Friday 8 December 2023

x’temmas (11. 171)

Via Strange Company, we are treated to an interesting Q & A on the etymological roots and spelling conventions of the winter holidays Christmas and Hanukkah. The Jewish festival of lights (בחנוכה) has undergone many variations since first transliterated in print in the seventeenth century as has the celebration of the Nativity since first appearing in the written record in the late 900s in Old English as Xpes mæsse with the chi-rho christogram (see previously) several other historical ways of expressing the holiday. More from Grammarphobia at the link up top.

Tuesday 15 August 2023

mariä himmelfahrt (10. 946)

Observed on this day as either the Feast of the Assumption in the Latin Rite or the Feast of the Dormition in Eastern Orthodox tradition, Christians celebrate the translation of the Virgin Mary, either wholly, bodily taken up or having gone to sleep without suffering a mortal death. While this elevation to eternal life has some singular aspects (Mary is said to enjoy the fullness and autonomy of the afterlife that the other saints will only experience after the Last Judgment), there are other instances of the phenomenal honour in Judaism and Christianity, with Jesus and Enoch, the patriarch and father of Methuselah “who walked with God: and was no more” and the prophet Elijah and Pharaoh’s Daughter (see also) who found Moses (himself taken up after his remains were fought over by Satan and the Archangel Michael) amongst the reeds with other instances of being raptured in other traditions. Many figures in Hinduism, kings and swami, are said to have merged with God, essentially dematerialising, Islam teaches that Muhammed was similarly taken up into Heaven and Hellenistic tradition recognises ascendant masters like the thaumaturgist and philosopher Apollonius, a wandering sage who travelled in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia and drew many latter day comparisons to the reincarnated Christ.

Saturday 13 May 2023

be acceptable in thy sight here tonight (10. 739)

Beginning a five-week run at the top of the UK singles charts on this day in 1978, Boney M’s (previously) cover of The Melodians’s song “Rivers of Babylon” with B-side “Brown Girl in the Ring,” composed originally by the Jamaican reggae group, it is taken from Psalms 19 and 137 (one of a handful of best-sellers taken directly from the Bible, along with Pete Seeger’s and the Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and U2’s 40 (“How long must I Sing this Song?”—Expectans expectavi Dominum) as an allegory of oppression against members of the Rastafarian faith, though the Kingston government banned it from the airwaves as potentially subversive anyway. From their third studio album Nightflight to Venus, both—the latter based on a traditional Caribbean nursery rhyme—propelled the eurodisco group to fame worldwide. The below performance is from 1979’s Sopot Festival:

Tuesday 11 April 2023

thrilla in megillah (10. 668)

We enjoyed this introduction to collage caricaturist Hanoch Piven and his found allegory of accidents, elements and sacraments through his latest project assaying the figures of the Old Testament with character profiles and an eclectic iconography, like here with fun-time gal and accomplished rhetorician Esther. Read more about Dream Big, Laugh Often and More Great Advice from the Bible at Print Magazine at the link above. What found objects might you use to create a similar three-dimensional tableau?

Friday 1 July 2022

creeping normality

Arrested on this day in 1937 accused of activities against the Nazi regime, theologian and Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller had initially supported the ascent of Adolf Hitler for his stance against communism and assurances of no interference in church matters (the Weimar Republic supposedly had a secularist agenda that including abolishing church subsidies, confiscating church property and banning mandatory religious education), embracing nationalism and acknowledged having harboured past prejudice and anti-Semitic views. Renouncing his old ways and narrowly escaping with his life after imprisonment in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps, Niemöller was deeply remorseful that he was not able to do more to more to help victims of the Nazis and devoted the rest of his life towards championing peace and disarmament. The confessional poem “First they came…” was penned by Niemöller and adapted from a sermon delivered in January of 1945 to speak to the collected inaction and silence of much of the clergy and general population—himself included. “Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Friday 24 June 2022

