Friday, January 27, 2012

USDA Zone Maps..... duh!

The USDA has decided that it is OK to officially tell us what we already knew; that our environment is changing and that this affects what will grow where and when. Anyone who operates under the tenent that Nature is the Great Teacher.... or who gardens.... has know what the USDA told us this week for at least a decade.

Read the article for yourself. I get our local newspaper and the article below was published in our Times Picayune. But when I "googled" to find the article on the web I found scores of other articles with the same basic Associated Press lead but with local details on local impacts added for scores of locations.

The article below tells us: "Spring is arriving earlier in the year."  Again, Duh!
Take a look at this NASA model and tell me you didn't feel this in your pagan bones.

New USDA Plant Zone map reflects warmer temperatures in south Louisiana and nationwide.
Times Picayune January 25, 2010 - & January 26, 2012 -  hard copy
Associated Press Seth Borenstein

WASHINGTON -- Global warming is hitting not just home, but in the garden. The government's colorful map of planting zones, most often seen on the back of seed packets, is changing, illustrating a hotter 21st century.

map-hardiness-012612.jpgView full size

An update of the official guide for 80 million gardeners reflects a new reality: The coldest day of the year isn't as cold as it used to be. So some plants and trees that once seemed too vulnerable to cold can now survive farther north.

It's the first time since 1990 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has updated the map and much has changed. Nearly entire states, such as Ohio, Nebraska and Texas, are in warmer zones.
South Louisiana, which had been in Zone 8, is now placed in Zone 9. Times-Picayune garden writer Dan Gill, an LSU AgCenter horticulturist, has long advised south shore gardeners to "firmly place themselves in Zone 9."

New Orleans and adjoining parts of Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes are now officially in Zone 9b, which has an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 25 to 30 degrees Farenheit; the surrounding areas are in Zone 9a, with lows of 20 to 25.

The new guide, unveiled Wednesday at the National Arboretum, also uses better weather data and offers more interactive technology. For the first time it takes into factors such as how cities are hotter than suburbs and rural areas, nearby large bodies of water, prevailing winds, and the slope of land.
"It truly does reflect state of the art," said USDA chief scientist Catherine Woteki.

The new map can be found online at Gardeners can register their zip code into the online map and their zone will pop up. It shows the exact average coldest temperature for each zip code. The 26 zones, however, are based on 5-degree increments.
28_hardy_us.JPGView full size
It's the first time since 1990 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has updated the map and much has changed.

For example, Des Moines, Iowa, used to be in zone 5a, meaning the lowest temperature on average was between minus 15 and minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Now it's 5b, which has a coldest temperature of 10 to 15 degrees below zero.

"People who grow plants are well aware of the fact that temperatures have gotten more mild throughout the year, particularly in the winter time," said Boston University biology professor Richard Primack. "There's a lot of things you can grow now that you couldn't grow before."
He uses the giant fig tree in his suburban Boston yard as an example.

"People don't think of figs as a crop you can grow in the Boston area. You can do it now," he said.
In the old 1990 map, the USDA mentions 34 different U.S. cities on its key. Eighteen of those, including Honolulu, St. Louis, Des Moines, St. Paul and even Fairbanks, are in newer warmer zones. Agriculture officials said they didn't examine the map to see how much of the map has changed for the hotter. But Mark Kaplan, the New York meteorologist who co-created the 1990 map and a 2003 update that the USDA didn't use, said the latest version clearly shows warmer zones migrating north. Other experts agreed.

The 1990 map was based on temperatures from 1974 to 1986; the new map from 1976 to 2005. The nation's average temperature from 1976 to 2005 was two-thirds of a degree warmer than for the old time period, according to statistics at the National Climatic Data Center.
USDA spokeswoman Kim Kaplan, who was part of the map team, repeatedly tried to distance the new zones in the map from global warming issues. She said even though much of the country is in warmer zones, the map "is simply not a good instrument" to demonstrate climate change because it is based on just the coldest days of the year.

David W. Wolfe, professor of plant and soil ecology in Cornell University's Department of Horticulture said the USDA is being too cautious and disagrees with Kaplan about whether this reflects warming.
"At a time when the 'normal' climate has become a moving target, this revision of the hardiness zone map gives us a clear picture of the 'new normal,' and will be an essential tool for gardeners, farmers, and natural resource managers as they begin to cope with rapid climate change," Wolfe said in an email.

