Saturday, November 5, 2022
Monday, June 6, 2022
Reading the Pied Piper of Hamelin
Reading the Pied Piper of Hamelin
John and Paul’s Day was celebrated throughout Europe on June 26 but was originally a pagan festival commemorating the summer solstice. On this day it was custom for huge throngs of people to gather and dance around a bonfire, play music, sing, and augur the future. According to Petrarch, it was the custom of women in Cologne to bathe in the Rhine River on the evening before St. John’s Day. The surging waters supposedly washed away all evil and misfortune from the bathers. The custom was apparently practiced throughout Germany in its largest rivers and was considered to be distinctly pagan. Processions and parades, dancing and singing, bathing in the river and jumping through or dancing around bonfires were all part of the revelry. Frowning on the unbridled passion of townspeople engaged in such activities, the early Christian Church appropriated the day. It linked the custom of river bathing to John the Baptist and symbolical purification through water. These summer celebrations coincided with the sun reaching its highest point in the sky and usually lasted several days. The dates given in the Pied Piper of Hamelin are the exact days this celebration would have been held and the saga accurately incorporates elements of this folk tradition.
In the Pied Piper of Hamelin we find the elements of playing music and processing down to a river (and immersing oneself in the water) to eradicate pestilence. The figure charged with the expulsion of rats and mice is distinctly pagan. He uses magic and music to take control of the rats first and children second. He is a wandering rogue of a most peculiar sort. His clothing and visage are described in some detail. His coat of many colors is reminiscent of that other famous wanderer in Germanic mythology, Woton (as called by Southern Germanic tribes) or Odin (as called by Northern Germanic tribes). Woton traditionally wears a blue cloak with golden flecks and broad hat. The Germanic God Woton underwent many transformations at the hands of Christian priests, who attempted to Christianize the deity. Wotan alternately became the Archangel Michael, the Holy St. Martin, the Wild Huntsman and finally the devil. In his role as Wild Huntsman, Wotan was said to lead a fearsome procession that raced through the air and lasted 12 days. Other pagan figures lead similar parades or processions including Frau Holla and True Eckhart, and Tannhäuser and Frau Venus. These duos always have the same destination: the inside of a mountain. In many folk tales and saga, entering a mountain as part of a procession is actually a metaphor
for dying (see Gratzug). In fact there were many mountains throughout Europe that were considered sacred to Woton (Othensberg, Odensberg, Godesberg, Gudenesberg and Wodenesberg to name a few).
There are sagas and legends from the Middle Ages which reflect the dismay and even anger of the deposed deities toward the rising power and prestige of Christian intruders. Tannhäuser and Frau Venus are perhaps the most well-known examples. But is it possible to interpret the tantalizing character of the Pied Piper and the disappearance of 130 children within the context of an enraged (and perhaps, dislodged) deity?
This extraordinary tale reads like an historical narrative with eye-witness accounts to bolster its veracity. I am inclined to view the story as a cautionary tale to a population wavering between the older pagan belief and the newer Christian belief systems. Participating in pagan revelry, with its gods, music, dancing and wildness, can have dire consequences. The old deities are no longer mourning their loss of status, but ready to take revenge. At the end of the tale, a ban on music is imposed and presumably the pagan revelry and festivities that accompanied it. But the surface message of the tale is also quite clear. The mendacity of town leaders contradicts the Gospel message that “a laborer is worthy of his hire.”
The mountain where the children disappeared has been renamed Calvary, or the Place of the Skull (Köppen = obsolete German word for head or skull). As Europe became Christianized, it was common to rename pagan sites to give them Christian significance. Calvary or site of the Crucifixion would be a fitting name for a place of great tragedy. After reading this tale it is easy to imagine that the story is based on a folk memory of a tragic event involving the loss of children.
Ancient Bone and Ivory Flutes
The Pied Piper is playing one of the oldest known musical instruments: the flute or pipe. Archaeologists have found numerous flutes fashioned from bone or ivory throughout Germany and Switzerland. At the Cloister in Müstair, Switzerland, archaeologists found two bone flutes which they have dated to the Carolingian period and two from the 11th/12th and 14th centuries. They are made from the tibia bone of a sheep or goat and have three finger holes. These Müstair flutes are capable of producing a five-tone or eight-tone scale respectively.
