Paramilitary Operations in the Congo: Witchcraft, Sorcery, Magic and Other Psychological Phenomena

WITCHCRAFT, SORCERY, MAGIC AND OTHER PSYCHOLOGICAL PHENOMENA AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS ON MILITARY AND PARAMILITARY OPERATIONS IN THE CONGO

This report has been prepared in response to a query posed by ODCS/OPS, Department of the Army, regarding the purported use of witchcraft, sorcery, and magic by insurgent elements in the Republic of the Congo (Leopoldville). Magical practices are said to be effective in conditioning dissident elements and their followers to do battle with Government troops.

Rebel tribesmen are said to have been persuaded that they can be made magically impervious to Congolese army firepower. Their fear of the government has thus been diminished and, conversely, fear of the rebels has grown within army ranks. The problem, therefore, which CINFAC was asked to explore is the role of supernatural or superstitious concepts in a counterinsurgency in the Congo.

Any reply to this question involves consideration of several factors. It is necessary to examine the nature of general African beliefs about magic, insofar as this may be done on the basis of published studies. It is also necessary to gain some insight as to the roles played by magic in other African revolutionary upheavals. And finally, it is suggested that today’s insurgency situation should not be studied in a vacuum, but should be considered as part of a continuum stemming from the pre-independence Belgian administration, the impact of Western culture upon African tribal systems, the circumstances of the birth of the Congo Republic, and the nature of the struggle for power within the Congo since 1960.

A review of the available literature indicates that in Africa, uprisings embodying supernatural practices have tended to occur generally whenever the continued physical safety or internal power structure of a tribe or tribes has been seriously threatened. Manifestations of witchcraft and sorcery in these instances can be said to reflect, in part, a return to traditionalism. A tribe unites more readily when a threat is explainable and solutions are propounded in terms of tribal common denominators of belief. In order to determine the degree to which such a generalization is applicable to the current situation in the Congo, a brief recapitulation of certain aspects of recent Congolese history will serve as a useful point of departure.

Origins of Congolese Political Instability

The tribal uprisings which have erupted in the Republic of the Congo (Leopoldville) since its independence in 1960 can be traced to situations which appeared to threaten the various tribes both in terms of their physical well-being and their position within the structure of Congolese national society. With independence, these tribes found themselves lacking the basic services which the colonial administration had provided — alimentation, hygiene, medical care, schools, and physical security — while at the same time the future of the tribe and its organization was being debated by the new government at Leopoldville. By and large, however, it was the disruption in government machinery which forced the younger members of the tribes to seek the urban centers in an effort to improve their situation, and pushed the older members back towards traditionalism and its beliefs in magic and witchcraft.

The actual disintegration of the Congo was caused by two main factors: the absence of associational groups which could replace the departing colonial administration; and the power struggle that took place between those Congolese political parties favoring centralism and those favoring federalism. this conflict prevented any attempts by Congolese governments to restore some semblance of administrative order.

The apparent docility of the Congolese people had led the Belgian colonial administration to believe its regime would endure, and that it could take its time in preparing the country for an eventual peaceful transfer of power. It was not until the bloody riots of January 5, 1959, that the Belgian government realized that it would have to give freedom to the Congo much sooner than it had envisaged. In the ensuing agreements between Congolese representatives and the Belgian Government, provisions were made for the utilization of Belgian colonial civil servants in their former capacities until Congolese replacements could be trained. Such agreements were never implemented.

On July 8, 1960, eight days after independence, the Congolese National Army in the capital city of Leopoldville mutinied against its Belgian officers, and in less than three days the mutiny had spread to the rest of the Congo where the position of all Belgian civilians became serious. Kasai province was to follow suit in August. On July 12, Premier Patrice Lumumba called on the United Nations to eject the Belgian troops and help restore order. In the weeks following the arrival of UN forces, Lumumba’s followers made repeated attempts to reimpose central government control on Katanga and Kasai. These attempts, and the high number of casualties resulting from them, precipitated a power struggle between the centralist bloc of Lumumba and the federalist bloc of President Joseph Kasavubu which paralyzed all government activity.

Although Lumumba was eventually removed from office by the Army Chief of Staff, and a more or less Federal set-up with a strong executive was established, the government remained virtually paralyzed by its effort to regain Katanga province. Anarchy thus set in, providing Lumumba’s followers with opportunities to set up their own political organizations. These were cast along tribal lines, and the trappings of tribalism, including manifestations of beliefs in magic and witchcraft, began again to impinge upon politics at the natural level. Elements of East-West confrontation entered the picture when the situation in the Congo was internationalized. By calling in the United Nations, Lumumba had hoped that it would help him in his efforts to restore central government control over Kasai and Katanga provinces while also helping him train civil service cadres to replace the Belgians who had departed after the July riots.

In the UN, Lumumba had received his initial support from the Afro-Asian and Communist Blocs. But when the United Nations refused to accede to all of his demands, he turned against it and accepted the proffered assistance of the Communist Bloc countries, along with that of Ghana, Guinea, and the United Arab Republic. Communist machinations, and subsequent attempts by UN Ghanian troops to disarm the Congolese Army seemed to have prompted General Mobutu to stage the removal of Lumumba. With the overthrow of Lumumba and the ejection of all Communist Bloc missions from the Congo by Mobutu, it appeared that Communist influence in the Congo was reduced to a minimum in spite of the fact that some of Lumumba’s left-leaning associates remained active on the scene.

The present recurrence of Communist agitation seems, however, to derive its main impetus from the Chinese Communist Mission in Burundi. The role being played today by tribalism, with its attendant reversion to other aspects of traditionalism, can be understood fully only in light of the effect on the tribes of the transition from colonialism to full independence.

Belgian colonial policy was, in general, paternalistic in tone and indirect in administration. The Belgian administration assumed the role of tutor, and dealt with local populations through local indigenous institutions. It was thought that this process would be less disruptive and would condition local societies to accept foreign rule more readily. With particular reference to the tribes, indirect rule resulted in the incorporation of the tribal chiefs into the administrative system.

With minor exceptions, the Belgian administration came to control the tribe through it chief, leaving the internal organization of the tribe intact. In a sense, a chief became the principal agent between his tribe and the colonial authorities. Thus the Belgians accepted the traditional boundaries of the chiefdoms, reemphasized the hereditary character of tribal chieftancy, and made the chiefs responsible for population registration, public health, tax collection, security, and labor matters within the respective chiefdoms.

It was mainly in the field of jurisprudence, and especially punitive actions, that the traditional powers of the chiefs were curtailed. Too, the ability of tribal members to appeal directly to colonial authorities on legal points, and the fact that Europeans could disregard tribal immigration barriers established by the chiefs and recruit labor at will, tended to reduce the overall effectiveness of the chiefs.

Expanding economic opportunities, missionary activity, and the suppression of intertribal warfare contributed in the long-run to the gradual erosion of the role or tribal communities in the social structure of the Congo as a whole. With the establishment of major urban centers, and the close contact between Europeans and Congolese which they afforded, a new class of Congolese began to emerge. The longer they remained in the cities, the weaker became their tribal attachments, until in the post World War II era many were to harbor strongly anti-tribal sentiments.

The new class was known as evolues (literally: evolved), and most evolue leaders came to regard the continued existence of a tribal society as typifying backwardness and colonialism. With independence, most of the evolues, of which Patrice Lumumba was one, became identified with the centralist political bloc, while others, such as Moise Tshombe and Joseph Kasavubu, tribal chieftans in their own right, formed the federalist bloc of political parties. The centralists viewed any federal set-up as an attempt to preserve colonial influences and practices, while the federalists viewed centralism as the attempted elimination of the political opposition and the establishment of a dictatorship similar to that of Ghana and Guinea. The power struggle between these two blocs prevented the drafting of a constitution clearly defining the role and position of the tribes, and it was not until recently that this was resolved in the form of a federalist system with a strong executive. This represented a compromise between centralist and federalist points of view. It recognized tribal structures, but underlines the authority of the central government. Unfortunately, the persistence of political chaos and insurgency has hindered the restoration of effective governmental machinery, and until this machinery is restored no objective evaluation of the compromise system will be possible.

Supernatural Aspects of the Present Insurgency Situation

We began this discussion with an observation that threats to the concept or form of tribal structures in Africa tend to generate uprisings characterized by emphasis upon traditionalist elements in African life. The current uprisings in the Congo, and for that matter elsewhere in black Africa, gain impetus from the insurgent practice of employing magical procedures to convince tribal insurgents that no harm can be done to them by forces of the central government. These tactics are effective, because in the Congo and elsewhere in black Africa beliefs in witchcraft, sorcery, magic, and other supernatural phenomenon are deeply rooted among the people. Although the manifestations of these beliefs vary widely according to tribal and cultural circumstances, magico-religious causes are usually cited to explain misfortunes of any kind, even those of clearly natural origin. If crops are blighted, if a hut caves in and kills its occupants, if the chief becomes unfriendly, or if sudden illness or death occur, bewitching is usually given as the primary cause. The people may understand that in fact the house fell because termites ate away the foundations, but that it fell at the time it did was a result of witchcraft or sorcery.

Witchcraft is also sighted as a factor in personal disputes, especially where the relationship is inherently subject to tensions — as for example, in the relationship between husband and wife, or between co-wives. In these cases, not only physical or direct remedies, but occult remedies as well are considered necessary to counteract the evil influence.

A distinction is drawn by Evans-Pritchard in his Witchcraft, Oracles, and Magic Among the Azande (Oxford University Press, 1937) which is helpful for purposes of study is that between witchcraft and sorcery. Although these two concepts often overlap, especially in application (the same person may be thought to practice sorcery as well as witchcraft)), they do represent two distinct theories of supernatural behavior which are shared by practically all African tribal societies.

A sorcerer is one who is thought to practice evil magic against others. The techniques of sorcery may be learned by anyone, and are usually based upon the use of various organic or vegetable compounds called “medicines” which, when prepared according to stringent ritualistic requirements, are believed to acquire magical properties enabling them to work the will of the sorcerer.

