Friday, February 1, 2013

The Hetoimasia, Etimasia

The Hetoimasia, Etimasia (Greek ἑτοιμασία, "preparation"), prepared throne, Preparation of the Throne, ready throne or Throne of the Second Coming is the Christian version of the symbolic subject of the empty throne found in the art of the ancient world, whose meaning has changed over the centuries. In Ancient Greece it represented Zeus, chief of the gods, and in early Buddhist art it represented the Buddha. In Early Christian art and Early Medieval art it is found in both the East and Western churches, and represents either Christ, or sometimes God the Father as part of the Trinity. In the Middle Byzantine period, from about 1000, it came to represent more specifically the throne prepared for the Second Coming of Christ, a meaning it has retained in Eastern Orthodox art to the present.[1] The motif consists of an empty throne and various other symbolic objects, in later depictions surrounded when space allows by angels paying homage. It is usually placed centrally in schemes of composition, very often in a roundel, but typically is not the largest element in a scheme of decoration.[2]

The "empty throne" had a long pre-Christian history. An Assyrian relief in Berlin of c. 1243 BCE shows King Tukulti-Ninurta I kneeling before the empty throne of the fire-god Nusku, occupied by what appears to be a flame.[4] The Hittites put thrones in important shrines for the spirit of the dead person to occupy, and the Etruscans left an empty seat at the head of the table at religious feasts for the god to join the company.[5] A somewhat controversial theory, held by many specialists, sees the Israelite Ark of the Covenant, or the figures of the cherubim above it, as an empty throne.[6] A throne with a crown upon it had been a symbol for an absent monarch in Ancient Greek culture since at least the time of Alexander the Great,[7] whose deification allowed secular use for what had previously been a symbol for Zeus, where the attribute placed on the throne was a pair of zig-zag thunderbolts.[8] Early Buddhist art used an empty throne, often under a parasol or Bodhi Tree, from before the time of Christ. This was, in the traditional view, an aniconic symbol for the Buddha; like early Christians with the deity they avoided depicting the Buddha in human form. Alternatively, it has been argued that these images represent actual relic-thrones at the major pilgrimage sites which were objects of worship.[9] The throne often contains a symbol such as the dharma wheel or Buddha footprint, as well as a cushion.
Like the Greeks and other ancient peoples, the Romans held ritual banquets for the gods (a ritualized "theoxenia"), including the annual Epulum Jovis, and the lectisternium, originally a rare event in times of crisis, first held in 399 BCE according to Livy, but later much more common.[10] A seat for these was called a pulvinar, from pulvinus ("cushion"), and many temples held these; at the banquets statues of the deity were placed on them. There was a pulvinar at the Circus Maximus, on which initially statues and attributes of the gods were placed after a procession during games, but Augustus also occupied it himself (possibly copying Julius Caesar), building a temple-like structure in the seating to house it.[11] Thrones with a jewelled wreath, portrait or sceptre and diadem sitting on them were among the symbols used in the Roman law courts and elsewhere to represent the authority of the absent emperor; this was one of the monarchical attributes awarded by the Roman Senate to Julius Caesar.[12] A seat with jewelled wreath is seen on coins from the Emperor Titus onwards, and on those of Diocletian a seat with a helmet on it represents Mars.[13] Commodus chose to be represented by a seat with the club and lion skin of Hercules, with whom he identified himself. The empty throne continued to be used as a secular symbol of power by the first Christian Emperors, and appears on the Arch of Constantine.
Later non-Christian uses of the empty throne motif include the "Bema Feast", the most important annual feast of Persian Manichaeism, when a "bema" or empty throne represented the prophet Mani at a meal for worshippers.[14] In the Balinese version of Hinduism, the most prominent element in most temples is the padmasana or "Lotus Throne", an empty throne for the supreme deity Acintya.[15]

