Monday, July 1, 2013

The Mystery 'Lights' the Way

Joe is right again! The mystery artifact is, in fact, related to a torch. It is the type of enclosure called a cresset. Cressets were filled with flammables, that is rags, sticks, strings, pine needles and then covered with grease and set afire to provide a light in the dark night. Here are three different types of cressets.

The word cresset comes from the Middle English, derived from French creissegresse. It isn't hard to see how those words are linguistically related to our word grease

We have this grease torch because Mr. Redhed (whose collection was the founding collection of the museum) was very interested in lighting devices and torches certainly throw a lot of light!

Here's a creepy poem using the word cresset:

Darkness falls on Mecca’s walls,
The cressets glimmer in the gloom;
Along the cornices and groins
The scorpion weaves his trail of doom.

(Howard, "Silence Falls on Mecca's Walls")

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