Category Archives: Shemitah

The Acorn Motif, and other American Symbols of Thankfulness and Hospitality

Another year older, another year deeper in debt, in debt to my mother and father, Marianne and Fred Wichmann for my life; to The One who gave me breath and an added year to my purpose here on earth; to The One  who teaches me to “so number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom”.

I am blessed with the exclusive privilege of taking my tours into the home of the doctor who delivered me over a half century ago.  It is an Antebellum home in the Greek Revival style. There, in the Antebellum arch over wide pocket doors, is carved the Acorn Motif, under which you can imagine ladies in hoop skirts in the 1850’s-60’s. This house was the home of a signer of the Ordinance of Secession, Wm. Pinckney Schingler. Miraculously his two houses in Charleston survived both the War Between the States and the Great Conflagration of 1861 that went right through this block.

Why the Acorn?  This year my eye focused on this motif being repeated all around Charleston.  Most noticeably it is in the Edmondston-Alston House at 21 East Battery, where I got my training from my college days and after graduation where I was the second in charge of this museum house open to the public. Into focus came a 19th century photograph of High Battery that is blown up at my husband’s Yacht Club that I have seen repeatedly.  This time I noticed in the photo that the posts of the Battery Wall had Acorn Finials. My friend through a series of miracles bought a house on lower King a few doors down from my mother’s.  There on her first morning I found that her brick columns are ornamented with the SAME Acorns I had seen in the 19th century Battery Wall photo, acorns that no longer exist atop the posts of the Battery wall. Why is this exciting to me? Because of the symbolism.  Our Founding Fathers were wanting to carry on a message encrypted if you will in the everyday world around them SO THAT WE WOULD REMEMBER.

What was the symbolism?

I tell you on location as we stand under the arch where the Acorn wood carvings are.  I don’t want to spoil it for you by telling you now, though it is tempting.  The sublime simplicity is a story worth telling and worth hearing with the history that puts it in context.  It takes the whole tour to “get it”.  This unveiling of symbolism with quotes from primary sources is why I was an English major and history minor. I quote the literary people and Founding Fathers and patriarchs who were more eloquent than I, whose words are worth repeating in the power and beauty of the spoken word  as we gaze at the magnificent architecture of a bygone era.

The number THIRTEEN is an American symbol as well as the Acorn.  There is nothing unlucky for us in this number for of course we were founded as Thirteen Colonies.  The Founding Fathers were very tuned in to the number thirteen.  It contained the key to America’s success, to how we could be united across a continent, bigger than powerful countries of Europe put together.  Where did the key lie in the number thirteen?  “Though I speak with the tongue of men and of angels yet have not love, I am a noisy gong and clanging cymbal.” I Corinthians chapter 13. The number Thirteen is repeated on our one dollar bill in Thirteen stars and more.  Look with a magnifying glass.  Where do we see this number Thirteen in Charleston?  One of the most popular pieces of furniture that all my relatives have in their Charleston houses is the secretary desk with two glass doors.  Each door is a Chippendale design with Thirteen panes. It is for a moment in the recent film, War Room. Though designed by Thomas Chippendale in England, it became a popular adopted American favorite and symbol.

George Washington warned in his Farewell Address of what Revelation chapter 13 warns of as well, another Thirteen, of which more Biblically literate past generations would have been familiar. “It is the nature of government to expand.  It must be kept under many checks and balances.” Revelation 13 warns of the day when government has grown so large that the earth has a One World Government, in order to have, as our present president says, “a level playing field.”

Because my eyes and ears are trained to look for symbolism as an English major and daughter of an English major and as one who was trained by an excellent Bible teacher from 9th grade on, I see and hear symbolism everywhere for myself, like an epiphany. Symbolism is in dreams and on the news. It is very simple once you see it. Why did the terrorists attack in Paris happen last Friday? It was chosen to be date to remember but also to point as a warning to America.  It happened on November 13.  The Thirteen points to America, which started with 13 colonies.  How did they choose the particular band concert?  They liked the name. Eagle and Death were in it.  America is the Eagle.  Our enemies want death to America and to our Judaeo-Christian Civilization.  They want us in retreat, the Lion, Great Britain, with the Great Eagle, plucked feather by feather, until naked and ineffectual, as the prophet Daniel foresaw in his visions where KINGDOMS RISE AND FALL.

Why the airplane bomb in the soda can?  What did the soda can say?  Shweppes? Gold?  Pineapple? Our enemies want to “sweep” their enemies out of their way, to make the value of our economy or “gold” drop, and they want our Judaeo-Christian open-door hospitality to blow up in our faces, represented by the pineapple, the symbol of hospitality.  Hospitality IS our gold, our way of life, our identity. If we stop being hospitable to strangers, we will lose the magic that makes this country great.  Our enemies can take away everything, our comfort and ease, our heat and air by the grid, but they can never take our free will.  We have the power to choose our own Attitude toward them and to strangers.  Never underestimate the Power of Free Will.

My mother was naturally shy and in the bombings of WWll did not do any entertaining growing up. Doing the tours and bringing them to her garden for tea was a big step of hospitality for her.  I inherited a plaque from her which says,

“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2.

There is a remnant in every tribe, every tongue, and every nation that has ears to hear and eyes to see.  WE have the Good News they need.  These troubled times call for being “wise as serpents, and innocent as doves.” “The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance.”

Why else might the word pineapple  have been the choice of the can pictured by those who claimed to have been responsible for the Russian bound plane? I wonder if it was meant to bring a shudder to one particular person.  Where do pineapples grow? Where is our president from?  Where did World War II start for America? We must humble ourselves and ask protection for all leaders in authority as well as those brave enough to run for the presidential office. Let us not deceive ourselves. These acts of terrorism are the implements of war and world domination through intimidation. “Are we disposed to be of the number of those who have eyes but see not, and having ears hear not the things that so nearly concern our temporal salvation?  Let us know the whole truth,”said  Patrick Henry.

Our 17 year old dreamed the night before the thirteenth that evil was after her in the form of a robot.  It was a long nightmare saved by the ending where she was cornered with no escape.  She and I in the dream started singing Amazing Grace.  Soon the whole world was singing with us and the evil was rendered null and void. These are not the things I say on the tour, but “the times, they are a changin.” Writing gives me more space to share thoughts. We all want some answers and direction. “The lamp of experience must guide our feet. We judge the future by the past,” said Patrick Henry. Thomas Jefferson bought a copy of the Koran to understand the Muslim religion and laws to see why Barbary Coast pirates targeted us. The second half of their holy book reveals their orders, to kill the infidels, the Christians and Jews, wherever you find them. We study history and art and literature to understand our present state; otherwise, “The people perish for lack of knowledge.”

For small tours of 2-4 people call June at 843-577-5896.  For small groups of 5 or more call me, Laura, at 843-708-2228.  We are excited about the history and the choice properties we are privileged to share because the Spirit of Hospitality is still alive in The Holy City of Charleston. We remember who we are, from generation to generation. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave.  May the circle be unbroken, I show you in the Guilloche pattern of architecture.    Laura Wichmann Hipp

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Filed under 13, Acorn motif, Antebellum Charleston, breaking routine, Eagle, entertaining, Founding Fathers, Greek Revival, King St., Manners in Charleston, Mother-Daughter Tour, museum houses before or after private tour, pineapple, Shemitah

The Holy City By the Sea: Charleston, South Carolina

America is not only The New World, but it was also referred to by the early colonists as The Promised Land.  America was founded and formed deliberately after the pattern of Ancient Israel. As with the children of Israel’s Exodus, there was a mass Exodus from Europe, “to escape the tyranny of the oppressors,”  the European governments, as the people were being taxed every which way possible.  As Charles Dickens wrote, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” He gave a litany of every way in which they were being taxed and taken advantage by their governments in France and in Great Britain.  Civilization had grown in sophistication, but so had government’s intrusion into their daily lives.

Just as there was the mass Exodus of several million Jewish people from Egypt led by Moses, Europeans came to America en mass. They had been in the pressure cooker too long.  They had HAD it! The word LIBERTY filled up all the blue of the sky in their minds.  LIBERTY was the siren call tempting them to leave all the familiarity of home and culture and to venture forth across the troubled waters to begin civilization all over again in a land they knew not, like Abraham.  Our Founding Fathers saw America as the Israel of the New World, the new Promised Land. Just as Jerusalem is the only place called Holy City, out of the new Promised Land, there was only one city in America that has kept the nick name, The Holy City.

Charleston, South Carolina is that city, founded in April 1670.  The air seems to be permeated in Charleston with an elusive charm and magic that makes first time visitors feel at home.  Charleston is like an old shoe.  She fits one and all alike. The Eight Lords Proprietors of England who were given this land by King Charles II kept a low profile during the reign of Olivier Cromwell, but when Cromwell died and his son Richard proved ineffectual, Great Britain had Eight Lords a Leaping!  These lords risked their lives, lands, and reputations to reestablish the monarchy.  The monarchy had been done away with in a big way.  Charles I had been beheaded!  These lords brought his son back from exile in the court of France and made him king of Great Britain.  In appreciation, King Charles II gave them land in the New World, Carolina. The lord who took the most interest in this colony was  Lord Anthony Ashley Cooper, first earl of Shaftesbury, in Dorset, England, for whom our two rivers are named, the Ashley and the Cooper.  His good friend and secretary was non other than John Locke.  THE  John Locke!  Together they wrote the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina.  Included was a protection of freedom of religion and freedom of speech with the provision that it was against the law to speak against anyone for their differences in faith.  Everyone had freedom of speech to share their faith, but the limitations were not to use it as an excuse to be critical of others’ differences in faith.

Keep it positive, was the mood of the wisdom of our Founders in order to avoid the wars and burnings at the stake of the Reformation of Europe, and earlier the beheadings with the scimitar in the Crusades.  Carolina had the widest range of religious freedom in America second only to Rhode Island in writing but in reality wider here than there. The line they included of not speaking against another for differences in faith was the same line and  law that Middle Eastern King Nebuchadnezzar made after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego  came out of the fiery furnace unsinged, whose accusers had told King Neb. that these foreign slaves he had promoted did not bend the knee to his statue of gold at the dedication when the music played dramatically. (Read of it, if you will, in the book of the prophet Daniel chapter 3.)

Founding Fathers named not only their mountains and towns Hebrew names but their children here in the New Promised Land.  My long time friend, Margaret Scott, told me today her ancestors who came here from England and joined Daniel Boone were none other than three brothers named Shadrach, Meshach and Abedneggo.  Now that was a lot of faith in having more sons to follow for their parents to have started that name pattern!  Early settlers and Founding Fathers also read in Hebrew and taught their children Hebrew.  Hebrew was taught in schools and universities.  Yale has Hebrew in its seal. Columbia University as well.  William Bradford, who wrote Of Plymouth Plantation, read the Bible in Hebrew. I was astounded when I had Ashley Hall foreign girls over for tea from China that the Christian among them is teaching herself to read in Hebrew!

There is no nation in the world as closely linked to Israel as America.  Charleston and Bermuda are on the same latitudinal line as Jerusalem.  Charleston is the Holy City By the Sea, Bermuda is called God’s Country, and Jerusalem is the Holy City of this planet Earth, center of three world religions, which are allowed next door to each other, just as in Charleston. When you live this close together, you gotta love your neighbor! “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.  It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”   Let’s have a revival of that song!

June is coming! I am sharing the love of June with you.  June McKnight is doing tours with me.  She is a native Charlestonian as well, a friend through the Garden Club of Charleston, Ashley Hall, and through the rising star of her young son, the chef, Daniel McKnight, intern under Nathalie Dupree. With the recent loss of my mother, who did the tours with me faithfully for about 25 years, God has raised up June to help.  She has immersed herself in study and made a 98 on the written and oral exam to become a licensed City of Charleston guide.   She has been interning with me since December. Shemitah is the siren call to me through that Still, Small Voice.  For such a time as this.

Laura Wichmann Hipp

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Filed under breaking routine, Shemitah