21.4.11

Harry Potter's Fairy Tale Ending

Article

Harry Potter’s final movie (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – July 15th 2011) is fast approaching. For author J K Rowling it has already been a mixture of relief and sadness to write the last page of the last book for Harry Potter. For fans, the series will be remembered as a fantasy adventure with a fairy tale ending.

In a statement on J K Rowling’s website, she said, ‘I've never felt such a mixture of extreme emotions in my life, never dreamed I could feel simultaneously heartbroken and euphoric’. I won’t spoil the ending for those that haven’t already read the final book, but the epilogue at the end, rewards the reader with a ‘happy ever after’ type of conclusion.

Most fans would probably scoff at the idea of the Harry Potter series being likened to a fairy tale, especially as it hints at real life issues, saturated in a strong fantasy theme. However, traditional fairy tales were originally not like the Disneyland movies of modern times. They have been altered over time to become more appealing to children.

The term, ‘fantasy’ is defined as, ‘a genre of fiction that uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot, theme or setting’. This certainly fits the Harry Potter genre. The term ‘fairy tale’ is defined as a narrative that typically features characters such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or enchantments, and contains a moral tale. It’s not easy to totally discount this genre either.

It may seem difficult to consider Harry Potter as a fairy tale, with such a strong fantasy element throughout. However, the 'true to life' issues raised in the series, which touch the heart of fans, and the final epilogue, leaves no doubt. After all that he has been through there would be few that would not agree - Harry Potter deserves a fairy tale ending.


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© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

16.4.11

What Is Acrostic Jewellery?

Article

Your jewellery may not only look beautiful, but convey a special message by the way its gems are arranged.

Acrostics, is a word which is used for spelling a message, using the first letter of a series of words. The word ‘acrostic’ was derived from the Greek term meaning ‘top of verse’.  Several of the Hebrew psalms in the Old Testament used acrostics. There is also evidence that acrostics were once commonly used in poems and letters to convey secret messages in the Victorian times.

Acrostic ‘jewellery’ first appeared in 17th century England and France.  This involved setting combinations of crystals and gemstones into rings, brooches and bracelets. The gems would be set so that the first letters of the name of each gem, when arranged, spelled a message or sentiment. For example ‘Love’ could be spelled with lapis, opal, vermeil and emerald.

Jewellers sometimes resorted to what they called, ‘cheats’, to ensure the correct message was created in arranging an acrostic piece. For example, they used alternative names for some of their crystals and gemstones, such as the Chinese name ‘Yu’ for ‘Jade’ (using the Jade gem for the letter ‘Y’).  Modern jewellers often use simpler cheats such as ‘Yellow Zircon’ for the letter ‘Y’, and ‘Fire Opal’ for the letter ‘F’.

Although acrostic jewellery is not as popular as it once was, it is still available today at many jewellers. The most popular acrostic piece in Victorian times was the ‘Regard’ ring (picture above). The crystals and gemstones used were; Ruby, Emerald, Garnet, Amethyst, Ruby and Diamond. Today, the most common acrostic jewellery will usually spell the words, ‘charity’ or ‘hope’, in a ring or bracelet.

CHARITY
Cat’s Eye
Hyacinth (Zircon)
Aquamarine
Ruby
Iolite
Topaz
Yu (Jade)

HOPE
Hyacinth (Zircon)
Opal
Pearl
Emerald


© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

12.4.11

4 Common Idioms of The Human Body

Articles

Have you ever noticed that some of the common idioms we use pertain to parts of the human body? What are the most common idioms that pertain to the human body? Where did they originate from, and what do they mean?

An idiom is a word, phrase or expression that is not meant to be taken literally. When used in everyday language an idiom has a different meaning to a dictionary definition.

For instance, the ‘break a leg’ idiom, commonly used by stage actors, is one that is used to wish someone ‘luck’, or ‘do your best’, as opposed to the literal meaning suggesting you break your leg. 

Every language has its own idioms, although in modern times many are globally recognised. Below are 4 common idioms that to pertain to the human body?

Tongue-in-cheek
This idiom originated in the 18th century, when Spanish minstrels performed for various Dukes. The Dukes would silently respond to the silliness of the minstrel's performances by placing their tongue firmly to the inside of their cheek.

In modern times, when a statement is said with ‘tongue in cheek’, it is considered to have humourous undertones.  It usually has a double meaning; it can be a somewhat serious statement, but delivered in a ‘witty’ style, and intended to be funny. The facial expression of the speaker usually indicates a ‘tongue in cheek’ statement, such as a facial wink.

