Monthly Archives: December 2012

Flower Of The Well – New Year Custom

A New Year custom –

The first water drawn from any well, pond or stream (and by extension, I suppose, your kitchen tap) on New Year’s morning used to have special significance  and was known as the Flower of the Well or Cream of the Well, and obtaining it meant good luck in the coming year.

If it was  bottled and kept in the house, it was said never to lose its freshness and purity, and its very presence would protect the household from misfortune in the coming year.  Worth trying ? Bottle the first water drawn from your main water source on January 1st and keep it safe.

Full article and subsequent posts (including my own midnight visit to a well back int the 1980s) here – http://holywells.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?id=81

 

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Almanac – December 31

New Year’s Eve

1695 – A window tax was imposed in England – a property tax based on the number of windows in a house. It was a significant social, cultural, and architectural force in England, France and Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries. To avoid the tax some houses from the period can be seen to have bricked-up window-spaces (ready to be glazed at a later date), as a result of the tax. It was repealed in 1851.

1960 – The Farthing  ceased to be legal tender in the United Kingdom. Derived from the Anglo-Saxon feorthing, a fourthling or fourth part it  was worth one quarter of a penny.

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ZamZam Well – Islamic Holy Well

Venturing a little further from our usual British and Irish Holy Wells…

Zamzam is the name of a famous well in al-Masjid al-Haraam [the Sacred Mosque in Makkah], which is thirty-eight cubits away from the Ka’bah. It is the well from which Allah quenched the thirst of Ismaa’eel the son of Ibraaheem  when he was an infant.

So what is so special about Zamzam water? In a word: Everything! There is nothing ordinary about it. The miracle of how it came to being in the middle of a desert, its consistency throught out 1000s of years, the beneficial qualities it has, the fact that it never dries up. This water is special.

Full article & pictureshttp://holywells.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?id=83

 

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Almanac – December 30

1928 – Bo Diddley born. American rhythm and blues vocalist, guitarist, songwriter (usually as Ellas McDaniel), and rock and roll pioneer. 

He was  known as The Originator because of his key role in the transition from the blues to rock, influencing a host of acts, including Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, The Who, The Yardbirds, Eric Clapton, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and George Michael, among others.

He introduced more insistent, driving rhythms and a hard-edged electric guitar sound on a wide-ranging catalog of songs, along with African rhythms and a signature beat (a simple, five-accent rhythm) that remains a cornerstone of rock and pop.

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1946 – Patti Smith born. American singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist, who became a highly influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album Horses.

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Almanac – December 29

1170 – Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury,  assassinated inside Canterbury Cathedral by followers of King Henry II; he subsequently became a saint and martyr.

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1890 – Wounded Knee Massacre, on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, USA –  the last battle of the American Indian war.

On the day before, a detachment of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment commanded by Major Samuel M. Whitside intercepted Spotted Elk’s band of Miniconjou Lakota and 38 Hunkpapa Lakota near Porcupine Butte and escorted them five miles westward  to Wounded Knee Creek where they made camp. The remainder of the 7th Cavalry Regiment arrived led by Colonel James Forsyth and surrounded the encampment supported by four Hotchkiss guns.

On the morning of December 29, the troops went into the camp to disarm the Lakota. One version of events claims that during the process of disarming the Lakota, a deaf tribesman named Black Coyote was reluctant to give up his rifle, claiming he had paid a lot for it. A scuffle over Black Coyote’s rifle escalated and a shot was fired which resulted in the 7th Cavalry’s opening fire indiscriminately from all sides, killing men, women, and children, as well as some of their own fellow troopers…the US Army were perfecting the art of friendly fire  even then.

Those few Lakota warriors who still had weapons began shooting back at the attacking troopers, who quickly suppressed the Lakota fire. The surviving Lakota fled, but U.S. cavalrymen pursued and killed many who were unarmed.

By the time it was over, at least 150 men, women, and children of the Lakota Sioux had been killed and 51 wounded (4 men, 47 women and children, some of whom died later); some estimates placed the number of dead at 300. Twenty-five troopers also died, and 39 were wounded (6 of the wounded would later die). It is believed that many were the victims of the so-called  friendly fire.

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1894 – Christina Rossetti died. English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems. She is perhaps best known for her long poem Goblin Market, her love poem Remember, and for the words of the Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter.

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Christina Rossetti

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1916 – Grigori Rasputin assassinated.  Russian Orthodox Christian and mystic, some called Rasputin the “Mad Monk“, while others considered him a strannik ( religious pilgrim) and even a starets (elder, a title usually reserved for monk-confessors), believing him to be a psychic and faith healer.

