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It seems that reading a book about human evolution and the Agricultural Revolution has once again inspired me to write poetry. This time, though, it's a hymn to Hestia, which seems appropriate, since I wrote my first hymn to her almost exactly a year ago, in preparation for an Imbolc ritual (2 Febrary).

Some basic context for non-Hellenists reading this: Hestia is the goddess of the hearth, home, and family, and is also a personification of the hearth/altar fire itself: she received the first offering at any sacrificial ritual, because offerings to other gods had to pass through her fire to get to them. She is also known as first and last born, because she was the eldest of the children of Kronos and Rhea (Zeus and his siblings), and so the last to be vomited up when Kronos vomited them up.

"Eldest and Youngest"
29 Jan 2019

Great Lady, who was born both first and last,
Who welcomes all to sit around her fire,
And hosts and feeds the small and great alike:
We praise you as we light our altar flames.

You came among us when, in ancient days,
We caught high Heaven's fire in circled stones,
And tamed it just enough to cook our meals,
And guard us through the long savanna nights.

Although we wandered to the furthest shores,
Your fire burned wherever we made camp:
Our home was always there, close by your side,
Among the glaciers and the desert sands.

Today, within our walls of brick and steel,
We celebrate your birth each day anew,
As stoves and furnaces and bright-lit lamps
Still mark our homes around this settled world.
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On Monday night, some friends and I got together to watch the Steven Universe Season 5 finale, "Battle of Heart and Mind" / "We Need to Talk" (link full of spoilers). The episode was...a lot, and I feel like I need to try to put together some of my thoughts about it on here. The following is cut for spoilers:

Spoilery Thoughts on the Episode )
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A while back, my friend Sky Rose created a pride flag for the trains trans / trainsgender community: trans people who like trains. More recently, [personal profile] ashnistrike got me several buttons with the flag on it for Arbitrary Winter Holiday.

They seemed like an important enough thing to have, and the trains trans community seems large enough, that I had a bunch more made, in two sizes: 1" buttons that just have the flag, and 2.5" buttons that show the flag and the words "Trains Trans"

1" and 2.5" buttons with the Trains Trans flag

Anyway, if anyone would like one sent to them, please let me know. I'm giving them away for free, but if you want to chip in to help cover the cost of making them, about $2.50 each, and shipping, it'd be appreciated.
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 After over three weeks on the road, I'm finally home in DC again.  It's been a long trip--possibly the longest I've ever done--and both an enjoyable and a sometimes painful trip.  I've collected a lot of counties I'd never been to before, and a lot of transit I'd never ridden before: I finally finished riding all the rail transit in New York that's not commuter rail, and I visited Cincinnati and Indianapolis for the first time and rode the Cincinnati "Bell Connector" streetcar and the soon-to-close Indianapolis hospitals monorail.
 
What's really sticking in my mind at the moment, though, is the second half of my trip: my drive through Appalachia to visit some of my dad's family in Columbus and Indianapolis.  It's important to keep in mind that seeing my father's family is not a common occurrence: this was the first time in a decade I'd seen the relatives in Columbus, and the ones in Indianapolis I'd only met twice before in my whole life.
 
I don't know if the fact that I grew up over four hundred miles away from any extended family makes me unusual among Americans, but it certainly feels that way a lot of the time.  I did see my extended family regularly--my parents and I drove to Detroit and Columbus to see relatives for Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July every year, and usually went to Detroit for Easter as well--but they only visited us in DC a couple of times during my childhood, and they were never that big a part of my life.
 
Furthermore, to the degree that I was close to extended family, it was always my mom's family.  We went to visit them in Detroit more often and for longer, and my mom's four siblings in the Detroit area were always quite close to each other, and to my grandparents, who lived until I was in tenth grade.
 
With my dad's family, things were different.  His parents both died before I was born, and he never got along with his step-mom, even though we stayed with her when we were in Columbus.  (Which is maybe part of why we never spent much time there.)  The only of his relatives I ever saw regularly besides her were his brother Steve and his husband Brad, and his great aunt Pearl, her daughter Jackie, and her two daughters, who were about my age.  And somehow, I just never connected with them even in the weak way I did with my maternal grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.
 
So, given all that, getting to spend time with Steve and Brad and Jackie on this visit to Columbus, and hear a bit more about their childhoods on this trip was definitely interesting.  It's something I wish I got to do a bit more frequently.  At the same time, though, it probably says something about where my identity lies that when I cooked dinner from them, it was Polish food, part of my heritage on my mother's side.
 
 
PORTSMOUTH, OHIO
 
Even though Columbus is where we always went to see my dad's family when I was growing up, it's not really where his family is from: both his parents--and his stepmother--grew up in Portsmouth, Ohio, an old river port on the Ohio River where it joins the Scioto, which runs through Columbus.
 
Portsmouth's population peaked in 1930 and the city, located right on the Ohio River, is as much in Appalachia as it is in the Midwest.  Today, the county it is in--Scioto County--is one of the poorest in Ohio, and is a hot spot in the opioid epidemic.
 
Portsmouth is somewhere that my dad's family has always been trying to leave, but has never quite been able to break its connection to.  While my paternal grandfather was an only child, my paternal grandmother was one of four daughters raised there.  Of the four of them, my grandmother Ethel and my great aunt Pearl both married Portsmouth men and moved to Columbus to start families, and my great aunt Olga moved to Cleveland when she got married.
 
The Columbus branch of the family is the only one I ever really saw much of while growing up.  When I was very young, we visited Olga and her husband in Cleveland a few times, but they both died before I was old enough to really get to know them.  We never visited their younger son, Robert, and only met their older son, Dean, and his family once, when they visited DC to be tourists and we got together for dinner.
 
As for my great aunt Ruth, she was the oldest and lived the longest of the four sisters, only dying when I was in college, but I never met her.  She--the girl who at age thirteen, in Appalachia in the 1930's, announced that she was an atheist and wouldn't be going to church anymore, and made it stick--left Portsmouth, and Ohio, and never looked back.  
 
Ruth and her husband wandered around the county for a while before eventually settling in Port Angeles, Washington.  And, once she was there, she invited us to visit (which we never did), but absolutely refused to visit Ohio again.
 
Anyway, while none of my dad's relatives remained in Portsmouth to visit, once I was in high school, he did take me there a couple of times to visit his parents' graves and to see the houses where he visited them every other weekend as a kid, one of which still exists and one of which has been demolished.  Once our family trips ended when I finished college, though, it was quite possible I'd never see Portsmouth again: after all, there's not really anyone or anything for me there.
 
