Monthly Archives: October 2021

Wellll, Isn’t This Interesting!

There’s an often-recommended Chinese steampunk web novel called Lord of the Mysteries, by a person whose pen name is Cuttlefish That Loves Diving.

Well, this person has written another web novel, Embers Ad Infinitum, which is set in a post-apocalyptic China where people are trapped inside a giant high rise, living in cramped apartments and never able to go outside.

And attending an illegal house church of sorts. A pagan church that supports the right to have babies.

Yup, very interesting. It’s a “Crystal Dragon Jesus,” but with a lot higher stakes than in the West.

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Tiggy Touchwood

The term “Touch wood,” which became “Knock on wood” in America, is derived from a Scottish and English game of Tag called “Tiggy Touchwood.” In Scotland, “It” in a game of Tag is “the Tigger” or “Ticky.” In the UK, “It” is “Tiggy” or “Tig.”

The Tigger starts the game by saying:

 

Tiggy, tiggy, touch wood,

My black hen,

She lays eggs for gentlemen.

Sometimes nine and sometimes ten,

Tiggy, tiggy, touch wood,

My black hen.

 

Everybody scatters, and they try to go somewhere with wood, so that they can touch it and be safe. Different areas have different definitions of “wood,” but trees and sticks usually do not count. (There’s also a variant called “Touch Iron,” and presumably other substances could also be used as safe bases for Tag.)

Of course, part of the fun is not staying at a safe base, and in many variants it must be announced that someone is arriving at or leaving a safe base. There are also variants where there is a time limit on being able to touch wood and be safe.

I thought it was interesting to learn about Tiggy Touchwood, especially since it never occurred to me that Tigger was always playing Tag.

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Exorcists Giving Advice on Hobbies

We live in a time when a lot of people try to break all the Commandments, but keep all the social rules and shibboleths. And we live in a time when these people simultaneously say that rapists and murderers are just poor wittle misunderstood oppressed babies, but also that children should be thrown out of society forever for a single politically incorrect word.

So yeah, not too surprising that there’s not enough exorcists in the world to cover all the reports of demonic activity, and that a lot of Catholic and Orthodox and other bishops are scrambling to get more exorcists trained and in the field.

Exorcism didn’t use to be very frequently needed or requested in living memory, other than the exorcistic prayers included in Sacraments like Baptism. But after the Catholic minor orders were done away with, and most dioceses stopped commissioning exorcists, amazingly the need came back.

The downside of all this is that almost every trained exorcist today has been trained through the diocesan exorcists of Italy. Which is great, because they kept them; but it’s also unfortunate, because it passes on everything through a single institutional lens, and that means it’s an Italian cultural lens. The available knowledge pool is relatively small, also, although it would seem that new exorcists today are able to pool their institutional knowledge more openly.

So it’s not clear where people should draw the line, between taking advice and not taking advice, if they ask exorcists about what “opens up” people to demons.

Exorcism is counter-cultural, and the current cultures around the world include a lot of corruption and bad judgment. Exorcists are forced by their duty to live even more conservatively and ascetically than a normal holy priest, because “this kind will only go out by prayer and fasting.” They also tend to see a lot of worst-case scenarios, rather than seeing people whose lives are sunshine and roses.

Also, Italian culture tends to look with great suspicion, and to support suspicious behavior, on certain things that in the US have a lot more innocence and harmlessness attached to them.

So yeah, I fully believe that there are people who do bad occult things on Halloween, just like I believe that some true crime buffs are actually glorifying serial killers. Those things are true.

But that doesn’t mean that Halloween hasn’t been harmless fun for decades and centuries, for almost everyone. Wearing a vampire costume and playing monster by making cape gestures and yelling, “Blah, vlah, vlah!” is anything but a glorification of demons. It is a safe way to face vague fears of the dark or of monsters, and to learn to navigate in a night-confused situation of strange houses and unknown people. It is candy and play, and quality time with one’s parents.

Similarly, a lot of people like to read mysteries or true crime, because it feeds a longing for justice, and for understanding the human heart. Forensics information of the geekiest kind can end up being helpful in daily life, to save life and protect the vulnerable or foolish. I’m not a horror fan, but some of them have similar feelings; and horror movies are sometimes a gateway to religious devotion, much as hellfire and damnation sermons really help some people amend their lives and learn to love God. God is Lord, and He created the night as well as the day.

That said — if someone out there is actually having an occult problem or dealing with demonic infestation or oppression, it would be prudent to go for overkill on the psychological and spiritual protection front. If fluffy bunny decor is considered a more helpful armor than painting the walls black and running a lava lamp, go with the fluffy bunnies.