Another and even more dramatic sign of global warming in the plant world is that spring is arriving earlier in the year, Wolfe said.

The new map is based on temperature records.

An earlier effort to update the planting map caused a bit of an uproar when the USDA in 2003 decided not to use an updated map that reflected warmer weather. Kaplan said the 2003 map wasn't interactive enough.

The Arbor Day Foundation later issued its own hardiness guide that had the toastier climate zones. The new federal map is very similar to the one the private plant group adopted six years ago, said Arbor Day Foundation Vice President Woodrow Nelson.
"We got a lot of comments that the 1990 map wasn't accurate anymore," Nelson said. "I look forward to (the new map). It's been a long time coming."
Nelson, who lives in Lincoln, Neb., where the zone warmed to a 5b. Nelson said he used to "a solid 4" but now he's got Japanese maples and fraser firs in his yard -- trees that shouldn't survive in a zone 4.

In Des Moines, Jerry Holub, a manager for the Earl May Nursery chain, doesn't think the warmer zone will have much of an impact on gardeners. But he said this may mean residents can even try passion flowers.
"Now you can put them in safely, when you couldn't before," he said.
Vaughn Speer, an 87-year-old master gardener in Ames, Iowa, doubts the change in zones will mean much to him, but he said he has seen redbud trees, one of the earliest blooming trees, a little further north in recent years.
"They always said redbuds don't go beyond U.S. Highway 30, but I'm seeing them near Roland," he said, referring to a small Iowa town about 10 miles north of the highway that spans central Iowa.

The Times-Picayune staff contributed to this report.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Obama's Gemini Moon

In this election year there are many who are trying to figure out who to vote for and many who are trying to figure out why the person who is president is so different from what they expected.

I think that a hint on why Pres. Obama does what Pres Obama does is......
His Gemini moon.

He *likes* to look at all parts of the issue. So he does. Sometimes for what seems too long. Sometimes to the detriment of what he wants to accomplish. All the more reason for Pres Obama to be surrounded by really good thinkers.

Using data from the birth certificate provided in this article, and Astrolabe's free chart
you can take a look yourself and see what Astrology says about our current President.

President Obama *reads* like the Aquarian change many hoped for BUT his Gemini Moon does not allow him to directly the Leonine energy as well as he could.   Knowledge is power Barack.  Oh and it seems I'm not the only one who thinks Obama's Gemini Moon is less than ideal.

Name: Obama
August 4 1961
7:24 PM Time Zone is AHST
Honolulu, HI

Rising Sign is in 18 Degrees Aquarius
You like new ideas and concepts, but you prefer to discover them by yourself -- it is not easy for others to convert you to anything. You form your own opinions, but once you do form them, you then want to convince everyone else that they are correct. Try to be more tolerant of the opinions of others. You have a deep and abiding interest in science, mathematics, and the great social problems of the day. Very sympathetic toward the downtrodden, equality is your battle cry! You demand that those in authority be fair to all. You are an intellectual -- emotions and emotional people are difficult for you to understand. You are known for being calm, cool, detached and objective.

Sun is in 12 Degrees Leo.
More than a bit of a showoff, you love to be the center of attention! But others do not usually mind because they tend to enjoy your genuine warmth and affection. Very spirited and willful, proud and self-important at times, you demand your own way. You are quite honest, however, and the respect of others is very important to you. You never compromise yourself and you pursue your goals with persistence and dedication. Your regal presence and demeanor draws you to positions of leadership and authority. But beware of being overly hardheaded, domineering, ostentatious or patronizing or you will lose the goodwill and admiration that you enjoy. Very theatrical, you live life on a grand scale wherever and whenever possible. Your strength and energy vitalizes those who come in contact with you.

Moon is in 03 Degrees Gemini.
Restless in the extreme, you are easily bored because of your short attention span. Your emotions change rapidly and you love to talk about your feelings. Generally, you have good judgment -- your intellect controls your emotions and you do not overreact emotionally to things. A good jack-of-all-trades, you have many- sided interests and enjoy reasoning things through. With your mental agility and need for physical mobility, you are attracted to traveling and learning about other peoples and cultures. You have vivid powers of emotional self-expression - - you can be a nonstop talker. You love to share your ideas with anyone who will listen.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Backyard Habitat - weaving yourself into the Web of Life

I'm an urban pagan. I last year I spent 2 weeks on my teacher's homestead and loved it! But day in day out, I'm an urban pagan. So my yard and the skies above my house is where I watch and listen to Nature, the great teacher.

