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Here be Dragons!

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Recently, my husband and I had a discussion about dragons (as one does).  I had just read Job 41, in which God describes fire-breathing dragons to Job as a rhetorical example of something that Job cannot control, but that God does (vss. 10-11).  Here’s a snippet (vss. 12-34):

“I will not fail to speak of Leviathan’s limbs, its strength and its graceful form.  Who can strip off its outer coat?  Who can penetrate its double coat of armour?  Who dares open the doors of its mouth, ringed about with fearsome teeth?  Its back has rows of shields tightly sealed together;  each is so close to the next that no air can pass between.  They are joined fast to one another; they cling together and cannot be parted.  Its snorting throws out flashes of light; its eyes are like the rays of dawn.  Flames stream from its mouth; sparks of fire shoot out.  Smoke pours from its nostrils as from a boiling pot over burning reeds.  Its breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from its mouth.  Strength resides in its neck; dismay goes before it.  The folds of its flesh are tightly joined; they are firm and immovable.  Its chest is hard as rock, hard as a lower millstone.  When it rises up, the mighty are terrified; they retreat before its thrashing. The sword that reaches it has no effect, nor does the spear or the dart or the javelin.  Iron it treats like straw and bronze like rotten wood.  Arrows do not make it flee; slingstones are like chaff to it.  A club seems to it but a piece of straw; it laughs at the rattling of the lance.  Its undersides are jagged potsherds, leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing sledge.  It makes the depths churn like a boiling cauldron and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.  It leaves a glistening wake behind it; one would think the deep had white hair.  Nothing on earth is its equal — a creature without fear.  It looks down on all that are haughty; it is king over all that are proud.”

Some Bible commentators have tried to pass this off as a hippo, or even crocodile; but I have yet to hear of a crocodile that sneezes flames.  As recently as the 17th century, scholars and scientists wrote about dragons as though they were scientific fact, yet modern science seems to steer clear of them as much as they might dismiss stories about big foot and the Loch Ness Monster.  Yet for all that, there is a rich treasure trove of historical evidence for the existence of dragons.

Just seen in the light of historical literary references, it is undeniable that such creatures as we would describe as dragons existed; from Native America, throughout Europe and into China records abound. Some literary sources are as follows:  The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles (two mentions); the Epic of Gilgamesh (written 2000 BC); the ancient historian Josephus; the third century historian Gaius Solinus; the Greek researcher Herodotus; the historian Gesner; the Italian historian Aldrovandus; the first century Greek historian Strabo; and the list goes on and on.

Historical pictorial references also abound:  Of the 12 animals depicted on the Chinese zodiac, the dragon is the only one that is no longer alive today; it is also the only one that is often considered mythical – but does it seem logical that they would include one non-existent animal, when all the others are real?  Botanists, meticulous recorders of natural history, fauna and wildlife, and men who were renowned historians all make references to and descriptions of dragons.  Like the Cambodian Stegosaurus, what seems out of place to modern man might simply have been a known creature at the time of the creation of the document or the artwork construction, but unknown today.

For an excellent article on the topic, with historical references galore, please click on the image below.

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Augusta “Ada” Byron King, Countess of Lovelace

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Did you know that the world’s first computer programmer was an English woman?

Ada Byron Lovelace 2Augusta Byron was born 10 December 1815, the daughter of George Gordon and Anne Isabella Milbanke.  The father had more influence in her life by his absence than he probably would have had by his presence:  Otherwise known as Lord Byron, the poet, he abandoned his wife and only legitimate daughter one month after Ada was born, and left England forever four months later.  Likely because he wasn’t there to shatter a child’s romantic notions of a father, she remained fascinated with him, and even requested being buried by his side before she passed away in 1852.  Her embittered mother wasn’t much help, either:  Often leaving Ada in the care of her maternal grandmother, she would write letters to “it” to prove her motherly care to Victorian society, but in truth had little relationship to her daughter; fortunately for Ada, her grandmother Judith, Hon. Lady Milbanke, doted on her, and that care allowed Ada to develop her curious mind.  Her mother attempted to blot out any trace of Lord Byron’s “insanity” in his daughter by ensuring that she was well-trained in mathematics.  At the age of 12 she decided that she wanted to fly, and pursued the project with methodical passion, even writing a book about the experience, called, “Flyology”.  Her interest in mathematics dominated much of her adult life, though she seems to have made poor relationship choices:  She created a syndicate with several male friends, and at one point she was massively in debt when a scheme of hers to combine maths with her love of gambling backfired; she had to confess it all to her husband, which may have been a strain that led to him leaving her to her mother’s control in the final months of her life.

