INSECURE WRITERS’ SUPPORT GROUP CORNER
Thanks to our (non-mutant) Ninja Capn. Alex, I make a seasonal appearance as last rays of summer flash, to say hi to my fellow IWSGers, but also to share the pathos of impending equinoctial changes: seasonal, earth-related, celestial and beyond—
Ancient Lughnasadh Festival of Light
I try to celebrate the end of summer, lasting—as all Druid-lore-lovers know—from mid-July to September equinox, plumbing sacred depths of fire festival season centered on:
Lammas Day, August 1st, the Glorious Twelfth.*
Yet I feel pathos and sadness engulfing a season’s end, a dying earth. Our Mother Earth, especially, has suffered much this year.*I am not sentimental about the killing of grouse; I never liked the practice, however fashionable and smoothly operated it’s supposed to be. I shall not change my view; but my attitude to what goes on in the ‘Old Country‘, now that I’m an ex-pat, has softened.
I know this doesn’t sound remotely like a writing moan—as our monthly corner is supposed to be—but there is a connection:
Ancient Lammas, Lughnasadh primal fire festival of the god Lugh, [‘Light’] is known across the indigenous cultural spectrum as First Harvest, Harvest Home, a time to STOP, give thanks and celebrate with offerings—bread from our table. Rejoicing in Mother Earth’s bounty, we share and celebrate her fruitfulness with good food and friends. Traditionally, harvest tables were decked with red, gold, orange, yellow, bronze, citrine, gray, and green: colors now associated with wild dress-couture-masquerade extravaganzas—particularly in U.S.
Corn dollies have been replaced by macho/Ninja? [!!] sickles, scythes, iMax giant scimitars, over fresh veggies & fruits, bread, and sun-wheels. But drumbeat rhythm focuses joy, seeps between the volcanic cracks into the Earth, honoring her cross-cultural daughters of Lugh: Freya, Demeter, Ceres, Pandora et al.—goddesses of fruitfulness,carers of the Earth thru her seasons. In this sense she (Earth Mother) and Hathor are one and the same: primeval Eve, Brittonic Bride, Norse Auohumla, great cow-giant goddess, and ancestor of the Norse gods. She is also Gaia, Sumerian Antu: who became Ishtar, goddess of love and procreation.Summerend, in all cultures—ancient Lammas, now-generation Virtual.world and future Turtle Island—with deference to our Sci-Fi Cap’n’s focus—is always a good time for a celebration.
Now is time to enjoy drinking, eating fresh food, indulging our hedonist within— dancing, expressing joy, getting back to our roots—being oneself.
For a light-deprived northerner, I am grateful for long days of warmth, time in the garden, maybe occasionally, I think about writing…lol. But I digress.
The Caravanserai Headed East
In current Western culture, Burning Man takes precedence. Trailers are rented at great expense, shared rides go East thru the Nevada desert, to pitch camp in an awesome congregation of festival-goers—almost medieval in ethos—with singing, dancing, beating and celebrating the earth, the sun, and being alive— through music, masque, dance and new connections, made over five days.
But, because Forties Field oil pipeline runs under the tarmac, Scots (financial and) Government agencies started yelling ‘health&safety’, so 2014 was its swan song. T-in-the-Park 2015 will migrate to the former boarding school of Strathallan, twenty miles West in Perthshire.There follows the majestic three-day wonder of Reading-Leeds Music Festival, at the height of Lammas: August 21-24, 2014. It would seem the Brits are following the U.S. lead in widening the window of music sent heavenward in sheer joy of numbers.
Americans wowed by Nevada desert’s five-day Burning Man festival have yet to experience the booze-quotient of a Brit music venue: comparisons of liters/pints of beer drunk at Glastonbury vs. Leeds/Reading shock American/Canadian drinkers who, by law, have to put tankard to lip behind closed doors. Ah, the contrast.
As Britain closes for the summer, the American continent opens. Festivals ripple like musical arpeggios across barren, dry (over-watered) southern states, Austin, Dallas, Nashville. As the earth gets hotter—most of continental U.S. is in grill-bbq grip of unrelenting heat, forest fires, drought.
Here is not the place to bring up city water demands from rural salmon spawning hinterland—Eel, Van Duzen, Klamath, Trinity and Navarro— but we all know Earth is shrieking for us to slow down, take a look at what we are doing to our Pale Blue Dot, called home, and stop.
One could liken it to an Apocalypse scenario. But our Ninja Cap’n knowzzzz all about that.
Thank you Alex, always for providing a corner for a moan, a shared frisson and love for Sci-Fi, and a window on tomorrow’s world—and for letting me in under the wire—late. 🙂
What to do during a Grand Cross
“During such intense time acceleration, chaos breaks out everywhere, since chaos is always part of new creation. The reorganization of the fractal fields creates exceedingly unexpected new things in our lives.”
Barbara Hand Clow
But, if seen in the light of current crises, world drama and, combined with the personal pain and grief we have all been through in 2011, it may seem mild by comparison.
Last (2010) June’s Grand Cross was only a taster. One would be forgiven for thinking the world-as-we-know-it has taken a giant tumble since then.
