Friday, 22 June 2018

Flower Power : The Festival of Lilies

The Festa dei Gigli 2017. The towering festival structures outside Nola Cathedral.
People who visit the Italian city of Nola on this week every year can witness one of the traditional festivals registered by UNESCO on their list of events of Oral and Intangible Heritage.

The Festa dei Gigli – the Festival of Lilies – is held in this week every year to celebrate the city’s patron saint, St. Paulinus of Nola, whose feast day is today, 22nd June.

Who was St. Paulinus and what connection does he have with lilies? His full name was Pontius Meropius Anicius Paulinus and he was a Roman citizen. He was born in around the year 353 in Bordeaux into an influential senatorial family. His father was a prefect of Gaul who owned estates in France, Italy and Spain. Paulinus was thus able to receive a good education and his parents sent him to a teacher and poet who had been tutor to the emperor’s son, Ausonius.

Ausonius is one of those historical characters whose sexuality has often been subject to speculation. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it is said that he had a large collection of homosexual literature which shocked even the Romans by its explicit content. Secondly, Ausonius was famous for translating a Greek riddle which asked “how can three men engage in four sexual positions?” (I’ll let you work it out!).

Ausonius was of Greek ancestry and had spent some time at the court of the Greek Byzantine emperor. He was well aware of “Greek love”, the sexual activity between mentor and student which was common in ancient Greece (as illustrated on this blog in the numerous articles on sex between Greek athletes and soldiers). Paulinus became Ausonius’ student in the 360s. Ausonius found his pupil extremely intelligent and handsome.

Some of Paulinus’s later poems and letters indicate that a mutual love existed between the two, often expressed in physical terms, though whether this involved sexual activity cannot be proved. Even though the empire had been nominally Christian since 313 Paulinus had yet to adopt the Christian faith which throughout its first millennium celebrated same-sex attraction but demonised same-sex activity. Whatever their physical relationship Paulinus was Ausonius’s favourite pupil and they remained in touch right up to Ausonius’s death in around 394. The distinguished lgbt historian Dr. Rictor Norton is sure there was some relationship between them based on their letters. I tend to believe him.

Paulinus soon entered public office when, at the age of 24, he was appointed a suffect consul (a kind of substitute for the elected consul). This gave him senatorial rank. Within three years he was appointed Governor of Campania province in southern Italy. He reacquainted himself with Nola, a city he had visited as a child with his family who had estates near by. He had marvelled at the shrine of St. Felix of Nola and the devotion of its citizens. As governor Paulinus built a road for pilgrims to visit St. Felix’s shrine and built a hospice of the poor.

Paulinus relinquished his governorship at the age of about 30 to embark on a life of leisure. He married a Christian lady called Theresia and was himself baptised. Their only son died in infancy, and this was the cause which put Paulinus and Therasia on their road to a life of charity and austerity. They gave away many of their land and possessions.

To his surprise Paulinus was ordained in 394 and he and Theresia moved back to Nola. They “separated” in order for them both to pursue a near monastic life. After Theresia’s death Paulinus was consecrated Bishop of Nola in 409.

Now we come to the legend of the lilies. Medieval saints often had fabulous stories invented to link them with various patronages (as with St. George, St. Nicholas and St. Valentine, among others). Paulinus had several legends attached to him. One is that he introduced bells into churches. The legend of the lilies is another, and it goes as follows.

The Roman Empire was in decline and marauding forces were attacking southern Italy. Nola was attacked and Paulinus was able to lead all the children to safety in the mountains. All the men of Nola were captured and taken to north Africa as slaves. When the marauders had gone Paulinus returned to Nola with the children.

A widow’s only son and heir had been taken as a slave and she pleaded with Paulinus to get him back. Paulinus sailed across to Africa and tried to buy the widow’s son’s freedom. All his efforts were in vain. Eventually he offered himself in exchange for the man’s freedom. This offer was accepted and the widow was soon reunited with her son in Nola.

Paulinus gained the respect of his new owner his acceptance of his plight. Two years later Paulinus predicted some danger which threatened his master, and when the danger was revealed and avoided Paulinus was offered his freedom. He refused to accept unless all the men taken from Nola were freed as well. Surprisingly, this was agreed and all the men went back home. The citizens of Nola welcomed the return of their menfolk with arms full of lilies.

