Sunday, December 19, 2010

Astrophyics Made Stupid

(Hat tip to Radley Balko)

So, there's a full Lunar eclipse on the winter solstice this year, a once-in-456-year event, just like clockwork. But is that enough some some people?

Oh, hells no. "It's a ritual of transformation from darkness into light," says Nicole Cooper, a high priestess at Toronto's Wiccan Church of Canada.

Lookit, I get that religion is, among other things, a set of tools for dealing with life, an attempt to make the infinite human-scaled (or vice-versa), but does the lily of reality always need gilding?

Fine, then. That's it. I'm gonna go bang on a pot lid in the back yard during the eclipse as precautionary measure. Sure, it looks like an alignment of celestial bodies, a truly mind-expanding thing to consider in its vastness and majesty, but it could be the Fenris wolf after the moon and by golly, he can't have it. You spit that out! Bad dog!

(Update: Received interesting linkage from a couple of non-silly and presumably thick-skinned current or former Wiccans, one of whom points out the symbolism was perhaps less conducive to the Rebbecca of Sunnybrook Farm read than the expert I linked to appeared to believe. Which goes to show, among other things, that reasonableness is where you find it. One does wonder how those so inclined interpreted the veil of clouds that hid the sight from most of the Midwest).


og said...

Mweh. Just put on a rug with a hole cut in it for your head, and lick a toad. Then this will all make sense.

WV: Indist. Like a nudist, but just enjoys being nude indoors.

perlhaqr said...

Could be worse. I mean, it could be a yearly celebration of the birth of a god-avatar by a woman that god himself impregnated without her knowledge. And how wacky would that be? At least this one relates to events that are clearly actually occurring, even if it's a somewhat silly interpretation of them.

Roberta X said...

Ex post facto consent, right?

Aw, heck; I don't care which toolkit people use, as long as they don't require me to sing along. And I'd almost rather the sort of religious holiday that existis in and of itself rather than trying to stick an ill-fitting gloss over entirely unhuman events.

Me, I'm amazed every day when a vast nuclear furnace comes into view over the spinning world -- and instead of frying the living critters to a crisp, they feed from it. How is that anything but a marvel and a wonderment in and of itself?

og said...

"At least this one relates to events that are clearly actually occurring,"

What year is it again?

Roberta X said...

Is an historical basis a necessity for religious faith, Og? Evidence suggests otherwise.

Vinnie said...

Does that mean I can quit dragging around these big #$%& rocks?

og said...

"Evidence suggests otherwise."

Clearly not.

But a couple thousand years ago was born a man who so changed the world that time itself is counted on his birth.

You can say anything you like about Jesus except this: He was unimportant.

Carteach said...

Solstice or not, a full lunar eclipse viewable from my back porch on a clear winters night?

Oh.... hell.... yes I will be out there watching it, and trying to get pictures too.

Any wolves I see are in trouble. Those 3" magnum buckshot shells are downright formidable.

Joe in PNG said...

Now maybe it's because I read too much H.P. Lovecraft and Larry Corriea, but maybe, just maybe one should stock up on the silver bullets...

Think about it- isn't this the standard "Best Used On" times for all the Eldrich Tomes of Forbidden Lore? I'm just sayin'.

Tam said...


"What year is it again?"

2763 Ab urbe condita, or 2048 aera Hispanica, or the 1,726th year of the era of Diocletian, or 6010 A.L., or 5771 Anno Mundi, or 1431 A.H., or... well, we haven't even gotten as far east as the Euphrates yet; I'm not even going to try and tell you what year it is in which part of India, because that gets complicated...

Firehand said...

I've known a lot of wiccans over the years, and about 70% or so seemed flat unable to look at something like this without digging up some words of that sort for it. "Ain't this frikkin' COOL?" just won't cut it for them.

Roberta X said...

Joe: Amen!

Og: In case you missed it, this isn't a dig at your religion; it's not even meant as a dig at the Wiccans in general, only the one quoted. I'm somewhat agog at people still wanting to lay a supernatural reading on a natural event, especially a purported nature-religion that otta be plain okay with the turning of the seasons.

OTOH, virgin birth? Not what you'd call a natural event among humans -- and the famous one to which you refer was only assigned a date near the solstice to preempt the heathens. The text suggests a different season. I'm not gonna argue the historicity or lack thereof of the event because that isn't the topic.

