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Posts Tagged ‘Wheel of the Year’

Winter Solstice. Alban Arthuan. Yule. Mothernights. Christmas. Dies Natalist Solis Invicti.

The shortest day and the longest night. The moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator at a particular point. For three days, the sun rises and sets at the same point on the horizon, at its southernmost position: Sol-stitia. It will do so again at the summer solstice in its northernmost position. Following the solstice, the days will get longer, the sun will rise and set more northerly, and the weather will get colder and more vicious even as the light lengthens, until Imbolc comes and it is officially spring.

A lot of things are going on at this season of the year. All of them are caused by a bit of a wobble in the earth’s rotation combined with the endless dance of its revolution. It is a wonderful thing to contemplate.

May we all have food, song, warmth, and fellowship this season. May we remember and reach out to those who are lacking. May our gods bless us. May we go forth into a good new year.

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–So it doesn’t hurt to have a national day dedicated to it, even if that day is fraught with problematic symbolism.

In about an hour, I’m going to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. She’s doing most of the cooking, including the traditional b-i-r-d; we’re contributing a parsnip soup that was my father-in-law’s recipe and my signature Russian tea cookies, from a recipe my mother found ages ago. It’s funny that while I’m a huge chocoholic, my Personal Festal Dessert Recipe is something with no chocolate in it whatsoever, but I don’t know anyone else who bakes these cookies, and everyone seems to like them.

I am thankful for my family today: For my husband, my stepdaughter, our dear friend J. who is hosting the dinner, my birds Rembrandt and Sandro (yes, they’re family), my mother-in-law, and my late father-in-law.

I’m thankful to have a comfortable home, a job I like and can feel good about doing, a sensible and likable boss, and good relations with my co-workers.

I’m thankful for writing, music, books to read, my Amazon Kindle, good health, health insurance, for streaming online video of the science fiction series and British telly that I love. I’m thankful for the wonderful world of Livejournal, Dreamwidth, Tumblr, WordPress, and blogging in general.

I’m thankful for the presence of the god Antinous in my life, for the friendship of so many wild and tame birds, for my magical teachers and the way of Western magic, for the trees that surround me even in the heart of downtown, for the various gods and goddesses who have kept poking into my life and refused to give up, for all that I have learned from Buddhism.

My life is very good, and so much of that is sheer gift. I believe that’s true for all of us. We work hard and we strive, we try to create the life we want, but if we succeed, we owe so much to good fortune, to friends and family who have helped us, to the sheer gratuitousness of the universe. Therefore let us be thankful.

I’m also thankful to the First Nations people of this land who tried to teach my European ancestors how to live here rightly, and probably did keep them from starving. Their graciousness was poorly repaid, and the debt still stands. I vow to be mindful of it.

I wish all my readers a happy Thanksgiving and much for which to be thankful.

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Another holy day, and it snuck up on me while I wasn’t looking. I’m abashed to see that I haven’t posted since the sixth, and now here it is the autumn equinox: Mabon to many Wiccans and Neopagans, Alban Elfed or Elved or Elued to Druids, a week shy of Michaelmas in the Christian calendar, and sometimes I just call it Harvest.

Signs of the season: A live ovenbird foraging beneath the bushes outside my door; a dead warbler spotted on my route to work, green back and fulvous belly, probably collapsed while it was migrating. Ovenbirds are quite rare in Maryland, or so I’ve been told, yet every fall a few of them drop by on their way southward. Once an ovenbird hopped through my open front door and took refuge under the dining table.

Last Sunday my beloved stepdaughter was married to her beloved of seven years in a full-scale church ceremony that included the Eucharist and the best choral music her choirmaster father could provide. The reception afterward included cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and a sit-down dinner served buffet style. The newlyweds led off the dancing with a solo dance to “The Best Is Yet to Come”, inspired by its appearance in a Deep Space Nine episode, immediately followed by the Time Warp: They met in college when my daughter auditioned for the Rocky Horror performance troupe. They are in New Orleans right now on their honeymoon.

The week before the wedding, it was all I could think about. Immediately afterward, a dear friend of mine was laid low by a severe infection and crashed with my husband and me for a few days. The two days I had scheduled off to recover from the wedding, plus one extra, were devoted to getting her on the road to recovery. I returned to work yesterday and touched bases with my boss before she departed on her own delayed honeymoon.

I’m pretty well exhausted now and the change of season has somehow taken me by surprise. But I expect to refill my personal well over the weekend and celebrate the holy day in ritual on Sunday. I hope to return to regular posting next week–one reason I feel utterly drained is that I haven’t written very much in the past two weeks, not even in my notebook journal.

A happy feast of the autumnal equinox to all my readers.

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Dear readers, I think I have gone as far on this forest path as I can go. I no longer fit comfortably under the heading “druid”, and I fit even less appropriately under the heading “pagan”. I have worn out my desire to have a single definitive label, category, or heading, which is probably no surprise to long-time readers. I have been moving slowly away from paganism, neopaganism, and druidry for a while now.