The horror of March 2011 earthquakes brought repercussions within world charitable organizations which turned a disaster into a desire to share human resources. By the following month — April, end of the tax year — world agencies were predicting a calmer year ahead.
Spring equinox brought new hope. In the northern hemisphere the season was seen to have started well. Mother Nature lulled us into believing maybe the signs weren’t all bad. The month of April was, in Britain, the hottest and driest on record. Abundant rain filled the waterways of Spain, Italy, the Rhein, North and South Carolina and the American Midwest. Snow lingered on hills in the US Eastern Seaboard, in the Alps and in the Caucasus. Even North Africa and Afghanistan had respite from drought.
Summer solstice came and went. Despite a flurry of internet speculation on the imminence of Comet Elenin, and a record number of three successive eclipses, most northern hemisphere activity progressed as normal: English Ascot, horse-racing in Virginia, mountain climbing in the High Sierras, even hotair balloons in New Zealand — to get away from the heat. One astrological chart for solstice week featuring the longest day was likened to music of the spheres — all heavenly bodies were singing, if not in harmony, at least in tune.
… by the time I get to Phoenix she’ll be rising…
And then July arrived. With a jolt.
While America was revelling in its July 4th weekend celebrations, a Sahara-style Haboob — a massive dust storm — went raging into Phoenix… and engulfed this manmade miracle in the desert, the Arizona city with its six million-plus inhabitants. The fuzzy-looking dust-bunny with its huge friendly-looking paws caused electronics breakdown, electrical shorts, water pollution and breathing hazard.
…and there was more to come…
Barbara Clow is an author and respected astrologer, as well as being a devotee and proponent of Carl J. Calleman and his view of 2012 from an accelerated viewpoint. In their opinion, the December 2012 ‘end’-date has already speeded up and Humanity is now facing its nemesis, its ‘Fate’, its comeuppance — depending on your Judaeo-Christian/EarthFirst concept of End Times. Ms Clow and Dr Calleman believe the end of Mayan calculation happens nearly one year early — on October 28th, this year.
Ms Clow is particularly intrigued by the way events playing themselves out on the 2011 stage seem to hark back, almost mystically, to the astro chart for 1776 when America’s founding fathers set it all in motion.July moved into August, and we were relieved to be distracted by a stream of hyper-dimensional messages in the corn. Crop circles in Wiltshire — and other world sites where they have a tendency to show up just before harvest — delighted a world audience. The croppie following was by now thoroughly split into the camp of believers (anomalous substances, pristine formations, untrampled and beautifully-layered grain) and board-stompers (unbelievers and those who use the phenomenon for their own agenda). While a plethora of inspired and inspiring designs made their presence known to a visual audience worldwide, business and media coverage turned into a circus. This continues in the present with the current series of conflicts — as the Grand Cross builds once more. It seems we are not to be spared an iota of pain until we navigate our way through this tunnel…
‘…the problem is not the good-natured heart of the people, but the outmoded mindset of the controllers…’ BHC
And the abundance brought by August fulfilled the prophecies of July. There was indeed more to come.The culprit is probably the previous month’s full moon (July 15th in Capricorn) and the potent assistance of long-dead but much revered St Swithun (c.AD800-862) — whose day is usually celebrated if the sun shines and reviled if it rains. It rained on St Swithun’s this year in Britain and, according to the Old Wives, we will suffer for that while full forty days play out — until August 30th. It is clearly not St Swithun’s fault. His heyday was the ninth century, when all weather signs were contemplated seriously, astrology consulted before tackling any important project and the advice of one’s ‘inner voice’ listened to before all rush and noise of the outside world.
But in the 21st century, the outside world has rushed in.
With clamor and clash, we are surrounded daily by images, events, and newsmedia words which heighten our stress levels, draw us in sinuous path, yet oftentimes with success, away from our inner guides. That elusive quality that our ancestors revered and listened to — that still small voice within — is harder to hear. She speaks in silent syllables, but we are too distracted sometimes to listen.
Grand Cross realigns
‘We have to end the rape of Earth by nuclear power, corrupted entertainment, and the diversion of our resources to warfare. It is obscene for media to showcase starving people in Africa while not critiquing military expenditure.’ BHClow
When such contrasts surface daily in our lives, it is not difficult to see why there are riots in London and the North of England, drought warnings for nearly half (41%) of the landmass of the United States and nuclear power officials tearing their hair in the (ongoing, continuing and continuous) global disaster that is Fukushima.
August full moon (13th, in Aquarius, the far-sighted) nevertheless brings the power necessary to use the energy window wisely; directing us to focus and not to be drawn off-balance by news of earthquakes in Cheyenne, Wyoming (August 11th) and submarine volcanoes in the axial Seamount off the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate (August 12th) on Oregon’s Pacific coast.
Vedic belief would have it otherwise: that all is solved by releasing tension and disbelief into the hands of the gods. Here is a friend’s take on the wisdom of the Subcontinent. True, if humanity can focus daily on manifesting the best, highest and most calm, we might just get through this time of huge stress — together. But it will take considerable wit and presence-of-mind to keep one’s head above the waters.
Calleman, too, has positive thoughts to see us through the next months. He considers a New World will emerge ‘after the end of the tun-based Calendar’, i.e. after October 28th, 2011. He is promoting a worldwide ‘cosmic convergence’ for the autum equinox.
