Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Gues blogger Carolyn Emerick on Hop-ta-Naa

Some time ago I wrote a post on Hop-tu-Naa,  but I wanted to share this with my gentle reader because, to be truthful I would love to participate in this celebration someday.

A turnip lantern for Hop-tu-Naa. | Source
A turnip lantern for Hop-tu-Naa. | Source

Hop-tu-Naa: Halloween on the Isle of Man

Map of the British Isles with the Isle of Man in red.

The Isle of Man

The Isle of Man, or Mann, is located in the Irish Sea nestled between Ireland, Scotland, and England. It has a long history of human habitation since pre-historic times. Today it is part of Great Britain, but also remains self-governing.
Because of its strong Gaelic heritage, the Isle of Man is recognized as one of the six Celtic Nations by the Celtic League (some consider there to be seven, but Galicia is not recognized by the Celtic League).
Strong community usage of a Celtic language within recent memory is one important criteria of acceptance into the Celtic League (which is what disqualifies Galicia). The Celtic language historically spoken in Mann is called Manx. The term Manx is also used to describe anything that comes from the Island.
Like other islands in the region, Mann also shares some Norse heritage due to Viking settlement and Norse rule in the early Middle Ages. So some of the customs and folklore of the region retain unique flavor from a combination of cultural influences. The Isle is home to a large collection of both Celtic and Norse stone crosses carved with the knot work both cultures are famous for.


October 31st

Bonfires have been an age old tradition during Celtic festivals for centuries. Although, the Celts certainly did not invent the invocation of flames at pagan gatherings. Bonfires were common at seasonal festivals all around Europe very likely dating to Neolithic times and continuing into the Modern Era.
The Celts are most famous for their bonfires that occurred on Beltane (May 1st, May Day) and Samhain (October 31st, Halloween).
There is a lot of talk now-a-days about how Halloween evolved from Samhain. While this is mostly true, this explanation neglects to explain that October 31st was a festival time for peoples all around Europe, not just the Celts. Not only that, but not all Celts called their October 31st festival Samhain. There could be variations of spelling and pronunciation, or a completely different name all together. And as time advanced, new names and customs could eclipse the old.
The truth is that most of the Indo-European people, from which the Celts, Germanic, Slavic, and most European groups descend, celebrated many of their festivals at the same times as each other, apart from agricultural festivals which would vary from year to year based on the growing cycle.


The origins of Hop-tu-Naa on the Isle of Man a bit of a mystery, and there is very little written on it. A book called "The Folklore of the Isle of Man" by Margaret Killip gives more information than what is available on the internet. She explains that while some of the customs of Hop-tu-Naa coincide with Samhain (spelled Sauin by Killip), many others are unique to the island.
The term Hop-tu-Naa is speculated to come from the Gaelic phrase Shoh ta'n Oie, meaning "this is the night."
I can't help but notice a similarity in sound and syntax with the Shetland Island festival of Up-Helly-Aa. Similarity of sound does not necessarily imply a relationship. But, both islands lie outside the coast of Scotland, and both have a history of mixed heritage between the Celts and Norse.

Another point of interest is the custom of Trick or Treating in relation to Hop-tu-Naa. Although we know that the custom was brought to America by Scots-Irish immigrants, the ancestor of the trick-or-treating custom apparently withered out in its homelands while it flourished in America, and was only recently re-introduced to Britain. Indeed, many modern day journalists in Britain and Ireland have referred to it as an American custom, and it is reported to have only become popular in these countries the past 20 years or so.
How curious, then, that trick-or-treating among Manx children is described by Ms. Killip in her book, published in 1975! Halloween was also referred to as Hollantide Eve on the Isle of Man, and Killip explains that the children went door to door carrying their carved turnip lanterns singing the Oie Houney song about Jinny the Witch.
I think it is important to point out two things here. Firstly, ancient customs continue on much longer in rural, isolated communities such as the Isle of Man. Secondly, new customs from foreign lands catch on much later in rural and isolated communities than they do in metropolitan areas, especially in the days before the internet and cable television brought world cultures in such immediate contact with each other. Therefore, it seems very likely to me that trick-or-treating on the Isle of Man (although they may not have called it by that name) as reported in Margaret Killip's book, is more likely to be directly related to ancient Celtic customs of the region, and not an American import, whereas other parts of Britain have been re-introduced to the custom by way of America.

