Monday, December 31, 2018

"Swamp Cancer" Cause of Four More Chincoteague Pony Deaths

On the afternoon of 28 December, a somber group of veterinarians, pony lovers, and members of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company's Pony Committee made the difficult and heart-rending decision to euthanize the last four ponies that were infected with equine pythiosis, also known as "swamp cancer."   Seven ponies were identified having the disease at the Fall Round-up in mid-October.  They all had round-the-clock care, veterinarian visits every other day, surgeries to remove infected areas, medications galore - antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and several new drugs in the test phases.  None of these remedies worked.  Having lost three ponies earlier, and watch this disease enter into bones, it was decided that putting the ponies down was truly best.  They would suffer no more.
    So far, all ponies infected have been females - mares and fillies.  Pictured below are the four girls who survived the longest, although Lyra's Vega had the longest fight, lasting nine months.   Crossing the Rainbow Bridge to green pastures were 13-year-old TSG's Elusive Star, 5-year-old Calcetin'n (a daughter of Lyra's Vega), 3-year-old Shadow, and 2-year-old Lightning…..
    Rest in peace, beautiful girls!

Elusive Star




Saturday, December 22, 2018

Winning Bids on Late-Born Chincoteague Pony Foals - Photos

I have to admit that I was surprised by the winning bids on the four late foals that were sold via a silent, mail-in auction.  I was also surprised at the few numbers of bids received, especially after the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company announced on Facebook that they had "received lots of enevelopes" at the special Post Office box.  Number of bids and the amount of the winning bids were announced, but the proud new owners were not named.
   The following photos of the foals were taken at the Carnival Grounds, where the foals are currently located, with their dams. The photos were taken after a big rain storm....

  #70 - Bay pinto filly; sired by Maverick, out of 15 Friends of Freckles
           4 bids received; winning bid was  $13,005.00

   #71 - Medicine Hat Chestnut pinto colt; sired by Wild Thing, out of Thetis
            3 bids received; winning bid was  $2,500.00 

   #72 -  Bay filly; sired by Maverick, out of Jessica's Sea Star Sandy
             1 bid received; winning bid was  $1,500.00

  # 73 - War Bonnet Bay pinto colt; sired by Wild Thing, out of Dakota Sky's Cody 2 Socks
             3 bids received; winning bid was  $2,700.00

All four of these foals will leave the island once they are old enough to be weaned.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Illustrations of Jultomten Or Julenissen

Tomtar Or Tomten - Part Two

The tomte is believed to be most active at night, protecting the farm and homestead from any evil or
misadventurous spirit.  He possesses incredible strength for his small size, and appears as an elderly
man wearing the clothing of a farmer.  He is easily offended, and may withdraw his protection of the
holding if he feels it is warranted.   The tomte is a traditionalist and does not like changing the way
things are done on the farm or homestead. If the farm is disrespected, if the animals are mistreated, if
swearing is frequent, or if workers or the owner is rude, the tomte will withdraw his protection.
   To express thanks for the tomte's work and protection, it is customary to leave a large bowl of hot
porridge with a pat of butter on top for the tomte's consumption on Christmas Eve.
   Another form of the tomte emerged on the scene in the late 1800s, and became known as the 
Jultomte.  The Jultomte has since been associated with the bringing of Christmas gifts to the family
home at Christmas time.  Today the Jultomte still has his traditional characteristics, but the modern
form has become well marketed.  The Jultomte is still short, but he is sometimes adult-sized.  His desire
to remain hidden from sight still exists, as do his magical skills.  Unlike Santa Claus, the Jultomte uses
the front door to enter the house and leave gifts; he is not overweight, he lives in a nearby forest, and if
he does have reindeer pulling a sleigh loaded with presents, the reindeer cannot fly.  However, like the
old-fashioned tomte, the new Yule spirit also expects to receive a full bowl of julegrot (with butter on 
the top) on Christmas Eve.
   In Sweden, the Jultomte is accompanied by the Christmas goat, who pulls his sleigh as he delivers
gifts to the children's homes.  In pagan times, the god Thor was said to ride across the sky in a chariot
pulled by two goats. Early Christians adopted the goat as a Christmas symbol.  The ram is a 
representation of Lucifer, who was conquered by the good Saint Nikolas, and he is destined to
accompany his master on his journey to distribute gifts to children.  Today the goat, or ram, is a benign 
straw figure (the Julbok), but is still a very easily identifiable Christmas symbol.
   In Denmark today, the present version of the Julenisse is very different from the legends of the old
domestic nisse or tomte.  The Julenisse is portrayed as an older, good natured, adult sized man (not
surprisingly the size of a father or uncle) with a long white beard, a red hat and red suit.  He carries a
sack of toys on his back and visits children in their homes on Christmas Eve.  He always asks, "Are
there any good children here?" ("Er det noen snille barn her?")  
   The Norwegian Julenisse is very much like our American Santa Claus, and is based upon the legend
of Saint Nikolas, who was the patron saint of children and seamen.  He was known for his many kind 
acts toward children.  (Also, in Norway, nisse is a derivative of Nikolas.)
   Danish, Finnish, and Norwegian children believe that Julenisse lives at the North Pole and has a
workshop there with elf helpers.
   Legends of the domestic tomte and nisse meet the modern day version of the Jultomte and Julenisse
in the tradition of leaving a bowl of julegrot (porridge with a pat of butter on top) either in the house or
in the barn on Christmas Eve.  This tradition is still practiced in most Scandinavian homes.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Illustrations of Old Fashioned Tomtar