daytrip: bacharach am rhein

For a work-outing, we took a cruise on the Rhein from Rüdesheim to the picturesque village dominated by the twelfth century fortified castle, Burg Stahleck, overlooking the Steeg gorge and Lorelei valley, and once residence to the advocatus (Vogt) of the archbishop of Köln but now a youth hostel. We spent the afternoon on the portico taking in the view, having hiked up from the river bank. Along the way we passed not so much as an architectural folly—though it looked the part and the castle itself was destroyed during the Thirty Years War, abandoned and not restored in its present form until 1927 (see also) and pointedly as a retreat for Hitler Youth and re-education centre, in the Gothic ruins of the Wernerkapelle, the unfinished chapel preserved in this state as a reminder of Germany’s and Christianity’s rampant, historical intolerance of other peoples and other faith traditions, the shell of a structure itself originally dedicated to the memory of a youth supposedly murdered by the region’s Jewish residents who were in turn expelled and their property seized—a common ploy and false excuse at time, and put into context with a dedication and prayer from Pope John XXIII, asking for forgiveness and reconciliation. It was a bright and glorious day out of the office by the privilege of the photogenic ought not sanitise the past but rather enhance our understanding of it. 


Saturday 9 April 2022

jacob and sons

Originally recorded as a children’s pop cantata in 1968 at Cole Court School for Boys and workshopped some more before becoming a full-fledged fixture in the repertoire of musical theatre, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber collaborated with the group The Mixed Bag to produce The Joseph Consortium in 1971, a cross between rock opera and psychedelic kids show (previsioning another parallel composition) that was a retelling of the biblical figure and patriarch of the Book of Genesis, Joseph.  Any dream will do.

Friday 11 February 2022

summa theologica

Via the weekly anthology of Web Curios, we get this nice appreciation and reminder that the resources underpinning the Internet are not self-sustaining artefacts but require care and maintenance—even if only for academic pursuits and no aspirations for virality or attempt to monetise or capitalise on the scholarship of its subject matter as the Non-Fungible Testament—in revisiting the venerable repository the Internet Sacred Text Archive, which for twenty-three years has weathered all sort of trends and beaten back the spectre of the Digital Dark Ages to curate and present foundational texts in comparative religious and folklore traditions.

Wednesday 2 February 2022


One of the earliest Christian celebrations and pre-dating by centuries the establishment of Christmas and Easter, the Feast of the Presentation, reckoned forty days postpartum when couples (mostly the mother and the separation period was doubled for baby girls) partook in a ritual purification ceremony with burnt offerings to cleanse both infant child and themselves and reintegrate into the community, Candlemas and its later backformations became popular during the fourth century Plague of Justinian and it may be an appropriation of the feriae and fasti of Lupercalia and Ferālia that fell later in the month, the former itself a purification festival to promote health and fertility—February itself named after februa, the brooms to sweep away the detritus of the old year. Traditionally in some communities, decorations are finally taken down and candles are brought to local churches for blessing and used throughout the year.

Saturday 29 January 2022


Coinciding with International Holocaust Remembrance Day—marking the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, news comes out that a school board in Tennessee voted to ban the acclaimed, Pulitzer prize-winning 1986 graphic novel, Maus, by Art Spiegelman. Aimed to teach children about genocide through allegory, the panel of parents and teachers found some of the language potentially objectionable as well as the depictions of partial cartoon nudity though the subtext is clear and rightfully decried and debates rage across the US in classroom and during school board meetings over Critical Race Theory, its subversion and weaponisation, and how its re-enforced that the discomfort of white bigots counts more than the lived experience of pain and oppression.

Tuesday 28 December 2021

east of eden

Venerated in the Coptic Church on this day—likely as a pious correspondence between the first murder-victim and the massacre of ChildermassAbel of Genesis, the second son of Adam and Eve, was murdered by his older brother Cain after God engendered jealously in the latter by preferring Abel’s sacrifice. Respectively a farmer and a shepherd, etymologically Cain means smith as in someone who would craft a ploughshare to work the land and Abel is the English rendering of ibil, herdsman, their story is thought to be an allegory recalling the ancient clashes between traditional hunter-gatherer societies and agricultural civilisations and concepts of the commons versus private property. God punished Cain by condemning him, ironically, to wander the Earth—with no fixed abode (this Land of Nod is an abstraction, like utopia) and no possibility of release through provoking another to kill him—ostensibly encouraging him to trespass with impunity. According to some traditions, Abel was appointed the judge of the dead.

