Monday, February 25, 2013

Wielded Weaponry- Part 1

I decided to take a break in the series What is That on Your Head? this week as I really busy and part 3 needs some research still. That being said, I have started a knew series based on a Bible study consensus.

It apparently comes as a surprise to many people that I am interested in weaponry. I am not sure why this is but assume it has to do with my lack of a bloodthirsty demeanor.

An interesting weapon is the slingshot. Today, most people do not use them as more than toys. Most boys had one growing up. My own brother had at least five that he played with each for about two days and then they joined the mountains of clutter on his floor.

Slingshots come in wide and varied designs. Some people make theirs themselves from rubber bands and branches or they might buy one from the store made of plastic. One of the many that my brother was given over the years was made out of an ox horn.

Drawing of sling
Like anything, slingshots take time to learn how to use correctly. No one in my family, even my brother, ever figured out how to actually hit anything that we aimed at with one. Still, they are easier to use than their predecessor, the sling.

Made from a strap of leather or woven twine, a cradle or pouch, and any small projectile, the sling took a lot of mastery. Slings were common because they were cheap and easy to make. A poor shepherd could make one himself without a blacksmith and governments would not prohibit them as they did metal weapons. Ammunition was also plentiful was a simple, smooth rock would do.

Sling and rocks
Back before bows were accurate and swords durable, slings would often be used by foot soldiers as well as shepherds and farmers. To use the sling, he would place the projectile in the cradle, clasp the ends of the straps, and swing it over his head until he had gathered enough momentum. Then he would release one strap while keeping hold of the other and the projectile would fly. It could take years before someone was good enough at it to hit anything that actually moved.

This is why I have always found the story of David and Goliath to truly display the hand of God. Not yet a full grown man, David (while a shepherd) would likely not have had the experience nor the strength to hit the relatively small space of Goliath's forehead and knock him out all on his first try. Such a feat took the guidance of God and should leave no doubt that as David said,  

 "This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17: 46-47 NIV)

David and Goliath


Monday, February 18, 2013

What is That on Your Head?- Part 2

Today is Presidents day so I want to talk about the most well known hats worn by presidents.
Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is remembered wearing a top hat. No costume representing him his complete without it.  In the 19th century top hats were worn by men in the upper class. The top hat, oddly enough, can symbolize both power and wealth as well as truth and honesty.

Just as Abraham Lincoln whore a top hat, Uncle Sam is almost always depicted with one. Whenever Uncle Sam is favorably shown, it is with a top hat. Usually (at least originally) when he is not wearing one, he is shown as weak or fearful. This last version I was unable to find an image of but I know I have seen them.

Rich Uncle Pennybags
We see the ideas of power and wealth in things such as the Monopoly character, Rich Uncle Penneybags. Satires of the past often showed the corrupt wearing them even after they had gone out of style. Today, rappers will wear them in music videos were they talk about getting rich.

The popular stories of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory as well as Alice in Wonderland both have characters wearing top hats. They are the Mad Hatter and Willy Wonka.

Top hats can also be seen with magicians pulling rabbits out of them, though I'm not sure where that came from. Now they are usually made of felt for costumes but at first they were made of silk and thus cost a lot.

Before Lincoln, much before, George Washington is remembered wearing a Tricorne. A three point hat ("tri-" means three, "-cornu" means horn) the tricorne could be worn by anyone. The thing was, the average man's hat would be made of plain, brown leather. A rich and/or powerful man would most likely have one in black with gold embellishments and sometimes white feathers.

Napoleon Bonaparte
A descendant of the tricorne was the bicorne ("bi" means two) worn by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Captain Jack Sparrow
And who can forget Captain Jack Sparrow and the hat he takes such pride in? His tricorne is a bit beat up, yet he still loves it.


Monday, February 11, 2013

What is That on Your Head?- Part 1

Almost every culture in history has had some form of article that people wore on their head whether it be made of metal, fabric, or feathers. The reasons behind each are as varied as the items themselves.

Vanity is often the most common reason for people to make the largest and most obnoxious hats. During the 1800s, women would wear hats over a foot tall and decked out with feathers, ribbons, lace, flowers, and even whole birds and their nests. In cities, the owner of a millinery (hat store) could make a lot of money helping rich women out shine each other.

Not only did women need the most extravagant hat, but they needed one to go with every outfit. One in pink, one in blue, one was purple, and in yellow they might have two. In any well-to-do woman's closet one would find hat boxes stacked to the ceiling.

