The curious history of the Ladybug

[In late September of 1916, British and French soldiers renewed their attacks on German lines around Thiepval. At a heavy cost to both sides, the British took the village of Thiepval. Heavy rains fell the first week of October, turning the fields to mud and silencing the guns for a moment. The Daily Telegraph ran the headline, A Quiet Break on the Front.

I am touring the battlefields. Outside the memorial at Thiepval to the more than 72,000 missing British soldiers, whose bodies were never recovered, there in fields in the wheat, I spot a ladybug waiting for an aphid to eat.]

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Ladybug on a stalk of grass hunting aphids

The curious history of the Ladybug should be told. It is an old tale, whispered by children amongst themselves. Never, no not ever, told to an adult under any circumstances at all. This beetle, quite little, is delightfully charming. What’s more, surprise, it flies like a bird. So gather round children, I will tell you the tale, but promise me, to dad and mom, nary a word.

In England it is not uncommon to call a ladybug a ladybird. This delightful orange insect, which is in fact a beetle and not a bug, can fly away if threatened. English children came up with a nursery rhyme for the ladybug –

“Ladybird, ladybird fly away home,
Your house in on fire and your children are gone”

One explanation for the words comes from the farmers’ custom of burning fields in late fall to rid the land of grasshoppers, aphids, and other pests. But, spare the ladybug if one can, which consumes 50 to 60 aphids a day over a two to three-year life span. In winter ladybugs don’t eat a thing, but hibernate and gather together for warmth and protection.
One other explanation of the ladybug rhyme.
The daughter of King Henry VIII, Bloody Queen Mary assumed the throne of England in 1553, after the death of her younger half-brother James. She ruled for five years. During that time, she reinstated Roman Catholicism and made her point by burning at the stake more than 280 Protestants. At her death in 1558, Elizabeth I became Queen of England and reversed Bloody Mary’s religious proclamation. The saying of Mass was outlawed and Jesuits declared traitors. Priests who continued to say Mass were often punished by being drawn and quartered, rather than burned at the stake.
Thus, the nursery rhyme was a child’s code word to watch out.
The irony is that the ladybug’s name comes from the Virgin Mary.
When their fields were plagued by aphids, farmers prayed for divine intersession. The little orange beetle came and ate the aphids, sparing the farmers’ crops. The beetle became the Ladybug.

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Ladybug

In French, ladybug is coccinelle,” – Insecte de forme ronde, dont le corps est rouge à pois noirs. La coccinelle est l’amie des jardiniers parce qu’elle se nourrit de pucerons .

Sixteen Dead Men

Patrick Pearse, Irish Nationalist, teacher, barrister, poet, author,  leader of the Easter Uprising, had no illusions about the quixotic mission. Beforehand he wrote, “The day is coming when I shall be shot, swept away, and my colleagues like me.”

 

One hundred years ago today, Patrick Pearse and his brother Willie lead a group of Irish Nationalists from Liberty Hall to the Dublin Post Office to proclaim a Free Irish State. The group included poets, teachers, and dreamers all.

 

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Liberty Hall

The rebellion lasted six days. Afterwards the British Government executed sixteen leaders, fifteen by firing squad (Roger Casement was hung.). The one remaining leader, Eamon de Valera was spared because he was a US citizen.

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On the steps of the post office, over which flew the tricolor flag of Ireland and the green flag with Ireland in Celtic, Pearse proclaimed and declared:

In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom… We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible.

 

W.B. Yeats wrote two poems about the events. The first, A Terrible Beauty, “changed utterly” Irish opinion and stirred the Irish political consciousness into action. The second, Sixteen Dead Men, was melancholy and thoughtful.

Sixteen Dead Men

By William Butler Yeats
O but we talked at large before
The sixteen men were shot,
But who can talk of give and take,
What should be and what not
While those dead men are loitering there
To stir the boiling pot?

You say that we should still the land
Till Germany’s overcome;
But who is there to argue that
Now Pearse is deaf and dumb?
And is their logic to outweigh
MacDonagh’s bony thumb?

How could you dream they’d listen
That have an ear alone
For those new comrades they have found,
Lord Edward and Wolfe Tone,
Or meddle with our give and take
That converse bone to bone?

