The History of Witchcraft: Witchcraft in Africa

September 15, 2022

       This is the second post in the history of witchcraft series I started last year. I included a link to the first post in the list below. Since I was more familiar with the history of witchcraft in Salem, Long Island, and the United Kingdom, I wanted to start my research in an area I am not familiar with on the history of witchcraft. The first places that people in general think of when witchcraft is discussed are Salem, Massachusetts, and Europe where the well-known witch trials took place. I decided to take a closer look at the history of witchcraft in Africa and find out what witchcraft was and is like on the continent. During my research, I decided to write about only a sample of witchcraft beliefs in African cultures for the sake of not making this post too long. I have included a list below of additional resources I have come across in my research.

To understand what witchcraft in Africa is it is important to learn what Africa itself is.  Africa is a continent with numerous countries encompassing the land mass. There are fifty-four countries altogether and four territories. Africa has over 3,000 protected areas, with 198 marine protected areas, 50 biosphere reserves, and 80 wetlands reserves. Since there are many countries and territories on the continent, governance varied per country, and a union was formed to provide the continent a unified representation for all of them. The African Union (AU) is a continental union consisting of 55 member states. The Union was formed on June 26, 2001, and was officially established on July 9, 2002. It was originally located in Addis Ababa until July 2004 when the African Union’s Pan-African Parliament (PAP) was relocated to Midrand, South Africa; the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights remained in Addis Ababa. People in Africa also recognize and practice various religious beliefs and rituals.

While Africans acknowledge a wide variety of religious beliefs, the majority of the people respect African religions or parts of them. However, in formal surveys or censuses, most people will identify with major religions that came from outside the continent, mainly through colonization. There are several reasons for this, the main one being the colonial idea that African religious beliefs and practices are not good enough. Religious beliefs and statistics on religious affiliation are difficult to come by since they are often a sensitive topic for governments with mixed religious populations. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, Islam and Christianity are the two largest religions in Africa. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, 45% of the population are Christians, 40% are Muslims, and 10% follow traditional religions. A small number of Africans are Hindu, Buddhist, Confucianist, Baháʼí, or Jewish. There is also a minority of people in Africa who are non-religious. By learning about Africa, what the lands are like, and what the religious beliefs are, we can start to learn what the many beliefs there were about witchcraft itself.

There are some publications that discuss witchcraft in Africa. For instance, the Transafrican Journal of History released an article back in 1995 called “The Evolution and Essence of Witchcraft in Pre-Colonial African Societies” that mentions the growth of interest in comparing and contrasting witchcraft within Africa itself and in Medieval Europe. This article articulates a number of historical accounts on the origins and distinctive features of witchcraft in pre-colonial Africa, and offers an appraisal of some poignant aspects such as magnitude, ramifications, and controlling witchcraft in traditional settings. It intends to place witchcraft in the proper perspective as a socially constructed system in many pre-scientific societies. Also, the article elaborates on the role of anti-witchcraft specialists (waganga) whose expertise and significance were deliberately misconstrued by over-zealous colonial administrators and pioneering Christian missionaries.  They describe how witches were viewed at least in some African cultures; some cultures believe witches willfully seek and do harm while other cultures believe witches are not aware of what they are doing.

According to the article, witches are believed in some African cultures to assemble in cannibal covens at graveyards or around a fire to feast on the blood they extract from their victims, like vampires. The article also shares that in many African cultures witches are believed to act unconsciously and are unaware of the harm they cause since witches are driven by irrepressible urges to act malevolently. It is thus easy for those accused of witchcraft, but who are not conscious of wishing anyone ill, to assume that they unknowingly did what is attributed to them. This, along with the effects of suggestion and torture, in a world where people take the reality of witchcraft for granted, goes far to explain the striking confessions of guilt that is so widely reported in Africa and elsewhere and that are otherwise hard to comprehend. While those identified as witches may believe they are unconscious agents, it is not the view of those who feel victimized by them.

