Inside the World’s Only Surviving Tattoo Shop For Medieval Pilgrims | Atlas Obscura

The Razzouk family has been inking religious pilgrims in the Middle East for 700 years.

Source: Inside the World’s Only Surviving Tattoo Shop For Medieval Pilgrims – Atlas Obscura

I am not, as a rule, fond of tattoos – either on myself, or on others. The contemporary drive to get “inked” is one which is largely lost on me; indeed, The Anglophilic Anglican has posted previously in an attempt to discourage that urge: especially on young women, but young men as well. As I commented at the time,

“I have never really liked tattoos. That some of them can be artistically interesting is beside the point: that artistry could have been expressed in a different medium. And I especially don’t care for them on girls and young women – or women in general, for that matter. Now, I’m not necessarily opposed to a small, tasteful, and discretely-placed tattoo on a woman. But anything more reminds me, frankly, of someone spray-painting graffiti all over the Sistine Chapel.”

But I am no longer a young man, and every rule has its exception. This might well be one, should I ever – by God’s grace – be fortunate enough to make it to the Holy Land. Although done in modern fashion for reasons of health and safety, the history, tradition, symbolism, and heritage expressed here is worlds away from the tattoo parlor down the street inking you with your favorite band, an ostensibly “tribal” design from who-knows-what tribe, or even the name of your girlfriend:

“For 700 years the Razzouk family has been tattooing marks of faith. Coptic Christians who settled in Jerusalem four generations ago, the family had learned the craft of tattooing in Egypt, where the devout wear similar inscriptions. Evidence of such tattoos dates back at least as far as the 8th century in Egypt and the 6th century in the Holy Land, where Procopius of Gaza wrote of tattooed Christians bearing designs of crosses and Christ’s name. Early tattoos self-identified indigenous Christians in the Middle East and Egypt. Later, as the faithful came to the Holy Land on pilgrimage, the practice expanded to offer these travelers permanent evidence of their devotion and peregrination…

“Family lore dates the Razzouk’s involvement in this cultural practice to 1300, starting first in Egypt among Coptic (Orthodox) Christians and later in the Holy Land for Christians from a variety of backgrounds… [Pilgrims’ accounts dating to the late 16th century] report designs that have become enduring pilgrimage tattoos, such as the Jerusalem cross—a motif consisting of a central, equal-arm symbol flanked by four smaller versions—along with images of Christ, Latin mottoes, dates in banners, and more.”

I have not changed my generalized views on tattooing, as expressed in that earlier post. But every rule has its exception; and if, as I say, by God’s grace I am ever able to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, this may be the one exception to my personal “no tattoos” rule. A family which has been engaged in the practice for 700 years, since the 1300s? A direct, lineal link with medieval pilgrims, of Chaucer’s age? Using designs – and stencil blocks into which those designs have been carved – known to date back at least to 1749 (one block, for the Jerusalem cross, they say is known to date back 500 years)? Yes. I could do that.

If I did, what design would I choose? Well, I’d take a look at what was available, of course. But I have a feeling I already know: the very one pictured above: the Jerusalem pilgrim’s cross – which was also the sigil of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem – and very likely, the “IHS,” with it. “In Hoc Signo.” In This Sign… Conquer.

Yeah.

Screenshot_2020-03-29 Since 1300 ( razzouktattoo) • Instagram photos and videos


Razzouk Tattoos has a website, of course. Everyone does, these days! Even tattooers to medieval pilgrims, with a 700 year history. Perhaps especially them!

There is also a CNN video about them:

https://www.cnn.com/2016/09/06/middleeast/jerusalem-tattoos-lee/index.html

Some reasons to read Beowulf | The Wordhoard

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“Here are just a few reasons why you might want to read Beowulf.”

Source: Some reasons to read Beowulf | The Wordhoard

There are many reasons you may wish to read Beowulf, the classic Old English epic – which has, of course, been translated into modern English many times. Among the reasons cited by this blogger:

“First, it is a famous example of literature from the Early Middle Ages. Second, it represents English-language literature in its infancy. Third, it has had impacted modern literature since its rediscovery.”

All true, of course! But I am convinced that the best reason is that it’s a rousing good story, created, recited, and later written and read, by and for our forebears – at least, the ancestors of those of us who are of English heritage, by blood, language and culture!

Here is a modern-English translation, and one that grasps the rhythms and richness of the great original. And here is a recitation of the opening stanzas, in the original language:

I like this one, because it’s set up in such a way that one can follow along in both Anglo-Saxon (Old English) and modern English!

