Sunday, November 25, 2018

Red Hair, Leprosy and a Russian Icon

First up, I came across the following image depicting a red-haired Saint George slaying a dragon. It's a Russian icon said to be from the 15th century. I've came across a few versions of the image online, all showing slightly differing colouration. As ever it can be difficult to discern whether online reproductions convey the colouring correctly. Or indeed if the actual painting itself has not lost some of its lustre over the ages. So whether the painter intended to depict a redhead is unclear. Either way it's quite a beautiful image well worth sharing.

(Saint George and the Dragon - Russian icon)

I've also recently been trying to find further information relating to red hair and leprosy. Not a nice association to make, but something that's piqued my curiosity ever since I came across a text suggesting that Indian Muslims once believed redheads to be leprous. In my book I briefly mentioned this, along with the fact that I'd failed to find any further information. So this is a nice little follow up.

In the book I wrote;
Baldwin IV, King of Jerusalem was red-haired too. He was described as "a blue-eyed, freckled, leprous evil-doer." Curiously there is, or was, a train of thought in some parts of the world that actually linked red hair with leprosy. In a 1662 book I came across by the German scholar Adam Olearius titled The Voyages & Travels of the Ambassadors (translated into English by John Davies) it states that Indian Muslims "love not flaxen or fair hair'd people, and have an aversion for such as are red hair'd, out of an opinion they have, that they are Leprous." It would be interesting to pursue this line of enquiry further, but so far I've only found the odd link here and there.
So this is what I've found recently.

The following passage is from a journal published in 1864. It's doubly interesting as it also speaks of leprosy in relation to Jewish people, and as has often been mentioned on here, there often seem to be links and overlaps in history between Jews and red hair.
"In that region leprosy has always prevailed; and an ancient scandal, refuted by Josephus, affirms that the Jews were driven out of Egypt because they were lepers. The Egyptians, says a lively writer, were singular in their choice of a king. They did not require him to be virtuous, but they would not tolerate a candidate with red hair, because there was some connection in their minds between men of that complexion and the leprosy!"
This apparent association made between red hair and leprosy seems quite odd. I can only think that perhaps the pale skin of redheads was somewhat reminiscent of the discolouration of the skin that sometimes accompanies leprosy. Perhaps people native to the Middle East were so unfamiliar with redheads at that time that they just assumed that any they came across were victims of disease or disfigurement in some way. Though I'm completely guessing here.

In fact, having quickly read the Wikipedia page for leprosy to get an overview I can't help but think that once again the history is quite confused. Perhaps the label "leper" became a catchall term for many different afflictions throughout the ages. The fact that it also tends to afflict people in poverty more so than people in affluence makes me wonder if even the science is worthy of a re-look. Perhaps a topic for further investigation.

My next find comes from another 19th century work. This one tilted Melchizedek to Zachariah by the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould. He first mentions the red hair that King David was said to have, then further down the page mentions how David was said to possess the power to inflict leprosy on others;
The Jewish authors relate, as do the Mussulman historians, that David had red hair. In Jalkut (1 Sam. xvi. 12) it is said, "Samuel sent, and made David come before him, and he had red hair;" and again in Bereschith Rabba, 'When Samuel saw that David had red hair, he feared and said, He will shed blood as did Esau. But the ever-blessed God said, This man will shed it with unimpassioned eyes - this did not Esau...
...David was gifted with the evil eye, and was able to give the leprosy by turning a malignant glance upon any man. "When it is written, 'The Philistine cursed David by his gods,' David looked at him with the evil eye. For whoever was looked upon by him with the evil eye became leprous as Joab knew to his cost, for after David had cast the evil glance on him, it is said, 'Let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper'.
The same befell the Philistine when he cursed David. David then threw on him the malignant glance, and fixed it on his brow, that he might at once become leprous; and at the same moment the stone and the leprosy struck him."
But David was himself afflicted for six months with this loathsome malady, and it is in reference to this that he says, "Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
The idea that David could inflict leprosy on people with the "evil eye" reminds me, in a reverse kind of way, of Christ's ability to heal people. Both are powers over a person's health that perhaps rely on faith and belief. I wonder if these powers are similar in some sense to the placebo (or nocebo) effect. The power of positive/negative thinking seems to be a very real thing - whether you look at it from a religious or a rationalist point of view. It's certainly quite a curious and perhaps beneficial thing to look into I think.

