Sunday, October 31, 2010

Origin of Halloween (Part 7)

Well, it looks as though today is Halloween, All Hollow's Eve, Samhain... It seems as if the whole world has taken time off to celebrate this holiday. Well actually, they have, but it's amazing how nearly every society has taken ahold of Halloween so seemingly easily. How could people of such distance and different walks of life just decide "this is the date we celebrate the dead"? Now, I may be getting ahead of myself a little, but I think it's a good idea to take some time and actually think about this one.

In Mexico, they celebrate the annual Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), on November 2nd or All Souls' Day in Catholic tradition. But they didn't just decide to take up this new celebration when the Spanish conquered their lands. No, in fact, this festival was already widely celebrated among the Aztec tribes of Mexico at this time, and had been around for hundreds of years. Why this date though?

On November 15, China used to set flower shaped lanterns in a stream or river at sundown, giving offerings to deceased whose wandering spirits may return at night to visit. This also shows some resemblance to the Samhain tradition of putting food outside their doors, and it's interesting because the dates are only 15 days apart. It seems as though there is some form of tradition in every pocket of the world that has a "Day of the Dead" so to speak, but why is that?

This is a quote from the book The Worship of the Dead, where it points to this particular origin: "The mythologies of all the ancient nations are interwoven with the events of the Deluge (or a great flood)... The force of this argument is illustrated by the fact of the observance of a great festival of the dead in commemoration of the event, not only by nations more or less in communication with each other, but by others widely separated, both by the ocean and by centuries of time. This festival is, moreover, held by all on or about the very day on which, according to the Mosaic account, the Deluge took place, the seventeenth day of the second month - the month nearly corresponding with our November."

Now, if that doesn't give you chills about ancient history and coincidences, nothing will, until maybe my post tomorrow, but for those of you who aren't familiar with the Deluge or the Great Flood, here's a brief recap of what the Bible has to say: The people of the earth were growing increasingly wicked, and very few lived their lives according to God's laws. He became angry at them, and he told Noah (a faithful worshipper of Him) to build what was called an ark (a large ship that could hold plenty of people and provisions. Noah began to warn the people of earth that God would cause a great flood to wipe out man, and start anew afterwards. God had him gather many animals from around the world and take them into his ark in pairs of 2s and others in 7s. The humans chose to disobey God's warning he sent through Noah, so only he and his family survived the Great Flood that came on the "seventeenth day of the second month." It is believed by many that all life today originated from those 8 humans.

All other humans died that day according to Mosaic account, but it's interesting to think about how all these celebrations of the dead from all corners of the earth revolve around or are on that date in time in which all those people died during the great flood. Commemorating, and worshipping, those for whom the Mosaic account says that God condemned. Food for thought.


Now, the past 6 days I chose to post only about Halloweens direct relations to the past taking a step by step approach toward the celebration we have today. But today, on the other hand, I chose to look into it's supposed past rather than on facts alone. This quote from the book the Worship of the Dead, is just a quote, and cannot necessarily be proven true, BUT, it does bring out rather incredible connections between today and thousands of years ago, based on the mythologies of many societies. If the celebrations do indeed date all the way back to Noah and a great flood, that would be unbelievable, making Halloween the longest living (and thriving) celebration in human history. But first, it must be proven if the events of the deluge ever actually took place. ;)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Origin of Halloween (Part 6)

After World War I broke out, America pretty much "lost it's innocence and began to grow up". The mentalities of Halloween and other such holidays were skewed, and stopped being celebrated by adults, thus it became a children's holiday. It became a popular tradition for kids to roam the streets at night, but as they did so it began a resurgence of the dark side that had demeaned the holiday in the past. Thus it became known as "Mischief Night."

In the years following WWI, there were many acts of vandalism during the night of Halloween. One year, in 1930s New York, kids broke an estimated 1000 windows in the Queens borough. It wasn't uncommon that the pranks would sometimes be deadly. So, some towns tried different methods to quell the beast. One such town is Anoka Minnesota, who decided it would be a good idea to hold the first American parade/festival on the night of Halloween. It was a success for the most part.

But again, WWII broke out and many Halloween festivals were ignored. Many kids disregarded Halloween at that time, putting most of their time and energy into the war effort (i.e. food or metal scraps). But, after the second great war, came an extreme resurgence in Halloween. Post WWII America, there was a baby boom and such a boom also happened with the Halloween holiday.

To make sure kids went home on time (primarily to avoid vandalism), radio stations would hold prizes to all kids who could get home within 30 minutes of the broadcast. Events like organized trick-or-treating helped subdue Halloween's more mischievous side.

But in 1970s Detroit, this night soon became known as "Devil's Night", as many houses were lit up in flame as simple, but deadly pranks. People began fearing for their lives and the lives of their children and their homes on Halloween. Rumors began to spread that kids were dying because of trick-or-treating because of razor-blades and poison in the treats. And although it was true that razor-blades were found pushed inside apples and poison was found often in candy, many police investigations realized that these were, nine out of ten times, domestic attacks within the family. Still, many parents began accompanying their children in trick-or-treating.

