Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed the first two weeks of the Culture section. This week we are going to cover a smattering of topics instead of 1 big one. Three straight weeks of the Civil War has rather dulled me on the concept of one big column for a bit.
A Livejournal friend of mine named Guin asked me to explain where some Birthday traditions came from. This is no doubt, due to my utter bitchiness that came this week from me getting older. But this is cathartic I suppose, so let’s go into it.
Prior to the rise of Mithraism in the Roman Empire, birthdays were rarely if ever celebrated. What is Mithraism, you ask? Well it was the religion the majority of Romans too part in before it was supplanted by Christianity. That’s right. Celebrating your birthday is one of the most Pagan traditions you can do. Mithraism was strong from the 1st BCE to the 5th Century, CE. It grew in strength mainly thanks to its popularity amongst the Roman soldiers. Mithraism died out after a decree in 391 CE, which banned all Pagan practices. This was due to the current Emperor, Flavius Theodosius, having converted to Christianity.
Mithraism was a “Mystery Religion.” This phrase means that the farther one was devoted to the religion and climbed the ranks of the religious hierarchy, the more one learned “the truth.” This can be seen mirrored today in societies like the Freemasons or in religions like Scientology, Mormonism, or the Tiamatian “Temple of the Vampire.”
The primary Gods worshipped in Mithraism were from the Zoroastrian pantheon, along with the Persian God Mithra.
The concept of Birthday celebration came about because those that practiced Mithraism paid close attention to astrology and their recording “Age” or “Ages” due to the location of a Zodiac constellation in regards to the location of the sun during the Vernal Equinox (The beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and Summer for the Southern Hemisphere.). Due to the Mithraism study and worship of yearly events, the celebration of one’s birth came to foster as an unofficial holiday. Like in modern times, there was no religious significance. merely an Astrological one.
When the Dark and Middle Ages came about due to Christian fear of science and superstition, Birthdays again fell to the wayside due to its Paganistic origins. However, once the Protestant Revolution occurred, this new branch of Christianity re-embraced the concept of celebrating Birthdays. This was so that the Protestants could transfer over customs from various Saint’s Days to a new holiday.
I figure this would be a good time to also look at one particular Western Birthday tradition and to show you where it came from.
The song, “Happy Birthday to You,” came about in 1893 when the sisters Hill (Patty and Mildred penned a song entitled “Good Morning to All.” Both Hill sisters were school teachers in Louisville, Kentucky. Somewhere along the line, someone changed the lyrics to the “Happy Birthday” ones we know today, and the rest is history. It is believed the Hill sisters did this as well, as the first copyright to the song was in their name.
In 1935, the Hill sisters got the lyrics copyrighted, and the song has been passed around ever since. Currently AOL-Time-Warner owns the copyright through a subsidiary company (purchased in 1988), but in 2030, the lyrics become public domain. But until then, any public performance of the song is technically illegal.
For those of you curious, and who have probably never seen the full song, below are the lyrics of “Happy Birthday to You.”
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear (name)
Happy Birthday to you.
So today is your birthday
That’s what I’ve been told
What a wonderful birthday
Now you’re one more year old
On your cake there’ll be candles
All lighted, it’s true
While the whole world is singing
Happy Birthday to you ….
(then what we know as Happy Birthday is sung as the chorus)
So I hope that helps explain where the concept of Birthday celebrations came from. Personally, I think it’s a silly tradtion geared and egotism and Narcissism, but that’s just me. Knock yourself out celebrating your own.
Next up, we’re going to examine a creature larger than even the blue whale, that zoologists know for a fact exists, and yet…no human has ever seen one. It’s called the Kraken.
The concept of the Kraken has been around for thousands of years, appearing in both Grecian and Roman mythology. In essence, the Kraken is a massive squid, larger than any other life form known to man. However it is only in the past 3 centuries that the Kraken has moved from the realm of legend, back into accepted reality.
The first “Modern” sighting of the Kraken was in 1755 by a Norwegian bishop named Erik Pontoppidan. In his book, Natural History of Norway, he said the Kraken was so immense, it had been known to drag entire ships underwater. Pontoppidan even said the Kraken was as large as a floating island. But because there was so physical proof or substantiated sightings of the Kraken, biologists refused to believe in its existance. That is, until 1847.
When Danish Naturalist Johan Japetus Steenstrup chose to lecture to the Society of Scandinavian Naturalists, he chose the topic of the Kraken. He was determined to prove the giant squid in fact existed. In 1857, Steenstrup published a scientific description of the Kraken and gave it a scientific name of Architeuthis. In the 1870’s, a series of partial squid carasses began to wash up on Canadian shores. Carcasses far larger than any squid ever seen before. This helped to incite the public and the scientific community as a whole to believe that the Kraken was in fact real.
In Modern times, we no longer debate over whether Krakens exist, but over how large the actually are. Remember no human has ever seen, captured, or reported with proof a full sized Kraken. This is because Krakens live in amazingly deep water and never come to the surface. All scientists have to go on are the scars they leave on their prey with their suckers. And their prey consists mainly of full grown whales. Yes, whales have a predator besides man.
Whales have shown sucker scars that are as long as 18 inches in diameter. If the suckers are in proportion to the rest of the kraken like normal squids, this means a kraken measures at least 100 feet in length. By comparison, the blue whale grows to 100 feet long at maximum. However, some scientists, refuse to believe a squid can be larger than a blue whale and state that the scars on these whales made by the suckers were most likely made when the whales were younger and smaller, and that the scars have grown with the whales. The modern Cryptozoologist however is quick to point out these naysayers are in the minority, and that if a baby whale came in contact with a kraken, it would have little to no chance of surviving said encounter.
There’s one other neat tidbit about the Kraken I’d like to bring up. But in order to do so, I need to reprint a poem written in 1890 by Lord Alfred Tennyson. It is entitled, The Kraken.
Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.
This poem is actually believed to be the catalyst, combined with that same time period’s shifting of the Kraken into a real zoological creature that inspired one Howard Phillips Lovecraft to create the most famous monster in all American Literature…Cthulhu. The kraken in Tennyson’s poem shares many features with the Great Old One himself, and like the Kraken in the mid 1700’s, Cthulhu was spotted by a Norwegian sailor. Alas, none of Lovecrafts letters (5 books of which are published) have ever confirmed or denied what caused HPL to create is cephalopod headed God.
To end this section, I thought I would an article from CNN.com in 2002: Tuning in to a Deep Sea Monster. This article talks about British oceanographers and marine biologists who believe they have found a Kraken, or at least its sounds.
This week, since I’ve discussed giant squid, I thought it would be fun to see how far I could push your taste buds. I know that some of you have probably eaten Calamari before as an appetizer. But how many of you have actually eaten squid as a main meal, or not deep fried? Well hopefully the gourmands amongst you will give this a try as I show you how to make a popular Grecian delicacy. I will warn you that if you’re going to do this, get large squids, as they are easier to stuff with the filling we’ll be using.
For the Stuffing
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 ounces halloumi cheese, grates
salt and ground black pepper to taste
For the rest
4 drained squid, about 7 inches long each
2 pounds ripe tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup dry white wine
Rosemary sprigs to taste
Toasted pine nuts for garnish
Flat leaf parsley for garnish
1. To make the stuffing, heat the oil in a frying pan and saute, the onion for three minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the garlic, bread crumbs, parsley, cheese, and a little salt and pepper. Stir until thoroughly blended.
2. Dry the squid on paper towels and fill with the prepared stuffing using a teaspoon. Secure the ends of the squid with wooden toothpicks.
3, Plunge the tomatoes into boiling water for 30 seconds. Then refresh in cold water. Peel off the skins and chop.
4. Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the squid and saute on all sides. Remove from the pan.
5. Add the onion to the pan and saute gently for 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar and wine and cook rapidly until the mixture becomes thick and pulpy.
6. Return the squid to the pan with the rosemary. Cover and cook gently for 30 minutes. Slice the squid and serve on individual plates with the sauce spooned over them. Sprinkle on the pine nuts over the squid, then garnish with parsley
And there we go. A meal for the adventurous. Trust me, it tastes even better than it looks!
In Culture Cory Laflin returns to Inside Pulse with his new column on chess. Miss Ellie also joins me as the first food columnist on IP. Spike of course, is #3.
In Games, Liquidcross reviews the sequel to Magic Pengel while Tom N reviews the new Dragonball game. Ha ha ha.
In Wrestling, Eric S has shown me the “NEW” Legion of Doom. And it makes me very very sad.
In Moodspins, Mathan talks racial slurs.
In Music, Gloomchen reviews the new NIN CD. The funny thing is here I was offered 8 tickets to their MSP performance in the first 12 rows or so for a fraction of the cost they sell for, but I said no, because anyone who I knew that liked Reznor had other plans that day.
In Comics, Kevin Mahoney reviews a comic with Fin Fang Foom in it. And that alone gets a plug.
In Figures, there is a new ULTIMATE WARRIOR figure. Yay Warrior!
In Movies, Brendan Campbell earns himself the animosity of every Constantine fan on the planet for actually…you know, loving the movie and making inane comments like Constantine is definitely a movie any comic book fan should check out when most it was nearly unanimous amongst fans of the Vertigo series than this movie needed to have everyone involved with it shot.
In TV, Travis Leamons reviews the new Tales From the Crypt boxed set.
In Sports, IP Sports Radio is on the air!
And that’s it for this week. Keep checking out Culture all week long for new articles on food, history, and literature! Oh yeah, and all those other zones. I’ll be back next week, answering your questions about things that should not be!