Coincidentally, I also recently watched a video where the illusionist Derren Brown speaks of his experiences of this. He comes at it from a purely atheistic view. So it's interesting that he seems to be approaching a similar conclusion regarding faith and belief to that of more religiously inclined thinkers. It has very little to do with red hair, but offers some fascinating insights :)


Hopefully I'll be returning to the topic of red hair and leprosy in the future when I find further examples to share.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Red-Haired Jesus ..and Red-Haired Judas

I recently came across the following image which depicts the child Jesus being carried across the waters by Saint Christopher. In it Jesus is depicted with soft reddish hair. He's also carrying a globus cruciger, or orb and cross. It's quite notable as the orb looks markedly Earth-like. It's generally stated that the orb was said to represent the globe-shaped Earth, however this seems like the best example of that idea that's I've came across so far. The image is said to date from the 17th century, and is from the parish of Almenno San Salvatore in Italy.

(Saint Christopher bearing
the child Jesus on his shoulders)

(In detail, showing the globus cruciger)

It's also perhaps worth taking a brief look at Saint Christopher himself. His name is said to mean "Christ bearer", as in popular legend he was said to have carried the child Jesus across a raging river. What has always struck me is how similar the name Christ is to the word crossed. Of course, Jesus was famously said to have been crucified on a cross - and to have carried this cross prior to the crucifixion. Hence the phrase "a cross to bear". So I wonder if Christopher could in some sense also simply mean "cross bearer". Christopher also sounds a little like "crossed over". So also fits in with the idea of river crossings.

Saint Christopher is patron saint of travellers. The Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias famously sailed around the tip of Africa for the first time in a boat named São Cristóvão, meaning Saint Christopher. Likewise, Saint Christopher's namesake Christopher Columbus was said to be the first European to discover the Americas. However, since the name Columbus means "dove" it could be said that his name translates as "Dove of Christ" or perhaps even "dove crossing over". So I wonder how much of all this is literal history and how much is purely symbolic allegory.

The Portuguese were also said to have discovered the Americas independently. Though in their case it was an accidental discovery, as opposed to the more deliberate voyage taken by Columbus in search of the East. The Portuguese were gradually exploring the west coast of Africa and the various Atlantic islands, so it would perhaps makes sense that through a stray voyage they would alight upon the east coast of Brazil. So I wonder if the supposed Spanish discovery by Columbus is a re-writing of history in some sense.

In other news..

I also came across the following French quote, originally from a work titled Histoire des Perruques (or The History of Wigs) by the 17th century French theologian Jean-Baptiste Thiers.

(The quote in question)
"Les rousseaux portèrent des perruques, pour cacher la couleur de leurs cheveux, qui sont en horreur à tout le monde, parce que Judas à ce qu'on prétend, étoit rousseau."

It loosely translates as; the redheads wore wigs, to hide the colour of their hair, which was abhorred by the whole world, as Judas was said to be red-haired.

It's an interesting quote as not only does it reinforce the idea that Judas was associated with red hair, but it also tells us that redheads actively hid the colour of their hair under wigs. I guess in a similar way to how redheads today may dye their hair blond or dark.

Thanks to the same source text on Google Books I also discovered that the term crine ruber - Latin for red-haired - was used an insult. Which is something perhaps worth remembering when further investigating things.

(Crine ruber, meaning "red-haired")

Finally, I also came across the following book online which is well worth mentioning as it seems to be jammed full of interesting information relating to red hair, amongst other things. I've just skimmed through it so far, but really look forward to reading it over the next week or so.

The Naming of Russia - by Håkon Stang

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Red-haired firsts and founders, 2nd part (51 - 100)

While working at our partner blog Famous Redheads in History I couldn’t help but notice the great number of “firsts” and “founders” among our famous redheads. Here’s the list from 51 to 100. For the first part, see here.




51) James VI and I of England and Scotland: first Stuart to become king of England.

52) Archduchess Magdalena of Austria:  founder and first abbess of the convent in Hall in Tirol.


53) Eglantyne Jebb: founder of Save the Children.

54) Ronald A. Fisher: he is described as the founder of modern statistical science.

55) Jesse White Mario: first woman journalist in England.

56) David M. Ogilvy:  founder of Ogilvy & Mather and known as the father of advertising.

57) Jacopo Peri: he is considered the inventor of opera.

58) Eleonora Gonzaga the Younger: she founded a literay academy and established two female orders: the Order of Virtuosity (1662) and the Order of the Starrry Cross (1668).

59) Cyrus West Field: along with other entrepreneurs, he created the Atlantic Telegraph Company and laid the first telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean in 1858.

60) Horace Wells: American dentist who pioneered the use of anesthesia in dentistry, specifically nitrous oxide.




61) Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Yusuf ibn Nasr: first ruler of the Emirate of Granada, the last independent Muslim state on the Iberian Peninsula, and the founder of its ruling Nasrid dynasty.

62) Sir Robert Peel: he is regarded as the father of modern British policing and as one of the founders of the modern Conservative Party.

63) Edmund Burke: in the twentieth century he became widely regarded as the philosophical founder of modern conservatism.

64) Louisa Adams: she is the first First Lady to be born outside the United States, a distinction that would not be replicated until 192 years later by Melania Trump.

65) James I the Conqueror, King of Aragon: his reign has been the longest of any Iberian monarch.

66) Finnan McDonald: he is considered by many to be the "Father" of the Idaho Territories, as he was the first white man to build a dwelling there.

67) George Moorehe is as often regarded as the first great modern Irish novelist.


68) Praskovia Kovalyova: Russian serf actress. Her most important role was Eliane in Grétry's opera Les Mariages samnites. Assuming the part for the first time in 1785, Praskovia sang Eliane for 12 years — a first in the history of serf theatre.

69) Catherine II of Russia: Empress of Russia from 1762 until 1796, the country's longest-ruling female leader.

70) Elisabeth of Bavaria: she was the longest serving Empress of Austria at 44 years.

71) Otto von Bismarck: he was the first Chancellor of the German Empire between 1871 and 1890. He also created the first welfare state in the modern world.

72) Lillie Langtry: she is regarded as the first pin-up.

73) Nellie Bly: American journalist who was widely known for her record-breaking trip around the world in 72 days and an exposé in which she worked undercover to report on a mental institution from within. She was a pioneer in her field, and launched a new kind of investigative journalism.


74) Billy Wilder: with The Apartment, Wilder became the first person to win Academy Awards as producer, director, and screenwriter for the same film.

75) Katharine Hepburn: she received four Academy Awards—a record for any performer—for Best Actress.

76) Janet Gaynor: she won the first Academy Award for Best Actress in 1929. At 22, she was also the youngest to receive the award until 1986, when deaf actress Marlee Matlin, 21, won for her role in Children of a Lesser God.

77) James Mayer de Rothschild: founder of the French branch of the Rothschild bank.

78) Myrna Loy: in 1991 Myrna Loy became the first actress (the second being Maureen O’Hara) to receive an Honorary Oscar without having previously been nominated for an Oscar in a competitive category.

79) F. W. Murnau: his film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927, starring George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, and Margaret Livingston) won the Academy Award for Unique and Artistic Production in 1929, during the first Academy Awards ceremony. The film is considered one of the greatest of all time.

80) Frank Borzage: his film 7th Heaven (1927, starring Janet Gaynor) won the first Academy Award for Best Director.


81) Greer Garson: she is the only actress to have received five consecutive Academy Award nominations for acting, all in Best Actress category (1940 - 1945), winning the award for Mrs. Miniver (1942).

82) Josiah Royce: founder of American idealism.

83) Madeleine Béjart: co-founder (along with Moliére) of the Illustre Théatre, of which she was co-director.

84) James Webb: is described as "the first systematic biographical account by a writer who hadn't known Gurdjieff personally".

86) Agatha Christie: Guinness World Records lists Christie as the best-selling novelist of all time. Her novels have sold roughly 2 billion copies, and her estate claims that her works come third in the rankings of the world's most-widely published books, behind only Shakespeare's works and the Bible. According to Index Translationum, she remains the most-translated individual author, having been translated into at least 103 languages.
And Then There Were None is Christie's best-selling novel, with 100 million sales to date, making it the world's best-selling mystery ever, and one of the best-selling books of all time. Christie's stage play The Mousetrap holds the world record for longest initial run. It opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End on 25 November 1952, and as of September 2018 is still running after more than 27,000 performances.
In 1955, Christie was the first recipient of the Mystery Writers of America's highest honour, the Grand Master Award. In 2013, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was voted the best crime novel ever by 600 fellow writers of the Crime Writers' Association. She was also the first British woman surfing standing up, in Waikiki (Hawaii) in 1922. She is the only mystery writer to be promoted Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire only for her literary works.

87) Jacob Tonson: founder of the Kit-Cat Club.


88) Suzy Parker: in 1956, she became the first model to earn $100,000 per year ($902,000 today).

89) Darlene Conley: Darlene's character Sally (from The Bold and the Beautiful) is the only soap opera character to be displayed at Madame Tussaud's wax figures galleries in Amsterdam and Las Vegas.

90) Juliet Prowse: she was the first guest to appear on an episode of The Muppet Show.