Today, many modern day Neopagans and Wiccans consider Halloween one of their most sacred nights of the year, believing like their Celtic ancestors, that the veil is thinner on this night. Unlike their Celtic ancestors though, they instead invite these dead loved ones and spirits bak from the grave.

Americans today spend a rough estimate of $2.5 billion a year on Halloween, making it the second most expensive holiday. More than half of all homes get decorated, and most kids trick-or-treat. Many dress-up, it's a popular custom to bob for apples, to tell ghost stories and to put faces on pumpkins. Now you know why. Although the past few decades have turned Halloween into a primarily childish holiday, it isn't uncommon for adults to celebrate it now too.


And that's the origin of Halloween. But wait... what ever will I do for the seventh part tomorrow?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Origin of Halloween (Part 5)

Alright, so here we are on day 5 of our journey to attempt and fully discern the full history of Halloween and why it's celebrated like it is today. Today we'll start in America. Puritan America, actually.

Puritans, like I mentioned yesterday, were the religious group of people that sprung up once Martin Luther went against the Catholic Church for their skewed doctrines, and tried to get away from all the pagan practices of the Church by starting a new one. Many of these Puritans found themselves forced to move because of religious persecution they faced in Europe, and relocated into America. Between 1629 and 1640, it's estimated that over 21,000 puritans moved to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Puritans were strongly against practicing Halloween.

So against it and other forms of paganism, that it eventually became their undoing. The most famous Witch Hunt in Salem, Massachusetts occurred 1692. Dozens were accused of being witches, and 20 ended up dying because of the extreme superstition and their blind common sense: 19 by hanging, and 1 was crushed to death by rocks.

On another Colony, Halloween continued to live on, unabated by the efforts of the Puritans. This colony, Virgina, would be the birthplace of American Halloween. It was popular to have parties on this night, where many of the guests would partake in ghost stories and bob for apples, amongst other games. Many popular games included divination. Women would look for their future husbands faces to appear in food they cooked in fire. Some girls would leave a wet towel hanging and as superstition went, the boy that the girl loved would come and make a fold in the towel overnight. Play parties, as they were called, during the time of Halloween, were very popular.

At the turn of the 19th century, the Irish began to swarm into the country and they breathed new life into many practices that had already taken hold here, such as ghost stories, which became even more popular in the late 1800s. You see, many of the Irish never truly did stop celebrating their Celtic Samhain, although the belief patterns amongst people had drastically changed since then and many by this time had no clue what Samhain was. The pumpkins which were very prevalent in America, were much easier to carve into than the turnips of Ireland, and this is a great example of how American culture turned darker traditions into light-hearted fun. By the end of the 19th century, this previously adult holiday would become celebrated by those younger and younger.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Origin of Halloween (Part 4)

So, this is my fourth addition to a seven part origin series on Halloween. We've gone over Halloween's most ancient direct ancestor (Samhein), how it became popular in Roman culture, how it affected Christianity, and how it blended with the festivals of Lemuria and Pomona to create 'All Saint's Day'. Well... let's continue!

In the 10th Century C.E, the Catholic Church went even further into allowing pagan traditions to permeate through the seams of Christianity, and created 'All Souls' Day' on November 2. The idea behind it was that All Souls' Day would be a day to remember everyone who had died within the past year, good OR bad, Saint or not. If you remember from Part I, this is a direct appropriation of Samhain tradition. The Celtics were also venerating the dead who had died within the past year.

Overall, the Church was very accepting of most of these pagan traditions by the 10th century. This is, except for one aspect of the Halloween tradition. Witches (from the Old English word 'WICCA' meaning "wise one" and were usually women). Witches and their practices during or around the Halloween time scared the Catholic church the most. They were a symbol of the very worst type of pagan worship (especially during Samhain): direct devil worship. Witches were seen as unruly women who threatened the male/female hierarchy, often known for tapping into the darkest aspects of Halloween.

By the 15th century C.E., Church zealots hunted down many witches and punishments were cruel. But it wasn't until the year 1486 that they were officially outlawed. The Pope at the time, Innocent VIII published a book that produced evidence of the direct link between witchcraft and the devil. He also outlawed all forms of Celtic worship and other Pagans altogether, because of their links to Witchcraft. Witches became hunted all over Europe and if they were found guilty they were hanged or burned at the stake. In fact in 1431, even Joan of Ark was burned at stake.

Witches were portrayed as violent old hags, bent on evil thoughts. Witches were such a symbol of an embodiment of evil, that even some animals became associated with demonic reputations. The black cat, for example, which is highly decorated during Halloween time, came from the belief that the cat was actually the witch's spirit in animal form. If you remember, as was tradition during Samhain, they created bonfires and those bonfires drew mosquitoes. Well, mosquitoes draw bats, and bats draw owls. Thus the bats and owls also became associated with witchcraft and Halloween.

