Count Like a New Orleanian

And so the season of madness begins again.

Judge Fire Burn Die

If you want to understand America, study Christmas. If you want to understand New Orleans, study Mardi Gras. Twelfth Night is the intersection of both of these. And tonight is Twelfth Night — if you know how to count like a New Orleanian.

Everybody’s heard of the Twelve Days of Christmas, but few people in 21st-century America know that these are the twelve days after Christmas, ending with Epiphany, also known as Little Christmas or Three Kings Day or Twelfthtide.

Increasing commercialization puts all the emphasis on the shopping season beforehand; when Christmas rolls around, many people have had their fill of holiday spirit. But our grandparents knew differently. Just a couple generations ago, the festivities began at Christmas, not weeks and months before.

In merrie olde England, Christmastide was a wild and wooly time, combining the Christian feast with elements of the ancient Germanic Yuletide and Roman Saturnalia. Everything was turned upside down, authority was mocked, people swapped genders, and so forth. It went on for twelve days, until Epiphany. In Latin America they go for forty days, until Candlemas on February 2nd.

Some say Carnival, and Halloween too, is a displacement of these old festivities. When the old ways were suppressed, they squished out on either side of the calendar, or so the story goes. I don’t know if that’s true or not.

The crucial question is when to start counting. You might think that Christmas Day would be included amongst the Twelve Days of Christmas. That would make the night of January 5th the Twelfth Night, which is indeed the date preferred by many. And then there’s Old Twelfth Night, which is January 17th if you calculate using the Julian calendar, and apparently some people in southwestern England still do. (I prefer to celebrate my birthday then, and it’s a big one this year, so please come to my birthday party.)

However, I live in New Orleans, and we count differently. We don’t count Christmas. Here Twelfth Night is observed on the evening of January 6th, and it marks the beginning, not the end, of a period of festivity. Meanwhile, my Serbian friend is telling me “Srecne Badnje Vece!” Happy Orthodox Christmas Eve! Could this get any more confusing?

Regardless, today is the first day of Carnival here in New Orleans. The season of king cakes, masked balls, cheap plastic beads and endless parades is upon us. My boss has promised a home-baked king cake next week. I just hope I don’t get the baby, as I always seem to do.

Tonight the Phunny Phorty Phellows come out of hiding. The spelling might seem like a modern innovation, but the Phellows are actually a revival of an institution going back to 1878. There’s been quite a few changes to their routine over the years. They used to follow Rex on Mardi Gras. Now they ride a streetcar on Twelfth Night.

This year they’re joined by a new krewe, the Societé du Champs Elysées, who are planning to pull a similar stunt on the new Rampart streetcar line. Tonight will also mark the 3rd annual 12th Night Bal Masque, an all ages show at the Civic Theatre, this year featuring a New York City noise/metal band named Gnaw. It seems like the sixth day of the year is regaining lost ground as a special day on our local calendar. (Unlike The Eighth which remains, perhaps deservedly, forgotten.)

January 6th is also Joan of Arc’s (apocryphal) birthday, and some folks capitalized on that, starting a new tradition in 2008: the Krewe de Jeanne D’Arc parade. We went for the first time in 2015, and my daughter became very interested in learning more about the life of Joan; we had a blast returning in 2016, and my daughter desperately wants to attend tonight. But it’s cold and getting colder; it’s wet and getting wetter; and I have been fighting some sort of virus since New Year’s Eve, so I’m not sure it’s in the cards for us this year.

This just in: parade postponed because: weather!

The Carnival season culminates with Mardi Gras — Fat Tuesday — which always falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent and is forty days before Easter, and as everyone knows Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Vernal Equinox. Elementary.

What this means is that the beginning of Carnival is fixed, but the end floats around. Some years it’s a long season, some years it’s short. It’s like an accordion, expanding and contracting over the years. This year we’ve got a moderately long season. Mardi Gras falls on February 28th.

How late is that? Well, in just a couple years, in 2019, it falls on March 5. The latest Mardi Gras I’ve ever seen was March 8, 2011, but I’m certainly hoping to be around in 2038 when Mardi Gras will fall on March 9, the last possible day.

Recently there’s been talk of fixing the date of Easter so that it would always be on the second Sunday in April. If that happened, Mardi Gras would generally fall in late February, but this year it would actually be bumped up a week to February 21.