This is one version of the legend. There are variations. Following Paulinus’s death many years later the people of Nola began leaving lilies at the altar of the cathedral in his honour on the anniversary of his death (the usual date for saints’ feat days). From there an annual ceremony developed, and over the generation this grew into a week-long festival. The lilies were presented in more and more elaborate bouquets until eventually special wooden stands were built for them and carried through the streets. This developed even further into 80-feet-tall decorated structures that are carried through Nola in today’s Festa dei Gigli.

To finish with, here is a video of last year’s Festa dei Gigli. You can see very clearly the towering floral offerings which are carried into the city square, and the ceremonial boat in which sits a statue of St. Paulinus. He was truly a man with a lot of Flower Power to have the people of his city still celebrating his return from slavery with lilies nearly 1,600 years after his death.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Flag Poles and Tuning Forks

During US Pride Month one visible change you’re likely to notice in major US cities is more Rainbow Pride flags on display. Most of the flags I’ve featured over the years have been adopted, created and used in the lgbt community. Collectively they have created a whole new area of research to vexillology, the study of flags, which could not have been possible until the 1980s. There are many different specialist areas already established in vexillology – religious flags, military flags, political flags, yacht club flags, flags on stamps and even flags on tattoos, to name a few. Sexuality and gender is the newest area of research, still in its early days, thanks to the many Pride flags that have been created since the Rainbow Pride flag in 1978.

More often than not the reason why a flag was adopted in the past, and the name of the designer, wasn’t considered important enough to be put on record, not unless it was something as important as a national flag. That’s where vexillologists do their work and carry out research.

Several lgbt vexillologists have contributed to flag research outside the lgbt world of Pride. Today I want to concentrate on a man who was the first to research five specific flags which were included in the ground-breaking book “Canadian City Flags”, revealing the cultural and socio-political stories behind each of them.

Mark Ritzenhein was born in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1958. In the 1980s he studied for a degree in music from Michigan State University in East Lansing. From there Mark went on to become a professional piano technician (he tuned and repaired pianos). Mark was in the right place at the right time to be an openly gay man. Just a decade earlier East Lansing became the first place in the USA to include homosexuality in legislation that was protected from discrimination. Just a few miles away in Ann Arbor its citizens elected the first four openly gay politicians in the US.

Despite being a pioneering city there was still homophobia among East Lansing’s elected representatives. In an interview Mark recalled that one councillor said that every “queer” belonged in San Francisco. “You go to San Francisco”, was Mark’s thought, “This is my home and my community, and I have every right to be part of it and to stay here”.

Mark moved just a mile away to Okemos in the 1980s. It was at a gay bar there in 1982 that he met his life partner and future husband Stephen Wilensky. They moved in together shortly afterwards and they lived there until Mark’s early death.

In late 2011 Mark was diagnosed with a brain tumour. With great dignity and peace of spirit Mark prepared for the inevitable. He said his official goodbyes to family and friends while he was still able to. He contacted a local sculptor, Jim Cunningham, and together they created a sculpture of a huge tuning fork entitled “Clang Tone”. Following Mark’s death his partner Stephen donated the sculpture to Michigan State University, and it can be seen there today.

Mark and Stephen were both avid collectors. Steve had collected lgbt literature since the 1970s. Mark collected anything from cook books to t-shirts and, of course, flags. Over 2,000 items from their collections were selected by the couple which they donated with a cash endowment to Michigan State University. The collection of literature alone provides an unbroken chronicle of gay literature from its rise in the 1970s in small independent bookstores located in “gay villages” to mainstream publishers and multi-national bookstores of today.

It was during his illness that Mark left his mark in vexillological history. As a proud out gay man he had paraded in Pride marches with a flag held high. Like the majority of we vexillologists Mark was a knowledgeable enthusiastic amateur. That is not to say that we have no academic discipline. There are very few full-time paid vexillologists.

Mark was a member of the North American Vexillilogical Association (NAVA) from 1986. NAVA published a book of US city flags in 2005. When they began compiling a follow-up book of Canadian city flags Mark Ritzenhein jumped at the chance to, as he put it himself, make “…his first – and likely last – scholarly contribution to vexillology”. He knew he was dying and threw his enthusiasm for flags into researching some of the most obscure municipal flags from some of Canada’s remotest communities. While not all have any official status as cities these communities are the largest in the terrority.

