May Day, May Day

Who all celebrates May Day? Well, socialist and communists for starters. They commemorate what is known as the Haymarket Massacre, or Riot, and/or also Affair, which started out as a worker’s parade protesting the killing of workers striking for an eight hour work day, by the Chicago police, on May 3rd, 1886, the day before the riot. An anarchist threw a stick of dynamite at the police, who were breaking up the protest, killing seven officers. The remaining officers then opened fire on the protesters, killing 4 and wounding dozens more.

But that’s not what this quasi is about.

This quasi is about a pole with a knob on the end, the May Pole. It is about young maidens dancing in circles around the pole, festooning it with ribbons, starting with the knob at the top of the erect pole and ending at the bottom. It is about the Greek goddess, Chloris, after whom chlorophyll is named, and her Roman equivalent, Flora, after whom flowers are named. She’s the goddess of flowers and spring, and her festival ran from April 28th to May 3rd, and was called the Floralia.

The Floralia was celebrated with, to quote Wikipedia, “…five days of farces and mimes were enacted – ithyphallic, and including nudity when called for…”.

Ithyphallic, now there’s a word for you. Ithyphallic farces and mimes, farces and mimes enacted with phallic symbols, that is to say, enacted with poles with knobs on the end.

Later, in the year 870 of the common era, on May 1st, Pope Adrian II, in the common mode of Christian practice, scarfed up this joyful spring fertility festival from the pagans, and canonized an otherwise obscure English missionary nun. Her name was Walpurga, and Adrian made May 1st her day.

St. Walpurga… now why does that sound familiar? Let’s see, St. Walpurga’s day must be preceded by St. Walpurga’s eve, of course. Aha! Walpurgis night! One of the major nights that witches worship Satan! It’s also the Celtic Eve of Beltane. Beltane, one of the most holy days in the Druidic year! Anything pre-Christian had to be the devil’s work, so holy it up by reworking it into a Christian holiday.

But be sure to retain the pagan symbols, such as poles with knobs on the end.

Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates

No, this is not a book review of Mary Mapes Dodge’s classic children’s novel about a Dutch lad who desperately wants to win an ice skating race on the frozen canals of Holland, the grand prize being a pair of silver bladed ice skates. She wrote it in 1865 but the story takes place sometime before 1850, in the winter of some otherwise unspecified year. The reader is left to surmise the actual year of the race, as well as whether or not the prize skates are intended for real use, or are merely a trophy to be hung above the mantle piece.

Continuing the reader’s surmisations, he, or she, may, again, well surmise that the skates, having silver blades, and presumably silver mounting hardware as well, would bend when put to real use on real ice, and that the blades themselves would dull up quite quickly.

An astute modern reader would also be puzzled that the famous canals of Holland actual froze enough for ice skating. They hardly ever get a thin coat of ice, let alone freeze thick enough to support large numbers of ice skaters. They froze that thick in 2012, but that year was exceptionally cold in Western Europe. They froze hard all the time back in the 1800’s, though.

They froze hard from around 1350 all the way to the late 1800’s. They did that because much of the northern hemisphere was in the Little Ice Age. It didn’t get cold enough to get the glaciers all going again, but it was a hard time for half the planet.

From around 950 to 1250 we had the Medieval Warm Period. It was warm enough that the Vikings colonized Greenland, which is not particularly green these days.

It was also wetter, especially in the desert regions of the United States. That’s when the Anasazi and the cliff dwellers flourished. The Mound Builder culture covered most of the Midwest, covering much of the Mississippi valley, and all the rivers draining into it. Their trade routes ran from the east coast to possibly the west coast and all the way down into Mexico. Artifacts, found in Mound Builder archaeological sites that originated from all over the continent.

When the Little Ice Age started around 1250, kicking in more strongly by 1350, the Mound Builder culture collapsed. The Mayan culture collapsed. The Anasazi disappeared. Bad, wet, cold winters and cold summers destroyed much of Europe’s agriculture. The Black Death plague killed hundreds of thousands in Europe. Wars started. Famines killed even more people. The face of modern Europe is much the result of the Little Ice Age.