Of course, the only way to fix the date for Easter would be to ignore the moon entirely. That’s just totally uncool. The moon is awesome. Factoring out the moon is the opposite of awesome. The moon is variable, constantly changing. Some associate the full moon with irrational behavior, from which we derive the word lunacy. All the variability and madness of the Carnival season flows from the silvery light of the moon. Don’t fall prey to the insidious threat of anti-Lunarism!

I still don’t have a costume, but my daughter has suggested an Egyptian theme this year. I can count like a New Orleanian, but can I walk like an Egyptian? Time to get working on that.

Happy Carnival, everyone.

Helen Hill Has Not Been Forgotten

Helen & Rosie

Today marks ten years since Helen Hill died. I knew her, I loved her, I felt her loss badly — and I still do.

(Since people always ask, I feel obligated to note that no one has ever been charged in her murder.)

Recently I got some good news from Dr. Paul G.: In collaboration with Colorlab of Maryland (and with assistance from Trixy and Randall, Lecie, Becky Lewis, and Courtney Egan) a bunch of Helen’s films have been transferred to a digital format and are now available for online viewing. The set even includes the first film she ever made on her own, at age 12 (1982), “The House of Sweet Magic”.

You can see ’em here:
vimeo.com/helenhill

Paul says he loves watching these and hopes that maybe they will inspire others to make movies now — as they did in Helen’s lifetime.

Book of the Year

I’m flattered and flabbergasted to see that Godless Paganism has been named as “Book of the Year” by the ever-insightful Megan Manson.

Godless Paganism

I’m proud to have two essays in this collection, which was edited by John Halstead and features a ton of writing by many folks more talented and expressive than I could ever hope to be.

Ms. Manson calls the book “an essential contribution” and here are a couple more choice passages from her review.

Quite simply, they are Pagans who take great meaning and fulfillment from the nature-based and mystical aspects of Paganism, but want to reconcile this with 21st century rational, scientific outlooks on life.

Godless Paganism shows a very real solution to the very real problem of reconciling modernity with tradition, and spirituality with science: by putting science and naturalism at the heart of spirituality, and by giving people the freedom to define their spiritual experience however they see fit.

Obviously, I’m biased, but I tend to agree. Get your copy today!

The Bottom of the Year

It’s almost that time of year again, so I thought I’d share this original song for the winter solstice. It may not be a genius composition, but it’s fun to sing around the bonfire with family and friend. Try it! And by all means make up your own lyrics. You can certainly do better than us.

Below you’ll find an audio snippet from our 2015 rendition, to give you an idea of the melody, as well as a copy of the lyrics suitable for printing.

The Bottom of the Year (A Winter Song) by Editor B on Scribd

Shucks — and other, stronger words

I posted this update on our Kickstarter campaign for all our backers, figured I should share it here as well for the record — 

We had a bit of a last-minute rally, which put us over the halfway point, but it wasn’t enough. We did not meet our goal. Thus, the project is not funded, and none of you will be charged.

So — breathe a sigh of relief and treat a loved one to something special with that money!

While we’re disappointed, we’re not beaten yet. In fact, this is just the latest in a long string of character-building failures. It’s taught us to look in the face of despair and laugh. Ha ha!

Rest assured that we’ll be getting those old shows in digital form one way or another. It may just take a while. Getting them on disc may take even longer. But there’s no stopping this content.

Thanks for your support. It means a lot to all of us.

ROXstarter

Well, now we’ve gone and done it. We’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign to digitize our “second season of stupidity.”

The harrowing thing about Kickstarter is it’s all or nothing. And the clock is ticking down to our deadline. Please learn more and consider backing this project today!

Reviews Pour In

“Pour” is not really the right verb, but it sounds so much more impressive than “Reviews trickle in.” Whatever the volume, I’m happy to report that Spinning in Place has garnered some reviews. Astonishingly enough, they are (mostly) from people I don’t even know.

Even more astonishing, so far they are all very positive.

Here are three recent reviews on Amazon:

Sweet little ebook on thoughts about the main pagan holidays, from a non-specific point of view. Anyone from a Wiccan to an atheist would probably enjoy it. Especially good if you’re new to the holidays.

This is a thoughtful and thought-provoking essay. Many authors approach Wicca and Paganism as cookbooks of recipes for practice without ever presenting thought on the reasons to bother with it at all. Mr. Everson brings poetry and mystery to spiritual choices.

This charming book is a personal travelogue of time and the holidays that are milestones throughout the year. Everson provides fascinating historical insights into holidays as well has his personal take on celebrating with his family. I keep the book around as a reference, but I happily read it start to finish. The world needs more celebration. This books points the way.

