Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Stop before 2013.......

New Year's Eve - this is a celebration where the Scots play it to the hilt - and further! They call it Hogmanay. I'm not a native Scot but I was, as it happens, a native Scott (my Dad's surname).

In my young years, even in Yorkshire which lies in northern England and around 200 miles to the south of Edinburgh, Scotland, certain traditions for New Year were still carried out. My grandmother would insist that the the "first footer", first person to come through the door of the house in the first minutes or hours of 1 January, should be dark-haired and bring in with them some fresh greenery, a piece of bread and a piece of coal. Her son-in-law, my Dad, was her favoured first-footer as he then had jet black hair. I suppose the three items to be brought in represented good health, food and warmth - necessities for the coming year.
The other tradition she honoured, though I'm not sure where it came from, was to eat a special dish on New Year's Eve, she called it "White Rabbit": cooked rabbit meat covered in a savoury white sauce. Mystery to me - I wonder did it originate from that hurrying scurrying white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland? ("Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!" Alice follows him down the rabbit hole into we follow time into the rabbit hole of the New Year?) Probably not, but who knows? I never did fancy eating a cute wee rabbit and always declined the dish in favour of a piece of Nanny's delicious chocolate cake! (Right: John Tenniel's illustration of Alice's White Rabbit)

I was going to post a traditional Scottish song here in honour of Hogmanay, but after listening to one or two decided instead on this, from my favourite Scot:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

PREDICTION ~ "The future isn't what it used to be !"

As we saunter sheepishly up to the gates of 2013 predictions are in the air, not as thickly layered as I've seen in the past, but still around.

NOTE: In the mythology of ancient Rome, Janus was the god of new beginnings. He was associated with doors and gates, and first steps. Janus is usually depicted as having two faces, looking in opposite directions. In one legend, Saturn bestows upon him the ability to see both the past and the future. The month of January is named in his honor.

Samples of of prediction for 2013 below include non-astrological, non-psychic, psychic, tarot and astrological forecasts, with my own pick of the crop from each:

My pick
#10. A handheld "breathalyzer" will offer early detection of infections microbes and even chemical attacks.

The Single Breath Disease Diagnostics Breathalyzer under development at Stony Brook University would use sensor chips coated with nanowires to detect chemical compounds that may indicate the presence of diseases or infectious microbes. In the future, a handheld device could let you detect a range of risks, from lung cancer to anthrax exposure.

From the blog of John W. Smart
#10. The stream of young people leaving Facebook becomes a flood as the middle-aged Gen X takeover becomes overwhelming. Facebook stock tanks. Then the Gen xers exit Facebook too.
PS: Some commenters there also have concerns about Hillary Clinton - a health issue? That had crossed my mind too, so thought I'd mention it here.


Psychic predictions by Eric Leigh-Pink who began communicating with spirits as a child and predicted many events for his family and friends. I'm not keen on psychic predictions in general, but the author of this blog struck me as someone striving to be careful and helpful. He goes back to try to link his visions to events, and to understand the symbolism he's being given for future reference. See what you think.

One of his latest "visions" intrigued me:
A visual of the US flag, then one star begins to glow.

I haven't yet found many astrologers' general 2013 predictions, here are a couple to be going on with:

From Astro Cocktail:
John Townley at Astro Cocktail writes about Jupiter's place in 2013 - see the introduction from the link above, then follow Mr. Townley's link at "four whole years of generous Jupiter".

Astrologer Ed Tamplin has some information I found interesting:
Scroll down to section headed World on the Brink where he describes a Yod forming in 2013: two sextiled planets both linked by 150 degree quincunx aspects to a third planet. Planets involved are Saturn in Scorpio and Pluto in Capricorn sextiled, with Jupiter in Gemini at the apex. Mr Tamplin tells us that "to find this trio in a similar formation we have to star trek back to May 19 1989" when the only difference was that Saturn and Pluto were in reverse positions to now, sign-wise....."But as this has only happened once across the entire last century, it is worthwhile taking a look at." Civil unrest, revolution and also high drama in Chinese, Soviet and US politics accompanied that Yod.

Finally ~

Unwisely, perhaps, I dug out the tarot deck, concentrated, shuffled & cut the cards and and asked, "What do I need to know about world events in 2013?"
The 3 cards I drew, in order:
10 of Swords/5 of Coins/The Moon.
In a nutshell: bottoming out/hard times/anxiety, confusion, misapprehension.
For more detail on card meanings the best place is the Learn Tarot website - the "Cards" section.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Let it happen...make it happen... wonder what happened ?

I often ponder on the way hopes have been dashed - political hopes for the USA, that is. The situation came into clear focus when I came across some words from a 2007 Guardian piece. Jan Morris, a remarkable woman (who was not always female), British, historian, novelist, traveller and author of some 40 books, wrote an affectionate piece about the USA in the UK's Guardian in February of 2007 which I stowed away for future reference. Once the most beloved country in the world, the US is now the most hated. The American swagger has become bombast, the cocky GI a bully. But with luck the pendulum may be ready to swing back. For any passing reader interested in knowing more of Ms Morris's natal chart, see my post HERE.

