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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Pigs, Bugs and Magic Mushrooms

I was looking online to find strange or unusual Christmas customs and stumbled upon these very weird greeting cards.  I am guessing they range in date from around the late Victorian era and into the early 1900's.   I was surprised; in fact, a bit shocked at the utter weirdness that I discovered.

Pigs - and, more pigs, walking vegetables, macabre animals and bugs, mournful - downright ugly snowmen, magic? mushrooms, bugs, and bizarre sea creatures... and, yes, more.  All created for the purpose of extending Holiday greetings?  Apparently so.    

NOTE:  If you like this post, you may want to check out my blog post about Krampus, 2013.  

Here is an example of a monkey painting a dog with another little monkey watching or spying.  One must ask, how does this relate to "the Season"?

This one makes sense... he is suffering from a case of too much bubbly on New Year's Eve.  The umbrella is shading the light which most likely hurts his eyes, and his top-hat, coat and shiny black shoes are evident of his prior night's fancy attire. 

Have a look at this charming porker pair that someone painted to wish you a Merry Christmas.  In fact, when you continue to scroll down this page, you will notice a lot of pigs extending similar greetings.  

Why a pig?  

Apparently the tradition of using pigs for Seasonal salutations originated in Germany, most likely Teutonic.  The words  “Schwein gehabt”, literally means “got pig!”, though has been translated to mean “got lucky there!”   

The swine as a good luck symbol was also used in England, Austria and Ireland. During Medieval times, if one possessed a pig, they were considered fortunate and probably wealthy.  I assume that the Victorians simply carried on with this custom.  Hence, the use of pigs for this reason isn't as far-fetched as I had thought. 

This card reads:  "We come to wish you all a bright New Year".   I can't find the symbolism relating to New Year - Halloween, yes... New Year....no.  Shrug.

Like a Bat out of Hell? 
Blind as a bat? 
Batting an eyelash? 
Batting 500? 
Right off the bat? 
Bat one for the team?  

"The Result - A happy New Year"  - - I'm guessing this guy is still suffering the effects of drinking Absinthe and the Green Fairies have turned into red devils, and other hallucinations.

"A Joyous New Year" - Bah, Hum-Bug!

"Looking into things afar off - A HAPPY NEW YEAR"   ....I'll bug off on this one. 

Above are a few examples of Amanita muscaria mushrooms being used as New Year's Greetings.  These pretty, conspicuous red and white toadstools are also known as "Fly Agaric" or "Magic Mushrooms" - you may simply know them being called "shrooms".  

The psychoactive Amanita Muscaria has been commonly found through-out Europe and Russia.  One website explained their use in Syberia [Russia] as an antiquated practice of Shamans.  These "wise men" and women would distribute mushrooms among their people for celebratory use (or even medicinal use), as the effects from consumption are similar to a moderate amount of alcohol.  Perhaps these mushrooms were used as recreational or healing to ward off Seasonal depression, as the winters in that region are famous for their longevity.

"A Merry Christmas to You" - Can you "beet" this?

"A Loving Christmas Greeting" - You may not believe this, but this rather morbid greeting card actually has a profound social statement.  The dead bird was used symbolically as a reminder of the homeless or very poor children, who may have frozen to death during the holiday season.  These cards were used to elicit an awareness or a reminder of the reality of the effects of severe poverty or homelessness.

This frightening snowman (who apparently can walk) is offering holly to a little robin.  Though holly is toxic to humans, it is an important food source to birds.  

"Fair Girl be warned when Christmas comes, Reject that pudding stuffed with plums" - Victorian Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig? 

By today's standards, this is an example of abuse, however, during this era, children were threatened with the results of being naughty and not nice.  Apparently, St. Nick or Santa's helper - the Devil, himself - would warn children that they would be punished for bad behavior. 

"A Happy Christmas to you" - The appearance of the man in the guillotine seems to have a bit of a weight problem.  He is being tempted by the Christmas pudding, and being ridiculed by a child in a jester's costume.  Next to to the plum pudding appears to be a stein of beer. 

Christmas pudding was traditionally served during dinner in Britain and other Celtic countries.  It was originated during Medieval times and more frequently known as "plum pudding".  (I am reminded of Tiny Tim in the book, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.)  