Tuesday 12 October 2021

prove to me that you’re divine, change my water into wine—that’s all you need do, then i’ll know it’s all true

Formerly only previewed as a cast recording in limited release over a year prior, the rock opera by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber Jesus Christ Superstar was for the first time staged and performed before a live audience in the Mark Hellinger Theatre on Broadway—the famous venue for My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Man of La Mancha which would eventually be consecrated in 1989 as the interdenominational Times Square Church—on this day in 1971. The anachronistic version of the Holy Week narrative, loosely following the books of the gospel and giving an accounting of Jesus and his disciples leading up to his arrest and crucifixion was the longest-running West End musical before being displaced by Cats in 1989. Below is “Superstar,” the penultimate number, with Judas, Soul Sisters and Angels from the 1973 adaptation, filmed on location.

Thursday 7 October 2021

cyrus charter

Though in possession of the British Museum, the ancient clay cylinder bearing the declaration of king Cyrus the Great, outlining his genealogy and conquest of Babylonia as favourite of the god Marduk and documentation of the end of exile of the Jewish people and allowing them to resettle within the empire was loaned to Tehran on this day in 1971 for a period of sixteen days for the gala celebration of the two-thousand-five-hundredth anniversary of the founding of Persia—see previously, beginning mid-month ten days later. The artefact recovered in 1829 (in Mesopotamia, in modern day Iraq) is considered by many historians as the pioneering attempt to administer and multicultural state with universal human rights and was made the official symbol of Iran in absentia.

Wednesday 22 September 2021


On this day in 1964, the alternatively titled musical Fiddler on the Roof—a collaboration of Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein—premiered on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre. The original cast included Zero Mostel as the leading milkman Tevye, Bea Arthur as the matchmaker Yente, Pia Zadora as the youngest daughter, Bette Midler and Leonard Nimoy who all attempt to maintain religious and cultural traditions after being displaced and resettled in Russia counter to a more liberal second generation and threatened with further eviction.

Saturday 28 August 2021

your daily demon: asmodeus

Governing from today through 1 September, this thirty-second spirit on the demonological calendar is an infernal prince who presents as a three-headed apparition and rules over seventy-two legions of subordinates. Appearing in the Book of Tobit and many Talmudic legends, primarily associated with the construction of the temple of Solomon, Asmodeus was later classified in the Malleus Maleficarum as a demon of lust, lascivity and revenge, countered by Saint John—or the guardian angel called Veshariah.

Sunday 1 August 2021

the woman with seven sons

The martyred family known as the Holy Maccabees after the epigraphical account in that book who are venerated in some traditions on this day is included in a the poetically entitled list of ‘Names for the Biblically Nameless,’ many apocryphally sourced to the Golden Legend, such as the sisters of Cain and Abel—Aclima (also Luluwa) and Delbora, Nimrod’s Wife—“a mighty hunter in the face of the Lord,” possibly the Amazon Semiramis, and Pharaoh’s (and whole human being in their own right) Daughter, who drew infant Moses from the reeds, possibly Merris according to Eusebius of Cæsarea. The Wife of Job who advises him to finally curse God and die, is perhaps called Sitis or Dinah, the Queen of Sheba either Makeda, Nicaule or Bilqis according to different traditions. Proper names are also assigned to the Magi who are also called the Three Wise Men as well as the seven archangels, the thieves crucified with Jesus and the Roman soldier who prodded him on the cross. The woman known variously as Solomonia, Hannah or Miriam is reserved special honour for courageously enduring the torment and dismemberment of her sons and then herself (see also) for refusing to submit to a cruel and capricious king and remaining steadfast in her faith as did the band of brothers.