Lines from her Guardian piece:
"..............Perhaps, with a future new president already champing at the bit, we are about to witness its rebirth. As a foreigner I am immune to the rivalries or seductions of American party politics, but I have loved the old place for 60 years, and I simply pray for an American leader to give us back its baraka, as the Arabs say - nothing to do with religion or economics or power or even ideology, but the gift of being at once blessed and blessing.................All it needs is someone with a key to unlock that Idea again, and I hope it will be that next president, whoever it is, even now gearing up for the election. Please God, may it be a poetic president. Inspiration has been the true engine of American success, and all its greatest presidents have been people with a divine spark. The dullards may have been efficient, respected or influential, but the Jeffersons and the Roosevelts, the Lincolns and the Kennedys have all been, in their different ways, artists.......
So may it be a president with the key of original inspiration who can release the Idea from its occlusion. "

Jan Morris's optimistic, perhaps naive, hopes haven't materialised. Here are the first paragraphs of a piece by Dave Lindorff published a few days ago at This Can't Be Happening blog: Playing to Lose? Obama’s Just Another Chicago Player Throwing the Game ~
(Photo credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

If President Obama had been the commander of Allied forces during the invasion of Normandy 1944, he would have cut a deal with the Nazis when they launched the counter-offensive called the Battle of the Bulge, and WWII would have ended in Europe with a divided France and a still-extant Third Reich into the 1950s. If he had been president in 1965, we wouldn’t have Medicare today. If he had been Rosa Parks, black people might still be riding at the back of the bus.

The current president of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, commander in chief of the most awesome military the world has ever known, is the most pathetic negotiator in the history of modern politics. Either that or he wants to lose.

During his first term, we watched him inexplicably water down his health reform program before it even got started, removing the option of a Canadian-style state-run insurance program known as “single-payer” from consideration, and then cutting deals with the insurance industry, the hospital industry and the pharmaceutical industry, before going to Congress with a plan that ended up being a gift to all three.

We watched him cave early on in negotiations over a crisis economic stimulus plan in 2009, giving Republicans a $425-billion tax cut that did nothing to boost jobs in return for getting a measly $425-billion in stimulus funding approved. He caved quickly too on the plan to appoint Elizabeth Warren to head the newly created Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. The list of Obama premature cave-ins is long and ugly.

Now, when he is almost by accident in an unassailable position to have the hugely unfair and damaging Bush tax cuts for the rich finally expire on December 31, leaving Republicans stuck in January with having to pass Democratic legislation restoring tax cuts for just the middle class, he is giving it away, offering gratis an undermining of Social Security benefits for all Americans by way of a subtle change in the way inflation adjustments are made in future benefits....... It seems like the only place where this president ever stands his ground is in his insistence on killing lots of innocent people with armed drones in countries around the world that the US is not at war with (Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, etc.), and on threatening Iran with attack over its nuclear power program.

Read the rest at the link above.

What happened? What really happened? I've wondered about this many times, and have come up with three possibilities (there may be others). I still can't decide which is most likely:

#1. Barack Obama actually believed his own 2008 campaign speeches, he truly was a "progressive", a charismatic strongly left-leaning liberal in his ideals, but once elected was made aware of what was expected - nay, demanded , of him by The Real Powers That Be. If their demands on his policy direction were to remain unmet....? Three letters answer that: JFK. And who could honestly blame him if he found himself forced to meet their demands?

#2. Barack Obama was "handpicked" by The Real Powers That Be very early on - even before his run for a Senate seat. His background, abilities and experience seemed tailor-made to be further groomed to manufacture a charismatic faux saviour of the masses, trodden down for 8 years by George W. Bush and his pals - said treading of the masses, of course, had been part of a plan too. Backing this manufactured but highly polished Barack Obama with all the weight of the mainstream media (also under the thumb of The Real Powers That Be) meant that even a strong run by Hillary Clinton, previously assumed to be heir apparent to the Democrat crown, was defeated in 2008. Once elected the faux saviour could begin to tread the path for which his manufacturers had groomed him.

#3. Barack Obama wasn't ever the least bit "liberal" at core, but in truth was a strongly right-leaning centrist, also clever and quite devious. He saw a chance of acquiring power via, at best the presidency, at worst a place in the Senate and went for it. His plan, devised by himself, aided by others, was to feign to espouse exactly what the people, fed up to the teeth after 8 years of Republican rule, were craving: a true populist liberal president. He played the part well. The play was received by the masses with much greater enthusiasm than he'd ever expected. Once elected he rapidly reverted to his natural right-leaning position. The people looked on, slack-jawed, unwilling to believe that they had been deceived. The people soon began making excuses.......and, even after another dose of exactly the same medicine, many of them still are still doing so.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day & The Panto

Someone on the radio (BBC) mentioned pantomimes and set off a string of memories. Pantos are unknown in the USA, but in Britain have always been always a part of the Christmas season. They are fun versions of famous fairy tales, with topical humour, songs and occasionally, depending on the talent of the cast, dancing. Pantomimes are presented by amateurs and professionals alike; big productions often star a well-known comedian or pop star in a leading role. When I was young my parents would take me to see a pantomime, usually on Boxing Day - the day after Christmas Day.

