Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Upcoming Events for Spring/Summer at Rosicrucian Park 2009

Join the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum as we celebrate Earth Day, Astronomy Day, Spring in Guadalupe Gardens, and our Epagomenal Festival!

    April 22- Earth Day
    April 25- Spring in Guadalupe Gardens
    May 2- Astronomy Day
    May 18- International Museum Day
    July 14-18- Egyptian Epagomenal Days

Earth Day
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Museum and Park grounds

Every year since the spring of 1970, the U.S. and other countries have celebrated Earth Day, focusing attention on the environment and bringing awareness to our material impact worldwide. This day salutes the progress we have made towards greener living and serves as a platform to launch new initiatives. At Rosicrucian Park, we are continually striving to do our part in decreasing our global footprint. We compost our yard clippings, use recycled materials, prohibit the use of pesticides, take public transportation, and more. So get your green on and join us for fun-filled activities and tours here at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum on Earth Day!

Spring in Guadalupe Gardens
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Guadalupe Gardens
Between Coleman Avenue and Taylor Street

Located in Guadalupe Gardens, downtown San Jose, this annual festival celebrates Green Living, Earth Day and the great outdoors. Here, you will find more information on Spring in Guadalupe Gardens in addition to a schedule of activities. The event is family-friendly and includes entertainment for all ages, food, a live band and a raffle. Expert gardening advice and booths from a variety of organizations focusing on sustainability and the environment are also advertised.

This year, guests of the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum’s booth are invited to partake in a Papyrus Planting activity. Each participant will receive a papyrus seed, potting soil and a biodegradable pot. As the seeds are planted, guests will learn about the importance of papyrus in ancient Egypt, particularly as a source for paper. Guests will also have the opportunity to write or stencil their names in Egyptian hieroglyphs on a piece of real papyrus paper. We will also have information available regarding the many uses of papyrus and fun facts about other ancient Egyptian plant products including frankincense, myrrh and cinnamon sticks.

Astronomy Day
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Museum and Planetarium

In 1973, Astronomy Day was started as a means to bring together astronomy enthusiasts, professional organizations, amateur astronomers, planetariums and the general public to converse on astronomy. Each year Astronomy Day falls on a different day between May and April in anticipation of the first quarter moon. Rosicrucian Park displays a great connection to Astronomy through our Planetarium. Every day at 2:00pm, with an additional showing at 3:30pm on the weekends, we feature “The Mithraic Mysteries”, a cosmological origin theory of the ancient Roman mystery religion known as Mithraism.

The Rosicrucian Planetarium, opened in 1936 is the fifth planetarium built in the United States and the first in history to feature an American-built star projector. H. Spencer Lewis, the founder of Rosicrucian Park, was an avid astronomer and his forays into science and mysticism can be seen in our Welcome Center exhibit, located in the Planetarium. In times more dangerous and uncertain than the present, ancient Egyptians would often look to the heavens for answers and explanations. Our Museum’s Kingship Gallery holds a replica of the Dendera Zodiac, one of the most complete and intriguing examples of ancient Egyptian cosmic conceptions. Please join us on May 2nd for an Astronomy-themed day of talks, tours and presentations in our Museum and Planetarium.

International Museum Day
Monday, May 18, 2009

Since 1977, museums around the world have celebrated International Museum Day. Developed by the International Council of Museums (ICOM), this is a day for the worldwide museum community to collectively interpret the past in light of the present to shape a better future and to bring attention to the importance of culture in our communities. The aim of this annual event is also to raise public awareness of the vital role museums play in society. Museums all over the world mark the occasion with open days, guided tours, public events and workshops. This year’s theme is “Museums and Tourism”. Please join us on International Museum Day for a variety of talks and tours on the intricacies of life and death in ancient Egypt. Admission is complimentary!

Epagomenal Festival
Saturday and Sunday July 18-19, 2009
Museum and Park grounds

The Epagomenal Festival in ancient Egypt marked the birthdays of the gods Horus, Osiris, Seth, Isis, and Nephthys. The ancient Egyptian calendar traditionally consisted of 360 days, plus an additional 5 days “out of time” when the sky goddess Nut birthed her children. All over Egypt, celebrations filled with dancing, music and general merrymaking were held to commemorate these renowned, Nile-spanning Egyptian deities. In spirit of this ancient Egyptian tradition, the Museum will put on a weekend festival in its honor. In previous years we’ve held activities on henna, cooking, perfumes and cosmetics on the park grounds, Senet and other games in the gardens, special talks and tomb tours in the museum, planetarium activities and more. Please check back in the next few months for a full event list.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Dream of the Stars: A Brief Look at the Historic Rosicrucian Planetarium (Part 2)

The Rosicrucian Planetarium was the fifth built in the United States, and part of a very long tradition. Planetarium history begins during ancient Egypt and the tomb of Senenmut— the earliest known depiction of the sky. Nearly 2,200 years ago the Greek philosopher Archimedes (287–212 BCE) is credited with creating the first early planetarium device that could predict the movements of the Sun and the Moon as well as the planets. Today these devices are usually referred to as orreries. In fact, many planetariums today have what are called projection orreries (including ours) which project onto the dome the Sun and planets, usually those planets limited to the ones visible with the naked eye (Mercury - Saturn).

The first device that we might refer to as a true “planetarium," that is an enclosed area intended to observe an artificial sky, appears to have been a type of tent with holes punched in it so as to emulate the constellations as they appeared in the sky.

Originally designed and crafted by the Arabs of the 13th century, the device eventually came to Europe as a result of the Crusades. In 1229 the emperor Friedrich II of Hohenstaufen brought one such tent with him from a campaign in the Near East. Although none remain today and the details are limited, it seems that the viewer sat within, while a kind of rotating platform moved the tent around the individual.

The covering was perforated with tiny holes used to represent stars. The sky, the constellations and their motions could now be viewed during daylight hours. Over the next 600 years the same idea led to the making of various domes and globes for viewing the heavens above. The majority featured the same basic idea as the tent previously mentioned only the tent itself was replaced by a stationary domed building.

The first modern planetarium emerged from Germany in the in the early 20th century. In 1903, the German scholar, Oskar von Miller, began planning the German Museum in Munich. This museum was intended to celebrate the accomplishments of modern science and technology. It was also to feature a section dedicated to astronomy. Here the first modern star projector would replace forever the antiquated stationary domes of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The optical star projector as a concept is surprisingly simple. It revolves around the idea of a single globe punctured with holes to emulate the stars and their position in the sky, each hole fitted with a lens to amplify the light. A powerful bulb within the globe would therefore project the sky up on to a dome. Motors would rotate the unit so as to emulate the movement of the heavens. All of this sounds simple yet getting all the components to function together proved troublesome to its inventors.

The company responsible for the star projector's creation was the optical company Carl Zeiss located in Jena, Germany. Its creation however, as mentioned, would not be an easy task. In addition to the mechanical difficulties, the First World War and the economic crises plaguing the world at the time caused the project to be delayed for several years.

Finally in 1923 the German Museum’s planetarium powered by the Zeiss Model I projector opened to worldwide acclaim. This would become the prototype for all modern star projectors and planetariums over the ensuing 60 years.

When the Rosicrucian Planetarium opened in 1936, it included the first ever U.S.-built star machine designed and constructed by H. Spencer Lewis, and a team of engineers and scientists here at Rosicrucian Park. Regularly scheduled “star shows” began.

Today we have a modern Spitz projector powering our shows. Our Spitz system 512 projector is capable of projecting more then 1,300 stars onto the dome. The star machine also features latitudinal, daily, annual and precessional motions for the demonstration of various celestial phenomena. This model is in fact one of the most widely used in the world being installed in over 150 planetariums worldwide.

For over 70 years our Planetarium has faithfully served the community by bringing the wonders of the cosmos alive. Please feel free to join us for our current planetarium show The Mithraic Mysteries. This show plays daily at 2:00 pm with an additional showing at 3:30 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. In addition to our show the planetarium is also home to the Rosicrucian Welcome Center, a fascinating exhibit on the history of Rosicrucian Park.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Bes Jars

Bes was one of the most important gods of ancient Egypt, although few people have heard of him. Unlike the official forty-two state gods, Bes was a household god. He was easily identified by his curly beard and the knives or rattles that he wielded. He was portrayed as looking fierce and threatening, in order to ward off bad luck and evil. Before being given the name ‘Bes’, he was known as the demonic ‘Aha’, or fighter. He was thought to be able to strangle bears, lions, and snakes with his bare hands.

Originally being reserved solely as a protector of the king, he soon became a popular god of everyday ancient Egyptian people, and was often depicted on household items such as beds, chairs, mirrors, and walls. Bes protected the home, and the people of ancient Egypt would honor him in the hope of family protection.

Bes may be most well known though, for his protection of children, beginning at birth. Images of him were painted on walls of birthing rooms protecting both mother and child. If problems arose during labor, a clay statue of Bes was placed by the head of the mother, while protective spells were cast over her. Children throughout all of Egypt, both rich and poor, wore amulets of him in hopes of keeping accidents and illnesses at bay.

The ancient Egyptians believed in a principle called Ma’at, or balance in everything. Probably owing to this belief, Bes was not just associated with fierceness, but also entertainment, laughter, and happiness. He was thought to please and entertain children with singing and dancing, and is therefore depicted as both happy and jovial.

One of the most common depictions of Bes were jars decorated with his face. If a child were ill, milk would be given to them in one of these Bes jars. It was believed that the milk would turn to medicine and protect the child. If the child didn’t get well though, of course a doctor would be called. It was then not uncommon for the physician to offer medicine out of a Bes jar.

The final form of Bes jars came during the Roman period. Bes jars were no longer delegated to only children. Soldiers, believing that they were vulnerable, just like a child, often drank their beer rations out of Bes jars in hopes of protection from attacks.

The most important aspect of life to the ancient Egyptians was family. Ancient Egypt was a very dangerous place to live, with 30-50% of people not even making it to adulthood, due to disease, animal attacks, and more. Rather than feeling helpless to the dangerous conditions, Egyptians honored gods such as Bes to protect their family, therefore giving them a sense of control over their chaotic world.

-- Jen Slauter, Docent

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Ides of March

The Ides of March: Cleopatra VII’s Egypt at the Dawn of the Roman Imperial Era

On March 15th, 44 B.C.E. Julius Caesar was assassinated. The Ides of March has long been associated with the beginning of the juggernaut known as the Roman Empire, an empire that would span the Mediterranean and lay the foundations for much of our modern Western society. Yet this history-changing event would also lead to the downfall of Pharaonic Egypt and be seminal in the life of Cleopatra VII (image at left), the last Egyptian Pharaoh and one of the most famous personalities from the ancient world.

Descended from Ptolemy I Soter (Ptolemy “the savior”) who arrived with Alexander the Great’s army about 300 years prior, Cleopatra VII came from a Macedonian Greek lineage that would rule Egypt as monarchs who were sometimes out of touch with their people. Even though great building projects were undertaken during their time consistent with traditional Egyptian themes, the Ptolemies outwardly appeared more focused on their heritage across the Mediterranean. Their statuary was kept consistent with the idealistic yet still fluid representations of Greek Kings and Queens, while their living quarters, palaces, dining tendencies, writing and overall day to day life resembled that of their home country, until Cleopatra VII took the throne.

She was the only one of her dynasty recognized as having learned the ancient Egyptian language, Cleopatra often identified herself with the goddesses Isis and Hathor (Two very similar goddesses representing magic and love/beauty respectively), and held parades and rituals in traditional Egyptian style. Her statues were also portrayed in the age-old Pharaonic manner with the left foot forward, a straight and rigid body posture, the goddess Wadjet adorning her brow, and a stoic countenance.

During the rise of Rome’s military might, Cleopatra formed a political and personal union with the most celebrated and revered general of that country, Julius Caesar. Their alliance kept Cleopatra on the throne and Egypt free of Rome’s ever-expanding armies. The Egyptians were able to go about their lives as they had for millennia past. Unfortunately, Roman sympathies were not with Caesar and his new ally. Egypt, to the egalitarian Republic of Rome, was a land of absolute monarchy where the Pharaoh was a god incarnate and had unqualified say over the populace’s governance, morals and values. Caesar’s dalliance with Cleopatra caused the Romans to fear he would make himself King to her Queen, ruling by her side not only in Egypt but perhaps in Rome as well. These fears culminated on March 15th, 44 B.C.E., where Julius Caesar was mobbed and stabbed by a gang of Senators in Rome, leaving Cleopatra without her Roman connection.

Living in Rome at the time, Cleopatra fled back to Egypt with the angry sentiments of the Roman populace focused upon her. For the next few years she was able to hold Egypt’s sovereign position by forming an alliance with Marc Antony, another powerful Roman general. Ultimately though, Egypt and Cleopatra’s hopes for continued autonomy had died with Caesar. The Romans, fearing that another of their leaders had a taste for ultimate power, backed Caesar's nephew Octavian (later to become the first Roman Emperor, Augustus) in war against the partnership of Marc Antony and Cleopatra. Octavian invaded Egypt, and further expanded Rome into a true Empire.

He was successful, and with the death of both Marc Antony and Cleopatra, Egypt would become a province of Rome, and a new chapter in the history of Egypt was to begin. The Ides of March marked the beginning of the end for a governmental system that had persisted for close to 3,300 years. During the ensuing 600 years of Roman rule, Egyptian, Hellenistic and Roman culture would blend into a new, and ultimately Christian society, the Coptic culture.

In the Museum’s Kingship gallery stands a statue of Cleopatra VII, only one of seven that survive to this day. Please be sure to visit this magnificent testimony of this moment in history and enjoy an audio presentation of her story upon your next visit.

(above) Roman-Egyptian Mask (30 BCE - 4th century CE) Romans, like Egyptians, practiced a form of ancestor worship. This mask of a woman was probably venerated by her family. While it is of the Roman style, it does possess Egyptian traits. The top of the head is surmounted by a scarab beetle and solar disk for protection. The woman was probably of a prominent Romano-Egyptian family.