The group included teachers, poets, and even a knighted British diplomat. World War I was raging at the time of the uprising. Pearse was the overall leader of the Easter Uprising. Tom MacDonagh was commander of the Second Battalion of Volunteers that occupied Jacob’s biscuit factory. Lord Edward and Wolfe Tone were early Irish Nationalists

Spartacus

I thought this an interesting way to create poetic images.

My poetry teacher Sam Taylor at Wichita State University suggested writing surrealistic verses in the style of Spanish poet and writer, Federico García Lorca. After all, all art is derivative. Then, we were to pick three contemporary magazines and cut lines that were appealing. Put the lines in a pile, organize them in some semblance of order, add a couple of derivative lines suggested by Lorca and voila, a poem. Or should I say, ¡Ya está! 

The words “Spartacus” and “call me” jumped out at me and I was off and running.

Here is the result:

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Spartacus, movie poster starring Kirk Douglas, director Stanley Kubrick

 

Spartacus call me, I am at home

And gods be thanked the kids are in bed

Spartacus, I am sorry for what I said, so call me

But not by videophone

In fact, it’s best to text

Let us speak in silence

I dreamed last night

The sky was cosmic black

And trailing stars in violet-blue

Below, the world was mountains, lakes, and birds

I dreamed of white egrets rising from the water

Carrying in their hungry mouths ten thousand pearls

Each pearl became a fish yearning to be free

I dreamed last night of love

But love like time cannot outlast the hourglass

And tomorrow when we wake

It’s blood and sand and sea

Not so Little Busy Bees

bees-one

How Doth the Little Busy Bee

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

How skilfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labours hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labour or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

Isaac Watts is called the father of English hymns, having written some 750 hymns in his lifetime. The Christmas carol, “Joy to the World,” is one example.

At his birth in 1674, his father was in prison for his Nonconformist religious views (the established Anglican Church of England called them Dissenters, we might call them Puritans). His father was freed and Isaac followed in his Nonconformists beliefs, gaining a Doctor of Divinity and becoming pastor of London’s Mark Lane Independent (Congregational) Chapel. His five-foot, pale, thin frame made his head seem over-sized. He courted poet Elizabeth Singer, but she rejected his proposal of marriage saying, “Though she loved the jewel, she could not admire the casket which contained it.”

Who in the hell are you, Jan Franz Van Husum

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Jan Franz Van Husum as I picture him

 

Genealogy and Ancestry.com being all the rage today, I got to wondering how my wife’s first known ancestor, Jan Franz Van Husum, got his name. This got me to wondering how anybody gets a name and then why names are necessary to begin with.

“Who in the hell are you?”

It is a question everyone is asked at some point in their life. Usually it arises when one person is lording it over another as in, “You need to leave this party!” or “You don’t know what the f*%$ you are talking about.” In both cases the offended party is wondering who in the hell is the person telling them off.

“Why should I listen to you?” one is thinking as if politeness doesn’t matter.

A name is nothing more than a descriptive word for an object, a convenience so we can remember who it is we are talking to which becomes especially important when we have to describe one person to another. When names don’t exist we are left with vague and inexact description we hear in every police report of an unknown subject – average height, normal complexion, brown eyes, no distinguishing features. Not exactly helpful.

Nope, it is easier to say “John, or Peter, or Paul” and better to add a last name to the first so that we don’t confuse the thousands of Johns, Peters, and Pauls. But how did John, Peter, and Paul get their names in the first place. We are all familiar with Jesus’ naming of Simon as Peter. Peter meant rock, and Jesus, by giving Simon the name “Peter” meant to symbolize that Peter was the foundation upon which Christ was going to build his church. Although in English, we have lost the understanding of the word Peter as rock, one can go to French where the name Peter is Piere, and “piere” in French is also the word for rock.

Jesus Christ, is it that simple?

And by the way, “Christ” is the Greek word for savior, so we simply have, in shorthand, Jesus, the savior mankind.

One could go through all the old names and come up with an origin. New parents love to still do this with baby names, and so, wanting to name a girl Hannah, discover that its original meaning was “she knows” or something like that.
In naming a child, the American Indian usually looked for a sign. Spotted Wolf has gathered quite a few Indian first names and if you want to give your child an Indian name you can go see their meaning at his web page.
http://www.snowwowl.com/swolfNAnamesandmeanings2.html

Louis L’amour, writer of American western fiction, tells a similar story of cowhands in the early west who often went through life without a last name and often with a nickname picked up on the trail, and so many a Slim, Kid, Doc, Lefty, and Deadeye was born.