Every culture that celebrates Halloween ends up stamping it's own culture on top of it. A great example of this is is Mexico's Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Unlike the European churches, Mexico's churches encourage the celebration of the dead. Popular customs during the Day of the Dead are the dressing of skeleton dolls and telling ghost stories and picnicking at grave sights. The reason this tradition took off so well was because of pre-existing native-American traditions or ancestor veneration (surprisingly) around the same date as Samhain.

Back to Europe, as the "Holy" Revolution to conquer paganism reached it's peek, the Catholic church would be soon torn from within. On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther posted his famous thesis attacking church doctrines, which launched the Protestant Reformation. This changed the face of Christianity and Halloween forever, rejecting all those symbols that were "against worship of God" including Popes, priests and Saints. Suddenly Halloween, All Hallow's Eve and All Souls' Day became increasingly unpopular.

In November 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes (I LOVE THAT NAME) who was a Catholic militant was arrested for attempting to blow up a Protestant dominated House of Lords in the famous Gunpowder Plot. This day, November 5th, is now called Guy Fawkes day and is popularly celebrated as an English holiday. Since it is so close to Halloween, many today celebrate the two together. Some popular traditions during this festival are to burn his effigy (a sculpture or model of the person), and shoot up fireworks.


Next stop, America.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Origin of Halloween (Part 3)

Jesus Christ is suggested to have been born sometime in the middle of the year, during or around the year 5-6 B.C.E., but it wasn't till about 30-33 C.E. that he is suggested to have died. His teachings lived on and became increasingly popular. With his teachings, however, the church came to the realization that these gods of nature and earth and the spirits on Samhain and Lemuria that they were worshipping (much like the Egyptian gods I posted about three days ago), were actually demons and false gods.

It became a moral issue between understanding the "true religion" and sticking to their pagan origins and traditions. Many were even persecuted and hunted down by Catholic militants. (Note, that this and other forms of "Christian" behavior is not Biblically backed, as the Catholic church was heavily influenced by Pagan cultures around this time). The problem was that much and most of the world at that time was involved in pagan worship (also polytheism, which is the worship of many gods), and many didn't want to convert into Christianity if they had to give up their traditions. Likewise, just as many Christian militants attacked Pagans, Pagans attacked many Christians.

During his reign from 284-305 C.E., Roman emperor Diocletian, persecuted many Christians for their faith. In 299, Diocletian and Galerius (another emperor), performed in a ceremony (not unlike the ancient Druids during Samhain) where they tried reading the burnt entrails of the sacrificed animals to predict the future. He could not read them, and he blamed the Christians for this error. This began his campaign against the Christians.

After Diocletian's reign, there came the emperor Constantine in the 4th century, who was another pagan Roman emperor. However, it is said that he had a vision on the battlefield of Christ, with the symbol of a "X" and a "P" in the background, and this is the earliest known usage of a cross in Christianity (it goes much farther back into pagan roots and symbols, but thats another day and another story). His mother was a Christian, and after seeing this vision while at war, he converted himself to Christianity. This paved the way for many pagans alike to transition into a Christian lifestyle, but no, it didn't happen overnight. In 325 C.E., emperor Constantine summoned the Council of Nicaea, and they made plans to send missionaries all over, saving them (into Christianity), and baptizing them. They soon realized that steering the public away from paganism would not be easy. Many still dressed up in animal skins, painted faces and worshiped their old gods.

In fact, it was so hard that almost 300 years later in the 7th century, Pope Gregory I allowed for an even simpler transition. The pagan worshippers would be allowed to worship just as they had been doing, but only if they were worshipping under the name of the Christ. As I mentioned yesterday, about the celebration of Lemuria which was held on May 13, it became Christianized into All Saints Day. It wasn't until the 8th century that Pope Gregory III decided to move the original dates of the celebrations of Lemuria up to the time of the Samhain festival.

Thus, November 1st became claimed "All Saints Day", to honor those Christians who didn't already have a Saint's day of their own. This day was also called "All Hallow's Day" (as Hallow is an equivalent word to a Saint). The traditions of Samhain continued to be practiced on October 31st, and many called it "All Hallow's Eve", because it was the evening before All Hallow's Day. All Hallow's Eve is only a short variation off from being eventually called Hallowe'en.


They say the Roman Empire never fell. It simply became the Roman Catholic Church.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Origin of Halloween (Part 2)

So, yesterday, I forgot to mention there were other festivals around that point in time and place in the British Isles. To name a few Calan Gaeaf, Allantide, and Hop-tu-Naa, which were all very similar to Samhain, but distinctly different. All in distinct worship to the dead.

Anyway, around the time that Samhain was popular in Celtic Ireland, the Roman festival Pomona was also very popular. Pomona was a time of drunken and mystical reverie. Pomona was also a time to thank the goddess of harvest, Pomona herself. Pomona is indeed the Roman goddess of plenty and fertility, and her name derives from the latin POMUM (fruit). This festival took place around November 1st. To thank the goddess Pomona for her harvest, they would put out apples to be as a gift offering back to the god. Many games involving apples came from this event, including the ever-popular apple-bobbing.

