Saturday, January 31, 2009

Totem Pole

I'm not sure what to say about this image. While "the hunter" does go on one, annual deer hunt, this is not one he shot. He found this specimen while quail hunting. The head was hanging around the place, moved from one location to another by myself or the hunter, always in a place that the dogs couldn't reach it. Eventually, he quietly mounted the head on this apple tree branch planted into the ground and bound it with a length of old baling wire.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Two Presidents

Like the blogger who wrote, "[...] Feministe’s post, so good i had to just post it here and FULLY credit them. why? because i couldn’t guarantee readers would go there and the visual image is just too important.. [...]"
These two images were juxtaposed by Feministe and all credit goes there.

The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003: And the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009:
Another commenter at Feministe said, "Next time, a woman in that chair." Indeed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bloggers (Silent) Poetry Reading

from the blog MetaPagan...

"WHAT: A Bloggers (Silent) Poetry Reading
WHEN: Anytime February 2, 2009
WHERE: Your blog
WHY: To celebrate the Feast of Brigid, aka Groundhog Day
HOW: Select a poem you like - by a favorite poet or one of your own - to post February 2nd.

RSVP: If you plan to publish, feel free to leave a comment and link on this post. Last year when the call went out there was more poetry in cyberspace than I could keep track of. So, link to whoever you hear about this from and a mighty web of poetry will be spun."

My readers might like to learn more about Imbolc, celebrated by many (not all) on the cross-quarter day, halfway between the solstice and equinox. Wiki also has an article.

As a gardener, I'll celebrate the cross-quarter day in an agrarian fashion, that is, I plan to clean my garden tools in preparation for the spring work season. Also, look for my participation in the Silent Poetry Reading, helping to flood the internet with poetry. I'll be thinking on my poem choice over the next few days.

Sun and Snow Sculptures

Sun is on the Rise

Two days of light snow, but more than that, everything is frozen solid. Bustling activity outside Dad's window at the feeder. In five minutes of viewing, I saw cardinals, house finches, starlings, robins, juncos, a red-bellied woodpecker and a carolina wren. Not to mention the six squirrels. As I write, the shadows of birds flit across my window shades. Thank heavens for the shadows, because that means the sun is on the rise. Yes, the sun!

Jealous of Dad's feeder, I must set some birdseed outside my own window!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Secularization of Europe

from A Sermon by Fr. Davenport, 13 January 2008
Shortly before he died, Nouwen returned to Holland to lecture at his seminary. There were just thirty-six students instead of the hundreds which had been there when he was a student. A century ago, 98 percent of Dutch people attended church. Now less than 15 percent do. “Almost half the church buildings in Holland have been destroyed or converted into restaurants, art galleries, or condominiums.”

Yancey writes, “Whenever I visit Europe and see the mostly hollow shells of an institution that dominated the continent for fifteen hundred years, I wonder if the same pattern will play out here [in the United States].” Yancey has hope that our country will “resist the avalanche of disbelief” because individual churches here have long been sending people on mission. Those on mission learn about suffering from the church in China, passionate evangelism from Africa, and intercessory prayer in Korea. “Just as nothing threatens my faith like a visit to agnostic Europe,” Yancey writes, “nothing invigorates my faith more than a visit to churches in non-Western countries.”

from the blog On the Go with Bo!
My parents in-law live in Utrecht, and we come here often. They have recently moved into a beautiful apartment on the canal, which used to be an old monastery and church. So what I find amusing is that the only place in this world where I've seen churches being converted into apartments is Holland. Seems like the church going population in Holland has decreased drastically over the past decades, that the churches don't have enough revenue and thus are being sold off to private developers. Only in Holland!

Well, not only in Holland. Jason at The Wild Hunt wrote today about post-Christian anxiety. Here are a couple of pictures I took in Europe, examples of the secularization. The first two of the Vondelkerk are in Amsterdam, but the second, that one of the elaborate, church paintings was in Scotland in what is now a restaurant dining hall. It's where we had our strictly secular supper one evening.

The Vondelkerk, view from the end of the block.

office address plaque at the Vondelkerk and bulletin for the opera to be performed in its hall; it still hosts weddings, too

Star of Bethlehem

These are Star of Bethlehem flowers from my yard last year. They're a highly invasive bulb and considered a noxious weed. They redeem themselves by these lovely, delicate flowers (I'm partial to whites.) and by the fact they are the first, no exceptions, to break ground in the spring--if you're generous enough to consider the lengthening days as the first signs of spring. For just after that change, these little flowers begin to appear as green and sturdy shoots.

