Pentecost/Whitsun Customs

In England, it used to be popular for the town to make beer or ale, and then raise money for the poor by selling the beer on Pentecost, as part of the various festivities. So people would sit around and drink at these “Whitsun Ales.” This went along nicely with other events, such as dancing in the churchyard, playing bowls, shooting at the village archery range, and so on. Often these events would also take place on Whitsun Monday, aka Whit Monday.

Apparently there used to be a famous custom of running down some big hill at Greenwich, on Whitmonday. Hone’s Every-Day Book talks about it. I’m surprised there’s no race there.

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Ascension Thursday Customs

Apparently the snarky anti-Catholic author of “The Popish Kingdom,” a satirical poem about stuff Catholics do, went into a suspiciously exact amount of detail about pre-Reformation English Catholic customs for various holidays. The first volume of Hone’s Every-Day Book quotes this.

And apparently it used to be a thing to:

  1. Eat some kind of fowl on Ascension Thursday, after Mass, because of the general sky/heavens theme of the day.
  2. Make an effigy of Satan, throw him down from a height after setting him on fire, and then beat him up with sticks, as part of the post-Mass fun in the churchyard or at home. (This goes with the idea that Satan was bound and his Eden mischief reversed, by all of Christ’s actions during His earthly life.) Then pass out cookies.
  3. Tie bags of water to the rafters of your house, with quick-release strings so that you can douse whomever you feel like. (Water games are traditional throughout Europe, and were justified on holy days during the heat of the summer by claiming that they “reminded people of their Baptism.” Yeah, that’s a good excuse, and we’ll take that.)

The poem says, “With laughter great are all things done.” Well, we can’t have THAT.

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“Beware of Chicken”

A Xianxia webnovel like none other. Beware of Chicken, by Casualfarmer, is the isekai story of a modern Earthman whose soul travels into that of a cultivator of chi in a martial arts magic world — and who turns his back on that silliness in order to become a cultivator of rice.

Contains strong language and agricultural violence.

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Plantain = Slan Lus??

So I’m watching random videos, and they had this Irish herb garden lady… and she casually drops the info that “slan lus,” healing herb, which shows up in a lot of stories, is what we call plantain.

Mind. Blown.

What the Irish have as plantain, by the look of it, is not exactly the same species as we have here, but it must be really really close. And everything she described was stuff I’ve heard about US plantain. (It does grow in the US in many places, and is often called “buckhorn plantain.”)

But yeah, it’s apparently getting a lot of use from her, because you can make plantain leaf tea pretty easily. I mean, it’s a weed. Unless somebody’s using pesticide on it, you can get it everywhere temperate and use it most of the year, fresh. The kind of plantain we get around here never gets as big, but contrariwise, the leaves are always tender enough to be edible (although the taste is better when they’re small and young). They have a lot of vitamins too.

Plantain is usually used here (by those who use it) as just kind of a wild salad herb, honestly, although Chinese and Korean teas use plantains a fair bit. You see more about it in survival books than in herb books. It’s called Plantago major, Greater plantain, but it’s a lot smaller than that Irish kind of plantain.

The other amusing thing was that the Irish lady was sort of rubbing the little bitty flower things off the big plantain flower crowned stalk, and using them for extra salad roughage! Ha! Plantain seeds are kind of oily, and gooey when wet, so birds like to eat them. (The psyllium plants that are used for roughage are actually related to plantains, too.)

The important news is that plantain tea is supposed to be very good for respiratory issues and for sinus problems. So don’t say those weeds are totally useless!

Here’s another fan of plantains, who has both Greater and Buckhorn accessible around the place. The idea that “they want to be used” is based on how readily they grow back when browsed upon by animals, stepped on, ripped up, mowed, and what have you. They’re as happy in a city vacant lot as in the country. This person highlights the plantain as an impromptu bandage and as a drawing poultice for splinters, as well as the old-fashioned use of leaf fibers as a replacement for thread. The Irish lady says “spit poultices” of plantain are great for insect bites, and for drawing out pimples and boils.

But if you’re down by a stream and see this plantain, don’t mess with it! It’s the rare and possibly endangered heart-leaved plantain (Plantago cordata). Nothing dangerous, but it’s struggling to survive, because it likes pristine natural water.

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Peter J. Floriani Is a Writing Machine

Holy cow! I just stopped over at Amazon to check on Mr. Floriani, and he is up to Book 18 in his amazing epic of Catholic/boys’ adventure literature, De Bellis Stellarum. He’s also tossed off about five zillion other nonfiction science/philosophy/religion works in the last year or so.

He is a really good author and thinker, and reading him is an experience. Check him out.

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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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English Language Source for Korean Saint Stories

CBCK is a site for all kinds of information about the Catholic Church in South Korea, and its history. It’s got a ton of info on the Korean martyrs, many of whom are very inspiring.

I have to admit that my favorite is St. Agatha Kim A-gi, who was very devout and determined, but who also had so much trouble memorizing and understanding things that she not only couldn’t learn her catechism, but couldn’t even learn the basic prayers. All she could do was repeat the names of Jesus and Mary.