Around 50 B.C.E., the Roman army expanded it's reign over the Celtics, and brought it's culture into Ireland. Likewise, the Romans were also very accepting of others cultures, so the Celtic traditions began to merge with the Roman, especially those involving Samhain and Pomona. The Romans also brought with them the apple tree. The Celts believed that the pentagram symbol was a sign of fertility, and when they cut the apple in half, the seeds plot out the points of a pentagram. Young, unmarried men and women would bob into a tub of water and tried to grab an apple with their teeth, and others would try and grab it dangling from a string (both very tough), and the one who would bite into it first would be the next to marry. Another form of divination, that's carried down the line.

Another Roman festival that has it's roots in Halloween is Lemuria, in which pumpkins were decorated. It was another celebration in worship of the dead, where they would do things to appease them and cast the evil spirits away from their homes, mostly with offerings of beans. This practice took place on May 13, far from Halloween, but I'll explain how it came into it tomorrow. Since it was such an evil day, the whole month of May was considered unlucky to be married in, just as the Latin term Mense Maio Malae Nubent says ("they wed ill who wed in May"). A popular custom to expel these spirits was to walk barefoot at night and throw beans over ones shoulder. The head of the household was said to have done so and chanted "Haec Ego Mitto; His Redimo Meque Meosque fabis" nine times, meaning "I send these; with these beans I redeem me and mine". Then the rest of the household would nine times say "Ghosts of my fathers and ancestors, be gone!" while banging pots.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Origin of Halloween (Part 1)

So, before it's asked of me, no I don't participate in any Halloween celebrations, but yes I've decided to start this lengthy 7 day blogging spree all about it's origins.  This is meant to be an informative series of posts, that give you but a glimpse of the worldwide holiday many today now celebrate.  So how am I going to break this up? I'm still asking myself the same thing. All I know is what I want to do for the seventh part.

So, I guess I'll go ahead and begin discussing the Celtic festival, Samhain (pronounced Sow-wen), which is Gaelic for "summer's end" and is a far earlier tradition than the "Christian" celebration today. In fact, the Celts were harvesters, so once Winter came around it became a tough time for their survival. Nevertheless, every year on the very night we now recognize as October 31st, the Celts had their Druidic priests pray to their gods for help, so they may be sustained throughout the Winter months. This also had to do with the Sun setting earlier at this time of the year. They thought that, since the gods controlled the Sun, they were showing their power by allowing it to set earlier. This transition was a very magical time for the pagan Celts. Weird things were said to have happened.

The Celts of Ireland believed that on the night of October 31st, the veil between the world of the living and the realm of the spirits was thinnest. They thought that the spirits of those who had died in the past year would awaken from their rest and walk the streets of Celtic villages. Not all of these "spirits" were friendly.

So as to ward off these evil spirits, they performed many rituals to both placate their dead ancestors and appease the gods. Many wore costumes and masks, impersonating the spirits. Others would carve faces into turnips to ward off the more harmful spirits, (much like how scarecrows scare crows, haha). While dressed, many Celts would parade towards the end of their villages with food, trying to coax the spirits from haunting or bringing any harm to their homes. Another custom was to leave food or sweets outside of their homes so that if their dead loved ones payed them visit, they would be at peace. If you didn't treat the spirits, they may decide to "trick" you.

Since the Celts were harvesters, they would thank the gods for their plentiful harvest they received during the Summer months, specifically their earth god Dagda. Doing so, they burnt blood offerings of cows and horses in large bonfires, as a sort of trade for the good food they had been provided. Many would walk in-between two bonfires as a manner of cleansing rituals. They then had the Druids of the villages look over the burnt entrails of the sacrificial offerings, and read the future, as some would read into tea leaves in modern times. Since the boundary of the living world and the spirit world was thinner, they believed the dead would help in the foretelling. The Druids would divine who would die within the next year. These divinations would travel throughout the villages and were told at bonfires and such. This is thought to be the ancient day origins of the now very popular ghost stories told on the very night that Samhain would take place thousands of years ago.


If you found this interesting, please note that this is only the first of a seven part origin series that I plan to continue until October 31st. So please stay tuned, or follow the blog... cause you might just learn a little something here or there.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Why the Ten Plagues?

Many view the accounts of miracles and grand stories written in the Old Testament (the Hebrew scriptures), as simply that: grand stories and myths. We may think of other books, such as the Odyssey, where Odysseus goes through many challenges presented by different Greek gods in his attempt to get home, or perhaps the story of how the founders of Rome (Remus and Romulus) were raised by wolves.  Both Greek mythology and Roman mythology were believed to have some significant parallels to the real world and it's inhabitants, making the myths part of their history.  Is this the same with the Hebrew tales written of in the Bible? Is the story of a great flood, Adam and Eve, the ten plagues of ancient Egypt all a form of mythology as well?