The photograph below was taken a couple of days ago when temperatures were far below freezing. As you can see, they've been up and growing for quite a while. They have a waxy cuticle, which (I suppose) helps them endure the cold. They also have fleshy leaves, which (I suppose) helps them endure the dryness of frozen ground. They're bulbs so, of course, they don't need to worry too much about food at first.

They must be tough as nails because that ground they broke through was hard and solid as ice. I've bruised a toe trying to kick clods free of it.
I'm always fascinated by a plant with a lot of common names. It indicates to me the plant has history, is a part of culture, at least of gardening culture. This one has some doozies; Nap at Noon, Snowdrop, Dove's Dung, Eleven o'Clock Lady, and the best one, Sleepy Dick. I've known it as Star of Bethlehem, but these other names are better descriptive of its appearance and habits.

If you follow the link I provided above, you'll find all kinds of nasty comments about these weeds. They're quite despised. At Rivergarth, however, there's plenty of space, the beds not perfectly groomed, and I don't have a proper lawn. There's wiggle room for a few weeds.

Considering their early companionship in late winter at that time when I'm desperate for the signs of spring and their promises of bloom, I'm willing to share my space with them.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The German Shepherd Story

I'm always pestering my dad to write down his memories. My relatives will enjoy this one. It happened around 1940.

Fayetteville, Arkansas. I was about eleven years old. I forgot to tell you the rest of the German Shepherd story. Remember when I was going door-to-door selling women's magazines? The local variety store furnished the magazines and gave little prizes for selling so many. I had my eye on a beautiful jack knife, and I wanted it. Most of my territory covered the Greek houses.

The first boys at one house had a German Shepherd dog. As I approached this one particular Frat house they turned loose their dog on me. In a flash, he had my neck in his jaws. The boys pulled him off so he didn't do any permanent damage, and they had their fun, but it scared the hell out of me.

The sororities were much more hospitable. When I came up to a door the girls would all crowd around me and say, “What a cute little boy. Come look at the magazine boy." So after all the girls had their fun they usually bought a magazine. As soon as I sold enough magazines to earn the jack knife, I quit.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sunny Day

Rejoice! The sun is shining!

Dad and I went for a short walk today. 45 degrees, sunshine and little to no wind. Dad's gear is a bit deceptive here; it wasn't nearly as cold as it appears! And no, he's not going into hunting--yet. The camo was just a loaner I snatched up before we went out. Also, next time I'll remind him to smile, for heaven's sake!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Wilson's Pasture

While I enjoy the friendship of the seasons, I trust that nothing can make life a burden to me. -Walden, Thoreau

Wilson's Pasture: the forty acre field near where Dad grew up in Fayetteville. In the winter dawn, Dad says, the song of birds was overwhelming. Dad tosses his hands up in the air, unable to convey the sense of that loud and lost symphony. Far greater than these days, he says, now just peeps and occasional chatter.

Outside Dad's window; a flock of robins, a lone junco, a red-bellied woodpecker on the trunk of a big, white pine, and a downy woodpecker moving along a branch of the same. This morning; a "herd" of squirrels, six, devouring sunflower seeds. Maybe my uncle will look up the correct word for such a group.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Shell Imprint

It's my hunter's pleasure to bring me a rock from each of his forays, a token that I'm not forgotten. Last night, he presented me with these great fossils imprinted in what seem like hard chalk rocks gathered from Western Kansas, out around Dodge City I believe. Are there any scientists among my readers who can identify the shell? It looks to me like the same common, brown, river clams I find down in the Little Ark.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Leaf-Treader

I have been treading on leaves all day until I am autumn-tired.
God knows all the color and form of leaves I have trodden on and mired.
Perhaps I have put forth too much strength and been too fierce from

I have safely trodden underfoot the leaves of another year.

All summer long they were overhead, more lifted up than I.
To come to their final place in earth they had to pass me by.
All summer long I thought I heard them threatening under their breath.
And when they came it seemed with a will to carry me with them to


They spoke to the fugitive in my heart as if it were leaf to leaf.
They tapped at my eyelids and touched my lips with an invitation to

But it was no reason I had to go because they had to go.
Now up, my knee, to keep on top of another year of snow.

-Robert Frost

A leaf-treader I am.

