Remember, remember the fifth of November. Gunpowder, treason, and plot…..

fireworks

Why am I writing this in March and not November? I don’t know. Fuck it, I do what I want. Anyway…..

I often forget that the 5th November is only a special day for UK; I have found myself at the receiving end of a very baffled look when asking friends in the US what they’re doing for Bonfire Night.

So, for those of you who do not know why the 5th November is so special, here is why.

The Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was a failed assassination attempt on the life of King James I. This disastrous venture was carried out by a group of Catholics led by a man called Robert Catesby. Their plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the state opening of parliament.

So, why did the Catholics have their medieval knickers in such a twist? Well, misogynistic fat mess King Henry VIII (1491 – 1547) had famously separated from Rome and took control of the church in England. This newly formed Protestant Church of England was a knee jerk reaction after Henry was refused the Pope’s blessing when he said he wanted to divorce his first wife in favour of his new bitch, Anne Boleyn. The Catholic Church is against divorce and views marriage as being a lifelong contract. This royal tantrum led to a new religion which enabled Henry to then go on and have six wives. So, the next time you don’t get your own way all you have to do is tell the Pope to “shove it” and create your own religion where you can do whatever the fuck you want.

When Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth succeeded the throne in 1558 she made it so that anyone appointed to a public or church office was to swear allegiance to the crown and recognise the monarch as head of both church and state. Anyone refusing to do so incurred fines and in some cases execution – we all know Elizabeth’s first words were, “off with their heads”. As a result of these changes Catholicism became marginalised and many continued to practice their faith in secret.

ijamsgb001p1

King James I

James I was already crowned king of Scotland in 1567 and succeeded Elizabeth as king of England and Ireland in 1603. His attitude towards Catholics was slightly more relaxed than that of Elizabeth. Instead of a “heads will roll” approach he would rather see people exiled. Despite his tendency to not favour capital punishment, James was still a target for zealous Catholics.

The plot to blow up the House of Lords was an attempt at killing many birds with one stone. Not only would the King be present, but many other senior members of state including relatives of the monarch, members of the Privy Council, senior judges, and bishops of the Church of England.

Details of the plot were exposed by an anonymous letter which was sent to William Parker, 4th Baron of Monteagle, on 26th October 1605. At the time the letter was received the King was at Butlins enjoying a mini-break, but upon his return to London on 1st November he was made aware of the dastardly plot to kill him. When reading the letter James picked up immediately on the word “blow”, whether this was an observation of a Freudian nature we don’t know, but he assumed that this hinted toward there being weaponry of an explosive nature involved.

A midnight search of the House of Lords on November 4th leads to the discovery of Guy Fawkes, a member of the Catholic conspirators’ squad. Fawkes was found in the company of thirty-six barrels of gunpowder and the means to set them alight.

“Ooh how did these get here? I’m just chillin’ gov’nor. You slag.”
Guy Fawkes 1605

guy_3486556b

As news of the plot’s discovery spread throughout London, Guy Fawkes’ co-conspirators began to flee the city. Many of them died fighting against the Sheriff of Worcester at Holbeche House. The survivors, including Fawkes, were put on trial on 27th January 1606; they were found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death.

Sir Edward Coke, Attorney General, declared that each would be dragged by horses, with their head near the ground, and then put to death in the traditional method of the time for such crimes; hung, drawn, and quartered. The condemned would first be hung by the neck, but not to the point of death – more like extremely inconvenient discomfort. They would then look forward to having their genitals chopped off and burnt in front of them. After their slap-dash and primitive gender reassignment operation they would have their bowels and heart removed. Finally the condemned would have their heads removed and the remains of their bodies cut into quarters and displayed across the four corners of the Kingdom.

Fawkes’ three accomplices all suffered this terrible execution, but Fawkes (who was to be executed last) was a sly bastard and managed to wriggle out of his torture by climbing too high before being hung and therefore breaking his neck. Nevertheless, his body was still mutilated and quartered.

To celebrate the King’s success in avoiding assassination November 5th was declared by an act of parliament to be a day of celebration and people were to light bonfires to mark this occasion, but that they were to be done so “provided that this testimony of joy be carefully done without any danger or disorder”, even in the 17th Century people were already suffering the restrictions of Health and Safety.

Guy Fawkes has become a modern icon, symbolising political anarchism and resistance against bodies that may enforce or promote unfair treatment, oppression, and terrorism. The image of Guy Fawkes has turned from terrorist to activist, and his image has become the mask of underground hero V in the graphic novel V for Vendetta in his fight against the dystopian, fascist English state.

For those of you with a keen attention to detail and clever references, you will have also noticed that in the Harry Potter series Dumbledore’s pet phoenix is aptly named Fawkes.

So, next time you’re at a bonfire party stuffing your face with toffee apples and watching the fireworks, just remember that you’re celebrating a failed assassination attempt on the monarchy and the gruesome death of the men behind it, but hey who cares? Big bangs and pretty colours, that’s what I’m all about haha!

v-for-vendetta-2

The Battle of Hastings – fish and chips Vs wine and cheese.

 

hastings.jpg

To mark the anniversary of Harold Godwinson’s coronation on this day in 1066, here is the story of how he came to gain (and lose) his crown.

As we all know, families do not come without their little squabbles. The royal families of medieval Europe were known for being quite combative with one another on account of them having all married one another. Inbreeding not only lowers the gene pool and creates some odd looking characters, it also lowers the IQ and thus rendering those further down the inbred family tree closer to a cabbage than a human being when it comes to the powers of logic and reason.

Their royal bickering wasn’t to do with who spent more on who for their birthday, or who wasn’t invited to so-and-so’s wedding, instead they fought over the thrones of Europe. It was a family rift such as this in the 11th century which lead to a slight altercation some people refer to as, The Battle of Hastings.

When king Edward the Confessor died in January of 1066 there was nobody left to officially succeed him because he had failed to produce an heir – too much time spent in the confessional and not in the bedroom methinks.

Edward was married to the only daughter of Godwin of Wessex, the most powerful family in England. With his dying breath, Edward announced his brother-in-law, Harold Godwinson (Earl of Wessex) as his successor. This caused problems almost right away because newly crowned King Harold II’s brother, Tostig and the Viking king Harald Hardrada also had their greedy little eyes on the crown.

It was at the Battle of Stamford Bridge where the dreams of a crown and potential Viking-English unification were squashed when Harold defeated both Tostig and Harald. Thus ended, as he thought, the fight for the crown, and also the confusion people were faced over being understood as to which Harold they were talking about – people felt stupid having to over pronounce
Har-O-ld and Har-A-ld; it was only after a few people were wrongly killed for treachery before the penny dropped. “Oooohhhhh, he meant the other guy….oops!”

Harold kicked back and thought that his troubles were over, but little did he know that at the same time a Frenchman was throwing all his toys out of the pram and making his way across the English Channel. The Frenchman in question was William, the Duke of Normandy. He was extremely perturbed because on one drunken night back in 1051, after a successful day playing in the England V Normandy la boule tournament; King Edward had promised William the throne. It was this verbal, albeit slurred, contract (and that they were distant cousins) which cemented William’s claim to the throne.

In September 1066 William landed in England and after securing the city of Pevensey he marched north to Hastings to pick a fight with Harold. On October 14th 1066 Harold and William (now known as ‘the Conqueror’) faced off on Senlac Hill.

William and his forces stood proudly in their ranks; infantry, archers, and cavalry all trained to the highest standard and equipped with the latest weapons. Harold’s army was a slight contrast. He stood lead a herd of poorly trained Anglo-Saxon peasants; some of them were facing the wrong direction, their helmets were often on the wrong way around, those who had swords had most likely already cut themselves with it, and the ones armed with a bow and arrow couldn’t hit a target from half a millimetre away.

