Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

Happy Winter Solstice

(Stonehenge)

The word solstice comes from the Latin solstitium, which means “sun stands still.” “At the winter solstice, the apparent position of the Sun reaches its most southerly point against the background stars” (Royal Museum Greenwich). This year, the winter solstice occurs on Tuesday, December 21, 2021. That means today will be the shortest day of the year, with the longest and darkest night. Tomorrow, the days will gradually become longer, leading up to Spring and the Spring Equinox.

The Julian calendar designated December 25th as the winter solstice. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted, December 21st became the winter solstice and December 25th remained as the traditional date for Christmas.

The winter solstice is also known as the Feast of Juul (Yule). In Scandinavia, fires were lit, including the Yule log, in honor of the Norse God, Thor. In Germany, the Yule boar (sonargoltr) was sacrificed after a ceremony called heitstrenging was performed, in which celebrants made solemn vows on the boar’s bristles. Celebrating Yule included feasting, drinking, and singing. The Yule log tradition was adopted by the Celts in Europe and the British Isles. Burning the Yule log at the winter solstice brought good luck for the new year. Modern day Yule celebrations are still popular.

The Romans celebrated Saturnalia from December 17th to December 24th in honor of the “father of the gods,” Saturn. Celebrants made sacrifices in the Temple of Saturn, held banquets, exchanged gifts, and offered forgiveness to each other for past wrongs.

In Asia, the Dongzhi Festival celebrates longer days, increased positive energy, and the yin-yang of balance and harmony in the community.

Iranians honor the longest, darkest night of the year with feasting and reciting poetry. Eating pomegranates and watermelons is considered particularly auspicious. The festival is called Yalda (Shab-e Yalda or Shab-e Chelleh).

At Stonehenge, people visit to watch the sun’s rays shine through the stones, which are aligned with the path of the sun. The winter solstice was especially important to ancient people because it was an opportunity to pray for fertility and good harvests in the new year.

Happy Solstice! Happy Yule!

Dawn Pisturino

December 21, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Christmas Folklore

Holly and Ivy

When the house is decorated with holly and ivy on Christmas Eve, good luck will bless the family in the New Year.

Mince Pies

Also called “wayfarers’ pies,” these tasty treats were passed out to visitors during the Christmas season. To earn good luck in the twelve months of the upcoming year, visitors tried to eat twelve pies at twelve different houses during the twelve days of Christmas.

Mistletoe

In ancient times, mistletoe represented peace and friendship. When friends stood beneath a tree adorned with mistletoe, their friendship would be blessed with good luck. Enemies who did likewise would call a truce for the day. The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe grew from these older legends.

Candy Canes

These sugary treats represent the shepherd’s crook at the nativity. Some legends say they are shaped in a “J” to represent “Jesus.”

Wassailing

Since the 13th century, it has been the custom to offer a toast to each other for good health and cheer during the Christmas season. The original wassail bowl contained roasted apples, ale, sugar, spices, and cream or eggs. Eventually, egg nog developed as the traditional Christmas drink.

Yule Log

Yule logs were lit during the winter solstice to ward off demons and light up the darkest day of the year.

Christmas Trees

Fir trees traditionally represent life’s victory over death, or eternal life. It was common during Saturnalia for Romans to decorate their homes with evergreen boughs.

Christmas Full Moon

Christmas 2015 was graced with the first full moon since 1977. Another one will not appear until 2034. The full moon in December is often called the Full Cold Moon, Full Long Nights Moon, or the Moon before Yule. An old tradition relates that when a full moon rises on Christmas Eve, the animals will be blessed with the gift of speech.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL, AND A BLESSED NEW YEAR!

Dawn Pisturino, RN

Copyright 2015-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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The Triduum of All Hallows’ Eve

In the Celtic world, the end of October and beginning of November were set aside for a great feast every year to celebrate the end of the summer (or Samhain) and the beginning of winter. People played games and told stories about great Celtic heroes and the gods and goddesses of Celtic lore.

The festival also marked the thinning of the veil between this world and the Other World. The spirits of the dead could visit this world, and the living could visit the land of the dead.

Samhain was so special, in fact, the normal laws of the universe did not apply. Fairies left their underground homes, and ordinary humans were subjected to fantastic dreams and adventures (often involving fairies). Families called on the spirits of dead ancestors to visit them. And the spirits who responded to their calls were often granted special powers. Celtic monsters prowled the earth with such ferocity that even the gods and goddesses were no match for them. In Ireland, Aillen mac Midna re-enacted his annual ritual and burned the court of Tara to ashes.

