Monday 27 April 2020


Instituted and enshrined (quite literally as there was a state-sponsored temple in which the party was held) during the late Republic and on advice of the Sibyl after a rather devastating drought, the festival dedicated to the goddess Flora commenced on this day with the celebration for the masses—a distinctly plebeian character as opposed to the austere obligations of most patrician holidays—lasting for six days marked by processions and competition, Ludi Florรฆ, The Games of Flora, her mystery cult, referred to as the Arval Brethren, a priesthood dedicated to the spiritual and superstitious maintenance of agriculture, opened up for a brief period to allow public veneration and revelry.
The time was marked with special theatrical performances, spectacles including circuses and acrobatics, pelting one other with lupins, floral costumes and dressing of wells, and ceremonial hunting of hares and goats, considered salacious creatures and portents of a fertile year. The ancient rites are reflected in customs associated with May Day (see previously here and here).

Saturday 25 April 2020


Carried aloft by the Space Shuttle Discovery mission that launched on the day prior, the Hubble Space Telescope, namesake of Edwin Powell Hubble (*1889 - †1953) pioneering astronomer who established the discipline of observational cosmology—leading to the conclusion along with Georges Lemaรฎtre that the Universe is expanding—was successfully deployed into stable low Earth orbit on this day in 1990. Versatile and becoming a public-relations boon for space exploration and the sciences in general with its unprecedented imagery and succession of discoveries, its operators estimate it could remain in service another two decades at least with its successor, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, named for the NASA administrator that oversaw the Apollo programme), scheduled to be brought on-line in March 2021.

Thursday 23 April 2020

the mitigation of world tension through the exercise of humour

With its act of secession from Key West tolerated as a boost for tourism and the above motto, the Conch Republic declared its independence on this day, St. George’s Day, in 1982. While motivated out of genuine displeasure on the part of residence regarding inconvenience incurred with federal authorities combating the narcotics trade, the movement’s organisers, a “Sovereign State of Mind” have portrayed the micronation as a prevailing attitude and way of life exclusive to the Keys and have subsequently staged and invasion and surrender ceremony with a brokered peace. Though unimpeachably a nice place to live, the Conch Republic’s break-away status has only made its relationship and allegiance to Florida closer.

Wednesday 22 April 2020

we have met the enemy and he is us

First observed on this day fifty years ago and now celebrated in every polity around the globe as the largest secular holiday of them all, organisers in colleges and universities brought out roughly twenty million individuals into the spring sunshine to peaceful demonstrate for environmental reform.
The original impetus was a devastating oil spill of the coast of Santa Barbara, California that was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of marine creatures during the previous winter with city solemnly marking the one-year anniversary of that disaster in January with an Environmental Rights Day, further advancing the idea for a day of action generally for ecological responsibility and justice. For the occasion, illustrator Walt Kelly created an anti-pollution poster with his comic strip character declaiming the above quotation, parodying a missive sent by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (older brother of Commodore Matthew Perry) to General William Harrison on his victory, more confident and less contrite, in the Battle of Lake Erie—another environmental mess we are trying to remediate—“We have met the enemy, and they are ours.”

Tuesday 21 April 2020

dum spiro spero

With a total land area of some seventy-five kilometres—making the micronation larger than some recognised microsates—the Principality of Hutt River (originally called a province) was founded when Leonard Casley (*1925 - †2019) declared his farm to be an independent entity on this day five decades ago and seceded from Australia over a dispute concerning wheat quotas, banding together with four other families who worked the land of the floodplain, lodging a formal objection with the state’s governor.
One item of corres- pondence inadvertently addressed Casley as the “administrator of the Hutt River Province,” which Casley asserted as recognition of his sovereignty. Believing that styling himself as prince would legally shield him from charges of treason as well as levy punishment on those who would interfere with discharging his duties as leader, based on his reading of a thirteenth century law, the principality further claimed that outside of Australian jurisdiction, subjects were not required to pay Australian taxes. After a reign of forty-five years in 2017, Prince Leonard abdicated in favour of his son, Graeme. The principality has no legal status under Australian law and has no diplomatic representation. The title refers to the Principality’s motto—“While I breath, I hope.”—attributed to Andrew the Apostle.