In panto there's gender-bending aplenty: the male becomes female and the female male. So, for instance, in "Cinderella" the ugly sisters are portly men in drag and Prince Charming is a leggy gal in tights. It's odd, though, the custom of having a "principal boy" (prince, hero, whatever) played by a good looking girl with legs up to here seems to have faded, according to clips I've found on YouTube. Maybe the guys didn't like having their best leading roles commandeered. The custom of the "pantomime Dame" endures though - guy dressed as a comically frumpy woman - the strident mother or cruel sister, etc. usually played by well-loved comedians in professional productions.

Panto is hard to describe - it's one of those shows where "you really have to be there" to catch the atmosphere, the excitement of children in the audience. It's the custom for kids to shout back to the actors and their excitement becomes infectious....for example, as the villain appears, ready to do harm, the kids all shout, as one, "He's behind you!!!".

At the civil service legal office where I used to work, one Christmas-time, late 1970s or early 1980s, someone persuaded the tribunal chairmen (respected lawyers) to act in our adapted version of a pantomime: "Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp" (first two photos below). A few in-jokes were included in much-modified scripts, to further engage an already enthusiastic audience of staff and visiting charimen. This has been one of my treasured Christmas memories. Unexpectedly magical, it was! The chairmen were all such good sports and spot-on - exactly in the mood with plentiful witty ad-libbing. Most have now "gone before" to the great tribunal in the sky, others are High Court Judges.

Christmas-time at the office was always fun. Some years we'd have a fancy dress party. A record of one of these survives: yours truly as Dick Whittington (last photo - under the clock).

Monday, December 24, 2012

Children's Christmases in Wales or Wisconsin, Washington or Wichita.....

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come........... (This and all quotes below come from A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.)

I decided to prepare a nice Christmassy post with some of the husband's vintage Found Photographs from his collection - Christmas scenes from the long ago, from early USA? That wasn't going to happen though. Few people, other than professional photographers and the extraordinarily wealthy, owned cameras; even those who did usually didn't have equipment advanced enough to take reasonable photographs indoors, away from bright daylight.

So, I found when searching my husband's collection of vintage photographs at Flickr and Lost Gallery, the earliest indoor Christmas snapshots come from the 1950s onward, no outdoor Christmas shots. As far as I can remember, back in England, if my parents owned a camera when I was very young it'd be a basic Box Brownie needing plenty of daylight to function properly, so I have no evidence of my own earliest Christmases; there was a war on, anyway.

Some Christmas photographs from husband's collection follow, quality varies, early Polaroid has its problems. It occurred to me that a few of these almost echo lines from Dylan Thomas's prose piece quoted (and linked) at the top of the post: A Child's Christmas in Wales. I've included the odd line from the piece here and there. Whether in Wales or Wisconsin, Washington, or Wichita, the Christmas experience for children is much the same.

I'd guess this first photograph is the earliest vintage Christmas photograph from the collection, restored somewhat by Himself.

Years and years ago, when I was a boy, when there were wolves in Wales, and birds the colour of red-flannel petticoats whisked past the harp-shapped hills..................

Get back to the presents................. troops of bright tin soldiers who, if they could not fight, could always run..........and Easy Hobbi-Games for Little Engineers, complete with instructions. Oh easy for Leonardo! .....Bags of moist and many-coloured jelly babies and a folded flag and a false nose and a tram-conductor's cap and a machine that punched tickets and rang a bell; never a catapult; once, by mistake that no one could explain, a little hatchet; and a celluloid duck that made, when you pressed it, a most unducklike sound, a mewing moo than an ambitious cat might make who wished to be a cow............

Mistletoe hung from the gas brackets in all the front parlors; there was sherry and walnuts and bottled beer and crackers by the dessertspoons; and cats in their fur-abouts watched the fires; and the high-heaped fire spat, all ready for the chestnuts and the mulling pokers.

......and some few small Aunts, not wanted in the kitchen, nor anywhere else for that matter, sat on the very edges of their chairs, posed and brittle, afraid to break, like faded cups and saucers.

Auntie Hannah laced her tea with rum, because it was only once a year....

I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-coloured snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

A couple of my husband's own Christmas photos, from when his four offspring were young, during the 1960s, when he still had lots of hair.

His (then) young family

This is one of mine from the early 1980s - I like it especially because it shows framed photographs of my parents and my grandparents (with my mother as a child) and a Christmas card to me from my much loved grandmother.

Reading the cards in my parents' living room.