Still, while I was on the road last week, I found myself unable to avoid making a detour to visit the city.  I didn't spend much time there, but did discover a local art museum with a very friendly person at the front desk who suggested I visit Serpent Mount, a Native American effigy mound, on my way from Portsmouth to Cincinatti.  Doing so was, honestly, probably more interesting than the visit to Portsmouth itself, but it still is important to me to have made it back there again.
 
While I was in Indianapolis visiting my cousin (technically, second cousin) Cassidy, we talked a lot about the genealogy of my dad's family, which she's been researching.  A lot of our discussions were about our great grandfather, Franz Wiesner.  However, we also ended up spending a lot of time talking about Portsmouth, and what it seemed to mean to our various ancestors.  To Franz, it seems to have been an isolated place to hide from his past, but for his children and grandchildren it was somewhere to flee from; somewhere not to be associated with.
 
Certainly, both my and her dad seemed to try fairly hard to avoid being "too Portsmouth," even if my dad's feelings are conflicted on the matter.  When he inherited his parents' old Steinway piano, he made a point of spending money on getting it refurbished and donating it to their old high school, Portsmouth High.
 
 
WHO WAS FRANZ WIESNER?
 
I've only occasionally met my mom's cousins and her aunts and uncles--other than my late great aunt Frances--and I can usually barely remember their names.  On the other hand--perhaps because my dad only had one sibling (who never had kids), and his parents died before I was born, his aunts and cousins have always seemed a bit more important.
 
My dad's father was an only child, but his mother was one of four sisters, the children of Franz (Frank to his American family) Wiesner and Ollie Sparks.  The Sparks family seem to have lived in the US for a long time, and were evidently from Kentucky and perhaps West Virginia.  Franz Wiesner, on the other hand, was from Silesia, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
 
As I was growing up, all I knew about Franz was that he was Austrian.  More recently, though, partly through genealogical research that Cassidy has been doing, and partly from stories I've heard from some of my dad's cousins, I've realized that his story was much more complicated than that.
 
Franz was born in Austro-Hungarian Silesia, but he seems to have gone to school on the German side of the border, before working back in Austria for a time.  Surprisingly, he apparently had a college degree of some sort: something I thought no one in my dad's family had had until two generations later: apparently my paternal grandfather wasn't the first in his family to go to college after all.
 
What makes Franz even more interesting, though, is that he was apparently some sort of radical revolutionary.  None of us have been able to track down the details, though my father and my cousin Cassidy's father both claim to have some of his writing hidden away somewhere, and if we can manage to find it, Cassidy (who's fluent in German) hopes she can translate it.
 
In any case, he apparently left the Austro-Hungarian Empire not to make a better life, so much as to save his life: he was a fugitive from the government there because of his writings (or maybe involvement in something?).  He crossed the border back in Germany, but seems to have then sailed from the German port of Bremen to the US (most likely Baltimore).
 
Even then, things weren't simple.  Based on the stories his older two daughters--Ruth and Olga--tell, he was paranoid (whether justifiably or not) that the Austro-Hungarian government was still after him, and he moved to Canada and got a job working on the railroad there.  We haven't managed to find much record of him there, but he did become a Canadian citizen and Olga apparently told her children that he'd had a family in Canada but that they'd died.
 
In any case, right after World War I ended, he immigrated to the US from Canada, moved to Portsmouth, Ohio, and married a local woman named Ollie Sparks.  He seems to have picked Portsmouth for its isolation: it was on the southern edge of the US's industrial heartland, and more Appalachian than Midwestern in character.  In any case, his later life was apparently quite private and he didn't talk much about his past.
 
While he didn't tell his children, especially his later two daughters, much about his earlier life or his politics, he seemed to be kind of disappointed about the outcome of his life: he'd gone from being a college-educated intellectual in Silesia to a blue-collar life in Canada and later Portsmouth.  He apparently was sad not to have any sons, but pressured all his daughters to "marry up" and have sons who would go to college and become professionals, pressure that apparently got passed on to my dad's generation as pressure to become doctors, which none of them did.
 
In any case, this is what I know now.  It's certainly enough to make me (and Cassidy) very anxious to learn more, and I hope we can find a way to track more down.
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Last night, I stayed with a friend in Boston who, it turns out, is housemates with another person I  know but haven't seen in a long time, Sally.  This is the second or third time in a row I've visited someone who turned out to be Sally's housemate while she's out of town, which means I've seen her cat, Mios, a number of times without having seen her.

Mios is a good cat.  He's also one I have a connection to, because I've known him his whole life.  He was born a stray kitten near Emerald City, an MIT cruft house in Cambridge where I used to spend a lot of time.  Although they had several residents with cat allergies and couldn't have a cat, they did have a resident who was obsessed with cats, and quite skilled at interacting with them.  He fed strays on their porch, including one we called "Small White Kitten," because he was so tiny and pure white.  Eventually, Small White Kitten got in a fight with another stray and got an injured eye, and the resident who'd been feeding him managed to take him to the vet and get him to take the eye drops he was prescribed several times a day for weeks.

By this time, winter was approaching, and it was clear that Small White Kitten was well-socialized with humans, but not really cut out for the feral life, and the Emerald residents managed to find an undergrad--Sally--who lived in Random Hall, a dorm that allows cats, and was willing to adopt him.  She named him Mios, and I was surprised when I was first introduced to him by that name to realize he was Small White Kitten and still remembered me.

Mios still seems to remember me, years later, or at least is very friendly with me.  The friend I was staying with invited me to a New Year's Eve party, but I decided I was too tired and opted to spend the evening alone on my computer, catching up on emails and such.  Mios decided to sit on my lap at about 11:30pm and stayed there until 12:15am, so I entered the New Year with a familiar cat on my lap, which is probably a good portent.  Especially since I woke up this morning to him nuzzling me, too.


On the other hand, I dreamed about my dad yelling at me and about nuclear war, which probably isn't such a good portent.
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This afternoon, Jan--my girlfriend of about two years, and the first person I ever dated--broke up with me.  The specific details that precipitated it are a bit incoherent, and not really important, though I feel like the fact it happened on a 66 bus is somehow notable.  It was a long time coming, and I think we'd both come to realize that our relationship wasn't really healthy for either of us.  Our personalities clash a bit, we had conflicting triggers, and we weren't really physically compatible.  So, in the long term, I think this is for the best.

