Friday, March 17, 2017

The Curiously Twisted History of St. Patrick's Day

Appropriately enough, there’s a good deal of blarney out there about Ole St. Pat.

What is known is that he was born in 389 A.D. in Banwen, Wales.

His name wasn’t Patrick, it was Maewyn Succat. The moniker “Patrick” was given to him later in life by Pope Celestine.

At the age of 16, this not particularly religious boy, was kidnapped by Irish Raiders, brought to Ireland and enslaved. During his time on the Emerald Isle he became a devout Christian. FULL STOP! He became a devout Christian?  I thought it was Paddy who introduced Christianity to Ireland? Nope.

Legend holds – and sometimes legend is a real whopper --that Christianity was brought to England and Ireland by Joseph of Arimathea or his son Josephus.  Joe of A Sr., you might remember, was the guy who offered up his own tomb for Christ’s burial. Legend holds that somehow or another he got a hold of the cup Christ used in the Last Supper and used it to catch his blood as he died on the cross.  Then, either he or his son took the cup to England and buried it.  This cup was known in French as the “Sang Real” –the True Blood. Say “Sang Real” three times fast and you’re saying Grail –the Holy Grail – Monty Python and all that Jazz.  Point is:  Ireland had Christians before Patrick.

Eventually Maewyyn escaped back to England joined the clergy and was ordained a priest. After Bishop Palladius, the first Irish missionary croaked in 431, Pope Celestine gave Maewyyn the new name of "Patercius" (from Latin "pater civium" meaning "the father of his people" think "paternity.")

Patercius went back to the Old Sod to minister to the Christians already living there and to convert the rest of the unwashed heathen.

Did St. Patrick really drive the snakes out of Ireland? 
People who know such things say there never were snakes in Ireland.  The story is symbolic. Ireland was pagan. The snake has always been symbolic of the devil (See Adam & Eve.) So in other words, St. Patrick rid Ireland of its pagan customs and gave Da Divil a boot in tha arse ta boot.

The Shamrock
The vast majority of the Irish were pagans. Members of Ireland’s ruling class were called Druids. It was from this class that the pagan priests emerged.  They worshipped nature and considered the shamrock a sacred plant. Three was also a mystical number to the Celts. (Here’s a weird “one world” connection there is a trefoil plant in Arabia called a shamrakh. This same plant is considered sacred in Iran).
As the story goes, Patrick, knowing the shamrock’s mystical importance used it to explain the Christian concept of the Trinity: Father, Son & the Holy Ghost/Spirit.

Problem is --the first written citation of this story did not appear until the time of the Protestant Reformation, nearly a thousand years after his death. Odds are it never happened.


Irish legend also credits St. Pat with the idea of using the pagan veneration of the sun for Christian advantage. He added a sun-like disc to the Christian crucifix, creating the Celtic cross. Maybe.



St. Patrick’s Day
This holy day commemorates the anniversary of his death on March 17th 461 AD.

St. Patrick’s Day is the religious feast day of the patron saint of Ireland. No surprise then that in this very Catholic country it was merely a religious holy day. In fact, up until the 1970s, Irish laws dictated that all pubs were to remain locked tight on March 17th. It was a day to go to mass, not Bennigans. Notice the word “was”. They can thank the Yanks for that. Because it was in America that St. Patrick’s Day became what it is today.

Let me explain.

The myth of America says it was founded upon the principle of religious freedom. Truth is: no one really wanted the Jews, the Catholics, or the Quakers for that matter. (Let’s not even talk about those pesky Hindus. Kidding, I'm kidding.)

Irish Catholics began arriving in numbers just after the War of 1812.
By the height of the potato famine in 1847 it seemed as if the island of Manhattan was going to sink from the weight of Irish immigrants flooding ashore.


You can visit the Irish Famine Memorial just north of the World Financial Center. It consists of an Irish cottage that was abandoned during the famine shipped to the shores of New York and set up on a platform overlooking the Hudson River facing the Statue of Liberty.







