Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I Let the Good Times Roll (just not too much) ~ Early Morning Thoughts

Let the good times roll = prenons du bon temps or ├ęclatons-nous (colloquial use) ... A phrase that someone in a high office in the US might translate as "Bring It On...."

D&D met me for some not-so-gentle libations this evening at one of our favorite "watering holes"(does anyone use that term anymore?). And when we realized that this was "The Day" or Fat/Shrove Tuesday - the day before Lent began. I realized that other that thinking that Mardi Gras Tuesday was much like the person about to report to a very strict health spa going on a binge before they entered the program. I really didn't know a lot about how it came to be ... of course, New Orleans is the heart of Mardi Gras here in the US... But Australia is very well known for their celebration. However, one of the most extravagant has to be Brazil's Carnival - which ends with a two day parade involving thousands of participants, and with the extensive TV coverage - millions of watchers.

You may be as surprised as I was to learn a little history of how the dating of Lent and Easter came to be...I never did understand why the date changed to much each year.

The reasons for the great variation in Mardi Gras day can be explained by the custom of aligning the occurrence of Easter Sunday and then Mardi Gras each year with the Sun, spring full moon and the rhythms of the magic number seven.

The first day of spring for those us us who live above the Equator is usually March 21. This Spring or Vernal Equinox is the first day of the year when night is not longer than day. From this point forward in our calendar the sun will shine longer tomorrow than today.

Three months later the the longest day of the year will arrive and be observed in many pagan celebrations. Summer Solstice almost always occurs on June 21. The annual 365.25 day orbit of the earth around the sun varies very little from year to year, however the thirteen cycles of the moon waxing and waning are not so easy to predict.

At this point a calculator and perpetual calendar might come in handy: Easter can fall on any Sunday from March 23 to April 25 because it set to fall on the first Sunday succeeding the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. Sunday as the seventh day of the week is considered a day to pause and rest. This tradition of breaking life into seven day periods is many thousands of years old.

I was somewhat surprised that Easter Sunday is determined by planetary alignment predating Christianity. Even more surprising is to learn that this central Christian holiday traces its name to the not so ancient European Spring Goddess Eostre.

Because there are thirteen full moons in a twelve months period is the factor which adds the greatest variation to the Carnival season. The cycles of the moon control the tides of the sea. The waning and waxing of these two elements has long considered a powerful source of feminine energy just as the sun is considered masculine.

Finally, the first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday is by calculating 40 weekdays plus seven Sundays. By the way - if you really want to impress people at your next dinner party, discuss the fact that the ancient Egyptians were the first recorded culture which celebrated Carnival, setting aside five of the 365 days of the year to restore harmony to their relationship with the gods of the universe. Known as a time outside of time, the Egyptians would sing ribald songs, drink brew, and carry on in torch parades where the women would hold aloft gigantic erect phalluses. Of course, the first question is - did they get any beads?

These Egyptians possessed remarkably sophisticated mythology that did not separate science from religion. They believed that all things were cyclical with a central organizing pattern based upon a circle divided into the twelve parts of the Zodiac. According to this system 2,160 year long ages they would have first celebrated their carnival during the age of Taurus the Bull.

--the pictures are from Brazil's Carnival
click on them and they should enlarge ...

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