The Hop-tu-Naa Song

Manx children have been singing the Hop-tu-Naa song for so long that no one is quite sure how old it is.
The lyrics describe the night as one of cattle slaughter and feasting, which hearkens back to another universal aspect of the October 31st festival around northern Europe.
The dark and dreary months of winter in northern climes were associated with malicious spirits. Animals were brought indoors to protect them from whatever evil could be lurking.
Early November was slaughtering season. Large herds could not be fed through the long winters, and sick or elderly animals would not survive the cold. So it was time to thin the herd and keep the most healthy and hearty. And, of course, whenever there was a slaughter there would also be a feast.

A Manx Musical Trio

This custom is reflected in the first lines of the Hop-tu-Naa Song:
This is old Hollantide night; Hop-tu-naa.
The moon shines bright; Trol-la-laa
Cock of the hens; Hop-tu-naa.
Supper of the heifer; Trol-la-laa
Which heifer shall we kill? Hop-tu-naa.
The little speckled heifer. Trol-la-laa
The end of the song is reminiscent of trick-or-treating rhymes rehearsed by American children over the past 100 years:
If you are going to give us anything, give it us soon,
Or we'll be away by the light of the moon.

Jinny the Witch

Some regional variations on the Hop-tu-Naa song briefly mention a figure called Jinny the Witch. In other versions, the entire song is about her.
As it turns out, Jinny was a real person. Her name was Joney Lowney and she was tried for witchcraft on the Isle of Man in 1715. Like many witchcraft trial victims, the accusation was hurled at her due to an altercation with a neighbor, not because of any act of malice on her part.
Probably due to the late date (the witch craze in Europe was over by this point) and also due to the cultural climate of the island, Jinny was not killed and given a comparatively light sentence.
Although she may not have been very sinister in real life, Jinny the Witch has grown into a frightening character and quintessential part of Manx modern day Hop-tu-Naa celebration.

Other age old customs of Hop-tu-Naa included baking Saddag Valloo, or Dumb Cake. It was thus named because it would have to be eaten in silence. The custom of "dumb supper" appears to have also been present on mainland Scotland. The Oxford Index contains an entry on this custom as well.
Today, Hop-tu-Naa continues to be celebrated on the Isle of Man. Although, sadly, just as in America, the custom of going door to door seems to be dwindling in favor of indoor events where children dress up, carve their lanterns, and receive candy. These events are often organized by local town governments or even by large shopping centers. Yet, ancient customs like singing the Hop-tu-Naa song still prevail.

Short video of Hop-tu-Naa in Cregneash, Mann


I found much of my information in Margaret Killip's "The Folklore of the Isle of Man" and the following websites:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


glows beyond the panes
and he watches, and he waits
safe in his own glow

Monday, October 16, 2017

Summer music

After a walking in the cascade of falling leaves, the trees showing more and more of their branches each day, I knew it was long past summer, even though the  bees and bugs were busily flying past me, the sun was strong and it felt like a summer day until the wind picked up, summer was behind us, no matter how much I wanted it to be otherwise.   But it is also ahead of us.  And that is why I am posting this.   Enjoy!  

Friday, October 13, 2017

guest Blogger Mama Donna Henes on Friday the 13th

here are a few thoughts for you about Friday the 13, and the number 13 in general. both of which I have usually found to be varying degrees of lucky for me.

