Monday, December 10, 2018

New Biography: Imhotep—The Man Who Engineered His Own Divinity

(Statue of Imhotep in the Louvre, created between 332 and 30 BCE, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).

In the 27th century BCE, there lived an incredible man named Imhotep. He was a commoner who arose to great prominence by impressing King Djoser, the second ruler of Egypt’s Third Dynasty, with his sheer genius in multiple fields of study. Imhotep was evidently a polymath who made groundbreaking discoveries and advancements in areas such as medicine, math, engineering, theology, and even art. The massive impact of his ideas on ancient Egypt was comparable in scope and importance to that of Aristotle in Greece and Confucius in China.

Read more about Imhotep and his path to godhood, HERE.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

New Article: The Shakespearean Death of King Cynewulf


Upon the death of King Cuthred of Wessex around the year 756, the throne passed to Sigebert, a distant member of the royal family. As the new king was not a direct descendant of his predecessor, he was vulnerable to court intrigue. Unluckily for him, another distant kinsman of the late King Cuthred had his own ambitions for the crown, and the prospective usurper waited only a year to strike. In the end, corruption was Sigebert’s undoing—either his own corruption, or the corrupting influence of his rival. Sometime during the year 757, the officials of Wessex abruptly turned against Sigebert. The witan, a high advisor of the king, charged Sigebert with allegations of unrighteousness and corrupt behavior. A man named Cynewulf then claimed the throne, with the witan’s support, and his first order of action was to chase his rival into a forest, where the unfortunate King Sigebert was murdered.
King Cynewulf went on to rule for multiple decades. By Anglo-Saxon standards, he was a decent king. As a warrior, Cynewulf fought bravely and, as a Christian monarch, the monk-historians of medieval Britain seemed to have no complaint with the way he dealt with the church. The biggest blemish on Cynewulf’s rule was the battle he lost to King Offa of Mercia, the high king (or Bretwalda) of the time, at Bensington in 779. Overall, however, Cynewulf kept the strength of Wessex largely intact during his reign. Nevertheless, despite his successes, the death of his predecessor, Sigebert, would haunt Cynewulf to the end.
 
Continue reading about the fate of King Cynewulf, HERE.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

New Biography: The Dramatic Life Of The Mercian Queen, Osthryth


(A scene of Beowulf from a 1909 book by Zénaïde Alexeïevna (1835-1924) and George Timothy (1864-1956), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

Osthryth had such a complicated family life that she could put Shakespeare’s story of Romeo and Juliet to shame. Her father was King Oswiu (or Oswy), ruler of Northumbria between the years 642 and 670. At that time, the Northumbrians had a bitter feud with the Mercians—Oswiu only became king of Northumbria after his brother, King Oswald (r. 634-642), was slain and dismembered by King Penda of Mercia. Oswiu avenged his brother by killing King Penda during the Battle of Winwaed, which occurred in 655. After Penda’s death, Oswiu occupied a portion of Mercia and let the rest remain ruled by a puppet ruler. The puppet, interestingly enough, was a man named Peada, who happened to be a son of Penda.

Continue reading about the intense life of Queen Osthryth, HERE

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

New Biography: The Remarkable Tale Of The Kidnapped Noble, Dou Guangguo


Dou Guangguo was from an impoverished noble family based out of Qinghe in Zhao. Even though the rebellion against the Qin regime and the consequential rise of the Han Dynasty under Emperor Gaozu (king r. 206-202, emperor 202-195 BCE) was a time of tremendous social mobility, the Dou family remained of little significance, holding virtually no worth except the noble blood that ran in their veins.

The downtrodden Dou family, however, was given a door to future opportunities during the reign of Empress Dowager Lü, the wife of Emperor Gaozu and the mother of Emperor Hui (r. 195-188 BCE). Either during Empress Dowager Lü’s domineering years over her son’s reign, or in her own sole rule by means of young puppet emperors between 188 and 180 BCE, the empress dowager took an interest in Dou Guangguo’s family. Empress Dowager Lü had many relatives in need of consorts and concubines, so she was always on the lookout for young women from good families who could be integrated into the imperial court. As it happened, Dou Guangguo had an older sister who fit the empress dowager’s requirements. Guangguo was very, very young at the time, but he would later claim to have vivid memories of spending time with his sister, Lady Dou, before she left to become a palace attendant of Empress Dowager Lü. Whereas the fortunes of Lady Dou were on the rise, young Guangguo would have a drastically different path in life.

 Read about Dou Guangguo's crazy life, HERE.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

New Article: Homer’s Detailed Ancient Ritual To Summon The Dead

(Souls on the Banks of Acheron, by Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl  (1860–1933), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)

If you have a copy of Homer’s masterful epic poem, The Odyssey, on your bookshelf, you may be surprised to know that the poem contains a powerful ritual to summon the spirits of the dead. Yet, before you attempt try it out, this ritual will not work in your back yard. According to Homer, the spell will only work if performed at the borderlands of the underworld.

The Story
The ritual in question is mentioned at the end of book 10 and the beginning of Book 11 in The Odyssey. In regards to plot, this scene takes place after Odysseus blinded the cyclops, Polyphemus, a child of the sea-god, Poseidon. From the land of the Cyclops, Odysseus then sailed to the island inhabited by Aeolus, keeper of the winds, who gave the adventurer a bag of air that would ensure that the sailors had favorable weather on their journey home. Yet, Odysseus’ crew opened the bag, releasing the wind and consequently blowing the ship off course. The wind-blown sailors eventually washed up in the territory of the giant, man-eating Laestrygonians. When it became apparent to Odysseus that the locals wanted to have his crew for dinner, he quickly set sail and eventually anchored his ship at Aeaea, the island called home by the goddess-witch, Circe.

Odysseus sent out half of his crew to scout the island of Aeaea and these unlucky men found Circe’s polished-stone palace. Circe greeted the sailors and managed to lure all but one member of the party into her hall, where she fed them a feast of cheese, barley-meal, honey and wine. The goddess, however, had added a secret ingredient to the food and drink—all of the men who ate from her table were transformed into swine. Luckily for the pig-men, their captain, Odysseus, was on his way to save the day. Using a magical antidote dropped off by Hermes, Odysseus entered the stone palace, and after some intimate negotiations with Circe in her bedroom, Odysseus convinced the goddess to turn the crew back into humans. Interestingly enough, Odysseus’ crew and Circe became the best of pals after the incident, and Odysseus decided to party with the goddess on Aeaea for an entire year.

When that year was over, however, Circe told Odysseus that he needed to consult with the spirit of the dead prophet, Teiresias, to have any chance of returning to his home in Ithaca. In addition to this advice, Circe gave Odysseus instructions on how to reach the border of the underworld, as well as instructions for a ghostly summoning ritual and the supplies needed to perform that spell. Thus equipped with knowledge and provisions, Odysseus set sail toward the land of the dead.

Continue reading about the Odysseus' powerful spell to summon the dead, HERE.