Battle commenced at 9am – nice early start, they didn’t want to waste the best part of the day – and the Normans sent a constant bombardment of arrows before charging in. The Normans had to attack uphill which put them at a huge disadvantage and the English threw spears and rocks down at them.

William sent in his cavalry, a little sooner than he should have to be fair, and soon enough the left flank of his army collapsed soon retreated. In the chaos some of the English chased after the Normans and scattered themselves like mindless, bumbling sheep across the battlefield.

A rumour that William had been killed spread amongst the men. Pissed off, William removed his helmet and rallied the troops.

“erm…d’uh. I’m here, Bon-jooouuur!!!”

William led his cavalry forward and they trampled Harold’s forces which had strewn themselves about aimlessly. It became clear that due to the English army mainly being comprised of blithering idiots it would be easy to entice the rest of them out and to break rank. Pretending to retreat in a “chase me, chase me” fashion William was successful in drawing out the English like moths to a flame. Soon enough he had won the battle and gained Norman control of England.

The story goes that Harold was killed by getting an arrow through his eye, as famously depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. In the chart topping song of the time, ‘Song of the Battle of Hastings’, it says that the Norman knights tore off Harold’s limbs and disembowelled him.

William then marched to London, where the city submitted to his rule. On Christmas Day in 1066 at Westminster Abbey William was crowned King William I of England.

 

 

 

 

 

Mental health patient saves France and becomes a saint.

Joan of Arc is considered a French heroine for her role during the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years’ War, and has since been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church as a saint.

Our story begins when Joan was about thirteen years old, it was at about noon on a summer’s day and Joan was in her father’s garden when she heard her first voice. In her own words she describes having heard a ‘voice from God to help me to govern myself’. She was apparently visited by this celestial spectre many times before she decided it was the Archangel Michael. Her story then takes a Dickensian turn when Michael told her she would also be visited by two other righteous phantoms; Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret. Sure enough the two spirits visited her. Joan had been told by the voice of Michael that she must believe and obey everything the spectres told her “for it as our Lord’s command”.

Joan reported that she continued to hear these voices counselling her for the next four years, guiding her in the mission to free her country from occupation. The female voices would instruct her on how to govern herself and primed her for ‘the greater mission’. Joan also confessed to having been visited, although not often, by the Angel Gabriel.

At the age of seventeen the tone of the voices turned to a more pernicious intent. The voice of Michael visited her more often and began outlining a scheme which involved the young Joan liberating her country. Joan’s response to the suggestion that she takes a militant life choice is not too dissimilar to the ‘virgin’ Mary’s response when she was told she was with child, Joan claimed that she was ‘a poor girl who knew nothing of riding and warfare’ just like Mary ‘knew not of man’. Joan came to the same natural conclusion we all would after four years of hearing conniving voices in our heads and that is that it must be the will of God and Joan said that if ‘God had commanded me to go, I must do it. And since God had commanded it, had I had a hundred fathers and a hundred mothers, and had I been a king’s daughter, I would have gone’.

Now, this is where we take a little step back and think about what we’ve just read. Just think about it. Someone hears multiple voices controlling their actions over a period of years which eventually climax with the demand, not suggestion, but demand that they go out into the world with the purpose of killing a named group of people. Yes, there was already a war being waged and this order from on high was for her to join that war and liberate her country, but you can’t say that killing isn’t implied as a result of these actions. Hearing voices can point to mental health diagnoses such as psychosis, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Joan of Arc’s reports of hearing voices telling her to do things come just over 100 years before women were being wrongly accused of the same thing, only they were being hunted and burnt at the stake for it instead of an entire country pandering to their ramblings. Whether you keep or remove the religious context of the voices in Joan’s head it is still a tad unsettling.

Joan’s situation reminds me of the Euthyphro Dilemma – a philosophical question which asks, ‘is something good because god wills it, or does god will it because it is good?’ This question on its own can be enough to addle the brain, but if you throw in a case like Joan’s it makes things a little harder. Things become even more complex when you start to also consider similar cases of divine voices such as that of Pedro Alonzo Lopez who was apprehended in 1980 for having raped and killed three-hundred young girls across South America. Pedro spent his time in prison professing his love for Jesus, reciting scripture, and carving the Lord’s likeness on any surface he could find. Lopez would praise God and thank him for bestowing this ‘great fortune’ upon him and claimed that killing these girls was ‘the work of the Lord’ and that Jesus himself had given him the power to give life and take it away. Similarly, Peter Sutcliffe “The Yorkshire Ripper” murdered thirteen women and said that he was ‘on a divine mission’ and that he had ‘heard the word of God’. You may think that these are a little extreme and nefarious comparisons to make, but they all have one thing in common, they all claim to have received the word of God instructing them to act, unkindly shall we say, toward one’s fellow man. Just because Joan of Arc went to war in the name of God and her country, does that condone her actions entirely and render her totally free from sin compared to Pedro and Peter? Neither does it declare her at completely sane. It’s worth a thought.

hearing-voices

So, after receiving her heavenly orders Joan petitioned the local garrison commander, Robert de Baudricourt, for an armed guard to accompany her to the French Royal Court at Chinon. She gave the very convincing argument of, “I must be by the King’s side, there will be no help for the kingdom if not from me”. You can appreciate why the commander initially refused this initial plea, how can a young girl make such a claim. But he didn’t know that Jesus was her homeboy. Finally she was granted an escort and arrived at the Royal Court for an audience with Charles VII. Joan asked if she could tag along on the relief mission to Orléans, but not before she received full armour, a banner, a horse, and a sword – to help enlighten her enemy with the word of God.

Not long after her arrival in Orléans she managed to turn the well-established Anglo-French war, which started off as a bickering over the rightful ascension to the French throne, into a religious conflict. Charles’ advisers warned that unless Joan’s belief could be recognised without a doubt, and that she was neither a heretic nor a sorceress, then the allegation could be made that Charles’ crown was a gift from the devil. Remembering a quote from one of his favourite films, “if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball”, Charles ordered a full inquiry and theological examination to confirm Joan’s morale standing – he can deal with losing a few more battles, but the accusation of his crown being fought for by an instrument of evil was much worse. In 1429 the inquiry declared Joan to be, ‘of irreproachable life, a good Christian, possessed with the virtues of humanity, honesty, and simplicity.’ Theologically speaking there was no evidence to support the claim of divine guidance, but at least her morals were sound (erm….ok).

In March 1430 there was a truce with England and Joan became bored from not getting what she wanted. She decided to occupy her time by dictating (because she was illiterate) threatening letters to the Hussites. The Hussites were a rebellious group who had broken away from the Catholic Church over one or two points of doctrine. They believed in such atrocities as freedom of preaching, Holy Communion in both forms (bread and wine), poverty of the clergy and the expropriation of church property, and punishment of notorious sinners. This group had come under numerous attacks and so far managed to defeat all crusades against them. Joan’s letter was warm and from the heart, she promised to, “Remove your madness and foul superstition, taking away either your heresy or your lives”. She also sent a letter to the English, which seems a little unrealistic in the terms she lays out. She demanded the English leave France, but that they also join forces with her and march on Bohemia to destroy the Hussites. The English did not respond.   
Joan was a zealous Catholic who hated all forms of heresy and also Islam, not very nice if you ask me *religious extremism alarm bells ring in the distance* she sounds like a frenzied young lady, a true Christian, and full of the religious love known as Agapé (sarcasm intended).

Surprisingly the truce with England came quickly to an end. Joan hopped straight back on the militant bandwagon and travelled to Compiègne to defend the city against a siege of English and Burgundian troops. In 1430 she was part of a group who tried to attack the Burgundian camp at Margny, but unfortunately this preachy teenager and her friends were ambushed and captured, Joan agreed to surrender.st-joan-of-arc

Joan remained in custody until her trial for heresy in 1431. The trial was offiated entirely by pro-English and Burgundian clerics and commanders including the Duke of Bedford and the Earl of Warwick. Bishop Cauchon owed his position to his biased support of the English crown and under ecclesiastical law he lacked authority over the case. With minimal to no evidence against Joan the court had no grounds take her to trial, but they did so anyway. The court also broke a few more rules by not allowing impartial clergy to be in attendance (a requirement in heresy trials) and neither did they grant her legal counsel – perhaps they thought her seraphim advisor might show up to support her instead, but alas no such supernatural being appeared.