A flute that is believed to be between 30,000 – 37,000 years old was found in pieces in the Geissenkloesterle Cave in Southern Germany. It was made in the Upper Paleolithic Era, a time when Europe was occupied by the last Neanderthals and the first modern humans. This flute was carved from solid ivory and was capable of playing relatively sophisticated tunes. Based on experiments, it seems the flute followed the pentatonic scale.
The sound of these flutes was shaped by human breath. After singing, playing the flute was the most immediate form of communication. Because of its special sound and shape, the flute was also used in religious and cultic ceremonies. The music of the flute or pipe was said to have magical and healing properties. The shepherd played the pipe to calm his flock and keep them together. And in the saga, the Pied Piper uses the magical tones of the flute to exercise control over both animals and humans. The ancient Greeks mistrusted flute music as being overly powerful and seductive and according to Indian tradition, when Lord Krishna played his flute, listeners forgot their individuality and were drawn irresistibly to the music.
Grimm's Saga Number 245: The Pied Piper of Hamelin
Wednesday, December 15, 2021
The Wild Ghosts of Christmas
Grimm’s Saga No. 270: The Tuerst, the Posterli and the Straeggele, the Wild Ghosts of Christmas
When the storm howls and rages in the woods at night, people in Lucerne say: “The Tuerst (or Thirst) is on the prowl!” In Entlebuch they know this spirit as the Posterli. He is a demon, who leads an enormous procession on the Thursday before Christmas Day, with frightful noise and loud clanging sounds. The people of Lucerne call this ghost the Straeggele, a witch, who on the Holy Wednesday Fast Night before Christmas haunts the landscape. She brings special trouble to maids who have not spun their daily portion of flax, exacting punishment in many different ways. That is why this evening is also call the Straeggele Night.
Monday, November 15, 2021
The Little Shepherd Boy, a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm
The Little Shepherd Boy
A shepherd boy was known far and wide for the wise answers he gave to every question. The king of the realm heard about this but did not believe it, so he had the boy brought to him. “If you can provide an answer to three questions I will ask of you I will look upon you as my own son and you will come to live with me in my royal palace.”
The little boy spoke “What are the three questions?” The king replied “The first question is how many drops of water there are in the oceans of the world?”
The shepherd boy replied “Your excellency, plug all the rivers of the world so that not a droplet more than what I have counted can flow into the ocean, then I will tell you how many drops of water there are in the sea.”
The king answered “The next question is: How many stars are in the heavens?”
The shepherd boy replied “Give me a sheet of white paper, and then with your quill splash so many dark spots that you can barely see how many there are and can’t count them because your eyes become cloudy looking upon them.” Then he said “As many stars are in heaven as on this paper, count them!” But no one was able to.
The king said “The third question is how many seconds are in eternity?”
The shepherd boy replied “The Demant Mountain lies in Western Pomerania. It is an hour high, an hour wide and an hour deep. Every hundred years a little bird comes and sharpens its beak there and when the mountain has been worn away the first second of eternity will have passed.”
The king replied “You have answered the three questions like a wiseman;
from here on you shall live in my royal palace and I will view you as my own
Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
The Butterfly, a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen
A fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen
A butterfly longed to find a bride; so of course it sought a pretty one amongst the flowers. It inspected an entire meadow full but found that each bloom sat quietly and respectably on its stalk (exactly as is fitting for a young maiden when she is not yet engaged). The only problem was that there were so many flowers and the huge selection threatened to become overwhelming.
The butterfly did not like exerting all this effort. That is why he flew to visit the daisies. The French call this flower “Margerite” because they know that the Margerite can prophesy the future. And this the flower gladly does, if a lover pulls out each petal one by one, while asking a question about his or her intended true love: “Does she love me from the bottom of her heart? – Love so deep, it causes pain? – Does he love me truly? – A little? -- Not at all? –“ These and many other questions the flower will gladly answer.
