Saturday, December 22, 2012

I Saw Mummy Kissing....well...

Dear Apocalypse: You missed us, you missed us, neener neener neener!

I didn't get my hair done for nothing!
 I KNEW Mayans were extinct for a reason!

Anyway...On to mistletoe.

Mistletoe is an amazing little plant. It can exist on it's own, but is more likely to be found as a parasite, living on a host tree. Because it draws its nutrients from its host, it also absorbs the magical properties from the tree. It is no surprise that mistletoe growing on the sacred oak would be the most magical and powerful of all. It is a plant associated with the sun, as it is green with berries even as the host tree is bear of leaf. It is the symbol of the rebirth of the sun at Yuletide. It was associated with Taranis, a sun deity, and the white berries are formed from his sperm. (OK, so there is an obvious fertility aspect to the mistletoe which has lead to current customs.)

Mistletoe was considered a protection against fire, lightning, and cured poison (even though the berries, themselves, are poisonous. Keep away from pets and children, weird spouses and peculiar significant know who you are...) It was called “all heal” in Medieval Times (Applebees, Olive Garden..sorry, bad restaurant joke.)

If you hung a sprig in the barn, or a sprig over a baby's crib (minus berries, I hope) it warded off fairies. If a sprig was anywhere in the house, love would dwell within. It gave rise to the English superstition that if a single person was not kissed under the mistletoe at Solstice (or Yuletide) they would remain unmarried for the coming year. I guess it inspired this Sherlock fan art I found on Tumblr.

Druids were said to harvest the mistletoe by cutting it with a gold blade and catching it in a white sheet of linen. It was not to touch the ground. As it grew on the oak, and not from the soil, touching earth would ground all its powers.
  As a thank-you to the gods for this magical gift, one or two white bulls would be sacrificed. This is interesting because it may hearken back to Mithra. We do know that the Romans had a rite of purification called the Taurabolium. In this rite, a white bull was sacrificed, held over the heads of the faithful (or they passed under it via a pit) and the blood was allowed to drip upon the believers and thus “cleanse” them. This rite has been associated with Mithra by many (and the time of year would correspond with the date of his birth, as I explained in a prior post), but some claim this is a misunderstanding. You can draw your own conclusion.

In Victorian times, the mistletoe was hung in the doorway as a round clump called a “kissing ball”. Sprig or ball, the same custom applies. According to some, when a couple kiss under the mistletoe, a berry should be removed. When there are no more berries, there can be no more kisses. So if you see a bare kissing ball, move off to another to get lucky. All the kisses have been taken (or else the hostess is plotting to spike the cider with a merry dose of death...sorry. Sherlock overload.)

If you think no one cares abut the mistletoe in this day and age, please see the following video. It's slow starting. It also proves that the Brits – gods bless em – have no native sense of rhythm. See the dance at the end, for example. Riverdance it ain't.. but they love their mistletoe.


As for me.. I've been unattached for too many years. This time, I am taking no chances.

I think 2012 has seriously screwed with my mind (sigh). Gary wouldn't come anywhere near me until I took the damn thing off.

Have a happy, everyone!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Here Comes Shaman Claus


Is “amanita muscaria” or “fly agaric”. It is bright and festive, and highly hallucinogenic. In fact, it puts the “fun” in fungus. BUT.. what is it doing hanging on a pine tree next to an image of Santa Claus? You might be surprised.

You see, these special mushrooms grow under pine trees.
 Siberian shamans collect them, wearing the colors of the mushroom – red and white.

Once collected, they return to their yurt (a circular tent with a smoke opening in the top), climb in through the smoke hole with their sack of 'srooms, and proceed to string them for hanging. When they are dried, they are ready for consumption. AND... they aren't the only ones who eat these mushrooms. Have a look at this clip from the BBC:

No wonder the green of the pine tree, and the red and white of the mushrooms, have become the colors of Xmas, and other red and white decorations – from satin balls to candy canes – follow suite.

Next time: mistletoe.

I saw my surgeon on Monday. Good news! It will still take quite a long time to recover, but so far I have dodged the bullet. He thinks my foot has come along fine, and that I don't have to report back for 6 months. I can't do any marathon shopping or walking – in fact, I should use a scooter or wheelchair when ever possible, but I should be able to progress from walker to cane in time. He also wants me to do gastric bypass. No. Absolutely not. I would consider Lap-Band, but will consult with my primary physician this Spring. Gastric bypass scares the bejesus out of me. I've had enough thrills and chills for a while.

So, my prediction has come true. I said my foot would recover enough for me to “run” from the world holocaust with the rest of you. Perhaps I won't have to worry about the Lap-Band after all.

