Saturday, February 24, 2018

Childcraft Books and the Gods

a Childcraft book from the mid 1950s

Do you remember the old Childcraft Books we used back in the 1950s.  Probably so.  I certainly do.  I was a Tow-headed boy of four or so when the books came into my home.  The books had a place of prominence in the living-room book case.  I can still see them sitting there in my mind's eye.  The books had vividly coloured, wonderful illustrations, that stimulated and multiplied my neurons each time I opened a book.  For me, the Childcraft books were not only a catalyst, but the catalyst, that turned me into a life long reader and searcher for the truth.  They began me on my journey to be a reader, historian, and writer.  
My favourite thing in the books were the old tales from our ancient past.  In the books I learned about our mythology, lore, fables, and old tales.  In the books I found the old Indo European tales about the gods and goddesses, Odin, Thor, Balder, Zeus, Heracles, etc.  As I grew older my love of lore also grew and I moved on to the tales of the Celtic gods and heroes, and there I knew I was home. Here I am, over a half century later and I still love to read and research the Old tales.

As I learned about Celtic mythology I gravitated to the the Gods of the Gael of course.  I have that ethnic connection of being a descendant of the Gael and naturally enough I was drawn to them; my people, my blood.  My surname McCain is anglicised from the Gaelic name Mac Eáin.  This surname taken in the AD 1300s and from DNA testing I know I descend from the Mac Ailpín families of mid Argyll, from the parish of Kilmichael Glassary.  This sort of thing sharpens one's interest in things Gaelic. There are genetic and even epigenetic factors at work there.

My favourite Gaelic god and the one I found most interesting was Dagda.  He is the father god to the Gaelic Celts of Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man.  Dagda is a very old name dating back to Indo European roots, from Dagos (good) Deivos (god).  His Continental cognate is Sucellos.  So Dagda is the Good God, he is also known as Crom, and in the time just prior to and after the Gaelic conversion to Christianity, he was normally called Crom.  

Our knowledge of him is known from the misty twilight of the distant past, but there is still enough to give him form and function.  Most of the primary source data, if it can be called that, comes from medieval manuscripts written by Christian clerks and monks.  The best known of these is the Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Invasions of Ireland).  It is a collection of prose and verse narratives the gives a mythological history of Ireland and the Gaelic people in general.  There are a number of versions of it and the book was written (copied down) in the 11th Century.  The stories in the book are of course much older.  The mere fact that the Christian monks took the time and effort to record the old pagan stories is a testament to how important they still were to the Gael, even centuries after the conversion to Christianity. 

The Gaels converted to Christianity in the 5th to 7th centuries, sort of.  They certainly converted, but many of the old pagan ways and beliefs continued.  In many ways, one could call the Gaels a Dual Faith people.  There was a conscious and sometimes, unconscious, preservation of pagan beliefs and ritual practices, but within a 'Christian' community.  Lughnasa, Halloween, Christmas, and Easter, all come with very thinly veiled Old Faith trappings.  The Faerie Faith, which lives to this day, is nothing more than the old gods still around.  There are Holy Wells, that date to pagan times, but with a Christian Saint's name attached to it.  There are still rituals, such as the blessing of the fleet in the Hebrides to Seónaidh (Shoney), i.e. Manannan Mac Lir, the Gaelic sea god (taboo to say his name outright).  

Most impressive is the old Lughnasa Festivals. On the face of it, Lughnasa is a festival for the Gaelic god Lugh and is celebrated from late July through August.  There is feasting, dancing, bonfires, and competitions, including an arts festival, with music and readings.  The festival managed to survive the 20th century and is even making a comeback here in the 21st century. 

Dagda, by a Japanese illustrator

There are older versions of Lughnasa however.... and more magical ones.  In some versions it is Crom Dubh, not Lugh, who presides over the harvest.  In Cloghane, Crom Dubh's image is seen in the local church where it is an object of luck and healing.  The Lughnasa festival in Cloghane village is still called the Domhnach Chruim Dhuibh, i.e. Crom Dubh's Sunday.  There is still a saying in the Gaeltacht there, said when someone is pronouncing something is true... Dar Chruim, which means, 'For Crom.'

So, from Childcraft book to a reader and writer, to long stays in Ireland, to speaking Gaelic, it all started with the Childcraft books way back in Ouachita parish, Louisiana.  Reading has power and magic... Dar Chruim.