A much longer review has also been posted on Contemplative Inquiry. Here’s an excerpt:

Everson invites an open and fresh approach to ritual celebration. This will of course include the repetition of loved and familiar patterns, but not imprisonment within them. […] Spinning in Place shows how to create a wheel of the year which honours tradition, place and personal history. This approach allows fluidity and responsiveness to environment, community and culture both past and present. It clearly works for Bart Everson. Spinning in Place does not offer an off-the-peg set of rituals. Rather, it asks readers to wonder what we might do, in our place, using our histories and our forms of expression. That’s what makes it inspiring.

Most astonishing of all: I am kind of stunned that people are actually reading my book. I keep pinching myself, but yes, it seems I am awake.

Spinning in Place

Books Books Books

Suddenly my personal bibliography has quadrupled.

I’m honored to have essays in two new collections. As if that’s not enough, I’m also thrilled to announce the publication of my own book at long last.

Finding the Masculine in Goddess’ Spiral, edited by Erick DuPree, came out from Megalithica Books in February. Godless Paganism, edited by John Halstead, is a crowdfunded effort that came out earlier this month.

Godless PaganismFinding the Masculine in Goddess' Spiral

On the face of it, these two titles might seem contradictory. Goddess and godless? What a difference one letter makes! How can this be?


Well, it’s complicated, but that’s what makes this subject matter so interesting. I encourage you to get both books and decide for yourself whether I’ve lost my mind.

Still with me? I hope so, because as exciting as those publications are, there’s more. It might seem like overkill, but it just so happens that I finally finished my own book, which I’ve been working on since 2012.

Spinning in Place

It’s titled Spinning in Place, and it’s about the Wheel of the Year. You know, the solstices and equinoxes and cross-quarter days I’ve been yammering on about for so long. Some of these essays have previously been published in various online venues, but I’ve revised extensively and there’s new material as well. It’s currently available exclusively through Amazon as an ebook. And it’s priced to sell. I don’t wanna make any money, folks; I just love to share Earth-based spiritual practices.

(That’s a joke for my Hoosier readers who may remember Don Davis of Indianapolis. Don passed away in February, but his commercials live on in our collective memory. And of course YouTube.)

Now it’s time to get the word out. I’ve got my author page set up on both Amazon and Goodreads. I’m available for interviews. I’ll be mounting a campaign on social media in the near future.

And, yes, I could use your help. Please do share this link with anyone who might be interested. If you’re able to review any of these items on Goodreads or Amazon please do. And don’t be shy about being honest. No one is really fooled by those books that have nothing but gushy, glowing, five-star reviews.

Seasons in New Orleans

We joke a lot about seasons in New Orleans. A typical formulation: We have two seasons here, summer and Christmas. Another riff recognizes four: Carnival season, festival season, hurricane season, football season. There are many variations.

Nevertheless, I’d like to present an attempt to delineate the conventional four seasons according to local parameters.

Starting on the second day of February, 2015, my daughter and I began tracking the high and low temperatures on a daily basis. We have now accumulated a year’s worth of data.

High-Low Chart February 2015-February 2016

It’s been fun. Looking back over the charts, certain patterns suggest themselves.

Based on this preliminary data, I would like to propose the following definitions.

In New Orleans…

…spring begins when the daily lows stay above 60ºF for one full week.
…summer begins when the daily lows stay above 70ºF for one full week.
…fall begins when the daily lows fall below 70ºF for one full week.
…winter begins when the daily lows fall below 60ºF for one full week.

Using these definitions, we can say that in 2015, the seasons began on the following dates:

Spring: 10 March
Summer: 9 May
Fall: 5 October
Winter: 2 December

If these dates are typical of our annual pattern, we might say our winter lasts roughly three months, while summer lasts five. Spring and fall in New Orleans are ephemeral, lasting only a couple months each.

That sounds about right to me.

And so the season of madness begins again.

Joan of Arc Parade

Tonight is Twelfth Night, if you know how to count like a New Orleanian.

Everybody’s heard of the Twelve Days of Christmas, but few people in 21st-century America know that these are the twelve days after Christmas, ending with Epiphany, also known as Little Christmas or Three Kings Day or Twelfthtide.

Increasing commercialization puts all the emphasis on the shopping season beforehand; when Christmas rolls around, many people have had their fill of holiday spirit. But our grandparents knew differently. Just a couple generations ago, the festivities began at Christmas, not weeks and months before.