The Paddys were quite unloved and were depicted as belligerent drunks, thieves and un-American Papists waiting for word from the Pope to take over the country. 

They were arrested so often the police vans were called paddy wagons.  They were referred to as “Blacks turned inside out”. Newspaper illustrations usually pictured the Irish as little monkeys or big apes.


An interesting book that explains all of this is called How the Irish became white by Noel Ignatiev.



Ironically, this derogatory ethnic stereotyping is kept alive today in the mascot for America’s most prestigious Irish Catholic University-- Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish symbol.

In New York, the micks settled in a sprawling neighborhood called Little Ireland. You know that neighborhood today as Chinatown, Little Italy and Nolita.  There is very little left of Little Ireland other than a Chinese Restaurant on Pell Street still calledPell’s Dinty and a street called Kenmare named after a town in County Kerry (which, Don’t ya know once won the coveted title of Tidiest Town in Ireland.)

Another McRelic is the original St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Nolita now called Old St. Patrick’s Church ( 264 Mulberry Street.) It was the church the community defended in the movie  “Gangs of New York.” The scene depicted in the film was an actual historic event.
We can thank Oliver Cromwell for another historic event that was later played out on the streets of New York. In 1649 Cromwell invaded Ireland, performed a few sizeable massacres confiscated 40% of the land and gave it as back pay to his Protestant soldiers. And thus began “The Troubles.” Northern Ireland became home to the Protestant Orange Order, which marched (and still marches) through Belfast's Catholic neighborhoods every July 12th.  It was a reminder that in 1690 William of Orange defeated the Catholic King James.  It’d be kinda like if Boston Red Sox Fans marched through the Bronx each October chanting: Choke! Choke! Choke!

In the 1820’s Ulster immigrants brought the Orange Order to America and in an act sure to provoke violence, they marched through New York’s Catholic neighborhood chanting “Croppies Lie Down”.  This was the historical antecedent to the present day Neo-Nazis marching through Jewish neighborhoods under police protection.

The worst of these riots occurred in 1871 at 24th Street and Eighth Ave. At that street corner soldiers guarding a small group of parading Orangemen fired volleys point blank into crowds of jeering Irish Catholics. Over 60 Irish-Catholics were killed.
(See illustration)


In addition, Anti-Catholic mobs like the Bowery Boys, (separate from the Orange Order) would march through Irish neighborhoods on St. Patrick’s Day carrying “Paddies” effigies of the Irish Patron Saint dressed in rags holding a whiskey bottle, wearing a string of potatoes or a necklace of codfish, mocking the Catholic custom of fasting.  

And thus the Irish became the Fighting Irish. They began to organize in self-defense. In 1836 they formed the Ancient Order of Hibernians.  (Hibernia is the Latin name for Ireland). The AOH would eventually field 3 thousand armed men in uniform.
ST. PATRICK”S CELEBRATION 
The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in America was held in Boston in 1737. It seems to have been a small fund-raising dinner dance. But the Micks up in Boston love to mention it to the Paddys in New York.

THE PARADE
The world’s first St. Patrick’s day parade was held in New York City in 1761, when a contingent of Irish soldiers in the British Army paraded up Broadway. The parade continued to be held under the auspices of military organizations until 1812.

By 1853 the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) began to play a dominant role in the parade.  Now that they had a paramilitary organization, they needed a parade to strut their stuff. So the parade became kind of like the old May Day Parades in Moscow, a way to flaunt the size of the Irish martial might, an annual “Look how many men we have --don’t mess with us” reminder to the Protestant majority. It was no coincidence that the parade was held on Fifth Avenue not only the site of the new cathedral, but also the home of the ruling class. The parade soon became an opportunity for politicians to court the “Green Machine” the oh-so-important immigrant vote.

