Saint Patrick’s Day: Myths and Facts

 

Plenty of people will be whooping it up today in celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day. Before we get too carried away with green beer and corned beef, I thought it would be fun to take a look into the legends and myths surrounding the saint and the day.

FUN FACTS:

  • Saint Patrick was not actually Irish! He was born in around 386 A.D.  to Roman parents, probably somewhere in either Wales or Scotland.
  • He was kidnapped! At age 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish pirates. He spent the next 6 years in Ireland, held captive as a slave where he worked as a sheep herder.

  • His name was not Patrick! Some historical sources list his birth name as Maewyn Succat. He changed it to the Latin name Patricius after becoming a priest. (Perhaps we should be celebrating Maewyn’s Day instead? Has a nice ring to it!)
  • He escaped slavery in around 408 A.D., via a ship that took him to France. It was there he studied theology under Saint Germaine and was eventually ordained a priest.
  • He returned to Ireland as a missionary in around 418 A.D., determined to convert the Celts to Christianity.
  • He actually taught a form of Christo-paganism. Recognizing the spiritual practices already in place by the Celts, Patrick taught a combination of nature-oriented Pagan rituals which he incorporated into church practices.

  • He invented the Celtic Cross — a bridge of Christianity and Paganism. The Celtic cross combined the sun-worshiping symbolism of the circle with the Christian cross. It is often decorated with runes and other Pagan symbols.

MYTH BUSTERS

  • There were no snakes! Patrick is said to have banished the snakes from Ireland, but scientists agree that post-glacial Ireland never had any snakes to begin with.
  • Naturalist Nigel Monaghan, of the National Museum of Ireland states: “At no time has there ever been any suggestion of snakes in Ireland, so [there was] nothing for St. Patrick to banish.” Mr. Monaghan has searched extensively through Irish fossil collections and records to reach these conclusions.
  • Patrick did not wear green. Historians believe that he was more closely associated with the color blue, as a symbol of truth, beauty, and the heavens. Sometime around the 1700’s, the shamrock became a symbol of Irish nationalism, thus promoting the color green for all things Irish.
  • The holiday was not always a beer-drinking marathon.  Originally, it was a solemn occasion. In Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day was a holy day of obligation, celebrated chiefly in church. Only in America did it take on its festive nature, with the first Patrick’s Day parades being held in 1700’s Boston.
  • Just look at us now! In Chicago, we dye the beer, AND the river green! (Modeled here by my lovely Irish niece.)

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  • The Irish did not eat corned beef. Although corned beef and cabbage is now a traditional meal served on Saint Patrick’s Day, the Irish were more likely to have eaten pork. (Pig farms were quite abundant in pre-potato famine Ireland.)
  • Irish immigrants in America began to replace pork with beef because it was a cheaper meat. Corned beef was originally a Jewish recipe — probably shared among other immigrants in cities like Boston and New York.

  • There was no shamrock! It is said that Patrick used a three leaf clover to explain the Holy Trinity, but that story was never told until around the 16th century, some 1100 years after his death.

  • The shamrock’s three leaves are actually said to be symbols of hope, love and faith. If we come across a four leaf clover — the fourth leaf symbolizes (you guessed it!) luck! 🙂

Have a safe, happy and blessed Saint Patrick’s Day!

 

 

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Godiva

 

Anything to get the taxes lowered.

According to legend, Lady Godiva was an 11th century noblewoman, married to  Leofric, the Earl of Mercia. When Leofric levied an unfair tax upon the town of Coventry, in which Godiva herself was a landholder, Godiva pleaded with her husband to eliminate it. Leofric refused, but jokingly quipped that he would do so if Godiva would ride naked on horseback through the streets.

Surprisingly, Godiva took her husband up on the dare. With one stipulation. She demanded that the citizens of Coventry would remain indoors with their windows shut, and no one look as she rode naked through the town, covered only by her long hair.

