26 June 2013

Edward Snowden, Alleged Espionage, and Certified Acts of War

To paraphrase the opening lines of a hugely popular TV show on USA Network, “My name is Chuck Hamilton and I used to be a spy.”  Like the fictional Michael Westen on “Burn Notice”, I once worked for the Central Security Service (CSS), which is an actual organization.  However, work at the CSS of RT (real time, i.e. real life) was not as glamorous as the CSS of TV. 

We weren’t super cool bad ass secret agents and we didn’t run around undercover in cloak with dagger meeting informants, insurgents, and smugglers along with blowing things up and carrying out assassinations.  We were geeks, nerds, and weirdo who frequently referred to ourselves as the “chairborne rangers”.  In RT, the people at CSS are uniformed service personnel who conduct interception and analysis of foreign military, naval, and (sometimes) diplomatic communications (COMINT) and other electronic intelligence (ELINT).

Speaking of the TV show, Jeffrey Donovan, the show’s star, guested on an episode of the 1990’s excellent “Homicide: Life on the Street”, as did his co-star, Bruce Campbell.  That’s completely irrelevant, but I think it’s kind o’ cool.  The fact that the later stars of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” Vincent D’Onofrio and Kathryn Erbe guested on back-to-back episodes of the show isn’t even in the same hemisphere.

The CSS is the official designation for the SIGINT (signals intelligence) commands of the five branches of military and naval service collectively.  It’s the military component of the National Security Agency (NSA) and has the same boss, the Director of NSA, or “Daddy DIRNSA” as he (so far all directors have been men) is known in the field.  His title as head of CSS is Chief of CSS, abbreviated CHCSS, but I never saw or heard that used since practically and operationally it’s all one organization.  Daddy DIRNSA is also Commander of U.S. Cyber Command (CDRUSCYBERCOM), by the way, the different titles being rather redundant since the three different commands govern more or less that same personnel and material assets.

When I was with CSS, I was in the Navy working more directly for the Naval Security Group (NAVSECGRU), the Navy’s SIGINT component.  NAVSECGRU no longer exists, its personnel, assets, and functions now making up the Information Operations Directorate (IOD) of the Navy’s Network Warfare Command (NETWARCOM).  NETWARCOM makes up most of the Tenth Fleet, also known as Fleet Cyber Command…it’s all under one roof, which is more efficient.  Its field operations units that used to be known as NSG Activities (NSGA) and NSG Detachments (NSGD) are now called Naval Information Operations Commands (NIOC).

The names and places within the organizational chart are not the only things that have changed since my time with them in the late 1980’s.

In the second half of our A-school training, after our SCI (sensitive compartmented information) background checks were complete, we got “read into” the security part of the jobs we were going to be doing.  Besides the codewords for different levels of classification (which we all already knew from a book I’d read and passed around; after a few days, our instructor started lectures with, “Y’all probably know this already, but it’s on the syllabus…”), we learned what we, and our superiors, could and could not do in the line of work.

The single-most important thing drilled into our heads over and over and over again, about which we were questioned on every quiz and test in some form or another, even after we had finished the security part of our training, was whether or not it was ever permitted, under any circumstances, for us as communication operators to spy on Amcits (American citizens), and if so when was it permitted.

The only answers accepted were “No” and “Never”, or “Not under any circumstances”. 

Had any of us working in the field at the time been tasked to carry out an operation against the American people such as PRISM, we would have felt as if we were being made to swim in the river of excrement in Dante’s Inferno.

I know, I know.  It was the height of the Cold War.  Those were “more innocent times”.  Things were more black and white.  We didn’t have to worry about things like random acts of terror by stateless actors.  Just global thermonuclear war that could have been started by a little thing like 99 red balloons being released into the air in the wrong place and the extinction of all life on the planet’s surface (except for rats and cockroaches) for at least several million years.

While I was at NSGA at Clark Air Base (NAVSECGRUACTREPPHIL), we got one of the first female air crew members in the fleet.  This was when the DOD (Department of Defense) was first starting to sneak women into combat billets, like the Army MP battalion commander who led her troops in Panama in 1989.  Air crew, and direct support (DIRSUP, meaning aboard ship), with NSG was considered a combat billet for two reasons. 

First, even in international airspace or in international waters, there is the possibility of being attacked and killed, wounded, or captured.  As happened when the Israeli Defense Forces attacked the USS Liberty in international waters on the Mediterranean Sea on 8 June 1967, when North Korea captured the USS Pueblo in the international waters on the Sea of Japan on 23 January 1968, and when the PRC caused a mid-air collision in international air space over the South China Sea that brought down a Navy EP-3 plane to Hainan Island on 1 April 2001.

Second, collecting intelligence can be considered an act of war in certain situations, like doing so from the target’s territory, which is why it’s strictly forbidden for NSA/CSS to collect signals intelligence from its HC (host country).

Incidentally, that female shipmate was never harassed or treated as anything less than equal by those with whom she worked.  After all, she passed air crew training and survived SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) school, where during her week she was chosen as one of those to be water-boarded.  Yes, we really do that to ourselves.  And despite what some of those in Washington frothing at the mouth over visions of terror suspects in their underwear begging for their lives say, water-boarding is torture, no question.

In collecting such a huge amount of personal information on Amcits (American citizens) inside its own borders as it has been for the past six years under the PRISM program, successor to the “Terrorist Surveillance Program” which did so on a less wide basis, the USG (US government) has committed what amounts to an egregious act of war against its own people.

Like the ECHELON program, information from PRISM is shared with the SIGINT agencies of the UKUSA alliance (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Netherlands), so for Americans (and citizens of those countries) it is not only their own government which has committed an act of war against them, but five others as well.  And even if that were not the case, how many people want their information in the hands of a J. Edgar Hoover?

When I was taking American Government my senior year at Tyner High School, I memorized the preamble to the Declaration of Independence for extra credit and to impress a certain Palestinian-American female classmate.  Getting her attention was also the reason I campaigned in our mock presidential elections at school for Ronald Reagan…she was for Jimmy Carter.

