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September Blues? Consider Poor Mother Earth

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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.*

Mud-slides: par for course @T-in-the-Park

Mud-slides: par for course @T-in-the-Park

It spans the crazies of [Brit. advertising-cum-financial industry] ‘Silly Season’, culminating at September’s doorway in a frenzy of global music festivals: epitomized by (Brit) Leeds-Reading Extravaganza and (beer-fueled) T-in-the-Park. And BURNING MAN in the Nevada Desert.

Yet I feel pathos and sadness engulfing a season’s end, a dying earth. Our Mother Earth, especially, has suffered much this year.

Burning Man festival of light, Nevada desert

Burning Man festival of light, Nevada desert

*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:

Harvest—Dying—Resurrection—Metamorphosis
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Corn dollies have been replaced by macho/Ninja?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.

Mutant Ninja Turtles, 2014-style

Mutant Ninja Turtles, 2014-style

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.

Leeds-Reading morphs to 4-day festival, à la Burning Man

Leeds-Reading morphs to 4-day festival, à la Burning Man

Glastonbury’s Symposium begins the season mid-June, followed by July drinking madness: Scotland’s T-in the Park, above, originating in 1997 in Strathclyde Country Park, where triple stages were annually bogged down in mud.

Black Rock, NV, 2014 artwork DC

Black Rock, NV, 2014 artwork DC

2014’s TITP was last epic concert to be held on Kinross’s disused Balado field:a medically-better location, where WWII runways provided metaphorical undercarriage for nine multiple stages over three-day weekend.

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.

Sunday morning at the ephemeral Cathedral, Black Rock Nevada-ending 2014 Burning Man

Sunday morning at the ephemeral Cathedral, Black Rock Nevada-ending 2014 Burning Man

There follows the majestic three-day wonder of Reading-Leeds Music Festival, at the height of Lammas: August 21-24, 2014.

Leeds-Reading DeafHavana & Bill Bailey

Leeds-Reading DeafHavana & Bill Bailey

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. 🙂
©2014Marian Youngblood

September 3, 2014 Posted by | ancient rites, astronomy, belief, blogging, calendar customs, crop circles, culture, festivals | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Space Weather 30-year Storm: Earth fights back

Frozen in mid surge

I need hardly remind residents of Scotland that we have only just weathered the thirty-year storm. Most households living through four solid weeks of sub-zero temperatures in an Atlantic weather zone (even with the miracle of central heating) will remember this winter (and last month especially) for many years to come.

Fortunately our civilization has advanced enough so that we experienced minimum electrical ‘outages’, despite heavy snow, icicles and ice on power lines. There were, however, multiple power ‘surges’ and computers countrywide were frozen in mid surge. Mac and pc-owners and related computer businesses are still counting the cost. Curry’s have been doing a roaring trade in replacement laptops!

It seems to have hit a lot of young ones harder than they might have thought: not that closing schools and cancelling bus and train services are a hazard; more time to make snowmen, play and enjoy winter sports, you might think. Lack of reliable public transportation, however – counting on any public services, in fact – four weeks without refuse collection borders on neglect, were commuters’ and householders’ concerns. Abandonment, remoteness and surprise at being cut off suddenly are what hit the teens hardest, I think because they are unaccustomed to having their social life curtailed by ‘weather’ and few had experienced conditions such as these in their young lives.

Some of us older oldies remember the winter of 1981/2 with shivering empathy; electrical failure, power cuts, snow drifts higher than houses; evacuating and rescuing neighbours, birds frozen overnight in trees. But that was back in the Thatcherite era, before the internet, when we didn’t EXPECT everything to run on time, snow ploughs to get through, petrol in cars not to freeze.

Human culture has changed in nearly 30 years: Even in the modern backwater of Aberdeenshire, the County of no motorways, the self-styled Oil Capital of Europe.

Tea Clipper Thermopylae was built in Aberdeen by Walter Hood for the White Star Line

For those unfamiliar with our ways, this corner of Scotland – the Northeast triangle between Rivers Don and Dee and the balmy Moray Firth – has always flourished, but more than that, it looks after its own. Rather, I suppose, like Geordies idolizing their working-class heroes that went ‘down the pits’ or Scousers joking ‘don’t bomb Iraq; nuke Manchester’. Parochial in the extreme.

Unlike some other lesser-urban metropolises, however, (Dundee, Perth, Stranraer), Aberdeen has always pulled through its hardest times: Dundee used to be known (an age ago, when the world was young) for its Jute, Jam and Journalism. Now it is home to none of these; but it has Robert Scott’s ‘Discovery‘, the Tay Bridge and it’s on the way to St. Andrews, which every golfer in the world has heard of; i.e. it participates peripherally in tourism, but some of its poorer districts are in appalling shape.

Perth floods every year and millions of national money poured in to rescue low-level housing has been a nightmare. Stranraer we won’t go into. It’s no longer on the way to anywhere.

Then there’s Aberdeen.

Perched on the westernmost limb of the North Sea’s mild Gulf Stream current, its dry climate (usually, rain from the west is captured by the Grampian mountains before it reaches the plain) and its remarkable latitude (57ºN2ºW ), akin to central Alaska, give it a climatic anomaly. Its farming hinterland was rich in Neolithic times and has grown richer.

Tall Ships Race reenacts 19thC sailing contest in the Clipper tea trade


A century and a half ago the city was hub to a thriving fishing industry; its harbours built, housed and skippered trawlers, tall clipper ships, deep sea schooners and whaling vessels. Thermopylae and Elissa were built here. Names like Alexander Hall & Sons, John Lewis and Sons, the Devanha Fishing Company sprang from everyone’s lips. As a merchant marine capital it was second only to Glasgow in Scotland and Liverpool south of the border.

Aberdeen, however, was never one to have only one egg in one basket: it was also the sole exporter of granite to needy growing urban centres: London streets were indeed paved with (Aberdeen granite) gold. Craigenlow quarry at Dunecht supplied the English capital with tons of its ‘cassies’ or granite sets – hand-cut granite blocks the size of a gingerbread loaf – to meet the demands of a city experiencing growing Victorian traffic problems. If they had but known…

At the height of Georgian expansion, Aberdeen city burghers were so wealthy, their coffers overflowing from the ocean tea trade, the Baltic route, their fishing ports supplying Europe’s tables (nowadays it’s the other way around), their granite exported the world over; that they chose to beautify: and the mile-long boulevard known as Union Street was built in 1801-05. This grandiose gesture – a feat of engineering which levelled St. Catherine’s Hill and carried the extra-wide thoroughfare across arches built over the previous lower Denburn and ancient market Green – almost bankcrupted the burghers, but brought the city fame to add to its already growing fortune.

Danzig Willie's Craigievar

As early as the mid-18th century, Aberdeenshire’s famous Baltic merchants continued to bring their fortunes back home; so the county continually thrived, regardless of the ups and downs of a world economy. Robert Gordon (1688-1731), founder of the Robert Gordon Hospital, now RGU, was famous for lending money made in the Danzig trade to Aberdeen businessmen who needed large working capital at even larger rates of interest. ‘Danzig Willie’ Forbes ploughed his fortune from the Baltic trade into the building of exquisite Donside château Craigievar between 1610-1625 on the family estate of Corse, when he was already landowner of Menie estate on the Belhelvie coast north of Aberdeen. John Ramsay, an Aberdeen merchant in 1758 built his palladian mansion at Straloch. Others followed suit. The county is today littered with stately Renaissance piles and Georgian mansions more appropriate to the valley of the Loire, the home counties or the wilds of Gloucestershire.

Within this mix stir a couple of ancient universities – one founded in 1495, the other in 1593, both fostered and supported through the centuries by Aberdonian merchant success.

The world joke about the Aberdonian who watches his pennies is not entirely untrue. And the tradition goes back farther than the fifteenth century.