By some standards we have a lot of yard; by others not so much.
In New Orleans, specially postKatrina, yard sizes vary greatly. In some older parts of town, houses have 3 feet of alleyway down each side, are right on the street. There is 10 to maybe 15 feet behind the house. In these areas there may not even be a greenstrip in front of the house where a small tree could be planted. New Orleans also has a Garden District where the houses and the yards are larger and the houses are set back from the street in the American fashion rather than the French/Spanish fashion of placing the house fronts right on or very close to the sidewalk. And then there is the PostWar Lakefront and New Orleans East a combination of what was once swampland, farmland, PostWar development & 60s/70s sprawl. PostK in these areas there are some houses that now sit on their original lots and also have the lots or lots next door making for really large yards. In other areas there is every combination of the above. New Orleans is nothing if not diverse.
And then there is the lower 9th Ward. This area is still a shadow of its former self. Areas near the river in the Holy Cross Area are recovering and looking more like they once did. There is the area that Brad Pitt has worked to help redevelop with more solar powered, sustainable green houses popping up every day. It's impressive and a tourist attraction and rightfully so on so many levels. And then there are broad areas where there are only vacant lots. There is a push to make this area large urban gardens, which is in many ways, a return to its roots. There are other endeavors that are linking people to the wetlands in a way they were not before. It is a land of devastation and opportunity. Leftover sadness and hope. But I digress.
In our yard have a combination of both small scale intimate backyard and a large open area front yard. What we don't have is a lawn mower.
In the back of the house there is the French/Spanish private garden a bricked courtyard with plantings around the edges and a covered area which can allow us to be outside and protected from the sun and rain. This patio is overlooked by a deck that allows us to watch the sunsets and pick papayas and naval oranges without getting a ladder or a picking tool. Because we now have a mature tree at the center back of the patio this area along the back fence is more shaded and subdued than it used to be. We've started trying to grow mushrooms in the shade. And I've planted some slow growing ever sweet olive trees along this area because the now mature bradford pear won't last forever and because these trees are evergreen and will one day provide a better privacy barrier. But mostly I planted these because absolutely nothing beats the smell of sweet olive. Our Queen of the Night and butterfly ginger provide occasional competition but nothing tops sweet olive. Even with the shade along the back there is still room in the sun for a lime, a grapefruit and a few kumquats. And of course no patio is complete without a water feature, so we have a small fountain surrounded by lavender and garlic chives and oregano. And no garden is complete without roses so we have some of those as well. The patio is where we treat the birds to sunflower seeds, at least if they get to the seeds before the squirrels do.
There is also a more sun-drenched area in the front of the house that probably sightly larger than the back patio, especially if you count the strip between the sidewalk and the street. This front yard is planted with evergreens: yews, gardenias, camellias against the house, satsumas, rosemary, roses and perennials like lantana and mint around the edges. But the center of this area is where I work with more closely the seasons and broadcast seeds from American Meadows. In the late winter/early spring we have creeping daisy and baby blue eyes, baby snapdragons and poppies. I'm trying some old rue seeds to see if I can get this growing in the cool of our year. I have been successful with rue only once. I've seeded alyssum again for probably the last time because this seems to freely reseed itself and create a wonderful backdrop for just about any other flower. In the summer we'll have heat loving zinnias and cosmos and some Chinese forget me nots. Our summers are so long that just after Cornucopia I have to reseed with more zinnia's and cosmos. While all these flowers freely self seed, saving the seed or getting an occasional new batch from American Meadows makes for more robust displays. The zinnias will die off in the fall but the cosmos can make it through the bulk of the winter (providing seed for the birds). The blanket flower is coming up where it was last year and in any other place it wants. This flower also tends to bridge the seasons; leafy in winter, flowering in late spring/early summer and then self seeding away (with a little of my help to spread the wealth!).

It may sound lush but, it's still the city. Cars pass in front of my house just 3 feet on the other side of the sidewalk. There are 2 side by side paved driveways on one side of the house; one for us one for our neighbor. It's a heat sink that we can do nothing about. Our back patio abuts our backyard neighbor's driveway. The other side of the house is a yard, separated by a high fence from the front of the house, where there are air conditioning units and limited sun between the houses. It's enough space to grow some sweet potatoes, more papayas (because they are so easy to seed), some bananas (new as of last fall), a fig (which I keep trying to kill off because it is not a good producer, but the birds like it) and a grapevine and where I let the basil go wild. The ground is hard clay. The limited light makes growing tricky but nature usually fines a way for something to grow. My only job is to figure out what this is. I can get arugula, greens (mustard, spinach) to grow but other vegetables elude me.