A more recent photo (from a couple of years ago) noticed among the husband's Flickr collection - along with his caption:

A visit to Santa
“And what do you want for Christmas, little girl?” Santa asked Annie.
Annie whispered something in Santa’s ear.
Santa chuckled and bells sounded all around the room. He tilted his head and winked and touched Annie’s elbow.
The air sparkled all around Annie and then she slowly began to disappear.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bravo, Lawrence O'Donnell! & A Quirky Christmas Card

I wasn't going to mention guns, the NRA, the horror of last weekend again until after Christmas, but I came upon a video of an MSNBC segment showing Lawrence O'Donnell condemning NRA president Wayne LaPierre for his press conference about the Newtown massacre in a special edition of his show. Please watch it, from that link, or below - and pass it on wherever you can. O'Donnell's style is exactly on point for such a commentary - quietly determined, clearly reasoned, deeply angered but avoiding passionate outburst. We need more like this!

"We have the best armed mass murders in the world, thanks to Wayne LaPierre.............Is there really something to quibble about in how powerful a bullet is when it is heading toward a six-year-old at the speed of 3200 feet per second? What kind of desperate, cornered rat would dare to mention that the Sandy Hook shooter could have used a more powerful bullet? Could have what? Done more damage? Made the bodies of six-year-olds even more difficult to identify?" - Lawrence O'Donnell

Not yer usual Christmas card - but always good for laugh, and we could use a few of those!

A seasonal cut-out animation made by Terry Gilliam in 1968 for British TV show Do Not Adjust Your Set. That was the show featuring other cast members who would later become Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


The illustration below appears on the cover of an old Pathfinder Town Journal, dated December 1953 - I picked it up in an antique shop on our travels some years back.

59 years ago, when the magazine was published, topics were much the same as we find in magazines and on the internet today, but many steps back: the atom bomb, elections, new car models, black and white TVs, cookie recipes, winter weather and more. No astrology column. There's a paragraph in a piece titled Looking Ahead asking : "What will the US be like in 1963?" John E. Haines, VP of Minneapolis-Honeywell Regulator Co. predicted that in 10 years from 1953:

Planes will fly round the world non-stop in less than 18 hours.

Rockets will reach the moon.

Residential air conditioning will be as commonplace as automatic heating is today.

Houses will be built of plastics

Not bad! I wonder, did anyone see the hippie culture coming? It took over more or less where the "Beat Generation" left off, a year or so later than 1963 though. Did anyone predict it? I suspect not.

Now....what might the USA be like 10 years from now? That'll be 2022/3, putting us into the shallow end of sci-fi or dystopian territory, take your pick! I say shallow end because, really, ten year spans don't always see major differences occur on a national level - on a personal level, yes, certainly! Just for fun - let's haul out the ol' crystal ball. There's more than enough doomladen commentary and fiction around already, better to go for a somewhat brighter version of 2022/3.
The USA has, for 5 years, had benefit of a very efficiently run national system of health care, with state of the art hospitals and clinics available to all, financed by a reasonable level of contribution by all citizens and residents, at a rate according to their earnings level.

A simply administered cure for some types of cancer has been discovered.

A completely biodegradable material invented to take the place of plastics in most applications.

The US Constitution, after years of struggle, updated and amended in two areas: corporate personhood rescinded, and the Second Amendment re-written and clarified.

All US military occupation abroad terminated in 2021, surplus weaponry still being destroyed and materials re-cycled. Currently in process of finalising nuclear arms agreements worldwide. A small but efficient military force remains in place in the US. The majority of military personnel are employed in a range of capacities updating, re-building and extending a variety of public transit networks, nation-wide, and running them efficiently on behalf of the government.

Well.....I can dream!

Friday, December 21, 2012


I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
From Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot

WISE WORDS for 12/21/12:
"A piece of advice: if you want to remain in control of a doomsday cult, don't give a date for the end of the world unless you're really, really sure it's going to happen. Being wrong tends to undermine your authority."
― Jennifer Bosworth, Struck

YULE SONG - Winter Solstice - What Night is This? -Katerina ElHaj

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Movies with Christmas Punctuation

Christmas......five days to go, time to mention it now, I guess.

Let's see.... I'm not a fan of straight ahead Christmas movies, but always enjoy the odd Christmassy scene in a movie with an altogether different theme. Christmas in novels and films is often used as a kind of thematic punctuation, or as a way of encouraging emotional response from the audience, as well as for the more obvious reasons. A quick rummage in my overflowing memory bank brought a trio of films to the surface. I've watched all of these several times over the years:

Little Women - the famous book's opening line is, "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug." Opening line of the movie varies according to the adaptation in question, but all mention that it's Christmas time.

Falling In Love - Opening scene and closing scene: characters played by Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro meet accidentally when, Christmas shopping, they accidentally pick up each other's packages; doing so sends their lives on a quite unexpected trajectory.

Ben Hur - The Nativity scene, and visit of the Magi. Around that same time, in the same country, was born another child whose story is told by the movie, his name: Judah Ben Hur.

