Lazy Caturday Reads: Merry Christmas!Posted: December 25, 2021
I hope you are all having a nice holiday weekend! I’m home alone today, because I want to avoid any chance of getting the highly contagious Omicron variant of Covid-19. I’ve been hanging out here, mostly reading and and talking to friends and family on the phone.
Yesterday I read a very strange and interesting article on the origins of the Santa Claus folklore. Check it out if you have time today. Thom Hartmann at Raw Story: The hidden shamanic history of Santa Claus.
When Louise and I lived in Germany, Herr Mueller led us up a mountainside deep into the Franconian forest on this night where they had covered a pine tree with candles: we sang carols and he read aloud a bible verse. He later told me that in ancient times the shamans would set the tallest tree afire to re-ignite the sun and bring back longer days.
Arctic shamans, around this time of the year, would leave batches of dried amanita mushrooms out in the snow for the hungry reindeer, then follow them as they danced and played, gathering the fresh yellow snow to make into a holiday grog.For millennia across the European arctic circle around the North Pole, from Scandinavia through Siberia, indigenous shamans sought out red-and-white mushrooms (amanita muscaria) and dried them in socks hanging from their fireplaces.
The mushrooms contain a powerful psychedelic, Muscimol, but are also laced with compounds poisonous to humans. Reindeer, however, love to eat these mushrooms and, when they do, they behave oddly, as if their names were Dancer and Prancer.
Their reindeer livers metabolize and thus neutralize the compounds that poison humans, but leave the psychedelic Muscimol largely untouched. Thus, reindeer urine on fresh snow is powerfully psychedelic.
The shamans then collected the “yellow snow” and used it to get high.
This was also the time of the year that the father of gods in Norse religion, the long-white-bearded Odin, would ride his eight-legged horse Sleipnir (“sleigh-nir”), bringing good people small gifts made by “Odin’s men” in Asgard, his arctic retreat. The story seems to have morphed as it traveled out of Norway from men to elves, and from eight legs to eight reindeer.
Shamans and their communities would light their pine trees with candles, put the north star (the axis around which the world revolves) atop their trees, and consume their yellow-snow drinks on the darkest nights.Odin controlled the powers of Thunder and Lightning, “Donner” and “Blitzen” in ancient Norse and today’s Germanic and Scandinavian languages.
The reindeer’s favorite food, the amanita mushrooms, look like the shamans dressed, red with white trim and white spots. They’re rotund: you could call them “chubby.”
They grow under pine trees because their mycorrhizae or fungal filaments that extend underground transport minerals from the soil into the roots of the pine trees, who return the favor by transporting carbohydrates from year-round photosynthesis in their needles back down through their roots into the mycorrhizae to nourish the mushrooms.
Amanitas are only found under pine and spruce trees because of this symbiotic relationship that keeps them both healthy. And to this day pine and spruce are pretty much the only trees we use to decorate our homes this time of year.
This yule time history was completely new to me.
Omicron is spoiling holiday celebrations for many people.
CNN Business: More than 5,000 flights canceled on Christmas weekend.
Airlines have canceled thousands of flights on Christmas weekend, including over a thousand US domestic flights, as staff and crew call out sick during the Omicron surge.
Globally, airlines have canceled about 5,700 flights on Christmas Eve day, Christmas and the day after Christmas, according to FlightAware. That includes about 1,700 flights within, into or out of the United States.
Operational snags at airlines are coming as millions are still flying in spite of rising coronavirus cases. The TSA says it screened 2.19 million people at airports across the country on Thursday, the highest figure since the uptick in holiday travel started a week ago.
On Thursday, United Airlines () said it had to “cancel some flights” because of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
“The nationwide spike in Omicron cases this week has had a direct impact on our flight crews and the people who run our operation,” said a United memo obtained by CNN.
United canceled 201 flights on Friday, representing 10% of its total schedule, and 238 flights on Saturday, representing 12% of its schedule, according to flight tracking site FlightAware….
Later Thursday night, Delta Air Lines () also canceled flights. The airline canceled 173 Christmas Eve flights, according to FlightAware.
Antivax crazies are still resistant to getting the shots, even in the face of Omicron. The New York Times: As Omicron Spreads and Cases Soar, the Unvaccinated Remain Defiant.
CLEVELAND — As a fast-spreading new strain of the coronavirus swarms across the country, hospitals in Ohio running low on beds and staff recently took out a full-page newspaper advertisement pleading with unvaccinated Americans to finally get the shot. It read, simply: “Help.”
But in a suburban Ohio café, Jackie Rogers, 58, an accountant, offered an equally succinct response on behalf of unvaccinated America: “Never.”
In the year since the first shots began going into arms, opposition to vaccines has hardened from skepticism and wariness into something approaching an article of faith for the approximately 39 million American adults who have yet to get a single dose.
Now, health experts say the roughly 15 percent of the adult population that remains stubbornly unvaccinated is at the greatest risk of severe illness and death from the Omicron variant, and could overwhelm hospitals that are already brimming with Covid patients. In Cleveland, where Omicron cases are soaring, a hospital unit at the Cleveland Clinic that provides life support to the sickest patients is already completely full.
Compounding the problem, the pace of first-time vaccinations appears to be plateauing this month even as Omicron takes hold, and the numbers of children getting vaccinated and eligible adults getting booster shots are lower than some health experts hoped. Around 20 percent of children 5 to 11 years old have gotten a dose of vaccine. And only around one in three fully vaccinated Americans has gotten a booster.
As we all know by now, health care workers are struggling under unimaginable pressures. Read about it in the NYT if you can handle it: Another Christmas of Death and Distress in America’s I.C.U.s.
At the Washington Post, Dr. Michael Lin has a cautionary article about the newly approved drug for Covid-19: A new drug to treat covid could create a breeding ground for mutant viruses.