The Origins Of Valentines Day


Valentines just ain’t what it used to be. Those crazy Romans and the Lupercalia…

Burning Love Heart For Valentines
Burning Love Heart For Valentines

It’s not all about just hearts and flowers and chocolate, this Valentine’s Day thing. Kinda, sorta, truth be told the upcoming holiday has a history risque enough to set any respectable saint  spinning in his grave.

In days  of old when men were men and goats were nervous the ‘any reason to throw a party’ Romans celebrated Lupercalia. For  about 800 hundred years it was one of those mysterious ‘guy things’.  Those of you who didn’t sleep through your Ancient History studies might remember the story of the founding of Rome by the twins, Romulus and Remus. Abandoned as infants, the boys were raised and suckled in a cave by a kindly she-wolf. I mean, hey! she had to be pretty kindly since she didn’t have them for lunch right? To celebrate Romulus and Remus  not being eaten by the she-wolf, every year on February 15th, young men and boys would gather at the same cave and perform the rite of passage.

The festival would begin with a sacrifice by the Luperci of two male goats and a dog. Afterwards two young patrician men would be led to the altar and anointed on their foreheads with the sacrificial blood, which was wiped off the bloody knife with wool soaked in milk. Afterwards they were to smile and laugh. Hey! What else are you going to do when you find yourself in such a ridiculous situation right?!  That guy is still holding the knife and you see what he did to the goats and dog! Anyway, the men and boys would gorge themselves on a big feast followed by a tradition many guys still adhere to to this day. They got good and drunk!  The hide from the dog or goat sacrifice was cut into loincloths and leather strips. But that’s not all! The lovely ladies of the town would wait in the streets below for the guys to show up, stumbling down the hillside, smelling of alcohol and burnt goat and dog ready to do what exactly?! Well, give the women a good flailing with the leather strips of course! Ah the good old days right?! And you thought the modern day Americans invented kinky foreplay!

Actually, the flailing would supposedly bestow good fortune and fertility upon the whippee.  The whipping was intended as a form of  purification. As a matter of fact the name of this whip was februa which is where the name of the second month of our year came from. I don’t remember learning about that in school, do you? Go look it up! It’s true, I’ll wait here if you don’t believe me. Another thing practiced by the Romans about this time was a lottery. Young ladies names were placed in a jar or box and the unwed men of the town would draw out a name and they were paired with the named woman for a few months. What this actual pairing entailed is a source of debate among scholars but of course Hollywood  typically goes for the most lurid possible scenario when depicting this event because, after all,  sex sells!

But now, back to the flailing thing. Here’s an interesting side note. Ever since I was a kid I always wondered at the shape of the “hearts” we would give to one another on Valentines Day in various shades of pink and red. It really doesn’t look like the shape of an actual heart at all right? But if you turn it upside down it does bear a striking resemblance to a well spanked woman’s bum does it not? Hmmmmmm, there might be something there!


Some of this lore of the Lupes was still practiced right up in to modern times. Divination was a very popular pastime  in the 1800’s and girls would put the names of their preferable suitors in a bowl. The name drawn was supposed to foretell the perfect match sure to come. In other places, the first eligible man or woman seen on Valentines Day was deemed to be ‘it’. Tag, you’re it! If you were in pursuit you were supposed to give this person a gift.  Much like modern times, if it was a really good gift like say a piece of fine art (Well, I had to put that in there right?!) , you could suppose that one would increase the odds of this person liking you.

Around about the 1860’s Valentines Day went commercial, shortly followed by just about every other holiday. Giving printed greeting cards on all of the holidays became all the rage as printing costs went down due to better printing machinery and techniques. From this grew the modern day cacophony of buying all manner of chocolates, flowers, jewelry and lawn equipment to woo your sweety. What?! Doesn’t everybody give lawn equipment on VD?!

