Summer Solstice and a Full Moon

Happening now, in the U.K. starting at about 1:00 A.M. UTC.

A full moon, rising on the Solstice.

For this start of summer, I’ll be having a wave offering of home brewed Crisp Apple Cider. The burnt offering will be a nice fired full meat “combo” pizza.

Prepare, and enjoy.

Some thoughts to go with it? A joyous celebration:

Commence this special celebration at the time of your choosing. I’m starting now, in sync with UTC, but will continue well into local night and moonset. As this starts at the middle of the night, the 24 hour span reaches into tomorrow as well, so if you miss it tonight, tomorrow is fine too!

For those of technical interest:

Alternatively, viewers can also go to to watch the broadcast, snap and share photos, chat with other audience members, interact with the hosts and personally control Slooh’s telescopes.

During the event, astronomers will discuss the significance of the two events – the solstice and the full moon – happening at the same time. They will explore the importance of the solstice as a seasonal celebration in cultures across the world and throughout history.

Full report: Summer solstice to coincide with full moon for first time in 70 years: Watch live online | IB Times

Hit the link to get live links to the observation site.

For those wishing to make cider:

For those more wave offering with friends inclined:

Let the moonrise begin!

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Winter Solstice – New Beginnings

It is the Winter Solstice. The time of one ending and one beginning.

The Sun, source of all our power and life, is at it’s largest ebb in the Northern Hemisphere. Those souls lucky enough to be in the Southern Hemisphere are having their Summer Solstice and in the best of warmth; leaving us up north a bit jealous ;-)

But this posting will be “Northern Centric”. The traditional view of Europeans.

This is the time of change from decreasing light / increasing darkness to increasing light as the darkness flees. Yes, we still have about 2 months to 3 months of coldest winter to endure (as temperatures lag the heat flux change by a few months). Yet this is the moment when we can see the change coming.

It is “always darkest before the dawn”, and that holds doubly so (or perhaps even more than that) for the depths of the Winter Solstice.

Reflect for just a moment on what the Solstice means. The apparent movement of the Sun away from the peak of the dome of the sky has halted. The Sun stops the apparent movement to the other end of the world, and today starts to return to us. To power new beginnings and new warmth.

Yet for the next 3 months, we must live on stored energy. Stored hope. Stored life.

This has been a fundamental truth for millions of years for life outside the Tropics. Many species have their reproductive cycles tied to the solar cycle and the seasons. Pregnancies that start in spring, so maximum food quantity and quality is available while the young are developing; birth in winter, and first months spent ‘denning’ waiting for warmth of spring and the cycle to repeat. (Birds, being faster to develop, nest in spring and have fully grown in time to fly away in fall, planning in winter their return flight ‘soon’ in spring…)

For my own family, we are all ‘waiting expectantly’ as a new grandson is ‘on his way’. Due Date was yesterday. So “any day now”. The cycle of life of millions of years continues to beat to the solar drum and the Solstice Clock. Spouse and her twin birth date 2 weeks out. Mine about 3. Son about 4 weeks past. Ancient clocks and patterns repeated in the modern age. The next generation following in pattern.

So what is this time?

It is a time to celebrate and have a party. This has been true since before the Druids. They have a winter solstice celebration too, but even before Christians parked “Christmas” on top of the Druid party, the more ancient Pagans had a Winter Solstice celebration. (Note that the plants and animal stories in the birth of Christ place his actual month of birth about April.) While archaeologists just love to pronounce with somber tones that it was all Priests and Religion, I think that is a farce. Strong formal religion is a recent invention.

Most folks just lived ‘one with the world’ and in sync with nature and the seasons. That takes no High Priest and no Doctrine. The best evidence from Stonehenge shows a lot of cooked pig bones, and from 5000 years ago we find in Czech Republic / Bavaria areas evidence of Barley being roasted and beer made. To me, that says “Party!”.

It’s cold. It’s dark. You can’t plant and farm. Your food is all stored from last harvest and you still have 3 months (at least…) to get through before you can grow more. You have a choice: FEED all your animals, or eat them. May as well have a big blow out get-together with family and friends, have a feast of feasts on the final harvest of animals, and drink up some brew from those grains that can’t be stored through the winter.

The Yule Log tradition was that the biggest and best guys went into the forest and cut down a large log (preferably finding a dead / dry one) and drug it back to The Party. One end was lit on fire and it slowly burned to the other. Caloric demand is highest right now, to stay warm through this coldest darkest turn, so NOW is when you eat the most. The best logs could burn for 12 days… now the “12 Days Of Christmas”, really an old Pagan and later Druid ritual party.

We no longer need to gather in large groups, pool our resources and fire to stay warm in the darkest night of the year. Yet we still enjoy the party of it. So that’s what we continue to do.

Light The Fires of the 12 days of “Christmas” and Yule.

Pour the high caloric beverages (mead, grog, beer, eggnog…) and enjoy their warmth.

Cook large quantities of rich foods with warm fires, burn some on the altar of charcoal / wood coals to the Gods of nature and of man…

Enjoy a long “huddle” with friends and warmth in the dead of night.

Remember that while this is the longest night of the year, it is also the start of ever longer days and good times / warmth in the future. The worst is over, the best is yet to come.

If that isn’t a good reason for a party, I don’t know what else could be, so Get To It!

There is little in the world better than fire, hearth, food, family, friends, beverages and singing. No “priests” need apply (even this one…) to lead the festivities. Just start your own Winter Festival and enjoy this life.

Do please note that the fire, the food, the beverages, the friends and family, the warmth and the furs and coats are all based in Carbon. That one thing that is central to all known life and central to storing the energy of summer for use in the long winter still presently in progress. So take just a moment to hoist a glass of Sacramental Beverage and salute the Altar Fire, the Southern Sun, and the frozen north to which it will return.

Until that time, it is your stores of Carbon fuels and Carbon foods that will keep you warm, safe, and your heart glad through the next season of ever more light in a cold world. Praise be to Carbon, and praise be to our life based in it.

With that, I’ve got a fire to light, some meat to put on the Altar Of Fire, and a beverage of Carbon Based Fuel to pour. A nice red this time, I think…

Let the Winter Yule begin. I make 12 days as being nicely into the new year ;-)

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Equinox – September

Equal Nights

Equal Sun

Equatorial Zenith

The whole world in balance, yet out of balance

Speeding past the balance point as we transition from one season to the next.

The vast ocean of air above us has been warmed in the north and tropics, swept to Antarctica, and sucked down the funnel of the Polar Vortex and Night Jet, during the long southern winter. Now the north goes cold. At this balance point, the winds aloft run from equator toward both poles, then back along the ground. The northern polar vortex starts to form, the southern fades. It all takes time, so the shift lags a while after the equinox, but now is the time of changing. Now is the moment the whole world paradigm shifts as we pass the solar pivot.

This peculiar state of being happens twice per year. Being in the most balanced and equal state, yet being in the most unblanced point of change. A time to reflect on summer ending in the north, or winter ending south of the equator. Not yet ended as the soil, rocks, water and air take time to follow the sun. Not yet ended, yet the Sun has moved on.

In the garden, life has been growing and enjoying the warmth of summer. Yet now it has been hotter and drier than life really likes as summer reaches its peak (my garden being in a natural desert in California, only surviving summer due to human intervention in the water cycle). The end of summer is hotter than the start. Indian Summer is the term often used for the return of hot after a brief cooling. The cooling came and went, now is the last hurrah of heat before the plunge into cold. Life in the garden then changes, but doesn’t end. But the Sun has clearly ‘moved on’.

My location, being away from the equator, the summer Sun is nearly overhead at the solstice. Biefly we are able to experience a hint of life in the tropics where the Sun is always overhead. For folks in the southern half of the planet, the Sun was as far away from overhead as it could get, then. Extremes of heat and cold toward each end of the earth. We feel it when that changes. At first, slowly, then more swift. Mornings and evenings shifting warmth most, and first, then the middle of the day starts to notice. So for me the Sun has clearly moved away. Gone are the suffering heat of mid-day and the sunburn risks. Instead of gardening outside of the 10-to-2 hours, I garden during those times as the warmth is welcome.

My office window faces the rising Sun. Toward the Summer Solstice it rises nearly straight into my face. The shade must be pulled to see the workspace and screen. Now it rises to the right side of the window, casts welcome light onto shelves and books, warming and lighting the office with shade left up. At Winter Solstice it will be far to the south and a dim soft light will be all I get, and that for a short time middle of the day. But now, at the equinox, the whole world gets 12 hours of light. We are all equal and we all share the same experience.

Yet not the same.

For the north, it is the time of endings. Summer telling us it is headed for the door. Prepare to harvest. Prepare for storms. Prepare for that cold Arctic Air Mass to flow down over the land and freeze our half of the world. For the southern hemisphere, it is the time of beginnings. Cold, snow, and winter are not yet gone, but weakening. That polar vortex is winding down and the cold Antarctic air is abating. Soon a new Spring will arrive. Very opposite lives from the same event.

The pendulum of our cosmic clock is passing the midpoint of its swing, but that is when the velocity of change is greatest, just when things are most equal and most in balance. Life is like that. When things seem the most balanced and stable it is often the time of greatest impending change. Children live in a world of immense stability. Parents are eternal, home a constant. Yet they hurtle through change at an astounding rate. Languages of all sorts absorbed in just a few years of immersion. Doubling in size and ability every few years. As adults, we live in a world of bewildering change. Years pass in a blink. Children are suddenly married and announcing grandchildren to be. Technology changes obsolete what just a moment ago was a magical advance. (From the only phone being a black one on a wire to cell phones the size of a purse, now ‘quaint’ antiques as phones move to Dick Tracy wrist watch sized, with video). We rush toward our end, so near now in perspective. Yet in many ways life is most stable. Size of body and place of home constant for decades. Language and skills mastered long ago. A vast library of memories stabilizing the world view. Seeing our place in a history that spans thousands of years, and knowing that will not change.

It is a constant of the universe. That which is most stable sees the most change, and that which changes most sees the most stability around it.

That is the lesson of the Equinox. Balance and out of balance. Most equal, and rushing to most change and most unequal. Already change is here, yet it will not arrive for another month as the whole atmosphere must change and reverse flows. Now and future and past. Pivot on the balance point.

Ritual Of Equinox

The world has many rituals for the Equinox. Some are timed to the solar event. Others to the actual temperature shift. Germans have Oktoberfest to celebrate the harvest. Druids celebrate the “Quarter Days” Autumnal Equinox but then follow with Samhain (that has become All Hallows Eve in Christian traditions, now mutated into Halloween in the USA and other secular traditions) at roughly the time of the actual temperature shifts. Samhain is a traditional “fire festival” time, while the Equinox is more of a food festival time. Last run to the beach and sun (or ski and fireplace in the southern hemisphere), outdoor altar lit and burnt offerings over smokey fires. Wave offerings from the plenty of summer. (In the southern hemisphere the Spring rituals are similar, but it is more of ‘last time must be indoors’ and ‘last of the stored food and drink’ – preparing for the first out doors “fire festival” that is Imbolc in the northern spring.)

But over the whole world folks celebrate the Equinox and the following quarter days even if they do not recognize it. It is the celebration of change. The ending of one regime and start of the next, and the stability of the cycle of things knowing that “this too shall pass” but also “this too shall return”.

So enjoy a small festival of joy in carbon based life. Burt offerings, wave offerings, and all. And prepare for the Quarter Days fire festivals that must come when change can no longer be denied and balance is clearly moved away from Equal. For now, the Sun is equal for all, and all of us get an equal share of the gift of solar warmth. Last and first hurrah of Sun going or coming to your half of the world. Enjoy what you have now, knowing it will be gone, and plan to enjoy what is coming, knowing it must. Be in the now, and embrace the change in the wind.

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The Holy Month Of July

I was feeling a bit left out, what with Ramadan and all, and got to thinking…

It is not all that uncommon for various religions to have “Holy City of Foo” or “Holy Month of Bar”, and that whole Sunday tradition (or Saturday for 7th Day Adventists) is of a Christian tradition… So why not have a Holy Month of Carbon?

With that in mind, I’m proclaiming this the Holy Month Of July.

Festivities to commence whenever and wherever desired. Preferably a natural fire using charcoal, wood, or if necessary, propane for cooking. Unlike Ramadan, eating is encouraged during our Holy Months (yes, there will be more… The Holy Month of August is coming soon…).

Think of it as an ongoing celebration of our Carbon Based Life. Rather a bit like Yule. Pig on a spit, or steak on a grill, or even vegetarian kabobs over flames. Beverages of choice to include sacred wine, sacred beer, and even sacred soda pop (though sacred juice is preferred… soda has a lot of non-carbon bad stuff in it like brominated vegetable oil in citrus flavors where the Bromine is not good for you and phosphoric acid to dissolve teeth in the cola forms; but suit yourself).

With that, I proclaim the start of the Feast Month of the Holy Month of July! Let the fires be lit and the feasting begin!

While the Holy Month of July is best celebrated out of doors, and if possible near that nexus of life where the Sun meets the Ocean, the Beach; it is equally suited to celebrate indoors (though if you can find a wooden bar, that’s as good as the beach, wood being an ultimate form of Carbon based life). Furthermore, time spent in the mountains and trees with a campfire and friends is a High Holy Celebration of Carbon. Yet even a little time on a deck chair in the back yard, with a portable grill nearby, is just as effective sometimes. What matters is your inner state of Peace, Joy, and Life Affirmation.

I know this is a surprise announcement, but such is the mystery of life. Please take a little time to plan a celebration of life during this Holy Month of July. A wave offering to all!

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Summer Solstice 2015

This is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The time when the Sun halts the motion to longer days, and begins the slow passage back to shorter days. In the Southern Hemisphere, this is the Winter Solstice, and the shortest day, turning back toward more sun. It is a time of marking the most extreme of solar motion and the strongest seasons in progress.

It takes time for the change of added energy to fully reflect in the temperatures and weather of the planet. For that reason, meteorological summer runs a ways after the Summer Solstice. For most folks it is considered to be a month or two. July and August. It varies with latitude, being hard to notice at the equator, and dramatic at the poles.

That gives us an understanding of the nature of heat storage on our planet. At the Winter Solstice in the N.H. about December 22, we have January and February of winter yet to come. The fallacy of retained heat in “Global Warming” illustrated by that single time lag. Heat is not stored through the depth of winter, it simply lags about 2 months behind persistent solar flux changes.

It is the Sun that rules our lives, makes our weather, delivers water from the seas as rains and snow, feeds our crops, and warms our souls.

This Summer Solstice also lands on Father’s Day in the USA. For me, this will be a double celebration. The Altar is ready with charcoal to get started, and Manzanita for flavor and persistence. Sacred wine is cooling in the refrigerator (Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc). Tomorrow will begin with a visit to a very old church, made of mud. Mission Santa Clara.

There, in a place whose simple existence is testimony to the world of plenty and grace we live in, that is brilliant evidence that the only real resource is human ingenuity when freed of oppression and fear; I expect to hear a homily based on fear and greed spawned of deception. The Pope has issued his marching orders on Global Warming, and most in attendance will be blind to the meaning of where they sit. That there is no reason to fear. That the Sun is in control, and we are not. That there is no shortage in a world of abundant imagination. That free people are always rich, and only tyrants (large and petty) and the fearful bring disasters of human cause. But I will know. And I will be there to whisper to the walls that “this too shall pass” in the fullness of time.

Outside the sun will rise, and not care at all. The day will warm and be pleasant. Those who care to see a glorious world of plenty will see one, and those who do not are acting by their own hand and inside their own limitations. Best to show them by example what real happiness looks like. Peace and pleasures in the presence of family and friends, or friends to be.

After the service, the family is going out for Pizza (and some beer for me). Why pizza? Fired in an oven, over purifying flames. Spice, bite and richness. I was asked what I wanted for “my day”, and said I wanted to spend it with the family doing what I value and enjoy. A wonderfully aeromatic burnt offering and wave offering mid day.

As the evening arrives, it will be chops and chicken on the Manzanita and wine wave offering. There will also be, fresh from the garden, summer squash and green beans with a side of sweet collards (my own variety made from crossing green glaze collards with dinosaur kale and a purple cabbage – durable like collards but sweeter like cabbage with some color and shape of kale). I expect to watch the sun set with glass in hand, and cherish this special day.

So, with that, enjoy your own bounty and by your own choices find joy. To quote an Australian (when I was getting a visa from their consulate):

“Life is what you make it, now, isn’t it?”…

So I chose to make my peaceful, guilt free, and a life of abundance.

What do you chose to make yours?

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Soy Marinade Chicken

Tonight we will be having a Burnt Offering of chicken. It is a very simple preparation. I use chicken parts (or a whole chicken cut into parts) that are then placed in a plastic bag with soy sauce. Air is squeezed out until the sauce covers the chicken and it is set in a bowl to stand for about 1/2 hour to 1 hour. It is best to let any meat rise to near room temperature prior to placing on the grill. This helps prevent overcooked outsides with raw near the bones. So I let this stand out of the fridge.

That’s the ‘base’. It can be enhanced in several ways, depending on your preference for flavors. Minced onions or crushed garlic can be added. Using 1/2 soy sauce and 1/2 beer is nice and tenderizes a bit. Ground pepper can be added, or for more ‘fire breathing’, a bit of hot sauce. If there are particular flavors you prefer, like sage or thyme, those can be crushed and added to the base.

