Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Fair-Minded Shepherd

“... the biggest loosening of financial regulations since the economic crisis a decade ago.... ... would free more than two dozen banks from the toughest regulatory scrutiny put in place after the 2008 global financial crisis. ... it amounts to a significant rollback of banking rules aimed at protecting taxpayers from another financial crisis and future bailouts. / In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised the legislation’s passage. ...”

It was a hard winter, and the grass was sparse. The previous shepherd in such a circumstance would speak of “grace” and bring alfalfa, but the new shepherd said it was “only fair” that the flock should “just work harder to find whatever food there is in the pasture.” However, the men who loaded a truck with bags from the alfalfa fields seemed grateful to the shepherd.

Some of the sheep had fallen ill or suffered injuries. Thinking of the care they used to receive from his predecessor, they turned to the shepherd, but he said it was “only fair” to let the strongest survive.

While the winds and wolves howled wildly outside the fences, the flock huddled together for warmth in the center of the pasture, as the shepherd declared it would be “only fair” to show equal “grace” to all inhabitants of the field, grant them utter “freedom” by removing all restrictions, and let this “free field” determine the outcome of events... so he tore down the fences. And, who knows, perhaps even the wolves were grateful to the shepherd.

The Savings and Loan (“thrift”) industry was deregulated by two laws passed in 1980 and 1982, which meant S&L managers took risks previously off-limits; 1981's misnamed Economic Recovery Tax Act led to S&Ls selling their loans at 60% to 90% of value to buy back their reduced value as bonds (for substantial fees). ... “A large number of S&L customers’ defaults and bankruptcies ensued, and the S&Ls that had overextended themselves were forced into insolvency proceedings themselves. The Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC), a federal government agency that insured S&L accounts in the same way the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insures commercial bank accounts, then had to repay all the depositors whose money was lost. From 1986 to 1989, FSLIC closed or otherwise resolved 296 institutions with total assets of $125 billion. An even more traumatic period followed, with the creation of the Resolution Trust Corporation in 1989 and that agency’s resolution by mid-1995 of an additional 747 thrifts. A Federal Reserve Bank panel stated the resulting taxpayer bailout ended up being even larger than it would have been because of moral hazard and adverse selection incentives that compounded the system’s losses. There also were state-chartered S&Ls that failed. Some state insurance funds failed, requiring state taxpayer bailouts.” [Wikipedia]

You notice, the S&Ls were not only no longer being regulated to manage themselves the RIGHT way, they were given incentives to manage themselves the WRONG way.

The same sort of thing, deregulation-enabling-corruption-and-collapse, happened during the George W. Bush administration, only with the main banking system and Wall Street (“Foreclosuregate” being part of that scandal), leading up to the Global Crash of 2008.

It was a swindler’s dream scheme: America lost over $10 Trillion of wealth in 2008 (per Business Insider), and once again most of those who profited vanished without ever being tracked down and held to legal account.

So it is significant that, like Trump...
E.g.: “Reagan...’s first opportunity to revise the federal budget yielded a one-third cutback of the FBI's investigations into gambling, prostitution, arson-for-profit, gangland murders, and pornography — along with a hiring freeze and dramatic staff reduction within the FBI. Reagan also indicated that no new undercover operations would be authorized against organized crime or white-collar crime. Instead, the Reagan Justice Department wanted to concentrate on street crime and small drug use.”

Along with, you may recall, Nancy’s “Just Say No” ad campaign….

These had been, of course, greatly self-proclaimed “Law and Order” candidates.

Now here we go again.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Reclaiming the B-word (Originally posted as two comments [1] [2] in a Daily Kos diary)

My (now deceased) first wife Megan, laid off after years as an accountant with no need to make outside calls, got another job as a bill collector, luckily for a B2B (business-to-business) company, which meant she was dunning other companies’ Accounts Payable departments, not trying to separate families from their grocery money (that job she couldn’t have taken).