Saturday 11 April 2020


Observed on this day, the birthday of the composer of the original song lyrics and melody based off a traditional Latin American tune doo-wop artist Richard Berry, Jr (*1935 – †1997)—the Louie Louie Advocacy and Music Appreciation Society has been sponsoring and promoting the international celebration of his most famous, enduring and reprised piece since 2007.
Although the 1963 version recorded by the Kingsmen is the standard and propelled the number’s popularity (below but find your favourite version in the original or among the hundreds out there), there are countless worthy covers, tributes and homages throughout the decades, including Paul Revere and the Raiders, Otis Redding, the Kinks, Frank Zappa, Jim Morrison, Jan & Dean, Motรถrhead, Led Zepplin, Blondie, Nick Cave, Joan Jett, the Grateful Dead, Tommy Petty, Tina Turner, John Lennon, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Robert Plant and the Dave Matthews’ Band—just to name a select few.

Friday 10 April 2020

saint et grand vendredi

As Paris and the world approaches the one-year anniversary of the conflagration that engulfed Notre Dame last year, there will be a small, closed service (only seven clerics and worshippers in attendance) and meditation broadcasted in remembrance and solidarity for those suffering because of the spread of the corona virus, also responsible for the small and non-existent audiences at this and other communities around the world. This day marking the crucifixion of Jesus, the brief mass inside the cathedral will also focus on its most celebrated relic, the Crown of Thorns, which was gifted by Baldwin II, Emperor of Constantinople (called the Broke) to King Louis IX of France in 1248, and was saved by the city’s Fire Brigade last April.

Thursday 9 April 2020


In Sweden and parts of Finland—though not an official holiday since 1772—Maundy Thursday, that day of the week already closely associated with witchcraft and magic, was according to old folkloric traditions the day that witches (pรฅskkรคrringar or pรฅskhรคxa, Easter hags which children costume themselves as and entreat parents and neighbours for eggs and treats rather than a bunny) fly off to the legendary island of Blรฅkulla (Blockula—in the ancient rendering and not to be confused with the very real island in the Kalmar strait) to dance with the Devil. Non-celebrants take part also with some frantic spring-cleaning and hiding their broomsticks to keep black magic at bay. The observation ceased being a public holiday in the late eighteenth century with the repeal of the death penalty for practising witchcraft.

Friday 20 March 2020


This moment marks the point when our friends in the northern hemisphere experience the vernal or northward equinox when the apparent motion of the Sun crosses from the celestial southern hemisphere on its March towards the Tropic of Cancer. After this transition, for those for whom this day signals the start of Spring, the daylight hours gradually start getting longer.
At extreme climes (high latitudes) during the equinoctial day, the Sun is seen to move along the horizon, marauding at dawn and dusk and extending twilight to a couple of hours in duration. Idiomatically, the card means that the new season is just around the corner—literally in Russian, on the tip of one’s nose.

Monday 16 March 2020

pyhรค urho

Overlooking the possibly fictional but actually assigned patron Bishop Henrik (martyred and fรชted on 19 January with a well-articulated legendarium of his own), a department store clerk of Finnish-extraction in the confusingly named town of Virginia, Minnesota lamenting that his homeland did not have a figure like Saint Patrick to celebrate their heritage and as a source of shared cultural cohesion and as an excuse to extend the general revelry (this year especially, please drink responsibly by staying at home or forever forfeit the right to be around other people hereafter) invented Saint Urho (hero) in 1956. Only known to diaspora (with the exception of the folklore and ethnography department at the University of Turku), Urho is variously credited with driving out the frogs (see also) or grasshoppers (with the command Heinรคsirkka, heinรคsirkka, mene tรครคltรค hiiteen! – Grasshopper, grasshopper, go back to Hell!—thus saving the grape harvest but inspiring acts that seem suspiciously like Springfield’s Whacking Day, incidentally on 10 May) and one is to regale themselves in royal purple and enjoy wine and/or purple beer so as to not mix one’s beverages.

