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melungeon family I recently came across an article posted in the British journal Mail Online, and wanted to share it’s discussion of a group of Appalachian people trying to avoid being racially tagged.

I have never heard of the Melungeons before reading this article, “Revealed: Ancient Appalachian people who boasted of Portuguese ancestry to avoid slavery were actually descended from African men and white women.”

Apparently the term refers to almost anyone of mixed-race ancestry, on the east coast from New York to Louisiana, but primarily to mixed native American or black blood, distinguished from the “mestizos” and “creoles” of Mexican or Spanish heritage further south in Texas and Louisiana. Other terms similar to Melungeon, in New York, included “Montauks”, the “Mantinecocks”, “Van Guilders”, the “Clappers”, and “Shinnecocks”. Pennsylvania had the “Pools. North Carolina the Lumbees, Waccamaws and Haliwas and South Carolina the Redbones, Buckheads, Yellowhammers, Creels and others.

As the article describes,

Some speculated they were descended from Portuguese explorers, or perhaps from Turkish slaves or Gypsies but a new DNA study attempts to separate truth from oral tradition.
Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin

However I began to disagree with the tone the article took, in their explanation as to why the group would ‘hide black ancestry with claims of being Portuguese in identity.’ In a day and age when “Southern high-bred people will never tolerate on equal terms any person who is even remotely tainted with negro blood, but they do not make the same objection to other brown or dark-skinned people, like the Spanish, the Cubans, the Italians, etc,” it was merely a matter of survival.

The study quotes from an 1874 court case in Tennessee in which a Melungeon woman’s inheritance was challenged.
In that instance, if the defendant Martha Simmerman were found to have African blood, she would lose the inheritance.
Her attorney, Lewis Shepherd, argued successfully that the Simmerman’s family was descended from ancient Phoenicians who eventually migrated to Portugal and then to North America.

Obviously, if one’s genetic heritage could mean the difference between being free or likely to be enslaved or treated differently under the law, it was very important to maintain their historic claim that they were Portuguese. However, both claims could have been equally true. Ancestors of the Melungeons would have immigrated from Portugal originally, yet not necessarily been of “phoenician blood”. Instead their ancestors could have arrived in Portugal from any Portuguese colonial territories in sub-saharan Africa, such as Mozambique, Angola, or Cape Verde. Thus present-day researchers would be correct as to the genetic heritage being south African, and the Melungeons claim that they were Portuguese, being equally true.

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Adrian Piper 1991 exhibit Decide Who You Are-"Skinned Alive"

Adrian Piper 1991 exhibit Decide Who You Are-“Skinned Alive”

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Adrian Piper is a first-generation conceptual artist and analytic philosopher who was born in New York City and lived for many years on Cape Cod, Massachusetts before emigrating from the United States to Germany. She began exhibiting her artwork internationally at the age of twenty, graduating from the School of Visual Arts in 1969 with an A.A. in Fine Art and a concentration in painting and sculpture. While continuing to produce and exhibit her artwork, Piper received a B.A. Summa Cum Laude with Research Honors in Philosophy and a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Musicology from the City College of New York in 1974. For graduate school in philosophy she attended Harvard University, where she received an M.A. in 1977 and a Ph.D. in 1981 under the supervision of John Rawls.

self portrait

self portrait

She also studied Kant and Hegel with Dieter Henrich at the University of Heidelberg in 1977-1978. Her formal education lasted a total of 27 years. Piper taught philosophy at Georgetown, Harvard, Michigan, Stanford, UCSD, and Wellesley College. Following in the steps of trailblazing pioneer Dr. Joyce Mitchell Cook, in 1987 she became the first tenured African American woman professor in the field of philosophy. But for her refusal to return to the United States while listed as a Suspicious Traveler on the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s Watch List, Wellesley forcibly terminated her tenured full professorship in philosophy in 2008. Since 2005, she has lived and worked in Berlin Germany, where she runs the APRA Foundation Berlin and edits The Berlin Journal of Philosophy.

Adrian Piper is also bi-racial. Much of the early focus of her artwork, became the interpersonal dynamics of racism and racial stereotyping, as seen here, in her video installation, “Cornered” (1988).

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Works that further explore racial themes include her pencil drawing “Self-Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid Features” (1981); her collective performance and video “Funk Lessons” (1982-4); her unannounced “Calling Card” interactive performances (1986–1990); her mixed media installation “Close to Home” (1987); her video installation Cornered (1988); and Vanilla Nightmares (1986–1989), her series of racially and sexually transgressive charcoal drawings on pages of the New York Times. Her first retrospective in 1987 at the Alternative Museum in New York, reintroduced the art public and a new generation of viewers to the media, strategies and preoccupations of first-generation Conceptual art.

And yet Piper is also well-known for her principal philosophical publications in metaethics, Kant, and the history of ethics. Her scholarly two-volume study in Kantian metaethics, “Rationality and the Structure of the Self, Volume I: The Humean Conception” and “Rationality and the Structure of the Self, Volume II: A Kantian Conception”, was accepted for publication by Cambridge University Press in 2008. “Rationality and the Structure of the Self” was the culmination of 34 years of work.

A multi-faceted woman and creative genius, Adrian Piper founded the Adrian Piper Research Archive (APRA) in 2002, after being diagnosed with a chronic, progressive, and incurable medical condition. Although the condition had vanished within two years after she emigrated to Germany in 2005, she continued to develop APRA as a personal and public resource for students, scholars, curators, collectors, writers, and members of the general public who have a constructive curiosity or scholarly or professional interest in her work and life.

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It is amazing for that one who’s talents and knowledge have been so demonstrated, that physical features such as skin color could ever play a negative role in her life.

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De Staalmeesters – van Rembrandt


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reprise of the article “Black History: Black European nobility tucked away”

Black nobility in Europe? According to black Dutch researcher Egmond Codfried and author of the book “Belle van Zuylen’s forgotten grandmother” there was black nobility in Europe, but their history and images were later carefully hidden, edited out or painted over. His claims are controversial, and of course not accepted by European historians and the man in the street. Codfried has systematically studied hundreds of paintings of famous and less famous nobility. He regularly stumbled upon people who looked black or coloured, or although they were white, clearly had African facial features.

Maria Jacoba van Goor

Codfried writes: “This study of historical sources and literature on black and coloured historic persons was inspired by the chance finding of a portrait of Maria Jacoba van Goor. We get a view of the problems and of the methods to identify these Europeans. This beautiful painting was also a reason to cast an afrocentric view at Belle van Zuylens life and her works, the biographies en the origin of her financial fortune. Through her coloured grandmother, the Dutch Belle van Zuylen (1740-1805) also known as Madame de Charrière, joins the rank of writers as the Russian Alexander Pushkin, the French Alexander Dumas and Colette, the Britons Elizabeth Barrett and her husband Robert Browning. As well as the German classic composer Ludwig von Beethoven and Queen Charlotte of Britain. These are Europeans of great merit, who had black forefathers. Also we find that Belle was a friend of Pierre Alexander Du Peyrou (1729-1794), a brown coloured and wealthy Surinam plantation owner in Swiss. Belle is renowned as a close friend, benefactor and publisher of the most famous philosopher of the Enlightenment, Jean Jaques Rousseau.

Alexander Pushkin

Alexander Dumas

Jean Etienne Liotard


Also from writings of contemporaries to make that more black and colored people lived in Europe than they appear, writes Codfried. So was it written that someone “the milk of a black woman would have drunk” or “chocolate” would have eaten. Also, blacks by their surroundings as “the chimney sweeper” called. Or it was said that those “bad complexion” or had always “a burnt head”. Codfried: “Many portraits show pure white faces while it is established that the person sometimes black or chocolate brown was, as Constantijn Huygens, Charles II Stuart, Madame de Stael, Baron Aarnoud Joost van der Duyn and Pierre-Alexander Dupeyrou. Moreover it is known that the famous classical composer Ludwig van Beethoven was quite black and nicknamed “the black Spaniard” bore. Habsburg emperor Leopold I, Holy Roman Empire was Swinburne described as “a short, big black man.” His portraits show “the dancing emperor” as a black man with very thick lips and a forward lower half of the face. Duchess Charlotte Sophie of Mecklenburg Strelitz (1740-1818), queen of George III of England and grandmother of Queen Victoria, had, according to her physician a “true mulattengezicht” . In this case show the paintings by Sir Ramsay clearly a woman of color. ”

