On the riverbank.

Today is Ash Wednesday. In the Christian religions today is day one of the forty Jesus spent wandering in the wilderness. Lent in other words.

There will be more that enough looking at the religious and theological aspect of this period of the year. For myself I like looking into why this has lasted so long in the tradition. For instance, why do the Jews have so many dietary prohibitions. What the heck is the issue with pork. And why on earth has this carried over into the Islāmic area so seamlessly. Well, it’s unbelievably simple. Pork looks like human flesh.  In general people today pull back from this conclusion, they disbelieve that human flesh was eaten in such a general way that the dietary prohibition by the Jews was unusual with the people’s at the far end of the Mediterranean. In the Greek area – we cannot say Greece, for the area stretched from Marseilles to the other side of the Black Sea – in the period beyond the 1st millennium pollution derived from consuming flesh was reserved  to eating your own children. And that was it.  But this was so much part of psyche in Europe that eating Belgian babies and raping nuns by the Hun was all over propaganda during WWI.  (I’ve never been that sure of the whys of the distinction between nuns and the general women/girls of an area)

Another one might be called the Athos prohibition. Athos is an island off the coast of northern Greece. It has a long history. But the earliest we can call it would be the invasion of Xerxes when before the attack he caused a cut made at the base of the then peninsula. Personally I suspect this to be pure bullshit and that seismic action cause the split. But this has been put to use in an odd way. Nowadays Athos is the CORE of the Orthodox Christian Church. The place is festooned with monasteries. And not a female on the entire place. None. Nary a one. Now when I say no female. No cows. No hens. No nanny goats. No sheep of the female variety.  Dega Island has precisely the same prohibition, as had where my people are planted and also the Skelligs, Iona and Lindisfarne. But why on earth do it at all. Again it’s based on a simple reason. When a woman is ovulating there is a pheromone in the air that cause the men naturally enough to shift focus from their devotions. And by the same token when a man is in his full strength he causes a similar reaction on the woman. It sorta the prime directive as it were, to replicate.

Lent on the face of it doesn’t have physical or sociological reason beyond a preparation for the miracle of Easter. But if you switch it a bit. Or rather think why you have Mask Balls for Carnival. Why the giving up of eggs. Why the abstinence. And why 40 days.  It would seem that this time of year was thin for produce. But the thinness was from lack of variety. The earlier couple of months was in fact thinner. I can remember a time when variety was only for the rich.

The Easter calculation uses equinox and moon. As wiki puts it “The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) after the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox.” So the very earliest you can have Easter March 22nd and therefore Lent starts the 11th of Feb. While the latest is the 25th of April with Lent there starting 16th of March. Most denominations extend the period.

I could go into this far deeper but it wouldn’t add anything to my argument  Which isn’t about Lent or the connection to Easter but why it has made eminent sense to continue with it when other things like Holy Days dropped unceremoniously. I believe it works for abstaining in the quest for a purity at Easter meant no nookie. You put your wife or husband down for Lent. Creating a huge window of baby free-ness out the other end of the year. At a time of the year, but for a day, a virtual famine existed. 40 days, add the extra, and you’ve got two cycles of fertility knocked on its head. And with a bit of luck, three. You also have the advantage of the gestation during the period of plenty.

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19 Responses to On the riverbank.

  1. Michele says:

    I never thought of it that way. Makes more sense than the reasons given by the Christian Churches.

    • Vince says:

      Thanks, we tend to see things like it here and Scotland in the archaeological record. Where the transition of a site of religion from pre to Christian was seamless. On the European mainland we have the Roman occupation and population destruction. Almost a two hundred year gap exists.

  2. Kelly says:

    And no babies in winter when Mom might not get the proper nourishment to feed.

    I guess since the monastaries don’t even have female livestock they have no eggs or dairy products and are certainly not sustainable. 😉

    • Vince says:

      Yeah exactly, or when feeding Mom might cause difficulty for the entire family.