In writing this article I borrowed heavily from the wit and research of Wren Walker from Witchvox.  See her original article here for more details. I also grabbed a few tidbits from Wikipedia in case you want to find out more about this stuff. Yeah, yeah, I know Wikipedia this and accuracy that and throw the baby out with the bath water. Blah, blah, blah. Go look it up in your 1975 Encyclopedia Brittanica collection if you prefer! 😉

 


Food, Friends, Games, Music And Good Times

Wildcraft is unique among games. Learning and cooperation are key elements.
Wildcraft is unique among games. Learning and cooperation are key elements.

I played this game with my son this past weekend and it’s a great way to teach kids (and adults) about useful herbs that might be growing nearby. I also like the fact that it encourages cooperation rather than cut throat competition to win the game. The setting is that you’re at grandma’s house and she wants you to hike up the mountain to fetch her a couple of pails of huckleberries. Each player starts with four herbs in their backpack in case they need them for troubles along the way. The troubles might be a headache, cuts, a sprained ankle or maybe a bee sting. You’ll have opportunities to gather more herbs, take shortcuts or deal with set backs. You also get to help your friends catch up or deal with the troubles which come their way. By the time everyone makes it back to grandma’s house before nightfall everyone will have learned a thing or two and had some fun. Last Yule we bought extras of this game and gave them as gifts. Find out more at Learning Herbs

We had some delicious food at our Imbolc gathering. Our friend Jenni is a trained chef and she turned this into a marvelous stew and herb roasted leg of lamb.
We had some delicious food at our Imbolc gathering. Our friend Jenni is a trained chef and she turned this into a marvelous stew and herb roasted leg of lamb.

Every time we get together, the food my friends and I come up with is always amazing. Maybe that’s why I’m always struggling with my weight? Oh well, first world problems I guess.

Guinness chips. These things are awesome! I have shared this addiction with my friends at work, my spiritual family and beyond.
Guinness chips. These things are awesome! I have shared this addiction with my friends at work, my spiritual family and beyond.
See? Even at our jam sessions. Because, why not, right?
See? Even at our jam sessions. Because, why not, right?
Happy housewarming Jay and Stevie!
Happy housewarming Jay and Stevie!

We had some truly magical vibes that night playing a mix of styles from all over the world on the fly.

Imbolc From Ancient Times To The Present

​At the Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara, the inner chamber is aligned with the rising sun on the dates of Imbolc and Samhain.

Photo by Paul Stevenson - From the Marsden Imbolc festival.   Imbolc is a pagan festival symbolising the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Here, a representation of Jack frost is driven into exile by the green man. Lots of fire representing the return of the sun. CC BY 2.0
Photo by Paul Stevenson – From the Marsden Imbolc festival.   Imbolc is a pagan festival symbolising the end of winter and the beginning of spring. Here, a representation of Jack frost is driven into exile by the green man. Lots of fire representing the return of the sun. CC BY 2.0

Imbolc is mentioned in some of the most early Irish writings and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. It was originally a pagan festival associated with the goddess Brighid and it is still observed today as such by Wiccans and Celtic based Pagans throughout the world today in various forms. For those following the Celtic method of time keeping in which nightfall marks the beginning of the next day,  this holiday is usually celebrated beginning at sundown on February 1 and continuing through the day of February 2.

Brighid’s crosses are made in honor of her and dolls, called Brídeógs, are sometimes paraded from house-to-house. Brigid is believed to visit the homes of those who worship her at Imbolc. To receive her blessings, people might make a bed for her and leave something to eat and drink. Also, some folks leave items of clothing or household items outside for her to bless. Brigid may also be invoked to protect homes, pets and, for those living in the country, livestock. In Ireland and other places, special feasts are held, sacred wells are visited and it is also a good time for divination.

If you would like to make your own Brigid’s Cross they are fairly simple and easy to make with the right materials. If you have access to gather fresh green reeds or straw these work best. We’ve even made them with the kids out of multi-colored pipe cleaners as craft projects. The more flexible the material you’re using the better because you have to bend each piece in half so dry reeds will break on you. There are several good tutorials online you may use to learn how, including this one:

Smooring The Fire From Carmina Gadelica

PEAT is the fuel of the Highlands and Islands. Where wood is not obtainable the fire is kept in during the night. The process by which this is accomplished is called in Gaelic smaladh; in Scottish, smooring; and in English, smothering, or more correctly, subduing.