The editor of “Canadian City Flags”, Edward Kaye, remarked that the flags from the five largest communities in the territory of Nunavut were perhaps the most difficult to research. Kaye also remarked that of the nine contributors to the book Mark delivered his before the others.

On the accompanying map you can see the locations and flags of the five “cities” Mark researched. On a purely vexillological note you may notice that all five flags take the Canadian pale as their basis (pale is the heraldic term for a vertical stripe), made famous by the Canadian national flag. Canadian pale has become an official term in both vexillology and heraldry for a central stripe that is twice the width of one on either side.

Mark’s research gathered together information from many sources and uncovered details about the emblems, designers and histories. Together with historical flags used by the five cities Mark’s research provides the first major study of Inuit flags in the world. You can read his research for yourself, for “Canadian City Flags” is available from Amazon, etc.

Fortunately, Mark was able to see his research in print, and can be rightly proud to have called himself a “proper vexillologist” and flag expert.

Mark succumbed to his illness on 6th July 2013, content in the knowledge that he had been able to say his goodbyes and establish a legacy for future generations.


Thursday, 14 June 2018

Around the World In Another 80 Gays: Part 18) Songs of Love in War

Previously : 36) Georgina Beyer (b.1957) was the first openly transgender member of a national parliament, that of New Zealand, a nation in which Maori gender identities have been studied by her former teacher 37) Clive Aspin, a traditional legend of same-sex relationships appears in the story of Hinemoa and 38) Tutanekai.

The story of Hinemoa and 38) Tutanekai has been handed down from generation to generation. It was first put into print in the 19th century.

While the love story follows a typical heterosexual course there is the added element of another love story, that of Tutanekai and his friend Tiki. Throughout the oral history of the story Tutanekai and Tiki are called “takatapui”, the word often still used in the lgbt community in New Zealand and which originally meant an intimate companion of the same sex.

Tutanekai was the illegitimate son of a chief and raised in the tribal homeland on the small island of Mokoia in the middle of Lake Rotorua. The lake itself was formed in the crater of an old volcano, which means there are hot springs dotted around the island.
Tiki was a member of the same tribe and formed an intimate friendship with Tutanekai in their childhood. Both were very musical and they made traditional flute instruments to play. Tutanekai’s flute had a special significance for him because it was made from the leg bone of the Maori spiritual leader who had “baptised” him as an infant. Unfortunately, the spiritual leader broke a sacred tribal tradition shortly afterwards and was executed.  Legend says that this gave the flute an extra resonance which other flutes didn’t have. Its ethereal sound was carried further than other flutes.

Tiki played a smaller, ordinary flute and the two friends would sit on a little platform on the shores of Mokoia in the evening and play music together.

Over on the mainland on the south shore of Lake Rotorua lived another tribe. Among the tribal leader’s family was a beautiful young woman called Hinemoa. Every night when Tutanekai and Tiki were playing their music Hinemoa sat on the shore outside her village and listened, captivated by the almost magical sound.

Hinemoa knew who was playing the music. She and Tutanekai had attended tribal gatherings and had admired each other’s beauty from afar but they couldn’t bring themselves to approach each other to discover if that love was mutual. Hinemoa’s father, the chief, was aware of her growing love for Tutanekai but had resolved to keep the two apart because even though Tutanekai was the son of a chief he was illegitimate and not considered to be of lower social rank than his daughter. He ordered that all the canoes be hidden at night to ensure that she could not paddle across to Mokoia. After many days Hinemoa decided the only option was to swim to the island.

After an arduous swim across Lake Rotorua in the dead of night, with only the sound of Tutanekai playing his flute for guidance, Hinemoa arrived at the island. When she reached the shore she refreshed herself in one of the hot springs.

At about this time Tutanekai had become thirsty through playing his music and he sent a servant to fetch some water from the hot spring. It so happened that the servant went to the same spring where Hinemoa was bathing. She hid when the servant arrived to fill a hollow gourd with water. The servant suspected someone was there and called out. Hinemoa replied, in a deep voice and hiding in the shadows to disguise she was a woman, “Who is the water for?” “Tutanekai”, said the servant. “Let me taste it before you take it to him”, said Hinemoa and she took a swig of water and smashed the gourd on the rocks.