That's for you to decipher. But I do want to make mention of there being overwhelming reasoning within the beliefs of ancient Egyptians and their gods, that would give the ten plagues more specific significance than the Bible gives credit for. The account tells that the God of the Israelites sent Moses to Pharaoh to have the enslaved Israelites freed from Egyptian rule, and if Pharaoh did not comply, the God of the Israelites would punish the people of Egypt.  And ten times Pharaoh refused to listen to Moses, so ten times the land of Egypt was plagued, until finally Pharaoh let the Israelites go.  Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with the tale, this is a grossly condensed summary, and I implore you to read further into it, because it's quite the story.

But anyway, what many critics of this story fail to realize is the direct correlation between the plagues that the God of the Israelites placed on the Egyptians, and how each plague was a sign of disrespect (and/or a challenge) to many Egyptian gods and goddesses of the time, and the Egyptians in the story knew it as a sign of disrespect. I'll now go through the ten plagues and the Egyptian gods that were "challenged". (Again, this is not the full account, I'm leaving out many details as to the actual happenings of this tale, and I ask that you please check it out for yourselves. This is to point out particularly what the Bible doesn't make mention of).

1. The first plague was the turning of the Nile river into blood. This lasted for seven days, so they were without drinking water. During that time, as they prayed to Hapi (the Egyptian god of the Nile), nothing happened.

2. The second plague had to deal with frogs coming out of the Nile river. Frogs were everywhere, in the food, in their homes, and in their clothes. Heket (the Egyptian goddess of fertility) had the head of a frog.

3. The third plague was the dust all over Egypt turning into lice. Geb (the Egyptian god of the Earth) was said to be all over the dust, and by it turning to lice it meant that he was now lice.

4. (Whereas the first three plagues would also affect the Israelites, the fourth and subsequent plagues were directed solely to the Egyptians.) Khepri (the Egyptian god of creation) had the head of a fly or dung beetle, and the fourth plague was a swarm of flies.

5. The fifth plague was against the cattle of the Egyptians. They would become gravely sick and in many cases die. Sadly, the Egyptian god of protection and love, Hathor, could not help them. Hathor was commonly depicted with the horns of the cow.

6. The sixth plague brought ashes and boils on the skin of the Egyptians, rendering them "unclean" so they could not honor their gods. Isis (the Egyptian goddess of medicine) could not help them.

7. The seventh plague brought down hail from the skies. Not just ordinary hail, but the tale tells that it was hail of immense sizes and it came down in balls of fire. Nut (goddess of the sky) was nonexistent to help them.

8. The eighth plague brought shame upon their god Set (god of storms and disorder), as the God of the Israelites brought a swarm of locusts about the people of Egypt, depleting whatever crops were still available to harvest causing massive disorder.

9. The ninth plague was three days of total blackness. Nothing was visible to the people of Egypt, because the Sun was nowhere to be found. Even the Egyptian god of the sun, Ra, was powerless to the power of the Israelites God.

10. The last and final plague upon the people of Egypt was a direct challenge to the people's most powerful and highly respected god: Pharaoh himself. The pharaoh was said to be the son of the Sun god, Ra himself, made flesh. The plague that ensued killed all of Egypt's firstborn children, including Pharaoh's own son.

The Bible, although giving a much deeper explanation to these events and a much more compelling "story," does not go as far as to include the challenge that the God of the Israelites placed on the gods of Egypt. 10 out of 10 times though, the God of the Israelites proved more powerful, and this was the message behind their punishment. Can this account be considered historically accurate, though?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Nine Muses and My Tenth

So, later tonight I'm going with a group of friends to see the band Muse at Nassau Coliseum.  I thought now would be a great time to bring out what exactly a "muse" is.  Well, in poetry, music, literature and other forms of artistic mediums, a MUSE is anyone or anything that gives cause for inspiration.  Primarily in Greek literature and mythology, a muse (Greek "MOÛS", pl. "MOÛSAI") would be the figurative source of inspiration to the artist, story-teller, or other.

We may go to museums and just figure that they're named that way just because they're there to a-muse you.  Ha.  No.  In fact, a museum literally means "place sacred to the muses" or "home of the muses", because they (by figurative standards) are generally responsible for what you see in museums.  Museum is a word English took straight from Latin.  Mouseîon is it's translation in Greek.

But who exactly are the "Muses"?  Originally there were three: Melete (meaning "practice"), Mnemosyne (memory), and Aeode (song).  As time went on, however, those three branched into nine.  Nine different Muses to embody the arts and inspire creation.  In fact mousike means the "art of the muses", and this is where we get the word music from in our language.

The nine muses were, over time, given emblems so that they were easily recognized by. I shall explain below.

-Calliope is the muse of Epic Poetry, and the emblem she carries is a Writing Tablet. Her name means she has a "beautiful voice".
-Clio is the muse of History, carrying Scrolls. Her name means to "recount" or "make famous".
-Erato is the muse of Lyric Poetry, and she is known to carry a Cithara. Many believe her name comes from the root name of the god Eros, who is the god of sexual love (we get the word "erotic" from his name), and if so, Erato would mean "desired".
-Euterpe is the muse of Music, carrying the Aulos emblem. This means "rejoicing well"
-Melpomene is the muse of Singing, but is closely associated with Tragedy, and she carries around a Tragic Mask. "The one that is melodious"
-Polyhymnia is the muse of Choral Poetry, and carries a Veil. And before I say what her name means, you should be capable by adding poly (many) and hymn (songs). "The one of many hymns"
-Terpsichore is the muse of Dance, and holds the lyre. "Delight of dancing." Also, we have a lesser known word in English that comes from the muses name, and that is TERPSICHOREAN or anything pertaining to dance.
-Thalia is the muse of Comedy, and her emblem is the Comic Mask (yes, as in comedy and tragedy). Her name means "the joyous, the flourishing".
-Urania is the ninth and final muse of Astronomy, known for carrying around a Globe and Compass (how scholarly of her). Her name means "of the heavens" and is a great reference to the planet Uranus.

The reason, mythologically, all these muses came about was that Zeus slept with the original muse of memory, Mnemosyne, for a consecutive nine nights, and thus the nine muses were born.

There's also quite a bit of history as to a tenth muse, but not based on mythological record.  For example Sappho of Lesbos was complimented as being the tenth by Plato, because of how inspiring she was.  So it can be used to compliment those who inspire.  It's ironic that the muse that inspired me to write all of this is the band Muse itself.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Plans for the Future

So, thus far into my blogging campaign, Strongly Entrenched Things has become a daily blog, and I want to keep it as such for the time being.  Of course, there's no way of knowing if and when something comes up and I won't be able to produce enough postings to satisfy the "daily" goal, but I'll do my humanly best.  I'm very excited about some of the postings I've put out thus far, and I look forward to keep up the (good?) work in the future. BUT! I do want to keep you posted on an agenda that I'll be trying my best to stick to.

In the coming weeks I've set up a few topics of thought that I've spaced out for special dates and times. Tomorrow I'm thinking of talking about poetic and mythical "muses", and Sunday... I'm not certain on what to do for Sunday just yet.  But starting on the 25th of October, until the end of the month, I'm going to do a seven part series on the origin of Halloween. No, no, I don't celebrate it, but I do wish to tell the world about it's origins, so that should suffice well enough.  Also, on November 1st I'll be posting something I just looked into today.  It's something so big that... I need over a week of time before I can put it into text.  Let's just say, it's a legend that can be proven true, and on November 2nd I'll back that legend up with some ancient Chinese. So, please stay tuned, at least for those dates.

But anyway, today I'll try to stay out of etymology (study of the origins of words) and teach you a little of some Mandarin (Chinese) that I learned today from a friend of mine. I definitely, definitely, don't know how to create Chinese characters on the computer, and I'm not going to look for them, so I'll just stick with English phonetics to help you pronounce as best as possible.

Let's start with a simple hello: Ni-Hau (This literally translates to "you good")
To turn statements into questions put this word at the end of the sentence: ...Ma?
So then, to ask someone how they're doing: Ni-Hau Ma?
To respond to the question and say I'm good: Wai-Hau ("I good")
If you want to tell someone they're you're friend: Ni-Shie Wah-duh Peng-yo ("You are my friend")
If you want to introduce said friend: Ta Shie Wah-duh Peng-yo (Ta means he or she - "He/she is my friend")
Just put their name after the statement: Ta Shie Wah-duh Peng-yo, Dakota
To say thank you: Shie-Shie
And of course, to say goodbye: Zai Chien ("see you again")


I'd love to learn more, and when I do I'll be sure to share with you.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"Paradise" Found

During my final year of schooling in High School, I was placed into a group of four students and asked to try and create our own utopia. I was never a studious student (doesn't seem like it right?), but this was a topic worthy of my invested time. I went home, brainstorming different facets of a "utopia" and I did a bit of research online. I wasn't fond of the word utopia, however, so I searched "paradise" in it's place. This search was far more rewarding, for the search on a utopia was too... idealistic and suited for personal pleasures.

Paradise, over time and much misconception, has changed in meaning drastically since it's origin, particularly from the meaning of its original root to the beliefs within Christendom and other religions.  Early Christians (anyone who followed in Jesus' footsteps) believed that paradise would be a restored Garden of Eden that would cover the entire earth as Matthew says the happy shall "inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5). Some time after Jesus' death, seemingly within a short period of 2 centuries, Bishop Irenaeus (now considered Martyr and Saint) merged the ideas of a paradise and a heaven into one. Many Christians today believe this doctrine as truth, while some groups have reverted back to believing the doctrine that the earth will become a paradise after a global expurgation of evil.

The word Paradise can be traced back down the ages to the Old English (Anglo Saxon) PARADIS which came from the Latin PARADISUS which goes further back to the Greek PARÁDEISOS and even farther back to the Old Iranian (Avestan) PAIRI-DAEZA... That's a mouthful, but I find it amazing nonetheless.  The Old Iranian word pairi-daeza meant literally "a wall that surrounded a park or garden". The Persians were very meticulous about this practice about making a wall around their gardens or orchards to the point where they encouraged the Greeks into carrying out this practice, and a Greek mercenary (Xenophon) who spent time in the Iranian army called it a parádeisos.

