Friday, April 07, 2006

The Seattle Scribe reads and then talks about it

I know this is clichéd, but I've been reading The Da Vinci Code. At least I'm several years behind the trend. Not surprisingly, it's a very good book.

You probably know the basic story even if you haven't read it. The Holy Grail isn't a cup, it's really the hidden blood lineage of Jesus whose decendents live to this day. Some group found the proof and blackmailed the Catholic church to keep it secret. Da Vinci was the leader of this group for a time and embedded several clues and secrets in his art (most of his famous art was commissioned by the Catholic church, The Last Supper for example). I don't want to give too much of the main story away so I'll stop there. But there's so much more in this book.

Dan Brown throws in etymological backrounds of words, one of my pet hobbies. For example, during the rise of Christianity villagers tended to be pagans, hence the word "villain". The church recasted several pagan symbols as evil as well. A witch's pointy hat was the dress of some pagan sect. Poseidon's trident was ubiquitous. Who do we imagine always holding a trident now? What if I called it a pitchfork?

And the most famous of all evil symbols, the pentagram, was a universal symbol of femininity. It was the symbol of Venus ("Lucifer" in Latin) and was agreed upon by more or less the entire pagan world. I didn't know this, but apparently if you plot Venus's movements over 8 years it traces a five pointed star. The four year cycle of the original Greek Olympics was timed to coincide with these movements. Apparently the original symbol for the Olympics was the pentagram, but was changed for modern times to be the five rings we know today.

The church hit two birds with one stone by recasting the "pentacle" (as it's referred to in the book). They eliminated a powerful pagan symbol while at the same time put women down. I don't know how true it is, but one of the arguments of the book is that pagans respected women as basically equal and celebrated sex, while Christians locked women out of positions of power and turned sex into a shameful act. So for it to count as two birds with one stone, you have to think the church wanted to denigrate women, which doesn't seem too far fetched considering women can't be (Catholic) clergy.

Some king of France sent out sealed orders to his armed forces that were to be opened on a specific date. The orders were to round up and slaughter the Knights Templar. The date? Friday the 13th. In October.

This is all gravy to me. I love this stuff. More! And I'm only halfway into the book. So far I'd say it's well worth your time. I got the handsome illustrated edition, which is helpful since you actually get to see the works of art he's talking about without looking them up. Incidentally, now my life won't be complete until I see the Louvre.


At 7/4/06 12:12, Anonymous garlic said...

I'd be highly suspicious of the truth (vs truthiness) of anything in the Da Vinci Code. It could certainly be a good jumping off point for your own research though.

I took a class in college called something like "the history of witchcraft". I didn't realize when I was signing up for a history class, that it was crosslisted as a women's studies class. Anyway, I seem to remember from that class that while Christians raised it's popularity, prior to christians moving in towns were still pretty enamored with killing witches. Wikipedia articles on witches and witchhunt seem to agree with this.

The templar's were declared heretics throuth the intervention of King Philip of France. He had to kidnap a pope or two to get it done. The reasoning behind it isn't clear, but seems like it had to do with them not giving him a loan to fight a war.

I've seen the louvre. It's pretty huge, huger than the art institute in chicago is. Just like any museum, small doses means you don't become overwhelmed.

At 7/4/06 12:35, Blogger TSS said...

I'm confused. You speak of killing witches in the past tense.

Don't worry, I don't take The Da Vinci Code as gospel (haha). But the idea of Jesus having sex and producing offspring passes the common sense test. I mean, is it really hard to imagine that long before birth control Jesus had kids? I find it not credible to suggest that he abstained from sex, as the recent sex scandals among clergy demonstrates. People screw, period.

And if there were proof of Jesus's offspring, the church would definitely want to bury it. That's a big "if", but I'm entertained anyway.

And I haven't researched it on my own, but the group that Brown claims that Da Vinci was the leader of for some years was real. The Priory of Sion, they were called. Isaac Newton supposedly was the leader at one point as well. Apparently there are historical documents that prove this, though their authenticity is in doubt.

Wikipedia says they're a rumor at best. A true secret society would want that to be the case, of course. Just like how Christians say the devil's best trick was to convince the world he didn't exist, so the lack of evidence gets conveniently turned into proof of its existence.

It's just a fun book to read.

At 7/4/06 14:43, Anonymous rcr said...

There's a History channel documentary where they investigate the claims made in the book. Very interesting.

At 7/4/06 14:46, Blogger TSS said...

That documentary is what prompted me to buy the book. It was definitely very interesting.

At 7/4/06 15:51, Anonymous garlic said...

Like you said, wikipedia seems to think that the Priory of Sion organization isn't authenticated either way to have actually existed. But in some cases wikipedia is about as trustworthy as the Nazi channel.

Certainly fun either way though.

I'm taking a break since I just knocked a chip off of a $50,000 CCA.

At 7/4/06 15:57, Blogger TSS said...

Yikes! That reminds of when I was carrying around the $20,000 plastic model of the $million system we were building.

We had a discussion on what would get us fired faster, dropping the model, or turning off all the circuit breakers on the production floor.

At 10/4/06 12:48, Anonymous garlic said...

looks like I lucked out, and the easily repaired the board this morning. It was a surface mount clock chip with 6 pins, not a FPGA or processor or anything, so that was good.


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