MONTHLY INSECURE WRITERS’ MIRACLE MANIFESTATION CORNER or
Sounding One’s Own Trumpet
What in the world is happening? you may ask.
Is it a bird, a plane, a super cloud?
No, Batman. It’s called ignoring/misleading public/human condition, in the final horse race to the political gate.
Bread and Circuses—Fodder for U.S. ‘uninformed’ Masses
Political press liken both parties’ cavalier attitude to the American Constitution to Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Do American politicians still remotely believe the public is listening to their rhetoric?
We in Ninja Cap’n.Alex‘s IWSGers stalwart group of writers know when it’s time to throw in the towel—allow Nature to take over the reins.. After all, we are INSECURE. And it’s summer—festival season. This is no time for intellectual—or intellect-less mind games. Carpe diem—seize the (day) moment. Time to look to the skies and aim heavenward—or hole up and w-r-i-t-e—or even go into permanent meditational mode: achieve mental freedom of Nirvana—or something even more (insecurely) celestial.
What Did You Do in the War, Daddy
Every Gun made
Every Warship launched
Every Rocket fired
signifies a Theft from the Hungry not fed, the Cold not clothed, and the Homeless left unhoused
Dwight D.Eisenhower, U.S. President 1953-61
Analogies with the Roman Colisseum are not totally inappropriate, in 2015-2016 election fever. The so-called uninformed public is now—courtesy of the Internet and the Cloud—hugely well-informed. Where gladiators and gore, pythons and phalluses were customary fodder for ignorant pre-Christian masses, two thousand years down the line, we’d hope we might have learned a little sophistry in leading humanity along a more enlightened path.
Music—Food of Love—Live Transmission
Music heals and regenerates human cells. With recent research confirming what Galileo discovered about acoustics, when he devised the first western scale.
Summer music festivals, it seems, are not just mindless, letting off steam—they are, since the times of Lughnasadh, Bacchanalia, Lupercalia and Saturnalia, an essential release mechanism for the human psyche from the shackles of (cold, winter, drudgery) ‘responsibility’.
Trumpet High-notes Only a Dog Could Hear
As a bandleader, his virtuoso arrangements and seminal trumpet playing earned him the moniker Satchelmouth. Among other predominately black musicians like Duke Ellington and fellow horn player Cat Anderson, we have him to thank for freedom expressed through music, preserved for posterity in this digital age. Louis and Cat were reputed to reach high notes only a dog could hear.
Whatever your summer addiction—in this group, it HAS to be writing-related—even the hardest taskmaster will allow you a little time off. Thanks, Taskmaster Alex.
©2015 Marian Youngblood
INSECURE WRITERS’ SUPPORT GROUP CORNER
Thanks to our (non-mutant) Ninja Capn. Alex, I make a seasonal appearance as last rays of summer flash, to say hi to my fellow IWSGers, but also to share the pathos of impending equinoctial changes: seasonal, earth-related, celestial and beyond—
Ancient Lughnasadh Festival of Light
I try to celebrate the end of summer, lasting—as all Druid-lore-lovers know—from mid-July to September equinox, plumbing sacred depths of fire festival season centered on:
Lammas Day, August 1st, the Glorious Twelfth.*
Yet I feel pathos and sadness engulfing a season’s end, a dying earth. Our Mother Earth, especially, has suffered much this year.*I am not sentimental about the killing of grouse; I never liked the practice, however fashionable and smoothly operated it’s supposed to be. I shall not change my view; but my attitude to what goes on in the ‘Old Country‘, now that I’m an ex-pat, has softened.
I know this doesn’t sound remotely like a writing moan—as our monthly corner is supposed to be—but there is a connection:
Ancient Lammas, Lughnasadh primal fire festival of the god Lugh, [‘Light’] is known across the indigenous cultural spectrum as First Harvest, Harvest Home, a time to STOP, give thanks and celebrate with offerings—bread from our table. Rejoicing in Mother Earth’s bounty, we share and celebrate her fruitfulness with good food and friends. Traditionally, harvest tables were decked with red, gold, orange, yellow, bronze, citrine, gray, and green: colors now associated with wild dress-couture-masquerade extravaganzas—particularly in U.S.
