We’re getting a little taste of the spring here in Fairfield County. There was ice on the dock this morning in Norwalk. Fortunately daylight savings ended yesterday, so the sun was able to warm us up about 5 minutes into our row. But a few moments after stopping, the sweat on the inside of my shirt turned cold, and the windchill didn’t help much. Returning to campus, I heard a crunching sound as I walked along the grass. I looked down and saw ice on the leaves.
But there was plenty of hot food for breakfast. And the Latin sentences we worked on today involved a retelling of the famous story about Icarus:”Altius altiusque in caelum volabat donec volavit propius ad solem…” (“Higher and higher into the sky he was flying until he flew almost into the sun…”).
If I’m lucky, it will be this warm in May. I think more and more about how we used to pray and have feasts and ceremonies in anticipation of the return of Belus, “the white god”, whose return (if I understand properly) was the return of the sun, and came along with the spring.
Our professor was telling us in class a few weeks ago about how everything in Roman society, up until Christianity, was associated with a god or goddess. If you were in good favor with the gods, they would give a warning before something terrible was going to happen. I guess it’s kind of like Aristotle’s take on physics, in which everything has a soul (i.e. Why does X cause Y? Because that’s how the soul of X is. End of story). Not particularly scientifically useful, but useful for knowing how we put together the pieces of how our world works.
We celebrate some odd things; in October we had Columbus day, and I think that in my generation there’s a long, slow learning curve through which children have some simple ideological image of who Columbus was, after which we realize how barbarous, cruel, greedy, and genocidal his adventures were. Little (unverified) facts like “he thought he made it to India” make it to the impressionable minds of middle school students, while the cutting off of hands gets overlooked. Thanksgiving is coming up, and whatever myth it’s supposed to symbolize, I think it’s a good thing. People coming together, very simply. Something about football-worship fits in there somewhere, but that is not a huge problem either. Then we have Christmas. About a month ago I put a calendar on my dresser that I’d printed out, which is a version of an ancient Scandinavian calendar. The winter solstice falls on the 25th of Himinnbjörg, which is like our modern December.
Maybe this is one of those things that everyone else knows that I seem to have missed, but I feel as though I remember reading somewhere that the angel on the top of the Christmas tree was originally a Valkyrie. But rather than bringing to heaven the departed warrior’s spirits, now they preside over gift-giving. Jolly old ‘Saint Nick’ is a reinvention of Heimdallr, and in the myth gifts were given to those who passed an initiation ritual, and those who failed received ashes (i.e. “coal”).
Maybe the gods of indoor heating have been kind to us? Maybe we just don’t need the gods anymore because we can take care of ourselves.
You can apply “religion” to a lot of things, and some people even use it to describe devotion to a political party or a form of economics. Can we apply it to consumerism? All artists, even the ones who only make random scribbles or strokes, have something against consumerism. Christmas is a consumerist ritual as I see it, before it belongs to anyone else, and in this way the work of Constantine the Great is still being done. If the logical conclusion of Judeo-Christianity gets played out, there will just be gifts and nothing else.
I think I’d rather pray for the return of the sun. Gods-willing, the air will be nice and warm on Wednesday, the next time we row (and possibly the last for 2013). We’ll just have to see if its soul decides to behave that way…