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Requiem Aeternam Dona Eis: Some Thoughts on Misruletide

’Tis the season. But what season? This is an interesting time of year.

Winter.

A time of rest.

The land stands fallow and sleeping.

The days shorten, the nights lengthen.

The shadows stretch, the darkness grows.

What season?

There is a time, a time outside of time. A season? Certainly. Better, a time, a tide.

A time outside of time. The Time of Misrule. The Tide of Misrule. Misruletide.

I’m not talking just about the Christmastime, Christmastide, celebration by this name, but the portion of time starting at All Saint’s or All Hallow’s and extending to Candlemas. I’m talking of a year ending at Hallowtide and starting at Candletide. The year has ended. The year has not yet began.

It is a time of rest. Certainly. A rest for whom? The land, well, yes, but who else? If it is the Time of Misrule, the Season of Misrule, the Tide of Misrule, we should start with what Misrule is, both in the festival use of the word and how we mean it here.

I won’t go much into the festivities or history, but the tradition of Feast of Fools and similar celebrations on Christmas and around that part of the year, was a celebration where everything was turned on its head, socially. It was a time or revelry and irreverence, a time of no rules, or, namely, misrule. Depending on where and when, it was sometimes a large scale celebration and sometimes a private affair. Regardless, the “ruler” over the festivities was among the peasantry or the lower clergy, taking the role of king or abbot. In Britain, the Lord of Misrule. One aspect of this, anything trying to hurt or cause problems for those higher in society would be mislead into going after those low in society as well. I can’t rule out that this aspect was not a part of things as well.

This is the sense I am using for this part of the year, from its end at Hallowmas to its beginning at Candlemas. The Time of Misrule, the time when the normal order of things is tipped on its head.

It is during this time of year, at various points, in various forms, that we see lore of the Wild Hunt and traditions and folktales that have descended from the Hunt. In its many forms, the faeries or the dead or witches or other beings ride abroad. They are lead by various figures, Öðinn, Frigg, Frey, Freyja, Holda, Frau Holle, Berchta, Diana, Gwydion, King Arthur, Nuada, Herne, the Devil, Sir Francis Drake, Manannán, Arawn, Nicnevin, Ankow, and many others. The Wild Hunt is said to occur, depending on the lore, on All Hallow’s Eve, on Midwinter’s Eve, on Christmas Eve, or on Twelfth Night (Epiphany Eve), or simple during the winter months, during the Misruletide we are discussing.

The variations veil and hide things, for it is the nature of lore to shift, but under it all, we see a Hunt lead by a figure, or two figures, and a host of the Dead or of spirits. It is interesting to note that the lore of All Hallow’s Eve is of a time when the Dead or spirits roam in the world of the living. This is not the “normal” state of things, it doesn’t follow the normal rule. And many of the figures seen leading the Hunt are either dead folk heroes or gods or goddesses of death.

If we consider the parallel of a time when the Dead walk lead by a lord or lady of death with the Feast of Fools led by the Lord of Misrule, the idea becomes apparent.

Consider for the moment an image.

See a woman dressed in black robes with a red veil hiding her face. She stands in a stone chamber deep beneath the ground, a round chamber with stone benches carved in the sides. There are two thresholds in the room, an empty doorway with no door to her right, and a pair of massive doors to her left. A figure stands before the black doors, watching her, still as death, silent as the grave. In front of her is a black altar, a cube of unworked black stone, the colour of deepest night, deepest shadow. A body rests on this altar, or a Thread, there is less difference than there seems. The body is familiar. In one shrivaled hand, she holds a rod or wand, wood, made of a blackthorn root. In the other, she holds a knife.

When the time becomes full, when the tide is complete, the knife drops, the Thread is cut, the blood flows from the body, blood black in the shadows, covering the black altar. This time has ended, the Thread cut, the Cutter’s knife has fallen.

The woman raises the rod and points at the doors, and the figure before it moves. The figure it tall and thin, covered in black tattered robes. His face is hidden in the shadowed cowl. Folded at his back is a pair of skeletal wings with shadow stretched between the bones. His hands, sticking from the arms of the robes, are nothing but bone. In one hand, he holds a book, chained to his wrist. His other hand is em

When the woman raises the rod, the winged figure wipes a line from his book with one skeletal finger. The ink flows like smoke off the page and a figure rises from the body and joins it, the two becoming one, a spectral image of the body still on the altar. The figure reaches and opens the doors wide. Beyond, it is both as dark as the night and bright beyond imagination. A wind fills the cavern, and the body crumbles to dust and blows away.

The figure beacons, silent, and the spectre walks through the Gates of Life and Death, which are closed fast behind them.

It is finished.

This is the normal rule, the Quick die, becomes the Dead, cross through the Gates, and rest until the time comes for them to return, becoming Quick again. But this is the time of Misrule, the Dead don’t always stay dead, sometimes the Wild Hunt rides.

