Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Origins of Easter

Happy Easter!  My favorite thing about our modern holidays is there strange origins.  They never come from where we think they did.  History is a strange thing.  Here is my story about another pagain holiday wrapped in Christian paper and decorated with years of traditions no one understands.

Holiday are off topic, but I love them.   Almost all our modern Christian holidays are just pagan holidays in different paper.  So many Christians won't celebrate Halloween because it is pagan, but the Easter bunny has nothing to do with Christ.   Where does the bunny come from?  It comes from the goddess Eostre.  Eostre was a European fertility goddess.  During the  Spring, her favorite Holiday, named for her, Easter, was celebrated across Europe.  Her totem animal, the bunny, was intrinsic  in the celebration of her holiday.   Easter was a fertility holiday and it isn't just a coincidence that estrogen, the hormone often associated with fertility and sex is also named after Eostre.  

Ancient Christians were quite brilliant.  They knew that if they wanted to convince the old pagans to convert they shouldn't ask them to abandon their old holidays and traditions, so the merely Incorporated their holidays into Christian beliefs.  So Easter was absorbed into the early Christian faith and linked to the celebration of the death of Christ.   So the totem animal of Easter became Eostre's totem animal, the bunny and other fertility rituals were also made part of the Christian Holiday.   Eggs, also associated with old fertility rituals, became part of holiday traditions.

By the fifteenth century, in many parts of Europe, it had become normal for children to build nests for the magic bunny to lay eggs in on Easter morning to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  Over time, this evolved into the putting out of Easter baskets for a magic bunny to put chocolate eggs and other treats in.  So, the resurrection of Christ and the fertility rights of Eostre became one to make the holiday we celebrate today, which is a beautiful fusion of Christian and pagan.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Phantom Lion

The Cincinnati Zoo is the second oldest zoo in the nation.   It was founded in 1875 and featured a small collection of animals.   The zoo grew quickly and is now rated as one of the top five zoos in the nation and features a vast array of animals.  The zoo is also known for its architecture and is listed as a national historical landmark.   It contains the oldest reptile house in the Western Hemisphere.  No trip to Cincinnati would be complete without a visit to this historic zoo.

The zoo is also  known for  another animal.   It isn't an animal you can see in any exhibit and most visitors don't see this famous resident of the zoo at all.   It is known to be haunted by a phantom lioness that wanders the ground following visitors and terrifying those who happen to catch a glimpse of her.  Those who have seen this ghostly lion describe hearing her footsteps behind them.  Many times these witnesses have been terrified because they thought the lioness was real.  Other witnesses have believed the lioness was about to attack them.  The lioness has been described as having glowing eyes that cut through the shadows and dark.   When she is seen, she runs towards the unfortunate visitor as if to attack them and then vanishes into the shadows she came from.   Although the living animals in the zoo may be the main attraction at this zoo, a chance encounter with this phantom would make the Cincinnati Zoo one of my favorite zoos.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Grand Hotel

The Grand Hotel embodies all of the beauty and histroy that begins in the Victorian era for Mackinac Island.   In a sense, the island is trapped in this time.  It clings to the old things and puts them on a pedastle making them great.  The hotel is the center of everything beautiful and historic on the island.   It's long, white walls can be seen from the water on the ferry ride to the island.  It sits away from the rest of the chaos of the island, amidst green gardens.  There are no cars on the island and during my many visits to the island, I have travelled to the old hotel using many modes of transportation.  Whether you approach by horse and buggy, bicycle, horseback, or on foot, the elegant porch gleams in the sunlight as the first part of the hotel you see.  The hotel is a piece of my history as much as it is the island's.  My great grandfather worked at the hotel and his father before him.  My great grandfather proposed to my great grandmother in the old hotel.  I still have the ring he proposed her with. 

The land for the hotel was bought in 1886.  During this time the popularity of the island for a summer get away was exploding.  Tourists were coming from as far as Chicago to see the scenic beauty of this quiet island.  The Grand Hotel was built to cater to the wealthier tourists that came from afar to relax in peace.  It was during the construction of the hotel that an untold number of bones were unearthed.  Most of the bones were relocated, but it is said that some of these old skeletons still remain beneath the foundation of this luxourious hotel. 

In 1887 the hotel opened and it was a success from the beginning.  During the long summers every room was filled.  Of course during the winter, when the bitter Northern Michingan wind freezes the lake and burries the hotel in snow, the hotel was still mostly empty.  In the 1890's, the hotel's owners proudly announced that they had built the longest porch in the world around the beautiful hotel.   In 1895, Mark Twain came for a reading in the Hotel's grand salon.   The Hotel was often host to famous people and  a couple of movies were shot at the hotel.  The most recent film shot there was made in the 1980's and stared Christopher Reeves as a love struck playwright.  The film was called Somewhere in Time.

Despite all this activity,  the hotel has continuously been a source of paranormal activity.  As the hotel expanded, the orignal Fort Mackinac Island cemetery was moved to make room for the horse stables.  So the stables now stand on yet another collection of old bones. Those that have worked at the Grand report phantom footsteps and doors opening and shutting.  Guests staying at the hotel have reported feeling ill at ease, as if there is something else in the room with them from time to time.   The hotel groans at night and, although all old things groan, the noises from this hotel seem loader that they should.