Bonfires blazed on the hilltops, lighting up the shortening nights. These bonfires were so significant that their ashes were used in magical charms to ward off illness and disease.

Today, Samhain is celebrated as Halloween on October 31st. The word “Halloween” actually means All Hallows’ Eve, or the eve of All Saints’ Day, which is celebrated in the Christian community on November 1st. This special day is set aside to honor the souls and memories of martyrs and saints. November 2nd is known as All Souls’ Day (or Dia de Los Muertos),when Christians pray for the souls of their dearly departed. These three days are known collectively as the Triduum of All Hallows’ Eve (or Hallowtide).

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Roke, Sweden, celebrating All Saints’ Day. Photo by David Castor.

Remember: the custom of carving and lighting turnips, pumpkins, and other gourds was meant to ward off the evil spirits that might visit on Halloween. Halloween is also a time to dress up and make merry! In the United States, it marks the beginning of the holiday season that runs through New Year’s Day. So eat, drink, and be merry!

Dawn Pisturino

October 26, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Ride of the Valkyries

The Ride of the Valkyries is one of Richard Wagner’s most popular pieces. The music has been used as part of the soundtrack in Francis Ford Coppola’s movie, Apocalypse Now, included in Halloween music collections, and hailed as an anthem for strong, courageous women. Everybody loves the iconic image of hefty, solid women dressed in armor, ready to wage battle. The music is rousing, active, and elevating. And the scene, which marks the beginning of Act Three in the opera Die Walkure, appeals to people who appreciate the enduring legacy of Nordic and Teutonic mythology. It is the second opera in the four operas which make up the Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle (The Ring). Many people believe J.R.R. Tolkien derived The Lord of the Rings from Wagner’s Ring, but Tolkien always denied that idea. Still, the similarities cannot be ignored. Wagner’s ring is a symbol of complete and total power that can be wielded against others. Cursed by Alberich, it becomes the cause of all the misery in the world. Sound familiar?

But who and what are the Valkyries?

In Norse mythology, the Valkyries were warrior goddesses associated with the god Odin. Their primary function was to bring back the bodies of slain heroes to Valhalla, where they would feast with Odin. They were called the Einherjar. Some were chosen to fight with Odin at the end of the world, during Ragnarok.

Wagner uses Teutonic mythology in his opera. The Valkyries were the daughters of Wotan who chose which heroes would be slain and then transported their bodies to the halls of Valhalla. Wotan’s daughter, Brunnhilde, embodies the qualities of courage, strength, wisdom, and precognition. It is her sacrifice which finally destroys the cruel, omnipotent power of the ring and saves the world.

The Ride of the Valkyries, from the Metropolitan Opera 2012 production. Enjoy!

Dawn Pisturino

October 4, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Norwegian Black Metal Bands – Satanic or Psychotic?

Mayhem

The 1990s rock-and-roll scene spawned a second generation of black metal music – an offshoot of 1970s heavy metal, 1980s New Wave British Heavy Metal, and punk. This highly elitist genre catered to musicians who wanted to develop their own style and leave a permanent mark on the music industry. (Baddeley)

Bands adopted Satanic themes, and the music became more bizarre and atonal, preferring chaos over organized harmony. Make-up and costumes reflected the fierce competition between bands – the more exotic and dark, the better. The Goth movement was in full swing at this time and became another hallmark of the black metal look and sound. Images of death, suicide, and violence dominated the performance stage and album covers. “Corpse paint” – the distinctive black and white face paint used by many black metal bands – became the standard, inspired by such heavy metal bands as KISS and punk bands like the Misfits. (Baddeley)

Some bands fell under the influence of occultist Aleister Crowley, Anton La Vey – founder of the Church of Satan, – and the iconic imagery from The Lord of the Rings books. Using Satan to create a unique look, sound, and feel became a marketing tool for many bands trying to succeed in the music business. But other bands took Satanism to a far more serious level. (Baddeley)

In the 1980s, in Sweden, the black metal band Bathory began combining images from Norse mythology with neo-Nazi fascism, inventing the gruesome genre called “death metal.” This spelled the end of the group, but the fascination caught on, with other groups taking on the mantle. (Baddeley)

