King Arthur? Avalon? Who? What…?

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Illustration of King Arthur Receiving Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake. N.C. Wyeth, c. 1910.

I had an instructive incident this afternoon, as I was teaching one of my behind-the-wheel students: since the struggle to save the West does not come with a salary, I teach driver’s education to put meat and bread on the table, and otherwise attempt to keep the wolves from the door.

Seeing a Toyota Avalon ahead of us at a stop light, I quipped to my student, “Well, there’s Avalon! I wonder where King Arthur is?” There was a brief silence, followed by a (slightly sheepish, to her credit) “I didn’t get that one!” from my student.

She didn’t get it. An Anglophone high school student, and one with a European last name and apparent ancestral heritage, to boot, didn’t get a reference – and not an obscure one – to the Arthurian legends, one of the most formative legendary and literary cycles in the history of the English-speaking peoples (and significant to French and German-speaking ones, as well). If there is any doubt that our educational system is in serious disarray, this one incident is proof positive, I would confidently assert.

I passed off the episode lightly, for my student’s sake – I’m teaching her to drive a car, not appreciate her own cultural heritage, and there were tasks to accomplish, and traffic and road conditions in need of attention – but it bothered me, and it continues to rankle.

But thinking about it tonight, I realized that from the perspective of the propagandists and ideologues that make up much of our educational establishment, this is an example, not of disarray, but of how well their plan is working. King Arthur should most emphatically not be taught, according to this outlook!

He is not only a member of one of the most despised of all classes (and one of the very few it is permissible – indeed, encouraged – to despise), a “DWEM” (Dead White European Male), but he actually fought against the invasion and subjugation diversity and cultural enrichment of his Romano-British land and people by the Anglo-Saxons. Really fought! With swords and spears and things. And in the process became an icon and an inspiration for defense against immigrant invasion opposition to multiculturalism for centuries thereafter.

How vile! He must have been one of those white supremacists. Oh, wait – the Anglo-Saxons were white, too! And so were the Vikings… and the Normans… and even the French and Spanish, who tried and failed to invade England. Best we just leave British / English history out of the schools entirely, unless we can find ways to convincingly pretend that they weren’t nearly as European as they very clearly and historically were, at least until the last decade or so.

We certainly don’t want to infect any of today’s students of European ancestry with any pride in their heritage, do we? Much less suggest to them, however indirectly, that it might be – perhaps even, ought to be – defended from invaders? Perish the thought!

We are seriously screwed up, and are getting screwed-er up-er, all the time!

 

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Neolithic Britons travelled across country for regular mass national feasts 4,500 years ago, new research claims | The Independent

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Neolithic stone circle at Avebury, with the modern village built in as well as around it.

New scientific discoveries are set to dramatically transform our understanding of prehistoric Britain.

Source: Neolithic Britons travelled across country for regular mass national feasts 4,500 years ago, new research claims | The Independent

So, once again pop culture is discovering what some of us have realized for some time: that so-called “primitive” peoples were not as primitive as we often tend to believe!

A study of Stonehenge-era archaeological material from large-scale ceremonial feasts is revealing that neolithic Britain was, in key respects, much more interconnected and unified than previously thought.

“These gatherings could be seen as the first united cultural events of our island, with people from all corners of Britain descending on the areas around Stonehenge to feast on food that had been specially reared and transported from their homes” [said lead author Dr Madgwick].

The emergence of some sort of country-wide identity now appears to have been part of a package of new cultural and political developments that occurred at around the time the great stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury were built.

What is not known is whether this nascent “national,” or at least pan-tribal, cultural identity was a lasting feature of neolithic British society, or whether it only lasted as long as the reign of a particularly dominant king / chieftain (or perhaps dynasty). The evidence, in any case,

“strongly suggests that religious or political elites wanted and were able to gather together at a ‘national’ rather than purely local communal or tribal level.

“Given the religious and ritual nature of the venues, it is conceivable that at least some of the participants had societal roles that were ‘national’ in nature  – similar perhaps to the pan-tribal Druid religious elite in Iron Age Britain 2,000 years later.

“The emergence of some sort of country-wide identity now appears to have been part of a package of new cultural and political developments that occurred at around the time the great stone circles of Stonehenge and Avebury were built.”

Read on for more!

Feasts were held at ritual sites, including Avebury
Feasts were held at ritual sites, including Avebury (English Heritage).

Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, 604 | For All Saints

One of the most important bishops of Rome and most influential writers of the Middle Ages, Gregory the First is one of only two popes (the other being Leo the First), to have been given the epithet “the Great.”

Source: Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, 604 | For All Saints

Perhaps best known for being credited with the compilation of the canon of what is now known (after him) as “Gregorian chant” – that is to say, monastic plainchant, for the Holy Eucharist (the Mass) and the Daily Office – as well as reforms to the Roman liturgy; although as this account notes,

“His role in the development of the Roman liturgy and its chant was considerable, though disputed. He certainly modified various minor features and composed a number of prayers which formed the nucleus of the Gregorian Sacramentary, though this work reached its final form after his death. Many prayers in the sacramentary, if not actually written by him, were inspired by his through and phraseology. Since the tenth century his name has been associated with ‘Gregorian’ chant: while the chant bearing his name arose from a later Carolingian synthesis of Gallican and Roman chant, he probably played a role in the gradual codification and adaptation of several preexisting forms of plainsong.”

Not only chant is known by his name: Gregory’s influence on the Roman liturgy is such that the traditional Roman Catholic Eucharistic canon is frequently known as the “Gregorian Canon,” and our Western Rite Orthodox brothers and sisters call the form of their liturgy based on it “the Liturgy of St. Gregory.”

