Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bring On That Green

A short time ago I published a blog-post about Santa Claus; origins, myths, legends - that sort of thing.  Admittedly, a puff piece.  But I must say that I am really intrigued about some of the greenery that we enjoy around the Christmas/Yule season.  Some of these greens just may have a history greater than Claus himself.  Note:  there are many green flora and fauna that have a rich historical past, but for the sake of brevity, this post will concentrate on just three.

The use of evergreen boughs, fir trees, holly, and ivy as Christmas decorations is older than the Christian era itself.  Long before the baby Jesus, the Egyptians, Romans, and northern Europeans used all of the above and more for their winter solstice/Yule revelries.  For those ancient peoples, trees, holly, and ivy had very special meanings.

Try and put yourself into the shoes of an ancient pagan or heathen.  The tallest things around you are the trees.  Those trees were not just symbolic "things" that connected earth and sky; some were the World Trees of various cultures - Yggdrasil, Irminsul, the Donar Oak of the Chatti, the Bodi tree of the Buddhist, etc.  And those world trees were thought to hold that particular culture's world together; the tree comes down, the culture falls (more on that later).  For the ancients, our ancestors, evergreens, fir, spruce, and pine trees along with the holly and ivy were important.

One reason, I think, was the color.  When other flora and fauna lost their leaves and blooms during autumn and winter (dormant), evergreens stayed green, and offered the hope of spring and re-birth.  Fir trees and evergreens in general, became symbols of fertility, sacredness, health, and immortality.  The Romans, when they looked at an unopened fir cone, saw sacred virginity and offered them to their goddesses.  The northern Europeans believed that fir trees were one of the places on earth where the gods lived.  They were so certain of this belief that indiscriminate harvesting of fir trees was a punishable offense; you could suffer the loss of an arm or your head!  What should stick out here and really ring your bells is that our ancestors (yes our ancestors) considered those trees, evergreens, and nature sacred.    They believed that the life force that was in them was present in all of nature.  And, do take the time to discover how many herbal remedies our ancestors made from evergreens; you will be surprised.  These two points alone should be sufficient to convince you how much honor and respect our ancestors had for the evergreen and all of nature.  The Donar Oak was briefly mentioned.  What happened to that mighty tree and the Chatti culture is another low point in history.

For the Chatti (later known as Hessians), a Germanic tribe, their Donar Oak was the center of their life; it was their world tree.  They believed that not only was the tree sacred, but it also was a dwelling place for their god Donar, a.k.a. Thor.  The Chatti literally believed that the Donar Oak held their world together; it was the center of their spiritual and social life.  When the Church cut down their Donar Oak, the Chatti culture fell apart; their focal point was gone and their world ended, literally (this happened in723/724 C.E. at the hands of Winifrid, later known as St. Boniface).  A few centuries before, St. Augustine told the Church to let the trees alone but give them to Jesus and just convert the people.  I guess in Boniface's era, the conversion business was slow.  As I mentioned in What Klaus, adding the religious customs of another that is considered inferior  makes it easier for the "lowly" to convert to the new, best thing.  Hopefully dear reader, you have not become bored; moving on to the holly and the ivy.

Holly was considered holy and sacred to the majority of the Indo-European peoples.  The northern folks gathered holly and brought it into their homes for Yule - for good luck, fertility, and health in the coming year.  The Celtic Druids literally worshiped holly (divine, a home of the gods) and thought that the red berries contained the female portion of creative energy.  And the Romans were not to be outdone by their Indo-European cousins.  During the Feast of Saturnalia (their winter solstice celebration), they decked out their doorways and other parts of their homes with holly.

Ivy is a vine and thought of by our ancestors to be a symbolic, shamanic ladder to the other-worlds (both ivy and mistletoe wrap themselves around a tree; the difference - ivy, a vine, has its' origin in the soil while mistletoe is a parasite.  The Druids found this fascinating).  Ivy's shining green leaves were thought of as signs of re-birth and immortality.  Remember, this is the cold winter solstice; we are hoping for spring!  And ivy was the perfect compliment to holly for Yuletide decorations; the meaning and symbolism should smack you in the face - if you are paying attention.  In our time, how many Christmas cards and other decorations feature holly, ivy, and a fir/spruce tree?  However, the early Church was not happy with what it considered pagan cultic practices (remember the Donar Oak).