Trial records contain astonishing statements from Joan. Known to be illiterate and uneducated she somehow managed to escape the theological bear traps laid out before her; the most famous trap being a subtle one. When asked if she knew she was in God’s grace she gave the answer, “if I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.” This seems like a simple question but the scholarly trap lies in the reasoning that Church doctrine dictates that no one could be certain of being in God’s grace. If Joan had answered with a resounding yes, she would have been found guilty of heresy, and if she had said no, she would have confessed herself a liar.

The illiterate girl signed a document renouncing her claims under the threat of immediate execution. The court however were still not satisfied and wanted to obtain further justice. Heresy was a capital offence, but only for repeat offenders and therefore more fuel had to be added to the fire. Multiple offences of cross-dressing were added to the accusations, humorous considering the men at the time wore tights, elaborate tunics with enormously flared sleeves, and a Chaperon (type of hat) which was mega fancy. Joan had been wearing military clothing throughout her entire campaign and had reportedly been wearing the same clothing whilst in prison. She defended her wearing military clothing in prison through fear of being raped, a woman’s dress offered zero protection whereas her uniform enabled her to fasten her hosen and tunic together into one piece making access to her nether yaya. After signing her confession under the threat of execution she had briefly gone back to wearing women’s attire, but had reported that some of the prison guards had tried to molest her and went back to wearing military clothing. The court considered this a relapse of her cross-dressing heresy and added it to the list of offences. These accusations were later appealed when the court case was reviewed after the war. It states in the Summa Theologica by St Thomas Aquinas that necessity would be a permissible excuse for cross-dressing; this would include the use of clothing to protect oneself against rape.

Joan of Arc was found guilty as charged and sentenced to death. On 30th May 1431 she was tied to a tall pillar at the Vieux-Marché in Rouen and burnt alive. Joan had requested that two clergymen stood before her and hold a crucifix. After her death the English cleared away the coals and debris to expose her scorched remains to eliminate any claims that she had escaped. Her body was then burnt twice more to prevent anyone from collecting any relics and her ashes were cast into the River Seine.joan-of-arc-19th-century

In 1456 Pope Callixtus III authorised an enquiry into the trial and officially declared Joan innocent and a martyr. In 1803 Napoleon Bonaparte announced her as a national symbol of France and in 1920 she was canonized.

So, Saint Joan of Arc – French heroine, religious zealot, or fruit loop? You decide.

The Great Global Pissup!

il_570xn-297081793
The New Year is observed on January 1st, the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar as well as the Julian calendar, and there you were thinking the only type of calendar was the Boys of Hollyoaks.

In pre-Christian Rome, before all the significant artwork was destroyed and things were cool, they used the Julian calendar and New Year’s day was dedicated to the god Janus, god of gateways and beginnings, the month of January gets it’s name from the god of “new year, new me”.

As a date in the Gregorian calendar of holy and oppressive Christendom, New Year’s Day ritually marked the Feast of the Naming and Circumcision of Jesus, which is still observed as such in the Anglican Church and Lutheran Church. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather celebrate new beginnings in the Roman tradition rather than get drunk, and suffer the subsequent hangover, in the name of a child having the end of his penis chopped off.
Today, with most countries now using the Gregorian calendar as their means of tracking what day it is, New Year’s Day is probably the most celebrated public holiday. Commonly observed with fireworks at the stroke of midnight, health and safely risk assessmet permitting of corse. Other global New Years’ Day traditions include making New Year’s resolutions, calling one’s friends and family, and there is usually an argument thrown into the mix at some point.

It was way back in 2000BC Mesopotamia (modern day U.S. Armed forces playground known as Iraq) that the idea of celebrating the new year first came about in mid-March at the time of the vernal equinox. Sticking with this time of year the early Roman calendar assigned the start of the new year to March 1st. At the time the Roman calendar ony had ten months, the first of which being March. To those of you with enough intrigue to have noticed, this would explain why the names of the months are a little skew-whiff; October is the tenth month, but doesn’t octo mean eight? You know, like an OCTOpus? This is because our modern day ninth to twelfth months were originally seventh to tenth – septem is Lating for seven, octo is eight, novem is nine, and decem is ten. The months of January and February weren’t invented until 700BC when the Roman king Numa Pintalis thought he’d shake things up a bit.

The new year was shifted to January 1st in 153BC for no reason other than to streamline things a little. The beginning of the civil year fell on January 1st, this was when the two newly appointed consuls would start their tenure. It’s kind of like us deciding to move the new year to April 1st because that’s the start of the tax year (and when your annual leave in work gets renewed). Having said that, this new year date was a little unruly and wasn’t always celebrated as universally as hoped, some people who “don’t like change” still clung on to March 1st as the start of their new year.

council
After Julius Caesar reformed the calendar in 46 BC, what is known as the Julian Calendar, he was was famously assassinated. A murderous act brought about following a conspiracy between increasing numbers of vexed members of the Senate who now no longer knew what day of the friggin’ month it was. Later, after the new calendar had been explained and understood, the Senate made the the decison, most likely driven by awkward guilt and regret, to deify Julius Caesar on January 1st.

In 567 AD the Council of Tours, a Roman Catholic council who brought you popular limitations such as the rule that priests and monks shall never marry or share the company of a member of the opposite sex, also decided to abolish January 1 as the beginning of the year. At various times and in various places throughout medieval Christian Europe, the new year was celebrated on Dec. 25, the birth of Jesus; March 1; March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation; and Easter. The Council of Tours took a universally agreed day of celebration and fucked it so now, again, we didn’t know our arse from our elbow with regards to when the new year actually began.
Staying with the theme of religion we turn our attentions to the pagans of Flanders and the Netherlands in the 7th century. They would enjoy celebrating the first day of the new year and exchanging gifts with oneanother, but this happy and innocent custom was condemned by Saint Eligius who reprimanded them by saying they should NOT set tables, exchange gifts, or “supply superfluous drinks”. Party pooper!

In England, up until 1752, the first day of the new year was recognized on the 25th March on the Feast of the Annunciation, also called “Lady Day” (not to be confused with ladies day when you put on a big hat and a nice dress and go to Doncaster races to drink enough Prosecco to sedate a racehourse). After 1752 January 1st was yet again reinstated as the first day of the new year and was officially baptized as such by Pope Gregory.

There are of course some alternatives to January 1st, Chinese new year for example is celebrated on the first day of the lunar calendar and falls between 20th January and 20th February. Similarly, the Islamic calendar is also based on the lunar cycles and the start of the year changes each time around. Ethiopian new year is celebrated on September 11th at the end of the summer rainy season. In Thailand the new year begins on April 13th or 14th and people traditionally celebrate by splashing blessed water on one another. Finally, we come to Gwuan Valley, Pembrokeshire, Wales who have decided to give a bigh “fuck you” to the rest of the British Isles and extend the limbo time between Christmas and New year by over a fortnight and celebrate the new year on January 13th.

ae2a2a0c6beb2a2b53666a8a1c27376e
The first day of the new year is a time for us to reflect on the year that has just passed and to look forward to what lies ahead. Many people will make a new year resolution, but not all will stick to it. A lot of people stride through the doors of their local gym to (yet again) strike up a membership contract whilst reciting the affirmation, “new year, new me”, only to leave the gym never to be seen again. For the majority of us new year’s day is spent crying into a McDonalds burger whilst watching nature programs as the cumulative festive period hangover begins to kick in.