© Copyright Joseph Mischyshyn and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence linked below. Fire before smooring.
© Copyright Joseph Mischyshyn and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence linked below.

CC-BY-SA 2.0

The ceremony of smooring the fire is artistic and symbolic, and is performed with loving care. The embers are evenly spread on the hearth–which is generally in the middle of the floor–and formed into a circle. This circle is then divided into three equal sections, a small boss being left in the middle. A peat is laid between each section, each peat touching the boss, which forms a common centre. The first peat is laid down in name of the God of Life, the second in name of the God of Peace, the third in name of the God of Grace. The circle is then covered over with ashes sufficient to subdue but not to extinguish p. 235 the fire, in name of the Three of Light. The heap slightly raised in the centre is called ‘Tula nan Tri,’ the Hearth of the Three. When the smooring operation is complete the woman closes her eyes, stretches her hand, and softly intones one of the many formulae current for these occasions.

Another way of keeping embers for morning use is to place them in a pit at night. The pit consists of a hole in the clay floor, generally under the dresser. The pit may be from half a foot to a foot in depth and diameter, with a flag fixed in the floor over the top. In the centre of this flag there is a hole by which the embers are put in and taken out. Another flag covers the hole to extinguish the fire at night, and to guard against accidents during the day. This extinguishing fire-pit is called ‘slochd guail,’ coke or coal-pit. This coke or charcoal is serviceable in kindling the fire.

An Tri numh      (The sacred Three)
A chumhnadh,       (To save,)
A chomhnadh,       (To shield,)
A chomraig       (To surround)
An tula,       (the hearth)
An taighe,       (The house,)
An teaghlaich,       (The household,)
An oidhche,       (This eve,)
An nochd,       (This night,)
O! an oidhche,       (Oh! this eve,)
An nochd,       (This night,)
Agus gach oidhche,       (And every night,)
Gach aon oidhche.       (Each single night.)
Amen.

by Alexander Carmicheal

From Sacred Texts Archive

 

Tea For Good Health And Pleasure

People have been drinking tea in some form or another and in many cultures for thousands of years in the known historical record. Who knows really when the first of our ancestors might have boiled some dried herbs or other leaves in some water and drank the resulting infusion? Historians say this refreshment likely originated in southwest China during the Shang dynasty as a medicinal drink. An early written record of drinking such concoctions dates to the 3rd century CE, in a medical journal by Hua Tuo. Portuguese priests and merchants were first introduced to forms of the drink in China during the 16th century and drinking it became popular in Britain during the 17th century. The British brought tea production, and consumption, to India, as an answer to the Chinese monopoly on the brew during that time.

Tea Infuser
Tea Infuser

Annie’s Remedy has a fine collection of do it yourself tea recipes that you might want to consider trying. Here’s one from their collection I borrowed to share and entice you to visit her site for more:

Chamomile, Lavender And Lemon Balm Tea

This good tasting tea is formulated to calm nervous tension and lift mild depression.

Cautions: Avoid licorice root if you have high blood pressure
Ingredients:
Lavender flowers
Chamomile
Lemon balm
Add Ginger and licorice root to taste. Add 10 drops of skullcap tincture if anxiety is preventing relaxation
Additions: Honey (optional)
Recipe Instructions: Use one teaspoon of herbal mixture to each cup of hot water. Infuse for 5 minutes and drink warm before retiring.

Song of Tea by Lu Tung
The first cup moistens my lips and throat.
The second cup breaks my loneliness.
The third cup searches my barren entrail,
but to find therein some thousand volumes of odd ideographs.
The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration;
all the wrongs of life pass out through my pores.
At the fifth cup I am purified.
The sixth cup calls me to the realms of the immortals.
The seventh cup – ah, but I could take no more!
I only feel the breath of the cool wind that raises in my sleeves.
Where is Paradise? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither.

This poem is in the public domain.