But who sides at the front of the Hunt? Who leads the Dead? Death. Like Hel leading the people of her domain in Ragnorak, like the Queen of Faerie leading the people of her domain forth, like Odin or Freyja leading the Dead they have gathered forth, Like King Arthur leading the knights that died, Death rides forth at the front of the Host.

But, if Death leads the Hunt, who guards the Gates? Ah. The Time of Misrule. The Quick caught up in the Host become Dead, and the Dead beyond the Gates can walk. This is Misruletide. Among other things.

Now, when the Keeper of the Lost sits as Regent, and the Quick and the Dead can switch station, now is when things aren’t always what they seem.

So, what do we have at Hallowtide? Not just All Hallow’s Eve. It is the Eve of All Hallows, of course, All Hallow’s Day, All Saint’s Day, which is followed by All Soul’s Day. Three days focussed on the Dead, in different ways. But let’s look specifically at All Soul’s Day.

This is of course best known in the part of the world I live in as the Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, when masks are worn and feasts and presents are prepared for the Dead, often at grave sites, is a similar fashion to the tradition practiced by many of my Craft brothers and sisters in a Dumb Supper on All Hallow’s Eve. The giving of food to the Dead is present in many cultures throughout the world and throughout time, though not always this time of year. It is common this time of year, however.

In Catholic practice, All Soul’s Day is a day of commemoration for the “faithful departed”. This is a somewhat enigmatic phrase to many. It’s taken to mean those who have died and are in Purgatory. The phrase is, “fidelium animae”, fidelium, fidelis, fides, faith/belief/trust/confidence, so faithful, believing, or trustable, animae, anima, soul/spirit/life/air/breeze/breath, so spirit of the dead in this context. Those that believe but haven’t obtained heaven, basically.

Misruletide begins with a focus on the dead, and another use of the phase “fidelium animae” gives some interesting things to consider. A prayer has been commonly prayed for the “faithful departed” is as follows:

English:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Latin:

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

The last phrase, many of us are familiar with, at least in English, “rest in peace”. This has become the most common expression for those who have died, though if you read lore of the dead from many times past, this directive implies a desire for the Dead not to be unrestful, not to rise. The Dead don’t always rest peacefully, that the Gates aren’t always sealed, as we’ve been discussing.

Consider this phrase in Latin for a moment, “requiescant in pace”. “Pace” is “pax”, meaning peace or harmony. The sense is not in terms of no war, like we often see in in English, it’s the sense of being silent, not being dissident, not conflicting. “Pax!” was also used like we would use, “Be silent!”, or “Hush!”. “Requiescant” is “requiesco”, to rest or repose or sleep. Rest in peace, sleep peacefully and don’t cause me trouble. If you pardon my humour.

But “requiesco” is “re-“ and “quiesco”. “Re-“ means back, backwards, or again. Basically, to go back to a previous state. “Quiesco” means to rest, cease, sleep, repose, abstain, cease, stop, and similar ideas. It is from “quies” and “-sco”. “-sco” changes a verb to have a meaning of starting to or beginning to. “Quies” means to rest, repose, quiet, and figuratively, to dream. So, getting to the root, we have the same meaning as we started with, but the combination implies a bit more specific sense than we saw with the original meaning. “Quiesco” would be, to begin or start to rest, repose, or be quiet. “Requisco” would be, to return to a state of beginning or starting to rest, repose, or be quiet. But beginning to rest or repose would be to go to sleep, basically, and to begin to be quiet would be to stop making noise. So, returning to these would be to go back to sleep, or to become quiet again. A returning to a previous state of sleep or quietness.

This brings to mind discussions of Charon the ferryman being silent, and of the Dead being silent until Odysseus provides blood, and other stories relating to the silent dead being given speak though blood or other methods. Bran the Blessed’s cauldron returned the Dead to life, but they were silent, unable to speak. This is common in much of the lore, the Dead cannot speak, they are silent, unless voice is brought by some means. To be Dead is to be Silent. “Requiesco” implies a return to a state of sleep and silence, a return to death.

In modern Catholic context, the prayer implies those in Purgatory moving on quickly to Heaven, but the wording has other repercussions, and begs the question, as this prayer was introduced by St. Benedict in the sixth century and is believed to be older still, was the meaning always what it is now seen as? The formalized beliefs concerning Purgatory were much later, though the concept existed in deferent forms back before Benedict. It seems possible, though, that the implications of the prayer as that to keep the Dead at rest is not impossible.

“Requiem aeternam” is of note. “Requiem” is of course from requies, also, a “place of rest”. “Aeternam”, “arternus”, is translated as permanent, lasting, eternal, endless, immortal. Hence, eternal rest, or an eternal resting place. The second word comes from “-rnus”, making it an adjective, and “aetus”, meaning lifetime or age. The root meaning is more about a resting place that will last a lifetime than the modern sense of eternity.