Saturday 29 February 2020


Rather than share the turmoil experienced by other parts of Europe in terms of lost weeks when converting from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, in 1699, the government opted to gradually transition to it over a planned four decades, skipping leap days and eventually sychronising the dates.
Due to complications of the Great Northern War with Peter I of Russia, however, this business of calendar reform couldn’t be promulgated properly across Sweden and only the twenty-ninth of February of 1700 was omitted. By 1712, realizing that the provisional calendar was more trouble than it was worth and the country was not only no closer towards alignment with the Gregorian calendar and was moreover a day behind the rest of the world still using the Julian date, Charles XII decreed that Sweden would add that missing day back and at least be synchronous with Orthodox and Protestant Europe, hence the unique 30th of February of that year.

Tuesday 25 February 2020

de strijd tussen vasten en vastenavond

For this Marti Gras, we are given an object lesson on the cusp of the shifting seasons in the form of the composition called The Fight Between Carnival and Lent by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (see previously) painted in 1559. The ceremonies, one raucous and the other serene and reserved, also signalled the shift in cuisine and palette from a time of abundance to privation reinforced by social conventions and Christian iconography, and although we may not be privy to a coherent and linear narrative, there’s much allegory to be found in the details.
Tuesday’s procession is led by a fat man astride a huge beer barrel with a pork chop hood ornament whereas Ash Wednesday’s float, piloted by the Lenten Lady, is laden with mussels, waffles and pretzels, dietary staples of the Netherlands and the time until Easter—underscoring how Lutheranism did away with fasting but still permitted its annual lead-up. Learn more about the details and symbolism from My Modern Met at the link above.

Sunday 23 February 2020

terminalia or forty-eight hours later

Having inherited some of the peculiarities of our civil calendar from the Ancient Romans, tomorrow, 24 February rather than 29 February marks the intercalary day of a leap year, this day proclaimed by Numa Pompililus, legendary king of Rome following Romulus, as New Year’s Eve and the occasion to demarcate borders and survey boundaries to ensure that one’s neighbours were not encroaching on one’s property.
Every two or three years, depending on astrological observation with an approximately week long month called Mercedonius, work month or mensis intercalaris, or according to political will as it was also a time to harrow out one government (24 February—Regifugium) for the next and the addition of holidays was one method to extend one’s time in office. Holding these days to be outside of ordinary time, rather instead made 24 February ante diem sextum kalendas martii—that is, not one’s honour bound term limit but, counting backwards as was the fashion from 1 March (kalends), the sixth day before the first of March. As if it weren’t already convoluted enough, when the calendar needed to be synchronised with the seasons, the Romans didn’t invoke an extra day but rather extended the 24th to a single day forty-eight hours in length, giving us the term ‘bisextile year’ (the-sixth-day-before-the-beginning-of-the-new-month-times-two) a term synonymous with a leap year, the doubled-up day eventually (despite the Romans’ opposition to odd numbers—see above) being split into two.

Friday 14 February 2020

rayleigh scattering

Thirty years ago on this day, having achieved its primary mission of rendezvous with the outer planet, Voyager I—before going into partial hibernation to preserve power and memory for the long, long journey ahead turned its aperture back towards the Sun to take a family portrait of the inner, rocky worlds, with the Earth, recipient of this love letter—some six billion kilometres distant appeared as only a tiny fleck, a tenth of a pixel, “a pale blue dot,” as programme architect Carl Sagan described it. Our home, and where everyone and everything that we’ve ever known, is that bluish-white speck in the centre of the rightmost brown band.

