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 Cรฆsarea. 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.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

vitae bonifatius

Feted on this day on the occasion of his martyrdom (*675) on this day in 754 near Dokkum in Friesland, Boniface, from the Devon village of Crediton, was a leading figure of the Anglo-Saxon mission to the Frankish Empire and whose influence, reforms and alliances-including the union of the papacy with the Carolingian dynasty and the successor transnational organisations, like the Holy and Roman Empire of the Germans and the EU, and is celebrated as a missionary and uniter and peace-maker, the Apostle to the Germans acclaimed almost immediately after his death as patron of the country and Fulda, his major shrine. The basilica minor is not far away from the modern day town of Fritzlar where Boniface reportedly, dramatically chopped down the Donar Oak (considered sacred to Jupiter through interpretatio romana) to illustrate that no punishment would be meted out for this perceived desecration and went on to build a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter from the lumber. Winning converts, Boniface encouraged widespread destruction of pagan sites, especially sacred groves. Though probably only an inventive story, the saint is sometimes credited with the invention of the Christmas tree as a way to coopt and supplant native customs. Boniface and his retinue were killed by highway robbers en route to Frisia, hoping to find more followers in the north, their attackers sorely disappointed to find only books and manuscripts instead of treasure.

Wednesday, 6 January 2021


ruminant digestive process: whilst bovine flatulence makes the headlines, burps are the chief source of methane and could be neutralised with a special mouth guard—via the New Shelton Wet/Dry  

caporegime: via ibฤซdem, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project names Jair Bolsonaro Corrupt Person of the Year, trouncing with a narrow margin Trump, ErdoฤŸan and Netanyahu  

commander-in-cheat: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon won’t allow Trump to visit his golf course in Scotland during the pandemic lockdown to bow out of attending the inauguration in Washington, DC 

georgia on my mind: Reverend Warnock declared winner in Senate race and Democrats poised to take control of the Upper House  

grogu pains: The Mandalorian reimaged as 1990s sitcom  

die abenteur des prizen achmed: the incredible silhouette animation technique of Lotte Reiniger—more here  

population density: housing ten billion humans in one mega city could help vastly reduce our footprint, freeing up the remaining land mass for rewilding and argiculture 

all the trimmings: for this traditional day of ceremonially discarding the tree, ways to transform it into garnish and a tasty treat

Saturday, 2 January 2021


The Alemannic holiday celebrated generally on this day in Liechtenstein and certain Swiss cantons and strongly associated with Rauhnรคchte traditions has contending etymologies and pedigrees including a late twelfth century abbot, a storied hunting expedition undertaken around the same time by a like-named duke or to the alpine pagan protectoress of wild things called Perchta (*Brehtaz, Bertha) and leader of the entourage of the hunting party. This final candidate is the most interesting and compelling, the figure a cultural continuity from pre-Christian influences and was given the role of upholding totem and taboo, reinforcing ritual fasting and the prohibition of working on the holidays, Sabbaths and monitoring the progress of servants and craftspeople to make sure that they were keeping up with the productivity quotas—later transferred to winnowing the naughty from the nice (see also) like her male counterpart Krampus—with the good and upstanding rewarded with a silver coin the next day in a shoe or pail and the recalcitrant would be eviscerated and have their innards and the contents of their bellies replaced with straw, flax and pebbles.

Monday, 28 December 2020

small town snow globe refillery

Usually one to eschew all things to do with the holiday once it is over (with some allowances for Three Kings Day) until next time, this strange Winterval when the days blur in normal times, we did rather enjoy indulging this thread and storyboard for the typical Hallmark channel—courtesy of Super Punch—as reinterpreted by an artificial intelligence made to sample all the family-friendly permutations, banging out a formula that really resonates and captures an aspect of Christmas magic. It’s just the frame, the elevator pitch but I am sure that we could expound on the premise and make The Christmas on Christmas happen. “Yet still my twins are dad-free. They need double-dad.”


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 ล’dipus—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 Josรฉ 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.

Sunday, 27 December 2020

general knowledge paper

Via both Nag on the Lake and TYWKIWDBI (with lots more on offer as well), we are introduced to a new tradition coming just ahead of the holiday break that has been issued to students at King William’s College near Castletown on the Isle of Man (and to make one feel worse—that’s college in the sense of a finishing school for pupils to eighteen years of age) since 1904 in the form of quiz—now voluntary and shared with the broader public—of notorious difficulty that the students are expected to research over the break and present once classes resume in the new year.

