Loading...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

History of the Saxon War 3: "Social and political structures of the Old Saxons."

To understand the interplay of social dynamics and religious allegiances, according to Goldberg, "One must turn back before Charlemagne's momentous conquest of Saxony between 772 and 804 and consider the distinctive social and political structures of the Old Saxons." In Old Saxon there were three distinct social classes called edhilingui, frilingi, and lazzi. The edhilingui were the upper class, a warrior nobility who were also the owners of large tracts of land. The frinlingi were free men, at least in theory, but had far less personal wealth than that edhilingui. The lazzi were the lower class, and these were not truly free, for they were by law bound to the land, and in effect they could be, and were, bought and sold along with that land.

There are two important things about the stratification of Old Saxon society, beyond the mere fact that, as in all human societies, such stratification existed. First, the distinction between the non-noble but free frilingi, and the non-free lazzi was not very great, at least according to the grimly quantified system of wergeld, which literally put a value on each human beling's life. The life of an edhilingui was valued at 1,440 solidi, while that of a frilingi was only 1/6 of that, 240 solidi. However, the diference in value between the life of a frilingi and that of a lazzi was compatatively neglible, since a lazzi life was valued at 180 solidi, which is 75% of a frilingi life, which, by comparison, is valued at merely 17% of a edhilingui life!

Secondly, not only were the Saxons (unlike many other Germanic peoples, such as the Franks, Goths, and Vandals) not ruled by a king or duke or any similar monarch, but they had in place a political mechanism that served to block the rise of any single absolute ruler. The highest political and legal power among the Saxons resided in an annual pan-Saxon gathering in Marklo, on the Weser river, to which each Saxon district (there were 100 or so) sent representatives from each of the three classes. Not only were the lazzi and frilingi represented (if not proportionately) at this "general council", they also had the right to be armed, at least during times of war (and it was the general council that decided on questions of war and peace).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

History of the Saxon War 2: "Hewald the White and Hewald the Black."


When Hewald the White and Hewald the Black, two Christian Anglo-Saxon missionaries, left their native England on a mission trip to their Continental Saxon cousins sometime around 695, they were blessed with the greatest gift that could have been bestowed upon them: martyrdom.

According to the Venerable Bede, it was some village commoners (Bede uses the Latin vicani, "villager") who slew the missionaries, and they did so in great haste in order to prevent any chance of the gospel-peddlers from meeting with their chieftain, whom the vicani feared might be swayed, with the result that "the whole people would be compelled to change its old religion for the new one."

Fifty years (or so) later, another English missionary did manage to make contact with some Saxon nobles, and these responded at least sympathetically enough to provide protection ... for as long as they were able to. But eventually a mob of Saxon commoners burned the newly built Church and chased away the missionary along with all those who had converted. This missionary, named Lebuin, was foolish enough to return and try again, only to once again narrowly escape with his life. Coward! Twice he declined the generosity proffered by the humble Saxons who would have been only too happy to arrange for this good Christian to meet his Savior sooner rather than later.

For more details and references on what is related in the above three paragraphs, see Eric J. Goldberg's 1995 paper on The Saxon Stellinga Reconsidered. That paper, as it's title indicates, is primarily focused on the 841 Stellinga Uprising (which I will get to soon in a future installment), but it also spends some time establishing the broader context of and motivations for the Saxon resistance to Christianization. In particular, Goldberg discusses the class divisions within Saxon society and the ways in which these divisions influenced differing responses among different Saxons to the new religion...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

History of the Saxons 1: "Stridently opposed to abandoning the religion of their ancestors."





Once upon a time there was a vibrant and dynamic religious tradition. But then a new religion came along whose followers sought to convert everyone to their new faith, and to do so they were willing, indeed eager, to resort to any means necessary, including coercion and violence. Faced with social ostracism, job discrimination, mob violence, punitive fines, imprisonment, beatings, torture and execution, many did as the many often do in the face of threats and force, and meekly acquiesced without much of a struggle, or at least did so once the new religion was in possession of sufficient means of persuasion.

However, despite the relative ease with which some were "converted", others courageously distinguished themselves by resisting the new religion and stubbornly clinging to their old ways and their old Gods.

