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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.


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May 24, 2010


Last week J and I went to a similar soccer match, between our local team and SL Benfica. We learned that the fellow who regularly sits in front of us was born in Portugal, so it was funny to hear him switch from his usual Boston accent into fluent Portuguese. Those tongues of flame hide in unlikely places.

We enjoyed a festive Pentecost, nearly everyone in our congregation wore red, and we had special music.
It was also the anniversary of my christening, in a time and place where, as you say, the day was more often referred to as Whitsunday. My mother rang me up to wish me "happy anniversary" of my baptism...which occurred in my infancy, so she recalls the event as I cannot. But it was fun reviewing the photos, and posting one to my blog.

When I was a kid everyone in England called it Whitsun, and I had absolutely no idea this name was a pagan leftover!

I love how you've pulled together the ancient, the pagan and the modern here, and the Arthurian jousts with soccer! I too did not know about Whitsun being pagan or that it was the same as Pentecost. Not too long ago I also first made the connection that the Finnish 'Helluntai' meant Pentecost, or else I'd forgotten it from my early Sunday school days.

Yes, I'd like a communal festival at Midsummer where absolutely anyone could go and dance round a bonfire! Wouldn't cost much, and a lot of relationships would be renewed or made. A lot of these ancient festivals included all ages and must have have done people an enormous amount of good, with the elation and dispelling of isolation. People's lives are much more fragmented now. In a way it's a good thing - the old tribal and village life wasn't all roses. You had to be fairly ordinary to fit in, and it was almost impossible to escape a difficult family or marriage - you couldn't leave the community to go to a university course, a shared flat or a bedsitter in the city. Some people in past centuries did leave and try their luck in the metropolis, but with little money often fell into the hands of predators or into drudgery.

Some people who rose above a small community never returned to it - e.g. Arnold Bennett who never went back to the Potteries after he escaped. Ah well, life is contradictory!

I've been thinking about this essay a lot the past few days. Got my copy of Morte d'Arthur off the shelf. I think I'll start reading it. You're right on about how easy it is to live in this world without any shared experiences, those myths and moments that we can all feel a part of.

My wife, who grew up in a tight-knit extended family, is wont rather grimly to observe, like Vivien, that most of the people who lament its passing have never experienced its constraints. Nevertheless her family instincts have served our family well, I think, and I'm glad our kids got to spend so much time with their elderly grandparents -- including looking after them in illness and being with them at death. They're the richer for it, I think, and will find death easier to cope than my nuclear, soon-atomized birth family did.

I have the same ambivalence toward tribal rituals and community celebrations: I approve of them in principal, and flee them in fact.

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