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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ridin' a Hag: A Breathtaking Night Terror Experience


"Don't let de hag ride ya!"

The Gullahs are descendants of enslaved Africans who live in the Low-country region of South Carolina and Georgia, which includes both the coastal plain and the Sea Islands. The Gullah themselves are an offshoot of the West African slave trade, during which Africans with various cultural backgrounds were imprisoned in fairly large numbers together. Over time, these people have formed a diverse, cohesive culture that is all their own: the Gullah culture. 

Today, almost half a million Gullahs live along the eastern coast of the United States, ranging from North Carolina to Florida. They have persevered and endured centuries of war, natural disasters, and slavery, and will continue to do so.

When the Africans originally came together in the Southern States, they brought their own religious and spiritual beliefs with them. These superstitions and beliefs gradually blended together over time, with the addition of Christianity completing the mix. One creature of folklore in Gullah legend is particularly well-known.

A boo hag is a mythical creature in the folklore of the Gullah. The presence of boo hags, particularly in South Carolina, may be connected to Charleston's long history of racial inequality. Much of Charleston today is built on reused land, some of which housed colonial-era slave graveyards.

The Gullah believe "haints" (ghosts) can't cross water. Because of this, the color blue is believed to be powerful protection from supernatural haunts. Slaves used to live in brick cabins with on windows, just open holes for ventilation, and they painted the thresholds of openings blue or hung blue cloths over the openings to keep the haints out. 

Even now, painting the window frames, the front porch, or even the exterior doors of one’s house is guaranteed to help prevent a boo hag from entering. In fact, the belief in this color’s powers of protection is so strong that it has been called “haint blue" and is evidenced in present day Charleston.

("The Boo Hag." demonhunterscompendium.blogspot.com. March 27, 2013)

According to the legend, boo hags are similar to vampires. But, unlike vampires, they gain sustenance from a person's breath, as opposed to their blood, by riding their victims. They are often found above displaced burial grounds.

(Mark R. Jones. Wicked Charleston: The Dark Side of the Holy City. 2005)

The creatures have no skin, and thus are red. They have a flaxen-like quality which makes them appear raw and hard to hold onto (bodies without the organ of skin). Besides, no one would want to wrestle with one. The creature is said to possess supernatural strength and can easily overpower a full-grown man.

Boo hags feel warm to the human touch like fresh, raw meat. In order to be less conspicuous, they will kill a victim (usually a young woman) and steal the person's skin to use it for as long as it holds out, wearing it as one might wear clothing. 

Most commonly, the Boo Hag appears in the skin of a young and beautiful lady, but she may also take the form of a harmless old woman. Thus disguised, boo hags can selectively choose potential candidates for "ridin'."

 The "skin" of beauty may be deceiving.

Supposedly, there are some warning signs that a Boo Hag is close by. Dogs may be able to sense her presence, regardless of whether she is invisible or has taken human form. When a Hag is near, dogs will start howling and barking. Crows will also recognize a disguised Hag for what she truly is, and will cry out if she should pass by. If a Boo Hag is close, a human may notice the air will become hot and damp. Then, the smell of rot and decay will follow and fill the air. 

("The Boo Hag." demonhunterscompendium.blogspot.com. March 27, 2013)

When a hag determines a victim is suitable for riding, the hag must first get out of its stolen skin and hide it for her return. Then, by night, she takes to the skies (some say as a ball of light), flying about in search of those whom she chooses to harass and torture while they sleep.

The boo hag will generally gain access to the home through a small crack, crevice, or even a keyhole. The hag will then position themselves over the sleeping victim, sucking their breath. Most accounts say the creature sits on the victim’s chest and, by doing so, she restricts the person's breathing.

Some accounts claim, if the victim is a man, a boo hag may even rape him. A shape-shifter, the boo hag may become invisible at will. Legends say that she is able to shape-shift into an insect as well.

This "ridin'" renders the victim helpless, and induces a deep dream-filled sleep. Victims of the hag are said to experience sleep paralysis (during which they are aware of their surroundings, but are unable to move). 

The hags tend to leave their victims alive, so as to use them again and again for their energy. However, if the victim wakes up and struggles, the hag may suffocate them and take their skin.

After taking the victim's energy, the hag flies off, as they must be in their human skin by dawn or be forever trapped.

When victims of a boo hag awake, they may feel short of breath, but generally they only feels very tired. Some may wake up with strange scratches and experience insomnia due to recurring nightmares. Eventually victims may succumb to exhaustion and illness as a result. All together, these symptoms can lead to mental illness and inevitable death.

An expression sometimes used in South Carolina is "don't let de hag ride ya." This expression likely stems from the boo hag legend.

Court records from 1813 actually indicate a trial against a witch who was accused of "slipping through a keyhole."

It was also said that if a person placed a broom beside their bed before going to sleep it would prevent the hag from riding them. Hags supposedly would be distracted by counting the straws of the broom and would not get to ride the person sleeping before the sun rose the next morning.

Many believe a boo hag, like most supernatural evil, fears and hates salt. They say it can be sprinkled on a floor to keep her at bay, but the most effective use of this substance by far is to thoroughly salt her empty skin while she is “out for the night" (although most legends say that one must use pepper as well).

In addition it is said, a boo hag does not like the smell of asafoetida the roots of several plants of the parsley family (Ferula assafoetida), and so it may be wise to place a bag of this pungent herb on one’s nightstand or bedside table.

 

All Hallow's Eve - Other Hag Connections 

In ancient Britain and Ireland, the Celtic festival of Samhain eve was observed on October 31, at the end of summer. This date was also the eve of the new year in both Celtic and Anglo-Saxon times and was the occasion for one of the ancient fire festivals when huge bonfires were set on hilltops to frighten away evil spirits.

