Symbology in Tarot – part I

During their long hours of boredom between their skirmishes with many foes , the Christian Knights of the Crusades—spared by their high social standing from the menial tasks for survival—liked to play cards with each other and with guests from different nationalities in their fortified redoubts, including the Mamluk Egyptians. The Mamluk Sultanate, based in Cairo, was a Sultanate with strong trading ties to their neighboring nations, including the contested Palestine of the Middle Ages. They inherited many cultural assets form Antiquity, including the Tarot card game.

Surreptitiously introduced in their baggage on their way back home—the European Continent was in the grip of the ultra-reactionary Inquisition that frowned upon almost any vehicle for having “a little fun”—the illustrated cards made their way to the polite nobility gatherings in Bologna, Vicenza, Milano, etc. Eventually some ingenious operators assigned values to some symbols—the divinatory Tarot cards. The earliest patterns of the cards represented Batons, Coins, Swords and Cups; the first documented set of cards appeared between 1440 and 1450 in Milano, Ferrara, Firenze, and Bologna; the Italian Wars disseminated the game all over the continent.

The Visconti-Sforza nobles of Milano—the very same ones that barbarically ate with their hands, which prodded a shocked Leonardo to invent the fork—commissioned the design of a tarot-like 60-card pack with 16 card sporting images of the Roman gods and suits depicting four kinds of birds. The 16 cards were labelled as “trumps” in allusion to the “triumphs” of the generous duke—a little deference for his gesture. Soon there were several Italian regional variants—like the Piemontese, Bolognese or Sicilian Tarocco—the French Tarot of Marseilles, the Swiss 1JJTarot, etc.

The 78-card Tarot deck used by experts has two separate line-ups:

  1. The Major Arcana: seat of the big secrets or trump cards. It consist of 22 cards without suits that represent The Magician, The High priestess, The Empress, The Emperor, The Lovers, The Chariot, The wheel of Fortune, The devil, the Hanged Man, The Tower, the Sun, the Fool, etc. There are 21 numbered cards using Roman numerals; the Fool is the only one without one.
  2. The Minor Arcana: seat of the lesser secrets. It consists of 56 cards, divided into four suits of 14 cards each.

The Major Arcana cards represent the major stations of human life as we go on living; they represent all the archetypical situations encountered by The Fool (our proxy traveler) along the Roads of Life, starting at number 0 (himself) up to number 21. When one of these cards appear, something is afoot and we must pay extreme attention to it.

The Minor Arcana is divided into four suits: wands, pentacles, swords, and cups. They are supposed to complement the information provided by the trump cards and focus our attention into possible opportunities and/or avoiding harmful situations.

Aleister Crowley—inventor of the Troth deck—said: “The origin of the pack is very obscure…The only theory of ultimate interest about the Tarot is that it is an admirable symbolic picture of the Universe, based on the data of the Holy Qabalah.”

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Noble defender against the SARS-CoV-2

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good morning. The very best food for your first meal of the day (be it breakfast, late breakfast or lunch) is half an orange or grapefruit squeezed in fresh water; the other half should be treated like we did when we were kids and our dear mothers or grandmothers gave us one. Just suck it and eat the pulp. splashing you face with its powerful vitamins.

Jugo de pomelo

There is empirical data about the healthy effects of the citrus fruits – lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits – to fight the SARS-CoV-2 producing the horrible world pandemic.  Why not follow the wise counsel of so many physicians and dietitians that observed it? Take the first step by picking some lemons and oranges next time you visit the market. Thanks to the wise recommendations of our “personal physician” (our son Gian Luca) this is how we have been starting our days at home ever since the middle of March.

Salute!

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Saumon à la Croix de Lorraine

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Today is the eighth anniversary of our dear Father Mario’s passing away, which has greatly saddened us. To honor the great sacrifices that our parents had made to give us a great French education and the heritage we enjoyed at home, we are preparing this dish of sautée smoked Alaska salmon with veggies, ravioli and a four cheese Bechamel sauce with walnuts. We dubbed it “Lorraine-style” because we put the sauce in the middle with the special format of the Croix de Lorraine that we showed you in our De Gaulle’s blog.

