Wednesday, January 28, 2015

5 Reasons History Is Boring (and 3 ways to change that)

"With all those style and healthy-eating and crafty blogs out do I make a history-based blog interesting?"

That was the question that plagued me at night while I planned starting this blog.

What am I saying? I am an avid lover of everything from the ancient world! Then why am I struggling with the basic concept of making my niche accessible to my target audience of teen-twenty-somethings? Because....History can be boring. There, I said it. So I sat down and thought out some of the top things that make history boring. The points in this list come from my personal experience before I discovered the ways that history is so amazing.

1. History isn't "Cool"

History just isn't cool like Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes is cool. Am I right? Yes, yes I am right. Benedict Cumberbatch has the upper hand on history. My point is that history seemingly has no connection to the current generation. Nothing grabs young people and prompts them to create fandoms about it. Does that sound weird to you? Imagine fandoms about Ancient Greece. Oh yeah, -cough cough- I meant to say those Percy Jackson books...

2. It's not Visually Entertaining

Come on, my generation is growing less and less apt to reading in order to absorb information. We need YouTube videos, fast-paced action, and stunning visual media! The bland black and white of a textbook spells boring. Even to the group of those of us who enjoy digging into books the stale way History books are laid out is painful to go through. And the attention span of most young people is getting worse and worse. (Notice how short these paragraphs are?) This is not to excuse the lack of self discipline by blaming it on culture....but it is a real problem.

3. Too Many Dates!

I can remember when I was taking a history course on Ancient Greece and I had to memorize dates for the test. My inner mantra was: "I Dont Care!" And I didn't! The dates were only numbers, and I already hated math so much I was loathe to stuff any more numbers into my head. Dates float around in your notes uselessly. They are the annoying filler that must be memorized to pass a test. So something about those dates needs to change!


4. "Where's the Beef?"
(Ha. See what I did there?) There never seems to be any filler between those irritating dates and bold-print terms. Where is the drama? Where is the gripping intrigue? What about suspense and action and romance? In short, where is the Story in History? All too often the story is missing. Without the story then the history loses its hold on the student's heart. They end up turning to Historial Fiction to get what they want. I should know because that's what I still do on a regular basis.

5. There's not a connection between Past and Present

"And How does this apply to me again?" I bet history teachers hear that one a lot these days. What does is matter who battled against the Inca for the control of Peru in the era of Spanish Conquistadors? Why should I care which Roman Emporer was ruling when Jesus was crucified? What do all these names and dates and moments in time have to do with me? Can't I just skim through this and get on with my social life? could...but you'd miss out on some simply incredible things.

Here are three ways to change your view of history forever.

1. History isn't Cool...It's Awesome!

Let's peak at the world just in the mid 14th century. Did you know that while Europe was struggling through the era of the Black Death that both the Aztec and the Inca Empires were expanding? Genghis Khan and his Mongul Empire have risen to power, but will fall by the end of the century. The Ottoman Empire will claim Constantinople in 1453 and end Roman/Byzantian rule forever. All this in just a hundred years!

A little too large-scale to grasp? How about this: did you know that in the year 1843 the "Great Migration" on the Oregon Trail was underway while at the same time a Scottish mechanic named Alexander Bain invented the first early model of the fax machine? Wagons and electric machines were happening in the same year! Or did you know that when the first "Star Wars" film was released in 1977 the last execution by guillotine was performed in France?

History is very cool. And without the dates to connect those cool facts they wouldn't be half as interesting. And if you dig a little deeper into these facts you can find enough drama to fill a whole series of historical fiction novels. Check out your local Books-A-Million and you might see some of them.

2. It's one Big Story

One day your name might be in bold print in a history book. Have you ever thought of that? Yeah, and some teen will sigh dramatically and dismiss your entire existance as something not worth learning. Because to us...the people from history aren't really real are they? But they were real people. Genghis Khan and Joan of Arc and Cleopatra, yeah, they were all real! They all had mothers and fathers and joys and hardships. They had dreams just like you and me. And their stories paved the way for our present day story.

Let me give you a brief example. Thomas Edison invented an electric lamp with a carbon fillament, a lightbulb essentially, in 1879. Because of that we have electric lights almost everywhere in our daily lives. Let me give you another example. On August 19th, 1934, Adolf Hitler was elected President of Germany and soon became its Dictator. One moment in actual life has consequences for the rest of History and still impacts us today.

So History is a living, breathing, still progressing story. Ultimately, when you look at History from a Biblical perspective like I do, it it the story of humankind written by God. Do you see it? It is His-story. He spoke the begining into existance and only He knows when the final line will be written.

3. Realize that Times are Changing

History is coming alive in more and more multimedia channels. If you know how to look, you'll start seeing them everywhere.