The butterfly came to the Margerite to ask his question. But he did not pull off the petals. Instead he pressed a kiss onto each little bud. He did this because he reasoned, he would get much farther by showing good will. “Margerite, best of all blooms!” he said to the flower. “You are the smartest woman among all the flowers. You can foretell the future. Please, please tell me, shall I win her or another? Which one shall be my bride? When I know the answer, I will fly straight away to her and ask for her hand in marriage.”
But the Margerite Daisy did not respond. She was angry that he had called her a “woman”, when in fact she was a young maiden. There is a difference! He asked a second and third time. When the flower remained silent and would not utter a single word, he decided not to linger any longer and flew away to find his own bride. It was the last days of spring. All around the snowdrops and crocuses bloomed. “They are all very nice indeed,” the butterfly thought. But they are all small fish! Then he flew to the anemones. They were a little too bitter. The violets a bit too effusive. The tulips were too proud. The narcissus too domestic. The lime blossoms were too small and had too many relatives. The apple blossoms, they were as beautiful as roses, but here today, gone tomorrow, depending on how the wind was blowing. The pea blossoms pleased him the most. They were red and white, delicate and fine. They were like good domestic help: pleasant to look at and great in the kitchen. He was just about to ask one to be his bride when he spied a dried-out pod standing nearby, from its tip hung an old blossom. “Who is that?” he asked. “It is my sister,” the pea flower replied. “Aha! Later she will look exactly the same!” he exclaimed and fled because her appearance startled him.
Spring passed and summer also ended. Now it was autumn, but the butterfly was still indecisive. Now the flowers all appeared in their finest gowns – but it was all for naught! They were all lacking the fresh, balmy scent of youth. A fragrant aroma is what the heart longs for when it is no longer young. The butterfly now flew to the mum and aster, but there were few to be found. So finally he settled on some crinkly mint. “The mint has no blossom, but its entire being is bud! It is fragrant from top to bottom and emits a flower’s perfume in every blade. I will take the mint as bride!” said the butterfly. And so, he asked the mint for her hand in marriage. But the crinkly mint stood there stiffly and listened silently. Finally it said “We can be friends, but not more than that! I am old and you are old. We can live and help each other, even amuse each other. But marry? Never!”
And so the butterfly did not marry. He had waited too long, and one should never do that! And so the butterfly remained a confirmed bachelor.
Soon it was late autumn with rain and dark weather. The wind blew cold over the backs of the old willow trees and the branches groaned. It wasn’t the type of weather to fly about in one’s summer outfit! But the butterfly wasn’t flying outside anymore. He had managed to fly into a house, where the logs in the oven burned so brightly and it was as warm as a summer’s day. He considered whether or not he could live in such a cozy little room. “Merely living is not enough!” He finally said. “Sunshine, freedom and a small flower are what I require!” And he flew against the windowpane. The children all came running, admired him, then stuck him through with a needle and placed him in their box of treasures. Nothing else could be done for the fellow now.
“Here I sit, pricked through by this needle instead of sitting on a flower!” the butterfly sighed. “This truly is not very pleasant! It must be what it’s like to be married, you are stuck to one spot!” And so he tried to console himself.
“That’s cold comfort, indeed,” said the houseplant on the windowsill. “But,” the butterfly thought to himself “One can’t really trust a houseplant. They spend far too much time among people!”
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Sunday, January 24, 2021
How the Cuckoo Came to Call, a Fairy Tale from Latvia
How the Cuckoo Came to Call
There once was a mother who raised a flea in her bathroom. The flea became so large that she was able to make an entire pair of shoes from its skin for her daughter. Soon thereafter the mother was invited to a wedding with her daughter. At the wedding feast the mother promised to give her daughter’s hand in marriage to the first person who could guess the kind of hide the shoes were made from. One after another tried to guess, but in vain. Suddenly a newt poked his head through a crack in the floorboard and cried “The shoes are made from the skin of a flea!” And so, nothing could be done, the mother had to give her daughter to the newt in marriage.
The newt led his wife to his castle by the sea. They lived there for a long time. One day, the wife became restless and desired to see her parents again. But the newt would not allow it, she must first find her way and walk in iron shoes, then he would allow it. Well and good, after seven years she had mastered walking in iron shoes and they were ripped to shreds. The wife took her three children by the hand to visit her parents. The newt led all four to the seashore. He said: “When you return, step very closely to the edge of the sea and call out: “Newt, if you live, let a maelstrom of milk rise up; if you are dead, let a maelstrom of blood rise up. When I hear your words, I will come to meet you.”
