variant or relation. And in French legends Mary Magdalene often arrives in France from across the sea. Mary Maiden. Sea Maid.

A Painting of a Ginger Alien

Flame-haired ginger alien in a cardigan.

Came across this when I was going through some of my old artwork. Quaint.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tuesday, Tiw, Dieu and Jew

Over the last year or so I've been interested in the etymology of the words Jew, Druid and David. I ended up down this track due to my interest in revisionist history and a vague notion that the Druids and Jews of old were possibly one and the same people (or at least two related branches of a common cultural phenomena). I felt that it was possible that all three words had a common origin. It also occurred to me that the French word for God, Dieu, sounded almost identical to the word Jew.

Anyhow, this week I've been looking at the god Tiw (or Týr). This god apparently lent his name to Tuesday - Tiw's day. Therefore I'm gonna guess that his name is pronounced Tue to rhyme with Jew. He's supposedly the god of law and heroic glory. He's also often depicted with his right hand missing (in lore bitten off by a wolf).

He's always struck me as a bit of a mystery. All the other gods that gave names to weekdays seem so much more well known.

Sunday - Sun Day
Monday - Moon Day
Tuesdays - Tiw's Day
Wednesday - Woden's Day
Thursday - Thor's Day
Friday - Freyja's Day
Saturday - Saturn Day
(I think)

"Who the hell's Tiw?"

Wikipedia says that Tiw was originally just a generic name for god;
Týr in origin was a generic noun meaning "god", e.g. Hangatyr, literally, the "god of the hanged", as one of Odin's names, which was probably inherited from Tyr in his role as god of justice.
Seems like there's a mystery lurking.

I also came across this blog that seems to touch on a similar theme;
herman newt and his scaly mates

For the time being I shall be referring to Tuesday as Dieu's Day though. Adieu.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

An Unusual Portrait: Louis II of Hungary

I recently came across this portrait when I was looking through paintings of European monarchs.

I just assumed it was a painting of a woman, but I subsequently found out that it was of Louis II, King of Hungary. It was painted by Bernhard Strigel and was completed in 1515, a year before the young Louis ascended to the throne. I find it a little odd that a king, or at least potential king, would be portrayed in such a feminine way.

Strigel also painted another painting of Louis around the same time, only this time he's with the family of the Emperor Maximilian I (after his father's death Louis was adopted by Maximilian.) This time he looks much as he does in the previous painting, only this time he's clutching a scrolled piece of paper.

I wonder if there's a potential mystery in this. Incidentally, Louis died in battle at the age of 19. His marriage was childless so he left no immediate successor. There are suggestions that he fathered an illegitimate child though.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Best of the Roseberries

Finally got some music on iTunes, Amazon, etc. I uploaded a best of (the arrogance of it).

[Dead links now - the album was only available to buy for that single year due to lack of demand :(
 - - It can all be found and freely downloaded below though :)  -- Neil, 2018.

- - - - > > > https://soundcloud.com/the-roseberries ]

For the album artwork I used an old Roseberries collage;

Monday, January 21, 2013

Recently Read: Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme

I've recently finished reading Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme by the 17th century antiquary John Aubrey. I say recently, I actually read it about a year ago and it's been lying around on my Kindle with notes and annotations ever since. It's a fascinating work and having refreshed my memory with it I think I'll now relay the bits of information worthy of repeat.

The first thing I'll mention is the title. The book is basically a collection of customs, traditions and folklores, so to my modern eyes the title seems a little odd. The work contains some bits of information relating to Judaism, but on the whole it generally concerns itself with old wives' tales and I guess what we today would call pagan or rural traditions. I suppose the general sense of the title should be taken to mean the remains of anything pre-Christian. But still, the idea that Judaism was equated with paganism in years yonder is something I find quite interesting. I noticed when reading The Merchant of Venice that Jessica, the daughter of Jewish Shylock is at one point referred to as a pagan - Most beautiful pagan, most sweet Jew! I wonder.

Anyway, I'll now just list some of the interesting facts I came across in the work;
"The Shepheards, and vulgar people in South Wilts call Februarie Sowelgrove"
"The vulgar in the West of England doe call the month of March, Lide" 
"When a Magpie chatters on a Tree by the house it declares the comeing of a stranger thither that night. So I have heard in Germany."
There was also this passage about the sacrifice of blonds that I can make head nor tale of;
"Vide Spondam Epitomen Baronii Annaliam - where he speakes de Basidilianisy that did keep Sacrifices for Christy as well as Jewish - and they had serpents that were fed with the blond of the Sacrifices. Vincentins Lerinensis adversns Haereticos also saieth the same. The Bramens have also serpents in great veneration: they keep their Come. I thinke it is Tavemier, that mentions it."
The book also mentions something called Cocklebread;
"Young wenches have a wanton sport, w[hich] they call moulding of Cocklebread ; viz. they gett upon a Table-board, and then gather-up their knees & their coates with their hands as high as they can, and then they wabble to and &o with their Buttocks as if the[y] were kneading of Dowgh with their A — "
I think Wikipedia explains this one better;
"Cockle bread was a bread baked by English women in the seventeenth century which was supposed to act as a love charm or aphrodisiac. The dough was kneaded and pressed against the woman's vulva and then baked. This bread was then given to the object of the baker's affections."
 Another passage that caught my eye was this one;
"Before printing, OJd-wives Tales were ingeniose : and since Printing came in fashion, till a little before the Civil-warres, the ordinary sort of People were not taught to reade; now-a-dayes Bookes are common, and most of the poor people imderstand letters ; and the many good Bookes, and variety of Turnes of Affaires, have putt all the old Fables out of doors; and the divine art of Printing and Gunpowder have frighted away Robin-good-fellow and the Fayries."
Now I have a theory that universal literacy was not the product of schooling, but simply a product of the introduction of the printing press. I believe that in days gone by most people learnt to read much the same way that modern people learn to use computers and DVD players - i.e. not through schooling, but through their own everyday desire and need to do it. People wanted to read - because it was interesting, useful and (as there was no competition from TV and movies and so on) very entertaining - so they took it upon themselves to learn how to do it (no doubt with a little help and advice from friends and family). Just as in today's world if you want to use a mobile phone and get all the benefits of using it you have to teach yourself to use one - no-one's going to school to learn this kind of thing. Anyhow, I think the education system has taken credit for something that would have happened anyway regardless of it or not. In fact, I confidently predict that if children stopped going to school tomorrow in twenty or thirty years time society would be no less literate than it is today. But anyway, I meander, back to the book...
"Spell is the old English for word[,] so Gospell [is] God's word."
And finally a passage concerning my local area, Cleveland. It's an account of funeral dirges written down in the reign of Elizabeth the First.
"When any dieth, certaine women sing a song to the dead bodie, reciting the journey that the partye deceased must goe ; and they are of beliefe (such is their fondnesse) that once in their lives it is good to give a pair of new shoes to a poor man, forasmuch . as after this life they are to pass barefoot through a great launde full of thornes and furzen, except, by the meryte of the almes aforesaid, they have redeemed the forfeyte ; for at the edge of the launde an oulde man shall meet them with the same shoes that were given by the partie when he was lyving ; and, after he hath shodde them, dismisseth them to go through thick and thin without scratch or scalle."

Friday, January 18, 2013

Recently Read: Love's Labour's Lost by William Shakespeare

This is probably my favourite Shakespeare play. I read it before quite a long while back and enjoyed it then as I have now.

The first thing that always strikes me about this play is the title. I can't for the life of me understand the use of the apostrophes. It would seem much more pleasing without them to my mind. In fact, having read the play's Wikipedia page it would appear that originally the title didn't contain them.
"In its first 1598 quarto publication it appears as Loues Labors Lost."
Evidence to me that Shakespeare has once again been bastardised by later idiots. I think in future I'll just dismiss the apostrophes when referring to it.

Anyway, nothing much to say about this play really apart from the fact that it was excellent. Just brilliant.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Recently Read: Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice

This was much more nuanced than 'The Jew of Malta'. Quite brilliant actually. Some of the language and observation contained within was just excellent. Once again the portrayal of Jews, this time via the character Shylock, was pretty disdainful. Although it's gotta be said not as strong as in Marlowe's - this time the Jewish character acts solely within the law, although the malice and self-interest is nonetheless evident.

Interestingly, in both plays the Jewish villain has a daughter - in 'The Merchant of Venice' it's Jessica and in 'The Jew of Malta' Abigail. Both these characters are good and contain none of the ill will or vengefulness of their fathers. It's generally believed that Marlowe's play directly influenced Shakespeare's, so that may explain this common theme in the two plays. However, I'm sure I've came across this theme before in literature, but I can't quite remember where. The theme of the horrid Jewish father and goodly Jewish daughter seems to have a certain resonance with me. I'll keep an eye out for it.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Recently Read: The Jew of Malta by Kit Marlowe

Really enjoyed it - whizzed through it. This one seemed a lot less Shakespearean. In fact, I've just made a start on 'The Merchant of Venice' and although the themes are similar, the text and styles seem markedly different. Shakespeare feels a lot more flowery.

The most notable thing about the play was the portrayal of the title character, Barabas. He's portrayed as a wealth-obsessed, deceitful murderer and conforms to the negative stereotype of the untrustworthy Jew. I'm not going to condemn, condone or try to explain this as it's hard to put the play into context, but I'm guessing that most modern readers would find it a little bit uncomfortable to read. Still, it's fascinating this sense of otherness Jews have had throughout the ages and I wonder how foreign Jewish people would've seemed to the English audiences of the day.

Like all these Elizabethan plays, this one was interesting for its historical value as well as its artistry. In short, anti-Semitic, but entertaining.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Recently Read: Tamburlaine the Great

I've just finished reading 'Tamburlaine the Great' (parts one and two) by the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe. It was my first introduction to Marlowe and my initial impression was of how similar in structure and style it was to the plays of Shakespeare. I'm guessing this impression is more due to my ignorance of other writings of the period than anything else. At a distance of 400 years everything probably looks a bit Shakespeary to modern eyes.

Anyhow, I really enjoyed it and now look forward to reading 'The Jew of Malta'. The next Marlowe play I have lined up to read.

I should also mention that the similarity of 'Tamburlaine' to Shakespeare has moved me a little closer towards believing the 'Marlowe was Shakespeare' conspiracy theory. Then again, like I said above, it might just be that that was the general style at the time and I can't appreciate the subtle differences. This observation then in turn opens me up to the idea that Shakespeare could have been more than a single man. The plot thickens.