As an urban pagan, the city and more specifically my yard is where I have had to learn to relate to Nature. The collective yard is also a Certified National Wildlife Backyard Habitat. I don't use pesticides. I let the caterpillars (except for tomato horn worms!!!!) have free reign. I have enough seeding and nectar producers to keep the birds happy. This year we had a possum in the neighborhood. Anyone can register for their yard to be a Backyard Habitat. It's not about how big your yard is; it is about how closely the yard works with nature and how much habitat it can provide for species other than homo sapiens.
It's a new year and spring is not that far away. Think about what you can do to weave where your live into the Web of Life. I think the guidelines for the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Habitat are a good place to start.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Spirit Flame

The picture of this piece of sculpture (about 3 feet high) was taken in New Orleans.
It looks like there is a copper pipe (just to the left of the highest flame point) that could be used
to actually have a flame burn.  Now how cool would that be???

Spirit Flame

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Working with Nature - Chocolate Toothpaste makes teeth stronger

Starting in 2012   Theodent will be available at Whole Foods and online.

Nature is the Great Teacher....

Working with Nature leads to looking at cocoa extract and studying the mineralogy of your teeth.  Experts from Tulane University, LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans (the plant extract guys) and the University of New Orleans (the mineral guy) resulted in an alternative to Flouride in our water and toothpaste.

Read the entire aritcle from the Times Picayune below.
€˜We decided out of principle that we would absolutely 100 percent keep the technology here’ in Louisiana, says Theodent CEO Arman Sadeghpour, left, who works with colleague Dr. Tetsuo Nakamoto in their offices in the New Orleans BioInnovation Center on Canal Street.
A team of university researchers in Louisiana made the discovery and used their findings to develop a new toothpaste that hits retail shelves around the country this week.
The toothpaste -- called Theodent -- contains no fluoride and relies instead on a proprietary blend of cocoa extract and other minerals to strengthen and harden tooth enamel. Developers say the toothpaste offers an alternative to consumers who worry about consuming fluoride, which has been associated with a number of health conditions, including thyroid disorders and bone disease.
The toothpaste doesn't actually taste like chocolate; it is mint-flavored. But developers hope to expand the Theodent line to include dental floss, mouthwash and, yes, a chocolate-flavored, sugar-free toothpaste for children.

"When kids hear about it, the first thing they ask is, 'Does it taste like chocolate?' And they really want it to," said Arman Sadeghpour, CEO of the company making the toothpaste, Theodent LLC. "If children really want that, we're in a position to give it to them."
Theodent will officially launch its toothpaste at a news conference in New Orleans on Wednesday, and the product will be available for sale starting this week online and at Whole Foods stores around the country, including those in the New Orleans area, said Sadeghpour, who worked on the research behind the toothpaste as part of his doctoral research at Tulane University.

Theodent is housed in the 7-month-old New Orleans BioInnovation Center, a $47 million business incubator that is focused on developing a local bioscience industry centered on university research. The firm is one of the first tenants in the center to convert a scientific discovery into a commercial product.

Aaron Miscenich, president of the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, said Theodent's success in bringing a new toothpaste product onto the market will bolster efforts to develop the local bioscience industry.
"You look at some of the historical doubt about our (city's) ability to grow and attract these companies," Miscenich said. "(Theodent) has basically been able to show that we can do this here."

Rooting project in Louisiana
Theodent toothpaste will sell in 3.4-ounce tubes for $9.99. The company hopes to secure financing so it can expand its product line.

