Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Perceiving Christmas Through Its Wrapping


To perceive Christmas through its wrapping becomes more difficult with every year.
~E.B. White, "The Distant Music of the Hounds".
At this time of year, when we receive a greetings card with illustration of a nativity scene, I remember a dear old boss of mine -my first ever boss, Mr H. He'd say, tongue firmly in cheek, if we received such a greetings card in the office, "Oh my, they've even started bringing religion into Christmas now - whatever next?!"

In some ways it really is a pity that Christianity got itself tangled up with the season formerly known as Yule, instead of making for itself a festival closer to the date of Christ's real birthday, inasmuch as that could have been established. The idea of goodwill and peace at what we call Christmas does reflect the true Christian message, even so, the traditions of the season do not necessarily stem from that message - it's a bit like putting the cart before the horse. Traditions of giving, loving and helping others pre-date Christianity by thousands of years.

In Europe, and later in the USA, traditions rooted in the pagan Norse and Celtic Yule, from long before the time of Jesus, have persisted over many thousands of years. Yule represented the moment when the days would again become longer, when light would return to the land, and people had reason to be thankful as spring was on its way, with the birth of new animals, and the softening of the soil for planting. Such winter festivals exist in most other parts of the world too, each with their own motifs and traditions, all rooted in the past.

What follows appeared on this blog some 8 years ago - time for a re-run! Sources originally linked are, unfortunately, no longer available.

Our western traditions and their roots:

Giving to the Needy- This tradition may have come from the Saxons who had 2 tables at the door of the banquet hall during their feasts. One was for all to take food, and the other was to leave alms for the poor. This meant to symbolize the unity of all human lives and to remind the Saxons that what one gave was returned 3-fold. Even today it is a Christmas custom to give food to the needy, and for this act of kindness we can thank the Saxons.....~Tala~ (Robin Paladino)

Gift Giving- seems to originate from the Winter Solstice holiday, Saturnalia (which honored the God Saturn) which was long established by the Romans before they invaded Britain and was celebrated for several days around 17th December. It was a time when Masters waited on servants at mealtime, gifts of light were given, particularly candles. Other traditional gifts included coins, honey, figs, and pastry. Gifts were also given in honor of loved ones who had died during the previous year. Early Roman explorers carried this tradition throughout Europe.

Feasting- had several purposes: to acknowledge the return of the season of growth, to give physical expression to the hope for abundance in the year to come, and finally to alleviate boredom and depression. As Christianity gradually usurped Pagan ways of worship, the custom of Advent (a month long fast before Christmas) reflected the times when people had to survive on eating very little. It became custom to feast on the 25th and to mark this day with acts of hospitality and generosity. The rich were expected to open their doors for all, and this could well have been the precursor to the tradition of helping those less fortunate.

Yule Log- is a small log of usually oak, with a flattened bottom that is decorated with evergreen and holly, after it is inscribed with symbols that represent wishes and what you want to bring into your life in the coming year. It is burned on Yule, after it is charged, or "wished upon". It is kept in the house all year to protecT inhabitants from illness AND adverse conditions; it is used the following year to light the new Yule log. Some Yule logs today are similar, except for 3 holes drilled down the center, to place candles, as many people today do not have working fireplaces. Cakes in the shape of Yule logs are a 20th century nod to this tradition.

Christmas Trees- were originally Yule trees. The Celts believed they stood for the everlasting life because the trees did not "die" in the winter. They stood for protection, prosperity and were the symbol of renewal and the hope for the sun to make the earth green again. Because of their massive height, they were a symbol of eternity. It was from these beliefs that the decorating of Yule trees, now known as Christmas trees, evolved. Yule trees were decorated with images they wished the coming year to bring for them: nuts for fertility, love charms for happiness, fruit for a successful harvest, and coins for wealth.

Lights- on houses and Christmas trees is a modern version of the Pagan custom of lighting candles and fires to "lure back the sun." The Saxons may have been the first to put candles on Yule trees.

Red candles- symbolize the fire and heat of the returning sun.

Wreaths- signify the "wheel of the year," a circle with no beginning and no end. (See image at top of post)

Pine cones are the male aspect of fertility, and the fruit signifies the female aspect. They were initially used by Scandinavian Pagans 4,000 years ago.

Mistletoe- symbolized peace, prosperity, healing, wellness, fertility, protection and rest. It was placed around the fire and helped women to conceive. It was believed to be an aphrodisiac (magickally, not medically, as it is poisonous); if left hanging up all through the year, it would bring good luck. It was also dubbed the "golden bough" by the Druids. Kissing under the mistletoe has its origins in Norse mythology and a story about Baldur, a son of Odin and goddess Frigg. Long story short: a dart fashioned from the little mistletoe plant was used to murder Baldur in front of all the gods who loved him dearly. Frigg was devastated, her tears became the berries of the plant. It was decreed that mistletoe would never again be used as a weapon and that she would place a kiss on anyone who passed under it. Legal matters were sealed beneath its boughs. A couple who kissed beneath the mistletoe bough were announcing their intent to get married. They would kiss under it again after the official ceremony, to further seal their vows.