But when she was arrested and questioned, and could only explain her faith by saying Jesus and Mary, she still refused to renounce it.

“Is it true you believe in the Catholic Church?”

“I don’t know about anything but Jesus and Mary.”

“If you can save your life by rejecting Jesus and Mary, wouldn’t you reject them?”

“I would rather die than reject them.”

She was tortured, but stayed stubborn, and eventually was taken to prison and the company of other Catholics. “Agatha who only knows Jesus and Mary” was a great inspiration to everyone. She hadn’t been baptized before because she had had such trouble learning the faith; but at that point, it became obvious that her heart-knowledge was that of a confessor, and she was baptized in prison. This gave her new strength, which was good because she was targeted for tons of torture and punishment before she was martyred.

Something I didn’t know that this site told me: she was a woman from a pagan family who married into a pagan family, but her older sister became Catholic and then basically nagged Agatha into belief. (To be fair, this sort of thing is an older sibling’s job in Korean culture!)

St. Lucia Pak Hui-sun is another great example. Even as a teenaged pagan/Confucian, she was outstandingly virtuous, serving as the queen’s lady in waiting and resisting the advances of the king. She was also as learned as she was beautiful, studying deeply in Chinese as well as in Korean. But she was unsatisfied, and at age 30 she began to study the forbidden — Catholicism. She escaped the court by feigning illness, and persisted despite family disapproval, living in poverty rather than going back to normal court lady life. Her sister came and lived with her, and both ended up converting to Catholicism.

When the police came to arrest them, St. Lucia came outside to greet them, inviting them to share food and wine as welcome guests. She said that since their coming was permitted by God’s will, it was good to receive them willingly.

In prison, St. Lucia acted as a catechist and evangelist, teaching everyone. (But not doing so well with St. Agatha, who apparently already knew all she needed to know!) Since she had the standing of a court lady, she received worse treatment than most of the others. (Because her conversion was seen as a betrayal of the Korean court and Korean law.)

As with a few of the women in prison together, she was tortured in open court and clearly was wounded savagely, as well as having her leg broken. But their wounds repeatedly healed in the course of a day or a few days, so that they could appear in court without wounds. This caused their judges and torturers both fear and an increase in fury. The miraculous healings were attributed to evil magic.

St. Lucia admonished her executioner not to hold back, but to execute her with a single stroke of the sword. She was beheaded on May 24, 1839, along with St. Agatha Kim A-gi, St. Petrus Kwon Tug-in, and several other martyrs of various walks of life.

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Crux Ignores Business Saints

It’s good that Crux is promoting the cause of an Argentine businessman, the Venerable Enrique Shaw.

But this is just not true:

“But if [his canonization] happens, this Argentine will become the first saint businessman since St. Homobonus, a 12th century Italian merchant who’s the patron of businesspeople, tailors, shoemakers, and cloth workers.”

Oh, come on. You don’t even have to think hard.

What about St. Zelie Guerin Martin, who ran a laceworking business employing many home laceworkers, or her husband, St. Louis Martin, who was a watchmaker, and later became his wife’s business manager?

What about St. Petrus Kwon Tug-in, who made and sold crucifixes and holy pictures, and was martyred for the faith in Seoul, Korea? When he was beheaded, there was a smile on his face even in death.

What about Bl. Bernadino de Feltre, the pious, miraculously healed Franciscan who organized a network of church-run pawnshops (monti di pieta or mons pietatis) to provide the poor with fair lending rates? (Well, okay, he’s not a saint yet.)

There’s many more examples, although of course it’s more common to hear about members of religious orders. Because religious orders have more time to push canonization causes.

But the Martins are pretty famous! Hard to forget them!

This is the sort of thing that happens with press releases. People are enthusiastic, but they’re not thinking or looking stuff up.

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SAINT MARGARET OF CASTELLO!!!!!

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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Prudentius’ “Mary, Did You Know”

All right, this is funny.

One of the earliest Christmas hymns is Prudentius’ “Hymnus VIII. Kalendas Ianuarias” (ie, “Hymn for December 25th”). And the 14th stanza asks the musical/poetical question:

 

“Sentisne, virgo nobilis,

matura per fastidia,

pudorem intactus decus

honore partus crescere?”

 

But the trick here is that the question is, literally,

“O noble Virgin, do you understand,

During your delicate state come to its time, 

That your intact dignity of modesty is to increase

With the honor of your offspring’s birth?”

 

So in this case, the question is not, “Mary, did you know your Son would be the Savior?” but instead, it’s “Mary, did you know how impressive this was going to be, for you?”

The point is that, despite the weird squeamishness of some of today’s Catholics and other Christians about it, the miraculous birth of Jesus was always supposed to be just as miraculous as His virginal conception in Mary’s womb. Mary’s title of “Ever-Virgin” (Aeiparthenos in Greek) is ancient. So Prudentius, our early Christian poet, is of course going to be concerned with (rhetorically) asking Mary if she knew she would remain virgin during and after Jesus’ birth.

But he assumed she’d already gotten the picture on Jesus being the Savior, the Messiah, and God, because he assumed Mary had paid attention to Gabriel’s announcement. I guess today’s songwriters do not assume this.

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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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