There are several elements found in the image which reflect its changing meaning. The throne itself is always present, and is often backless and armless. In Ancient Greek, a "thronos" was a specific but ordinary type of chair with a footstool, and there is very often a footstool in the image. There is often a prominent cushion, and a cloth variously interpreted as Christ's mantle (especially when of imperial purple) or a sudarium may cover or sit on the throne.[16] There may be a crown on the throne. There is often a book, often on the cushion and sometimes open; this represents the gospels in some examples, and in others the Book of Life, always closed and distinguished by its seven seals, following the Book of Apocalypse. There is nearly always a cross (except in images of councils), often a crux gemmata, and in later examples a patriarchal cross with two crossbars. The cloth may be draped round the cross, as may the crown of thorns, which first appears as an isolated motif in this context.[17] This seems to have originated as a victor's wreath around or over the cross, part of the early emphasis on "Christ as Victor" found in much cross imagery, but later to have been transmuted into the crown of thorns. It has also been suggested that the wreathed cross motif also was the origin of the Celtic cross.
The dove of the Holy Spirit may be present. In later versions two of the instruments of the Passion, the Spear and sponge on a stick, stand behind or beside the throne, or are held by angels. The nails from the cross and crown of thorns may sit on the throne, as in the Russian icon illustrated. If angels or archangels are included they are symmetrically placed on either side, either facing the throne or facing out and gesturing towards it; if there is a roundel they may be outside it. In earlier depictions other figures may surround the throne, for example Saints Peter and Paul in Santa Prassede, Rome (9th century). An alternative to the angels is kneeling figures of Adam and Eve in old age paying homage on either side of the throne. These are found in several large wall-paintings and mosaics, from the 12th century mosaics in Torcello Cathedral,[18] the paintings in the Chora Church, and the painted church exterior at Voroneţ Monastery in Romania of 1547.[19]

The image was one of many aspects of imperial iconography taken up by Early Christians after the Edict of Milan in 313, when the depiction of Jesus as a human figure, especially as a large figure detached from narrative contexts, was still a matter of controversy within Christianity. At the First Council of Nicaea in 325 an empty throne had the imperial insignia on it, representing the emperor Constantine I when he was not present.[20] However within a few decades an empty throne with a book of the gospels on it was being placed in the chamber of church councils to represent Christ, as at the First Council of Ephesus in 431. It has been suggested that the ivory Throne of Maximian in Ravenna, probably a gift from the Eastern Emperor Justinian I, was not made as a throne for personal use by Maximian, who was both Archbishop of Ravenna and the viceroy of the Byzantine territories in North Italy, but as an empty throne to symbolize either the imperial or divine power; Byzantine imagery at this period was sometimes ready to conflate the two.[21] A comparable symbol is the bishop's throne from which the cathedral takes its name, which, unless the bishop happens to be present and sitting in it, functions as a permanent reminder of his authority in his diocese.
In the earlier versions the throne is most often accompanied by a cross and a scroll or book, which at this stage represents the Gospels. In this form the whole image represents Christ, but when the dove of the Holy Spirit and the cross are seen, the throne appears to represent God the Father, and the whole image the Trinity, a subject that Christian art did not represent directly for several centuries, as showing the Father as a human figure was objectionable. An example of a Trinitarian hetoimasia is in the Church of the Dormition in Nicaea.[22] From about 1000 the image may bear the title hetoimasia,[23] literally "preparation", meaning "that which has been prepared" or "that which is made ready", and specifically refers to the "sign of the Son of Man" and the Last Judgement. By this time the image usually occurs in the West only under direct Byzantine influence, as in Venice and Torcello.
Some Early Christians had believed that the True Cross had miraculously ascended to Heaven, where it remained in readiness to become the glorified "sign of the Son of man" (see below) at the Last Judgement. The Discovery by Helena had displaced this view as to the fate of the actual cross, but the idea of the return at the Last Judgement of the glorified cross remained, as in a homily by Pope Leo the Great (d. 461), which was incorporated in the Roman Breviary.[24]

Although it is assumed that other examples existed earlier, the earliest surviving Christian hetoimasia is in the earliest major scheme of church decoration to survive, the mosaics in Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome (432-40), where it occupies the narrow centre of the "triumphal arch" separating nave and apse, flanked by angels,[25] a typical placement. It is shown, with a procession of Apostles, on a panel of the Pola ivory casket from Istria.[26] Three now displaced stone reliefs of the subject with other symbols are among the earliest indications of Christian architectural sculpture at this period; they are in Berlin, San Marco, Venice and Nicosia, Cyprus.[27] Elsewhere it may occupy the centre of a frieze below a larger composition in the apse semi-dome, or a position on the main axis of a circular frieze round a central scene in the roof of a dome, as in the Arian Baptistry (start of 6th century) in Ravenna. At Castelseprio it occupies the centre of the apse-side (west-facing) of the triumphal arch. All are central positions, prominent but not dominant. The Baptistry of Neon (late 5th century) in Ravenna is exceptional in using repeated hetoimasia images in a circular dome frieze of eight images, four each of two types appearing alternately: a hetoimasia with cross in a garden and an altar containing an open book, flanked by two chairs.[28]

