Chinese Nobility Used Witchcraft To Handle Their Enemies

The punishment for "confusing" the people with witchcraft was death, in early China. Accusations of witchcraft were often wrapped up in aristocratic and dynastic struggles, particularly why the imperial succession was at stake. In 102 CE, the childless consort of the emperor died in prison, after being denounced as a witch. In 165 CE, the consort of the Emperor Huan was ordered to commit suicide, for a litany of offenses which included witchcraft.

What crimes had these noble women actually committed? We will likely never know for sure. But a witch hunt in Chang'an (Xi'an) in 91 CE offers some clues. On the instructions of the aging Emperor Wudi, who feared his long illness was caused by witchcraft, foreign shamans were brought in to search the imperial household for dolls used in harmful magics. Suspects were arrested for summoning evil spirits and saying malicious prayers at night. Those arrested were likely indicted for both magical and political reasons. Crown Prince Liu Ju was found to have wooden carvings of his "victims" in his room -- although the carvings could very well have been planted. He was duly removed from power and committed suicide in the aftermath.

Reconsidering Bacchus

The ancient Roman god, also known as Dionysus, does not have a good image today. His name is linked to drunkeness, excess, madness. But the ancients did not see him as one-sided. He was the god of losing one's inhibitions. But he was also the god of getting together. Ancient nicknames included Bacchus the Liberator, Bacchus the Saviour, and Bacchus the God Who Gives Men's Minds Wings. Those do not sound all bad, right?

Bacchic cults were banned in Roman times, because their members held allegiance to "a parallel state," but at the same time, Roman leaders have quotes on how fantastic it is that conquered populations enjoy Roman wine so much -- it makes them easier for Rome to control. To the ancients Bacchus was an ambiguous god, both beneficial and harmful.

Ancient Mirrors Said Nice Things To Their Owners

These five lead mirror frames, dating to the turn of the 200s CE, have been found while excavating a Roman villa in northern Bulgaria. Three of the frames are decorated with the image of a large wine vessel and bear an inscription that means a “good soul.” A nice thought to have when looking at oneself, no?   The villa belonged to a Roman military veteran. The specific building where the mirrors were found was initially thought to be a house for workers, but the mirrors suggest perhaps it was a temple.

Have you heard of the “Blythe Intaglios”?

In 1932, pilot George Palmer was flying from Las Vegas to Blythe, Calif., when he saw drawings sketched on the desert. Someone had scraped away the dark surface soil to draw three human figures, two four-legged animals, and a spiral.

Like the more famous Nazca Lines in Peru, the Blythe Intaglios had gone unnoticed for so long because they were too big! The largest is over 170 feet long. Much too big to be seen from the ground. No local Native American group claims to have made them; radiocarbon dating places their creation between 900 BCE and 1200 CE.

Owls in Ancient Mythology

The Aztecs and Mayans feared and hated the owl and believed they were symbols of death and destruction. Interestingly, the Romans agreed, believing that the owls were bad omens -- but the ancient Greeks did not.  In ancient Greece, owls represented Athena, the goddess of wisdom.

Arctic ice brings an understanding of ancient Europe’s economy

Greenland's icy mountains are not an obvious place to search for an archive of economic history, but a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that they provide one. Read the full article at The Economist

The Moment of Enlightenment

  After meditating for forty days beneath a pipal tree, the Buddha approached the moment of omniscience. Evil demons have failed to distract him, and he calmly touches the earth goddess to witness his attainment of enlightenment. His right hand, lowered in the earth-touching gesture (bhumisparsha mudra), signals that this sculpture depicts that specific moment.     Kushan Dynasty, Pakistan or Afghanistan. Late 100s to early 200s CE.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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