Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Passover 2009

In 2009 Passover begins at sundown on Wednesday April 8 and ends at nightfall on Thursday April 16 in the Diaspora (Wednesday April 15 in Israel).

Monday, March 30, 2009

Why Lent is back.

Why did we start observing Lent?
By Georgy

Lent began in the apostolic era and was universal in the ancient church. For this reason, Lent is observed by the various Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, and Anglican churches, by Roman Catholics, and by Eastern Orthodox Churches. But it is easier to explain who stopped observe it and why.

In the 16th century, many of the Anabaptists discarded all Christian holy days, on the theory that they were Roman innovations. That was their best information at the time, but today we know that they were wrong. In the late nineteenth century, ancient Christian documents came to light. The Didache from the first century, the Apostolic Constitutions from the third century, and the diaries of Egeria of the fourth century; all which give evidence of the Christian calendar and holy days. The Didache and the Apostolic Constitutions were written in the east, which denies it ever recognized the institution of the papacy. Egeria was a Spanish nun, but her writings also describe practices in the east. All of these documents came to light 300 years after it was too late for the groups who had already discarded Christian holy days.

In many cases, however, Rome was the last place to observe the Holy days. For example, the idea of moving All Saints Day to November 1 did not reach Rome until 700 years after it originated in England, and the idea of celebrating Holy Week as Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday, was quite elaborate in Jerusalem before the early fourth century but did not spread to Rome until the 11th century.

Advent began in medieval Gaul and spread to Rome from there. Lent, on the other hand, appears to have originated in the apostolic age. The Apostolic Constitutions attribute the observance of Lent to an apostolic commandment. We can’t verify that, but we also can’t disprove it. The Anabaptists gave rise to or influenced the Amish, the Mennonites, the Baptists, and the Plymouth Brethren. The Puritans, who were Calvinists, had similar views on worship, which is why they made Christmas illegal in Massachusetts at one time. (Some Mennonites, however, never rejected the Christian holy days.)

In the 19th century, the established denominations were slow to spread west of the Appalachians, which was the frontier at the time. The area was thinly populated and there were very few seminary-trained clergy. The lay people had been converted at camp meetings without any church background. They were influenced by the groups that had rejected Christian holy days, but frontier conditions were not conducive to structured liturgical worship anyway. They weren’t aware of the Christian holy days, and they didn’t have the equipment, the facilities, the education, the authorization, or the training to conduct liturgical worship. Therefore most of the religious groups that were formed in the United States in the 19th century do not have a custom of observing Lent. This environment had some influence on individual congregations in denominations that have historically observed the Christian holy days-so you will occasionally find a Methodist church that does not observe Lent.

Gradually, the holy days have returned to the churches that had discarded them. The restoration quickly began with Easter. Christmas followed in the 19th century, and Advent and Holy Week became widespread among them in the 20th century. Lent is mounting a come-back in the 21st century.

And that is why Lent is back.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Old Traditions in Germany

The German word Palmesel (palm donkey) refers to the statue of Christ on a donkey, mounted on a wheeled platform, which was part of Palm Sunday processions in many German-speaking regions until the Reformation. In the Middle Ages these processions, which reenacted Christ's entry into Jerusalem mounted on an ass, were lively pageants in which hymns were sung, palms strewn, and clothes spread on the ground before the Palmesel. The figure of Christ retains, in contrast, an air of quiet majesty.

Towards the end of the Middle Ages, almost every village had its own palm donkey for the Palm procession, a ritual symbolising Christ's arrival in Jerusalem. Often it was a life-sized model donkey, upon which a carving of Christ was often seated. The procession with the palm donkey was once widespread not only in the southern parts of the German-speaking world, but also in some Dutch and Belgian regions.

For more on Palmesl figures see my other Blog:


Palm Sunday in Poland

Zdzislaw Piotr Jasinski
(Warsaw 1863 - Warsaw 1932 )

"Palm Sunday", 1891, oil on canvas, private collection

Traditional Easter celebrations in Poland are as old and elaborate as Christmas celebrations and they involve a lot of preparations.
One week before Palm Sunday, housewives stopped baking bread through the fear that the bread they baked throughout the rest of the year would spoil. Not until the Holy Week did they start baking. In some parts they began to do so on Good Friday, in others- it was not permitted to bake anything at all that day. If any housewife violated this ban, the entire village would be in danger of a long drought, which could be repelled only by throwing the pots and guilty housewife into a pond.

The celebration of Easter is preceded by Holy Week, which begins with Palm Sunday. Palm branches and twigs are indispensable accessories of the events of this day. They commemorate Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. After the festivities, palm leaves were used for magic rites, such as conjuring up storms and consecrating women at childbirth and sick domestic animals. The original palm branch is replaced by a willow or raspberry branch, and is decorated with ribbons, flowers, and leaves. It is believed that swallowing a willow catkin from a branch consecrated by a priest would bring health, and palm branch placed behind a holy image until the following year would bring the inhabitants luck.

The church bells that had resounded from Palm Sunday onwards fell siFlaxt on Holy Thursday. Rattles and clappers took their place. Fires were lit at crossroads so that wayfarers and poor people could warm themselves. Meals were also placed at these spots so that these people could nourish themselves – and together with them the good spirits of the house. On the morning of Holy Thursday, the vestments are changed on the miraculous icon in the chapel of the Pauline monastery at Jasna Gora in Czestochowa. This is one of the most important sites of the religious cult of the Poles, and has been venerated as a national shrine since 14 th century.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Murdo in the mist before sunset

Going the Cleveland on Sat.!

The International Gem & Jewelry

Weird Art News

Artist fined over inflatable artwork that killed 2
Thursday, March 26, 2009

CBC News

A British artist whose inflatable artwork blew away killing two women who were inside has been fined the equivalent of $17,800 after being convicted of offences under the Health and Safety Act.

Maurice Agis, 77, was sentenced Thursday, along with the district council and company who put up his Dreamspace sculpture.

Brouhaha International, which organized the tour of Dreamspace, was fined £4,000 and Chester-Le-Street District council, which held the event, was fined £20,000.

Agis originally had been tried on charges of manslaughter in a court in Newcastle, U.K., but the jury failed to reach a verdict.

The court opted not to retry him for manslaughter, but convicted him of violating health and safety procedures.

Agis is famous for his sculptures, huge inflatable works that viewers can walk through.

In July 2006, a sculpture the size of a football field that was anchored in a County Durham park broke free from its moorings, carrying several people with it.

Two women died and 13 people were injured, including a three-year-old who fell from the sculpture and was saved by a passing doctor.

Agis has pledged never to put up the artwork again and wrote to the families of the two women killed apologizing for the incident.

"I am consumed by the tragedy of this event and by your suffering," he wrote in a letter released in the court.

(Elizabeth Collings, 68, and Claire Furmedge, 38, died when the creation was blown 100ft into the air after breaking free from its moorings.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Essenes, or little fishes

Since the archaeological discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1946, the word "Essene" has made its way around the world--often raising a lot of questions. Many people were astonished to discover that, two thousand years ago, a brotherhood of holy men and women, living together in a community, carried within themselves all of the seeds of Christianity and of future western civilization. This brotherhood--more or less persecuted and ostracized--would bring forth people who would change the face of the world and the course of history. Indeed, almost all of the principal founders of what would later be called Christianity were Essenes--St. Ann, Joseph and Mary, John the Baptist, Jesus, John the Evangelist, etc.

The Essenes considered themselves to be a separate people--not because of external signs like skin color, hair color, etc., but because of the illumination of their inner life and their knowledge of the hidden mysteries of nature unknown to other men. They considered themselves to be also a group of people at the center of all peoples--because everyone could become part of it, as soon as they had successfully passed the selective tests.
They thought, and rightly so, that they were the heirs of God's sons and daughters of old, the heirs to their great ancient civilization. They possessed their advanced knowledge and worked assiduously in secret for the triumph of the light over the darkness of the human mind.

They felt that they had been entrusted with a mission, which would turn out to be the founding of Christianity and of western civilization. They were supported in this effort by highly evolved beings who directed the brotherhood. They were true saints, Masters of wisdom, hierophants of the ancient arts of mastery.