To feed their need to feathery things, women began to ask for whole stuffed birds in their hats. They also wanted nests and eggshells. Milliners (owners of the hat stores) would pay neighborhood boys to hunt out the birds and bring them back with minimal damage. Then they would be stuffed and attached to the hats. Often a bird would have springs and wires attached to it so that the wearer could move the head and wings as though it were still alive.
Bird Hat

Eventually this was stopped when influential women wrote articles on the cruelty of killing the birds simply for their feathers. There were also tales of sparrows being left in cages to turn their feathers yellow. I don't know if this is true, but it had an affect on those who read the articles.

The hat fashion for women was even more outrageous in France during the 1700s. Their hats would be even taller and attached to the tops of wigs. Women would spend two days getting their hair and hats ready for a party.
French Women and their hats

Marie Antoinette was famous for the way she wore her hair with hats. She was known for trying numerous new themes. The most well known was the time she wore a miniature ship in her hair for a ball.
Marie Antoinette

Women were not the only ones, though, who liked this style. Men often wore hats on top of wigs. The only difference was that they did not have as big of hats or as many feathers.

Ever heard this song?

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy. 

Father and I went down to camp
Along with Captain Gooding
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy 

There was Captain Washington
Upon a slapping stallion
A-giving orders to his men
I guess there were a million.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy 

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.
Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy 

Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step
And with the girls be handy 

More Macaroni
Originally this song was written by the English to mock Americans. The part where Yankee Doodle 'stuck a feather in his cap and calls it macaroni' is an allusion to a French hairstyle (called macaroni) where a wealthy French man would wear a cap with a feather. It was to say that Americans were so stupid, they would just stick a turkey feather or something in their hats and think that they were sophisticated. In the end, American soldiers thought the song was so funny that they began to sing it themselves and the British lost their best ribbing of the Revolutionary War.

For more information on Victorian era hats, go here

In the comments, please tell me if you want there to be a What is That on Your Head?- Part 2
Also, please vote in the poll to the side on what you would like as the next topic.


Sunday, February 3, 2013

Will You Be My Muse?

Of all the religions in all of time, the Greeks probably had the most gods. They had a god for everything. The sun, a rainbow, each of the winds, even (as I was once told) their doorjambs. For the most part, no one believes in these gods anymore (though you might be surprised by what you found if you looked). Still, the gods the Greeks once believed in have become the muse for many persons today.

Allusions to Greek myth are everywhere. For starters, did you notice the one I used? A lot of people refer to things as their 'muse' though few know what that truly means. In myth there were nine muses, goddesses of the arts. It was believed that artistic expression was a gift of the muses.
The Nine Muses

Here are some of the most well known allusions:

A Herculean task: Hercules was a Greek hero, one of the demigods (half god, half man). Many have probably seen the Disney movie- but as with all things Disney, it was changed to make it okay for children. Here is the true story:

Hercules was the illegitimate son of Zeus. His stepmother, Hera, hated him for this and tried to kill him numerous times. At one point, because of this, he lost it and killed his entire family. When he realized what he had done, he tried to regain his honor by completing twelve tasks given to him. A few of these tasks are in the movie: capturing the three-headed dog guarding the underworld, slay a nine headed beast, ect.

These were all tasks a 'mere mortal' could never do, thus the phrase.

Let the Fates Decide:  The Fates were three goddesses in control of peoples' fates. They chose when someone died and if they had success in life. They were depicted as carrying a ball of string which they cut with scissors when someone died.

Sleeping Beauty: That has nothing to do with Greek mythology! Actually it does. This Disney Princess's name was Aurora Rose and was said to have been given the beauty of the dawn. Well, the Greeks had a goddess of the dawn and her name was Aurora as well (Well, really it was Eos and the Romans called her Aurora).

Nike: That's right, the shoe. In myth, Nike was the messenger of the gods. At the time all messengers were runners by profession and Nike's symbol was that distinct check mark.

Midas and his daughter

Trust the Midas Touch: Remember that jingle? It refers to story about King Midas who asked the gods for the ability to turn all he touched to gold. The moral of the story, gold will not make you happy, is revealed when Midas goes to hug his daughter and she becomes a golden statue.

The Medical Winged Staff Entwined with Snakes: This was the staff of Hermes, the god of basically anything the other gods didn't want. Namely, that was thieves and liars and orphans. He was also supposed to be the gods' version of a doctor.

Medical Staff
I Feel Like Sisyphus: This was a villain in mythology who was far too ambitious for the gods' taste. In punishment, after he died, he spent eternity pushing a rock up a hill only for it to roll down and he need to start over.

Today, in the American culture of success, he has become a hero. Ally Condie, in her book Crossed,  likens him to Dylan Thomas's poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night".

Personally, I love that poem, though not the comparison. These are the words:
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

Dylan Thomas, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"