It is at times like these that heroes are made.
The Glorious Twelfth
Our Oversoul seems insistent that we recognize those members of the community who nurture the soil, protect the earth. It is relevant that the Aberdeenshire farmer whose land was chosen August 24, 1995 to display the only crop circle in NE Scotland at Culsalmond, did at the time farm organically — still does — and is now one of the first in this corner of Scotland to drive an electric car.Along similar lines, the female nurturer in Barbara Clow gives this advice:
The only thing that matters is how you live your life. Who do you love now? Are you faithful and devoted to each person you are connected to? Are you ready, at a moment’s notice, to go right to those who need assistance from you? Do you trust the grand plan that is unfolding, no matter what will happen in your personal life?
While cutting through a lot of male-dominant bluster featuring wars, weaponry-build-up, space race and political manoeuvering, she does not dismiss these ‘shocking weaknesses’ in aspects of society which have been under the control of ‘outmoded industrial and political systems’. She believes that some may be unable to dissolve their fears and guilt instilled by 5,000 years of organized religion in a second of ‘new time’. But we have to believe we can. We have at least to try.
These concepts are revealed in her book The Mayan Code: Time Acceleration and Awakening the World Mind where successive compartments of the Universal Underworld (March 9 to October 28), broken down into ‘days’ of human spiritual progress and ‘nights’ of terror, mayhem and planetary destruction, are a few of the surprises yet in store for us.
“Remember, you create your own reality, and the events in the outer world are deeply connected and inspired by what’s in your mind. Please take a look at your Spring Equinox intentions, for example, and assess how you are doing now, and also take note of the things that are popping into your life that you didn’t even plan on.” Astroflash
Ms Clow –selflessly– attributes her erudition to many teachers, including José Argüelles, Terence McKenna, Teilhard de Chardin, Carl Jung,
Graham Hancock and, not least, her Cherokee grandmother on one side and her Celtic heritage on the other.
“We are living through a great awakening and we are going to go through a lot of stuff. But I am optimistic. We live in a benevolent Universe.”
Others of her calibre and strength believe so, too. McKenna called the Universal Mind an ongoing process.
“To whatever degree any one of us can bring into focus a small piece of the (Universal) picture and contribute it to the building of a new paradigm then we participate in the redemption of the human spirit. That is, after all, what this is all about.”
T. McKenna, 2000.
It takes courage to face the music and not fail at the final reprise. We have great minds before us on the Path, and many fellow seekers focusing inner intent while the storm rages outside. There’s just a wild chance that — together — we’ll make it.
©2011 Marian Youngblood
‘In Like a Lamb – Out Like a Lion’ – Anon
Traditional wisdom surrounding weather in March Farmers’ Almanac
Lord Byron – whose mother Catherine Gordon was born at Gight in Aberdeenshire – had a healthy disregard for British weather – possibly one of his reasons for self-imposed exile in Italy and Greece. Genetically a Scot, his lineage shows in his:
“English winter – ending in July
To recommence in August”
After my previous long blog on weather, particularly the singular non-summer of 2009, I promised myself I wouldn’t allow it to dominate my consciousness. But circumstances never quite follow the rules and as I’m not alone in experiencing a return to winter over the March 2010 full moon, I think I’m allowed to empathize with others in our shared predicament:
‘What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen’ William Shakespeare
While the extreme North of Scotland may have had all the ‘freezings’ it can possibly endure, I feel sorry for the people of Perthshire who tonight, under this March full moon’s anomalous influence, are being subjected to their seventh storm of sleet and freezing rain this winter/(spring). It certainly fosters strength of spirit.
Colorado – at this time of year the so-called Recreation State, because Aspen welcomes thousands in ‘spring break’ from school – has had yo-yo conditions: similar to those experienced by Vancouver for the Winter Olympics in early February. That means no snow on the Aspen runs (expensive snow-blowers and snow-creation turbines hauled in to coat ski slopes), while a few miles distant at Mount Evans, highways have been blocked by mammoth snowdrifts, rockfalls from heavy snow and, essentially, a return to January.
Snow is currently descending again on Mount Fuji in Japan, at the same latitude as Los Angeles in Southern California.
But it’s nearly over.
American poet Wallace Stevens talked of the ‘distant glitter of the January sun’ and yet we know its light is coming closer now. Days are getting longer. Global clocks have sprung forward.
John Masefield spoke of our challenges during ‘Mad March Days’ in his exquisite poem on ocean traders: ‘Cargoes.’ Metaphors mixed with gold moidores, amethysts and topazes borne by his Spanish galleon, and his peacock-bearing quinquereme take his reader to heights, only to bring him back down to earth with the salt-caked smokestack of his ‘dirty British coaster’ ‘butting through the Channel.’
His spirit could fly, however, in spite of his description of ‘wind like a whetted knife’. He may have felt the chill of British isolation amid a ‘grey mist on the sea’s face’, but he had presence-of-mind to dream of far-off places to stave off the chill days of Mad March.
‘… all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.’