This article is just my thoughts put down as I work on my next book.  I am in the process of reading, taking notes, etc., as I write the book down and prepare for publication.  As you might have guessed, the theme of Gaelic myth, the Faerie Faith, etc., are in the next book.  

If you enjoy these blog post, do not be shy about dropping some coins in the tip bucket.  It is part of the magic. 

© 2018 Barry R McCain


Monday, February 19, 2018

Orwell And Huxley

Neil Postman
(I came across the quote from Neil Postman from his book Amusing Ourselves to Death... I liked it and thought it apropos for our life and times.  Barry R McCain)

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism.

Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumble puppy.

As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists, who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny, “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”

In 1984, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.”

Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business.  


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Colonel Dodge 1834

Colonel Dodge 1834 by George Catlin

The illustration above is of Colonel Henry Dodge and is the work of George Catlin.  It is an excellent sketch and shows the colonel in the typical dress of this period of an active man on the frontier. 

Dodge was born 12 October 1782 and died in 19 June 1867.  He lived large and he was well known in his life an times.  He was a Democratic member of the US House of Representatives, a member of the US Senate, and was the Territorial Governor of Wisconsin.  Dodge was also a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Black Hawk War.  His son was Augustus C Dodge, who also served in the US Senate with his father. 

Dodge was a captain in a mounted company in the Missouri State Volunteers in the War of 1812.  He rose to the rank of major general of the Missouri militia by the war’s end.  He was a fierce Indian fighter against hostile Indians, but also showed great mercy to defeated Indians.  He saved a band of Miami Indians from certain death after a unsuccessful raid the Indians made on Boone’s Lick settlement in the summer of 1814.

Dodge later served as Colonel in the Michigan Mounted Volunteers of the western Michigan Territory during the Black Hawk War (1832).  His Michigan Mounted Volunteers were in the battles of Horseshoe Bend, Wisconsin Heights, and Bad Axe, as well as numerous smaller skirmishes. 

In the sketch above, Henry Dodge is seen in the typical dress Anglo-Celtic man on the frontier, wearing a ‘hunter’s frock.’   This is the archetypal dress on the frontier from early Colonial times well into the late 1800s.  It evolved from similar frocks in use in Ireland and Great Britain prior to Colonial times.

In 1833 Dodge’s militia command was replaced by the United States Regiment of Dragoons with Dodge as a colonel.  One of his captains was Nathan Boone, the youngest son of Daniel Boone.  In the summer of 1834 Colonel Dodge and his dragoons conducted the Dodge-Leavenworth Expedition into the southwest Great Plains.  The expedition was the first official contact between the southern Plains Indians and the United States government. 
Catlin's painting of Dodge and his Dragoons at a Comanche village on the plains

Dodge City is named after Henry Dodge, though there is a small faction that holds the city was named after Grenville Dodge, who was a Union officer in the WBTS and Indian Wars.  

Mountain of Rock, Comanche Chief, by George Catlin 

George Catlin (26 July 1796 – 23 December 1872) was an American artist and writer. He is known for his portraits of American Indians and Anglo-Celtic hunters and explorers in the Old West.  Catlin made five extended trips to the American west in the 1830s.  Catlin was the first white artist to portray the Plains Indians in their territory.

© 2018 Barry R McCain

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ouachita Mountains by William Rainey

The art of William Rainey, his photo of the Ouachita Mountains
I know where this photo was taken... from a vista up in my Ouachita Mountains.  This is the work of photographer William Rainey.  He does, as you see, excellent work.   A cold evening up in the Ouachitas.  The mountains have a special beauty to them in winter.  Quite a sight.

Barry R McCain

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Neuroplasticity and Me

7 Feb 2018 hard at work doing neuroplasticity

The word for the day is neuroplasticity, which is the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life.  This ability is especially important if one has a brain injury, such as a stroke.  In neuroplasticity the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain can and will compensate for injury and disease.  These nerve cells will  adjust their activities in response to new situations.

It is not unlike pruning a tree or bush.  You whack a part off and you get new shoots popping out everywhere.  The white coats call it ‘axonal sprouting.’   Undamaged axons grow new nerve endings to reconnect to neurons with links that are damaged, severed, or dead.  These axons can reconnect to the nerve endings.  New pathways are made to allow your damaged brain parts to function.  One gets better over time. 