 

They Don’t Write Them Like That Anymore

These days many lament the fact that public schools have opted to no longer teach how to read and write in cursive script citing that “kids won’t be able to read historic documents!”. A claim I call B.S. on by the way as my home schooled son, who never specifically received instruction in reading and writing in cursive, was able to read documents written in cursive without a problem as he demonstrated recently.

Bridge of Tears - Roadside stone Gaelic monument -The Bridge of Tears is where emigrants departing to America and/or Canada parted with family members remaining in Ireland, perhaps never to see one another again, with the emigrants just beginning a long walk to get to the ships and family members remaining in Ireland walking back to their homes in the opposite direction. Please write home! © Copyright Joseph Mischyshyn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Bridge of Tears – Roadside stone Gaelic monument -The Bridge of Tears is where emigrants departing to America and/or Canada parted with family members remaining in Ireland, perhaps never to see one another again, with the emigrants just beginning a long walk to get to the ships and family members remaining in Ireland walking back to their homes in the opposite direction. Please write home! © Copyright Joseph Mischyshyn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for preserving knowledge in archaic scripts, even those which have only recently become obsolete. But, why stop at modern cursive? Why not teach Ogham, Runes, Old Gaelic Script and Egyptian Hieroglyphics in public school too? After all, some very important documents were written in those scripts too were they not? Ah, but those have been translated and reproduced in modern languages and writing styles. Ah-hah! Exactly! This is where the Declaration Of Independence and Constitution arguments start to lose water I say, playing Ye Olde Devils Advocate (an entity I have no belief in remember). True, things have been re-translated and reproduced in nearly every modern language spoken. But, do you trust the translators to get it right? Hmmmm, now we might be on to something here. I write something and I might mean it a certain way when I write it. A hundred years later someone else comes along and decides to translate what I wrote but that person might not know the context I was writing in when I wrote it. So they write the words that they think I might have meant because, presumably a hundred years later I’m no longer around to ask exactly what I meant. This is why, I believe it behooves us all, to learn old languages, old writing styles and try to understand things in their original context. But, don’t rely on the government school system to do it for you. The resources are out there and freely available. Take the initiative and learn these things on your own. It’s a very worthwhile endeavor.

The Goddess Brighid, Crosses And Imbolc

Still there are FlameKeepers who tend the sacred flame of Brighid on a 20 day cycle – 19 shifts, plus one day upon which Brighid tends the flame herself.

Brighid's Cross for Imbolc
Brighid’s Cross for Imbolc

Photo by Amanda Slater under Creative Commons ShareAlike License 2.0

Brigid’s , Brighid’s, or Brigit’s cross, also with the “Saint” prefix, or (in the Irish language) Cros Bríde, Crosóg Bríde or Bogha Bríde, though not recorded before the seventeenth century, is an Irish symbol. Though regarded as a Christian symbol, it may possibly derive from the pagan sunwheel and is sometimes mistaken as such. It is typically made from rushes or, less often, straw. For kids crafting activities, we’ve even made them from colorful pipe cleaners with good effect. It is comprised of a woven square in the center and four radials tied off at the ends.
Brigid’s crosses are associated with Brigid of Kildare, who is venerated as one of the patron saints of Ireland. The crosses are traditionally made on February 1st, which in Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge) (is called Lá Fhéile Bhríde (St. Brigid’s feast day), the day of her celebration. This feast coincides with the more ancient one of her pagan namesake, one of pagan Ireland’s most important Goddesses. Brigid, is associated with fire, healing and holy wells, blacksmithing, crafts and poetry. Her feast day celebrates the earliest stirrings of Spring, and is called Imbolc. Many rituals are associated with the making of the crosses. It was traditionally believed that a Brigid’s Cross protects the house from fire and evil. It is hung in many Irish and Irish-American homes for this purpose.

She is, perhaps,  one of the most complex and contradictory Goddesses of the Celtic people. Brigid can, in many ways,  be seen as the most powerful religious figure in all of Irish history. Numerous layers of separate traditions have been interwoven, producing Her story and impact on generations of those who venerate her. She moves effortlessly down through the centuries and has succeeded in travelling intact through time, fulfilling different roles in various times.