In merrie olde England, Christmastide was a wild and wooly time, combining elements of the ancient Germanic Yuletide and Roman Saturnalia, when everything was turned upside down, authority was mocked, people swapped genders, and so forth. It went on for twelve days, until Epiphany. I hear in Latin America they go for forty days, until Candlemas on February 2nd, but I digress.

The crucial question is when to start counting. You might think that Christmas Day would be included amongst the Twelve Days of Christmas. That would make the night of January 5th the Twelfth Night, which is indeed the date preferred by many. And then there’s Old Twelfth Night, which is January 17th if you calculate using the Julian calendar, and apparently some people in south-western England still do. I prefer to celebrate my birthday then, but I digress.

However, I live in New Orleans, and we count differently. We don’t count Christmas. Here Twelfth Night is observed on the evening of January 6th, and it marks the beginning, not the end, of a period of festivity.

Yes, today is the first day of Carnival. The season of king cakes, masked balls, cheap plastic beads and endless parades is upon us. My boss has already ordered a king cake for this Friday, the goat cheese and apple one from Cake Cafe. That’s definitely my favorite, so I’m looking forward to it. I just hope I don’t get the baby, as I always seem to do.

Tonight the Phunny Phorty Phellows help to get the party started. The spelling might seem like a modern innovation, but the Phellows are actually a revival of an institution going back to 1878. There’s been quite a few changes to their routine over the years. They used to follow Rex on Mardi Gras. Now they ride a streetcar on Twelfth Night.

January 6th is also Joan of Arc’s (apocryphal) birthday, and some folks capitalized on that, starting a new tradition in 2008: the Krewe de Jeanne D’Arc parade. We went for the first time last year, and my daughter became very interested in learning more about the life of Joan, so we’re looking forward to checking it out again tonight.

The season culminates with Mardi Gras — Fat Tuesday — which always falls on the day before Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent and is forty days before Easter, and as everyone knows Easter falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the Vernal Equinox. Elementary.

What this means is that the beginning of Carnival is fixed, but the end floats around. Some years it’s a long season, some years it’s short. It’s like an accordion, expanding and contracting over the years. This year we’ve got a very short season. Mardi Gras fall on February 9th.

How early is that? Why, it won’t be this early again till 2027. It can be as early as February 3rd, but I’ve never seen that and probably never will. The earliest Mardi Gras in my lifetime was likely in 2008, when it fell on February 5th. And to think I missed that one because of a sprained ankle and the impending birth of my daughter, but I digress.

The latest Mardi Gras I’ve ever seen was in 2011, but I’m certainly hoping to be around in 2038 when Mardi Gras will fall on March 9, the last possible day. Again, I digress. I’m very digressive these days.

My point is that this year, it’s a short season, and the response is predictable. We hear people complaining that it’s all going by too quickly. Don’t fall into this trap! The variability of Mardi Gras and the Carnival season is a wonderful thing. Embrace it. Celebrate, don’t denigrate. Consider the implications of a convenient, modern, fixed date. The only way this would work is if Easter became a fixed feast rather than a moveable feast, which would mean disregarding the moon entirely. I’m sure some people would like that very much, but the very idea makes me retch. Don’t fall prey to this insidious anti-Lunarism. When a fellow paradegoer complains about the short Carnival season, haul off and punch that person right in the face. Strike a blow for the moon!

I still don’t have a costume, but it’s time to start thinking about one.

Happy Carnival, everyone.

Prognostication

The American people will elect Donald Trump president this year. I’m not saying I want it to happen. I’m just sayin’.

It will happen like this. Hillary gets the nomination of the Democrats. The Donald gets the GOP nod, because they can’t figure out how to stop him.

Then, the campaign: Hillary vs. the Donald. Intelligent people say the Donald can’t win. They say he’s delusional. He thinks this is some reality TV show.

Here’s the catch: It is. Our elections have become largely indistinguishable from reality TV shows. So who’s better at this?

Mark my words.

2015

There’s so much good music coming out these days it’s stunning. Don’t believe me? Give this a listen. It was almost painful putting this mix together because I left so much out, but what’s left just feels absolutely essential to me. Further more I’d wager that you haven’t heard of virtually any of these artists. And I know y’all could put together a stunning mix of artists that I’ve never heard. That’s what a rich time we live in. Happy new year.

2015 from editor_b on 8tracks Radio.

