Thursday, 26 February 2015

Thoth as a seated baboon

One of my few Egyptian antiquities is this late dynastic faience amulet of Thoth in the form of a seated baboon.

Thoth's roles in Egyptian mythology were many. He served as a mediating power, especially between good and evil, making sure neither had a decisive victory over the other. He also served as scribe of the gods, credited with the invention of writing and alphabets (i.e. hieroglyphs) themselves. In the underworld, Duat, he appeared as an ape, A'an, the god of equilibrium, who reported when the scales weighing the deceased's heart against the feather, representing the principle of Ma'at, was exactly even.

The ancient Egyptians regarded Thoth as One, self-begotten, and self-produced. He was the master of both physical and moral (i.e. Divine) law, making proper use of Ma'at. He is credited with making the calculations for the establishment of the heavens, stars, Earth, and everything in them. Compare this to how his feminine counterpart, Ma'at was the force which maintained the Universe. He is said to direct the motions of the heavenly bodies. Without his words, the Egyptians believed, the gods would not exist. His power was unlimited in the Underworld and rivaled that of Ra and Osiris.

The Egyptians credited him as the author of all works of science, religion, philosophy, and magic. The Greeks further declared him the inventor of astronomy, astrology, the science of numbers, mathematics, geometry, land surveying, medicine, botany, theology, civilized government, the alphabet, reading, writing, and oratory. They further claimed he was the true author of every work of every branch of knowledge, human and divine.

Reputedly ex Florence Rossetti collection (c.1948-50)

Sunday, 8 February 2015

William de Ros, Hob Moor in York and the Magna Carta

On a very sunny Sunday in early February I’ve just walked from Woodthorpe in the suburbs into York across Hob Moor. Hob Moor is one of the ancient commons of the city with mediaeval strip fields very evident in parts. There are also the remains of an old golf course, greens and bunkers, that existed between 1920 and 1946.

At the Tadcaster Road end there are two stone monuments, a weathered coffin lid of a 14th century knight and a “plague stone/bowl”.

During the visitations of the plague in the 16th and 17th centuries, victims were brought from the city and housed in wooden lodges on Hob Moor. They would pay for food brought out to them by placing money in water or vinegar in the central depression in the Plague Stone, following the old belief that bubonic plague was spread by contact with coin.

Beside the Plague Stone is the Hob Stone, the effigy of a knight of the de Ros family. It was sculpted in about 1315 and is now much eroded, but the head, shoulders and shield can still be seen. It may be the coffin of William de Ros or Roos, 1st Baron de Ros of Helmsley (c.1255 – 6 or 8 August 1316), was one of the claimants of the crown of Scotland in 1292 during the reign of Edward I. He was the great grandson of Sir Robert de Ros, one of the twenty-five barons who guaranteed the observance of Magna Carta, and Isabel of Scotland, an illegitimate daughter of William the Lion, King of the Scots, by a daughter of Robert Avenel.

A sketch of Hob Stone was made by George Nicholson in 1825. It shows the wording engraved on the back of the knight’s coffin lid that said 'This image long Hob's name has bore who was a knight in time of yore and gave this common to ye poor'.

These were engraved on a brass plaque that has sadly gone missing.