Saturday, December 27, 2008

Oh the weather outside...


But the cats are so delightful... Zzzzzz.
Though Newt's snoring wakes the house... no joke!

Hey, my hammock's sprung or something. Where's that breeze coming from?

Anyway... Magnus really wants to say, Merry Chrismahanukwanzakah!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Wild Hunt - a darker shade of Yule

When the winter winds blow and the Yule fires are lit, from the north of Scandinavia down to Switzerland, it is best to stay indoors, safely shut away from the dark forest paths and the wild heaths. Those who wander out by themselves during the Yule-nights may hear a sudden rustling through the tops of the trees -- a rustling that might be the wind, though the rest of the wood is still. But then the barking of dogs fills the air, with the hunters behind whooping "Wod! Wod!" a man's voice cries from above, "Midden in dem Weg!" and the host of wild souls sweeps down, fire flashing from the eyes of the black hounds and hooves of the black horses.
The wise traveller falls down at once in the middle of the road, face down. (The Hunt leader spares only those who remain in the middle of the path. Therefore he often calls out to travelers, "In the middle of the path!") If he is lucky, he will take no harm other than the cold feet of the black dogs running over his body. More foolish folk are swept up, coming to earth far from home or left dead behind the furious host. Those who join in the Hunter's cry may get as their share of the booty a piece of human flesh.

This is the Wild Hunt of Germanic folklore. It is known by many names -- Wutan's or Wuet's Army in the southern parts of Germany, the family of Harlequin in France, the Oskorei in Norway, Odensjakt in Denmark and Sweden -- but the basic description is always much the same. A great noise of barking and shouting is heard; then a black rider on a black, white, or gray horse, storming through the air with his hounds, followed by a host of strange spirits, is seen. The rider is sometimes headless. Sometimes, particularly in Upper Germany, the spirits show signs of battle-wounds or death by other forms of mischance. Fire spurts from the hooves and eyes of the beasts in the procession. The horses and hounds may be two- or three-legged. Often the newly dead can be recognized in the train. The furious host is always a peril to the human being who comes into its way, though sometimes it leaves rewards as well.

At the root of the myth lies the Teutonic god Woden, or Odin, to use his Norse name.
Odin, in his guise of wind-god, was thought to rushing through the skies astride his eight-legged steed, Sleipnir. As it was thought that the souls of the dead were wafted away on the winds of a storm, Odin became regarded as the leader of all disembodied spirits - the gatherer of the dead. Eventually, storms became associated with his passing. In this role he was known as the Wild Huntsman. The passage of his hunt, known as Odin's Hunt, the Wild Ride, the Raging Host or Asgardreia, was said to presage misfortune such as pestilence, death or war. Odin, followed by the ghosts of the dead, would roam the skies, accompanied by furious winds, lightning and thunder. To the believers, the tumult must surely have been evidence of the god's passing.

Throughout the years, the mythology of the hunt adapted to suit the geographical area and the time period. In the Middle Ages, for example, the lead huntsman included Charlemagne, Frederick Barbarossa and King Arthur.

Traditions of a Wild Hunt also existed in areas away from Norse influence.
In Wales, for example, the leader of the Hunt was Gwynn ap Nudd. The "Lord of the Dead", Gwynn ap Nudd was followed by his pack of white hounds with blood-red ears.
These red-eared hounds are also found in northern England, where they were known as Gabriel Hounds. Their appearance was also a portent of doom.
In southern England, it was Herne the Hunter who led the hunt, while elsewhere it is also referred to as "Herlathing" - from the mythical King Herla, its supposed leader.

As recently as the 1940's the Hunt was reportedly heard going through the English countryside near Taunton on Halloween night. And the unlucky visitor to the West Country of England may still meet the Hunt upon the moors.
But whether in chronicle or legend, in folk practice or personal experience, the Hunt's underlying meaning and message remains one of remembrance: remember the dead, your kin, so your crops may grow by ancestral blessing; honor them lest they come like warriors to the field claiming tribute.

Much more detailed and fascinating information about this terrifying event at the links below:

Penance, Power, and Pursuit:On the Trail of the Wild Hunt
The Wild Hunt - from the Orkney Isles
Wild Huntsman Legends
The Folklore of the Wild Hunt and the Furious Host

Monday, December 15, 2008

Seven Trees Freeze!

Winter weather has finally found us here. High winds out of the Northeast, gusting as much as 50mph or more, and temps down in the teens. A few inches of snow this past Saturday and more forcasted this week.
The barnyard mud problem has been solved as Fergus and Stewart demonstrate here. The ground is fozen solid as a rock at this juncture. So crunchy hard that the steers hate walking on it and stay in the stall filled with hay. Of course the arctic wind gusts makes everyone want to take cover.