Drapeau_france_libre_croix_de_lorraine

Now let’s sit down to enjoy this freshly made dish in the company of loved ones.

Saumon a la Croix de Lorraine I

Bon apétit!

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Don’t leave me alone.

SARS-CoV-2 infection rates in London health care workers

Since the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, health care workers (HCWs) have been valiantly performing their critical duties in spite of being very exposed to infection. Not only their ranks have been decimated by a surge of infections and deaths, but they also have contributed to the dire spread of the virus in their own communities. The possibility of a second wave of the infection has alerted the Public Health authorities to the need to properly determine the incidence of infection in their rank and file.

In the United Kingdom, the rate of infection in London is double than the rest of the country, which prodded several institutions to pool their human and material resources to conduct a prospective cohort study of HCWs between March 26 and April 8, 2020 in several city institutions. Clinical cohort studies can either be:

  1. Prospective: a group of participants is selected and then studied forward to find out if there are any changes from the baseline data.
  2. Retrospective: a group of participants is selected, and their past data is studied to find any meaningful features.

For this prospective cohort  they recruited 200 patient-facing HCWs from a National Health Service (NHS) hospital trust in London; they collected nasopharyngeal swabs for RT-PCR twice per week, symptom data, and blood samples monthly for high-sensitivity serology assays (ELISA and flow cytometry for spike glycoprotein) The median age of the participants was 34 years old. They found that 44% (87) of the HCWs had evidence of infection at any moment during the study. Based on the serological results, 45% (82) were seropositive one month after the starting date, 20% (36) seroconverted during the study period, 25% (46) were already positive at the study’s start and 21% (42) tested positive in at least one nasopharyngeal swab.

They also found a trend towards a higher infection rate in younger participants than in the older ones; 31 out of 56 persons younger than 30 years got infected, while only 10 out of 30 persons older than 50 years old actually did. There was a significant number of asymptomatic carriers as 38% of the 42 positive HCWs did not report any meaningful symptomatology within 7 days of testing positive for SARS-CoV-2. The median age of onset of symptoms for those that were positive RT-PCR until they reported symptoms was 4 days; none of the participants had to be hospitalized.

The researchers said: “Notwithstanding the short follow-up period, these results suggest a protective effect, correlating with the presence of spike protein-specific antibodies, on subsequent infection within a 1-month period in a high risk setting.”

The featured photo was taken from: By University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences from Liverpool, United Kingdom – Anenurin Bevan, Minister of Health, on the first day of the National Health Service, 5 July 1948 at Park Hospital, Davyhulme, near Manchester, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40414909

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Buona domenica con una bellissima Fettuccineada alla Dotta

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good afternoon and Happy Sunday. Today we prepared a very simple dish of fettuccine with a San Marzano tomato sauce with veggies, minced meat and walnuts galore. It is just a variant of the famous Bolognese sauce that we nicknamed as “alla Dotta” because that is how the city of Bologna is referred as in Italy: it has the second oldest functioning university in the Western Hemisphere after Paris) Besides, it has some of its very best cooking  with big variety of meat, sausages and pasta. To study well, you need to eat well.

Fettucineada alla Dotta I

What you see in the middle is a big ball of Burrata cheese, which will implode as we heat the dish for a few minutes and deliver all its creaminess to turn it into really sublime.

Fettucineada alla Dotta II

Just imagining what a delicious dish it will be, has made our spirit (and the picture) turn on its head…Being mindful of your feelings, we will not post the final product’s view.

Buon apetitto!

