Month: June 2012

Halloween: Pagan Ritual to Party Night

Halloween: Pagan Ritual to Party Night

Nicholas Rogers

Oxford University Press

I’m going to get the bias conversation right out of the way, up front so I can move on.

I’m aware that writers carry a bias. I’m fully aware that the bias issue I have about this book is probably completely applicable to myself, though I think that most people who know me (at least through this blog) are going to think ‘spirituality’ and not ‘sociology’  in relation to a book that tries to strip out the pagan roots of a pre-Christian holiday.

Though, actually, it’s the sociology that’s giving me such a hang-up with this book.

I will say this in defense of this book. I’m not sure that he’s wrong, in fact, there’s a strong possibility that he’s right. And it is interesting to see the development of halloween imagery from a solidly Christian history. There’s just a couple of points that leave me feeling like this book is lacking.

1. Human sacrifice. Yes. You read that right. The human sacrifice debate, namely, whether or not samhain was ever connected to such. The thing is, the author wants to say that there’s no definitive proof that the Celts ever engaged in it (because there’s not) but then spends ten pages discussing whether or not we can really say that, because we have source material from the time describing the act. However, he also wants to point out that the source material is probably flawed due to political leaning and timing issues.

The author also wants to bring the bog men into it. The bog men are several mummified corpses found in peat bogs in Britian that look like they were left there deliberately. In mentioning this to an anthropologist friend in passing, she snorted and said a) Cesaer wasn’t known for his lack of proganda (she’s also a Classist) and b) it’s not like murder was invented in 1963. The debate is whether or not bogs were the equivilent of dumping bodies in a ditch.

Either way, my feeling is that when you spend ten pages out of a fifteen page chapter trying to say that you’re neutral about it, you’re probably not actually neutral about it. I’d actually be more okay with taking a solidly pro-sacrfice stance in that situation.

2. Elves and bonfires. Yes, you read that right too. The author makes a claim that Samhain wasn’t a death holiday and that the images we associate with Halloween actually are derived from Christian rites. The only holdover from pre-Christian and/or pagan holidays are bonfires.

Okay. I’m actually okay with that, in that my stance on reconstructionism is that we just don’t know.

It’s the elves that get me. The author’s argument about how divination/the afterlife managed to get caught up in samhain is that the Celts had a fairly healthy fey-based belief set going. And elves live underground and allow humanity to interact with their side of the veil on samhain. Therefore it’s a holiday about the underworld, just not the underworld of the dead- it’s effectively a fey holiday.

Here’s my issue with this particular stance. I’m not saying he’s wrong, again, we just don’t have enough information to say either way. But by this time in the book he’s already said that you can’t use folklore and/or mythology to track social beliefs (…oh really now. I can think of multiple branches of at least 2 social sciences that would question that stance severly, since you don’t codify things that don’t matter to you), so then using the mythos of a culture to determine the social role of a holiday seems flawed to me.

I’m going to stop here, because I haven’t made it out of chapter 2 yet in this review and I really don’t want to destroy this author’s writing. I do find the emphasis on Christian holidays to be an interesting tact to take and frankly I’m not as familar with topics like medivial mummery. I’m just interested in why he takes such an aggressive tact in saying that previous works have their emphasis on the ‘wrong’ history.

I think that my overall stance on this book is that it should be read with the works of other authors. It’s an interesting jumping off point, and obviously when discussing a holiday that’s been influenced by upwards of 2,000 years of history there’s enough room in the sandbox to be working with different belief sets. I just think that it really should be read in comparision to other works just for balance.

6 months ago- top posts of the year!

1 year ago- mittens and knives

Iced Coffee

Hammer Films has started releasing information on their next film- The Quiet Ones. It looks like I’m going to enjoy it; there’s a rogue social scientist which I think my favorite underutilized horror trope.

This is one of the rare summers where I have been knitting.

Most summers I want to spin all the time. It’s too…digusting in Western New York humidity to want to cuddle up to piles of knitted fabrics. But for some reason, all I want to do is plow through projects.

The coffee industry should thank me. My iced coffee consumption is apparently working in direct proportion to the amount of time I’m spending with my needles.

My current favorite?

1 tsp to 1 tbl condensed milk

8 to 12 oz coffee

The milk goes in the cup first, then the coffee so the milk dissolves into the drink. It’s effectively a faux Vietnamese iced coffee, but since I only have a Keurig it’s not nearly as nice as the real thing. I really need to get a phin filter.

I’m not against buying iced coffee though. I make enough of it at home that the Keurig has been paid off at least 2 or 3 times (I told you that the coffee industry owes me a thank you letter) but trips for coffee certainly fill a bean shaped hole in my spirit. I really liked those chocolate iced coffee that Dunkin Donuts had this spring.

I was a barista for 6 years during college and grad school and there’s something about the peace in a good coffee bar that I find very soothing. Coffee is literally the one thing that I can’t cut out of my budget. I bought 2 ounces of spinning fiber in the last year. Don’t ask me how much I’ve spent on coffee.

Other people who really enjoy coffee–


Vietnamese Iced Coffee Tips

Sweet Cinnamon Iced Coffee

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6 months ago- YellowBrickRoad

1 year ago- Vacation Day

Linked to-

young and crafty     kitchen fun with my 3 sons     30 Handmade Days

little house in the suburbs    flamingo toes     Addicted to Recipes

i should be mopping the floor     create with joy

Please, stop by and link up to this week’s Inspired Weekends!


I haven’t posted a BPAL review in awhile, so why not.