To this day the AOH still runs NY’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The AOH remembers well the blood spilled on the sidewalks of New York, which is why there’s a distinct martial air to its parade. As opposed to -- say in Chicago -- where the parade is led by leprechauns on rollerblades followed by costumed characters dressed as the Honey Baked Bears, Monster Trucks from Rock Stations, double-decker buses with ads for Irish bars and lovely lassies handing out samples of Irish Spring soap. In New York a military regiment, NY's own Fighting 69th, always "steps off" to lead the parade.

The 256th St. Paddy's Day Parade will be held today on Fifth Avenue.  It begins at 11:00 am, and goes along from 44th uptown and then to over Third Ave, where there happen to be a few bars. There will be a live telecast of the 11:00am on NBC.

Aside from the parade, New York City also may have added one other important ingredient to the holiday.  If you asked for corned beef and cabbage in Ireland most folks will scratch their noggins.  The Irish ate and still eat something called Bacon and Cabbage, corned pork that looks and tastes very much like the corned beef you have at Katz’s deli.  I’ve read that Irish New Yorkers were introduced to corned beef by their Jewish neighbors on the Lower East Side. I’m not absolutely sure of this but it seems plausible. Or it could just be blarney with a slathering of schmaltz.

The songwriters of NY’s Tin Pan Alley ( 28th Street between Broadway and 6th Ave)also added some o’tunes to the party, writing such ditties as: When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral, Mother Machree and Little Bit of Heaven, Sure they call it Ireland. These sentimental songs were played in the Music Halls of the Bowery to entertain homesick Irish immigrants.

Another American addition to the Irish story is the happy go lucky leprechaun.

The Irish "lobaircin” were tiny little pissed off men whose job it was to mend the smelly shoes of all the other fairies. Walt Disney’s 1959 film DarbyO'Gill & the Little People, pictured them as a happy little loveable green smurfs. And this view of them has become dominant ever since.

America officially won the culture war in 1995 when the Irish Government began a national campaign to use St. Patrick's Day as an opportunity to generate tourism; they happily opened the alcohol floodgates and promoted a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin. You can watch the Dublin parade live at 12:30 pm GMT, go to:www.tourismireland.com/stpatricksday

So in the end the 34.3 million Americans who claim Irish descent wound up influencing the O.G.’s (Original Greensters) --the 3.9 million Paddys they’d descended from.

To sum up:  we’ve taken some pagan traditions --shamrocks, sun worship and fairies and added them to Ireland’s most important Saint’s feast day -- then turned that into a celebration of Green Beer, Mc Donald’s Shamrock Shakes, a good deal of Sure and Begorra, some Lucky Leprechauns and quite a few inebriated teenagers wearing Kiss me I’m Irish buttons.

An estimated 93.3 million Americans say they plan to wear green today. Me--- I think I’ll just stay home in bed. 

And if you don’t like it you can, as they so sweetly say in Gaelic: 
Pòg mo thòin (pronounced Pug Ma hone) Translation: Kiss me keester.

Donal O’Siodhachain
(Daniel Sheehan)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The curiously twisted history of Mardi Gras


HAPPY SHROVE TUESDAY EVERYONE! 

Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Pancake Day, Fastnacht.

Whatever.

What’s all this fuss about a plain old Tuesday? 
Well, it’s all because of a dirty Wednesday.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which gets its first name from the ashes of burnt palm fronds that are placed upon a supplicant’s head, made in the sign of the cross. For Christian congregations, Ash Wednesday is considered the beginning of Lent -- the 40 days that lead up to Easter. 
(The word Lent is derived from the Old English word for spring “lencten”) 

Originally, the 40 days of Lent were meant to be sort of a religious boot camp to prepare converts to Christianity. Ash Wednesday was the kick-off that lead up to Super Sunday--Easter, when the converts would be baptized.  Eventually there was just about no one left in Rome to convert, so Lent itself was converted into a time of penance, of fasting, of abstinence.  Folks abstained from all sorts a good stuff including meat or “carne” (carne – flesh, the root word for  “carnival”). They also gave up eggs and dairy products. So on Tuesday, the day before the start of the Lenten fast, folks cleared out their cupboards of all the foods they couldn’t have for the next 40 days. They cooked ‘em up and ate like pigs. In essence they feasted before the fast. 