I already knew the preamble to our nation’s constitution from that favorite series of Saturday morning PSA’s from my younger days known as Schoolhouse Rock.  “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Funny, but I don’t see anything there about the sanctification of “national security” above all other concerns which trumps the necessity of showing probable cause and getting a search warrant based on that probable cause.  Nor can I find any exceptions either in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights to the prohibitions against indefinite detention without charge or trial or a means to challenge that detention.  In fact, the Founding Fathers took the writ of habaeus corpus so seriously that they enshrined it in the main body of the Constitution.

Here’s a short parable, and if it sounds strangely familiar, just know that it’s not about any one single incident. 

One weekend during football season, there’s this huge party at a frat house to which belong a number of star athletes, legacies, sons of the rich and powerful.  A new female freshman shows up at the party, becomes tipsy, gets slipped a roofie, then while unconscious is raped by several of the house members.  In the morning, she wakes fully dressed, with no idea of what has really happened, though she might be a little sore.

Feeling guilty for not having intervened, one of the fraternity members goes to security, which does a half-hearted investigation because of the “sensitivity” of the crime’s location.  Next the whistleblower then goes to the administration, only to get stonewalled.  He talks to the local police in the college town only to get referred back to campus security.  Then he tries the local press, but the editors there, fearing a backlash, sit on the story.  Finally, the whistleblower goes to a national publication, which breaks the story.  As a result, the whistleblower is expelled from the university and arrested on charges of interfering with a police investigation.

Let’s take a moment to look at what Edward Snowden has been charged with:  espionage and aiding the enemy.  Snowden informed the unknowing targets of PRISM surveillance that their personal information was being collected and stored without any warrant justified in the way our constitution details.  The targets have been every citizen of the U.S., and it was us he was informing.  What the charges say, as well as the act of war they are meant to conceal or at least distract from, is that to the USG, “We the People of the United States” are the enemy.

You may ask, ‘What about the claims that “over fifty incidents” have been prevented because of this massive dragnet of personal information?’  Keep in mind that these are the same people, functionally speaking, who brought us the intelligence failures of 9/11, the alleged WMD’s of Saddam Hussein, and the recent bombing of the Boston Marathon.  Take what they say not with a grain of salt but make like Philip J. Fry (of “Futurama”) and do so with a whole bowlful.

22 June 2013

St. Colmcille (Columba), Irish dynasties, and Insular (Celtic) Christianity

St. Colmcille of Iona, Columba to the English and non-Gaelic-speaking Scots, was for centuries the most revered of all the many, many saints of the Celtic world.  But without understanding the context in which he lived, there can be no understanding of why that was.  A scion of the most powerful dynasty in the Pretanic (British) Isles of his time, the Ui Neill, he rejected all that to become one of the foremost theologians and missionaries of the Early Middle Ages.

Dynasties in western and northern Ireland

To tell about the Ui Neill dynasties we first need to go back a couple of centuries to Conn of the Hundred Battles, who w as High King of Ireland (Ard Ri na Eireann) in the 2nd century.  His son was Art mac Cuinn, also High King, and his son was Cormac mac Airt, High King during the time of Finn mac Cuill, according to legend anyway.

First, let’s detail the various levels of kings in Ireland. 

At the lowest and most local level, there was the ri benn (or king of peaks) who ruled over a tribe (“tuath” in Irish).  Under Irish law, these were the only kings who exercised any formal power.  Roughly equivalent to what today might be called clan chiefs, every king of an upper grade was also supposedly a ri benn.  For example, the dynasts who later became chiefs of the MacConroys were styled Ri Thira Da Locha, or king of the Land of Two Lakes (Loch Corrib and Loch Lurgan, aka Galway Bay).  Prior to the adoption of a patronym, the tribe had been known as the Delbhna Tir Da Locha, or Delbhna of the Land of Two Lakes.

Over this level sat the ri buiden, or king of bands, who had at least titular authority over several other ri benn.  For the MacConroys, their overkings were the O’Flahertys of Connemara as kings of Iar Connachta, whose tribe was formerly known as the Ui Bruin Seola.

Above the ri buiden were the ri coicid, or king of the province.  At the time the Brehon Laws were so formulated, there were five provinces on the island, and the word coicid literally means “fifth”.  The provinces were Connacht, Ulster, Meath, Leinster, and Munster.  The ri coicid above the O’Flahertys was the King of Connacht, a position alternating between the Ui Bruin Ai and the Ui Fiachrach.

Atop the whole thing reigned the Ard Ri Eireann, or High King of Ireland, whose seat was at Tara in the heart of Meath.  An ard ri was usually (but not always) also a ri coicid, a ri buiden, and a ri benn.  For example, Brian Boru, High King of Ireland in the early 11th century, was also King (ri coicid) of Munster, King (ri buiden) of Thomond, and King (ri benn) of the Dal gCais, his tuath.

Prior to the descendants of Conn (the Connachta) conquering the province, it had been known as Ol nEchmacht, after the Fir (men of) Ol nEchmachta who ruled it.  It was Conn’s great-great-great-great-grandson Eochaid Mugmedon, who lived in the 4th century, who spawned the several dynasties that ruled the provinces of Connacht, Meath, and Ulster throughout Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.  These were dynasties were known by the names of his (Eochaid’s) four sons and were the Ui Bruin, Ui Fiachrae, Ui Aillil, and Ui Neill.

In the case of St. Columba, of course, it is the last of these which is most relevant.  The Ui Neill descended from Niall of the Nine Hostages, the middle of the three great raiding high kings of the 5th century.  It was, in fact, in a raid on Roman Britain that Niall’s raiders captured and enslaved a youth known to history as St. Patrick.

Patron Saint(s) of Ireland

Patrick is often credited as the patron of Ireland, but this was not always the case.  In fact, during medieval times, the three greatest saints in Ireland were considered to be Colmcille (Columba), Brigit (pronounced ‘Breet’), and Ita.  Already a known personage if of lesser prestige than these three, Patrick was elevated by the invaders from Norman England.

