Monday, February 07, 2005

Faith/Works 2-12-05
By Jeff Gill

Many of the events in the Christian calendar are “baptized” dates. While no one wonders whether or not Jesus of Nazareth was born, the exact date has never been known, since none of the Biblical accounts mention a day.
In the Roman empire, where Christianity spread first and fastest, a number of dates in the Roman calendar were “baptized,” converted from their cultic purposes along the Tiber to mark major points in the stories from the Gospels, such as late December’s Saturnalia turned into Christmas, or Spring rites of the Vestal Virgins into Lent. Many Celtic dates and names in western Europe were “baptized” the same way, such as Eostre, a Spring fertility rite, taken to mark the date finally agreed upon to mark the Resurrection at the Synod of Whitby.
While few Roman pagans have shown up on the public scene to reclaim holidays for Saturn, Juno, or Mercury, pop culture has done a strange reworking on the reworked festival that is Valentine’s Day.
Originally an ancient, mysterious cultic observance called “Lupercalia,” where the devotees of Bacchus, god of wine and drunken frenzy, would tear an animal apart with their bare hands and then crowd around to be whipped with bloody strips of hide, the early Roman Christians said, and I quote, “Whoa nelly!”
This “bacchanal” (there’s that Bacchus/Dionysus again) was oddly popular, largely because being left with a red mark from one of the flails was believed by women to promote fertility for wives who could not bear children, the summum bonum of ancient life.
So the church leaders did a very clever “baptism” of even the lurid Lupercalia in mid-February, and tied it to the commemoration of an early Christian martyr, who witnessed to the power of love between young believers held captive before their own deaths in the arena, and to God’s power shown through them all. You still had drama, tragedy, hope, and faith all twined together, but with the blood left as a symbolic indicator in emblems of red.
Less to clean up, too.
So for practical and faithful reasons, the feast of Saint Valentinus of Rome washed away the excesses of Lupercalia in love letters and symbols of the heart marking February 14, two weeks before year’s end. (Roman years began in March, but that’s another column.)
Today, St. Valentine is the one who’s co-opted: it’s Valentine’s Day, or V-Day, with even hearts and cupids steadily supplanted by lace, chocolate, and fertility rites of a sort that might be recognized by a Roman matron in training for a Lupercalia street festival.
Renewing that baptism of old, some churches are working to reclaim the day for Saint V and his affirmation of romantic love as a manifestation of divine love, holding special dinners for couples, holding marriage retreats or Marriage Enrichment programs around Feb. 14. Hebron Christian Church even combines a celebration of couples’ and families’ love for each other with their love for a camp program that has built strong relationships over many years, and make their Valentine’s dinner a fundraiser for Camp Christian.
It could be sharing how many years you’ve been married around a sanctuary on a Sunday morning this time of year, or sharing in small groups or in testimony time what has strengthened your marriage recently, but let’s not let Valentine’s Day go back to the wolves!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio. Tell him your story of a loving faith community or renewed history at
Notes From My Knapsack 2-13-05
By Jeff Gill

