Youngblood Blog

Writing weblog, local, topical, personal, spiritual

Light on the Horizon When All Seems Dark

CANDLEMAS NEW MOON BRINGS LIGHT INTO DARK CORNERS
Monthly Insecure Writers’ Corner in the Year of the Rooster

Pre-Celtic Candlemas, a cross-quarter day, celebrated return of sunlight to N. hemisphere

Pre-Celtic Candlemas—cross-quarter day—celebrated return of sunlight to N. hemisphere

Green Comet 45P rounds the Sun and is heading our way

Green Comet 45P rounds the Sun and is heading our way

‘When beggars die, there are no comets seen
The Heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes’
Calpurnia to Julius Caesar on eve of Ides of March

If we were all visionaries, we might prophesy from our current corner of the world all manner of wild suggestions on what will happen in the corridors of power in the coming months.


Condor Babies Migrate to Ancestral Redwood Forest

Amid a tumult of projects ‘supporting’ Americana, one might lose sight—in this New Year of the Cockerel [Chinese Rooster/ancestral Eagle]—of a happy ending to the return of the condor to the wild.

More than one hundred years after they became extinct in the region, the native American eagle/buzzard Condor will soar again over its ancestral Redwood forest in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

The condor plays a major part in Yurok ceremonies and culture since time immemorial, according to chairman of the Yurok Tribe, Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr. “It is through collaborative projects like this that we will bring balance back to our natural world.”

He speaks of a plan devised alongside local agencies and the National Park Foundation, to reintroduce fledgling birds in the fall of this year into Redwood National Park at Bald Springs, Orick, CA. Pacific Gas & Electric [PG&E], will provide funding and support for this project. More importantly, the energy company will ensure that condor flight paths will not be obstructed by power lines, allowing the birds to prosper in their natural habitat.

Condors in Orick—a dream come true for Tribal chiefs and conservationists alike

Condors in Orick—a dream come true for Tribal chiefs and conservationists alike

The Yurok—largest of the California native American tribes— have been leading an effort to bring back the endangered birds, which lived alongside them for centuries in redwood forest lining the Klamath River.

“When the Condor of the South flies together with the Eagle of the North, the spirit of Mother Earth—Pacha Mama—will awaken.
Then She will wake millions of her children.
This will be the Resurrection of the Dead.”
Quechua Inca Prophecy

Condor Feather Regalia Returns Home
White deerskins, condor feathers and headdresses made of bright red woodpecker scalps were among more than 200 sacred ‘living’ artifacts returned to the Klamath tribe of the North Coast two years ago.

Since their sacred dance regalia returned home, after a century on museum shelves in Maryland, the tribe’s 5,500-strong membership are exultant that their homeland—55,000 acres along the Klamath River—can now celebrate the return of its most sacred bird.

Tribal leaders affirm the sacred feathers and headdresses date back hundreds—possibly thousands—of years. They will continue to be used in ceremonies intended to heal the world.

Sacred regalia of Condor feathers, decorated woodpecker skulls used in Yurok tribal Dance of Gratitude

Sacred regalia of Condor feathers, decorated woodpecker skulls used in Yurok tribal Dance of Gratitude

Yurok Tribespeople celebrated their return in 2014—among the largest restoration of American Indian sacred objects ever—from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, MD. The sacred objects, purchased by the Smithsonian from a collector in the 1920s, were given a welcome home after nearly a century, like ‘prisoners of war’, according to Tribal Chief O’Rourke.

This week fifteen organizations have agreed to cooperate on a reintroduction project in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. Meeting in Eureka, they included National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the Yurok.

This autumn, after an ‘adjustment period’ with human condor-glove-Mama, above, the captive bred babies will be released into Redwood National Park at Orick, CA—neighborhood forest to the Yurok—and in a State Park in Del Norte county.

The Humboldt forest location is one of few remaining untouched old growth Redwood—sequoia sempervirens—oases in Northern California.

Even if bird fancying is not your thing, IWSGers can, I am sure, find solace in this Year of the Rooster that we can achieve what was once thought impossible. We can do magic. We can bring back from the Dead.