The date was connected with the return of herds from pasture, and laws and land tenures were renewed. The souls of the dead were thought to revisit their homes on this day, and the autumnal festival acquired sinister significance, with ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, black cats, fairies, and demons of all kinds said to be roaming about. It was the time to placate the supernatural powers controlling the processes of nature. 

Samhain would seem an appropriate time for a hag to ride. A hag, or "the Old Hag," is a nightmare spirit spirit in English and anglophone North American folklore. In this lore, a hag appears to be a wizened, malevolent old woman, or a kind of fairy or goddess having the appearance of such a woman, but a hag may also be one of the chosen forms of shape-shifting deities.

Parallels to the boo hag are evident. According to folklore, the Old Hag sat on a sleeper's chest and sent nightmares to him or her. When the subject awoke, he or she would be unable to breathe or even move for a short period of time. This state is now called sleep paralysis, but in the old belief the subject had been "hagridden." It is still frequently discussed as if it were a paranormal state.

(Michele Ernsting. "Hags and Nightmares: Sleep Paralysis 
and the Midnight Terrors." Radio Netherlands. 2004)

In neurobiology, the expression Old Hag Attack refers to a hypnagogic state (the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep) in which paralysis is present and, quite often, accompanied by terrifying hallucinations. When excessively recurrent, some consider them to be a disorder, however many populations treat them as simply part of their culture and mythological world-view, rather than any form of disease or pathology.

Many stories about hags seem to have been used to frighten children into being good. Peg Powler, for example, was a river hag from English folklore who lived in river trees and had skin the color of green pond scum.

Parents told their children that if they got too close to the water, Peg Powler would pull them in with her extra long arms, drown them, and sometimes eat them. The parents hoped that the children would be afraid of the hag so they wouldn't go anywhere near the water. That way, they'd never fall in and drown. Peg Powler has other regional names, such as Jenny Greenteeth from Yorkshire and Nellie Longarms from several other English counties.


(Brian Froud and Alan Lee. Faeries. 1978) 

This blog entry represents a Halloween story for the sharing. The legend of the creature may make for some ghost story fun. If it goes "bump in the night" and hangs on to ride, you may have experienced the hearty hug of a hag. And, boy, that sucks.

Here is Robert Herrick's famous poem about the creature:

The Hag

Robert Herrick (1591-1674)


             The Hag is astride,
              This night for to ride;
    The Devill and shee together:
              Through thick, and through thin,
              Now out, and then in,
    Though ne'r so foule be the weather. 


              A Thorn or a Burr
              She takes for a Spurre:
    With a lash of a Bramble she rides now,
              Through Brakes and through Bryars,
              O're Ditches, and Mires,
    She followes the Spirit that guides now. 


              No Beast, for his food,
              Dares now range the wood;
    But husht in his laire he lies lurking:
              While mischeifs, by these,
              On Land and on Seas,
    At noone of Night are working, 


              The storme will arise,
              And trouble the skies;
    This night, and more for the wonder,
              The ghost from the Tomb
              Affrighted shall come,
    Cal'd out by the clap of the Thunder


* Note: Herrick is often remembered for his references to lovemaking and the female body. His later poetry was more of a spiritual and philosophical nature. Perhaps, he is most famous for the opening stanza of his poem "To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time."
"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying."
Happy Halloween, everyone.

"Hello, my name is Rosebud."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dark Snares of Unrequited Love on Raglan Road


On Raglan Road

Patrick Kavanagh, written in 1946

On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.

On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion's pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay -
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that's known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay -
When the angel woos the clay he'd lose his wings at the dawn of day.

Patrick Kavanagh

Patrick Kavanagh (21 October 1904 – 30 November 1967) was an Irish poet and novelist. He was regarded as one of the foremost poets of the 20th century.

Kavanagh was born in rural Innis Keen, the fourth of ten children to Bridgett Quinn. His father, James, was a shoemaker and farmer.

Patrick became apprenticed to his father as a shoemaker and worked on his farm. For the first 27 years of his life, he lived and worked as a farmer of a small holding. He was also goalkeeper for the Inniskeen Gaelic football team. He commented that though he grew up in a poor district "the real poverty was lack of enlightenment [and] I am afraid this fog of unknowing affected me dreadfully."

Irish Poet: Kavanagh

So for the first 27 years of his life, Kavanagh lived the life of rural Ireland, the life of "fairs and football matches, of mass-going and dance-going." - See more at: http://www.poetryarchive.org/poet/patrick-kavanagh#sthash.VZFRhqAk.dpuf
Seamus Heaney

Famous poet Seamus Heaney said, "So for the first 27 years of his life, Kavanagh lived the life of rural Ireland, the life of fairs and football matches, of mass-going and dance-going."

In 1931, he walked the eighty kilometres to meet his brother Russell in Dublin, where Russell was a teacher. In Dublin, Russell gave Kavanagh books, among them works by Feodor Dostoyevsy, Victor Hugo, Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Robert Browning, and he also became Kavanagh's literary advisor.

Kavanagh's first collection, Ploughman and Other Poems was published in 1936, notable for its realistic portrayal of Irish country life, free of romantic sentiment often seen at the time in rural poetry, a trait he abhorred. His work made a commitment to colloquial speech and the unvarnished lives of real people, a trajectory which made him unpopular with the literary establishment.