My BPAL, the imps anyway, are stored in a vintage ammo box that my boyfriend had laying around. Other than screeching when I open it, it works well. Inside the box there’s three bags- imps to be tested, the imps that I like, and imps that I would be willing to frimp. Trade imps are stored elsewhere.

My only requirement for work blends is that they can’t smell like alcohol. Too bad there was only one imp left in the test bag that wasn’t alcoholic- Queen.

Queen doesn’t smell anything like I was thinking it would. It’s a clear oil, and I was blasted with wood and herbs in the imp. That’s promising. I don’t like traditionally feminine blends, since I feel like I can go to Bath and Body Works for stuff like that. Honestly, I prefer exotic or strange blends.

On wet, it’s a very dry blend on my skin. There’s still a heavy herbal, teaky edge to it. I do feel regal wearing it, but this is not a ‘traditional’ feminine, princessy blend. This is going to sound weird but it reminds me of Queen Elizabeth or Mary, Queen of Scots- a take no shit queen.

Dry, I have to wonder if there is a white floral or white amber in this because it starts to go powdery. I think that this is a power blend on my chemistry rather than a perfume blend because I’m not sure how I feel about the actual scent, but it sort of makes me want to…strut. Not like I feel sexy but I feel…powerful.

Scent notes, from For use only by women. An extremely potent passion blend, used to great effect when you’re converting feminine sexual energy into power.

Well. That would explain it, now wouldn’t it.

black phoenix alchemy lab- bewitching brews and the conjure bag (some images on the site may not be safe for work)

6 months ago- The Shrine

The Caller

Continuing my tradition of zoning in on the wrong details, I was greatly sympathetic of the main character’s plight with her air conditioning or lack thereof.

This movie was suggested to me because of the way that it plays with tropes. And I agree, the use of a familar trope in an unfamilar way was refreshing. It’s not completely unchartered territory, but it’s weird eough that I did start wondering how they were going to wrap up the film.

This is a creeper film. I didn’t find anything in it fear inducing but it does drag along in a way that I found got under my skin a little.

A woman moves in a new apartment while going through a rough divorce. She begins to receive phone calls from an unknown woman who claims to know a man she believes lives in the same apartment. Things become increasingly strange, until the main character begins to wonder what’s reality at all (cue Queen earworm).

The symbolism is played with a light enough hand that it’s not obnoxious either. It’s obvious but not aggressively played. The ending may have one wondering about the main character’s intelligence, but I prefer to look at it from the perspective of not walking someone else’s path for them.

6 months ago- my winter cure-all


Each year in July we go to a week long festival. The way that the festival is set up is such that each week day is color coded, starting with yellow.

At some point along the way I decided that I wanted a shawl for the evenings (which tend to still run cool enough to want a shawl)- one for each day.

The way that I spin I end up with little bits of fluff, left over singles from multi-ply projects, stuff like that. I’m too cheap to throw those bits away so at some point I started carding them together and plying them with a strand of natural colored wool.

That habit collided with the desire to have a shawl in every color.

The thing is, during last year’s tour de fleece I tried my hand at solar dyeing, and started my ripley project to have a skein of this recyled/garbage yarn in every color. It occured to me last fall that I could just have one shawl for this year’s festival- but have it be in a running color gradient so it would be appropriate for every night.

Thus Doyle was born. I have no idea what the yardage on this thing is, I took the very scientific approach of spinning between 75-150 yards for each skein, dyeing it, and then reserving a skein of rather ugly 100% merino to overdye to make up any difference between the halves. There’s much more green because I used that as the mirror point, and instead of splitting 150 yards in half I spun two full skeins to increase length on each half.

(Doyle has also been christened the chakra shawl…and I have never seen so many knitters come out of the woodwork when I was working on this at Brushwood on Saturday…)

Next recycle project- overdying the yarn yellow- I’ll start that at this year’s festival.

6 months ago- Merry Christmas!

Posted here (please scroll down), craft envy  postively splendid

sunday legends-cats

Cats, like dogs, have a long history of association with superstition and folklore. Like dogs and wolves cats have been associated with various deities including being the favored animal of Bast and Freya.

One of the most common modern superstitions surrounding cats is the belief that black cats are unlucky or related to witchcraft. The belief is so ingrained in American thought that in some areas the adoption of black cats on or near Halloween has been prohibited out of fear for the animals’ safety.

Cats are believed to be able to predict weather phenomena, ranging from rain or wind (by playing with curtains or other pieces of furniture) to earthquakes.
In colonial America, a cat sitting with its back to a fire was a sign of an oncoming period of cold weather.
A sneezing cat is considered to be a sign of good luck.
Black cats are not considered unlucky in every culture- in Roman tradition, finding white hair on a black cat is good luck, in certain areas of France black cats were believed to be able to find treasure, and in Scotland finding a black cat on your porch was a sign of good luck and prosperity.
Cats are associated with fertility and childbirth in several areas of the world.
Killing a cat has been historically considered exceptionally unlucky, leading to a belief that the act will cause anything from death by drowning to giving your soul to the devil.
In England, it was believed that white cats, not black, would bring bad luck.
Dreaming of cats may or may not be considered bad luck depending on whether or not the cat harmed you and what color the cat appears to be.
Oddly, in some areas the black cat superstition is time specific. Seeing a black cat is only bad luck- after 9 pm.
And finally a rather bizarre, morbid, and self-prohibited superstition- in early American supernatural thought boiling a black cat alive and drinking the resulting fluid would cure tuberculosis- except that the fear of harming a black cat (and the resulting bad luck) prevented anyone from actually doing so.

(We miss you Mr. Grey!)

6 months ago- on the other hand