Sophie Scholl’s Final Words

Today in History –> Seventy-eight years ago today Sophie Scholl (along with Hans Scholl and Christoph Probst) a twenty-one year old German student and anti-Nazi political activist, active within the White Rose non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany having been convicted of treason was executed by the guillotine.

In February of 1943, the [White Rose group] was apprehended when leaving pamphlets in suitcases all across the University of Munich. Sophie took to a balcony that overlooked a courtyard and scattered reams of flyers as students exited classes. Her action was witnessed by the school’s janitor, who reported Sophie and Hans to the Gestapo. After being interrogated for nearly 24 hours, Sophie emerged from questioning with a broken leg but a steely spirit. She was quoted as saying, “I’ll make no bargain with the Nazis.”

The students’ hearing began a mere four days after their arrest and, because all pled guilty, they were not allowed to testify. Still, Sophie did not sit quietly throughout the proceedings. She interrupted the judge throughout, with statements like: “Somebody had to make a start! What we said and wrote are what many people are thinking. They just don’t dare say it out loud!” and “You know the war is lost. Why don’t you have the courage to face it?”

She was allowed one official statement: “Time and time again one hears it said that since we have been put into a conflicting world, we have to adapt to it. Oddly, this completely un-Christian idea is most often espoused by so-called Christians, of all people. How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone who will give himself up to a righteous cause? I did the best that I could do for my nation. I therefore do not regret my conduct and will bear the consequences.” She and her fellow defendants were sentenced to death by execution, which was carried out within hours of the decision. On the back of Sophie’s indictment, she wrote the word “Freedom”. Her reported last words were, “Die Sonne scheint noch”—”The sun still shines.”

Her last words:

How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
~ Sophie Scholl

Stonehenge: Was it Relocated?

The discovery of a dismantled stone circle—close to Stonehenge’s bluestone quarries in west Wales—raises the possibility that a 900-year-old legend about Stonehenge being built from an earlier stone circle contains a grain of truth. Radiocarbon and OSL dating of Waun Mawn indicate construction c. 3000 BC, shortly before the initial construction of Stonehenge. The identical diameters of Waun Mawn and the enclosing ditch of Stonehenge, and their orientations on the midsummer solstice sunrise, suggest that at least part of the Waun Mawn circle was brought from west Wales to Salisbury Plain. This interpretation complements recent isotope work that supports a hypothesis of migration of both people and animals from Wales to Stonehenge.

In the oldest story of Stonehenge’s origins, the History of the Kings of Britain (c. AD 1136), Geoffrey of Monmouth describes how the monument was built using stones from the Giants’ Dance stone circle in Ireland. Located on legendary Mount Killaraus, the circle was dismantled by Merlin and shipped to Amesbury on Salisbury Plain by a force of 15,000 men, who had defeated the Irish and captured the stones. According to the legend, Stonehenge was built to commemorate the death of Britons who were treacherously killed by Saxons during peace talks at Amesbury. Merlin wanted the stones of the Giants’ Dance for their magical, healing properties.

This 900-year-old legend is fantasy: the Saxons arrived not in prehistory, but only 700 years before Geoffrey’s own time, and none of Stonehenge’s stones came from Ireland. Yet the fact that Stonehenge’s ‘bluestones’ derive from Wales—far to the west of Salisbury Plain—has led to speculation that there may be some truth in Geoffrey’s pseudo-history. Moreover, at the time Geoffrey was writing, this region of south-west Wales was considered Irish territory. One possibility is that the bluestones did indeed derive from a stone circle in west Wales, which was dismantled and re-erected as Stonehenge. A similar conclusion was reached a century ago by geologist Herbert Thomas, who established that the spotted dolerite bluestones at Stonehenge originated in the Preseli Hills of west Wales, where, he suspected, they had originally formed a “venerated stone-circle”

Source: Journal Antiquity

The Rök Stone

The Rök Stone is one of Sweden’s most interesting rune stones. A man called Varin erected it in honour of his dead son’s memory in the 9th century. The stone stands beside Röks Church on the plains of the province of Östergötland. Its complicated web of stories continues to baffle scholars.

The Rök Stone stands two and a half metres above ground and around one metre beneath ground. The boulder of pale grey, fine-grained granite probably originates close to where it was found. The surface is strewn with runes; there are around 280 on the front and 450 on the back side. The stone engraver composed the placement of his text so brilliantly that a person standing upright can read the meandering runes. The stone is now protected by a pyramid-shaped roof in the outdoor museum that was established in 1991.

Varin’s contemporaries must have perceived the Rök Stone as a literary and artistic masterpiece. A rune stone carver with a distinct sense of form and ornament has created the decorative text. He also appears to have been a learned poet, familiar with mythic tales and conceptions of the period. It seems like he wanted to put the reader’s acumen and education on trial. Nowadays, scholars agree about how to read the Rök Stone, but not on how to interpret it. The stone consists of convoluted legends, obscure myths and various epics, as well as accounts of Varin’s own family history.

The monumental size and rich ornamentation of the Rök Stone suggests that the man called Varin belonged to an influential family. Furthermore, the appearance of Thor, a pagan God, in the latter part of the text, could be an effort to give a divine legitimacy to Varin and his family. In that sense, the stone served as a memorial of a lost son, as well as a status symbol for the family.

Source: Swedish National Museum

Medieval Cats

Detail of miniatures of cats catching mice, mice stealing eucharistic wafers, and (below), an ancestor of Keyboard Cat: a later marginal doodle of a cat playing a stringed instrument; from a bestiary, England (Salisbury?), 2nd quarter of the 13th century.

Detail of a miniature of a nun spinning thread, as her pet cat plays with the spindle; from the Maastricht Hours, the Netherlands (Liège), 1st quarter of the 14th century.

Now this is the weirdest one by far. (The story, of course, is bogus.):

Alexander the Great, whose fictional explorations of the natural world were retold throughout the Middle Ages, included a cat, along with the cock and the dog, as his companions in a proto-submarine. Here, the animal was not merely a pet, but a natural rebreather, purifying the air so Alexander would not stifle in the enclosed space. The dog was more unfortunate, chosen as an emergency escape mechanism: water, medieval readers were assured, would expell the impurity of a dog’s dead carcasse. If Alexander encountered danger, he had only to kill the dog, which would be expelled to the surface, bringing Alexander with it. As for the cock – everyone knows how valuable they are for telling time with their crows, a useful function underwater, out of sight of the sky.

The Day the Music Died

Today in History —> It was this day in 1959 that became “the day the music died,” as rock musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. Waylon Jennings was also on the tour, and it’s likely that he gave up his seat to The Big Bopper at the last moment. The crash is of course was immortalized in the song “American Pie” by Don McLean.

Above the wreckage of “the day the music died.”

#MusicHistory #DayTheMusicDied #AmericanPie