Spring-ing Forward Misses DST point: Mythic origins of Deus Tea overlooked

by Stephen Cobb on March 13, 2011

About this time every year there is a lot of chatter about Daylight Saving Time, clocks, farmers, planting, sunlight, safety, business impact, the environment, and so on. You read these words in blogs and you hear them all over the cable news networks where talking heads explain the annual sixty minute shift in time.

All of which obscures the history behind this practice and its origins in ancient myth and legend. No longer do we tell our children about the epic struggle between the Sun god Ra, the Sea god Poseidon, and Zunga the flying lizard. I mean, how many children today know the story of how Zunga and Ra put aside their own feud to conspire against Poseidon, tricking him into arriving one horus [hour] late to their ritual Sun-day duel?

Zunga the Flying Lizard

Old text-book illustration showing Sumerian stone carving believed to depict Zunga the Flying Lizard


With all the education cutbacks and test-focused learning in America today it is perhaps no surprise that most of our kids have never even heard of the pageant of Deus Tea [literally: Deus Starticus Tardicum] let alone participated in one of these colorful celebrations.

Even that most American of Spring traditions, the Vernal Equinox [literally The Equinox of Vern] is mentioned merely in passing these days. How many children could, if asked, recount its origins on the shores of the Great Salt Lake–back before Utah was even called the Utah Territory–when the young pioneer Vern Smith used 24 egg-timers and 100 candles to accurately determine the equal length of both day and night?

Well, here at Cobbsblog we plan to do something about this parlous ignorance. At some point between now and the first of April [literally “the first pril” or prilostoria, from the Greek for short sword or possibly story] we will be posting the original DST origin myth in full, in the hopes of keeping this important piece of of shared heritage alive.

In the meantime, we would all do well to take a moment and ask ourselves the question immortalized in the ancient ballad of the Chicago Transit Authority: Does anybody really know what time it is?

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