And if, God forbid, you should ever need a qualified exorcist’s expertise, you obviously need to follow his advice more than that of a layperson like me.

While I’m mentioning it….

The main Catholic traditional objection would be that Halloween was intended to be a fast day and prayer vigil; and that therefore one should stick to Trick or Treat on the night before, or maybe make the kids only have a couple pieces of candy on Halloween night. (But young kids aren’t bound by the law of fasting anyway; and fasting is totally voluntary on holy day vigil days, at this point in time in the Roman Rite. So that ship has sailed, unless the bishops decide to go back.)

Costumes, in good taste, have always been permitted in Catholicism, and even demon costumes have never been prohibited. Mocking demons is a thing, because demons have no sense of humor about themselves.

The traditional fear was that masks and disguises would lead to robbery, kidnapping, rape, and illicit sex, not that Carnival or St. Martin’s or Souling costumes would glorify evil or lead to possession.

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Patricia Kennealy, RIP

Well, this stinks. I didn’t realize that Patricia Kennealy died back on July 21, 2021, of complications of heart disease. She was 75.

For those who don’t know the whole saga — she was a music journalist who had the bad luck to meet and have a relationship for Jim Morrison of the Doors. He had a handfasting ceremony with her, signed papers before witnesses, called her his wife, got her pregnant, and then ordered her to abort their child. It turned out later that she looked almost exactly like another long-time girlfriend of his (whom he was still with). And then Morrison managed to die of an overdose, or murder, or whatever happened.

Kennealy took this all hard, as one would. Until the end of her life, she called herself Patricia Kennealy-Morrison.

However, she also wrote a really good duology of fantasy/sf crossover books, as well as a bunch of prequels and sequels of various quality, which are corporately called The Keltiad.

The Copper Crown, first published through Bluejay Books in 1984, is a work of great verve and fun. Basically, it starts out as “What if a Star Trek-style future exploration ship found a bunch of Celts already out in space, having colonized other planets thousands of years ago?” It has tons of fan service for members of the SCA and other medieval groups. It’s also extreeeeemely neopagan, and gets even more neopagan from there — but initially, the book balances things well. I ran across it in a library, loved it, and was horrified to find that there was no second book.

But then another publisher took over the series, and I was delighted to buy my own paperback copy and push the book on others. The second book, The Throne of Scone, was still good, and I was delighted to have the cliffhanger resolved.

I also enjoyed the prequel, The Silver Branch, but the balance slipped toward pure fantasy and neopagan ideas. Everybody knows that the Irish idea about the sun dancing on Easter is an early Christian one, connected to Psalm 18/19, the most popular Early Christian psalm. And everyone knows that the most noticeable Fatima miracle was the dancing sun seen all over Europe. Kennealy turned this into a magical act witnessed all around a planet. Bleh.

The other books of the Keltiad were of varying quality. The Arthur trilogy was okay, but with a lot of unexplained elements that turned out to be autobiographical. The one with a fictional version of Jim Morrison (Blackmantle) was… um… not good, although it had its moments. (As in, it would have been nice if the man had been what she wanted him to be. I read it from the library.) And the one about St. Patrick being evil and St. Brendan getting together with Etain the fairy queen (The Deer’s Cry) was really, really not good, besides straying very far from history or legend or logic. (I got rather angry early on, and just skimmed it; so maybe it got better and I missed it.)

She planned to write a prequel about her Numinorians, the Four Treasures, and Atlantis (to be called The Beltane Queen), and a final sequel to Aeron’s story (to be called The Cloak of Gold). But apparently she never finished them.

OTOH, even when Keltiad books were most in need of editing by a critical friend, they had a lot of energy, poetry, interesting happenings, and mythopoeia. Kenneally’s narrative voice is pleasant, and most of her characters are fun to spend time with — even some of her villains.

Kennealy also wrote a memoir, Strange Days. It’s good revelatory writing about herself and her own feelings about what happened, although one tends to feel very sorry that Morrison basically messed up her life, and that she still was okay with that.

I never managed to read any of her Rennie Stride mysteries. I guess I should have sent away for them, but I don’t really like reading about dysfunctional Sixties stuff.

Sadly, I never got a chance to meet her. We were the same kind of geeks for Celtic legends, and I would have liked to hear her give some kind of talk.

She was baptized and raised Catholic. And though she rejected Catholicism consciously, I hope that she has found mercy and peace in the Lord. For one thing, her version of imaginary Celtic religion included a lot of repentance, reparation, forgiveness, and amendment of life — which is not something found in the old stories of pagandom. Not at all. The pagan world was a world without many second chances.