Several legends about Patrick are clearly fabrications.  He did not cast out the snakes from Ireland; there never have been any for some reason.  He did not use a shamrock to explain the Trinity to the simple, ignorant Irish; with the number of trinities among their own gods it is more likely they expanded his understanding.  He was also not the evangelist who Christianized Ireland; instead other missionaries were there decades prior to his arrival and he was sent from the Continent in an attempt to get the unruly Irish to behave and conform (things didn’t go as planned), though he may truly have been the first missionary to Ulster.

There were several trinities among the deities of pagan Ireland, all of whom were humanized in the Book of Conquests by monks.  Among these were: the smith gods Creidne-Luchtaine-Giobhniu; the sovereignty goddesses Eriu-Banba-Fodhla; and, most prominently, the war goddesses Badb-Macha-Nemain who are collectively a single goddess known as The Morrigan, or The Great Queen, whose personal name is Anand.

Already in the 4th century, the southern provinces of Munster and Leinster had small Christian communities, and St. Ciaran of Saighir was bishop of Ossory.  In the early 5th century, at the same time Germanus of Auxerre and Lupus of Troyes were sent by the Pope to Britain to combat Pelagianism in the Roman provinces on the isle of Britain, a British deacon named Palladius was sent to the Christian communities in the south of Ireland with the same mission.  Patrick was sent to the virgin ground of the north not too long after Palladius embarked on his own mission. 

Ulster throughout history has been somewhat different than the rest of Ireland.  Near the seat of its king at Emain Macha, Patrick established his episcopal seat at Ard Macha, later Armagh, becoming the first Archbishop of All Ireland. 

The intent of the Pope had undoubtedly been for Patrick to organize the church on the island along Continental lines, but there was no real central government and no urban areas.  As it happened, Ireland was the last home of the druids, the learned class among the Celts who carried all their knowledge around in their heads, scientific, technological, poetic (perhaps the most important), and religious.  These druids were organized throughout Ireland into colleges of different skills and knowledge.  So it was quite natural for the new religion to organize itself in Ireland around convents and their schools.

One of the most important gifts of the missionaries to the Irish was writing.  The system of the ogham writing was not really accurate for keeping records or detailing procedures.  All these circumstances combined to make the convents of monks and nuns (sometimes coed, such as that of Brigit in Kildare) becoming the centers of knowledge and learning and therefore greater in importance and prestige than the secular hierarchy of bishops, priests, and deacons.  Abbots, and sometimes abbesses, became more important than the local bishop, whom the former often appointed and sometimes even ordained.

Ui Neill

After the Ui Neill rose to power, they dominated the provinces of Ulster and of Meath until the early modern era and with few exceptions held the high kingship until the English conquest.

In the North (Ulster), there were two main branches, the Cenel nEoghain and the Cenel Connaill, plus a third.  The Cenel nEoghain were the senior and ruled as Kings of Aileach.  The Cenel Connaill ruled Tir Connaill (roughly the modern Co. Donegal).  Sometimes one or the other of these branches also held the high kingship.  A smaller branch, the Cenel nEndai, ruled Airtech in modern Co. Roscommon (then part of Ulster).

In the South (Meath), the main branches of the Ui Neill were the Sil nAedo Slaine of Brega and the Clann Colmain of Uisneach (anciently considered the center of the island).  Other dynasties of the Southern Ui Neill included the Cenel Corpri of North Tethba, the Cenel Maini of South Tethba, the Caille Folamain (Lough Lene), the Cenel Loegairi (on the River Boyne), and the Cenel Fiachach of Fir Cell (aka Moycashel).

Conal Gulban, progenitor of Cenel Connaill, was reputedly the first convert among the Ui Neill, and his great-grandson born Crimthann mac Felimid became Ireland’s greatest saint.  With the Christian name of Colmcille (‘Dove of the Church’) this prince known to history as St. Colmcille studied at the abbey of Clonard in Ossory under St. Finnian before founding abbeys at Derry (his first and his seat), Kells, and Fingal (Swords).

Battle of Cooldrevny (Cul Dreimhe)

All accounts agree that the Battle of Cul Dreimhe (Cooldrevny) in 561 was the event that led to Colmcille’s self-exile to the land of the Picts, but they do not agree on the cause. 

The battle was fought between the southern Ui Neill under Diarmait mac Cerbhaill of Clann Cholmain, high king of Ireland, king of Meath, and king of Uisneach, and the northern Ui Neill under Domhnall Ilchealgach of Cenel nEoghan, king of Aileach. 

Diarmait mac Cerbhaill, Ireland’s last pagan high king, was the last to be inaugurated at a full Royal Feast in which he married the land.  Marrying the land involved ritually mating a horse then slaying it and taking a bath in its blood.  Colmcille’s Christian cousins in Aileach and Tirconnell, meanwhile, continued the practice for centuries, until it was outlawed after the English conquest in the 12th century.

The more hagiographic sources tell the story that Colmcille secretly copied a Psalter belonging to fellow Clonard alumnus Finnian of Moville, which led to the battle.  Afterwards, a council judged Colmcille in the wrong, according to the legend, in spite of the fact that fellow classmate St. Brendan of Birr had spoken in his favor.  Due to the censure, Colmcille chose self-exile.

The truth has more to do with dynastic rivalry and violation of the laws of hospitality.

Cunan, son of Aed mac Echach of the Ui Briuin, king of Connachta, accidentally killed the son of Diarmait’s steward during a hurley match (nearly as dangerous as Cherokee stickball) at a feast at Tara.  Realizing his peril, Cunan sought refuge at the nearby abbey of Kells, whose abbot was Colmcille.  Diarmait’s warriors dragged Cunan outside the abbey and killed him.  Colmcille sought redress from his cousins, thus leading to the battle at which the slaughter was reportedly enormous.  The northern Ui Neill of Aileach were victorious.

Colmcille’s self-exile

Ironically, Colmcille’s cousins had earlier invited him to become their candidate for the high kingship when it came open, but he declined because he didn’t want to give up his work with the church.  Had he accepted, it would have been he who was high king rather than Diarmait.