Corn dollies have been replaced by macho/Ninja? [!!] sickles, scythes, iMax giant scimitars, over fresh veggies & fruits, bread, and sun-wheels. But drumbeat rhythm focuses joy, seeps between the volcanic cracks into the Earth, honoring her cross-cultural daughters of Lugh: Freya, Demeter, Ceres, Pandora et al.—goddesses of fruitfulness,carers of the Earth thru her seasons. In this sense she (Earth Mother) and Hathor are one and the same: primeval Eve, Brittonic Bride, Norse Auohumla, great cow-giant goddess, and ancestor of the Norse gods. She is also Gaia, Sumerian Antu: who became Ishtar, goddess of love and procreation.Summerend, in all cultures—ancient Lammas, now-generation Virtual.world and future Turtle Island—with deference to our Sci-Fi Cap’n’s focus—is always a good time for a celebration.
Now is time to enjoy drinking, eating fresh food, indulging our hedonist within— dancing, expressing joy, getting back to our roots—being oneself.
For a light-deprived northerner, I am grateful for long days of warmth, time in the garden, maybe occasionally, I think about writing…lol. But I digress.
The Caravanserai Headed East
In current Western culture, Burning Man takes precedence. Trailers are rented at great expense, shared rides go East thru the Nevada desert, to pitch camp in an awesome congregation of festival-goers—almost medieval in ethos—with singing, dancing, beating and celebrating the earth, the sun, and being alive— through music, masque, dance and new connections, made over five days.
But, because Forties Field oil pipeline runs under the tarmac, Scots (financial and) Government agencies started yelling ‘health&safety’, so 2014 was its swan song. T-in-the-Park 2015 will migrate to the former boarding school of Strathallan, twenty miles West in Perthshire.There follows the majestic three-day wonder of Reading-Leeds Music Festival, at the height of Lammas: August 21-24, 2014. It would seem the Brits are following the U.S. lead in widening the window of music sent heavenward in sheer joy of numbers.
Americans wowed by Nevada desert’s five-day Burning Man festival have yet to experience the booze-quotient of a Brit music venue: comparisons of liters/pints of beer drunk at Glastonbury vs. Leeds/Reading shock American/Canadian drinkers who, by law, have to put tankard to lip behind closed doors. Ah, the contrast.
As Britain closes for the summer, the American continent opens. Festivals ripple like musical arpeggios across barren, dry (over-watered) southern states, Austin, Dallas, Nashville. As the earth gets hotter—most of continental U.S. is in grill-bbq grip of unrelenting heat, forest fires, drought.
Here is not the place to bring up city water demands from rural salmon spawning hinterland—Eel, Van Duzen, Klamath, Trinity and Navarro— but we all know Earth is shrieking for us to slow down, take a look at what we are doing to our Pale Blue Dot, called home, and stop.
One could liken it to an Apocalypse scenario. But our Ninja Cap’n knowzzzz all about that.
Thank you Alex, always for providing a corner for a moan, a shared frisson and love for Sci-Fi, and a window on tomorrow’s world—and for letting me in under the wire—late. 🙂
Last year, 2010, spring in Britain was ‘late’, as it followed the previous winter’s heavy freeze; so the first crop circle to emerge did not occur in the month of April, but on May 5th (Old Beltane), in alignment with an ancient sacred stronghold (and site of the first Salisbury cathedral) at Old Sarum. Its appearance was eagerly awaited by the crop circle community because the earliest farming crop to start into flower –oil seed rape, canola– was only just out of the ‘green’ stage. Previous years had brought early ripening and, by comparison, the 2010 season had a lot to make up for.
So, it seems, does the summer of 2011. A repeat winter freeze, (human) standstill and a gradual earth-warm-up and then, bam, an April ‘heatwave’. Easter Sunday, April 24th, was the warmest April day in Britain since 1949: the month of April the warmest since records began 100 years ago. Last week, the British geared up for the Royal Wedding and the weather was playing along nicely. So, it might seem, is the sense of humour of the crop circlemakers: Prince William (Wales and Windsor) married on Friday, while one week previously, on Good Friday, the first canola circle appeared in South Wales.
Canola is a plant of the brassica family which often signals the start of the crop circle season, because in Britain nothing else (barley, wheat, maize) is anywhere near its ripening stage at the end of April.
There have been exceptions. Unusually, in 2010 a Somerset bean crop was used on June 7th at Stony Littleton longbarrow near Bath to showcase the double spiral of a traditional clock mechanism, as if perhaps to highlight the concept –or urgency– of time.Then, lo and behold, the first Dutch formation –on Easter Sunday morning– at Bosschenhoofd, 22 miles South of Rotterdam, appeared in grass.