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Feliz Dia de la Independencia

Queridos amigo(a)s y compañero(a)s de blogeo:

Buenos dias. En el Dia de la Independencia de nuestra queridísma República Oriental del Uruguay, queremos desearles a todos nuestro(a)s compatriotas un muy feliz día. Siempre estuvimos, y todavia estamos, muy orgullosos de haber nacido en ese paisito que, a pesar de tener muchas más vacas y ovejas que seres humanos, es una de las sociedades más educadas de toda América Latina. Incluso ahora en esta pandemia atroz que azota el mundo, es uno de los pocos países que ha podido controlar los índices de infección gracias a la colaboración cívica de sus habitantes y su buena infraestructura de Salud Pública.

En el último viaje a Montevideo donde compartimos una sobremesa, nuestro querido padre Mario nos regaló unos libros de cuentos de autores nacionales diciéndondos: “Son de este país tan maravilloso que tiene aspectos tan sorprendentes…Para bien y para mal.”

Muchas gracias, Papá y Mamá, por “hacernos” en un país maravilloso que siempre nos da alguna lección de vida y nunca nos permite aburrirnos ni un solo minuto.

Feliz Día de la Patria!

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Don’t leave me alone.

 

The Mystic Wanderer – Part II

One afternoon many years ago we were feeling bored in our Paris hotel room and, on the spur of the moment, decided to hit the street to visit the Montmartre quarter. After getting out of a taxi at its base, we walked up the hill where our favorite Parisian church lies: the Sacré Coeur. The beautiful Romano-Byzantine style church can be seen miles away at the top of what Parisians tenderly refer as “la Butte”; that hill was the scene of a firing squad liquidation of several priests during the popular uprising known as La Commune de Paris in 1871. After the revolt was tragically put down, the city and religious authorities built it to “expunge that memory” and atone for the Communards‘ sins.

After leisurely watching passers-by and tourists swarming the beautiful Place du Tertre (where there are many amateur artists that prepare great portraits) and savoring two crêpes from a famous “little hole in the wall”, we  slowly walked downhill until we reached the Place Blanche where the Moulin Rouge stands. We bought an ice cream and nonchalantly walked around peeking at the shop windows and the marquees of mini-theaters where “oversized bi-gender anatomies” are displayed. As it was getting cold, we decided to go to the nearest taxi stand to patiently queue up with other tourists.

While standing at the queue, we noticed that in a dark corner across the street a group of young men were harassing an old hag; she tripped with a bag and fell, lying defenseless at their feet. She looked like one of the old gypsies squatting in street corners to read tourists’ palms. Incredibly, not a single policeman was beating the street at that time.We immediately crossed the street and firmly confronted them in French for their abject behavior; even though we were out-numbered, the cowards quickly  took off in a jiffy. We helped the destitute woman with haggard looks and a run-down flowing skirt to stand up and collect her belongings; her smell of untidiness almost knocked us down.

-“Are you hurt?” we asked her. “Do you want to go to a hospital?”

-“No, thanks, I’m fine, “ she replied with a crackling accent that smacked of a Slavic origin. “I just want to go home. My bus stops over there,” she said, pointing at a darkened corner down Boulevard de Clichy where more trouble might have been surely lurking .

Without hesitation, we told her that it could be dangerous and that we would offer her a taxi ride at our expense; the fact that she lived in the distant suburb of Saint Dennis made us briefly hesitate. But watching her calamitous state, we carried on. We approached the taxi stand’s attendant (it was a touristy site with lots of clients) and made arrangements to pay in advance for her ride home; we gave the driver and the attendant a good tip apiece so they would take proper care of that poor woman.

We escorted her to the back seat of the spacious car, and we put her stuff in the trunk. Before the taxi took off, we leaned over the open window to say good-bye to her. She suddenly grabbed our right hand; we felt a jolt of electricity like we never did.

-“Thank you for your generosity, Mystic Wanderer…You do a lot of good to many people, even those you do not know. Like me…You’ve earned the protection of good spirits.”

-“Er…”, we mumbled. “Have we met before?”

-“I know who you are…You have a special halo that gives you immediately away.”

-“Mmm…Someone said the same thing to me in New York some years ago—”

-“Let me give a little present to treasure…You were committed twice but they were not the love of your life…A beautiful sorceress will steal your heart and seduce you.”

