Did You Ever Wonder Why Frankincense and Myrrh were as Valuable as Gold?

By Lance Hickerson, Reference Department

One story of the present holiday season tells of Magi bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the baby Jesus. These Magi from the East were riding a wave of expectation common in the Mediterranean world and beyond.  One Roman historian of the day explains:

There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judaea to rule the world.  (Suetonius, Life of Vespasian, 4.5; similarly other first century historians Tacitus, Histories 5.3 and Josephus, War of the Jews, 6.5).

myrrh

Frankincense

Indeed, the Magi were bearing gifts fit for a king, but what gifts would properly honor one who is “to rule the world?”   The Magi chose gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Of course, gold makes complete sense as a fitting gift, but why would frankincense and myrrh rate so highly?

Frankincense and myrrh are widely available today as “essential oils,” but in the first century world, they were much more essential, especially since the peoples of that time exhibit refined sensitivities in matters of smell and fragrance.  One geographer from Greece who sailed around southern Arabia, named Agatharchides, recounts:

A heavenly and indescribable fragrance seems to strike and stir the senses.  Even far out from land as you sail past you do not miss the fragrant odors blowing from the myrrh bushes.

frank-2

Myrrh

The tree that captivated the explorer’s sense of smell, might not appear so impressive in full sight.  Myrrh trees are small, thorny, and often just a bush.  Like frankincense, myrrh trees grow in places limited to an arid climate like that of southern Arabia.

Yet what matters is the treasure the trees produce.  Both frankincense and myrrh are harvested by tapping the inner sap with cuts to the tree bark.  The gummy resin oozes out in the form of what some ancients called “tears.”  After two weeks for drying, the resin is scraped off the tree, and sent on a long journey aboard camels and ships to crossroads and ports the world over.

What were the Uses of Frankincense and Myrrh?

Frankincense and myrrh had common uses and were even sometimes used together.  But frankincense was more fragrant as incense and myrrh more helpful for perfume and skin care.

The top use for both frankincense and myrrh was for religious expression.  Religion in our western world is often separated from other aspects of life, whereas religion in the first century world was part of everything and considered to be the most important aspect of all.  This includes the wide ranging pagan religions as well as the Judaeo-Christian stream.  Since religion was so important, religious expression was essential.  And essential to religious expression was offering incense, especially frankincense.

Both frankincense and myrrh were widely used in preparing bodies for burial, which also included groups who cremated their dead.  Frankincense in particular was good for masking the odor of a burning body.   Emperor Nero burned an entire year of the frankincense harvest in honoring the death of one of his favorite people.  That was extravagant indeed.

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Frankincense Tree/Bush, photo from HitchChic

Each substance had a number of particular uses as well, again sometimes overlapping.  The Middle East Institute remarks:

The market for frankincense was unlimited. Whereas other exotic spices and aromatics were luxury items, frankincense, though expensive was a household necessity. For many families throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East frankincense was a basic staple just as things like toothpaste and deodorant are always on the grocery list today.

Among the medical uses for frankincense were:  stopping bleeding, cleansing, and functioning as an important ingredient in prescriptions used as antidotes to poisons, help for side and chest pain, and abscesses.  It was used as well for a pest repellant and food flavoring.

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Myrrh Tree/Bush

Myrrh likewise had many functions in the first century world.  In addition to the uses common with frankincense, it figured prominently in perfumes and ointments.  Furthermore, its medical uses were wide ranging, for both internal and external use. It was a chief ingredient for the Egyptian army’s balm for the healing of sword cuts and wounds.  Myrrh is mentioned 54 times in the Hippocratic literature helping alleviate various diseases.  It helped with snakebites, coughs, stomach pains, toothaches, and ear aches.   It was in demand as a pain killer and antiseptic, and also served as a mouthwash.  So while in the first century world, its religious significance was primary, myrrh was helpful in many other ways.

When the parents of baby Jesus saw the Magi bearing frankincense and myrrh, along with gold, they were most certainly not disappointed.  The frankincense and myrrh had many more uses than gold, and were fitting gifts of high value and honor.

 


Sources:

  • Middle East Institute
  • Lankester Harding, Inside Arabia Felix” (fortunate arabia)
  • W. Everts, Jr., “The Place of Incense in the Mosaic Ritual,” The Old Testament Student, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Sep., 1884), pp. 29-30. Published by: The University of Chicago Press
  • Gus W. Van Beek, “Frankincense and Myrrh,” The Biblical Archaeologist  Vol. 23/3 (September 1960), 69-95.
  • Erkki Koskenniemi, Kirsi Nisula, and Jorma Toppari, “Wine Mixed with Myrrh,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 27.4 (2005), 379-391.
  • Lytton John Musselman, Figs, Dates, Laurel, and Myrrh (Portland: Timber Press, 2007).

Celebrate Native American Heritage Month!

By Jessica Dunkel, Reference Departmentnative-american-heritage-month

History

Native American Heritage Month (also known as “National American Indian Heritage Month” and “National American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month”) hasn’t been around for very long.  Although Native Americans have resided on the continent for approximately 12,000 years, it wasn’t until November 1990 that President George H. W. Bush declared November to be “National American Indian Heritage Month”.

