Today is Shrove Tuesday, what we call Pancake Day in England. In other countries it is Carnival or Mardi Gras. Whether you are eating up the last of the sugar and butter or getting dressed up for a masked ball, it is a day for having a party before the austerities of Lent.
Lent, of course, is a Christian tradition, a time of abstinence before Easter, and you might wonder why a pagan is mentioning it. Well, I am happy to honour pretty much anyone's god if it means a party. I am also partial to pancakes.
If you look hard, you can find some links to paganism within traditional Shrove Tuesday events. Someone pointed out to me that the round, golden pancake is a solar symbol and may once have been made in honour of Apollo, the sun god. Mardi Gras and Carnival may hark back to Roman Saturnalia, which was also a time for dressing up and putting on disguises.
In England, the Alnwick Shrovetide football match, at Alnwick in Northumberland, possibly dates back to pre-Christian times. It is played between the residents of the two parishes of Alnwick in the pastures below Alnwick Castle. Hundreds of people take part in this free-for-all scrum with few rules except to get the ball away from the opposing side. Gory legend has it that in ancient times this was played using a human head for a ball.
Here are links for more information on Shrove Tuesday traditions:
Here is a basic pancake recipe: www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/basilpancakswithsuga_66226.shtml
The pancake picture was supplied by: www.freefoto.com/