Tag Archives: Vikings

Almanac – June 08

632 – Muhammad, Islamic prophet, died,  in Medina, at the age of 63, in the house of his wife Aisha.  With his head resting on Aisha’s lap, he asked her to dispose of his last worldly goods (seven coins), then murmured his final words:

Rather, God on High and paradise.

He was buried where he died, in Aisha’s house.


793 – Vikings raided the abbey at Lindisfarne in Northumbria, commonly accepted as the beginning of the Scandinavian invasion of England.



1794 – Robespierre inaugurated the French Revolution’s new state religion, the Cult of the Supreme Being, with large organized festivals all across France.

The primary principles of the Cult of the Supreme Being were a belief in the existence of a god and the immortality of the human soul. Though not inconsistent with Christian doctrine, these beliefs were put to the service of Robespierre’s fuller meaning, which was of a type of civic-minded, public virtue he attributed to the Greeks and Romans.

This type of virtue could only be attained through active fidelity to liberty and democracy. Belief in a living god and a higher moral code, he said, were “constant reminders of justice” and thus essential to a republican society.

To inaugurate the new state religion, Robespierre declared that 20 Prairial Year II (8 June 1794) would be the first day of national celebration of the Supreme Being, and future republican holidays were to be held every tenth day – the days of rest (décadi) in the new French Republican Calendar.

Every locality was mandated to hold a commemorative event, but the event in Paris was designed on a massive scale. The festival was organized by the artist Jacques-Louis David and took place around a man-made mountain on the Champ de Mars. Robespierre assumed full leadership of the event, forcefully – and, to many, ostentatiously – declaring the truth and “social utility” of his new religion.



1809 – Thomas Paine died.  English  political activist, author, political theorist and revolutionary.

As the author of two highly influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, he inspired the Patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Britain. His ideas reflected Enlightenment era rhetoric of transnational human rights. He has been called “a corsetmaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination.”

Paine died at the age of 72, at 59 Grove Street in Greenwich Village, New York City.  Although the original building is no longer there, the present building has a plaque noting the fact.

After his death, Paine’s body was brought to New Rochelle, but as the Quakers would not allow it to be buried in their graveyard as  per his last will, so his remains were buried under a walnut tree on his farm.

In 1819, the English agrarian radical journalist William Cobbett dug up his bones and transported them back to England with the intention to give Paine a heroic reburial on his native soil, but this never came to pass. The bones were still among Cobbett’s effects when he died over twenty years later, but were later lost.

There is no confirmed story about what happened to them after that, although down the years various people have claimed to own parts of Paine’s remains, such as his skull and right hand.



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Almanac – August 10

991 – Battle of Maldon: an English force, led by Byrhtnoth, Ealdorman of Essex, were defeated by a band of inland-raiding Vikings near Maldon in Essex. One manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle said a Norwegian, Olaf Tryggvason, led the Viking forces, estimated to have been between 2,000 and 4,000 fighting men. A source from the 12th century, Liber Eliensis, written by the monks at Ely, suggests that Byrhtnoth had only a few men to command: “he was neither shaken by the small number of his men, nor fearful of the multitude of the enemy”. Not all sources indicate such a disparity in numbers.

An account of the battle, embellished with many speeches attributed to the warriors and with other details, is related in an Old English poem which is usually named The Battle of Maldon.

1792 – French Revolutionaries imprisoned Louis XVI and the monarchy was suspended.

1842 – The Mines Act came into force in the UK, releasing all women and girls, as well as boys under the age of 10, from underground employment.

1909 – Leo Fender, inventor and musical instrument manufacturer, born.

1948 – Montague Summers died.  English author and clergyman. He is known primarily for his scholarly work on the English drama of the 17th century, as well as for his idiosyncratic studies on witches, vampires, and werewolves, in all of which he professed to believe. He was responsible for the first English translation, published in 1928, of the notorious 15th-century witch hunter’s manual, the Malleus Maleficarum.

1961 – First use in Vietnam War of the Agent Orange by the U.S. Army.
Agent Orange was the code name for one of the herbicides and defoliants used by the U.S. military as part of its herbicidal warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand, during the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1971. Vietnam estimates 400,000 people were killed or maimed, and 500,000 children born with birth defects.

2008 – Isaac Hayes died.  American songwriter, musician, singer, actor, and voice actor. Hayes was one of the creative influences behind the southern soul music label Stax Records, where he served both as an in-house songwriter and as a record producer, teaming with his partner David Porter during the mid-1960s. During the late 1960s, he also began recording music and  had several successful soul albums such as Hot Buttered Soul (1969) and Black Moses (1971). In addition to his work in popular music, he worked as a composer of musical scores for motion pictures, probably best  known for his musical score for the film Shaft (1971).

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Almanac – August 5

Oyster Day

Traditionally the beginning of the oyster-eating season.

Greengrocers rise at dawn of Sun
August the fifth – come haste away
To Billingsgate the thousands run
Tis Oyster Day ! Tis Oyster Day !

Every-Day Book, 1829

It was thought that anyone eating an oyster on this day would not lack for money for the rest of the year [an idea no doubt encouraged by oyster-sellers – “the more you eat, dearie, the richer you’ll be.”]

Kids in parts of London used to take more practical steps towards ensuring prosperity by gathering discarded oyster shells and building with them cone-shaped grottos with lighted candles inside or on top, exhibiting them on the streets and begging coins from passers-by for their efforts.

910 – The last major Danish army to raid England was defeated at the Battle of Tettenhall by the allied forces of Mercia and Wessex, led by King Edward the Elder and Earl Aethelred of Mercia.

1850 – Guy de Maupassant born.  19th-century French writer, considered one of the fathers of the modern short story and one of the form’s finest exponents.

1862 – Joseph Merrick born. Englishman with severe deformities who was exhibited as a human curiosity, popularly known as  the  Elephant Man.

1895 – Friedrich Engels died.  German-English industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx.

1925 – Plaid Cymru  formed with the aim of disseminating knowledge of the Welsh language that was at the time in danger of dying out. As a political party in Wales it advocates the establishment of an independent Welsh state. It won its first seat in 1966 and  by 2012 had 1 of 4 Welsh seats in the European Parliament, 3 of 40 Welsh seats in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, 11 of 60 seats in the National Assembly for Wales, and 206 of 1,264 principal local authority councillors.

1962 – Nelson Mandela  jailed. He would not be released until 1990.

1962 – Marilyn Monroe died.  Dr. Thomas Noguchi of the Los Angeles County Coroners office recorded cause of death as “acute barbiturate poisoning”, resulting from a “probable suicide”. Many theories, including murder, circulated about the circumstances of her death and the timeline after the body was found. Some conspiracy theories involved John and Robert Kennedy, while other theories suggested CIA or Mafia complicity. It was reported that President Kennedy was the last person Monroe called.

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