They were not limited to a single religion, but studied all of them in order to extract the great scientific principles. They considered each religion to be a different stage of a single revelation. They accorded great importance to the teachings of the ancient Chaldeans, of Zoroaster, of Hermes Trismegiste, to the secret instructions of Moses and of one of the founding Masters of their order who had transmitted techniques similar to those of Buddhism, as well as to the revelation of Enoch.
They possessed a living science of all of these revelations.
Thus, they knew how to communicate with angelic beings and had solved the question of the origin of evil on the earth.

One of their major preoccupations was to protect themselves from any contact with evil spirits, in order to preserve the purity of their souls. They knew that they would only be on earth for a short time, and they did not want to prostitute their eternal souls. It was this attitude, this strict discipline, this absolute refusal to lie or compromise, that made them the object of so much persecution through the ages.

The Essenes considered themselves the guardians of the Divine Teaching. They had in their possession a great number of very ancient manuscripts, some of them going back to the dawn of time. A large portion of the School members spent their time decoding them, translating them into several languages, and reproducing them, in order to perpetuate and preserve this advanced knowledge. They considered this work to be a sacred task.

The Essenes considered their Brotherhood-Sisterhood as the presence on earth of the Teaching of the sons and daughters of God. They were the light which shines in the darkness and which invites the darkness to change itself into light. Thus, for them, when a candidate asked to be admitted to their School, it meant that, within him, a whole process of awakening of the soul was set in motion. Such a soul was ready to climb the stairs of the sacred temple of humanity.
The Essenes differentiated between the souls which were sleeping, drowsy, and awakened. Their task was to help, to comfort, and to relieve the sleeping souls, to try to awaken the drowsy souls, and to welcome and guide the awakened souls. Only the souls considered as awakened could be initiated into the mysteries of the Brotherhood-Sisterhood. Then began for them a path of evolution that could not stop anymore through the cycle of their incarnations.

Everybody knew the Brothers and Sisters in white. The Hebrews called them "The School of Prophets"; and, to the Egyptians, they were "The Healers, The Doctors". They had property in nearly all of the big cities; and, in Jerusalem, there was even a door that bore their name: the door of the Essenes. Despite some fear and joking, due to the rejection of that which one does not know, the people as a whole felt respect and esteem for the Essenes because of their honesty, their pacifism, their goodness, their discretion, and their talent as healers, devoted to the poorest as well as to the richest. They knew that the greatest Hebrew prophets came from their lineage and their School.
Moreover, even if the Brotherhood was very strict about the law of secrecy with regard to its internal doctrine, it cultivated many points of contact with the people, notably through places of lodging for the pilgrims from every horizon, through helpful actions in difficult periods, and especially through the healing of illnesses. These places of primary teaching and of healing were located in precise areas where people could go freely.

Excerpted from The Essenes and the lessons by Olivier Manitara.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Fine Art of Shepherding!!!!

We took to the hills of Wales armed to the teeth with sheep, LEDs and a camera, to create a huge amazing LED display. Of sorts. For more info search for samsung LED TV or visit samsung.com/LED

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Alternet - On Fox News, Chris Wallace asked Dick Cheney to identify the "highest moment" of the last eight years. It wasn't a trick question. Cheney pondered this for a few moments before answering, "Well, I think the most important, the most compelling, was 9/11 itself, and what that entailed, what we had to deal with." Wallace followed up by noting that the highest moment was also the lowest, which Cheney was quick to agree with.

Good advise from my Auntie

I really liked this email I got from my Aunt so I posted it on the blog. The email read like this:

Please read and understand the following? We don't want to make a Spammer's day.
Hopefully we all do this anyway, but just in case you have friends who do not, please forward this

A friend who is a computer expert received the following directly from a system administrator for a corporate system. It is an excellent message that ABSOLUTELY applies to ALL of us who send e-mails. Please read the short letter below, even if you're sure you already follow proper procedures.

Do you really know how to forward e-mails?
50% of us do; 50% DO NOT

Do you wonder why you get viruses or junk mail? Do you hate it? Every time you forward an e-mail there is information left over from the people who got the message before you, namely their e-mail addresses and names. As the messages get forwarded along, the list of addresses builds, and builds, and builds, and all it takes is for
some poor sap to get a virus, and his or her computer can send that virus to every E-mail address that has come across his computer. Or, someone can take all of those addresses and sell them or send junk mail to them in the hopes that you will go to the site and he will make five cents for each hit. That's right, all of that inconvenience over a nickel! How do you stop it? Well, there are several easy steps.
Try the following if you haven't done it before.

(1) When you forward an e-mail, DELETE all
of the other addresses that appear in the body of the message (at the top).
That's right, DELETE them. Highlight them and delete them, backspace them,
cut them, whatever it is you know how to do. It only takes a second. You
MUST click the 'Forward' button first and then you will have full editing
capabilities against the body and head ers of the message. If you don't
click on 'Forward' first, you won't be able to edit the message at all.

(2) Whenever you send an e-mail to more
than one person, do NOT use the To: or Cc: fields for adding e-mail
addresses. Always use the BCC:(blind carbon copy) field for listing the
e-mail addresses. This is the way the people you send to will only see
their own e-mail address. If you don't see your BCC: option click on where
it says To: and your address list will appear. Highlight the address and
choose BCC: and that's it, it's that easy . When you send to BCC: your
message will automatically say 'Undisclosed Recipients in the 'TO:' field of
the people who receive it.

(3) Remove any 'FW :' in the subject line.
You can re-name the subject if you wish or even fix spelling.

(4) ALWAYS hit your Forward button from
the actual e-mail you are reading. Ever get those e-mails that you have to
open 10 pages to read the one page with the information on it? By
Forwarding from the actual page you wish someone to view, you stop them from
having to open many e-mails just to see what you sent.

(5) Have you ever gotten an email that is
a petition? It states a position and asks you to add your name and address
and to forward it to 10 or 15 people or your entire address book. The email
can be forwarded on and on and can collect thousands of names and email
addresses. A FACT: The completed petition is actually worth a couple of
bucks to a professional spammer because of the wealth of valid names and
email addresses contained therein. DO NOT put your email address on a ny
petition. If you want to support the petition, send it as your own personal
letter to the intended recipient. Your position may carry more weight as a
personal letter than a laundry list of names and email address on a
petition. (And don't believe the ones that say that the email is being
traced, it just ain't so!)

Some of the other emails to delete and not
forward are:

1. The one that says something like, 'Send
this email to 10 people and you'll see something great run across your
screen.' Or sometimes they'll just tease you by saying 'something
really cute will happen.' IT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN!!!!! (We are still seeing
some of the same emails that we waited on 10 years ago!)

2. I don't let the bad luck ones scare me
either, they get trashed.

3. Before you forward an 'Amber Alert' , or
a 'Virus Alert' , or some of the other emails floating around nowadays,
check them out before you forward them. Most of them are junk mail that's
been circling the net for YEARS! Just about everything you receive in an
email that is in question can be checked out a Snopes. Just go to
www.snopes.com . It's really easy to find out if it's real or not. If it's
not, please don't pass it on.

So please, in the future, let's stop the
junk mail and th e viruses.

Finally, here's an idea!!! Let's send this
to everyone we know ( but strip my address off first, please). This is
something that SHOULD be forwarded, so please do it.

Thanks for reading and helping the spammers

I lost the lamb

It looks like something was not right with the ram lamb, he died. He was very, very small and looked almost like he came out too soon. His wool was thin and he was very tiny. It was 50F and still is in the 50s so it was not that cold for a lamb. I am so sad.

Nora had a ram lamb

Nora had ram lamb so we named him Patrick.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More Beading by Beth

Here are some amethyst beads with a bronze Celtic dangle and bronze clasp. The Amber bead drop is light and does not add to the weight. The earrings are bronze Celtic knots with amber drops.

I lost my little pet rat tonight!

My Dear pet rat just passed away. Lorraine was a lovely little dog-like creature with such spirit. She was three which is old for a rat. She had cancer which is common in old rats. I am going to miss her allot.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Obama's No Socialist. I Should Know.