The reciprocal to the concept of sorcery, or the practice of evil magic, is the concept of the use of magical rites or medicines for socially-approved purposes. These include everything from the protection of personal safety, to improvement of soil fertility, to success at the hunt or in battle. In short, “good” magic may be invoked to stimulate good results in any phase of the life cycle. Again, strict and proper ritual must be observed in the preparation of the necessary medicines, and these rituals — which include taboo observance, verbal formulae, etc. — are idiosyncratic to particular tribes, and even differing schools of thought within the same tribe or sub-tribe.

Witchcraft, on the other hand, is said to be an inborn trait which enables its possessor to harm other people merely by wishing to do so. “Medicines” play no part in true bewitching operations. Some tribes believe that witchcraft power is activated by feelings of hostility or envy even without conscious decision on the part of the witch — or even without the witch’s knowing that he contains witchcraft power within him. In the Congo, belief that the witchcraft power was embodied as a physical substance in the belly was so widespread that the Belgian authorities had to ban the practice of tribal elders’ performing autopsies upon the bodies of suspected witches.

In 1924 the colonial administration also banned use of the poison ordeal — the other universally accepted method of screening suspected witches. (Ritually-prepared poison was administered to suspects in the belief that the innocent would survive and the guilty perish.) Although Africa’s infrastructure of supernatural beliefs and practices has been subjected to concentrated assault by Europeans — primarily missionaries — for as many as five hundred years in some areas, few lasting inroads have been made against ingrained traditions.

In the Congo, practically all education since 1878 has been in the hands of various Catholic and Protestant missionary groups. Missionary activities have succeeded in establishing rather substantial church organizations and church membership, but closer examination reveals that to the extent that Christian and other European influences have taken root in the Congo, they have also often been modified so as to merge with, not supersede, the traditional foundations of the country and its people.

Europeanized Congolese may carry amulets and charms, consult oracles about the advisability of business transactions, and observe other rituals learned in childhood. Others hold both traditional and Christian funeral ceremonies.

Institutionally, many syncretic sects — often pseudo-Christian — stand between Christianity and tradition, started by prophets who believed they were divinely inspired. Most began as messianic cults but developed nationalistic and anti-European characteristics along the way. Among the people, there is little evidence that traditional beliefs in witchcraft, sorcery, and magic have been diminished by Western influences. The evidence is rather that the practice of secret magical rites is on the increase. History indicates that beliefs in witches and magic die hard in all societies. And because of Africa’s particular cultural setting, it is unlikely that these beliefs will disappear other than as a result of generations of careful and gradual education in the Western mold.

Western education is not, however, an immediate solution. In Africa beliefs in magic and witchcraft are used to explain ultimate causations — the existence and origin of fortune and misfortune. Western secular education does not provide unequivocal answers to questions of such a fundamental nature. Western institutions have, as a matter of fact, served in some ways to increase tensions and anxieties in African societies, especially as these relate to superstitious beliefs and practices. The control of witches and sorcerers is of paramount importance to people who believe in magic. Yet the imposition of political systems of a Western type upon African tribes has resulted in the elimination of the most efficacious witch-control measure — the poison ordeal.

In addition, the execution of convicted witches and sorcerers is no longer allowed. As a result, many Africans feel that western political systems such as the modern state have aligned themselves on the side of evil because from their standpoint the “civilized” elimination of traditional control measures work to protect witches and sorcerers from retaliation by their innocent victims.

The African man-in-the-bush is, therefore, much more at the mercy of those who wish to harm him by supernatural means than ever before. He thus tends to rely more and more upon the witch-doctor (the term witch-doctor is used in the popular sense for the convenience of the reader. A more percise [sic] but less familiar term would be majico-religious practitioner, since the practices attributed to witch-doctors neither necessarily include, nor are confined to witchcraft per se, but may include sorcery and other forms of magic as well) who, in the absence of the poison ordeal and other drastic sanctions, provides the main source of protection from evil.

Counterinsurgency Analysis

In the context of the current insurgency situations in Kivu and Katanga, where insurgents rely upon “medicines” and ritualistic observances to protect them from firepower, the suggestion to devise and employ magical practices in counterinsurgency operations is obvious and tempting. Before adopting this course of action, however, the U.S. counterinsurgency planner should give serious consideration to several pertinent factors:

1.) In the event that the U.S. role, if any, in the Congo will be of an advisory character, the advisors must rely upon the extent of their influence upon Congolese counterparts. U.S. policy recommendations must, therefore, be acceptable to Congolese leaders. The Congolese leadership class is driven almost exclusively from a small elite group who, having obtained Western education under the Belgians, have become “Europeanized” (a concept virtually equivalent to “civilized”) to the extent that they are known as evolues. Kasavubu, Lumumba, Kalonji, Adoula, Mobutu, and Tshombe are all evolues and as such are fiercely proud of their “civilized” status and image. These evolues can be expected to resist any association with policies which might reflect endorsement of “uncivilized” behavior, even though they themselves might be to some extent dependent upon secret charms or other superstitious beliefs or practices.