What Is a Tomte - Or What Are Tomtar? - Part One

A tomte today is a mythological creature from Nordic folklore that is typically associated with the winter solstice and the Christmas season. It is called a nisse in Denmark and Norway, and either a tomtenisse or tonttu in Finland. It is generally described as being no taller than 35 inches, having a long white beard, and they wear a conical or knit cap in red or another bright color.  They are close in appearance to a garden gnome.  It is one of the most familiar creatures of Scandinavian folklore, and has appeared in many works of Nordic literature.  In English editions of the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, the word nisse has been wrongly translated as "goblin" - it is more like an English brownie or hob.
  The tomte is an echo of an ancient ancestral cult, according to folklorists. He was sometimes seen as the farmer who cleared the forest to build the farm, and who, in pre-Christian days, would have been buried on the farm within a mound.  The words tomte and tonttu are derived from the term for a place of residence and area of influence: the house lot is tomt in Swedish and tontti in Finnish.  According to tradition, the tomte lives in the houses and barns of the farmstead, and secretly act as their guardian.  If treated well, they protect the family and farm animals from evil and misfortune, and they may also aid in farm chores and work.  However, they are known to be short tempered, especially when offended. Once insulted, they usually play tricks, steal items, and will even maim or kill livestock.
  Originally, the tomte was described as a small elderly man (the size of a tomte varies from a few inches to about 35 inches), and he often has a full beard.  He is dressed in the traditional garb of a farmer, consisting of a pull-over woolen tunic belted at the waist, and knee breeches with stockings and clogs, boots, or shoes.  There are also folktales saying that he is skilled in illusions, and can be invisible or become the size of a giant.  People only get glimpses of him, so he is hard to describe.  Norwegian folklore states that he has four fingers, pointed ears, and has reflective eyes, like a cat.
  Despite his small size the tomte possesses immense strength.  In some tales, in return for some kindness, he performs the work of ten men and brings good fortune to the farm owner and his family. But he is easily offended by lazy farmers and a lack of respect, and by rudeness. He performs retributions for bad farm management and practices, ranging from a smack on the ear to ruining the farm's fortune.  For him, observance of traditions is important, and changes in work habits or care of things upset him. Rude farm workers could expect a beating.
  One is also expected to please and appease the tomte with gifts; a special gift is a bowl of porridge on Christmas night, with a large pat of butter on the top.  If the tomte is not given his gift, he might leave the house, barn, or steading; he might turn objects upside down, or break things; or he might tie the cows' tails together in a knot.
  The tomte is connected to farm animals in general, but his most treasured animal is the horse or pony.  Belief had it that one could see which equine was the tomte's favorite, as it would be especially healthy and well taken care of.  Occasionally the tomte would braid the horse's mane and tail; undoing the braids could anger the spirit, and bad fortune might follow.
  During and after the Christianization of Scandinavia, the tomte was not a popular figure. As a creature of folklore, he was seen as heathen, and connected to the Devil.  Farmers believing in the house or farm tomte could be viewed as worshiping false gods and/or demons.  Saint Birgitta warns against the worship of tompta gudhi (tomte gods) in a famous 14th century decree.  At that time, having a tomte on the farm meant that you had put your soul at risk, and it was believed that you had to perform various nefarious non-Christian rites to lure the spirit to your farm.  The belief in a tomte's tendency to bring riches to the farm by his unseen work could also be dragged into conflicts between neighbors.  If one farmer was doing better for himself than the others, someone might accuse him of having a tomte, who was doing "ungodly" work and probably stealing from the neighbors.  A farmer accused of such a thing could be damaged by word and shunning, as it was like accusations of witchcraft during the Inquisitions.
  The tomte was originally a solitary creature, but today he is frequently pictured with other tomtar as a social creature.  He shares many aspects with other Scandinavian wights that are social creatures.  Names for different types of Scandinavian home spirits, in English, include yard dweller, yard warden, good farmer, yard spirit, and barn gnome.  In Finland, there is a sauna gnome.  In Sweden a tomte may become a ship gnome.
  In other European countries, folklore has many similar beings, such as the Scots and English brownie, the Northumbrian English hob, the English West Country pixie, the Dutch kabouter, the Slavic domovoi, or the German Heinzelmannchen.

