Ponder Ancient Muslim Tolerance


Posted almost three years ago in reaction to anti Muslim sentiment, exasperation couldn’t begin to fathom where we find ourselves today. Religious intolerance will be the death of us all.

notestoponder

I doubt many could fathom a world of religious tolerance under Islam. Ancient history lends itself to images of holy war, crusades and religious oppression.

Sultan Mehmed II conquered Constantinople in 1453 – a crushing blow in favour of the Ottoman Empire – orchestrated by a 21 year old visionary. According to Sharia law, non-Muslims were guaranteed freedom and protection from persecution. Once Ottoman rule was established, it made little sense to squabble over religious differences.

The Arabic word for “nation” is millet. The Ottoman Empire allowed each “millet” or religious group to elect leaders and practice freely as a “nation” under Ottoman protection. Each “millet” was free to enforce their own rules – Islamic law did not apply to non-Muslim “nations”.Criminal acts within a “millet” were dealt with under religious laws of that nation. The only time Islamic law applied was when crimes involved people of two separate nations or was perpetrated…

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Friggatriskaidekaphobia


Friggatriskaidekaphobia – an irrational fear of Friday 13th. Frigga is a Norse goddess of fertility and love for whom Friday was named. In the Middle Ages all Fridays were bad luck, definitely not a day to marry or embark on travels. Christianity feed superstition – 13 seated at the Last Supper, Judas said to be the 13th guest and claims Jesus was crucified on a Friday. As far as Christians were concerned Friday was the “witches’ Sabbath” (clearly Pagan namesake Frigga had to be a witch ).

May 13 is the only Friday 13th of 2016. For phobics of 13 – it falls exactly 26 weeks ( 2 x 13 ) since the last one in November 2015, precisely 65 weeks ( 5 x 13 ) after February 13, 2015, the first of 3 last year. 2017 will have two, January and October, 39 weeks ( 3 x 13 ) apart.

When leap years start on a Friday there’s only one that year, always Friday 13th of May. Dates and days realign every 28 years, therefore leap years 28 years apart start on Friday, making May 1 a Sunday ( months starting on Sunday always have Friday 13th ). The only exception being leap years not divisible by 400 ( next one 2100 ), 2100 begins on a Friday but since Gregorian rules won’t let it leap, the 365 day “common year” hasn’t a month starting on Sunday until August.

Whether Friday 13th is inconsequential, perpetrator of mild superstition or responsible for phobia induced panic attacks, let me point out – there aren’t any witches. Friday 13th is a precise mathematical calculation based on the Gregorian Calendar. Nothing Frigggatriskaidekaphobia to fret about.

http://earthsky.org/human-world/friday-the-13th-may-13-2016-friggatriskaidekaphobia?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=b1a1678127-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-b1a1678127-393970565

http://skepdic.com/friggatriskaidekaphobia.html

Feline Facts and Rocket Cats


Cats rule in North America – 30% of households purchase cat litter for an estimated 73 million felines, compared to 63 million puppy chow homes. A group of cats is called a clowder, the technical term for a cat’s hairball is bezoar. Apparently cats can make about 100 different sounds compared to 10 from a dog. Most female cats are right pawed, males favour their left. Approximately 40,000 people are bitten by cats in America each year. During that year, roughly 4 million felines are eaten in Asia. It would take 24 cat skins to make a coat. Cats sleep 2/3 of every day, a nine year old cat has only been conscious for 3 life years. There are an estimated 60 million feral cats in the U.S. In 1963 French cat Felicette, dubbed “Astrocat”, was the first cat in space.

Historically, evidence of the first domesticated cat comes from a 9,500 year old grave on the island of Cyprus where feline bones were unearthed beside human remains. Ancient Egypt worshiped cats, smuggling them out of Egypt was punishable by death. When a family cat died Egyptians would mourn by shaving off their eyebrows, followed by an elaborate funeral feast and placing mummified felines in the family tomb (complete with tiny mummified mice ). In 1888 over 300,000 mummified cats were discovered in an ancient cemetery – according to RandomHistory (linked below) they were “unwrapped” and sent abroad to be used as fertilizer by farmers in England and America. ( don’t despair – I agree this needs a fact check assignment ).

http://facts.randomhistory.com/interesting-facts-about-cats.htm

Christianity wasn’t kind to cats. During the Spanish Inquisition Pope Innocent VIII oversaw the incineration of countless evil felines ( really bad decision – bye, bye pest control, hello black death ). At the midsummer festival of St. John’s Day, towns across medieval Christian Europe gathered at bonfires to burn live cats. Associated with witchcraft and the devil, people shrieked with delight as bags of live cats roasted in flaming agony.

It’s possible “cat burning” inspired Franz Helm to detail rocket cats in a 1590 manual on siege warfare.

‘Create a small sack like a fire-arrow … if you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place.

‘And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited.'”

https://uniqueatpenn.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/a-rocket-cat-early-modern-explosives-treatises-at-penn/

No evidence of rocket cat warfare exists other than Helm’s siege manual – history freely pardons the suggestion of incendiary felines. Other animals weren’t as fortunate. Check out the link below –

http://www.allempires.com/article/index.php?q=Unconventional_Animals_in_the_History_of_Warf

Thank Janus


On this first day of 2016, I find myself pondering why January 1 marks the beginning of a new year. As with so many traditions lacking astronomical substance or scientific reason, it starts to make sense when considering ancient history.

Ancient Rome celebrated a mid winter festival in honour of the god Janus. The god of “doorways and beginnings”, Janus had two faces – one looked to the future, the other to the past. Januarius was the first month of the Roman calendar, a time when citizens exchanged gifts of lamps to light the coming year.

The earliest record of new year celebrations comes from Mesopotamia around 2000 BC. Long before Roman Janus, Mesopotamian New Year fell in March with observance of the vernal equinox. Ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians and Persians partied in September with the fall equinox. Ancient Greece favored winter solstice on December 20. It was a free for all until introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, since the 16th century January 1st has heralded the new year. That said, make no mistake about it – we can all thank Janus for our hangover.

http://www.britannica.com/topic/Janus-Roman-god

 

Ushtogaysky Square


Every so often I’m asked about my fascination with ancient history. Polite restraint tempers inclination towards uncontrollable blithering. Reeling myself in, I take a moment to assess context, social parameters, familiarity and seriousness of my inquisitor. Are they truly interested, or halfheartedly making conversation? Who cares, either way I have an answer. “It began with the Nazca Lines”, if that doesn’t fall like a lead balloon – hang on because here I come.

Ancient astronomical feats – monolith alignment, mathematical calculations, capacity to precisely chart the passage of time, have tickled fancies for centuries. The ancients had plenty of free time to observe the cosmos, unfettered by light pollution or preconceived notions of this or that. One thing for sure – we couldn’t duplicate their accomplishments without modern technology. If that wasn’t mind blowing enough, ancient civilizations created monuments to be appreciated from high above – undertakings like Nazca and the Steppe Geoglyphs.

In 2007 Dmitriy Dey, an economist and archaeology buff from Kazakhstan spotted something remarkable while viewing Google Earth. Dey’s idle interest in finding Khazakh pyramids led to discovery of the Steppe Geoglyphs. Ponder meticulously placed earth mounds – squares, rings, crosses and lines estimated to be 8,000 years old. Precise geometric figures, imperceptible unless seen from above. Massive earthworks larger than the Great Pyramid at Cheops, hundreds of mounds no taller than a few feet strung together to create geometric designs only visible from space.

Splutters of “Oh, there must be some explanation” bounce off chimes of “is this one of those alien conspiracies” and “where did you read this”. Occasionally someone clicks with a genuine “holy crap”.

Take a moment to ponder – what was the population 8000 years ago in Kazakhstan? How many, and how long would it take Neolithic hunter/gatherers void of written language, the wheel, or anything other than stone tools to construct such a monument? Who did they think would see it?

Goosebumps prickle my arms – for 8,000 years not a soul noticed the Steppe Geoglyphs. It was all about Nazca until 2007, the year an amateur archaeologist using Google Earth tripped on ancient anomalies perplexing enough to kick history’s ass.

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/nasa-helping-study-massive-earthworks-space-180957123/?no-ist

One of the enormous earthwork configurations photographed from space is known as the Ushtogaysky Square, named after the nearest village in Kazakhstan. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA

 

Ancient Potion Ponder


Who would have guessed, a 10th century Anglo-Saxon potion for treating styes (infected eyelash follicles), might hold the secret to eradicate “super-bugs”. Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), otherwise known as the antibiotic resistant “super-bug” has stubbornly eluded modern medical cures.

Last year at the University of Nottingham, Dr. Christina Lee – an expert in Old English happened to mention Bald’s Leechbook, a 10th century book of infection remedies kept in the British Library. Knowing styes are caused by Staphylococcus Aureus bacteria, Dr. Lee took great care to duplicate an ancient potion – turning it over to researchers battling MRSA.

Take cropleek and garlic, of both equal quantities, pound them well together… take wine and bullocks gall, mix with the leek… let it stand nine days in the brass vessel…

On their own, onions, garlic red wine and cow bile amount to a hill of beans against antibiotic resistant bacteria. Combine them in precise quantities, ferment for 9 days in a brass pot – you have a thousand year old potion killing over 90% of MRSA bacteria in infected mice.

Given resources and a little time, modern applications of an ancient bacterial remedy seem poised to tackle dreaded “super-bugs”. Remarkable as that might be, consider 10th century men of science. Ponder their path along trial and error’s treacherous slopes. Before concepts of bacteria, let alone antibiotics. In a time of sin, divine retribution and blood letting – folklore, not science cured affliction. In all honesty – that alone blows my mind.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/revolting-recipe-from-the-dark-ages-may-be-key-to-defeat-mrsa-10144616.html

Great Dam of Marib


Ancient history is tricky – a mine field of contradiction, biblical references, conspiracy and myth. History, easily misinterpreted or recorded with bias of the author, can’t always be trusted. Interpretation, often subjective, must be approached cautiously. Archeology, at least in terms of physical evidence is irrefutable. Over the years I’ve come to accept archeological evidence as the place to embrace wonders of our past.

The Sabaeans inhabited present day Yemen from roughly 1200 BC to 275 AD. For the sake of argument lets accept that approximation and move on. Biblical references to “Saba” or the Queen of Sheba – Old Testament ruler of the Sabaean people, hold little interest in this ponder. Mind bending feats of engineering magnificence obliterate dusty religious debate. Ponder the Great Dam of Marib.

Try to imagine a parched and dusty empire 750 BC. So many mouths to feed – so little water. Hey, lets build a dam. We’ll need to make it 2000 feet across, control the flow of water with canals, spillways and sluices, make certain it’s watertight, and proceed without concrete. No problem – we’ll just pack all this earth where we want it, and channel water as needed. The dam stood for 1000 years before a breach estimated at 600 AD returned Yemen to the desert.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marib_Dam

Remnants of the Marib Dam
We see ourselves as superior, sophisticated, technologically advanced specimens of a highly evolved civilization. Imagine the sophistication required to build the Dam at Marib.
Archeological evidence eclipses written history, forcing us to think in practical terms. We rub our eyes in disbelief, blink a few times, look again, it’s still there – stoically daring us to grasp the enormity of ancient tenacity, ingenuity and above all – the will to move the earth, if it meant a better world.