In Norway, an independent record label named Deathlike Silence was started by Oystein Aarseth, who nicknamed himself “Euronymous.” He claimed to be a true Satanist and owned the record shop, Helvete. In 1984, at the height of the first black metal wave, he formed the band, Mayhem, along with bass guitarist Jorn Stubberud (“Necrobutcher”) and drummer Kjetil Manheim. In 1988, Per Ohlin (“Dead”) joined the band as the lead vocalist, and Jan Axel Blomberg (“Hellhammer”) became the band’s drummer. (Baddeley)

Euronymous’ record store became a focal point for the second generation of black metal bands to flourish in Norway in the early 1990s. An elitist group of black metal bands formed the Black Metal Circle under the influence of Euronymous and his Satanist theology. His interpretation of the Bible’s story of the war between Heaven and Hell formed the basis of his Satanic beliefs. And he eagerly embraced Satanic ideas about evil, hate, and revenge. (Baddeley)

Other bands in this circle included Burzum, Emperor, Immortal, Enslaved, Arcturus, and Dark Throne. Dark Throne gradually fell apart as members became isolated, anti-social, and sociopathic to the point where they no longer got together to record any music. (Baddeley)

Kristian Vikernes was the leader of Burzum. He went by the stage name “Count Grishnack.” Later, he changed his Christian name to Varg, which is Norwegian for “wolf.” The band’s distinctive sound covered a wide range between sad and deeply emotional to dark, angry, and furious. Grishnack himself believed in the darkness versus light mythology embodied in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and embraced the violent, conquest-driven history of the Norwegian Vikings. It wasn’t long before the Black Metal Circle began to indulge in fantasies of race-based neo-Nazi fascism. (Baddeley)

The darkness that surrounded Mayhem made its presence felt when lead vocalist, Dead, committed suicide in April, 1991. He had been having fantasies about murder, for he said, “I started to imagine a heavy fog lit up by a full moon. This fog oozed up from that place, drifting woefully in silence to extinguish the lives of the local people and bring their souls to Lord Satan” (Rolling Stone). He died by slitting his wrists and throat and then shooting himself in the head with a shotgun (NME). He left a suicide note in which he expressed his alienation from the world and desire to live alone in the forest (Baddeley). He also wrote, “Excuse the blood” (NME).

Euronymous found the body, took photographs, and kept a piece of Dead’s skull, which he wore as a necklace (Baddeley; NME). He also scooped up part of Dead’s brains and, later, ate it in soup. Members of the Black Metal Circle called Dead a hero (Baddeley).

Dead’s suicide led to an international resurgence in black metal music. The Black Metal Circle designated “Norway as the Aryan homeland” (Baddeley), impugning other countries and other bands as inferior, and sparking a war that led to threats and harassment from all sides.

In June 1992, a stave church (medieval wooden church) was burned down in the Norwegian town of Fantoft. Several more churches were burned, and in January 1993, Grishnack was arrested for arson (Baddeley). Months later, on August 10, 1993, Euronymous died from 25 stab wounds to the face and chest. It wasn’t long before Grishnack was arrested for his murder. During the investigation, police found a notebook in Euronymous’ apartment detailing “a merit system whereby status [in the Black Metal Circle] was determined by the number of evil acts perpetrated [for Satan]” (Baddeley). Other members of the circle were arrested on charges of arson, rape, and other horrendous crimes (Baddeley).

Although these crimes brought negative publicity to the group, Mayhem still thrives “as the most unremittingly evil black metal band” (Baddeley), cashing in on the death of Euronymous.

In 2021, we can see the influence of death, darkness, and destruction on young people and their mentors in our schools and universities. While the social justice movement started out with good intentions, it has morphed into a negative force that destroys young people. They will never be able to survive in society except as hate-filled warriors. They will always be looking for trouble and getting themselves into trouble because their heads are filled with delusions of injustice wherever they go. They will never form healthy relationships with others because their hearts are filled with suspicion and hate.

By the same token, rock-and-roll started out as fun music that fostered dancing and socializing. Lyrics were simple and didn’t require too much thinking. Young people could interact without worrying about getting beat up, raped, or murdered. But rock also morphed into something negative and destructive. And our young people are the ones who suffer under its nihilistic influence.

Dawn Pisturino

September 28, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Baddeley, Gavin. Lucifer Rising. London: Plexus, 2006.