Maurits Huygens

sophie von mecklenburg

van Beethoven

Codfried’s research is important, pioneering work. And though his book is now and then a little messy reading, it is nevertheless quite convincing. Mainly because of the dozens of images. Concepts of racism occasionally creep in, with all the talk about lip thickness, nose width, eye color, color, curliness of hair, the distance between the nose and upper lip, the protrusion from the bottom of the face, and so on. This raises associations with the skull measuring the Nazi “scientists”. On the other hand the theory, if you proceed, is justified in that there are many more black and colored people living in the Netherlands and Europe than normally assumed. Codfried is fortunately very clear that he is only comparing the appearance of people, and that he does not believe in the existence of “races”. “Skin color and ethnicity are in some ways more artificial social constructs than biological realities, but like other social structures such as gender or nobility very decisive for the individual,” he writes.

reprised from “Black and colored nobility stashed away”
and the Afro-Europe International blog

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Some interesting info on egg-based drinks I’ve never heard of, such as “possett” in addition to the one I love, eggnog!

Why'd You Eat That?

You will all be happy to know that I survived the Christmas office party. But only barely.

I don’t wanna talk about it.

Anywho…

As I’m writing these posts, I’m seeing a trend:

I hate many of these traditional items.

But that’s probably because I’ve only ever tried the commercialized versions. For example, eggnog. I hate eggnog. I think it’s thick and goopy and disgustingly sweet. I’ve only tried the commercialized kind so perhaps that’s why.

Eggnog (or egg nog, whichever one you prefer) is a thick, rich holiday drink made from beaten eggs, spices, cream, sugar, and alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.

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re-posted from Dr. Taylor Marshall’s Canterbury Tales

The great saints and masters of the mystical life in the Catholic tradition often speak of the three ages of the spiritual life. These stages correspond to the three areas of Solomon’s Temple:

1) Purgative (outer court)
2) Illuminative (holy place)
3) Unitive (holy of holies)

1) The purgative way is when a Christian truly examines his life and seeks to root out sin and seek personal sanctity. This entails frequenting the sacraments (especially Holy Communion and Penance), beginning a life of penance and charitable deeds, a growing hatred for venial sins, a love for Scripture (particularly the Psalms), an awareness of predominant faults, a purification of the intellect and will.

2) The illuminative way begins with a “dark night of the senses” (not the dark night of the soul), which leads to a passive purification of the senses. This journey includes a growth in the virtues, particularly the virtues of humility and charity. The soul has great confidence and hope in God. True devotion to Mary develops. Infused prayer begins.

3) The unitive way is the stage of Christian perfection and begins with the dark night of the soul. The soul now willingly suffers for God and loves God in all circumstances. The soul delights in spiritual childhood and simplicity as we see in St Therese and other great saints. These souls practice heroic virtue, which are the kind of virtues that we find in the canonized saints. Those in the unitive way accept divine abandonment and love Christ crucified. They practice reparation for the sins of others that wound Christ. They experience mystical union and other mysteries that cannot be explained.

These three ages of the mystical life are found in Solomon’s temple.

1) The stage of purification is the outer court where the altar of fire is found and also the basin for cleansing. Here, water and fire purify those who approach the temple of God’s presence.

2) The stage of illumination is the holy place within the Temple were the hallowed lamp stands giving light. Also present there is the altar of incense representing true and fruitful mental prayer and infused prayer. There is found the bread of presence which signifies a love for the Eucharist.

3) The stage of union is the holy of holies which is dark, black cubic room cut off from the eyes of most men. There is the ark of the covenant and the propitiatory. Here is the presence of God. Here is divine intimacy.

As Catholics, we should seek to be near to God. The old temple gives a simple plan. Begin with years of purification. Prayer. Penance. Daily examination of conscience.

PS: According to Saint Isidore and Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, a priest must be in the unitive way before he should allow himself to be consecrated as a bishop. Also a man must first be in the illuminative way before being ordained a priest. You will find similar things said by the Saint Denys the Areopagite.

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I encourage anyone interested in learning more about these subjects, to check out the blog of Dr. Taylor Marshall Canterbury Tales. Theology can be exciting, eh?! lol.

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re-posted from Dr. Taylor Marshall’s blog Canterbury Tales
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The Dark Night of the Soul

According to Saint Paul and Saint John of the Cross and the masters of Mystical Theology, such as John Tauler, the spiritual life consists in three ages:

Beginners (Purgative Way)
Proficients (Illuminative Way)
Perfect (Unitive Way)

Incidentally, by Perfect we mean not absolute perfection (like the saints in Heaven) but relative perfection. These three ages mirror natural human life: Childhood, Adolescence, Adulthood.

