“Yes, children. It’s that time of year again. HAPPY SAINT PATRICK’S DAY!”

Same time. Same place. Same food. Same blessing. Same parade. Same beer. Same blessing. Same river. Same color. Same whisky. Boiled pah-day-dahs. Soda bread. (Maybe) scones. (Very salty) corned [pickled] beef (brisket) boiled, of course, or crock- potted. Boiled cabbage (NOT sauerkraut, of course). Carrots boiled. Guinness (or, perhaps, O’Doul’s or Kaliber?). And so it goes.



Oh, how we Irish do so love our rituals!


* * *
[A return to yesteryear, 17 March 2015, for a delightful repast]:



Corned Beef? “In the United States and Canada, consumption of corned beef is often associated with Saint Patrick’s Day. Corned beef is not considered an Irish national dish; the connection with Saint Patrick’s Day specifically originates as part of Irish-American culture, and is often part of their celebrations in North America.

“Corned beef was used as a substitute for bacon by Irish-American immigrants in the late 19th century. Corned beef and cabbage is the Irish-American variant of the Irish dish of bacon and cabbage. A similar dish is the New England boiled dinner, consisting of corned beef, cabbage, and root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, and potatoes, which is popular in New England and parts of Atlantic Canada.” [Wikipedia]

Since I could ever remember, we had corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish Catholic Feast Day of St. Patrick was almost a Holy Day of Obligation: Attend church under pain of mortal sin. Well, it wasn’t really such a day; but it was a day off from school, it meant a Chicago parade, and it meant the Italians in my neighborhood had to wait two more days to get even with us by brandishing St. Joseph’s Day–and by having local processions and festivities.

[Saint Joseph’s Day, March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph is in Western Christianity the principal feast day of Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on 1 May was created in order to coincide with the celebration of International Labor Day (May Day) in many countries.]

He was the stepfather to Jesus; St. Patrick only drove out snakes from Ireland….
However, more people in America ate turkey at Thanksgiving time than they ate ham. And more people in America ate corned beef at St. Patrick’s Day-time than they ate Italian sausage and peppers (though I cannot “prove” this allegation by me)!

Well, corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots had been the steady diet of my O’Neil family since I became part of the O’Neil/O’Neill Clan. So my wife and I have continued to carry on our clannish traditions with our own family on that Special Day of 17 March.



Thus ends the history lesson relating Saint Patrick and Saint Joseph, and corned beef and cabbage. Now about those Reuben sandwiches, available year round at your favorite deli….  sandwich-corned-beef by kaufmans deli skokie IL




© James F. O’Neil 2015, 2016

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Why do we do it this way and not that?

Some say we like to reminisce about the past and often repeat the “traditional” things we have “always” done at Thanksgiving and other holidays for a sense of continuum that our lives have been.

We are reminded of the persons and personalities we were many years ago.

We shun any new “traditions” because they separate us from our past and make us feel even older than we are because they attach to no memories.

However, some people don’t want to attach to the persons they were earlier because those memories are not often happy ones, and/or they prefer the people they are now over who they used to be.  


Happy memories, or not?

 (Music plays: “Tradition,” from Fiddler on the Roof.)






What? Mystical, cosmological, sociological, pedagogical.

“What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.” T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

* * *

J. Campbell.  M. Eliade.  C. Jung.  B. Bettelheim.  R. May.  N. Frye.  P. Wheelwright

Living a myth implies a genuinely religious experience, differing from the ordinary experience of everyday life, re-enacting fabulous, exalting, significant events.

“The bard is sacred to the gods and is their priest.” –John Milton

Ovid.  Whitman.  Milton.  Thoreau.

We live the myth ceremonially or by our performing the ritual [the “doing”; rite is the “how to do”]: in one way or another, we “live” the myth in the sense that we are “seized by the sacred, exalting power of the events recollected or re-enacted.” –Eliade

Employee-Wash-Hands-Sign-NHE-13171_300Simple hand washing?

The Lavabo: Latin for wash (or bathe).  In the ancient church, the priest would clean his hands after receiving gifts of oil, food, and other goods.

“The priest then begins to recite Psalm 26: “I wash my hands in innocence”: Lavabo inter innocentes manus meas.”

“When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, . . .he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said.” –Matthew 27:24 (NIV)

“Will all the water in the ocean wash this blood from my hands?” –Mrs. Macbeth

Surgical Hand Scrubs: “There is a standard procedure for surgical hand antisepsis, gowning, and gloving which is based on current evidence, best practice, and validated research.” –Every medical-surgical instruction manual.

“Get up there and wash your hands before dinner!”–Mom

lava soap bars


My brother Denis recently asked me for a copy of a handout I used in my writing classes: “The 3-8 Paragraph.”

In my memories of a time many years ago, my friend and colleague, Walt, gave me a handout called “The 3-8 Paragraph Method for Writing.” I was not as overly enthusiastic about using it as he was; he explained it was something he had used in teaching for some years. And he had gotten it from someone else during a long-time-ago workshop.

This method shows a simple way for writers to get started working on a topic, especially memories of a time–bringing about “the thrill of mining one’s own experiences,” as Jeff, a former student of mine, described it.

I found it to be a gem in my writing programs, after using it for a while. Since that time ago, I had been using this handout as one of the best pass‑and‑share/show‑and‑tell items I have ever received. I have given workshops describing how to use it, taught it, and shared it with colleagues. (Some might know it now as a method to help develop the so-called “essay map.”)

And so much for that.

However, my remembering now the times I have used the method makes me want to share the most essential element in the process, the keystone: having the concept of “three” or “3” or “threesies.”

This might seem too easy. And it is. And that is all I am going to say about that. Well, not really.

How much does “three” play in a life? What should I know about “3,” other than it comes after 2 and before 4? But wasn’t that a difficult thing to do, counting as a very young child, as you think back on it?

This is not about numerology–but it could be: the study of the use and power of numbers. Though I want it not to be “occult” or “cult-ish.” But think and remember what you might know about this number and its effect upon your life–or what memories you have about something “three.”

Maybe, “Once upon a time, there were three bears….” Why three?

“And now, Earth, Wind & Fire!” (though the classical elements add the 4th, water)

1st, 2nd, and 3rd place… (blue, red, and yellow [white for 4th place])

“Three men on a match”: That is “bad luck.”

Picture this: In the wind, a soldier during World War I lights a match, at night or in the dark, cupping his hand to prevent the wind from putting out the match. Then the cigarette is lighted. He shares the flame with a 2nd soldier. Then a 3rd soldier attempts to use the fading fire. He is the dead man, shot by an enemy sniper who has been alerted by the first light, takes aim on the 2nd, and knows there will be a 3rd.  Bad luck.

That is how I learned it.

In the novel As Time Goes By (by Michael Walsh, 1998), Rick Blaine shares a light with a friend. Reading that, I at once thought of the three-men-on-a-match anecdote. It happens that way with me.

Between 1490 and 1510, Hieronymus Bosch painted Garden of Earthly Delights, the modern title given to a triptych.

The Garden of Earthly Delights by Bosch

The Bosch Garden

What is a “triptych painting”? It is a work of art divided into three sections, or three carved panels that are hinged together and can be folded shut or displayed open. A trifold, three-sectioned something. Like a trifold wallet, or greeting card.

And then, remember “Two’s company, three’s a crowd”? Not as dramatic as the match story, but it could be, for some, a serious “threesome” relationship–or a stage of growing up. Just think of how many times you were the “odd man out,” the “third wheel.” Growing up, did you have fun as a “trio”? Or was it ever a “love triangle” (in French, ménage à trois).

Triangle: “… and the hypotenuse of a right triangle is….” Let’s think about that baseball field and see, not three bases but two triangles abutting one another across the mound in the middle. And see the 127 feet from first to third. Hypotenuse. Geometry. Tenth (10th) grade for some. Oh, that throw from third to second to first? That’s known as a “triple play.” That’s a baseball rarity.

Triple, as in “triple-crown winner.” Or the “trifecta.”

What gives me pleasure? “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, thou.” Yup, another “threesie,”

In The Little Mermaid look carefully at the “trident” that King Triton (“tri-”) carries.

King Triton wiki

King Triton (Credit: Wikipedia)

 Or remember the Times Table of Three: that “three times three equals __.”

Finally (though this is by no means the last word on threesies), the poet John Milton wrote Paradise Lost, the massive poem about the massive battle about good angels, bad angels, and man. And God. The places were Milton’s poetic descriptions of mythic threesies: heaven, earth, hell.

Milton’s Universe

Though his poem was written “way back when” (1674?), even today writers ask (and answer in science fiction, fantasy, or pop literature), “What is the tripartite cosmology common to many foundation myths?” Outer darkness, earth, and some sort of heaven.

You will not look at three (3) the same way again…

 © James F. O’Neil 2014

The Three Stooges (as found in Wikipedia)

The Three Stooges (as found in Wikipedia)



Most of us adjusted our clocks to keep up with The Changing of the Clocks: Daylight Saving Time (“Daylight Time”). And the world keeps on turning.

watch If the yearly changing of clocks is important for the economy and for the normal operation of living, we can be aware of what a big deal it really is.

However, it is a small instance in our being involved in rite, ritual, and myth.

Ritual plays such an important role in the life of an aware human, and knowledge of ritual and mythology makes us aware of the bond that unites us all to one another.

If you need to delve into this “myth thing,” read and study Frazer, Frye, Eliade, Wheelwright; then worlds open up reading Jung, Milton, Whitman, and Joyce. There is no end to discovering, to making connections, to becoming aware of how contemporary faiths and practices are united with/by “archaic” realities. And in the widest range possible, “faiths and practices” can even include setting back or ahead a timepiece or the Dashboard Clock.

How I do something or how I am told to do something is RITE: How to color Easter eggs.


The actual coloring is the Annual RITUAL, including hiding the eggs, making baskets, and making chocolate disappear.

MYTH is a true story that is precious, contains special elements, and is usually religious or “sacred.” (This is the story of “Once upon a time . . .”: Easter Bunny, tombs, rolling back a stone, angels passing over, etc.) We need to get used to NOT saying, “It’s a myth.” (Maybe in Shakespeare in Love, “It’s a mystery” has more meaning than appears.)

A MYTH is a narrative and an expression of ultimate reality, a statement of value: “I believe this.” Even if it’s an Easter Bunny, the Paschal Lamb, or Passover . . . or changing the time. We express, “We believe,” then act accordingly as those who have done before us from the beginning.

From here, we go to see the timepiece, the clock, as more than a time change but rather as a renewal of and re-living the myth: spring (or autumn). And all that spring announces, like dawn or birth or green (however, after the snow is finally gone), or revival, defeat of darkness of winter (resurrection?).

This is Spring. (April may be the cruelest month, but April showers bring May flowers . . .)

Living a MYTH implies a genuinely religious experience. We live it ceremonially or by performing the ritual: Easter bonnets, those Easter Parades (any parade!). In one way or another, we “live” the myth in the sense that we are “seized by the sacred, exalting power of the events recollected or re-enacted” (Mircea Eliade).

All those little things we do at this time of the year, “religious” or sacred or “profane,” take us on that journey of awareness, that ritual of discovery of our origins and of who we are: humans.

It’s no big deal, just a clock and egg and a bunny and a . . . .

© James F. O’Neil




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