Saturday, December 24, 2011

How I Spend My Christmas Eve

Hola darlings!

It's not over yet.  Right now I'm at 5:41 p.m. Daylight Savings Time for the Midwest, whatever that means.

I've got a Shepherd's pie in the oven and it's got about 12 more minutes to go.  I decided to make a suitably humble meal for myself this evening (and left-overs tomorrow), in keeping with one of the traditional Christmas stories from the Bible, about how the shepherds were in the field when the glorious angel(s) appeared to make the announcement about the birth of the Messiah.  I'll save the filet mignon for New Year's Eve when Mr. Don is here and he, Mr. Firemaker, can grill them outside on the deck (unless there's a blizzard raging, in which case we'll put the grill in the garage with the garage door open for ventilation). 

I got up early - before 5:30 a.m., and spent luxury time sipping coffee at the dinette table while looking at old "Traditional Home" decorating magazines.  I didn't see anything that rang my chimes so no pages were torn out; those magazines will now be trashed.  I have some more to go through --

After breakfast, I took a nice nap, aaaahhhhhh!  I got up shortly after 9 a.m. and puttered around until about 10 a.m. when I made the weekend trek to the Pick 'n Save supermarket.  If I was expecting it to be quiet and empty, I was quite mistaken.  I thought that most of the mobs would have descended last night after working; I was very very wrong!


Fortunately, everyone (including yours truly), was in a suitably pleasant frame of mind.  The Salvation Army Bell Ringer in the lobby was making money hand-over-fist, and I am glad for it becaue as of a few days ago per WTMJ radio the S.A. was behind on its fundraising goal for the year.  I made sure to tuck in another dollar on my way out, and several people around me (some coming in, some going out) did the same.  Goody!

It was so crazy at that supermarket that while I got my essentials, I forgot one particular item - a can of tomato soup.  I use it to make my Shepherd's Pie.  More about that later --

So, I get back home. Oy, those bags were HEAVY.  I am generally pretty good at judging how much I can carry dangling in a cloth bag from each hand, but today both were equally heavy, and I couldn't gain any relief by switching off.  Such is life, sometimes.

 It was a beautiful day today.  The sky was blue - it never did cloud over like forecast - very few clouds at all and the sun was warm despite it being December 24th.  When I left the house around 10 a.m., it was still outside, but when I made the trek home, about 45 minutes later, a wind (as forecast), had sprung up and it was chilly when it hit me; but it was intermittent and not a screaming wind, more of a breeze.  For this time of year, it's positively balmy (consistently getting up to 40 degrees F or above!!!) and I'm growing increasingly suspicious as to just what Mother Nature has in store for us later on.  I sure hope she doesn't decide to dump on the 29th of December when Mr. Don is due in, nor on January 3rd when we're due to fly to Chicago and from there directly to Madrid.  I will be mightly pissed off at Her if she decides to do a number on us!  A pissed off Jan is something no one (not even Mother Nature) wants to deal with, let me tell you...

So, I got back home with stretched out arms and unpacked all of my goodies, including some Pepperidge Farm cookies for tomorrow morning to munch on with my coffee, yum, as I enjoy reading nearly each and every page of the Sunday paper :)  One of the joys of my life!  There's nothing quite like sitting with a good cup of coffee, equally good cookies (lots of melting chocolate in them), and enjoying both while reading the sales flyers and shaking my fist and yelling in due course at the Editorial Pages!

I picked up more hazelnuts for my uber-fat squirrels and I worry about what they will do while I'm gone.  Then again, after watching them and laughing at their antics for about 15 minutes earlier today, I see they're burying TONS of hazelnuts and so they will be just fine, provided the ground isn't covered with a foot of snow. 

And then, I decided to finish up the project I started yesterday -- putting up the large towel holder in the upstairs bath.  I took it down in November 2009 when Kevin the Handyman painted the room for me and put new flooring down; it had not been put up since.  I have been flipping the bath towel over the shower rod ever since, but decided to finally get things in order in that bathroom, including installing my Paris-centric prints in spiffy black frames! 