Aberdeen Harbour shipping with ice floes in the 1920s

Even more relevant to the characterization, perhaps, is the fact that Aberdeen Harbour (presently run by the independent entity Aberdeen Harbour Board) is in fact the oldest running business enterprise in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, having been founded by charter signed by King David I in 1136. The business head of the kingdom resides on the edge of the North Sea.

But the bell tolled. The fishing industry worldwide killed its own small fry: when container ships and tankers beheaded sailing vessels, similarly Icelandic and Norwegian refrigerated freighters signalled the death knell for trawlers and owner-operated fishing boats; and Aberdeen’s shipbuilding days were over.

In the early 1970s, Britain was experiencing the three-day-week, unemployment stats for the country were the highest then known, and even the granite industry declined. Its clients metamorphosed from those who appreciated polished stone to faceless ‘councils’ and ‘road departments’ which required the precious quartz and gneiss resource to be ground into dust-like fragments which could be mixed with tar and spread in increasing quantities on the nation’s arteries.

It looked as if Aberdeen, like every other Scots city, might founder on the rocks of history.

North Sea Oil baled Aberdeen out on the death of shipbuilding and fishing

Then, lo and behold, along came oil. Bubbling up from below the North Sea in 1971, another industry was born. And the ‘silver city with the golden sands’ was perched on the shoreline, ready to receive it.

It is said that because of its very geographic isolation the county learned to take care of itself. And its humour has a lot to do with its character.

Now that there is talk of worldwide recession and dwindling of the oil resource, the current Aberdonian humorous response is ‘oil goes out, Donald Trump comes in’. This refers to the New York entrepreneur’s £1 billion golf course resort where sand dune reinforcing work has just begun on the very landholdings of Menie once owned by Danzig Willie. Aberdeenshire is not averse to turning full circle. It has so far weathered many storms through centuries of change.

So how did we fare in this last Great Storm? How did the planet fare?

Greece had 100ºF temperatures at Christmas and Abu Dhabi and Dubai had HAIL the day before the launch of the 2,717-feet Burj Khalifa tower in the first week of January.

Scotland and Aberdeenshire in particular were at the time experiencing the grip of an Arctic winter, with traffic on all roads down to minimum and gritting and snow-ploughing said by Council spokesmen to be ‘impossible’. While they reported worries that supplies of salt from the Cheshire salt mine might be exhausted, citrus orchards throughout the state of Florida were hit by snow and frost lingered long enough to decimate their total citrus crop for 2010.

At the same time Mount Nyamulagira in a sparsely populated area of the Democratic Republic of Congo erupted, threatening an enclave of rare chimpanzees.

Eureka and Haiti had 6.5 and 7.2 Richter earthquakes respectively, while inland Northern California and Southern Oregon, usually inundated with snow, received not one drop. States of emergency were declared for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco and Siskiyou counties and as the rainstorm headed east, floods swamped the Arizona desert, threatening homes and killing migrant birds. Las Vegas, Nevada had more rain in two days than for the total year of 2009 (1.69 inches). Alligators in the Everglades froze to death.

France’s Mistral blew early this year, wreaking havoc and damage to vines and vineyards in southern départements of Lyon and Provence; the Riviera harbours of St Tropez and Marseille suffered damage to private yachts.

Since the snowmelt arrived in Scotland in mid January, it is superfluous to mention that the resulting floods have routed gutters and drains in cities and country towns and overflowed ditches in outlying country areas. Perth (again) and Inverurie, Huntly and Kintore were unable to cope with the deluge. These levels of precipitation bring Aberdeen’s rainfall statistics for the year 2009 to mid January 2010 to 101.23 inches, for a county normally experiencing 33.6 inches per annum.

The Earth doesn’t like what we’ve been doing to her in the last thirty years. She’s beginning to fight back.

January 26, 2010 Posted by | crystalline, environment, gardening, history, nature, organic husbandry, seasonal, weather, winter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments