Over the past few weeks I’ve been playing at the House of Henry Irish Pub in Panama City, FL. I like the place. It’s nice and new, only established in 2019. It has all of the hardwood, stained glass and bric-a-brac I’ve come to expect from a good Irish Pub. They have a full menu and two rooms with separate bars, a dining room and a pub area with a stage. It’s a cool spot and I’m looking forward to playing there often.
After a recent gig Jake, the booking manager met with me in the loft above the pub and we recorded an episode of House of Henry Loft Sessions.
On January 6, the US Capitol was the target of a terrorist attack by radicalized supporters of disgraced President Donald Trump. This was the most significant event in US history since September 11, 2001.
The terrorist mob was comprised of an amalgamation of fascists, Qanon conspiracy enthusiasts, white-supremacists, evangelical religious extremists and assorted loonies engaging in a violent, anti-democratic insurrection with the ultimate goal of installing Donald Trump as a dictator. To whatever degree some of the participants may not consider themselves of that ilk; they certainly are content to march beside and behind them providing material aid and support.
The photographic and video evidence from January 6 should be enough to demonstrate the fascist orientation of the terrorists even for those who didn’t monitor the various right-wing groups and organizations that openly planned this attack.
See here this terrorist with the Camp Auschwitz shirt. See the other totally “not racist or fascist” MAGA terrorists standing gleefully beside him.
The violent white supremacist gang, the Proud Boys, instrumental in organizing pro-fascist demonstrations were also present in force. Here you can see one wearing the 6MWE shirt which means “6 Million (Jews) Wasn’t Enough” referring to the murder of 6 million Jews during the holocaust during World War II.
Notice the Proud Boys emblem which was modeled after the Fascist Party eagle emblem complete with fasces the primary symbol of the Fascist Party.
They aren’t even trying to hide it. Why would they need to when their MAGA brethren will simply pretend they don’t see it?
Other known members of American Nazi organizations were front and center in the terrorist act.
Everyone who has noticed the "camp Auschwitz" shirt should know at least some of the men who got into the Capitol today have been identified as former members of the Traditionalist Workers Party, a literal neo-Nazi organization. Here they are at other neo-Nazi meetings: pic.twitter.com/3pZodVFtyG
To be fair, maybe ALL the terrorists aren’t Nazis, they just ALL like to hang out with and do a little terrorism with Nazis for … you know … democracy.
This crowd of terrorists also happens to be the very same people who spent the summer of 2020 denouncing Black Lives Matter and an uprising against police violence and brutality, a genuine cause to protect American civil rights and lives from state violence. They called peaceful protestors being assaulted by cops “rioters” and “thugs.” They said repeatedly that any violence in response to state violence against the people was illegitimate. Now, after losing one democratic election they turn full terrorist and engage in a violent insurrection and assault on our nation’s capitol, eager to murder duly elected legislators and blow up the place.
This terrorist mob was motivated, endorsed and “loved” by Donald Trump who promoted the mass unrest and spoke at it that morning, repeating the conspiracy delusion that Joe Biden who won the recent US presidential election did so only through massive voter fraud despite the absence of a shred of legitimate supporting evidence for the claim. Trump directed the crowd to march on the capitol. This came after months of Trump, Ted Cruz, Lyndsey Graham and other prominent republicans continually beating the drum of voter fraud, whipping their supporters up into a violent frenzy that resulted in the terrorist attack on January 6.
Conspiracy theories are a regular part of the MAGA crowd’s diet, as a large and significant portion of them are also believers in the Qanon conspiracy grift which claims democrats and liberals are all part of a sinister Jewish-led satanic pedophile and child murder ring. It is the revival of the blood-libel, updated for the 21st century.
The Trump lawyer Lin Wood spread these claims openly on twitter and Parler, calling for the execution of government officials including Vice President Mike Pence for betraying Donald Trump.
I trust @SecretService agents have been tasked to interview #LinWood in light of his clear enticing threats to assassinate @VP.
These are people who refuse to say black lives matter because ALL lives matter, but have no problem saying “blue lives matter.” They are “thin blue line” terrorists, the kind who believe the cops have a right to kill you for whatever reason they give and it is always the fault of the victim, especially when they are black. They say cops have a scary job so they should be quick to pull the trigger, then they go and rush the cops fully expecting they would stand down for them. And stand down the cops did.
It is no surprise the cops stood down because the terrorist mob were their own people; mostly white, cops, ex-cops, wannabe cops and active duty military made up a significant portion of the terrorists who attacked the US Capitol on January 6.