Oh Goddess, it was a disaster.  I spent at least 3 hours yesterday measuring this and measuring that, and and making pencil marks!  That was the easy part, despite half the wall being filled with pencil marks.  Then I started the job.  Turns out I didn't have the right kind of drywall anchors and the ones I had and tried to use didn't work.  ONE BIG HOLE IN WALL.  I called it quits for the night, last night.

So today I made a point while at the Pick and Save of buying and paying $1.99 EACH FOR FOUR DAMN DRYWALL SCREWS AND ANCHORS - times TWO!  I bought two because each package contained two "medium" size anchors and two absolutely GIGANTIC drywall anchors, and I figured I only needed the "medium size" drywall anchors to install my towel rod.  I mean, it's not that heavy.  Each side only takes two screws.  It didn't occur to me until today that the damn screws I'm using are just too fricking long!  DUH!  Anyway, my formerly pristine bathroom is now a mess, and I've got TWO holes in my wall too!

Look at those monsters!  I've started to fill them in with spackle - and what a tale that is! 

After I realized that this job is obviously beyond my skill-set, I dug out the plastic container of spackle from Junk/Miscellaneous Cabinet No. 3, where day before yesterday I found a dead mouse (another story entirely, darlings), pried the lid off with a screwdriver and found it to be - DRY. 

Oh crap.  I poked and prodded first with a fork, then with another screwdriver to search for any pockets of still-usable spackle.  NONE TO BE HAD.

Rather than giving up at this point, however, I took the dried-out spackle upstairs and added some water.  Mixed and mixed.  Not wet enough.  Added more water.  Mixed and mixed.  Too much water.


Soupy as it was, I used it anyway because I was that frustrated and just wanted to be done with it!  The holes are drying out right now, as is the uber-wet spackle. 

Meanwhile, it's now 6:42 p.m., the Shepherd's Pie is finished and I'm chowing down.  I must say, it turned out deliciously, except it's just a wee bit wetter than I like, probably due to using the Prego spaghetti sauce mix and ketchup rather than the can of tomato soup (undiluted) I ususally throw into the meat and veggies mix.  However, the Italian flavors in the spaghetti sauce are delicious and since I had some left-over shredded cheddar cheese I added the remainder to the mashed-potato topping on the pie prior to popping it into the oven.  Delish!  At least something has gone right today!  Next time I make this particular variation of my basic recipe, I'll make up a roux and add the sauce to it over heat before adding it to the veggies, that will thicken it up. 

And, I have to say, I do like the two Paris prints that I have already added above the smaller towel rack (above the toilet):

The photo turned out a little "bent" looking, wow!  Probably because I was too close.  Honestly, my wall is not curved.

So -- "The Nun's Story" starring Audrey Hepburn is coming on now on PBS and it's such a good movie, I'm passing up "It's a Wonderful Life" and "The Sound of Music" both to watch it.  Time to bid you adieu.

Happy Holidays --

All About Mistletoe!

From Barbara G. Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, all about Mistletoe!!!  I confess I was surprised (how about shocked, even) by some of this information.  All the years I've been reading about the Goddess, myths and customs around the world and I do not recall coming across some of this information before, I'm sure I would have remembered it!

Mistletoe, image from How Stuff Works (see below, about
early beliefs that mistletoe sprang from birds visiting trees --
but actually the seeds were spread by bird droppings!)
Mistletoe was the Golden Bough that gave access to the underworld, according to pagan belief.  The gold color of dry mistletoe was seen as a symbol of apotheosis [becoming as a god, or becoming a god oneself], as was gold metal.  The living plan was viewed as the genetalia of the oak god, Zeus or Jupiter or Dianus of Dodona, consort of the Moon-mother Diana Nemetona, lady of the Grove.  At the season of sacrifice, druidic priests ceremonially castrated the oak god by cutting off his mistletoe with a golden moon-sickle, catching it in a white cloth before it could touch the ground, so it remained like every sacrificial deith "between heaven and earth."(1)

The phallic significance of mistletoe probably stemmed from the notion that its whitish berries were semen-drops, as the red berries of its feminine counterpart, holly, were equated with the Goddess's menstrual blood.  Among Indo-European peoples generally, castration of the god was customary before his immolation.

