Monthly Archives: December 2013

Christmas is a determined wench – by pd lyons


12.23.85.
Now two days before Christmas snow has stopped not amounting to much and well what can I say  that hasn’t already been said about the joys and sorrows aroused by Christmas?
I like Green Sleeves, God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman, Good King Wenceslas, The Holly and the Ivy, and for some reason Barbara Allen strikes me as a Christmas tune. I also like the best cognac I can afford and of course Champagne – very dry and very French. It must be cold for Christmas, it doesn’t matter if it snows but it must be cold so I can wear my big black overcoat and a long red scarf as I take my 1 a.m. Christmas Eve stroll after having watched Alistair Sim as Scrooge on the channel 2 Late Late Late show. The best thing about Christmas though is the melancholia. a thick strong liquor, the true spirit of Christmas brewed from memories of child hood and from witnessing present instances of hope and faith – the faith of children waiting for Santa Claus – knowing he will some how come, the hope of church goers (pious as well as the annual) the simple joy of strangers on a street corner singing songs of comfort and joy with the salvation army band. These are the ingredients of the precious brew that one sips slowly sparingly alone in the cold in the middle of the night. For me my own special garnish is my son who I cannot see on Christmas and my mother (always the source of our childhood Christmas festivities) who has now been dead for this the second Christmas – and yet still there is something, as if Christmas gives me the courage to think of each of them remembering those happier times without depression.
How do I explain? It is the joy we give that lays the foundation for our own faith in our ability to be happy. The presence of hope when hope should not exist,  joy in spite of all the compelling reasons for despair – that must be  magic. It is the season when one searches out, both in memory and  present day to day, these instances of magic. Ones awareness is sharpened so as to better find out and discover these instances of joy and hope. So as to be able to say: See! It is real! It does exist. Here! Here is an example and here look here! Against all odds should be the motto for Christmas.  Truly a holiday common sense and the rational are definitely out to lunch. All mundane obligations – rent bills job etc. are finally (if only briefly) put into a proper prospective and totally disregarded in favour of the pursuit of bringing joy to some one else. Even money in all its blood soaked splendour is transformed into an instrument of purity when with it are bought the tokens which give delight, the tokens that symbolize our wish to give happiness to others. It seems that everyone now has this mission – to make other people happy, as if to prove it is possible to do such a thing even in this world.

For me the magic  of Christmas is that although I have good reason to be depressed ( my son, my mother, no money, no job, etc.) I know I will find, because of Christmas, a sense of joy, a sense of thank god for Christmas.
When I woke up this morning I swore I wouldn’t write anything about Christmas. I even wrote I had nothing to say about it and now here I am writing a Christmas lecture but perhaps you can forgive me. I don’t mean to tell you how Christmas is and must be for you, this is just a little reminder to myself as how it is for me. Hopefully I’ve spared you from too much of the boring personal details but gave enough for a good outline.
   To me there is a magic which only Christmas brings, a sort of reason-less relief from the mun-day-to-dayn preoccupations. For others I’m sure they will interpret it in their own terms, perhaps this too is what makes it a special time because each may experience it in a personal way without infringing on another. But no matter, Christmas will, I’m sure have it’s way and I believe deep down even the most adamant “hum-bugger” will some how be affected by her as she makes her way down the street, cold, alone, sipping slowly on that thick strong brew she loves so well, her eyes alive with the knowledge that she has little to do with any religion and that its useless for mankind to resist her. Christmas is a determined wench, patience unlimited. It doesn’t matter to her how long the seduction takes – she knows whether days months or years the result will be the same – that eventually we all fall under her spell.

excerpted from Salamanders – a fiction, by PD Lyons c2012

 

snow by morgan lyons

snow by morgan lyons

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its not too bad under the rainbow either


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merry christmas and other holi-daze!


There is also a rival theory of the origins of Santa’s paraphernalia – hid red and white colour scheme, those flying reindeer, and so on – which is more fun, less commercial, more scientific and somehow more appealing ( possibly because it is politically incorrect). Patrick Harding of Sheffield University argues that the traditional image of Santa and his flying reindeer owes a great deal to what is probably the most important mushroom in history: fly agaric (Amanita muscania). Before vodka was imported from the east, this was the preferred recreational and ritualistic mind-altering drug in parts of northern Europe.

Each December, this mycologist, or fungi expert, dresses up as Santa and drags a sledge behind him to deliver seasonal lectures on the fly agaric. The costume helps Harding drive home his point, for he believes Santa’s robes honour the mushroom’s red cap and white dots. Commonly found in northern Europe, North America and New Zealand, fly agaric is fairly poisonous, being a relative of other more lethal mushrooms, the death cap (Amanita phalloides) and destroying angel (Amanita virosa). The hallucinogenic properties of fly agaric are derived from the chemicals iobotenic acid and muscimol, according to the International Mycological Institute at Egham Surrey. Ibotenic acid is present only in fresh mushrooms. When the mushroom is dried it turns into muscimol, which is ten times more potent. In traditional Lapp societies, the village holy man, or shaman, took his mushrooms dried – with good reason.

The shaman knew how to prepare the mushroom, removing the more potent toxins so that it was safe to eat. During a mushroom-induced trance, he would start to twitch and sweat. He believed that his soul left his body, taking the form of an animal, and flew to the other world to communicate with the spirits, who would, he hoped, help him to deal with pressing problems, such as an outbreak of sickness in the village. With luck, after his hallucinatory flight across the skies, the shaman would return bearing gifts of knowledge from the gods. ‘Hence the connotation of the gift of healing, rather than something from the shops, as it is today’, Patrick Harding says.

Santa’s jolly ‘Ho-ho-ho’ may be the euphoric laugh of someone who has indulged in the mushroom. Harding adds that the idea of dropping down chimneys is an echo of the manner in which the shaman would drop into a yurt, an ancient tent- like dwelling mad of birch and reindeer hide: ‘The “door” and the chimney of the yurt were the same, and the most significant person coming down the chimney would have been a shaman coming to heal the sick.’ So how does Harding explain the importance of reindeer in the myth? For one thing, the animals were uncommonly fond of drinking the human urine that contained muscimol: ‘Reindeer enjoyed getting high on it,’ he says. ‘Whether they roll on their backs and kick their legs in the air, I am not sure.’

The villagers were also partial to the mind-expanding yellow snow because the muscimol was not greatly diluted – and was probably safe- once it passed through the shaman. In fact, ‘There is evidence,’ says Harding, ‘of the drug passing through five or six people and still being effective. This is almost certainly the derivation of the British phrase “to get pissed”, which has nothing to do with alcohol. It predates inebriation by alcohol be several thousand years.’ Such was the intensity of the drug-induced experience that it is hardly surprising that the Christmas legend includes flying reindeer….

from: Can Reindeer Fly? The Science Of Christmas, by Roger Highfield

 

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