Archive for the ‘Old beliefs’ Category

The West in crisis


France teeters on the edge of a anti-Eurpopean revolt, the United States seems locked in a internal war, and England has decided to leave the European Union, which it was never completely a part of.  Spain, Italy, and Greece, the foundation of the Western mind, are trapped in financial suspended animation.  Germany’s premiere auto maker admits to designing vehicles to cheat on emissions tests.

Social issues, such as financial in-equality, health care, and retirement benefits are becoming very important in the U.S., eroding the dominance capitalism has had for the last 150 years.  Church attendance is at all-time lows, yet many people are interested in spiritual growth.  Evidence indicates that Russia meddled with the American election, throwing the result into question.

The acceptance of capitalism and materialism in areas outside the West is very troubling, because they are not working very well in the West.  Greed for ever increasing profit, disregard for environmental issues, and lack of sustainability are becoming trademarks of the Western world.  The West consumes the majority of the world’s resources, yet represents only a fraction of the world’s population.  That is unlikely to continue, especially as countries like China adopt automobiles in place of bicycles.  We all are going to be riding bicycles soon, I think, and we will consider ourselves lucky to have them.


Merry Yule Tide!


Now that the Christmas Shopping Season is finally over for a few months, we can focus on the beauty and magic of the Yule Tide, the turning of the Wheel.  Because the Earth’s axis is tilted, we have seasons.  Without the tilt, there would be no change in the path the Sun takes across the sky, the length of the days would always be the same.

To our distant ancestors, the possibility that the Sun would keep going further down in the sky until it never rose was a terrifying thought.  The further north you live, the more real that possibility seems, as the Sun does not rise in the Arctic right now.  Night is everlasting, or extremely long, if you live a bit further south of the Arctic.  Countries around the Baltic sea only get a few hours of sunlight this time of year.

Primitive peoples were not able to tell for sure if the Sun had begun its return for many days after the Winter Solstice, and they feared beginning their celebration of that return to early, and possibly upsetting the gods.  So Yule Tide ceremonies would not start at the Solstice, being delayed for a week or two sometimes.  So now is the time for rejoicing, for sharing good wishes, feasting together, and singing songs.

Even though the winter has just begun, there is the promise of Spring in the lengthening of the days.

The darkness in our souls


America is indulging in a materialistic, aspiritual, increasingly meaningless ritual of excess.  As the days get shorter, and night dominates our lives, we partake in parties, dinners,  and other ‘seasonal’ activities.  What was once a deeply spiritual observance of the return of the Sun has devolved into an orgy of greed and lust.

We whip ourselves into a frenzy, counting days down, building up the anticipation, urging people to ‘not be late’, and to ‘save now!’  What is supposed to be a celebration of the lengthening of the days is now a culmination of an advertising blitz which started in October, when the days were much longer.  The merchants pay for the gatherings, the shows, the pretty lights and gay music, all in the hopes that people will buy more of their goods.

Yet, when the actual season of celebration begins, the money dries up for the joyous observance of the Yule Tide, the return of the Sun to the Northern sky.  The Yule is the solstice celebration and the New Year combined, a season instead of a single day.  Yule Tide begins at sunset on December 24th, and continues for at least a week.  The all-night vigil for the dawn is a carryover from when people would stay up all night to see the dawn, so that they would be able to tell if the Sun was indeed returning.

What should be a celebration of light has become a circus in the darkness, with the sole intent of convincing us to spend our money, even if we have not made the money yet.  Sharing our joy at the turning of the Wheel of the Seasons, the beginning of another year, Life renewed, is what we are claiming to be doing.  Somehow, it has morphed into a competition to see who can spend the most on displays of affection.

The darkness descends


Black Friday.  Materialism is in control of the television, the radio, the newspaper, even the web.  ‘Save Now!’  ‘Lowest prices of the season!’  Sanity deserts the shopping malls, the strip malls, the streets.

Meanwhile, the days grow shorter, and colder.  Winter is upon us, and our instincts are screaming ‘conserve’, ‘hibernate’, ‘hunker down’.  Survival has always meant eating very little, staying indoors, dressing warmly, because what we have now will have to last until next Summer.

Many people find this season depressing, the desire to spend freely on loved ones conflicting with the reality of an empty pocketbook.  The expense of a gift overshadows the concept of giving a gift, as if the amount that we spend on someone reflects how much we care about them.  People will go into debt to insure that the gifts that they give are ‘acceptable’.

This is a time when we should be reflecting on the year past, and remembering our ancestors.  This is a time for working on handicrafts, making gifts for those we love.  When we spend hours on a gift, we work our love into it.  The energy we pour into that item will be received by the person we are thinking about, a gift which can not be bought.

The darkness is a time of love, of remembrance, a time for sitting by a fire, knitting, carving, painting, creating a unique gift for a unique person.  If you wouldn’t spend hours working on a gift for a person, perhaps they don’t deserve anything beyond a card.  The important thing is to remember others, not to try to impress them with how stupid you are.  Don’t spend money you don’t have trying to get someone to love you.

