Fun and Useless Facts about all those ‘Fat Tuesday’ Traditions

Magic in the woods
Fun and Useless Facts about all those ‘Fat Tuesday’ Traditions

This year’s Mardi Gras, a festival marked by an endless cyclone of feathers, costumes, beads and booze that whips through city streets all over the world, is well underway. It’s been called the wildest fete in the U.S., and for good reason: Every year, droves of partygoers flock to New Orleans to take in the floats, the festivities and the food, and to leave their mark on the Big Easy.

Mardi Gras, meaning “Fat Tuesday” in French, has its origins in medieval Europe. What became a legal holiday in Louisiana in 1875 was once a Christian holiday with roots in ancient Rome. Instead of outright abolishing certain pagan traditions, like the wild Roman festivals of Saturnalia and Lupercalia, religious leaders decided to incorporate them into the new faith.

What became known as the Carnival season was a kick-off to Lent, a sort of last hurrah before 40 days of penance sandwiched between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Eventually, the celebration spread from Rome across Europe to the colonies of the New World.

Since its early days in New Orleans in the early 18th century, Mardi Gras has grown to colossal proportions and includes several familiar traditions, like bead throwing, mask wearing and coconut painting, that are widely practiced today but whose origins may have been forgotten.
Here are the real meanings of five popular Mardi Gras Traditions.

The Wearing Of Masks
Masks are an integral part of Mardi Gras culture. During early Mardi Gras celebrations hundreds of years ago, masks were a way for their wearers to escape class constraints and social demands. Mask wearers could mingle with people of all different classes and could be whomever they desired, at least for a few days.

In New Orleans, float riders are required by law to have a mask on. On Fat Tuesday, masking is legal for all Mardi Gras attendees – although many storeowners will post signs asking those entering to please remove their masks first.

The Flambeaux Tradition
Flambeaux, meaning flame-torch, was the tradition of people carrying shredded rope soaked in pitch through the streets so that nighttime revelers could enjoy festivities after dark. They were originally carried by slaves and free African Americans trying to earn a little money. Crowds tossed coins at the torch carriers for lighting the way for the floats.

Today, flambeaux carriers have turned the tradition into something of a performance. Torch bearers dance and spin their kerosene lights – something the original parade planners didn’t intend.

The Throwing Of Beads
The tradition of bead throwing starts with their original colors. The color of the beads was determined by the king of the first daytime Carnival in 1872. He wanted the colors to be royal colors – purple for justice, gold for power and green for faith. The idea was to toss the color to the person who exhibited the color’s meaning.

The beads were originally made of glass, which, as you can imagine, weren’t the best for tossing around. It wasn’t until the beads were made of plastic that throwing them really became a staple of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Rex, The King of Carnival
Every year in New Orleans, a king is crowned. His name is Rex, the king of the Carnival, and he first ascended to the throne in 1872. History has it that the very first Rex was actually the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia who, upon a visit to the U.S., befriended U.S. Army officer George Armstrong Custer during a planned hunting expedition in the Midwest.

The Duke’s visit to Louisiana was organized by New Orleans businessmen looking to lure tourism and business to their city following the devastating American Civil War.
Every year, the Rex Organization chooses a new Rex, always a prominent person in New Orleans. He is given the symbolic Key to the City by the Mayor.

Handing Out Zulu Coconuts
The Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club is one of the oldest traditionally black krewes – or parade hosts – in Mardi Gras history. The organization is known for handing out Zulu coconuts, or “golden nuggets.” The earliest reference to these coconuts appears in 1910.

The first coconuts were left in their original hairy state, but years later, Zulu members started painting and decorating them. Getting a Zulu coconut is one of the most sought after traditions during Mardi Gras.

By Philip Ross
International Business Times

Let’s Talk Witch – Pagans & New Year’s Resolutions

Let’s Talk Witch – Pagans & New Year’s Resolutions

Though the whole idea of doing resolutions for New Year is not a Pagan tradition at all, that doesn’t mean we don’t all try to manage few each year. So why not try some Pagan New Year’s resolutions this time?

Attend a Festival

This is a particularly important resolution if you are typically a solitary type of Pagan who doesn’t get to be social in their path very often. Do a little research and find a good Pagan festival that is taking place close enough to where you live and make plans to go. It could be a 1-day gathering or a week-long extravaganza. If you have never gone to a Pagan festival, you might want to try a shorter one to get your feet wet. Gatherings that take a few days usually mean you’ll be doing some camping. These are great for meeting new people and doing some networking in the larger community.

Make a New Altar Tool

Unless you already have an altar full of wonderful home-made goodies, you should try to make at least one new tool for yourself this year. That doesn’t mean you have to master blacksmithing so you can create a metal-worked athame or buy a kiln to craft a ceramic goblet. Use what crafty skills you have and use some basic supplies to create something new. Wands are actually quite easy, and candle-making supplies are common enough in craft stores. Decorate a notebook for a new Book of Shadows or go an extra mile to design a personalized Tarot deck. Work with what you have and make creative magick.

Explore a New Path

Now this doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with your current path or that you have to change your beliefs in any way. But it never hurts to branch out or to see things in a new way occasionally. Do a little study into a path that is different from yours and see what’s different. Read some books or websites, or even try to take part in a meeting, circle or other gathering if you can find a local group. Of course, make arrangements before you just show up so they know why you’re there. You certainly don’t have to change anything about your own practice but this branching out can help breathe some fresh air into your own beliefs.

Make some Deity Time

This may not apply to everyone, depending on your current practice and understanding of the Divine. But many people are so busy these days that quiet time with a God or Goddess can easily be overlooked. It doesn’t have to be daily (though that would be nice), but you should be able to find some time each week for some kind of spiritual pursuits. Meditation or ritual should do just fine.

Non-Pagan Ideas

Well, these are kind of Pagan and I thought they would round out my list nicely. You can make a tribute to Mother Earth by spending some time outdoors helping to pick up litter or trash, or you could find a cause that fits your Pagan ideals and do some other types of volunteering (maybe an animal shelter). It doesn’t have to be a local cause either. Get involved with some online activism to help promote ideas you are passionate about.

There are some ideas to get you started. You don’t have to do all of them, but maybe one or two will peak your interest for the upcoming year.

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Author:  By Terri Paajanen, About.com