And so they said their good-byes. After the newt’s wife had spent some time with her parents, she became homesick for her newt. Her parents did not want her to go. But the newt’s wife praised her life with the newt; life in the castle by the sea was good for her and her children; it was now time to go home. The parents wanted to follow her and find out how she met the newt by the big water and how they could find the castle, but she would not tell them. So, if she would not say, they would have to worm it out of the small, dumb children.
They asked the oldest: he said nothing. They asked the middle child: she also said nothing. They asked the youngest, he said it. As soon as the father found out the secret, he went to the seashore and called out: “Newt, if you live, let a maelstrom of milk rise up; if you are dead, let a maelstrom of blood rise up!” The newt whirled up an eddy of milk and emerged on shore. But the father took aim and shot him dead. The next morning when the wife went to the seashore with her children and called out: “Newt, if you live, let a maelstrom of milk rise up; if you are dead, let a maelstrom of blood rise up!” The newt whirled up an eddy of blood. The mother was terrified and asked the children, which of them had divulged the father’s secret. The youngest acknowledged his misdeed. The mother spoke her judgment on each one. “You my eldest son, shall become an oak tree, so that everyone admires you. You, my middle daughter, shall become a fresh linden tree, so that the maidens adorn themselves with your branches. You, my youngest chatterbox shall become a stumbling block, which shall break the axle of even the largest cart. I myself will become a cuckoo and will call for my newt for ever and always.” And so it was.
Translation Copyright 2020
Monday, December 28, 2020
Your 2020 Quiz
Take the 2020 Corona-Quiz and Win, answers appear at bottom but remember no cheating!
Your 2020 CORONA QUIZ
How much do you really know about COVID19 and how much is FAKE NEWS?
(1) When were the first U.S. cases of nontravel-related COVID 19 confirmed in the USA?
a. January 16
b. January 31
c. February 5
d. February 26
(2) Limited US community transmission began after
a. A single importation of the virus from China
b. A single importation of the virus from Europe
c. A single importation of the virus from China followed by a single importation from Europe.
d. A single importation of the virus from China followed by multiple importations from Europe.
e. Multiple importations of the virus from China followed by multiple importations from Europe.
(3) Until late February COVID-19 incidence was
a. High but undetected by emergency departments
b. Too low to be detected by emergency departments.
c. Misdiagnosed by emergency departments as a common flu strain
d. Considered unremarkable by emergency departments
(4) The first nontravel–related U.S. case was confirmed
a. In a California resident
b. In a Washington state resident
c. In a New York City resident
d. In President Donald Trump
(5) A second nontravel–related case was confirmed
a. In the state of California
b. In the state of Washington
c. In New York state
d. In Rhode Island.
e. The second case cannot be definitively pinpointed
(6) Analysis of viral RNA sequences from early cases suggested that a single lineage of virus began circulating in the United States
a. Already in December 2019
b. Sometime between January 18 and February 9, followed by several SARS-CoV-2 importations from Europe.
c. Sometime on or around February 1st followed by a Mideastern variant 2 weeks later.
d. There was never a single lineage of the virus circulating the United States.
(7) Sustained, community transmission of the virus likely resulted from
a) the importation of a single lineage of virus from China in December, followed by several importations from Europe in January
b) the importation of a single lineage of virus from China in late January or early February, followed by several importations from Europe.
c) importation of a dual virus lineage from China in earlyJanuary and from Europe in early February
YOUR BONUS QUESTION (determines your level of enlightenment):
The widespread emergence of COVID-19 throughout the United States highlights
a. the importance of robust public health systems to respond rapidly to emerging infectious threats
b. the importance of a functioning government to respond nimbly to emerging threats of all kinds
c. the importance of public education
d. the importance of health care
e. the importance of science
f. the importance of honesty
CORRECT ANSWERS (INCORRECT ANSWERS ARE CONSIDERED INCORRECT)
(1) (D) The first U.S. cases of nontravel–related COVID-19 were confirmed on February 26 and 28, 2020, suggesting that community transmission was occurring by late February.