Kavanagh eked out a living as a journalist but his tendency to tell the unvarnished truth, together with a self-belief in his poetic gifts, made him enemies. Recalling this period in the 1963 recording from which his Archive poems are taken, Kavanagh wryly says "every potential employer said I was a genius and therefore unemployable." - See more at: http://www.poetryarchive.org/poet/patrick-kavanagh#sthash.VZFRhqAk.dpuf

Kavanagh eked out a living as a journalist but his tendency to tell the unvarnished truth, together with a self-belief in his poetic gifts, made him enemies. Recalling this period in the 1963 recording from which his Archive poems are taken, Kavanagh wryly says "every potential employer said I was a genius and therefore unemployable."

However, in 1954 personal crisis was to set his poetry on a new course. Firstly, Kavanagh pursued and lost a notorious libel action against a Dublin newspaper that accuse him of being an alcoholic "sponger" and secondly he was diagnosed with cancer and had a lung removed.

(Patrick Kavanagh. Poetry Foundation Bibliography)

It was during his convalescence while sitting beside the Grand Canal in Dublin that he underwent what he described as a "re-birth." He began to enjoy nature and his pleasant surroundings. There followed his happiest years during which he produced some of his greatest poems, full of new found optimism and love of the world.

He then, at long last, began to receive the acclaim he felt he deserved, giving lectures at University College Dublin and in the USA. In April 1967 he married Katharine Maloney. He died later the same year, a week after being taken ill at the opening performance of the adaptation of Tarry Flynn at the Abbey Theatre.

His poem "On Raglan Road" set to the traditional air "Fáinne Geal an Lae", composed by Thomas Connellan in the 17th century, has been performed by numerous artists as diverse as Van Morrison, Luke Kelly, Dire Straits, Billy Bragg, Sinead O'Connor, Joan Osborne, and many others.



The Poem

While walking on a quiet street, the narrator becomes infatuated by the sight of a beautiful, young woman. He is immediately smitten and, at once, "snared" by her charms. He decides to initiate a relationship with this attractive young woman. Yet, as he meets her for the first time, he has a sense of foreboding. Still, against his better judgment, the speaker risks his heart for this sudden opportunity.

"On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger yet I walked along the enchanted way
And I said let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day”

A theme quickly emerges as the poem captures so brilliantly the self-destructive recklessness that otherwise rational people can display when they fall in love -- no matter how old or mature they think they are.

The couple evidently form a mutual friendship and happily “trip lightly” on Grafton Street as two lovers might do, yet the speaker's daring brush with his "passion pledge" begins upon the “ledge of the deep ravine" that forebodes the end of the relationship. The girl is the "queen" of his heart, yet her love is not reciprocal. And soon he understands he loves her "too much" -- so much that any happiness he attains will soon be merely be lost and "thrown away."

"On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion's pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay -
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away."

The narrator's queen is “still making tarts,” which suggests that she is still going about her daily business unaffected by any emotional complications. She seems to be playing him like a deck of cards. After all, he is convinced he is not "making hay."

The Queen of Hearts is an allusion to a poem based on the characters found on playing cards by an anonymous author,  originally published with three lesser-known stanzas -- "The King of Spades," "The King of Clubs," and "The Diamond King"-- in the British publication The European Magazine in April 1782

The poem "The Queen of Hearts" relates that Her Majesty bakes tarts which the Knave of Hearts steals. The King of Hearts has the Knave punished, so he brings them back and pledges not to steal again. This seems to emphasize the lack of station of the suitor in "On Raglan Road." He is but a simple knave in a desperate love.

"The Queen of Hearts
She made some tarts,
All on a summer's day

The Knave of Hearts
He stole those tarts,
And took them clean away.

The King of Hearts
Called for the tarts,
And beat the knave full sore;

The Knave of Hearts
Brought back the tarts,
And vowed he'd steal no more."



The opening lines of the third verse describe the speaker giving the girl romantic “gifts of the mind” which suggests that he is sharing his knowledge, his experience, and his art with her. This would be understandable as Kavanagh was much older and more experienced than his purported female inspiration for the poem.

And, of course, as a poet, Kavanagh is quite skilled in the arts. So, it is likely the narrator, who is evidently convinced he holds “secret signs” of loving and romantic pursuits, trusts the power of his learned words in reflective verse to convince his lady of his esteemed love and devotion.

"I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that's known 
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May"

The narrator recounts how he gives his love personal poems praising her physical beauty. Yet, these "gifts" must not impress her much, for the poet employs a simile “like clouds over fields of May” that emphasizes a sense of foreboding for the outcome of the relationship. At this point, the speaker seems pathetically desperate and utterly defeated in his efforts of conquest.

The fourth stanza does not reveal how the speaker's relationship ends, but it is apparent no spark fueled a fire. In this, the end of the poem, it seems that some time has past since since the two people have been together.

"On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay -
When the angel woos the clay he'd lose his wings at the dawn of day."

In the memory of the narrator, the "ghosts" of his past -- in particular, one elusive lady with dark hair -- still haunt him. But, now with restored reason, he can see the folly of wooing one that doesn't love him, someone he mistakenly thought could be molded like a work of "clay." He understands now he could not "woo" her with such hopeless desire because she was a mortal with her own different, unique emotions.

The word angel (angelos in Greek, malak in Hebrew) means "a person sent" or "a messenger." Their pure, pristine soft wings denote purity. The message for the narrator in this case decries the folly of expecting unadulterated, idyllic love in vain -- foolishly idolizing someone who doesn't care. An angel would be destined to "lose his wings" by breaking this heaven directive.