    ** I keep a small statue of a tomte eating a candy cane on my mantel. **

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Winter Solstice Images From Various Artists

Winter Solstice 2018

  Amid the whirl of the holiday season, many are vaguely aware of the approach of the winter solstice, but how much do you really know about it?  Whether you're a fan of winter, or just wish it would go away, here are ten things to know - or even celebrate - about the solstice.
   1.  It happens on December 21 this year.
The date of the winter solstice varies from year to year, and can fall anywhere between December 20th and 23rd, with the 21st or 22nd being the most common dates.  The reason for this is because the tropical year - the time it takes for the sun to return to the same spot relative to the Earth - is different from the calendar year.  The next solstice occurring on December 20 will be in 2080, and the next December 23 solstice will happen in 2303.
   2.  The winter solstice happens at a specific, brief moment.
Not only does the solstice occur on a specific day, but it also occurs at a specific time of day, which corresponds to the instant the North Pole is aimed furthest away from the sun on the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth's axis.  This is also the time when the sun shines directly over the Tropic of Capricorn.  This year, the moment occurs at 3:23 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, or at 1:23 p.m. EST.  And regardless of where you live, the solstice happens at the same moment for everyone on the planet.
   3.  It marks the longest night and shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
As most folks are keenly aware, daylight hours grow shorter and shorter as the winter solstice approaches, and begin to slowly lengthen afterward.  It's no wonder that the solstice is referred to in some cultures as "the shortest day" or "the extreme of winter."  New York City will have 9 hours and 15 minutes of sunlight (if it isn't cloudy and storming), compared to 15 hours and 5 minutes on the summer solstice.  Helsinki, Finland will get 5 hours and 49 minutes of light.  Barrow, Alaska will not have a sunrise at all - it hasn't had a sunrise since mid-November, and the next one will occur on January 22; while the North Pole has not had a sunrise since October.  Meanwhile, the South Pole is basking in the glow of the midnight sun, which will not set until March.
   4.  Ancient cultures viewed the winter solstice as a time of death and rebirth.
The seeming death of the light and sun, and the very real threat of starvation over the winter months would have weighed heavily over early societies; therefore, they held varied solstice celebrations and rites meant to herald the return of the Sun and the hope for new life.  Scandinavian and Germanic pagans lit fires and may have burned Yule logs as a symbolic means of welcoming back the sun light.  Cattle and other animals were slaughtered around mid-winter, followed by feasting on what was the last of the fresh meat for a period of several months.  The modern Druidic celebration of Alban Arthan reveres the death of the Old Sun and the birth of the New Sun.
   5.  The winter solstice marks the discovery of new and strange worlds.
The Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock on 21 December 1620 to found a new society that would allow them to worship freely.  On the same day in 1898, Pierre and Marie Curie discovered radium, ushering in the atomic age.  And on 21 December 1968, the Apollo 8 launched, becoming the first manned mission to the moon.
   6.  The word solstice translates roughly to "sun stands still."
Solstice derives from the Latin scientific term solstitium, containing sol, which means "sun," and the past participle stem of sistere, meaning "to make stand."  This comes from the fact that the sun's position in the sky relative to the horizon at noon, and which increases and decreases throughout the year, appears to pause in the days surrounding the solstice.  In modern times, we view the phenomenon of the solstice from the position of space, and of the Earth relative to the sun.  Earlier people, however, were thinking of the sun's trajectory, how long it stayed in the sky, and what sort of light it cast.
   7.  Stonehenge is aligned to the sunset on winter solstice.
The primary axis of Stonehenge is oriented to the setting sun, while Newgrange, another megalithic structure built around the same time, lines up with the winter solstice sunrise.  Some people have theorized that the position of the sun was of religious significance to the folks who built Stonehenge, while other theories hold that the monument was constructed along natural features that happen to align with it.  The purpose of Stonehenge is still subject to debate, but its importance on the winter solstice continues into modern times, as thousands of pagans and other types of enthusiasts gather there every year to celebrate the occasion.
   8.  Ancient Romans celebrated reversals at the midwinter festival of Saturnalia.
The holiday, which began as a festival to honor the agricultural god Saturn, was held to commemorate the dedication of his temple in 497 BCE.  It quickly became a time of widespread revelry and debauchery in which societal roles were overturned, with masters serving their slaves and servants being allowed to insult their masters.  Mask wearing and play acting were also a part of Saturnalia's reversals, with each household electing a King of Misrule.  Saturnalia was gradually replaced by Christmas throughout the Roman Empire, but many of its customs survive as Christmas traditions.
   9.  Some areas believe that dark spirits walk the Earth on the winter solstice.
The Iranian festival of Yalda is celebrated on the longest night of the year.  In pre-Islamic times, it heralded the birth of Mithra, the ancient sun god, and his triumph over darkness.  Zoroastrian lore holds that evil spirits wander the earth and that the forces of the destructive spirit Ahriman are strongest on this long night.  People are encouraged to stay up for most of the night in the company of one another, eating, talking, and sharing poetry and stories, in order to avoid any encounters with dark spirits or entities.  Beliefs about the presence of evil on the longest night of the year are also echoed in Celtic and Germanic folklore.
   10.  Some people thought the world would end at the winter solstice in 2012.
December 21, 2012 corresponds to the date in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar used by the ancient Mayans, marking the end of a 5,126 year cycle.  Some feared this juncture would bring about the end of the world or some other cataclysmic event. Others took a more New Age view and believed it heralded the birth of a new era of deep transformation for Earth and her inhabitants.  In the end, neither of these things appeared to happen, leaving the world to turn through winter solstices indefinitely, or at least as long as the sun continues to emit light.
Please celebrate the winter solstice in your own, unique, way!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Third Chincoteague Pony Lost to "Swamp Cancer"

In actuality, the euthanasia of Lyra's Vega on the evening of 16 December was the sixth death that was caused by equine pythiosis, aslo known as "Swamp Cancer."  Lyra was the third pony that has crossed the Rainbow Bridge of the seven ponies that were diagnosed with this disease at the Fall Round-Up .  Essie, and then Raindancer, have died previously since treatments and surgeries began in late October.  Tidewater Princess died in 2016, and TJ's Firefly and Diamond's Jewel passed away in 2017, all from "Swamp Cancer."
   The four ponies now fighting this disease are TSG's Elusive Star (born 2005, by Wild Bill, out of Fuddy Duddy); Calceti'n, Lyra's daughter  (born 2013, by Prince of Tides, out of Lyra's Vega); Shadow (2015, by Puzzle, out of Destiny's Feathering Spirit); and Lightning (2016, by Courtney's Boy, out of CJ Samm'n).
   Lyra's Vega was born on 14 April 2005 on Assateague from the union of North Star and Sashay Lady.  She was a Buy-Back foal and netted the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company $3,100 at the Pony Auction.  She became a proud member of Surfer Dude's herd, and, after his winter death in 2015, she became a part of his son's (Surfer's Riptide) herd.  She had her first of six foals with Surfer Dude in 2010, a chestnut colt named Neptune's Silver Star.  In 2012 and 2013, her daughters were Buy-Backs, also; Dreamer's Gift is on Assateague, while Calceti'n is fighting the disease that killed her mother. She had two more daughters with Surfer Dude, Chai Latte in 2014, and Surfer's Twilight Stardust in 2015.  She had a colt (un-named in the Registry) with Surfer Dude in 2011; and an un-named colt in 2016 with Riptide.  Her last foal was a filly named Fleck of San (Sandy) in 2017 with Riptide.
   Lyra's Vega had been fighting equine pythiosis for 9 months.  She had surgery, removing infected flesh, and seemed better.  Then she had secondary swelling, and a return of the disease, which invaded her bones.  As she continued to fail, it was decided to give her a release from the constant pain and weariness of fighting a disease that was killing her slowly.  Believe me, the firemen, Saltwater Cowboys, and veterinarians do make such decisions lightly.  These ponies are family members and loved all over the world.
  Gallop in green pastures, you beautiful girl, enjoying the company of other members of the Chincoteague pony herds that have crossed the Rainbow Bridge - including your first love, Surfer Dude.  Rest in peace, Lyra's Vega.

 Lyra and Sandy
 Lyra and Sandy

Lyra and Butterfly Kisses

Sunday, December 16, 2018