In these long drawn-out days between winter and spring, we in sodden Scotland do indeed need a star to steer by.Since Autumn 2008, along with Mars, the solar system’s three largest planets, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus have been slowly moving into position to form a Cardinal Grand Cross in mid June 2010. A series of Crosses follows on, including one in June 2012 and another in June 2014. This June should give us a taste of what’s to come.
In astrology the cardinal signs signal the beginning of each new season: Aries stands at spring equinox; Cancer at summer solstice; Libra at autumn equinox and Capricorn, at midwinter. Energy in cardinal signs is characterized as active, outgoing, taking initiative. Its negative side is associated with lack of stamina or staying power.Cardinal equals primary, fundamental, an energy standing at a hinge or doorway in time. People whose astrological charts feature cardinal zodiac signs are unafraid to try something new. A cardinal cross signifies a meeting of great influential heavenly bodies at a hinge of the seasons and the upcoming Grand Cross begins on June 25th (three days after solstice) and lasts until August 5th. Its second phase stretches from November 1st until December 26th.
In an individual’s zodiac birth chart, the presence of a Grand Cross – or four ‘squares’ – represents a potent combination of conflicting energies. If/when resolved, it can create a determined, dynamic and forceful personality with a strong sense of purpose or destiny.
The individual in the middle of this year’s Cardinal Grand Cross in June is the planet Earth and we earthlings perched on her surface are in for a rocky ride.
At this Cosmic Doorway we the human race will be stretched, pushed, pulled, tested, chewed and, possibly, even spat out by the Cosmic Forces. It will take all our fortitude, peace-of-mind, spiritual discipline and love and devotion to our fellow beings to guide us through this challenging time.
An astrological Cross occurs when four (or more) planets connect in a giant square: two in opposition to one another at right angles to two more, also in opposition. The configuration brings energies into conflict, a period of tension, but is often a catalyst for (spiritual and societal) growth. It is certainly a time of great change.
This June, against a backdrop of Uranus squared Pluto (the planet of birth and death), three days after summer solstice at a time considered sacred in all formative cultures, Jupiter and Uranus will stand in early degrees of Aries in square polarity to a Full Moon standing conjunct Pluto in Capricorn, opposite the Sun.Age-old superstition and tradition show especial respect and awe for the Full Moon closest to the longest day and this Moon is no exception. Its synchronicity suggests an urgency for Mankind to pay attention.
In the third corner Saturn stands alone in late Virgo (on the cusp of cardinal Libra) while the Sun and Mercury in Cancer form the fourth corner of the Great Square or Cross. Polarizing Saturn in a square is the planet Mars (in Cancer), which, since March 12th this year has turned once more to direct motion. This implies a tendency to act rashly and sometimes without discipline: a trait which in the coming Cross could lead to difficulties.
The planets form a cross-grid. Think of it as four people sitting as partners at a bridge table, opposite each other and at right angles to their opponents. Opposing sides use the tension of their position to intuit and understand what hand the other is playing. After a series of push-pull negotiations, a ‘contract’ is reached and the four parties find a meeting place in the middle – a point of balance – where all four may use their skills and unique talents to focus on a central point of force, pave the way for a final resolution.
Slowly, inexorably, dragging their great bulk to stand in giant opposition within identical degrees in the four cardinal zodiac signs come the huge ‘partners’ in the ‘game’: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Pluto – with the Moon and Mars adding spice.
These powerful entities – representative of expansion, discipline, spiritual growth and death – want to express and release their energies fully but are restricted (by the squares) from doing so. The tension thus created will be enormous. However, as the Grand Cross does indeed bring great change and eventually the spiritual strength to grow beyond our narrow vision, there is a powerful message of hope in the configuration.
Psychologist-linguist-astrologer Jessica Murray writes most knowledgeably about a 20-year prelude to this massive shift in human consciousness. Her work includes detailed analysis of the changes society went through starting with the great astrological conjunction – New Age ‘Harmonic Convergence’ in Aquarius of 1987. It continues through the 1989- 2007 conjunction when Saturn held hands with Neptune: from the ‘melting’ of the Berlin Wall (seen as Neptune’s softening influence on rigid societal structures – Saturn) through massive floods in New Orleans and Bangladesh, earthquakes and global warming. She sees this prelude as ‘softening up’ society to prepare ourselves for the coming confrontation.
About the imminent Grand Cross, she writes:
‘It is from the vast, slow-moving outer-planet cycles (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) that we expect the most far-reaching effects; and when these make major aspects with the social planets (Jupiter and Saturn) as well as with the personal planets (such as the Moon and Mars) at the same time, the rarity of the patterns that result puts them into a category that deserves a unique degree of awe, respect and attention.’
She sees us as having to come to terms with the contrast of the ‘real’ world (Saturn) and the ‘surreal’ (Uranus/Neptune, the ‘quantum field’, ‘Spirit’) in our lives.
Dedication and staying power to follow through on projects and activities are not the strong suit of Cardinal Grand Crosses. And the two oppositions suggest external challenges – our motives and deep beliefs questioned by others. We shall need all our faith, our self-belief and a will to be consistent in our personal connection to Spirit; to show loving intent, a calm center and compassion in dealing with others, possibly amid derision and disbelief.