The snow that fell never melted. It hasn't been above 20 degrees since Saturday here, so it couldn't have. The snow has mostly been blown away by the gusting winds. The wind has also brought a steady shower of pine branch debris, and innumerable pine cones from our seven big trees as you can see below.
What could cheer chickens up more than some hot popcorn? Not very many things! We had an old Jiffy Pop that needed disposing of as it was past date, so the gals had a treat. They'd barely come out of their coops since last Friday, but the buttery goodness was too hard to resist.

Since we are to continue with arctic winds, snow and single digit temps for the next week or longer, looks like we'll have to postpone the Seven Trees Wassail until another TBA date. Sorry folks. Hard to have a bon fire with wind gusts pushing 60mph!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Beware the Christmas Krampus!

Santa isn’t the only one keeping track of who is naughty or nice. In some Alpine regions of Europe (mainly Austria, Germany & Switzerland), people still carry on celebrations involving one of St. Nick’s lesser known companions, the Krampus.
The name Krampus comes from the Old High German word for claw, apparently referring to just one of this being’s scary attributes. Other less-than-friendly features include a long, long tongue, shaggy black hair/fur, goat's head with horns, and cloven feet. Krampus was usually equipped with a bundle of birch twigs (for beating naughty children), chains (for capturing naughty children) and a pack basket on his back (for abducting naughty children).

According to Mannfred Kapper of the Austrian Cultural Forum, the Krampus was initially a side note to the St. Nicholas story, a goat-faced eminence noir who accompanied St. Nick on his December gift-giving tours. ‘Nicholas and Krampus would come to the houses together,’ Kapper said. ‘Nicholas gave the children presents and Krampus beat them.’ But in the last 200 years, Krampus has slowly developed an identity of his own. ‘Today Krampus is more popular in the countryside, but if you come to the city it is more St. Nicholas,’ he said.
Depending on who you believe, Krampus is very old indeed. Some say the tradition stems back to the pre-Christian era, and that the Krampus known and feared by Austrians today is a version of an ancient god incorporated into Christian holidays.

The modern tradition goes something like this: On Dec. 5, the day before St. Nicholas arrives with his sack of gifts, local men dress up in goat and sheep skins, wearing elaborate hand-carved masks. They make the rounds of village houses with children. When the kids open the door, they're frightened by Krampus-clad men waving switches at them and ringing loud cowbells. In some towns, kids are made to run a Krampus-gauntlet, dodging swats from tree branches.
The ceremony was widely practiced until the Inquisition, when impersonating a devil was punishable by death. In remote mountain towns the tradition survived in violation of the church's edicts. In the 17th century Krampus made a comeback as part of the Christmas celebrations, paired with St. Nicholas as the jolly fellow's dark alter ego.
In the mid-1950s, well-meaning educators feared that the frightening apparition might scar children for life.
One anti-Krampus pamphlet distributed in Vienna was earnestly entitled "Krampus is an Evil Man." As with most old traditions, Krampus has been somewhat commercialized and toned down. Today the tradition often devolves into a mid-winter bacchanal, where scaring kids takes a back seat to heroic bouts of drinking. The town of Schladminger is home to a sort of Krampus convention, with more than a thousand goat-men roaming the town's streets, harassing the town's young women.
The Krampus in Print
The Krampus tradition enjoyed a relatively recent surge in ‘popularity’ right before WW1, thanks to the new-fangled color picture-postcard industry of that time.
There are a few books available (and many online sources) detailing these rather disturbing images. They run the gamut from scenes of children being menaced, beaten and abducted to scenes of older girls and women being sexually harassed (some even feature a voyeur Santa, peeking through the window at the Krampus & victim).
We hope you enjoyed this creepy look into a traditional European belief. I'd much rather find a lump of coal in my stocking than have a visit from the Krampus!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Happy Repeal Day!!!

The 21st Amendment

Ratified December 5, 1933

Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the
United States for delivery or use there in of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

The freedom to celebrate, celebrate the freedom!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Deck your tree with bacon!

This is just too good not to share!
The Bacon Ornament - courtesy of The Grateful Palate, a bacon-happy site.
"Some people are happy trimming their Christmas trees with colored balls and tinsel but I'll go for bacon anytime. This Ceramic Bacon Ornament is the perfect holiday gift for every bacon lover. And when you take down the tree, you can hang it in your kitchen all year round!"

Only $15.95
Sure beats the idea we came up with using real bacon draped over the branches as tinsel....