That said, I still ended up breaking down crying soon after it happened, and still feel kind of...flat?  Emotionally damped?  It's a little awkward that the break-up happened while I was still planning on staying with her for the three remaining nights of my visit to Boston.  She said I can still stay with her if I need to, but tonight I'm staying with some friends out in Waltham, because I felt I needed to get away from her.  I'm not sure what I'm doing on the nights of the 31st and 1st, but I will figure something out.

Anyway, it's probably telling that one of the things that stressed me out really badly was the realization that I'm not sure there's anyone in Boston I can stay with on future visits here.  I have a number of close friends and chosen family people who live here, but most of them don't have living situations where they can have me crash at their places.  I hope I can manage to continue to visit Boston regularly in the future but, whether or not I can, this at least seems to suggest that I'd already emotionally acknowledged that my and Jan's relationship was not going anywhere.

Jan and I are going to try to stay friends, and I think we can probably manage it on some level, though figuring out the details is going to be a bit tricky.  We're both quite new to this sort of thing and don't really know what we're doing.  For now, my goal is just to get through the logistics of the next couple of days.
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A few weeks ago, as part of an attempt to start a regular Hellenic pagan prayer practice for Advent--something I started successfully but failed to maintain--I made a set of Hellenic pagan prayer beads:


Set of Hellenic pagan prayer beads on top of a set of prayers to be used with them.
 



I don't actually know if there was an ancient Greek tradition of using prayer beads, but as a culturally-Catholic-influenced pagan, I was partly inspired by the Rosary. I decided to arrange the beads in sets of "decades" of ten, where each set of ten would be used with a prayer to a specific god, with a prayer to Hestia (who traditionally is invoked first and last during prayer and when making offerings) between decades.

Along with the initial and final prayers to Hestia, I decided to use six decades, dedicated to Athena, Artemis, Hekate, Hermes, Apollo, and Hephaestus, all gods I have some feeling of connection to. So that Hestia receives the same number of prayers as the others, I double the prayer to Hestia before the first decade, after the last decade, and between the third and fourth decades. This produces the following cycle of prayers:

Hestia (2x)
Athena (10x)
Hestia
Artemis (10x)
Hestia
Hekate (10x)
Hestia (2x)
Hermes (10x)
Hestia
Apollo (10x)
Hestia
Hephaestus (10x)
Hestia (2x)

The set of prayers I came up with were fairly formulaic, so as to be easy to remember, and fairly short, so that the whole cycle of six decades takes roughly twenty minutes to get through. They were also modeled after the "Hail Mary," the main prayer used with the Catholic Rosary. For those of you not familiar with it, the text of that prayer is:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


The set of prayers I came up with are as follows.  Readers should feel free to use them themselves if they like them, with or without prayer beads.


HESTIA

Great Hestia, who was born both first and last:
You warm and guard us ‘gainst the stormy blast,
And keep us safe and fed beside the fire.

So hail to you, who’s born both first and last:
We ask your aid, for us and for our world!



ATHENA

Athena, grey-eyed lady of the spear:
You bear the Aegis and you weave your web
And are renowned for your ten thousand roles.

So hail to you, wise lady of the spear:
We ask your aid, for us and for our world!



ARTEMIS

Fierce Artemis, great lady of the bow:
Swift maid who loves the chase and cheers the hounds,
You loose your silver shafts upon the world.

So hail to you, great lady of the bow:
We ask your aid, for us and for our world!



HECATE

Hecate, you who hold your torches high:
You tread the boundary between light and dark,
Teach strength to weakness, and bring hope to fear.

So hail to you, who hold your torches high:
We ask your aid, for us and for our world!



HEPHAESTUS

Hephaestus, crafty master of the forge:
Upon your anvil wondrous things are made,
And by your hands it was we learned to build.

So hail to you, great master of the forge:
We ask your aid, for us and for our world!



APOLLO

Phoebus bright, great lord who shoots afar:
You fill the world with light and play your lyre
With art the waves themselves take pause to hear.

So hail to you, great lord who shoots afar:
We ask your aid, for us and for our world!



HERMES

Swift Hermes, lord who brings us luck and help:
You freely pass through every bound and realm
And aid the traveler and the trickster, too.

So hail to you, who brings us luck and help:
We ask your aid, for us and for our world!

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I'm sorry I haven't been updating this frequently: I've been both busy and unproductive lately. However, on Friday afternoon, while I was waiting for an oil change, I wrote a poem inspired by the book I've been reading, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. The early portion of the book discusses in some detail a thing I'd known about for a while, but apparently isn't commonly known: that the Agricultural Revolution resulted in a significant decrease in the standard of living for the vast majority of humans.

It turns out that hunter-gatherers on relatively productive land--unlike those living in the borderline environments where they still exist today, because the land isn't worthwhile for agricultural societies to expropriate--tend to be healthier and live longer than peasants did in most agricultural societies. The median level of well-being in agricultural societies may not have reached what it was in hunter-gatherer bands until a century or two ago. On the other hand, the elites: the people who could read and write, who owned the land (and the slaves), and whose names history remembers were much better off: their social roles couldn't even exist without the agricultural surpluses and sedentary lives made possible by agriculture.

Anyway, in response to this all, I wrote a poem that can perhaps be described as a Marxist hymn to Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, beauty, sex, desire, fertility, war, justice, and political power who may be seen as the goddess of civilization itself, since she is the keeper of the foundational principles of civilization, and stole them away from the chief god for her city of Uruk.

(As a note, this poem is in two different voices. I'm curious if any of you can identify the two speakers and which stanzas they get: it's kind of subtle.)


"Justice from Inanna"

Lady of Uruk1, Queen of Heaven,
Founder of Cities, and Keeper of the Mes2:
Fifty centuries thou hast been with us.
Our ancestors ate thy wheat and rice and maize,
and built thy temples and thy cities,
and lived together, aided by thy laws.


Lady of Uruk, Queen of Heaven,
Planter of Fields, and Keeper of the Grain:
You chose your children from our wandering bands
and made them kings and priests, soldiers and scribes.
You set us to plow your fields for a crust of bread
and break our backs that walls of brick and lapis3 rise.


Lady of Uruk, Queen of Heaven,
Mistress of Empires, and Keeper of Peace:
To every plot of land, and across the salty sea,
we followed thy lead, and reaped thy gifts
of glory and power, of leisure and wealth,
and of a piece of earth that was our own.


Lady of Uruk, Queen of Heaven,
Lover of Kings, and Keeper of Slaves:
In Babylon and Rome, Xi'an4 and Teotihuacan5
you taught your children arts and gave them tools,
but all their glory and all their wealth
was wrung by force from our unremembered brows.