Sadeghpour acknowledges that the research team behind Theodent considered setting up the business elsewhere.
"We looked at California because California is, as usual, a very early adopter of new technology and particularly interested in health and beauty," he said.
But Sadeghpour has watched the brain drain that has occurred in Louisiana as promising university graduates and newly developed technologies migrate out of state.
Theodent, Sadeghpour and his partners decided, would be different.
"We decided out of principle that we would absolutely 100 percent keep the technology here. This needs to be retained in the state of Louisiana, and the state has done an amazing job of building a home for us, which is the BioInnovation Center. I think we made the right decision," Sadeghpour said. "I think biotechnology is going to be a burgeoning part of the economy here."
The academic research behind Theodent dates back to the 1980s, when Tetsuo Nakamoto, now a co-founder of Theodent and a professor emeritus at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, began studying the effects of nutritional ingredients on pre-natal teeth. Nakamoto, with the help of University of New Orleans researchers, found that a cocoa extract was beneficial in fighting cavities.
Nakamoto said he knew he had made a significant discovery, but the find was not widely recognized until Sadeghpour took the research a step further as part of his doctoral thesis at Tulane, testing the finding on human teeth and making a head-to-head comparison between the abilities of cocoa extract and fluoride to strengthen tooth enamel.

The research confirmed Nakamoto's earlier discovery: that cocoa extract strengthens and enlarges the crystals that make up the tooth, resulting in a more robust enamel. Fluoride, on the other hand, strengthens teeth by adhering to and incorporating itself into the tooth.
The interest generated in 2007 by Sadeghpour's additional study prompted the researchers to work toward commercializing their find. Sadeghpour and Nakamoto, along with University of New Orleans professor William Simmons and Tulane School of Medicine assistant professor Joseph Fuselier, founded Theodent LLC. They developed a proprietary blend of cocoa extract and other minerals called Rennou, which is the active ingredient in the toothpaste.

Orchestrating the product
Converting years of research into a marketable product had its challenges.
Though the company operates out of the BioInnovation Center, Theodent contracted with a tube manufacturer in New Jersey, a box manufacturer in Washington state, and an FDA-inspected tube-filling facility in Idaho.
"Bringing the three of those things together was no small feat," Sadeghpour said. "The biggest pain for me has been working on the product itself and the number of iterations you go through with language and showing it to people and really refining the product to its final form."
Miscenich, of the BioInnovation Center, said management expertise -- including the oversight of production, distribution and marketing -- is often one of the more challenging aspects of converting academic research into a commercially viable product.
"We've always have this fantastic research base. And since (Hurricane) Katrina, we've had a surge in capital coming through the city," he said. "But the management expertise is one of the more difficult pieces."
Miscenich also said it's not unusual for a company like Theodent to rely on out-of-state manufacturing and testing facilities.
"We have a lot of device companies and a lot of drug companies. A lot of the time, most of that work has to be done out of state," he said. "That's too bad. That's one of the pieces that we need to start working on. We need to put that piece of infrastructure in place."
Sadeghpour agrees.
"Our ultimate goal, though, of course is to bring the manufacturing and all of that here. But to build an FDA-inspected and registered facility is very difficult, and it's not something that can happen overnight."

'A great success story'
Sadeghpour said Theodent is raising additional financing so it can expand its product line. Theodent has been approved by Louisiana Economic Development for the Angel Investor Tax Credit Program in 2012. The program, which had been dormant since 2009 but was restarted with a bill in the 2011 legislative session, grants investors in startup companies a tax break of up to 35 percent of the money they invest.
State Secretary of Economic Development Stephen Moret said the goal of the tax credit program is to increase the amount of early stage risk capital that is available in Louisiana so that companies like Theodent won't have to leave the state to obtain financing.
Retaining more of those technology startups, he said, strengthens the state's economy.
"This kind of company, not only do you get great new jobs and economic activity, but it also helps to diversify the economy into new growth areas," Moret said.
"It's just become such a great success story in New Orleans," Moret said. "To me, one of the most positive things that's happened in our state since (Hurricane) Katrina is this spark of entrepreneurship that has taken hold and is attracting capital and entrepreneurs and new business formation. It's a really exciting development and one that we want to support as much as we can at the state level."
Miscenich said that in addition to the entrepreneurial momentum, awareness is growing about the value of the research being done in south Louisiana and the importance of developing it locally.
"This is world-class research that's either been sitting there or has been licensed away," he said. The work that Theodent and other tenants in the center are doing is "meaningful to the economy and the future of the city."

