Friday, April 11, 2003

What is the best way to add footnotes to an essay on the web? Make a footnote a link like this (1) but you slip get back. Perhaps javascript can help. I am playing with using alerts which can be activated by clicking on a [NOTE] and made to go away again just as fast. I wonder if this works on Netscape as apparantly the javascript on the Great Library essay does not. I am using the alert method on an essay on Witch trials and then will try and put the big Alexandria essay on line as well.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

My PhD subject looks like it will be on science around 1500 rather than the fourteenth century where my studies have been concentrated until now. This is quite exciting as it means I can also get involved in humanism and figures like St Thomas More and Erasmus. But it is a fact that renaissance history does seem to be a different kettle of fish to medieval studies although I think this is largely artificial. The idea that we can split history into these eras is pretty daft anyway especially since people seem to see renaissance man as somehow rational and like us, while medieval man was stuck in the dark ages. But the fact is that much of what we think of as 'medieval' like witch trials, the Inquisition, religious wars et al were far more in evidence in the renaissance and early modern period than the middle ages. The seventeenth century must rank as the most religious of them all (at least if you were a Christian). So, just as I am trying to use methods where ever I can find them, it is perhaps a good idea not to allow myself to be stuck as a 'medievalist' if that looks like excluding lots of other interesting stuff.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

The notorious book, the Jesus Mysteries, has an amulet on the front that shows a crucified man and is labelled Bacchus. The authors claim this shows that Jesus was derived from Bacchus which we can of course discount. But the question remains, what is this amulet and why does it show a pagan god on a Christian symbol? I found the answer in Richard Kieckhefer's "Magic in the Middle Ages" (CUP) where he discusses these charms and shows illustrations of a couple from the British Museum. One features a picture of Jesus on the cross (but this time actually labelled as Jesus) with a woman at prayer at his foot. All very Christian, except that on the reverse are magical incantations. What is happening here is that any symbol believed to have supernatural power is being co-opted by magic users to try to use it for their own purposes. Pagans as well as Christians were deeply suspicious of this kind of thing and the charms and gems were not part of mainstream pagan religion (or even the mystery religions). So we find Christian and pagan symbols being mixed and matched to try and maximise the efficiency of the magic being attempted. The amulet on the cover of the Jesus Mysteries is an interesting example of this rather than the earth shattering piece of evidence the authors take it for. Besides, the British Museum's amulet labelled Jesus is earlier still (3rd century) and, as far as I know, the earliest representation of Jesus being crucified that we possess.