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This is a detail of the edge of a silver plate from the Achaemenid Empire (c. 550–330 BC) at the current Sackler show "Feast Your Eyes: A Taste for Luxury in Ancient Iran." The text at the bottom is in Old Persian, a late form of Babylonian Cuneiform.

This was the empire of Darius and Xerxes. The Cuneiform text for the Persian Empire is new to me.

I call this digital photo, taken in February 2012:

"Cuneiform."

For readers of the Bible, anything to do with Babylon has negative connotations. However, the Persian conquerors of ancient Babylon released the Jews of the Old Testament from their Babylonian captivity.

I am also intrigued by the lingua franca of the Achaemenid Empire - Aramaic; - this was the language of Jesus Christ.

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(March 6, 2012) According to the descriptive caption this is a Phiale from the 5th century BC; a shallow drinking vessel with a raised center. It is 1 of 4 known examples inscribed in Old Persian with the name of King Artaxeres (465-425 BC.) The inscription is translated as:

"Artaxeres, the great king, king of kings, king of countries, son of Xeres the king, [who was] son of Darius the king, the Achamenian, in whose house this silver drinking cup was made ... "

The authenticity of the 4 inscriptions has occasionally been called into question since they were published in the 1930's.

cuneiform Persian plate


230.

This is a silver and gilt Winehorn or Rhyton capped with the head of a gazelle at the Ancient Iran show.

4th century AD, Sassanian Dynasty, with details of a bull and a resting antelope.

I call this digital photo, also taken in February 2012:

"Winehorn."

Many of the artifacts in this show display a Dionysus motif. The cult of Dionysus seems to have been a popular Greek import in ancient Iran.

According to the descriptive caption winehorns were originally called Palosh, later Shakh (horn), Shakh-i-bade (wine horn). Knowledge of their use is limited, but they have been found distributed over a wide geographical area - from Georgia and Armenia all the way to Tibet:

(March 13, 2012)

" ... Among the most remarkable Parthian ceremonial objects are wine horns, originally know as Palosh, and later as Shakh (horn) and Shakh-i-bade (wine horn). Usually made of gilt silver, these vessels terminate in protome, the forepart of an animal, that resembles a bull, lion, gazelle, horse or lynx. The addition of a short spout projecting from the chest or mouth suggests such horns were originally used in rituals of animal sacrifice and blood libation. Wine horns may have been included in special royal ceremonies, such as the Persian New Year celebration of Nowruz marking the vernal equinox (March 21)

Unfortunately, only a few wine horns have been recovered from controlled excavations and therefore knowledge of their use and function is rather limited. The distribution over a wide geographic area - from Georgia and Armenia in the west to Afghanistan and Tibet in the east attests to the popularity of this type of drinking vessel ..."

" ... The tradition of creating elaborate wine horns continued into the Sasanian period, but few of the vessels have survived. This extraordinary example with a protome (forepart) in the shape of a gazelle is decorated with an unusual scene: a bull and resting antelope flank one side of a tree and a roaming lion and a seated antelope appear on the other side. While the precise meaning of the imagery is unclear the meticulous design and fine quality of the wine horn suggest it was created in a royal workshop. Similar drinking horns have been found as far away as China, where the shape was emulated by Chinese artists during the Tang dynasty (618-906) [AD]."

Sackler Museum, Feast Your Eyes: A Taste for Luxury in Ancient Iran.

***

(March 13, 2012) Part of the resonance of these drinking vessels, for me, may be due to their similarity with Holy Grail iconography. The grail has sometimes been described as a shallow drinking vessel - usually silver. (Also, in the christian eucharist wine is turned into the blood of christ. )

For a broad overview of Grail mythology see: "The discovery of the Grail," (1998) by Andrew Sinclair.

(October 10, 2012) Also see: "The Grail Legend," (1960) by Emma Jung and Marie-Louise von Franz.

***

The link with the Tang dynasty is probably not tenuous. According to the Wikipedia Sassanian article, the Tang dynasty claimed Sassanian roots. (As do some Pakistani gentry. For example, one of the founders of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, claimed to be of Sassanian descent.)

