Thursday, February 25, 2016

Night of the hunter

Now here's a headline bound to make us look twice:

The society in question is the Austrian outfit called the Order of St. Hubertus (official site), an order of knights founded in 1695 by Count Franz Anton von Sporck in what is now the Czech Republic, in the region known as....Bohemia!

His goal was to gather "the greatest noble hunters of the the 17th Century, particularly in Bohemia, Austria and countries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, ruled by the Habsburgs."  Count Sporck was quite the philosophical dilettante; in addition to the order of St. Hubert, he is alleged by some to have founded a branch of Freemasonry in Bohemia.  This is debatable and seems to have originated in 1888 with an unsubstantiated claim by a Czech journalist, but if your spider senses are tingling anyway, maybe they should be.  The U.S. chapter of the Order was started in 1968 at the Bohemian Club.

Feeling the weight of dull care yet?
George Wood was appointed Grand Prior and founded the American Chapter in 1968. The first Investiture of American Knights took place at the Bohemian Club in San Francisco. The ceremony was presided over by then Grand Master Karl Messany.
Scalia breathed his last in his room at the Cibolo Rach.  The cibolo is the "near threatened" American Bison, which once roamed the Great Plains in vast numbers, but were hunted near to extinction by trigger-happy travelers west in the 19th century.  Stories report that men would shoot from the windows of their trains as they passed, into herds so thick they barely even needed to aim.  The animals were left to rot.  They weren't hunting, they were target shooting, killing for the thrill of killing.  As the plains Indians' primary source of sustenance, these "hunters" were quite consciously depleting the tribes' hunting grounds, effectively starving the tribes off their lands.

Is "cibolo" a thumbing at the nose, then, dickish hunters honoring their bison-killing forefathers?  Cibolo Ranch was certainly a place to forget dull care.  Is its name a flippant disregard for the massacre of the American Bison?

I'm pretty sure that's all wrong.  It could also be meant as a solemn reminder of the tragedy of the slaughter of so many of God's creatures.  Perhaps the name should be taken in the spirit of their motto: 

"Deum Diligite Animalia Diligentes"  Et deinde occidere eos 

"Honoring God by Honoring His Creatures"  And then killing them 

Scalia traveled to the Ranch with D.C. lawyer C. Allen Foster, a passionate hunter who passed his 65th birthday in the Czech Republic at an old castle and hunting park.  Dull care was definitely lifted in a series of hunts, wine tastings, sightseeing and a masked ball.  Eyes wide shut?  It sounds exactly like the kind of aristocratic event one would expect from a group of knights.  So what's a defender of the constitution doing by buddying up to a group of aristocrats with pretensions to Medieval splendor?

"Cibolo" also puts me in mind of Craig Baldwin's film, ¡O No Coronado! (1992).  As one website puts it, the film is "a delirious, open-ended historiography that updates issues of imperialism, tourism, treaty rights and environmental protection from the 16th century to the present and beyond."  Quite appropriate; as the expedition falls apart, a delirious Coronado rushes about in a frenzy muttering "Cibola cibola cibola" over and over.  According to the NPS, "Cibola" is a corruption of "She Wo No" or "Land of the Zuni."  Coronado, driven mad by the future, a future that expeditions like his unleashed, a future where the cibolo were slaughtered as part of the long-haul campaign to exterminate the natives not forced into the mines and the slave plantations.

Foster, for the moment, is traveling.  Perhaps in Argentina.  Check's in the mail, so to speak.  One woman hung up on the Post reporter when asked for comment.  Maybe she has some dull cares.

The Post concludes that 
Law enforcement officials told The Post that they had no knowledge of the International Order of St. Hubertus or its connection to Poindexter and ranch guests. The officials said the FBI had declined to investigate Scalia’s death when they were told by the marshals that he died from natural causes.
Poindexter is the ranch's owner and Scalia's second traveling companion to the ranch.  He told the Post that he "wasn't aware" of any connection between Scalia and the Order.  That said, both Foster and Poindexter "hold leadership positions within the Order."

The Order describes itself as
....a true knightly order in the historical tradition. The Order is under the Royal Protection of His Majesty Juan Carlos of Spain, the Grand Master Emeritus His Imperial and Royal Highness Archduke Andreas Salvator of Austria and our Grand Master is His Imperial and Royal Highness Istvan von Habsburg Lothringen, Archduke of Austria, Prince of Hungary.
Its stated purpose is innocuous enough:  conservation, fellowship, support good hunting practices, promote hunting, encourage sponsorship and "To promote the concept of hunting and fishing as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity."

I don't know why this goal struck me.  It makes me think that hunting in the knightly tradition is an activity of the aristocracy, strictly regulated and poachers -- meaning the landless -- dealt with severely.  Of course this is a far cry from the attitude of most American hunters, who tend to see what they do as more than a sport, but a right of every American citizen, whose tools are protected in the Constitution.  Again, a document Scalia swore to defend.  Yet he goes and dies while palling around with its aristocratic practitioners, an Order led by Archdukes and sponsored by the King of Spain.

Strange bedfellows for a defender of democracy.  And a strange deathbed scene:  a "breathing apparatus" nearby -- but off, his head propped up on a magical three pillows (hey, Sporck's Masonic Lodge was said to have been the Three Stars), a pillowcase over the eyes....  Apparently everything is order, but the investigation has raised some eyebrows and some wonder why no autopsy was performed.

I think we'll be hearing more about this as the days go by....

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