In France a fattened ox was paraded through the streets before the big communal BBQ, and thus the day was given the name Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday.)

The English do things their own way (like drive on the left hand side of the road) so they called this day Shrove Tuesday from an Olde English word “shrive” which means to confess, to clean out your soul. The English have a tradition of eating a dinner of  “Shrove cakes” dripping in butter. They are pancakes made with the eggs and dairy products you’re expelling from your home. And that’s why Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Tuesday.(I smell a product tie-in with Denny’s.)

Lent has a symbolic undertone as a time of cleansing in preparation for Easter and Spring. You first cleanse your cupboard, then your soul and eventually the entire house is purified. In the Ukraine, people traditionally whitewashed their homes inside and out.  Today we know this as Spring-cleaning.

The more astute readers of this blog may remember last year's Passover memo and have already noticed the similarity between Shrove Tuesday and the Jewish Passover tradition of all non-kosher foods containing yeast being consumed or disposed of before the holiday begins. It's also no coincidence that the celebration of Passover occurs very close to the Christian Lenten fast.  We'll get into that in a few weeks with an Easter/Passover posting. But for now we'll Passover that subject. Ugh.

Over the years the religious side of Shrove Tuesday has been replaced by the Narlins party down, shake your booty, Fat Tuesday  “Hey Mista Throw me zumthin” Cajun communal celebration.


King cake (originally 3 Kings Cake celebrating the Epiphany) with plastic baby Jesus inside.
Why New Orleans? And what’s a Cajun?

In 1763 the French and the English concluded one of their frequent World Wars with the Peace of Paris. We call it the French and Indian War because here the colonists fought the French and their Indian allies. In Europe it was referred to as the Seven Years War. It began in Western Pennsylvania and spread throughout the world. The French lost the war and in the process they lost the part of New France called Canada. The English expelled many of the French from the land of the loon. In particular the French who lived in an area along the Eastern coast called Acadia. The Brits renamed it New Scotland –Nova Scotia. The French migrated from Canada to the French territory along the Mississippi named for King Louis called Louisiana. When they got there folks asked them who they were and they replied: "Acadians." Apparently they slurred their speech because they were thereafter referred to not as Acadians, but Cajuns. It seems the Cajuns did a lot of slurring. We know their music as Zydeco. A strange word with an even stranger origin. The first big hit in this musical style had the title:“The String beans are too salty.” Of course its title was in French: “Les Haricots sont trop sel.” Somehow, haricots, pronounced: Arr-ree-co, morphed into “Zydeco.”

Okay, enough linguistic lunacy.

Point is the French Catholics in New Orleans kept alive the ancient Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras approach to Lent.

It’s obvious that Mardi Gras has a seamy undertone; its wild pagan sexual abandon is very close to the surface. Interesting isn’t it, that Tuesday/Mardi is named for a pagan god – Mars? Similarly, Tuesday is named for Tiw the Teutonic god of war.

Mardi Gras retains the concept of feasting before the fast, but folks gorge on sex and alcohol, not buttered pancakes. It’s more about booby flashing then soul searching. This non-religious celebration has more to do with the human flesh meaning of carne –carnal knowledge, than that of eating animal flesh – carnivorous.

Fun Mardi Gras Fact: In Athens, during the 6th cent. B.C., a yearly libidinous celebration in honor of the god Dionysus (Bacchus) was the first recorded instance of the use of a parade float. 