Not that it mattered much: she still came in for verbal abuse from too many of those she called, including the B-word, and needed all the emotional support I could give. But on her own she adopted a creative solution — reclaim the B-word!

Her office cubicle’s divider sprouted brightly colored pinback buttons proudly declaring: B*tch, Boss B*tch, Queen B*tch, Klingon B*tch (and way out of your league),…. If someone cruelly told that sweet gentle lady, only collecting B2B debts, “You’re a real b*tch, y’know?”, she could calmly and confidently answer, “Oh, you have no idea!” — and it would give them pause. For all the world, it was as though she had grinned baring a mouth full of canine fangs over the phone at them.

three-headed HecateAs she was also a Wiccan (though I’m not), I reminded her of the good historical basis for witches, specifically, to reclaim the word proudly — and one reason why it was originally used as an insult.

The Greek goddess of witchcraft, Hecate, venerated by the fearsome Thessalian witches who could draw down the Moon*, and often depicted in a trinity of Queens of the Underworld with Persephone and Demeter, was associated with dogs, especially female dogs, and dogs were even sacrificed to her; sometimes she was depicted with a dog’s head (or three); thus she was the original B*tch-Goddess. To be called a b*tch or son-of-a-b*tch thus was not only to be called an animal, but by that famed association to have imputed an accusation of witchcraft.

So I have starred the word here only for those still delicate of sentiment. For myself I do not consider the word an insult (since Megan reclaimed it), and never used it as such. I suggest that others de-sting it likewise, laugh in the faces of those who so use it, and perhaps lightly bare their fangs (looking intently at the users’ throats) when they too reply: “Oh, you have no idea!”

Oh, my current wife Diana reminds me of one button (out of many) I didn’t list: 

Beautiful, Intelligent, Talented, Charming, Heroic  **

I think the last word on the actual button was something like “Hot”, and that was good enough when she got it, but now for me, thinking of Megan, the one and only right word must always be “Heroic”….

One night while I was at my third-shift job, a burglar broke into the house. Megan woke up and came into the hallway to see him by her daughter’s doorway. She grabbed up a purely decorative battleaxe (no edge, worthless metal), and ran at him shouting “BLOOD FOR ODIN! Hack! Maim! Kill!” — chasing him out of the house. (I didn’t mention, this normally peaceable woman normally had a bit of difficulty walking.) By the time I got home, she was back in bed, trembling, not in fear of the burglary, but due to realization of her own capacity for violence. I hugged and comforted and praised her, my own, my Klingon B*tch, for fiercely protecting her cub.

BTW, today would have been Megan’s 77th birthday had she lived. In memoriam.
"She was a singer, an artist, a poet and a wit. Her life was a musical, bursting into song at the slightest provocation and her wit was infectious. Amongst her extended circles of friends, she was always requested to sing her torch song rendition of 'Rubber Ducky' from Sesame Street."

Drawing down the Moon - ancient Greek depiction
* Oh, those “fearsome Thessalian witches”? Astronomers. “Drawing down the Moon”? Nowadays it’s a Wiccan ritual to invoke the Goddess; then it was predicting lunar eclipses — when the Moon disappeared as foretold, it had been “drawn down”. As with Hypatia of Alexandria, science in the hands of women got labeled “witchcraft”.


** Our friend Linda, an RN and Nurse Manager at the hospital vent[ilator] unit she helped establish, adapted Megan’s reclaiming strategy and that reverse-acronym, with management’s blessing, to handle verbal abuse from a cranky patient. He couldn’t speak with a tube in his throat, but he could call his nurses the B-word in writing. Linda got official policy approval for nurses to come right back, unfazed, with a cheery smile, saying: “You know that means Beautiful, Intelligent, Thoughtful, Caring, and Helpful, right? So thank you!” (The words were changed to reflect the virtues of nurses.) Robbed of its power to hurt or insult, the word dropped out of that patient’s vocabulary... at least while he remained in the unit.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Pirate Bunny

     (a hare-razing tale)
by C.M. Joserlin, "Raven"
I'll tell you of the Pirate Bunny,
A fluffy tale, but never funny:
A mad hare with a lust for money.
          Ahoy, the Pirate Bunny!