All mixed up


For the next two months, I want to stay out of public places, especially ones where things are sold.  I was in a major home-improvement store the other day, and the aisles are crammed with extra displays, making moving around even more challenging.  November and December are the time of the year when Darkness reigns, and the Land of the Dead is close at hand.  Instead of gaiety and lights, this is the season of pulling back, letting go, spending time in the darkness.

Darkness is not evil, nor is it to be avoided.  Without darkness, we would not appreciate the light.  Western European cultures adapted to the long, dark winters, by conserving resources in the autumn, mindful of the months of darkness ahead.  Harvest festivals in late September and early October were the last celebrations that the populace engaged in until the Yule after the winter solstice.

The short days of autumn were when many people turned to handicrafts to pass the time, making things that were intended for a certain person.  Thoughts would turn to that person while one was working on their gift, giving them energy, and crafting the love into the item.  Giving gifts to young children was unthinkable, because children had no understanding of what sacrifice went into a gift.

Autumn is the time of Death, when the Life Force abandons the land.  Symbols of light and eternal life are diminished by the lengthening nights, premature signs of celebration that will not come until after December 25th.  Our ancestors prayed that the Sun would return to the skies, to bring life to the land again.  They would not dare to celebrate the solstice so early, as that would be begging for some calamity to befall them.

Seeing icons of the Yule Tide celebration at this time of year emphasizes the materialistic nature of our society, cheapening the potent magic that those symbols hold and confusing our young over what to expect.  To see these symbols so far in advance dilutes their meaning, and mixes up the understanding of where we are on the Wheel of the Year.  We need to appreciate the dark, to embrace it and accept it as part of Life.  Never should Light be taken for granted.

The most spiritual time of the year


We are now entering what I consider to be the most spiritual time of the year.  The Life Force is withdrawing from the land, everywhere things are dying or entering hibernation.  The buzz and chatter of insects is gone, and few bird calls are heard.  Trees stand silent, barren of leaves.  The dead stalks of plants rattle in the wind.

Now is when my mind turns to those who have passed on, to my ancestors.  Most of the year, the Life Force is too strong for them to reach out to us, a wind blowing constantly.  But during this time, that gale has abated, allowing the thin strength of the dead to master the distance from their world to ours.

The symbols of Halloween evoke fear, yet they were meant to portray the Land of the Dead, to remind us that even after Death, there is a form of life.  This message was total heresy to the Christian Church, which maintains that the dead are unaware of the passage of time from their death until the Judgement Day.  The Church struggled to stamp out the pagan celebrations of this time, creating All Hallowed Saints Day to celebrate the existence of every person, whether they be a saint or not.

In the days of my youth, Halloween had nearly vanished, only celebrated by children seeking candy.  Since then, it has seen a resurgence, albeit a party-like one, with little or no spiritual overtones, but it is much more widespread than in the 1960’s.  As the fear of paganism has dwindled, people have become more willing to embrace Samhain, the ancient celebration of Death.

For without death, there can be no life.  If no one died, there would be no room for birth.  If nothing died, what would we eat?  Death is as essential to life as being born, but, like being born, it has been hidden away from us in hospitals, until it is mysterious and frightening.  Now is the time to remember the dead, to celebrate their accomplishments, to bring forth their stories.

A harvest festival for America


The United States has no harvest festival celebration on a national level.  Most other countries with an agrarian past recognize the importance of the annual harvest, the joy of abundance, and the fruits of shared labor.  Oktoberfest in Germany, Thanksgiving in Canada, these are holidays with ancient roots, based on the relief and happiness that harvest time brought, when the crops were in, and the hard work was done.

This was the one ancient festival which enjoyed a broad menu, because so many products which were not suitable for long-term storage were available.  Fresh fruits  and vegetables were a true luxury for our ancestors, and diets were often monotonous.   Music and dancing were enjoyed during harvest festivals, a rarity in a time without recorded music.  For many, this would be the last social event they would participate in until the Yule Tide.  Autumn was a time of conserving resources, hoarding food and fuel for the long winter months ahead.

America’s only nod to a harvest festival is Thanksgiving, a totally artificial, contrived holiday with no historical basis.  Too late in the year for the outdoor festivities of harvest time, Thanksgiving is meant only to be the recognition of the saving of the Pilgrims by the generosity  of the Native Americans who saved them from starving to death.  Somehow, this supplanted the more traditional harvest festivals, although some are still held locally.

Perhaps the worst thing about the American Thanksgiving is that it now juxtaposes two conflicting concepts, Death and eternal life.  Death is represented by the harvest, the cornucopia, the autumn colors.  The sacrifice made so that Life can continue.   Eternal life is represented by the Yule Tide colors used in the commercials advertising the Black Friday sales.  And Thanksgiving does not mark the start of the ‘Holiday Season.’  At least, not in my book.  No, Thanksgiving falls at a time when we are genetically inclined to be less active, so that we may conserve our resources.  Thousands of generations have survived by hunkering down during autumn.

