Friday, December 15, 2017


I hate what Christmas has become -- snow, trees, jingles bells and all that stuff.  The only part that may be right is the lights, for it is when the Light of the World, Christ Himself, came down to the most lowly level of humanity--the Lamb of God born in a stable, and first worshiped by shepherds. I'm with Linus and Charlie Brown--see "Charlie Brown's Christmas" - the best Christmas special ever made, in my opinion.

Actually, Jesus probably wasn't born in December at all, or even winter.  If the shepherds were out in the fields with their flocks at night, it was probably lambing season, which would have to be spring, or perhaps even summer.  The Roman Emperor probably wouldn't have called for his census in the middle of winter, either.

The Bible never mentions any dates of Jesus' life, except the ones that coincide with Jewish Holy Days, such as the Feast of Tabernacles, which is in fall, and the Feast of Passover, which is in Spring.  There is certainly deep significance that the Lamb of God was sacrificed at the time the lambs were sacrificed to celebrate the passing over of the Angel of Death in Egypt, back in the Old Testament.

The early church (not the first century believers, who celebrated Easter every Sunday, "The Lord's Day")  but the State Church that was founded by the Emperor Constantine in the 300's, decided to replace pagan holidays with Christian substitutes.

Hence, we got All Hallow's Eve, and All Saints Day to coincide with Samhain, the pagan observance of the midpoint between the Fall Equinox and the Winter Solstice.  Christmas got to replace the Winter Solstice, which was the time when the days finally began to lengthen again.  In pagan times, there was fear that as the days shortened, the sun might disappear forever, hence the Solstice was a major celebration.  While the actual Solstice is around Dec. 21, it wasn't until Dec. 25 that people were assured that the days really were getting longer.  Hence Christmas.  As I said before, the link with light is interesting.

Next came the midway point to the Spring Equinox, which is Feb. 2.  The Medieval church celebrated it as Candlemas, when all the candles to be used for the coming year were blessed.  Don't ask me how Groundhog Day got in there!  Maybe something linked to the Greek myth that this was when the goddess Proserphane was released from the Underworld by the Dark Lord for six months, so there could be spring and summer.

Easter usually falls near Passover, because it is the one date mentioned in the Bible.  There is an echo of the pagan, though, because the ever-changing date of Easter is determined by where the first Sunday after the first full moon of Spring falls.  This was probably a sign to the pagan world of when to plant their crops.   Interesting that Jesus compared his death and resurrection to the planting of a 'dead' seed and the rising of a new plant.

Next comes May Day, the midpoint between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice.  It was a pagan celebration of fertility and the first fruits of the land.  Now the Catholic church observes it as May Crowning, when Mary is honored as the Queen of Heaven.

That leaves the Summer Solstice, which is still observed in northern lands with big bonfires.  Celebrating the light of the longest day.  I don't know of any observation in the church of this.  Also neglected by the church is August 1, the midpoints between the Summer Solstice and the Fall Equinox.  There may be some saints' days I'm not aware of, not being Catholic myself, though I did teach in a Catholic school for 12 years.

Anyway, that's my two cents worth.  But in my opinion, we should be sending Easter Cards instead of Christmas cards.  It's by far the more hopeful and true of the Christian Holy Days.  As St. Paul says in I Corinthians 15, if there is no resurrection from the dead, we are without hope, and most to be pitied.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Saturn and The Old Year - Another Holiday?

Winter Solstice is only 9 days away. I realized I'd better wish you all "Io Saturnalia!" That's Latin for Merry Christmas, except that it was pre-Christ's birth, so Christmas didn't really exist yet. 

Saturn was the "grandfather" of the Gods, having been the father of Jupiter (Zeus in Greek) who was, in turn, father of most of the rest of the gods in mythology. I find it interesting that old Saturn still shows up this time of year, as Father Time, portraying the Old Year who is going out when we welcome in the Baby New Year. So perhaps I'd better amend my post to say Io Saturnalia and Happy New Year! 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Jael and the Teacher

I am trying to start my New Year's resolution early and blog at least twice a month.  Following is a short scene of one of the main characters in my first book, "The Peaks at the Edge of the World."  This book is to be re-released, newly revised, this winter by my new publisher, First Steps Publishing.  This scene isn't in the book, but is one that very well could be.  It's a kind of "sound bite" of one of the themes of the book.

     I looked up at Master Stone.  "Sir, I don't understand why you're so opposed to books."
     "Books are forbidden by the Council, lad."  The man towered over me, and I tried to keep my head up and my eyes on him.
     "But, sir, if we destroy all the old books, we'll lose the knowledge in them."
     "Bah!  All we need to know has now been programmed into the Terminals."
     I wanted to say more, but my heart was pounding hard against my breastbone.  'What can we really trust?' I thought.  'How can we know for sure what's been kept and what's been deleted?'
     He was still staring coldly at me, waiting for a response.  'Fight or fold?' I asked myself.  Finally, I found my voice:
     "My father often told me the best way to check the facts was to find the original document, sir."
     "Well, all those so-called originals are digitized now, Jael," he snapped.  "Old books just waste space."
     "Very well, sir.  I will accept your opinion."  'For now,' I added to myself.  