Traditional plum pudding actually does not contain plums, but raisins.  It was/is generally made with dried fruits, egg, suet, molasses and spices such as cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves are/were added.  Sugar and dark beer (stout or porter) is/was added as part of the batter. It is/was then aged for about a month, and then steamed for a long period of time, prior to the Christmas feast.  At serving time, it is then dressed with brandy and set afire.

Another story about  plum pudding's association with Christmas, again goes back to Medieval England, that *"goes back to a custom in Medieval England that the "pudding should be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity, that it be prepared with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles, and that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honor the Magi and their supposed journey in that direction".

"With the Compliments of the Season" - A dead rat or mouse is being cooked whilst hanging from a branch being supported by plant stalks, while tiny people in cat costumes gather round the fire. What could say "Christmas" better?

"A Happy Christmas To You" - A dog with a gun.  

Equally frightening, a crazed polar bear hugging a man wearing ice skates, and the card wishes you "A Hearty Welcome".

"With the Compliments of the Season" - I wouldn't advise hitting a police officer with a snowball.

A reminder to give to the poor during the holiday season.

A frog with bugs dancing on the beach - I ask you:  How could this be more symbolic of Christmas?

Did this frog just murder another frog for money, and then wish him a Merry Christmas?

This is definitely before the invention of the fire extinguisher....

"Glad Christmas bade me happy make your ???? And so I thought I'd give you something ???"  In my mind, all I can see is the clown in American Horror Story Freak Show.

Thankfully, this concludes my look at the strange custom of sending weird holiday greeting cards.  

Wishing you Happy Holidays!  

*Source - wikipedia, plum pudding

Sunday, December 20, 2015

OMG! If Jesus were Born Today...

You all know the story of the birth of Jesus? 

 Screeeeeeeech!  Halt!  Stop! 

What if Jesus were born today?

And... What if he were born... 


The peaceful Nativity scene of which we celebrate and are familiar, would be much different, as over 2000 years have passed since that time.  

Let's take a humorous look at what Jesus may experience, had he been born in today's America.

First of all, yo, everybody just chill.

The new North Star
Mary and Joseph, would not walk 90 miles to their destination, yo.  They will hop in their SUV, yo, and map out the delivery location on the dashboard GPS, yo.  For entertainment, they will put in a DVD to watch for the trip, yo.  The star that they are following is the Satellite from which they gathered their GPS coordinates. 

Mary will have already stretched during yoga, and sipped a chia-fruit smoothie blended with Greek yogart, wheat grass and kale.  

Her freshly manicured fingernails will be sporting new baby blue colored tips.  

From her epic Coach bag, she will pull out her iphone, to text her family and friends that the time has come!  She is so excited, she is not exactly sure what emoji she will use!

Today, Mary will have a multitude of options for a natural birth, and she is considering all of the options...The Alexander Technique, the Bradley Method, Water Delivery, Lamaze or even hypnosis during labor for total relaxation....  

You may ask yourself, WWMD?  

What would Mary do?
Meanwhile...back at the ranch....

...Joseph, a cool dude and carpenter by trade, will be standing by wearing a heavy-duty tool belt made by DeWalt, with a titanium stiletto rip claw hammer hanging on a loop of one side, and the various pockets would be filled with a measuring tape, plumb-bob, screwdrivers, nails, pliers and only God knows what else. 

Since Jesus is being born in the United States, the lambs present at the original birth are now replaced by the ever popular Golden Labrador Retriever, with tongues a-hangin' and tails a-waggin'.

The angels you hear singing are Adele, Taylor Swift, Rhianna or Katy Perry pumped from portable MP3 speakers.  

Who would you choose to be the Wisemen?  

Stephen Hawking, Edward Witten, and Andrew Wiles, via Skype?

.... or perhaps some of you would prefer gentlemen like these?  What-ever, Dude.

The Shepard's will be at the ready, with their smart phones, ipads and Kindle's, to film the birth and then, share it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  

All of which will go viral on YouTube in a matter of moments.  

It will be tumbl'ed and pinned, snapped, chatted, emailed, 1'd and +'d.