In addition to the article, I also read “The legality of witchcraft allegations in colonial and postcolonial Zimbabwe” written by Fortune Sibanda which is a chapter from the book called Religion, Law and Security in Africa edited by M. Christian Green, T. Jeremy Gunn, and Mark Hill. The chapter tackles questions such as How legal or illegal are the witchcraft accusations in the public and private domains in colonial and postcolonial Zimbabwe? For some context, Zimbabwe is a country located in southern Africa, and was known as Rhodesia before the country gained independence in 1980 following a long period of colonial rule and a 15-year period of white-dominated minority rule. The chapter discusses a study that was conducted to examine witchcraft accusations, and it discusses what witchcraft means to the people in Zimbabwe and Africa as a whole.

     Sibanda pointed out that African Traditional Religion (ATR) accepts the existence of witches in societies where some people practice uroyi (witchcraft) and is not a myth contrary to the stance adopted by Western missionaries and colonial administrators from Europe who questioned the reality and existence of witches. Also, Sibanda’s chapter discussed the two important aspects of witchcraft in the colonial and postcolonial contexts which were socio-religious and legal. She stated in the chapter that witchcraft is largely regarded as a reality in Zimbabwe and Africa at large by traditionalists and traditional courts, a position that was denied through colonial legislation; and the work of traditional healers and their medicines were also considered to be witchcraft at law. The legal flaws have persisted into the postcolonial times, in spite of the later amendments. Witchcraft accusations entail some cultural, social, political, and legal implications. Some cases of witchcraft accusations were highly gendered and manifested as political witch-hunts bent on humiliating and eliminating political rivals through hate speech, framing, and claims-making. The study concluded that the legality of witchcraft accusations in postcolonial times is marred by the legal flaws and selective application of the witchcraft law replicating the colonial legacy that sought to promote Christianity at the expense of African Indigenous Religion in Zimbabwe.

The publications previously discussed in this post are examples of how witchcraft is viewed in parts of Africa. While this post does not cover the entire continent’s views of witchcraft, I included links that refer to the history of witchcraft in Africa, witchcraft in general, and the resources I used to write this post. I also included a link to a previous post I wrote about the history of witchcraft as a start to taking a closer look at this history.

Check out the links below on witchcraft in Africa and more.

List:

What is Witchcraft? Taking a Closer Look at the History of Witchcraft: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-1wg

“The Evolution and Essence of Witchcraft in Pre-Colonial African Societies”, Transafrican Journal of History Vol. 24 (1995), pp. 162-177 (16 pages).

Sibanda, Fortune. “The legality of witchcraft allegations in colonial and postcolonial Zimbabwe”, Religion, Law and Security in Africa, edited by M. Christian Green, T. Jeremy Gunn, Mark Hill, African Sun Media, SUN MeDIA. (2018) pp. 297-313.

https://fivebooks.com/best-books/jean-fontaine-on-african-religion-and-witchcraft/

https://www.routledge.com/Witchcraft-and-Sorcery-in-East-Africa/Middleton-Winter/p/book/9780415852135

https://www.jstor.org/stable/24328661

https://www.bibliovault.org/BV.titles.epl?tquery=Witchcraft

https://www.sunypress.edu/p-5511-encounters-with-witchcraft.aspx

https://www.brookings.edu/research/good-and-inclusive-governance-is-imperative-for-africas-future/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/witchcraft/Witchcraft-in-Africa-and-the-world

https://mellenpress.com/book/Studies-in-Witchcraft-Magic-War-and-Peace-in-Africa/6769/

https://www.britannica.com/place/Africa/Geologic-history

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Malleus-maleficarum?utm_medium=mendel-homepage&utm_source=oyr&utm_campaign=oyr-1&utm_term=20220324

https://www.britannica.com/bioraphy/Matthew-Hopkins?utm_medium=mendel-homepage&utm_source=oyr&utm_campaign=oyr-2&utm_term=20220324

https://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/africa.htm

https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/postcolonialstudies/2014/06/21/zimbabwes-struggle-for-liberation/

https://www.britannica.com/place/Zimbabwe

South African History Online: https://www.sahistory.org.za/place/zimbabwe

Virtual Historic Site Impressions: Fountains Abbey, Yorkshire

July 28, 2022

     After I visited the Harriet Tubman Historical National Park, I virtually went across the Atlantic Ocean to visit Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, England. I really enjoyed exploring the area and walking through what is left of the abbey. I was surprised to see at least one space that is shielded from the sun because the first impression of Fountains Abbey I had was there is no roof left. It would have been wonderful to see what it may have looked like fully intact. I can imagine it was just as beautiful as it is in its current state. I included a link to the virtual tour I attended in the list below. While I was exploring Fountains Abbey, I took the time to learn the history of this abbey.

