Incense of the Day
2 parts acacia resin
3 parts frankincense
½ part orange peel
1 part myrrh
2 parts red sandalwood
½ part rosemary
¼ part cinnamon bark
1 part benzoin
Few drops cedar oil
Gemstone of the Day
Herb of the Day
In Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. Regions in Austria feature similar figures and, more widely, Krampus is one of a number of Companions of Saint Nicholas in regions of Europe. The origin of the figure is unclear; some folklorists and anthropologists have postulated a pre-Christian origin for the figure (see Germanic paganism).
In traditional parades and in such events as the Krampuslauf (English: Krampus run), young men dressed as Krampus participate; such events occur annually in most Alpine towns. Krampus is featured on holiday greeting cards called Krampuskarten.
The history of the Krampus figure has been theorized as stretching back to Pre-Christian Alpine traditions. In a brief article discussing the figure, published in 1958, Maurice Bruce wrote:
There seems to be little doubt as to his true identity for, in no other form is the full regalia of the Horned God of the Witches so well preserved. The birch—apart from its phallic significance—may have a connection with the initiation rites of certain witch-covens; rites which entailed binding and scourging as a form of mock-death. The chains could have been introduced in a Christian attempt to ‘bind the Devil’ but again they could be a remnant of pagan initiation rites.
Discussing his observations while in Irdning, a small town in Styria in 1975, anthropologist John J. Honigmann wrote that:
The Saint Nicholas festival we are describing incorporates cultural elements widely distributed in Europe, in some cases going back to pre-Christian times. Nicholas himself became popular in Germany around the eleventh century. The feast dedicated to this patron of children is only one winter occasion in which children are the objects of special attention, others being Martinmas, the Feast of the Holy Innocents, and New Year’s Day. Masked devils acting boisterously and making nuisances of themselves are known in Germany since at least the sixteenth century while animal masked devils combining dreadful-comic (schauriglustig) antics appeared in Medieval church plays. A large literature, much of it by European folklorists, bears on these subjects. … Austrians in the community we studied are quite aware of “heathen” elements being blended with Christian elements in the Saint Nicholas customs and in other traditional winter ceremonies. They believe Krampus derives from a pagan supernatural who was assimilated to the Christian devil.
The Krampus figures persisted, and by the 17th century Krampus had been incorporated into Christian winter celebrations by pairing Krampus with St Nicholas.
Countries of the former Habsburg Empire have largely borrowed the tradition of Krampus accompanying St Nicholas on 5 December from Austria.
In the aftermath of the 1934 Austrian Civil War, the Krampus tradition was prohibited by the Dollfuss regime under the Fatherland’s Front (Vaterländische Front) and the Christian Social Party. In the 1950s, the government distributed pamphlets titled “Krampus Is an Evil Man”. Towards the end of the century, a popular resurgence of Krampus celebrations occurred and continues today. The Krampus tradition is being revived in Bavaria as well, along with a local artistic tradition of hand-carved wooden masks. There has been public debate in Austria in modern times about whether Krampus is appropriate for children.
Although Krampus appears in many variations, most share some common physical characteristics. He is hairy, usually brown or black, and has the cloven hooves and horns of a goat. His long, pointed tongue lolls out.
Krampus carries chains, thought to symbolize the binding of the Devil by the Christian Church. He thrashes the chains for dramatic effect. The chains are sometimes accompanied with bells of various sizes. Of more pagan origins are the ruten, bundles of birch branches that Krampus carries and occasionally swats children with. The ruten have significance in pre-Christian pagan initiation rites. The birch branches are replaced with a whip in some representations. Sometimes Krampus appears with a sack or a basket strapped to his back; this is to cart off evil children for drowning, eating, or transport to Hell. Some of the older versions make mention of naughty children being put in the bag and being taken. This part of the legend refers to the times that the Moors raided the European coasts, and as far as Iceland, to abduct the local people into slavery. This quality can be found in other Companions of Saint Nicholas such as Zwarte Piet.
The Feast of St. Nicholas is celebrated in parts of Europe on 6 December. On the preceding evening of December 5th, Krampus Night or Krampusnacht, the wicked hairy devil appears on the streets. Sometimes accompanying St Nicholas and sometimes on his own, Krampus visits homes and businesses. The Saint usually appears in the Eastern Rite vestments of a bishop, and he carries a golden ceremonial staff. Unlike North American versions of Santa Claus, in these celebrations Saint Nicholas concerns himself only with the good children, while Krampus is responsible for the bad. Nicholas dispenses gifts, while Krampus supplies coal and the ruten bundles.
A Krampuslauf is a run of celebrants dressed as the wicked beast, often fueled by alcohol. It is customary to offer a Krampus schnapps, a strong distilled fruit brandy. These runs may include perchten, similarly wild pagan spirits of Germanic folklore and sometimes female in representation, although the perchten are properly associated with the period between winter solstice and 6 January.
Europeans have been exchanging greeting cards featuring Krampus since the 1800s. Sometimes introduced with Gruß vom Krampus (Greetings from the Krampus), the cards usually have humorous rhymes and poems. Krampus is often featured looming menacingly over children. He is also shown as having one human foot and one cloven hoof. In some, Krampus has sexual overtones; he is pictured pursuing buxom women. Over time, the representation of Krampus in the cards has changed; older versions have a more frightening Krampus, while modern versions have a cuter, more Cupid-like creature. Krampus has also adorned postcards and candy containers.
