The Magic Trick

An ITALIAN and a CHINESE entered a chocolate store. As they were busy looking, the CHINESE stole 3 chocolate bars.

As they left the store, the CHINESE said to the ITALIAN, “Man I’m the best thief, I stole 3 chocolate bars and no one saw me. 
You can’t beat that.”

The ITALIAN replied: “You want to see something better? Let’s go back to the shop and I’ll show you real stealing.”

So they went to the counter and the ITALIAN said to the shopkeeper, “Do you want to see some magic?”

The shopkeeper replied, “Yes.”

The ITALIAN said, “Give me one chocolate bar.”

The shopkeeper gave him one, and he ate it.

The ITALIAN asked for a second bar, and he ate that as well. He asked for the third, and finished that one too.

The shopkeeper asked: “But where’s the magic?”

The ITALIAN replied: “Check in my friend’s pocket, and you’ll find all three bars of chocolate.”

Bios Urn

biodegradable urnTwo industrial designers in Spain have come up with a way for people to continue reducing their own carbon footprint, even after they die.

The eco-friendly Bios Urn, designed by Martin Azua and Gerard Moline, is a biodegradable urn made from coconut shells, compacted peat and cellulose. Inside the urn is a seed.

Cremated human remains are placed into the urn alongside the seed and buried.

As a good source of phosphorous, human remains help to fertilize the seed, which will eventually germinate and grow into a tree.

Depending on where a person would like to be planted, they can choose which type of tree or plant they eventually will become part of.

For all that we’ve heard about technology-assisted immortality in recent years, the idea of having a person’s ashes turned into a tree may seem quaint, but according to the designers that’s kind of the point.

“Bios Urn transforms the burial ritual in a regeneration and return to life through nature. As a result, cemeteries become forests,” writes Moline on his website.

Easter

We’re a couple of days away from Easter, and whatever our beliefs may be, or however we celebrate the holiday, or fail to celebrate it, not many of us know a lot more about it than the Christian resurrection story from the New Testament. I’ll try to change that by shining some light on other parts of our Easter heritage.

1. Have you ever wondered why Easter falls on a different Sunday every year? Technically, Easter falls on the first Sunday after the full Moon after the Vernal Equinox. Kind of a weird way to determine a holiday for a monotheistic religion when you think about it.

How did this method of reckoning Easter’s date come about? It was a way to steal the thunder from another popular god, whose cult was Christianity’s biggest rival.

The worship of Attis and Cybele was very popular in Rome as late as the 3rd century. Attis was a savior, god who was reborn each year. This resurrection was celebrated beginning on the Friday after the full moon after the Vernal equinox (now Good Friday). It culminated on the following Sunday, three days later. Since they were rivals, Christianity adopted the date for their savior and, once the Cybele cult faded, Christians had to keep the date since that was when everybody was used to celebrating the holiday.

2. The name, “Easter” comes from a goddess whose name was Eostre, the Mother Goddess of the Saxons of Northern Europe. She was known as the “goddess of the growing light of spring.”

One interesting theory is that Eostre was the embodiment of the bright, growing half of the year while Holda was the cold, dark winter personified. The dates of Easter are so close to Walpurgisnacht that they may have been concurrent at one time, the night giving way to the first day of Summer. This would make Ostara (the German name for Her holiday) a time of transition. Early in the history of Christianity, many pagan observances were adapted for the new faith. The early missionaries discovered that it was easier to get converts to celebrate a new name than it was a new date.

3. There were several savior gods who were very similar to Jesus in pre-Christian cultures. Attis (as mentioned previously), Adonis, Tammuz, Dammuzi, Dionysos, Marduk, Amun and many others have a mythology that parallels that of Jesus.

Now, some Christians will use the convenient “satan did it to confuse us” to explain these away. But many others are interested to learn about this phenomenon. Being born of a Virgin, hanging “between earth and sky,” dying and arising again after 3 days… these and other details occur in all stories of a savior god.

I won’t go into more detail here for the sake of space, but the book, Pagan Christs by John M. Robertson will fascinate anyone interested in delving deeper.

4. Why eggs and why color them? The egg has always been a symbol of fertility, creation and rebirth. Many ancient cultures’ creation myths involved the earth being hatched from an egg. Though other societies may not have had such a creation myth, they still held the egg as a symbol of new life. Not such a stretch, really, when you consider that every living thing began as an egg.

The ancient Persians and Egyptians exchanged colored eggs, usually red, in honor of spring. The Greeks and Romans adopted the custom, expanding the color palette. In Medieval Europe, eggs were forbidden during Lent. This made eggs very popular at Easter.

5. Ham for Easter dinner. While some people think that Christians eat ham as a form of insult towards Jews, the origin of eating ham at Easter goes back much further than Christianity. Pagan cultures, having slaughtered their meat animals in the Fall, preserving them for the Winter months, now ate up the last of those preserved meats.

The custom of lamb for Easter dinner comes from the Jewish Passover holiday. On that day, a sacrificial lamb was eaten, along with other symbolic foods, at the Passover Seder. The Christians adopted the lamb as a symbol of Jesus and retained the custom.

6. Hot Cross buns come from the wheat cakes that were baked in honor of Eostre. As part of the adoption of traditions, Christians added the cross on the top and had the cakes blessed by the Church. In England, it was believed that hanging a hot cross bun in the house would protect it from fire and bring good luck for the coming year.

7. What about the Easter Bunny? The rabbit was a symbol of the moon to the Egyptians, that heavenly body being used to determine the date of the holiday may have had an influence. But the hare was a totemic animal of the goddess Eostre, symbolizing fertility for Spring. As anyone who has ever had rabbits or hares can attest, they are quite fitting for that symbolism.

The character of an Easter Bunny seems to have begun in Germany, where he was a kind of Springtime Santa Claus, delivering Easter treats to children. He was known as Osterhase. The children would build a nest for him to leave their eggs in. This eventually became our modern Easter basket.