So, my tongue and cheek transition:

A place to sleep until we all die, O Lord please give them, and let the uninterrupted light shine on them, and those of the Dead who are trustworthy, by the mercy of God, keep quiet and not bother us. Amen.

Misruletide is a time when the Dead can walk among the Quick, and when much of the feasts, fasts, celebrations, measures, folk traditions, and rituals are concerned with keeping them from doing so, or misdirecting them so they don’t succeed in whatever they seek to do.

And, I say:

Hail, oh Builder of Storms, Keeper of the Lost, Regent of the North, Ruler of the Time of Misrule, bringer of Change.

Hail, oh Cutter, you whose Knife cuts every Thread when the time comes, the Last Witness, Priestess of the Black Altar.

Hail, oh Guardian of the Gates of Life and Death, Darkling Twin, Shadow of the World, Keeper of the Book in which all is written and all is erased.

May the Time of Misrule bring its secrets and lore and surprises, may the storms bring the life of spring, may the Dead speak when speech is needed, be silent when it is not, ride forth when it is time, and rest in peace when all is accomplished.

Dance, oh Spirits of Misruletide, dance through the long dark nights, and may the lights of the new year find us when Candletide comes again.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. Fidelium animae, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

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Posted by on November 24, 2016 in muninnskiss

 

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Time of the Lost

We now enter the Time of the Lost, and the Time of the Found. The Keeper of the Lost rises, rises to Regency, as the Keeper of Secrets falls. The Time of the Lost has come. And the Time of the Found.

The Lost aren’t those that don’t know salvation, or those who don’t know their way. For there are those who know the way but are lost, and those that can’t see the way who are found. No, the Lost are not these. The Lost are many, who can count? Only their Keeper.

The Lost are those who don’t see the way, not because they are blind or unable, but because they don’t choose to.

The Lost are those that have forgotten. Forgotten the way, forgotten they know the way, have no vision.

The Lost are those who are forgotten, who no one sees, no one remembers. The dead that are not remembered, the living who are ignored or not seen.

“Where there is no vision, the people perish…” ~Proverbs 29:18a*

The Lost are those who wander, crossing the worlds while not knowing it, wandering forevermore, unaware.

The Lost are those living on the streets, unnoticed by passersby, or ignored, avoided by them.

The Lost are those spending every night in the bar, drinking to forget.

The Lost are those working three jobs or tons of overtime to pay bills for things they have no time to enjoy, not living, just surviving, though they appear to be successful.

The Lost are those living alone in a house or apartment, afraid to go outside for reasons only they know.

The Lost are those who die alone, no one knowing until the smell draws attention.

The Lost are those living in nursing homes, with no family to visit, or no family that does visit.

The Lost are those who die on the streets, with a body tag saying John or Jane Doe, no one morning, no one claiming the body, no one naming the name.

The Lost are those who are forgotten shortly after their death, their families and friends going about their business, their stories and life ending with their death, never to be recalled again.

The Lost are those searching but not looking, wanting to find a path, but afraid they actually will. Running from their past, afraid of their future, they move aimlessly, lost but not sure they want to be found.

The Lost are those who make the logical choices in life, the ones that will bring what seems like success, stability, security, but ignore the calling they hear, not taking the risk to follow desire, necessity, or destiny.

The Lost are those who think themselves in full control of their destiny, believe they see the path before them clearly, all laid bare, but are really only seeing swirling mists, not even their own feet, inventing pictures in the mist thinking them visions, when all they are are wistful dreams.

The Time of the Lost has come. And the Time of the Found.

The Keeper of the Lost is also the Keeper of the Found. Just as the Builder of Storms is also the Builder of Stillness, and the Bringer of Tears brings both tears of sorrow and joy.

What was Lost shall be found, but what was Found can be lost. Fortunes change, conditions change, there is sudden gain and there is sudden lose. Winter’s Mistress is harsh and unforgiving, the Left and the Right Hand of Fate. Nothing is certain, nothing stays the same.

Look.

Listen

Observe.

What do you see? What do you hear? What do you perceive?

The line it is drawn
And the curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast

As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’

And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’
~The Times They Are A-Changin’ by Bob Dylan

The Lost can be Found, the Found can be Lost. We sit in the Abyss, the year has ended, but the new year doesn’t begin. Waiting. A time when anything can happen, and likely will.

The Wild Hunt rides.

Can you hear it? Can you feel it?

Do you here winds blowing between worlds?

Listen.

Look.

Observe.

Change. Sudden and unexpected.

What was Lost shall be found, but what was Found can be lost.

We now enter the Time of the Lost, and the Time of the Found. The Keeper of the Lost rises, rises to Regency, as the Keeper of Secrets falls. The Time of the Lost has come. And the Time of the Found.

