Tidbits from history as they relate to our Steampunk world, Victorian period, or other interesting historical items that may (or may not) relate to anything else we have discussed, but we found the history fascinating.
In Episode 8: Vikingr, we mention record keeping. Vikings had an alphabet or runes they used to write. Although many of their sagas–including the sage we include in our episode, Eric the Red–were handed down through oral tradition, they did write fairly extensively. The Viking letters or runes are called FUTHARK for the first six letters: Fehu,Uruz, Thurisaz, Ansuz, Raido and Kenaz. There are actually two types of runes, Elder Futhark and Younger Futhark.
The Elder Futhark is the oldest form of the runic alphabets. It was a writing system used by Germanic tribes for the northwestern and Migration period dialects. Its inscriptions are found on jewelry, amulets, tools, weapons, and rune stones from the 2nd to 8th centuries.
In Scandinavia, from the late 8th century, the script was simplified to the Younger Futhark, while the Anglo-Saxons and Frisians extended the Futhark which eventually became the Anglo-Saxon futhorc. Unlike the Anglo-Saxon and Younger Futharks, which remained in use during the Early and High Middle Ages, respectively, knowledge of how to read the Elder Futhark was forgotten until 1865, when it was deciphered by Norwegian scholar Sophus Bugge.
The style our vikings would have used would be Younger Futhark. The Younger Futhark is divided into long-branch (Danish) and short-twig (Swedish and Norwegian) runes, in the 10th century further expanded by the “Hälsinge Runes” or staveless runes. The lifetime of the Younger Futhark corresponds roughly to the Viking Age.
We try to incorporate as much historical information in our episodes as possible, pulling from a variety of sources to ensure the events we portray are as accurate as possible–even though the premise of time-travel is fictitious at this point.
The Iroquois had a lot of stories about evil, semidead, humanlike beings sometimes called vampires or cannibal corpses. Not all of the Six Nations’ variety are bloodsuckers like the Romanian vampire or the Scottish glaistig. Still, they were so similar to the human predator of European folklore that we have to call the vampires. Variants abound.
The culprit can be a dead human, a simple corpse that something overtakes. It may be the body of a witch or sorcerer so full of its own otkon that the force lasts on after the physical death. Sometimes the demon is an airy specter or ghost, physical enough at the business end for a bit of chewing. The Iroquois vampire can be a virtual skeleton, sometimes even what seems to be a separate species that only looks human. It could even be a servant of the otherworld like the monsters that wait along the perilous course of the human soul in Egyptian mythology.
It’s hard to tell if these are different tales–regional variants–or if the subject of them has different forms. Ah well, the European vampire is a shape-shifter, too, at least within a range of animal forms: bats, wolves, rats, moths. Mabe the stories are about the same critter. But forget the suave Victorian counts or runway models of the twenty-first-century vampire industry. The Iroquois bogie is a reanimated corpse that wouldn’t score at a zombie festival.
California is no stranger to earthquakes, but we are hardly the only place in the world to feel their effects. Italy has been hit particularly hard throughout history, most recently in August 2016 when an earthquake registering 6.2 on the Richter scale rocked Amatrice. The Italian earthquake institute (INGV) reported 60 aftershocks in the four hours following the initial quake, the strongest aftershock measured 5.5. Continue reading “Earthquakes, then and now”
In researching the next episode of our podcast, we wanted the locals to have the right flavor to their language. The roaring twenties were a period of truly colorful language, and so the people Sage and Savant mean needed to have the appropriate character to set the scene. Prohibition brought in a host of slang words into the English language as people sought ways to talk about their plans without raising interest from the local law enforcement. We pulled some of our favorites from “Flapperspeak: Dictionary of Words from the 1920’s and 1930’s.” Continue reading “Speak like a Flapper! Words from the 1920’s”
William James was an American psychologist of the late nineteenth century. He studied to become a physician, and was the first educator to offer a university course in psychology. His writings illuminate a number aspects about human thought that are still considered true today, and one of the most cited psychologists in the 20th century. Continue reading “The Father of American Psychology”
James Watt was a Scottish inventor, mechanical engineer, and chemist whose Watt steam engine, an improvement of the Newcomen steam engine, was fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world.
While working as an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow, Watt became interested in the technology of steam engines. He realized that contemporary engine designs wasted a great deal of energy by repeatedly cooling and reheating the cylinder. Watt introduced a design enhancement, the separate condenser, which avoided this waste of energy and radically improved the power, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of steam engines. Eventually he adapted his engine to produce rotary motion, greatly broadening its use beyond pumping water.
Watt attempted to commercialize his invention, but experienced great financial difficulties until he entered a partnership with Matthew Boulton in 1775. The new firm of Boulton and Watt was eventually highly successful and Watt became a wealthy man. In his retirement, Watt continued to develop new inventions though none was as significant as his steam engine work. He died in 1819 at the age of 83.