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May Day!

This is the ancient feast of Ss. Philip and James the Less, apostles. They’re associated with red spring flowers: the tulip for St. Philip (so you know it’s not that old a tradition), and red bachelor’s buttons or campion for St. James the Less.

St. James the Less is the guy who was known for his camel knees (ie, he prayed so much that his knees got messed up), and who was murdered at the Temple in AD 62. Even a lot of Jewish people who didn’t like Christians were sure that James was a holy man, so this was a controversial move.

St. Philip was martyred in Phrygia.

This was the day when the English “fetched home the May” from the woods. Literally, a may tree is a kind of hawthorn that blossoms white in the spring. May was also a guy, and his bride was Flora (hence “the Floral Dance”). May was also sometimes the Maypole itself, although other towns kept a good Maypole all year round. (Obviously the right kind of tree might not be easy to find.) Dancing around the Maypole followed the fun of bringing back the May. The whole day was a holiday, so a lot of young couples spent the day together. You also brought home flowers from the woods, so leaving flowers or May Day baskets at the houses of older people was a thing.

May Day was also associated with “May games,” which were generally elaborate pageants s that might include skits, dances, sports, athletic contests, and games. They were often associated with Morris dancing, hobby horse dancing, and retelling of legends of Robin Hood and Maid Marian (who often presided over the whole thing). In other places, maskers in May outfits go to people’s houses to dance and sing.

Many Maypoles were destroyed or burned as “idols” by anti-Catholic or anti-dancing Protestants or Puritans, although some survived in rural places. In 1644, all maypoles were outlawed in the British Isles. But when King Charles II came in, maypoles returned, and they put up one 134 feet high in the Strand in London.

In a lot of places after Charles II, May celebrations were overseen by the Anglican clergy, to prevent Mayers being messed with. There were also versions of May songs which deflected criticism by adding LOTS AND LOTS of Christian content. (But not Catholic content! No!)

For example, here’s “The Mayer’s Song” from Hitchin, Hertfordshire, from Hone’s Every-Day Book.

Remember us poor Mayers all, and thus we do begin

To live our lives in righteousness, or else we die in sin.

We have been rambling all this night, and almost all this day,

And now return-ed back again, we bring you a branch of may.

A branch of may we have brought you, and at your door it stands,

It is but a sprout, but it’s well-budded out by the work of Our Lord’s hands.

The hedges and trees, they are so green, as green as any leek,

Our Heavenly Father, He watered them with His heavenly dew so sweet.

The heavenly gates are open wide, our paths are beaten plain,

And if a man be not too far gone, he may return again.

The life of man is but a span, it flourishes like a flower,

We are here today and gone tomorrow, and we are dead in an hour.

The Moon shines bright, and the stars give a light, a little before it is day,

So God bless you all, both great and small, and send you a joyful May!

There are a lot of May carol variants on this, and here’s one on Youtube.

In more recent times, May Day was taken over by the Communists in some countries, which led to Pope Pius XII making a feast of St. Joseph the Worker and moving it onto May 1, with Philip and James getting moved to May 3.

Of course May is also one of Mary’s big months, so you find people doing May Crowning of statues of Mary during this month. This year, Pope Francis has called for even more May rosary devotions than normal, so I’m sure that will be a thing. (Probably because we’re all worried about schism in Germany.)

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Hurray, hurray, hurray! Another equipollent canonization!

Since her shrine in the US is up in Columbus, Ohio, this is a really, really, really timely announcement.

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The Alamo’s Patron Saint

Yes, all you Texans probably know all this already. But the rest of us don’t….

The actual church name of the Alamo was “San Antonio de Valero.” But where is Valero, and who is this St. Anthony?