Personally, I like the beer and / or garlic options.

When time to grill, simply lay the parts on the Altar fire, about 7 minutes to the side but that depends on the heat level, with a lid cover closed, or not, and the size of the parts. I’ve had large parts uncovered take 10 minutes to the side. Toward the end, lower the heat level for a longer “finish” that improves the tenderness and flavor. Essentially let it “rest” for about 20 minutes, but on a low ‘keep warm’ level of temperature. I like about 180 degrees.

Prepare the Wave Offering of your choice. Then thank God or the Creator Force for this life, for the energy of life delivered via Sacred Carbon; both in the Burnt Offering and in the Wave Offering. Hold the Wave Offering to the west and to the east, thankful for the sun bringing that energy to our lives. Then share the Burnt Offering as a communion in Carbon Life with all attending.

Remember that this life is not to be wasted. Explore, learn, love and live to the fullest each day. Life is too short to drink bad wine…

If any of you have particular methods of preparation of a Burnt Offering or Wave Offering, please feel free to share them here.

With that, Amen.

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Ba’al, Bel

One of the ongoing themes of the Bible is the disparagement of Baal worship.

Doing a search on Baal (in the Bible at the link up above under “Bible”) gives:

Bible Search Results 1 – 15 of about 144 for Baal. Search took 0.13 seconds.

2 Chronicles 23:17 All the people went to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They smashed the altars
and idols and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars. …
// – 19k

2 Kings 10:23 Then Jehu and Jehonadab son of Rekab went into the temple of Baal. … Then Jehu
went into the temple of Baal with Jehonadab son of Recab. …
// – 20k

2 Kings 10:27 They demolished the sacred stone of Baal and tore down the temple of
Baal, and people have used it for a latrine to this day. …
// – 18k

1 Kings 16:32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. …
First Ahab built a temple and an altar for Baal in Samaria. …
// – 18k

2 Kings 10:21 Then he sent word throughout Israel, and all the servants of Baal came;
not one stayed away. They crowded into the temple of Baal …
// – 20k

Jeremiah 19:5 They have built the high places of Baal to burn their children in the fire as offerings
to Baal–something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my …
// – 19k

2 Samuel 5:20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He … So David went
to Baal-perazim and defeated the Philistines there. “The …
// – 21k

Deuteronomy 4:3 You saw with your own eyes what the LORD did at Baal Peor. The … “You saw
for yourself what the LORD did to you at Baal-peor. There …
// – 18k

Joshua 13:17 to Heshbon and all its towns on the plateau, including
Dibon, Bamoth Baal, Beth Baal Meon …
// – 17k

1 Chronicles 9:40 The son of Jonathan: Merib-Baal, who was the father of Micah. … Jonathan was the
father of Merib-baal. Merib-baal was the father of Micah. …
// – 17k

1 Chronicles 8:34 The son of Jonathan: Merib-Baal, who was the father of Micah. … Jonathan was the
father of Merib-baal. Merib-baal was the father of Micah. …
// – 17k

Judges 6:32 So because Gideon broke down Baal’s altar, they gave him the name
Jerub-Baal that day, saying, “Let Baal contend with him …
// – 18k

1 Chronicles 14:11 So David and his men went up to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. … So David
and his troops went up to Baal-perazim and defeated the Philistines there. …
// – 20k

1 Kings 22:53 He served and worshiped Baal and aroused the anger of the LORD,
the God of Israel, just as his father had done. …
// – 18k

Hosea 13:1 When Ephraim spoke, people trembled; he was exalted in …
… But he became guilty of Baal worship and died. … But the people of Ephraim sinned
by worshiping Baal and thus sealed their destruction. …
// – 17k

So just who was this Baal, and why get so worked up about him? And what’s a “Baal Perazim” or a “Jerub-Ball” or “Merib-Baal”?

In the formative stages of Israel’s history, the presence of Baal names did not necessarily mean apostasy or even syncretism. The judge Gideon was also named Jerubbaal (Judges 6:32), and King Saul had a son named Ishbaal (I Chronicles 8:33). For those early Hebrews, “Baal” designated the Lord of Israel, just as “Baal” farther north designated the Lord of Lebanon or of Ugarit. What made the very name Baal anathema to the Israelites was the program of Jezebel, in the 9th century bc, to introduce into Israel her Phoenician cult of Baal in opposition to the official worship of Yahweh (I Kings 18). By the time of the prophet Hosea (mid-8th century bc) the antagonism to Baalism was so strong that the use of the term Baal was often replaced by the contemptuous boshet (“shame”); in compound proper names, for example, Ishbosheth replaced the earlier Ishbaal.

So in those compound names above, it isn’t the god Ba’al, it’s “Lord Perazim” or “Jerub-Lord” or “Merib-Lord”. OK, right off the bat we now know that when seeing “Baal” in a name, it might have a religious meaning, or it might just be a status honorific, and “when” it was said matters. Before or after the 9th century B.C. It is specifically the Phoenician Baal that got everyone in a tizzy.

So where did the Phoenicians get their Baal? And how does he connect to the others?

Turns out that Baal Worship was pretty much universal in Semitic peoples from Sumeria to Carthage. It also gets pretty complex. First off we have that “Lord” meaning, so some inscriptions or clay tablets might be talking about a local chieftain and if you don’t read it right or know the players, might get that confused with a local god. Second, there’s the tendency for lots of old Sumerian cities to have their own god. Each one might be called Baal, as in Baal of Babylon vs Baal of Akkad. The “Lord of {City}” or the “Lord of {Nation}”.

Then it gets even a bit more complicated, since the Baal of Babylon might be spread over Akkad if / when Babylon beat up Akkad. In some cases a national Baal got spread over very large areas and could even end up being mapped onto other “gods” and lose the connection to “Lord”…

Baal, god worshiped in many ancient Middle Eastern communities, especially among the Canaanites, who apparently considered him a fertility deity and one of the most important gods in the pantheon. As a Semitic common noun baal (Hebrew baʿal) meant “owner” or “lord,” although it could be used more generally; for example, a baal of wings was a winged creature, and, in the plural, baalim of arrows indicated archers. Yet such fluidity in the use of the term baal did not prevent it from being attached to a god of distinct character. As such, Baal designated the universal god of fertility, and in that capacity his title was Prince, Lord of the Earth. He was also called the Lord of Rain and Dew, the two forms of moisture that were indispensable for fertile soil in Canaan. In Ugaritic and Old Testament Hebrew, Baal’s epithet as the storm god was He Who Rides on the Clouds. In Phoenician he was called Baal Shamen, Lord of the Heavens.

Which oddly connects us back to Amun / Amen who was the unseen god of the air, sky, heavens, and the hidden sun. I’m sure it was just an accidental connection. At least I hope it was. Given that Amen then connects on to YHWH as the unseen God, there is the potential that these folks were both looking to worship the unseen God of the Air and Heavens, just under different names and from a slightly different history. It’s more likely that Baal Shamen had the usual statues and all and was just a local Baal for Phoenicians, but still… there’s a whole lot of getting pissy about not that much going on.

There is also some indication that the Ancients were aware of the tendency for things to cycle on about a 10 year span. In their case, 14 years as either of two 7 year states.

Knowledge of Baal’s personality and functions derives chiefly from a number of tablets uncovered from 1929 onward at Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra), in northern Syria, and dating to the middle of the 2nd millennium bc. The tablets, although closely attached to the worship of Baal at his local temple, probably represent Canaanite belief generally. Fertility was envisaged in terms of seven-year cycles. In the mythology of Canaan, Baal, the god of life and fertility, locked in mortal combat with Mot, the god of death and sterility. If Baal triumphed, a seven-year cycle of fertility would ensue; but, if he were vanquished by Mot, seven years of drought and famine would ensue.

Just to note in passing, Ugarit and the Ugaritic language have a very important place in ancient interpretation. As Ugaritic was written with vowels, we can often clarify what was meant in some Biblical verses where other copies in Aramaic do not indicate what vowel is correct.

The Ugaritic language, a Northwest Semitic language, discovered by French archaeologists in 1928, is known almost only in the form of writings found in the ruined city of Ugarit (modern Ras Shamra), Syria. It has been used by scholars of the Old Testament to clarify Biblical Hebrew texts and has revealed ways in which ancient Israelite culture finds parallels in the neighboring cultures.

Ugaritic has been called “the greatest literary discovery from antiquity since the deciphering of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and Mesopotamian cuneiform”.
The Ugaritic language is attested in texts from the 14th through the 12th century BC. The city was destroyed in 1180–1170 BC.

Literary texts discovered at Ugarit include the Legend of Keret, the Aqhat Epic (or Legend of Danel), the Myth of Baal-Aliyan, and the Death of Baal – the latter two are also collectively known as the Baal cycle – all revealing aspects of a Canaanite religion.