In 1833 she was introduced by a friend to Charles Babbage (known as “the father of computers”), and they corresponded for many years in a working relationship, particularly on his development of the Analytical Machine.  She translated an Italian article by Luigi Menabrea about his engine, adding her own elaborate notes; these supplementary notes contain what is essentially the first computer program – an algorithm to be carried out by a machine.  While Babbage himself only focused on the capabilities of a computer, Ada envisioned far more possibilities than merely calculations.

Little did she know how right she would be.

Information source:  Wikipedia

The Deaf Princess Nun

Princess Alice of BattenburgPrincess Alice of Battenberg, christened Victoria Alice Elizabeth Julia Marie (born 25 February 1885 at Windsor Castle – 5 December 1969 at Buckingham Palace), later Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, was considered the most beautiful princess in Europe.  She was born completely deaf, yet learned to read lips at a young age and could speak several languages.  Alice grew up in Germany, and was the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria.  In a time when royalty had little to do with the commoners, she was an unconventional royal who placed the importance of people over privilege and wealth.  She was devoted to helping others, and in the turmoil of her own personal life never lost sight of her devotion to God and her commitment to helping those less fortunate.

At the age of 17 she fell in love with Prince Andrew of Greece, and they were married in 1903.  They had four daughters and one son; their daughters went on to marry German princes, and their son Prince Philip married Elizabeth II, Queen of England; Alice is therefore the grandmother of the Princes Charles, Andrew, Edward and Princess Anne.  She and her family lived in Greece until political turmoil caused the royals to flee in exile in 1917, when they settled in a suburb of Paris.  Alice began working with charities helping Greek refugees, while her husband left her and the children for a life of debauchery and gambling in Monte Carlo.  She found strength in her Greek Orthodox faith, yet relied on the charity of wealthy relatives in that period of her life when she had no home to call her own, and no husband to help raise her children.  Understandably through the stress of circumstances, she had a nervous breakdown in 1930; dubiously diagnosed with schizophrenia, she was committed suddenly and against her will to a mental institution in Switzerland, without even the chance to say goodbye to her children (Prince Philip, 9 at the time, returned from a picnic to find his mother gone).  She continually defended her sanity and tried to leave the asylum.  Finally in 1932 she was released, but in the interim her four daughters had married (she had thus been unable to attend their weddings), and Philip had been sent to England to live with his Mountbatten uncles and his grandmother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven.

Alice eventually returned to Athens, living in a small flat and devoting her life to helping the poor.  World War II was a personal dilemma for her as her four sons-in-law fought on the German side, while her son was in the British Royal Navy; yet in her home she hid a Jewish family safely for the duration of the war.  She also remained in Athens for the duration of the war, rather than fleeing to relative safety in South Africa as many of the Greek royal family did at the time.  She worked for the Red Cross in soup kitchens, and used her royal status to fly out for medical supplies, as well as organized orphanages and a nursing circuit for the poor.  The German occupied forces assumed she was pro-German due to her ties to royal German commanders, and when a visiting German general asked her if he could do anything for her, she replied, “You can take your troops out of my country.” [For an interesting film on this period in Greek history, see “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” (2001), starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz.]

After the war ended, Alice went on to take the example of her aunt, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna (who had been formulating plans for the foundation of a religious order in 1908 when Alice met her in Russia at a family wedding), and founded a religious order, the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary, becoming a nun (though she still enjoyed smoking and playing cards) and establishing a convent and orphanage in a poverty-stricken part of Athens. Her habit consisted of a drab gray robe, white wimple, cord and rosary beads.

Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh with his mother, Princess Alice (taken late 1950s, early 1960s)

Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh with his mother, Princess Alice (taken late 1950s, early 1960s)

In 1967, following another Greek political coup, she travelled to England, where she lived with her son Prince Philip and her daughter-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace until her death in 1969.  Her final request was to be buried near her sainted aunt in Jerusalem; she was instead initially buried in the royal crypt at Windsor Castle, but in 1988 she was at last interred near her aunt in the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

In October of 1994 her two surviving children, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess George of Hanover, went to the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem to see their mother honoured as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” for having hidden Jews in her house in Athens during the Second World War.  Prince Philip said of his mother’s actions, “I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special. She was a person with a deep religious faith, and she would have considered it to be a perfectly natural human reaction to fellow beings in distress.”  In 2010 the Princess was posthumously named a Hero of the Holocaust by the British Government.