Duck Convention

For the past few days, since the real cold set in, there's been a growing number of mallards on the west bank of the Little Ark. They keep busy, too, bathing and mating. Yes, they're mating already. The Great Horned Owls are busy with that business as well. At least the hooting is continuing later in the morning, so I believe they're getting together, and that's prior to their scheduled February romances. The owls are great ones for celebrating St. Valentine's Day.


Outside Dad's window are juncos on the ground eating the seed I spread for them. Many years ago, I painted these three birds from a similar scene. Unfortunately, I sold the pair about a year ago. I would make a poor commercial artist; I can't stand to let go of my work, which represents memories to me.

We have juncos only in the winter, and they are a sign of it. They're a softly-colored bird, grays, dusty blacks, pale washes of pink. They make small sounds, not infrequently, but neither do they chatter. They gather in small groups, seldom more than six or eight in my yard, even less often alone. They are the first to find scattered seed (besides the squirrels). Of their mating, their spring or summer habits, I know nothing, because they are gone again. In all things that I know about them, except eating, they are moderate, a trait I find charming.

I hope Dad is enjoying the company of the juncos. I am.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Expectation of the Dawn

"We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves an infinite expectation of the dawn, which does not forsake us in our soundest sleep." -Walden, Thoreau

Does there ever come a point in life when this requirement is no longer relevant? I don't believe so, because I feel that each life is a continuation of the lives that came before, our parents, and a legacy to those that come after, our children. We must live to anticipate each dawn in honor of the past and as a promise to our future, which does not cease at death.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Two Hobbits

Like two hobbits in a winter burrow, Dad and I are withdrawn from the cold to read and drowse and wait for spring, he in the west room, I in the east. We meet, perchance, for tea.

The Big Snow

Snowboy, watercolor by me
Once in a while my daily subscription to EBSQ actually presents me with an original I like. Today, it was this fun acrylic by Tammy Moody. It reminded me of this watercolor I did years ago of a little boy catching snowflakes on his tongue. The image is from a children's book, but I don't remember the title. It might even have been called The Big Snow.
Sudbury Sketches by moi
Tammy's painting reminded me, too, of these watercolor sketches I made of children playing at the Sudbury School in Massachusetts. It was summertime then, but the mood is similar, yes?

[Unfortunately, one of my great failings is my lack of photography skills, so the colors in these pics aren't very true to the originals. I tried to adjust once I had them on the computer, but the whites aren't very white in Snowboy, and the figures are fuzzy in the sketches.]

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Whole Ground of Human Life

A couple of days ago I quoted the good book, Ecclesiastes, and here is that quote again in the fine language of old King James; "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." -1:9

In beginning to reread Walden, I discovered a statement by dear Thoreau that seems to imply his disagreement with the biblical sage. How now?

To dear Thoreau it only seems as though "there is no new thing under the sun." He says, "The whole ground of human life seems to some to have been gone over by their predecessors, both the heights and the valleys, and all things to have been cared for." "But," he adds, "man's capacities have never been measured; nor are we to judge of what he can do by any precedents, so little has been tried."

I can't decide with whom I agree. Experience persuades me of the former, but imagination prods me to believe in the latter.

As long as it's made clear that I read "better" as the "larger" part and not the "finer", I most agree with Thoreau on this other point; "The better part of the man is soon plowed into the soil for compost."

My Truck

It's a 1992 Ford Ranger, 4cyl, with well over 100,000 miles on it. It died last night, fortunately in my driveway, and we had to buy it a new battery. Thank the lord that was the problem, and my baby is running like new again. This morning I had to make an Atwoods run. Do ya'll know Atwoods? It's a "country" store, that is, they sell stuff that country people need; chickens, horse vaccines, salt licks, chicken feed, dog food, hardware, Western clothes, canning supplies, toy tractors, the works.

Anyway, I was there (as I often am) with my truck in the parking lot alongside all the REAL trucks with their V8s and hemis, their automatic steering and double cabs and heavy duty tires; none of them older than 2007. You might think I'd be embarassed about my little, ol' truck, but I'm not. I looked at those trucks, then thought about mine and all the miles and adventures we've had together. I raised two boys with this truck, took them camping to lakes and mountains and prairies, deserts and caves. I've also raised chickens in the hundreds with this truck, hauled chicken feed, dog food, dogs, ducks, hay, straw, wood, mulch, trees, flowers, sofas, fishin' tackle, lawn mowers and just about anything else I could fit into the back of it.