According to one hypothesis, Ugaritic texts might solve the biblical puzzle of the anachronism of Ezekiel mentioning Daniel at Ezekiel 14:13-16; it is because in both Ugaritic and the Ancient Hebrew texts, it is correctly Danel.

Cyrus Cylinder

Cyrus Cylinder

Original Image
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The Cyrus Cylinder (Persian: منشور کوروش‎) is an ancient clay cylinder, now broken into several fragments, on which is written a declaration in Akkadian cuneiform script in the name of the Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great. It dates from the 6th century BC and was discovered in the ruins of Babylon in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in 1879. It is currently in the possession of the British Museum, which sponsored the expedition that discovered the cylinder. It was created and used as a foundation deposit following the Persian conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, when the Neo-Babylonian Empire was invaded by Cyrus and incorporated into his Persian Empire.

The text on the Cylinder praises Cyrus, sets out his genealogy and portrays him as a king from a line of kings. The Babylonian king Nabonidus, who was defeated and deposed by Cyrus, is denounced as an impious oppressor of the people of Babylonia and his low-born origins are implicitly contrasted to Cyrus’s kingly heritage. The victorious Cyrus is portrayed as having been chosen by the chief Babylonian god Marduk to restore peace and order to the Babylonians. The text states that Cyrus was welcomed by the people of Babylon as their new ruler and entered the city in peace. It appeals to Marduk to protect and help Cyrus and his son Cambyses. It extols Cyrus as a benefactor of the citizens of Babylonia who improved their lives, repatriated displaced people and restored temples and cult sanctuaries across Mesopotamia and elsewhere in the region. It concludes with a description of how Cyrus repaired the city wall of Babylon and found a similar inscription placed there by an earlier king.

The Cylinder’s text has traditionally been seen by Biblical scholars as corroborative evidence of Cyrus’ policy of the repatriation of the Jewish people following their Babylonian captivity (an act that the Book of Ezra attributes to Cyrus), as the text refers to the restoration of cult sanctuaries and repatriation of deported peoples.

The text goes on to ascribe a bunch of “good things” to Cyrus (sort of standard for new kings who just won a major war and took over your country) and says the god Marduk wanted him in charge. Then, this write up make a connection of Bel (an alternate spelling of Baal) to Marduk. Bel and Marduk (a sun god) were seen as the same. Yet again we have highly similar beliefs being distinguished based on ‘not much’. Amun / Amen / Marduk. Are they not all just really naming the same heavenly power by different names?

Midway through the text, the writer switches to a first-person narrative in the voice of Cyrus, addressing the reader directly. A list of his titles is given (in a Mesopotamian rather than Persian style): “I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters [of the earth], son of Cambyses, great king, king of Anshan, descendent of Teispes, great king, king of Anshan, the perpetual seed of kingship, whose reign Bel [Markuk] and Nebo love, and with whose kingship, to their joy, they concern themselves.” He describes the pious deeds he performed after his conquest: he restored peace to Babylon and the other cities sacred to Marduk, freeing their inhabitants from their “yoke,” and he “brought relief to their dilapidated housing (thus) putting an end to their (main) complaints.” He repaired the ruined temples in the cities he conquered, restored their cults, and returned their sacred images as well as their former inhabitants which Narbonidus had taken to Babylon. Near the end of the inscription Cyrus highlights his restoration of Babylon’s city wall, saying: “I saw within it an inscription of Ashurbanipal, a king who preceded me.” The remainder is missing but presumably describes Cyrus’s rededication of the gateway mentioned.

In Conclusion

So we’ve got some interesting evidence that the Biblical Narrative is in fact an accurate historical narrative of things, as it matches “facts in the ground”. We’ve also clarified some of the use of Baal as “Lord” in a generic sense; and we’ve found that the god Baal has some parallel description similar to Amen (and then that makes a tenuous link to YHWH; as we saw in an earlier posting). Is that connection “real”? Or is it just that the same “honors and powers” tended to be heaped onto whatever god name was being used? Unfortunately, at that point the trail is so muddied and so tenuous, that it is a leap too far to claim any connection.

Baal is too loose a word, and too loose a name, to be enough of a determinant to say if there was, or was not, some connection. All we can really say is that the Hebrew God YHWH is an unseen God that is the god of the air and hidden power of the sun; with attribution of being the One God or the head God; the King of Kings. While the Phoenician Baal Shamen has a similar description; and Baal is often touted as the king of the Gods. A lot of similarities for being at each other hammer and tongs.

So in the end, we are left to trust the Hebrew Priests of that day. They saw the Phoenician Baal as distinct and separate, and a false god, with YHWH as the one true God. Did they get it right? Or was it an ego fight between two closely related cultures over a name, and not much else? I can’t really answer that one. All I can really say is that we now have a better idea who Baal was, and how the term was used.

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May Day Maypole Dancing

May Day Maypole Dancing

Original Image.

May Day. Mary’s Month, Walpurgis Night, dancing around the May Pole, the start of Summer in some traditions, and a cross quarter day on the solar calendar. Oh, and the communists have tried to co-opt it as a labor celebration. Sorry, not interested in “political” holidays.

What’s a ‘cross quarter day’?

However a less-used parallel system holds that June 21st is actually Midsummer’s Day, which then requires the start of summer to be in early May. This date and three others like it are known as the Cross-Quarter Days, because they are evenly spaced between the fundamental Quarter Days of the Solstices and Equinoxes. The Cross-Quarter Days thus mark the middle of each season under our current system, or seasonal boundaries under the alternative system.

So what is this day? What makes it “special”? Two things. First, it is a ‘cross quarter day’, or 1/2 way between solstice and equinox. Old Celts and Druids held the cross quarter days as more important than the solstice and equinox days in many cases. More importantly, being 1/2 way from the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice, it was held to be the official start of Summer. (Modern traditions on when summer starts are more variable, and often based on local weather tendencies. Then there is also that small issue of the bottom 1/2 of the planet ;-)

So there’s a wiki for May Day and it has some interesting points.

The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane. Many pagan celebrations were abandoned or Christianized during the process of conversion in Europe. A more secular version of May Day continues to be observed in Europe and America. In this form, May Day may be best known for its tradition of dancing the maypole dance and crowning of the Queen of the May. Various Neopagan groups celebrate reconstructed (to varying degrees) versions of these customs on May 1.

The day was a traditional summer holiday in many pre-Christian European pagan cultures. While February 1 was the first day of Spring, May 1 was the first day of summer; hence, the summer solstice on June 25 (now June 21) was Midsummer.

In the Roman Catholic tradition, May is observed as Mary’s month, and in these circles May Day is usually a celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this connection, in works of art, school skits, and so forth, Mary’s head will often be adorned with flowers in a May crowning.

A fairly typical pattern of western holidays. Largely indirectly tied to the seasons and relative positions of the sun, moon, and earth (including axial tilt). Originating in our firm ties to the cycle of life in the land and farming. Then empires, such as the Roman Empire, bend them to a larger social pattern. Eventually the conversion to Christianity in the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church plants a “Church Holiday” on top of the prior traditions. Finally, a conversion to a ‘secular holiday’ as the political correctness movement tries to stamp out all hint of public faith and tradition.

So what Holiday (from Holy Day…) are we celebrating on May Day? Well, that is up to you. There is a bit of “jitter” in the exact timing (and many religious traditions get all wound up in fighting over minor variations in schedule). Some traditions (like the old Druids) have the “day” beginning at sundown, so start “May Day” on the last day of April at sun down. As I’m near the end of the planetary rotation, my May Day starts when most other folks on the planet are already nearing the end of their day. (So this posting is a day late for many folks). But even there, the ‘drift’ in the formal calendar vs the solar calendar means that we are no longer exactly aligned with the ‘cross quarter day’. So once again we have one of those opportunities for folks to bicker and fuss and divide over exactly when is the Holiday. In truth, it does not matter.

So pick what suits you and your schedule. The “Official Date” for TCOTSC is the ‘cross quarter day’ as observed in a solar calendar. For all practical purposes, it is May 1st. If another day is more convenient for you, no bad thing happens from celebrating May Day / Beltane / Mary’s Month /Flora’s Day / Walpurgis Night a day or two off of the exact solar alignment. The important point is simply to realize that the cold is ending, the warmth is coming, any final snows are nearer the end point of cold and any warm days are harbingers of things to come. In short, it’s a time to party.

So break out the Altar (be it a minimal P.O.B. version or a Delux Webber) prepare a glorious Burnt Offering, pour some generous Wave Offerings (saluting the Re/Ra rising point and the Amen setting point) and give thanks for Carbon and our Carbon Based Life.

Other Traditions

So what were some of the older / other traditions?