Sunday, March 15, 2009; B01

It took a massive global financial crisis, a failed military adventure and a popular repudiation of the Republican Party to make my national television debut possible. After 15 years of socialist political organizing -- everything from licking envelopes and handing out leaflets to the more romantic task of speaking at street demonstrations -- I found myself in the midtown Manhattan studio of the Fox Business Network on a cold February evening. Who ever thought that being the editor of the Socialist magazine, circulation 3,000, would launch me on a cable news career?

The media whirlwind began in October with a call from a New York Times writer. He wanted a tour of the Socialist Party USA's national office. Although he was more interested in how much paper we used in our "socialist cubby hole" than in our politics, our media profile exploded. Next up, a pleasant interview by Swedish National Radio. Then Brian Moore, our 2008 presidential candidate, sparred with Stephen Colbert. Even the Wall Street Journal wanted a socialist to quote after the first bailout bill failed last fall. Traffic to our Web site multiplied, e-mail inquiries increased and meetings with potential recruits to the Socialist Party yielded more new members than ever before. Socialism -- an idea with a long history -- suddenly seemed to have a bright future in 21st-century America.

Whom did we have to thank for this moment in the spotlight? Oddly enough, Republican politicians such as Mike Huckabee and John McCain had become our most effective promoters. During his campaign, the ever-desperate McCain, his hard-charging running mate Sarah Palin and even a plumber named Joe lined up to call Barack Obama a "socialist." Last month, Huckabee even exclaimed that, "The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may be dead, but the Union of American Socialist Republics is being born."

We appreciated the newfound attention. But we also cringed as the debate took on the hysterical tone of a farcical McCarthyism. The question "Is Obama a socialist?" spread rapidly through a network of rightwing blogs, conservative television outlets and alarmist radio talk shows and quickly moved into the mainstream. "We Are All Socialists Now," declared a Newsweek cover last month. A New York Times reporter recently pinned Obama down with the question, "Are you a socialist, as some people have suggested?" The normally unflappable politician stumbled through a response so unconvincing that it required a follow-up call in which Obama claimed impeccable free market credentials.

All this speculation over whether our current president is a socialist led me into the sea of business suits, BlackBerrys and self-promoters in the studio at Fox Business News. I quickly realized that the antagonistic anchor David Asman had little interest in exploring socialist ideas on bank nationalization. For Asman, nationalization was merely a code word for socialism. Using logic borrowed from the 1964 thriller "The Manchurian Candidate," he portrayed Obama as a secret socialist, so far undercover that not even he understood that his policies were de facto socialist. I was merely a cudgel to be wielded against the president -- a physical embodiment of guilt by association.

The funny thing is, of course, that socialists know that Barack Obama is not one of us. Not only is he not a socialist, he may in fact not even be a liberal. Socialists understand him more as a hedge-fund Democrat -- one of a generation of neoliberal politicians firmly committed to free-market policies.

The first clear indication that Obama is not, in fact, a socialist, is the way his administration is avoiding structural changes to the financial system. Nationalization is simply not in the playbook of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his team. They favor costly, temporary measures that can easily be dismantled should the economy stabilize. Socialists support nationalization and see it as a means of creating a banking system that acts like a highly regulated public utility. The banks would then cease to be sinkholes for public funds or financial versions of casinos and would become essential to reenergizing productive sectors of the economy.

The same holds true for health care. A national health insurance system as embodied in the single-payer health plan reintroduced in legislation this year by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), makes perfect sense to us. That bill would provide comprehensive coverage, offer a full range of choice of doctors and services and eliminate the primary cause of personal bankruptcy -- health-care bills. Obama's plan would do the opposite. By mandating that every person be insured, ObamaCare would give private health insurance companies license to systematically underinsure policyholders while cashing in on the moral currency of universal coverage. If Obama is a socialist, then on health care, he's doing a fairly good job of concealing it.

Issues of war and peace further weaken the commander in chief's socialist credentials. Obama announced that all U.S. combat brigades will be removed from Iraq by August 2010, but he still intends to leave as many as 50,000 troops in Iraq and wishes to expand the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A socialist foreign policy would call for the immediate removal of all troops. It would seek to follow the proposal made recently by an Afghan parliamentarian, which called for the United States to send 30,000 scholars or engineers instead of more fighting forces.

Yet the president remains "the world's best salesman of socialism," according to Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina. DeMint encouraged supporters "to take to the streets to stop America's slide into socialism." Despite the fact that billions of dollars of public wealth are being transferred to private corporations, Huckabee still felt confident in proposing that "Lenin and Stalin would love" Obama's bank bailout plan.

Huckabee is clearly no socialist scholar, and I doubt that any of Obama's policies will someday appear in the annals of socialist history. The president has, however, been assigned the unenviable task of salvaging a capitalist system intent on devouring itself. The question is whether he can do so without addressing the deep inequalities that have become fundamental features of American society. So, President Obama, what I want to know is this: Can you lend legitimacy to a society in which 5 percent of the population controls 85 percent of the wealth? Can you sell a health-care reform package that will only end up enriching a private health insurance industry? Will you continue to favor military spending over infrastructure development and social services?

My guess is that the president will avoid these questions, further confirming that he is not a socialist except, perhaps, in the imaginations of an odd assortment of conservatives. Yet as the unemployment lines grow longer, the food pantries emptier and health care scarcer, socialism may be poised for a comeback in America. The doors of our "socialist cubby-hole" are open to anyone, including Obama. I encourage him to stop by for one of our monthly membership meetings. Be sure to arrive early to get a seat -- we're more popular than ever lately.



I am placing my soul and my body
On Thy sanctuary this night, O God,
On Thy sanctuary, O Jesus Christ,
On Thy sanctuary, O Spirit of perfect truth,
The Three who would defend my cause,
Nor turn Their backs upon me.

Thou, Father, who art kind and just,
Thou, Son, who didst overcome death,
Thou, Holy Spirit of power,
Be keeping me this night from harm;
The Three who would justify me
Keeping me this night and always.

Ta mi cur m' anama 's mo chorp
Air do chomaraig a nochd, a Dhe,
Air do chomaraig, Iosa Criosda,
Air do chomaraig, a Spioraid na firinne reidh.
An Triuir a sheasadh mo chuis,
Is nach cuireadh an cul rium fein.

Thus, Athair, tha caomh agus ceart,
Thus, a Mhic, thug air peacadh buaidh,
Thus, a Spioraid Naoimhe nam feart,
Da mo ghleidheadh an nochd o thruaigh;
An Triuir a dheanadh mo cheart
Mo ghleidheadh an nochd's gach uair.

Potted Heid

That soup Kaleh pache is as frightening as potted heid from Scotland. This wee blessing came to mind after reading that piece:

O Lord, when hunger pinches sore,
Do Thou stand us in stead,
And send us from Thy bounteous store
A tup- or wether-head.

-Robert Burns

A tup is a ram and a wether is a castrated sheep! Mmmmmmmmmm yummy! -NOT

A Sheep's Head on Your Plate

In Tehran, the Best Part of Waking Up: A Sheep's Head on Your Plate

by Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, March 13, 2009

TEHRAN -- Khayyam Street, the entrance to Tehran's grand bazaar, was still covered in darkness. The fluorescent lamp outside the Ali 110 restaurant was a rare beacon of activity in a city fast asleep.

It was exactly 5 a.m. and inside, Hassan Najjar, a burly man with a thick gold necklace over his hairy chest, was stirring a giant pot filled with a soup of cooked sheep's heads, brains and hooves. Two waiters, known to everyone as Issa and Mohsen, were busy filling baskets with special bread baked in a stone oven. Pots of tea seemed to be perpetually boiling.

The restaurant, a tiny space with blue marble counters where customers stand and eat, specializes in kaleh pache, or "heads and hooves" soup, the most traditional of Iranian breakfast dishes. Its popularity is under threat, however, from the spread of fast food and from doctors warning about the dish's high cholesterol.

"Look at this," Najjar said as he took a cooked sheep's head and held it in the air. "This has exactly the same ingredients as a human head, only we eat it." He stripped the head bare of all edible parts until only the skull remained. "The brains, the tongue and the skin are all very tasty, as are the eyes," he explained. "Put some lemon and cinnamon over it and you will have a very tasty start to your morning."