Holly- symbolizes the old solar year, the waning sun, and good luck.

Jingle bells- were used by the Norse to herald in the dawn after the long dark night. They also used them to ritually frighten away the powers of darkness that they felt reached their peak at Yule.

Santa/Father Christmas has multi-cultural roots with characteristics of Saturn (Roman Agricultural God), Cronos (Greek God known as Father Time), The Holly King (Celtic God of the dying year), Father Ice/Grandfather Frost (Russian Winter God), Thor (Norse Sky God, who rides the sky with a chariot drawn by goats), Odin/Wotan (Scandinavian/Teutonic all-father who rides the sky on an 8-legged horse), Frey (Norse Fertility God), Tomte (a Norse land spirit known for giving gifts to children at this time of year). Santa's reindeer can be viewed as forms of Herne (the Celtic Horned God), and Frau Holde (a Goddess from Germany believed to ride on the wind in a sleigh on Yule eve, and give gifts to her followers.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Music Monday ~ Controversially Cold Outside

I guess Frank Loesser would be horrified if he knew the controversy his award winning song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is causing on the internet these days.

Wikipedia:
Baby, It's Cold Outside" is a popular song written by Frank Loesser in 1944. It is a call and response duet in which a host, usually performed by a male voice, tries to convince a guest, usually performed by a female voice, that she should stay the evening because the weather is cold and the trip home would be difficult. While the lyrics make no mention of any holiday, it is popularly regarded as a Christmas song due to its winter theme.

Loesser wrote the song for his wife and himself to perform at parties. He sold the song to MGM, which used it for the 1949 film Neptune's Daughter. It was sung by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalbán and won the Academy Award. Since 1949 it has been covered by many singers, including Ray Charles, Michael Bublé, Sir Tom Jones, and Dolly Parton.
Another version of the song, not mentioned above, but drawn to my attention by my husband, was by Homer and Jethro, a comic version with silly replacement lines such as : "I'll take your hair your hat looks swell"...."I'll hold your hands they're just like feet". TSK!

I started to read a long thread of answers at Quora to "Why do people think the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is offensive? In trying to understand both points of view, I couldn't tear myself away, spent far too much time on it! I found myself upvoting answers offering opposite points of view, and couldn't decide, afterwards, exactly how I feel about the song myself. I do see both sides of today's argument.

Whenever I've heard the song in the past, it didn't strike me as being in any way offensive, certainly not "rapey" as some see it, rather just playful in tone. I didn't even assume that the point of having the female stay, due to inclement weather, necessarily meant...sex. But then I'm old now. I was 5 years old when the song was written, I grew up in the atmosphere of the context of that song, when a gal had to be careful not to be labelled "common", "easy", or "slut". As an answer at Quora pointed out - the song is really as much about "slut-shaming" as anything else. The female is afraid of what relatives and others might think if she stayed with her boyfriend.

Things have changed so much now, it's hard to find a modern movie where there isn't at least one scene of naked bodies writhing together - in close-up. In movies, a chance meeting in a bar, over a drink, almost always results in...please re-read previous sentence. In past decades such goings on were not allowed in films - there was even a rule at some point, I think, where one of the parties involved in a scene of sexual activity on a bed had to keep one foot on the floor.

While I can appreciate the shade cast on Loesser's lyrics by some of the horrors of rape and sexual abuse uncovered in the past few years, I still find it difficult to find this song to be actually offensive - it is simply old fashioned - and old fashioned ain't all bad! There's a simple answer for any who do find the song offensive - don't listen! As another answer at Quora pointed out - It is just a song.

I'll not post a video of the controversial song today, but another by Frank Loesser. This song depicts a situations not a million miles from the same circumstance as in "Baby It's Cold Outside" - but now the two are married, and the song is in softer vein:

Two Sleepy People with Shirley Ross and Bob Hope -


Saturday, December 08, 2018

Brexit the Bastard Monster

The Brexit saga continues, a not-so-mini drama series that I had never expected to see! I've been away from the UK for more than 14 years now, so can't fully appreciate how things must have changed in that relatively short time. I follow Brexit news daily, out of self interest and general concern about my native land. Self interest, because my two pensions come from the UK. The vagaries of currency exchange reduce my income substantially when sterling dips or crashes, as it surely must if "no deal" were to become the saga's last episode.

This answer at Quora a few days ago makes a point, in the third paragraph, I hadn't fully grasped. There was no facility to comment on the answer, so I am unable to ask permission from the writer to use it here; I'm confident he would not object. I especially like the imagery in the last paragraph.



Question
Was Brexit ever going to be easy and uncomplicated?


Answer by
Brian Coughlan, QRAFT Solution Expert at Volvo Trucks (2011-present)


Yes, in a funny kind of way.

You see, although the current deal is the result of 2 years of agony, and it disappoints almost everyone, it could have been completed in the first month after the referendum.

Because, it was always going to be this way: be part of the EU or be it’s vassal - this much the Brexiteers have gotten right. That even if the EU disappears, the UK - if it doesn’t fall to pieces due to the economic havoc brexit will wreak - will be the vassal of whatever nearby federation absorbs the fragments of the EU. That in the 21st Century this is the fate staring every country with less than 100 million citizens in the face: join voluntarily with someone or have a nearby economic colossus numbering their citizens in the hundreds of millions - the EU, China, the US, India - tell you what to do.

How you leave doesn't matter — other than the amount of damage it does — crash out, EFTA or Canada Cubed, it's all the same. You'll still be a vassal of the EU. This is a fundamentally pointless exercise. The economic gravity the EU exerts is Hotel California strength: you can checkout, but you can never leave. A fact - that even I, as pro EU as they come - had not fully grasped.

The worst thing of all? It’s not even a plot. That there is no conspiracy. It’s just fucking arithmetic. The implacable numerical reality for a country of 65 million in a world of 7,500 million+ and single states now numbering their increasingly well fed, educated and ambitious citizens in the billions.

In a wierd way BREXIT has strengthened the EU, as we watch the UK’s miserable, desperate and weakening struggles to square the circle that BREXIT was always doomed to be. This process has inadvertently highlighted the substantial value of the EU and the terrible loss that leaving represents. Comic-Tragic.

And yet, if someone had had the guts to tell the UK voters this, and convinced them, this could have all been over in a weekend by strangling this misbegotten, hideous child at birth.

Now, I fear, it’s too late. The bastard monster is up on its mishapen little hooves and trotting about the place. The UK will just have to go through the crucible and see what survives to the other side.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Arty Farty Friday ~ Historic Dates

Today's date is historic, the reason is illustrated below, by artist and illustrator Chuck Hamrick.
A native of Memphis, TN, figurative artist, painter, designer and illustrator, Chuck Hamrick, continues to enjoy a life-long love of drawing and painting the human experience.

For his biography and many illustrations of his artwork, the artist's website is at
https://chuck-hamrick.pixels.com/


The second image below relates, of course, to another historic date, one coming up later this month.


Clicking on the images should bring up larger, clearer versions.



 Pearl Harbor by Chuck Hamrick


 Wondrous Night by Chuck Hamrick

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

CHRISTMAS CARDS

I know, I know, they're going out of style in these days of e-mail, Facebook, smartphones etc. I realise, also, that there are valid ecological arguments against buying and sending Christmas cards. But still I buy 'em and send 'em! When governments, especially the US government, stops spending piles of money on the war machine, which puts far more toxicity into the atmosphere, and is far more wasteful of resources than my traditional habit - then I'll stop sending Christmas cards. I send cards to friends and relatives in the UK and in the USA. I try to choose cards printed in the USA and/or on recycled paper. It's a tradition that I enjoy keeping, but when my generation dies off in coming years, the tradition will be likely to die with us.

Back in 2007, at Christmas time, I did a post featuring Christmas card styles for the 12 zodiac signs. Blogger's changes to its interface and other considerations, in intervening years, have messed up that old post. The illustrations are really too small too, so - a re-make is in order! It should be borne in mind that what follow, astrologically, are in relation to the essences of the 12 zodiac signs themselves, not necessarily as Sun signs - but if Sun signs are your 'thang' y'all can consider these in that way.


Aries
Lighthearted fun, usually sent early:



Taurus
Traditional, Christmas goodies, or landscapes:





Gemini
The Trickster Twins:






Cancer
Homely scenes:





Leo
Classy, large, dramatic, colourful, expensive looking:




Virgo
Minimal, restrained but not boring:





Libra
In the best of good taste:





Scorpio
Cards which grab the attention, sometimes with a darker undertone:






Sagittarius

Santa, travel, or fun subjects with a generous flavour:




Capricorn
No nonsense, structured, traditional:




Aquarius
Unusual, non-traditional:





Pisces
Whimsical, or something important not yet featured - religious-flavour - Pisces is one of the best zodiac signs for that:


Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Jeffrey Epstein & Others, and Asteroids

If any stray passing reader, with an interest in astrology, can recall a post from January 2015 about what was then a current scandal:
Jeffrey Epstein - Le Scandale du Jour

they might be interested to read some recently received comments on the topic of that post, from "Vivi Vox". The commenter has been studying asteroids in relation to astrological interpretation, and has come up with some interesting findings in relation to the topic of that post. You can read Vivi Vox's comments at the link above.

Asteroids are not my "thang" - I have reservations about some ingredients used in astrology - other than the basic basics. I have a feeling that when, eventually, some scientist or researcher has a "eureka" moment about the ancient art, astrology will turn out to be either far less than we think - though still with validity - or far more than we think, with complexity beyond the grasp our feeble human minds. However, I do respect anyone with enough interest and enthusiasm to go on research expeditions in whatever far corner of astrology they feel drawn to. So congratulations to Vivi Vox on that score. I also believe that our personal astrological blueprint, our natal chart, directs us towards, or away from, astrology itself, and when it happens to be towards astrology, then it leads in specific directions.