What is known for sure is that Colmcille founded the abbey on Iona in 563 in the eastern territory of the Dal Riata (Argyll, Scotland), and traveled the same year to Inverness to meet with the area’s overking (ruiri, equal to ri coicid), Bridei mac Maelchon, born in Strathclyde, whose father may have been Maelgwn Wledig of Gwynedd.  Bridei was king in Inverness over Fortriu, which later became Moray.

Bridei’s people had been known for centuries as “Picts”; in reality the Picts were non-Romanized Britons living above the Firths (of Forth and of Clyde), similar in culture to their cousins southward until those below the Firths and Hadrian’s Wall had marinated in the imperial world for a couple of centuries.  Politically, they were evolving into two confederations which became kingdoms, known to the Romans as the Verturiones (in the west) and Caledones (in the east), and later as Fortriu and Alba. 

The rivalry between rulers in Fortriu, later known as Moireabh (Moray), at Inverness and in Alba at Scone (and later seats) dominated the political landscape in Scotland until the early 13th century.  In fact, it is the true story which lies behind the saga of Duncan I and Macbeth and Malcolm III, a la Shakespeare (who based his play on the wildly inaccurate Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland published in the late 16th century).  The rivalry goes back to the time of the Imperium Romanum, when the thirteen tribes of the hardpressed “Picts”, or “Brittunculi”, of the north coalesced into two often competing confederations, the Verturiones and the Caledonii in the 3rd century.

Both kings (of Fortriu and of Alba) are designated “ruiri” (“overking”) in Irish annals of the time, equal in status to ri coicid.  Evidence indicates that both partially accepted the precedence of the Irish High King, in terms of honor though not in tribute, until the 11th century, perhaps longer.

In 574, Conall mac Comghaill, king of the Dal Riata in Argyll, died.  Aedan mac Gabrain, already king of Manaw (about the head of the Firth of Forth), was elected to replace him and he chose to be inaugurated by Colmcille. 

The next year Colmcille hosted the Council of Druim Ceatt between Aedan Colman mac Comgellan of the Dal Riata in Ulster (Co. Antrim), and Aedan mac Ainmuir of Aileach, who was also High King.  The three kings formed an alliance against Báetán mac Cairill of the Dál Fiatach, king of Ulster.  Aed also agreed that the Dal Riata in Argyll had no obligation to the High King after Aedan agreed to support him with his fleet.

Colmcille lived until 597 and was buried on Iona, where he was succeeded as abbot by St. Baithen. 

More activities of Iona’s monks

In 634, monks from the abbey on Iona took part in the Battle of Heavenfield between Oswald of Bernicia in alliance with Domnall Brecc of the Dal Riata and Cadwallon of Gwynedd after the latter assassinated the kings of Bernicia and Deira, the former victim having been Oswald’s half-brother.  Cadwallon lost the battle and his life.

The next year, the abbey sent St. Aidan to the Angles of Northhumbria.  He founded the abbey at Lindisfarne.  After the Synod of Whitby ruled in favor of adopting the Roman practices (dating of Easter, tonsure, etc.) from the Continent in 664, St. Colman, a successor, returned to Iona.

In 697, the eighth abbot of Iona, Adomnan, presided over the Council of Birr, a gathering of Irish and Pictish notables led by St. Adamnan, abbot of Iona, which enacted the Cáin Adomnáin (Lex Innocentium, or Law of Innocents), forbidding the killing and making captive of women and children, exempting women and clerics from compulsory military service, and setting forth harsh penalties for rape during wartime, among other provisions. 

Nechtan mac Dargart, then king of Fortriu, expelled the Ionan clergy from his kingdom back to their island in 717, probably over the fact that Fortriu had accepted the decision of Whitby in 710 while they had not.  Since he didn’t rule Alba directly, this may have been when the Columban abbey at Dunkeld was founded, or at least expanded.

The Vikings raided Iona in 806 and massacred 68 monks at Martyrs’ Bay on Iona, and the rest of the monks fled, most to the abbey at Kells, but the monks soon returned.  In 824, St. Blathmac led a group of Columban monks back to Iona.  The next year, there was another raid in which they were all massacred and the abbey burned.  However, the abbey remained inhabited and in use and retained the primacy of all Columban houses, as well as over the Irish church (which included Scotland, Wales, Strathclyde, Cornwall, and the Hebrides), until 878. 

In that year, Colmcille’s relics were divided between Dunkeld and Kells, as was the primacy over the churches of Scotland and Ireland.  The “Coarb of St. Colmcille in Ireland and Scotland” remained the head, or “grand master”, of the Columban order, however.

Kindred of St. Columba in Scotland

Meanwhile, the Kindred of St. Columba in Scotland (the abbots were chosen from descendants of his family) had become more and more laicized.  By 1034, Crinan, head of the Kindred, as the Scottish branch of the Cenel Connaill was known there, was not only abbot of Dun Chaillean but also Mormaer (Earl) of Athfodhla (Atholl), Abthane of Dull, Kirkmichael, and Madderty, and Seneschal of the Isles.

His son, Duncan, became king of Alba (eastern Scotland above the Firths) in 1034, and died in invasion of Moray, formerly known as Fortriu, in 1040.  The Kindred of St. Columba (Muintir Colmcille in Gaelic) returned to the throne in 1058 and ruled until 1286.

The abbey on Iona remained abandoned until the island was captured from the king of Norway in 1164 by Somerled, king of the Isles, who invited the Irish to return.  They did, and in 1204, under his son Ranald, established a Benedictine abbey.

The situation of the Abbots of Dunkeld was not all that unusual for Scotland.  The Macnabs originated as Abbots of Glendochardt, for example, coarbs of St. Fillan, while the Livingstones originated as Abbots of Lismore, coarbs of St. Moluag.  There are countless more examples in Scotland as well as in Ireland.


Colmcille himself would likely have been appalled over the course of these events.  It was partly over this that the Culdee (from Celi De, “servants of God”) movement began at the end of the 8th century.  The Culdees adhered to more rigid discipline and a strict rule.  Often their chapters attached to existing houses and the two lived side-by-side. 

In the mid-9th century, there were around nine Culdee houses in Ireland and thirteen in Scotland, none of which were attached to any Columban establishment.  Culdees are indeed mentioned at Iona in 1164, in a subordinate position, but by then the monks belonged to the Order of St. Benedict.  In time, each of these houses (which were independent of each other, by the way) gained lay associates who abided by certain of the house’s rules  in much the same way as the later tertiary orders on the Continent.

By the beginning of the 12th century, most of the Culdee houses had become as secularized as the earlier monastic establishments they sought to reform. 

Intervention from outside

In Ireland in particular, “regular” clergy and their convents with schools had always superceded the secular clergy and hierarchy almost to the point of total eclipse.  When a local boy from across the Irish Sea was elevated to the See of Rome, the Irish secular clergy saw a chance to get the power and authority they thought they should have, and appealed for intervention.

In response, Pope Adrian IV, the first and only English Bishop of Rome, issued a Papal Bull granting Henry II of England lordship over Ireland in 1155.  For a decade and a half, however, Henry showed no interest in getting involved with the quarrelsome Irish.

Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, invaded Leinster on behalf of the deposed Diarmait mac Murrough in 1169, whom he restored to the kingship of the province before marrying Aoife, Diarmait’s daughter.  Two years later after Diarmait died, Richard, known to history as Strongbow, succeeded him as king of Leinster.  Knights and lords, almost exclusively from Wales, who had accompanied him gained new lands or married into local dynasties.

With a rising power at his backdoor, Henry’s interest was suddenly peaked.  He gathered a huge army and invaded Ireland in 1172, bringing to heel all the Hiberno-Norman lords as well as most of the Gaelic ones, at least in the south and east.  Connacht in the west submitted only partially and Ulster in the north hardly at all.

The Synod of Cashel that same year declared the Roman Church to be the only religion allowed in Ireland and that tithes should begin to be sent to Rome, which resulted in Ireland’s adoption of the feudal system in order to pay them.

Gradually canons regular and orders from the Continent began to replace native Irish houses, everywhere except Ulster, where the final Culdee house at Armagh dissolved  in 1541.

Twelve Apostles of Ireland

No, there are not the assassins under Michael Collins during the Irish War of Independence so nicknamed by the public who were also known as The Squad, these are the originals.

Colmcille was one of twelve saints known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, who all studied under St. Finnian of Clonard at his abbey in Meath.  Along with St. Enda of Aran, Finnian is known as co-founder of Irish monasticism.  Both from Ireland, Enda from Ulster and Finnian from Leinster (though is father was from Ulster), they studied at monasteries on the isle of Britain before beginning their ministries in Ireland.

Ireland’s Twelve Apostles were:

1.       Colmcille of Iona
2.      Colmcille of Terryglass
3.      Ciaran (Kieran) of Saighir
4.      Ciaran of Clonmascnoise
5.      Brendan of Birr
6.      Brendan of Clonfert (the Navigator)
7.      Mobhi of Glasnevin
8.      Ruadhain of Lorrha
9.      Senan of Iniscathy
10.   Ninnidh of Inishmacsaint
11.    Laisren of Devenish
12.   Cannice of Aghaboe

In Irish Christianity, there were three kinds of martyrs, designated by colors.  Red Martyrs were the traditional kind.  Green Martyrs were anchorites or hermits who left human society to meditate and commune with the natural world.  White Martyrs, of whom there were many, many, were those who gave up living in Ireland for lifelong missionary work.

St. Columbanus (in Irish, it’s Columban, a different word than Colmcille), a generation later than the elder monk, is often confused with Columba of Iona.  While Colmcille was better known in the Isles, Columbanus was the preeminent of the Irish White Martyrs on the Continent.  He and twelve companions left Bangor Abbey in 585 for Continental Europe, where he founded at least seven houses in Gaul, in the later Austria, and in northern Italy.  He was the pioneer of the Irish missionary wave which brought back Christianity from the brink of extinction on the Continent.  His monastic rule, the Rule of St. Columbanus, was predominant among Celtic monasteries on the Continent and later became so in Ireland and Scotland as well.  Most of the Irish and Irish-spawned convents adopted the less strict Rule of St. Benedict by the late 8th to 9th centuries.

Differences between Insular and Continental Christianity

Contrary to many popular myths, the Christianity of the Isles was not hostile to Christianity of the Continent.  In fact, Insular, or Celtic, Christians—in Ireland, Fortriu and Alba (Scotland above the Firths), the Hen Ogledd (Old North, i.e., Strathclyde, Goddodin, Rheged, Argoed, etc.), the tiny kingdoms of Wales, Devon, Cornwall, the principalities of Brittany in the former Armorica, and Galicia in northwestern Iberia—revered Rome and its bishop.

While Augustine may have been the one who first converted mass numbers of Saxons and Jutes from his seat in Kent, his arrogant high-handedness in demanding their submission to himself as representative of the Bishop of Rome caused him to be rejected outright by the bishops of the British churches in the west (Wales, Devon, Cornwall).  It was the Irish and Pictish monks from Iona who converted the Angles of Northumbria and Mercia in the north of what later became England.  Naturally, these churches followed the traditions of those who introduced them to Christianity rather than the “foreign” practices of the south.

In fact, it was the beginning of the coalescence of the disparate realms of the south that brought about the Synod of Whitby in 664 and the perceived necessity of harmonizing the practices of the Christians within its borders. 