“Who in the hell are you?” took on new meaning if you were addressing Billy the “Kid” and not just a kid named Billy.

A relatively new phenomenon is that in the American black community of naming children with a mixture of names. There is a website for that too and there one can find in the “j’s” alone, coming in at 228 to 232:

228 Jekeil
229 Jeoffrey
230 Jeremias
231 Jerquis
232 Jervonte
more names

I suppose that the naming comes from a desire to stand out from the pack, to shed oneself of the white man’s naming system and start fresh. And to this end we shed the Elmers and Oscars and Horatios, the Mabels, Hatties, and Violets and adopt new monikers.

 

There is also a desire to step up in class like the Prussians and Dutch did by adding a simple ”von” or “van” to a name. Or take Rumpelstiltskin, Aloyisious, or Rapunzel as examples of medieval Europeans wanting to sound a little more important.

 

All this name calling reminds one of the Jim Croce 1973 hit I’ve got a name, whose lyrics go, “Like the pine trees lining the winding road / I got a name, I got a name / Like the singing bird and the croaking toad / I got a name, I got a name.” And in another song Croce goes on to explain how Big Bad Leroy Brown got his name.

Strings of names matter only if one wants to sound important. Take Queen Elizabeth II, born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, or her son Charles, born Charles Philip Arthur George, and also occasionally by Mountbatten-Windsor or his title Prince of Wales. And to keep other constituents happy, he is also known in Scotland as Duke of Rothesay and in South West England as Duke of Cornwall.

Maybe to the Brits this is all clear, but to me I would wonder who I am addressing.

So, who in the hell am I? Nothing and no one special, no Billy the Kid, no Doc Holiday, not even a Madonna, or a Lady Gaga, but I got a name my father and mother gave me and I do like to be listened to now and then. All the while, I am thinking that if one speaks the truth it shouldn’t matter where the voice comes from.

But it does. And who the hell you are makes a difference as to whether you get heard. Just ask Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.

Well, this discussion has taken me far afield from my inquiry into Jan Franz Van Husum.

He was born in 1608, to parents we do not know, from a family unknown, in a country uncertain. His first name was a good Christian name that had been one of a number of names his parents could choose from. As for his last name, he had little need of one. In our daily dealings we often go without calling a friend or loved one by a last name. No need.

The need for Jan arose in 1634, when he got married and was about to board a boat for America. When asked by the register at the church what village he was from he answered from, “Husum,” and when asked his father’s name, said “Franz”.
So we have Jan Franz Van Husum. Isn’t that one hell of a name?

[Over the centuries the last name has been spelled with a few variations, Van Heusen is one of the more popular ones which is still found up in New York and in Pennsylvania. A second spelling is Van Huss, which came into being in North Carolina and spread west tow Tennessee, Texas, and Kansas. Jan and his wife Volkje settled in upstate New York. They are credited with founding the city of Albany.One thing that hasn’t changed much is the face. There is a strong family resemblance that one sees in Rembrant’s painting, The Night Watch. Look for the round face, the red and cheerful cheeks, the angular nose, and the brown hair and eyes.]

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Who in the hell are you, Jan Franz Van Husum?

Not where but how

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

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It is not where but how and with whom. Never why and when is now. Just know that wherever you go and with whomever you go that becomes a part of you forever.

Saint Augustine of Hippo said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” I choose to quote Augustine not only for his wisdom but for the fact that he lived in the Roman city of Hippo on the north African coastline. It is a city where my wife’s family took root briefly before the Algerian War dispossessed France of its colony. Saint Augustine is also the patron saint of brewers, proving, I guess, that it is nice to have a beer near by when reading a good book.

We are all connected somehow.

As Saint Augustine suggests, we can travel with words and books and this, gentle reader leads me to my dilemma.
There are two kinds of men in this world. Those who read books and those who read Kindle.

I am of the first sort. Having grown up with books, loving the smell of a pages like the smell of a coffee bag freshly opened, hearing the crack of the binding and the rustle of the pages, I cannot leave my old friends. Books are meant to be kept close by where needing a friendly word or two or a good story, the book can be held and the words read lovingly as in a conversation between old friends.

Old friends, here is my fear. The computer is too near at hand. And serpent that I am, I will tempt you.

Ursala K. Guin, who I quoted earlier gave an entertaining interview to the Paris Review in the Fall of 2013.  The interview by John Wray took place in Guin’s hillside house in Portland, Oregon near its famous zoo and attractive Rose Garden and with a view of Mount St. Helens in the distance. You can get there from here with the click of a key. http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6253/the-art-of-fiction-no-221-ursula-k-le-guin

As a bit of a stoic, I cannot help but amend Guin’s observation and say, “It matters to have an end to journey towards, but in the end it is the journey that matters.”

 

Cofachique, Cofachiqui, Coffechiqui

Odd and old place names on maps are soon forgotten once their usefulness is at an end.

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Coffechiqui, (Cofachique) Kansas, 1856

 

Having in front of me a map of Indian Reservations in Kansas, 1856, I noticed somewhere near the center the place name “Coffechiqui.”

 

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Cofachique, Map of Eastern Kansas 1856

The name is obviously Indian, but search as I might, I could not come up with an exact match. That is when I searched variation of the spelling and came up with Cofachique, Cofachiqui, Coffechiqui, and even Cofitachequi. They are all variations of the name whose origin is Georgia’s “Lady of Cofitachequi.” In 1540 she greeted Hernando DeSoto with pearls from the Savannah River. Her kindness was not returned. He kidnapped her.

What is in a name?

The Daughters of the American Revolution Chapter from Iola, Kansas gives credit to a distant namesake, an Osage Chief by the name Cofachique who helped early settlers.

The truth of this statement is obscure. Cofachique, the Indian chief, if he existed would have been in Kansas in 1856, a gap of more than three hundred years from DeSoto in Georgia. If the name passed down and tribal tales continued the memory, it is not likely that Chief Cofachique would accomodate white settlers since DeSoto kidnapped Georgia’s Cofitachequi.

Then again, stories often change in the retelling.

Cofachique was situated along the Neosho River near the present-day city of Iola. Iola wasn’t there at the time and the place, two log cabins and a couple of lean-tos built by James Barbee and family, was visited by the Reverend Cyrus R. Rice who stayed there for a summer in 1856 and called it “Cofachiqui”. This was a time before civic organizations took on the responsibility of welcoming one to “Cofachiqui” so who knows how Reverend Rice arrived at the spelling. But, the Reverend did give credit to an “Indian Princess” who we have to assume she was Georgia’s “Lady of Cofitachequi.”

30 Pieces of Silver for Christ’s Sake

Matthew 26:15, King James Version
And [Judas] said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?
And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

Thirty Pieces of Silver

I think most of us have, at one time or another, wondered what the thirty pieces of silver paid Judas Iscariot look like.

Thirty pieces of silver
Thirty pieces of silver

They were worth a month’s wages for a common laborer.

The denarius was a small silver coin whose weight varied, but was approximately 1/48th of a pound. It was a day’s wages to a common laborer or a soldier. “He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.” Matthew 20, 2.

silver denarius
silver denarius

The daily staple of a Roman was a loaf of bread of two. Romans would buy their bread in a unit called a “modius.” A modius would bake up into roughly 20 one pound loaves of bread so it would provide the needed bread for ten days. A “just price” for a modius of bread started out at 4 asses, but with inflation and debasement of the denarius, it rose to 12 asses, and by Nero’s time to 2 denarii, 32 asses.

Add this thought from Revelations in figuring the value of a denarius.

‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine'” (Revelation 6:6).

What is said is a common marketplace call of a merchant shouting out the price of his wares. He is setting inflationary values for both wheat and barley with the admonition that oil and wine will be more dear.

[ Under the rule of Augustus, (63 BC-AD 14) the silver content of a denarius fell to 3.9 grams 1⁄84 of a Roman pound.]

Not today

To grandmother's house we go
To grandmother’s house

This time of year brings back memories of loved ones who, though near and dear to our hearts, are no longer with us. Now, stirring in my brain is the that Christmas ditty that goes, “Over the river and through the woods. To Grandmother’s house we go…”

Who doesn’t miss the warm hug and big smile that grandmother and grandfather gave each child as they burst though the front door?

Not Today

Not today,
The sleet and snow
May freeze the nose
And pinch the cheek.
The storm may blast
And rage about.
While even on
The dark and coldest day,
The heart that’s kind
Stays ever warm.