Sacred-oak cults continued throughout the Christian era.  In the 8th century A.D. the Hessians worshipped the oak god at Geismar and gave his holy tree the name of Jove (Jupiter).  As late as 1874, an ancient oka-tree shrine in Russia was worshipped by a congregation led by an Orthodox priest.  Wax candles were affixed to the tree, and the celebrants prayed, "Holy Oak Hallelujah, pray for us."  A drunken orgy ensued.(2)  Modern customs of kissing under the mistletoe are pale shadows of the sexual orgies that once accompanied the rites of the oak god.

To Nordic pagans, mistletoe symbolized the death of the savior-god Balder, son of Idin, whose Second Coming was expected after doomsday, when he would return to earth to establish the new creation. [Does that sound familiar to Christians out there?]  Balder was slain by a spear of mistletoe wielded by Hod, the Blind God, another name for Odin himself.  Or, some said Hod was Balder's dark twin, corresponding to the light-and-dark year-gods Set and Horus in Egypt.(3)

Some derive the Saxon mis-el-tu from Mas, the Sanskrit "Messiah" (Vishnu), and tal, a pit, metaphorically the earth's womb.  Thus it stood for the god's entry into his Mother-bride.  Norsemen's word for mistletoe was Guidhel, the same "guide to hell" as Virgil's Golden Bough.(4)

After they were converted to Christianity, Saxons claimed the mistletoe was "the forbidden tree in the middle of the trees of Eden," i.e., the Tree of Knowledge [of Good and Evil], which was popularly supposed to have furnished the wood for Jesus's cross.(5) [Now that's an interesting legend, since I thought the Garden of Eden which contained said Tree of Knoweldge of Good and Evil was closed off forever to mankind and fiercely guarded by angels wielding firery swords!  I imagine it would have been destroyed, in any event, at the time of the Great Flood of Noah's day, and all knowledge of its location was lost forever.]

The phallic meaning of the mistletoe made it the "key" that opened the underworld womb, key and phallus being interchangeable in mystical writings.  Some treatises said, "All locks are opened by the herb Missell toe."  Combined with the "feminine" herb Aleyone, it "makes a man do often the act of generation."(6)  [The secret to Viagra???]

The pagan's interpretations of mistletoe were still understood in Renaissance times, when it was adopted as an emblem of the new Messiah and "carried to the high altar" of English churches on Christmas Eve.  But some Christian writers insisted that the mistletoe "never entered those sacred edifices but by mistake, or ignorance of the sextons; for it was the heathenish and profane plant, as having been of such distinction in the pagan rites if Druidism."(7)


(1)  Frazer, G.B., 763-73, 816.
(2)  Spence, 78, 108.
(3)  de Lys, 60.
(4)  Hazlitt, 412.
(5)  Mile, 153.
(6)  Wiedeck, 189.
(7)  Hazlitt, 413.

So, now I think I fully understand about the power of combining holly and mistletoe together in arrangements!  I would expect the combination to be particularly powerful at the time of the Winter Solstice, that precise time when we turn the corner on cold and darkness (despite the Wisconsin climate which insists upon giving us winter for four more months after) and the days once again start getting longer by a few minutes each day.  Joy!  I really do wait for the Winter Solstice to come around, particularly the older I get, the more I seem to be affected by the cold and those long dark hours.  It's like if I can make it to the Winter Solstice, the worst is over, even though I may have to endure weeks of below zero weather and tons of snow.  So far this year, however, it's been abnormally warm and no snow to speak of around Milwaukee County! The frenzy of preparation for and engaging in celebrations at this time of year make perfect sense to me, too, psychologically speaking, as we seek to distract ourselves from the cold and darkness.

But that only works for the northern hemisphere.  The "lower half" of the globe has winter and darkness just the opposite of ours as the Earth seems to tilt this way and that in its annual journey around the Sun!  So, how do those old Indo-European myths and practices refined over eons for the northern hemisphere apply there?  (At least, among native populations; it's probable that European-descended peoples have settled in most of the known world in the southern hemisphere and have contaminated native beliefs and customs with "Christianized" practices...).