The abbey was founded in 1132 by 13 Benedictine monks from St Mary’s in York who were fed up with the extravagant and rowdy way that the monks lived in York and so they escaped seeking to live a devout and simple lifestyle. After three years, the monks were admitted to the Cistercian Order which was founded in 1098 by a group of monks in France. The monks at Fountains Abbey were introduced to the Cistercian system of lay brothers (laborers) to give monks more time to dedicate to God instead of spending time farming the land to get by. The Fountains Abbey became so wealthy with the help of the lay brothers through wool production, lead mining, cattle rearing, horse breeding, and stone quarrying. Unfortunately, bad harvests hit the monks hard, and they dealt with raids from Scots throughout the 14th century which led to an economic collapse. Things were made worse by the Black Death which struck the country in 1348. The Abbey remained important despite its financial problems.

    In 1539, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, ordered by Henry VIII, led to the Abbey abruptly closing down, and the abbot, prior, and monks were sent away with pensions. Demolition of the Abbey began in 1540. The estate was sold by the Crown to a merchant named Sir Richard Gresham, and stripped it of anything of value. Furnaces were built in the church to melt the lead from the roof and pipes; the fire was fed by timber from the screens and furnishings. The grounds surrounding the ruins of Fountains Abbey were landscaped during the 18th century. It remained in private hands until the 1960s. The National Trust bought the estate from the West Riding County Council in 1983. The Abbey and grounds are open to the public for tours, and the National Trust recommends spending the whole day on the property to be able to see everything during the visit.

     In addition to the ruins of Fountains Abbey, there is also Studley Royal water garden, which is home to the moon ponds, cascades, statues, follies, and wide views. Then there are Fountains Hall, Fountains Mill (the oldest building in the National Trust), the medieval deer park and St Mary’s Church (open 12-4pm, March to October). If one is looking for something to eat, then there are three different places across the site to choose from: the restaurant at the visitor center, the Studley Royal tea-room, and the Mill Café. The National Trust also has a minibus service in case people are tired after walking the grounds which runs between the three different entrances: the visitor center, Studley Royal, and West Gate. For more information, check out the links in the list below.

Thank you again for your patience as I finish this post!

Links:

http://www.360vista.eu/abbey/

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey-and-studley-royal-water-garden

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey-and-studley-royal-water-garden/features/fountains-abbey

https://abbey.cistecian.org/history/the-cistercian-order/cistercian-beginnings/

https://historicengland.org.uk/services-skills/education/educational-images/fountains-abbey-3467

Biography of Sir Richard Gresham: https://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/gresham-sir-richard-1486-1549

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey-and-studley-royal-water-garden/features/your-day-at-fountains-abbey

Estate Map: download-the-estate-map.pdf (nt.global.ssl.fastly.net)

Virtual Historic Site Impressions: The Harriet Tubman Historical National Park

July 1, 2022

        I recently did a virtual trip to the newer national park the Harriet Tubman Historical National Park. Not to be confused with the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Park, the Historical National Park in Auburn, New York is where Harriet Tubman’s home and farm are located. The park was established in 2017 by the National Park Service and the Harriet Tubman Visitor Center is operated by National Park Service partner, the Harriet Tubman Home, Inc. It includes the Thompson Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church that Tubman helped raise funds to build. The park also includes the Harriet Tubman Visitor Center, the Tubman Home for the Aged, and the Harriet Tubman Residence which sit on about a 32-acre campus. At the date of this post and visit, it is a park in progress with limited services.