Around the world there are various other traditions, which all sounds a little more exciting that what us Brits tend to do. In the Philippines a lot of noise is made using fireworks, horns etc to drive out the evil spirits of the previous year and to prevent them from dragging their bad luck into the new year.

There is something called the Polar Bear Club who will revel in plunging themselves into ice-cold waters in order to wash off the old year and embrace the new year with shivvery vigor.

2016 has been a challenging year for us all, and with the forboding inauguration of Donald Trump, I am not too certain 2017 will be much better, but let’s try and kick it’s butt anyway.

58e03d38-cdd2-11e6-8285-f3aa133c22e5-1020x1046

The black death part deux; Inferno of death!! Side note: no rats were blamed in the destruction of seventeenth century London.

fire-of-london
Just when the people of London thought they could breathe a sigh of relief at having survived the Great Plague of 1665 some more shit hits the fan. Much like 2016, just when you think things can’t possibly get any worse a dumb, racist, misogynistic, fucktard muppet gets elected as president of the United States, it just doesn’t get better.

1666 was going as well as it could be considering two hundred thousand people had died from plague the previous year. The optimists, who thought that things could only get better, should have taken the advice of those suffering from hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia (fear of the number 666) because the year of the devil really was going to live up to its name.

On the night of September 2nd a baker called Thomas Farriner had been up all evening practicing his Fougasse as he was planning on entering Great British Bake Off. After a few failed attempts and cursing Paul Hollywood the baker went to bed. His maid stayed up to clean away the flour covered kitchen, but neglected to put out the oven. The heat of the oven caused sparks which ignited and set the wooden home ablaze. In a guilt ridden panic the maid tried, and failed, to climb out of the window and became one of the few victims of the fire.

With the city of London being made predominantly out of wood at the time and with the recent summer having been very dry it made perfect kindling for the fire. Spreading quickly from one house to another it travelled fast. Three hundred houses vanished in no time and a strong wind carried the flames even further.

Fires were quite common back in them olden days and the fire brigade were quite well equipped, but not enough to tackle this. When the Lord Mayor, Sir Thomas Bloodworth, was roused from his beauty sleep to be told of the devastation unfolding in the city he apparently came back with “A woman could piss it out” and went back to bed with zero fucks given.

Chaos spread through the city as people tried to escape the fire and make their way to the opposite side of the river. As with any disaster many people also flocked towards it, if the iphone had been invented that shit would have been trending all over the internet in no time at all.

Samuel Pepys, who was a clerk to the Privy of the Seal, scampered off to inform King Charles II. Because he was super cool and cared for his country, except for that one time during the plague when he ran off to the country to avoid contracting bubonic plague, Charles immediately ordered that all the houses which lay in the path of the fire be torn down in an attempt to create a ‘fire break’. Alas, the fire continued. Fire fighters, now with the help of the King himself, continued to fight the blaze. They tried using gunpowder to blow up buildings and create an even bigger fire break, but that didn’t work either and it also created additional drama, the sound of the explosions lead the already panicked citizens to believe the French were attacking!!

2fe5ea75d4a290563521d80530839ec1

Good guy King Charles II

On the contrary, when news of the Great Fire reached the French court in gay Paree a week later, King Louis XIV publically ordered that he would not tolerate “any rejoicings about the Great Fire, being such a deplorable accident involving injury to so many unhappy people”. Aaah that’s nice of him! The Venetian ambassador in Paris declared that this accident “will be memorable through all the centuries” – yup, got that right! Louis also offered to send food and provisions to ease the suffering of those who suffered as a result of the blaze. This was all kind of cool of Louis considering that he had been dragged into the Anglo-Dutch war (allying themselves with the Dutch) due to a treaty he accidentally signed back in 1662, despite him having neither the inclination nor the navy to come out and play war.

For four days the blaze ravaged over half of the city and despite the worst of the flames now extinguished some parts of the city would continue to burn for months afterwards. The fire came to a halt after the wind, which had previously been responsible for aiding the fire’s speedy advance, changed direction and turned the blaze back on itself and therefore leaving it nothing more to burn.

More than thirteen thousand houses, eighty-seven churches, and fourty-four livery halls were raised to the ground, the historic city gates were severely damaged, but luckily the Tower had remained unscathed. St Paul’s Cathedral was also lost the the blaze. The heat of the fire was so intense that the lead roof melted and reports tell of the streets flowing with molted lead. The loss of the cathedral, and pretty much the whole city, opened up the opportunity to redesign and replan it from scratch, like a phoenix out of the ashes our beautiful capital rose under the guidance and design of Sir Christopher Wren, and the jewel in his crown was the new St Paul’s Cathedral (completed in 1711).

1403f08135acb0fee1c85d29670cf004

Dramatic Hollywood reenactment of the Great Fire of London.

There is one report from the Great Fire which is a little odd, and as bizarre as it sounds I am lead to believe it. Apparently the main bulk of fatalities belonged not to citizens (records show only five people died in the fire), but to pigeons. Yep, you read that correctly, pigeons. Those fuckers were apparently too stubborn to leave their nests and when they finally decided to evacuate their feathered were singed and burned and they tumbled down into the world’s biggest BBQ.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom however, the inferno had successfully cleansed the city and totally eradicated the remnants of plague. The Fleet, which was basically an open river of disease and poo that ran through the streets and into the river was literally boiled and sterilized. No more slums, no more problems.

To one small group of parliamentarians, led by John Rathbone and William Saunders, the Great Fire  has saved them a job. Earlier that year in April there was a plot to assassinate the King, overthrow and government and wipe the city off the face of the earth by lowering the portcullis and burning it to the ground.

Another side story from that year was that of a lady called Elizabeth Styles, you know, Harry’s great great great great nan. She claimed that five months previously a Frenchman had approached her and predicted that there “would not be a house left between Temple Bar and London Bridge.” I’m not too sure how reliable this story is, she might have been pissed up on Pinot Grigio one night and misinterpreted a Frenchman’s broken english when he was trying to ask for directions to ze local maison de whores.

So, yeah we had a pretty shitty time with another bout of plague and then a fire of biblical proportions, but out of destruction comes new life and London is one cool-ass place.

Accidental biological warfare and annihilation of almost everyone in Europe and Asia. Side note: the rat was NOT to blame!

death-of-rats

The Black Death (or Plague), much like the Xenomorph, is the perfect killing organism. Ignoring the 2010 Sean Bean film, this is the real tale of the Black Death. Witches didn’t do it, but Sean Bean most certainly would have died.

Geneticists believe the plague originated in China during the thirteenth century. Widespread famine in 1331 caused by a decline in farming as a result of Mongol conquest was thought to have been devastating enough, but that turned out to just be the pre-drinks to the intercontinental plague party.  Before reaching Constantinople in 1347 it is thought that the plague had killed approximately twenty-five million Chinese and other citizens across Asia.

The plague was supposedly brought to Europe by a fleet of Genoese trading ships returning from the city of Kaffa in the Crimea in 1347. What had happened was that whilst staying in Kaffa the sailors had become infected after witnessing the Mongol army sieging the city and utilising the ingenious, and gruesome, tactic of catapulting infected and plague ridden corpses over the city walls in order to infect the city. Fleeing Kaffa the Genoese fleet carried the plague with them to the port of Messina in Sicily. As the people of Messina gathered on the docks to meet them they were faced with a horrifying sight. Almost all of the sailors were dead and those left alive were gravely ill. The men were suffering from fever, severe pain, and were covered in black boils which oozed blood and pus!! The authorities swiftly banished the “death ships” and off they went, some of the ships reached Pisa, Venice, and Marseille. From there the plague made its devastating and pestilent advance across Europe.