 

***

(January 29, 2016) The primary source of Holy Grail mythology is Chrétien’s Perceval (1180). According to Wikipedia: " ... ... Chrétien’s Perceval (1180) is the first piece of work that mentions the Fisher King. In this work, Percival encounters a man and his servant fishing on a lake. These two individuals have a short conversation with Percival, which ends with them directing Percival to the Grail Castle. Upon entry, Percival sees a beautiful castle and is surprised when he discovers that the Fisher King is the one to welcome him in. After entering, Percival is given a sword by the Fisher King, who then celebrates Percival's arrival with a huge feast. During the feast, at the beginning of every course, a procession containing a candelabrum, a bleeding lance, and a grail are all brought through the dining hall. Percival watches the objects go by and fails to ask the Fisher King about each procession. After the feast ends, Percival retires to his room, and once awake from slumber, discovers that the castle is in ruin and everyone gone. Over time Percival discovers that the failure to ask about the procession causes the Fisher King’s wound to remain unhealed. Unfortunately the story ends here, since Chrétien died before the story's completion. Perceval contains the first mention of the Fisher King as the wounded guardian of the grail. The story does not explain the cause of the wound, and only states its location is in the thigh area. The only cure for the injury is Percival asking the Fisher king the healing question, although that event never occurs in the original story. ..." Wikipedia

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In medieval folklore, the bleeding lance became associated with a black African Roman soldier - St Maurice of the Theban Legion.

***

According to Wikipedia: " ... ... Maurice is traditionally depicted in full armor, in Italy emblasoned with a red cross. In folk culture he has become connected with the legend of the Spear of Destiny, which he is supposed to have carried into battle; his name is engraved on the Holy Lance of Vienna, one of several relics claimed as the spear that pierced Jesus' side on the cross. ... "

Furthermore : " ... ... According to the hagiographical material, Maurice was born in AD 250 in Thebes, an ancient city in Egypt near the site of the 20th-century Aswan Dam. He was brought up in the region of Thebes (Luxor—Egypt) and became a soldier in the Roman army. He was gradually promoted until he became the leader of the Theban legion, formed of 6600 soldiers. Maurice was an acknowledged Christian at a time when the Church was considered to be a threat to the Roman Empire. Yet, he moved easily within the pagan society of his day

The legion, entirely composed of Christians, had been called from Thebes in Egypt to Gaul to assist Maximian to defeat a revolt by the bagaudae. The Theban Legion was dispatched with orders to clear the St. Bernard Pass across Mt. Blanc. Before going into battle, they were instructed to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods and pay homage to the emperor. Maurice pledged his men’s military allegiance to Rome. He stated that service to God superseded all else. To engage in wanton slaughter was inconceivable to Christian soldiers he said. He and his men refused to worship Roman gods.

However, when Maximian ordered them to harass some local Christians, they refused. Ordering the unit to be punished, Maximian had every tenth soldier killed, a military punishment known as decimation. More orders followed, the men refused as encouraged by Maurice, and a second decimation was ordered. In response to the Theban Christians' refusal to attack fellow Christians, Maximian ordered all the remaining members of the 6,600 unit to be executed. The place in Switzerland where this occurred, known as Agaunum, is now named Saint Maurice-en-Valais, site of the Abbey of Saint Maurice-en-Valais. ..." Wikipedia

Addditionally, " ... ... Because of his name and native land, St. Maurice had been portrayed as black ever since the 12th century. The oldest surviving image that depicts Saint Maurice as a Black African in knight's armour was sculpted in mid 13th century for the Cathedral of Magdeburg; there it is displayed next to the grave of Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor. Jean Devisse, The Image of the Black in Western Art, laid out the documentary sources for the saint's popularity and documented it with illustrative examples. When the new cathedral was built under Archbishop Albert II of Käfernberg (served 1205-32), a relic said to be the head of Maurice was procured from the Holy Land.

The image of Saint Maurice has been examined in detail by Gude Suckale-Redlefsen,who demonstrated that this image of Maurice has existed since Maurice's first depiction in Germany between the Weser and the Elbe, and spread to Bohemia, where it became associated with the imperial ambitions of the House of Luxembourg. According to Suckale-Redlefsen, the image of Maurice reached its apogee during the years 1490 to 1530. Images of the saint died out in the mid-sixteenth century, undermined, Suckale-Redlefsen suggests, by the developing African slave trade. "Once again, as in the early Middle Ages, the color black had become associated with spiritual darkness and cultural 'otherness'". There is an oil on wood painting of Saint Maurice by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. ... " Wikipedia

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The Swiss ski resort St. Moritz is named after St. Maurice of the Theban Legion.