Real Life Connection

The poem is an ode to unrequited love. Perhaps the poem reveals Kavanagh’s mature understanding
that he could take his own art too seriously. "On Raglan Road" chronicles the seemingly universal frailty of rushing into love, even attempting to remold a one-way relationship. For Patrick Kavanagh, the verse is autobiographical.

The poem is said to be based on an actual experience of Patrick Kavanagh. Patrick's brother, said the verse "was written about Patrick's girlfriend Hilda but to avoid embarrassment he used the name of my girlfriend in the title." The bitterness Patrick felt about the failure of the relationship is described in the lines of ‘On Raglan Road’ and all of the places that he mentions in the ballad -- Grafton Street, Holles Street, St Stephen's Green and the Country Shop -- were all central to the area of Dublin where they had met and walked.

 (Peter Kavanagh. Sacred Keeper. 1980)

His girlfriend's real name was Dr. Hilda Moriarty, then a medical student from County Kerry, who later married Donogh O'Malley, the Irish Minister for Health. Their son is the actor Daragh O'Malley.

 Hilda Moriarty

Patrick was 40 at the time of the affair and Hilda Moriarty was only 22. Moriarty was a fairly impressionable young woman at that time and having an interest in literature she was probably at least amused to have one of Ireland's best-known poets taking an interest in her.


No doubt too the young woman's compassion was stirred by the fact that her admirer was down on his luck while experiencing job difficulties. She treated him very sympathetically, something that Kavanagh perhaps read too much into at the time.

In an interview in 1987, Moriarty said the age gap was the main reason the relationship failed. Dr. Moriarty also described how "Raglan Road" came to be written. Kavanagh had described himself as the peasant poet, but she was not impressed and teased him for writing about mundane things such as vegetables. She said he should write about something else so he agreed to do so. In Kavanagh's eyes, this was an opportunity to transform himself from an small farmer turned poet into the kind of suitor that he felt would be worthy of Hilda's attentions.

According to Dr. Moriarty, he then went away and wrote "On Raglan Road." But, the poem did nothing to re-establish any love affair between Kavanagh and Moriarty.

("The Beauty Who Inspired Kavanagh's 'Raglan Road.'"  
The Independent. June 29, 2004)

Still ...


One biographer adds an interesting twist to the story:

"Hilda however, it turned out had never quite lost her interest in Kavanagh but they only ever met once again at a function in Dublin but that interest did manifest itself after his death. What happened could indicate that the love affair was not as one-sided as Kavanagh might have ever imagined because on his death in November 1967, the woman of his dreams sent a wreath of red roses.

"Whether the love he had shown for her was returned in equal measure will never truly be known. One thing that is certain though is that Kavanagh's feelings for the young lady from Kerry have left her immortalized in verse and given her a place in literature and a degree of immortality that is reserved for the very few."


"We are each of us angels with only one wing, 
and we can only fly by embracing one another." 

~Luciano de Crescenzo



Youtube video "Raglan Road" by Van Morrison. Click: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dobte0rRKUA 

Youtube video "Raglan Road" by the Dubliners

Youtube video "Raglan Road" by the Chieftains and Joan Osborne:

  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tied In The Hitching Post: Same-Sex Marriage In Idaho




Same-sex marriage does present a dilemma for many Christian believers. The whole debate about whether homosexuality is "sanctioned" as Christian love or not still rages. I imagine it will continue for a long time as strong arguments for and against performing same-sex weddings as Christian unions exist.

I am a strong believer in the right of churches and ministers to protect their specific beliefs. I also believe gays have every right to marriage, yet I believe legitimate denominations and Christian pastors have the right to refuse to marry whomever they deem does not meet their qualifications for union.

I think homosexual behavior is appropriate within the confines of a committed, loving, monogamous, lifelong, Christ-centered relationship while still respecting the views of those who follow the Bible in its morally authoritative belief that homosexual behaviors are wrong and who do not want to have same-sex marriages performed in their churches. After all, this is the land of the free and the cradle of liberty for all with decent intentions. There is room and headroom for all in America as God intended when he graciously blessed this land.

But, sometimes things get "fuzzy" ...

A Christian religious rights legal organization has filed a federal lawsuit against a northern Idaho city contending its anti-discrimination ordinance compels a wedding chapel to perform same-sex marriages. Gay marriage became legal in Idaho on October 15, 2014.

Two Christian ministers own a wedding chapel named The Hitching Post in Couer d’Alene, Idaho. The pair is facing some serious fines and even jail time for refusing to perform same-sex ceremonies. The lawsuit says that violates the couple's constitutional rights to religious freedom.

“Right now they are at risk of being prosecuted,” attorney Jeremy Tedesco from the Alliance Defending Freedom told a Fox News reporter. “The threat of enforcement is more than credible.”

Here's the rub ...


One argument: 

The Hitching Post Wedding Chapel, owned by Donald and Evelyn Knapp, an ordained couple, is not responsible for accommodating ceremonies that fall outside of their beliefs. A church can discriminate -- and they do so all the time -- even when it comes to weddings.

Another argument:

The Knapps are running a business, not a church. They are not "pastors," since they don't have a church. The Hitching Post is not a legitimate nonprofit religious corporation.

The ADF refers to this chapel as a "religious mission." In addition, they claim that the Knapps "have ensured that mission is respected by barring anyone but themselves and their employees from performing wedding ceremonies at, or on behalf of, the Hitching Post."

Until this legal case arose, the Hitching Post stated openly that civil ceremonies were available. They also offered ceremonies in other states and venues where they would help couples plan the wedding and find an officiant.

The Hitching Post has existed as a business for decades and had been used for wedding ceremonies for over 50 years. It is a business that the current owners purchased in 1989 which had been privately owned since it was founded in 1919. In one part of the ADF filing they admit this is the Knapp's "closely-held business," and not a ministry at all. 

