Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Throw the Salt...and blind the devil

"At the Cafe La Mie" by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1891
Having just baked a Muscadine pie in celebration of the Full/Harvest/Super/Lunar Eclipsing Moon, I got to thinking about the legend and lore of the foods we eat. Something so much a part of our everyday lives is bound to get tied up in our tangle of hopes, fears, joys, and sorrows. Perhaps that is one of the things that marks us as 'human." I mean, after all, what other creature stops to ponder which way to eat the food before them. They just eat! On second thought, I know plenty of people who never spend a moment on culinary contemplation-- they just dive in. But, if you want to be on the safe side, read this compilation of a few food related superstitions. There just might be a "kernel" of truth hidden there!

Salt: Spilling salt is bad luck. (Perhaps this began in the days of yore when salt was a very
"Salt Shaker" photo by Garitzco via Wikimedia Commons
expensive and treasured commodity, not only for flavor enhancement but for longterm food preservation.) Once you've spilled the salt, to prevent the devil from stealing your soul--bad luck in anyone's book--you must take some salt in your right hand and throw it over your left shoulder. This effectively blinds the devil and thwarts his soul-stealing plans.

Bread: The devil shows up here as well. This time he sits on top of your unbaked bread as you put it in the oven preventing it from rising properly. The solution? Cut a cross into the top before baking and that pesky kitchen-dwelling demon has nowhere to sit. Hot Cross Buns, anyone?

"Carton of Eggs" photo by By Gisela Francisco via Wikimedia Commons
Eggs: An obvious symbol of fertility. Broken eggs are a normal part of farm life but don't just toss them on the compost pile, scatter them in your fields to encourage an abundant crop. If you crack open an egg and find you are blessed with a double-yoker, it means either someone you know is going to get married...or have twins...or both. And once you've cracked that illustrious shell (any egg, not just the double-yoker) be sure and completely crush the shell so a witch cannot gather up the pieces, make them into a boat and sail out onto the sea with the intent of stirring up terrible storms.

Rice: Another symbol of fertility and the reason for tossing it at the happy newlyweds as they leave the wedding celebration. Better than throwing eggs at them.

Noodles: In China, long noodles represent a long life so cutting them cuts your life short. Remember when you were a kid and got those hard looks from your mother when you delighted in sucking up your spaghetti noodle in one long, uninterrupted slurp? Well, little did you know you were preventing premature death! Now, that's using your noodle.
"Pouring Tea" by William Worcester Churchill (1858-1926)

Tea: It's bad luck to have more than one person pour tea from the pot. Perhaps that's the origin of the quaint British custom of asking "Shall I be Mother?" when offering to serve the tea.

Coffee: If you find bubbles in your brew, catch them on a spoon and eat them so you will come into money. (How do you eat a bubble?)

"Black-eye Peas and Collard Greens" photo by Leslie Seaton
 via Wikimedia commons
Black-eyed Peas and Collard Greens: This one, I grew up with here in the South. Eating black-eyed peas and collards on New Year's Day brings you wealth all through the year. Peas represent coins and collards represent the folding stuff. Of course with inflation, you have to eat a heck of a lot of peas and collards these days.

Apples: Cut open an apple and count the seeds. That's how many children you'll have!

Onions: To keep evil spirits out of your house, stick pins into a small onion and set it on your windowsill.

Pie: Bake a pie made with Muscadine grapes on the day of the full Harvest Moon in
"Kate's Good Luck Muscadine Pie" photo by KL Wood
September and you will have good luck for the rest of the season. Eat all of it the day you bake it and you will have good luck for the rest of the year. OK...I confess...I made that one up. But, hey, superstitions have to get started somewhere and it's a good excuse to eat pie. Some might even say having pie is the result of good luck. Hmmm...which came first, the chicken or the egg? Better just bake your pie and eat it too.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ogopogo...Canada's Nessie

"Late Winter Sunrise, Lake Okanagan" photo by Extemporalist (Own work)  via Wikimedia Commons
If you're exploring British Columbia, Canada and someone looks at you with wide eyes, pointing toward Lake Okanagan and crying, "Ogopogo!" they probably don't mean "Oh, go pogo," as in a grab the nearest pogo stick and hop around. They are, more than likely, alerting you to the fact that a lake monster has made an appearance and you best skidaddle or...grab your camera. Ogopogo is Canada's version of Scotland's famous Loch Ness Monster.

Just an hour's drive north of Oroville, Washington, the British Columbian town of Penticton anchors the southern end of Lake Okanagan an impressive  body of water snaking its way 135 kilometers (83 miles) north toward Vernon. As is common among many of the lakes harboring the world's legendary water monsters, Lake Okanagan is very deep--800 meters (2,624 feet.) The lake sits among the magnificent natural beauty of glacial mountains as well as miles of beaches and parks lining its shores.

Unlike Scotland's monster which goes by the affectionate pet name of "Nessie" and is thought of as a
Photo of Lake Okanagan First Nations People (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
shy, benevolent creature, Ogopogo is the stuff of fearsome legend and nightmares. The native population of Canada, its First Nations people, have long told stories of attacks by Ogopogo. An account from 1860 tells of a First Nations person who lost his horses to the ravenous monster.  He was walking them along the lakeshore when Ogopogo (which First Nations people call Naitaka--Lake Demon) suddenly emerged from the water and snatched his horses away. Because of that incident, First Nations people often kept a small live animal in their boats when crossing the lake so they could throw it overboard to appease the monster if it were to rear its terrifying head.
"Rattlesnake Island" photo by Extemporalist (Own work)  via Wikimedia Commons

Ogopogo has been described as resembling a giant log, about 15 meters (50 feet) long, or a finned, round-headed whale. With possible footprints found on its surface, a small island due east of Peachland, British Columbia is thought to be the monster's terrestrial home. It's name is Rattlesnake Island but is known locally as Monster Island.

1990 Canadian Postage Stamp
The fact that Lake Okanagan's monster lacks Nessie's cuddly perception does not keep Canada from honoring it. An artist's portrayal of Ogopogo was featured on a 1990 postage stamp. I wonder what kind of letters those stamps graced. Probably not Christmas cards or Valentines!

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Following in Big Footsteps...Big Foot Legend and Lore

"Peyto Lake" photo by KLWood
When my husband and I spent several months wandering around in the wilds of the far north and west--Canada, Alaska, Washington, Oregon--it was easy to imagine all kinds of creatures prowling about unseen, watching us and our two little dogs. Usually we were on the lookout for mountain lions, wolves, moose, black bears and grizzly bears (all of which we encountered in the wild except for the mountain lions. We only saw mountain lion warning signs along a trail in Washington where one had recently been spotted.) We spent a fair share of our time alone on back trails singing at the
"Wrangel-St Elias Moose" photo by KL Wood
tops of our lungs so as not to surprise one of these lovely large beasts. The one critter of which we saw neither hide nor hair was Big Foot AKA Sasquatch. In my recent research I have discovered that Big Foot isn't just the product of overactive imaginations of backwoodsmen perhaps out on the trail a little too long. There is a long history and tradition of tales of big, hairy man-like creatures throughout the cultures of Native American and First Nation Peoples of the northwest. 
Native American tribes all over the continent have stories of wild, hairy people of the woods and plains but those outside the northwest tend to be the opposite in stature and known as Little People.

"Alaskan Grizzly" photo by KLWood
The Big Foot (Big Feet?) as described by natives of the northwest pretty much match the classical image we have of the creature--hairy, smelly, six to nine feet tall, strong, reclusive, elusive and night-foraging. The Athabaskan people of Alaska know of a creature called Wood Man/Woodsman. Wood Man is usually a solitary being who sneaks around quietly, remaining hidden from humans and does no real harm although he can be mischievous, stealing items from the villages. They have even been known to come to the aide of their stronger-brained but weaker-bodied human neighbors. In some tribes he is known to be more aggressive, stealing children and attempting to mate with humans. Depending on local tradition, he is either one immortal being, as believed by the Ahtna people, or is part of a larger community of male and female Wood Men. None are considered in any way sophisticated and communicate only with whistles, grunts, and sign-language. 

The Author and Big Foot (photo by the author's husband, Bill Ahearn)
The creatures are known by many different native-language names as well as Wood Man, Hairy Man, and the more violent varieties known as Bush Indians and Stick Indians.

Whatever you call them, I think you might not want to surprise or startle them anymore than you would a bear or a moose. So, I invite you to take a page from our backcountry hiking songbook and when you find yourself alone in the deep, dark northern wilderness fill your lungs with the fresh, wild air and SING! Our song of choice? "We All Live in a Yellow Submarine." Worked wonders.

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now!