2.) Although beliefs in witchcraft, sorcery, and magic are endemic throughout sub-Saharan Africa, these beliefs vary considerably in detail according to tribe or sub-tribe. Literally, one man’s charm may be another man’s poison, depending upon particular tribal beliefs. It follows that the counterinsurgency planner, should he desire to exploit the psychological potential of superstition, must be able to compile and analyze a large quantity of specific and detailed information embracing the entire spectrum of superstitious beliefs and other values of the specific ethnic group with which he is concerned. This tends to relegate the use of magic to limited tactical objectives rather than broad strategic concepts or solutions to fundamental problems.

By the same token, however, the prevalence of superstitious beliefs in Africa suggests that the counterinsurgency planner requires considerable information about these beliefs for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes alone. A sound understanding of magical concepts, practices, and mannerisms is necessary for defensive purposes should they play any role or importance in an insurgency situation. Knowledge of the specific uses of charms, medicines, bodily scarification, and the like, will help to identify membership in a particular cult., or will enable patterns of activity to be defined. Failing complete and detailed information of this type, both operational and counterintelligence planning will be unrealistic.

Unfortunately, such information may not be quickly acquired about the more than 200 reported tribes in the Congo, but must be painstakingly gathered and evaluated over a long period of time. Detailed studies of supernatural beliefs of specific tribes are limited. The secrecy inherent in most magical rituals presents a formidable obstacle to the outside investigator, whether he may be a scientist or an intelligence agent.

3.) And finally, the tactics employed to counter current insurgencies in various parts of the Congo must be evaluated in terms not only of their immediate effectiveness against the short-term military problem, but in terms also of their positive or negative influence upon the long-range problem of establishing a viable political system.

It cannot be denied that the exploitation of superstitious beliefs by insurgent leaders is a double-edged weapon. Fear of magic and witchcraft can be reversed and used with telling effects against the insurgents. If reliable and detailed operational intelligence can be gathered, counterinsurgency planners will be able to concoct “medicines” and other devices within the superstitious framework of the target group, with which to neutralize and overpower the magic spells cast by insurgent witch-doctors.

These procedures could well involve a continuing duel of thrust and parry, because the witch-doctors could also be counted on to devise counter-counter measures, and so forth. But there is little doubt that counter-magic tactics properly conceived and imaginatively executed could be quite effective in achieving short-run victories.

A broader question is whether the exploitation of superstition in this fashion is not also a triple-edged weapon, in that superstition itself, rather than the central government, may become, in the long-run, the main beneficiary.

Since tribalism and superstition, so closely related to each other, have provided a fertile seedbed for political instability in the Congo, and measures which enhance the divisive and destructive aspects of tribalism simply lay additional obstacles in the already cluttered path toward Congolese nationhood. Should the central government successfully use occult methods to defeat a movement based upon such methods, the very concepts of sorcery and magic which lend impetus to the insurgencies of the moment may gain strength and acquire even greater trouble- making potential for the future.

In other words, the more successful the counterinsurgency campaign, if that campaign is based upon a counter-magic approach, the more ominous the outlook for the future. Any thesis that an insurgency inspired or sustained by magical concepts may be defeated more easily and at less cost and trouble by employing counter-magic is therefore questionable on these grounds.

Nor does the current situation in the Congo represent anything new in the history of insurgency insofar as the use of magical practices is concerned. History is replete with instances wherein uprisings have been reinforced by magic spells. The T’ai P’ing rebellion in China was led by a man who represented himself as the younger brother of Jesus Christ. The Boxer cultists believed that they could cause cannon to fall apart at great distances by psycho-kinetic means. those who took the Mau Mau oaths in Kenya were taught that oath violation would be instantly lethal. African history contains numerous other examples or similar phenomena (the “Maji-Maji” rebellion in Tanganyika, the Makomobe uprising in Portuguese East Africa, etc.).

Current problems in the Congo as well as the Lumpa uprising in Northern Rhodesia today exemplify the same superstitious manifestations. Any study of historical examples of uprisings supported by superstitious practices, however, will reveal that vigorous military counter-measures of a conventional nature have produced optimum results in suppressing the insurgency.

If there are substantial political or economic motives behind the uprisings, these naturally must be taken into account. The reference here is to military tactics and their effects against magic. Despite the ingrained quality of superstition throughout black Africa, there is a certain core of pragmatism immediately applicable to the present problem. The history of messianic movements and especially those movements whose primary function in the detection and/or neutralization of witchcraft and sorcery reveals that Africans easily recognize and accept concrete proof of the ineffectiveness of a particular magical rite or charm. Such recognition and acceptance in no way affect the basic pattern of belief in magic.

The opposite is in fact true, as is proven by the continuing succession of short-lived anti-witchcraft cults throughout Africa. Africans are quite prepared to admit that they have been fooled by a particular practitioner or cult. The pattern then is to reject the “false” cult and accept one which, until events prove otherwise, is the “real thing.”