After years (centuries?) of condemning edicts and acts of sacrilege, the Church could not get rid of the people's love of evergreens.  So, they adopted them as their own, and discounted any pagan origins.  They took what was sacred to pagans, and made it "profane" for them, while "sanctifying" it for Christians.  Holly, because of its pointy leaves, became the symbol of Christ's crown of thorns; the red berries, his blood.  Ivy became the symbol of Jesus's resurrection (because it climbs up a tree, and other things).  And what of the so-called Christmas tree?  Oh, yeah!!!

The Church failed in its efforts to end our ancestor's love of fir and spruce trees.  With Augustine's instructions in mind, those trees at Christmas/Yule time were dedicated to the baby Jesus; the son of god that came into the world for the sake of salvation (here, think winter solstice and regeneration, life renewed).  Here's a nice one:  for many of the ancient cultures, especially those in the north of Europe, fir and spruce trees were also symbols of male regeneration (yes, a phallus).  None of this was missed by the Church.  When you add the male regeneration principal to the concept of the world tree, plus a dwelling place for a god, you should readily see why the early Church waged war on trees and then saw the opportunity before it.

The Church did not lose when it adopted those pagan practices and neither did the people today who claim the label of pagan or heathen.  By that adoption, they preserved the history of the sacred trees and more for the world to enjoy.  But understand, that was not their intention.  The Church of that era had no idea how the world would progress, despite their obtrusive interference.  Here is a tasty treat for you:
no where in the Bible will you find any link between Jesus, needle-bearing trees, holly, or ivy.  Chew on that while you're roasting your chestnuts on an open fire this holiday season.

Author's Notes:  This post is not a condemnation of any religion, just a brief note or two of recorded history, laced with opinion diluted by age.  My thanks to all who have gone before me.  Much of the info can be had on the Internet via Wikipedia.  You want more, find it.  You may want to look at......
Pagan Christmas...........Christian Ratsch and Claudia Muller Ebeling, copyright 2003, 2006, Inner Traditions.....very good stuff.

                                                   Copyright @2012 Terry Unger




Sunday, August 26, 2012

What Klaus???

Yeah Santa, that (K)Claus.  I know that this post may make some people think that I am trying to jump start the season; that's understandable.  But in my opinion, the commercialization and rabid marketing of this particular time of year is absurd, and borders on the reprehensible.  Oh yes, come on...really!  Department stores and other retailers prepping for Christmas before Labor Day?  Sad, but true.  However, the myth and legend of Santa is really a fascinating trip through history.  And, the story of Santa Claus is a huge bag of the myths and legends of many countries.

Many folks still have a hard time accepting that Christmastide is an amalgamation of several ancient pagan holidays that fell on or about December 21st, the winter solstice.  The Romans celebrated the Feast of Saturnalia and then the Feast of Sol Invictus, the Invincible Sun (at this time of year, the sun is re-born in the heavens, and begins to grow.  The days become longer and the darkness of night, shorter.  It was a time that was considered the beginnings of fertility for the land).  And during those feasts, gift giving was the norm, not the exception.  During the winter solstice in Egypt the people used to hold a major feast for 12 days to honor their god Horus.  In the pagan north, that area of Europe north of the Alps, the winter solstice found the people celebrating Yule, a 12 day celebration dedicated to their gods, the return of the sun, and the blessings of the land (think Yule Log here).  Their celebration included abundant eating, drinking of alcoholic spirits, and gift giving.  There are more examples but these three should give you the understanding that celebrations occurred around December 21st long before the supposed birth of Jesus became a topic of discussion.  Here is another interesting tid-bit.