Lady of Uruk, Queen of Heaven,
Founder of Cities, and Giver of Futures:
If fifty centuries of blood and sweat,
unwillingly shed upon your altar,
have won any boon, let it be this:
That the bloody sacrifice may end
and that all people may enjoy thy gifts.


___________
Footnotes:

1 Uruk was a Sumerian city that flourished around 2900 BCE, when it was the largest city in the world. It was strongly associated with Inanna, and was home to her chief temple, Eanna.

2 The me were a Sumerian theological concept that doesn't translate well into any modern language: they were "one of the decrees of the gods that is foundational to those social institutions, religious practices, technologies, behaviors, mores, and human conditions that make civilization, as the Sumerians understood it, possible. They are fundamental to the Sumerian understanding of the relationship between humanity and the gods." Confusingly, the me are also described in mythology as being physical objects, even though some of them are immaterial concepts, such as "victory."

3 Some versions of the Epic of Gilgamesh suggest that the walls of Uruk (implausibly) or of the Eanna Temple (more plausibly) were covered in lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone that was important in Sumerian religion.  Inanna wore a necklace and carried a measuring rod of lapis lazuli.

4 Xi'an, a city in what is now central China, is the oldest of the traditional "Four Great Ancient Capitals of China," and was the capital of the Qin Dynasty and early Han Dynasty, who created a unified Chinese empire contemporary with the rise and height of the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean.

5 Teotihuacan was an ancient Mesoamerican city that was the largest in the Americas at its height in about 250 CE.  It is unclear whether the Teotihuacan culture established an imperial state, but they were a major economic power and exported high-quality obsidian tools throughout Mesoamerica.  By Aztec times, Teotihuacan's ruins had attained a legendary status and the Aztecs claimed descent from the city's builders.

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Trigger warning for discussion of male genital mutilation and discussion of AMAB genitalia.

Read more... )
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As I discussed in my previous post, I attended a lecture on new updates dinosaur paleontology by Tim Holtz, a professor at the University of Maryland, during Chessiecon last weekend. I took detailed notes, partly for the benefit of a friend and a friend's kid who are both obsessed with dinosaurs, and partly because I'm embarrassed by how much about dinosaurs I've forgotten: they were a childhood special interest that I haven't thought about much in a while.

Anyway, here's the summary, with links for as many things as I could find them for.

New Dinosaur Species

Forty-eight new dinosaur species from the Mesozoic were described in 2017, and forty-one have been described so far this year. New genera described in in the past year include:
  • Macrocollum, possibly the earliest prosauropod yet discovered.

  • Ledumahadi, possibly the earliest sauropod yet discovered. It wasn't fully quadrupedal and had flexed rather than pillar-like forearms. (Bipedalism is the ancestral condition for dinosaurs.)

  • Halszkaraptor, a dromaeosaur, but very goose- or penguin- like, and apparently aquatic.

  • A full-body fossil of a baby bird preserved in amber from about 99 million years ago was found.

  • Borealopelta, one of the best-preserved dinosaur finds ever. It's a nodosaur with the keratin sheathes and skin on its horns and armor preserved. This means we can get a clear idea of what they would have looked like in life. It appears to have been countershaded (dark on top, light on the bottom), which is usually camouflage against predators that can look down on prey. We only see this in mammals when they're a lot smaller than Borealopelta, but the Cretaceous had much larger predators.

The Early Triassic Keeps Shrinking

Contrary to popular belief, the geologic time scale of eras (like the Mesozoic), periods (like the Jurassic), and epochs (like the Pleistocene), isn't actually defined in terms of specific amounts of time in the past. Instead, it's defined in terms of particular rock strata and features that can be found around the world, allowing one to identify certain rocks as of the same age without necessarily knowing what age they are. This means, for example, that the end of the Cretaceous is defined as the appearance of the iridium layer that signals the impact event that wiped out the dinosaurs, and by the disappearance of dinosaur and other fossils, not as being exactly 65 million years ago.

Today, the exact points at which geologic time periods begin are defined via the Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point markers hammered into the rock at particularly clear rock faces in national parks around the world. For example, the start of the Cambrian is officially marked by a marker in a particular rock face in a nature preserve in Newfoundland. (I mentioned this to the author friend I was at the convention with, and I think I might have talked her into including a visit to one of these in the novel she's working on.)

Anyway, one consequence of this is that, as geological dating techniques are refined, it is possible that the starts, ends, and lengths of geologic periods may shift. In particular, the dates for the start and end of the Early Triassic were revised this year, and it appears to have been only four-and-a-half million years long, while the Middle Triassic was about ten million years long and the Late Triassic was about thirty-six million years long.

Did the Dinosaurs Get Their Start Because of Rain?

A new hypothesis published this year suggested that the dinosaurs took over on land in the Late Triassic due to a period of intense rainfall called the Carnian Pluvial Event near the start of the otherwise arid epoch. This period, about two million years long, led to a major diversification in tree species, which seems to have benefited dinosaurs at the expense of the pseudosuchians--the subgroup of archosaurs that includes modern crocodiles--that had previously been dominant on land.

Dinosaurs seem to have had a delayed take-over in North America, where they don't become dominant until the end of the Late Triassic. This may be due to the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province, the second largest episode of vulcanism since the end of the Precambrian. Rock from this period includes the Hudson River Palisades and some of the hills at Gettysburg.

Gaits and Dinosaur Tracks

This year, some very tiny tracks of either a baby raptor or a very small species of raptor (such as Microraptor) were discovered.

More importantly, though, a study of dinosaur tracks in Culpepper, VA that was published this year suggests that dinosaurs didn't have distinct fast and slow gaits (i.e. walking, trotting, and running) as mammals do. Instead, like birds, bipedal dinosaurs seem to have had a single gait that they could use at fast and slow speeds.

Brooding Eggs

A recent survey paper looked at which dinosaur species' nests were open on top, indicating that the parents brooded the eggs, keeping them warm by sitting/laying on them to provide body heat. It appears that this trait originated in the basal pennaraptora, meaning that it was unique to oviraptorosaurs, dromaeosauridae ("raptors"), trooodontidae, and avialae (flying dinosaurs, including Archaeopteryx).
In other words, only raptors, raptor-like dinosaurs, and birds seem to have sat on their nests: others, including Maiasaura, the famous "good mother lizard," didn't.

Why Did Neornithes Survive the KT Extinction?