Listening notes: This mix is about two hours long and tends toward mellow and bittersweet, but there is enough pop and rock to keep you awake and maybe even something to make you laugh buried in there somewhere.

Re-Cranking the Manifesto

I was quoted in this recent article by Robert McLendon:

As residents started to trickle back into Mid-City after Hurricane Katrina, people looked at the mess around them and came to a realization: The storm may have been responsible for the wreckage, but the city was broken in many ways long before it made landfall.

Inequality. Exclusion. Low expectations. “It was a wake-up call that there were a lot of longstanding problems that people had just gotten used to,” said Bart Everson, who, along with his wife, was one of the first to return to the neighborhood.

Everson and his neighbors started to meet to talk about how they could change things, how they could make their neighborhood and the city more inclusive. Out of those meetings, and a blog manifesto that Everson cranked out in the early post-storm days, came the neighborhood’s master plan.

The article goes on to detail the disappointing implementation (or lack thereof) of the city’s neighborhood participation program.

Mid-City Planning Meeting

But speaking of that grassroots planning process I helped jumpstart, it recently came to my attention that the Mid-City Recovery Plan, drafted by residents in 2006-2007 independently of any government sanction, is in danger of disappearing from the public web.

In the interest of posterity, I’ve uploaded this important historical document to Scribd:

Mid-City Recovery Plan

This was true grassroots democracy in action. Did we get everything we wanted? Not by a long shot. Did it make any difference? I’ll let others judge.

Some details of this process were covered in Karl Seidman’s 2013 book, Coming Home to New Orleans: Neighborhood Rebuilding after KatrinaSee page 177 ff. The passages about the Mid-City library branch make for especially poignant reading, in light of the recent announcement of its imminent (and thankfully postponed) closure.

An Embarrassment of Equinoctial Riches

Equinox Mandala (Autumnal)

Yo, check my mandala. (I’ve always wanted to say that.) It’s the autumnal equinox again, an event I’ve celebrated now six years running, a time for gratitude and reflection, even as we step into the dark, into the creative power of the abyss, even as we acknowledge our losses. I made the mandala to express some of these themes, and as I look back I see I’ve slowly accumulated a wealth of practices and observances for the equinox.

Last weekend we celebrated with Lamplight Circle, this morning I visited my daughter’s class (to read a book, do a science demo, share a treat, and make a gratitude chain), this evening we feast with family and friends, this weekend we hope to commune with nature at Bayou La Terre. And, on an intensely personal note, at this juncture I dedicate (or rededicate) myself to my personal mission/vision of awakening to Gaia, which is manifesting especially through a renewal of activity with the Greens. More on that soon.

If you’re reading this, thanks for being a part of my life, and I hope you may enjoy this equinox in your own way.

The Recovery Discriminated

“The storm didn’t discriminate, and neither will the recovery effort.”

As soon as George W. Bush said those words, we knew it was a lie.

No, not a lie. Call it wishful thinking. Call it evidence of white privilege.

Even the president’s speechwriters seemed to realize this, and a few days later, when he gave his famous Jackson Square speech, he was singing a different tune.

As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. And that poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.

Now it’s ten years later, and just in case you were wondering, that didn’t happen.

The recovery discriminated. Of course it did.

The evidence is easy to find if you care to look. Ask a New Orleanian how we’re doing, and their answers will vary according to race. Chances are a white person will say, “Better.” Chances are a black person will say, “Worse.”

Other numbers bear this out. Income inequality has gotten much worse in New Orleans. We have a huge gulf between rich and poor, akin to places like Zimbabwe. Over half of black men are unemployed here.

If these facts make you queasy, that might be a good thing. It shows you have a sense of decency. The facts are offensive to common decency.

How did this happen? How is it the recovery discriminated so harshly?

If you are thinking of active, personal discrimination, where one person treats another unfairly because of their race, then you’re thinking too old-school. That still happens, but the factors at work over the past decade in New Orleans are more subtle and insidious than that.

In order to understand how the recovery has discriminated, you have to think in terms of social structures and systems. Our society is riven by deep divisions. Of course the recovery process reflected those divisions, reproduced those divisions, deepened them. How could it be otherwise?

The only way we could have avoided this was by doing what Bush said. We needed “bold action” indeed — truly innovative and courageous action — but that didn’t happen. Some good ideas percolated up. There was, for example, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, which would have put local people to work rebuilding the area. It died in committee.

But this story isn’t over yet.