April dates that heralded the start of a British season in three previous years had already passed–April 15, 19 and 17 for years 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively. The weather in England has been heating up fast, however, so it was a relief when the first crop circle of this season appeared over the Easter weekend –not in Wiltshire amid the sacred landscape of ancient Saxon heritage– but in an even older landscape with genuine Brittonic origins: Gwent, where this most ancient race has left evidence of human settlement since Mesolithic times.
Coincidentally–the Circlemakers are great on synchronicity–the tight little formation appeared at Innage farm near Chepstow, a stone’s throw across the Severn Bridge from the Oldbury nuclear power plant which featured in a crop image last July and which (with less publicity) vented radioactive steam one month ago, frightening already anxious residents on both sides of the river. Public concern was quelled by nuclear authority spokesmen after locals were understandably alarmed at the announcement of new ‘works’ planned for the nuclear facility, despite the awful and uncontrollable meltdown continuing in Fukushima, Japan after last month’s earthquake and tsunami.
The new Welsh design, in a field of oil seed rape, lies only seven miles southwest of the spectre of last season’s remarkable formation –the July 18th ‘quake-vibration’ crop circle at Woolaston Grange, Gloucestershire. While lying on the same (Welsh) side of the Severn, the 2010 ‘ghost’ technically lies in England, but it also faces diagonally across the river to the nuclear plant. Between the two lies the ancient stronghold of Caes-Gwent, ‘castle of Gwent’, modern Chepstow.In an historical context, Chepstow’s Welsh name, Caes Gwent, castle of Venta, Roman ‘market place’, shows how ancient are its roots and how significant is its position on the confluence of the river Wye (over which the 11thC Castle of Gwent still towers) with the Severn –that great tidal estuary which eventually flows into the Bristol Channel and the Atlantic Ocean. This is the southern heartland of the ancient (pre-Celtic) Brythonic kingdom, where ancient Britons spoke a dialect understood by other Britons of Prydein –Roman Britannia. Their language was understood over the water-bridge in Brittany, throughout Cornwall, Isle of Man, Rheged (ancient Cumbria), Dumbarton and Strathclyde (Dun-Britton), Brigantia (Yorkshire and Northumberland) and northern Pictland (Prydein). Their ancient monuments, aligned with the movements of the heavens and dedicated to their ancestral dead, were generations older than Stonehenge. Avebury’s great circle is their nearest relative in design and in time.
Once again, bang on time, the crop circle phenomenon has drawn to our attention an ancient landscape–full of sacred detail and priceless earthbound wisdom– almost totally forgotten in the 21st century.
But the Circlemakers display yet more layers to enlighten us.Another coincidence can be seen in the Chepstow design’s similarity to the four-petalled lotus of the Muladhara, the red-hued base chakra design which kicked off the 2011 January season in Sleman, Yogyakarta, Java. At that time, a statement from the Sultanate warned the Javanese–the world’s most populous Muslim country, already steeped in shared knowledge of kundalini and the significance of chakras in the energy body, borrowed from Hindu belief–that the appearance of the ‘base chakra’ presaged
“Nature’s selections (i.e. acts of God) in this country shortly”
HRH Prince Karyonagoro (Kandjeng Pangeran) January 2011.
In Vedic Kundalini the red base chakra is the lowest, most physically-driven, of the body’s energy centres. In recent years many crop circles and spiritual groups have been emphasizing the need for us, the human race, to rise above physicality and elevate ourselves at least through the second and third to the level of the (green) fourth heart-chakra, in order to prepare ourselves for our anticipated move –along with the planet Earth– into fifth-dimensional reality, nirvana, a permanent state of bliss or Ascension.
With the exception of the ‘message’ Crop designs at Crabwood Farm August 2002, Circlemakers do not usually leave us specific directions. They use hints, fractals, energy mosaics, pointers and clues to a mystery which we –in wracking our braincells and stirring up our DNA– seem to delight in trying to solve.
Gwent seems to be hinting…
It is interesting to note that the combination Muslim-Hindu population of Great Britain (England, Wales, Scotland and N.Ireland) has doubled in ten years, from 1.5million in 2001 to around 3 million in 2011; and outside of Leicester and Harrow, the predominant residential city-satellites for Hindu and Muslim peoples with Indian subcontinent roots (within commuting distance of London on M4 and M48) include Cardiff and Chepstow-on-Wye.
As the Circlemakers are known for their sense of humour, they might just be saying that we, the people of the British Isles, despite introduced Vedic wisdom and several seasons of implicit teachings and clues from crop circle mentors, are–in consciousness–still psychically hanging out around our own base chakra, i.e. our heads are still up our kundalini tail.
Judging by recent seasons, May 1st (Beltane) appears to be the seasonal cut-off date. Beltane means earth festival bigtime for the Circlemakers. Buddhist Wesak celebrates the Buddha’s birth on the first full moon of the Taurus cycle (this year May 17th). But May also means the Baal fire ritual of the Ancients. Once again we are being reminded (implicitly) how our ancient Brittonic ancestors valued –nay, worshipped– the sacred return of Light in the full blossoming of May Day, Beltane, with the Earth’s rise in fertility, the blossoming of trees and flowers, the Earth Mother’s return to full growth and potency. Beltane was more than just a fire festival at 15ºTaurus, the mid-point of the growth season; it was a celebration of renewal and a belief for all Mankind that the Earth was capable once again of overcoming death, dying, winter, moving through budding of new growth into full-blown summer and supreme joy of life.
It is this ancient practice, once a sacred belief system held by our pre-Christian Brittonic ancestors–kept alive in some Druidic and Wiccan traditions so often ridiculed by modern skeptics–that the crop circles seek to remind us: Life is not dead. We and the Earth are alive.Looking back, it is easy to spot this recurring theme. The decade of the 1990s had marked a gradual trend towards an earlier start to the season in April; remarkably, 1999 began on April 3rd! But by contrast, the first half of the ‘noughties was marked by late beginnings–mid-May (2001, 2005), even early June (2002, 2003, 2004 & 2006). 2009 began on time (first crop circle on The Ridgway near Avebury/West Overton on April 17th. In 2008, April 19th marked the beginning with a six-armed spiral at Waden Hill, Avebury. It was also the year of the bee (at Honey Street, no less) on July 27th; the first year crop circles were confirmed in the USA and Brazil; and, with synchronicity we are coming to expect, the famous ‘Eight’/Infinity formation which on 08-08-08 graced Milk Hill, Alton Barnes. Circles arrived even earlier in 2007, with the Oliver’s Castle seven-arcs on April 15th. 2007 was famous for its ‘Om’ design of 07-07-07–at East Field. This remarkable formation began a trend in croppie thinking of assigning special meaning to specific numerical sequences: a simple form of numerology or gematria. That said, 2006 was a disappointment to many who waited until 21st May for the first sign in East Sussex. According to crop-prophet Freddy Silva, that year was atypical because it was jinxed by a high number of ‘hoax’ cropcircles. By contrast, it was famous for its first-time 3D-special effects formations. They have been entrancing us ever since.
The world’s first 3D design at Wayland’s Smithy, Oxfordshire, left, –combination skyscraper-overhead, 12-towers and Florence Nightingale’s Rose Diagram–appeared July 8th 2006: 06-07-08. Its proximity to Wayland’s Smithy neolithic burial chamber is not accidental, as it implies a connection between the ancient Saxon god of metalworking and the future of the human race being forged now. The British–as mythologist Barbara Clow has stated bluntly–are not exactly known for their knowledge of their own sacred beginnings. She implies (the reality of) America as a God-fearing race; while the British have no tolerance for the sacred. Many of the most emphatic crop markings of recent years have emphasized this lack of sensitivity to our ancient wisdom and essence of the sacred. Designs have increasingly been sited in close proximity to primeval sacred sites or places of ancient wisdom whose meaning and context have, in general, been studiously ignored.
“The Measure of a Man and of an Angel will be the same in the New Jerusalem”
Revelation of John 21: 17
The Twelve Towers, as the Waylands formation became known, has been likened by crop circle veteran Joseph Mason to the final reckoning of the New Jerusalem in the Revelation of John: Jerusalem was said to measure 12×12=144 cubits, a sacred number meaning ‘Light’, often represented by the cube. His exposition is worth reading for its incisive content and extreme intuition. Wayland’s inate spiraling form has reappeared many times since that year, as a kind of reminder of its End-of-Days message. One also sees in it the ‘Rose Diagram’ of Florence Nightingale–the first time a woman effectively cured an epidemic by alerting the medical community (and the world) to iatrogenic deaths in foul hospital conditions in the Crimea. She made her presentation via a diagram her superiors could visualize, and her visual method changed the way humanity looked at health. In that sense the crop circle message may be our own health warning, an alert that our world may now be in imminent danger, as a result of our own pollution of earth’s fragile systems.