It's well-known at this point that neornithes--the ancestors of modern birds--survived the extinction at the end of the Cretaceous Period, while other dinosaurs, including some flying ones, did not.  One possible explanation for this that was introduced this year is that it is due to the global forest collapse that resulted from the impact event at the end of the Cretaceous.  Trees seem to have been absent worldwide for over a thousand years after the impact event, with ferns the dominant land plants.  Why would this matter?  The early neornithes appear to have all been ground-nesters, while other late Cretaceous birds all nested in trees, which would have put them in serious difficulty when trees vanished, or marine.  (It's less clear why marine birds would have been at serious disadvantage, but they may have also laid eggs in trees?)
child_of_the_air: Photo of a walkway with a concrete railing, with a small river bordered by leafless trees in the background. (Default)
Last weekend, I went to Chessiecon, a small science fiction convention held in Timonium, just north of Baltimore, at the suggestion of my author-friend, Ruthanna Emrys, and her wife, who were going for the first time this year because their friend, Jo Walton, was the guest of honor. In theory the convention gives "particular attention to materials of and by women creators," though that wasn't particularly evident to me from the choice of panelists on most of the panels.

I had a very relaxing weekend, which I certainly needed, and I did enjoy most of the things I attended at the convention, even though I slept through rather more of them than I'd planned to.

Also, I was impressed at how trans-friendly the convention was.  There were pronoun (she, he, they, and fill-in-the-blank) ribbons to put on member badges, and there was a non-gendered bathroom set up for people who weren't comfortable with the hotel's gendered bathrooms.  I wore a skirt basically the whole time, though, and used the women's restrooms regularly without getting any weird looks.


Friday

I hadn't quite realized how close Timonium is to College Park when there's no rush hour traffic: I was able to drive there in about an hour, which was a good deal faster than I expected. After checking in to the Red Roof Inn next door, where I'd decided to stay because it was cheaper, I headed over to the Red Lion Inn to check in to the convention. Conveniently, I ran into Ruthanna and her wife, the only people I knew at the convention, in the check-in line. We sat around talking in the lobby and they introduced me to some of their fannish friends while we waited for the programming to start.

Jo Walton Reading

Despite the fact I've heard a lot about her from Ruthanna and her family, I'd never actually read anything by Jo Walton before. The upcoming (in May) novel she read the beginning of, Lent, sounded wonderful, and I definitely need to read it when it comes out. It's historical fantasy, set in Medieval Italy in a world where Catholic theology--and demonology--are empirically correct.

Unforgivable Villains with Understandable Motives

This panel, which had Jo Walton, Ruthanna Emrys, Heather Rose Jones, Karen Osborne, and Martin Wiley on it and was moderated by Don Sakers, was pretty good. Unfortunately, writing this close to a week later, I don't actually recall that many of the details, but there was some discussion of the difference between "forgiveness" and "redemption," and whether understanding someone's motives actually implied any sort of sympathy for them.

After the Unforgivable Villains panel, I had dinner with Ruthanna and her wife. We'd wanted to go to a filk concert by Benjamin Newman after dinner, but it was rescheduled because of a lack of heat in the room it was to be held in, so we sat in the lobby and talked more. I ended up having a very long phone conversation with a friend in Australia. (Time zones make it really hard to get in touch with him, so in the middle of a convention was the best we could manage for catching up.) Finally, I went to the bardic circle filk room and listened to music for an hour or so before going to my room to get some sleep.

Among other songs, some of which I recognized, I was introduced to Sara Thomsen's "Somewhere to Begin" by a rather cute Irish guy playing a guitar. I really liked "Somewhere to Begin," and recommend listening to it...conveniently,
it's on YouTube.


Saturday

On Saturday morning, I managed to make it back to the convention in time for University of Maryland paleontology professor Tom Holtz's talk on "The Latest in the World of Dinosaurs." The talk was really good, and I took extensive notes, which will hopefully be the basis for a separate Dreamwidth post soon.

Walking to Mordor: A Panel about Pacing and Time Compression

This panel, like all the panels I attended, was moderated by Don Sakers, and had Elektra Hammond, Julie Holderman, Steve Kozeniewski, and Jo Walton on it. It was probably more targeted for people who write fiction than for people like me who don't, but there was some interesting discussion about why "random encounters" work well in D&D but not in fiction, and ways to imply a long journey while eliding actual discussion of the day-to-day minutiae of travel.

Jo Walton also mentioned a essay she published on Tor.com a number of years ago called "
Faster Than Light At Any Speed" about the fact that faster-than-light drives in science fiction very commonly follow the same basic set of assumptions (will require large ships that can't land on planetary surfaces; will take weeks or months to get between star systems). I think there are some explanations for this, including the fact that you can't have travel or communication between star systems be too fast if you want to maintain the impression of them being completely different worlds with different cultures. But it's certainly something to think about.

Group Discussion: Steven Universe

The group discussion of Steven Universe was quite small, and I was surprised that I was only one of two people (out of seven or so total) who didn't have grey hair. It was certainly quite different from my default expectations of Steven Universe fandom based on the fans in my social circle, who are mostly younger than me and almost all non-cis. The discussion was kind of interesting, although I felt like people didn't take the fact that the diamonds are in fact fascist dictators as seriously as they should have.

Jo Walton Interview

The Steven Universe discussion was followed by an interview with Jo Walton. I probably didn't get as much out of it as I would have if I'd read some of her books, but hearing about them led me to decide that a number of them needed to go on my Goodreads to-read list, so perhaps I'll eventually manage to get caught up.

I'd wanted to go to a number of additional panels on Saturday afternoon, but I found that I was just far too sleepy, so I went back to my room to sleep instead. Getting several hours of sleep seemed to help a lot, and I managed to have dinner with Ruthanna, her wife, another of her housemates, and Jo Walton. It was an enjoyable dinner, and I got the impression that Jo Walton didn't actually find me annoying, which was really exciting.

After dinner, I spent a while in the bardic circle filk room listening to more singing and, at midnight, participated in Chessiecon's annual singing of the Hallelujah Chorus: although I'm tone deaf and a horrible singer, I figured that with at least fifty people involved, no one would notice. I sang the alto part in my usual falsetto: it made me really happy to be in a vocal section that was essentially all women.


Sunday

I clearly was in a lot of need of sleep on this trip: I ended up sleeping in on Sunday and only making it to the last five minutes or so of a panel on "Badass Women in History" that sounds like it was really good.

They're the Protagonist, But are They a Role Model?

This panel was...a disaster. It wasn't really the moderator--Don Sakers' fault, though he could have done a lot more to fix things--but the only thing that salvaged it at all was an attempt by Jo Walton to get things under control. Other than her, the panel consisted of three white men who seemed to be trying to be "edgy" in problematic ways, such as suggesting that it was important to be able to empathize with Nazis' motivations, as opposed to only understanding them to avoid writing two-dimensional cut-outs.