Considering the incalculable complexity of the universe, the sometimes cruel vagaries of nature, the capriciousness of circumstance, the sheer precariousness of existence, people have always thought it prudent to propitiate the powers that be. To invoke their protection and to seek the good fortune of their favor.
It is simply too dangerous to leave life to chance. To do so would be to invite disaster. Luck must never be taken for granted. One can never assume. It requires constant courtship, demands undivided devotion. Luck exacts unrelenting vigilance and expects a perpetual attempt to appease. Luck trucks no indolence.
The Latin proverb encourages, "Fortune favors the bold." In Sicily, it is bad luck to say, "Good luck." Theater people agree and say, "Break a leg" when they mean "Good luck" so as to trick fortune into smiling on them. "When fortune turns against you, even jelly breaks your teeth," goes an Iranian proverb; "When fortune calls, offer her a chair," counsels a Yiddish saying.        
Survival seems to depend on the ability to placate fate. So it is incumbent upon one to search for and respond to the subliminal signs, subtle portents, secret signals, and subconscious symbols sent by divine authority. It is essential to observe, interpret, and obey all omens, oracles, and other holy hints. Like milestone markers along the miracle trail, these are clear indicators of the almighty attitude of the moment - fortunate indulgence or fatal aversion.
The one sure thing about luck is that it's always changing. Like life itself, the only certainty is uncertainty. Still, throughout time and across culture, folks have devised complete systems of encoded behavior to ensure that their deities are kept satisfied. Methods, tested, tried and true, which seem to succeed in soliciting divine fortune are considered to be lucky. These magical formulas for fortune are the basis of myth, ritual, tradition, taboo, sanction, and superstition.
Lest we think that the currying of beneficent favor is quaint custom practiced by foreigners somewhere in the third, fourth, or fifteenth world, just take a good look at us. We knock on wood, step over cracks, and around open ladders. We tie ribbons around trees, knots around our fingers, and strips of silk around our necks when we go off to work. We carry the feet of small rodents in our pockets, and nail the footwear of horses onto our houses and barns. We close our eyes, hold our breaths, bite our tongues, and spit at our feet. We cross our fingers, cross our hearts and hope to die.
We throw salt over our shoulders and pick the petals off of flowers reciting love charm incantations. We put coins in our shoes and under our pillows, throw them into fountains, and toss them into the air to tell us what to do, which way to turn. We shun certain days, foods, colors, activities, plants, and animals. We balk when a black cat crosses our path. We think twice about opening an umbrella indoors or lighting three cigarettes with one match. We are convinced that bad things always happen in threes. We are wary of some numbers, yet bet our lives on others.
We especially steer scrupulously clear of 13 anything. 

