Wiccan holidays

There are eight major Wiccan holidays in a year:

  • Samhain (October 31). Samhain, (pronounced SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne) means “End of Summer”, and is the third and final Harvest. The dark winter half of the year commences on this Sabbat. It is generally celebrated on October 31st, but some traditions prefer November 1st. It is one of the two “spirit-nights” each year, the other being Beltane. It is a magical interval when the mundane laws of time and space are temporarily suspended, and the Thin Veil between the worlds is lifted. Communicating with ancestors and departed loved ones is easy at this time, for they journey through this world on their way to the Summerlands. It is a time to study the Dark Mysteries and honor the Dark Mother and the Dark Father, symbolized by the Crone and her aged Consort.
  • Yule, Winter Solstice (December 21). Yule, (pronounced EWE-elle) is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, much celebration was to be had as the ancestors awaited the rebirth of the Oak King, the Sun King, the Giver of Life that warmed the frozen Earth and made her to bear forth from seeds protected through the fall and winter in her womb.
  • Imbolc (February 2). Imbolc, (pronounced “IM-bulk” or “EM-bowlk”), also called Oimealg, (“IM-mol’g), by the Druids, is the festival of the lactating sheep. It is derived from the Gaelic word “oimelc” which means “ewes milk”. Herd animals have either given birth to the first offspring of the year or their wombs are swollen and the milk of life is flowing into their teats and udders. It is the time of Blessing of the seeds and consecration of agricultural tools. It marks the center point of the dark half of the year. It is the festival of the Maiden, for from this day to March 21st, it is her season to prepare for growth and renewal.
  • Ostara, Spring Equinox(March 21). As Spring reaches its midpoint, night and day stand in perfect balance, with light on the increase. The young Sun God now celebrates a hierogamy (sacred marriage) with the young Maiden Goddess, who conceives. In nine months, she will again become the Great Mother. It is a time of great fertility, new growth, and newborn animals. The next full moon (a time of increased births) is called the Ostara and is sacred to Eostre, the Saxon Lunar Goddess of fertility (whence we get the words yeast, Easter, and estrogen, whose two symbols were the egg and the rabbit.
  • Beltane (April 30). Beltane has long been celebrated with feasts and rituals. Beltane means fire of Bel; Belinos being one name for the Sun God, whose coronation feast we now celebrate.
  • Litha, Summer Solstice (June 21). Although the name Litha is not well attested, it may come from Saxon tradition — the opposite of Yule. On this longest day of the year, light and life are abundant. At mid-summer, the Sun God has reached the moment of his greatest strength. Seated on his greenwood throne, he is also lord of the forests, and his face is seen in church architecture peering from countless foliate masks.
  • Lugnasadh, Lammas, early harvest (July 31, August 1). Lughnasadh means the funeral games of Lugh (pronounced Loo), referring to Lugh, the Irish sun god. However, the funeral is not his own, but the funeral games he hosts in honor of his foster-mother Tailte. As autumn begins, the Sun God enters his old age, but is not yet dead. The God symbolically loses some of his strength as the Sun rises farther in the South each day and the nights grow longer.
  • Mabon, Autumn Equinox, late harvest (September 21). Mabon, (pronounced MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn) is the Autumn Equinox. The Autumn Equinox divides the day and night equally, and we all take a moment to pay our respects to the impending dark. We also give thanks to the waning sunlight, as we store our harvest of this year’s crops. The Druids call this celebration, Mea’n Fo’mhair, and honor the The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs and fertilizer are appropriate at this time. Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess as she passes from Mother to Crone, and her consort the God as he prepares for death and re-birth.

See also “Religions: Wicca” and “Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism.”

Quoting Mark Twain: “People’s beliefs and convictions”

Mark Twain said:

“In religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.” Autobiography of Mark Twain by Samuel Clemens

See also
“Letters from the Earth”
“We are strangely and wonderfully made”

SDL acquires Tridion

SDL, mainly a translation company with some content management, and Tridion, a Content Management company, have agreed that SDL will buy Tridion for 69 million Euros, subject to the approval of SDL’s shareholders. Tridion’s expertise in XML-based content management should actually fit nicely into keeping the translated bits organized. SDL supplies the translation workflow and expertise.

Moose noses

There are still a lot of good Ph.D. projects out there in under-explored facts of daily life, such as, “Why does a moose have such a big nose?” Moose are the largest living member of the deer family. Unlike other deer, they have a big, Roman nose. Inside that nose is a complex system of bony plates, cartilage, and special muscles for closing the nostrils. And now we have the science to prove it! Larry Whitmer writes:

Moose show greatly enlarged nasal cartilages, and the entire osseocartilaginous apparatus is relatively much larger than in outgroups. The nasal vestibule of moose is very large and houses a system of three recesses: one rostral and one caudal to the nostrils, and one associated with the enlarged fibrofatty alar fold. As a result of the expanded nasal vestibule, osseous support for the nasal conchae (i.e. turbinates) has retracted caudally along with the bony nasal aperture. The nasoturbinate and its mucosal counterparts (dorsal nasal concha and rectal fold) are reduced. The upturned maxilloturbinate, however, is associated with an enlarged ventral nasal concha and alar fold. Moose are the only species of cervid with these particular characteristics, indicating that this anatomical configuration is indeed novel. Although functional hypotheses await testing, our anatomical findings and published behavioural observations suggest that the novel narial apparatus of moose probably has less to do with respiratory physiology than with functions pertaining specifically to the nostrils. The widely separated and laterally facing nostrils may enhance stereolfaction (i.e. extracting directional cues from gradients of odorant molecules in the environment), but other attributes of narial architecture (enlarged cartilages, specialized musculature, recesses, fibrofatty pads) suggest that this function may not have been the evolutionary driving force. Rather, these attributes suggest a mechanical function, namely, an elaborated nostril-closing system.

Moose photo by Peter Mirejovsky

Non-objective judgements

I just read Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink today. It’s about snap judgements, good and bad. The first point is that snap judgements are often surprisingly accurate.

Buy snap judgements can go wrong. One of the BAD things was the pre-judging that we do when our brains are contaminated by stereotypes. And one of his examples was female musicians. Holding blind auditions, where the hiring committee can not see the candidate but can hear them, has quintupled the number of women in professional orchestras. (And that’s with just the initial audition blind.) The reason? Of course you know it. People who believe that they are objective judges of skill and talent are influenced by sex, age, race, beauty, nationality, carriage, or other irrelevant factors. Examples are legion. The big science one was the Swedish study a few years ago that found female scientists had to publish about five times as many papers to be considered equal to their male colleagues. Nellie McClung was in the right mathematical ballpark when she said, “A woman has to work twice as hard as a man to be considered half as good. Luckily, that’s not difficult!”

Flickr photos in Google maps

Ellen Bass, poet

from Our Stunning Harvest: Poems by Ellen Bass, 1986:


There is no word
for a woman giving birth,
for a first birth,
for a new mother.
The Eskimos have
Forty-seven words for snow.

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