Honoring the month

Many of us are not exposed to Native American culture and do not know much about Native people, their way of life, and the issues they face.  In order to honor this month, I’ve compiled some facts and figures, as well as answers to questions some of us may have about Native Americans and their culture.  This list is far from complete, and I encourage you to discover what you’ve always wanted to learn about Native people and their history.

Below you will also find ways to celebrate Native American Heritage Month for yourself, plus Fiction and Non-Fiction books from Native American authors – and a few movies, too.  All titles are available at our library, so get to celebrating!

Census information as of 2014

Population:  American Indians and Alaska Natives made up 2% of the US population (5.4 million people), including those that are more than one race.

Race:  Of the 5.4 million, only 48% are fully American Indian or Alaska Natives.  The other 52% are American Indian or Alaska Natives in combination with at least one other race.

Reservations and Tribes:  As of 2015 there were 326 federally recognized American Indian reservations and 566 federally recognized American Indian tribes.

Income:  The median income for single-race Native American and Alaska Native households was $37,227 (compared to $53,657 for the United States as a whole).

Poverty:  Single-race Native Americans and Alaska Natives had a poverty rate of 28.3%, the highest rate of any race group in America.

Higher Education:  13.9% of single-race Native Americans and Alaska Natives, ages 25 and over, had a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.

Language:  26.8% of single-race Native Americans and Alaska Natives ages 5 and older spoke a language other than English at home.

2010 American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States Map from the U.S. Census Bureau

2010 American Indians and Alaska Natives in the United States Map from the U.S. Census Bureau

More interesting facts here

FAQ about Native Americans

Are all Native Americans considered US citizens?

  • In 1924, all Native Americans who were born in the US were granted citizenship, although not all states allowed them to vote until 1957.

Do all Native Americans live on reservations?

  • According to the 2010 census, only 22% of the country’s 5.2 million Native Americans live on tribal lands. Many Natives have left reservations seeking jobs and higher education.

Do any Native Americans still live on their original tribal land?

  • There are some reservations that are located on a tribe’s original land, while others were created by the Federal government for the tribes forced from their land.

Do tribes make their own laws, or live under the laws of the US?

  • Federally recognized tribes have a sovereign, government-to-government relationship with the United States. They legally govern themselves aside from some restrictions from Congress, federal courts, and treaties with the U.S.  They are able to form their own governments, make and enforce laws, tax, provide licenses and regulate activities, and more.  They are unable to print their own currency, start wars, or take part in foreign relations.

What is life like on a reservation?

  • Living on a reservation has been compared by some to living in a Third World country. For many there are few jobs, a lack of employment opportunity, and inadequate and substandard housing including a lack of running water, phones, and electricity.

Can anyone visit a reservation?

  • All reservations have their own laws and therefore different policies on visiting. Make sure to contact the proper tribe to ask about their policy and be aware of etiquette if given permission to visit.  Here is a link to the Tribal Leaders Directory that provides contact information for each tribe.  Here is a link to some tips on visiting a reservation.

Do Native Americans still speak their tribe’s language?

  • Before European influence, it is estimated that there were over 100,000 different Native languages. Today, over 70% of Native Americans say they only speak English at home.  Navajo is the most-spoken Native language, at 150,000 people.

What is the history behind Native American names?

  • This is a fascinating topic that cannot be fully represented by a short answer. The brief version is that many Native Americans have a complex naming tradition.  Their names are said to speak to an individual’s personality and even change over the course of their lives.

What was the Native American population before 1492?

  • No one knows for sure. Not many population records were kept at all during that time period.  All scientists have to go on are historical writings, and even then they can only guess.  At the low end, anthropologist Alfred Kroeber estimated 8.4 million.  At the high end, anthropologist Henry Dobyn estimated 112.5 million.  What almost everyone can agree on is that the Native population decreased significantly after 1492.

Do Native Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?

  • In 2015, Huffington Post published an article that interviewed the ancestors of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, the first tribe to make contact with the Massachusetts Pilgrims of 1620. This is a quote from their current tribal president and chairman on how he celebrates the holiday:  “We are Americans as well, and so even today, I sit down at Thanksgiving with family.”  He goes on to note that Thanksgiving is equally a time to reflect on the tragedies they suffered then and ones they continue to suffer today.  So while many consider it a day to give thanks, it is also seen as a national day of mourning.

What are some current issues facing Native Americans today?

  • The Dakota Access Pipeline has been in the news recently. The construction of the pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation may potentially threaten their water supply.  The Sioux also say the pipeline would disrupt sacred land.
  • Click here for a Smithsonian article about the current controversy, and here to visit the Standing Rock Sioux website.

How can I find out if I have Native American ancestors?

  • If you believe you may have Native American ancestry, here is a guide provided by the Office of Public Affairs – Indian Affairs on how to begin genealogical research as well as tribal enrollment information.
  • Visit us at the Williamson County Public Library to get free access to Ancestry.com with your library card.

6881eed3f57f35152cae7b85252d784dHow can I participate in Native American Heritage Month?

  • Click here for some creative ideas on how to celebrate.
  • Read a book or watch a movie – all available @WCPL!
  • Non-Fiction
    • The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West by Peter Cozzens (978.02 COZ)
    • Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan (770.92 EGA)
    • Empire of the Summer Moon : Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne (978.004974572 GWY)
    • 1491: New Revelations of the Americas before Columbus by Charles C. Mann (970.011 MAN)
    • With My Own Eyes: A Lakota Woman Tells Her People’s History by Susan Bordeaux Bettelyoun (973.04975 BET)
    • On the REZ by Ian Frazier (978.366 FRA)
    • Killing Custer by James Welch (973.82 WEL)
  • Fiction
    • Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie (F ALE)
    • House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday (F MOM)
    • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA F ALE)
  • Film
    • Smoke Signals (DVD SMOKE)
    • Dances with Wolves (DVD DANCES)
    • The Last of the Mohicans (DVD LAST)
    • Longmire – TV series (DVD LONGMIRE)
    • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee – (DVD BURY)
  • More Suggested Reading:

Other Resources for Native American History Month

  • Click here for audio and video resources from the Library of Congress, Smithsonian, and more.

It is impossible to accurately represent an entire people in a single blog while retaining the real essence, beauty, and complexity of their culture.  I urge everyone who is interested in any aspect of Native American life to read more, learn more, and attempt to truly understand the lives and history of America’s Native people.

Check out the links above as well as the blog references section for a wealth of information.


Sources:

Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving!

Happy_Thanksgiving_by_Purdaisia

The Transcendence of Calvin and Hobbes

By Stacy Parish, Children’s Department

I can’t remember the exact date that a smart-mouthed, spiky-haired kid named Calvin and his very real stuffed tiger Hobbes entered my life. I’m reasonably certain that it was not November 18, 1985, as I was a smart-mouthed, big-haired high school sophomore (do the math, Darling Reader) who was more concerned with my reflection in the mirror than with reflection on love, art, theology, mortality, public education, paleontology, environmentalism, and the repercussive effects of human free will.

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Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Calvin and Hobbes was conceived by American cartoonist Bill Watterson and made its syndicated debut on November 18, 1985, and ran until December 31, 1995. The strip follows the raucous antics and adventures of Calvin, a precocious six-year-old boy, and Hobbes, his quick-witted toy tiger. The pair was named for 16th-century French theologian John Calvin and Thomas Hobbes, a 17th-century English philosopher. Hobbes’ shifting duality is a defining theme of the strip: to Calvin, he is a live, anthropomorphic tiger; to all others (his parents, his archnemesis Susie Derkins, et. al.), he is an inanimate plush toy.

At the height of its popularity, Calvin and Hobbes was featured in more than 2,400 newspapers worldwide. As of 2010, reruns of the strip appeared in more than 50 countries and nearly 45 million copies of the compilation books of the strip had been sold. At the time of the strip’s creation, Watterson was employed in the advertising industry, and detested it, and began to devote increasing amounts of his spare time to cartooning. United Feature rejected Watterson’s fledgling strip, but Universal Press Syndicate took it on. Within a year of syndication, Calvin and Hobbes appeared in approximately 250 newspapers.

From the beginning, Watterson found himself at odds with the syndicate, primarily over the issue of merchandising. Watterson insisted that cartoon strips should stand on their own as a form of artistic expression, and he adamantly refused for the images of Calvin and Hobbes to be used in traditional items for marketing and promotion such as apparel, plush toys, action figures, and the like. Of course, the strip’s overwhelming popularity gave rise to the appearance of various counterfeit items such as window decals and t-shirts that often depicted crude humor, drug usage, alcohol consumption, and other themes that were not found in Watterson’s work. Watterson once wryly commented that he had “clearly miscalculated how popular it would be to show Calvin urinating on a Ford logo.”  To that end, almost no legitimate Calvin and Hobbes merchandise exists outside of the book collections. The notable exceptions are two 16-month calendars that were produced from 1988-1990, and a textbook titled Teaching With Calvin and Hobbes, which has been described as the most difficult piece of official Calvin and Hobbes memorabilia to find. Only 8 libraries on the planet have a copy of the book.

Throughout the lifespan of Calvin and Hobbes’ syndication, Watterson took two extended sabbaticals from writing new strips, from May 1991 to February 1992, and from April to December 1994. In 1995, Watterson sent a letter via his syndicate to all newspaper editors whose papers had carried Calvin and Hobbes, informing them that he would cease to publish the strip. The final Calvin and Hobbes strip ran on December 31, 1995. It featured Calvin and Hobbes cavorting in a winter wonderland of freshly fallen snow and pondering the endless possibilities of the day and the year:

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

ch1It’s a magical world, indeed, Dear Reader . . . let’s go exploring in it every opportunity we get.

 

Sources and Suggested Reading:

  • The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book by Bill Watterson (J 741.5073 WAT)
  • The Essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury by Bill Watterson (741.5 WAT)
  • Peanuts, Pogo and Hobbes: A Newspaper Editor’s Journey Through the World of Comics by George Lockwood (070.92 LOC)
  • Something Under the Bed is Drooling: A Calvin and Hobbes Collection by Bill Watterson (J 741.5973 WAT)

Viewpoints expressed in this blog belong solely to the author, and are in no way representative of the opinions of WCPL employees, their long-suffering parents, or their pet tigers.

 

Ian Fleming: A Life Leading to 007

Ian Fleming’s commissioned drawing of James Bond

Ian Fleming’s commissioned drawing of James Bond

By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Department

“When I wrote the first one in 1953, I wanted Bond to be an extremely dull, uninteresting man to who things happened. I wanted him to be a blunt instrument…when I was casting around for a name for my protagonist I thought by God (James Bond) is the dullest name I ever heard.”
—-Ian Fleming, The New Yorker, 21 April 1962

Ian Fleming, James Bond’s creator, was born on May 28, 1908 in London. His father was Member of Parliament representing Dundee Scotland, and was killed in WW I. The not yet world-famous Winston Churchill wrote his father’s obituary (that’s what I call connections). Fleming attended several schools, but never really excelled academically in any of them, but he always did well in athletics. He went to Eton College, and when that didn’t work out, he attended Sandhurst Military College, but he wasn’t interested in a military career either.

picmonkey-collageHis frustrated mother decided to send him to a small school in the Tyrolian Mountains, where he improved his foreign language skills and also learned mountain climbing and skiing. He loved his schooling there. From Austria he went to Munich University to finish his education and take his Foreign Officer entrance exams. When he did not pass these exams, he became a journalist with Reuters. He enjoyed his time with Reuters honing his writing craft, and in 1933 he was sent to Moscow to cover a trial. Eventually he bowed to family pressure and became a banker and stock broker. He really didn’t enjoy that. Thankfully for him, and everyone who loves James Bond, his time in Russia paid off. He was asked by the Foreign Office to return to Moscow and write about a trade mission, but he was really sent there to spy.

He must have done well since his name was recommended for a new position, assistant to the director of naval intelligence. He became a lieutenant in the Special Branch of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and had some success with his ideas being implemented during World War II. After the war, he took a job with Kemsley News, which owned many newspapers in England. He was the foreign manager running the foreign correspondents but he was able to fulfill  dream by taking two months off every year and live in Jamaica. Several years earlier, he had told friends he was going to move to Jamaica and write the best spy novel ever. And so he did. And continued to do so every year until his death

In April 1953, the first James Bond novel by Ian Fleming was published. He believed that Casino Royale would not be popular, but it was an instant success! Even the London Times gave it a rave review. James Bond was a character based on some of the commandos Fleming knew during his service with the Naval Intelligence division. The name James Bond was chosen because it was short, strong and found on the cover of one of Fleming’s bird books. James Bond was also the name of an American ornithologist, who had several books, one about the birds of the West Indies.

In 1964, after years of failing health, he died from a heart attack. As his legacy, he had written these twelve James Bond novels

  1. Casino Royale
  2. Live and Let Die
  3. Moonraker
  4. Diamonds are Forever
  5. From Russia with Love
  6. Dr. No
  7. Goldfinger
  8. For your Eyes Only
  9. Thunderball
  10. The Spy who loved me
  11. On her majesty’s secret service
  12. You only live twice

These last two were published posthumously

  1. The Man with the golden gun
  2. Octopussy and The Living Daylights (2 short stories)

Since Fleming’s death, several authors have been authorized to continue the James Bond series. John Gardner wrote fourteen novels. Raymond Benson wrote six novels, some novelizations and short stories. Each of these authors wrote one book: Kingsley Amis, Sebastian Faulks, Jeffrey Deaver, William Boyd and Anthony Horowitz.


Interesting things about James Bond from Film School Rejects’ study of the men who played Bond, their movies, and their highs and lows

  • Bond’s number—007—was assigned by Fleming in reference to one of British naval intelligence’s key achievements of World War I—the breaking of the German diplomatic code. One of the German documents cracked and read by the British was the Zimmermann Telegram, which was coded 0075, and was one of the factors that led to the US entering the war.
  • Even though he is considered the best James Bond by many, Connery was not the first choice. Fleming wanted David Niven to play bond, and a list of other actors were also considered.
  • Lazenby was the youngest actor to play James Bond, stepping into the role at the age of 30. Moore took the role of Bond at 45; he was the oldest actor to start playing Bond.
  • Moonraker was the studio’s answer to Star Wars, sending Bond into space to fight a master race with lasers.
  • Tomorrow Never Dies was the first movie to have its entire production budget covered by product placement consideration fees.
  • Timothy Dalton was offered the role of James Bond twice: once for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and again in the middle of Roger Moore’s tenure. He did not become Bond until 1987. He thought he was too young when first offered the role.
  • Pierce Brosnan was also considered for the role twice. When Roger Moore left the franchise, Cubby Broccoli tapped Brosnan as the next James Bond. But Brosnan had just started Remington Steele, and was not released from his contract.
  • The franchise decided to reboot the entire Bond series after Brosnan’s last film and Daniel Craig won the role. Although not the youngest actor to play James Bond, he is the only actor to have been born after the release of Dr. No.
  • James Bond has a Facebook page @James Bond 007

Interestign webpages about James Bond:

Guy Fawkes Day/Bonfire Night

By Jessica Dunkel, Reference Department

“Remember, remember, the 5th of November

Gunpowder treason and plot…”

Who is Guy Fawkes and why do they burn his effigies in England every 5th of November? I mean — that seems a bit harsh. To be fair, the modern-day celebration is more about fireworks and parades, which is far more humane than what actually happened to Guy Fawkes in the aftermath of November 5th, 1605.

Some History: A few months before the fateful November 5th a group of men, Guy Fawkes among them, were plotting to kill King James I of England. Why, you ask, would they want to do such a thing?

The hatred of the monarchy began with the throne’s predecessor, Queen Elizabeth I. Under Elizabeth’s reign it was illegal for Catholics like Fawkes and his co-conspirators to celebrate mass or marry according to Catholic rites. Maybe if the Pope hadn’t excommunicated Elizabeth I in 1570 she would not have gone to such lengths, which included killing dozens of priests.

After the reign of Elizabeth I ended in 1603 Catholics in England had hope that King James I would be different. His mother, Mary Queen of Scotts, was Catholic, and it was said that his wife converted to Catholicism. It was even rumored that King James I would convert as well. Unfortunately for the Catholic population, King James I treated them just as poorly as the former Queen had. He publically condemned the Catholic religion, referred to it as a superstition, and ordered all Catholic priests to leave England. And so, a group of Catholic dissidents decided to blow him up.

But how do you go about blowing up the King of England? In what would later be called the “Gunpowder Plot”, Guy Fawkes and 12 others planned to blow him up indirectly.fawkes-1

The Plot: Many people believe that Guy Fawkes was the mastermind behind the Gunpowder Plot. In reality, he’s probably so popular because he was caught in the act of carrying it out. The real leader and creator of the plot was Robert Catesby. His idea was to kill the king, kidnap his daughter, and marry her off to a Catholic to restore their rights in the kingdom. In order to do that the current regime had to be destroyed.

Using the alias John Johnson, Fawkes was chosen to pose as caretaker of a cellar located directly below the House of Lords. The group had managed to smuggle 36 barrels of gunpowder into the cellar and would wait until the 5th of November when Parliament was in session for Fawkes to light the fuse.

The Mysterious Letter: To this day no one knows who sent the letter that unraveled the Gunpowder Plot. The letter advised its recipient to avoid the House of Lords, which was handed over to authorities and spurred them to search Westminster Palace. They found Fawkes in his cellar, along with the barrels of gunpowder and a match. That was all of the evidence they needed to capture Fawkes and torture him until (after two grueling days) he revealed the names of his co-conspirators. Four were killed while resisting arrest; the others were tried and executed for their treason.

The Punishment: Being found guilty of treason in seventeenth-century England was one of the last things you would ever want to happen. Fawkes was to be hung, drawn, and quartered after having his stomach opened before his eyes. Fawkes, a rebel until his death, jumped off the hangman’s platform and died from a broken neck. Although he saved himself from his horrible punishment, they still quartered him to be sent to the four corners of the kingdom as a warning to potential traitors.

Unintentional Consequences: The Gunpowder Plot had not only failed, it backfired. King James I worked even harder to make sure Catholics knew he, not the Pope, had authority over them. The king required that every citizen take an oath saying just that. Catholics in England were not fully liberated from legal restrictions including the right to vote, practice law, or serve in the military until the 19th century.

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Guy Fawkes Night celebrations in Lewes, England

The Celebration: The king and parliament had narrowly escaped being blown to pieces. In 1606 they would officially commemorate November 5th as a day of thanks and celebration. Back then, there was still an anti-Catholic atmosphere surrounding the festivities. They would burn effigies of the Pope and Guy Fawkes. They also gathered for parades, set off fireworks, and made huge bonfires.

Today’s Celebrations: Britain still celebrates Guy Fawkes Day every 5th of November. Although the anti-Catholic sentiment is nowhere near as wide-spread, some groups still burn effigies of the 1605 Pope in keeping with tradition. The town of Lewes is particularly noted for burning effigies, including the Pope, Guy Fawkes, and current political figures. Different towns celebrate in different ways, but among the celebrations you will find burning tar barrels, seriously big bonfires, fireworks, torches, costumes, and members of bonfire societies leaping through open flames. Not an event for the faint of heart.

fawkes-4

Wax Guy Fawkes effigy ready for the bonfire

The Mask: Americans might not know Guy Fawkes from the 5th of November plot, but from the Guy Fawkes masks used by protestors to protect their identity. The graphic novel and film V for Vendetta used the mask while overthrowing a suppressive government in future dystopian England. What inspired protestors to use it in real-life situations? The illustrator of the graphic novel, David Lloyd, says it best, “It’s a great symbol of protest for anyone who sees tyranny.”

Many groups have used Guy Fawkes’ face as a way to protect their identity while protesting against what they consider to be tyrannical establishments. From the hactivist group Anonymous to Egyptian protestors during the Arab Spring movement, these masks have become a symbol of anti-establishment protest.

Guy Fawkes may have lost the battle for Catholic rights in 17th century England, but his face has come to serve as a symbol of protest throughout the world.

Hactivist group Anonymous protesting at the Scientology area in Los Angeles

Hactivist group Anonymous protesting at the Scientology area in Los Angeles

 


Sources:

HOW MONSTERS ARE BORN

By Sharon Reily, Reference Department

There are a lot of scary things in the world, and I’m not talking about the upcoming election. Literature and films are loaded with frightening monstrosities, but I’ll focus on three “classic” creatures – vampires, zombies, and mummies – and examine the origins of these horrors that have terrified folks for centuries.

Vampires

bela_lugosi_as_dracula_75From Bela Lugosi to Gary Oldman and Robert Pattinson, everyone has a favorite movie bloodsucker. But the original vampires of legend weren’t as forlornly romantic as Oldman or as adorable as Pattinson. Ancient versions of the vampire weren’t thought to be humans returned from the grave, but were supernatural entities that didn’t take human form. There are many vampire variations around the world: an Egyptian vampire that was a demon summoned by sorcery, Asian vampires that attacked people and drained their life energy, the blood-drinking Wrathful Deities that appeared in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and many others.

Belief in vampires surged in the Middle Ages in Europe. Any unfortunate event that befell a person or village with no obvious cause, such as disease or crop failure, could be blamed on a vampire. Villagers combined their belief that something had cursed them with their fear of the dead, and concluded that the recently deceased might be responsible, returning from the grave with evil intent.

“The Vampyre,” the first fully realized vampire story, was written by John Polidori, personal physician to Lord Byron (the haughty Byron often belittled his young employee). In 1816, Percy Shelley and Mary Godwin joined Byron and Polidori at Byron’s villa on Lake Geneva. Byron suggested that his guests each write a ghost story. Mary’s tale became the novel Frankenstein. One theory is that Polidori, inspired by his resentment of Byron’s arrogant treatment, based his character Lord Ruthven, a charming aristocratic vampire, on the poet. But when Polidori’s story was published in 1819, it was credited to Byron. Polidori tried to prove his authorship, but was accused of misusing Byron’s name.

The most famous appearance of a vampire in literature was Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1897. Like Polidori’s vampire, Dracula appeared as an aristocratic gentleman. It’s often assumed that Stoker’s Count Dracula was inspired by Vlad Dracula, a real-life prince cited as an influence for modern personifications of vampires. Known as Vlad the Impaler because of the gruesome method he used to kill his enemies, he is considered a national hero for the extreme measures he used to defend his Romanian principality in the 15th century. Historians have implied but never proved that Vlad drank the blood of his enemies.

interviewwithavampiremovieposteStoker’s novel was popular in the Victorian age, but it wasn’t until the 20th century film versions that it became iconic. The first adaptation of Stoker’s novel, the silent German film Nosferatu, was controversial because of its departures from Dracula – instead of being charming, Nosferatu was a vile character, and instead of drinking his victim’s blood to create new vampires, he spread rats and plague. The most influential adaptation of Stoker’s work was the 1931 film Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi. His performance inspired future actors who took the role and was a factor in making horror films a viable genre in the U.S. market. In the 1950s and 1960s, Christopher Lee played Dracula in a number of violent adaptations. Since then Count Dracula has been portrayed more times in film and TV than any other horror character. Now vampires are everywhere – in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels (depicted on TV in True Blood), the Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, the TV series The Strain and Being Human, and countless others.

Zombies

walking-dead-posterThose shambling creatures intent on devouring Rick Grimes and his dwindling band of survivors bear little resemblance to the earliest incarnation of the zombie. The word “zombi” originally didn’t refer to the familiar brain-eating monsters but instead to a West African deity. It later came to suggest the human force leaving the shell of a body, and ultimately a creature human in form but lacking self-awareness, intelligence, and a soul. The notion was imported to Haiti and elsewhere from Africa through the slave trade. In Haiti and the Caribbean, zombies are an element of the voodoo religion and believers take them seriously.

Haitian zombies were said to be people brought back from the dead (and sometimes controlled) through magical means by voodoo priests called bokors, often as an act of punishment. Zombies were supposedly used as slave labor on farms and sugarcane plantations, although none of these zombie-powered plantations was ever discovered. Westerners considered zombies fictional horror film characters until the 1980s when a scientist, Wade Davis, claimed in his book The Serpent and the Rainbow to have solved the mystery of the zombie. The work met much skepticism. Davis asserted that he found the actual powder used by the bokors to create zombies – a neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin that could bring on the appearance of death.

poster_-_white_zombie_01Early zombie films, most notably White Zombie in 1932 and I Walked with A Zombie in 1943, acknowledged the zombie’s voodoo roots. George Romero’s 1968 film The Night of the Living Dead introduced the current popular characterization of the zombie as a flesh-eating creature. Romero’s film established common themes in current zombie films – the zombie as a metaphor for societal unrest and alienation; unconventional protagonists (hello, Daryl Dixon); and humans reduced to “survivalist” mentality. Romero’s zombies attack in groups and can be killed with a blow to the head. Recent zombie films – 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, World War Z, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and of course, The Walking Dead – feature elements of Romero’s films and ignore the voodoo connection.

Mummies

mummyUnlike vampires and zombies, mummies are not based on myth or legend. They are actual human corpses, preserved by a special method of embalming. Mummies have been found all over the world. But in ancient Egypt the mummification process was honed to a fine art over centuries, with the best prepared and preserved specimens, including Tutankhamen and other pharaohs, dating from around 1560 to 1075 B.C. The technique worked so well that after 3,000 years, we can still tell what the deceased looked like in life.

The elaborate procedure, as much a religious ritual as a technical process, took at least 70 days. The basic method was to remove organs except the heart through a slit in the body’s side. The brain was removed through the nostrils with a hooked instrument. The organs were preserved in jars and placed inside the body. The body was covered in natron, a salt with drying properties. Once the body was dry, sunken areas were filled with linen, sawdust, and other materials to make it to look lifelike. The body was then wrapped in hundreds of yards of linen strips. Finally a shroud was secured to the body and it was buried in a tomb along with objects the person would need in the Afterlife. Throughout the entire process, rituals and prayers had to be performed precisely. Why expend so much time and effort to preserve a body? The Egyptians believed that the mummified body was the home for the soul or spirit, and if the body was destroyed, the spirit might be lost.

mummy_32How did a person so honored turn into the malevolent creature we know from films? Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt at the end of the 18th century sparked a European interest in ancient Egypt that was still strong in Victorian England, where public “unrollings” of mummies were held. In 1903, Bram Stoker published The Jewel of Seven Stars, the first novel featuring mummifies as supernatural antagonists. Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922 fueled even more interest. Then came the famous Boris Karloff film, The Mummy. Released in 1932, it was based on the concept of “the pharaoh’s curse” (that anyone who disturbs a tomb would die) and featured the mummy Imhotep as an evil high priest. It set the stage for a slew of mummy films through the 1940s and 1950s.  Imhotep recently reappeared in the 1999 remake of The Mummy and its sequel, The Mummy Returns.

Early film depictions of vampires, zombies, and mummies may seem a little dated and not that terrifying compared to the ultraviolence common in today’s horror films. But that might change. In 2014, Universal Pictures announced it would be rebooting its library of “classic” horror films, bringing new life to standard horror characters. The first release in this effort, The Mummy starring Tom Cruise, is due to hit theaters in 2017.

Click here for a list of resources at WCPL for further reading and viewing.


SOURCES:

Presidential Election 2016

By Sharon Reily, Reference Department

Undecided? If you haven’t been able to decide about a candidate in the presidential election, here is a sampling of the many titles at library on both candidates and the 2016 election. Learn more about Clinton and Trump from these books and other resources at the Library.

THE ELECTIONpresidential-1311753_1280

  • Killing the Messenger: The Right-Wing Plot to Derail Hillary and Hijack Your Government by David Brock (324.70973 BRO)
  • We’re Still Right, They’re Still Wrong: The Democrats’ Case for 2016 by James Carville (324.2734 CAR)
  • The Wilderness: Deep Inside the Republican Party’s Combative Contentious Chaotic Quest to Take Back the White House by McKay Choppins (324.2734 COP)
  • Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party by Dinesh D’Souza (324.2736 D’SOU)
  • The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics by Maureen Dowd (324.973 DOW)
  • Talking Politics? What You Need to Know Before Opening Your Mouth by Sheila Suess Kennedy (320.973 KEN)
  • Armageddon: How Trump Can Beat Hillary by Dick Morris & Eileen McGann (324.973 MOR)

hillary_clinton_official_secretary_of_state_portrait_cropHILLARY CLINTON

  • Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox ed. by Joanne Cronrath Bamberger (324.973 LOV)
  • A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Carl Bernstein (92 CLINTON)
  • Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary by Edward Cline (92 CLINTON)
  • Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton (92 CLINTON)
  • Living History by Hillary Clinton (92 CLINTON)
  • Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power by Mark Landler (327.73 LAN)
  • Thirty Ways of Looking At Hillary: Reflections by Women Writers ed. by Susan  Morrison (973.929092 THI)
  • Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women by Rebecca Traister (324.9730931 TR)

donald_trump_by_gage_skidmore_10Donald Trump

  • In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! by Ann Coulter (324.973 COU)
  • Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit Of Success by Michael D’Antonio (92 TRUMP)
  • Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power by Michael Kranish & Marc Fisher (92 TRUMP)
  • Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again by Donald Trump (320.973 TRU)
  • The American We Deserve by Donald Trump (320.973 TRU)
  • Trump: The Art of the Deal by Donald Trump (92 TRUMP)
  • Trump: The Art of the Comeback by Donald Trump (92 TRUMP)

It’s National Friends of the Library Week!

By Jeffie Nicholson, Reference Departmentfotl-wcpltn

What is a Friends of the Library group?  They are outstanding individuals who value the services a public library provides to a community.  They are willing to volunteer their time and talents plus dedicate themselves to the promotion and support of their local library.

To recognize and celebrate the volunteer and fundraising work of Friends in local community libraries, the United for Libraries division of the American Library Association designates one week in October as the National Friends of Libraries Week.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has proclaimed October 16-22, 2016, as Friends of Libraries Week in Tennessee and encourages all citizens to join in this worthy observance.fotl-1

Our own Friends of the Williamson County Public Library group was established in 1961.  They held their first meeting on December 3 at the War Memorial Public Library. Over the years, they have contributed thousands of dollars to our  library.  Nearly $15,000 for books was raised this year. They also provide support for staff training and education, and other endeavors as they arise.fotl-2

Our Friends raise these funds via membership fees, their book sales and events such as the Special Children’s Book Sales and by selling t-shirts and book bags. Members volunteer to help out with these and library events plus special Friends events like October’s “Boo Books” on October 24.fotl-summer-2012-book-sale

“The library has always played such an important role in my life and in my family’s life,” said Friends president Debbie Eades. “I truly enjoy being able to give something back – and being an active member of this group is fun!”

Our Friends of the Library are truly priceless and our library system would be bereft without their contributions. Did you know that the value of a volunteer hour is now assessed at $20.56? It leaves you speechless when you think about all the time our Friends give to the library.

“Our library would be much poorer without the Friends,” said Library Director Dolores Greenwald. “The funds they raise are such a valuable contribution to our community. I think most patrons would be surprised to learn how much support is provided by our local Friends groups.”

— andrew gold video : Thank You for Being a Friend!


Want to learn more?

Want to join your local Friends group? Here are the groups in our Williamson County Public Library System:

 

Internet Safety for Kids

By Katy Searcy, Children’s Department

Let’s talk about the Internet for a minute. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know what I would do without the Internet. We have access to information literally at our fingertips, and it’s absolutely fantastic. I love being able to find answers to the random questions zipping through my head. Of course, I don’t have to list off all the benefits of the Internet, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the dangers of the Internet either.

The Internet can be a scary place for anyone. There are creeps and weirdos galore, and who knows whether or not our information is really private? It’s tough enough for many adults to navigate, so it’s no wonder we receive lots of requests for books about Internet safety for kids. Kids use a variety of online services, from social media to games, and each one hosts its own safety concerns. Below are a few basic tips parents can be sure to implement no matter how their kids use the Internet, as well as a list of resources to use for talking about Internet safety with kids:

  • Keep the computer in a high-traffic area of your home.
  • Establish limits for which online sites kids can visit and for how long.
  • Remember that the Internet is mobile, so make sure to monitor cell phones, gaming devices, and laptops.
  • Surf the Internet with your children and let them show you what they like to do online.
  • Know who is connecting with your children online and set rules for social media, instant messaging, email, online gaming, and using webcams.
  • Continually talk with your children about online safety.

The following websites provide more in depth tips and suggestions for talking about Internet safety with children:

  • http://www.netsmartz.org/Parents
    • A program of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, NetSmartz Workshop provides interactive, age-appropriate resources to help teach children how to be safe online. This website features videos, games, presentations, and other activities for kids ages 5 through 17, as well as guides for parents and educators.
  • http://www.pbs.org/parents/childrenandmedia/
    • PBS Parents is a great resource for information about all aspects of child development and early learning, and the “Children and Media” section is especially helpful for talking to kids about online safety. Featuring numerous articles and age-by-age tips for helping children and teens get the most out of media and technology, this website provides information for parents of children ages 3 through 18.
  • https://www.commonsensemedia.org/privacy-and-internet-safety
    • Common Sense Media is a non-profit organization that provides information and advice to help parents navigate the issues surrounding raising children in the digital age. The website’s extensive FAQ section features questions from real parents that are broken down by age group or topic.

And finally, here’s a list of books we have here at WCPL about Internet safety and security for both kids and parents:

  • “Berenstain Bears’ Computer Trouble” (part of 5 Minute Berenstain Bears Stories) (J E BERENSTAIN)
  • Savvy Cyber Kids (J E HALPERT)
  • What Does It Mean to be Safe? (J E DIORIO)
  • Online Privacy (J 005.8 MAR)
  • Safe Social Networking (J 006.754 LIN)
  • The Smart Girl’s Guide to the Internet: How to Connect with Friends, Find What You Need, and Stay Safe Online (J 006.754083 CIN) American Girl nonfiction
  • A Smart Kid’s Guide to Social Networking Online (J 006.754083 JAK)
  • Information Insecurity: Privacy Under Siege (YA 323.448 JAN)
  • iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up (004.678083 HOF)
  • Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (302.2310835 PAL)
  • It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (302.30285 BOY)
  • How to Protect Your Children on the Internet: A Roadmap for Parents and Teachers (305.235 SMI)
  • Cyber Self-Defense: Expert Advice to Avoid Online Predators, Identity Theft, and Cyberbullying (613.602854678 MOO)

Sources:

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