2006 may have been an odd year — no crop circle 06-06-06; a short season that ended abruptly on August 14th. But it did deliver some amazing pieces of inter-dimensional wonder. And from that year onwards, the world croppie audience began sitting up and paying attention.
Seasons come and go and we are learning to expect bigger and more explicit messages. What surfaces above all is the sense of wonder they impart, to thousands who have never actually sat in one or experienced the sense of ‘community’ they intuitively bring to the fields. Many have only seen them from above: the photographic message, shared so willingly and selflessly by dedicated crop circle pilots and photographers and website volunteers. In a gentle, unobtrusive way, it seems that the symbols in the fields are encouraging us to reconnect with our own sense of community–and our own sacred selves.
Vibration and Frequency and Form
All matter is in essence a group of particles vibrating at a common frequency, (a current scientific theory) and it is understandable that we human beings, made up of particles vibrating at a certain frequency, are affected by other vibrating particles–positive or negative–depending on the interaction.
This is inkeeping with current spiritual group ethos: raise your vibration to create your own mastery. The idea resonates well with the crop circles. Some see them as ‘temporary temples‘ for a modern age that has lost its sense of the Sacred. As huge, geometric temples, they seem to inspire our psyche towards wonder, a higher sense of reality and awareness. It is documented that many people feel compelled to enter formations in the fields from quite a distance away, and afterwards describe feelings of peace and wellbeing while inside the ‘sacred’ space. Many attest to lives profoundly changed in some capacity–psychologically or spiritually– by the experience.Over the years it has become commonplace for circle visitors to experience an energetic ‘flow’ within its precinct. Video cameras malfunction, batteries suddenly go dead, compasses fluctuate wildly. The electromagnetic field which circles produce has been likened by some dowsers, empaths and sensitives to the static they feel inside the oldest stone circles. Again, it seems synchronistic that the crop circles and the stone circles of Wiltshire and North Britain share a mystical connection in location, effect on ground water and subsoil. Samples taken for scientific analysis by non-profit agencies such as BLT Research confirm this. In 1980 the Dragon Project measured a miraculous surge of radiation within the precinct of Rollright Stones, Oxon at the moment of sunrise. Stonehenge visitors (for midsummer sunrise) confirm similar rises in energy. Both these stone circles are reasonably complete in construction. By contrast, dowsers who have visited ‘restored’ stone circles –a notorious one in Aberdeenshire at Strichen–experience sickness and have to leave because of the disruptive energy fields created by misaligned or substituted stones of the ‘wrong’ geological composition. It seems our Neolithic ancestors had a sense of ‘knowing’ where to place stone circles on the earth’s electromagnetic nodes–and within widely electrically-conductive aquifers of chalk or limestone– it worked like a dream.
In the magical situation created by an overnight crop sensation arriving via light, heat and sound in a ripening field, the essence of electromagnetic currents seem to be retained by the very bounds of the design’s circumference. According to BLT’s research, only gradually over a period of days–probably with traffic generated by visitors along paths leading in and out–does the energy level dissipate. There are some field formations where the energy appears so potent that its influence lingers not only through the winter after harvest, but, remarkably, for several subsequent seasons.
… as a ghostly reminder of what once was…
These are the famous crop circle ‘ghosts’.
It is not just their physical form which has a remarkable effect on the humans attracted to enter crop circles. Their ghosts do as well. And, seen from the air –as we are now treated to, courtesy of the generosity of volunteers like Olivier Morel, above– crop circles are making their mark on the civilized world.
It may still be considered an ‘alternative’ world, a ‘loopy fringe’ by some, but even the media is coming around to the idea that the human race is jointly heading for some kind of quantum leap –either this year or next.
We are being treated to something in accelerated time: a reminder by Spirit of the Sacred which many of us seem to have forgotten. It is something quite wonderful, infinitely fulfilling and much needed, in order to bring our lives back into some kind of perspective. Because it is a little beyond our grasp, there is a thrill associated with this achievement. And it is well overdue.
©2011 Marian Youngblood
‘First come Candlemas
Syne the New Meen
The niest Tiseday efter that
Is Festern’s E’en.
That Meen oot
An’ anither at its hicht
The niest Sunday efter that
Is aye Pasche richt.’
Ancient Scots Easter calculation. Anon.
The Calendar according to the Moon was regular as clockwork. It was reliable, you could see it in the sky and you could set your life rhythms by it. The old Scots rhyme above spoken slowly will make sense even to the least son of the soil of Ultima Thule. But non-Scots may need a little help in translation.
Festern’s E’en – as Hallowe’en – was an ancient calendar fire festival celebrated, like all pre-Christian revelry, at night. And, like Hallowe’en, it still is. Only we call it by another name: Carnival.
Translated simply, it is the evening before the ‘Feast/Festival’. With a capital F, this celebration was one of the greatest fire festivals in the Celtic Year. When it became absorbed into the Christian calendar, its importance and significance to the populace was so great, that it was deemed necessary to give it a place of prominence second only to Christmas. As such it has remained. The festival that precedes Easter is throughout the world celebrated with fire and puppetry,processional and masqued balls, dance and music and food and drink.
If you ask a South American about Carnival, ‘Carnaval’ in Portuguese, he will tell you they prepare for it all year round. In some cultures it has become almost more important than Christmas – a reversion to type, backtracking to pre-Christian times.
In Brazil, it makes complete sense to hold Carnaval precisely on its February moon date in the ancient calendar because in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires it is full-blown summer. By contrast, German Fasching, held similarly in February, is pretty chilly dancing in the noctural streets of northern Hamburg!
Carnival used to be held in the Bahamas in February too, when spring is at its height and the casuarinas blow carefree along Nassau Beach. But in the summer of 1965, Chubby Broccoli and Sean Connery made a James Bond film set on Paradise Island and commissioned the Carnival Committee to stage an ‘extra’ Carnival, so they could weave festive fiery scenes into ‘Thunderball’; since then Bahamian Carnival has been a summertime festival. Similarly, the London Carnival of Notting Hill, begun in 1964, is held on the last weekend in August. No connection to Lent or Easter any more.
But originally, before the Gregorian calendar took over calculation and reckoning by the moon in 1582, Carnival was high festive season in that ancient stream of festivities used by Man to celebrate the return of the Light to a dark winter world.
Candlemas, as I’ve mentioned before, is the first glimpse of light waxing and adding grace to the darkest days of winter. On February 2nd – or Bride’s Day, before solar months took over as calendrical norm – the measure of light from the heavens increases to such a degree that birds begin to mate, petals on spring flowers open and the Earth softens its frozen grip.
In lunar terms, the first New Moon of the second month (Gregorian) was celebrated in every northern hemisphere culture planet-wide from prehistoric times. From Buddhist to Inuit culture the return of light to nurture the earth’s crucial growing plants was a calendar custom worth celebrating.
When Christian calendar calculators were devising Roman Church high and holy days, they took care to incorporate these ancient fire rites as an integral part of Christian culture and ‘lore’. it did not do to lose a single ‘soul’ in the transition from a pre-Christian to a Christian world.
And, as it was a long-standing tradition for local people to mark ancient quarter days – the solstices and the equinoxes – with festivals of fire, it seemed right that they should transit unaltered into the Christian calendar: marked instead with candlelight inside church buildings.
Christmas was chosen at the time of (northern) winter solstice when the ‘ignorant’ (pagan) desperately needed to celebrate the return of ‘light to the world’. Christ was called the ‘Light of the World’. The Son of the Sun.
Midsummer was fully taken up with a light celebration of its own – in northern latitudes the longest days of the year brought bountiful harvest and genuine thanksgiving by a rural population for the gifts of the earth continuously provided from midsummer through to Lammas, an August ‘cross-quarter’ day. No Church overlay was necessary; nevertheless Roman Catholicism superimposed the feast of John the Baptist on midsummer’s day and frowned heavily on pagan corn dollies and such Celtic fripperies perpetuated by an agricultural society.
The Equinoxes, however, required more serious contemplation.
Most rural (so-called ignorant) converts were aware of the movement of both sun and moon. While that may appear to us today to be rather sophisticated intellectual knowledge, it was commonplace then to note changing seasons, hours of light and dark and the phases of the moon. When equinox arrived it was – in the human mind at least – a miracle that every place on earth had exactly the same number of hours of light and dark for one earth period of 24 hours. The sun rose at 6 and set at 6 on every man, woman, child and beast on earth. The phenomenon was in itself worth celebrating. In astronomical terms, the event occurs precisely at the moment the Sun (traveling along the ecliptic) appears to cross the celestial equator, and while ancient Man may not have known that added sophistication, his life was changed by its occurrence twice in every year. In addition, he celebrated the spring (cross-quarter) festivals of Wesak, Beltane, May Day, along with any events providing an excuse for Morris and maypole dancing, The Church allowed these to continue, so long as the requisite saints were also remembered and offerings given.