Sé do bheatha a Bhríghid, bandia na beatha. (Here is your life, Brighid, Goddess of Life.) – Pádraigín Ní Uallachaín

For more of her beautiful words and music please visit:

http://www.irishsong.com/

 

 

Natural Remedies For Cold, Flu And Other Crud

So, for the last few days of last week I was under the weather with a sore throat and chest congestion. Like most of my friends and family, I prefer natural remedies for such situations when possible and save going to the doctor for more serious matters. So, I posted on Facebook that I was gargling with salt water and drinking concoctions of Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey as well as ye olde stand by Hot Toddies. I also shared an article on my feed about 22 Natural Sore Throat treatments.

Herbal Remedies - Nature's Pharmacy
Herbal Remedies – Nature’s Pharmacy

My friends quickly chimed in with other suggestions to try demonstrating the great depth of knowledge and wit to be found among my circle of friends. I was experiencing pretty good results with the salt water gargles and the apple cider vinegar and honey however. The salt serves to reduce the swelling in the tissues of the throat by drawing out the excessive fluids causing the swelling. The acidity of the vinegar quickly kills off bacteria which cause the infection. The honey serves as a soothing agent as well as an anti-bacterial. But what about some of these other suggestions? I might want to try them out next time some type of crud creeps up on me and brings me down.

Warm milk and honey makes a sore throat feel better

The honey I am most assuredly in agreement on and perhaps the milk too but my mom was always big on avoiding milk when sick because she believed it causes the body to produce more mucous. Still, I did sneak some milk when I wasn’t supposed to and have to agree with Jay on the soothing properties.Also Mayo Clinic says the milk and phlegm thing is a myth. Anyone else have some thoughts on that?

Slippery Elm Bark is a good one but it tastes pretty horrid so you would have to add Honey and maybe a touch of lemon, adding milk sometimes will add more mucus unfortunately, Peppermint and Marshmallow Root are good soothing herbal teas for the throat. We are all struggling with this crap and yes my Friend it sure does get quite old…Do some Reiki on your throat if you can or have M.

I’ve used peppermint for soothing stomach and throat ailments in the past with pretty good success and have heard about Slippery Elm Bark’s benefits but the aforementioned horrible taste has always caused me to shy away from going that route. Marshmallow Root seems to give some temporary relief and I’ve heard good things about black licorice tea as well but haven’t tried it with a sore throat yet. Anyone else? Unfortunately, I’ve never learned Reiki although I know a Reiki Master near by who has offered to teach me.

Oregano, cloves, cinnamon and ginger help also. I usually eat the oregano fresh and make a tea with the rest. Hope you get to feeling better soon!

I have had some luck with the cloves, cinnamon and ginger when sick. I can’t say that I’ve ever tried oregano in my remedies though except, perhaps in chicken and noodle soup. It’s worth a try though, right?

if you are fighting a cold try GSE (Grapefruit Seed Extract) Will pretty much kill anything. you just put some drops in say orange juice to hide the taste and it works amazing.

I can’t say that I’ve ever tried Grapefruit Seed Extract but I did some reading on it and have to say that it sounds quite intriguing.

Bourbon

I’m definitely with you on that. Enough bourbon or whiskey and I won’t care how my throat feels or if I even have a throat. Lol!

Fresh tumeric in your soup is great too – tastes nice *and* has anti-inflammatories & antioxidants… I’ve been finding fresh tumeric in the asian food stores pretty regularly and at the regular grocery too (Haggens in Snoho carries it) – a little chunk really adds ommph to the broth in soup, and you can feel it spreading the goodness… I swear by it…. and it freezes well

I do enjoy turmeric. I’ve never had fresh. Only powdered. Thank you, I’ll look for some. There’s an Asian Market not far from my house. My daughter likes to shop there.

 

Get some Rooibos ( African Red Bush ) tea and drink at least three cups of it a day. Feel better soon my friend!

Oh yeah, I forgot about Red Bush tea. I think we used up what we had on hand the last time some crud was going around. I guess it’s time to get some more.

Who Built The Georgia Guidestones?