Both Neptune and Uranus have been traveling in each other’s signs of exaltation: Neptune in Aquarius and Uranus in Pisces (each rules the other’s sign). They’ve been paving the way for the last seven years asking us to open our minds and hearts to our spiritual selves, to incorporate spiritual principles into our everyday lives.
The coming Grand Cross will test our resolve. With planning and forethought, we may still succeed in achieving our goals, but tried and traditional avenues may not be available. Above all, we shall have to take each day as it comes, live and enjoy our increasing awareness of our place in the great unfolding, and be true to who we really are.
The good news is that a Grand Cross involving the outer giant planets brings with it enormous energy which, if used with the power of intention, in loving ways, will open new doors, provide unprecedented opportunities. It may be a time when many will be able to reconnect with their Inner Knowing, their guiding star.
A time to reinvent ourselves.
So while the Lion of March roars outside, dispersing the last ghosts of winter, we may look to the months ahead with hope that we mere mortals may, with the assistance of giants, find a portal through which to step; to create a better world.
‘First come Candlemas
Syne the New Meen
The niest Tiseday efter that
Is Festern’s E’en.
That Meen oot
An’ anither at its hicht
The niest Sunday efter that
Is aye Pasche richt.’
Ancient Scots Easter calculation. Anon.
The Calendar according to the Moon was regular as clockwork. It was reliable, you could see it in the sky and you could set your life rhythms by it. The old Scots rhyme above spoken slowly will make sense even to the least son of the soil of Ultima Thule. But non-Scots may need a little help in translation.
Festern’s E’en – as Hallowe’en – was an ancient calendar fire festival celebrated, like all pre-Christian revelry, at night. And, like Hallowe’en, it still is. Only we call it by another name: Carnival.
Translated simply, it is the evening before the ‘Feast/Festival’. With a capital F, this celebration was one of the greatest fire festivals in the Celtic Year. When it became absorbed into the Christian calendar, its importance and significance to the populace was so great, that it was deemed necessary to give it a place of prominence second only to Christmas. As such it has remained. The festival that precedes Easter is throughout the world celebrated with fire and puppetry,processional and masqued balls, dance and music and food and drink.
If you ask a South American about Carnival, ‘Carnaval’ in Portuguese, he will tell you they prepare for it all year round. In some cultures it has become almost more important than Christmas – a reversion to type, backtracking to pre-Christian times.
In Brazil, it makes complete sense to hold Carnaval precisely on its February moon date in the ancient calendar because in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires it is full-blown summer. By contrast, German Fasching, held similarly in February, is pretty chilly dancing in the noctural streets of northern Hamburg!
Carnival used to be held in the Bahamas in February too, when spring is at its height and the casuarinas blow carefree along Nassau Beach. But in the summer of 1965, Chubby Broccoli and Sean Connery made a James Bond film set on Paradise Island and commissioned the Carnival Committee to stage an ‘extra’ Carnival, so they could weave festive fiery scenes into ‘Thunderball’; since then Bahamian Carnival has been a summertime festival. Similarly, the London Carnival of Notting Hill, begun in 1964, is held on the last weekend in August. No connection to Lent or Easter any more.
But originally, before the Gregorian calendar took over calculation and reckoning by the moon in 1582, Carnival was high festive season in that ancient stream of festivities used by Man to celebrate the return of the Light to a dark winter world.
Candlemas, as I’ve mentioned before, is the first glimpse of light waxing and adding grace to the darkest days of winter. On February 2nd – or Bride’s Day, before solar months took over as calendrical norm – the measure of light from the heavens increases to such a degree that birds begin to mate, petals on spring flowers open and the Earth softens its frozen grip.
In lunar terms, the first New Moon of the second month (Gregorian) was celebrated in every northern hemisphere culture planet-wide from prehistoric times. From Buddhist to Inuit culture the return of light to nurture the earth’s crucial growing plants was a calendar custom worth celebrating.
When Christian calendar calculators were devising Roman Church high and holy days, they took care to incorporate these ancient fire rites as an integral part of Christian culture and ‘lore’. it did not do to lose a single ‘soul’ in the transition from a pre-Christian to a Christian world.
And, as it was a long-standing tradition for local people to mark ancient quarter days – the solstices and the equinoxes – with festivals of fire, it seemed right that they should transit unaltered into the Christian calendar: marked instead with candlelight inside church buildings.
Christmas was chosen at the time of (northern) winter solstice when the ‘ignorant’ (pagan) desperately needed to celebrate the return of ‘light to the world’. Christ was called the ‘Light of the World’. The Son of the Sun.
Midsummer was fully taken up with a light celebration of its own – in northern latitudes the longest days of the year brought bountiful harvest and genuine thanksgiving by a rural population for the gifts of the earth continuously provided from midsummer through to Lammas, an August ‘cross-quarter’ day. No Church overlay was necessary; nevertheless Roman Catholicism superimposed the feast of John the Baptist on midsummer’s day and frowned heavily on pagan corn dollies and such Celtic fripperies perpetuated by an agricultural society.
The Equinoxes, however, required more serious contemplation.