Flora is the Roman Goddess of flowering plants, especially those that bear fruit. Spring, of course, is Her season, and She has elements of a Love-Goddess, with its attendant attributes of fertility, sex, and blossoming. She is quite ancient; the Sabines are said to have named a month for Her (which corresponds to our and the Roman April), and She was known among the Samnites as well as the Oscans, where She was called Flusia. She was originally the Goddess specifically of the flowering crops, such as the grain or fruit-trees, and Her function was to make the grain, vegetables and trees bloom so that autumn’s harvest would be good. She was invoked to avert rust, a nasty fungal disease of plants that causes orange growths the exact color of rusting iron, and which was (is) an especial problem affecting wheat. Hers is the beginning of the process that finds its completion with Pomona, the Goddess of Fruit and the Harvest; and like Pomona, Flora had Her own flamen, one of a small number of priests each in service to a specific Deity. The flamens were said to have been instituted by Numa, the legendary second King of Rome who succeeded Romulus; and whether Numa really existed or not, the flamens were undoubtedly of ancient origin, as were the Deities they served.

In later times Flora became the Goddess of all flowering plants, including the ornamental varieties. Her name is related to Latin floris, meaning naturally enough “a flower”, with the additional meaning of “[something] in its prime”; other related words have meanings like “prospering”, “flourishing”, “abounding”, and “fresh or blooming”.

Or in English traditions:

The Three Milkings, or Þrimilci-mōnaþ of the old English.

Roodmas was a Christian Mass celebrated in England at midnight on May 1.

Traditional English May Day rites and celebrations include Morris dancing, crowning a May Queen and celebrations involving a Maypole. Much of this tradition derive from the pagan Anglo-Saxon customs held during “Þrimilci-mōnaþ” (the Old English name for the month of May meaning Month of Three Milkings).

May Day has been a traditional day of festivities throughout the centuries. With Christianity came agricultural feasts such as Plough Sunday (the first Sunday in January), Rogationtide, Harvest Festival and May Day. It is most associated with towns and villages celebrating springtime fertility and revelry with village fetes and community gatherings. Since May 1st is the Feast of St Philip & St James, they became the patron saints of workers. Seeding has been completed by this date and it was convenient to give farm labourers a day off. Perhaps the most significant of the traditions is the Maypole, around which traditional dancers circle with ribbons.

So a Feast of St. Philip and St. James, or just a Feast of Fertility and some revelry.

The wiki says “Since the reform of the Catholic Calendar, May 1 is the Feast of St Joseph the Worker, the patron saint of workers.” so perhaps it’s St. Joseph… Consult your local Catholic ;-)

Walpurgis – Walpurgisnacht

Walpurgis Night (Walpurgisnacht), the night before May Day, is similar to Halloween in that it has to do with supernatural spirits. And like Halloween, Walpurgisnacht is of pagan origin. The bonfires seen in today’s celebration reflect those pagan origins and the human desire to drive away the winter cold and welcome spring.

Celebrated mainly in Sweden, Finnland, Estonia, Latvia, and Germany, Walpurgisnacht gets its name from Saint Walburga (or Walpurga), a woman born in what is now England in 710. Die heilige Walpurga traveled to Germany and became a nun at the convent of Heidenheim in Württemberg. Following her death in 778 (or 779), she was made a saint, with May 1 as her saint day.

So looks like Bonfires are part of some traditions. Massive salute to Sacred Carbon and the release of dead carbon from wood back into the cycle of life.

Again we see the link between past “pagan” roots in a solar calendar and an overlay with a Christian tradition.

More from the wiki:


May Day has been celebrated in Ireland since pagan times as the feast of Bealtaine and in latter times as Mary’s day. Traditionally, bonfires were lit to mark the coming of summer and to banish the long nights of winter. Officially Irish May Day holiday is the first Monday in May. Old traditions such as bonfires are no longer widely observed, though the practice still persists in some places across the country. Limerick, Clare and many other people in other counties still keep on this tradition.

Again the tradition of bonfires to drive out the last of the winter cold. If you are in a jurisdiction and location that allows for a bonfire, it is a fine way to celebrate the day. If legally or logistically encumbered, even just lighting a candle or kerosene lamp can be a ‘miniature bonfire’…


On May Day, the Romanians celebrate the arminden (or armindeni), the beginning of summer, symbolically tied with the protection of crops and farm animals. The name comes from Slavonic Jeremiinŭ dĭnĭ, meaning prophet Jeremiah’s day, but the celebration rites and habits of this day are apotropaic and pagan (possibly originating in the cult of the god Pan).

The day is also called ziua pelinului (mugwort day) or ziua bețivilor (drunkards’ day) and it is celebrated to insure good wine in autumn and, for people and farm animals alike, good health and protection from the elements of nature (storms, hail, illness, pests). People would have parties in the nature with lăutari (fiddlers), for those who could afford it. There, it is customary to roast and eat lamb, also eat new mutton cheese and drink mugwort-flavoured wine or just red wine to refresh the blood and get protection from diseases. On the way back, the men wear lilac or mugwort flowers on their hats.

In Romania we’ve got the prophet Jeremiah… OK, so the Christian Church was not all that coordinated in planting their folks on top of existing natural festivals…

In the USA things are more mixed. Due to the Communists attempting to co-opt the day as Workers Day it’s not celebrated all that much any more. (It was when I was a kid). Yet some places still do. There is a ‘Green Root’ tradition with some Pagans celebrating and some left wing folks with a ‘red root’ tradition doing the Workers Day thing. There was even an official “Law Day” poke at the USSR (that near as I can tell went nowhere). But the one I like most is Hawaii:


In Hawaii, May Day is also known as Lei Day, and it is normally set aside as a day to celebrate island culture in general and native Hawaiian culture in particular. Invented by poet and local newspaper columnist Eric Kosciuszko in the 1920s, it has since been adopted by state and local government, as well as local residents, and has taken on the sense of a general spring celebration. The first official Lei Day was proposed in 1927 in Honolulu by poet and artist Don Blanding. Leonard “Red” and Ruth Hawk composed “May Day Is Lei Day in Hawai’i”, the traditional holiday song. Originally it was a contemporary fox trot, later rearranged as the Hawaiian hula song performed today.

So, to recycle an old joke, looks like it’s a good day to get lei’ed. ;-) At least in Hawaii…

Core Meaning

But the core meaning of the day has not changed. Through empires and churches and communists and more.

It is a celebration of the ending of cold and the arrival of warmth.
(in some cases “real soon now” ;-)

A celebration of life.

So get out there and start celebrating if you haven’t already!

For many Hispanics, they celebrate on the 3rd of May as Fiesta de las Cruces that has a root back in the pagans and the Roman / Byzantine Empire transition to Christianity.

Religiously, the festival is rooted in the search by the Byzantine Empress Saint Helena for the cross on which Jesus died, but the popular traditions connected to the festival certainly originate from pagan traditions brought to Spain by the Roman Empire (see May Day).

The legend is that Emperor Constantine I, in the sixth year of his reign, confronted the barbarians on the banks of the Danube, in a battle where victory was believed to be impossible because of the great size of the enemy army. One night, Constantine had a vision of a cross in the sky, and by it the words “In hoc signo vincis” (With this sign, you shall be victorious). The emperor had a cross made and put it at the front of his army, which won an easy victory over the enemy multitude. On returning to the city and learning the significance of the cross, Constantine was baptized as a Christian and gave orders to construct Christian churches. He sent his mother, Saint Helena, to Jerusalem in search of the True Cross, the cross on which Jesus died.

In short, it doesn’t matter much if you start your celebration on April 30th, or May 1st, or even May 3rd. It doesn’t even matter if you are celebrating the end of the cold and the coming warmth, the position of the sun at a cross quarter day, or a ‘patron saint’. What matters is that this is a day to be in touch with life. To recognize the cycle of times. That we are a product of the Creator Force, powered through the life force from the sun, via a carbon cycle. The beginning of the new explosion of life as spring turns to summer.

Southern Hemisphere Note

There is an interesting problem with most holidays. They come from a northern hemisphere root and perspective. So what to do? Again, it is for the individual to choose. Those who follow a cultural based tradition will stay ‘in sync’ with the above pattern. Those who choose to stay aligned with the original and seasonal cycles will instead be celebrating a different day. Samhain (pronounced Sow-een). Yes, Halloween. All Hallows Eve is the night before November 1st or Samhain. It is still a time for bonfires and celebration, but now it is the last warmth of Summer / Fall turning to the arrival of Winter.

Catholics planted “All Saint’s Day” on November 1st, so it’s also a Christian celebration.

You still hear people doubt it, even when you show them that Halloween is All-Hallows’-Eve which is the night-before-All-Saints’- Day. Some tell me they understand that Halloween pranks were a post-Reformation contribution to plague Catholics who kept the vigil of All Saints. Now it is possible that Halloween was abused for such a purpose; nevertheless, during all the Christian centuries up until the simplification of the Church calendar in 1956, it was a liturgical vigil in its own right and thus has a reason for being. Learning this, one pious lady of our acquaintance was heard to say: “Oh, I’m so glad to know that. I was about to write my congressman and suggest the whole thing be outlawed.”