Fascinating, absolutely fascinating.  If anyone can add some information, please do so! 

Back to mistletoe:

This website says the name of mistletoe is derived from bird poop!

[t]he Anglo-Saxon words, "mistel" (dung) and "tan" (twig) -- misteltan is the Old English version of mistletoe. It's thought that the plant is named after bird droppings on a branch [source:].
One of the beliefs in the early centuries was that mistletoe grew from birds. People used to believe that, rather than just passing through birds in the form of seeds, the mistletoe plant was an inherent result of birds landing in the branches of trees.

An English custom I've read about over the years in passing when I engaged a passion for Regency Romances is the Kissing Bough.  A typical kissing bough could include mistletoe, holly, and ivy, as well as other evergreens and in Victorian times, fruit such as apples and oranges. 

The Ancient Pre-Christian Origins of Christmas

I may have posted this in the past, but just in case, here it is again.  From Barbara G. Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets:


 For its first three centuries, the Christian church knew no birthday for its savior.  During the 4th century there was much argument about adoption of a date.  Some favored the popular date of the Koreion, when the divine Virgin gave birth to the new Aeon in Alexandria.(1)  Now called Twelfth Night or Epiphany, this date is still the official nativity in Armenian churches, and celebrated with more pomp than Christmas by the Greek Orthodox.(2)

Roman churchmen tended to favor the Mithraic winter-solstice festival called Dies Natalis Solis Invictus, Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.(3)  Blended with the Greek sun-festival of the Helia by the emperor Aurelian, this December 25 nativity also honored such gods as Attis, Dionysus, Osiris, Syrian Baal, and other versions of the solar Son of Man who bore such titles as Light of the World, Sun of Righteousness, and Savior.(4)  Most pagan Mysteries celebrated the birth of the Divine Child at the winter solstice.  Norsemen celebrated the birthday of their Lord, Frey, at the nadir of the sun in the darkest days of winter, known to them as Yule.  The night of birth, Christmas Eve, was called Modranect, Latin matrum noctem, the Night of the Mother - originally a greater festival than Christmas Day.(5)

Early in the 4th century the Roman church adopted December 25 because the people were used to calling it a god's birthday.  But eastern churches refused to honor it until 375 A.D.(6)  The fiction that some record existed in the land of Jesus' alleged birth certainly could not be upheld, for the church of Jerusalem continued to ignore the official date until the 7th century.(7)

Trappings such as Yule logs, gifts, lights, mistletoe, holly, carols, feasts, and processions were altogether pagan.  They were drawn from worship of the Goddess as mother of the Divine Child.  Christmas trees evolved from the pinea silva, pine groves attached to temples of the Great Mother.  On the night before a holy day, Roman priests called dendrophori or "tree-bearers" cut one of the sacred pines, decorated it, and carried it into the tmeple to receive the effigy of Attis.(8)  Figures and fetishes attached to such trees in latre centuries seem to have represented a whole pantheon of pagan dieties on the World Tree.

Christmas celebrations remained so obviously pagan over the years that manyh churchmen bitterly denounced their "carnal pomp and jollity."  Polydor Virgil said: "Dancing, masques, mummeries, stage-plays, and other such Christmas disorders now in use with Christians, were derived from these Roman Saturnalian and Bacchanalian festivals; which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them."(9)  Puritans in 17th-century Massachusetts tried to ban Christmas altogether because of its overt heathenism.(10)  Inevitably, the attempt failed. [Well hell yeah.  Who doesn't like a good party with lots of good food, drink and gifts exchanged -- pagan roots or not?]

A curious mistake to the Christmas mystery play of the Towneley cycle shows a Great Mother image not fully assimilated to that of Mary.  Before their attention was arrested by the annunciatory angel, idly chatting shepherds complained of their cruel overlords, and prayed "Our Lady" to curse them.(11)  Considering that they were not acquainted with the Mother of Christ, a rather different "Lady" must have been intended.