Most rural (so-called ignorant) converts were aware of the movement of both sun and moon. While that may appear to us today to be rather sophisticated intellectual knowledge, it was commonplace then to note changing seasons, hours of light and dark and the phases of the moon. When equinox arrived it was – in the human mind at least – a miracle that every place on earth had exactly the same number of hours of light and dark for one earth period of 24 hours. The sun rose at 6 and set at 6 on every man, woman, child and beast on earth. The phenomenon was in itself worth celebrating. In astronomical terms, the event occurs precisely at the moment the Sun (traveling along the ecliptic) appears to cross the celestial equator, and while ancient Man may not have known that added sophistication, his life was changed by its occurrence twice in every year. In addition, he celebrated the spring (cross-quarter) festivals of Wesak, Beltane, May Day, along with any events providing an excuse for Morris and maypole dancing, The Church allowed these to continue, so long as the requisite saints were also remembered and offerings given.
While Archangel Michael was given dominion over autumnal equinox, Easter was chosen as a fitting ‘high’ celebration to take over the vernal equinoctial light-and-dark balance.
What put a spanner in the works was that – late in the seventh century – when two contemporary Christian systems were running alongside in mutual cooperation, the internal systems within the Celtic and Roman Churches came to a clash; an impasse.Hugely influential, powerful and wealthy King Oswiu of Northumbria had been happy to run his Christian nation along the lines of Columba’s Celtic (thirteen-month lunar) calendar issued and maintained from Iona. This Celtic doctrine conveniently recognized the King as head of religious affairs. His Anglian Queen Eanfled, a devout Roman Christian recognized not the King but the Pope as head of the Church. They might have reconciled their differences, had it not been for a calendrical anomaly which in some years had the King ordering huge feasts for Easter at exactly the moment when his Queen was still fasting in Lent. Because another such year was due to happen in AD665, with the assistance of Wilfrid, new abbot at Rippon, and recently returned from Gaul and Rome, the King called the Synod of Whitby in AD664 and led a thorough investigation into the rites and rituals of both systems. The event is described in detail by Jarrow churchman Bede (673-735) who completed his Ecclesiastical History of the English People in 731.
While the Synod changed lives, split families and royal houses, even intra-kingdom alliances, thereafter church festivities centred on Easter were standardized throughout the land and celebrated in accordance with Roman custom.
Easter remained the highest festival of the Christian church until the Scots Reformation when (after 1660) presbyterian austerity superimposed simplicity, reduced dogma and a return to ‘speaking to God’ directly.
For the rest of the British Isles, however, and for descendants and dependents the world over, Easter remains one of the great festivals of the Christian calendar.
Curiously, for a celebration washed, ironed and folded so neatly by successive synthesized systems – prehistoric, early-historic, pre-Christian, Celtic and Roman Christian – Easter emerges as a supreme highlight in the Church year.
Its one concession to its pagan past is that is remains to this day a date fixed according to the Moon.
And, in order not to offend other faiths which, like Anglian Eanfled, might take offence at the bulldozing approach (e.g. Spanish Inquisition, Salem witch trials), there is a built-in mechanism of calculation which ensures that Easter and Passover never collide and that the Christian High Festival should never occur BEFORE equinox.So the little rhyme above, translated, simple enough and sympathetic to Scots ears, sums up global lead-time to Pasque, Pasche, Oster/Easter, the pagan event of maiden-goddess Eostre/Ostara, the Highest Festival in the Christian Calendar: when in the High Days before the Fast of Lent, the Roman Catholic world celebrates. From Italian Carnivale to German Fasching (Fastnacht, the eve before the Fast), prelude to French Pasque, in Portuguese Carnaval and on ‘Fat Tuesday’ of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, bead-festooned feasters and revellers make merry because tomorrow their stomachs will die.
The modern gesture to Pancake or Shrove or Fat Tuesday (Festern’s E’en) is not lost on marketers for supermarket chains who do a roaring trade in maple syrup and readymix batter. It’s the ‘stock up while the going’s good’ mentality, because the body must endure the subsequent fast of Lent for a regulation 40 days. Once more the Roman Church succeeded in condensing multiple events in Christ’s life into one festival: this fast represents the period of time He spent without food while meditating in the desert.
Nowadays, nobody questions that its immediate successor in the calendar is representational of His death and resurrection, when historically the two events happened years apart. Once again, ancient symbolism is used to gloss over detail.
‘First arrives Candlemas (Feast of Bride); Then the New Moon
The following Tuesday will be ‘Fastnacht’/Fasching or Shrove Tuesday
Allow that ‘moon’ to wax and wane
And watch till the next moon is full
The Sunday thereafter will be Easter Day.’
translation by Scots descendant, non-Anon
It worked for King Oswiu in 664. I can assure you, the calculation works still!
©2010 Marian Youngblood
We will. That’s the point: we’ll get there.
But there is something else. Somewhere deep in the collective unconscious (thank you Carl Jung) there is an unfounded fear that when the shortest day arrives, the sun will not only stand still but may never rise again. That may sound crazy to someone who doesn’t look up at the sky much; who sees ‘light’ as something akin to the strange offerings on Photobucket under that search item: a neon tube.