Can you feel it?

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss
*For context, the entire verse is “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”

 
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Posted by on November 3, 2013 in muninnskiss

 

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Liminal Equinoxes

With the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox just past, I’ve heard a lot of, it’s too cold or snowy for it to be spring. I had some thoughts about that while driving back to Colorado in a snow storm today.

Picture the year as a circle.

Place the Winter and Summer Solstices at the top and bottom, doesn’t matter which is which, just whichever makes most sense to you. Now draw a line halving the circle, horizontally. Think of half with Winter as the Winter Half, and the part with Summer as the Summer Half. The Solstices are very clearly one season or the other, the further you go around the circle to that middle line, the less clear. Now make a mark half way along the circle between each Solstice and the centre line. These points are Bride’s Day, Beltaine, Lugh’s Day, and Samhaine (or whatever order makes most sense to you). Now, the top quarter of the circle, the arc from a point marked to a Solstice then to the other mark near that Solstice, and same on the bottom quarter, those two arcs are clearly Summer and Winter. You may get some odd weather that doesn’t fit, but those two sections are fairly clearly set (at least if you’re far enough from the equator, especially outside the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn). They are stable, static, passive, unchanging.

But the arcs between the points marked crossing the centre line, these are liminal, changing, dynamic, betwixt and between. These are of course the Spring and Fall, Vernus and Autumn, arcs, with the centre line marking the equinoxes. But these seasons represent the transition between Winter and Summer, Summer and Winter. They are liminal. They are neither Winter nor Summer. And because they are liminal, winter characteristics can stretch later some years and earlier others, and the same for summer characteristics. So the Spring Equinox isn’t “spring” because of distinct spring characteristics, but because it’s the midpoint of the transition from Winter to Summer, and the Autumn Equinox isn’t “autumn” because of distinct autumn characteristics, but because it’s the midpoint of the transition from Summer to Winter.

You can see this also by putting a day on the same circle.

Place Midnight where Winter is, and Noon where Summer is. Midnight is clearly night, for even at the most extreme latitudes, it is the lowest point of the sun in summer and darkest sky in winter, and closer to the equator, clearly mid-night. Noon is clearly day, for even at the most extreme latitudes, it is the highest point of the sun in summer and lightest sky in winter, and closer to the equator, clearly mid-day, especially south of the Arctic Circle and north of the Antarctic Circle.

Unlike midnight and noon which are obvious and static, Dusk and Dawn are dynamic and changing, both moving closer to midnight in summer and closer to noon in winter. At lease outside the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, inside they are more static. But regardless of latitude, Dusk and Dawn aren’t set points like Midnight and Noon. They are transitional, a change from clear day to clear night. Twilight. Neither day nor night, neither night nor day. Liminal. They aren’t the point at which the sun appears or vanishes, they are the transition from the point the sky begins to lighten to the time the sun is fully visible, and from when the sun begins to set to when the sky is fully dark. Just like Spring and Autumn, they aren’t distinct, exact points of conditions, they are a liminal borderland between two exact conditions.

This is also true of course if you look at the directions.

North and south run to exact points, the axis of the world, whereas east and west keep going forever, overlapping. You can go far enough north that every direction is south, and far enough south that everything is north. But no matter how far east you go, you’re still facing east, west is still at your back, north is on you left, and south on your right. No matter how far west you go, you’re still facing west, east is still at your back, south is on your left, and north is on your right. East and West are liminal directions, relative directions. Like Dawn and Dusk. Like Spring and Fall. North and South are absolute directions. Like Midnight and Noon. Like Winter and Summer.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in muninnskiss

 

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The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes

As the snow covered valley slowly lights up from the new born sun, I sit here contemplating life and death, ends and beginnings, old and new, cycles within cycles, wheels within wheels.  The words of Semisonic’s song, Closing Time, echo in my memory, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

(Please note that this is the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, but the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere, which much different associations and implications.)

Many, many holidays that are celebrated can be seen as new years.  Samhain marks the end of any possibility of harvest in the British Isles.  It truly is the beginning of the dark fallow time of winter, despite most modern calendars proclaiming today as the first day of winter.  On that night in Ireland, all lights were extiguished and New Fire was brought to light and heat the houses through the cold Winter.  Beltaine marked the rebirth, for spring comes later most places than Imbolc and the US celebration of the Ground Hog, reflecting the much older custom of the serpent emerging in February.  Beltaine, an ultimate fertility festival, celebrated the return of life after that long fallow winter.

In the far north of Europe, where harvest comes at Midsummer, Midsummer marked the beginning of the raiding season, when the men went to sea.  That ended before the first snows, usually long before the Autumn Equinox.  The short summer meant two very short periods, the first for farming, the second for raiding.  Planting, growing, and harvest all came within a few months.  And raiding didn’t last long before the Norse, the Swedes, and the Danes retreated back to hibernate for the long, dark, cold winter.  When you realize how long the nights are that far north and how cold, you see quickly why the Norse end of the world is marked by Winter, not fire, why the fear is that Winter will never end, why the idea of the sun and moon being consumed to no longer light the day makes perfect sense for the end.

The Chinese New Year occurs on January 23rd this year, according to the Western Gregorian calendar, basically a month from now.  The New Year always falls on the second New Moon (Dark of the Moon) after the Winter Solstice.  Since the Chinese months are lunar based and start on the New Moon, this means the New Year is always the beginning of the second month that starts after the Solstice (unless there’s an extra month that year).  On that day, this year of the Rabbit (Rabbit is actually a bad translation, it is the Year of the Hare), a year of compassion (the US didn’t get the message, obviously), creativity, and sensitivity, will give way to the Year of the Dragon, a year of dominance and ambition, of independence and raging passion, of innovation and bravery.  Lanterns are lit to celebrate the New Year.

The Hebrew calendar has two New Years, one ecclesiastical, i.e., the religious New Year, and the other secular, i.e., the political New Year.  The first lands on the first of Nisan.  The Hebrew months begin on the night the first crescent is visible after a New Moon (in contrast to the Islamic calendar that begin when the last crescent vanishes, and Chinese month that begins on the actually Dark Moon, half way between the Hebrew and Islamic; all three have lunar based months).  It fall on March 24th this coming year.  You’ll note this falls very close to the Vernal Equinox.  Nisan always begins the first new crescent after the Equinox.  The secular New Year falls on the first Tishrei (the seventh month starting as Nisan), and falls on Septmeber 17th this year.  Called Rosh Hashanah, the Head of the Year, this New Year falls right around the Autumn Equinox, just before it this year.

The Islamic New Year begins on the first day of Muharram and is called the Hijri New Year, because it is the day the Hijri calendar started.  The Islamic year is purely lunar, so it shifts in relation to the Gegorian calendar we’re used to.  The New Year was about a month ago, November 24th, and will be November 14th next year.  For Shai Muslims, it is a day of grief, not celebration, as it marks the day of the death of Muhammad’s grandson and his family.

So, does the New Year begin with the death of the old (like Samhain) or the birth of the new (like Beltaine)?  Does it begin with the beginning of Winter or its end?  The Winter Solstice is both.  Each night until this point gets longer and longer, and each day gets shorter.  The further north you go, the more apparent this gets.  It’s not surprising that in southern Europe, the celebrations in Winter had very little to do with death and rebirth, that the Celts, further north, focused on Samhain and Beltaine, with less focus on the Solstice, but that in the far north, only the Solstice was important.  While it was the death of the Old Sun, which had been getting shorter and shorter, it’s also the birth of the New Sun.  From this day forward, the days get longer and the nights get shorter.  The Solstice is the promise that Winter will end.  If the sun doesn’t rise, it’s Ragnarok, and we have winter and darkness for three years with no break for summer.

But the sun did rise, and the day is new, like the phoenix rising from the ashes.  “His mercies are new every morning.”  So we great the day and great the sun in new life, new light.  With the sun, we died last night.  With the sun, we were reborn this morning.  Let us go forth and not just exist, but live.  Make this New Sun, this new life, this new light, count.  Go forth and change your world!

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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The Throne of Bone

The Throne of Bone
A Poem of the Winter Solstice
By Muninn’s Kiss

Darkest night and shortest day,
Shadows reign and darkness calls,
The shadowy figure of Death stands by,
Patiently waiting for all to fall.

Each child born will surly die,
None is spared and all know why,
At Death’s bone throne each one will come,
He needn’t search for all will come.

The sun sets earlier for half the year,
Night grows longer, shadows strive,
The year he ages as do all,
Growing weaker, growing frail.

The time draws near when he will die,
The year we’ve loved so hard to watch,
The mourners all do gather round,
For letting go is the hardest task.

With the sun, the year does set,
Sinking down into the grave,
Like each man, he bows his knee,
And presents himself at the throne of bone.

In his birth we knew he’d die,
For every beginning contains the end,
We watched him grow like a new born lamb,
We watch him die at the Slaughterer’s hand.

Every beginning has it’s end,
But every ending is born again,
With Dawn’s first light like the Morning Star,
The new year rises and live once more.

Fresh and hopeful, full of life,
The year reborn begins his flight,
We watch him stretch and try his wings,
We glory that he lives again.

Forgetting the grief and sorrow past,
We pretend he didn’t see Death’s own face,
With the new year, we fly away,
Trying to forget our own mortality.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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Winter Solstice Song

Winter Solstice Song
By Lisa Thiel

Enter the night and you’ll find the light,
That will carry you to your dreams.
Enter the night, let your spirit take flight,
In the field of infinite possibilities

On the longest night we search for the light,
And we find it deep within.
Open your eyes to embrace what is wise,
And see the light of your own soul shining.