The servant was rather taken aback by this. He went back to Tutanekai and told him what happened. Tutanekai sent the servant back for some more water with another gourd, and Hinemoa did the same thing – twice. Tutanekai was very annoyed by now and stormed down to the spring.

After a few minutes of “hide and seek” Tutanekai realised that the mysterious person as the spring was Hinemoa and the two rejoiced that they were together at last. Tutanekai took Hinemoa back to his house, and his bed, and it was there that the two were discovered the following morning. Tribal law decreed that they had now become man and wife.

As for Tiki this was sad news. When Tutanekai brought Hinemoa home he left them in peace. Now that he was married Tiki would see very little of his intimate friend and became depressed. Tutanekai was also unhappy for his friend and came up with a solution. Tiki married Tutanekai’s sister and was brought into the family home. And so there was a happy ending all round.

This legend of Hinemoa and Tutanekai, not to mention Tiki, is well enough known in New Zealand for it to be turned into dance, song, play, movie and art. One song in particular has been adapted to allude to the story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai and was sung by a very unusual choir in 2013. When the New Zealand parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage the assembled politicians broke spontaneously into song, and the song they sang was “Pokarekare Ana”. Here’s a video of the occasion:
The song has been adapted many times. The first verse translates into English as “They are agitated, the waters of Waiapu, but when you cross over girl, they will be calm”. The name of a stretch of water is changed by the singer to suit the occasion and location. When changed to Rotorua the love song becomes a reference to Hinemoa and Tutanekai.

“Pokarekare Ana” originates in its present format a century ago as a popular song sung by Maori soldiers leaving New Zealand to fight in Europe during World War I. As such it was also reminiscent in the sentiment of being reunited with a loved one to another popular song sung by troops in World War I, “Keep the Home Fires Burning”, written by 39) Ivor Novello (1893-1951).

Next time: Tarzan speaks and Mexico revolts.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Heraldic Alphabet 2018

Happy International Heraldry Day. This is my fifth Heraldic Alphabet in which I display coats of arms of lgbt armigers (a person who has a coat of arms). As my intention is to stop this blog (in its current format) at the end of the year this may be the last alphabet so I’ve written a brief explanation for each coat of arms as a bonus.

Thanks to the encouragement of people who read last year’s list I can provide the most complete alphabet since 2015. I have enjoyed researching and compiling these alphabets.

Again, I’ve tried to produce a varied mixture of arms. They cover over 700 years and go all around the world, though I am disappointed that I’ve not been able to include armigers of more varied ethnic backgrounds.

In English and Scottish heraldry unmarried women display their arms on a lozenge. Here I’ve shown them on shields for aesthetic purposes.

Several terms I use are:
Assumed – arms adopted officially.
Family arms – arms of the head of the family. Each family member should add a cadency mark to show which son or daughter they are (i.e. eldest, second, third, etc.). In England they don’t need to register their cadenced arms, and women need only show their father’s cadency. In Scotland each family member must matriculate a new coat of arms based on their father’s.
Impaled – two coats of arms placed side by side on one shield. A method of displaying the arms of a married couple or someone’s arms of office (e.g a bishop or mayor).
Matriculate – to officially register a coat of arms, principally applicable in Scotland.
A) Charles Adams (1770-1800); arms inherited from his father, US President John Adams, who assumed them in 1783. The President believed that English heraldic rules didn’t apply in the US after independence and, because his father’s family had no coat of arms, Adams assumed those of his mother’s, to which he added a fleur-de-lys and lions to the black discs.

B) Mary Blathwayt (1879-1961), suffragette; family arms bearing the cadency mark of a third son (star) as borne by her grandfather. The family arms were first recorded in 1690 for Mary’s ancestor William Blathwayt, MP.

C) Olive Custance (1874-1944), poet; inherited family arms, probably first used by her ancestor Hambleton Custance (d.1757). After several lesbian affairs Olive married Lord Alfred Douglas, Oscar Wilde’s old boyfriend, after which she could display her arms on a small shield in the middle of his (as her father’s only child and heraldic heir). Their children could, consequently, place the Custance arms as a quarter on their arms.

D) Natalie de Clare, Countess of Markland (b.1975); personal arms registered by the South African Bureau of Heraldry in 2016. The design incorporates the red chevrons of the medieval de Clare family from whom the countess descends.

E) Nicholas Eden, 2nd Earl of Avon (1930-1985), government minister; family arms inherited from his father, former Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden, 1st Earl of Avon. These arms have been used by the Eden family since the 1600s.