1816 was probably the worst year of it. It was called the year without summer. There was frost in Virginia in August. Crop failure caused famine in Ireland, Wales, and the rest of Europe.

The scientific debate over what caused the Little Ice Age, reduced solar output, shifts in ocean currents, any number of other factors, rages on.

The reason for the year without summer is known. The Little Ice Age got helped out by volcanoes. 1812, 1813, and 1814 all had major volcanic eruptions, scattered around the world, blowing huge volumes of dust into the stratosphere, blocking a lot of sunlight. The dust maxed out in 1815, when Tamboura, in Indonesia, blew it’s top. Around 24 cubic miles of debris, much of it dust, went into the air. The planet’s temperature dropped by almost another degree for a couple of years.

The Little Ice Age and volcanoes, that’s how Hans Brinker won his silver skates.

First shared on the Squatcher’s Lounge Podcast:

For the reading impaired, an audio version of this quasi theory may be found here:

Cyclical Old Sol

We all know about our sun’s eleven year cycle of spottiness, how it gets spottier and less spotty over an eleven year period. Well, not really an eleven year cycle. The cycle ranges between nine and twelve years, eleven being the average of nine and twelve, approximately. The actual average is ten and a half, so you could round it up to eleven or down to ten. I haven’t a clue why eleven is official. The sunspot cycle was discovered in 1843 by Samuel Heinrich Schwabe. It’s official name is therefore the Schwabe cycle.

I can’t figure out why no one talks about the sun’s other cycles. There’s at least four more.

There’s the Wolf-Gleissberg cycle of about eighty years. The number of sunspots in each eleven year cycle goes up and down in an eighty year cycle.

Then there’s the deVries-Suess cycle of about two hundred years. It is based on increasing and decreasing concentrations of carbon 14 in ice cores and tree rings. Carbon 14 is created from regular old carbon 10 when an atom of carbon 10 gets whacked by a cosmic ray. When the sunspot cycle cycles down really low, and there are very few sunspots, the sun’s magnetic field gets weaker and starts letting more cosmic rays hit the earth. Cosmic rays, by definition, come from the cosmos. You know, way out there somewheres.

The Bray-Hallstatt cycle is about 2,300 years long. It’s existence is inferred by not only carbon 14 measurements, but also by beryllium 10 measurements.

There is a proposed solar cycle that hasn’t been named yet. It’s around 6,000 years long.

So what’s it all mean, you may well ask? Well, when you take all these sunspot cycles, and the implied variations in the sun’s energy output, you get things like the Maunder minimum. What’s the Maunder minimum, you may well ask? It was the last time the cycles ganged up and sunspot activity nearly vanished for 70 years, from 1645 to 1715, about the coldest period in the Little Ice Age.

What’s the Little Ice Age, you might well ask? That’s for me to know and you to find out next week.

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Get out Your Ice Skates ‘Cuz We’re in an Ice Age

It might not look like it when you look out the window, but we’re in the middle of an ice age. Just because the upper half of North America isn’t covered by a mile and a half to two and a half miles of cruising glaciers doesn’t mean they won’t come back.

Our current ice age started about two and a half million years ago, give or take a couple three tens of millennia. The last glaciation started about a hundred and ten thousand years ago and ended about twelve thousand years ago. It hit a maximum of ice coverage of North America about twenty six thousand years ago. Glaciations last about a hundred thousand years and inter-glacial periods between ten thousand and fifty thousand years, depending. We’re past the ten thousand year mark. The ice sheets could start cruising back anytime now.

What does the timing of ice ages depend on, you might well ask? Depending, mainly, on where we are in a Milankovitch cycle. What the hell’s a Milankovitch cycle, you might well ask?

Ah, good old Mulutin Milankovitch, the well known Serbian geophysicist and astronomer. Back in the 1920’s, he took all the known data about the earth’s orbit, how it varies from nearly a circle to slightly elliptical, how that orbit also wobbles up and down like a spinning coin at the end of its spin, and the fact that, as the earth spins about its axis, that axis also wobbles about a bit. He took all that and figured out that, since all this affects how much sunlight hits the continents during the changing seasons, that the effect was that, when the axial tilt was steepest, and the earth’s orbit was most elliptical, we got colder. Earth is known to have had 5 serious ices ages in its four billion plus year history. A couple of them made earth resemble the ice planet Hoth, except for some areas around the equator. No fossil tauntauns have been discovered as of yet.

Milankovitch’s theory matched what was known about ice ages back in the 1920’s, more or less. These days it has been modified by throwing in continental drift, which was merely an unproven hypothesis back when he was hypothesizing away. Where the continents are affects ocean currents, which affects the distribution of heat around the planet, etc, etc, etc.

There’s a moving image for you: continents scooting around, the planet wobbling on its axis while whipping around the sun, orbit stretching back and forth while wobbling up and down. Throw in the fact that the whole solar system bobs up and down across our galaxy’s equator while orbiting around the galaxy. Makes you wonder why we aren’t all nauseated.

Maybe that’s why there are volcanoes. Our mother earth, good old Gaia, gets spin dizzy and just needs to barf occasionally.

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‘Tis the Season to be Sneezin’

I have a cold. A rather annoying cold. My wife gave it to me. She got it when she went to the doctor’s office. It’s been a week since it started on me. It’s the first I’ve had in several years, despite my wife trying to give me hers a couple of times a year.

Here’s where I do the required quote from Wikipedia:

They usually resolve in seven to ten days, but some can last for up to three weeks. The average duration of cough(ing) is eighteen days and in some cases people develop a post-viral cough which can linger after the infection is gone.” I had to modify that quote a bit because the author apparently didn’t understand common English usage.

Great. They might as well have said,”You’ll feel like crap for a couple three weeks. Get used to it.”

The most annoying thing about a cold, to me anyways, is when you sneeze or cough and somebody says, “God bless you.”

If you believe that God will somehow cure someone because you declared that God should bless you, aren’t you trying to countermand God’s will? Didn’t God give that cold to that special someone to begin with? Isn’t everything God’s will? And which God? I find it difficult to believe that the presumed creator of the heavens, earth, and hell, well, hell, let’s throw in all the possible other universes and alternate timelines and sub-dimensions and all things quantum… where was I? Damn sneezing attack made me lose my train of thought. I edited it out of the audio. No need to splatter my audience with it. Bad enough it splooshed my monitor and keyboard.

Oh, yeah, God. That’s where I was. Okay, so if you insist that God cure someone’s cold, and you want God to then cure that cold, aren’t you, basically, trying to order God around? Sounds like you’re treading on dangerous grounds there, my friend. Time for some Our Fathers, Hail Marys, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishnas, and maybe an Om Nama Shivaya or two.

What if you’re a pantheist with a whole pantheon of gods? Which god, or goddess, is the god, or goddess, of the common cold? What do you offer that god, or goddess, as a sacrifice to bribe him, or her, into curing a cold? Burnt Kleenex? Light up a lamp filled with high octane, high alcohol content cough syrup? Gallons of orange juice spiked with vitamin C?

No best leave God, and/or Gods out if it.

You could say, like the Germans, “Gesundheit!”, which literally means, “Be in a state of wellness!”. But that’s essentially an order, and we all know what can happen when Germans start issuing orders.

Now, I’ve gotta go blow my nose and hawk up a lung.

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Why We Don’t See the Squatch in Front of Our Nose or Ya Can’t See the Trees with All That Forest in the Way

The Reverend Jeff suggested I do a quasi on why we can’t see things that are physically there, like, maybe, a Sasquatch hiding behind a bush that is too small for it to hide behind. I quote him, “How about a quasi on what the mind sees it doesn’t really see. It only sees what it wants to and why many Bigfoot go unnoticed as the brain can’t acknowledge what it sees.”

I Googled about for a good half an hour and found no evidence to support his theory, at least not in terms of actually not visually seeing an object because you don’t believe that type of object exists. Humans are pretty good at not recognizing social conditions they think don’t exist, as in, not recognizing that people born poor simply don’t have the same opportunities as people born middle class. But physical objects are not blocked by disbelief.

You might interpret something you see to be something else, like the mommy who sees her beautiful baby, while onlookers wonder where she got the ugly little ape from.

No, you don’t see the Squatch squatting behind the too small shrubbery for the same reason you got hit by a car while texting while crossing the street. Your attention was elsewhere.

Your attention is rather like your eyesight. The only thing in clear focus is in the central part of your total field of view. The stuff off to the side gets fuzzier and, when you get to the edges, it’s almost not visible.

Or think about hearing things. If you are watching TV, and the action has really got your attention, and your significant other is asking you to let the dog out, do hear them right away? Not until they yell at you and get right up in your face does your attention turn to what they are saying.

So, you’re strolling through the forest and it’s cold, or it’s hot, or the bugs are biting, or the trail is rough, or you’re listening for wood knocks and whoops, or prints, or oddly stacked broken branches, just when you pass that almost obvious Sasquatch. If it doesn’t jump up and go “Oogah-boogah”, you’ll probably just waltz right on by. You weren’t paying attention.

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Valentine’s Day, Shmalentine’s Day

February 14th is St. Valentine’s day. Exactly who was this bugger and why do we care?

Officially, his full moniker is St. Valentine of Terni. Officially, he was the bishop of said town, although some sources say he was also the bishop of Narnia. No kidding. Really. Narnia. It’s now the Italian city of Narni, but back in old Rome it was Narnia. Also, officially, he was buried at a cemetery on the Via Flaminia close to the Ponte Milvio to the north of Rome on the day he was martyred. But he didn’t stay there long. He got dug up by some of his disciples a day or two later and hauled back to Terni to be buried again, for awhile.

I say for awhile, because, as Wikipedia says:

St. Valentine’s remains are also believed to be in Dublin. In 1836, some relics that were exhumed from the catacombs of Saint Hippolytus on the Via Tiburtina… were identified with St Valentine; placed in a casket, and transported in a procession to the high altar for a special Mass dedicated to young people and all those in love.

Also in 1836, Fr. John Spratt, an Irish priest and famous preacher, was given many tokens of esteem following a sermon in Rome. One gift from Pope Gregory XVI were the remains of St. Valentine and “a small vessel tinged with his blood.” The Reliquary was placed in Whitefriar Street Church in Dublin, Ireland, and has remained there until this day. This was accompanied by a letter claiming the relics were those of St. Valentine.”

How he got from Terni to the catacombs in Rome is anybody’s guess, along with how anybody could tell the body was his. Maybe he was bitten by a zombie rat and became a zombie saint. Zombies have great strength. A zombie saint should have amazing holy powers.  Maybe he used his new zombie rat saint powers and tunneled, burrowed his way. All roads lead to Rome, as the saying goes.

He was supposedly beaten and beheaded on the 14th of February in the year 269CE, or maybe 270, or 273, opinions vary. The day remains consistent, despite the conflict of years; therefrom we get Valentine’s day.

I say supposedly beaten and beheaded because he is not in the earliest list of Roman martyrs, the Chronography of 354, and only pops up in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum, which was compiled between 460 and 544. He must have gotten on the list before the final version, because he got his official feast day declared in 496 by Pope Gelasius I, who included Valentine among all those “… whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.” I take this to mean that Pope Gelasius I hadn’t a clue as to who Valentine was or why he was put in that list of martyrs. The feast date is our modern St. Valentine’s day, of course.

St. Valentine is the patron saint of epilepsy, fainting, plague, bee keepers, betrothed couples and other lovers, chocolatiers, and greeting card companies. I threw the last two in for obvious reasons.

Nobody associated him with the last three until Chaucer showed up and wrote his Parliament of Fools, written sometime in the 14th century.

Now here’s where I go quasi on the whole St. Valentine thing, the man, the day, the whole shebang.

No one knew he existed until that list from the late 5th century, around two hundred years after he became a wandering corpse.

The Roman church was big on absconding with pagan stuff and re-branding it. Christmas, Easter, plopping cathedrals down on old pagan temple sites, swiping pagan gods and renaming them as Christian saints and martyrs, the list is near endless.

The old Roman pagans had a holiday they celebrated on the ides of February, the 15th of February. It was the Lupercalia and it honored the goddess Februata Juno, one of the many goddesses of sex and fertility.

There’s your start of it all: goddesses, sex, and fertility. Nuff said. I rest my case.

First shared on the Squatcher’s Lounge Podcast:

For the reading impaired, an audio version of this quasi theory may be found here:

Get My Drift?

We all know about Pangaea, the super continent that formed when all seven continents smooshed together back around 335 million years ago. But what about Gondwanaland? Or Proto-Laurasia?

Before Pangaea, Gondwanaland had formed by the collision of the early versions of South America, Africa, India, Australia, and Antarctica. It had formed pretty much by 500 million years ago, when the Cambrian period began. It was largely south of the equator.

Proto-Laurasia was North America and Eurasia, which had formed by 750 million years ago, when an earlier supercontinent, Rodinia broke up. There’s been any number of supercontinents, apparently, what with all the slippy sliding about of the buggers. Proto-Laurasia was north of the equator. But Gondwanaland and Proto-Laurasia were both on the same side of the planet. I’d think that would make the whole Earth’s rotating about its axis more than a bit wobbly. It certainly makes my brain wobble just thinking about it.

Then, as I said, 335 million years ago, they tied the knot, enjoyed connubial bliss, as it were, slamming merrily into each other, and became Pangaea, which was mainly south of the equator and still all on one side of the planet. You’d think riding on the earth would have been a lot like riding on a tilt-a-whirl, what with all that mass wobbling about in a sort of planetary version of twerking. Maybe paleontologists should be looking for fossilized proto-dinosaur barf. Tilt-a-whirls certainly make me upchuck, along with some twerking butts I’ve seen.

Luckily for us, in terms of evolution, the marriage only lasted 160 million years. The breakup began in the early Mesozoic. Gondwana was back on its own, dropping land from its name, and Proto-Laurasia, having matured, became Laurasia.
Alas, they couldn’t maintain their separate identities. Maybe it was the psychological damage of the breakup, maybe it was the twerking, but both supercontinents simply drifted off into more pieces. Seven pieces, technically, but not the ones you learned in school. Or should have learned. Europe has been slammed up against Asia since Proto-Laurasia, and is still moving east, hence Eurasia. India is the one that cruised off on its own, cruising up into Eurasia much later. There really are only six continents.

Take heart, though, Pangaea fans. North and South America are cruising west and will slam into Eurasia. The other continents are heading largely northward, also into Eurasia. They’ll all be in the northern hemisphere in a couple of hundred million years. I expect it will be an earth twerking event.

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A Yuletide Rant

So, Yuletide. Yuletide means the time of the Yule. It’s the celebration of the winter solstice, usually lasting about twelve days, with the Solstice in the middle of it, although it was as long as two months, going from late November and ending in early January, with some peoples. Yule is largely a Germanic holiday.

The word Yule is the modern English version of an old Germanic word, géol. That’s “g with a dot over it, “e” with a slanty apostrophe over it, “o” and “l”, géol. Old Germanic, as an etymological term, includes all the Nordic languages, as well as the Anglo-Saxon Ones.

So, Yuletide. Last time I explained how the Christians slipped old Saint Nick in on us, while slipping a mickey to Odin. I also explained why December 25th became the date the winter solstice was typically associated with. Now, why would they want to distract us from a pagan god? Any hardcore Christians out there may want to plug your ears and sing “O Holy Night”, or something else Christmassy, about now. You may not like what’s next.

It turns out that there are pagan sons of gods, that were also born on the winter solstice, all of them before Jesus, most of them virgin births, as well.