The Georgia Guidestones is a granite monument erected in 1980 in Elbert County, Georgia, in the United States commissioned by a man using the self-confessed pseudonym Robert C. Christian.

Georgia Guidestones - Public Domain
Georgia Guidestones – Public Domain

Some have referred to them as the American Stonehenge. Whatever you call them though, they contain a set of 10 guidelines, inscribed on the structure in eight modern languages, and a shorter message, inscribed at the top of the structure, in four ancient language scripts: Babylonian, Classical Greek, Sanskrit, and Egyptian hieroglyphs.

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

Who put these here and why under such secrecy? How is this 500,000,000 population to be achieved in a world of more than 7 billion now? Erecting this mysterious monument could not have been cheap so someone with fairly deep pockets was likely behind it. But to what end? What might their agenda be and how do they intend to go about achieving it? Are they a call for how humanity should rebuild civilization after an apocalyptic war or some other calamity? Some have praised their message and others have been stricken with fear at what they might represent but they are clearly there and someone spent a great deal of time and money to have them placed and did so under a secret identity so the big question is why? Any ideas?

Some have pointed to how the pseudonym R.C. Christian resembles Rosicrucian. That’s rather interesting to note as well but is there anything to it?

There was a movie made about them in 2012 which I haven’t seen yet. I wonder what they might have uncovered?

Psychopomps We Know And Love

Psychopomps are coming to take us away!

Psychopomps take us to the afterlife. - Image is Public Domain
Psychopomps take us to the afterlife. – Image is Public Domain

I was inspired by a guest post by author, Paul Andruss on Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

He had a lot of good and interesting things to say about psychopomps from various cultures and it got me to thinking that I have a few thoughts I would like to share about them too. He started his article off with a bit of humor and I like his style. But, no, the word does not indicate people who are both psychotic and pompous as one might initially guess. Instead,  they are creatures, spirits, or deities in several religions throughout the world whose responsibility is to escort newly departed souls from this realm to the afterlife. They are not charged with the duty to judge the deceased, but simply to provide safe passage of their spirit. As a cartoon I’ve seen floating around ye olde internet says, “Why does everyone hate the Grim Reaper? It’s not like he killed you. He’s simply there to walk with you into the next world and isn’t it nice to not have to make the journey alone?” I have to agree. I appreciate their services and hope to have a nice conversation with mine along the way when the time comes. I picture a Hogfather like dude walking along philosophizing the universe and what’s right and wrong.

As Mr. Andruss pointed out in his article, Hermes/Mercury is viewed as, not only the messenger of the gods but also one who fills the role of psychopomp too. But this also made me think of ol’ Charon or Kharon, the ferryman of Hades who carries the newly departed across the rivers Styx and Acheron which divide the worlds of the living and dead. In Norse folklore we have the Valkyries choosing the slain who will be swept from the battlefields to feast with Odin in the halls of Valhalla. He speaks of the Great Queen Morrigan whose bird, the raven, is often seen picking over the barren fields after harvest or the battlefields after the slaughter. I’m delighted to learn about this new, to me, author who states in his bio that he has…

“written 4 novels, Finn Mac Cool, and the (Harry-Potteresque) Jack Hughes Trilogy. ‘Finn Mac Cool’ and ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ are available for free download. Hint! Hint!”

I’m definitely going to check out his work and hope some of you who are reading this post will do so as well. Some other figures I’ve seen mentioned here and there as being possible psychopomps are Manannan Mac Lir, son of the sea, who, at one point, seems to have been counted as a ruler of the Otherworld Mag Mell or Emain Afallach. I’ve also seen it said that the Greenman might be seen in this role and Cernunnos too because of his association with being “he who sits between the worlds”.

What about you? Do some other possible psychopomp figures from different cultures and folklore come to your mind? I’d be curious to hear of some from Native American or Asian sources perhaps. The closest things that come to mind for me from such sources are the sin-eaters of some meso-american and other tribes. Some have hinted that the Wendigo of Algonquin-speaking people might also be connected but these are way different concepts, to me, from those typically considered psychopomps. A preponderance of things to ponder. Lubrication for the gears of our minds.