Among many other superstitions connected with Christmas were some that were typical of pagan holy days, such as the belief that animals coulde speak human words at midnight on Christmas Eve, or that divinatory voices coulde be heard at crossroads at the same time.(12)  Also at midingith on Christmas Eve, water in wells and springs was supposed to turn into blood, or its sacramental equivalent, wine.  The miracle was not to be verified, however; for all who witnessed it would die within the year.(13)

(1)  Campbell, M.I., 34.
(2)  Miles, 22.
(3)  Reinach, 282.
(4)  H. Smith, 130; Hyde, 92; Miles, 23.
(5)  Turville-Petre, 227.
(6)  Frazer, G.B., 416.
(7)  Miles, 22.
(8)  Vermaerren, 115.
(9)  Hazlit, 118-19.
(10)  de Lys, 372.
(11)  Miles, 135.
(12)  Summers, V., 157.
(13)  Miles, 234.

2011 FIDE Women's World Team Chess Championship

From The Times of India
Indian women look for podium finish in World Chess Championships

Friday, December 23, 2011

An Ode to Inspired Christmas Decorating

Hola darlings!

I'm pooped!  I had off today.  Today is our office equivalent of "Christmas Eve."  Back to work on Monday and the final push is on to December 31st at midnight, pant pant pant...  In tax and estate planning, this is our busiest time of year, even busier, if that's possible, than income tax season, gasp!

Anyway, I slept in this morning.  Ahhhhhh, the wonder of not having to rise out of bed in the cold and dark! I stayed in bed until 8 a.m.  EEK!  Had a leisurely coffee.  Tuned into a smooth jazz station online and played it loud as I had my coffee and perused some decorating magazines I'd not gotten around to reading for over a year.  Geez, Jan.

Later I decided that the furniture from the living room needs to go into the family room, and the family room furniture needs to go into the living room. But since there is only me here I did not attempt to start shoving and pushing furniture.  First of all, the sofa in the family room is a queen size sleeper sofa and that sucker is HEAVY!  Second of all, this furniture is WIDE.  It would not make it through the passageway from the living room to the kitchen without being tilted.  That means a minimum of two strong men.  So, that means if I want to rearrange my furniture for REAL, I'll have to hire some movers.


Well, the thing of it is, I know they'd make short work of it.  The family room stuff would go out the service door into the garage and around to the front door (both doors are wider than the passageway to the kitchen).  The living room stuff would go out the front door into the garage through the service door into the family room.  Voila!  Room swap!

Well, we'll see.  Right now I've got other things on my mind, such as FINISHING UP THE FURNITURE SHOVING AROUND I started in the family room just for the hell of it.  Turned out I was sick of the sofa being where it was (in front of the double window overlooking the backyard) and wanted to move the recliner and the wing chair in front of the window instead.  I thought the sofa might be angled and the sofa table (currently residing in my bedroom with a t.v., a laptop and a desktop computer on it) could fit behind with the upstairs laptop, the desktop could got back into the den where it would be except it got bounced off my home network more than a year ago and I never bothered to try and get it back on (major hassle, let me tell you...) --

Well, the sofa did not work on that angle I wanted, nor on any angle whatsoever.


It's now shoved nearly halfway away from "it's" wall into the room but there's plenty of room behind it now for the sofa table to rest and a chair behind that, and it's facing the window, which is important to me.  It's a lovely view, especially in the summer.  The recliner and the wing chair are in their 'new' old positions (I've had the room set up something like this before over the past 21 years) with a convenient table and lamp in-between.  All I have to do is get that desktop computer back on the network but if I can't do it in 10 minutes tomorrow morning the sucker is still going back into the den on it's computer hutch that has been sitting in there useless all this time!  I'll pull out the mile-long telephone cord and hook the sucker up that way if I have to, or chop a hole through the wall to shorten the distance to the telephone outlet and use my 30 foot telephone line instead of the 100 footer.  Hey, I had this house built in 1990 - who knew THEN about internet and home entertainment systems and crap like that?  Not me, that's for sure.  There's one telephone hook-up in the kitchen downstairs, and one telephone hook-up upstairs, in my bedroom.  That's it, baby. 