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One of the relics thought to be the bleeding lance from Parceval is the Holy Lance of Vienna, or the lance of Saint Maurice, displayed in the Imperial Treasury at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. To my eyes it looks like a Maasai spear-head and given the African mythology associated with the lance of Maurice, it probably is an ancient Maasai artefact. Luxor or Thebes during St. Maurice' s day was probably still black African despite the Persian, then Greek, then Roman invasions of Egypt. (Photo of me with a Maasai Lance.)

***

According the Wikipedia: " ... ... The "Spear of Destiny" is a name given to the Holy Lance in various accounts that attribute mystical powers to it. Many of these have originated in recent times, and several popular New Age and conspiracy theory books have popularized the legend of the Spear.

Trevor Ravenscroft's 1973 book, The Spear of Destiny (as well as a later book, The Mark of the Beast), claims that Adolf Hitler started World War II in order to capture the spear, with which he was obsessed. At the end of the war the spear came into the hands of US General George S. Patton. According to legend, losing the spear would result in death, and that was fulfilled when Hitler committed suicide and Patton died in a car accident in an army camp.

Ravenscroft repeatedly attempted to define the mysterious "powers" that the legend says the spear serves. He found it to be a hostile and evil spirit, which he sometimes referred to as the Antichrist, though that is open to interpretation. He never actually referred to the spear as spiritually controlled, but rather as intertwined with all of mankind's ambitions. ... " Wikipedia

***

For more detail on the Holy Lance of Vienna, or the lance of Saint Maurice, see Wikipedia: " ...

... The Holy Lance in Vienna is displayed in the Imperial Treasury or Weltliche Schatzkammer (lit. Secular Treasure Room) at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. In the tenth century, the Holy Roman Emperors came into possession of the lance, according to sources from the time of Otto I (912–973). In 1000, Otto III gave Boleslaw I of Poland a replica of the Holy Lance at the Congress of Gniezno. In 1084, Henry IV had a silver band with the inscription "Nail of Our Lord" added to it. This was based on the belief that this was the lance of Constantine the Great which enshrined a nail used for the Crucifixion.

In 1273, the Holy Lance was first used in a coronation ceremony. Around 1350, Charles IV had a golden sleeve put over the silver one, inscribed Lancea et clavus Domini (Lance and nail of the Lord). In 1424, Sigismund had a collection of relics, including the lance, moved from his capital in Prague to his birthplace, Nuremberg, and decreed them to be kept there forever. This collection was called the Imperial Regalia (Reichskleinodien).

When the French Revolutionary army approached Nuremberg in the spring of 1796 the city councilors decided to remove the Reichskleinodien to Vienna for safe keeping. The collection was entrusted to one "Baron von Hügel", who promised to return the objects as soon as peace had been restored and the safety of the collection assured. However, the Holy Roman Empire was disbanded in 1806 and the Reichskleinodien remained in the keeping of the Habsburgs. When the city councilors asked for the Reichskleinodien back, they were refused. As part of the imperial regalia it was kept in the Imperial Treasury and was known as the lance of Saint Maurice.

During the Anschluss, when Austria was annexed to Germany, the Reichskleinodien were returned to Nuremberg and afterwards hidden. They were found by invading U.S. troops and returned to Austria by American General George S. Patton after World War II. ... " Wikipedia

***

After World War 2, the the Holy Lance of Vienna was returned by the U.S. to Vienna. However, there is a body of lore, that the lance in Austria is only a copy with the real lance remaining in Nazi possession.

See for example: "Exploring the Antarctic Reich by by Jerry E. Smith and George Piccard " ... ... WHAT IS THE HOLY LANCE?

According to the Gospel of John (19:31-37) as Jesus hung on the Cross a Roman centurion pierced his side with a spear. Christian tradition later named that soldier as Gaius Cassius Longinus. Over the centuries an object claimed to be this Holy Lance has passed through the hands of some of Europe’s most influential leaders including Constantine, Justinian, Charlemagne, Otto the Great, the Habsburg Emperors, and most recently Adolf Hitler.