The reason we use the 25th to celebrate the winter solstice now, is because it was the official Roman birth date of Solis Invictus, the conquering sun. The emperor Marcus Aurelius made the Persian version of Solis Invictus, Mithras, an official part of the pantheon. The day was called “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti”, “Day of the Birth of the Conquering Sun”. Now that has a ring to it. Dies Natalis Solis Invicti! So much for Christmas.

Let’s us list some of the other virgin birth sun gods with the same birthday.

First is the Egyptian Horus, of course. Son of Isis, the eternal virgin, whose father was Osiris. He may be the oldest version; version, not virgin. Osiris had the same birthday as Horus, oddly enough.

Then there’s Attis, Serapis, Heracles, a.k.a Hercules, Tammuz, Adonis, Apollo, Perseus, Jupiter, which is to say Zeus Pater, Father Zeus, Helios, and my favorite, Bacchus-Dionysos, Dionysius in Latin. There’s lots more, but I shan’t go on.

Most of these guys also have a worship ritual involving bread and wine: a ritual of communion, wherein the bread and wine symbolized the blood and body of the god. One communed with the god by consuming the sanctified fruit of the vine and wheat of the field, the which fact may be worthy of a Quasi of it’s own.

Most of these buggers also died at the spring equinox. Jesus probably originally did, too. Easter Sunday, is after all, always on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring. Easter, the name of which derives from the old Germanic Oestre, the spring goddess of fertility. Oestre, Ishtar, Isis, always virginal, always giving virgin birth to the sons of god at Yuletide. You Christians may now unplug your ears and stop with the singing.

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Santa is the King of the Gods


Santa Claus, a.k.a. Saint Nicholas, is a fraud foisted on us pagans during the Christianization of Germanic and Nordic Europe. There, I said it.

Saint Nicholas, who lived in the late 3rd and early 4th century, belonged to a wealthy family, and is most famous for saving three poor, young sisters from a probable life of probable prostitution, by giving them money for their dowries, and thereby getting them married off. Why a man getting paid off to marry a women doesn’t make the man a hooker beats the hell out of me. But that is neither here nor there. The main point is that Nicholas gave away presents. His birthday is celebrated on January 6th. He was a skinny bugger, apparently, may or may not have had a beard, and certainly didn’t have much hair. His daddy, another priest (This was before the whole priests couldn’t get married, couldn’t have sex, silliness came about), gave him a tonsure when he ordained his little Nicky into the priesthood. A tonsure is the weird, partly shaved head sort of haircut they were into back then.

Old Saint Nick didn’t have diddly to do with December 25th, which was when the old pagan world celebrated the winter solstice. Why they did so on the 25th is a bit of a mystery, since they jolly well knew the solstice oscillates between the 20th and the 23rd. It was probably because the latest sunrise of the year is a couple of days after the actual solstice and, in the winter, you really want that sun to start coming up earlier and earlier. Making it a fixed date made it easier to know when you had to get all your solstice shopping done by, too.

Now, what happened on the solstice, and who did what that most closely resembles what our Santa Claus, taking into consideration that Santa first started showing up in Germanic and Nordic Europe?

The solstice is when Odin, the king of the gods, rode the midwinter sky on his eight footed horse, Sleipnir, distributing gifts to all his people. Odin, Woden, Wotan, also known as Julnir, he who is lord of the yuletide. Odin, with long white hair and long white beard, stout of figure. Odin, the leader of the Wild Hunt, the hunt that most often occurred at midwinter, hunting the souls of the departed, accompanied by his Valkyries.

The good children of Odin got presents, the bad got the Wild Hunt.

Odin was also the lord of Alfheim, the home of the elves, and those elves were not little guys who want to be dentists. They were fierce warriors, they were.

The pieces fall into place. This is what Christianity has left us with. No more Roman Saturnalia at the winter solstice, with its orgies and feasts. No more Wild Hunts with Valkyries. No king of the gods. Just a jolly fat man in a silly red suit.

First shared on the Squatcher’s Lounge Podcast:

An audio version of this quasi theory may be found here: