Well, it’s the Fifth of November; Samhain (that’s pronounced sow-en) is very much upon us and winter, that bane of my life, is on the way. I’m already lighting the stove in the evening now, and of course fire is important in these Celtic lands. It’s the season of the Fire Festival, that ancient Pagan ritual. (Cheerfully adopted by the Christians, of course.)
Samhain was the Celtic version; it has equivalents all over the world. The Celtic year was divided in two ways, one solar and the other lunar. The Celts weren’t daft (well, not as daft as some I can think of) and they knew damn fine that lunar calendars are not consistent; a twelve-month lunar year and the solar one are different in length, since a lunar month is 29.5 days. This adds up to only 354 days in a 12-month year, which means that relying on it is hopeless as far as the seasons are concerned. And for an agrarian people like the Celts, the seasons were really important.
Hot cross buns. That’s what this article is about. So why do I have a picture of a Roman sculpture of a bull’s head here instead of a nice snap of some hot cross buns?
Well, hot cross buns actually originated in Assyria as a part of worship of the Moon Goddess Ishtar. At least that is the earliest record we have of them. The Egyptians continued the tradition of offering cakes to their Moon-Goddess Hathor. They decorated the cakes with bull’s horns, as the ox was the preferred sacrifice of the Goddess. The cakes, therefore, were symbolic of the sacrificed bull, whose flesh would be eaten by worshippers.
It is now over twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall; for many young people, the Cold War, of which it was the most compelling symbol, is no more than a history lesson. In my desk here I have a small piece of concrete, with paint on, which was recovered from that wall and sold as a tourist trinket. It is perhaps the most telling one I have.
Our children do not, as those of my generation did, live in daily fear of being blown to pieces by atomic bombs or dying an agonising death from radiation sickness. They do not walk into their schools to find posters saying “Better Dead Than Red” on the walls, nor do they crowd around flickering television sets alongside their anguished parents, watching as Kennedy drew his line in the ocean, and curled his finger around the trigger of nuclear Armageddon. And for this we should all be very, very thankful indeed. No child should have to live with nightmares like those. Continue reading “The Realpolitik of Islamism”