In Styria, the Ruten bundles are presented by Krampus to families. The twigs are painted gold and displayed year-round in the house—a reminder to any child who has temporarily forgotten Krampus. In smaller, more isolated villages, the figure has other beastly companions, such as the antlered “wild man” figures, and St Nicholas is nowhere to be seen. These Styrian companions of Krampus are called Schabmänner or Rauhen.
A toned-down version of Krampus is part of the popular Christmas markets in Austrian urban centres like Salzburg. In these, more tourist-friendly interpretations, Krampus is more humorous than fearsome.
North American Krampus celebrations, though rare, are a growing phenomenon.
Similar figures are recorded in neighboring areas. Klaubauf Austria, while Bartl or Bartel, Niglobartl, and Wubartl are used in the southern part of the country. In most parts of Slovenia, whose culture was greatly affected by Austrian culture, Krampus is called parkelj and is one of the companions of Miklavž, the Slovenian form of St. Nicholas.
In many parts of Croatia, Krampus is described as a devil wearing a cloth sack around his waist and chains around his neck, ankles, and wrists. As a part of a tradition, when a child receives a gift from St. Nicholas he is given a golden branch to represent his good deeds throughout the year; however, if the child has misbehaved, Krampus will take the gifts for himself and leave only a silver branch to represent the child’s bad acts.
The following is a rest of your level of enlightenment. Score one point for each correct answer, subtract one point for each wrong answer. Add your total number of right answers to the total number of wrong answers, divide by the total number of questions on the test, then wonder why you’ve tried to follow it this far.
Select the answer which best completes the following statements:
_______Ramakrishna is a cereal made with rice and maple flavoring.
_______Satori is better than nirnana and samadhi except on weekends and holodays.
_______Sufi dancing is like square dancing only rounder.
_______The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a novel by Harold Robbins.
0-5 points: You are hopelessly attached to the wheel of life and death. Try again next incarnation!
6-10 points You are largely unconscious and stuck in worldly pleasures
10-15 points You are so-so on the enlightment scale. Keep reading the New Sun.
15-20 points You are a very conscious being; with a little good karma you could go a long way.
20-25 points You are very close to God-realization–early November at the latest.
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2015 December 18
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (STScI / AURA) / Hubble-Europe CollaborationAcknowledgment: D. Padgett (GSFC), T. Megeath (University of Toledo), B. Reipurth (University of Hawaii)
Explanation: This might look like a double-bladed lightsaber, but these two cosmic jets actually beam outward from a newborn star in a galaxy near you. Constructed from Hubble Space Telescope image data, the stunning scene spans about half a light-year across Herbig-Haro 24 (HH 24), some 1,300 light-years or 400 parsecs away in the stellar nurseries of the Orion B molecular cloud complex. Hidden from direct view, HH 24’s central protostar is surrounded by cold dust and gas flattened into a rotating accretion disk. As material from the disk falls toward the young stellar object it heats up. Opposing jets are blasted out along the system’s rotation axis. Cutting through the region’s interstellar matter, the narrow, energetic jets produce a series of glowing shock fronts along their path.
December solstice brings longest days for whole Earth
The 2015 December solstice will come on December 22, at 4:48 Universal Time. This is December 21 at 10:48 p.m. CST for central time zone in North America. For us in the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice ushers in our shortest period of daylight and longest period of darkness for the year. And yet – if we consider the length of the day in another light – the longest days of the year come each year in December for the entire globe.
When we say the longest days of the year come each year around the December solstice for the entire globe, we’re talking about day not as a period of daylight – but as the interval from one solar noon – or midday – to the next.
In December, a day – one rotation of Earth relative to the noonday sun – is about one-half minute longer than the average 24 hours.
Keep in mind that the clocks on our walls don’t measure the true length of a solar day. To measure the time from one solar noon to the next, you need a sundial. A sundial will tell you the precise moment of local solar noon – when the sun reaches its highest point for the day.
The featured photo at the top of this post shows an analemma. It shows sun’s declination – its angular distance from the celestial equator – and difference (in minutes) between time as measured by the clock and time as measured by the sun.
So it’s December now, and that means one rotation of the Earth relative to the sun – what we call a solar day – is about one-half minute longer than the average 24 hours, for the entire globe.
Days are always longer – as measured from one solar noon to the next – than 24 hours around the solstices (and less than 24 hours around the the equinoxes).
The days are at their longest now – for the whole globe – because we’re closer to the sun on the December solstice than we are at the June solstice. Earth’s perihelion – closest point to the sun – always comes in early January. When we’re closest to the sun, our planet is moving a little faster than average in its orbit. That means our planet is traveling through space a little farther than average each day. The result is that Earth has to rotate a little farther on its axis for the sun to return to its noontime position. Hence the longer solar day.
Half a minute longer doesn’t sound like much, but the difference adds up. The longer days cause noontime to come earlier by the clock before the December solstice than at the December solstice. Moreover, the longer days cause noontime to come later by the clock after the December solstice than at the December solstice. Because the clock and sun are most out of sync right now, some befuddling phenomena cause people to scratch their heads.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the year’s earliest sunset precedes the December winter solstice, and the year’s latest sunrise comes after the December winter solstice.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the year’s earliest sunrise precedes the December summer solstice, and the year’s latest sunset comes after the December summer solstice.
Although the solstice brings the shortest/longest period of daylight, the earliest sunset/sunrise always comes before the solstice, and latest sunrise/sunset always comes afterwards.
The fact that we’re closest to the sun in early January also means that Northern Hemisphere winter (Southern Hemisphere summer) is the shortest of the four seasons. At the same time … ‘tis the season of bountifully long solar days.
Bottom line: As measured from one solar noon to the next, December has the longest days – the longest day/night cycle – for the whole Earth.
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The Words of Confucius