But there are others among us, myself included, who look to the skies in these fast diminishing days and wonder if the light will return. I miss it so. In the so-called temperate zone, we lose the light at a rate of roughly four minutes per day until December 21st, when the sun ‘appears’ to stand still. And then it turns round and light increases at the same rate until equinox. I blogged last week about how the light-deprived Scots celebrate solstice in Burghead at the latitude of Alaska. No Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) for them
The Norwegians, too, know all about that latitude: over half their huge country lies north of the 57º parallel. In Murmansk, on the White Sea, they keep the street lights on from October until April. They’re not just street lights either, they are specially formulated UV, designed to trigger serotonin in the SAD population and offer some hope to a city starved of sun for five months of the year.
Yes, serotonin is the hormone secreted by the human brain in the process of joy. It’s what we as a species need to keep going. Joy and light. And at this season when all the shops are declaring it is time to be ‘merry’, joy may be hard to find, unless we consciously engender it.
So it may be relevant to fostering a little joy that I give you a small ditty which appeared in today’s Daily Mail and one which the people of Norway are still pondering over.
I won’t add the comments from the unbelievers (failed Russian spacecraft, holographic searchlight); the positive view is that it is – in the middle of Arctic winter – a light in the sky. Not exactly aurora borealis, but something electromagnetic and atmospherically-unusual. A spiral of light in the sky. There’s hope.
Aurora, now. That’s another delight we may witness at our latitude if we’re lucky, at this dark time of year. It might even be seen as a magical mechanism devised by solar wind and earth’s magnetosphere to whisper awe into our unresponsive consciousness.
But to stand on a hill on a starlit night, hot water bottle wrapped round kidney region, three scarves and wool hat in place, furry boots and six layers of woolly jumpers over frail human body, and watch as the firmament wheels for an hour in cathedrals of light, is something not to be missed.
For that I will go through another dark winter in this wild northern latitude.
On January 12 last year the population of Siguida, Latvia experienced the light equivalent of an ice storm: over the city’s streets hovered a cloud of light which then descended into pillars. Scientists attributed the columns of light which hung suspended in air for more than five minutes to frozen crystals of water or minute particles of ice. But to a child it must have looked like a winter fairy’s magic wand had waved.
There will always be the view of the jaded reporter, the overworked NASA scientist, the prosaic explanation of a failed Russian nuclear test to write off phenomena like these.
I fancy the childlike fairytale explanation myself.
In the dark days of what amounts to a period of hibernation for humankind in the northern hemisphere, isn’t it wonderful to know that the Cosmos is still bringing us its own version of Son et Lumière? Those unexplained shimmering beams of light bent by electromagnetic forces relatively few of us yet understand, spinnning constantly round our Blue Planet.
You thought Crop Circles were cool: in midwinter, Light is even Cooler.
Crop circles are not new. The phenomenon is centuries-old, embedded in folklore in South Africa and China, achieving sparse comment from English academics in the 1600s; noted in police records and farming journals in 1890; by military and ‘classified’ sources through the 1950s and ’60s.
It was not until 1980, however, that the general populace began to notice them. Since 1990 size and intricacy have developed, mimicking computer fractals, fourth dimensional reality, esoterica known only to quantum physicists. Nearly 30 years after that Thatcherite time, discussion favours excitement over fear, anticipation rather than suppression, belief more than ridicule. The appearance of upwards of 10,000 reported ‘genuine’ crop circles in twenty-nine countries worldwide has brought the subject into the mainstream. It has become ‘cool’ to talk about what they might mean.
In the English countryside since 2005, designs have become so complex, it is natural to speak of codes and mathematical sequences and quantum physics and astronomical numbers. As simple ellipses expanded into trailing solar flares, hypercubes, calendrical geometry and astrophysical complexity, we became mesmerized by beauty in the summer landscape, breathless with anticipation of what would come next.
In 2009 the pick of the crop finished at the end of August. Fields in September were conspicuous by their absence.
They’ve got us where they want us: on the edge of our seats.
In a lull between September’s close and next year’s crop of never-before-seen designs, what have we learned? Why are we being gifted such inspiration?
What associative ideas do they generate? What emotions do they trigger? Where do they mostly appear?
Many delving, however briefly, into this phenomenon would associate the random appearance of crop circles with that other kind of circle: the ancient and sacred stone circle. That the majority of designs in England has focused on the hallowed precincts of great sacred sites like Avebury and Sillbury Hill, Wiltshire, Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire and within sight of ancient burial mounds of Hampshire is no coincidence. The same is true for appearances near ancient ancestral sites in other countries: Holland, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Latvia; even the Serpent Mound, east of Cincinnati, Ohio. In all this exotica, it is easy to miss one particular circle of great simplicity but infinite importance in the farmland of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which appeared at the end of Lammas, 1995.
A little patience and we can find a context, a common link.
First off, like the siting of ancient stone circles, crop circle placement is not random.