His primary significance for Anglicans, however, lies in his role as “Apostle to the English”:

“Apparently convinced that the future of Christianity lay with monasticism and not with the declining Eastern Roman Empire, he hoped to lead a group of missionaries in taking the Gospel to the Anglo-Saxons in Britain, after seeing English children or youth on sale as slaves in the Roman market around the year 573. He is said to have remarked on their beauty as being like that of angels, whereupon he was told that they were in fact Angles – causing him to say, Non Angli, sed angeli: “Not Angles, but angels.” But this was not to be his ministry…

Nevertheless, “One of Gregory’s most notable achievements was the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons. He personally took the lead in the whole process, sending Augustine, prior of his own monastery of Saint Andrew’s on the Caelian Hill, and a number of fellow monks to southeastern Britain, to the Jutish kingdom of Kent, where they achieved within a few years the conversion of the people and of their king, Ethelbert. Gregory continue personally to guide the mission in matters that perplexed Augustine by sending a supporting group of missionaries, along with liturgical vessels, books, and vestments, in 601; and by writing to Ethelbert and his Christian queen, Bertha on various matters.

“The close relationship between Rome and the English Church was continued by Gregory’s successors, and in many ways the Church in England was closer to the papacy than the Church in Gaul was. The first Life of Gregory was written in England, and from the biographies written by the Venerable Bede, Aldhelm, and the anonymous biographer of Whitby come eulogies of Gregory as ‘the apostle of the English,’ ‘our father and apostle in Christ,’ and ‘he from whom we have received the Christian faith, he who will present the English people to the Lord on the Day of Judgment as their teacher and apostle.'”

Glories of the West: New research and artist’s impressions shed light on Windsor Castle’s 1,000-year history

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Reconstruction image of Windsor Castle in its earliest form, a motte and bailey castle, around 1086 ©

The story of Windsor Castle’s transformation from the wooden fortress built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century to the Palace that today serves as an official residence of Her Majesty The Queen.

Source: New research and artist’s impressions shed light on Windsor Castle’s 1,000-year history | Royal Collection Trust

This looks marvelous!!!

“The story of Windsor Castle’s transformation from the wooden fortress built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century to the Palace that today serves as an official residence of Her Majesty The Queen, has been brought to life in new artist’s impressions. Based on the evidence of new research, historic manuscripts, drawings and paintings, and recent GPS surveys, the illustrations were specially commissioned for Windsor Castle: A Thousand Years of a Royal Palace, published by Royal Collection Trust today. The most comprehensive study of the Castle in more than a century, this book sets the architectural and artistic history of Windsor against the backdrop of wider social, political and cultural events in the life of the Monarchy and the nation.”

 

 

More on Shrove Tuesday (“Pancake Day”) customs in the UK

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As commented earlier, today is Shrove Tuesday, also known as “Pancake Day.” Apparently pancake races, in which the contestants have to flip pancakes while running along, are traditional for this day in parts of the British Isles. These are young choristers from the choir school of one England’s great cathedrals – I forget, now, which one (I’ve had the picture for quite a while…). Here are more customs, along with some recipes:

All About Pancake Day in the UK

Shrove Tuesday pancake races alive and well across the Diocese of Leeds

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Source: Shrove Tuesday pancake races alive and well across the Diocese of Leeds

Apparently there are some places in England that are keeping the tradition of Shrove Tuesday pancake races alive (although this is from 2015)!

“Pancake racing has been taking place this Shrove Tuesday… on streets across the diocese from village churches to Minsters and Cathedrals. It was the first experience of the traditional Ripon Shrove Tuesday Pancake races for the Dean, the Very Revd John Dobson, pictured below with a team of Cathedral staff racing along Kirkgate – including Canon Paul Greenwell, Verger Philip Bustard, Head verger Colin Belsey (right) and the Mayor of Ripon, Cllr Mick Stanley.”

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Why pancakes, and why races? According to the Diocese of Leeds’ website,

“Shrove Tuesday is part of the Christian calendar marking the eve of Lent (40 days of fasting and prayers before Easter ). It was historically held so people could use up their supplies from the pantry before Lent began on Ash Wednesday. The word shrove comes from the Old English word shrive – to confess one’s sins. On Shrove Tuesday people confess their sins and it’s believed that pancake races came from women rushing to church before the noon cut-off time, clutching their half-finished pancakes.”

The “why pancakes” part I knew, of course; but the “why races” is interesting, even if perhaps apocryphal!

The Great Christmas Truce of 1914 | Sainsbury’s Ad | Christmas 2014

Source: 1914 | Sainsbury’s Ad | Christmas 2014

I am not normally a fan of marketing, but I love this ad, and even more, the historical episode behind it: the Great Christmas Truce of 1914, which for a few brief, shining hours, stopped one of the most horrific and destructive wars in history – certainly in European history – in its tracks. Before they were forced back to killing each other by their “superiors,” the ordinary soldiers of the British and German Armies enjoyed a brief respite from the fighting… and a brief vision of one another as fellow-humans, brothers.

If only the spirit of that moment could have somehow taken hold, been built upon, perhaps the terrible destruction and loss of the flower of European youth – the “death of a generation” – at Verdun, the Somme, and other battles, might have been prevented. And perhaps, just perhaps, the continued suffering and loss which has followed, in the last century, might also have been prevented… A heartwarming, yet heartbreaking, story.

I cry every time I watch this.

Please, God – no more brother wars.