Aries, the Ram
Greetings everyone and welcome to the April ChatterBulletin! Since our last newsletter, the clocks have “sprung forwards” (in the United States the clocks actually changed two weeks before it was even officially spring, which I thought was a bit unnecessary, to be honest) and we have now entered into the sign of Aries, the Ram – the 1st sign of the zodiac heralding the start of the New Year, according to Mother Nature. Note that we also recently celebrated the Chinese New Year, and we are now in their Year of the Rabbit – which is quite convenient really, as it ties in nicely with Easter, which is coming up later this month. And while we’re on the subject of rabbits and Easter and therefore Easter bunnies – I have to share with you a TV program that my pal Julie suggested I check out called “An Idiot Abroad” in which English comedian/actor Ricky Gervais and writer/producer Stephen Merchant send their willing and somewhat dim-witted friend/victim Karl Pilkington to view the Seven Wonders of the World. Now, it just so happens that I was on Jury Duty this past week, and suffering from a nasty cold at the same time, but thankfully, we were sent home early and I decided to rest up on the sofa and watch some telly. And, as luck would have it, I stumbled upon a marathon of the entire 1st series on the SciFi Channel and proceeded to watch several hours, one episode after another.
It didn’t take long for me to see why Julie had recommended this program, and by the time Karl got to Mexico to visit Chichen Itza, I really started to belly laugh at some of the hilarious things he was saying. For instance, while witnessing some of the many religious Easter festivals with large crowds of people looking on, and 3 willing participants re-enacting Christ’s crucifixion by being strung up on 3 wooden crosses – we find Karl pondering how the chocolate we traditionally scoff down at Easter-time in England relates to Christ hanging on a cross. He’s got a point. With regards to Easter in Mexico he says, “They don’t have chocolate eggs here. I mean, for me that’s what Easter is. Take the eggs away and Easter Friday is just Friday.” And when it comes to British Easter, he muses, “I mean, why is an egg even involved? I don’t know the connection between Jesus and the egg. Coz he can’t be happy with that. If he was on his cross havin’ his last breath and someone said, “We’re gonna remember you, Jesus!” “Great. What are you gonna do?” “We’re gonna have eggs!” “You what?” He wouldn’t be chuffed with that.” Call me crazy, but this man’s sense of reasoning and accidental humor is pretty funny! http://science.discovery.com/tv/an-idiot-abroad/
Joyful Easter Rabbit
But where does the tradition of the Easter Bunny come from exactly, and how did chocolate come into the equation? According to Wikipedia, the Easter Bunny is a character, a rabbit (or sometimes a hare) that is depicted bringing Easter eggs & candy to the homes of children on the night before Easter, much like Santa Claus brings toys & gifts on Christmas Eve. Why a rabbit, you might ask, and why eggs? Well, Spring-time is also the season of fertility when all creatures get frisky and mate, thus creating new life, and we’ve all heard of the expression “breeding like rabbits” so there’s your connection to the prolific procreation of the species at this time of year, making the “egg” a perfect symbol of fertility from Mother Nature herself. The egg is a literally a Pagan symbol of the rebirth of the Earth in celebrations of the Spring, and was adopted by early Christians as a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus. Another interesting fact is that eggs (considered to be dairy) were originally forbidden during Lent and this is where the tradition of eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday comes from because on that day they would consume their last provisions of milk and eggs before the 1st day of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday. This also translates to the French “Mardi Gras” also known as “Fat Tuesday” – ahah… very interesting! Someone should tell Karl Pilkington so he knows now why we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday!
Now, the introduction of chocolate Easter eggs came later in the early 1800’s in Germany and France, and soon spread to the rest of Europe and beyond. And while the Christians were busy celebrating Easter with pancakes, painting eggs all different colors before hiding them for their traditional Easter egg hunts, and eating chocolate eggs and bunnies, the Jews meantime were celebrating Passover, and one of their six symbolic foods that are traditionally served on the Passover Seder Plate is Beitzah, a “roasted egg” – and so our egg symbolism continues. Interesting to also note that although the Jewish Holy Day of Passover is said to commemorate the story of the Exodus and the freeing of the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt, the name Passover is derived from the transit of the Sun around the Zodiac, and when it reaches the Spring or Vernal Equinox, it is said that the Sun literally “passes over” the Equinox thus moving us from the season of Winter into that of Spring and towards the Summer Solstice.
