Sunday, August 22, 2010

AtF: Wherein Geds Discusses Beards

So, as we covered last time on After the Flood, Bill Cooper’s prized Anglo-Saxon genealogy is a work of imagination and myth.  It’s now time to figure out why Cooper thinks it’s a worthwhile pursuit.

To be fair, the Saxons do not seem to have brought over with them a detailed chronicled history of their nation like that possessed by the Britons or, indeed, the Irish Celts which we shall examine later. That is not to say that none existed, of course just that none has survived to the present day from that pre-emigration period. What has survived, however, is a detailed genealogy of the pre-migration, and hence pre-Christian, kings of the Saxons, and this enables us to take Saxon history back, generation by generation, to the earliest years after the Flood. But this is no new discovery. It was everyday knowledge to the historians of previous centuries. On Thursday 6th July 1600, for example, a certain Elizabethan tourist, Baron Waldstein, visited London's Lambeth Palace. His journal tells us that in one of the rooms there he saw:

'...a splendid genealogy of all the Kings of England, and another genealogy, a historical one, which covers the whole of time and is traced down from the Beginning of the World.'

By now we should all know exactly how I’m going to respond to this.  In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m going to let everyone else do the heavy lifting.  Look over the previous explanation and ask yourself, “What would Geds say while bitching about this?”  If it helps, pour yourself a nice bourbon.[1]

Anyway once you’ve decided what I would say, feel free to go down to footnote two.  You’ll have your answers.[2]  I’ll wait.  I have delicious bourbon at my disposal.  While we’re waiting, perhaps I should discuss facial hair.

See, I grew a beard several years ago.  At the time I was in the habit of naming random objects in my possession, mostly of the computer and car nature.

Anyway, I was still with (for whatever definition of “with” you want to use) Her at the time.  I don’t remember how, precisely, it came up.  Either I said I needed a name for my beard or she asked if I was planning on doing so.  Either way, I was immediately forbidden from naming my beard.  This, of course, meant that it needed to be named, specifically the most absurd thing that came to mind.[3]

Right then and there I named my beard “Lorna.”  It was not a well-received decision.[4]

Some time after I moved to Texas I decided I needed a change.  You know, beyond, “Hey, I just moved a thousand miles away.”  This was also before I bought a new car in a fit of, y’know, even more change.  Either way, I switched from the full beard to the goatee.  I promptly named my goatee, “Lorna, Jr.”

A few weeks ago tragedy struck.  My hand slipped while I was trimming Lorna, Jr. and I was forced to go clean-shaven.  The following day at work my co-workers were rather adamant in their insistence that I look better while clean-shaven.  It also occurred to me that clean-shaven is actually much lower maintenance than a goatee.[5]

I was thinking of going with the porn ‘stache.  But, um…no.

Anyway, where was I?  Oh, right.  I was talking about Bill Cooper and his somehow-less-edifying-than-my-stories-about-facial-hair bullshit.  Also, that was a lot of hyphens.  But I digress.  His good buddy the Baron Waldstein continues:

Later, arriving at Richmond Palace on 28th July, he saw in the library there:

'... beautifully set out on parchment, a genealogy of the kings of England which goes back to Adam.'

Yuh huh.

In case anyone’s wondering, the Baron Waldstein was an eighteen year-old Moravian tourist in England.  There’s about a 103% chance that he didn’t have the historical background to understand what he was seeing, assuming that he was even attempting to skeptically analyze the things he saw.

Cooper then goes to beat that most familiar drum.

Such genealogies were immensely popular, and as fascinating to the general public as they were to historians and other scholars. As tables of descent, they provided a continuous record of human history from the Creation, through the post-Flood era, down to modern times. But it was these very attributes that made these records unpalatable to certain scholars who delighted to call themselves Rationalists, and who sought from the 18th century onwards to replace such history with certain anti-biblical notions of their own. (3)

I don’t generally include the footnote pointers, but that footnote number 3 points to a book called The Rise of the Evolution Fraud.  It’s got two five-star reviews on Amazon!  Also, it’s got two reviews on Amazon!

Anyway, this is tiring, really.  I tossed in the facial hair stuff not because I thought it was interesting, but because I thought it was more interesting than, “Cooper sees anti-Christian conspiracies everywhere: film at 11.”  Although it is kind of funny the way he seems to find it necessary to vary his attacks against, y’know, real historians.  This time anyone who dares suggest that the Anglo-Saxons didn’t directly descend from Adam “delighted to call themselves Rationalists.”

First of all, if we’re talking Rationalists, um, they were around before the 18th Century.  There was this guy named Descartes and this other guy named Spinoza, for instance.  I’m just going to take a shot in the dark and say that this is a veiled shot at David Hume, which is kind of funny, since Hume wasn’t really a Rationalist and, in fact, was the one who influenced Kant’s thinking enough to lead to the writing of the Critique of Pure Reason.  Hume was an empiricist and a historian who can probably be credited with an awful lot of the changes in British history Cooper rails against, however.

Second, “delighted?”  Really?  That particular word choice bugs me for some reason.

Either way, we’re just about to start having fun.

The pre-migration records that have come down to us are in the form of genealogies and king-lists, and I have assembled the table of descent which opens this chapter from each type. That table shows the (sometimes simplified) descent of six of the Anglo-Saxon royal houses of England. The houses are those of Wessex (Occidentalium Saxonum); of Lindsey (Lindis fearna); of Kent (Cantwariorum); of Mercia (Merciorum); of Northumbria (Northa hymbrorum); and of East Anglia (Estanglorum). But it is the treatment that these records have received from the hands of modernist scholars that is as fascinating, and as telling, as the records themselves, and we shall here consider the veil of confusion and obscurity that modern scholarship has thrown over them.

You know what’s really confusing?  The question of why the Anglo-Saxons were recording their genealogies in Latin. Although I suppose we could offer the benefit of the doubt and say that it was later scribes recording in Latin.  So…yeah.  Let’s move on.

We are commonly asked to believe that these six royal families concocted these lists, and that the lists are thus rendered untrustworthy and false. We are asked to accept that, say, the House of Kent concocted a list of ancestral names that just happens to coincide in its earlier portions with that of, say, the House of Northumbria, in spite of the fact that the two kingdoms lay hundreds of miles apart, spoke different dialects and whose people hardly ever wandered beyond their own borders unless it was to fight.

Um, yes.  I am, actually, asking you to believe that the lists were made up.  If we go back two weeks, we’ll see that actual historians have found that this is exactly what happened.  The term “East Anglia” didn’t exist until the 800s.  Northumbria was a kingdom that came in to being with the merging of two other kingdoms.  And, in both of those cases, the “houses” are named after geographic locations and would, therefore, not have been the names of anyone or anything until well after the migration.  And with the story of the genealogy of Alfred the Great of Wessex being stolen from Ida of Bernicia I introduced you to the Sisam Hypothesis, which introduced the possibility that, yes, the Anglo-Saxons stole genealogies from each other.

Either way, I’ll cut things short here.  I’m just too damned sober to handle the next bit…


[1]The alcohol of choice tonight is Buffalo Trace.  I also have Rahr & Sons Buffalo Butt beer at my disposal.  I was in a very Buffalo-y mood during my last alcohol purchase.  Also, Rahr & Sons was having some problems this spring after a storm blew their roof off or something.  It’s good that they’re back up and running.

[2]First:  Just because something was once common knowledge does not mean it’s correct.  It was once common knowledge that there was nothing between Europe and Asia but unnavigable ocean.  It was also once common knowledge that the Americas were a part of Asia.  Also, there was a long period of time where people thought there was a flood that covered the entire Earth.  But no one takes that seriously any…oh…wait.

Second:  There is an assertion that the Anglo-Saxon genealogies were once common knowledge.  Assertion without proof is useless.

Third:  The Anglo-Saxon genealogy offered by Cooper as evidence ends in 899.  Anglo-Saxon domination of Britain ends, by necessity, in 1066.  A genealogy seen buy a guy in 1600 means next to nothing without corroborating documents.  The fact that he saw it on a Thursday, meanwhile, means jack shit.  That’s the sort of detail one adds in when attempting to bolster a bad argument with arguments that sound accurate.

Fourth:  The diary entry, or whatever it was, doesn’t even say anything other than, “I saw this one thing.”  It has no citations and offers no reproduction.  So we can’t know if it even supported Cooper’s fanciful genealogy from just above it.  Considering that I’ve seen several different Anglo-Saxon genealogies in the past couple weeks, I strongly suspect it mostly doesn’t.

Fifth:  Once again, even if the genealogy is accurate to the Anglo-Saxon migration to Britain, that doesn’t mean it’s accurate to the time of Noah.  Especially when you’re looking at a genealogy that only goes back SEVENTEEN GENERATIONS.

Seriously.  Math.  How does that work?

[3]I still haven’t really decided if this was a sign that the relationship was a turrible idea or that the idea of dating me is a turrible idea for, well, anyone.

[4]I once knew a guy who had a beard named Lorna.  She had the worst gay-dar in history.  But that’s a story for another day…

[5]At one point my boss asked if I was planning on sticking with the clean-shaved thing.  I said I was going to for a little while, since the goatee is really the second-highest maintenance form of beard.  She asked what the highest maintenance beard is.  I said, “The beard of bees.  I mean, you’ve got to keep them fed and constantly carry epi-pens around with you.”

There’s about a 90% chance I shouldn’t be allowed out in public.

1 comment:

The Everlasting Dave said...

OK, footnote five got a legit lol out of me. Well done, sir [1]. However, I am distressed by the lack of Battletoads content on this particular AtF post. What gives?

[1.] I stick with the Amish beard when I have to go out in public, and the Joaquin Phoenix when I don't. I look awesome either way.