musings, thoughts, and writings of Barbara W. Klaser


February 2, 2008

Groundhog Day

Some of our holidays have quite a lot of history behind them, and Groundhog Day is one of my favorites in this regard. I probed the pagan history of Yule a few years ago, so now I think it’s only fair to peer briefly into the past of Groundhog Day, earlier known as Candlemas or St. Brigid’s Day, and before that as Imbolc, which comes to us from the ancient Celts. The name Brigid has its roots in Celtic paganism, with the Goddess Brigid, also known as Bride. As a goddess she had three faces, each having to do with fire, according to the web page, Brigid: Goddess or Saint?

  • Brigid, the ‘Fire of the Hearth’, was the goddess of fertility, family, childbirth and healing.
  • Brigid, the ‘”Fire of the Forge’, was like the Greek goddess Athena, a patroness of the crafts (especially weaving, embroidery, and metalsmithing), and a goddess who was concerned with justice and law and order.
  • Brigid, the ‘Fire of Inspiration’, was the muse of poetry, song history and the protector of all cultural learning.

(read more at Brigid: Goddess or Saint?)

According to Wikipedia, Imbolc:

“is traditionally a time of weather prognostication, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens is perhaps a precursor to the North American Groundhog Day. A Scottish Gaelic proverb about the day is:

Thig an nathair as an toll
La donn Bride,
Ged robh tri traighean dh’ an t-sneachd
Air leachd an lair.

“The serpent will come from the hole
On the brown Day of Bride,
Though there should be three feet of snow
On the flat surface of the ground.”

“Fire and purification are an important aspect of this festival.”
(read Wikipedia article)

The verse quoted above, and in the Wikipedia article, is from Carmina Gadelica: Hymns and Incantations, Ortha Nan Gaidheal, Volume I by Alexander Carmichael (1900), and can be found on line at Sacred Texts Archive, where you can read even more about Bride.

Then there’s the perfect non-religious Groundhog Day celebration for our times, which is simply to enjoy the Bill Murray comedy by that title. That’s how I like to celebrate it.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 10:30 am PST, 02/02/08

November 22, 2007

Over the river, and through the wood

We have holidays for a reason, and every culture in the world has had them. But sometimes we need to take a look at our reasons for celebrating, and exactly what it is that matters. We need a way to mark the passage of the seasons, to remind ourselves with lessons from the past why we have reason to celebrate, to review our mistakes as well as our blessings.

When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about this song that I learned as a kid for Thanksgiving: (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:22 pm PST, 11/22/07

February 25, 2007

More poetry

Aside from the novel, I’ve been reading, writing, learning about, and pretty much immersing myself in poetry. I’ve posted some bits and pieces, mostly practice and works in progress, over at Spirit Blooms in the Poetry Sketchbook category. Feel free to drop by there if you’re curious. Though I’ve taken creative writing workshops in the past, I’ve never taken a poetry workshop, and I think I have a lot to learn before I go even that far. Right now I’m refreshing my memory with basics that I learned when I was young but are now a bit fuzzy.

Beverly Jackson has been an inspiration with her poetry posts, (not to mention her abstract paintings — wow!). She recently shared her experiences at the Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway – Cape May N.J. and the Palm Beach Poetry Festival on her blog. She also provided examples and book recommendations she got from poets there. Dig into her January archive to read the first of those posts, beginning here.

Right now I’m reading Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook, which I mentioned in a previous post.

HW Longfellow Postage Stamp

My renewed interest in poetry arrives just in time for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s bicentennial, which the United States Postal Service is commemorating with a special stamp — the second to bear his likeness. Longfellow is one of only two writers to be immortalized on more than one US postage stamp. Herman Melville was the other, a distinction he earned, in my estimation, with The Encantadas alone — his sketchbook about the Galapagos Islands.

The stamp displays a portrait of Longfellow, as well as a depiction of Paul Revere’s famous ride. The Smithsonian Magazine’s online biography, Famous Once Again provides lots of interesting details about Longfellow’s life. I never knew, for instance, that he was proficient in so many languages — ten altogether, at one point in his life. He’s considered the “uncrowned poet laureate” of the 19th-century US, and February 27 will be his 200th birthday.

I’m out of touch with today’s curriculums, but when I was young, just hearing or reading the first line, “Listen my children and you shall hear,” could set the cadence of Paul Revere’s Ride beating in my mind. Do kids still learn Longfellow in school? I was older when I read Evangeline, but the first verse is just as deeply embedded in my mind. I’ve since gone back for a taste, drawn in by the same first lines:

THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it
Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman?
Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers –
Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands,
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?
(read poem)

I had no idea what a Druid was when I first read that, but the poet drew me into that forest and I was hooked. I wanted to know everything about it. I wanted to know what happened to the Acadians who once lived there.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 6:23 pm PST, 02/25/07

February 9, 2007

Cockatoo love

I love birds, in fact we both do, but after the death of our last little parakeet friend, Kiwi, we decided we didn’t want to keep birds in cages anymore, so the bird cages we’d collected over the years, actually quite a few of them it turns out, now hang on our patio in a kind of empty-cage symbolism—or pile of junk, whichever your preferred interpretation.

We enjoy bird friends at greater distance these days. When I came across the linked story today, I decided I had to share. It’s a love story, just in time for that love-related holiday around the corner—if you’re reading this post while it’s fresh. But why wait until a particular time of year to celebrate love?

Here for your enjoyment, straight from Australia, is a tale of love among cockatoos. Note the first time I read it I assumed the first page was all there was to it, and only saw the “next page” link on my second time through, so be aware, there’s more.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 5:14 pm PST, 02/09/07

December 19, 2005

Merry Whatever and a Happy New Year

As someone who is neither pagan (though I have pagan leanings and wonder why no one capitalizes “pagan”), nor Christian (though I have Christian leanings), nor Jewish (though I have Jewish leanings), nor atheist (though I sometimes have atheist leanings, and I notice no one ever capitalizes that, either), I find the so-called “war on Christmas” disheartening. I’m not offended by Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Yule, or Merry Christmas. The “HAPPY” and “MERRY” parts are what count.

The days are too short, the nights are cold, the traffic is terrible. If you’ve ever walked through the toy department this time of year, after the crowds have picked it over, you have a special understanding of the term “Armageddon.”
(more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 9:15 pm PST, 12/19/05


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