|If it’s militaristic seafaring that tops the agenda, best leave your bow and quiver on land until your safe return. The inadvertent slaying of sacred deer can leave you dead in the water. Agamemnon, King of Mycenae, learned this lesson in the most anguishing fashion with his Greek army pinned to the coast of Aulis instead of en route to Troy where glory awaited. The goddess Artemis would not blow favorable winds until the king had sacrificed the more beautiful of his two daughters, Iphigenia. Ancient history differs on whether mercy was granted last minute. It’s likely, that superstitious as they tend to be, generations of sailors since have left the hunt to their land-locked counterparts. But what of an aristocrat cum naval commander?
The Duke of Medina Sidonia had not been seasoned in a number of seafaring rituals. And, considering the nature of some historic maritime rituals, his men would no doubt have been relived to forego them. For instance, those bloodthirsty Vikings would sacrifice prisoners to the gods and swab the decks with their blood to ensure protection in open seas. The ancient Romans shipboard ritual of only cutting their hair and nails as they were tossed on stormy seas lest they jinx their fair weather sailing probably did more damage to the sailors than staving off trouble ever did. As for the Duke of Medina Sidonia commanding the fleet, he did observe one positive ritual on that May 28, 1588 departure of the ill-fated Spanish Armada. He did not violate the worst of all superstitions by setting sail on a Friday. No, it was a Saturday when 130 ships filled with 8,000 sailors and 18,000 soldiers bearing 1,500 brass guns and 1,000 iron guns requiring two full days to leave the port of Corunna set sail to defeat the English.
In coming years, this more auspicious starting date likely gave scant comfort to the bejeweled and robed denizens of Vatican City. As for the victors of this famous naval clash just on the off chance that the Queen’s English of Elizabeth I should fall on uncomprehending ears, each of her admirals was awarded a medal struck in unmistakable Latin: Flavit Jehovah et Dissipati Sunt.” Thus began the undeclared Anglo-Spainish War. This history was not lost on the Catholics. An appointment based on a Nobel title did not a fleet commander make. Medina Sidonia’s minor loss at the opening volley was just the beginning. Following were scuttled communications with the Duke of Parma with whom he was to join forces and a fire ship night attack by the Brits, reinforced by their Dutch ally’s flyboat blockade. And then, one hell of a wicked wind. “Jehovah blew with His winds, and they were scattered.” In the years that followed as England rose, this Protestant Wind was credited time and again with providentially furthering the cause one British naval attack at a time.
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