The main differences between Insular practice and Continental practice were:
1.       The method of tonsure (Romans shaved the top of the head while the Celts shaved the front, like the druids)
2.      The way the date of Easter was calculated; the Irish tied their date of Pascha to that of the Jewish Passover
3.      The Irish practice of “going into exile for Christ”—aka White Martyrdom
4.      The unique method of conducting penitentials among the Irish and those they influenced; on the Continent the procedure was public confession and public penance while in the Isles both were done in private
5.      The Insular focus on monasticism, which in the Isles was more fluid than on the Continent.  Besides the predecessor of the druidic colleges, for the almost entirely rural life on the Isles, church life centered on monasteries was a better fit. 
6.      In the Isles, Ireland in particular, abbeys were more often conhospitae (mixed, or coed) and often monks and nuns would marry and raise their children together in service to the new faith.  In later stages this changed, especially after convents became large. wealthy, and politically influential.
7.      Many communities in Ireland still worshipped on the Sabbath (as they all did originally) rather than on Sunday
8.      The manner of holding one’s fingers when signing the cross:  on the Continent, believers used the first two fingers, while in the rest of the Isles they used the first, third, and fourth fingers to symbolize the Holy Trinity
9.      Irish liturgies followed the overall outline of those used in the East

The Synod of Whitby did not decide matters for all the Isles but only for those Christians in the jurisdiction of Northumbria and its client realms such as Mercia.  On the first three major differences, the decision went in favor of Continental practice, but on the fourth, Rome adopted the Irish-origin Insular practice of private confession and penance rather than doing both in public, which was then the Continental practice.

The south of Ireland (Munster and Leinster) had been brought into the mainstream a few decades before Whitby, at the Synod of Magh Lenn in 630.  After the Synod of Whitby, the Angles of Northumbria and Mercia adopted Roman practice and the Irish monks went back to their abbey on Iona. 

Contrary to widespread belief, the decisions at Whitby were not accepted by any of the Insular (Celtic) churches except in Northumbria, though most followed suit within a century: North Ireland (Ulster, Meath, and Connacht) along with the Dal Riata in Argyll in 697, East Devon and Somerset (under the dominion of Wessex) in 705, Fortriu and Alba in 710, Iona in 717, Strathclyde in 721, North Wales in 768, South Wales in 777, and finally Cornwall, the last holdout, in 870.

Insular (Celtic) liturgy

The Insular (Celtic) churches did not have one identifiable liturgy, but were quite varied in practice.  Its influences came both from the Gallican rites in southern Gaul as well as directly from that region’s main influence, the churches of the East, particularly those of Ephesus and Alexandria; the latter was also an influence on the monastic focus of the Irish church, along with the Gaulish St. Martin of Tours.

The Eastern influences can be readily identified in the primary surviving liturgy of the Irish, the Stowe Missal, as well as in the in the Bobbio Missal, the Bangor Antiphonary, the Book of Dimma, the Book of Mulling, the Book of Hymns, and in various fragments.  The Sarum Rite, parent liturgy to the Order of Holy Communion in the Book of Common Prayer, developed directly out of this tradition.  In these sources, one can see that the order of Celtic (Insular) rites conformed more to that of the Eastern Divine Liturgy than the Roman Mass, though those differences are largely superficial.

The surviving rites of the Celts of the Insular churches are structured like those of their Eastern originals, into a Liturgy of Preparation, a Liturgy of the Catachumens, and a Liturgy of the Faithful, much like the liturgies of ancient times.  In these, the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed comes after the dismissal of the catachumens and passing of the peace, as it does in the Divine Liturgy of the East, and, like those churches, lacks the Filioque clause.

20 June 2013

Six degrees of separation, from Turkey 2013 to Tennessee 1788

You’ve heard of the hypothesis (mistakenly called a theory) about the “Six Degrees of Separation”, right?  If not familiar with the actual hypothesis you may have seen or at least heard of the film by the same name, or may even its Pulitzer award winning predecessor play by John Guare.

Ok, so here’s how I got from current protests in Turkey in the in 21st century to frontier war in the later Chattanooga, Tennessee, in the 18th century in six easy steps.

I was working on an essay on the recent troubles in Turkey, part of which have to do with the increasing amount of theocracy Erdogan’s AKP party is passing into law, when I came across some information I hadn’t known before.  So I got distracted, something that partly came from getting just five hours of sleep because of watching Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

Speaking of which, wasn’t that a great game?  Just as the Spurs looked to be on their way to crushing their rivals at the beginning of the second half, someone remarked, “The Miami Heat should change their name to the Miami Cold”.  Almost instantly the Heat came back and made it a game, eventually winning to go on to a seventh game.

Anyway, I quoted “Ben Martin” from the character’s address to the assembly in Mel Gibson’s movie “The Patriot” (“Why should I trade one tyrant 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrants one mile away?”) and wanted to check on the correct name of the colonial legislature in South Carolina, which is how I made the discovery that got me started on this more historical essay.

It really piqued my interest because of the anti-theocracy themes in the Turkish protests, signs such as the one reading, “Keep Religion out of Politics in Turkey and Everywhere”.  Many Turkish citizens fear the ruling AKP is compromising the strict secularism of the republic founded after the Ottoman Empire was abolished.

Freedom of religion in Carolina colony

When the colony of Carolina was founded in 1663 (split into South and North in 1729), its charter (drawn up by philosopher John Locke) guaranteed freedom of religion to “Jews, heathens, and dissenters” as well as Anglicans.  At the time, only the colonies of Rhode Island and Maryland had similar provisions and neither as broad, so it was a major attraction for religious nonconformists (to the Church of England) such as English and Irish Puritans, Scottish and Irish Presbyterians, French Huguenots, Baptists, Quakers, Unitarians, etc.

Rhode Island had been founded in the 1630’s by Roger Williams and Anne Hutchison, the first American Baptists, as a refuge from Puritan exclusivity.  Maryland had been founded in 1632 by Lord Baltimore as a haven for Catholics but with freedom for all Trinitarian Christians.  After Virginia mandated membership in the Church of England in 1646, Maryland gave refuge to fleeing Puritans. 

Maryland’s guests thanked their hosts by overthrowing the colonial administration and outlawing Catholicism and Anglicanism in 1654.  The revolt lasted until 1658, when the 1649 Act of Toleration was restored.  After the so-called Glorious Revolution in England in 1688, in which Calvinist William of Orange deposed Catholic James II, there was another revolt of the Puritans, and this time freedom to worship did not return for Catholics until after the Revolution.