She was not crazy or stupid; but someone with an aptitude for happiness and faith was twisted by some very nasty events (and a narcissist, which is the sort of person who lives off people who are full of feeling and are unwary enough to be twisted). She deserved better, and I will pray for her soul’s repose.

A pretty good obituary from Variety. Good job, Variety!

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Today I Learned… Lucius Edition

Roman family names often reference obscure old Latin or Etruscan words.

The Roman gens by the name of Lucius, was originally called Luscius (LOO-ski-oos). And so the name comes from “luscus,” meaning “one-eyed” (with the added meanings “one eye squeezed shut” and “half-blind”).

Of course, the newer spelling and pronunciation allowed for a lot of flattering puns on Luciuses being born in the light, or showing up at first light, and so on.

Saint Lucia was either a member of the Lucian gens, or from the family of one of its freedmen. And since her mom was allegedly rich, and since her mom had a Greek (Syracusan) name but she bore the usual female gens name, she probably was a highborn Roman girl.

“Luscus” is related to “lux” and words about light, but also related to Greek words about glimmers and gloom. So the implication is more about “partially dark” than “partially open and full of light.”

There is a Latin word “lucius,” but it’s the name of a fish. (Which is why the Lucy family sometimes bore fish on their heraldry.)

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St. Charles Borromeo

Hey, it turns out that the life story of St. Charles Borromeo is HIGHLY TOPICAL. I had no idea how topical. He faced a lot of the same challenges that people today face – laxity, crazy ideas, stupid hostility in high places – but managed to get through it all with his head held high and his love for God intact.

OTOH, he was a very very very obedient guy. Very.

Which must have been really disconcerting, when this big tall built guy, with this skinny face from fasting and all these highly connected relatives, insisted that he would totally do what you want. But also that this is what you should want to order him, for the following reasons.

He also gave First Communion to St. Aloysius Gonzaga.

Also, when he was sent by the pope to do visitations of tiny little towns up in the mountains, he’d be staying in these tiny little inns where bandits also used to stay. And he would hear their Confessions, and then they would go find another line of work. One time, an entire troop of bandits all did this, and he sent them to an official who could give them work, with an explanatory letter.

He put a lost and found box in every church in Milan, for the purpose of having a place for penitent thieves to return stolen goods. He also started a School of Christian Doctrine, which met on feast days, and which taught every layperson in Milan the basics of literacy, math, and the new Catechism. He also bought his seminary a printing press, which allowed him to provide gift books to all his priests, as well as selling other useful works at low prices. In return, he insisted that every parish priest must take time to study, as part of his spiritual development, and must prepare sermons based on his study.

He was a great defender of the Ambrosian Rite, which he insisted on having celebrated instead of the Roman Rite. Even though he loved the Roman Rite, the Ambrosian Rite belonged to Milan as her heritage from the Early Christians.

He wasn’t much for fancy things, but he insisted that churches should be beautiful and not overly plain. Plain buildings for him represented “human powers,” while beautiful churches were built “in conformity with Divine Providence.” Similarly, he wanted sacred music and singing to be beautiful and “intelligible.”

St. Charles had to deal with a year-long epidemic of the plague in Milan, with people dying left and right. He consulted the best medical books of the day, planned for people attending church “with a space around them,” and got the Pope to issue a plenary indulgence for anyone who caught the plague but also for anyone caring for plague victims.

But he worried most about those trapped in their houses under lockdown, and the “plague of the soul.”

“It is especially necessary to care for that multitude of people locked in their own houses, who by their long absence from the church may accustom themselves to negligence in their religious duties, which then will no longer hold an attraction for them. That would be a misfortune worse than the plague.”

When the plague was most violent, he ordered priests to set up portable altars on street corners, and say Mass for all the residences around, while the citizens attended Mass at their windows. Those priests in Italy who did this were obviously drawing on this history… and you wonder why more people didn’t know about it.

After giving Communion on the tongue to a sick person in the hospital, he would hold his fingers over a candle flame to destroy contagion. He took care to stay away from others, including his house servants, and he ordered that everyone caring for the sick would change clothes in a room separate from all others, and that their laundry would be done separately. Nothing was too small to avoid his planning and notice, but all of his regulations were sensible and easy to carry out.

The fifth provincial council of Milan laid down regulations for the future, including how to set up a field hospital in small towns that didn’t have facilities, and what to do about spit in church.

Still, there’s a big difference between a real plague and a minor disease. In the smaller Venice of his time, 40,000 people died in Venice. Borromeo’s regulations held it down to 17,000 in Milan, of which only three were people in the seminary, and none in the cardinal’s household.

Travel was arduous in Northern Italy, and he also went through Switzerland a lot. He almost always rode horses or mules. He had mules roll on top of him several times, but he always remained calm and was usually unhurt.

He died at a fairly young age, exhausted from his labors and travels, but still very particular about his actions. He had his bedroom at his house set up for a recollected death, with a couple of good paintings of Christ. (One was a Correggio depicting “The Prayer in the Garden,” what we call “the Agony in the Garden.”)

  • “Contagion” and “miasma” was basically the medieval world figuring that something was in the air or on the body and breath of sick people. But they didn’t know exactly what, or how to keep it from making other people sick, or whether it arose from natural weather or landscape features. There was a shrewd idea that vigorous cleaning could destroy it, often including fire, or lime, or strong wine, or other chemicals. Borromeo was keenly aware that wearing the clothes of plague victims was associated with catching the disease, and he also knew about the association with rats and ordered every rat in Milan to be killed.

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Biblical Authority Words II

I’ve talked before about the headcovering passage for women, and how they should have “exousia” upon their heads.

Everybody forgets that Paul has a long section in 1 Corinthians 9 about all the people who have “exousia” over various parts of life, and how Paul himself has to be careful not to abuse his “exousia” over Christians and over teaching the Gospel.

So if people are reading about “exousia” in 1 Corinthians 11, they shouldn’t have amnesia about 1 Corinthians 9, either.

I think what’s going on here is that Paul is calling for women to wear a sign of their authority given by God (and their husbands), like a court official’s hat or diadem. It’s “because of the angels” because Christian women will have authority to judge angels. Eve was naked when she was tricked by Satan, but other women meeting up with good angels were fully clothed and dignified. (And probably there’s something to do with the bad “sons of God” meeting up with the bad “daughters of Adam,” too.)

But it’s also “because of this” from the previous few verses, when Paul explains that woman was created to be “help” (the word also used for military allies or for God being our help) to man. (The sentence structure is “because of this, blah blah blah, because of the angels,” which suggests again that both reasons have equal weight.)

Possibly the “help” is also why women are supposed to appear “fully armed.”

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What’s a Good Word for…

….Christian laywomen wearing headcoverings, in church or elsewhere?

Look, “veiling” is not historically correct (it was the term for nuns joining up!), and today it suggests Islamic women wearing hijabs or burkhas. So even though the term has a big head start, it’s not ideal. (And okay, it’s one of my pet peeves.)

The Vulgate does use “velato” and “velatur” in the broad sense of heads being covered. So I understand why people do it, but I’m still peeved.

In Greek, in 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul talks about women being “akatakaluptou te kephale,” un-covered-upon the head. “Katakalumma” is a word for a head covering. So I guess you could coin something in English like “catacalyptic,” to mean wearing a hat or head covering. But it’s not pretty.

“Kalumma” is one of the Greek words for a veil, but Paul and the Septuagint use it for Moses’ face veil and for the Temple veil. (Hebrew “masve”.) So not ideal, no.

Same thing with “katapetasma,” which is the Temple veil or curtain. (That’s “paroket” in Hebrew.)

“Radid” is Hebrew for a thin, wide woman’s cloak, so also not what we’re talking about. “Mitpahat” is similar, but without the thinness — Boaz has Ruth turn her cloak into a temporary grain bag, so it’s a good size.

Jerome uses “theristrum” for Tamar’s hooker disguise veil in Genesis 38:14. It’s from the Greek “theristrion,” and what it really is talking about is a light summer garment that covers you just enough to not be naked. So Jerome figured that her hooker outfit was basically wearing a gauzy dress.

Hebrew “saip” seems to be about covering your face rather than your head.

Hebrew “masseka” can mean a mourning veil or a bed coverlet. So we’re talking a big huge cloth that covers your whole body.

In the Byzantine hair-tying prayer noted a few posts ago, the Greek term for a Christian woman who was fully dressed for public view, including a head covering, was literally “fully armed [in the Faith]” — “kathoplismenai.” It also uses a different term for having hair covered: “katakekalummenai.”

Interestingly, there are similar but metaphorical terms: “ana-ke-kalummenos” and “apo-ke-kalummenos,” both meaning “openly, ie, in an uncovered way.” Then, “apokalumma” can mean “a revelation,” because it’s literally “an uncovering, an unveiling.” Hence our word “apocalypse.”

The thing is, though, that when Paul talked about church, he said that women should have “exousia” on their heads. So “exousic” would seem more to the point.

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Happy St. Francis’ Day!

EWTN’s Mass today is particularly beautiful. Of course, St. Francis is the patron of all the main orders working in Irondale, so that’s not surprising. Apparently they will also have a Eucharistic procession through the network’s work areas today. What a beautiful thing to do, and what a blessing!

Also the ultimate “Look busy! The Boss is coming!” (Heh!)

The homily says that the reason St. Francis could bear Jesus’ wounds in the stigmata was because he also had Jesus’ love for the world. Suffering is carried by love. Love strengthens us, because lovers overcome obstacles with joy.

I don’t think I can testify to that, because my love is small. But it is true that seeing a friend, or delighting in some fun person, can take away tiredness and pain for a while.

I’ve been listening on Audible to a very interesting book that came out in 2019. It’s a translation and commentary on the Gospel of Mark, called The Memoirs of St. Peter. (Because that’s what tradition and the Fathers say about Mark’s Gospel — that he wrote it based on what St. Peter had told him, possibly even including dictation from him.)

The translator/commentator is Michael Pakaluk. I don’t know much about him, but he keeps bringing up new things that make a lot of sense, or things that were there all along. He also brings a Catholic perspective which is very helpful, as he points out stuff implicit in the Greek that supports Catholic teachings and practices. The translation is also quietly droll, because he translates the Greek filler words as American English filler words. “Well, then such and such…” (The Audible narrator/actor seems to enjoy this too.)

Apparently Pakaluk is an ethics professor at Catholic University of America, but not the cruddy kind. (And not the kind who is trying to kill all your disabled friends.) He and his professor wife have eight kids, which argues a lot of management and time skills! He’s an Aristotle guy, and he wrote a book on accounting ethics. So that’s pretty cool, and I want to meet him someday.

One “new” thing he pointed out was that St. Matthew wasn’t just a tax collector, but a tax collector for the same area where Peter, Andrew, James, and John all lived. Fishermen had to pay tax often, from their market profits. This guy was a constant irritant in their work life, a symbol of Roman oppression and corruption… but when Jesus called him, the guys had to take him in.

Now, bear in mind that St. Matthew was authorized and encouraged by Rome to make his livelihood by charging additional tax, and keeping what was beyond the Roman tax amounts in his quota. They didn’t pay him a salary, because he was expected to pay himself as much as he could get away with. (Not enough to cause a revolt.) But he was also expected to send a little extra to the Roman governor, because taking a little extra was also how the governors were paid.

He was also the guy who caught and talked about Judas stealing, because he was used to thinking about money. (Not that Jesus was ever ignorant about what Judas was up to.)

Also, Mark’s Gospel tends to mention more that Jesus had His own house. A bachelor house, away from his home village. It’s something that gets mentioned a bit, but not really talked about in devotional stuff. So it cracked me up to realize that it’s also the house that got its roof temporarily taken apart, to lower the guy on the pallet into reach of Jesus! (This is what happens when You’re a Guy in the construction trades, I guess….)

Pakaluk points out that the text doesn’t say that the paralyzed man’s faith saved him — rather, Jesus says it was the faith of his friends! He’s not admonishing the guy; rather, he’s establishing one of the basic Catholic, Christian principles. We can have faith for our friends, or for babies getting baptized. We can bring the troubles of our friends, or family, or random strangers, before Jesus, and He will be glad to hear us as well as heal and forgive them. (Even if we have to resort to taking the roof apart.) We are all in this together.

Pakaluk also points out a lot of important Jewish concepts and references, as well as a lot of the points when Jesus is revealing or insisting upon His Divinity, or showing His Humanity. So it’s great at making you think and feel more about what is going on.

I think I need to get a paper copy of this book, too. I think it would make a good gift, also.

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St. Michael the Marine

Okay, maybe Heaven’s gates _are_ guarded by United States Marines. Or at least one who temporarily served….

How St. Michael saved a Marine in the Korean War

Heh, this is classic angel/benign trickster stuff. Those archangels have a wacky sense of humor! But the story has a twist….

Slightly different, much less abridged version of the original letter from a dramatization for radio broadcast. (The article’s version seems to be modernized.)

Another recording from a radio presentation, from WXYZ radio, 1964. Read by Fr. Walter Muldy, recorded back in 1955.

Obviously, there’s no approval because the persons involved never came forward publicly; so there’s no proof, although Fr. Muldy claimed to have investigated it privately.

I’ve been a Catholic all my life, and have never heard this prayer. Kinda beautiful one.

Michael, Michael of the morning,

Fresh chord of Heaven of adorning,

Keep me safe today,

And in time of temptation,

Drive the devil away.

Amen.

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