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 It was repealed in 1851.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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Almanac – December 26

1791 – Charles Babbage born.  English mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer who originated the concept of a programmable computer.Considered a “father of the computer”, Babbage is credited with inventing the first mechanical computer that eventually led to more complex designs.

Parts of his uncompleted mechanisms are on display in the London Science Museum. In 1991, a perfectly functioning difference engine was constructed from Babbage’s original plans. Built to tolerances achievable in the 19th century, the success of the finished engine indicated that Babbage’s machine would have worked. Nine years later, the Science Museum completed the printer Babbage had designed for the difference engine.

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1862 – The largest mass-hanging in U.S. history, resulting from the Dakota Sioux Uprising of 1862,  took place in Mankato, Minnesota, 38 Native Americans died.

The mass execution was performed publicly on a single scaffold platform. After regimental surgeons pronounced the prisoners dead, they were buried en masse in a trench in the sand of the riverbank. Before they were buried, an unknown person  possibly removed some of the prisoners’ skin – small boxes purportedly containing the skin later were sold in Mankato.

Because of high demand for cadavers for anatomical study, several doctors wanted to obtain the bodies after the execution. The grave was reopened in the night and the bodies were distributed among the doctors, a practice common in the era.

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1890 – Heinrich Schliemann died. German businessman and amateur archaeologist, and an advocate of the historical reality of places mentioned in the works of Homer. Schliemann was an archaeological excavator of Hissarlik, now presumed to be the site of Troy, along with the Mycenaean sites Mycenae and Tiryns. His work lent weight to the idea that Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid reflect actual historical events.

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1900 – A relief crew arrived at the lighthouse on the Flannan Isles of Scotland, only to find the previous crew has disappeared without a trace.  the flagstaff was bare of its flag, none of the usual provision boxes had been left on the landing stage for re-stocking and, more ominously, none of the lighthouse keepers were there to welcome them ashore.

 The only sign of anything amiss in the lighthouse was an overturned chair by the kitchen table. Of the keepers there was no sign, either inside the lighthouse or anywhere on the island. No bodies were ever found.

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1999 – Curtis Mayfield died.  American soul, R&B, and funk singer, songwriter, and record producer, best known for his anthemic music with The Impressions during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and for composing the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Super Fly, and also a highly regarded pioneer of funk and  politically conscious African-American music. He was also a multi-instrumentalist who played the guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, and drums.

On August 13, 1990, Mayfield was paralyzed from the neck down after stage lighting equipment fell on him at an outdoor concert at Wingate Field in Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York. He  died from diabetes on December 26, 1999, aged 57,  at the North Fulton Regional Hospital in Roswell, Georgia; his health having steadily declined following his paralysis.

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Almanac – December 25

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A happy Midwinter festival (Midsummer in the southern hemisphere) of your choice to all our readers.

The Robin in the picture is the one that’s hanging around my garden this winter.  They’re generally pretty inquisitive birds, but this one is positively fearless.

 

This  Christmas song is made up of bits of all the other Christmas songs – truly the soundtrack for Xmas In Hell !

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1066 – William the Conqueror  crowned king of England, at Westminster Abbey, London.

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1137 – Saladin born. Salāh ad-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb,  Kurdish Muslim, who became the first Sultan of Egypt and Syria, and founded the Ayyubid dynasty. He led Muslim opposition to the Franks and other European Crusaders in the Levant. At the height of his power, his sultanate included Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Hejaz, Yemen, and parts of North Africa.

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1924 – Rod Serling born.  American screenwriter, novelist, television producer, and narrator best known for his live television dramas of the 1950s and his science fiction anthology TV series, The Twilight Zone. Serling was active in politics, both on and off the screen and helped form television industry standards. He was known as the “angry young man” of Hollywood, clashing with television executives and sponsors over a wide range of issues including censorship, racism, and war.

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1925 – Carlos Castaneda born. Peruvian author and student of anthropology. Starting with The Teachings of Don Juan in 1968, Castaneda wrote a series of books that describe his alleged training in shamanism.

The books, narrated in the first person, relate his supposed experiences under the tutelage of a Yaqui “Man of Knowledge” named Don Juan Matus. Critics have suggested that they are works of fiction; supporters claim the books are either true or at least valuable works of philosophy and descriptions of practices which enable an increased awareness.

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1950 – The Stone of Scone, traditional coronation stone of British monarchs, was taken from Westminster Abbey by Scottish nationalist students. ( It later turned up in Scotland on April 11, 1951.)

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2008 – Eartha Kitt died. American singer, actress, and cabaret star.  Orson Welles once called her the “most exciting woman in the world.”

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Almanac – December 24

1924 – Lee Dorsey born. American singer,  much of his work was produced by Allen Toussaint with instrumental backing provided by the Meters.

Dorsey met Toussaint at a party in the early 1960s, and was signed to the Fury record label. The song that launched his career was inspired by a group of children chanting nursery rhymes – “Ya Ya” went to number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961, selling  over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

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1945 – Lemmy born. AKA Ian Kilmister, best known as the lead vocalist, bassist, principal songwriter and the founding and sole constant member of Motörhead as well as a former member of Hawkwind.

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1980 – Witnesses reported the first of several sightings of unexplained lights near RAF Woodbridge (then used by the US Airforce), in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, England.

Dozens of USAF personnel were eyewitnesses to various events over a two- or three-day period. Some ufologists believe it is perhaps the most famous UFO event to have happened in Britain, ranking amongst the best-known UFO events worldwide. Along with the Berwyn Mountain UFO incident, it has been compared to the Roswell UFO incident in the United States, and is sometimes referred to as “Britain’s Roswell”.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) denied that the event posed any threat to national security, and stated that it was therefore never investigated as a security matter. Later evidence indicated that there was a substantial MoD file on the subject, which led to claims of a cover-up; some interpreted this as part of a larger pattern of information suppression concerning the true nature of unidentified flying objects, by both the United States and British governments.

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