No cable t.v. or internet service, no satellite, no U-verse.  Just a landline and DSL.  I did buy a cell phone a few months ago through work for a really cheapy price and pay only $8.99 a month for it and hope to never use it.  I have got so far as to remove it from its packaging but I have not read the instructions yet and have no idea what do do with all the "stuff" that came with it.  It is supposed to be for emergencies in case I fall on the ice, for instance, and can't get up.  Hmmm....

Regardless, tomorrow morning the sofa table is coming back down where it belongs - behind the family room sofa!  And my Acer laptop with it.  The printer will be tucked behind the sofa out of sight and the footstool it presently rests upon will once again be put to good use as a footstool!  I took the newly configured room on a test spin earlier this evening by watching the Patrick Stewart version of Scrooge on my now obsolete 27" wide tube t.v.  I've got a converter box for it but who the hell knows how to hook the sucker up to the t.v. - even assuming I could pull it out of the entertainment center by myself (which I cannot, it's too big and too heavy) -- not me!  But the t.v. IS hooked up to my VHS/DVD player and I put it to good use watching movies!  The room works for me, even if it does look a little strange and I've got an antique t.v.

Geez - this is supposed to be an ode to inspired Christmas decorating.  I have to show you this tree - it's just beautiful:

The tree is from Laura Orr's blog, Markham Street Design.  Please check out her
other photos of this tree, including the close-ups!  It's just drop-dead gorgeous.

Laura fell in love with the feathers she put on the tree, and so did I! I had to have them.  I just had to!  Egad, is this what pregnant women go through when they have a craving for something??? 

Now I don't know this for a fact, darlings, but I have been reading blogs for quite a while now and I don't think I've ever seen a comment just come right out and ask someone "where the hell did you buy that?" if the writer has not volunteered that information. I think it must be an unwritten rule or something, you know, like the Ten Commandments of Internet Blog Protocol.  No matter how much I'm sure her readers wanted to know, just like I did, no one asked - where the hell did you get those?  So I posted a comment at Laura Orr's Markham Street Design blog and asked her - where did you get the feathers from?  I was very polite - honest.


Guess what?  Laura Orr answered!  And not only that, she also told me how much she PAID for the feathers!


So now I will be a faithful follower of Laura Orr's blog until I die or get senile, whichever happens first. 

And I have to tell you about this fabulous place where Laura Orr and her gorgeous tree got those feathers from - PAUL MICHAEL HOME.  But it's after 11 p.m. now and I'm breaking curfew.  Plus I'm damn tired, so I'm going to bed.

I have MUCH I want to say about PAUL MICHAEL HOME.  But for now, I highly recommend you check them out - fabulous, darlings, absolutely fabulous! 

2011 FIDE Women's World Team Chess Championship

Hola!  Today was a rest day for the teams.  Here are some photos:

Turkish Women's team members at Dara, where the players visited on their day off.
Group shot of the men's and women's teams at Dara.

The teams splitting up!  Check out some of these beautiful ladies.

3,300 Year Old Cuneiform Text Found in Malta Temple

See if you're satisfied with the explanation for how the cuneiform inscription got to the Temple.  I'm not - and perhaps we'll never know...  One other point:  the article keeps referring to Mesopotamia being to the west of Malta.  If that was the case, it would be located beyond the "Pillars of Hercules" out in the Atlantic Ocean!  Mesopotamia is to the east of Malta. 

From Popular Archaeology
Rare Cuneiform Script Found on Island of Malta
December 22, 2011

A small-sized find in an ancient Megalithic temple stirs the imagination.

Excavations among what many scholars consider to be the world's oldest monumental buildings on the island of Malta continue to unveil surprises and raise new questions about the significance of these megalithic structures and the people who built them. Not least is the latest find - a small but rare, crescent-moon shaped agate stone featuring a 13th-century B.C.E. cuneiform inscription, the likes of which would normally be found much farther west in Mesopotamia.