During the Middle Byzantine period the etimasia became a standard feature of the evolving subject of the Last Judgement, found from the 11th century onwards.[29] As in the Western versions descended from the Byzantine images, this was on several tiers, with Christ in Judgement at the top, and in the East the etimasia almost always in the centre of the tier below, but occasionally above Christ. This basic layout has remained in use in Eastern Orthodoxy to the present day, and is found both on church walls and as a painted panel icon. The etimasia was normally omitted in Western versions, except in works under direct Byzantine influence, such as the early 12th century west wall of Torcello Cathedral.
Another context in which the etimasia sometimes appears from the Middle Byzantine period is Pentecost, in Orthodoxy also the Feast of the Trinity. Here a trinitarian etimasia with the dove representing the Holy Spirit may be found, as in the 12th century mosaics on the roof of the west dome of St Mark's, Venice, where the centre is an etimasia with book and dove, with the twelve apostles seated round the outer rims, with flames on their heads and rays connecting them to the central throne. Below the apostles pairs of figures representing the "nations", with tituli, stand between the windows. Similar images are found in the Chludov Psalter and elsewhere. However in this case the etimasia did not become part of a conventional composition, and it is not found in modern icons of the Pentecost.[30]
It has been suggested that the empty stool with a cushion in the foreground of Jan van Eyck's Annunciation in Washington may suggest the empty throne; van Eyck characteristically uses domestic fittings to represent doctrinal references.[31]

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Kensington Rune Stone

The Kensington Runestone is a 200-pound slab of greywacke covered in runes on its face and side, believed to have been created in modern times to claim that Scandinavian explorers reached the middle of North America in the 14th century. It was found in 1898 in the largely rural township of Solem, Douglas County, Minnesota, and named after the nearest settlement, Kensington. Almost all Runologists and experts in Scandinavian linguistics consider the runestone to be a hoax.[2][3] The runestone has been analyzed and dismissed repeatedly without local effect.[4][5][6][7][8] The community of Kensington is solidly behind the runestone, which has transcended its asserted cultural importance to the Scandinavian community and has "taken on a life of its own".[9][10]
Swedish American farmer Olof Ohman (he appears to have dropped the Swedish spelling Öhman when moving to the US) asserted that he found the stone late in 1898 while clearing his land of trees and stumps before plowing, having recently taken over an 80-acre (320,000 m2) parcel of public domain that had for years been left unallocated as "Internal Improvement Land".[11][12] The stone was said to be near the crest of a small knoll rising above the wetlands, lying face down and tangled in the root system of a stunted poplar tree, estimated to be from less than 10 to about 40 years old.[13] The artifact is about 30 × 16 × 6 inches (76 × 41 × 15 cm) in size and weighs about 200 pounds (90 kg). Ohman's ten-year-old son, Edward Ohman, noticed some markings[14] and the farmer later said he thought they had found an "Indian almanac."
Unfortunately for provenance purposes, the only witnesses cited for the finding were family members, although people who later saw the cut roots said that some were flattened, consistent with having held a stone. Also, there are many different versions describing when the stone was found (August or November, right after lunch or near the end of work for the evening), who discovered the stone (Olof Ohman and Edward Ohman; Olof Ohman, Edward Ohman and two workmen; Olof Ohman, Edward Ohman, and his neighbor Nils Flaten), when the stone was taken to the nearby town of Kensington, and who made the first transcriptions that were sent to a regional Scandinavian-language newspaper. Soon after it was found, the stone was displayed at a local bank. There is no evidence Ohman tried to make money from his find.[citation needed]
It can be claimed that at the period when Ohman discovered the stone, the journey of Leif Ericson to Vinland (North America) was being widely discussed and there was renewed interest in the Vikings throughout Scandinavia, stirred by the National Romanticism movement. Five years earlier Norway had participated in the World's Columbian Exposition by sending the Viking, a replica of the Gokstad ship to Chicago. There was also friction between Sweden and Norway (which ultimately led to Norway's independence from Sweden in 1905). Some Norwegians claimed the stone was a Swedish hoax and there were similar Swedish accusations because the stone references a joint expedition of Norwegians and Swedes at a time when they were both ruled by the same king, after the Union of Kalmar. It is thought to be more than coincidental that the stone was found among Scandinavian newcomers in Minnesota, still struggling for acceptance, and quite naturally proud of its Nordic heritage.[15]
An error-ridden[citation needed] copy of the inscription made its way to the University of Minnesota. Olaus J. Breda (1853–1916), Professor of Scandinavian Languages and Literature in the Scandinavian Department made a translation, declared the stone to be a forgery and published a discrediting article which appeared in Symra during 1910. Breda also forwarded copies of his translation to fellow linguists in Scandinavia. The Norwegian archeologist Oluf Rygh also concluded the stone was a fraud, as did several other noted linguists.[16]
The stone was then sent to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. Scholars either dismissed it as a prank or felt unable to identify a sustainable historical context, and the stone was returned to Ohman, who is said to have placed it face down near the door of his granary as a "stepping stone" which he also used for straightening out nails. Years later, his son said this was an "untruth" and that they had it set up in an adjacent shed, but he appears to have been referring only to the way the stone was treated before it started to attract interest at the end of 1898.
In 1907 the stone was purchased, reportedly for ten dollars, by Hjalmar Holand, a former graduate student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Holand renewed public interest with an article[17] enthusiastically summarizing studies that were made by geologist Newton Horace Winchell (Minnesota Historical Society) and linguist George T. Flom (Philological Society of the University of Illinois), who both published opinions in 1910.[18]
According to Winchell, the tree under which the stone was allegedly found had been destroyed before 1910, but several nearby poplars that witnesses estimated as being about the same size were cut down, and by counting their rings it was determined they were indeed around 30–40 years old (NB: letters were written to members of a team which had excavated at the find site in 1899, and their estimates from memory, without any reference to tree rings, ranged as low as 10–12 years in the case of county schools superintendent Cleve Van Dyke).[19] The surrounding county had not been settled until 1858, and settlement was severely restricted for a time by the Dakota War of 1862 (although it was reported that the best land in the township adjacent to Solem, Holmes City, was already taken by 1867, by a mixture of Swedish, Norwegian and "Yankee" settlers.[20])
Winchell also concluded that the weathering of the stone indicated the inscription was roughly 500 years old. Meanwhile, Flom found a strong apparent divergence between the runes used in the Kensington inscription and those in use during the 14th century. Similarly, the language of the inscription was modern compared to the Nordic languages of the 14th century.[18] The Kensington Runestone is currently on display at the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, Minnesota.[21]