But as we’ve seen before, many religious holidays are instituted to suppress the pagan, bacchanalian side of society. No big surprise then, that it was during the Roman Empire that pagan carnivals got way out of hand. The major Roman carnivals were the Bacchanalia, the Saturnalia, and the Lupercalia.

Lupercalia still lives today in St. Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras. It was held annually on Feb. 15. This Roman fertility festival consisted of male youths who ran around town dressed in costumes (animal skins) slapping passersby on the rump with strips of goatskin. (Goats were the embodiment of sexuality; goats –horny—get it?) This was supposed to induce fertility and ward off evil. The straps were called “Februa” and thus February got its name. But you already know that from my last Valentine’s Day post.

In Europe, the tradition of fertility celebrations persisted well into Christian times.  Since they were deeply rooted in European folklore it was difficult for the church to stamp them out. So they were finally accepted and modified into church sanctioned events with the sexuality dialed way down, i.e. St. Valentine’s Day celebrates love not lust.

But as we can all plainly see on the news tonight, the pagan part of the Shrove Tuesday religious celebration has reared its horny little head.



Well that’s about it, I gotta go eat my pancake supper, get all my doubloons ready for my throws; go join my krewe, the Mystick Krewe of Comus  ‘n sashay down Bourbon Street.

Laissez les   bon     temps  rouler!
Let    the  good    times   roll!

Happy Lupercalia everyone!


Fat Dano

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Curiously Twisted History of President's Day

Monday Feb 20th  is Presidents' Day right?

On the face of it this holiday seems pretty straightforward.  It's called Presidents' Day, it's a national holiday and it celebrates the birthday of Presidents Washington and Lincoln.

Sorry. There is no such thing as a national holiday. There are federal holidays where federal offices are closed. Monday is a federal holiday.

According to the Federal Gov the third Monday in February is officially called ---Washington's Birthday---not Presidents’ Day. It officially and legally has nothing to do with Abraham Lincoln.

Oh I can hear the traffic on google...

Why is that?
Hard to believe, but Abraham Lincoln was never honored with a Federal holiday. I know you’re going to send me to websites that say Monday is a national holiday called President’s Day.  Remember, there’s no such thing as a national holiday and that isn’t how you’d spell Presidents’ Day anyway. (There’s lots of iffy info on the Internet.)

Part of the confusion stems from the fact that you may remember having off on Lincoln’s birthday. You may have, many states used to have a State holiday for Honest Abe.  No surprise that Illinois was the first in 1892.

But states are not obliged to adopt federal holidays, which only effect federal offices and agencies. While most states have adopted the federal celebration of Washington's Birthday, a dozen of them officially celebrate something they call Presidents' Day. A number of the states that celebrate Washington's Birthday also recognize Lincoln's Birthday as a separate legal holiday. Illinois the land of Lincoln is one.  New York State is another it celebrates: Feb 12th Lincoln’s birthday and Feb 19th Washington’s Birthday.

What gives??? Here goes...

The original holiday commemorated GW's B-day.  It was first held the last
full year of his presidency on Feb 11th 1796. However, by then Feb 11th was no longer his birthday.

Wha?

George Washington was born on Feb. 11, 1731, however, this was according to Ye old Julian calendar. In 1752, Britain and her American Colonies switched to the Gregorian calendar, which changed the New Year from March back to January (we'll talk about this again when we get to our April Fools posting). The switch also made dates jump ahead an additional 11 days. Thus, in 1752 Washington began blowing out birthday candles on Feb 22nd.

Not everyone was happy with celebrating GW's b-day --whatever the date. Thomas Jefferson and his pals thought it all a little too similar to adulation of royalty like the damned Brits.

These disagreements lasted until Washington kicked the bucket in 1799.
Congress then passed a resolution calling on the nation to observe February 22, 1800 in his honor. But it was not a federal holiday.

Since he was a southern boy, GW's b-day was always big in the South; in fact, Richmond Virginia was officially celebrating it before he became President. But, the observance didn't really catch on nationwide until 1832 just after what would have been his 100th birthday. By then, GW had pretty much been elevated to American Sainthood.