Valero is a town in Salamanca, in Castile, in Spain. (So we’re talking Isabella’s folks, not Ferdinand’s Aragonese.) Valero’s patron saint is St. Valerius, an early Christian bishop of Zaragoza, Spain. He’s not a Diocletian-times martyr, startlingly enough, but he was a confessor who was taken away from his see; he survived and was able to return home under Galerius’ Edict of Toleration. (The martyr St. Vincent of Zaragoza was his deacon.) He also was one of the Spanish bishops at the synod of Illiberis (later called Elvira). His feast day is January 22, and they have some kind of bullfight in his honor in Valero on January 29; celebrations continue until Candelaria on February 2.

The lands of Valero were under the Zuniga family, who at the time held the title of Marques of Valero. Baltasar Zuñiga y Guzman succeeded to the title when his brother died in the Battle of Buda. His brother Manuel Diego de Zuñiga Sotomayor y Mendoza was the Duke of Bejar, and the dukedom descended to his son; but Valero went to Baltasar.

Baltasar had an important career, and served as Spain’s viceroy in such important territories as the formerly independent kingdoms of Navarre, Spain; Sardinia, Italy; and Mexico. He was involved in rebuilding Florida’s defenses and in sending troops to Florida to defend it from the French. He also supported various Catholic groups in the places where he served, including founding a Capuchin convent in Mexico City (where his heart was eventually buried). For his service, he was eventually made the Duke of Arion by the Spanish monarchy. (Baltasar never married. His sister Manuela inherited his dukedom, so her husband became the next duke. His marquisate was inherited by Maria Leonor de Zuñiga y Zuñiga, who was his cousin.)

In 1718, during his stint as viceroy of Mexico, Baltasar founded the city of San Antonio de Bejar (which today is known as San Antonio, Texas). It was to be named after St. Anthony of Padua, so that he would be its patron saint; so it was founded on June 13th, which was St. Anthony of Padua’s feast day. But it was called “of Bejar” in honor of the Viceroy’s family. Similarly, he funded and founded various missions in Tamaulipas, one of which became known as San Francisco de Valero, after his title and lands.

But he also gave funds for the founding of a little mission in Texas, close to the city of San Antonio, and also named in honor of St. Anthony of Padua (although it was actually dedicated on May 1, 1718). And that’s why the Mision de San Antonio de Valero was called that — for differentiation from the city. The mission served the Xarames tribe.

However, later the mission lands suffered Apache raids that stole all their horses, which pretty much made farming impossible. In 1793, the lands were taken over by the secular government, abandoned, and then were used in 1803 by a military unit for a temporary housing/base area.

The unit was named the “Segunda Compañía Volante de San Carlos de Parras,” and they came from the Álamo de Parras in Coahuila de Zaragoza, Mexico. Texans just called them the “Compañia Álamo,” and so they nicknamed the old mission building “the Alamo.”

(An alamo is a white poplar, back in Spain; in Mexico, it’s a different kind of poplar, or what’s called an “Arizona sycamore.” They’re all part of the plane tree family.)

Anyhow… St. Anthony was and is a very popular saint, because he was a great Franciscan preacher and teacher, but also a great wonderworker. He was Portuguese, from Lisbon, but Spain owned Portugal at various points. So it’s not surprising that the Marquis of Valero would have had a devotion to him, especially since the Franciscans were running most of the Mexican missions.

And yes, Valero gas stations are named after the original name of the Alamo. The Valero gas company was founded in San Antonio, Texas, in 1980.

The dukes of Bejar are still going, in Spain; and the current title holder is Pedro de Alcantara Roca de Togores y Salinas, who was made honorary mayor of San Antonio as part of Texas’ outreach to the family. His son, also named Pedro Roca de Togores, was sent to the US to attend St. Mary’s University in San Antonio (he graduated in the class of 1993). His heir will be his only daughter, Cayetana Roca de Togores. The marquisate of Valero is currently vacant; the last marquis died in 2013. The same guy was duke of Arion, and there is a current duke who succeeded him, but I guess he didn’t take the marquisate, for some reason.

So there you go. St. Anthony, pray for us! St. Valerius, pray for us!