In 1577, cartographer Gerardus Mercator wrote a letter containing the only detailed description of the contents of a geographical text about the Arctic region of the Atlantic, possibly written over two centuries earlier by one Jacob Cnoyen. Cnoyen had learned that in 1364, eight men had returned to Norway from the Arctic islands, one of whom, a priest, provided the King of Norway with a great deal of geographical information.[22] Books by scholars such as Carl Christian Rafn early in the 19th century revealed hints of reality behind this tale. A priest named Ivar Bardarsson, who had previously been based in Greenland, did turn up in Norwegian records from 1364 onward and copies of his geographical description of Greenland still survive. Furthermore, in 1354, King Magnus Eriksson of Sweden and Norway had issued a letter appointing a law officer named Paul Knutsson as leader of an expedition to the colony of Greenland, to investigate reports that the population was turning away from Christian culture.[23] Another of the documents reprinted by the 19th century scholars was a scholarly attempt by Icelandic Bishop Gisli Oddsson, in 1637, to compile a history of the Arctic colonies. He dated the Greenlanders' fall away from Christianity to 1342, and claimed that they had turned instead to America. Supporters of a 14th century origin for the Kensington runestone argue that Knutson may therefore have travelled beyond Greenland to North America, in search of renegade Greenlanders, most of his expedition being killed in Minnesota and leaving just the eight voyagers to return to Norway.[24]
However, there is no evidence that the Knutson expedition ever set sail (the government of Norway went through considerable turmoil in 1355) and the information from Cnoyen as relayed by Mercator states specifically that the eight men who came to Norway in 1364 were not survivors of a recent expedition, but descended from the colonists who had settled the distant lands, generations earlier.[22] Also, those early 19th century books, which aroused a great deal of interest among Scandinavian Americans would have been available to a late 19th century hoaxer.
Hjalmar Holand had proposed that interbreeding with Norse survivors might explain the "blond" Indians among the Mandan on the Upper Missouri River,[25] but in a multidisciplinary study of the stone, anthropologist Alice Beck Kehoe dismissed, as "tangential" to the Runestone issue, this and other historical references suggesting pre-Columbian contacts with 'outsiders', such as the Hochunk (Winnebago) story about an ancestral hero "Red Horn" and his encounter with "red-haired giants".[26]

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The Kensington Rune Stone is a medieval artifact recently proven to be authentic. Read the story here of how, for over 100 years, repeated claims of hoax have been debunked forcing a major rewrite of American history.

In 1898, a Minnesota farmer unearthed this carved stone while felling a tree. It unleashed a storm of controversy that has still not abated today. Branded a hoax, the family of Olof Ohman endured scorn, ridicule and lies. The stone itself was “borrowed” by an unscrupulous researcher and never returned.

Over 100 years later, the stone rests in a small museum. While it had many adherents through the years, today new technology and newly discovered documents are tilting the scales sharply away from the possibility that the rune stone is the product of Olof’s hoax. These pages provide an overview of where we are with Kensington Rune Stone research. The information here is factual and correct but we do not claim to be unbiased - we believe the rune stone is genuine.

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