The same type of mental processes seem to apply to witch-doctors themselves. Informed opinion is that most witch-doctors believe themselves as individuals to be clever charlatans, since they are aware that they really have no magic power. But an individual witch-doctor is also likely to believe that he alone is a charlatan and that his colleagues do indeed have magical abilities.

In the Congo, as elsewhere in black Africa, there is every reason to believe that disciplined troops, proficient in marksmanship, and led by competent officers, can handily dispel most notions of magical invulnerability. It is quite true that the raising of such a force may pose more problems in the Congo than in some other areas, but the problem is by no means insoluble.

The elite gendarmerie organized by the Belgians to offset the ill-disciplined Force Publique gendarmerie is an example of what can be done in the Congo. The same concept of the gendarmerie was employed, together with foreign mercenaries, by Moise Tshombe in the Katanga secessionist movement. Tshombe’s forces were generally conceded to be highly effective, and were suppressed only with great difficulty by the United Nations.

The immediate military problems related to the Congo’s fundamental problems of instability and chaos appear more susceptible to lasting solution by conventional methods than by reliance upon purely psychological or occult phenomena whose values are limited to support functions in tactical situations and whose implementation is fraught with long-run risks. Drawing upon the Belgian experience as well as that of Tshombe in Katanga, it would appear that a more flexible approach to the military problem is to be found in the concept of elite troops: troops which are carefully trained and disciplined, and which are well-commanded. Unit morale and the confidence engendered by good training, knowledge of weaponry, and, above all, dynamic and competent leadership, can go far to counteract superstitious fears.

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THE shirk is a well-known specimen of the genus homo. His habitat is offices, stores, business establishments of all kinds. His habits are familiar to us, but a few words on the subject will not be amiss. The shirk usually displays activity when the boss is around, [...] Read more →

Preserving Iron and Steel Surfaces with Paint

Painting the Brooklyn Bridge, Photo by Eugene de Salignac , 1914

 

Excerpt from: The Preservation of Iron and Steel Structures by F. Cosby-Jones, The Mechanical Engineer January 30, 1914

Painting.

This is the method of protection against corrosion that has the most extensive use, owing to the fact that [...] Read more →

Sea and River Fishing

An angler with a costly pole Surmounted with a silver reel, Carven in quaint poetic scroll- Jointed and tipped with finest steel— With yellow flies, Whose scarlet eyes And jasper wings are fair to see, Hies to the stream Whose bubbles beam Down murmuring eddies wild and free. And casts the line with sportsman’s [...] Read more →

Of Decorated Furniture

DECORATED or “sumptuous” furniture is not merely furniture that is expensive to buy, but that which has been elaborated with much thought, knowledge, and skill. Such furniture cannot be cheap, certainly, but the real cost of it is sometimes borne by the artist who produces rather than by the man who may [...] Read more →

Pickled Eels

Vintage woodcut illustration of a Eel

 

This dish is a favorite in Northern Europe, from the British Isles to Sweden.

Clean and skin the eels and cut them into pieces about 3/4-inch thick. Wash and drain the pieces, then dredge in fine salt and allow to stand from 30 [...] Read more →

The First Greek Book by John Williams White

Click here to read The First Greek Book by John Williams White

The First Greek Book - 15.7MB

IN MEMORIAM

JOHN WILLIAMS WHITE

The death, on May 9, of John Williams White, professor of Greek in Harvard University, touches a large number of classical [...] Read more →

Books of Use to the International Art Collector

Hebborn Piranesi

Before meeting with an untimely death at the hand of an unknown assassin in Rome on January 11th, 1996, master forger Eric Hebborn put down on paper a wealth of knowledge about the art of forgery. In a book published posthumously in 1997, titled The Art Forger’s Handbook, Hebborn suggests [...] Read more →

The American Museum in Britain – From Florida to Bath

Hernando de Soto (c1496-1542) Spanish explorer and his men torturing natives of Florida in his determination to find gold. Hand-coloured engraving. John Judkyn Memorial Collection, Freshford Manor, Bath

The print above depicts Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto and his band of conquistadors torturing Florida natives in order to extract information on where [...] Read more →

Indian Modes of Hunting – Setting Fox Traps

Aug. 13, 1898 Forest and Stream, Pg. 125

Game Bag and Gun.

Indian Modes of Hunting. III.—Foxes.

The fox as a rule is a most wily animal, and numerous are the stories of his cunning toward the Indian hunter with his steel traps.

Ought King Leopold to be Hanged?

King Leopold Butcher of the Congo

For the somewhat startling suggestion in the heading of this interview, the missionary interviewed is in no way responsible. The credit of it, or, if you like, the discredit, belongs entirely to the editor of the Review, who, without dogmatism, wishes to pose the question as [...] Read more →

Glimpses from the Chase

From Fores’s Sporting Notes and Sketches, A Quarterly Magazine Descriptive of British, Indian, Colonial, and Foreign Sport with Thirty Two Full Page Illustrations Volume 10 1893, London; Mssrs. Fores Piccadilly W. 1893, All Rights Reserved.

GLIMPSES OF THE CHASE, Ireland a Hundred Years Ago. By ‘Triviator.’