The gold rings in his tattered ears
Marked all the ships he'd sunk in years
Of causing seven oceans' fears:
          The Dreaded Pirate Bunny!

Two buck teeth showed in fearsome grin
The merry lack of conscience in
A lepus deeply steeped in sin:
          Har-HARRH, the Pirate Bunny!

He had one pink and maddened eye.
His legends made the sailors cry:
"Do not surrender — better die
          Than face the Pirate Bunny!"  *

He'd haul your vessel to a stop,
Line up the crew and make them hop
Into the ocean with a plop!
          Yo-HO, the Pirate Bunny!

The stories flew from shore to shore,
And legends grew, how more and more
This bunny bathed in grue and gore:
          The Bloody Pirate Bunny!

The end is short, but not too sweet:
At last a massive Navy fleet
Cut off both the rabbit's feet:
          Unlucky Pirate Bunny!

Don't be too quick to count your eggs!
The Committee for Public Safety begs:
"Run from a rabbit with wooden legs,
          For it's the Pirate Bunny!"

* Anticipating by centuries the later "shock-and-awe-will-win-their-hearts-and-minds" campaigns of George W. Bush.

Tune: start with Sondheim's "Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd!" and adapt metre as needed....

This was a side-effect of one of Owen Alun's Bardic Madness challenges (draw three topics from a hat, pick two and write a piece combining them). I didn't draw "Pirates" and "Bunnies", but I saw them get left behind on the table by others, and they stuck in my mind for later.

Beware the Bailey!
by Linda M. Browne and Raven
(tune: Kipling's "Smuggler's Song")

Wicked is the rabbit white, and baneful is the brown,
No matter be it countryside or in a crowded town,
But worst of all that ever made a strong man jump and scream
Is rabbit that's the color of the Bailey's Bristol Cream!

          Five-and-twenty coneys hopping through the dark:
          Rabbits in the garden, rabbits in the park;
          Nibbling at the carrots, nibbling at your gown --
          Watch your feet, my darling, when the rabbits come to town!

Over-brave is he who would endure a rabbit's glare;
And foolish he who would a rabbit's barking choose to dare;
But reckless quite is he who might be such a simple chump
As to ignore the somber sound of rabbit's warning thump!

          Five-and-twenty coneys hopping through the dark:
          Rabbits in the garden, rabbits in the park;
          Nibbling at the carrots, nibbling at your gown --
          Watch your feet, my darling, when the rabbits come to town!

Coneys are carnivorous, a little-known fact,
For few are those who've lived to tell of lepical attack.
Oh, better let a rattler sink its venom in your veins
Than let a rabbit gnaw you from your toes up to your brains!

          Five-and-twenty coneys hopping through the dark:
          Rabbits in the garden, rabbits in the park;
          Nibbling at the carrots, nibbling at your gown --
          Watch your feet, my darling, when the rabbits come to town!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Stay Free, San Francisco!   (The above design is presented for the free use of those advancing body freedom, or human rights and freedom in general, with my blessings; I require neither permission, nor credit, nor royalties.)

Not that I get to set anyone else's terms, but here's why I think the two short words "Stay Free" are the main thing that need to keep being repeated now by crowds and signs protesting this issue in San Francisco:

  1. "SF" alliterates with the city name, stressing it's a local issue.
  2. These keep the message above the fog: it's about freedom.
  3. It's not about Biblical morality, despite the religious right.
  4. It's not about tourism dollars, despite any Chamber-of-Commerce clones.
  5. It's about the freedom of non-violent non-injurious non-interfering citizens to walk down the street minding their own business without being set upon violently and dragged off in chains at the orders of a Board gone rogue.
  6. To borrow Thomas Jefferson's argument, "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to [wear twenty garments or no garment]. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg."
  7. From which it follows: the Board's penalizing acts non-injurious to others did not use a legitimate power of government.