I have also, in the past year, thoroughly worn out my desire to join or to belong, to be a member of an organization and to follow a group program. I am no longer a member of AODA; my ADF membership will expire soon, and I have no plans to renew it. I remain a member in good standing of the Episcopal church that employs my husband (that is, I show up to make my communion at least the canonical twice a year, at Christmas and Easter), but I have no interest in active membership, nor do I wish to affiliate formally with the Order of Julian of Norwich as I formerly have done.

Druidry, especially of the Revival, will continue to be of interest to me, as will Tibetan Buddhism and the Anglo-Catholic Christianity I grew up with. Living a spiritual life, conscious, connected, and creative, continues to be of interest to me. And blogging will continue, I think, to be of interest to me, and I shall try to do more of it in a new place, at Notes of a Wayward Anglican.

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The First Sunday of Advent was yesterday, a Christian feast that never passes without my attention. It was the feast of title of my childhood church, celebrated with as much pomp and festivity as our little parish could muster. It was also usually the season of the bishop’s visitation; I was confirmed during Advent at the tender age of nine.

I don’t think mainstream Christians are saying much lately about the Second Coming, maybe because it’s all the Evangelicals can talk about. Strangely enough, while the Gospels depict Jesus talking about the kingdom or reign of God, they don’t record his primary message as, “I’m going away, but I’ll be back and then you’ll be sorry.” I should no longer be surprised that a lot of Christian teaching, especially though not exclusively of the Evangelical variety, has nothing whatsoever to do with the plain sense of the Gospels, and yet I am.

In any case, in Advent the Church traditionally looks back to the birth of Jesus as the coming of the long-expected Messiah, looks forward to his return as the King of Glory, and looks inward to preparing for and welcoming his presence in the heart. Jesus will return as King to fix things that are broken, to put things to rights, to make sure that the world works the way God intended it to, that is, on principles of peace, justice, fairness, sharing, compassion, forgiveness. And then we shall all live happily ever after–except for those who don’t want to play fair and share their toys.

The myth of the Return of the King is deeply embedded in Western consciousness, whether as a Christian trope or not. When Tolkien’s publisher split The Lord of the Rings into three volumes, he titled the third one in a way that gave away the plot (Tolkien complained) but tapped into the archetype. It is vitally important that the rightful King be restored to the throne, so that the Free Peoples of Middle Earth can take their places around him, just as the lesser kings of Ireland took their places around the High King in the mead-hall of Tara. It is against the backdrop of that enthronement that Frodo suffers his slow decline and Sam his gradual flourishing; because King Elessar is on the throne, Sam can draw his family close and say, “I’m home”.

The Return of the King is what we are hoping for every time somebody publishes a new novel about King Arthur. There is no end of Arthurian literature, some of it focused on the history, some on the romance, some on the magic and mysticism. The BBC is currently airing its fourth series of the show Merlin, which pairs a youthful Merlin of peasant birth with a youthful Arthur who has been raised as a prince in a Camelot where magic is forbidden; he gets hid on the head a lot so that he won’t notice Merlin has just saved his life by magic, again. I am inordinately fond of this show and its extremely handsome young actors, Colin Morgan and Bradley James. There are moments when, despite being a prat much of the time, young Arthur Pendragon as played by Bradley James really does manifest the archetype of the True King, the one whose place at the center of things ensures peace, justice, and prosperity for all. The show is already hinting that the strength of Arthur’s kingship won’t be in winning battles, but in listening to people regardless of their station and bringing them together.

I love the archetype, but I don’t live in a monarchy and I don’t wish to. (Even if a monarchy looks better, some days, than the plutocratic oligarchy we actually seem to be living under in the U.S.) Nor do I think that Jesus will come back and reward a few right-thinking people and condemn everyone else to eternal punishment for short-term mistakes. In his recent book Apocalypse Not, John Michael Greer traces the myth of apocalypse back to the ancient cycle of the precession of the equinoxes, which was first observed very early in human history, and to the first man who interpreted a recurring cosmic cycle as a one-time historical even: Zoroaster, or Zarathustra. Zarathustra, a priest of the Iranian fire-religion that was very similar to the religion of the Vedas, successfully reformed that religion into a linear monotheism that looked forward to an end time, a shift in the cosmic principles that would be permanent and unceasing. Then his people, the Persians, handed on those concepts to the Jews who lived in diaspora in the Persian Empire… and the book of Daniel emerged, and the apocalypse meme propagated in Western civilization.

What’s the antidote to the apocalypse meme? How do we know that the world will *not* end at the Winter Solstice 2012, just as it did not end in May or October 2011 as predicted by Harold Camping? (Read Greer’s book: He explains why we think it might, and why it won’t.) The antidote to the apocalypse meme, I guess, is to look at cycles rather than lines. Night is always followed by day, winter by spring, sleep by waking. On this basis we speculate that as birth is followed eventually by death, death is followed somehow by rebirth. The point of sunrise slips backward against the constellations; at present it’s still creeping through the sign of Pisces, and won’t cross into Aquarius until around 2600 C.E. After Aquarius comes Capricorn, then Sagittarius, and so on, and when we work our way back to Aries, we’ll just start all over with Pisces, if any people are still here on earth to look at the sky and take notice.

