Friday, November 16, 2012

Hecate's Night

Tonight is Hecate's Night, where celebrants gather at crossroads and feast, and leave offerings for Hecate. Hecate is an ancient goddess of Greece, associated not only with crossroads, but with magic, fire, the moon, and herbs. She was also considered the protectress of flocks and of sailors. She is often depicted in triple form, suggesting her various aspects. In Theogony, Hesiod tells us:

"Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honored above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honor also in starry heaven, and is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods. For to this day, whenever any one of men on earth offers rich sacrifices and prays for favor according to custom, he calls upon Hecate."

She is sometimes depicted with dogs, and followers were known to leave meat at the crossroads as an offering to her dogs.

Her triform image was typically placed at three-way crossroads, and she became known as the goddess of Trivia (the three ways). She was associated with the Roman goddess, Trivia, as well. Shrines to Hecate were placed at doorways to both homes and cities with the belief that it would protect from restless dead and other spirits.

While both my calendar and my almanac list today as Hecate's Night, or Night of Hecate, she was worshipped by the Greeks on the 13th of August and on the 30th of November, while the Romans worshipped her on 29th of every month. There is some suggestion that these dates may have coincided with the full moon. A more modern festival is held each year to honor her on the full moon in May.

Ways to celebrate or honor Hecate this evening might include:

Feasting, of course! She is said to favor garlic, so find dishes heavy with garlic to make tonight. A number of garlicky dishes can be found here.

Because of her association with dogs, call your local animal shelters, ASPCA or Humane Society and ask them what items they might need, like dog food, blankets, towels, etc.

Although food was often left at three way crossroads, it was often assumed that this food was actually intended for the poor. Many grocery stores have boxes for donations, where you can buy extra while shopping and donate that food before leaving the store. You can also inquire at your local food bank what they might be running short on and help them out with a donation.

Considered the patron of many of today's modern witches, black pointy hats and capes are not out of the question for dining attire tonight.

Watch Jason and the Argonauts, where Medea is a priestess of Hecate and of whom it is said, "There is a maiden, nurtured in the halls of Aeetes, whom the goddess Hecate taught to handle magic herbs with exceeding skill all that the land and flowing waters produce."

Most of all, spend some learning more about this fascinating goddess. Break out your books on Greek and Roman mythology, pull out the dusty encyclopedias, take a trip to the library, or heck, just browse the internet.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Carl Sagan Day

I often stumble across new *days* to celebrate, but this one I knew nothing about until I saw a friend's post on Facebook today. Then I started doing some research into and got excited!

Carl Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist and Pulitzer prize winning author who is probably best known for his show Cosmos. He also wrote the book Cosmos as a companion to the show. If his show was before your time, you may be more familiar with the movie Contact, with Jodie Foster. That movie was based on Sagan's book by the same name. Sagan wrote several books, including Pale Blue Dot, which was a follow up to Cosmos, and my personal favorite, The Demon Haunted World, a book that explains scientific method to laypeople, like me.

Sagan earned his PhD in astronomy and astrophysics in 1960 from the University of Chicago, lectured and did research at Harvard and was a professor at Cornell. As an advisor to NASA, he conceived the idea of sending a recorded message into space on a gold anodized plaque, much like how we would think of a vinyl record. The Voyager Golden Records contain sounds that reflect the diversity of life on earth, and are intended to be heard by extraterrestrials that may encounter it. Sagan viewed these recordings as bottles launched into the cosmic ocean.

Sagan's scientific achievements were many, including the search for extraterrestrial life and monitoring space for objects that might impact the earth, and I won't go into detail about them here. His main contribution to me, however, was his advocacy and the sense of wonder he imparted about the universe. He was fervent in his desire and ability to educate laypeople about science and the cosmos. His quote, "A galaxy is composed of gas and dust and stars—billions upon billions of stars," especially his frequent use of the word billions, became a catchphrase used by comedians in their routines. Sagan was so amused by this he turned it to his advantage, and entitled a book, Billions & Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death at the Brink of the Millennium.

Today, to honor his achievements and profound impact, organizations all over the world celebrate him through star parties, astronomy lectures, science fairs, teacher workshops and other events. Be sure to see if your city or community has any such offerings and take advantage of them! If not, plan your own!

Invite friends over and watch either Cosmos or Contact.