The front left tire is low, and the topper isn't the right size. I bought that used for $50, and it doesn't lock, but along with the bed liner, I keep the goods high and dry.

I'm pretty sure my Ranger has done more work than all the V8s at Atwoods put together, and as long as it'll keep running, I don't ever want another.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nothing New Under the Sun

Every thought has been thunk before, or "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." -Ecclesiastes 1:9-14 NIV.

This morning I'm glad that's true, because I've been trying to communicate some thoughts (rather ineptly I'm afraid in my recent posts, Wine in the West), and now I've found an author who does it so much better than myself. AND, he's documented his statements, whereas, I read energetically, but without structure, absorb, then can't remember from where all the ideas came that I've synthesized into a conclusion.

Be prepared for numerous quotes from Brendan Myers in the future, just like this:

The worthwhile life gives to itself its own morality. Its very logic produces its own laws, and inside itself it separates right from wrong. The quest for the good life creates for itself its own destiny.

Wine in the West V


Concerning mead, I've previously shared Northern European literature, specifically passages from Y Goddodin and Beowulf in my post "Honor and Courage," where I discussed (overlong, I'm sure) mead's ritual significance among the warrior elite. It doesn't end there though. This Cult of Mead was no passing fad, but an ancient (evident from archaeology) and pervasive (as we see from its predominance in literature) aspect of our pagan past, especially of Northern folk whom Christians came to call Heathens, among whom the rituals were preserved long into the Christian age. Preserved so long, in fact, that modern Americans, Vinlanders, if you will, continue to practice them today. Perfect examples are "tailgating," toasts to the newlyweds (and just about every other adult social milestone) and the ubiquitous New Year's Eve drinking bout.

Obviously, various Christian denominations advocate different attitudes toward alcohol from that of total abstinence to a stance of almost indifferent tolerance. Nevertheless, the consumption of the Heathen and that of the Christian are distinctly different, or would be, if Christians actually adhered to the traditions of consumption within their churches. No denomination, as far as I know, lauds the drinker as among our Heathen ancestors. No denomination, as far as I know, celebrates, as modern Vinlanders do, the heroic drinker, that one who can drink all others "under the table" or "holds his drink well." This admiration is a legacy of our Heathen past.

Among the Heathens, there's no proscription against alcoholic consumption, rather a man who can drink and hold it well is admired. The Heathen recognizes the simple and domestic virtues of ale, mead and wine.

By the fire one should drink ale, one should slide over the ice,
buy a lean horse and a rusty blade,
fatten the horse at home and a dog on the farmstead.
-Havamol 83

Not very much need a man give,
often you get praise for a little;
with half a loaf and a tilted cup
I've got myself a companion.
-Havamol 52

He also recognizes the dangers of excess; "The heron of forgetfulness hovers over the ale-drinking; he steals men's wits...A man shouldn't hold onto the cup but drink mead in moderation..." -Havamol 13 and 19.

As for the heroic drinker, there are two ways of looking at that. There's the warrior who drinks to seal his vow as in Beowulf and Y Gododdin, then there's the hero of drink, whom I feel developed in a later age than the first. This type of heroic drinker appears in the Icelandic Sagas. Egil Skallagrimsson has to be the greatest of these:

Then the ale was brought in, an exceptionally strong brew. Each man was given a horn to drink from, and the host made a special point of letting Egil and his men drink as much as possible. Egil drank incessantly for a long time at first, and when his companions became incapacitated, he drank what they could not finish as well. -Egil's Saga

A man was expected to uphold his end of the drinking, as in The Tale of Halldor Snorrason II;

Thorir came to speak to the king, saying 'As you know, I am an old man, and get tired quickly. I do not think I am capable of following the customs of the king's men, such as drinking toasts and such related things. I am now going to look elsewhere, even though being with you is best and most agreeable to me.'

The king answered, 'It is possible for us to find a solution, my friend. Stay here with my followers. You have my permission to drink no more than you wish.'

Bard was a man from Oppland, a good comrade, and not very old. He was an intimate friend of King Harald's. These three men, Bard, Thorir and Halldor, shared a bench, and one evening, just as the king walked by where they were sitting and drinking, Halldor was passing over the horn. It was a great animal horn, and nearly transparent. It was possible to see quite well through it that he had drunk half as much as Thorir, who was a slow drinker.