Grow, Kory. “Mayhem’s Long, Dark Road to Reviving a Black-Metal Classic.” Rolling Stone. 2017.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/Mayhems-long-dark-road-to-reviving-a-black-

metal-classic-129097/

Pattison, Louis. “Mayhem: Meet the Band with the Wildest Story Ever Told.” NME. 2016.

Mayhem: Meet The Band With The Wildest Story Ever Told

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Women in Celtic History and Lore

Boudicca

The Celtic world spread over a large territory, from central Europe to Spain to the British Isles. Celtic culture originated in the Iron Age and continues to this day in places such as Ireland, Wales, Scotland, and Brittany.

The Romans, in particular, wrote about the Celts because their armed forces invaded Celtic territory and enslaved the Celtic people. Most Celts had been absorbed into the Roman Empire by the 1st century C.E. By 500 C.E., Celtic culture was confined to Brittany and the British Isles. Because of their commonly-held language and traditions, these Celts stood out from other cultures and became the historical model for Celtic culture.

Celtic women were protected throughout their lives: first, by their fathers; secondly, by their husbands; and lastly, by their sons. But Celtic women were not weak and dependent creatures. They were highly regarded as daughters, wives, mothers, and warriors, if the need arose. They were expected to give good counsel, keep their households in good order, and remain virtuous and loyal to husband, family, and tribe.

Queen Boudicca

The best historical example of a fierce Celtic woman is Queen Boudicca of the Iceni tribe, who reigned in the East Anglia region of Britain. In 60 C.E., she led a revolt against the Romans. Bravely driving a chariot against Roman forces, she fought for the liberation of her tribe and vengeance for the rape of her two daughters by Roman soldiers. Although defeated, she went down in history as a British folk hero.

The Old Hag of Beara

The Old Hag of Beara is a legendary Irish Cailleach (divine crone) whose story originated in the Beara Peninsula in County Cork, Ireland. She represented a woman’s life cycle. In her youth, she was the consort of kings, toasting the king and giving sage advice to her royal lover. As an ugly old crone, she sits on the Beara Peninsula as a pile of stones, wielding power over the wind and sea. She has been associated with the coming of winter.

The Old Woman of Beare Poem

It is of Corca Dubhne she was, and she had her youth seven times over, and every man that had lived with her died of old age, and her grandsons and great-grandsons were tribes and races.

And through a hundred years she wore upon her head the veil Cuimire had blessed. Then age and weakness came upon her and it is what she said:

Ebb-tide to me as to the sea; old age brings me reproach; I used to wear a shift that was always new; to-day, I have not even a cast one.

It is riches you are loving, it is not men; it was men we loved in the time we were living.

There were dear men on whose plains we used to be driving; it is good the time we passed with them; it is little we were broken afterwards.

When my arms are seen it is long and thin they are; once they used to be fondling, they used to be around great kings.

The young girls give a welcome to Beltaine when it comes to them; sorrow is more fitting for me; an old pitiful hag.

I have no pleasant talk; no sheep are killed for my wedding; it is little but my hair is grey; it is many colours I had over it when I used to be drinking good ale.

I have no envy against the old, but only against women; I myself am spent with old age, while women’s heads are still yellow.

The stone of the kings on Feman; the chair of Ronan in Bregia; it is long since storms have wrecked them, they are old mouldering gravestones.

The wave of the great sea is speaking; the winter is striking us with it; I do not look to welcome to-day Fermuid son of Mugh.  

I know what they are doing; they are rowing through the reeds of the ford of Alma; it is cold is the place where they sleep.

The summer of youth where we were has been spent along with its harvest; winter age that drowns everyone, its beginning has come upon me.

It is beautiful was my green cloak, my king liked to see it on me; it is noble was the man that stirred it, he put wool on it when it was bare.

Amen, great is the pity; every acorn has to drop. After feasting with shining candles, to be in the darkness of a prayer-house.

I was once living with kings, drinking mead and wine; to-day I am drinking whey-water among withered old women.

There are three floods that come up to the dun of Ard-Ruide: a flood of fighting-men, a flood of horses, a flood of the hounds of Lugaidh’s son.

The flood-wave and the two swift ebb-tides; what the flood-wave brings you in, the ebb-wave sweeps out of your hand.

The flood-wave and the second ebb-tide; they have all come as far as me, the way that I know them well.

The flood-tide will not reach to the silence of my kitchen; though many are my company in the darkness, a hand has been laid upon them all.