By-the-skin-of-my-teeth
This idiom first appeared in English in the Geneva Bible in 1560 (Job 19:20), which was translated from the original Hebrew: ‘I haue escaped with the skinne of my tethe’. As teeth do not have skin, and skin consists of many layers, it’s assumed this figure of speech was referring to the smallest of measures.

An example in modern times would be a close encounter from being hit by a speeding vehicle:  ‘He survived that, by the skin of his teeth’. However, its usage isn’t limited to ‘physical’ narrow misses, e.g. ‘I passed that exam by the skin of my teeth’ (only just). It is also often attributed to someone’s good luck.

A-chip-on-the-shoulder
This idiom originated with the nineteenth century U.S. practice of literally carrying a chip of wood on the shoulder and daring someone to knock it off. It was a way to instigate a physical ‘fight’. The first evidence of it being used in England was in the 1930s in Somerset Maugham's, ‘Gentleman in the Parlour’:  ‘He was a man with a chip on his shoulder. Everyone seemed in a conspiracy to slight or injure him.’

This idiom is a phrase that is often used today to describe someone who seems to be overly-sensitive to anything, or everything in general. The person may not be seeking a physical altercation, but often reacts to situations as if they are a personal affront; often creating quarrels with others.

Cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face
Considered to have been used in the 12th century, the phrase: don’t-cut-off-you-nose-to-spite-your-face, was a warning about seeking revenge on someone by inflicting harm upon yourself. It is believed this idiom was associated with the numerous legends of pious women disfiguring themselves in order to protect their virginity.

The actual idiom; ‘cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face’ didn’t appear in print until the 18th century. In modern times it is a phrase used to describe often unwise destructive actions which may be motivated by anger or desire for revenge. The revenge may be carried out, but also at the expense of the person seeking the revenge, e.g. ‘He drove into her car to get revenge, but ended up damaging his own vehicle as well. He, cut-off -his-nose-to-spite-his-face.


© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

11.4.11

Myths and Legends of the Otherworld

Article

Every culture in the world has its own version of myths and legends. These myth and legends include those ‘Otherworldly Beings’, or Creatures, which come from the 'Otherworld'. Intriguing, fascinating and often frightening, these Beings or Creatures also feature in the phenomenal book and movie series, Harry Potter.

The Otherworld is a place that exists alongside ours. It is a place that our history pages reveal has been visited by mortals who have accidentally stumbled upon it, or through the thin veil that separates the two. Many returned with amazing stories of the Otherworld and otherworldly beings or creatures, which over time evolved into the myths and legends as we know them, today.

Long before J K Rowling researched myths and legends and Otherworldly Beings or creatures for the Harry Potter series, the famous 16th century Swiss physician, alchemist and mystic, Paracelsus, defined them as, Nature Spirits, or Elementals. He classified them according to the element of nature they inhibited.
  • The earth elementals above the ground were treated with the utmost respect, and attributed with power, abundance and benevolence. In contrast, those of the earth element below the ground were feared by many cultures
  • The air elementals were elusive, awe inspiring and dominated the earth below them. As an element that is invisible and undetectable to human senses, it was almost impossible to capture or control them
  • The fire elementals often shared the characteristics of beauty and danger. Fire elementals were among the most terrifying and inspired the most awe in those that encountered them
  • The water elementals were often depicted as being partially or completely hum
    an. They were often blamed for drownings, however they also taught humans to be careful around water and respect the dark depths
© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

8.4.11

Pagan Handfasting Weddings

Article

Unlike traditional Christian weddings, the Pagan wedding practice, called ‘Handfasting’ allows couples to renew their marriage vows each year, or terminate the relationship if they are not happy.

The Handfasting ceremony is the oldest Pagan ritual of marriage. It was a popular way to be married, before the 1753 Marriage Act declared that only marriages performed by the clergy were legal. The Pagans beliefs include nature worship. The rituals are often held outside at sacred sites such as Stonehenge, and at times of natural change such as a Full Moon.