Pope Julius the 1st, circa 350 C.E., placed the birth of Jesus as December 25th, but the actions of a roman politician, Emperor Justinian (542 C.E.) add some confusion.  Justinian issued an imperial decree that made sure December 25th was the official day to celebrate the birth of Christ.  So, here we have the head of what would become the world's most populous religion declaring Christ's birth date, and almost 200 years later, a roman emperor cemented the date in time through a political decree.  If you are wondering why those actions were taken, the answer should be glaringly apparent.  The pagan peoples of Europe and elsewhere were the majority population.  By making it appear to the pagan people that they would not lose their festivals and holidays, it made it easier for them to convert to 'the new, best thing.'  (This is one example of Christian grafting of pagan holidays.  There are more but they are not within the scope of this post).  So what about the Klaus guy?  We're getting there - this was necessary background information.  As Christmastide morphed and evolved, so to did the personage of Santa Claus.

In the basic context of the Klaus myth, its pretty much the stuff of Indo-European myth and legend.  The god Thor flew across the sky in his wagon, powered and pulled by two magical goats.  Wodan (Wotan/Odin), the primary Germanic/Norse god, rode on his magical horse and was accompanied by his minions during what was known as the 'Wild Hunt.'  This 'Hunt' happened during the winter solstice/Yule.  And Wodan was also known to grant wishes to those who deserved them.  Then we have the flying reindeer.

Those flying reindeer that pulled sleighs were plentiful to the many peoples who now celebrate Christmas and whose pagan ancestors were heavily involved in shamanism.  And, those shaman's drug of choice was the wild, Fly Agaric Mushroom.  This red capped, white dotted mushroom delight produces a hallucinogenic effect within those who ingest it - a perfect gateway for the Shaman to the other-worlds.  The modern sciences of archaeology and ethnobotany have firmly established the link between the Shaman, the Fly Agaric mushrooms, and the Shaman's sacred reindeer.  Cave paintings, over 30 thousand years old and much more witness truth to that fact.  There are those who count themselves members of the above mentioned professions who think that Santa Claus is nothing more than a morphed up Shaman and his reindeer; I like it.  As Christianity became more popular, the face of the Klaus man changed.

The famous St. Nicolas of legend began his story in the 4th century.  His overall generosity and gift giving to children earned him Church sainthood.  During the 10th century, some bright light had a strange idea.  This St. Nick's bones were dug up and transplanted to Italy.  From that point forward, this Nick's following took off like a heat seeking missile throughout most of continental Europe.  Notice the words, "throughout most."  The next stop on the Klaus juggernaut takes us to the Netherlands.

The personage of Sinterklass may have been a northern European version of St. Nicolas.  Sinterklass's following is not extensive (or is it? Sinterklass/Santa Claus) and is centered mainly in the Netherlands.  What is interesting is that the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Nicolas on December 6th, and the celebration of Sinterklass also is on December 6th.  Sinterklass comes to the Netherlands on his birthday, December 6th, gifts children with toys and treats, then vanishes till the following year.  And to this day, Sinterklass is faithful to his visit.  It is obvious that when the early Dutch settlers came to the New World, they brought Sinterklass with them.  As time motored on, there were three events within the United States that gave us the Santa Claus legend that we have today.

Clement Moore first published his famous work, A Visit from St. Nicolas a.k.a. The Night Before Christmas anonymously in December of 1823.  His children insisted that he take credit for this piece and 20 years later Moore re-published Visit under his real name along with some of his other work.  Nothing has done more to cement St. Nicolas and Santa Claus into the Santa myth of today than Moore's Visit.  

In 1865, Thomas Nast created the wonderful illustration, Father Christmas.  We are treated to the vision of a jolly old fellow holding his pipe in one hand and clutching an armful of toys with the other.  The pipe, by the way, goes way back to its shamanic origins.  During the time of Nast's creation of Father Christmas, there were many folks who remembered their European parents and grandparents who smoked a similar pipe that contained ..... various ingredients, other than tobacco.  And of course, corporate America had its' hand in the final visual appearance of the Santa that we know today.