“Meanwhile, a current Metro D.C. police officer on the scene yesterday said in a public Facebook post that off-duty police officers and members of the military, who were among the rioters, flashed their badges and I.D. cards as they attempted to overrun the Capitol. The officer continued “If these people can storm the Capitol building with no regard to punishment, you have to wonder how much they abuse their powers when they put on their uniforms … The fact that police officers from other agencies have aligned themselves with such terorristic groups shows how scary it is to be BLACK in America…They weren’t trying to hide who they are because they know nothing will happen to them.”
Here is one of the terrorists, a former Oakland cop justifying the attack by reciting the same unsubstantiated conspiracy claims promoted by Trump and his Qanon conspiracy cult.
A VIOLENT TERRORIST MOB
They attacked media, calling them “antifa.
Some people have tried to make the excuse that the Capitol Police were overwhelmed because they didn’t have enough people manning the area, but this is how they prepared for the BLM protests just a few months earlier.
And they had plenty of time and access to intelligence that this was coming. This was planned openly and promoted all over social media for the past two months. This wasn’t a spontaneous event that got out of hand. It was “The Storm,” a Qanon inspired attack they’ve been threatening for a couple years now. I watched it unfold on twitter myself as Ali Alexander, the Proud Boys and numerous assorted fascists tweeted their plans openly. They even made t-shirts and other merch just for the event. These shirts say “MAGA CIVIL WAR Jan 6, 2021.” It was planned.
They thought it was their day and they planned to seize it following the direction of their leader Donald Trump.
Police Welcome Terrorists into the Capitol with Open Arms
The Capitol Police only put up token resistance at times. Mostly, they welcomed the terrorists, literally opening the gates for the mob, all but escorting them in.
Cops opening the Capitol doors and standing down, you can hear one cop telling the terrorists they “disagree” with but “respect” them. No “I’m just doing my job” or “I don’t make the laws, I just enforce them.”
More evidence of cops just letting the #MAGA terrorists into the Capitol. This attack was coordinated with the fascists on the inside to protect their institutional power.
Only one person was shot by police during this siege and it seemed to be by Secret Service and only because the terrorist was climbing through a window into the area where the legislators were being held for their protection. As it turns out she was a radicalized Qanon believer and a former cop.
The woman shot and killed at the Capitol was a former Police Officer.
Ashli Babbitt, the woman shot and killed by police whilst breaking into the Capitol was also an Air Force vet as well as being former Police. pic.twitter.com/Pq8hiKdC9N
The terrorists did murder one Capitol Police officer during their rampage. They bludgeoned him to death with a fire extinguisher. He must have gotten in the way, the proverbial “good cop.”
The cops’ gentle response to this mob of largely white terrorists shows clearly that the violence police inflict on citizens is unnecessary and sadistic in nature. It’s clear cops can deescalate when they want to. It’s clear they don’t fear for their lives when facing violent terrorists, so there is no excuse for them to fear for their lives so often when dealing with traffic stops, misdemeanors and domestic conflicts. The problem is cops kill who they like to kill when they like to kill because they like to kill. They don’t kill who they’d prefer to not kill, and they prefer to not kill or harm their own kind, the white, middle and upper class “thin blue line” sycophants no matter how violent and armed they may be.
Looking at this event critically leads me to think this was not a “failure” of the Capitol Police to properly prepare or an unexpected terrorist siege. This all seems fishy, and it starts to look like the terrorists had inside support.
A REACTION AGAINST POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY
In the atmosphere of police accountability that has grown since the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police, police departments and unions are terrified that their crimes may be exposed and they may be held accountable. It is in their best interests to undermine a democratic election that may result in many of them going to jail or losing their jobs.
Democrats have largely championed various degrees of police reform. Republicans have largely fought against police accountability. Cops and Trump have proven themselves to have a symbiotic relationship. Cops need Trump to maintain their privileges, lack of accountability and excessive funding. Trump needs the cops to maintain power and assault his enemies while attempting to lead an anti-democratic coup against the United States.
It is no secret that most of these associations masquerading as unions are the biggest obstacle to enacting any meaningful police reforms.
NOT A LIBERTY MOVEMENT
These terrorists are not part of a liberty movement, despite some of the language used by some of them. They are not a movement to secure democracy, quite the opposite. They are not a movement to secure human rights and equality, or else they would have been marching alongside BLM and “antifa” over the past summer instead of threatening to run them over with their pickup trucks.