A celebration much like our Halloween, with bonfires and feasting on apples and nuts and harvest fruits, was part of pagan worship for centuries. The Britons celebrated in honor of their sun-god with bonfires, a tribute to the light that brought them abundant harvest. At the same time they saluted Samhain, their “lord of death,” who was thought to gather together at last the souls of the year’s dead which had been consigned to the bodies of animals in punishment for their sins. The Romans celebrated the same kind of festival at this time in honor of their goddess Pomona, a patroness of fruits and gardens. Whether the Church “baptized” these customs or chose this season for her feasts of the dead independent of them, their coincidence shows again how alike men are when they seek God and His ways, give praise, use the language of symbols to express the inexpressible.

It was in the eighth century that the Church appointed a special date for the feast of All Saints, followed by a day in honor of her soon-to-be saints, the feast of All Souls. She chose this time of year, it is supposed, because in her part of the world it was the time of barrenness on the earth. The harvest was in, the summer done, the world brown and drab and mindful of death. Snow had not yet descended to comfort and hide the bony trees or blackened fields; so with little effort man could look about and see a meditation on death and life hereafter.

Apparently how you spent the vigil of All Saints depended on where you lived in Christendom. In Brittany the night was solemn and without a trace of merriment. On their “night of the dead” and for forty-eight hours thereafter, the Bretons believed the poor souls were liberated from Purgatory and were free to visit their old homes. The vigil for the souls, as well as the saints, had to be kept on this night because of course the two days were consecutive feasts — and a vigil is never kept on a feast.

So since the cross quarter days are symmetrical and since the holiday schedule is both Pagan and Christian (and in cycle with nature) it does not really matter which schedule you choose to follow. If in doubt (for example, for folks on the Equator) one could choose to celebrate both Samhain and Beltane on the same day. In truth, what we are celebrating is the great Cycle Of Carbon Life, that it aligns with other traditions is largely a convenience. We are all in the same solar driven cycles, we are all faced with the beginning, growth, decline, and death cycle of spring, summer, fall and winter. So “call it what you will”, it is all the same reality. We don’t really need to ‘break it up’ into 8 pieces (equinox, solstice, cross quarter days) with special meanings. Those are just to give us a special awareness of a given state of the cycle of life. It is the whole cycle that is being recognized and celebrated at each point.

In Conclusion

We are at the end of one part of the cycle, the start of the next. Take a moment to realize that transition, and our transitory nature in life. “This life is not a dress rehearsal. Take Big Bites!” (Perhaps a quote from me, or I might have picked it up somewhere.) So celebrate, liberate some Sacred Carbon, and enjoy the warmth!

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Atomic Presbyters

Religions love to use unusual words to describe themselves. What is the root meaning of “catholic” or “presbyterian”? Notice those are lower case? I’m not talking about the religions. I’m talking about the pedestrian words. Similarly, the word atomic has come to mean almost entirely things powered by nuclear reactions. Yet it has a root in άτομο meaning the individual person or what can not be further divided.

Yes, words change over time (and between languages). Yet it often preserves history and understanding better when we look at the roots of words. From where did our names for things come?

In many ways, they come from the tendency of people to get grumpy at each other and desire to toss each other out of their club. In other ways, it comes from our desires to grasp after power (on the part of some) and our desire to be lazy and let someone else tell us what to think (on the part of others). So we divide into “leaders” and “followers”, sometimes just for convenience or due to sloth. Supposedly our “leaders” are our betters in some way or some topic area. All too often they are only “better” and grasping the levers of power and self aggrandizement. Yet we can’t be everywhere at all times and we can’t be experts in all things. So we like to think we are ‘delegating’ some area of responsibility. The M.D. spends a decade getting to be a good doctor, far more than I could. The Minister spends hours every week (or even every day) in Bible Study. Me? I’ve got dinner to cook and work to do.

Yet an individual can know more than their M.D. about ONE disease. When the individual finds they have some particular diagnosis, they can, and often do, spend more time on that one disease then their M.D. has spent in their entire career. On of my M.D.s that I liked most was a black woman. (I mention that simply to point out how good she had to be to have become an M.D. in a time before quotas and favoritism. She retired several years ago.) WHY was she so good? More than once, I’d show up with a slightly unusual complaint. I’d have ‘done my homework’ and usually would show up saying “Patient presents with apparent rosacea and…” (I worked as a medical records technician for a few years…) but when I did NOT have it ‘figured out’, it usually was not simple and there were ‘loose ends’. I’d “present my patient history”. Some times she would just say “It’s FOO.” But other times, much to my delight, she would say: ~”Well, that’s interesting. Just a minute, I need to look something up.” She would take a minute in her office, and once brought a very thick book back with her to read a bit while looking at some part of me, in alternation. She was “becoming an expert” on some minor aspect of what I had. Since I already knew a lot about my ONE disease, she would learn more. And was not bashful about it. Oddly, or maybe not so oddly, I can not remember a single wrong diagnosis from her nor a single rushed “it’s the usual”…

The point here is just that each of us is an expert on something. Collectively, we can do more and learn more than any one individual; yet delegating too much to those too unsuited to it is the root cause of much grief. Empires are comfortable, until they become tyrannical oppressors. Authority is useful, until it is woefully wrong or indifferent to your particular needs. So we create power structures, that then tend to become self serving instead of serving the people. That dynamic is reflected in the history of religions and of their names.

One of the “big decisions” in any religion is how the hierarchy of authority is structured. It has been the root cause of religious wars for generations. The Protestants revolting against the Catholic mandates of uniformity are still with us in some parts of Ireland, even to this day. So what do the various religion names tell us about them? For Christianity, most often it tells us about the internal arguments over “who decides”. (But it is not just Christians. Jews have Orthodox vs Reformed vs… and the Muslims have sects based on which “leaders” decide what the Koran means. It’s a fundamental property of people.)

Here are my rough explanations of some of the various names, and some snide remarks on my part about “attitude”.

Catholic – basic meaning is “universal”. They are staking out the position that there is ONE Christian church, theirs, and if you are not in it, you are not a valid Christian. Lately there has been a bit of loosening in that they recognize others as Christians, but just a bit lost, and even allow that they might allow communion for some particular denominations. There is an effort to ‘reunify’ some of the various churches, and the Catholic Church is angling to get them back inside the Catholic fold. There is a formal distinction between ‘excommunicated’ and ‘schismatic’ and a few other terms. Great import is attached to ‘name calling’ of other sects into “apostate” vs “schismatic” vs… establishing degrees of distance and rejection from “The One”…

Orthodox – Seen in both the Orthodox Eastern Church and the Orthodox Coptics. Sometimes also seen as “Orthodox Catholic Church” and “Greek Orthodox Church”. Orthodox means “right” (as in correct). So they are saying “Hey, we are the ones who have it right.” For the Jewish Orthodox, they also mean “We have it right, and it is a strict following of the Old Testament.” The “Orthodox Catholic” now becomes “The only ones who have it right”. Nice touch, that…

The ‘3 way split’ between those churches largely comes out of which Apostle went where and started what churches. So another term gets added. Apostolic. An Apostolic Church is claiming a direct lineage back to one of the Apostles. So the Catholics have St. Peter’s Square and are really fond of The Apostle Peter. Then those other 11 Apostles? What about their authority? Crickets… Oddly, there are Christian Churches in India that claim to have roots in one of the Apostles (Thomas, per the Gnostic texts) that ran off to India (and they are likely correct. The “facts on the ground” indicate an antiquity that is about right, and so do their documents.) My favorite, though, is this one:

The Armenian Apostolic Church (Armenian: Հայ Առաքելական Սուրբ Եկեղեցի, Hay Aṙak̕elakan Surb Ekeġec̕i) is the world’s oldest national church, is part of Oriental Orthodoxy and is one of the most ancient Christian communities. Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as its official religion in AD 301, in establishing this church. The Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church claims to trace its origins to the missions of Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus in the 1st century and is an early center of Christianity.

It is sometimes referred to as the Gregorian Church but this name is not preferred by the church itself, as it views the Apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus as its founders, and St. Gregory the Illuminator as merely the first official governor of the church.

So in terms of “Authority” does being FIRST and having not one, but TWO Apostles make this The ONE and the RIGHT? Hmmm? That’s the problem you run into with “credential wars” and one-upmanship.

