Good for the goose

“A wild goose never reared a tame gosling.”
Irish Proverb quotes

The early Celtic Christians called the Holy Spirit ‘the wild goose.’ And the reason why is they knew that you cannot tame him.
John Eldredge

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(a goose in search of his breakfast Harvey’s Point Lodge, Louge Eske , County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook)

An Geadh-Glas, otherwise known to English speakers as the wild goose, is most likely the furtherest thought in one’s mind when thinking about Christianity, Christian symbolism or especially when pondering the most mysterious component of the Triune Godhead, the Holy Spirit.

Yet the early Celtic Church, that amazing amalgamation of deeply mystical Christianity and equally mystical yet enigmatic Celtic culture, saw not a docile gentle cooing dove as the supreme representative of God’s Spirit but rather the often loud, raucous, stubborn and determined goose as a more true emblematic example of God’s most untamed and fiercely determined nature–a nature much like their own.

The Celts were a fierce warrior nation comprised of the bloodlines of Vikings, Danes, Druids, Picts and members of the northern regions of ancient Albion (northern Great Britain)
The Roman Empire never occupied Ireland, nor did the Anglo Saxons who later filled the void in the Birtish Isles following the fall of Rome.

These very supertisious people were fiercely independent, steeped in their haunting pagan rituals and customs–much of which remain as a continuing mystery to modern historians and archeologists.

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(Drombeg stone circle, known as the Druid’s altar, County Cork, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Drombeg stone circle, known as the Druid’s altar, County Cork, Ireland /Julie Cook / 2015)

It was in this land of lush misty covered greens, haunting shifting shadows and talk of the wee folk…where land, sea and sky join as one, that both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolken roamed, finding abundant inspiration for each of their most famous literary works.

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(Killarney National Park within the Ring of Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Killarney National Park within the Ring of Kerry / Julie Cook / 2015)

“Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit, translated simply as St Patrick, is probably the best known and most famous Irishman who in actuality was Scottish by birth. Patrick had been spirited away to Ireland as a young child by marauding pirates yet eventually became the revered patron saint of the entire Irish nation. It is Patrick who is credited for not only having introduced Christianity to the Emerald Isle, but for being the “designer” behind what we know as the celtic cross.
That most familiar image of a latin cross wrapped with a circle.

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(celtic cross in the graveyard at Dumcliff Church / County Sligo, Ireland / 2015 / Julie Cook)

It is said that the pagan Celts considered the sun to be an integral part of their worship. Circles have been found etched and carved on many excavated Celtic ruins. I think it’s rather easy to understand the importance behind worshiping the sun for the Celts— if you’ve ever spent much time in Ireland, you know how wet and grey it can be. There are parts of Ireland which receive up to 225 days of wet rainy weather each year, in turn making any and all sunny days a rare and treasured commodity.

Patrick had to be inovative if he wanted to get the Celts attention and gain their trust as the ultimate goal was total conversion and allegiance to the one true God. So Patrick set about with a brilliant plan combining both a component most important to the Celtic nation, that being the sun–a revered circle, bridging the abyss to the most important image to Christians, the Latin cross, with the addition of a circle ringing around the cross–a combination representing both sun and Son as the circle is also a Christian symbol representing God’s endlessness.

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(covering of one of the many purported wells used by Patrick to baptized the new converts to Christ, found buried near the site of present day St Patrick’s Cathedral /Dublin, Ireland / 2015 / Julie Cook)

Patrick is also considered as the one person who established the shamrock as one of Ireland’s most endearing symbols. The Celts were an agrarian nation as Ireland is a rich fertile island due in part to being on the receiving end of the warming and wet energies of the Atlantic gulf stream. As an island people they were deeply connected, attuned as well as dependent on the land. So Patrick utilized those things that were common and entrenched in the common man’s life. A most humble yet prolific example being the clover. The clover was a perfect teaching tool as it so beautifully manifests the image of the Holy Trinity.

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(early clover images on an ancient carving on a crypt in St Patrick’s Cathedral / Dublin, Ireland / 2015)

In the early days of the young Christian Church, many a humble yet determined monk of the fledgling Christian Church came and went from this mystical isle in hopes of further spreading the Gospel.
Some traveled freely while others sadly disappeared…lost in time…victims of pirates, invaders, and local hostilities.

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(plaque commemorating the lives of the Teelin monks who set sail for Iceland in the 5th century / Teelin , Slieve League, County Donegal, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Yet for all the anguished years of famine and immigrations, for all of her tumultuous history of waring invaders and defiant fought battles, Ireland has held fiercely fast and tight to her Christian roots. We are all aware of the growing insidious cloud of secularism that is sweeping across Europe and Western society…we are also all painfully aware of Ireland’s past “troubles”—the deep and often bloody mistrust and resentment between north and south, Catholic and Protestant, British Crown and Independent…yet despite all the years of bloodshed, turmoil, both internal and external, Ireland has laid claim and held on undeterred to her faith…a faith of deep respect for the God of all Salvation as well as the Great Creator of both land and sea, heaven and sky.