FOX-HUNTING has, like Racing, [...] Read more →

Fortune, Independence, and Competence

THE answer to the question, What is fortune has never been, and probably never will be, satisfactorily made. What may be a fortune for one bears but small proportion to the colossal possessions of another. The scores or hundreds of thousands admired and envied as a fortune in most of our communities [...] Read more →

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Officers and men of the 13th Light Dragoons, British Army, Crimea. Rostrum photograph of photographer’s original print, uncropped and without color correction. Survivors of the Charge.

Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, All in the valley of Death Rode the six hundred. “Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the [...] Read more →

Proper Book Handling and Cleaning

Book Conservators, Mitchell Building, State Library of New South Wales, 29.10.1943, Pix Magazine

The following is taken verbatim from a document that appeared several years ago in the Maine State Archives. It seems to have been removed from their website. I happened to have made a physical copy of it at the [...] Read more →

Stoke Park – Granted by King Charles I

Stoke Park Pavillions

 

Stoke Park Pavilions, UK, view from A405 Road. photo by Wikipedia user Cj1340

 

From Wikipedia:

Stoke Park – the original house

Stoke park was the first English country house to display a Palladian plan: a central house with balancing pavilions linked by colonnades or [...] Read more →

The Fowling Piece – Part I

THE FOWLING PIECE, from the Shooter’s Guide by B. Thomas – 1811.

I AM perfectly aware that a large volume might be written on this subject; but, as my intention is to give only such information and instruction as is necessary for the sportsman, I shall forbear introducing any extraneous [...] Read more →

JP Morgan’s Digital Currency Patent Application

J.P. Morgan Patent #8,452,703

Method and system for processing internet payments using the electronic funds transfer network.

Abstract

Embodiments of the invention include a method and system for conducting financial transactions over a payment network. The method may include associating a payment address of an account [...] Read more →

Fresh Water Angling – The Two Crappies

 

July 2, 1898 Forest and Stream,

Fresh-Water Angling. No. IX.—The Two Crappies. BY FRED MATHER.

Fishing In Tree Tops.

Here a short rod, say 8ft., is long enough, and the line should not be much longer than the rod. A reel is not [...] Read more →

Bess of Hardwick: Four Times a Lady

Bess of Harwick

Four times the nuptial bed she warm’d, And every time so well perform’d, That when death spoil’d each husband’s billing, He left the widow every shilling. Fond was the dame, but not dejected; Five stately mansions she erected With more than royal pomp, to vary The prison of her captive When [...] Read more →

A General Process for Making Wine

A General Process for Making Wine.

Gathering the Fruit Picking the Fruit Bruising the Fruit Vatting the Fruit Vinous Fermentation Drawing the Must Pressing the Must Casking the Must Spirituous Fermentation Racking the Wine Bottling and Corking the Wine Drinking the Wine

GATHERING THE FRUIT.

It is of considerable consequence [...] Read more →

Proper Wines to Serve with Food

Foie gras with Sauternes, Photo by Laurent Espitallier

As an Appetizer

Pale dry Sherry, with or without bitters, chilled or not. Plain or mixed Vermouth, with or without bitters. A dry cocktail.

With Oysters, Clams or Caviar

A dry flinty wine such as Chablis, Moselle, Champagne. Home Top of [...] Read more →

King James Bible – Knights Templar Edition

Full Cover, rear, spine, and front

Published by Piranesi Press in collaboration with Country House Essays, this beautiful paperback version of the King James Bible is now available for $79.95 at Barnes and Noble.com

This is a limited Edition of 500 copies Worldwide. Click here to view other classic books [...] Read more →

Beef Jerky

BEEF JERKY

Preparation.

Slice 5 pounds lean beef (flank steak or similar cut) into strips 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick, 1 to 2 inches wide, and 4 to 12 inches long. Cut with grain of meat; remove the fat. Lay out in a single layer on a smooth clean surface (use [...] Read more →

David Starkey: Britain’s Last Great Historian

Dr. David Starkey, the UK’s premiere historian, speaks to the modern and fleeting notion of “cancel culture”. Starkey’s brilliance is unparalleled and it has become quite obvious to the world’s remaining Western scholars willing to stand on intellectual integrity that a few so-called “Woke Intellectuals” most certainly cannot undermine [...] Read more →

The Human Seasons

John Keats

Four Seasons fill the measure of the year; There are four seasons in the mind of man: He has his lusty spring, when fancy clear Takes in all beauty with an easy span; He has his Summer, when luxuriously Spring’s honied cud of youthful thoughts he loves To ruminate, and by such [...] Read more →

Country Cabbage and Pea Soup

Add the following ingredients to a four or six quart crock pot, salt & pepper to taste keeping in mind that salt pork is just that, cover with water and cook on high till it boils, then cut back to low for four or five hours. A slow cooker works well, I [...] Read more →

Chantry Chapels

William Wyggeston’s chantry house, built around 1511, in Leicester: The building housed two priests, who served at a chantry chapel in the nearby St Mary de Castro church. It was sold as a private dwelling after the dissolution of the chantries.