I thought about having the graphic show the woman wearing a black armband, like the protesters in Tinker v Des Moines (since the Supreme Court agrees that black armbands "inherently express" opinions, thus are protected by the First Amendment, unlike bare skin)... aaand I decided against that:

Someone wearing a black armband might be expressing a different topic of opinion, say, an opinion against war, but it's a sure bet anyone going bare in public is expressing an opinion in favor of the right to body freedom, no matter what else. That's as "inherent" an expression as any Supreme Court Justice or other judge could reasonably require.

But you know, I do have to wonder: what kind of cognitive dissonance would the good judge face if nude San Franciscans started being arrested while wearing black armbands?

It seems to me he'd have to agree they were indeed "sending a message" with the armbands, and therefore were under the First Amendment's protection at the time....

So here's the quandary: would all that mighty Constitutional protection apply just because of the tiny strip of cloth, and none at all only to, or because of, the entire fully human being wearing it?

Is that how Judge Chen conceives "all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights"... except if I take your armband away, I've just alienated your freedom of speech?

Somehow I don't think that's what Thomas Jefferson was "inherently expressing"!

Yet... picture the interrogatory, as the Chief of Police has to explain to the Judge how the law was applied in practice — since that's the level this dispute has come down to.

Judge: ... and it was made very clear the Board could regulate conduct but not speech, therefore traditional forms of speech, of expressing opinion, would not and could not be prohibited. I thought that much was made very very clear, Chief?

Chief: Yes, your Honor, and that's the dividing line we followed, just the way you set it out for us. Everyone has skin, so that's not an opinion; but not everyone expresses an opinion, so it's the differences to look out for; yes, we paid close attention to that. And at first, when the nude protesters came out all wearing black armbands, we thought, okay, they figured out how to get by, and we weren't going to make any arrests.

Judge: Then... why did you?

Chief: Well, all the counter-protesters, the Scott Wiener supporters and anti-nudity folks, pulled out black armbands from their pockets and put them on too, chanting "It's a black day for San Francisco!" Now everyone had black armbands, and these didn't stand for any one opinion anymore. As you put it, they didn't "inherently express" any particular message. That meant they no longer had First Amendment protection, so we just started arresting people without regard to the armbands.

Judge: Chief... that's... remarkably sophistical reasoning. Did you yourself just come up with this on the fly?

Chief: Oh, no, the counter-protesters' armband consultant and supplier flew out from Washington DC for the event, and he was standing right beside me when I had to make the decision. His advice was very helpful, and (points to audience) you can see he's the most knowledgeable man in the field.

Judge: I do see. It's a privilege to have you in my courtroom, Justice Scalia. ... But Chief, then you proceeded to arrest protesters who were not only wearing armbands but carrying clearly printed signs, which at least specify the opinion they express....

Chief: Ah, yes, ah, your Honor, the Justice had also brought out a supply of signs for the occasion,... ah, for every occasion, from birthday to Thanksgiving to union protest to "will work for food",... and by the time those were all up in the air and waving around, there was no longer a sense of any one group having anything coherent to say. So it was pretty much the same situation as with the armbands.

Judge: According to the legal advice with which he then kindly provided you?

Chief: Well, I guess he's not going to be overturned. Is he, your Honor?

Judge: We have just been blessed with help in our fair city, haven't we?


Monday, February 18, 2013

Is Theban "runic"? and other quandaries   (Originally posted for discussion at Wikipedia's Talk:Theban alphabet)

What if you could see where the secondary sources went wrong? (a meta-discussion)

To avoid confusion and hurt feelings, I should state clearly what my objection is not. The Wikipedia article Theban alphabet is an entirely uncontroversial, well-edited presentation of what all the trusted, published, paid-for secondary sources have been saying for decades on the topic, entirely in accord with Wikipedia's policies.
A frequent problem in "occult" topics is that secondary sources may have echo-chambered each other for decades or even centuries, thus setting a claim in stone as far as Wikipedia is concerned — but its foundation may truly be sand.
Meanwhile, others might be able to cite specific evidence, say "No, look here and here for yourself, with your own eyes" — and settle the matter, among the reasonable. ... Except on Wikipedia, where that's rejected out-of-hand as "original research", so that the old misconception remains enthroned. Let's see if this is a case in point.