(And also 'cos it's not my field, as I have explained over and over. I'm not wired up for it. Certainly pleased by all the ways in which your religion has been a positive influence on folks).

Roberta X said...

Vinnie, duuude, no menhirs unless you brought enough for everyone!

Drang said...

Called it!

FWIW, our pagan friends see it as an interesting coincidence.

Roberta X said...

Well done, D.W.! Well done!

...It's just backlash against The Lightbringer, you know, and probably Bush's fault.

og said...

"because that gets complicated..."

yep, You can't imagine how hard it is to get everyone on board using the Indian calendar in my Day Timer. No, wait, that doesn't happen, because everywhere that matters uses the calculations (However flawed) of Dennis the Short.

My point stands. When Apple Computers and Microsoft Windows default to the date of anything other than the birth of Christ, it'll be a different story; for the present, even the woman who calls from Bangalore whining that I owe American Express money wished me a Merry Christmas

Tam said...


"My point stands."

Which was what? That western European Christians used to love gunpowder and so made everybody use their calendar (at least when doing business with them) but don't like making babies anymore and so had better start learning to calculate dates in the anno Hegirae? (It's easy: Your OS will just subtract 622.)

og said...

"Which was what?"

The point that in the civilized world, time is marked on the birth of Jesus Christ. You can aregue till you're blue in the face, but there it is, at the bottom of your computer screen, on your datebook, on your dentist's appointment calendar, etc..

You can disagree with how it's been done. You can dislike how it was handled. You can even rail against the evvil crool papist criminals that did it. It won't make it any other date than 2010.

I'm not offended by the way, nor am I trying to be contentious. I'm just pointing out an easily observable fact.

Anonymous said...

And we're supposed to be surprised that Western culture is dominant?

...And why is it that every conversation about religion is somehow a conversation about your religion? I'm very happy for you that you are certain you have The Answer; I am damn pleased that, after a pretty wretched, dirty Dark Ages, Western Civ. was clever enough to pick up quite a few things (sadly, not bathing) from the Moors they threw outta Spain and start up a Renaissance; but I'll not be overlooking the Church's role in hampering the study of anatomy nor their pesercuting Galileo over observable fact, either. It acted both good and bad. (Hey, who ran the Jews out of Spain, the wicked intolerant Muslims or the loving, gentle arms of the Church?r) I kinda like our shared culture. Of course, I was lucky enough to skip the witch-hunting and Inquistion and religious wars.

There are reasons why we got separation of Church and State in this country.

Blackwing1 said...

Hoping to move this away from the religious discussion, all I've got to say is that up here in Minnesnowta we're supposed to get another 6" to 8" of that fluffy white stuff...on top of the last foot-and-a-half that crippled us a week ago, and collapsed the Hump.

I'm guessing that spotting a lunar eclipse through the clouds and flurries is gonna be a little hard. Anybody wants to see a nice storm up here, just watch the feet-ball game tonight. They'll be playing on a surface like concrete, and there should be about a 1/2" per hour falling.

og said...

"...And why is it that every conversation about religion is somehow a conversation about your religion?"

It isn't. But every conversation about religion IS somehow about how all religions are bad. And equally bad. And some are more equally bad than others.

I'm very happy for you that you are certain you have The Answer; When you cast aspersions on Christians because of the ill conceived actiona of people who refer to themselves as Christians (Who, by definition, are, in fact, not very Christian) you have missed the point in ways that can only be described as heroic, and willful. Hint: Operating an inquisition or extermination is by definition not Christian behavior; No Christians ever engaged in it, ever do engage in it, or ever will engage in it. You can do those things and call yourself a Christian, but you can also do those things and call yourself a billygoat, assigning a label to yourself does not make the label true.

I pointed out an observable fact, and an undeniable one. It then, and ONLY then, became a discussion of how eevil religion is and all the things it's done.

I don't care what anyone believes- for myself, I have no beliefs, I only have faith which is beyond the power of the assembled to effect. I will have it no matter what anyone says or does, and my point was never about Christianity or religion, only about the demonstrable existance of a human being.

I'm surrounded by people who are anxious to remonstrate me, at all times, for associating myself with such a bunch of eevildoers. Not one is ever even remotely interested in exploring the idea that their preconceptions might be less than accurate. If anyone here is so convinced of their superiority to me, come to my blog and have a reasoned discussion. or remain cowards hiding in your own ignorance.