Just as these three stages are transitioned by a crisis, so also progress in the spiritual life is marked by crisis.

St. Jean de la Croix

Saint John of the Cross, the Doctor of the Church with regard to Mystical Theology, teaches that the transition from the Purgative to the Illuminative is occasioned by the “Dark Night of the Senses” and the transition from the Illuminative to the Unitive is occasioned by the Dark Night of the Spirit.

Beginners (Purgative Way) Dark Night – Senses
Proficients (Illuminative Way) Dark Night – Spirit
Perfect (Unitive Way)

The Dark Night of the Senses is the crisis in which God purposefully withdraws consolations of the senses. Warm fuzzies in prayer. Discursive pictorial visions in the imagination, physical comfort, lack of external distraction.

This is very difficult because the Christian begins to worry that he is regressing or has done something to lose God’s favor. Instead, God is preparing him to enter more deeply in the love of God. The soul learns to seek the God of consolation, but not merely the consolations of God. Perhaps this Dark Night of the Senses is one of the most misunderstood elements of daily Christian living.

Padre Pio with stigmata

The Dark Night of the Soul is a crushing desolation where the soul learns to love the cross of Christ. With a desire to be more like Christ and to share in His life, the perfect learn to love persecution, humiliations, disgrace, and other problems in life since they see in them a perfect conformity to God. Two well known modern examples are Saint Pio and Saint Therese.

We also see this is a state of perfection in the Apostles:

“And calling in the apostles, after they had scourged them, they charged them that they should not speak at all in the name of Jesus. And they dismissed them. And they indeed went from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were accounted worthy to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus.” (Acts 5:40–41, D-R)

Saints Peter and John rejoiced in their sufferings. This is not something naturally, but something utterly supernatural – it is a sign of the unitive way. The Apostles, we might say, went through the Dark Night of the Senses from Good Friday till Easter, [during which their Master Jesus was still with them in physical person, even though scourged and lying dead] and the Dark Night of the Spirit from the Ascension to Pentecost [after which Jesus physically left this earthly plane and only the Holy Spirit communicated through the disciples hearts and faith]. This, at least, is the position of Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange.

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I encourage anyone interested in learning more about these subjects, to check out the informative blog of Catholic author Dr. Taylor Marshall Canterbury Tales.

However, sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the dialectical polemics, and to lose sight of the original heart of the issue, which is that deep pit of despair, which is often one of the experiences of the human condition.

Tour guide Mara Vaughan in Luxor, Egypt has shared her discovery of Eckhart Tolle’s words on “The Dark Night of the Soul”. Let me repeat them:

Eckhart Tolle on the Dark Night of the Soul

Q: Have you ever experienced the dark night of the soul?

A: The “dark night of the soul” is a term that goes back a long time. Yes, I have also experienced it. It is a term used to describe what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness. The inner state in some cases is very close to what is conventionally called depression. Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything. Sometimes it’s triggered by some external event, some disaster perhaps, on an external level. The death of someone close to you could trigger it, especially premature death, for example if your child dies. Or you had built up your life, and given it meaning – and the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievements, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for some reason collapses.

It can happen if something happens that you can’t explain away anymore, some disaster which seems to invalidate the meaning that your life had before. Really what has collapsed then is the whole conceptual framework for your life, the meaning that your mind had given it. So that results in a dark place. But people have gone into that, and then there is the possibility that you emerge out of that into a transformed state of consciousness. Life has meaning again, but it’s no longer a conceptual meaning that you can necessarily explain. Quite often it’s from there that people awaken out of their conceptual sense of reality, which has collapsed.

They awaken into something deeper, which is no longer based on concepts in your mind. A deeper sense of purpose or connectedness with a greater life that is not dependent on explanations or anything conceptual any longer. It’s a kind of re-birth. The dark night of the soul is a kind of death that you die. What dies is the egoic sense of self. Of course, death is always painful, but nothing real has actually died there – only an illusory identity. Now it is probably the case that some people who have gone through this transformation realized that they had to go through that, in order to bring about a spiritual awakening. Often it is part of the awakening process, the death of the old self and the birth of the true self.

Theology can be exciting, eh?! lol.

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