Rasputin was employed by Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra as a healer for their only son, Tsarevich Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia, and he became an influential figure in the later years of the Tsar’s reign. It has been argued that Rasputin helped to discredit the tsarist government, leading to the fall of the Romanov dynasty in 1917. Contemporary opinions saw Rasputin variously as a saintly mystic, visionary, healer and prophet or, on the contrary, as a debauched religious charlatan. There has been much uncertainty over Rasputin’s life and influence, as accounts have often been based on dubious memoirs, hearsay and legend.

The murder of Rasputin has become something of a legend, some of it perhaps invented, embellished or simply misremembered by the very men who killed him, which is why it has become so difficult to discern the actual course of events. The date of Rasputin’s death is variously recorded as being either the 17th of December, 1916 or the 29th of December, 1916. This discrepancy arises due to the fact that the Gregorian calendar (New Style) was not introduced into Soviet Russia until 1918. Using the Gregorian calendar the initial attempts to kill Rasputin may have commenced before midnight on 29th December though he may well have died in the early hours of December 30th 1916.

Whatever, three days later, Rasputin’s body, poisoned, shot four times, badly beaten, and drowned, was recovered from the river. An autopsy established that the cause of death was drowning. It was found that he had  been poisoned, and that the poison alone should have been enough to kill him. There is a report that after his body was recovered, water was found in the lungs, supporting the idea that he was still alive before submersion into the partially frozen river.

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Rasputin, post-mortem

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Almanac – December 28

1734 – Rob Roy MacGregor died.  Scottish folk hero and outlaw of the early 18th century,  sometimes known as the Scottish Robin Hood. Rob Roy is anglicised from the Scottish Gaelic Raibeart Ruadh, or Red Rober – he had red hair, though it darkened to auburn in later life.

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1879 – The Tay Bridge Disaster: The central part of the Tay Rail Bridge in Dundee, Scotland collapsed as a train passes over it, killing around 75.

On the evening of 28 December 1879, a violent storm (10 to 11 on the Beaufort Scale) was blowing virtually at right angles to the bridge. At 7.13 a train from the south slowed to pick up the baton from the signal cabin at the south end of the bridge, then headed out onto the bridge, picking up speed. The signalman turned away to log this and then tended the cabin fire but a friend present in the cabin watched the train: when it had got about 200 yards (183 m) from the cabin he saw sparks flying from the wheels on the east side , this continued for no more than three minutes, by then the train was in the high girders; then “there was a sudden bright flash of light, and in an instant there was total darkness, the tail lamps of the train, the sparks and the flash of light all … disappearing at the same instant”

 The signalman saw (and when told believed) none of this  but when the train didn’t appear on the line off the bridge into Dundee he tried to talk to the signal cabin at the north end of the bridge, but found that all communication with it had been lost.

Not only was the train in the river, but so were the high girders, and much of the ironwork of their supporting piers. Divers exploring the wreckage later found the train still within the girders, with the engine in the fifth span of the southern 5-span division.

 56 tickets for Dundee had been collected from passengers on the train before crossing the bridge; allowing for season ticket holders, tickets for other destinations, and for railway employees 74–75 people were believed to have been on the train. There were no survivors; there were 60 known victims, but only 46 bodies were recovered, two not until February 1880.

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William McGonagall wrote his (in)famous poem The Tay Bridge Disaster about it –

 It begins:

    “Beautiful railway bridge of the silv’ry Tay
    Alas! I am very sorry to say
    That ninety lives have been taken away
    On the last sabbath day of 1879
    Which shall be remembered for a very long time.”

And  ends:

    “Oh! Ill-fated bridge of the silv’ry Tay
    I now must conclude my lay
    By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay
    That your central girders would not have given way
    At least many sensible men do say
    Had they been supported on each side with buttresses
    At least many sensible men confesses
    For the stronger we our houses build
    The less chance we have of being killed”

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1932 – Nichelle Nichols born.  American actress, singer and voice artist. She sang with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton before turning to acting. Her most famous role is that of communications officer Lieutenant Uhura aboard the USS Enterprise in the popular Star Trek television series, as well as the succeeding motion pictures, where her character was eventually promoted in Starfleet to the rank of commander.

Her Star Trek character was groundbreaking in U.S society at the time, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. personally praised her work on the show and asked her to remain when she was considering leaving the series.

In her role as Lieutenant Uhura, Nichols famously kissed white actor William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk in the November 22, 1968, Star Trek episode “Plato’s Stepchildren”. The episode is popularly cited as the first example of an inter-racial kiss on United States television.

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Almanac – December 27

1901 – Marlene Dietrich born. German actress and singer. She  remained popular throughout her long career by continually re-inventing herself, professionally and characteristically.

In the Berlin of the 1920s, she acted on the stage and in silent films. Her performance as Lola-Lola  in The Blue Angel brought her international fame and provided her a contract with Paramount Pictures in the US.

Hollywood films such as Shanghai Express and Desire capitalised on her glamour and exotic looks, cementing her stardom and making her one of the highest-paid actresses of the era.

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