A Privately Built Chapel

Chantry, chapel, generally within [...] Read more →

Harry Houdini Investigates the Spirit World

The magician delighted in exposing spiritualists as con men and frauds.

By EDMUND WILSON June 24, 1925

Houdini is a short strong stocky man with small feet and a very large head. Seen from the stage, his figure, with its short legs and its pugilist’s proportions, is less impressive than at close [...] Read more →

Fly Casting Instructions

It is a pity that the traditions and literature in praise of fly fishing have unconsciously hampered instead of expanded this graceful, effective sport. Many a sportsman has been anxious to share its joys, but appalled by the rapture of expression in describing its countless thrills and niceties he has been literally [...] Read more →

List of the 60 Franklin Library Signed Limited Editions

The following highly collectible Franklin Library Signed Editions were published between 1977 and 1982. They are all fully leather bound with beautiful covers and contain gorgeous and rich silk moire endpapers. Signatures are protected by unattached tissue inserts.

The values listed are average prices that were sought by [...] Read more →

Clairvoyance – Methods of Development

CLAIRVOYANCE

by C. W. Leadbeater

Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Pub. House

[1899]

CHAPTER IX – METHODS OF DEVELOPMENT

When a men becomes convinced of the reality of the valuable power of clairvoyance, his first question usually is, “How can [...] Read more →

The Snipe

THE SNIPE, from the Shooter’s Guide by B. Thomas – 1811

AFTER having given a particular description of the woodcock, it will only. be necessary to observe, that the plumage and shape of the snipe is much the same ; and indeed its habits and manners sets bear a great [...] Read more →

The Late Rev. H.M. Scarth

H. M. Scarth, Rector of Wrington

By the death of Mr. Scarth on the 5th of April, at Tangier, where he had gone for his health’s sake, the familiar form of an old and much valued Member of the Institute has passed away. Harry Mengden Scarth was bron at Staindrop in Durham, [...] Read more →

Producing and Harvesting Tobacco Seed

THE FIRST step in producing a satisfactory crop of tobacco is to use good seed that is true to type. The grower often can save his own seed to advantage, if he wants to.

Before topping is done, he should go over the tobacco field carefully to pick [...] Read more →

Palermo Wine

Take to every quart of water one pound of Malaga raisins, rub and cut the raisins small, and put them to the water, and let them stand ten days, stirring once or twice a day. You may boil the water an hour before you put it to the raisins, and let it [...] Read more →

Historical Uses of Arsenic

The arsenicals (compounds which contain the heavy metal element arsenic, As) have a long history of use in man – with both benevolent and malevolent intent. The name ‘arsenic’ is derived from the Greek word ‘arsenikon’ which means ‘potent'”. As early as 2000 BC, arsenic trioxide, obtained from smelting copper, was used [...] Read more →

Here’s Many a Year to You

” Here’s many a year to you ! Sportsmen who’ve ridden life straight. Here’s all good cheer to you ! Luck to you early and late.

Here’s to the best of you ! You with the blood and the nerve. Here’s to the rest of you ! What of a weak moment’s swerve ? [...] Read more →

Clover Wine

Add 3 quarts clover blossoms* to 4 quarts of boiling water removed from heat at point of boil. Let stand for three days. At the end of the third day, drain the juice into another container leaving the blossoms. Add three quarts of fresh water and the peel of one lemon to the blossoms [...] Read more →

King William III on Horseback by Sir Godfrey Kneller

Reprint from The Royal Collection Trust website:

Kneller was born in Lubeck, studied with Rembrandt in Amsterdam and by 1676 was working in England as a fashionable portrait painter. He painted seven British monarchs (Charles II, James II, William III, Mary II, Anne, George I and George II), though his [...] Read more →

Catholic Religious Orders

Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the mendicant Order of Friars Minor, as painted by El Greco.

Catholic religious order

Catholic religious orders are one of two types of religious institutes (‘Religious Institutes’, cf. canons 573–746), the major form of consecrated life in the Roman Catholic Church. They are organizations of laity [...] Read more →

The English Tradition of Woodworking

THE sense of a consecutive tradition has so completely faded out of English art that it has become difficult to realise the meaning of tradition, or the possibility of its ever again reviving; and this state of things is not improved by the fact that it is due to uncertainty of purpose, [...] Read more →

Mrs. Beeton’s Poultry & Game – Choosing Poultry

To Choose Poultry.

When fresh, the eyes should be clear and not sunken, the feet limp and pliable, stiff dry feet being a sure indication that the bird has not been recently killed; the flesh should be firm and thick and if the bird is plucked there should be no [...] Read more →

The Field of the Cloth of Gold

Reprint from the Royal Collection Trust Website

The meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I, known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold, took place between 7 to 24 June 1520 in a valley subsequently called the Val d’Or, near Guisnes to the south of Calais. The [...] Read more →

The Public Attitude Towards Speculation

Reprint from The Pitfalls of Speculation by Thomas Gibson 1906 Ed.