Then the king spoke: 'It takes a while before you see people in their true colours, Halldor,' he said. 'So you break faith in drinking with old men, and rush off to whores in the late evening instead of following your king.'

Halldor made no answer, but Bard could sense that he disliked the king's comments. Bard went to meet the king early in the morning.

'You are an early riser, Bard,' said the king.

'I have come to reproach you, my lord,' said Bard. 'You spoke badly and unjustly to your friend Halldor yesterday evening, when you accused him of not drinking his share. It was Thorir's horn and he had already given up and would have returned it to the tray if Halldor had not drunk it for him...'.

To this, all I can add is that perhaps these prodigious drinkers preserved themselves with Odin's magical advice, "...where you drink ale, choose the power of earth! For earth is good against drunkenness..." -Havamol 137


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Earth Bouquet

Wine in the West IV


It is in these scraps of record, as well as from archaeology and anthropology, that I search for answers. It's because I don't experience the eastern philosophy as my own that I seek to rediscover my ancestral philosophy.

As Guignebert wrote (roughly), the Western peoples have never really understood the Eastern religions, most notably, Christianity. I believe that's true of Americans in general, not just myself. We shout in victory at competitive events. Rather than experience humility, we take pride in our professional achievements. We strive for excellence in all things and reward the winners. We admire independence, courage and strength. Twist it as you like, Christianity is not the foundation of these American attitudes.

[15th century drinking horn from a Picasaweb album by Reese. The late date on this horn demonstrates just how long the drinking cult survived in Europe, hundred of years into the Christian ages, in fact. As I suggest, to this day.]

Not all my ancestors were of the warrior elite, maybe none of them. But whether they were farmers or bakers, they lived in a society which honored the ideals of that elite, just as we honor, significantly to my point, the soldiers who serve and protect our country. To be a warrior does not mean one enjoys bloodshed. It only requires a sense of duty and honor, the conviction that the strong must protect the weak. The noblest warrior is one who desires peace above all else.

What does this have to do with wine? Well, literature and archaeology agree that the culture of mead or wine was integral to lives of Western pagans, south or north. I don't believe we can understand these people unless we understand the role of their intoxicants, and I believe we gain greater spiritual and intellectual access to their thoughts and convictions when we participate in their customs. That does not mean we revert to a comparatively primitive lifestyle, but we do have the luxury to study the best of the age's values, compare them to our own, good and bad, and apply those which make us better people.

to be continued...

Friday, January 9, 2009

Raud the Strong

Follow two literary selections to honor Raud's Day. The first is Longfellow's version of the events recorded in the Heimskringla. The second is a translation of that record in which the defiant Heathen, Raud the Strong, is martyred for his gods.


"All the old gods are dead,
All the wild warlocks fled;
But the White Christ lives and reigns,
And throughout my wide domains
His Gospel shall be spread!"
On the Evangelists
Thus swore King Olaf.
But still in dreams of the night
Beheld he the crimson light,
And heard the voice that defied
Him who was crucified,
And challenged him to the fight.
To Sigurd the Bishop
King Olaf confessed it.
And Sigurd the Bishop said,
"The old gods are not dead,
For the great Thor still reigns,
And among the Jarls and Thanes
The old witchcraft still is spread."
Thus to King Olaf
Said Sigurd the Bishop.
"Far north in the Salten Fiord,
By rapine, fire, and sword,
Lives the Viking, Raud the Strong;
All the Godoe Isles belong
To him and his heathen horde."
Thus went on speaking
Sigurd the Bishop.
"A warlock, a wizard is he,
And lord of the wind and the sea;
And whichever way he sails,
He has ever favoring gales,
By his craft in sorcery."
Here the sign of the cross
Made devoutly King Olaf.
"With rites that we both abhor,
He worships Odin and Thor;
So it cannot yet be said,
That all the old gods are dead,
And the warlocks are no more,"
Flushing with anger
Said Sigurd the Bishop.
Then King Olaf cried aloud:
"I will talk with this mighty Raud,
And along the Salten Fiord
Preach the Gospel with my sword,
Or be brought back in my shroud!"
So northward from Drontheim
Sailed King Olaf!


