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Saturday

Away With The Manger, Merry Christmas, and That Stupid Wall.


It is Winter's Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  In old times, the village got together to share food with hopes that the Sun would return.  Let's all remember this today as we go outside to face the uncertainty of a government shutdown over a 5 billion dollar war which will certainly be the end of the US as we know it.  We don't have 5 billion dollars and unless we raise taxes, it will definitely be the turning point.  A wall won't keep people out.  We all know this. 

So, instead of building a wall, lets meditate on love.  I am. 

                           

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Meanwhile, I say Merry Christmas and it is for the season as a whole.  Especially, it's roots -- sorry Christians, it started long before the Jesus myth.  

Here is as presented in the book "Merry Christmas! A History of the Holiday" by Patricia Bunning Stevens.  

Long before the Jesus thing was here, the Egyptians watched the movements of the dog star Sirius, a brilliant object in the sky.  Its first appearance on the horizon each h year coincided with the rising of the Nile, and the Egyptians believed that the star caused the waters to overflow.  They declared Sirius to be the “creator of all green growing things,” and eagerly watched for it in the half-light before the dawn.  Clouting the days between one appearance of the star and the next, the priests discovers that the year was made up of 365 days.  They chose the star’s annual day of reappearance in midsummer as the first day of the year. 

Reassuring as it was to be able to predict the time of the river’s overflow, a year of 365 days posed problems.  At an even earlier period the Egyptians had had a lunar calendar based on the new moon’s appearance every twenty-nine or thirty days.  How could the old lunar calendar be reconciled with a year of 365 days?  The Egyptians solved their problem by dividing the year into twelve months of thirty days each, and then adding on the extra five days at the end of the year.  These days that belonged to no month, days that were spent awaiting the appearance of Sirius, became a festival time. 





Wonder and laughter were a part of every Egyptian festival.  The first days were spent mostly in preparation.  On New Year’s Eve the temples were rededicated.  In the capital city the pharaoh himself performed the ceremonies, accompanied by the queen and numerous high priests.  Fire was newly kindled and, as twilight deepened, throngs flocked to the temple courtyards to watch torchlight processions leave and begin to wind their way through the darkened streets.  The next day, the first day of the New Year, was the Egyptians’ most important holiday. 

both food and drink were abundant and people wore their finest clothes.  Small gifts, perfume bottles or amulets inscribed au ab nab (all good luck), were exchanged between friends. Custom demanded that peasants and leaseholders present more sizable gifts to the lord whose land they worked, but these too were given in a holiday spirit.  New Year’s night was taken up with more torchlight processions, and only when exhaustion drove the crowds home was the festival officially ended.

In ancient Mesopotamia life was more uncertain.  The land lay between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; crops, and therefore survival, depended on the annual overflow from the rivers.  But the Tigris and the Euphrates were not nearly as dependable as the Nile, nor as predictable.  The people could not know exactly when the rivers would rise, nor how much water they would bring.  They only knew that at certain times of the year the earth was parched and dry, that all growing things were dead, and that if water did not come again they would face eventual starvation. 




These early Mesopotamians believed that the land was barren because Tammuz (later Marduk), the god of all growing things, was imprisoned in the underworld—held captive by the dragon Tiamat.  it was the duty of the whole nation, and most especially the king, to help Tammuz fight his way back to each so the crops would grow again. 

This battle became the theme of the Mesopotamian New Year’s festival which, like the Egyptian holiday, began almost five thousand years ago.  The celebration lasted for twelve days, and the mood was more somber than in Egypt, at least for the first days of the feast.  Excitement, anticipation, but most of all fear, marked the beginnings of the ritual. The god Tammuz must be mourned.  Even the kind did penance, assuring the god that he had carried out his duties, that he had “not destroyed Babylon” (the great capital city).  There was great commotion in the streets as crowds searched for the missing god and groups of men staged mock battles on his behalf.  bonfires were built, and in them were burned wooden effigies of the dragon Tiamat.  Tension ran high.  Tammuz must be found and freed; life must return to the land. 


The dragon Tiamat.


Finally, on the sixth day, the god triumphed.  Rescued by his son, the god Nabu, he returned to earth victorious, and married Ishtar, the goddess of battles.  The king, now impersonating the god, appeared amid wild rejoicing.  Bands of costumed men roamed the city, forming torchlight processions at nightfall.  For the next six days, gaily decorated wagons, filled with the statues of gods and goddesses were paraded down the great avenues.  More bonfires were built, and feasting and drinking went on all night.  In the daylight hours friends visited each other and exchanged gifts.  finally, on the twelfth day, the statues of the gods and goddesses were returned to the temples.  The people’s fate had been decided for yet another year, and good had conquered evil.  On the twelfth night one last and most uproarious feast ended the holiday season.  

Nabu, the old-time myth god.

 So, when you hear me and those others Truth Seekers say Merry Christmas this year, remember some of us do follow the old religion.

Peace to all, Merry Christmas, and Away With The Manger....

Dr TV Boogie


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