There's a fourth, but it's a dark one:
The Victors - a surprisingly little-remembered war movie - the best one ever made in my view. It was directed by Carl Foreman, shot in black and white. There's an unforgettable scene showing a truckload of GIs being taken to witness execution of a GI deserter in a broad, empty snow-covered field in France. Background music is Frank Sinatra singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". After shots have been fired we hear a chorus of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing". There is no dialogue in this scene at all. The image and irony here are something I've never forgotten.

Those are my own most memorable films punctuated by a Christmas scene. There must be many more. (Anyone?)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A story prominently, and surprisingly, features astrology. ~~

Having enjoyed Michael Shaara's novel The Herald (see HERE) I made a point of acquiring the only other of his sci-fi work I could find: a novella or long short story Conquest Over Time. It had first appeared in a magazine, Fantastic Universe in 1956, has been re-published by Aegypan Press in a very slim volume. I sent to the UK for my bound copy, but note now that the story can be downloaded free - just Google the title if interested.

The title, Conquest Over Time, had led me to expect a different kind of tale. If that title fits at all it's only very obliquely. I was surprised to find that this is a story in which astrology plays a major part in the plot!

Nutshell synopsis:
Set in the far distant future. Civilisations both humanoid and other have spread far and wide across the universe. Our hero, Pat Travis, is the future's version of a big-time travelling salesman - bidding for commercial contracts on far-flung worlds, his job known as Contact Man: "one of the most hazardous occupations in history. Each new planet was wholly and completely new, there were no rules, and what you learned on all the rest meant nothing. You went from a matriarchy which refused absolutely to deal with men (the tenth ship to arrive had a lady doctor and therefore got the contract), to a planet where the earth was sacred and you couldn't dig a hole in it so mining was out, to a planet which considered your visit the end of the world and promptly committed mass suicide." So the job of Contact Man required many skills and plenty of luck. Travis had the reputation of being lucky, until he arrived on Diomed III, peopled by humanoids.

The inhabitants of Diomed III called their planet Mert, and lived their lives by strict astrological guidelines, believed that a person is exactly what his horoscope (calculated using their own alien astrological data), says he/she is. These people consulted astrology for every major decision, and by ill chance Travis had arrived on their planet on one of the worst-aspected days in history. (That's as far as I'll go with the plot to avoid spoiling it for others)

Although at the time of writing this story Michael Shaara, hadn't honed his craft to the high level of his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Killer Angels (1974) or the book I read recently The Herald (1981), he still had the knack of drawing in and holding on to the reader. He must have had some basic knowledge of astrology too - or more likely had consulted astrology text books - to have come up with this idea and developed it so well.

"There are the seven planets" Navel was saying gravely, "and the two lights - that is, the sun and the moon. The first planet, that nearest the sun, is called Rym. Rym is the planet of intellect, of the ordinary mind. Second is Lyndal, the planet of love, beauty, parties marriage and things of a gentle nature. Third is Fors, planet of action, strife. Fourth is Bonken, planet of beneficence, of gain, money, health. Next comes Huck, orb of necessity, the Greater Infortune, which brings men most trouble of all. Then Weepen, planet of illusion, of dreamers and poets and, poorly aspected, liars and cheats. And finally there is Sharb, planet of genius, of sudden cataclysms."
"I see", Travis murmured.
"But it is not only these planets and their aspects which is important, it is also to be considered such houses and signs as through which these planets transit...." She went on, but Travis was having difficulty following her.

It's very clear that the author simply re-named our own planets - which was a bit of a cop-out. A writer with more in-depth knowledge and more confidence in their subject might have been able to invent a slightly different line-up of planetary "influences". Although, having said that, I'm not sure that a different set would have brought forth a race of humanoids. Hmmm. Tricky!

In case anyone is wondering, by the way, how the two could communicate in the same language, it was done via a device used by Travis, attached behind his ear.

Other novels with astrology prominent in their theme were listed in a post of January 2007: - see Novels Featuring Astrology.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The.... "Roots of Our Raising'"

SATURNALIA - the roots of the annual festivities (exclusive of their later Christian significance) we either enjoy or dread, according to individual circumstance and taste. Symbols from other cultures have been layered atop the foundation, of course - and perhaps even a few from still earlier cultures lurk within, too far back in the mists of time for us to be certain.

In ancient Rome on 17 December and for the following seven days the people celebrated in honour of Saturn - not the planet - the god of sowing and husbandry. The goings-on during that wild week of debauchery would probably make even our 21st century hair stand on end! Oh.....I don't know though, maybe not. I came across this SATURNALIA cartoon strip from the mid 1990s the other day. It's not for the faint-hearted, there's nudity, sex, and historical narrative which could well be considered if any of that would make you feel queasy, "Don't look Ethel!" The cartoonist responsible was Patrick Farley.

Yes, I was kidding myself when I wrote that Rome's December debaucheries would make our hair stand on end. Our 21st century western society has devolved into a kind of savage burlesque, and is quite possibly even now travelling the same road on which the Romans met their fate.