Whole Foods signs on
Sadeghpour said Theodent will be marketed broadly to educated consumers.
"Trend setters, tastemakers, people who really are concerned about their health," said Sadeghpour, who has been using the toothpaste for a couple of months. "Not just people who are concerned about fluoride."
He thinks the chocolate-flavored toothpaste for children, once it rolls out, will be a hit with parents because it will help kids get excited about brushing their teeth.
In addition to stores in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Whole Foods will sell the toothpaste in New York, New Jersey, and in a number of markets along the West Coast, he said.
"As a company, we are always excited to offer innovative body and dental care products to our guests that meet and exceed our quality standards," said Susan Oelker, who coordinates sales of body products for Whole Foods' Southwest Region. "Whole Foods Market Southwest is proud to support local Louisiana vendor Theodent in the debut of their product line."
Sadeghpour said Whole Foods has exclusive rights to sell the toothpaste for 90 days, but other retailers have also expressed interest in carrying Theodent after that period of exclusivity expires.
"I think the distribution will quickly expand," he said.

Deemed safe to ingest
Sadeghpour said the Food and Drug Administration has awarded a 'generally regarded as safe' designation to Theodent that means the product is considered safe by experts for ingestion.
He also said that this year, Theodent plans to seek the American Dental Association's Seal of Approval, a widely recognized symbol of a dental product's safety and effectiveness. Theodent has not previously sought the seal because it was unable to share information about its product while patent applications were pending. The company has been awarded two patents and has a third pending.
Theodent toothpaste will sell in 3.4-ounce tubes for $9.99.
"We are really excited," Theodent co-founder Nakamoto said. "I think we have done a great thing for the well-being of the human race."

And the launch article from the Times Picayune below.
Toothpaste based on Cocoa Extract officially launches in New Orleans.
Kimberly Quillin Wednesday January 4, 2012
A New Orleans technology firm on Wednesday officially launched a toothpaste that uses an extract of cocoa as its active ingredient. With local economic development leaders looking on, Theodent LLC unveiled at a press conference Theodent Classic, which is being sold at Whole Foods stores in the United States and Canada, and Theodent 300, an extra-strength version that is being sold on the company's web site and at dental and medical offices.

Theodent toothpaste, developed by a New Orleans firms, is being rolled out in Whole Foods stores this week.
Theodent toothpaste contains no fluoride, which has been associated with a number of health problems, and relies instead on a proprietary blend of cocoa extract and other minerals that has been found to strengthen and harden tooth enamel. Henry Gremillion, dean of Louisiana State University's School of Dentistry, on Wednesday called the toothpaste "a major step forward in oral health." Dental disease often preceeds other health issues, Gremillion said. "We are entering a new era of quality health care in which Theodent plays an important role," he added.
Tetsuo Nakamoto, Chief Scientific Officer of Theodent and a professor emeritus at the LSU Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, discovered the benefits of the cocoa extract years ago. He collaborated with researchers at Tulane University and the University of New Orleans to develop the find and create the toothpaste.
Kurt Weigle, president of the Downtown Development District, said the new product is the result of "collaboration among universities and among individuals to produce something that is truly world-changing."
Theodent's offices are in the New Orleans BioInnovation Center, a 7-month-old business incubator that is focused on developing a local bioscience industry centered on university research. The firm is one of the first tenants in the center to convert a scientific discovery coming out of local universities into a commercial product.
"We've done a terrific job (in New Orleans) of creating intellectual property here in the universities, but we haven't done a good job of developing companies" out of the research, said Joseph A. Fuselier, a co-founder and member of Theodent's board.
Arman Sadeghpour, who is the CEO of Theodent and was one of the researchers who developed the find, said the process of converting academic research into a commercially viable product was a challenge.
"The product launch has been a long and daunting process, but we're very excited" he said.
"Dental decay is the only disease that every human on this earth suffers from," Sadeghpour said. "(Nakamoto's) discovery is such an important one for humankind."

Kimberly Quillen can be reached at or 504.826.3416.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Epiphany - Manifestation

"Today is the Feast of the Epiphany. The word "epiphany" comes from an ancient Greek word meaning "manifestation" or "striking appearance." Before Christianity, the word was used to record occasions when Greek gods and goddesses made appearances on earth."

I know that for many who follow an Italian path Befana's day is a big deal. But, gasp, it really isn't a big deal in my practice. Perhaps this is because I was not raised in an Italian family. It's not that this day hasn't always been important culturally for me. In New Orleanians we have our Epiphany celebrations. Today is the day we take our Christmas trees down and recycle them to help rebuild our wetlands. Today is the official start of our carnival season. Let the King Cakes begin! We'll end the carnival season with Mardi Gras. The carnival season is a pagan celebration bookended by 2 Christian Holidays Epiphany & Ash Wednesday. Perhaps it is this subliminal cultural awareness of how the pagan and Christian intermingle that has always made me thing of Befana's Day as culturally Italian and not necessarily part of my pagan practice.