I began this comment thread with a lighthearted joke. No intention to have this discussion at all, so ms X, if you'd like, please delete ALL my comments so all the enlightened people who are not me can go on being correct as they are assured they are. It matters to me not at all.

TBeck said...

Crom laughs at The Four Winds, laughs from His mountain!

Tam said...


"The point that in the civilized world..."

Which civilized world is that?

"Pardon him, Theodotus, he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature."

"You can disagree with how it's been done. You can dislike how it was handled. You can even rail against the evvil crool papist criminals that did it."

Og, I know you're not a f$cking simpleton, so quit acting like one.

Unknown said...

The "civilized world" also observes days of the week named after Thor, Freya, Odin and Saturnin. That has no bearing on the reality (or lack thereof) of the Roman or Norse pantheon, does it?

Josh Kruschke said...

I know of several festivals around Austin TX and other cities that celebrate Chinese new years and the way things are going it just might be come the norm.

Roberta X said...

And isn't it wonderful we can all (mostly) get along -- the majority belief and all the others, even the ones that aren't beliefs so much as they are a lack thereof.

This general time of the is a religious holiday for a lot of faiths and a secular holiday, too, and most of 'em share some sense of huddlin' toether against the dark; and in that sense, even the ones I think are silly are onto something. It is the shortest day; get through that, you're halfway to the good part of the year again.

VW: "Canes" Don't say you weren't warned!

Cybrludite said...

Marko, don't forget the months being named for assorted gods, titans, and emperors...

Loki1776 said...

Marko beat me to it, and said it better than I would have.

Timmeehh said...

I don't know about you, but I was born in the year of the Cock!

WV = ditsi

How apropo.

NotClauswitz said...

Back when I was a kid in grade school there weren't any such popular thing as "Wiccans". Somebody started watching Dark Shadows and then this Twilight twinkle-toes crap shows up all over again. If it won't just die, is it a zombie?

Brad K. said...

I see the moon as a symbol of the great Goddess, of female divinity. Not the Goddess, but a shining symbol of divinity in my daily life. Viewing the moon is a joyful experience for me.

I also know that Generation X put a man on the moon, and repeated. The Me generation wanted to feed the world and end poverty. We all see how well that came out.

I see an eclipse as the earth passing between the sun and the moon.

But that is just my own Wiccan view.

Roberta X said...

Gen X put a man on the Moon? Okay, that clears up any question I might've had about Wiccans being teetotal or not. What a relief; we have more than enough of that sort already. (In re the space program, a hint: the people were mostly was the older sibs of Baby Boomers. Some of the bigger names were born before WW I).

Look, I don't really mind if people wanna slather some human-centered mystical stuff on the marvelous workings of the universe, but it strikes me as remarkably obtuse. It doesn't need any symbolic meaning; it is wonderful in and of itself.

But t'each his own.

Blackwing1 said...

"To each his ever-lovin' blue-eyed own"

I couldn't resist, I'm just an old Pogo fan.

Anonymous said...

Bad Fenris! *gigglesnort* classic. As for the religious discussion in the comments, I gotta say that in the broad expanse of humanity each religion has had its adherants which makes everyone else look bad. Whether one is blowing up kids for Allah or burning witches for Jesus, you are a powerhungry jackass who I doubt your deity of choice will back up when you meet him. Though lest any athiest think they get a free pass in this discussion, religion with all its repressions,pogroms, and massacres is still way ahead versus the 150+ million killed by athiests of the communists and national socialist stripe in the 20th century alone. -Dan

Roberta X said...

They're all human, aren't they?

The various and sundry faiths, I would argue, are not all equivalent from a "public utility"/"plays well with others" standpoint, nor is their behavior uniform from one individual to another or invariant over time. But as long as they will leave the others be, I'm okay with 'em. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg, as Mr. Jefferson put it.

Geodkyt said...

Let's see. . . all three of the Apollo 11 astronauts were born in 1930. Not exactly the "yearbook pictures with a mullet" crowd. In fact, all slightly older than my dad -- a Korean War vet.

IIRC, the Mercury (non=space-happy types should keep in mind the very short period between Mercury and Apollo) astronauts ALL wore uniforms during WWII, even if several of them didn't finish training in time to fight in that one. That would make them "the Greatest Generation" -- two generational cohorts prior to Gen X.