After half an hour, customers started to come in. Outside, the first city buses and some taxis drove past. "One brain soup please," a man carrying a briefcase said. "Can I have hooves and tongue this morning, Hassan?" another asked. Najjar, a man of few words, motioned the men toward one of the counters, where Issa quickly provided them with a bread basket and soon after, their orders.

Having first sprinkled the remains of an eye with salt and drops of lemon juice, Ali Lamei, a lean, 27-year-old interior designer, stuck it between a piece of bread and offered the eye to a fellow customer, as Iranian etiquette prescribes.

The eye was already crushed, the lemon and salt adding strongly to the oily flavor. The tongue had a powdery texture. As for the brain, well, it was soft and squishy and tasted like the bouillon it was soaked in.

"This place is the best kaleh pache restaurant in the whole of Iran," Lamei said. "Some young people and women think it's disgusting, but it's full of calories," he explained. "This food gives you enough energy to work the whole day."

"Maybe cooked sheep's heads are upsetting for some," said his friend Mostafa Mogaddam, who works for Iran's judiciary. He compared Iranian food with Iranian music. "It's meaningful and refined. Kaleh pache, for instance, has been passed on for centuries, like the notes and words of our traditional songs have been handed down for generations."

Hassan Najjar runs the place with four brothers, who like him were all named after Shiite imams. Amir, a former major in the army, walked in around 7 a.m. after having prepared more than 100 sheep heads at their kitchen some doors down the street. Saeed, with long hair, Buddy Holly glasses and a tattoo of a cross on his upper arm, entered the restaurant from a hatch in the floor, which turned out to lead to a cellar. No one knew where Hussein was. And Ali, the brother who had bought the place from their father, doesn't show up this early in the morning.

"People think we are very rich," Amir said. "But Ali is the only one who owns a house. The rest of us rent," he said. "If my daughter ever wants to marry a kalehpachi I will forbid it. We are crazy to work here every day."

Doctors and rising inflation have given the Najjar brothers headaches over the last years. "These doctors say kaleh pache has 'health issues,' because it's fatty," said Hassan, who lit yet another cigarette while handing out plates of yellow brains. "But I'll take one spoon of kaleh pache over 40 plates of chello kabab," he said referring to another favorite Iranian dish, minced lamb on a skewer. "Kaleh pache is honest food, and at least I know who made it."

The price of a breakfast portion has sharply risen since their father died 15 years ago. "Four hooves and one head used to be 60 tomans, now it costs 15,000 tomans" or about $15, Hassan explained. "These days only rich people can afford to eat here. The kids, they eat pizza. What is the future for kaleh pache?"

After Issa dropped a chair, Hassan yelled loudly that his waiter was a "donkey." The clients gazed as Issa quietly asked his boss to be more friendly. A homeless man from the neighborhood walked in and received a plate of free food.

But Saeed told him to leave after he was impolite. "Don't do that," Hassan reprimanded his younger brother. "It's God who gives him this food."

Around 7:30 a.m., when the first rush of customers had left, Hassan stepped from behind the giant pot and lit a small bunch of herbs. He blew the sweet smelling smoke to disperse it throughout the restaurant. "Against the evil eye," he explained, referring to an Iranian custom to prevent misfortune. "We might be complaining, but many people are jealous of us," Hassan said. "I don't know why. Maybe they should try selling sheep's heads seven days a week."



A better photo of the Garnet Prayer Beads.

This set of prayer beads I made for my husband. I made this using a small bronze Celtic Cross, and large, natural garnet beads. The Skull bead is made of Crystal quartz and I used small , brass, African trade beads as accents. It is strung on red hemp beading twine.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Agate Bracelet

This is a bracelet I made from large Botswana Agate beads. You can buy these chunky bracelets places but I had to make mine because I have such a wide wrist. Ever since I was a child bracelets have always been too small. I end up adding links to the chain bracelets to make them work.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ricky Gervais and Elmo, a must see...

Add Ricky Gervais to the set of 'Sesame Street' and you come up with outrageous comedy. Check out outtakes from his interview with Muppet Elmo. The full episode airs this November when 'Street' opens with its 40th anniversary. (March 11)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Paternoster made of Green Quartz and Bronze

This Paternoster is made of Green Sega Quartz and Bronze.
The spacers between the decades are Ethiopian trade beads. The small round beads at the ends are from India and the little ferrule-like beads with the rope pattern are from Indonesia. The bronze angel and equal armed cross were cast here in the USA.The beads are strung on hemp beading twine that I waxed with bees wax. The round ball is a prayer box or for a icon. There are 33 beads counting the brass ball for the 33 years in Jesus' life in human form. The green stone (Burma Jade) cross can be removed and is on a hemp string. It is a little bit fragile I fear. We shall see how it holds up.

Man Lives after going over Niagara Falls!

"Niagara", completed in 1857 by Frederic Church

Man jumps into Niagara River, goes over Horseshoe Falls, survives
By Aaron Besecker

NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — A man who jumped into the upper rapids on the Canadian side of the Niagara River and then fell over the Horseshoe Falls was rescued this afternoon after spending more than 40 minutes in frigid waters below the falls.

The man, who suffered a head injury and hypothermia, would not help emergency responders with his rescue but was saved when a firefighter using safety equipment swam out about 50 yards into the Niagara River, said officials from the Niagara Falls, Ont., police and fire departments.

The man, said to be in his late 30s, was either unable or unwilling to grab onto a pole extended out to him from two rescuers aboard a helicopter. The helicopter pilot then positioned the aircraft in a way that used the winds to push the man closer to the shoreline.

The man was taken by Niagara EMS to Greater Niagara General Hospital, officials said.

A tourist who saw the man hop a fence and jump into the water reported the incident by calling 911 at about 2:11 p.m., Niagara Falls Fire Chief Lee Smith said.

The river's temperature was just above freezing, and ice floes could be seen in the area, Smith said.

The Horseshoe Falls is 167 feet high and the pool of water beneath it is equally as deep. On average, about 1.5 million gallons of water flow over Niagara Falls every second.

The man, whose identity has not been released, was pushed in circles by the river currents over about an area of 100 yards, but was able to keep himself afloat before he was rescued.

"It's amazing that he survived that long," Smith said. "He was very close to not being able to keep himself afloat anymore."

The man had clothes on when he entered the water, but was naked when he was rescued.

Rescuers believe the force of the falls stripped him of his clothing.

"It's pretty remarkable really that he could survive in the icy waters, especially after going over the falls...," Niagara Parks Police Chief Doug W. Kane said. "To survive that long in the icy waters is almost unheard of."

A U.S. man became only the second person to survive plunging over Niagara Falls without a barrel on Oct. 21, 2003, in an apparent stunt that one longtime Niagara River rescuer called a "one-in-a-million chance."

The first person pulled from the river alive after going over the cataract was Roger Woodward, who survived a fall over the Horseshoe Falls after the boat he was in capsized in the Upper Niagara River in 1960, when he was 7 years old. He was wearing a life vest.

The parks police High Angle River Team, about 20 firefighters, and several ambulance personnel and police officers took part in today's rescue, along with Niagara Helicopters, a private Niagara Falls, Ont. company.

The helicopter was piloted by Ruedi Hafen, a member of the High Angle River Team.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The sap is Running

It's maple sugaring time in Western, NY!


According to Native American oral tradition, maple syrup and maple sugar were being made long before Europeans began to record North American history. Native Americans in Eastern North America were the first to discover "sinzibuckwud," the Algonquin word for maple syrup, meaning "drawn from wood."

The Algonquins were the first to recognize the sap as a source of energy and nutrition. They would use a tomahawk to make a V-shaped incision in the tree. Then, they would insert reeds or concave pieces of bark to run the sap into buckets made from birch bark. The sap was slightly concentrated, either by throwing hot stones in the bucket, or by leaving it overnight and disposing of the layer of ice which had formed on top. It was drunk as a sweet drink or used in cooking.

To boil the water, they used a cauldron made of cooked earth. They boiled maple sap over simple fires protected only by a roof of tree branches. This was the first version of the sugar shack. Over the years, this method has evolved to the point where the sugar shack is not only a place where maple syrup is produced, but also a gathering place where a traditional meal can be enjoyed.

Early Settlers in Quebec and New England/Vermont Region of the US

Sugar-Making Among the Indians in the North

In the 1700s, the European settlers and fur traders introduced wooden buckets, made by hollowing out a log. When the log was full, they poured the water into a cast-iron cauldron.

They boiled outside, in the woods, where their tree resource was located. To protect themselves from wind and rain, they built a little camp. Often times whole families would move to the woods to do the sap gathering and sap boiling, hence the term "sugar camp". They literally moved to the woods and camped out, as the boiling process in early times was excessively time consuming. In the early days of colonization, it was the Natives who showed French settlers how to tap the trunk of a tree at the outset of spring, harvest the sap and boil it to evaporate some of the water. This custom quickly became an integral part of colony life and during the 17th and 18th centuries, syrup was a major source of high quality pure sugar. Later they would learn to bore holes in the trees and hang their buckets on home-made spouts.

By the 1850s, the "sugar shack" or "sugarhouse" (the outdoor shack or building used to boil down the sap) arrived as we know it today. The settlers had refined the methods for collecting the sap. The sap was transported using large barrel pulled by horses or oxen and brought to the sugar shack for processing. At this time, the maple sugar was the only available sugar, and it was called “country sugar”. Maple sugar production was especially important due to the fact that other types of sugar were hard to find and expensive. It was as common on the table as salt is today.

Production methods have been streamlined since colonial days, yet remain basically the same. Sap must first be collected and boiled down carefully to obtain pure syrup without chemical agents or preservatives.

Early maple syrup was made by boiling approximately forty gallons (160 l) of sap over an open fire until one gallon (4 l) of syrup was obtained. This was both time consuming and labor intensive, considering the sap needed to be hauled to the fire.

This process underwent little change over the first two hundred years of recorded maple syrup making. Around the time of the American Civil War, syrup makers started using a large flat sheet metal pan as it was more efficient for boiling than a heavy rounded iron kettle which let much of the heated air slide past.

Virtually all syrup makers in the past were self-sufficient dairy farmers who made both syrup and sugar for their own use and for extra income. The process continued to evolve as a result of the innovations developed in their work. In 1864, a Canadian borrowed some design ideas from sorghum evaporators and put a series of baffles in the flat pans to channel the boiling sap. In 1872 a Vermonter developed an evaporator with two pans and a metal arch or firebox which greatly decreased boiling time. Seventeen years later, in 1889, another Canadian bent the tin that formed the bottom of a pan into a series of flues which increased the heated surface area of the pan and again decreased boiling time.

For the most part technology stayed at this point for almost another century, until the 1960’s, when it was no longer a self sufficient enterprise with large families as farm hands. Because syrup making was so labor intensive, farmers could no longer afford to hire large crews it took to gather all the buckets and haul the sap to the evaporator house. During the energy crunch of the 1970’s, syrup makers responded with another surge of technological breakthroughs. Tubing systems, which had been experimented with since the early part of the century, were perfected and the sap came directly from the tree to the evaporator house. Vacuum pumps were added to the tubing systems. Pre-heaters were developed to "recycle" heat lost in the steam. Reverse-osmosis machines were developed to take a portion of water out of the sap before it was boiled. Several producers even obtained surplus desalinization machines from the U.S. Navy and used them to take a portion of water out of the sap prior to boiling. In fact, one is still in use by producer South-East of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The technological developments continue. Improvements continued in tubing. Similarly, new filtering techniques, "supercharged" preheaters, and better storage containers have been developed. Research continues on pest control and improved woodlot management.


Maple syrup production is centered in northeastern North America, and is commonly associated with Quebec in Canada and Vermont in the U.S. However, given the correct weather conditions, it can be made wherever maple trees grow. Usually, the maple species used are the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and the black maple (Acer nigrum), because of a high sugar content in the sap of roughly two percent. A maple syrup production farm is called a "sugar bush" or "the sugarwoods". Sap is often boiled in a "sugar house" (also known as a "sugar shack" or cabane à sucre), a building which is louvered at the top to vent the steam from the boiling sap.

Canada makes more than 80 percent of the world's maple syrup, producing about 7 million US gallons (26,000 m3) in 2005. The vast majority of this comes from Quebec: the province is by far the world's largest producer, with about 75 percent of the world production (6.515 million US gallons/24,660 cubic meters in 2005).[2] Production in Quebec is controlled through a supply-management system. with producers receiving quota allotments from the Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec. The province also maintains it own "strategic reserves" of maple syrup, which reached its highest point in 2004, when it totalled 60 million pounds, or 4.5 million gallons.

The provinces of Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island produce smaller amounts. The province of Manitoba also produces maple syrup using the sap off the Manitoba Maple tree (acer negundo, also known as a "Box Elder"). Manitoba Maple syrup is much darker in colour and flavour than maple syrup made from a sugar maple, and the difference between the two is akin to that between golden brown sugar and dark brown sugar.

Vermont is the biggest U.S. producer, with 450 thousand US gallons (1,700 m3) in 2007, followed by Maine with 225 thousand US gallons (850 m3) and New York with 224 thousand US gallons (850 m3). Wisconsin, Ohio, New Hampshire, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Connecticut all produced marketable quantities of maple syrup of less than 100 thousand US gallons (380 m3) each in 2007.

Production in 2008: Canada: 4.9 million gallons (more than 90 percent of that came from Quebec); Vermont: 450,000 gallons; New York: 322,000 gallons; Maine: 215,000 gallons; Wisconsin: 130,000 gallons; Ohio: 118,000 gallons; Michigan: 100,000 gallons; Pennsylvania: 95,000 gallons; New Hampshire: 85,000 gallons.

Traditional tap

Two taps in a maple tree, using plastic tubing for sap collection.

Traditionally, maple syrup was harvested by tapping a maple tree through the bark and into the wood, then letting the sap run into a bucket, which required daily collecting; less labour-intensive methods such as the use of continuous plastic pipelines have since superseded this, in all but cottage-scale production.

Production is concentrated in February, March, and April, depending on local weather conditions. Freezing nights and warm days are needed in order to induce sap flows. The change in temperature from above to below freezing causes water uptake from the soil, and temperatures above freezing cause a stem pressure to develop, which, along with gravity, causes sap to flow out of tapholes or other wounds in the stem or branches. To collect the sap, holes are bored into the maple trees and tubes (taps, spouts, spiles) are inserted. Sap flows through the spouts into buckets or into plastic tubing. Modern use of plastic tubing with a partial vacuum has enabled increased production. A hole must be drilled in a new location each year, as the old hole will produce sap for only one season due to the natural healing process of the tree, called walling-off. Maple sap is collected from the buckets and taken to the sugar house; if plastic tubing and pipelines are used, then the pipelines are arranged so that the sap will flow by gravity into the sugar house, or if that is not possible, into holding tanks from which the sap is pumped or transported by tanker truck to the sugar house.

It takes approximately 40 liters (10 gal) of sap to be boiled down to 1 liter (1 quart) of syrup. A mature sugar maple produces about 40 liters of sap during the 4-6 week sugaring season. Trees are not tapped until they have a diameter of 25 cm (10 in) at chest-height and the tree is at least 40 years old. If the tree is more than 45 cm it can be tapped twice on opposite sides. It is recommended that the drilled tap hole have a width of 8 mm (⅓ in) and a depth of 25 to 40 mm (1.0 to 1.6 in). During cooking, the sap is fed automatically by pipe from a storage tank to a long and narrow ridged pan called the evaporator. The evaporator is usually divided into two sections, the front pan and the back pan. As the sap boils, the water evaporates; it becomes denser and sweeter. As the density of the sap increases, it works its way from the rear of the back evaporator pan to the front evaporator pan. The syrup is boiled until it reaches the correct density of maple syrup, 1333 kg/m3.[citation needed] The proper density of at least 66% sugar is reached when the boiling sap reached a temperature of 7 degrees F. above the boiling point of water. The density is tested with a hydrometer. If the density is too low the syrup will not be sweet enough and the syrup will spoil. If the density is too high the syrup will crystallize in bottles. When the syrup has reached the proper density, it is drawn off, filtered and bottled while hot.