A Pagan Handfasting, wedding ceremony, is one of the earliest forms of marriage. :-

  • Handfasting ceremonies either celebrate the beginning life-long union of two individuals, or their coming together for ‘so long as love shall last’. If the latter proves to be the case, the couple will choose whether or not to renew their vows each year
  • The clothes that the betrothed couple and guests wear at a Handfasting ceremony depends on if a theme is chosen. If a theme is chosen, it is usually medieval or Renaissance in nature. The theme will often include traditional games, such as jousting
  • According to Celtic tradition, the bride will wear a veil or some type of netting – and the colour, scarlet, which is strongly associated with the Celtic wedding ritual. The wedding couple’s personal choice of wedding attire is to reflect their personalities
  • The ceremony is conducted by a priest or priestess, and begins with the marking out of a sacred space to perform the ceremony. It is often in the shape of a circle
  • The priest or priestess then honours the elements, and calls on the gods and goddesses to bless the couple and their future life together, or ‘coming together’. Symbolically, the ‘coming together’ is performed by the grooms right hand being tied to the brides left hand, with a sanctified ribbon or cord
  • The couple verbally recount their oaths, which they have written together with the priest or priestess before the ceremony, and then their hands will be untied
  • The couples hands being tied together and then untied, and their vows spoken, represents that they are entering into the union of their own choosing. The vows in the ceremony will often invoke the power of the goddess and imagery from the natural world.
  • An example of the vows - ‘By seed and root, by bud and stem, by leaf and flower and fruit, and by life and love, in the name of the great goddess I take thee’
  • The couple then exchange rings and (literally) jump over a broomstick together, symbolising that they are leaving their old lives behind, and leaping willingly, together, into a new life together
  • Most Pagan Handfasting wedding ceremonies will be followed by a time of feasting and celebration, with the celebration taking place at the wedding site. Sometimes a civil wedding ceremony will follow a Handfasting ceremony

Variation to the vows (mentioned above) can include: - ‘a year and a day’, ‘a lifetime’, ‘for all of eternity’, or ‘for as long as love shall last’.  Whether the ceremony is legal (officiated by a legally recognized minister or celebrant), or a private spiritual commitment, is a personal choice.



© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

Traditional Christian Weddings

Article
All weddings are about two people joining in matrimony, but practices vary according to where you live in the world, and what you believe in.

Traditional Christian weddings are when a couple commit to each other in the eyes of God, in front of their family and friends. Traditional ceremonies take place in a church, and the marriage ceremony is performed by a priest or minister.

For those not familiar with the traditional Christian wedding, this is how this special day is observed:-

  • According to tradition, spring and summer are the best seasons for marriage, because they represent new life and fertility, but the wedding date can be any day of the year. A little sprinkling of rain is also considered a good omen for fertility
  • The bride traditionally wears a white dress, a veil and a long train. The custom of wearing white was popularised in the Victorian era, due to Queen Victoria in her choice of the colour white becoming a symbol of virginal purity
  • The wedding ceremony begins when the bride enters the church, usually on the arm of her father, to be led up the aisle. On reaching her waiting groom, her father agrees to give her away to the new man in her life
  • The couple exchange vows and the exchange of wedding rings is blessed by the minister, and followed by the declaration of marriage. The rings are symbolic of the never ending nature of love
  • The couple are considered officially married once they sign the register. Photos are taken of the bride, groom and wedding party, which usually consists of a best man, matron of honour, bridesmaids and their partners; and sometimes flower girls and page boys
  • Once the wedding ceremony is over, celebrations follow with family and friends at the wedding reception. Usually this involves a meal, and drinks to toast the newly married couple
  • Speeches are made, toasting the newly married couple and other members of the bridal party; and the wedding cake, traditionally a tiered fruit cake, is cut by the bride and groom. The newly married couple save one of the tiers to eat on their first wedding anniversary
  • Dancing follows with the bride and groom taking to the dance floor first, to enjoy their first dance as a married couple. The evening concludes with the bride and groom leaving first, to depart for their honeymoon

These days, more and more couples are opting for ‘weddings with a difference’, and a popular venue for the ceremony is a nature setting such as a garden or at a beach. A marriage celebrant replaces the priest or minister to officiate the service.



© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

3.4.11

Circle of Love and Sex - Part 3

Article

Intellectualism became the new trend during the Age of Reason, creating self control in aspects pertaining to sex. However, the focus on love surfaced once more during Victorianism, although standards were very high for women. The early and mid Twentieth centuries saw a return of many of the ideals pertaining to sex, which had been held by the ancient Romans.

The Age of Reason 1700 – 1800AD
Intellectualism became fashionable, feelings were concealed and emotional love began to decline in popularity, during this period, Formal behaviour became heavily emphasised. Even the most private conversations were controlled by a detached expression of self control. Women were no longer conceived as evil but were still subservient and usually considered as ornaments. The 18th century idea of the perfect lover was Don Juan, who displayed mannerisms of elegance, but also seduction.

