Friday, March 27, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Off the Ale

One of the clever functions of new religions is taking over the festivals and traditions of previous religions, adapting and adopting them and fitting them into the new system. The Romans did it with the Greek gods and goddesses and then took over the various divinities of the tribes they conquered and renamed the deities with Latin names. And then there's the intermingling of traditions and fables which link lots of religions - just take the Osiris story and its biblical parallels as an example.

Anyhow, one more example of this is Lent, of which we are in the middle just now. 40 days of fasting and stuff to prepare for Easter. The word Lent comes from the Saxon word lencten which simply means spring and the tradition itself of giving up eating or in some way "purifying" yourself goes way back into the darkest depths of our ancient common past.

In deepest Bavaria this time is called Fastenzeit where the emphasis is on fasting - this was the inspiration for the monks to create their Starkbier (strong beer - with about 7% alcohol content upwards) which I have referred to in reverent terms in other previous posts!

When I lived in Greece back in the last century (ARGH!!) they took this period fairly seriously (seriously in Greek terms at least, i.e. more like "seriously") and if you went into a restaurant during that period the waiter would ask if you were fasting, in which case you would be given a separate Lent menu with unleavened bread and all sorts of other special Lent-conforming meals most of which tasted brilliant!

Well, coincidentally to Lent, I decided to give up alcohol for a while ...this did not come as a consequence of any religious epiphany but after a particularly boozy weekend on the Guinness Tour with my Irish band which left me feeling decidedly wasted. I am now coming up to 4 weeks during which time barely a drop of alcoholic beverage has crossed my lips.

It got me thinking whether it might not be a bad idea, in these days of luxury and excess, to give up for a while something which we believe we cannot do without ...say, TV or the mobile phone, or driving, etc., etc. When I was living alone in the early 90s I didn't have a TV. As a result I experienced a huge sense of liberation and suddenly discovered that I had a whole lot of time on my hands which I could use for different, more productive/enjoyable things ...

Hmm, I am even thinking of suggesting this to my kids ...

On the other hand maybe lack of alcohol has completely addled my mind...?