Starting in the 1970s, some maple syrup producers started using reverse osmosis to remove water from sap before being further boiled down to syrup. The use of reverse osmosis allows approximately 75 to 80% of the water to be removed from the sap prior to boiling, reducing energy consumption and exposure of the syrup to high temperatures. Microbial contamination and degradation of the membranes has to be monitored.

Maple syrup is sometimes boiled down further to make maple sugar, a hard candy usually sold in pressed blocks, and maple taffy. Intermediate levels of boiling can also be used to create various intermediate products, including maple cream (less hard and granular than maple sugar) and maple butter (creamy, with a consistency slightly less thick than peanut butter).

Starting in the mid 80's, northern communities in the province of Quebec began to open the "Cabane à Sucre" or Sugar Shacks to the public. These sugar shacks were generally located on large maple farms and often were built solely for tourist purposes. These sugar shacks serve maple syrup direct to the public and also are often restaurants serving maple syrup inspired meals and treats.

A 2007 New England price of $31.68 per gallon reflects a rise of $1.37 over 2006.

In December 2008, price quotations from the two largest syrup packers in New England ranged from $41.50 per gallon of Grade A syrup to $44 per gallon wholesale. This major price increase was present since May 2008, attributed primarily to the depletion of extra syrup stores from Quebec that had been partially serving the increased demand that grew in the past few years. Retail rates have been proportionately higher.


Lent: Our Pilgrimage of Faith

I have never really observed lent with such depth like I am this year. Somehow it has taken on a greater meaning in this time of world economic crisis, especially following a very hard winter here in Western, NY. The following is a lovely piece about Lent as our pilgrimage of faith.

The season of LENT is the most penitential period of the Church Year. It is a time for Christians to focus our attention on human redemption through Christ’s suffering and death. The word LENT means springtime. It is from the Old English word “lengthen” recalling the lengthening of days as the dead of winter gives way to the renewing of life in spring. In the northern hemisphere we move closer to the sun, the source of life. As Christians we move closer to the Son during Lent for he is our source of life everlasting. LENT lasts 40 days and is part of the 93 day PASCHAL CYCLE, which also includes Triduum (3 days) and the 50 days of Easter. The number 40 is significant because it reminds us of the 40 days Noah, his family and God’s creatures were saved from the flood. It is the period of time that Moses, Elijah and Jesus spent in fasting as they prepared for the ministries to which God called them. It is symbolic of the 40 years the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness. In the early church, a 40-day period of preparation was observed for the baptismal candidates who would study, fast and otherwise make ready for baptism and entrance into the Holy Communion on Easter. It is therefore meet and right for us as Christians to observe the forty days of Lent as our preparation time for the
celebration of Easter. The tradition of the Church and the mandate of the Gospel call us to turn away from our sins, which alienate us from God. Self-denial is one way that we can remind ourselves of the great sacrifice Jesus Christ made on our behalf. The 6th chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew advises penance in three forms: Giving of alms (works of charity toward others), prayer, and fasting. Matthew is quick to point out, though, that we don’t do these things to be praised or noticed by others, but to praise God who has already rewarded us by his grace. Lent asks us to discipline our lives by praying and meditating on God’s Word.

This piece on lent was taken from:

This is funny!

The Crappiest Generation of Spoiled Idiots


My friend Myrtie in California gave me the link to this video! It made my day!


Religion draws more tourists to Scotland PILGRIMAGE TOURISM:

Photo I took In Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh in 2005

RELIGIOUS tourism to Scotland is set to treble in the next decade, according to experts.

Building on the success of the Rosslyn Chapel in Lothian, which has seen visitor numbers rocket since it featured in Dan Brown's bestseller The Da Vinci Code, other sites across Scotland which have a religious and spiritual connection can expect several hundred thousand more visitors in years to come as tourism moves closer to culture and history.

At present, religious tourism to Scotland is valued at GBP80-100 million, with visitors travelling to places such as St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh, the Orphir Round Kirk in Orkney, the Pictish memorials in Shetland, and on pilgrimages to Iona.

But new estimates predict that will rise to GBP300m by 2014, as more and more people use their holidays to search for spirituality and meaning.

Ian Yeoman, an expert in future tourism trends at VisitScotland, said that the agency was preparing for far more tourists with an interest in going to places with a religious significance.

He said: "Today's consumers, especially in the ageing population, are looking for a more authentic experience when they travel. They are more travelled and cultured than in the past, and want to experience other cultures - as well as being wealthier.

"Religion and, perhaps more important, the interest in spirituality are going to drive this market with more and more people coming to Scotland with an interest in seeing churches and other places of worship."

He said visitor numbers are rising noticeably already: 680,000 people said they visited a religious site last year on trips to Scotland; up 13per cent from 2004.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who addressed a meeting of tourism chiefs last Thursday about the potential for higher visitor numbers in the sector, said the importance of pilgrimage and tourism should not be understated.

Pointing to the millions of people who go on pilgrimage tours every year around the world, he said that visitors to places of prayer would boost overall tourism to Scotland.

He said: "If they provide an attraction to those people outside of Scotland, it will indeed raise the profile of Scotland as a whole as a place to visit."

Yeoman stressed, however, that churches, cathedrals and holy sites that currently operate as places of worship would retain their real function rather than become overwhelmed with tourists, gift shops and tea rooms.

He said: "We have worked with churches to improve what they offer visitors if they want help or advice, but their core purpose is not tourism, it is worship.

"It is about joined-up thinking about the future: for example, we anticipate that the interest in Buddhism will increase, but the attraction of Buddhist retreats is remoteness, so there would not be as much potential to develop in that area. Places on church trails will see increased visitor numbers."

A spokesman for the Church of Scotland, which has a connection with a majority of religious sites in Scotland, said that there were several places of interest that tourists may want to visit.

"The biggest tourist draw is St Giles Cathedral which last year had almost 500,000 visitors - during last month alone there were over 70,000 visitors. St Mary's Kirk in Haddington is a three-star Scottish Tourist Board attraction and one of the oldest churches in Scotand."


The following sites are proving popular with religious tourists:

Glasgow Cathedral.

Italian Chapel, Lambholm, Orkney.

Samye Ling Monastery, Langholm, Borders.

Holy Island, off Arran.

Pluscarden Abbey, Elgin, Moray.

St Andrew's Cathedral, St Andrews, Fife.

St Paul's Cathedral, Dundee.

Heylipol Church, Isle of Tiree.

Paisley Abbey, Paisley.

Melrose Abbey, Melrose Findhorn, Moray.

St Mary's Parish Church, Haddington.

Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh.


Pilgrim clothing and Gear

The belongings of the pilgrim were carried in the script. The scrip was merely a pouch or wallet, in which were carried articles of absolute necessity, and it ought to have constituted the whole of the pilgrim's baggage. These scrips were originally of untanned leather, and of the coarsest and most humble construction ; but those whom too much humility, even in garments, did not suit, indulged in scrips of gold.1 They were attached to a scarf which passed over the shoulder, and were generally worn hanging down in front, though the Anglo-Saxon wore his at the side.2

In addition to the scrip, the pilgrim always carried what was called under the Normans a bourdon or staff. At first this was merely an alpen-stock, or plain staff, about six or seven feet long, with a nail at one end as an assistance in climbing, and a knob at the other, possibly for defensive purposes ; and a little above the middle was a second knob, which afforded a convenient purchase to the hand in holding or flourishing the staff. After a certain period, the bourdon appears to have been made of two pieces of wood joined together and fastened near the middle by a thick band or ring ; and one of these pieces was occasionally hollowed out at the end so as to serve the purpose of a pipe for pitching the key-note when the pilgrims sang psalms.

This simple instrument was destined to gradual improvement and to an honoured life. After a short time it was used by the pilgrims to sustain the " drone base," or " bourdon," under the voice-part of their songs, the continuity of which renders the noise of bagpipes so detestable, but which the Anglo-Saxons then, as the Highlanders now, found peculiarly agreeable. As from their numbers the majority of Anglo-Saxon singers could do nothing but join in chorus, and as they naturally attached supreme importance to their own share in the performance, the name of bourdon was eventually bestowed on the chorus, which was then a constant iteration of a leading sentiment, and has descended to us slightly corrupted in the common phrase, " the burden of the song."1 The " bourdon" was improved until it became a species of flute, known as " the pilgrim's staff," by which name it is mentioned as late as the reign of king Henry VIII.

-The Anglo-Saxon Home By John Thrupp

What the Pilgrims Wore

The particular designations of Pilgrims were the Scrip, Staff от Bourdon, Palmer's Staff, Scarf, Bell, Sclavina, Hat, Prayer Beads (Paternoster), Scrobula(womens clothing).

The Scrip was derived from the Monks of Egypt. Charlemagne wore a golden Scrip when he went to Rome.8 It was the pouch or wallet in which Pilgrims carried their necessaries. Thus Chaucer,

" In scrippe he bare both bread and leeks." b It was made of leather. In the Life of S. Margaret is this passage : " And you shall visit me with a pilgrim's staff, the scrip hanging from your shoulder ;" and in a compotus from the year 1333 to 1336 is an entry "for a scrip of seta," which I think not leather only, but leather with the hair on.c In the Roman de la Rose MS. it is coupled with the Bourdon, as will hereafter appear. Small ones are mentioned.«1 We find a Scrip and Mantle united,« and Pilgrims were called Manticulati from Mantica, the scrip/ The Anglo-Saxons had Scrips, and they were worn at the side.g The term Scrip also applied to the whole of a pilgrim's baggage, so far as concerned packages.11 A Sack instead of a Scrip occurs, as carried by a female poor pilgrim.'

Scarf. The Abbot of Cheminon, says a Pilgrim, gave me my Scarf, and bound it on me ; and likewise put the Pilgrim's Staff in my hand. I made pilgrimages to all the holy places in the neighbourhood, on foot, without shoes, and in my shirt.k

Authors often use the word Scarf instead of Scrip, because these Scrips or wallets were commonly attached to the Scarfs with which they begirded the pilgrims.1 In general the Scarf is a mere leather thong or belt.

In the thirteenth century, the French began to wear over the Cuirass the white Scarf, which afterwards characterized their military men. It was sometimes worn as a girdle, sometimes as a belt or baudrick. With them it was sometimes white; sometimes red, The Spaniards preferred it red; the Bavarians and Catalans black ; the Palatines, Inhabitants of the Rhine, the Danes and English blue.™ Accordingly in old portraits of our military men in armour, we find it of blue silk : of that, or some similar material, as a designation of officers, so late as the middle of the last century,n and at last converted into a sash, and worn around the waist. We hear of a Scrip being supported by a girdle or belt, and both occur in plates.0 The arms borne by the name of Tasborough are, 1. Argent, a chevron, between three stirrups pendent on as many palmers' staves, Sable. 2. Argent, a chevron, between three pilgrims' staves, with pouches hanging on them, Sable, garnished Or.

Bourdon Staff. He had a long staff in his hand, with a nobbe in the middle, according to the fashion of this Pilgrim's Staff.? The fashion of all the staves, except the Palmers', is similar in the Plate, (p. 323,) and shows the error of the theatrical costume, in furnishing pilgrims with a long cross. Upon the arms of Sempringham is what is called a pilgrim's crutch.

They subsisted upon the charitable contributions of those they met with on their journey. In the Romance of the Four Sons of Aymont, which probably is about the twelfth century, one of the heroes, renouncing all secular pursuits, determines upon a pilgrimage, and requests for that purpose, a coat, or tu- nick, to be made of coarse cloth, and a large hat or hood, and [a bourdon fer- ruled a with iron] ; to which his friends, contrary to his wishes, added shoes made of cows' skin [neat leather, the thickest, best for duration and wear], but could by no means prevail upon him to accept of breeches, stockings or a shirt, or any other soft or comfortable garment.

In Pierce the Ploughman's Visions a personage is introduced apparelled as a Pilgrim, bearing a burden bound about with a broad list upon his back, and a bag and a bowlь by his side ; his cloak was marked with crosses, interspersed with the Keys of Rome (two keys crossed) and a vernicle in the front. Upon his hat were placed the signs of Sinay, and shells of Gules ; that it might be known by these tokens, for whose sake he had travelled ; therefore being asked whence he came, he replied, " Ye may see by the signes that sitteth on my cappe," and added that he had visited Sinai, the Holy Sepulchre, Bethlem, and variety of other places. "The pilgrim's habit, as it was delineated in the fourteenth century.

His hat is turned up in the front, with an escallop-shell affixed to it : he is barefooted, and holds a staff in his left hand. This figure in the original painting is intended for the portraiture of Saint James : and for that reason, by way of distinction, I presume, the border of gold is added to the sleeves, and at the bottom of the garment ; for all such ornaments were generally considered as highly indecorous to the profession of a pilgrim."

The figure just described appears with a long beard : It was dangerous at the commencement of the thirteenth century, for a stranger to appear with a beard.

" Peter Auger, valet to Edward the Second, obtained from that Monarch letters of safe conduct, he being desirous of visiting the holy places abroad, as a Pilgrim ; and having made a vow not to shave his beard, was fearful, without such documents, of being taken for a Knight Templar, and insulted. It was by no means uncommon with Lay Pilgrims to make such a vow, and to extend it still further to the hair of their head e and their finger nails : conceiving, I suppose, that the resemblance to a savage was a positive mark of piety and humbleness of mind.

British monachism; or, Manners and customs of the monks and nuns of England By Thomas Dudley Fosbroke COSTUMES OF PILGRIMS.



Sunday, March 8, 2009

A £516 trillion derivatives 'time-bomb'!

The market is worth more than $516 trillion, (£303 trillion),
roughly 10 times the value of the entire world's output: it's been called the "ticking time-bomb".

It's a market in which the lead protagonists – typically aggressive, highly educated, and now wealthy young men – have flourished in the derivatives boom. But it's a market that is set to come to a crashing halt – the Great Unwind has begun.

Last week the beginning of the end started for many hedge funds with the combination of diving market values and worried investors pulling out their cash for safer climes.

Some of the world's biggest hedge funds – SAC Capital, Lone Pine and Tiger Global – all revealed they were sitting on double-digit losses this year. September's falls wiped out any profits made in the rest of the year. Polygon, once a darling of the London hedge fund circuit, last week said it was capping the basic salaries of its managers to £100,000 each. Not bad for the average punter but some way off the tens of millions plundered by these hotshots during the good times. But few will be shedding any tears.

The complex and opaque derivatives markets in which these hedge funds played has been dubbed the world's biggest black hole because they operate outside of the grasp of governments, tax inspectors and regulators. They operate in a parallel, shadow world to the rest of the banking system. They are private contracts between two companies or institutions which can't be controlled or properly assessed. In themselves derivative contracts are not dangerous, but if one of them should go wrong – the bad 2 per cent as it's been called – then it is the domino effect which could be so enormous and scary.

Most markets have something behind them. Central banks require reserves – something that backs up the transaction. But derivatives don't have anything – because they are not real money, but paper money. It is also impossible to establish their worth – the $516 trillion number is actually only a notional one. In the mid-Nineties, Nick Leeson lost Barings £1.3bn trading in derivatives, and the bank went bust. In 1998 hedge fund LTCM's $5bn loss nearly brought down the entire system. In fragile times like this, another LTCM could have catastrophic results.

That is why everyone is now so frightened, even the traders, who are desperately trying to unwind their positions but finding it impossible because trading is so volatile and it's difficult to find counterparties. Nor have the hedge funds been in the slightest bit interested in succumbing to normal rules: of the world's thousands of hedge funds only 24 have volunteered to sign up to a code of conduct.

Few understand how this world operates. The US Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, tapped up some of Wall Street's best for a primer on their workings when he took the job a few years ago. Britain's financial regulator, the Financial Services Authority, has long talked about the problems the markets could face on the back of derivative complexity. Unfortunately it did little to curb the products' growth.