This is a frightened, violent and bigoted reaction to the changes taking place in society. These changes to society’s fundamental racial inequality and economic injustice are being addressed and corrected through the ballot box. As a growing number of people vote to see real justice and equality in the US, the changing demographics have white and upper middle class people afraid that they will lose the privileges they have enjoyed in this country for centuries; the privileges of white supremacy and along with it all the social tools that have been used to prop it up; protestant evangelical religious intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism, and all the irrational conspiracy slander that comes with it recycled generation after generation.
The repository of power, violence and brutality of this system is concentrated in the police force, for which the primary use in its earliest days were slave patrols, Indian hunters and union busters to keep the privileged their privilege and the undesirables down and out. It is the institution through which the rich dispose of the undesirable classes of society. This is the Thin Blue Line in its non-idealized and true form. As society progresses to systems of greater equality the old system of inequality and those who benefit from it are threatened and they react violently.
This was not a failure of the Capitol Police to be prepared because they didn’t know what was coming. This terrorist attack was coordinated with the police. This was intended to send a message to police reformers that if we do not back down in our fight for justice, not only will they not be there to do the job they are paid by us to do, but they will actively conspire against us and participate in a coup to destroy our democratic republic and help usher in the fascist state that they truly desire.
It only serves as more evidence that our system of law enforcement is corrupt to the core and in desperate need of complete reform, reorganizing and restructuring.
The attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 was terrorism, sedition, and an attempted violent coup. The participants and supporters are not patriots and they are not heroes. They are fascists, traitors, and terrorists. This was the fascism within the system and its supporters on the outside working together to protect itself from reform and accountability. The participants and enablers must be pursued relentlessly and brought to justice just as any Nazi operative was after World War II. To do otherwise would leave our democracy and our republic exposed and vulnerable to a future fascist coup, one that next time might succeed.
A young lad has sought to question me on my stance and impugn the validity of Native American concerns on this subject. As is a standard practice of mine, if it takes more than a couple paragraphs to make my point online, it goes on the blog. So, here we go.
“Yeah that’s some who are offended, I know some indigenous people who aren’t. Aunt Jemaimahs family begged for the company to not issue a rebranding, apparently syrup is now racist too. I’ve never understood why anyone other than a white guy with a sunburn would be offend of the term “redskin”. OUR skin isn’t red. Who cares.”
It helps to have taken the time to learn the history of that term and Native Affairs in this country. One who has would be less likely to conflate different unrelated issues while repeating sound bites and talking points from conservative media.
It’s not simply “some who are offended.” It’s the National Congress of American Indians, the oldest, largest and most representative Native organization in the country which has advocated for the interests of Indians for nearly a century. It’s the American Indian Movement, Idle No More, countless tribes, and nations and virtually every native activist movement in this country for 50 years who have recognized the ill social affects of caricatures being the dominant representation of native people in media while rich white people make millions of dollars from it, despite what your buddy on the street might think.
It’s not that the r-word is offensive as in it hurts little snowflake feelings. It is literally the Native American equivalent of the N-word. It is a word used historically as a means to dehumanize Indians.
Throughout the 19th century that term was used to designate Natives as wild savages who were only suited to be killed, hunted down like rabid animals. Bounties were paid for “redskins.” Often times scalps were taken as evidence for the number of “redskins” killed to fetch a higher payment. Be assured when someone called us redskins they were not “honoring” us. They were saying we were less than human and just in the fucking way.
Indians are not honored by a dehumanizing term historically used to encourage and promote our genocide. This is a genocide that continues today by definition as per the UN Council on Genocide, and Raphael Lempkin who coined the term. Natives are still fighting for basic rights and amenities as human beings while mostly white millionaires continue to get rich off the legacy of genocide and colonialism, portraying Indians as the things of their fantasies.
This all gets into media representation and how it impacts the quality of Native life. Indians are only about 1% of the US population. Most of those are concentrated in a few states and mostly in remote communities. So, the average American does not have any meaningful interaction with a Native American on a daily basis, much less a native community. These people get the majority of their perceptions of Indians from media and sports. This includes some natives as well who have been acculturated, are often urban and do not interact with a native community.
How Natives are represented in media affects how we are viewed by the majority of the population. How we are viewed by the majority of the population matters when we need our issues to be taken seriously and acted upon in an appropriate manner.
If we are viewed as impish caricatures, savage beasts, or even romanticized relics of a bygone era, we are not seen as real human beings. That affects the socio-political environment which we as 1% of the population are powerless to overcome on our own.
If we’re not viewed accurately as real, modern humans then our tribal sovereignty is not viewed as something to take seriously. Our land rights are at risk, our religious rights are at risk (did you know Indian religions were outlawed until 1978?), our very existence as Indian people is at risk. And when these harmful stereotypes infect our own youth it has been shown to negatively impact their self perception and limit their imagination as to what they’re capable of achieving in life. This has long-term negative implications for individuals as well as for tribes and nations.
