Monday, April 30, 2007

Happy Vappu To You

Tonight is the Eve of Beltane, an ancient Celtic fire festival marking the end of the first planting and the beginning of Summer, and in current times one of the big annual NeoPagan holidays (the others being Samhain, Lammas and Presidents' Day). Beltane Eve is also called Walpurgis Night, a name I truly adore. I love saying "Walpurgis." Try it: Walpurgis Walpurgis Walpurgis. Isn't that a fun word? Or, even better, "Walpurgisnacht." Oooh, but that's a satisfying series of consonants. If you hit them right, you'll totally clear your sinuses.

The name Walpurgis ("Walpurgisnacht!" "Gesundheit!") derives from St. Walburga, who's feast day falls on May 1. St. Walburga's an actual historical figure, but she has a whole bunch of Pagan baggage attached to her--most notably, she's one of five saints to whom legend assigns the Grain Miracle, which is in itself a remnant of pre-Christian agrarian ritual. Ah, to have been a fly on the thinly-veneered wall back then:

Medieval priest - "What have I told you people about venerating Pagan idols?!"

Medieval Pagans - "We're not. We promise. We're just celebrating the fact that St. Walburga had the power to make the grain grow as she passed by, which was a miracle and certainly not any kind of ancient fertility magic."

Medieval priest - "Oh. Um, I see. It just looked... I mean, what with the corn dollies and orgies and all... well, you know..."

Medieval Pagans - "It was an honest mistake. We understand."

Medieval priest - "Good, good, I'm glad we're on the same page. So I'll see you all on Sunday for the feast of St. Phallus the Foliate-Headed?"

Medieval Pagans - "Sho 'nuff, boss."

Other names for Beltane include Vappu (see title of this post), May Day, and my all-time favorite... Varbolg. I am unable to speak the word Varbolg. Anytime I try, it comes out as a deep-throated shout, followed by a raucous demand for wenches and grog.

And strangly enough, I have the exact same reaction when I try to say "Pentecost." I was the crappiest Episcopalian ever.

Varbolg!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The ranch dressing kept evaporating

Deborah put up several intriguing posts on the dreams she's had lately. Generally, I don't remember my dreams--I know that something vivid happened while I was sleeping, but that's about it. This morning, though, I woke up realizing that I could recall most of the details of last night's REM-inspired hallucinations.

Here's what happened:

Jack decided to clean our apartment while I was over at a friend's house, attempting to craft ritual tools out of a mixture of beeswax and ranch dressing. When I returned home, I discovered that the large wooden cabinet that serves as our entertainment center was gone. He explained that he left it out by the dumpster because our cats had scratched it up too much. I started to get angry, but then I noticed the two adorable miniature warthog/howler monkey hybrids he'd picked up as pets. They were supposed to be vicious, but one of them was very sweet towards me.

Leaving my new little friends behind, I went off to the theatre, because I'd been cast as a chorus member in a very short musical set in the 1700's, starring my boss as the crazed, invalid socialite. I did very well in the Saturday night performance, but I missed my entrance during the Sunday matinee. After the show I went swimming, even though there was this new Web site out that rewrote your personal reality when you logged onto it. I added a link to this site from my site, thereby saving the day, then swam some more.

Suddenly, the scene switched back to my living room, where I witnessed one of my cats jumping off our balcony after a bird. This startled me awake.

Perhaps I shouldn't spend any more leisurely afternoons hanging out with Discordians. It's apparently contagious.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Et Tu, Curator?

Some fellow Witches and I went to check out the Imperial Rome exhibit currently gracing the Houston Museum of Natural Science. We entered through the Hall of Emperors, featuring busts of various world-dominating authority figures (turns out Titus was totally hot), and then wandered through alcoves where sarcophagi, amphorae and statues of the Gods are thoughtfully arranged.

Overall, it was cool, except that a bunch of the God statues were labeled incorrectly. Which, to my idealistic lil' Pagan brain, amounted to light blasphemy.

Examples? Bien súr.

There was a Herm (a border marker carved in the likeness of Hermes) listed as Pan; a statue of Bacchus marked as Eros; and to complete the circuit, a sculpture of Janus denoted as Hermes. Granted, these weren't major, life-threatening mistakes or anything... but at the same time, if an average schmo off the street with only Trivial Puruit-level knowledge of classical mythology can pick out discrepancies, something's rotten in the state of Museumland.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Home Page Sweet Home Page

I got bored, so I built a new Web site.

Discuss.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April's Fool

I stopped by a convenience store to buy some wine, the idea being to go home, sink into my sofa, indulge in some Vino and entertain myself with several hours of cheesy horror movies. I approached the counter with my beverage of choice and was rifling through my wallet for exact change when the cashier, not even glancing up from his register, casually asked, "How old are you?"

This is a trick often employed by the convenience store cashier set, designed to nip teenage drinking in the bud. The idea is that the question will throw off the underage customer, causing him to instinctively blurt out "Seventeen! I mean, um..." And then no beer for him.

When I was an underage customer, I vigorously trained myself against such tactics. If a cashier asked how old I was, I automatically said "Twenty-three." If a cashier asked what year I was born, I would announce "1971." The fact that I didn't have to stop and think suggested I wasn't lying, and my tone of voice--slightly put-out but understanding--implied, "Yeah, I get this a lot..." And then much beer for me.

Now, though, it's been legal for me to purchase and imbibe alcoholic refreshments for nigh on ten years, and these days I just don't spend a lot of time keeping a specific age in mind. So when the cashier asked, "How old are you?" I honestly could not remember.

I stood there, kind of slack-jawed, my eyes rolling up and my brow furrowing in deep concentration. Finally, I just took a random guess: "Uh... thirty-one?"

I phrased my age in the form of a question. I am an idiot. I might as well have said "What is thirty-one, Alex?" to see if the cashier would congratulate me and give me money. As it was, he just sort of looked at me funny and sold me the wine.

I wouldn't have sold me the wine.