There is a catch though... you normally have to work at it.  If you do not work at it, then you may not recover your lost brain function, this includes both mental and physical abilities.  This is very serious stuff and you want to ‘work at it’ like an über-mensch.  But, it is necessary, if you want to recover from a brain injury, and be at a level equal to, or even beyond, your pre-stroke level.
nerve endings at work and play
I am recovering fairly well.  My recovery has come with an interesting phenomenon. As I recover I have had very intense, metaphysical, dreams. In these dreams, I have been visited by relatives and family that have passed on, i.e. the dead talk to me in my dreams.  I know the nature of consciousness is wildly complex.  Not there is a silver lining to a dark cloud of a stroke, but as I recover I have an awareness of consciousness that was not there pre-stroke.  It awakened me in a way. Something has changed in me, mentally, or a better way to say it is, with my consciousness, and my awareness of the universe. 

Dr Jill Bolte Taylor is a brain research scientist.  She had a devastating stroke in 1996; this was while she was a brain research scientist.  She has written a book of her recovery which I find remarkable in that she had metaphysical experiences, and a change in her thinking, or awareness, of consciousness, not only her consciousness, but that of the universe as well.  She used her stroke, or it allowed her to perceive, a connection to the universe.    By-the-way, it took her many years, but she did recover, and returned to work as a brain research scientist and wrote a best-selling book about her stroke and recovery.  Her book is My Stroke of Insight.

So the word for the day is Neuroplasticity.   Use it. 

© Barry R McCain 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Maps and Trails

Fort Smith-Santa Fe Trail & Gila Trail to Fort Yuma

Maps are part of our research into family history and genealogy.  Learn the names of the trails and early roads on your maps.  I have a project where I am tracking the family of Robert D Tweedy from Conway County, Arkansas.  They travelled from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to what is now Los Angeles, California, in 1852.

George Tweedy was 8 years old in 1852 and on the Johnson wagon trail

Family lore told me they travelled on the Santa Fe Trail, but... that trail had two branches, one began in Independence, Missouri, and then on to Santa Fe in the New Mexico territory.  There was also a southern route.  This went from Fort Smith, Arkansas, following the Canadian River into New Mexico, and then on to Santa Fe.  

Using some keyword searches it did not take me long to track the Tweedy family on the Fort Smith-Santa Fe Trail.  I located the name of the wagon train captain, William Johnson, and the date he left on their journey, 17 April 1852.  Knowing these dates allowed me to research events and the family's path for that year.

If you use some logic with your internet searches, you will find details about your ancestors travels and the trails they used.  For example, I was able to locate the name of the wagon master, William Johnson, I located descendants of other families that were on that particular wagon train. Captain Johnson’s parents lived near Fort Smith, Arkansas, and were also on the 1852 wagon train lead by their son.  In my mind's eye,  I could easily see Alfred Johnson, son of Captain Johnson, and their families, talking to my kin, Robert D Tweedy and his family, around a night fire, hopefully, over coffee served in an enameled steel cup.  You could even hear the coyotes. 

The journey was a long one.  There was harsh terrain and the normal difficulties of travel by wagon on less than prime roads.  There were also hostile Indians.  The Johnson wagon train made it to Sante Fe and then went on another trail that would lead them to California.  This was the Gila Trail, which went from Santa Fe into southern New Mexico, southern Arizona territory, to the Colorado River crossing in the southwest Arizona territory.  
Fort Yuma 1860s
Work with a map, follow the route travelled by you ancestor.  You can find where they crossed rivers, what Indian tribes were hostile, what dangers they faced.   Captain Johnson’s 1852 wagon train had a particularly hazardous journey.  War had broken out between the Yuma Indians and the settlers and US Army.  The Yuma tribe conducted a series of bloody raids against both setters and the US military.  The Yuma Indians raids succeeded in closing down the small military fort near the crossing of the Colorado River.  

US Cavalry circa 1852

Fortunately, for my Tweedy kinsmen, and all on Captain Johnson’s wagon train, help arrived before the party had to make the Colorado River crossing. US Army Captain Heintzelman with 150 cavalry troopers deployed in the area to protect the river crossing. Captain Heintzelman and his men engaged a large group of over 300 Yuma warriors and defeated them.  The fort which had been abandoned earlier, was reoccupied by the US cavalry and named Fort Yuma.  The Colorado River crossing was secured.  Johnson’s wagon train reached Fort Yuma late in October or early November.  Their journey from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Fort Yuma, Arizona Territory, took six months.  From there the trip became somewhat less dangerous and they arrived in what is now the Los Angeles in the winter of 1852.

When you research, do not neglect your geography. Maps are a joy and tell stories.  Learn how to use them, to explore with them.  

© 2018 Barry R McCain