But that is not to say that I do not think that this day has significance to those of us who follow the wheel of the year. We celebrate the Winter Solstice. This is when the day is shortest and the night longest. On Solstice we celebrate the fact that the sun will return even as it "stands still". The sun stands still until Epiphany when it again "makes its appearance here on earth" manifest.

Here is some science from USNO and the Royal Observatory science to help explain why it is logical that, even with out the Christian Epiphany, January 6th is an important day of mainfestation:

US Naval Observatory:
The 8 December crossover day is the date of earliest sunset. Why? In the weeks before solstice, the two effects act in opposite directions on the time of sunset: the declination effect pulling it earlier and the Equation of Time pushing it later. On 8 December the Equation of Time begins to dominate and sunset begins to move later. Meanwhile both effects are pushing sunrise later and later. After solstice, the situation reverses. Both effects push sunset later. But for sunrise, the declination effect now pulls it earlier while the Equation of Time effect continues to push it later. The Equation of Time prevails until 5 January, when the declination effect takes over and sunrises begin to move earlier. So 5 January is the date of latest sunrise.

Royal Observatory
The winter solstice is the time when the Sun reaches its southmost distance from the celestial equator and hence, in northern latitudes is the day when the Sun is lowest in the sky at noon. This is, naturally, the shortest day of the year in northern latitudes. To many people it seems odd, therefore, that the time of sunrise continues to get later in the day after the solstice.

The reason for this is that the Sun does not cross the meridian (when it is highest in the sky) at precisely noon each day. The difference between clock-defined noon and the time when the Sun is on the meridian is called the Equation of Time and represents the correction which must be applied to the time given by a sundial to make it agree with clock time.

There are two reasons why the Sun is not on the meridian at noon each day. The first is that the path of the Earth around the Sun is an ellipse, and not a circle. The second is that the Earth's equatorial plane and its orbital plane are inclined to one another. The two effects add together to yield the equation of time which can amount to some 16 minutes difference between solar and mean time.

The period when the equation of time is changing fastest in the whole year is very close to the winter solstice. It changes by 10 minutes from December 16 to January 5. This means that the time at which the Sun crosses the meridian changes by 10 minutes in this interval and also that the times of sunrise and sunset will change by the same amount.

Near the solstice the Sun's height in the sky changes very slowly and the length of the day also changes slowly. The rapid change due to the equation of time dominates the very slow change in day length and leads to the observed sunrise times.

It also leads to an Epiphany in the Greek sense of the word, Manifestation. The sun has truly returned and we can actually *see* the difference in the sunrise and sunset. The sun has stopped "standing still".

Aradia's Words on Worship indicate that we celebrate the Festival of Fana on December 19th. I have always wondered why have a festival at this time when the Winter Solstice celebration is so close. Perhaps it is to remind us to make this a season of change instead of single of a day of solar birth. Our Mythos indicate that Manea, the Crone, acts as midwife and assists with the birth of the Sun God at Solstice. Manea is said to rule this time of year. So it seems appropriate that a older lady bring gifts to the world. I have envisioned January 6th as the day that the Gods show the new Sun God to the people, with Manea, doing the work of bringing things to the physical world. I think that what we have Epiphany as hybridized cultural remnant of the recognition of the fact that this day is the day we can see the sun's return and Italy's unique capacity to retain aspects of feminine spirituality and the Christian Epiphany with its 3 kings bring gifts to the Christ child.

What is especially interesting to me is that on the Winter Solstice the belt of Orion (3 kings?) and Sirius point to where the sun will rise. These stars, like Befana and the 3 kings, help us mark and align with the Wheel of the Year.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Befana & Leland

This is a COPY of an original Post from another blog. It is copied here because too often I link to other places on the web only to have the wonderful data disapper. My apologies to the original author because when I went to check the link before posting it, I managed to lose the link in my edits.  Even the link at the bottom is now broken. BUT that does not diminish the validity of the writing below (which again is NOT mine!!!).