Passover Seder Plate
Now, I also wanted to share with you this image of a brilliant cake that my friend and photographer Keith Barraclough’s wife Kate made for their annual Spring-Forwards brunch. When I called on the phone a few days before the party, and Keith said they were busy making carrots, I didn’t think much of it, but when I witnessed this masterpiece, designed to resemble an amazing vegetable garden filled with not just a few carrots for the Easter Bunny, but also miniature artichokes, cauliflowers, radicchio and beets to name a few. Truly a work of art and a delicious cake! Kate is a wonderful cook who loves to entertain, so if any of you are looking for someone different to cater your next party, you might want to consider Kate – her lemon bars are to die for!
Photo by Keith Barraclough
By now you must think that this month’s theme is Easter, or perhaps rabbits, or even eggs, but no, now that I have you laughing a bit, and considering eggs and chocolate, let’s switch things up and move to a more serious topic, and that is “War” – seeing as how the world around us continues to wage war, resulting in yet more global devastation and suffering, while clearly demonstrating to us that man has apparently learned nothing after all of these years. And here we are, currently involving ourselves in yet another conflict with a country that doesn’t really want us there in the first place (sound familiar?) From Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden, and now Muammar Gaddafi – we are messing with one madman after another! So as if sending our troops to Iraq and Afghanistan wasn’t enough, now we’re off to Libya as well. Aries remember, is ruled by the Planet Mars, and Mars was the Roman God of War, and father of Romulus & Remus, founders of Rome. Mars was also identified with the Greek God Ares, hence Aries. Mars is the bully who likes to fight, and a God associated with both violence and virility (back to the egg reference again!). Mars’ metal is iron, which is why we see them wielding weapons or tools forged from iron – whether it be swords, spears, scissors or knives – one way or another, Martians like to cut. So when they’re not involved in the Military or Police, you might find them working as butchers, chefs or hairdressers.
So while we’re on the subject of war and violence, and the fact that this month also happens to be Tax time, I wanted to share a couple of websites with you. The 1st is a website called Snopes – http://www.snopes.com/ and for all of you that receive those many emails with heart-string tugging stories, or warnings about one thing or another… and then later on you find out it’s a hoax? Well, what Snopes does, is give you the real deal on the authenticity of these stories and emails. For example, I recently received an email about a perhaps lesser-known war hero by the name of Captain Ed Freeman – this email made it sound like he had died only recently, when he actually died in 2008, but that’s besides the point. The meat & potatoes of this email was the story of his heroic acts during the Vietnam War, and he was indeed a true hero, whichever version of the story you read. In short, after medical evacuation helicopters refused to fly into the area due to intense enemy fire, Captain Freeman flew 14 separate rescue missions, providing life-saving evacuation of an estimated 30 seriously wounded soldiers – some of whom would not have survived had he not acted. So Snopes has a whole history on this man and the various emails that have been circulated about him with a mixture of both true and false information.http://www.snopes.com/politics/military/freeman.asp The 2nd website is called Brave New Foundation – http://www.bravenewfoundation.org/ and was again brought to my attention through an email that I received while writing this article. This one invites you to calculate how much of your tax money (which is where it ties in nicely with April being Tax season) is being spent on the war in Afghanistan, and invites you to write to your local congressman or woman and ask for you money back. The mission of the Brave New Foundation is to champion social justice issues by using a model of media, education, and grassroots volunteer involvement that inspires, empowers, motivates and teaches civic participation and makes a difference.
And one last topic that I must mention this month is the upcoming Royal Wedding between England’s Prince William and Kate Middleton on Friday, April 29th, 2011. And yes, I admit it, I will be watching it, I can’t help myself. And of course, the media are milking this one for all it is worth, but one very funny item that I found online once the wedding plans had been announced, in and amongst the enormous number of royal wedding souvenirs that subsequently appeared all over the internet, was a souvenir mug with the happy couple’s faces on the side. Sounds simple, right? But this particular souvenir mug was being advertised with the wrong brother on it – and instead of Prince William’s smiling face next to Kate’s, we have Prince Harry’s “mug” – literally!
So in closing, let me wish all of you passionate, headstrong, and hard-headed Aries out there a very Happy Birthday, including our dear and determined Uncle Ian (our late mother’s brother), my beautiful performing friend Baina in Australia, my precious Fani over there in England, and last but not least, Jo Wallis, our mum’s best mate and a very special lady.