Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ancient God in the New World

After more than 3000 years of Egyptian deserts, the goddess Sekhmet has come to rest in the cooler climes of the California Central Coast.

In the early 20th century, she traveled West to make her home at the estate of Hearst Castle in San Luis Obispo County, California.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Napoleon's Queen of the Battlefield

Batteries (normally six cannon and two howitzers plus caissons and crews) of Light (a relative term as this piece weighs just under 2000 lbs) field pieces like this 12 pdr Foot Artillery cannon were the Queens of the battlefield to a master of artillery like Napoleon.

Firing a 12 pd ball or the deadly grapeshot (a mass of smaller iron balls that in action made the cannon a giant shotgun), field artillery was used to deadly effect throughout the 17th to 19th centuries. 

Howitzers such as this 5.7 inch (muzzle diameter) example were used to lob shells in a high arc over intervening terrain, fortifications and friendly troops.  Howitzers were used in smaller numbers than field cannons but were no less deadly when place under the command of an expert such at Napoleon.

A Knights Warhorse Needed Armor Too!

From full plate protection...
to scale-mail... A Knight with an armored warhorse was a powerful opponent on any pre-modern firearms battlefield.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Samurai Seppuku Honor through Death

During the age of the Samurai of Nippon, an extremely painful form of ritual suicide was developed-Seppuku.  Seppuku was most often used to maintain or regain honor or in the case of obligatory suppuku, a form of capital punishment.  Seppuku (often referred to as "Haha-Kiri" outside of Japan) at its core involved the samurai slicing open his abdomen in a left to right stroke with the his short sword, the Wakizashi.  Then an assistant would then decapitate the samurai with a single stroke from
 a katana sword.  The victims bravery would be admired, his honor intact and his name spoken with respect.

The full ritual was very involved and would include a display platform, special clothing,  an audience of witnesses, a death poem written by the samurai and display of the dead man head.   The ritual is thought to have begun in the 12th century and has been practiced by some traditionalist as late a the last decades of the 20th century.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Heraldic Colors-Meanings for Lords and Knights

When choosing his "Houses" (family) colors/tinctures (as well as symbols-visit: for meanings of some of the most common designs), a Lord would often use a common list of color meanings to make a statement about himself and his beliefs.

Common Color Meanings
Metal Gold (Or): Wisdom. Generosity, Faith, Glory
Metal Silver (Argent): Innocence, Peace, Purity, Sincerity, Truth

Black (Sable): Consistency, Grief, Prudence, Wisdom
Blue (Azure): Chastity, Faith, Loyalty, Strength, Truth
Green (Vert): Abundance, Hope, Joy, Loyalty in Love
Maroon (Sanquine): Fortitude, Patient in Battle, Victorious
Orange (Tawny/Tenne): Worthy Ambition
Purple (Purpure): Justice, Regal, Royal Majesty, Sovereignty, Temperance
Red (Gules): Magnanimity, Martyr, Military Strength, Warrior

Furs: were usually identified via black dots on a colored field and most often represented "Dignity." Ermine was one the most common fur design. A standard rule of tincture was metal must never be placed upon metal, nor colour upon colour, this is thought to have allowed a stronger contrast, making the shield design stand out clearer.

The significance each color could vary somewhat between countries and over time; but these are among the most common meanings.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Dark Ages (of Western Europe)

The term "the Dark Ages" is an imprecise label for the time period in mostly Western Europe after the Fall of the Roma Empire to some period in the Middle Ages.  The period generally lasted from the 5th to 9th centuries C.E.  The Dark Ages were hallmarked by the reduction of large cities, as well as the loss of population, technology, trade, central government and in general the higher civilization of the Roman World.  During this time, Western Europe devolved from one empire into literally thousands of kingdoms, principalities, duchies, city states and the like.  It was truly an era were "Might makes Right" was the rule.

The one unifying factor of the period was the Roman Christian faith that withstood the fall of the empire and expanded into the myriad of new states that were forming in Europe.  For centuries the Church kept the light of reading and writing lit in a part of the World that had lost the need for such a skill.

With the coming of Charlemagne, in the 9th century, the losses of the Dark Ages were slowly reversed and the growth of the Middle Ages truly begun.   Yet it would still be several centuries before the Renaissance would fully push Europe onto the road of technological and social growth that would propel humankind into the Modern of today.