Friday 23 April 2021

din 5009

The Institute for German Standardisation (Deutsches Institut für Normung) has been urging for the reform of the Sprachraum’s radio spelling alphabet (with the DIN assignment above, see previously) for some time. Though lobbying efforts yielded a major overhaul in the mid 1960s to make the official version less gendered and jingoistic, there are choice relics in it such as S wie (as in) Siegfried instead of Samuel as it originally was, Nordpol rather than Nathan, Otto for Oscar or Dora over David to eliminate names that could be construed as Jewish. Though the protocols are still being debated and the civil German use is a bit more improvised than its counterparts (p wie pseudonym), the consensus now to not let the Nazis have the last word is to use city names—W wie Wiesbaden statt Wilhelm, A wie Augsburg statt Anton.

Saturday 9 January 2021


zip-tie guy: as bad as this act of terrorism was, the Ku Klux Coup (see previously) could have turned out much worse  

election, objection, ambition, sedition: another pitch-perfect Randy Rainbow political parody 

regrets only: Trump’s final missive confirming he would not be attending Joe Biden’s inauguration—cornerstone to a peaceful transition of power—is interpreted as another way of casting aspersions on a legitimate election and gets his account suspended from Twitter—permanently  

privilege check: race and the cos-play veneer of the invasion combined with remorse over more heavy-handed tactics over the summer allowed them to organise and launch their raid unchecked—see previously  

us capitol police: encomnia for officer killed protecting senators and congress members from the Blue Lives Matter crowd  

jericho march: more Cos-Play with Evangelical Christians (previously) rallying in D.C. blowing shofars

no pension, no secret security detail, no travel allowance, no chance to hold high office again: a second impeachment has consequences even a few days out and Congress is moving swiftly to make it happen, nearly as fast as Mr Rainbow above or Lego

Monday 28 December 2020


Venerated on this day in the Calendar of Saints by the Catholic Church in celebration of the first, unwitting and anonymous, martyrs to the faith, making the event that according to tradition took place on the fourth day of Christmastide when King Herod ordered the mass execution of all male infants in and around Bethlehem.  Numbers of victims range from a couple of dozen to tens of thousands, depending on the sources.

Terrible as humans are capable of being towards one another, most scholars of all stripes agree that the murderous rampage, set off accidentally by the visiting Magi when they are warned off reporting back to Herod by a dream, is an invention by author of the gospel of Matthew to solidify correspondence between the ascension of Jesus and that of Moses—or Œdipus—whom also had to go into hiding and flee over a prophesy that would disrupt and challenge the status quo. The narrative only appears in the one book of the Bible and is recalled in the Coventry Carol. Authors Albert Camus and José Saramago separately suggest, controversially, that survivor’s guilt is why Jesus allowed himself to be ultimately crucified, him knowing along with his step-father Joseph what Herod had planned but only choosing to save themselves. The Massacre of the Innocents is commemorated in some places with role-reversals such as children officiating church services, like with Saturnalia’s master waiting on the enslaved, pranks akin to April Fools—begging off innocence—and the blessing of Christmas toys.

Thursday 24 December 2020

nittel nacht

Observed in some Jewish communities dating back as far as the late seventeen-hundreds with scholastic reinforcement in the following century, the Yiddish term (ניטל נאַכט) for Christmas Eve likely comes from natalis but may also refer to the hanged one, nitleh, an epithet for Jesus during the Middle Ages. In medieval Europe, non-observers were often forbidden from being seen in public—with Yuletide often signalling the beginning of attacks on Jewish neighbours by Christians—so this was a good excuse to staying in and specifically not studying the Torah and abstaining from enjoyment so as not to give any glory to the day, though for some, reading the Sefer Toledot Yeshu (an alternate hagiography that portrays Jesus as a womanising charlatan though possibly accounts themselves are exaggerated as another excuse to label people as blasphemers—that is, megadef) as an acceptable activity to engage in. Chess and card games became a tradition, in lieu of other pastimes, and children were apprehensive about being snatched away on this night by demon Jesus.