Victorianism 1800 – 1900AD
Love became a noble goal in this period, and men became shy and afraid of rejection, choosing bashful virginal women. Displays of melancholy were the height of fashion. High morals led to high expectations on women, which included being modest, virtuous and morally spotless. Doctors declared that the only women that felt pleasure during sex were prostitutes. However, when capitalism began to rise, and the power of the church declined, women began to enjoy rights they had never known.

Early Twentieth Century  1900 – 1930AD
Romance emerged as not only desirable but the only acceptable way to choose a life partner. Sex and romance were now believed to be possible in marriage. Feminism emerged with icons such as Isadora Duncan and Margaret Sanger. They claimed that women should enjoy sex and motherhood does not require marriage. Sex and social values were separated; the Sexual Revolution promoted a woman’s right to orgasm.

Mid Twentieth Century 1930 – 1980AD
The emergence of dating signalled a whole new era in sexual and marital choice. Premarital relationships became open and intimate, and the shy and weak female persona was disposed of. Partners came to know each other much more deeply before making the commitment to marriage. As sexual freedom advanced, society moved closer to a return of the ideals held by the Romans, which were held before the intrusion of Christianity; women were granted economic and legal freedom, children became a luxury and sexual enjoyment became a human right. The major difference between the two eras however, was that the 20th century saw a major increase in the consideration of marriage.


© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

2.4.11

Circle of Love and Sex - Part 2

Article

Love blossomed during the Pre-Renaissance, endorsed by royalty. However, the Church surfaced strongly again during the Renaissance, using torture and force to subdue any associations with sex. Alternately, the vast majority of Puritans held markedly different views to those of the church, regarding sex and love.

Pre-Renaissance 1000 – 1300AD
Romance appeared with William II, Duke of Aquitaine - the first of the Troubadours. Courtly love was a bittersweet arrangement of endless frustration and admiration from afar. The belief was that a Troubadour was made a better man and warrior as unsatisfied love, improved character. Love was connected to the enrichment of Self, and relationships were based on mutual respect. Eleanor, Queen of France and England (daughter of William II), set up the Court of Love, endorsing love as an equal relationship.

The Renaissance 1300 – 1500AD
The Church put up a valiant fight against the new, more positive, ideals of love. For 300 years religious fanatics wandered from town to town performing flagellation on themselves and each other, while St Thomas declared that touching a woman with delight was a mortal sin. The Church introduced inquisitors, proclaiming the existence of witches (notably those most attractive), burning 30,000 women after forcing ‘confessions’ from them. Marriage was still regarded as a financial transaction, based on dowries.

Puritanism 1500 – 1700AD
The Puritans placed high value on love and sex during this period (although in later centuries their beliefs changed). Martin Luther’s ideas opposed those of the Catholic church. Luther believed that priests should marry, and that sexuality should be embraced - not suppressed. He was a great believer in the concept of, ‘eat, drink and be merry’. John Calvin was the promoter of God’s merciless wrath. The vast majority of Puritans wholly rejected Calvin and embraced ideals of love and sex in marriage.


© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

Circle of Love and Sex - Part 1

Article

Many people may think that the sexual freedom that is prevalent today has gradually evolved over time, or even ‘appeared’ suddenly with the sexual liberation of the 1960’s. However, sex has actually come full circle in the history of mankind, influencing the philosophies of love along the way.

Almost travelling in a perfect circle, sexuality has moved from the carefree and uninhabited days of the ancient world through a long period of repression and denial, and finally back to acceptance of old again.

Ancient Greece 1300 – 27BC
Although hard to imagine, back in Ancient Greece, women were honoured to the point of wielding influence over men and remaining relatively free to do as they pleased; although most chose to remain virtuous. However, with the Golden Age of Greece, beginning in 450BC, a new opinion of women and sexuality emerged. Temple prostitutes were seen as superior to wives and men who fell in love were considered to be ‘unwell’. Love was not connected with marriage, but considered an amusing distraction or hindrance.

The Roman Empire 27BC – 385AD
The Roman Pagans were highly sexual and indulged in lusty love affairs, with no guilt at all; often being unfaithful or deceitful. They preferred sex to be separated from philosophy and attached little significance to it, including any reverence towards procreation. Abortion as a means of contraception was common. Once Christianity permeated Roman society in 100AD however, the concept of guilt was introduced into the sexual act. Celibacy was promoted and an emphasis placed on procreation.

The Dark Ages 385 – 1000AD
Christians continued to preach that sex was a sinful affair. Denial saw Christians indulge in bizarre feats of self denial, such as burning their own fingers off to avoid temptation. Severe laws and Papal decrees were introduced. In 585AD the Catholics stated that women had no immortal soul, and by the 9th century women were seen as wasteful property, giving noblemen the ‘natural right’ to rape peasants and deflower brides. Marital sex was restricted to one position, and only allowed for conceiving a child.


© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

1.4.11

Lucky Four or Five Leaf Clover

Article

There is a well known belief that finding a four leaf clover brings luck. The four leaf clover is an uncommon variation of the common, three leaf clover, and according to tradition such leaves bring good luck to their finders; especially if found accidentally. Each leaf of a clover has a symbolic meaning; one for hope, one for faith, one for love, and a fourth for luck.  

The three leaf ‘white clover’ plant is a deep green flowering vine with white blossoms. It is the original ‘shamrock’ plant of Ireland; the unofficial state symbol. Three leaf clovers were traditionally used in the Pagan era to symbolise the three phases of the moon, and for healing. They were also believed to be used by Saint Patrick to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre Christian Irish people.

In the Middle Ages, four leaf clovers were thought to allow the bearer to see fairies and plant sprites, which was why children often searched for them in order to see into the magical realm of the spirit world.

It has been estimated that there are approximately 10,000 three leaf clovers for every naturally producing four leaf clover; however this probability has not deterred collectors who have reached records as high as 160,000 four leaf clovers.

Four leaf clovers are found in their natural environments, naturally mutating from three leaf clovers, with their fourth leaf being smaller than the other three leaves. However, when the market as ‘lucky charms’ became obvious, companies began manufacturing four leaf clovers by feeding the three leaf clover a generically engineered ingredient and producing as many as 10,000 a day. 

If the manufacturing continues, it seems that our children may consider a five leaf clover to be even luckier than a four leaf clover. However, if you feel ‘unlucky’, from not having had the thrill of finding a four leaf clover, perhaps you can find comfort in the knowledge that the easily found three leaf clover freely offers the most important symbolic meanings of – hope, faith and love!


© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.

Mothers Day 2011

Article

Mother’s Day, is that one day of the year set aside to formally honour mothers and motherhood. The modern Mother's Day is celebrated on various days in many parts of the world, most commonly in March, April, or May. However, this day is observed in some countries ranging from February right through until December.

It is believed that Mother’s Day emerged from a custom of mother worship in ancient Greece, which kept a festival to Cybele, a great mother of Greek gods. This festival was held around the Vernal Equinox around Asia Minor and eventually in Rome itself from the Ides of March (15 – 18 March).

In Europe there were several long standing traditions where a specific Sunday was set aside to honour motherhood and mothers, such as ‘Mothering Sunday’. Mothering Sunday celebrations are part of the Christian calendar in several denominations; Anglican, and Catholic marked as Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent to honour the Virgin Mary and your ‘mother’ church (the main church of the area).

Children and young people who were ‘in service’ (servants in richer households), were given a day off on that date so they could visit their families or return to their ‘mother’ church. The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place them in the church or to give them to their mothers as gifts.

One of the earliest records of Mother's Day in the United States was the ‘Mother’s Day Proclamation’ by Julia Ward Howe. Written in 1870, it was a pacifist reaction to the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War. The Proclamation was tied to Howe's feminist belief that women had a responsibility to shape their societies at the political level.

Mother’s Day Dates 2011
NB: Some dates are set and some change every year.

  • February 13 - (the second Sunday of February) Norway
  • March 3 - Georgia
  • March 8 – Ukraine, Afghanistan + 15 more countries
  • March 21 – Egypt, Lebanon + 13 more countries
  • March 25 – Slovenia
  • April 3 – (the fourth Sunday in Lent) Ireland, United Kingdom, Nigeria
  • April 7 – Armenia
  • May 1 – (the first Sunday in May) Hungary, Lithuania, Mozambique, Portugal, Spain
  • May 8 – (the second Sunday in May) Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Shri Lanka, Singapore, United States + 63 more countries
  • May 8 – Albania, South Korea
  • May 10 – El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico
  • May 15 – Paraguay
  • May 26 – Poland
  • May 27 - Bolivia
  • May 29 – (the last Sunday in May) France, Morocco, Sweden + 6 more countries
  • May 30 – Nicaragua
  • June 1 – Mongolia
  • June 12 – (the second Sunday in June) Luxemburg
  • June – (the last Sunday in June) Kenya
  • August 12 – Thailand
  • August 15 – Costa Rica, Antwerp (Belgium)
  • October 10 – (the second Monday in October) Malawi
  • October 14 – Belarus
  • October 16 – (the third Sunday in October) Argentina
  • December 8 – Panama
  • December 22 - Indonesia

© Copyright Jan Reid-Lennox. All Rights Reserved.