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thinking Back and Giving Thanks

Lost a month here somewhere. Feels like December already. I was looking through my college trunk yesterday and found some letters I received in 1973. Made me stop to think how much the world has changed in those past 44 years. Back then, there was no email, no Internet even, no Facebook, just good old snail mail. I have these actual written documents. But what will my children have from me? 
Hmm. Sort of reminds me of the theme of my first book, "The Peaks at the Edge of the World"  which talked about a world where everything is on computer terminals, to the point that books and writing are actually outlawed. I'll blog more on that later.
For now, stop and give thanks for the real people in your life, not just the "virtual" ones. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Holidays and Holy Days - More Than Just a Vacation

Well, I'm a week late with this, but October 31 was more than the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation started by Martin Luther in Germany.

October 31 is also the halfway point between the Autumnal Equinox and the Winter Solstice.  In ancient Celtic lore it was called Samhain (pronounced "SAW-EEN").  The early Christian church had a policy of turning ancient pagan festivals into Holy Days, hence the word we use now "Holi-days".  And so Samhain became All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day.  Hence we got the name "Halloween" from "Hallowed E'en" ( Holy Evening).  This is the one Quarter Feast that's kept more of its pagan residue, like the idea of spirits of the dead walking the earth on the eve of All Saints Day, and the popularity of The Day of the Dead in countries like Mexico.

Other Christianized festivals include Christmas, which is close to the Winter Solstice and a Roman festival called Saturnalia.  (Look for more in a later blog about Saturn.  It's more than just a planet with rings!)

Then there's the next Quarter Feast, Feb. 2, which the Church calls Candlemas, when candles for use in the next year were blessed.  Before that it was a pagan feast marking the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring (Vernal) Equinox.  Now we call it Groundhog Day.  More on that later, too.

Meanwhile, here in Montana, winter arrived early with All Saints Day, so when we get to the so-called first day of winter, it will be closer to what the Northern Europeans call it-- "Midwinter."

Happy Whatever Holiday you feel like celebrating!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Love of Monday is the Root of All Evil

Not a lot of people know what a bad rap Herbert Hoover has gotten.  He had the misfortune of being President when the Great Depression began.  But before that, during World Was I, called The Great Was at that time, Germany had invaded Belgium and left it in ruins.  People were homeless and starving.  And Herbert Hoover, long before he was president, organized a great relief effort for the innocent civilians of Belgium, who had been caught up in a war that was not their fault.  Hoover contributed much of his own fortune to the effort.

What a contrast to a current very rich man who happens to be president and claims he can't help the people of Puerto Rico.

Reminds me of an old saying, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Friday, October 13, 2017

A Very Messy Question

Why is the world such a mess?  Why is God allowing these things to happen?  Hurricanes, fires, riots, mass shootings, stupid politics, nuclear threats, man's inhumanity to man (women,too) in general.  Well, there are three options, I've been told.  Either there is no God and it's all chance.  Or if there is a God, he doesn't care.

The third option is the hardest to understand.  That God created humans with free will, and therefore it's our own choices that have led to where we are now.  So why doesn't God fix it?  I ask myself (and God) that quite often.

Here's something I read in a book by British pastor and theologian J.B. Phillips: 

"Once we admit the possibilities of free will, we can see that injustices and grievances are inevitable...We may not agree with the risk that God took in giving man the power to choose.  We might even have preferred God to have made a race of robots who were unfailingly good and cheerful and kind.  But it is not in the least a question of what God could have done, but a question of what He has done.  We have to accept the scheme of things as it is.  If we must blame someone, it is surely fairer to blame mankind, who has chosen wrongly and so produced a world awry."

From "For This Day, 365 Meditations by J.B. Phillips" copyright 1974

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Peaks Saga is Being Reborn

Okay, I know it's been too long. I have been busy editing and rewriting my first books. And the BIG NEWS!! I have just signed a contract with First Steps Publishing to publish all my books. the new version of "The Peaks at the Edge of the World" and "Searching for Maia" will come out first. Then the "Beyond the Peaks Trilogy", which will be in three separate books as before. Covers will be brand new and amazing, I'm sure. I have been working very hard on improving my writing craft, so I can say what I really intend to. And yes, there are more books in the works, too, "Journeys on This Side of the Peaks."
I'll keep you posted on publication dates. Now my books will be more widely available at bookstores, online and anywhere.

A Musician's Point of View

Winter is already arriving in Glacier National Park, but the fall colors here in the valley are beautiful. Most of the time I avoid the news channels because they stress me out too much. Instead I want to share some musician's tidbits about national songs and anthems. Our current national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner", is based on a poem written by Francis Scott Key, during a naval battle in The War of 1812. It was set to the tune of "Anacreon in Heaven" which was a British drinking song. We might as well have stuck to "Yankee Doodle", or perhaps "America" which is just an adaptation of "God Save the Queen."
Personally, I prefer "America the Beautiful" written by Katherine Lee Bates when she was inspired by the view from Pikes Peak. The music was written to go with it by Samuel Ward. I especially like verse 3, which is little sung:
"Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life.
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Til all success be nobleness and every gain divine."
I'm wondering if it wasn't favored as a national anthem because it was written by a woman. I do know for a fact that "God Bless America" wasn't considered seriously because Irving Berlin was Jewish. Shame on you, America!
Oh, and another reason I like "America the Beautiful" is it isn't a song born out of war, though it does give homage to those who have given their all for her, as is proved by the verse I quoted above.
Or maybe we need a new song that acknowledges the diversity of our country more. Just some food and musical facts for thought.