Fear of the number 13 is the most prevalent superstition in the Western world. We even have a name for it: triskaidekaphobia. It is quite common for even the most ordinarily rational and otherwise exemplary person to refuse to sit in row 13 in the theater or on an airplane.  Most hotels and office buildings don't even have a 13th floor. That unlucky designation is often omitted because no one wants to be situated in such an inauspicious location.   
To sit 13 people at the dining table is supposed to be exceptionally unlucky, the consequences of which could be potentially catastrophic. It is commonly thought that this particular prohibition in Christian culture comes from the fateful, fatal outcome of the Last Supper: Jesus shared a meal with his 12 disciples and he died the very next day. Judas is generally considered to be the 13th diner. In Norse mythology, the mischievous and cruel Loki crashed a feast attended by 12 gods in Valhalla, the Viking paradise. During the course of the evening, one of the guests, Balder, the embodiment of conviviality, joy and gladness, was killed.
In Babylonia, 13 people were chosen to portray the god/desses at certain religious feasts. The 13th participant, seated on a throne to one side was executed subsequent to the ceremony. Interestingly, the 13th seat at the Round Table in King Arthur's court, was reserved for the fortunate knight who would one day succeed in finding the Holy Grail. In France, it is still possible, even at a moment's notice, to hire a quatorziƩme, a professional 14th guest, to ensure the safety and well-being of a dinner party which has been threatened by a dangerous number of cancellations or odd numbers of last minute guests.
When the 13th day on the month lands on a Friday, the culturally unfavorable attributes of each are multiplied by infinity. Friday is heavily charged with guilt and pain and death in the Judeo- Christian tradition. It was on a Friday that Eve served forbidden fruit pie at her legendary garden soiree. Friday was the day that Adam was expelled from Paradise, the day he repented, the day he died and the day he was cremated. And it was on a Friday - Good Friday - that Christ was killed on the cross. Friday, the day of original sin, the day Jesus died, the day of public hangings, in combination with 13, the number of steps on a gallows, the number of coils of rope in a hangman's noose, the number of the Death card in the tarot deck, is indubitably designated as a day of portent and doom.
Ironically, and in definite defiance of the laws of probability, the 13th day of the month, is more likely to fall on a Friday than on any other day of the week. The precisely aligned pattern of our calendar - days, weeks and months - repeats itself exactly every 400 years. In that 400 year period there are 688 Friday the 13ths. "Just our luck!" some might say.
And, though they would mean it facetiously, they would, indeed, be right. For up until the patriarchal revolution, both Fridays and 13s were held in the very highest esteem. Both the day and the number were associated with the Great Goddesses, and therefore, regarded as the sacred essence of luck and good fortune.
Thirteen is certainly the most essentially female number - the average number of menstrual cycles in a year. The approximate number, too of annual cycles of the moon. When Chinese women make offerings of moon cakes, there are sure to be 13 on the platter. Thirteen is the number of blood, fertility and lunar potency. 13 is the lucky number of the Great Goddess.
Representing as it does, the number of revolutions the moon makes around the earth in a year, 13 was the number of regeneration for pre-Columbian Mexicans. In ancient Israel, 13 was a sanctified number. Thirteen items were decreed necessary for the tabernacle. At 13 years of age, a boy was (and still is) initiated into the adult Jewish community. In Wicca, the pagan Goddess tradition of Old Europe, communicants convene in covens of 13 participants. Thirteen was also auspicious for the Egyptians, who believed that life has 13 stages, the last of which is death - the transition to eternal life.
Held holy in Her honor, Friday was observed as the day of Her special celebrations. Jews around the world still begin the observance of the Sabbath at sunset on Friday evenings when they invite in the Sabbath Bride. Friday is the Sabbath in the Islamic world. Friday is also sacred to Oshun, the Yoruba orisha of opulent sensuality and overwhelming femininity, and Frig the Norse Goddess of love and sex, of fertility and creativity. Her name became the Anglo-Saxon noun for love, and in the sixteenth century, frig came to mean "to copulate."
Friday was associated with the early Mother Creation Goddesses for whom that day was named. In Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian, Icelandic and Teutonic cultures she was called variously, Freya, Freia, Freyja, Fir, Frea and Frig. Friday is Frig's Day, Frigedaeg, in Old English, Fredag in Danish, Freitag in Dutch. In Mediterranean lands, She reigned as Venus. In Latin, Friday is the Day of Venus, Dies Veneris; Vendredi in French,Venerdi in Italian and Viernes in Spanish.
Friday the 13th is ultimately the celebration of the lives and loves of Lady Luck. On this, Her doubly-dedicated day, let us consider what fortuitous coincidences constitute our fate. The lucky blend of just the right conditions, chemistries, elements and energies, which comprise our universe. The way it all works. The way we are. That we are at all. That, despite whatever major or minor matters we might think are unlucky, we have somehow managed to remain alive and aware. This Friday the 13th, let us stand in full consciousness of the miraculousness of existence and count our blessings. Knock on wood.

With blessings of great good luck!

xxMD signature  

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

haiku foggy morn

October's rainy night
fireplace and quilts warmed us
morning colors, mist

Monday, October 9, 2017

Guest blogger Nelson R. Shaffer wrote some good stuff on meteorites

One day I found this little piece of army green glass.   It wasn't glass though it was of olivine, space glass really.  I have never found a iron meteorite, probably would think it was "clinker" if I did.  Then I can across this  article.