(James Peron. "Is a Church Being Forced to Perform a Gay Wedding?" 
The Huffington Post. October 21, 2014)

Coeur d'Alene City Attorney Mike Gridley in a letter to the Alliance Defending Freedom says that because the wedding chapel is registered as a for-profit business, it would likely be violating city code if it turned away same-sex couples.

Gridley said the ordinance exempts not-for-profit religious entities, but not for-profit businesses.

The Hitching Post is registered as a for-profit limited liability company with the Idaho Secretary of State. However, on Oct. 6, the Knapps filed with the state as a religious organization. Gridley, in his letter to Alliance Defending Freedom, said that if the Knapps are "truly operating a not-for-profit religious corporation" they would be exempted from the city ordinance.

Gridley wrote that the city doesn't intend to prosecute legitimate nonprofit religious corporations.

"Their lawsuit was something of a surprise because we have had cordial conversations with them in the past and they have never disclosed that they have recently become a religious corporation," Gridley wrote.

("N. Idaho Wedding Chapel Sues Over Gay Marriage." Associated Press. October 21, 2014)

 
Here is some info straight from the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel website http://hitchingpostweddings.com/:

"Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life and we are honored that you’ve considered letting us share it with you.
Here at the Hitching Post, we strive to make each couple feel special by welcoming you into our facility and making your wedding day a positively memorable event. Whether this is your first marriage, a vow renewal, or a second chance at love, we would love to perform your wedding ceremony."

This is what the Hitching Post claims to be the difference between marrying at the Hitching Post vs. the Courthouse (Yet, the Hitching Post says the position of JP was eliminated in the state. ??):

"We strive to make your wedding experience memorable and personal for you. At the Hitching Post, ordained ministers will marry you using a traditional, religious ceremony. You are also able to choose which themed room you would like to have your ceremony in.

"After your marriage, we encourage our guests to come back and visit. Couples come back to show their children where they were married and some couples will return with their children when their children are ready to be married. We have even had some grandchildren of couples decide to make the Hitching Post where they would start their married life together, making it a family tradition.

"We are open six days a week and often available on Sundays and holidays. Please contact us to schedule a reservation. 

Pricing:
  • Monday – Thursday 9:00AM -5:00PM $92.00
  • Friday – Saturday 9:00AM -5:00PM $102.00
  • Holidays, after hours, Sundays – fees vary slightly
  • Gratuity to minister accepted

And beliefs?

"The Hitching Post specializes in small, short, intimate, and private weddings for couples who desire a traditional Christian wedding ceremony. We believe that every wedding is special and realize how important this day is to those who walk through our doors. 

"At one time Justice of the Peace officers performed the weddings at The Hitching Post until the position of JP was eliminated in the state. Weddings are now done by ministers at the Hitching Post 6 days a week plus many couples have opted to have their wedding ceremonies at other locations such as by the Lake, Local Parks, on Boats, families homes, Farragut State Park, (formerly Naval Station), Spokane, ski resorts, the mountains, on horseback, hot air balloon, roller coaster rides, etc. where we provide ministers for them. We also provide ministers to perform weddings done in other states when that is requested."

My Take

Any couple getting married -- straight or homosexual -- has the same basic rights in Idaho. Any credible, religious nonprofit church in the state has rights, too. However, the Knapps' Hitching Post Wedding Chapel looks and smells like a business, and it appears their claim of being upright, morally responsible Christians pastors smells fishy. And, as Judge Judy, says, "If it seems unbelievable, it usually is."

With the addition of Idaho, there are 26 other states that allow same-sex marriage. Opposition there has been strong. Consider the words of Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter about the Supreme Court's decision to uphold these marriages: 

"I disagree with the court's conclusion, which negates the 2006 vote of the people of Idaho, is contrary to the values of most Idahoans, and undermines fundamental states' rights. But we are a nation of laws. Idaho now should proceed with civility and in an orderly manner to comply with any forthcoming order from the 9th Circuit."

I fail to see a reason why any couple could not employ the business of the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel to tie their vows and expect equality. Laws and enforcement insure people follow proper procedures in the locales in which they have been enacted. If you are a Spud or a Spudette from Idaho, you have the right to get married, and I think the Hitching Post, as a marriage business, has the duty to serve the potatoes, no matter their sexual orientation.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Bottlenecks and Skip Rope With City Council



A bottleneck is "a point of congestion in a system that occurs when workloads arrive at a given point more quickly than that point can handle them." The inefficiencies brought about by the bottleneck often create a queue and a longer overall cycle time.

The term refers to the shape of a bottle and the fact that the bottle's neck is the narrowest point, and thus the most likely place for congestion to occur, slowing down the flow of liquid from the bottle.

Well ...

It seems a City Council member believes a particular cervical obstruction is clogging city government.

First Ward City Councilman Kevin W. Johnson says he has an issue of a “bottleneck in the office of the city manager.” He explains ...

“I have already received complaints and requests for assistance from individuals who claim to not have their phone calls returned. I have not had that particular problem as the City Manager has always replied expeditiously to any and all of my inquiries,” Johnson said. 

“I am concerned, however, that one very busy individual is now responsible for all communications traffic including basic, minor questions from Council which could be directed at a department head or key staff with a CC to the city manager.

Johnson goes on to say ...

“Between this ‘Council-Staff Communications Guidelines’ and your ‘Legal Opinion Charter 33 and 40’ you (or whomever also wrote the communications guidelines) have effectively and totally cut Council off from any relationship with any department head or staff; thus making us totally dependent upon information provided us only by you, the city auditor and city manager. In other words - distanced and totally dependent.”