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Praise and Worship Music

Not as bad as cruddy Seventies and Eighties “hymns,” but… ugh, I am so so tired of being forced to sing this stuff every week.

  1. Piano songs.
  2. Unison in weird ranges.
  3. Syrupy.
  4. Totally dedicated to personal, individual experience, making it all about ME instead of God.
  5. Encourages people to sing in a whispery way that creates vocal nodes and bad vocal habits.
  6. Always the same freaking song construction formulas, to the point that I can often tell how the song is going to sound before we get there.
  7. No, we haven’t all heard this song, nor does every parish subject people to it.
  8. No, the music is not all that popular with all the younger people. It’s popular with certain younger people whom you know, but the others either are neutral or don’t like it at all.

On the bright side, the doctrinal issues are usually not there — often because they are avoided in favor of a vague “God loves you, feel good about that” attitude. Nobody ever does anything really evil that they have to repent and amend; they just feel shame and are cheered up by God. Nobody is ever angry at God; they just didn’t know Him. And so on. The music pretends that the dark side of life and faith is dealt with, but it’s not even allowed to exist in the lyrics. All people are victims looking for comfort, and there is no place for villains looking to become saints.

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Book of Invasions Mod for Crusader Kings 3

I don’t even play Crusader Kings 3, but this is exciting! And geeky!

Basically, a mod team created an opportunity to follow Ireland’s mythic history (which might possibly have some connection to actual prehistory, but nobody knows what it is), in which many human groups with magical powers invade Ireland, until it finally sticks. And you get to attempt to conquer Ireland over the course of all that mythic history, as the leader of one of these invasive factions.

Now, in the actual Lebor Gabala Erenn, most of the settler groups all died tragically, but not in this game! Nope, they are still around and kicking.

The other trick is that, possibly, some of the invader names actually refer to various Celtic groups and their influence on Irish history. One of the most suspicious ones is the Fir Bolg, because maaaaaybe they refer to the Belgae, a Celtic tribe that managed to go everywhere you want to be. Including some expeditions to Greece. Others point to Pictish stuff.

So anyway… the Crusader Kings 3 mod is called Tales of Ireland, and it really looks beautiful.

OTOH, they did change a lot of stuff for game balance, and they went in for a lot of “de-Christianization” that seems to go way way way too far. (When you decide to have monastic round towers turn into some kind of Paleolithic or Bronze Age structures built by the Nemedians, you’ve definitely gone too far.) They also decided to add “the Celts” as a separate faction, when (as the video points out) the Children of Mil are the Celts, possibly with separate Celtic helpings among the Fir Bolg.

OTOH, a lot of this is for the sake of humor or fairy tale situations — if you hang around the Giants’ Causeway, you meet up with giants, not with basalt oceanic rock formations.

Anyway, it seems pretty full of flavor and interest.

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Steak-Umm Defending Logic on Twitter

Holy crud, somebody is finally handing it to that pompous, anti-historical, anti-logic, barely more scientific than even Bill Nye, arrogant know-it-all, and general uninformed arse, Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

And it’s the Steak-Umm social media intern on Twitter.

God bless you and protect you, social media righteous hero.

Apparently somebody paid as much attention to science and logic classes as marketing ones, and I like it. Special props for using “epistemology” and “log off bro” in the same thread.

(And even though Steak-Umm marketing is vaguely blasphemous, I think the Lord will give them a pass for defending Truth in a dangerous time. And for trying to have a sense of humor, even if some of its manifestations are kinda dumb.)

(Also, they have a corporate spokesdog from home, who is obviously very mannerly, because he is not mauling the Steak-Umm box.)

Steak-Umms are really good. For those who are unaware, they are extremely thin-cut sheets of meat, which allow you to cook them very quickly in a pan. One then uses them to make delicious hot sandwiches, with or without cheese. I haven’t had any in years, but they are tasty; and now I want some.

In fact, Steak-Umm corporate, I fully intend to buy some. Because of your social media person. Give him/her a bonus.