There is far more at stake here than simple hurt feelings about the color of our skin.
That racist mascot is finally gone. Of course there is much weeping and gnashing of teeth about losing another flagrant display of their beloved white supremacism. They can’t profit from Native dehumanization anymore and they’re sad. Let’s bask in those tears right now.
More importantly, let’s celebrate our success and reflect on how far we have come since the Era of Termination as fuel for the battles ahead. And let’s remember our allies in this.
Today is a result of half a century of grassroots activism, education, demonstrations and building our own media outlets that created enough non-Indian allies in the country to hurt a market for racism.
We’re not fooled that this was some benevolent act by a newly enlightened class of “elites.” We know it is only because enough avenues of income were obstructed that Dan Snyder was losing the only thing he really cares about, money.
And THIS is the real symbol within this multifaceted victory. The word they used to create a literal market for dead Native bodies no longer makes them money. They can no longer capitalize on our dehumanization like that.
While they whine and say goodbye to the “legacy” of their little racist sportsball club, I wish we could truly say goodbye to the legacy of colonialism and genocide in this country. This is a step in that direction. There is still a lot of work to be done.
The Eight-Fold Wheel of the Year is a solar calendar marking the eight seasonal points of the ancient and indigenous western European holiday tradition.
It has always been vital for human survival to live in tune with the seasonal cycle in order to plan ahead and prepare for the various environmental changes that occur over a year. Our lithic ancestors needed to know when berries ripen, when herds migrate or when the snow comes just for basic survival. Along the way certain specific celestial events were noted that marked the beginnings and midpoints of the seasons and these dates were set apart as special. As civilization developed and farming became central to life, celebrations and holidays were created through tradition and the foresight of wise and creative participants. This is such an intrinsic part of our evolutionary heritage that our greatest holidays, those with long histories attached to them still carry these ancient seasonal and astronomical markers.
In the mid 20th century an uncertain group of Euro-traditionalist scholars combined the four-point seasonal holidays of the Germanic Anglo-Saxon tradition with a quite similar though differently organized traditional Celtic holiday calendar to create the Eight-Fold Seasonal Cycle. Though originally combined by neo-pagans to satisfy their need for a holiday cycle and to reclaim the old ways, it corresponds naturally with the holiday cycle already celebrated throughout Western civilization. It serves as a useful toolbox for those desiring to orient themselves with a more naturalistic or even indigenous outlook on life.
There is no “true” beginning or end to the Eight-Fold Seasonal Cycle, and different communities begin their year at different points for cultural and historical reasons of their own. Since I have a strong affinity for the Irish Celtic orientation I would normally begin with Samhain, but for this article I’ll start at at a point that seems like a more natural beginning, Yule.
Each holiday is presented below in brief. Click on the name of each holiday to be taken to a full article describing that day in more detail.
Yule, Dec 21st
A Germanic holiday in its origin, Yule falls at the winter solstice. It’s a time of new beginnings as the midpoint of winter. After two brutal months of winter the days are finally becoming longer once again and there is hope for a new summer just months ahead. It’s a time to celebrate the birth of a new year, and new sun. Yule traditions coupled with traditions from the Roman Saturnalia and transferred into a Christian context have been handed down to us as the modern day Christmas.
Imbolc, Feb 1
Imbolc is an Irish holiday. It’s the first defining evidence of the fulfillment of the promise made at Yule. The young earth is becoming fertile and the young sun has begun to show signs of his virility. This is when seeds that have lain dormant in the earth begin to show the first signs of sprouting. Life is starting to become more active after the hard winter. It is a time for lovers. The symbolism of Imbolc has been adapted into multiple different celebrations such as Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras.
Ostara, March 21st
Ostara falls on the Spring Equinox. At Ostara the Corn Mother is celebrated in her first stirrings of pregnancy. Agriculturally Ostara comes at the end of the Spring sowing season. Flowers are blooming everywhere and the animals are starting their mating dances as pollen wafts through the air. This holiday was wholesale converted, name and all into the Church as Easter and many of its symbolism such as rabbits and colored eggs were adopted along with it.
Beltane, May 1
Beltane is an Irish holiday and is also full of fertility symbolism. As the crops and herds are flourishing and pollinators are active, sexuality is pervasive through Beltane. Ancient customs recall celebrations in which lovers met in the fields, the forests, or along the shores for trysts and escapades. The Maypole with its phallic symbolism was commonly danced at Beltane.