In the 2nd century BCE, a group of seventy Greek men (a septuagint) translated the Hebrew word for paradise (Gan-Edhen) as parádeisos in reference to the Garden of Eden. And this was appropriate, as the Garden of Eden was evidently an enclosed park area. Over time, around the 13th century CE, Old English adopted the word into their language as paradis, now paradise.

I find it interesting to note the Hebrew word for paradise, though. It makes perfect sense, but it still astounds me. The Hebrew word for paradise is "GAN-EDHEN" which literally means Garden of Eden. This is what my group ended up calling our supposed utopia: Gan-Eden. But it just occurred to me to try and dig a little deeper. Our word "garden" sounds like a shortened gan-edhen, does it not? I looked it up, but the farthest back the word seems to go is the German GARTEN... I wouldn't be surprised (maybe I would actually) if our word for garden traced all the way back to the Garden of Eden.


If you find any research on this matter, I'd be glad to look into it, as I'm just as curious myself. If you have any other questions you'd like to ask me about this article or others, please do so in the comment area below. Also, if you have any ideas as to future topics of discussion TELL ME.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Medusa, the Jellyfish Phoenix

Oh, the Jellyfish.  Another one of the marvelous species we can find (almost) only below sea level.  It's one thing that they don't need a respiratory system, but one species of jellyfish is biologically immortal (well, potentially).  The Turritopsis Nutricula has the unbelievable ability to revert to it's polyp (baby) form before it dies, so that it can live it's life all over.  Almost like a phoenix, in a sense, this jellyfish can cheat death, time and time again.  Anyway, I just found all this out today, but the reason I thought to write about jellyfish was something I read from a while back.

I was reading a Spanish article (and trying to pick up a few words), but my lack of knowledge in the Spanish language held me back from fully grasping the meaning.  But, what I do remember was that the article was definitely about jellyfish, because of the pictures of them floating around in the deep blue.  What I didn't find however was the word jelly (gelatina) or fish (pez) in the text, so I was sorely lost.  I did find that they used the name "Medusa" to describe them a lot however, so that's when it got me thinking that this may have been it's given name in the Spanish language, which peaked my interest to no end.  Sure enough, the word for jellyfish in Spanish is MEDUSA, and it's no coincidence that it shares it's name with the Mythical Gorgon from Greek mythology.

In Greek myth, in place of Medusa's hair, were many living snakes squirming and thrashing about, and if you were to gaze into her eyes you would be turned to stone.  Perseus (also of legend) was said to have beheaded her and brought her head back to Zeus.

Anyway, there are some similarities you can find between a Jellyfish and the head of Medusa.  Obviously somebody thought so, and it stuck.  But no, you won't turn to stone if you look into the eyes of a jellyfish (do they even have eyes?), although you don't want to come into contact with their tentacles or they will sting you.  Also, if you think about it a little in your mind's eye, the jellyfish can look like the shape of a head with snakes attached to it.

Which brings me to the question, how, and under what circumstances, did this observation originally take place?  At this point in time (because I can't seem to find anything on it's origin on the world wide web), I'd like to think it had to do with superstitious sailors from long ago.  Probably ancient Greek sailors even, seeing as how Medusa is part of Greek mythology.  In those times, they merged their history and ancestry with mythology, so many believed these stories as truth.  So, possibly at some point in time one of them may have fell overboard and, already in a panicked state, thought that this creature was the head of Medusa. Or perhaps he simply described it as such to his crew and it stuck.  Either way, it stuck very well.

Today, many languages use the word Medusa (pl. Medusae) in place of our English word "jellyfish".  Among these languages are Greek, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French, Finnish, Hebrew, Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, Russian, Czech, Romanian, Hungarian, Slovak and Polish.  (I did not check them all, but I'm positive they must have varied spelling and pronunciation.)


If anyone does know the truth as to the origin of why jellyfish were named after Medusa, please please PLEASE let me know.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Strongly Entrenched in Amor

A great friend of mine recently began a blog called Memoirs of a Modern Amorist and I think that it's what drove me into wanting to start this blog finally. Because in all honesty, I've been mulling this whole idea of a knowledge blog over in my mind for quite some time now and have talked to a few people who thought it'd be a great idea. But who knows until you try right?  Anyway, so the title of his blog, which I'll abbreviate as the MoMA (not referring to the Museum of Modern Art), struck me as so simple, but with such an aura of creativity about it.  I loved it.  I was enamored by it.

Get it? Enamored by it? Maybe not. Yet.  You see, the word AMORIST is one of the many English words that derive from it's Latin root: AMOR = to love. In fact, many languages use the exact same word for Love. The Spanish and Portuguese AMOR (pronounced the exact same way), the Italian AMORE, the French AMOUR, and the list goes on.  Amorist itself means one dedicated to Love or one who writes about it, which my friend working the MoMA blog is doing just so.  So ENAMORED would mean that he's inspired me with Love.