This being October , the month of the Orionid meteor showers, which  began about October second, will peak about the 20th, and finish around Nov 9th, got me thinking about how often I saw, meteors when I was out Trick or Treating in the olden days, when it was common for costumed  fun for the 5 nights before All Hallows E'ven.  

Meteorites in Indiana by:
Nelson R. Shaffer

Photo showing cut surface of the LaPorte County meteorite. Cut surface of the LaPorte County meteorite.
Meteorites are rocks that fall to Earth from outer space. They have fascinated mankind since the beginning of time. They are scientifically valuable objects that help geologists understand the origins of planets and the processes that shape the Earth. Meteorites are rare and they exhibit special features that differentiate them from Earth rocks.
Among characteristics that identify meteorites are a high specific gravity (especially true for irons); a dark color; and a dark glassy or dull crust if fresh or a rind of iron oxide (rust) if weathered. Most meteorites attract a magnet, although some only slightly. Many show aerodynamic shape, and their crusts may be marked with flow structures or shallow depressions called "thumbprints".
Photo showing cut surface of the Lafayette County meteorite. The Lafayette meteorite exhibits flow structures. Click to see a larger view.
Chondrules are almost certain proof that an object is a meteorite. A mixture of nickel and iron that appears as bright metallic flecks in a stone, or that makes up most of the object, also is a positive indicator. The Widmanstatten pattern (see LaPorte meteorite image) is also further proof.
Many tests needed to verify the identity of a meteorite should be performed by an experienced scientist, as much of the scientific information can be lost if the meteorite is improperly handled.
Iron meteorites are mainly made of the nickel-iron minerals kacacite and taenite. But they may also contain other minerals and metals, such as cobalt, copper, and zinc.
Stony irons consist of about 50 percent nickel and iron and 50 percent silicate minerals. They are of two types: the pallasites and the mesosiderites. Pallasites have large (5-10 mm) glassy grains of olivine in a continuous matrix of nickel-iron. Mesosiderites contain small, bright, irregularly distributed metal flecks in a matrix of plagioclase and pyroxene minerals. Despite their apparent similarity, pallasites and mesosiderites appear to have different histories.
This specimen exhibits shallow depressions called thumbprints. This specimen exhibits shallow depressions called thumbprints.
Stone meteorites are mineralogically the most complex and are the most abundant. They are dominantly made of silicates. Two main types—chondrites and achondrites—are recognized.
Chondrites, the most common (84 percent of falls), contain small (less than 1/8 inch) structured spheres called chondrules. Chondrules are found only in meteorites and contain some of the oldest material known to Man. Their origin is still uncertain, despite many theories proposed to explain them.
Achondrites—the second type of stone meteorites—contain silicates but do not contain chondrules. They resemble basalt from the Earth and represent about 8 percent of falls.
Many rocks and manmade objects appear similar to meteorites. Some suspected meteorites that proved not to be meteorites when examined closely at the Indiana Geological Survey were igneous rocks left by glaciers, sedimentary rock concretions, metallic alloys, and pieces of silicon. Even materials fused together by trash fires can
resemble meteorites.
Photo showing the Hangman's Crossing meteorite, which exhibits diagnostic features of a stone meteorite. The Hangman's Crossing meteorite exhibits features that are indicators of meteorites. Click to see a larger view.
*Meteorites that are seen as they fall and are recovered shortly after landing are classed as Falls; those that are accidently found long after falling are classed as Finds.


  • Thin, dark glassy-to-dull coating or fusion crusts
  • Flow structures or "thumbprints" on outside
  • Aerodynamic shape
  • High specific gravity
  • Metallic nickel-iron
  • Widmanstatten pattern
  • Small spherical chondrules
  • Attracts magnets

Image of pie chart showing distribution of meteorite classes..

Gues blogger Carolyn Emerick on Hop-ta-Naa

Some time ago I wrote a post on Hop-tu-Naa,  but I wanted to share this with my gentle reader because, to be truthful I would love to parti...