Midsummer, June 21st
The summer solstice is the longest day of the year, with the sun at its strongest, therefore Midsummer represents the triumph of light over darkness. It is the counterpart to Yule, the fulfillment of prophecy. The Solar Hero born at Yule rises to his destiny. He could be King Arthur, Lugh Lamfada or God.
Lugnasadh, Aug 1
Lugnasadh is the first real harvest festival. It means “The Wake of Lugh.” As autumn approaches, summer day’s become noticeably shorter as winter’s grip is only a short way off and the sun begins to die. As a celebration many competitions and public dances are traditional.
Mabon is the autumnal equinox. To some degree Mabon is a time of mourning. The Solar Hero is near death, and the cold grip of winter begins moving in steadily to rule the land. The powers of light and darkness are balanced one final time, allegorically locked in combat and the hero meets his doom.
Samhain, Oct 31st-Nov 1st
Samhain traditionally celebrates the last harvest of the season. It was the highest feast day on the old Celtic calendar and often regarded as the Celtic New Year. It represents the end of the active season and the beginning of the dormant season, the season of death as the solar hero lies slain. As such the date is associated with ghosts and dark themes eventually becoming the modern day Halloween.
As you see, the Solar Wheel follows the annual cycle through the activity of the sun and its relationship with the earth in order to sustain life. The symbolism associated with that has been built into allegories, mythologies and cultures, but at their core lays our genuine evolutionary nature. As natural beings, we are dependent upon this cycle of life, the dance between sun and earth. By living in tune with the seasonal cycle along with other traditions, customs and philosophies which I can only call Indigenist, I think we become more centered and grounded as human beings and more complete. With that completeness we lose a lot of insecurity, and anxiety about the meaning of it all and our place within it. This is just such a thing I think can help restore a bit of sanity to modern humanity.
Easter is perhaps the most significant day on the Western liturgical calendar, celebrated in commemoration of the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead after his crucifixion on Good Friday. Many of the symbols and traditions of Easter have their origins in an older, Germanic tradition that is still celebrated to this day by Christians and neopagan revivalists alike, Ostara.
Ostara is traditionally celebrated on March 21, spring equinox as it is the solar compliment to Easter’s lunar reckoning. It is one point on the Eight-Fold Wheel of the Year, and it is regarded as one of the four high holy days in modern Druidry called Alban Eiler: “the Light of the Earth.”
The word Ostara derives from the old Anglo-Saxon word Eostre, the name of an obscure Germanic goddess about whom little is known today. Her name is linguistically related to the word for “east,” giving further credence to the strong solar significance of the holiday. And from this name we also derive the word Easter.
In modern paganism Ostara is regarded as the Festival of the Trees, due to the regrowth of their foliage at this time of year, a strong metaphor for resurrection and rebirth. Agriculturally Ostara comes at the end of the spring sowing season. Flowers are blooming everywhere and the insect population is making a drastic comeback. The animals are beginning to start their mating dances and pollen wafts through the air fertilizing the crops. Colored eggs and rabbits are indicative of this season by virtue of their association with fertility. In such, this holiday is directly associated with the inner Cauldron of Incubation. This is a very inspirational time.
At Ostara the Corn Mother is celebrated in her first stirrings of pregnancy and often symbolically sacrificed as an expectant mother must sacrifice of herself to bare and care for her children. This is a consistent theme amongst many agricultural societies from the Anglo-Saxon John Barley Corn to various Native America manifestations of the Corn Mother.
It’s not all just joy and the pleasures of fertility, however. Ostara also has certain themes of conflict associated with it. As the day that finally signifies the summer’s conquest over winter, the conquest of darkness by light, and allegorically the conquest of evil by the good an d majestic solar hero. And so we see ritual competitive sports and ball games are traditional at this time. Amongst many Western European populations there will be a ritualized and symbolic battle between the seasons, often in the form of a sword dance wherein the participants act out the opposing roles as either teams or one on one.
Ostara may not be Easter, but the two holidays share a common history, symbolism and philosophical character that are significant to the natural cycles of life. The winter has finally ended. There is abundance in life and resources looking forward. The darkness has been conquered.
Today would have been Bob Marley’s 75th birthday if he had lived. Tragically, he died of cancer on May 11, 1981 at the age of 36. Most people know that Bob Marley and the Wailers put reggae on the map, taking it from obscure local Jamaican music and turning it into the international phenomenon it became. But for me, Bob Marley isn’t just another name among the many other ground-breaking musicians of the 1960s and 70s. When we talk about Bob Marley we’re not just talking about music anymore; we’ve crossed into the subject of mysticism and religion. Bob Marley is less like a rock star and more like a biblical messenger.