 

Sword of St. Michael | Aleteia

7 sanctuaries united by a straight line: the legendary Sword of St. Michael

Source: Sword of St. Michael | Aleteia

“A mysterious imaginary line links seven monasteries, from Ireland to Israel. Is it just a coincidence? These seven sanctuaries are very far from each other, and yet they are perfectly aligned… The Sacred Line of Saint Michael the Archangel represents, according to legend, the blow the [holy Archangel] inflicted on the Devil, sending him to hell.”

Most interesting!

Revisiting Charlemagne as Europe Disintegrates | The American Conservative

“A healthy dose of skepticism should underlie any empirical endeavor, but there can be no doubt from Nelson’s deft exploration of the extant record that Charlemagne proved himself ‘great’ in every sense.”

Source: Revisiting Charlemagne as Europe Disintegrates | The American Conservative

A little historical perspective, on one of the primary founders of pre-modern Europe. A great man indeed – not perfect, not wholly admirable, but those qualities are not essential for greatness – as even the author of the book being reviewed was forced to admit, despite her Left-leaning biases:

“Sometimes Nelson’s feminist bias comes through gratuitously.

“Is it really worth commenting that Charlemagne’s marital relations were chronicled only by male observers? Would a woman’s marital relations chronicled only by women be equally problematic?

“Similarly, was disapprobation of the Byzantine Empress Eirene’s murder of her own son the result of ‘patriarchy and good old-fashioned misogyny’? Would filicide be more acceptable in some kind of gender-neutral utopia?

“These foibles notwithstanding, it is noteworthy that Nelson voluntarily chose to cap an already distinguished career with a biography of the kind of man Charlemagne truly was: a great one.”

But speaking of Left-leaning biases, the virtue-signalling (I was tempted to a more pithy term) is great in some of the comments. Good Lord have mercy, these people are commenting on an article in The American CONSERVATIVE…??? The alleged “conservatism” of some of these folks is in noticeably short supply. Indeed, some of them are either trolls or idiots, maybe both!

Still, the article (book review) itself is worth a read – and so, I have no doubt, is the book, but my “to-read” list is too long as it is – even if some of the commenters are nattering nabobs of nutcase-ism. And Charlemagne is, as every generation up to the ’60s has known him, without doubt, to be: a great man.

 

The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise | Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Image result for the myth of the andalusian paradise"

“The existence of a Muslim kingdom in Medieval Spain where different races and religions lived harmoniously in multicultural tolerance is one of today’s most widespread myths… The problem with this belief is that it is historically unfounded.” – Dr. Darío Fernández-Morera, Ph.D.

Source: The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise – Intercollegiate Studies Institute: Think. Live Free.

“The existence of a Muslim kingdom in Medieval Spain where different races and religions lived harmoniously in multicultural tolerance is one of today’s most widespread myths. University professors teach it. Journalists repeat it. Tourists visiting the Alhambra accept it. It has reached the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, which sings the virtues of the ‘pan-confessional humanism’ of Andalusian Spain (July 18, 2003).

“The Economist echoes the belief: ‘Muslim rulers of the past were far more tolerant of people of other faiths than were Catholic ones. For example, al-Andalus’s multi-cultural, multi-religious states ruled by Muslims gave way to a Christian regime that was grossly intolerant even of dissident Christians, and that offered Jews and Muslims a choice only between being forcibly converted and being expelled (or worse).’

“The problem with this belief is that it is historically unfounded, a myth. The fascinating cultural achievements of Islamic Spain cannot obscure the fact that it was never an example of peaceful convivencia.”

I have thought for years – since my undergraduate medieval studies days, in fact – that there was something that did not ring true about the standard narrative of “peaceful, multicultural” Cordoba / Andalusia, where Muslims, Christians, and Jews allegedly lived together in harmony, and the arts and sciences flourished. There were hints of a shadow – such as the admission that non-Muslims had to pay jizya – but it was hard to pin down anything more. There had to be more to the story!

Now, Dr. Darío Fernández-Morera, Ph.D., has written an exhaustively researched and documented book on the subject, of which the linked (and rather lengthy) article is but an abstract, and which makes it abundantly clear that the much-lauded “peaceful coexistence” was enforced by brutal oppression, in which Christians – in their own land! – and Jews were emphatically second-class citizens, subject to the whims of their overlords, and in which the undeniable artistic achievements were financed by heavy taxes and the spoils of conquest.

I would add, also, that the much-vaunted Muslim medical and other arts were based heavily on Classical and late Hellenistic – Greco-Roman – antecedents, texts to which medieval Christians would have had access, had the great libraries of the Mediterranean world not fallen to Islamic conquerors in the 7th and 8th centuries.

