Monday, June 20, 2011

Alexander Seton, the Mysterious Alchemist

Near Edinburgh is the Collegiate Church of Seton. Here, around 1600, a Dutch sailor, Jacques Huyssen, shipwrecked and was welcomed by one Alexander Seton. A few years later, Seton arrived in the Netherlands, and in front of Huyssen and several other inhabitants of Enkhuizen, turned lead into gold, before doing further demonstrations across Europe.

The Setons & Alchemy

"Alexander Seton", the Scottish alchemist that set continental Europe ablaze ca. 1600 AD
Delivered at the Sauniere Society Conference, Newbattle Abbey, November 2002

In recent decades, most fame of Scottish noble families has gone to the Sinclairs of Rosslyn Chapel. However, we seem to be imprinting present interest upon past importance, for though important, the Sinclairs at least had to share the fame with two other families, the Douglasses and the Setons.
The latter were the true “heirs” of the Knights Templar, at least in the sense that they became the custodians of the Templar properties in Scotland upon the dissolution of the Templar order in 1307.

The Setons were also involved in the building of a collegiate church, which can still be visited. In state care since 1948, it is run by Historic Scotland, and is situated on the A198 between Longniddry and Prestonpans. Unfortunately, it is far less popular than Rosslyn Chapel. Approximately six people visit it per day, and there is the occasional day when no visitor turns up.
The church is no longer used for worship, though the occasional wedding is still held there. Next door is the privately-owned Seton House, built by Robert Adams in 1790, to replace Seton Palace, demolished in 1789.

One theory suggests that the family originally came from Flanders, when they were given land by King Malcolm III. The area was called a Sea-town, hence Seton. However, another theory is that they come from Normandy, from a family de Sei, hence Sei-town, or Seton.
The family is, as mentioned, one of the most distinguished. Their house in Seton was an almost required stop and occasional refuge for any passing monarch or important leader. They remained an important family until they suffered the fate of many Jacobites in the early 18th Century.

What is virtually unknown is that there is possibly more mystery connected with this family than with the Sinclairs of Rosslyn. After all, the “enigma” of Rosslyn Chapel is completely in the eye of the beholder. Nowhere is there evidence that the builder of Rosslyn Chapel left a message for future mankind that required decoding. The link between the Sinclairs and the Templars is also tenuous. But with the Setons, that link is explicit.

So what is this mystery of the Setons? It involves two characters, one Alexander Seton, the other David Seton… the former an alchemist, the latter at the origins of Freemasonry.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Man Who Cheated Hermann Goering


Hermann Goering was the number two in Nazi Germany. He was an avid collector of (mostly stolen) art. But sometimes he bought art (with stolen money). But one of the pictures he bought was so cunningly falsified it almost cost its creator his head.

by Lucas Dié 

In 1938, Museum Boijmans Van Beunigen revealed a major sensation: They had been able to acquire the newly rediscovered painting Christ And The Disciples In Emmaus by Jan Vermeer (1632 to 1675). Vermeer is one of the best known painters of the Dutch Baroque period; one of his best known paintings is The Girl With A Pearl Earring. Previously, only 37 paintings by Vermeer had been authenticated but with this new discovery that all changed drastically.
When Abraham Bredius acknowledged the painting as one of Vermeer’s masterpieces, the name and the fortune of art dealer Han van Meegeren were made. Musem Boijmans Van Beunigen entered into a bidding war with the Rijksmusem and paid the then staggering sum of 540,000 Dutch Guilders for the painting. And Han van Meegeren went in search of more lost masterpieces of Vermeer.
Full article:
The Man Who Cheated Hermann Goering | Quazen

Image source

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

El Mirador, the Lost City of the Maya | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine

El Mirador, the Lost City of the Maya

Now overgrown by jungle, the ancient site was once the thriving capital of the Maya civilization

View More Photos »
La Danta

The peak of La Danta—one of the world's largest pyramids—pokes through the forest canopy. "All this was abandoned nearly 2,000 years ago," says archaeologist Richard Hansen. "It's like finding Pompeii."
Christian Ziegler
by Robert J. Sharer with Loa P. Traxler
Stanford University Press, 2006
Had we been traveling overland, it would have taken two or three days to get from the end of the road at Carmelita to El Mirador: long hours of punishing heat and drenching rain, of mud and mosquitoes, and the possibility that the jungle novice in our party (that would be me, not the biologists turned photographers Christian Ziegler and Claudio Contreras) might step on a lethal fer-de-lance or do some witless city thing to provoke a jaguar or arouse the ire of the army ants inhabiting the last great swath of subtropical rain forest in Mesoamerica.
Mercifully, Itzamna, the supreme creator god of the ancient Maya, had favored us with a pilot named Guillermo Lozano, who was now easing his maroon-striped Bell helicopter into the air. It was a Sunday morning in northern Guatemala, late October. Next to him up front was the archaeologist Richard Hansen, the director and principal investigator of the Mirador Basin Project. About a half-hour’s flying time due north was the Mirador basin itself—a 2,475-square-mile tract of jungle in northern Guatemala and Campeche, Mexico, filled with hidden ruins that Hansen and others refer to as “the cradle of Maya civilization.”
Full article:
El Mirador, the Lost City of the Maya | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Extreme Storm Warning | Politics & Media |

Extreme Storm Warning

Marc Adler

National Geographic's Stormageddon tells us the harsh truth about climate change that the rest of the mainstream media won't.