Carving a widespread path of death the plague infected Europe. The only places which seemed unscathed by the disease were those which had minimal trade relationships such as Poland and Basque Country, also the Netherlands and remote Alpine villages – it pays to be introverted and antisocial, so next time your mum shouts at you for never coming out of your bedroom just inform her that when the next plague epidemic happens you’ll be a survivor.

Here’s the science part! Clever people in white coats now understand that the Black Death is spread by a bacillus called Yersina Pestis, discovered by French biologist Alexandre Yersin in the nineteenth century. The plague could manifest in three ways; bubonic, pneumonic, and septicemic. Bacteria could travel through the air, as well as through the bites of infected fleas – NOT RATS! The fleas carrying the disease were hitching a ride on the backs of ground rodents such as gerbils, marmots, and yes, rats – but it wasn’t the rats themselves which caused the plague, they were just as much of a victim as we were and have had to take the eternal blame for it.

The most popular symptoms were the large black boils which would manifest around the groin, neck and armpits and they were full of blood and all manner of ick! In time the boils and rashes spread across the body and victims would suffer from fever, respiratory difficulties, and vomiting blood.

At the time there seemed to be no explanation for this magna mortalitas and the grim events were terrifyingly confusing. One doctor at the time gave his expert opinion on the disease as thus; ‘instantaneous death occurs when the aerial spirit escaping from the eyes of the sick man strikes the healthy person standing near and looking at the sick’. I’m not 100% certain that aerial spirits escaping from your eyes have the means to carry bubonic plague, but then again I haven’t been to medical school so what do I know?!

If you were unlucky enough to catch plague a cross would be painted on your front door to alert your neighbours and advertise your malady. You would most likely be visited by the plague doctor. This friendly neighbourhood physician (who most often lacked official medical training) would fraudulently attempt to cure you in exchange for monies. They wore a uniform which resembled some kind of fucked up penguin. Their outfit consisted of a long robe and a mask with glass eyes and a beak shaped nose which was stuffed with herbs and spices. They would also carry a cane which would be used to examine their patients, and perhaps also distribute euthenasia when noone was looking.

plague-doctors

Crude medical procedures such as bloodletting, using leeches, and lancing boils, which were not only disgusting, but unsanitary, were relied upon heavily. It also fell upon mystical and superstitious rites for example, burning herbs and bathing in vinegar or rose water to try and prevent or cure the disease.

In 1348 the plague had spread so quickly that doctors and government officials had little to no time to reflect upon how to tackle it, about a third of the population (and probably most of the doctors and government officials) had already perished before a crisis meeting could be organised.

With the vast majority believing that the Black Death was sent down to punish mankind by that good old omnibenevolent guy known as God, the most common reaction was the power of prayer and religious ceremony. What had we done which was so terrible to justify such widespread death? Apparently the sins for which we were being punished for included blasphemy, heresy, fornication, and worldliness. That’s one way to dumb down and control the masses, tell them that if they don’t stop using foul language, travelling outside of their own village and procreating they’ll end up causing apocalyptic death plague.

This “logic” dictates that the only way to try and reverse this pestilence is to win God over and ask for forgiveness. How do we do this you may ask? Apparently the best way to go about winning God’s love and forgiveness is to utilise the most Christian of virtues and purge your community of those who were ‘troublemakers’, malformed, and guilty of heresy. By lashing out at people, and in some cases breaking the sixth commandment (thou shall not kill), you could win God’s favour and be free from plague. Some people decided that the best approach was to join a procession of flagellants, travelling from town to town and publically punishing yourself as an act of penance. Unsure what self-flagellation is? It is the act of beating yourself, and each other, with heavy leather straps studded with sharp metal – sounds productive doesn’t it? Flagellants would give performances three times a day for thirty-three and a half days before moving their pantomime on to the next town. As much as the flagellant movement provided comfort, or morbid amusement, to their audience it did however concern the Pope after it had gone a little too far and he called an end to that shit.

The plague effected everyone indiscriminately; old, young, rich, poor, heretics, and archbishops alike. Healthy people did everything in their power to avoid those infected, providing support and comfort from a distance by, most probably, poking them with a broom held at arm’s length and saying, “there there”, whilst the poor bastard spewed up a lung. Some people figured that the best way to avoid plague was to run away from it, literally! Throughout Europe people were seen sprinting across open countryside, screaming until their lungs gave out, they became exhausted, and most likely collapsed in a ditch and caught plague anyway. The disease effected cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and chickens so it really was impossible to escape. Apparently, so many sheep died that one of the consequences was a continental shortage of wool – fortunately Wales had enough sheep to help boost the ovine population.  In the end it was so bad that doctors refused to treat patients and priests denied the dying of their last rites – that’s compassion for you.

The Black Death was the worst catastrophe in recorded history; the death toll surpassed any other natural disaster or war, destroying a higher percentage of the population than any other single event. It was noted at the time that the living were scarcely sufficient to bury the dead. It is estimated that over a three to four year period a total of fifty million people died in Europe. Some rural communities were completely wiped out, and in crowded cities it was not uncommon for half the population to die. With our modern technology we are able to keep up with current affairs around the globe, but in medieval times there was no such thing as Twitter or BBC News so as far as they were concerned this was a dark and gruesome apocalypse and eeeeeveryone was going to die!

bring-out-your-dead

Bodies were disposed of in mass burial pits and more recently it has been discovered, following archaeological research in London, that some were buried in small individual graves. The individual grave burials were most likely dating from the early days of the plague because as time went on and the bodies piled up those left behind probably just wanted to get rid of the corpses as quickly as possible, and also there was no fucker left to take the time out to dig thousands of one person graves.

The Black Death, as previously mentioned, was the deadliest attack of plague in history. Later in 1665 Britain we had The Great Plague (was it great because it wasn’t quite as epic as the Black Death or because it was in Britain, which is great). There was another occurrence of the disease in Asia during the 1890s.  The plague has never really gone away, it has stayed lurking on the bacterial black market of Asia, breaking out again in the 1990s in Surat and then popping up once more most recently during 2013 in Kyrgyzstan to kill just one herdsman.

Luckily, with our better understanding of disease and sanitation the impact of the disease can be kept to a minimum and we shouldn’t see such high mortality rates as were inflicted during the Black Death. Also, if it does come out of the woodwork and start killing people again at least we now know that it is not the innocent rat to blame, it’s those pesky fleas!!

I suppose the only thing we have left to cause a devastating pandemic is the zombie apocalypse……

It’s beginning to look a lot like Mithras.

No, I haven’t developed the written equivalent of a speech impediment. Mithras was in fact a god who, had his religion not been assassinated, could have been our inspiration behind the most wonderful time of the year. Unfortunately because the Mithraic religion paid its taxes, didn’t actively oppress anyone, and wasn’t too fond of child molestation this god dwindled into obscurity.

We often hear about how many of the traditions, rites and symbols of modern day Christian holidays have their roots in paganism, which they do – we were celebrating the spring equinox (aka Easter) long before zombie Jesus came along!

c-h-spurgeon

Have you ever wondered why December 25th was chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus? Especially when you consider that the nativity is not assigned to a specific date, or even month, by some writer or other in the historically accurate book that is The Bible. The real reason for the choice of the day most probably is that it fell upon an existing pagan festival. Basically, Christianity thought they would be sneaky and crash a party that had been going for centuries and think nobody would notice if they changed the name of the birthday boy to Jesus.

 “If the growth of Christianity had been arrested by some mortal malady, the world would have been Mithraic.” Ernest Renan 1882

If the accounts in the Bible are correct (and may you burn in hell if you say they aren’t) the time of Jesus’ birth should have been closer to spring/summer, this is when shepherds would have been “tending their flocks in the field” and new lambs are born. Shepherds would hardly be sat out on the hillsides at night time, looking after their sheep, and freezing their nads off in December would they?