I grew up in coastal and beach towns, so I always knew who Bob Marley was, but through a lot of my early teens I was more into punk rock and heavy metal. Then in 1993, I was the president of my church youth group at St. Anne’s and we took part in an annual Diocesan Youth Camp Out. This was two nights at an outdoor coastal retreat which brought high school kids together from Catholic churches over the whole Florida Panhandle. The theme that year was “One Love, One Life” and Bob Marley’s hit song was played at all the activities throughout the weekend. The t-shirts had red, green and gold on them. It was a genuine religious experience on a Florida beach with Bob Marley’s message front and center.
I was captivated by how much of Marley’s music was religious in its nature. It may as well be gospel music. Listening to Marley’s lyrics is like listening to a hymn, and that one-drop beat and the rootsy melodies are infectious. It wasn’t a stretch for Marley’s music to become an influential part of my ever-growing spiritual life.
As I grew into my late teens, I became more disillusioned with modern life. I’d had a miserable experience in public school. I came to realized that the Church is full of vipers, but only after I had been bitten. I became aware of the corruption of government. The ongoing and almost unconscious genocide of Native peoples weighed on my mind and my soul. I felt like I had been lied to my whole life, and that everything I thought I knew up to that point was propaganda. I didn’t know who I was. What does any of it even mean? I became angry and a little bit radical. I learned that thinking for myself is an act of rebellion.
I could have gone bad at this point, but I didn’t. Instead this is when Bob Marley’s music became most important to me. It captured my frustration and soothed what it could, and redirected what it couldn’t into a positive fire. This was real rebel music. It was rooted in positivity and righteousness, rather than the negativity found in so much of other rebellious music. Rather than being angry, self-destructive and nihilistic, I learned to be impassioned about injustice, and constructive while invigorating my faith and maintaining a sense of wonder about the world. This is what held me together. The message I learned from Bob Marley and through him from other reggae artists and the Rastafarian movement is something that has continually been a guiding light for me over the years.
It encouraged me to embrace my roots.
It helped me bridge the gap between my indigenous traditions and my orthodoxy.
It helped me understand the significance of my place in the greater movement of history.
It helped me to see that each native struggle as another front of the same global struggle for freedom, and sovereignty.
It helped me to understand that I have a role to play in this struggle and how I can fulfill that mission through education, prayer, and service to my people and revitalization of our traditional cultures.
I can’t stress enough how important it was for me that this message of reggae didn’t just want to teach me rules and ethics and tell me to be a good boy, and it didn’t just encourage me to rebel without a cause. The Rastafarian philosophy freely recognized and validated my grievances with the modern world and gave me positive means to deal with negative realities.
So today isn’t just another birthday of another popular musician to me. It is the anniversary of the day a great man came into the world who would have a positive spiritual impact on many disillusioned youth throughout the world for over five decades now. He may have saved my life. While Bob Marley should be remembered for his groundbreaking music, he is also remembered for his role as an emissary of the divine, a messenger for the revolutionary word of God – Jah Rastafari.
Imbolc is an ancient Celtic Fire Festival traditionally celebrated on February 1st and heralds in the beginning of spring. For several hundred years this day has been the feast day of Saint Brigid of Kildare and before that of an Irish goddess by a similar name.
As the first day of spring, Imbolc is placed early in the season because Celtic people recognized that seasons begin upon their incubation rather than at their midpoint as the seasons are generally measured today. Similarly, the feast day itself as with all Celtic fire festivals begins the eve before the actual calendar date. Being a fire festival, Imbolc was marked by bonfires, hearthfires and candles. And as is traditional for the Irish any time of year, Imbolc would be celebrated with a solemn visit to sacred wells, or rivers
By Imbolc, the days have become noticeably longer since midwinter’s darkness as the sun continues to mature in the sky. The young earth is becoming fertile and the young sun begins to show signs of his virility. Seeds that have lain dormant in the earth will soon sprout. Life is becoming more active as the cold winter fades away. The stag begins to regrow his antlers and shall soon be searching for his spring-time mate. This is the day for coming of age.
In its earliest incarnations, Imbolc was a shepherd’s holiday likely called Oimelc, meaning “ewe’s milk.” At this time of year, the female sheep have often recently given birth and are lactating. Another proposed meaning of the name Imbolc would translate to “in the belly” carrying forward this theme of fertility, mating and pair-bonding.