Dowsers, diviners, engineers, television cameramen and aircraft pilots can all attest to electromagnetic anomalies occurring in cleared agricultural land where Neolithic and Bronze Age farmers placed their mounds, erected their trilithons, buried their dead. Feng shui proponents, who detect minute variations in electrical body pulses, have commented on the extraordinary fluctuations of energy contained within the relatively small area concentrated on Wiltshire’s sacred sites; Alton Barnes, with its twin village Alton Priors, rank high on the electromagnetic scale. It is not surprising, therefore, that this select valley houses not only the prehistoric White Horse, but was home to Milk Hill swallow configuration (2008) and multiple coded designs in 2009: whirling dolphins, star tetrahedron and the sextant (star navigational instrument) created in three stages; contemporary appearances at Alton Priors include – in perfect timing – the exquisite eight/infinity symbol of 08/08/08 (August 8, 2008) and the swallow with coded tail of June 2009.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to watch your compass needle fluctuate wildly at Yatesbury, Wiltshire; a newly-charged car battery die on the edge of a field at Sillbury Hill, near Avebury or your camera spontaneously recharge in the centre of a newly-laid crop design at Alton Barnes. These magnetic phenomena are commonplace to students of ‘leyline’ energy meridians, with which the Wiltshire basin and Cotswold range are filled. But it is significant that Yatesbury was home to the dragonfly glyph of June 3rd and Phoenix of June 12th 2009. Sillbury Hill has always deviated instruments; its great chalk mound resisting man’s excavations to discover its secret; but it opened its fields to decoration of extraordinary complexity on August 3rd, 2009 when plain swirled circles were found to contain at their centres the intricately woven patterns reminiscent of the medieval corn-dolly craft.
According to a representative of the British Feng Shui Society, an area of Britain ranking second only to the Avebury-Yatesbury-Windmill Hill energy vortex is the largely forgotten agricultural plain of Scotland–lying between the 56th and 57thN parallel–in the counties of Angus, Aberdeenshire and Banff. World attention has focused on names like Bishops Cannings, the Roundway, and Chiselden. But how many have heard of Sunhoney, Easter Aquhorthies, Culsalmond or Old Rayne?
Among the excitement of first circles decorating Wiltshire and Oxfordshire in the 1990s, the contemporaneous appearance of a single swirled design in wheat in Aberdeenshire was overlooked. Yet their locations–within ancient sacred landscape, in proximity to prehistoric ritual sites of previously huge importance to a country population–and the time of year in which they appeared have a common link.
In ancient times, the Celtic calendar revolved round the farming year: birds start to nest at Candlemas (February 2nd), Vernal Equinox fields are prepared for sowing; Beltane (May 1st) held a huge fire festival celebrating the seeded land; fire festivals were perpetuated ritually and with deliberate intent, until well after the Reformation. Only then did Church and State combine to desecrate such ritual, relegating it to the realm of pagan superstition (pagan = L. paganus = country-dweller), implication: simple country folk knew no better. Midsummer solstice was a time of rejoicing for the bounty beginning to appear in fruit and crops; Lammas (August 1st) marked the onset of harvest, usually over by autumnal equinox; and the Celtic Year ended and began anew with the festival of Hallowe’en/All Hallows Day. Christmas was superimposed on the earlier festival of winter solstice, when the land was in almost total darkness, with farming people praying for the return of the Light.
In an abundance of festivals, the greatest for agricultural and rural families was that of Lammas. While its pivotal date was August 1st, the festival coincided in a good summer with the actual harvesting of grain. In most communities it began three weeks before and continued until three weeks after that date–ending around August 24th. Through the medieval centuries, every community in the Land had a Lammas fair dedicated to the local patron saint, a Horse Fair, a fair to compete, display wares, buy and sell food, fruit and harvested bounty.Aberdeenshire, like many of the southern counties was rich in such events. The names, if not the actual ethos of the celebration, linger in local names. Old Rayne has its Lourin’ Fair; annual Aikey Fair occurs at Aikey Brae near Old Deer. And Culsalmond had the greatest fair of them all: St Sair’s Fair. Named after one of the earliest Brittonic saints to spread Christianity in the North, St Serf was the patron of the St Sair’s Horse and Feeing Fair. Not only serving as a forum for employing (feeing) farm servants, it attracted horse and cattle fanciers from all over the kingdom. While Aikey and Lourin continue to show horses, St Sair’s Fair did not survive World War II.
The stance at Jericho on the Hill of St Sairs has dissolved into the sod of the Glens of Foudland, like the tiny chapel to St Sair which used to mark the spot. Even after such fairs were officially banned in 1660, St Sairs was going strong in 1722. Horses were being traded in 1917 on the hill. Change in farm practices and two wars were its undoing.
What is significant, however, is not that great stallions used to parade these hallowed slopes, but that St Sairs happened within a sacred enclave of ancestral ritual circles, burial mounds and avenues just like Avebury and Sillbury Hill. The Culsalmond recumbent stone circle lies buried among the gravestones of the ruinous pre-Reformation kirk; Neolithic carved stone balls were found on the farms of Jericho, St Sairs and Waulkmill, within a sacred avenue flanked by three stone circles and two burial mounds. Bronze Age urns from Colpy and Upper Jericho have, along with charred body parts and Neolithic carved stone ladles, found their way into museums in Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh and London. More than one hundred flint arrowheads and several hundred flint implements have disappeared from this ancient place–and the archaeological record.
It was here on the last day of Lammas 1995 that a crop circle sent a reminder–a simple swirled design in wheat–to trigger in this ancient landscape a memory of connection to its agricultural past and, perhaps, if we are listening, the key to our communal future.