Gather as many telescopes and binoculars as you can for some star gazing.

Pick and read one of the many books he wrote.

Share your love of space and the beauty of the universe with your children, especially. There are some excellent books to use with children. Two of  my favorites are written by H. A. Rey, of Curious George fame. They are The Stars and Find the Constellations.

Be silly and watch UFO movies. Paul, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T, Independence Day, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Battleship or any of the many movies available that involve aliens. See how many possible references to Carl Sagan you can catch.

Whatever you decide to do, have fun doing it!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

"I am here to do Your bidding, Master. I am Your slave..."

So you thought Hallowe'en was over? That you could coast for a little while before the next big holiday was upon you? That you could safely pack up and put away your spooky decorations?


Today is the birthday of Bram Stoker, the Irish novelist best known for his novel, Dracula. Stoker was born on November 8, 1847 in Clontarf, Ireland. Bedridden until the age of seven, he made a complete recovery and grew up without any further major health issues. He even became an athlete.  He graduated with a B.A. in Mathematics from Trinity College in Dublin.

After marrying Florence Balcombe (a former girlfriend of  Oscar Wilde) in 1878, the Stokers moved to London, where Bram became acting manager and then business manager of Lyceum Theatre, where he worked for 27 years. Sir Henry Irving was a stage actor and manager of Lyceum Theatre, and friend of Bram's. Working for Irving afforded Stoker to travel the world, including trips to the United States, where he met two American presidents, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. It was while working at the Lyceum Theatre that Stoker wrote his most famous novel. It is believed that meeting Ármin Vámbéry, a Hungarian writer and traveler and his dark stories of the Carpathian mountains that sparked the idea for Dracula. Stoker spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires after meeting the Hungarian.

Stoker died in 1912 and was cremated. After the death of his son, Noel Broker, he, too, was cremated and his ashes added to those of his father's. The urn is on display in Golders Green Crematorium, in London.

Today, to celebrate, rent or buy one of the many movie versions of Dracula. The classic, of course, is the 1931 Bela Lugosi Dracula, but the one closer to the Stoker novel might be the more recent Gary Oldman's Dracula. Of course, the fact that Keanu Reeves is in this version also helps! ;)

Dress up in black cape, fake vampire teeth and slick back your hair.

Play creepy music. I actually got my friends in the mood for Day of the Dead crafts by playing Nox Arcana.

There are many Hallowe'en dishes that would do, especially anything that appears to bleed. Red wine or red grape juice is a MUST!

If you are too pooped to party, then tuck in with a copy of the book. Bram Stoker wrote many more stories than just Dracula, so be sure to look for a few while you're at it!

Whatever you do, prepared to have trouble sleeping later! <insert evil laughter here!>

Monday, November 5, 2012

National Men Make Dinner Day

Today is National Men Make Dinner Day. According to the website, the ideal participant in ‘National Men Make Dinner Day’ is the man who:
  • Helps with household chores
  • Has a sense of humour and is a great all-around guy
  • Loves his wife/girlfriend, kids and pets
I love the top ten reasons given for participating:

10. While cooking, you can still wear your tool belt, simply replace the hammer with a whisk.
9. Several recipes include beer as a legitimate ingredient.
8. The blender, the electric mixer and the food processor are loud enough to drown out anyone in the house who is learning a musical instrument.
7. Whoever is cooking always gets the most attention from the dog.
6. Whatever recipe you choose, you can name it after yourself. Example: tonight’s dinner is called ‘Doug’s Surprise’.
5. Discovering that ‘250 ml’ is the same as ‘8 ounces’ AND ‘1 cup’ is half the fun.
4. Since YOU choose the recipe, it can be a turnip-free night.
3. Some desserts, such as crème brulee, require the use of a propane torch. How much fun is that?!
2. Since other husbands in your neighbourhood are also cooking dinner, ironically this could be the ultimate male bonding experience
1. Participating in ‘National Men Make Dinner Day’ gives you optimum points with your wife. Use those points wisely!

The website does include some recipes, but if your husband is like mine, his talents tend toward the grill. Something yummy he could make would be burgers, potato salad and cole slaw, but with a twist. Try those recipes here.

So, maybe your man looks less like this:

...if he is anything like Chef Brian Patton, aka the Sexy Vegan,

then you may very well be in for a treat!
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