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No, That’s Not What It Says.

Obviously I like the Book of Revelation, so I was happy when a (non-Catholic, but usually sensible) Biblical scholar announced that he was doing a podcast series on the Old Testament references in the Book of Revelation.

The problem is that he will say some sensible things, add some interesting info… and then jump right off a cliff into Stupid, or at least, into totally unsupported inferences. He then says things that boil down to, “I like what this scholar says, so it must be true,” or “I like this better than what other people say, and so I just feel that it’s correct.”

Argh. Argh. Argh.

For example. Rev. 2:4 — “But I have something against you: You have left your first love.”

He correctly points out that Jesus also says that the Ephesians are doing okey-dokey on works, and on doctrine and discernment, and on endurance of suffering. But then… based on another scholar, he decides that if they’re not loving Jesus/God like they did at first (cf. Jeremiah 2:2), it must mean that they’re not following His commands. And since Jesus doesn’t mention evangelism specifically as one of their works, he figures they’re too scared or angry to evangelize the pagans.

Honestly? Where is that in the text, or in the referred text? Why wouldn’t it be, “The Ephesians have a great intellectual faith and knowledge, and great deeds, but they need to work on personal heartfelt devotion and prayer life”? Especially since they’re Ephesians and have an entire letter about how the Father loved them, and how Christ’s love “surpasses all knowledge,” and how being “filled” with love means being filled with “the fullness of God”? (Eph. 3:19)

But I go on listening, and all of a sudden this guy (based on another scholar’s article) is talking about how “the doctrine of Balaam” and “the doctrine of the Nicolaites” must be the same thing… because they appear in the same paragraph, and because sex is involved in both.

We have a lot of historical commentary about the the Nicolaitans. And what we’re told is that there was a legend that one of the original seven deacons, Nicolas, went so far with holding everything in common that he tried to share his lovely wife. So because of this legend that might or might not be true, Nicolaitan Christian heretics shared their wives/husbands in common. (And possibly this was one of the sources for the pagan Roman idea that Christians had orgies at their agape feasts and Masses.)

Meanwhile, it’s also pretty easy to read in the Bible about Balaam and Balak and Baal-Peor, and how they tricked the Israelites into worshipping pagan gods, eating pagan sacrificial feasts, and fornicating at sacred pagan orgies. None of this had anything to do with Jewishness or holding things in common.

So although you could say that an error of Christian communism and an error of falling into paganism both involve unlawful sex, they are clearly not the same things at all.

So how can you take this kind of commentary seriously? It’s not more credible for having scholars advocate it; it just makes the scholars less credible for anything!

Argh argh argh. I will probably get through the rest of the episode by gritting my teeth, but sheesh. Maybe I can just skim a transcript, so that it will be over sooner.

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The 1991 Lord of the Rings

Channel 5 Russia (a government TV network) apparently was scrounging around in its backrooms for Soviet films made by its predecessor organization, and found the long-lost video of a two-part TV movie version of Lord of the Rings.

The name of the movie is Хранители (Khraniteli, which means “The Keepers” or “The Guardians”). The same title was used for the Russian release of Watchmen, so make sure you get the right one. It’s a “telespectacle,” which apparently meant a film adaptation of a stage play, with some outdoor scenes filmed. (Very similar to some opera adaptations.)

It was made in 1991, when glasnost was in effect and the Soviet Union was about to dissolve, and money seems to have been a little tight. For example, the Black Riders couldn’t find any black horses, as nobody dyed their coats or hooves; and the Riders are wearing jeans. Later on, the horses doubled as Tom Bombadil’s ponies. (And one pony gets fed part of a potato.)

OTOH, some of the cheesy special effects are typical of elaborately cheesy Soviet-era fairy tale productions, so you can’t blame money. There’s also a lot of Soviet/Russian “comic relief.”