Is "the Runes of Honorius" a misnomer, because "Theban is not a runic alphabet"?

From the earliest to the current version of this article, we are told Theban is also the "Runes of Honorius" — but "is not, however, a runic alphabet." Well, that's confusing, isn't it? Is our runes runic or isn't they? (And is our children educated?) May I suggest one short simple path to the light, so you could if you like revise the article accordingly? (I have no wish to edit-war, so I won't edit it at all.)

Follow that little blue link to Runic alphabet and ponder the actual meaning of "runic". It isn't limited to the angular-shaped Norse/Germanic carved letters. And I quote:
The name runes contrasts with Latin or Greek letters. ... The name is from a root run- (Gothic runa), meaning "secret" or "whisper". ... The name rune itself, taken to mean "secret, something hidden", seems to indicate that knowledge of the runes was originally considered esoteric, or restricted to an elite.
Was Theban a secret alphabet? Then it was in this sense a "runic" alphabet. Perhaps you think I'm playing modern word-games with you. No. Go read "Runes and Runic Magic in Old Germanic Religion" by Diego Ferioli at the New Antaios Journal (excerpt):
[W]hen Wulfila (4th c. AD) translated the Bible from Greek into Gothic, he rendered Greek μυστήριον (mystérion) "mystery", συμβούλιον (symboúlion) and βουλή (boulé), meaning "counsel", with Gothic runa.
Thus when Paul tells the Ephesians (3:4) of "the mystery of Christ," in the Gothic text that's "runai Xristaus." (The rune of Christ doesn't mean he was an angular carved Norse or Germanic character, does it? Outside some people's imaginations, that is.) Any more questions whether Theban was likewise "runic" — in the non-angular/carved sense?

"The Theban alphabet bears little resemblance to other alphabets...."

Superficial visual resemblance? Well, not much to the Latin alphabet, anyway. But what does that prove? Latin and Hebrew and Arabic and the old vertical Mongolian/Uighur script don't share superficial visual resemblances (they're written in three different directions, and two of them aren't even technically "alphabets" in their original form), yet in fact they're all related, descended from Phoenician script; sometimes you just have to look closer to discover the links. (And... if we do discover visual resemblances... what will that prove?)

Let's kick that poor dead "runic" equine some more: look at the Theban character w that does triple duty for U/V/W, sort of angular/carved-looking.... Now go look at the rune w (Wunjō) that does triple duty in Norse for U/V/W; oooh, does that mean Theban is at least partly a carved-runic alphabet after all? (Not really: cf. Nabatean waw (Waw), a very old and widespread Semitic character.) But now, d'you want to take another look at the Theban "L" l and the rune l (Laguz), flipping one or the other vertically? Or compare the Theban "F" f and "A" a to the corresponding runes f (Fehu) and a (Ansuz), flipping them horizontally? Or the Theban "E" e and rune a (Ehwaz), no flips at all?

For more kicks, consider the shapes, if not the values, of a few Georgian (Mkhedruli) letters, e.g.:

Is there a similar aesthetic at work? And if there is... so what? Given that the reputed script creators (Mesrop Mashtots of Armenia and Honorius of Thebes, whichever "Thebes" the latter denoted) came from the same religious culture (Eastern Christianity) and part of the world, some kinship would have been about as surprising between their scripts as between the superficially visually different Glagolitic and Cyrillic.

Which "Theban alphabet" are we discussing anyway?

The problem with making this "little resemblance" argument is using the nice big clean "Theban glyph" SVGs shown in the article, which frequently differ even from the original Theban letters shown in the old diagram at its upper right corner. (You can see for yourself the differences between old and new there on the page just by looking; it doesn't depend on anyone believing my assertion or "original research.") This is a modern script devised to help modern readers, by making the glyphs not so terribly alike (e.g. notice the closed top loop on the modern "B", compared to the old y-like character's open top which left A and B almost identical).