Though Imbolc is still celebrated continuously in parts of Ireland and Britain, it was also adopted into the neopagan Eightfold Wheel of the Year in the mid twentieth century. In this progression, Imbolc is the first discernible evidence of the fulfillment of that divine promise of Yule, celebrating the returning of light and the fertility of the earth.
Anciently, Imbolc is the feast day of Brigid, patroness of poetry, medicine and metallurgy and celebrates her as the fertile virgin Earth-bride to be mated to the returning sun of spring personified as the youthful Green Man, an archetype of the springtime blooming. His hair and beard are usually represented as leaves and vines. His symbols are horns, vegetation and snakes. Though, the male hero plays an integral role in this relationship, Imbolc is truly in celebration of the Bride. Amongst her many epithets Brigid is referred to as “mistress of fire,” “old lady of the whirling fire,” and selchi shut emyss; “mistress of serpents.” The Catholic saint is portrayed just as strikingly though far less romantically as a bride of Christ.
The serpent is also a symbol of Imbolc. Much like the similar event of Groundhog Day which falls at this same time, the sighting of snakes at this time of year indicates the arrival of spring. Snakes brumate in the winter; a kind of mild hibernation. They return in the spring, making their reappearance a sign of springtime fertility. Snakes have been seen as symbolic of rebirth in many cultures due to the manner in which they slough their skin and are thus each time ‘reborn.’ The sighting of the first serpent of spring is considered a good omen bestowing virile blessings upon the seer. For this reason, the historical celebrations of Imbolc included the pounding of a serpent effigy and the pronouncement: “Today is the day of the Bride. The serpent shall come from his hole. I will not molest the serpent and the serpent will not molest me.”
As an agricultural celebration and the first fertility rite of the year, Imbolc is a time to prepare the fields for the sowing. Traditional celebrations for this time include breaking ground for new crops or blessing the fields, the plows and other farming tools, and offerings were made of milk, honey or mead, and cakes or bread.
Historically, by this time the winter supplies would be dwindling. Few if any fruits or vegetables were available. Wild animals are quite lean in late winter and so were the people having dropped their summer weight as they entered the lean season the Church would eventually institute as the season of Lent. Since wild foods are scarcest and our favorites scarcer still, this time period has historically marked a time of fasting.
The internationally touring Irish musical duo The Guinness Brothers have been spreading the craic* from pub to pub and festival to festival over two continents for the past seven years. Consisting of Colm Kelly on vocals, guitar, and harmonica, and Roddy Carreira on vocals, mandolin, banjo, and occasional percussion, The Guinness Brothers really are the life of the party.
Based out of Albufeira, Portugal (though Colm originally hails from Kildare, Ireland), they are consistent performers at Irish Pubs, weddings and events at a nearly non-stop pace throughout Europe and the United States.
I naturally met Colm on his first trip to Pensacola as a performer at McGuire’s Irish Pub. Sometime later Roddy came along with him and brought the full Guinness Brothers experience to McGuire’s. One of the most immediately noticeable features of a Guinness Brothers show, as well as a Colm Kelly solo performance is that Colm has a natural gift for working a room and amping up a crowd. With Roddy beside him, they create a power team of sarcasm and debauchery that will have any festival ground, reception hall, or bar entertained and actively involved with all the antics they bring with them.
A Guinness Brothers show is more than a musical performance; it really is a party. The boys don’t want the audience just sitting and listening as each songs fritters by, but instead in the age-old Irish tradition they want you to be a part of the show, to interact, dance, sing, shout out responses and play along for the fun, or the “craic” as is said in Ireland.
Their sets include a wide variety of musical styles from Irish Traditionals, pop, rock, country and more, all of it delivered in the distinct high energy fashion that is a staple of a Guinness Brothers show. On top of all that, the boys are also known to boldly take requests from the audience. Even if they haven’t rehearsed the requested tune before, they’re likely to give it a shot anyway, and fake their way through it, all for the craic. It’s a bit of game to them, a challenge to which they’re eager to rise.
Speaking of games, as an audience member you might find yourself drafted into any number of games such as “left-hand drinking” during which the audience is only allowed to drink with their left hand. If someone is caught drinking with their right hand they’ll be called out, asked to stand up and down their drink all in one. This becomes a lot of fun as the audience begins to call each other out as the night goes on, and of course all for the craic.
In 2019 The Guinness Brothers released a live album appropriately titled Live Craic, a twelve song set including Irish favorites such as Whiskey in the Jar, The Wild Rover, and Rocky Road to Dublin as well as classic rock and popular covers like Folsom Prison Blues, Thunderstruck and Take On Me, with a half dozen more.