In my own life I’ve started to think of spirals. IF there’s any progress in life, it’s in spirals, in circles that are not closed but a little bit open, in coming back to the same places with new experiences. I come up against the same issues over and over,  until I want to beat my head against the nearest wall, but I’m beginning to remember that neither I, nor the issues, are exactly the same each time; going around the cycle has changed me and the issues and in that knowledge there’s a chance to change further, consciously.

And now I shall leave you with this video from Penelopepiscopal of my favorite Advent hymn:

 

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It’s the Eve of Samhain in the Northern Hemisphere, though astronomically the day is still a week off. I feel inspired to name some ancestors today:

  • My mother, Edith, a creative and talented woman thwarted by her own fear, who died during a play after performing her character’s death scene.
  • My grandmother, Edna, Edith’s mother, the person I called “Mom”, the true maternal force in my life.
  • My father, Robert, who drove a truck for a living, cheated on my mother habitually, and spent much of his time in a fantasy world of his own making and yet was a good father to me.
  • My great-aunt Margaret, my maternal grandfather’s sister, who was lamed for life at birth, wore a heavy metal brace on one leg, married and divorced, lived alone, worked on her feet all day, and never was described as “handicapped” or “disabled”.
  • Roger, my father-in-law, an educator, administrator, consummate organizer, who died of pancreatic cancer four years ago.
  • Miss El, the elderly neighbor lady who babysat me occasionally and was the first person to talk with me seriously about religion, when I was just a little kid.
  • Midge, the organist at my church when I was in my late teens, who taught me to read neumes and sing plainchant properly.

And some others, not precisely ancestors but worthy of memory:

  • Harvey, the partner of a dear friend of mine, the only person I know who died of AIDS; he was probably around the age I am now.
  • George, one of the finest tenors I have ever known, who wore a Fourth Doctor scarf and turned me on to Babylon 5, who died of kidney disease before he turned thirty.
  • Mark, a co-worker, a Romanian defector who spoke seven languages and could make puns in most of them, who taught English writing to native speakers, who also had kidney disease but ultimately died of pancreatic cancer.

I will remember you.

 

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All right, I couldn’t resist sharing this video. Nobody sings about sexual indiscretion like Julie Andrews, though my favorite role of hers is Victor(ia) in Victor/Victoria rather than Guinevere in Camelot.

Earlier this morning, I read two blog posts by rather different pagan bloggers that both amounted to, in Internet-speak, “BELTAINE ZOMG UR DOING IT RONG.” Phillupus at Aedicula Antinoi points out,

… It is a day of supernatural incursion. There is the possibility that it refers to birth in the form of Pryderi and the horses in the Welsh myth; and there is a possibility that it has something to do with the fertility of the earth, since the Tuatha Dé were often held in later tradition to have power over the generativity of the earth; but rampant and mad sexuality isn’t really a feature of the actual Celtic holidays from which the festival takes its name, if nothing else, in its modern pagan forms.

Whilst druid blogger Ali at Meadowsweet & Myrrh says,

… The notion that marriage should begin during the spring season is a fairly new concept, not supported by what we know of ancient pre-Christian practices. Traditionally in Britain and other Celtic lands, for instance, Beltaine was considered an especially unlucky time to enter into formal partnerships like marriage….

The significance of Beltaine reaches beyond merely being an agricultural festival focused on fertility and fecundity in service to the community, with romance acting as a bit of grease we can indulge in now and then to keep the Wheel turning. The holy day at the height of spring is also a day of ecstasy in the original sense, a day on which the attraction of life-force can pull us beyond ourselves and into communion with a larger Mystery, beyond tensions that might keep us too rigidly locked into unhealthy or hampering community bonds once they have outlasted their benefit.

Along with Samhain, the other hinge of the year, Beltaine serves as a liminal time, a time of thresholds and permeable boundaries.

Far be it from me to argue with pagans of a more scholarly bent who read the detailed academic books so that I don’t have to. But I submit that Beltaine, as a present-day festival of the neopagan Wheel of the Year (that modern but so useful and flexible invention), means whatever you think it means. What does it mean in your territory, on your land, in your world? Here in central Maryland, even in the midst of downtown, the songs of living things are gathering into a great pulsing chorus that says but one thing: SEX SEX SEX SEX SEX. Bees are buzzing in the pink azalea bush outside my door. A pair of cardinals has been talking all morning about the suitability of a tree in my courtyard as a nesting site. I made offerings of tea with honey and sweet incense to my own deities of the day, Belenos Lord of Light and Sirona of the Well, the light reflected in deep water. But I also feel some of that liminal nature Ali mentioned, the little shimmer on things of another world shining through, shining in. If Samhain belongs to the Ancestors, for me Beltaine belongs to the Fair Folk, even if I see little of them in the city (though I see a lot of another sort of fairy–but that’s another post).

In conclusion, my friends, celebrate this feast as you think best, and be grateful I didn’t embed this version of “The Lusty Month of May”.

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