Category: history

One Possible Ending

Fussli, Johann Heinrich (Henry Fuseli) - The Night-Hag Visiting the Lapland Witches c. 1796The other day I heard an interesting tale regarding the island of Sardinia, which, frankly, had me thinking of Mother Gran. After doing some poking around, I came across some great information on Andrew Collins’ page on Sardinian Mysteries, from which all of the following quotes are taken.

Have you heard of an Accabadora? After reading this, you may be glad you haven’t – but let me say, the Eskimos have nothing on the Sardinians.

There would only ever be one accabadora in any one generation. Each would serve the local community until their own death, a successor having already been appointed and prepared for the role. Justification for the existence of the accabadora was offered in the fact that only a woman can bring life into the world, so only a woman can take it away.

I’m not sure what the resume for applicants to the role would look like; must have a strong arm, powerful thighs, an iron stomach, and an overwhelming hatred of the aged and sick?

[…] a mature woman who was appointed by a community to apply euthanasia to the old and the infirm. It is something she would carry out with the utmost precision using a cudgel made from a section of a tree branch from which extends another branch, the whole thing cut to form a hammer-like weapon similar in appearance to the Irish shillelagh stick. Another means of inducing death used by the accabadora was strangulation, either by applying pressure to the neck or by placing the victim’s neck between her knees

A Mazzulo, the stick used to end people.

Our Previously Terrifying Future

XB-70 in flightThere’s always a lot of nostalgia floating around regarding “the way things were”, and not always undeservedly so, but there are things we’ve had a hand in that leave me blinking at the possibilities for awe and disaster.

In the 1950s, nuclear power was all the rage – so much so that the American Government undertook to develop a nuclear-powered bomber aircraft that it could use to to deploy atomic weaponry from high altitudes, and at high velocity.

Not only would a nuclear-plane be able to maintain supersonic speeds, it could do so nearly indefinitely.

Imagine a sky full of planes that only need to land when their wings start to peel off.

Of course, reality came down heavy on the designers, and the radioactive aspects of the engine were pulled out of the contract.

This beast was the first proposal for an alternate. As the wikipedia notes, “the “floating panels” are large fuel tanks the size of a B-47″ – and they were intended to peel off once empty.

Like the atomic aspect, the extra tanks were also eventually left in the design-room’s trash, and two prototypes were built, with a third canceled mid-production. Technology had simply outpaced their need.

What happened to the orphaned birds that once dreamed of being nuclear?

On 8 June 1966, XB-70A #2 was in close formation with four other aircraft (an F-4, F-5, T-38, and F-104) for a photoshoot […] the F-104 drifted into contact with the XB-70’s right wing, flipped over, and rolling inverted, passed over the top of the Valkyrie, struck the vertical stabilizers and left wing and exploded, destroying the Valkyrie’s rudders and damaging its left wing […] the Valkyrie entered an uncontrollable spin and crashed into the ground north of Barstow, California. – wikipedia

A simple accident that could have happened in any, or to any, aircraft; nothing mechanical, just pilot error – still, in an alternate history of ever-flying planes, it would have been anything but a simple clean up.

The remaining prototype is in a museum, where it probably belongs.

Crushing Observations

Indian JuggernautYou’re familiar with the concept of a “juggernaut”?

The word is derived from the Sanskrit जगन्नाथ Jagannātha (meaning “Lord of the Universe”), which is one of the many names of Krishna from the ancient Vedic scriptures of India.

One of the most famous of Indian temples is the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Orissa, which has the Ratha Yatra (“chariot procession”), an annual procession of chariots – wikipedia

“Chariots”, in this case, really meaning “massive rolling temples”.

Another Indian Juggernaut

So, it seems like a fairly simple bit of logic to connect those colossal wagons with the modern definition of an unstoppable force that we currently use – but, oh, those wacky explorers and colonialists had to embellish an already impressive tradition.

A popular 14th-century work, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville, apocryphally describes Hindus, as a religious sacrifice, casting themselves under the wheels of these huge chariots and being crushed to death.

Based on this claim, British colonials promulgated the claim that Hindu devotees of Krishna were “lunatic fanatics who threw themselves under the wheels of these chariots in order to attain salvation”. – wikipedia

This, it seems to me, is something like having an alien observer of Earth determine that there must be a subset of human assassins who roam the highways in an attempt to cull the herd, since we so often hold a celebration, with plenty of drinking, then allow wobbly-handed executioners out onto the road to slam into unexpecting parties.

Others have suggested more prosaically that the deaths, if any, were accidental and caused by the press of the crowd and the general commotion. – wikipedia

Hindu Celebration