March 25, 2015

It Happened on March 25th

Pecan Day
Jefferson gave them to Washington.
March 25th is one of the days we celebrate pecans. (Another Pecan Day is April 14th.) Pecans are the only major nut native to North America. The word pecan comes from an Algonquin word meaning "a nut that can only be cracked with a stone." It's believed that Native Americans cultivated the Pecan tree. Besides serving as a food source, the nuts could also be fermented to make a drink called "Powcohicora." 

In the 16th century, Spaniards brought the pecan to Europe, as well as to Asia and Africa. In the late 1600's Spaniards are also known to have cultivated pecans in northern Mexico. Colonists in (what is now) the United States didn't cultivate them until about the mid-1600's. 

Thomas Jefferson was known to have planted pecans in his garden, and he even gave some to George Washington to plant in his. Washington referred to them as "Illinois nuts" in his journal. 

Richard I Wounded by a Crossbow, 1199
Richard the Lionheart
This is Richard the Lionheart, the King Richard of Robin Hood myth, and of tales of the Crusades. There are so many tales of the Couer de Lion, and the story of his death is one of them. 

In March of 1199, Richard was laying siege to the castle of Chalus-Chambrol in France. He was walking around the castle without his chainmail, viewing the situation. An archer on the castle wall amused Richard by taking aim at him with his cross-bow, while simultaneously holding a pot to try to shield himself from incoming arrows. While Richard was being amused, another archer shot him in the shoulder. The arrow struck his left shoulder, and, although the arrow was removed, gangrene set in. 

Before Richard's death, the castle was overtaken, and the archer was brought before the king. He turned out to be a boy, and he said that Richard had killed his father and two of his brothers, and that he had killed Richard in revenge. Richard told the boy, "Live on, and by my bounty behold the light of day." He ordered his men to free him, and to give him 100 shillings. 

Richard died on April 6th, in the arms of his mother. His heart was taken to Rouen for burial there, his entrails were buried at Chalus-Chambrol, and his body was buried near his father at Fontevraud Abbey in Anjou. According to a 13th century Bishop, Richard spent 33 years in Purgatory for his sins, and then ascended to Heaven in March 1232. 

As for the archer, things didn't work out for him as well as Richard had planned. As soon as Richard died, he was flayed alive and then hanged. 

Feast of St. Dismas
St. Dismas statue in Breznice, Czech Republic
You may recall from your Sunday School lessons that Jesus was crucified between two thieves. In the Gospel of St. Luke, one of the thieves is described as being penitent, and Jesus told him that "today you will be with me in Paradise." 

Out of the four gospels, Luke's is the only one who describes one of the thieves as being penitent. Luke doesn't name the thief, actually. That comes from the Gospel of Nicodemus. (The other thief is called Gestas.) In the Arabic tradition, the good thief is called Titus, and in the Russian Orthodox he is called Rach.

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