Tuesday, Feb. 15 is certainly just around the corner, but there’s an event and opportunity coming up just around that corner you should know about, but that I didn’t think I could promote loudly and widely until just now. But first…
If you are interested in the long (I mean looooong) human history of Licking County, going back to what appears to be the very first human occupants of this area 12,000 years ago and on down to the latecomers from Europe a mere 200 years back, then you should read the rest of this column.
If not, check back next week under this header. Bye!
OK, for those of you still with me, one more request before I get to the meaty details. Don’t turn the page just because I happen to use the words “Granville Bicentennial” in a sentence, because this is a program of interest to anyone who lives in and is intrigued by the Native American prehistory of central Ohio.
Tuesday at 7:30 pm is the next featured speaker in the Granville Bicentennial series, and I was reluctant to shout too much from the housetops because the venue was going to a relatively small room. But the huge turnout for the opening talk by Dale Knobel, Denison president and historian in his own right, led the wonderful management at the Granville Inn to offer their “Great Room” for the rest of the series, with seating enough for hundreds (as we had for Pres. Knobel).
Brad Lepper, curator of archaeology for the Ohio Historical Society, was one of the authors of the new Granville history volume(s), and is widely known as not only the leading expert on early residents in Licking County from after the glaciers to just before the settlers arrived, but also as a great public speaker. In the interests of full disclosure, Brad is a good and longstanding friend, but for many who have heard me rattle on interminably about the Newark Earthworks, the Burning Tree Mastodon, Alligator Mound, Flint Ridge, etc., may I note that all my A-list material has been swiped directly from Brad.
Dr. Lepper, in his professional persona, also has a book coming out this month titled “Ohio Archaeology” (go ahead, check for details; we’ll be here when you get back). His many publications, appearance with former National Park Service director Roger Kennedy on the Discovery Channel, and column in (ahem) another newspaper mean that many of you have read something or another by Brad, but if you’ve never heard him speak on Ohio’s First Residents, you should head for the Granville Inn this week and get a good seat before 7:30 pm.
I will personally offer a money back guarantee for your enjoyment of the evening’s program, which is free and open to the public.
You might also note that Dick Shiels, another author for the Granville history books and a presenter a few weeks on down the road, and Brad are working on co-ordinating a number of events next fall relating to the Octagon Moonrise, the “once in a generation” alignment of the largest assembly in the Newark Earthworks and a unique moonrise that won’t be seen again until 2024. Check out for the first stage of a website that will tell you more as the big date gets closer. Dick teaches at OSU-Newark, and between he and Brad Licking County has a remarkable wealth of teaching talent and public presentation skills to share our “land of legend” story with a national and global audience.
So come on into Granville Tuesday night, where the natives are friendly (just don’t speed, fer Pete’s sake), and hear a story where we all have a part in telling the growing tale of Licking County wonders.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio, and he’s been known to do an archaeology talk or two himself. If you have local stories of general interest, send ‘em to
The Scouter -- March 2005Simon Kenton Council BSA
Licking District Trailmarkers
23 counties across two states are in the Simon Kenton Council BSA, with 16 Silver Beavers awarded here this year.
Licking County is proud to claim Trevor Gamble as our honoree in 2005, but Licking District has to share him with Connecticut, his wife Carolyn and family, the US Navy, Denison University, and the United Way.
Amazingly enough, there’s Trig to go ‘round for all of those claims. Our district chairman was honored at the council court of honor along with a distinguished crew gathered from the Ohio River banks to Delaware’s northern edge. Among that throng, what stood out in the photo montage at the end of the evening were the pictures of our guy on his carrier-based aircraft with a bit more and darker hair, and then a shot with his missing twin brother, a more recent snap with two distinguished men of whom one looked very like John Glenn…or as we’d say in Licking District, John Glenn bears a striking resemblance to Trevor Gamble.
As you get this, our district should be about at mid-point of a flurry of “Blue & Gold” banquets for Cub Scout packs , celebrating the 75 year anniversary of this arm of the Scouting Movement. 1930 began a program which, with the expansion into Tiger Cubs almost 25 years ago (how the time flies!), is the Cub Scout program we know today. It isn’t too late to work on the Diamond Anniversary Award for Cubs, units, and leaders, with opportunities to celebrate the long history and accomplishments of Cub Scouting.
One interesting suggestion on the requirement sheets in the yellow and blue packets is for adults and youth to read Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.” Those who only know the (very fine!) animated version done by the Disney folks may not catch the degree to which much of the Cubbing program is indebted to Kipling’s great children’s book: Akela, Baloo, bears and wolves and tigers, growing and mentoring, all are part and parcel of the book and the program.
In fact, this could lead you to a slightly more obscure work by Kipling, a kind of “Jungle Book” for older kids and a good read for the grown-ups: “Kim.” Kim is another orphaned young boy who is raised and mentored by an assortment of parental figures who give both his mental and physical development careful and loving attention, with special care to introducing him to the outdoors as a tool to inner growth.
Historians of Scouting have long acknowledged that “Kim” is one of the two fictional works that shaped Baden-Powell’s work on the original “Scouting for Boys,” the source of Scouting itself whose centennial is coming in another couple years. B-P quotes “Kim” frequently, and a number of the activities in the book are taken directly from Kipling’s tale. Thanks to Amazon, you can run down a copy in a heartbeat…but if anyone in the Scout Shop is reading this, “Kim” and “The Jungle Book” would make a bunch of sense to stock!
One of two, you say? What’s the other, you ask? I’m glad you asked that…
“Finding Neverland” is a recent movie many of you may have seen without thinking too much about a Scouting connection. One more in what seems like an annual stream of “Peter Pan” movies, remakes, different takes, and background shadings about Sir James Barrie, a very popular author and playwright of the late 1800’s. The book and play “Peter Pan” were greatly beloved by Baden-Powell, and he and Barrie became good friends. The original Scout handbook, “Scouting for Boys,” contains many quotes and references to “Peter Pan,” as does the first “Scoutmaster’s Manual.”
And in “The Chief Scout’s Last Letter,” the note Baden-Powell wrote before his death to World Scouting and to all Scouts who would come after, he quotes from “Peter Pan” not once, but twice.
So there’s some late winter reading for you all as we prepare for Spring Camporees, Cub Day Camp, and summer camp at Falling Rock. You might even want to carry your copy with you to read by the campfire. They’re great for boys and for the men who never stopped being boys in the best way, just like Trig Gamble!
Yours in Scouting,Jeff send info for April or May to this e-mail,and we'll print it right here)