THE PUBLIC ATTITUDE TOWARD SPECULATION

THE public attitude toward speculation is generally hostile. Even those who venture frequently are prone to speak discouragingly of speculative possibilities, and to point warningly to the fact that an [...] Read more →

Audubon’s Art Method and Techniques

Audubon started to develop a special technique for drawing birds in 1806 a Mill Grove, Pennsylvania. He perfected it during the long river trip from Cincinnati to New Orleans and in New Orleans, 1821.

Home Top of [...] Read more →

Abingdon, Berkshire in the Year of 1880

St.Helen’s on the Thames, photo by Momit

 

From a Dictionary of the Thames from Oxford to the Nore. 1880 by Charles Dickens

Abingdon, Berkshire, on the right bank, from London 103 3/4miles, from Oxford 7 3/4 miles. A station on the Great Western Railway, from Paddington 60 miles. The time occupied [...] Read more →

Napoleon’s Pharmacists

NAPOLEON’S PHARMACISTS.

Of the making of books about Napoleon there is no end, and the centenary of his death (May 5) is not likely to pass without adding to the number, but a volume on Napoleon”s pharmacists still awaits treatment by the student in this field of historical research. There [...] Read more →

Tobacco as Medicine

The first published illustration of Nicotiana tabacum by Pena and De L’Obel, 1570–1571 (shrpium adversana nova: London).

Tobacco can be used for medicinal purposes, however, the ongoing American war on smoking has all but obscured this important aspect of ancient plant.

Tobacco is considered to be an indigenous plant of [...] Read more →

Books Condemned to be Burnt

BOOKS CONDEMNED TO BE BURNT.

By

JAMES ANSON FARRER,

LONDON

ELLIOT STOCK, 62, PATERNOSTER ROW

1892

———-

WHEN did books first come to be burnt in England by the common hangman, and what was [...] Read more →

Of the Room and Furniture

Crewe Hall Dining Room

 

THE transient tenure that most of us have in our dwellings, and the absorbing nature of the struggle that most of us have to make to win the necessary provisions of life, prevent our encouraging the manufacture of well-wrought furniture.

We mean to outgrow [...] Read more →

Something about Caius College, Cambridge

Gate of Honour, Caius Court, Gonville & Caius

Gonville & Caius College, known as Caius and pronounced keys was founded in 1348 by Edmund Gonville, the Rector of Terrington St Clement in Norfolk. The first name was thus Goville Hall and it was dedicated to the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. [...] Read more →

The Real Time Piece Gentleman and the Digital Watch Vault

Paul Thorpe, Brighton, U.K.

The YouTube watch collecting world is rather tight-knit and small, but growing, as watches became a highly coveted commodity during the recent world-wide pandemic and fueled an explosion of online watch channels.

There is one name many know, The Time Piece Gentleman. This name for me [...] Read more →

Chinese 9 Course Dinner

The following recipes form the most popular items in a nine-course dinner program:

BIRD’S NEST SOUP

Soak one pound bird’s nest in cold water overnight. Drain the cold water and cook in boiling water. Drain again. Do this twice. Clean the bird’s nest. Be sure [...] Read more →

Naval Stores – Distilling Turpentine

Chipping a Turpentine Tree

DISTILLING TURPENTINE One of the Most Important Industries of the State of Georgia Injuring the Magnificent Trees Spirits, Resin, Tar, Pitch, and Crude Turpentine all from the Long Leaved Pine – “Naval Stores” So Called.

Dublin, Ga., May 8. – One of the most important industries [...] Read more →

Origin of the Apothecary

ORIGIN OF THE APOTHECARY.

The origin of the apothecary in England dates much further back than one would suppose from what your correspondent, “A Barrister-at-Law,” says about it. It is true he speaks only of apothecaries as a distinct branch of the medical profession, but long before Henry VIII’s time [...] Read more →

Carpenters’ Furniture

IT requires a far search to gather up examples of furniture really representative in this kind, and thus to gain a point of view for a prospect into the more ideal where furniture no longer is bought to look expensively useless in a boudoir, but serves everyday and commonplace need, such as [...] Read more →

Rendering Amber Clear for Use in Lens-Making for Magnifying Glass

by John Partridge,drawing,1825

From the work of Sir Charles Lock Eastlake entitled Materials for a history of oil painting, (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1846), we learn the following:

The effect of oil at certain temperatures, in penetrating “the minute pores of the amber” (as Hoffman elsewhere writes), is still more [...] Read more →

Valentine Poetry from the Cotswold Explorer

 

There is nothing more delightful than a great poetry reading to warm ones heart on a cold winter night fireside. Today is one of the coldest Valentine’s days on record, thus, nothing could be better than listening to the resonant voice of Robin Shuckbrugh, The Cotswold [...] Read more →

Public Attitudes Towards Speculation

Reprint from The Pitfalls of Speculation by Thomas Gibson 1906 Ed.

THE PUBLIC ATTITUDE TOWARD SPECULATION

THE public attitude toward speculation is generally hostile. Even those who venture frequently are prone to speak discouragingly of speculative possibilities, and to point warningly to the fact that an overwhelming majority [...] Read more →