According to the website, the Thompson Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church and parsonage require substantial repair and renovations prior to being returned to public uses. Harriet Tubman’s house is viewed from the outside only and access to the Home for the Aged is by guided tour that begin at the Harriet Tubman Visitor Center; at least at the time of this post was written. The park’s website shared their goals for the park, and have not included recent updates. It would be good to see in the future a more 360-degree virtual tour for both around the campus and within the building. In the meantime, I really appreciated the sources available on their website.

I participated in a virtual tour by exploring their National Park Service website and the mobile app. While I was on the website, it provided background information describing the historical significance of the national park and how Harriet Tubman made her home in Auburn, New York. The Harriet Tubman Historical National Park shares the life of Harriet Tubman who was one of the conductors of the Underground Railroad to help enslaved people escape to freedom. Tubman was born enslaved in Dorchester County, Maryland in 1822, and much of Harriet Tubman’s early life was outside of her control; she was denied basic human rights and subjected to exploitation by others. She seized her freedom at the age of 27. For ten years, she used her time and energy to help liberate others, including her family and friends, but in doing so she found few opportunities to establish a home base for herself for very long. Tubman was almost constantly on the move between Canada and Maryland. When she realized that a Civil War was imminent, Tubman found a haven for her family in the rural village of Fleming, New York, just outside the city of Auburn. To learn more, I recommend visiting their website and I included a list of links below.

     I decided to explore the app when I read about Travel with Tubman on the website. Travel with Tubman is a virtual trip planning tool within the National Park Service app to explore places across the country that highlight thirteen places important to Harriet Tubman’s life and legacy, and importance in American history. It outlines locations connected to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historic Site, and their partners across the east coast of the United States. The app, available for iOS and Android devices, connects visitors to a number of National Park Service offerings including interactive maps, tours of park places, and on-the-ground accessibility information to plan adventures before and during the trips. I appreciate the amount of information they included on the app especially a list of other historic sites relevant to the Underground Railroad, and a map of where those places are located.

To learn more, visit the links below. Thank you all so much for your patience!

Links:

https://www.nps.gov/hart/index.htm

Harriet Tubman Home, Inc.: https://www.harriettubmanhome.com/

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/undergroundrailroad/explore-virtual-ugrr.htm

https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/travel-with-tubman.htm#APP

https://www.nps.gov/places/harriettubmanhome.htm

Tie Breaker Poll: Fountains Abbey or Harriet Tubman National Historical Park

April 14, 2022

We have a tie! Both of them will be discussed in the next couple of Museum/Historic Sites Impressions blog posts. I would like to know between the two of them which one would you like to learn more about first? Be sure to answer the poll below. Thank you!

Poll closes May 4th at 11:59 PM EST.

The History of St. Patrick’s Day and How Museums Are Celebrating

March 10, 2022

While we celebrate women during the month of March, we also celebrate Irish heritage on the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. It was once known as a religious holiday, the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick. The origins of St. Patrick are varied according to Thomas O’Loughlin’s article “St. Patrick: The Legend and the Bishop” in History Ireland. O’Loughlin investigated the accounts of St. Patrick, and while some details are varied it is agreed that St. Patrick was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave, then escaped and returned sometime later to convert Ireland to Christianity. There were many legends that emerged about St. Patrick including he drove the snakes out of Ireland and used the shamrock to explain the Trinity (in Christianity, Trinity refers to the Father-God, Son-Jesus, and the Holy Spirit/Ghost). Emigrants, specifically to the United States, transformed St. Patrick’s Day into a secular holiday to celebrate all things Irish which led to the holiday we know today. To learn more about St. Patrick’s Day, I included a link below the list.

The following list is a random selection of events and places to visit especially during the holiday. St. Patrick’s Day takes place on a Thursday this year, and while we are still going through a pandemic some of the events that are occurring to honor and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day are virtual.