City Solicitor John Haas said he could not respond to the “bottleneck” in the city manager’s office as he currently has no evidence there is a bottleneck, but added ...

“If you have specific information, please pass it along to your fellow Council members, Mr. Allen and me.” 

(Frank Lewis. "Council Communication Issues Continues." Portsmouth Daily Timeshttp://portsmouth-dailytimes.com/news/news/150207667/Council-communication-issues-continues October 20, 2014)

So ...

The continuing saga of who should deal with what communication in what manner IF, indeed, a suspected "bottleneck" has actually developed still baffles Portsmouth City Council. With "Council-Staff Communications Guidelines," City Charter regulations, learned legal opinions, and potential scores of unnamed individuals waiting for return calls about unspecified business, the question remains: "Is a narrow route a direct, open freeway for communication or a point of congested traffic for pertinent questions?"

This is not rocket science, but we all know about how playful council can be.

Perhaps ...

City Council should just investigate itself to determine the intentions of the politics it routinely plays. Instead of spending so much time worrying about "who is siding with whom" and "I know something you don't know -- na-na, na-na, boo-boo," the council members could explore their reasons for continually bickering like little children and then eliminate their own problems.

In fact, maybe a section of council chambers could be set aside for a "time out" zone reserved for those council members who refuse to play nicely and cooperate while taking care of real city business. This educational parenting technique of temporarily separating a "problem child" from an environment where inappropriate behavior has occurred is recommended by many pediatricians and developmental psychologists. It is intended to decrease positive reinforcement of the behavior.

Finally, the group may benefit greatly from some wisdom printed by the Summit Medical Group concerning "Teaching Children To Play Together." Here are some timely suggestions council may wish to take to heart as they "play" their communication games and teach their constituent "children" (we, the taxpayers) about effective city government:
  • Try to model the behavior you want your child to learn rather than just talking about it. When you say "please" or lend a helping hand, you are teaching your children how you would like them to act.
  • Pay more attention to behaviors you like and less attention to behaviors you don't like. Look for the things the children are doing right and comment on those.
  • Help your children learn to control their feelings and think of others. For example, if your child is having a hard time waiting for a turn on the slide, talk about it with her. It is more helpful to say something like, "I know you've been waiting a long time and you're dying for a turn, but you'll need to wait until Billy is done. Maybe you can ride the trike while you're waiting." rather than simply saying, "You have to wait until Billy is done."
  • Show your children how to cooperate. Children love it when an adult has a problem and they can help solve it. If the living room needs cleaning up, say, "Let's do this together. This is your room too. Let's get it cleaned up so we can go out for ice cream."
  • Teach your children some useful, non-violent ways of getting what they want. Help them bargain with each other, make a trade, or use something together. "I'll pull you in the wagon while you sit in it," or "I'll trade you my blue pen for that red one."

Teach your children well. It is important to remember that conduct that disrupts society is antisocial behavior, and antisocial behavior encourages further aggression. Such aggression infringes upon another person’s basic rights or violates cultural norms. The aggression can be overt or covert, such as lying or thievery.

According to Irving Weiner’s book, The Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology, an antisocial individual typically has a learning style that is more receptive to reward than disciplinary action. In fact, an antisocial child will continue to engage in maladaptive behavior despite the threat of punishment and also sees an upside to aggressive behavior.

Because antisocial children are unable to learn appropriate behavior in a particular social or cultural context, they tend to exhibit inappropriate behavior, such as temper tantrums, use of profanity, bossiness, excessive jealousy, impertinence, fighting or flamboyant attention-seeking.

Researchers contend that it’s not unusual for the antisocial child to react to and defy authority figures. In addition, the antisocial child will repeatedly violate social norms until this behavior forms a pattern in terms of frequency, intensity and duration.

Such inappropriate behavior inhibits the ability of the antisocial child to form healthy interpersonal relationships. Because he also lacks empathy or warmth toward other people, he grows even more isolated.

Skip a Rope

By Henson Cargill

Skip a rope, skip a rope
Oh, listen to the children while they play
Ain't it kind of funny what the children say?
 

Skip a rope

Daddy hates mommy, mommy hates dad
Last night you should have heard the fight they had
It gave little sister another bad dream
She woke us all up with a terrible scream

 

Skip a rope, skip a rope

Oh, listen to the children while they play
Ain't it kind of funny what the children say?

 

Skip a rope

Cheat on your taxes don't be a fool
What was that they said about the golden rule?
Never mind the rules, just play to win
And hate your neighbor for the shade of his skin

 

Skip a rope, skip a rope

Oh, listen to the children while they play
Ain't it kind of funny what the children say?
 

Skip a rope
 
Stab 'em in the back that's the name of the game
And mommy and daddy are who's to blame

Skip a rope, skip a rope Listen to the children as they play;
It's really not very funny what the children say. 

Skip a rope

Youtube video of "Skip a Rope." Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdH7Hu2gcZ0

Monday, October 20, 2014

"The Darkling Thrush" by Thomas Hardy: Dying Joy and Hope


 

The Darkling Thrush

By Thomas Hardy 


I leant upon a * coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled * bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken * lyres,
And all mankind that haunted * nigh
      Had sought their household fires.


The land's sharp features seemed to be
      The Century's corpse * outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of * germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.


At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy * illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.


So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

 
Definitions:

* coppice -- a thicket or grove of small trees or shrubs
* bine-stems -- twining stems or flexible shoots of plants
* lyre -- a musical instrument with strings that was used especially in ancient Greece
* nigh -- near in time, place, or relationship
* outleant -- lying down
* germ -- seed; egg; bud
* illimited -- unlimited

 Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) was first known as a British novelist (Far from the Madding Crowd, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Tess of the d'Urbervilles) and then almost exclusively as a poet. As a novelist, Hardy was criticized for being too pessimistic and preoccupied with sex. However, now his prose has been compared to Honore de Balzac, Emile Zola, and Henry James in his ability to reveal a whole inner world of thought and desire through meticulous observation of his characters and their actions.

 

In the twentieth century Hardy only published poetry. He composed the lyric poem "The Darkling Thrush" on December 31, 1900, the last day of 19th century. Readers can appreciate this fact as they understand its historical impact as a view toward a new, uncertain future.

 

Hardy was basically a Victorian realist writer with deep connections to the Romantic poets like William Wordsworth and Charles Dickens, but he was, in fact, an interesting mix of Victorianism and Modernism. Hardy's poetry possesses a uniquely modern sensibility while retaining the formal traditions of rhyme and meter characteristic of most poetry prior to modernism.

 

Like Dickens, Hardy was highly critical of much in Victorian society, though Hardy focused more on a declining rural society while Dickens was a critic of social stratification of the rich and the poor. As a realist, Hardy examined the social constraints on the lives of those living in Victorian England, and criticized those beliefs, especially those relating to marriage, education and religion, that limited people's lives and caused unhappiness.

 

"Though he was a modern, even a revolutionary writer in his time, most of us read him now as a lyrical pastoralist, observed New York Times critic Anatole Broyard in 1982. Broyard continues ...

 

"It may be a sign of the times that some of us take his books to bed, 
as if even his pessimistic vision was one that enabled us to sleep soundly." 

Critics have said Hardy's poetry was infused with "evolutionary meliorism," the ironic stances achieved by powerful psychological insights, and the modernist spareness and roughness of his metrical experiments. Meliorism is "the belief that the world tends to improve and that humans can aid its betterment." 

 B. Ashton Nichols, Associate Professor Dickinson College, says, "His (Hardy's) is, quintessentially, a poetry of loss, harsh nostalgia, and the despairing limits of human hope and love."

(B. Ashton Nichols. "Thomas Hardy As a Poet." public.gettysburg.edu)

 

"The Darkling Thrush" was written at the end of the Victorian age and the dawn of a new Edwardian Era, a time of great changes in political and social life.

 

The Poem

 

A darkling thrush (darkling meaning "in the dark" -- which also serves well in the verse considered the bird's smallness and exposed nature) is a songbird with a pleasant voice that is symbolically said to sing even when having no mate or rival watching it. Thus, in its unconcerned attitude toward its listener, its music shows how it's living freely and "speaking the truth."

 

At the end of the day in the very end of the year, the speaker, or narrator, is alone viewing a cold, grey, lonely winter landscape. The use of the word Frost with a capital "F" and the word Winter with a capital "W" may be allusions and personification fitting of the pagan gods and their command of the cold environment. The "dregs" are all that is left in sight. Bare vines and leafless trees add to this tone of haunted desolation.

The speaker says all the other people who lived nearby were inside their homes, gathered around their household fires while he, in the cold, is leaning on a gate outside as a solitary witness to "the Century's corpse" in the wooded thicket. The speaker proclaims that the cloudy sky was the roof of the corpse's crypt, and the whining wind was its song of death.

In that moment, to the narrator, it seems the pulse of natural life has stopped along with "every spirit upon earth." Indeed, the bleak end of the Century lies expired before him. He thinks all is depressing and foreboding of bad times. But, then, suddenly enters the thrush.

In the third stanza of the poem, the speaker hears the joyful song of the frail old thrush coming from the cold, naked branches overhead. The thrush and its song are a sharp contrast and a jubilant outpouring against the evening gloom. The bird, although seemingly as old and as death-bound as the year itself, sings with every last ounce of joy left in its soul. It is worth noting that nothing in the physical environment of the poem has changed. Not only is that pervasive gloom still present. It is even “growing” as the progressive winter. Yet, what a marvel is the thrush:

"An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom."

As he may, the speaker questions the reason for the natural elation of the thrush. Why would the creature boldly waste its last breath in a song that surely almost no one would hear?

Unfortunately, the bird doesn't provide him any answers. And, of course, the darkling thrush possesses no means to express the meaning for its optimistic death call. In the midst of the desolate, foreboding winter, the speaker is left to surmise there exists a hope that his human mind could not understand. This is a pensive reflection to life and human society.

Hardy allows the simple, sweet song of the divine thrush to defy death and to symbolize the spirit of hope for a new world of beauty, a world devoid of ugliness. In "The Darkling Thrush," this hope is offered for the beginning of a century and a new era. At the time he penned the poem, Hardy was a sixty-year-old himself.

From the very title of the poem it is clear that the thrush is present in the dark and in the encircling gloom just like the narrator himself. Yet, between hope and despair, when all is not right in the world and the future is dark, there, in the presence of the frail bird, lies the eternal pulse of "germ" and birth. It is hope of resurrection for both spirit and soul, a personal triumph and a societal dream.

In the concluding stanza of “The Darkling Thrush,” there is certainly nothing definite to pin any hope on, even if one allows that just conceivably the bird does indeed know something we ourselves don’t and can’t. 

Bruce Bennett, Professor and Chair of English and Director of Creative Writing at Wells College, says, "Many of Hardy's poems express a lack of resolution regarding the ultimate nature of reality, a provisional and even an improvisational quality, as if he is never quite willing to completely shut the door on some sort of hope, however faint or farfetched."