The town folk, for the most part, honored Godiva’s request. Only one man, named Tom, dared to take a peek.  Tom was punished for his evil deed by being immediately struck blind. Hence the name “Peeping Tom” which is still used to describe nosy perverts who peek in the windows at naked ladies.

To be fair, while historians agree that Godiva and Leofric were real historical figures, most believe that the story of Godiva’s horseback ride is probably false. For one thing, the legend did not appear until the 13th century, almost 200 years after Godiva’s death. It was written by an English monk, one “Roger of Wendover”, who was reportedly known for stretching the truth in his writings.

For another thing, the town in question was actually owned by Godiva herself.  She had inherited it from her father. (In 11th century England, women were allowed to own land.) So — the taxes imposed would be up to Godiva, not Leofric. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that Leofric would have wanted to humiliate his wife in public. In Anglo-Saxon England, a woman could divorce her husband, and still keep her own property, so Leofric had a lot to lose.

The character of Peeping Tom did not become part of the story until the 17th century, and is attributed to Puritan sentiments about harsh punishments for sin.

Nonetheless, Godiva’s legend continues.  She even had chocolates named after her! It is a titillating idea, a naked woman on a horse.

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The above painting was done by female Pre-Raphaelite artist Ethel Mortlock (allegedly born 1865 –  died 1928. But those dates are debatable.)

Ethel was apparently quite a character. Even her given birth and death dates are uncertain, as she was known to lie about her age, systematically knocking off a few years to make herself appear younger.  She never married and had a son out of wedlock who was later adopted by another family member. Willie, the son, always referred to Ethel as his ‘aunt’, an artist who had work exhibited at the Royal Academy.

Ethel Mortlock studied under Sir William Orchardson, a prestigious Scottish portrait artist who became a knight in 1907.  Ethel, too, made her living  through portraiture. Her clients included world renowned figures such as Arthur Wellesley the Duke of Wellington, Abu Bakar the Sultan of Johore, Robert Lowe the 1st Viscount of Sherbrooke. and Edward, Prince of Wales (the famous abdicating king) whom she painted in 1926.

PORTRAIT OF THE DUKE OF WINDSOR

Ethel’s income as an artist enabled her to live pretty well. However, court records show that she filed for bankruptcy in 1901, having run up several gambling debts through betting on horses. (Ironically her portrait of Lady Godiva features a horse!)  In her own defense, Ethel claimed she had painted portraits of the Shah of Persia and the Chinese Viceroy, Li Hung Chang, but they had jilted her on their payments and owed her thousands of pounds. She could easily get herself out of debt if only the foreign royals would pay up! Apparently, the Shah and the Viceroy were not available for comment.

The bankruptcy did not dampen her artistic drive. She continued to paint and travel. Ship manifests show her coming and going to exotic places such as Buenos Aires, Jamaica, and New Zealand, as well as Ireland and the United States. She was often accompanied by her “ferocious bulldog”, named Grimshaw.

By 1904 Ethel had exhibited 29 works at the Royal Academy. No small achievement for a rather obscure and unconventional Pre-Raphaelite female 🙂

For more info on Godiva, watch this short documentary by The History Guy. (Running time 10 minutes.)  Hope you like it!

 

 

 

New Year’s Traditions and Superstitions

 

With a 2019 right on the horizon, we hope to conjure up the luckiest, healthiest, most prosperous New Year ever!  Fortunately, there are plenty of practices and traditions that can help us along the way. If you’d like to know more about the weird stuff people all over the world do to help ring in the new year, read on!

Want to ensure yourself financial freedom in 2019? Try eating some pickled herring at midnight on New Year’s Eve. This practice comes from Poland, Germany and Scandinavia. It is believed that the silver color of the fish, representing real silver, will help you acquire money.

Speaking of silver, another Slavic tradition holds that if you wash your hands with a piece of silver on New Year’s Day, you will be prosperous for the year to come. You can also fill the sink with coins and water, then wash your face with the coin saturated mix.

