Almanac – November 11

HOLLANTIDE

If ducks do slide at Hollantide
At Christmas they will swim.
If ducks do swim at Hollantide
At Christmas they will slide.

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1493 – Paracelsus born.  Aka Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim. The alternate birthdate of 17 Dec is sometimes given.
German-Swiss Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist. He is also credited for giving zinc its name, calling it zincum.
“Paracelsus”, meaning “equal to or greater than Celsus”, refers to the Roman encyclopedist Aulus Cornelius Celsus from the 1st century, known for his tract on medicine.

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1831 – Nat Turner executed.  American slave who led a slave rebellion in Virginia on August 21, 1831 that resulted in 60 white deaths and at least 100 black deaths,the largest number of fatalities to occur in one uprising prior to the American Civil War in the southern United States.

Turner was convicted, sentenced to death, and hanged. In the aftermath, the state executed 56 blacks accused of being part of Turner’s slave rebellion. Two hundred blacks were also beaten and killed by white militias and mobs reacting with violence.

Across Virginia and other southern states, state legislators passed new laws prohibiting education of slaves and free blacks, restricting rights of assembly and other civil rights for free blacks, and requiring white ministers to be present at black worship services.

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1869 – The Victorian Aboriginal Protection Act was enacted in Australia, giving the government control of indigenous people’s wages, their terms of employment, where they could live, and of their children, effectively leading to the Stolen Generations.

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1880 – Australian bushranger Ned Kelly was hanged at Melbourne Gaol.  He is considered by some to be merely a cold-blooded killer, while others consider him to be a folk hero and symbol of Irish Australian resistance against the Anglo-Australian ruling class

It was reported that Kelly intended to make a speech, but instead merely said, “Ah, well, I suppose it has come to this,”  as the rope was being placed round his neck.

In August 2011, anthropologists announced that a skeleton found in a mass grave in Pentridge Prison had been confirmed as Kelly’s. His skull, however, remains missing.

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1922 – Kurt Vonnegut Jr. born. American writer.His works such as Cat’s Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973) blend satire, gallows humor, and science fiction.

As a citizen he was a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union and a critical leftist intellectual. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.

 While a prisoner of war in WW2 he witnessed the fire bombing of Dresden in February 1945 which destroyed most of the city. Vonnegut was one of a group of American prisoners of war to survive the attack in an underground slaughterhouse meat locker used by the Germans as an ad hoc detention facility. The Germans called the building Schlachthof Fünf (Slaughterhouse Five) which the Allied POWs adopted as the name for their prison.

 Vonnegut said the aftermath of the attack was “utter destruction” and “carnage unfathomable.” This experience was the inspiration for his famous novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, and is a central theme in at least six of his other books.

In Slaughterhouse-Five he recalled that the remains of the city resembled the surface of the moon, and that the Germans put the surviving POWs to work, breaking into basements and bomb shelters to gather bodies for mass burial, while German civilians cursed and threw rocks at them. Vonnegut eventually remarked, “There were too many corpses to bury. So instead the Germans sent in troops with flamethrowers. All these civilians’ remains were burned to ashes.”

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