That's a perfectly honest and honorable reason to develop a new font; typographers compete all the time to accomplish more legible, useful, and beautiful scripts, and are justly celebrated when they achieve it. However, these are not usually then also presented elsewhere as being the original historical script.

If Wikipedia is showing readers a new version (which has letters made not to resemble each other too much) in order to demonstrate that the older version (not shown so big and clear) "bears little resemblance to other alphabets," isn't that manipulating the evidence?

In fact, given Wikipedia's influence as a reference source, isn't this quiet switcheroo unduly popularizing the modern script in place of the historical script? People can come here, copy the chart, and think they're learning the Olde Ways — not realizing they're learning to handwrite a computer font designed by someone who was dissatisfied with the original glyphs. When the product's not clearly labeled, I think at some level they're being cheated. And that makes this a stereotype of shoddy New Age marketing.

FYI, please note that the old script has not been universally abandoned, e.g.: .

Oh, those "angular" runes weren't always!

Runes were straight-edged and sharp-angled when carved into wood or stone, yes, that was a feature of the medium, along with avoiding horizontal lines to keep from cutting along the grain of the wood and thereby splitting it. But the same letters were also used for writing with ink-and-quill for extensive documents, and there was no such straight-and-angular limitation then: e.g. see the Codex Runicus (ca. 1300), and note that the runes are rounded rather than angled. You surely know that English writing continued to use Thorn (Þ þ) and Eth (Ð ð) long after the Conquest, still visibly curved in their manuscript form, and they can now be found in many standard English publishing computer fonts, as well as in the HTML entities Þ þ Ð ð -- still curved, not straight.

As Theban is an ink-and-quill, manuscript-lettering alphabet, naturally it doesn't look like wood-carved glyphs; but calling it "not runic" for that reason would require calling the runic manuscript Codex Runicus "not runic", which seems just a bit senseless to me.

Baseless claim that unicamerality suggests origin as cipher

The article states: "Theban letters only exist in a single case. This suggests an origin for Theban as a cipher calqued on Latin,...." — This is a non sequitur: the first statement in no way suggests, implies, or supports the second. Earlier above, we saw a few examples of Georgian letters; well, Georgian is unicase; should we likewise deduce that Georgian originated as a cipher calqued on Latin? And Hebrew, and Arabic, and Tamil, and Hangul? Those are unicase too! And the Ge'ez script used to write Ethiopian-regional languages, that's unicase as well... so is it also a cipher calqued on Latin, rather than (as everyone had thought) based on ancient South Arabian consonant-glyphs but attaching vowel-signs to create a syllabary? Well, gee, that might explain yet another odd similarity in letter-shapes to Theban!

Truly amazing how there are no scripts anywhere in the world with glyphs bearing resemblance to the Theban letters... until you actually open your eyes and look for them... right?