The biggest problem, though, was panelist Stephen Kozeniewski, who said that he thought it was a universal experience that when someone cuts you off in traffic you get the urge to follow them home and kill them in front of their family (or possibly kill their whole family; different people heard different versions), and that the only reason he (and he assumed everyone) doesn't do this is fear of getting caught and going to jail.

After that, everything kind of went to hell. Jo Walton pointed out that no, that's not a normal reaction, it's a really disturbing one, and Don Sakers tried to blame it on the patriarchy and American culture being so violent, and Stephen Kozeniewski spent some time trying to defend the normality of this.

Besides that, there was one additional bit of awkward that wasn't actually the panelists' fault: an older, white woman in the audience commented that she thought that the loss of "traditional religion" is why our culture is so immoral today.

After that last panel, I think everyone was pretty badly burnt out. I had lunch at a seafood restaurant with Ruthanna and her wife, and went back to DC for my afternoon tutoring appointments.
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I'm reading Charlie Stross's The Labyrinth Index and I just got some rather good advice: that you can't have imposter syndrome without a certain level of competence, and that I should take the fact I feel incompetent as evidence I have at least some understanding of topics.

The disturbing part...this advice came from Stross's version of Nyar'lathotep, the Crawling Chaos and Opener of Ways.

child_of_the_air: Photo of a walkway with a concrete railing, with a small river bordered by leafless trees in the background. (Default)
I...survived an hour-and-a-half meeting with campus administration about having more non-gendered bathrooms.  I was there along with a trans guy and three butch cis women from the LGBTQ Faculty-Staff Association.  Administration promises to put a single-user non-gendered bathroom in every new building that gets built. The bad news: because multi-stall non-gendered bathrooms are obviously impossible, administration has no plans to put any non-gendered bathrooms in the main academic core of campus in the next five years.
 
And now I feel sick to my stomach and really drained.  Administration was even fairly supportive as such things go: the Facilities people were better than my limited experience with MIT Facilities people about this.  (I gather things have gotten better there since I left?)  I just...find these things incredibly stressful and hard to survive.  I hope my body language of probably appearing progressively more sick to my stomach and spent as the meeting went on didn't hurt us.  I think I managed to be civil when talking? 


child_of_the_air: Photo of a walkway with a concrete railing, with a small river bordered by leafless trees in the background. (Default)

Well, we survived yesterday.  It certainly wasn't a miracle, but it was better than I was half-expecting, and we're in a better position to survive the next two years than we had been.  I got through the night with a lot of support from friends, ate too much chocolate, and ended up skipping class this morning to sleep ten hours, which I really needed.  (I was barely able to sleep at all on Monday night.)

What I can't stop thinking about, though, is how much politics has changed in the last decade.  It's been ten years since Election Day 2008.  Although I did vote in the 2006 mid-term election, 2008 was the first presidential election I was an adult for, and the first election I really felt involved in.  

Like most of my friends, I'd gone through high school and college learning to fear the Republicans as I watched Bush the Younger do horrible thing after horrible thing.  I wasn't one of the really early Obama fans, but I voted for him in the primary, and I was quite excited about the idea we might actually have a non-evil president.  Excited enough that I actually canvassed for him, even though I found it terrifying.

Back in 2008, it was hard for me not to feel optimistic about the future of the country.  Most of my political consciousness had happened under Bush, so I was used to thinking of that as a baseline, and the idea that Obama could get elected, with a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and control of the House made it feel like things were getting better. 

And then there was same-sex marriage.  Those were still the days where I found it hard to believe it would be legal nationally in decades, if ever.  Proposition 8 passing was a huge disappointment to me, and made me quite angry with California, where I was at school at the time, and had been for several years.  But, at the same time, that seemed like a setback, but an unsurprising one in what would surely be a decades-long fight.

Also, even though it was unclear for a while if the Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate or not--and then they lost them fairly quickly to a random guy with a pickup truck--I didn't really think it was as big a deal as it was.  In those days, I thought that the Republicans were still willing to compromise.  And, honestly, I think things were actually a bit different then...it wasn't until Obama was elected and the Republican Party decided that its primary goal had to be stopping a black president from doing anything, that Congress really completely broke down.

In any case, if you'd told me in mid-November 2008 that in ten years, we'd have a fascist president but that same-sex marriage would be legal everywhere, I probably wouldn't have believed you.  Of course, I also wouldn't have believed just how much the Tea Party and Mitch McConnell would do to destroy the functioning and legitimacy of the legislature and judiciary, either.

For the record, it was when Mitch McConnell announced that he wouldn't allow President Obama to replace Justice Scalia that I finally concluded that the American government was irreparably broken.  I still didn't quite expect that Trump would get elected, but when he did, I felt like the floor had fallen out from under me.  All my hope for the future of the country, and for the idea that things would get better in the long run, kind of fell apart.  If Trump could be president, and get to appoint new Supreme Court justices, how could there be a future for the country?

Honestly, I still can't bring myself to believe we have a future.  Trump hasn't been as horrible as he could have---he hasn't staged a coup or anything, yet at least---but he's been quite horrible, and we have two more years of him doing awful things.  Plus, we Scalia and Kennedy replaced by his appointees, Federalist Society shills who want to destroy everything I care about will control the Supreme Court for a generation more.  (I know that Court-packing is an option, but doing so would be one more step down a path I'm scared to go down.)

These election results will help some, and I'm going to try to keep going.  But I'm still terrified that Justice Ginsburg won't survive long enough for a Democrat to replace her.  And that the damage Trump does to people's lives will keep expanding and becoming more irreversible.  And, well, a part of my would really like to run away to somewhere else...except that it seems that the tide of fascism is rising everywhere, and I have no idea where could be safe.  And, of course, there's the reality that my chosen family is important to me, and is nearby, and I'm terrified of the idea of trying to move further away from them.



child_of_the_air: Photo of a walkway with a concrete railing, with a small river bordered by leafless trees in the background. (Default)
I wrote this ritual this weekend to perform on Monday with some friends who are also really scared about the outcome of Tuesday's election.  I'd appreciate any comments or suggested changes, especially with respect to all the prayers for the libations.

 

 

 

Supplies

 

            altar table

            hearth candle

            lighter

 

            small bowl of barley groats for purification

            incense for making khernips

            bowl of salt water for making khernips

 

            large cup of honey water for making libations

            bowl for pouring libations into

            plate of food for offerings

            bowl for placing offerings in

 

 

 

Ritual Cleansing

 

Light a stick of incense and immerse it in a bowl of water, saying "xerniptosai" to make khernips.

 

Pass around the khernips for everyone to dip their hands in.

 

Light candles for illumination, and sprinkle barley on the altar table.

 

 

 

Lighting the Hearth

 

Light the hearth candle, then all join hands in a circle surrounding the altar table.

 

            As our hands are joined in this circle,

            may our hearts be joined as around one hearth.

            Hestia, first-and-last-born, who tends the hearth and guards the fire,

            please accept the first drink, and bless us as we gather here.

 

Release hands, and pour a libation of honey water to Hestia.


Libations

 

Pour a libation of honey water after each prayer.

 

(1)       Queenly Hera and Zeus, who is father of all gods and men,

            you rule us justly from high Olympus:

            And so to you we pray, that our own government can be righted,

            that the rights and needs of each shall be fulfilled.

 

(2)       Bright Phoebus Apollon, who speaks the truth,

            and wise Athena who instituted courts:

            We praise you and pray your protection

            for justice and the rule of law.

 

(3)       Hestia, who guards the hearth and home,

            you protect us in the spaces that we make our own:

            Grant us your blessing and your aid

            to keep ourselves and neighbors safe.

 

(4)       Athena Polias, of the City lord,

            who taught us to live together in piece:

            We ask your protection for freedom

            and for the cities in which we dwell.

 

(5)        Mother Demeter, whose harvests feed us,

            your glory is in all that is green and growing:

            Give us the wisdom to protect this bounty

            and to avoid destroying it with our greed.

 

(6)       Poseidon, Earth-Shaker, Lord of the Sea,

            by whose sufferance our cities are built:

            We pray for the wisdom not to upset the Earth

            nor your wrath upon our children’s heads.

 

(7)        Zeus Xenios, you bid us aid the stranger;

            Hermes, you guard all who travel far from home:

            We ask your blessing and your help, that we may protect

            the newcomers and refugees among us.

 

(8)        Hephestus the Craftsman, you labor at the forge

            and create wondrous works, both day and night:

            We ask your protection for all who work

            from those who would line their pockets with our blood.

 


(9)       Artemis of the Silver Bow, whose arrows fly true;

            huntress who guards the births of humans and beasts:

            We ask your protection for those with wombs,

            that they alone shall have claim on their bodies.

 

(10)     Glorious Apollon Paean, bearer of the golden bow,

            and rod-bearing, snake-taught Asclepius:

            We pray for all who have need of your arts,

            that they shall have access to your healing.

 

(11)      Athena of the Many Roles, all-renowned

            as weaver, warrior, maiden, and mentor:

            We ask your blessing and your aid

            for all who break free of gender’s confines.

 

(12)     Fair Aphrodite, who inspires love among us,

            and Artemis, who loves only as she wills:

            We ask your blessing and protection,

            for those whose love those of the same sex.

 

(13)     Fire-bringing Prometheus, you dared disobey

            great Zeus himself, when his wrath was unjust:

            We ask your blessing and your protection

            for all those who resist oppression and unjust laws.

 

(14)      Torch-bearing Hekate, who comforts the fearful,

            brings light in darkness, and teaches strength to the weak:

            We ask your blessings for all who need them

            and pray that we too may take part in that work.

 

(15)      Athena Sotor, of the flashing eyes,

            you hold the aegis to protect the weak:

            We pray for your protection for all of us

            who wish to live in peace with freedom.

 

(16)     Oh Deathless Gods, who look down from Heaven,

            whose whims can shape our very lives:

            We pray to you for all your children,

            that they will be free to live and not only fight.

 


Offerings and Prayers

 

Going around the circle, each person makes any additional prayers they wish to make, and then put something from the plate of food on the offerings plate

 

 

 

Extinguishing the Hearth

 

Pass the hearth candle around for each person to hold, then place it in back on the altar and join hands in a circle.

 

            As our hands are joined in this circle,

            may our hearts be joined as around one hearth.

            Hestia, first-and-last-born, who tends the hearth and guards the fire,

            please accept the first drink, and bless us as we gather here.

 

Extinguish the hearth candle, followed by the illumination candles.

 

Deposit the offerings and libations appropriately outdoors.

 

child_of_the_air: Photo of a walkway with a concrete railing, with a small river bordered by leafless trees in the background. (Default)
"Samhain Prayer (to Hekate and Persephone)"
by DW Rowlands, 31 October 2018, Catonsville, MD


Hekate, you who bear your torches high
and guide your cousin 'tween her realms:
we ask your blessing and your aid
for all who cross the mighty Styx.

Please join swift Hermes in his rounds
to help them leave the many cares
that keep the dead still bound to life
and let them find a place of rest
within the Host of Many's halls.

Kore, you who go to rule the dead
and bring us spring on your return:
we ask your blessing and your aid
for all who cross the mighty Styx.

As autumn's failing plants make mulch
to feed the springtime's burst of growth,
please help your shadowed subjects fade
and free their breath and all their worth
to follow you to sunny realms.

Dear cousins of the spring and night,
of death and torches shining bright:
our lives must end and be forgot,
but grant that Life shall still go on.
child_of_the_air: Photo of a walkway with a concrete railing, with a small river bordered by leafless trees in the background. (Default)
This evening, a friend who's a former theology grad student and in the process of converting to Reform Judaism asked me "Do you actually believe in the Hellenic gods or just like the tradition?"

I thought the answer I gave him was worth posting here, since it's a more-complete explanation of this bit of my theology than I've managed to get written down in a long time.


My understanding of gods (small-g intentional; this doesn't apply to the "creator of the universe" sort monotheists tend to like) is that they're...emanations from the collective sapience of humans. They didn't exist before we did, and won't continue after us, and their power is limited to places where humans are or maybe have been.

They're basically...anthropomorphizations of things that are important to us. They don't depend on our believing in them in a Terry Pratchett / Discworld sense. They do depend on us caring about the things they represent.

So...there are gods of cities, of civilization, of the hearth, and so on because people collectively have conceptions of and strong feelings about these things. Of course, people's conceptions of them vary, especially between societies, and especially over time, and so the gods do, too. I certainly don't think that the entity I pray to as "Athena" is the same as the entity that an ancient Greek would have prayed to. It also probably isn't quite the same as the entity that a Hellenic pagan in modern-day Greece, who was raised Greek Orthodox, would be praying to.