The annual paper is introduced with the Latin motto: Scire ubi aliquid invenire possis, ea demum maxima pars eruditionis est—that is, “the better part of erudition is knowing where one can find anything.” The answers are not quite at one’s fingertips, and of course it’s impossibly difficult but nonetheless something I feel we ought to have been assaying all along. While a few of the clues and prompts did seem adjacent to something we knew, I really couldn’t get any of these right off the bat. How about you? The quiz can be found at the links above as well as on the college’s website—where the answers will be published next month.

Saturday, 26 December 2020

boxing day

Probably an epithet meaning “the crowned one” rather than an actual given name (compare to Saint Corona), this second Christmas marks Saint Stephen’s Day, venerated as the protomartyr (*1-†36) of the Christian faith, the early bishop of Jerusalem stoned to death (lapidation) for his blasphemy against the Sanhedrin, which was witnessed by Saul called Paul whom subsequently spread his sacrifice and steadfastness. As possibly a painful reminder, Stephen’s patronage includes bricklayers and is invoked against headaches. Further as responsible for the distribution of alms for the poor in his office, Stephen’s feast day became associated with opening the charity boxes and donating gratuities to service people and the needy, but aligned with—sometimes supplanted by Black Friday (it took off when the US and Canadian dollars reached parity), in many Commonwealth nations, it has become a day with emphasis on shopping and sales.


greatest hits: resonant echoes and forgotten curiosities from another internet caretaker of this past year 

every who down in whoville was sick of the rules—all the masks, sanitisers and closures of schools: how the Grinch stalled whovid  

connoisseur: the importance of sustaining good taste to nourish good work  

dj earworm: five decades of pop music 

the great conjunction: a keen-eyed photographer captures the International Space Station moving between Saturn and Jupiter (previously)

you’ll have to speak up—i’m wearing a towel: decoding the catalogue of Simpsons’ gags and one-liners that might have sailed over some viewers  

crimes of the art: casing the most stolen painting ensemble, the Ghent Altarpiece (see previously), through history  

2020: the musical: Miss Cellania’s annual assortment of lists recapping the year

Friday, 25 December 2020

✨seasons greetings✨

 We here at PfRC wish you and yours the biggest, brightest little Christmas of all, and we look forward to seeing you all again real soon. Happy holidays!

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 (ื ื™ื˜ืœ ื ืַื›ื˜) 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.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

i’m mister green christmas, i’m mister sun, i’m mister heat blister, i’m mister one hundred and one

Never able to resist the delightfully weird theology of Rankin/Bass productions, we’ve been rather enjoying the duelling melodies of the Brothers Miser from the 1974 special The Year Without Santa Claus. Having come down with a cold before the Christmas rush, Santa’s physician advises a change in routine, suggesting that his role is diminished in the modern era and that no one believes in him anymore, and despite objections by Mrs Claus (voiced by Mickey Rooney and Shirley Booth) decides to take a sabbatical rather than deliver gifts.

Undeterred, Mrs Claus dispatches two elves, Jingle and Jangle, with Vixen the reindeer to gather proof that people do care about Christmas and believe in Santa. Flying from the North Pole, their mission gets blown off track by a weather front caused by the bickering of the Snow Miser (Dick Shawn) and the Heat Miser (George S. Irving) who control the world’s weather. Crash-landing in a place called Southtown, Vixen is caught and put in the dog-pound, city authorities find their alibi laughable but agree to free Vixen if they can prove that they are elves by making it snow for Christmas. The Clauses travel to Southtown separately to try to rectify the situation and free their friends—the Misers conceding after Mother Nature compels her sons to compromise. Upon learning what’s afoot in Southtown and that Santa Claus has grown despondent, the children of the world begin to send Santa presents, this gesture convincing him to undertake his annual route after all—appearing in public in Southtown as snow falls. The show ends with Mrs Claus’ commentary somehow, “yearly, newly, faithfully and truly,” Santa always comes and we could never imagine a Christmas without him.

Sunday, 20 December 2020

just say the word and i’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down

On this day in 1946, Frank Capra’s holiday classic (previously, see also) had a special preview held for charity in New York City’s Globe Theatre on this day, just before its theatrical release in cinemas across the US.
Due to a clerical error by the movie’s new owners, the National Telefilm Associates—whom had bought it from Paramount Pictures, who previously had absorbed Liberty Films, were not able to renew their copyright in 1974 and thus It’s a Wonderful Life became an inexpensive filler for local network affiliates to air during the holiday season (because of the lapsed studio copyright, no royalties on the movie itself needed to be paid, though a nominal fee went to the estate of the short story “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern which the film was based on). This looping repetition for a several decades, through 1996, endeared the story to countless viewers.