(2) (D) Limited U.S. community transmission likely began in late January or early February 2020, after a single importation from China, followed by multiple importations from Europe.
(3) Until late February, COVID-19 incidence was too low to be detected by emergency department syndromic surveillance for COVID-19–like illness.
(4) The first nontravel–related U.S. case was confirmed on February 26 in a California resident
(5) A second nontravel–related case was confirmed in the state of Washington
(6) Analysis of viral RNA sequences from early cases suggested that a single lineage of virus imported directly or indirectly from China began circulating in the United States between January 18 and February 9, followed by several importations from Europe.
(8) Really? You don’t know that all of the above are correct?
Teachers’ Guide for Interpreting Your Results:
Number of correct answers:
1 correct answer = You moron, what have you been doing the last 12 months if not compulsively, obsessively watching TV? 2 correct answers = better than moron but still living under a rock 3 correct answers = you know just enough to talk intelligently in zoom meetings 4 correct answers = dangerously informed, you could not run for office at this point 5 correct answers = you no longer qualify as science expert on cable news 6 correct answers = You moron, what have you been doing the last 12 months … obsessively watching TV and reading READING the newspaper?
Thursday, December 24, 2020
Sunday, December 6, 2020
The Winter Solstice and the Grand Conjunction
The Singing Fir Tree
In Switzerland, a story is told about a man named Hans Kreutz, who lived with his wife on Thun Lake in Ralligen. In the year 1555, a thick black fog descended on the village and it would not dissipate. The alarmed villagers retreated to their homes, closed doors and sealed the windows tightly. But a light blue vapor crept under the window sill and the wife breathed in this vapor and in the evening she lay in bed motionless. Hans looked into her eyes and saw no reflection there and in the morning she was dead. Many villagers died that year and the survivors buried their loved ones in the church yard at the outskirts of town, where the mountain and forest swept down abruptly into the valley. While the bells in the church tower were ringing, Hans buried his wife and returned home. For days he did not leave his house. He neither ate nor slept but could not forget the vacant stare of his beloved wife and the sound of the church bells as he lowered her into the grave.
One evening when Hans sat by the fire, he heard the church bells ring out the Ave and they rang and rang and he lost track of the time. He raised his head, for he thought he heard wonderful and sweet singing up high in the Hohlbach Forest near the tree line. But when the church bells stopped ringing, he heard it no more. The next day he sat with longing and waited for the evening church bells to ring out the Ave. At first he heard only the faintest sound of distant singing, but then the melody grew stronger until there could be no mistake. A woman’s voice sang a mysterious and beautiful song, the words of which he could not quite decipher.
But Hans spread word among the townspeople. At night the entire village listened while the church bells rang and soon everyone heard the wonderful singing daily. The singing was soothing and the villagers listened at the edge of the village until the snow began to fall and then they returned to their homes. All but Hans, who wanted to know where the singing came from. The next night when the church bells were ringing, the villagers assembled in the church yard. Hans lit a torch and climbed the mountainside, following the mysterious melody. He did this every evening until one night he finally found a giant fir tree, and its voice was sweet and clear. He shyly gazed upon the tree and in amazement listened to its gentle song.
But Hans could find no rest. The singing fir tree occupied his waking and sleeping hours and he wanted to be in the presence of its song always. In secret he climbed up the mountain during the day and spent long hours near the tree. Some time passed and Hans was called away to visit his family in the next valley.
While he was away, a wood carver from among the villagers, who had seen the beautiful fir tree, decided he needed it to make a wood carving. Because the tree was so magnificent, tall and straight, with perfectly formed branches and trunk, he had it felled and brought down to the valley. From the wood, he selected an enormous block of the trunk that had no scars or branches. From this piece of wood he began to carve an image of the Virgin Mary. He worked day and night on this carving and saw nothing more beautiful than the image of the Virgin growing out of the wood. And after some time, the villagers came to his workshop and marveled at the beauty of the image, its heavenly countenance and mild authority.
When Hans returned to the village after some months, he climbed the mountain and went directly to where the singing fir tree had stood. In its place was only a stump and Hans was gripped by such melancholy, that a loud moan issued from his lips. It was like the howling of a wounded wolf or the shriek of an eagle flying overhead. The loud cries filled the valley, echoing off the cliffs and rocks. When the villagers heard the loud cries from above, they gathered below near the church. And soon in the distance they heard the beautiful, long-missed song. They turned and saw the woodcarver, carrying his statue and saw that it was singing. He placed the statue in the church, where it stands today. And some say, they have heard it singing when a loved one dies. The place where the tree once stood is now called Marienstein. There is a smaller rock nearby, where Hans once gazed upon the fir tree. It is said that in his grief, Hans turned to stone and the place is now called the Kreutzantisch.
Saturday, November 28, 2020
Safe Fairy Tale Holidays
Monday, August 10, 2020
Fairy Tales of Strange Steeds
Many monsters were said to inhabit the mountains and valleys in times of old. In Sitten, a town in the Wallis region of Switzerland, a three-legged steed was often seen prancing through the streets in the bright moon light. And in the soft swamplands surrounding the city, the wild horse Zawudschawu could often be seen grazing at night. His coat was an iridescent milk-white but his wild mane and long tail were as white as the driven snow. If a brittle old hag wandered out of the village and lost her way in the moor, it might happen that the horse approached at a proud trot. Lowering itself carefully, it would invite the old person to sit on its back. Barely situated there, the horse would hasten home.
He had hardly formed the thought when he heard the approach of a horse; turning he saw the pale-white steed. It bowed and lowered itself gently and even nodded its head in an inviting way. The man did not hesitate nor did he wonder who the owner might be of such a magnificent steed. Rather clumsily he mounted the horse but once sitting on the horse’s back, the steed got up carefully and moved away. Thus encouraged, the man promised it good feed and sugar bread as reward for taking him home.
Soon the man saw his village and the roof of his house illuminated by the full moon. He smiled remembering his soft feather bed and urged the horse on with a gentle kick in its side. The horse responded by jumping jerkily, almost catapulting the rider into the air. He gripped its mane terrified as the horse began a wild gallop. The white mane whipped back by the wind nearly blinded the man. He implored the horse to return to the rightful path but instead it crashed through the swamp and continued on to the river.
Now the rider was seized by a veritable premonition of death. He screamed and tried to turn the wild horse around by pulling violently on its mane. But the horse pulled away and he could hardly stay mounted. They quickly reached the treacherous banks of the river where its rolling waves menaced. But in the last second the horse turned as quick as lightening. Its rider flew into the whirling waters and was carried downstream. The horse neighed as if laughing, turned around and ran back in the direction of the moor.
The rider was only able to save himself with the utmost exertion. As he returned home soaked to the bone, he knew he had encountered the wild steed Zawudschawu. The cold bath in the river had a sobering effect on the man and he never again visited the tavern.
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Translation Copyright FairyTaleChannel.com
Friday, July 31, 2020
Flower of the Day: the Brittle Sandwort
Saturday, July 18, 2020
Fish Fairy Tales and the Sea! the Sea!
For a long time the fish in the sea had been unhappy because there was no order in their kingdom. Fish did not give each other any leeway; each swam right and left, whatever he felt like. Some swam in between those who wanted to swim together. Others blocked the path and the stronger fish gave the weaker ones a slap with their tails, hurling them long distances. Or even worse, the bigger fish devoured the smaller ones. “How nice it would be if we had a king, who spoke law and justice amongst us,” they all said. They agreed they would vote one fish to be their leader; they would pick whoever could swim the fastest through the waves and bring help to the weaker ones.
They positioned themselves on shore, one after another in rank and file. The pike gave a sign with his tail and they all swam away. The pike shot through the waves like an arrow and the herring, gudgeon, perch, carp and all the rest as they are called followed after. The flounder also swam along and hoped to reach the finish line.
All at once a cry was heard “The herring is out in front! The herring is out in front!”
“Who is out in front?” the bad-tempered flounder screamed morosely. He was swimming far behind. “Who is out in front?”
“The herring, the herring!” was the reply. “
“The bare naked herring?” cried the envious flounder flabbergasted, “the bare naked herring?”
Since that time the mouth of the flounder has always been crooked as punishment for those unkind words.
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