Information Sources:  Wikipedia; The Accidental Talmudist

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Thoughts on War and Murder: The Outcome is Up to Us

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I don’t often make personal commentary on this site to historical issues; they are what they are, and distance from a time as foreign to me as it is to most of my readers makes any commentary either a moot point or comes from a skewed perspective.  But I make an exception this time, because I see a horrific history beginning to repeat itself and that demands my attention, and yours, as we still have it within our power to prevent it from perpetuating, or to at least change the outcome.

Below is a photo from an interesting article on the topic of the de-nazification of Germany after World War 2.  I would encourage you to read the short article it is attached to, by clicking on the image.  I must say that reading the comments below that article is just as eye-opening; most of the people who commented did little more than spout their ignorance, splashing it out and displaying it for all the world to see.

German soldiers react to footage of concentration camps, 1945

German soldiers react to footage of concentration camps, 1945

But there is a holocaust happening today, and in America it has become a multi-million dollar industry, its running costs paid for largely by Americans’ tax money.  I’m sure most people have heard of, or seen, the Planned Parenthood scandal videos (if you have not, do take the time to Google them, watch them, and form your own opinion about them).  There are not one or two, but a dozen or more of them; undercover videos of PP execs talking about the murder (abortion) of humans, and the parcelling out of human organs and body parts for sale; the callous way they can speak of such atrocities truly smacks of what die-hard Nazis must have been thinking, or even voiced.  I am fairly certain that if Hitler had known how to generate money from selling body parts out of the death camps, he might have had a lot more silent supporters in the West.  That sounds harsh, but greed for power, territory or money is at the heart of most wars and genocides.  Now you may not agree that abortion is murder; but what else is it, if a human life is premeditatively and violently ended?  If a human female is pregnant, the pregnancy will not produce an elephant or a litter of kittens.  A disturbing difference between the reactions of the soldiers then and people now is that today we are becoming visually jaded; photo manipulation is an assumed tactic in media such as magazines and ads; if we saw models for their true forms and conditions, we’d more often than not be appalled or sickened, or at the very least shocked by imperfection.  So when an unmanipulated video or photo comes our way, a gut reaction is to mistrust it; but that should not prevent us from searching out the truth, and informing ourselves nonetheless.

Another borderless war is raging; it is a war that has had its victims since the arenas of Rome and Nero’s human torches:  A war against Christians.  In recent months the atrocities have been escalated by ISIS, with countless beheadings, tortures, rapes, kidnapping of Christian men, women and children to sell into slavery or forced into brutal “marriages” with ISIS soldiers (who likely torture, rape and kill them in short order).  The war has long been perpetrated in China, where some Christian pastors have been in tortuous prison, in conditions most people would not even consider keeping a dog, for forty years or more.  Just because of what they believe.  Years ago the West made a marginal fuss about human rights issues there; but since China has opened up to become a lucrative trading partner, all criticism on that head has been silenced.  No crime was committed by the Christians, they are no menace to society, and yet they still rot in Chinese prisons, holding firmly to their faith (I won’t go into the very valid reasons why they hold firmly, in this article).  On the contrary, where Christians are, sanity and reason tend to enter a society or a crisis; they are the first responders in most catastrophes, with churches organizing food, shelter, aid and counselling for the traumatized before most other NGOs can get their boxes together.  They are the ones mobilizing volunteers to rebuild homes, pick up the pieces, and put things back together long after other aid workers have left.  Yet the horrific persecution continues, and is largely ignored by the western press; instead, celebrity nut-jobs get more coverage and they dare to call it “news”.

I will not draw my own conclusions from the thoughts in this article; I reserve my firm convictions for my inner self, and leave the conclusions to you, the reader.  But please form your own opinion!  Don’t let it be formed by the news media, popular interpretation of events, or social media buzz.  Future generations will look back on this current generation and see these defining moments, and condemn us as failures, or laud us as history-shapers.  Become informed about these issues; for only when a people are informed can an intelligent solution be found for current issues (which leads people of conviction to action), and only then will the danger of a tragic history repeating itself be thwarted.

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