In 1931, the Coca-Cola Company hired Harold Sundblom to paint them a Santa Claus.  And he did, in the image based on the vision of the people of Coca-Cola.  After 80 years, this image of Santa is still going strong and showing no signs of weakening.  But, you can't help but wonder:  if St. Nick really prefers a Coke, why all the fuss about cookies and milk?  And what about the polar bears?  Just saying.

Author's Notes:
                     #1-This post is not meant or intended to bash religion in any form.  It is just a short piece on how myth and legend have effected history.
                     #2-The evolution of Santa is an extensive topic.  This post is just the briefest of thumbnail sketches   
                     #3-All information to write this post came from Wikipedia, along with a personal opinion or two.  

                                                       Copyright @2012 Terry Unger  


Friday, August 17, 2012

For All That It's Worth - My Two Cents

Tons of stuff is available that offers advice and opinion for everything imaginable; like how to make the perfect omelet, to how to experience the perfect orgasm.  Now it’s my turn at bat.  My focus is on men, although it also could be useful for the ladies.  

#1 – Save your money. This advice was given to me at age thirteen and still is valid today.

#2 – Pay cash for everything that you possibly can and credit cards just for emergencies. When the bill comes due, pay it and live debt free (see number one). 

#3 – Be aware of the expiration date of that condom you carry in your wallet (or ladies, your purse).  STDs’ and unwanted pregnancies can be prevented.  Think with the head on your neck; not the one hanging between your legs.

#4 – Know when to fight and know when to run.  Be willing to stand up for yourself, your family, and your convictions. Understand that you will not win all the battles; life is a marathon, not a 100 yard dash.  When you go to sleep at night, remember that tomorrow is another day that offers more opportunities.

#5 – Always seek knowledge and be willing to learn something new every day. Wisdom is attained by acquiring knowledge and putting it to use in your life. This is called experience; it is knowledge applied to action. The examination of experience then, yields wisdom.  Learn from your experiences.  Constantly make efforts to improve yourself.  Learn some basic carpentry, plumbing, and electrical skills.  As you increase knowledge and ability in those fields, you can save money be doing some things by yourself.  Also, you will have the feeling of self-worth and accomplishment. Read, study, and learn all that you can. Never pass up an opportunity to learn something new. Use your head for more than a hat rack.

#6 – Keep your own counsel – always.  We all do dumb things that we are ashamed of. Learn from those things (see #5).  When you vent your angst about some silly thing that you have done, be wary of whom you tell. People love gossip, especially that which can be used against another.

#7 – Be generous with your time, talent, and wealth, especially to your family. 

#8 – Be yourself and think for yourself; after all, you are an individual. Do not develop the “herd mentality.”   If you let someone or something control your life, you will live to regret it.  Be good to yourself.  There are plenty of people out there who take great pleasure in tearing others down (or, at least try to – see #6).   

#9 – Always respect women. Remember, your Mommy is/was a woman.

#10 - Take charge of your life by taking responsibility for your words and deeds. Stop blaming other people and your parents for your personal failures.  Always conduct your affairs responsibly.  Speak nobly and truthfully. If you have erred, admit the error and make the correction.  One or two misspoken words can cause as much damage as a bullet.   

#11 – Honor all life, and dare to feel the connectedness of THE ALL.  Dare to see the sacred in all things.  Put your hands in the dirt.  Plant a fruit tree or two and some vegetables for the pleasure that you will experience when you eat your own produce; there is nothing like that home grown taste.

#12 – Live a healthy lifestyle.  Exercise, eat, and sleep like your life depends on it; because it does!  Do not smoke; if you do, quit. Smoking affects your heart, lungs, and circulatory system.  Develop a daily meditation routine; a rich, inner spiritual life is a wonderful thing. 

*Some of the above comes from my book, Beneath Valhalla – Opinions of an Iconoclast, copyright @2009 Terry Unger.  Additions, copyright @2012 Terry Unger 


Monday, August 13, 2012

Some Private Thoughts For Public Consumption

It is far better to die in the arms of your true love than in the arms of those whose only interest is what's in your pockets.

You can't get blood from a stone, oil from a dry well, or beer from an empty barrel.  The first two are beyond hope but at least you can refill the barrel.

People forgot my successes but constantly remind me of my failures.  I have forgotten those people.  

Many of life's problems can be negotiated with the proper fermented spirits.

Measuring sticks come with different calibrations.  When I used other folks measuring sticks, I always came up short; did not measure up to whatever the status quo was at that time.  So I made my very own. Now I am always successful.  These folks are welcome to  use mine.

I found that the journey has more to offer than the final destination.  The destination is the goal but it's the journey that gets you there; it's the learning experience.  When I set a goal I always pack my bags.

If we were to take the entire amount of humanity's knowledge and wisdom and mold it into a ball, that ball would be lost within the infinite Multiverse of Being.  Stay humble.

I have found that when people constantly point out the failures of others, those finger pointers have deflected attention from the fact that they have done absolutely nothing with their lives.  Doing nothing with your life is the biggest failure of humanity.

I do not waste my time trying to placate other people.  When I decide to burn a bridge, it is a carefully crafted event.  I have no reason or desire to travel over it again.

My wife and I have the perfect pre-nuptial agreement.  It's called love.

One day while waiting to catch the Metro to join Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway for one of our booze and bullshit sessions, I endured a Vincent van Gogh moment.  Thankfully, I like my ears.  When I told the tale to my two friends, Twain smiled and poured me a drink while Hemingway offered me his gun.  I declined his offer, saying that he may need it in his own endeavors.

Children are wonderful.  I like being a kid; more fun in it.

Dining out is not what it used to be.  When I have to ask for water and utensils, I pick myself up and vacate the premises.

I have often wondered why a place that makes good pizza cannot make a good plate of spaghetti and meatballs.

I have often thought if the meat that is used by some fast food joints for their roast beef sandwiches is nothing more than beef jerky that was soaked overnight in water.

I have often wondered why people, when at a fast food place, will super-size everything but order a diet soft drink to wash down all the crap they just devoured.

Recently, I have thought a lot about Walmart.  How long will it be before Walmart implodes?  And, how will that effect unemployment?  Not kidding.  Isn't Walmart our second largest employer?  There was a time when Walmart bragged about having the "lowest prices."  Now, they just talk about their "lower prices."  The search for things not  made in China continues.

The darkness of night is relieved by the rising sun.  So too, when you pull yourself out of your self-made pit.  Life has its cherries and pits.  Toss the pits, enjoy the cherries.

I wonder about the future of Facebook.  Will it go the way of MySpace, or worse?  I think so.  In this age, there always is "the next best thing" on the horizon.  Like, a 5G phone.  IPOs be damned.

When an insanely wealthy person creates a "Foundation," is it truly for the benefit of others?  Or to feed that person's ego?  Or to be used by that person to peddle influence of various natures?  I wonder about things like this.

It appears to me that when a society prospers, it falls into a false sense of security and becomes apathetic.  That security in the things that prosperity brings is indeed a false prophet.

My mind is a beautiful thing.  I have wasted much, spent much but my mind appears to be limitless.  So, I will return to dream a little more.

Recently I had my annual checkup.  The doctor said that I was in excellent health, but I knew that.  Then he told me about his concern for me as his patient.  Oh wow.  My guess?  He had no basis to proscribe any drugs for me.  Does that make me abnormal?

I tried to stay humble by using guilt as a ball and chain to keep me grounded in that frame of mind.  That was not just wrong, but harmful to my mental well-being.  I tossed guilt under the bus and had no problem about doing it.

My morality is subject to my mortality.  I have no absolute certainty of what is in-store for me when I go for my eternal dirt nap.

When I am happy, the world is happy.  When I am sad, the world is sad.  I think it's all about perspective.                                