South Carolina colony’s insurrection

The colony of South Carolina’s Anglican majority resented not being able to suppress the Dissenters, and its propertied members wanted to chart their own path free of absentee interference.  In 1719, largely due to dissatisfaction with the myopically greedy and woefully incompetent Lords Proprietor but also to disenfranchise Dissenters, the Anglican colonists of South Carolina appealed to the king to make them a royal colony with a royal governor. 

An insurrectionist convention was called in Charlestown specifically to deal with this issue—leaving the Lords Proprietor for the crown.   It asked the then current royal governor, Robert Johnson (no known relation to the later blues singer of the same name), to stay on, but he declined out of loyalty to his employers. 

Very competent in contrast to the Proprietors, Johnson personally led the campaign to destroy the pirates plaguing South Carolina’s ocean trade while in office.  A decade after the change of government in the colony, he accepted appointment from the crown and arrived in Charlestown in 1731.  One of his main programs involved bringing Protestant (mostly Reformed) colonists from Europe to settle the western frontier of the colony to protect against encroachment by France and Spain and attacks by the Cherokee.  So much for the plan of the colony’s Anglicans to get rid of those Dissenter types.

The Regulators

There were two groups in the Carolinas called Regulators at roughly the same time but they were composed of opposite social groups and had much different goals.  Neither, of course, had any relation to the much later New Mexico group of Regulators with whom Billy the Kid fought in the Lincoln County War of the late 1870’s nor to the Regulators who fought with the Moderators in Shelby County, Texas in 1839-1844.

The Regulators in South Carolina from 1767-1769 bore grievances over lack of safety and security and quality-of-life services on the frontier.  They were not rebels, but vigilantes cooperating with the government based in Charlestown.  They worked against bandits, squatters, and illegal hunters who had started as refugees left homeless in the Anglo-Cherokee War of 1758-1761 and who later accepted free blacks, runaway slaves, mulattos, and half-breed Indians into their ranks.

The Regulators in North Carolina, on the other hand, were in rebellion against the corruption of the colonial government which benefitted only the wealthy few.  One of their chief complaints was against the system of taxation in which collections were made by local sheriffs supported by the courts.  It was to destroy this system and institute one more amenable to the needs of the people that these Regulators first rose up.

The colony’s War of the Regulation lasted from 1765 to 1771.  It was after its failure and the hanging of most of its leaders by the colonial militia that James Robertson led a band of settlers across the Blue Ridge Mountains to settle along the Watauga River.  The settlement was centered on flatlands along the river’s Sycamore Shoals known as Watauga Old Fields.  This was the site of a settlement by Indians predating the Cherokee, likely the Chisca (Yuchi) town of Guapere burned by Moyano, Juan Pardo’s adjutant, in 1567.

The Mecklenburg Reserves

Just a few years later on 20 May 1775 after the battles at Lexington and Concord, the Mecklenburg County Committee of Safety meeting in Charlotte drew up and signed the Mecklenburg Resolves, officially adopting them on 31 May.  These Resolves announced that all laws of Parliament were null and void until such time as legislative and executive power be vested in the Continental Congress.  The document did leave the door open for reconciliation between London and the colonies and did not declare separation.

Delivered to the North Carolina delegation of the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia, the Mecklenburg Resolves formed the basis for the legend of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.   According to this story, the document was actually a declaration of independence which preceded the actual one adopted by the Continental Congress by over a year.

This story first surfaced in 1818, and when they heard of it, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson denied such a thing had ever been brought to their attention.  No copy has ever been found, the original supposedly have been destroyed in a fire.  By contrast, however, a copy of the actual Mecklenburg Resolves was found in a South Carolina newspaper from the period in 1847, the complete text.

The mythical “Last Battle of the Revolution”

When I first learned of the alleged Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (in, of all places, one of Katy Reichs’ novels about forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, inspiration for Fox TV’s “Bones”), it reminded me of the spurious story about John Sevier, the Cherokee, and the “Last Battle of the American Revolution” on the slopes of Lookout Mountain in 1782.  Sevier and his men were indeed in the Chattanooga area that year and burned a lot of abandoned Cherokee towns here and in north Georgia, but he and his army never crossed west over the Chickamauga River (South Chickamauga Creek) and therefore never reached the location of the supposed battle. 

That story first surfaced in the 1890’s during rampant land speculation surrounding the Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park being opened here to commemorate the two major battles of the Chattanooga Campaign (whose sesquicentennial is this year, 2013).  Its source was a couple of developers who owned a large tract of the lower foot of Lookout Mountain, the supposed site of the alleged battle.  The story was vehemently condemned as a fraud at the time from several quarters, including the then Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt.

There was such a battle fought at that location, but it had nothing at all to do with the American Revolution, and rather than being a victory for the frontiersmen was something of a debacle.  Fought in August 1788, five years after the Treaty of Paris, it pitted militia from the State of Franklin led by Joseph Martin (married to Nancy Ward’s daughter) against what were by then called the “Lower Cherokee” (previously known as the “Chickamauga Cherokee”). 

With the latter led by their most brilliant tacticians (Dragging Canoe, Little Owl, Bloody Fellow, The Glass, The Breath, John Watts, Dick Justice, and Kitegisky), the outcome was written ahead of time.  It was an epic fail for Martin, primarily because his vanguard panicked in the face of staunch resistance from a strong position and fled to the rear, causing a rout. 

The “battle” took place five years after the end of the Revolution and six years before the end of the Chickamauga Wars.  Its primary effect was to help Dragging Canoe raise an army of three thousand Cherokee to invade and ravage East Tennessee that autumn and into winter.  One band, led by John Watts, destroyed Gillespie’s Station then attacked White’s Fort, present-day Knoxville, though unsuccessfully.

See?  From protests in the Republic of Turkey in 2013 to the western frontier of the new U.S. state of North Carolina, or eastern frontier of La Louisiane to the Spanish in 1788, in just six easy steps, counting the starting point.