And is it clear now that the above-quoted suggestion about unicase scripts originating as ciphers (like other claims in the article) has no basis to be made by Wikipedia to its trusting readers?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Tale Best Untold (This was originally posted to Propnomicon.)
    Barry John: "The public may never know the terror that lurks in the shadowy depths."
    If they're lucky, and if their guardians stay true to the grim task ahead.
    It's the terrible truths that must be suppressed, after all, not the merely nasty myths.
    One can endure and recover from being made to perceive and even believe a horrible lie. One can awaken or be awakened from such a nightmare. Truth can be a remedy to such a falsehood.
    "Oh, that was just a movie, those were just actors with makeup, everyone's alive and making other films now, here are their latest projects, see?"
    Yet other tales must never be told in the first place, because they cannot be taken back, retracted, recanted, disproved. Once seen, they cannot be unseen nor waved away by other evidence.
    Their deepest horror is simply that they are not at all fictional; they have only thus far been not known... but once learned, they cannot be forgotten, to the learner's dismay and misery. There is no Lethe in this lifetime.
    I could tell people why I shake, tremble, and am brought to tears — not of fear, my friends, but of rage, shame, and a desire to tear down the pillars of society, to scream at innocent parents to grab their children and run for safety, and to tear a friendly mask away that no-one has dared look behind for some two thousand years — but they would not want to hear me. What would it gain them? The same anguish I have, no more. Certainly no hope of social esteem. One would be thought mad if one spoke of it in public. So I do my best to tamp this knowledge down. I see, I know, it flickers at the back of my mind, I say nothing, I turn away. Thus I keep my own mask on, watching the older and darker mask being maintained.
    The thing is, you seekers after darkness here probably know all the clues already, so there's nothing left to doubt. All it takes is putting the pieces together:
  • Item: inevitably, children cry and scream and wet themselves in fear of a happy friendly figure at a happy time despite their parents' best reassurances; this is always explained as irrationality on the part of children.
    (One reader insists: "But children are always afraid of strangers!" Well, no, not all children, not always, not of all strangers, and certainly not to this extreme degree. If they were, it would be remarkable. They are more afraid of this figure than of others — yet supposedly he is not a stranger, or at least children's parents are not introducing him as one.)
  • Item: this happy time dates back to the week-long Roman gift-giving festival Saturnalia in late December, dedicated to the red-cloaked god Saturn: "The potential cruelty of Saturn was enhanced by his identification with Cronus, known for devouring his own children. He was thus equated with the Carthaginian god Ba'al Hammon, to whom children were supposedly sacrificed."
  • Item: in Plato's Meno dialogue, Socrates demonstrates his theory of anamnesis (knowledge remembered from prior lives) by posing geometrical puzzles to an untaught slave boy who can solve them.
    Carthaginian child sacrifice
  • Item: Carthaginian children were taken on festival days to meet their people's beloved god; they were told the gifts their god would give them in heaven; they were told wishes and prayers to relay to the god from their parents, priests, kings, all their people; then they were led up the aisle to their god's great altar and sacrificed... not quickly by a throat-cutting with one of those little daggers, oh no, but by burning in a brazier.
    coal(It is always worth remembering that the constant companion of the generous gift-giver to the "nice" children is the giver of coal pieces to the "naughty" children, and what message beyond a reminder of burning is conveyed by a gift of coal?)
  • Item: if Socrates was right, at some level, some kids today remember this; that's why they cry and scream and wet themselves when they reprise the experience at the line for Santa in the Christmas mall. They just can't explain.
    Who'd expect, after all the real live human children sacrificed to Ba'al Hammon, that his modern counterpart Santa is thought of as a kind innocent figure, who loves children?
    Just like Cthulhu, as the old song says:
... Whether boiled or baked or fried,
With some french fries on the side,

[Cthulhu/Santa] loves the little children of the world!
detail of 'Saturn Devouring His Son' by Peter Paul Rubens, 1636 
[detail of Saturn Devouring His Son by Peter Paul Rubens, 1636]

ObMythos: For lack of space in the original Propnomicon comment, I omitted one little footnote about Santa/Saturn's Carthaginian counterpart Ba'al Hammon:
    He was also identified with Dagon.
    Not Lovecraft's Ponapean or Innsmouthean Dagon, perhaps, but the Middle-Eastern original that inspired him.
Santa Claus and his helper bagging naughty children to take them away
Bagging the naughty to take them away
    Consider the possibility that HPL's fantasy of degenerate New Englanders reviving a sacrificial Dagon cult was his satire on a horrid reality too enormous to bear direct and literal comment: an entire nation, an entire Western culture, sustaining for centuries the symbolism of a child-sacrificial Dagon/Ba'al-Hammon/Saturn cult, under the pretense of it being a benign Christian custom. No-one (save briefly the Puritans) dares speak out against it; it's too well socially entrenched, and will be fiercely defended.
    No little "fishy" or "lizard" pendants here, though; the cult's denoted by happy jolly kitschy red-cheeked white-bearded laughing fat old men's faces in white-fur-trimmed red conical caps, all molded in plastic, posted everywhere, over every retail store and your neighbors' front doors.
What? Not yours too? Why, you heretic, you heathen! Repent, convert, or die!