One notable birthday party happened in 1850 in La-La-land. There, a fancy dress ball was held in honor of Washington where only L.A.'s upper crust were allowed to attend. They arrived in Hummer coaches at Graumann's Colonial. The hoi polloi (lower classes from Greek “the many”) retaliated by firing a canon into the ballroom, killing several partygoers.

Okay, so here's where things get hinky.

In 1864 Old Abe gets whacked.
He was killed on Good Friday, the day Jesus was crucified. Here in New York signs were put up along Broadway that said,  "Our Christ has fallen" GW may have reached Sainthood but now he had some competition.

(The fact that Old Abe was at the theater on Good Friday should give you a good indication that he wasn’t a religious man he was certainly a spiritual one, and that there once was a time when you didn’t have to cater to the Religious right to get elected.)

Congress held a memorial service the following year on Abe's b-day Feb 12th. After that, some northern states declared Abe day an official state holiday but Ole Abe was still quite unloved in the south and they didn’t come to the party.  Which is why Lincoln's Birthday never became a Federal holiday.

The oddest part of the story is that George Washington's birthday didn't become an official federal holiday until 1885, a full 21 years after Lincoln's death.  It seems to me they could have declared a Combo deal Presidents' Day then, but didn't. The slight to Abe looks political and intentional. Especially when you learn that Robert E Lee’s birthday, Jan 19th, is a state holiday in Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Virginia. It’s celebrated as Confederate Heroes day in Texas. Alabama, Mississippi Florida also celebrate the birthday of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. But no Abe Lincoln.


In 1971 in an attempt to give folks 3-day weekends, the observation of Washington's Birthday was officially shifted to the third Monday in February by order of legislation HR15951. Some reformers had wanted to change the name of the holiday as well, to Presidents' Day, to honor both Abe and George, but Congress rejected that proposal. I’m not sure if this was due to the Southern Congressional Caucus. But the result was the holiday remained and still officially remains: Washington's Birthday.

Here’s where the confusion comes in---President Nixon not only had a hard time understanding and following the Constitution, (but was a constitutional scholar compared to Trump) Tricky Dick didn't understand the difference between an Executive Order and an Executive Proclamation. He made a proclamation calling it Presidents' Day saying it was to celebrate all presidents, even himself, but a Presidential Proclamation carries no legal standing. Which is why Monday still officially celebrates George Washington not Abraham Lincoln.

Abe & George's Excellent New York Adventure


If you care to celebrate the day, you dear citizen of Gotham are once again in a most envious position.

You can stand outside the 42nd Street library in the middle of Fifth Ave –the spot where in 1776 General George Washington rode his horse attempting to rally his troops in a battle against British Soldiers.

You can go uptown to Fort Washington where, duh, Washington’s fort stood. 


Stand at the Fulton Ferry landing in Brooklyn next to the Barge Music boat. Look for a rock and plaque that marks the spot where GW stood as he evacuated his army after they were beaten by the British at the Battle of Brooklyn in August 1776.





Go over the George Washington Bridge, which rises above the very spot where once again he and his entire army evacuated the city.

You can walk over to Union Square Park and stand in front of the old site of Virgin Records ( Now a Citibank) across from the equestrian statue of George Washington. A colonial Inn once stood here on the road just outside of New York (Wall street area). In 1783 after the Revolutionary War General Washington waited here until he got word that the British Army had finally evacuated the city. Then Washington mounted his horse and rode downtown and reoccupied New York. (I say, is that why there's an equestrian statue of Washington here?)
Washington on Broadway the day the Brits evacuated.

Or you can walk out beside Citibank at 14th and Broadway ( the old Virgin Records site) and stand in the street, in the middle of Broadway. Abraham Lincoln’s funeral cortege rode over this spot in 1864; all the buildings and lampposts were draped in black.  Look up at the building opposite you Shoe Mania! 

Teddy Roosevelt in 2nd floor window on left
Lincoln in box on street.

If you were here that day you would have seen a young boy looking out the 2nd story window watching the procession. The boy would one day grow up to be President, his name Theodore Roosevelt. (You can visit his boyhood home a mere 3 blocks from here The building that stood on the procession route was his Uncle’s house.

You can walk through the lobby of City Hall where Lincoln’s body was placed to await mourners.

Walk outside into City Hall Park and stand where George Washington stood when he first heard the Declaration of Independence read aloud to his troops.

Washington sworn in at Wall and Bwy. Trinity Church in the bkgrd.
Or go a few blocks south to Wall and Broad and stand where George Washington was sworn in as our first President- (I say, is that why there’s a big statue of Georgie here?) Yes, New York was the nation’s first Capital.  Washington lived at 39 Broadway.  And worshiped at St. Paul’s church across from City Hall Park, where you can still see his pew.

The First White House
Or  go over and stand next to the Brooklyn Bridge anchorage near Pearl Street. Where the first “White House” stood.  Washington’s home when New York City was the United States first capital.

Or walk through the Washington Square Arch put here to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Washington Inauguration.

Or go to the Metropolitan Museum and see the famous painting Washington crossing the Delaware.



Or go into Kean’s Chophouse at 72 west 36th and see the original Ford’s Theatre Playbill from the night Lincoln was assassinated.

Or Visit The Forbes Galleries at 62 Fifth Ave. and see a handwritten letter by Mary Todd Lincoln contesting some charges for Abe’s Inauguration suit.

Mrs. Lincoln's fave store Victoria's Secret
Or walk into a store she frequented–Arnold Constable’s Dry Good store at Fifth Ave and 19th street. (The French 2nd Empire building that now houses Victoria Secret.)

Lincoln at Cooper Union

Or you can walk over to Astor Place—and go to the auditorium of Cooper-Union where Lincoln gave his famous speech that concluded:

LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.

Or walk into McSorley’s Old Ale house across the street where old Abe threw one back after his speech.

But do celebrate.

One last thing ---as a copywriter I’m struck by the fact we think we’re pretty hot stuff when we can use 72 words to communicate something in a 30 second tv spot. Read below and see what a truly inspired writer can do with 256 words.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

 Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

 But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.




Worth remembering – both the man and the words.

Happy whateva.

Dano
President of Curious New York

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The curiously twisted history of Valentines Day


Okay, so what's with the little fat guy with the bow and arrow? 

Well, by now you know the drill. 

Many present day Western holidays can be traced back to the Greeks.
Somewhere along the line the Romans borrowed those ideas and not long after, the Christian Church changed their meaning to put a "holy" spin on them.

They became known as holy days--- holidays. 

St. Valentine's Day is no exception.

Snap zoom back to Greece. 


EROS - son of Chaos

Chaos
Aphrodite


Eros is the god of love. 


He was not only exotic he was erotic. He was the son of Chaos “the original primeval emptiness of the universe.”  (Imagine what that title would look like on a business card.) 


Later tradition held that Eros was the son of Aphrodite; goddess of sexuality (root word for aphrodisiac)

In this version the paternity is a little fuzzy.
His pops was either Zeus, Ares - the god of war or Hermes, the Divine messenger of the Gods (and one hell of a scarf maker.)  

Ares --the God of War (not to be confused with the astrological sign of the ram Aries) always traveled with an entourage that included his sister Eris, and her sons Phobos, Metus, Demios and Pallor .

In English his homies are: Discord, Panic, Fear, Dread, and Terror.  (Phobos gives us the word for “fear of”: phobia. Pallor’s terror makes us “pale”.)

Eros had two sidekicks: Pothos and Himeros (Longing and Desire). Isn’t it always longing and desire that gets humans into trouble with things erotic?