In Romania, it was believed that the object you have in your hand when the clock strikes midnight will indicate the most important plan of your life in the coming year.  Following this line of thinking, if you have money in your hand, you should be prosperous. If you are holding your loved one’s hand, the new year will see you happy in personal relationships. If you are toasting with a glass in your hand, your cup runneth over – it will be an all around joyful year.  If you are eating something yummy, you will never go hungry. This tradition should allow a lot of room for creativity — so pick something that is important to you personally — and grab it before midnight 🙂

The Romanians also believed that a wish you make at the stroke of midnight will most likely come true!

From the American South comes another food tradition — Hoppin’ John.  Originating from French, Caribbean and African influences, Hoppin’ John is a stew made with pork, black eyed peas and greens, said to bring good luck and prosperity.

Why is it called “Hoppin’ John”?  It is said this stew is so good that children, when being served, can’t sit still in their seats, and John “comes hopping” when his wife cooks it.  For a great Hoppin’ John recipe click HERE.

If you don’t have time to prepare the entire stew, at least take in some green food on New Year’s Day. Spinach, collard greens, kale, or green peas will do. All of them are said to represent money and ensure prosperity.

But New Year’s Eve is not all fun and games. There are many superstitions regarding bad luck as well.

On New Year’s Day, make sure nothing leaves your house. This means NOTHING, not even garbage. Putting things out of the house is indicative of rejecting possessions, so if you throw things out, you just may lose something dear to you.

It is bad luck to hang a new calendar on the wall before the new year actually begins, so wait until Jan 1st to hang your calendar.

Also to be avoided – washing clothes and washing hair. It is believed you will ‘wash out’ important things or people in your life. I once heard a story about someone who did laundry on New Years Day and had a loved one die shortly after, so take heed!

It is definitely bad luck to take your Christmas tree down before January 6th, Feast of the Epiphany.  (During this time, our ancestors were practicing the Twelve Days of Christmas — receiving partridges in a pear tree and so forth…) So leave that tree up! On New Year’s Eve, take all the gold, silver and gemstones you own, and place them under the tree. Leave them there until January 2nd. This presentation of precious metals and jewels will ensure that you will be gifted and prosperous in the year to come.

Be careful about whom you invite into your home on New Year’s Day!  In Scotland, it was believed that the first person to cross your threshold after the stroke of midnight should definitely be a tall dark handsome man.  Blondes, redheads and women were considered bad luck.  Yes, it sounds biased…  However, this belief originated in Medieval times, when Scotland was susceptible to Viking invasions. The last ones they wanted showing up on their doorsteps were blonde Scandinavian savages, armed with blades and shields.

To make things even luckier, the Scots also hold that the dark haired man ought to bring coal, salt, shortbread and whiskey – all essential elements for prosperity.

Romania, too, believed that a woman should not be your first guest on New Year’s Day. Women were considered bad luck, but men ensured good fortune. (This probably originates from back when women were expected to have a dowry in order to be wed — and men collected the dowry.) So, invite the guys over!

In Brazil,  it is traditional to throw white flowers in the ocean. These are considered an offering to the water goddess Yemoja, who is said to control the seas. Offering her flowers will ensure her blessings for the coming year.

If you are looking to have a baby in 2019, Italians hold that wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve will help. This is because the color red is a symbol of fertility. Not to mention, a pretty and sexy color too. So bring on the Victoria’s Secrets!

The Greeks have an interesting custom involving pomegranates. The pomegranate symbolizes fertility, life, and abundance. Just after midnight on New Year’s Eve, it is customary for Greeks to smash a pomegranate against the door of their house — and it is said that the number of pomegranate seeds that end up scattered is directly correlated with the amount of good luck to come.

I have heard of a custom similar to this, but the pomegranates can be scooped into your mouth, and the seeds spit out. Count your future blessings by the number of seeds you do not swallow!