Loud the angry wind was wailing
As King Olaf's ships came sailing
Northward out of Drontheim haven
To the mouth of Salten Fiord.
Though the flying sea-spray drenches
Fore and aft the rowers' benches,
Not a single heart is craven
Of the champions there on board.
All without the Fiord was quiet,
But within it storm and riot,
Such as on his Viking cruises
Raud the Strong was wont to ride.
And the sea through all its tide-ways
Swept the reeling vessels sideways,
As the leaves are swept through sluices,
When the flood-gates open wide."
'T is the warlock! 't is the demonRaud!"
cried Sigurd to the seamen;
"But the Lord is not affrigted
By the witchcraft of his foes.
"To the ship's bow he ascended,
By his choristers attended,
Round him were the tapers lighted,
And the sacred incense rose.
On the bow stood Bishop Sigurd,
In his robes, as one transfigured,
And the Crucifix he planted
High amid the rain and mist.
Then with holy water sprinkled
All the ship; the mass-bells tinkled;
Loud the monks around him chanted,
Loud he read the Evangelist.
As into the Fiord they darted,
On each side the water parted;
Down a path like silver molten
Steadily rowed King Olaf's ships;
Steadily burned all night the tapers,
And the White Christ through the vapors
Gleamed across the Fiord of Salten,
As through John's Apocalyspe,
---Till at last they reached Raud's dwelling
On the little isle of Gelling;
Not a guard was at the doorway,
Not a glimmer of light was seen.
But at anchor, carved and gilded,
Lay the dragon-ship he builded;
'T was the grandest ship in Norway,
With its crest and scales of green.
Up the stairway, softly creeping,
To the loft where Raud was sleeping,
With their fists they burst asunder
Bolt and bar that held the door.
Drunken with sleep and ale they found him,
Dragged him from his bed and bound him,
While he stared with stupid wonder,
At the look and garb they wore.
Then King Olaf said: "O Sea-King!
Little time have we for speaking,
Choose between the good and evil;
Be baptized, or thou shalt die!
But in scorn the heathen scoffer
Answered: "I disdain thine offer;
Neither fear I God nor Devil;
Thee and thy Gospel I defy!"
Then between his jaws distended,
When his frantic struggles ended,
Through King Olaf's horn an adder,
Touched by fire, they forced to glide.
Sharp his tooth was as an arrow,
As he gnawed through bone and marrow;
But without a groan or shudder,
Raud the Strong blaspheming died.
Then baptized they all that region,
Swarthy Lap and fair Norwegian,
Far as swims the salmon, leaping,
Up the streams of Salten Fiord.
In their temples Thor and Odin
Lay in dust and ashes trodden,
As King Olaf, onward sweeping,
Preached the Gospel with his sword.
Then he took the carved and gilded
Dragon-ship that Raud had builded,
And the tiller single-handed,
Grasping, steered into the main.
Southward sailed the sea-gull's o'er him,
Southward sailed the ship that bore him,
Till at Drontheim haven landed
Olaf and his crew again.

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(from the Saga of King Olaf)

The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway
BySnorri Sturluson(c. 1179 - 1241)
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #15b
Originally written in Old Norse, app. 1225 A.D., by the poet and historian Snorri Sturluson. English translation by Samuel Laing (London, 1844).