Luckily enough for Christianity, the ancient pagan religion, Mithraism, (which now dates back over 2,100 years) celebrated the birth of their “saviour” on December 25th.This gave them an already popular public religious party to crash. Over the centuries, those who try to claim that Mithraism copied Christianity nevertheless have asserted that the December 25th birth date was taken from Mithraism. As Sir Arthur Weigall says, ‘December 25th was really the date, not of the birth of Jesus, but of the sun-god Mithras.’

Mithras’s birth on Christmas is evidently based on the calendars of Filocalus or Philocalian (c. 354AD), which mention that December 25th represents the “Birthday of the Unconquered,” understood to refer to Mithras as Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun).

Moreover, it would seem that there is more to this story, as Aurelian (Roman Emperor from 270 to 275) was the first to institute officially the winter solstice as the ‘Birthday of Sol Invictus’ (Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) in 274 AD. It is claimed that Aurelian’s move was in response to Mithras’ popularity. Obviously the Mithraic religion was popular enough to pose a threat to the new religion of Christianity and must be simultaneously emulated and destroyed.

The Mithraic religion is centred on the god Mithras. He is depicted most often in the iconic pose of slaughtering a sacred bull; sitting atop the exhausted beast holding its head up by the nostrils in one hand and a sword in the other. Mithras is a young man and wears Anatolian costume and a Phrygian cap (headdress originating from Asia Minor) It is believed that Mithras originated in Persia and the practice of his religion spread via Greece. Another popular theme is the depiction of the banquet, Mithras and Sol (the sun) feast upon the meat of the bull, using its hide for a table.

mithras

Such a handsome chap

Finally there is the depiction of his birth. While Christianity has the story of a virgin birth, (which is not an original idea by the way. See also, Perseus, Buddha, and Dionysus etc), Mithras took a more geological approach and was born from a rock. He is shown as already being a young man at the time of his birth and is carrying a sword and a flaming torch to signify his role as ‘the light of the world’ or ‘the way’. At the celebrations of Mithras’ birth his followers would light torches and candles to reflect this image.

The similarities between Mithraism and Christianity have included their chapels, the term “father” for priest, the monotheistic style of religion, sacraments, celebrations held on a Sunday (you know, Sun’s day – d’uh), celibacy of the priests, the idea of there being twelve followers (the twelve who follow Mithras are sometimes shown as signs of the zodiac), and the aforementioned shared birthday.

The morality of the Mithraic religion is that we can choose to be good, keeping our hands pure of actions which cause harm and pain, without the overwhelming power of evil threatening us constantly. Evil’s influence can still seem powerful because our minds believe it is, but because of his teachings we know that the purpose of our lives is to serve others in the name of Mithras. Basically, don’t be a dick! Christianity supposedly also has a similar golden rule, “treat others how you would wish to be treated”, but by looking at the discriminatory and hateful actions of the church we can see that this is all a ruse.

Followers of Mithras would have to be initiated into the religion by a re-enactment of the ‘water miracle’ where Mithras fired an arrow into a rock and from that sprouted a spring. One main part of their meetings and ceremonies was a meal, replication of the dinner shared between Mithras and Sol, much like holy communion replicating the last supper.

There is no archaeological evidence of Christianity which pre-dates the earliest Mithraic archaeological finds (dating to c95AD). Our findings point to Christianity being conjured up during the second century AD.

When thinking of archaeological evidence we must keep in mind that a lot has been destroyed “accidently on purpose” in the last two thousand years—including many Mithraic remains and texts— all in the name of affirming Christianity as the only religion, the idea that their god is the ‘one true god’, and “protecting the faith” from such ancient and blasphemous religions such as Mithraism (despite them being centuries old and having followers stretching between India and Scotland). Much like a Facebook cull when you split up with someone or leave that job you hated, Christianity deleted what they could of Mithras, untagged him from written documents, and unfriended those who liked him (or any other god(s) ) more than theirs. Christians have never had a problem with destroying anything which goes against what they want and say, much like a spoilt child throwing a tantrum. The Crusades are probably the biggest religious strop in history.

It is erroneously proposed by some religious writers that because Mithraism was known as a “mystery cult”, due to their temples being built below ground level (to represent the cave in which Mithras slaughtered the bull) and that there was initiation ceremonies involved (erm..baptism? Hello?), it did not leave any written record. In reality, much evidence of Mithras has been destroyed, including monuments, iconography and numerous books by ancient authors. The existence of written evidence is indicated by an Egyptian cloth manuscript from the first century BC which refers to the “Mummy Funerary Inscription of the Priest of Mithras, Ornouphios”.

This almost Nazi-esque destruction of “items and documents we don’t agree with” means that they must have been SO damaging to Christianity that their mass demolition was required. Items which portray similarities between Mithras and Jesus; symbols such as a cross, ritualistic bathing (or baptism), the Eucharist, and reference to him as the ‘light of the world’.

These strong similarities were so obvious that early Christian leaders would have a shitfit over them. The copy-cat evidence even drives some church supporters to madness today and they not only attempt to deny these similarities exist, but simultaneously try to claim that Mithraism plagiarised from Christianity!! Obviously these people are too thick to figure out when one thing predates another – I know the BC/AD date format can be confusing for some.

So the sun god Mithras, the light of the world, who’s quiet religion that minded its own business and taught its followers to not hurt anyone was squashed and destroyed. He had held the 25th December as his day of celebration for centuries, marked with lighting candles and feasting long before baby Jesus did. I often think it is a shame that pagan religions died out, it is nice to think that everything has its own god controlling it (including those of the Discworld universe), and I am pretty sure that wars were not waged and oppression was not dealt in the names of Apollo, Anubis or Thor.

mithras-1-2

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned; A most dark and sinister tale of prolicide.

Most of us know the story of Jason and the Argonauts and have seen the amazing Harryhausen animated film of the same name (if you’ve not seen it I highly recommend you do). What most of us don’t know is the gruesome and dark story of what happened to the hero after his theft of the Golden Fleece.

Jason had fallen in love with the priestess Medea and along with the birth of two sons they had made a happy life together. However, after a few years of bliss it all turned sour.

Jason had caught the eye of a young princess called, Glauce who was the daughter of King Creon of Corinth. He had made arrangements to marry the princess and completely disowned the children and wife he already had. A proper dick move.

Medea is thrown into a deep depression and for some while she refuses to eat and barely acknowledges her children, or her nurse and the tutor who live with her. The rejected priestess shifts between sitting outside the house wailing and watching Dirty Dancing on repeat whilst eating squirty cream straight from the can.

Creon visits Medea and explains that he plans to exile her. Let’s be honest, if we had the power to exile a troublesome ex we all would! Medea takes this on board and accepts her exile, but begs Creon to allow her one day to get her affairs in order. Feeling sorry for her the king agrees and she is granted one day to sort her shit out.

Soon afterwards, Jason rocks up and nobody is happy to see him. With an attitude that would make Donald Trump look modest and reasonable he approached Medea and conceitedly begins to justify his actions.

“You see the thing is, love, you are just a barbaric witch. You were just a holiday romance, in fact, not even a romance; it was just a one night stand that got out of hand. Now look at me! Years down the line and I’m still stuck with you and there’s kids added to the mix too. It’s cramping my style. Glauce is a young and beautiful princess; I can’t pass on the chance to marry into royalty! I’d be stupid not to.….It’s not you, it’s me.”

Medea had turned her grief into rage and Jason could see this. In a bid to sweeten the situation he added this,

“Aaaah but, don’t worry. Once I am married we can all live together you see. You and the kids can live in the palace and you can be my mistress.” Thinking this had gone down well, Jason gave a winning smile.

medea

totes unimpressed

“WHAAAAAAAAT?!?!?!?!!!!!!” Screamed Medea.

“uh-oh” exclaimed Jason and getting back on to his horse he began to flee.

“How DARE you come round here and give me that shit!! You’re nothing but a sleazy, worthless, small-dicked, shit for brains, twat!! You’ll regret this, mark my words.  She’ll get bored of you once she finds out all your stories are fake and you wouldn’t have achieved anything if it wasn’t for me! Fuck you, and the horse you rode in on!!”

Medea was fumin’ and began to plot her revenge. The tutor and nurse, a little shocked and unsure what to do at first, gave each other sideways glances and with the use of hand signals and eye movements they argued silently over who would approach the pissed off woman first.

“erm….Medea sweetheart. You ok? How about a cup of tea, we’ll chill out for a while, and then start getting things packed up ready for the move tomorrow. We’ll just ignore Jason, don’t stoop to his level eh?” coaxed the nurse gingerly.

“NO! I want my vengeance!!”

“Ok well, I’ll leave you to it. If you want a hand just let me know.”

Medea gathers gifts for the young princess. She plans to present Glauce with a gold dress and coronet, both of which were gifted to Medea by the sun god Helios. She sent word to Jason that she wishes to see him and make amends. When Jason arrives she apologised for her outburst and blames it on “the female condition”.

“Please, Jason, forgive me. I’m a crazy bitch and lost my rag with you, but now I realise I was out of hand. I don’t mean any ill toward Glauce and wondered if you would be able to pass on this gift to her, to celebrate her wedding. It is of high importance as it has come from the sun god himself and it is ideal for a girl of her beauty.”

Falling for her lies, Jason takes the dress and coronet and heads back to the palace. Once there he presents them to his future bride and she is mega excited. Falling in love with her new outfit right away she tries it on and calls for her father to come and see.

Unknown to anyone, except Medea, the gifts had been poisoned. Within minutes of her putting on the dress and coronet Glauce begins to shriek. The crown is digging into her head and the more she tries to pull it off the more it tightens, it drives into her scalp until blood runs down into her eyes. The dress burns her skin as if it were on fire. Creon, terrified for his daughter, comes to her aid, but the dress begins to burn him too. Both father and daughter scream in agony as the flesh is ripped from their bones. Both king and princess are now dead.

As this is going on, Medea is back at home putting the final pieces of her retribution together.

Emotionally conflicted, but knowing that this is the only way to truly hurt Jason and get revenge, she enters the house. The nurse and tutor come looking for her, but it is all too late. Medea re-emerges from the house covered in blood. She has killed her two sons.

medea-pot

Jason arrives.

“That is it!! You murdered by new wife and her father. Witch!”

“I didn’t touch them. Anyway, I’ve got other plans.” She says as she climbs into her sexy new chariot, also given to her by the sun god, which has been parked on the roof of the house. “I’m not going to cry over you anymore, you worthless piece of shit!”

“W-what is that?” stutters Jason.

“It’s a chariot, retard!”

“NO! Are they my sons?!” screams Jason pointing at the two small bodies lying at Medea’s feet.

“Sure are dickhead! The only way I could truly hurt you was not to centre my reprisal on myself, you have proven that you don’t give a flying fuck about me, but your sons however, that is different. I have taken away your heirs and legacy. Your precious boys whom you adored. Do not forget that you abandoned them as well as me, you would have allowed them to be thrown into exile!” her reply was venomous and eloquent.

Jason pleaded for her to let him hold them once more, so that he could mourn them properly and say goodbye.

“No.” she said bluntly. “You will never hold your sons again. That is the final nail in the coffin that is your punishment. I curse you, Jason. You shall live the rest of your life in misery and your death shall be unremarkable, verging on humorous.”

With those words she flew off, satisfied with her revenge.

A few years later Jason died after bumping his head on the mast of his ship, the Argo. Clumsy twat.

There you have it, the story of a woman scorned and a warning to all men of what we are capable of. There are many more tales from Ancient Greece regarding pissed off women and why you should at least try to avoid getting their back up, but I think this one is the best.

Don’t abandon your new girlfriend on an island whilst high on the excitement of having just killed a monster.

Do you remember the story of Daedalus and Icarus? No? Well, go back and read it! (https://princessdippy.wordpress.com/2016/11/21/icarus-the-reason-why-we-should-all-listen-to-our-parents-when-they-tell-us-not-to-do-stuff/)

 

Each year the city of Athens would send an offering of male and female virgins to the island of Crete in order to satisfy the Minotaur’s hunger, this was as a debt to king Minos over the death of his son, Androgeus at the battle of Marathon. The Minotaur was a ferocious beast – it was half man and half bull, and kept in an elaborate labyrinth built by the great architect, Daedalus. It was impossible to escape the labyrinth and once inside you became part of a live screaming buffet.

Theseus, prince of Athens, decided in true hot-headed Greek youth form that he wanted to kill the Minotaur. Theseus joined the ranks of the sacrificial victims, even though his virginity was questionable, and made the journey to Crete.  He had told his father, king Aegeus, that if he returned safely he would put white sails on his ship, but if it all went to rat shit and he ended up dying he would instruct his crew to hoist black sails. Aegeus promised that he would watch out for his return every day.

Upon their arrival the Athenians were greeted by Minos’ daughter, Ariadne. The beautiful princess took an instant liking to Theseus and made a pact with him. She would help him escape the labyrinth if he promised to kill the Minotaur and then take her back to Athens with him.

On the day of the sacrifice the young men and women were shoved into the dark depths of the terrifying maze. Theseus was at the back of the group and just before he entered, Ariadne gave him a spindle of thread.

“eh? How’s this meant to help? Can’t kill a monster with this can I?!”

*eye roll*. “No, dufus! Tie this to the door behind you and let the thread unravel as you go through the maze. Once you’ve found and killed the Minotaur you’ll just have to follow the thread and you’ll find your way back here. I shall be waiting for you and then we can make our escape together.”

“Oooohhh. I get it. Right, I’ll do that then”

Not wholly convinced the prince had understood what he was supposed to be doing Ariadne slammed the door shut behind him anyway.

Theseus tied the thread to the door as he had been instructed and began to make his way forward.

After getting tangled up a few times, falling down some stairs, bumping his head (not that this made much difference to his intellect), and tripping over the skeletal remains of his kinsman, he came across the Minotaur. The beast was chowing down on what looked like someone’s right arm. Drawing his sword Theseus crept up behind the Minotaur. Managing to climb up the walls slightly he gained some higher ground and from there he was able to leap onto the back of the monster and drive his sword down into its spine. Prematurely celebrating his victory Theseus performed a brief victory dance and cheered to himself like a dumb jock. A hard kick to the back threw him to the floor and he turned to see that the Minotaur wasn’t quite dead yet.

t34-14minotauros

“Oi!! You’re supposed to be dead. I slayed you!!” yelled Theseus. He picked up his sword once more and thrust it deep into the dying creature’s heart. This time it was really dead. Awww sad.

After another victory dance and a pretend award winning acceptance speech, Theseus got to work on removing the head of the Minotaur and then dragged it all the way back to the entrance to the labyrinth.

Once at the door he knocked on it to the tune of the Colonel Bogey March.

The door flung open a few minutes later and there stood Ariadne in her onesie and with a sleeping mask pushed up onto her forehead.

“What the hell are you doing?!!” she snapped

“I thought I would do a secret knock. You know, coz we’re doing sneaky stuff and escaping and shit.”

“Just get out of there N-O-W!” hissed the princess as she grabbed him by the beard and dragged him forwards.

Quietly the pair crept through the palace to Ariadne’s chambers so that she could grab her things before making their way to the harbour.

“You’re room is right nice.” chimed Theseus, sitting down on the bed.

“GET THAT OFF THERE!! THOSE ARE CHANEL BEDSHEETS!!”

With a guilty and shifty look on his face, and without looking at it, Theseus nudged the head of the Minotaur off the bed and it fell to the floor with a thick and squelchy thud.

“Fucks sake” breathed Ariadne

ariadne-and-theseus

“I love you, but you aren’t half thick!” .

Once she had packed her things the pair made their way to the harbour and boarded Theseus’ boat. Forgetting what he had promised his father and thinking only of wanting to stop the head from smelling so bad, Theseus grabbed the white sails and wrapped it up in them. His crew had no choice but to hoist the black sails and begin their journey back to Athens.

They stopped on the island of Naxos to replenish their food and water supply. In the evening they had a beach party with wine and a BBQ.

In the morning when Ariadne woke up she was alone. On the horizon she could see the outline of Theseus’ ship. Standing on the beach she screamed out and cursed the Athenian prince, promising him that he would only find grief on his return home and all his loved once will perish. She didn’t have to suffer too long though. The god Dionysus soon married her and she actually had an alright life.

WDM32547

Meanwhile, Aegeus made his way to the top of the cliffs, as he had done every morning since his son left, and looking out to sea he saw the outline of a ship. Could this be him? Has his son finally returned? He stood there staring at the horizon, waiting for the ship to become clearer. His heart sank as the vessel came nearer and he saw that it was flying black sails. Heartbroken the king threw himself from the cliffs and drowned in the sea below which now bears his name.

Once his ship landed on the shores of Athens, Theseus was devastated to hear of the death of his father and he only had himself to blame. The curse of Ariadne had started to weave its terrible path.

So, there you have it, the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. The morale of the story? Don’t be a dick and keep the promises you make to your parents.

Cool sandals, a baseball cap, a shiny shield, and chopping someone’s head off with your eyes shut.

perseus-001
Long ago, in the dark corners of antiquity, there was a rock at the end of the world with a terrifying inhabitant. Many brave men made the treacherous journey in search of the monster that lived there, but they never returned. The creature that lured so many prospective heroes to their deaths was Medusa the gorgon; she had wings of bronze, a nest of snakes for hair, and just one look from her would turn you to stone. Only one man made it back alive from paying the venomous bitch a visit, but he kinda cheated.

Perseus was the son of Danaë, the daughter of King Acrissius. The origin of his birth is somewhat complicated and weird. King Acrisius, who was cheesed off about not having a male heir, visited the oracle at Delphi to ask her if his balls were still working. In true oracle tradition she came back at him with an answer that was on the surface straight forward and simple, but ultimately crafty and unavoidable. She told him that he would not have a son of his own, but his daughter would have a son and it would be this child who would kill Acrisius.

When he got home he ordered that Danaë be locked in the dungeons and she was to stay there for the rest of her life. The princess was locked up in a cell and kept there. Now if you think the story of Mary’s Immaculate Conception was weird, just you wait…. One day Danaë was visited by Zeus in the form of a shower of golden light and with that she was pregnant. Yeah, I told you it got weird.

It wasn’t until a few years later that Acrisius discovered that he was a granddad. Stricken with fear and with the oracle’s words still ringing in his ears he demanded that his daughter and grandchild be put into a large chest and thrown into the sea. This surprise voyage landed the mother and child on the island of Seriphos. They were taken in by, Dictys, the brother of the island’s King. When Perseus was a young man the king, Polydectes, took a fancy to his mum, but he only agreed to not marry her if Perseus could bring to him the head of the gorgon. Determined to not let his mum marry some dickhead Perseus set off to find the gorgon.

The goddess Athena appeared to Perseus and told him he can’t just go and rip off Medusa’s head as easily as he thinks, it’s not as if he’s anything special; not just yet. She tells him to seek out the Hesperides, the nymphs who guard the weapons of the gods. In order to find the Hesperides Perseus must first visit the Graeae, the sisters of Medusa. The Graeae were three old witches who shared one eye and one tooth between them, it is said they originally hailed from Barnsley.  Perseus managed to steal their eye as they passed it between them and held it to ransom in return for the location of the godly arsenal. Reluctantly they told him and off he went, with the eye still in his pocket.

When he reached the home of the Hesperides he was given winged sandals which would allow him to fly, a polished shield of bronze, a sword, a cap of invisibility (made from dog skin errgghh), and a special sack to carry the head of Medusa in. Perseus returned to the Graeae kitted out in his new clobber and returned their eye as he had promised. While he had been gone the three witches had missed seeing the latest episode of Game of Thrones and were beyond livid, cursing Perseus and screaming warnings out to their distant sister.

“You know nothing, Graeae!” taunted Perseus as he flew off

On the way to the end of the world Perseus came across the titan, Atlas who, as punishment for taking part in the Titans Vs Olympians battle royale, had been forced to hold up the heavens for all eternity. He stopped to speak to the giant who told him about his misery and aching shoulders. Perseus promised that on his return from he would turn Atlas into stone using the head of Medusa.

Finally he reached the end of the earth and the giant, black, and desolate rock where the gorgon lived. As he made his way to her lair he passed countless statues, a forest of sculptures in various terrified poses. He soon realised that these had not been carved from marble, but they were actually the men who had come before him in an attempt to slay the creature.

Even though he wore the cap of invisibility Medusa still knew that Perseus was there, what with her being an evil and magical being and all. She tried enticing him to turn and look at her, promising him eternal life and power beyond measure. Her voice was comforting and seductive, and the snakes she had in place of her hair hissed softly. Perseus had to have some serious restraint in order to not turn and look at her. Using the mirrored shield to see where he was going he started edging closer towards the gorgon. Using a mirrored shield to see where you are going and having to walk backwards is not the sexiest way to approach anything, it hardly screams “manly and fearless hero”, more like clumsy moron who doesn’t know what he’s doing. After bumping into almost every statue, stumbling over just about everything, and sustaining a twisted ankle and grazed elbow Perseus looked like the last person you would send to kill a rubber duck let alone slay a monster.

Astonishingly our hero managed to get close enough to Medusa without falling over and making an invisible tit of himself. He waited for her to turn her gaze away from him and then he made his move. With a swift wave of his sword he relieved Medusa of her head. Carefully, because the eyes still retained their petrifying power, he picked up the head by its slithering locks and shoved it into his sack.

p23-7medousa

The winged sandals carried him home as fast as they could. Along the way he stopped off to see Atlas, as he had promised, and showing him the head of Medusa he turned the titan into stone – ever heard of the Atlas Mountains? That’s what they are; the overgrown and weathered remains of Atlas himself.

Once he had returned home, Perseus made his way immediately to the house of Polydectes.

“I have returned with the head of Medusa as requested, now hand over my mother you slimy twat.” he requested.

Polydectes, being an early example of a two-faced, lying, cheating, and nefarious scumbag refused and said that Perseus had taken too long on his quest and didn’t give a shit, he had decided to marry Danaë anyway.

Miffed off at having wasted a lengthy journey, gaining a sprained ankle, grazed elbow, making a tit out of himself falling over the entire time whilst on Medusa’s island, and having had to keep a manky old eyeball in his pocket Perseus lost his shit and pulling the head out of the sack he shoved it into Polydectes’ face. The head was all smelly and gunky, the serpents were heavy, and the long gooey sinews dangling from the neck slapped Polydectes about the face as Perseus violently request that he look upon it.

Hearing the commotion many people had gathered around to watch this strange display of forced observation. Polydectes was feebly trying to smack the cold and clammy head out of his own mush when he accidently caught its gaze and was instantly turned to stone in the most amusing of poses – a kind of limp wristed mid-slap with an expression that says “eeewwwww get it awaaaayyyy!”

nene

With Polydectes now dead life could return to normal.

Sometime later, when all the excitement had died down, there was an athletic event being held and athletes came from all around to compete. Perseus was competing in the discus throwing. He threw his discus far; it whizzed its way towards the spectators, and struck an older gentleman on the head killing him instantly. That man, killed by speeding discus, was King Acrissius – Perseus’ grandfather.

No matter how much you try to avoid a prophecy from coming true it will always get you in the end, but you might get some cool sandals out of it.