Hey, folks. We’re about halfway through January already. But have you ever thought about why the first month of the year is called “January”? Well, it’s all thanks to Janus. No, not the James Bond villain from Goldeneye. No, not one of Saturn’s moons. Like a lot of modern naming conventions, it goes back to the Romans. According to Cicero and other ancient writers, Janus was their god of beginnings and transitions. It sounds kind of lame at first glance, but there some awesome implications when you think about it. Every gate, door, ending, marriage, harvest, boundary, and shifts between war and peace were his domain. This guy was responsible for the flow of time itself. He even had two faces (no, not like that one guy) just so he could look into both the past and the future at the same time.
And you thought Doc Brown was awesome.
“January” is a reference to Janus by way of the Latin word Ianuarius. It – along with Februarius – were supposedly added to the calendar by Numa Pompilius, the legendary second king of Rome. That dude was responsible for creating a lot of religious and cultural traditions in the empire, some of which still lingers in modern times. Ever hear the term “vestal virgin”? Yeah, that was his idea. So was the construction of Ianus geminus, the Temple of Janus. It had doors on both ends (of course!) which were only shut during peacetime. That last part was really rare, because, you know, it was Ancient Rome. If you were a king and got to close the temple to symbolize peace for the empire, you earned some serious bragging rights. It’s like having “Won the Nobel Prize” on your resume.
Oh, one last thing: Today’s entry was posted on January 14th. According to some Roman calendars, today is marked as dies vitiosus. It basically means that something is bad or faulty about that specific day. One calendar, the Fasti Verulani, gives us the reason: it was Mark Antony’s birthday. You know, the guy who loved Cleopatra so much that he betrayed the empire and tried to go to war against Augustus? Even if you’re not well-versed in history, I’m pretty sure you can figure out how well that went down. Let’s just say the consequences (both short and long-term) were…messy. You know you’ve messed up when your enemies can legally declare your birthday to be inherently evil.
Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about festivities. As in, the festivities for your very own, universally-accepted holiday. I’m not much of the personal celebratory type – I haven’t done anything for my birthday in years – so a holiday in my honor would probably be pretty boring. At first, I thought about having it on the autumnal equinox, because…well, autumn is my favorite time of year. But then I realized: it’d be much cooler if it had something to do with my own spiritual tree, like Yggdrasil. A single leaf falls once a year, imbued with enough magic to power and feed the entire planet for a week. As it hits the ground and its powers dissipates, an unmistakable flash light envelopes the sky, signaling for the festivities to begin. A cheer roars across the planet as mere mortals are swept up in the spectacle.
…Or something. It looks amazing in my imagination.
The main symbol of this week-long festival would be the leaf of a California redwood, as befitting of my homeland. Each individual would be able to craft one – and only one – using whatever materials they can find. Paper mache, platinum, wool, dental floss, whatever you can use creatively. If the family is large, they might have a whole row of them lined up. You could take along as you travel, taking pictures of it in front of exotic or famous locales. If you’re stuck at home, your creations would be posted either on the front door – weather and/or lack of crime permitting – or hanging from your bookshelf. It ties into the other fundamental part of the holiday: reading. Not only do you get the week off to read your favorite book, but you’re actively encouraged to trade books with someone else. You get to read something new, thus growing your tree of knowledge!
If you prefer cooking for the holidays, there would plenty of specialty dishes to make. It’s just got to be either really sweet, or really spicy. Homemade spumoni is the one of the greatest desserts ever, and I’d want festival-goers to trade recipes and invent something tasty and creative. If you can’t find the ingredients, then any form of the classic Cookies & Cream would suffice. Roasted, spicy octopus (seriously, it’s delicious) would be one of the main courses, along with substantial helpings of chicken and salads practically dripping with scotch bonnets and jalepños. Because you’re not a hardcore leaf maker/book exchanger unless you’re burning your tongue at the same time. If you can’t handle the heat, then at least partake in some amazing sourdough bread from the Acme Bread Company.
Oh, and one last thing. At the beginning of the week, each person as of legal age is magically granted a round-trip teleportation to any place of his or her choosing. Anywhere on Earth is up for grabs, no matter how impractical. Imagine spending a week in Lake Tahoe, Machu Picchu, or Tokyo! You’d get to see new places and trade books! However, this impromptu vacation can’t be used as an escape device; as soon as the festival ends, you’re whisked back to where you started. The magic burns out on its own, so you can’t save them up over the years. You’ve got to make the experience count. Also, the accommodations would need to be planned on your own ahead of time. Dress warm!
Hey, did someone order a Caribbean sunset? Because I’m pretty sure this Weekly Writing Challenge calls for one.
These are just a sampling of the many, many photos I took during my trip to Oranjestad, Aruba this past April. It didn’t feel exotic; it had all of the American creature comforts, yet I struggled to find new things to do as the week wore on. However, I knew that I had to be back at Eagle Beach every night to see the amazing sunsets.
Oh, and I happened to be listening to this song on that fine evening:
Anyone else suddenly feel like going to the beach?
Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is about necessities. Specifically, five things you’d want to have on a deserted island. A classic question, and it’s hopefully something that I never have to face. Let’s see…
–A survival knife. It’s hard to articulate the sheer importance of having a sharp object. They were essential in the human race’s development. You need one to hunt for food. I don’t think you’d want to use your teeth to gut a fish. Not only that, but to build shelters and other technologies as well. How else are you going to make your fishing spears and poles? How are you going to make a rain catcher? Take a look around your room; pretty much everything you own is the result of someone using a blade and fire at some point. Which brings me to the next one…
–A way to make fire, preferably a flint and steel set. Remember the myth of Prometheus? The dude stole fire from the gods and gave it to mankind. That theft was so heinous, Prometheus was doomed to be eternally chained to a rock and have an eagle eat his regenerating liver every day. The Olympians were hardcore like that. They’re not the only ones who kept fire to themselves, either. It underscores the necessity of fire; you need it to keep you warm, cook your food, and drive predators away. It’s also a way to signal your rescuers. Since matches are useless after getting wet, I’d definitely have some flint and steel around. I could potentially use my glasses for lens-based ignitions, but that’s assuming it’s sunny where I’m trapped.
–A method of communication, preferably a radio. No, not your computer or phone. Most modern electronics won’t last a day when exposed to the elements, especially if you’re stuck on a deserted island. Pretty sure your data plan doesn’t include the middle of the ocean. You think dropping crumbs in your keyboard is bad? Imagine accidentally dropping your laptop into the sand or water. A radio – preferably a solar-powered ham radio – is way more effective. It’s your best bet for communication, and don’t have to worry about battery life. Considering that you could go mad from the isolation, having at least some way to communicate with the outside world is vital. Unless you want to start talking to volleyballs.
–A tarp. When it rains here at home, I lay out a tarp to prevent part of the back deck from leaking. I’d do the same thing on a deserted island; if you’re in the middle of the ocean, chances are that it’s going to rain. A lot. An umbrella isn’t going to be much help. You need something that can not only fully cover your body, but also serve as a makeshift tent as well. It beats sleeping under a leaky layer of branches and leafs. It can also be used as a rain catcher, or a way to transport/protect food and supplies. If you’ve caught a day’s worth of fish, it’d be way easier to carrying everything back in a huge tarp-bag. Smellier, too.
–Duct tape. Yeah, you read that right. I’d want a very large roll of duct tape. Do you have any idea how useful it is? There are lists of ways to use it, both in and out of dangerous situations. Even the guys on Apollo 13 used it! Need to stabilize and expand your shelter? Duct it. Need a freshwater container? Duct it. Need a hat to help prevent sunstroke? Duct it. Need to build a seaworthy escape raft out of the branches you’ve collected? DUCT IT.
Oh, and I were to have one joke response, it’d have to be a Star Trek item replicator. It’s self-explanatory.
Happy December, folks. When I was looking up tattoo ideas for the recent Daily Prompt, I was reminded of a strange but all-too common symbol. If you look around enough in your medical institution, you might stumble across this image:
Weren’t expecting to see snake during your check-up, were you? But don’t worry, this one’s here to help. It’s part of the symbol called the Rod of Asclepius. Go ahead, try saying that out loud. If you’re a med student, chances are you’ve seen the name in the Hippocratic Oath. For good reason, too. Asclepius was the god of medicine in Ancient Greece. He inherited his expertise from none other than Apollo, who was no slouch in the health care department. He was married to Epione, the goddess of soothing. Their strangely appropriate relationship resulted in a whole family of healers, particularly Hygieia (the goddess of…well, hygiene) and Panacea, the goddess of universal remedy and pretty much every status effect-curing item in RPG history.
Who says video games aren’t educational?
But here’s the question: Why did it it have to be snakes? Actually, it’s kind of been snakes all along. Snakes and power go way, way back, and not just to the Greeks. You’d be hard-pressed to find an ancient culture that doesn’t use it. Have a bible handy? Try skimming it and see how much snake/power imagery you can find. Here’s a hint: Moses. As for Asclepius, the snake could represent rejuvenation and renewal via the shedding of its skin. Or it could’ve been referencing the supposed medicinal properties of snake products. There have been references to venom being used as an remedy. Can you imagine all the wild snakes slithering around those ancient healing temples? And you thought your medical plan was terrible. At least the rod is more straightforward (no pun intended); it’s always been associated with things like wisdom, knowledge, age, etc.
Now, here’s the tricky thing. Let’s say you go to doctor and see this in the waiting room:
See the difference? The Caduceus looks pretty badass, doesn’t it? It got two snakes, and wings! If you’re in the Medical Corps, you probably see it every day. The symbol especially prevalent in American medicine, where it’s been in use since the 1850s. And yeah, people noticed. The Caduceus is associated with Hermes, the famed messenger of the gods. He was in charge of transitions, usually from life to the afterlife. He’s the patron of many things, among them travelers, literature, sports, thieves, invention, trade, and commerce…but not medicine. The reason for the two snakes? He saw them fighting and put his staff between them, thus ensuring peace. It’s a classic commentary of the necessity of knowledge and communication. It’s also a chilling but oddly appropriate prediction of the state of modern medicine. Associations with commerce, theft, and death aren’t exactly reassuring when you’re getting a physical. However, no one can dispute that health care has come a long way since Ancient Greece. We may not use snakes for medicine anymore, but they’re still all around us.
Oh, fun fact: Asclepius was supposedly killed by Zeus because he started bringing people back from the dead. Imagine if our modern medicine symbols were for necromancy instead. Suddenly, getting flu shots doesn’t seem so bad.