Monday 3 February 2020

fuku mame

Literally seasonal division and more properly denoted as Risshun, today marks the festival of Setsubun (็ฏ€ๅˆ†) the eve of the beginning of Spring in Japan and a signal to perform ritual cleaning of one’s household to drive out the misfortune of the past year and welcome in good luck for the year to come.
Originally associated with the Lunar New Year, its date has now been fixed and the chief ceremony involves the scattering of the titular luck beans called makemaki (่ฑ†ๆ’’ใ) where a family member born in the corresponding zodiacal year is charged with roasting soybeans and tossing them out of the threshold of the home (a variation includes another family member discharging the duties of a loitering demon and being pelted with the beans)—shouting “Demons out—luck in!” Like the New Year’s custom of eating black-eyed peas, people will also eat a number of soybeans for each year that they have been alive plus one extra for good luck.

Saturday 25 January 2020

the wedding march

Originally written as a piece of incidental music for productions of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream around 1842, Felix Mendelssohn’s processional in C Major did not become standard matrimonial canon until when on this day in 1858 it was selected by Victoria, Princess Royal, for her marriage ceremony to Friedrich (“Fritz”) Wilhelm, Prince of Prussia and future albeit short-reigning king—in 1888, the Year of the Three Emperors.
The recessional piece played on the pipe organ is often accompanied with the chorus from Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin (Treulich gefรผhrt but colloquially known as “Here Comes the Bride) or baroque composer Jeremiah Clarke’s Prince of Denmark’s March (Prins Jรธrgens March or Trumpet Voluntary) to play in the bride. Though the first tune may be the most culturally resonant, the last was used as the signature tune and introductory first few bars used by the BBC during broadcasts directed toward Nazi-occupied Denmark during World War II, the march being a symbolic connection between the two kingdoms. For decades afterwards, it remained the call sign of BBC World Service for Europe and was for the Soviet public BBC’s station identification for its Russian language programming.  A selection of the melodies are below:

Sunday 12 January 2020

de spirituali amicitiรข

Historian, hagiographer and diarist with some rather explosive confessions for his time and station (supported by contemporary biographers), the feast day of Aelred of Rievaulx is observed on this day, marking his death in 1167 (*1110) at his abbey in Yorkshire.
The monk and abbot rather a folk saint have not been formally vetted by the canonisation process—though venerated in both the Catholic and Anglican faiths—is the patron for kidney stone sufferers (confined to bed in his later years from this affliction and arthritis) and has been adopted by several LGBTQIA+ organisations as the champion for his frank admission of conscious homosexual orientation and how its consenting exercise was a profound expression of Christian theology, laid out in his expansive treatise “On Spiritual Friendship.” While never censored per se, until the twentieth century, Aelred’s reputation as a historian—writing the vita of Saint Edward, King and Confessor among others—was emphasised over his theological work.

Saturday 11 January 2020


Chiefly celebrated by women (but not exclusively) in the Roman Empire on this day (ante diem tertium Idus) and then again on the fifteenth (Ides—many minor gods and goddesses had dual festiva like this to signify the beginning and resolution of a season or cycle), Carmenta was the patroness of childbirth, midwifery and prophesy.
Her name shares the same derivation as the English word charm and whose root had a range of meanings from song, oracle or magical incantation. Mother herself of the legendary figure Evander of Pallene, who established an Arcadian colony on the site of what would become Rome and who introduced the Greek pantheon to Italy, Carmenta is credited with the invention of the Latin alphabet and the consonant calendar of the old republic.

Tuesday 31 December 2019

five... four... three... two...

Monday 30 December 2019

you can turn the clock to zero, honey—i’ll sell the stock, we’ll spend all the money

Via fellow internet caretaker Miss Cellania, we learn the backstory to those novelty New Year’s glasses, concocted on one stoned evening in January of 1990 and put into production in time to herald in the next year by revelers and for the following years to come.
The duo behind the iconic variations, Richard Sclafani and Peter Cicero of Seattle, were schooled in the patent application process and realised that there was essentially no safe means of protecting one’s design from being knocked-off by competitors—yet they did register pairs of glasses for the next fourteen years and did have a good and profitable stint of success, until when the final year of the twentieth century appeared on the horizon with 2000 and too many opportunists saw the potential for easy profit. Those sales diminished and their marketing efforts undercut, both behind the phenomenon are grateful for their good run and the smiles they brought to people counting-down. Designers will again, after 2020, be challenged to come up with more clever frames.