Eros was an adult but through the ages he was depicted younger and younger until he appeared as  a cherub-like infant. Kind of a fat, horny little butterball.

Eros getting younger...

And younger.























In many illustrations Eros is shown blindfolded because, of course, love is blind. Eros was armed with both darts and arrows. Once wounded by their magic tips the victim will either fall uncontrollably in love or have total disinterest in the first person they see.

Before we go on a Roman holiday let’s swing by India for a second.

In another one of those one-world connections, there is a Hindu love god called Kama (as in Sutra.) 

He also carries a bow and arrow. He isn’t winged but flies on the back of a parrot or a sparrow and is accompanied by a honeybee, which symbolizes love’s sweetness and its sting. For some bizarre reason in modern day India young Indians have taken a liking to Cupid over Kama and send each other Valentines, instead of Kamas. Go figure.

Okay back to Europe.




Along come the Romans.  They swipe most of the Greek gods and give them new names. Aphrodite becomes Venus (Venus is the root word for venereal).  Ares the God of war becomes Mars (Mars is the root word for "martial" i.e. warlike.)

Eros becomes Cupid, son of Venus and Mercury the Roman messenger of the gods. 

Since Mercury was kind of a Divine Federal Express service he has become the patron god of the Business world. You’ll see him all over the place here in the Capital of Capitalism.

You’ll see him and his little winged-hat on the front of Grand Central Terminal.


















You’ll also see a stylized version of his helmet as ornaments jutting out from the Chrysler Building.




This god not only got his own day of the week--Wednesday (or in Spanish Miercoles, in french Mercredi) you'll even find this pagan god next to "In God we trust" on our money.






Okay, enough mercury madness--I'm becoming mad as a hatter. (there's a connection there if you want to look it up)
So Cupid gets married to Psyche.

Psyche translates to "Soul" and is the root word that Sigmund Freud gave to his new science, which he called "Psyche-ology", it would later lose the e. He kept the mythology though, as in an “Oedipal complex” based on the Greek character: Oedipus. 

So Cupid is known for leading Psyche. Which is a beautiful allegory for the soul being lead by love.

Okay, so now we got this little fat guy shooting people in the ass with arrows. My guess is when he shot em in the butt they yelled "Damn Cupid" and later he became known as Dan Cupid. Just a guess there.

Cupid leading Psyc

In Rome, February was traditionally the time of the Lupercian festival, originally called the festival of februalia from the Latin word for purification. It was both a purification fest and an ode to the god of fertility and a celebration of sensual pleasure, thus a time to meet and greet a prospective mate. During this festival, half naked male runners smacked women in the butt with leather thongs made from goats (thus horny ---get it) called "februa" in the belief that the act would make a barren woman fertile In Roman mythology Lupercus is a god identified with the Roman equivalent of Pan a fertility god who had the horns and hindquarters of a goat.Februa and the festival day of Februarius on Feb.15th is obviously where the month of February gets its name. 

In the 5th Century, when the Roman Catholics were running Rome, the church decided folks were getting just a little too randy. There was a little too much thong-slapping going on. 

So in the year 496 Pope Gelasius outlawed the pagan festival and began promoting a Saint who had been beheaded by Emperor Claudius in 278 A.D. for marrying young lovers, his name --- St. Valentine. 
cal
St. Valentine getting past the velvet ropes and into heaven
His feast day was set, conveniently enough, one day before the Lupercian festival.Eventually, the Lupercian orgy died down but traditions don't die as easily.  

Nowadays, no one knows who the hell St. Valentine was or whether to spell it Valentine's Day or Valentines Day. They even forget to use his hard-earned title of Saint. But everyone knows the little fat bastard armed with bow and arrow.
 
In other words, Cupid is still around 1,521 years after he was outlawed.
 
An outlaw of love.
 
Happy Februarius Everyone.
 
And a happy thong-slapping to all of you.


Dano Cupid