Authorities believe Hardy was not a "believing Christian"; however, Professor Bennett claims it  seems completely consistent with Hardy's willingness to entertain a Christian thought.

Bennett concludes ...

"So, is this an instance of one of Hardy’s 'explorations of reality'? Has he provisionally appropriated for the dramatic occasion of this poem a recognition that, whatever he himself might believe, for some the 'truths' of Christianity could be valid? 

"Are we dealing here, in other words, with a Christian thrush? To me, that seems completely consistent with his willingness to entertain the thought, in many of his poems, that there may be 'more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of' in our restless and unending metaphysical inquiries."

(Bruce Bennett. "Thomas Hardy's Artistry in "The Darkling Thrush." 
Contemporary Poet Review. November 15, 2012)


Saturday, October 18, 2014

"God's Grandeur" In Distress


God's Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
        It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
        It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not *reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
        And all is seared with trade; Bleared, smeared with toil;
        And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
        There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
        Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
        World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
--Gerard Manley Hopkins (1877)

* care for; take heed of


When does the human spirit feel closest to the Creator? If you are like me, I am often humbled with His presence when in close contact with His natural creations. Gerald Manly Hopkins speaks of the beauty and power of nature in his poem "God's Grandeur." The sonnet with the alliterative title stresses the immanence of God.

The sonnet God’s Grandeur by Gerard Manley Hopkins stresses the immanence of God. - See more at: http://www.bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/gods-grandeur.html#sthash.naiRYRhg.dpuf
Whatever the dynamics -- whether nature "flames out" boldly in its awesome wonders or whether it "oozes" in the steady trickles of its simple forms -- God's glory is everywhere. Hopkins affirms that the entire world is "charged" with His grand natural creations, and He broods over his earthly kingdom with the greatest of love.

 The poet asks how humans fail to heed His authority despite the divine anointment of these  indigenous gifts. Men seem bound not to "reck his rod" as if they care little about the earth. The "rod” in the verse is metaphorically described as God’s power. Humans seem to be oblivious to take great care for the creations of the Almighty.

The second quatrain (four line stanza) describes the relentless generations of contemporary humans that "trod" on the soil and stain the landscape with their "toil" and "trade." Their industry and economy take precedence over any loving, spiritual connection to the earth. The poem may be read both as a literal lament for the destruction of the environment by industry, and as a metaphorical lament that humans are more concerned with the prosaic and utilitarian than with spiritual values.

Living in the marred landscape they have carelessly transformed by their base, material concerns, humans become insensitive to the beauties of nature and, thus, alienated from God. This is a sinful condition.

    "[There is] treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise; 
      but a foolish man spendeth it up."  
(Proverbs 21:20)


Hopkins asserts that mankind cannot "feel" the natural disconnect through the simple symbol of the "shod" human foot. Having lost direct physical contact with the ground, people employ shoes to transform the actual "feel" of contact with the terrain.

Yet, the poet states: "And for all this, nature is never spent." No matter the human indifference, God, through the hands of the Holy Ghost, continues to grace man's existence with His continual powers of renewal and new creations. From each dark sundown eventually "springs" an assuring morning symbolic of regeneration and beautiful life. This is proof of His supernatural vitality which is readily available for the witness of those who care.

Hopkins chooses a small, peaceful avian creation to illustrate a powerful abstract idea. Like a doting dove tends to its nest, the Creator protects his incredible, precious, natural creations -- the flora, the fauna, and humankind. And, He does so with beautiful, all-encompassing, "bright" wings. For this loving incubation, a grateful mankind should express awe in worship and joy of spirit. But, do they?


Indeed, Gerald Manly Hopkins offers the theme in "God's Grandeur" that this world is infused by the Almight with a beauty and power that not only withstands human corruption but also triumphs over it.

Do we live in a resplendent world waiting for man to come back to God and nature? And, if so, might this mean a return to spiritual obedience so sorely lacking today?



Friday, October 17, 2014

Love IS Not All ... But It IS Everything


 
Love Is Not All 

by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892 – 1950) 

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.


What might we take for the love we possess? Edna St. Vincent Millay contemplates this question in her poem, "Love Is Not All."

We understand that we can't survive on love alone. Although that gracious emotion is the reason for living, we would soon die without other basic human needs. As Millay writes the line "Love is not all," she warns us that, in reality, love is not even basic sustenance strong enough to insure our existence.

Still, despite all the things love cannot do, Millay stresses the precious need for love and her belief that many people expire for "lack of love alone."  Love may not be an object, an act, a spirit, or a thought; however, it is necessary possession. Love is an intangible force of the soul and not just some irrational notion.

By beginning with the statement "Love is not all" and then telling the reader what it is not, Millay sets the stage for a powerful assertion that love is all. She employs this technique of direct contrast, or antithesis, to establish the theme of her verse.

"It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would."


The perspective change in the sonnet occurs at the end of the octave (eight lines) and reverses the ordinance about love to be something quintessential, something that people value even above their own lives. 

Even in the most “difficult hour,” when she is “pinned down by pain and moaning for release," Millay may be tempted to "sell" or "trade" her understanding of love, yet she would not. In the verse, the poet acknowledges that for lack of love some of us will court death, and yet if faced with death, we would not exchange the moments of intense love to save our bodies.

That is it. That is the “message” of Millay's poem: love is not all, but she would not let go of her love. She values it so much that she would not even trade one night of its memory for sustenance. For one Pulitzer Prize winning poet, this dramatic declaration in the last line of the poem confirms her belief that we all need love regardless of how useless it may seem.

Edna St. Vincent Millay