And the “intolerance” shown by the Christian successor state in what had been al-Andalus is perhaps somewhat more comprehensible – perhaps even forgivable – in light of the more than seven centuries (722 – 1492 AD) Spanish Christians had spent re-taking the Iberian peninsula from its Muslim overlords. A cautionary tale for today’s West! But I digress:

In dealing with the question of why this myth (in the popular sense of the term, which is to say, fallacy) has been so persistent in both popular and academic culture, Fernández-Morera suggests – accurately, in my opinion – that it “may be that extolling al-Andalus offers the double advantage of surreptitiously favoring multiculturalism and deprecating Christianity, which is one of the foundations of Western civilization,” and continues,

“This mechanism is not unlike that in the mind of those who dislike Western culture intensely, but who with the fall of Communism find themselves without any clear alternative and so grab Islam as a castaway grabs anything that floats. So anyone who dislikes Western culture or Christianity—for any reason, be it religious, political, or cultural—goes on happily pointing out, regardless of the facts, how bad Catholic Spain was when compared to the Muslim paradise.”

A paradise which exists only in the cultural Marxist imagination.

As I say, this is a lengthy essay. It is, nonetheless, worth a read, for the light it casts on a much-misunderstood, and greatly mis-characterized, time and place in history. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest!

Medieval peasants vs people today – on the lighter side!

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As an academically-trained – and lifelong avocational – medievalist, I can say there is a lot of truth to this! True, there were plenty of issues in that era that could be lethal, from plague to war. But now it’s cancer, degenerative heart disease, and (in many parts of the world) still war… 🙄

In fact, most of the things that killed people – and that account for the “lower life expectancy” (which is an average) of medieval people during that age – were most threatening to children. If you once attained adulthood, you had a pretty fair chance of living just about as long as we do now!


(To be fair, one exception to this was childbirth, which remained very dangerous to women right up until fairly recent times. Young women are more likely to be resilient and avoid or survive potential issues with childbirth, which is one reason why women married and bore children much earlier, on average, than they do today.)

“Ubi sunt?” – Song of the Rohirrim: a lament

Viking warriors – wallpaper – vintaged

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?

This lament the great J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, and placed in the mouth of Aragorn son of Arathorn – heir of Isildur and rightful King of the West, of Eriador, in Tolkien’s magisterial Middle Earth mythos – as he was describing the Land of Rohan and its inhabitants, the Rohirrim (“Horse Lords”); and later, in part, in the mouth of Theoden, King of Rohan and Lord of the Rohirrim, himself.

But it is of a mode that would have been easily recognized by our forebears in the ancient and medieval worlds, for it is a well-known poetic form: the lament, known by scholars as “Ubi Sunt?” from its Latin incipit: “Where is…?” It is a lament for the greatness of things now past, and perhaps, irrecoverable: “the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome,” as we might say.

Hiraeth

Tolkien disliked allegory, but he did allow for what he called “applicability.” And so we can agree with him that The Lord of the Rings was not written as a direct allegory of any historical event, either World War Two, or the Cold War, or today’s social, cultural, and political struggles, with which this blog – originally intended merely as a celebration of things English, British, and Anglican – has become inexorably and inescapably emmeshed.

But we, as Men of the West (*), in this present age of the world, can also recognize that this passage, a lament for the Rohirrim, is applicable to our current age, and can also serve as a lament for us – for the West – in our present and dire situation.

A lament, yes, but perhaps also a rallying-cry?

For the Rohirrim, by their defense against the assaults of the fallen wizard Saruman, and later and most famously by their critical role in overthrowing the Siege of Minas Tirith in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, did much to help break the power of the Shadow, and make possible the destruction of Mordor and of its Dark Lord, Sauron.

So where, Men of the West, are our Rohirrim? Where is our King Theoden (whose name meant “Lord of the People”)? Who is our Aragorn Elessar?

Ubi sunt…?


* “Men of the West” in the old sense, in which “Man” or “Men” was inclusive of all members of a people, folk, tribe, or region – or humankind in general, depending on context – and not merely those who are biologically male.


Following are some additional quotes by Professor Tolkien, some of which may encourage us, and some of which may, let us hope, strengthen our resolve:

“Always after a defeat and a respite,” says Gandalf, “the shadow takes another shape and grows again.”
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” says Frodo.
“So do I,” says Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

conversation in J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

“War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.”

Faramir, Ranger of Gondor and son of Denethor, Steward of Minas Tirith

“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”

Haldir, an Elf of Lothlorien, in “The Fellowship of the Ring”

“I look East, West, North, South, and I do not see Sauron; but I see that Saruman has many descendants. We Hobbits have against them no magic weapons. Yet, my gentlehobbits, I give you this toast: To the Hobbits. May they outlast the Sarumans and see spring again in the trees.”

– Professor J.R.R. Tolkien: a toast at a “Hobbit Dinner” in Rotterdam, Netherlands, 1958.