My flood-tide! It is well I have kept my knowledge. It is Jesus Son of Mary keeps me happy at the ebb-tide.

It is far is the island of the great sea where the flood reaches after the ebb: I do not look for floods to reach to me after the ebb-tide.

There is hardly a little place I can know again when I see it; what used to be on the flood-tide is all on the ebb to-day!

From The Kiltartan Poetry Book by Lady Augusta Persse Gregory, 1919.

Dawn Pisturino

August 24, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Legend of the Giant’s Causeway, Antrim, Ireland

Giant’s Causeway, Antrim, Ireland

Although the Giant’s Causeway was formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, the boundless imagination and creativity of the Irish people saw something more magical in its origins.

Legend has it that Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) was an Irish hunter-warrior of great height and strength who could not get along with a Scottish giant named Benandonner (Red Man). The two went back and forth at each other until, finally, Finn challenged the giant to a fight.

Finn hauled tons of rock from the coastline of Antrim into the sea in order to build a causeway between Ireland and Scotland. When it was completed, Finn bravely and proudly crossed the sea and met his Scottish enemy on Scottish territory.

To his great surprise, Finn discovered that his enemy was, indeed, a giant and much bigger and stronger than himself. He high tailed it back across the causeway. But Red Man spotted him fleeing and gave chase.

On his way back to Ireland, Finn lost a boot — which can still be seen today. The giant’s roars were deafening, and Finn stuffed moss into his ears to deaden the noise.

At home, Finn confided in his wife, Oonagh. She hid him away then greeted the giant which had followed him home.

Oonagh craftily showed Red Man huge boulders and other large weapons to give the giant a false impression that Finn was much larger and stronger than himself. She baked griddle cakes for the hungry giant, inserting the iron griddle itself inside one of the cakes. When Red Man bit into the cake, he broke his front teeth.

Feeling outsized and out-smarted by Finn and his wife, the giant left the house and headed back to Scotland. Finn came out of hiding. He dug up a huge chunk of Irish soil and threw it at the giant. The chunk of soil missed Red Man and fell into the sea, forming the Isle of Man. The hole which Finn had made filled with water and became Lough Derg — the largest lake in Ireland.

There are other variations to the story, of course, but whichever tale is told, the Giant’s Causeway will always be a marvel of natural science, a source of Irish national pride, and the creation of legendary hero, Finn McCool.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Dawn Pisturino

March 10, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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The Butter Thief

Many years ago, a little boy named Krishna lived in a small village in India.

Every morning, the women of the village would milk the cows and churn the thick, sweet cream into golden butter. Then they would place the butter into cool clay pots.

Krishna loved butter. One day, he sneaked into a neighbor’s hut and stole the pot full of butter.

Sitting under a shady tree, Krishna shared the butter with some hungry monkeys. When they were all full, he threw the pot on the ground and broke it.

The next day, Krishna sneaked into another hut in the village. But the pot full of butter was sitting on a high shelf. Krishna could not reach it. He stacked some wooden boxes under the shelf. Then he climbed up the boxes and stole the pot full of butter.

Krishna shared the butter with his friend Balarama. They had fun smearing butter on each other’s faces. When they were both full, Krishna threw the pot into some bushes.

The next day, Krishna sneaked into another hut in the village. But the pot full of butter was hanging from the ceiling. Krishna could not reach it. He could not find any wooden boxes to stand on. But in the corner of the hut, Krishna found a long wooden stick. He broke the pot with the stick and ate all the butter.

As Krishna was licking butter from his fingers, a young woman entered the hut.

“Krishna, why have you stolen all the butter?” she said.

“Why do you accuse me of stealing?” Krishna asked. “There is plenty of butter in the village.”

The women of the village complained to Krishna’s mother. She saw the butter on Krishna’s face.

“Open your mouth and let me see,” she said to Krishna.

Krishna opened his mouth. But instead of teeth, tongue, and tonsils, Krishna’s mother saw the whole universe. She saw the sun, the moon, and all the planets. She saw all the stars in the Milky Way. She saw the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. She saw comets shooting across the sky.

Krishna’s mother was amazed at what she saw, but she thought it was all a dream. She scolded him for stealing the butter then held him on her lap.

The next morning, the women of the village found all their pots full of sweet golden butter. And they were never empty again.

Dawn Pisturino

2008

Copyright 2008-2020 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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