Whiro, Lord of Darkness

In Maori mythology, Whiro is the embodiment of darkness and evil. He is the son of the sky father and earth mother, and brother and enemy of Tāne, god of the forests and birds. After a long and bitter war between the brothers, Tāne was victorious. Whiro and his followers were forced to go to the underworld where he reigns.

But Whiro is not quietly retired. He is viewed as a relentlessly active god, always trying to harm humans as they are the descendants of Tāne, especially through his Maike brethren, the personified forms of sickness and disease. Many offerings were made to Whiro, unsurprisingly.

Sexism and Lobotomies

Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, women were disproportionately given lobotomies during the psychiatric procedure's heyday. From the 1940s through the mid-1950s, men slightly outnumbered women as patients in American state hospitals, yet female patients made up about 60 percent of those who underwent lobotomy. Many psychiatrists believed it was easier to return women after operation to a life of domestic duties at home than it was to post-operatively rehabilitate men for a career as a wage earner.

"We erect monuments so that we shall always remember, and build memorials so that we shall never forget."

Arthur Danto, an American art critic and philosopher (1924-2013)

Conservators Concerned About Plastic

But not for reasons you think! Early plastics are beginning to degrade. It is so bad that venues have been having to remove plastic historical items from display because they are visibly deteriorating. Historians have many advanced chemical and biological techniques to preserve artifacts but they are for “traditional” artifacts which are made from natural materials -- wool, wood, iron -- not man-made materials. Now conservators are having to quickly discover new techniques to keep plastic artifacts from deteriorating, techniques that work on materials which have never before had to be conserved. It is apparently a huge challenge!

The First Artificial Sweetener Was Ancient

The Romans discovered that if they boiled grape juice in lead pots, it produced an even-sweeter drink. They did not know why it worked. But they knew they liked the result. Of course, today, we know that it was the lead in the pots that was getting into the juice and making that sweet taste. Delicious, but dangerous.

A Shady Portrait Of The Greatest English Playwrite(s)

"Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare Playing at Chess." Unfortunately, this painting's authenticity has been subject to debate for more than a century. It became widely known only in 1878, when the painting was purchased for $18,000 by Colonel Ezra Miller; note this is more than two hundred years after both its subjects were dead. Already suspicious. Then, the authenticating documents were lost in a fire 17 years later. Meaning investigation of the documents, and modern forensic analyses, are impossible.

Supporters claim that it was painted by Karel van Mander (1548-1606), and in the best possible case, the painting would give us new likenesses of Jonson and Shakespeare painted by a contemporary. But a biography of van Mander, probably written by his brother, makes no mention of this painting, nor of the artist ever visiting London. Further, Shakespeare here appears younger than Jonson, but in fact he was eight or nine years older.

Aborigines whose language in the Yolŋu Matha linguistic family, in Australia, often practiced exogamy, marrying outside their group. This meant mothers and fathers would speak different languages of Yolŋu Matha -- deliberately -- so the child would grow up speaking at least two languages.

This was actually a good thing, because there are about six languages in the Yolŋu Matha family, some mutually intelligible, divided into about thirty clan varieties and perhaps twelve different dialects, each with its own Yolŋu name. Having groups where members could speak multiple languages presumably helped groups communicate, and survive.

The Princess Who Smoked Cigars

Born in Austria on February 26, 1836, to a Hungarian count and an Austrian princess, Pauline Clémentine von Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein eventually became famous in Paris, where she had significant social and cultural influence. When her husband Prince de Metternich (who happened to be her uncle as well) was appointed the Austrian Ambassador to Napoléon III’s court in 1859, the twenty-three year-old moved to France, where she quickly adopted the Parisian lifestyle. In French high society, Pauline became famous for her ready wit, her fashion-forward style, and her cigars. Most women of her status could not dream of smoking cigars, but Pauline could get away with it, somehow charming many of her contemporaries with her "shocking" habits including Napoléon III’s wife, the Empress Eugénie. Many, of course, disapproved. But Pauline's friendships in high places kept her important -- and accepted -- in Parisian high society.

Pauline’s penchant for eccentricity and rule-breaking translated into her wardrobe, which became a regular talking point in the fashion and society columns. Englishman Charles Frederick Worth was Pauline's dressmaker and she enjoyed debuting his more out-there sartorial innovations. In fact, Princess Pauline introduced Worth to his most famous client, her dear friend Empress Eugénie.

The princess (and her prince) fled Paris during the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. After the war, Napoléon III was out of power, as was his court where Pauline had thrived. The House of Worth survived the power transition and remained at the forefront of high society, but Pauline did not, and she lived a quiet, private life until her death in 1921.

"We've seen the worst that human beings are capable of. We've seen what happens when leaders abandon common decency in favor of rage and hate. Through the lens of history, the Holocaust happened yesterday, the civil rights movement was this morning, so we are not as out of the woods as we might have thought."

H. Max Joseph, an American filmmaker and television host

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    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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