                                                 Copyright @2012/2015 Terry Unger

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Human Need For Meditation

We humans are a pretentious lot; all the time, wanting and needing, while never realizing that that what we need and want is within us.  The need for food, clothing, shelter, and love are the true, basic needs for all men.  But sometimes we go crazy and turn our needs into very expensive wants:  like extravagant food, that $3,000.00 Armani suit, a summer chalet in the Alps, and a $5,000.00/night hooker (talk about buying "love"....when it's over, it's really over!).  But in varying degrees, we all fall victim to extreme wants driven by our desires.  A real need that often goes ignored by many is meditation.

This is a blog-post and as such, cannot eloquently deal with even the basic meditation techniques. There are many great books dealing with the "how to" of meditation.  For my pagan and heathen readers of the Indo-European and Far Eastern traditions, I suggest a quick Amazon or Internet search; your efforts will be abundantly rewarded.  If my Christian readers are uncomfortable with those pagan techniques, I think you will find Basil Pennington's work very satisfying.  Pennington, who passed on in 2005, was a Trappist monk and priest.  Pennington's work, what he referred to as 'centering prayer,' has many adherents.  The primal intent of this post is to write about the benefits of meditation; admittedly, it is a carrot and stick approach, in the hopes that people will at least give it a try.  However, there is one point that beginners must understand.

Meditation is a process that takes time, practice, and commitment.  If you expect instant results or gratification that is recognizable, you will be disappointed.  However, when meditation is practiced with consistency, the benefits really do begin with your first effort (just because you cannot see it or feel it does not make it a lost effort, waste of time, or non-reality).  Gradually, you will feel and see the results of your meditations in your life.  Ah yes, the benefits....the carrot on the stick.

Meditation calms and relaxes both mind and body.  And, a relaxed mind and body relieves stress and anxiety.  When stress and anxiety are relieved (and released) on a regular basis, a person has less chance of developing heart problems.  Since heart disease is a major cause of death, and you now have a non-drug method to help yourself, you should want to begin immediately; hey, it's proscription needed.

Emotions, and the control of them, can be done with meditation.  A practitioner easily can handle negative situations so much better.  And, that practitioner becomes better focused on his tasks at hand. That sharper focus make a person more productive with less effort.  In time, a person who regularly meditates will garner inspiration through flashes of intuitive insight (A.K.A. Unverifiable Personal Gnosis).  

And gradually, meditation helps you control your desires.

For all of this and more to be yours, a commitment must be made that includes the time to meditate and the acceptance that results take time.  And yes, you do have the time; nobody is that busy.

                                                Copyright @2012 Terry Unger


Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Satisfaction, as defined by Merriam - Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, copyright @2007, is......
1a: the payment through penance of the temporal punishment incurred by a sin   b: reparation for sin that meets the demands of divine justice   2a: fulfillment of a need or want   b: the quality or state of being satisfied: CONTENTMENT   c: a source or means of enjoyment: GRATIFICATION.....

There are a few more but for the purpose of this post, the above will suffice.

When you read the first definition, parts a and b, you could be led to the assumption that God, the Gods, or the Powers that Be receive special satisfaction when humans are punished for their "sins."  That assumption and what people are led to think, I find ridiculous.  People should concern themselves with the definitions mentioned in 2a, b, and c.  But to do so, a person needs to focus on himself, and the hell with everyone else.  And, who are those, "everyone else?"

Certainly not your loved ones but the so many other hangers-on who are willing to point out your failures; like leeches, they will suck the life force out of you if you let them.  These people have become the self-proclaimed surrogates and enforcers for their interpretation of divinity, at least according to the definitions mentioned in 1a and b above.  It is as if those people are auditioning to be medieval inquisitors.  When they point out your failures and that of others, it deflects from their doing nothing with their lives.  And doing nothing is the biggest failure of humanity.  Forget about these people; they do not give a hoot about you.  Live your life; step away from the herd and be an individual.  Here is a hint:  satisfaction, and all that is needed to get it, is within you.  

                                                   Copyright @2012 Terry Unger

Unity of a Forgotten Kind

The world and all it contains, both seen and unseen stands with mankind in a state of consubstantiation.  Our ancestors understood this as...