17 June 2013

What's in a name? "Palestine" vs. "Israel"

The geographical region called the “Levant” includes the eastern coastline of the Mediterranean Sea from Anatolia to Egypt and its hinterland.  Other names include Bilad al-Sham and Greater Syria.  Historically-speaking, this area is often broken up into two geographic sub-regions, Syria and Palestine.  The modern nation-states of Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Cyprus now occupy the area.

Archaeological study of the ancient city of Ebla in eastern Syria shows that it ruled an empire that dominated the entire Levant from about 2500 BCE until it was destroyed by Sargon of Akkad c. 2240 BCE.  It controlled the area from Anatolia south and east to Mesopotamia and south and west to the Red Sea.

The earliest known references to the area as a whole comes from Egypt in about 1800 BCE, which called the whole area Retenu, referring  primarily to the seacoast and its hinterlands.  The Egyptians divided the area into Kharu in what is now northern Syria (around Ugarit), Amurru (Amorites) in southern and eastern Syria (centered on Aleppo); Remnon in modern Lebanon; Djahy south of that in Galilee and Golan, taking in the whole watershed of the Jordan River; Kananu in what became Samaria-Judea-Idumea/Negev; and Pekanan in the later Gaza Strip/Philistia.  It’s also probably that the inland region around Aleppo was called Shasu, a word equal in meaning to the Akkadian word Aramu (Arameans).  The island of Cyprus was known to all its neighbors as Alashiya,

What the Egyptians called Djahy was equivalent to the Canaan of the Tanakh/Old Testament, or Kana’an to its natives, is traditionally defined as the hinterland behind the merchant cities of the Eastern Mediterranean coast which stretched from the current nation of Lebanon to the southern border of the region of Palestine known as the Gaza Strip.  We now know from decryption of Phoenician writing that in truth they (and their Punic relatives in the Carthaginian Empire) called themselves “Kananayim”.

The language of the Phoenicians, and their Punic cousins was virtually identical to Canaanite as well as ancient “Hebrew”.  Given that it’s the same language, it’s likely those in the hinterland also called themselves “Kananayim”, and it’s equally as certain that “Phoenicians” called their own land “Kana’an”.  The earliest references to this group of Northwestern Semites are as a people rather than as a region, though archaeological evidence shows they developed in situ.

By the way, archaeological records back to at least 2000 BCE indicate that Jerusalem was always called by a version of that name (Rusalimum, Urusalim), never “Jebus”.  The one and only place that name (Jebus) occurs in history is in the parts of the Hebrew Tanakh known as the Torah and in the earlier books of the Major Prophets.  Shechem, allegedly built by Jeroboam, existed long before him, going by the name Shachmu.

Until later ancient times, the Greeks called the whole area of Canaan (including Lebanon) by the name Phoenicia, not merely that later limited to what the Egyptians called Remnon and we now call Lebanon, as is most common now. 

“Israel” was never a geographic designation by either its own people or those outside anywhere in the Levant.  Their earliest mention in outside sources comes from 1207 BCE in the Great Karnak Inscription, where they are mentioned as a landless people amongst and allied with the Canaanite cities of Gezer, Ashkelon, and Yanoam.

Not until Omri, king of Israel, built the city of Samaria to be his capital is there any indication that this landless people held territory.  Included in his kingdom were many of the far more ancient Canaanite cities such as Gezer and Hazor.  But even though the king of the nomadic tribe known as Israel ruled all of central Palestine, the region was known as Samerina, or Bit Humria (“House of Omri”).

After Hazael, king of Damascus, destroyed the Philistine city of Gath which had dominated all of inland southern Palestine in 830 BCE, a new political entity, first called Teman, or “the south” arose under Bit-Dawid (“House of David”), apparently a cadet branch of House Omri or an entirely different dynasty but still junior to the kings in Samaria.  Later the kingdom first called Teman begins to be called Yehud.

In later ancient times, after Achaemenid Iran had been governing the area for nearly a century, the Greeks began to call the region Palestina, after the Philistines in the cities of its coastal southwest, the first known being Herodotus in his Histories of c. 450 BCE.  The Iranians themselves called the area from the Euphrates River west to the Mediterranean Sea by the name Abar-Nahra, which include the province of Samerina and its sub-province of Yehud.

Smaller kingdoms in the region of Palestina were Edom (Udumu or Aduma), Moab, and Ammon, the existence of all three supported by archaeological evidence.  In Hellenistic times, the Aramaic-speaking Nabateans moved into the Trans-Jordan area around Petra.

With the conquest of Greater Syria, or the Levant, by the Roman Republic under Pompey in 63 BCE, the kingdom of the Hasmoneans, which covered roughly the same area as modern-day Palestine-Israel, became a client kingdom of the Romans.  After the overthrow of that rotten dynasty and the later death of Herod the Great, the former kingdom came under direct rule of the empire, which divided into the sub-provinces of Iudaea (which included Samaraea), Galilaea, and Philistia (and others) under the province of Syria. 

In the aftermath of the Bar Kokhba War of 130-135 CE, the empire brought of these tiny entities together with Syria as the province of Syria-Palestina, Palestina referring to its southern portion which included Trans-Jordan, or what was then called Coele-Syria.  Upon conquest of the area by its armies in 637 CE, the Islamic Empire kept the name Palestine (in the form Filastin) as the political name for the region in every dynasty from the Rashiduns to the Ottomans, who held it until 1918. 

In giving control of the area to Great Britain in 1920, the League of Nations kept the name as the Mandate of Palestine, which included Transjordan until the next year.  Until 1948, Palestine remained the official designation for the entire area west of the Jordan River.  That year was when the European Zionist colonials declared themselves the State of Israel and embarked upon a campaign of conquest known to the native inhabitants as the Nakhba, to which surrounding Arab states responded by gobbling up the remaining territory (Golan Heights to Syria, West Bank to Jordan, Gaza Strip to Egypt).

So, the region south of Lebanon and Golan and north of the Sinai, west of the Mediterranean and east of the Jordan was known for 2400 years as Palestine.

The United Nations General Assembly granted observer status to the “State of Palestine” in November 2012, bringing the name to the map in terms of world recognition.