A legend has arisen that,
"whosoever possesses this Holy Lance and understands the powers it serves, holds in his hand the destiny of the world for good or evil."
Also called the Spear of Destiny, Spear of Longinus, and The Spear of Christ, this strange relic of The Passion of The Christ has been written about for nearly two thousand years.

Eusebius of Caesarea, who became a spiritual advisor to Constantine described the Holy Lance as it was at the height of Constantine’s power in the Fourth Century:
It was a long spear, overlaid with gold. On the top was fixed a wreath of gold and precious stones, and within this the symbol of the Savior’s name, two letters indicating the name of Christ by means of its initial characters – those letters the emperor was in the habit of wearing on his helmet at a later period.

From the spear was also suspended a cloth, a royal piece, covered with a profuse embroidery of most brilliant precious stones and which, being also richly interlaced with gold, presented an indescribable degree of beauty to the beholder. The emperor constantly made use of this sign of salvation as a safeguard against every adverse and hostile power, and commanded that it should be carried at the head of all his armies.
Trevor Ravenscroft captured the world’s attention with his 1972 opus The Spear of Destiny, the Occult Power Behind the Spear Which Pierced the Side of Christ. His book dealt primarily with the past lives of the Nazi inner core. His contention was that they had been involved in using the Spear of Destiny for black magic in the eleventh century and were at it again, describing World War II as a wizard’s battle between black and white magicians.

He spent much of his book presenting “evidence” that the principal players in the world drama of the 1930 and 40s were reincarnations of the real life people who had been the models for the characters in Wagner’s opera Parsifal. Since then the Spear of Destiny has held the central place in many novels, scholarly tomes, TV shows (fictional and documentary) and even comic books: including Indiana Jones And The Spear Of Destiny; Hellboy; and Hellblazer, which gave us the 2005 film Constantine with Keanu Reeves.

Ravenscroft was not the only post-war college professor to write about, and add to the Holy Lance mythos.

In 1988-89 Dr. Howard A. Buechner, M.D., professor of medicine at Tulane and later L.S.U., added a strange chapter to the tale in his two books Hitler's Ashes - Seeds Of A New Reich and Adolf Hitler and the Secrets of the Holy Lance.

In them he relates that he was contacted by a former German U-boat submariner who claimed to have helped take the Holy Lance to Antarctica in 1945 and to have helped a group of German businessmen who called themselves The Hartmann Expedition recover it in 1979.

Doctor Buechner was a retired Colonel with the U.S. Army who had served as a battalion surgeon in World War II. In the mid-1980s he was presented by the pseudonymous “Capt. Wilhelm Bernhart” with what was claimed to be the log of the equally pseudonymous “Hartmann Expedition,” including a hand-written letter of authenticity signed by “Hartmann,” and photos of some of the objects recovered.

According to Buechner, this former Nazi sailor claimed that he could prove that the famous Spear of Destiny currently on display in the Schatzkammer Museum in Vienna is a fake. Prior to the war Heinrich Himmler, who would become head of the Occult Bureau of the SS, formed a circle of Knights dedicated to the Holy Lance, called The Knight’s Grand Council.

It has been widely reported that they used a replica of the Holy Lance in arcane black magic ceremonies in a specially appointed castle in Wewelsburg, Germany, which today welcomes tourists with a taste for the macabre. Capt. Bernhart claimed that during the war Himmler had Japan's greatest sword maker flown to Germany where he created a second and much more exact duplicate of the lance.

The “perfect” copy then went on display in Nuremberg, from whence it was turned over to Austrian authorities at the war’s end, while the real one remained under Himmler’s control – until sent to Antarctica by order of Hitler.

In the final hours of the war, according to this sailor, Hitler personally selected a man who would later be called “Col. Maximilian Hartmann” to send several of his most prized possessions, including the Spear of Destiny, to Antarctica via submarine – the one on which Bernhart said he had served. Further, Col. Hartmann was alleged to have recovered the real Spear of Destiny, again with aid from Bernhart, in 1979. According to Buechner and Bernhart the Holy Lance is now in hiding somewhere in Europe, in the possession of the reconvened order of Himmler’s knights, renamed The Knights of the Holy Lance. ... " Exploring the Antarctic Reich by by Jerry E. Smith and George Piccard.

 


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© 2012 by Waweru Njenga. All rights reserved.

First posted: 2/29/2012

 

 

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