Gnostics – They get around this by just saying “We know“. Gnosis meaning ‘knowing’. Their general idea is that anyone can “just know”, so you don’t need that whole “Catholic Hierarchy” and all. Needless to say, the other big churches were not keen on folks running around saying “We don’t need them!”, and ruthlessly attached and stamped out the Gnostics wherever they could (back in about 300-400 AD). Called “heretical” by the Catholics (even ‘worse’ than being excommunicated and far worse than schismatic…) for ‘failing’ to recognize The One Authority. As The Catholics were somewhat dominated by Roman Empire then, I’m fond of my copy of the Gnostic Bible (with the Gospel of Thomas that is not in the Catholic Cannon) and of my copy of the Nag Hammadi Library with similar books in it. While most of the formation of the Cannon by The Roman Catholic Church was a decent job, they made some choices, as to what books to toss, on what seems to be more political grounds. I’m glad to have some of those “tossers” for my own decision making…

There is a myth or tradition confined to a Christian sect in Kerala that he reached as far as India in his travels whereas historically, his presence is not traced beyond Iran and Balochistan. The apocryphal text called the Acts of Thomas clearly mentions that the apostle St Thomas went from Palestine eastwards to a desert-like country where people were “ Mazdei” (the followers of Ahura Mazda ie the Zoroastrians) and have Persian names. The Church Fathers Clement of Alexandra, Origen and Eusebius confirm explicitly that St Thomas settled in “Parthia”, a part of the Iranian world.

The Acts of Thomas records that Judas Thomas landed at Andropolis after a short sea journey, a royal city somewhere to the east of Jerusalem. Andropolis has been identified as Sandaruck, one of the ancient Alexandrias, in Balochistan. The geographical term “India” has been used only twice in the whole text of the Acts of Thomas, and it is used as a synonym for Asia.

Yet there are churches in India that claim they were founded by Thomas…

From the Orthodox Syrian Church:

Apostle St. Thomas reached ‘Muziri in AD 51-52 from the northern part of Indian peninsula visiting many inland-countries and sharing the Gospel in many places as you see the imprints. Perhaps, one reason of selecting the southern coast was flourishing Jewish settlements in along the coast in Kodungallur, Cochin, madras etc., which date back to the Jewish Diaspora or even back to King Solomon’s trading centres. Another reason was the flourishing Roman trade links.

“The Apostle St. Thomas landed at Maliankara (i.e Cranganore) with Habban, the merchant. He (St. Thomas) worked great miracles and in eight months established in that town, the Church of Jesus Christ. Then he went to Mailepuram (Mylapore – Madras) where he preached the Gospel of the Lord for four months and a half and embarked for China. He remained in China for four and a half months and returned to Mailepuram. After he had been there for a month a so, the son – in- law of the King of ‘Tiruvanchikulam’ come to him and besought him to return to Malabar. They embarked on a ship and come to Maliankara (Kodungallore), where, in less than six months, the Apostle converted the King and his family, 40 Jews and 400 heathens.

There’s a pretty long history at that link.

So right off the bat, one thing to notice is that by denying the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas and casting aspersions on the history of Indian Christianity as reported by those Indian Christians, the Catholic Church has created a ‘schism’ of it’s own. There is a very long history attached with this, so I’ll only briefly mention it now. Nestorianism.

Nestorianism is a Christological doctrine advanced by Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople from 428–431. The doctrine, which was informed by Nestorius’s studies under Theodore of Mopsuestia at the School of Antioch, emphasizes the disunion between the human and divine natures of Jesus. Nestorius’ teachings brought him into conflict with some other prominent church leaders, most notably Cyril of Alexandria, who criticized especially his rejection of the title Theotokos (“Bringer forth of God”) for the Virgin Mary. Nestorius and his teachings were eventually condemned as heretical at the First Council of Ephesus in 431 and the Council of Chalcedon in 451, leading to the Nestorian Schism in which churches supporting Nestorius broke with the rest of the Christian Church. Afterward many of Nestorius’ supporters relocated to Sassanid Persia, where they affiliated with the local Christian community, known as the Church of the East. Over the next decades the Church of the East became increasingly Nestorian in doctrine, leading it to be known alternately as the Nestorian Church.

The ‘short form’ of this is that the Catholics were asserting the Trinity. “Father, Son, Holy Ghost” as a key element of The Christ. Nestorians were more from the idea that God is god and made Jesus as special, but Jesus was a human just like us. A special one, but still, one that lived and died.

Most likely, Mohammed taught a Nestorian version of Christianity (since he was learning it in the time and place where it was common) and the vehemence of Islam against Christians stems from their adherence to the notion of “Jesus was just a human prophet” and that the Koran stresses that the Trinity is a false teaching. (Islam now asserts that the Bible used by Mohammad has been lost, and current Bibles are corrupt, so only the Koran matters. In reality, Nestorian Bibles are still widely available.)

But this is, at it’s core, just another argument over “Who decides?”. The Roman Catholic Pope? Nestor? Some Imam in Persia deciding to reject the Nestorian / Syriac Bibles?


Back in Europe…

The Protestants clearly are named for protesting. Protesting The One authority of the Catholics.

It is a movement that is widely seen as beginning in Germany with The Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 as a reaction against medieval doctrines and practices, especially in regard to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology. The doctrines of the over 33,000 Protestant denominations vary, but most include justification by grace through faith alone, known as Sola Gratia and Sola Fide respectively, the priesthood of all believers, and the Bible as the supreme authority in matters of faith and morals, known as Sola Scriptura, Latin for “by scripture alone”.

At the time, the Catholics were claiming a monopoly on access to heaven and you pretty much needed to do what they told you to do or you were in Deep Doo. They asserted this extended to Kings as well. The Protestants basically said “Wait a minute! That’s not what Christ said…”

Lutherans are named for Martin Luther who pretty much touched off this whole thing in the Germanic parts of Europe, where Lutherans are pretty much found (along with the USA) to this day.

But a whole zoo of other Protestants sects have popped up over the centuries. They all reach back to this theme as their justification, though. The whole: “Popes. Popes? We don’t need no Steeenking Popes!” moment. That anyone can read the Bible and figure it out for themselves. We don’t need some legacy Roman Empire Hierarchy controlling the gates of heaven, nor demanding a tithe and submission. (Shades of “islam”, that also means submission…)

Needless to say, the Catholics have not been fond of that whole “Do your own thing” and “We don’t need you” attitude. That’s why in a Catholic Mass you are not allowed to take communion if you are not a Catholic. See, they think you are not One With Christ if you are not approved by their hierarchy. (Other churches are much more accepting, and in all protestant churches that I’ve attended, anyone can take communion. Though do ask, as some have special meanings. Near as I can tell, the Jehovah’s Witnesses pass around the grape juice and wafers but nobody takes a sip unless they are making a new statement of joining… To ‘take communion’ is to make a new statement of acceptance of Christ and (I’m a bit unsure of this part) accepting membership with them (perhaps). There was a lot of ‘expectant watching’ as the plate was passed around, but not a lot of sipping…)

Any church that says “We are not derived from an Apostle, but are founded on The Book itself and our own reading / revelation” is following a Protestant ideal. (Though exactly which books are in the books is a bit of another issue…)

If any of this sounds “anti-Catholic” is isn’t. Dad was a Catholic and my Mom converted later in life. I’m pretty sure I was hauled off to be blessed and baptized as an infant. (Though by the time catechism came around we lived on the far side of town, mom didn’t drive, so we walked to the nearest protestant church. I was raised going to Southern Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, and the occasional visits to the Catholic and Mormon churches. Even the odd Presbyterian and others. Baptized again as Southern Baptist at 12.) It is more just the sound of someone raised close to Catholic culture. I’ve spent time at Catholic deaf services and the spouse attends mass most Sundays (and is likely to start the “becoming a Catholic” classes soon). It is just recognizing the nature of a Roman Hierarchy for what it is, and reporting how people reacted. My own comparison of the Catholic cannon of books with the other choices mostly has found they did a pretty good job. I’d quibble over some, but not in a big way. Frankly, if they still did the mass in Latin, odds are I’d be attending.

Back at the 1500’s A.D.:

The Catholics were pretty much “The One” and P.O.ed the King of England. In 1538 in the reign of King Henry VIII. Seems he wanted a divorce and The Pope said that was, er, not allowed. So The King decided HE could be ‘the decider’, and split off the Anglican Church (that basically says “Church of England” where my Mom was raised). One thing had been a bit of mystery to me for a while. The American Episcopalian Church. Yes, they ‘broke off’ from the Anglicans, but why “Episcopal”?

Well, episcopal is another name for Bishop. It is basically saying that “The Local Bishop can decide”. That, IMHO, is also part of why in America we have had a new Anglican Rite church pop up. One of the Bishops of the Episcopal Church decided to do “Same Sex Marriages” and the more “scripture driven” folks decided they were not keen on that. So the church has split over that “issue” at the level of Bishops. Now, if your very name says “individual Bishops” can decide, it’s a bit hard to argue they can’t…

Moving on…

So what’s with this whole Presbyterian thing? What’s a “presbyter”?