But, thanks to several thousand years of Western (mostly Christian, but also Jewish and Deist and so on) writers using the Greek gods symbolically even though they don't believe in them, I think the Greek gods's names and symbols and rituals are a good latching-on point for the gods that map to the conceptions of the world that matter to me.

When I pray to Athena, I'm praying to a warrior maiden and patron of cities and civilization, and so on...but one whose current existence is tied to a modern (and American and liberal) understanding of those things. Which, it seems clear to me, can't be quite the same as the one who presided over the cities of a slave society like Classical Greece.

They Greek gods are certainly not the only latching-on point for these entities. Other religions' gods work, too, and I'm quite fine with sacrificing to the Morrigan and the Bridgid beside my friends who are devoted to them, for example. And there's a reason I use the Catholic saints for this purpose, too: they're a set of latching-on points for the gods that have developed alongside the society I'm part of for a long time.

There may have been a historic Martin of Tours--I don't know if that's something historians agree on--but when I pray to "St. Martin of Tours," I don't think the entity I'm praying to has any connection to the historic person other than a shared name and symbolism. The name and story of St. Martin, whether based on a historical person or not, have become a sort of latching-on point for approaching a portion of the divine that they're associated with.


Anyway, I hope this interests some of you all. And doesn't make me auto-fail Hellenion (the Hellenic pagan group I'm in's) basic adult education class when I get around to taking it.
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I'm on Amtrak back from a quick weekend visit to New York, and I want to jot down at least a few quick memories of the trip while they're fresh in my memory.  It was a short trip--I arrived at Penn Station on Friday around 1:30pm and left for home from Penn Station on Sunday around 6:00pm--but it was still a wonderful trip, and well worth my decision to cancel my tutoring clients for the weekend.

The trip happened largely as a reunion of Tesseract: the strange little social group focused on an off-campus apartment that formed during my senior year at Caltech.  One of my closest college friends, who I hadn't seen in five-and-a-half years because she lives in England, was in the City for a conference, and I and a number of other Tesseract people traveled in to get to see her and each other.

We spent Friday wandering around the West Village and chatting, eating apricot tarts from what seems to be my go-to French bakery in New York, Patisserie Claude, browsing book shops including Unoppressive, Non-Imperialist Bargain Books, and catching up.  On Saturday, I got a lot of sleep, which I really needed, and didn't leave Sunset Park, where I was staying, at all.  That evening, we had a wonderful party to preview one of my Tesseract friends' "Dance Your PhD Thesis" video.  I cooked a bunch of Polish food and everyone seemed to really enjoy it.  Plus, I successfully introduced a New York Twitter friend to some of my other New York friends, and they got along wonderfully.

Sunday, though, was in some weird way, likely the best day.  On Saturday night, several of us stayed up until nearly four in the morning talking and catching up, so we ended up crashing at the apartment of the friend who was hosting the party in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  We didn't manage to get up until almost eleven in the morning, but we did eventually get up, and were joined by a MIT friend who now does urban planning work in New York for breakfast at a very good Mexican restaurant down the street.  My English friend was particularly excited, because she says it's impossible to get good Latin American food anywhere in Europe.  (We all went to college in Los Angeles, which I suppose gives us some opinions on Mexican food.)

On our way back from breakfast, we ran across a parade--I'm not sure exactly what, though there were floats with flags from a number of Latin American nations--and I was reminded how much I love Sunset Park.  It seems to be exactly what I imagine New York should be: a very dense mix of immigrants from basically everywhere, with all the stores open 24/7, and almost everything one might need within a few blocks.  We then saw a bunch more of Brooklyn due to a series of Lyft rides to the places other people were staying, since they hadn't intended to spend the night, and finally my English friend who I hadn't seen in five years and another close, mutual friend went on a walk from the 9/11 Memorial in Downtown Manhattan to Penn Station, where I caught my train back to DC.  I'm a bit sad I didn't get to go to Mass with them afterward: one of them is Catholic, so they went to Mass at a church a half-block from Penn Station.

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A thought, which needs more elaboration when I have time.

I've been wondering a lot what to do about the fact that the ancient Greek agricultural year was the opposite of ours: winter was the wet season and summer was the dry season where everything died. This means that the Persephone myth and the festivals associated with it are at the opposite time of the year as make sense for those of us in Northern Temperate climates.

However, Hellenic pagans aren't the only people with this problem: Israel also has a Mediterranean climate where the winter is better for farming, which means Jewish holidays run into similar issues: Passover was originally a harvest-time holiday, but is now a spring holiday for Jews living in northern Europe and much of the US.

Can Hellenic traditions be made to switch significance in similar ways? For example, around the Autumnal Equinox was the traditional time to celebrate Persephone's return from Hades, along with Demeter's institution of the Eleusian Mysteries that allowed mortals to retain their reason after death.

Would it would to focus instead on Demeter teaching Persephone how to return from Hades, after leaning that the pomegranate seeds would bind her to return each year? And could we associate this with the promise of compost/manure/seeds/winter wheat? That death and things buried in the ground in the fall will return to us as new life in six months' time?
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I really don't post here often enough--or at all, I suppose--but I managed to write another poem some of you might like.  This one is pretty Papo-pagan: I'm being ambiguous about whether "Heaven's Queen" is Inanna or Mary, but it's definitely intended to be polytheist.  My interest in the archangels, whose feast day is coming up on 29 September, is that angels seem to be intended as God's court eunuchs, and as someone who identifies somewhat as a eunuch, this appeals to me.  (It also explains my interest in my name saint, who was also a court eunuch.)
 
Anyway, not sure who on here would like this?  Maybe [personal profile] kaberett or [personal profile] gwaihiril or [personal profile] wolby ?


"To the Archangels"
by DW Rowlands
20 September 2018, Catonsville, MD

 
 
All-honored servants of high Heaven's Queen,
Out of your mouths, her words are clearly spoke,
And by your hands, her work is deftly done:
Please bless us that we too may serve the gods.

Saint Michael, with stout courage and swift sword,
You stand between the darkness and the light:
Give us the courage and the steadfast strength
To aid the weak and all who are in need.

 
Saint Gabriel, whose voice is strong and clear,
You speak the truth from high for all to hear:
Give us the wisdom and the winged words
To counsel and console our fellow folk.

Saint Raphael, with holy, healing hands,
You cure the sick and all who need your aid:
Give us the softness and the gentle touch
To comfort and to lessen suffering.

Chief ministers of Heaven's holy Court,
Custodians of this and all the worlds:
We praise the works your labors have achieved,
And pray you grant that we may also serve.

 
 

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