  3. Rebecca S. says:

    My own mother drew my attention to these more practical reasons for the continued practise of Lent. I, for one, have run out of home grown garlic (boo hoo), am feeling rather stretched financially (time to trim the enjoyment part of the budget) have put on a couple of extra Christmas pounds, and have grown tired of the bombardment of social media sites (Facebook)…all just in time for this season of renewed simplicity and solidarity with the less fortunate. In many ways, Lent feels natural and necessary this time of year, just for purely physical reasons, let alone spiritual ones! (I feel a blog post of me own coming on….)
    I must say, I giggled at your idea of putting one’s spouse ‘down’ for Lent.

    • Vince says:

      Hahaha, give up facebook for Lent.

      I wondered if anyone would pick up on the connection with toys.

      And the edit of along is done.

  4. R. Sherman says:

    Love the panorama for the masthead, BTW.
    As for the calculation of Lent ex rel. Easter, I suppose the 40 days fasting of Christ in the wilderness would be commemorated before His sacrifice. Alas, the whole Carnival/Mardis Gras aspect has kind of taken over.

    Cheers.

    • Vince says:

      In a way that’s my point. For the better part of 2000 years things were one way. Then, depending what and who you pick, things changed. We had the pill and other relatively certain methods of birth control. But in general the increase in food security has nullified the reason for it’s continuance. Continuance in the purely social, distinct from the theological.

  5. Rebecca S. says:

    So when do I wish you a Happy St. Feichin’s Day?

  6. Kimberly says:

    Hmmm, that’s a very interesting and sensical way of looking at it, isn’t it? I don’t believe that was ever included in CCD. 🙂 I appreciate the look into “why” certain practices were put into place to begin with and am fascinated with why the church gets bogged down in tradition, when in some (many?) cases there was a “need for” at the time which may or may not be valid anymore. And, as you also mentioned, why it chooses to continue with some and not others. Anyways, as I drove past Our Lady of Perpetual Health, busting at the seam with observers, on my way home from work tonight it brought back fond (ha ha) memories of fighting with my parents about lent and thinking the ash on my forehead was fun.
    Oh, and that header photo is fantastic! Magical!

    • Vince says:

      What the frack is CCD. I’ll extrapolate it’s something to do with formation.
      Anyhoo’s, I think one of the main problems with the Catholic Church is that lying thing they’ve got going. If when you are told about something they said ‘well, we’re not sure’, then people would accept that. But finding out later that a goodly section is pure bunkum profoundly damages credibility.
      And it’s names like that lead to physical abuse. What sparky kid on reading Our Lady of Perpetual Health isn’t going to parse it apart. Ask a few questions. And eventually get a wallop up the side of the head.

      Thanks I like it myself.

      • Vince says:

        You certain it’s not perpetual ‘help’. Not that it makes any more sense. And given where you are ‘health’ has a sight more resonance.

        • Kimberly says:

          Yes! It is help! Duh – that slip would deserve a wallop for sure. I guess I’ve got perpetual health on my mind as I don’t have it right now. CCD – Confraternity of Christian Doctrine – catechism classes, good times!

          • Shrinky says:

            Yes, put that way, there is a very sound, practical arguement for why the tradition of fasting over Lent has endured. As a Christmas baby myself, I guess my mother didn’t take the whole thing that seriously.. I’m an aethiest, but still enjoy the tradition of serving pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, but instead of giving something up over Easter, I add in something extra, this year I’ve pledged to produce 1,000 words every day towards my WIP, and to also groom the hound every other day (virtually unheard of, and something he loves). You don’t need to be religious for an excuse to feel viruous! Your mention of Lindisfarne brought back memories – I recall a freezing day spent climbing up it’s steep slopes – ahhhh, happy days..

            • Vince says:

              Delighted you came over.

              It really has been a while since you were on Lindisfarne. Windy, OH so very much yes. A real nasty wind. Starts somewhere about Lake Baikal. Slopes, not so much. 😀

  7. Shrinky says:

    I was talking about the climb up to that castle-like, religious thingie there!

    • Vince says:

      I though the Famous Five by Enid Blyton the instant I saw the place.
      Ha, an opportunity to punch that prick Julian.

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