Some how, I would like to see a revival of the ancient harvest festival, held in late September or early October, as a time to recognize the importance of working together, sharing the abundance of the Earth, and of community, without which none of us would be here.  This would be a completely natural holiday, one rich in traditions, and intuitively understood.

An ancient holiday, a time to party!


May first is Beltane, the Celtic celebration of the beginning of Summer, as well as the consummation of the union of the Goddess and the God, who were betrothed to each other at the Spring, or Vernal, Equinox.  Many people in Northwestern Europe believed that there were only two seasons, Summer and Winter, and the change from one to the other was always marked.  The end of Summer was Samhain, the origin of Halloween in our culture, when everything is dying.

The sexual energy of Spring was inherent in celebrations of Mayday, with Maypole dances, trial marriages, re-affirmation of wedding vows, and many other rituals and traditions.  In America today, Mayday is hardly celebrated, and is often confused with the Mexican celebration of Cinco De Mayo, which is actually an independence celebration, if memory serves me correctly.  This is a good time to walk in the outdoors, observing the budding plants and trees, (if you don’t have allergies,) life beginning again all around us.

We need bookmarks, place holders if you will, in our journey through our existence, a way of separating one time from another.  If we don’t do this, our lives become one constant span of sameness, undifferentiated.  If pagan rituals turn you off, you can also celebrate the beginning of the labor movement, with International Worker’s Day.  Whatever, just party!

Are Youth and Beauty bad for us?


American culture has become focused on two fleeting and naive aspects of our existence:  Youth, and Beauty.  These two qualities have come to outweigh intelligence, wisdom, and experience in determining how important someone is.  So much emphasis has been placed on youth that the elderly are being shut out of our lives, abandoned by their families to institutions or lonely, empty houses.

The reward for years of sacrifice and self-denial was to spend the days playing with children, sharing culture and heritage with the next generation, and guiding the decisions which affected the group.  Elders were respected and influential, an important part of the community.  Their experience and wisdom was considered valuable to the well-being of the group, and their time taking care of the children was essential in allowing the people of child-bearing age to work supporting the group.

This emphasis on youth and beauty is a result of the materialism of our times, the focus on things instead of people, and on the individual instead of the group.  The continuity of the family has been lost, the circle of life has been broken, and our communities are fragmenting as a result.  Materialism drives the advertising which shapes our culture, through sponsorship of programs and campaigns in media.  Because advertisers want to target younger members of society, they have become the focus of entertainment.  Teenagers have a disproportionate amount of influence in advertising and media, because they are big spenders.

Billions of dollars are spent every year chasing Youth and Beauty, in make-up sales, tanning booths, and hair coloring.  But neither can be held on to for very long, and the more energy spent trying, the more vain is the pursuit.  Especially considering how such thinking denies the importance of the Future, crippling our investments, disrupting our planning, and delaying adaptation.  Youth and Beauty cultivate an obsession with the Past, on what was, instead of what will be.

I don’t hate me! Really.


All of my life, I have hated myself.  When I was a child, I would go into destructive fits, tearing apart things that were important to me, or that I valued.  I denied myself, believing that no one would be interested in me.  I deny myself, refusing to do things that will make me feel better, or to have fun.  Most of my life, I felt that I was ugly, repulsive even.  People thought that I was aloof and stand-offish, and perhaps I was, but I was avoiding social contacts because they made me feel bad about myself.

All of these traits, these symptoms, are the result, I believe, of not receiving adequate affirmation when I was a child of 3 or 4.  Too many times, I heard “I don’t have time for that right now!” or, “Wait until later.”  For some reason, I began to believe that I was defective, broken, inferior, or even bad.  This value judgement colored every aspect of my existence, a cage I built for myself.

You see, I am convinced that there is a genetic instinct to try to be assimilated by the elders of a group, an urge to be part of the tribe.  As children, we seek behavior that reassures us that we are important, that we belong, that someone cares about us.  When someone gives you a hug, that is a powerful signal.  But when someone will take time to listen to you, or to sing a song with you, or to interact with you in some way, that is a powerful signal too.  That kind of behavior is called affirmation, and it is the signal our genetic inheritance causes us to seek out, because individuals cannot survive.

Being a part of a group is the most important survival strategy there is, the only way we can have any hope that our lives will have meaning.  If I am not part of a group, everything I have learned, everything that I have accomplished, will all disappear when I am gone.  The trail that I made will not be used, and if it is, the identity of the maker will be lost.  Even more importantly, if I am injured, or ill, I have some chance of surviving if I am part of a group.

Group membership was so important, I believe, that we are hardwired to seek out affirmation, the only feedback we can be sure of.  To a child, ‘later’ means ‘never’, because they live in the moment.  To a child, ‘later’ is a rejection, a denial.  All of the making-up done later may have no effect if the child has rejected themselves, as I did.