Kabbalist holding the ten sefirot

4 August

The Zohar, the collection of esoteric Jewish texts at the heart the mystical tradition of Kabbalah, first went into print in Cremona, Italy, today in 1558. The collection was either written or edited by Moses de Leon, a Rabbi in 13th century Spain. He claimed he was working from little-known texts produced by a 1st century sage who hid from the Romans in a cave and said he was inspired by the prophet Elijah. The 1558 edition of The Zohar spread Kabbalist teachings across Europe, although it had already inspired a Christian Kabbalah movement in the previous century.

Today in 1622, King James I, fed up with controversial preaching in the Church of England, wrote a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury, George Abbot, forbidding political and sectarian sermons. James had been pursuing the ’Spanish Match’ for several years, trying to get his son Charles into a marriage with the Infanta Maria Anna of Spain, which had stirred up anti-Catholic feeling among James’s Puritan subjects. So the letter was an attempt to take the political heat out of that subject in particular, and preaching in general.

‘No preacher of what title or denomination soever, shall causelessly and without invitation from the text, fall into bitter invectives, and indecent railing speeches against the persons of either papists or puritans.’ Directions Concerning Preachers

Hans Christian Andersen, fabled inventor of children’s fairy tales, died in Copenhagen today in 1875, after falling out of bed in 1872. His fall left him with serious injuries. When he wasn’t writing ‘The Ugly Duckling’ and other stories, he also found time to write hymns, including the morbidly sentimental specimen, ‘Mother, I am tired, let me slumber’, written from the point of view of a dying child.

Mother, I am tired, let me slumber,
Lay my aching head upon your breast;
You are weeping, and you look so somber,
Mother, do not weep, I love you best.
Hymn by Hans Christian Andersen

Today is the birthday of James Springer White, co-founder of the Seventh Day Adventists, who was born in Maine, USA, in 1821. He and his wife Ellen helped found the Church in 1863, and were part of shaping its distinctive theology of keeping the sabbath and doggedly waiting for the imminent return of Christ in glory.

It is the feast day of St Sithney, an obscure and ancient saint from the depths of Cornwall. He is the patron of mad dogs. According to the folk tale, God asked Sithney to be the patron saint of girls seeking husbands, but Sithney said he would rather be the patron saint of mad dogs and get some rest. In an Almighty case of sense of humour failure, God was apparently not amused and took his request seriously.

Image: Sander Petrus

Time-travel news is written by Steve Tomkins and Simon Jenkins

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