Just check out these fantastic resources:

  • Time Maps: Select a year and see how the world was changing in an engaging format.
  • Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Select a century and see how art progressed around the world.
  • Drive Through History: I grew up watching this DVD series. This is a fantastic way to learn about American History especially.
  • America Unearthed: This History Channel series takes a look at the mysteries in America's past. I haven't seen every episode but what I have seen has been insanly interesting.
  • Brad Meltzer's Lost History: Our History is vanishing one artifact at a time. Either destroyed or stolen or sold into oblivion. Host Brad Maltzer's mission is to return these artifacts to the people. Another History Channel series, this show will certainly encourage you to learn more.
  • American Pickers: Do you like antiques? Random facts about vintage stuff? Then this is the history show for you? This History Channel series is really light but you'll come away with a history lesson anyway. This is a really fun show that can showcase how fun history is.

These are just a few resources to get you hooked on history again. I mostly picked television shows and interactive timelines, but believe me there are tons of resources available if you just look for them.

So there is it! Five things that make history boring and three ways to change that. I hope this was an enjoyable and fun read for everyone, I certainly enjoyed putting it all together. Maybe in the future I'll do some posts about my favorite periods of history. What do y'all think?

Thank you for dropping by!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Snapshots of Serpent Deities: The Feathered Serpent

Hello Everyone! This article was originally posted on December 3rd, 2014 on the Genius of Ancient Man Blog. It goes along with my previous article "Serpent Sanctuary". This is a topic I'm very excited about and there will be another article soon along the same lines. I look forward to any thoughts or questions. Enjoy!

Snapshots of Serpent Deities:The Feathered Serpent

By Bethany Youngblood
Known as “Quetzalcoatl”, “Kulkulcan”, and “Viracocha”, this serpent deity was venerated by the Olmec, the Maya, the Aztec, and even the Inca. As mentioned in our blog post “Serpent Sanctuary”, many names have been used for this deity, but we know it collectively as the “Feathered Serpent” of Meso-America. Here is a brief snapshot of who and what this deity represented in the ancient world. 

Quetzalcoatl - The Names

The name “Quetzalcoatl” is the most well-known name for the Feathered Serpent, but it is certainly a mouthful! It is pronounced: ket-sahl-koh-aht-l and means "feathered snake". It comes from the Nahuatl words quetzalli (feather) and coatl (snake).[1]  The name could also be translated as "plumed serpent", just as the serpent deity of the Olmec was known. The Maya name Kulkulcan also means "feathered snake". 

“Viracocha”, the Incan version of this deity, is the only name that does not translate into "serpent". 
Viracocha is actually never recorded to have appeared in the form of a snake at all. So why is he included in the list of names for the Feathered Serpent? Because the Feathered Serpent did not always appear as a snake; he had other forms.   

One Deity, Many Forms

The Feathered Serpent is most commonly described just as its name suggests: a winged, plumed, or feathered snake. However, the pagan god apparently had other forms as well. He could take the form of the wind and other elemental deities;[2] for the Aztecs, the serpent deity was the morning and evening star, the planet Venus.[3]

What about Viracocha? All three, Quetzalcoatl, Kulkulcan, and Viracocha, are said to have appeared at one time in the form of a white, bearded man in long robes who came from across the sea.[4]
Viracocha, Wikimedia Commons

Brief History

Commonly the deities that fall under the "Feathered Serpent" title are credited with creation of the world and mankind.[5] Furthermore Quetzalcoatl, Viracocha, and Kulkulcan, in the form of a white man with a beard, apparently arrived from afar and brought wisdom to man. He built the foundations of civilization and spread his knowledge through the help of his many messengers. But the myths and legends also tell us that he left with the promise to return (some say he was exiled while others say he left by his own choice).[6]

There seem to be two versions of the cult surrounding this deity. Its earliest form describes the Feathered Serpent as a peaceful entity. He introduced justice and only required minimal sacrifices. 
Later the cult underwent a revision[7], with the exception of Viracocha, who appears to have remained a peaceful entity replaced by sun worship.[8] The Feathered Serpent became the patron of priests, representing death and renewal. Human sacrifices became necessary to appease him, and this bloody legacy is what remains most prominent about the Feathered Serpent today. 


Studying serpent deities can’t help but lead us back to the Garden and the Serpent of Old. His deceptions and counterfeits continually pop up, influencing cultures in ancient times in ways that we don’t yet fully know. Yet because we know the truth, by God’s grace, we can see the distortion for what it really is, false worship and rebellion against the true God. 

Always More Questions

As is usual with ancient studies, we’ve left you with a plenty questions to mull over and intrigue you:
  • Why do you think the peaceful creator-god morphed into the bloody feathered serpent we know today?
  • Were the names Quetzalcoatl, Kulkukan, or Viracocha once applied to an actual flesh-and-blood man who came to the native peoples in ancient times and shared knowledge with them?
  • Why are there three names for one very similar deity?
  • Based on your own research you probably have different answers and theories for these questions that we would love to hear about! Share your thoughts in the comments or send us an email! 

[1] “Quetzalcoatl.” Web.
[2] “Quetzalcoatl.” Micha F. Lindemans.
[3] Ibid. 
[4] “Viracocha/Kulkulkan/Quetzalcoatl.” Web.
[5] “Quetzalcoatl.” Web.
[6] Ibid. 
[7] Ibid. 
[8] “Viracocha and the Legendary Origins of the Inca.”  Christopher Minster.