Saturday, 19 December 2020

ultima lingula

A far better and far more festive example of pareidolia than found in the knobby highlands of Cydonia and Arabia Terra—the so-called face on Mars has been captured by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express Orbiter near the planet’s southern pole during a temporary thaw in the ice that normally obscures the geographic features there. The artistic elements of this impact crater that suggest an abstract angelic host with wings, heart and halo are created by a nice collusion of a sublimation pit, a sinkhole left when ice turns directly into gas without the intermediate liquid phase, erosion and ancient volcanic activity.

hallmark holiday

From the always engaging circulation desk of Open Culture, we are reminded of the commission that Salvador Dalรญ had from a greeting card magnate in 1960 to create a series of Christmas cards. Though the industry’s reputation is for the anodyne, it had been making forays into the avant garde since the 1940s, introducing contemporary artists to mass-markets by showcasing Pablo Picasso and Georgia O’Keeffe and other contemporaries. Dalรญ’s interpretation of the Magi, Nativity and other holiday iconography (see also here and here), however, proved too controversial for the general public, with ultimately only two cards out of the ten the surrealist artist was contracted for being printed.

Friday, 18 December 2020

presepio, threepeeo

For this long slog of a year, the Vatican has elected to showcase a profoundly different manger scene that while we think all find this somewhat other than expected and some taking more exception with the choice of the display than others of nineteen to-scale figures executed in terracotta sourced to a crรจche that pupils and art teachers made for their town, selected from a Nativity Scene consisting of fifty-four pieces in total—steeped in the tradition of the earthenware—over a ten-year period from the mid-1960s to the mid-seventies.

There’s a helmeted astronaut in attendance as a nod to the contemporaneous 1969 Moon landing plus a centurion that some are comparing to Darth Vader (see link above), though the sculpture pre-dates the franchise by a few years. As one observer enthusiastically commented, it would be a nice ensemble—in miniature—for heath and home. Previously on tour in the 1970s in Israel, Palestine and Trajan’s Forum in Rome, the selection echoes the Pope’s missive from last Christmas—Admirabile signum—that it is customary and expected to include symbolic, contemporary characters to make the display busier and better address the everyday nature of holiness and grace.


Debuting in Saint Petersburg on this day in 1892 (Old Style, 6 December), the stage, fairy ballet (ะฑะฐะปะตั‚-ั„ะตะตั€ะธั) adaptation of the short story by E. T. A. HoffmannThe Nutcracker and the Mouse King—opened as a double-feature with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ultimate opera Iolanta, a one-act performance about the Duchess of Lorraine, Yolande de Bar—a romanticised biography of figure who was more retiring and reserved in real life. Though initially not well-received and critics using rather harsh language, the overture and suite that the composer score was an enduring success, with countless Christmas season performances accounting for an incredible forty percent of attendance for ballet companies in North America in normal times.

Tuesday, 15 December 2020


don’t wait for me beneath the mistletoe: the Allusionettes compose a festive carol for 2020 

ashika: chubby seal pillows  

extravehicular activity: a brilliant infographic of every spacewalk undertaken—from Voskhod 2 onward 

your branches green delight us: a stunning abstract Christmas tree in Tokyo crafted from a thousand corded mizuhiki balls 

solargraph: a forgotten pinhole camera took the longest exposure photograph on record

oinฤƒ: archiving images of a ubiquitous red ball with white polka dots in Romania’s recent past 

disbarred: US attorney general to step down before Christmas  

boughs of holly: a round-up of seasonal plants beyond the tree and trimmings

Sunday, 13 December 2020


Via Memo of the Air, we are transported back a few years to enjoy this carol recounting one particular up-and-coming reindeer as told in the timeless style of rapped-through narrative of one of America’s Founding Fathers by a capella group the Eclipse Singers.

Saturday, 5 December 2020

hobby-horse and the hoodening

Via the always intriguing Strange Company we are directed towards one explanation of the common apirition in the southern Welch Yuletide custom called Mari Lwyd (Y Fari Lwyd) of parading around a horse’s skull on a pole whilst draped with a cloak decorated with ribbons and sashes as an aspect of wassailing and ritual entreaties to one’s neighbours for food and drink—a sort of call-and-response called the pwngco. You’ve been pwn’d.  Some conjure it represents a remnant of once widespread mystery plays that featured a popular subgenre regarding Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt, with Mari Lwyd representing the donkey that bore Holy Mary—one proposed etymology, though this is disputed, with Grey Mare being more likely, especially given the preponderance of similar hooded animal parades spread across the British Isles that reflect a syncretion (see also) of ancient, pre-Christian rites. Much more detail about this custom at the link up top.