Wouldn't there be, in this second scenario as opposed to the first, a far stronger case for later reviving this "old religion" (to borrow a phrase)? And would not those who had most stubbornly resisted conversion be the natural heroes and exemplars of any who wished to enact such a revival?

In comparing these two alternative narratives it should be obvious that the manner in which the older religion was replaced by the newer one makes a great deal of difference. One is reminded, in particular, of that principle ascribed to Churchill: "Nations that go down fighting shall rise up again; those that surrender tamely are finished."

With the foregoing in mind, let us now consider the case of the Heathen Saxons and their fascinating history of interfaith dialogue with the Christian Franks during the 8th and 9th centuries A.D. (Anno Deceptoris).


Sunday, February 6, 2011

La Voz de Galicia ::: El casero gallego de Robert De Niro en Nueva York ::: Nuevas historias de Little Spain


LAS HISTORIAS DEL LITTLE SPAIN NEOYORQUINO 

El casero gallego de Robert de Niro en Nueva York

El documental de Artur Balder recupera cientos de testimonios inéditos sobre la pujanza gallega en el desaparecido barrio neoyorquino Little Spain

Corría la década de los cincuenta cuando una madre recién separada y un niño de tez pálida se instalaron en un apartamento del 219 Oeste de la Calle 14 de Nueva York para empezar una nueva vida. La madre se llamaba Virginia Admiral y el niño, Robert Mario De Niro Jr., un genio de la interpretación aún en potencia. El dueño del bloque donde la familia residió durante buena parte de los años cincuenta se llamaba José García, un industrial coruñés que, como tantos otros emigrantes gallegos, se había instalado en la Gran Manzana en busca de una vida mejor.

Es el suyo uno de los numerosos documentos y testimonios recuperados por el director alicantino Artur Balder en Little Spain, una cinta que rastrea cien años de historia desconocida de un barrio de marcado carácter español que fue hegemónico en Manhattan hasta hace un par de décadas.

Muy cerca de donde vivió De Niro en su infancia se alzaban dos de los principales símbolos de la comunidad española en Nueva York. Uno era la iglesia española Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. No sería extraño pensar que el actor hubiera visto en alguna ocasión la procesión del 25 de julio en la Calle 14, que se cortaba al tráfico una vez al año para festejar al apóstol Santiago. El otro símbolo de la comunidad era la Spanish Benevolent Society, también conocida como La Nacional, fundada en 1869 y considerada el club español más antiguo de Estados Unidos. Su misión era facilitar trabajo a los recién llegados, manutención a los necesitados y asistencia médica, aunque también llegó a convertirse en un importante centro de actividad cultural y de participación en la vida urbana y política del bajo Manhattan. Pasó de tener cerca de 9.000 miembros a rozar la extinción. «La ciudad sufrió durante los años 70 y 80 la epidemia del crimen y las drogas, y se conoce que el restaurante Coruña, emblemático en la edad dorada de Little Spain, fue desmantelado por el famoso policía Serpico en una operación en colaboración con el FBI -relata el director del documental, Artur Balder-. Se descubrió un gran alijo de drogas, y fue el fin del restaurante. Lo mismo sucedió con otros restaurantes españoles. Todos estos factores contribuyeron al declive de la comunidad en la zona y a su práctica desaparición a principios de los 90». Fue el principio del fin del barrio.


Mejor suerte corrió el restaurante El Faro, fundado en 1959 en el 823 de la calle Greenwich por el celanovés José Pérez y por su socio Andrés Lugrís. «Todavía somos socios, pero hoy son nuestros hijos, José A. Pérez y Mark Lugrís, quienes dirigen el negocio», explica José Pérez, cuyo testimonio es uno de los más destacados en el documental Little Spain. «Durante la ley seca -recuerda Pérez-, el restaurante era un lugar de bebida clandestina, como muchos en torno a los muelles. Después fue una bodega portuaria, especializada en lo español. La clientela de los años 60 y 70 era variada: en gran parte, de marineros gallegos que trabajaban en barcos americanos, en su mayoría como fogoneros; pero otros eran políticos españoles exiliados. Y luego había clientela americana y artistas de Hollywood, como Marlon Brando, que venía muy a menudo».