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(both cat and goose wait for feeding / Harvey’s Point Lodge, County Donegal / Julie Cook / 2015)

Christ be with me
Christ before me
Christ behind me
Christ in me
Christ beneath me
Christ above me
Christ on my right
Christ on my left
Christ where I lie
Christ where I sit
Christ where I arise
Christ in the heart of every man
who thinks of me
Christ in the mouth of every man
who speaks of me
Christ in every eye that sees me
Christ in every ear that hears me
Salvation is of the Lord.</em
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Scurvy, Limeys, Victorian Stockings and St. Nicholas

“A man ought to carry himself in the world as an orange tree would if it could walk up and down in the garden, swinging perfume from every little censer it holds up to the air.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic
His giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”

― St. Nicholas of Myra

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(bowls of both whole and sliced Calomondians and Kumquats being readied for a cranberry relish / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Shiver me timbers boys.
Looks like the scurvy’s hit the ship”

Scurvy you ask?
A devastating Vitamin C deficiency which was a very common occurrence for sailors, as well as pirates, of the 1600 and 1700’s. Cases have actually been documented as far back as ancient Egypt.

Months aboard a ship, with very little fresh water and food, let alone the luxuries of fresh fruits such as oranges, lemons or limes, rendered sailors deathly sick. It was an abnormality of sailing that left captains and doctors scratching their heads.
Sailor’s gums would swell and hurt. Their teeth would begin to fall out, their legs would swell, turning purple– a condition, which left untreated, would eventually lead to death.

It wasn’t until the 1747 when British doctor James Lind, intrigued by the mysterious ailment afflicting British Sailors, as well as renegade sailors such as pirates, conducted several experiments determining that the sailor’s bodies were depleted of Vitamin C.
Therefore all British sailors were originally issued lemons and lemon juice as part of their sea rations. However, lemons not always being as plentiful as limes, a substitution was hence made. It seems that the acid content of limes is less than lemons, almost by 50%, so the sailors would have to consume larger quantities of limes, earning them the moniker of Limeys.

The gift giving of citrus, particularly oranges, didn’t occur until the Victorian Era when children began receiving an orange in their stockings on Christmas Eve. In fact, the celebration of Christmas itself, much as we know it to this day—that of jolly ol St Nicholas, gift giving, card sending, a decorated tree and stockings being hung on the mantle, is greatly attributed to Victorian England and the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. The custom of placing an orange in a stocking first became popular in England and much later in the United States with the birth of the tansconinental railway system.

Oranges were considered to be an exotic novelty as they had to be shipped to England from more southern Mediterranean climates. And what more special gift could one give to weary winter senses than a tropical fruit such as an orange?! The fact that oranges and other citrus fruit helped to ward off deadly disease by offering much needed and depleted vitamins made even more sense when it came to offering them to children, especially those in disadvantaged families where fresh fruits and vegetables were considered luxuries.

Scurvy was not a disease confined only to those stuck on ships for months at a time, but it was a prevalent disease throughout Ireland during the deadly potato famine. Many soldiers as well as civilians also fell victim to the disease throughout much of Russia during the deadly Crimean war.

The custom of oranges as gifts however dates back even earlier than Victorian England–actually as far back back to 325 BC, to our original St Nicholas who was the Bishop of Myra, located in present day Turkey.

Known for his generosity to the poor and disadvantaged, legend has it that St Nicholas learned of three sisters who’s father was so terribly poor that he could not provide a dowery for his daughters–therefore the girls were to be sold into slavery. Nicholas who had come from a wealthy family took it upon himself to secretly deliver a bag of gold for each girl. It is said he tossed the gold through an open window, which in turn landed in a shoe–hence why many European children began leaving shoes out on the eve of St Nicholas day (December 19th) in order to receive a gift.
The gold, over the years, evolved into being associated with that of a gold ball and eventually an orange.
And as time would have it, St Nicholas who was the patron saint of children, also evolved– eventually becoming associated with the birth of the Christ child and one who would deliver presents to children on a certain night in December (as according to the Julian Calendar)

In the United States, oranges where given as gifts following the completion of the transcontinental railway system, when items such as citrus fruit grown primarily in California and Florida, could be transported all over the country. Oranges were especially popular during WWII as a special stocking stuffer since the rationing of so many food items had become prevalent during the war days. To receive any and all types of fresh fruits were considered a very special treat.

Which brings us back around to today and the growing prevalence of oranges, and their citrus cousins such as grapefruits, which are currently whisking their way to grocery stores shelves across the country as our “winter” fruits now make their debut. With the growing seasons of the citrus crops in both California and Florida coming to fruition, now during the Christmas season, there’s no better refreshingly bright addition to a home than either a scent infused, clove studded, pomander or the heavenly scent of citrus infused baked goods and cookies. Be it an orange, tangerine, pomelo, meyer lemon, key lime, kumquat, or grapefruit to name but a few, be sure to add a little Vitamin C to your diet and enjoy some citrus during the holidays. . .