“There’s gold in them thar fleece!”

Jason returns with the Golden Fleece, shown on an Apulian red-figure calyx krater, ca. 340–330 BC

The California gold rush began on January 24, 1848 with the accidental discovery of gold in the water during the construction of Sutter’s sawmill. When President Polk announced the discovery later that year, it caused a national and international sensation and the “Forty-Niners” swooped down to begin sifting and panning for gold in the streams and rivers of California.

Gold has been associated with wealth and opulence throughout history. It is especially associated with gods and divinity and royalty. Gold coins protect people from hunger and poverty. Gold coins in the Tarot (Pentacles) deal with earthly, daily experiences related to work and endeavors that support our emotional and physical well-being.

Gold is mentioned in Greek mythology for examples as varied as King Midas, the Golden Fleece stolen by Jason which possessed the power of resurrection, and the Golden Apples of Hesperides. The Golden Apples bestowed immortality on whoever ate them. Gold has always been associated with the eternal, the unending, incorruptible and embracing powers of the divine. The color and shining quality of gold continues to be associated with the sun and the sacred masculine.

There is a fascinating connection between the Golden Fleece and the California gold rush. A widespread interpretation relates the myth of the Golden Fleece to a method of washing gold from streams, which was well attested from c. 5th century BC in the region of Georgia to the east of the Black Sea. (The myths of the Golden Fleece say that the Fleece was kept in Colchis, i.e. the modern Georgia in Eastern Europe.) Sheep fleeces, sometimes stretched over a wood frame, would be submerged in the stream and gold flecks borne down from upstream would collect in them. The fleeces would be hung in trees to dry before the gold was shaken or combed out. Collecting gold flecks from the rivers was what the Forty-Niners would do in California, often using pie pans to swirl the water in and then pour through filters–the same idea as the sheep fleeces.

Gold represents the best in us but also brings out the worst in people. Legends of Aztec and Inca gold drove the Conquistadores to seize the Native American empires. Jealousy and Greed, simmering beneath the surface of our emotions, are brought out into the open when we see someone else has something–such as gold–that we want for ourselves.

Click here to read more about folklore associated with gold.

The Fool, one of the Major Arcana of the Tarot, shows a golden sky that the pilgrim is stepping off into. He trusts that the universe will protect and shield him from exterior evil as well as from his own worst instincts.

Good Yule 2017!

Yule Holiday Scene

Yule or Yuletide (“Yule time”) was a religious festival observed by the Germanic peoples, later being absorbed into and equated with Christmas. Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt, the god Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Modranicht.

Terms with an etymological equivalent to Yule are used in the Nordic countries for Christmas with its religious rites, but also for the holidays of this season. Yule is also used to a lesser extent in English-speaking countries to refer to Christmas. Customs such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, Yule singing, and others stem from Yule.

Yule is the modern English representative of the Old English words ġéol or ġéohol and ġéola or ġéoli, with the former indicating the 12-day festival of “Yule” (later: “Christmastime”) and the latter indicating the month of “Yule”, whereby ǽrra ġéola referred to the period before the Yule festival (December) and æftera ġéola referred to the period after Yule (January). Both words are thought to be derived from Common Germanic, and are cognate to Gothic (fruma) jiuleis and Old Norse (Icelandic and Faroese) jól (Danish and Swedish jul and Norwegian jul or jol) as well as ýlir, Estonian jõulud and Finnish joulu. The etymological pedigree of the word, however, remains uncertain, though numerous speculative attempts have been made to find Indo-European cognates outside the Germanic group, too.

The noun Yuletide is first attested from around 1475.

The word is attested in an explicitly pre-Christian context primarily in Old Norse. Among many others, the long-bearded god Odin bears the names jólfaðr (Old Norse ‘Yule father’) and jólnir (Old Norse ‘the Yule one’). In plural (Old Norse jólnar; ‘the Yule ones’) may refer to the Norse gods in general. In Old Norse poetry, the word is often employed as a synonym for ‘feast.’

I Love You With All My…Kidneys?

Prometheus, whose liver was gnawed by an eagle, in “Prometheus Bound” by Sir Peter Paul Rubens. The original painting is at Philly’s Museum of Art.

Nowadays, we think of our hearts as the center of our being.

“I love you with all my heart!”

“I give my heart to you!”

“I had a change of heart.”

“We need a heart-to-heart talk.”

“Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve!”

The Egyptians believed that the heart was the source of the soul and of memory, emotions, and personality. They thought that the heart would be weighed during judgement after death. So they preserved the heart during mummification but threw the brain away.

Syrians and the Arabs viewed the liver as the center of inner life. But in Hebrew tradition, kidneys were considered to be the most important internal organs along with the heart. In the Old Testament, the kidneys were associated with the most inner stirrings of emotional life. Kidneys were also viewed as the seat of the secret thoughts of the human; they are used as an omen metaphor, as a metaphor for moral discernment, for reflection and inspiration. There is also reference to the kidneys as the site of divine punishment for misdemeanors, particularly in the book of Job (whose suffering and ailments are legendary). In the first vernacular versions of the Bible in English, the translators elected to use the term “reins” instead of kidneys in differentiating the metaphoric uses of human kidneys from that of their mention as anatomic organs of sacrificial animals burned at the altar. In the Old Testament, the kidneys thus are primarily used as metaphor for the core of the person, for the area of greatest vulnerability.

The UK’s first donor kidney transplant was performed on October 30 at The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. Britain’s first kidney transplant was performed by Sir Michael Woodruff. As with the world’s first kidney transplant, the operation takes place between identical twins, reducing the chances of rejection.