Bishop Sigurd took all his mass robes and went forward to the bow
of the king's ship; ordered tapers to be lighted, and incense to
be brought out. Then he set the crucifix upon the stem of the
vessel, read the Evangelist and many prayers, besprinkled the
whole ship with holy water, and then ordered the ship-tent to be
stowed away, and to row into the fjord. The king ordered all the
other ships to follow him. Now when all was ready on board the
Crane to row, she went into the fjord without the rowers finding
any wind; and the sea was curled about their keel track like as
in a calm, so quiet and still was the water; yet on each side of
them the waves were lashing up so high that they hid the sight of
the mountains. And so the one ship followed the other in the
smooth sea track; and they proceeded this way the whole day and
night, until they reached Godey. Now when they came to Raud's
house his great ship, the dragon, was afloat close to the land.
King Olaf went up to the house immediately with his people; made
an attack on the loft in which Raud was sleeping, and broke it
open. The men rushed in: Raud was taken and bound, and of the
people with him some were killed and some made prisoners. Then
the king's men went to a lodging in which Raud's house servants
slept, and killed some, bound others, and beat others. Then the
king ordered Raud to be brought before him, and offered him
baptism. "And," says the king, "I will not take thy property
from thee, but rather be thy friend, if thou wilt make thyself
worthy to be so." Raud exclaimed with all his might against the
proposal, saying he would never believe in Christ, and making his
scoff of God. Then the king was wroth, and said Raud should die
the worst of deaths. And the king ordered him to be bound to a
beam of wood, with his face uppermost, and a round pin of wood
set between his teeth to force his mouth open. Then the king
ordered an adder to be stuck into the mouth of him; but the
serpent would not go into his mouth, but shrunk back when Raud
breathed against it. Now the king ordered a hollow branch of an
angelica root to be stuck into Raud's mouth; others say the king
put his horn into his mouth, and forced the serpent to go in by
holding a red-hot iron before the opening. So the serpent crept
into the mouth of Raud and down his throat, and gnawed its way
out of his side; and thus Raud perished. King Olaf took here
much gold and silver, and other property of weapons, and many
sorts of precious effects; and all the men who were with Raud he
either had baptized, or if they refused had them killed or
tortured. Then the king took the dragonship which Raud had
owned, and steered it himself; for it was a much larger and
handsomer vessel than the Crane. In front it had a dragon's
head, and aft a crook, which turned up, and ended with the figure
of the dragon's tail. The carved work on each side of the stem
and stern was gilded. This ship the king called the Serpent.
When the sails were hoisted they represented, as it were, the
dragon's wings; and the ship was the handsomest in all Norway.
The islands on which Raud dwelt were called Gylling and Haering;
but the whole islands together were called Godey Isles, and the
current between the isles and the mainland the Godey Stream.
King Olaf baptized the whole people of the fjord, and then sailed
southwards along the land; and on this voyage happened much and
various things, which are set down in tales and sagas, -- namely,
how witches and evil spirits tormented his men, and sometimes
himself; but we will rather write about what occurred when King
Olaf made Norway Christian, or in the other countries in which he
advanced Christianity. ...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wine in the West III


"The use of alcohol in later Neolithic Europe should not be separated from the overall cultural picture of which it was just a part. As Sheratt explains:

The spread of the drinking complex--a common emphasis on sets of vessels, often combined in graves, which in several cases are so distinctive stylistically as to have given their name to whole cultures--took place during a period of unusually rapid social, cultural and economic change. During this time, Europe was opened up--both literally, in terms of the further deforestation of its landscapes, and metaphorically, in terms of its new contacts and social opportunities. Fundamental to this processwas the increasing importance of livestock, and the emergence of male warrior elites whose sub-culture was portrayed in the characteristic combination of weaponry and drinking vessels in their graves. [my emphasis]

"Alcohol in this early phase of European life was a rarity, and in the more northerly climes various sugar-producing substances were pressed into the service of producing intoxicating brews. Organic residues from later prehistoric vessels show that cereal grains, honey and fruits were all mixed together to make a composite drink which was at once a mead, an ale and a fruit wine. The use of this new liquid intoxicant may initially have been combined with opium or hemp, but it was soon to establish itself as the primary intoxicant of Western culture, a position it still maintains."

-Richard Rudgley, Essential Substances: A Cultural History of Intoxicants in Society ©1993, p33-34.

At this point literature extends itself to record this sub-culture of the warrior elite. The Iliad and the Odyssey are early examples in the south. Historical reports by men of great intellect, such as Julius Caesar and Tacitus, chronicle parallel cultures in the north, and written much later in the north, there is Beowulf, and yet later, Icelandic Sagas.

to be continued...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Wine in the West II


"Not long after this, another distinctive complex of vessels for holding liquids, known as Globular Amphorae, appeared over an area of Europe from Hamburg to Kiev. This new ceramic style was influenced both by Baden pottery and by the cord decoration of the steppe cultures. It is possible, on this line of argument, that their brews may have combined alcohol and Cannabis sativa in a potent infusion!"

"The popularity of heavily decorated drinking vessels continued to spread further northward into central and eastern Europe with the Corded Ware Beakers. These beakers (which are large drinking cups) were decorated with rows of cord impressions; their great cultural importance is attested by the fact that they recur again and again in the burials of the period alongside two other types of distinctive male artifacts--the flint dagger and the shaft-hole stone battle-axe."

[Bell Beaker image: click for credit]

"The final phase (c.2500-2000 B.C.) in the initial diffusion of vessels plausibly associated with the use of alcoholic drinks is marked by the spread of Bell Beakers, which first brought this type of drinking vessel to Britain and the Atlantic coasts and are often found in graves together with archery equipment and the first metal daggers."

--Richard Rudgley, Essential Substances: A Cultural History of Intoxicants in Society © 1993, p.34.