National Geographic’s new episode of Explorer, called Stormageddon, paints a frightening and striking picture of how climate change is destroying civilization, one that is often obfuscated in the (rest of the) mainstream media. Through interviews with climate experts and footage of the devastation wrought upon Russia and Pakistan during 2010, among others, Nat Geo shows how global warming is causing massive droughts, flooding and ice melt. The immediate future looks extremely bleak, according to the experts. But in the mass media, particularly The New York Times, such candor is hard to come about.
The Nat Geo episode documents the manner in which Russia was devastated last summer by drought. It was the hottest summer in history, causing wild fires that destroyed tens of thousands of acres of land and roughly 40 percent of the country’s wheat crop, killing 50,000 people and affecting six million lives. The effects are still being felt, as the wheat fiasco has contributed to global food shortages, which has driven up prices and played a significant role in spurring the uprisings in the Middle East.
Full article:
Extreme Storm Warning | Politics & Media |

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Behind the Keys – Who Was Blind Tom?

By Lee Pons

Blind Tom advertisement
An 1860's advertisement for Blind Tom, describing him as a "musical prodigy" and "the most marvelous musical genius living!"
This time in our Behind The Keys series, we’re going to discuss someone you might not have heard of before. Though his music wasn’t really Blues, it was “Blues-ish”, and he is an important, though mostly forgotten, figure in the history of Piano Blues. Blind Tom was one of the 19th century’s most extraordinary performers. A autistic savant with an encyclopedic memory, all-consuming passion for the piano, and mind-boggling capacity to replicate – musically and vocally – any sound he heard, his name was a byword for eccentricity and oddball genius.
Blind Tom was born into slavery in Columbus, Georgia in 1848. His master, Wiley Jones, didn’t want to clothe and feed a disabled ‘runt’; he actually wanted him dead and, if not for cries and pleas of his mother, Charity, Tom would not have lived past his infancy. But when Tom was 9 months old, Wiley Jones put the baby, his two older sisters and parents up for auction, intending to sell the family off individually and not as a unit. The chances of anyone buying blind infant were slim, and his death was as good as certain.
Tom’s life was again spared, thanks to his mother. Not long before the auction, she begged a neighbor, General James Bethune, to save them from the auction block. At first he refused, but on the day of the sale, for reasons unknown, the newspaperman/lawyer showed up at the slave mart and purchased the family. Except for his blindness, Tom was just like any other baby at first, but very soon after arriving at Bethune Farm, things changed and the toddler began to echo the sounds around him. If a rooster crowed, he would actually make the same noise. If a bird sang, he would follow it, or attack his younger brothers and sisters just to hear them scream. If he was left alone in the cabin, he would drag chairs across the floor or bang pans and pots together – do anything just to make a noise.
By the time he was 4, Tom could repeat whole conversations 10 minutes in length, but could only express his own needs in cries and tugs. Unless watched, he would escape: to the chicken coop, woods and finally to the piano inside his master’s house, the sound of each note causing his young body to shake with excitement. After a few of these unwelcome visits, General Bethune finally recognized the stirrings of a young musical prodigy in the raggedy slave child and brought him into the “Big House”, where he was given extensive lessons.
By 6 years old, Tom was performing to sold out houses throughout Georgia. His early managers promoted him as a “untutored, natural musician – fully formed from the moment he first touched the piano.” Tom could repeat any composition, no matter how difficult, after a single hearing.
Full story:
Behind the Keys – Who Was Blind Tom?

Friday, June 03, 2011

Exorcist cures the 'possessed' of Colombia in bizarre ritual ceremony | World Religion Culture and People

With willing participants covered in dirt and surrounded by fire, it is not exactly a conventional religious or spiritual ceremony. But the bizarre scenes are part of a 20-year exorcism tradition led by the mysterious ‘Brother Hermes’, who claims the ritual rids people of evil spirits.
Exorcist cures  Exorcist cures the possessed of Colombia in bizarre ritual ceremony
The Colombian exorcisms see people dressed entirely in white before lying across a stretch of dirt in between red and yellow marker posts. The 50-year-old spiritual leader, who real name is Hermes Cifuentes, also covers participants with black dirt from head to toe and makes them stand in a deep dirt hole during parts of the ceremony.
Exorcist cures the 'possessed' of Colombia in bizarre ritual ceremony | World Religion Culture and People