Led by palaeontology professor Alberto Cazzella of the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, the archaeological team found the inscribed stone in the sancturary site of Tas-Silg, a megalithic temple built during the late Neolithic period, and which has been used for various religious and ceremonial purposes by the ancients from the third millennium BC to the Byzantine era. The inscription was translated as a dedication to the Mesopotamian moon god Sin, the father of Ninurta who, for centuries, was the main deity worshiped far to the west in the city of Nippur in Mesopotamia. Nippur was considered a holy city and a pilgrimage site with a scribal school that generated literary texts.

The location of the find makes it the farthest west the ancient script has ever been discovered, raising questions about how it ended up in the remote location. Some scholars theorize that the inscribed stone was likely looted from the temple of Nippur during military conflict and then transported westward through an exchange of hands by Cypriot or Mycenaean merchants, thought to have had trading relations with the central Mediterranean at the time.

Moreover, because cuneiform-inscribed agate would have been considered highly valued during the late Bronze Age, its presence within the Tas-Silg sanctuary, according to some scholars, suggests that the sanctuary had a much wider significance than for those who lived on Malta at this time. The sanctuary is already known to have been an important place of worship in the Mediterranean during the Phoenician and Roman eras.

Cover Photo, Top Left: The cuneiform-inscribed agate stone. Credit: Cultura Italia

"The Golden Chiefs" Civilization of Panama

A re-visit to a previously excavated site reveals amazing treasures and new knowledge of a fabulous but unnamed civilization in Panama.

From National Geogrpahic Online

"Golden Chief" Tomb Treasure Yields Clues to Unnamed Civilization

"Spectacular find" includes gold, jewels, and a small army of likely sacrifices.

James Owen
for National Geographic News
Published December 21, 2011

2011 Christmas Slide Show Greetings from Goddesschess!

We hope you will enjoy this slide presentation of our 2011 Christmas and some happy memories, too!
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Aliens Send Christmas Tree Ornament as Greeting

A 43 inch diameter "space ball" of unknown metal composition fell from the sky and landed in a remote grassland in - Namibia.  Authorities profess to be "baffled" by what it could be - but come on, dudes, we all know it's a giant ornament that those little grey aliens with the bug eyes sent to us as a Christmas greeting.  These days Christmas preparations start right after Halloween so a November arrival date isn't out of the ordinary :) 

What I want to know is - what kind of material is it made out of that, although being "hollow" it could survive a long fall presumably from outerspace without either burning up in the atmosphere on its way down (ala meterorite) or smashing into smithereens upon impact with the ground! 

A 'hollow' ball with a circumference of 1.1 metres (43 inches),
the ball has a rough surface and appears to consist of "two halves welded together".
It was made of a "metal alloy known to man" and weighed six kilogrammes (13 pounds).
It was found 18 metres from its landing spot, a hole 33 centimetres deep and 3.8 meters wide!
"Space ball" drops on Namibia

Thursday, December 22, 2011

BWWWAAAHHHAAAA! The Curse on the Greengrocer

From Live Science

Deciphered Ancient Tablet Reveals Curse of Greengrocer

Date: 21 December 2011 Time: 11:37 AM ET

A fiery ancient curse inscribed on two sides of a thin lead tablet was meant to afflict, not a king or pharaoh, but a simple greengrocer selling fruits and vegetables some 1,700 years ago in the city of Antioch, researchers find.

Written in Greek, the tablet holding the curse was dropped into a well in Antioch, then one of the Roman Empire's biggest cities in the East, today part of southeast Turkey, near the border with Syria.
The curse calls upon Iao, the Greek name for Yahweh, the god of the Old Testament, to afflict a man named Babylas who is identified as being a greengrocer. The tablet lists his mother's name as Dionysia, "also known as Hesykhia" it reads. The text was translated by Alexander Hollmann of the University of Washington.

The artifact, which is now in the Princeton University Art Museum, was discovered in the 1930s by an archaeological team but had not previously been fully translated. The translation is detailed in the most recent edition of the journal Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik.

Reading a Curse

"O thunder-and-lightning-hurling Iao, strike, bind, bind together Babylas the greengrocer," reads the beginning of one side of the curse tablet. "As you struck the chariot of Pharaoh, so strike his [Babylas'] offensiveness."