“When I shall have departed from this world,
Whenever ye have need of anything,
Once in the month, and when the moon is full,
Ye shall assemble in some desert place,
Or in a forest all together join
To adore the potent spirit of your queen,
My mother, great Diana. She who fain
Would learn all sorcery yet has not won
Its deepest secrets, them my mother will
Teach her, in truth all things as yet unknown.”
[The Aradia, Gospel of the Witches, C.G. Leland]

If I had to choose a “father” to the modern Witchcraft / Wicca movement, it would not be any of the names usually branded about, for me without a doubt, it would be Charles G Leland. His work has been hugely influential on the modern Witchcraft revival in the West, and in fact some of it has become quoted so often that it is familiar to most of us who have read a few books or websites on neopaganism and Wicca. In fact one of the best known pieces of prose, that of the first part of the “Charge of the Goddess” which we attribute to various priestesses who have made it famous, is in fact a nearly direct quote from the English translation of the Italian text published by Leland in 1899 (See above, and compare from “once in a month…” with the text of the Charge). Leland claimed that the material was given to him by an Italian Witch, something which has been disputed by some modern scholars, though the evidence continues to show that it is more than likely that Leland was not only telling the truth, but that the woman who provided him with the text, was indeed a practitioner of a longstanding Italian witchcraft tradition.

I have recently written an article on the connections which can be found in Italy between the Key of the Solomon (a grimoire which has been hugely influential on the practices found in Wicca, and subsequently in most modern Pagan traditions) and Witchcraft in the 1600′s. It will be published on Witchvox this week , and was actually born out of my original attempt at writing a blog on the subject - it just got longer and longer! (and could have been much longer still) [UPDATE 2011 / copy of this article can be found at ]

Italy also provides us with the most likely source for the image of the Witch which is so popular today, both by fictional writers and the media – as well as those pagan witches who like to dress up and have a bit of a fun. In the image of La Befana we have an old lady, on a broomstick, complete with the correct dresscode – well known to Italian children as the bringer of gifts on the 6th of January (in the same way as Santa Claus, through the chimney and only if you had been good of course!). The difference is that La Befana is quite likely to be the folk memory of a Roman Goddess, and she is as much part of a Catholic’s household as any (if not more so!).

Children recite poems about the Befana, two in particular are often used, both expressing themes which would be very familiar to pagans today:

La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Col cappello alla romana
Viva, Viva La Befana!

(The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all tattered and torn
She comes dressed in the Roman way
Long life to the Befana!)


Viene, viene la Befana
Vien dai monti a notte fonda
Come è stanca! la circonda
Neve e gelo e tramontana!
Viene, viene la Befana

(Here comes, here come the Befana
She comes from the mountains in the deep of the night
Snow and frost (ice) surrounds her
Snow and frost and the north wind
Here comes, here comes the Befana!)

For a copy of the article Italy, Clavicles & Witchcraft, please see

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 the Year to Vote

It's an election year and this is a post about starting the New Year.
But it's NOT about the presidential election. 
It is about how we all vote every time we spend a dollar on any thing.

Each dollar you pump into the economy matters.  It matters to you. It matters to the business who takes your dollar in exchange for goods and/or services. It matters to the local/state.federal tax base.  It matters. 

Do you see more organic produce when you have your grocery shopping experience?  You know why? Because years ago people, thought fringe or fantic by others, started buying organic.

Do you see reusable bags for sale in stores these days? You know why? Because years ago people, thought fringe or fanatics by others, started using and buying reusable bags.

These are just 2 examples of why I think that each dollar you spend matters.  Each dollar is a VOTE for how you WANT the world to work.  So even if you don't vote in this year's election, take the opportunity to vote with the dollars you spend.  Take just a little bit of the time you will probably spend this year worrying about your bank account or the economy or the environment and before you hand over cash or swipe that card or fill out a webform to buy something THINK about who will be getting the money you spend and whether this is how you really want to be VOTING.

We all know that when we do magic we have to put energy into the process, whether it is our own raised energy or energy that we are drawing in from other sources.  You put energy into acquiring the dollars you have.  For this exercise, think of the dollar as stored energy (I know that modern currency has more than a few issues).  You want to take the stored energy in the dollar and distribute it magically to make changes in the world. 

Magic was defined by the British occultist Aleister Crowley as "the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will".  When you vote each time you use your dollars that is causing Change to occur in conformity with your Will.  Raven Grimassi on page 179 of Italian Witchcraft enhances Crowley's approach. 
So take your imagination, concentration and your will to visualize 
 that each time you spread your dollars around it will make a difference in the world.