    And as usual, humanity blindly refuses to ask obvious questions, e.g.:
  1. How do natural materials like polar-bear fur, that come in white, get dyed that signature red? With what?
  2. On what diet does this infamous morbid obesity persist?
  3. How does he continue to reside at the North Pole long after the ice-cap has melted to open ocean?

    [That last, alone, should have alerted Dagon's foes.]

The Bloody-Robed Elder God  [excerpt]:
    Henry Armitage's voice blew across the windswept rooftop of the Manhattan Macy's building on this late December midnight, down the red carpet incongruously placed from the stairway-top access door to the ornamented throne even more incongruously placed by the roof's edge.
    The obscenely jolly and roly-poly red-clad figure seated there belched loudly, and casually brushed the terrified toddler from atop its crimson knees to let him huddle sobbing alone next to the throne. Beside and beneath its smiling rosy lips, its white beard constricted into cords, dreadlocks, and finally tentacles, pulling right and left like a curtain to reveal its true mouth below, vertical and fanged, gnashing the words: "Come forward; a larger meal would please me more."
    Armitage hadn't waited for the invitation. Bearing the sign of the Unconquered Sun in his fist, he marched down the carpet, denouncing: "Dagon! Ba'al Hammon! Saturn! Devourer of Children! You have had your last meal in this place! You have no more allies here! Go!"
    The thing on the throne tilted its head at the sound of an echoing boom from over the other edge of the roof, and its belly... no, it is better not to describe how its belly moved. But its voice could be said to have expressed some form of humor: "No more allies? But here come my allies now, even sooner than expected."
    Quickly, all around them, came the pitter-patter of little hooves... and antlers... and skulls... and other body parts....
    As the thing on the throne looked about in puzzlement and growing shock, another man (darkly clad in fedora and mackintosh, leaving only his nosetip illuminated by his cigarette) emerged from the rooftop shadows to exchange greetings with the thing's challenger:
    "Hello, Armitage."
    "Hello, Pearson." *
    "Dynamite. Stabler."
    "Took them all out pretty fast."
    "They shouldn't have let me join in all their silly games."

(* Hommage á William Jones, The Strange Cases of Rudolph Pearson, Chaosium, 2008.)

Related topic: The Decorated Tree

Babylonian bas-relief of Asherah tree
    According to the ancient Babylonians, Semiramis (who was believed to be both Nimrod's mother and wife – also known as Astarte, Asherah, Ashtoreth, Isis, Ishtar and Easter) made the claim that after Nimrod died, an evergreen tree sprang up overnight from a dead tree stump. Semiramis claimed that Nimrod visited the evergreen tree and left gifts each year on the anniversary of his birth (December 25th).*

    Cf. Deuteronomy 16:21-22: “You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make for yourself. You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the LORD your God hates.”

    1 Kings 14:23: “For they also built for themselves high places and sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and beneath every luxuriant tree.”

    Jeremiah 10:3-5: “For the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.”

    1 John 5:21: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”

* quoted verbatim from


    Thus judiciously consider the very authoritative words of Rev. Francis Xavier Weiser, S.J., in 1952's The [Catholic] Christmas Book: “The Christ [sic] tree is completely Christian in origin, and historians have never been able to connect it in any way with ancient Germanic or Asiatic mythology.” [emphasis added]
     Alas, no Bible verses can be cited in support of this “completely Christian” custom. However, Father Weiser notes, “in the fifteenth century the custom developed of decorating the Paradise tree, already bearing apples,” like evergreen trees everywhere, “with small white wafers representing the Holy Eucharist” — which, being transubstantiated, is the very body of Christ and to be venerated as such, hence his use of the term “Christ tree”. But this effective veneration of the tree as divine (i.e. as Christ) is precisely what makes it idolatry.