Presbyter (Greek πρεσβύτερος, presbuteros: “elder”, or “priest” in Christian usage) in the New Testament refers to a leader in local Christian congregations, then often not clearly distinguished from episkopos, presbyter referring to ordinary priests or elders and episkopos referring exclusively to the full order or office of bishop. In modern usage, it is thus distinct from bishop and synonymous with priest and pastor. In mainline Protestant usage, the term is however not seen as referring to a member of the priesthood and terms such as minister, pastor and elder are used.

Any elder or priest can set up a church and decide things. “Bishops. Bishops? We don’t… ”

And so it goes…

There are more ‘flavors’ and sects of various religions than I could hope to list. (Nor do I wish to list them). But I think understanding the nature of Church Authority and how given denominations parcel out authority on doctrine and decisions is enlightening. There are Authoritarian and Hierarchical structures in some, others are disbursed and localized. (Some with disbursed heritage, coping with unwelcome divergence and splitting. Look at the number of flavors of Baptists. Who, BTW, are named for their full immersion Baptism.)

And what about The Church Of The Sacred Carbon?

While “official doctrine” comes only from me, and I think it ought to be minimal; the general structure is “atomic” in the original sense of “individual” and “presbyter” based. So any individual is empowered to read the same books and do the same investigations of life and come to their own, individual, conclusions about “what is right”. ( The ULC doctrine is “Do that which is right”, with which I agree.)

There are hundreds of examples (thousands? millions?) of cases where individuals have simply decided on their own to ignore some particular bit of Church Dogma. From the millions of Catholic Women using birth control, to the Jew who has a ham sandwich from time to time ( I’ve known some: “It’s only a minor sin, and is forgiven at sundown… I think I can make it to sundown ;-)” was once presented to me when I asked…) How many of us follow Leviticus to the letter? See “Ultra Orthodox Jews”… (and even they sometimes miss a few bits…)

So why even start down that “strict rules” path knowing that in reality we are each empowered by nature to have “Free Will”? What use is “Free Will” if using it gets you beat about the head and shoulders with angst, anger, attacks, excommunication, and even physical assault? (That “stoning” given in the Bible and Koran…) So Sacred Carbon Church doctrine is one that recognizes Free Will as supreme. Every individual (atom) has the right, and duty, to decide for themselves what they will accept for themselves. They do not have the right to decide for others. You can encourage others. You can work to common acceptance. Parents have the authority to direct the acts of their children, but at the end of the day, even the child will either accept “that which is right” on their own, or find a new path. Eventually we all outgrow our parents and decide for ourselves.

Yet there is a place for the wisdom of elders. (Presbyters). So folks are encouraged to grow and develop their understanding over time. While each individual is responsible for their own Free Will, and their own identification of “that which is right” and acceptance of it; others have trod those paths before. Looking to them for guidance as to “what didn’t work so well” vs “that was a good choice” is a simple wisdom.

In matters of specific Church Dogma, I’m the present presbyter for The Church Of The Sacred Carbon. Partly I’m asserting that privilege simply to assure that Dogma stays absolutely minimal. To the extent there isn’t an official Dogma on some point, the individual is forced to introspection. and consultation with presbyters. That’s a good thing.

So we have a generalized burnt offering and wave offering. A loose communion based on sharing of that ritual and offering. A respect for ancient Wisdom Texts and Wisdom Teachings. A clear appreciation of Sacred Carbon as the vehicle by which the sun’s energy and the life energy Gift Of The Creator Force comes to us. An expectation that trapped dead carbon in things like coal, wood, and oil are best returned to the Cycle Of Life and encouragement to use them in the Offering and Communion (and any other activity of life – as they are the bringers of life), and a respect for the rites and rituals of others. Beyond that, there is not a lot of dogma. (Though I may add more over time). Plus the overall ULC doctrine of “Do that which is right”.

That puts us in alignment with the protestant ethic of ‘anyone can read the books’, but just with a larger suite of books. And without any need for a “schism” if a couple of folks resolve internal conflicts between them in a different way. We also have an attitude of gnosis in that we think anyone can come to know, all on their own. (Though help from others makes it a whole lot easier!)

If YOU decide that the Burt Offering ought to be offered daily, or even 3 times a day, instead of just one day a week, that that is dogma for you and must be obeyed. It is a mandate of your individual church aspect. It is valid to claim “it is dogma that I must have a burnt offering now” if you have decided that it must be done. You are an atomic presbyter of your own Free Will.

If YOU decide that following strict Torah Law is necessary for your soul, then that is your dogma from your Free Will. If some aspect of The Church Of The Sacred Carbon conflicts with the Torah, it is for you to resolve (though I can’t think of any conflicts. We allow pork, but do not require it, and accept Kosher as preferred.)

If YOU decide that the Catholic Rite is essential for your soul, and that following Papal Decrees matters, then that is your dogma from The Church of You. It is, in essence, saying that the Chief Presbyter (elder) in your understanding is The Pope and that is where authority on most matters rests. Just realize that it is a function of your Free Will to make that choice.

As things move forward, I’ll be presenting some items of Wisdom Texts from many sources. That does not make those things Church Dogma. It makes them Wisdom Teachings. So, for example, the Leviticus laws on Kosher are in fact wise teachings. They will help you to avoid many diseases and illnesses. That recognition does not make them mandatory (but does make them wise). Similarly, the New Testament recognition that many of the old Leviticus Laws might not need to apply has some wisdom in it too. (There’s an interesting circumlocution to dodge Leviticus by Christians that I’ll not go into here). Do we really need to follow Bronze Age food preparation methods in this millennium? Is community stoning really the “that which is right” for modern justice? So you are invited to “pick and chose” among the Wisdom Teachings using your own Free Will and the discernment of your soul in finding “that which is right”. The Wisdom Texts are just written forms of ‘presbyter’ consultations.

In Conclusion

Hopefully this brief trip down “faction lane” helps to illuminate the ways that religions fracture and divide over details of dogma, and illuminates why “minimal dogma” is one of our foundation stones. It also illuminates an important aspect of the “hierarchical attractions of power” and why we have instead a “bottoms up” authority.

Each of us is possessed of Free Will. Even Catholics clearly are practicing it, even while officially bound to Papal Mandates. Each of us must choose for ourselves “that which is right” on a daily basis, and without consulting a presbyter on every item. That’s just a reality. Yet there are others who have traveled the road of life before us, who have written Wisdom Texts. There are ‘elders’ alive today who can help us to solve the problems of our lives. We can all be an ‘elder’ on some point or other (it’s not an age thing, though age gives time that can help find answers through more searching) as we all have “mutual superiority”. Just like on some particular detail of my health, I can be more “studied” than my M.D. while they are clearly superior to me on most of the rest of medicine. So use that Free Will and use those ‘elders’ to help solve life’s problems. Both for yourself, and for others.

The foundation of authority over your life is you, and no one else. Others may assert physical dominance over you, even to imprisonment. That does not mean they have authority over what you think, feel, believe, or even how you choose to enjoy your life. Milankovitch spent years in a prison during one of the wars. He used that time to work out the long calculations of his theory. He did not see confinement as preventing him finding joy in life nor doing his life’s work. He took authority over his life, despite others and despite circumstances. We all face various adversities and disappointments in life. It is up to each of us to find the good in this life for ourselves.

Take some time for yourself, and introspection. Look to find that which is good and right for you, now and here. No circumstance and no external authority can remove that right from you. You are your own ‘atomic presbyter’.

So with that, please join in The Burt Offering, and The Wave Offering, and the Communion in sharing. On whichever Sabbath day (or days) you identify as “that which is right”. (Yesterday, I had lamb shish kabobs). There is no need to argue over the Torah identification of Friday, or the Roman Catholic move to Sunday, or the Seventh Day Adventist position that it is Saturday. That is pedantry and dogma that does not help. The Sabbath day(s) are those that work for you, in your Free Will choices.

For me, I’m off to fire up the Altar Fires and prepare the burn offering and the wave offering. Welcome to our life in Sacred Carbon and sharing with others the roots of our life, and our common humanity.

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Of Sky Gods and Legends

The author of this video, and the related book, subscribes to a belief that the planets once wandered the sky in a different way. While I can not find a way to “make the physics work out”, we also know that orbits are not stable. The Moon, for example, is slowly leaving the Earth. Might the solar system once have had, say, Mars as a moon of Jupiter or Saturn? Or Venus as such a moon? One that escaped (as they eventually do; and as planets escape suns…) and went rushing past us on the way to the present orbit?

Like I said, I can’t make the physics work. That but could just be my limitation.

There are still some remarkable “connections” between ancient cultures “gods” and symbols cataloged over the length of the video.

They have more videos on their ‘channel’ and I’m going to explore a few to see if they ought to be added here.

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