  1. Tenement Museum’s Virtual Tour: The Moore Family

The Tenement Museum is located in New York City. They are having a virtual tour that is honoring both Women’s History and Irish American History Month by exploring the story of an Irish immigrant family, Joseph and Bridget Moore and their children, who lived at 97 Orchard Street in the 1860s. Visitors will learn how Irish immigrants navigated the diverse city, maintained pride, and built a community in Lower Manhattan. To sign up, click on the link here: https://www.tenement.org/events/special-virtual-tour-the-moore-family/

2. Visit the Irish Hunger Memorial https://www.nyc-arts.org/organizations/2436/irish-hunger-memorial

   Another place to visit in New York City especially during St. Patrick’s Day is the Irish Hunger Memorial that was commissioned by the Battery Park City Authority to raise public awareness of the events that led to the Irish famine of 1845 to 1852, and to encourage efforts to address both current and future hunger worldwide. The memorial represents a rural Irish landscape with an abandoned stone cottage, stone walls, fallow potato fields, and the flora on the north Connacht wetlands. It contains stones from each of Ireland’s 32 counties, and is elevated on a limestone plinth.

3. Boston Irish Tourism Association https://irishboston.org/march.php

     If you are in the Boston area, check out the Boston Irish Tourism Association’s website for events throughout the month of March and St. Patrick’s Day Parade dates and times in New England and Dublin, Ireland.

4. Long Island Children’s Museum

At the Long Island Children’s Museum, there is a program known as stART (Story + Art) that combines reading both children’s classics and new stories and creating book-inspired crafts. On St. Patrick’s Day, they will be reading Joan Holub’s “Hooray for St. Patrick’s Day”, learning about the ways to celebrate the holiday, and creating leprechaun hats to wear home. To learn more and sign up for the class (space is limited), check out the link here: https://www.licm.org/calendar/event/start-story-art-3-17-22/

5. Children’s Museum of Manhattan

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan has a couple of events on St. Patrick’s Day. The first one is the opportunity to contribute to a mural in the CMOM Mural Wall: Colors of the Emerald Isle. Then there is a crafts activity where kids can create shamrock wreaths using recycled paper. More information can be found here: https://cmom.org/cmom-programs/

6. Garde Arts Center, New London, CT https://gardearts.org/events/the-high-kings-2/

On March 20th, there is a performance by the group The High Kings hosted by Garde Arts Center and co-presented with the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center. The High Kings return to the Garde to celebrate over a decade of sell-out shows and topping the Irish Album and World Music Charts. To find out more, visit the Garde Arts Center event page.

7. Museum of Early Trades & Crafts, Madison, NJ https://metc.org/event/st-patricks-day-celebration/

This museum has a St. Patrick’s Day Celebration on March 12th that includes live music, dancing, and singing. Also, there is an interactive game for kids to “find the pot of gold” using QR codes in the museum’s exhibits.

8. Festival Quater at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks https://www.irishcentral.com/events/st-patricks-festival-launch-schedule

     In Dublin, there is a day-to-night festival called Festival Quarter at the National Museum of Ireland for all ages. There are family-friendly adventures including but not limited to performance, theatre, film screenings, interactive games, and science shows. At night, adults can enjoy a food village, bars, and hangout areas with some events including but not limited to Irish contemporary and traditional music, performance, comedy, literature, and dance.

9. Medici Museum of Art, Ohio

The Medici Museum of Art has an adult St. Patrick’s Day Sip & Paint on March 15th in which adults can paint a St. Patrick’s Day inspired artwork as well as sip drinks and eat snacks. If you are interested in this program, take a look at the link here: https://www.medicimuseum.art/upcomingevents/adult-st-patricks-day

There is a kids version and tickets can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kids-st-patricks-day-sip-paint-tickets-256298554877?aff=efbeventtix

10. The Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, St. Joseph, MI https://www.eventbrite.com/e/celebrate-st-patricks-day-at-the-heritage-with-kennedys-kitchen-tickets-271148832457

      At the Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, they collaborated with the Lake Michigan Music Concert Series to welcome the group Kennedy’s Kitchen. There is a cash bar that features Guiness, Bell’s Two-Hearted, Jameson, Bailey’s, wine, and snacks.

       Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Resources for St. Patrick’s Day history:

O’Loughlin, Thomas, “St. Patrick: The Legend and the Bishop”, History Ireland, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Jan. – Feb., 2006), pp. 16-19.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Saint-Patricks-Day

       

Virtual Historic Site Impressions: The Tower of London

March 3, 2022

Thank you to all of those who responded to the second poll I released. The one that had the most votes was the Tower of London in London, England. A little while back I saw a couple of documentaries about the Tower of London on Netflix and the Tower’s history has fascinated me ever since. I decided to include the Tower of London as one of the options for the poll since it has fascinated millions of visitors and I thought that there may be interest among all of you readers. Enjoy this impression of my virtual visit!

           I took a couple of tours including the 360-degree tour of the Tower hosted by the Historic Royal Palaces YouTube channel. The Historic Royal Palaces tour was guided by Dan Snow behind the camera and Chief Yeoman Warder Alan Kingshott. I appreciated that during the tour there are arrows at the top left corner to see more of this 360-degree tour especially when it may be a person’s only way to visit the Tower of London. It is great to have this experience of learning about the castle that not only held prisoners, but also guarded royal possessions, protected the royal family during times of war and rebellion, and was used as a luxurious palace.

         William the Conqueror, in the 1070s, began to build a massive stone fortress in London to defend and proclaim his power.  The Tower of London took about 20 years to build and William the Conqueror did not live to see it completed. Since it’s completion the Tower has been adapted and developed by other kings; for instance, Henry III (1216-1272) and Edward I (1272-1307) expanded the fortress by adding huge defensive walls with a series of smaller towers and enlarging the moat. In addition to using the Tower as protection, a defense and a palace, arms and armor were made, tested, and stored there until the 1800s. The Tower controlled the supply of the nation’s money; the coins were made at the Tower Mint from Edward I’s reign until 1810. Kings and queens locked away their jewels and other valuables at the Tower. Today, the Crown Jewels are protected by a garrison of soldiers.

         The soldiers who guard the Tower are known as Yeoman Warders and are recognized as symbols of the Tower around the world have been there for centuries. They were originally part of the Yeomen of the Guard, who were the monarch’s personal bodyguard who traveled with the monarch. Henry VIII (1507-1547) decreed that some of the Yeomen would stay and guard the Tower permanently. Nowadays the Yeomen Warders guard the visitors but they still carry out ceremonial duties including the Ceremony of the Keys, which is the unlocking and locking of the Tower every day that began in the mid-1300s during the reign of Edward III; the King went to the Tower unannounced one night in December 1340 and walked straight in unchallenged, and after imprisoning the Constable of the Tower for neglecting his duty Edward III decreed that the castle should be locked at sunset and unlocked at sunrise. The Yeomen Warders wear their red state “dress uniforms” for important occasions at the Tower and special events including the Gun Salutes (firing the huge cannon on the Wharf). Yeomen Warders live on the premises of the Tower.

        When it was used as a royal residence, medieval kings and queens lived in luxurious apartments at the Tower. They worshipped in the Chapel Royal, kept a menagerie of exotic animals (which lasted until the 19th century), and welcomed foreign rulers at magnificent ceremonial occasions. Although it has long since vanished, there was once a splendid royal palace to the south of the White Tower. Henry VIII modernized the rooms inside in preparation for the coronation of his new bride, Anne Boleyn in 1533. She and the King feasted the night before Anne processed in triumph through the City of London to Westminster Abbey. Three years later Anne was back at the Tower, this time accused of adultery and treason. She was held in the same luxurious lodgings before being executed by sword on Tower Green.

         For over 800 years, men and women have arrived at the Tower. Some stayed for only a few days, others many years. During the Tudor age, the Tower became the most important state prison in the country. Anyone thought to be a threat to national security including the future Queen Elizabeth I, Lady Jane Grey, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Guy Fawkes were sent to the Tower. The last time individuals were sent to Tower was during World War II when German spies were brought here and shot. Not everyone who went to the Tower came to serve time in prison.