Speaking of swallowing, the Russians have an unusual custom. Folks write their wishes down on a piece of paper, burn them with a candle, and drink the subsequent ashes in a glass of champagne. (Sorry Russia, this one doesn’t sound safe to me!)

Many Pagan traditions hold the custom of writing your desires on paper, burning them in a cauldron, then scattering them to the wind – thus putting all your desires out to the universe. Doing it right after the stroke of midnight is considered extremely powerful.

In Chile, necromancy takes center stage.  New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day Masses are held, not in churches, but in cemeteries. It is believed that this custom literally invites the spirits of the dead to join their families in festivities.

You may have tried kissing under the mistletoe, but in Ireland they take it one step further. It is customary for single women to sleep with a mistletoe under their pillow on New Year’s Eve. The magical mistletoe will cause them to dream of, and then find, their future husbands.

In my home town of Chicago, we have our own little tradition, called “The Polar Bear Plunge”. This is organized officially by the Chicago Polar Bear Club. Each New Year’s Day, they put on bathing suits and jump in Lake Michigan. Yes, our weather here is c-c-c-cold, and this tradition is c-c-c-crazy. However, Polar Bear Plungers do it for a good reason. Each swimmer recruits sponsors to pay him/ her money for this bravery, and then the money is given to people in need. Since its initial plunge in 2001, the Club has raised over $270,000!

Whatever you do this New Year’s Eve, have a safe, loving and healthy celebration!

Happy 2019!

 

 

 

 

 

Lussi Nacht

 

On the night of December 13th, the dark witch Lussi (counterpart to the benevolent  Santa Lucia) flies on her broom with the Wild Hunt of Odin.

Beware gentle humans! For if you encounter this merry band of hunters, they just may abduct you to the Underworld.

But hey, it might not be a bad thing…  🙂

In Norse mythology, the Underworld was known as ‘Hel’  or ‘Helheim’ (Hel’s realm.)  It was presided over by a goddess, also called ‘Hel’.  But don’t confuse the Norse Hel with the Christian concept of Hell. Although the names have the same  Germanic language roots, the two places have nothing in common. Nordic Hel was definitely NOT a place of eternal suffering.

In Hel, you’d get to hang out with Odin, eat, drink, fight, love, celebrate and practice magick. In the Norse underworld, life apparently continued in much the same way as it was known to Vikings on earth.

Nordic pagans had several different forms of the afterlife, including Valhalla, Folkvang (Freya’s realm) and the underwater abode of Ran. However, no afterlife community was a place of punishment, nor of reward. The afterlife was, in fact, teeming with actual life. The dearly departed would dwell there indefinitely.  Eventually they might be reborn as one of their own ancestors, or as an elf.

So if Lussi and her band of hunters do happen to carry you off tonight, have no fear.  It’s sure to be a win -win situation! (Cue diabolical laughter. Mwuah-ha-ha!)

Happy Lussi’s Night!

Lussi Nacht 1

 

 

 

 

December (a sonnet)

 

Snow Witch Perfume Oil Body Fragrance Roll On Bottle Winter Berry Pine Scent #LandofAahs

We welcome in the season’s dazzling whites

Snow falls like polished pearls upon the land,

When days are short and oh so long the nights

Jack Frost gives warnings with his icy hand.

White faeries dance upon the frozen pond

Their ballerina footsteps soft as lace

The Snow Queen with her mirror now makes a bond

a lonely wish that binds the human race.

The world, now shrouded in December’s mist

With sun no hope, its rays like shards of snow.

But in the velvet blackness we are kissed

by silver guidance from the moon’s bright glow.

 

Draw in the energy of this night, and send it up to the Moon that shines so bright. Embrace the magic of the season and in everything you do, let love be the reason.

On this December’s night begin your sleep

Of  dreams fulfilling all desires deep.

Frost, Snow, Sicle and Red by oberdarts62  ... ( white )... XL Picture !!

 

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