However, the soundtrack is by a guy from the band Akvarium (Aquarium) which was a good listenable band, even if it was Soviet-approved, and which did a lot of fantasy songs.

The general idea seems to have been a last-ditch attempt to make an LOTR trilogy of films –while they could still take the Soviet approach of ignoring foreign copyrights, but while no censors were likely to stop them. (LOTR was only circulated in samizdat until 1988, because obviously the storyline was about free peoples fighting evil, God and angelic powers, and monarchy restoration.) The film was shown once on TV, but disappeared shortly thereafter, never to be seen again until it was posted on YouTube by Channel 5, on March 26.

There’s no English captioning, but you know the storyline. The Russian captioning seems good. The videos were publicized today in UK newspapers, so expect them to be taken down soon.

Khraniteli, Part 1. (Only gets to the Barrow Downs. Holy cow, must be a lot of Tom Bombadil.)

Khraniteli, Part 2. (From the barrow to the breaking of the Fellowship.)

There’s also a 1985 Soviet live action Hobbit, and a 1991 Soviet animated Hobbit series pilot, both available on YouTube.

Re: identity of the Hobbits: When Bilbo comes onstage at his party, 5 minutes in, he names and embraces Pippin, Merry, and Lobelia (named something else?). Gandalf shows up 7 minutes in. Frodo is the red-haired guy with the big polka dot neckcloth and the messy hair.

I like the Bilbo actor a lot, and the costuming for him is pretty good. The Gandalf is good, too, although his costume stinks.

Actors apparently do all love the Gandalf and Bilbo ring scene, because it just has a lot of inherent drama. But screenplay writers seem to have a lot of problems with it! Leave it alone, guys….

The Gollum backstory… um. Especially the “Gandalf questions Gollum by threatening him with fire” scene. I know it’s implied in the book, but that’s not a kid’s stage play!

Five minutes of Old Man Willow trippily messing with the Hobbits is five minutes too long. OTOH, it makes you really glad to see Tom Bombadil! Unfortunately, it just gets trippier. Still, I do like the “manly Bombadil” interpretation, even if I don’t like the size thing.

The laid out Hobbits are effective, but the barrow wight is… um… not exactly as described by Tolkien. Um.

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Fr. Reginald Foster’s Funeral

A touching account of the famous Fr. Reggie’s funeral, back in January. As often happens with the weird and maybe-saintly, the funeral seems to have fit him, in his own way.

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A Trivial Observation about Snail Battles

In the Ormsby Psalter (which is in the Bodleian, and digitized online), folio 109r has a snail battle directly opposite a rather snail-shaped letter Q.

(The illustration program seems to be: a grapevine, marking Psalm 79/80; a battle of a goatman with sword and shield vs. a lion/unicorn woman, with a pot and spoon; a dog with a hood looking backward, and a startled pig face on his butt, also looking backward (and thus pointing out the location of the psalm commentary about “Lord, turn us around, and show us Your face, and we shall be saved”).

(Then there’s a musical party scene in the letter E, illustrating Psalm 80/81, “Take up a psalm and give it the tympanum (playing bells with a hammer in the picture)… with the harp… blow the trumpet….” There is the Q in “Quia preceptum,” and then, on the other margin, there’s a snail. A human man is dropping sword and shield and running from the snail, which seems to go along with “Iudicium Deo Iacob.”)

(At the bottom, “his back” is right above a picture of two half-naked men wrestling, thus showing their backs, along with a donkey-man referee with a naked butt and legs at “burdens.” Presumably because donkeys carry burdens.The word “Divertit” is right next to a picture of some kind of bird, of the kind named tits; and it has its neck at a weird upside down angle to represent divertit’s meaning, “to turn away.”)

So yeah, it’s more entertaining than chapter headings, and might have helped with memorization of the book’s layout or contents.

I don’t know what’s up with the acorns, and the dragon vs. leopard dragon thing.


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What the Heck? (Kenda Edition)

You may be aware that Discovery put up a new streaming service, and subscribers can stream zillions of different seasons of different shows.

But here’s the weird bit. Even though other services from Discovery, like Discovery ID for cable subscribers, allow people to choose and watch episodes, the new Discovery+ service has random streaming… of only eleven shows, which I gather they are legally unavailable to offer “on demand” on the new streaming service, because Hulu has the on-demand option.

So yup, Discovery+ has a Homicide Hunter streaming channel, but you don’t get any info or choice about what episodes run. It’s a really weird way to run things. They’ve got one streaming channel for both Chopped and Flipped together, so good luck if you’re in the mood for food when they’re showing houses. Property Brothers, House Hunters, and a bunch of others have their own channels.

So if people are interested in subscribing to this new thing, make sure you know which shows you won’t have any power to control.

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Still Hanging Out with Apponius

Yeah, I need to finish Beatus. But I just feel really discouraged, because a lot of my early notes went missing.

Anyway… I’m working on Apponius and Song of Songs, which has always been one of my other favorite books of the Bible. Everybody knows that this is a book about God’s relationship with His people (ie, the Jewish people, and thus with the continued and enlarged qahal, the Church). But apparently everybody on the Internet wants to talk about it as simple Hebrew love poetry, or simple stuff about men and women. Because that’s the “literal meaning.”

Look. It’s not the “literal meaning” if the text is full of Biblical allusions about God and Israel. The literal meaning is “I’m writing a sacred poem about God and Israel, but turning up the marriage analogy to 11.” And that’s why God lent the author inspiration, and inspired everyone to put it in the Bible.

Jewish synagogues chant this thing ON PASSOVER. A lot of them chant it EVERY SATURDAY at certain parts of the year. They’re not singing “Girl, You Know It’s True” or “The Star of the County Down,” okay?

(Oh, and spoiler alert. Beautiful women do not appear to 18th century Irish poets and beg to be rescued. It’s Ireland. It was always Ireland. It was never about girls and poets.)

So I did finally find a Jewish video series on the actual factual literal meaning, from Chabad on their “Jewish TV” channel. A lot of nice nuggets that… um… well, deep Jewish theology is usually easily transferable to the Church, Jesus, etc.

For one thing, we’re told that the rabbis said that the name “Solomon” in this text was to be interpreted as the Name of the Almighty. Well, “Solomon” means “Peace.”

And of course, “He is our Peace.” (Eph. 2:14) He’s also the Son of David, and the Divine Wisdom, so calling him Solomon is exactly true. And… yeah. I think we know where this is going.

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Another Rule of Thumb Explanation

Victorian Farm: Christmas Special has a segment on milling with a windmill, and the miller says that you adjust the gap between your grindstones according to the feel of the ground meal coming out. Allegedly, you catch the meal between your finger and thumb, and then determine the adjustments by “rule of thumb.”

Still think it’s a carpenter term for using the thumb as a rough ruler, but milling works too. I’ve also heard that it’s a way to check beer temperatures.

The “size of stick to beat your wife” is a pretty ridiculous legend, as the only measuring story I’ve found about that was in Islamic law. And I seriously doubt medieval English people cared what sharia law thought. Oddly, though, there are some late stories about English judges who allegedly decided cases based on the false etymology! So yeah, urban legends are dangerous things….


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Explanation of the Day

“Nut brown ale does not contain any nuts.”

OTOH, for everybody who keeps claiming that “nut brown skin” and “nut brown hair” are descriptions of black people in medieval England… the brewery describes nut brown ale as being “dark amber” in color. Basically, it’s beer-colored; it’s just a slightly deeper reddish brownish yellow. So anybody with a decent tan, or someone with reddish blondish brown hair (as opposed to mouse or dark brown). Clearly the nut in question wasn’t a walnut, because “walnut” is a separate descriptor, associated with walnut shells and walnut-stained hands.

I can’t help you with “brown as a berry,” but apparently juniper and cedar berries are brown.


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