Anyway, on a more scholarly and sedate note, here's what Sir James George Frazer, British anthropologist (1854-1941) wrote about Roman Saturnalia in his famous work The Golden Bough:
§ 3. The Roman Saturnalia

WE have seen that many peoples have been used to observe an annual period of license, when the customary restraints of law and morality are thrown aside, when the whole population give themselves up to extravagant mirth and jollity, and when the darker passions find a vent which would never be allowed them in the more staid and sober course of ordinary life. Such outbursts of the pent-up forces of human nature, too often degenerating into wild orgies of lust and crime, occur most commonly at the end of the year, and are frequently associated, as I have had occasion to point out, with one or other of the agricultural seasons, especially with the time of sowing or of harvest. Now, of all these periods of license the one which is best known and which in modern language has given its name to the rest, is the Saturnalia. This famous festival fell in December, the last month of the Roman year, and was popularly supposed to commemorate the merry reign of Saturn, the god of sowing and of husbandry, who lived on earth long ago as a righteous and beneficent king of Italy, drew the rude and scattered dwellers on the mountains together, taught them to till the ground, gave them laws, and ruled in peace. His reign was the fabled Golden Age: the earth brought forth abundantly: no sound of war or discord troubled the happy world: no baleful love of lucre worked like poison in the blood of the industrious and contented peasantry. Slavery and private property were alike unknown: all men had all things in common.

At last the good god, the kindly king, vanished suddenly; but his memory was cherished to distant ages, shrines were reared in his honour, and many hills and high places in Italy bore his name. Yet the bright tradition of his reign was crossed by a dark shadow: his altars are said to have been stained with the blood of human victims, for whom a more merciful age afterwards substituted effigies. Of this gloomy side of the god’s religion there is little or no trace in the descriptions which ancient writers have left us of the Saturnalia. Feasting and revelry and all the mad pursuit of pleasure are the features that seem to have especially marked this carnival of antiquity, as it went on for seven days in the streets and public squares and houses of ancient Rome from the seventeenth to the twenty-third of December.

....................masters actually changed places with their slaves and waited on them at table; and not till the serf had done eating and drinking was the board cleared and dinner set for his master. So far was this inversion of ranks carried, that each household became for a time a mimic republic in which the high offices of state were discharged by the slaves, who gave their orders and laid down the law as if they were indeed invested with all the dignity of the consulship, the praetorship, and the bench. Like the pale reflection of power thus accorded to bondsmen at the Saturnalia was the mock kingship for which freemen cast lots at the same season. The person on whom the lot fell enjoyed the title of king, and issued commands of a playful and ludicrous nature to his temporary subjects. One of them he might order to mix the wine, another to drink, another to sing, another to dance, another to speak in his own dispraise, another to carry a flute-girl on his back round the house........................................

Roman soldiers at Durostorum in Lower Moesia celebrated the Saturnalia year by year in the following manner. Thirty days before the festival they chose by lot from amongst themselves a young and handsome man, who was then clothed in royal attire to resemble Saturn. Thus arrayed and attended by a multitude of soldiers he went about in public with full license to indulge his passions and to taste of every pleasure, however base and shameful. But if his reign was merry, it was short and ended tragically; for when the thirty days were up and the festival of Saturn had come, he cut his own throat on the altar of the god whom he personated.

Below: Romans of the Decadence by Thomas Couture (1815-79).

Let's haul ourselves back a century or several to acknowledge the source of my post title - though it's nothing at all to do with Saturnalia: Merle Haggard, as he was in his younger days sings "The Roots of My Raising":

Monday, December 17, 2012


This might be coincidental, and will likely not bear too much prodding with the fact fork, but I think it's worth a mention.

In reading a powerful article (I Am Adam Lanza's Mother) by a woman who has a son with a personality disorder, possibly something similar to that which, it is being assumed, Adam Lanza was afflicted, I came across a comment stating:
The hard truth , is this country has experienced a swell of acute mental dysfunction in particular group. That group being 13- 27 yr old males. This has occurred simultaneously with key changes in our societal norms. An emasculation of young male children,increase in loss of male mentoring or fathering, an increase exposure to violent themes at a young age ( video , movie , etc) a systematic desensitization of human traits a severed sense of empathy , a culture that glorifies attacks on the very values our founders knew would support families, and communities.(Part of a comment by bekahlyons (2.06pm) 16 Dec.)

Among the very long thread of comments, of which I read only a part, there are several other contributions from parents of young adults with a similar disorder to that described in the original piece, all of those I read involved young people (mainly males) of this same age group. A bell kept annoyingly ringing in my head
That age group (they are now 13 - 27) is also, roughly, the age group which, a few years ago, was associated with so-called Indigo Children. Not everything in the list below seems to fit, but some of it does. See this article Astrology of the Indigo Children by Arwynne O'Neil
It begins

The generation of children born from approximately 1983 to 1999 (broader estimates say 1978-2003) includes a special classification of individuals first identified by authors Lee Carroll and Jan Tober in their 1999 book The Indigo Children.

In this excerpt, the authors list several attributes they feel best describe those children:

• They come into the world with a feeling of royalty (and often act like it).
• They have a feeling of "deserving to be here," and are surprised when others don't share that.
• Self-worth is not a big issue. They often tell the parents "who they are."
• They have difficulty with absolute authority (authority without explanation or choice).
• They simply will not do certain things; for example, waiting in line is difficult for them.
• They get frustrated with systems that are ritually oriented and don't require creative thought.
• They often see better ways of doing things, both at home and in school, which makes them seem like "system busters" (nonconforming to any system).
• They seem antisocial unless they are with their own kind. If there are no others of like consciousness around them, they often turn inward, feeling like no other human understands them. School is often extremely difficult for them socially.
• They will not respond to "guilt" discipline ("Wait till your father gets home and finds out what you did").
• They are not shy in letting you know what they need.

Every generation shares certain characteristics which can be attributed to the lengthy transits of the outer planets through the twelve signs; Uranus stays in each one for approximately seven years, Neptune spends about fourteen and Pluto, with its erratic 248-year orbit, takes anywhere from 10 to 25 years to move through any given sign. Each combination of these three planets lasts long enough to influence a vast swath of the world's population, imprinting upon each new personality the unique qualities of their time..................

There's a theory based on astrology further into the piece... starting:
"According to Richard Brown, the astrological signature of the Indigo Children is a combination of outer planetary conjunctions and their aspects to Quaoar between 1983 and 2002........"

I'm wondering if the particular differences noticed in a group of children once labelled "Indigo" might have developed in a much different way from that originally supposed. I should point out that not every person born in that time span was categorised "Indigo" - those children were a minority. The idea of Indigo Children wasn't widely accepted, it was thought to be New Agey, or pseudo-science-ish; or, quite often, complete hogwash, and it might have been just that. Still, throwing baby out with bathwater is never a wise move! Anyone have any thoughts on this, astrological or otherwise?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Quiet Moment

The following comes from a post in my 2007 archives, published at the time of another tragedy, that at Virginia Tech. I can do no better than repeat these words this morning:

There's a beautiful and peaceful National Memorial in Oklahoma City, to those who died in the 1995 bombing. Above one of The Gates of Time: monumental twin gates which frame the moment of destruction, and mark the formal entrances to the Memorial, are words which I think remain appropriate for all time and all such tragedies:

"We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity"

These two brief excerpts from a speech entitled "Spirit and Stardust", made in 2002 by Dennis Kucinich always help:

"When death (not life) becomes inevitable, we are presented with an opportunity for great clarity, for a great awakening, to rescue the human spirit from the arms of Morpheus through love, through compassion and through integrating spiritual vision and active citizenship to restore peace to our world. The moment that one world is about to end, a new world is about to begin. We need to remember where we came from. Because the path home is also the way to the future."

"Violence is not inevitable. War is not inevitable. Nonviolence and peace are inevitable. We can make of this world a gift of peace which will confirm the presence of universal spirit in our lives. We can send into the future the gift which will protect our children from fear, from harm, from destruction."

Friday, December 14, 2012


Another tragedy, this time involving the deaths of many very young children as well as adults. My heartfelt condolences to anyone directly or indirectly involved in the shootings in Connecticut, who might, accidentally, stumble upon this page.

Rant :
Too many beloved "celebrities", actors, musicians, writers or speakers with a popular public voice, loyal listeners and fans, who could do a great deal of awareness raising and encouraging the holding of feet to fires remain silent or continue to ass-kiss the President and his party. They effetely cling to their precious Democrat label and loyalties, will avoid speaking up about the more than obvious shortcomings of their party and their President. There are numerous issues outstanding crying out for the "feet to fire" treatment - not least this latest tragedy when yet again a deranged person found easy access to powerful weapons, resulting in the cold-blooded murder of 20 small children and 6 adults, including, allegedly, the victim's mother. Tragic as these murders are, no less tragic are the continuing murders of children and innocents by US drones abroad....let us never forget that point!

I find those "limousine Democrats" who fail to speak out, who fail to criticise and fail to do what the President has, more than once, told citizens to do i.e. "make him do it" (whatever the "it"), to be thoroughly reprehensible. The need for raised voices increases almost by the hour on: gun control, against indiscriminate drone use, the serious measures needed to address climate change, all of these are far more important than gay marriage laws and abortion laws, even more important than that darned fiscal cliff - they really are; these are issues of life and death.

Arty Farty Friday ~ Pierre Puvis de Chavannes

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes - I was unfamiliar with this French artist's work. He was born on this day, 14 December, in 1824, a noted painter during the second half of the 19th century, famous throughout Europe and in the USA for his murals. These are recognisable by their subdued color and allegorical figures set in classical landscapes. They can be found in public and religious institutions from the Panthéon in Paris, to the Hôtel de Ville, the Sorbonne, and in the Boston Public Library. Examples of his other paintings can be found in many American and European galleries.