Soon, thereafter, there will be an app for that, found in a cloud.  

Disclaimer: The above content is intended for entertainment, only and has no bearing on my own religion, faith or intention.    

Friday, December 18, 2015

Comb or Tent Graves

Today, I am shifting gears as I explore an interesting history and region of the United States known as the Cumberland Plateau.

When I visualize the region of which I am writing, I envision wide spances of continuous mountain ranges, rocky cliffs and un-populated sprawling beauty.  I think of John Denver singing of the Blue Ridge Mountains; of Native Americans (the Swanee and Cherokee) who hunted elk, buffalo and deer; and finally, I think of Daniel Boone who was famous for hunting and trapping in this vicinity.

Image source:  city-data.com
The Cumberland Plateau comprises of some of the largest stretches of adjoining forests in the eastern United States. It's location is generally in the southern portion of the Alleghany Mountains, however, it's geographic location is difficult to pinpoint, as it shares its location with several states. The forests are rich with oak, hickory and pine.  It is also rich with various North American trees such as beech, basswood, black walnut, red oak and Magnolia trees.  Plant and animal life are abundant.   

It is also difficult to describe the original settlers and people of this region, as the unfriendly, sandy soil of this region, discouraged farming.  Many early explorers and families sought this region as a place of new settlement, and those who tried to stay found only heartbreak and hardship.  We know this, because of the unique tomb stones that can be found only in this area of the United States, and the close proximity of time that deaths that occurred, especially pertaining to children.

The grave sites in this region are called "tent graves" or "comb graves".  The significance of these graves is that they are "the most outstanding style of folk graves to develop in this region.  A typical grave consists of two flat sandstone slabs leaned together to form a protective roof along the full length of the grave."   

Tent / Comb grave  [definition]- A stone structure built over an in-ground grave that is triangular in shape. It most often consists of two rectangular sandstone slabs placed together to form a gabled roof over the grave.
- Source: preserveala.org


"Graveyards of the Cumberland region are noteworthy for the variety of covered graves that have been found here... Comb graves are clearly the most outstanding style of folk graves to develop in the region.  Comb graves in the Rock Island-McMinnville area employ triangular end stones underneath to support the side slabs... most combs are accompanied by an engraved headstone, but in the Sparta area a number of cemeteries feature combs with the inscription cut on one of the side slabs." - Source: Richard Finch, Rural Life and Culture of the Cumberland region; rayhutchison.blogspot.com

Also, on Ray Hutchison's blog, he makes reference to the Spears Family Cemetery off of Old Walton Road, that is known to be the first traversed road along the Plateau, and is located near Buck Mountain, in Tennesee.  

Image source: flickr, depicting a cross, or something else?
He wrote, "The Spears cemetery is sometimes referred to as the Witches Cemetery because a number of the gravestones include a pentagram -- not likely associated with witchcraft, as this is a common symbol in comb tombstones from several other cemeteries in the region, but, combined with the unusual location of the cemetery, certainly makes for a good story."

Upon seeing this, I had to wonder, as there is apparently little known of the origin of these unique graves, except their existence by the locals.  Though, I assume the inscribed symbol shown on the grave stone above, is intended to be a Christian cross, but what if the "pentagram" symbol is a reference to the seven pointed star of the Cherokee Nation, or as seen in the picture below, of the Shawnee tribe?  I could be all wrong, but it is worth considering, since the original inhabitants were both from these Native American tribes.  

The photo (above) is from tngenweb.org/darkside and pictured, is a tin-roof tent grave, David Belle explains that he travels around that countryside exploring unusual sites and legends, and happened across this. This grave is in an abandoned cemetery with the "last known burial being a civil war veteran", and is known under the surname of Whistman, in Kentucky. 

This photo is in the same general vicinity of the previous picture, showing the interior of a grave from the Carroll graveyard, also from Kentucky.  The stick you see is actually a tree that has sprouted from under the burial site. 

Image Source: darkfiber.com, Dahlonega, Georgia
- the author of this blog is always seeking more information
about the whereabouts of these graves.

http://www.darkfiber.com/tomb/ is a fantastic resource, with a lot of information, if you are interested in learning more about these unusual graves.