Other words derived from the Latin amor include AMOROUS, AMATORY, and yes, even AMATEUR! For those sports fans out there, amateur comes from the Latin AMAT which means he/she Loves.  Amateur literally means Love of sport.  We also see amor in the Italian name for cupid "AMORETTO" (pl. amoretti).

Speaking about mythical creatures of Love, let's talk about some of the Pagan gods of Love.  There are many.  But have you ever noticed that the mythology of the Greeks, the Romans and the Egyptians are all the same?? Well... that's another story for another day.  But the Greek god Aphrodite and the Roman Venus are one and the same, with the same mythology and history, and their whole thing was about amor.  Aphrodite gave us a nifty little-big word in English. Can you guess it? APHRODISIAC, which is anything that makes you... well want to make Love.  Unfortunately Venus got her own word, but it's not as pleasant. VENEREAL. Nope, not pleasant at all.

Anyway, a little bit of our usage of the word Love is lost to us today.  Instead of saying "I Love her/him," we may say a half-hearted "I like her/him".  This is not the case for most other languages though.  In fact, there is no word in most languages to describe the word for simply "liking" someone/thing else.


If you do find yourself needing some Love advice, please check out my friends blog, the MoMA. He has great, practical advice for the casual dater to those lost in translation, and all you need to do is ask him a question and he'll be willing to answer it for you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The "Werewolf"

Being the young man that I am, I Love monster movies.  Well... not always. I'm a big critic, and many monster flicks today are meant for the general public and tend to have tragically Hollywoodesque storylines.

Anyway, I Love the lore that these monsters are based on.  I'm not going to go into too much depth as to how myths about werewolves began, or whatever, but I do want to take a closer look at the name. "Werewolf." We know it literally means man-wolf, but what does the "WERE" come from.

Well, I hadn't ever given it any thought until this one day in a Latin class of mine.  We had just learned that the Latin word for man was "VIR".  The letter V in Latin is pronounced the exact same way we in English would pronounce the letter W.  The rest of the word is pronounced as it would be in the Spanish language, so by rolling the R at the end of VIR it sounds like you're pronouncing "weed".

At this point, it still hadn't clicked to me; the similarity of VIR and WERE.  Soon though, a classmate of mine mispronounced vir and said "were".  I mulled the two over in my mind a little and after class I asked the teacher if there was any connection.  He said he didn't know, but that it would make sense because it meant man-wolf.

Sure enough, there is some connection between vir and were, as I read here.  The Old English word for man is "WER", coming directly from a Germanic language.  But both the Germanic and Latin origin of the word come from the same family of languages (if I get around to it someday, I'll attempt to cover what exactly the Indo-European language family is).

So yes! There is a connection between the Latin word for man and the monsters we see on tv and read about in books.


Also brought out in the article were other words that are derived by vir: Virile and virility. Vir can also be a word to describe masculinity, so virile has to do with it's strength. Other words include virtue and virtuous (signs of strength or manliness).

But the really cool thing brought out in this article (besides the origin of the word werewolf) was that our word "world", although hidden over time, literally means "man-age".

Overturning Reasoning and Those Strongly Entrenched Things

Welcome to my new blog, Strongly Entrenched Things.  Here we shall discuss three major topics: Language, History, Theology.  I don't know everything, no, but I wish I did.  So, as I do learn, and as I do study into these three topics, I will share my knowledge and findings with you all.

But first, maybe a little bit about myself.  My name is Dakota López.  My father was born in Spain, his family all Puerto Rican.  My mother is a caucasian American and does not know her heritage.  I was born on November 4th of 1991 in a hospital in Miami beach and lived there for thirteen years.  I moved to Los Angeles for three years, and am now living just north of New York City for the past two years.  I've been all over.  I am fluent in English... but English only, unfortunately.  I can understand Spanish when spoken, but carrying out a conversation is nearly impossible, albeit I try.

I am now 18, fresh out of high school, and am taking a year off before going into college next year to study language (Spanish and Mandarin particularly).  I love to travel, and I love to learn. When I was little I even dreamed of going to Egypt, learning to read the hieroglyphics, and to become an archaeologist.  Well... my dreams have changed since then, but only a little.  There was a long period of my life where this yearning to explore and learn had vanished, but in high school I took a year of Latin, and it awakened in me this urge to pursue a life of language and history and the sorts.

And before it's asked of me, yes I AM religious, BUT... I do not just believe everything thrown out to me, by anyone, unless there is scriptural and/or historical evidence on the matter.  This, in truth, is why the name of the blog is entitled "Strongly Entrenched Things".  In 2 Corinthians 10:4,5 it is translated directly from the Greek into saying "For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but powerful by God for overturning strongly entrenched things. For we are overturning reasonings and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God;".  So not only will we be discussing theology and doctrine, but also how history and language have strongly entrenched themselves into who we are today.