F) Marsilio Ficino (1433-1499), philosopher; probably assumed arms. I’ve only recently begun to research these arms. Ficino drew them on a manuscript dated 1455. The arms of his pupil’s family, Francesco Cattari da Diaceto, differ only in the substitution of a white stripe for the sword. It is unclear if Ficino assumed his similar design as the Cattari family or was influenced by it.
 G) Lady Anne Gordon (b.1988), daughter of the Marquess of Aberdeen; family arms of her father and direct male ancestors back to the 17th century. Being Scottish arms Lady Anne would need to matriculate her own distinctive version.

H) Jennifer Hilton, Baroness Hilton of Eggardon (b.1936); personal grant. See here.

I) Sir Charles Irving (1924-1996), MP; arms of office, being those of the borough of Cheltenham granted by the College of Arms in 1877. Sir Charles could assume these arms during his two terms of office as mayor. He was granted personal arms in 1991 which I have not yet researched.

J) Greville Janner, Baron Janner of Braunstone (1928-2015), ex-MP; personal arms granted by the College of Arms in 1997. Green and red represent the Houses of Commons and Lords respectively.

K) Capt. Martin Oranmore Kirwan (1847-1904), 5th Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers; inherited family arms, Capt. Kirwan was heir to Cregg Castle, Co. Galway.

L) Most Rev. Roger LaRade, Primate Archbishop of the Eucharistic Catholic Church (ECC) in Canada; personal arms of office as authorised by the ECC. The arms of the ECC appear at the top of the shield. The Archbishop’s personal arms, assumed following his appointment as archbishop in 2005, are beneath.
M) Violet Martin (1862-1915), writer; inherited family arms. The date of origin is uncertain, but Dublin Castle archives record the family legend of Richard the Lionheart granting these arms in the 1190s to the Crusader knight Sir Oliver Martin, the supposed ancestor of the family. The arms were later confirmed to the family by the Office of Ulster King of Arms.

N) Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), scientist; inherited family arms, originally assumed, with permission given by the College of Arms in 1634. They were used by various Newton families since the 15th century.

O) Charles George Oates (1844-1902), barrister; personal arms, being the inherited family arms of his father with Charles’ cadency mark as a third surviving son (a star).

P) Richard PĆ¼ller von Hohenburg (d.1482), knight (to be featured in a future “80 Gays” article); inherited family arms, used by his paternal ancestors since before 1300.

Q) Lt. Cmdr. Michael J. Quigley (b.1970), US Navy, Counter-terrorism officer; personal honorary grant from the College of Arms in 2012. Based on the arms of the Quigleys of County Donegal.

R) Hon. Nancy Ruth (b.1942), Canadian Senator 2005-17; inherited family arms, being those granted by the College of Arms to her father in 1955.

S) Winnaretta Singer, Princess Edmond de Polignac (1865-1943), marital arms, being those of her husband Prince Edmond. The quarters represent the families of de Polignac (top left), Parkyns of Bunny Hall Nottinghamshire (top right, bottom left), and Middlemore of Lusby (bottom right).

T) Jaci Taylor (b.1945), Mayor of Aberystwyth 2000-1; arms of office, being the arms granted to the borough of Aberystwyth by the College of Arms in 1961 and transferred to the town council in 1975. Jaci could assume these arms during her term of office.

V) Ole von Beust (b.1955), President of the German Bundesrat 2007-8 (to be featured in a future “80 Gays” article); inherited family arms dating from before 1300.

W) Horace Walpole (1717-1797), writer, 4th Earl of Orford; inherited family arms. Until he inherited the title in 1791 Horace would have used his cadency mark of a third son (a star). Walpole featured in an “80 Gays” article earlier this year.

Y) Will Young (b.1979), singer and actor; family arms as suggested by Jeffrey Poole in “An Illustrated General Armory of South Australia”. Poole lists these arms as those of Sir Henry Young (1803-1870), Governor of Tasmania, Will’s ancestor. They are also the arms of the baronets of North Dean, Buckinghamshire, though I have yet to establish a precise family relationship.

Z) St. Zosima of Siberia (1767-1833), monk and Russian Orthodox saint; probable inherited family arms, being those of the family of Verkhovsky of Kostroma in Russia to which the saint belonged.