Enter the night and you’ll find the light,
That will carry you to your dreams.
Enter the night, let your spirit take flight,
In the field of infinite possibilities

Wrap up in the cloak of starry darkness my child,
And you’ll find the center of all things.
For from this space of the deepest dark place,
Life Eternal does spring.

Enter the night and you’ll find the light,
That will carry you to your dreams.
Enter the night, let your spirit take flight,
In the field of infinite possibilities

So when you find that spark
When you dream in the dark,
Hold it close to your heart and know.
All that you see is all that can be
When you give birth to the dreams of your soul.
Enter the night and you’ll find the light,
That will carry you to your dreams.
Enter the night, let your spirit take flight,
In the field of infinite possibilities.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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All Hail the Summer King!

Image from TundraFunda.com.

Going back through my old posts, I’ve written very little about either the Summer Solstice or Winter Solstice.  I seem to be either busy or distracted around those times of year.  What do I do on either solstice?  Very little, actually.  Around Winter Solstice, I have Christmas celebrations I’ve always done, but around Summer Solstice, neither me nor my family has had any traditions, celebrations, beliefs, or anything that acknowledged that this time of year had any importance, let alone power.

Desert in New Mecixo.
Image by BawBaw on IgoUgo.

My sister, when she lived in New Mexico, during her time in the desert, celebrated both solstices.    They were important to the people there.  When she moved to Alaska, where the change of the seasons have a lot more impact, she expected the two holidays would also be very important.  She reached her first Summer Solstice, and no one did anything.  She was very confused.  What she found out is the Winter Solstice means light is returning, and is greatly celebrated, but the Summer Solstice marks the beginning of the decline of sunlight, leading to the dark long winter, and people don’t find anything to celebrate in that.  Not related to the solstice, but I liked a quote from her this week, “Something about the desert makes you believe in every possible spirit or force; something about the great north makes you believe in nothing but the earth.”

The Tao-Chi showing the year.
Image from Chinese Fortune Calendar.

While the equinoxes are about balance, equal day, equal night, Spring and Autumn, the solstices are times of extremes, longest night and shortest day, shortest night and longest day, Summer and Winter, hot and cold.  This plays out in Yin and Yang of Taoism, Chinese folk religion, and Traditional Chinese Medicine.  If you take an eight foot (using the Chinese measurement of a foot) and measure the length of the shadow each hour of each day and plot them on a circle, you end up with the Tao-Chi symbol, the symbol everyone thinks of as Yin and Yang, with the two intertwining paisleys or fish, one white and one black.  The Yang part of the year starts at the Winter Solstice and is the light part of the year.  It starts out as a point, with darkness, Yin above it, then grows until Summer Solstice, where the old Yin disappears and the new Yin begins as a point.  Likewise, the Yin part of the year starts at the Summer Solstice and is the dark part of the year.  Winter Solstice is the extreme point of dominant Yin, Yang being at its minimum.  But Yin and Yang are a cycle.  When Yin rules, Yang is born, the son born from the mother.  And he grows until he rules at Summer Solstice.  Summer Solstice is the extreme point of dominant Yang, Yin being at it’s minimum.  But she will grow again.

The Web That Has No Weaver : Understanding Chinese Medicine

The Web That Has No Weaver helped me to understand Yin and Yang outside the Western dualistic way of looking at them.  I had read the Tao Te Ching when I was younger, and the I Ching, but never really separated what I read from the Western thought I had grown up with.  I grasped it when I read the five principles the author gave for Yin and Yang.  And understanding Yin and Yang is essential to understanding Chinese thought.  I posted these on Twitter a bit back:

  • All things have two facets: a Yin aspect and a Yang aspect.
  • Any Yin or Yang aspect can be further divided into Yin and Yang.
  • Yin and Yang mutually create each other.
  • Yin and Yang control each other.
  • Yin and Yang transform each other.

If you don’t get what these are trying to say, please either ask me and I’ll expand on them (eventually I will in separate posts anyway, but not now), or, better yet, get the book and read the first essay, Medicine East and West: Two Ways of Seeing, Two Ways of Thinking.  It is an excellent book, and that first chapter is very profound, describing the foundation on which the rest of the book is built.

This understanding of Yin and Yang has greatly influenced my understanding of the Divine Twins in the Feri tradition of witchcraft.  And the Divine Twins are fundamental in my understanding of the universe.  It is the Dance of the Twins that creates and destroys, that is what makes up our universe.  They are Yin and Yang, opposites, yes, but also one.  There is not one without the other, and neither function independently.  It is their interplay that defines all things.

Tao produced the One.
The One produced the two.
The two produced the three.
And the three produced the ten thousand things.
The ten thousand things carry the Yin and
     embrace the Yang and through the blending
     of the Qi they achieve harmony.
~Tao Te Ching, Chapter 42

When the West looks at an event, they look for cause. Everything is cause and effect.  A leads to B leads to C.  The search that lead to Western science is the search for the Causae Causantes, the cause of the cause, the reason of the cause, the originating cause.  We want to know what happened first, what started it all.  And when we look at events in our lives, we look for why, not what.  My stomach is sick today.  I’ve been thinking about the scallops I ate last night as a cause, instead of thinking, what’s wrong now?

When the Chinese look at an event, they want to understand the state in the moment.  What is out of balance now.  What does the event mean now.  They don’t not believe in cause and effect, they just mostly find it irrelevant.  The title of the book, The Web That Has No Weaver, makes the point well.  In the West, we always had our weavers: the three Fates, the three Furies, the three Norns (and all the lesser norns), Ananke, Necessity, Fate, Destiny, and many more besides.  Wyrd/Fate/Destiny/Necessity, by whatever word and whatever name, have always played a big part on the Western psyche.  But this “who” isn’t important to the Chinese.  It’s the web not the weaver that matters.  It is a dance, not a chain of events.  For my stomach, the cause would be irrelevant, what matters is what it out of balance at the moment that can be balanced to fix the problem.

Summer King/Winter King from
Hrana Janto’s 1995 Myth & Magic
Calendar from Llewellyn.
Image from Hrana Janto’s Goddess Gallery.

But I digress.  The Winter and Summer Solstices are Yin and Yang, the Divine Twins.  The Divine Twins are the Winter and Summer Kings, death and rebirth, sacrificial kings, consorts to God Herself, the White Goddess, who is also the Black Goddess.  There’s three ways to divide the year for the Winter and Summer Kings.  One is using Samhain and Beltaine.  The Summer King is born on Beltaine and is sacrificed on Samhaine, when the Winter King is born and takes over.  Or the Summer King is born at Midsummer (Summer Solstice, well, the solstice is June 21st, Midsummer is St. John’s Night, the 23rd, the Eve of St. John’s Day) and dies at Midwinter (Winter Solstice), when the Winter King is born.  Or is it the other way around?  Or the third is a mix.  The Summer King is born at Beltaine, is crowned and wed to Herself at Summer Solstice, and is sacrificed at Samhain, reborn as the Winter King, who is crowned and wed at Midwinter.  I like this latter best.  Regardless how you see them, the point is a cycle with the Twins constantly changing which is in control, like the spirals of the Tao-Chi.

Title page for The Boy’s
King Arthur.  Image from
Wikimedia Commons.

So, here in the Northern Hemisphere, we reach today the high reign of the Summer King, Yang is in control and Yin just a point, the Winter King dead or dying.  The sun is directly over head (well, further south it is, but here in Wyoming, it is at its highest point).  To the Jew, this is the point where the sun stands still and shines evenly on everyone, a point of no shadow (for shadow is the Winter King).  That point of standing still is a liminal point.  And all liminal points are important and should be noted.  The Summer King reigns supreme for a moment, his power growing until then, it receding from then.  Until today, he was gaining power, and though he finally seized it, he can’t hold it, and his power deceases from here.  The Winter King takes back a little each second, each moment, each hour, each day.  For neither King can rule supreme for more than a moment for their power comes from Herself, not from themselves, and She shares it with both of them.

Many people celebrate Midsummer differently.  The day varies as does the name, but like all the different holidays around Midwinter, around the equinoxes and the “quarter-quarters”, it seems a natural time to celebrate.  Some celebrate for religious reasons, some just for fun.  Some practice magic on this day (or Midsummer’s Eve), while others use scientific instruments to observe the sun at its highest point.

“John the Baptist and Jesus”
cast bronze by Lawrence Plowright.
Image from Plowright Studios.

In many branches of Christianity, including Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic, the solstices are very much a time of the Divine Twins and the Two Kings, here in the form of Jesus and John the Baptist.  Jesus’ birth is celebrated on December 24th, the date of the Winter Solstice before the changing of calendars shifted the solstice back three days.  John was born when Mary was three months pregnant with Jesus, so six months before Jesus was born.  So John’s birth was conveniently placed on June 24th, which was the Summer Solstice.  John and Jesus very much are the Winter and Summer Kings.  John’s ministry came first, a ministry of repentance and water baptism.  It was Geburah, Judgement, the harshness of Winter.  It is the Baptism of Water, birth from the woom, Yin.  Yin is earth and Yang is heaven.  In John 3:31, John the Baptist says, “He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.”  But as Jesus’ ministry grew, John’s receded.  As John the Baptist said concerning Jesus in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  And John was sacrificed first, the sacrificial king, beheaded.  Jesus’ ministry was one of love and forgiveness, and fire baptism.  It was Chesed, Mercy, the growth of Summer.  It is the Baptism of Fire, Baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, being born of spirit, born of heaven, Yang.  Jesus said in John 3:5, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”  Both Water and Fire, both Winter and Summer, both Yin and Yang, but John and Jesus, are needed.  They can’t be separated.  And the year turns, first John, then Jesus, then John again.

Goddess of Fire –
both sacred fire
and domestic.
(Hestia/Vesta).
Image from
True Time Tales.

Fire and Water are interesting in the celebration of the Summer Solstice.  The two most common practices you find are the burning of bon fires, often involving jumping over them, a topic in and of itself, and the visiting of water wells.  Fire and Water.  In the West, we tend to think of Fire as masculine and Water as feminine, but even in the West, it doesn’t always hold up.  Hestia to the Greeks and Vesta to the Romans was goddess of the hearth and the hearth fire.  In Vesta’s temple, a fire was kept burning eternally by the Vestal Virgins.  The Greeks and Romans had a god of water, not a goddess, Hestia’s brother Poseidon, who was Neptune to the Romans.  In Ireland, we have Brigit (by whatever spelling) who was a goddess of fire, and became St. Brigit.  In her monastery at Kildare (Church of the Oak), where the goddess Brigit once had a shrine, it is said that the nuns kept an eternal fire burning for the Saint.  Among the pre-Christian people of Europe, and in many other places of the world, there are both fire gods and fire goddesses, water gods and water goddesses.  And there are strong arguments to connect each element with each gender.

Just about every culture for every holiday used bonfires at some point.  The Yule log from Germanic origins is the remnants of the Yule/Midwinter bonfires, as are the candles and Christmas lights many use for Christmas.  On Samhain, the Celts in Ireland would put out all fires and wait for the new fire to be lit.  It was lit at Tlachtga then carried to Tara, where all the people would gather.  It would be used to light a bonfire there, from which all the people would get new fire to bring back to their homes.  There’s of course the famous story of St. Patrick lighting the bonfire on Slane, drawing the people to look away from the fire of the old religion to the fire of the new religion.  In Britian, bonfires are lit in honour of Guy Foxe’s Gunpowder Rebellion.  Fires were burnt at Beltaine and Easter as well, and many other days.

Gozanokuribi Daimonji bonfire
from Gozan no Okuribi.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.

It is believed that the earliest bonfires were used to drive away evil spirits.  The Celts (from whom the name is derived, originally banefire) burnt bones in a huge fire to ward off evil spirits.  The Yule bonfires were lit to guide the sun back.  In Kyoto Japan, Buddhists light bonfires in specific character and image shapes at the end of O-Bon, when the spirits of the dead visit.  Gozan no Okuribi, the celebration that the fires are lit for is a send off party for the dead.

My scallops last nigh.

And what did I do for solstice?  Well, last night I made scalllops, and today I spent the whole day sick from them.  It was a beautiful day, but I spent it sleeping it (food poisoning?) off.  But after waking, I gave the solstice a lot of thought, if you couldn’t tell.

If I want to look at my own traditions, the celebration of solstice could be seen in Fourth of July, with the fireworks (bonfires?), picnics, parties in the park.  It’s a little later than the solstice, but I’d say that’s where I can find it in my own traditions.

But what would I do on the Summer Solstice if I wasn’t sick?  Would I celebrate it with a trip to the mountains (oh, yeah, they’re still closed because of snow)?  Would I do some great work of magic up in the hills (oh, yeah, snow)?  Maybe in my back yard?  Ritual inside on the Summer Solstice seems sacrilege.  Would I walk my dog by the river (oh, yeah, all the paths are flooded because of all the snow melt and the fact that June is the rainy month here)?  Maybe a long walk around the neighbourhood?  Lay in the back yard in our hammock?  I honestly don’t know.

The Summer Solstice is a time of high magic, sun magic, life magic, the reign of the Summer King.  It’s the transition from planting to haying in many European agricultural societies, a transition point, a liminal point.  At the minimum, it’s a point of change, a point to acknowledge and remember to see how the world changes from the past to the future, the light to the dark.  At the most, it’s a time to make change.

All Hail the Summer King

All hail the Summer King!
For now he reigns supreme!
Dark has failed and light has won,
And now it begins again.

All hail the Summer King!
For now he reigns supreme!
His brother’s dead, off with his head,
His blood runs down the streets.

All hail the Summer King!
For now he reigns supreme!
The fires burn, the waters flow,
And all is as it seems.

All hail the Summer King!
For now he reigns supreme!
Upon his throne, with his lovely bride,
Good cheer he spreads around.

All hail the Summer King!
For now he reigns supreme!
But darkness grows, and Winter comes,
And soon his time will come.

FFF,
~Muninn’s Kiss

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2011 in muninnskiss

 

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