         The Tower has been a visitor attraction since the 18th century, but the number of tourists increased dramatically in the 1800s. Visitors were fascinated by the stories of England’s turbulent and sometimes gruesome history. Stories of ghosts haunt the Tower. Anne Boleyn is said to stalk the site of her execution on Tower Green. Arbella Stuart, the cousin of Elizabeth I who starved while under arrest for marrying without royal permission, is said to frequent the Queen’s House still. One of the most famous legends of the Tower surrounds the ravens.  The story goes that should the ravens leave the Tower, both it and the kingdom will fall. Seven ravens live at the Tower today and are cared for by a dedicated Yeoman Warder known as the Ravenmaster. It continues to be a popular visitor attraction today.

        To learn more about the Tower of London, I included a list of sources below.

Thank you for reading! If you would like to support my book project, check out my Buy Lindsey a Coffee page to learn more.

Links:

360 degree Tour of Tower of London: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yeLQVare-3k

https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/history-and-stories/the-story-of-the-tower-of-london/#gs.p7qji9

https://joyofmuseums.com/museums/united-kingdom-museums/london-museums/tower-of-london/

Secrets of Great British Castles: The Tower of London episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kdgjsSQ3McM&t=38s

https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/history-and-stories/the-ceremony-of-the-keys/#gs.p7v0pf

https://www.hrp.org.uk/discover-the-palaces/#gs.nvvop9

https://kidadl.com/online-events/video-tour-tower-of-london

https://www.londononline.co.uk/towerguide/

https://www.hrp.org.uk/tower-of-london/#gs.nvx23z

Public Historian Takes a Closer Look at the History of Valentine’s Day

February 10, 2022

Valentine’s Day is on a Monday this year and it is important to understand that while it seems like a more commercial-founded holiday this holiday actually has historical roots.  I decided to take a closer look into the history of Valentine’s Day. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the true origins of the holiday are vague at best; for instance, it has been suggested that the holiday has origins in the Roman festival of Lupercalia which was a celebration of the coming of spring held in mid-February. Lupercalia was also known as a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

          It became St. Valentine’s Day towards the end of the 5th century when Pope Gelasius I forbid the celebration of Lupercalia and was often attributed to replacing it with St. Valentine’s Day; there were a number of Saint Valentines in the church, who all became martyrs, who the holiday was possibly named for. One example is that it is believed it was named for a priest who was martyred about 270 CE by the emperor Claudius II Gothicus. According to legend the priest signed a letter “from your Valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and, by some accounts, healed from blindness. Another legend stated that he defied the emperor’s orders and secretly married couples to prevent husbands from war. The holiday was not celebrated as a day of romance until about the 14th century.

            Formal valentines appeared in the 1500s, and by the 1700s individuals were using commercially printed cards. The first commercial valentines in the United States were printed in the mid-1800s. On the Valentines, they commonly depict Cupid, the Roman god of love, along with hearts. Birds also became a symbol of the day since it was thought that the avian mating season begins in mid-February. The holiday is popular in the United States as well as in Britain, Canada, and Australia, and it is also celebrated in other countries, including Argentina, France, Mexico, and South Korea. In the Philippines it is the most common wedding anniversary, and mass weddings of hundreds of couples are not uncommon on that date. The holiday has expanded to expressions of affection among relatives and friends.

          At the time I wrote this post, I did not find many academic studies written in books and journals about Valentine’s Day. What I did come across were articles and a list of children’s Valentine’s Day books. I included links to books on Valentine’s Day in the list below. There was an article from American Quarterly written by Vivian R. Pollak about Emily Dickinson’s Valentines. Emily Dickinson was an American poet born in Amherst, Massachusetts who wrote almost 1,800 poems and of those poems fewer than a dozen were published during her life; scholars identified her writing period was between 1858 and 1865. Pollak’s article, published in 1974, discussed her early works including two humorous Valentines as well as the history of noncommercial Valentines during the 19th century, and argued that Dickinson was writing poetry before 1858. According to the Emily Dickinson Museum website, these early writings were published anonymously in the early 1850s. The first Valentine was referred to as “Magnum bonum, harem scarum” which was a valentine letter published in Amherst College’s Indicator in February 1850, and the second Valentine was published in Springfield Daily Republican titled “A Valentine” called “‘Sic transit gloria mundi’” on February 20, 1852.

      A periodical about St. Valentine and English poet Geoffery Chaucer in Jack B. Oruch’s “St. Valentine, Chaucer, and Spring in February (appeared in Speculum in The Medieval Academy) came from The Wilson Quarterly was called “The First Valentine”. It discusses how Oruch pointed out the first time St. Valentine was connected with romance occurs in Chaucer’s poem “Parlement of Foules” when Nature summons the birds on “seynt Valentynes day” and commands them to choose mates. Chaucer and other writers’ work in the 14th century and after led to associating St. Valentine and Valentine’s day with romance and love.

      In the end, Valentine’s Day is about celebrating the people you love in your lives including family, friends, pets, and romantic partners.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!!

Thank you for reading! If you would like to support my book project, check out my Buy Lindsey a Coffee page to learn more.

Links and Sources:

Vivian R. Pollak, “Emily Dickenson’s Valentines”, American Quarterly, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Vol. 26, No. 1 (Mar., 1974), pp. 60-78.

Emily Dickinson Museum:

https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/

The First Valentine The Wilson Quarterly (1976-), Vol. 6, No. 2 (Spring, 1982), pp. 37-38.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Valentines-Day

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Valentine#ref1290121

https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2

https://www.byrdsbooks.com/book/9781638786337

https://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/valentines-day-books-for-kids

Book Review: Creating Meaningful Museum Experiences for K-12 Audiences

February 3, 2022

Cover for Creating Meaningful Museum Experiences for K-12 Audiences edited by Tara Young

       I recently read the book Creating Meaningful Museum Experiences for K-12 Audiences: How to Connect with Teachers and Engage Students which is a series of articles edited by Tara Young offering comprehensive insight at best practices in working with K-12 audiences including teachers and students. I appreciate that there is a number of different perspectives in the field to contribute to this book so readers can learn from museum professionals who work in more than one type of museum. The book is divided into four parts to help organize the articles based on topics: Setting the Stage, Building Blocks, Questions and New Paradigms, and Solutions and Innovative Models. Each part has six or seven chapters written by various writers in the museum education field.

      The Setting the Stage section focuses on establishing and financing K-12 programs as well as on how to engage with students. In the Building Blocks section, the chapters discuss the core elements of successful programming including mission alignment, educator recruitment and training, working with teacher advisory boards, and anti-racist teaching practices.

      Questions and New Paradigms has case studies in which museum education practitioners reconsider established approaches to museums’ work with schools and engage in iterative processes to update and improve them. It is important to see case studies especially within books since we need to see examples of practical practices not just discussing theory in museum education. The fourth section, Solutions and Innovative Models, provides examples of programs that were reimagined for the current status of museum/school collaborations.

      This book covers a wide range of topics in museum education including but are not limited to the field trip past and present, financial realities of the education department in museums, integrating engineering and empathy in the preschool/kindergarten classroom, creating effective teacher advisory boards, building a new model for staffing school programs, sustainable training for museum education staff, mastering field trip logistics, virtual learning, and teaching slavery at historic sites and lessons learned. It is an important book for both emerging and experienced museum professionals who need to have a better understanding of museum education practices. I plan to continue to refer to this book in my career and to utilize it for the book project I began last year.

To learn more about Creating Meaningful Museum Experiences for K-12 Audiences, check out the link here: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538146798

To learn more about the book project I started last year, take a look at the Buy Lindsey a Coffee! page on the website.

Happy New Year! Plans for 2022

January 13, 2021

Happy New Year everyone! Since we are in our second week of the new year, I thought I would share a few plans I have so far for this website. I am going to share my thoughts on the museum field and how it is continuing to handle the coronavirus pandemic as we are going into the second year since the initial lockdown in the United States.

Also, last month I released a poll to decide the second historic site you want to read about. If you would like to respond to the poll, be sure to answer the poll before it closes on January 31st. Click on the link here: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-1xi

I will continue my history of witchcraft series that I started in the last months of 2021. I am planning the second post to be about witchcraft history outside of Europe and the United States.

I am also continuing the book project that I started last year. To learn more, be sure to check out what I am offering as a thank you for your support by visiting my Buy Me A Coffee page here.

Stay tuned for more posts this year!