But, we Insecure Writers knew that all along, didn’t we Alex?
It’s why we continue to write.
©2017 Marian Youngblood

February 1, 2017 Posted by | ancient rites, authors, blogging, calendar customs, culture, energy, environment, history, nature, publishing, seasonal, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How the Dragon got its Name

Disciplinarian Ms. Rose, teacher of writing & blogging etiquette: note delicate fingering while balancing pet Jagin, oops, morning bagel

Disciplinarian Ms. Rose, teacher of writing & blogging etiquette: note delicate fingering while balancing pet Jagin, oops, morning bagel

Oriental New Year IWSG Corner and Junior Blog-Star

In the Islands, it was believed that on the eve of Là Fhéill Bhrìghde (Feast of Bride), the Old Woman of Winter, the Cailleach, journeys to the magical isle, in whose woods lie the miraculous Well of Youth. At the first glimmer of dawn, she drinks the water that bubbles in a crevice of a rock, and is transformed into Bride, the fair maid whose white wand turns the bare earth green again.
On Bride’s Eve in the Islands young girls made a female figure from a sheaf of corn, kept in reverence from the previous year’s harvest—the clyack sheaf. They decorated it with colored shells and sparkling crystals, together with snowdrops and primroses and other early spring flowers and greenery. An especially bright shell, symbol of emerging life, or a crystal was placed over its heart, and called ‘Bride’s guiding star’. They dressed themselves in their own finery and carried their effigy through the village on Bride’s Feast Day, February 2nd, to invoke the light.

"First draft is letting the words flow and don't worry about spelling"  Ms. Rose

“First draft is letting the words flow and don’t worry about spelling” Ms. Rose

Counter to tradition, it seems, February now dawns either with (American) Groundhog Day, or Scots-Irish Candlemas, as the Oriental calendar churns into the Year of the Horse. All are based in the same ancient calendrical rhythms of the new moon, devised before there were Superbowls and Sales Season. This year, 2014, I have been slow to add input to the monthly Cavanaugh Insecure Writers’ Support Group—IWSG—so when my seven-year-old granddaughter chided me for not doing my homework—and setting me a harder test to make me focus and do better—class time turned into blogging, and we helped each other through.

My monthly moan has therefore miraculously morphed into a friendly shrug of resignation: I bow completely to the orderly mind of Ms. Rose, whose class made me refocus on my writing priorities for the year 2014.

How the Dragon Got its Name

First rule: let the story tell itself; make it exciting and don’t worry about spelling. It’s the first draft.

Second draft is the time to worry about spelling. It’s called an ‘edit’.

Ms. Rose gave an example of her first draft, left—with excitement building from the first sentence. She has allowed me to publish it here for IWSG followers. While we discussed the spelling of dragon, Ms. Rose felt Jagin was a good name for him anyway, as it sounded more authentic. So first draft below:

How the jagin got its name

Handpainted dragon mask, glued on to brown paper bag, courtesy Ms. Rose

Handpainted dragon mask, glued on to brown paper bag, courtesy Ms. Rose

The jagin was looking at the moon but he remembered its name it was moonlight he
love it one night the jagin turned in to stone and they tried to help it but
the jagin tot [talked]

it said go to the well she said
and wish me back
I hope I live she said
and I hope you make it she said
but where is it they said
it is the main lands she said
ok then they went
but she wanted to hope but she could’t hope so she stayed home but there
was no one there she was sad so she flew off sum somewhere one they came
back she was gone.
Ms. Rose’s Class Assignment Groundhog Day, February 2014

Discussion followed, because in school it had been explained that Chinese New Year, in Chinatown—unlike American Groundhog Day—went on for a week, with dragons paraded in the streets. So while this was now the Year of the Horse, dragons were always important in mythology and welcome at any time, as an excuse for a party. Groundhogs were important too, because they came out on the first new moon day of February, and if they saw their shadow (sun shining), they would go back into their holes for another six weeks of winter. Ms. Rose explained that many animals were important in ancient times, and that it was not unusual to have a horse, a dragon, a groundhog, and an outgoing snake all mixed up in one celebration. This made the story more exciting.

Ms. Rose apologizes that she has other commitments during the year. This is therefore a guest appearance for this month’s IWSG blog. We hope you enjoy it as much as we had fun preparing.

p.s. Thanks to our ever-indulgent leader Alex J. Cavanaugh—Robert Heinlein reincarnate—whose brilliant CassaFire is having a special right now… don’t say I didn’t tell them, Alex!
© 2014 Marian Youngblood and ©Ms.Rose

February 3, 2014 Posted by | authors, blogging, calendar customs, fantasy, festivals, fiction, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fire Festivals & Persistence of Pasche

Carnival in Rio before Lent

‘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!

Terence Young's 'Thunderball' James Bond in 1965


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.

London's Notting Hill Carnival

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.

Venerable Bede's 'Ecclesiastical History of the English People'

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.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans, bead capital of the world

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

March 8, 2010 Posted by | ancient rites, astrology, astronomy, calendar customs, consciousness, culture, festivals, history, pre-Christian, Prehistory, ritual, seasonal | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments