Monday, February 26, 2018

Wu Zetian - China's One and Only Female Emperor

This an excerpt from a forthcoming "graphic novel" Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, by Penelope Bagieu, due to be out on March 6, 2018.  The excerpt was published at The Lily, a product of The Washington Post.

I'm not going to attempt to cut and paste the graphics here, complete with text.  Here's the link.  Enjoy - it's a fast read, and fascinating.  You can find a lot more about Wu Zetian online.  The Empress created her own dynasty (which did not outlive her); aging and sick, she ceded the throne to back to her son Zhong Zhong in 705 CE, and died in 713 CE at the age of 81. 

All of this intrigue and action took place under the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), during which the game called "Chinese chess" - Xiangqi - had fully evolved from the ancient Han Dynasty game of Liubo (played with "Generals" and "pawns" and moves determined by dice) into a game of multiple pieces and from a game of chance using dice to determine moves to one of strategy, where moves were constrained only by certain rules and the knowledge and abilities of the respective players. 

I'll bet Empress Wu was a great fan of Xiangqi.  A few years back, a tomb of one of the Empress' trusted female aides was discovered and excavated, and I wrote about it and some about Wu Zetian.  Link

Thursday, February 15, 2018

UBS Freezes FIDE Bank Accounts - Bank: Get Rid of Ilyumzhinov OR No Accounts

So: They finally decided to bust the crook after ALL these years.  First Obama and now Trump backing Kasparov in this tit-for-tat proxy fight as tensions with Russia continue to heat up - despite whatever hold Putin has over Trump ...]

World chess body has Swiss bank accounts frozen after president accused of links to Isil oil deals

 Leon Watson,The Telegraph Tue, Feb 13 12:22 PM CST 

The world governing body of chess has had its financial dealings halted amid allegations its scandal-hit president facilitated the funding of Islamic State terrorists.
Fide, the Lausanne-based federation which runs the game, disclosed on Tuesday that Swiss bank UBS closed its accounts after finally losing patience with its failure to depose Russian millionaire Kirsan Ilyumzhinov.
Mr Ilyumzhinov, who was once part of Vladimir Putin's inner circle, was placed on a US wanted list in November 2015 for allegedly being involved in oil deals which left a financial trail to the terror group Isil via the Syrian government.
But despite repeatedly denying the allegations, and claiming he is the victim of a US-led plot to topple him, Mr Ilyumzhinov has been unable to clear his name.

In a letter published on the Fide website, treasurer Dr Adrian Siegel revealed UBS had shut its bank accounts and the federation faces a "serious problem" paying bills just weeks before the Candidates, its flagship world championship play-off tournament in Berlin which has a prize fund of $460,000.
Dr Siegal laid the blame squarely on Ilyumzhinov, saying the allegations "severely damaged Fide's business activities".
"It was only a matter of time before we faced this serious problem," he said. "In summary, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov's problems severely damaged Fide's business activities and we have to look for a new banking connection."

The decision by UBS, the world’s largest wealth manager, comes amid a wider attempt in Switzerland to clean up the reputation of its banking sector, which has long been accused of turning a blind eye to criminal activity.
It is doubtful whether any other bank will agree to take on Fide's accounts while Mr Ilyumzhinov remains president. Mr Ilyumzhinov, an eccentric former politician who claims he was abducted by aliens twice, has reigned as the king of chess for 23 years.
But after the US Department of Justice's decision to investigate him, rumours of back-stabbing and in-fighting began to swirl around Fide.
The embattled head was unable to attend the 2016 world chess championship held in New York for fear of arrest and became increasingly sidelined.

Last year, Fide officially announced Mr Ilyumzhinov had stepped down but then backtracked when the former head of the Russian semi-autonomous republic of Kalmykia insisted it was "fake news".
David Kramaley, founder of chess learning site, said: "This kind of turmoil at the top of chess has got to stop for the good of the game.
The game needs stable leadership." In 2014 Mr Ilyumzhinov overcame an attempt to unseat him led by his US-based rival Garry Kasparov amid widespread allegations of vote-rigging, allegations Mr Ilyumzhinov and Fide denied.
In a comment a spokesperson for UBS said: "We can't comment on whether individuals or organizations are clients of UBS. We follow all laws and regulations that are applicable to us."

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

DNA Analysis of 10,000 Year Old "Cheddar Man" Once Again Upends Things We Think About "Race"

Race is an artificial concept.  But research in the 21st century is overthrowing old concepts held for generations.  Perhaps in time the concept of "race" will finally die, because there is NO scientific basis for it.

Reported at Yahoo, from Associated Press

DNA suggests 10,000-year-old Brit had dark skin, blue eyes

JILL LAWLESS,Associated Press 6 hours ago 

LONDON (AP) — DNA from a 10,000-year-old skeleton found in an English cave suggests the oldest-known Briton had dark skin and blue eyes, researchers said Wednesday.
Scientists from Britain's Natural History Museum and University College London analyzed the genome of "Cheddar Man," who was found in Cheddar Gorge in southwest England in 1903.
Scientists led by museum DNA expert Ian Barnes drilled into the skull to extract DNA from bone powder. They say analysis indicates he had blue eyes, dark curly hair and "dark to black" skin pigmentation.

The researchers say the evidence suggests that Europeans' pale skin tones developed much later than originally thought.
"Cheddar Man subverts people's expectations of what kinds of genetic traits go together," said Tom Booth, a postdoctoral researcher at the museum who worked on the project.
"It seems that pale eyes entered Europe long before pale skin or blond hair, which didn't come along until after the arrival of farming."
"He reminds us that you can't make assumptions about what people looked like in the past based on what people look like in the present, and that the pairings of features we are used to seeing today aren't something that's fixed," Booth said on the museum website.
It's thought ancient humans living in northern regions developed pale skin because it absorbs more sunlight, which is needed to produce vitamin D.
Cheddar Man shares a genetic profile with several other Mesolithic-era individuals found in Spain, Hungary and Luxembourg whose DNA has already been analyzed. The group, known as Western Hunter-Gatherers, migrated to Europe from the Middle East after the last Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago.
Dan Bradley, a professor of population genetics at Trinity College Dublin, said the findings were credible.
"There are other data from hunter-gatherers who lived in western Europe, and they also show darker skin and light eyes, blue eyes," said Bradley, who was not involved with the study.
"Modern Europeans are a mixture of people like this, who are older hunter-gatherer inhabitants of western Europe, and people who came in with the advent of agriculture, and people who came from the east in the Bronze Age and who also brought new genetics into the region."
Cheddar Man is the oldest complete skeleton found in Britain. Humans had lived in Britain off and on for thousands of years before his time, but they had been wiped out during periodic ice ages.
Cheddar Man would have been one of a tiny population of hunter-gatherers in Britain at the time. Scientists, who have been studying his skeleton for decades, say he appears to have had a healthy diet but died in his 20s, possibly through violence.
Dutch "paleo artists" Alfons and Adrie Kennis created a likeness of Cheddar Man based on the British scientists' findings, showing a man with long curly hair, a short beard and striking blue eyes.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

4400 Year Old Tomb Found of Hetpet, High Ranking Priestess to Hathor

Newsweek Magazine Online


An ancient Egyptian tomb, dating back more than 4,000 years, was discovered by archaeologists about 12 miles outside of Cairo, the country’s capital. The finding marks the first discovery to be announced in 2018, Ahram Online, an Egyptian news organization, reports.
The tomb is thought to have belonged to “Hetpet,” a high-ranking female official, Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry announced. The mud-brick tomb is in good condition and features various paintings of Hetpet, who was a priestess to Hathor, the goddess of fertility.
“The tomb has very distinguished wall paintings, in a very good conservation condition, depicting 'Hetpet' standing in different hunting and fishing scenes or sitting before a large offering table receiving offerings from her children,” according to the ministry.
Some of the scenes also show performances, as well as, one monkey collecting fruit while the other one dances. Paintings like this have been found before, but not often.
“Such scenes are rare... and have only been found previously in the (Old Kingdom) tomb of 'Ka-Iber' where a painting shows a monkey dancing in front of a guitarist not an orchestra,” Mostafa Al-Waziri, leader of the archaeological mission, told Agence France-Presse.
The tomb, which was found near the Giza Pyramids, also has a shrine; however, no mummy was found.

Archaeologists began excavating the site last October, but didn’t reveal their findings to the public until Saturday, The Associated Press (AP) reports. Al-Waziri believes there are other ancient artifacts waiting to be uncovered near the site.
“This is a very promising area. We expect to find more,” Al-Waziri said, according to the AP. “We have removed between 250-300 cubic meters of layers of earth to find the tomb.”
“What we see above the earth’s surface in Egypt doesn’t exceed 40 percent of what the core holds,” he added.

Link to Twitter Feed video in article.

Link to BBC video from a shorter article in The Week contains scenes of the tomb paintings; that article indicates that Hetpet was a high ranking official and closely connected to the Royal Palace and the tomb dates to about 2400 BCE. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

800 Year Old Islamic Style Chess Piece Excavated in Norway

From Newsweek Online Magazine


“The design of the piece has an abstract shape, and is designed according to Islamic tradition, where no human figures are to be depicted,” Lars Haugesten, project manager for the excavation, said in a statement. Rather, it is decorated with tiny circles and a protruding 'snout' on the top with two dotted circles. The piece is made from an antler, and a chunk of lead was likely placed in the middle of the piece to help it stand up firmly on a chessboard, according to NIKU.

The medieval knight piece has a protruding snout on the top with two dotted circles.LARS HAUGESTEN/NORWEGIAN INSTITUTE OF CULTURAL HERITAGE RESEARCH
"No previous archaeological finds from Tønsberg have such details, which emphasizes that this chess piece is a unique object," Haugesten said.Sjakkbrikke_Toensberg_ingress_Siste-1240x710
The medieval chess piece is one of a handful of 'knight' pieces discovered in Norway.

The ancient form of chess, called shatranj, helped archaeologists determine that the piece appears to be a horse, which would be a knight in today's game. Chess likely spread to the Nordic region by the last half of the 12th century, according to Haugesten. The game was played in the Arab world after the conquest of Persia in the 7th century and spread to Spain in the 10th century by the Moors. From Spain, it spread northwards to Scandinavia. The oldest find from the Nordic region was Lund, Sweden—a chess piece similar to the latest artifact from Tønsberg. 

...  Knight pieces are few and far between when it comes to medieval finds. Over 1,000 game pieces in general have been found in Bergen, another city in Norway, alone, but only six abstract knights such as this one have been excavated, according to Haugesten. "In Norway, some chess pieces from the Middle Ages have been found, but few similar knights," Haugesten said.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

2018 Women's March

Hola, everybody!

Today is a big day in the states - the one year anniversary of *president Donald J. Trump's inauguration - and the one year anniversary of marches across the country of millions of women of all races, colors, creeds, ages and physical conditions. 

I am so proud of my sisters, both my sisters by birth and my sisters by choice, on everyday but especially on this day where we unite in common cause in support of equality, justice, and to celebrate our sisterhood.  My hometown's March began at 10 a.m. our time, on my way out the door now, but I wanted to post this map of the United States and Canada showing EVENTS scheduled by Women's March organizers in both countries.  It is truly amazing, awe-inspiring and inspirational.  Goddess bless us all.

Source:  Women are on the march all around the world, not just
here - everywhere!  You can find events using the search tool.  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

St. Anthony's Blessing of Animals, St. Guinefort, St. Christopher, and Dog-Headed People, Yikes!

Hola darlings!

As I was updating myself on the news after a brief nap this early afternoon, I came across a short article at Yahoo News showing a slide show of photographs from the celebration of St. Anthony's Feast Day in Spain, who is the patron saint of animals.

<p>The hand of Santiago Fulero, Major priest of the Saint Pablo church, blesses people with their pets outside of the church, during the feast of St. Anthony, Spain’s patron saint of animals, in Zaragoza, northern Spain, Wednesday, Jan.17, 2018. (Photo: Alvaro Barrientos/AP) </p>
The hand of Santiago Fulero, Major priest of the Saint Pablo church, blesses people with their pets outside of the church, during the feast of St. Anthony, Spain’s patron saint of animals, in Zaragoza, northern Spain, Wednesday, Jan.17, 2018. (Photo: Alvaro Barrientos/AP)
There is a tradition of blessing animals on this day in Spain and some rather bizarre rituals as well, such as riding horses through fire for the benefit of the smoke which is somehow thought to protect them then through the rest of the year. Perhaps a modified version of the "Aryan" horse-sacrifice ritual where the queen then had intercourse with the dead horse? 

Anyway, this led me to thinking about the dog-headed saint that I've written about before, but I couldn't remember his name.  So I did a quick Google search to refresh my memory and lo and behold, up pops a lot of information about an Orthodox icon, St. Christopher (dog headed human), St. Guinefort (a greyhound patron saint in France - brutally suppressed by the Fake Male God Enforcers during the Inquisition) and about a dog-headed RACE of people, I'm not kidding.  Now, honestly darlings, I don't recall at all reading about a dog-headed RACE of people before; I remember reading about the dog-headed saint and writing about him; and I may have read about a poor greyhound dog being made a saint in France but not writing about HIM (why would I not have done this, I'm asking myself???), so I guess last time I wrote about a dog-headed saint I didn't do very good research, or something, hmmm. 

But Holy Hathor, what a fascinating subject!  What is so bitterly ironic about this is that DOGS are the ancient companions of the Great Mother Goddess.  They were thought to be the harbingers and also cleaner-uppers (is that a word?) of Death and always accompanied the Great Mother Goddess during her walks across the Milky Way or the Primrose Path or Route 66, take your pick.  Modern thought also suggest that it may well have been women who domesticated the first wolves into the dogs we know and love so much today, in various places around the world, at various times, some as far back as 16,000 years ago somewhere in the vast plains of Mongolia, but also independently in the ancient Middle East.  I think it's still unclear; not sure I buy into the "happened in several places more or less at once (archaeologically speaking, that is) in several different areas around the world" hypothesis.  What we continue to push back in time is just how old evidence of the domestication of dogs is! 

I'm not going to go into a long, wordy and overblown exposition on these various dog people/dog saints themes - you can read easy :)  But if you want to do some reading on your own, here are some links for your perusal:

Cynocephali in the Ancient Christian Tradition, Scott Nevins, March 10, 2015, from Scott Nevins Memorial

St. Guinefort, Wikipedia entry.  The patriarchal storm god haters of the Great Mother Goddess are much in evidence in the account of the "killer mothers" of their babies. Note in the account that the dog was buried in a well and surrounded by trees to set up a shrine that people came to.  Now please - if this doesn't sound like a sacred Goddess grove complete with sacred spring and her faithful companion buried in her sacred space, what does?  Heeellllloooooooo....

I am intrigued by the reference in the account of passing a baby nine times through an opening between the trunks of two trees in the  "wood of Rimite" -- not sure if this means the woods (location, area?) were called "Rimite" or the particular spot where the babies were allegedly passed between two trees nine times was called "Rimite." I cannot help but wonder if there is some connection between this word (Rimite) and a name in a much earlier document from the second half of the 9th century CE, an Orthodox elder by the name of "Rimbert," as referenced in Scott Nevins' "Cynocephali in the Ancient Christian Tradition" (linked above). 

Could it be that Inquisitioners, who were Roman Catholic, had come across earlier references to Rimbert in either reading or hearing something about inquiries being made on "dog-headed" people many years prior?  Could "Rimite" have been conflated with "Rimbert" and then ridiculous stories made up about Satan seducing women (always women, NEVER men) into killing their own babies to fire up prejudice against uppity women?  I wouldn't put anything past those corrupted rotten dudes in the so-called "holy church" back then.  I should point out that the Inquisition first broke out in France in the 12th century CE in response to what was seen as encroachment on their territory (conveniently called "heresy") by Cathars (which preached equality of females, among other things anathema to the Men in Purple), Albigensians and Waldensians.  St. Guinefort is a localized French saint, never officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. 

Understanding the Dog Headed Icon of St. Christopher, July 8, 2013, Jonathan Pageau, Orthodox Arts Journal. 

There's tons of info out there, get reading!  The more you learn, the more you can fill in the blanks in HERstory yourself. 
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