Thursday, December 1, 2011

The dark of the year

The Dying of the Year
The eight-fold wheel of the year marks the phases of the Sun's growth and waning. Sahmain, which we've just experienced marks the last crescent (Balsamic) phase of the old year's dying away. Many cultures who followed a similar logic saw the time between Sahmain and Yule (New Sun) as a time of death and decay. Harvest was over, the nights came earlier, trees lost all their leaves, and the first winter storms begin to stir through the land. Mankind learned, over the  years, to pull inward and find crafts they could do during the dark days and nights, and if not hibernate, to lower their energy levels.

Our modern world does everything it can to tie us to an artificial cycle of time generated by clocks and watches, and a calendar that has not attachment to the world  as it lives around us. We've lost our sense of felt sychrony with the cycles and patterns of solar and lunar energies that infuse the natural world, and act as though the numeric digits we're tied to have some basis in actual reality. They don't; they are an artificial construct that evolved along with the railroads, with their need to organize time across their rail lines. And since most people don't farm anymore, the further connection to the routines of the agricultural cycle most people lived for the last 10,000 years is also gone. No wonder we're disoriented.

The natural disorientation due to the ebbing Solar energy drives us to grieve and has given rise to the idea that the dead, the ancestors are close at this time. Hence, Sahmain is followed by All Saint's Day, to celebrate one's ancestral dead (Dia de los Muertos in Mexico), and Veteran's Day in the US to celebrate those who have given their lives in defense of our country. Other countries have similar celebrations at this time.

These ancestor-worship ceremonies lead up to the big festival of Yule, with its overtone of new birth, the Sun child reborn for the coming year, light in the darkest night of midwinter. The festivals associated with the winter solstice (Yule) were commonly seen as the birthday of the great hero god of the local pantheon, sometimes, as with Christmas, moving the birthday 3 days further to what would be the child's naming day, and also the surety that the Sun is returning from its winter sojourn.

As modern people very disconnected from this natural energy cycle, and instead trapped into a wild frenzy of feasting and shopping, and desperate efforts to try and get one's family together and sorted out for Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate at this time). The strain that this causes one leads to a cycling of emotion—up for a while, then down in the depths. People, especially those sensitive to the underlying energy flow, may feel discouraged or miserable at this time of year, moody, and unhappy.

For example, I've been using my inward energies, focused by the cycling in of the Sun's dying, to hand-craft some gifts for friends for this year. I try to work focused on how much I'm enjoying making them, and on the joy I hope the person will feel when they receive them. To me, this is the essence of magic—focusing and pouring energy into the creation of something new. But last night, I saw two commercials that bummed me out: In both, the individual spoke to family members making it clear she didn't want yet another craft project for Christmas, as though receiving such a thing meant the person making the gift was too cheap or lazy to get a real gift. I felt like crying—would my recipients feel that way? I hope not, for it would be a fundamental rejection of the love I put into making them. High to low, and for me, low is hard to escape.

I'm trying to keep myself on a stable balance through this period, and focus on making happy memories for myself and others—because I don't have happy memories of this period from my past. The holiday season was always a manipulative, scorched earth contest with my mother over when and where I would be for the holidays. Being home where she lived was not a pleasant experience, as she would then try to force behavior that SHE thought had been happy in the past, but which were actually quite horrific to me and others in the family. Her happy memories don't mesh with what really happened, and would come on the heels of ugly manipulation to force you to be there no matter your own feelings on the matter.

Creating anew, making new forms of merry, stepping out of the Halloween—>Thanksgiving—>Christmas—>New Years' Day sequence we're dragged into by our crazy calendar and into the natural cycle of energy flowing down and then bursting back forth at Yule is, for me, a true way to heal. I don't like being unhappy and moody this time of  year because of so many bad memories attached; but this is the present, and I can make new memories that shift my feelings about the Season.

Nut of the Spheres
Let's make memories together that help us bring our energy back into synch with the Solar flow. I am proposing to do "The Mystery of the Spheres" from Dea on Yule at 8PM PST to celebrate the shift in the cycle. Up until that time, I will set up a discussion series on my Isis of the Stars Bookstore page where we can discuss the study guide questions I've put together for the ritual in A Study Guide for Dea. You can find and download the book at, or purchase a printed copy for your own use over time. Either way, it gives you study guides for all the rituals in Dea.

You can also find the books at my Isis of the Stars Bookstore FB page, where I will begin the discussion by posing the first 10 questions for discussion. I hope that some of us will try this—focusing on the questions about the symbols, myths, and underlying information contained in the drama make performance of it significantly richer than it would be otherwise, and gives one a way to ease through the Seasonal Moodiness because you're doing something new and positive. Let's use this Yule to change our attitudes toward each other and the world.

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