Hollmann told LiveScience that he has seen curses directed against gladiators and charioteers, among other occupations, but never a greengrocer. "There are other people who are named by occupation in some of the curse tablets, but I haven't come across a greengrocer before," he said.

The person giving the curse isn't named, so scientists can only speculate as to what his motives were. "There are curses that relate to love affairs," Hollmann said. However, "this one doesn't have that kind of language."

It's possible the curse was the result of a business rivalry or dealing of some sort. "It's not a bad suggestion that it could be business related or trade related," said Hollmann, adding that the person doing the cursing could have been a greengrocer himself. If that's the case it would suggest that vegetable selling in the ancient world could be deeply competitive. "With any kind of tradesman they have their turf, they have their territory, they're susceptible to business rivalry.”

The name Babylas, used by a third-century Bishop of Antioch who was killed for his Christian beliefs, suggests the greengrocer may have been a Christian. "There is a very important Bishop of Antioch called Babylas who was one of the early martyrs," Hollmann said.

Biblical metaphors

The use of Old Testament biblical metaphors initially suggested to Hollmann the curse-writer was Jewish. After studying other ancient magical spells that use the metaphors, he realized that this may not be the case.

"I don't think there's necessarily any connection with the Jewish community," he said. "Greek and Roman magic did incorporate Jewish texts sometimes without understanding them very well."
In addition to the use of Iao (Yahweh), and reference to the story of the Exodus, the curse tablet also mentions the story of Egypt's firstborn.

"O thunder—and-lightning-hurling Iao, as you cut down the firstborn of Egypt, cut down his [livestock?] as much as..." (The next part is lost.)

"It could simply be that this [the Old Testament] is a powerful text, and magic likes to deal with powerful texts and powerful names," Hollmann said. "That's what makes magic work or make[s] people think it works."
Whoever made this curse, he or she appears to have been someone rather well versed in the Pentatuch - and much more.  Not many people knew then, and most people still don't know now, that Yahweh started life as a storm god -- thus his control over thunder and lightning.  (Don't forget the infamous flood caused by him, either).  Were scribes employed to write down custom-made curses for people?  Or were generic curses purchased, rather as we purchase greeting cards today?   Were any of the writer Jews?  So-called "St." Paul was said to have preached in Antioch, so there must have been a fledgling community there of Christianized Jews during the later part of the 1st century CE.

2011 FIDE Women's World Team Chess Championship

Sans USA's Women's Team.  Standings after R5:

The Russian team lost to China today 0-4 and that dropped Russian down to 4th place.  A strong Indian team headed by GM Koneru Humpy is now in 2nd place.


This is interesting:  Board Standings!  After R5, here are the Board 1 standings:

No.TitleFEDNameIRtgTeam123456789PointsGames% Success
8GMINDKoneru Humpy2600INDIA1.01.0 1.01.0 4.04100.00
11GMINDHarika Dronavalli2512INDIA 1.0 1.01100.00
20IMUKRMuzychuk Mariya2460UKRAINE 1.0 1.01100.00
37IMGEOJavakhishvili Lela2475GEORGIA1.0 1.01100.00
38IMARMMkrtchian Lilit2469ARMENIA1.0 1.01100.00
39GMCHNHou Yifan2578CHINA 2.5383.33
40WGMCHNJu Wenjun2543CHINA0.51.0 1.5275.00
41GMGEODzagnidze Nana2516GEORGIA 3.0475.00
42WIMTURYildiz Betul Cemre2297TURKEY0. 2.5550.00
43GMRUSKosintseva Nadezhda2546RUSSIA0. 2.0540.00
44WGMVIEPham Le Thao Nguyen2341VIETNAM0. 2.0540.00
45IMUKRUshenina Anna2463UKRAINE0.00.50.0 1.0 1.5437.50
46IMGREDembo Yelena2468GREECE 1.0425.00
47GMARMDanielian Elina2497ARMENIA 1.0425.00
48WIMRSAVan Der Merwe Cecile H2057RSA0. 0.050.00
49WGMGREMakropoulou Marina2201GREECE0.0 0.010.00
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