In America the naysayers have been rather more vocal for longer. Famously, Warren Buffett, the billionaire who made his money the old-fashioned way, called them "weapons of mass destruction". In the late 1990s when confidence was roaring in the midst of the dotcom boom, a small band of politicians, uncomfortable with the ease with which banks would be allowed to play in these burgeoning markets, were painted as Luddites failing to move with the times.

Little-known Democratic senator Byron Dorgan from North Dakota was one of the most vociferous refuseniks, telling his supposedly more savvy New York peers of the dangers. "If you want to gamble, go to Las Vegas. If you want to trade in derivatives, God bless you," he said. He was ignored.

What is a Derivative?

Warren Buffett, the American investment guru, dubbed them "financial weapons of mass destruction", but for the once-great-and-good of Wall Street they were the currency that enabled banks, hedge funds and other speculators to make billions.

Anything that carries a price can spawn a derivatives market. They are financial contracts sold to pass on risk to others. The credit or bond derivatives market is one such example. It is thought that speculation in this area alone is worth more than $56 trillion (£33 trillion), although that probably underestimates the true figure since lax regulation has seen the market explode over the past two years.

At the core of this market is the credit derivative swap, effectively an insurance policy against the default in the interest payment on a corporate bond. One doesn't even need to own the bond itself. It is like Joe Public buying an insurance policy on someone else's house and pocketing the full value if it burns down.

As markets slid into crisis, and banks and corporations began to default on bond payments, many of these policies have proved worthless.

Emilio Botin, the chairman of Santander, the Spanish bank that has enjoyed phenomenal success during the credit crunch, once said: "I never invest in something I don't understand." A wise man, you may think.

Simon Evans

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Pilgrim Badges and Saint Andrews


These are pilgrim badges depicting Saint Andrew the patron saint of Scotland. As befitted the headquarters of the Christian church in the Kingdom of Fife, Scotland, its cathedral became the longest and greatest in Scotland. Even in its present ruined state, the scale is impressive - at 355 feet long, it was at one time the second largest church in Britain. The effect on simple pilgrims who visited the cathedral 600 years ago must have been staggering. St Andrews Cathedral, Fife. There was a monastic community in St Andrews in the 8th century. Due to pressure on Iona from the Vikings, the centre of the church in Scotland moved east, first to Dunkeld and then to Kilrimont (the Celtic name by which St Andrews was known in those days).
A church, dedicated to St Rule was built there early in the 12th century. The original, tall (108 feet high) tower of that church still survives (and gives great views over the town). Legend has it that St Rule (or St Regulus) was the original guardian of the relics of St Andrew.

Two legends tell of the bringing of the relics of the Apostle St Andrew to what we now call St Andrews. Both involve a religious figure interpreted as St Rule, or St Regulus, who brought relics of the Apostle to the local site then known as Cennrigmonaid or Kilrymont. Both legends have St Rule establishing an area of consecrated ground, presumably at modern Kirkhill, marked out with twelve crosses. This ground was to become the new resting place for the relics. Whatever the truth of these legends, and whether Rule was no more than a monkish invention, we may never know. There is no doubt however, that relics claimed to be of St Andrew were present at Kilrymont. This subsequently was the reason for the establishment of the place now called St Andrews, as a major religious centre and a prominent centre for pilgrimage throughout the Middle Ages. However, not all of Andrew’s bones were originally sent to Scotland. The larger part of the saint's remains were stolen from Constantinople by the crusaders in around 1210 and taken to Amalfi, in Italy, where most of them still remain. In 1879 the Archbishop of Amalfi sent some fragments of the saint’s shoulder blade to the Roman Catholic community in Scotland. Further relics were given to the Catholic church in Scotland in 1969 by Pope Paul VI. These fragments are currently on display in a reliquary in St Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Window of Saint Andrew from the chapel in Edinburgh Castle known as St. Margaret's Chapel. It was built at the beginning of the 12th century. The window was made in modern times however. I took this photo in 2005.


"As pilgrims flooded into shrine towns, they clamored for souvenirs of their travels. Originally they took rocks or debris from the shrines, but as their numbers grew, significant damage was being done to the holy sites. Among the first pilgrim souvenirs were scallop shells sold at the shrine site at Compostela, Spain, in honor of St. James. St. James became the patron saint of pilgrims and his scallop shell became a symbol of pilgrimage right across Europe.

Soon a new group of artisans appeared to serve the growing demand for souvenirs. These "Ampullers" sold lead-tin bottles (ampullae) containing water from the shrines, badges, whistles, rattles and bells. These base metal souvenirs were mass produced in stone molds and sold cheaply in the marketplaces that grew up around pilgrimage sites.

In addition to the religious badges, secular badges and charms were also very popular and featured beasts, heraldic and livery charges, hearts, figures and everyday objects. These were purchased as gifts for those left behind, or as amusing reminders of a good trip in much the same way we buy souvenirs today. Often these badges were quite naughty and winged phalluses were worn together with saints' badges on hats and scrips! The other popular items like rattles, bells and whistles were cast and sold in the same shops and sold to the merrymaking pilgrims, much to the annoyance of the townsfolk. The sales of these items was widespread and they were also cast and sold in girdlers' shops that sold base metal buckles, buttons and belt mounts."

For reproductions of badges follow this link:




Saint James Major Patron Saint of Pilgrims

Carlo Crivelli (Italian, Venetian, circa 1430/5–1494). Saint James Major, 1472. Tempera and gold on panel. Brooklyn Museum

Please click on the photo above and enlarge? You can see the scallop shell on Saint James' garment and also the lead pilgrim's badges sewn to his wide brimmed hat. The scallop shell is the traditional emblem of Saint James the Greater and is popular with pilgrims on the Way of St James to the apostle's shrine at Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Medieval Christians making the pilgrimage to his shrine often wore a scallop shell symbol on their hat or clothes. The pilgrim also carried a scallop shell with him and would present himself at churches, castles, abbeys etc. where he could expect to be given as much sustenance as he could pick up with one scoop. Probably he would be given oats, barley, and perhaps beer or wine. Thus even the poorest household could give charity without being overburdened. The association of Saint James with the scallop can most likely be traced to the legend that the apostle once rescued a knight covered in scallops. An alternate version of the legend holds that while St. James' remains were being transported to Spain from Jerusalem, the horse of a knight fell into the water, and emerged covered in the shells.

"The pilgrim with his scrip, staff and leaden badges, was a familiar sight on medieval roads throughout Britain, Europe and the Holy Land from the early 1200's through the 1500's when the rising tide of Protestantism closed many shrines and places of sanctuary. Pilgrims were a varied lot. Some were seeking help for a particular affliction, some wished to honor a vow or atone for a sin. Many simply set out to see something of the world and find some adventure in distant or foreign lands. Whatever the reason for their travels, pilgrims choked the roads from spring to fall and sometimes doubled the populations of shrine towns, giving a much needed boost to local economies who depended on the sale of food, lodging and souvenirs."

In Scotland, the Christian faith found it harder to gain a major influence until the sixth century with the arrival of St Columba from Ireland. He set up a community on the island of Iona from where he and his followers spread the Gospels into the Pictish communities. The island is the perfect place for a retreat and today is a major ecumenical centre. This is one of the most beautiful places I have had the privilege to visit.

Although St Columba’s arrival was a major influence, there had long been an element of Christianity in Scotland, which had crept in as a result of the numerous Roman invasions. In the late fourth century the first Bishop from north of Hadrian’s Wall, (St) Ninian, set up the first Celtic monastic community in the small fishing port of Whithorn. In the 1990s this site was excavated to find traces of his Candida Casa (White House), and numerous early Christian graves and artifacts and is now a fascinating place to visit during a journey to Scotland.

Queen Margaret (1045 – 1093) the wife of King Malcolm III spread a more organized, almost, state-sanctioned Christianity and established the Cistercians in Scotland. You can visit Saint Margaret's cave in Dunfermline where she went to pray. I found it very interesting and moving. It's quite small. There is a link below where you can take a virtual tour if you like.

Photo I took of Saint Margaret's Cave in 2005.










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