Until next time, enjoy the holidays. Here's a nice little video celebrating the fly agaric in music and pictures.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tick Tick Tick...

The Yuletide season is upon us. If certain prophesies are true, this should be a Yule for the ages, the last grand Circle before the lights go out for good. Yes, here comes Armageddon. However, should we all awaken on the morning of the 22nd, and find that the world hasn't been “Arma-got-done”, festivities will resume as planned.

I thought it would be nice, over the next few weeks, to talk about some of the traditions associated with the celebrations and trappings of this “most wonderful time of the year”. Let's start with the date of Xmas itself: December 25th.

Those of a Pagan persuasion know that the Winter Solstice (around Dec 21st) or Yule marks the shortest day of the year. This is a time when darkness seems to be conquering the light. Magic was done and rites performed to assure that the sun would rise in the morning – a sign that the light had been re-born. (All the more reason, this year, to burn those premium peppermint striped candles you've been saving for a “special” Yule!)

Christmas is celebrated only a few days later. Most folks do realize that no shepherds were watching any flocks on the hillsides in December. The most likely time of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is March or April. What we did have on December 25th was the birth of a god named Mithra. Roman soldiers brought the belief in Mirtha back to their homeland from their billets in Eastern lands. Mirtha appealed to soldiers because he was a warrior himself, come to earth to establish his kingdom. In the case of Mithra, this was conceived of as an actual kingdom, not the spiritual “kingdom of God” professed by Jesus.

"Mithra or Mitra is...worshiped as Itu (Mitra-Mitu-Itu) in every house of the Hindus in India. Itu (derivative of Mitu or Mitra) is considered as the Vegetation-deity. This Mithra or Mitra (Sun-God) is believed to be a Mediator between God and man, between the Sky and the Earth. It is said that Mithra or [the] Sun took birth in the Cave on December 25th. It is also the belief of the Christian world that Mithra or the Sun-God was born of [a] Virgin. He traveled far and wide. He has twelve satellites, which are taken as the Sun's disciples.... [The Sun's] great festivals are observed in the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox—Christmas and Easter. His symbol is the Lamb...."
Swami Prajnanananda, Christ the Saviour and Christ Myth

Obviously, there are many points of similarity between the Mithra and Jesus back stories.

The belief flourished, and almost eclipsed the new Christian faith, except for one incredible event – the fall of Rome. With the disintegration of the Empire went the power of the Roman Legion. However, there are always elements of the Pagan which can not be eradicated from the Christian. Obviously the date of the birth of Christ is one of them.

We should not forget that the Roman celebration of the Saturnalia takes place during this period (usually December 17th to the 23rd). During this time, the statue of Saturn was filled with olive oil (he was a god of vegetation) and his feet – usually bound with wood – were freed. There was a public sacrifice at the temple, the giving of gifts (even gag gifts!) and decorating with wreaths and garlands. The Lord of Misrule was in evidence (and survives as an English Christmas custom. This is a person selected to preside over the feasting).

Now THAT'S an office party!

Taking December 25th and making it Christian, and absorbing many other Pagan traditions along the way, makes the Church's observance of Xmas suspect. To misquote Dickens, there is more of gravy than Holy Ghost about it.

Next time: Mushrooms and Xmas trees.

As for me, I'm just happy to be home and able to celebrate with my family. It was December 18th last year when I ended up in hospital, struggling to survive sepsis and facing multiple surgeries. I am starting to walk with a shoe and brace, but I'm taking it slow until after the holidays. If the ankle is going to break down (which means amputation) I'm making sure it is after the holidays. I just want to have a happy memory. I will be seeing my surgeon on Dec 10th, so hopefully the news is good and I can relax a bit.

Rufus is getting accustomed to being home again. I think I've convinced him to stop marking and use his papers. (Today was a good day.) We even had our Holiday picture taken. Claude was the photographer.

My article “The Tie That Binds” was published last week as a special on-line article for Sage Woman subscribers. My blog activity really picked up after that. Welcome, new readers! Feel free to comment.

Finally, for the Sherlock Fans, filming of Season 3 has been pushed back until March. Benedict and Martin are so busy these days that other commitments have caused the delay. Good for them, crappy for us. So, for the time being, Sherlock is still “dead”. But remember what happened last time. You just can't kill Sherlock Holmes.

One final thing: My dear friend, Goldie, was kind enough to read my Sherlock manuscript. In my story, both he and his sister play the Moonlight Sonata on the violin. Goldie pointed out that it was usually done as a piano piece. I advised her to try and hear strings playing it. Well, this isn't the best example but, below, is a string quartet doing the Sonata. Enjoy!