From a description of his biography by Aimee Brown Price.......
"..... his work is crucial to reading the history of art of the late nineteenth century and the development of modernism. Internationally heralded yet sometimes scorned, much exhibited, respected and emulated, an artist's artist of pivotal importance to the generation of post-Impressionists from Seurat and Gauguin to Matisse and Picasso, Puvis' work is not readily categorized. Often associated with classicizing imagery, he was an artist of great range, originality and radically idiosyncratic invention." (My highlighting)

His paintings range from huge murals to sensitive portraiture, fantasies based on myth and legend, allegories, religious figures, caricatures, nudes, sketches. He favoured pale tones and a rather curious flatness. My own opinion, for what it's worth, is that he was influenced by the British Pre-Raphaelites, whose style is more to my own taste. (See post HERE) However, art critics state that Puvis's art also offered techniques that the next generation of artists adopted, such as dramatic simplification of form and color and an avoidance of narrative, emulated by artists who followed him.

His natal chart from data at Astrotheme: born 14 December 1824 at 10:00 AM in Lyon, France.

If his birth data is accurate, he had no planet in a Water sign - that's unusual for an artist. There's heavy emphasis, including Venus, planet of the arts, on Earthy Capricorn. The sign is ruled by Saturn and both sign and planet connect to tradition, all that's considered "classic", so no surprise there, except that though Venus sits in late Capricorn it does conjoin Mars in early Aquarius and links from thence into an Airy trine with Moon in Libra and Saturn (Capricorn's ruler, remember) in Gemini. So, although his art was basically classical, his style was something of a progression to a rather newer and different (very Aquarius) variation; the ideas his paintings presented were in many cases quite deep - cerebral- reflecting his chart's harmonious trine in mentally-oriented Air signs.

I haven't mentioned his Sagittarius Sun yet.....that would have translated, in connection with his artistic talent, as showing through his paintings a philosophical turn of mind, respectful of religion. Other than that, personality-wise, I'd guess he was a fairly optimistic and positive fellow, in spite of the times in which he lived. His works on Peace and Hope and the two allegorical paintings The Balloon and The Pigeon (see all below) point in that direction, I think.

Some of his paintings:

In the Museum of Amiens the artist's early work: two paintings War and Peace are exhibited. (The following quote is from an interesting 1911 piece at "Old and Sold" SEE HERE - it explains, in depth, this artist's style)
In these (War and Peace) already, Puvis reveals himself an artist of ideas, of imagination, not building up a composition which is empty of meaning or one which relies for its interests upon incident. It is the soul of War and Peace that he interprets: the horror of the one in its brutalizing of the conqueror and its wreaking of misery on the innocent and helpless ; the blessedness of the other in promoting the possibility of fullest harmony between humanity and nature. Each canvas presents incidents, but they are dominated by the embracing idea. It is the idea that, as far as the subject is concerned, absorbs one's imagination.

The Sacred Grove, Beloved of the Arts and Muses
Commissioned by his native city of Lyons to paint a suite of murals for its Musée des beaux-arts he created The Sacred Grove, Beloved of the Arts and Muses. We see a gathering of the muses in a tranquil setting, a reminder that the term museum has its origin in the Greek word mouseion: home of the muses. The nine patron goddesses of the arts are portrayed.


After the disastrous Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, the artist painted this picture of a young woman seated in a devastated landscape holding an oak twig as a symbol of hope for the nation's recovery from war and deprivation. A smaller variant, with the subject nude, is at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.


In 1884 the artist was asked to paint a decorative cycle of two friezes representing Summer and Winter for the new Hôtel de Ville of Paris, re-built to replace the building burnt down by Paris communards in 1871. Twelve years later de Chavannes painted the smaller versions for private collections.

The Balloon

The Pigeon
Le Ballon & Le Pigeon by Puvis de Chavannes[1870 and 1871]
It was while he was on the ramparts of Paris, when the town was besieged by Prussian troops in 1870, that Puvis had the idea for The Balloon. It was completed by the end of November, and immediately distributed through a lithograph by Emile Vernier, reviewed in the press and admired by the intellectual and artistic elite. They encouraged the artist to produce another to match it. The Pigeon was painted at the beginning of 1871, and again distributed through a lithograph by Vernier.

There are several preparatory drawings and painted sketches (Paris, Musée Carnavalet). But the large paintings are in tones of brown, a fitting colour for the sombre events from which the iconography was drawn. Puvis knew how to avoid the picturesque and dramatic anecdote, so common at the time, and achieve a moving symbol. The paintings echo each other point by point. In The Balloon, a woman with a musket, dressed simply in a severe black dress, turns towards Mount Valérien and waves towards the balloon bearing the news. In The Pigeon, the same figure in mourning, this time portrayed frontally, collects the carrier pigeon which has escaped the talons of the hawks sent by the enemy. In the distance, the Île de la Cité is buried under the heavy snowfalls of that hard winter.

The Forgers (must have been a sketch made in preparation for the following painting)

Le Travail (Work)

Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s).