The album does a great job at capturing the spirit and the vibe the duo produces with Colm’s signature fast, percussive acoustic guitar rhythms and Roddy’s bright and lighthearted mandolin standing out ontop of the mix. Their rendition of The Wild Rover especially gives a sense of the back and forth banter the two are known for engaging in between and even during songs.
Their interpretation of the traditional reel The Moving Cloud is particularly demonstrative of Roddy’s proficiency with playing Celtic melodies. That and his dynamite mandolin lead on Whiskey in the Jar really helps to ground the disk’s versatile song selection in the Irish musical tradition from which the duo emerges.
While Live Craic is a good listen its only drawback is that you don’t get the full experience of all the antics of a Guinness Brothers live show. How could it? So, the only way to rectify this is to download this album now and make sure you catch the Guinness Brothers live at one of the various venues in which they perform throughout Europe and the United States.
* In case you haven’t figured it out by now, “craic” is a traditional Irish word for fun, joviality, or living comedy. It’s derives front the same root from which we Americans get the idea of “cracking jokes.”
Paraskevidekatriaphobia is the fear of Friday the 13th, and this evening, I had my weird Friday the 13th experience.
I was on my way home from dropping off my daughter at her school dance. As I was turning a corner I saw for a brief flash in my rearview mirror the image of a ghastly woman as if she was sitting in my back seat. She had a sort of bluish illumination with two dark eyes with blackened mascara-like smears running down her face. Nothing too original, but it did cause me a split second’s release of adrenaline. The best part is that I know exactly what I saw and why.
For uncertain reasons in the Western world and especially the United States when the 13th of the month falls on a Friday it is believed to be an unlucky day.
I grew up with this superstition and believed in it to whatever degree young children can believe in anything they have no ability to understand and no reason to believe other than the influence of their peers. The fact that I was a very young child at the beginnings of the extremely successful Friday the 13th movie franchise has shaded my view of the event in a particular light for me.
I’m not unique in this, these days Americans particularly see Friday the 13th as a scary and dark day, a sort of reverse holiday similar to Halloween without the costumes or trick-or-treating. It comes with its own myths and urban legends. Much like the Santa Claus at Christmas of the Easter Bunny in spring, the murderous hockey mask clad and machete wielding zombie Jason Vorheese from the Friday the 13th movies is and for a long time to come will be in the future attached to this spooky unholiday. This really is a testament more to the quality of the marketing of the franchise than the quality of the movies themselves that even as I child I found to be more funny than frightening, but I still love them. Jason lives in mythology alongside classic legendary supernatural evils like the Headless Horseman, Dracula, or Frankenstein.
There’s a fair amount of speculation regarding the origin of the Friday the 13th superstition, but no one really knows for sure. The number 13 has been considered an unlucky number for hundreds of years. This is so prevalent that most hotels do not even host a 13th floor. The numbers on an elevator will often go straight from 12 to 14 because many people are afraid to rent a room on the 13th floor. It might seem crazy, but it’s true.
The superstition of 13 being bad luck seems to have arisen during the middle ages and is assumed to have come from the story of the arrest of Jesus after the Last Supper when He and His twelve apostles were present equaling thirteen. Similarly, the fact Jesus was crucified on the following day; Friday made that day a particularly infamous part of the week, one which Catholics and Orthodox Christians still consider a day of fasting. These two beliefs combined seem to be the origin of the superstition; two unlucky points occurring at once although the origins of Friday the 13th being especially unlucky didn’t seem to arise until the 19th century.
In the 20th century authors such as Maurice Druon in his novel Le Roi de fer (1955), and John J. Robinson in his book Born in Blood: The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry (1989) postulated a connection between this superstition and the day on which the Knights Templar were arrested on charges of heresy by King Philip the IV of France, Friday the 13th of October 1307. This was echoed in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (2003), and other books, memes and papers since then. Although this is one of my favorite hypotheses, the evidence to support this being the origin of the superstition is dubious at best. It’s more likely a combination of reasons.
In my car, as quickly as the ghastly woman had appeared in my rearview mirror she was gone, but I could still see the impression of her eyes. They were spots of dirt with what appeared to be smeared finger print running down the glass. As I was turning the corner the setting sun passed directly behind me for just a brief moment. The sun’s rays reflected off of the mirror in a manner framing the fingerprints in a glow and accentuating the smudges. Then my lizard brain took over and assembled this into an image I could make sense out of based on the fact I’ve been thinking about Friday the 13th and creepy stuff all day. When my daughter gets home from her dance we plan on watching some scary movies.