-“Really?” we shot back with a touch of derisive sarcasm. “Where is she, eh?”

-“She hasn’t been born yet…And she will be coming from the East…Beware.”

With a final caress, she departed in the speeding taxi, leaving us dumbfounded.

That incident occurred more than twenty years ago but it still troubles us deeply. Just in case, we always peek at the distant horizon in an Easterly direction.

En tout cas

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What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

 

School closures are worsening Food Inequality in poor American children

Last Sunday, Betsy DeVos, the US administration’s Education minister showed up in a TV political show to defend the call of President Trump to “open the schools.” In a recent Washington Post article, Jennifer Rubin criticized her avoidance of the hard choices and expensive policy/administrative measures that the government has to previously put in place before allowing millions of children back into classrooms. “No, she does not have a plan. Does she want schools to follow the CDC guidelines? She talked in circles but really could not say. If there is an outbreak, should schools go back to distance learning? More double talk. Well, how about teachers who cannot go back because of their own health risks. More mumbo-jumbo.”

The Trump administration might be trying to play politics with such a delicate issue by trying to steamroll the opening of schools across the state and local authorities, but there are other voices from a different political stance that are asking the same. The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for their immediate re-opening. In a guidance paper published in their website, they said: “ Schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being and provide our children and adolescents with academic instruction, social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition, physical/speech and mental health therapy, and opportunities for physical activities…” They enumerated several policy measures to make re-opening feasible.

The draconian socio-economic measures taken in the past four months to enforce the needed Social Distancing, including the closing on countless small businesses and myriad services across the country, has worsened wealth disparities in the USA. In a Yahoo Finance brief, Andy Serwer said: “According to a report earlier this year from the non-partisan Pew research Center, the richest families in America now take home 48% of aggregate income in the U.S. versus 29% in 1970, (with the top 5% faring best of all) Middle-class income fell from 62% to 42% over the same period.”

The closing of schools for so many long months will exacerbate the food insecurity already experienced by millions of US households before the pandemic; a survey of the U.S. Department of Agriculture stated that 14% households had children with food insecurity. For all those of us who are witnessing the incredibly long lines of drivers waiting in their cars for their turn to open their trunks and have food items stashed by the delivery stations’ volunteers from food banks/ charity organizations, we know that the income inequality and poverty are getting worse in our society. Sadly, the unemployment rate after the pandemic will affect Minorities much worse as the areas most resiliently affected will be Education, Care and General Services.

In an online comment in The Lancet, Wim Van Lancker and Zachary Parolin said: “research suggests that non-school factors are the primary source of inequalities in educational outcomes. The gap in mathematical and literary skills between children from lower and higher socioeconomic backgrounds often widens during school holiday periods. The summer holiday in most American schools is estimated to contribute to a loss in academic achievement equivalent to one month of education for children with low socioeconomic status; however, this effect is not observed for children with higher socioeconomic status.”

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Don’t leave me alone.

 

Buona Domenica con gli ravioli alla Luciannone

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good afternoon. We just finished the original dish of ravioli with a San Marzano tomato sauce with shrimp, scalops and walnuts; in the middle there is a ball of Burrrata cheese. How does it look like? You are cordially invited. Let’s sit down to eat dinner together.

Raviolada alla Luciannone

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Happy Sunday with family cooking

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good afternoon and Happy Sunday. We are getting ready to prepare one of our children’s favorite pasta dishes: ravioli alla Luciannone.  This unique pasta dish with shellfish in a tomato sauce was named in honor of the great Luciano Pavarotti; we had the honor to personally meet him in a fundraising event of the Scuola Italiana Guglielmo Marconi where Noël Marie attended school while we were studying at Columbia University.

Material para la raviolada

The pasta are ravioli of spinach and ricotta cheese from Mr. Pasta; the rest of the excellent yet affordable  ingredients were obtained at Whole Foods supermarket.

Sat distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

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Don’t leave me alone.