While Archangel Michael was given dominion over autumnal equinox, Easter was chosen as a fitting ‘high’ celebration to take over the vernal equinoctial light-and-dark balance.
What put a spanner in the works was that – late in the seventh century – when two contemporary Christian systems were running alongside in mutual cooperation, the internal systems within the Celtic and Roman Churches came to a clash; an impasse.Hugely influential, powerful and wealthy King Oswiu of Northumbria had been happy to run his Christian nation along the lines of Columba’s Celtic (thirteen-month lunar) calendar issued and maintained from Iona. This Celtic doctrine conveniently recognized the King as head of religious affairs. His Anglian Queen Eanfled, a devout Roman Christian recognized not the King but the Pope as head of the Church. They might have reconciled their differences, had it not been for a calendrical anomaly which in some years had the King ordering huge feasts for Easter at exactly the moment when his Queen was still fasting in Lent. Because another such year was due to happen in AD665, with the assistance of Wilfrid, new abbot at Rippon, and recently returned from Gaul and Rome, the King called the Synod of Whitby in AD664 and led a thorough investigation into the rites and rituals of both systems. The event is described in detail by Jarrow churchman Bede (673-735) who completed his Ecclesiastical History of the English People in 731.
While the Synod changed lives, split families and royal houses, even intra-kingdom alliances, thereafter church festivities centred on Easter were standardized throughout the land and celebrated in accordance with Roman custom.
Easter remained the highest festival of the Christian church until the Scots Reformation when (after 1660) presbyterian austerity superimposed simplicity, reduced dogma and a return to ‘speaking to God’ directly.
For the rest of the British Isles, however, and for descendants and dependents the world over, Easter remains one of the great festivals of the Christian calendar.
Curiously, for a celebration washed, ironed and folded so neatly by successive synthesized systems – prehistoric, early-historic, pre-Christian, Celtic and Roman Christian – Easter emerges as a supreme highlight in the Church year.
Its one concession to its pagan past is that is remains to this day a date fixed according to the Moon.
And, in order not to offend other faiths which, like Anglian Eanfled, might take offence at the bulldozing approach (e.g. Spanish Inquisition, Salem witch trials), there is a built-in mechanism of calculation which ensures that Easter and Passover never collide and that the Christian High Festival should never occur BEFORE equinox.So the little rhyme above, translated, simple enough and sympathetic to Scots ears, sums up global lead-time to Pasque, Pasche, Oster/Easter, the pagan event of maiden-goddess Eostre/Ostara, the Highest Festival in the Christian Calendar: when in the High Days before the Fast of Lent, the Roman Catholic world celebrates. From Italian Carnivale to German Fasching (Fastnacht, the eve before the Fast), prelude to French Pasque, in Portuguese Carnaval and on ‘Fat Tuesday’ of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, bead-festooned feasters and revellers make merry because tomorrow their stomachs will die.
The modern gesture to Pancake or Shrove or Fat Tuesday (Festern’s E’en) is not lost on marketers for supermarket chains who do a roaring trade in maple syrup and readymix batter. It’s the ‘stock up while the going’s good’ mentality, because the body must endure the subsequent fast of Lent for a regulation 40 days. Once more the Roman Church succeeded in condensing multiple events in Christ’s life into one festival: this fast represents the period of time He spent without food while meditating in the desert.
Nowadays, nobody questions that its immediate successor in the calendar is representational of His death and resurrection, when historically the two events happened years apart. Once again, ancient symbolism is used to gloss over detail.
‘First arrives Candlemas (Feast of Bride); Then the New Moon
The following Tuesday will be ‘Fastnacht’/Fasching or Shrove Tuesday
Allow that ‘moon’ to wax and wane
And watch till the next moon is full
The Sunday thereafter will be Easter Day.’
translation by Scots descendant, non-Anon
It worked for King Oswiu in 664. I can assure you, the calculation works still!
©2010 Marian Youngblood
There used to be legal ‘lighting-up times’ in Britain: this wasn’t a comical reminder to smoke a cigar or kindle the wood burning stove; it was a law that drivers should switch on headlights 30 minutes after sunset and off 30 minutes before dawn. These laws no longer exist. Legally drivers must simply switch lights on in vehicles whenever visibility is reduced.i rather miss the old ‘lighting-up times’. It was a way of keeping us in alignment with the hours of the day, with sun times: it helped us tune into the ‘real world’; you know that one out there that’s chucking down snow at us right now and freezing the pipes and causing animals in fields to die if they don’t have shelter; not really that a motorist these days has much time for such banalities. If you are driving in Sheffield or Sacramento, night time looks the same as day because all the lights are on anyway.
Just in case no one believes me, here are some sunrise and sunset times for Britain at the moment: if you live in Bournemouth, or the Isles of Scilly, the sun goes down at 4pm: you are blessed to be able to have a whole hour more light than someone living for example on Unst, the most northerly of the British Isles. Sunset there is 3pm. You get it at the other end of the day, too. You have the blessing of daylight as you drive to work in, say, Dover because the sun comes up at 8am. Pity the ferryboat captain in Wick harbor who doesn’t see the sunrise until 10 minutes to 9am and has to have his lights switched on again at 3pm for sunset.I started writing this at sunset: on the Moray Firth that’s 3:14pm and the day has ended. Night time activities begin. Living in the country, if you haven’t got all your animals inside, fed and watered, you’re going to have to do it in the dark. This was a way of life for thousands, perhaps millions, in days of yore, but few give it a thought these days. I won’t see sunlight again for another seventeen and one-half hours. That’s a remarkable amount of night time, if you really think about it.
There are compensations. Aurora Borealis, for one. Displays at these latitudes can last for hours. And, of course at the height of summer this far north, there is the most awesome array of light showered from above in a day which lasts equally as long as this winter night. Seventeen hours of light in summer; seventeen hours of dark in winter. No wonder they say the Norwegians, Icelandic poets and Scots bards have a poignancy in their work like no other, except perhaps the Russians.Nevertheless, because of the snowstorm, this writer is focused more at the moment on keeping body and soul together and that means the old Nirvana adage: ‘before and after achieving Nirvana, chop wood and carry water’.
And while that is a really poor excuse for an introduction to another poem about trees, wood, and burning logs; it’s all I’ve got right now. Days are short; birds and animals bring other demands. Night is a hard taskmistress.
I gave the wonderful wood-burning rhyme in a previous blog ‘for a Queen to warm her slippers by’. This one has slightly different meter, but it includes a more diverse array of woods.
I am particularly fond of the admonition toward the end. The writer (our perennial friend Anon) is quite clearly a supporter of the ancient Caledonian Pine, Pinus sylvestris now in short supply, although being gradually re-introduced and replanted privately.
For a country (Caledonia) which the Romans described as ‘thriving in Pine’, because the origial Caledonian Pine Forest stretched from coast to coast, we have been remarkably careless with this beautiful native tree.
Robert I Bruce, of course, was the main culprit: he burned his way from Kelso to the Comyn stronghold of the Earl of Buchan near Fraserburgh in 1308. This ‘herschip’ or harrying of Buchan was a treatment from which the country never recovered.
It is encouraging to note that the charity Trees for Life is replanting this and other native trees in considerable numbers in a northerly enclave of the original Caledonian Forest.
That little divertissement was a mere sidestep for tree-lovers. For wood-burners, here is the rhyme by our friend Anonymous.
Logs to Burn
Logs to burn, logs to burn
Logs to save the coal a turn;
Here’s a word to make you wise
When you hear the woodman’s cries
Never heed his usual tale
That he’s splendid logs for sale
The proper kind of logs to burn.
Oak logs will warm you well
If they’re old and dry.
Larch logs of pinewoods smell
But the sparks will fly.
Beech logs for Christmas time
Yew logs heat well
‘Scotch’ logs it is a crime
For anyone to sell.
Chestnut scarce at all.
Hawthorn logs are good to last
If cut in the fall.
Holly logs will burn like wax
You should burn them green.
Elm logs like smouldering flax
No flame to be seen.
Pear logs and apple logs
They will scent your room
Cherry logs across the dogs
Smell like flowers in bloom.
But ash logs all smooth and grey
Burn them green or old
Because of all that come your way
They’re worth their weight in gold. Anonymous