I imagine myself at graveside burdened with the corpse of my father or brother as the wind blows cold from the North Sea. How and why do I choose to bury these objects, drinking cup, bow, dagger and axe, with this man?

Not casually, I believe, was this done, but with thought and conviction. What were those thoughts? What were those convictions? The questions fascinate me.

to be continued...

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Wild Hunt Must Read

Is there any more thoughtful group than those reading The Wild Hunt? Read the comments here for Jason's post, "Outgrowing Paganism?"

Wine in the West I

"It is to the Early Bronze Age cultures of the Aegean and Anatolia (Asia Minor), in the early period from 3500 to 2000 B.C., that we must look for the immediate origins of the diffusion of alcohol throughout Europe. These communities consumed their wine from metal drinking vessels, and their more northerly neighbors of the Baden culture in central Europe have been shown by the archaeologist Nandor Kalicz to have echoed the design of these vessels in their own pottery (see fig. 7). [I substituted this image found on the internet for the figure in the book. It's also of Baden culture pottery.]

"Various features of Baden ceramics, such as their fluting, strap-handles and dimpled bases, clearly have their origins in the techniques used for shaping metal prototypes.
"The Baden culture not only lacked the necessary knowledge of sheet metalworking to make metal cups, but was also beyond the limits of viticulture, which only reached this area in Roman times. So the liquids consumed from their pottery imitations of southern metalware were also a substitute. They probably drank mead, rather than grape-wine." [my emphasis]
-Richard Rudgley, Essential Substances: A Cultural History of Intoxicants in Society©1993, p33.
(If interested, this book also provides a survey of early intoxicants other than alcohol.)
to be continued...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Winter, the Wisdom of Wine


Loosening my sable cloak, I face
white-jade winejars. Snowflakes

melt into our wine, and suddenly
it seems night cold isn't so cold.

A visitor here from Kuei-yang
calls mountain partridge. Clear

wind rustles bamboo at the window.
Peacock cries start breaking out.

This is music enough. Why tell
flutes and pipes our troubles?


I'm like some partridge or quail--
going south, then flying lazily north.

And now I've come to find you here,
a little wine returns me to the moon.


Never refuse wine. I'm telling you,
people come smiling in spring winds:

peach and plum like old friends, their
open blossoms scattering toward me,

singing orioles in jade-green trees,
and moonlight probing gold winejars.

Yesterday we were flush with youth,
and today, white hair's an onslaught.

Bramble's overgrown Shih-hu Temple,
and deer roam Ku-su Terrace ruins:

it's always been like this, yellow dust
choking even imperial gates closed

in the end. If you don't drink wine,
where are those ancient people now?

--Li Po (purest of poets) A.D. 712-760
trans. David Hinton

Saturday, January 3, 2009

NFL Wildcard Weekend

I'll be cheering for the Eagles. I'm an ardent McNabb fan, and Westbrook is awesome. I attempted to participate in Playoff Fantasy Football, but I'm such a newbie. My attempt consisted of learning to fill in the players' names. I hope to use the playoffs to learn how to play so I can participate next year. It looks like fun.
  • NFL Wildcard Weekend Schedule
Game 1: Saturday, Jan 3, 4:30 pm ET, NBC
Atlanta Falcons (11-5) at Arizona Cardinals (9-7)

Game 2: Saturday, Jan 3, 8:00 pm ET, NBC
Indianapolis Colts (12-4) at San Diego Chargers (8-8)

Game 3: Sunday, Jan 4, 1:00 pm ET, CBS
Baltimore Ravens (11-5) at Miami Dolphins (11-5)

Game 4: Sunday, Jan 4, 4:30 pm ET, FOX
Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1) at Minnesota Vikings (10-6)


Thursday, January 1, 2009

"Melted into Air, into Thin Air"

From some random blog, I read "Caliban," which caused me to think of The Tempest. Being the reader I am, I picked up my collected works to read it again, curious to refresh my memories of Caliban. Meanwhile, I posted a youtube video which ended with this quote (roughly), "Life is a dream, and we are the imaginations of ourselves." Caliban, it turned out, was only the signpost of the eventual synchronicity that occurred, because it was Prospero who uttered that ancient wisdom, rediscovered by physicists, echoed by Shakespeare, inherent in global archetypes of symbol and myth.

Prospero: You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismayed: be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended...These are actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air,
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind: we are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep...